American Elephants


The Attention Is All on Iowa. It Begins. by The Elephant's Child

IowaWinter

Soon the returns from the Iowa Caucuses will be coming in. As someone online remarked today —”the results of the Iowa Caucuses don’t determine the result of the election —  just ask President Santorum.”

It’s a strange year. I forget that there are reporters from all over the world following the candidates and the campaign, not just our own journalists. I was really excited about the campaign at the beginning with such an outstanding bench of Republicans — Scott Walker, Rick Perry, and Bobby Jindal who had all been such successful governors. Uh huh. Apparently the media didn’t like successful governors.

I’m increasingly convinced that the media plays far too large a role in our primary campaigns as do probably meaningless polls when most Americans are just beginning to find out who the candidates are. I’m a political junkie, always have been, but I recognize that most people don’t pay much attention until it’s time for an election. I understand that. You come home tired from work, and want nothing so much as to just relax with something good on TV.

In the Saturday Essay at The Wall Street Journal, John O’Sullivan pointed out “two long-term shocks to the American political system, both gradually coming to a boil in recent decades, and in one short-term shock, which has turned up the gas on them to produce today’s bubbling over.”

The first was the end of the Cold War. But didn’t that happen in 1989? Yes, it did, and it began to loosen the discipline that had kept political parties world-wide either anti-Soviet or “peace-minded,” as their primary orientation. Since the fall of the Berlin Wall, they have been released to follow their other instincts.

Mr. O’Sullivan suggests that “behind the two-party curtain, America’s social classes have been changing places in politics. Highly educated and very rich people used to lean Republican, they now increasingly vote for Democrats. Working class Americans no longer feel well represented by the Democrats…and have shifted sharply to the GOP.”

I certainly had not thought in those terms, but it seems possible. We have a big chunk of mega rich here — Microsoft, Amazon, Starbucks, and Costco, and they are certainly reliable Democrats. I would suggest that the mega rich have done quite well under the Obama regime, but the working class clearly have suffered.  Everybody I know complains about having lost some of their favorite small businesses, and everyone knows someone who has been laid off.

You have probably seen the results: High turnout. Ted Cruz won significantly with 28 percent. Trump, second at 24 percent with Marco Rubio, a very close 23 percent. Martin O’Malley on the Democrat side and Mike Huckabee have suspended their campaigns. Hillary and Bernie Sanders are essentially tied, in a dead heat. A setback for Hillary, who is not qualified to run.  Technically there are 30 Republican delegates and 44 Democratic delegates. (I don’t know!) Ben Carson placed 4th and Rand Paul 5th.

Also pertinent is an article from the Washington Examiner: Confronting the hard truths of America’s civic illiteracy

Recently, the American Council of Trustees and Alumni (ACTA) released a major report: “The Crisis in Civic Education.” ACTA’s curricular survey of over 1,100 colleges and universities shows that only 18 percent of them require students to take a course in U.S. history or government. In secondary education, the results are equally dismal. In 2014, the National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP) revealed through their civics test that one in four high-school seniors did not have “proficient” civic knowledge. Moreover, over one-third of 12th-grade students did not have “basic” knowledge of American civics. The NAEP governing board has since shot the messenger that brings such bad news by eliminating the high school civics test.

To spell it out, fewer “than 20 percent of American college graduates knew what the effects of the Emancipation Proclamation were; nearly half could not identify the correct term lengths of Congress; and almost 10 percent thought…”Judge Judy” served on the Supreme Court.” Apparently the Millennials are very enthusiastic about Bernie Sanders, but have no clue what socialism is. Perhaps it’s the offer of tuition -free college (not going to happen). Bernie is even more unfamiliar with economics than the Millennials. Do read the whole thing.



Is It Time For The Federal Government to Stop Telling You What to Eat? by The Elephant's Child

mixed selection of fruit and vegetables

For 35 years the federal government has been issuing dietary guidelines, and they haven’t changed all that much. A revised bunch of recommendations released this month includes a new cap on added sugar. The guidelines have been a failure in checking the rise of obesity and diabetes. The problem, the Wall Street Journal article suggests, is a reliance on weak science.

I don’t know who relies on the federal government’s dietary guidelines, nor who even sees them. When I was in high school, admittedly quite a while ago, we still had home economics, which consisted of the basics, you could say, of ‘housewifery.’ Basic cooking and nutrition, a little sewing, maybe a bit of budgeting depending on the school , but I don’t think they’ve done that for years. The boys got ‘shop’ which was mostly coping with ‘man around the house’ stuff, making something with wood, and using tools. Forgive me if I’m not up to date, it was some time ago. I don’t think the boys ever saw the dietary guidelines either.

