Friday, June 19, 2015

Culture and Social Pathology

By Walter E. Williams

A civilized society's first line of defense is not the law, police and courts but customs, traditions, rules of etiquette and moral values. These behavioral norms — mostly transmitted by example, word of mouth and religious teachings — represent a body of wisdom distilled over the ages through experience and trial and error. They include important thou-shalt-nots, such as thou shalt not murder, thou shalt not steal and thou shalt not cheat. They also include all those courtesies that have traditionally been associated with ladylike and gentlemanly conduct.

The failure to fully transmit these values and traditions to subsequent generations represents one of the failings of what journalist Tom Brokaw called "The Greatest Generation." People in this so-called great generation, who lived during the trauma of the Great Depression and fought World War II, not only failed to transmit the moral values of their parents but also are responsible for government programs that will deliver economic chaos.

Behavior accepted as the norm today would have been seen as despicable yesteryear. There are television debt relief commercials that promise to help debtors pay back only half of what they owe. Foul language is spoken by children in front of and sometimes to teachers and other adults. When I was a youngster, it was unthinkable to use foul language to any adult. It would have meant risking a smack across the face. But years ago, parents and teachers didn't have "experts" on child rearing to tell them that corporal punishment was wrong and ineffective and "timeouts" would be a superior form of discipline. One result of our tolerance for aberrant behavior was that, according to the National Center for Education Statistics, during the 2011-12 academic year, 209,000 primary- and secondary-school teachers were physically assaulted and 353,000 were threatened with injury. As a result of this and other forms of school violence, many school districts employ hundreds of police officers.

Nowadays baby showers are often held for unwed mothers. Yesteryear such an acceptance of illegitimacy would have been unthinkable. Today there is little or no social sanction or shame for illegitimate births. There are no "shotgun" weddings to make the man live up to his responsibilities. But not to worry.

Taxpayers bear the financial burden of illegitimacy. Any economist worth his salt will tell you that if something is taxed, expect less of it. If something is subsidized, expect more of it. Taxpayers have been forced to subsidize slovenly behavior. The statistical evidence proves it. According to the 1938 Encyclopaedia of the Social Sciences, that year 11 percent of black children and 3 percent of white children were born to unwed mothers. Today 72 percent of black children and 30 percent of white children are born to unwed mothers.

For nearly three-quarters of a century, the nation's liberals have waged war on traditional values, customs and morality. Our youths have been counseled that there are no moral absolutes. Instead, what's moral or immoral is a matter of personal opinion. During the 1960s, the education establishment began to challenge and undermine lessons children learned from their parents and Sunday school with fads such as "values clarification." So-called sex education classes are simply indoctrination that undermines family and church strictures against premarital sex. Lessons of abstinence were considered passe and replaced with lessons about condoms, birth control pills and abortions. Further undermining of parental authority came with legal and extralegal measures to assist teenage abortions with neither parental knowledge nor parental consent.

You say, "OK, Williams, the Greatest Generation is responsible for our moral decline, but what about our economic decline?" Ask yourself: What are the massive government spending programs that threaten to bankrupt our nation in the future? The answer would have to be Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid. Over 50 percent of today's federal budget is spent on these programs. Around the time when many in the so-called Greatest Generation were born (1920), there were no such programs, and federal spending was $53 billion. In 2014, federal spending was $3.5 trillion.

If it were only the economic decline threatening our future, there might be hope. It's the moral decline that spells our doom.



No, Conservatives Don’t Suddenly Hate Free Trade

The debate over the Trade Promotion Authority (TPA) bill backed by President Obama, House Speaker John Boehner and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell has turned into a debate over just about anything except free trade.

The easy interpretation is that if you’re pro-TPA you are pro-trade, and if you’re anti-TPA you are anti-trade. The truth is more complicated.

It’s true that negotiating objectives included in the TPA bill passed by Congress include plenty for free-traders to like, including “the reduction or elimination of barriers and distortions that are directly related to trade and investment.”

But the bill also has components that should concern free trade advocates. It directs trade negotiators to preserve destructive U.S. antidumping laws instead of working to reduce other countries’ antidumping laws, and calls for countries to adhere to international environmental and labor agreements of dubious value. It expresses concern about currency manipulation, a protectionist standby.

The best summary of the relationship between TPA and free trade is “it’s complicated.”

There are also non-trade-related parts of the bill that should alarm conservatives. It urges respect for “internationally recognized human rights,” which for the United Nations and most countries includes international covenants like the Convention on the Rights of the Child and the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women, neither of which has been ratified by the United States.

Even more concerning, passage of TPA has been linked to a Trade Adjustment Assistance (TAA) program that promotes the myth that trade destroys jobs. As Rep. Louise Slaughter, D-N.Y., put it “TAA has always been an absolute admission to me that there is going to be lots of lost jobs.”

Contrary to some critics, support for TPA does not have anything to do with support for Obama’s position on amnesty or Obamacare.

Although TPA allows Congress to spell out negotiating objectives, the amount of leeway it gives the president means that who the president is matters.  And a president who has pledged to negotiate “the most progressive trade deal the world has ever seen” is clearly interested in ensuring that new deals advance major parts of his progressive agenda, including new multinational labor and environmental regulations and the injection of minimum wage guidelines into trade agreements for the first time in U.S. history.

