Friday, April 30, 2010

The phenomenon of a federal government that seems less and less competent attempting to do more and more by passing bigger and bigger laws

Alienation is often followed by full-blown antagonism, and antagonism by breakage. The people are ready to break up the two party system and start anew.

Selections: The Big Alienation, By Peggy Noonan

We are at a remarkable moment.

We have an open, 2,000-mile border to our south, and the entity with the power to enforce the law and impose safety and order will not do it. Wall Street collapsed, taking Main Street's money with it, and the government can't really figure out what to do about it because the government itself was deeply implicated in the crash, and both political parties are full of people whose political careers have been made possible by Wall Street contributions. Meanwhile we pass huge laws, bills so comprehensive, omnibus and transformative that no one knows what's in them and no one—literally, no one—knows how exactly they will be executed or interpreted. . .

It is not that no one's in control. Washington is full of people who insist they're in control and who go to great lengths to display their power. It's that no one takes responsibility and authority. Washington daily delivers to the people two stark and utterly conflicting messages: "We control everything" and "You're on your own." All this contributes to a deep and growing alienation between the people of America and the government of America in Washington. . .

None of this happened overnight. . . It is, the phenomenon of a federal government that seemed less and less competent attempting to do more and more by passing bigger and bigger laws. Add to this states on the verge of bankruptcy, the looming debt crisis of the federal government, the likelihood of ever-rising taxes. Shake it all together, and you have the makings of the big alienation.

Alienation is often followed by full-blown antagonism, and antagonism by breakage.

Which brings us to Arizona and its much-criticized attempt to institute a law aimed at controlling its own border with Mexico. It is doing this because the federal government won't, and because Arizonans have a crisis on their hands, areas on the border where criminal behavior flourishes, where there have been kidnappings, murders and gang violence. If the law is abusive, it will be determined quickly enough, in the courts. . .

Arizona is moving forward because the government in Washington has completely abdicated its responsibility. For 10 years—at least—through two administrations, Washington deliberately did nothing to ease the crisis on the borders because politicians calculated that an air of mounting crisis would spur mounting support for what Washington thought was appropriate reform—i.e., reform that would help the Democratic and Republican parties.

Both parties resemble Gordon Brown, who is about to lose the prime ministership of Britain. On the campaign trail this week, he was famously questioned by a party voter about his stand on immigration. He gave her the verbal runaround, all boilerplate and shrugs, and later complained to an aide, on an open mic, that he'd been forced into conversation with that "bigoted woman." He really thought she was a bigot. Because she asked about immigration. Which is, to him, a sign of at least latent racism.

The establishments of the American political parties, and the media, are full of people who think concern about illegal immigration is a mark of racism. If you were Freud you might say, "How odd that's where their minds so quickly go, how strange they're so eager to point an accusing finger. Could they be projecting onto others their own, heavily defended-against inner emotions?" But let's not do Freud, he's too interesting. Maybe they're just smug and sanctimonious.

The American president has the power to control America's borders if he wants to, but George W. Bush and Barack Obama did not and do not want to, and for the same reason, and we all know what it is. The fastest-growing demographic in America is the Hispanic vote, and if either party cracks down on illegal immigration, it risks losing that vote for generations.

But while the Democrats worry about the prospects of the Democrats and the Republicans about the well-being of the Republicans, who worries about America? No one. Which the American people have noticed, and which adds to the dangerous alienation—actually it's at the heart of the alienation—of the age. . .

Instead, our national establishments deliberately allow the crisis to grow and fester, ignoring public unrest and amusing themselves by damning anyone's attempt to deal with the problem they fear to address. Why does the federal government do this? Because so many within it are stupid and unimaginative and don't trust the American people. Which of course the American people have noticed. . .

The American people fear they are losing their place and authority in the daily, unwinding drama of American history. They feel increasingly alienated from their government. And alienation, again, is often followed by deep animosity, and animosity by the breaking up of things.

Thursday, April 29, 2010

The worldview of king Obama

We’re not, we’re not trying to push financial reform because we begrudge success that’s fairly earned. I mean, I do think at a certain point you’ve made enough money. But, you know, part of the American way is, you know, you can just keep on making it if you’re providing a good product or providing good service. We don’t want people to stop, ah, fulfilling the core responsibilities of the financial system to help grow our economy.-President Barack Obama, 4/27/10, via Newsalert
Who will get to decide?
What will that power do to freedom and free market capitalism?

Universities racial profile everyday, and yet the elite protest "profiling" when Arizona wants to uphold the rule of law

Excerpts: Deconstructing the Outrage, Victor Davis Hanson, From National Review Online-The corner

I have been trying to collate all the furor over the Arizona law, much of it written by those who do not live in locales that have been transformed by illegal immigration.

On the unfortunate matter of "presenting papers": I have done that numerous times this year — boarding airplanes, purchasing things on a credit card, checking into a hotel, showing a doorman an I.D. when locked out, going to the DMV, and, in one case, pulling off a rural road to use my cell phone in a way that alarmed a chance highway patrolman. An I.D. check to allay "reasonable suspicion" or "probable cause" is very American.

On the matter of racial profiling: No one wishes to harass citizens by race or gender, but, again unfortunately, we already profile constantly. When I had top classics students, I quite bluntly explained to graduating seniors that those who were Mexican American and African American had very good chances of entering Ivy League or other top graduate schools from Fresno, those who were women and Asians so-so chances, and those who were white males [had] very little chance, despite straight A's and top GRE scores.

The students themselves knew all that better than I — and, except the latter category, had packaged and self-profiled themselves for years in applying for grants, admissions, fellowships, and awards. I can remember being told by a dean in 1989 exactly the gender and racial profile of the person I was to hire before the search had even started, and not even to "waste my time" by interviewing a white male candidate. Again, the modern university works on the principle that faculty, staff, and students are constantly identified by racial and gender status.

These were not minor matters, but questions that affected hundreds of lives for many decades to come. (As a postscript I can also remember calling frantically to an Ivy League chair to explain that our top student that he had accepted had just confessed to me that in fact he was an illegal alien, and remember him "being delighted" at the news, as if it were an added bonus.)

On the matter of equality, fairness, and compassion, it is even more problematic. Literally thousands of highly skilled would-be legal immigrants from Latin America, Africa, Asia, and Europe wait patiently while others cut in front and illegally obtain what others legally wait for — residence in the U.S. Meanwhile, millions of Mexican-American, African-American, and poor white citizens have seen their wages fall because of competition from illegal aliens who will work for far less compensation. It is a bit strange that those of the upper classes are outraged over Arizona without empathy for entry-level U.S. workers or lower-middle-class taxpayers who end up paying the most for illegal immigration. But then, those who express the most moral outrage often are the least sensitive to the moral questions involved.

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

What "social justice" really means to the left.

This is where we are heading. Government "do-gooders" to the point of insanity.

Attention Prostitutes

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Does the near-absence of blacks and Hispanics in the New York Philharmonic imply racism on the part of that orchestra?

Opponents of the popular expression of conservative opposition to big government — the tea-party movement — regularly note that tea partiers are overwhelmingly white. This is intended to disqualify the tea parties from serious moral consideration. But there are two other facts that are far more troubling:

The first is the observation itself. The fact that the Left believes that the preponderance of whites among tea partiers invalidates the tea-party movement tells us much more about the Left than it does about the tea partiers. It confirms that the Left really does see the world through the prism of race, gender, and class, rather than through the moral prism of right and wrong.

One of the more dangerous features of the Left has been its replacement of moral categories of right and wrong and good and evil with three other categories: black and white (race), male and female (gender), and rich and poor (class). Therefore the Left pays attention to the skin color — and gender (not just “whites” but “white males”) — of the tea partiers rather than to their ideas.

