Law Of Unintended Consequences
More subjects than one can conveniently throw a stick at … so we’ll throw several sticks.
Have you seen the latest Brookings Institute poll on Obama’s “greatness” as a President? It is interesting. They decided to poll the American Political Science Association. Their “consensus”?
First, President Obama ranks 18th overall, but beneath the surface of the aggregate figures lurks evidence of significant ambivalence. For example, those who view Obama as one of the worst American presidents outnumber those who view him as one of the best by nearly a 3-1 margin. Similarly, nearly twice as many respondents view Obama as over-rated than do those who consider him under-rated.
Well there you go. Even a liberal leaning think tank polling liberal leaning academics can’t manage to put lipstick on a pig. 18th overall? Hilarious.
Remember we were told that Iraq was “poorly thought out” and that “armed intervention” was a mistake?
Wouldn’t it be interesting if someone applied the same standard to Libya? Yesterday we got to see what some of the result of that awful decision when 21 Coptic Christians were beheaded by ISIS. And the White House reaction?
The United States condemns the despicable and cowardly murder of twenty-one Egyptian citizens in Libya by ISIL-affiliated terrorists.
Can’t even get up the gumption to identify who the “Egyptians citizens” were. They weren’t beheaded for being Egyptians, folks.
We call on all Libyans to strongly reject this and all acts of terrorism and to unite in the face of this shared and growing threat. We continue to strongly support the efforts of the United Nations Special Representative of the Secretary-General Bernardino Leon to facilitate formation of a national unity government and help foster a political solution in Libya.
Because, you know, Obama and the boys kind of broke the last government.
Meanwhile in Oregon, the Democratic governor resigns in disgrace, a victim of corruption in the “green energy” field.
It is a safe bet that Kitzhaber’s implosion has sent the rest of the nation’s Democratic governors, and even a few officeholders in Washington, scrambling to review their affairs. It is the very nature of green energy that its unprofitability ensures that it is only viable in the marketplace if it is subsidized at taxpayer expense. The political class’ favorability toward clean energy and the media’s deference to the project of green technology have created the perfect conditions where corruption can thrive.
Leftist billionaire Tom Steyer is deeply implicated in all of this. I wonder if he’ll get the “Koch brothers” treatment by the media.
You can read on when you stop laughing hysterically.
Oh, and here’s another in a long line of damning reports about ObamaCare.
On another subject, I’m old enough to remember friends crippled by polio and the “iron lung”:
“We are at a stage where people have no memory of just how dangerous pathogens used to be. There is no visceral fear of viruses and bacteria. Children in wheelchairs as a result of polio are a thing of the past because the United States has been polio free since 1979 as a result of vaccines. The only people I’ve ever met who were hobbled by damage from polio were older than me. . . . I do not expect an innumerate and unscientific public to become more trusting of medical organizations that support vaccination. In some communities herd immunity has already been lost and it will be lost in more other communities. This trend will continue until an old disease comes sweeping thru and racks up lots of damage and fatalities.”
On the other hand, the government has reported for 40 years that cholesterol was going to kill us and then, recently said, “never mind”. But they still want us to believe their science about “global warming”. That said, one small pox plague and I’d bet everything would change. Its hard to be fearful when you’ve never had to live with the results of awful afflictions like polio. I remember that being the greatest fear of many parents. Now, well, now they don’t even give it a second thought. That’s because of a vaccination, for heaven sake. Same with small pox. But then anti-vaxxers are using the same sort of science that warming alarmists do, so you shouldn’t be particularly surprised.
Meanwhile in Wisconsin (not surprisingly, Madison, WI) 30 homes were spray painted with anti-Semitic graffiti. My guess is the White House would characterize the act as “a random act by some juvenile delinquents”. I’m still in awe of the spineless characterization of the victims in the Kosher Deli in Paris as some “folks” in a random incident. But then, this is the same administration that for years characterized the Ft. Hood shootings as “workplace violence”, so it really isn’t a big surprise. Back in Madison, don’t even begin to believe that the vandalism will ever be classified as a hate crime. That is reserved for favored minorities only.
