Friday, March 09, 2018

Work Requirements Have Revolutionized Welfare at the State Level. Now It’s Uncle Sam’s Turn

Policymakers are ready to get serious about work requirements for food stamps, with both Congress and the Trump administration working on ways to improve the program.

A little over a week ago, the U.S. Department of Agriculture announced it is seeking comments on how best to reintroduce work requirements in the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, often referred to as food stamps.

“Too many states have asked to waive work requirements, abdicating their responsibility to move participants to self-sufficiency,” Secretary of Agriculture Sonny Perdue said in a press release. “ … [U.S. Department of Agriculture] policies must change if they contribute to a long-term failure for many [food stamp] participants and their families.”

The 1996 welfare reform law allowed states to apply for full or partial waivers of the work requirement based on high unemployment or low job availability. The number of waivers peaked in 2009, when Congress allowed the Obama administration to waive the program’s work requirements for all states.

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Many states have become ineligible for waivers again as the economy has recovered, but five states and the District of Columbia still have total waivers, 28 states have partial waivers, and 1,287 of the nation’s 3,142 counties are eligible for waivers as “labor surplus areas.”

Unsurprisingly, given the economic downturn of the last decade, the program has seen a marked increase of work-capable adults on food stamps. But work-capable adults grew as a proportion of recipients, a trend the economic recovery has yet to reverse.

In 2007, before large-scale state opt-ins for waivers began, 6.6 percent of food stamp recipients were childless, work-capable adults. Today, that number is 9 percent.

By law, able-bodied adults without dependents—work-capable adults—may receive only three months of food stamps in a 36-month period unless they meet a 20-hour per week work requirement. Employment, training, or participation in a state program can fulfill the requirement.

Work requirements have a proven record of success in moving people from welfare to self-sufficiency. In 2015, Maine began enforcing work requirements for food stamps despite partial waiver eligibility and saw an 80 percent drop in its work-capable caseload in just three months. Thirteen counties in Alabama saw similar results when they implemented work requirements for food stamps in 2017.

As for Congress, Rep. Garret Graves, R-La., and 97 co-sponsors have introduced a bill, the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program Reform Act of 2017 (H.R. 2996), that would eliminate all waivers for the current work requirement, shorten the length of time one can receive benefits without work, and shrink the proportion of people states can exempt from the requirement.

The bill also would allow a supervised job search for at least eight hours a week to fulfill the requirement.

The administration’s desire to reintroduce meaningful work requirements is a step in the right direction, but significant change in the welfare system will require a much more robust reform effort.

As Robert Rector, a senior research fellow at The Heritage Foundation, argues, “Small changes in regulations will not be enough to fix the welfare system. What is needed is welfare reform legislation that establishes work requirements for all programs that provide cash, food, or housing benefits to adults who can work.”



Trump administration sues California in bid to overturn its sanctuary-state laws
The Trump administration escalated what had been a war of words over California’s immigration agenda, filing a lawsuit late Tuesday that amounted to a preemptive strike against the liberal state’s so-called sanctuary laws.

The Justice Department sued California; Governor Jerry Brown; and the state’s attorney general, Xavier Becerra, over three state laws passed in recent months, saying they make it impossible for federal immigration officials to do their jobs and deport criminals who were born outside the United States. The Justice Department called the laws unconstitutional and asked a judge to block them.

The lawsuit was the department’s boldest attack yet on California, one of the strongest opponents of the Trump administration’s efforts to curb immigration. It also served as a warning to Democratic lawmakers and elected officials nationwide who have enacted sanctuary policies that provide protections for unauthorized immigrants.

“The Department of Justice and the Trump administration are going to fight these unjust, unfair and unconstitutional policies that have been imposed on you,” Attorney General Jeff Sessions planned to say Wednesday at a law enforcement event in Sacramento, according to prepared remarks. “I believe that we are going to win.”

California officials remained characteristically defiant, vowing to defend their landmark legislation. ‘‘I say bring it on,’’ said California Senate President Pro Tem Kevin de Leon, a Los Angeles Democrat who wrote the sanctuary state bill.

The battle pits President Trump and Sessions, both immigration hard-liners, against Brown and Becerra, who have emerged as outspoken adversaries who have helped energize opposition to Trump and vowed to preserve the progressive values that they believe California embodies.

California began battling the Trump administration even before the president took office, standing in opposition on a litany of issues including marijuana, environmental regulations, and taxes. But immigration has proved to be the most contentious fight, with local officials assuring unauthorized immigrants that they would do all they could to protect them.

Last year, California enacted the sanctuary laws, which place restrictions on when and how local law enforcement can cooperate with federal immigration enforcement agents.



Liberalism Has Finally Gone Too Far in California… State’s Beyond Repair

In the late 70s, as tensions ran high between public service unions and governments across the U.S., Gov. Jerry Brown imposed union-shop collective bargaining on all agencies. This empowered the fascists of public sector unionism. Now these unions are the most powerful political force in the state. They control the legislature with a supermajority they established, buying votes with union dues. No politician, left or right, acts without consulting the union bosses and the affluent state welfare agencies autocrats.

The consequences of pro-government union power have ruined California. There are over 250,000 school teachers in California and each pay union dues of $1,000 annually. The CTA spends almost half of that on politics each year. They pursue a progressive agenda in lockstep with the far-left ideology that beset the once center-right ideology that made California the envy of every state. The unions — not the taxpayers — control all school boards, which control all education. Their schools rank dismally compared to most in the U.S. Yet public education unions spend well over $350 million a year lobbying?

When the police and firefighters saw the gains made by the teachers’ unions, they too jumped on the union gravy train. They have attained unsustainable pensions for members who are eligible at age 50 for a lifetime pay equivalent to 3 percent of their highest salary times their years of service. At age 50, a 20-year veteran can retire with a pension of 60 percent of their highest year’s salary. Some others learned how to spike the system and get 90 percent of their highest salary. They pay lobbyists with your tax dollars to maintain the status quo of their public service unions. They’re so busy protecting their members, the words “public service” mean nothing anymore. They now serve the unions first, not “we the taxpayers.”

Since their pension requirements are held under the California Rule, they are irreversible. Once they’ve been adopted, neither the voters nor the politicians can derail the money train. With public service union engines running overtime, California must raise taxes to fuel them. As they continually underperform, alienated bondholders are refusing to invest good money into a bad investment any longer. This imploded their bond market, and unfunded liabilities are staggering. Their estimated total unfunded pension liability for all governments is over $260 billion.

Ronald Reagan said, “Status quo, you know, is Latin for ‘the mess we’re in.’” Today California is in economic and political paralysis due to the far left and the unions ganging up on taxpayers, who’d rather leave than face their Waterloo. This predicted meltdown caused by decades of temerarious delinquency, political and union pandering, and progressive ideology accelerated with the unholy alliance between the public service unions and liberal politics. This Left Coast state that set the bar for government failure wrote its epitaph and eulogy long ago. We must profit from it.



The 'scandal-free' Obama administration? An urban legend

Jeff Jacoby

AS IT TURNED OUT, Barack Obama's super-secret speech at MIT last month — the one that was so far off the record that no one was permitted to stream it, or talk about it to the press, or comment about it on social media — contained nothing that remotely justified such hugger-mugger.

With hundreds in the audience, of course the speech was surreptitiously recorded and leaked. Reason magazine posted the audio online, and you can hear for yourself that the former president said little he hasn't said before. He talked about basketball and the NBA; he expressed conventional concerns about the power of Facebook and other social-media behemoths; he insisted that public employees "at least at the top levels" work very hard.

And he declared that his administration had been scandal-free.

"We didn't have a scandal that embarrassed us," Obama said. Sure, there were occasional mistakes and screw-ups, "but there wasn't anything venal in eight years."

Obama, his former aides, and his media devotees have been making this claim for years. With so much repetition, it has become a popular urban legend. But popularity isn't truth.

The 44th president may not have been "embarrassed" by them, but his administration abounded in scandals, in at least three of which Americans died. Here's a refresher:

Operation Fast and Furious. In a botched "gunwalking" sting, the Justice Department allowed thousands of guns to be sold to suspected smugglers, in the hope of tracing them to Mexican drug cartels. But the Obama administration lost track of the weapons, many of which later turned up at crime scenes in which scores of people were murdered. Among the dead: US Border Patrol Agent Brian Terry, killed by drug gangsters in 2010. Compounding the scandal was Attorney General Eric Holder's refusal to turn over documents relating to the operation, a refusal for which he was held in contempt of Congress.

