The Briefing

Additional Reading

Part

New York Times

A Pregnant Victim, a Grisly Murder and a Suspect Called ‘Grim Creepa’, by Ashley Southall and Edgar Sandoval

Part

Wall Street Journal

Should Non-Citizens Be Represented in Congress?, by David B. Rivkin Jr. and Richard Raile

New York Times

What the Census Case Will Say About the Supreme Court, by William W. Buzbee

Part

Part

Thursday, April 25, 2019

Thursday, April 25, 2019

Tags: Audio

Transcript

Part

The family of a pregnant woman murdered in New York demands justice for two, but New York’s new abortion law guarantees that no justice will come

Ideas have consequences, elections have consequences, and legislation has consequences. In some cases, those consequences are clearly visible, and that means they are also understood to be intentional. That's the case with the law that was recently passed in New York, a law that isn't even referenced in the news story to which we shall turn, and that is actually part of the story.

Monday's edition of The New York Times included a headline "Man Charged with Murder in Attack on Ex-Girlfriend and Pregnant Woman." The reporters, Ashley Southall and Edgar Sandoval, tell us, "Online, Jerry Brown adopted the persona of a killer, baptizing himself the 'Grim Creepa' on Facebook. His former girlfriend referred to him affectionately on the site as 'Mr. 187,' a slang term for murder derived from California's penal code. Offline, he earned a reputation for violence with 13 prior arrests and a stint in prison for attempted murder."

Now, The New York Times tells us police have accused him of committing a gruesome murder. On Sunday morning, the police arrested Brown and charged him with second-degree murder, attempted murder, and two counts of criminal possession of a weapon after they said he stabbed his ex-girlfriend and killed her pregnant friend over the weekend in the Bushwick Houses, a public housing complex in Brooklyn.

The details of the story are just about as horrifying as you can imagine. The story tells us that the man who was arrested has a violent history that includes a conviction for attempted murder and an arrest in 2017 on charges of attempting to strangle a former girlfriend. He pleaded guilty to shooting another man in 2002. That was when he was only 17 years of age. We're talking about a man with a very violent history, and as we know, that turned even more violent over the weekend, but the reason this story is lead on The Briefing today is because one of the victims in this crime, the pregnant woman who was killed was, as I've already said, pregnant.

We are told that she had just recently learned she was pregnant and she was looking forward to the birth of her second child. Her aunt, speaking of the murderer, said, "He took two lives, not just hers. It was her and her baby she had in her womb. We want justice for two." Well, there will eventually be justice for two. There will be justice for all when it comes to the judgment of God, but when it comes to the judgment available by the state of New York, at best, there will be justice for one murder, not justice for two.

That's because just earlier this year, the New York Assembly passed that absolutely radical abortion rights law, making it possible to abort babies all the way through even the third trimester, and what's most important for this story, removing abortion altogether from the state's criminal code. That means that killing an unborn baby is not even a part of the criminal code in New York State.

Thus, this story really does point to us a couple of things that should have our attention. In the first place, we're looking at the culture of death having its influence in the law, but just remember. When the General Assembly passed that law, it was followed by celebration, pro-abortion activists shouting, and applauding, and slapping each other on the back, and then of course, New York Governor Andrew Cuomo signed the bill into law. Now, we see one of its consequences, but as we saw already, it was visible when the law was adopted.

The legislators and the governor in New York knew exactly what they were doing when they removed abortion entirely, when they removed the killing of an unborn child entirely from the criminal code of the state of New York. In an absolute monomaniacal attempt to preserve and to expand abortion rights, they now made it impossible to charge someone with murder or any other crime when it comes to the killing of the unborn. In this case, we're looking at what morally speaking is clearly a double murder in the killing of this woman and her unborn child. The woman's aunt is exactly right when she says of the murderer, "He took two lives, not just hers. It was her and her baby she had in her womb."

