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George Will June 2019

George Will

WASHINGTON — The Democratic presidential circus pitches its tent in Detroit this week. It will be especially entertaining if the presidential aspirants are asked some questions like these:

For Sens. Elizabeth Warren and Bernie Sanders especially, but others, too: Three of Barack Obama's few large achievements were the 12-nation Trans-Pacific Partnership trade agreement, the Affordable Care Act — the most significant expansion of the social safety net since 1965 (Medicare and Medicaid) — and Dodd-Frank, the most consequential financial sector regulation since the 1930s. You opposed ratification of the first. By advocating "Medicare for All" you are implicitly saying that the second was not much. And by railing against the ongoing "corruption" of Wall Street, banks, capitalism, etc. you imply that the third was not much. Does it not follow that you think Obama's presidency was not much?

For Joe Biden: Care to defend it, including its deportation of 5 million illegal immigrants?

For Warren: You paused in your denunciations of crony capitalism, government favors for the well-connected, etc., long enough to vote to revive the Export-Import Bank, which funnels capital to government-favored corporations. Explain.

For Sanders: Princeton historian Sean Wilentz, a liberal in the New Deal-Great Society tradition, notes that you have advocated a top capital gains tax rate of 64.2%, which is "substantially higher than in Europe." And more than double that in Sweden, of which you are famously fond. And you advocate the sort of financial transaction tax that Sweden abandoned as a failure in 1991. Wilentz says that progressives like you "seem to think that economic inequality can be conquered only by confiscating as much as possible from the evil rich. The model they implicitly adopt is the reactionary Malthusian one of zero-sum economics." How is Wilentz wrong?

For Sen. Kamala Harris and others considering reparations for slavery: Are the 1.9 million immigrants from sub-Saharan Africa who have chosen to live in America today eligible for payments? Will you share your formula for assigning degrees of eligibility? Is the first African American president eligible? Is his opposition to reparations yet another reason to judge him a disappointment?

For Mayor Pete Buttigieg: You propose a $10 billion fund reserved for racial minority entrepreneurs. Do you have a limiting principle for your policy of distributing federal funds to government-favored racial groups?

For Harris: You decry Donald Trump's shredding of constitutional norms, authoritarian tendencies, etc. He has indeed used executive orders to marginalize Congress. But you promise to give Congress just 100 days to pass gun-control legislation pleasing to you and then you will resort to executive "action." If you become president, must the nation get used to your situational ethics?

For all of you who have demonstrated the obligatory apoplexy (have any of you not done so?) about the U.S. women's national soccer team being paid less than the men's team: Is it pertinent that in 2018 the men's World Cup in Russia generated $6 billion in revenue, 46 times this year's women's World Cup projected revenues of $131 million? Or that women players receive a higher percentage of their World Cup revenues than the men receive from theirs? Or that, as Christine Rosen writes, "the path to qualifying for the men's World Cup is much more arduous and competitive than it is for the women's World Cup. The men have to win more games over a longer period of time to qualify than do the women"? Are you also indignant — if not, why not — that the Rolling Stones make more than comparable women's groups? And if there aren't such comparable groups, do you, Sen. ("I have a plan for that") Warren, have a plan for government to right this wrong? Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand, you say: "If you win 13-0 ¯ the most goals for a single game in World Cup history — you should be paid at least equally to the men's team." At least. So, were the men ever to beat Thailand even more lopsidedly, would your dollars-for-goals metric remain gender-neutral?

For Gillibrand: When Nike, buckling beneath the disapproval of a former NFL quarterback, withdrew its line of sneakers adorned with the 13-star Betsy Ross flag, you said that Nike was right to "admit when they are wrong." Presumably, then, you agree with the quarterback, who said why Nike was wrong: Because of the flag's connection to an era of slavery. So, senator, should Americans "admit when they are wrong" when they sing the national anthem, which was written in 1814?

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George Will is a columnist for The Washington Post. His email address is georgewill@washpost.com.

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