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Free Markets, Free People

The essence of “progressivism” distilled

Christopher Snowden writes an article that uses an example that is quite handy in defining the essence of the disease called “progressivism”.  He acknowledges that “liberal” has be coopted by the left but still has enough historical cache to be useful to both sides of the philosophical divide.  However, “progressive”, at least in the US, is uniquely the left’s.

Fast forward to a city soda tax under consideration in the “progressive bastion” of Berkley, CA where we find none other than little Robbie Reich (former Clinton Secretary of Labor) ensconced as Professor at UC Berkley and waxing enthusiastic about this proposed soda tax:

To see what the word progressive means today, consider the city of Berkeley, California. According to Robert Reich, a professor at UC Berkeley, it is‘the most progressive city in America’. It has also been described as a ‘liberal bastion’. How liberal is it? So liberal that it is illegal to smoke a cigarette in your own flat (sorry, ‘apartment’) and, at the city’s university, it is against the rules to chew tobacco or use e-cigarettes anywhere at all, including in the open air.

Berkeley is also seriously considering a tax on sugar-sweetened beverages – aka a ‘soda tax’. A public vote will settle the matter next month, and, in the view of Robert Reich, ‘if a soda tax can’t pass in the most progressive city in America, it can’t pass anywhere’.

Well, yes, that’s correct.  But Reich’s claim is also a very useful tool for a little word substitution to show the insidiousness (and true intent) of  “progressivism”:

Consider that statement for a moment. If you didn’t know what the word ‘progressive’ meant – and you knew nothing about Berkeley – what could you infer from the context? If the sentence was changed to ‘if a soda tax can’t pass in the most oppressive city in America, it can’t pass anywhere’, it would make sense. If words like ‘tax-hungry’, ‘anti-business’, ‘puritanical’ or ‘illiberal’ were substituted for ‘progressive’, it would still read correctly.

If, however, the sentence was changed to ‘if a soda tax can’t pass in the most tolerant city in America, it can’t pass anywhere’, it would be incongruous. Words like ‘permissive’, ‘libertarian’, ‘easygoing’ and ‘broad-minded’ would also be confusing substitutes for ‘progressive’ in this context, and yet these are all adjectives that appear in the thesaurus under the word ‘liberal’. From this we might conclude either that soda taxes are not terribly liberal or that progressives are not terribly liberal. Or both.

At this point I’m chuckling because Snowden has made a very good point.  Reich is all but giddy about oppression and feels it is “progressive” to champion it.  Because, you know, the elite know best and hopefully have hammered those who should appreciate them and their ideas enough to vote “yes” and tax themselves.

Then there’s this:

In economics, unlike politics, the word ‘progressive’ has a fixed meaning. A progressive tax is one that takes a larger share of income from the rich than from the poor. The alternative is a regressive tax, one that takes a larger share of income from the poor than from the rich. Taxes on fizzy drinks are highly and indisputably regressive, not only because the rate of tax is the same for all income groups, but also because the poor tend to consume more of them in the first place. So while it is true that Berkeley is a bellwether city when it comes to eye-catching ‘public health’ initiatives, the adoption of punitive taxes on soft drinks would be a step towards it becoming America’s most regressive, not progressive, city in economic terms.

Oh my.  Snowden then asks the question of the day:

This is what confuses us, America. If a ‘liberal bastion’ – your ‘most progressive city’ – is one in which the government effectively fines people for drinking the wrong type of soft drink, what on earth are your illiberal bastions like?

Berkley (and New York and … ).

Glad you ask.

~McQ

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Sometimes … most of the time … you just have to raise the “BS” flag

The latest reason for hoisting said banner is this apparent decision by political operatives on the left to blame Republicans for the ebola epidemic.  Because of them, so the meme goes, we’ve had a lack of funding.  And that lack of funding is blamed for the failure to have a viable ebola vaccine.   Per the NIH chief, they’d have likely succeeded in creating an ebola vaccine if only they’d had the money:

Dr. Francis Collins, the head of the National Institutes of Health, said that a decade of stagnant spending has “slowed down” research on all items, including vaccinations for infectious diseases. As a result, he said, the international community has been left playing catch-up on a potentially avoidable humanitarian catastrophe.

“NIH has been working on Ebola vaccines since 2001. It’s not like we suddenly woke up and thought, ‘Oh my gosh, we should have something ready here,'” Collins told The Huffington Post on Friday. “Frankly, if we had not gone through our 10-year slide in research support, we probably would have had a vaccine in time for this that would’ve gone through clinical trials and would have been ready.”

