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Working is Optional

from Scott Grannis at Calafia Beach Pundit, What’s driving the decline in labor force participation?

Excerpt:

 

labor force part

The next most distinctive feature of the current recovery is the unprecedented decline in the labor force participation rate, shown in the graph above. Beginning in 2009, some 7 million people of working age have dropped out of the labor force or given up looking for a job. But why? One standard answer is demographics—the baby boomer generation is starting to retire. But demographics don’t turn on a dime, they take many years to play out. In contrast, the current and ongoing decline in the labor force participation rate started rather suddenly in 2009. 

One reason transfer payments reached unprecedented levels in 2009 was the Emergency Unemployment Claims program that Congress passed in 2008. Never before could people receive unemployment insurance benefits for so long—up to 99 weeks and even more. This program alone accounted for a $90 billion increase in transfer payment spending in the 12 months ended September, 2009. Spending peaked shortly thereafter, however, then declined by a $100 billion annual rate between early 2010 and  the end of last year, when the program expired. It’s not contributing to transfer payments any more, but nevertheless they have remained historically very high. One out of every five dollars that consumers have available to spend is coming from the government, with no requirement to work.

I am reasonably convinced that a significant increase in government transfer payments, combined with higher marginal tax rates, have created, on the margin, important disincentives to work, and that, in turn, is an important driver of the ongoing decline in the labor force participation rate.

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Under the Cover of Altruism

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From Kevin Williamson at National Review Online, Downscale Big government is bad for the little guy.

Excerpt:

On the one hand, we have the small-town entrepreneur yearning for sidewalks and streetlights; on the other, we have dodgy “Five Aces” federal contracts and Al Gore’s federally enabled greenmongering. Between those two points there exists a spectrum of possible configurations of government, and the fundamental political debate of our time is whether we’re on the right side of that spectrum or the wrong side. Conservatives want to prune back the vines, and progressives want them to grow thicker.

How’s that working out in the laboratories of the Left?

Progressives argue that we need deeper government involvement in the economy in order to assuage the ill effects of economic inequality. But, as Joel Kotkin points out, inequality is the most pronounced in places where progressives dominate: New York City, San Francisco, Los Angeles, Chicago. The more egalitarian cities are embedded in considerably more conservative metropolitan areas in conservative states. “Part of the difference,” Mr. Kotkin writes, “is the strong growth of higher-paid, blue-collar jobs in places like Houston, Oklahoma City, Salt Lake, and Dallas compared to rapidly de-industrializing locales such as New York, San Francisco, Chicago, and Los Angeles. Even Richard Florida, the guru of the ‘creative class,’ has admitted that the strongest growth in mid-income jobs has been concentrated in red-state metros such as Salt Lake City, Houston, Dallas, Austin, and Nashville. Some of this reflects a history of later industrialization but other policies — often mandated by the state — encourage mid-income growth, for example, by not imposing high energy prices with subsidies for renewables, or restricting housing growth in the periphery. Cities like Houston may seem blue in many ways but follow local policies largely indistinguishable from mainstream Republicans elsewhere.” In Detroit, Chicago, and Philadelphia, African Americans earn barely half of what whites earn —  and in San Francisco, African Americans earn less than half of what whites earn. Hispanics in Boston earn 50 percent of what whites make; but it is 84 percent in Riverside County, Calif., a traditional Republican stronghold (it holds the distinction of being one of only two West Coast counties to have gone for Hoover over FDR and is Duncan Hunter’s turf), and the figures are comparable in places such as Phoenix and Miami.

Progressivism is a luxury good for college-educated white people. It is the Hermes sneaker of political tendencies. California is not an especially wealthy state — its median income is right between Wyoming’s and Nebraska’s — but it is a state in which one needs to be pretty well off to live decently. The value of the median home in San Francisco is more than ten times the median income; in San Jose, it’s nine and a half times the median income; in Houston, it’s only four times the median income. California is a great place to be a technology executive or a screenwriter, but it’s a rotten place to be a truck driver. California-style progressivism is oriented toward serving the needs of rich people in San Jose, not those of middle-class people in Riverside County or poor people in the agrarian villages. If you’re a well-off lawyer in the gilded suburbs of Los Angeles, you have a great selection of poor, brown gardeners and housekeepers to lessen life’s burdens, which is great for you but stinks for them. It is not an accident that our nation’s most segregated cities are mostly strongholds of the Left: New York, Los Angeles, Philadelphia, Chicago, Milwaukee, Cleveland, Boston.

But the fact is that, despite the po-faced rhetoric, progressives do not really care about the poor, the brown, the black, or the marginalized. Progressivism is very little more than the managerial class pursuing its own class interests under cover of altruism.

That, too, is why conservatives favor government on the modest, manageable, local level. And that is why progressives want to centralize political power in Washington, and why they have more success in big cities such as Los Angeles and New York: If you were screwing the poor and the struggling while alleging to act on their behalf, would you be able to look them in the eye? Would you want to?

HKO

Kevin has become one of my favorite political writers.

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The Case for Barbarism

hamasbaby

From The Wall Street Journal, Palestine Makes You Dumb, by Bret Stephens

Excerpts:

Consider the media obsession with the body count. According to a daily tally in theNew York Times,  as of July 27 the war in Gaza had claimed 1,023 Palestinian lives as against 46 Israelis. How does the Times keep such an accurate count of Palestinian deaths? A footnote discloses “Palestinian death tallies are provided by the Palestinian Health Ministry and the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs.”

