Category Archives: Current events

Blowing the Sails

President Trump continues on his shortsighted warpath of ever escalating tariffs on Chinese goods. “Tariffs will make our Country MUCH STRONGER, not weaker. Just sit back and watch!” he tweeted recently. Well, yes, I suppose if you jump off a bridge and break both your legs those bones will be stronger once healed, but I don’t think that’s what he had in mind. Tariffs are a self-imposed burden; the exporter of a good does not pay them – the importer does (i.e. the domestic business, employing domestic workers, selling to a domestic market). It is the economic equivalent of me insisting I pay an extra 25% to the grocery store because I’m so upset there is a trade imbalance between the grocer and myself. Trump is either being willfully dishonest (and to be fair, what politician isn’t – ‘if you like your plan you can keep your plan’), or, he is entirely ignorant of how tariffs actually work. If Importer ABC is buying widget A from a Chinese exporter for $1 and there is a new 25% tariff imposed, the cost goes from $1 to $1.25 – paid for entirely by the importer. The cost is either passed on to the American consumer or expenses in other areas are reduced (i.e. layoffs of American workers) in order to stay price competitive. 

            Perplexingly, Trump actually acknowledged the potential harm to some sectors (i.e. US farmers, whose sales of exported goods to China have dropped off due to in-kind retaliatory tariffs by China on the US) and rather than extinguishing the dumpster-fire he has created he has doubled down on an even more ludicrous plan. He is proposing that we take the proceeds from the tariffs and use it to offset declining agricultural sales by purchasing the unsold goods – and get this – donating it to foreign countries! So, it is bad for the US if China “dumps” low cost goods into our market, yet somehow it’s a-ok if the US in turn dumps totally free goods into other countries’ markets? Nah, that won’t totally disrupt their domestic agricultural market driving them to cross a border in order to find work… there is some country where that has happened before but the name escapes me right now. This Rube Goldberg scheme is tantamount to using a fan to blow the sail of a sailboat. Yes, it works, but it is incredibly inefficient; just remove the sail and turn the fan around. In other words, an actual free market in trade (not managed trade á la NAFTA or TPP) is maximally efficient and beneficial to all.

            The only utility to be gained from this scheme is to encourage Trump-hating-leftists to closely examine the idiocy of this scheme. Perhaps once Trump is out of office they will recognize the lunacy of this scheme in future government polices. For example, all foreign aid works on this principle. Take money from some Americans and give it to others to buy their goods in order to give them to a third party for free. Or, take money from some Americans and give it to a third party with the stipulation they can only use it to buy goods from some other Americans.Carbon taxes, if imposed, would work the same way. Impose a tax (on Americans) then turn around and refund the just collected funds to other Americans to offset the fact they are paying more for energy. 

            Perhaps in the end that will be the silver lining of the Trump presidency; to awaken the American electorate to the fact that the idiotic schemes implemented by Trump are identical to every past presidential administration in their execution. These programs and schemes are counter-productive and inefficient on their face regardless of who sits in the Oval Office. 

Reparations Roller Coaster

The political landscape in the Democratic Party has become so chaotic that in order for a presidential candidate to distinguish him or herself it is no longer sufficient to engage in safe, conservative levels of vote pandering e.g. free healthcare for all. Now one must step up with über-insane policy positions like slavery reparations. Several candidates have put forth pro-reparations platform positions recently. Any self-respecting black person should reject such talk outright. The whole notion is preposterously insulting. Why? Ok, hold up your hand (any race) if you think your “success” today is even marginally affected by the life events of one or more of your sixteen to thirty-two second-great or third-great grandparents? Can you even name a single one of them? The argument is basically that all succeeding generations over 150+ years have been entirely impotent to advance in life because they lacked a check from the federal government – all other forms of welfare and assistance not withstanding (12 years of free schooling be the main one). Perhaps you could make that argument (as with apartheid in South Africa) if every single black person were dirt poor today. But that’s not the case. In fact there are numerous highly successful black individuals today (doctors, lawyers, business owners, actors, politicians, athletes, etc.). This alone should conclusively prove that race no longer plays a meaningful role in holding anyone back. While the poverty rate for blacks as a whole vs. whites is higher, it is not earth-shatteringly so (20% vs 8%). To hear the pro-reparations people talk you’d think black poverty was 90%+ in this country.

