Oreo Is Leaving for Mexico and Trumpism Is to Blame

Presidential front-runner Donald Trump vows that he will "never eat another Oreo again" to protest the transfer of 600 cookie-making jobs from Chicago to Mexico. And Trump is 100% correct when he condemns the factory’s exodus: "It’s unfair to us."

But the villains who have destroyed the jobs of American workers are Congress and the Department of Agriculture, not Nabisco and free trade. It is the very protectionist policies The Donald advocates to help American industry "win" again that caused the Oreo job losses he decries. 

Federal policy has long kept the U.S. price of sugar at double or triple that found in the world market. Food manufacturers such as Nabisco are hostage to a Byzantine combination of price supports and arbitrary import restrictions that make producing candy and other sweets far more expensive here than in Canada or Mexico.

Federal sugar policy costs consumers $3 billion a year in a failed effort to save the jobs of sugar growers even as the number of such farmers has declined by almost 50% in recent decades.

That's bad enough, but sugar policy is one of Uncle Sam’s most successful job destroyers. The Commerce Department estimated a decade ago that "for each one sugar growing and harvesting job saved through high U.S. sugar prices, nearly three confectionery manufacturing jobs are lost." Since 1997, sugar policy has zapped more than 120,000 jobs in food manufacturing, according to a study by Agralytica, an economic consulting firm. More than 10 jobs have been lost in manufacturing for every remaining sugar grower in the United States.

Our Trumpian sugar policy has been an obvious failure since the 1980s. Fifteen years ago, there was a brief uproar when Brach's Confections announced it would close its Chicago factory and move much of the production to Mexico. In 2002, Life Savers closed its Michigan factory and moved to Canada. Hershey's has also closed U.S. facilities and moved jobs abroad. Sugar prices were the culprit in each case.

Why would the feds continue a protection policy crushing American manufacturing?Campaign contributions. The sugar lobby showers Congress with money, including almost $50 million in campaign contributions and lobbying between 2008 and 2013 alone. In return, congressmen have licensed sugar growers to pilfer consumers at grocery checkouts and rob hardworking Americans of their jobs.

Our failed sugar policy illustrates why politicians cannot make trade more fair by making it less free. The economic arguments offered for sugar protectionism, like most trade barriers, are merely camouflage for political plunder. Every time Trump tries to save an American job through protectionism, he will make some Americans poorer at the same time that he puts even more jobs at risk.

This op-ed was first published in USA Today.

James Bovard
James Bovard

James Bovard is the author of ten books, including Public Policy Hooligan, Attention Deficit Democracy, and Lost Rights: The Destruction of American Liberty. Find him on Twitter @JimBovard.

This article was originally published on FEE.org. Read the original article.

The Catastrophic Results of the Smoot-Hawley Tariff of 1929-30

In the year 1929, as America slides into recession, a Republican senator, avowed patriot, Mormon “prophet” and businessman named Reed Smoot decides that he wants to do something about saving the country’s jobs.

They are being lost, insists Senator Smoot, because too many countries are selling too many goods into the United States and undermining the lives of honest, hard-working, ordinary folk.

It would take decades for some of these policies to be unwound.

Fortunately, the senator has a solution. Higher tariffs and duties, he promises, will protect those jobs. And as chairman of the Senate Finance Committee, he’s in a position to do something about it.

Working with Congressman Willis C Hawley, chairman of the House Ways and Means Committee, he devises the Tariff Act, which becomes law, after months of horse-trading, in June 1930.

Hailed by its co-sponsor Hawley as the precursor to “a renewed era of prosperity”, the Act hikes tariffs on the more than 20,000 dutiable goods to an average of 59.1 per cent. Duties on some individual items are quadrupled.

Given Donald Trump’s campaign speeches, I’m guessing he has little knowledge of Smoot-Hawley. Yet his campaign promises – and his actions since he became President-elect – position him very much as Senator Smoot’s heir.

Even before he’s got his feet under the desk in the Oval Office, he has killed off the Trans-Pacific Partnership (“a terrible deal”) that had just been agreed by 12 Pacific Rim countries, and has for good measure condemned the 22-year-old North American Free Trade Agreement with Canada, US and Mexico, on the grounds that it’s costing American jobs.

In short, the 45th president sounds very much like a protectionist – an impression underlined a few days ago when he warned that if any US firms moved production abroad then tried to sell those products back home, he’d slap on a 35 per cent tariff. (Never mind, as many an expert has pointed out, that this could run into all kinds of problems under international law, not to mention America’s own constitution.)

But what exactly was Smoot-Hawley? Its stated purpose sounds eerily similar to the goals that Trump has espoused. It was, said its title, “an Act to provide revenue, to regulate commerce with foreign countries, to encourage the industries of the United States, to protect American labor, and for other purposes…”

Senator Smoot, however, had his own motives.

The Life of Smoot

Few who knew anything about the subject were enthusiastic about Smoot’s ideas.

A xenophobe who lived in the United States all his life, apart from 10 months spent in Liverpool as a Mormon missionary, Smoot had a self-imposed mission to keep his nation clean of insidious foreign influences – such as Lady Chatterley’s Lover.

An astute businessman with interests in banking, mining, construction and agricultural goods (particularly sugar and wool, which were important industries in Utah), he was preoccupied with putting his name on an enduring piece of legislation.

