stat counnnter

Tuesday, December 01, 2015

Cost vs Value: Freedom vs Control

The Sunday 11/15 editorial page has an editorial by Stephen Henderson, editorial page editor, titled "The price we all pay: who gets hurt when lawmakers put cost before value." So this is an attack on lawmakers who refuse to govern the way Mr. Henderson thinks they should.
 "In a conversation with Michigan House Speaker Kevin Cotter a few weeks ago, I challenged him to defend the fact that the state's Department of Health and Human Services is so under-funded that it employs just 67 inspectors to oversee compliance in 10,000 child care centers."
 First, the concept of cost is a normative concept. It refers to a quantitative relationship regarding something being measured. In this case, cost measures how much dollar value we place on something. What's being ignored here is an answer to the question, of value to whom and for what purpose? Mr Henderson is saying that it's wrong for lawmakers to place a higher value on dollar cost. To him the higher value is the product the cost could buy (more government inspectors).

Since most parents pay their own money to send their kids to care centers, the 'cost' Mr Henderson refers to is the cost the citizens would, and according to him should, be forced by lawmakers to pay for more (government) inspectors. It is also a declaration that since he values more government inspectors, lawmakers should too.

  Mr. Henderson is decrying the fact that most citizen's congressmen, are hesitant to force more money out of the taxpayer's wallets. To him, politicians just can't see the greater value in the things more taxpayer money could provide if only congress was willing to take, and citizens willing to give up, that money.

Second, I would say that 67 (government) inspectors is definitely not a good number, it should be zero. What about the thousands of parents and other family members who have children in those care centers? They can see first hand what kind of care their children are getting. In reality, they are and should be the best qualified inspectors. Government inspectors are just not needed. Government should only step in when there is evidence of rights violations. Government inspections are based on the principle that care centers are to be presumed guilty or possibly guilty and must prove their innocence by submitting to inspections, an un-American idea. In a free market, insurance companies would do this voluntarily. No need for government to usurp this activity.

He goes on to claim that citizen's desire to hang on to their money, and politicians who want the citizen's votes to get reelected, is a "deification of cost over any other measure." These 'other measures' of course are the values he wants government to control. But the fact is that it is Mr Henderson who wants to deify government control over society as the cure for all problems even though the problems he cites are poor results of government run programs. In his mind this deification has led to a certain wrong headed attitude in the minds of citizens' and their representatives.
 "So whether government works or not has become secondary, if not further down the ladder. And whether our fellow citizens can count on services government is suppose to provide--well, in too many instances, that's just not much of a concern at all."
Here he is accusing citizens and lawmakers of a nonchalant, I don't care attitude about government performance. I for one don't blame citizens for such an attitude. Government has earned it.

Notice here too that government is 'suppose to provide" services. These are of course mostly economic services like health care, roads, schools, etc. which are lumped together with legitimate i.e. political functions of government like police and courts. Nowhere in the oped does he question the propriety of government providing economic services like health care and schools and so on. But it does need to be questioned.

There is no reason a free (unregulated) market can't provide these services more efficiently and at lower costs than government. But the idea of a free people deciding for themselves what is in their interest is anathema to today's progressive intellectuals. They see government as a provider of what they call core services. But history shows that when governments usurp some market services as 'core' it's only a matter of time before it extends that control over all or most of them.

But there is more to this story. The editorial gives the impression of presenting a simple, practical argument for government control. But looks can be deceiving. It's important for readers and especially Republicans to understand that progressives almost always try to take the moral high ground. They often use adjectives like caring and concern and regard for when pushing their arguments and use the opposites like uncaring or cruel or cold hearted when describing opposing views.
Mr Henderson's version:
"But what he (Cotter) didn't mention at all, and maybe wasn't even thinking about, was value--a concept that asks us to look beyond the bills and change to other virtues, like return on investment or, more important, fulfillment of constitutional, statutory or moral obligation."
'Bills and change' are not very specific. I take it to mean dollar bills and coinage. So lawmakers are to look beyond (ignore) such things as costs to taxpayers and focus on 'constitutional and statutory and moral obligations.' Well, if our State Constitution and other laws require government to own or regulate (dictate) child care centers, schools, roads, etc. instead of the people involved then I say repeal those laws constitutional and otherwise.

But what about the moral obligation? The only moral obligation government has is "to secure these rights" and nothing more. By claiming that lawmakers have a moral obligation to regulate and run certain economic activities is to declare that if lawmakers don't compel taxpayers to pony up the money then both are being immoral. This is of course insane. How to finance child care and other services is a practical matter of economics. Not a moral one as long as no one's rights are being violated.

If Republicans weren't so brain dead they would respond to this claim to morality by pointing out that there is nothing moral about usurping the responsibilities of citizens to monitor their own activities, about how such usurpation leads to an irresponsible citizenry and an irresponsible government. Irresponsible government because it has no skin in the game, cannot lose any money by inferior inspections whereas care centers do when inspected by paying customers.

Since all the economic activities government controls and regulates; roads, schools, health care and so on are in sad shape, a genuine moral concern for them should behoove lawmakers to remove them from the auspices of government completely, especially child care inspectors. And it would move media pundits to advocate for same.

There are lots of pundits out there who firmly believe that caring for others is the ultimate moral virtue and that caring for oneself is immoral or at best amoral. Believing in this they will be compelled to view citizens taking care of themselves as selfish at best and representing an inadequately moral society. They will imagine that a government that cares for others is a moral government and yearn for a society comprised of a benevolent dictatorship, something as one sage put it 'never was and never will be."

And such a loving, caring government cannot be because it is contrary to human nature. Study the history of governments and you will see that every government's main concern will be its own welfare, its own survival and growth. All in the name of caring for you. And in the name of a moral concern for you it will demand more of the fruits of your labor (your cash), more obedience (they will call it compliance to regulations) and of course your vote.

The theme of Mr Henderson's editorial is that the value of government control is a morally superior value than the physical cost to taxpayers. Or to put it another way, when it comes to your welfare, government knows best.

