Archive | July, 2012

More Lies in Politics — The Poor Vs The Rich

31 Jul

I’ve seen this sort of analysis before, putting the lie to the rich/poor statistics used so often, most often by Democrats.  Thomas Sowell, in this column titled “Big Lies in Politics” (I believe he has done multiple columns with this same title – easy enough to understand), once again destroys part of the argument about the filthy richness of the rich and the terrible condition of the poor.  While the below is an excerpt, I had to “excerpt” almost the whole thing in order to capture the real impact.  But the complete column is on http://www.creators.com/conservative/thomas-sowell.html

Excerpt:   [Bolding is mine]

It was either Adolf Hitler or his propaganda minister, Joseph Goebbels, who said that the people will believe any lie, if it is big enough and told often enough, loud enough. Although the Nazis were defeated in World War II, this part of their philosophy survives triumphantly to this day among politicians, and nowhere more so than during election years.

Perhaps the biggest lie of this election year .  .  . is that the income of “the rich” is going up, while other people’s incomes are going down. If you listen to Barack Obama, you are bound to hear this lie repeatedly.

But the government’s own Congressional Budget Office has just published a report whose statistics flatly contradict this claim. The CBO report shows that, while the average household income fell 12 percent between 2007 and 2009, the average for the lower four-fifths fell by 5 percent or less, while the average income for households in the top fifth fell 18 percent. For households in the “top one percent” that seems to fascinate so many people, income fell by 36 percent in those same years.

Why are these data so different from other data that are widely cited, showing the top brackets improving their positions more so than anyone else?

The answer is that the data cited by the Congressional Budget Office are based on Internal Revenue Service statistics for specific individuals and specific households over time. The IRS can follow individuals and households because it can identify the same people over time from their Social Security numbers.

Most other data, including census data, are based on compiling statistics in a succession of time periods, without the ability to tell if the actual people in each income bracket are the same from one time period to the next. The turnover of people is substantial in all brackets — and is huge in the top one percent. Most people in that bracket are there for only one year in a decade.

All sorts of statements are made in politics and in the media as if that “top one percent” is an enduring class of people, rather than an ever-changing collection of individuals who have a spike in their income in a particular year, for one reason or another.  Turnover in other income brackets is also substantial.

There is nothing mysterious about this. Most people start out at the bottom, in entry-level jobs, and their incomes rise over time as they acquire more skills and experience.

Politicians and media talking heads love to refer to people who are in the bottom 20 percent in income in a given year as “the poor.” But, following the same individuals for 10 or 15 years usually shows the great majority of those individuals moving into higher income brackets.

The number who reach all the way to the top 20 percent greatly exceeds the number still stuck in the bottom 20 percent over the years. But such mundane facts cannot compete for attention with the moral melodramas conjured up in politics and the media when they discuss “the rich” and “the poor.”

There are people who are genuinely rich and genuinely poor, in the sense of having very high or very low incomes for most, if not all, of their lives. But “the rich” and “the poor” in this sense are unlikely to add up to even ten percent of the population.

Ironically, those who make the most noise about income disparities or poverty contribute greatly to policies that promote both. The welfare state enables millions of people to meet their needs with little or no income-earning work on their part.

Most of the economic resources used by people in the bottom 20 percent come from sources other than their own incomes. There are veritable armies of middle-class people who make their livings transferring resources, in a variety of ways, from those who created those resources to those who live off them.

These transferrers are in both government and private social welfare institutions. They have every incentive to promote dependency, from which they benefit both professionally and psychically, and to imagine that they are creating social benefits.

For different reasons, both politicians and the media have incentives to spread misconceptions with statistics. So long as we keep buying it, they will keep selling it.

[End of Excerpt]

I believe the point is excellent.  The “poor” we so often refer to are not the “hard-core” poor, the group that is perpetually stuck in this class.  And the same goes for the “rich”.  But we are effectively lied to about this basically every day.

Your thoughts?

 

 

The MA Education Miracle — Down the Drain

31 Jul

A great, scary, and disappointing example of what happens when the government gets involved.  We are knowingly dumbing down our new educational standards from excellence in Massachusetts to mediocrity across the nation.

 Grrrrr . . . .

