Friday, May 25, 2012


I am off to hospital again later today -- for what I hope will be the last time for a while.

How much if anything I will be able to blog for a few days is uncertain.

Bain Capitalism 101

How does a rapacious company get repeat business?

Watching Obama campaign ads or MSNBC, one could easily come to the conclusion that Bain Capital makes money by destroying the companies it owns. So for voters unsure about the business that Mitt Romney founded but still reluctant to trust the financial analysis offered by community organizers, some perspective might be helpful.

The basic Obama-liberal critique goes like this: Bain buys a company, loads it with debt and then sucks out cash before foisting the wounded business upon an unsuspecting buyer or a bankruptcy court. In the risk-taking world of private equity such a scenario can certainly happen, and it's true that Bain likes management fees and dividends as much as the next partnership.

But then how to explain the history of Bain Capital? Mr. Romney started the business in 1984. The company has since bought and sold many businesses and executed thousands of financing transactions.

If Bain's standard operating procedure were to hand the next owner of one of its companies a ticking bankruptcy package, how is Bain still finding buyers nearly three decades later? And who would agree to lend money to a company backed by Bain? Wouldn't word have gotten around by, say, 1987 that Bain's portfolio companies weren't creditworthy?

The liberal critique of private equity assumes that the financial industry is full of saps who have been eager to lose money across the table from Bain for 28 years. This is the same financial industry that the same liberal critics say is full of greedy schemers when it comes to padding their own pay or ripping off consumers. But financiers can't be both knaves and diabolical geniuses at the same time.

Learning about Bain successes like Staples or Gartner or Steel Dynamics confirms the logical conclusion that Bain had to be creating value along the way—for investors, for lenders, and that means for workers too.



Judge halts enforcement of indefinite detention provisions of National Defense Authorization Act

A few months back, NetRightDaily reported on the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) and how it threatens to dramatically impact the lives of citizens and non-citizens alike. If you are suspected of terrorist activity in any capacity, you can be detained indefinitely until the matter is decided.

Once this law was passed, it sent a shockwave of concern throughout the nation. It seemed as if this crazy law was put in place as an override switch for the Fifth Amendment in the event that the powers that be conjure a need to go around it. Although Obama claimed that the act was only a way to add stability to the Authorization for Use of Military Force for Terrorists Act (AUMF), the country wasn’t too sure.

As you can imagine, the thought of being captured and jailed indefinitely by your own government, in the “land of the free and the home of the brave” just doesn’t sit well with most Americans.

Judge Katherine Forrest, from the Southern District Court of New York, made impressive headway in the fight for freedom when she temporarily stopped the implementation of the law.

Plaintiffs in the case have alleged that the NDAA violates “both their free speech and associational rights guaranteed by the First Amendment as well as due process rights guaranteed by the Fifth Amendment of the United States Constitution,” wrote Forrest in her decision enjoining enforcement of Section 1021 of the law.

Her decision deposed the government’s three main arguments in support of immediately enforcing the heinous bill. One of the arguments made by the government is that because none of the plaintiffs had ever been detained because of the law, that they had no standing to contest it.

Plaintiffs countered, however, that the law was having a chilling effect on activities otherwise protected by the First Amendment. They prevailed.

Forrest wrote that the plaintiffs had “shown an actual fear that their expressive and associational activities” might result in being indefinitely detained, as “each of them has put forward uncontroverted evidence of concrete — non-hypothetical — ways in which the presence of the legislation has already impacted those expressive and associational activities”.

After all, whether or not someone has felt the full force of a law, it may still affect the way they live their lives. The long arm of the law has been a guideline for behavior as long as laws have existed. Their entire purpose is to streamline the attitude of citizens to conform to society’s norms. The reason that most people don’t steal, drive drunk, or take drugs is because those activities are against the law and people fear the repercussions that come with breaking the law.

When asked about this issue, Americans for Limited Government president Bill Wilson commented that, “The Bill of Rights was designed to work under all circumstances, including wartime, and as such the authorization to use force in Afghanistan cannot supersede constitutional protections to due process.”

He added, “Nor can the government target citizens for activities otherwise protected by the First Amendment as violations of law or threats to national security.”

Although Obama’s administration maintains that the NDAA is only a reinforcement of the AUMF, Judge Forrest found that indeed the NDAA may expand the government’s power, and now will expose the law to full and complete scrutiny over whether it is constitutional. Let’s hope that this law gets thrown out in court. Judge Forrest’s initial actions are a good step in the right direction.



An iron curtain coming for Americans?

Call it the return of the Reichsfluchtsteuer. The president of Americans for Tax Reform, Grover Norquist, did not use the term. But that is what Mr. Norquist was talking about when he spoke to The Hill newspaper about the legislation proposed by Senator Schumer, the Democrat of New York, to tax at a 30 percent rate the $2 billion capital gains of Facebook co-founder Eduardo Saverin, who renounced his American citizenship before Facebook’s initial public offering.

"I think Schumer can probably find the legislation to do this. It existed in Germany in the 1930s and Rhodesia in the ’70s and in South Africa as well,” Mr. Norquist said. “He probably just plagiarized it and translated it from the original German."

The Reichsfluchsteuer, or Reich flight tax, that the Nazis imposed on Jews trying to flee in the 1930s was 25 percent; Mr. Schumer and his Senate colleague Bob Casey, Democrat of Pennsylvania, want 30 percent. Give Mr. Schumer some credit for creativity, Mr. Norquist; the New Yorker did not just translate, he also raised the rate.

Mr. Schumer is an easy target, but the blame for this one is bipartisan, as is so often the case in Washington. The speaker of the House, John Boehner, a Republican, told ABC News’ “This Week” program that Mr. Saverin’s exit from America was “outrageous” and that he would support Mr. Schumer’s legislation if it is necessary to prevent people from leaving America to avoid taxes. The law that imposed the exit tax Mr. Saverin was trying to avoid, the Heroes Earnings Assistance and Relief Tax Act of 2008, was signed into law by a Republican president, George W. Bush, after being passed in the Senate by unanimous consent and in the House by a vote of 403 to 0.

Mr. Schumer would surely bridle at having his exit-tax policy compared to that of the Nazis, as would Mr. Boehner, so let me be clear: The Reichsfluchsteuer was originally imposed not by the Nazis, but, rather, on December 8, 1931, by the pre-Hitler, centrist government of Heinrich BrĂ¼ning, who had a doctoral degree in economics.

As Howard Ellis wrote in Exchange Control In Central Europe, published in 1941 by Harvard University Press, “it is worth remarking that the National Socialists inherited it from Social Democrat supported coalition governments after nearly two years of elaboration.”

Others have observed that it is not the only parallel that can be drawn between today’s era and the Weimar Republic, which featured high unemployment, deficits, and the threat of inflation.

Ellis writes that the exchange control policy remained in place “because it was an instrument par excellence of political power,” and concludes, “the political predecessors of Hitler nurtured an institution which paved the way for totalitarianism.”



Shameless Bias by Omission

You'd think the largest legal action in American history in defense of religious liberty would be a major news story. But ABC, CBS and NBC don't judge news events by their inherent importance as relates to the future of our freedoms. They deliver the news according to a simple formula: Does it or doesn't it advance the re-election of Barack Obama? If it doesn't, it isn't news.

On May 21, 43 Catholic dioceses and organizations sued the Obama administration over its ridiculously narrow idea of how a "religious institution" can be defined under the Obamacare law. Never has the Catholic Church -- or any order, for that matter -- undertaken something of this magnitude. It's truly jaw-dropping that ABC and NBC completely ignored this action on their evening newscasts, while "CBS Evening News" devoted just 19 seconds to this historic event.

No, let's be blunt: They spiked the news.

This is the worst example of shameless bias by omission I have seen in the quarter-century history of the Media Research Center. We recall the Chinese Communists withholding from its citizenry for 20 years the news that the U.S. had landed on the moon because it reflected poorly on their government. Never, never would the U.S. "news" media behave thusly -- they just did.

This is not an honest mistake. It was not an editorial oversight by the broadcast networks. It did not occur too late for the evening deadline. This was a deliberate and insidious withholding of national news to protect the "Chosen One" who ABC, CBS and NBC have worked so hard to elect and for whom they are now abusing their journalistic influence. Even when CBS mentioned the suit -- ever so briefly -- like so many others, they deliberately distorted the issue by framing it as a contraception lawsuit when it is a much broader religious freedom issue -- and they know it.

This should be seen as a very dark cloud on Obama's political horizon. The Catholic Church, with 60 million Americans describing themselves as Catholic, has unleashed legal Armageddon on the administration, promising "we will not comply" with a health law that strips Catholics of their religious liberty. If this isn't "news," then there's no such thing as news.

This should be leading newscasts and the subject of special, in-depth reports. So what trumped this story? ABC led their evening broadcast and devoted an incredible 3 minutes and 30 seconds to the sentencing of the Rutgers student who spied on his gay roommate with a web camera. NBC aired an entire story on a lunar eclipse. Both CBS and NBC devoted their first 3 minutes and 30 seconds to prostate-cancer screening.

Catholic taxpayers who help fund National Public Radio were also ignored on the evening newscast with that sad joke of a title -- "All Things Considered."

If only some deceased priest had been accused to sexual improprieties in 1953 ... then Catholics would be seen as newsworthy. These "news" operations can't argue these are more important stories than the loss of religious freedom in America.

The print press isn't much better. For the Washington Post, there was a little one-column story buried on page A6. That fish wrap known as USA Today had a really tiny headline and 128-word item at the very bottom of A2. The New York Times had a perfunctory 419-word dispatch on page A17.

Two pages later, the Times defined as "news" what it prefers to report on Catholics: "2 Philadelphia Priests Punished in Sexual Abuse Cases." The paper noted one priest has been suspended from ministry for two years and the other had been placed on leave in December based on abuse that occurred about 40 years ago. This wasn't really "news" as a current matter, but this is always and everywhere the bigoted narrative the Times prefers to perpetuate.

