An Ignored ‘Disparity’ – Thomas Sowell – Townhall Conservative

An Ignored ‘Disparity’ – Thomas Sowell – Townhall Conservative.

With all the talk about “disparities” in innumerable contexts, there is one very important disparity that gets remarkably little attention — disparities in the ability to create wealth. People who are preoccupied, or even obsessed, with disparities in income are seldom interested much, or at all, in the disparities in the ability to create wealth, which are often the reasons for the disparities in income.

In a market economy, people pay us for benefiting them in some way — whether we are sweeping their floors, selling them diamonds or anything in between. Disparities in our ability to create benefits for which others will pay us are huge, and the skills required can develop early — or sometimes not at all.

A recent national competition among high school students who create their own technological advances turned up an especially high share of such students winning recognition in the San Francisco Bay Area. A closer look showed that the great majority of these Bay Area students had Asian names.

Asian Americans are a substantial presence in this region but they are by no means a majority, much less such an overwhelming majority as they are among those winning high tech awards.

This pattern of disproportionate representation of particular groups among those with special skills and achievements is not confined to Asian Americans or even to the United States.

It is a phenomenon among particular racial, ethnic or other groups in countries around the world — the Ibos in Nigeria, the Parsees in India, the Armenians in the Ottoman Empire, Germans in Brazil, Chinese in Malaysia, Lebanese in West Africa, Tamils in Sri Lanka. The list goes on and on.

Gross inequalities in skills and achievements have been the rule, not the exception, on every inhabited continent and for centuries on end. Yet our laws and government policies act as if any significant statistical difference between racial or ethnic groups in employment or income can only be a result of their being treated differently by others.

Nor is this simply an opinion. Businesses have been sued by the government when the representation of different groups among their employees differs substantially from their proportions in the population at large. But, no matter how the human race is broken down into its components — whether by race, sex, geographic region or whatever — glaring disparities in achievements have been the rule, not the exception.

Anyone who watches professional basketball games knows that the star players are by no means a representative sample of the population at large. The book “Human Accomplishment” by Charles Murray is a huge compendium of the top achievements around the world in the arts and sciences, as well as in sports and other fields.

Nowhere have these achievements been random or representative of the demographic proportions of the population of a country or of the world. Nor have they been the same from one century to the next. China was once far more advanced technologically than any country in Europe, but then it fell behind and more recently is gaining ground.

Most professional golfers who participate in PGA tournaments have never won a single tournament, but Arnold Palmer, Jack Nicklaus and Tiger Woods have each won dozens of tournaments.

Yet these and numerous other disparities in achievement are resolutely ignored by those whose shrill voices denounce disparities in rewards, as if these disparities are somehow suspicious at best and sinister at worst.

Higher achieving groups — whether classes, races or whatever — are often blamed for the failure of other groups to achieve. Politicians and intellectuals, especially, tend to conceive of social questions in terms that allow them to take on the role of being on the side of the angels against the forces of evil.

This can be a huge disservice to those individuals and groups who are lagging behind, for it leads them to focus on a sense of grievance and victimhood, rather than on how they can lift themselves up instead of trying to pull other people down.

Again, this is a worldwide phenomenon — a sad commentary on the down side of the brotherhood of man.

Random Thoughts – Thomas Sowell – Townhall Conservative

Random Thoughts – Thomas Sowell – Townhall Conservative.

Random thoughts on the passing scene:

Talk show host Dennis Miller said, “I don’t dig polo. It’s like miniature golf meets the Kentucky Derby.”

Nothing illustrates the superficiality of our times better than the enthusiasm for electric cars, because they are supposed to greatly reduce air pollution. But the electricity that ultimately powers these cars has to be generated somewhere — and nearly half the electricity generated in this country is generated by burning coal.

The 2012 Republican primaries may be a rerun of the 2008 primaries, where the various conservative candidates split the conservative vote so many ways that the candidate of the mushy middle got the nomination — and then lost the election.

Because morality does not always prevail, by any means, too many of the intelligentsia act as if it has no effect. But, even in Nazi Germany, thousands of Germans hid Jews during the war, at the risk of their own lives, because it was the right thing to do.