Benghazi. When Ambassador Chris Stevens and three others were killed in a terrorist attack on the US consulate in Libya in 2012, administration officials falsely blamed their deaths on an irrelevant YouTube video. That wasn't fog of war, it was deceit. In public statements, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton attributed the attack to "inflammatory material posted on the Internet." But in private e-mails to her daughter and the Egyptian prime minister — e-mails not discovered until 2015 — she candidly acknowledged that the Americans had been assaulted and killed by "an al Qaeda-like group."

Veterans Administration. On Obama's watch, tens of thousands of veterans were denied proper health care at VA hospitals. Their names were added to phony waiting lists and they were stonewalled for months or even years. More than 300,000 veterans may have died awaiting medical treatment that never came. According to the Veterans Affairs inspector general, thousands of veterans' health care enrollment applications were deleted or buried. Eventually VA Secretary Eric Shinseki resigned in disgrace.

Numerous other scandals plagued the Obama administration.

The IRS discriminated against politically conservative groups applying for tax-exempt status, placing organizations on indefinite hold if their names contained such terms as "Tea Party" or "Patriots."

The Office of Personnel Management suffered a catastrophic data breach that exposed the confidential records of at least 10 million federal employees to hackers. OPM's director had repeatedly been warned that the agency was vulnerable to cyberattack, but had failed to take the warnings seriously.

The Obama administration, eager to promote "green" energy, lavished more than $500 million in loan guarantees on Solyndra, a high-risk startup. When the company went bankrupt, taxpayers ate the loss.

From letting Hezbollah funnel cocaine into the United States to secretly wiretapping AP reporters, there were scandals aplenty when Obama was president. The media reported them all, but never with the fury and frenzy that characterize coverage of Donald Trump's schedule. Obama benefited from being a media darling. Trump, obnoxious and belligerent, practically invites hostile coverage.

But Obama's record stands on its own — regardless of how it was covered, regardless of his successor's demeanor. The myth of the "scandal-free" Obama administration may be comforting to some. But history won't be fooled.



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

Email me  here (Hotmail address). My Home Pages are here (Academic) or  here (Pictorial) or  here  (Personal)


Thursday, March 08, 2018

Has philosophy failed?

Analytical philosophy cannot give a satisfactory account of moral discourse

That there is no such thing as right and wrong is a normal conclusion in analytical philosophy -- sometimes supported by glib references to the acceptability of infanticide and pedophilia in ancient Greece.  Where do we find any agreed SOURCE of rightness or wrongness is the problem.

We can argue, for instance that morality is inborn or natural.  But how do we tell what those moral values are?  There are many "rights" that have been said by different peole to be inalienable parts of us but where is the authority for judging between those competing claims?  America's founding fathers had their answers but they were political answers, not answers that could be found by anyone who looks.

So what is right and wrong becomes merely a matter of opinion. We may believe that some things are "just wrong" but how do we check the truth of that belief?  Opinions are often wrong. There are various streams of philosophical thought which endeavour to give some alternatives to a belief about rightness being merely a matter of opinion but they all have problems of their own.  Over the years (starting here) I have myself put up a number of approaches to understanding the nature of moral values but I think there is still more to be said

So what to we do about the fact that those who deny rightness and wrongness will almost in the same breath say that Donald Trump is wrong, racism is wrong etc.  In philosophy we endeavour to analyse discourse but is there not something almost insane about that sort of discourse?  How can we analyse a self-contradiction?

I think the solution to that contradiction is for us to abandon our endeavour to analyse discourse without looking at the people from whom the discourse originates.  I think we have, in short, to combine philosophy with psychology to understand discourse about values. Philosophy and psychology were once treated as parts of a single whole and I think this is a case where we can profitably revert to that.

And as soon as we do that, we come across a well-developed study within psychlogy of what is accepted as right or wrong. Enjoy the work of Stephen Pinker, for instance. We discover in fact that the elusive source of rightness and wrongness can be found after all -- within us.  We have instinctive adverse reflexes to certain events which we describe in "is right" or "is wrong" terms.  Our entire notions of rightness derive in the end  from certain feelings which are ultimately traceable to our evolutionary past.  They are harm-avoidant reflexes that have evolved to keep us safe and still to a degree do that to this day. Our moral reflexes can be suppressed and are rather wobbly but they are there.  In response to moral dilemmas, our responses vary but they have a lot in common between people nonetheless. So our very notion of "is wrong" is the conscious part of a self-protective reflex. And upon those basic reflexes great edifices of morality are built.

"But this is absurd" is a very common comment on the implications of a philosophical theory.  But it is in itself problematical -- because what is absurd to one person may not be absurd to another.  Nonetheless, I think we can have no doubt about the absurdity  of denying wrongness and in almost in the same breath asserting that racism (for instance) is wrong,  Philosophical conclusions don't carry over into any everyday areas of discourse to which they seem to be related.  And despite decades and centuries of endeavour, nobody seems to have a way of getting out of that dilemma.

So I think it is clear that there are some things that philosophy cannot do.  It just flails about in analysing moral statements, for instance

But we should not be troubled by that  Philosophical analysis is in the end just a tool to enable us to understand statements and there is surely no difficulty in saying that it cannot do everything by itself.

There is however a big lesson from the considerations so far examined here.  The statement "there is no such thing as right and wrong" is bad philosophy and is plainly wrong itself.  It is an indefensible statement that should not be used.  Those who use it are simply showing the limits, inadequacy and absurdity of trying to explain everything by philosophy alone. It is to mistake a dead-end in philosophy for an important truth.

It is amusing that Leftists are energetic users of the statement "there is no such thing as right and wrong".  Yet they are also energetic users of moral statements.  Most of their discourse consists simply of judging various things to be right or wrong.  So it is an effective rejoinder to a claim from them that something is wrong to say: "But there is no such thing as right and wrong".  That invariably knocks the stuffing out of them.  They just don't know how to further their argument at that point. You have ripped their platform from under them.

Do Leftists really believe that "there is no such thing as right and wrong"?  Probably not.  They would not get so heated up about the myriad of "problems" they see in society otherwise.  They can however use moral language insincerely. If the average Joe is likely to see something as wrong, Leftists will leap onto that whether or not it relates to anything else in their value systen.  They can preach the wrongness of something even if they really don't give a hoot about it. There are not in fact many things they care about -- mainly their own honour and glory -- but they will use things that conservatives care about to manipulate conservatives. I showed that experimentally years ago.

Some of the arguments I put up above I have presented at greater length previously


Zombie agencies are nearly impossible to kill

Just over a year ago Donald Trump came into the White House promising to slice the federal bureaucracy with such ferocity that, as he put it, “your head will spin.” Shortly after taking office, he identified 19 little-known federal offices for elimination.

But despite Trump’s efforts to do away with what he sees as government waste, the bureaus are all still living, breathing, and spending taxpayer dollars. These zombie agencies are proving to be difficult to kill.

From regional development commissions to arts councils, to offices responsible for fostering foreign aid, all these bureaus have continued their work.

“There’s not very much progress being made,” complained Justin Bogie, a senior policy analyst in fiscal affairs at the conservative Heritage Foundation. “I don’t think the prospect of budget cuts is good.”

This is a president who pushed through a $1.5 trillion tax bill, unilaterally announced tariffs that rocked the global financial markets, and launches near-daily attacks on the nation’s law enforcement institutions, yet he is now bedeviled by an age-old Washington problem: He can’t seem to get rid of even an obscure $4 million federal bureau.

“There is very little pressure to get rid of anything in the budget,” said Maya MacGuineas, president of the Committee for a Responsible Federal Budget, a Washington-based group that supports cutting the federal government. “Every single line item has a really strong constituency.”

Trump’s budget director, Mick Mulvaney, seems to understand the difficulty of turning the administration’s annual request for budget cuts into something approximating reality.

A case study of sorts in bureaucratic survival is illustrated by the Appalachian Regional Commission, one of the agencies Trump initially wanted to get rid of last year.

This roughly $150 million program might seem like an obvious place to slice. That’s what budget experts at the Heritage Foundation thought when they offered a “Blueprint for Balance” in 2016 and recommended eliminating it.

Heritage analysts determined that the commission “duplicates highway and infrastructure construction” already covered by the Department of Transportation and it diverts federal funding to “projects of questionable merit,” including initiatives to support tourism and craft industries, according to the Heritage Foundation’s report.

