Friday, September 30, 2016

What Trump Should Have Said About 'Birther' and Tax Returns - Larry Elder

What Trump Should Have Said About 'Birther' and Tax Returns - Larry Elder

Monday night's debate moderator, NBC's Lester Holt, asked Donald Trump why he "perpetuated a false claim that the nation's first black president was not a natural­born citizen." Hillary Clinton added that Trump "has a long record of engaging in racist behavior, and the birther lie was a very hurtful one."

Trump defended himself by saying: "Sidney Blumenthal works for the campaign and (is a) close ­­ very close ­­ friend of Sec. Clinton. And her campaign manager, Patti Doyle ... during ... her campaign against President Obama, fought very hard. ... And if you look at CNN this past week, Patti Solis Doyle was on Wolf Blitzer saying that this happened. Blumenthal sent McClatchy, (a) highly respected reporter at McClatchy, to Kenya to find out about it. They were pressing it very hard. She failed to get the birth certificate. When I got involved, I didn't fail. I got him to give the birth certificate. ...

"I was the one that got (President Barack Obama) to produce the birth certificate. ... Sec. Clinton also fought it. I mean, you know ­­ now, everybody in mainstream is going to say, 'Oh, that's not true.' Look, it's true. You just have to take a look at CNN, the last week, the interview with your former campaign manager. And she was involved." So Trump's defense is that he and Blumenthal were on an amazing race to see who could get Obama to disclose his birth certificate?

No, no, no. Trump should have said that James Asher, former McClatchy Washington Bureau Chief, tweeted ­­ just two weeks ago ­­ that Blumenthal "told me in person 'Obama (was) born in Kenya,'" and that Blumenthal "spread the Obama birther rumor to me in 2008, asking us to investigate."

He should have also said that journalist John Heilemann, co­author of "Game Change: Obama and the Clintons, McCain and Palin, and the Race of a Lifetime," is not exactly a right­winger. Heilemann, in 2015 on MSNBC's "Morning Joe" show, said that it was Hillary Clinton's 2008 election team that started questioning Obama's birth certificate.

Trump should have pushed back on the "racist" tag. When, where and how does questioning Obama's place of birth become "racist"? Questions were raised about whether then­presidential candidate Sen. John McCain was eligible because he was born in the Panama Canal Zone. Questions were raised about whether Barry Goldwater was eligible because he was born in Arizona when it was a territory, three years before it became a state. Were such questions "racist"?

What about Democrats' skepticism about Obama? According to a 2014 online survey conducted by YouGov as part of the 2014 Cooperative Congressional Election Study, and published in a Washington Post blog, a majority of Democrats do not believe Obama is a Christian. Forty­five percent believe so, but 26 percent say they "don't know," 17 percent say he is "spiritual," 10 percent believe he is Muslim, and 2 percent think he is an atheist ­­ as does Obama defender Bill Maher. Are they religious "birthers"? Are they "racist"?

Holt also asked Trump about his tax returns. Clinton suggested he did not pay any taxes. Trump said, "That makes me smart," effectively conceding that he pays no taxes. No, that's dumb.

Trump could have said that one of Obama's BFFs and somebody whose support Clinton sought in the primaries, the Rev. Al Sharpton, owes nearly $5 million in taxes. Sharpton, Trump could have reminded us, hosts a show for NBC where he supports the tax­and­spend policies of the Democratic Party, while not paying the taxes he wants increased on the rich. Why are the media, Trump could have asked, indifferent? Double standard.

Trump could have argued that he's not required by law to disclose his taxes. But Clinton was required by law to release all work ­related email. She didn't. And the FBI gave her a pass. But an IRS audit is essentially a dispute with the IRS over a tax issue. And the taxpayer loses any leverage if the details become public before a resolution is reached, because the IRS will refuse to compromise for fear that people will think they are caving in. So Trump loses leverage by prematurely going public. Why, he could have asked, would any rational person do that? On the other hand, nothing's stopping Sec. Clinton from releasing the transcripts of her Wall Street speeches.

Trump could have asked Clinton why she's not disclosed her transcripts from her numerous highpaid Wall Street speeches. He could have asked why, when Obama refused to disclose his grades and test scores, the media lost interest. Double standard.

And these are just two issues ­­ birtherism and taxes ­­ where Trump let Clinton get off the hook. He let her put on gloves and a ski mask and wipe out the bank's vault.

There are two more debates. Trump needs to raise his game or he's fired.

My Delightful Hotel Stay in a Giant Vending Machine | Foundation for Economic Education

My Delightful Hotel Stay in a Giant Vending Machine | Foundation for Economic Education

...I had to get a hotel. My amazing online reservation website came up with a reservation in the city for a thing called Yotel. It seemed implausible. The hotel was being given a 4-star rating. The reviewers were raving about it. And the price was only $150, which is amazing for New York, and right there on Times Square.

Seemed like I had to try it.

My Lyft driver dropped me off – thank you again app economy! – at a space-age looking white building with purple spotlights shining on it. The sign said Yotel, and I looked forward to talking to the receptionist about the history and meaning of this strange place.

But instead of people, what I found was a completely empty lobby. On a side wall were a group of kiosks. I walked up to one, put in my credit card, and the machine recognized my reservation immediately. A key came out of the slot below.

And that was it. I was checked in, and in record time.

There were no employees anywhere on site, which was spooky at first, but then you get used to it and wonder why every hotel doesn’t do it this way.

And maybe this is indeed in our future. After all, a kiosk is a great way to avoid the coming $15-per-hour minimum wage that the governor signed into law. At the end of this year, it rises to $11 and then up $2 per year thereafter. But rather than causing wages to magically increase out of magically appearing resources, it could mean a huge subsidy to low-wage robots, such as were on display in this hotel. If you need to drop your luggage off quickly, there is even a mechanical claw that will grab it and place it in a locker for you.

The Restaurant

My room was on the 13th floor, but the elevators from the lobby take you to the 4th floor, where you see your first sign of life. There is a wonderful restaurant and bar and an outdoor patio area where servers are bustling around serving expensive drinks.

Why are employees here and not downstairs? Perhaps that has something to do with the exemption in the law for tipped employees, who can be paid as little as $6.80 per hour. This is a more viable wage level in this city, where it is ridiculously expensive to do any business.

This is a situation anyone with economics knowledge would predict. The human assets move where they can be employed most inexpensively, and away from areas where they are made expensive as a matter of law.

From there, you find another set of elevators that take you to your room. It is small but neatly organized. The sofa becomes a bed with the click of a button. The bathroom is beautifully organized. Everything is white, which only underscores the impression I had that the whole place was mercifully clean, especially for a New York hotel.

And this surely accounts for the 4-star rating this place gets – this and how the absence of human interaction at check-in is actually a relief. There is, quite simply, less to go wrong.

(Of course people still need to be employed to clean rooms. This task is too complex for robots; it requires, for now, human intelligence.)

Our Future?

To be sure, this high-tech hotel might exist regardless of the minimum wage law. One can’t know for sure. But you still have to marvel at the brilliance of the entrepreneurs behind this contraption. They rethought the whole idea of how a hotel should operate, and they did it on behalf of the consumer, which means you and me.

The place only opened in New York in 2014, and this year announced plans to expand to Boston, Dubai, Singapore, Paris, Miami, San Francisco, and Williamsburg, Brooklyn.

Even without strict laws on minimum wages, I appreciate the advance, which is a real tribute to the capacity of the human mind to rethink settled traditions and find better ways of serving you and me.

You can’t say the same for the political class that keeps signing legislation under the mistaken impression that laws alone can make the world a better place.

