‘No Escape’: Author Details the Horrors of North Korean Prison Camps to Explain This Phenomenon

People in North Korea live in fear of what the government can do to them because they know they have no escape, author Michael Malice said on radio Thursday.

North Korea’s isolation from the rest of the world has been decades in the making. It’s easy enough for U.S. media to make fun of North Koreans for being brainwashed by their communist government that teaches them that their leader, Kim Jong Un, is basically a god and that their country is the greatest in the world. But North Koreans shouldn’t be blamed for simply trying to keep themselves and their families alive.

Malice, who wrote about the Kim regime in “Dear Reader: The Unauthorized Autobiography of Kim Jong Il,” detailed one of North Korea’s horrifying human rights violations: concentration camps for government prisoners.

“They send your whole family, three generations,” Malice said, explaining that the three-generation “extermination” policy was handed down by Kim Il Sung.

“You have a [work] quota and what’s insane, even by concentration camp standards, if you kill yourself, your family still has to fill your quota,” Malice asserted. “So even death is not an escape.”

Glenn remonstrated journalists who don’t give the full picture when they report on North Korea.

“I think some people tune this out … because they don’t think anybody wants to watch it or pay attention to it,” he said. “That’s your job.”

Kim Jong Un has threatened the U.S. and its allies with nuclear warfare in recent months, and North Korea has successfully tested an intercontinental ballistic missile, according to reports. The North Korean army this week threatened U.S. territory Guam, a location that houses several U.S. strategic bombers.

GLENN: Yesterday, on the program, we had Michael Malice. He's -- he is an amazing guy. He actually was born in the Soviet Union. His parents defected in the '70s. And he got out. And so he has been struggling with things. He's also Jewish. Struggling with things like modern day concentration camps and the evils of communism and totalitarianism.

Yesterday, we talked to him about Korea, on a high level. He went over to North Korea and really got to know some of the people and the culture. And it's a terrifying place.

I wanted to invite him back today. Because I wanted to talk to him about life in the former Soviet Union because I don't think people even understand how free we are today. But I also wanted to talk to him about something that -- you know, if the media really cares about the people of North Korea and the people of South Korea, then they would be doing things like what I'm going to ask him to do. Tell us about the concentration camps that are happening currently in North Korea.

Michael, welcome to the program.

MICHAEL: Thanks so much, Glenn. Man, this is going to be a dark day on the Glenn Beck show. Because, I mean, starting with that sad opener, and I'm about to make it even darker. So when you --

GLENN: Hang on just a second. I want you to know, that wasn't a sad opener. I think that was -- there are miracles. People provide miracles.

MICHAEL: Sure. I meant very touching. Very -- very touching and intense.

GLENN: Yeah.

MICHAEL: In the North Korean concentration camps, as we discussed yesterday, they send your whole family, three generations. The leader of North Korea, the founder, Kim Il-sung said, "Class enemies must be exterminated to three generations."

So when you get sent to the camps, you still have to work. And what is -- you have a quota. And what's insane, even by concentration camp standards, if you kill yourself, your family still has to fill your quota. So even death is not an escape in these camps from the reach of the Kim dynasty. There are children there. You know, men and women.

And you hear these stories of, for example, it is illegal to have relations with the camp guards. So very often, these women are assaulted by the guards who have complete power over them. But then the women are the ones who are punished. There was this one story where a woman was assaulted. They ran her over with a truck. Cut off her legs. And she still had to report to work, pushing herself on a tire. They're not going to give her a wheelchair.

You have stories where even the camps -- they can punish you. So you have men sentenced to work in mines. And they never see sunlight again. So their skin starts to slough off from Vitamin D deficiency.

So this is a level of barbarism that has almost never been seen on earth, and so much of the press is focused on how fat Kim Jong-un is and his rhetoric. And I was so pleased to hear you talk about this yesterday. This is why I wrote Dear Reader so that people can realize that the focus is on 25 million slaves in this country.

And so much of the rhetoric in the press is like, "Well, it's better that they die than we die." And it's like, "Well, how about we figure out a way where no one dies." That's my goal.

GLENN: You know, Michael, I don't know how to solve this. And I think some people tune this out, you know, the press because they don't think anybody wants to watch it or pay attention to it, which I think is just total laziness. It's your job to figure out a way to present it in such a way that you can feed it to people.

MICHAEL: Yeah.

GLENN: That's your job. And instead -- go ahead.

MICHAEL: That's why I wrote my book.

GLENN: Right.

MICHAEL: Because it was driving me nuts that you see people completely uninformed on television making these claims. You know, making it like another Iraq or another Nazi Germany. And it's not. And I said, "I'm going to do something about this once and for all, and I'm going to write a book so people can understand how it got to this place."

It didn't happen overnight, Glenn, as you know. This is a long, methodical process, to take a population and reduce them to this state.

GLENN: Michael -- Michael Malice is the name of the author, and the book is Dear Reader: The Unauthorized Autobiography of Kim Jong-il.

How do you -- in some ways, in a different way, so hear me out on this question. When we went in and we freed the -- the concentration camps of the Germans.

MICHAEL: Right. Right.

GLENN: At the very beginning, our help actually killed them. By feeding, it killed them. It's -- it's -- you know, it was a horrible situation. And so we had to be really, really careful on how to bring people back to health.

MICHAEL: Right.

GLENN: How do you -- for people who have been in a concentration camp for three generations, how do you -- how do you bring those people back to any kind of understanding of -- of what -- of how people should even be treated.

MICHAEL: Well, what's even more insane is that when North Koreans send people to the camps, sometimes those people are freed. And they return to North Korean society. They have to basically sign a non-disclosure agreement, and they have to try to pick up the pieces of their lives. So there have been instances of this, where people have been returned, but they're obviously broken human beings. And there's different types of camps. There's political camps, and there's work camps.

Because one of the things these totalitarian nations have the idea -- you remember the slogan over Auschwitz was "work make makes you free." They claim and they believe in North Korea that by working, you will learn to love the leader and you will work your way to kind of enlightenment and understanding the Juche idea, which is the philosophy that guides North Korea.

So it's -- it's so depraved in so many ways. But thankfully, you know, there are stories of people who have -- the book that really moved George W. Bush, it's called the Aquariums of Pyongyang. And this is the book that really blew the lid off the camp system. Because the people -- the family went to live in the camps. And they were freed. And then one of the guys became a refugee. And he told the stories of what's going on there.

And more and more people are escaping North Korea and telling the stories of what life is like in these camps.

So we've -- but here's the scary part: The people in the camps are told, should the Americans invade, we are going to kill you all and burn these camps down. And that's something that no one takes into account when they're advocating starting war with North Korea.

GLENN: How many people are estimated to be in these camps?

MICHAEL: One hundred to 200,000. And you can see them for yourself on Google Earth.

GLENN: What do I Google?

MICHAEL: I mean, just go to Google Maps. I forgot -- you know, just Google "North Korea concentration camps." You'll find it pretty quickly. Maybe not using Google. Maybe another search engine these days.

GLENN: And there's no doubt that the North Koreans would slaughter them. I mean, that's what the Germans tried to do. They just didn't have enough time. You have to erase these crimes against humanity.

MICHAEL: Sure. Of course. Of course. That's the other point you made yesterday. Everyone talks about, they're crazy. They're crazy.

They're not crazy. They're evil. They're smart, and they're conniving. And exactly like you said, they want to wash their hands out of these crimes against humanity, and that means murdering at a huge scale.

During the '90s, they refused to allow food into the country. And up to 10 percent of the population starved -- 1 to 2 million people -- because Kim Jong-un said -- Kim Jong-il, the father said, "If we let the UN give them food, they're not going need to the government."

And the people who were the most loyal to the regime were the first to starve because they were the ones thinking food's right around the corner. I believe in the leader.

It's the shady ones and the cynical ones who were like, I'm going to lie, cheat, and steal to feed my family, who survived.

GLENN: Michael Malice is on with us. MichaelMalice.com. Also, the book is Dear Reader: The Unauthorized Biography of Kim Jong-il. We'll talk to him a little bit more about North Korea and what to do there.

But also, I want to hear his story, life behind the Iron Curtain. His parents came to the West to escape the Soviet Union, and I want to hear his story on that as well.

