Monthly Archives: August 2013

If I Had A Dream


If I had a dream, it would be that all people, regardless of color or nationality, would have the same shot at success that I have.  And in the glow of the 50th Anniversary of Martin’s speech, I am depressed that we aren’t there yet.

And infuriated that the policies of the Left, who claim to have the best interests of black America as their goal, has made it so much harder than it has to be:

The history of black workers in the United States illustrates the point.  As already noted, from the late nineteenth-century on through the the middle of the twentieth-century, the labor force participation rate of American blacks was slightly higher than that of American whites.  On other words, blacks were just as employable at the wages they received as whites were at their very different wages.  The minimum wage law changed that.  Before federal minimum wage laws were instituted in the 1930’s, the black unemployment rate was slightly lower than the white unemployment rate in 1930.  But then followed the Davis-Bacon Act of 1931the National Industrial Recovery Act of 1933 and the Fair Labor Standards Act of 1938 – all of which imposed government-mandated minimum wages, either on a particular sector or more broadly.

The National Labor Relations Act of 1935, which promoted unionization, also tended to to price b lack workers out of jobs, in addition to union rules that kept blacks from jobs by barring them from union membership.  The National Industrial Recovery Act raised wages in the Southern textile industry by 70% iin just five months and its impact nationwide was estimated to have cost blacks half a million jobs.  While this Act was later declared unconstitutional by the Supreme Court, the Fair Labor Standards Act of 1938 was upheld by the High Court and became the major force in establishing a national minimum wage.  As already noted, the inflation of the 1940’s largely nullified the effect of the Fair Labor Standards Act, until it was amended in 1950 to raise minimum wages to a level that would have some actual effect on current wages.  By 1954, black unemployment rates were double those of whites and have continued to be at that level or higher.  Those particularly hard hit by the resulting unemployment have been black teenage males.

Even through 1949 – the year before a series of minimum wage escalations began – was a recession year, black teenage male unemployment that year was lower than it was to be during the later boom years of the 1960’s.  The wide gap of unemployment rate of black and white teenagers dates from the escalation of the minimum wage and the spread of its coverage in the 1950’s.  The usual explanations of high unemployment of black teenagers -inexperience, less education, lack of skills, racism – cannot explain their rising unemployment, since all these things were worse during the earlier period when black teenage unemployment was much lower.  Taking the more normal year of 1948 as a basis for comparison, black male teenage unemployment then was less than half of what it would be during the decade of the 1960’s and less than one-third of what it would be in the 1970’s.

Unemployment among 16 and 17-year-old black males was no higher than among white males of the same age in 1948.  It was only after a series of minimum wage escalations began that black male teenage unemployment not only skyrocketed but became more than double the unemployment rates among white male teenagers.  In the early twenty-first century, the unemployment rate for black teenagers exceeded 30 percent.  After the American economy turned around in the wake of the housing and financial crisis, unemployment among black teenagers reached 40 percent.

The juxtaposition of the stories this week, Martin’s speech and the fast food worker’s strike, is a simple lesson of a sublime dream turned into nightmare by the policies of a party gone horrible wrong.

Alternative Energy

Global Warming Polar Bear

I’ve always felt two things:

  1. We’ll move on past oil and into another form of energy
  2. None of the alternative forms of energy pushed by the mainstream are viable

This is cool:

Lawrence Livermore’s National Ignition Facility announced Tuesday a successful test of its ultrapowerful laser system, which melds 192 laser beams into a single incredible burst of energy. On Aug. 13, the facility was activated for 14 billionths of a second and aimed at a tiny capsule of fuel. The result: approximately 350 trillion watts of power — hundreds of times more than the entire United States consumes at any given instant.

Last year’s test yielded unexpected results, however. In this test, NIF dialed down the laser beam’s power and tweaked it, for tremendous results.

We lowered the energy a tiny bit — about 5 percent — but more important, we changed the shape of the energy pulse. We moved energy from the back of the pulse to the front. We got three times the energy out,” Moses told

“Our goal is to get fusion burn — more energy out than we put in.”

Because the laser is on for the merest fraction of a second, it costs little to operate — between $5 and $20 per blast. Still, the cost of the facility has raised temperatures in Washington. The gigantic laser lab was built in California for $3.5 billion in 2008, and ran up approximately $1.5 billion more in operating costs over the past five years.

Uuuhh, WAY cooler than windmills..  And those that tilt at them.

Finland – Running Out Of Other People’s Money


Finland has run out of other people’s money.

