American Elephants

Here’s Thomas Sowell With a Few Well Chosen Words on Climate Change. by The Elephant's Child

This is an “oldie but goodie”. One can always count on Dr. Thomas Sowell to make sense. I wish it were a characteristic more widely available. We could surely use more of it around in these perilous days.

The Always Quotable Dr. Thomas Sowell by The Elephant's Child

Economist Mark J. Perry featured a quote from Thomas Sowell’s 2012 column “Socialist or Fascist?” in his Carpe Diem column at AEI.

“What socialism, fascism and other ideologies of the left have in common is an assumption that some very wise people – like themselves – need to take decisions out of the hands of lesser people, like the rest of us, and impose those decisions by government fiat.”

And here’s another:

“The left’s vision is not only a vision of the world, but also a vision of themselves, as superior beings pursuing superior ends. The self-flattery of the vision of the left also gives its true believers a huge ego stake in that vision which means that mere facts are unlikely to make them reconsider, regardless of what evidence piles up against the vision of the left, and regardless of its disastrous consequences.

Only our own awareness of the huge stakes involved can save us from the rampaging presumptions of our betters, whether they are called socialists or fascists. So long as we buy their heady rhetoric, we are selling our birthright of freedom.”

Thomas Sowell PhD, on Uncommon Knowledge: Common Sense and Clarity. by The Elephant's Child

Tom Sowell has a marvelous skill in bringing economics down to the personal human world, or what you might call the common sense end of things. Peter Robinson is a marvelous host and asks great questions. This is one of the best of the Uncommon Knowledge interviews ever. Make time for it when you can.

Tom Sowell: The Difference Between Liberal and Conservative by The Elephant's Child
August 1, 2013, 4:42 pm
Filed under: Capitalism, Economy, Freedom, History, Politics | Tags: , ,


Thomas Sowell Talks About Intellectuals and Race by The Elephant's Child

On the Hoover Institution’s Uncommon Knowledge, Thomas Sowell talks about his newest book on Intellectuals and Race. Dr. Sowell  has been uncluttering language and thought for many years. I keep copying down things he has said casually, because they are so well said, I want to remember them. He occupies a goodly percentage of my personal book of quotations. Bartletts doesn’t answer anymore. Too dusty.

Inflicting Maximum Pain, Just to Prove a Point by The Elephant's Child


The brilliant Thomas Sowell is always quotable, but today’s comments are particularly apt:

Back in my teaching days, many years ago, one of the things I liked to ask the class to consider was this: Imagine a government agency with only two tasks: (1) building statues of Benedict Arnold and (2) providing life-saving medications to children. If this agency’s budget were cut, what would it do?

The answer, of course, is that it would cut back on the medications for children. Why? Because that would be what was most likely to get the budget cuts restored. If they cut back on building statues of Benedict Arnold, people might ask why they were building statues of Benedict Arnold in the first place.

The example was deliberately extreme as an illustration. But, in the real world, the same general pattern can be seen in local, state and national government responses to budget cuts.

In this state they threaten to close the parks, at least if it is  summer. The president is following the usual playbook, in a little too obvious a way. He has painted himself into a corner, and is hampered by a complete inability to be at fault, apologize, accept blame, admit error, confess to wrongdoing or even consider the concept that he may, just possibly,  have been wrong.

He not only keeps rewriting the history of how he got into the sequester, but he is seeing to it that the most disrupting and annoying things that were claimed as what would happen if the Republicans didn’t give in and raise taxes so he could continue his addictive, out-of-control spending.

Raising taxes is far more damaging to an economy than reducing spending.

ObamaCare is an economic bomb with long-lasting effects. This $900 billion entitlement creation has made the future unfunded liabilities of the entitlements much worse. President Obama has removed the entitlements completely from any bipartisan discussion. In last year’s Obama budget, entitlement programs nearly double over the next 12 years. According to the House Budget Committee the budget saves $419 billion over a decade. Mostly from cutting payment to Medicare providers.

John Boehner has said that nearly every entitlement reform Republicans proposed was rejected by the White House, unless Republicans agreed to raise taxes. In the meantime he still has not managed to come up with his proposed 2013 budget as required by law.

DHS Secretary Janet Napolitano has announced enough slowdowns in customs and immigration at major airports to assure that lines are long and people are annoyed.

Four Navy air wings have been grounded, and in addition two air wings are dropping to a “tactical hard deck” and basic flight training for pilot and flight officer trainees will halt in March. The deployment of the carrier Truman has been cancelled. Seven other ships have had their upcoming deployment cancelled, the hospital ship Comfort will not conduct its “Continuing Promise 2013” humanitarian mission to Central and South America.

The Department of Defense will furlough about 15,000 military school teachers and staff around the world, and they will be shutting 250 commissaries around the world, which will affect the troops who depend on the stores for basic necessities.

That’s just a few agencies. Obama will see to it that what is cut is not the waste and fraud that has been enumerated so often, but attempt to demonstrate Republican non-cooperation by making sure that any cuts are visible and inflict the maximum inconvenience. Just to prove that saving money is not Obama’s concern, the U.S. suddenly found $250 million to spare for Egypt under Muslim Brotherhood control in immediate foreign aid termed “economic assistance.” This comes after $450 million in “emergency aid” last year including dozens of F-16s for the new president who belongs to an organization dedicated to “civilizational jihad.”

Remember this is simply the task of managing 2% in automatic spending cuts. Could you cut 2% out of your family’s budget over a year without cutting your children’s life-saving medicines? Cutting out one daily latte each workday would do it. And with all apologies to my local Starbucks, I could manage that just fine. Goodness, we are told that if Obama had just given up his golf lesson last weekend it would have saved 341 jobs.

