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.

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.