Wednesday, November 11, 2015

Climate Change Self Defense

 We have been told for decades now that climate change will bring catastrophe to the planet unless we change our evil ways. Our evil ways of course consist of us Americans providing ourselves with a comfortable living thanks to an abundance of cheap, affordable energy through the use of fossil fuels.

Now it is not my intention to refute the idea of Catastrophic Anthropogenic (man made) Climate Change (CACC). For that I refer the reader to web sites like "Watts Up With That" and "C02 Science" and "Climate Audit" or "SEPP" and "Climate Depot" just to name a few. There the reader will discover the evidence against CACC is overwhelming.

My purpose is to alert the reader to the techniques used by some intellectuals who are pushing an idea, like climate change, to promote an agenda, like more government control over citizens.

 The Detroit Free Press print edition of Sunday Nov 1st carried an oped by staff writer Nancy Kaffer titled "Who will lead on climate change?" A subtitle reads "The issue is likely to be divisive in the 2016 election campaigns."

Although these headlines may not belong to Ms Kaffer, editors usually like to write them, they are interesting in their premises. The first headline is premised on the notion that climate change needs a leader and now that that fact is established the only question remaining open for discussion is who should it be. Naturally I disagree. Climate is always changing and people always adapt to it by preferring warmer climes to colder ones. Even if man's contribution to atmospheric CO2 doubles from three hundredths of one percent to six hundredths and you find it to be intolerable, all you'd have to do is move say 100 miles or so north and you should be just ducky, no need to give up air conditioning, your SUV or anything else.

The second headline declares the issue 'to be divisive' to the election campaigns of 2016. Let's look a little closer at 'divisive.' The headline writer could have used the word 'controversial' or 'contentious' or some other. But 'divisive' carries with it a negative connotation, the separation of a whole, disunity or disorder which is designed to evoke an emotion in the reader as something undesirable. And that is the goal, to get the reader to associate the negative feeling with views opposing climate change. The hope is that the negative feeling will translate into an action favorable to the writer e.g. support.

Today's professional intellectuals often use 'divisive' to besmirch any and all opposing views on just about everything. So when you see or hear that word 'divisive' applied to a proposition you can be sure the writer is trying to nudge you into a certain frame of mind. It is an argument from intimidation. 'Don't be divisive and disagree with me'.

Now let's look at the oped's text.

     "Nearly everyone gets it about climate change.
      A majority of Americans, according to Gallup, the overwhelming consensus of the scientific community, and even most Republicans say it's a cause for concern, even if they disagree about the causes. That should make it a wedge issue in the 2016 presidential campaign."

Consensus is a concept that refers to opinions. Not facts. If you have a large number of  facts, you have verification. A large number of opinions (consensus) is just that, a bunch of opinions. Also, overwhelming  majorities have believed in many things that turned out to be false: like the Earth being the center of the universe, or man will never fly and so on.  Facts however are not determined by head count, popular vote or consensus. She is using the argument from popularity which says in essence, 'all these people believe it to be true so you should too.'

The phrase "wedge issue" is the concept 'divisive' renamed.

Ms Kaffer adds the Department of Defense to her consensus and its claim that climate change is
""an urgent and growing threat to our national security," that will aggravate poverty, social tensions, ineffectual leadership, weak political institutions and threaten stability around the globe."
 Wow! What a hodgepodge of calamities we are to fear! Might as well throw in more potholes and toothaches. And that dear readers is the aim of the entire oped. To get readers to fear hordes of demons and cry for safety. An excerpt from my post "Bad Climate Advice for Republicans":

"The whole aim of practical politics is to keep the populace alarmed (and hence clamorous to be led to safety) by menacing it with an endless series of hobgoblins, all of them imaginary." H. L. Mencken 
When I was growing up it was acid rain that was going to destroy the planet unless we humans changed our evil ways. Then it was global cooling that would end all life on earth unless we seriously changed our evil ways this time. (The planet did cool by 2 tenths of a degree celsius from 1940 to 1975 and this 2 tenths of a degree was said to portend of "The coming ice age" as Time Magazine declared). 
About the same time another demon was announced: the Population Bomb by Paul Ehrlich. He announced in his book by the same name that millions of us were going to die of starvation in the 1970s because the planet simply could not sustain such a large population. His solution was for us to give up our industrial and technical civilizations and return to a more primitive lifestyle i.e. change our evil ways. 
That was followed by global warming which will destroy the world by creating a blanket of carbon dioxide (CO2) which will heat up the earth so much it will destroy all life unless we stop emitting CO2 into the atmosphere i.e. change our evil ways."
Global warming has since been repackaged as climate change. The oped continues:
 "The report was the latest in a series of increasingly serious alarms about the impacts of climate change--not in some nebulous, hypothetical future, but in the very real present."
What this is saying is never mind the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change's repeated reference to catastrophic consequences arriving around 2100, they're arriving now. This means the climate change mongers are getting desperate. The demon is on our doorstep they say. We must give up our rights, freedoms and of course our cash, now! These demons will then go away, supposedly.

But acid rain did not destroy the Earth. Neither did global cooling, nor the population explosion nor global warming. Neither will climate change. People are beginning to suspect that climate change just isn't the dire threat its made out to be. Since there has been no global warming for over 18 years despite us humans still pouring CO2 into the atmosphere at about 40 billion tons per year, the powers that be now feel the need to dress up this demon in the most scary and frightful garb as per all the calamities listed above as well as these:

"Add to that what's happening in Syria, California, Antarctica, the Arctic, Alaska, the US Gulf Coast and East Coast, at countless spots around the globe where our rapidly changing climate is having devastating effects on the way people live, and it's impossible to deny that climate change is happening, that mankind has at least contributed to its effects, and that building on the regulatory actions already in place to mitigate its potential to significantly damage our country and our world should be a governmental imperative."

It should be clear that this paragraph is talking about weather. Droughts, floods, storms and other phenomena have always happened and will continue in the future because they operate in cycles. It misrepresents weather as climate. But I want the reader to see that this oped uses a favorite technique of those with a government agenda, overload citizens with mountains of danger, so many evils to fear that the ordinary citizen is overwhelmed and gives up.

