On July 12, an explosion rocked the USS Bonhomme Richard, touching off a fire that raged for four days, gutting the amphibious assault ship. It was a catastrophe, but one the Navy may be able to turn to its advantage.
Replacing the ship would cost the Navy billions. But for less money, it could repurpose the Bonhomme Richard, making it an operational testbed for cutting-edge unmanned, sea-based weapons systems. This would help the Navy address concerns about unmanned systems and improve the prospect of growing the fleet — in both size and lethality — more rapidly.
For now, however, the ship’s future remains in question. It has sustained damage so extensive, it’s not known if it can ever sail again.
For a Navy that is struggling to meet its mandated fleet of 355 ships, loss of the Bonhomme Richard would be a significant setback. With tensions sharpening in the South China Sea and Russian provocations on the rise, the ship’s capacity to conduct a wide variety of maritime operations is especially valuable at this juncture.
Navy investigators are sifting through evidence to ascertain what caused the explosion and why the fire was so intense and engineers will review the ship’s design — all in an effort to prevent a repeat. Much has already been written about what these reviews may reveal, how the incident will affect deployment schedules and the importance of improving the Navy’s readiness.
These are all very important issues. However, with the Defense Department currently rethinking how it wants to structure the future Navy, this fire provides something else: an opportunity.
Congress has made clear that it is uneasy with expanding investment in unproven unmanned systems. Both House and Senate versions of the new National Defense Authorization Act condition the procurement of naval unmanned platforms on the Pentagon first certifying their reliability. Additionally, there is as yet no clear articulation of how unmanned systems would augment and count in the future fleet — a question that the Navy’s recently established Surface Development Squadron One is intended to address — at least with regards to surface manned and unmanned vessels.
A reconstituted Bonhomme Richard with the explicit mission of deploying and sustaining an armada of unmanned platforms would help advance the Pentagon’s thinking about such systems. Experimentation could: explore how to simultaneously control multiple unmanned vessels on, below and above the sea; develop the concepts of how to coordinate unmanned operations with those of manned ships and aircraft; and refine the requirements for maintaining unmanned platforms at sea.
While the damage assessments for the Bonhomme Richard are ongoing, it has been reported the engineering spaces suffered no major damage — a bit of good news. Assuming the ship can be returned to sea, its flight deck launching and retrieving aerial platforms, the well deck for embarking small boats and submersibles, and its C2 (command and control) capacity makes it uniquely well-suited to field test and certify a range of maritime unmanned platforms. Just as critical, the experience gained would greatly inform the training and specialization of Navy technicians and operators for a burgeoning unmanned fleet.
Moreover, at over 40,000 tons, the ship would be large enough to periodically host combined and joint experimentation with allies as well as other services. This would be fully in keeping with the National Defense Strategy’s emphasis improving jointness with our allies. And experimentation with other U.S. services can accelerate the development of joint operations able to confront Chinese and Russian anti-access and anti-denial (A2/AD) threats.
Perhaps the Bonhomme Richard can be cost-effectively restored to operational fitness as an amphibious assault ship. But if not, decommissioning is not the only option. Consideration should be given to repurposing it as a test platform. The USS Langley’s fleet experimentation helped develop the war-winning carrier fleet of World War II. The Bonhomme Richard can serve a similar purpose for unmanned platforms.
Hopefully, the Bonhomme Richard can be returned to sea, and soon. If it can’t rejoin the operational fleet, the Navy would be wise to use this opportunity to advance critical new unmanned capabilities that will undoubtedly figure prominently in any future conflict.
• Brent D. Sadler is the senior fellow for naval warfare and advanced technology at The Heritage Foundation’s Center for National Defense.
The Chinese Communist coronavirus isn’t the only epidemic in the land.
America’s news media are suffering mass amnesia, stuffing down a memory hole the extent of destruction from the ongoing Black Lives Matter/Antifa race riots.
Apart from lots of happy stories depicting the whole country kneeling to the BLM’s anti-White, Marxist demands, you won’t see much about the real costs.
It’s gotten so bad that Rep. Jim Jordan, Ohio Republican, unleashed an eight-minute video during a House committee meeting that was grilling Attorney General William P. Barr last Tuesday.
The video begins with a mashup of a dozen or so reporters and politicians repeating the phrase “peaceful protests” or “peaceful protesters” followed by riot footage. The next portion features the widow of slain St. Louis retired police Capt. David Dorn, a father of five who was killed while responding to an alarm at a pawnshop. As she speaks, scenes of mob violence unfold.
