The Atrocious Housing Rule Ben Carson Can End

One of the primary goals of the Obama administration was to use the full force of the federal government to force red state, suburban, and rural areas to adopt policies designed to change them into urban blue state communities.

On the environmental side, this policy invasion took the form of punitive regulations against the mining industry and million-acre land grabs that undermined the grazing industry.

In education, this meant using the carrot of Department of Education grant funding and the stick of No Child Left Behind testing punishments to force local school boards to adopt the federal government’s preferred curriculum.

And in housing, it meant using Department of Housing and Urban Development grant programs to force local communities into building dense low-income housing.

President Donald Trump has begun to free local communities from Washington’s forced conversion.

He has rolled back multiple punitive mining regulations. He undid President Barack Obama’s 1.3 million-acre Bears Ears National Monument. And just last week he delayed enforcement of the Housing and Urban Development regulation Obama was using to dictate zoning policies to communities across the United States.

These are all good first steps, but particularly on the housing front more needs to be done. Specifically, Housing and Urban Development Secretary Ben Carson ought to begin the process of rescinding Obama’s 2015 Affirmatively Furthering Fair Housing rule entirely.

Promulgated pursuant to the Fair Housing Act of 1968, the rule has already proven to be an invasive and burdensome mess.

While no one disputes that the Fair Housing Act’s ban on racial, religious, and sexual discrimination fully fits within the federal government’s power, the law’s call for communities to “affirmatively further” other housing goals has proven controversial and divisive.

Should suburban communities be forced to build high-density low-income housing? Should small towns be forced to advertise their low-income housing stock to large cities? Should cities be forced to spread subsidized housing options throughout their jurisdiction?

The Obama administration believed the answer to every above question is a strong “yes,” and its Affirmatively Furthering Fair Housing rule is designed to use Community Development Block Grant funding to turn the Department of Housing and Urban Development into basically a national zoning board.

Defenders of Obama’s housing power grab will tell you that federal law already prohibits Housing and Urban Development from mandating that localities adopt specific changes to their zoning laws. And that is true.

But the department has also figured out a way to circumvent that ban, and it works like this.

Instead of saying, “You are mandated to adopt these zoning laws and construct low-income housing,” which would be illegal, they say, “If you want Community Development Block Grant funding, you must first create a zoning plan. And if we approve your ‘voluntarily’ created plan, then we will give you grant money. If we don’t approve your ‘voluntary’ plan, then you get nothing.”

This is nothing short of federally funded blackmail.

I’ve made an effort to address this overreach by introducing S. 103, the Local Zoning Decisions Protection Act in the Senate. Rep. Paul Gosar, R-Ariz., has introduced a companion bill, H.R. 482, in the House.

Our bills would stop federal funds from being used to implement, administer, or enforce Obama’s Affirmatively Furthering Fair Housing rule, making it truly voluntary and giving local communities the ability to make their own housing decisions without financial threats from the federal government.

Our legislation is a long-term solution to the threat of a national zoning board, but Housing and Urban Development can take a more immediate step by rescinding the rule entirely.

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Invasive New Airport Screenings May Put Privacy at Risk

It’s a Christmas motif almost as ubiquitous as Christmas trees or sleigh bells—families and individuals hastily making their way through airports, balancing presents, bags, and children, excited to make their way home to spend Christmas with their loved ones.

They’re concerned with their flight status, the weather in their destination, their luggage making it to the destination, or the likelihood they will get selected for a random TSA pat-down and any other number of travel-related factors.

But in 2018, there may be another worry to add to that already long list of travel woes.

At some point next year, the Department Homeland Security is hoping to implement mandatory facial scans for all people—American citizens included—who are flying internationally. In fact, they’ve already rolled out this invasive practice in a handful of airports this holiday season.

This new invasion of Americans’ privacy caught the attention of Sen. Ed Markey, D-Mass., whose own Logan International Airport was one of the airports selected for the rollout. We wrote a letter together to get more information from Homeland Security about this program.

There are a number of issues with this program, including that Homeland Security hasn’t instituted a way to let travelers know that they will be subjected to this scan before they fly.