Ms. Kaffer goes on to cite some Republican presidential candidates who criticize the climate change mantra although she doesn't use that descriptive term. After naming names of the GOP candidates who diverge she writes:
"Compare the candidates to the American public at large, or even to members of their own party, and it's clear that they're out of step"
 Again, out of step means don't agree with the consensus. How about the Democrats?
"It's universally accepted among Democratic candidates--former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, former Maryland Gov. Martin O'Malley and Vermont Sen.Bernie Sanders--that climate change is happening, that mankind has contributed to it, that it's a national security crises and that the next president must combat it."

That the Democratic Party is all in on climate change is for sure; that climate change is happening is a sure thing too. Call any university physicist and he will tell you that there is no such thing as stasis in nature, stasis being a set of conditions that don't change. Climate therefore is always changing as it must. But the notion that mankind is a meaningful cause and that governments are even capable of combating it is very much a fantastic stretch of the imagination.

The oped then goes on to mention that India and China have joined the consensus.
"The president claimed a significant victory early in his first term when he brought China and India to consensus, and last year in agreeing with China to limit emissions in each nation, something that sets the stage not just for the Paris conference, but is something the National Resource Defense Council's David Goldston says is crucial to getting Americans to act."
Ok, why is it crucial that China's and India's opinions are needed to motivate Americans to action? Again this is another example of argumentum populorum or the argument from popularity applied to nations; in other words, 'these nations have joined the popular opinion so America should too'. No we shouldn't. At least not on that basis. The oped continues:
""It's hugely important both substantively and politically," he said. "Substantively, because if we're going to make progress as a planet on this, China and India have to play also. And the converse is true--the U.S. has to play. Opponents of action always try to cite what they claim is inaction elsewhere as an excuse.""
The key phrase here is 'as a planet.' I say that because the chief adviser, Maurice Newman, to Australia's PM, recently declared:
"“This is not about facts or logic. It’s about a new world order under the control of the UN."
'New World order' and 'as a planet' is an equivalency. So we see then that Australia is one nation that has not joined the consensus. Russia happens to be another. From the website of The Daily Caller:
 "Russian President Vladimir Putin believes global warming is a “fraud” — a plot to keep Russia from using its vast oil and natural gas reserves."
Did the author mention either of these two nations and their contrary consensus? Nope but she does offer a hopeful light at the end of the climate change tunnel:
"But never before in earth's history has a species had the intelligence and wherewithal to fully understand what's happening during a dramatic climate change and to endeavor to intervene not only on its own behalf, but for all living organisms on the planet."
 Wow! Have you ever looked at Washington DC or your own state capital and observed the intelligence and wherewithal to fully understand much of anything?
Our government can't manage the above much of anything--the Post Office and Amtrack have been losing money forever, Social Security and Medicare are heading for an unavoidable bankruptcy, Obamacare is collapsing, public education is a disaster, so are the roads, the dollar is becoming worth less daily--and yet it want's you to think it has the intelligence and wherewithal on how to control the Earth's climate and get it right!!!

When I was a little boy I wanted to be a policeman or the Lone Ranger to nab bad guys and Captain Marvel to save the world. There is nothing wrong of course with hero worship and the desire to save the world. But it is not the nature of governments to do it. Government is brute, physical force. It is not a creative force but a destructive one. Its only function is to protect our individual rights. We all need to defend ourselves from its natural desire to force its version of the good upon us under the guise of caring for us.

In closing then lets revisit our tools of climate self defense.
1. Remember the concept 'consensus.' It refers to opinions not facts
2. Watch for the word 'divisive' being used to nudge you into a certain frame of mind. It is an example of the argument from intimidation.
3. Be wary of huge numbers of dangers threatening you. More intimidation by fear mongering.
4. Watch out for the argument from popularity, just because lots of people believe something does not make it true.
5. Related to the argument from popularity above is the argument from authority. It says these people (like the IPCC, or NRDC) have credentials therefore we should believe them. Credentials mean their owners should be listened to. Not believed on faith.
6. Actively look for contrary evidence.

There are lots of other tools of deception regarding junk science out there. I hope these few will help you defend your clarity of thinking.

Monday, November 02, 2015

Public Education in Michigan

The Friday 10/30 edition of the Detroit News carried an oped on Michigan's school system titled "Assessing Michigan's talent future" by Doug Rothwell CEO of Business Leaders for Michigan. Mr Rothwell correctly cites parts of the problem:
"From 2005 to 2015, Michigan's fourth grade reading performance dropped from 30th to 41th (sic) nationally. Fourth grade math performance dropped from 32nd to 42nd. Only 20 percent of our high school students are considered career-and college-ready."
Unfortunately he does not say 'here is why.' Instead he cites action taken by the Michigan government:
      "The good news is that Michigan is taking important steps to set a new course. The governor and Legislature have increased investment in and access to early childhood education programs.
"But perhaps the most important change came in 2010, when Michigan adopted new, more rigorous standards for what Michigan students should learn in each grade level."
 Presumably it is not enough investment--taxpayer dollars--in early childhood programs and the lack of rigorous standards that are a part of the cause.

I want to say here that standards don't teach. They measure. Curriculum teaches. The purpose of standards is to measure how much the student learns and understands. To suppose that student's failure to learn is caused by improper measurement is nonsense.

This whole focus on standards is a smokescreen to divert attention away from a failed philosophy of pedagogy. Common Core, a logical consequence of Progressive Education, is the latest manifestation of an irrational pedagogy going all the way back to John Dewey the father of Prog Ed. What is wrong with Dewey's philosophy of education is a post for another time. Let me say only that Dewey did not like the idea of teaching students to think in terms of principles. Back to the oped:

It doesn't seem to occur to Mr Rothwell that Michigan's government has been running public schools for a long time--and I disagree with his suggested failure timeline of ten years, it's longer--and that such gross incompetence at educating our kids as we both agree has happened, should give pause to anyone who thinks it's a good idea to let the government keep on doing it. But nowhere does Mr Rothwell question the propriety of government owned and run schools.