And he was also an amateur economist who firmly believed that the recession that was then under way – generally agreed to have been triggered and by the 1929 Wall Street Crash – was the result of the volume of goods for sale exceeding the capacity of Americans to buy them. Hence prices were falling.

At the time, this doctrine was known variously as “overproduction” or “underconsumption”. The solution, Smoot said, was to reduce the volume of goods on the market and get things back in balance – and for him, that meant pricing foreign products out of the American market.

There was also a part of the Utah senator that seemed to see tariff barriers as a form of retribution for the bloodshed of the First World War. “The world,” he wrote, “is paying for its ruthless destruction of life and property and for its failure to adjust purchasing power to productive capacity during the industrial revolution of the decade following the war.”

Apart from Republican politicians, who spotted votes in protectionism, few who knew anything about the subject were enthusiastic about Smoot’s ideas.

Please Don't 

In fact, more than 1,000 American economists wrote to President Herbert Hoover, pleading with him not to sign the bill into existence. Despite this, and despite his own misgivings – he’d once damned the bill as “vicious, extortionate and obnoxious” – Hoover did.

The results were almost immediate. As global trade dried up, much of the world’s shipping fleet was mothballed and orders for new ships cancelled. Other major industries were affected – steel production, fishing, farming and manufacturing of all kinds.

And predictably, America’s trading partners reacted in kind.

An outraged Canada slammed tariffs on goods that accounted for 30 per cent of American exports. France, Germany and the British Empire followed suit, either turning to alternative markets or developing substitute manufacturing that would replace goods previously acquired from America – or elsewhere, since many other countries were erecting wall-of-death tariffs.

It would take decades for some of these policies to be unwound.

Although historical economists still differ about the extent of the damage caused by Smoot-Hawley, nobody doubts that it dealt a serious blow to the global economy at a vulnerable time – or that it deepened and lengthened the Depression, both inside and outside the United States.

The incoming president, Franklin Delano Roosevelt, said Smoot-Hawley “compelled the world to build tariff fences so high that world trade is decreasing to vanishing point”.

Between 1929 and 1933, US imports collapsed by 66 per cent. Exports plummeted by 61 per cent. Total global trade fell by a similar amount.

As the Depression worsened, the deflating US economy was hit ever harder by the Smoot-Hawley tariffs. Because the tariffs were fixed, the dutiable percentage of products grew as their value collapsed. The less trade there was, the more difficult it became.

Rather than the promised new era of prosperity, Smoot-Hawley had helped bring about an era of misery. Between 1929 and 1933, America’s wealth nearly halved – and the unemployment rate more than tripled from eight per cent to 25 per cent.

The tragedy was that the Act was a solution to a problem that didn’t exist. America had actually been in surplus on its trade account, right across the board. Although food exports had been falling and were in deficit, manufactured exports more than compensated for the decline.

And while it was true that imports of foreign manufactures were indeed rising before Smoot-Hawley, economist Jakob B Madsen pointed out in a 2002 study that exports were rising even faster.

Rather like Donald Trump, Reed Smoot wasn’t a man to admit he might be wrong. As one biographer wrote: “There is no evidence that any apparent fact, any argument, any introspection even faintly disturbed him.”

“The Great Protectionist”, as author James B Allen once described him, lost office in 1932. Till his dying day, the only problem he would admit to with his tariffs was that they might not have been set quite high enough.

This piece ran on Cap-X

Selwyn Parker
Selwyn Parker

Selwyn Parker is a journalist and author of 'The Great Crash' (Piatkus, 2008), a chronicle of the global ramifications of the Wall Street stock market collapse of 1929.

This article was originally published on FEE.org. Read the original article.

Protectionism Won't Help America's Poor Whites

The first time I encountered the term “poor whites,” I was taking a history class in a South African high school. The term referred to whites, mostly Afrikaners, who were losing their jobs to black competition at the turn of the 19th century.

The whites had a vote. The blacks did not. As a result, the government of the day decided to solve the problem of white poverty by implementing a “color bar,” or job protection for whites. Over time, the color bar grew into a complex system of social and economic planning called apartheid.

The system caused untold damage to black South Africans, but it also harmed the Afrikaners. Many found work in subsidized agriculture, protected manufacturing and in Afrikaner-dominated government. Protected by an artificial wall of quotas, tariffs and subsidies, they failed to sufficiently develop their “human capital.” After apartheid ended, poor whites re-emerged and constitute about 8 percent of South African whites today. When I arrived in South Africa, white beggars were inconceivable. When I left, they were everywhere. Poverty had, once again, become a multi-racial phenomenon.

I tell this story because the problem of “poor whites” has recently become a major topic of conversation here in the United States. To be sure, there have always been poor whites in the United States. Poverty among Appalachian whites, for example, is notorious and, apparently, intractable.

Then, late last year, Princeton University researchers Anne Case and Angus Deaton, Case’s husband and 2015 winner of the Nobel Prize in economics, found that death rates among middle-aged American whites started to rise at the turn of the new millennium. (Full disclosure, Angus Deaton is a board member of Human Progress, which I edit.) According to their study,

This change reversed decades of progress in mortality and was unique to the United States; no other rich country saw a similar turnaround. The midlife mortality reversal was confined to white non-Hispanics; black non-Hispanics and Hispanics at midlife, and those aged 65 and above in every racial and ethnic group, continued to see mortality rates fall.