As the following chart shows, the problem wasn’t money at all:

-kaiser-family-foundation

Since 2001, tons of money have gone toward global health programs.  Tons.  And the upward move was made during Republican control.  So to say his point is BS is to be kind.

In fact, it is likely to have been all about priorities instead, and ebola wasn’t a priority.  Secondly, as Glenn Reynolds points out, it had to do with mission creep.

As The Federalist‘s David Harsanyi writes: “The CDC, an agency whose primary mission was to prevent malaria and then other dangerous communicable diseases, is now spending a lot of time, energy and money worrying about how much salt you put on your steaks, how close you stand to second-hand smoke and how often you do calisthenics.”

These other tasks may or may not be important, but they’re certainly a distraction from what’s supposed to be the CDC’s “one job” — protecting America from a deadly epidemic. And to the extent that the CDC’s leadership has allowed itself to be distracted, it has paid less attention to the core mission.

So money which could have been and should have been dedicated to the core mission was instead spent on ideologically supported nonsense.  Any wonder why “money” wasn’t available?  Because it was wastefully spent elsewhere in the structure of the CDC and NIH.

Gov. Bobby Jindal gives us more facts on the problem:

In recent years, the CDC has received significant amounts of funding. Unfortunately, however, many of those funds have been diverted away from programs that can fight infectious diseases, and toward programs far afield from the CDC’s original purpose.

Consider the Prevention and Public Health Fund, a new series of annual mandatory appropriations created by Obamacare. Over the past five years, the CDC has received just under $3 billion in transfers from the fund. Yet only 6 percent—$180 million—of that $3 billion went toward building epidemiology and laboratory capacity. Especially given the agency’s postwar roots as the Communicable Disease Center, one would think that “detecting and responding to infectious diseases and other public health threats” warrants a larger funding commitment.

Instead, the Obama administration has focused the CDC on other priorities. While protecting Americans from infectious diseases received only $180 million from the Prevention Fund, the community transformation grant program received nearly three times as much money—$517.3 million over the same five-year period.

There are the numbers of funds available to the CDC for its core mission.  $3 billion dollars.  Spent on its core mission from that fund? $180 million.  So how again is that the GOP’s fault?

Instead the truth of the matter is we have a bureaucracy with a supposedly single mission (for heaven sake, its even in their name – “Centers for Disease Control”) which has instead done what bureaucracies always do … creep their authority out into areas where they don’t belong (with the approval of the administration, of course), doing things that mostly fulfill an ideological agenda instead of an agenda of real worth to the citizens it supposedly serves.  The money that should have gone toward heavy research into communicable disease threats such as ebola instead went to “fund neighborhood interventions like “increasing access to healthy foods by supporting local farmers and developing neighborhood grocery stores,” or “promoting improvements in sidewalks and street lighting to make it safe and easy for people to walk and ride bikes.”

So while we sit here and watch the left attempt this bit of BS (and watch a certain segment of the citizenry lap it up), let’s remember the reality of why there’s no ebola vaccine.  It has absolutely nothing to do with money and everything to do with political priorities.

In this case the priority chosen has put us in a position to be essentially defenseless in the face of a disease for which we should have developed a vaccine by now.  But I bet we have some great bike paths out there.

And that failure, friends, is clearly attributable to the administration in power which is responsible for that shift in priorities.

Utter failure.

~McQ

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Utter failure

Stephen Hayes starts his article about Barack Obama’s failure as a president by pointing out what his big goal was to be:

A year before his first inauguration, Barack Obama laid out the objective of his presidency: to renew faith and trust in -activist government and transform the country. In an hourlong interview with the editorial board of the Reno Gazette-Journal on January 16, 2008, Obama said that his campaign was already “shifting the political paradigm” and promised that his presidency would do the same. His model would be Ronald Reagan, who “put us on a fundamentally different path,” in a way that distinguished him from leaders who were content merely to occupy the office. “I think that Ronald Reagan changed the trajectory of America in a way that Richard Nixon did not. And in a way that Bill Clinton did not.”

If Reagan sought to minimize the role of government in the lives of Americans, Obama set out to do the opposite. “We’ve had a federal government that I think has gotten worn down and ineffective over the course of the Bush administration, partly because philosophically this administration did not believe in government as an agent of change,” he complained.