Cardinal Timothy Dolan of New York, the head of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops used the word "horror" to describe what Team Obama is mandating. On the only broadcast show to give him coverage, CBS "This Morning" anchor Charlie Rose asked Dolan if the White House misled him on this issue. Dolan began by saying he hesitated to question the president's sincerity -- even though anyone who heard Obama's 2009 commencement speech at Notre Dame about "honoring the conscience" of his opponents on abortion has proven he is completely insincere.

The cardinal said, "I worry, Charlie, that members of his administration might not particularly understand our horror at the restrictive nature of this exemption that they're giving us, that for the first time that we can remember, a bureau of the federal government seems to be radically intruding into the internal definition of what a church is. We can't seem to get that across."

He's not finding much help getting anything across from those supposed "mediators" of the national press corps.



Stopping Vote Fraud the Kansas Way

The most encouraging news out of Kansas is that the state is taking the lead in cleaning up registration rolls so that people won’t vote in two states or after they’ve died, which is alarming news for Chicago and other cities where the dead vote early and often.

The architect of what is called the Kansas Project, or the Interstate Cross Check Project, is Kris W. Kobach, the Republican Secretary of State who was elected in 2010. Mr. Kobach has set up a database with 14 other states: Arizona, Arkansas, Colorado, Illinois, Iowa, Kentucky, Louisiana, Michigan, Mississippi, Missouri, Nebraska, Oklahoma, South Dakota and Tennessee. Six more states are considering joining. More information on ballot integrity is at

“Double voting is a real common form of voter fraud,” Mr. Kobach told me in a phone interview. “But it’s easy to discover and to prosecute. You have a rock-solid legal case that the crime was committed.”

He noted that Arizona recently found 500 voters still on Arizona’s rolls who are also registered in one of the other 14 states. Colorado Secretary of State Scott Gessler used the cooperative agreement to turn up several people who had voted in both Colorado and Kansas in 2010.

Vote fraud has been around since elections began, but has been a more persistent vice in America since Bill Clinton in 1993 signed the National Voter Registration Act (“Motor Voter Law”), which requires states to offer voter registration to people when they obtain driver’s licenses or apply for welfare or unemployment benefits. States must purge people who died, moved out of state, are convicted of crimes or listed more than once, but two federal election cycles must pass before a name is removed.

“Examiners were under orders not to ask anyone for identification or proof of citizenship,” writes John Fund in his book Stealing Elections. “States also had to permit mail-in voter registration, which allowed anyone to register without any personal contact with a registrar or election official.”

In 2002, the Help America Vote Act (HAVA) tightened vote counting systems and spawned statewide databases. The latter are a gold mine for researchers such as those at the Pew Center on the States, which recently reported that 1.8 million dead people remain on voter rolls. As usual, Democrats are hysterically attacking any anti-fraud reforms.




List of backup or "mirror" sites here or here -- for readers in China or for everyone when blogspot is "down" or failing to update. Email me here (Hotmail address). My Home Pages are here (Academic) or here (Pictorial) or here (Personal)


The Big Lie of the late 20th century was that Nazism was Rightist. It was in fact typical of the Leftism of its day. It was only to the Right of Stalin's Communism. The very word "Nazi" is a German abbreviation for "National Socialist" (Nationalsozialist) and the full name of Hitler's political party (translated) was "The National Socialist German Workers' Party" (In German: Nationalsozialistische Deutsche Arbeiterpartei)


Thursday, May 24, 2012

Is Calvin a Democrat?


Government Propaganda Comes to America: What Took So Long?

By Oleg, a former Soviet citizen

The long-awaited Progressive World of Next Tuesday has just gotten closer with the passage of an amendment in Congress that legalizes government propaganda. What could possibly go wrong with that? It worked so well in the USSR!

Drawing simplified, two-dimensional people on a propaganda poster is the same as flattening individuals under an ideological press, squeezing out and discarding their humanity and leaving some single common trait - class, gender, race, profession, ethnicity - in order to establish a simplified, two-dimensional vision of the world in the minds of target audiences.

Complex, multi-dimensional ideas are not likely to spur large groups of perfect strangers to unite in a swift, coordinated action. That can only be accomplished with a simplified message that isolates a single common characteristic in different people and exaggerates it to the point of existential importance, while suppressing more essential individual characteristics. As the secondary characteristics become primary and vice versa - voila - the individual is being sacrificed to the collective.

As an added benefit, this amendment will feed all the progressive artists congregating at the NEA trough. It just so happens that, as a former Soviet citizen, I used to create motivational visual agitation posters for the Communist Party committee in Siberia. May I apply for a grant?

Here, I just created a few posters on spec. Let's see if the American public is down with such a self-image. Feel free to contribute!

More HERE (See the original for links)


The looting of savers

Have you got money in the bank? You're going to be a patsy

By economic historian Martin Hutchinson

The French and Greek elections have made the “austerity” programs favored by Angela Merkel and other sensible policymakers seem politically highly unattractive (never mind that the spending cuts proposed by the austere have almost universally not happened, while tax increases have been onerous.) Consequently, Keynesians worldwide are recommending further bouts of government spending combined with partial repudiation of debt. Like the disgraceful monetary policies also peddled by these people, these recommendations amount to the wholesale looting of savers in favor of profligate borrowers and bloated public sectors. It’s worth reminding ourselves of the long-term consequences of such folly.

One of John Maynard Keynes’ principal crimes against sound economics was his demonization of savers. Calling for the “euthanasia of the rentier” he proposed the paradox of thrift, whereby savers in a recession are supposed to damage the ability for the economy to recover by depressing aggregate demand. Like Keynes’ equally spurious calls for increased government spending as a stimulus, this demonization of savers has been used by intellectually dishonest politicians of the left and squishy center to justify policies that have the effect of robbing savers, whether through inflation, excessive taxation or repudiation of government debt.

In reality, saving is the essential precondition for capital investment, and therefore for economic growth. Societies with inadequate savings cannot generally pull themselves out of poverty, however abundant their natural resources. You only have to look at the track record over the last half century of Asian societies, which mostly have a high cultural propensity to save, compared with Latin American societies that do not. Whereas countries like Argentina or Brazil were richer than Korea and Taiwan, little poorer than Singapore or Japan and far richer than China in 1960, today the comparison has reversed.

One of my major objections to the activities of the World Bank and the IMF is their downgrading of the importance of saving. Those institutions frequently propose high taxes on investment returns, and seem to be under the impression that the only way to start a new company is with a government grant or an investment by a major international private equity fund, such the World Bank’s offshoot the International Finance Corporation. As the Solyndra example in the United States showed, the government is an exceptionally bad venture capitalist. In addition, it can be stated with considerable confidence that enterprises that require $500 million up-front investments before having made a profit or even significant revenue are very unlikely to succeed in the long term.

Middle class saving is the key to enterprise formation in any society. Even when venture capital companies exist, as in the United States, they rapidly get drawn away from genuine venture capital towards the much easier money available in leveraged buyouts. Mitt Romney’s Bain Capital, for example, began by providing genuine venture capital to Tom Stemberg’s Staples, but rapidly discovered that most such investments were too small and the returns too slow, and switched to leveraged buyouts. The vast majority of new ventures, innovative or not, depend on the savings of their founders and their founders’ network of relatives, friends and business contacts, to get going before institutional venture capitalists will look at them.

Nurturing middle class savings is thus the most important task of government. John Locke said “Government has no other end, but the preservation of property” and he didn’t overstate the position by much. Quite my most gratifying banking experience was designing a simple bond law for the Republic of Macedonia, which allowed 800,000 Macedonian savers, whose savings had been expropriated ten years earlier by the former Yugoslavia, to get most of their savings back immediately. The country’s improvement in economic performance following the implementation of that law has been marked, and extremely pleasing.

Worldwide monetary policies, in place now for almost 4 years, are uniquely unkind to savers. By forcing interest rates, both short-term and long-term below the rate of inflation, they force savers to receive a negative real return or take large risks to achieve a positive one. That’s the reason for the success of speculative bubbles like that in Facebook shares, which have created a market capitalization larger than General Motors off a stream of advertising revenue only 4% the size of the company’s market capitalization. One commentator described the Facebook IPO as the largest “pump and dump” in stock market history. It has a lot of company for that distinction (when normed by contemporary Gross Domestic Product.) Certainly the South Sea Company and the Mississippi Company, those twin British and French bubbles of 1719-20, had more commercial reality to them. After all Robert Knight, the South Sea Company cashier, who absconded to Antwerp with the company’s records, appeared before potential investors in a well-powdered periwig, not a hoodie!

The latest Keynesian solution to the unwillingness of debt markets to finance further bouts of government spending is to spend yet more money, but to finance it by monetary expansion and partial repudiation of debt. This would get debt levels down, but would close the markets to further debt issues, since investors are not so foolish as to lend to borrowers who have already defaulted on their obligations. Even Argentina, which has enjoyed a remarkable economic boom since defaulting on its debt in 2005, has not been able to return to the capital markets, much to the surprise of its leaders. Thus this approach, if undertaken directly, is unlikely to lead to success.

There is however an alternative approach, which currently appears more and more attractive to distraught Keynesians, and that is financial repression. Under this technique, which was most successfully applied by the British government to work down its excessive debt level at the end of World War II, regulations are used to prevent domestic savers from moving their money into international assets. Monetary authorities are then encouraged to promote inflation, to the extent that domestic interest rates are kept below the rate of inflation. Using this technique, governments can run deficits for a generation or more, while the value of their debts is reduced by inflation. Add in a stiff income tax, to penalize further the nominal interest returns of savers foolish enough to buy government debt, and the government’s debt position can be retrieved quite nicely over a 20-30 period – at the cost of the nation’s savings and the rest of the economy. Needless to say savers, especially those fool enough to believe in the government’s promises to maintain a sound currency, were robbed blind and ended their lives impoverished.