Here's the second big insight we need to note. This aunt is, morally speaking, speaking the absolute truth and speaking of a deep quest that is in us for justice when she said, "We want justice for two." Well, this justice for two that is now denied intentionally by the state of New York points to the fact that made in the image of God, we are creatures who desire justice. We really do. Isn't it interesting to know how early this comes in the human cycle? Very, very young children want justice. Even when children are toddlers, they want justice. If someone does something to them, they want there to be consequences. They want the world to be set right. They want the world to operate by rules.

Children, we are told, even grow up into maturity if they grow up in that kind of structure, a structure of actions and consequences, of rules, and yes, even though they may not use the word, of justice. Even in that extremely young child who has never heard a lecture on moral or on legal theory, there is a quest for justice. The question is, where is that coming from? The answer to that is clearly, it comes from the creator who made every single human being in his image, and a part of what it means to be made in his image is that we have a hunger and a thirst for justice.

Looking at this particularly bloody and deadly headline, we are reminded of the murder that haunts the human heart. We're also looking further more at an issue that we will have to track in the future, and that is what actually happened in the criminal trial and the eventual disposition of justice in the case of this murder. Of course, it was actually an attack upon two women, an attempted murder in one case and murder in the other case. But even then, in the second case, it was the murder not of one, but of two.

What we're going to have to watch is just how seriously New York's justice system is going to take this kind of crime. We are increasingly a society that lacks the moral character to address true violence and to understand that there are some people who simply have to be removed from human society.

To fail to understand that is to invite the kind of violence that is represented in this headline, but I simply have to conclude where the article concludes, and that is with the fact that the woman who was killed, the pregnant woman already has a four-year-old son. The aunt said this, "At night, when he is going to bed, he asks, 'Where is mom?' We tell him she went to the store. He's too young to know. Maybe when he's older. He ruined his life too." A society that allows this kind of violence to happen over and over again is a society that, let's be honest, just doesn't take violence seriously.

Part

The Supreme Court is hearing arguments in a case raising the question, ‘Is it constitutional to ask about citizenship status on the 2020 census?’

Next, we're going to look at the census of the United States as the issue came before the Supreme Court of the United States this week in a very controversial hearing. The Supreme Court is going to have to act rather quickly in this case because the 2020 US Census required by our constitution is right around the corner. The federal government right now is in the process of putting together the questionnaires, printing all the paperwork, putting together all of the digital information and sites that will be necessary for the giant census of this nation to be undertaken.

What was the issue before the Supreme Court? Well, it comes down to the fact that the Secretary of Commerce who was assigned responsibility for the supervision of the census, Secretary Wilbur Ross, inserted a question about citizenship. The question is to be asked, "Are you or are the inhabitants of this dwelling citizens of the United States of America?"

Now, immediately, there was an outcry from people who said it's unconstitutional to ask that question. It's wrong to ask that question, and furthermore, you especially had big cities in the northeast, and in the west, and elsewhere who said, we will lose representation because there will be an undercount. People will be reluctant to answer any of the census questions if they're going to be asked if they are citizens.

Now, keep in mind that the percentage of people in the United States right now who are not citizens of the United States is higher than at any recent point in American history. This is a big question. It's a question you would think the government of the United States would legitimately ask and actually need to know. How many of the people in the United States are citizens of the United States?

It's also interesting to consider the question, "How many people currently in the United States are not, for one reason or another, citizens of the United States?" This is one of those left, right, liberal conservative dichotomies and controversies in the United States. On the left, there is an attempt to minimize citizenship and in particular, to count the inhabitants especially of concentrated urban areas so that the number will be as large as possible.

There's another issue going on here. There has been an exodus of people from historically liberal bastions now for a number of years. At least there has been an exodus of citizens. Just consider the fact that when you're looking at states like New York and Massachusetts, other northeastern states, there's been a migration to southern states and in particular by no coincidence, states with far lower levels of taxation, but the population hasn't necessarily gone down, but the population of citizens has probably gone down.

When it comes to the census of the United States, who should be counted? Again, it's a liberal conservative controversy. Conservatives have generally argued you should count citizens. At least that should be an important question that should be raised in the census. One of the things we need to know is that those who indicate they are non-citizens or persons in their dwelling are non-citizens, all of them would be counted.