The effect is devastating. Which is why the video has come under attack. CNN’s Jake Tapper drew some blood, showing that two CNN reporters who use the phrase “peaceful protests” are taken out of context. He’s right. Both reporters note that while the daytime protests they were covering were peaceful, they were followed by nighttime violence. That part was omitted. Welcome to what happens to conservatives when they’re interviewed by Mr. Tapper’s network.
But two wrongs don’t make a right, and we’ll give you this one, Jake. You had the guts to report how similar editing created the colossal lie that President Trump praised White supremacists in Charlottesville, Virginia, even though he unequivocally condemned them.
However, Mr. Tapper does not dent the Jordan video’s powerful message. Extreme media bias pervades riot coverage and political stories. Just Google “Trump.” The media are really good at covering up what they don’t want known. They’ve sugar-coated abortion for decades while serving up the party line about “choice.” They’ve played down horrific Black-on-Black urban violence, focusing instead on a handful of police brutality cases. They’re doing the same with the current riots.
“If it bleeds, it leads” isn’t in force now. If Americans actually saw the extent of lawlessness in Democrat-run cities, they might realize who’s responsible.
Given the Democrats’ wink and a nod to the rioters while defunding police, it’s not a reach to describe BLM/Antifa as the militant wing of the Democratic Party. Those are not Young Republicans out smashing windows, looting stores, burning buildings, beating up people and overturning police cars.
I’ve searched in vain for news about the riots’ overall cost. The media seem profoundly incurious. How many people have been killed? How many police officers have been injured or died? How many businesses have been destroyed? How much will it cost to fix everything that’s been broken?
There’s anecdotal evidence. Between May 25 and June 8, at least 17 people were killed in what the media call “unrest.” More than 700 law enforcers were injured by early June.
Property damage has run into the billions, and we’re not done yet. Portland continues to simmer, and cities explode nightly, like Richmond this past week.
Looters have struck at least 250 CVS pharmacies and 350 Walgreens nationwide, according to an insurance website. Crime is out of control in several major cities, with Chicago enduring double-digit murder numbers on weekends. In Los Angeles, Democrats plan to cut the police budget by more than $100 million despite homicides rising by 250% in early June.
Since we don’t have reliable, comprehensive data, let’s go to the nation’s largest city for a snapshot.
New York Democratic Mayor Bill de Blasio has cut $1 billion from the NYPD budget and disbanded the 600-member plainclothes police unit. Between June 1 and June 30, shootings increased by 130% over June 2019. Murders rose by more than 30%, burglaries increased by 118% and auto thefts rose by 52%.
As for New York’s finest — you know, the guys in blue who ran into the World Trade Center during the 9/11 attacks, most of whom never came out — here are some of their costs.
Since May 28, “a total of 458 officers of all ranks have been injured,” according to spokeswoman Sgt. Mary Frances O’Donnell. “Seven officers were admitted to the hospital, 303 were treated and released from the hospital, five were treated by EMS and 150 refused medical attention. Forty-seven officers remain out sick due to their injuries.”
From May 28 to July 22, “303 NYPD vehicles have been vandalized during the protests,” she reported in an email, adding that, “14 vehicles were a total loss due to arson and condemned.”
The damage – so far – is estimated at $996,700. That’s just for the department.
“The NYPD has seen a surge in the number of officers filing for retirement,” said Sgt. O’Donnell.
Well, why not? When you work for a mayor who hates your guts and the media treat you as the bad guys, why risk your life?
As for the rest of us, just because the media have amnesia, we shouldn’t forget the real costs of the Democrats’ experiment in street justice.
Or the ongoing sacrifices of the thin blue line.
• Robert Knight is a contributor to The Washington Times. His website is robertHknight.com.
There is a good reason why former Vice President Joe Biden’s looming selection of a running mate has become so freighted with emotion and expectation, and it is not just that the Democratic presidential nominee is not, shall we say, entirely and always there.
The anticipation is heightened because this will be Mr. Biden’s first personnel selection for an administration that is likely to be marked by a difficult and durable civil war over its ideological preferences.
For most Americans, this vice presidential selection is more important than usual because they understand and even sometimes have witnessed that Mr. Biden appears to be in the midst of an unfortunate cognitive decline. This concern is enhanced by the equally clear understanding that most of the media, which vote for and prefer Democrats, have a vested interest in not covering the actual extent of the decline. There is nothing censurable with having an opinion — but it is wrong to pretend that you don’t.