Repression is clearly in the sights of the left at this time – after all, savers generally tend to vote for the right. The idea of looting their political opponents to increase public spending, while having that looting proceed invisibly, so that their fingers are not on the weapon, is attractive to leftist politicians everywhere – it is in a sense THE central flaw of democracy. Of course, the most blame should attach to those politicians like Harold Macmillan, Richard Nixon and, it increasingly seems likely, David Cameron, who rely on savers’ votes to get elected and then betray their own supporters.

Fiscal austerity is needed, but as France and Greece have shown, it is unlikely to win its proponents much electoral support. That is particularly the case if, as in Britain the austerity consists primarily of tax increases, so that the economy declines while the deficit remains unaffected by the apparent austerity. In any case fiscal austerity alone is not enough. If it is not combined with sound monetary policy, savings rates will decline and the savings pool itself will be drained by negative real interest rates. In the long term, that can only lead to impoverishment; in a globalized world, the skills of Western employees are not so superior to those in emerging markets that they can expect to retain higher living standards without a healthy pool of capital to accompany them.

The need now is thus for a revolution in monetary policy, that raises the risk-free interest rate well above the rate of inflation, and allows savers at last to receive a real return on their money without investing in the likes of Facebook. It probably won’t happen until inflation gets seriously out of hand, so my advice to savers is this: make sure a substantial percentage of your money is in gold, in order that you will survive the painful burst of inflation that is needed before global monetary authorities are brought to their senses.



What Should You Believe? Government Stats or Your Own Eyes?

Price inflation is running at an annualized rate of 4.8 percent, according to official data released Friday by the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.

That is more than double the Federal Reserve’s target rate of 2 percent annual inflation. And as millions of Americans have come to learn since the government 40 years ago began playing games with this and other economic statistics to make things look better than they really are, there is good reason to take this latest report with a shaker or two of salt. Even if we accept the figure at face value, there are good reasons to scoff.

For instance, at the American Institute for Economic Research, the economists strip out seldom-purchased big-ticket items that the Bureau of Labor Statistics leaves in its calculations. The AIER’s Everyday Price Index studies the prices of things people buy daily, weekly, or monthly, such as groceries, prescription medicine, telephone and cable services, etc. That’s the inflation rate that most directly affects people.

The Everyday Price Index shows inflation climbing 8.1 percent over the last year. At an 8.1 percent rate of inflation, the purchasing power of the dollar falls by half in nine years.



Red Ink drowns economies rather than grow them

Headlines blared over the weekend that Obama was winning his way by convincing the G-8 countries (U.S., Germany, Japan, United Kingdom, Italy, France, Canada and Russia) to pursue a policy of “growth” rather than “austerity” in dealing with the crushing sovereign debt crisis in Europe and around the world.

In the Orwellian world we live in, “growth” means more spending, and “austerity” means painful cuts which destroy economies.

One would think that a simple survey of the U.S. economic shambles would put an end to the government spending = growth myth. CBS News reports that Obama has accumulated almost $5 trillion in new debt, exceeding the total of his predecessor’s eight years in office in just over three.

If growth followed massive government spending, then the U.S. economy should be humming along rather than the current anemic 2.2 percent in the first quarter of 2012. When adjusted for inflation in commodities, the real GDP for the first quarter stood at 1.7 percent, a far cry from the Obama predicted 3 percent rate for the year.

Our economy has an 8.1 percent unemployment rate that has dropped not due to job creation, but due to people dropping out of the workforce. In fact, 319,000 fewer Americans are employed today than when Obama took office — quite a record of growth for Europe to follow.

Obama’s “growth” agenda has been fueled by about $3 trillion in stimulus including the failed $800 billion fiscal stimulus and more than $2.5 trillion in monetary stimulus courtesy of Ben Bernanke and the Federal Reserve Bank.

Now, Obama is working on the European leaders to push them toward policies that would push down the accelerator on sovereign debt creation which has been proven to only make the overall debt crisis worse.

Ironically, the so-called “austerity” alternative that Obama is urging to be rejected has not even been tried as countries like Greece have not made the choice to cut their budgets enough to staunch the flow of red ink, so there is no baseline in the current crisis to show that budget balancing doesn’t generate growth.

The sad fact is that those who cling to the failed socialist policies of the past will not give up the illusion that Keynesian economics is anything more than a theory designed to gradually slip free people into the bondage of ever growing government debt.

As the world watches these leaders of the largest “democracies” on the planet engage in meetings designed to save the crumbling European socialist infrastructure and the banks that lent the money to enable it, we see the clash of national histories and cultures.

Germany, with its collective memory of the hyperinflationary despair caused by massive deficit spending after WWI which led to the rise of Adolph Hitler, chooses the route of fiscal responsibility. Even with this history, the German debt to gross domestic product has risen from 58.8 percent in 2002 to 81.2 percent in 2012.

The United States under Obama, has embraced fiscal recklessness under the mantle of “growth” and has seen our debt to GDP increase from 64.4 percent in 2008 to crashing the 100 percent mark in 2012.

Just so the U.S. doesn’t feel too lonely having our national debt exceed our total annual economic production, fellow G-8 member Italy has a GDP to debt ratio of 120 percent. Of course, Italy is considered a prime candidate for needing a bailout to prevent them from defaulting on their debts, so one wonders how wise it is to include them in the room when discussing whether the prudent economic policy is politically difficult budget cuts or an Alice in Wonderland spending spree. Not to be outdone, Japan has beaten everyone in the race toward fiscal insanity having blown past the 200 percent threshold and having twenty years of economic stagnation.

So, now Obama wants to try to sell the world on the concept of additional spending being the key to future economic prosperity. Hopefully, the rest of the world treats his economic prescriptions with the same respect that the U.S. Senate treated his budget and just says no.

No matter how hard Obama and the world’s creditors try to redefine the meaning of growth and turn common sense on its head, more government deficit spending can only further stagnate economic growth. After all, if deficit spending created economic growth, the U.S. debt to GDP would be shrinking in response to our unprecedented deficits, and not even Obama can argue that red ink is actually black.




List of backup or "mirror" sites here or here -- for readers in China or for everyone when blogspot is "down" or failing to update. Email me here (Hotmail address). My Home Pages are here (Academic) or here (Pictorial) or here (Personal)


The Big Lie of the late 20th century was that Nazism was Rightist. It was in fact typical of the Leftism of its day. It was only to the Right of Stalin's Communism. The very word "Nazi" is a German abbreviation for "National Socialist" (Nationalsozialist) and the full name of Hitler's political party (translated) was "The National Socialist German Workers' Party" (In German: Nationalsozialistische Deutsche Arbeiterpartei)


Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Big Lies in Politics

Thomas Sowell

The fact that so many successful politicians are such shameless liars is not only a reflection on them, it is also a reflection on us. When the people want the impossible, only liars can satisfy them, and only in the short run. The current outbreaks of riots in Europe show what happens when the truth catches up with both the politicians and the people in the long run.

Among the biggest lies of the welfare states on both sides of the Atlantic is the notion that the government can supply the people with things they want but cannot afford. Since the government gets its resources from the people, if the people as a whole cannot afford something, neither can the government.

There is, of course, the perennial fallacy that the government can simply raise taxes on "the rich" and use that additional revenue to pay for things that most people cannot afford. What is amazing is the implicit assumption that "the rich" are all such complete fools that they will do nothing to prevent their money from being taxed away. History shows otherwise.

After the Constitution of the United States was amended to permit a federal income tax, in 1916, the number of people reporting taxable incomes of $300,000 a year or more fell from well over a thousand to fewer than three hundred by 1921.

Were the rich all getting poorer? Not at all. They were investing huge sums of money in tax-exempt securities. The amount of money invested in tax-exempt securities was larger than the federal budget, and nearly half as large as the national debt.

This was not unique to the United States or to that era. After the British government raised their income tax on the top income earners in 2010, they discovered that they collected less tax revenue than before. Other countries have had similar experiences. Apparently the rich are not all fools, after all.

In today's globalized world economy, the rich can simply invest their money in countries where tax rates are lower.

So, if you cannot rely on "the rich" to pick up the slack, what can you rely on? Lies.

Nothing is easier for a politician than promising government benefits that cannot be delivered. Pensions such as Social Security are perfect for this role. The promises that are made are for money to be paid many years from now -- and somebody else will be in power then, left with the job of figuring out what to say and do when the money runs out and the riots start.

There are all sorts of ways of postponing the day of reckoning. The government can refuse to pay what it costs to get things done. Cutting what doctors are paid for treating Medicare patients is one obvious example.

That of course leads some doctors to refuse to take on new Medicare patients. But this process takes time to really make its full impact felt -- and elections are held in the short run. This is another growing problem that can be left for someone else to try to cope with in future years.

Increasing amounts of paperwork for doctors in welfare states with government-run medical care, and reduced payments to those doctors, in order to stave off the day of bankruptcy, mean that the medical profession is likely to attract fewer of the brightest young people who have other occupations available to them -- paying more money and having fewer hassles. But this too is a long-run problem -- and elections are still held in the short run.

Eventually, all these long-run problems can catch up with the wonderful-sounding lies that are the lifeblood of welfare state politics. But there can be a lot of elections between now and eventually -- and those who are good at political lies can win a lot of those elections.

As the day of reckoning approaches, there are a number of ways of seeming to overcome the crisis. If the government is running out of money, it can print more money. That does not make the country any richer, but it quietly transfers part of the value of existing money from people's savings and income to the government, whose newly printed money is worth just as much as the money that people worked for and saved.