The argument coming from liberals is, "Yes, but if they are not legal citizens, they are unlikely to answer any of the questions from the census." That was the issue as it arrived at the Supreme Court earlier this week. It was a very interesting set of oral arguments. Again, I note the Supreme Court is going to have to act far more quickly in this case than it does in so many others. You're looking at the fact that the deadline for putting together the materials for the census, a census that is required by the constitution, it's looming right before us even perhaps as early as June or July of this year.

Here, it's interesting to take two major newspapers, The New York Times representing a more liberal paper and in this case, The Wall Street Journal representing a more conservative paper. When you look at the editorial and opinion pages, both papers have addressed this. The New York Times is demanding that the question be stricken because the argument is it's unconstitutional.

On the other hand, The Wall Street Journal points out that this is itself is a constitutional question because this is a question of whether or not federal officials, in this case, the Secretary of Commerce, are actually allowed to do their job, the very job mandated by law. The Secretary of Commerce is assigned this responsibility, but now, you have people going to the courts saying that the Secretary of Commerce should be ordered by the courts what questions should be asked on the census.

I think in this case, the conservative argument is clearly right. Federal bureaucrats cannot prevent constitutional officers from fulfilling that constitutional responsibility. That's a very important constitutional issue. It also appeared that in the oral arguments, a majority of the justices seemed to accept that same argument, and those who observed from both the left and the right generally thought that the conservative majority on the Supreme Court was going to rule for the commerce secretary rather than for those who were suing him in the courts.

Here's where Christians also need to think about something else. It is a very dangerous thing for citizenship to be minimized. It's really important for Christians to reflect upon the fact that our ultimate citizenship, as the Apostle Paul said, is in Heaven. That's the most important citizenship we have, but we do have or at least we want an earthly citizenship as well as the very same Apostle Paul who went on trial, cited and claimed the fact that he was a citizen of Rome. He was invoking that legal citizenship and he was invoking all the rights that come with that citizenship.

The distinction of citizenship is very, very important. It is one of the great protectors of human dignity and human rights. It comes down to the fact that some government has to take a level of responsibility for its citizens. It also comes down to a basic factor of the Christian political theory, which is the understanding that citizenship requires a stewardship of responsibility to one another, a responsibility that is not shared in the same way with all humanity.

You might say, "Well, that runs very counter to the way it should be. We should be citizens of the world, and we should be equally responsible for taking care of every other person in the world." Well, the answer to that is just try it. This is where that Christian principle of subsidiarity comes in, reminding us that problems and needs are addressed best at the most local level. The further you get from the basic institutions that God has created, the less able any of those units are to remedy a problem or to offer any legitimate protections.

We want every child to be taken care of, but we have particular first responsibility for our own children. We want everyone to be taken care of, but we understand there is a first responsibility for our own neighborhood. You can expand out in concentric circles, but the problem is every move you make out is a move away from effectiveness. Citizenship is, of course, a legal matter and it's a moral matter, but we should all be alarmed when citizenship itself is being subverted in some of the arguments we are hearing in this very case.

Part

You can’t spend what you don’t have, even if you’re the federal government: The looming social security problem facing the United States

Next, we're going to turn to a basic realization of economic reality. Eventually, you cannot spend what you do not have. Just consider headlines. Again, we're going to look at The New York Times and The Wall Street Journal, the headline in the journal, Red Ink Seen for Social Security by 2020.

The very same issue is addressed in The New York Times with the headline Insolvency Looms for Social Safety Net. Well, what are we looking at here? We're looking at the fact that the operation of social security is now as we see endangered even more quickly than many government officials had anticipated. As you look at social security going back to its origins of the 1940's, the logic is very easy to understand. You tax people who are working now in order to pay benefits to those who are retired who are past normal working age.