Graeme Wood (read the whole thing) lays the wood to the cowardly among us who can’t find it in themselves to identify the enemy and the enemy’s foundation:
The reality is that the Islamic State is Islamic. Very Islamic. Yes, it has attracted psychopaths and adventure seekers, drawn largely from the disaffected populations of the Middle East and Europe. But the religion preached by its most ardent followers derives from coherent and even learned interpretations of Islam.
Virtually every major decision and law promulgated by the Islamic State adheres to what it calls, in its press and pronouncements, and on its billboards, license plates, stationery, and coins, “the Prophetic methodology,” which means following the prophecy and example of Muhammad, in punctilious detail. Muslims can reject the Islamic State; nearly all do. But pretending that it isn’t actually a religious, millenarian group, with theology that must be understood to be combatted, has already led the United States to underestimate it and back foolish schemes to counter it. We’ll need to get acquainted with the Islamic State’s intellectual genealogy if we are to react in a way that will not strengthen it, but instead help it self-immolate in its own excessive zeal.
Meanwhile, at the State Department and White House …
If you know anything about hockey, you’re aware that for the spectators it’s a testosterone filled affair that satisfies our base urges for battle. Much like football. What better to accompany a manly-men game than pretty girls in skimpy outfits? So, sometime in the early 2000’s, NHL teams starting employing Ice Girls to skate around the rink during TV timeouts, etc, in order to clear the playing surface of built up snow. Predictably, it was a big hit. At least, until Mother Jones decided to stick its buzz-killing nose into things: “The Freezing, Hungry Lives of NHL “Ice Girls“:
I co-wrote an article last month about the working conditions of NFL cheerleaders: Five cheer squads had recently sued their football teams alleging sub-minimum-wage pay and mandatory “jiggle tests,” among other indignities. Not long after the story ran, I received an email from a woman who had worked as one of the Philadelphia Flyers’ “ice girls.” “Speaking from personal experience,” she wrote, “ice girls are treated very similarly.”
When a player walks in, it’s time to go: Both the Kings and the Flyers, like a number of other NHL teams, have adopted policies that strongly discourage relationships between ice girls and hockey players: There was to be no fraternization of any kind, the women told me. To prevent rumors from starting, the ice girls were instructed to make sure they weren’t in the same place as the players outside of work. But the burden of responsibility was placed on the women: If a Kings ice girl was at a restaurant or bar and a player walked in, she was expected to get up and leave, even in the middle of a meal.
Short shorts in frigid weather: Some teams, including the Flyers, have co-ed ice crews, but the men aren’t wearing booty-shorts and crop tops. And while most games are held indoors, teams and their cheer squads sometimes participate in outdoor games and events. In early 2012, the Flyers took part in a three-day outdoor festival and game called the Winter Classic. “It was 20 degrees and we were in shorts, with two pairs of stockings,” a former ice girl told me. Depending on the day, they spent six to nine hours outdoors: “It really felt like we were in some kind of torture camp.” Said another: “I’ve never been so cold in my life.”
Blah, blah, blah. There’s more, but you get the picture.
For the most part, political correctness nonsense results in silly annoyances. In this case, however, it cost a bunch of women their jobs. That’s right, in the aftermath of this article, the Flyers decided to get rid of the Ice Girls … and only the Ice Girls. If you know anything about Philly fans, you know that didn’t go over well:
Flyers fans booed the guys on the ice Monday night … because they weren’t women.
We’re not talking hockey. We’re talking the crew scraping the ice during breaks in the action.
Apparently, the team and other NHL clubs succumbed to complaints about sexism and working conditions, including duties like manning doors in frigid temperatures. A June article in Mother Jones article may have played a key role.
Actually, by Philly standards, the reaction was pretty positive.
But the really strange thing here is that, while some of these women had complaints (and, seriously, how unusual is that?), for the most part, they loved the job. But because of the disdain invited by the MJ article, they now have none. But the guys all kept theirs. It’s almost like another confirmed kill in the left’s War on Women (I say almost because, as far as I know, Ted Kennedy still has the only confirmed kill (h/t: Dave Burge)).
I suppose the Flyers organization could have just dressed the girls up in warmer, less skimpy clothing (that’s basically how they are in Carolina and DC, for example), but that wouldn’t address all of the complaints. The team would have to give the girls (but apparently not the guys) raises, and alter team rules re fraternization, among other things. But what would be the unintended consequences of that? I guess they just figured it wasn’t worth the hassle because, it probably isn’t.
