Thursday, November 10, 2016

Stanford University Faculty, Staff, and Students Living in Campus Housing Vote 91.6% For Clinton, 3.4% for Trump

From its founding in 1891, portions of Stanford’s land have been used to construct housing for faculty, staff and students.  Over 125 years, Stanford faculty and the University have built about 650 single-family homes, 250 condominiums, and 40 duplexes.  (More construction is currently underway.)

Stanford currently has 2,153 faculty members and several dozen top administrators who are eligible to purchase a campus residence.  Only about a thousand, 40%, live in the “faculty ghetto.”  The other 60% live in neighboring towns and suburbs.

Four precincts (Santa Clara County Precincts 2542, 2544, 2545, and 2546) circumscribe Stanford University.  Precincts 2542 and 2544 consist almost exclusively of graduate and undergraduate student housing.  Precinct 2545 consists solely of faculty/staff housing (F/S housing).  Precinct 2546 includes both student and F/S housing.  F/S housing is affectionately termed the “faculty ghetto.” 

Many undergraduate students are registered to vote in other states or other addresses in California. Most graduate students are not U.S. citizens and many U.S, citizens are registered to vote in other states. These facts explain why only a small fraction of students living in campus housing are registered to vote on the basis of their Stanford address.

Santa Clara County publishes election results by precinct.  Here are the results:

Precinct 2545 (all F/S):  Total 473 Votes

Clinton 426 (90%), Trump 27 (5.7%), Johnson 13 (2.7%), Stein 7 (1.5%)

Precinct 2546 (F/S and students):  Total 649 Votes

Clinton 609 (93.5%), Trump 17 (2.6%), Johnson 12 (1.8%), Stein 11 (1.7%)

Precinct 2544 (all students):  Total 720 Votes

Clinton 645 (90.0%), Trump 18 (2.5%), Johnson 31 (4.3%), Stein 26 (3.6%)

Precinct 2542 (all students):  Total 426 Votes

Clinton 398 (93.4%), Trump 14 (3.3%), Johnson 11 (2.6%), Stein 3 (0.7%)

All Campus Precincts:  Total 2268 Votes

Clinton 2078 (91.6%), Trump 76 (3.4%), Johnson 67 (3.0%), Stein 47 (2.1%)

Clinton voters outnumbered Trump voters 27 to 1. 

Stanford’s new provost, Persis Drell, said that free expression is one of her three cardinal principles of university administration.  We’ll see.

Tuesday, September 6, 2016

Western Democracy Gone Mad

For decades, but especially following the U.S. overthrow of the Taliban in Afghanistan in 2001 and the invasion and occupation of Iraq in 2003, the U.S. government has tried to promote the establishment of democracies in the Middle East, North Africa, sub-Saharan Africa, and elsewhere around the globe.

This should come as no surprise.  Centers for the Study of Democracy have become an integral feature of universities throughout the United States and Western Europe.  They replaced older schools of realpolitik that used to be taught.  Professors, politicians, and international organizations aggressively promote the doctrine of democracy.

In the West, democracy closely follows sustainability, diversity, and reducing income and wealth inequality as a moral imperative.  The dozens of democracy centers in universities and think tanks house many distinguished scholars, but they have a tendency to act as cheerleaders for democracy.  They seek to promote democracy as a universal prescription for almost every country, regardless of its history and culture.

In recent years, democracy has fallen on hard times in numerous countries in Asia, Africa, and the Middle East.  To address this problem, in 2013 Stanford University inaugurated a Program on American Democracy in Comparative Democracy.  Its purpose is "to seek to understand problems such as ineffective governance, gridlock and polarization, and declining trust in institutions in the United States." It seems that one reason for the failed effort to promote democracy abroad may be rooted in the faults of American democracy itself.  (More on this later.)

II

Why did President George W. Bush believe, after the invasion, overthrow of Saddam Hussein, and occupation of Iraq in 2003, that he could establish a viable democracy within the artificial borders of Iraq that were drawn by the colonial powers after World War I?  Sunnis and Shiites have been at each other’s throats for centuries.  Kurds have wanted their own independent homeland.  Christians largely lived in relative peace, posing no threat to Sunnis, Shiites, or Kurds.

