The Shiv for Virginia’s Middle Class

The Richmond Times-Dispatch commentary section has launched an all-out assault on Governor Ralph Northam’s proposal to recycle about half of the $500 million windfall from federal tax reform into tax benefits for the non-income tax-paying poor. (Steve Haner gave an excellent preview of the issue on Bacon’s Rebellion a week ago.)

To Northam’s way of thinking, federal tax reform primarily benefits higher-income Americans. He wants to use about half of the the windfall — lower federal tax deductions would mean higher taxes for Virginians unless the Commonwealth changes its tax code to conform with the federal law — to benefit lower-income workers by increasing payments under the Earned Income Tax Credit. The balance would increase “investments” in broadband and workforce develoment. The great thing for Northam is that he doesn’t have to lift a finger. The General Assembly needs to enact legislation to make the federal law tax-neutral for Virginia taxpayers. Good luck with that. There is no way the legislature, divided almost 50/50 between Dems and Republicans, can pass a bill that would survive a veto.

I’m not happy about this development, and neither is the Times-Dispatch editorial staff. Today’s Commentary page includes:

  • An op-ed by Michael Thompson, president of the Thomas Jefferson Institute for Public Policy. The implicit state tax increase resulting from non-action, he says, will claw back about 20% of the benefits of the federal tax cut.
  • An op-ed by Nicole Riley, Virginia state director of the NFIB, the nation’s leading small business association. The state tax increase would disproportionately impact Virginia’s small-business job creators, she says.
  • The lead editorial in the Commentary section. Far from hitting “the wealthy,” as claimed by Democrats, Northam’s proposal could cost middle-class families as much as $750 a year in state taxes.

I can’t add much to these columns other than a little perspective. Northam’s plan to stick the middle class must be viewed in the larger context of public policy in Virginia. First, Virginia just enacted the expansion of Medicaid to benefit the near-poor (which has a large overlap with the individuals who would get more money from EITC). Virginia’s 10% share of that expansion will be borne largely by the general taxpayer — in other words, the middle class.

Second, Virginia’s institutions of higher education have been relentlessly increasing college tuition, fees, room and board over the past two decades, thus making the main ticket to a middle-class career and life increasingly unaffordable. While boards of trustees have increased their financial aid, most assistance goes to the poor and near poor. The middle class gets little or nothing.

Don’t pay attention to what the politicians say. Pay attention to what they do. Here in Virginia, the politicians are full of soothing words to the middle class even as they sink in the shiv.

Fake News: Trump Deregulation Will Increase CO2 Emissions

It pays to read past the headline and lede paragraph of Washington Post news stories. Here’s a case in point. In an article published yesterday, the headline blasted, “New Trump power plant plan would release hundreds of millions of tons of CO2 into the air.”

The lede paragraph elaborated: An overhaul of the Obama administration’s Clean Power Plan “could significantly increase the release of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere.”

Yet, according information appearing lower in the story, the Environmental Protection Agency’s impact analysis found that the administration’s proposal would make “slight cuts to overall emissions of pollutants, including CO2, sulfur dioxide, and nitrogen oxide.” The newspaper’s beef is that the Obama plan would have bigger cuts — twelve times as big.

Someone — whether the reporter, the editors, or both, I don’t know — apparently can’t grasp the difference between the concept that the administration’s plan would reduce CO2 emissions by a smaller amount and the concept that it would increase CO2 emissions.

And, oh, by the way, deep down in the article, the reporter, Juliet Eilperin, noted that electric utility carbon emissions will decline without regulatory intervention in any case “because of market pressures and other factors after the new rule takes place.”

I suppose we should give Eilperin credit for getting some basic facts straight in the story. But someone botched the interpretation of those facts up top. Either they are innumerate or blatantly biased — or possibly both. If “Democracy dies in darkness,” the WaPo is the one drawing the curtains.

The Washington Post keeps close track of President Trump’s lies, inaccuracies, and mis-statements. I wonder if it keeps track of its own.

