Three Things You Need to Know - December 7, 2017

Franken Stepping Down

December 7th, a Day of Infamy on so many levels. The Japanese bombed Pearl Harbor in 1941, AND today - in 2017 - Senator Al Franken will show the world what it looks like to be thrown under the bus. Now to be clear, he deserves every bit of what he’s getting. Character matters and Franken clearly doesn’t deserve the title of United States Senator. Call me old-fashioned, but I don’t think groping and fondling women against their will is conduct becoming an elected official. An immoral man won’t suddenly become moral just because his secret has been outed. He can’t just sit in front of a mirror and say… “look, I’m good enough, I’m smart enough, and gosh darn it people like me” and wait for the ethics committee to declare no harm no foul.

However, Franken is clearly the sacrificial lamb here. Do I doubt the sudden newly found scruples of the Democrats? Absolutely. Franken’s announcement was conveniently chosen a full day AFTER a whole slew of Democrats called for his retirement. The intent was clearly to allow a good portion of the party to be able to say, “Hey, this guy really is bad. We decided to to do the right thing for women and for America.” Um yeah. I’m sorry but if you were really sincere and cared about the safety of women you would have done this after the first woman came forward, ok the second, well maybe after the third, fourth, fifth… YOU WAITED FOR THE SIXTH COMPLAINT!

I don’t think this was for the safety of women or for morality at all. What made this even more convenient was that all this comes just a couple days after Republicans, en mass, decided to start endorsing Roy Moore again. The motive for this announcement today seems clear. Franken was thrown under the bus as a sacrificial lamb to regain the moral high ground they’ve been losing since September. And I’ve got to tell you, with the way the GOP has been handling things lately, the Left will not only own the high ground, they’ll be entrenched and fortified in it with concrete bunkers.

Look, it’s absolutely justified to have Franken step down, but it’s also justifiable to call the Left out for their motivation here. Regardless the Democrat’s intentions, if the GOP doesn’t focus on character, and if they continue to handle things like Roy Moore the same, they can kiss the moral high ground goodbye. Character matters, and if the GOP doesn’t start acting like it, December 7th 2017 might be known as their new “Day of Infamy.”

US Officially Recognizes Jerusalem as Capital of Israel

Two words: Donald delivered.

Yesterday afternoon, Trump formally recognized Jerusalem as the capital of Israel and vowed to move the US embassy to the Holy City.

I’m really proud of Trump today. It was a brave move—one that he will be praised and remembered for-- if he follows through it.

Don’t get me wrong. I’m optimistic--with a dash of skepticism. Trump signed the same national security waiver signed by Barack Obama, George W. Bush, and Bill Clinton, which will allow the administration to keep the embassy in Tel Aviv for an additional six months. White House officials dismissed this move as “unavoidable because it would take several years to move the embassy staff to a new facility in Jerusalem.”

I can live with that as long as the embassy is moved before Trump leaves office.

The international community can yell and condemn America for recognizing reality all they want. They are wrong. This is a historic step against anti-Semitic hostility in the region and Trump deserves credit for being a strong leader on this. If this is any indication of where Trump is going in the future, I am excited to see what 2018 brings.

Facebook Targets a Younger Demographic

Do you want your six-year-old using Facebook?

This week, Facebook launched a new app called Messenger Kids. It’s an app for children to use on tablets or smartphones, but parents can control it from their Facebook account. Facebook says it’s addressing a need for a messaging app designed specifically for kids, but with the level of controls that parents want.

The app targets users as young as six-years-old. But don’t worry – Facebook says it spent months talking to parenting groups, behavioral experts, and families to develop the app. So it’s safe and probably even healthy for your child. According to Facebook, this “opens up a new world of online communication to families.”

Maybe so, but it also opens a whole new can of worms for American culture. Are we not distracted enough already? Now we need our six-year-olds walking across the playground with their nose in a screen? This app just gives kids one more technology thingamajig to bug Mom and Dad about. And right before Christmas too. Thanks, Facebook!

Another drawback – doesn’t this just provide predators, hackers, and Vladimir Putin with another point of attack?

Facebook says there are no ads in the app and that your child’s information won’t be used for marketing purposes. But that’s all this is, one giant marketing app. It’s marketing Facebook! It’s a massive recruiting tool. Facebook wants to hook kids on their social media product for the long term. You must be 13 to have a regular Facebook account. Facebook says it will not automatically convert Messenger Kids accounts to adult accounts when a child turns 13. But if this plan works, they won’t need to. The kid will already want to be a customer for life.