Bush evidently believed that the desire for democracy beats in the heart of all peoples, regardless of their history and culture.  But it was a bridge too far to try to establish democracy in multi-ethnic Iraq, which only knew dictators, oligarchs, and tribal leaders, and lacked any traditions of the rule of law, individual rights and civil liberties.  Bush’s intervention resulted in massive ethnic cleansing of more than a million Christians from their long settled homes in Iraq.

To be fair, Bush could hardly believe otherwise.  For the past 40 years, diversity and multiculturalism have been official doctrine in America’s universities.  This was the intellectual environment in which President Bush was educated, elected governor of Texas and then president of the United States.  Democracy has been viable in America, which has the shared traditions of civil liberties, individual rights, the rule of law, private property, and constitutional government, although America is fast becoming a collage of ethnic identities:  African-Americans, Spanish-speaking Americans, Native-Americans, and a plethora of Western European-Americans.

In marked contrast with America, Sunnis, Shias and Kurds only have a shared history of national unity based on the imposition of force by one or an alliance of two over the others.  Either no one told Bush that the America model could not be successfully exported to Iraq and serve as an example for other Muslim Arab and North African regimes, or he chose not to listen.   Either way, the overthrow of Saddam Hussein, followed by elections in which Shias voted in a government representing Shia interests, unleashed a hell of Sunnis vs. Shias, Kurds protecting their own territory from both and Turkey, and the growth of Al-Qaeda and rise of ISIS.

The tragedy of Bush’s folly, greater than the cost of several trillion dollars and thousands of American casualties, has been the ethnic cleansing of more than a million Christians from their homes in Iraq by Islamists since the invasion in 2003.

President Barack Obama’s deposing Libyan ruler Colonel Kaddafi compounded Bush’s folly.  Kaddafi’s overthrow unleashed tribal war in Libya, along with the rise of ISIS and its affiliates (Boko Haram, Al-Shahab, etc.) throughout North Africa.  Obama’s support of the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt, although the regime lasted only a year, led to killing of Coptic Christians and burning of their churches, until Egypt’s military took power and restored order.

Christians are under assault in Syria as well.  In the 1920s, Christians amounted to about 30% of the population, declining to about 10% today.  Estimates put the number of Christians who have fled Syria or been displaced in the hundreds of thousands.  Whole Christian villages have been destroyed and dozens of churches damaged.

Ethnic cleansing of Christians in the Middle East and North Africa is one of the great tragedies of the twenty-first century.   Today, Iraq, Libya, Egypt, Syria, Chad, and other Middle Eastern and North African countries do not enjoy democracy, stability or prosperity.

Hussein, Kaddafi, Mubarak, and Assad were not and are not paragons of virtue.  But what has followed is worse and the worst may be yet to come.

III

Those who propose to intervene in foreign countries to replace autocracy or other forms of authoritarian rule with democracy first need to produce a comprehensive, proven blueprint for a successful post-intervention transition to democracy.  The Bush and Obama administrations did not produce any such plans for Afghanistan, Iraq and Libya.

We have learned that the Democrat Party’s regime of super delegates, coupled with the Wikileaks email dump of the nefarious activities of the Democrat National Committee, insured the nomination of Hillary Clinton from the very beginning.  Bernie Sanders never had a chance.  Democracy as practiced by the Democrat Party made a mockery of real, one man-one vote democracy, which was the political ideal that Bush and his aides proposed to bring to the Middle East.

Well then.  If U.S. political party insiders can impose rules to cheat rival candidates of the opportunity to compete in a fair election, so too can elected leaders in one-party states, or who jail opposing candidates, and impose other rules that narrow the franchise in African, Asian, or Latin American elections, as the case may be.

What happened in democracy studies parallels what happened in the economics profession as it failed to anticipate the financial crisis of 2008 and the Great Recession it spawned.  Perhaps a bit of humility is in order before we try to remake foreign political systems.

IV

Something new has emerged in the democracy madness arena, namely, suggestions to transform America’s stable two-party democracy into a (unstable) multi-party democracy.

Some democracy specialists suggest that the unpopularity of both Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump as seen in the high negatives of both candidates means that third-party candidates should be given greater latitude in meeting the requirements to run for president.  These include a lower percentage threshold of 5% instead of 15% in public opinion polls to qualify for the autumn presidential debates.  Another proposed change would make it easier to qualify for the ballot in all 50 states.  And so on.

