Thursday, April 09, 2015

Britain: More anti-democratic Leftist elitism

Tony Blair's dramatic intervention in the election backfired last night after he said the British people could not be trusted to decide if they want to stay in the EU.

The former Prime Minister was widely condemned after saying that membership of the European Union was 'too important' to be put to a public vote.

In a carefully choreographed speech, Mr Blair praised Ed Miliband for showing 'real leadership' in refusing to offer voters a say on the issue.

But Mr Blair did not deign to appear on a stage alongside the Labour leader – about whom he is said to harbour grave doubts – and refused to endorse any of his other policies. His ringing endorsement of the EU also left him at odds with Mr Miliband, who recognises it is hated by millions of voters.

And in highlighting Labour's refusal to offer a referendum, he presented an open goal for the Tories, who are the only party to commit to a vote.

Speaking in his former Sedgefield constituency, Mr Blair said of the EU debate: 'The Prime Minister will be spending more energy, will have more sleepless nights about it, be more focused on it than literally any other issue.  'He knows the vastness of the decision. And, following the Scottish referendum, he knows the perilous fragility of public support for the sensible choice. This issue, touching as it does the country's future, is too important to be traded like this.'

In a furious response, David Cameron said Mr Blair was 'the last person' who should be lecturing the country on Europe. He said Mr Blair had presided over a massive transfer of power from Westminster to Brussels and broken his own promise to hold a referendum.

Mr Cameron told the Mail: 'It is deeply condescending to say that the British people can't be trusted to make a choice. I believe they can be and they should be.

'Tony Blair has just highlighted that there is a choice: there will be no renegotiation, no referendum with Ed Miliband. I have said I want to stay in a reformed EU – but we need to get that referendum and the choice will be for the British people, not for me.'

He pointed out that, as Prime Minister, Mr Blair passed a series of treaties that ceded power to Brussels. Mr Cameron said: 'This is the man who passed the Amsterdam Treaty, the Nice Treaty, who negotiated the EU constitution, promised a referendum and didn't deliver a referendum on the Lisbon Treaty. He is the last person who should be giving this lecture.

'Frankly the British people need a choice. They haven't had one since 1975, and all these treaties have been passed since – including many when Tony Blair was prime minister.



The Great Worker Shortage

The great conundrum of the U.S. economy today is that we have record numbers of working age people out of the labor force at the same time we have businesses desperately trying to find workers. As an example, the American Transportation Research Institute estimates there are 30,000-35,000 trucker jobs that could be filled tomorrow if workers would take these jobs – a shortage that could rise to 240,000 by 2022.

While the jobs market overall remains weak, demand is high for in certain sectors. For skilled and reliable mechanics, welders, engineers, electricians, plumbers, computer technicians, and nurses, jobs are plentiful; one can often find a job in 48 hours. As Bob Funk, the president of Express Services, which matches almost one-half million temporary workers with employers each year, “If you have a useful skill, we can find you a job. But too many are graduating from high school and college without any skills at all.”

The lesson, to play off of the famous Waylon Jennings song: Momma don’t let your babies grow up to be philosophy majors.

Three years ago the chronic disease of the economy was a shortage of jobs. This shortage persists in many sectors. But two other shortages are now being felt – the shortage of trained employees and of low-skilled employees willing to work. Patrick Doyle, the president of Domino’s Pizza, says that the franchises around the country are having a hard time filling delivery and clerical positions. “It’s a very tight labor market out there now.”

This shortage has an upside for workers because it allows them to bid up wages. When Wal-Mart announced last month that wages for many starter workers would rise to $9 an hour, well above the federal legal minimum, they weren’t being humanitarians. They were responding to a tightening labor market.

The idea that blue collar jobs aren’t a pathway to the middle class and higher is antiquated and wrong. Factory work today is often highly sophisticated and knowledge-based with workers using intricate scientific equipment. After several years honing their skills, welders, mechanics, carpenters, and technicians can, earn upwards of $50,000 a year – which in most years still places a household with two such income earners in the top 25 percent for income. It’s true these aren’t glitzy or cushy jobs, but they do pay a good salary.