Stay Put, Young Man, Stay Put

Source: Commonwealth Institute for Fiscal Analysis

The Commonwealth Institute for Fiscal Analysis has published a useful reminder of how job and wage growth has bifurcated in Virginia — jobs and wages have increased smartly in Virginia’s major metro areas since the recession but have lagged markedly in non-metro Virginia.

The trends, which reflect the larger urban-rural divide nationally cannot be reversed, notes CI, but they can be ameliorated. “State lawmakers have some specific options on the table that could offer an economic development boost to rural Virginia.”

What do all of those options entail? Tax breaks and rural subsidies targeted to helping lower- and middle-income households. Expanding Medicaid. Eliminating the work requirement for receiving Medicaid. A bigger state Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC). State investment in roads, bridges, and broadband. CI doesn’t advocate showing infrastructure money indiscriminately on localities — investments should be “placed based” reflecting the needs of local communities — but the approach is all about subsidies and wealth transfers.

Virginia already has an entity — the Virginia Tobacco Region Revitalization Commission — that has been helicoptering money all over Southside and Southwestern Virginia for a couple of decades now with little discernible effect. The Institute doesn’t articulate what criteria should be applied for dispensing the cash any differently. 

What CI does says forthrightly is that “asking rural Virginians to move to jobs isn’t a solution.” 

Why not?

Americans throughout their history have been moving to areas of greater opportunity. As Horace Greeley famously proclaimed in the 19th century, “Go west, young man.” In the early 20th century thousands of farmers and immigrants migrated to the Central Appalachian coalfields, and when the coal industry withered, they moved on. African-American sharecroppers migrated from Southern rural areas to greater opportunity in the urbanizing North. In the 1930s, Okies choking on the Dust Bowl moved to California. And so it has gone. But for some reason, CI has ruled out moving from rural areas whose mill-town manufacturing economies have been devastated by globalism and automation.”

I have penned innumerable posts on this blog suggesting strategies on how rural Virginia communities can revitalize themselves by selling access to mountains and the Chesapeake Bay, and investing in the kind of amenities that will attract retirees, nature lovers, resort-goers and small entrepreneurs. Are the Virginia mountains any less picturesque than North Carolina’s? Is Virginia’s portion of the Bay any less beautiful than Maryland’s? Why can’t we replicate the economic  success of western N.C. and Maryland’s Eastern Shore?

But even if Abingdon could become another Blowing Rock and Deltaville another St. Michael’s, there is a limit to how many jobs a tourism/resort/retiree economy can support. If our goal is helping people rather than helping regions, then we should encourage people to move to where the jobs are. The single biggest barrier to moving isn’t the lack of Medicaid or insufficient EITC, it’s the lack of affordable housing in Virginia’s major metros.

If we want to build a society around redistribution and the amelioration of poverty, fine, go with the Commonwealth Institute plan. If we want to build a society around jobs, opportunity, and upward mobility then our focus should be on mobility and affordable housing.

Richmond Squats on Scooters

Shared bicycle services OK in Richmond. (Photo credit Style Weekly).

Bird Rides, Inc., a California startup, tried introducing electric scooters to Richmond’s transportation mix, scattering the two-wheelers around Virginia Commonwealth University and the downtown area. Anyone downloading an app could ride them at a cost of $1 to unlock and 20 cents per minute to ride. Workers with the city’s Department of Public Works began rounding up the scooters Thursday, reports the Richmond Times-Dispatch.

Shared scooter services, not OK in Richmond. (Photo credit: Richmond Times-Dispatch)

The reason? Bird Rides didn’t ask for permission first.

“The City of Richmond was not engaged in any way, as required, with respect to deployment of the scooters,” said city spokesman Tom Byrnes. “As such, Bird is being advised we will be removing them, effective immediately.”

Richmond isn’t the only city to butt heads with Bird Rides, which has pursued an act-first-ask-for-permission-later approach. San Francisco and Denver have shut down the scooter service for not having a permit.