 “The Massachusetts Exception” – by James Stergios, Charles Chieppo and Jamie Gass, published on City Journal site

 Excerpts:  [Bolding is mine; content in brackets [ ] is mine]

 The state’s knowledge-rich standards have made its schools the best in the country.

It’s common knowledge that in 1983, a federal report called A Nation at Risk indicted the “rising tide of mediocrity” in American public education and called for a school system that would be among the best in the world. Far less well known is that only one state effectively responded to that challenge: Massachusetts. By passing the landmark Education Reform Act of 1993, which pushed content and high standards above all else, the state became an outpost of success in a landscape of academic failure. Today, however, federal initiatives—especially the push for national education standards, which may have beneficial effects in lower-performing states and which Massachusetts has adopted—threaten to undermine the reforms that made the Bay State the nation’s unquestioned educational leader.

In 1996, Governor William Weld jump-started reform .  .  .  . The period following the change .  .  .  saw a dramatic acceleration in progress on the curriculum frameworks, which covered English, writing, math, science, and U.S. history. Developed after years of public debate, with input from teachers and subject-matter experts, the frameworks were internationally benchmarked, with an eye toward authentic college readiness. High-quality literature made up about 80 to 90 percent of the English content. In math, students were required to start studying algebra in the eighth grade, years before the National Mathematics Advisory Panel made the same recommendation. A wide range of voices .  .  .  hailed the frameworks as a national model.

Governor Weld’s shake-up also accelerated a second component of the reform law: the development of new state tests based on the frameworks. These tests, called the Massachusetts Comprehensive Assessment System (MCAS) .  .  .  .  After a state Board of Higher Education study found a strong correlation between MCAS results and college success .  .  .  .  Another test was developed for new teachers, who now had to demonstrate communication and literacy skills and the subject-matter knowledge to teach the material in the frameworks.

The results of the reform were better than even the law’s authors had hoped. Massachusetts’s SAT scores rose for 13 consecutive years, beginning in 1993. The state’s scores on the National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP) shot up, too: by 2005, Massachusetts students became the first to score best in the nation in all four major NAEP categories (fourth- and eighth-grade reading and math). When the NAEP tests were administered again in 2007, Massachusetts repeated the feat—and did it again in 2009 and then again in 2011. While American students as a whole lag behind their international peers, the 2008 Trends in International Mathematics and Science Study results showed that Massachusetts students were competitive with their counterparts in places like Japan, Korea, and Singapore. The Bay State’s eighth-graders even tied for first place internationally in science.

In addition to the across-the-board improvements, race- and class-based achievement gaps narrowed. Hirsch found that Massachusetts was one of three states that made the most progress at reducing gaps between 1998 and 2005.  .  .  .  “If you are a disadvantaged parent with a school-age child,” Hirsch said in 2008, “Massachusetts is . . . the state to move to.”

With this record of success, Massachusetts should be the model for other states to follow. Unfortunately, the opposite has happened, thanks to the development of the Common Core State Standards (see “The Curriculum Reformation”).  .  .  .  Beginning in 2007, the [Bill and Melinda Gates] funded the development of national English and math standards.  .  .  . 

The federal government got behind the foundation’s national-standards efforts. Bypassing state legislative processes and public transparency, Washington pressured governors and education commissioners to participate in standards development; .  .  .  and to adopt those standards well before they were finalized. The Obama administration made its Race to the Top funding available only to states that adopted these standards.

Massachusetts officials had claimed that they wouldn’t accept national standards that weren’t as strong as the ones they already had in place. Unfortunately, the lure of Race to the Top funding overcame their reluctance.  .  .  .  The Pioneer Institute has published four independent, peer-reviewed studies comparing various drafts of the national standards with Massachusetts’s existing English and math standards. Pioneer’s findings were not kind to the national standards. Though each subsequent draft showed improvement, the studies found them far less rigorous than the previous Massachusetts standards.

In English, the national standards contain less than half as much classic literature as the Massachusetts framework. In math, they delay Algebra I from eighth until ninth grade and use an experimental method of teaching geometry that has not succeeded anywhere. There is no better authority on math than the National Mathematics Advisory Panel, which reviewed 16,000 research studies before issuing its final report in 2008. The NMAP found that algebra was the key to higher math study and that more students should get to Algebra I by eighth grade. In testimony submitted to the Texas state legislature, Stanford University professor emeritus of mathematics R. James Milgram, who conducted one of the Pioneer reviews, described “a number of extremely serious failings” in the national math standards, noting that they reflected “very low expectations.”

