The World and Everything in It — February 11, 2020

MARY REICHARD, HOST: Good morning!

President Trump wants Congress to expand options for private and home education.

NICK EICHER, HOST: Also frustrated farmers say the Trump administration is curbing demand for corn based ethanol. 

Plus a man who questions the increased acceptance of the gender-reassignment agenda.

HEYER: 15 years from now, people are gonna go, wow, why did we ever do this? What was the matter with us? So I’m glad I’m on this side of the issue today.

REICHARD: It’s Tuesday, February 11th. This is The World and Everything in It from listener-supported WORLD Radio. I’m Mary Reichard.

EICHER: And I’m Nick Eicher. Good morning!

REICHARD: Now the news. Here’s Kent Covington.

KENT COVINGTON, NEWS ANCHOR: White House releases 2021 budget » The White House released its proposed 2021 budget on Monday. It outlines President Trump’s nearly $5 trillion plan for running the country if he wins reelection. 

Acting White House budget director Russell Vought told Fox News…

VOUGHT: It balances the budget in 15 years. It has more deficit reduction, 4.6 trillion, than any president’s budget in history, continues to do everything we can to deal with the trillion dollar deficits…

The president’s budget proposes cost-cutting reforms to social safety net programs, but it does not propose painful cuts to Medicare and Social Security. It also proposes cuts to foreign aid, while calling for more money for defense and border security. 

The White House and Congress already negotiated a two-year spending deal last year that covered half of 2021. But this plan reminds Congress and voters of the administration’s priorities.

Democrats are already calling the budget a nonstarter. They say the budget would cut benefits to those who need it and hurt working families. It’s likely to go nowhere fast in the Democratic-controlled House.

Voters head to polls in New Hampshire » Voters head to the polls in the Granite State today for the first-in-the-nation primary.  

The last average of polls in New Hampshire gives Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders a commanding 7 point lead over former South Bend, Indiana Mayor Pete Buttigieg. 

It’s worth noting that Buttigieg defied the final polling average in Iowa—albeit by a smaller margin of 3-and-a-half points. Both campaigns are now calling for a re-canvassing in some parts of Iowa after delays and irregularities with the vote counts. 

Senator Amy Klobuchar has seen a last minute surge of support in New Hampshire. She campaigned in Keene on Monday. 

KLOBUCHAR: I am someone that can win this thing. I think that is why I am surging. I think the people of New Hampshire get it. You are a state that’s a primary, so people can vote who are independent, as well as our fired up Democratic base. You know how to count votes! (laughs)

But according to pollsters, she still lags well behind Sanders and Buttigieg. The final state polling average has her in a virtual third place tie with Senator Elizabeth Warren and former Vice President Joe Biden. 

More than 40,000 now infected with coronavirus » The latest figures from health officials show that more than 40,000 people have contracted the coronavirus and more than 900 have died. 

World Health Organization Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus spoke Monday at a briefing in Switzerland. He said the “objective remains containment.” 

GHEBREYESUS: We call on all countries to use the window of opportunity we have to prevent a bigger fire. 

Ninety-nine percent of the reported cases are in China. The Chinese government on Monday reported a rise in new cases. That dimmed recent optimism that the near-quarantine of some 60 million people and other disease-control measures had effectively contained the virus. 

DOJ charges 4 members of Chinese military over Equifax breach » The Department of Justice on Monday blamed Beijing for one of the largest ever data breaches and theft of Americans’ personal information. 

The DOJ announced charges Monday against four members of the Chinese military. Prosecutors say they were behind the 2017 hacking of the Equifax credit reporting agency.

Attorney General William Barr told reporters…

BARR: The hackers secured the names, birthdates, and social security numbers of nearly 150 million Americans, and the drivers licenses of at least 10 million Americans. 

Law enforcement says the four suspects also stole the company’s trade secrets, including database designs.

But FBI Deputy Director David Bowdich acknowledged that there’s almost zero chance the Chinese government will turn over the suspects to U.S. authorities. 

BOWDICH: We can’t take them into custody, try them in a court of law, and lock them up—not today, anyway. But one day, these criminals will slip up. And when they do, we’ll be there. 