It’s not clear from the Times-Dispatch article, however, that Bird Rides needs a permit in Richmond. Byrnes did not say precisely how the company was “required” to engage with the city. I find the vagueness of his comment troubling. Does the city code require scooters — which have never seen widespread use in the city before — to be registered or licensed? How are the electric-powered, two-wheeled scooters different from bicycles in that regard? Are electric-powered bicycles subject to the same restrictions?

Here is one city policy regarding bicycling that I could find online: “The City of Richmond does not have a local ordinance prohibiting bicycling on sidewalks. BUT, if riding on a sidewalk you must yield to pedestrians, and should ride slowly. Colliding with motorists at intersections is a leading cause of crashes because motorists aren’t expecting a bike entering the crosswalk at high speed, especially when travelling against traffic.”

If it’s legal to ride a bicycle on city sidewalks, surely it would be legal to ride a scooter on sidewalks.

Which raises another question: Is it illegal to ride scooters on city streets? Of course it isn’t. City policy promotes bicycle riding. If bicycles are legal on streets, why wouldn’t scooters be, too?

Yet another question: Do bicycle ride-sharing companies require city licenses to operate? If so, I suppose a case could be made by analogy that a scooter-sharing service would, too. Needless to say, Bird Rides attorneys will be reviewing the code to see if the shutdown is legally supported.

From a pure public policy perspective, the city’s impoundment of the scooters looks unjustified — a bureaucratic assertion of power. The city should be encouraging a wide range of transportation alternatives — not just bicycles, but electric bikes, Segways, scooters, and whatever else human ingenuity can deny. True, there may be public safety issues involved with the use of scooters on streets and sidewalks, so some kind of public oversight may be justified. But I’d like to see evidence of a problem and a full and open hearing of the issues before city officials arbitrarily shut down a promising transportation alternative.

The Social Cost of Domestic Violence

Intimate Partner Violence (IPV) accounts for more than one in seven violent crimes in the United States. Between 16% and 23% of American women experience IPV while pregnant. Social science researchers have suggested that domestic abuse affects not only the mother-to-be but her unborn children, but the social cost of the problem has been difficult to measure.

A new study by three women, two economists and a health policy researcher, have found a way to compare the outcomes of women subjected to assault while pregnant versus those suffering violence up to 10 months after the estimated due date. They estimate the social cost per assault during pregnancy of nearly $42,000, implying a total annual cost to society of more than $4.25 billion.

“We find that prenatal exposure to assault is associated with an increased likelihood of induced labor, which is likely a response of the healthcare system to injuries sustained by pregnant victims of abuse,” write the authors of “Violence While in Utero: The Impact of Assaults During Pregnancy on Birth Outcomes,” a working paper published by the National Bureau of Economic Research.

There’s something in this study for everyone. For law-and-order types, the study shifts the prevalent preoccupation with the injustices of mass incarceration to the victims to crime. In addition to the obvious victims, the women subjected to assault, there are invisible victims: the lower birth-rate babies. Oh, and let’s not forget the general public, which winds up paying the medical bills to treat those  babies.

For social justice warriors, the authors remind us that “violence in utero is an important potential channel for intergenerational transmission of poverty.” Indirect costs come from increased childhood disability, decreased in adult income, increased medical costs associated with adult disability, and reductions in life expectancy. “Our results imply that interventions that can reduce violence against pregnant women can have meaningful consequences not just for the women (and their children), but also for the next generation and society as a whole.”

The authors don’t address the oft-noted observation that the American medical system has higher infant mortality rates than other developed countries. But their research sheds light on that phenomenon. The implication is that the higher incidence of infant mortality represents a failure of the U.S. health care system. But perhaps it really represents a higher rate of domestic violence than in other countries.

Bacon Bits: Thursday Morning Edition

Mistakes were made. The University of Virginia’s new president, Jim Ryan, has offered an apology for the previous administration’s failure to deal adequately with the intrusion of Unite the Right demonstrators onto university grounds last year. “We must acknowledge mistakes, including those made last year, understanding and trusting that mistakes in times of crisis are inevitable,” Mr. Ryan said. “We do nothing more than to recognize our common humanity to say to those who were attacked around the statue last year, I am sorry. We are sorry.”