It really is comical, though, how the left can so consistently promote policies and behaviors that hurt the very people they purport to protect. It’s as if they are completely incapable of learning from, well, anything. They simply try to wish a world into existence and then are completely flummoxed when things don’t turn out the way they planned.
Oh well, at least these poor girls won’t be so exploited anymore working in a position that they had to beat out 100’s of other girls just to get. Way to go, lefties!
Despite the attempt by government and particularly Democrats, to blame the financial meltdown we’ve endured on banks and unscrupulous investment companies, the buck stops with them according to a new study just released:
Democrats and the media insist the Community Reinvestment Act, the anti-redlining law beefed up by President Clinton, had nothing to do with the subprime mortgage crisis and recession.
But a new study by the respected National Bureau of Economic Research finds, “Yes, it did. We find that adherence to that act led to riskier lending by banks.”
Added NBER: “There is a clear pattern of increased defaults for loans made by these banks in quarters around the (CRA) exam. Moreover, the effects are larger for loans made within CRA tracts,” or predominantly low-income and minority areas.
As we’ve mentioned previously any number of times, government policies can set and enforce preverse incentives. And that has nothing to do with a free market. That’s at best a mixed market. So no, the problem wasn’t a “market failure”, it was the usual result of government intruding and setting preverse incentives that are contrary to good business practices and would likely not survive or succeed in an actual free market.
Here’d the bottom line:
The strongest link between CRA lending and defaults took place in the runup to the crisis — 2004 to 2006 — when banks rapidly sold CRA mortgages for securitization by Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac and Wall Street.
CRA regulations are at the core of Fannie’s and Freddie’s so-called affordable housing mission. In the early 1990s, a Democrat Congress gave HUD the authority to set and enforce (through fines) CRA-grade loan quotas at Fannie and Freddie.
It passed a law requiring the government-backed agencies to “assist insured depository institutions to meet their obligations under the (CRA).” The goal was to help banks meet lending quotas by buying their CRA loans.
But they had to loosen underwriting standards to do it. And that’s what they did.
Not only that, they guaranteed the bad loans with your money. Why do you think so much money has had to be pumped into those two institutions?
You see the market had determined that certain standards protected their investments. The government decided to ignore reality and push a social agenda using “race” as the basis for throwing out those standards and using their coercive power to implement the social agenda they preferred.
The result was predictable.
And the coverup as well.
Or here’s what happens when you play the green card and drive up the cost of energy to the point that it is unaffordable:
When the mercury falls, the theft of wood in the country’s woodlands goes up as people turn to cheaper ways to heat their homes. With energy costs escalating, more Germans are turning to wood burning stoves for heat. That, though, has also led to a rise in tree theft in the country’s forests. The problem has been compounded this winter by rising energy costs. The Germany’s Renters Association estimates the heating costs will go up 22 percent this winter alone.
How much carbon is being emitted by wood burning stoves? How about the deforestation?
Gee, nukes don’t sound so bad now, do they?
I hate to say “I told you so”, but it isn’t just the rich who will be paying increased taxes. And what should be clear to anyone with the I Q of a turnip, is that this will cost people their jobs.
The compromise called for taxes to rise to 39.6% from 35% on personal income above $400,000. In a 2011 study, the Treasury Department found that raising taxes on incomes over $500,000 would affect roughly 750,000 small businesses organized as S-Corps, partnerships and other small entities.
Of course, you remember the Democrats claiming that this wouldn’t affect small businesses. Well, that was a flat out lie. But then we live in an era of lies which, if there political apparently, we’re willing to overlook. While most of us are. I just had to be one of those who isn’t. Not that Democrats are the only political liars, but they seem to be the most prolific and the most blatant. Especially when it comes to budget, deficit, and financial matters. They are the quintessential “snake oil” salesman.
And they have sold us are huge bottle of snake oil.
Couple these tax increases with the Obamacare taxes that kicked in on the 1st, and you have two reasons for 750,000 small businesses not to hire. And you can bet none of them will go over 50 employees, and some may even reduce staff to get under that number.