The time for reparations was immediately after emancipation, to the actual slaves. That is how reparations have operated for more recent state-level atrocities (Germany, South Africa, etc). Locate the victim and compensate them. That is correct and just (although monetary compensation can never truly make one whole for these kinds of state sponsored crimes). Reparations should have been made in the US shortly after the Civil War (and indeed this was done for a short period, General Sherman’s Special Order 15 was quickly reversed by President Johnson). That this did not occur is a crime against those former slaves. However, there is nothing that can be done to fix that now. History is like that. Bad people did horrible things, but navel gazing hundreds of years later isn’t going to put the toothpaste back in the tube. If my grandmother were raped but the culprit never served time nothing is served by putting that guy’s grandson in prison today. However that is exactly what reparations would do, only worse (it would be like grabbing some random person off the street and putting him in prison merely because he’s a man). Were reparations to come to pass it would be funded by some new tax. But many millions of Americans (like myself) are recent generation Americans. All of my great-grandparents entered this country over 50 years after the end of the civil war – why should I be taxed to pay for something that neither I nor them could ever have conceivably benefited from? Indeed, these great grandparents were initially treated harshly (yes, the Klan hates Catholics too) by the “nativist” populations they emigrated to. Should I get reparations too for how they were held back by such incipient hatred on arrival? (In case you were wondering the  answer is “no” to this rhetorical question).

Some would argue that even post Civil War emigrants enjoyed the privilege of all the wealth brought about in this country through the labor of former slaves who built this country. Ok. Except that is totally backwards. This country was made poorer, not wealthier, because of slavery. The reason for this is simple: automation. Cheap slave labor meant there was no incentive to explore more efficient means of production. Without slavery the south would have been pushed economically to explore efficiency improving automation that much sooner. As we recall from high school history, the north was regarded as wealthy while the south was considered poor. The primary reason for this was the difference in automation. The highly industrialized north was highly automated in its output. Just as paper beats rock so to do machines beat humans every time in the output Olympics.

Even if we were to pay reparations there is no practical “fair” way to do so. The whole thing quickly spirals out of control into a general welfare check. Such a check would be far out of proportion to what those individuals might have had had actual reparations been paid in 1865 to the forefathers. If it were in proportion it would amount to only a few hundred dollars and politically such a small amount would be a non-starter. So it will have to be disproportionately larger. So how does this idea go from only for descendants of slaves to everyone? Well, first if it were constrained to only those that could prove a genealogical connection to a slave, accusations would fly of unfairness for all those unable to claim their rightful inheritance because of paperwork lost to the ages. Ok, so now anyone who is black (DNA test) gets it, but how much “blackness”? 90%? 50% 25%? No matter where you draw an arbitrary line someone will complain so just make it 1% or more then no one will complain. And of course the DNA tests will have to be free, otherwise this too would be deemed as unfairly keeping those most in need from obtaining their due. Next is the problem of payment ratio. Should it be a ratio of your DNA %, e.g. you are 10% black so you get 10% of the reparations payment? Or what if you can only prove one out of 32 ancestors was a slave; do you get 1/32ndof the payment? The mind boggles with the logistics of handling this all. Even if you assume a generous $100k reparations payment to each former slave this would be rapidly diluted to only a few hundred dollars today after applying the various race and generational dilution heuristics. Is a few hundred dollars really going to change anyone’s life?

And lastly, this must be a one-time payment. Anything other than that is not reparations but simply welfare. If you have made each “victim” whole, then there is no more reason to continue payment to them or their progeny. So under the only possible “fair” model of reparations Barack Obama would qualify. That’s a good thing, just think of what he could have accomplished had he not been black!