In recent times, Christmas has brought not only holiday cheer but also attacks on the very word “Christmas,” chasing it from the vocabulary of institutions and even from most “holiday cards.” Like many other social crusades, this one is based on a lie — namely that the Constitution puts a wall of separation between church and state. It also shows how easily intimidated we are by strident zealots.

If you don’t like growing older, don’t worry about it. You may not be growing older much longer.

What do you call it when someone steals someone else’s money secretly? Theft. What do you call it when someone takes someone else’s money openly by force? Robbery. What do you call it when a politician takes someone else’s money in taxes and gives it to someone who is more likely to vote for him? Social Justice.

When an organization has more of its decisions made by committees, that gives more influence to those who have more time available to attend committee meetings and to drag out each meeting longer. In other words, it reduces the influence of those who have work to do, and are doing it, while making those who are less productive more influential.

Anyone who studies the history of ideas should notice how much more often people on the political left, more so than others, denigrate and demonize those who disagree with them — instead of answering their arguments.

The wisest and most knowledgeable human being on the planet is utterly incompetent to make even 10 percent of the consequential decisions that have to be made in a modern nation. Yet all sorts of people want to decide how much money other people can make or keep, and to micro-manage how other people live their lives.

The real egalitarians are not the people who want to redistribute wealth to the poor, but those who want to extend to the poor the ability to create their own wealth, to lift themselves up, instead of trying to tear others down. Earning respect, including self-respect, is better than being a parasite.

Of all the arguments for giving amnesty to illegal immigrants, the most foolish is the argument that we can’t find and expel all of them. There is not a law on the books that someone has not violated, including laws against murder, and we certainly have not found and prosecuted all the violators — whether murderers or traffic law violators. But do we then legalize all the illegalities we haven’t been able to detect and prosecute?

In the 1920s, Congressman Thomas S. Adams referred to “the ease with which the income tax may be legally avoided” but also said some Congressmen “so fervently believe that the rich ought to pay 40 or 50 per cent of their incomes” in taxes that they would rather make this a law, even if the government would get more revenue from a lower tax rate that people actually pay. Some also prefer class warfare politics that brings in votes, if not revenue.

Can you imagine a man who had never run any kind of organization, large or small, taking it upon himself to fundamentally change all kinds of organizations in a huge and complex economy? Yet that is what Barack Obama did when he said, “We are going to change the United States of America!” This was not “The Audacity of Hope.” It was the audacity of hype.

Thomas Sowell is a senior fellow at the Hoover Institution, Stanford University, Stanford, CA 94305. His website is www.tsowell.com. To find out more about Thomas Sowell and read features by other Creators Syndicate columnists and cartoonists, visit the Creators Syndicate Web page at www.creators.com.

Alice in Liberal Land – Thomas Sowell – Townhall Conservative

 

The White Rabbit in a hurry

Image via Wikipedia

Alice in Liberal Land – Thomas Sowell – Townhall Conservative.

Alice in Wonderland” was written by a professor who also wrote a book on symbolic logic. So it is not surprising that Alice encountered not only strange behavior in Wonderland, but also strange and illogical reasoning — of a sort too often found in the real world, and which a logician would be very much aware of.

If Alice could visit the world of liberal rhetoric and assumptions today, she might find similarly illogical and bizarre thinking. But people suffering in the current economy might not find it nearly as entertaining as “Alice in Wonderland.”

Perhaps the most remarkable feature of the world envisioned by today’s liberals is that it is a world where other people just passively accept whatever “change” liberals impose. In the world of Liberal Land, you can just take for granted all the benefits of the existing society, and then simply tack on your new, wonderful ideas that will make things better.

For example, if the economy is going along well and you happen to take a notion that there ought to be more home ownership, especially among the poor and minorities, then you simply have the government decree that lenders have to lend to more low-income people and minorities who want mortgages, ending finicky mortgage standards about down payments, income and credit histories.

That sounds like a fine idea in the world of Liberal Land. Unfortunately, in the ugly world of reality, it turned out to be a financial disaster, from which the economy has still not yet recovered. Nor have the poor and minorities.

Apparently you cannot just tack on your pet notions to whatever already exists, without repercussions spreading throughout the whole economy. That’s what happens in the ugly world of reality, as distinguished from the beautiful world of Liberal Land.