“I want to make government cool again,” he said.

Hayes then documents an incredible list of failures that have led most Americans (according to polls) to believe government is involved in too much.  Or said another way,  government still isn’t “cool”.  And big government is mostly a failure.

Take the ebola outbreak.  Anyone, how does one prevent an epidemic from spreading?  You isolate it.  That’s normally done through quarantine.  Part of the quarantine process is preventing those within a quarantine zone from traveling outside that zone.  Yet, for whatever reason, our government hasn’t done that.  Flights continue to come into this country from the countries in Africa which are suffering from the ebola epidemic.

Seems common sense, doesn’t it?  Even Democrats, not long on common sense most of the time, are wondering why this hasn’t been done.

The lawmakers accused Obama of attempting to “pass the buck” onto organizations like the World Health Organization (WHO), which have advised against travel bans. Obama has said he would not ban travel unless the WHO reversed its position.

“[The WHO] has no duty to protect the lives and well-being of Americans, as you do. Furthermore, it has utterly failed to stem the epidemic through its own action. The responsibility for this decision is yours, not theirs,” they wrote.

As usual, Mr. “not my fault” is trying to pass off his responsibility to some other entity so, when it all blows up in his face – and it will, he can point the blame finger elsewhere.  Meanwhile flights continue to arrive in the US from the infected countries.  Upset airport workers charged with cleaning planes after they have arrived have struck in NY, so concerned are they with this lack of common sense.

My guess, if I had to make one, is Obama is trapped by his own political correctness.  Already the race baiters have been trying to tie the outbreak with racism.  If Obama prohibits flights he risks being branded a racist.  That’s much worse, in Obamaland, that not protecting the citizens of the country with which you’re charged Constitutionally to protect.  Instead we get airy promises that everything is under control.  After the airy promise that ebola would never reach here (see Dallas).

Meanwhile on the southern border, we have no freakin’ idea of who is crossing into this country.  And, of course, we’re ill prepared on that border to screen anyone.  Apparently, according to news reports, most air travel from those countries comes through 5 of our major airports and they’re now ramping up screening procedures to detect those who might exhibit signs of ebola infection.  No mention of how they plan on keeping those who are infected from possibly infecting fellow travelers and keeping those fellow travelers spreading it even further.  That of course would be a problem solved if they banned flights.

Then there’s Gen. John Kelly, US Southern Command commander who shines another light on the possibility of spreading the disease here  … primarily across our southern border.

He said the danger is two-fold: Not only might illegal immigrants from Africa enter the U.S. unchecked, but if Ebola spreads to Central America it could spark a new wave of illegal immigration to the U.S. that would make this summer’s surge “look like a small problem.”

“If Ebola breaks out in Haiti or in Central America, I think it is literally ‘Katie bar the door’ in terms of the mass migration of Central Americans into the United States,” the general said.

You think?!  And where would they head?  Well I think we all know where.

This is pretty basic stuff for any government, one would think. This is kind of like picking up the trash, fixing potholes and keeping the roads clear of snow for most municipal governments.  That’s what they’re primarily elected to do.  Oh, and protect the citizenry.  Yet here we have the “government is cool” gang again failing in its most fundamental function.

However, given their track record as outlined by Hayes, few should be surprised.  I still laugh at the left’s characterization of Bush as “incompetent”.  To describe this administration we have to come up with a completely different term which is far worse than “incompetent”.

I think “utter failure” works nicely.

~McQ

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Economic Statistics for 9 Oct 14

Chain stores today are reporting moderate increases in rates of year-on-year sales growth in September.

A drop in wholesale sales of -0.7% swelled inventories by 0.7%, leading to a hefty stock-to-sales ratio of 1.19.

Initial weekly jobless claims fell 1,000 to 287,000. The 4-week average fell 7,000 to 287,750. Continuing claims  fell 21,000 to 2.381 million.

The Bloomberg Consumer Comfort Index rose 2 points to 36.8 in the latest week.

The Fed’s balance sheet rose $5.1 billion last week, with total assets of $4.455 trillion. Reserve bank credit rose $3.9 billion.

The Fed reports that M2 money supply fell by $-7.3 billion in the latest week.