Mr. Biden may be our next leader. Addled and superannuated leadership is nothing new or particularly egregious on this planet or in this country, but when the enormous arsenal of the United States is stirred together with a rising China, a hostile and nuclear Iran, and maybe a North Korea that might like to do us damage, the situation becomes a matter of literal life and death.
Consequently, the question of who will be Mr. Biden’s running mate has taken on an outsized — and completely warranted — importance to most voters.
But for a smaller and more focused group, the selection is even more freighted. Those who would like to shift the Democrats toward the collectivism of Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren view this decision as the first step in what could be a long march toward remaking the Democratic Party as the country’s primary socialist standard-bearer.
At the same time, more traditional Democrats would prefer that Mr. Biden aim for the middle of the fairway and pick someone more, well, traditional.
For his part, Mr. Biden has carelessly and unwisely limited his options to women of color. As a practical matter, that likely means either Sen. Kamala Harris, Rep. Karen Bass or Obama adviser Susan Rice. Each of those women would be a disappointment to the left wing of the party, and those partisans will undoubtedly announce their displeasure in ways subtle and gross immediately after the selection.
You can see this already with the refusal of Michigan Rep. (and “Squad” member) Rashida Tlaib to endorse Mr. Biden. He’s insufficiently committed to the revolution, and that’s that.
If there is a Biden administration, expect this sort of internecine warfare to be part of the warp and woof of every personnel decision. The party will be locked in a civil war — quiet and subterranean, but also fierce and bloody — over what kinds of people are going to be making the policy decisions, from the chief of staff in the West Wing to the deputy assistant secretaries in the Department of Housing and Urban Development.
An incoming president has about 5,000 appointments or nominations to make across the breadth of the federal government. Some are critical (secretary of health and human services), some are mundane (deputy assistant to the president in the Office of Legislative Affairs), some are trivial (Amtrak board of directors). But all are important in determining what policies the United States government will pursue.
The left side of the party of Jefferson and Jackson intends to install its people in each and every one or those positions. It is a war in which each of us will have a stake, and its outcome will shape American politics, for good or ill, for the next generation.
• Michael McKenna, a columnist for The Washington Times, is the president of MWR Strategies. He was most recently a deputy assistant to the president and deputy director of the Office of Legislative Affairs at the White House.
We’ve all changed our lives — and had our lives changed — over the last several months. The COVID-19 pandemic has forced us to reset our habits and our routines. This difficult season has given us an opportunity to do things differently and to think differently.
Now, America is beginning to move toward reopening. And as we try to return to normalcy — or to establish a new normal — I’d like to humbly offer a suggestion: Let’s start visiting museums again.
Did you know that there are more than 60 museums in our nation’s capital? Now, several of those museums have reopened, like the National Gallery of Art, the International Spy Museum and Mount Vernon, among others. Museums help us to better understand our human experience and our nation’s history by telling stories that are full of both tragedy and triumph.
I believe museums have never been more vital to society than they are right now. Here’s why: Museums allow us to learn from the past.
When you step into a museum, whether it be in Washington, D.C., or somewhere else, you accept an invitation to challenge yourself with new perspectives. Museums allow us to see our world, our country and ourselves differently. Sometimes museums make us uncomfortable because they confront us with truths that can be difficult to acknowledge. But that’s one reason I love museums: They don’t tell us what to think; they give us things to think about.
Museums allow us to interpret the present.
Museums help us to understand how we got here — to the present. Like a GPS or a map, museums seem to say to us, “You are here.” The artifacts and exhibits in museums introduce us to the ideas and ideologies that have led us into this very moment in time. When you visit a museum, you are in the space between the past and the future.
Museums allow us to shape the future.
Museums allow us to engage with items and ideas that are older and bigger than ourselves. By giving us the opportunity to learn from the past and interpret the present, they can aid us in shaping the future. When you visit a museum, I encourage you to experience the exhibits as if you were a part of them. That’s what museum curators aim to do. After all, to bring you into a world so that when you leave, you take the lessons of that world with you.
At the Museum of the Bible, our Gutenberg Gates are open to visitors. We invite people of all backgrounds and ages to engage with the story of the Bible. For example, you can learn how Scripture informed Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s life and work, and spurred criminal justice reform. You can view artifacts from the Vatican and historic texts that transformed the world. You can study the life of Corrie ten Boom, a Dutch woman who saved hundreds of lives during the Holocaust, whose personal letters will soon be on display. These are just a few of the many exhibits we offer.