The strange and bizarre characters found in “Alice in Wonderland” have counterparts in the political vision of Liberal Land today. Among the most interesting of these characters are those elites who are convinced that they are so much smarter than the rest of us that they feel both a right and a duty to take all sorts of decisions out of our incompetent hands — for our own good.

In San Francisco, which is Liberal Land personified, there have been attempts to ban the circumcision of newborn baby boys. Fortunately, that was nipped in the bud. But it shows how widely the self-anointed saviors of Liberal Land feel entitled to take decisions out of the hands of mere ordinary citizens.

Secretary of the Treasury Timothy Geithner says, “We’re facing a very consequential debate about some fundamental choices as a country.” People talk that way in Liberal Land. Moreover, such statements pass muster with those who simply take in the words, decide whether they sound nice to them, and then move on.

But, if you take words seriously, the more fundamental question is whether individuals are to remain free to make their own choices, as distinguished from having collectivized choices, “as a country” — which is to say, having choices made by government officials and imposed on the rest of us.

The history of the 20th century is a painful lesson on what happens when collective choices replace individual choices. Even leaving aside the chilling history of totalitarianism in the 20th century, the history of economic central planning shows it to have been such a widely recognized disaster that even communist and socialist governments were abandoning it as the century ended.

Making choices “as a country” cannot be avoided in some cases, such as elections or referenda. But that is very different from saying that decisions in general should be made “as a country” — which boils down to having people like Timothy Geithner taking more and more decisions out of our own hands and imposing their will on the rest of us. That way lies madness exceeding anything done by the Mad Hatter in “Alice in Wonderland.”

That way lie unfunded mandates, nanny state interventions in people’s lives, such as banning circumcision — and the ultimate nanny state monstrosity, ObamaCare.

The world of reality has its problems, so it is understandable that some people want to escape to a different world, where you can talk lofty talk and forget about ugly realities like costs and repercussions. The world of reality is not nearly as lovely as the world of Liberal Land. No wonder so many people want to go there.

Democracy Versus Mob Rule – Thomas Sowell – Townhall Conservative

Democracy Versus Mob Rule – Thomas Sowell – Townhall Conservative.

In various cities across the country, mobs of mostly young, mostly incoherent, often noisy and sometimes violent demonstrators are making themselves a major nuisance.

Meanwhile, many in the media are practically gushing over these “protesters,” and giving them the free publicity they crave for themselves and their cause — whatever that is, beyond venting their emotions on television.

Members of the mobs apparently believe that other people, who are working while they are out trashing the streets, should be forced to subsidize their college education — and apparently the president of the United States thinks so too.

But if these loud mouths’ inability to put together a coherent line of thought is any indication of their education, the taxpayers should demand their money back for having that money wasted on them for years in the public schools.

Sloppy words and sloppy thinking often go together, both in the mobs and in the media that are covering them. It is common, for example, to hear in the media how some “protesters” were arrested. But anyone who reads this column regularly knows that I protest against all sorts of things — and don’t get arrested.

The difference is that I don’t block traffic, join mobs sleeping overnight in parks or urinate in the street. If the media cannot distinguish between protesting and disturbing the peace, then their education may also have wasted a lot of taxpayers’ money.

Among the favorite sloppy words used by the shrill mobs in the streets is “Wall Street greed.” But even if you think people in Wall Street, or anywhere else, are making more money than they deserve, “greed” is no explanation whatever.

“Greed” says how much you want. But you can become the greediest person on earth and that will not increase your pay in the slightest. It is what other people pay you that increases your income.

If the government has been sending too much of the taxpayers’ money to people in Wall Street — or anywhere else — then the irresponsibility or corruption of politicians is the problem. “Occupy Wall Street” hooligans should be occupying Pennsylvania Avenue in Washington.

Maybe some of the bankers or financiers should have turned down the millions and billions that politicians were offering them. But sainthood is no more common in Wall Street than on Pennsylvania Avenue — or in the media or academia, for that matter.

Actually, some banks did try to refuse the government bailout money, to avoid the interference with their business that they knew would come with it. But the feds insisted — and federal regulators’ power to create big financial problems for banks made it hard to say no. The feds made them an offer they couldn’t refuse.