One would hope that all people would assess ideas by their moral rightness or wrongness, not by the race, gender, or class of those who hold them. But in the world of the Left, people are taught not to assess ideas but to identify the race, class, and gender of those who espouse those ideas. This helps explain the widespread use of ad hominem attacks by the Left: Rather than argue against their opponents’ ideas, the Left usually dismisses those making an argument with which it disagrees as “racist,” “intolerant,” “bigoted,” “sexist,” ”homophobic,” “xenophobic,” and/or “homophobic.” . . .

As a leftist rule of thumb — once again rendering intellectual debate unnecessary and impossible — white is wrong and bad and non-white is right and good; male is wrong and bad and female is right and good; and the rich are wrong and bad and the poor right and good. For the record, there is one additional division on the Left — strong and weak — to which the same rule applies: The strong are wrong and bad and the weak are right and good. That is a major reason for leftist support of the Palestinians against the Israelis, for example. . .

In this morally inverted world, the virtual absence of blacks and minorities from tea-party rallies cannot possibly reflect anything negative on the blacks and minorities’ absence, only on the white tea partiers’ presence.

And that’s the second troubling fact about the obsession over the color of the tea-party rallies. In a more rational and morally clearer world — where people judge ideas by their legitimacy rather than by the race of those who held them — people would be as likely to ask why blacks and ethnic minorities are virtually absent at tea parties as they would ask why whites predominate. They would want to know if this racial imbalance said anything about black and minority views, rather than assume that this imbalance necessarily reflected only on the whites attending those rallies.

If they were to ask such un-PC questions, they might draw rather different conclusions than the Left does. They would know that the near-absence of blacks and Hispanics no more implied racism on the part of tea partiers than the near-absence of blacks and Hispanics in the New York Philharmonic implies racism on the art of that orchestra.

They might even conclude — Heaven forbid — that it does not reflect well on the political outlook of blacks and Hispanics that they so overwhelmingly identify with ever-larger government. Leftist big-government policies have been disastrous for black America just as they were in the countries that most Hispanics emigrated from. But like the gambling addict who keeps gambling the more he loses, those addicted to government entitlements seem eager to increase the size of the government even as their situation worsens.

If the history of slavery ought to teach us anything, it is that human beings cannot be trusted with unbridled power over other human beings

Inhumanity, like humanity, is universal.

. . . The history of slavery across the centuries and in many countries around the world is a painful history to read — not only in terms of how slaves have been treated, but because of what that says about the whole human species — because slaves and enslavers alike have been of every race, religion, and nationality.

If the history of slavery ought to teach us anything, it is that human beings cannot be trusted with unbridled power over other human beings — no matter what color or creed any of them are. The history of ancient despotism and modern totalitarianism practically shouts that same message from the blood-stained pages of history.

But that is not the message that is being taught in our schools and colleges, or dramatized on television and in the movies. The message that is pounded home again and again is that white people enslaved black people. It is true, just as it is true that I don’t go sky-diving with blacks. But it is also false in its implications for the same reason. Just as Europeans enslaved Africans, North Africans enslaved Europeans — more Europeans than there were Africans enslaved in the United States or in the 13 colonies from which the nation was formed. The treatment of white galley slaves was even worse than the treatment of black slaves who picked cotton. But there are no movies or television dramas about it comparable to Roots, and our schools and colleges don’t pound it into the heads of students.

The inhumanity of human beings toward other human beings is not a new story, much less a local story. There is no need to hide it, because there are lessons we can learn from it. But there is also no need to distort it, so that sins of the whole human species around the world are presented as special defects of “our society” or the sins of a particular race.

If American society and Western civilization are different from other societies and civilizations, it is in that they eventually turned against slavery, and stamped it out, at a time when non-Western societies around the world were still maintaining slavery and resisting Western pressures to end slavery — including, in some cases, by armed resistance.

Only the fact that the West had more firepower put an end to slavery in many non-Western societies during the age of Western imperialism. Yet today there are Americans who have gone to Africa to apologize for slavery — on a continent where slavery has still not been completely ended, to this very moment.

It is not just the history of slavery that gets distorted beyond recognition by the selective filtering of facts. Those who mine history in order to find everything they can to undermine American society or Western civilization have very little interest in the Bataan death march, the atrocities of the Ottoman Empire, or similar atrocities in other times and places.

Those who mine history for sins are not searching for truth but for opportunities to denigrate their own society, or for grievances that can be cashed in today at the expense of people who were not even born when the sins of the past were committed.

An ancient adage says: “Sufficient for the day is the evil thereof.” But apparently it is not sufficient for many among our educators, the intelligentsia, or the media. They are busy poisoning the present by the way they present the past.

Friday, April 23, 2010

The solution to capitalism’s problems is more capitalism

Excerpts: Jonah Goldberg, Capitalism vs. Capitalists
Willi Schlamm- "‘The trouble with socialism is socialism. The trouble with capitalism is capitalists.’”
If by “capitalist” you mean someone who cares more about his own profit than yours; if you mean someone who cares more about providing for his family than providing for yours; if you mean someone who trusts that he is a better caretaker of his own interests and desires than a bureaucrat he’s never met, often in a city he’s never been to: then we are all capitalists. Because, by that standard, capitalism isn’t some far-off theory about the allocation of capital; it is a commonsense description of what motivates pretty much all human beings everywhere.

And that was one of the reasons why the hard socialism of the Soviet Union failed, and it is why the soft socialism of Western Europe is so anemic. At the end of the day, it is entirely natural for humans to work the system — any system — for their own betterment, whatever kind of system that may be. That’s why the black-market economy of the Soviet Union might have in fact been bigger than the official socialist economy. That is why devoted socialists worked the bureaucracy to get the best homes, get their kids into the best schools, and provide their families with the best food, clothes, and amenities they could. Just like people in capitalist countries.

The problem with socialism is socialism, because there are no socialists. Socialism is a system based upon an assumption about human nature that simply isn’t true.
I can design a perfect canine community in which dogs never chase squirrels or groom their nether regions in an indelicate manner. But the moment I take that idea from the drawing board to the real world, I will discover that I cannot get dogs to behave against their nature — at least not without inflicting a terrible amount of punishment. Likewise, it’s easy to design a society that rewards each according to his need instead of his ability. The hard part is getting the crooked timber of humanity to yield to your vision.

And it’s also why the problem with capitalism is capitalists. Some people will always abuse the system and take things too far. Some will do it out of the hubris of intellect. Some will do it out of the venality of greed.

I bring all of this up because many in Washington seem convinced that the solution to the problem with capitalists is always less capitalism. To be sure, a free-market society is in some sense a government program. The government must prosecute criminality, enforce contracts, and demand that the rules be observed. Few lovers of free markets are so laissez-faire as to want to strip the government of its role as referee. . .

Washington’s solution to Wall Street’s problems is to get Washington deeply, deeply involved in Wall Street. So involved that the savvier capitalists will recognize — once again — that the safest bets are not to be found in the vicissitudes of a fickle marketplace, but in gaming the system run from Washington. The “reform” coming down the pike will put bureaucrats in charge of investors. If bureaucrats were better than investors, they wouldn’t be bureaucrats. The government will decide which firms are worthy — “systemically important” — and which are not. Those that are will use their official “importance” to game the system. Instead of eradicating “too big to fail,” we will systematize it.

We are fond of saying that the answer to free-speech problems is more free speech. But we seem incapable of grasping that sometimes — and only sometimes — the solution to capitalism’s problems is more capitalism.

The patriotism of the protest

The liberals are playing a dangerous power game- saying they want to save the nation they love from a seditious right and the tea parties. The true agenda is to acquire unconstitutional power and control to forever take over and change America's constitutional, social, historical and cultural roots. In short, the liberal left want to hind behind and use the Constitution to destroy the Constitution. All patriots must stop this suicide pack and save our nation from itself. -Dean

Excerpts: Liberals and the Violence Card: Conservative protest is motivated by a love of what America stands for.