At the heart of the problem seem to be poor and uneducated whites who live in rural areas. As an ever-growing number of Americans move to the cities, those who are left behind see their support groups — friends, families and churches decimated. To make matters worse, they are also the ones with the least ability to cope in an increasingly demanding economic environment that puts a premium on high skills and risk-taking. All too often, they find solace in alcohol and opiates and, tragically, escape in suicide.

Not surprisingly, many of them believe that they have found salvation in the messianic candidacy of Donald Trump who promises to “take care of everyone.” They are at the core of his burgeoning support. To these people in distress, it matters little that Trump’s economic proposals would almost certainly result in a trade war and an increased cost of living. To them, keeping cheap Mexican labor and Chinese goods out sound like plausible solutions to America’s problems.

With notable exceptions, many conservatives have jumped on the Trump bandwagon and discarded the oft-cited precepts of President Ronald Reagan’s conservatism: competition, free trade, self-reliance and hard work. Reagan understood that competition domestic and international is key to making America work better. Many of Trump’s supporters see protection as key to rebuilding the America of yesteryear. This switch, as Kevin Williamson pointed out, is all the more curious, considering that conservatives have rightly identified government protection affirmative action quotas, welfare payments and job security in parastatals as a major cause of black underachievement. To urge American blacks to embrace competition, while extending protection to American whites is, at best, inconsistent and, at worst, racist. What’s right for the goose must also be right for the gander.

The case for competition in general and free trade in particular has not changed since the publication of Adam Smith’s Wealth of Nations in 1776 the year of America’s Declaration of Independence. Industries that hide behind tariffs or rely on bailouts and subsidies tend to ossify and fall further behind. The same is true of countries and people. The America of yesteryear is gone. To succeed in the era of globalization, our economy must be flexible and open. Protectionism will not solve the problem of white poverty. It will perpetuate it by keeping poor and uneducated white Americans in dying towns and shrinking industries. That is not noble. It is cruel.

This article first appeared at CapX.


Marian L. Tupy
Marian L. Tupy

Marian L. Tupy is the editor of HumanProgress.org and a senior policy analyst at the Center for Global Liberty and Prosperity. 

This article was originally published on FEE.org. Read the original article.

My Lyft Ride with a Black Trump Supporter on MLK Day

The media narrative on American politics has become so tedious you don’t have to listen anymore. Every story seems to follow a formula, and never more so on than on the Martin Luther King holiday. Every headline proclaims how black Americans are horrified at Trump’s insensitivity to the historical plight of blacks in the civil rights movement. After all, he attacked Rep. John Lewis, which apparently violates some canon of the civic religion.

"It’s not even about race. Many blacks in this town live better than white people anywhere in the world. But there’s whole communities that have been forgotten."

I had no interest in engaging this debate, but I did call a Lyft car this morning and my driver, a black woman raised in poverty, was very interested in doing so. The news was on and blaring how Trump was attacking the CIA, which made me laugh, and I said, “I’m no Trump supporter but that’s funny.”

She immediately shot back, “What do you not like about Trump?” I said a few things about his trade policies, but she was having none of it.

“Here it is Martin Luther King Jr. Day and I’m supposed to be all upset that Trump attacked John Lewis, but Trump is right. Lewis said he is not a legitimate president, so yeah Trump got upset. What exactly is Lewis doing to improve the lives of the poor in this town? Nothing. At least Trump has some ideas. He seems to care.”

Ok, now I’m listening.

“I’m glad Lewis marched in the protests so long ago,” she continued, “but you have to do more than march. That’s all these people do is march. Meanwhile, there are sections of Atlanta I’m afraid to drive in. And I say that as a black woman! It’s not even about race. Many blacks in this town live better than white people anywhere in the world. But there’s whole communities that have been forgotten. They are paid off with welfare checks but they don’t have skills or jobs, and they fear for their lives on their own streets.”

She was just getting going, so I wondered how far I could push this. What about Obamacare?


“Don’t get me started. My premiums are through the roof. I can’t afford it. Because I drive all day and night making money, I’m not poor enough to get any subsidies. So this year I’m going to have to pay $750 on my tax return because I can’t afford to buy insurance. But I can’t afford the health care either! And have you seen those deductibles? If anything should happen to you, you go bankrupt. I’ll tell you who benefitted from Obamacare. Not the poor. It’s the insurance companies and the government.”

I pointed out that Hillary Clinton said she would try to improve it.

“You kidding? The whole campaign, she defended all this #@#$!. She is just like the rest of these people, all talk, no action, just like Trump said. She has been pushing a pen for 30 years. She is not affected by high premiums. Her health care is covered. She has no idea what the rest of us are going through.”

But, I said, Trump is rich and well-covered too.

“Yeah but he starts businesses and has to pay workers. He knows how to create jobs. People say he went bankrupt sometimes. That’s what you do if you are hardworking and trying to try new things. Bankruptcy is just part of business. You win and lose but at least he knows how to learn and respond. The rest of these people don’t do anything but give speeches and defend the way things are.”

I asked about Obama and his speech warning about destabilizing important traditions in government.

