Thursday, September 01, 2005


More education means less living? (June 30, 2006)

Unable to attempt to heed Steve Sailer's request for a testing of his theory (I only have the student version of SPSS which can't handle large quantities of data) that Republicans tend to do better than Democrats economically after controlling for education, I went at state data. There's not much in the way of red or blue states being disproportionately above or below the national trendline when either percentage of a state with a bachelor's degree or higher or the percentage of a state with a bachelor's degree or higher minus the percentage of the state with less than a high school diploma are compared to the standard of living (graph shows % with bachelor's or more on the x-axis, standard of living on the y-axis). Eyeballing a more detailed breakdown of educational attainment doesn't look promising either.

An odd 'discovery', though, is how strong the correlation between the percentage of a state with a bachelor's degree and the state's standard of living is. For both red and blue states, it's statistically significant. But the trends are in opposite directions. Bush states show a correlation of .61. Kerry states are -.50. Even without DC in the mix, the trend is still downward. Nationally, of course, there exists no statistically reliable relationship between education and the standard of living (as the two camps cancel one another out). Coincidence? Geography? Or is there some reason that red states benefit materially from an educated population while blue states just don't seem to?

ACLU's internecine bickering (June 27, 2006)

Take a lesson from Cicero--practice what you preach:
Supporters of the American Civil Liberties Union who have become disillusioned with the group's governance are gathering the support of former officials, donors, and other ACLU members to challenge the organization's leadership, according to people involved in the discussions.

The target of the nascent campaign is the ACLU's executive director, Anthony Romero, 40, who took over day-to-day operation of the group in 2001.
Anthony Romero has aggressively brought the ACLU to the forefront of politics by taking the organization in a direction decidedly antipodal to the Bush foreign policy doctrine (he took over just days before 9/11). Unfortunately, it appears the noble cause of ending America's interventionist policy in Iraq has been tainted by perceived deplorable tactics employed by the ACLU (Abu Ghraib trumpeting, refusal to accept grant money that stipulates none of it be given to state-listed terrorists, demands that Guantanamo Bay detainees be released, etc) that strike me as not opposed to nation-building for the sake of the well-being of the US, but in spite of it.

While Romero has been attacking the autocracy of the White House, his organization has similarly become increasingly dictatorial. The Bush team is notorious for squelching criticism and demanding allegiance. It appears the former head of the ACLU fears that the putative defenders of free expression are doing the same within their own organization:
One troubling sign for Mr. Romero is the emergence in the opposition camp of his predecessor, Ira Glasser. Since his retirement in 2001 after 23 years at the helm of the ACLU, Mr. Glasser has had little involvement in the civil liberties group's affairs.

However, he appeared at a board meeting earlier this month where proposals to limit speech by board members were debated.
One catalyst for the reform drive was the report from an ACLU committee urging constraints on speech by board members at odds with the organization. One provision said, "A director may publicly disagree with an ACLU policy position, but may not criticize the ACLU board and staff."

Another said board members "should refrain from publicly highlighting" any disagreement with the organization's policies, in part because public dissent could hurt the ACLU's "public support and fund-raising."

The ACLU continues to move away from libertarian ideals (reclinating back to where it began as an apologist for communism and defender of illegal aliens) based on individual freedom of action and toward a position of partisan advocacy for far left causes. The organization's leadership will inevitably have to force consensus as it's positions become less universal in nature.

Contradictions with its mission statement, which reads "To defend and preserve the individual rights and liberties guaranteed to every person in this country by the Constitution and laws of the United States," are going to lead to internal dissent. As an empirical rightist, I sympathize with Mr. Glasser (longtime head of the ACLU) and crew--as I feel Republican leadership has turned its back on Burkean values, so do ACLU atomists feel the organization has become the backer of various special interests rather than of individual freedom.