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(OUT AT 10:24AM)

GLENN: We're with Michael Malice from MichaelMalice.com. He is the author of the book Dear Reader. It's an amazing book about what life is like in North Korea. And it's a conversation that I think should be had in -- on -- in all media centers, instead of focusing on, "Did you see what outrageous thing this guy said?" How about we actually have a real adult conversation about what we're doing?

STU: And we've been very adult so far. And it's understandable with the context of the times. Though, Michael, your book is really entertaining. I don't want that to be lost in like a really serious topic here because you made the choice to write it as Kim Jong-il.

MICHAEL: Right. It's in the first person, and I want it to be the kind of book you can read on -- in the beach and/or bathroom. Right? And unless you make things fun and entertaining and kind of a page-turner, it's so dark and so depressing, people shut down. So I thought, "Let's make this something that people can enjoy." And one of the reviews I got -- it just really hit me -- was, "This is the funniest and most terrifying book I've ever read."

GLENN: That's great. That's great. Mission accomplished.

MICHAEL: Yeah, I'm sure a lot of your audience have seen the movie The Incredibles. And they talk in that movie about how super villains gloat, and they go on their monologues.

So when you read their literature, they boast about all the things that they do. And there is a sick kind of humor to it, that with a straight face, they're saying things that -- when you stop and think about it, you're like, this is madness.

GLENN: Like, what?

MICHAEL: Well, for example, Kim Jong-il hates the Mona Lisa, I learned, from reading their propaganda. And I asked my mother, who grew up in the Soviet Union, I'd say, "Why do you think Kim hates the Mona Lisa?" And it took her one second. She goes, "Because she has an ambiguous smile."

And that's right. According to North Korea, if art is ambiguous, it's not art. Art has to have a propaganda message that's very clear to the masses, or else you can't consider it art.

And imagine living in a country where every piece of art has to have some political message. And that political message is always the same.

GLENN: I think I do live in that country.

(laughter)

I hate to point that out, but I think we're there.

(laughter)

Do the people -- do the people there actually believe the stuff like, you know, he came down and was born and was delivered by a flock of birds, and he remembers his -- the day he was born --

STU: That's the first line of the book. What is it? I remember the day I was born perfectly.

MICHAEL: I remember the day I was born perfectly.

STU: And it's not a funny statement where you're grandiose and stating what Kim Jong-il said. He actually told people that, and they're really forced to believe it.

MICHAEL: Yes.

GLENN: I heard he does -- that he doesn't go to the bathroom. That people believe that he has no bathroom needs.

MICHAEL: No. See, a lot of times, the West gets it on wrong.

GLENN: Okay.

MICHAEL: And let me explain how they view him. What that bathroom line is, what they meant is, he works so hard, he doesn't even take breaks to go to the bathroom. So that's not really a big expression.

GLENN: Okay. Okay.

PAT: Does he wear adult diapers?

GLENN: I don't think we need to go there.

Go ahead.

MICHAEL: Yes.

But they look at him, not like a person. They look at him kind of the way we look at Uncle Sam, right? Now, Uncle Sam, we know what he's like, what he does. If I asked you, well, if it's Uncle Sam, who are his nieces and nephews? You never stop to think about that, right? It doesn't make -- but he's an uncle.

So you don't perceive him as a full human being. However, there's another story, which was amazing to me, at how they view Kim Jong-il.

There's a building. There's an obelisk in North Korea called The Tower of the Juche Idea. It's got this flame at the very top.

GLENN: Hang on. Hang on. We'll get the rest of this story, and maybe they should learn Uncle Sam wears stripes, meaning he should be in prison. Maybe they should learn that about their uncle as well. We'll get the rest of the story and then move to the former Soviet Union. What is -- what was life like for Michael's family?

(OUT AT 10:30AM)

GLENN: So we're talking to Michael Malice. He's the author of a book called Dear Reader: The Unauthorized Biography of Kim Jong-il. His family immigrated here from the Soviet Union in the 19702. We'll get into that in just a second. But finishing up a story on how people view the dear leader in North Korea. And you were talking about an obelisk?

MICHAEL: Yeah, they have this tower. The Tower of the Juche Idea. It's the stone tower in the capital city of Pyongyang. And when you read their literature and how they discuss how this tower was being built, you have all these architects.

And they came up with all these plans. And Kim Jong-il shows up and says, "Hey, why don't we make it the tallest tower in the world?"

And their jaws drop. And they realize, "No one had ever considered this possibility before."

And it's like, "Wait a minute. You guys are all brainstorming with the dear leader, and no one even threw out, 'We should make it the biggest one on earth?'"

So according to all their literature, it's not that he's a God. He's literally the only competent person in the whole country. And that's very pernicious. Because think about it, to this day, if that leader goes away, that means your whole nation goes to pod. So it's very important -- if the one guy who knows how to do anything in the country is keeping things together, you really to make sure he stays in charge.

GLENN: And, Michael, they thought that the grandfather was -- was actually working with the people. That he would be -- and, you know, in the actual factories. And he wouldn't stop to eat or go to the bathroom. He would just keep working. And he would turn one factory around.

And then the dear leader would get into another car, and he would race to another factory. And he was working there. I mean, they actually believed that.

MICHAEL: Well, I mean, it's kind of true. They have something called "field guidance." And if you look in their newspapers, it's photographs of Kim Jong-il at one factory one day, and the next day he's at a school.

So when I'm reading all the propaganda, the stories are mind-numbing. Because it's -- there's a glass factory. There's a problem. No one knows what to do. Kim Jong-il shows up. He has an extremely obvious solution. Everyone is shocked and amazed.

The next day, we got a problem at the cornflake factory. Gee, I wonder what's going to happen there. So, you know, trying to make it into a funny interesting story was a lot of work on my part because -- and what's really dark about their literature is other human beings and other countries don't exist. So it will say something like, "During the '70s, the great leader Kim Il-sung went to a European country to attend the funeral of its president." It doesn't say which country. It doesn't say who.

No one else has names in most of these stories, other than Kim Jong-il and Kim Il-sung. And they started even recently taking a Biblical bent, by having everything the leaders say in boldface, in the same way Jesus' words are in red in the Bible. And their names are in a bigger font than the rest of the text.

STU: Hmm.

GLENN: Can you tell me the -- because there's a lot of bizarre things that go on with North Korea that I don't understand.

MICHAEL: Yeah.

GLENN: But let me just say two words to you: Dennis Rodman.

MICHAEL: Oh, yes. I mean, Dennis Rodman -- the hatred I have for him and what he's doing -- and I don't care how drunk or stupid he is or crazy. He was on some Sunday morning show, and they asked him, "How are you paling around with someone who has concentration camps?" And he literally said, "Well, we have prisons. What's the difference?"

GLENN: Oh, my gosh.

MICHAEL: Why don't you go to those prisons and go to those camps and take a poll and see who wants to switch places, and you'll have your answer. So to hand wave that away, to me, is unconscionable.

GLENN: What do you think it is? Is it money? And why is Kim Jong-un interested in him? I mean, the rest of the world isn't interested in him.

MICHAEL: Because how many celebrities are going to be his friend, you know what I mean? First of all, he gets to pretend to his population that everyone on earth thinks I'm awesome. They don't know who Dennis Rodman is. But he can easily tell them, this is the greatest baseball -- basketball player of all time. And he's an American coming to North Korea to praise the leader. That says something else. So these are two aspects that are used to glorify the regime. Plus, I'm sure it makes Kim Jong-un look a lot smarter by comparison, right? And a lot saner.

GLENN: So you're doing this, I gather, because of your -- you're kind of picking up the torch where your parents kind of left off in some ways. Your parents and you for a couple of years lived in the former Soviet Union.

MICHAEL: Right.

GLENN: And you saw persecution. You saw concentration camps. You're Jewish. You saw history.

MICHAEL: Right.

GLENN: I imagine that's where this is coming from.

MICHAEL: Oh, absolutely. Because when I would look at the reports, the news and people treating it like a carnival, and, you know, in high school we ask ourselves, how did we let the Holocaust happen? People wouldn't even talk about the Gulags from the Soviet Union, which preceded the German concentration camps and were around for a lot longer.