What mistakes, precisely, were made? And who made them? That’s not clear. But Reed Fawell has answers. Stay tuned to his upcoming posts dissecting last year’s path to violence in Charlottesville.

Loser. Speaking of United the Right… It turns out that Charlottesville’s Alt-Right provocateur Jason Kessler, 34, lives in his parents’ house. While Kessler was doing a livestream with a white supremacist, Patrick Little, his father was overheard yelling at him, “I want this to stop in my room, Jason. This is my room!” Kessler confessed on the livestream that his father was responsible for the disruption. (Read more on HotAir.)

I wonder how many Antifa warriors live at home with their parents, t00.

Mosque expansion approved. The Spotsylvania Board of Supervisors has approved a rezoning that allows a local mosque to expand its current site. No one spoke in opposition. The approval followed anti-Islamic outbursts in 2015 against the Islamic Center’s plans to build a new mosque. The trustees changed their plans to sell the property to a residential developer and use the proceeds to purchase land to expand the existing mosque.

Good. I’m glad they worked it out.

The wimp factor. Virginia high schools in Charles City County, Manassas Park, and Sterling are canceling their football programs this season. The reason cited: Not enough players were showing up for practice. Enrollment in high school football programs have declined 4.5% nationally between 2006 and 2016.

This strikes me as another milestone in the ongoing wimp-ification of America. I speak from first-hand experience. Forty-some years ago, I attended a prep school with 65 kids in the graduating class, and we managed to field a football team. I wasn’t on the team. I ran cross country instead. I was a wimp. If more people make the same choice I did, I fear for our national character.

Oh, The Tangled Webs We Weave

Before President Frank Underwood there was P.M. Francis Urquhart. He was not amused by amateurs.

Let’s not and say we did.

If I had a dollar for every time I said that to some over-enthusiastic campaign worker for my candidate or some other one with some wild idea to screw with the other side….

Perhaps GOP Congressman Scott Taylor should have used the phrase, or my other favorite:  Don’t do anything you don’t want to read about in the newspaper.

Now we are being subjected to a daily barrage of stories about how the Second District representative’s campaign staff circulated the petitions to get independent challenger Shaun Brown on the November ballot.  After Brown lost the Democratic nomination and went away mad, it was logical to keep her candidacy alive as a thorn in the side of Democratic nominee Elaine Luria.

Some Taylor fan passed Brown’s petitions around the office of fellow Republican and Virginia Beach Sheriff Ken Stolle gathering a large number of signatures, earning this story in today’s Richmond Times-Dispatch.

My personal practice has always been to sign most candidates’ petitions, if I’m a qualified voter in the correct district.  It is not a pledge to vote for that person.  I’ve signed for many a Democrat, independent or Green.  Having been the person circulating the petitions I know it is a hard process, and as a believer in our election system I support people’s efforts to run.

There is also a long history of both parties’ finding and encouraging independent candidates intended to split the opponent’s vote.  Everybody does it, but usually with plausible deniability.  Well, that’s out the window in this case.

If the petitions for Luria were signed by enough properly-registered voters in that district, even if they were active Republicans, serving sheriff’s deputies, or known cranks, she might remain on the ballot.  If not one actual Democrat signed, it matters not.

If those circulating the petitions witnessed and attested to the signatures of false names, or the names of deceased persons, or filled in names themselves, they should face the full consequences under the law – which are considerable.  Doing that will have brought dishonor on themselves, their candidate and the process itself.

Whether all of this will hurt Taylor and boost Luria come November is impossible to say now, but it is the kind of distraction which is never good for any campaign.  At some point well before this got out of hand somebody in authority should have sat back, laughed, and said – let’s not actually do this, folks.  And if the decision was to go forward anyway, the mantra should have been – break absolutely no rules and smile and deny nothing when caught.