CON Job

There are a myriad of reasons that health care costs are sky high. Every cause shares a common genesis – government. From the World War II era tax benefit of allowing tax-free employer sponsored plans to state imposed price controls (Medicare/Medicaid) to today’s outright subsidies (Obamacare), it has been a 70+ year slow motion train wreck that has annihilated anything remotely resembling a “free” market in health care. However, today I want to focus on but one sliver of that regulatory quagmire: Certificate of Need (CON) laws. When I first learned about these I honestly thought I was reading satire – this is America after all! How can such monstrosities of law exist? And yet they do. For those unaware, CON laws basically allow one or more local hospitals to have a say in whether a prospective hospital may be permitted in their “backyard.” It’s like if McDonalds had a vote in whether any new fast food restaurants could be built within say 30 miles of their location. What do you think McDonalds’ choice would be? This is nothing but state backed protectionism, pure and simple. And like all protectionism it harms consumers while benefiting the protected class (unions, taxi drivers, any tariff protected industry, etc.) But please, tell me more about this free market in health care we have.

Supporters of CON laws try to appeal to ones sense of “fairness” by claiming that if these mean old private hospitals come in why they’ll “steal” patients from our poor old public hospital by only offering the most lucrative and profitable services leaving the extant hospital with money losing care and indigent patients. Hogwash. In other words they are saying that in terms of those “lucrative” services they can’t compete because they are in fact overcharging for their “lucrative” services in order to subsidize the money losing services.  In other words they don’t know how to properly run a (hospital) business and are afraid of someone coming in and competing with them that does. 

Ludicrously, these same people will turn around and decry the “monopoly” of a company like AT&T or Microsoft or Google or Apple and claim “why we need to break them up, don’t you know monopolies are bad and that competition lowers prices and helps consumers?” But then will unironically tell you that monopolies in hospital services makes perfect sense and why don’t you just trust the guy telling you he doesn’t need competition to give you a fair price? I guess state backed monopolies are “a ok” (schools, courts, police, utilities, roads, etc.)

Ironically many of these people who support CON laws are “conservative” Republicans! Indeed there was a recent Bill 198 in the Georgia House that died in that Republican dominated chamber. One representative quipped in a local paper

“I was very happy to help kill the elimination of the CON process that would hurt local hospitals.”

David Belton
R – Buckhead, GA, District 112

Wow, give that man a Bernie Sanders medal, he is a Democratic Socialist and doesn’t even know it. Socialism claims the right of the “people” (aka the State) to own the means of production. Ownership conveys a right to control, you don’t own it, you can’t control it and vice versa. Well if the state can tell prospective investors in a new hospital what they can’t do with their own money, then what is the state doing other than asserting an ownership (control) claim over those investors’ property? I’m sorry Republicans; I must have missed the part in the Constitution (Federal or State) where it says we have a right to a livelihood unfettered by nettlesome competition. Repeat after me, just because a violation of rights can be harmful doesn’t mean anything deemed harmful is a rights violation.

The NPC’s Strike Back

My recent editorial at the Oconee Enterprise brought on a somewhat misapprehending response by guest columnist Anthony Potts. My response to his response is below:

White people are racist when they blankly stare, because power, or something.

This column is in response to Anthony Pott’s guest column last week. Some of his points are understandable since the editorial staff altered (for space reasons) a more nuanced statement in the opening preamble. The column (as submitted) did not state that “(racism) is dead” but rather “that legacy, at least as a tangible society-level property, is now dead.” Nor did the column state racism was isolated to the 20thcentury, rather that there was a parochial conception of it in the US at that time. The interested reader may see the full article, as originally submitted. My observations were focused on American society, not at any particular individual. It’s the same as noting that Americans are generally regarded as being over-weight without excluding the possible existence of thin people within that collective. 

The rest of his response, however, is a collection of deliberate distortions of my column. Nowhere will you find explicitly or implicitly the statements “black people are the racists now” or “whites are now the oppressed group.” These mischaracterizing assertions reveal much about the liberal/progressive mindset. People are not viewed as individuals; but rather as part of a collective, mere cogs in the machine. The individual is the collective and vice versa. An attack or defense of the individual is seen as applying to their collective. Therefore, unsurprisingly, when presented with clear, unambiguous, video proof that Group A was accosted by Group B, the progressive will regard the argument being made as ALL members of Group A are victims and ALL members of group B are aggressors. 

