Monday, December 01, 2014

Cruising the Web

Kevin Williamson takes on the people who urge a boycot of Wal-Mart.
If economic “exploitation” means making “obscene profits” — an empty cliché if ever there were one — then Wal-Mart and the oil companies ought to be the good guys; not only do they have relatively low profit margins, but they also support millions of union workers and retirees through stock profits and the payment of dividends into pension funds. By way of comparison, consider that Hermès, the luxury-goods label that is a favorite of well-heeled social-justice warriors of all sorts, makes a profit margin that is typically seven or eight times what Wal-Mart makes, even though, as rapper Lloyd Banks discovered, its $1,300 sneakers may not always be up to the task. If Wal-Mart is the epitome of evil for selling you a Timex at a 3 percent markup, then shouldn’t Rolex be extra-super evil?

Strangely enough, Jay-Z remains “a celebrity quite serious about social justice,” according to the Huffington Post, even as he offers paeans to high-end horologist Hublot; though he does, as advertised, seem to favor the platinum Rolex Day-Date II. Celebrity dope Ashton Kutcher angrily demanded: “Wal-Mart, is your profit margin so important you can’t pay your employees enough to be above the poverty line?” It is safe to bet that Rolex earned a much higher margin on the Milgauss watch that Kutcher wears, as surely as does the maker of the fairly spendy Baume & Mercier watches for which he served as a celebrity pitchman.
I still can't get upset about a business that provides such convenience and products at low prices. Don't all these protesters care about the people who have obs work there or who shop there because it fits their budgets? Liberals are all about choice, but not so much when it involves people choosing their own jobs or shopping venues.

And, as Jason Russell demonstrates, the claims about Wal-Mart just aren't true.
Research shows that large chains and establishments, such as Walmart, Whole Foods and Costco, are paying higher wages than local mom-and-pop retail stores. Average wages for non-managers at retail stores with 100-499 workers are $16.34 an hour, compared to $13.61 an hour at stores with fewer than 10 employees. Large retail stores also give more opportunities for promotion to positions with higher pay and managerial experience.
The real issue involved in protests against Wal-Mart is unionization.
High turnover in the retail industry would make it cash cow for unions. Initiation fees and strike fees are collected when an employee starts a unionized job. Especially in non-right to work states — where an employer can mandate union membership as a condition of employment — unions could collect millions from people in part-time jobs from initiation and strike fees alone, in addition to membership dues deducted from paychecks.

George Will makes the case for the Republicans to run in 2016 on a platform of self-restraint.
America’s two vainest presidents, Woodrow Wilson and Obama, have been the most dismissive of the federal government’s Madisonian architecture. Wilson, the first president to criticize America’s Founding, was especially impatient with the separation of powers, which he considered, as Obama does, an affront to his dual grandeur: The president is a plebiscitary tribune of the entire people, monopolizing true democratic dignity that is denied to mere legislators. And progressive presidents have unexcelled insight into history’s progressive trajectory, and hence should have untrammeled freedom to act.

Courts will not try to put a bridle and snaffle on a rampaging president, and perhaps Congress cannot, even if it summons the will to try. So we are reduced to hoping for something Madison was reluctant to rely on — executive self-restraint in response to a popular demand for it.

Fortunately, Obama’s ongoing and intensifying assault on constitutional equilibrium is so gross it has produced something commensurately remarkable — growing public interest in matters of governmental processes. Obama, who aspired to a place in the presidential pantheon, will leave office with a status more like Chester Arthur’s than Franklin Roosevelt’s, but without an achievement as large and popular as Arthur’s civil-service reform. Obama will, however, merit the nation’s backhanded gratitude if the 2016 Republican presidential nominee makes central to a successful campaign a promise to retreat voluntarily from his predecessor’s Caesarism.

William Voegeli discusses the dangers of President Obama's goal of designing policies to promote kindness and empathy.
One reason governance according to feelings and emotions is so dubious is that we respond compassionately to the people suffering right in front of us, without considering the suffering of others. All too often, the confused, chaotic result is serial empathizing that never stops to consider whether helping this sufferer hurts another.