These are your “rich”. They happen to be the “rich” would generate jobs, or what have, if they hadn’t been hit by two new taxes this year.
Your government at work.
In a recent study two Harvard professors determined that banning guns will not solve the violence or murder problem. That in fact, guns really have nothing to do with it. Instead it is instead a matter of culture.
The reason that gun ownership doesn’t correlate with murder rates, the authors show, is that violent crime rates are determined instead by underlying cultural factors. “Ordinary people,” they note, “simply do not murder.” Rather, “the murderers are a small minority of extreme antisocial aberrants who manage to obtain guns whatever the level of gun ownership” in their society.
Therefore, “banning guns cannot alleviate the socio-cultural and economic factors that are the real determinants of violence and crime rates.” According to Dr. Kates and Dr. Mauser, “there is no reason for laws prohibiting gun possession by ordinary, law-abiding, responsible adults because such people virtually never commit murder. If one accepts that such adults are far more likely to be victims of violent crime than to commit it, disarming them becomes not just unproductive but counter-productive.”
The sort of reasoning Kates and Mauser use for seems to be foreign to those who want to ban guns. It is not a problem of law abiding citizens because, as the authors state, law-abiding citizens don’t commit murder. Consequently, taking their guns away will have no fact other than to make them easier victims. The counter gun culture tries very hard to correlate guns with violence and murder. But looking at the number of guns owned in America as well as the number of Americans who own guns (45 – 52 million), we see that in reality gun crime and gun violence are statistically small. As the authors state disarming law-abiding citizens is “not just unproductive but counterproductive.”
Additionally, they use these things called “facts” to gut the myths that have grown up around gun ownership and violence. For instance, the myth surrounding the Soviet Union and its strict gun control.
In their piece entitled Would Banning Firearms Reduce Murder and Suicide? A Review of International and some Domestic Evidence, Don B. Kates and Gary Mauser eviscerate “the mantra that more guns mean more deaths and that fewer guns, therefore, mean fewer deaths.” In so doing, the authors provide fascinating historical insight into astronomical murder rates in the Soviet Union during the Cold War, and they dispel the myths that widespread gun ownership is somehow unique to the United States or that America suffers from the developed world’s highest murder rate.
To the contrary, they establish that Soviet murder rates far exceeded American murder rates, and continue to do so today, despite Russia’s extremely stringent gun prohibitions. By 2004, they show, the Russian murder rate was nearly four times higher than the American rate.
The authors also look at the gun control policies in Europe and find evidence that counters the correlation between gun ownership and violence.
More fundamentally, Dr. Kates and Dr. Mauser demonstrate that other developed nations such as Norway, Finland, Germany, France and Denmark maintain high rates of gun ownership, yet possess murder rates lower than other developed nations in which gun ownership is much more restricted.
For example, handguns are outlawed in Luxembourg, and gun ownership extremely rare, yet its murder rate is nine times greater than in Germany, which has one of the highest gun ownership rates in Europe. As another example, Hungary’s murder rate is nearly three times higher than nearby Austria’s, but Austria’s gun ownership rate is over eight times higher than Hungary’s. “Norway,” they note, “has far and away Western Europe’s highest household gun ownership rate (32%), but also its lowest murder rate. The Netherlands,” in contrast, “has the lowest gun ownership rate in Western Europe (1.9%) … yet the Dutch gun murder rate is higher than the Norwegian.”
Dr. Kates and Dr. Mauser proceed to dispel the mainstream misconception that lower rates of violence in Europe are somehow attributable to gun control laws. Instead, they reveal, “murder in Europe was at an all-time low before the gun controls were introduced.” As the authors note, “strict controls did not stem the general trend of ever-growing violent crime throughout the post-WWII industrialized world.”
Citing England, for instance, they reveal that “when it had no firearms restrictions [in the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries], England had little violent crime.” By the late 1990s, however, “England moved from stringent controls to a complete ban on all handguns and many types of long guns.” As a result, “by the year 2000, violent crime had so increased that England and Wales had Europe’s highest violent crime rate, far surpassing even the United States.” In America, on the other hand, “despite constant and substantially increasing gun ownership, the United States saw progressive and dramatic reductions in criminal violence in the 1990s.”
