Thursday, July 27, 2017

Cruising the Web

Donald Trump ran on how he was going to hire the best people and we just accept that he could meet the nation's challenges because he would put the best people in charge and they would solve everything. Yeah, right. As Michael Brendan Dougherty writes, he is such a nightmare of a boss that it is getting harder and harder to get quality people to agree to work for him.
Trump’s “leadership” as a boss has created a White House that is notorious for its leaks, and for the way it constantly emits the stink of demoralization. Almost every story about dysfunction in the White House in the New York Times or the Washington Post is verified by so many anonymous sources close to the president that reporters are counting them by “dozens” now. Perhaps soon we’ll move on to “scores” of White House stool pigeons.

But the really dangerous effect of Trump’s mismanagement is that it further degrades his administration’s already compromised efforts at hiring staff for senior and sub-cabinet positions. It is literally preventing his administration from taking full possession of the executive branch of government Trump is supposed to lead.

Why would you go to work for him unless you were hard-up for work or needing to take a high-risk gamble with your career? No one in his right mind would respond to a Help Wanted ad that advertised the boss’s propensity to be angered by the trivial and the everyday, leading him to tweet angrily at colleagues or to say damaging things about his employees to the newspaper of record. No one would respond to that ad if it also mentioned that the boss would redirect all the blame below and spread most of the credit to himself and his family members. But this is the Help Wanted ad the executive branch of the United States has now.

Trump was always going to have more trouble than usual in this regard because he was a newcomer to elective politics and because he was an ideological insurgent in his own party. He had neither the list of long-term political allies that needed to be rewarded nor the full loyalty and trust of the expert class that has attached itself to the Republican party.

And so the Trump White House lacks the “best people” and the best minds working on the problems of government. It lacks expertise while it undertakes a job that desperately needs expertise. That means more mistakes, from simple diplomatic goofs to major strategic and governing decisions.

But worse than that is that the inability to fully staff an administration adds to a sense of illegitimacy that is settling over his presidency, one compounded by his scandals and eagerly fed by a media that believes it can tweet almost anyone, even a president, out of a job.

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This is how the teachers' unions think about parents having more authority over where their children go to school.
Sounding like Hillary Clinton in full deplorable mode, Ms. Weingarten says the movement to give parents more say over where their kids go to school has its roots in “racism, sexism, classism, xenophobia and homophobia.” Adapting the theology of the climate-change censors who seek to shut down debate, she goes on to call Mrs. DeVos a “public-school denier.”

What really frosts the AFT president is that she recognizes that the public-school monopoly her union backs is now under siege, morally and politically, for its failure to educate children, especially minority children.

It’s not that there are no excellent public schools. It’s that citizens are beginning to see that the public money the unions increasingly demand is more likely to go into pensions than the classroom. And access to excellent schools increasingly depends on a good zip code.
Sure, go back over 60 years to the reaction some states had to Brown v. Board of Education. Just ignore the fact that a huge percentage of those parents who want the opportunity to get their children out of failing public schools and into schools of their choice are poor black and Latino children.
Before last year’s anniversary of Brown, for example, the Government Accountability Office released a study showing resegregation is on the rise, with more and more of America’s poor black and Latino children in schools where they are the majority. Many of these are failing schools. Yet as she made clear in her speech, Ms. Weingarten and her union will fight to their dying breath to keep these children there rather than give them the opportunity of a better education through a charter public school or a voucher for a private or parochial school.
For the unions, it's more important to keep those children in failing schools than allow them to go to a school where the administration doesn't have to hire union teachers.

And as Frederick M. Hess points out, the history of school-choice did not begin with Southern segregationists.
But the bigger problem is the odd suggestion that their use by racists amid the extraordinary dynamics of the post-Brown South constitutes the “origin” story of educational vouchers.

It’s more accurate to trace the “origin” of vouchers to Tom Paine, 18th-century pamphleteer and crusader for liberty. In his 1791 collection The Rights of Man, Paine called for giving every poor family “four pounds a year for every child under fourteen years of age” and then “enjoining the parents of such children to send them to school, to learn reading, writing, and common arithmetic; the ministers of every parish, of every denomination to certify jointly to an office, for that purpose, that this duty is performed.” Rather than promote universal education via publicly operated schools, Paine called for giving families the funds and then letting them make the arrangements they saw fit. In other words: a voucher. (He even suggested weighting the vouchers by including a supplementary amount for students in sparsely populated areas.)

If one isn’t inclined to credit Paine, one certainly should credit John Stuart Mill for spelling out the rationale and mechanics of vouchers a century before Brown....

