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Permanent Emergency

Another gem from Kevin Williamson, A National State of Non-Emergency in National Review:

The recently proffered Republican health-care bill instantiates much of what is wrong with our politics: The bill was constructed through an extraordinary process in which there were no hearings, no review from the Congressional Budget Office, and no final text of the legislation until shortly before the vote. The process is erratic and covert rather than regular and transparent. It was put together in a purposeful way to avoid substantive debate and meaningful public discourse, making the most of the majority’s procedural advantages for purely political ends. The Republicans are perfectly within their legal authority to proceed that way. But that’s no way to govern. We all know this. As Rod Dreher recently put it, Republicans will have to choose whether they love the rule of law more than they hate the Left. Democrats faced the same choice, once, and they chose poorly, having set upon a course of political totalism that has seen the weaponization of everything from the IRS to the state attorneys general. Republican populists who argue that the GOP must play by the same rules in the name of “winning” have very little understanding of what already has been lost and of what we as a nation stand to lose. The United States will not thrive, economically or otherwise, in a state of permanent emergency.

What’s truly remarkable about our current constant national state of emergency is that no one can say exactly what the emergency is. But we all seem to be very sure that something has to be done about it right now, that we must rouse ourselves to excitement about it, and that the ordinary rules of lawmaking and governance no longer apply. There is not much political mileage to be had from arguing for regular order, transparency, and procedural predictability — but that’s part of what makes those things so valuable. Order in the little things is a necessary precondition of order in the big things. Orderly government cannot be built on a foundation of procedural chaos.

HKO

We have had a long history of strong disagreement in Congress, sometimes even coming to violence. Demonizing opposing views is nothing new, either.  But  the abandonment of procedural rules, the avoidance of debate, and the weaponization of political power has brought us to a state of dysfunction that is unique.  Bad bills are rushed together behind closed doors, and correcting them has become impossible.

The voters who solve problems everyday without this nonsense are outraged at this dysfunction.

 

The Cruz Option

from Kevin Williamson at National Review,  Apartment Fires and Health Insurance

The problem for health insurance is the same as the problem for condominium sprinklers: The benefits are desirable, but they are not free, and many people, given a choice, would spend their money in a different fashion. In the matter of health insurance, Senator Ted Cruz has offered an amendment that would allow insurers to sell relatively low-cost plans that do not cover everything that must be covered under current ACA regulations. Critics, including Senator Susan Collins, have protested that these policies are too “skimpy,” that they do not include all of the coverage and benefits that we might like to see people have. But all the Cruz amendment does is give buyers a choice. The danger isn’t that insurance companies will fail to offer more expensive and comprehensive policies — of course they will offer them; those are more profitable — but that many Americans will prefer less expensive and less comprehensive health-insurance plans.

Restricting the Customer Base

from National Review and Kevin Williamson, Don’t Count On the Growth Fairy

Native birth rates being what they are, this would seem to add up to a case for more immigration, something that neither the populists on the right nor those on the left are very friendly toward. We all know Donald Trump’s views on immigration, but consider that Bernie Sanders campaigned for president arguing that American billionaires are scheming to flood the United States with cheap immigrant labor to undermine the position of the working class. Of course, the reality is more complicated than such campaign crudities, inasmuch as it matters what kind of immigrants we are talking about: Indian oncologists aren’t South African entrepreneurs aren’t English journalists aren’t Mexican day laborers. Much of our current immigration debate is about the wrong question — How many? — rather than the right one: Who?

Is America full, or is America open for business? How we answer that question will mean a great deal more to our future prosperity than debates about presidential budget proposals.

HKO

You can not grow an economy by restricting your customer base.

Self Serving ‘Studies’

From Kevin Williamson at National Review, Magical Thinking about Minimum Wages

When Economics 101 tells you something you don’t want to hear, the thing to do is to commission a study. As Ronald Coase observed: If you torture the day enough, it will confess to almost anything. For progressives desiring to raise the minimum wage in spite of the consequences predicted by basic economics, that study came from two Princeton economists, David Card and Alan Krueger, who in 1994 compared employment at fast-food restaurants in New Jersey to that of their counterparts across the river in Pennsylvania after New Jersey enacted a relatively modest increase in the minimum wage. The Card-Krueger study found that raising the minimum wage had not cost jobs in New Jersey. There were many problems with the study: It used fast-food employment as a proxy for minimum wage even though most fast-food workers do not make the minimum wage; it ignored workers in other industries, such as hospitality, that might have been more strongly affected; it covered a relatively short period of time; it relied on telephone surveys of restaurant managers rather than on hard employment data.

The Card-Krueger study included only a few months’ worth of data from after the time the minimum-wage hike went into effect. Some economists suspected that while fast-food operators were unlikely to simply start hacking away at their staffs in the months following an increase in the minimum wage (which, again, would not affect the wages of most fast-food workers), they would instead change their medium- and long-term plans, choosing less labor-intensive modes of production, substituting capital for labor through automation, reducing hours to make their labor consumption more efficient, etc. And that is, in fact, what subsequent studies found: Restaurants didn’t just start firing people after the minimum wage went up, but the wage hike did significantly reduce future job growth and labor consumption.

Diana Furchtgott-Roth, formerly the chief economist at the Labor Department, offered a different criticism: “The regression statistics explain little variance, and practically none of the coefficients are significant. Card and Krueger infer that minimum-wage policy makes no difference. A more likely interpretation is that the equation excludes important variables.” In short, Card and Kruger mistook an absence of evidence of a minimum-wage effect for evidence of the absence of a minimum-wage effect.

HKO

When rational and sound time proven principles are shredded by political self serving ‘studies’, one should seriously question the studies.  Unfortunately the media rarely questions such tripe from over credentialed blowhards and end up looking like fools.

Economic Segregation

Kevin Williamson is one of the best economics writers around, especially for a non economist. His style follows in the tradition of Henry Hazlitt and his classic Economics In One Lesson, bringing economic theory into common experiences. This is from latest from National Review, How to Think about Low-Income Housing:

The only way to make housing more plentiful is to make housing more plentiful. What that implies, especially in the case of our big cities, is denser development. But our big-city governments — which are almost exclusively under Democratic control — will not allow that. New York City’s population density is less than half that of comparable European cities (and much less than many comparable Asian cities) and, in spite of its reputation as a city of skyscrapers, fewer than 2 percent of its residences are in buildings 20 stories or taller, much lower than the figure for comparable cities globally. In New York, the progressives aren’t working to allow denser development and, hence, cheaper housing: They’re doing the opposite, proposing to cap the number of tall buildings in the city. Forget New Jersey — there are a fair number of New Yorkers who commute from Pennsylvania. San Francisco, Austin, Los Angeles, the parts of Chicago or Philadelphia you might actually want to live in . . . similar story. They’ll call it historic preservation or “defending the character of the neighborhood” or whatever, but it’s basically economic segregation, which, it’s probably worth noting, is still a pretty good proxy for racial discrimination: San Francisco’s black population has decreased by one-third in recent years, and diversity-loving Portland saw its black population shrink by 11.5 percent in just four years.