The latest liberal meme is to equate skepticism of the Obama administration with a tendency toward violence. That takes me back 15 years ago to the time President Bill Clinton accused "loud and angry voices" on the airwaves (i.e., radio talk-show hosts like me) of having incited Oklahoma City bomber Timothy McVeigh. What self-serving nonsense. Liberals are perfectly comfortable with antigovernment protest when they're not in power.

From the halls of the Ivy League to the halls of Congress, from the antiwar protests during the Vietnam War and the war in Iraq to the anticapitalist protests during International Monetary Fund and World Bank meetings, we're used to seeing leftist malcontents take to the streets. Sometimes they're violent, breaking shop windows with bricks and throwing rocks at police. Sometimes there are arrests. Not all leftists are violent, of course. But most are angry. It's in their DNA. They view the culture as corrupt and capitalism as unjust.

Now the liberals run the government and they're using their power to implement their radical agenda. Mr. Obama and his party believe that the election of November 2008 entitled them to make permanent, "transformational" changes to our society. In just 16 months they've added more than $2 trillion to the national debt, essentially nationalized the health-care system, the student-loan industry, and have their sights set on draconian cap-and-trade regulations on carbon emissions and amnesty for illegal aliens. . .

Like the millions of citizens who've peacefully risen up and attended thousands of rallies in protest, I seek nothing more than the preservation of the social contract that undergirds our society. I do not hate the government, as the left does when it is not running it. I love this country. And because I do, I insist that the temporary inhabitants of high political office comply with the Constitution, honor our God-given unalienable rights, and respect our hard-earned private property. For this I am called seditious, among other things, by some of the very people who've condemned this society?

I reject the notion that America is in a well-deserved decline, that she and her citizens are unexceptional. I do not believe America is the problem in the world. I believe America is the solution to the world's problems. I reject a foreign policy that treats our allies like our enemies and our enemies like our allies. I condemn the president traveling the world apologizing for America's great contributions to mankind. And I condemn his soft-peddling the dangers we face from terrorism. For this I am inciting violence? . .

Let me just say it. The Obama/Clinton/media left are comfortable with the unrest in our society today. It allows them to blame and demonize their opponents (doctors, insurance companies, Wall Street, talk radio, Fox News) in order to portray their regime as the great healer of all our ills, thus expanding their power and control over our society.

A clear majority of the American people want no part of this. They instinctively know that the Obama way is not how things get done in this country. They are motivated by love. Not hate, not sedition. They love their country and want to save it from those who do not.

Thursday, April 22, 2010

The left sermonizes civility to middle America's who "cling to their guns and God." Are you kidding me?

Excerpts: From Woodstock to Civility Commissions By George Neumayr

To see Alinskyites, radical intellectuals, and Woodstock yuppies lecturing fellow Americans on the virtue of civility is tiresome but unsurprising. No one is more authoritarian than a successful left-wing revolutionary: he rises to power by extolling dissent, then stays in power by suppressing it.

Were the Tea Partiers rabid left-wing professors instead of patriotic Americans, they would receive tenure and places of honor at high-brow luncheons. Were they veterans of UC Berkeley's Free Speech Movement, they would serve as nostalgic subjects for a Time retrospective. Were Tea Partiers "demonizing" the American government in the deepest sense -- teaching the young to view the Founding Fathers with patronizing contempt and the documents they wrote as reactionary relics to be replaced by a "living Constitution" -- they would have jobs in the Obama administration.

Barack Obama would have the public believe that placard-waving grandmothers sitting in lawn chairs pose a greater threat to the country than Bill Ayers. One would think a former Alinskyite like Obama who wrote a gushing blurb for a book by that domestic terrorist -- a book addressing the subject of educating the young, no less -- and sat placidly through the "God damn America" sermons of Jeremiah Wright might approach the topic of civility a little more gingerly. . .

Nothing is more perilous to public discourse than the "demonization" of government, Bill Clinton solemnly warns. But all he means by "government" is liberals in power, and all he means by "demonization" is resistance to the contempt that those liberals show for the constitutional authority underpinning just government. . .

Then as now, "civility" was nothing more than a euphemism for the docile acceptance of liberalism's advance and "incivility" was equated with effective resistance to it.

Once again blaming conservative talk radio for the Oklahoma City bombing, Bill Clinton says, "The words we use really do matter because there are, there's this vast echo chamber. And they go across space and they fall on the serious and the delirious alike." This is as fatuous as saying that 9/11 wouldn't have happened if America had spoken more nicely about the Taliban. Moreover, if "words" mattered as much as the self-appointed custodians of civility now claim, they wouldn't waste their time trying to purge Tea Partiers and talk show hosts from politics. They would spend it clearing out the Ward Churchills from their academic lounges and editorial luncheons.

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Expertise is very limited, the arrogance of omniscience is dangerous

One receives the Nobel Prize in economics for research in a specific area, Milton Friedman used to say, but prize winners then tend to believe that they’ve been implicitly granted the right to express their personal, nonscientific opinions about everything. Stiglitz’s Nobel Prize on market asymmetry was well deserved. His opinions on everything else are just opinions and deserve to be treated as such.-Guy Sorman, a City Journal contributing editor

Freedom is shake at a time

Excerpts: First they took the salt …by Bruce McQuain

Interesting how the Washington Post chooses to begin this article:

The Food and Drug Administration is planning an unprecedented effort to gradually reduce the salt consumed each day by Americans, saying that less sodium in everything from soup to nuts would prevent thousands of deaths from hypertension and heart disease. The initiative, to be launched this year, would eventually lead to the first legal limits on the amount of salt allowed in food products.

Anyone care to guess why the FDA hadn’t planned an “unprecedented effort” before?

Because until a month or so ago, we could all claim it was none of the government’s business couldn’t we? But now that they’ve invested themselves with the power to save healthcare in this country by cutting costs – and doing so with “preventive medicine” – where do you suppose this “unprecedented effort” is founded?

If you don’t believe me, read the article.

But for the past 30 years, health officials have grown increasingly alarmed as salt intake has increased with the explosion in processed foods and restaurant meals. Most adults consume about twice the government’s daily recommended limit, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Until now, the government has pushed the food industry to voluntarily reduce salt and tried to educate consumers about the dangers of excessive sodium. But in a study to be released Wednesday, an expert panel convened by the Institute of Medicine concludes that those measures have failed. The panel will recommend that the government take action, according to sources familiar with the findings.

Wow … for you that have been paying attention I sarcastically ask, “are you surprised?” Is this not the next logical step in taking over every aspect of your life.

You see, a panel of experts have determined that too much sodium is bad for you. They have tried to play this freedom game with you and have you voluntarily cut your consumption, but you didn’t. So to hell with the charade – since you don’t know what’s good for you and won’t do what is necessary to comply with the experts, they’ll just recommend you be forced to do so.

Are salt rationing cards far behind?

"Greed is good" because we are all greedy, and thus must serve another before we gain for ourselves.

Myths About Capitalism by John Stossel
I was glad to see the publication of "The 5 Big Lies About American Business" by Michael Medved
"You can only make a profit in this country by giving people a product or a service that they want," Medved recently told me. "It's the golden rule in action." . . .

"What's interesting," Medved commented, "is that in the old days, Hollywood would have businesspeople who were very positive: George Bailey, the Jimmy Stewart character, is a banker in 'It's a Wonderful Life.'" No longer. Today's movie capitalists are criminals or playboys. Apparently, Hollywood writers think it's plausible that CEOs have lots of time to sip cocktails and chase women.

