Minimum Wage Dishonesty

The left’s dishonesty on the minimum wage is reaching criminal proportions. This morning NPR did a report that said essentially: “In response to the CBO report showing that half a million jobs would be lost [jobs for the poor and unskilled], the Obama administration issued a report citing seven Nobel winners and almost six hundred economists saying that minimum wage hikes have almost no effect on employment.”

Well then! I’m sold! Six HUNDRED economists plus a whole SEVEN Nobel laureates?!?!? Egads, how could anyone so much as question the eminent wisdom of such renowned geniuses? Except, the Nobel awarded the Peace Prize to Obama in his first year in office. When it gave Hayek a Nobel in economics in ’74, it awarded one to a socialist economist the same year. I’m sorry, any organization that recognizes a socialist and free market economist in the same year or gives the Peace Prize to a president based on reputation and rhetoric is an organization not to be taken seriously. And what of the six hundred economists? Well, it could be six hundred Paul Krugmans and Jared Bernsteins which, along with 5 bucks can get you a cup of coffee. These are economists of the left, and they have a political agenda to sell, not an economic analysis to be taken with any kind of seriousness.

But this is just what the left does. “97% of scientists…” “600 economists…” Consensus! Um, consensus among a bunch of like-minded hacks with a political agenda, more like it. The simple fact is the minimum wage hurts the poor, which hurts minorities, and the left is terrified of being exposed on this, thus the asinine claims that a whole bunch of really very smart and wise and not in any way prone to politics people say the minimum wage is all good and magically doesn’t involve trade offs or increase the price of labor.

The only thing worse than the purveyors of this transparently self-serving political propaganda masquerading as “science” or “economics” is that so many people buy it. Remember when the CBO reports that Obamacare would lower deficits and costs were treated as gospel truth (and the only reason the CBO issued those reports was through using the inputs and data provided to them in the Democrats’ assumptions and models)? Well now that CBO looks at some hard data and pisses all over a left wing talking point, it must be refuted, and the way the left refutes things that contradict their propaganda is to trot out the Nobel winners and the “six hundred economists” trope.

It is willfully dishonest and malicious. Even more, it exposes the left’s indifference to the actual plight of poor and minorities, the constituencies most affected by the shrinking labor markets that are the result of minimum wage increases. The left’s hypocrisy on race is manifest in many things (resistance to choice in education being the biggest), but on the minimum wage it is so glaringly obvious and yet they are never called on it. Here we have the CBO, typically the sainted institution upon which all controversial policy is to be settled (so long as the data supports leftist propositions), stating unambiguously that jobs for the low skilled and poor are going to be adversely affected in exchange for some extra benefits going to the non-poor, and the left is in full spin mode and doing all they can to call bullshit on the same CBO they normally love. They have to do this in order to avoid looking like a bunch of hypocrites who are indifferent to the plight of the poor. Which is exactly what they are. The history of labor unions is of a movement meant to crowd out poor and minority workers so that middle class blue collar workers could avoid labor competition through the establishment of wage floors. And the left is still doing this with the minimum wage, a policy that negatively affects African-Americans.

And almost no one calls them on it.

Presidents Day

This is a silly holiday. It began as a perfectly reasonable homage to Washington, fell prey to the legend of Lincoln, and was ultimately co-opted by all presidents into the meaningless day of general observance that today’s cult of the presidency demands. How can we honor the lot of America’s 44 presidents as a lumpen whole when they are so dramatically different individually, ideologically, temperamentally, as well as in motive and achievement? I find it rather embarrassing that we honor on the same day the likes of James Madison and Teddy Roosevelt. Yet on this day when our media engage in frivolous navel-gazing and obsess over the stature and ranking of past chief executives, why bother beating one’s head against the wall and insisting it’s all a charade, when one can just join the party? Herewith are my top five best and worst presidents.