The U.S. Department of Education claims that its reforms replicate the Massachusetts model. The truth is that they fall short of the standards established by that model—and are now reversing the very policies that led to the Bay State’s achievements.

[End of Excerpt]

Anything encouraging you can add?

“Stubborn Ignorance” re: Diversity

30 Jul

Walter Williams recently wrote a column titled “Stubborn Ignorance”, in which he criticized the arguments of those who seem to think that race proportionality is the end-all, do-all solution to encouraging diversity throughout society.

 Dr. Williams is a professor of economics at George Mason University.  Also a black conservative.

 I have excerpts from his column below – you can find the full column at

http://www.creators.com/conservative/walter-williams.html

[Excerpt begins – bolding is mine; and content in brackets [ ] is mine.]]

Academic intelligentsia, their media, government and corporate enthusiasts worship at the altar of diversity. Despite budget squeezes, universities have created diversity positions, such as director of diversity and inclusion, manager of diversity recruitment, associate dean for diversity, vice president of diversity and perhaps minister of diversity. This is all part of a quest to get college campuses, corporate offices and government agencies to “look like America.”  [It also adds significant cost to higher education.]

For them, part of looking like America means race proportionality. For example, if blacks are 13 percent of the population, they should be 13 percent of college students and professors, corporate managers and government employees. Law professors, courts and social scientists have long held that gross statistical disparities are evidence of a pattern and practice of discrimination. Behind this vision is the stupid notion that [if it weren’t for] discrimination, we’d be distributed proportionately by race across incomes, education, occupations and other outcomes. There’s no evidence from anywhere on earth or any time in human history that shows that [if it weren’t for] discrimination, there would be proportional representation and an absence of gross statistical disparities, by race, sex, height or any other human characteristic. .  .  .  Let’s run a few gross disparities by you  .  .  .  .

Jews are not even 1 percent of the world’s population and only 3 percent of the U.S. population, but they are 20 percent of the world’s Nobel Prize winners and 39 percent of U.S. Nobel laureates. That’s a gross statistical disparity, but are the Nobel committees discriminating against the rest of us?  .  .  .  .

Nearly 80 percent of the players in the National Basketball Association in 2011 were black, and 17 percent were white, but if that disparity is disconcerting, Asians were only 1 percent. Compounding the racial disparity, the highest-paid NBA players are black. That gross disparity works the other way in the National Hockey League, in which less than 3 percent of the players are black. Blacks are 66 percent of NFL and AFL professional football players .  .  .  . 

How does one explain these gross sports disparities? Might it be that the owners of these multibillion-dollar professional basketball, football and baseball teams are pro-black and that those of the NHL and major industries are racists?  [Not likely – most disparities result from choices that arise from within the respective cultures – not a bad thing.]

There are some other disparities that might bother the diversity people. Asians routinely get the highest scores on the math portion of the SAT, whereas blacks get the lowest.  .  .  .  The population statistics for [five states] show that not even 1 percent of their population is black. On the other hand, in [several] states .  .  .  blacks are over-represented.  [So do we redistribute populations to achieve proportionality?]  .  .  .  .

[End of excerpt]

I think the point is that there are several reasons why proportionality does not occur, and may not even be desirable.  And where proportionality seems more desirable, the barrier most often has nothing to do with discrimination on the basis of race, sex, etc., but rather stems from cultural influences – change the underlying cultures, and what is valued within the cultures, and we’ll see the so-called “discrimination” problem largely take care of itself.

That would also help a great deal with one of the biggest disparities in our society – the shameful proportion of black men in our prison system.

What do you think about this?

Enlightening Gun Control Stats

29 Jul

Thomas Sowell is at it again, blowing apart many people’s cherished beliefs about the effects of gun control laws.  This excerpt is from a column titled “News versus Propoganda”, and can be found in its entirety at

 http://www.creators.com/conservative/thomas-sowell/news-versus-propaganda.html

 Excerpt begins:   [Bolding is mine]

 .  .  .  . 