“See? This is exactly the problem: traditions in government. We need to get rid of those and have something new. Trump is the man to do it. I’m not saying he is right on everything but someone has to do something. Things have been the same for too long around here. In my own life, I’ve had to tried something new every few years. I’m taking classes in IT to try something new. Government needs to do that too.”

I was feeling pretty persuaded by what she was saying here, so I pushed a bit further. But don’t you worry about his thing about foreign trade? I mean, you and I are going to be paying a tax for imports from places he doesn’t like.

"I feel more connection to Trump and his views than I do to Obama and people like John Lewis.”

“You see, Trump thinks just like a good mother. Any mom knows that the most important thing is to keep things right at home. When the home is right, everything else is right. America is home. He says: you can do all the business you want in these 50 states but if you are going to go wandering around the world, you are going to have to pay a price.”

At this point, I winced. There it is, nationalism in a nutshell and the reason why protectionism is so popular. It makes some intuitive sense, until you look at the details. It turns out that absolutely everything is made globally now. You can’t impose a home-alone attitude and expect to have a modern economy.

The Personal is the Political

So I changed the subject again. What about Trump’s personal issues? He seems to have some odd opinions on women and minorities and so on.

“Everyone I know has odd opinions on things, stuff that’s crazy and maybe dangerous. You and I probably have some weird views too. But so long as these views don’t affect the country as a whole, it’s cool. I don’t really care. Plus, I’m a black woman and I’m working hard driving people all over this city. You think if he met me, he wouldn’t like me? I think he would like me. I feel more connection to him and his views than I do to Obama and people like John Lewis.”

We arrived at the airport, and I wished her the best. She apologized for using our ride for a rant. I said that’s perfectly fine. I learned a few things. We smiled and wished each other the best. I only wished that a reporter with the New York Times had been there. Not that it would have been reported. The prevailing narrative is much safer.

Jeffrey Tucker
Jeffrey Tucker

Jeffrey Tucker is Director of Content for the Foundation for Economic Education. He is also Chief Liberty Officer and founder of Liberty.me, Distinguished Honorary Member of Mises Brazil, research fellow at the Acton Institute, policy adviser of the Heartland Institute, founder of the CryptoCurrency Conference, member of the editorial board of the Molinari Review, an advisor to the blockchain application builder Factom, and author of five books. He has written 150 introductions to books and many thousands of articles appearing in the scholarly and popular press.

This article was originally published on FEE.org. Read the original article.

Tariffs Hurt the Poorest the Most


The chart above displays the estimated burdens of trade tariffs (as a share of after-tax household income) on US households by income deciles. It represents graphically the main conclusion of a new research article “US tariffs are an arbitrary and regressive tax” by economists Jason Furman (Chairman, Council of Economic Advisers), Katheryn Russ (UC-Davis), Jay Shambaugh (Council of Economic Advisers), emphasis mine:

Tariffs – taxes on imported goods – likely impose a heavier burden on lower-income households, as these households generally spend more on traded goods as a share of expenditure/income and because of the higher level of tariffs placed on some key consumer goods. We estimate the tariff burden by income group and by family structure using a new dataset constructed by matching of granular data on trade and consumer spending. The findings suggest that tariffs function as a regressive tax that weighs most heavily on women and single parents.

Here’s their methodology:

We match import duties to standard consumer expenditure data to take a more detailed look and find evidence that low- and middle-income households do, indeed, spend a higher fraction of their income and non-housing expenditure on tariffs. The findings indicate that tariffs act as a regressive tax on American consumers and are distortionary in their variation across products.

Here’s the paper’s conclusion:

Based on this initial analysis, it appears tariffs are imposed in a regressive manner – in part because expenditures on traded goods are a higher share of income and non-housing consumption among lower income households, but also due to explicit regressivity within categories.  The analysis highlights an underexplored aspect of trade policy and its effects and leaves open a path for subsequent research. More research on this area would be welcome – and the new dataset created for this analysis hopefully will help further some of that research.

Bottom Line: The economic lessons here are: a) America’s low-income households benefit the most from free trade and having access to cheap imports because they spend a greater share of their budgets on traded goods like clothing, footwear, household items, school supplies, appliances, toys, and furniture (think Walmart shoppers), and b) America’s low-income households have the most to lose from greater restrictions on free trade with import quotas, protective trade tariffs, border taxes, and other trade barriers. If Trump starts a trade war with tariffs and border taxes, it will be a “war on the poorest Americans,” as Johan Norberg explains in the video below “Unequal Benefits of Trade” (MP: and unequal burdens of tariffs).

Republished from AEI.

Mark J. Perry
Mark J. Perry

Mark J. Perry is a scholar at the American Enterprise Institute and a professor of economics and finance at the University of Michigan’s Flint campus.

This article was originally published on FEE.org. Read the original article.

Protectionism Will Make America Expensive Again

Over the last several weeks, Donald Trump has celebrated the decisions of some firms to produce domestically—decisions he claims resulted from his threat to bludgeon companies with hefty import taxes ranging from 10 to 35 percent. I find this very confusing because, well, it’s a violation of Mr. Trump’s biggest campaign promise: to make America great.

Mr. Trump wants to make America great, but isolationist policies will only make America more expensive.