The only rational solution of course is to completely shut down the Federal Dept of Education and turn all education over to the states. The Dept of Ed is like a military jackboot on the cognitive throats of our children's minds preventing them from developing their ability to think in terms of principles.

The beauty of state control of education is that the states will do things differently from each other. Best practices will of course have best results. These results will be out there for everyone to see and adopt. I can imagine for example some state declaring English to be a phonetic language and will henceforth be taught phonetically and all forms of sight recognition--whole word, whole language--are out.

Another state may introduce strict hierarchy to its math curriculum where kids will master arithmetic before moving on to set theory and algebra. Together, these will represent a trend away from centralized control which I'm sure will continue within the states leading eventually to more real localized control where parents will then have real say in their kid's education. And isn't that what we all want?

The link to the oped is here:

Wednesday, August 26, 2015

Bad climate advice for Republicans.

The Sunday 8/16 Detroit Free Press has an oped by Bob Inglis and Mark Reynolds titled "The right way for Republicans to address climate change." The right way of course is to agree with the Democrats who are all in on the notion that man made global warming is impending doom unless we change our consumption of fossil fuels which cause emissions of carbon dioxide which will cause the alleged doom.

Born global warming, climate change is the new demon we are all supposed to fear and of course from which we are to seek our salvation by relying on an all caring and benevolent institution of legalized force (government).

Since man started forming societies with governments it has always been the aim of government to keep its populace in a state of fear from various demons which will destroy them unless they trust government to protect them. Naturally the government will need taxes to protect them. It's one of the oldest scams in history.

"The whole aim of practical politics is to keep the populace alarmed (and hence clamorous to be led to safety) by menacing it with an endless series of hobgoblins, all of them imaginary." H. L. Mencken

When I was growing up it was acid rain that was going to destroy the planet unless we humans changed our evil ways. Then it was global cooling that would end all life on earth unless we seriously changed our evil ways this time. (The planet did cool by 2 tenths of a degree celsius from 1940 to 1975 and this 2 tenths of a degree was said to portend of "The coming ice age" as Time Magazine declared).

About the same time another demon was announced: the Population Bomb by Paul Ehrlich. He announced in his book by the same name that millions of us were going to die of starvation in the 1970s because the planet simply could not sustain such a large population. His solution was for us to give up our industrial and technical civilizations and return to a more primitive lifestyle i.e. change our evil ways.

That was followed by global warming which will destroy the world by creating a blanket of carbon dioxide (Co2) which will heat up the earth so much it will destroy all life unless we stop emitting Co2 into the atmosphere i.e. change our evil ways. Trouble is, carbon dioxide does not act the way Al Gore and all the government paid scientists say it does.

Did you know that cutting back on our Co2 emissions is actually going in the wrong direction? I've read that if our atmospheric Co2 content ever gets cut back to or lower than 150 parts per million, ppm, plant life will start to die off on earth. Animals of course would follow. Here is an article explaining it. Here is another one on the benefits of Co2.

Did Al Gore mentions this in his documentary "An Inconvenient Truth?" Nope. Must have been too inconvenient. How about Tom Brokaw in his documentary "Global Warming: Everything You Need to Know?" Not there either. Everything? Really?

How about the fact that North America is a net carbon sink? A net carbon sink is an area of the planet that removes from the atmosphere more Co2 than it puts in. Here is an article on that. Did either of the two above mentioned gentlemen mention this? Again, no.

If you would like to know how Co2 works I recommend CO2 Science. The Idso family has been rounding up studies of how Co2 acts in our atmosphere and upon life on Earth for a long time.

Other sites I recommend are:

 Science and Environmental Policy Project or SEPP:

The Climate Depot.

The Climate Audit.

Watts up with that.

Their sites may also contain links to other great sources.

Sunday, July 26, 2015

End prevailing wage laws.

The Sunday 7/26 Detroit Free Press caries an oped by Detroit Mayor Mike Duggan titled "Paying fair wage is right way to rebuild Detroit and state." The fair wage he's talking about is the prevailing wage put into place by law. It forces companies building public works projects to pay their workers wages equal to union wages whether workers are union or not. It's nothing but a special interest worker benefits plan giving some workers wages not available on the open market. Politicians do this in order to win the labor vote and no other reason. The idea that it guarantees a higher quality of worker is debatable. It implies that non-union workers are less than qualified and less trustworthy. Nonsense.

But a real problem is the cost to taxpayers for this special interest program. An article in the Detroit News in May of this year reports:

"A 2013 study from the Anderson Economic Group highlights just how costly the prevailing wage law is for the state.
Public universities, community colleges and school districts — or rather taxpayers — have to pay an additional $224 million a year, thanks to the law.
In addition to the support of many GOP lawmakers, the Michigan Chamber of Commerce and Associated Builders and Contractors of Michigan favor repealing the law."
So we see that there is $224 million per year that could be going to Michigan roads, or schools or returned to taxpayers.

But the real problem with the prevailing wage is that it violates the rights of businessmen and workers to negotiate among each other for the fairest wage. The law tries to force workers to be worth more to their employers that they would be in a open market. Of course it is the taxpayers who have to cough up the money not Mr Duggan or the unions.

In another News article from January of this year

"During the mid 1990s, the law was suspended by a federal district court ruling and, according to the U.S. Department of Labor, as non-union construction companies competed on an equal footing for the first time in decades, the state gained 11,000 construction jobs.
Under prevailing wage, union bosses get richer while non-union builders and contractors lose money, taxpayers get charged more, and school children have to do with less."
I agree. It is time to do away with the prevailing wage law and let the benefits of competition ensue.

Monday, June 29, 2015

Foreclose on government control of the economy

The Thursday and Friday, 6/25,26 print editions of the Detroit News carried a series titled "Foreclosures fuel Detroit blight, cost city millions" by reporters Christine MacDonald and Joel Kurth. The on line version is here. It is a very well written article going in depth describing the devastation not only in terms of property but in terms of human misery and suffering.