Finally, I must point out that it is Potts and his ilk that have an utter misunderstanding of the definition of racism. He claims I don’t know what it means, and I’ll admit I’m a bit old fashioned, but the last time I checked a dictionary there was nothing about “societal power dynamics.” The dictionary defines prejudice as “unreasonable feelings, opinions or attitude esp. of a hostile nature directed against a racial, religious or national group”. Gee that sounds a lot like racism to me, which is defined as “a hatred or intolerance of another race or other races”. If we allow the left to redefine racism to mean “people who (perceived to) hold “power” in society are engaging in racism whenever they interact with someone (perceived to) to not hold power” then like the wordsmiths on the right with their “war on terror” we will ensure never ending culture wars.  You can’t win a war against a label whose definition changes. 

This “racism is rampant today” narrative is further bolstered by the leftist media’s periodic outrage du-jour of a white on non-white incident that in 99.9% of cases today (i.e. the 21stcentury) turns out to be a hoax or misunderstanding. Mark my words, the “Jussie Smollet” incident mentioned by Potts will be found to have been a fabrication within 6 months 6 days and will be quietly swept under the rug.<Just call me Nostradamus – I wrote this when nearly everyone and their brother was convinced of the veracity of Smollet’s story… how quickly did that unravel…hmmmm>

Racism is but one flavor of prejudice. There are many others (e.g. sexism, anti-Semitism, jingoism, etc.) Nowhere does “power dynamic” come into play. That doesn’t mean a prejudiced individual can’t impact your life if they hold power over you in the context of that interaction but the mere holding of power does not do the reverse, it does not make them acquire prejudicial beliefs. Individuals hold power in society, not groups. Those that define you based on your perceived group memberships are the true enemies of the people for they seek to gain power (political, social, or economic) by appealing to one group while demonizing the other. The left does it. The right does it. Let’s cast off these imposed identities and interact as the individuals we are.


Racism is dead. Long live racism

What is racism? In the United States (at least in 20thcentury) the prevalent conception is of a pro-white anti-black bias. This misapprehension of what racism means is a rather peculiar parochial American artifact. It is primarily a result of declining 20thcentury standards in history pedagogy. White on black racism is an echo of the government-endorsed subjugation of one class of individual by another that existed in the US for decades – a legacy that warped and shaped the minds of millions over multiple generations. That legacy, at least as a tangible society-level property, is now dead.

Racism (as a form of behavior) is an anti-intellectual inheritance of our primitive forbearers who had to make quick judgments about the dangers lurking in the world. It’s the same reason we have a natural fear of heights and snakes; both are so dangerous it’s not worth the time to reflect on the finer points of non-venomous varieties or handrails. If one example of A has property B then it is easier to simply conclude all other examples of A must also have property B. Thus racism is a form of low-information low-thought quick-conclusion collectivism. We don’t need much information or much thought to reach our conclusions. Likewise the herd instinct takes over when our neighbor reaches a conclusion before we do; we then assume they’ve already thought it through and so can’t be wrong so we’ll quickly adopt their mindset (again, more intellectual laziness). From an evolutionary standpoint this can work insofar as the herd steering away from the predator will tend to keep the individual safe; but it can also backfire when the herd is spooked over the cliff.

And so it was this past week we saw this herd-like low intellectual analysis play out in real time on Twitter and in the state media. A short video clip emerged showing a group of MAGA-hat wearing teens “confronting” and “intimidating” a gentle and peaceful elderly Native American man whilst he chanted and played his drums on the Washington mall in DC. Apparently, 10 seconds of video is all that was needed for the media and the Twitter blogosphere to start (literally) calling for the death of these teens! These kids were unwitting lighting rods for the vitriolic hatred of all things in any way connected to Donald Trump (aka as TDS: Trump Derangement Syndrome). The outpouring of invective towards these boys from across the country was breathtaking in its rhetorical and ideological uniformity. Intellectual reflection was not necessary – these were white males, some of whom apparently had a preference for President Trump, therefore no other conclusion was possible than that they were nascent Nazi’s. That is perhaps the saddest part of this whole story: so many on the left ardently believe that nearly every white person in this country is a closet Klan member. So convinced they are of this that they will imbue every innocuous non-event as somehow being proof of the existence of these witches.