By wielding the threat of taxation, Mr. Trump is actively coercing American companies into exclusively building their products domestically using domestic inputs. This protectionist persuasion is rooted not in logic, but emotion; instead of consulting his experience as a lifelong businessman, Mr. Trump’s conclusion is half-baked, driven by a blind, albeit well-intentioned, hope to rebuild the wealth of his countrymen.

However, the only thing these acts will build for Mr. Trump is a track record of hurting Americans — mostly the poor and middle classes.

Division and Cost Reduction

In the market, producers compete to offer customers convenience and quality for the best price. Machines, the division of labor, and other innovations and institutions let firms offer better prices by decreasing their production costs. Lower costs enable them to pass savings on to buyers and accelerate competition with other businesses who compete to earn customers.

Everyone loves a deal, but easy access to goods is even more important for people living in poverty.

The division of labor breaks up the production process into separate stages. Workers may be good at producing a product, but everyone has strengths and weaknesses. By dividing the process, firms can identify and upgrade their weak areas, freeing workers to focus on what they’re best at. Putting the best workers at each stage increases output and decreases price exponentially. The result is that production costs decrease.

Specialization doesn’t just happen within a company, either. Entire firms will specialize in the creation of a certain input, and at an especially low cost. This makes it cheaper for firms to buy inputs from specialized producers instead of wasting funds upgrading their own processes. These firms simply recognize that they can be good at some things but not everything, and they are willing to utilize others’ strengths to achieve greater savings.

Even with specialization, competitive firms are still confined to a limited pool of producers within their market. By extending markets worldwide, companies can access the cheapest inputs and further decrease costs. When companies say they’ll cross oceans to earn your business, some actually mean it; after all, finding the lowest priced goods, wherever they may be, results in more affordable and accessible goods for you and me.

In this way, international trade is a natural progression of the division of labor.

Everyone loves a deal, but easy, cheap access to goods and services is even more important for people living in poverty.

We Are the Least of Us

Because, ceteris paribus, international trade and competition naturally facilitate a gradual increase in quality and decrease in price, the goods created through trade become affordable to a larger portion of the market.

Think of prices like a minimum requirement; if you can’t pay the price, you can’t access the good. The more a price falls, the more people can meet the requirement. When prices fall, those in poverty can afford better and better goods, provided that they can access that market.

In Adam Smith’s iconic Wealth of Nations, he writes,

It is the great multiplication of the productions of all the different arts, in consequence of the division of labour, which occasions, in a well-governed society, that universal opulence which extends itself to the lowest ranks of the people.”

A nation’s wealth grows as its firms produce better products for lower prices. In wealthy nations, poor people have an improved quality of life because they have greater access to increasingly high-quality goods, like shoes and cell phones.

There is a direct relationship between a country’s overall wealth and its impoverished people.

In his 2008 book, Globalization, Don Boudreaux cites David Dollar and Aart Kraay’s 40-year study on the connection between the income and growth of a country’s poorest people and the country as a whole. As Boudreaux explains, “higher incomes for the poorest citizens of a country are tightly and positively correlated with higher incomes for the rest of the citizens of that country.”

The wealth and growth of a nation can be seen through the quality of life enjoyed by its poorest citizens. Because international trade and the division of labor enable the poor to afford the goods that improve their quality of life, it is reasonable to claim that these institutions are integral to the entire nation’s wealth and progress.

By advocating for restrictive policies, Trump is sabotaging the nation he hopes to save.

Tariffs: Regression, not Progression

Increasingly competitive prices , made possible by an international division of labor , make products more available for the neediest. However, the benefits of the division of labor are limited to the extent of the market.

Relationships go both ways. International trade is a driving force for economic progression, but tariffs are an equally potent agent of economic regression.

By preventing firms from accessing the lowest-priced inputs for their products, tariffs ratchet up the price of final products. When prices increase, people of certain incomes are effectively disallowed from participating in markets. The imposition of tariffs doesn’t increase people’s access to a good quality of life — it revokes it.

When unrestricted, the market provides the means by which all humans can flourish and thrive. By advocating for restrictive policies, Mr. Trump is sabotaging the growth of the nation he hopes to save.

I do not fully condemn Mr. Trump’s ignorance; per Bastiat, economics is a discipline that trains people to scrape the scales from their eyes, to realize and recognize the existence of unintended consequences—the “unseen”—that surround every “seen” act. But if Mr. Trump intends to help this nation, he must open his eyes and allow market processes to lift the economy from the bottom up.

After all, nations do not become great by neglecting their poor. In truly great nations peasants might enjoy things which hold the envy of foreign kings.

Will Logan
Will Logan

Will Logan is a graduating senior at Hillsdale College, where he studied economics. He is a current participant in the Koch Internship Program (KIP) in Washington, DC.

This article was originally published on FEE.org. Read the original article.

A US-Loving Englishman's Plea: Learn How to Serve a Proper Cup of Tea

To the airlines, restaurants, and good people of my beautiful adoptive home of America:

The ink has dried on my first American passport.  As of April, I will have been one of your compatriots for a year. I love being American for myriad reasons, one of which is the very high material standard of living we enjoy, on average, relative to the residents of other nations.

But there is a cause of suffering in our country that could so easily be eliminated at no cost to anyone, and it pains me.

