American Elephants


I Pencil, The Movie by The Elephant's Child

The old favorite free enterprise story, in a brand new movie. An explanation of commerce, by the simple story of how a pencil is made.



The Number of Children in Poverty Have Increased Dramatically under Obama by The Elephant's Child

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In 2008, about 18% of children lived in poverty. Today, under the Obama ‘Recovery’ that number has increased to 22%, according to the Annie E. Casey Foundation report released Tuesday. The expectation is that the ‘improving’ economy will improve those numbers. However, figures on employment show that most of the new jobs have gone to immigrants. Census numbers don’t distinguish between legal and illegal.

Everyone knows that the best anti-poverty program is not a hand-out, but a job. President Obama admits this, but insists that the poor work just as hard as the rich do, and many poor people work very hard at low wages to support their families. Economist Stephen Moore points out that statistically, the average poor family does not work nearly as much as rich families do.

The Census sorts households by income quintiles: we call the highest one “the rich” and the lowest “the poor.” In the top 20 percent of income, the average household has two full-time workers. The average poor family (bottom 20 percent of income) household has just 0.4 workers. Basic math: for every hour worked by those in a poor household, those in a rich household work five hours. But six out of ten poor households have no one working at all. With no income from work, it is not surprising that they are poor.

For rich households, 75 percent have two or more workers, for the poor households that percentage is less than 5 percent. Out of wedlock births and divorce have a lot to do with income inequality. Budget expert Isabel Sawhill of the Brookings Institute found that if marriage rates were as high today as they were in 1970, about 20 percent of child poverty would disappear.

The best way to help low-income families is with jobs, ideally 40 hours a week. When welfare takes the place of work, it contributes to long-term poverty. Strict work requirements for welfare programs are actually a help, every step towards becoming a worker is a step out of poverty. Raising the minimum wage destroys jobs at the bottom of the skills ladder, and leaves beginners nowhere to start.

Getting married before having children, and having a father in the home are great ways to avoid the trap of falling into poverty. The earned-income tax credit supplements low income wages. The left wants to increase the benefits of being dependent on the government. People who are dependent are apt to vote reliably for those who give them benefits. That’s how the Left made people poor in the first place, and the rules for those who are dependent make it increasingly hard to escape.

 



One of the Most Remarkable Achievements in Human History by The Elephant's Child

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Here is a chart of one of the most remarkable achievements in  human history: the 80% reduction in world poverty in only 36 years. In 1970,  26.5% of the world’s population were living on $1 or less (in 1987 dollars) to only 5.4% in 2006 — led by the 97% reduction in the poverty rate in East Asia (excluding Japan and Hong Kong) from 58.8% to  1.7% over that time period.  (Mark Perry: AEI)

It’s the greatest achievement in human history, and you never hear about it.

80 percent of the world’s worst poverty has been eradicated in less than 40 years. That has never, ever happened before.

So what did that? What accounts for that? United Nations? US foreign aid? The International Monetary Fund? Central planning? No.

It was globalization, free trade, the boom in international entrepreneurship. In short, it was the free enterprise system, American style, which is our gift to the world.

I will state, assert and defend the statement that if you love the poor, if you are a good Samaritan, you must stand for the free enterprise system, and you must defend it, not just for ourselves but for people around the world. It is the best anti-poverty measure ever invented.
(Arthur Brooks, President, AEI)

 



Obama Is Creating A Massive Database of Personal Information for the Purpose of Racial and Economic Justice by The Elephant's Child

A key part of President Obama’s legacy will, according to the New York Post, be the unprecedented massive collection by the federal government of sensitive data on the American people by race. It’s personal information at the most local levels, all for the purpose of “racial and economic justice.”

Unbeknown to most Americans, Obama’s racial bean counters are furiously mining data on their health, home loans, credit cards, places of work, neighborhoods, even how their kids are disciplined in school — all to document “inequalities” between minorities and whites.

This Orwellian-style stockpile of statistics includes a vast and permanent network of discrimination databases, which Obama already is using to make “disparate impact” cases against: banks that don’t make enough prime loans to minorities; schools that suspend too many blacks; cities that don’t offer enough Section 8 and other low-income housing for minorities; and employers who turn down African-Americans for jobs due to criminal backgrounds.

The Housing Database

Affirmatively Furthering Fair Housing (AFFH) will attempt to racially balance the nation, ZIP code by ZIP code, and will include distance to supermarkets, good schools, public transportation, parks. HUD’s maps will be used to select affordable-housing sites. Civil rights groups will have access to the agency’s sophisticated mapping software and will participate in city plans to re-engineer neighborhoods under new “community outreach requirements.”

