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The MAGA Transformation of Elise Stefanik

“‘I Am Ultra-MAGA’: Invention of Elise Stefanik” (front page, Jan. 1) traces the evolution of an emerging congressional leader driven by a restless political ambition and a quest for power and influence.

Ms. Stefanik herself defends her shift from a moderate brand of Republicanism to a full-throated embrace of MAGA doctrine as simply reflecting the views among her constituents.

But surely we must demand more of our leaders than that they be mere conduits for expressing what they perceive to be the will of those they represent. True leadership does indeed involve taking into account the views of various constituents in shaping one’s words and actions, but ultimately grounding them in a set of principles that makes morality — the desire to do that which is right, fair and just — the force that most animates our exercise of leadership.

In his recent book about Abraham Lincoln, “And There Was Light,” Jon Meacham writes that “politics divorced from conscience is fatal to the American experiment in liberty under law.”

Representative Stefanik, along with anyone who aspires to a position of leadership, would do well to heed those words.

Elise Stefanik’s Gumby-like transformation from moderate Republican to ultra-MAGA Trumpster is emblematic of today’s G.O.P., which has now given us George Santos. Malleability and dissembling have replaced honesty and conviction.

Groucho Marx famously said, “Those are my principles, and if you don’t like them … well, I have others.”

Re “Don’t Expand the Child Tax Credit,” by Scott Winship (Opinion guest essay, Dec. 21):

Dr. Winship writes that while a short-term bump in the child tax credit has been shown to reduce child poverty, the long-term consequences are likely to be a disincentive for parents to work. This trope has been a conservative talking point going back to the Reagan administration.

The glaring omission in Mr. Winship’s analysis is the cost and unavailability of reliable, quality day care for low-income and single parents.

The Times recently published a hand-wringing article about the cost of day care, which can reach heights beyond that of college tuition. A Nov. 17 article in Fortune magazine bemoaned the frequency with which parents miss work for lack of child care, especially during winter flu and cold seasons.

When are conservatives going to see the elephant in the room? The problem is the cost and availability of child care, not parents’ inherent unwillingness to work if they receive a benefit in the form of a child tax credit from the government.

If the money from the tax credit enables a working-class parent to quit or reduce the hours of a undervalued, low-paying job and stay home to nurture and raise their children, to avoid the stress and anxiety of dealing with unreliable child care and transportation, what’s so wrong with that? Let them enjoy the same options more financially secure parents enjoy.

As Scott Winship explains in his essay, the expanded Child Tax Credit dramatically reduced child poverty in 2021. The monthly payments also reduced food insecurity and lessened parent financial stress.

But I disagree with Mr. Winship on one key point — the expanded Child Tax Credit wouldn’t dramatically change parents’ work behavior. Findings from the 2021 University of Chicago study he mentions have been rebutted by the libertarian-leaning Niskanen Center and other researchers. Evidence from the similar tax benefits in Canada also found no negative employment effects among parents.

If anything, a permanently expanded Child Tax Credit would, in the long run, support employment outcomes for parents and children. Providing additional cash to families improves outcomes in school, health and even future earnings.

In fact, the tax credit helped some parents work more hours. The payments allow parents to afford the transportation and child care needed to work.

The expanded Child Tax Credit supports children, families and our economies — in both the short and long term.

The writer is a senior policy analyst at the Center for Law and Social Policy.

Re “Hasidic Schools Seize on Special Ed Windfall” (front page, Dec. 29):
A few months ago, The Times published an article about how the Hasidim in New York City were failing to provide basic instruction in the state’s elementary and high school curriculums.

We now learn that they are labeling so many of their children disabled in a bid to obtain state and federal special education funds to augment their inferior schools and unjustly enrich their community. This fraudulent conduct takes scarce resources from the truly needy disabled children in other schools.

As a retired special education attorney, I was appalled that the school administration in New York has apparently shirked its responsibility to students and to the taxpayers by allowing this fraud to continue. At a minimum, it should have trained staff, if not a practicing attorney, at each hearing, forcing the students and parents to prove the disability and to prove what services are necessary.

It should also be conducting annual evaluations to determine the student’s progress and if special education and related services continue to be necessary. The burden of proof in these cases lies with the student and the parent.
The flood of cases will quickly wane when the parents realize that they will be on the hook for attorneys’ fees for both sides if they pursue untenable claims of disability. This can happen only if the public school administration does its job.

Re “Chief Justice Roberts Addresses Threats to Judges’ Safety in His Year-End Report” (news article, Jan. 1):
Chief Justice John Roberts is right to address threats to judges’ safety in his year-end report. I only wish he recognized the threat to women’s safety posed by the court’s Dobbs decision and the threat to the safety of us all posed by the court’s decision in New York State Rifle & Pistol Association Inc. v. Bruen.


Re “The Disappearing Act of a Magical Baby Toy” (Sunday Business, Dec. 25):
Whatever happened to picking up your crying baby so she can smell and feel the parent’s warm body and hear the parent’s soothing voice? Sure, clicking a switch on an electronic toy will stop a baby from crying, but that is not being a responsible parent.