Finally, there is a strange feature to the New York law. The legislation allows the law to be suspended if it is found to be hurting productivity in the state. But how can we know for sure? So much of the damage of this kind of legislation is unseen. Plus, private enterprise has proven itself able to innovate even around laws that seem insurmountable.

After all, giant vending machines can show us love too.

Thursday, September 29, 2016

Palantir Software: Discrimination & Discovery? | National Review

Palantir Software: Discrimination & Discovery? | National Review

Two questions about ‘discrimination’ The arresting headline — “U.S. Department of Labor sues Palantir for racial discrimination” — could have gone with two very different stories.

The first possible story, the obvious and boring one, turns out, alas, to be the operative one: The Obama administration is going after Palantir Technologies, a “big data” concern started by Silicon Valley entrepreneur Peter Thiel, on the grounds that it discriminated against Asian-American job applicants. The case is risible, resting on an absurdly small data set (three job descriptions and 21 hiring decisions) and the assumption that applicants for highly specialized positions in one of the world’s most esoteric technology companies are interchangeable widgets.

It is less than obvious that Asian Americans have been shut out of technology jobs in Silicon Valley, but, by all means, let us consider the question.

Palantir says that the government is engaged in “flawed statistical analysis.” It seems more likely that the Obama administration is engaged in straightforward political retribution and intimidation: Peter Thiel is an increasingly vocal Republican activist who spoke on Donald Trump’s behalf at this year’s Republican National Convention. (In the interest of disclosure, I should note that he is a contributor, both editorially and financially, to National Review.) Democrats prefer being opposed, if they must be opposed at all, by southern biblioplangists who lend themselves to caricature; cerebral California technology billionaires, on the other hand, are the kind of opposition they could do without, hence the desire to make examples of those who step out of line. Given the current administration’s long, nasty, and criminal history of using agencies of the federal government to go after political enemies, that seems a perfectly reasonable explanation.

(Of course, it is just barely possible that the administration’s motives here are innocent; one of the problems with political corruption is that it casts suspicion on any action that might reasonably be interpreted as corrupt, which is one of the reasons why Lois Lerner and John Koskinen should be in a federal penitentiary.)

Thiel, who has shown a flair for litigation lately (he financed Hulk Hogan’s invasion-of-privacy lawsuit against Gawker), probably will be able to manage this conflict with the Labor Department, though the increasingly open tendency of Democrats to weaponize federal agencies and prosecutors’ offices (ask True the Vote, Kay Bailey Hutchison, Tom DeLay, Rick Perry, the Competitive Enterprise Institute, Exxon, the pastors of Houston . . . ) makes one wonder why any large and complex business concern would willingly submit to American jurisdiction when it might as easily incorporate in a country with more honest and transparent public institutions, such as Canada or Switzerland.

But what about the other possible interpretation of that headline? When I read it, I thought for a second that it might mean not that Palantir Technologies Inc. was accused of discrimination but that Palantir itself stood so accused.

Palantir is an artificial-intelligence platform. There are many versions of it operating around the world: The federal government uses it to track down financial criminals and, if the whispers are to be credited, sundry terrorists camped out in the dusty corners of Jihadistan. Hedge funds use it for their own purposes. Information Warfare Monitor used it to uncover the GhostNet in China. It was used to help organize relief efforts after Hurricane Sandy. It is, to say the least, an interesting piece of technology.

But the science-fiction stuff — artificial intelligence, machine-learning systems, neural networks, all that cool-sounding innovation — already is working its way into the much more quotidian aspects of life, particularly in areas such as actuarial analysis and credit. This presents an interesting problem, as Clive Thompson writes in the current edition of Wired: Once a sophisticated neural network is up and running, it “learns” by processing massive amounts of data, and its decision-making processes are opaque, even to the people who designed it. It is a “black box,” a very, very black one, in fact. “Ask its creator how it achieves a certain result and you’ll likely get a shrug,” he writes.

This will affect ordinary people in predictable ways. Thompson considers the case of a homeowner being denied property insurance. Today, that denial could be explained by any number of financial or geographic factors, but systems such as Palantir are useful in part because they detect relationships that are not obvious to humans, or that are counterintuitive. It is not only possible but likely that such systems will produce results that are discomfiting in some quarters. It is not difficult to imagine that they will produce substantial disparities in health-insurance prices, mortgage rates, consumer-credit offers, and the like, and that those disparities will follow demographic cleavages that are politically sensitive. Wider use of such decision-making processes — say, in screening job applicants or making admissions decisions at public universities — will produce new and knotty problems.

The European Union has passed a law entitling consumers to explanations of how financial institutions make decisions about them, but those explanations may turn out to require advanced study at MIT.

What should we think about such opaque decision-making processes? We should begin with the three most important words in public policy: “Compared to what?” Black-box systems are likely to prove superior to our current model — nerds with actuarial tables — and may be less biased. Bias in actuarial methodology is a longstanding problem in the field, and a subject of intense study by its experts. The problem with black-box systems is less likely to be their propagating bias but their revealing it.

To take one example, African-American men are shorter-lived than the average American man, and than white men. African-American men also suffer from certain health problems at much higher rates: Their rate of diabetes, for example, is 70 percent higher than that of whites. There is an interesting legal and political history to how these realities (and, in some cases, racial fictions) have been incorporated into insurance pricing. But the trend has been very strongly against that kind of discrimination, to say the least. Indeed, one of the baffling features of the so-called Affordable Care Act is its insistence that insurance companies may not “discriminate against” people with pre-existing conditions, as though it were logically possible to insure against events in the past any more than one could go to Vegas and place a bet on last year’s Super Bowl.

Credit scores and income statements are pretty blunt tools, as are many of the instruments used in calculating insurance premiums. What is likely to emerge from black-box systems is not a recapitulation of decisions based on gross racial categories but highly sophisticated and highly individualistic analyses that nonetheless produce results that are, for lack of a better word, discriminatory, though whether a machine can engage in racial discrimination properly understood is a philosophical question. No one doubts that an effective system for screening terrorism threats would spotlight more people from Kandahar than from Helsinki. What we sometimes denounce as “profiling” may be useful or not, depending — we always seem to overlook this part — on what is in the profile and how it is constructed. A badly designed profile might propagate bias; a well-designed one might reveal underlying social realities about which we would prefer not to think too much.

It is safe to predict that the Department of Labor is not thinking very much about this problem just yet.

Most of our large pieces of policy architecture date from the New Deal and the Great Society, from that enormous boom in managerial thinking that characterized mid-century America, whose faith in free markets had been shaken by a misunderstood Great Depression and whose faith in government expertise had been inflated by a misunderstood war effort. Most of our political obsessions date from that period, too.

That’s one reason why, for example, our discussions about the condition of black America mainly fail to take into account that the emergence of affluent and prosperous African and Caribbean immigrant communities has complicated what it means to be African American, that clumsy slogans like “Black Lives Matter” fail to account for the fact that the lives of Nigerian-American financiers in Menlo Park are not very much like those of people in East St. Louis. It is why our response to the problem of weak wage growth for low-skilled jobs is so hilariously crude: “Just pass a law saying McDonald’s has got to pay ’em more!” Our being mentally fixed somewhere between 1957 and 1964 prevents us from thinking intelligently about things such as the economy, trade, public pensions, entitlements, national security, and education, much less about the fact that in only a few years the question in discrimination claims will not be “Discrimination by whom?” but “Discrimination by what?”

And what have we seen from the Obama administration, which promised to be forward-looking and evidence-driven? Mainly a return to the most low-tech approach to public policy there is: the enemies list.

Tuesday, September 20, 2016

What the numbers tell us

What The Numbers Tell Us

The Guttmacher Institute, another pro-choice advocacy center, researches issues of reproduction thoroughly, and it provides some analysis regarding why women get abortions.