In 2013, for example, President Obama called “a dangerous and growing inequality and lack of upward mobility” the “defining challenge of our time.” He urged us to empathize with the millions of Americans who struggle “to make ends meet, to pay for college, buy a home, save for retirement,” and constantly “fear that their kids won’t be better off than they were.”

Whatever the ideal policy response to these anxieties may be, the first rule must be to avoid measures that make the problem worse.

Americans with no education beyond high school are the ones most severely affected by Obama’s defining challenge — but they are also the ones most severely affected by his “compassionate” immigration policies.
In a time when the “creative destruction” of globalization and technological change makes it harder and harder for workers with fungible skills to make ends meet, the last thing their families need is a larger supply of unskilled workers competing in the domestic labor market.

The president once seemed to understand this. Discussing immigration in “The Audacity of Hope,” Obama wrote that while a “huge influx of mostly low-skill workers provides some benefits to the economy as a whole…it also threatens to depress further the wages of blue-collar Americans and put strains on an already overburdened safety net.”
As Voegeli points out, Obama's approach ignores the system our Founders created.
It turns out that when kindness covers all your political principles, your principles don’t cover a democracy’s most basic imperatives. The Constitution’s authors may or may not have been as kind-hearted as Obama, but they appear to have been far more cautious.
They set up a system of government to protect us from a bad leader, but also from one so convinced of his own goodness he feels justified to act unilaterally when he gets tired of waiting around for other elected officials to share his sympathies.
Compassion may be one way to characterize such zeal, but republicanism is not.

Ross Douthat mourns how our politics has become defined by ethnic identities rather than rational discussions.

Paul Sperry details the ways in which President Obama disregards the law. We're familiar with the ways he has done so on immigration, but the lawlessness of this administration doesn't stop there.
He’s also reinterpreting the nation’s civil-rights laws.

For starters, Obama has directed his education secretary and attorney general to pressure public school districts to limit the number of minority students they suspend.

To comply with the policy, Minneapolis Public Schools and other districts have adopted de facto racial quotas in discipline.

“MPS must aggressively reduce the disproportionality between black and brown students and their white peers every year for the next four years,” the Minneapolis school superintendent explains. “This will begin with a 25 percent reduction in disproportionality by the end of this school year; 50 percent by 2016; 75 percent by 2017; and 100 percent by 2018.”

By referring lower and lower shares of black kids for discipline until they equal white levels, MPS is favoring one race over another in violation of the Equal Protection Clause.

“The new discipline policy is legally and constitutionally suspect,” US Civil Rights Commissioner Peter Kirsanow asserted.

A federal appeals court in its 1997 People Who Care v. Rockford Board of Education decision declared unconstitutional a Rockford, Ill., policy that forbade school officials referring “a higher percentage of minority students than of white students for discipline.”

Former Education Department lawyer Hans Bader notes the court ruling also “explicitly rejected the argument that such a rule is permissible to prevent ‘disparate impact,’” a dubious civil rights theory not found in the text of Title VI of the Civil Rights Act.

“This provision cannot stand,” the Chicago-based 7th Circuit unanimously ruled. “Racial disciplinary quotas violate equity in its root sense. They entail either systematically over-punishing the innocent or under-punishing the guilty. They place race at war with justice.”

Josh Kraushaar notes what Jim Webb's announced candidacy for the presidency says about the Democratic Party. He could presumably have appeal to more moderate voters. But that appeal wouldn't win him the Democratic nomination. In the present-day Democratic Party, being moderate is occupying a fringe candidate.
Consider: There will be only five red-state Senate Democrats left in the next Congress if, as expected, Sen. Mary Landrieu is defeated in next month's runoff. Even more striking, there will be only five House Democrats left representing districts that Mitt Romney carried in 2012. The once-influential Blue Dog Caucus of fiscally hawkish Democrats is all but extinct. Republicans now boast twice as many blue-state senators (10) and five times as many blue-district representatives (25) than their Democratic counterparts in red territory.