The Mortgage Database

The FHA will build a database for racially balancing home loans, including 16 years of lending data by race, all credit lines, credit cards, student loans, car loans, anything reported to credit bureaus. Personal assets, debts, any bankruptcy. Square footage and lot size of your home as well as your interest rates. This will all be shared with the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau for “research” and “policy-making”. CFPB Director Richard Cordray said “We will be better able to identify possible discriminatory lending patterns.

The Credit Database

CFPB will monitor all citizens credit-card transactions — some 900 million of them — looking for “disparities” in interest rates, collections.

The Employment Database

CFPB rule requires all regulated banks to report on minority hiring to an office of Minority and Women inclusion. Policing diversity on Wall Street will be another fishing expedition.

The School Database

The Education Dept is gathering information on student suspensions and expulsions by race from every public school district in the country. Districts that show disparities will be targeted for reform. See how silly this gets? There are no badly behaved kids, it is only about race. They also want to know how many blacks are enrolled in gifted-and-talented and advanced placement classes.

There need be no claims of discrimination, it’s all based on the numbers which will prove “disparity.”

Sound a little more like North Korea than America? Well, yes it does.

Based on the theory that it is self-evident that high black incarceration rates result from discrimination, President Obama has commuted the sentences of 46 “non-violent drug offenders.” Obama is doing his bit to lead and otherwise contribute to the race-based assault on law enforcement, which seems to be based on the idea that less law enforcement will somehow improve lives in the inner city. But then the assumption is that if troublemakers cannot be expelled, then school outcomes for all will improve.

See Heather MacDonald: “Is the Criminal-Justice System Racist?



Now That He as Fixed the Middle East, Obama Intends to “Fix” America by The Elephant's Child

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Fresh off abjectly surrendering to the mullahs in Iraq, Obama has reverted to full Community Organizer. His broadest attempt to “fundamentally transform the United States of America”is a plan known as “Affirmatively Furthering Fair Housing” (AFFH) which will require the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) to gather data on the economic and racial makeup of each ZIP code, by the numbers, to disclose whether the numbers display “disparate impact” that requires “fixing.”

The trouble is that Obama knows so much that isn’t so. HUD’s own study explains why this will not work, and advised against expecting better results from a larger or more aggressive relocation program. But Liberals are always true believers in their cherished programs and are sure that a larger or more aggressive relocation program will do it. HUD is pitching the program as a plan to “diversify” America.

“HUD is working with communities across the country to fulfill the promise of equal opportunity for all,” a spokeswoman for the agency explained. “The proposed policy seeks to break down barriers to access to opportunity in communities supported by HUD funds.”

The effort calls for HUD to set aside taxpayer funds to upgrade poorer communities with amenities such as better schools, parks, libraries, grocery stores and transportation routes as a means of gentrifying those communities. It also calls for using grant money to build affordable housing in wealthy neighborhoods. Ultimately however, as it is with virtually every facet of the leftist agenda, it’s a naked power grab: the Obama administration is holding certain housing funds hostage to a city’s efforts to determine patterns of segregation in various neighborhoods and submit plans to address those patterns. Cities that refuse to do so would have funds used to improve blighted areas withheld.

Community organizers have been sure that the reason that poor blacks cannot get home loans to move into better neighborhoods is due to racial discrimination rather than lousy credit history. Democrats insistence on forcing banks to make home loans to poor African Americans who could not pay them back was the cause of the  “worst recession since the Great Recession of the 1930s” as Obama liked to describe it.

Leftist civil rights advocates who invariably worship at the altar of greater government control are thrilled, insisting decades of housing policy have “trapped” poor people in bad neighborhoods, depriving them of better lives. “This rule is not about forcing anyone to live anywhere they don’t want to,” said Margery Turner, senior vice president of the left-leaning Urban Institute. “It’s really about addressing long-standing practices that prevent people from living where they want to.

Uh huh. The federal government is forcing low-income families to move to more expensive neighborhoods, offering housing vouchers worth up to $1,800 a month, and cutting their subsidies if they don’t want to move. The vouchers were created in the 1970s to force low-income families to get out of their neighborhoods, but that effort largely failed, and they remain in their low income neighborhoods. If given a voucher, they usually buy better quality housing in the same neighborhood. Surprise! People want to stay where their friends and relatives are.

Officials concluded the subsidies they were offering previously were too small, so in the Dallas experiment and in some other added regions, they upped the value of the vouchers. In the cheapest zip codes, HUD cut housing subsidies to a maximum of $850 a month, but in the most expensive zip codes they increased them to a current maximum of $1,840.

And possibly they don’t want to be told by the government where they must live.

In a companion “Fair Housing Assessment Tool,” HUD counts “land use and zoning laws, such as minimum lot sizes, limits on multi-unit properties, height limits, or bedroom-number limits as well as requirements for special use permits (and) occupancy restrictions” among “factors contributing to segregated housing patterns.”

Foes point to Westchester County, N.Y., as an example of how HUD seeks to control suburban zoning and building. HUD has withheld $17 million in funds from the tony community after it failed to build several hundred affordable-housing units under federal order.

