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Hungary didn’t leave the EU mainstream — mainstream left sanity

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Hungary didn't leave the EU mainstream — mainstream left sanity

Two years ago, the European Parliament’s largest center-right bloc, the European People’s Party, suspended the membership of Hungary’s ruling party, Fidesz. Last week, the tug of war ended when Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orbán announced that his party would be leaving the EPP for good. The Washington foreign-policy establishment naturally cheered the outcome: Its members equate any expression of populism or national-conservatism with “extremism.”

And in truth, Fidesz’s departure from the EPP had something to do with extremism: the extremism of a Eurocratic elite that long ago abandoned its own Christian-democratic ideals in favor of a hard-line globalist ideology that brooks no dissent — and has no room for the concerns of ordinary voters in Central and Eastern Europe: faith, family and national dignity.

For the peoples of the post-Soviet bloc, such as Hungarians and Poles, rejoining the European political family after more than four decades of Communist occupation was an outstanding opportunity. We looked for allies who shared the core values that we believe underpin the prosperity and decency of Western civilization.

Then we had a rude awakening. It turned out the so-called mainstream parties of the center right and center left paid little more than lip service — if that — to sovereignty and self-determination, the diversity of nations, the traditional family and Europe’s Judeo-Christian foundations. So long as we toed the globalist and liberal line from Brussels and Washington, we were accepted. But as soon as we democratically chose a different path, we were called “undemocratic.”

Orbán — the single most democratically popular leader in Europe — has been called worse. Yet all his decisions that have drawn the ire of the Euro-“mainstream,” including the EPP leadership, were pragmatic solutions to real problems — solutions, moreover, that were more faithful to the legacy of the EU’s founding fathers than anything offered by the Eurocrats.

Consider illegal migration, an ongoing flashpoint since at least 2015. Orbán, almost alone among center-right leaders, called for action to do to what our treaties bind us to do: protect our territorial sovereignty. Europe has asylum laws, which the liberal nations of Northern and Western Europe circumvented to bring in more than a million unvetted newcomers from the Middle East and Africa. Chaos, terror and mass social incohesion ensued.

Most average Europeans now take it for granted that it was folly to fling open the Continent’s gates, and Western politicians with a modicum of courage and common sense are prepared to admit it publicly. Yet the Eurocrats and their mainstream-media mouthpieces labeled Hungarians fascists and xenophobes for simply insisting on the borders and sovereignty principles enshrined by EU law.

Or take family policy. The Hungarian government offers generous subsidies to promote marriage, family formation and childbearing — to forestall demographic collapse and to ensure that there are future workers and taxpayers to support aging populations. In 10 years, the number of marriages has been doubled, and demographic decline has started to reverse (compare that with France, whose birth rate is at its the lowest point since 1945). 

Thanks to a recent amendment, the constitution also defines marriage, like most civilizations across most of human history have, as the union of man and woman, ordered to the nurturing of children. Governments in Germany and France may disagree with this. But isn’t it the Hungarian people’s right to make that determination, as an overwhelmingly majority of their duly elected representatives did in voting to amend the constitution?

These positions, too, have opened up Hungary to charges of “fascism” from Europe’s liberal salons, where “family policy” amounts to whatever the most extreme nongovernmental organizations and gender ideologues dictate. But I wonder, which policies would be more familiar and genial to Europe’s devoutly Catholic founding fathers (men like Robert Schumann, Konrad Adenauer and Robert Schuman): Budapest’s or the Brussels mandarins’?

So will Fidesz’s departure from the EPP isolate the Hungarians, as the liberals dream? Not likely.

The future is uncertain, but Fidesz is now free to form a regional dream team with the Polish governing party, Law and Justice, and perhaps Italy’s populist movement. The resulting bloc could easily end up as a bastion of ideological sanity on the eastern and southern ends of the union.

One thing is for sure, though: Orbán wouldn’t attract the oft-silent admiration of millions across Europe, and the burning enmity of the Brussels elite, if he weren’t addressing real problems that the “mainstream” parties either ignore or exacerbate. He has realized the power of telling the true story of his small country and of Europe, a story in which people can recognize themselves. The same can’t be said for his enemies in the councils of the EU.

Péter Heltai is an editor and podcast host at the Budapest-based Mathias Corvinus Collegium. 

Twitter: @PeterHeltai

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Opinion

People need to trust vaccines — not be bribed to get them

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People need to trust vaccines — not be bribed to get them

With just 59 percent of adults fully or partially vaccinated and the number of daily vaccinations falling, one supposed solution is to offer a financial reward — as much as a million dollars! — to get jabs. Turning public health into a lottery, though, is a stretch of medical ethics: People reluctant to get a shot should be persuaded, not bought off.