A non-comprehensive list of positions the ACLU has taken in recent years that are not in line with their raison d'etre (in addition to pushing out free expression within the organization's own ranks):

- Opposition to the MinuteMen. The Arizona chapter of the organization has tried unsuccessfully to catch the citizen's group misbehaving. It has also worked with illegal crossers to help them avoid detection by the MinuteMen. One should expect the ACLU to take up the cause of a citizen's group protesting the conduct of the federal government.

- While defending the hateful speech of men like Al-Arian, things change when the target isn't middle class America:
Mr. Romero said it was not unusual for the A.C.L.U. to grapple with conflicting issues involving civil liberties. "Take hate speech," he said. "While believing in free speech, we do not believe in or condone speech that attacks minorities."
All speech is equal, but some speech is more equal than other speech.

- Opposition to the free action of employers to make business decisions as they see fit. The ACLU wishes to restrict the rights of private entities to conduct standard business operations (background checks, citizenship status, etc). That is, the organization favors governmental interence in the rights of private entities.

- Very narrow interpretation of the second amendment, foregoing ambiguity in favor of governmental regulation over the possession of firearms among the private citizenry.

- Opposition to the publication of information by school boards that is unfavorable or ambivalent toward a position favoring contraceptives over abstinence.

- Opposition to private charities offering cash for voluntary sterilization of drug-addicted women (I am a supporter of Project Prevention). Such a transaction is more certainly the result of two individual entities coming to a mutally agreeable decision than say, the right to privacy when the father objects to the mother's choice.

- Refusing the right to parental notification while defending the activities of NAMBLA. That is, in some cases the right of the child trumps the right of an adult (abortion decisions), while in others the right of the adult trumps the right of the child (the forcible rape of children).

Charles Murray offers entitlement fix (March 22, 2006)

Charles Murray wields Ockham's Razor like Zorro wields his sword. He has reshaped America's views on welfare, affirmative action, and the critical importance of intelligence in society. His ideas have contributed enormously, yet they are at their most simple level commonsensical and able to be stated quite pithily.

Welfare fails not because it does not provide materially for those in want, but because it is intrinsically at odds with what it means to live a fulfilling and meaningful life. Contrasting the existence of America's "poor" with that of materially destitute but much richer denizens of other countries illustrates this profoundly.

Affirmative action fails not because it does not have a lasting effect on perceived racial inequity, but because it engenders racial hostility by putting duller minorities with sharper whites (and Asians), all the while doing nothing to help the less endowed portion of minority communities.

Wealth and knowledge inequality stem not so much from differences in external environment as they do from differences in IQ. The irony is that as the global playing field becomes increasingly flat, the disparity between the brightest and dullest is going to expand, not narrow.

And so Murray's insight into how to tackle the entitlement deluge that's going to crash on shore when the baby boomers start retiring in droves is characteristically concise: scrap all the bureaucracy and give the money directly to the people:
The place to start is a blindingly obvious economic reality that no one seems to notice: This country is awash in money. America is so wealthy that enabling everyone to have a decent standard of living is easy. We cannot do it by fiddling with the entitlement and welfare systems -- they constitute a Gordian Knot that cannot be untied. But we can cut the knot. We can scrap the structure of the welfare state.

Instead of sending taxes to Washington, straining them through bureaucracies and converting what remains into a muddle of services, subsidies, in-kind support and cash hedged with restrictions and exceptions, just collect the taxes, divide them up, and send the money back in cash grants to all American adults. Make the grant large enough so that the poor won't be poor, everyone will have enough for a comfortable retirement, and everyone will be able to afford health care. We're rich enough to do it.
Equitable wealth transfer. Ideally, it strikes a compromise between robin hood economics and laissez faire capitalism. Americans will pay income taxes, the wealthy pulling almost all of the weight, but it will be distributed in even amounts to all the citizenry. So you're not disproportionately giving to an indigent's crack habit at the expense of a hard-working janitor struggling to raise a couple of kids.