The numbers are overwhelming: 74% of the women surveyed had abortions because having a baby would dramatically change their lives. 38% said a baby would have interfered with careers or educations. Other high-percentage answers were related to relationship statuses, and many of the women provided more than one answer.

By contrast, health and rape scenarios were vastly in the minority. The Guttermacher Institute found that only 12% of the women had abortions for personal health reasons, and only 1% aborted because they were victims of rape.

These numbers are from 2004, but the Guttermacher Institute notes that they have stayed consistent since 1987. Further, these numbers have been supported elsewhere in more recent years.

The women that Guttermacher surveyed simply didn’t want to have a baby because it would have changed their lives, not because their lives were threatened or they had been assaulted.

Editorial: Higher minimum wage means fewer jobs

Editorial: Higher minimum wage means fewer jobs

Last week, New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie vetoed a bill to hike the state’s minimum wage by nearly 80 percent over five years, from $8.38 per hour to $15 per hour. It was the right move because minimum-wage laws hurt the people they purport to help.

Fight for $15, a national group advocating higher wages, lost in New Jersey. But the “living wage” folks are active in Michigan and have a Detroit chapter, mostly focusing on fast-food jobs in the city.

According to the U.S. Department of Labor’s Bureau of Labor Statistics, employees earning the minimum wage “tend to be young.” Roughly 48 percent of all employees earning the federal minimum wage, $7.25 an hour, are between the ages of 16 and 24.

Instead of benefiting these younger individuals entering the job world, minimum-wage hikes benefit older, more established workers. Mandated higher wagers serve as a barrier to these entry-level positions.

By raising the cost of an employee, forced wage hikes make it more expensive to hire less experienced workers.

Most businesses are not altruistic. A company’s owner does not hire an employee because the employee needs a job. Rather, business owners have specific positions to fill and are best suited to determine the value of that work.

Minimum wages require businesses to pay more for employees than they are “worth” in the marketplace. If the cost of hiring employees increases, business owners will be incentivized to hire only employees with longer employment records and more credentials, discouraging employers from hiring younger individuals with fewer skills and shorter resumes.

Making entry-level work more expensive prevents young people from learning good work habits necessary for advancing their careers, such as punctuality and workplace etiquette.

What’s more, pricing new workers out of the system by increasing the minimum wage disproportionately impacts other disadvantaged groups, such as people of color. Nearly three out of every 10 African-American teens are jobless, according to BLS. White teens are unemployed at about half that rate.

Raising the minimum wage might make a small portion of the workforce happy in the short-term, but few of them will be smiling once businesses are forced to reduce hours or lay off employees to maintain their current costs.

Consider Seattle’s experiment to raise the minimum wage to $15 per hour and the repercussions that have followed. Workers were scheduled for fewer hours and many lost their jobs. When Chicago’s minimum wages for both non-tipped and tipped employees went up this summer, restaurants began to close. Expect similar results in Detroit if the wage is hiked here.

If the lowest-level worker must be paid more because of laws, not economic forces, then everyone else will expect a pay increase as well. Eventually, prices of consumer goods will rise, reducing quality of life back to its current level.

The government should not try to legislate economic growth or force employers to give their employees a better life. There will always be negative consequences tied to such government intervention.

Friday, September 16, 2016

Waking up from minimum wage fairy tales

Waking up from minimum wage fairy tales
In a survey done by Pew Research in 2014, 73 percent favored increasing the federal minimum wage from $7.25 to $10.10.

Bernie Sanders became a surprisingly popular presidential candidate, promising a federal minimum wage of $15. And now several left-wing organizations are mobilizing to pressure candidates in Senate races to support a $15 national minimum wage.

Currently, two places now have enacted $15 minimum wage laws – New York, California and Washington, D.C.

Reporting on the move in Washington, D.C., to a $15 minimum wage, The Washington Post explains that “Supporters, mostly Democrats, say a $15 floor is needed to help close the country’s growing income gap, especially in big cities.”

Really, it sounds so beautiful. Politicians wave their wand and dictate wages. But to ask the obvious question, why only $15? Why not make it $20? $30? $50?

Let’s recognize that there is something to the social science we call economics. One rule of that science is that demand runs opposite to price. If the price of soap is raised from $2 to $5, consumers will buy less soap. And, if the price of soap is lowered from $5 to $1, consumers will buy more soap.

Wages are the price of labor. It stands to reason that this follows the same rules as any market. The higher the price for labor, the lower the demand and vice versa.

Again, it sounds so compassionate that a politician proposes to use the power of government to mandate what salary a business owner must pay. But what politician, even one who proudly calls himself a socialist like Bernie Sanders, would claim that government can mandate how many workers a business must hire at the wage government mandates?

Politicians mandate a minimum wage and then business owners simply comply because they have no choice, but then they hire fewer workers.

We can see the latest evidence in the nation’s capital: Prior to the recent move to raise the minimum wage to $15, which is scheduled to go into effect fully in 2022, there have been two recent minimum wage increases. A minimum wage hike to $10.50 went into effect in July 2015 and then this was increased to $11.50 in July 2016.

What happened?

University of Michigan and American Enterprise Institute economist Mark Perry reports, using recent data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics, that “Since the DC minimum wage increased in July 2015 to $10.50 an hour, restaurant employment in the city has increased by less than 1 percent (and by 500 jobs), while restaurant employment in the surrounding suburbs (in Virginia and Maryland) increased 4.2 percent (and by 7,300 jobs). An even more dramatic effect has taken place since the start of this year – DC restaurant jobs fell by 1,400 jobs (and by 2.7 percent) during the first six months of 2016 … the largest loss of District food jobs during a 6-month period in 15 years.”

Perversely, low-wage earners that the minimum wage is supposed to help are the ones hurt the most by shrinking the demand for their labor. In the first quarter of 2016, overall black unemployment in Washington, D.C., was 12.7 percent, compared to 8.5 percent and 7.0 percent in neighboring Maryland and Virginia. And the gap in unemployment between whites and blacks in Washington, D.C. – 2.3 percent for whites compared to the 12.7 percent for blacks – was the highest in the nation.

Earlier this year, Wal-Mart canceled plans to open in two new locations in the nation’s capital, partially because of labor regulations.

If we really care about low-income workers, let markets be free, let businesses create jobs, and let’s fix our schools so poor kids can get an education and move up the ladder.

Thursday, September 15, 2016

Rape, SJW, and virtue signaling

Rape, SJW, and virtue signaling

Facebook Heroism And The Decline Of Masculinity --Warden
One of my main problems with social media is that it tends to make me like people far less than if had I only interacted with them in meatspace. And this is because people tend to be less free with their big, dumb, annoying political opinions when they’re face to face with their audience, freeing me to pretend that most people don’t have big, dumb, annoying political opinions lurking behind their otherwise pleasant and reasonable public demeanor.

Last week was a case in point. A twenty-something adult male from my church posted an instructional video that purported to teach women how to protect themselves from rape with the following (paraphrased) commentary:

This rape prevention video is 6 minutes long. I have a better idea. Why don’t we instead simply spend 3 seconds on a video that tells men not to rape? God didn’t need long instructional videos for the 10 Commandments. "Thou shall not" is pretty direct.

Six women had "liked" this post by the time it came across my feed.

I stared at that bit of knee-jerk progressive virtue signaling foolishness for a good minute or more before breaking a personal social media rule and writing what I hoped was a polite correction.

But I couldn’t get that post out of my head because the more I thought about it, the more I realized how much there was to unpack. Just who are these men out there don’t understand that rape is wrong? Other than African and Middle Eastern Muslim immigrants, I can’t think of any.