Museums are not merely stuffy buildings full of old objects. They are alive with stories. They are places to reflect, mourn, laugh, play and learn. They can serve as catalysts for personal, national and global change.
Let’s start visiting museums again.
• Harry Hargrave is CEO of Museum of the Bible.
The Democrats’ draft party platform, released in late July, is a concatenation of globalist ideals that promise peace and prosperity through diplomacy, strengthened alliances and reversing every aspect of President Trump’s foreign and defense policies. Former Vice President Joe Biden’s draft platform would return America to the eras of Jimmy Carter and Barack Obama.
Platforms are prepared by the candidate’s political advisers to advertise his views in a way that both satisfies the party’s base and makes them palatable to other voters. Mr. Biden’s is a much different platform than former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton ran on four years ago.
In 2016, Mrs. Clinton’s platform at least pretended to be serious about national defense and foreign policy. It advocated continuation of the failed nation-building policy in Afghanistan and a “smart, predictable defense budget that meets the challenges we face …”
It argued for making military readiness a priority and ensuring our military is the best trained and equipped in the world. It also specifically promised that the Democrats would rid the military of outdated Cold War weapon systems and make our forces more agile and flexible, which implied a huge increase in defense spending.
It was, of course, a pretense that Mrs. Clinton would have abandoned immediately had she won the election.
Mr. Biden’s draft platform states a far more globalist and passive view of America’s role in the world. For starters, it promises to end the war in Afghanistan. The 2020 Democrats say they will accomplish that by leading with diplomacy, protecting us from terrorist threats, enabling local partners (meaning the Kabul government) and bringing our troops home. That’s nation-building with a time limit. But unless the enemy is defeated, it gets an equal vote on how peace can be made. And the Taliban is anything but defeated.
Not only does the draft platform fail to recognize that the Taliban’s ideological will to fight is undiminished, it also ignores the Russian, Chinese and Pakistani support for the Taliban in opposition to peace on our terms. Nevertheless, the Democrats say they are committed to a “durable and inclusive” settlement of the war that won’t allow al Qaeda to reconstitute or allow ISIS to grow. How that is possible, they don’t say.
The Dems believe the “international community” will help Afghans safeguard their gains, particularly for women and girls. They don’t understand that the rights of women and girls will disappear as soon as U.S. troops leave and the Taliban resume their rule.
The Democrats promise to use force “… only when necessary to protect national security and when the objective is clear and achievable …” Note the “and.” The Dems clearly intend to impose their subjective judgment on whether our military objectives are achievable. In terms of the Dems’ political agenda, that is a bar against the use of military power to protect our nation. It is a recipe for appeasement.
We know, from his statements, that Mr. Biden will rejoin Mr. Obama’s Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action — his highly dangerous nuclear weapons deal with Iran. Knowing this, and on the basis of other statements in the draft platform, the draft has been endorsed by the National Iranian-American Council, which is generally regarded as the ayatollahs’ lobby in the United States.
Mr. Biden will restate Mr. Obama’s pledge that Iran will never be allowed to obtain nuclear weapons. He can have the JCPOA or he can prevent Iran from achieving nuclear weapons. He can’t have it both ways.
The “international community” reference is one among many that promise to, in effect, return to the Obama and Carter eras when the United Nations was allowed effective control over U.S. foreign policy.
The 2020 draft platform promises to rejoin the United Nations World Health Organization despite its track record of being a mouthpiece for Chinese propaganda on the COVID-19 pandemic. It further promises to rejoin the U.N.’s Human Rights Council, which has a long record of ignoring the oppression of human rights in China, Russia, North Korea and Iran.
Since the beginning of the Cold War, the Democrats have never recognized that America’s national security interests cannot be subordinated to the views of the assorted dictators and despots that control the U.N.’s policies.
The Dems’ dedication to the United Nations is made perfectly clear. The draft says, in all seriousness, that “We believe the system of international institutions we built and led over the past seven decades has generated an enormous return on our investment.” Our investment in the U.N. and other international bodies has been enormous. The return on that investment, as I wrote on this page a few weeks ago, is paltry at best.
The most risible of the draft platform’s claims is that Democrats will ensure that our military has no peer. Mr. Biden made no objection to the $600 billion in defense spending cuts Mr. Obama imposed in blithe disregard of the threats we face and our military’s ability to deter or defeat the those threats. Mr. Biden can be counted on to do the same, and worse.