Murray proposes $7,000 a year in direct transfer, plus $3,000 a year for medical insurance and $2,000 a year for retirement (invested in index funds, which will obliterate the "return" on Social Security over a person's lifetime). This puts everyone at a base above the poverty line. Assuming these benefits begin accruing at the age of eighteen, about three-fourths of the US population would receive them. That comes to $2.7 trillion annually. The 2006 federal budget is only $2.6 trillion, and $700 billion (.7 trillion) of that is for defense spending and interest on the national debt. That's a prodigious shortfall. Murray is aware of this, but points out that in the future it will represent a smaller number than the budget as it is currently drawn up:

The projected costs of the Plan cross the projected costs of the current system in 2011. By 2020, the Plan would cost about half a trillion dollars less per year than conservative projections of the cost of the current system. By 2028, that difference would be a trillion dollars per year.

Unfortunately, that argument didn't sell Bush's privatized social security accounts. Two trillion up front for greater savings in the future is going to meet resistance when the federal deficit grows by $10,000 every second and we drop $700 dollars a year per American just to pay interest on the debt.

Some other concerns I have:

-This places a financial disincentive on having children. If a single man gets the same distribution as a father of four, the latter is going to realize less real benefit. However, this could be a net positive. By essentially taking away welfare programs that reward penury folks for having children, it could close the wealth gap and boost the nation's average IQ. But anything that might lower the national birth rate needs to be critically examined.

-Who is entitled? Only American citizens? What about resident aliens? And illegals? The latter would have to be explicitly denied or it would be a disaster. Legislation would have to bar mendacious laws or judgments granting in-state tuition to illegals.

-Will this have a deleterious effect on job-seeking among the working poor? A couple bringing in $20,000 in cash and benefits plus $4,000 a year for retirement may give up job searching altogether, solidifying a permanent underclass rather than chipping away at it.

-What are our guarantees that new social programs do not sprout after this is introduced? Nothing would be worse than having direct wealth transfer payments as merely an augmentation to the current welfare state. Addicts, idiots, and squanderers are still going to find their way into indigency. Once the government gives it, it becomes almost impossible to get them to take it away.

He raises some of these concerns vaguely and indicates that he lays out answers to them in his new book, which I will definitely digest in the near future.

Even if it strikes you as idyllic or unworkable, give credit to Murray for bringing the idea up. The second half of his piece goes into how direct payments will inherently foster personal responsibility because everyone will have benefits directly in their control. No one will have an excuse for why they cannot even afford a meal and a change of clothes. It will aid the government in keeping the peace. They will know where your bank account is that the money is transferred to, so if you don't play by society's rules, it'll cost you fifteen grand on top of traditional forms of punishment. He also argues it will create a sense of community: Friends, family, and partners can pool their resources for joint ventures, giving those with otherwise bleak prospects a chance at economic empowerment.

More on Walmart (January 22 2006)

This was written in response to a complaint about Walmart's use of TIFs and skimping on healthcare:

The gifting of land and tax incentives is ubiquitous. You would be hardpressed to find major operations of any corporation that have not been brought to a specific location by the auspices of the local government.

For example, Kansas City TIF (tax increment financing--having the city shoulder some of the company's cost to be recovered down the road in tax revenue generated by the business) expenditures were estimated to be around $40 million in 2004.

But remember that the lauded mom and pop shops pay little in federal income taxes. Tax on the first $50,000 of profits is only 15% and 25% up to $75,000. Walmart, on the other hand, is paying 39% on a fraction of its income and 35% on most of it.

Many mom and pops are not incorporated and are run as sole proprieterships or partnerships with income flowing through to the owners. In Kansas, up to $15,000 brings a rate of only 3.5%--it doubles to 6.45% over $30,000. Clearly big corporations like WalMart have to pay an effective rate of close to that 6.45%, while mom and pops might come out around four or five percent.