Of course rapists know that rape isn’t okay, just as thieves know that stealing isn’t okay, just as murderers know that murder isn't okay. There is literally no other serious crime in America where we take the position that the criminals just need to be “taught” that their misdeeds are wrong.

And in no other case would a progressive be outraged at an instructional video that teaches people how to avoid victimization. No one angrily asserts that, instead of telling people to lock their car doors at the mall, we just need to teach people to not steal Christmas presents from other shoppers. This would be an insane position to take and everybody knows it.

So, what exactly is going on here? Well, the obvious difference between rape and almost every other crime is that it’s one where men are almost always the offenders and women the victim. This distinction provides a convenient cudgel for Cultural Marxists to shame and smear men generally as violent and beastly. (By way of evidence, you will notice that the very similar crime of child rape is handled completely differently because it is often a male on male crime, which invokes homosexuality, a protected and privileged class among progressives.)

But that’s not what this young fella was thinking when he made the post--that’s the evil, insidious nature of Cultural Marxism--he was not, in fact, thinking at all. Rather, he was subconsciously angling for approval by obliquely smearing other men. The implicit message of that post was, “I am against rape,” but the subtext was, “Other men are NOT against rape and I should be praised for this because I am uniquely opposed to rape in ways that other men are not.”

Remember, the message was, "Teach MEN not to rape." Not some men. Not rapists... MEN.

Teach men not to rape.

This is a social media trend that I’ve noticed among progressives. They position themselves as fighters against injustice, but only take public stands against things that earn them approval and praise. One way to really amp up your cred is to call out the group to which you belong, thereby absolving yourself of the your group's collective sin in doing so. It’s a particularly dishonest, cowardly and backstabby way to operate.

Note, too, that helping women protect themselves from rape is not even a secondary concern. Rather, the very idea of it is a source of anger. Pragmatic, real-world solutions are replaced with the strange and childish fantasy that less enlightened men just need a good scolding about all their rapeyness and all will be well.

Do progressives even believe this? Again, I don't think they've even considered it long enough to believe or not believe. At this point, they're just reacting to stimuli like a single cell organism reacting to a low voltage electrical shock. They've been swimming in Cultural Marxism for so long that they've lost their ability to think.

The most appalling part of his post wasn’t that it was so devoid of logic and common sense; it was that a grown man sought and received praise for the almost universally agreed upon position of-- being against rape.

Bold stance, bro. And truly outside the box. You've got us all thinking about stuff in, like, a whole new way.

This is where we are. Seeking and receiving praise for "taking a stand" against what is a universally despised crime.

What does that say about our standards?

I have a theory on this that as we become softer, weaker and more technologically dependent, men--who are genetically hardwired to hunters, risk takers, and physical protectors--will increasingly rely upon this kind of limp-wristed virtue signaling in absence of any sort of real masculine achievement.

Heroism used to be defined by deeds. Today it is defined by words--ones everybody in your tribe agrees with, and directed at phantom menaces who cannot do you actual harm.

It's safe. It's easy. And it's fake, just like everything else about the progressive left.

I find it to be incredibly sad, this state we're in. And deep down, I think that progressives also know how shallow and full of bullshit they are.

Ace recently had a post about the NFL that caused a bit of ruckus in the comment section. And while I loosely agree with him that watching a bunch of grown men compete from the comfort of your couch is not a truly masculine endeavor, I do think that football is an important aspect of our rapidly diminishing warrior culture and to see it violated and diminished by a bunch of bed-wetting SJWs is a net loss to the masculine spirit.

Football is a fantastic game for teaching boys toughness, teamwork and discipline. The fact that it is in decline while less violent sports like soccer ascend in America is no accident.

I started my 10 year old in tackle football this fall, not in spite of the football’s propensity to bang kids up, but partially because of it. And each time my wife freaks out from the stands because her boy is limping off the field, I nod my head and think, “Good.” I do not think this because I’m a sadist, but because I think that boys who learn to play through pain, to meet difficult challenges, and to get up after being knocked on their asses over and over again are more apt to become men who display genuine bravery and heroism rather than the phony take-a-stand-that-everyone-already-agrees-with Facebook kind.

And God knows we need more of that.

UNC Rape Case Reveals Race Double Standard

While there should never be a rush to judgment, what I find curious about this case is the hypocrisy, not only relating to an athlete (many of whom, historically, have been protected because of their status as a valued player), but regarding the impact of race on this case -- or the lack thereof.

Wednesday, September 14, 2016

A Simple, 3-Step Approach to Defending Voter ID Laws

A Simple, 3-Step Approach to Defending Voter ID Laws

Follow these three simple steps to tackle a discussion with those who are adverse to voter ID laws.

1. Common Ground

Start with the areas where we agree.

We can all agree that we want free and fair elections, as guaranteed by our democratic republic. That said, it must be reasonable to enact certain policies that safeguard the election process.

Everyone has to go through the same process to obtain a valid ID, which makes the ID the great equalizer. Your ID says who you are and certifies that you met a series of requirements in order to acquire it.

There are many unquestioned restrictions on voting currently in place, such as age requirements (a voter must be at least 18 years old) and U.S. citizenship. It only seems reasonable that those seeking to cast a vote should have to show a valid ID to prove they meet the requirements assigned.

Regardless of policy preference, both sides want corruption and illegal practices out of the voting box. Nobody likes a cheater. Rules are only useful if they are enacted. A valid ID does just that.

2. Examples

Cite examples to prove your point. It’s pretty hard to deny numbers and anecdotes, so use both to your benefit.

A perennial anecdote for those fighting voter ID fraud is how many dead people continue to show up at the ballot box year after year. To take just one example, The Daily Signal recently reported on the voter fraud taking place in California. An “investigation revealed that 265 deceased persons voted in Southern California, 215 of them in Los Angeles County.” Voter ID laws would go a long way to prevent this from happening.

Using comparisons in your examples can also help you make your case. Think of all the other activities—many of them far less impactful than voting—that require you to show identification. Getting a library card, buying a beer, picking up baseball tickets at will call, applying for food stamps, renting a car, obtaining a fishing license, purchasing NyQuil—the list goes on and on.

We whip out an ID for daily entertainment and responsibilities without giving it a second thought. Surely we can expect to do so for such an important action as electing the president of our country and leader of the free world.

3. Words

Remember that your argument is only as successful as your words. Words matter.

Those who oppose voter ID laws often feel they have ownership of the “emotional” or “compassionate” side of the debate. Use their language to help them see why this isn’t so. Not only are voter ID laws perfectly fair, they actually safeguard equal opportunity.

Those who meet the requirements to vote should be allowed to vote—that’s fair and it gives everyone equal opportunity to exercise this right. Those who do not meet the requirements to vote should be prevented from casting a vote—that is also fair, and it safeguards the equal opportunity of all citizens.

When the stakes are as high as an election, it’s more than fair to take the steps necessary to prevent fraud and abuse—both of which are highly unfair.

The bottom line? Every eligible citizen’s vote should be guaranteed, not stolen or diluted by thieves or fraudsters.

Whether you’re talking to someone who opposes voter ID laws or trying to explain the issue to someone who doesn’t see its importance, you need to use the right words and examples to convince them.

After all, voting is not only a great honor, it is a great responsibility that should be taken seriously. So many brave men and women have died fighting for the right we have to vote. Showing an ID is the least we can do to honor their sacrifice and carry out our civic duty responsibly.

The new "voodoo", Scott Sumner | EconLog | Library of Economics and Liberty

The new "voodoo", Scott Sumner | EconLog | Library of Economics and Liberty

John Cochrane writes, Economics is a work in progress. But it is certainly brand-new, made-up-on-the spot economics, designed to buttress policies decided on for other reasons. He is describing the economic analysis that claims that policies to distort labor markets to try to increase wages will increase aggregate demand [AD], so that instead of reducing employment these policies will raise employment.
I am reminded of the made-up-on-the spot economics of the Laffer Curve, which claimed that cutting taxes would reduce budget deficits. That became known as "voodoo economics."

