Friday, February 28, 2014
Thursday, February 27, 2014
Mark Steyn expresses his contempt for the self-inflicted blindness of "America's liberal Jewish elites."
A (The?) fundamental problem with the left is that in its quixotic quest for utopia, it fails to appreciate, either through ignorance or self-delusion, that not long ago historically speaking, dystopia prevailed. The dramatic change roughly two centuries ago was due to the development of free enterprise or what Marxists termed "capitalism". This sudden and astonishing creation of global wealth is depicted in the graph below.
In today's WSJ, Daniel Henninger writes of the capitalist miracle. He chides anti-capitalist leaders for much of the unnecessary poverty and hopelessness in developing countries and he warns of additional political unrest if we don't turn away from their growth-stifling policies.
...For the longest time—basically from after the Garden of Eden until the 19th century—economic benefit for the average person in the West or Japan was flat as toast. The Mona Lisa aside, there was a reason someone back then said life was nasty, brutish and short. Then suddenly, new wealth spread broadly.
(Angus) Maddison describes 1820 till 1950 as the "capitalist epoch." He means that admiringly. The tools of capitalism unlocked the knowledge created until then. What came to be called "economic growth" gave more people jobs that lifted them and their families from the muck of joblessness and poverty. Maddison also noted that much of the world did not participate in the capitalist epoch. No wonder they revolt now.
This history is worth restating because the importance of strong economic growth, and the unavoidable necessity of a U.S. that leads that growth, may be disappearing down the memory hole of public policy, on the left and even among some on the right. Both share the grim view that the U.S. economy is flatlining, and the grim fight is over how to divide what's left.
There is no alternative to strong economic growth. None. They know this in Beijing, Seoul, Kuala Lumpur, Jakarta, Warsaw, Bratislava, Taipei, even Hanoi. The missing piece is a global growth agenda led by a U.S. president and Treasury secretary who aren't fundamentally at odds with capitalism.
In a puckish moment, Angus Maddison did say that income inequality was rather minimal in the 11th century. Now those were the days.
Tuesday, February 18, 2014
An excellent blog, bookwormroom.com, managed by a conservative woman living in the decidedly non-conservative SF bay area, displays a dictum at the top of its website that asserts "conservatives deal with facts and reach conclusions; liberals have conclusions and sell them as facts." Wise words that can be illustrated by examining the disparate issues of climate science and taxation.
Global warming enthusiasts have a near religious conviction of a positive correlation between human produced carbon dioxide and "climate change". Mark Steyn recently observed that Michael Mann, originator of the discredited "hockey stick" model of global warming, used a Twitter hashtag designation of #AntiScience for Dr. Judith Curry, chair of the School of Earth and Atmospheric Sciences at the Georgia Institute of Technology, simply because she disputes Mann's view. Dr. Mann's refusal to debate disputers of global warming dogma is the true "anti science" position.
And there is much to dispute. One example - Above is a graph depicting the expected rise in global temperature due to increasing carbon dioxide emissions over time, based on models developed by environmental scientists. The graph clearly shows that the models have failed to accurately predict the increase in global temperature since 1983 with the observed temperature rise being far smaller than the average of the models.
So why does the left conclude that "global warming" must be fought by penalizing carbon production? Profit and power. In today's WSJ, Bret Stephens writes of "the obscure intersection of public policy, private profits and the climate science that joins the two."
If George W. Bush had left office and immediately joined the boards of defense contractors building MRAPs for Iraq, hard questions would be raised. When Maurice Strong, Al Gore and other climate profiteers seek to enrich themselves from policies they put into place while in office, it scarcely raises an eyebrow.
It should. The carbon-trading schemes enacted with such fanfare just a few years ago have effectively ceased to operate amid collapsing prices. The sustainable-energy craze produced the expensive bankruptcies of solar-panel maker Solyndra, Fisker Automotive and battery maker A123 Systems, to name a few. Germany, which has taken its climate-change fetish further than any other major economy, is now coming to grips with a comprehensive fiasco of higher energy prices and higher carbon emissions. Who would have thought that when the sun doesn't shine or the wind doesn't blow, people might still want to switch on the lights?