Congress, however is concerned about the continued toll taken by nutrition-related diseases. (The rising cost of ObamaCare is scaring everyone) They have mandated the first ever outside review by the National Academy of Medicine of the evidence underlying the dietary guidelines and the process that produces them.

I knew I’d written about the dietary guidelines before, but entering “dietary guidelines” in the search box over Bob Hope’s head in the sidebar produced 8 cranky posts. This particular one concerned the Committee’s concern with “sustainability” and the environmental food activist the USDA had hired. If you know of anyone who has posted the federal guidelines poster in their kitchen, or who has shown interest, please let me know. I just don’t think anyone except possibly the heads of school lunch programs has any interest — and that has been taken over by Michelle who came up with a program universally hated by all school children, and that schools are abandoning as rapidly as possible.

Many of the wrongheaded recommendations reach home kitchens, like butter is bad, margarine good. Eggs bad, eat lots of pasta. In short, they are usually universally wrong. Of course there are all sorts of quacks telling you what to eat online, and our grocery stores are filled with organic food, natural food, GMO free, reduced fat, sugar free, gluten free, and acres of special drinks: Texas superfoods, liquid beets, anything any producer can think of as a possible selling point. Grocery stores cater to all the enthusiasms, because that’s what people want, which means multiple fads.

I am certainly no expert, but when the agriculture department starts hiring environmental food activists, they have crossed some sort of line. Putting the nation’s corn crop into our gas tanks makes no sense either, even if Iowa farmers like it.  We have too many unaccountable bureaucracies that should simply be abolished, but thinning out the swarm of agencies in the federal government and the repetitive and often useless things they do seems to be a needed but impossible task. The agencies exist because Congress palms off the execution of tasks onto the agencies which grow and fester.

Congress said, back in the day, that we want clean air and clean water, a straightforward, simple request, which gave us the EPA — possibly the most crooked agency in the government, intent only on their own power and growth. There are a lot of agencies competing for the title though — the VA, the IRS, HHS, and HUD are all prime candidates.  It will take a lot of public pressure to get any real action, and it may be impossible. There are supposedly 47 different federal job training programs, though there may be more. Is it hopeless?



If He Were a CEO, He Would Have Been Fired a Long Time Ago! by The Elephant's Child

recessionThe Great Obama Recession continues. Fourth Quarter growth was anemic, expanding at only a 0.7% seasonally adjusted annualized rate in the fourth quarter of 2015.  That’s weak, really weak. From the end of World War II, the economy grew at an average annual rate of 3.5%, through thick and thin.

The Labor Department reported 292,000 new net jobs in December, but the U.S. labor force participation rate has been declining for more than five years. Only 62.6 percent of the labor force is actually employed. In a study published last month University of Chicago economist Casey Mulligan concludes that American safety-net programs changed significantly, in ways that discouraged employment. Unemployment insurance became more generous in several ways. Eligibility rules for food stamps were reduced, waivers from work requirements were granted, and the monthly benefit amount was increased.

In Britain, labor force participation stayed flat throughout the downturn, and it increased for 25 to 54 year olds. In the U.S. labor force participation for ages25 to 54 dropped 3,1 percentage points. The difference was that Britain cut tax rates on income and consumption to encourage low income individuals to work. The American stimulus reduced the incentives to be employed.

Work is important. Only 3% of working-age adults who work full time, year around, are in poverty. Democrats govern most of the major American cities, and they have been increasing their spending significantly. Without the ability to increase their spending much more, they have turned to regulation. By regulating how businesses conduct themselves, who they can hire, what they must provide — they are turning the progressive agenda into a regulatory agenda.

During the 1990s, conservative ideas had a profound and lasting influence on welfare policy, policing, and K–12 public education. Cities that had appeared to be in a death spiral only years before began to see their populations stabilize and even start growing again. Republican mayors such as Steven Goldsmith in Indianapolis, New York City’s Rudolph Giuliani, and Los Angeles’s Richard Riordan gained national renown for their successes. Welfare rolls fell dramatically without the corresponding rise in poverty predicted by liberal doomsayers. Crime rates plummeted. School choice gained broad support throughout low-income minority neighborhoods.

Republican inability to explain what had happened, capitalize on the drop in crime and the popularity of charter schools, led to the reelection of Progressive mayors. The rise in convicted criminals was blamed on racism, not as the cause of the drop in crime. (See Butterfield Fallacy) Progressives aren’t spending in a big way because they don’t have the money. Paying city workers, mostly unionized, and pensions means there’s not enough left for anything else.