"In school, we all studied a book called "The Theory of the Leisure Class," which ... indicted the leisure class and these people who were out there exploiting other people and really had nothing to do except sit on their yachts and go to their swimming pools and their vacations." In real life, that's nonsense. "The higher up on the income scale you go, the less leisure time you have. You make money in this country by working hard."

Medved's second myth is that when the rich get richer, the poor get poorer. This is the old zero-sum fallacy, which ignores that when two people engage in free exchange, both gain -- or they wouldn't have traded. It's what I call the double thank-you phenomenon. I understand why politicians and lawyers believe it: It's true in their world. But it's not true in business. "If you believe that when the rich get richer, the poor get poorer, then you believe that creating wealth causes poverty, and you're an idiot," said Medved.

Myth No. 3: Government is more fair and reliable than business. "Remember the last time you went into Starbucks, and then remember the last time you went into the DMV to get your license," Medved said. "Where did you get better treated? And it's not because the barista is some kind of idealist or humanitarian. She wants a tip. She wants you to come back to the Starbucks ... ."

Myth No. 4: The current downturn means the death of capitalism. "Capitalism is alive and well," Medved said. I'm also bugged when people argue that today's problems prove that capitalism "failed." What failed? We had a correction. A bubble popped. But from 1982 to now, the Dow rose from 800 to 11,000. Had it happened without the bubble, we'd say this is one of the great boom periods.

Medved added: "This is one of the biggest lies -- the idea that because of capitalism, we're all suffering. ... Poor people in America today, people who are officially in poverty, have a higher standard of living in terms of medical standards, in terms of the chances of going to college, in terms of the way people live, than middle-class people did 30 years ago. It's an extraordinary achievement of technology and of the profit sector."

"Is white the new black?"

Excerpts: New Tribe Rising? by Patrick Buchanan

For after a year of battering as "un-American," "evil-doers" and racists, and praise from talk-show hosts and Sarah Palin as "the real Americans," Tea Party America seems to be taking on a new and separate identity. Ethnonationalism -- the recognition of an embryonic people that they are different from their neighbors, and the concomitant drive to live apart -- is, as Arthur Schlesinger Jr. wrote 20 years ago, a more powerful force than any ideology, be it communism, fascism or democracy.

Ethnonationalism is the pre-eminent force of the age we have entered, the creator and destroyer of empires and nations. Even as Schlesinger was writing his "Disuniting of America," Yugoslavia and the Soviet Union were disintegrating into 22 new nations, along the lines of ethnicity. In Dagestan, Ingushetia, Chechnya, Ossetia and Abkhazia, the process proceeds apace. It has happened before -- and here. . .

In 1754, the 13 colonies consisted of South Carolinians, New Yorkers, Pennsylvanians and Virginians, all loyal subjects of the king. But after the contemptuous treatment of colonial soldiers in the French and Indian War, the Stamp Act, the Townshend duties, the Boston Massacre, the Tea Party, the Quartering Act and the Quebec Act, by 1775 a new people had been born: the Americans.

In 1770, New York colonists had erected a statue of George III in Bowling Green in grateful tribute for his repeal of the Townshend taxes. In July 1776, they pulled it down and melted it for lead bullets after Washington read his soldiers the Declaration of Independence portraying George III as another Ivan the Terrible. . .

Adversity and abuse increase the awareness of separate identity and accelerate the secession of peoples from each other.

Obama, in the campaign of 2008, recognized that "out there" in Middle America existed another country, far from the one he grew up in, far from the privileged Ivy League community to which he belonged. "You go into some of these small towns in Pennsylvania, and ... the jobs have been gone now for 25 years. ... So it's not surprising then that they get bitter, they cling to guns or religion or antipathy to people who aren't like them or anti-immigrant sentiment or anti-trade sentiment as a way to explain their frustrations." Palin and Tea Partiers now repeat Obama's disparaging line about their clinging to Bibles and guns -- with defiant pride. As others have done in our multicultural and multiethnic nation, this people is beginning to assert its identity, unapologetically.

Sioux gather at Little Bighorn to celebrate the massacre of Custer's command. Hawaiian natives demand a new ethnically based government -- and receive Obama's blessing. Hispanics march under Mexican flags in Los Angeles to demand citizenship for illegal aliens. Now Southerners are proudly commemorating ancestors who fought and fell in the Lost Cause and demanding recognition of Confederate History Month. And state governors are acceding. In 2004, when Howard Dean reached out to "guys with Confederate flags in their pickup trucks," Shelby Steele wrote that this was "absolutely verboten. Racial identity is simply forbidden to whites in America" because of their history and white guilt.

(However) The imputation of racism to Tea Partiers has not intimidated or cowed them.

When Obama named Sonia Sotomayor to the Supreme Court, there was no hesitation in blistering her for showing contempt for the rights of Frank Ricci and the white firefighters of New Haven, cheated of the promotions they had won in competitive exams. When black Harvard professor Henry Louis Gates was arrested by Cambridge cop James Crowley, most Americans, despite Obama and media suggestions of racial profiling, sided with Crowley.

Why are the Tea Partiers not intimidated the way Republicans often are? Why is the charge of racism not working?First, they do not feel the guilt of country-club Republicans.Second, they know it to be untrue. While Tea Partiers are anti-Obama, they are also anti-Pelosi, anti-Martha Coakley and anti-Charlie Christ.

The coming conflict is not so much racial as it is cultural, political and tribal. Black America seems united. White America is the house divided, for it is in the womb of white America that this new people is gestating and fighting to be born.

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Who is big government?

Illustration by Sean Delonas.

Who is big government? Part 2

This is true of any public sector union, especially the teachers union.

Illustration by Sean Delonas.

The social consciousness business sham and its anti-capitalism aganda

Excerpts: Are We a Self-Hating Commercial Society? by Jeffrey A. Tucker

I'm on a Sunday walk and a nice boy tries to sell me lemonade. A budding entrepreneur! Still, I decline. So he strengthens his pitch: "I'm donating the profits to stop child abuse." . . .

In one short day, it was about the tenth time that I'd been assaulted by social consciousness in the course of just going about my business. At the grocery store, I was assured that I would save the planet by purchasing this cereal and that bag of potato chips. If I bought this instead of that coffee, I would help poor peasants in some far-flung place achieve social justice. Some pennies from a sports drink were supposedly donated to cure muscular dystrophy. My coffee cup is so socially aware that it saves trees and thereby stabilizes the global temperature. If I use the following search engine, I help fund charities that are making the world a better place. . .

Can we all please cut the sham and go back to plain old buying and selling?

Very few of the claims of these enterprises really stand up to any serious scrutiny. Take the coffee-cup case as an example. If buying this cup saves trees, an even better way to save trees is not to buy coffee at all. And it's not clear that lowering the demand for paper is going to actually save trees at all, since a lower demand would eventually mean less reason to plant and renew the resource. And do we really need to save trees anyway? Does someone know the optimal number of trees that are supposed to be alive on the planet at any one time?

The case of socially just coffee is the one that really gets my goat. The coffee plantations that pay the highest wages and offer the most benefits to their workers are the largest, most established, and most well-connected plantations. The smaller, family-owned plantations can't afford all these things, but they are less likely to have access to the rating agencies and export companies. Why, precisely, are consumers supposed to favor the corporate big shots over the family farms, and do so in the name of enlightened social consciousness? The whole campaign for fair-trade coffee is one of the most bizarre and contradictory schemes that the dumb-dumb Left has ever dreamed up.

"There is no contradiction between doing good and doing well."

On the one hand, it is part of the genius of capitalism that it gives rise to a class of entrepreneurs that can use any fashionable culture shift to make a buck. Whether a cereal is called "Sugar Smacks" or "Earthen Honey Morsels" is neither here nor there to me, and if some marketing genius figures that the cereal company can make more money with one name over another, good for him and the company. Capitalism is so darn good at what it does that it can even bamboozle muddleheaded socialists to cough up money for its products; that's wonderful.