I'd say this is the just the tip of the iceberg. Old hydraulic Keynesianism from the 1960s was already a pretty implausible model. But what's happened since 2009 involves not just one, but at least five new types of voodoo:

1. The claim that artificial attempts to force wages higher will boost employment, by boosting AD.

2. The claim that extended unemployment benefits---paying people not to work---will lead to more employment, by boosting AD.

3. The claim that more government spending can actually reduce the budget deficit, by boosting AD and growth. Note that in the simple Keynesian model, even with no crowding out, monetary offset, etc., this is impossible.

4. More aggregate demand will lead to higher productivity. In the old Keynesian model, more AD boosted growth by increasing employment, not productivity.

5. Fiscal stimulus can boost AD when not at the zero bound, because . . . ?

In all five cases there is almost no theoretical or empirical support for the new voodoo claims, and lots of evidence against. There were 5 attempts to push wages higher in the 1930s, and all 5 failed to spur recovery. Job creation sped up when the extended UI benefits ended at the beginning of 2014, contrary to the prediction of Keynesians. The austerity of 2013 failed to slow growth, contrary to the predictions of Keynesians. Britain had perhaps the biggest budget deficits of any major economy during the Great Recession, job growth has been robust, and yet productivity is now actually lower than in the 4th quarter of 2007.

Arnold is right about the similarity between this and the old supply-side voodoo (especially item #3), but I'd say this is even worse. Supply-side economics was taken to extremes by some of its more fanatical proponents, but was ultimately based on sound economic principles---incentives matter. The new demand-side voodoo represents (in part) a denial of many of the most basic tenets of economics. As recently as 10 years ago, New Keynesians would have scoffed at the list above. Their current willingness to adopt these heterodox views represents a triumph of wishful thinking over hardheaded reasoning.

Tuesday, September 13, 2016

The Sordid History of Liberals Calling Republicans Racists | PJ Media

The Sordid History of Liberals Calling Republicans Racists | PJ Media

Hillary Clinton’s recent attack on Trump voters -- calling them “deplorables” and accusing the GOP nominee of building “his campaign largely on prejudice and paranoia and giving a national platform to hateful views and voices” -- isn’t rooted in reality. It’s just another instance of liberals labeling Republicans as racists.

Something they’ve been doing effectively for decades.

By manipulating white guilt and railroading a race-conscious agenda through every area of American society, including the media, pop culture, and the education system, liberals have stigmatized -- and to a large extent, delegitimized -- conservatism and the GOP. (I made this point in a recent article at The Federalist titled “Conservatism’s ‘Racism’ Isn’t What You Think It Is”.)

As result of this racist labeling, conservatives have lost their moral authority, and their voices have been stifled in the public square.

This chilling effect has been exacerbated during the Obama presidency, as people have been afraid to criticize a black president because they don’t want to be called a racist.

That fear is dissipating, however.

After eight years of America becoming less prosperous, less safe, and, yes, less American, people are lashing out -- and, of course, as predicted, they’re being called racists. This backlash certainly looks nasty at times, but to characterize it as motivated by racism (covert or overt) is to play into the hands of the Left.

Buckley Vs. Vidal: The Labeling Agenda

To help you see how this labeling by the Left has been transforming political discourse and altering the perception of conservatism in the minds of Americans, I’d like to go back to 1968 to give you a snapshot of labeling and to apply it to the bigger picture.

In 1968, a debate occurred at the Republican National Convention between conservative William Buckley and liberal Gore Vidal. The environment surrounding the convention and the debate was fraught with racial strife. Conflicts between police and blacks had Democrats accusing Republicans of racism, fascism, and neo-Nazism. Slanderous, malicious rhetoric was heavy in public dialogue.

Sound familiar? While the degree of conflict changes, the essence of it doesn’t. Neither do the alarmist and exaggerated depictions of racism on the Right. This was evident to Buckley when, just before the debate began, ABC put on the screen images of “police brutality,” creating the impression that there was a “police state” in Chicago run by racist Republicans.

Buckley challenged this assumption:

There was no evidence of such a thing ... It was all imagery. Any actual violations by police should be dealt with, Buckley said, and they should be held to account. However, he added:

[D]on’t do what’s happening in Chicago tonight, which is to infer from individual and despicable acts of violence a case for implicit totalitarianism in the American system. This was the acrimonious environment in which the debate occurred, and Vidal used it to his advantage.

Instead of delivering sound arguments, he resorted to personal attacks and threw a long list of accusations at his opponent, making it, as Buckley later complained, nearly impossible to counter with reasonable rebuttals. The debate then devolved into, as one reviewer wrote, “personal opprobrium” in which “nothing really was decided other than Buckley’s clear debating superiority.”

The debate hit its lowest and most infamous point when Vidal called Buckley a “crypto-Nazi.”

Buckley retorted with visible fury, unleashing a response that stunned everyone but Vidal himself:

Now listen, you queer. Stop calling me a crypto-Nazi or I’ll sock you in your goddamn face and you’ll stay plastered.

Vidal, who was sexually depraved in just about every way -- by his own report -- wrote later in “A Distasteful Encounter with William F. Buckley Jr.: Can there be any justification in calling a man a pro crypto Nazi before ten million people on television?”:

All in all, I was pleased with what had happened: I had enticed the cuckoo to sing its song, and the melody lingers on. … There was nothing that Buckley was not prepared to invoke in order to keep me from establishing him as anti-black, anti-Semitic, and pro-war.

In other words, it didn’t matter what Buckley said in that debate. Vidal, like all Leftists then and all Leftists now, had one goal, and it wasn’t debating fine points of policy. It was to portray Buckley -- a prominent and influential conservative -- as a hateful racist and a bigot.

On Experiencing A Leftist Troll

Buckley, of course, agonized over his ill-tempered reaction, and, in an effort to explain what happened, wrote a lengthy piece in Esquire called “On Experiencing Gore Vidal: Can there be any justification in calling a man a queer before ten million people on television?” (This was published prior to Vidal’s article.) In that article, Buckley responded to a critique in Commentary magazine of his behavior in which the author said Vidal’s slur wasn’t personal but political:

One wonders how the editor of Commentary would have reacted if he had been called a crypto Nazi in the presence of a dozen million people. Would he take the position that that was merely a political charge, in a response to which one has no reason to lose one’s cool? If, in non-academic circumstances, you call a man a Nazi, are you evoking ethnocentric nationalism -- or Buchenwald? Buckley recognized at the time the seriousness of being labeled a Nazi.

He saw how liberals were casting conservatism in that racist frame, and how it would be deadly to the conservative movement to let that label stick. His response was emotional because he knew being labeled in that way without responding or countering it had long-term consequences -- and not just for himself but for conservatism, and for truth.

To have been unmoved by what Vidal said, Buckley wrote, was a dangerous oversight:

[To] not perceive it at all -- not even to be tempted to resentment -- to accept it as the most ordinary thing in the world -- argues a terrifying sensibility.

[The] absence of anger, especially that sort of anger which we call indignation, can in my opinion, be a most alarming symptom.

Even when that indignation passes into bitter personal vindictiveness, it may still be a good symptom, though bad in itself. It is a sin; but it at least shows that those who commit it have not sunk below the level at which the temptation to that sin exists -- just as the sins (often quite appalling) of the great patriot or the great reformer point to something in him above mere self.

If the Jews cursed more bitterly than the Pagans, this was, I think, at least in part because they took right and wrong more seriously.