The charges come as the Trump administration continues to warn against efforts by Beijing to collect data on Americans and steal scientific research and innovation.

Coast Guard nabs $338 in cocaine » The U.S. Coast Guard on Monday offloaded some 20,000 pounds of cocaine seized in the eastern Pacific Ocean.

It took the drug haul to Naval Base San Diego. The drugs have an estimated street value of nearly $340 million. 

U.S. ships intercepted drug runners in eight operations between November and mid-January. 

AUDIO: United States Coast Guard! (instructions in Spanish)

The Coast Guard released video of the operations on Monday.

AUDIO: Looks like what might be a bale right there. Looks like two bails right there underneath the console, a third—yeah, this place is loaded. 

The Coast Guard says the campaign against drug cartels involves numerous U.S. agencies as well as the Navy.

I’m Kent Covington. Straight ahead: a federal school choice proposal.

Plus, a benefit for oil companies makes farmers question their support for President Trump.

This is The World and Everything in It.

MARY REICHARD: It’s Tuesday, the 11th of February, 2020. Glad to have you along for today’s edition of The World and Everything in It. Good morning, I’m Mary Reichard.

NICK EICHER: And I’m Nick Eicher. First up: school choice.

During his State of the Union address last week, President Trump called attention to the plight of children stuck in bad schools.

TRUMP: The next step forward in building an inclusive society is making sure that every young American gets a great education and the opportunity to achieve the American Dream. Yet, for too long, countless American children have been trapped in failing government schools. To rescue these students, 18 states have created school choice in the form of Opportunity Scholarships. The programs are so popular that tens of thousands of students remain on a waiting list.

To make that wait a bit shorter, the president wants Congress to approve a measure called the Education Freedom Scholarships and Opportunities Act. The bill would authorize tax breaks for people who donate to scholarship funds for low-income students or to help parents who home-school. 

In the past, various bills like it have gone nowhere, but that may change.

REICHARD: Joining us now to talk about it is John Schilling. He is president of the American Federation for Children, an organization that supports school choice. Good morning, John!


REICHARD: Well, this is enough of a priority for the Trump administration as you heard there. But not all Republicans are behind him on this one. Why do you think not and how big a problem is that for school choice?

SCHILLING: Well, a good many are. We’ve got 114 co-sponsors in the Congress. We’d like to get a lot more. I think it’s really just a matter of continuing to educate members about why this is a good thing for education, why this is a good thing for kids, why this is a really good policy and good politics.

REICHARD: It seems unlikely this bill will get passed between now and November. But what about next year? Or the year after that? Do you see any path forward for a program like this?

SCHILLING: Sure, absolutely! I think one of the things that the president has noted is that he has said that no parent should be forced to send their child to a failing government school. We could not agree more. There isn’t a lot that gets done in election years. We’ve got to be honest about that. The most that’s going to get done in an election year is passing some budgets. 

But I think we’re doing a good job. The administration is doing a good job of laying the groundwork and building support in Congress, getting members on the record so when we come back in 2021 with the election year behind us, I think we’ll be poised to move this. 

REICHARD: The president mentioned that tens of thousands of students are on waiting lists for scholarships in 18 states. Expand on that a bit. Are those programs equally popular among the states? Do states that don’t have those programs want to start them? 

SCHILLING: Oh, sure. So, currently there are 26 states plus the District of Columbia and Puerto Rico that have some type of private school choice program. And that could be a voucher, a tax-credit scholarship, or an education savings account. 

There are 18 states that have these tax-credit scholarship programs and that is what the Education Freedom Scholarships bill is modeled after. And I’ll just take one state that the president referenced in his State of the Union address—the state of Pennsylvania. The Democratic governor of Pennsylvania—Governor Wolf—vetoed a bill that would have expanded this program. And it would have allowed another 50,000 kids. 50,000 kids are unable to get into this program because there isn’t enough funding. 

So those wait lists are pretty common. Not only in tax-credit scholarship programs, but in other private choice programs around the country that have dollar caps on them. And so the Education Freedom Scholarships bill, which is a $5 billion tax credit, it would be funded entirely from corporate and individual contributions to non-profit scholarship granting organizations who would hand out the scholarships. This would add $5 billion to K-12 education in America and also provide a little help for apprenticeships. 