The most obvious appeal to the pocketbook is in Ohio. There, Gov. Mike DeWine is giving away chances to win five $1 million cash prizes and five full public-college scholarships to teens who get a vaccination. 

Will this work? The only way to tell is to wait and see. If Ohio sees a surge in vaccinations, good. 

Yet the game-show approach is unnerving. Like any lottery, it appeals disproportionately to compulsive gamblers — the 1 percent who feel they can’t miss out on a chance to win.  

For hundreds of thousands of Ohioans, preying on the fear of losing a prize may feel more like coercion than a public-health measure.

Less seriously, what is the motive Ohio wants people to have in desiring a vaccine?  

All available science indicates the vaccine is safe and effective. (I got two, more than two weeks ago, am still alive and haven’t gotten COVID yet. If my non-doctor opinion matters to anyone, I would recommend getting it.)

But the vaccine is still a serious medical choice, having to do with both public and personal health.  

People should weigh the benefits, which seem high, against the risks, which seem low for most people, to the best of their own abilities.  

Adding a massive payoff skews these decisions. People have to feel happy with the choices they made and feel they made their choices freely, without pressure — especially important if it turns out that we’ll all need booster shots every six months or every year.

Being hesitant or skeptical — or just distrusting the government, after years and months of incompetence by both political parties — does not mark someone as an idiot or conspiracist.  

For the most hesitant, attempting to buy people off may backfire: If it’s so great, why do you need to dangle seven figures in front of me?

Before looking for big headlines, governments should consider why some people are hesitant. The good news is hesitancy rates are falling, according to a new University of Pittsburgh public-health study, dropping from 27.5 percent in March to 22 percent.

Of the hesitant, half are worried about side effects, a worry that should continue to fall as they observe that vaccinated people have lived to tell the tale.

Far smaller percentages don’t trust the government, don’t think the COVID vaccines safe or don’t like vaccines overall. (The last is a truly small category, at only 3 percent of the population.) 

For those who don’t trust government, a lottery may be far less important than recent news that eight Yankee employees got COVID despite being vaccinated. This could be a PR setback for the vaccines, unless public-health officials aggressively acknowledge that this is not what people should expect. They should answer questions about it, including during baseball games, where it’s the topic of much of the banter in between the play-by-play.

The short pause on the Johnson & Johnson vaccine didn’t help, either.  

What about people who just haven’t gotten around to it yet? Making the vaccine ever easier to get is a good idea. Availability at train stations will lure the path-of-least-resistance people, as might tented curbside service outside pharmacies and supermarkets, so that people are reminded on their regular walks.

Then there’s the immigration and insurance issue. New York state repeatedly tells people that they don’t need to be in the country legally to get the vaccine and that they don’t need insurance — yet it still asks people signing up whether they have insurance and, if so, demands their policy numbers and the like. There’s no reason to ask these questions at all and deter people afraid of getting a bill later.  

Finally, there’s nothing wrong with free donuts, fries and beer offered by private companies — although one fears for the republic if anyone is actually persuaded to get their shot just because of a chocolate glazed.

Nicole Gelinas is a contributing editor to the Manhattan Institute’s City Journal.  

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Joe Biden is even more of a ‘master of disaster’ than Jimmy Carter

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Joe Biden is even more of a 'master of disaster' than Jimmy Carter

President Joe Biden entered office poised to oversee a record recovery and a return to the booming economy and all-round stability of pre-pandemic life. Instead, he’s turned out to be a master of disaster, with self-inflicted crises across the board threatening to set America back to the 1970s — with that era’s infamous “stagflation” as well as a foreign policy in flames.

When Biden took office in January, the nation was on the mend from a post-holiday surge in COVID cases and seeing a light at the end of the tunnel with the vaccines produced at unprecedented speed and nearly a million jabs a day going into American arms. With the unemployment rate — 3.5 percent — at a five-decade low in February 2020, Biden inherited a strong pre-pandemic economy that was already bouncing back strong as the pandemic and lockdowns began to end.

President Donald Trump had also done him a favor at the southern border, getting what was once a real crisis under control by prioritizing strong border security, negotiating a Remain in Mexico policy that saw asylum-seekers await the conclusion of their cases outside the country and instituting a public-health order that kept migrants out while we focused on eradicating the virus.

Biden even looked set to negotiate more peace deals in the Middle East, building on Trump’s Abraham Accords, the first deals in decades between Arab nations and Israel.

But barely four months into his presidency, it’s disaster after disaster as Biden wastes every opportunity his predecessor left him.