As for gun control advocates, I have no hope whatever that any facts whatever will make the slightest dent in their thinking — or lack of thinking.

You might never know, from what .  .  .  gun control advocates have said, that there is a mountain of evidence that gun control laws not only fail to control guns but are often counterproductive. However, for those other people who still think facts matter, it is worth presenting some of those facts.

Do countries with strong gun control laws have lower murder rates? Only if you cherry-pick the data.

Britain is a country with stronger gun control laws than the United States, and lower murder rates. But Mexico, Russia and Brazil are also countries with stronger gun control laws than the United States — and their murder rates are much higher than ours. Israel and Switzerland have even higher rates of gun ownership than the United States, and much lower murder rates than ours.

Even the British example does not stand up very well under scrutiny. The murder rate in New York has been several times that in London for more than two centuries — and, for most of that time, neither place had strong gun control laws. New York had strong gun control laws years before London did, but New York still had several times the murder rate of London.

It was in the later decades of the 20th century that the British government clamped down with severe gun control laws, disarming virtually the entire law-abiding citizenry. Gun crimes, including murder, rose as the public was disarmed.

Meanwhile, murder rates in the United States declined during the same years when murder rates in Britain were rising, which were also years when Americans were buying millions more guns per year.

The real problem, both in discussions of mass shootings and in discussions of gun control, is that too many people are too committed to a vision to allow mere facts to interfere with their beliefs, and the sense of superiority that those beliefs give them.

Any discussion of facts is futile when directed at such people. All anyone can do is warn others about the propaganda.

[End of Excerpt]

Any thoughts about this?

Wow! “The View” Comes Through For Freedom

29 Jul

My estimation of the ladies on “The View” just went up a notch – something I thought would never happen..  Here is a bit of what occurred the other day on that program, with regard to the Chick-Fil-A controversy.  Thank you, ladies.

Token conservative Elisabeth Hasselbeck criticized Menino and Emanuel. “I don’t believe public officials should be banning companies based on the owner’s personal opinions,” she said. “Why aren’t more intelligent questions being asked? Has Chick-Fil-A fired someone because they’re gay? Have they not hired someone because they’re gay?”

Sherri Shepherd echoed the sentiment when she said, “they don’t stop gay people from going there either.” When Whoopi Goldberg brought up the Civil Rights Movement in a roundabout way [apparently in a way that supports Chick-Fil-A’s right to take a position], Behar chimed back in, “What if they were donating money to the Ku Klux Klan, then what?” Shepherd replied with a plea for common sense. “We all knew Chick-Fil-A is a Christian organization. That’s what they stand for,” she said. “They don’t ban you from going there to eat. It’s a freedom of religion. If you don’t support it, for goodness sakes don’t buy their chicken.”

Despite Behar’s minor protest, Goldberg got the final word on the matter. “If you don’t like what they’re doing, don’t go. But don’t step on their right – anybody’s right – to have an opinion. This is still America,” she said. “The bottom line is, they have every right in this country to do as they please with their company and you have the right to say, you know what, maybe it isn’t Chick-Fil-A tonight. Maybe it’s KFC.”

Because of this furor raised by gay-marriage advocates to try to squelch free speech, I happen to think that I will be visiting Chick-Fil-A more often.  Others might stop going altogether.  Let free speech reign, and “vote” with your wallets.  What could be more American?

Tough-Guy Speaks Out on Violent Crime

29 Jul

I pulled this out of a column by Chuck Norris (yes, THAT Chuck Norris) titled “Our Founders’ Wisdom on Reducing Violent Crime”.  The entire column can be found at

http://newsbusters.org/blogs/chuck-norris/2012/07/25/chuck-norris-column-our-founders-wisdom-reducing-violent-crime

 Excerpt:    [Bolding is mine; content in brackets [] is mine]}

So how can we continue to help reduce and prevent violent crime in our communities?

First, as with most societies’ ills, the key to curbing crime is not more government expansion and spending. Nor is the answer dissolving our Second Amendment rights; countries with super-strict gun ownership laws have equally violent crimes and also proved that taking guns from good guys doesn’t prohibit bad guys from obtaining them. Our Founding Fathers had a far better solution than more government and taking away guns from law-abiding citizens.