The U.S. has experienced third parties in some elections, but these have had little chance of success, mainly serving as spoilers for one of the two main parties.

But any set of changes that enhances the prospects for third parties would be disastrous in the United States.  It would give rise to ethnic politics, spawning a Black party, a Spanish-speaking party, an Asian American party, and several White parties.  Leaders in each group would seek power by promising to be the strongest defender and promoter of their groups’ interests, giving rise to extremists in each group.  The U.S. would join the ranks of unstable “plural societies.”

It’s bad enough that the democracy promoters have destabilized the Middle East.  Now they want changes that would threaten to destabilize the United States.  None of this would be happening if the liberal professoriate were certain that Hillary Clinton would defeat Donald Trump.  But their fear that Trump could become president is leading them to propose changes that could undermine the most successful democracy in history.  Democracy promoters love democracy—until they don’t like the outcome of the democracy they profess to admire.

In August 2016, your friendly proprietor addressed a group of Chinese scholars.  I asked if they thought the 200,000 or so Chinese students studying in the United states would return to China having observed the 2016 U.S. presidential election during their stay in America, and urge Chinese President Xi Jinping to adopt U.S.-style democracy.  They all broke out in laughter.

Wednesday, August 31, 2016

Reduce Inequality? Not If It Affects My Livelihood!

Most leading American universities have established “Centers for the Study of Inequality.”  Reducing inequality is one leg of the holy academic triad of diversity, sustainability, and reducing inequality.   Inequality scholars assert that the future of democracy and social justice requires reducing inequality in income, wealth, educational opportunity, health care, neighborhood safety, and so on, that harms the less well-off members of society.

Scholars disagree on the best way to reduce inequality.  One school of thought favors more progressive income and heavier wealth taxes to reduce the income and wealth of the top 1% percent of households, and redistribute the additional revenue to middle- and lower-income households in the form of lower taxes and/or more spending.  Another school wants targeted spending programs to provide greater pre-K education, smaller class sizes, higher teachers’ pay, more local health clinics, and other services to lower-income households.

Universities rely on tax-deductible gifts to pay salaries and build and maintain physical facilities. For the 2016-17 fiscal year, Stanford projects $350 million in gifts, about 6% of its projected revenue of $5.88 billion.  Stanford also has a capital budget of $4.1 billion for the three fiscal years 2016-17 through 2018-19, of which gifts are estimated to provide 21% of funding.  Harvard is in the midst of a $6.5 billion fund raising campaign.  It received $436 million in expendable gifts in 2015-16.

Gifts are tax-deductible up to certain IRS limits.  Rich donors, who are in a higher income-tax bracket than lower-income givers, receive a larger tax deduction for their gifts, thus contributing to inequality.  These are the very people that help fund (inequality) research centers.  The wealthy also fund the bulk of capital projects. Nine-figure millionaire and billionaire donors, the 0.001% and 0.0001%, are the principal source of gifts for new buildings and research facilities.

IRS Statistics of Income and Itemized Charitable Deductions

In tax year 2013, 4.81 million households filed tax returns with Adjusted Gross Income exceeding $200,000. Their itemized charitable contributions totaled $91.0 billion.  Altogether, 36.43 million household filed returns with $194.7 billion in itemized contributions.  Households with AGI exceeding $200,000 constituted 13.2% of all returns, but itemized 46.7% of total contributions.

So, those who propose higher taxes on the income and wealth of the rich are financed, in part, from the tax-deductible contributions of the rich on whom they want to impose higher taxes.  One way to achieve greater equality of income is to eliminate the tax deductibility of gifts to universities.  But the majority of scholars do not think that this is a good idea.  Wonder why?

Let’s dig a little deeper into the numbers.  Membership in the top 2% of income-earners requires an annual AGI of about $250,000.  Many full professors in leading universities fall in the top 2%, and certainly in the top 3%.  Academic stars reporting $430,000 and above in AGI are in the top 1%.  (It takes $1.9 million to join the 0.1% club.)

It’s no surprise, then, that academics that want to levy higher taxes on the rich limit their recommendation to the top 1%, not the top 2%.  But, and a very important but, they believe that any new taxes should retain the home mortgage deduction, which they utilize, and the charitable contribution, which helps pay their salaries.  Development departments in universities are concerned their scholars’ proposals to reduce inequality do not reduce gifts from the unequal rich.