Long held by the European-Socialists as a darling of how things work, Finland is finally succumbing to reality:

(Reuters) – Finland’s government announced a long-term plan to start scaling back its welfare system, one of the most generous in the world, aiming to preserve its triple-A credit rating in the face of a slower economy and aging population.

The inevitability of the reforms is such that surprise can only be allowed for those who are surprised.  With taxes rates that are nearly the highest in the world and benefits that are seen as some of the most generous, it’s no wonder that people feel little reason to work:

Finnish taxes are already among the highest in the world at 44.1 percent of GDP, meaning changes need to come from cutting benefits or encouraging people to work longer.

OECD data shows Finland’s average job participation rate, or the proportion of active workers to the total labor force, was 75 percent last year, lower than a range of 78 to 80 percent among Sweden, Denmark and Norway.

The government’s plan also includes cutting financial benefits for students to encourage them to look for work earlier.

It is also proposing changing childcare leave policies to encourage mothers to return to work sooner.

Under the existing system, parents of children under 3 can take paid leave beyond the initial, parental leave period of 9 months. The planned change would force parents to split the second leave period, drawing mothers back to work sooner but also encouraging more fathers to take leave.

It’ll be fun to watch Finland specifically and the Nordic states in general as they begin to fail under the weight of their systems.


Unintended Consequences


I’m sure this is exactly what Obama had in mind when he urged Americans to support him in passing Obamacare:

United Parcel Service Inc. plans to remove thousands of spouses from its medical plan because they are eligible for coverage elsewhere. The Atlanta-based logistics company points to the Affordable Care Act, or Obamacare, as a big reason for the decision, reports Kaiser Health News.

The decision comes as many analysts are downplaying the Affordable Care Act’s effect on companies such as UPS, noting that the move reflects a long-term trend of shrinking corporate medical benefits, Kaiser Health News reports. But UPS repeatedly cites Obamacare to explain the decision, adding fuel to the debate over whether it erodes traditional employer coverage, Kaiser says.

Rising medical costs, “combined with the costs associated with the Affordable Care Act, have made it increasingly difficult to continue providing the same level of health care benefits to our employees at an affordable cost,” UPS said in a memo to employees.

This is exactly what Pelosi meant when she mentioned that we should pass this bill so that we can see what’s in it.

Obamacare And Setbacks


In shocking news this morning we learn that the Obama administration is going to miss another deadline:

(Reuters) – The Obama administration has delayed a step crucial to the launch of the new healthcare law, the signing of final agreements with insurance plans to be sold on federal health insurance exchanges starting October 1.

Needless to say this does NOT come as a surprise but rather as an expectation from this administration.  What does it mean?

Coming at a time when state and federal officials are still working to overcome challenges to the information technology systems necessary to make the exchanges work, some experts say that even a small delay could jeopardize the start of the six-month open enrollment period.

U.S. officials have said repeatedly that the marketplaces, which are the centerpiece of President Barack Obama’s signature healthcare reform law, would begin on time.

But the October 1 deadline has already begun to falter at the state level, with Oregon announcing plans to scale back the launch of its own marketplace and California saying it would consider a similar move.

I’m betting January 1 is already dead in the water.  But don’t worry:

But having everything ready on October 1 is not a critical issue.

Well, what IS the critical issue:

What matters to people is January 1, which is when the coverage is supposed to start. If that were delayed, it would be a substantive setback.

Strap in for a substantive setback.

Musings On Syria

Syrian Flag


What are we supposed to do?

First, I’m relatively more hawkish than the Left or my Libertarian brothers.  When the time comes for the use of force, I’m very alright with using that force and then walking away – the walking away part is the hard part.  But here in Syria, we have such a different set of circumstances.

First, there are no “good guys” in the fight.  To be sure, there are innocent civilians being impacted in horrible horrible ways, but the aggressive actors are all rotten – we have no natural ally in the field.  Given this, by attacking Syria, we are, by definition, helping Al Qaeda.

Frankly, when asked who we would root for in a war between Syria and Al Qaeda, the only sane answer is “Casualties”.

Second, if a state uses chemical weapons, the line has been crossed and distinct action must take place.  The world is no place for nation states, complete with well functioning chains of command, to be using chemical weapons.  Against an enemy or against its own citizenry.

Good guy or bad guy – that cannot go unpunished.

Which brings me to my third point.  There is no rational reason for the Assad regime to carry out a chemical attack against his own people.  Those that hate him, already do.  And those that support him, again, already do.  There is nothing to gain by the mass murder of that many innocent people.