Senator Joni Ernst, a Republican of Iowa, tried to take a whack at the Appalachian Regional Commission, too, proposing an amendment last April that would eliminate it along with three other regional commissions.

But her amendment failed, with 71 senators voting to keep these regional commissions plugging away.

As it turns out, the Appalachian Regional Commission has a lot going for it that might not be apparent at first glance. It crosses 13 state boundaries. In Washington math, that means 26 senators have a reason to care about it. (Twenty-three of those 26 senators voted to keep it alive, including 15 Republicans.)

One of states served by the commission is Kentucky, which is home to Senate majority leader Mitch McConnell. In January Trump nominated one of McConnell’s top staffers, Tim Thomas, to be the federal cochairman of the commission.

This year, Trump didn’t suggest eliminating the agency. It’s off the kill list.

Other agencies don’t have an obvious geographical constituency and need to get more creative to avoid shuttering. The Overseas Private Investment Corporation, a longtime target of conservatives, is in that category.

“They aren’t going to balance the budget,” acknowledged Bogie, the analyst at the Heritage Foundation. “But if we’re not willing to cut these little programs, how are we ever going to make the bolder reforms?”



Why Is the GOP Terrified of Tariffs?

Pat Buchanan know his history:

From Lincoln to William McKinley to Theodore Roosevelt, and from Warren Harding through Calvin Coolidge, the Republican Party erected the most awesome manufacturing machine the world had ever seen.

And, as the party of high tariffs through those seven decades, the GOP was rewarded by becoming America's Party.

Thirteen Republican presidents served from 1860 to 1930, and only two Democrats. And Grover Cleveland and Woodrow Wilson were elected only because the Republicans had split. Why, then, this terror of tariffs that grips the GOP?

Consider. On hearing that President Trump might impose tariffs on aluminum and steel, Sen. Lindsey Graham was beside himself: "Please reconsider," he implored the president, "you're making a huge mistake."

Twenty-four hours earlier, Graham had confidently assured us that war with a nuclear-armed North Korea is "worth it." "All the damage that would come from a war would be worth it in terms of long-term stability and national security," said Graham. A steel tariff terrifies Graham. A new Korean war does not?

"Trade wars are not won, only lost," warns Sen. Jeff Flake. But this is ahistorical nonsense.

The U.S. relied on tariffs to convert from an agricultural economy in 1800 to the mightiest manufacturing power on earth by 1900.

Bismarck's Germany, born in 1871, followed the U.S. example, and swept past free trade Britain before World War I.

Does Senator Flake think Japan rose to post-war preeminence through free trade, as Tokyo kept U.S. products out, while dumping cars, radios, TVs and motorcycles here to kill the industries of the nation that was defending them. Both Nixon and Reagan had to devalue the dollar to counter the predatory trade policies of Japan.

Since Bush I, we have run $12 trillion in trade deficits, and, in the first decade in this century, we lost 55,000 factories and 6,000,000 manufacturing jobs.

Does Flake see no correlation between America's decline, China's rise, and the $4 trillion in trade surpluses Beijing has run up at the expense of his own country?

The hysteria that greeted Trump's idea of a 25 percent tariff on steel and 10 percent tariff on aluminum suggest that restoring this nation's economic independence is going to be a rocky road.

In 2017, the U.S. ran a trade deficit in goods of almost $800 billion, $375 billion of that with China, a trade surplus that easily covered Xi Jinping's entire defense budget.

If we are to turn our $800 billion trade deficit in goods into an $800 billion surplus, and stop the looting of America's industrial base and the gutting of our cities and towns, sacrifices will have to be made.

But if we are not up to it, we will lose our independence, as the countries of the EU have lost theirs.

Specifically, we need to shift taxes off goods produced in the USA, and impose taxes on goods imported into the USA.

As we import nearly $2.5 trillion in goods, a tariff on imported goods, rising gradually to 20 percent, would initially produce $500 billion in revenue.

All that tariff revenue could be used to eliminate and replace all taxes on production inside the USA.

As the price of foreign goods rose, U.S. products would replace foreign-made products. There's nothing in the world that we cannot produce here. And if it can be made in America, it should be made in America.

Consider. Assume a Lexus cost $50,000 in the U.S., and a 20 percent tariff were imposed, raising the price to $60,000.

What would the Japanese producers of Lexus do? They could accept the loss in sales in the world's greatest market, the USA. They could cut their prices to hold their U.S. market share. Or they could shift production to the United States, building their cars here and keeping their market.

How have EU nations run up endless trade surpluses with America? By imposing a value-added tax, or VAT, on imports from the U.S., while rebating the VAT on exports to the USA. Works just like a tariff.

The principles behind a policy of economic nationalism, to turn our trade deficits, which subtract from GDP, into trade surpluses, which add to GDP, are these:

Production comes before consumption. Who consumes the apples is less important than who owns the orchard. We should depend more upon each other and less upon foreign lands.

We should tax foreign-made goods and use the revenue, dollar for dollar, to cut taxes on domestic production.

The idea is not to keep foreign goods out, but to induce foreign companies to move production here.

We have a strategic asset no one else can match. We control access to the largest richest market on earth, the USA.

And just as states charge higher tuition on out-of state students at their top universities, we should charge a price of admission for foreign producers to get into America's markets.



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

Email me  here (Hotmail address). My Home Pages are here (Academic) or  here (Pictorial) or  here  (Personal)


Wednesday, March 07, 2018

Book Review of "Dream Hoarders: How the American Upper Middle Class is Leaving Everyone Else in the Dust, Why That is a Problem, and What to Do about It" by Richard V. Reeves

What reviewer Robert Whaples reports below is a fairly conventional sociological analysis of social stratification in America.  And there is undoubtedly something in it.  The big problem is said to be that the people who have already got to the top of American society tend to keep it for themselves and their children.  There is little social mobility upwards from lower down in the social hierarchy.  And you will read below about a variety of ways in which that "closed shop" is maintained.

I think that sociological account does however miss a large elephant in the room.  And to see that elephant you need to go to psychology.  A couple of decades ago Charles Murray showed that IQ was a strong predictor of economic success.  So the existing elite will already be high IQ people and it is actually their high IQ that gives them their dominant position, not what schools they went to etc.

Toby Young offers a very extensive exploration of that possibility.  He thinks we already have a ruling INTELLECTUAL elite.  That being so, nothing will help you to get into that elite unless you have the requisite high IQ.  With that everything is possible; without it very little is possible

The American labor market “does a good job of rewarding the kind of ‘merit’ that adds economic value—skills, knowledge, intelligence” (p. 75). “The idea of moving away from a market economy is foolish as well as far-fetched. Markets increase prosperity, reduce poverty, enhance well-being, and bolster individual choice” (p. 77). These aren’t the words of someone from Cato, the AEI or the Heritage Foundation, but from Richard Reeves, a senior fellow in Economic Studies at the Brookings Institution. But, warns Reeves, this “meritocratic market” is embedded in an unfair society. Meritocracy is great for adults, but not for children. The problem is that upper middle class parents have built a system that gives their own children massive advantages—they hoard the prerequisites for the American dream and block the children of others from flourishing.

Market merit is a great thing, but we need to reform our social institutions so that they “aggressively equalize opportunities to develop market merit” (p. 84). “The problem is not that society is too competitive. It is that it is not competitive enough, partly because of ... anticompetitive opportunity hoarding ... but mostly because the chances to prepare for the competition are so unequal” (p. 124). Reeves seems to realize that it would be exceptionally difficult (and probably quite destructive) to eliminate all the advantages that children of successful parents have over other children. These advantages include having caring parents (two of them, not just one), who are good role models and spend time simply talking to their children—one study he cites examines the “conversation gap” and estimates that children in families on welfare hear about six hundred words per hours, working-class children about twelve hundred words per hour, and children of professionals about twenty-one hundred words per hour. Reeves doesn’t aim to undo these immense advantages. Rather, he takes aim at a higher level—at legal rules and institutional arrangements, constructed by the upper middle class to make life better for themselves and their children without considering the potential harm imposed on others—and suggests that we could use “more downward mobility from the top” (p. 58).

