Friday, January 02, 2015

Cruising the Web

Happy New Year! May all of my readers have a happy, health, and safe 2015.

The NYT editorial board is fretting that the Cuban government, after Obama's decision to normalize relations with them, has chosen to crack down on those who are criticizing the government.
By stifling critical voices, the Cuban government is showing its unwillingness to tolerate basic freedoms most citizens in the hemisphere enjoy. This move, unfortunately, will amplify the criticisms of those who opposed Mr. Obama’s historic shift on Cuba policy.

Heavy-handed tactics by the Castro government will give them ammunition next year, when Republicans will control both chambers of Congress, to stymie the Obama administration’s steps to ease the embargo through executive authority and dim the prospects of legislative change to pare back the web of sanctions Washington imposes on Cuba. That result would be a shame and, in the long run, self-defeating for Havana.
Yes, because that is the real harm in the Cuban government's crackdown - that it will "stymie the Obama administration's steps to ease the embargo." How about the harm done to those brave souls who dared to test whether there was indeed any change wrought by Obama's unilateral granting of normalized relations without any concomitant agreement from the Castro brothers?

Jay Nordlinger remembers quite a few such NYT editorials bemoaning the actions of the Soviet government precisely because such actions would help Reagan maintain a hard line against the Soviets and not because of what the unfortunates the Soviets persecuted were enduring. Nordlinger also celebrates those who have so bravely fought for freedom in Cuba.

So Steve Scalise might have apologized for speaking at a white supremacist event that he actually didn't speak at. According to a David Duke ally, Scalise spoke at a neighborhood civic association event in the morning instead of the supremacist event in the afternoon. This might support the story that he really had no memory of this event and just didn't do any proper vetting of the man who invited him to speak. Quin Hillyer, who has deep experience with Louisiana politics, explains why he and many black, Jewish, and Democratic leaders from Louisiana believe that Scalise should get the benefit of the doubt. Hillyer also has an illuminating story about how a NYT reporter deliberately twisted his words to make it sound like he was saying 180 degrees differently from what he had actually said about Scalise. And John Hayward describes how lefty sites and journalists won't care that their narrative about a Republican congressman has been debunked. What matters is the appearance of a scandal when it involves a Republican. When it involves a long-time Democratic senator such as Robert Byrd who even served as their Senate majority leader despite having been an actual Exalted Cyclops in his local KKK, that is past history and should be ignored.

John Podhoretz goes by the numbers to explain what a blessing the police have been to NYC.
Overall, there were 318,000 arrests in New York City in 2013.
So if we assume the data for 2014 are pretty consistent with last year’s, that means two fatal incidents (Gurley’s death was entirely incidental, a dreadful series of events gone horribly wrong) occurred in the course of those 318,000 confrontational moments with New York’s police officers. That’s two out of 318,000.

No one argues with these data points.

And what they show, all emotion aside, is that the idea Eric Garner’s death was a representative event is simply false.

Now let’s talk about why the city is as crowded as it is.

In 1991, New York had a population of 7.3 million, about 16 percent less than today. The rise isn’t from natural population growth. Chicago’s population is almost exactly the same as in 1991, while Los Angeles’ is only 9 percent larger.

The fact that 1.1 million more people live here now than at the height of the three-decade crime wave isn’t due to natural growth. Nor is the fact that the number of tourists has nearly doubled, from 1991’s 29 million to this year’s 54 million.

These remarkable numbers are entirely due to the extraordinary turnaround in the city’s quality of life, as measured by an overall crime drop nearing 80 percent — the vast majority of which occurred not in the places tourists travel but in the neighborhood where the city’s least affluent and most threatened live.

New York City has repopulated, has revivified, has survived and thrived. The people whose daily work has made all this possible are the 34,500 officers of the NYPD.
They are nothing less than a blessing to us all.

All. Of. Us.

Jason Delisles writes at the WSJ how Obama's policies have burdened the federal government with a "hidden student-debt bomb." The WSJ summarizes his results,
Mr. Delisle has dug into the government’s numbers and finds that the take-up rate of these nonpayment programs is far larger than most Americans appreciate. Two years ago the Administration’s estimate of the average amount to be forgiven in income-based repayment plans was already $41,000 per borrower. The total amount of forbearance loans is $125 billion, and rising. And even with all of these ways to avoid on-time repayment, borrowers are still defaulting at a rate of nearly 20%. The clear danger is that hundreds of billions of dollars will never be repaid, which means that future taxpayers will have to pick up the tab.

That may have been the plan all along, since Democrats have wanted to make college another federal entitlement. And conveniently for President Obama, the bill will come due after he has left office.

Josh Marshall reprints an email he received from a self-proclaimed progressive Democrat who is also a police officer in suburban New York. He provides a very illuminating take on the situation among the police in NYC and what it is like to be a police officer there. he is particularly pointed in his criticism of Al Sharpton and De Blasio's association with him. And credit to Marshall for publishing something that goes contrary to the line taken by so many of his political allies.

Something that might well not have happened without a GOP-controlled House:
The federal budget is shrinking as a percentage of gross domestic product, falling just below 20 percent in the third quarter of 2014. That's down four points from its peak of 24 percent in 2011, according to market analysis firm Strategas' survey of recent Treasury Department data.

"That's a pretty large drop in government spending," said Daniel Clifton, head of policy research for Strategas.

The drop puts current federal spending close to the norm for the last half-century. While the budget has grown in absolute numbers — the omnibus spending bill passed earlier this month totaled more than $1 trillion — federal spending has averaged just over 19 percent of GDP since 1963.

The decline is due to a combination of factors, the main one being the restraints that were put on federal spending in 2011 as a result of the debt ceiling standoff in Congress.

Megan McArdle explains the limitations of studies on the minimum wage.

Daniel DiSalvo explains at The Daily Beast how public sector unions divide the Democratic Party.
Public sector unions create a genuine political conundrum for Democrats. On the one hand, they are genuinely powerful, and Democrats rely on their money and manpower during elections. Teachers unions, AFSCME, and SEIU are among the biggest donors to Democratic candidates and are organizationally braided into the party apparatus. However, public employee unions drive up government costs and depress productivity, weakening the state’s capacity to assist the poor and middle class.

There’s the rub. Insofar as public unions secure for their members better pay, more generous benefits, and work rules shielding them from management discretion government doesn’t perform as well—and, consequently, neither do Democrats. Therefore, some Democrats are under pressure to take policy actions their union allies oppose. But taking such action puts them at odds with the most powerful and best-organized segment of their coalition.
Saying that government unions weaken the state's ability to help the poor and middle class is vastly understating the damage that public sector unions can create. They often make it impossible for government to perform any of its tasks because too much funding is bound to paying pensions and benefits for public employees. Government that are so committed to those pensions are unable to hire the policemen and teachers that the present-day demands because they are paying the pensions of yesterday's public employees.
For example, Chicago’s ailing pension system, only 33 percent funded, is the back-story behind the city’s teacher strike last fall, its struggle with a surge in the murder rate in 2012, and the closure of dozens of schools. In New York City, pension, health, and other fringe benefits for city employees constituted 15 percent of the city budget in 2002, but by 2014 those items gobbled up 34 percent of the budget. New York now employs fewer cops, firefighters, and sanitation workers than it did in 2002.
The Democrats are too co-dependent on those unions to break that trend. And so they champion the growth of government while also supporting policies that make it impossible for government to do what they are promising it can do.

Ed Morrissey explains how the Democrats used a "bait and switch" approach on Medicaid reimbursement rates to pass Obamacare and now those chickens are indeed coming home to roost.