Mill didn’t just sketch the architecture of the voucher, he even spelled out the risks of a public-school monopoly in the absence of vouchers:
A general State education is a mere contrivance for moulding people to be exactly like one another; . . . in proportion as it is efficient and successful, it establishes a despotism over the mind. . . . An education established and controlled by the State should only exist, if it exist at all, as one among many competing experiments, carried on for the purpose of example and stimulus.
Okay, so Paine and Mill spelled all this out more than a century before Milton Friedman penned his seminal piece on school vouchers in 1955. But they didn’t create an operational voucher program — so can the segregationists be credited as the first to put vouchers into practice?

Nope. In fact, the nation’s first educational-voucher program was launched a decade before massive resistance. Commonly known as the “GI Bill,” it provided a voucher to help returning World War II veterans pursue post-secondary education at the college of their choice. Indeed, as the speechwriter for former Obama secretary of education Arne Duncan has written, the GI Bill was “essentially a government educational voucher with no strings attached.” Indeed, the GI Bill’s vouchers became the model for the Pell Grant program (which today is a voucher endorsed by CAP) when it was created as part of the Higher Education Act in 1965....

Vouchers were seized upon by racists as one of the many tools they used to resist desegregation. That much is true. But that’s only a small piece of a much larger story. Vouchers have long been proposed as a tool to empower families, temper the reach of the state, democratize access to education, and offer better options to those failed by the state. It’s misguided, misleading, and historically inaccurate to suggest that this sorry experience is somehow the true genesis story of school vouchers.

Elliot Kaufman adds,
Moreover, the lie that vouchers are the “polite cousins of segregation” is particularly egregious because the overwhelming weight of the empirical evidence suggests that vouchers actually improve school integration and fight segregation. Seven of eight methodologically sound studies examining vouchers’ effect on school integration in America found positive impacts on integration. The eighth found no statistically significant impact.

As usual, the truth is the exact opposite of what the teachers’ unions say.

School choice helps low-income black and Hispanic children more than anyone else. In Florida’s private school-choice program, the largest in the nation, 68 percent of the 100,000 scholarship recipients are black or Hispanic. The average recipient’s household income is just $24,074. Ninety-seven percent of scholarship recipients in Washington, D.C.’s Opportunity Scholarship Program are minority students. Their average household income is just $21,434. The Louisiana Scholarship program has 88 percent minority enrolment. Need I go on?

Across the country, voucher and tax-credit programs are allowing low-income parents, many of them minorities, to choose better schools for their children. Wealthier families already have a range of choices. Public schools in wealthy areas tend to perform well. If they don’t, parents can often afford to pay expensive private-school tuition on their own. Poorer families, on the other hand, are unable to afford private schools and thus are held hostage by the inferior schools in their low-income school districts.

That is why these families love school choice: It empowers them to help their children receive a good education.
You can tell how desperate the unions are by the claims made by American Federation of Teachers (AFT) president Randi Weingarten in a recent speech.
For families participating in school-choice programs, satisfaction is far higher. This is not even contested; school choice improves parent satisfaction, across the country, in study after study. Shouldn’t that matter to the teachers’ unions? Shouldn’t they care that parents typically like school choice, and typically think it helps their children?

It doesn’t, and they don’t. In her speech, Weingarten dodged the issue: “I’ve never heard a parent say, ‘That school doesn’t work for my kid. So I want to engage in an ideologically driven market-based experiment that commodifies education and has been proven to be ineffective,’” she said.

Well, when you put it that way, neither have I. But parents across the country have been telling anyone who will listen that they want options. They want to use charter schools and vouchers and scholarship tax credits to get their children out of failing schools and into better ones.

If Weingarten truly cared about school segregation and inequality, she would realize that the public-school system exacerbates both problems. It is a monopoly — with an opt-out for the rich, like most other monopolies — that strands low-income children in mediocre, heavily segregated school districts.

Instead, Weingarten and her ilk lie and smear and use any means necessary to stop poor parents from choosing better schools for their kids. They do so because preserving the public-school monopoly is in their own narrow interests.

But it’s not in anyone else’s.