So, how do upper middle class professionals—“journalists, scholars, technocrats, managers, bureaucrats, the people with letters after their names” (p. 4) hoard the dream? Reeves focuses on three tactics—exclusionary zoning, college admissions policies, and the allocation of good internships. The most important of these is the first. The upper middle class have segregated themselves into towns and neighborhoods where the cost of living is high, mainly by using zoning rules that make it impossible for poorer people to be their neighbors and enjoy these communities’ amenities—especially good schools. The rich practice an “inverse ghettoization” (p. 102)—building enclaves where they live healthy, safe lives together and don’t have to deal with the annoyances of non-elites and their children, to the detriment of everyone else, argues Reeves. These zoning practices—such as banning multi-family dwellings and setting high minimum lot sizes—mean that those outside the top groups cannot afford to live in the most economically prosperous places. And the dirty secret is that these zoning requirements are stricter in cities with more left-of-center voters. Enrico Moretti and Chang-Tai Hsieh have estimated that if only San Francisco, San Jose and New York adopted zoning regulations of the median American city, the entire U.S. economy would be 10 percent larger because more people would be able to afford to move to opportunity.

The problem with higher education, as Reeves sees it, is that the game is rigged so that children of the upper middle class have huge advantages in getting into the best colleges and universities—because they live near the best high schools and because, for example, their parents have the wherewithal to spend money on college admissions consultants (who can charge over $10,000 for their top tier of services). “Post-secondary education ... has become an ‘inequality machine” (p. 11), as it “takes the inequality given to it and magnifies it” (p. 55). Elite schools pay lip services to serving all of society, but they are “locked into an equilibrium that militates against serious reform efforts” as it “is simply not in the interests of the most powerful institutions to change things very much” (p. 88-89). Reeves offers a tantalizing sentence or two about supply-side reforms to improve opportunity and access to higher education but doesn’t press the issue. Instead, he focuses on an interesting, but probably not very important, symptom of dream hoarding in higher education—policies that make it easier for “legacy” students, the children of alumni, to be accepted to the top colleges. He makes a strong case that this practice is immoral and downright un-American, citing evidence from a couple cases where abolishing the practice has not reduced alumni giving. He’s a fan of extending affirmative action to encompass social class. He also advocates the abolition of granting special advantages for well-connected students who apply for internships at top firms, non-profits and government positions. The playing field needs to be leveled—so that having parents who know the right people doesn’t give applicants a leg up.

As you can see from my overview of Reeve’s arguments, this is a book that will appeal to people across the political spectrum—in fact, it will probably appeal more to conservatives and libertarians than the “progressives” who run our colleges and have enacted these zoning laws. Reeves’ policy proposals strike me as mostly mild afterthoughts—his primary goal seems to be to open “dream hoarding” up to the disinfectant of sunlight, to encourage us to realize the inconsistencies between our stated creeds and our practices, so that we begin to voluntarily give up our hoarding. In this task he may have failed. I conclude this after having discussed Dream Hoarders with a group of students at an elite college (Wake Forest University). They accepted many of his arguments but ultimately few saw a burning need to give up on legacy admissions (which might benefit their own children) and using special connections to snag good job internships.

I won’t enumerate his proposals, but will object to his take on contraception for teenagers, when he declares that “Causal sex is fine. Casual child bearing is not” (p. 127). One doesn’t have to dig too deep to realize that treating other people so casually, so disposably, as if they are just there for one’s own pleasure, is the root of many of the problems he discusses. Would he advise his own children that “casual sex is fine”? Do parents now say this to their children? The thought of this saddens me deeply.

Finally, Reeves has a fresh take on John Rawls. Rather than considering how we would want things to be arranged if we didn’t know our own original position (shrouded behind the veil of ignorance), Reeves asks us to think about the best arrangement if no one knows his “children’s place in society, their class position or social status; nor does he know their fortune in the distribution of natural assets and abilities, intelligence and strength and the like” (p. 72, emphasis in the original). He senses that if this were the position facing us, we’d be more supportive of redistributive policies and institution, if we were less certain where our own children were going to end up. I’m not so certain.



The World Cries Wolf on U.S. Tariffs

When U.S. president Donald Trump announced sweeping new tariffs of 25 percent on imported steel and 10 percent on aluminum Thursday, the world’s commentariat broke out in a frenzy of condemnation. Trump was accused of playing politics in a way that could “destabilize the global economy.” It was said that Trump’s actions could “bring global trade growth to a halt” (notwithstanding the fact that levels of global trade have already been declining since 2011). His critics screamed “trade war.” Canadian and European leaders immediately threatened retaliation. China didn’t, but American China experts predicted that Beijing soon would.

It is likely that few, if any, of these experts have read the two detailed Commerce Department reports that prompted the tariff decision, or the Defense Department memo endorsing their findings. The goal of the tariffs proposed by Commerce and endorsed by the president isn’t to punish Chinese dumping or put an end to free trade. It’s to ensure that the United States retains any domestic steel and aluminum production at all. Like President Barack Obama’s controversial auto industry bailout in 2009, these tariffs are about keeping an industry for the future, not about making it profitable today.

If China has merely expressed concern over Trump’s plans, it’s because China is not really the target of the planned tariffs. China’s massive state-owned steel and aluminum firms may ultimately lie behind the world’s glutted markets, but Chinese products account for only a fraction of U.S. imports (2.2 percent for steel and 10.6 percent for aluminum). The real problem is that other countries—including allies like Canada and the European Union—have responded to years of Chinese dumping by subsidizing their own industries and imposing broad tariffs on Chinese steel. American antidumping measures have traditionally been more narrowly focused. In a sense, Trump is only catching up with what the rest of the world is doing already.

The simple fact is that the world produces much more steel and aluminum than it needs. A global shakeout is inevitable, and every country wants to make sure that its own industries are the ones that survive. The only question is: who will blink first? If one country has done a lot of blinking over the last twenty years, it’s the United States, as the Commerce Department report amply documents. Embracing a free-market approach, being reluctant to provide subsidies, applying very selective tariffs and never even thinking about nationalizing its strategic industries, the United States has consistently ceded market share to its statist rivals overseas. The Trump tariffs bluntly but effectively draw a line under twenty years of creeping retreat.

In its evaluation of the Commerce Department reports, the Defense Department flatly concluded that “the systematic use of unfair trade practices to intentionally erode our innovation and manufacturing industrial base poses a risk to our national security” and agreed with the Commerce Department’s conclusion “that imports of foreign steel and aluminum based on unfair trading practices impair the national security.” Of the three national-security responses offered by Commerce, DoD preferred the second option, targeted tariffs, over the first (global tariffs) and third (global quotas). But that’s a question of strategy, not principle.

The DoD is, obviously, a military organization, not an economic one. It is “concerned about the negative impact on our key allies” of a broad, uniform tariff. So the DoD prefers targeted tariffs on countries that, except for South Korea, are not U.S. allies. But as the DoD memo admits, targeted tariffs raise complicated enforcement challenges due to the international transshipment of steel and other jurisdiction-shifting exercises. The Commerce report estimated that targeted tariffs would have to be at least 53 percent on steel and 23.6 percent on aluminum to be effective. Trump’s flat tariffs of 25 percent and 10 percent would be easier to implement and harder to avoid.

A single, global tariff also sends a simple, universally understood message that this time, the United States is not going to blink first. This dispute is not about the World Trade Organization, playing by the rules, commitment to globalization or the much-hyped international liberal order. It’s about the fact that some countries are going to have to give up their steel and aluminum industries. The United States should not be one of them. Countries that have historically made high steel and aluminum output a matter of national policy should act responsibly to dismantle their bloated industrial bases. Until they do (and there are no signs that they will), the U.S. government should act to ensure a fair price for those few American producers that remain.



Trump's jokes "outrageous"

The six most outrageous things Trump said at the annual Gridiron Dinner.

North Korea
On North Korea, Trump said he "won't rule out direct talks with Kim Jong Un," noting that the reclusive regime "called up a couple of days ago" and expressed a desire to talk. "As far as the risk of dealing with a madman is concerned, that's his problem, not mine," Trump added in reference to Kim.

It wasn't clear if the president was being serious. In a tweet last year , the Republican called Kim "a madman who doesn't mind starving or killing his people."

Jared Kushner
"Before I get started, I wanted to apologize for arriving a little bit late. You know, we're late tonight because Jared could not get through the security."

Trump's son-in-law had his top-level government security clearance downgraded last week, with various reports attributing the move to concern over Kushner's international business dealings.

Vice President Mike Pence
"I really am very proud to call him the apprentice. But lately, he's showing a particularly keen interest in the news these days. He starts out each morning asking everyone, 'Has he been impeached yet?' Mike, you can't be impeached when there's no crime, please remember that."