The Worst 

1. Woodrow Wilson
A virulent white supremacist progressive who entered office on a platform that basically said the entire premise of the nation’s founding was immoral and unjust. Gave us the income tax, the Federal Reserve and the precursor to the United Nations. He also revived the monarchical practice of delivering a State of the Union in speech form to all of Congress, ending a century long tradition of written SOTU, a practice begun by the fierce opponent of regal pomp, Thomas Jefferson. Wilson was also an ardent warmonger who knew that war was the easiest way to reassert state power over a free citizenry.

2. Lyndon Johnson
A virulent racist progressive who became an icon of the left only by accident. LBJ was so pained by the constant insults and dismissive characterizations about his hick Texan drawl and demeanor that after Kennedy’s assassination he made it his mission to prove to the progressives in his party that he was as unabashedly leftist as it gets. Thus: Medicare and Medicaid. His motivation for the Civil Rights Act was entirely cynical, as Johnson was on record saying he would “have those [racial epithet]’s voting Democratic for the next two hundred years.” He also gave us a little something called “Vietnam.”

3. Franklin Roosevelt
As awful a domestic policy president as there is, FDR avoids the top two only by virtue of his personal decency and impressive (emotional and physical) resolve during the war. But let us not allow history to continue its improper veneration of the man simply because he presided over defeat of the Axis powers. The New Deal remains the most constitutionally offensive political action ever undertaken by this republic of ostensibly enumerated powers. Upon entering office in 1933, Roosevelt immediately persuaded Congress to “delegate” him virtually all power, so that this would-be dictator could freely institute his statist designs and central plans without obstacle. In a time when liberal democracy was prominently viewed worldwide as the quaint relic of a “decadent” West, FDR was applauded from London to Paris to Berlin to Rome to Moscow as wisely adhering to the martial and nationalist collectivism that seemed the inevitable a priori successor to a failed individualist capitalism. New Deal programs could have credibly been viewed as a piece with National Socialist or Fascist reforms, and in fact most of them were. In addition to being a rank demagogue, FDR was also an anti-semite and a racist, and unafraid to throw his own citizens in internment camps due to their ethnic origins. Among the greater disgraces in American pop-history is that he is considered even a good president, let alone among the best.

4. Theodore Roosevelt
Also a white supremacist who passionately subscribed to the cause celebre of the Progressive Movement: eugenics. The “bold reformers” of this era conducted a different manner of racism than that of the visceral, emotional, traditional brand of southerners still grappling with Reconstruction. Progressives were “scientific racists” who used biology and evolution to conclude, as HL Mencken did, in the inferiority of “the stock of the American Negro.” Roosevelt also earns a place in the top five simply for facilitating the election of Woodrow Wilson, by running as a third party candidate for the Bull Moose Party in 1912.

5. Barack Obama
Still got a couple more years to inch his way up this list. The Affordable Care Act alone, not to mention the manner in which it was forced on a skeptical population, is enough to rocket one into the top five. But it’s the arrogance and the hubris combined with staggering incompetence and indifference – on everything from IRS targeting of political enemies to the blithe launching of military operations in Libya to the extrajudicial use of the NSA and drone killing to the criminal ignorance of economics and the petty placing of politics forever before policy – that provides Obama with such an excellent chance at ending his presidency even higher on the list of America’s Worst Presidents.

The Best 

1. George Washington
King George III of Great Britain said of the victorious general poised to become king that he was “placed in a light the most distinguished of any man living,” and was “the greatest character of the age.” And upon being told that Washington would relinquish power and return to his farm rather than become king, George III said, “if he does that, he will be the greatest man in the world.” Indeed.

2. Calvin Coolidge
Silent Cal is enjoying something of a renaissance in historical acclaim, though still nowhere near the absurdly reverential heights reserved for the likes of Washington or Lincoln. But Coolidge remains the only president of the 20th century to have left office with a smaller budget than he was met with upon entering. Coolidge vetoed anything with a whiff of progressivism that came to his desk and valued the notion that the private economy bolstered by individualist pursuits and low taxes were the recipe for economic vitality. As a result, his was the only decade to have such an apt modifier.