Now, when this came up, it was because so many people in the United States have advanced age, they were financially fragile. Many of them were actually starving. There was a need to reach out to so many of these older Americans. Franklin Delano Roosevelt and others then in authority understood they'd never be able to sell the American people on the level of taxation necessary unless the entire citizenry would eventually benefit by this kind of program, so social security from the very beginning was not a promise merely to those who were financially fragile, but to all Americans participating in the program who reached a certain age.

Well, the problem is that works great so long as there are more workers contributing than there are beneficiaries drawing down, but anyone looking at the United States knows that we reached the tipping point on the wrong side of that equation a long time ago. There's a social security trust fund. It includes trillions of dollars, but it's not going to be enough because the shortfall will mean that that fund is also going to be depleted.

What we're looking at here is the fact that the federal government is making promises it can't possibly pay for, and thus, there's going to have to be some kind of remedy, and here's where just math comes in as a matter of clarity. The only way to resolve this is either to cut the benefits or to raise the taxes. Those are the only two options, but you wouldn't know that listening to most politicians.

Politicians know that this is an explosive issue and they don't want to touch it. They don't want to be responsible either for raising the taxes or for lowering the benefits so they keep trying to use accounting mechanisms to delay the onset or the problem, but here's where Christians understand, given our moral and mathematical realism, you can't do that for long. Eventually, you cannot spend money you do not have, and this problem is only going to get more acute as the percentage of workers decreases as compared to the percentage of beneficiaries in an increasingly aging America.

It is interesting that when social security was put in place and the age of eligibility was determined, the reality is that most Americans weren't ever going to reach that age. We're in a very different time now with increasing health, and the extension of life, and with increasing numbers of retirees. That's putting not only a strain on the system, it's creating a crisis.

Part

Elizabeth Warren’s plan to cancel student debt and eliminate tuition sounds nice and seems fair, but is it really either?

This leads us to another story of controversy from the news this week. Elizabeth Warren, senator from Massachusetts and current candidate for the Democratic presidential nomination has now proposed a massive government buy-out of student loan debt for those in the United States. It's a very radical program as Astead W. Herndon reports in The New York Times, "Senator Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts, who has structured her presidential campaign around a steady unveiling of disruptive policy ideas, on Monday proposed her biggest one yet, a $1.25 trillion plan to reshape higher education by canceling most student loan debt and eliminating tuition at every public colleges."

Now, just think about this for a moment. The old adage said about the Roman Caesars is that they basically bought off Roman citizens for their support with bread and circuses. They threw them bread, and they sponsored circuses, and the Roman people were at least fed, and they were entertained, and that's all they wanted. Well, here, you have another case of bread and circuses.

To state the obvious, this program is not going to be enacted into law. It is in every way irresponsible, but it tells us something about how Elizabeth Warren and other Democratic candidates believe they have to run in order to run to the left in the Democratic presidential nomination race. It also tells us something else. It tells us that a program that appears to be a huge gift and a matter of fairness can turn out to be anything but.

Of course, it's not a gift. We're talking about $1.2 trillion, and as we know from almost every one of these estimates, that's going to be an underestimate, and you have to ask the question, "If the money were not an issue, would it be a good thing to offer public college tuition for free? Would it be a good thing to forgive student loans?" Well, it would sound like a good thing. It would sound like a good society that would offer young people a free college education, or for that matter, allow them to run up student loans and then at the end say, "Never mind. We're going to pay those bills."

Looking at the specifics of the proposal, Herndon reports, "Senator Warren's sweeping plan has several planks. She would pay for it with revenue generated by her proposed increase in taxes for America's most wealthy families and corporations, which the campaign estimates to be $2.75 trillion over 10 years. In addition to eliminating undergraduate tuition at public colleges and universities, she would expand federal grants to help students with non-tuition expenses and create a $50 billion fund to support historically black colleges and universities."

The next sentences are crucial. "She would eliminate up to $50,000 in student loan debt for every person with a household income of less than $100,000. Borrowers who make between $100,000 and $250,000 would have a portion of their debt forgiven. In announcing her proposal, Senator Warren said, "This touches people's lives. This is a chance to talk about what's broken and how we fix it. This is the American dream."