But I'm afraid it doesn't go deep enough. It seems to confine its focus on appearances, empty and burnt out hulks, some demolished, and the testimony of those survivors relating the depressing experiences they suffered. There are many references to the fact that sub-prime mortgages and loans were the main culprit. And if you confine your vision to the immediately visible, you'd be right.

But nowhere in the report is the question asked; what caused banks and mortgage companies who had been for decades been loaning only to those whom they thought had a decent chance of repaying the loan, suddenly go irrational and start lending to people they knew unlikely to pay it back? One answer proffered is:

     ""The stage was set with gross irresponsibility by the banking industry, and I still think that they ought to be made to pay cities that are left to clean up the mess," said Frank Ford, a senior policy adviser for the Thriving Communities Institute, a nonprofit land protection group based in Cleveland that has studied vacant land and foreclosures in northern Ohio. "This was done by people making bad decisions, repeatedly, in some cases knowingly.""

Again, why did people who seemingly made rational decisions in the past start making irrational ones from 2005 (the report's timeline start) on up?  No answer given. The existence of Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac are mentioned as foreclosures of homes and as buyers of mortgages but not much more about their role in creating the housing bubble. In fact, the concept housing bubble was not even mentioned. This is why I think the article's timeline should go back even farther than 2005 to when other Federal agency players came into existence. But the authors only covered the era of foreclosures.

Also there is no mention of the Community Reinvestment Act (CRA) which was modified to a ratings agency under Clinton so that any bank or mortgage company that wanted to expand its business had to show it loaned a certain amount to low income people thus encouraging risky loans by those banks. For a more detailed look at the CRA see this article.

There was no one single cause of the 2008 mortgage crises. It was a combination of the Fed keeping interest rates way too low, the CRA encouraging risky loans, Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac being encouraged to buy up those risky loans and mortgages, bundle and resell them in the market spreading the risk in ever widening circles. There was also this notion of "too big to fail" which I think was the promise to the banking industry that Fannie and Freddie will take care of them and their sub prime loans. There were other smaller contributors to the meltdown but these were the major players.

Although well written regarding the extent of damage to life and property, this report misinforms the public as to the real causes. Thus the public will continue to believe that the mortgage crisis was caused by the bankers who did it all on their own with no incentives from government. The public will continue to call for more regulations despite the fact that the banking and finance industries are the most heavily regulated industries in the nation and that such regulation did not protect the citizens from harm but rather increased its likely hood.

Monday, May 25, 2015

Republican bashing at its best.

The Sunday May 17th Detroit Free Press was in full assault mode on the GOP in its editorial page. Editorial editor Stephan Henderson pens an oped titled "How the poor stay that way'" subtitled 'Holding Michigan Back.' It has a cartoon drawing of the state capitol as a monster snatching up citizens presumably to be eaten. This monster is flying a flag that reads "GOP war on the poor." This is more of a bashing of Republicans than a concern for the poor. My comments are in brackets.

      "Policy-making is the way we send messages about priorities in our system of government. [Who is 'we'? As a citizen I haven't been in on any policy-making so 'we' must refer to the politicians and professional pundits who advise them like Mr Henderson. These priorities then are] "What's important and what's not. Who's first in line for the fruits of democracy and who's last."

['What's important and what's not' asks an answer to the question  'important' to whom? Citizens or government? If he means citizens then they should get to chose what's important to them and therefore need the freedom to pursue it. If government, then it decides what is important and forces it on the citizens, a progressive ideal.

Now I know that pundits often write in metaphors but look at the one Mr Henderson presents; it is a basket or pile of fruits of democracy for which citizens must line up to get, so the message for policy-makers is only who goes first and last. Does that sound like picking winners and losers to you? It does to me. It's also an image of  'the fruits are here. How did they get here? Not important. What's important? How to distribute them more fairly than the citizens would if left free to do so.']

     "So if you're poor, and particularly if you're among the working poor--people who earn paychecks too meager to sustain a family, much less get ahead--what message do you imagine you're being sent by the people of Michigan and their representatives these days? From where I sit, it looks like this: Drop Dead."

[Evidently the poor and working poor are not part of the 'people of Michigan' but are a separate group victimized by them. This is of course a slap in the face to all citizens; the working poor for choosing a wage so obviously unjust it won't move them up the ladder and raise a family (which itself is debatable); and to the rest of the evil citizens and their representatives who voted for this unjust system and are telling them now to drop dead. I think a profound contempt for citizens being free to choose their own decisions and actions could not be much more obvious.]

     "Let's review a few headlines that rolled out over the last two weeks.
     On Wednesday, the state Senate passed a package of bills that would strip prevailing-wage requirements out of government construction contracts. It's important to note that the law sets rates not only for experienced contractors, but for apprentices--young people, many of them poor, trying to get into construction trades, but who need training before they can work full time."

[So you see the poor are everywhere and that's why the prevailing-wage is noble and virtuous! One can easily get the impression that if all Americans were millionaires, billionaires and trillionaires, the millionaires would be the new poor. For my comments on the prevailing-wage I'll only say here that government should not be mandating anyone's wages anywhere. Wages should be decided by voluntary agreement to mutual benefit between worker and employer and/or those chosen to represent them.]

     "At the same time, a House committee is considering a bill that would make it illegal for any local government in Michigan to mandate wages higher than the state minimum wage, provide paid or unpaid leave time, participate in any educational or training programs, or regulate hours or scheduling. For low-wage workers, that pretty much ensures you'll stay low-wage, no matter where you live in Michigan."

[I think I would agree to the mandate part of that bill. Local governments should have the freedom to choose what they can afford to do. But it's unclear about why participation in educational and training programs would be illegal. I would take that with a grain of salt. But the GOP is in control for now so coloring as suspect everything they do or even consider is par for the progressive course.

After bemoaning the defeat off Prop 1 and the failure to reinstate the Earned Income Tax Credit Mr Henderson goes on to say;]

     "The average credit in 2013 was $138; recipients almost always put that money back into the economy, and for poor families, that modest influx of cash can be instrumental for an emergency car repair, medical costs or paying the rent."