And, again, to focus on Kim Jong-il's golf score, I said, "I'm going to do something -- I'm going to at least try do something once and for all." Because, yeah, you can write books that are fun or entertaining. But at a certain point, you're like, I'm put on this earth. Let me see if I can move the needle a little bit.

Because we have it pretty good in this country, Glenn. If I move the needle in America, it's not going to make much of a difference. But if I'm moving the needle even a little bit in North Korea, this could actually be saving a lot of lives.

GLENN: Tell me about your parent's experience in the Soviet Union.

MICHAEL: I mean, towards -- it was awful. And it's -- there's so many things that were put into my head that I didn't realize were put in there and that is different from how Americans were raised.

For example, I had a buddy staying in my house. I went to the gym. And to get into my apartment building, there's no buzzer. Someone has to let you in.

And I come back, and he said, "Oh, there was someone at the door looking for whatever -- Jimmy. And I sent him on his way."

And I looked at him and I realized, "If I was staying in someone's house, it wouldn't even enter my head to answer the door." Like, that's not how Russians think.

If there's a knock on the door, it's not even an option. It doesn't -- it doesn't compute. Because there's just so much lack of trust. And the other thing, the Google doc very much was a Soviet kind of story. Because I was always raised to always be aware of who has power over you and realize they might execute that power for completely absurd reasons. And you have to be conscious of that all the time. The idea that people are going to play fair with you when they're stronger than you is an absurdity in the Soviet psychology.

GLENN: So, Michael, I went over to Poland. I took my family four years ago. Went to Auschwitz. Wanted my kids to see -- I wanted them to see Israel with the first stop being Auschwitz, so they knew why Israel was important in today's world. They know the history of Israel.

MICHAEL: Right.

GLENN: But I want them to understand what it's like when a people don't have a home to call their own, to be able to defend themselves.

MICHAEL: Right. Right.

GLENN: And so we went over. And I talked to one of the Righteous Among the Nations. A sweet woman. And she was like 16, when she started saving Jews in the ghetto. And I asked her -- the last thing I said to her was, "Paulina, you know, if dark times come, I'm looking to water the -- the tree of righteousness in myself and my family and others."

MICHAEL: Right.

GLENN: How do we do that? And she said something so profound. And as each day goes by and I see things like this Google doc thing, it just becomes stronger and stronger.

She said, "You misunderstand. The righteous didn't suddenly become righteous. They just refused to go over the cliff with the rest of humanity."

MICHAEL: Yeah.

GLENN: When you see the Google docs and you see people cheering and saying, "We can't even have a reasonable conversation. We must deny things that we know are true."

MICHAEL: Right.

GLENN: And we not only have to not say the things that we know are true, we must join the crowd and say the things we know are not true.

MICHAEL: And if they had their druthers, this guy would not only not be working at Google, he'd never be working again.

GLENN: Yes.

MICHAEL: And for what? I mean, you judge people by their actions, not by their intent. And at the very least -- first of all, no one is claiming he had bad intentions. That's what's even more pernicious. It's not like he set out to write a document, and I'm going to make people uncomfortable. Let's suppose it's all wrong. But this is his scientific view. The kid went to Harvard.

GLENN: And MIT.

MICHAEL: Yeah. This is no dummy. And you have people on Twitter who have never done anything with their lives, feeling free to cast judgment on his understanding of the scientific process and biology and psychology.

So it's a very, very scary thing. However, I think there's a good side in the sense that, thanks to social media and alternative forms of media, this is being exposed as soon as it happens. And back in the day, this kid could have been vanished, and you would never hear about him again. Remember, like, Woodrow Wilson put Eugene V. Debs in jail?

GLENN: Yep. Do you hate Woodrow Wilson? Really?

STU: Oh, come on. You can't kiss up to him by bringing up Woodrow Wilson.

GLENN: Really? Do you hate him as much as I do? Are you like a big-time hater of Woodrow Wilson?

MICHAEL: Oh, he's the worst. He's absolutely the worst president of all time. Are you kidding?

GLENN: Oh, I love you.

So I have to tell you this, just off the -- I just got an email from somebody who is going to make a cartoon on Woodrow Wilson -- the evil of Woodrow Wilson. It will blow you away who is thinking about doing this. And they said, "Will you please be the narrator?" They said, "You know, the people involved completely disagreed, but there is no one that hates Woodrow Wilson more than us, other than you." And I said, "Oh, my gosh. I will help you in every possible way to expose that monster."

MICHAEL: Oh, yeah. And it's no coincidence he was a college university president.

GLENN: Nope.

MICHAEL: Because this is where -- I was on the show Kennedy on Fox Business. And I made the point: The university's job is to prepare young minds to be the shock troops for the progressive militia. They are there to program them and have them spread out like a virus and control the media and entertainment. How many -- what percent of journalists have gone to universities? And they're all being programmed by the evangelical left.

PAT: Michael, you just booked yourself a ticket for a third consecutive day on the air.

(laughter)

GLENN: We could be -- we could be best friends, Michael. I don't know what -- I don't know what else you believe.

PAT: Yep. Yep.

GLENN: But you had me at Woodrow Wilson is evil.

JEFFY: We might have you back on Monday.

PAT: Going to be having dinner tomorrow by candlelight.

GLENN: It's a -- it's a real honor to talk to you, Michael. And thanks for all of the hard work and the hard thinking and heavy lifting on trying to get the words out, in a way that people can consume them. I appreciate --

MICHAEL: Oh, thank you so much, Glenn.

GLENN: Appreciate your work.

MICHAEL: Thank you.

GLENN: God bless. Michael Malice.

The name of the book is Dear Reader: The Unauthorized Biography of Kim Jong-il.

Why did you read that, when it came out? This has been out for like five years. Why were you reading that?

STU: It's just -- I mean, I'm fascinated by dictators.

GLENN: Dictators.

STU: And, you know, Kim Jong-un. North Korea, in particular, it's one of the places I desperately in my life want to go some day. Now, I'm -- obviously, at this point, you go there and you die. So I really can't do it.

JEFFY: But you could try.

STU: I would love to see it. It's an incredible place.

GLENN: He won't go to Israel. He won't go to Israel.

PAT: I know. But he'd like to go to North Korea.

STU: Oh, I'm also not going to North Korea because I think it's dangerous. I mean, I would love to see Israel too, but I think --

GLENN: I'm thinking about going to South Korea. Not North Korea. I'm thinking about going to the DMZ.

GLENN: That would be good, yeah.

STU: I would love to see that too. It's an incredible place. And that hotel that we talked about yesterday, The Hotel of Doom is, like, legitimately, like, my favorite building and story of all time. Because, I mean, it is the ultimate failure of communism.

GLENN: Tell them real quick.

STU: They tried -- when the Seoul, South Korea, Olympics in 1988 were going on, they decided they wanted to show -- because they knew the spotlight would be on South Korea. And they wanted to show they were better. So the communists tried -- it was Kim Il-sung, tried to build the largest hotel in the world. Got the structure built. It looks like this bizarre pyramid. Almost like a rocket ship. It's 110 stories. They got through it.

GLENN: Think of it. That's the World Trade Center, in pyramid form.

STU: In pyramid form. It is huge. And it's this big concrete structure. They built it to the sky and then ran out of cash. The Soviet Union started to collapse. They ran out of cash. Couldn't finish it.

So over this city that was supposed to be the best city in the world and how they were dominating in the world and in the economy and everything else, is this giant unfinished disaster that they can't do anything with. But they also can't tear it down because it would be completely unsafe to tear it down and also really expensive to tear it down.

So over the years, as they've sort of recovered a little bit, they've just plastered glass on the side of it, so it looks now kind of like a finished building. But there's video of it from the time where people -- and they would never allow anyone to take pictures of it. They would never allow any people to film it.

A couple people smuggled out video of it. And it's like, you know, this -- this collapsing disaster of a concrete structure. The ugliest building you've ever seen.

It was supposed to have ten rotating restaurants on the top of it. I mean, it was an incredible project. But the ultimate testimony of communism's failure. How this never -- this does not work. And I love it.

GLENN: Who was going to pay for the bazillion-dollar rooms and the ten revolving restaurants when no one has any money?

STU: Yeah. I know. It's not a good idea. That's how I like it.