Work is Important. To quote Thomas Sowell:

It was Thomas Edison who brought us electricity, not the Sierra Club. It was the Wright brothers who got us off the ground, not the Federal Aviation Administration. It was Henry Ford who ended the isolation of millions of Americans by making the automobile affordable, not Ralph Nader.

Those who have helped the poor the most have not been those who have gone around loudly expressing “compassion” for the poor, but those who found ways to make industry more productive and distribution more efficient, so that the poor of today can afford things that the affluent of yesterday could only dream about.

 



Recovery From a Recession is Likely Unless Lawmakers Gum it Up With Ill-Conceived Stimulus Policies. by The Elephant's Child

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Obama likes to compare his recession to Franklin Roosevelt’s GREAT Depression under the mistaken belief that the GREAT Depression was long because it was a particularly bad one, and the reason that Obama’ recession has gone on so long is simply because it was an unusually bad one— which is all a bunch of hooey.

FDR’s Great Depression was bad because FDR  had no real idea how to deal with it and attacked it with the idea of constant experimentation with ways to end it. There was the NRA, the WPA, the RFC, the CCC, and the OPA to mention just a few. Two UCLA economists announced back in 2004 that they had figured out why the Great Depression dragged on for almost 15 years, and they blame a suspect thought by all good Progressives to be beyond reproach— Franklin D Roosevelt himself. The Wall Street Journal reminds us in a “Notable and Quotable” column:

After scrutinizing Roosevelt’s record for four years, Harold L. Cole and Lee E. Ohanian conclude in a new study that New Deal policies signed into law 71 years ago thwarted economic recovery for seven long years.

“Why the Great Depression lasted so long has always been a great mystery, and because we never really knew the reason, we have always worried whether we would have another 10- to 15-year economic slump,” said Ohanian, vice chair of UCLA’s Department of Economics. “We found that a relapse isn’t likely unless lawmakers gum up a recovery with ill-conceived stimulus policies.” . . .

“The fact that the Depression dragged on for years convinced generations of economists and policy-makers that capitalism could not be trusted to recover from depressions and that significant government intervention was required to achieve good outcomes,” Cole said. “Ironically, our work shows that the recovery would have been very rapid had the government not intervened.”

What? Non-intervention as policy? Works pretty well. Economies like to recover. Freedom and prosperity go together. Consult Calvin Coolidge.



An Admirable Experiment in Free Market Capitalism by The Elephant's Child

In this February 26, 2007 file photograph, Charles Koch, head of Koch Industries, talks passionately about his new book on Market Based Management. (Bo Rader/Wichita Eagle/MCT via Getty Images)

The reliably far left Puffington Post had a long article on the evil doings of the notorious Koch Brothers.  It seems that Charles Koch is attempting to give some poor kids a path out of poverty and into prosperity.The Koch brothers are the source constant attacks from the left because they have the temerity to support free market capitalism, and though they are Libertarians, they occasionally donate to Republican causes. They are also generous and prominent philanthropists, donating wings to hospitals, hundreds of millions to cancer research, for example. They help fund some some organizations and foundations, some purely educational, some partisan, none Progressive — and that’s the problem.

In this particular case, they were encouraging the predominately poor students at Highland Park High School in Topeka, Kansas to enroll in a new, yearlong course “that would provide lessons in basic economic principles and practical instruction on starting a business. Students would receive generous financial incentives including startup capital and scholarships after graduation.” How scary is that?

In some ways, the class looked like a typical high school business course, taught in a Highland Park classroom by a Highland Park teacher. But it was actually run by Youth Entrepreneurs, a nonprofit group created and funded primarily by Charles G. Koch, the billionaire chairman of Koch Industries.

The official mission of Youth Entrepreneurs is to provide kids with “business and entrepreneurial education and experiences that help them prosper and become contributing members of society.” The underlying goal of the program, however, is to impart Koch’s radical free-market ideology to teenagers. In the last school year, the class reached more than 1,000 students across Kansas and Missouri.

Intrepid reporters acquired lesson plans and class materials. They are teaching the kids such subversive things as low taxes and less regulation allow people to prosper, raising the minimum wage hurts workers and slows economic growth. Public assistance harms the poor. Government, in short, is the enemy of liberty. Good Lord! Did you ever hear anything so subversive? Even the headline says “How the Koch Brothers are Buying Their Way Into The Mind of Public School Students.” The Left really hates the Koch Brothers.

