Leef shares with Forbes readers one major concern about the attorney general nominee

George Leef’s latest Forbes column offers one reason why the nomination of Loretta Lynch as the next U.S. attorney general raises concerns.

After the tumultuous Attorney Generalship of Eric Holder, what the country badly needs is a replacement who will uphold the law fairly and guard against injustices perpetrated by the government. President Obama’s nominee to replace him, federal prosecutor Loretta Lynch is questionable in that regard because of her enthusiastic embrace of civil asset forfeiture, which often deprives perfectly innocent people of their property.

In an editorial published November 22, “Loretta Lynch’s Money Pot,” the Wall Street Journal revealed that during her tenure as U.S. attorney for the Eastern District of New York, Ms. Lynch has used civil asset forfeiture in more than 120 cases, raking in some $113 million for federal and local coffers. The trouble with civil asset forfeiture cases is that they frequently inflict severe losses on people who have only the most tenuous connection with a crime – or even no connection at all. …

… Charge someone with a crime and the burden of proving guilt is on the government, but confiscate property under civil asset forfeiture and the government keeps the spoils unless the owner is able to prove his innocence. That is not the way our system of justice is supposed to work.

Dispatches from the campaign trail, November 26, 2014

thanksgiving

• Happy Thanksgiving to all! Travel safely, and remember those less fortunate on this special holiday.

• As the State Board of Elections certifies election results, we learn (from Jonathan Kappler, former research director at the N.C. FreeEnterprise Foundation) that Republicans received 54.1 percent of the vote in state House races, Democrats got 45.4 percent, and the GOP won 74 of the 120 seats. In Senate contests, Republicans collected 53.8 percent of the Senate votes, Democrats 45.3 percent, and the GOP won 34 of 50 seats in that chamber.

• Liberal blogger and Democratic consultant Thomas Mills writes that Democrats made a mistake sticking to their talking points in campaign ads against U.S. Sen.-elect Thom Tillis. Republicans say they prevailed, in part, because Democrats ran ads that were contested on fact-checking websites and media outlets attacking the General Assembly’s spending record on education, response to coal ash spills, and tax cuts — and Democrats failed to modify their message when the ads were challenged.

• In a story published by the left-leaning campaign watchdog Center for Public Integrity, longtime conservative activist Dallas Woodhouse says the positive ads his group Carolina Rising purchased on behalf of the policies of the Republican-led General Assembly made a major impact on voter attitudes in the recent election.

More on the misuse of the Map Act

As we learned at this week’s Shaftesbury Society luncheon, North Carolina property rights are at risk by DOT road building practices under the Map Act.  This report tells us more. Ken Bell is one of hundreds property owners affected by the Map Act. You could be next.

Take a long drive north from downtown Greensboro on North Elm Street, past Buffalo Lake, across Pisgah Church Road, and you’ll find the 400 acres that Ken Bell’s father bought around 1935.
Bell’s father began selling or developing pieces of the land — even naming Kenneth Road after his son.
The land is now covered with middle-class houses and apartments.
Bell, 74, is an unassuming man who wears jeans and drives his pickup with his golden retriever riding shotgun.
On Tuesday, the dog jumped in the back, and Bell drove through suburban streets, showing off the land as though it still belonged to his family.
In his heart, it still does.
He’ll point out the small houses his father built just after World War II to house returning veterans.
Now, about 15 densely wooded acres of the Bell property are left, one small corner of the family legacy.
Two small pieces of that land that add up to 4 acres straddling North Elm Street sit in the Urban Loop’s protected corridor between Lawndale Drive and U.S. 29, which is set for construction in 2018, said Mike Mills, Division 7 engineer for the DOT.
The state designated the corridor in 1996 — 18 years ago.
Since then, Bell has been effectively prohibited from doing anything with it.
The state’s regulations say he can apply for a building permit — but must wait three years for DOT approval.
And no developer would wait that long before building on a piece of land, Bryant said.
Bell says he can’t sell that land because state maps show it is likely to become part of a cloverleaf interchange.
The state hasn’t offered to buy the land.
And Bell is worried the land he owns nearby will be worth less if it is in the shadow of the highway.
“If they’re going to compensate and pay for it, it’s pretty good,” Bell said. “But I hate to see it go.”