So, if one is honest and reads the evidence clearly, they are left with the understanding that the attempted correlation between gun ownership and violence doesn’t really exist. In fact, it appears that it is indeed the culture that is the cause of violence. One could even argue that disarming the public makes them the culture of victims. For example, one of the things we hear about England is that there has been a vast increase in “hot burglaries” since firearms have been banned. That ban has emboldened the criminals. They no longer fear the homeowner. They know the homeowner does not have a gun. Why? Because they’re law-abiding citizens.
Finally, Kates and Mauser talk about the seeming change in American culture and its impact on violent crime.
Critically, Dr. Kates and Dr. Mauser note that “the fall in the American crime rate is even more impressive when compared with the rest of the world,” where 18 of the 25 countries surveyed by the British Home Office suffered violent crime increases during that same period.
Furthermore, the authors highlight the important point that while the American gun murder rate often exceeds that in other nations, the overall per capita murder rate in other nations (including other means such as strangling, stabbing, beating, etc.) is oftentimes much higher than in America.
As should be obvious to anyone, those that are murdered really don’t care about the means that murder. Dead is dead. The key to reducing murder is cultural. It has nothing to do with the weapon involved. As Kates and Mauser pointed out the per capita murder rate in other nations is often higher than ours. And many if not most of those include countries with strict gun bans.
It should seem clear, given the experience of many European countries with strict gun control, that banning guns does not solve the murder and violence problem. It would be nice for a change if we would learn from the experience of others. As horrific as the Newtown massacre was, it wasn’t perpetrated by a person anyone would consider a law-abiding citizen. In fact, he had no concept of the principle of law or his responsibility to abide by it.
If we want to learn from that incident, the lesson isn’t about guns. It’s about how inadequate our means of handling those who pose a danger to society really are. Megan McArdle does a good job of discussing that very important point.
This study seems to point to what many would argue is obvious. However there is a strong, emotional lobby that continues to want to ignore the primary problem in favor of banning the instrument of murder in this particular case. It is foolish and shortsighted. It would be feel-good legislation, made in haste as usual and in the end accomplishing nothing. We have a history of knee jerk legislation made in haste in which the consequences are unforeseen and usually unintended.
What should be clear is we don’t want to end up like England.
Apparently job burnout effects about 40% of US doctors a recent survey revealed:
Job burnout strikes doctors more often than it does other employed people in the United States, according to a national survey that included more than 7,000 doctors.
More than four in 10 U.S. physicians said they were emotionally exhausted or felt a high degree of cynicism, or "depersonalization," toward their patients, said researchers whose findings appeared in the Archives of Internal Medicine.
"The high rate of burnout has consequences not only for the individual physicians, but also for the patients they are caring for," said Tait Shanafelt of the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minnesota, who led the research.
Now imagine the demand that 10 million newly insured that have been given mandated “free stuff” by ObamaCare will add to the load doctors are carrying (don’t forget, we’re supposed to be 90,000 doctors short by 2020).
Yup, again this really isn’t rocket science, but it also obviously hasn’t at all be thought through by our lawmakers, has it?
And the law of unintended consequences will take it’s due course because of that.
For a libertarian blog, this is a subject that we rarely opine about. Probably because its a rather dead horse that just doesn’t need any more beating. Even so, we do all too often have occasion to discuss the ill effects of the War on (Some) Drugs, such as the asset seizure case Bruce highlighted.
In that vein, Randy Barnett offers up his latest law review on the subject “The Harmful Side Effects of Drug Prohibition” and this abstract:
Some drugs make people feel good. That is why some people use them. Some of these drugs are alleged to have side effects so destructive that many advise against their use. The same may be said about statutes that attempt to prohibit the manufacture, sale, and use of drugs. Advocating drug prohibition makes some people feel good because they think they are “doing something” about what they believe to be a serious social problem. Others who support these laws are not so altruistically motivated. Employees of law enforcement bureaus and academics who receive government grants to study drug use, for example, may gain financially from drug prohibition. But as with using drugs, using drug laws can have moral and practical side effects so destructive that they argue against ever using legal institutions in this manner.