Printing more money means inflation -- and inflation is a quiet lie, by which a government can keep its promises on paper, but with money worth much less than when the promises were made.

Is it so surprising voters with unrealistic hopes elect politicians who lie about being able to fulfill those hopes?



Domestic propaganda OK?

An amendment that would legalize the use of propaganda on American audiences is being inserted into the latest defense authorization bill….

The amendment would “strike the current ban on domestic dissemination” of propaganda material produced by the State Department and the Pentagon, according to the summary of the law at the House Rules Committee’s official website.

The tweak to the bill would essentially neutralize two previous acts—the Smith-Mundt Act of 1948 and Foreign Relations Authorization Act in 1987—that had been passed to protect U.S. audiences from our own government’s misinformation campaigns.
The bi-partisan amendment is sponsored by Rep. Mac Thornberry from Texas and Rep. Adam Smith from Washington State.

In a little noticed press release earlier in the week — buried beneath the other high-profile issues in the $642 billion defense bill, including indefinite detention and a prohibition on gay marriage at military installations — Thornberry warned that in the Internet age, the current law “ties the hands of America’s diplomatic officials, military, and others by inhibiting our ability to effectively communicate in a credible way.”

The bill’s supporters say the informational material used overseas to influence foreign audiences is too good to not use at home, and that new techniques are needed to help fight Al-Qaeda, a borderless enemy whose own propaganda reaches Americans online.

Critics of the bill say there are ways to keep America safe without turning the massive information operations apparatus within the federal government against American citizens.



Should we obey all laws?

By Walter E. Williams

Professor of Economics at George Mason University
Let's think about whether all acts of Congress deserve our respect and obedience. Suppose Congress enacted a law -- and the Supreme Court ruled it constitutional -- requiring American families to attend church services at least three times a month. Should we obey such a law? Suppose Congress, acting under the Constitution's commerce clause, enacted a law requiring motorists to get eight hours of sleep before driving on interstate highways. Its justification might be that drowsy motorists risk highway accidents and accidents affect interstate commerce. Suppose you were a jury member during the 1850s and a free person were on trial for assisting a runaway slave, in clear violation of the Fugitive Slave Act. Would you vote to convict and punish?

A moral person would find each one of those laws either morally repugnant or to be a clear violation of our Constitution. You say, "Williams, you're wrong this time. In 1859, in Ableman v. Booth, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled the Fugitive Slave Act of 1850 constitutional." That court decision, as well as some others in our past, makes my case. Moral people can't rely solely on the courts to establish what's right or wrong. Slavery is immoral; therefore, any laws that support slavery are also immoral. In the words of Thomas Jefferson, "to consider the judges as the ultimate arbiters of all constitutional questions (is) a very dangerous doctrine indeed, and one which would place us under the despotism of an oligarchy."

Soon, the Supreme Court will rule on the constitutionality of Obamacare, euphemistically titled the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act. There is absolutely no constitutional authority for Congress to force any American to enter into a contract to buy any good or service. But if the court rules that Obamacare is constitutional, what should we do?

State governors and legislators ought to summon up the courage of our Founding Fathers in response to the 5th Congress' Alien and Sedition Acts in 1798. Led by Jefferson and James Madison, the Kentucky and Virginia Resolutions of 1798 and 1799 were drafted where legislatures took the position that the Alien and Sedition Acts were unconstitutional. They said, "Resolved, That the several States composing, the United States of America, are not united on the principle of unlimited submission to their general government ... (and) whensoever the general government assumes undelegated powers, its acts are unauthoritative, void, and of no force." The 10th Amendment to our Constitution supports that vision: "The powers not delegated to the United States by the Constitution, nor prohibited by it to the States, are reserved to the States respectively, or to the people."

In a word, if the Supreme Court rules that Obamacare is constitutional, citizens should press their state governors and legislatures to nullify the law. You say, "Williams, the last time states got into this nullification business, it led to a war that cost 600,000 lives." Two things are different this time. First, most Americans are against Obamacare, and secondly, I don't believe that you could find a U.S. soldier who would follow a presidential order to descend on a state to round up or shoot down fellow Americans because they refuse to follow a congressional order to buy health insurance.

Congress has already gone far beyond the powers delegated to it by the Constitution. In Federalist No. 45, Madison explained: "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." That vision has been turned on its head; it's the federal government whose powers are numerous and indefinite, and those of the state are now few and defined.

Former slave Frederick Douglass advised: "Find out just what people will submit to and you have found out the exact amount of injustice and wrong which will be imposed upon them. ... The limits of tyrants are prescribed by the endurance of those whom they oppress."



Obama: Promises Broken, Promises Kept

President Obama has broken many of his promises aimed at the general public and jobless Americans, but he has kept promises to his left-wing base that involved divisive wedge issues.

He promised to create 7 million new jobs on seven different occasions in 2008. But these jobs have not materialized: “just 16 states have seen job growth since President Obama took office,” overwhelmingly conservative states like Texas that have rejected liberal economic policies. “The remaining states have lost a combined 1.4 million jobs since January 2009.” Unemployment has risen, despite the fact that many people have given up looking for a job, concealing increases in joblessness. (The broadest measure of real unemployment is 15.6 percent.)

President Obama promised to cut the deficit at least six times. He also promised a “net spending cut.” These promises were swiftly broken. In 2009, the president broke them in a big way with his very first proposed budget. It mandated such large increases in spending that budget deficits would rise by $4.8 trillion under it to $9.3 trillion, according to the Congressional Budget Office.

He has broken at least ten other campaign promises, including seven promises in signing the $800 billion stimulus package (which will shrink the economy in the “long run”), and one promise in signing the Lilly Ledbetter law and the SCHIP tax increase.

On the other hand, President Obama kept his pledge to federalize hate crimes, which were already prohibited by state laws, by signing into law a broad federal hate crimes law in 2009. (Obama promised to “place the weight of (his) administration behind the enactment of the Matthew Shepard Act to (federally) outlaw hate crimes.”) Since violent crimes were already prohibited by state law, and most states already had laws increasing penalties for crimes motivated by race or sexual orientation, the principal effect of the 2009 federal hate crimes law was to allow federal prosecutors to reprosecute people had previously been acquitted and found not guilty of a crime in state court, or were never prosecuted in state court because state prosecutors viewed the evidence against them as weak.

And, indeed, one of the purposes of the federal hate crimes law was to take advantage of a loophole in constitutional protections against double jeopardy. As interpreted by the Supreme Court, constitutional protections against double jeopardy prevent a state from reprosecuting a person who has been found not guilty in state court, but do not, owing to the loophole, prevent federal prosecutors from reprosecuting someone after they have been found innocent of the same crime in state court. This loophole is known as the “dual sovereignty” doctrine. The Obama administration may make use of this loophole in a recent high-profile, racially-charged case in Florida. The specter of such reprosecutions led the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights and civil-libertarians like Nat Hentoff to oppose the federal hate-crimes law.



Corruption from a Left-leaning court

Well the dust up about the million dollar meeting in Maui has finally registered with the judges planning on spending some quality meeting time in a tropical paradise. Here's what the court has to say:
As part of the Third Branch of government, the Ninth Circuit is fully aware of its responsibilities as a steward of public funds. The conference is authorized by law "for the purpose of considering the business of the courts and advising means of improving the administration of justice within the circuit." [§ 28 U.S.C. Sec. 333] The conference fully adheres to these goals, providing an exceptional educational program and the opportunity to conduct numerous business meetings that further circuit governance. Judges and other attendees take seriously their obligation to participate fully in the conference. Costs for lodging and air travel to attend the conference are comparative to those found at mainland venues. Any sporting and recreational activities are paid for by individuals and are not reimbursable.

Considering that attendees traveling on government funds will have around $200 a day to spare for meals an incidental expenses (as part of their per diem) which require no direct accounting, the last sentence, while technically true is a bit of misdirection.

But enough with the boring accounting details, let's get to an examination of the schedule. Below is an abbreviated listing of some of the advertised activities:

Saturday, August 11
12:00 p.m. - Conference Registration desk opens

Sunday, August 12
5:30 a.m. - 11:30 a.m. - Sport Fishing
12:00 p.m. - Golf Tournament

Monday, August 13
9:00 a.m. - Yoga
9:00 a.m. - Surfing Lessons
9:00 a.m. - Stand-up Paddle Board Lessons
12:00 p.m. - Welcome Luncheon & Book Review for Spouses & Guests
2:00 p.m. - Zumba
4:30 p.m. - Opening Program
6:00 p.m. - No-host Cocktail Reception
7:00 p.m. - Maui Dine Around

Tuesday, August 14
9:00 a.m. - Yoga
9:00 a.m. - Surfing Lessons
9:00 a.m. - Stand-up Paddle Board Lessons
1:00 p.m. - Tennis Tournament
2:00 p.m. - Floral Design Workshop (includes flowers & supplies)
7:00 p.m. - District Dinners

Wednesday, August 15
9:00 a.m. - Yoga
9:00 a.m. - Surfing Lessons
9:00 a.m. - Stand-up Paddle Board Lessons
9:00 a.m. - 4:00 p.m. - Day Trip and Tour of Upcountry Maui
11:00 a.m. - 3:00 p.m. - Gemini Catamaran Snorkel Trip (includes gear & lunch)
2:45 p.m. - A special treat! Ice Cream Social
6:00 p.m. - The Aloha Experience

Thursday, August 16
9:00 a.m. - Yoga
9:00 a.m. - Stand-up Paddle Board Lessons

Oh sure the judges could attend boring meetings and lectures, but it looks like they've got those who want to play hooky covered as well...