JEFFY: Are we going to start maybe a GoFundMe page and have Stu go to North Korea?

GLENN: Oh, I'll pay for that myself. I will pay for that myself.

JEFFY: I'm willing to start that up.

STU: I don't understand.

As we move along this endless primary season, we implement our first major adjustments to our power rankings model. Because of all the changes on the model itself, we'll keep the write ups short this week so that we can get an update posted before we hit the second round of debates.

There are now 40 separate measures of candidate performance which are summarized by the 0-100 score that helps us makes sense out of this chaos.We also have a new style of graphs, where the section highlighted in blue will show the progress (or lack thereof) made by each candidate over the life of their campaign.

In this update, we have our first campaign obituary, a couple of brand new candidates (when will it ever stop) and plenty of movement up top.

Let's get to it.

In case you're new here, read our explainer about how all of this works:

The 2020 Democratic primary power rankings are an attempt to make sense out of the chaos of the largest field of candidates in global history. Each candidate gets a unique score in at least thirty categories, measuring data like polling, prediction markets, fundraising, fundamentals, media coverage, and more. The result is a candidate score between 0-100. These numbers will change from week to week as the race changes. The power rankings are less a prediction on who will win the nomination, and more a snapshot of the state of the race at any given time. However, early on, the model gives more weight to fundamentals and potentials, and later will begin to prioritize polling and realities on the ground. If you're like me, when you read power rankings about sports, you've already skipped ahead to the list. So, here we go.

See previous editions here.

Campaign Obituary #1

The Eric Swalwell Campaign

California State Congressman

April 8, 2019 - July 8, 2019

Lifetime high: 20.2

Lifetime low: 19.5

I ended my initial profile on Eric Swalwell with this:

"There's a certain brand of presidential candidate that isn't really running for president. That's Eric Swalwell."

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It's now more true than ever that Swalwell isn't running for president, because he has officially dropped out of the race.

To any sane observer, Swalwell never had a chance to win the nomination. This was always about raising his profile with little downside to deter him from taking money and building a list of future donors.

In one of many depressing moments in his FiveThirtyEight exit interview, he noted that one of his supporters told him he definitely thought he'd eventually be president, but it wasn't going to happen this time. (This supporter was not identified, but we can logically assume they also have the last name Swalwell.)

Swalwell did outline a series of reasons he thought his ridiculous campaign might have a chance.

  1. He was born in Iowa. After all, people from Iowa will surely vote for someone born in Iowa, even if they escaped as soon as possible.
  2. He had what he believed was a signature issue: pretending there was no such amendment as the second amendment.)
  3. He's not old.

It was on point number three where Swalwell made his last stand. In an uncomfortably obvious attempt to capture a viral moment that would launch his fundraising and polling status, Swalwell went after Joe Biden directly.

"I was 6 years old when a presidential candidate came to the California Democratic Convention and said it's time to pass the torch to a new generation of Americans. That candidate was then-Senator Joe Biden." This pre-meditated and under-medicated attack, along with Swalwell's entire campaign future, was disassembled by a facial gesture.

Biden's response wasn't an intimidation, anger, or a laugh. It was a giant smile that somehow successfully communicated a grandfathery dismissal of "isn't that just adorable."

Of course, headlines like this didn't help either:

Eric Swalwell is going to keep comparing the Democratic field to 'The Avengers' until someone claps

The campaign of Eric Swalwell was pronounced dead at the age of 91 days.

Other headlines:

Eric Swalwell ends White House bid, citing low polling, fundraising

Republicans troll Swalwell for ending presidential campaign

Eric Swalwell Latest 'Cringe' Video Brags About Omar Holding his 'White' Baby

Eric Swalwell's message to actor Danny Glover is 'the cringiest thing I've ever seen in a hearing'

Eric Swalwell's 'I Will Be Bold Without The Bull' Bombs

25. Joe Sestak 11.0 (Debut) Former Pennsylvania State Congressman

Joe Sestak is a former three-star admiral who served in Congress for a couple of years in the late 2000s. Besides his military service, his most notable achievement is figuring out a way to get Pat Toomey elected in a purple state.

With Arlen Specter finally formalizing his flip from Republican to Democrat in 2009, he was expected to cruise to reelection. However, Sestak went after him in the primary, and was able to knock him off in the by eight points. Sestak then advanced to face Republican Pat Toomey in the general election. He lost by two points during the Tea Party wave election of 2010.

Needless to say, losing to the former president of the fiscally conservative Club For Growth isn't exactly an accomplishment that is going to help Sestak in the Democratic presidential primary.

Unfortunately, with the current state of the party— his distinguished service in the Navy probably isn't helpful either.

Other headlines:

Joe Sestak on the issues, in under 500 words

Joe Sestak, latest 2020 candidate, says it's not too late for him to gain traction

Sestak aims to 'heal the soul of America' with presidential bid

Joe Sestak Would Move the US Embassy 'Back Out of Jerusalem'

24. Mike Gravel: 12.5 (Previous: 24th / 15.3) Former US Senator from Alaska

CANDIDATE PROFILE

Gravel was able to get celebrities and other candidates to send out pleas to raise funds in effort to get above 65,000 donations and qualify for the second debate.

We may never know if it was grift or incompetence, but Gravel probably should have known that crossing this line made no difference. He'll still be yelling at the TV when the debate starts.

Other headlines:

Gravel meets donor threshold to qualify for Democratic primary debate

Gravel spends a bit of cash to run an ad against Joe Biden in Iowa

Mike Gravel: Why the American People Need Their Own Legislature

Mike Gravel Is the Anti–Joe Biden

23. Wayne Messam: 12.7 (Previous: 23rd / 15.8) Mayor of Miramar, FL

CANDIDATE PROFILE

Messam has made no impact in this race so far, and has fundraising numbers that don't even get into the six digits, let alone seven. He's not really running a campaign at this point, so there's no real downside in staying in for now.

Other headlines:

Wayne Messam: Money Kept Me Out of the First Democratic Debate. Will It Keep Me Out of the Second?

22. Seth Moulton 17.2 (Previous 20th / 21.5) US Rep. from Massachusetts 

CANDIDATE PROFILE

Seth Moulton is the invisible man on the campaign trail. Most people don't even know who he is when they're talking to him. His appeal to the Democratic party is heavily flavored with his military service and appeal to patriotism.

Good luck with that Seth.

Other headlines:

Moulton: Buttigieg Was a Nerd at Harvard

Moulton: Democrats shouldn't go on 'moral crusade' against Trump

Moulton talks reclaiming patriotism from Trump, Republicans

Moulton: 'Trump is going to be harder to beat than many Democrats like to believe'

Presidential candidates hear challengers' footsteps at home

21. Tim Ryan 18.4 (Previous: 18th / 24.3) US Rep. from Ohio

CANDIDATE PROFILE

Tim Ryan's first debate performance was so bad he lost about a quarter of his score with this update. He's not without a plan to get that support back though. He wants to bring hot yoga to the people.

Other headlines:

Tim Ryan on CNN: Trump 'clearly has it out for immigrants'

Ryan Falls Way Behind in Q2 Fundraising Race, New Poll

20. Marianne Williamson 20.7 (Previous: 21st / 20.6) Author, Lecturer, Activist

CANDIDATE PROFILE

Williamson is not going to be the nominee for the Democrats, but if you throw a debate watch party, she might supply the most entertainment. So much so, Republicans have started to donate to her campaign to keep her in future debates.

Other headlines:

"I call her a modern-day prophet": Marianne Williamson's followers want you to give her a chance

Williamson Uses Anime to Explain 2020 Candidate's Holistic Politics

What Marianne Williamson and Donald Trump have in common

Marianne Williamson's Iowa director joins John Delaney's 2020 campaign

19. John Hickenlooper 22.5  (Previous: 11th / 32.0) Former Gov. of Colorado 

CANDIDATE PROFILE

Hickenlooper has been shedding campaign advisors at a relatively furious pace as he admits "there's just a bunch of skills that don't come naturally to me" when it comes to campaigning.

Probably best to pick another line of work.