REICHARD: Well,  your organization conducts a school choice poll each year.  What’s the most recent finding? 

SCHILLING: Well, quite honestly, it is very difficult to find a public policy issue today that has more support across ideological and demographic lines. We have about 69 percent of likely voters who support the concept of school choice. And this is spread out across the board. 57 percent of Democrats, 69 percent of Independents, 84 percent of Republicans. When you start getting into Latino support, African American support, Millennial support, the support raises from 71 percent to 82 percent among Latinos. 

It’s just phenomenal the support that exists out there for school choice. And when you look at this, you know, normally when policymakers see numbers like this, they want to rush to enact new bills. Well, we’re waiting for them to do that.

REICHARD: When a kid is having trouble in school, the cadillac response is to hire a one-on-one tutor so that you get one-on-one education tailored to the needs of that particular child. Could you speak to why one size fits all public education doesn’t address that?

SCHILLING: Children are not widgets. Every child is unique. Every child’s learning style is unique. And the beauty of school choice is what we’re trying to do here is we’re trying to give families the freedom to choose the best educational environment for their child. 

Now, that could mean the traditional government-run public school right down the street. But for a lot of kids, that doesn’t work. That doesn’t meet their needs. And so what you want to do here is you want to create a lot of options so parents have the ability to choose from a number of options so that they can find the best fit for their child.

REICHARD: John Schilling is president of the American Federation for Children. Thanks for joining us today.

SCHILLING: Thank you very much!

MARY REICHARD: Coming up next on The World and Everything in It: a legal and political fight over gasoline.

Fifteen years ago, Congress created the Renewable Fuel Standard program. One goal of that program was to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.

To do that, fuel sold in the United States had to contain a minimum volume of renewables, like corn-based ethanol. So when you fill up your car, you choose from a variety of gas blends that include ethanol.

NICK EICHER: But the Renewable Fuel program included some exemptions. For example, the EPA can grant a waiver— if a small refinery can prove it’s too costly to add ethanol to its gasoline.

For years, EPA gave out only a handful of these ethanol waivers. For comparison, the Obama administration issued only seven waivers in 2017. 

Since President Trump took office, that number has risen to an average of 28 per year.

That’s made corn growers and ethanol producers unhappy. They say EPA is breaking the law by giving out so many waivers. And now a federal court agrees.

Here’s WORLD Radio’s Sarah Schweinsberg.

SARAH SCHWEINSBERG, REPORTER: President Trump has championed ethanol since the early days of his 2016 campaign. Here he is speaking to a group of farmers in Iowa last summer. 

TRUMP: Today we honor America’s cherished farming heritage… and we celebrate the bright future that we are forging together powered by clean, affordable, American ethanol. 

That’s why the increase in small refinery exemptions under the Trump administration surprised corn growers like Robert Walsh. Walsh farms in southeastern South Dakota. 

WALSH: I knew at the time that he supports coal and the petroleum energy sectors. I didn’t expect him to go all gangbusters and change policy to improve ethanol consumption, but I didn’t anticipate any type of policy that would reduce ethanol consumption

Walsh says farmers have already been hurt by President Trump’s trade war with China—a top importer of U.S. soybeans. And now, thanks to the dramatic increase in ethanol waivers, farmers are also suffering from reduced demand for corn. 

WALSH: It reduces the price of ethanol to the point that the ethanol plants have to reduce production… So there are immediate ramifications for not blending. 

Brian Jennings is president of the American Coalition for Ethanol. Jennings says farmers aren’t the only ones hurt by the exemptions. Ethanol has become an economic boon for rural communities. 

JENNINGS: Ethanol and the renewable fuel standards have indeed, um, increased the demand for corn by billions of bushels, uh, added value to that corn, uh, which has enabled those farmers to spend money in their local communities and support those local communities. 

As ethanol demand increased, new ethanol plants provided thousands of jobs. Now, industry leaders blame waivers for shutting down 15 of those plants.

