Thursday, July 25, 2013

No Free Lunch

Many thanks to a WSJ letter writer for supplying insight into why we get the political leaders we do.

One aspect of the pension problems in Detroit and elsewhere that I never see addressed is the loss of spendable income by those whose pensions will be affected. We can probably assume that the majority of pension income is spent, thus creating jobs, creating more spending, more taxes coming in, etc. As we were all told by the wise Nancy Pelosi: "Unemployment benefits are creating jobs faster than practically any other program." Wouldn't reducing pensions and thus spendable income take away jobs and hinder our recovery even more?
We need more people getting pension payments, not fewer.
Harold Stoetzer
Glendale, Ariz.

Ah yes. The wisdom of Nancy (we've got to pass it to see what's in it) Pelosi.

Transferring wealth to retired pensioners from working taxpayers will allow the former to spend and grow the economy while having no impact on the latter's spending habits, their depleted incomes notwithstanding. I see.

Meanwhile some good sense still exists back on planet Earth.

The problem with Detroit pensions is obvious. You quote a police officer who retired in 1998 at about the age of 50 after working for 26 years, as well as a 50-year-old man who spent 25 years repairing potholes and who plans to retire in October.
How can someone expect to retire in their early 50s after working 25 years and expect to collect a pension for 35 years or more, much longer than the years worked? That's what happened in Greece.
Those of us in the private sector realize retirement isn't possible unless we work 35 to 40 years or more, or well into our mid-to-late '60s. Do the math. The expectation needs to be changed.
Bessie Montesano            
New Fairfield, Conn.

Detroit and Greece have much in common. The governments of each spend more than they take in. Both governments have accumulated years of increasing debt they can't repay. Neither government can print money to cover its spending habits. Both governments have antagonized private capital markets by forcing haircuts on bondholders. Where does the new money come from to finance their deficit spending? Not from me.
John McDonald
LaQuinta, Calif.

Unfortunately Mr. McDonald (and the rest of us) may not have a choice. King Barack may decide to support the reckless and immoral profligacy of his political allies with a bailout. Guess who pays?

Monday, July 22, 2013

Misdirected Outrage

Shelby Steele on the Zimmerman/Martin case.

The verdict that declared George Zimmerman not guilty of murdering Trayvon Martin was a traumatic event for America's civil-rights establishment, and for many black elites across the media, government and academia. When you have grown used to American institutions being so intimidated by the prospect of black wrath that they invent mushy ideas like "diversity" and "inclusiveness" simply to escape that wrath, then the crisp reading of the law that the Zimmerman jury displayed comes as a shock.
On television in recent weeks you could see black leaders from every background congealing into a chorus of umbrage and complaint. But they weren't so much outraged at a horrible injustice as they were affronted by the disregard of their own authority. The jury effectively said to them, "You won't call the tune here. We will work within the law."

This would not be the first time that a movement begun in profound moral clarity, and that achieved greatness, waned away into a parody of itself—not because it was wrong but because it was successful. Today's civil-rights leaders have missed the obvious: The success of their forbearers in achieving social transformation denied to them the heroism that was inescapable for a Martin Luther King Jr. or a James Farmer or a Nelson Mandela. Jesse Jackson and  Al Sharpton cannot write a timeless letter to us from a Birmingham jail or walk, as John Lewis did in 1965, across the Edmund Pettus Bridge in Selma, Ala., into a maelstrom of police dogs and billy clubs. That America is no longer here (which is not to say that every trace of it is gone).
The Revs. Jackson and Sharpton have been consigned to a hard fate: They can never be more than redundancies, echoes of the great men they emulate because America has changed. Hard to be a King or Mandela today when your monstrous enemy is no more than the cherubic George Zimmerman.

One wants to scream at all those outraged at the Zimmerman verdict: Where is your outrage over the collapse of the black family? Today's civil-rights leaders swat at mosquitoes like Zimmerman when they have gorillas on their back. Seventy-three percent of all black children are born without fathers married to their mothers. And you want to bring the nation to a standstill over George Zimmerman?

Sunday, July 21, 2013

City Of The Left

This is what "progress" looks like.