People who cannot distinguish between democracy and mob rule may fall for the idea that the hooligans in the street represent the 99 percent who are protesting about the “greed” of the one percent. But these hooligans are less than one percent and they are grossly violating the rights of vastly larger numbers of people who have to put up with their trashing of the streets by day and their noise that keeps working people awake at night.

As for the “top one percent” in income that attract so much attention, angst and denunciation, there is always going to be a top one percent, unless everybody has the same income. That top one percent has no more monopoly on sainthood or villainy than people in any other bracket.

Moreover, that top one percent does not consist of the “millionaires and billionaires” that Barack Obama talks about. You don’t even have to make half a million dollars to be in the top one percent.

Moreover, this is not an enduring class of people. Nor are people in other income brackets. Most of the people in the top one percent at any given time are there for only one year. Anyone who sells an average home in San Francisco can get into the top one percent in income — for that year. Other one-time spikes in income account for most of the people in that top one percent.

But such plain facts carry little weight amid the heady rhetoric and mindless emotions of the mob and the media.

Reverse Racism – Thomas Sowell – Townhall Conservative

Reverse Racism – Thomas Sowell – Townhall Conservative.

Among those who have been disappointed by President Barack Obama, none is likely to end up so painfully disappointed as those who saw his election as being, in itself and in its consequences, a movement toward a “post-racial society.”

Like so many other expectations that so many people projected onto this little-known man who suddenly burst onto the political scene, the expectation of movement toward a post-racial society had no speck of hard evidence behind it — and all too many ignored indications of the very opposite, including his two decades of association with the egregious Reverend Jeremiah Wright.

Those people of good will who want to replace the racism of the past with a post-racial society have too often overlooked the fact that there are others who instead want to put racism under new management, to have reverse discrimination as racial payback for past injustices.

Attorney General Eric Holder became a key figure epitomizing the view that government’s role in racial matters was not to be an impartial dispenser of equal justice for all, but to be a racial partisan and an organ of racial payback. He has been too politically savvy to say that in so many words, but his actions have spoken far louder than any words.

The case that first gave the general public a glimpse of Attorney General Holder’s views and values was one in which young black thugs outside a voting site in Philadelphia were televised intimidating white voters. When this episode was broadcast, it produced public outrage.

Although the Department of Justice’s prosecution of these thugs began in the last days of the Bush administration, and the defendants had offered no legal defense, the case was dropped by the Justice Department after Eric Holder took over. One of the lawyers who were prosecuting that case resigned in protest.

That lawyer — J. Christian Adams — has now written a book, titled “Injustice: Exposing the Racial Agenda of the Obama Justice Department.” It is a thought-provoking book and a shocking book in what it reveals about the inner workings of the Department of Justice’s civil rights division.

Bad as the Justice Department’s decision was to drop that particular case, which it had already won in court, this book makes painfully clear that this was just the proverbial tip of the iceberg.

Despite the efforts of some in the media and in politics to depict the voter intimidation in Philadelphia as just an isolated incident involving a few thugs at one voting place, former U.S. Attorney Adams shows that these thugs were in fact part of a nationwide organization doing similar things elsewhere.

Moreover, the civil rights division of the Justice Department has turned the same blind eye to similar voter intimidation and corruption of the voting process by other people and other organizations in other cities and states — so long as those being victimized were white and the victimizers were black.

This is all spelled out in detail, naming names and naming places, not only among those in the country at large, but also among those officials of the Justice Department who turned its role of protecting the civil rights of all Americans into a policy of racial partisanship and racial payback.

The widespread, organized and systematic corruption of the voting process revealed by the author of “Injustice” is on a scale that can swing not only local but national elections, including the 2012 elections. The Department of Justice under Attorney General Eric Holder has not only turned a blind eye to blatant evidence of voter fraud, it has actively suppressed those U.S. Attorneys in its own ranks who have tried to stop that fraud.

Even in counties where the number of votes cast exceeds the number of people legally entitled to vote, Eric Holder’s Justice Department sees no evil, hears no evil and speaks no evil — if the end result is the election of black Democrats. It has become the mirror image of the old Jim Crow South.