That’s why a coalition of biofuel groups, including the American Coalition for Ethanol, challenged three EPA waivers in court. 

Last month, the 10th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals ruled in their favor—striking down the three exemptions. The EPA gave the refineries “extended” exemptions. The court said the exemptions can’t be extended because they had expired years earlier. 

JENNINGS: EPA will have to deny those waivers they approved, um, and force those refineries to comply.

Brian Jennings says that line of reasoning could also apply to the dozens of other “extended” exemptions the Trump administration has granted. 

Oil refineries take issue with both the ruling and the charge that the waivers have hurt ethanol. Rich Moskowitz is general counsel for the American Fuel and Petrochemical Manufacturers. 

MOSKOWITZ: Ethanol consumption in the United States remains at its highest levels ever. The waivers are a red herring. 

So who’s right? 

Scott Irwin is an agricultural economics professor at the University of Illinois. He says both sides have a point. Under the Trump administration, production of the E-10 blend has remained steady. E-10 fuel contains 10 percent ethanol and 90 percent gasoline.

IRWIN: We’re using no more or no less, uh, ethanol as a percentage of all of our gasoline today than we did before SREs.

But, Irwin says, the ethanol waivers have capped ethanol market growth. And that’s why farmers are frustrated. Demand for soybeans has dropped because of trade wars, so farmers are planting more corn. But demand for corn hasn’t grown. 

IRWIN: The real point of contention is, um, has to do higher ethanol blends, E-15, and E- 85 and there’s no doubt that the SREs have put a lid on growth in higher ethanol blends. 

In the meantime, another challenge to the ethanol waivers is pending in the Washington D.C. Court of Appeals. To make up for the exemptions and the lost gallons of ethanol, a biofuel coalition wants the EPA to increase the amount of ethanol refineries must use in the future. 

Democratic presidential hopefuls hope to use the ethanol waiver issue to drive a wedge between President Trump and some of his strongest supporters. Senators Amy Klobochar and Bernie Sanders say if elected, they would remove the waivers. Farmer Robert Walsh says that’s attractive for some voters in farm country. 

WALSH: I know that Trump has lost some support from certain farmers in the area that, um, originally voted for him… They’ll probably provide a no vote versus voting, uh, towards one of the Democratic candidates.

Reporting for WORLD Radio, I’m Sarah Schweinsberg.

NICK EICHER: Local officials in Washingtonville, Pennsylvania are looking to clean things up in their community. 

One building they want to get rid of is an old neighborhood bar they condemned three years ago. 

But City Council President Frank Dombroski said when a demolition contractor started peeling away the outsides of the building, they found something they didn’t expect. 

A log cabin, hundreds of years old. 

Dombroski told WNEP news…

DOMBROSKI: He said it’s very much salvageable. He couldn’t believe it himself, what we uncovered here, and he said it’s definitely worth saving.

Definitely, but the local government still wants the building gone. That means workers will have to meticulously dismantle the log cabin, and number each part of it, then reassemble it somewhere else.

DOMBROSKI: Now with seeing what we’ve uncovered here, a part of our history. We have to do everything we possibly can to salvage it.

He estimates that the cabin has been there since the 18th century.

It’s The World and Everything in It.

NICK EICHER: Today is Tuesday, February 11th. Thank you for turning to WORLD Radio to help start your day. Good morning. I’m Nick Eicher.

MARY REICHARD: And I’m Mary Reichard.  A quick update on a story we’ve been covering at WORLD.

On Friday, a Texas judge ordered the parents of James Younger to joint conservatorship of their 7-year-old son. The very public custody dispute is between the two parents over the gender identity of their child.

EICHER: The mother dresses James as a girl and uses a girl’s name for him when he is with her, but the father refuses to because of his Christian faith. The judge ruled that the two parents must agree on any future medical or psychological treatment for James or for his twin brother. The mother promises to challenge the ruling.

This story highlights the ongoing cultural debate over the long-lasting effects of so called “sex reassignment therapy.” One prominent advocate sounding the alarm is Walt Heyer. He works with people who regret their gender transitions.