Nonetheless, these professors teach students that the income and wealth of the 1% is harmful to society, but that their contributions to universities are not.  Wonder why so many students and graduates are muddle-headed?

PS.  When Robert E. Hall and I first proposed our flat tax in 1981, which eliminates charitable deductions, we got nasty comments from Stanford’s development department.  Its fund-raisers expressed concern that eliminating the tax deductibility of charitable contributions would reduce giving to Stanford.

Friday, August 26, 2016

Another Day Brings Another Batch of Republican Bigwigs Against Trump

On August 25, 2016, the Wall Street Journal released the results of a survey of 37 current and former living members (8 others did not respond to the Journal's inquiries) who served on the White House Council of Economic Advisers under 8 presidents.  Twenty served under Democrat presidents and 17 under Republicans.  Of the 8 who did not respond, 2 served Democrat presidents and 6 Republicans.

Of the 17 serving Republican presidents, 6 said they opposed Donald Trump and 11 declined to say either way.  The 6 were concerned with Trump's anti-free trade policies.  Two said they would vote for Hillary Clinton, one for Libertarian Gary Johnson, and the other 3 said they could not support Trump or Clinton.

Of those serving Democrat presidents, 13 said they supported Hillary Clinton and 7 declined to say.

The headline of the article is the message:  "Economists Who've Advised Presidents Are No Fans of Donald Trump."  It would be expected that advisers to Democrat presidents would oppose Trump. What is evidently newsworthy is that none of the CEA members under Republican presidents would state support for Trump.

Another story in the daily saga of prominent Republicans coming out against Trump.

Monday, June 27, 2016

BREXIT: Borders, Language, Culture, and Liberty for Britain

250 British economists and another 300 British intellectuals signed letters urging Britons to vote REMAIN to stay in the European Union, warning that LEAVE would result in economic catastrophe for Britain and political catastrophe for Europe.  British voters rejected their admonitions.  Score zero for arrogant and condescending British intellectuals and one for the common man.

The polls indicated that REMAIN would prevail by 52-54%.  To the dismay of the pollsters and the REMAIN camp, LEAVE won by 52-48%, a dramatic swing from the projection.

Why were the polls wrong?  The answer is simple.  Pollsters cannot detect lies in phone or online polling.  Those who openly state anti-politically correct views are shamed and castigated as racists, xenophobes, and bigots.  It’s easier to lie to pollsters, give them the politically correct answer, and then vote the opposite in the polling booth.

The pollsters got it wrong for the May 7, 2015, British parliamentary elections, Trump’s nomination in 2016 as the Republican candidate for president, and now BREXIT.

Despite its intense campaign, the British Academic Political Media Industrial Complex (APMIC) lost, in the same way the American APMIC lost in its attempt to deny Donald Trump the Republican nomination for president.

The lesson of BREXIT for America is beware of polls predicting a win for Hillary Clinton this November.  The anti-politically correct vote may be worth as much as 3-4 percentage points for Trump, which would give him the presidency.

Wednesday, May 18, 2016

Let China Pay

The United States is militarily and financially overextended.  For decades, U.S. taxpayers have financed a security umbrella over Europe paying 75% or more of NATO’s costs and supplying most of the military personnel.  European members are not paying their fair share.  Instead, they have spent their taxpayers’ money on expanded social programs.  Enjoying U.S. protection, they even have the gall to criticize the U.S. for its harsh market economy, in which individuals lack taxpayer-provided health insurance, free university education, long maternity/paternity leave, long vacations, and so forth.

If Europe does not want to pay for its defense, so be it.  Continued U.S. military protection for Europe only encourages European politicians to disregard their own defense requirements.

Now to China.

U.S. foreign policy should encourage China to overextend itself.  Here are some concrete proposals.

The U.S. does not import much, if any, oil from the Middle East.  China, along with Japan, Korea, and other Asian countries, depends heavily on Gulf oil.  Let China patrol the Gulf, the Indian Ocean, the Straits of Malacca, the East China Sea, and other waters to secure safe passage of oil tankers to Asia.

Let China bear the cost of security for Afghanistan, the Caucasus, and elsewhere in the Western Middle East.  China is concerned about radical Islam infecting its Western provinces.