Other headlines:

Hickenlooper defends campaign fundraising to The Onion: 'The race is wide open'

WP: 'You are who?' The lonely presidential campaign of John Hickenlooper

Gary Hart Warns John Hickenlooper Against Campaigning On Bipartisanship Message

Hickenlooper refuses to condemn protesters who hoisted Mexican flag at ICE facility


18. Michael Bennet 27.4 (Previous: 14th / 28.8) US Senator from Colorado

CANDIDATE PROFILE

Michael Bennet is a bit of a boring no name, but give him credit for actually trying to differentiate himself from the field. He's one of the only candidates willing to criticize his socialist opponents from the center, calling out the open borders crowd and student debt. Obviously this has no chance of success in the democratic party, but at least he's trying.

Other headlines:

George Will touts Bennet to beat Trump in 2020

Bennet: America doesn't know what the Democratic Party stands for

17. Steve Bullock 28.3 (Previous: 16th / 27.7) Gov. of  Montana 

CANDIDATE PROFILE

Bullock's biggest moment of his campaign, and quite possibly his only important moment , will come in this round of debates. He missed the first round, but squeaks in for round two after Eric Swalwell decided to take his zero percent and go home.

Bullock has a theoretical argument that doesn't look half bad on paper, but it seems impossible for another "moderate*" to make noise with Biden still hanging around.

(*-None of these moderates are actually moderate.)

Other headlines:

For Democratic presidential hopeful Steve Bullock, it's all about the 'dark money'

Steve Bullock hates 'dark money.' But a lobbyist for 'dark money' donors is helping his campaign.

Steve Bullock looking to introduce himself as someone who won in Trump country

Bullock said he's not one to eliminate all student-loan debt

Steve Bullock raises $2 million for 2020 bid in second quarter, campaign says

Lowering of state flag at capitol draws criticism

15. John Delaney 29.5 (Previous 19th / 20.3) Former US Rep. from Maryland 

CANDIDATE PROFILE

The power ranking model likes Delaney more than voters seem to like him. He continues to pour his own money into the race and at some point you have to believe someone in his life stops him from setting his cash on fire.

He did steal a key advisor from Marianne Williamson's campaign, which doesn't seem like a path to success.

Other headlines:

Delaney: "Non-Citizens Are Not Covered By My 'Better Care' Plan, But…"

Delaney says he opposes decriminalizing border crossings

Undaunted by low polling, John Delaney keeps his show on the road

Delaney presidential campaign theme: fix what's broken, keep what works

14. Andrew Yang 30.0 (Previous: 15th / 28.3) Attorney and Entrepreneur 

CANDIDATE PROFILE

Before the campaign started, if you would have said Yang would be in the middle of the pack at this point, he probably would be happy with that result. His embrace of quirky issues like banning robocalls, giving everyone free cash, and spending $6 billion to fix the nations malls is enough to keep him in the news.

His fundraising was decent, and he remains an interesting and thoughtful candidate. But, Yang has a better chance of dropping out and running on a third party ticket than winning in this Democratic Party.

You do have to wonder how long it will be before the word "Math" moves from his campaign slogan to the reason he needs to drop out.

Other headlines:

Andrew Yang Is Targeting The 'Politically Disengaged' To 'Win The Whole Election'

You can't turn truck drivers into coders, Andrew Yang says of job retraining

Yang's plan to give $1000 a month to everyone is popular with young, poor Democrats

13. Jay Inslee 31.4 (Previous: 12th / 30.4) Gov. of Washington state

CANDIDATE PROFILEf

Expect Inslee to capture the king-czar-chancellor role of the new climate police or whatever draconian nightmare the actual Democratic nominee creates if they win.

In the meantime, he should try to avoid cringe inducing nonsense like this.

Other headlines:

Presidential hopeful Jay Inslee says Trump's immigration policies will 'end his presidency'

Crowd roars for Elizabeth Warren, Jay Inslee follows to tepid applause

Inslee on listening to Carole King, wanting an anchor tattoo

Inslee Says He Tried to Arrest Fleeing Republicans


12. Tulsi Gabbard 33.4 (Previous: 13th / 28.8) US Rep. for Hawaii 

CANDIDATE PROFILE

Tulsi Gabbard really wants to be Joe Biden's vice president. Or, at least, she wants to hold an important role in his cabinet, like Secretary of Defense.

Gabbard has been running interference for Biden, aggressively going after Kamala Harris for her very successful but substance free bussing attack, while hammering Harris as not qualified to be President. These have been among the harshest criticisms levied by any candidate in the race so far, and there is definitely a purpose to all of it. Her presence in the same debate as Biden and Harris should be something Harris prepares herself for. Expect incoming fire.

Along with Yang, Gabbard remains among the most interesting Democratic candidates to Republicans and Libertarians, which is not helpful to her chances of actually winning the Democratic party nod.

Other headlines:

Gabbard says Harris used "political ploy" to "smear" Biden on raced

Which U.S. Wars Were Justifiable? Tulsi Gabbard Names Only World War II

Tulsi Gabbard Says It's A 'Good Thing' Trump Met With Kim Jong Un

Gabbard Sympathizes With Amash, Says the Two-Party System Sucks

Tulsi Gabbard Files Bill To Study Hemp's Uses For Just About Everything

Gabbard: '14-year-old girl hacked into a replica of Florida's election system'

11. Tom Steyer 33.5 (Debut) Billionaire hedge fund manager

Tom Steyer is a Democratic billionaire that has spent millions plastering his face all over MSNBC for the past two years begging people to consider impeaching Donald Trump.

The campaign power ranking model loves Steyer's potential because of his unlimited money and theoretical ability to put together a serious campaign team.

All of this is theory at this point though, as the millions spent so far has lead to a giant pile of zilch. If he's serious enough, he should be able to buy his way into the low single digits, and squeak his way into a debate or two.

Steyer's billionaire status isn't an obvious fit as the party of inequality attempts to take down Donald Trump. But, he does have legitimate movement credibility, tons of cash to buy support, and a long developed immunity to embarrassment—so the sky is the limit.

Other headlines:

Tom Steyer on the issues, in under 500 words

Tom Steyer announces 2020 bid, reversing course

Why We're Not Treating Tom Steyer As A 'Major' Candidate (Yet)

Steyer banks on South Carolina in 1st presidential bid stop

10. Kirsten Gillibrand 37.1 (Previous: 9th / 36.7) US Senator from New York

CANDIDATE PROFILE

There is probably no candidate that enters the second round of debates more clearly in do-or-die mode than Gillibrand. With headlines like "The Ignoring of Kirsten Gillibrand" lighting up her feed, she needs something big to happen, and fast. Her performance in the first debate wasn't actually horrible, but still went unnoticed.

She has zero percent in lots of polls, and that includes all of the benefits she says she's received from white privilege. Imagine if she didn't have that going for her.

Other headlines:

Gillibrand: I'd Tell Concerned Coal Miner the Green New Deal Is 'Just Some Bipartisan Ideas'

Struggling in White House bid, Democrat Gillibrand seeks bump in Trump country

Gillibrand Annoyed by Question About Immigration 'Reversal'

9. Robert Francis O’Rourke 40.7 (Previous: 6th / 52.8) Former state Rep. from Texas

CANDIDATE PROFILE

The free fall continues for Betomania.

When campaigns show signs of death, reporters start to write long profiles that aim to tell the story of the demise, or launch the amazing comeback.

Politico's headline (What Beto O'Rourke's Dad Taught Him About Losing) probably wasn't all that helpful.

Beto did secure Willie Nelson's vote though, meaning he can now count on 2 votes, assuming his "Republican" mother votes for him.

Other headlines:

Welcome to America—It's a Hell Hole!

A desperate Beto O'Rourke goes for broke, claims America was founded on white supremacy

Beto O'Rourke finds 'personal connection' to slavery, argues for reparations to unite 'two Americas'

Beto boldly vows not to prosecute people for 'being a human being'Rebooto O'Rourke

Fact Checker: Has Beto O'Rourke visited the most Iowa counties? No.


Beto O'Rourke: Let's Forgive All Student Loan Debt For Teachers

8. Amy Klobuchar 42.9 (Previous: 8th / 41.9) US Senator from Minnesota 

CANDIDATE PROFILE

Klobuchar has been a massive underachiever so far, but is still sticking around in that third tier of candidates. Along with Beto, Booker, and maybe Castro— they aren't exactly eliminated, but can't seem to catch fire. Or even get warm.