That being said, the accusation has the wrong target. The cities that offer bonds or grant land to WalMart are more culpable than the company is. But the city does it because WalMart, even after the municipality's upfront costs, brings an order of magnitude more in revenue and economic activity than the inefficient mom and pop's.

In regards to welfare, 27% of WalMart's employees are either on Medicaid or have SCHIP (for their children) compared to 23% for retailers nationwide. A moderate gap, but not a prodigious one. And again, WalMart deserves blame for taking advantage of corporate welfare policies as much as you or I do for accepting interest-free student loans when we're not struggling to make end's meet.

Meanwhile, Maryland is pointing both barrels at the Arkansas giant, a possible portent of things to come:
Speaking at the National Press Club, [AFL-CIO President] Sweeney said the organization is launching similar health care campaigns in more than 30 states. Maryland's law — approved by the General Assembly over Republican Gov. Robert
Ehrlich's veto objection — is the first in the nation to require large employers, those with at least 10,000 workers, to spend at least 8 percent of their payroll on worker health care. Wal-Mart is the only company in Maryland now affected by the law.
This is antithetical to the idea of HSAs or hiring healthier people (and by extension encouraging people to take better care of themselves for occupational reasons, among others).

I think it inevitable that companies will continue to move against skyrocketing healthcare costs by terminating employees who engage in deleterious behaviors like smoking and throwing rigorous activites into job descriptions to give a leg up to fit applicants. Data mining and even DNA sequencing will provide companies with a wealth of information about prospective and current employees, making it easier for them to pick assets and avoid liabilities. Legislation, driven by union groups, will attempt to resist these trends, of course.

An aside: Labor leaders used to stand against unskilled immigration. Now they've become so tied to the Democratic Party that they can't, or won't. In the story linked to above, the head the country's largest union federation could be excoriating unfettered underclass immigration:
"What are we going to do about the destruction of good jobs in our country, the jobs that for the past half-century helped us create the largest middle class, the most dynamic economy and the strongest democracy in the history of the world?" Sweeney said in announcing the union campaign.

The U.S. poverty rate was up in 2004, Sweeney said, the first time on record that household incomes failed to increase for five years in a row.

America has decided to compete in the global marketplace by degrading work and workers through privatization and de-unionization, rather than competing through innovation and ingenuity, said Sweeney, head of the nation's largest association of labor unions.
But he's targeting WalMart instead. Bringing in people that make less than middle class natives is going to, quite obviously, reduce the size of the middle class. Foreign-born households bring in $6,000 less than native ones, and the wealth gap is greater than that, since foreign-born households tend to be larger. And the corollary to that is the fact that the poverty rate has climbed to 12.7%. Finally, the indefatigable search for ever-cheaper labor inhibits innovations that would be borne out of having to deal with higher labor costs.

It takes only a rudimentary understanding of basic economics to realize that a larger labor supply depresses wages and reduces labor's bargaining power. Instituting a merit immigration system to bring in endowed populations concentrated in high value industries would do more for native workers than any amount of wage and perquisite lobbying ever will.

Farrakhan as man of the year (January 15 2006)

Trent Lott was thrown to the wolves for suggesting, at a birthday party for the late Strom Thurmond, that the US would have been better served if the centenarian had been elected President in 1948:

"I want to say this about my state: When Strom Thurmond ran for president, we
voted for him. We're proud of it. And if the rest of the country had followed our lead, we wouldn't have had all these problems over all these years, either."
Because the archaic Thurmond was a segregationalist (how else would he have possibly been elected in Mississippi at the time?), Lott was branded a racist, bigot, and all the other nasty epithets that get thrown at anyone who dare have anything to do with any person who might have at some time in the past said something straying outside the strict belief system of orthodox Cultural Marxists.