Part of me wants to resist any new app or technology specifically designed to hook my kids. On the other hand, this is their new reality. It wasn’t for my generation, so that’s why a lot of this stuff seems foreign. 66% of kids age 6-12 have their own smartphone or tablet now. Do we allow our kids to use these kinds of apps to help them be able to swim with the tide? And if so, what age is appropriate?

Each new gadget and app raises new questions. But the technology moves so fast we don’t have time to answer them before the next development.

MORE 3 THINGS

The themes of healing and redemption appear throughout the Bible.

Our bodies are buried in brokenness, but they will be raised in glory. They are buried in weakness, but they will be raised in strength. — 1 Corinthians 15:43
It is not the healthy who need a doctor, but the sick. I have not come to call the righteous, but sinners. — Mark 2:17.

So, for many Christians, it's no surprise to hear that people of faith live longer lives.

Heal me, O Lord, and I shall be healed; save me, and I shall be saved, for you are my praise. — Jeremiah 17:14.

But it is certainly lovely to hear, and a recent study by a doctoral student at Ohio State University is just one more example of empirical evidence confirming the healing benefits of faith and religious belief.

RELATED: MEDIA BIGOTRY: The New Yorker hates on Chick-fil-A over 'pervasive Christian traditionalism'

Moreover, the study finds that religious belief can lengthen a person's life.

A joyful heart is good medicine, but a crushed spirit dries up the bones. — Proverbs 17:22
Lord, your discipline is good, for it leads to life and health. You restore my health and allow me to live! — Isaiah 38:16

The study analyzed over 1,000 obituaries nationwide and found that people of faith lived longer than people who were not religious. Laura Wallace, lead author of the study, noted that "religious affiliation had nearly as strong an effect on longevity as gender does, which is a matter of years of life."

The study notes that, "people whose obits mentioned a religious affiliation lived an average of 5.64 years longer than those whose obits did not, which shrunk to 3.82 years after gender and marital status were considered."

And He called to Him His twelve disciples and gave them authority over unclean spirits, to cast them out, and to heal every disease and every affliction. — Matthew 10:1

"The researchers found that part of the reason for the boost in longevity came from the fact that many religiously affiliated people also volunteered and belonged to social organizations, which previous research has linked to living longer. The study provides persuasive evidence that there is a relationship between religious participation and how long a person lives," said Baldwin Way, co-author of the study and associate professor of psychology at Ohio State.

Prayer is good medicine, and faith is a good protector.

In addition, the study showed how the effects of religion on longevity might depend in part on the personality and average religiosity of the cities where people live, Way said.

Prayer is good medicine, and faith is a good protector.

And the power of the Lord was with him to heal. — Luke 5:17
Heal the sick in it and say to them, The kingdom of God has come near to you. — Luke 10:9.

In early June, the Social Security and Medicare trustees released their annual report on the fiscal health of these programs, and the situation looks dire. Medicare is scheduled to run out of money in 2026 (three years sooner than anticipated), while Social Security is expected to run out in 2034. The rising national debt is only one of the well-known financial struggles the millennial generation faces. The burdens of student loan debt, high housing prices (thanks to zoning restrictions), stagnant wage growth, the rising cost of healthcare and lingering aftershocks of the Great Recession are among the biggest sources of economic anxiety millennials feel.

Progressive politicians have been very successful at courting the youth vote, partly because they actually promote policy ideas that address many of these concerns. As unrealistic or counterproductive as Senator Bernie Sanders' proposals for single-payer health care or a $15 an hour minimum wage might be, they feel in theory like they would provide the economic stability and prosperity millennials want.

RELATED: Time to reverse course: America is being corrupted by its own power

Republicans, on the other hand, have struggled to craft a message to address these concerns. Fiscal conservatives recognize, correctly, that the burden of the $20 trillion national debt and over $200 trillion in unfunded liabilities will fall on millennials. Some conservatives have even written books about that fact. But the need to reform entitlements hasn't exactly caught millennials' attention. Pollster Kristen Soltis Anderson, in her book The Selfie Vote, notes that millennials generally view protecting the safety net as more important than reducing the deficit.

Clearly, Republicans have a problem. They need to craft solutions that address the millennial generation's struggles, but they can't seem to sell entitlement reform, their biggest policy preference that addresses those problems. The Republican approach to wooing millennials on policy is failing because talking about stopping the debt from reaching an unsustainable level is long-term and abstract, and offers few immediate tangible benefits. A new approach to both pave the way for entitlement reform and give millennials an immediate financial boost is to first reform not entitlement spending, but the payroll tax: specifically, by partially (or wholly) replacing it with a value-added tax.