List of backup or "mirror" sites here or here -- for readers in China or for everyone when blogspot is "down" or failing to update. Email me here (Hotmail address). My Home Pages are here (Academic) or here (Pictorial) or here (Personal)


The Big Lie of the late 20th century was that Nazism was Rightist. It was in fact typical of the Leftism of its day. It was only to the Right of Stalin's Communism. The very word "Nazi" is a German abbreviation for "National Socialist" (Nationalsozialist) and the full name of Hitler's political party (translated) was "The National Socialist German Workers' Party" (In German: Nationalsozialistische Deutsche Arbeiterpartei)


Tuesday, May 22, 2012

America's welfare mess

Every so often, an article crosses your desk that makes you feel like you’ve been hit between the eyes with a sledgehammer. Even if you have a solid understanding of the topic, and you notice that the facts at hand match your previous suspicions, somehow you still have to keep a grip on yourself because it is so staggering. That is what happened to me while reading Michael Tanner’s recent report for the Cato Institute on the American welfare system.

Tanner is a recognized expert on our welfare system, having written two books on the subject during the 1990’s, when people were actually making an effort to restructure the welfare state. In fact, his work helped form the philosophical basis for the landmark welfare reform enacted in 1996. Since then, Tanner has been studying other areas of public policy, but he recently returned to look at the current welfare structure. Tanner told me that even he was shocked at what he found.

To be fair, Mr. Tanner admits that some of the recent increases in welfare expenditures are due to the recession. But he also observes that the escalation in welfare spending has been far greater during the current recession than the previous ones. Furthermore, people have hung on to their welfare participation for a much longer period of time. That being said, our Treasury Secretary, Timothy Geithner, was recently on Meet the Press and blamed the cause of the deficit on guess who -- the Bush Administration. Not according to Tanner’s study.

There are currently 126 separate federal anti-poverty (welfare) programs. That stupefying figure includes 33 separate housing programs run by four cabinet departments, 21 programs providing food or food assistance in three cabinet departments and one federal agency, eight health care programs in five different agencies within Health and Human Services, and, to top it off, 27 cash or general assistance programs spread throughout seven cabinet departments and six agencies. Tanner concluded that for at least the past 10 years, we’ve had more than 100 federal anti-poverty programs!

If you’re not already confused, let me fix that: the players change so often that ultimately you need a scorecard. In 2011, four obscure programs – Vista, Even Start, the Senior Companion Program (which used to be called grandchildren), and the Foster Grandparent Program – were eliminated. But of course, new ones were created. We now have the Capacity Building for Sustainable Communities Fund, the Emergency Homeowners Loan Program, and the Choice Neighborhood Planning Grants. (I probably qualify for this one because I’ve got some pretty choice neighbors.)

How much are we spending on all this? Well, pull up your socks. Tanner calculates that the federal government lays out $44,544 for a “poor” family of three, and that state and local governments throw in another $20,610 (some of which, I assume, comes from federal block grants). This means that a family of three can, in theory, get $67,154 from the government in housing, health care, food, and cash assistance. So here’s the big question: why bother working?

Then there’s the other big question: with all these handouts, why hasn’t poverty been eliminated? A family of three is considered below the poverty line when their income is less than $18,530, so how can anyone still be living in poverty in America when we’re paying out benefits equivalent to almost four times that amount? Certainly, a lot of the money goes to overhead. With 33 federal housing programs – not to mention the ones at the state and local level – there’s an army of middle-class government employees getting their pockets lined. Unfortunately, because of the complexity of the budget process (or lack of budget since the Senate has not passed one in three years), Tanner can’t quite nail down that overhead figure. But he does comment in his report on the people who profit from these programs, writing: “Anti-poverty programs are usually more concerned with protecting the prerogatives of the bureaucracy than with actually fighting poverty.”

What are we getting for our $668 billion a year? It’s certainly not a reduction in poverty. Combine the federal largesse with the $284 billion spent by state and local governments and we are handing out almost $1 trillion a year. Since the beginning of the Great Society in 1965, we’ve increased our combined anti-poverty spending threefold as a percentage of GDP, yet the overall poverty rate has stayed constant with only a modest dip during the mid-1990’s as a result of the welfare reform bill.

Because of the bizarre maze of federal and state programs, it’s nearly impossible to analyze due to the diffusion of the efforts through the multitude of programs. When Mitt Romney talks about reorganizing government, he should emphasize this chaotic situation as an example of how to streamline government and save billions. Massive elimination and consolidation of these programs would not only conserve precious tax dollars, but better serve the recipients of these programs. The tangled mass of programs – along with the lack of co-coordinated oversight – leads only to confusion and fraud, neither of which helps anyone (except the criminals.)

This report demonstrates (yet again) the inefficient disaster of our federal government. Mr. Tanner should be hired to advise the Romney campaign, because we all know that Mr. Obama will never effectively spearhead any change to this morass. And change we need or we will drown.



Government waste

Most of my work on government stimulus focuses on economic theory and evidence. But every so often it’s a good idea to remind ourselves of the ridiculous ways that government wastes money. Here are some details from a boondoggle in West Virginia.
Nobody told Hurricane librarian Rebecca Elliot that the $22,600 Internet router in the branch library’s storage closet was powerful enough to serve an entire college campus. Nobody told Elliot how much the router cost or who paid for it. Workers just showed up and installed the device. They left behind no instructions, no user manual. The high-end router serves four public computer terminals at the small library in Putnam County. …The state of West Virginia is using $24 million in federal economic stimulus money to put high-powered Internet computer routers in small libraries, elementary schools and health clinics, even though the pricey equipment is designed to serve major research universities, medical centers and large corporations, a Gazette-Mail investigation has found. …The Cisco 3945 series routers, which cost $22,600 each, are built to serve “tens of thousands” of users or device connections, according to a Cisco sales agent. The routers are designed to serve a minimum of 500 users. Yet state broadband project officials directed the installation of the stimulus-funded Cisco routers in West Virginia schools with fewer than a dozen computers and libraries that have only a single terminal for patrons.

Sounds like the government could have bought every user a laptop and squandered less money.

It’s important to realize that this type of boondoggle is the rule, not the exception. Every so often, we see stories about absurd waste, such as the $423,000 study to find out that men don’t like to wear condoms, the Pentagon spending $900 on a $7 control switch, or a $100,000 library grant to a city without a library.

We should get upset about these examples. But remember that the cartoon below is exactly right. The waste, fraud, and pork that we find out about is dwarfed by what remains hidden.



How Do You Compromise with a Progressive?

I forced myself to watch Bill Maher this Friday as I was trying to chart out this column. Thankfully I hadn’t just eaten.

It was sickening to listen as cerebral dwarves Maher and some not-so-bright jackass from the fascist rag The Nation talked about how Republicans and the Tea Party are evil and the cause of all our economic problems while Rhodes Scholar and former U.S. Sen. Bill Bradley, D-N.J. sat there smirking like a broken Muppet. The world in which progressives live makes the world J.K. Rowling created for Harry Potter seem normal.

And it wasn’t just the economy conservatives had wrecked. This august panel also blamed conservatives and the Tea Party for what they determined was the rebirth of racism in this country. More than that, they believe racism is worse now that at any time in recent history. The evidence of this, as is often the case with progressives, is their say-so. There’s nothing like being lectured by three wealthy white progressives about the plight of minorities in the world.

Maher’s show is the hollowed-out tree for intellectual elves on the political left to gather and make themselves feel good about their failed ideas… outside of MSNBC, naturally. As such, these elfin academics took a moment to lament the primary loss of Sen. Richard Lugar, R-ish-Ind., to Richard Mourdock because Mourdock doesn’t support “compromise.” That got me wondering – How do you compromise with people like this?

Many progressives scoffed at the concept of a “War on Terrorism.” Many more equated the United States to the terrorists who attacked us on 9/11. Still others subscribed to the stupidity that if only we’d talk with our attackers, find out what they want and negotiate with them we could avoid attacks in the future.

Putting aside the fact that these are the same people who demand terrorists at Gitmo get a presumption of innocence and due process yet simultaneously call for the head of George Zimmerman in the Trayvon Martin case, how do you negotiate with a terrorist?

Turns out it’s strikingly similar to negotiating with a progressive. You don’t. Not at all.

Chief amongst the desires of al Qaeda is us dead and Israel destroyed. Assuming your position is not wanting to be dead and not having Israel destroyed, which can be a lot to ask of far too many progressives these days, what do you compromise on? Allow them to murder some of us and destroy part of Israel?

Progressives’ goal is to raise taxes, spend more, grow government and make an ever-growing number of people dependent on government services, so those people will vote continually to keep them in power. Conservatives, though not necessarily Republicans, seek to bind the government to the Constitution, that pesky document that progressives all too often treat as a small speed bump on their way to their tyrannical Utopia.

Conservatives want less government involvement in people’s lives, smaller, constitutionally limited government and lower taxes for everyone. When two sides are pitted against one another, one side wanting higher taxes and more spending while the other wants lower taxes, or at least no increase, and less spending (or even just a decrease in the rate of increase) how do they compromise? Where is the middle ground?

It’s always the side that wants a bigger, more intrusive, ever-expanding government who wins in that compromise, no matter how much “compromise” there is, because they get more. And the goal is always “more.”

Progressives are like heroin addicts, only less honest. They both want “just one last fix” before they’ve finally had enough and will get serious about quitting. But a junkie will ask you for money for that next fix; progressives simply will deem a need for more of your money and then vote to take it. Neither is ever really done, and “just one more” is never enough with either.

The simple fact is there is no negotiating with terrorists or junkies just as there is no negotiating with progressives. “Compromise” might as well have six fewer letters when it comes to protecting individual liberty because there is simply no room for it anymore. We’ve already given away too much of our founding soul to give away any more and remain the nation, the people, we are meant to be.

There’s a reason all the people of the world who seek freedom and opportunity always try to come here. For them, and for our future, we can not allow politicians to negotiate that away any further in the name of compromise.