Assad surly must know that America would strike.  That we would take action and react to that red line.  And that if he was faced with using chemical weapons, it must be in a case that NOT using them was worse than the repercussions OF using them.

And I don’t see a compelling argument that Assad took any advantage by the use of that chemical strike.

I’m sure that a crime against humanity has been committed.  And I’m sure that someone must be held accountable for this crime.  I just don’t think that America should act as the world’s police force and rush to judgement -and sentencing- of this particular crime.

Let the UN handle it.

And you know what?  It would seem that elements of the Left agree with me!

This time, maybe the Obama administration isn’t about to launch cruise missiles against Syria. Maybe there’s still time to prevent it. Right now, those risking their lives on the ground to help the Syrian people are the UN inspectors. If the United States is really concerned about their safety, and recognizes the legitimacy of UN inspectors, the Obama administration should immediately engage with the UN leadership and with the Syrian, Russian and other relevant governments to insure their safety while they continue their crucial efforts. Cruise missiles will make that work impossible. What’s needed now is tough diplomacy, not politically motivated military strikes that will make a horrific war even worse.

I’m not one to source The Nation, but go read Bennis’ article – worth the time.

Governor Pat McCrory – Compensation

Pat McCrory

The new governor of North Carolina is getting the “how to” from the Left here in Carolina.  Much of the complaining is petty and Occupy’ish.  The normal gnashing of teeth, the “hating” and the “racisting” and the “poor” stuff that always accompanies the Left.

However, there are places where the good gov’na has missteped.  And the right is calling him out too:

Gov. Pat has bent over backwards to defend the DHHS pair by (1) insinuating AGE discrimination by the media and (2) suggesting that the raises and hiring decisions were handled in a very private sector -like manner.  Nonsense.  In this economy, NO ONE in the private sector is handing out raises of that size.  NO PRIVATE SECTOR  EMPLOYER  is handing out that kind of responsibility, those kinds of raises,  or that level of pay to anyone two years out of undergrad.

While this story is embarrassing to Gov. Pat, I don’t think it’s fatal.  The story line gets problematic when you tie it to the spin about “draconian education cuts” and teacher pay.  If you’re not a teacher, you are likely to be related to, or know someone who is — or has been — a public school teacher.  You hear about the bureaucratic garbage teachers have to deal with, and see how many have to work multiple jobs to make ends meet.  Take that information — pile it in with the stories about these two wet-behind-the-ears kids who don’t even have master’s degrees getting RAISES bigger than many teachers make in a year — and your blood pressure can start to rise.

This whole matter illustrates to me just how politically tone-deaf McCrory and his team are.  Education & The Economy are the two top things on the minds of the people out there.

I think the criticism is valid.  Kids straight oughta college really don’t expect to make the kinda cash these guys are; $87,500 and $85,000 respectively.  And to hand out raises to 24 year old kids with little experience during times like this – well, it’s tone deaf in the same way that Obama playing gold so often is tone deaf.

Moral Monday – Perfect Summary

Quick and Easy summary of the Moral Monday protests here in North Carolina:

As far as I can tell, “Moral Monday” is Rocky Horror Picture Show for Progressives.  They dress up, they recite lines, they shriek at all their favorite parts of the show.


New York Food Stamp Fraud

Food Stamp

Two lessons in one story:


Last week, The Post revealed how New Yorkers on welfare are buying food with their benefit cards and shipping it in blue barrels to poor relatives in the Caribbean.

But not everyone is giving the taxpayer-funded fare to starving children abroad. The Post last week found two people hawking barrels of American products for a profit on the streets of Santiago.

“It’s a really easy way to make money, and it doesn’t cost me anything,” a seller named Maria-Teresa said Friday.

Maria-Teresa said she uses some of the products but vends the rest out of her Santiago home, providing markdowns of $1 to $2 compared to what her buyers would pay in local shops.

“I don’t know how much of a business it is, but I know a lot of people are doing it,” she said.

The black-market maven even takes her customers’ requests for hot-ticket items. Her best-sellers include a 19-ounce box of Frosted Flakes, which goes for $6.50 at Dominican supermarkets. She sells it for $2 less — after her sister buys it on sale for $2.99.

But because the sister uses her Electronic Benefit Transfer card, she actually pays nothing — taxpayers foot the $2.99.

Maria-Teresa also offers a 24-ounce Kellogg’s Corn Flakes box for $2, compared to the $4 Dominican counterpart. The Kellogg’s variety costs $2.99 on sale at Western Beef.