As it turns out (surprise, surprise) the above narrative was 100% wrong. After a full 2-hour video  (see here for yourself) emerged we quickly learned that it was not the boys who approached the Native American man (Nathan Phillips) but rather that Phillips approached the boys’ group and got right in the middle of it. The boys were merely waiting for their school bus to pick them up from their field trip. They were actually being harassed by a group of blatantly racist (according to the SPLC – I mean, when the SPLC is calling a black group racist, that has got to be bad!) black men known as the “Black Hebrew Israelites” who hurled racist and homophobic invectives at the teens. Philllips bizarrely claims he moved into the teen’s group to prevent them from attacking the Black Hebrews (even though the videos show zero evidence of that brewing).

In short, these boys were on the receiving end of what blacks have had to endure in this country for decades: a summary judgment based solely on one’s preconception about members of that skin color group coupled with a scant smattering of “evidence” (oh the irony that this happened over the MLK holiday weekend). Likewise, the real instigators here, the black Hebrews, are entirely ignored, forgiven, or excused, again, solely based on skin color. When racist, old, black men are assumed to be in the right and young, white boys are assumed to be in the wrong, then, on a national level, it is safe to conclude that all traditional notions of racism in this country are dead. Should that be celebrated our mourned? Both and neither – truly a paradox.

Eyes Wide Shutdown

The current government shutdown is moving into its third week as I write this and has now won the prize for longest shutdown in history – truly America is being made great again. The longer it goes on the more Americans it affects. Already we are seeing multi-hour queues at TSA checkpoints as more and more unpaid but “essential” federal employees are quitting or calling in sick. Many IRS agents have been furloughed and that agency is operating at minimal capacity (although I think that would bolster support for the shutdown!). And for the first time ever I have been personally impacted by one of these shutdowns insofar as my genealogical hobby has been halted by the shuttering of the doors at the National Archives.

The popular stereotype of anti-government libertarians might lead one to believe libertarians are rejoicing. Although there might be a wee bit of schadenfreude, for the most part that is not the case since (a) libertarians oppose the state, not government (a critical but important distinction that even many self-described libertarians are oblivious to) and (b) temporary disruptions do nothing to advance that goal for the same reason your employer doesn’t hire a replacement every time you go on vacation. But – when a poorly performing employee does go on vacation sometimes it provides an opportunity to demonstrate to management that a temporary replacement is actually doing a better job – or that maybe we don’t need that position after all (i.e. no one noticed that the job not getting done).

For example during this shutdown many local businesses around Yellowstone National Park have banded together and voluntarily taken over the duties of the local park service (removing trash, cleaning bathrooms, maintaining roads, etc).

Why? Because it is in their mutual self-interest – all those tourists coming to Yellowstone also spend their money at those local restaurants, hotels, and shops. Indeed, this is the model that answers the perennial “but who will build the roads?” question – businesses that want to make it easy for customers to find them, that’s who.

Likewise the TSA disruption should make all question why exactly airport security is an arm of the federal government? Do we really want air travel in this country to be held hostage by the whims of those bickering children in Washington? Up until the incidents of September 11 airport security was a completely private affair. 9-11 was certainly not a failure on the part of that private system (unless of course you believe a federal TSA agent would have (a) stopped the guys with the box cutters because (b) they knew box cutter = destroyed buildings). Again, airports and airlines have aligned incentives in that both would be culpable and liable if they allowed dangerous individuals on board a flight. They should be allowed to choose the best most competent agency to handle security, rather than being forced to accept a single monopolistic agency (TSA) that can’t be fired no matter how poorly they perform. Due to the “crowding out” effect caused by nationalization (as with the TSA) there exists no viable competitors that could take over during these short-term disruptions (because by their nature they are short term – who would start a business that could only get operate once every year or two for a week or two?).

Hopefully this current shutdown will serve as a “teachable moment” amongst the general public who will begin to question why the federal government must control endeavors that can quite easily be managed by the private sector.