I happen to be especially qualified to eliminate the scourge on account of the country in which I was born – the United Kingdom.

I have been holding my tongue (pen, or more accurately, laptop keyboard) for years out of a desire not to offend, but it has now become clear that the good that can be done by addressing the national disgrace of which I write is great enough that it is time to speak up.

I am talking, of course, about the apparent inability of most Americans to make a decent cup of tea.

Warm Water at 35,000 Feet

Strangely for a nation such as ours, with its generally high standards of service and product quality, this inability is most harmfully manifest in those Americans whose very jobs actually include making tea, and the companies who employ them to do just that.

I finally cracked on Delta flight 0037 from London to Seattle. It is a truth universally acknowledged that flying tin cans with wings are not the easiest places to serve up refreshment of high quality, however, in business class, where I was rather unusually sitting on this flight, the quality of most of the fare is usually at least acceptable.

A cup of water with a teabag nearby can no more produce a decent cup of tea than a cup of water with a packet of coffee beans next to it can produce a decent cup of coffee.

Therefore, when I asked for a cup of black tea, but was, in the typical American fashion, presented with a cup of warm water, and given a teabag, my frustration was not mitigated by my lack of surprise or the fact that I was 35,000 feet above the earth.

Indeed, the hot water dispenser on a plane is perfectly adequate to make a proper cup of tea – if only it is properly used. So I went to the galley to show the most gracious stewardesses how to do it, with as much English charm as I could muster.

To be clear, a cup of water with a teabag nearby can no more produce a decent cup of tea than a cup of water with a packet of coffee beans next to it can produce a decent cup of coffee.

My dearest American compatriots, we wouldn’t think of serving warm water and a nearby collection of coffee beans as “a cup of coffee.” Indeed, the very idea is absurd. So why do we do exactly that when it comes to tea?

The reason that a cup of hot water plus a teabag does not equal a cup of tea is, at root, the same as the reason why a cup of hot water plus a pile of beans does not equal a cup of coffee: if you add either the teabag or the beans to the water in that state, what you end up with does not taste like the drink you have asked for.  

In the case of coffee, it is obvious why.  So, as a public service, let me explain why this is also the case for tea.

The Science of Tea

Tea “works” in a pretty simple way. The properties of the water that are chiefly responsible for pulling the flavor out of the tea leaves are its temperature and the oxygen that is dissolved in it. The most important of these is temperature. And the only temperature that works is boiling or very close to it.

This means that if you are a flight attendant, a waitress in a diner, a barista, etc., when you release the near-boiling water from that big cuboid contraption that heats and stores water into the cup or pot that are you about to serve the beverage in, the teabag has to be in the cup or pot already so the water is hot enough to transform the leaves in the bag into the beverage.

If on the other hand you release the water into the cup or pot before putting the bag in it, then heat from the water will be conducted into the cup or pot, cooling the water before you put the bag in it.  Moreover, by the time you walk over to the diner’s table or the traveler’s airplane seat with your container of water, the water will have become even colder by evaporation – and so is utterly devoid of the potential to become an actual cup of tea.

You see, decent tea, like decent coffee, or even wine or whiskey, has a depth of taste, comprising layers of flavor, if you will. Near-boiling water is required to bring them out. Tepid water will deliver the “tea equivalent” of a Petrus Bordeaux watered down 10 to 1, or a single malt devastated by bad cola, or, simply that pseudo-“coffee” made from freeze-dried “coffee granules.”

High Time for Tea in America

So, as a foodie who enjoys American diners, and as a traveler who is grateful for being transported around the country and even the world by our nation’s airlines, I beg you to stop offering me tea and then giving me something entirely different.  

For the sake of our shared history, please just stop it with the non-tea. Stop it now.

For the sake of our shared history, for all that unites those of us so fortunate as to share in the glorious heritage of the Anglosphere, and for all that we have always gained by learning from each other as cousins, please just stop it with the non-tea.

Stop it now.

“Tea” means tea – not a cup or pot of tepid water with a teabag in the vicinity.

Now, as a consultant in the field of political communications, I know how hard it is to change a deeply wired paradigm. Indeed, I’ve written a book about it. I also appreciate that the ladies and gents serving customers in American restaurants and on American planes are busy people doing a difficult and important job under stress, having very much to do and think about all at once.

For that reason, let me offer two simple rules of thumb anyone can follow to eliminate America’s bibitory travesty.

  • Use near-boiling water.
  • Put the teabags into the container (pot, mug or cup) BEFORE the water.

That’s all you need to know.

And here’s your “failsafe” heuristic:

If, when you’re serving the tea, the teabag is not already in the water, then you are not serving tea (and, if you happen to be serving a Brit, you’re actually serving an insult).

It took the Brits generations to learn how to make a decent cup of coffee, but to be fair, they worked it out eventually. Let’s return the favor, and in so doing give hundreds of millions of Americans a chance to enjoy a wonderful beverage that they may think they’ve already tasted, but likely never have.

Robin Koerner
Robin Koerner

Robin Koerner is British-born and recently became a citizen of the USA. A decade ago, he founded WatchingAmerica.com, an organization of over 200 volunteers that translates and posts views about the USA from all over the world, works as a trainer and a consultant, and recently wrote the book If You Can Keep It.