Apparently Charles Koch had a hands-on role in the design of the high school curriculum directly reviewing the work of those responsible for setting up the course. (Since he was paying for it, hardly surprising) The goal, the group admitted, was to turn young people into “liberty-advancing agents” before they went to college, where they might learn “harmful” liberal ideas.

The reporters astonishment at the deeply partisan ideas of liberty and free markets is interesting. Clearly they have not had much familiarity with such ideas. Here’s a good example complete with plentiful scare quotes.

They aimed to “inoculate” students against liberal ideas by assigning them to read passages from socialist and Marxist writers, whom they called “bad guys.” These readings would then be compared to works by the “good guys” — free-market economists like Friedrich Hayek and Ludwig von Mises.

The Koch Foundation is doing some good work. It’s hard to rise if you cannot see a path ahead. The free market is what has made America not only free, but prosperous. The astonishment and negative attitude of the reporters tells a sad story of the many schools run by the social justice warriors. Corporations are evil, and all good things must be done by the power of government.
Here’s a list from the article of the wrongheaded ideas of these subversive billionaires.

In late 2009, the Koch group made a list of “common economic fallacies” that they believed should be repudiated. These included:

  • Corporatism v. Free-market Capitalism
  • Deregulation is what caused recession in 80s, Economic problems of today
  • Rich get richer at the expense of the poor
  • FDR/New Deal brought us out of the depression
  • Government wealth transfer programs help the poor
  • Private industry incapable of doing functions that public sector has always done
  • Unions protect the employees
  • People with the same job title should be paid the same amount
  • Minimum wage, “living wage,” laws are good for people/society
  • Capitalist societies provide an environment for greed and materialism to flourish
  • Socialist countries do just fine, people have great lives there (using this as proof that socialism works).

Shocking! Giving kids a boost up with lessons in free market capitalism. Do read the whole thing. It is a vision of the leftist mind at work.

NOTE: This post has been revised since first posted. Somehow when I posted it, it lost the first two paragraphs — I was still sleepy I guess.



So You Think Socialism Is a Good Idea? Think Again, Booby. by The Elephant's Child

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The Peter Peterson Foundation says that America’s fiscal outlook is still getting worse, with the 2016 deficit climbing by $105 billion  to $544 billion. Over the next decade deficits will total $9.4 trillion and there’s Bernie Sanders with his $28 trillion health plan if he were elected.

That’s the additional spending for Bernie’s “Medicare for All” plan. Gerald Friedman, a professor at the University of Massachusetts , working with the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services projections of national health care spending, claims that the Sanders plan would cost $40.9 trillion between 2017 and 2026. That doesn’t even include his free college for everyone. I keep telling you that Democrats are math avoiders, and unfamiliar with economics. Britain’s NHS is broke, and killing around 9,000 people a year unnecessarily. So that’s Bernie’s plan to bankrupt America.

Meanwhile, Venezuela is on track to barrel past 700% inflation. The International Monetary Fund says Venezuela inflation will reach 720 percent this year. Nicholas Maduro, getting defeated in the legislative election is running an economic decree backed by a Supreme Court that his party packed. The newly elected free market legislature is defying him. This is Socialism, and how it works.

If the whole business of trying to become president doesn’t work out for Bernie,  he could run down to Venezuela to see how Socialism really works in practice. The Army has taken over the toilet paper factories, and staples are no longer on the shelves.

The new legislature suggests that Nicholas Maduro is the problem.

ADDENDUM: The Washington Times reports that the Congressional Budget Office today warns that the federal government will be flirting with $30 trillion in debt within a decade. The problem is an aging population (baby boomers retiring) new spending and tax cuts approved on Capitol Hill, and the growing burden of ObamaCare. ObamaCare will chase more workers out of the labor force over the next five years. The Affordable Care Act is still struggling to attract a customer base. The estimate for the number of people who will sign up for the exchanges has dropped from 21 million to 13 million. They also say the economy might see significant growth of 2.5 percent this year and 2.6 percent next year. Big whoop! How about a real 4 percent growth? The business sector wants to grow and expand, but is being reined in by this administration with way too much regulation, fear of regulation, and stupid taxes. Cut the corporate tax. Corporations don’t pay taxes anyway — consumers do.



Marco Rubio Responds to a Question. Some Question! Some Response! by The Elephant's Child

A campaign stop in New Hampshire, and Marco Rubio has a very nice response to a question from an 11 year old girl. Would be nice to see a lot more of this on the campaign trail.




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