This article will not attempt to identify and “weigh” the costs of drug use against the costs of drug laws. Instead, it will focus exclusively on identifying the harmful side effects of drug law enforcement and showing why these effects are unavoidable. So one-sided a treatment is justified for two reasons. First, a cost-benefit or cost-cost analysis may simply be impossible. Second, discussions by persons who support illegalizing drugs usually emphasize only the harmful effects of drug use while largely ignoring the serious costs of such policies. By exclusively relating the other side of the story, this article is intended to inject some balance into the normal debate.
The harmful side-effects of drug laws have long been noted by a number of commentators, although among the general public the facts are not as well known as they should be. More importantly, even people who agree about the facts fail to grasp that it is the nature of the means — coercion — chosen to pursue the suppression of voluntary consumptive activity that makes these effects unavoidable. This vital and overlooked connection is the main subject of this article.
It’s a pretty interesting read. You can download the entire article by visiting Randy’s post linked above.
James Q Wilson makes many of the same points that have been made here over the last few months concerning the argument about income inequality that the left has been trying to use as a reason to tax the rich even more than they’re taxed now. In sum, most of the left’s arguments rest in the premise that the economy is a zero sum game and that the income the “rich” are taking had to come from someone else’s slice.
That argument, much like the climate change debate, depends on a measure of ignorance among those they’re trying to influence.
In reality, income inequality is nothing to be concerned about when it meets certain conditions. Or, in other words, it isn’t a zero sum game and everyone has an opportunity to do better.
The first measure as we’ve noted before, is income mobility. Wilson:
The “rich” in America are not a monolithic, unchanging class. A study by Thomas A. Garrett, economist at the Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis, found that less than half of people in the top 1 percent in 1996 were still there in 2005. Such mobility is hardly surprising: A business school student, for instance, may have little money and high debts, but nine years later he or she could be earning a big Wall Street salary and bonus.
Mobility is not limited to the top-earning households. A study by economists at the Federal Reserve Bank of Minneapolis found that nearly half of the families in the lowest fifth of income earners in 2001 had moved up within six years. Over the same period, more than a third of those in the highest fifth of income-earners had moved down. Certainly, there are people such as Warren Buffett and Bill Gates who are ensconced in the top tier, but far more common are people who are rich for short periods.
In sum, you have both the top and bottom quintiles changing constantly as income earners move up or down fairly regularly. That means those moving up must be getting the opportunity to do so somewhere, and the fact that there is a change of about half in the period studied says many are succeeding.
Who are these people that get ahead? Well as Wilson mentions, a poor (I’m talking income here) student who graduates and gets a job in his or her field most likely won’t be poor in the sense of income very long. And that goes for most of the “rich”:
Affluent people, compared with poor ones, tend to have greater education and spouses who work full time. The past three decades have seen significant increases in real earnings for people with advanced degrees. The Bureau of Labor Statistics found that between 1979 and 2010, hourly wages for men and women with at least a college degree rose by 33 percent and 20 percent, respectively, while they fell for all people with less than a high school diploma — by 9 percent for women and 31 percent for men.
Also, households with two earners have seen their incomes rise. This trend is driven in part by women’s increasing workforce participation, which doubled from 1950 to 2005 and which began to place women in well-paid jobs by the early 1980s.
Preparation, delayed gratification and a work ethic. The old Puritan ideal. Amazing the staying power it has, no? That and adding a spouse with similar traits has a tendency to boost income to the household significantly. Yet for some reason, the left (who, btw, are all about workplace equality and equal pay) now want you be jealous of those accomplishments.
If, as the left would prefer, we should be concerned with income inequality and the mechanism that advances it, the solution is simple:
We could reduce income inequality by trying to curtail the financial returns of education and the number of women in the workforce — but who would want to do that?
Well certainly not the left, who doesn’t want the rich to go away. Instead it simply wants to make you hate them so they can justify taking more of their money. But Wilson’s point is spot on. This once was the key to the door of the American dream. Now it’s the key to a class of citizen who is vilified and called greedy and accused of not paying their “fair share”. If anyone is killing the American dream, it is the American left.
The tax on the rich is offered as a panacea to all that ails us. It will help pay down the debt and it will “level the playing” field. One assumes that means that it will somehow help the poor not be poor.