While lots of ink has been spilled charting the GOP's drift rightward, the Democratic Party's move toward ideological homogeneity has been shorter and swifter. In 2006, the year Webb was elected to the Senate, Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee Chairman Rahm Emanuel elected dozens of moderate-minded representatives across the country with conservative views on gun control and immigration. Even in 2008, when Barack Obama headed the Democratic ticket, House Democrats won deeply conservative districts in northern Mississippi, suburban Louisiana, and rural Alabama. Sen. Mark Pryor of Arkansas, who lost by 17 points in his bid for a third term, didn't even face Republican opposition six years earlier. This isn't ancient history.

The base of the Democratic Party now finds itself united by cultural issues, not economic ones—and Webb is badly out of step with the changed sentiment. Martin O'Malley's long-shot 2016 presidential play focused on using the Maryland governorship as a socially liberal laboratory on issues ranging from immigration and gun control to the death penalty and medical marijuana. Ousted Sen. Mark Udall of Colorado ran so many ads on abortion and contraception in his unsuccessful reelection bid that the media dubbed him "Mark Uterus" by the end of the campaign. While Elizabeth Warren and Jim Webb share a critical view of Wall Street, his heterodox views on social issues are anathema to the party base. Ultimately, social issues trump economic ones.

Indeed, the space for the "beer track" candidate in the Democratic presidential primary has all but disappeared. John Edwards, pre-sex scandal, filled that void credibly in 2004 and 2008 with his fiery Two Americas sermonizing. Dick Gephardt, the former House minority leader, fought for that political space against Edwards and, to some extent, Joe Lieberman in 2004. When Bill Clinton ran for president in 1992, the majority of the Democratic Party's voters fit the blue-collar billing. Hillary Clinton is facing a much different electorate 26 years later.

James Taranto is gleeful at the internal conflicts within the Democratic Party.
It’s not hard to see why the Democrats would be coming apart at this moment. Now that the elections for the last congressional term of Obama’s presidency are (except for the Louisiana runoffs) over, the president and other Democrats no longer have a common interest in re-election. His interest is in assuring his legacy; theirs, in winning future elections, including the presidency in 2016. That militates toward risk-seeking on his part and risk-aversion on theirs. Republicans in the new Congress could turn this to their advantage by holding votes on popular legislation that Obama is determined not to sign.
The firing of Chuck Hagel has provided another opportunity for the publicizing of internal divisions within this administration.
Sources close to Hagel suggest that he became disillusioned when the president cancelled a plan to strike pro-Assad targets in Syria just one day before they were slated to begin. The Pentagon chief’s exasperation grew when he reportedly warned the president to take firm and prompt measures which would communicate to Vladimir Putin that his aggression in Ukraine would not go unopposed. “Moscow – not the Middle East – posed the most serious long-term threat to international security, Mr. Hagel told the president,” The Journal reported.

“Mr. Hagel tried to move the ball forward with Mr. Obama directly. In a private meeting in late July, he warned Mr. Obama that the U.S. wasn’t focused enough on Russia, and was lurching from crisis to crisis without direction, according to a senior defense official,” the report revealed.

All of Hagel’s warnings went ignored. America is now entering the conflict in Syria too late and with conditions far less favorable than they were in the autumn of 2013. Russia has expanded the conflict in Ukraine, and threatens to destabilize more of that country and other former Soviet Republics. Hagel may not be the farsighted sage that this report portrays him to be, but it is clear his side of the story of his time in the White House is a bit more complicated than the administration would like to suggest.

If nothing else, it seems likely that Hagel will be the third consecutive secretary of defense serving under Obama to write an unfavorable account of the president’s managerial style after leaving office.

The National Journal notes some disturbing signs for Democrats concerning the Hispanic vote.