Republicans had worried that if Lott didn't step down as Majority Leader, the party would lose ground in trying to appeal to minorities. Bush nabbed 9% and 11% of the black vote in the 2000 and 2004 Presidential elections, respectively, in heeding their concerns. Perhaps Republicans should focus on the 800-pound gorrilla of American democracy--whites--who make up over three-quarters of the voting electorate instead of pandering to various minority ethnic groups of whom not a single one votes Republican. Maybe they should focus on keeping the nation's ancestry largely European (as it slides steadily towards minority status--p75) and by instituting a merit immigration system that leads to future Americans of all ethnic and racial backgrounds being successful and therefore more likely to vote Republican.

Instead they seem content to play a moral superiority game that they cannot possibly win in the end. The boost the Republican Party has enjoyed from the efflorescence of talk radio, the internet, and cable (that is, Fox) news challenging the monolithic leftwing view in the media is being overwhelmed by demographic changes that favor Democrats.

Lott's comments were innocuous even if they were politically foolish. He did not voice support for segragational policies nor make note of Thurmond's previous support for them--he merely paid a rather generic compliment to a Mississippi legislator (Lott, of course, is a Senator from Mississippi) at the senescent guy's birthday party, and he was crucified for doing so.

Contrast that to this: users have selected Minister Louis Farrakhan as the 2005 Person of the Year."

An overwhelming percentage of our users agreed that Minister Farrakhan made the most positive impact on the Black community over the past year and chose him as the person most worthy to receive the honor of's 2005 Person of the Year," said Retha Hill,'s vice president for Content.

Farrakhan was certainly an interesting choice. The leader of the Nation of Islam--which professes that an evil scientist created white devils (with Jews being the earliest white progenitors) from impure blacks--he's had a vision of Colin Powell plotting the destruction of the black race, accused the government of blowing up the New Orleans levees to drown blacks, called Hitler a great man, and Judaism a dirty religion.

He is an overtly black nationalist. I do not blame him for trying to look out for the well being of his extended family nor am I surprised that he has anything but acrimony for white America when he, like Jesse Jackson and Al Sharpton, knows that the easiest way to overcome innate disparities is to lobby for wealth transfers, at least in the short-term. Bill Cosby's push for self-reliance as a means of buoying black America is only championed in bigoted circles, of course.

Farrakhan's popularity in the black community should be a tocsin for America--multiculturalism breeds tension between groups and fans the flames of racial hatred. Coupled with democracy, multiculturalism turns the political arena into a special interest spoils system, with demagogues capitalizing on real and perceived differences by promising their particular group special things. Every occurence has a racial component in multicultural areas. Compare the racially-charged LA riots or the Katrina aftermath in New Orleans to the coal miners who recently perished in West Vriginia. In the first two, one large ethnic group lambasted another for prejudice, racism, etc. In the mining tragedy, this element wasn't present because it simply couldn't be--West Virginia is overwhelmingly white.

As Latin America continues to emigrate into the the US, groups that openly fight to secure benefits for Hispanics like La Raza and MechA will continue to gain clout. Affirmative action policies will pinch less endowed whites and Asians harder and harder. Whites will become increasingly aware of their racial identity and organizations like American Renaissance will grow in popularity. Cultural and language barriers will become more pronounced, as the moribund social policy of assimilation bites the dust (what does one assimilate to if there are ten distinctly different cultures to choose from, all of which are encouraged by various members of the polyglot?). Native Americans are the most distinctly separate group, technically constituting entirely different nations. With so many special privileges, Indian tribes are ripe for corruption--see Jack Abramoff. Do we want more of these special privileges for other groups?

America is rushing fullsteam into unchartered waters. Multiculturalism has an awful record (think confiscation of white farms in southern Africa and South America, Tamil rebels in Sri Lanka, Buddhist struggles in southwest China, the Balkans, riots in Australia and France, Islamic terrorism and ethnic enclaves scattered throughout the West, the Sudan, Jim Crow in the South, virulent anti-Judaism in the Middle East, ad infinitum) while the most homogenuous countries suffer little internal strife and enjoy prosperity (Scandanavia and Japan being the most salient examples). Often, when pinned down, multicult open borders enthusiasts will cite the US as the greatest example of a demographic mosaic, yet in the next sentence they will be condemning racial inequality in America and giving props to Kanye West. If the US is sui generis when it comes to successful multiculturalism, I'm definitely not convinced.