REICHARD: Heyer and his lawyer filed a friend of the court brief with the U.S. Supreme Court in regard to an employment dispute over transgender rights that’s now pending a decision.

Heyer’s brief caught my eye, because he is someone with the benefit of 2020 hindsight, a lived experience. 

Heyer was born male, diagnosed at age 40 with gender dysphoria and at 42 underwent sex reassignment surgery. Heyer lived as a female for eight years, and then de-transitioned when he found his distress was not resolved after all.  

Walt Heyer has something to say about contemporary medicine and culture, and the danger when both shut out people like him. 

HEYER: I’m Walt Heyer and I help people who have gone through identifying as a transgender male or female and found that they regretted it. And they contact me and I help them with detransitioning, which often takes about a year or so. 

His grandmother used to dress him up in female clothing, affirming him in that identity. It was all kept a secret until his family learned about it when he was around 7 years old. 

HEYER: This was in 1944 before we ever had the word transgender, gender dysphoria, and any of that to associate with it. So I was dealing with this strictly on my own and, and just realized in looking back now, cause I’m 78 years old. So, in my view, it’s child abuse to affirm and cross dress a kid because it will cause them to be anxious and depressed about who they are. And they’ll begin this process of identifying as a different person, a different gender…

Heyer says that after undergoing gender reassignment surgery and living eight years as “Laura” he realized he was living a lie. 

HEYER: I realized that it’s categorically impossible to change a man into a woman biologically, scientifically, medically, or any other way. So that’s the first thing that you sort of come to the realization is that somehow somebody led you into this idea that you changed. And then when you mature enough to understand that that’s not true, then you become very disappointed that somebody lied to you. And that’s really what most of the people that I work with come to the conclusion is, why did they even allow this to happen?

Typically, people come to Heyer for help between five and 15 years after surgery. I asked him why he thinks all this pressure to affirm transgenderism is happening now. 

HEYER: You know, the kids are just curious. And if they have a parent who’s not really familiar with the facts on it, they begin to say, oh, he must be transgender. And so they began to affirm them and they’ll help them through this process and encourage them to change genders….

More and more people are getting the diagnosis of gender dysphoria. Heyer points to popular culture as one reason why that’s happening, as well as the Obama administration’s  appointment of hundreds of LGBT activists to ensure schools put LGBT materials into the school system. 

HEYER: Now the school system is actually encouraging it. They’re nurturing it. They’re indoctrinating kids into the idea that they can be any gender they want, which is absolute total false nonsense. And it’s going to cause these children extensive harm in the long run. This may look good today to people. Uh, believe me, 15 years from now, people are gonna go, wow, why did we ever do this? 

Heyer says what’s missing from contemporary discussions is careful, studied diagnosis. He says many conditions that could be treated without surgery or hormones, simply aren’t diagnosed. Those “co-morbidities,” or other chronic conditions that are also present at the same time, are tossed into the “transgender” category, offered radical medical intervention, and that’s what can lead to regret. 

HEYER: And so I think this is the part that’s very annoying to me is that everybody just takes on face value a person who self identifies as a transgender and makes it law that they are, and they’re not! The vast majority, in fact, there are so few real transgenders. I have not seen one yet.

Heyer is sympathetic to employers who get sued for following the law and common understanding of what is appropriate for males and females. Heyer himself was fired from a high-level job when he transitioned. And he believes that’s the employer’s prerogative. This isn’t about discrimination; it’s about truth telling in mental health.  Giving people the help they need, not just sweeping them under the “transgender” tent to expedite medical intervention.

HEYER: So we have this group of people under this umbrella who are not transgender at all, but our legal system has taken each one of these persons who identifies as a transgender—we’re not dealing with people who are without some complicated emotional, psychological, sexual or social disorder. And I think that’s what’s lost in the employment situations. We’re not digging in and evaluating who the people are.

Heyer wants to serve as a counter to the idea that it’s always the best thing for someone who presents with gender dysphoria to be affirmed in that. 

Heyer’s lawyer Greg Teufel gives an example of a person with another kind of body dysphoria: anorexia. The medical establishment doesn’t approach treatment in a way that affirms it.