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Of homeschooling and purple penguins

So I’m reading Kevin Williams National Review article about the state of Connecticut wanting to pass a law that requires homeschooling parents “to present their children to the local authorities periodically for inspection, to see to it that their psychological and social growth is proceeding in the desired direction.”  This is in the wake of the Sandy Hook killings and implies that the problem was centered in “homeschooling” and not the fact that the killer was a mental case.  Not only that he was a well-known mental case having been in public schools until, as a last resort, he was home schooled.  Williamson then goes on to put forward the real reason the Sandy Hook excuse is being used.  And it is something any life long observer of the “progressive left” figured out years and years ago:

The Left’s model of society is still the model of Marx and Bismarck: one big factory to be managed by experts. The government schools are an assembly line for human widgets, who are in theory there to be taught what the state requires them to know in order to fulfill their roles as workers, administrators, and other bits of human machinery. That is the assumption behind President Obama’s insistence that “if you quit on school, you’re not just quitting on yourself — you’re quitting on your country.” Students are also there to be instructed in the official, unspoken state ideology: submission to official power.

The Left’s organizing principle is control, and the possibility that children might commonly be raised outside of its control matrix is an existential threat from the progressive point of view. Institutions such as free markets and free speech terrify progressives, because they are the result of arrangements in which nobody is in control.

This is just another attempt at exerting control over a segment of society which eschews that control and the indoctrination it entails.  And the thin gruel provided by the Sandy Hook tragedy was all the excuse necessary to try to exert control over this segment.  It also sends a message – “we believe homeschooling may be the bastion of extremists”.

More than anything exerting such control serves both a constituency and an ideology which identified education decades ago as the road to political success.

If you have not followed the issue closely, it is probably impossible for you to understand how intensely the Left and the government-school monopoly hate, loathe, and distrust home-schooling and home-school families. Purportedly serious scholars such as Robin West of Georgetown denounce them as trailer trash living “on tarps in fields or parking lots” and write wistfully of the day when home-schooling was properly understood: “Parents who did so were criminals, and their kids were truants.” The implicit rationale for the heavy regulation of home-schooling — that your children are yours only at the sufferance of the state — is creepy enough; in fact, it is unambiguously totalitarian and reduces children to the status of chattel. That this is now being framed in mental-health terms, under the theory that Lanza might not have committed his crimes if he had had the benefit of the tender attentions of his local school authorities, is yet another reminder of the Left’s long and grotesque history of using corrupt psychiatry as a tool of politics.

But take a moment to fully appreciate the absurdity of the Malloy gang’s assumption. Our public schools are dysfunctional, depressing, frequently dangerous places. Their architecture is generally penal, incorporating precisely the same sort of perimeter control as one sees in a low-security prison, with dogs, metal detectors, and the whole apparatus of control at hand. They are frequently run bynakedly corrupt, self-serving men and women who are not above rigging test scores to pad out their bonuses and who will fight to the end to keep pedophiles on the payroll if doing so serves their political interests, as in the case of California. They cannot even keep their teachers from raping their students, but they feel competent issuing orders that every family present its children for regular inspection in the name of the children’s “social and emotional learning needs.”

Contrary to all of the sanctimony surrounding them, the government schools are in fact the single most destructive institution in American public life, and they are the bedrock of the Left’s power, providing billions of dollars in campaign contributions and millions of man-hours for Democratic campaigns. But they do more than that: They are the real-life version of those nightmarish incubator pods from The Matrix, and home-schooling is a red pill. We entrust our children to the state for twelve or thirteen years, during which time they are subjected to a daily regimen that is, like the school buildings themselves, more than a little reminiscent of the penitentiary: “bells and cells,” as one of my teachers used to call it. They are instructed in obedience and compliance, as though the most important skill in life were the ability to sit quietly and follow instructions; those children who are more energetic than the authorities care for are given psychiatric diagnoses and very often put on psychiatric drugs: Since the 1980s, the rate of antidepressant prescription for children has increased five-fold, while the rate of antipsychotic prescription has increased six-fold. Locking children up for the largest part of the day, in a dreary room with 20 to 30 other children all born within nine or ten months of each other, is a model that make sense — that is something other than insane — only if you think of children as batches — if you believe, as our president and those who share his views believe, that the children are the government schools’ product rather than their customers.

And that “product” is trained and expected to follow its indoctrination – you know, things like this:

A Nebraska school district has instructed its teachers to stop referring to students by “gendered expressions” such as “boys and girls,” and use “gender inclusive” ones such as “purple penguins” instead.