But Wilson points out, poverty in the US isn’t a function of the rich making a greater percentage of the national income. Poverty is a cultural problem that has nothing to do with the rich or taxing them:
The real income problem in this country is not a question of who is rich, but rather of who is poor. Among the bottom fifth of income earners, many people, especially men, stay there their whole lives. Low education and unwed motherhood only exacerbate poverty, which is particularly acute among racial minorities. Brookings Institution economist Scott Winship has argued that two-thirds of black children in America experience a level of poverty that only 6 percent of white children will ever see, calling it a “national tragedy.”
Making the poor more economically mobile has nothing to do with taxing the rich and everything to do with finding and implementing ways to encourage parental marriage, teach the poor marketable skills and induce them to join the legitimate workforce. It is easy to suppose that raising taxes on the rich would provide more money to help the poor. But the problem facing the poor is not too little money, but too few skills and opportunities to advance themselves.
Most of the lack of economic opportunity and dearth of skills comes not from the rich making too much, but those in that condition making poor choices early in their lives. Combine that with some of the less desirable cultural aspects of poverty and you end up with a fairly permanent underclass with little hope of advancing.
But that has nothing to do with the rich or how much they make. Problem? Yes. A product of income inequality. No.
And even then, poverty in this country is a relative thing:
Between 1970 and 2010, the net worth of American households more than doubled, as did the number of television sets and air-conditioning units per home. In his book “The Poverty of the Poverty Rate,” Nicholas Eberstadt shows that over the past 30 or so years, the percentage of low-income children in the United States who are underweight has gone down, the share of low-income households lacking complete plumbing facilities has declined, and the area of their homes adequately heated has gone up. The fraction of poor households with a telephone, a television set and a clothes dryer has risen sharply.
In other words, the country has become more prosperous, as measured not by income but by consumption: In constant dollars, consumption by people in the lowest quintile rose by more than 40 percent over the past four decades.
Income as measured by the federal government is not a reliable indicator of well-being, but consumption is. Though poverty is a problem, it has become less of one.
I always think of my mother when I read things like this. She was defined as “poor” after retirement and my father’s death. House paid for, cars paid for, and had more money in retirement (very large savings account) than she could spend, but when measured against the arbitrary income line, you’d have thought she was eating cat food and living in a cardboard box. She lived very well, but her “income” – all she received a year from Social Security – put her under the poverty line.
So Wilson’s point is correct – measuring consumption paints a completely different picture, and that picture says things are getting relatively better for the “poor” in this country even while the rich seem to be getting richer. Something about “lifting all boats” in there.
All of this is, simply, class war populism. President Obama said in his State of the Union address, “call it class warfare if you want.” Okay, I will. That’s precisely what it is. It is the demonization of a class designed to shift blame from one entity (in this case the Obama administration) to another (the rich) and blame them for all the problems now extant.
The fact remains that income inequality isn’t a problem. It is certainly not even a major problem. And for the most part, American’s reject the argument:
American views about inequality have not changed much in the past quarter-century. In their 2009 book “Class War? What Americans Really Think About Economic Inequality,” political scientists Benjamin Page and Lawrence Jacobs report that big majorities, including poor people, agree that “it is ‘still possible’ to start out poor in this country, work hard, and become rich,” and reject the view that it is the government’s job to narrow the income gap. More recently, a December Gallup poll showed that 52 percent of Americans say inequality is “an acceptable part” of the nation’s economic system, compared with 45 percent who deemed it a “problem that needs to be fixed.” Similarly, 82 percent said economic growth is “extremely important” or “very important,” compared with 46 percent saying that reducing the gap between rich and poor is extremely or very important.
So why does the left continue to pursue it? Well, one of the reasons is, as mentioned, a need to blame someone else for the perceived failings of this administration. “It’s not our fault. If only the rich would pay their fair share. But the Republicans won’t allow it”.
The second, of course, is that left – champions of progressive taxation – see this as an opportunity to advance that ideal again. Wilson asks the pregnant question which you’ll never get the left to agree too:
But what is the morally fair way to determine tax rates — other than taxing everyone at the same rate?
The case for progressive tax rates is far from settled; just read Kip Hagopian’s recent essay in Policy Review, which makes a powerful argument against progressive taxation because it fails to take into account aptitude and work effort.