Klobuchar would serve herself well to focus on the fundamentals and avoiding desperate pleas for attention if she wants to remain in the Biden VP sweepstakes. Or she could totally shake things up by throwing binders at her opponents in the debate.

Other headlines:

Klobuchar: I Don't Support Open Borders Like Warren, Castro

Deportation raids are about distracting from issues: Amy Klobuchar

Klobuchar hoping 'nice' finishes first

Sports bookmakers put Klobuchar as "heavy underdog" in presidential race

7. Julian Castro 43.2 (Previous: 10th / 34.5) Former Secretary of Housing and Urban Development

CANDIDATE PROFILE

Castro is a good example of how overblown debates can be. His first debate performance was quite solid, but did more to sink Robert Francis O'Rourke than actually help his own candidacy.

One more good debate performance should be enough to get him into the next round of debates, as he has already passed the donor threshold. Polling, however, has been elusive. Perhaps there is a swath of America that is uncomfortable voting for a Castro for president, like say, all of south Florida?

Still, in a field of a zillion candidates that have shown no potential, he stands out as a long shot with a punchers chance to make some noise. This is reflected with a nice bump in his score for this update.

Other headlines:

Julián Castro Doubles Down On Decriminalizing Migration: Repeal Felony For Reentry, Too

Julian Castro: 'Instead of breaking up families, we should break up ICE'

Bill Maher rips Julián Castro for remark about abortion for trans women

Julián Castro declines to hold baby

Julián Castro can't speak Spanish

Julian Castro wants to solve homelessness by 2028

A consulting firm made specifically to prevent sexual harassment is providing Castro and other 2020 campaigns advice and training

5. Pete Buttigieg 65.8 (Previous: 2nd / 68.8) Mayor of South Bend, IN

CANDIDATE PROFILE

There probably isn't a campaign that has been more bizarre than Mayor Pete. He was a complete nobody to the public, though as we initially noted, he had support from a bunch of Obama era celebrinerds.

This helped him rise to a top tier candidate with all the money and momentum to make a run at the nomination. Since then we've seen a complete fizzle. He is using the cash to build the infrastructure to make himself a serious candidate, and he should last a while, but he probably must win Iowa to have a chance at the nomination.

Also, finding one African American who will vote for him would be nice.

Other headlines:

Pete Buttigieg goes on hiring spree after top fundraising quarter.

Buttigieg, Struggling With Black Voters, Releases Plan to Address Racial Inequities

South Bend police call out Buttigieg for sending pizza rather than apology after race comments

CNN's Axelrod Rips Buttigieg: Blacks Doing Worse Under His Leadership

Only Pete Buttigieg gets standing ovation from Corn Feed audience

New Republic Drops Out Of Climate Forum Over Backlash To Pete Buttigieg Op-Ed

Pete Buttigieg says it's "almost certain" we've had gay presidents

Pete Buttigieg Sets Hollywood Fundraisers With Ellen DeGeneres, Chelsea Handler and More

4. Elizabeth Warren 70.4 (Previous: 5th / 53.4) US Senator from Massachusetts 

CANDIDATE PROFILE

Looking back at my initial analysis of this field, I'd say it's played out pretty closely to what I expected. Warren has surprised me though.

In an election where beating Trump is the most important characteristic for democratic voters, she seems to be grown in a lab to lose to him. She comes across as a stern elementary school principal who would make kids terrified to be called into her office, because she'd bore them to death by reading them the handbook.

Her DNA kit roll out was so catastrophic, I assumed democrats would see that her political instincts are awful. When put under the intense pressure Trump is sure to bring, she's going to collapse, and I figured democrats would recognize that.

Instead, she's in the top tier. This rise has been legitimately impressive for Warren.

It's also a dream come true for Donald Trump.

Other headlines:

The Activist Left Already Knows Who It Wants for President

Netroots Nation was the day Elizabeth Warren became president of the American left

Elizabeth Warren pledges to decriminalize border crossings

Warren plans to increase annual refugee admissions nearly 800 percent from FY2018

Warren, Biden Campaigns Appear to Find Loophole Around Paid Internships

Warren says she'll push to end Israel's 'occupation'

Warren staffer: 'I would totally be friends with Hamas'

Elizabeth Warren reintroduces legislation requiring corporations to disclose climate risk exposure

Elizabeth Warren Wants Reparations For Same-Sex Couples

Elizabeth Warren proposes executive orders to address race and gender pay gap

This is how Elizabeth Warren plans to close the pay gap for women of color

How much would a wealth tax really raise? Dueling economists reflect new split in Democratic Party

Elizabeth Warren Brings Ad Buying In-House

Elizabeth Warren says she raised $19 million in the second quarter of the year

3. Bernie Sanders 71.1 (Previous: 3rd / 67.2) US Senator from Vermont

CANDIDATE PROFILE

Sanders has fallen slowly but steadily in the polls the past couple of months, and while not every metric yet reflects it, the socialist wing seems more likely represented by Warren.

That being said, Bernie holds her off for third place. Warren and Bernie have reportedly struck a truce to not attack each other, an arrangement which benefits Warren far more than Sanders.

Bernie's machine and name recognition continues to keep him near the top of the heap, but one wonders how long that lasts as name recognition for other candidates get higher, and Iowa gets closer.

No matter if he wins or loses, he's moved the Overton window of the party in a dramatic way. And don't underestimate the appeal of his Medicare-for-all-humankind dream. Bernie may be too old and cranky to see socialized health care into the end zone, but he has advanced that ball much further than he had any right to.

Other headlines:

Bernie Sanders has 'deep sense of satisfaction' his positions are now 'centrist' among Dems

Bernie Sanders: I Will Cancel All $1.6 Trillion Of Your Student Loan Debt

Sanders hits back at Biden over criticism of 'Medicare for All'

Bernie Sanders: Nancy Pelosi shouldn't 'alienate' freshmen House Democrats

Why Sanders Wanted His Meeting With a Rabbi Kept Secret

Bernie Sanders Says Being the First Jewish President Would Be 'Another Barrier Broken Down'

Liberal billionaire calls Bernie Sanders a 'Communist' and 'a disaster zone'

Blackstone's Byron Wien: Markets are terrified of far-left Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren

Antiwar candidate Bernie Sanders faces backlash over the $1.2 trillion war machine he brought to Vermont

The time Bernie Sanders ranted about baseball in a low-budget film

Bernie Sanders shows off sword Ross Perot gave him

Bernie Sanders Raises $18 Million in 3 Months, Trailing Buttigieg

2. Kamala Harris 79.2 (Previous: 4th / 65.9) US Senator from California 

CANDIDATE PROFILE

Harris has given back a good chunk of her post debate bounce, which is to be expected. While she rockets to number two in the power rankings, there are a few things to worry about.

The difference between Warren and Harris is notable. The candidates are nearly tied in most polls, but much of the strength of Harris is based on one spectacular moment. Warren alternatively seems to have a lower ceiling, but a stronger foundation.

The good news for Harris is she does incredibly well among voters that are actually paying attention, while her weakness lies with those who haven't really tuned in yet.

At some point, Harris has to clean up her mess of a policy package, which includes supporting a Bernie style Medicare for All without the Bernie style middle class tax hikes-- a combination that even the left admits makes no sense.

Quotes like this still feel way too accurate, "She's the easy-to-listen-to, poorly defined identity candidate." This needs to be sorted out eventually if she's actually going to win.

Other headlines:

It's Hard To Have A Conversation With Kamala Harris When She Doesn't Even Know What She's Talking About

Kamala Harris: Immigration Raids Are 'A Crime Against Humanity', there are 'babies in cages'

Harris doubles down on criticism of Biden's busing comments on The View

Mother Jones: Kamala Harris Wants to Bring Back Busing? Really?

Kamala Harris's Call for a Return to Busing Is Bold and Politically Risky

Race is 'America's Achilles' heel,' Harris tells African-American group

Kamala Harris claims her campaign is being targeted by Russian bots, also says she's not a plan factory

Harris proposes $100 billion plan to increase minority homeownership

What's Kamala Harris's record on Israel?