“Don’t use phrases such as ‘boys and girls,’ ‘you guys,’ ‘ladies and gentlemen,’ and similarly gendered expressions to get kids’ attention,” instructs a training document given to middle-school teachers at the Lincoln Public Schools.

“Create classroom names and then ask all of the ‘purple penguins’ to meet on the rug,” it advises. 

The document also warns against asking students to “line up as boys or girls,” and suggests asking them to line up by whether they prefer “skateboards or bikes/milk or juice/dogs or cats/summer or winter/talking or listening.”

“Always ask yourself . . . ‘Will this configuration create a gendered space?’” the document says.

The instructions were part of a list called “12 steps on the way to gender inclusiveness” developed by Gender Spectrum, an organization that “provides education, training and support to help create a gender sensitive and inclusive environment for children of all ages.”

Other items on the list include asking all students about their preferred pronouns and decorating the classroom with “all genders welcome” door hangers.

If teachers still find it “necessary” to mention that genders exist at all, the document states, they must list them as “boy, girl, both or neither.”

Furthermore, it instructs teachers to interfere and interrupt if they ever hear a student talking about gender in terms of “boys and girls” so the student can learn that this is wrong.

“Point out and inquire when you hear others referencing gender in a binary manner,” it states. “Ask things like . . . ‘What makes you say that? I think of it a little differently.’ Provide counter-narratives that challenge students to think more expansively about their notions of gender.”

The teachers were also given a handout created by the Center for Gender Sanity, which explains to them that “Gender identity . . . can’t be observed or measured, only reported by the individual,” and an infographic called “The Genderbred Person,” which was produced by www.ItsPronouncedMetroSexual.com.

But the real problem and danger is among the homeschooled.  Meanwhile, in the public schools, the enculturation continues unabated.  The product, if metaphorically beaten over the head with nonsense like “purple penguins” will learn to eventually pretend reality doesn’t exist and that “gender” is actually a figment of the oppressor’s imagination.  What they can’t risk is individualism – those who will pull the curtain back and reintroduce reality into the world.  Homeschoolers are one segment that threaten that exposure because they reject the indoctrination.  Time to get them under control.  Time to make it more and more difficult for homeschoolers to continue to do what they do.  Because as far as the left is concerned, the future belongs to “purple penguins” – as determined by their betters, of course.

~McQ

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More self-inflicted economic problems on the way

The Obama economy is a mess, with median incomes retreating, fudged employment numbers and generally the usual mess you can expect from a over-regulated and highly manipulated “market”.  In other words, it stinks because of government as much as anything else.  Our betters seem not to understand the very basics of human nature – humans respond to incentives.  So they continue to cobble together more and more feel good projects (i.e. they make the “elite” feel good) that backfire.  Why?  Because humans respond to disincentives as well – and their feel good projects are long on disincentives, something they can’t seem to wrap their heads around.

By design, the next example of that will take place after the November mid-term elections:

Starting this year, the United States’ working population will face three major employment disincentives resulting from the very benefits the Affordable Care Act (ACA) provides: (1) an explicit tax on full-time work, (2) an implicit tax on full-time work for those who are ineligible for the ACA’s health insurance subsidies, and (3) an implicit tax that links the amount of available subsidies to workers’ incomes.

A new study published by the Mercatus Center at George Mason University advances the understanding of how much these ACA taxes will reduce overall employment, and why. It concludes that the reduction will be nearly double that projected by previous analyses. Labor markets ultimately will reduce weekly employment per person by about 3 percent—translating to roughly 4 million fewer full-time-equivalent workers.

4 million more jobs in an economy already suffering one of the lowest labor participation rates in its history.  Why have “middle class” wages stagnated or dropped?  One major reason has to do with disincentives like this.  Its like the $15 minimum wage trope.  Force it on business and they have a “disincentive” to hire people for jobs that aren’t worth that and an incentive to automate or go short handed and double up the work on someone else.

That’s precisely the type of disincentive that ObamaCare is about to inflict on the economy.  We’ll then hear the usual nonsense about greedy and uncaring companies and how the “market” has failed us.  It is as predictable as the next blizzard being somehow blamed on global warming.

Meanwhile, these 4 million that may join the currently unemployed are real people who will suffer real problems because of the disincentive provided by a very poorly thought out law that won’t effect those who passed it.  All Democrats can hope is that enough people will drop off the unemployment roles by the time the next presidential election rolls around that the fudged unemployment stats look acceptable.

What a hell of a way to run a railroad.

~McQ

 

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