Liberty boosters, busters and bragging rights

By Jim Waters - Bluegrass Beacon

It’s time for another edition of “Liberty Boosters and Busters.”

Liberty Booster: Federal appeals court Judge Neil Gorsuch, announced as President Trump’s pick to succeed the late Justice Antonin Scalia on the Supreme Court.

It’s one of Trump’s most important decisions as the 49-year-old Gorsuch will have a hand in shaping the court’s—and the nation’s—direction for decades and maybe even a century to come.

Former Kentucky Chief Justice Joseph Lambert called the choice “outstanding.”

“His entire career has been characterized by excellence. If any judge could replace Justice Scalia, this is the person,” Lambert told me.

Trump kept his campaign promise to nominate a Scalia-like jurist—at least per a recent study ranking Gorsuch as No. 2 out of 15 judges considered for their “Scalia-ness.”

Gorsuch wrote in a recent opinion that the Constitution “isn’t some inkblot on which litigants may project their hopes and dreams…but a carefully drafted text judges are charged with applying according to its original public meaning.”

Some of my friends on the political left won’t be big fans of Gorsuch’s belief that judges—as he states in a tribute to Scalia—should be “focusing backward, not forward.”

However, they will appreciate his willingness to restrain police powers and concerns about over-criminalizing America, which could directly impact Kentucky with its rapidly growing incarceration rate.

Gorsuch is a true believer in limited judicial power.

The “black robe,” he writes, “doesn’t make me any smarter” but it does serve “as a reminder of the relatively modest station we’re meant to occupy in a democratic society. In other places, judges wear scarlet and ermine. Here, we’re told to buy our own plain black robes.”

Liberty Busters: Uninformed defenders of Common Core State Standards.

Kimberly Kennedy in an op-ed points to two poor examples as “unbridled proof” that these mandated standards are “working”: a Harvard study, which covers a 20-year period stretching back long before Common Core began in Kentucky and Advanced Placement courses covering material well above the obligatory standards.

Kennedy, who describes herself as “a former educator and freelance writer,” fails to consider credible evidence from the National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP) scores not fitting her pro-Common Core narrative. Those NAEP results indicate Kentucky eighth-graders’ math and reading performance dropped between 2013 and 2015.

She endorses some nebulous education department “survey” showing 88 percent of the commonwealth’s teachers and other education stakeholders giving Common Core a “thumbs up.”

Yet that survey made it difficult and time-consuming to offer even minor recommendations regarding Common Core.

It’s much easier just to give a “thumbs up” in the online survey monkey, which does little to convince Common Core agnostics that it’s an accurate or meaningful result.

The most reliable survey occurred in November 2015, when Gov. Matt Bevin prevailed on a platform that included replacing Common Core.

Economic bragging rights: A “thumbs up” also goes to Bevin for his personal engagement in helping land Amazon and its new $1.5 billion shipping hub in Northern Kentucky; it’s the largest capital investment in the region in 30 years.

While companies consider many factors when expanding, coincidence alone cannot be credited for the fact that this decision, which will create 2,700 direct jobs—plus untold thousands of indirect positions—comes on the heels of Kentucky lawmakers passing economic-transformative policies, including right-to-work legislation.

Speaker Jeff Hoover noted in his response to Amazon’s announcement: “This is what happens when you create a business-friendly climate with good policies.”

Leaders in Ohio, where Gov. John Kasich downplays the importance of right-to-work, lament the loss of Amazon’s expansion—for which they vigorously competed—to Kentucky.

Kasich should rethink his approach.

Who knows how many more Amazon-like announcements loom on the horizon?

By Jim Waters

Bluegrass Beacon

Jim Waters is president of the Bluegrass Institute for Public Policy Solutions, Kentucky’s free-market think tank. Read his weekly Bluegrass Beacon column at He can be reached at [email protected] and @bipps on Twitter.

Jim Waters is president of the Bluegrass Institute for Public Policy Solutions, Kentucky’s free-market think tank. Read his weekly Bluegrass Beacon column at He can be reached at [email protected] and @bipps on Twitter.

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