Dem wants fellow liberal silenced for disagreeing with the president

Liberal law professor Jonathan Turley’s decision to work with Republicans in a constitutional lawsuit against President Obama doesn’t sit well with Democratic congressman Robert Brady of Pennsylvania. Sarah Hurtubise of the Daily Caller explains.

Turley, a George Washington University law professor, is also a frequent media commentator on political issues. Despite describing himself as a political liberal, he’s long been harshly critical of Obama’s use of executive power and said he’d jumped at the chance to represent the House GOP in the lawsuit against unilateral changes to the Affordable Care Act in its implementation.

Now that Turley’s working for the GOP, Pennsylvania Democratic Rep. Robert Brady wants to ban him from speaking out any issue of executive authority — which Turley’s based much of his career on — for years.

“Given that Mr. Turley extensively participates in various media forums, including writing his own blog, would it not be better to prohibit Mr. Turley from making any media appearances in which he comments on the extent of the executive authority of the President in any context whatsoever during the pendency of this case?” Brady wrote Monday to Rep. Candice Miller, chairman of the House Administration Committee.

“Moreover, since the limitation appears to be in force only for the life of the contract, would it not better protect the interests of the House if Mr. Turley was prohibited from making statements, granting interviews or otherwise conferring with any member of the media or media organization for a period of years following the conclusion of this case?” …

… Rep. Brady also questioned whether Turley would “exploit” his law students by asking for their assistance in the case and asked that Turley’s contract be modified to “forbid discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity.”

Given that two Washington-based law firms had backed out of representing the House after signing initial contracts, conservative watchdog Judicial Watch is already questioning whether Democrats had pressured the firms into dropping the case. Brady’s request to ban Turley from speaking on any issue — for years after the lawsuit is concluded, no less — is unlikely to ease any appearance of political pressure.

Barone notes that no one pushed Piketty policies in the recent election

French economist Thomas Piketty generated plenty of publicity last spring for his book bemoaning income inequality and calling for large-scale tax increases. Michael Barone‘s latest column posted at Human Events reminds us that Piketty’s ideas did not crop up during the recent election campaign.

Liberal economists and pundits hoped that his revelations would finally get politicians to support policies like Piketty’s 80 percent tax rate on high incomes and progressive tax on great wealth — and get the masses to vote for them.

So far it hasn’t happened here or just about anywhere.

You didn’t see any campaign ads calling for Piketty taxes this fall. You didn’t even see any ads hailing Democrats for having raised taxes on high earners in early 2013. Democratic candidates in seriously contested races didn’t come close to advocating such policies. …

… Even after the election, some Democrats argue that they didn’t hit the issue hard enough. One Democrat’s advice to President Obama, according to Politico, “is focus on income inequality, and talk about and propose things, and just be a fierce advocate of addressing the economic divide. That will leave people after two years saying the Democratic Party really stands for something.”

“Propose things” — but what? A recent Congressional Budget Office report shows that when you measure federal taxes paid minus federal transfers received (welfare, food stamps, Social Security, etc.), the top 20 percent of earners pay an average of $46,500. The next 20 percent pay an average of $700. The bottom three-fifths get back more than they pay. Plus, the U.S. already relies more heavily on the income tax for revenues than any other advanced economy nation.

In other words, America already has lots of economic redistribution. American voters evidently sense that more redistribution would sap economic growth. They’re willing to throw a little to minimum wage earners, but they don’t want to kill the geese laying the golden eggs.

Americans are not alone in feeling that way. You don’t see much demand for Piketty policies in other countries either.

Saving money by slimming Fannie and Freddie

Daniel Wiser reports for the Washington Free Beacon about a great way to trim the federal government’s fat.