Kamala Harris Called Young People "Stupid" in 2015

Kamala Harris lags behind top-tier candidates in Q2 fundraising

Utah man arrested after alleged scheme to plan fake Kamala Harris fundraiser

1. Joe Biden 80.8 (Previous: 1st / 82.3) Former US Senator from Delaware and Former Vice President

CANDIDATE PROFILE

Biden's polling has mostly rebounded to his pre-debate status and he remains the favorite to be the nominee.

He can't survive too many more performances like his first debate however, and he needs to show voters that he can stand up to the heat President Trump is going to bring. In other words, don't get smoked again, fall over on your walker, or look like your dentures are going to fall out in the middle of a debate.

This is a real test for Biden's candidacy. He's had time to prepare, and he's had time to stretch the old muscles. No more excuses.

If Joe can get spry, he probably wins the nomination. But, that is far from a sure thing.

Other headlines:

NBC/WSJ poll: Biden tops 2020 Democratic field...

Joe Biden Decides He Doesn't Need to Stay Above the Fray After All

Biden campaigns as Obamacare's top defender

Biden says Democrats haven't been straightforward about 'Medicare for All'

Biden under fire for mass deportations under Obama

Biden refuses to apologize for high deportation numbers during Obama years

Joe Biden's campaign office opens in Philly with a protest, not a party

AOC: Segregationist controversy and debate performance raised question Biden could be too old for office

Are Biden's Apologies Killing His Electability Argument?

Liberal activists at Netroots Nation bet Joe Biden drops out of race

Joe and Jill Biden have made $15M since leaving White House

How Joe Biden, who called himself 'the poorest man in Congress,' became a multimillionaire

Penn Paid Joe Biden $775,000 to Expand Its "Global Outreach" … and Give Some Speeches

Biden: 'Occupation is a real problem'Joe Biden raised $21.5 million in second quarter, campaign announces

Joe Biden: I Promise To 'End The Forever Wars In Afghanistan And Middle East'

Joe Biden promises to 'cure cancer' if elected president

No, stealth Obamacare won’t fix the failed status-quo

Online Marketing/Unsplash

Another day, another proposed fix to a pressing national problem by a Democratic presidential hopeful. Former Vice President Joe Biden has positioned himself as the "moderate" leader of the Democratic Party, putting pressure on him to come up with a "sensible" alternative to Sen. Sanders' (I-Vt.) Medicare for All plan. But Biden's healthcare proposal, released July 15, doubles down on flawed, top-down solutions without offering any new ideas. Presidential hopefuls should instead pledge to unleash market innovation and lower healthcare prices for all.

Of course, a former vice president will inevitably find it difficult to make a clean policy break from the administration he has repeatedly hailed and defended. Biden's tenure as vice president made him into a second-tier political rockstar, and it makes sense that he's reluctant to separate himself from former President Obama's Affordable Care Act (aka "Obamacare"). It's also no surprise that "Bidencare" preserves Obamacare's disastrous expansion of Medicaid, the federal government's insurance program for low-income Americans. His plan even provides a public option for residents of states that have not expanded Medicaid. Perhaps more surprising, or just disappointing, is how thoroughly the Democratic orthodoxy has embraced government medical insurance even at gargantuan cost, despite little evidence that it'll work.

RELATED: Medicare for all: Obamacare was only the first step

Back when he was a heartbeat away from the presidency, Biden vigorously defended Obamacare, criticizing Republican governors for failing to expand Medicaid and predicting that all states would eventually see the light. That never quite happened (as of now, 17 states wisely refuse to expand health insurance targeted at low-income Americans). But the Obama administration tried to cajole red and purple states into expanding the Medicaid eligibility threshold "up to 138 percent of the poverty level." Nevertheless, states such as Texas, Florida, and North Carolina wisely considered the evidence that Medicaid was breaking the bank — without helping the poor get access to the care they needed.

This evidence isn't just based on one or two stray studies produced by the "right" think-tank. In June 2018, Health Affairs published a blockbuster analysis of 77 studies on Medicaid's effectiveness, and the results may be disappointing for fans of government-provided insurance. Around 60 percent of the studies included in the meta-analysis found that health status and quality of care failed to improve for low-income patients after Medicaid expansion. The analysis also finds that a majority (56 percent of studies) found no improvement in the financial performance of hospitals post-Medicaid expansion. This finding contradicts claims by Obama, Biden and co. that Medicaid expansion would shift patients from the emergency room to doctor's offices, lowering system-wide costs.

These findings are scandalous for an expansion program that costs federal taxpayers at least $70 billion per year. How could all of this money be failing to improve outcomes? Plausibly, the types of institutions that accept Medicaid are larger facilities that aren't as great at delivering quality health-care as smaller offices? The copious paperwork and documentation required by the program don't really allow smaller facilities the bandwidth to deal with Medicaid in an efficient manner. Yet this documentation is necessary to curb rampant fraud in the program that costs taxpayers tens of billions of dollars each year.

Greater Medicaid funding and corresponding anti-waste measures fail to address the cancer undermining the healthcare system: sky-high drug prices and expensive medical equipment.

Greater Medicaid funding and corresponding anti-waste measures fail to address the cancer undermining the healthcare system: sky-high drug prices and expensive medical equipment. Instead of pushing for ever-higher government spending, a President Biden could push for a streamlined Food and Drug Administration approval process for drugs and medical devices, which would keep medical costs down and give a green light to innovators everywhere. The cost to develop a single medication is now more than $2 billion, and an onerous FDA approval process costs lives by being too risk-averse.

Presidential hopefuls such as Biden should also pledge to work with states to roll-back "certificate of need" laws, which force medical institutions to jump through countless barriers to expand their facilities and invest in new services. It's not just hospitals and their patients that suffer from these needless laws; Harvard medical scholar David Grabowski sums up the evidence that these laws make nursing homes far worse and costlier than they need to be. Getting rid of these laws nationwide would give patients and consumers far more options when shopping around for the care and facilities they need.

The price problem gripping the American healthcare system simply won't go away while regulatory barriers and onerous approval processes continue to stifle the sector. Presidential hopefuls such as Biden can make a dent in this problem by supporting market reforms, instead of doubling-down on failed government healthcare.

Ross Marchand is a Young Voices contributor and the director of policy for the Taxpayers Protection Alliance.

Thomas Jefferson and John Adams both fulfilled their goal of living to see the 50th anniversary of the signing of the Declaration of Independence. Then, both died later that day — July 4, 1826. Adams was 90. Jefferson was 83.

Because of their failing health, Jefferson and Adams each declined many invitations to attend July 4th celebrations. Adams sent a letter to be read aloud at the 50th Independence Day celebration in his local town of Quincy, Massachusetts. He wrote that the Declaration is:

... a memorable epoch in the annals of the human race, destined in future history to form the brightest or the blackest page, according to the use or the abuse of those political institutions by which they shall, in time to come, be shaped by the human mind.

It's remarkable how well the Founders understood human nature and what could happen to the United States. It's the postmodern mindset that increasingly rules the U.S. now. It has infected our institutions and untethered us from the bedrock principles of the Declaration. In its place? Hypocritical and vitriolic partisan righteous indignation.

Less than a century after Adams' and Jefferson's deaths, the most serious attempt to undermine the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution came from America's 28th president — Woodrow Wilson. He wrote:

Some citizens of this country have never got beyond the Declaration of Independence.

As if that's a bad thing.

During Wilson's career as a college professor, he thought deeply and wrote extensively of his contempt for our founding documents. His issue with them formed the core beliefs of Progressivism that are still alive today.

In 1911, before he was elected President, Wilson said in a speech:

I do not find the problems of 1911 solved in the Declaration of Independence ... It is the object of Government to make those adjustments of life which will put every man in a position to claim his normal rights as a living human being.

See what he does there? He completely inverts the Declaration — he's saying, you don't have inherent rights until government puts you in a position to claim them. That's the heart of Progressivism.

In a later speech, Wilson said:

If you want to understand the real Declaration of Independence, do not repeat the preface.

Wilson did not think the equality, natural rights, and consent-of-the-governed parts of the Declaration defined the proper role of government. He preferred the Declaration's list of grievances because they addressed specific problems. That's what he thought government existed to do — solve problems for people. And since people's problems change over time, so should the Constitution and government to keep up with the times.