[The EITC is nothing more than throwing some crumbs back to the poor to keep them voting Democrat. It is designed to keep the poor poor. It certainly will not help them "sustain a family or get ahead" as Mr. Henderson admonished earlier. Besides it is not the government's job to pay anyone's bills. To really help the poor would be to protect their freedom to provide for their own welfare. The proper job of government is "to secure these rights" per our Declaration of Independence, and not try to be the great provider of everyone's daily bread.(crumbs)

His oped is too long to critique every paragraph. It is however more of the same old threadbare Marxist notions that capitalism creates poverty by way of the rich exploiting the poor. The fact that capitalism has created the greatest explosion of wealth the world has ever seen completely escapes Mr Henderson. Or, if it doesn't, he refuses to see the cause of that prosperity, political and economic freedom. He does not say why the poverty he cites exists except, like president Obama, to blame it on Republicans.]

     "Here in Michigan, the Republican-led Legislature seems hell bent on making things worse for the working poor, which raises key questions about not only policy, but morality and and the faithfulness of democratic representation."

[Translation:' the Republicans are evil and immoral and only us Democrats are moral.' Progressives have always used the moral argument against the GOP but hiding it behind the shield of pragmatism. They claim they are not ideologues but just being pragmatic. But if you press them hard enough you'll hear their moral insinuations just like the above.

 My retort to that is, advocating policies that hurt the poor like regulations on business, minimum wage laws, prevailing wage laws, Quantitative easing by the Fed, destroying children's minds through Progressive Ed's intentional abandonment of the hierarchical nature of learning, making them dependent on the state through all the welfare programs etc, etc, is a strange way to show a moral concern for poor people. The prevailing wage raises the costs of education construction making education as such more expensive--an odd way to show a moral concern for poor children.

Mr Henderson does a good job of demonstrating how poverty seems to be growing throughout the state citing data that claims to show 40% of the state is now in poverty. But lets not forget that poverty in America is relative. Poverty for a family of four is now over $24,000, a level considered wealthy in third world countries where poverty is absolute.

Today we have more welfare programs on our books to help the poor than ever before yet we are told the poverty rate keeps growing. You would think that a person genuinely concerned for the poor would look at this and be motivated to question his premises and perhaps ask are our efforts to help the poor actually creating more of them?

But they won't ask that question because they haven't bothered to ask the more fundamental question, what kind of creature is the human being? What are the requirements for his survival and happiness? Our founders knew those requirements were political and economic freedom. It wasn't government welfare that created America's wealth. It was freedom. Progressives want the poor to be dependent on them. It makes them feel morally good. Political freedom destroys that illusion, and is the only way to really help the poor.]

Thursday, May 07, 2015

We knew this was coming.

Now that Proposition 15-1 went down in flames at the hands of Michigan voters the response from the political and intellectual establishments is oh so predictable. From editorials bemoaning the voters reluctance to "do the right thing" (hammer ourselves into austerity) to scolding voters for bringing this (crumbling roads) upon themselves, and chastising the politicians for not doing their job (jamming higher taxes down our throats) legislatively.

     The theme the intellectual establishment (MSM) is putting out is that Prop 1 was just too complicated for us presumably dim witted voters (it was complicated) to comprehend and if only it were dumbed down sufficiently for us to understand we would have been eager to part with 2 billion of our dollars.

     Stephen Henderson is the editorial page editor for the Detroit Free Press. He starts his editorial with:

     "Self defeat is never pretty.
               And if you're sitting around thinking that the spectacular death of Proposal 1 at the polls marks a
     defeat for anyone but us, the people of Michigan, then you are sorely deluded."

     No sir. We are not deluded. This was a defeat for the politicians for not managing our taxpayer money responsibly. Prop 1 was initially sold to the public as a fix for the roads. Only after concerned citizen groups started reading it and pointing out that 40% of the $2 billion was to go to other interests like schools, local municipal governments, transportation, pay off transportation debt and add to the general fund, did voters begin to question it.

     Then the government proponents ran ads showing a chunk of cement from a bridge supposedly fallen through the windshield, laying on the passenger seat of a car. A school bus with a slab of concrete laying on the partially crushed cab was trucked around the state saying this could happen to our kids if we don't cough up the dough they wanted for roads. It was scaremongering taken to a new and disgusting level.

But what's disconcerting to me is how the state government and the media refuse to think outside the box of government control. For instance, if the roads have decayed to the point of a serious threat to citizens while under the control of government, don't you think some thinkers would question the wisdom of letting government continue to run them? It's time to consider taking responsibility for roads away from the government. There are lots of private roads in this country and they're maintained nicely. But the thinking by politicians and pundits that government should be the provider of our daily paved bread is just too irresistible.

     Mr Henderson concludes with two paragraphs: (my comments in parenthesis)

     "What we can't do is continue to make decisions that punish ourselves in the name of striking out at poorly thought-up initiatives, or at legislators. (If we don't strikeout at poor thinking, it will continue.--MN) Prop 1 was a way forward--a difficult, deal-laden, complicated way forward, but that's the way the system works"

"That's the way the system works" is the box out of which they are unable or unwilling to think. More:
     "If we want to do better, if we want to force legislators to confront this issue in the short term and the future, in a more thoughtful way, it's up to us to say so. (We just did! On May 5th--MN) Otherwise, we'll suffer with exactly what we've got. And no one should be proud of that."
Today's, May 7th Detroit News--whose editorial page of 5/3 or 5/4 was all for Prop 1--has an oped by Joe Lapointe, a free lance writer, titled "Michigan needs toll roads." In it he make the point that:

     "In 40 years as a traveling journalist, I've rented cars in three dozen states. I've seen many tolls roads work efficiently with EZ-Pass, an electronic windshield device that records where people get on and get off the toll roads and bills them accordingly."
There can be many ways to finance roads other than taxes and all of these need to be examined. But that will require thinking in different terms. And THAT is what Michigan voters just said they want.


Wednesday, March 04, 2015

Here we go again. The CRA to the rescue.