And yet, I'm pretty fed up with the duplicity of the whole scheme. Consider that kid who tried to sell me lemonade. It is an admirable thing to set up a lemonade stand. He used his energy and time. He has to keep the ice cold and provide cups and persuade people to buy. He has to choose a good corner of the subdivision to do this. He might have had to buy his own ingredients. Will he make a profit? Nothing is for sure in this world. Most likely he will not and he will have to be subsidized by mom and dad. But what if he does make a profit? Wouldn't that be wonderful? There would be nothing at all wrong with the world in which this kid, who gave up his Sunday to sell refreshment, could put $5 in a piggy bank as a result.

But no, we can't have that! Instead, he has learned from the social ethos that he must never, ever admit to making private gain. He has to manufacture some phony tale about how he will donate all proceeds to achieving some grand social vision of a world without child abuse. Isn't it enough that he gives a dozen people some Sunday refreshment and takes away a few bucks?

Let's review the oldest contribution of liberal thought: The market society uses private gain to achieve social good, via the mechanism of mutually beneficial exchange. I buy a jug of milk and the shopkeeper takes my money. We both say "thank you" to each other because we have both given each other a gift and we are both better off. The profits in the form of money, if there are any after expenses, are used to expand production so that there are ever more opportunities for trade. Multiply these little exchanges and investments by the world's population and you have an ever-more beautiful and fruitful garden of peace and prosperity.

In this scheme, what is the role of giving to charitable causes? This is provided for by the growth of capital and wealth. When there is enough left over after providing for basic survival needs, people turn their attention to widows, orphans, the sick, the symphonies, art galleries, saving salamanders, promoting religion, establishing quilt-weaving societies, and billions of other causes — all of which are evidence of rising prosperity.

The direction of causation here is important. First: markets. Second: investment and exchange. Third: prosperity. Fourth: a zillion social causes that fall into the category of charity, social justice, and the like. Why is it that we are so fearful of telling the truth about this step-by-step plan for building civilization? Why are we so anxious to blur the distinctions between the stages?

What's more, if I want to give to charity, I'm perfectly capable of doing this on my own and according to my own values. I do not need business enterprises to intervene to help me along and show me the path to true enlightenment. When someone comes along to dictate to me what my values should be, I tend to push back. . .

How to account for all this giving mania? Maybe it is all just a racket. Call it the "cause racket." There are more bucks to be made by spreading guilt and pity than by offering goods and services. Therefore, everyone gets in on the act.

That's one theory, but it only goes so far. My own theory is that the anti-capitalistic mentality has taken a serious toll. It hasn't yet destroyed commercial society, but it has caused commercial society to no longer be proud of the magic and glory embedded within its structures and logic. Why is this? Because we no longer understand how it is that markets convert private interest to public good. The simplest lesson of economics, proven again and again and again for 500 years, is lost on people today.

Thursday, April 15, 2010

If it moves, they will tax it

From Practical Economics

According to First Data Corporation and there are some unusual sales tax
laws on the books in the U.S. that might not meet the equity, simplicity, and efficiency needs of an
effective tax system.

o West Virginia taxes sparklers and other novelties, in addition to the state’s regular 6
percent sales tax.

o Kentucky’s thoroughbred stud fees are subject to sales tax.

o Cloth diapers are exempt from sales tax in Wisconsin; however, disposable diapers
are taxable.

o In California, fresh fruit is tax-exempt unless it is purchased from a vending
machine where it is taxed on 33 percent of the price.

o In Texas, holiday tree decoration services are taxable, but only if the decorator
provides the ornaments. Holiday pictures painted on windows, phone calls from
holiday characters and greeting cards featuring Santa Claus or the Easter Bunny are
also taxable.

o Dead people in Ohio get a tax break because applying makeup in a mortuary is taxfree,
while applying makeup in a beauty salon is taxable.

o South Dakota taxes air ambulance services but not ground ambulance services.

o Pennsylvania taxes air used in coin-operated vacuum vending machines, commonly
found at car washes.

Tax Day: How much of our blood, sweat, and tears do they want?

From Practical Economics

In 2007, according to the Tax Foundation, the total of income being paid out by Americans
in all areas of taxation was 32.7%. That means approximately 33 cents out of every dollar you earn
goes to a government source. The following is a list of some other revenue generating sources
people do not always think of as being taxes.

· Capital gains tax: tax on profit from investing your capital.
· Automobile/boat registration fees: property tax on vehicles.
· Real estate fees: tax on property transactions/sale of a home.
· License fees: tax on a privilege-taxi cab driver or a beautician.
· Document fees: tax on contracts.
· Tolls: user tax on bridges/roads.
· Parking fees: tax to use public property.
· Gas tax: tax on drivers.
· Cigarettes tax: sin tax on an inelastic addictive good.
· Alcohol tax: sin tax on beer, wine, spirits.
· User fees: recreation tax-parks, boat ramps.
· Impact fees: tax on property to develop land.
· Tourist/bed taxes: tax on hotel guests or airport passengers.
· Utilities taxes: tax on power and water use.
· State lottery: tax on gamblers pathology.
· Inflation: the money you own loses value over time.

Two outcomes are a result of the government collection of vast sums of taxpayer dollars.
Number one, legislators can become consumed with the power gained by spending other peoples
money and thus be hungry for more. Two, the pool of this money has to go somewhere and this
creates huge incentives for people to act in ways outside of market forces to get a piece of the
government pie. The greed found in both of these cases is greed for power which is dangerous to

Frederic Bastiat, the French classical liberal economic theorist, had some insightful
thoughts in regard to the relationship between the taxpayer and the tax collector. “Everyone wants
to live at the expense of the state. They forget that the state wants to live at the expense of

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Why Lady Liberty is Blindfolded

Excerpts: Jonah Goldberg, Empathy and the Supreme Court

I’d like to get to the heart of the matter. Obama and the vast majority of Senate Democrats believe that Lady Justice should peek from under the blindfold every now and then. . .

Obama said in 2007, “We need somebody who’s got the heart — the empathy — to recognize what it’s like to be a young, teenage mom. The empathy to understand what it’s like to be poor or African American or gay or disabled or old — and that’s the criteria by which I’ll be selecting my judges.”

According to Obama — a former law instructor — in 95 percent of the cases, precedent and the law are clear enough for judges to go with the rules, but in the last 5 percent, judges have got to have a heart that bleeds for certain kinds of people.

Last week, the president offered a more populist spin, saying he wants a nominee who “knows that in a democracy, powerful interests must not be allowed to drown out the voices of ordinary citizens.” The Associated Press calls this a “fight-for-the-little-guy sensibility.” . .

Of course impartial justice is an abstraction, but it isn’t so much a myth as an ideal. Since we are all designed from the crooked timber of humanity, we can only approximate perfect justice.

What I don’t understand is why we should abandon an ideal simply because it is unattainable. If I can’t be a perfect husband, should I get a divorce? If an umpire can’t call each game flawlessly, should he stop trying? Maybe for 95 percent of pitches the ump should call ’em straight, but for the other 5 percent he should give the black or gay batters the benefit of the doubt?

In a country this vast, diverse, and dynamic, any judicial conception of the little guy is bound to confuse more than it clarifies. . .

Meanwhile, Clarence Thomas was born dirt poor and black in rural Georgia and spends his vacations exploring America in an RV. But those same liberals insist he doesn’t understand poverty and race the way Stevens does. How do they know? Because they don’t like his rulings. . .

Unless the plight of every gay, black, poor, old, or disabled American is the same, then coming into court favoring a specific category of human being is nothing more than state-sanctioned prejudice.

The benefit of the ideal of impartial justice is that it provides a standard by which judges aren’t asked to rule by prejudice. We’ll never fully get there, but I don’t think we should stop trying.