Special counsel Robert Mueller's Russia inquiry has fueled calls for the president's impeachment but Trump has refuted claims of collusion with the Kremlin.

Jeff Sessions
"I offered him a ride over, and he recused himself. What are you gonna do? But that's OK."

The attorney general famously excused himself from the Russia investigation last year, citing potential conflicts of interests, in a move that sparked Trump's ire.

White House resignations
"So many people have been leaving the White House. It's invigorating since you want turnover. I like chaos. It really is good. Who's going to be the next to leave? [Adviser] Steve Miller or [First Lady] Melania?"

Many senior aides have departed since Trump took office last January, including national security adviser Michael Flynn, chief of staff Reince Priebus, and most recently, communications director Hope Hicks.

On chief strategist Steve Bannon, whose explosive comments were featured in the tell-all "Fire and Fury" book, Trump said the former Breitbart News executive "leaked more than the Titanic."

On the New York Times, which Trump has repeatedly criticized as fake news, the president said "I'm a New York icon. You're a New York icon. And the only difference is I still own my buildings."

He also called Fox News the "fourth branch of government."



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

Email me  here (Hotmail address). My Home Pages are here (Academic) or  here (Pictorial) or  here  (Personal)


Tuesday, March 06, 2018

Netanyahu as an Israeli Donald Trump

Israel has a truly virulent Left, every bit as virulent as the American Left.  Because Israel cannot afford much irrationality, however, they are less influential than the American Left.  And a key to keeping them from influence is the moderate conservative Benjamin Netanyahu. Netanyahu has been elected Prime Minister of Israel four times. He is the only prime minister in Israel's history to have been elected three times in a row. He is therefore greatly hated by the Left and they never tire of finding some way of bringing him down.  As with Trump they have no respect for the outcome of democratic processes.

Recently, however, they have been much heartened by the emergence of a claim that Netanyahu has been involved in some sort of illegal financial activity.  And an active investigation of that claim by the Israeli police is now underway.  The Israeli Left have great hopes of that claim.  They look to the eventual dismissal of Netanyahu out of it but realize that will be a long game.  What they hope right now is that the claim will at least dent Netanyahu's political support.  They hope that the public opinion polls will show that Netanyahu is now a lame duck whom his own party might eventually disown. As with all the accusations flung at Trump, they think something has got to stick.

With Trump, however, the opposite has happened. His poll numbers were for a while way down but they have recently crept up -- with Rasmussen now having him on a 50% approval rating. The "dirt" flung at him has just bounced off.  It was the same with Ronald Reagan.  No "dirt" would ever stick to him, either.  He became known as the "Teflon President" for that reason.

And Netanyahu also seems to have Teflon qualities. The accusations against him have not dented his popularity at all.  His popularity has, if anything, increased.

Which is a BIG puzzle for the Israeli Left.  How can that happen? Can the people of Israel tolerate an accused criminal as their Prime Minister?  It makes no sense.  It is as puzzling to them as was the defeat of Hillary Clinton to the American Left.

And the explanation they have come up with is similar.  They think the people are irrational and emotion-driven -- not rational and balanced people like themselves.   Netanyahu is their father figure and so on.  That people who are as full of hate as the Left are regard themselves as rational and  unemotional is as amusing in Israel as it is in America.   Sigmund Freud's observations about the power of projection (Seeing one's own faults in others) spring immediately to mind. And, as in the USA, the Leftist narrative dominates the Israeli media.

So we come to the article below, which puts forward the shocking idea that the supporters of Netanyahu might be perfectly rational.  As Trumpians do, they may like his policies enough not to be bothered by minor issues.  The inherent arrogance of the Left will however never allow them to see that. They will continue to rant away inside their own little hermetically sealed intellectual bubble

Why the Right Is Actually Rational

Those who shout 'Only Bibi!' aren’t necessarily acting on gut instinct. On the contrary, they’re voicing rational recognition of the fact that the war against corruption won’t necessarily alter their situation.

תEver since the police issued their summary report of two investigations concerning Benjamin Netanyahu, many people have been trying to solve one of the great riddles of Israeli politics: How is it that the poll numbers of the prime minister and his Likud party not only did not decline but even rose?

It can’t be claimed that only one side of the political map cares about corruption. In 1977, claims of massive corruption at the highest levels contributed to voters’ disgust with the Labor Alignment that led to its ouster. And in 1992, anti-corruption demonstrations helped Yitzhak Rabin to beat Yitzhak Shamir. So what has changed?

A number of Haaretz writers have weighed in. Yossi Klein cited Likud voters’ need for “revenge” against the elites (Feb. 22). Daniel Blatman proposed “fear” as an explanation for the lack of desire to separate from Netanyahu (Feb. 22, in Hebrew). Ravit Hecht cited the “familial” nature of Likud voters (Feb. 23). Alon Idan compared support for Likud to fans’ loyalty to a soccer team (Feb. 23, in Hebrew). Iris Leal claimed that Netanyahu “hypnotizes” his audience (Feb. 25, in Hebrew).

The weakness of all these explanations lies in their common denominator. The key terms in these op-eds show that to his critics, support for Netanyahu is emotional. None of them sought to understand its rationale.

This problem is most apparent in attempts to explain why the left has failed to convince the right: Persuasion is impossible from a position of fundamental arrogance, which assumes that “they” are not rational but “we” are. Yet a deeper look reveals, even if unintentionally, a real difficulty in understanding the other.

This isn’t new. The late sociologist Yonathan Shapiro, who conducted one of the first studies on Likud’s rise to power, named several reasons for its upset victory in his book “The Road to Power: Herut Party in Israel.” One of the main ones, he said, was Likud leader Menachem Begin’s emotional manipulation of Mizrahi Jews.

This claim was widely accepted as axiomatic for several decades, and still echoes through academic and public debates. The problem is that manipulation doesn’t work only on people of certain ethnic origins, and in any case, all politicians tend to manipulate.

In fact, new studies about the economic policies of the ruling Mapai party, a Labor Party forerunner, during the country’s formative years show that until the 1960s, and contrary to its image as a party that exploited the Mizrahim, Mapai pursued a clear policy of reducing wage gaps between the elites and the lower classes. This data help us understand why Mizrahim abandoned Mapai at about that time and started voting for Begin, because it explains the economic and class context and recognizes that this was a rational decision.

Haaretz Editor-in-Chief Aluf Benn wrote that Netanyahu’s accomplishments — Israel’s prosperity, its political stability and the decline in Palestinian terror within Israel proper — are what win him public support (Feb. 26). But Benn didn’t draw the necessary conclusion, which is that if Netanyahu’s achievements are what keep him in power, then the right is rational, and the left is emotional in its utter opposition to his policies.

Clearly, the left-right story is more complicated than questions of emotionalism, and even those who recognize Netanyahu’s practical achievements can’t ignore his moral failings. Nevertheless, the people who shout “Only Bibi!” even when he is caught out in disgrace aren’t necessarily acting on gut instinct. On the contrary, they’re voicing rational recognition of the fact that for all the importance of the war against corruption in high places, it doesn’t affect their lives and won’t necessarily alter their situation.



Against Fake Civility

Conservatives are the gentlemen of politics.  It's not always to their advantage

Kurt Schlichter

They tell us that our uppity refusal to quietly submit to abuse and subjugation, both figurative and literal, makes us bad people. Not only can we live with that, but we should celebrate it.

When the liberals and their squishy-soft allies in Conservative, Inc., start moaning about your dreadful incivility, that’s a clear indicator that you are doing something right and that you need to double down. Civility, once properly understood as a means to an end rather than an end in and of itself, has morphed from an aspiration into a political/cultural gimp suit designed to prevent you from effectively asserting your interests and your point of view.

For liberals, civility is a grift – they think it’s a punchline and they’re waiting to laugh at you for embracing it. It’s a way to keep you from interrupting their non-stop attacks on your rights, your faith, and your dignity by convincing you that it’s somehow wrong to get upset when, say, some Astroturf Tot backed up by a bunch of leftist Red Guard orgs like Planned Parenthood and Move On starts shrieking that you have blood on your hands.

For the Fredocons, civility is just an excuse for lounging on the Lido Deck while those of us not signed onto Team Submissive wade in and fight. It’s also an excuse to push back against the revolt of the Normals that their incompetent, self-serving bumbling created. They will never, ever attack the progressive cultural aggressors, those leftist savages spewing their death wishes against conservatives while saving the grossest sexual slurs for the brave female warriors whose will not back down in the face of progressive hate. Your refusal to knuckle under shames the sissycons.