Leftists bemoaning the presence of Republicans in Congress and in state and local governments could point to, over the past half-century, one notable oasis of unrestrained "progressive" policymaking and public sector and trade union dominance. Detroit, formerly the 4th largest city in the U.S., has had not one (zero!) Republican in government for 44 years. Louis Miriani, voted out of office in 1962, was the last Republican mayor of Detroit. He was also the last of his party to hold a seat on the city council, retiring in 1969. Since then, Democrats have had unanimous control of the city. And without the mitigating effects of the entrenched, vibrant, and in some cases, centuries old academic institutions of eastern Massachusetts or the natural riches and optimal climate of California, Detroit was left exposed to all the noxious effects that "progressivism" has to offer.

Mark Steyn and Kevin Williamson on the city's downfall.

40 percent of Detroit's streetlamps don’t work; 210 of its 317 public parks have been permanently closed; it takes an hour for police to respond to a 9-1-1 call; only a third of its ambulances are driveable; one-third of the city has been abandoned; the local realtor offers houses on sale for a buck and still finds no takers...

To achieve this level of devastation, you usually have to be invaded by a foreign power.

To any American time-transported from the mid 20th century, the city’s implosion would be literally incredible: Were he to compare photographs of today’s Hiroshima with today’s Detroit, he would assume Japan won the Second World War after nuking Michigan. Detroit was the industrial powerhouse of America, the “arsenal of democracy,” and in 1960 the city with the highest per capita income in the land. Half a century on, Detroit’s population has fallen by two-thirds, and in terms of “per capita income,” many of the shrunken pool of capita have no income at all beyond EBT cards.

Forty-seven percent of adults are functionally illiterate, which is about the same rate as the Central African Republic, which at least has the excuse that it was ruled throughout the Seventies by a cannibal emperor. Why would any genuine innovator open a business in a Detroit “innovation hub”? Whom would you employ? The illiterates include a recent president of the school board, Otis Mathis, which doesn’t bode well for the potential work force a decade hence.

Given their respective starting points, one has to conclude that Detroit’s Democratic party makes a far more comprehensive wrecking crew than Emperor Bokassa ever did. No bombs, no invasions, no civil war, just “liberal” “progressive” politics day in, day out. Americans sigh and say, “Oh, well, Detroit’s an ‘outlier.’” It’s an outlier only in the sense that it happened here first. The same malign alliance between a corrupt political class, rapacious public-sector unions, and an ever more swollen army of welfare dependents has been adopted in the formerly Golden State of California, and in large part by the Obama administration, whose priorities — “health” “care” “reform,” “immigration” “reform” — are determined by the same elite/union/dependency axis. As one droll tweeter put it, “If Obama had a city, it would look like Detroit.”

Detroit has lost nearly two-thirds of its population. The decline of the automotive industry alone is not responsible for that: Ford by itself still employs enough people that it could employ one member of every family in Detroit. GM and Ford together could employ the entire working-age (18–65) population of Detroit, along with every man, woman, and child in Flint, Mich., and every man, woman, and child in Pontiac, Mich., and would still need to fill a few vacancies. That’s to say nothing of Chrysler, the American operations of firms such as Toyota and BMW, or Mercedes-Benz’s SUV business — or the countless manufacturers of automotive parts, components, materials, etc. What do most of those firms have in common? They do not want to be in or near Detroit.

The hunt for low wages is not the explanation for that fact. Motor Trend named the Mercedes-Benz GL Class the best SUV in the world this year — prices for that truck cross the $100,000 mark — and it is made in Vance, Ala. Does anybody really think that Mercedes, a company used to paying its German workers very attractive wages, is in Alabama so that it can pay Third World wages to toothless hillbillies to build its flagship SUV? A quick look at the numbers confirms that this is not the case.

Here’s a wild guess: Mercedes is in Alabama because nobody wants to live in Detroit except Kwame Kilpatrick, whose most likely next option is a six-by-eight cell, and the gentlemen of the United Automobile Workers union and their associates. The UAW, having helped to destroy the automotive industry in and around Detroit, is currently in the middle of its third attempt to unionize Mercedes-Benz workers in Alabama and elsewhere in the South, having committed tens of millions of dollars — where will that come from? — to the project. Joining the UAW is like joining the European Union — no matter how many times you vote against it, there’s always another vote, until it goes the other way, and then there are no more votes.