Under the current Social Security model, workers pay for the benefits of current retirees through the payroll tax. This system creates the illusion of a pension program, in which what you put in is what you get out, but in reality Social Security is a universal safety net program for the elderly paid for by taxes. The payroll tax falls on workers and is a tax on labor, while the value-added tax (VAT) is a tax on consumption imposed at every part of the production process. Assuming that this policy change is revenue-neutral, switching to a VAT will shift the responsibility for funding Social Security and Medicare away from workers, disproportionately poorer and younger, and onto everyone participating in the economy as a whole. Furthermore, uncoupling Social Security funding from payroll taxes would pave the way for fiscal reforms to transform the program from a universal benefit program to one geared specifically to eliminating old-age poverty, such as means-testing benefits for high-income beneficiaries, indexing benefits to prices rather than wages or changing the retirement age.

Switching from the payroll tax to the VAT would address both conservative and liberal tax policy preferences.

Switching from the payroll tax to the VAT would address both conservative and liberal tax policy preferences. As the Tax Policy Center notes, the change would actually make the tax system more progressive. The current payroll tax is regressive, meaning that people with lower incomes tend to pay a higher effective tax rate than people with higher incomes. On the other hand, the value-added tax is much closer to proportional than the payroll tax, meaning that each income group pays closer to the same effective tax rate.

For Republicans, such a change would fit conservative economic ideas about the long-run causes of economic growth. A value-added tax has a much broader base than the payroll tax, and therefore would allow for much lower marginal tax rates, and lower marginal tax rates mean smaller disincentives to economic activity. According to the Tax Foundation's analysis of a value-added tax, the VAT would be a more economically efficient revenue source than most other taxes currently in the tax code.

Not only would replacing part or all of the payroll tax provide an immediate benefit to millennial taxpayers, it would also open the door for the much-needed entitlement reforms that have been so politically elusive. Furthermore, it would make the tax code both more pro-growth and less regressive. In order to even begin to address the entitlement crisis, win millennial support and stimulate the economy in a fiscally responsible manner, Republicans must propose moving from the payroll tax to the VAT.

Alex Muresianu is a Young Voices Advocate. His writing has appeared in Townhall and The Federalist. He is a federal policy intern at the Tax Foundation. Opinions expressed here are his only and not the views of the Tax Foundation. He can be found on Twitter @ahardtospell.

Glenn was joined by Alanna Sarabia from "Good Morning Texas" at Mercury Studios on Thursday for an exclusive look at Mercury Museum's new "Rights & Responsibilities" exhibit. Open through Father's Day, the temporary museum features artifacts from pop culture, America's founding, World Ward II and more, focusing on the rights and responsibilities America's citizens.

Get tickets and more information here.

Watch as Glenn gives a sneak peek at some of the unique artifacts on display below.

History at the Mercury Museum

Alanna Sarabia interviews Glenn Beck for "Good Morning Texas" at Mercury Studios.

Several months ago, at the Miss Universe competition, two women took a selfie, then posted it on Instagram. The caption read, "Peace and love." As a result of that selfie, both women faced death threats, and one of the women, along with her entire family, had to flee her home country. The occasion was the 2017 Miss Universe competition, and the women were Miss Iraq and Miss Israel. Miss Iraq is no longer welcome in her own country. The government threatened to strip her of her crown. Of course, she was also badgered for wearing a bikini during the competition.

RELATED: Media's anti-Israel, pro-Islam bias sweeps THIS fact under the rug

In an interview, Miss Iraq, Sarah Idan, said:

When I posted the picture I didn't think for a second there would be blowback. I woke up to calls from my family and the Miss Iraq Organization going insane. The death threats I got online were so scary. The director of the Miss Iraq Organization called me and said they're getting heat from the ministry. He said I have to take the picture down or they will strip me of my title.

Yesterday, Miss Iraq, Sarah Idan, posted another selfie with Miss Israel, during a visit to Jerusalem.

In an interview, she said that:

I don't think Iraq and Israel are enemies; I think maybe the governments are enemies with each other. There's a lot of Iraqi people that don't have a problem with Israelis.

This is, of course, quite an understatement: Iraq, home to roughly 15,000 Palestinians, refuses to acknowledge Israel as a legitimate country, as it is technically at war with Israel. The adages says that a picture is worth a thousand words. What are we to do when many of those words are hateful or deadly? And how can we find the goodness in such bad situations?