This article was originally published on FEE.org. Read the original article.

5 Tips to Stop Waking Up Exhausted

(Family Features) It’s no secret that finding time for the recommended eight hours of sleep is easier said than done. More often than not, your time asleep is limited by your busy schedule. If you are lucky enough to squeeze in a full eight hours of shuteye, you are still not guaranteed to wake up feeling refreshed.

While some responsibilities are hard to shake, setting yourself up with the right routine can vastly improve your quality of sleep and combat the issues keeping you up at night:

1.     Lighten up: If it’s never light in your bedroom, you may be confusing your body’s circadian clock. The circadian clock regulates how alert you are due to the light and darkness in an environment. If you keep your bedroom dark during the day or use black-out curtains, this can act as a signal to your body that it should be asleep. Swap out your curtains for a lighter color or keep your shades partially open –natural sunlight in your room can help you wake up in the morning.

2.     Out with the old: Approximately half (49 percent) of Americans have had their mattress for five years or more and while people struggle with sleep for a variety of reasons, your mattress could be keeping you from getting a good night’s sleep. A quality mattress, like the Beautyrest Platinum Hybrid Mattress can give you the support you need to wake up feeling refreshed. It offers a “cool to touch” surface while also providing the support and pressure relief necessary to make sure that once you fall asleep, you stay asleep.

3.     Tune out: Everyone’s guilty of binge-watching their favorite TV shows from time to time. While you may satisfy your curiosity by catching the ending of your favorite series, you may not be so happy when you wake up groggy after staying up too late. Set an alarm for 30 minutes before you want to go to sleep and when the alarm goes off turn off your TV and get ready for bed. Limiting screen time before you fall asleep can also avoid disrupting your body’s level of melatonin, which controls sleep cycles.

4.     If you snooze, you lose: Hitting the snooze button even once in the morning can make you feel groggy throughout the day. By hitting snooze, you are prompting your body to start another stage in your sleep cycle without giving it enough time to fully recover. Try downloading an app with a smart alarm to make sure that you are waking up during a lighter stage of your sleep cycle.

5.     Cut the caffeine: While there is nothing quite like coffee for an afternoon pick-me-up, having caffeine after 2 p.m. can impact both your sleep quality and quantity. Instead of having a cup after lunch, take your coffee break earlier in the day or consider switching to decaf.

For more tips to wake up feeling refreshed, visit beautyrest.com

Florida airport shooting suspect inspired by Islamic State: media

Esteban Santiago is taken from the Broward County main jail as he is transported to the federal courthouse in Fort Lauderdale, Florida, U.S., January 9, 2017. Amy Beth Bennett/South Florida Sun Sentinel via REUTERS
(Reuters) - An Iraq war veteran accused of killing five people at a Florida airport told investigators he was inspired by Islamic State and previously chatted online with Islamist extremists, an FBI agent testified on Tuesday, U.S. media reported.

Esteban Santiago, 26, was ordered held in jail until a Jan. 30 arraignment, court records show. At that time he would enter a formal plea to charges that he opened fire in the baggage claim area of the Fort Lauderdale airport on Jan. 6.

"He has admitted to all of the facts with respect to the terrible and tragic events of Jan. 6," Assistant U.S. Attorney Rick Del Toro said at the federal court hearing in Fort Lauderdale, NBC 6 South Florida television reported. "These were vulnerable victims who he shot down methodically."

Reuters was not immediately able to reach U.S. prosecutors or the Federal Bureau of Investigation to confirm the media reports.

Santiago, a private first class in the National Guard who served in Iraq from 2010 to 2011, traveled from Alaska to Florida with a handgun and ammunition in his checked luggage, officials said.

Upon retrieving his gun case from the luggage carousel, he went to a bathroom to load the weapon and then opened fire on others waiting for their bags, investigators said.

FBI special agent Michael Ferlazzo testified Santiago told interrogators he carried out the attack on behalf of Islamic State and that he had been in contact with others on jihadist chat rooms who were planning attacks.

"It was a group of like-minded individuals who were all planning attacks," Ferlazzo said, according to NBC 6.

The FBI has said Santiago previously displayed erratic behavior, entering the FBI office in Anchorage in November and saying his mind was being controlled by a U.S. intelligence agency.

The FBI turned him over to local police, who took him to a medical facility for a mental evaluation, officials said.  

Police took a handgun from him but returned it last month after a medical evaluation found he was not mentally ill, authorities said.

Santiago used the same weapon in the airport attack, agents testified, the Sun Sentinel reported.

His defense team did not challenge the prosecution's argument that Santiago posed a flight risk and said he was prepared to be detained through his trial, CNN said.

 (Reporting by Daniel Trotta in New York; Editing by Colleen Jenkins and Lisa Shumaker)

Obama shortens sentence of Manning, who gave secrets to WikiLeaks

Chelsea Manning is pictured in this 2010 photograph obtained on August 14, 2013.Courtesy U.S. Army/Handout via REUTERS
By Roberta Rampton and Ayesha Rascoe

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - President Barack Obama on Tuesday shortened the prison sentence of Chelsea Manning, the former U.S. military intelligence analyst who was responsible for a 2010 leak of classified materials to anti-secrecy group WikiLeaks, the biggest such breach in U.S. history.