Buckley was worried that slanderous, malignant rhetoric so easily expressed -- something he called “rhetorical totalism” -- made every slur, “every epithet” benign and acceptable:

It was commonplace at Chicago to call the police and the mayor Fascists and Nazis, and the country yawned. Everybody gets away with everything.

Not only do they get away with it, but they are unmoved by the labels:

I do not believe that anyone thought me a Nazi because Vidal called me one, but I do believe that everyone who heard him call me one without a sense of shock, without experiencing anger, thinks more tolerantly about Nazism than once he did, then even now he should.

The more groups are labeled racist, the more people become accustomed to the language until true racism and Nazism are no longer understood or perceived. Real racists become indistinguishable from those who are only labeled as such.

The Boy Who Cried Racist

Have we not seen this today? For decades we have been ruled by this "rhetorical totalism," inoculating people to what real fascism and racism look like to the point that we don’t recognize it. “Republicans are the racists” is the epithet repeated over and over again.

The term is nearly meaningless, as anyone -- whether they oppose illegal immigration, affirmative action, or welfare, or whether they support cops and recognize that there is more violence in black neighborhoods than in white -- is labeled a bigot or a fascist.

And yet, real fascists -- Islamists, for example, and Leftists themselves -- are not recognized for what they are, and they advance unchallenged into every corner of the West.

This is really the danger of “rhetorical totalism” and the stigmatized labeling that goes with it: It clothes the good in evil as true evil struts about naked on the stage; yet, we don’t see it because we have grown so senseless our eyes cannot see.

Over time, as the lie has been repeated, the slur of racism has stuck to conservatives.

Part of the reason for this is they haven’t fought back.

They have chosen, instead, to elevate their messaging through debate and argumentation. A noble effort, but the problem is they’re the only ones who have been sitting at the debate table. Leftists like Vidal haven’t been debating, they’ve been propagandizing, setting a trap to wrest moral authority away from conservatives and stigmatize them.

Vidal remained unapologetic for his slur, as all liberals are -- because that’s part of the plan. Buckley, however, knew that mixed with his righteous impulses was sin and that “the wrath of man worketh not the righteousness of God.”

And so Buckley apologized to Vidal for calling him a queer, saying the “imputation of homosexuality” was “not justified.”

Despite Buckley’s guilty feelings for losing control and taking the low road, he did recognize the importance of the moment and why name-calling (that eventually turns into labeling) is such a great threat.

Republicans have failed to understand that threat. The labeling has continued through the years, rolling like a snowball downhill, with unrelenting, unapologetic, and shameless audacity.

Racism and GOP Politics

Very few politicians on the Right have escaped at least the attempt to smear them with the racist label. In 1980, Jimmy Carter accused Reagan of stirring up racist hate by using “code words like ‘states’ rights’ in a speech in Mississippi.” In an interview with 60 Minutes, Reagan responded to the allegations, accusing Civil Rights leaders of doing what the Left does: keeping the appearance of racism alive so they can maintain their power.

And keep it alive is exactly what they’ve done, maligning any effort to conserve American values and American culture with the smear of racism. No wonder they went nuts over Pat Buchanan’s 1992 speech on the culture wars. Its message of “put America first” was the precursor of Tea Party slogans and Trump speeches -- and it was also called horribly racist.

(Read it. I don’t see the racism.)

Fast forward to George W. Bush’s administration and its handling of Hurricane Katrina. Remember when Kanye West said “Bush doesn’t care about black people”? That prompted Bush to do an interview with Brian Williams in which he defended himself. But that didn’t stop the labeling. Not only was his entire campaign accused of racism, his response to 9/11 was called racist.

Then came Barack Obama, and the floodgates of race-smearing were thrown wide as Leftists became even more bold and efficacious in their promotion of race identity politics and labeling of the Right.

Mitt Romney felt the heat of it. Look at some of these headlines from 2012:

“Nine most racist moments of the 2012 election”

“As the Romney Campaign unskews, will the GOP’s Racist ID Take Over?”

“Romney and the Deceptive Use of Racist Language”

“Republicans are Racists...And they’re not shy about it”

“White Racist Supporters Crushed When Mitt Romney Lost to Barack Obama”

And here’s “The 10 Most Racist Moments of the GOP Primary (So Far)” in which the author writes something that could be published today:

The Republican Party is digging deep into the old bucket of white racism, using the politics of fear, hostility and anxiety to win over white voters. The labeling even came from the Right.

Col. Lawrence Wilkerson, former Colin Powell aide, said:

My party, unfortunately, is the bastion of those people -- not all of them but most of them -- who are still basing their decisions on race. Let me just be candid. My party is full of racists. He was excoriated by Republicans then, but today, too many of them sound just like Wilkerson. Somehow all those people they defended in 2012 have magically transformed into racists in 2016.

No, Uncle John Isn’t a Racist; He’s Just Angry

Is it logical to think that in four years’ time the GOP has suddenly been overrun by hateful racists? Is your brother, your aunt, your neighbor, or your friend, who is sick and tired of racial politics and is fighting back with righteous indignation (and maybe even taking the low road at times, as Buckley instinctively did), now a white supremacist? Is that even reasonable?

The truth is, except for a small group of fringe racists, the GOP and most of the people voting for Trump are not racists. They’re angry, they want our laws and values of freedom to be respected, they want to stop America from being artificially transformed through mass immigration, and they want liberalism stopped and their moral authority as cultural conservatives restored.

Republicans concerned about racism in the GOP need to take a deep breath and get some perspective.

Instead of attacking those in their own ranks (even those who don’t conform to every jot and tittle of the conservative code), they need to focus on what’s most important: ripping off the racist (along with homophobic and sexist) label that has been slapped on them and put it squarely where it belongs: on the Left.

As they struggle to undo what liberals have been accomplishing for decades, Republicans must be bold, unified, and civil, refusing to take the low road by lashing out and singing the racist song liberals so desperately want them to sing.

In this fight, there will be failure. Someone is going to yell, “Now, listen you queer, I’ll sock you in your goddamn face.” But tolerant and respectful correction to those on our side, not condemnation or alienation, must be the response.

Mistakes will be made -- this is an emotionally charged and bloody fight -- but Republicans must stand united and stay the course. Failure to regain moral authority for the sake of liberty and justice is not an option. If conservatives don’t defeat the true evil of these times -- Leftist ideology -- our country will be lost.

Racial Issues - Thomas Sowell

Racial Issues - Thomas Sowell

Ordinarily, it is not a good idea to base how you vote on just one issue. But if black lives really matter, as they should matter like all other lives, then it is hard to see any racial issue that matters as much as education.

The government could double the amount of money it spends on food stamps or triple the amount it spends on housing subsidies, and it will mean very little if the next generation of young blacks goes out into the world as adults without a decent education.

Many things that are supposed to help blacks actually have a track record of making things worse. Minimum wage laws have had a devastating effect in making black teenage unemployment several times higher than it once was.

In my own life, I was very fortunate when I left home in 1948, at age 17 -- a high school dropout with no skills or experience. At that time, the unemployment rate of black 16- and 17-year-old males was 9.4 percent. For white males the same ages, it was 10.2 percent.

Why were these unemployment rates so much lower than we have become used to seeing in later times -- and with very little difference between blacks and whites?

What was different about those times was that the minimum wage, established in 1938, had been rendered meaningless by a decade of high inflation. It was the same as if there were no minimum wage.

In later years, as the minimum wage was repeatedly raised to keep up with inflation, black teenage unemployment from 1971 through 1994 was never less than 3 times what it was in 1948, and ranged as high as more than 5 times the 1948 level. It also became far higher than the unemployment rate of whites the same age.