It's blatantly intuitive that people tend to gravitate toward those like themselves. Think of your friends--if you are a college graduate (or working your way to that), how many of your friends are doing the same? If you built relationships randomly, we would expect that of your twelve closest friends, two of them are college educated, seven finished high school and then went to work, and three are high school dropouts. Does that reflect reality? Probably not. Chances are most if not all of your friends are collegiates. How about the significant others in your life? How have the relationships where you shared common interests, pursuits, lifestyles, and enjoyed similar traits fared compared to the ones where you've been polar opposites on everything from politics to entertainment to lifestyle habits? The stellar success of is a testament to the former--are there businesses devoted to matching you up with those the most unlike yourself as possible?

Why would polities be any different? Opposites don't attract on the individual level, and they don't attract on the national level either. Immigrants now account for over 60% of the US' population growth--they will determine the future composition of America. We should insure that they are conducive to the needs--culture, economic, occupational, cognitive, linguistic--of the native population by instituting a merit immigration system that scores potential new arrivals based on factors like English language fluency, occupational training, health, age, criminal record, educational attainment, IQ, and so forth. There are as many as 1.5 billion people who would like to come to the US--we can certainly afford to pick and choose those who will benefit the Union the most. Whether we can afford not to be picky and instead let family reunification, anchor babies, and desperation choose for us is what I'm not so sure about.

"'Stanley Williams insists he is innocent, and that he will not and should not apologise or otherwise atone for the murders of the four victims in this case,' Schwarzenegger wrote. 'Without an apology and atonement for these senseless and brutal killings there can be no redemption.'

'Based on the cumulative weight of the evidence, there is no reason to second guess the jury's decision of guilt or raise significant doubts or serious reservations about Williams' convictions and death sentence.'"

Mercifully, however, the Governor did grant clemency of a sort for the families of the three Taiwanese and one white who this black murdered in cold blood for a whopping $120. Oh, you had not heard the ethnicities of the parties involved? It's not surprising. One really has to dig to find it. A little acumen I might offer: If you hear anything about crime involving interracial violence, rest assured it is the case of a white (preferably a male WASP) tormenting a minority of some sort. If, however, race or ethnicity is not reported, two potential situations arise: 1) The crime is intra-racial, or 2) A minority member is committing the crime against members of another racial or ethnic group.

While Williams has putatively 'turned his life around' (and who on death row hasn't?), that is an empty argument for abnegating justice. Legally, as referenced above, there has been no reason to overturn the conviction. Even the Ninth Circuit Federal Court of Appeals, the most left-wing in the nation, has refused to take up Williams' cause. When a legal verdict is reached by a jury, it needs to be honored unless there is a legitimate legal reason for an injunction or appeal hearing. To void the jury's conclusion simply to appease a bunch of narcissistic Hollywood types is absurd.

The death penalty, despite the visceral emotional paroxysms it provokes, is numerically insignificant. Since 1976, 1,000 people in the US have paid the ultimate price, or roughly one person every ten days (compare that the other hot-button social issue of abortion where 4,050 fetuses are destroyed per day). The average death row inmate spends 10.4 years between conviction and the actual execution owing to the astronomically high and seemingly endless appeals process, almost always picked up by the net taxpayer. Currently, about two-thirds of Americans support capital punishment--even among blacks, who suffer from the highest rate of execution, 44% support it. Relative to their violent crime rate, however, blacks are actually considerably less likely to be put down than whites--although blacks are 9.1 times as likely to commit violent crimes as whites, they are only 3.3 times as likely as whites to be put to death for them.