Mr. Biden is a disciple of Mr. Obama. If Mr. Biden is elected, he will remake and multiply all the mistakes his mentor made, and America will be in far greater danger than it is now.
• Jed Babbin, a deputy undersecretary of Defense in the George H.W. Bush administration, is the author of “In the Words of Our Enemies.”
If America was a nation built on the concept that rights come from God, and that government is solely in place to protect and secure those rights for the individual — it was and it is — then it stands to reason that in order to keep that principle in place, two things are needed: First, Americans must believe in God. Second, Americans must recognize God as the leader by obeying His will.
Which is why Pew Research Center’s latest “Global God Divide” finding that only 44% of Americans think they need the heavenly Creator to shape their morals and values is so illuminating.
This country is in a free-fall of cultural rot and moral decay. And how the culture goes, so, too, the politics. That’s what morals that bend and bow to human will bring.
Look to abortion rates, single-parent and fatherless homes’ rates, drug and alcohol addiction rates; youth incarceration and gang membership rates; divorce rates; domestic and child abuse rates; and more. Then look to the utter chaos that’s become Congress, the absolute stonewalling that’s put all policies truly for the people on pause. Look to the fact there are socialists — open socialists! — serving in public service, pretending to serve out their oaths to the Constitution with honor.
It’s hardly coincidental that all this cultural spiraling and political turmoil comes as more and more Americans are, as Pew put it, pooh-poohing the Bible, church, godly teachings, and the idea of a God who actively governs in the thoughts and deeds of believers.
“Less than half in both Canada and the U.S. say belief in God is necessary to be moral (26% and 44%, respectively),” Pew found.
Because abortion, after all, isn’t murder — it’s saving a woman’s life.
Because promiscuity, after all, isn’t damaging to traditional family structure — it’s freeing.
See how the word play works?
Morals can mean anything, when there’s no higher authority to dictate and define.
“In most European and North American countries surveyed, individuals with more education are less likely to say that belief in God is necessary to be moral,” Pew wrote. “This pattern closely tracks the connection between income levels and the way people answer this question, because there is a significant correlation between educational attainment and earnings.”
Isn’t that interesting?
The more education, the more wealth, the less the perceived need for God. That trails well with America’s pursuits: Money. Financial security. Bigger cars, bigger homes, bigger flatscreen TVs.
“[M]ake public colleges and universities tuition free, and cancel all student debt,” Sen. Bernie Sanders blasted from the presidential candidate trail.
“We have a moral and economic imperative to give very child the chance to succeed,” Barack Obama said back in 2011 in Boston.
It’s the belief set of the secular and liberal mindset. College for all; success for everybody; money and wealth and power and fame — and it’s the government’s job to get citizens there. Move over seeds of talent, step aside rugged individualism. It’s madcap consumerism, mass materialism and fuzzy-wuzzy, wishy-washy talk of social justice and equality. That’s what America has become. This is where America stands.
These are Americans’ morals and values.
And these pursuits have become our albatross.
The country’s in debt to foreign entities, and as the coronavirus continues to capsize the economy, so grows our debt service — to places like China.
But we’re America, Land of the Free! But we’re America, greatest country in the world!
So said some Israelites back in the day, right before they were carried off to captivity and enslaved.
“The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked,” the biblical prophet Jeremiah teaches.
That describes an America that thinks it can succeed without relying on God for moral guidance. Americans, without God, cannot be moral for long.
• Cheryl Chumley can be reached at [email protected] or on Twitter, @ckchumley. Listen to her podcast “Bold and Blunt” by clicking HERE. And never miss her column; subscribe to her newsletter by clicking HERE.
America is working its way through a transformative social moment. Nearly everyone is talking or thinking about how Black lives matter. More importantly, Americans are now intensely examining how lives of Black Americans should matter in terms of being respected and treated with justice and humility.
But sadly, this remarkable moment in American history fails to recognize a grave injustice similar to the one that it seeks to remedy. Among the many shouts demanding freedom and equal protection for Black Americans, silence excludes the millions of targeted preborn Black children who also deserve justice and humility.
The tragic public murder of African-American George Floyd by Minneapolis police officers has led to a global outcry like none before. And the officers’ unapologetic, self-assured show of power is part of the terror that regularly assaults African-Americans in all aspects of their lives — not just on the mean streets, but also in genteel boardrooms and supposedly enlightened liberal academies.