A 23-ounce container of powdered Enfamil baby formula goes for $25 in the United States and $19 in Santiago but Maria-Teresa sells it for $15. “People want the best quality for the price, so they buy the formula made in the US,” she said.

The average monthly wage in Dominican Republic is about 7,000 pesos, or just $167, and that’s why the black market has become so profitable, Maria-Teresa said.

So, lesson #1:

The inefficiencies of the government programs are everywhere.

And the 2nd lesson:

Markets in everything.

But, why even bother buying, packing, shipping and then selling fraudulent goods?

And the food-stamp fraud doesn’t stop there. She said her sister has Bronx grocers ring up bogus $250 transactions with her EBT card.

In exchange, the stores hand her $200 cash and pocket the rest. No goods are exchanged. Instead, Maria-Teresa’s sister sends the money to Santiago — when she’s not spending it on liquor or other nonfood items.

“We do it all the time, and a lot of people do this,” Maria-Teresa said. “It’s a way of laundering money, but it’s easier because it’s free.”

It’s easier, she says, because it’s free.


Health Care Markets


Health Care.

It’s all the rage these days.  How are we going to implement it?  Will the republicans defund it?  Can Obama legally just change the law as he sees fit?

Fascinating stuff.

But underneath it all is the assumptions that go into it.  For example, take Ezra Klein over at Bloomberg:

Health care and education pose the same basic threat to the economy: How do you keep costs down for a product that consumers must purchase?

Saying “no,” after all, is how consumers typically restrain costs. If Best Buy Co. wants to charge you too much for a television, you can walk out. You might want a television, but you don’t actually need one. That gives you the upper hand. When push comes to shove, producers need to meet the demands of consumers.

But you can’t walk out on medical care for your spouse or education for your child. In the case of medical care, your spouse might die. In the case of college, you’re just throwing away your kid’s future (or so goes the conventional wisdom). Consequently, medical care and higher education are the two purchases that families will mortgage everything to make. They need to find a way to say “yes.” In these markets, when push comes to shove, consumers meet the demands of producers.

So, first off, education is nothing like health care.  You  may or may not purchase it.  Sure, purchasing some of it is a great idea, more of it may be a good idea and too much can be a bad thing – look at all the freakin’ Fine Arts and English Literature students out there.  Sheesh.

Second, Ezra misses a critical parallel – food.  After all, even more basic a need than health care is food.  And we aren’t facing a food cost crisis.  Nor is there a food shortage.  In fact, hunger is defeated here in America and on the ropes globally.

So what gives on medical care?

One answer, beloved on the right, is that government is the problem and less government is the solution. Both medical costs and education costs are highly subsidized. Those subsidies, some contend, are the cause of rising prices. If people were paying full freight, they’d be acting more like typical consumers and demanding a better deal.

That gets causality backward. The subsidies exist because consumers — also known as “voters” — are desperate to get medical care when they need it and secure quality educations for their kids. As prices rise, they appeal to the government for help. They find a way to say “yes.”

Indeed.  Let people pay full freight.  And this should be accomplished in two ways:

  1. Let people purchase insurance on their own outside of the confines of their job.
  2. Create an environment where people shop for their own medical care.

In the first, it’s a perverse system that takes away an individual’s insurance when they loose their job.  In the second, shopping for services reduces costs and can even reduce services that are duplicates or are not needed.

But what of subjecting medical care to the market, how are we to explain emergency care?  Easy, there isn’t much of it:

Health care is a big business in the United States, representing more than 16 percent of U.S. Gross Domestic Product. Yet there are misconceptions about the costs and efficiencies of emergency rooms and “unnecessary” care. According to U.S. government statistics, emergency care represents less than 2 percent (1.9 percent)1 of the $2.4 trillion spent on health care.

Two percent on emergency care.  The rest, fully 98% of the health care spend…that money is spent on procedures and items that, while certainly not discretionary, are able to be planned and most importantly, shopped.

No one feels that food is discretionary – that we can choose to go without food for long.  But when opened up to a freer market, food has become ubiquitous.

Two simple changes to the way we deliver health care would dramatically reduce prices – okay 3, I just thought of another:

  1. Separate health insurance from employment – end the tax break for insurance as compensation.
  2. Buy plans that carry large deductibles and pair them with HSA’s.
  3. End the concept that routine maintenance be covered by insurance – this is not insurance, it is a prepaid medical plan.

Problem solved.