No, they will attack you when you resist. It’s unseemly to fight back, according to some True Conservative Principle™ we never heard of but that they insist is the central tenet of conservatism. Not giving in is not who we are, or something.

So don’t swear. Don’t be mean. Don’t fail to get undone because maybe some of your allies failed to meet standards of propriety society tossed out the window two decades ago. Don’t win, whatever you do.

Yeah, we’re done with their version of civility because their version of civility is a lie too. George W. Bush was civil, oh so civil, or so dignified. He was so civil and dignified that we got eight years of Barack Obama and we came that close to going under forever. But funny how Dignified George’s civility lasted for only eight years of his pal/successor then vanished once the guy who beat his soft bro to a pulp showed up and took what was supposed to be one of the Bipartisan Civility Crew’s gig. Suddenly, when someone who wasn’t part of the Approved Elite got elected, George found his ability to attack again. Of course, it was his own (supposed) side.

Bush was not just attacking Trump. He was attacking us Normals for daring to elect Trump. Many of us defended him when he was busy being oh-so-dignified and civil. And when we defied him and his class, he turned against us. Like a true gentleman.

Civility is a component of a system of reasoned debate, not its end product. Civility is necessary in a system where people reason in good faith in order to come to the best solution to the policy challenges facing them. Civility lubricates that process, and allows people of good faith to disagree without engendering unnecessary and destructive discord.

People of good faith. See, that’s key.

The problem is that progressives are not people of good faith.

They are not trying to reason. They are not trying to compromise. They do not accept the basic concept that all American citizens have inalienable rights and that the law must apply equally to everyone. They hate us.

We are sub-human, unworthy of courtesy or respect. We have no rights; they might allow us some control over our personal lives, for now, but we exist at their sufferance. That’s their view. That’s their basic premise – and if you ever go on social media they will tell you. So it’s no wonder that they feel no need to be civil.

Wake up. The truth is ugly, but it’s still the truth.

The hallmark of adulthood is putting away childish things, like the Pollyanna view that others must always be acting in good faith because we really, really want that to be true. Luckily, many of us have rejected the illusions and embraced the truth. And truth is more important than civility.

The rational system that incorporated civility as a central component no longer exists. Why should we preserve that one aspect of the whole when the other side has gleefully tossed the rest into the bonfire? Because it’s nice? We’re not interested in nice. We’re interested in not having our rights stolen from us.

Time to accept reality. We don’t share a common foundation of beliefs with our enemies – yeah, feel free to explode in a fussy fireball of fauxtrage because I call the people who constantly wish for my death on social media “enemies.” You can’t have a discussion or a conversation with people whose bottom line position is that you must be gone, or at least stripped of anything like your rights and sovereignty.

All you can do is fight them.

The problem is not that we Normals are not nice. The problem is that we were nice for far too long. The hate and contempt of the left for Normal Americans grew and grew without any challenge, with any cost, without any pushback, such that it was able to take root and become progressivism’s central premise.

They never paid a price for their hate, not until now (Hi Delta!). They don’t like it, either – that’s why you see liberals constantly trying to use guilt and shame to get you to start playing by the old rules again. Notice how they never, ever prescribe that remedy to themselves?

And the Fredocons? They’re as obedient as always to their class masters. They never, ever attack the left, but should you dare push back there’s not a pearl they’ll leave unclutched.

This country is in grave danger of real chaos as the Normals confront an elite that seeks to rule it without accountability or challenge. Will the country split apart? Will there be armed conflict? The chances of those awful possibilities coming true are much, much greater if we give the other side the false impression that we are not deadly serious about defending our Constitutional rights to the death, if necessary. Hell, many of us are already sworn to.

Civility is not a sign of weakness when a system of reasoned debate is in effect. But it is a sign of weakness, and will be taken as such by our enemies, when we cling to civility because we are too weak and afraid to admit the awful truth, that we are no longer a society ruled by reason but by power.

You want a civil society again? Good – so do I. But the way to get it is not to surrender. It is to defeat those who want to crush you with lawless rulings by leftist judges, with economic warfare launched by woke corporations, and by the steady erosion of the rights your Creator granted you.

If civility means submission, the hell with it


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

Email me  here (Hotmail address). My Home Pages are here (Academic) or  here (Pictorial) or  here  (Personal)


Monday, March 05, 2018

Leftists are basically all the same

Tasmania has just had an election in which the conservatives won. So how did the Tasmanian Left handle the defeat?  There is no doubt that the issues for tiny Tasmania, tucked away at the bottom of the world, are much less portentous than the issues for the great world power that is the USA.  So surely we could expect that the response of the Tasmanian Left would be much less embittered and rage-filled than the response of the American Left when Donald beat Hillary?

It was not to be.  The big issue in the Tasmanian campaign was the hardly earth-shattering question of whether gambling machines should be permitted.  Despite that, the defeated Tasmanian Left erupted in anger and bad grace, accusing the conservatives of not having won fair and square.

So this similarity of results between Tasmania and the USA despite very different circumstances confirms that we have to go down to the psychological level to understand the Left.  We have to face the fact that Leftists are born full of anger and hostility to the people around them.  Reality doesn't interest them.  They just hate it all.

Excerpt from a news report follows:

[Federal] Trade Minister Steven Ciobo has attacked the “extraordinarily ungracious” concession speech by Tasmanian Labor leader Rebecca White, calling Labor’s claims the Hodgman campaign was bankrolled by gaming companies as “sour grapes” and “absurd”.

Tasmania’s Hodgman Liberal government has been re-elected with a majority, after voters turned away from the Greens and shunned the Jacqui Lambie Network.

Ms White congratulated Premier Will Hodgman this morning after neglecting to do so in her concession speech last night.

“I’m incredibly proud of the Tasmanian Labor campaign, our candidates and the values and issues we fought for. We didn’t get there this time but we can hold our heads high.”

The Tasmanian Left too put up a woman for the top job, the blonde bombshell Rebecca White.  Once again the Feminist theory that women will vote for another woman falls flat

[Federal Leftist leader] Bill Shorten also added his congratulations, but not without throwing in a pointed barb.

“Rebecca White and her team ran a positive, issues-focused campaign that reflected the best Labor values, against the Liberals who were backed by well-resourced special interests,” the federal Labor lader said in a statement.

“Bec has shown herself to be an energetic campaigner, and a strong and effective leader with a bright future ahead of her.”

Earlier Mr Ciobo said he was disappointed by the Labor response to losing the Tasmanian election last night, calling the party hypocritical given the amount of campaign money it receives from unions.

“I also find it frankly quite extraordinary that the Australian Labor Party, who are effectively a bought subsidiary of the union movement, would for a second start accusing anybody else of throwing too much money at a problem or advertising in excess of the amount that they can advertise,” Mr Ciobo told Sky News.

“I mean seriously? That is probably the most absurd thing I have heard in quite a while from the Australian Labor Party.”

Mr Hodgman claimed victory at 10.30pm on Saturday, thanking voters for sticking with his government, providing it a second term in majority.

While his opponents claimed the government had been purchased by advertising paid for by poker machine interests, Mr Hodgman said voters had rewarded the Liberals for “kickstarting” the economy.

Opposition leader Rebecca White conceded defeat but failed to congratulate Mr Hodgman, instead praising voters for putting his government “on notice”.

“The Tasmanian people have put this Liberal government on notice: today marks a new era in Tasmanian politics,” Ms White said.

“People want transparent, good government that is going to benefit them and not somebody’s rich mate.”

She said the Hodgman government was “nearly defeated” and blamed the cashed-up campaign against Labor by poker machine interests for the party’s failure to secure a better result.

“The Tasmanian people should be represented by the best representatives; not the richest,” she said, accusing the Liberal Party of “buying” seats in the parliament.



A war Europe cannot win

President Donald Trump has threatened to tax European cars after the EU warned it would retaliate if the US placed tariffs on steel and aluminium imports.

"If the EU wants to further increase their already massive tariffs and barriers on US companies doing business there, we will simply apply a Tax on their Cars which freely pour into the US," Trump said on Twitter on Saturday. "They make it impossible for our cars (and more) to sell there. Big trade imbalance!"

Trump also complained about the trade deficit, attributing it to "our 'very stupid' trade deals and policies".

Trump on Thursday announced plans to slap tariffs of 25 per cent on all imported steel and 10 per cent on broad categories of aluminium imports, prompting trade partners to consider retaliatory measures. Trump later boasted that trade wars are "good, and easy to win".

