Thursday, January 02, 2014

Inequality -- Crisis or Scam

By Patrick J. Buchanan

When President Richard Nixon arrived in Beijing in 1972, Chairman Mao Zedong — with his Marxist revolution, Great Leap Forward and Great Proletarian Cultural Revolution — had achieved an equality unrivaled anywhere.

That is, until Pol Pot came along.

There seemed to be no private cars on Beijing's streets. In the stores, there was next to nothing on the shelves. The Chinese all seemed dressed in the same blue Mao jackets.

Today there are billionaires and millionaires in China, booming cities, a huge growing middle class and, yes, hundreds of millions of peasants still living on a few dollars a day.

Hence, there is far greater inequality in China today than in 1972.

Yet, is not the unequal China of today a far better place for the Chinese people than the Communist ant colony of Mao?

Lest we forget, it is freedom that produces inequality.

Even a partly free nation unleashes the natural and acquired abilities of peoples, and the more industrious and talented inevitably excel and rise and reap the greater rewards. "Inequality ... is rooted in the biological nature of man," said James Fenimore Cooper.

Yet for many people, from New York Mayor-elect Bill de Blasio to President Barack Obama to Pope Francis, income inequality is a curse in need of a cure, as there is today said to be an intolerable measure of such inequality.

But let us first inspect the measuring rod.

Though a family of four with $23,550 in cash income in 2013 qualified as living in poverty, this hardly tells the whole story.

Consider the leveling effect of the graduated income tax, about which Karl Marx wrote glowingly in his "Communist Manifesto."

The top 1 percent of U.S. earners pay nearly 40 percent of U.S. income taxes. The top 10 percent pay 70 percent. The top 50 percent pay more than 97 percent of income taxes. The poor pay nothing.

Surely, trillions of dollars siphoned annually off the incomes of the most productive Americans — in federal, state and local income and payroll taxes — closes the gap somewhat.

Secondly, though 15 percent of U.S. families qualify as poor, measured by cash income, this does not take into account the vast assortment of benefits they receive.

The poor have their children educated free in public schools, from Head Start to K-12 and then on to college with Pell Grants. Their medical needs are taken care of through Medicaid.  They receive food stamps to feed the family. The kids can get two or three free meals a day at school.

Housing, too, is paid for or subsidized. The poor also receive welfare checks and Earned Income Tax Credits for added cash.

In the late 1940s, our family had no freezer, no dishwasher, no clothes washer or dryer, no microwave, no air conditioning. We watched the Notre Dame-Army game on a black-and-white 8-inch DuMont.

Among American families in poverty today, 1 in 4 have a freezer. Nearly half have automatic dishwashers. Almost 60 percent have a home computer. About 2 in 3 poor families have a clothes washer and dryer. Eighty percent have cellphones.

Ninety-three percent of the poor have a microwave; 96 percent a color TV, and 97 percent a gas or electric stove. Not exactly les miserables.

Robert Rector of The Heritage Foundation added up the cost in 2012 of the means-tested federal and state programs for America's poor and low-income families. Price tag: $927 billion.

There are 79 federal programs, writes Rector, that provide cash, food, housing, medical care, social services, training and targeted education to poor and low-income Americans.

"If converted to cash, means-tested welfare spending is more than sufficient to bring the income of every lower-income American to 200 percent of the federal poverty level, roughly $44,000 per year for a family of four."

Then there are the contributions of churches, charities and foundations.

Where in history have the poor been treated better?  Certainly not in the USA in the 1950s or during the Depression. Why, then, all this sudden talk about reducing the gap between rich and poor?

A good society will take care of its poor. But envy that others have more, and coveting the goods of the more successful, used to constitute two of the seven capital sins in the Baltimore Catechism.

At Howard University in 1965, President Lyndon Johnson declared, "We seek not just ... equality as a right ... but equality as a fact and equality as a result."

Yet the only way to make people who are unequal in talents equal in rewards is to use governmental power to dispossess some and favor others.

Alexis de Tocqueville saw it coming:  "The sole condition which is required in order to succeed in centralizing the supreme power in a democratic community, is to love equality or to get men to believe you love it. Thus, the science of despotism, which was once so complex, is simplified, and reduced ... to a single principle."

Get people to believe you are seeking the utopian goal of equality of all and there is no limit to the power you can amass.



Parting Company

Walter E. Williams

Here's a question that I've asked in the past that needs to be revisited. Unless one wishes to obfuscate, it has a simple yes or no answer. If one group of people prefers strong government control and management of people's lives while another group prefers liberty and desires to be left alone, should they be required to enter into conflict with one another and risk bloodshed and loss of life in order to impose their preferences on the other group? Yes or no. My answer is no; they should be able to peaceably part company and go their separate ways.

The problem our nation faces is very much like a marriage in which one partner has an established pattern of ignoring and breaking the marital vows. Moreover, the offending partner has no intention to mend his ways. Of course, the marriage can remain intact while one party tries to impose his will on the other and engages in the deviousness of one-upsmanship and retaliation. Rather than domination or submission by one party, or domestic violence, a more peaceable alternative is separation.

I believe our nation is at a point where there are enough irreconcilable differences between those Americans who want to control other Americans and those Americans who want to be left alone that separation is the only peaceable alternative. Just as in a marriage where vows are broken, our rights guaranteed by the U.S. Constitution have been grossly violated by a government instituted to protect them. These constitutional violations have increased independent of whether there's been a Democrat-controlled Washington or a Republican-controlled Washington.

