Thursday, February 05, 2015

Cruising the Web

George Will explains how the media are "defining economic failure down."
By the time — April 2014 — the economy returned to the number of jobs it had before the recession began in December 2007, there were 15 million more Americans. Nicole Gelinas writes in the Manhattan Institute’s City Journal: “A healthy economy should add 200,000 new jobs every month, even when it’s not recovering from a recession. By that standard, America should have 133 million people working in the private sector right now, not 118.4 million.”

Economic weakness — new business formations are at a 35-year low — is both a cause and a consequence of alarming cultural changes. In 1960, 12 percent of 25-to-34-year-olds were never married; today, 49 percent never have been. Although the population was 27 million larger in 2010 than in 2000, there were fewer births in 2010.

The lingering economic anemia is astonishing, given plummeting energy prices. To a considerable extent, the anemia is an iatrogenic social ailment, induced by government behavior. The business burdens and uncertainties created by the Affordable Care Act are just part of the Obama administration’s regulatory mania (3,659 new regulations finalized in 2013 and 2,594 others proposed, according to Wayne Crews of the Competitive Enterprise Institute).

That the employment picture is not worse may owe much to the end of an iatrogenic policy. The Economist reports that during the recession, unemployment benefits were extended from 26 weeks for most workers to an average of 53 weeks, and 73 weeks in three states. Then in December 2013 Republicans blocked reauthorization of emergency unemployment compensation. Now a study of more than 1,000 counties shows that employment grew fastest in counties where there were the biggest declines in the duration of unemployment benefits.

Barack Obama’s plan to tax the earnings from parents’ “529” college savings plans lived just long enough to indicate why some progressives perhaps prefer slow rather than rapid economic growth. Rapid growth reduces the appeal of redistributive policies and the need for the bitter, jostling, divisive politics that advance such policies. The 529s help enable families to achieve self-sufficiency. This excites progressives’ dislike of any private provision that impedes implementation of their dependency agenda.

The progressive project of maximizing the number of people dependent on government is also aided by the acid of insecurity that grows rapidly when the economy does not. Anxious and disappointed people are susceptible to progressives’ blandishments about the political allocation of wealth and opportunity — “free” this and that. By making slow growth normal, iatrogenic government serves the progressive program of defining economic failure down.

Like Hillary Clinton, Brian Williams has gotten caught in a bit of self-aggrandizement by falsely claiming to have come under fire.
Williams’s claim to have been under fire recalls 2008 presidential candidate Hillary Clinton’s false assertion that, as first lady in March 1996, she came under sniper fire during a trip to Tuzla, Bosnia. "I remember landing under sniper fire,” Clinton said during a speech. “There was supposed to be some kind of a greeting ceremony at the airport, but instead we just ran with our heads down to get into the vehicles to get to our base." CBS News video of Clinton’s arrival showed no such thing; instead she alighted on the tarmac and greeted a welcoming child who offered her a poem.

Needless to say, the standards of veracity and accuracy demanded of a network news anchorman are much higher than those expected of a politician. Clinton ended up in a world of hurt for her Bosnia fabrication, and Williams, at least for the near future, might suffer a similar hard landing.

“The actual lie is a trivial one,” Tyndall said, noting that it has zero public policy or political implications. “But the motive for the lie is really damning. Telling fibs to make yourself seem braver than you are? Why would you do that? The actual consequences of the lie are minimal, but the moral problems the lie raises are massive.”
Really? The standards for a news reader are higher than someone running for president? That says a lot.

Ah, more news about Bill Clinton's terrible taste in friends.
As if Bill Clinton’s friendship with Jeffrey Epstein weren’t embarrassing enough, the two flew on Epstein’s jet in 2002 to meet with the Sultan of Brunei.

Sultan Bolkiah, one of the richest men in the world, not only plans to execute homosexuals, but his brother, Prince Jefri, has been accused of duping American women into “white slavery.”

The National Enquirer reports flight logs reveal Epstein — before he was arrested and jailed for soliciting teenage masseuses — picked up the former president at a Japanese naval airport and flew with him to Brunei on May 25, 2002.

Also onboard Epstein’s private 727 — dubbed “the orgy jet” — were Ghislaine Maxwell and Sarah Kellen, “both alleged ‘madames’ for Epstein’s kiddie sex ring,” the Enquirer states. Kellen was never arrested or charged with a crime and was granted immunity in a non-prosecution agreement in 2007. Maxwell has denied the allegations.

The Sultan later donated a sum between $1 million and $5 million to the Clinton Presidential Library.
But hey, Clinton was just getting a free plane ride and should not be judged by his associates...not like Chris Christie getting a ride from Jerry Jones.

This is not good at all.
Today, Anthem Inc., the second largest health insurer in America revealed that hackers broke into the company’s servers and stole social security numbers and other personal information. This is a massive data breach with the potential to expose the information of nearly 80 million Anthem customers and has the potential to be the largest health care related data breach in history. The company notes that accounts associated with Anthem Blue Cross, Anthem Blue Cross and Blue Shield, Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Georgia, Empire Blue Cross and Blue Shield, Amerigroup, Caremore, Unicare, Healthlink, and DeCare were all part of the data breach.