European Commission spokesman Alexander Winterstein said the EU has been preparing for the situation "for a long time". Winterstein said a decision could be taken when top commission officials meet on Wednesday.

He said the EU will also stand ready to protect Europe's embattled steel market in case of a surge of imports as a result of the US tariffs. The EU will further seek to settle the dispute before the World Trade Organisation, he added.



Manufacturing in U.S. Expands at Fastest Pace Since May 2004

U.S. factories expanded in February at the fastest rate since May 2004, indicating sustained strength in manufacturing as demand remains solid, figures from the Institute for Supply Management showed Thursday.

The latest advance extends a series of healthy readings in the survey-based measure of manufacturing that’s being fueled by improving global economies and firm business investment. It also comes on the heels of a late-year pickup in consumer spending, which advanced in the fourth quarter at the fastest pace in more than a year.

The purchasing managers group’s gauge of export orders was the strongest since April 2011. While orders and production were a touch weaker in February than the prior month, the readings are nonetheless robust.

The ISM report showed 15 of 18 manufacturing industries indicated growth last month, led by printing, primary metals and machinery.



Booming: Yet Another Economic Indictor Hits Multi-Decade Best

As we noted earlier in the week, Americans are noticing that the country's economy is in strong shape, with consumer confidence spiking to the best level in 17 years.  Now the government has announced another data point that reinforces the string of good news.

These developments don't come in a vacuum; the economy has taken off because of the Republican and Trump administration policies of right-sizing regulation and cutting taxes.  Are Americans tired of winning yet?

U.S. filings for unemployment benefits fell last week to the lowest level in almost five decades, indicating the job market remains tight, Labor Department figures showed

Thursday...Overall, the employment picture remains solid, with payrolls continuing to increase and the unemployment rate at the lowest since late 2000. Job growth will help sustain consumer spending, the biggest part of the economy.

In another tax reform-related development, Wisconsinites are experiencing lower utility bills due to passage of the new law.  Consumers can thank House Speaker Paul Ryan and Sen. Ron Johnson for these savings:

Customers of Wisconsin utilities are projected to save more than $275 million from the new lower rate for federal corporate taxes, based on estimates compiled by the Citizens Utility Board of Wisconsin and the Wisconsin Industrial Energy Group. The corporate tax rate was lowered to 21% from 35% as part of the recent tax reform and tax cut legislation. Projected taxes are included as an expense when setting utility rates and the cost is passed onto customers.

The state's utilities were required to file their projected tax savings with the Public Service Commission last month. Energies electric customers are projected to save $97 million a year from the lower corporate tax rate based on the estimates...Several utilities have proposed giving customers a credit on their bills.

Badger State voters should remember that Sen. Tammy Baldwin voted 'no' on tax reform, as did every single Democrat in Congress.  Democrats have attempted to demonize the corporate tax cuts, but it's those very cuts that are allowing businesses all across the country to increase employee benefits, raise wages, pay bonuses, and pass down savings to customers (on top of the law's tax cuts for roughly 90 percent of taxpayers).

Improving America's global competitiveness is smart economics and helps people.  Public support for tax reform has jumped by 26 net points since December, according to New York Times polling, because reality is on the GOP's side.



The Coming Trump Landslide

Wayne Allyn Root

I know Donny Deutsch only too well. A stereotypical, spoiled-brat, New York liberal.

The memory of my Donny Deutsch CNBC debacle came pouring back to mind yesterday because I saw Donny made news as a guest on MSNBC. Donny was asked about Trump’s re-election chances. For once I agree with Donny.

Deutsch said Trump will be re-elected in 2020 by a landslide because the economy is booming and Americans have more money in their pockets. Most Americans base their vote on pocketbook issues, explained Deutsch. It’s rare to hear truth from a liberal.

Then Donny spoke more raw truth. He said, “That’s why Trump must be removed from office now.”

My old pal Donny revealed what liberals are all thinking, deep down. Trump is a lock for re-election by a wide margin. As Deutsch admitted, that’s why he must be stopped now.

Crazed liberals scream for his removal…impeachment…even assassination. Because they know he is succeeding, he is effective, he is erasing Obama and fundamentally changing America back to a conservative, capitalist nation. They know they can’t stop him at the ballot box, so they have decided they have to stop him any other way they can- even resorting to violence, conspiracy and sedition.

Liberals and the mainstream media (I know, I repeat myself) love to claim Trump’s ineffective. They say “He’s accomplished very little.” Liberal scholars recently rated Trump as the worst president in history. Really?

I consider The Heritage Foundation my “Bible of conservatism.” Heritage defines conservative. According to their ratings system, Trump is the most successful and effective conservative president in modern history. He scored far higher than my hero Ronald Reagan.

Trump may be unorthodox. He’s certainly not like Jeb Bush or Marco Rubio or John Kasich or Ted Cruz. But he beat all of them. Then he beat “the unbeatable” Hillary Clinton. Then he became, according to the authority on conservatism, the most effective conservative president in history.

In recent days Trump offered up a deal to keep DACA immigrants in the USA. Conservatives weren’t happy. But Trump won over some immigrants.

Then he offered up multiple gun control measures. Conservatives weren’t happy. But Trump won over suburban moms.

Then he offered up trade tariffs on China. Conservatives and Wall Street went on the warpath. But Trump won over working class Americans.

The most conservative president in history won the right to move towards the center on a few issues by building a foundation even more conservative than Reagan. That gave him room for just a little compromise. That's how you win elections by a landslide.

Trump turns out to be a brilliant political strategist. He’s expanding the GOP tent like no other Republican in history.

For perhaps the first time in his life, Donny Deutsch was right. Liberals had better remove Trump from office quickly-by hook or crook. Because the Trump train can’t be stopped any other way.


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

Email me  here (Hotmail address). My Home Pages are here (Academic) or  here (Pictorial) or  here  (Personal)


Sunday, March 04, 2018

Trump's "trade war"

I have hesitated to comment on Trump's plans to put import duties onto steel and aluminium  -- but his plans have so few defenders that I think I should point out a few things that are being overlooked.  For a start, this is NOT a great departure from normal GOP thinking.  George Bush II did the same for a time. The steel business is a chronic political problem worldwide. I will say why below. And there is certainly nothing new about this from Trump.  He campaigned on a policy of using tariffs to protect American industry. So he has a very clear mandate for what he is doing.  And his rationale that small price increases on consumer goods are worth it to save communities applies here.

And Trump's own comment that trade wars are easy to win is instructive.  It suggests that his tariffs are just a bargaining tool and a temporary one at that.  So any long term damage is avoided.

And what about political damage?  He is such a big winner there that he could well be prepared for substantial damage in other directions.  The working class liking for Trump could now well become ecstatic in many quarters.

But to get back to economics, this is a well-known problem.  It is known as a "dumping" problem and Trump is being perfectly orthodox about it.  A dumping problem arises when a country produces more of a good than can readily be sold. And steel is almost continually in that situation.  Because it is such an icon of industrial maturity, almost every country everywhere wants to have a steel mill and governments everywhere support the building of them.  So steel is chronically in glut, oversupply.  China has a big surplus but so does Canada, Europe etc.

So what to do when nobody wants to buy your product?  Easy!  Discount it.  But you have to be careful about doing that or you may be selling your product for less than it costs to make. But with government support your home market is captive so you apply discounts only to stuff you sell overseas, leaving your home market as a survival revenue source.

So if China were selling Americans Chinese steel for less than it costs to make, you might think Americans would celebrate:  China is giving us a gift!  And some economists think we should look at it that way.  But nobody does. The Chinese steel will now be replacing steel made in America and the American steel millers will be up in arms.  They will demand that their government put a tax on all the imported steel so that any discounts are cancelled out.  And that is basically what Mr Trump is doing.  He is keeping out all that foreign steel so that American steel millers can sell their stuff.

But there are problems.  China has in fact been quite restrained and has not raided the American market.  It is those nice Canadians who sell most of the "foreign" steel marketed in America.  Do we really want to shaft them? If we do they could retaliate. They could, for instance, buy their military aircraft from Europe rather than America.  They have already cancelled their F35 order and the Super Hornets could be next. And the latest Saab Gripen E would make a very nice alternative.