On Property Rights and Poop

I recently had the opportunity to visit San Francisco for the first time. Coastal towns tend to be a bit more interesting in terms of cuisine (seafood being one of the more varied palate options) as well as architecture (steep hill structures are ever a testament to human ingenuity) and San Francisco scores high in both categories. However one area where it currently scores quite low is in the aroma zone. At first I thought perhaps they had a very inefficient sewer system near the shoreline retail sector, but as we explored deeper toward the city center it became clear something was amiss. I learned shortly thereafter that San Francisco has a poop crisis. To be blunt – people are literally crapping on the sidewalks. Not the tourists mind you but the local homeless population. The situation has come to a head (or to the head to employ a nautical metaphor) primarily as a result of progressive conservatism primed with the power of centralized (governmental) authority.

The outside leftist narrative of course is that this poop crisis is inevitable results of unmitigated capitalism, which drives the eternal boogeyman of income inequality. This inequality fuels gentrification of the San Francisco housing market (no, actually property taxes are the prime driver of gentrification – if you own your home absent property tax you would never need to sell due to rising prices). So as housing becomes ever more “unaffordable” people are forced out of their homes and onto the street. This is of course complete nonsense. Prices only go up if supply is constrained while demand is rising. So in order to discover why supply is constrained we turn our attention toward the “inside” leftists (that is, the progressive liberals who live there). It turns out those that live there are in fact quit conservative (even if they don’t realize it). Any attempted new housing project must pass not only governmental hurdles but also the “local input” of current residents. These residents walk and talk like social progressives but because one of their core tenets is that they do not want the flavor, character, or architecture of the area in which they live to change – that is, they want to conserve it in perpetuity  – this by definition makes them conservatives in that arena. Their dual desire to not only keep San Francisco locked in an eternal snow globe style stasis but to also not erode the value of their homes drives them to engage in this very destructive economic protectionism: keeping new comers out by making it virtually impossible (or more costly than necessary) to build, keeps the value of their own homes artificially elevated while preserving the Norman Rockwell character of their town.

To fully appreciate the extent of the damage they are causing and why perhaps more than anywhere else in the country the homeless problem is so acute is that the median price of a modest single family home now stands at $1.6 million. A family of four with a household income of $100k is considered at the poverty line and actually qualifies for assistance from HUD (let that sink in – taxpayers across the country are subsidizing the housing of people making a $100k/year).

So what is the solution? Always the same and likewise always decried as “unrealistic” – remove all housing regulations and obstacles and let anyone build anything anywhere (works just fine in Houston, TX thank you very much). Your neighbor has no right to say what you can do with your property. Progressives (yes, I’m looking at you “townies” in Athens) should stop blocking progress when it comes to housing and development.

 

 

The Jaws of Victory

The Democrats seem to be becoming more and more adept at snagging defeat from the jaws of victory. Ever since the “what happened?” upset defeat of Hillary Clinton in 2016 the Democratic party’s strategists couldn’t find the pulse of the American electorate if you handed them a stethoscope. Not that the Republicans are much better – but the Republicans currently hold the reigns of power – so all they need to do is sit back and keep their mouth shut while the left engages in hyperbolic ranting’s about male-heteronormative-rape-culture-privilege or whatever the latest SJW trending outrage is focused on. They don’t understand the “common” American, so they turn to their intellectual muses – the ivory tower elites who currently occupy basically 99% of all US universities. These elites struggle on with their never ending quest to unearth the most arcane and esoteric slight to some ever shrinking slice of cultural Marxism. Turning to these people for advice on strategy is like asking Siri for dating tips.

The Democrats latest fiasco was the Judge Kavanaghs confirmation hearings. The hubris of naked Democrat partisanship knows no bounds. Somehow they thought no one would notice that they knew about potential serious allegations again Kavanagh back in July but chose to sit on those allegations until literally the 11thhour of his confirmation hearings. Obviously they hoped that these last minute allegations would sow uncertainty in a handful of Senators, just enough to turn the tide against him. What they didn’t count on was how absurd the charges would look under public scrutiny by the “common” American (seriously, something that happened nearly 40 years ago in HIGH SCHOOL!). If he did what he was accused of doing it is naturally condemnable behavior – but it’s not rape. Guys being pigs isn’t rape. Who hasn’t done something stupid in their youth that they then NEVER DID AGAIN? I’m sure if they had found a shoplifting charge when he was 12 they would have used that instead.