Who Are These Guys, and Where Do They Get All Their Money?

Shenandoah Valley Juvenile Center

The report issued by the Northam administration investigating charges of abuse at the Shenandoah Valley Juvenile Center has come under withering criticism by nonprofit groups that filed a lawsuit last year bringing attention to the treatment of unaccompanied immigrant children held there. The Virginia Mercury has the story here.

While I used the Department of Juvenile Justice report as the basis for a blog post yesterday arguing that people were making much ado about a non-scandal, I have to concede that the criticisms of the report are substantive. By substantive, I don’t presume them to be valid. But they are are not frivolous. If I were reporting the story, I would deem them worth probing to see if they were valid.

An interesting sidebar to the controversy is the revelation of the existence of two nonprofit groups that revealed (or, depending upon your viewpoint, concocted) the abuses the first place. One is the Washington, D.C.-based Washington Lawyers Committee for Civil Rights and Urban Affairs. The other is the Henrico County-based disAbility Law Center of Virginia. Both pursue social-justice work. One hews to high standards of transparency; the other does not. 

The Washington Lawyer’s Committee (WLC) is forthright about its commitment to social justice — or at least a leftist perspective on social justice. States the organization’s Guidestar profile: “While we fight discrimination against all people, we recognize the central role that current and historic race discrimination plays in sustaining inequity and recognize the critical importance of identifying, exposing, combating and dismantling the systems that sustain racial oppression.”

The organization reported more than $5 million in revenue in its 2016 990 form, makes the forms accessible on its website, and lists 27 employees on its website. Unlike many nonprofits, the WLC is open about where its money comes from. in 2016 about $3 million came from “contributions and grants,” $830,000 from fund-raising events, and $1.8 million from “legal fees and court awards.”

Most impressively (from a transparency perspective), WLC lists many of its major donors, which include Wiley, Rein & Fielding, a K Street law firm ($414,000); Dentons US LLP, also a K Street Law firm ($173,000), and the Morrison & Foerster Foundation, a San Francisco-based foundation ($215,000); the D.C. Bar Association ($80,000); and Kirkland and Ellis, a Chicago law firm ($153,000), among others. WLC reported another $1.7 million in contributions from unnamed individuals who contributed less than 2% of total revenue.

What emerges is a picture of a well-funded activist group funded mainly by wealthy lawyers, which supplements its income by collecting legal fees and awards from the lawsuits its files. This is not a grassroots organization. It reflects the views of the nation’s liberal legal elite.

In describing what it does, WLC notes a special concern for “people of color, women, children and persons with disabilities [who] are disproportionately forced to live in poverty” (my italics). That may explain the connection with the disAbility Law Center of Virginia. which provides advocacy services across Virginia for people with disabilities.

The disAbilities Law Center is not nearly as transparent. Its 2015 990 form reported $2.9 million in revenue, and its website lists 34 employees. But the nonprofit did not reveal who its major contributors are. More than $2.6 million was classified as “Government grants (contributions),” another $109,000 was described as “National Disability Rights,” $61,000 came from “other attorneys fees,” and $4,000 from settlement fees. The nonprofit reported no revenue from membership dues or fundraising events. As with the WLC, it is safe to say that the disAbilities Law Center is not a grassroots organization, but rather relies upon generous benefactors. I would conjecture that the group’s priorities reflect the preoccupations of liberal elites, but further research is required to document the suspicion.

How does a nonprofit focused on disabilities get mixed up with a center holding illegal unaccompanied-minor immigrants? In its own description, the disAbilities Law Center is part of a “nationwide network of organizations known as ‘Protection and Advocacy systems,’ designed to offer an array of education and legal representation services to people with disabilities and to combat abuse and neglect in both governmentally operated and privately operated facilities.”

The federal government officially recognized the disAbilities Law Center in July 2018 as a group with “authority to monitor conditions and treatment in immigration facilities if those facilities have residents with disabilities.”