3. Thomas Jefferson / James Madison (tie)
I confess I place our third and fourth presidents here less for their exploits as actual presidents and more for their contributions to the construction of our republic that preceded their terms in office. In fact, their presidencies are clouded by a couple of unfortunate examples of enumerated government advocates embarking on decidedly unenumerated executive actions: the Louisiana Purchase and the establishment of the Second National Bank. Still, for being the authors of the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution respectively, and for enshrining forever the highest conception yet of a representative republic based on the primacy of the individual over the state, Jefferson and Madison have to be on the list.

4. Warren Harding
Everyone knows Harding for just two things, his running on a platform of a “return to normalcy” and the Teapot-Dome scandal. That we hear so much about the second is because he succeeded so thoroughly in pursuit of the first. Harding paved the way for Coolidge’s glorious reign by attempting to undo as much of Wilson’s apocalyptic damage to the Constitution and to decency (Harding released 22 political prisoners jailed by Wilson, including the famous socialist Eugene Debs) as possible and by favoring a much more limited government. After the chaos and disruption of the Progressive Era, a return to normalcy was badly needed, and Harding can only be deemed a historic success on that account. Most of all, like Coolidge, a president who combats activist, expansionary “progress” by insisting on limited government is a president that should be held in the highest of esteem.

5. Ronald Reagan
Despite the common misconception that Reagan made good on his promise that “government is not the solution, government is the problem,” the federal government still grew under Reagan, primarily due to his aggressive military build-up against the Soviets. Even on the domestic front, the best Reagan was able to accomplish was a “freeze” on the growth of federal outlays, still a monumental achievement in our modern era of incessantly ballooning budget “baselines” and quests for “revenue-neutral” blah blah blah. And his massive marginal tax rate cut, from 70% to 28% over the duration of his two terms, served to usher in an enormous economic boom that did not truly end until the financial crisis of 2008. Reagan’s economic policies were not perfect (if you’re going to deregulate the asset side for banks, you must deregulate the liability side as well), but they put to bed for a long while the ignorance of the Keynesians who believed that economic growth and prosperity comes from government expenditures and “investments.” Reagan’s genius was in conveying a sunny optimism about the potential of American enterprise, and by creating the conditions that allowed individuals to unleash their entrepreneurial spirit and unleash the type of American economic dynamism that had been thought dormant or dead by the leftwing intelligentsia of the 60’s and 70’s.

So why don’t we just declare Presidents Day a pointless holiday with about as much relevance as Camelot, and be done with it? After all, ’tis a silly place.

David and Goliath

I have not yet read Malcolm Gladwell’s new book, David and Goliath: Underdogs, Misfits, and the Art of Battling Giants, but I have read Ben Domenech’s outstanding piece in The Federalist on the application of the David and Goliath trope to our modern politics, as well as Daniel Hannan’s marvelous new tome on the uniquely British origins of constitutional liberty, and I believe they share a common and important insight about man’s capacity to resist arbitrary rule, in the same sense that underdogs like David are compelled to resistance against all kinds of Goliaths.

Domenech taps into one of Hannan’s central points about the American Revolution: that the revolutionaries did not see themselves as progressives or even radicals, but as conservatives bent on restoring their rights as free-born Englishmen. To the extent the patriots viewed themselves as revolutionaries at all, Hannan explains, it was in pursuit of a 360 degree turn of the wheel, back to their Anglo-Saxon roots when traditions of representative assembly carried over from their Germanic tribal days blended with budding conceptions of personal autonomy, as well as a preference for local adjudication based on precedent over abstract principle, known as the “common law.” After the Norman conquest however, much of this tradition was wiped out or sent underground as the continental invaders imposed feudalism and the Divine Right of Kings on the land; this would be the galvanizing force of English rebel libertarians for five hundred years until at last with the Glorious Revolution of 1688 they were able to “cast off the Norman yoke” and reassert the primacy of their natural rights.