Kavanagh was a terrible pick for the Supreme Court. He is absolutely atrocious on the 4thamendment (he time and again confirmed the government’s right to spy on its own citizens with impunity). That is what the Democrats should have hammered him on. They would have shown the American people that there are some in power that do care about their rights and their privacy. But no, they can’t do that, because the Democrats are just as much a bunch of Neocon’s warmongers as are the Republicans. Both sides are more than happy to keep the perpetual war state going.

So, for the past several months polling has shown the Democrats were likely to take both the House and the Senate in the midterm elections. But then the Kavanagh fiasco occurred. And guess what now? The tide has turned. Polling shows that it is very likely the Republican swill keep BOTH the House and Senate. As Hillary would say, “what happened?” My take on this turn of events is that the atrocious naked partisanship games of the Democrats has genuinely angered lukewarm center-right folk into supporting Republicans this fall and has also fired up the Republican base to go to the polls and show the Democrats just what they think of their games.

If you thought the 2016 left-meltdown was something, it’s about to go full nuclear this November when the Republicans keep the House and Senate. Now time to sit back and warm up the popcorn…

Are teachers underpaid?

Are teachers underpaid? No. That’s not to say there aren’t individual teachers that should be paid more, just as there are assuredly individual teachers that should be paid less (or fired). But the “national conversation” that is being continually pushed (from the left mostly, e.g. see recent Time Magazine spread on “underpaid” teachers) is not so much about worthy star teachers being passed over for raises but rather how the collective known as “teachers” is “underpaid”; identity politics now driven by profession. With credulous acceptance the public will always answer in the affirmative if asked should teachers be paid more because what we have been conditioned to hear instead is, “do these benighted souls deserve more for their selfless work?” With “more” being the unmoored comparative there is no upper bound for “worth.” Their salaries could double every year and every year if asked, “should they earn more” we would nod our heads in bobble-head synchrony.

Please do not misunderstand dear reader, teachers do indeed provide an important service to their fellow man – just as does every other working person. How do we know this? Well, if you earn a salary or income, then that demonstrates how much value you produced. Work in and of itself is not valuable – just ask the guy making mud pies all day – no one is going to pay him a dime (sorry Marx, labor theory of value was laid to rest long ago). The “hardness” of your work is irrelevant – only the result counts. Work is only valuable when subjectively judged to have value by fellow human beings, that is, an offer to trade parts of your work for theirs is made. Value is subjective and not absolute. When people say “teachers should earn more” I always wonder, “ok, what is the mathematical formula that is used to solve for pay of a teacher?” You may believe that teachers serve a more valued role in society than say the movie star or the lawyer, but the distribution of talent in society says otherwise. Labor, like any other economic good, is subject to the laws of supply and demand. The issue with teacher’s pay is summed up nicely in the following quote from the Time article,

“Hutchison’s siblings—an attorney, engineer and physical therapist—all earned graduate degrees, but now she makes half of what they do.” 

Hutchinson (the teacher) makes half of what her siblings make because her siblings all chose careers that are in much greater demand than that of the public school teacher. The path to becoming an attorney or engineer is long and arduous and very few have the skillset to complete it. The supply is thus low and it so follows that demand (and thus pay) will be high. On the flip side is the path of teacher; most people possess the skillsets needed to teach (after getting a 2 year teaching degree). It is an “easy” career (relative to other more highly paid careers), and so that low barrier to entry means many will take up that profession – supply is thus high and so demand (pay) will (all things equal) be lower when compared to professions with limited supply.

Because we are mainly focused on public school teachers this introduces either unions or the regimentation of a public sector workforce structure into the wage equation. In these systems wages are based primarily on seniority rules and have little to do with how effectively one performs their job. Being government run, raises will typically trail inflationary trends (inflation being 100% caused by the government mind you!) due to slow to act legislatures.