The hard Left’s utopian dreams of making everybody equal (except for themselves, of course, who will run things) means removing the wealth from the successful, and giving it to the poor. No more suburbs — all will be cities. The left does not approve of suburbs. It’s an effort to achieve economic integration. Obama believes it might not work well at first but after 20 or 30 years, everyone will be used to it.

Stanley Kurtz has been studying this pipe dream of the left for some time, and is the expert to consult. The Supreme Court’s 5-4 decision in Texas Department of Housing and Community Affairs v. Inclusive Communities Project has essentially green lighted this initiative.

The administrative usurpation of housing policy” by Stanley Kurtz

“Massive Government Overreach: Obama’s AFFH Rule is Out” Kurtz

“What’s Holding Blacks Back?” by John McWhorter

ADDENDUM: I changed the wording in the first paragraph slightly to clarify just what it is that they are attempting to do. It is not about discrimination or segregation, it is about the numbers matching some pre-conceived perfect mixture of race and ethnicity, Affirmative action for America’s neighborhoods. Has been a disaster for education, and harmed the people they claimed to be helping, the most.



Colorado’s Dream of “Clean Energy” Sabotaged by Pot Growers. by The Elephant's Child

Steven Hayward noted a recent story from the Denver Post at Powerline. It seems that surging electricity consumption by Colorado’s new marijuana industry is sabotaging Denver’s push to use less energy—as urged  by the White House’s Clean Power Plan to shut down coal-fired power plants because carbon pollution.

Citywide electricity use has been rising at the rate of 1.2 percent a year, and 45 percent of that increase comes from marijuana-growing facilities, Denver officials said Wednesday.

Denver has a goal of capping energy use at 2012 levels. Electricity is a big part of that.

The latest Xcel Energy data show cannabis grow facilities statewide, the bulk of which are in Denver, used as much as 200 million kilowatt hours of electricity in 2014, utility officials said. City officials said 354 grow facilities in Denver used about 121 million kwh in 2013, up from 86 million kwh at 351 facilities in 2012.

I thought this was really funny. Lots of problems with the marijuana industry, not the least of which is pot being put in candies and cookies attractive to children. This is not going to go well.

On the other front, no matter how much the administration pushes “clean energy,” wind and solar are not going to replace electricity produced by fossil fuels. Wind is too intermittent and solar too diffuse. It’s the inherent qualities of the “natural” sources and cannot be remedied by technology. If the subsidies provided by the taxpayers are removed, there will be no wind and no solar. And there is no such thing as “carbon pollution.” Carbon is not a pollutant, but one of the building blocks of life.

Do Denver taxpayers know that they are not only paying extra for “clean energy” but their city actually has a “sustainability strategist” named Sonrisa Lucero? They are requesting guidance from the Department of Energy for best practices and technical help.



Learning Early About the Perils of the Modern Marketplace by The Elephant's Child

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From The Economist:

ZOEY and Andria Green, who are seven and eight respectively, only look innocent. With their baby faces and cunning, they managed to lure patrons to their illicit enterprise: a lemonade stand outside their home in Overton, Texas. The girls were in business for about an hour in June, selling popcorn and lemonade to raise money for a Father’s Day gift, before local police shut the operation down. Not only were they hawking without a $150 “peddler’s permit”, but also the state requires a formal kitchen inspection and a permit to sell anything that might spoil if stored at the wrong temperature. As authorities are meant “to act to prevent an immediate and serious threat to human life or health”, the officers understandably moved swiftly in.

They took away the teeter-totters, and the merry-go-rounds, and park playgrounds have become so boring kids don’t want to be bothered. Farmers’ markets proliferate, but who qualifies as a farmer? Goods made in home kitchens are a ‘grey area’. Some states have passed “cottage-food laws” allowing people to sell ‘Non-potentially hazardous food such as baked goods, sometimes permitted, but the rules are odd and fussy, and different locations have different rules. Rhode Island allows farmers to peddle their goods, but bans everyone else. Oklahoma rules apply only to bakers who may sell up to $20,000 worth of breads and cakes as long as the sales take place in their homes but not in a market. Minnesota allows the annual cap at $18,000 for sellers who register with the state and take a safety course. Across state lines, you run into federal law.

Health authorities worry about the risk of unlicensed kitchens, though just what the dangers of lemonade are is unknown. There are lots more cottage food laws, and no increase in botulism.

Alas for the Green girls, lemonade is not covered by Texas’s cottage-food law, as it might spoil if it is not properly stored. But the pair have learned a valuable lesson about commerce and regulation. They discovered that if they gave the lemonade away free, but put a box on the table for tips, they could still make money because the “payments” thus became donations. Their father must be proud.

Powerline outlines the perils of the Administrative State. It’s going to take a lot of unraveling.




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