We can get an idea of how collectivists think from this oped in the Detroit News of 2/27/15. The author, Ms. Kathleen Rogers, is president and CEO Earth Day Network, a left wing environmental group. The title is "The meaning of community reinvestment" and it is revealing in terms of the statist principle it represents: government intrusion into the market place to achieve some alleged social good.

The theme of the oped is that "...25 percent of the energy used in schools is wasted" and if that waste can be eliminated by getting schools to go green then there will be money that can be  "...used for desperately needed funding for additional teachers and school resources."

Ms. Rogers gives several examples of schools that have benefited from going green then suggests ways to find the funds for the poorest schools to go green.

"What if we could secure billions of new, private dollars for school energy-efficiency projects in low-income disadvantaged areas and allow the resulting energy savings to remain with each school?"
So, what does "secure billions" mean? Is it asking for private loans or voluntary donations? Nope.

"The next frontier of green school funding could come from banks through the Community Reinvestment Act (CRA), a federal law that requires (read 'forces'-MN) banks operating in low-income areas to invest significant amounts of money in these areas, usually in the form of loans and grants for economic development projects, low-income housing projects and community centers."

How is it that banks "operating in low-income areas" have all these billions just laying around waiting for the right altruist to come along and point a legislative gun at their heads for such a noble and virtuous redistribution? How did the billions get here? Blank out! It's just here in banks. Notice that all these billions of private money are viewed as the "next frontier" to be "secured". But this frontier is not a new one. It was used before with equally, noble intentions but with disastrous results.

"From 1996 to 2008, banks invested more than $1 trillion in community development and small-business loans in low-income areas in part to score CRA points."
This is certainly true but that trillion dollars, through credit expansion has morphed into many trillions more in derivative debt held all throughout the economy which can't be repaid. This fact was a key player in the mortgage meltdown of 2008 throwing millions of people out of their homes and jobs. You'd think that someone in the educated class would call for the repeal of the CRA if for no other reason than the human suffering it caused. But no, the desire to use the brute force of government to achieve some social good is irresistible to the collectivist/altruist mind. And so it continues:

"Banks take the CRA requirement seriously because the (obedience-MN) points they earn are a determining factor when regulators review requests for mergers and acquisitions." 
I would take a legislative gun pointed at my head seriously too.

"The litmus test for whether banks will receive CRA points is satisfied only if the "benefits" that accrue from these investments remain in the low-income communities.
Now the Office of the Comptroller of the Currency, the bank's regulator, has proposed a clarification that will allow banks to get CRA credit for investing in energy efficiency in low-income communities."
Great. Another noble cause for which we can use the CRA to "secure billions"! Ms.Rogers concludes with:

"Leaving those energy savings with the school, which allows banks to invest in energy retrofits under the CRA, would open the door to low interest loans or grants. It's a win-win proposition for our nation's poorest schools."
Actually, no it isn't. It will just be another boondoggle. How will the banks get their money repaid if it is to stay with the school? And this notion that banks have billions just laying around not invested in anything is well, absurd.

 The real meaning of community reinvestment is wealth redistribution by force, or as Ayn Rand once said, a policy of have gun will nudge.

Finally, the social system in which businesses (like banks) are nominally privately owned while the right of ownership-the right of use and disposal-is retained by the government, is fascism. That is where we are headed.

Saturday, February 07, 2015

Jeb Bush is 2016 material, if you can forgive.

My Friday edition of the Detroit News carries an oped by deputy editorial director Ingrid Jacques titled "With Jeb Bush, look beyond Common Core." Sorry, I can't do that. Common Core is such an egregious example of mind destruction and increased government control of education that one cannot treat it as nothing more than an innocent, forgivable mistake. Mistakes of this magnitude are not made innocently.

Jeb Bush, like the rest of his family, is a neoconservative (neocon), a former liberal turned conservative. But, like them, still has progressive leanings. One of them is a firm belief that government should own and control education. No it shouldn't.

Government is force. It has nothing to offer citizens except the management of force (and the threat of using it). When government controls education it will control what is taught and how it is taught and this will be forced onto teachers and students, and parents.

Don't fall for the notion that parents have elected representatives to appeal to. Those representatives are also part of the government that thinks it knows what is best for your kids better than you do. Yes there has been an increase in parents loudly protesting aspects of Progressive Education and even Common Core. But this only gets the powers that be to back off a little bit and only temporarily. The real backing off is to be done by the parents.

On April 13 213 Melissa Harris Perry  on the Huffy Post said  "we have to break through our kind of private idea that kids belong to their parents or kids belong to their families, and recognize that kids belong to their communities." Please understand what this means: parents are not part of the community! Got that?

So what does this have to do with Mr. Bush?  Ms Jacques informs us that since Jeb Bush is a staunch supporter for the Common Core education standards we should look past that fact because he has done well supporting education in Florida. 

"Bush's willingness to embrace the best options to improve learning are a refreshing departure from the Obama administration's playbook, which has tried to squelch true school choice programs."

Evidently, Jeb Bush does not consider auctioning off schools to unregulated private enterprise or even nonprofits where, like IT products (smart phones and such), quality constantly goes up and costs go down, to be one of his 'best options.'

One of the arguments used to maintain government control over our children's minds is the notion that schools must be accountable. But please notice that this accountability is to be directed to government bureaucrats not parents. This is based on the premise that the parents are not competent to determine if their kids can read, write, do basic math and learn history and science and that only government has such wisdom.

The theme of this oped is that even though "Jeb Bush hasn't made it official that he's a 2016 presidential candidate..." we should overlook his Common Core boo boo and consider him for 2016. No we shouldn't.

Saturday, January 10, 2015

Skeptical of global warming? You must have faith.

I was surprised to see the Macomb Daily, a newspaper for the county of Macomb, a suburban county just northeast of Detroit, print an editorial from the liberal Bloomberg editorial board. As a rule, the Macomb Daily is a tad conservative on its editorial page so I wondered if they were just being facetious or what.

The title is "Pope Francis could help push climate treaty over the top."