What Air India tells us about state run and monopoly companies

A nice little story here about Air India. It illustrates the dangers of having either state run or monopolistic companies.
Some of the airline’s staggering losses are rooted in exceptionally generous staff benefits. Investigators discovered pilots insisted in staying in five star hotels in New York, Chicago and Mumbai during stop-overs instead of spending the night at cheaper airport hotels.

Significant losses in revenues are due to serving and retired pilots and crew taking business class seats ahead of paying customers. The practice was restricted in 2009 when its chief executive appealed to staff to co-operate and stressed there was no shame in traveling economy.

Despite the restrictions on staff using business class tickets, paying passengers were rejected to make way for Air India staff who were upgraded from economy seats. At one point, Air India’s business class ticket holders were shunted onto rival airlines — at Air India’s cost — because their own staff had occupied the seats.

The temptation for any group of insiders is to make use of that insiderdom to gain privileges. This is as true of CEOs as it is of airline pilots, as true of politicians as it is of scribblers for think tanks. It's simply human nature: when we talk about bureaucrats we call it public choice economics and when we talk about everyone else we call it the blindingly obvious.

The only cure we've got for this is competition: everyone needs to be put in fear of their livelihood about the success of the organisation. To consider that a business class airfare not paid by a customer makes that job more insecure: that the claim of a gargantuan pay deal for inhabiting the corner office makes losing that job more likely. And this really only can be done when the players in the marketplace are indeed playing in a market. One where such behaviour really does bring down a company and thus impose discipline on all others.

Which does pose problems with the politicians. For we've tried having competing governments in the Wars of the Roses and didn't like the result much. Perhaps we'll just have to revert to terminal violence in this difficult case?



Hopeless Change for the Young

In 2008, Obama inspired legions of young Americans who bought into his "Change you can believe in" campaign message. According to the Pew Research Center, voters under the age of 30 supported Obama over John McCain 66:31 – by far the largest disparity between young voters and other age groups in any presidential election since exit polling began in 1972.

Sadly, three years later, it is more like Hopeless Change that millions of young Americans face. In exchange for that 2:1 vote of confidence they gave Obama in 2008, the 18-29 year-olds are feeling the brunt of the economic stagnation – often by twice the degree of all other age groups. According to the Wall Street Journal, "The U.S. labor market is in a malaise, but young adults are in crisis."

Unfortunately, what has happened is persistent unemployment, particularly long-term unemployment, depressed wages and purchasing power, massive depreciation of home values, doubling of gas prices, rapid increase in food and health care costs, and nearly stagnant economic growth. Virtually everyone and every sector have been negatively impacted, but young Americans just entering the workforce are suffering the most.

A new economic report by Gallup says 32% of 18-29 year-olds in the U.S. workforce were underemployed in April. That number is greater than the previous month of March (30.1%) and also higher than a year ago (30.7%), so nearly three years after the recovery supposedly began the trend is still worsening. Unemployment among this age group (13.6%) is nearly twice as high as any other age group, according to Gallup. Another 18.4% are working part-time, "but wanting to work full time." This trend is also worse than in March as well as April, 2011.

"Today's slow economic growth is a disaster for those unemployed and underemployed as they look for jobs when so few new jobs are being created. For younger Americans as a group, this is a particularly acute issue," summarized Gallup.




List of backup or "mirror" sites here or here -- for readers in China or for everyone when blogspot is "down" or failing to update. Email me here (Hotmail address). My Home Pages are here (Academic) or here (Pictorial) or here (Personal)


The Big Lie of the late 20th century was that Nazism was Rightist. It was in fact typical of the Leftism of its day. It was only to the Right of Stalin's Communism. The very word "Nazi" is a German abbreviation for "National Socialist" (Nationalsozialist) and the full name of Hitler's political party (translated) was "The National Socialist German Workers' Party" (In German: Nationalsozialistische Deutsche Arbeiterpartei)


Monday, May 21, 2012

Another amazing example of the power of genetics

IDENTICAL twins Craig and Brenton Gurney, 38, were inseparable as children, shared a bedroom until they were 22, and have played in the same soccer team since they were five. They even ended up marrying women named Nicole. "We've always been really, really close," Brenton says.

If extrasensory perception exists between twins it was Craig who was the intuitive one. From 2700 kilometres away he once divined when his brother had a life-threatening mystery rash, and when he had dislocated a shoulder.

So the story of the Gurney twins is even more remarkable because it was Brenton who started getting the persistent headaches. It was Brenton who persuaded hale and hearty Craig to join a study of twins (looking into mental health and resilience) because it included an MRI scan.

The MRI test picked up no abnormalities in Brenton's brain. But Craig, who never suffers headaches, got the shock news: a massive and rare tumour in the base of his skull.

"I was hoping they had mixed up the MRI results and got the wrong twin," Brenton says.

When Craig underwent a complex 10½ hour operation to remove a 4.2-centimetre tumour, his wife and family in the waiting room cast meaningful looks at Brenton as if he were a barometer on his brother's progress.

"It was unspoken but everyone was looking at me," says Brenton, who had no sixth sense about the events transpiring on the operating table.

A year since the operation at Westmead Private Hospital, and following two months of intensive radiation therapy, Craig says: "Ultimately Brenton saved my life."

The twins - Brenton from West Pennant Hills, Craig from nearby Mount Colah - have participated in twin studies since their mother registered them with the Australian Twin Registry soon after birth.



America really is polarizing politically

The article below is from a Leftist source but its statement of the facts seems accurate. The writer sees gridlock as the likely outcome but that could be no bad thing. Better no new legislation than bad legislation

The working assumption of many political commentators in Washington is that politics is more polarized than it has been in decades and that it’s the Republican Party’s rightward drift that’s to blame. The evidence bears this out—in part. But it also suggests a more complex story.

First, the electorate has polarized. Over the past two decades, the public’s ideological self-description has changed significantly. In 1992, when Bill Clinton campaigned for president as a reform-minded New Democrat, fully 43 percent of adults thought of themselves as moderate, compared to 36 percent conservative and 17 percent liberal. As the 2012 election got underway, the picture looked quite different. Moderates had declined by 8 points, to 35 percent, while conservatives and liberals had each gained 4 points, to 40 and 21 percent respectively.

As Alan Abramowitz has recently shown, a similar shift occurred among voters in presidential elections. In 1972, fully 71 percent placed themselves at or near the ideological midpoint, compared to 29 percent at or near the extremes. By 2008, the share of the electorate at or near the mid-point had fallen by 17 points—to 54 percent—while the share at the extremes rose to 46 percent.

Second, the parties have sorted themselves out along ideological lines. Since 2000, the share of Republicans calling themselves moderate or liberal has fallen from 37 to 27 percent, while the conservative share of Democrats has fallen from 25 to 20 percent. Republicans are more conservative than they used to be, and Democrats are more liberal. Conservatives have increased their share of the Republican Party by 9 points; liberals have increased their Democratic share by 10 points.

Over a longer period, Republicans have changed somewhat more than Democrats. Between 1972 and 2008, Abramowitz finds, Republican voters shifted rightward by 0.7 points on a seven-point scale, from 4.7 to 5.4. (On this scale, 1 means extremely liberal, while 7 means extremely conservative.) Meanwhile, Democratic voters shifted to the left by 0.5 points, from 3.7 to 3.2. Among Republican voters, the percentage of conservatives rose from 55 to 78 percent, while liberal voters among Democrats rose from 38 to 55 percent. Among party activists—the kinds of people who dominate grassroots organizations and presidential primaries and caucuses, the gulf between the parties has become even more pronounced.

The gap between voters and all adults—the former being more conservative—reflects age differentials in ideological commitment. Today, there a direct correlation: the older the person, on average the more conservative. And because older adults vote at much higher rates than young adults, the electorate is even more conservative than the population as a whole.

The story thus far is one of moderate asymmetry: both parties have shifted away from the center, Republicans somewhat more so than Democrats. But a simple fact has accentuated the difference: Because there are twice as many self-styled conservatives as liberals, ideological sorting is bound to produce a more predominantly conservative than liberal party—even if the percentage-point shifts are comparable. As recently as 2000, moderates outnumbered liberals within the Democratic Party by 44 to 29 percent. Today, even after a sharp rise in the liberal share, liberals and moderates are essentially tied, 39 to 38. In 2000, conservatives already outnumbered moderates and liberals by 2 to 1 within the Republican Party, and now it’s 3 to 1. So while there is a liberal Pelosi wing and a moderate Hoyer wing in the House Democratic caucus, among House Republicans we find only shades of conservatism. (That is not to say that differences among Republicans don’t matter; just ask John Boehner.)

So far I’ve left out Independents, whose share of the electorate is large and rising. But bringing them in doesn’t change the story very much. To be sure, Independents are the only major classification still dominated by moderates (41 percent of the total). But just since Obama carried the independent vote in 2008, conservatives have increased their share by 5 points while moderates have fallen by the same amount. Independents are moving with the tide, not against it.

These numbers don’t tell the whole story, however. There’s another key development: above and beyond their ideological disagreements, conservatives and liberals have come to understand the practice of politics differently. In a survey taken right after the Republican sweep in the 2010 midterm elections, 47 percent of American said that it was more important to compromise in order to get things done, versus 27 percent who thought it was more important for leaders to stick to their beliefs even if little got done. Liberal Democrats weighed in on the side of compromise, 58 to 16, moderate Democrats by 64 to 17. But conservative Republicans (the overwhelming majority of their party) favored sticking to their beliefs by 45 to 26. Ten months later, after the debt ceiling fiasco, an outright majority of adults favored compromise, including 62 percent of Democrats and 63 percent of liberals. But pluralities of Republicans and conservatives continued to favor leaders who stuck to their beliefs.