Each year Chinese military power strengthens.  Each year U.S. military power weakens.  The U.S. can no longer afford to provide a “Pax Americana” over North, East and Southeast Asia.  As it is, the bulk of Asian trade is with China, which will continue to increase.  China will increasingly dominate Asia commercially, socially, and politically.

Let China bear the cost of loans and infrastructure projects in Africa.  They will not recover or earn a return on their investments.  Their loans will not be repaid.  They will be targeted as villains in national elections, blamed for racism, unemployment, and social ills.  They will become the “ugly Chinese” who exploit Africans.

Ditto for Latin America.  Think $50 billion in lost loans to Venezuela, and incomplete infrastructure projects in Brazil and other Latin American countries that will not be completed for years and years.  Let China get blamed by Latin American politicians for their mismanaged economies..

Anywhere a hurricane, health, earthquake or other catastrophe occurs, let China pay half of all rescue and rebuilding costs.

How should the U.S. structure its relations with China?  So long as China adheres to GATT, WTO, and other trade agreements, the U.S. should allow trade to flow freely as it will.  But the U.S. should impose dollar-for-dollar costs on state-owned and/or private Chinese firms when China violates the letter and spirit of these agreements.

If China uses regulations to favor Chinese firms over American firms, (e.g., labeling, quotas, limits on foreign ownership, banning U.S. media, etc.), the U.S. should respond in kind.  For example, the U.S. could limit Chinese ownership to 49% of a U.S. firm, ban CCTV, restrict Chinese newspapers and magazines, close Confucius Institutes in American universities, and so on.  You cheat, you pay.

One way to accomplish this change in strategy is to build facilities in Beijing and Shanghai in which the United Nations, the World Bank, the International Monetary Fund, and other global organizations spend half the year meeting and conducting their business in China.  And let China pay for it.

China will learn, as has Britain, France, and the United States, that money does not buy love and goodwill in Africa, Latin America, and other poor countries around the globe.  In fact, it generally produces the opposite effect.

Wednesday, May 4, 2016

Political Science Flunked American Politics 101

On June 16, 2015, Donald Trump announced his candidacy for the Republican presidential nomination.  His overwhelming win in Indiana on May 3, 2016, makes him the presumptive nominee.

So far as I know, as of May 3, 2016, not a single political scientist has stepped forward to claim that he or she correctly forecast that Trump could, or would, win the Republican nomination.

Indeed, the opposite is true.  One after another wrote articles, blogged, tweeted, and presented slide shows incorporating rigorous statistical analyses based on past voting behavior, “proving” that Trump would fall out of the race. As his poll numbers rose, the predictions that he would lose grew in number and volume.

How did so many get it so wrong?  (Although the economics profession largely missed the financial crisis of 2008 and the Great Recession, at least a handful got it right.)  Political scientists are not likely to issue a mea culpa and tell you why.

Your friendly proprietor will give it a shot.  Here are some reasons.

Ideology.  About 80 percent or more of the profession favor “liberal” Democrats.  They are hostile to Republicans in general and appalled that a “bombastic” businessman such as Trump could win his party’s nomination and, horror of horrors, the presidency.

The profession is resistant to change.  Moreover, the industry is its own consumer.  Most political scientists write for other political scientists.  Only a small fraction writes in the popular media.  It’s hard to take a position way outside the normal range of professional consensus on a subject and get promoted, attract offers from other universities, and enjoy cordial relations with colleagues.  Those who present an extreme view are often ridiculed, called names and excluded from rewards and honors.

Poll analysts missed the lesson of the “Shy Tory Voter,” who told pollsters they would vote for Britain’s Labour Party, but then voted Conservative, giving David Cameron a big win.  This phenomenon crossed the Atlantic Ocean and was duplicated by the shy Trump voter.

The only thing worse in political science, and in the academy more generally, than having predicted that Trump would win, is openly stating that Trump is one’s first choice (the subject of the next post)!

Monday, May 2, 2016

Trump’s Foreign Policy Speech Sets Forth Three Important Themes

On April 27, 2016, Donald Trump delivered a major foreign policy speech. This post highlights three important themes.

This blog has posted several articles on the topic of democracy follies. Here are Trump's words on this theme.