Many Americans who were previously ignorant of or who ignored the persistent scourge of racism, have suddenly become compelled to acknowledge its present-day pervasive and pernicious effects. Even those skeptical of how widespread it is can no longer deny the significance of racism’s injury to the lives and livelihoods of Black Americans. And unfortunately there are many, I among them, who understand the depth of American racism, because we have been drowned in it.
In 2007, I spent 12 days on hunger strike as a final act of protest against the racism of faculty members and executives of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology who refused me tenure. In the middle of the review of my tenure case, MIT faculty members attempted to block me from competing for the prestigious National Institutes of Health Director’s Pioneer Award for exemplary contributions and vision in biomedical research. When I ultimately received the award, the MIT provost shrugged and said that it was “just a grant.”
In the weeks after the murder of George Floyd, the Black Lives Matter movement has gained renewed growth and support. But, predictably, the number of counter protests to Black Lives Matter has increased as well. Some attacks have been direct, while others, like the rephrasing that “All Lives Matter,” undermine the demand for equal human rights for all by shifting the focus away from those whose chronic mistreatment is the essential problem. Effective social change cannot happen unless the source of injustice is the focus of reform.
We are in a moment of national reflection on the meaning of life in America, both among and between the powerful and the dispossessed. The crucial advance in reason and morality is that the lives of Black Americans matter as much as those of all others; and the only requirement for their just treatment is the simple fact that they are human beings, too. There is no legal, political, economic, social, ethical or moral license for unjust oppression of anyone, including Black Americans. Our lives matter, too.
Yet, despite the power of this moment, there is a deeply tragic aspect overlooked by many. Though the irony of this tragedy is biting, many overlook it or look through it. In these high-minded times, our country is forgetting the most precious of humanity: our children; our preborn children. The irony of their exclusion in this national moment of social piety is a stark reminder of how hard it is to unlearn the habit and rationalization of human oppression.
In the United States, more Black American lives are lost to abortion each year than the total number of all other causes of death. Black children account for a disproportionate percentage of the more than 60 million lives lost to legalized elective abortions as a result of Roe v. Wade.
In an upcoming report in the peer-reviewed journal of Health Services Research & Managerial Epidemiology, my colleagues and I show how the racial disparity of abortion is the overwhelming cause of the destruction of Black lives in America. Abortion is the hushed killer of Black life that has silenced millions of George Floyds before they even took their first breath of air. Yet, in this remarkable moment of social reform history, the lives of Black preborn children have been forgotten.
In the present upheaval, Americans must recognize the urgency of protesting for the lives of our preborn children, too. We must, in particular, offer support to Black mothers who disproportionally lose their children to state-sponsored abortion. We will not become the moral nation that many cry we should be until we are consistent and fully critical in our stated moral cause. Black lives do matter, both the born and the preborn.
• James L. Sherley, M.D., is an associate scholar of the Charlotte Lozier Institute. He is co-author of a new report, “Perceiving and Addressing the Pervasive Racial Disparity in Abortion.”
Recently, President Trump announced a sweeping executive order that would forbid Medicare from paying more for advanced medicines than any other developed country.
This price control scheme, if implemented, would sound a death knell for medical innovation — and potentially for many patients.
Drug development is expensive, time-consuming and full of uncertainty. Just over 10% of experimental drugs that enter clinical trials ever earn the Food and Drug Administration’s stamp of approval. Successfully bringing a single product to pharmacy shelves can take up to 15 years and cost more than $2.5 billion.
Just look at the attempts to cure Alzheimer’s, the sixth-leading cause of death in America. The FDA has greenlit only four of the nearly 150 promising Alzheimer’s treatments that underwent clinical trials in the last two decades. And all those medications merely alleviate symptoms. There’s still no cure.
Despite these numerous expensive failures, investors and scientists keep trying, in the hopes that a successful drug will recoup its R&D costs and make up for all the dead-ends along the way. Still, important scientific knowledge comes from every failed effort. And knowledge is power in pursuit of public health.
This extensive research wouldn’t happen in any other nation. America’s relatively free market for medicines allows innovators to enjoy the fruits of their labor. This incentivizes investors to put more dollars toward the cures of tomorrow — and explains why U.S. labs engineer the majority of the world’s new medicines.
It’s a different story in countries with price controls.
When government-run health care systems can dictate artificially low drug prices, research loses its allure. There would have been 117 fewer new drugs developed between 1986 and 2004 if the United States had imposed price controls, according to one University of Connecticut study.