So, what does all this mean? The Virginia Mercury was the only media outlet to report today on the follow-up criticism to the report. Reporter Ned Oliver describes the groups as “advocates for the immigrant teens,” never mentioning their social-justice mission or the fact that they are part of a larger constellation of organizations seeking to influence public policy.

Now, this network may be totally benign and above-board. Or it may be part of a larger coalition of nonprofit and advocacy groups intent upon undermining the Trump administration immigration policy by filing lawsuits and generating publicity. I don’t know the truth of the matter. My point here is not to criticize either group, for I have no tangible basis for doing so, but to raise the kind of questions that the media should be asking when they report on the Shenandoah Valley Juvenile Center controversy. If a right-wing legal advocacy group were filing a lawsuit, the ideological orientation of the group surely would be noted in any story. The same rule should apply to liberal-progressive groups and their causes.

The Truth Is Out There (To Be Revealed Friday)

So it’s going to be politics, not economics. Perhaps it was inevitable.

On Friday Governor Ralph Northam and Secretary of Finance Aubrey Layne will be presenting to the House and Senate money committees, part of their report looking back (at the completed fiscal year), but the key parts of their message looking forward. Both are expected to put some flesh on the bare-bones announcement made last Friday about how the Governor wants Virginia to respond to the opportunities created by federal tax reform.

The announcement was telegraphed by the left-leaning Commonwealth Institute for Fiscal Analysis, which endorsed converting Virginia’s Earned Income Tax Credit into a fully refundable version, putting cash in people’s pockets, discussed in a previous Bacon’s Rebellion post.  The political angle was described well this morning by the Democrats’ Virginia media strategist Jeff Schapiro, also of the Richmond Times-Dispatch, who tagged the EITC proposal as aimed at the 2019 legislative elections.

Finally you can see the strategy in the Governor’s own guest column today, this from the Roanoke Times.

“The recent federal tax changes have benefited mainly higher earner. These tax policy changes from Washington will result in additional revenues to Virginia. We can use this opportunity to invest in those who need it most— hard working Virginians. We can do this by making Virginia’s existing earned income tax credit refundable, ensuring that 600,000 working Virginians, including thousands of veteran and military families, can get the full tax benefit for which they qualify.”

What the Governor and Secretary Layne know that we don’t yet is, well, everything. The state commissioned a detailed study of the state-level financial impact of the various federal tax rules changes. That was the apparent basis for the Governor’s announcement Friday that about $500 million plus in new state revenue will result, half of which he wants to use to finance the EITC refunds and half of which he wants to keep in the General Fund.

Secretary Layne assured Bacon’s Rebellion after that press conference that the full report from the consultant will be released and available online Friday after the Governor speaks. Until that report is picked apart, anybody who hasn’t read it is just speculating. I won’t join in that yet.

Probably the best analysis of the issues – written without access to the new report on the numbers – was released this week by Jared Walczak of the Tax Foundation. Come Friday it should be clear where that $500 million estimate came from, which tax provisions produced additional revenue and which taxpayers may pay more in the long run.  And it may be clear whether that windfall results from full conformity to the myriad federal changes, no conformity to the federal changes, or from cherry-picking which provisions to accept or reject – meaning a different combination produces a different revenue result.

There has been no mention so far, but expect news on Friday, about the potential state revenue boost from requiring more out-of-state retailers to collect and remit sales tax on goods they ship to Virginia customers.  And until Friday we really won’t know the size of any surplus from fiscal year 2018, or the status of the reserve funds. Those are also key parts of this coming tax debate.

This is the best opportunity in a generation Virginia has seen for some intelligent tax reform, something positioning our economy for this century. And tax reform does not mean cut my taxes and raise somebody else’s. As previously noted the EITC is an effective anti-poverty program, and Virginia’s income tax is arguably regressive, hitting lower income workers harder than it should. But that is just one element of what needs to be a long conversation that ranges over the whole tax code, one that has been stymied for decades because of the various political risks.