It is now the dogma of the left that any hint of doubt when it comes to predictions of climate doom is evidence of greed, stupidity, moral turpitude or psychological derangement. "Climate denial" is intended to be the equivalent of Holocaust denial. And yet the only people who've predicted anything right so far are those who foresaw that the Kyoto Protocol would fail, that renewable energies didn't really work, and that climate bureaucrats accountable to nobody but their own sense of virtue and taste for profit were a danger to everyone.
On to the issue of taxation vs. revenue. A particularly irritating characteristic of leftist demagoguery is the manner in which tax increases are discussed. Someone like Chuck Schumer, for example, when addressing the problem of debt and deficit reduction, doesn't speak of raising taxes. Since "tax increase" is a political 3rd rail, he substitutes the euphemism "revenue". (e.g.- "Both presidents (G. H. W. Bush and Clinton) combined discretionary spending reductions with revenue raisers and mandatory spending cuts.”) Leftists consider the two terms "revenue" and "taxes" to be synonymous. Data show that they are not. The most recent demonstration of this is the effect of the 2003 Bush tax cuts, which, contrary to expectations, helped achieve record levels of federal revenue.
The video linked below explains the Laffer Curve, which disproves the fallacy that higher taxes invariably produce higher revenues. (The video was featured on the Bookworm site).
Friday, February 14, 2014
Charles Krauthammer expands upon his earlier comments concerning the CBO estimate of workforce losses due to Obamacare disincentives.
Pelosi spoke lyrically about how Obamacare subsidies will allow people to leave unfulfilling jobs to pursue their passions: “Think of an economy where people could be an artist or a photographer or a writer without worrying about keeping their day job in order to have health insurance."
Nothing so lyrical has been written about work since Marx (in The German Ideology) described a Communist society that “makes it possible for me to . . . hunt in the morning, fish in the afternoon, rear cattle in the evening, criticize after dinner.”
Pelosi’s vision is equally idyllic except for one thing: The taxes of the American factory worker — grinding away dutifully at his repetitive, mind-numbing job — will be subsidizing the voluntary unemployment of the artiste in search of his muse. A rather paradoxical position for the party that poses as tribune of the working man.
In the reductio ad absurdum of entitlement liberalism, Jay Carney was similarly enthusiastic about this Obamacare-induced job loss. Why, Obamacare creates the “opportunity” that “allows families in America to make a decision about how they will work, and if they will work.”
If they will work? Pre-Obama, people always had the right to quit work to tend full time to the study of butterflies. It’s a free country. The twist in the new liberal dispensation is that the butterfly guy is to be subsidized by the taxes of people who actually work.
...The honest liberal reply to the CBO report is that a disincentive to work is inherent in any means-tested government benefit. It’s the unavoidable price of helping those in need because for every new dollar you earn, you lose part of your subsidy and thus keep less and less of your nominal income.
A personal note. I am close to someone for whom the work disincentive for means tested government benefits has had a real effect. Any time this person takes a job, even one offering meager compensation, she is threatened with the loss of her health insurance and food stamps. A regular, full time job paying anything higher than the minimum wage would be out of the question unless it included subsidized health insurance.
Of the many failures and shortcomings of Obamacare, this is arguably the worst. Very low income earners benefit. Others, struggling to escape poverty, are discouraged from doing so by the disincentives of which Krauthammer writes. President Obama lies when he states that there are no conservative alternatives to Obamacare. There are many. Recently a plan was developed which addresses the issues of insuring more people; the problem of preexisting conditions; and lowering costs. It also helps groups that Obamacare neglects - the near poor, the near elderly and the young. Bill Kristol and Jeffrey Anderson at The Weekly Standard give this example:
...a typical 26-year-old man who makes $35,000 would get no Obamacare subsidy whatsoever for the cheapest-priced “bronze” plan. Nor would a 36-year-old woman who is making that same $35,000. Under our alternative, by contrast, they would get tax credits of $1,200 and $2,100 respectively, which they wouldn’t have to use for a government-run “exchange” plan but could use for any plan they’d like.
Krauthammer - http://www.nationalreview.com/article/371073/obamacares-war-jobs-charles-krauthammer
Healthcare plan - http://2017project.org/
Kristol and Anderson - http://www.weeklystandard.com/blogs/winning-alternative-obamacare_778872.html
Thursday, February 13, 2014
...and "dreams" and "bittersweet moments".
“The empire that ascended to affirm a colossal footprint; the revolution that birthed one of modern history’s pivotal experiments.”