One

“It all began with the dangerous idea that we could make Western democracies out of countries that had no experience or interest in becoming a Western Democracy….We tore up what institutions they had and then were surprised at what we unleashed. Civil war, religious fanaticism; thousands of American lives, and many trillions of dollars, were lost as a result….One day we’re bombing Libya and getting rid of a dictator to foster democracy for civilians, the next day we are watching the same civilians suffer while that country falls apart….We have made the Middle East more unstable and chaotic than ever before....After losing thousands of lives and spending trillions of dollars, we are in far worse shape now than in the Middle east than ever before."

Two

The Republican Foreign Policy Praetorian Guard includes a few remaining Reagan administration officials, but consists largely of those who served in both Bush administrations.  Many of them were advisers to Jeb Bush and several other Republican candidates.  None, not a single one, is associated with Trump.  Here are Trump's words on members of his foreign policy team.

"That is why I will also look for talented experts with new approaches, and practical ideas, rather than surrounding myself with those who have perfect resumes but very little to brag about except responsibility for a long history of failed policies and continued losses at war."  The absence of any individuals of the Republican Foreign Policy Praetorian Guard is the reason that many in the Academic Political Media Industrial Complex have mounted a sustained, vicious attack against Trump.

Three

Trump says he will "put the interests of the American people, and American security, above all else."  This doctrine repudiates globalism, what the French call "mondialism," subordinating national interests to global governance.  It means that American values, not some arbitrary notion of universal or global values, will guide U.S. foreign policy.  The U.S. will continue to play its global role, but will demand reciprocity from its partners and allies.  No more going it alone at U.S. expense.  Here are Trump's words on the primacy of America and the West.

"Finally, I will work with our allies to reinvigorate Western values and institutions.  Instead of trying to spread "universal values" that not everyone shares, we should understand that strengthening and promoting Western civilization and its accomplishments will do more to inspire positive reforms around the world than military interventions."

He concludes:  "We are getting out of the nation-building business, and instead focussing on creating stability in the world."

Trump has called out the Academic Political Media Industrial Complex (APMIC) for its foreign policy failures, wants fresh faces with new pragmatic ideas, and wants renewed emphasis on Western values and institutions.

President Trump is the Hieronymus Bosch nightmare of APMIC.  One cannot overstate its members hatred of Trump, especially in the academy.

Wednesday, April 27, 2016

Recommended Summer Reading and Viewing

Your friendly proprietor would like you to enjoy a leisurely summer before the final leg of the presidential campaign kicks off after Labor Day.

So, I recommend two books and one film.

The first book is Robert Michels, Political Parties.  (See also here.) It explains why politicians represent themselves, not the voters who elect them.  In particular, pay special attention to  Part Six, Chapter 2, "Democracy and the Iron Law of Oligarchy."

The second is Jean Raspail, The Camp of the Saints, previously highlighted on this blog.  As you read it, substitute Muslims for Hindus.

The most important film you can see is Lawrence of Arabia.  Watch the last few minutes carefully. They show that tribal cooperation to operate municipal services in Damascus broke down in traditional tribal conflict after three days.  If this film does not cure you of the futility of nation-building in the Middle East, then nothing will.

Thursday, April 7, 2016

Why the Justice Department Will NOT Indict Hillary Clinton

Barack Obama is the first black president of the United States.  Attorney General Loretta Lynch is black.  In the seventeen primary and caucus states (excluding American Samoa and the Northern Mariana Islands), which Hillary Clinton has won through Wisconsin on March 5, 2016, blacks voted for her by an average of 80%, from a low of 60% in Illinois to a high of 90% in Alabama and Mississippi.

In Michigan, Oklahoma, and Wisconsin, which she lost to Bernie Sanders, she received 68%, 71% and 75% respectively of the black vote.

If Hillary Clinton is indicted over the e-mail scandal and has to drop out of the race, the Attorney General, no doubt with Obama’s approval, will have in effect disenfranchised the 80% of black Democrats who voted for her.

That seems inconceivable.  It would mean that Bernie Sanders, or a late-entrant like Joe Biden, would get the nomination.  Black voters would likely stay home in large numbers, resulting in a massive Republican victory in November.