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Former Trump AG Bill Barr joins new business lobbying group that aims to target Biden regulations

Former Attorney General Bill Barr will help to lead a new group formed by a business lobbying organization that aims to be an alternative to the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, the massive advocacy group that has fallen out of favor with some Republicans.

Barr will be chair of an advisory board for a project called the Center for Legal Action, he told CNBC in an interview. The group is part of the American Free Enterprise Chamber of Commerce, the business lobbying group that launched last year as a possible rival to the chamber.

The American Free Enterprise Chamber of Commerce boasts of being a business lobbying group that fights “against outdated regulations, future-killing tax policies, and the corporate cronyism and backroom DC deal making that close down our economic future,” according to a memo pitch to potential members.

Barr’s decision to join with the new group comes as some Republicans on Capitol Hill have turned their backs on the Chamber of Commerce after it started to favor endorsing Democrats running for House seats. The business lobbying behemoth moved away from predominantly supporting Republicans in recent years after former president Donald Trump embraced trade protectionism, bashed certain companies for their social stances and tried to overturn the 2020 election.

Barr, for his part, drew the ire of the former president and many of his GOP allies when he said evidence did not back Trump’s claims that fraud cost him the presidential election.

House Speaker Kevin McCarthy, R-Calif., and House Majority Leader Steve Scalise, R-La., are among the powerful GOP members who have distanced themselves from the original chamber.

In a statement to CNBC provided by the new group, McCarthy said it “is an important tool to ensure regulators operate fairly, efficiently, and without burdening America’s entrepreneurs and small businesses.”

Scalise in a separate statement to CNBC provided by the business lobbying organization said, “The American Free Enterprise Chamber of Commerce creating the Center for Legal Action is welcome news to House Republicans.”

The new group aims aims to challenge — at times in court — regulations put in place by the Biden administration. Barr will chair the project’s advisory board, in support of the chairman Terry Branstad and CEO Gentry Collins.

Branstad was a longtime Iowa governor and Trump’s U.S. ambassador to China. Collins was once a political director for the Republican National Committee.

In his role, Barr will advise the Center for Legal Action on the best litigators to hire, he explained to CNBC. He will also help to develop the organization’s overall legal strategy.

The “CLA will provide congressional testimony, initiate litigation, file amicus briefs, and support lawsuits brought by other parties in important regulatory and constitutional cases,” the American Free Enterprise Chamber of Commerce said in a statement.

Barr would not say who he aims to recruit from the legal community.

He noted that the newly formed project would engage on the Securities and Exchange Commission’s proposed climate-risk disclosure rule. If the rule is enacted, public companies would have to disclose the carbon emissions that are part of their operations, as well as the climate risks their businesses face.

Collins would not say how much the organization is investing into the new project. But he told CNBC that the group has been recruiting business members “at a rate of more than 1,000 a month for almost a year now.”

“As we’ve done that, one of the principal challenges that we hear from businesses of all sizes around the country is regulatory overreach threatening our business, threatening our industries and threatening our overall economy,” Collins said.

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Trump faces deposition in New York AG Letitia James’ fraud lawsuit

Donald Trump said he is being deposed Thursday in New York City as part of the state attorney general’s $250 million civil lawsuit alleging widespread fraud by the former president and his company.

Trump announced on social media overnight that he had “just arrived in Manhattan for a deposition in front of” New York Attorney General Letitia James as part of the sweeping lawsuit.

In another post Thursday morning, Trump said he was “heading downtown” to be deposed. He accused James of leaking that the appointment was scheduled at 9:30 a.m. ET.

His trip marks the second time in less than two weeks that he has traveled to the Empire State to respond to court actions against him. The ex-president faces multiple criminal and civil proceedings as he makes a third bid for the Republican presidential nomination.

Trump previously flew from his home state of Florida to New York to surrender to authorities following his indictment in a separate criminal case centered on hush money payments made before the 2016 presidential election. The former president pleaded not guilty to 34 counts of falsifying business records in that case, which is being prosecuted by Manhattan District Attorney Alvin Bragg.

Trump is “not only willing but also eager to testify before the Attorney General today,” his attorney, Alina Habba, told CNBC in a statement. “He remains resolute in his stance that he has nothing to conceal, and he looks forward to educating the Attorney General about the immense success of his multi-billion dollar company.”

James’ office did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

James filed the civil fraud lawsuit last September against Trump, three of his adult children, the Trump Organization and others. The suit accuses Trump of repeatedly overstating the values of his assets in statements to banks, insurance companies and the IRS in order to obtain better loan and tax terms.

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No shield for Trump in rape accuser’s case as court declines to rule

A Washington, D.C., appeals court on Thursday declined to shield Donald Trump from the first of two civil defamation lawsuits by E. Jean Carroll, a writer who said the former U.S. president raped her nearly three decades ago.

The district’s highest local court, the Court of Appeals, said it did not have enough facts to decide whether Trump deserved immunity, after he accused the former Elle magazine columnist in June 2019 of lying about the alleged encounter.

A ruling that Trump was acting as president, and not in his personal capacity, would have immunized him and doomed Carroll’s first lawsuit because the government could substitute itself as the defendant, and the government cannot be sued for defamation.

The court sent the case back to the 2nd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Manhattan, which had last September asked the Washington court for guidance on local law.

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