Our own founders were interested in a similar restoration of their rights when they told King George III to shove it. But these were not men rebelling against a foreign power, rather they saw themselves as any colonial would have at the time, whether patriot or loyalist: as Englishmen. Our “revolutionaries who took up arms against the British weren’t just rejecting a form of political leadership, disemboweling the past in order to start a new regime (as the French did). They were seeking to claim back their old rights from nearly a century earlier.” And this is where Domenech draws a parallel between Gladwell’s advocacy for underdogs and our present conservative political stalemate between the Establishment and the Tea Party, “which is carrying on the traditions of the American Revolution, in ways they may not even recognize.”

It is not difficult to intuit why underdogs enjoy rich histories in both fact and apocrypha. Every child loves a story about a small band of heroic warriors who triumphed against long odds, and it usually doesn’t matter if the tale is true or enhanced through mythological retelling, like the difference between the 1980 US hockey defeat of the USSR and the legend of Sparta’s 300. What matters is the romantic allure of the underdog prevailing simply because his was the just cause, his heart the pure. But can the same exaltation of the underdog be applied to intra-partisan politcal arguments over tactics? The David and Goliath parable seems only relevant to tales of combat and competition, but do rhetorical skirmishes between the Tea Party and the Establishment deserve the same juxtaposition? Domenech thinks so:

For those intellectuals on the right equipped with some insight, they recognize that the thread of populism which runs through Bunker Hill and The Alamo is an ally, not a foe. But for those who are prisoners to their narrow frame of the world, misunderstanding this long-running American tradition has turned into dripping condescension of the populist right. They decry the Tea Party and its new institutions as a kabuki dance performed for filthy luchre from ill-mannered hicks and racists… not realizing that it is in the nature of populism, particularly conservative populism, to see the structures of power more clearly for what they are, as opposed to what they claim to be.

Just as the aristocracy of the day bought the Tories with the benefits of privilege, so today the existing Goliaths guard the status of the self-styled elite. Their approach to government not only protects elite status but also creates it, typically without merit – paired with the authoritarian technocrats’ belief that they know best, and have the right to make that best a reality. It’s why such elitism is the one thing they are conservative about – the modern aristocracy bequeaths titles of nobility for surviving the attacks of the hicks, protecting its own, and attempting to control the agenda in the same way they did in pre-revolutionary times. But the more Goliath ignores, insults, and fights David, the stronger he becomes.

The problem is that these Goliaths are slow and clumsy, and that, equipped with the technology-driven power of collaboration and the institutional wherewithal to match the established fundraisers, the Davids have more than enough smooth stones in hand to do what they came to do. The superior force on which the giants’ success depended grows ever less impressive with each passing election cycle. And the rebels are at the gate.”

“Elites” is a pejorative more generally used to describe paternalist liberals and their effete coastal constituencies, but here it accurately characterizes the temperament of entrenched Republicans in Washington as well. It’s become almost cliche for populist conservatives to accuse Establishment conservatives merely of “protecting the status quo,” but often cliches become cliches because they are true. There is a certain arrogance among many Republican elder statesmen in their frustration and occasional contempt for the new flock of conservative populists in the Capitol. And even if Establishment concerns about tactical politicking are sometimes warranted, they too often forget what the insurgents represent: the underdogs.