This is an enormously eye-opening book which makes painfully clear that, where racial issues are concerned, the Department of Justice has become the Department of Payback. A post-racial society is the last thing that Holder and Obama are pursuing.

The ‘Hunger’ Hoax – Thomas Sowell – Townhall Conservative

The ‘Hunger’ Hoax – Thomas Sowell – Townhall Conservative.

Twenty years ago, hysteria swept through the media over “hunger in America.”

Dan Rather opened a CBS Evening News broadcast in 1991 declaring, “one in eight American children is going hungry tonight.” Newsweek, the Associated Press and the Boston Globe repeated this statistic, and many others joined the media chorus, with or without that unsubstantiated statistic.

When the Centers for Disease Control and the Department of Agriculture examined people from a variety of income levels, however, they found no evidence of malnutrition among those in the lowest income brackets. Nor was there any significant difference in the intake of vitamins, minerals and other nutrients from one income level to another.

That should have been the end of that hysteria. But the same “hunger in America” theme reappeared years later, when Senator John Edwards was running for Vice President. And others have resurrected that same claim, right up to the present day.

Ironically, the one demonstrable nutritional difference between the poor and others is that low-income women tend to be overweight more often than others. That may not seem like much to make a political issue, but politicians and the media have created hysteria over less.

The political left has turned obesity among low-income individuals into an argument that low-income people cannot afford nutritious food, and so have to resort to burgers and fries, pizzas and the like, which are more fattening and less healthful. But this attempt to salvage something from the “hunger in America” hoax collapses like a house of cards when you stop and think about it.

Burgers, pizzas and the like cost more than food that you can buy at a store and cook yourself. If you can afford junk food, you can certainly afford healthier food. An article in the New York Times of September 25th by Mark Bittman showed that you can cook a meal for four at half the cost of a meal from a burger restaurant. So far, so good. But then Mr. Bittman says that the problem is “to get people to see cooking as a joy.” For this, he says, “we need action both cultural and political.” In other words, the nanny state to the rescue!

Since when are adult human beings supposed to do only those things that are a joy? I don’t find any particular joy in putting on my shoes. But I do it rather than go barefoot. I don’t always find it a joy to drive a car, especially in bad weather, but I have to get from here to there.

An arrogant elite’s condescension toward the people — treating them as children who have to be jollied along — is one of the poisonous problems of our time. It is at the heart of the nanny state and the promotion of a debilitating dependency that wins votes for politicians while weakening a society.

Those who see social problems as requiring high-minded people like themselves to come down from their Olympian heights to impose their superior wisdom on the rest of us, down in the valley, are behind such things as the hunger hoax, which is part of the larger poverty hoax.

We have now reached the point where the great majority of the people living below the official poverty level have such things as air-conditioning, microwave ovens, either videocassette recorders or DVD players, and own either a car or a truck.

Why are such people called “poor”? Because they meet the arbitrary criteria established by Washington bureaucrats. Depending on what criteria are used, you can have as much official poverty as you want, regardless of whether it bears any relationship to reality.

Those who believe in an expansive, nanny state government need a large number of people in “poverty” to justify their programs. They also need a large number of people dependent on government to provide the votes needed to keep the big nanny state going.

Politicians, welfare state bureaucrats and others have incentives to create or perpetuate hoaxes, whether about poverty in general or hunger in particular. The high cost to taxpayers is exceeded by the even higher cost of lost opportunities for fulfillment in their lives by those who succumb to the lure of a stagnant life of dependency.

Back to the Future: Part III – Thomas Sowell – Townhall Conservative

Back to the Future: Part III – Thomas Sowell – Townhall Conservative.

Editor’s note: This article is Part III in a series. Click here to read Part I. Click here to read Part II.

Ninety years ago — in 1921 — federal income tax policies reached an absurdity that many people today seem to want to repeat. Those who believe in high taxes on “the rich” got their way. The tax rate on people in the top income bracket was 73 percent in 1921. On the other hand, the rich also got their way: They didn’t actually pay those taxes.

The number of people with taxable incomes of $300,000 a year and up — equivalent to far more than a million dollars in today’s money — declined from more than a thousand people in 1916 to less than three hundred in 1921. Were the rich all going broke?

