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  • Author: Scott Lincicome
  • Publication Date: 01-2021
  • Content Type: Commentary and Analysis
  • Institution: The Cato Institute
  • Abstract: Both the American left and right often use “national security” to justify sweeping proposals for new U.S. protectionism and industrial policy. “Free markets” and a lack of government support for the manufacturing sector are alleged to have crippled the U.S. defense industrial base’s ability to supply “essential” goods during war or other emergencies, thus imperiling national security and demanding a fundamental rethink of U.S. trade and manufacturing policy. The COVID-19 crisis and U.S.-China tensions have amplified these claims. This resurgent “security nationalism,” however, extends far beyond the limited theoretical scenarios in which national security might justify government action, and it suffers from several flaws. First, reports of the demise of the U.S. manufacturing sector are exaggerated. Although U.S. manufacturing sector employment and share of national economic output (gross domestic product) have declined, these data are mostly irrelevant to national security and reflect macroeconomic trends affecting many other countries. By contrast, the most relevant data—on the U.S. manufacturing sector’s output, exports, financial performance, and investment—show that the nation’s total productive capacity and most of the industries typically associated with “national security” are still expanding. Second, “security nationalism” assumes a need for broad and novel U.S. government interventions while ignoring the targeted federal policies intended to support the defense industrial base. In fact, many U.S. laws already authorize the federal government to support or protect discrete U.S. industries on national security grounds. Third, several of these laws and policies provide a cautionary tale regarding the inefficacy of certain core “security nationalist” priorities. Case studies of past government support for steel, shipbuilding, semiconductors, and machine tools show that security‐​related protectionism and industrial policy in the United States often undermines national security. Fourth, although the United States is not nearly as open (and thus allegedly “vulnerable”) to external shocks as claimed, global integration and trade openness often bolster U.S. national security by encouraging peace among trading nations or mitigating the impact of domestic shocks. Together, these points rebut the most common claims in support of “security nationalism” and show why skepticism of such initiatives is necessary when national security is involved. They also reveal market‐​oriented trade, immigration, tax, and regulatory policies that would generally benefit the U.S. economy while also supporting the defense industrial base and national security.
  • Topic: Defense Policy, National Security, COVID-19, Free Market, Deindustrialization
  • Political Geography: China, North America, United States of America
  • Author: Alex Nowrasteh
  • Publication Date: 02-2021
  • Content Type: Commentary and Analysis
  • Institution: The Cato Institute
  • Abstract: A cost‐​benefit analysis finds that the hazards posed by foreign‐​born spies are not large enough to warrant broad and costly actions such as a ban on travel and immigration from China, but they do warrant the continued exclusion of potential spies under current laws. Espionage poses a threat to national security and the private property rights of Americans. The government should address the threat of espionage in a manner whereby the benefits of government actions taken to reduce it outweigh the costs of those actions. To aid in that goal, this policy analysis presents the first combined database of all identified spies who targeted both the U.S. government and private organizations on U.S. soil. This analysis identifies 1,485 spies on American soil who, from 1990 through the end of 2019, conducted state or commercial espionage. Of those, 890 were foreign‐​born, 583 were native‐​born Americans, and 12 had unknown origins. The scale and scope of espionage have major implications for immigration policy, as a disproportionate number of the identified spies were foreign‐​born. Native‐​born Americans accounted for 39.3 percent of all spies, foreign‐​born spies accounted for 59.9 percent, and spies of unknown origins accounted for 0.8 percent. Spies who were born in China, Mexico, Iran, Taiwan, and Russia account for 34.7 percent of all spies. The chance that a native‐​born American committed espionage or an espionage‐​related crime and was identified was about 1 in 13.1 million per year from 1990 to 2019. The annual chance that a foreign‐​born person in the United States committed an espionage‐​related crime and was discovered doing so was about 1 in 2.2 million during that time. The government was the victim in 83.3 percent of espionage cases, firms were the victims of commercial espionage in 16.3 percent of the cases, and hospitals and universities were the victims of espionage in 0.1 percent and 0.3 percent of the cases, respectively. The federal government should continue to exclude foreign‐​born individuals from entering the United States if they pose a threat to the national security and private property rights of Americans through espionage. A cost‐​benefit analysis finds that the hazards posed by foreign‐​born spies are not large enough to warrant broad and costly actions such as a ban on travel and immigration from China, but they do warrant the continued exclusion of potential spies under current laws.
  • Topic: Crime, Immigration, Risk, Espionage
  • Political Geography: North America, United States of America
  • Author: Scott Lincicome, Inu Manak
  • Publication Date: 03-2021
  • Content Type: Commentary and Analysis
  • Institution: The Cato Institute
  • Abstract: With several Section 232 tariffs still in place, and the status of other investigations unclear, the law presents an early test for the Biden administration and a signal about its future trade policy plans. President Biden took office at the height of modern American protectionism. The trade policy legacy he inherited from the Trump administration puts the United States at a crossroads. Will Biden go down the problematic path of executive overreach like his predecessor, or will he forge a new path? We may not need to wait long to find out. In his first trade action, President Biden reinstated tariffs on aluminum from the United Arab Emirates under Section 232 of the Trade Expansion Act of 1962, which authorizes the president to impose tariffs when a certain product is “being imported into the United States in such quantities or under such circumstances as to threaten to impair national security.” Though infrequently used in the past, Section 232 was a favored trade tool of the Trump administration, which was responsible for nearly a quarter of all Section 232 investigations initiated since 1962. While Congress has constitutional authority over trade policy, Section 232 gives the president broad discretion to enact protectionist measures in the name of national security. Why is this law a problem? First, the statute’s lack of an objective definition of “national security” permits essentially anything to be considered a threat, regardless of the merits. Second, the law’s lack of detailed procedural requirements encouraged the Trump administration to cut corners in applying the law, thus breeding cronyism and confusion. Third, President Trump took advantage of the law’s ambiguity to shield key Section 232 findings from Congress and the public, undermining both transparency and accountability. The Trump administration’s abuse of the rarely used Section 232 has allowed the statute to become an excuse for blatant commercial protectionism, harming American companies and consumers and our security interests. It’s unclear whether the Biden administration will continue this troubling trend or seek reform. The best course of action would be the latter: Biden should avoid using Section 232 and support congressional efforts to rein in presidential power, thus ensuring an end to the calamitous episodes that were common during the Trump era.