And price controls don’t merely hurt patients far into the future, either. They have immediate, disastrous effects. Many biotech companies don’t even bother launching their products in price-controlled nations — the marginal revenue isn’t worth the costs.
Consider that Canadian and French patients can access just 56% and 65% of all oncology drugs invented worldwide between 2011 and 2018, respectively. Patients in the United States enjoy access to 96% of all cancer drugs. Anyone who has personally battled cancer, or knows someone who has, understands that quick access to breakthrough drugs can make the difference between life or death.
The Trump administration’s executive order threatens these patients. Our nation is grappling with a deadly pandemic and struggling to curb rising rates of chronic disease — it’s hard to think of a worse time to reduce Americans’ access to medicines and discourage research. Do we really want to slow cutting-edge research into COVID-19 therapies?
There are more than 4,500 drugs in development right now in U.S. labs. Any of those medicines could be the cure to cancer, Alzheimer’s, heart disease, mental illness and other ailments. But if the United States enacts price controls, there’s no telling whether these promising experimental medicines will ever reach pharmacy shelves.
• Peter J. Pitts, a former Food and Drug Administration associate commissioner, is president of the Center for Medicine in the Public Interest.
Some years, on the whole, are worse than others. Really bad ones meet the definition of a coarse colloquialism that is synonymous with the word for what babies do with a bottle and which rhymes with “duck.” Thus far, 2020 is one of those years. Death and despair have spread from continent to continent — not the consequences of world war — but disease. Still, shafts of hope are beginning to pierce the dark shroud of COVID-19. As painful as the pandemic has been, it’s valuable to remember that the world has been through far worse. And if past is prologue, progress achieved prior to the virus will be dusted off and relaunched to power the human race toward a brighter future.
The coronavirus from China infiltrated invisibly, possibly for months, before it was discovered. From a standing start, defensive medicine has struggled to catch up. Pestilence’s head start has enabled the disease to run down the elderly, sickly and unhealthy, infecting 17 million across the globe and killing nearly 700,000, including more than 150,000 Americans.
In a dead sprint for months, a medical A-team now has a visual on the crown-capped culprit off in the distance and is loading up to take the shot. “Operation Warp Speed,” a public-private initiative unleashed by the Trump administration, is engaged in all-hands-on-deck research and development of effective virus vaccines. Among dozens of pharmaceutical companies receiving federal funds, AstraZeneca, Moderna and Pfizer have entered their third and final phase of testing.
Barring poor results, initial shipments of an eventual sum of 300 million vaccine doses could be available for Americans by January. That would mean the complex process of vaccine development, which normally requires 10 to 15 years, will have been compressed into one. The can-do spirit of Americans, with help from like-minded Brits, could end up pulling off the most rapid, lifesaving medical breakthrough in history. Widespread distribution of a remedy would earn the United States a debt of gratitude from the world — excluding an aberrant strain of Democrats who refuse to lend credit to any enterprise associated with President Trump.
Even critics who cringe at the president’s name can’t deny their fortune in living during a time when Trump-era enterprise makes medical miracles possible. A century ago, Americans were not so lucky. The Spanish flu, carried by masses of unsuspecting soldiers returning from the battlefields of World War I, spread sickness worldwide. Before burning itself out in 1919, the virus infected 500 million worldwide and killed at least 50 million, including 675,000 Americans. A commensurate death rate for the current coronavirus would add up to more than 2 million victims.
It is easy to imagine the dread of living trapped in an age in which suffering is everywhere. It should be just as natural to admire the grinding human effort expended by earlier generations to brush past the horrors of disease and march onward during a lifetime of labor, achievement and, for many, happiness. Owing to their resolve, there is a lot to like about life in the 21st century, despite the prevalence of disease.
HumanProgress.org, a project of the libertarian Cato Institute, marks the advance of betterment by quantifying the falling costs of 50 basic commodities tracked by the World Bank and International Monetary Fund. As the human population grew from 4.5 billion to 7.6 billion between 1980 and 2018, the price of uranium fell by 87%, coffee by 86%, rice by 80%, aluminum by 76%, U.S. natural gas by 61%, beef by 70% and copper by 41%.
The average decline in cost for all 50 basic commodities was measured at 72%. Since price is determined by the balance between supply and demand, falling costs mean basic goods are increasing in abundance even faster than the rise in global population. If this seems counterintuitive, it’s only due to the tendency to overlook the ultimate resource: human ingenuity, the same force that has been brought to bear against COVID-19.