It might look that way. More than four-fifths of the total taxable income earned by people making $300,000 a year and up vanished into thin air. So did the tax revenues that the government hoped to collect with high tax rates on the top incomes.

What happened was no mystery to Secretary of the Treasury Andrew Mellon. He pointed out that vast amounts of money that might have been invested in the economy were instead being invested in tax-exempt securities, such as municipal bonds.

Secretary Mellon estimated that the amount of money invested in tax-exempt securities had nearly tripled in a decade. The amount of this money that the tax collector couldn’t touch was larger than the federal government’s annual budget and nearly half as large as the national debt. Big bucks went into hiding.

Mellon pointed out the absurdity of this situation: “It is incredible that a system of taxation which permits a man with an income of $1,000,000 a year to pay not one cent to the support of his Government should remain unaltered.”

One of Mellon’s first acts as Secretary of the Treasury was to ask Congress to end tax exemptions for municipal bonds and other securities. But Congress was not about to set off a political firestorm by doing that.

Mellon’s Plan B was to cut the top income tax rate, in order to lure money out of tax-exempt securities and back into the economy, where increased economic activity would generate more tax revenue for the government. Congress also resisted this, using arguments that are virtually unchanged to this day, that these would just be “tax cuts for the rich.”

What makes all this history so relevant today is that the same economic assumptions and political arguments which produced the absurdities of 1921 are still going strong in 2011.

If anything, “the rich” have far more options for putting their money beyond the reach of the tax collectors today than they had back in 1921. In addition to being able to put their money into tax-exempt securities, the rich today can easily send millions — or billions — of dollars to foreign countries, with the ease of electronic transfers in a globalized economy.

In other words, the genuinely rich are likely to be the least harmed by high tax rates in the top brackets. People who are looking for jobs are likely to be the most harmed, because they cannot equally easily transfer themselves overseas to take the jobs that are being created there by American investments that are fleeing from high tax rates at home.

Small businesses — hardware stores, gas stations or restaurants for example — are likewise unable to transfer themselves overseas. So they are far more likely to be unable to escape the higher tax rates that are supposedly being imposed on “millionaires and billionaires,” as President Obama puts it. Moreover, small businesses are what create most of the new jobs.

Why then are so many politicians, journalists and others so gung-ho to raise tax rates in the upper brackets?

Aside from sheer ignorance of history and economics, class warfare politics pays off in votes for politicians who can depict their opponents as defenders of the rich and themselves as looking out for working people. It is a great political game that has paid off repeatedly in state, local and federal elections.

As for the 1920s, Mellon eventually got his way, getting Congress to bring the top tax rate down from 73 percent to 24 percent. Vast sums of money that had seemingly vanished into thin air suddenly reappeared in the economy, creating far more jobs and far more tax revenue for the government.

Sometimes sanity eventually prevails. But not always.

Back to the Future: Part II – Thomas Sowell – Townhall Conservative

 

 

Back to the Future: Part II – Thomas Sowell – Townhall Conservative.

Some people are hoping that President Obama’s plan will get the economy out of the doldrums and start providing jobs for the unemployed. Others are hoping that the Republicans’ plan will do the trick.

Those who are truly optimistic hope that Democrats and Republicans will both put aside their partisanship and do what is best for the country.

Almost nobody seems to be hoping that the government will leave the economy alone to recover on its own. Indeed, almost nobody seems at all interested in looking at the hard facts about what happens when the government leaves the economy alone, compared to what happens when politicians intervene.

The grand myth that has been taught to whole generations is that the government is “forced” to intervene in the economy when there is a downturn that leaves millions of people suffering. The classic example is the Great Depression of the 1930s.

What most people are unaware of is that there was no Great Depression until AFTER politicians started intervening in the economy.

There was a stock market crash in October 1929 and unemployment shot up to 9 percent — for one month. Then unemployment started drifting back down until it was 6.3 percent in June 1930, when the first major federal intervention took place.

That was the Smoot-Hawley tariff bill, which more than a thousand economists across the country pleaded with Congress and President Hoover not to enact. But then, as now, politicians decided that they had to “do something.”