NBC Olympic commentary describing Russia
"Our guide Lyubov has reappeared one last time holding on to a red balloon which represents the end of the 20th century dream. [long pause for effect]. A bittersweet moment as she lets go of that balloon as Russia says goodbye to its past but looks ahead to a brighter future."
Meredith Viera describing the Olympic opening ceremony
“Far too many people have an erroneous conception of what the National-Socialist regime really stands for. Otherwise they would lay less stress on Nazi dictatorship and much more emphasis on the great social experiment which is being tried out in this country.”
Sir Nevile Henderson, Britain’s ambassador to Nazi Germany, 1937
Wednesday, February 12, 2014
From Ricochet.com. Yes, it's "anecdotal". The same type of evidence that Democrats used to help force the ACA upon us.
My sister Julie had health insurance that was deemed unsuitable by Darth Obama. Now she is dead. We will bury her on Wednesday. My brother wrote a piece explaining the sad tale here:
Julie, her husband, and four children were covered by a medical plan they liked, and had been promised they could keep by President Obama. But like so many others in this country, her family’s private health care policy was cancelled because of the Affordable Care Act. So my sister and her family struggled through the expensive and incompetently designed Obamacare website to find a new policy. Unfortunately, while they waited for their new Obama-approved healthcare plan to finally kick in, my little sister fell ill. She couldn’t keep down solid food. She should have gone to a doctor. But she toughed it out, as many people do, until her new coverage would kick in on February 2. She and her husband didn’t have a lot of money, so she didn’t want to incur what she thought were avoidable medical expenses.Our family is in shock that an otherwise healthy 54-year-old woman is now gone. I guess she was just one of the proles sacrificed for the greater good of the state.
But she didn’t make it. It turns out that, unbeknownst to her, she wasn’t suffering from an upset stomach or food poisoning, but a badly blocked gall bladder that had become highly infected. Her body went into septic shock just two days before her Obamacare policy would have kicked in. Her kidneys shut down. She went to the emergency room where, after heroic efforts, a marvelous medical team managed to stabilize her condition. I saw Julie that day for several hours. She could not move, or speak, but a tear trickled down her check when she saw the eldest daughter of her four children. After I left, hoping for the best, I learned the next day that her gentle heart stopped beating around 4:00 a.m.
So, while the White House sends out talking points to the talking heads who proclaim Americans will be better off because Obamacare forced them off of inadequate health care plans, my family knows better.
Sunday, February 9, 2014
From the people who gave us "Man caused disasters" and "Overseas contingency operations" and equate abortion with "women's health"...
A couple of other depictions of Obamacare's impact on employment...
And, finally, Democrats' prescription for overall economic growth...
Friday, February 7, 2014
Charles Krauthammer manages to explain the moral and functional bankruptcy of American leftist ideology - all in less than two minutes.
A somewhat longer discussion of the issue that prompted Krauthammer's comments - the belated Congressional Budget Office discovery that built in Obamacare disincentives to work, especially among those in the lower income groups, will cost the American economy roughly two and a half million full time job equivalents by 2024 - can be found in this weekend's WSJ interview by Joseph Rago of University of Chicago Economics Professor Casey Mulligan. Mulligan's research revealed those disincentives long before the CBO discovered them. (Mulligan still believes the CBO is underestimating the damage to the employment picture by half, though that's a three fold improvement over its initial estimate).
During the interview, Mulligan addresses the response of Obamacare apologists to the data.
...liberals have turned to claiming that ObamaCare's missing workers will be a gift to society. Since employers aren't cutting jobs per se through layoffs or hourly take-backs, people are merely choosing rationally to supply less labor. Thanks to ObamaCare, we're told, Americans can finally quit the salt mines and blacking factories and retire early, or spend more time with the children, or become artists.
Mr. Mulligan reserves particular scorn for the economists making this "eliminated from the drudgery of labor market" argument, which he views as a form of trahison des clercs. "I don't know what their intentions are," he says, choosing his words carefully, "but it looks like they're trying to leverage the lack of economic education in their audience by making these sorts of points."
A job, Mr. Mulligan explains, "is a transaction between buyers and sellers. When a transaction doesn't happen, it doesn't happen. We know that it doesn't matter on which side of the market you put the disincentives, the results are the same. . . . In this case you're putting an implicit tax on work for households, and employers aren't willing to compensate the households enough so they'll still work." Jobs can be destroyed by sellers (workers) as much as buyers (businesses).