The relations between the police and the black community are another issue that has gotten a lot of attention, and produced counterproductive results. After all the rhetoric and all the efforts towards more tightly restraining the police, the net result has been that murder rates have soared in cities where that policy has been followed -- and most of the people killed have been black.

None of the most popular political panaceas for helping black communities has a track record of making things better, and some have made things much worse.

The one bright spot in black ghettos around the country are the schools that parents are free to choose for their own children. Some are Catholic schools, some are secular private schools and some are charter schools financed by public school systems but operating without the suffocating rules that apply to other public schools.

Not all of these kinds of schools are successes. But where there are academic successes in black ghettos, they come disproportionately from schools outside the iron grip of the education establishment and the teachers' unions.

Some of these academic successes have been spectacular -- especially among students in ghetto schools operated by the KIPP (Knowledge IS Power Program) chain of schools and the Success Academy schools.

Despite all the dire social problems in many black ghettos across the country -- problems which are used to excuse widespread academic failures in ghetto schools -- somehow ghetto schools run by KIPP and Success Academy turn out students whose academic performances match or exceed the performances in suburban schools whose kids come from high-income families.

What is even more astonishing is that charter schools are being opposed, not only by teachers' unions who think that schools exist to provide guaranteed jobs for their members, but also by politicians, including black politicians who loudly proclaim that "black lives matter."

Apparently these black children's futures do not matter enough for black politicians -- including the President of the United States -- to stand up to the teachers' unions. The teachers' unions produce big bucks in campaign contributions and big voter turnout on election day.

Any politician, of any race or party, who fights against charter schools that give many black youngsters their one shot at a decent life does not deserve the vote of anybody who really believes that black lives matter.

Saturday, September 10, 2016

Why Obamacare failed - Chicago Tribune

Why Obamacare failed - Chicago Tribune

Come November, the grim trudge across the increasingly barren Obamacare landscape begins anew. Illinois consumers likely face staggering price hikes for individual insurance policies. Some types of plans could cost an average of 43 percent to 55 percent more. Ditto across the country: A first tranche of states approved 2017 rates with similarly cardiac-arrest-inducing premium increases.

Many Illinois consumers will find fewer choices because major carriers fled this market. UnitedHealthcare bolted. So did Aetna. Land of Lincoln Health collapsed mid-year, leaving policy holders to scramble for coverage that could cost them plenty. In many places across Illinois and the nation, people will find drastically fewer choices of plans than they did last year.

Those insurers fled because they didn't want to lose more money on a government-run market that is so far out of whack — a market they think likely will never be profitable for them. That isn't surprising, as we enumerate below.

But by diagnosing Obamacare, all of us can see the mistakes that any repair or replacement can avoid. So let's look at the failings and how they can drive solutions:

Obamacare failed because it flunked Economics 101 and Human Nature 101. It straitjacketed insurers into providing overly expensive, soup-to-nuts policies. It wasn't flexible enough so that people could buy as much coverage as they wanted and could afford — not what the government dictated. Many healthy people primarily want catastrophic coverage. Obamacare couldn't lure them in, couldn't persuade them to buy on the chance they'd get sick.

Obamacare failed because the penalties for going uncovered are too low when stacked against its skyrocketing premium costs. Next year, the penalty for staying uninsured is $695 per adult, or perhaps 2.5 percent of a family's taxable household income. That's far less than many Americans would pay for coverage. Financial incentive: Skip Obamacare.

Obamacare failed because insurance is based on risk pools — that is, the lucky subsidize the unlucky. The unlucky who have big health problems (and big medical bills) reap much greater benefits than those who remain healthy and out of the doctors' office. But Obamacare's rules hamstring insurers. They can't exclude people for pre-existing conditions, and can't charge older customers more than three times as much as the young. Those are good goals, but they skew the market in ways Obamacare didn't figure out how to offset. Result: Young and healthy consumers pay far more in premiums than their claims (probably) would justify in order to subsidize the unexpectedly large influx of older, sicker customers who require expensive care. Too many unlucky people, too few lucky people: That will collapse any insurance scheme.

Obamacare failed because it allowed Americans to sign up after they got sick and needed help paying all those medical bills. Insurance should be structured so that, although you don't know if you'll need it, you pay for it anyway, just in case; your alternative is financial doom. But if you can game the system and, for example, buy auto coverage after you crash into your garage, then you have no incentive to buy insurance beforehand.

Obamacare failed because it hasn't tamed U.S. medical costs. Health care is about supply and demand: People who get coverage use it, especially if the law mandates free preventive care. Iron law of economics: Nothing is free; someone pays. To pretend otherwise was folly. Those forces combined to spike the costs of care, and thus insurance costs.

Obamacare failed because too many carriers simply can't cover expenses, let alone turn a profit, in this rigidly controlled system. Take Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Illinois, the state's dominant Obamacare insurer. Last year, for every dollar the carrier collected, it spent $1.32 buying care and providing services for customers, according to BCBS President Maurice Smith. No wonder BCBS is proposing rate increases from 23 percent to 45 percent for its individual plans.

A question looms: Is Obamacare plunging in a so-called insurance death spiral? Is the market so unstable that plans are doomed to get more and more expensive, driving more Americans and more insurers out of the market until ... Obamacare thuds to the pavement?

We won't predict that, but neither do we see a mathematical alternative. What's clear is that the solutions to Obamacare are implicit in its failures. A repaired or replaced system has to be more flexible, letting insurers offer a wider range of plans so that consumers, not lawmakers or bureaucrats, dictate what's best for them. That system should protect those who carry continuous coverage, not coddle those who duck in and out of plans when their health needs change.

A new system also should scrap the job-killing Obamacare mandates that discourage companies from hiring and discourage workers from adding hours. Instead of gearing subsidies to incomes, let Americans not covered via an employer reap tax credits to help finance their insurance purchases on the open market. And tell us again: Why can't insurers sell policies across state lines? Imagine the pricing competition that would unleash.

We can deny the current system's failings, or we can parlay our evolving knowledge into something much better.

Put another way: The next president and Congress either reckon with Obamacare's failures or ... wait for the thud.

Commentary: Black Lives Matter vs. charter schools

Commentary: Black Lives Matter vs. charter schools

The Movement for Black Lives Matter coalition has recently issued education-policy "demands" that demonstrate that not all the lives of black children matter to the group.

In the preamble of the BLM demands, the group uses language that seems drawn straight from teacher-union talking points. BLM talks about "an international education privatization agenda," which sounds very similar to a recent National Education Association tweet claiming, "Privatization is a global threat to public education." And like the NEA, the BLM authors believe that deregulated public charter schools are an instrument of this feared privatization agenda.

Despite the fact that charter schools are government funded and must receive initial and periodic approvals by local school boards, the fact that charters can be operated by private education management organizations causes BLM to froth about "corporate school reformers" who turn schools into "test subjects of experimental, market-based education reforms." BLM thus demands "a moratorium on charter schools."

In a hypocritical twist, The Atlantic reports that a child of Jonathan Stith, one of the authors of the BLM demands, is "enrolled in a charter school." Yet, Stith told the publication that his desire to eliminate charters "comes from a lived experience" - whatever that means.

What empirical research shows is that the lived experience of black children in charter schools has been very positive.

A 2015 study by Stanford University's Center for Research on Education Outcomes found that low-income black students in urban charter schools had higher achievement in math and reading than their peers in traditional public schools.

Looking across all 41 urban regions examined in the study, the Stanford researchers found, "Black students in poverty [in charter schools] receive the equivalent of 59 days of additional learning in math and 44 days of additional learning in reading compared to their peers in [traditional public schools]."