Virginia’s Child-Immigrant Non-Scandal

The Shenandoah Valley Juvenile Center

In the fall of 2017, three migrant children detained by the federal Office of Refugee Resettlement (ORR) at the Shenandoah Valley Juvenile Center filed a class action lawsuit alleging abuse by guards. This June, amidst national media coverage of the separation of children from parents on the U.S. border, news media discovered the lawsuit and reported on the allegations.

As I summarized the charges in a blog post: “Allegedly, teenagers were restrained, handcuffed, and made to sit with bags over their heads. Some were stripped of their clothes. Some were locked in solitary confinement, some beaten, left with bruises and broken bones and kept shivering in concrete cells.” I added: “The claims, if true, are shocking and must be addressed immediately.”

Well, the Northam administration promptly looked into the issue and has published its report. The findings? As I should have surmised from the hysterical, almost apocalyptic nature of the immigrant-children coverage by the national media, the state Department of Juvenile Justice “found that there was no evidence of abuse or neglect.”

DJJ staff interviewed all of the federal residents of SVJC. The team was unable to substantiate the conditions described in the lawsuit concerning the operations of SVJC or the mistreatment of residents. After obtaining permission from ORR, the team returned on June 25 and reviewed case files, medical files, room confinement forms, and other documentation to assess compliance with regulations relating to the quality of care.

The immigrant children held at SVJC aren’t toddlers separated from their parents. They are unaccompanied minors under the age of 18 with no parent or legal guardian in the U.S. Many have suffered trauma; some belong to gangs such as the infamous MS-13. Many display behavioral issues presenting disciplinary challenges.

One technique used by SVJC is “room confinement” to “ensure the safety and security of residents, staff, and the facility.” The DJJ found no incidents where residents were confined longer than 24 hours. With the exception of one 23-hour incident, confinements typically lasted four hours.

SVJC staff also used, though rarely, a “restraint chair” for out-of-control residents “who cannot be safely restrained by less intrusive methods. While in the chair, a mesh spit guard can be placed on the resident’s head to prevent spitting or biting.”

In sum, the center faced difficult conditions. “Young people who have been frequently exposed to high levels of trauma, who are separated from their families, and who confront numerous language and cultural barriers” comprise a “uniquely challenging group,” the DJJ report says. The center should provide staff with professional development “in the areas of positive youth development, cognitive behavioral interventions and trauma informed care” and should increase “understanding and sensitivity toward the unique cultural backgrounds of the youth in the federal program.” DJJ also recommended more training in the use of physical and mechanical restraints, and in the effective use of de-escalation techniques.

Bacon’s bottom line: In other words, while the Shenandoah Valley Juvenile Center could benefit from some tweaks, investigators found no real problem there. What this story highlights — although you’ll never see a mainstream media outlet framing the issue this way — is an endemic feature of illegal immigration. Many children are unaccompanied by parents or relatives. Many suffered trauma — not at the hands of Americans but of their fellow countrymen (or perhaps Mexicans, which many had to pass through to get to the U.S.). And many pose special behavioral problems requiring their confinement and costing U.S. taxpayers.

The national media is largely uninterested in such issues, of course, so I anticipate zero follow-up. If U.S. immigration policy cannot be blamed, there’s nothing worth writing about.

Here’s what I would like to know. Who were the children who made the allegations and had a suit filed in their name? More importantly, who were the attorneys filing the suit on their behalf? How did those attorneys gain access to the children? Are they just random lawyers off the streets of Staunton, or are they part of a nonprofit organization? If they were part of a nonprofit, what is that organization’s aims and who is funding it? Could there have been political motivations behind the lawsuits? None of that information, as I recall, was reported by the media. What a surprise.

Update: The state report has come under heavy criticism by the people who filed the original lawsuit, including  the Washington, D.C., law firm Wiley Rein and the Washington Lawyers Committee for Civil Rights and Urban Affairs, as well as the Henrico-based disAbility Law Center of Virginia. The Virginia Mercury has the story here. Unlike state investigators, the disAbility Law Center says it had unaccompanied access to the residents.