He adds: "I can understand something like cigarettes and people believe that there's too much smoking, so we put a tax on cigarettes, so people smoke less, and we say that's a good thing. OK. But are we saying we were working too much before? Is that the new argument? I mean make up your mind. We've been complaining for six years now that there's not enough work being done. . . . Even before the recession there was too little work in the economy. Now all of a sudden we wake up and say we're glad that people are working less? We're pursuing our dreams?"
The larger betrayal, Mr. Mulligan argues, is that the same economists now praising the great shrinking workforce used to claim that ObamaCare would expand the labor market.
He points to a 2011 letter organized by Harvard's David Cutler and the University of Chicago's Harold Pollack, signed by dozens of left-leaning economists including Nobel laureates, stating "our strong conclusion" that ObamaCare will strengthen the economy and create 250,000 to 400,000 jobs annually. (Mr. Cutler has since qualified and walked back some of his claims.)
Thursday, February 6, 2014
From Jon Gabriel at the Ricochet Website:
"Trader Joe’s wanted to build a new store in Portland, Oregon. Instead of heading to a tony neighborhood downtown or towards the suburbs, the popular West Coast grocer chose a struggling area of Northeast Portland.
The company selected two acres along Martin Luther King Blvd. that had been vacant for decades. It seemed like the perfect place to create jobs, improve customer options and beautify the neighborhood. City officials, the business community, and residents all seemed thrilled with the plan. Then some community organizers caught wind of it.
The fact that most members of the Portland African-American Leadership Forum didn’t live in the neighborhood was beside the point. “This is a people’s movement for African-Americans and other communities, for self-determination,” member Avel Gordley said in a press conference. Even the NAACP piled on, railing against the project as a “case study in gentrification.” (The area is about 25 percent African-American.)
After a few months of racially tinged accusations and angry demands, Trader Joe’s decided it wasn’t worth the hassle. “We run neighborhood stores and our approach is simple,” a corporate statement said. “If a neighborhood does not want a Trader Joe's, we understand, and we won't open the store in question.”
Hours after Trader Joe’s pulled out, PAALF leaders arrived at a previously scheduled press conference trying to process what just happened. The group re-issued demands that the now-cancelled development include affordable housing, mandated jobs based on race, and a small-business slush fund. Instead, the only demand being met is two fallow acres and a lot of anger from the people who actually live nearby.
“All of my neighbors were excited to have Trader Joe’s come here and replace a lot that has always been empty,” said Nghi Tran. “It’s good quality for poor men.” Like many residents, Tran pins the blame on PAALF. “They don’t come to the neighborhood cleanups,” he said. “They don’t live here anymore.”
“There are no winners today,” said Adam Milne, owner of an area restaurant. “Only missed tax revenue, lost jobs, less foot traffic, an empty lot and a boulevard still struggling to support its local small businesses.” The store was to be built by a local African-American owned construction company.
Artist Kymberly Jeka insisted “this is not what the neighborhood people want. This is terrible.” Grayson Dempsey looked out of her window at the vacant lot: “I appreciate that (PAALF) is trying to talk about the origins of gentrification. That’s really essential, but they can’t stand up and say, ‘As residents of the King neighborhood, this is what we want.’ The residents of the King neighborhood want this to happen.”
Sometimes a community doesn’t want to be organized.
But have no fear, Portland. You might not have a new Trader Joe’s, but PAALF promised to hold a “community visioning process” later this month. No word yet if that brainstorming session will offer jobs, affordable housing or Two Buck Chuck."
Wednesday, February 5, 2014
Roger L. Simon writing at the PJ Media website:
"'The fact of the matter is the Wall Street Journal editorial page just kicks our editorial page’s ass. I mean there’s just no contest, from top to bottom, and it’s disappointing.'
I certainly agree about the mind-bending banality of the Times opinion page and the windiness (at best) of Friedman. But I think the reporters are off the mark on the cause. They can blame it on Rosenthal if they wish — I have no opinion, not working there — but the real problem is far greater than any one editor.
To adopt what is becoming a modern cliché — it’s the ideology, stupid.
The Times reporters complained of the page’s uniformly negative tone, but not even S.J. Perelman or P.G. Wodehouse could write with verve in the service of modern liberalism. You can’t bring a dead horse to life. No writer is that good — at least on a regular basis.