So why aren’t workers filling these available jobs – or getting the skills necessary to fill them. I would posit five impediments to putting more Americans back to work:

First, government discourages work. Welfare consists of dozens of different and overlapping federal and state income support programs. A recent Census Bureau study found more than 100 million Americans collecting a government check or benefit each month. The spike in families on food stamps, SSI, disability, public housing, and early Social Security remains very high even 5 years into this recovery. This should come as no surprise given the combination of the scaled back welfare work requirements and the steep phase-out of benefits as a recipient begins earning income.

Economist Peter Ferrara argues in his new book “Power to the People,” that if “ we simply required work for all able-bodied welfare recipients, the number on public assistance would fall dramatically. This is what happened after the work for welfare requirements in 1996.”

Second, our public school systems often fail to teach kids basic skills. Whatever happened to shop classes? We have schools that now concentrate more on ethnic studies and tolerance training than teaching kids how to use a lathe or a graphic design tool. Charter schools can help remedy this. Universities are even more negligent. Kids commonly graduate from four year colleges with $100,000 of debt and little vocational training. A liberal arts education is valuable, but it should come paired with some practical skills.

Third, negative attitudes toward “blue collar” work. I’ve talked to parents who say they are disappointed if their kids want to become a craftsman – instead of going to college. This attitude discourages kids from learning how to make things, which contributes to sector-specific worker shortages. Meanwhile, too many people who want to go into the talking professions: lawyers, media, clergy, professors, and so on. Those who can’t “do,” become attorneys and sociology professors.

Fourth, a cultural bias against young adults working. The labor force participation rate is falling fastest among workers under 30 (see chart). Anytime a state tries to change laws to make it easier for teenagers to earn money, the left throws a tantrum about repealing child labor laws. The move to raise minimum wages in states and at the federal level could hardly be more destructive to young people. My own research finds that the higher the minimum wage in a state, the lower the labor force participation rate among teenagers.

Anecdotally, I’ve always been struck by how many successful people I have met who grew up on farms and started working – milking cows, building fences, cleaning out the barn – at the age of 10 or 11. They learn a work ethic at a young age and this pays big dividends in the future. Many studies document this to be true.

Fifth, higher education has become an excuse to delay entry into the workforce. I always cringe when I talk to 22 year olds who will graduate from college and who tell me their next step is to go to graduate school. Maybe by the time they are 26 or 27 they will start working. Here’s an idea: Colleges could encourage kids to have one or two years of work experience before they enroll.

Here’s an even better idea: Abolish federal student loans and replace the free government dollars with privately sponsored college work programs. For instance, schools like College of the Ozarks require kids to work 15 hours a week to pay their tuition. It’s hardly a violation of human rights if a 21 year old works to fund for their own education – and they will probably get more out of their classes if they do work. Anything easily attained is lightly valued. This would drive down tuition costs too, because students would start demanding more financial accountability and less waste. After all, federal subsidies have increased college costs.

These may seem like old-fashioned and even outmoded ideas. But the decline in work among the young bodes ill for the future. Many European nations have removed the young from the workforce and the repercussion appears to be lower lifetime earnings. A renewed focus on working would also help erode the entitlement mentality ingrained in so many millennials. Instead of more benefits and handouts, this generation needs to get a job.



One small step against tyranny

The tide is turning against asset forfeiture and Loretta Lynch

Do you think the government should be able to seize your property if you have not been convicted of any crime? Most people are not aware that one of the most odious activities of federal, state and local tax and police authorities is that of “asset forfeiture.” Asset forfeiture laws allow law enforcement to seize and keep property of individuals and businesses without a criminal conviction.

The practice has been rife with abuse by law enforcement officials, often using seized property of innocent individuals for their own use. As a result of the outcries about the abuse, there was a unanimous vote by both Republicans and Democrats in the House and Senate in New Mexico to end the practice of civil asset forfeiture in the state. The bill now awaits the signature of Gov. Susana Martinez. An unlikely coalition supported the measure to repeal asset forfeiture, ranging from the left-leaning American Civil Liberties Union of New Mexico to the libertarian-leaning Institute for Justice. Former federal prosecutor and director of the Justice Department’s Asset Forfeiture Office, Brad Cates, now a resident of New Mexico, is one of the leading advocates of repeal of asset forfeiture laws at both the state and federal levels. Mr. Cates and the first director of the federal Asset Forfeiture Office, Judge John Yoder, in an article in The Washington Post last September, wrote: “We find it particularly painful to watch as the heavy hand of government goes amok. The program began with good intentions but now, having failed in both purpose and execution, it should be abolished.”