Tuesday, April 5, 2016

Consumer Reports For Government Agencies Are Badly Needed

There are literally hundreds of federal government agencies.  Most Americans have never heard of the vast majority of them, much less know what they do or how many people they employ or how much money they spend.  Only a few receive regular attention, such as the Environmental Protection Agency and the Federal Bureau of Investigation, to name two.

Some thinks tanks publish annual reports on agency budgets, personnel, and pages of regulations in the Federal Register.  Some focus on the always politically popular themes of waste, fraud, and abuse.  Others investigate specific outrageous activities of this or that agency.  Some highlight conflict between federal agencies and the congressional committees that oversee them, especially when the president and Congress represent different parties.

Consumer reports on commercial products have been around for decades.  Consumer Reports was widely regarded as the bible for rating manufacturers of similar products or evaluating new products coming to market.  Today potential purchasers can browse numerous web sites to compare features and prices of almost every product for sale anywhere in the world.  Any company selling a defective or shoddy product is likely to be exposed, lose sales, suffer a fall in its stock price, and lose its reputation.  Some firms never recover from bad publicity.

Since the Great Depression, the federal government has steadily intruded on the private affairs of firms and individuals.  Sometimes government intervention is positive, other times negative.  But rarely do bad performance lead to mass layoffs, reduction in the budget and scope of an agency’s activities or shutdown of a government agency.  Reports of inspectors general in agencies have little to no effect on their activities.

What’s missing are comprehensive consumer reports on all government agencies that are widely accessible to the public to supplement annual reports and anecdotes that constitute most reporting—a Wikipedia for agencies (Wikiagency).  The academic political media industrial complex is quick to criticize any firm for the slightest error, but there is no counterpart to the often more damaging misconduct of government agencies.

Your friendly proprietor hopes that someone or organization will pick up this suggestion and start a Wikiagency to expose misconduct and force the hundreds of government agencies, thousands when state and local governments are included, to justify every dollar and employee of their activities.  And, also force Congress to reduce agency budgets, programs and personnel when they misbehave or fail to carry out their proper lawful duties.


Monday, April 4, 2016

Inequality Run Amok

The current academic and political obsession with inequality is like crabgrass taking over a pristine lawn of Kentucky bluegrass.  Inequality has become the cudgel of professors and politicians to blame every social, economic, meteorological, political, educational, unemployment, racial, ethnic, religious, military, dietary, and behavioral problem afflicting the United States and the rest of the world.

The scourge of inequality is the greedy, selfish, lucky 1%, which has too much income and wealth.  Their success, claim the professoriate, deprives everyone else from achieving their dreams.  Never mind that most of the rich and wealthy made it into the 1% through hard work and risk-taking, not from their parents or trusts, and created jobs for others in the process.

Who are the academic members of this complex?  They are professors in the humanities, social sciences, and law that enjoy incomes placing them in the top 2-5%, with job security, high social status, and excellent working conditions.  They are advisors to politicians and government officials.  They are critics of successful entrepreneurs, whose donations to their institutions ironically help underwrite their salaries and research centers on inequality.

The salience of inequality has forced conservatives to argue the finer points of its exact degree, to show it’s not quite as bad as portrayed.  But defending the 1%, even the working 1% while excluding the hereditary 1%, is regarded as beyond the pale of acceptable discourse in the academy.

Federal, state, and local governments love the tax revenue that is collected from the 1%, who funds a disproportionate share of government activity, but loathe and demonize the 1% who pay the taxes.

The academic political inequality industrial complex wants higher tax rates on the rich and wealthy to reduce the gap between the 1% and 99%.  It also wants more government spending on education, job training, and infrastructure to boost the 99%.

Remember “Joe the plumber?”  He was the object of then presidential candidate Barack Obama’s vitriol for not wanting to pay more in taxes to help those less fortunate in life.  Instead of praising Joe for supporting his family and employing others, he told Joe that it was more important to “spread the wealth around.”

Let’s talk about one of the core programs on which the academic political inequality industrial complex wants to spend more:  inner-city education in poor communities, ostensibly to provide greater opportunity to climb the ladder of success.  High school and college graduation rates in inner cities are appalling, and have been so for decades, despite ever higher per pupil expenditures.  Until and unless studious behavior becomes the norm, no amount of money will make a difference.  But the academic political inequality industrial complex will not take on the interest groups that block efforts at improving educational outcomes in inner cities.