Some of TPA’s most outspoken opponents, particularly from the left, rely on protectionist rhetoric, but it is possible to question the TPA process without questioning the benefits of trade.

Free trade is unquestionably important—and something conservatives should support. As Ronald Reagan once said:

"The winds and waters of commerce carry opportunities that help nations grow and bring citizens of the world closer together. Put simply, increased trade spells more jobs, higher earnings, better products, less inflation, and cooperation over confrontation. The freer the flow of world trade, the stronger the tides for economic progress and peace among nations."

Whether or not they support TPA, that’s an agenda on which all conservatives could agree.



Feds accused of pushing ‘utopias’ in wealthy neighborhoods with diversity regs

Congressional Republicans are trying to thwart a new federal housing rule they claim would allow Washington to play a heavy-handed role in trying to remake upscale neighborhoods as racially and economically diverse "utopias."

The forthcoming regulations, expected to be formally proposed later this month, would leverage grant money to try and bring more affordable options into these neighborhoods. It would require local jurisdictions to report on their progress; they'd risk federal housing money if they don't.

But while the Department of Housing and Urban Development program essentially aims for more integration and equality, critics see a meddling federal government.

"[The rule] tells us how we can live, where we go to school, how we will vote, what this utopian type of neighborhood should look like," charged Rep. Paul Gosar, R-Ariz., who sponsored an amendment to the House HUD spending bill Wednesday, blocking any future funding for the new rule. The spending bill was passed in the House with the amendment.

"These rules want to manipulate the way American neighborhoods look," he told in an interview.

HUD officials and proponents of the new rule say it would do nothing but clarify -- even simplify -- current obligations under The Fair Housing Act of 1968.

Right now, local and state housing authorities must have plans showing they are "affirmatively furthering fair housing." In other words, making sure their communities offer affordable housing opportunities in all neighborhoods, not just the poor ones, and do not discriminate based on color, religion, sex, or national origin. Affordable housing is generally defined as housing that costs no more than a third of a family's monthly income.

The new rule would require jurisdictions to file a full assessment every five years that not only addresses the affordable housing landscape, but patterns in poverty and minority concentrations, as well as "community access" to transportation, good schools and jobs.

In addition to the assessments, the new requirements include an action plan obligating the jurisdiction to "identify the primary determinants influencing fair housing conditions, prioritize addressing these conditions, and set one or more goals for mitigating or addressing their determinants." For its part, HUD would be sharing demographic data that local officials need to pull this together, while offering guidance and technical assistance.

But here's the rub. If cities and counties don't comply, it could put millions of dollars in annual federal block grants at risk, which critics say is how Washington can bully governments to do their bidding.

"This is nothing new," countered Debby Goldberg, vice president at the National Fair Housing Alliance, who supports the rule. "It's a planning tool. They leave it up to the jurisdictions to make their own decisions. HUD is not dictating what the answers must be, that's up to the locality."

HUD Secretary Julian Castro argued this in a hearing of the House Financial Services Committee June 11, when Rep. Mia Love, R-Utah, asked him directly if HUD would be actively telling localities how to remake their maps. "I know as a [former] mayor you wouldn't want the federal government to come in and tell you what to do with your zoning and your rules," she charged.

Castro said: "This is not about changing zoning laws, planning laws or anything like that." He called the new requirements a "tool" for local communities to do what they already are obligated to do better.

"I wish I had this tool when I was mayor," said Castro, who was mayor of San Antonio, Texas before he was appointed secretary of HUD in 2014. "We want to ensure that local communities have the tools to assess the landscape of housing in their area, where the investments are, where the affordable housing opportunities are," he said.

But Gosar is concerned that the feds would force local officials to plot out significant changes to their communities, as a requirement for grant money.

In order to get the money, he said, "you have to give them the plan and ask for a sign-off. These rules are put into place to manipulate the way America looks."

Critics point to the case of Westchester County, N.Y., which has been locked in a battle with HUD since it settled in a lawsuit brought by the nonprofit Anti-Discrimination Center over the county's lack of affordable housing units. The 2009 settlement, which HUD helped broker with the Justice Department, mandated the affluent county spend $50 million of its own money to build units, most of which would be in predominantly white neighborhoods. The county and HUD have been arguing ever since over compliance, with Westchester claiming HUD has been changing the rules along the way. As a result, HUD has repeatedly withheld annual funding from the county.

But Goldberg said this is the way it works -- jurisdictions aren't forced to comply with the law, but they won't get federal grants if they don't. "The law says if you are getting funds you have to show that you are affirmatively furthering fair housing," she said, noting it was designed that way to better the quality of life for all Americans, not just the ones who can afford to live in affluent neighborhoods. Segregation by race and poverty traps families in dead-end, often unhealthy circumstances, Goldberg added.

"We know that the more inclusive the neighborhoods are, the more robust your economy, the better the schools are, the jobs."

This should be directed at the local level, not from Washington, Gosar said. He has introduced a stand-alone bill that would block the rule from reaching fruition. For now, it is up to the Senate if it wants to carve it out of their own HUD spending bill.

"Once again," he said, "it's an overreach on our liberties to live and work and move to wherever we want."



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