Wilson said:

No doubt we are meant to have liberty; but each generation must form its own conception of what liberty is.

We hear this sentiment echoed all the time today: follow your heart, find your truth, etc.

Another key to Wilson's Progressive theory of government was human evolution. He thought that because humans were now more enlightened, they could be trusted not to abuse government power. The Declaration's committee of five (Adams, Sherman, Franklin, Livingston and Jefferson) would've laughed Wilson out of the room.

It's hard to believe that less than 150 years after the signing of the Declaration, the U.S. president — Wilson — was saying this:

We are not bound to adhere to the doctrines held by the signers of the Declaration of Independence: we are as free as they were to make and unmake governments. We are not here to worship men or a document. Every Fourth of July should be a time for examining our standards, our purposes, for determining afresh what principles, what forms of power we think most likely to effect our safety and happiness. That and that alone is the obligation the Declaration lays upon us.

Wilson was so effective at imposing his philosophy on government that he forever diverted the U.S. presidency away from the Constitution. Progressives have kept Wilson's torch alive ever since.

Progressives are still hostile to the Declaration of Independence because of this idea of “historical contingency" which holds that truths change over time. Progressives think the “self-evident" truths of the Declaration are outdated and may no longer apply. And that means the Constitution based on those truths may no longer apply either. Wilson and Progressives especially don't like the whole separation of powers thing, because it hinders the fast action they want out of government. They want a justice warrior president who will bring swift change by fiat.

The current trend in attacking the Declaration and Constitution is to tear down the men who wrote them. In late 2015, students at the University of Missouri and the College of William & Mary, placed notes all over the statues of Thomas Jefferson on their respective campuses. The handwritten notes labeled Jefferson things like, “racist," “rapist," “pedophile" (not sure what that one's supposed to mean), “How dare you glorify him," “I wouldn't be here if it was up to him," and “Black Lives Matter."

That is the handiwork of students who are blinded by self-righteous victimhood and can't see the value and merit that the Declaration still holds for us today. After these incidents, Annette Gordon-Reed offered a reasoned defense of Jefferson. Reed is a respected history professor at Harvard Law School, who also happens to be a black woman. She wrote:

I understand why some people think his statues should be removed, but not all controversial figures of the past are created equal. I think Jefferson's contributions to the history of the United States outweigh the problems people have with aspects of his life. He is just too much a part of the American story to pretend that he was not there ... The best of his ideals continue to influence and move people. The statues should be a stimulus for considering all these matters at William & Mary and the University of Missouri.

At the opposite end of the spectrum from Woodrow Wilson's disdain for the Declaration of Independence, Abraham Lincoln loved it. If there is one overarching theme in Lincoln's speeches, it is the Declaration. Lincoln pointed the nation back to the Declaration as a mission statement, which ended slavery and preserved the Union.

Unlike Wilson, who recommended leaving out the Preamble, Lincoln considered it the most vital part. To Lincoln, the self-evident truths were universal, timeless, and more important than the list of grievances. Lincoln wrote that these truths were:

... applicable to all men and all times ... that today, and in all coming days, it shall be a rebuke and a stumbling block to the very harbingers of reappearing tyranny and oppression.

In a speech Lincoln gave in 1861, shortly after he was first elected president, he said:

I have never had a feeling politically that did not spring from the sentiments embodied in the Declaration of Independence… I have often inquired of myself what great principle or idea it was that kept this Confederacy so long together. It was not the mere matter of the separation of the Colonies from the mother-land, but that sentiment in the Declaration which gave liberty, not alone to the people of this country, but, I hope, to the world, for all future time.

Lincoln went on to say that he would rather be assassinated than see the nation forfeit the principles of the Declaration. His Gettysburg Address is a brilliant, concise renewal of the Declaration:

... that this nation, under God, shall have a new birth of freedom — and that government of the people, by the people, for the people, shall not perish from the earth.

We cannot assume that this radical idea of freedom will always be embraced by Americans. It has found hostility on our shores every step of the way. The Declaration's principles must be continually defended. Because while humans do have certain unalienable rights that are endowed by our Creator, there is darkness in the world, and for some strange reason humans, while valuing freedom, also seem to have a natural bent toward tyranny. That's why we must understand and discuss the Declaration. It's not alarmist. It's not a quaint history lesson. It's a reality, right now, that the fundamental principles of the Declaration are under attack. The Founders would have undoubtedly shuddered at most of the rhetoric from last week's Democratic presidential debates. Left to its own mob devices, even America would turn its back on freedom.

Shortly before his death in 1826, 90-year-old John Adams was asked to recommend a toast that could be given in his honor on July 4th. Adams didn't hesitate. He suggested, “Independence Forever." The small group of visitors silently glanced at each other for a moment, before someone asked Adams if he'd like to add anything else. Adams shifted forward in his chair, leaned on his cane, stared intently at the men, and replied, “Not a word."

China is having its Boston Tea Party moment

Unknown Wong / Unsplash

Freedom. It usually begins as a whisper. A secret passed on between patrons at a secluded bar or private meeting. And no matter how hard the tyrants may try and stop it, no matter how many dams they throw up to try and contain it, the whispers eventually become a flood. Sometimes it takes longer to break through, but it's the same EVERY TIME. Liberty and freedom always wins. It's an unstoppable force that knows no immovable object.

For us it was exactly 243 years ago to this month that those whispers became a flood. A group of ragtag colonists took on the world's only superpower —and won. Our forefathers proved it — freedom refuses to recognize tyranny as an immovable object. The world was forever changed.

And I can't help but see the poetic justice as more whispers became a flood, defying their own immovable object, just three days before all of us were buying fireworks to celebrate our Independence Day. But this time it was just off the coast of mainland China.

Last week over a MILLION protesters filled the streets in Hong Kong. Literally a FLOOD of humans looking for one thing — freedom. They stormed the government building that is the equivalent of their Congress. They smashed windows, broke down doors, and a photo was taken that I think just might be the picture of the year.

A British colonial flag, a symbol thrown out when Hong Kong was given back to China, was draped — BY THE PROTESTORS — over the chair of their head of government. I can't restate how historic this actually is. The people of Hong Kong, with a population that is over 90 percent ethnic Han Chinese, are saying to the mainland that they prefer colonial rule over the tyranny of the Chinese government. Leftists would tell you that communism is the remedy for colonialism, but for those living in the dark shadow of communism, they actually prefer colonial rule over what they now face.

The local Hong Kong government is caught between the immovable object of the Chinese communist government, and the unstoppable force of liberty.

When Hong Kong was given back to the mainland, China agreed to allow them a few freedoms that the rest of the Chinese don't enjoy. They're free to engage in protest against the government and they maintain a legislative body — both of which are outlawed on the mainland. But, as every tyrannical oppressor always does, China has been looking to reel that in. Most recently, China attempted to make it possible to extradite dissenters back to Beijing. The result? The quiet whispers of freedom, the secrets told in private at clandestine meetings, became a flood of millions in the streets.

On July 3rd, police began a crackdown. More than 13 people have been arrested so far. If China eventually gets their way, those 13 people will no doubt be the first of many to be extradited over to the mainland. Their crime? The dream of freedom. As of right now, the extradition law has been temporarily delayed. The local Hong Kong government is caught between the immovable object of the Chinese communist government, and the unstoppable force of liberty.

History has shown who will win in the end. Yesterday, over 200,000 protestors gathered at the high speed train station that links mainland China to Hong Kong. The message was just as clear as the British colonial flag hung inside their legislative building. For our forefathers it was symbolized with the Gadsden Flag and the phrase “Death To Tyranny." The message is simple: “we will not be ruled. Freedom knows no immovable object."

News of the protest movement has been censored in mainland China, but how long will they be able to contain THEIR OWN whispers with over two hundred thousand freedom lovers camped out at the bridge between Hong Kong and mainland China? How long before those whispers spread to secret meeting locations in Beijing or Shanghai? How long before that cascades to the Christian and Muslim minorities that are tired of being rounded up and thrown into camps?

We might have just witnessed the Chinese version of the Boston Tea Party. July 4th is still a long way away for them, but — as it does time and time again — freedom and liberty always win in the end.