How, for example, do you write an eloquent defense of Obamacare or justify the administration’s actions in Benghazi without resorting to the kind of obfuscation that makes for convoluted, or at best tedious, writing? How do you advocate for yet more government programs in a country already so mired in debt it’s hard to see how it will ever get out? It’s Keynesian economics itself that’s the problem, not Paul Krugman."
One comment - "the Wall Street Journal editorial page just kicks our editorial page’s ass." An editorial page has an ass? Those NYT reporters sure know how to use language.
Speaking of the NYT, here's an obituary which appeared in the paper last year.
SHUCHMAN--Amos, of New York, on February 1, 2013. Beloved and caring husband of Alice Shuchman for 51 years, father of Daniel (Lori Lesser) and Nina (Brian Roth), grandfather of Jacob, Sarah, Aaron and Ariela. Born in Tel Aviv in 1928, fought bravely in the Haganah. Loved his family, his birth and adopted countries, finance, skiing, opera, ballet and biking in Central Park. Loved everything about NYC, except the New York Times. Services at Beth El Cemetery (Or Zarua section), Paramus, NJ, Sunday at 11am. Memorial contributions to a charity of your choice. His fearless heart still beats within all of us. Shalom, Saba.
Saturday, February 1, 2014
Kevin Williamson writing (once again) about Detroit.
"Detroit represents nothing less than progressivism in its final stage of decadence: Worried that unionized public-sector workers are looting your city? Detroit is already bankrupt, unable to provide basic services expected of it — half the streetlights don’t work, transit has been reduced, neighborhoods go unpatrolled. Worried that public-sector unions are ruining your schools? Detroit’s were ruined a generation or more ago, the results of which are everywhere to be seen in the city. Worried that Obamacare is going to ruin our health-care markets? General-practice physicians are hard to find in Detroit, and those willing to accept Medicaid — which covers a great swath of Detroit’s population — are rarer still. Worried about the permissive culture? Four out of five of Detroit’s children are born out of wedlock. Worried that government is making it difficult for businesses to thrive? Many people in Detroit have to travel miles to find a grocery store. This is the endgame of welfare economics: What good is Medicaid if there are no doctors? What good are food stamps where there is no food? What good are “free” schools if you’re so afraid to send your children there that you feel it prudent to arm them first?
Detroit is what Democrats do. The last Republican elected mayor of Detroit took office during the Eisenhower administration. The decay of Detroit is not the inevitable outcome of the decline of the automotive industry: The automotive industry is thriving in the United States — but not in Detroit. It isn’t white flight: The black middle class has left Detroit as fast as it can. The model of Detroit politics is startlingly familiar in its fundamentals, distinguished only by its degree of advancement: Advance the interests of public-sector unions and politically connected business cronies, expand the relative size of the public sector remorselessly — and when opposed, cry “Racism!” When people vote with their feet, cry “Racism!” When the budget just won’t balance, cry “Racism!” Never mind that the current mayor of Detroit is the first non–African American to hold that job since the 1970s, or that, as one Detroit News columnist put it, “black nationalism . . . is now the dominant ideology of the [city] council” — somewhere, there must be a somebody else to blame, preferably: aged, portly, white, male, and Republican. No less a fool than Ed Schultz blamed the straits of this exemplar of Democratic single-party rule on “a lot of Republican policies.” Melissa Harris-Perry, “America’s leading public intellectual,” blames Detroit’s problems on its conservatism and small government, oblivious to the fact that Detroit maintains twice as many city employees per resident as do larger cities such as Fort Worth and Indianapolis, and three times as many as liberal San Jose.
The result of all that municipal “investment”? For children newborn through age 18, Detroit sees 120 deaths per 100,000 each year — a rate 26 percent higher than second-place child-killer Philadelphia. That’s nearly two and a half times the rate in Los Angeles, which isn’t exactly a leafy suburban paradise. Every time our progressive friends come to us with another idea for transferring wealth from the productive economy to them and their friends, they scold us: “Think of the children!” But those who resist their efforts to do to the country at large what they have done to Detroit are thinking of the children.
There used to be a popular bumper sticker reading, “War Is Not Healthy for Children and Other Living Things.” War is hell, Detroit merely hellish. The difference is, we don’t send children off to war."