Scott Walker has a very welcome education proposal - to remove the requirement that teachers be certified to teach. As a teacher who had to take a bunch of classes in order to be certified, I can testify that there was almost nothing nothing I learned in those classes that helped me be a better teacher. They could all have been replaced by a few weeks in a workshop to learn discipline techniques and lesson plans. Since I now teach at a charter school where the requirement is much less stringent on hiring certified teachers, we have excellent teachers who come from all sorts of backgrounds such as former engineers, businesspeople, and Peace Corps workers. There are qualities that make people good teachers and education classes do not supply those qualities if they are lacking. Mostly, what the courses do is give jobs to education professors most of whom, in my experience, had never taught outside of a college atmosphere.Reihan Salam comments on Walker's plan.
Moreover, Walker’s approach will make it far easier for mid-career professionals to transition into teaching without incurring the huge opportunity cost that the current licensing regime imposes on them. Back in 2009, Frederick Hess of the American Enterprise Institute explained why opening up the teacher talent pool in this way might prove so immensely beneficial. While public schools tend to recruit teachers at the start of their careers, there are many older professionals who might be open to teaching if the barriers to entry weren’t quite so high, even if salaries remained fairly modest. Hess cites a 2008 Woodrow Wilson National Fellowship Foundation survey which found that an incredibly 42 percent of college-educated adults between the ages of 24 and 60 were open to the idea of teaching, and these adults tended to have stronger academic records than those who ruled out teaching. If even a small fraction of these professionals moved into teaching, one can imagine average teacher quality improving by quite a lot. So you can see who has the greatest interest in forcing older professionals to jump through hoops before making public school teaching their second and third act: lackluster teachers who fear the competition. I for one am rooting for Walker.

Licensing teachers is very much a state and local issue. I have no idea what Walker thinks about national issues, and it’s not entirely clear to me that he knows either. But if he can be as creative and gutsy in tackling the dysfunctional mess that is the federal government as he’s been at reforming K-12 and higher education in Wisconsin, all the Walkermentum will be richly deserved.

AP exposes the tricks in President Obama's proposed budget. I'm sure you're shocked, shocked that a president's proposed budget would rely on accounting gimmicks.

Five Obama tax proposals that make no sense. For example,
2. Stop saving, stupid. Many say that Social Security is going broke, people are living longer, and that we are not saving enough for retirement. But the president thinks Americans are saving too much. His budget wants to limit retirement savings to an amount sufficient to generate an annuity of $210,000 beginning at age 62. No matter that this is hard to estimate, even for actuaries. Too bad for you if you live in New York City or San Francisco, where $210,000 might not be enough to pay the rent, go out to dinner and make occasional trips to see the grandchildren. This provision would generate $26 billion over 10 years.

Rand Paul corrects his original statement on vaccines...and makes it worse.

Since we still seem to be talking about how conservatives could possibly support mandatory vaccinations, Ira Straus explains why such a policy is actually conservative and the anti-vaccine movement flourished among the left.
Being pro-government has nothing to do with favoring big government. It is simply about supporting government in its core functions — what appears in the preamble of the Constitution, and in the laws and constitutions of the other English-speaking countries under the affectionate rubric of “POGG”: “peace, order, and good government.”

....Ever since the 1960s, the predominant elites have had an underlying, or overarching, countercultural tone: organic, anti-science, anti-corporate, and anti-government. PBS TV outlets plug hours of infomercials selling holistic healing and alternative lifestyles and churning out conspiracy theories against traditional Western science and medicine. Often their gurus have been exposed as quacks; often they have cult-like audiences; always they instruct people on multiple psychological levels as to what they must say and believe to get social approval in the group. The devil in their scenario is always the same: the world of traditional governments and markets and Western lifestyles and doctors. PBS outlets peddle this, despite facing criticism for it, because it is what is loved by their audience subculture — elites, elitists, and would-be holders-on to the elite. It is a solid measure of who is really who in this matter. It tells us clearly what is the “base” for the anti-vaccine movement.
Exemptions from vaccines show statistically the same ideological base. Only two states, Mississippi and West Virginia, allow no exemptions from mandatory vaccination; both are red states, culturally deep red. California, the source of the current outbreak, has icon status for its countercultural blueness. Most red states do allow exemptions for religious beliefs. But it is mostly blue states that allow exemptions also for personal beliefs, i.e. any views at all — and they in fact on average exempt a considerably higher percentage of children from MMR vaccination, despite being richer and more urban.

Phil Kerpen explains how the EPA is threatening to unconstitutionally take away a state's federal highway funds if they don't comply with the EPA's cap-and-trade regulations.

The 2016 field of GOP candidates is "not your father's or grandfather's GOP field."

The Sierra Club is upset about the cute Anheuser-Busch "Puppy Love" ad about the cute puppy who gets lost and faces hazards, including a wolf, until rescued by his Clydesdale buddies. Apparently, we're not supposed to be scared of wolves since it used to be an endangered species.