There is profound confusion on left and right about the Tea Party’s staying power as a national force in politics. The left derides it as an “astroturf” conspiracy cooked up in the devious halls of Koch Bros., Inc. The right haughtily insists that without Sharron Angle and Christine O’Donnell, all would be well in today’s GOP-controlled Senate and the federal government would not have been “disastrously” shut down, thereby halting for a whole two weeks a small amount of non-mandatory operations. But the truth is that the Tea Party is stronger and more viable than ever because it is a diffuse movement of principles and ideas rather than an organized entity with uniform leadership and planning. Quoting Van Jones at a Netroots meeting of progressive minds in 2011, Matt Kibbe addresses Jones’ exasperation at how the Tea Party “talk rugged individualist, but they act collectively” by explaining:

“He and his colleagues don’t seem to understand that communities can’t exist without respect for individual freedom. They can’t imagine how it is that millions of people located in disparate places with unique knowledge of their communities and circumstances can voluntarily cooperate and coordinate, creating something far greater and more valuable than any one individual could have done alone.”

It is understandable why a former communist Occupy Wall Street cheerleader would express confusion and deem “ironic” that a group of passionate individualists should be able to achieve political ends collectively. He simply doesn’t appreciate the power or the validity of the principles that guide them. But for the staid Goliaths of the GOP to similarly disregard and disrespect the diffuse coalition of focused and committed Davids in their own ranks explains why there is a “civil war” in the Republican Party today. It is never wise to discount the underdogs, especially those named after this celebrated example from our own history. What is the story of the American Revolution if not one of underdog triumph?

On Mark Steyn and Free Speech

Michael Mann is a special kind of douchebag. No, not the awesome director of movies like Heat and Last of the Mohicans, but the climate scientist famous for his controversial and thoroughly discredited “hockey stick” graph, which purports to show a calamitous rise in global warming since 1900. Mann is the type of progressive who views the cause of “anthropogenic global warming” (AGW) through the kind of militant, silence-all-opposition lens of intolerance that is familiar to most on the eco-fascist left. He is simply not a proponent of free speech. After James Delingpole exposed the fraud of “climategate” in 2009 and the IPCC officially scrapped his hockey stick from their climate assessments in 2013, further scientific “consensus” stubbornly persisted in eluding Mann and his work. The man’s professional reputation had been greatly diminished, but it would be an affront to his tender sensibilities that re-animated Mann in the form of a defamation lawsuit.

Mark Steyn castigated the climate change fear-mongerer by suggesting he was not unlike Jerry Sandusky in his zeal to “torture and manipulate data.” While this may be untoward and unsophisticated, in no universe should it qualify as defamation. But in our world of perpetual grievance where any offensive speech is seen as grounds for retribution, and where any blithe reference to word “fraud” is taken as a coordinated attempt to remove one from his profression, it is no surprise that Mann is suing Steyn, National Review and the Competitive Enterprise Institute on defamation grounds, on the presumed basis that Mann’s reputation as an esteemed man of science is so fragile and threatened by words that his career is must be at stake, or something.

This is all a bunch of nonsense of course, however, so far the courts have seen fit to deny multiple motions to dismiss, and so the suit proceeds apace. As Steyn has often mentioned, the point of these lawsuits is never about the result but about the heavy burden placed on defendants and their financial resources. Mann and his cohort are rabidly intolerant of any dissent and their aim here is twofold: first, potentially put the leading conservative opinion journal in the country out of business and second, broadcast an unmistakable warning to anyone who would consider challenging climate change orthodoxy going forward. If you think I am kidding or engaging in hyperbole, I invite you to scan the comments of this ThinkProgress article and answer me why it is leftists are so enthusiastic about silencing, censoring, or otherwise intimidating speech they think is offensive, dangerous, or just plain wrong? And they do not seek to use persuasion or societal shaming, but only force (i.e. government) to shut up the dissenters. And they have the audacity to call us fascists?

I have no doubt that Mark Steyn and his co-defendant organizations will ultimately prevail in court, but the fact that they must bear the financial cost to do so because of nothing more than a journalist’s criticism of a professional’s (discredited) work is outrageous. Free speech should be absolute, and thankfully we have such fearless and committed free speech absolutists as Mark Steyn.