Unlike most other Americans, conservatives seem to believe that compromise represents defeat. It would take a subtle historian to explain why. Perhaps they think that because so many forces are pushing in the direction of bigger and more intrusive government, compromise will alter the pace of change but not the direction. If so, a politics of intransigence represents their only hope; never mind the risks.

There is nothing wrong with a frank and honest debate between two visions of our country’s future. But for the foreseeable future, neither party can definitively defeat the other. The only alternative to reasonable compromise—the sooner the better—is a level of gridlock that would paralyze our economy and eviscerate what is left of our reputation. All of those contributing to our current era of polarization would be wise to take heed.



Two parties forever in the USA

by Jeff Jacoby

NEWS FLASH: The next president of the United States, like the last 29, will be a Republican or a Democrat.

That's not news, you say? But surely it must be. Haven't we been hearing for months from accomplished and influential people — people like former Disney CEO Michael Eisner, private-equity investor Peter Ackerman, and former New Jersey Governor Christie Whitman — that the post-partisan hour was finally at hand? Weren't legions of Americans said to be ready to turn their backs on the old two-party system, with all its divisiveness and ideological rigidity? Haven't tens of millions of dollars been donated to Americans Elect, the widely praised anti-special-interest reform group intent on anointing a genuinely bipartisan ticket — a presidential candidate from one party and a vice-presidential running mate from the other — and setting up a three-way race for the White House in November?

All quite true. And all quite irrelevant. Americans Elect has plenty of money, an elegant web presence, and such organizational savvy that as of last week it had qualified for the November ballot in 29 states, including California, Michigan, and Ohio. But it is not going to break, or even shake, the Republican-Democratic lock on the White House.

Dismay over the American two-party system is nothing new. It's so old, in fact, that it predates the federal constitution. "There is nothing I dread so much as a division of the Republic into two great parties, each arranged under its leader and converting measures in opposition to each other," wrote John Adams in 1780. His great rival Thomas Jefferson agreed: "If I could not go to heaven but with a political party, I would not go there at all." Yet all their anti-partisan pieties didn't keep Adams and Jefferson from competing vigorously against each other as nominees of the first two American political parties, the Federalists and the Democratic-Republicans.

More than 225 years later, Americans by the millions follow the Adams/Jefferson pattern, lamenting partisanship in the abstract while sustaining it in practice.

In recent Gallup polls, more than half of respondents say the Republican and Democratic parties do such a poor job that the nation needs a third party. In an ABC News/Washington Post poll last November, voters by a 2-1 ratio responded favorably to the idea of an independent running for president against the major-party nominees. More than a few high-minded elites were certain the moment was ripe for a powerful centrist challenge to the long supremacy of Rs and Ds. "What did to books, what the blogosphere did to newspapers, [and] what the iPod did to music," gushed The New York Times's Thomas Friedman, "Americans Elect plans to do to the two-party duopoly that has dominated American political life — remove the barriers to real competition, flatten the incumbents, and let the people in."

But Americans Elect crashed and burned last week. Its much-hyped online primary process, touted as a way for any registered voter to take part in choosing a presidential ticket, achieved nothing. To survive the primary's first round, a candidate needed at least 10,000 clicks of support — hardly an insuperable bar in an organization that claims to have signed up more than 400,000 members. Yet no declared candidate came close. Former Louisiana Governor Buddy Roemer, the Americans Elect frontrunner, managed to attract just 6,281 supporters. (Boston University economist Laurence Kotlikoff finished fourth, with 2,023.)

Chalk up another win for that "two-party duopoly."

Americans may claim they long for an alternative. Pundits tell them that the parties have never been more polarized, that gridlock has reached crisis levels, and that the nation desperately requires politicians more interested in solving problems than in winning elections.

Yet the two-party system remains deeply rooted in our political life, and for good reason. The broad struggle between Republicans and Democrats reflects, however messily, the ancient tension between America's two profoundest political goals -- liberty and equality. Ideological purists can lament that there isn't a dime's worth of difference between the two parties, and for those who feel that way, there are always alternatives. Segregationist George Wallace, deficit hawk Ross Perot, Socialist Norman Thomas, Libertarian Ron Paul, consumerist scourge Ralph Nader -- all ran for president on third-party lines, and all attracted some passionate supporters (and in Wallace's case, even some electoral-college votes) along the way.

None, however, made any lasting change in America's political landscape. For the vast majority of voters, political competition still comes down to Republicans vs. Democrats. Just as well: For a nation so profoundly divided, two parties are enough.




AZ: Bennett seeks verification of Obama’s birthplace: "Arizona Secretary of State Ken Bennett says he's not a 'birther.' In fact, he says, he believes President Barack Obama was born in Hawaii. Yet the state's No.2 elected official has waded into the highly charged controversy, asking the island state to verify the president's birthplace to ensure Obama can appear on Arizona's Nov.6 ballot. In doing so, Bennett, who is co-chairman for Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney's Arizona campaign, has reignited the birther debate coast to coast."

Is the TSA good for anything?: "Most head-shaking coverage of the TSA focuses on headline-worthy feel-ups of children and senior citizens, humiliating treatment of travelers, theft of or damage to valuables by federal agents, and the like. ... the inevitable comeback from the Feinsteins of the world is that these are relatively minor and unavoidable tradeoffs for saved lives and property. When you dig a little deeper, though, it's clear that year after year, the Transportation Security Administration not only engaged in these abuses, it has proven itself to be spectacularly bad at implementing programs it rarely makes any effort to demonstrate actually accomplish a damned thing."

VA lawmaker: “Sodomy not a civil right”: "A Virginia lawmaker who recently led the fight to block an openly gay man from becoming a judge General District Court judge in Richmond insisted on Thursday that the move had nothing to do with the nominee’s sexual orientation, but he was concerned about 'bias' in cases between 'a homosexual and a heterosexual.'"

Serbia: Nationalist Nikolic wins presidential vote: "Serbian political parties are expected to start negotiations on the formation of a new government Monday after the surprise win of nationalist Tomislav Nikolic in presidential polls. Nikolic upset the odds to defeat incumbent Boris Tadic on Sunday but vowed to pursue his predecessor's drive for the Balkans nation to join the European Union."

There is a new lot of postings by Chris Brand just up -- on his usual vastly "incorrect" themes of race, genes, IQ etc.



List of backup or "mirror" sites here or here -- for readers in China or for everyone when blogspot is "down" or failing to update. Email me here (Hotmail address). My Home Pages are here (Academic) or here (Pictorial) or here (Personal)


The Big Lie of the late 20th century was that Nazism was Rightist. It was in fact typical of the Leftism of its day. It was only to the Right of Stalin's Communism. The very word "Nazi" is a German abbreviation for "National Socialist" (Nationalsozialist) and the full name of Hitler's political party (translated) was "The National Socialist German Workers' Party" (In German: Nationalsozialistische Deutsche Arbeiterpartei)


Sunday, May 20, 2012

A Racial Revolution?

Thomas Sowell

Now that census data show -- for the first time in American history -- the number of white babies born exceeded by the number of babies born to non-white minorities the question is: What does this mean for the future of American society?

Politically, it means that minorities who traditionally vote overwhelmingly for Democrats can ensure that the country veers ever further to the left over the years, making America more like the welfare states of Europe, whose unsustainable spending led ultimately to financial crises and widespread riots.

But this is not strictly a matter of whites versus non-whites. Jews vote consistently, and almost as overwhelmingly, for Democrats as blacks do. Moreover, Asian Americans are by no means as likely as other non-whites to vote for the class warfare, tax and spend agenda of the Democrats.

Yet when all is said and done, the future political direction of the country seems painfully clear from these demographic trends, unless something happens to change the current correlation between race and political party affiliation. Moreover, even that may not be enough.

Even if Republicans can siphon off enough votes from groups that normally vote for Democrats to keep the two-party system alive, the preservation of the Republican Party is a trivial issue compared to the preservation of American society.

If Republican politicians save themselves by becoming Democrats under a different label -- and appeal to minorities as minorities, rather than as Americans -- the same policies and attitudes will have the same destructive effect on the American economy and society.

Refusing to cut back on entitlement spending, for example, means that the current generation can continue to enjoy government-subsidized amenities, at the expense of future generations, who can be left to struggle to get necessities, after the money runs out and government's promises can no longer be kept.

The growth of ever bigger and even more intrusive government means that the freedom, for which generations of Americans have fought and died on battlefields, around the world can be slowly but steadily lost within our own country.

Painful as such outcomes can be the dangers do not end there. A continuation of the current political tendency to take away the money required for national defense, and spend it instead on handouts that will win votes, means that our enemies around the world will have golden opportunities at our expense.

Again, the dangers may not be immediate. But they can be catastrophic when they catch up with us -- and catch us unprepared. We recovered from Pearl Harbor at enormous cost, including the needless deaths of American soldiers, fighting for their lives with obsolete military equipment against enemies with state of the art weapons.

But even such sacrifices, which brought us time to catch up during the Second World War, may not even be enough in a nuclear age.

What can be done now, to head off the many dangers in our current political policies and attitudes? There is not much we can do about demographic trends. But the changing composition of the American population is not, in itself, the fundamental danger. After all, vast millions of immigrants crossed the Atlantic for generations on end, and began the process of becoming Americans. Millions of black people likewise began that process after being set free.

Demography is not destiny. But the history of Balkanized and polarized societies in the 20th century is a history of horrors that we dare not ignore.

We are not at that terrible point yet. But that is the direction in which we are headed, under the spell of magic words like "multiculturalism" and "diversity," which have become substitutes for thoughts, even among those who pride themselves on being "thinking people."

Our whole educational system, from the elementary schools to the universities, is permeated with ideologies of group grievances and resentments, painting each group into the corner of its own separate subculture, instead of drawing them into the mainstream of the American culture that made this the greatest nation on earth.