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You might have missed it for all the attention paid to the Russia investigation and the OJ parole hearing, but last week was supposed to be "Made in America Week." While such a message probably plays very well with many Americans, it really is a concept that doesn't make much sense. As Kevin Williamson writes, not many things made in America are wholly made in America these days. He points out that one of the products featured by the White House was Gibson, maker of emblematic guitars. But Gibson Brands makes products all over the world. Most products that are fit the "Made in America" label are made of components that come from all over the world. And products made by brands from another country are now often made in the U.S.A.
In some ways, it hardly makes any sense to label almost anything “Made in the U.S.A.,” or “Made in” any other place. Real life in the 21st-century economy is a great deal more complicated than anything that can be captured on a label. The Michigan-based watchmaker Shinola was informed by the Federal Trade Commission last year that it could no longer describe its watches as American-made. Shinola watches are American-made, but they are made in America by inserting Swiss-made watch movements into cases made in any number of places. Isn’t that Made in the U.S.A.? In a sense, sure, and also in a sense not. About 80 percent of what goes into a Toyota Camry sold in the United States is made in the United States, which is a lot more than in some “American” cars. About 70 percent of a 2011 Honda Civic was American-made, while only about 2 percent of a Chevy Aveo from the same year was of North American origin. (Weird thing: The country-of-origin breakdown often is given in U.S. and Canadian content — is Canada a foreign country or isn’t it?) Toyota gets a fair amount of mileage out of advertising that the trucks it sells in Texas are made in Texas, to heck with the other 49 states.

One of the great enduring stupidities of modern economic life is the belief that buying American is somehow beneficial to the United States as a whole. A related daft notion, very popular among our progressive friends horrified at the chauvinism of “Buy American” campaigns, is that buying local helps your local community and economy. This stuff has been studied and studied and studied, and the short version is that buy-American/buy-local efforts amount to approximately squat. It makes sense if you think about it: You can buy a bag of green beans from your local farmers’ cooperative and feel good about yourself, but that farmer is going to use the money to pay his bills, probably to a faraway financial company that holds his mortgage, a carmaker overseas, or a tractor-financing company abroad. He might buy his diesel from a local retailer, but that diesel very likely comes from crude oil drilled in some faraway place (from Canada to the Middle East) and refined in another faraway place. The components that went into those green beans — seeds, fertilizer, farming equipment — probably weren’t locally made. Money likes to move around.

Does “Buy American” create or protect American jobs? Almost certainly not. That’s because we all buy lots of different things, and paying more than you have to for an inferior General Motors product doesn’t stick it to Honda so much as it sticks it to . . . everybody else you might have bought something from with that money you spent making yourself feel patriotic about buying a car assembled in Michigan out of components from all over God’s green Earth.
As Williamson explains, very few countries make everything that is used in their country. Think North Korea. That is not the model anyone considers. Those who urge that stores stock and Americans buy only products that are "Made in the U.S.A." are missing a lot of the story.
Americans make a great deal of the best stuff in the world. But how often do you hear the complaint: “When I go into Walmart, everything says ‘Made in China.’ Where’s the ‘Made in the U.S.A.’?” It is true that you will not find a great quantity of cheap T-shirts, flip-flops, or injection-molded plastic toys made in the United States. Those things are made overseas — often on industrial equipment made in the United States. Ordinary consumers see only consumer goods and have no appreciation for the size and scope of the American capital-goods industry. We import a lot of shoes and apparel, but we export a lot more industrial machinery — and twice as much transportation equipment. But those are big, general categories: We export a lot of industrial machinery, and we import a lot of it, too. Some of that imported machinery is used to make Gibson guitars, among other things. Part of the case for free trade is the fact that the gentlemen at Gibson know a great deal more about what kind of wood they need, and what kind of machinery they need, than the gentlemen in Washington do.

There's a very famous essay from 1958 by Leonard E. Read, "I, Pencil" that uses an autobiographical approach from a pencil to illustrate how complicated a simple pencil is to produce and how it depends on products that come from all over the world. And there is not one single person who can make a pencil because it involves so many different technologies to create everything that goes into a single pencil. It all comes together for a very free-market message that traces back to Adam Smith.
I, Pencil, am a complex combination of miracles: a tree, zinc, copper, graphite, and so on. But to these miracles which manifest themselves in Nature an even more extraordinary miracle has been added: the configuration of creative human energies—millions of tiny know-hows configurating naturally and spontaneously in response to human necessity and desire and in the absence of any human master-minding! ....Man can no more direct these millions of know-hows to bring me into being than he can put molecules together to create a tree.

The above is what I meant when writing, "If you can become aware of the miraculousness which I symbolize, you can help save the freedom mankind is so unhappily losing." For, if one is aware that these know-hows will naturally, yes, automatically, arrange themselves into creative and productive patterns in response to human necessity and demand—that is, in the absence of governmental or any other coercive masterminding—then one will possess an absolutely essential ingredient for freedom: a faith in free people. Freedom is impossible without this faith....

The lesson I have to teach is this: Leave all creative energies uninhibited. Merely organize society to act in harmony with this lesson. Let society's legal apparatus remove all obstacles the best it can. Permit these creative know-hows freely to flow. Have faith that free men and women will respond to the Invisible Hand.

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