A more market-based approach (where teachers could be rewarded directly without concern for the “seniority” of others) would realize the top teachers earning top salaries, thus incentivizing those in other high paid professions to switch careers (if their preference had been for teaching). The end result of this process would be highly paid teachers dominating the profession and driving out the weak or ineffective teachers. If two teachers making $125k each can “out-teach” the same number of students as five teachers making $60k each, then it would be a win for the students, the teachers, and the taxpayer. If we want teachers to make more then let’s unshackle the profession’s public sector regimentation and union demands that maintain a status quo of oversupply driven by the politics of envy.

Amazon welfare?

Tucker Carlson, the sometimes libertarian leaning Fox News pundit, is either a masterful troll or eminently confused about what the word “free” in the phrase “free markets” means. Last week he started pinch-hitting for Team Bernie when he joined Bernard in lamenting the “indefensible scam” of Amazon “offloading” payroll costs onto the taxpayer.

According to Carlson “many” Amazon employees are on welfare. This is the modus operandi of all who entreat the state to take action against some perceived societal ill. This unqualified, uncorroborated assertion is all the pretext needed to initiate action. How many is “many”? Well even according to Snopes this assertion is on flimsy ground. It is based on a mere estimate of the number of Amazon workers in just one state (Ohio) and indeed that number hardly qualifies as many – 11.8%. I suppose 600 or so workers in one auditorium would look like “many,” but within the context of the entire workforce (even assuming it extrapolates to all states) 1 in 10 is hardly “many”.

Carlson doesn’t really suggest a solution to the problem, leaving the mechanics of that process up to Bernie (100% tax on Amazon for any welfare used by employees – I guess the $15 billion in taxes Amazon paid last year isn’t quite enough to cover their “fair share” of welfare). One is left with the assumption that Carlson, like Sanders, would like to see some sort of government action to fix this “problem.” Carlson claims although conservatives are all for free markets, this market is not at all free. According to Carlson it is a monopoly (and we all know monopolies are bad – except when that monopoly is the government itself) that achieved its status via government regulation. That may be true, however that is a pretty bold claim given that Carlson provided no evidence for it. I’m unaware of any government regulations that Amazon or Walmart could have used to their benefit, although I would not be at all surprised if that were true to some extent. Retail just doesn’t happen to be one of those more highly regulated and monopolized industries such as pharmaceuticals, banking, or healthcare (where government regulations create artificial barriers to entry thereby diminishing competition and thus reducing supply which in turn drives prices skyward).

What both Sanders and Carlson miss in their missives is that the solution is not more government regulations to fix the consequences of prior government regulations. The solution is to remove government from the equation. If companies are benefiting from government regulations or subsidies, then eliminate them. If companies are able to pay lower wages to some employees because said employees are also being paid a wage by government (through welfare) then eliminate the welfare. You can’t hand out a bunch of free money to people and then expect that to not factor at all into their determination of the wage they will be wiling to accept. If you need $20/hour to get by and the government is paying you the equivalent of $10/hour in food, healthcare and housing welfare, then all things equal you are going to be much more willing to accept a $10/hour job.

As an employer myself I’ll let you in on a little secret. Employers don’t set wages. You do. Or rather groups of you do. Maybe you want $30/hour but if everyone in your working-skillset-peer group will work for $20 then why pay you $30/hour if there are hundreds of others more than happy to work for $20/hour with the same skillset as you. I’m sorry if you are a single mom raising 3 kids and working an entry level job but that is not your employer’s fault and your employer has no obligation to pay you more because you need it when there is a long line of single teenagers with the same skillset as you willing to work for a lot less. It is extremely disingenuous to lambaste a company for not paying its workers enough merely because you found one example of an unlucky individual who can’t get by on a salary that is more that enough for thousands of others.

Being mad at Amazon or Walmart for hiring people in a welfare-backed society is like being mad at them for using roads to deliver products or the postal service to send mail. Here’s a novel concept: if you want to eliminate free-riding effects for services stop paying for things with taxes (which socialize costs in a way that will always benefit some to the detriment of others) and bill only when services are actually used.