  • Topic: National Security, Trade Policy, Protectionism
  • Political Geography: North America, United States of America
  • Author: Neal McCluskey
  • Publication Date: 04-2021
  • Content Type: Commentary and Analysis
  • Institution: The Cato Institute
  • Abstract: In one year, COVID-19 contributed to the permanent closure of at least 132 mainly low‐​cost private schools. But that was better than some feared. As COVID-19 struck the United States in March 2020, sending the nation into lockdown, worry about the fate of private schools was high. These schools, which only survive if people can pay for them, seemed to face deep trouble. Many private schools have thin financial margins even in good economic times and rely not only on tuition but also on fundraisers, such as in‐​person auctions, to make ends meet. When the pandemic hit, many such events were canceled, and churches no longer met in person, threatening contributions that help support some private schools. Simultaneously, many private schooling families faced tighter finances, making private schooling less affordable. Finally, families that could still afford private schooling might have concluded that continuing to pay for education that was going to be online‐​only made little sense.
  • Topic: Education, COVID-19, Private Schools
  • Political Geography: North America, United States of America
  • Author: Jay Schweikert
  • Publication Date: 09-2020
  • Content Type: Commentary and Analysis
  • Institution: The Cato Institute
  • Abstract: Qualified immunity is a judicial doctrine that protects public officials from liability, even when they break the law. The doctrine has no valid legal basis, it regularly denies justice to victims whose rights have been violated, and it severely undermines official accountability, especially for members of law enforcement. Accountability is an absolute necessity for meaningful criminal justice reform, and any attempt to provide greater accountability must confront the doctrine of qualified immunity. This judicial doctrine, invented by the Supreme Court in the 1960s, protects state and local officials from liability, even when they act unlawfully, so long as their actions do not violate “clearly established law.” In practice, this legal standard is a huge hurdle for civil rights plaintiffs because it generally requires them to identify not just a clear legal rule but a prior case with functionally identical facts.
  • Topic: Law, Reform, Criminal Justice, Accountability, Police, Qualified Immunity
  • Political Geography: North America, United States of America
  • Author: Claire Farley
  • Publication Date: 12-2020
  • Content Type: Commentary and Analysis
  • Institution: The Cato Institute
  • Abstract: In December 2019, Congress established the U.S. Space Force as an independent uniformed military service within the Department of the Air Force. Although many defense analysts had long argued for a reorganization of the Department of Defense’s space capabilities, few had settled on this particular solution. This policy analysis evaluates the reasoning behind the Space Force’s establishment, concluding that the service’s creation is premature. The Space Force is the first new independent U.S. service since the creation of the Air Force in 1947. At its inception, the Air Force had hundreds of thousands of personnel, several years of battle experience, a coherent body of doctrine, and a robust organizational culture. Even so, the creation of the Air Force sparked bitter interservice conflict for the first decade of its existence. However, the Space Force lacks a strong institutional basis, an identifiable organizational culture, and an established foundation of strategic theory. In the short term, it runs the risk of disrupting existing procedures and relationships that enable the U.S. military to function. In the long term, it runs the risk of distorting the procurement and force structure of U.S. space capabilities.
  • Topic: Science and Technology, Armed Forces, Military Affairs, Space Force
  • Political Geography: North America, United States of America
  • Author: Jeffrey Miron
  • Publication Date: 12-2020
  • Content Type: Commentary and Analysis
  • Institution: The Cato Institute
  • Abstract: Policymakers must do something to slow the growing debt burden or else face a major fiscal meltdown. Proposals such as Medicare for All and the Green New Deal would only make the looming fiscal crisis worse. Before COVID-19, the U.S. debt burden was large and on an unsustainable path under reasonable assumptions about economic fundamentals. Standard policy responses, such as higher taxes or lower discretionary spending, could not substantially slow the growth of the U.S. debt burden; only reduced growth in entitlement spending, especially on Medicare, had the potential to avoid eventual fiscal default. COVID-19, the ensuing recession, and the subsequent policy responses have all increased U.S. deficits substantially, potentially altering these conclusions. But these events are likely to be temporary and may be partially offset by other demographic and economic changes related to COVID-19. As a result, the pandemic did not substantially alter the projected path of the U.S. fiscal imbalance. That bit of good news does not alter the grim long‐​term U.S. fiscal outlook. The most effective way to slow the growth of the debt burden is to cut entitlement spending substantially.
  • Topic: Debt, Tax Systems, Fiscal Policy, COVID-19, Fiscal Deficit
  • Political Geography: North America, United States of America