TEUFEL: If someone presented like that and said, you know, I need to be skinnier, I go, look, I’m too fat and if I don’t get skinny or I’m going to commit suicide. And you said, well, gosh, here’s stomach stapling. Here’s diet pills. Let’s put you on a low calorie restrictive diet. I’m reaffirming you by telling you you really are fat because God forbid I contradict you and make you commit suicide. I mean, that would be insane. And that’s how the de-transitioners are looking at how people with gender identity issues are being treated.

The Supreme Court justices usually read the amicus briefs, from what I understand. Maybe they’ll read Walt Heyer’s, too.

MARY REICHARD: Today is Tuesday, February 11th. Good morning! This is The World and Everything in It from listener-supported WORLD Radio. I’m Mary Reichard.

NICK EICHER: And I’m Nick Eicher. There’s a time and place for everything, the saying goes. Our national public servants would do well to remember the old saying. 

Here’s WORLD Radio commentator Cal Thomas.

CAL THOMAS, COMMENTATOR: I’m something of a unicorn in media circles these days. I readily give President Trump credit for his accomplishments, but I’m also not afraid to level criticism when it’s warranted. 

Last week was one of President Trump’s best since taking office. He delivered a disciplined State of the Union address, the stock market set new record highs, Democrats descended into chaos in Iowa, and the Senate’s impeachment trial ended in the president’s acquittal.

But none of that should have mattered on Thursday at the National Prayer Breakfast. For 68 years it has been a political oasis—a chance for Republicans, Democrats, national and world leaders to assemble for prayer. 

I’m not just a casual observer. Since the 1970s I’ve been associated with the event and hosted a media dinner the night before the breakfast. It’s a unique and supposedly non-partisan gathering. 

One could tell where things were headed when President Trump arrived later than most other presidents. When he did arrive, he held up two newspapers with the headline “Acquitted.”

The president then shook hands with only half of those at the head table, apparently because House Speaker Nancy Pelosi was sitting on the other side of the podium. Yes, she had torn up his speech on TV only two nights before, but he could have used the opportunity to rise above her pettiness—not match it. 

Arthur Brooks was the event’s keynote speaker. Brooks is the former head of the American Enterprise Institute, a Harvard professor, and columnist for The Washington Post. He used his time to speak of reconciliation and loving one’s enemies—the theme of his recent book.

When it was President Trump’s turn to speak, he said, “Arthur, I don’t know if I agree with you” and then went on a tear proving he didn’t. He criticized those who claim to pray for him and misuse their faith for political ends. He implied that “those in this room”—more than 3,000 in all—support him, and those who don’t are not genuine Christians.

Here’s the thing about reconciliation. It has a power that is the antithesis of political power, which in reality is no power at all. If the person who believes he has been wronged offers forgiveness, it can disarm the other person and lower the personal temperature.

Brooks’ comments reflected the teachings of Jesus. In the Sermon on the Mount he said—quote—“You have heard that it was said, ‘Love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ But I tell you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, that you may be children of your Father in heaven” (Matthew 5:43-45). End quote. 

If last Thursday was the new Prayer Breakfast norm, perhaps it is time to suspend this annual event. Or perhaps organizers should consider an event without the president, if he can’t accept the nonpartisan theme that has been its tradition for nearly seven decades. 

For WORLD Radio, I’m Cal Thomas.

NICK EICHER: Tomorrow: Campaign fundraising and the 2020 election. We’ll get a reminder of the rules candidates must follow and tell you how this primary season could be a bit different from previous primaries.

And, we’ll take you to a special place in Georgia where pie making helps patients living with dementia.

That and more tomorrow. 

I’m Nick Eicher.

MARY REICHARD: And I’m Mary Reichard.

The World and Everything in It comes to you from WORLD Radio.

WORLD’s mission is biblically objective journalism that informs, educates, and inspires.

The Apostle Paul advised that we “be joyful in hope, patient in affliction, faithful in prayer.”

Thanks for listening! Go now in grace and peace.

WORLD Radio transcripts are created on a rush deadline. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Accuracy and availability may vary. The authoritative record of WORLD Radio programming is the audio record.

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