Those are traits that can never be made “equal”. Those are what propel some out of the lowest quintile and keep others in the highest quintile. Since you can’t make people work harder or increase their natural aptitude for work, the only way to make things “equal” is to do what?
Penalize those who excel.
That’s precisely what the progressive tax system does. In the case of this country, it then subsidizes those who don’t excel, thereby getting exactly what those subsides pay for – a permanent underclass, or at least the basis for one.
So, income inequality isn’t our problem. Poverty is. Or at least the American version of poverty. And taxing the rich won’t do a thing to solve that problem. Nope, the answer is much more complex and involved than that. That’s what the left doesn’t want to face. Because if it does, it is likely to find the root of the current problem of poverty in this country directly in programs leftists have touted for decades.
And we can’t have that, can we?
I’ve been meaning to write about this for some time, but events overcame the ability to do so until now (Okay, I forgot about it).
What you’ll see with this particular provision is just stupid law. Granted, the entire law in which this provision is found is, in my opinion, stupid, but this takes the cake. But it also appears to be a politically motivated provision designed to make Health Savings Accounts (HSA) unattractive. I can’t see any other reason for it. George Scoville has written extensively on it. Here’s what he’s found:
Starting Jan. 1, 2011, you will no longer be able to use your Health Savings Account (HSA) to pay for over the counter (OTC) medications at a pharmacy, supermarket or other retail store without a prescription.
Examples of OTC items that will require a prescription for HSA debit card purchases as of Jan. 1, 2011:
- Acid controllers
- Acne medicine
- Aids for indigestion
- Allergy and sinus medicine
- Anti-diarrhea medicine
- Baby rash ointment
- Cold and flu medicine
- Eye drops
- Feminine anti-fungal or anti-itch products
- Hemorrhoid treatment
- Laxatives or stool softeners
- Lice treatments
- Motion sickness medicines
- Nasal sprays or drops
- Ointments for cuts, burns or rashes
- Pain relievers, such as aspirin or ibuprofen
- Sleep aids
- Stomach remedies
Yes, that’s right, suddenly many things that Americans buy without thinking twice about are made prescription items if you want to use your HSA to pay for them. And those would all be legitimate items for purchase with an HSA account. So ObamaCare introduces a hassle factor. What a great way to get people to drop their HSA for something easier and more hassle free – like mandated insurance, no?
But as usual, the law of unintended consequences drops by to say “hello” (the hassle factor is intended, this, probably not although you’d be hard pressed to figure out why they didn’t think of it):
Doctors at East Louisville Pediatrics PSC in Kentucky say they’re writing as many as 50 prescriptions a day for drugs such as Bayer AG’s aspirin and Pfizer Inc.’s Advil that don’t need a physician’s nod to be purchased off pharmacy shelves.
The trend, triggered by the 2010 health-care law, affects more than 20 million Americans with flexible spending or health savings accounts that let them use pretax dollars for medical needs. A U.S. rule that took effect Jan. 1 taxes purchases of over-the-counter drugs except for insulin unless the patient has a prescription, generating $5 billion through 2019, according to the congressional Joint Committee on Taxation.
Doctors, pharmacists, insurers and drug companies say while it may generate money to help expand coverage for the uninsured, the measure is driving up medical costs and creating unnecessary work. They want it repealed, expecting demand to surge at year’s end, when people have to use up balances in the accounts.
“It’s a complete waste of time,” said Conrad Flick, one of five physicians at Family Medical Associates of Raleigh in North Carolina, in a telephone interview. In many cases, he said, he’ll talk with patients by phone to determine why they want the drug before he feels comfortable writing the prescription. “So I’m spending an extra half-hour or hour of my day doing things that I don’t get paid for,” he said.
Administrative costs from the new provision are growing, said Diane Myers, administrator for the East Louisville practice that has eight doctors and two nurse practitioners who write prescriptions. “I bet we’re spending a minimum of 10 hours a week on these things,”she said.
10 hours a week that could be spent doing important things or, in this case, having a life. 10 hours a week lost writing prescriptions for aspirin, for heaven sake.
This is an “improvement”? This saves money? This is a provision that helps bend the cost curve down?
In an alternate universe maybe.
Your government at work.