OK. So who runs the Palestinian Health Ministry in Gaza? Hamas does. As for the U.N., it gets its data mainly from two Palestinian agitprop NGOs, one of which, the Palestinian Center for Human Rights, offers the remarkably precise statistic that, as of July 27, exactly 82% of deaths in Gaza have been civilians. Curiously, during the 2008-09 Gaza war, the center also reported an 82% civilian casualty rate.

When minutely exact statistics are provided in chaotic circumstances, it suggests the statistics are garbage. When a news organization relies—without clarification—on data provided by a bureaucratic organ of a terrorist organization, there’s something wrong there, too.

Let’s get this one straight. Israel is culpable because (a) it won’t accept a Palestinian government that includes a terrorist organization sworn to the Jewish state’s destruction; (b) it won’t help that organization out of its financial jam; and (c) it won’t ease a quasi-blockade—jointly imposed with Egypt—on a territory whose central economic activity appears to be building rocket factories and pouring imported concrete into terrorist tunnels.

This is either bald moral idiocy or thinly veiled bigotry. It mistakes effect for cause, treats self-respect as arrogance and self-defense as aggression, and makes demands of the Jewish state that would be dismissed out of hand anywhere else. To argue the Palestinian side, in this war, is to make the case for barbarism. It is to erase, in the name of humanitarianism, the moral distinctions from which the concept of humanity arises.

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Ignoring the Smell

boycott-israel

Rarely is a conflict been as morally clear as the current Gaza campaign.

The history is clear and indisputable. Israel left Gaza, painfully uprooting committed settlers.  Thriving greenhouses were left for the Palestinians to have a productive enterprise.  The new owners preferred the destruction of millions of dollars of productive greenhouses to taking even a gift from the Jews.

In no time the Gaza Palestinians through their elected representatives, Hamas, began its attack launching thousands of missiles at civilian populations, and violating every Geneva convention by hiding arms and missiles near schools, hospitals, and civilian centers.

Jimmy Carter certified the election of Hamas and George Soros encouraged us to have relations with them.

The history is clear, yet Europe erupts in violent anti-Israel protests that only demonstrates that their holy rotten core still survived the holocaust.  If there was a shred of dignity left on the continent these attacks would have been crushed by police immediately.

The UN still disproportionately cites Israel for human rights violations. The Presbyterian Church (USA) voted to divest themselves of Israel as have several universities.  Biased coverage from much of the media is equally culpable.

It is a tearful comedy to watch the inmates of the liberal asylum side with the most illiberal entity on earth- one with no tolerance for gays or women’s rights or any semblance of religious freedom, free press, due process  or political choice.

To all of you who have boycotted Israel, or created your intellectually empty, morally corrupt and sinister cesspool of moral equivalence, you are as complicit in the current war on the Jews as you were when you ignored the screams from the trains headed to the death camps in Europe, and when you ignored the smell from the smokestacks within your site.

You have lent credibility and credence to those who are attacking synagogues and Jews in Paris and New York. You have no shame or credibility in this conflict.

I hope Netanyahu ignores these critics, completes his mission, with no Hamas weapons remianing , all tunnels destroyed , and Hamas completely destroyed.

There is no compromise or peace with such an evil.

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Controlling the Power of Kings

kevin williamson

From The National Review Kevin Williamson writes Halbig and Hammurabi : Disdain for the letter of the law is complexly intertwined with the progressive imagination.   

The written law was the first real constraint on the power of kings. An oral tradition is subject to constant on-the-fly revision. Mr. Klein and others of his persuasion would see us return to that primitive state: “Oh, sure, the law says that the IRS can only operate on state-created insurance exchanges, but that isn’t what we” — and who is this we? — “really meant. And besides, things will turn out other than as we desire if we follow the law as written, and who are you, and what is the law, to forbid us our desires?” It is easier to think that way when you believe that you represent a uniquely enlightened point of view, that you are acting in the public interest, and that your political rivals are wicked and ignorant.

A few days ago, I had a depressing conversation with a federal judge who noted her surprise and distaste the first time that a media account of one of her decisions took note of the fact that she had been appointed by such-and-such a president, as though that, and not the law, were the explanation for her decision. She’d never been active in politics, and had never imagined that the party label of the man who appointed her had any bearing on anything she’d done in the courtroom. Perhaps she needed Mr. Weigel to advise her on the question.

There will always be occasions for discretion and interpretation on legal questions, but it is not the case that such discretion should presumptively empower the IRS to do things that the IRS is not legally entitled to do simply because Barack Obama wishes it to be so. If history teaches us anything, it is that a system of law that presumptively sides with political power soon ceases to be any sort of system of law at all. Rather, it becomes a post facto justification for the will to power, an intellectual window dressing on might-makes-right rule.

The matter addressed in Halbig is hardly the Obama administration’s first attempt to circumvent the law as written — see Hobby Lobby, etc. — nor is it the progressives’ only attempt to impose what they imagine to be enlightened ad-hocracy on the American people. The disdain for the letter of the law is complexly intertwined with the progressive managerial imagination: The law, in their view, is not something that limits the ambitions of princes, but something that empowers them to do what they see fit. It is not surprising that conservative concerns about limited government frustrate and befuddle those who see the law in that way. They imagine government to be something like a plasma cutting table, a complex and precise tool that, in the right hands, can reshape the world in desirable, predictable ways. But government is not a complicated tool. It is in fact a simple tool: a bayonet.

HKO

Clarity is an albatross around the neck of those who wish to avoid accountability. “The risk of offense is the price of clarity.”