Facts that prove the left has no interest in creating jobs

Excerpts, Editors, Wall Street Journal, Crony Contracts Want federal business? Better be a union shop.

There's almost a direct correlation these days between the Obama Administration's complaints about "special interests" and its own fealty to such interests. Consider its latest decree that federal contractors must be union shops.

The federal rule, which went live yesterday, implements an executive order President Obama signed within weeks of taking office. It encourages federal agencies to require "project labor agreements" for all construction projects larger than $25 million. This means that only contractors that agree to union representation are eligible for work financed by the U.S. taxpayer.

Only 15% of the nation's construction workers are unionized, so from now on the other 85% will have to forgo federal work for having exercised their right to not join a union. This is a raw display of political favoritism, and at the expense of an industry experiencing 27% unemployment

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Democrats are slowly converting unemployment insurance into a welfare program.

Excerpts: Incentives Not to Work , Editors of The Wall Street Journal
"The second way government assistance programs contribute to long-term unemployment is by providing an incentive, and the means, not to work. Each unemployed person has a 'reservation wage'—the minimum wage he or she insists on getting before accepting a job. Unemployment insurance and other social assistance programs increase [the] reservation wage, causing an unemployed person to remain unemployed longer."

Any guess who wrote that? Milton Friedman, perhaps. Simon Legree? Sorry.

Full credit goes to Lawrence H. Summers, the current White House economic adviser, who wrote those sensible words in his chapter on "Unemployment" in the Concise Encyclopedia of Economics, first published in 1999.

Mr. Summers should give a tutorial to the U.S. Senate, which is debating whether to extend unemployment benefits for the fourth time since the recession began in early 2008. The bill pushed by Democrats would extend jobless payments to 99 weeks, or nearly two full years, at a cost of between $7 billion and $10 billion. As Mr. Summers suggests, rarely has there been a clearer case of false policy compassion.

Or perhaps the Senate should listen to another Obama Administration economist, Alan Krueger of the Treasury Department, who concluded in a 2008 study that "job search increases sharply in the weeks prior to benefit exhaustion." In other words, many unemployed workers don't start seriously looking for a job until they are about to lose their benefits. . .

But do these Senators really think it's compassionate to give people an additional incentive to stay out of the job market, losing crucial skills and contacts? And how politically smart is it for Democrats to embrace policies that keep the jobless rate higher than it would otherwise be? . . .

No one should be surprised that when you subsidize people for not working, more people will choose not to work.

Indoctrination in the schools

Excerpts: Lyin' for Climate Indoctrination By Paul Chesser

Last fall I alerted Spectator readers to the start-up nonprofit Alliance for Climate Education, which spreads the global warming alarmism gospel to students one school assembly at a time.

It turns out that the slick ACE lecturers are more than just preachers; they are recruiters too. After they dazzle teens with hip talk, animation and jokes, they work to sign them up for their anti-consumption (Americans are to blame) cause, often collecting cell phone numbers and email addresses without parents' knowledge.

Earlier this month ACE visited Northampton (Mass.) High School, where a teacher persuaded colleagues to let students skip final period classes in order to attend their assembly. One student reported on the presentation by ACE's Julian Rodriguez-Drix:

He dealt with issues of climate change in a positive and non-judgmental way by raising students' awareness of the problem at hand and the methods by which they are actively polluting and contributing to global warming. The presentation explained how climate change has been caused and continued by social influence and our culture of consumption. Students learned how their seemingly minimal consumption is connected to huge companies, large usage of fossil fuels, and incredible amounts of waste. Julian clearly summarized his message in his statement, "We're all wrapped up in [an] economic cycle that just leads to garbage." He also discussed "super-sized" American living, excessive use of non-renewable resources, and the results of pollution in an urgent, but humorous, manner.

It all makes for one entertaining guilt trip -- for students to lay on others. The Left is so clever in not offending their recruits: "It's not your ‘minimal consumption' that's causing the problem -- it's those large corporations and fat Americans that are the problem!" And then they continue living their own privileged lives. . .

Then came the recruitment at Northampton High:

Afterward, Julian roused the audience and urged them to take a stand. He ended the assembly by encouraging students to text ACE to make their own commitment to change, creating both an energetic frenzy to pull out cell phones and an overwhelming explosion of chatter in response to his presentation.

Both high schoolers and sixth graders exited the auditorium full of hope and anticipation to act against climate change. Many high school students attended the question and answer session with Julian Rodriguez-Drix and the Environmental Club, while others provided their email addresses to be contacted with additional information about ACE.

Once in the fold, students are then trained as leaders for ACE. The science they espouse is drawn from the discredited Fourth Assessment Report of the Intergovernmental Panel on Global Climate Change (IPCC). Works on behalf of ACE include signature collection for their "Declaration of Independence from Fossil Fuels, learning how to "transform your school;" and "starting an action team."

How'd you like this guerrilla army of eco-Nazis patrolling your schools, your neighborhood, or even your home? A few parents have contacted me after their children were subjected to this indoctrination effort by ACE, including a father in Connecticut who summarized it well:

So, what's wrong with this? At one level, it is frustrating to see instruction time spent this way. With constrained budgets, available instruction time could be better spent. Our school's curriculum barely made time in the first eight years of instruction to educate our children on the history of the United States and its unique form of government, grounded in the principle of limiting centralized power.

At another level, one wonders what the policy is to allow outside groups to come to the school and actively enjoin students to take political action. Can I invite the NRA to a mandatory assembly urging political action in support of the Second Amendment? That would at least have the advantage of actually being in support of our rights as U.S. citizens as enumerated in the Constitution.

The chosen venue of a mandatory school assembly grants it an imprimatur, the legitimacy of authority, under the banner of education. This is at best a thin veneer of "science" over top of a thick wedge of political advocacy, presented as one-sided propaganda. This isn't education so much as it's a political pep rally.

In less than two years, ACE has aggressively built a nationwide organization to capture the next generation to promote global warming alarmism. . . The organization now has nine teams in major cities across the country, covering every region.

Monday, April 12, 2010

Poverty solutions, part 2

Excerpt: Heather Mac Donald, Bribery Strikes Out
It isn’t lack of opportunity that keeps poor people poor.

The best solution for poverty reduction is the one that is the least likely to pass the lips of liberal policy makers: marriage. As was already abundantly clear before the CCTs, single-parent households are the primary source of long-term poverty in New York City and the country. Looked at from a purely economic standpoint (the least relevant one), a married father provides his children with additional material support and manpower backup when all hell breaks out in a household, as it periodically will. A father also serves as a more credible authority figure than a mother, on average, something that boys particularly need. The recent outbreaks of anarchy in Philadelphia and New York by bands of inner-city youth suggests that the systematic disappearance of fathers from their children’s lives is taking an ever-greater toll on social order.

Poverty solution, part 1

Excerpts: Heather Mac Donald, Bribery Strikes Out
It isn’t lack of opportunity that keeps poor people poor.

A welfare mother in Central Harlem is not poor for the same reasons that a subsistence corn farmer in Mexico is poor. That’s just one of the many self-evident conclusions to emerge from a dangerously misguided antipoverty program begun by New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg in 2007. Bloomberg’s initiative, Opportunity NYC–Family Rewards, bestows cash rewards on (for the most part) single parents and their children if they act responsibly—by attending school, for example, or by working. . .

Bloomberg . . . pretended that New York’s underclass faced similar tragic choices. The poor failed to “plan for the future” because they were “so focused on surviving,” They were engaged in a “struggle” for the very basics of existence, he said. Opportunity NYC–Family Rewards would alleviate the immediate pressure for survival that allegedly prevented the inner-city poor from investing in their future by paying them for self-improving behavior, thus offsetting the purported opportunity cost of future-oriented actions.