There is no evidence that Americans who are responsible for and support constitutional abrogation have any intention of mending their ways. You say, "Williams, what do you mean by constitutional abrogation?" Let's look at the magnitude of the violations.

Article I, Section 8 of our Constitution lists the activities for which Congress is authorized to tax and spend. Nowhere on that list is there authority for Congress to tax and spend for: Medicare, Social Security, public education, farm subsidies, bank and business bailouts, food stamps and thousands of other activities that account for roughly two-thirds of the federal budget. Neither is there authority for congressional mandates to citizens about what type of health insurance they must purchase, how states and people may use their land, the speed at which they can drive, whether a library has wheelchair ramps, and the gallons of water used per toilet flush. The list of congressional violations of both the letter and spirit of the Constitution is virtually without end. Our derelict Supreme Court has given Congress sanction to do just about anything for which they can muster a majority vote.

James Madison, the acknowledged father of the Constitution, explained in Federalist Paper No. 45: "The powers delegated by the proposed Constitution to the federal government are few and defined. Those which are to remain in the State governments are numerous and indefinite. The former will be exercised principally on external objects, as war, peace, negotiation, and foreign commerce. ... The powers reserved to the several States will extend to all the objects which in the ordinary course of affairs, concern the lives and liberties, and properties of the people, and the internal order, improvement and prosperity of the State." Our founder's constitutional vision of limited federal government has been consigned to the dustbin of history.

Americans have several options. We can like sheep submit to those who have contempt for liberty and our Constitution. We can resist, fight and risk bloodshed and death in an attempt to force America's tyrants to respect our liberties and Constitution. A superior alternative is to find a way to peaceably separate into states whose citizens respect liberty and the Constitution. My personal preference is a restoration of the constitutional values of limited government that made us a great nation.



How debtors’ prisons are making a comeback in America

Apparently having 5% of the world’s population, but 25% of its prisoners simply isn’t good enough for neo-feudal America. No, we need to find more creative and archaic ways to wastefully, immorally and seemingly unconstitutionally incarcerate poor people. Welcome to the latest trend in the penal colony formerly known as America. Debtors’ prisons. A practice I thought had long since been deemed outdated (indeed it has been largely eradicated in the Western world with the exception of about 1/3 of U.S. states as well as Greece).

From Fox News:

As if out of a Charles Dickens novel, people struggling to pay overdue fines and fees associated with court costs for even the simplest traffic infractions are being thrown in jail across the United States.

Critics are calling the practice the new “debtors’ prison” — referring to the jails that flourished in the U.S. and Western Europe over 150 years ago. Before the time of bankruptcy laws and social safety nets, poor folks and ruined business owners were locked up until their debts were paid off.

Reforms eventually outlawed the practice. But groups like the Brennan Center for Justice and the American Civil Liberties Union say it’s been reborn in local courts which may not be aware it’s against the law to send indigent people to jail over unpaid fines and fees — or they just haven’t been called on it until now.

The Brennan Center for Justice at New York University’s School of Law released a “Tool Kit for Action” in 2012 that broke down the cost to municipalities to jail debtors in comparison with the amount of old debt it was collecting. It doesn’t look like a bargain. For example, according to the report, Mecklenburg County, N.C., collected $33,476 in debts in 2009, but spent $40,000 jailing 246 debtors — a loss of $6,524.

Don’t worry, I’m sure private prisons for debtors will soon spring up to make this practice a pillar of GDP growth.

Many jurisdictions have taken to hiring private collection/probation companies to go after debtors, giving them the authority to revoke probation and incarcerate if they can’t pay. Research into the practice has found that private companies impose their own additional surcharges. Some 15 private companies have emerged to run these services in the South, including the popular Judicial Correction Services (JCS).

In 2012, Circuit Judge Hub Harrington at Harpersville Municipal Court in Alabama shut down what he called the “debtors’ prison” process there, echoing complaints that private companies are only in it for the money. He cited JCS in part for sending indigent people to jail. Calling it a “judicially sanctioned extortion racket,” Harrington said many defendants were locked up on bogus failure-to-appear warrants, and slapped with more fines and fees as a result.

Repeated calls to JCS in Alabama and Georgia were not returned.

The ACLU found that seven out of 11 counties they studied were operating de facto debtors’ prisons, despite clear “constitutional and legislative prohibitions.” Some were worse than others. In the second half of 2012 in Huron County, 20 percent of arrests were for failure to pay fines. The Sandusky Municipal Court in Erie County jailed 75 people in a little more than a month during the summer of 2012. The ACLU says it costs upwards of $400 in Ohio to execute a warrant and $65 a night to jail people.

Mark Silverstein, a staff attorney at the Colorado ACLU, claimed judges in these courts never assess the defendants’ ability to pay before sentencing them to jail, which would be unconstitutional.



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1 comment:

Anonymous said...

What a joke this has become. The US has 25% of the world's prisoners? There are over a million political prisoners in North Korea alone. How many linger in the PRC, Vietnam, Cuba, and Russia?

In most of the world you don't bother to try thieves, you execute them. Only someone hopelessly ignorant or someone who hasn't ventured forth from the confines of the academy faculty lounge could make such a statement.