But more importantly there is no evidence to show that this facial scan actually works. Homeland Security is hoping to use this technology accurately 96 percent of the time. But even at that rate, 1 of 25 travelers would still be misidentified and improperly flagged by Homeland Security.

Additional evidence shows gender and ethnicity increase the likelihood of being improperly flagged.

But perhaps the biggest concern is how the government will use this accumulated data and whether or not Homeland Security is even allowed to collect it in the first place.

As of now, the information is supposedly only shared with the National Institute of Standards and Technology to check for fraud, and then deleted from the Homeland Security database after 14 days.

But in our examination of the program, we have not seen satisfactory safeguards that protect this information from being accessed by third-party groups or that show these protocols are actually being followed.

The Department of Homeland Security is ushering in this program in an attempt to fulfill a congressional mandate that says a biometric exit program needs to be in place for international travelers. However, they have gone beyond this directive as the mandate passed by Congress did not allow for facial scans to be used on American citizens.

For the Department of Homeland Security to do this stands in direct conflict with the Constitution and its Fourth Amendment protection of privacy.

Until the Department of Homeland Security is willing to address these problems and provide myself, Markey, and Congress sufficient evidence to prove the program falls within the constraints of its congressional mandate, Homeland Security should provide American citizens with a timely Christmas present—protecting their rights by not only stopping this program’s expansion, but stopping it’s use entirely.

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I Voted for Tax Reform. Here’s Why It Will Help America.

The tax cut bill just passed by Congress and signed into law by the president is not perfect. But I voted for it because it will help working families and small businesses, give almost all Americans an immediate pay raise, and create millions of new jobs.

But you don’t have to take my word for it. In fact, as citizens, you shouldn’t take any politician’s word for it. And happily, you won’t have to.

As in any political debate, there has been a lot of overheated speculation about this bill. Some Republicans who opposed my work with Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Fla., to change the bill to provide more tax relief directly to working and middle class said that would destroy the bill and crush its chances to spur economic growth. The argument was silly.

But so are many of the criticisms of the bill coming from the left. Some Democrats say the bill will only cut taxes for businesses, not individuals.

That’s false. The centrist Brookings Institution says the bill will reduce taxes for all income groups in 2018 by an average of $1,600.

Some congressional Democrats argued this tax rate reduction plan was the worst bill in American history, apparently forgetting about the Fugitive Slave Act, or the Alien and Sedition Acts. These criticisms are nuts.

In total, the bill is estimated to cut some federal taxes by a total of $6.5 trillion over the next 10 years, and raise others by $4 trillion over the same period, coming out to a $1.5 trillion tax cut.

I am not thrilled about the potential hit to the deficit. But I also believe we cannot tax our way to a balanced budget. The only way to close the deficit is with economic growth and spending discipline.

With new jobs, higher wages, and more investment, the larger overall economic pie will give a bigger slice both to American workers and to their government.

Over the last two decades, the United States’ 35 percent corporate tax rate has cost us trillions of dollars in aggregate international investment. The new 21 percent rate in this bill will help bring more of the global economy to our shores, instead of having us send so much of ours overseas.

And of course the doubling of the standard deduction and child credit will deliver immediate, substantial tax relief to middle-income families.

And the good news is, in a few weeks, we will be able to ignore the political speculation and rhetoric and just see for ourselves.

Now that the bill is law, the IRS will begin to implement the new rules, and paycheck withholding guidelines will change. In another few pay periods, you either will or won’t see a raise in your take-home pay.

Over the course of the next year, two years, three years, we either will or won’t see more “Help Wanted” signs in business windows. We will or won’t see more listings on job search websites. We will or won’t hear about this or that business expanding, opening a new branch or a new plant.

The new, $2,000 per-child tax credit—which Rubio and I successfully fought to make available to millions of additional working families—won’t make raising kids easy. But it will make things like diapers, braces, little league, or piano lessons more affordable again.

I voted for this tax bill because I believe it will deliver higher take-home pay, more relief for middle-class families, and business tax reform to spur hiring, wage growth, and investment. Every Democrat in the House and Senate voted against the bill because they thought it would not do those things.

In a few weeks, we’ll start to see—in your paychecks, at your office, in your community—who was right.

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