Is capital punishment a deterrent? Does it even need to be? They call it punishment for a reason, after all. Over the last half-century, the number of executions and the number of homicides have moved in opposite directions, suggesting that capital punishment is correlated with a decrease in homicidal activity.

Still, I tenuously oppose the death penalty. I'd rather see a chain gang renascence. Set up prisons as token societies where inmates have to do the backbreaking labor that unskilled immigrants largely partake in now. In return for their work, they can 'buy' necessities from prison--things like condiments for food, books, recreational time, and so forth. This would cut down on the need for subsidized cheap labor, introduce a work ethic that many criminals desperately need to have instilled, and probably deter would-be criminals and recidivists more than jailswith weight rooms and PS2s do.

Will there be rioting a la Rodney King in Los Angeles and elsewhere after midnight? Local clergymen are trying to assuage the fervor. Presumably California's police force is ready for the worst. No doubt that some of the underclasses in general and gang members in particular will be eagerly awaiting an excuse to go on a destructive melee. Perhaps Williams is not done wreaking havoc on society just yet.


Those taxing taxes (December 11 2005)

The IRS finally came out and told America what it estimates the average filer pays out-of-pocket to pay, well, out-of-pocket to the IRS (subscription required):

"These new estimates were developed to help people get a better understanding of
the burden of preparing their taxes... The IRS is required by law to provide taxpayer-burden estimates."
For form 1040 only, the estimated cost comes in at $121. If schedule A (itemized deductions) and schedule D (capital gains) are included--these are generally more affluent taxpayers, as only 30% of filers itemize--the average is $313. Given that there are 78.8 million filers who pay to have their taxes done, these estimates yield a grand total a few million over $14 billion. Prodigious as that number seems, it is pittance in the scheme of US tax-compliance costs:

"In 2002 individuals, businesses and non-profits will spend an estimated 5.8 billion hours complying with the federal income tax code (henceforth called “compliance costs”), with an estimated compliance cost of over $194 billion. This amounts to imposing a 20.4-cent tax compliance surcharge for every dollar the income tax system collects. By 2007, the compliance cost is estimated, conservatively, at $244.3 billion. However, this estimate does not take into account the recently enacted Economic Growth and Tax Reform Reconciliation Act (EGTRRA) of 2001. Taking EGTRRA into account shows that the compliance cost could soar as high as $350.2 billion by 2007."
The IRS estimates are only looking at the accounting cost and only for individual filers, as opposed to the economic cost imposed on all entities that have to file (businesses outspend individuals by about 20%). Accounting cost consists of actual dollars (or equivalents) paid, while economic cost incorporates opportunity costs into the mix. That some 5.8 billion hours--or 662,100 years--of wasted time means over 662 millenia worth of Joe American's productivity is discarded every year (increasing perennially) in addition to the actual dollars forked over to tax preparers.

And even this more broadly encompassing estimate is only the tip of the iceberg. What about estate planners, huge CPA firms (445,000 employees at the big four alone), tax attornies, and collection agents involved in avoiding and extracting taxes, respectively? Accountants and attornies are among the select group of high-IQ professions. What are these people, the vast majority of whom have IQs surpassing 120, doing to contribute to human progress? Playing in a perpetual chess match against other high-IQ types on the IRS's 99,000-strong, $10.185 billion annual budget side! What a colossal waste. When their opportunity costs are taken into consideration from the perspective of society at large (not the professional's individual opportunity costs, as they are obviously being remunerated handomsely for their services), the tax system-induced loss must be unfathomably astronomical.

The IRC must be seriously reformed. We need something more drastic than shaving a few lines off the 1040 and collapsing six income brackets into four--these proposals are a step in the right direction, but only a marginal one.

I favor a national sales tax to replace the federal income tax, since the US is a consumption-based society. One of the tenets of an ideal tax system is the so-called "wherewithal to pay"--that is, people should only have to pay tax when they have the money to do so (think if you were taxed at the end of the year for the gain in your stock holdings, even though you hadn't sold them--if a significant amount of your investments were in the market, coming up with the cash flow to pay the IRS could become very burdensome).