Of course, it’s ludicrous to suppose that what keeps America’s inner-city residents poor across generations is a struggle for subsistence in an economy of limited opportunities. The main drivers of poverty in America are family breakdown (in 2004, single-parent households nationally were six times as likely to be poor as married families) and nonwork (only 5 percent of all families with one full-time worker were poor in New York City from 2005 to 2007, compared with 47 percent of families with no workers). The antisocial behaviors that contribute to multigenerational poverty also have nothing to do with suffocating economic pressures: very few inner-city students cut classes or drop out of school to help their parents work; they do so because their peer culture is toxic and because their parents exercise little control over their lives. . .

But the program’s proposed cure is potentially worse than the disease: paying families for activities that are part of the normal repertoire of what it means to be a responsible parent or student. (These payments are known as conditional cash transfers, or CCTs.) Randomly selected low-income parents of elementary- and middle-school students in Brooklyn, the Bronx, and Manhattan are paid $25 each month that their child has a 95 percent school attendance record; high school students with a low-income parent in the program receive $50 a month for a similar attendance rate. Elementary- and middle-school students who make progress on annual academic tests net their parents $300 and $350, respectively. High school students get $600 each year that they accumulate 11 course credits (the bare minimum to stay on track to graduate) and another $600 for each New York State Regents exam that they pass. Parents are paid $25 for attending a parent-teacher conference or discussing their child’s test results with a teacher; they receive $50 for getting their child a library card. Taking advantage of taxpayer-subsidized Medicaid services, such as free medical checkups, brings a $200 annual windfall; simply maintaining free Medicaid insurance earns the recipient $20 a month. Working full-time earns an additional $150 a month beyond the existing salary. Seeking education and training while working at least ten hours a week could net a parent $3,000 over three years.

The hubris behind this menu of bribes is breathtaking. Working on the premise that American society didn’t sufficiently reward self-discipline, effort, and achievement, the Family Rewards architects decided that they needed to correct the inadequate signals that the economy and the culture sent to the poor. . .

The problem is that the poor don’t respond to incentives that are already abundantly present. Nevertheless, convinced of their own superior capacities to engineer sound social signals, the program’s planners arbitrarily made up a schedule of payments that would induce a welfare mother, for example, to make sure that her child went to school every day. Is monthly school attendance worth $25 or $100? Is a single Regents exam worth $600 or $1,200? Ordinarily, markets set prices for true economic exchanges. These were pseudo-economic transactions, however—a fake superstructure imposed on top of noneconomic moral obligations and behaviors that ordinarily bring their own intrinsic reward. Pricing such obligations required a bunch of elite professionals to try to imagine how many shiny baubles they needed to dangle in front of the poor to get them to rouse themselves, a creepy Skinnerian activity demeaning to both the social technicians and their subjects. . .

Society would become divided between a caste that acted responsibly because it understood that it was the right thing to do and another caste that got paid by the responsible caste to follow social norms. . .

the Bloomberg experiment had almost no effect on its participants’ behavior. . .

Two possible policy conclusions follow from the hypothesis that social and cognitive disorganization prevented participants from exploiting the reward structure. The first is: Do nothing. If paying a mother to take her nine-year-old to school every day induces no behavior change in her, it may be time to give up the notion that government programs can erase social and economic stratification. There is a substratum at the bottom of society that will never be raised up by outside intervention. “The premise of conditional cash transfers is that the stresses of poverty cause people to make choices that are not in their long-term interest,” MDRC president Gordon Berlin said at the press conference announcing the interim results. He may have it backward. It is the inability of some people to make choices in their long-term interest that causes poverty, as sociologist Edward Banfield argued four decades ago in The Unheavenly City. The poor have short time horizons, Banfield wrote, the rich, very long ones. No external force can change those psychological dispositions.

One of the few social scientists to have anticipated the results of Opportunity NYC–Family Rewards offers an alternative policy implication. New York University politics professor Larry Mead predicted that the program would have little effect on participants’ behavior. “If the poor were as responsive to [financial] incentives as the policy assumes, they wouldn’t be poor for very long in the first place,” Mead wrote in an e-mail in 2007. If the program had worked, Mead now says, it would have confirmed the notion that the poor are just like us: they respond rationally to opportunity. Instead, the results buttress the message of welfare reform: the poor need strong paternalism and clear moral guidance. Welfare mothers started working not because it was for the first time in their economic interest to do so, but because welfare bureaucrats made it clear that they were expected to work, according to Mead.

Family Rewards has cost $33.8 million so far.

The Constitution and trials for terrorists

Excerpts: America’s War On Islamist Terror . . . Or Is It?
By Andrew C. McCarthy

When the life of the state is imperiled, that is, the Constitution does not become suspended; it adapts. In times of armed conflict, it imposes the laws and customs of war, which—under those circumstances—are as consistent with the rule of law as judicial processes are in peacetime.

On this point, it is worth pausing to recall why we have a Constitution.

After achieving independence, our country proved unsuccessful in governing itself under the Articles of Confederation. Paramount among the reasons for this was the attempt under the Articles to provide national security by committee— something that proved utterly ineffective in dealing with threats from England, Spain, and the Barbary Pirates. The Constitution remedied this potentially fatal weakness by placing all executive power, including the power of commander-in-chief, in a single elected official—the president—who could act with great energy and dispatch. The Framers of the Constitution understood that the rights we cherish would be little more than parchment promises unless we could defend ourselves and defeat our enemies. Moreover, they understood that—given human nature—we would always have enemies.

Unlike opponents of the war against Islamist terror today, they did not believe that we would be able to define our enemies out of existence by not uttering their names—or rationalize them out of existence by insisting that their hostility
is somehow our own fault. Nor did the Framers believe that we would be able to indict our enemies into submission in our civilian courts. They believed that we would have to defeat them, which means being able to enforce the protocols necessary to wage war successfully.

These protocols are the laws of war, and they are older than the U.S. itself. They include requiring combatants to wear uniforms, to carry their weapons openly, to be part of a regular armed force, and, most importantly, to refrain from intentionally targeting civilians. They also define wartime powers and privileges. Enemy combatants, for example, may be captured and detained until the conclusion of hostilities. Fighters who adhere to the laws of war are entitled to various protections upon capture. By contrast, fighters who flout the laws of war—such as non-uniformed terrorists who target civilians—are unlawful combatants and may be prosecuted by a military commission for war crimes.

This is not a judicial system, and it is not intended to be. But it is every bit a legal system. And throughout our history— at least until recently—this has been well understood. Since 9/11, however, anti-war lawyers have challenged the idea of a separate legal status for unlawful combatants. Here they are up against not only common sense but history.

“Reprinted by permission from Imprimis, a publication of Hillsdale College.”

Friday, April 9, 2010

How capitlaism works

How to make a fortune:
1. higher quality
2. lower cost
3. high volume

A must see. Link

or click on the map

Thursday, April 8, 2010

Who pays the taxes.

Source: Carpe diem Blog

Where is the compassion for those who showed personal responsibility

Excerpts: Victor Davis Hanson , The Ongoing Melodrama of Victims and Oppressors

No government can always make right the freely incurred bad choices of its citizens. President Obama, in the tradition of progressive Democratic leaders, believes governments should ask their countries’ more economically fortunate citizens to be responsible for helping the less well-off.
But the president seems to fail to acknowledge that there are plenty of actions an individual can take to avoid becoming part of that growing crowd of “less fortunate.” Instead, in Obama’s world, there exists a simple zero-sum melodrama of victims and oppressors.

If recent poll numbers are correct, many Americans find that life in the real world is a lot more complicated than the near-constant us-vs.-them rhetoric about bad-guy insurers, surgery-hungry doctors, reckless financiers, greedy bankers, heartless corporations, and tight-fisted employers who con and hurt the blameless good guys now in need of President Obama’s all-knowing, benevolent government help. . .