Many states and the federal government still allow asset forfeiture, even though they appear to fly in the face of the Fifth and 14th Amendments to the Constitution, which clearly protect any person from being deprived of property without due process. Where are the judges who are supposed to protect us from unconstitutional abuses?

It is particularly troubling that President Obama’s nominee for attorney general, Loretta Lynch, the current U.S. attorney for the Eastern District of New York, strongly defended civil asset forfeiture during her Senate confirmation hearings, despite major abuses by her own office. One case is described by my Cato colleague and attorney, Alan Bates: “In May of 2012 the Hirsch brothers, joint owners of Bi-County Distributors of Long Island, had their entire bank account [of $446,651.11] drained by the Internal Revenue Service working in conjunction with Lynch’s office without so much as a criminal charge.” Ms. Lynch’s office simply sat on the money for more than two years. The Institute for Justice, acting on behalf of the Hirsch brothers, was finally able to get the money returned earlier this year, after Ms. Lynch’s office admitted there was no evidence of wrongdoing.

In January, Republican Sen. Rand Paul of Kentucky, and Republican Rep. Tim Walberg of Michigan reintroduced the “Fifth Amendment Integrity Restoration (FAIR) Act, which would revise the federal civil forfeiture law to give property owners more protection and reduce the profit incentive that encourages law enforcement to seize assets.” The provisions in this proposed legislation would go some distance toward stopping many of the worst abuses even though, in my judgment, it does not go nearly far enough in ending asset forfeitures. Nonetheless, support for this legislation should be a no-brainer for members of Congress from both parties.

Loretta Lynch’s office has, by her own admission, confiscated over $100 million from people who have not been charged or convicted of anything. Mr. Paul has announced that he will oppose her confirmation because he doesn’t “think she’s shown any compassion, or understanding of the law, but particularly compassion for people who are victims of civil forfeiture. People who are victims of civil forfeiture are often poor, African-American or Hispanic, and people who can’t afford an attorney to try to get the money that’s taken by the government.”

It is rather basic, “Thou shall not steal.” Most people understand that commandment, and it doesn’t matter if it is the government doing the stealing or just a common miscreant. It is very troubling that Ms. Lynch and many others in law enforcement, particularly at the IRS, seem to have so little understanding of the Constitution and the basis of a civil society. To confirm Ms. Lynch for attorney general, without passing serious reform of the asset forfeiture law as Mr. Paul has proposed, will endanger the property and even the liberty of many Americans.

Former federal prosecutor Brad Cates and Judge John Yoder said it best: “Civil asset forfeiture and money-laundering laws are gross perversions of the status of government amid a free citizenry. The individual is the font of sovereignty in our constitutional republic, and it is unacceptable that a citizen should have to ‘prove’ anything to the government. If the government has probable cause of a violation of law, then let a warrant be issued. And if the government has proof beyond a reasonable doubt of guilt, let that guilt be proclaimed by 12 peers.”



Obama Won't Say Murdered Kenyans Were Christians

Last week, Islamic militants murdered 150 Christians in Kenya, explicitly because of their faith. According to the Associated Press, “The attackers separated Christian students from Muslim ones and massacred the Christians.” But Barack Obama couldn’t be bothered to mention faith at all. The White House statement denounced “terrorist atrocities” against “men and women” and “students,” but there was nary a peep about “Muslims” or “Christians.” Likewise, Obama neglected to mention the 21 Egyptian Christians beheaded by ISIL earlier this year were anything but “citizens.” It would seem the only time Obama doesn’t mind mentioning Christians is when he’s lecturing them about the Crusades.



For more blog postings from me, see  TONGUE-TIED, EDUCATION WATCH INTERNATIONAL, GREENIE WATCH,  POLITICAL CORRECTNESS WATCH, AUSTRALIAN POLITICS, and Paralipomena (Occasionally updated) and Coral reef compendium. (Updated as news items come in).  GUN WATCH is now mainly put together by Dean Weingarten. I also put up occasional updates on my Personal blog and each day I gather together my most substantial current writings on A WESTERN HEART.

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