Within 6 months, unemployment hit double digits. Then, as now, when “doing something” made things worse, many felt that the answer was to do something more.

Both President Hoover and President Roosevelt did more — and more, and more. Unemployment remained in double digits for the entire remainder of the decade. Indeed, unemployment topped 20 percent and remained there for 35 months, stretching from the Hoover administration into the Roosevelt administration.

That is how the government was “forced” to intervene during the Great Depression. Intervention in the economy is like eating potato chips: You can’t stop with just one.

What about the track record of doing nothing? For more than the first century and a half of this nation, that was essentially what the federal government did — nothing. None of the downturns in all that time ever lasted as long as the Great Depression.

An economic downturn in 1920-21 sent unemployment up to 12 percent. President Warren Harding did nothing, except for cutting government spending. The economy quickly rebounded on its own.

In 1987, when the stock market declined more in one day than it had in any day in 1929, Ronald Reagan did nothing. There were outcries and outrage in the media. But Reagan still did nothing.

That downturn not only rebounded, it was followed by 20 years of economic growth, marked by low inflation and low unemployment.

The Obama administration’s policies are very much like the policies of the Roosevelt administration during the 1930s. FDR not only smothered business with an unending stream of new regulations, he spent unprecedented sums of money, running up record deficits, despite raising taxes on high income earners to levels that confiscated well over half their earnings.

Like Obama today, FDR blamed the country’s economic problems on his predecessor, making Hoover a pariah. Yet, 6 years after Hoover was gone, and nearly a decade after the stock market crash, unemployment hit 20 percent again in the spring of 1939.

Doing nothing may have a better track record in the economy but government intervention has a better political record in getting presidents re-elected.

People who say that Barack Obama cannot be re-elected with unemployment at its current level should take note that Franklin D. Roosevelt was elected a record four times, despite two consecutive terms in which unemployment was never as low as it is today.

Economic reality is one thing. But political impressions are something very different — and all too often it is the political impressions which determine the fate of an administration and the fate of a nation.

Back to the Future? – Thomas Sowell – Townhall Conservative

Back to the Future? – Thomas Sowell – Townhall Conservative.

Those who are impressed by words seem to think that President Barack Obama made a great speech to Congress last week. But, when you look beyond the rhetoric, what did he say that was fundamentally different from what he has been saying and doing all along?

Are we to continue doing the same kinds of things that have failed again and again, just because Obama delivers clever words with style and energy?

Once we get past the glowing rhetoric, what is the president proposing? More spending! Only the words have changed — from “stimulus” to “jobs” and from “shovel-ready projects” to “jobs for construction workers.”

If government spending were the answer, we would by now have a booming economy with plenty of jobs, after all the record trillions of dollars that have been poured down a bottomless pit. Are we to keep on doing the same things, just because those things have been repackaged in different words?

Or just because Obama now assures us that “everything in this bill will be paid for”? This is the same man who told us that he could provide health insurance to millions more people without increasing the cost.

When it comes to specific proposals, President Obama repeats the same kinds of things that have marked his past policies — more government spending for the benefit of his political allies, the construction unions and the teachers’ unions, and “thousands of transportation projects.”

The fundamental fallacy in all of this is the notion that politicians can “grow the economy” by taking money out of the private sector and spending it wherever it is politically expedient to spend it — so long as they call spending “investment.”

Has Obama ever grown even a potted plant, much less a business, a bank, a hospital or any of the numerous other institutions whose decisions he wants to control and override? But he can talk glibly about growing the economy.

Arrogance is no substitute for experience. That is why the country is in the mess it is in now.

Obama says he wants “federal housing agencies” to “help more people refinance their mortgages.” What does that amount to in practice, except having the taxpayers be forced to bail out people who bought homes they could not afford?

No doubt that is good politics, but it is lousy economics. When people pay the price of their own mistakes, that is when there is the greatest pressure to correct those mistakes. But when taxpayers who had nothing to do with those mistakes are forced to pay the costs, that is when those and other mistakes can continue to flourish — and to mess up the economy.

Whatever his deficiencies in economics, Barack Obama is a master of politics — including the great political game of “Heads I win and tails you lose.”