Unless this fashionable Balkanization is stopped, demography can become destiny -- and a tragedy for all.



Hating the Rich

My late father was a man of strong opinion. He despised phonies, cowards and liars. He named names -- sometimes in very close proximity to those being singled out. A veteran of World War II, he recognized a weasel when he saw one. But my dad never denigrated rich people in general.

We lived in Levittown, N.Y., where everybody had pretty much the same -- that is, not much. We ate tuna casserole, hot dogs and Hamburger Helper. My parents never owned a new car.

Ten miles away, my dentist, a college classmate of my father's, lived in Garden City. Lovely place, filled with rich people. My father often drove us through there and never said a disparaging word about the fine lawns and shiny foreign cars. America was the land of opportunity, and Garden City proved it.

But that was then. Today, many Democrats believe the wealthy are bad to the bone. A new Gallup poll asks: "Do you think the U.S. benefits from having a class of rich people or not?" An amazing 46 percent of self-described Democrats answered "or not."

When I asked two left-leaning pundits about this, they said it is all about "income inequality." They asked me whether my father would approve of that. I said he most likely would reject the entire concept of "income inequality" by giving the pundits the same advice he gave me: "If you don't like what they're paying you, work someplace else."

And I followed that advice, moving 10 times in 15 years on my way up the television news ladder. It wasn't easy, but if I thought my employer was hosing me, I began looking around.

That's how capitalism is supposed to work. America is mandated to provide "equal opportunity," not equal outcomes. The boss man can pay what he wants. It's our choice whether to take it or leave it.

President Obama doesn't seem to get that. He often puts forth that wealthy Americans are not paying their "fair share," that somehow the fix is in, and the rich folk are gaming the system at the expense of working people. But for two years, Obama had an adoring Democratic Congress that did absolutely nothing to further the concept of "income equality." The reason? It's unconstitutional. The feds cannot dictate salaries and benefits in the private marketplace. Obamacare is an attempt to breach that constitutional wall. We'll soon see what the Supreme Court says.

Capitalism is no beach day. The strong and sometimes ruthless prosper. The poorly educated and unfocused often fail. For many Americans, failure is unfair and unacceptable in a "just" society. But my dad knew and accepted the truth of capitalism: Some will win big, some will lose big, but most will live comfortable lives in the middle. Just as he did.



Generation Pap

Jonah Goldberg

This is the season of generational twaddle. At graduation ceremonies across the country, politicians, authors, actors and businessmen take to the stage to tell young people they are fantastic simply because they are young. This year, the ritual is more pathetic than usual because there's a presidential election in the offing. And because the current occupant of the White House won in 2008 in no small part due to his success with the "youth vote," he is desperate for them to repeat their blunder.

At the all-women's school Barnard College, President Obama spoke to the audience as if they were an undifferentiated mob of "Julias." I'm referring to the banally creepy imaginary everywoman the Obama campaign has conjured on its website to show that Uncle Sam is now both sugar daddy and husband to the women of America. "Now more than ever -- now more than ever," the president repeated, "America needs what you, the Class of 2012, has to offer." By which he meant their votes for him, of course. But he couched it in all sorts of familiar platitudes.

But in terms of naked pandering, few can match Vice President Joe Biden. Last week, he told a group of college students visiting the White House: "You're an incredible generation. And that's not hyperbole either. Your generation and the 9/11 generation before you are the most incredible group of Americans we have ever, ever, ever produced."

Here's a tip: When you hear Biden say, "And that's not hyperbole," you can be sure it's hyperbole. Actually, here's an even better tip: If Biden's lips are moving, assume it's hyperbole.

The conventional response to this sort of thing is to claim that Biden is giving short shrift to some previous generation. What about the "Greatest Generation" of the World War II era? What about the self-proclaimed baby boomer secular saints of the '60s?

But such arguments are part of the problem. Sure, we can talk about age cohorts and make generalizations about them. But in a very important sense, there really is no such thing as "great generations."

I was born the same year as Brett Favre, one of the most successful quarterbacks in football history. I take no more pride in his record than I feel shame for being born the same year as Divine Brown, the porn star and former prostitute who was arrested for her work with Hugh Grant. Cult murderer psychopath Charles Manson, Utah Sen. Orrin Hatch, "Brady Bunch" mom Florence Henderson and that guy from NPR, Carl Kassel, were all born the same year (1934). What does one person's birth tell us about the life of another? Absolutely nothing.

Seriously, if your self-esteem is remotely dependent on the year you were born, or on the accomplishments of people who happen to be the same age as you, then you don't have a lot going for you. If you spend your days on your parents' couch, working through cases of Cheetos like they were so many equine feedbags, if bong maintenance marks the outer boundary of your personal responsibilities, then I'm sorry to say your inadequacies aren't mitigated one bit by the fact you were born the same year, never mind decade, as Mark Zuckerberg.

And yet that's the point behind so much generational piffle. Youth politics are the cheapest form of identity politics. At least black people are black their whole lives (Michael Jackson being the exception that proves the rule). Barring surgery, women stay women. But young people don't stay young. Moreover, we treat them as if they're geniuses precisely because they don't know much and have little life experience. Of course there are incredibly bright and knowledgeable young people. But as a rule we're all born stupid and ignorant, and that condition improves only as we become less young.

That politicians pander to anything that moves is hardly a shocking revelation. Nor is it stunning to see the White House treat young people as a homogenized blob they hope to flatter and bribe to the polls come November. To paraphrase H.L. Mencken, if there were a huge bloc of cannibals in this country, the Democrats would promise them tasty missionaries fattened at the taxpayers' expense.

What's dismaying is how much this sort of thing seems to work. Part of what's exciting about being young is the discovery that you are your own person, the captain of yourself. Cheering at the idea that you are a drone, expected to simply "act your age" is a sad declaration of your own self-worth.



Out of Ideas

John C. Goodman

"Out of ideas; out of excuses." That’s Mitt Romney’s critique of Barack Obama. I’d like to second that indictment.

It’s not just the president who is out of ideas. It’s the entire political left. And that’s not a new development. I can’t think of an interesting, left-of-center public policy idea that has gained currency in decades.

How to get the economy moving and create jobs? The liberal answer is more government spending. Yet the "stimulus" package was basically wasted on pork barrel projects of little lasting economic value. One of every two people hired with stimulus money actually had another job before being hired! And the Congressional Budget Office (CBO) estimates that the long term impact of the stimulus bill will be lower — not higher — national output.

Ditto for the Obama administration’s new budget. Granted, not a single Democrat in Congress supports it. The vote in the House of Representatives was 414 to zero! But suppose the Obama administration budget had become law? After all, the president is implicitly defending his budget ideas when he is out on the campaign trail. The CBO has projected that the latest Obama budget proposal would make our GDP lower, not higher, over the next five years.

Meanwhile, the economic uncertainty the administration is creating is undoubtedly making things worse. Business managers considering hiring new employees are surely burdened by the fact that they do not know what ObamaCare is going to do to their cost of health insurance, what Obama labor regulations are going to do to their other costs of labor, what Dodd/Frank financial regulation is going to do to their ability to borrow or what other regulatory agencies are going to do to their other costs of doing business.

As for entitlement reform, there really is no liberal solution to the financial problems of Social Security, Medicare, disability Insurance or any other entitlement. More than 30 countries have fully or partially privatized their social security systems by creating individual private accounts, by which each new generation of workers can save for their own retirement. But in the United States, a growing number of members of Congress have signed a pledge not to support any Social Security reform that involves the creation of private accounts.

As for health care entitlements, the Obama administration is quietly making war on the only workable solution on the horizon: private health insurance. About two-thirds of all Medicaid enrollees are now in private plans, as are one of every four seniors on Medicare. Nonetheless, there are few things the political left hates more than private enterprise in health care.

The Obama administration has refused to renew a waiver allowing Indiana to continue with its highly successful Health Saving Account plan for Hoosier Medicaid. And as part of Obama Care, several hundred billion dollars is going to be taken away from Medicare Advantage plans that provide seniors with private insurance, similar to the kind of insurance most non-seniors have.

The antipathy toward Medicare Advantage plans is especially hard to understand. President Obama has repeatedly said he wants to encourage electronic medical records, medical homes, integrated care, coordinated care and payment for quality not quantity. Yet the only place in the Medicare system where you can find the president’s ideas actually working are in the Medicare Advantage plans! Unwilling to accept private sector innovation, the administration has its own pilot programs and demonstration projects underway. In the president’s own words, "Let’s find out what works and then go do it." Unfortunately, government-sponsored pilot programs are no substitute for private entrepreneurship. The CBO has analyzed these programs in three separate reports here, here, and here and in each case found them to be not working at all or, at best, producing mediocre results.

As for the most important cause of inequality — our failing public schools — there is no liberal answer to that problem either. Virtually every innovative reform idea — from school vouchers to charter schools to merit pay for teachers — is being resisted by the teachers unions. But when is the last time you saw a liberal politician criticize the National Education Association? How about a liberal columnist? How about the pundits who complain most loudly about the unequal distribution of income?

It’s as though leftwing intellectuals have a tacit agreement not to criticize any group that provides electoral support for the Democratic Party.

So when Mitt Romney says the president is "out of ideas and out of excuses," I say Amen.




List of backup or "mirror" sites here or here -- for readers in China or for everyone when blogspot is "down" or failing to update. Email me here (Hotmail address). My Home Pages are here (Academic) or here (Pictorial) or here (Personal)


The Big Lie of the late 20th century was that Nazism was Rightist. It was in fact typical of the Leftism of its day. It was only to the Right of Stalin's Communism. The very word "Nazi" is a German abbreviation for "National Socialist" (Nationalsozialist) and the full name of Hitler's political party (translated) was "The National Socialist German Workers' Party" (In German: Nationalsozialistische Deutsche Arbeiterpartei)