Though our founders initiated our government, they didn’t expect it [government] or the law of the land to establish and maintain civility. As proud as they were of their newfound republic, they would turn to and trust in God and “We the People” to usher in life, liberty, happiness, decency, respect, morality, honesty and restraint, to name a few.

George Washington warned us in his Farewell Address about a time in America’s future in which we might be tempted to discard the pillars of civility: “Of all the dispositions and habits which lead to political prosperity, religion and morality are indispensable supports. In vain would that man claim the tribute of patriotism who should labor to subvert these great pillars of human happiness, these firmest props of the duties of men and citizens. The mere politician, equally with the pious man, ought to respect and to cherish them. A volume could not trace all their connections with private and public felicity. Let it simply be asked: Where is the security for property, for reputation, for life, if the sense of religious obligation desert the oaths which are the instruments of investigation in courts of justice? And let us with caution indulge the supposition that morality can be maintained without religion. Whatever may be conceded to the influence of refined education on minds of peculiar structure, reason and experience both forbid us to expect that national morality can prevail in exclusion of religious principle.”

Curbing violent crime is still more about what we do than it is about what government does. The answer is still more about nature’s law within us than it is about man’s law outside of us.

We must return to being a nation in which mutual respect is king — in which I am my brother’s keeper and we agree to disagree agreeably. It’s time to renew our commitment to the basic premise of humanity: Do unto others as you would have them do to you, and love your neighbor as you love yourself.

[End of excerpt]

Food for thought — and comment.

Random Thoughts from a Close Observer

28 Jul

Another excellent piece by Thomas Sowell.  A collection of observations, the totality of which can be found at www.Creators.com

 Dr. Sowell is a senior fellow at the Hoover Institution at Stanford University.  A black conservative economist (a rare breed), he has published several excellent books and essay collections.

 Some excerpts from this column:  [Bolding is mine]

 Random thoughts on the passing scene:

Even squirrels know enough to store nuts, so that they will have something to eat when food gets scarce. But the welfare state has spawned a whole class of people who spend everything they get when times are good, and look to others to provide for their food and other basic needs when times turn bad.  .  .  .

Two reports came out in the same week. One was from the Pentagon, saying that, in just a few years, Iran will be able to produce not only a nuclear bomb but a missile capable of carrying it to the United States. The other report said that the American Olympic team has uniforms made in China. This latter report received far more attention, both in Congress and in the media.

People who lament gridlock in Washington, and express the pious hope that Democrats and Republicans would put aside their partisan conflicts, and cooperate to help the economy recover, implicitly assume that what the economy needs is more meddling by politicians, which is what brought on economic disaster in the first place. (Skeptics can read “The Housing Boom and Bust.”)

Racism is not dead, but it is on life support — kept alive by politicians, race hustlers and people who get a sense of superiority by denouncing others as “racists.”  .  .  .  .

Those who talk as if more people going to college is automatically a Good Thing seldom show much interest in what actually goes on at college — including far less time spent by students studying than in the past, and a proliferation of courses promoting a sense of grievance, entitlement or advanced navel-gazing and breast-beating.

One of the most dangerous trends of our times is making the truth socially unacceptable, or even illegal, with “hate speech” laws.  It is supposed to be terrible, for example, to call an illegal alien an “illegal alien” or to call an Islamic terrorist an “Islamic terrorist.” When the media refer to “undocumented” workers or to violence committed by “militants,” who is kidding whom — and why?  .  .  .  .

Franklin D. Roosevelt famously said, “We have nothing to fear but fear itself.” Then he proceeded to generate fear among businesses for years on end, with both his anti-business rhetoric and his anti-business policies. Barack Obama is repeating the same approach and getting the same results — namely, an agonizingly slow economic recovery, as investors hang on to their money, instead of risking it in a hostile political environment.  .  .  .

There seems to be something “liberating” about ignorance — especially when you don’t even know enough to realize how little you know. Thus an administration loaded with people who have never run any business is gung-ho to tell businesses what to do, as well as gung-ho to tell the medical profession what to do, lenders whom to lend to, and the military how to fight wars.

[End of excerpts] 

Anything to add?