Media doomsayers murmur that rich folks fleeing urban centers where the virus has spread spell the coming end of the American dream. Those cities were built, it must be remembered, by the strong arms of past pandemic conquerors. The smart money says it will be no different this time because human progress won’t stand idle for long.
Would Scientific American ever pay an NRA employee to write news articles about gun control? Never. But they and many other media outlets have no problem using articles written by people who work for Michael Bloomberg’s gun control organizations.
The Trace, which has made a business out of attacking people who received money from the conservative or self-defense organizations, sees no irony in being an organization that was set up and funded by Michael Bloomberg’s nonprofit advocacy organization Everytown for Gun Safety.
Yet, the media hide The Trace’s financial support from Mr. Bloomberg. NPR describes them as “an independent, nonprofit journalism organization dedicated to covering issues related to guns in America.” A senior editor that I corresponded with at Scientific American, Josh Fischman, saw no conflict with one of their editors and frequent writer on gun control issues, Melinda Wenner Moyer, as a regular paid contributor for The Trace. No warning is necessary for readers to let them determine if there is conflict of interest.
During July, The Trace had an article by Ms. Moyer arguing that the increase in gun sales over the last few months was linked to the recent increased shootings in cities. She makes no mention that possibly politicians’ orders for police to stand down, disbanding of police units, restrictions on how police could deal with rioters, or even the huge release in release of prisoners from jails and prisons might have something to do with the sudden surge. Instead, gun sales that might increase the stock of guns by a couple percent are being blamed.
In another article, she claims that guns don’t keep your family safer. But there is no mention of any of the research, such as my peer-reviewed studies, showing the opposite of The Trace’s agenda.
The question is whether Mr. Bloomberg is a strongly interested party in the gun control debate and whether his nonprofit, The Trace, follows the same views as his other nonprofits such as Everytown. News media outlets such as The Atlantic, Slate, New York Daily news, Newsweek, Politico, the Chicago Sun-Times and the New Yorker see no biases created by partnering with The Trace to write news articles.
You won’t find any difference between what Mr. Bloomberg’s Everytown puts out and what The Trace writes. Indeed, a search through the last several years of The Trace’s articles doesn’t show a single article that approvingly discusses the research by anyone who has found a benefit from people owning guns.
But that’s not for lack of pro-gun research. The largest survey of academics who have published peer-reviewed empirical research on gun violence (murders, suicides, accidental discharges, etc.), which I conducted with Arthur Berg of Harvard and Gary Mauser of Simon Fraser University, showed that criminologists and economists are generally very skeptical of gun control. Public health researchers were much more divided. On the issue of concealed handguns (there are several dozen peer-reviewed papers), and more than two-thirds find a benefit from people carrying those guns.
Other articles during July attacked the NRA and other groups supporting self-defense, but you won’t find a single critical article ever against Mom’s Demand Action, Everytown, The Brady Campaign or any other gun-control group. One article criticizes “The NRA’s Unshakable Support for Police,” tying the NRA’s support to the “reliable” donations that the NRA gets from police.
The Trace, like other gun-control groups, dislikes the police because officers are so overwhelmingly pro-private gun ownership. They advocate for disarming police claiming that American police kill more civilians than “the rate of law enforcement in nations where officers work unarmed.” Their headlines in July attacking police officers include: “An Arkansas Cop Said He’d Shoot at Protesters. Then He Killed a Fellow Cop” and “The ‘Warrior Cop’ Is a Toxic Mentality. And a Lucrative Industry.”
For an organization that is obsessed with the biases created by people receiving money from other interested parties, the media don’t seem to apply that same standard to Michael Bloomberg’s The Trace. Unlike The Trace, I wouldn’t argue that the money bribes people to support causes that they otherwise wouldn’t support. After all, in their mind the only way people could support evil gun ownership is if they are being paid to do so. Instead, the concern is that Mr. Bloomberg only gives money to people who he is certain have the same views that he does.
As I show in my new book, “Gun Control Myths,” the money Mr. Bloomberg spends on gun-control organizations such as The Trace and campaign donations are just part of the money that he spends pushing gun control.
The Trace and other Bloomberg organizations can’t believe that people could support evil gun ownership without being paid to do so. Maybe they can ask the politicians that Mr. Bloomberg supports a similar question. In any case, if The Trace actually read some pro-gun academic research, they would understand that people have good reasons to believe in the power of self-defense.
• John R. Lott Jr. is the president of the Crime Prevention Research Center and the author of the newly released “Gun Control Myths.”