(w)e are all still furious at the speculators on Wall Street for the September 2008 meltdown. But not all Americans took out subprime mortgages for homes at inflated prices. So why must some continue to pay their underwater mortgages to keep their homes, while others, as victims, may not have to?

Everyone should pay some income tax. So why does the administration talk about raising rates sharply and adding even more taxes on the 5 percent who already pay 60 percent of all federal income-tax revenue?

Health care also is also poorly defined by Obama’s simplistic view of a noble public victimized by a few greedy insurers. Some Americans budget $100 to $200 each month for high-deductible, private catastrophic health plans. That means they pass on some consumer purchases to ensure they won’t get stuck without coverage for an unexpected operation or accident. In other words, people make choices about how they allot their resources; they are not always just victims who are cruelly denied, or cannot afford, some sort of basic health insurance.

One reason so many Americans were against federalizing their health care is that those who do avoid some medical risks — alcohol and drug use, poor diet, obesity, or lack of exercise — are, in some cases, asked to pay for the health problems of those who don’t.

Obama may now take on immigration reform in the same bipolar fashion. He decries the present policy toward illegal immigration and cites heartbreaking stories about workers forced to toil in the shadows by profit-hungry employers and an indifferent public. But again, we hear no mention by Obama of the role of human choice and individual responsibility.

When one breaks the law by entering the United States without proper authority and then continues to live as an illegal alien, choices are made that have many unfortunate consequences, both for oneself and for society at large. A failure to learn English or a decision to send back thousands of hard-earned dollars to Mexico or Latin America can only compound the dilemma of living without legal certification.

In all these cases, Obama commendably wants to help the less fortunate. But he seems to care far less for those who act responsibly — except to demonize them if they question whether it is fair or wise to subsidize those who at times don’t.

Wednesday, April 7, 2010

The tax worksheet was only one page in the "good old days."

From Carpe Diem Blog

Tax day realities

From Practical Economics

A look at historical trends offers some answers to the question of how much taxation is
sufficient for government to accomplish its necessary functions efficiently. Research has shown
that for America’s first 130 years, federal spending as a percentage of GDP averaged around 2.5%.
Since 1915, or for the next 75 years, spending consistently rose as a percentage of GDP and
averaged around 16.6%. Current spending is approximately 19% of GDP. The historical shift
above traditional norms in government spending and the associated increase in involvement in the
economy came during the Depression under Franklin D. Roosevelt’s administration prior to the
outbreak of WWII. This time frame forever changed the political landscape and philosophical basis
for expanding government’s involvement in the economy that continues to this day.

Year Government spending as a percentage of GDP

1787-1849 1.7%* (63 year period)
1850-1900 3.1%* (51 year period)
1901 2.5%
1905 2.1%
1910 2.2%
1915 2.0%
1920 7.3%
1925 3.3%
1930 3.4%
1932 6.9%
1933 8.0%
1934 10.7%
1935 9.2%
1939 10.3%
1941 12.0%
1944 43.6%
1945 41.5%
1947 14.8%
1948 11.6%
1950 15.6%
1955 17.3%
1960 17.8%
1965 17.2%
1967 19.6%
1970 19.3%
1975 21.3%
1980 21.7%
1985 22.9%
1990 21.8%
1995 20.7%
2000 18.4%
2003 19.9%
2008 21.0%
2009 28-31% estimated
2050 38% estimated
2075 40% estimated

* Total combined federal spending as a % of total combined GDP
Historical Tables. “Budget of the United States Government.” fiscal year 2006.
Johnson, Louis D. “Source note for US GDP, 1790-Present.” Economic History Services (1997)
Congressional Budget Office, Long range fiscal policy brief, July 3, 2002

Tuesday, April 6, 2010

The evil of inflation

Excerpts: Should the Quantity of Money Be Increased? by Ludwig von Mises and Bettina Bien Greaves

Many famous professors of economics think that the supply of money is insufficient. It's unbelievable but we have now already for a long time, for many years, textbooks that say, in every new edition, that the quantity of money must increase by 2%, or 5%, or 7%. They change it from year to year — this is without any importance, what quantity they recommend is not so important — what is important is that they say that such an increase is good from the point of view of their policies.

Wonderful! The government, the banks, can distribute more money, but they cannot distribute more goods. And this is the problem. As this additional money will raise the prices of goods, those who do not get any of this additional money are hurt. And this is what people don't realize, what they don't see. If this money is increased every year it means only that other groups can say, "Why did we not get more?" And then the government gives them a quantity too and then again to others also. And this is the situation we have today. The question will always be: To whom do you give this additional quantity? Because if the additional quantity is given to somebody else, your conditions will be impaired. . .

However, these inflationary methods are very popular. They are popular because they are very comfortable for the government. They are also very comfortable from the point of view of the individual member of a parliamentary body. The member of Parliament is not made responsible for higher taxes, but he accepts with pleasure the responsibility for higher expenditures. . .

An increase in the quantity of many things is very good — yes, an increase in the supply of those things that are useful. But an increase in the supply of, let us say, rats and mice, would not be very useful. Fortunately, this is not a problem men have to decide about because the interests of all people agree in this regard. But their interests do not agree with regard to money.

What misleads the thinking of many people, and unfortunately also the thinking of those people who are operating our governmental and political activities, is the idea that the quantity of money counts. It is certainly better for the individual to have more money than less. But it is not better for the whole economic system to have more money than less. Money is a medium of exchange. And that means, first of all, that its quantity is without any importance for the perfection of its functions. If you increase the total quantity of money, the total quantity of the medium of exchange, you do not improve conditions generally; you only change exchange ratios between the individuals' evaluations of goods and services and of the thing used as money. . .

If there are more shoes produced, these shoes are something that is offered on the market in exchange for other goods. Ultimately goods are not exchanged against money — money is only a medium of exchange — goods are exchanged against other commodities. And if you increase the quantity of money you do not improve anybody's situation except the definite man to whom you give it; this man can then buy more, can then withdraw more things from the market. . .

Let us say the government says that the government employees have very small salaries; they should get higher salaries. As the government itself does not produce anything, the only successful method for the government to follow is to tax the people and use the revenue collected by taxes for increasing the salaries of certain government employees. There is no possibility for the government to improve the conditions of government employees in any other way than by taking money away from the rest of the population and, therefore, impairing their conditions.

"It is certainly better for the individual to have more money than less. But it is not better for the whole economic system to have more money than less." . .

Let us take potatoes as the example. There are not more potatoes on the market, but there is more money in the hands of the people who want to eat potatoes. While yesterday it was enough for a man to spend one dollar to buy potatoes for his need, today he needs more. He needs today, let us say, two dollars, only because there is more money, not because anything else has changed. If he were only to offer one dollar, then the man who got the additional money from the government would say, "Ho, ho! I will pay $1.10 and I will get the potatoes and you can go home empty-handed." And this is the thing we all are experiencing today — price increases due to inflation.

The government increases the quantity of money. All the evils under which we are suffering in our market conditions everyday are due to the fact that governments believe that it is permissible and natural to produce money to increase the power of the government to spend. In order to spend more, the governments have to do practically nothing but give an order to a printing office: "Print a quantity of money and give it to us." If private citizens do this, the government doesn't like it. . .

What prevents the individual citizen from printing dollar bills, banknotes, is a series of laws that make this a crime, and the government is powerful enough to prevent it by arresting the people and imprisoning them, and so on. But if the government itself prints additional dollars, then it is legal and it increases the quantity of money. And this is the monetary problem. Apart from the fact that this brings about a very bad situation for those people who were not receivers of the new additional money, because they have not received more money, they now face higher prices.

Monday, April 5, 2010