Well, it's either an American dream or an American nightmare, and let's look at what it really means. For one thing, if you're looking at the college-educated in the United States, you're looking at the most economically privileged. You're looking at the people who by definition and by all data are actually best equipped to repay their student loans. The average student loan debt in the United States is about $29,000.

Now, there are those who have astronomical student debt that raises another moral question we'll have to look at more closely. Who should incentivize taking on that kind of debt? The reality is that the higher education industry, and it is an industry, has offered the greatest incentive for taking on that kind of overwhelming and irresponsible student debt, but the federal government has been in act of complicity offering all kinds of generous offers of financial loans and federally guaranteed loans, and let's just remind ourselves they are indeed loans, which means eventually, they will have to be repaid.

It might sound nice to offer higher education to everyone for free, but of course, it isn't for free. Someone is going to have to pay for it, and we're talking about multiple trillions of dollars a year if everything is taken into full accounting, but when you think about it, you're talking about the fact that that would mean that a lot of people who will never have the opportunity for college are now going to be taxed so that other citizens can have that opportunity.

It is really interesting that even a paper as liberal as The Washington Post by its own editorial board came out against Warren's proposal. The headline Elizabeth Warren has the Wrong Answer to America's Student Debt Problem. What's even more interesting is that a more liberal newspaper, The Guardian in London, came out with an article that is headlined Elizabeth Warren was Once a Conservative. She is Now Heading to the Left of Bernie Sanders.

This also tells us something about the current political dynamic. It's in full evidence in the Democratic presidential nomination race. It is a march to the left. Again, just as fast as you can get there. Evidence of that comes again and again. The evidence here is that Elizabeth Warren has moved as quickly as she can to move to the left of Bernie Sanders and to do so as visibly as she can, handing down a marker for this kind of program, but as we just think about fairness, we need to understand that in a complicated society, fairness is never quite so easy as one might imagine.

A proposal that is here sold as fairness upon reflection doesn't appear so fair after all. How fair is it to tax the entire American people for an educational benefit that will be of greatest benefit to those who receive it? Again, the Christian worldview reminds us that fairness, a limited concept by the way. Justice is a far stronger concept, but let's just stay with fairness for a moment.

Christians understand it's a far more complicated issue. It's hard to achieve, harder than people who simply make this kind of proposal want us to recognize. What would be fair? Is it fair for people who won't go to college to pay for the college education of others? They are already doing so through a lot of tax programs, and is it also fair, is it right to incentivize people to take on student loan debt because after all, the government is eventually going to take over those bills?

Furthermore, there's something you don't see cited very often here, and that is the fact that if you are looking at what many individuals do with the money that is identified as student loan debt, you would discover that it would be, let's just say, generously only perhaps indirectly tied to what people would think of as an educational purpose. Is it fair as a society to pay off the debt that in many cases came down to major consumer purchases because it's just going to be identified as student debt?

Finally, on this issue, there's always more than meets the eye. Let's just consider who would be the great beneficiary of this kind of giant federal program? It would actually be that entire industry of higher education, an industry that has grown exponentially over recent decades because of the vast infusion of money that has largely been made possible by the very student loan programs that Elizabeth Warren now wants to forgive.

The bottom line is this. If you keep giving money to this vast educational complex, that complex is going to take it, consume it, and is going to demonstrate an appetite for more. A program like this is basically saying to higher education, "Find a way to spend even more money because the federal government is now going to be putting trillions of more dollars into higher education."

But then, just go back to that issue we talked about just before this. It was about social security becoming insolvent. We are already as a government unable or you might say unwilling to pay the bills for what we're spending right now. What sense does it make to declare we're going to commit ourselves to trillions and trillions of additional spending? Once again, it raises the basic issue of fairness. Who's going to pay those bills? The reality is it won't be the members of congress or the politicians who put the programs into effect. It will be our children, and our grandchildren, and our grandchildren's grandchildren. Just as yourself the question, "How fair is that?"

R. Albert Mohler, Jr.

R. Albert Mohler, Jr.

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