Study after study of the 1% documents that most of the 1% is of the current generation.  They have worked 60-70 hours a week and have to be available on weekends and holidays.  They pay up to 50% or more of their earnings in federal, state, local, and employment taxes, yet are accused of not paying their “fair” share.  They fight their way through morning and evening traffic to work to produce the goods and services that everyone, including welfare recipients, consumes while being blamed for global warming, excessive consumption, and contempt for the downtrodden.  They support charities that help those with medical and financial difficulties.

Then there is the entrepreneurial 1% that works 70-80 hours a week with no job security whatsoever.  In the process of becoming successful, they provide part-time and full-time jobs to 10, 20, 50, or more individuals who pay taxes.  Instead of being thanked for their contribution to the local community and the country at large, they are criticized for not paying their “fair” share in taxes.  They are guilty of blocking social justice.

Meanwhile the political academic class goes through the revolving door of government jobs, lucrative lobbying positions, corporate directorships, and distinguished professorships, often the presidency itself, of the most prestigious universities.

Let’s put the blame where it belongs, on the academic political inequality industrial complex, not those who produce the goods and services, provide jobs, and pay the taxes that sustain our lives.

Friday, April 1, 2016

It's Time To say "Thank You For Your PRIVATE Service To America"

We often hear the words "Thank you for your service to America" in reference to elected and appointed government officials, civil servants, and members of the armed forces,  all of whom are on the public payroll.  Receiving a check from the government is deemed of superior virtue to receiving a paycheck from a private enterprise or self-employment.

Have you also noticed that private firms are open for business when government officials enjoy a paid "government" designated weekday holiday?

Have you noticed that many government officials enjoy security of employment while those in private service can lose their job or business in an instant?

Have you noticed that those who engage in private service are routinely demonized for being selfish, uncaring, and not paying enough in taxes to support government programs?

Something is seriously wrong with this story.  Where does the money come from to pay for public service?  From taxes paid by those who engage in private service, that's who.

Instead of always praising "public servants," it's time to say a hearty thanks to those in "private service." Maybe the people should demand one day a year in which all those employed by the government say THANK YOU to the people who pay their salaries.


Thursday, March 31, 2016

Danger Ahead: America Is Rapidly Becoming Aristotle’s Fifth Form Of Democracy

Read and ponder Aristotle's warning, written 2,465 years ago, as to what happens when the Rule of Law is displaced by demagogues and decrees.

Of forms of democracy first comes that which is said to be based strictly on equality. In such a democracy the law says that it is just for the poor to have no more advantage than the rich; and that neither should be masters, but both equal. For if liberty and equality, as is thought by some, are chiefly to be found in democracy, they will be best attained when all persons alike share in the government to the utmost. And since the people are the majority, and the opinion of the majority is decisive, such a government must necessarily be a democracy. Here then is one sort of democracy. There is another, in which the magistrates are elected according to a certain property qualification, but a low one; he who has the required amount of property has a share in the government, but he who loses his property loses his rights. Another kind is that in which all the citizens who are under no disqualification share in the government, but still the law is supreme. In another, everybody, if he be only a citizen, is admitted to the government, but the law is supreme as before. A fifth form of democracy, in other respects the same, is that in which, not the law, but the multitude, have the supreme power, and supersede the law by their decrees. This is a state of affairs brought about by the demagogues. For in democracies which are subject to the law the best citizens hold the first place, and there are no demagogues; but where the laws are not supreme, there demagogues spring up. For the people becomes a monarch, and is many in one; and the many have the power in their hands, not as individuals, but collectively. Homer says that 'it is not good to have a rule of many,' but whether he means this corporate rule, or the rule of many individuals, is uncertain. At all events this sort of democracy, which is now a monarch, and no longer under the control of law, seeks to exercise monarchical sway, and grows into a despot; the flatterer is held in honor; this sort of democracy being relatively to other democracies what tyranny is to other forms of monarchy. The spirit of both is the same, and they alike exercise a despotic rule over the better citizens. The decrees of the demos correspond to the edicts of the tyrant; and the demagogue is to the one what the flatterer is to the other. Both have great power; the flatterer with the tyrant, the demagogue with democracies of the kind which we are describing.


(Source:  Aristotle, Politics, Book Four, Part IV, Translated by Benjamin Jowett, Internet Classics Archive)