Urban charter schools were also more effective for black students who were not from low-income backgrounds. The Stanford study found that black students not in poverty gained the equivalent of 43 additional days of math learning and 29 additional days of reading learning in urban charter schools compared with similar students in traditional public schools.

Charter schools in cities such as Newark, New Orleans, and Memphis, which have large black populations, had some of the largest impacts on student achievement.

Further, the study found that charter schools in heavily black Detroit, the District of Columbia, and Newark have "small shares of low-performing [charter] schools and a majority of charters outperforming their local traditional public schools."

Yet, despite this overwhelming evidence that charter schools help improve the learning of black students, BLM would cut off this educational lifeline to the very children and parents for whom they purport to speak.

Why would BLM throw black children overboard? It is instructive to note that Hiram Rivera, one of the authors of the BLM document, is executive director of the Philadelphia Student Union, which has received funding from the American Federation of Teachers.

Also, the NEA and the AFT are members of the Alliance to Reclaim Our Schools, which is listed in the BLM document as a resource on education policy.

In addition, the NEA has passed a resolution supporting BLM and the head of the union has said, "The NEA is honored to stand in solidarity with Black Lives Matter." No wonder the BLM document specifically worries about how privatization would "destroy organized labor."

The authors of the Stanford charter-school study concluded: "[T]hese charter sectors clearly refute the idea that some groups of students cannot achieve high levels of academic success. They need only to be given the opportunity."

Black Lives Matter would destroy that opportunity and, along with it, the lives of thousands of black children.

Lance Izumi is Koret is senior fellow in education studies and senior director of the Center for Education at the Pacific Research Institute

Thursday, September 08, 2016

No, Math Isn't Racist | National Review

No, Math Isn't Racist | National Review

To understand the critique, you have to understand the social justice warrior’s definition of “fair.” A fair result is one that either breaks down precisely along demographic lines (for example, if 40 percent of a city’s population is black, then 40 percent of its cops should be black) or favors preferred identity groups. In other words, if a university program admits more women than men, it’s a testament to the grit and courage of women to overcome historic discrimination. If it admits more men than women, then it’s evidence that the patriarchy is alive and well.

Corporations and other entities are constantly on the lookout for race and gender-blind methods of measuring risk, and the information era allows unprecedented access to hard numbers. To exactly no one’s surprise, these hard numbers show that risk and competence don’t break down neatly along demographic lines — that history, culture, and numerous other factors influence different people in different populations to make choices that impact their employability, insurability, or credit worthiness.

Monday, September 05, 2016

Welfare Reform & Child Poverty: Did the 1996 Law Help Poor Children? | National Review

Welfare Reform & Child Poverty: Did the 1996 Law Help Poor Children? | National Review

If you think your opponent is arguing for miracles, it is likely that you are misinterpreting their claims.

Too many liberals are far too confident that the reforms they advocate would have been better than PRWORA and would be better than continuing current policy, because they tend to not seriously consider unintended consequences. Reforms that make receipt of welfare relatively more attractive will tend to draw more families onto the rolls and thereby run the risk of preventing them from benefiting from the advantages of employment. Or it will discourage planned and responsible childbearing by reducing its costs.

Relatedly, many critics of reform are too dismissive of paternalistic anti-poverty policy. “Don’t people know what’s best for themselves?” ask liberals and libertarians who assume that if work pays, people will naturally work. There is much to be said for this view, undoubtedly, but even if most people know what’s best for them most of the time, some do not at least some of the time.

Furthermore, policy shouldn’t necessarily strive to give people what they think is best for themselves in a world where wants are potentially unlimited and someone else is paying. Some people value leisure more than work at the margin, and in that case we have to ask whether working taxpayers are obliged to support the leisure of those who could work but do what’s best for themselves by not working. The same may be said of people whose childbearing decisions are what’s best for them; none of us is entitled to do what’s best for ourselves and expect others to bear the costs. These particular ways of evaluating the success of welfare reforms are, in a sense, moral rather than economic. But conservatives hold these normative views, in part, out of the belief that work and responsible childbearing may benefit children economically even if they do not make parents happier in the short run. For that matter, they may make society better off economically in the long run by promoting economic growth.

In the end, the conservative resistance to weakening the tough provisions in the 1996 law stems from the belief that — regardless of whether there might have been a better way — welfare reform improved the lives of the poor when compared with the old system. We get very nervous about departing from a model that a lot of evidence suggests was better than the status quo.

Saturday, September 03, 2016

D.C. Restaurants Lose 1,400 Jobs Amid Minimum Wage Increase | PJ Media

D.C. Restaurants Lose 1,400 Jobs Amid Minimum Wage Increase | PJ Media

Whenever someone tells you an increase in the minimum wage doesn't cost jobs, just point to the nation's capital in 2016.

In the first six months of 2016, leading up to a $11.50 per hour minimum wage, Washington, D.C., lost 1,400 restaurant jobs, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. This is a full 2.7 percent decline in food service jobs in two quarters, the largest such drop since the 2001 recession 15 years ago. In fact, this is the first time since 1991 that restaurants lost jobs in five of the first six months of a year. Even the 2008 recession pales in comparison to this loss of employment.

The new minimum wage took effect on July 1, a $1.00 increase from 2015. Further increases will continue in the future, as the minimum wage will be determined by the Consumer Price Index starting July 1, 2017. The $15 per hour minimum wage will be reached by 2020, according to a city council ordinance. That's more bad news for the restaurant service industry.

The decline in such jobs appears limited to the confines of the district. In the Maryland and Virginia suburbs surrounding D.C., restaurants added 2,900 jobs during the first six months of this year. In Virginia, the state minimum wage is only $7.25 per hour, 37 percent below D.C.'s, and in Maryland the state minimum wage is $8.75 per hour (although two counties, Montgomery County and Prince George's County, have scheduled increases to bring their local minimum wage up to $10.75 per hour).

As Mark Perry, a scholar at the American Enterprise Institute (AEI) and a professor of economics and finance at the University of Michigan, explained, the circumstances provide "a natural experiment to test for the employment effects of DC's minimum wage law," and those seem 100 percent negative.
If the restaurant industry in the nation’s capitol, with one of the highest costs of living in the country, is stumbling on the road to a full $15 an hour minimum wage in 2022, just imagine the troubles lower-cost cities like Minneapolis and Cleveland would have adjusting to a $15 an hour wage. Further, if the DC restaurant industry can’t easily absorb an $11.50 an hour minimum wage without experiencing the greatest job losses over the last six-months than in any comparable period in 15 years, just imagine the troubles adjusting to further labor cost increases of more than 30% (and $3.50 an hour) for minimum wage workers in the coming years to the full $15 an hour.

"While it might take several more years to assess the full impact, the preliminary evidence so far suggests that D.C.'s minimum wage law is having a negative effect on staffing levels at the city's restaurants," Perry wrote. Classic understatement.

Conservatives have long argued that increasing the minimum wage would actually hurt the very workers such a measure is intended to help. Businesses would be unable to hire as many workers, and many would instead opt to replace costly employees with automated equipment.

A recent study by the Heritage Foundation's James Sherk found that a nation-wide minimum wage hike to $15 per hour would cost 9 million jobs across the country. Some states would be harder hit than others. Populous states would suffer more: California, for instance, would lose 981,000 jobs, while Texas would lose 986,000, and Florida would lose 727,000. Even less populous states , such as Colorado (111,000 jobs) and Louisiana (214,000 jobs), would suffer a great deal. Washington, D.C., would lose 11,000, as would Vermont. Virginia would lose 221,000 jobs, while Maryland would lose 115,000.

But don't take Sherk's word for it — look at what's already happening in the nation's capital. The next time you see "Fight for $15," think of the 1,400 restaurant workers out of a job. That's the kind of change I don't want to believe in.