Any policy that shows any sign of achieving its goals will of course be trumpeted across the land as a success. But, in the far more frequent cases where the policy fails or turns out to be counterproductive, the political response is: “Things would have been even worse without this policy.”

It’s heads I win and tails you lose.

Thus, when unemployment went up after the massive spending that was supposed to bring it down, we were told that unemployment would have been far worse if it had not been for that spending.

Are we really supposed to fall for ploys like this? The answer is clearly “yes,” as far as Obama and his allies in the media are concerned.

Our intelligence was insulted even further in President Obama’s speech to Congress, when he set up this straw man as what his critics believe — that “the only thing we can do to restore prosperity is just dismantle government, refund everybody’s money, and let everyone write their own rules, and tell everyone they’re on their own.”

Have you heard anybody in any part of the political spectrum advocate that? If not, then why was the President of the United States saying such things, unless he thought we were fools enough to buy it — and that the media would never call him on it?

Social Degeneration – Thomas Sowell – Townhall Conservative

Social Degeneration – Thomas Sowell – Townhall Conservative.

Someone at long last has had the courage to tell the plain, honest truth about race.

After mobs of young blacks rampaged through Philadelphia committing violence — as similar mobs have rampaged through Chicago, Denver, Milwaukee and other places — Philadelphia’s black mayor, Michael A. Nutter, ordered a police crackdown and lashed out at the whole lifestyle of those who did such things.

“Pull up your pants and buy a belt ’cause no one wants to see your underwear or the crack of your butt,” he said. “If you walk into somebody’s office with your hair uncombed and a pick in the back, and your shoes untied, and your pants half down, tattoos up and down your arms and on your neck, and you wonder why somebody won’t hire you? They don’t hire you ’cause you look like you’re crazy,” the mayor said. He added: “You have damaged your own race.”

While this might seem like it is just plain common sense, what Mayor Nutter said undermines a whole vision of the world that has brought fame, fortune and power to race hustlers in politics, the media and academia. Any racial disparities in hiring can only be due to racism and discrimination, according to the prevailing vision, which reaches from street corner demagogues to the august chambers of the Supreme Court of the United States.

Just to identify the rioters and looters as black is a radical departure, when mayors, police chiefs and the media in other cities report on these outbreaks of violence without mentioning the race of those who are doing these things. The Chicago Tribune even made excuses for failing to mention race when reporting on violent attacks by blacks on whites in Chicago.

Such excuses might make sense if the same politicians and media talking heads were not constantly mentioning race when denouncing the fact that a disproportionate number of young black men are being sent to prison.

The prevailing social dogma is that disparities in outcomes between races can only be due to disparities in how these races are treated. In other words, there cannot possibly be any differences in behavior.

But if black and white Americans had exactly the same behavior patterns, they would be the only two groups on this planet that are the same.

The Chinese minority in Malaysia has long been more successful and more prosperous than the Malay majority, just as the Indians in Fiji have long been more successful and more prosperous than the indigenous Fijians. At various places and times throughout history, the same could be said of the Armenians in Turkey, the Lebanese in Sierra Leone, the Parsees in India, the Japanese in Brazil, and numerous others.

There are similar disparities within particular racial or ethnic groups. Even this late in history, I have had northern Italians explain to me why they are not like southern Italians. In Australia, Jewish leaders in both Sydney and Melbourne went to great lengths to tell me why and how the Jews are different in these two cities.

In the United States, despite the higher poverty level among blacks than among whites, the poverty rate among black married couples has been in single digits since 1994. The disparities within the black community are huge, both in behavior and in outcomes.

Nevertheless, the dogma persists that differences between groups can only be due to the way others treat them or to differences in the way others perceive them in “stereotypes.”

All around the country, people in politics and the media have been tip-toeing around the fact that violent attacks by blacks on whites in public places are racially motivated, even when the attackers themselves use anti-white invective and mock the victims they leave lying on the streets bleeding.

This is not something to ignore or excuse. It is something to be stopped. Mayor Michael Nutter of Philadelphia seems to be the first to openly recognize this.

This needs to be done for the sake of both black and white Americans — and even for the sake of the hoodlums. They have set out on a path that leads only downward for themselves.

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