The CBO Report on Obamacare

The Congressional Budget Office issued a report today concluding that 2.5 million jobs will be lost by 2024 due to Obamacare. Predictably, the left is freaking out and doing all they can to spin the story. Over at Slate, I was struck by the headline though: “CBO Report Reignites Obamacare Fight.”

To which I offered this reply:

“Reignites”? Lol. Did you guys really think Obamacare was behind you? Just because your political heroes have pivoted to talking about inequality and the minimum wage doesn’t mean you’re done with Obamacare. This is going to haunt progressives for a loooong time.

And I just love how the lefty blogosphere is dutifully answering the call from the WH to spin this report. I’m sorry, you’re fooling no one. Reduced hours and fewer jobs are concrete and easy for any rube to comprehend. And I see some progs are claiming that it’s just awesome that people will respond to Obamacare’s incentives by voluntarily working less, not because businesses are being forced to cut their hours. What is the difference when the end result is the same and the altered incentives are the result of only one thing (the ACA)?

I do admire the efficiency with which the progressive propaganda machine fires up on call. Slate, National Journal, WaPo and Slate again… those are just the first four I went to and all had feature stories downplaying the report and saying that it really means people will be living more comfortable lives thanks to their reduced work and cushy Obamacare subsidies.

Collective delusion and denial is a fascinating thing to behold. It was riveting watching the neocons and establishment hawks in the GOP go through it from 2005-08, just promising themselves that foreign adventurism wasn’t going to crush them at the ballot box. The exact same phenomenon is playing out on the left today re: Obamacare.  Prepare yourselves now so it’s not such a shock when it comes: this november is going to make the ’10 midterms look like a great result for Democrats.”

I hope not to make a habit of quoting myself in my own blog from things I write in message boards around the political net, but this was just too good

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School Choice

One of the main reasons I am compelled to shake my rhetorical fist at progressives is their staunch opposition to freedom of choice in everything but “reproductive rights.” The chief plank of the Obama Democrats’ platform is that you are required to buy health insurance with severely limited choices, all of which must include a list of mandatory benefits. Progressives will always err on the side of one-size-fits-all federal legislation over deferring to federalism and allowing the fifty states to operate as laboratories of democracy. And finally, education is seen as government’s main imperative, a public good that can only be delivered via an incompetent national bureaucratic monopoly. Any efforts to introduce choice into the equation are militantly, selfishly and immorally opposed by the one interest that benefits from the system: the teachers’ unions.

Unions shamefully defend the education status quo because because it is a staus quo that redounds to the teachers’ benefit rather than students’. Since education is funded by taxes, teachers’ unions live at the public trough and game the system through the execrable practice of collective bargaining. They obtain lavish pensions and benefits for their members by using compulsory dues to bribe corrupt politicians in local government into enhancing their loot in exchange for political allegiance. All the while, students are a secondary or tertiary priority, if one at all. When students fall behind in public schools the last culprit in the eyes of the unions is the teachers themselves. And while the purported causes of poor student performance vary from parenting to poverty to overcrowded classrooms, the solution is always the same: more money.

Enter charter schools and the burgeoning revolution of school choice. Charter schools are publicly funded but administered outside the bonds of union control, giving schools much more latitude on personnel and curriculum decisions, as well as more autonomy over their broader mission. The left hates charter schools, ostensibly for social equity reasons, but in reality that pose is laughable. The actual reason they resist the proliferation of school choice is raw political power. Teachers’ unions are a major player in Democratic politics and they rely on expansive membership in order to extract ever more dues that then go to fill Democratic coffers. Every bit of bluster against school choice is nothing more than rank partisanship. The tragedy is not however in progressive sleight of hand regarding their motives. The tragedy is that the very constituents the left never tires of claiming it represents are the ones most hurt by efforts to constrain the growth of charter schools. From Louisiana to Brooklyn and the Bronx, minority students and their parents cherish the opportunity for a better education, and there is only one party standing in their way.