Reducing government subsidies to housing giants Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac could shrink the federal deficit by more than $8 billion in a decade, according to a recent report by the Congressional Budget Office (CBO). …

… The first option is to increase the guarantee fees that Fannie and Freddie charge mortgage lenders. The companies, also known as government-sponsored enterprises (GSEs), purchase mortgage loans and then package them into securities to sell to investors. Fees protect against losses if the homeowner defaults and cover other costs.

Although guarantee fees have been raised in recent years, senators pressed Federal Housing Finance Agency (FHFA) Director Mel Watt to accelerate the increases at a recent hearing. Increases could help spur private investment in a mortgage market that is still dominated by Fannie and Freddie.

Fewer mortgage investments by the GSEs, in combination with higher fees, would “help facilitate increased participation by the private sector in the mortgage markets,” the Financial Stability Oversight Council (FSOC) said in its annual report last year.

Republican critics of Fannie and Freddie are likely to be stymied in their efforts in the next two years to reduce the companies’ role in the mortgage market.

The CBO also said Fannie and Freddie could cut the deficit by coupling higher fees with lower limits on the size of mortgages they buy. Combining the two approaches could save $8.3 billion by 2024.

Williamson has unsolicited advice about siting the next Democratic convention

Democrats are considering holding their 2016 national convention in New York, Philadelphia, or Columbus. Kevin Williamson of National Review Online has another idea.

I’ve argued for years that political parties should hold their conventions in the city that best represents their policies. For Republicans, that would probably be somewhere in the Houston suburbs, or possibly San Diego, one of the few big U.S. cities where Republican mayors are not extinct. Or maybe Indian Wells, Calif., a gated citadel full of older white people fond of golf and low capital-gains taxes. The Libertarian party should hold its convention at the Boot Track Café in Loving County, Texas, the least populated place in the United States; the café is closed at the moment, but I am sure that they would open it up to give the Libertarian party a place where its members — both of them — can be lonely together.

The Democrats, if they had any remaining intellectual honesty, would hold their convention in Detroit. Democratic leadership, Democratic unions and the Democratic policies that empower them, Democrat-dominated school bureaucracies, Democrat-style law enforcement, Democratic levels of taxation and spending, the politics of protest and grievance in the classical Democratic mode — all of these have made Detroit what it is today: an unwholesome slop-pail of woe and degradation that does not seem to belong in North America, a craptastical crater groaning with misery, a city-shaped void in what once was the industrial soul of the nation. If you want to see the end point of Barack Obama’s shining path, visit Detroit.

The role of ‘forgotten’ Americans in midterm elections

Victor Davis Hanson‘s latest column at National Review Online attempts to help explain why Democrats fared so poorly nationally in the last election.

In our vast nation of 320 million people, there are still millions of mostly middle-class voters, along with the proverbial white working class, who are ignored by Democrats. They feel desperately squeezed by the higher taxes necessary to fulfill the dreams of progressive elites. And they feel they are not on the receiving end of government entitlements the way the underclass is, while being a regular target of cheap progressive rhetoric, from “clingers” to “stupid.”

But more importantly, the middle class resents wealthy progressives who lecture them about their supposed illiberality although they do not experience in their own lives the consequences of their ideology, whether that involves unchecked illegal immigration or job-killing regulations. Those who live in gated communities or mansions with heavy security talk down to those who don’t about their Neanderthal gun-owning. Wind and solar power seems to be supported by those who do not commute long distances in second-hand cars and who have enough money to care little about gas prices. If foreign nationals were swarming into the U.S. illegally from Europe to find jobs as journalists, government workers, and lawyers, the progressive elites might worry about their own employment and be less utopian about open borders.

There is also a psychological component to the 2014 backlash vote. Progressives seem to be tone deaf to the effects of their loud rhetoric on others.

When President Obama promised to all but end the use of coal and to send electric rates soaring, would his own friends and associates be affected? What if a candidate from an Appalachian state had argued there that were too many lawyers like Obama and that it was well past time to stop all state and federal subsidies to universities that keep turning out redundant subsidized graduates? Or if he had argued that affirmative action should be based on class rather than racial considerations?