A White House official said there was no connection between Manning's commutation and renewed U.S. government concern about WikiLeaks' actions during last year's presidential election, or a promise by founder Julian Assange to accept extradition if Manning was freed.

Manning has been a focus of a worldwide debate on government secrecy since she provided more than 700,000 documents, videos, diplomatic cables and battlefield accounts to WikiLeaks - a leak for which she was sentenced to serve 35 years in prison.

Obama, in one of his final acts before leaving office, reduced her sentence to seven years, angering some Republicans.

"This is just outrageous," House of Representatives Speaker Paul Ryan said in a statement. Ryan, a Republican, said the decision was a "dangerous precedent" for those who leak materials about national security.

"Chelsea Manning's treachery put American lives at risk and exposed some of our nation's most sensitive secrets," Ryan said.

Manning was working as an intelligence analyst in Baghdad in 2010 when she gave WikiLeaks a trove of diplomatic cables and battlefield accounts that included a 2007 gunsight video of a U.S. Apache helicopter firing at suspected insurgents in Iraq, killing a dozen people including two Reuters news staff.

Republican Senator Tom Cotton said the leak endangered troops, intelligence officers, diplomats and allies.

"We ought not treat a traitor like a martyr," Cotton said.


Manning, formerly known as U.S. Army Private First Class Bradley Manning, was born male but revealed after being convicted of espionage that she identifies as a woman. The White House said her sentence would end on May 17 this year.

Manning, who twice tried to kill herself last year and has struggled to cope as a transgender woman in the Fort Leavenworth, Kansas, men's military prison, accepted responsibility for leaking the material -- a factor that fed into Obama's decision, a White House official told reporters, speaking on condition of anonymity.

The official said Obama's decision was rooted in Manning's sentence being longer than sentences given to others who had committed comparable crimes. Obama, who leaves office on Friday and is scheduled to give his final news conference on Wednesday, is expected to discuss his decision then.

WikiLeaks also published emails in the weeks leading up to the Nov. 8 presidential election that U.S. intelligence agencies have concluded that Russian intelligence agencies hacked the Democratic National Committee and the accounts of leading Democrats, part of a campaign by Moscow to influence the election.

But Obama's decision had nothing to do with the latest WikiLeaks controversy, the White House official said.

"The president's decision to grant clemency and offer commutation to Chelsea Manning was not influenced in any way by public comments from Assange or the WikiLeaks organization," a White House official said on a conference call with reporters.

Assange has been holed up at Ecuador's London embassy since 2012 to avoid extradition to Sweden for the investigation of allegations, which he denies, that he committed rape there in 2010. He has said he fears Sweden would extradite him to the United States, where there is an open criminal investigation into the activities of WikiLeaks.

WikiLeaks sent a tweet quoting Assange's attorney, Melinda Taylor, saying he would abide by his promise to accept extradition if Manning was freed. "Everything that he has said he's standing by," Taylor said, according to the tweet.

Civil rights groups praised the move, calling it overdue.

"Chelsea Manning exposed serious abuses, and as a result her own human rights have been violated by the U.S. government for years," said Margaret Huang, executive director of Amnesty International USA.


Obama also pardoned retired U.S. Marine Corps General James Cartwright who pleaded guilty in October to making false statements to the FBI during an investigation into leaks of classified information.

The aggressive prosecution of Cartwright, who last served as vice chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, sent shockwaves through the Pentagon.

He lied during questioning by the FBI over a book written by a New York Times reporter that exposed a malicious computer software program known as "Stuxnet" designed to disrupt Iran's nuclear program. Cartwright denied being the source of the leak.

Obama weighed Cartwright's service along with his motive when making the decision, the White House official said, noting Cartwright had not divulged material that the journalist was not already aware of, and that his conversations were focused on preventing the publication of material that could hurt national security.

"It's clear in this case ... that General Cartwright's motive was different than most people who are facing charges of leaking classified information to a journalist," the official said.


Also on the pardon list: Oscar Lopez Rivera, who was sentenced in 1981 to 55 years in prison for his involvement with Puerto Rican militant group FALN, which claimed responsibility for dozens of bombings in the 1970s and 1980s.

Lopez Rivera -- who turned down a similar offer from President Bill Clinton in 1999 -- was the last remaining member of FALN still in prison.

"Mr. Lopez Rivera is now in his 70s. He has served 35 years, nearly half of his life in prison," a White House official said. "The president determined that was sufficient amount of time to serve, although the president certainly believes that the crimes that were committed were serious."

U.S. Senator Bernie Sanders campaigned for the release of Lopez Rivera during his unsuccessful campaign against Hillary Clinton for the Democratic presidential nomination.

Manning and Lopez Rivera were among 209 commutations granted by Obama on Tuesday and Cartwright was among 64 pardons.

In total, Obama has commuted sentences for 1,385 federal prisoners -- a total greater than that of the 12 previous presidents combined -- and he is expected to announce more on Thursday, the White House official said.

Most of the commutations were a part of Obama's effort to reduce the number of people serving long sentences for non-violent drug offenses.

 (Reporting by Roberta Rampton and Ayesha Rascoe; additional reporting by Phillip Stewart, Patricia Zengerle and Dustin Volz; Editing by Sandra Maler, Grant McCool and Lisa Shumaker)