But Trump is undoubtedly cooking up a deal of some sort so we will have to wait and see.  My best guess:  He will be "persuaded" to replace his new tariffs with a system of national quotas -- with the largest existing international suppliers getting the biggest quotas and the smaller suppliers getting no quota at all.  Good for Canada, bad for China, only a little bit bad for American consumers, great for the mid-terms.


Ideology and Political Divisiveness

What Robert Higgs says below undoubtedly explains part of the problem but I think there is a lot more to it. I think we are looking at a change primarily on the Left. They have drifted Left almost to the point of insanity in recent years.  Reality no longer matters to them.  Why?  Because they have always been aimed in that direction.  They never ceased to defend the Soviets while that gory bunch were around.

For a long time, however, the need to get votes kept them cautious.  They risked a wipeout if they got too far from the centre.  Recently, however, they have realized that their 3 big rusted-on constituencies -- blacks, Jews and Hispanics -- will support them no matter what, so they need add only the fanatical end of the white Left to get into power. So they have moved to more extreme positions.  And such extremism is of course divisive.  You almost have to let go of your sanity to embrace it

In recent years, many politicians and political pundits have lamented what they perceive to be growing political divisiveness in the United States. Public-opinion polls have confirmed the reality of this growing divisiveness (Badger and Chokshi 2017; Hook 2017; Pew Research Center 2017). Nearly everyone who remarks on this phenomenon views it as regrettable, and many offer recommendations for alleviating it, especially by embracing a greater willingness to compromise in Congress and among the public. Not many commentators, however, have evinced an understanding of how the heightened divisiveness came about or of the necessary condition(s) for reducing it.

To understand recent trends in political divisiveness, it might help to recall the situation at an earlier time when such divisiveness was not so great—say, during the 1950s or perhaps even as recently as the 1990s. In those days, the two major political parties as a rule kept their squabbling between the forty-yard lines. They and their supporters among the public agreed on the fundamental political issues (e.g., anticommunism in foreign affairs, a sizable welfare state at home). Of course, even within the accepted bounds of political dispute, disagreements and conflicts might become heated from time to time in certain areas, yet, given the broad agreement on the nature of the regime, politicians and their supporters could fashion compromises that kept nearly all changes within the established bounds. Indeed, politicians could brag about and take credit for their capacity to forge compromises, and few held this flexibility against them or accused them of being sellouts.

In more recent times, however, as the government has grown and extended its involvement into more—and more important—areas of life (e.g., comprehensive health-care insurance coverage and broad-gauge financial-rescue operations such as those undertaken in 2008 and 2009), the perceived stakes have become greater in the minds of political actors. With more at stake, people’s willingness to compromise has declined: compromise may be too costly for them to tolerate. So as government grows, extending its scope and power into more corners of economic and social affairs, it pushes more and more people beyond their thresholds of acceptance.

Now, whenever the government grows, it does not simply take an action and push it onto an unwilling public or a large unwilling part of the public, telling those who oppose it to “like it or lump it.” Such an overbearing imposition is well-nigh guaranteed to increase and sharpen the existing resistance to the action and thus to make the implementation of the government’s new policy more difficult. To ease the imposition of an action on unwilling parties, the government and its supporters always clothe it in attractive ideological garb, claiming that it affords great benefits for the general public, necessary protections from foreign or domestic threats, and so forth. Some potential resisters are likely to be persuaded by such ideological cover stories—if they weren’t, the government’s propaganda would be pointless. So ideology, it turns out, plays an essential role in the conduct of any government’s operations, especially when it is expanding the scope of such operations.

More than thirty years ago I formulated a conception of ideology (a highly contested concept among scholars) that I have found helpful in analyzing the nature of government and its growth. In my conception, ideology is “a somewhat coherent, rather comprehensive belief system about social relations.” Such a system must have “four distinct aspects: cognitive, affective, programmatic, and solidary” (Higgs 1987, 37; for an extended discussion of ideology viewed in this way, see chapter 3 of the same source, “On Ideology as an Analytical Concept in the Study of Political Economy,” 35–56). The key connection between ideology and political action arises from the fourth aspect, solidarity among an ideology’s adherents. This solidarity establishes an identity because affiliation with an ideology defines the kind of person one is and wishes to be, and maintenance of this identity requires that a person act as a faithful comrade of others who identify likewise. An ideology thus defines and solidifies personal identity, but it simultaneously defines the enemy—as someone has said, it tells the ideological adherent whom to fear and whom to hate.

As government grows, pushing into more and more areas of social and economic life and evoking an ideological rationale to justify its action and attract supporters, it simultaneously causes its supporters to identify those who oppose the action as “the other” and even as “the enemy.” When people come to view each other in this stark fashion, social and political divisiveness is almost certain to increase. During the past several decades, as a harsh and unforgiving view of political opponents has grown, the fear and loathing of those who “are not with us” may well have been the main avenue along which the willingness to compromise has declined.

If such has been the case, it follows that a necessary condition for the alleviation of such divisiveness is the retardation or cessation—perhaps even the reversal—of the government’s growth. Even if meeting such a condition should be proposed or carried out, however, the problem is that a sort of Tullockian transitional-gains trap (Tullock 1975) may impede such a turnaround. Many individuals and groups have become deeply and variously embroiled in the government’s current scope and power, and they are likely to resist fiercely any attempt to reverse the process they helped to push forward in recent decades. They will fight any changes that would require them to surrender benefits, policies, and programs in which they are deeply invested not only materially but also ideologically. Such resistance constitutes one of the important aspects of the ratchet effect in the growth of government, whereby each major lurch toward greater government becomes at least in part irreversible (Higgs 1987, 57–74; 2012, 75–97)



Obama Snubs Graham Tributes, Promotes His Presidential Library Instead

Obama never was a Christian

Barack Obama has chosen not to participate in any of the events honoring evangelist Billy Graham this week, but he did carve out time to make a surprise visit to a community meeting in Chicago to promote the building of his presidential library.

Graham met, and in some cases became close friends, with every president from Harry Truman to Obama during his tenure as America’s Pastor, which stretched from the 1940s to the 21st century. He in fact also earned the moniker of Pastor to the Presidents.

Trump was not able to meet with Graham as president, but was on hand to help celebrate the preacher’s 95th birthday in 2013.

Obama met Graham in the spring of 2010 at the evangelist’s home in Montreat, North Carolina.

As reported by The Western Journal, George W. Bush and his wife Laura traveled to Graham’s library in Charlotte on Monday to pay their respects to the late Christian leader.

Bush also came bearing greetings from his 93-year-old father George H.W. Bush — the nation’s 41st president — saying, “I know he wished he could come too, but he’s not moving around much these days, but his spirit and heart is here.”

Former President Jimmy Carter, also 93 and has experienced health challenges, sent his regrets.

Former President Bill Clinton, like George W. Bush, made the journey to Charlotte on Tuesday. Clinton told reporters that he first heard Graham preach in Little Rock, Arkansas, when the future politician was an 11-year-old boy. He said meeting him later as an adult was one of the most memorable events of his life.

Clinton noted that Graham demanded that his 1959 Little Rock crusade be integrated and threatened to pull out when city leaders resisted. The pastor also became a strong supporter of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s fight for racial equality.

“The ground at the foot of the cross is level, and it touches my heart when I see whites standing shoulder to shoulder with blacks at the cross,” Graham said.

While the Washington, D.C., resident did not take the time to make the short flight to Charlotte or even the drive to the U.S. Capitol, where Graham’s body lies in repose, Obama did travel to Chicago on Tuesday to push for approval of building his presidential library on the city’s South Side.

He was participated in a town hall-style meeting to allay local residents’ concerns that his presidential center will cause housing costs to increase and be too disruptive to their neighborhood.

“A lot of times, people get nervous about gentrification and understandably so,” Obama said. “It is not my experience … that the big problem on the South Side has been too much development, too much economic activity, too many people being displaced because all these folks from Lincoln Park are filling into the South Side. That’s not what’s happening.

Obama tweeted about the event later Tuesday night, saying it reminded him of his days as a community organizer in the 1990s.

While Obama does not plan to attend any of the events honoring Graham, he did post a tweet regarding one of the 20th Century’s most influential people.

The 44th president wrote: “Billy Graham was a humble servant who prayed for so many – and who, with wisdom and grace, gave hope and guidance to generations of Americans.”

On Wednesday, President Trump spoke at a ceremony in the Capitol Rotunda lauding the life Graham led as a minister of the Gospel of Jesus Christ.

The president also plans to travel to Charlotte to attend Graham’s funeral service on Friday.



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