“Take Care that the Laws Be Faithfully Executed?” Nah, Just Offer a Waiver! by The Elephant's Child

How do you describe your relationship with a political party? There are certainly some people who insistently assert that they don’t have a political party— that there’s no difference between the parties, and they’re all a bunch of crooks. Once, when my oldest son was very small the mother of his playmate a few doors up the street and I were chatting, and I asked if she had decided who she was going to vote for, and  her response was “Oh I don’t know yet, my husband hasn’t told me who to vote for.”

That’s not good enough. Our schools do a horrible job of teaching civics, usually in middle school for some unknown reason, and no one seems to actually learn anything — if the number of people who are the source of amusing videos on YouTube when asked simple questions in man-on-the-street type interviews is an example.  Vice President? Dunno. When did we declare our independence? 1860? What country borders the United States?  Europe? Our schools need to produce young people who have some basic ideas about the country in which they live.

A free country with a Constitution that enumerates a few specific powers, that are granted to the government by an informed citizenry, is not going to remain free for long if no one has any idea what “enumerated” means nor what “specific powers” are.

Dr. Thomas Sowell, who spits out things to be remembered in a splendid steady stream, said:

Politics and Economics are not just different, They are antagonistic. The basic premise of economics is scarcity: there is never enough to satisfy everybody. This means there is no free lunch, no “solutions” but only trade-offs. Politics is full of “solutions”. There are free lunches for every voting block. The name of the game in politics is to do a little good, right under your nose, and ignore all the harm created elsewhere.

That’s not a bad guideline to take to the polls. Democrats have made much about the Republicans’ “War on Women.” The ‘little good’ the Democrats intend to do for women ‘right under  your nose’ is to have America’s taxpayers pay for the contraceptives that many women want to use — that cost approximately $9.00 a month— so that the recipients can get them for “free” from the government.

You can make up your own estimate of how many women of childbearing age are in a population of 330 million.  So that’s a minimum of $108 per year x (w), and it will be more because many liberals wouldn’t be caught dead in a WalMart pharmacy or the equivalent. But that’s not the end of it. The government must hire an unknown number of bureaucrats to administer the benefit and monitor the cost under HHS. The government must hire another unknown number of bureaucrats for the IRS to handle the increased taxes.

Go back and read what Tom Sowell said. Do you realize how much more it will cost for the government to pay, once a month, a figure ranging upwards (by quite a bit) from $9? It would be so much simpler if you would just pay for your own damn contraceptives, and go to a discount pharmacy to buy them. Sandra Fluke (rhymes with cluck) got her undergraduate degree in “women’s studies” or the equivalent, and probably never encountered any words by Tom Sowell, or any other economist.

President Obama has created (another) firestorm by overturning the work requirements of the popular welfare-reform law. In 1996, a Republican Congress drafted a law to reform welfare, Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) — that for the first time established meaningful work standards for welfare recipients.

There are some basic ideas behind that. All the money the government has comes from the people. There’s a limit to how much they can take and still leave a growing economy, and a limit to how much they can give out to take care of people who could work and take care of themselves. The government has those “defined powers” they have to pay for. And there needs to be a safety net for those who can no longer provide for themselves. The dicey part comes in defining who can and who can’t. There are only trade-offs.

The other idea is that it is shameful to be unable to provide for yourself. At least that’s what people traditionally thought. Charity was not a right, but something you received reluctantly and tried to escape as quickly as possible. The Left, for varying reasons doesn’t want anyone to feel bad about being on welfare, nor to be embarrassed about living on welfare for generations.

Bill Clinton reluctantly signed the Temporary Assistance for Needy Families bill, and it became the sterling achievement of his administration. It worked, in every way. Women were helped with child care, work clothes, health care.  There was an enormous flap among liberals who learned that women in beginning jobs at WalMart had someone at WalMart that helped them to get their government-paid health care. But TANF didn’t just dump unprepared women into the workplace, it made sure that they had health-care while they learned how to do a job. WalMart promotes from within, and offers stock benefits to employees. It can be a rewarding career. That is only one example. But women coming off welfare were proud of supporting themselves and their families and becoming free independent people.

The Left has attempted to repeal the welfare work standards. One must conclude that they want dependent women to remain permanently dependent on the government dole. 83 percent of adults, according to a recent Rasmussen survey, favor work requirements.  Liberals have publicly praised workfare while seeking to end it behind the scenes.

On July 12, the Obama administrations’ HHS announced that they had rewritten the Clinton-era reform to undo the work requirements, in a move that legal experts Todd Gaziano and Robert Alt have determined is patently illegal. The rest of the story is proceeding about as you would expect. Obama denies that he is gutting welfare. The administration is not gutting the work requirements despite all evidence that it has done precisely that. The law is very specific about what ‘work” means, and offers no authority whatsoever for “waivers.”  It’s dumb policy, HHS has twisted legal reasoning, and waiving the work requirements is a violation of the President’s constitutional obligation to “take care that the laws be faithfully executed.”

This president has an unusual relationship with the oath he took at his inauguration, and the constitutional obligation to “take care that the laws be faithfully executed.” He wants to enforce the laws he happens to like, and offer “waivers” to everything he doesn’t like. That just isn’t the way it is supposed to work. There are no “waivers” in the Constitution of the United States of America. That’s something you should take to the polls, along with Tom Sowell’s useful aphorism.

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