US consumer confidence fell unexpectedly this month as rising prices, a hiring slowdown and energy uncertainty hit hard. On Friday, the University of Michigan said its Index of Consumer Sentiment declined to 82.8, from 88.3 in April. Economists had predicted it would rise to 90.4.

It wasn’t the first disappointment for prognosticators this month. Economists expected the country to tack on 1 million jobs in April after seeing gains of 770,000 in March. Instead, the Bureau of Labor Statistics reported just 266,000, as the unemployment rate rose to 6.1 percent.

And then it announced that consumer prices rose 4.2 percent year-over-year in April — far worse than economists had predicted. It was the largest such jump since September 2008, when the financial crisis was at its height. Oh, and core inflation rose 0.8 percent from March to April, the biggest rise in nearly four decades.

You can thank Biden’s focus on expanding government at the expense of everyone else. Democrats (alone) passed his $1.9 trillion COVID “relief” bill — which had little to do with either — in March, as things were finally picking up. Throwing money into the economy without much consideration of its necessity directly led to the inflation we’re seeing now, with the money supply up by 25 percent over last year.

That “relief” bill also extended the $300 weekly federal unemployment supplement to Sept. 6, meaning nearly half of people getting checks make more by staying home than going back to work. Employers coast to coast have cited it as a reason they’re having trouble hiring.

Biden claims the jobs numbers show his two other big proposals ($5 trillion total for “infrastructure” and “families”) are desperately needed, but that “medicine” would mean more disasters, not least because they’re (partly) paid for via huge tax hikes on investments and business.

He’s also adding fear and gloom now, by refusing to rule out making his planned tax hikes retroactive.

Gas prices were already on the rise under Biden before the cyberattack on the Colonial Pipeline led to long lines at the pump. It now costs $1.05 more per gallon than it did a year ago. With Biden closing the Keystone XL Pipeline on his first day in office and generally vowing to wage war on all fossil fuels, it’s no wonder there’s uncertainty and higher prices.

Nowhere is the self-inflicted nature of Biden’s disasters more plain than on the border. He put a moratorium on deportations his first day in office and ended the Remain in Mexico program as well as all construction on any border barriers. Border apprehensions were at a 20-year high last month, but deportations were at a record monthly low.

And the feds have a record number of unaccompanied minors in custody — around 22,000 — because Biden ordered the public-health rule keeping migrants out to be lifted for solo kids.

Meanwhile, Hamas and its allies have gone on the attack against Israel, leaving it no choice but to defend itself. As Jonathan Schanzer notes, the Biden team’s drive to restore the Iran nuclear deal plainly inspired Tehran’s terrorist clients to start firing, even as it makes Israel less willing to listen to Washington’s efforts to broker a ceasefire.

It’s stunning how much success Biden has managed to reverse in not even four months. With long lines at the pump, slowing growth and rising inflation, it’s looking like the Jimmy Carter era — except that it took Carter years to produce the disasters that this president has fostered in scant months.

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Opinion

Attacking test-in schools is anti-Asian

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Attacking test-in schools is anti-Asian

On Wednesday, a handful of students — including a couple of Brooklyn Tech kids — demonstrated against the specialized high school entrance exam in front of Stuyvesant HS in Lower Manhattan. Teens Take Charge, the group sponsoring the event, chose Stuyvesant as the venue because it is 70 percent Asian and this year just eight black students did well enough on the test to win entry.

What made this affair sad, besides the low turnout, was that The New York Times and NY1 took the rally seriously — thinking this somehow represents a majority opinion. Democratic politicians also pretend that the existence of elite schools, and the tests required to enter them, is a problem. During Thursday’s mayoral debate, only Eric Adams and Kathryn Garcia (a Stuyvesant grad) stood up for the entrance exam.

The problem is not the test. It’s a sign of the larger problem of too many underperforming elementary and middle schools in our city — and the absence of Gifted & Talented classes — in predominantly black and Hispanic neighborhoods.

The SHSAT is a color-blind admissions test where neither political influence nor money can buy entrance. For over 80 years, these schools have offered advancement to all through a high-quality, merit-driven education.

Remarkably, many of the same voices decrying the surge in anti-Asian assaults as the product of “systemic racism” also denounce a race-blind exam that happens to lead to elite high schools being predominantly Asian high schools, even suggesting that this, too, is somehow the product of (extremely well-hidden?) racism.

Dropping admission standards for the specialized high schools means sending in students who aren’t prepared for the rigorous workload, which helps no one and robs others of the challenging education they’ve earned. It’s the pursuit of “equity” at the expense of justice and excellence.

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