"But of course" was a voice in my head. This is so appropriate. Both the Catholic Church and the global warming alarmists are totally committed to faith not facts. To obfuscate this truth though the article declares:

"He is not the first Pope to sound the alarm on climate change: Both John Paul II and Benedict XVI did so, and in 2011 the Vatican's Academy of Sciences issued a report that called on "all people and nations to recognize the serious and potentially irreversible impacts of global warming" caused by human activity."

I didn't know the Church had an Academy of Sciences. A religious academy of sciences? Now there's an oxymoron for ya. But what better place for the warmers to go for support for their dogma than to another  institution geared to the acceptance of tenets on faith?

Thursday, January 01, 2015

Where are all the reasons?

In the Dec. 14 edition of the Detroit News Editorial Editor Mr. Nolan Finley penned an editorial "Where are all the black people?" He was referring to the opportunities provided by the comeback atmosphere in Detroit which seems to be absent a sufficient number of black people. He fears that Detroit could become two cities " for the upwardly mobile young and white denizens of an increasingly happening downtown, and the other for the struggling and frustrated black residents."

Now on the face of it I would call this blatant racism. But Mr. Finley writes an entire paragraph assuring readers he is not racist and would rather "have a stick for my eye." I for one tend to believe Mr. Finley harbors no actual racial hatred. But hating for racial reasons is not the only form of racism. People who don't harbor any real racial hatred can still practice racist principles. Before I go any further, I want my readers to understand what I mean by the concept of racism.

My Merriam-Webster's Collegiate Dictionary says: "A belief that race is the primary determinant of human traits and capacities and that racial differences produce an inherent superiority of a particular race." We can see that racism then is a form of determinism which says that your character is not determined by your own values and decisions but by your race or skin color and that this results in notions of superiority or inferiority.

Mr Finley then gives a few examples of why he fears the 'two cities' scenario: "It's a clear red flag when you can sit down in a hot new downtown restaurant and nine out of ten tables are filled with white diners, a proportion almost exactly opposite of the city's racial make up." But I ask why is the city's racial makeup important to Mr. Finley? He continues:

"It's a warning signal when you go to holiday events for major Detroit cultural institutions and charities, and you can count the number of African-American revelers on both hands." Again, why are racial numbers important? And one more:

"It should stop us in our tracks--as it did me the other day--when a group of 50 young professionals being groomed for future leadership shows up to hear advice from a senior executive, and there's only one black member among them." For the third time I'm saying so what? Why are racial quotas important? Why should a city have the same number of races in every social gathering? This is pure racism.

Maybe most blacks don't like the food at that hot new restaurant or can't afford the price. Maybe they don't go to holiday events because their leaders have convinced them not to celebrate white man's holidays. I just don't know. Maybe they don't want to participate in rebuilding downtown while their own neighborhoods continue to deteriorate. Maybe most of the black job creators (businessmen) have left the city for the same reasons white ones did, job destroying taxes and regulations. Whatever the reasons are, they are not mentioned.

There is a lot of rationalizing and evasion in this editorial. For example, what does the notion of "upward mobility" mean? Is that something that automatically accrues to white denizens but not blacks? A nine year old can testify that to step up on a simple foot stool takes some effort. Are we to understand that blacks somehow lack this effort? Use of the term upward mobility evades the reasons for said mobility. After telling us that most of the new kids coming to rebuild downtown are white and that he is not disparaging this fact, he then states:

"We can talk all day about why African-Americans didn't do the same thing. It doesn't matter." What? It sure does matter! Mr Finley is treating the racial numerical differences as the given, as if they are, like upward mobility, causeless, not to be questioned or examined. But everything has causes. To pretend they don't matter is evasion on a large scale.

He continues that paragraph with a veiled threat: "We have to understand that we're buying trouble if we don't encourage more black participation." Really? What kind of trouble? No answer. And what does encourage mean in this context? Does it mean at the point of a legislative gun like forced busing? Or does it mean economic favors like subsidies, loan guarantees or other favors? He does answer this: "This isn't about handouts or set asides or affirmative action. Nor is it about gentrification, an absolutely ridiculous concern in a city that needs so much rebuilding. I don't even believe it is about racism." So government incentives are out. So what is it about?

"Rather, it's about downtown employers making sure they're truly cognizant of the diversity of their workforces, and stretching a bit more to recruit and train native Detroiters, who will then fill the lofts and nightspots." To be cognizant of the diversity of their workforces means to be conscious of the races of ones workforce i.e. race consciousness, exactly what Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. did not want.

"It's about encouraging black entrepreneurs to come to or stay in the city, and recognizing there are cultural and opportunity gaps that have to be closed to create a vibrant base of small business started by people drawn from the city's neighborhood." Again we see another phrase 'opportunity gaps' that doesn't seem to have a cause. Who is to do the encouraging of black entrepreneurs? Since he doesn't mention government it can be assumed that other private citizens are to do it though he isn't very specific about that.

I think it would have been a good editorial if it had noted all the racial discrepancies then focused on their causes. For example why are the black residences struggling and frustrated? Why aren't they attending more cultural events and eating at the hot new restaurants? Why aren't they hastening to take advantage of the new growth opportunities? There are reasons and they need to be identified and addressed.

Off the top of my head I can think of several. 1. The  insane War on Drugs has turned inner cities into gang laden fiefdoms where a kill or be killed sense of life dominates. 2.The equally perverse welfare state has destroyed the black family and made dependency on handouts a way of life. 3.The long waits for police to respond to crime calls and other unresponsive city government departments has caused the almost complete destruction of confidence in the police and the city as such. 4. The government policies aimed at reducing racial tensions--multiculturalism, egalitarianism, diversity, affirmative action and race consciousness--are themselves based on racist principles. I think it would have been a good idea to walk through a black neighborhood and ask them for reasons.

The collapse of Detroit did not happen overnight. It took a long time. Its recovery will take time too. It will only happen when the government stops treating blacks as a herd, a collective and starts treating them as individuals with the full protection of individual rights to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. Nothing less will do.