A sales tax does that--you only pay tax when buying a new product or service. It would generally be progressive in nature, as people with more disposable income tend to spend more, in absolute terms anyway. Under the FairTax plan (23%), all citizens would receive a credit equal to the poverty line for their situation on a monthly basis. Thus, people spending an amount under the poverty threshold would skate tax-free. A national sales tax would also encourage conservation, since only new items would be subject to the tax and it would make the US an even more attractive location for corporations to emigrate to since they would not have to pay based on profits but instead on capital expansion. It would also eliminate every free-marketers favorite object of derision--double taxation.

The flat tax is another option. While it would not fundamentally alter the way the tax system works, the most popular proposals call for an end to deductions and credits in addition to differing tax rates. This would eliminate the need for tax preparation and make tax shelters orders of magnitude more difficult to pull off. With a poverty credit similar to that of the national sales tax, some of the inevitable criticism of its inherent 'unfairness' (since it's equal and all) in not increasing the tax rate in tandem with income would be parried. Steve Forbes thinks he can do it at just 17%.

While intuitively it appears that higher tax rates lead to higher government revenues, it's far from settled. For example, with the Bush tax cuts still firmly in place, 2005 is going to be the highest grossing year on record (p30) for the US government, and the fourth highest when adjusted for inflation. Conceptually, think of two extreme scenarios: Country A taxes its citizens at 5% of income. Country B taxes its citizens at 95% of income. All other things equal, which government do you think pulls in more revenue (while having an exponentially larger and more dynamic economy)?

The slew of time, energy, and manpower (not to mention frustration) that goes into the current tax system can conceivably be avoided rather easily. But every tax change is going to have its winners and losers--and usually it's the potential losers who scream the loudest. The masses need to wake up to this waste and realize it can be fixed.


Wal-Mart good for America? (December 04 2005)

Ted Kennedy has taken the political lead in attacking the Wal-Mart which would be the world's 20th largest economy if it were measured as an independent country:

"But what Wal-Mart's leaders can't seem to grasp is that average Americans are offended by its shameful tactics to boost profits at the expense of the families of hard-working men and women."
The idea that Wal-Mart has been boosting profit is risible in the face of a whopping 3.5% margin (paid registration required). To the contrary, CEO Lee Scott has been criticized for ignoring the bottom line in an attempt to shore up the company's image. The Senator is correct in pointing to (and shrewdly seizing upon) Wal-Mart's stumbling publicity. According to a new Zogby poll, 38% of Americans have an unfavorable opinion of Wal-Mart, 55% have a less favorable opinion than they did before based on recent news related to the Arkansas-based retail giant, and 56% think Wal-Mart is bad for America. The leaked internal memo discussing ways Wal-Mart could decrease its healthcare costs and increase efficiencies by hiring healthier workers (seems like a fabulous idea to me) and the company's decision to abstain from using Christmas in its advertising have not helped.

Continues Kennedy:

"They have used predatory pricing practices to put small companies out of business.
Surely, the largest company in the world, which made more than $10 billion in profits last year, can do better by its workers, better by our communities, and better for the American taxpayer."
The problem with this sort of demagoguery is that it ignores the perspective of the consumer. From the vantage point of consumerism, Wal-Mart is a retailing apotheosis. It has everything, is located everywhere, and sells its stuff at bargain basement prices--even its grocery prices are 20% lower than other supermarkets. A Global Insight study found that Wal-Mart saved consumers an astounding $263 billion in 2004 alone. These lower prices coupled with Wal-Mart's state of the art logistical system make it the most attractive outlet to many consumers, particularly those in the lower echelons of the economic ladder. The aforementioned study also found that Wal-Mart's presence decreased at-home food prices 9.1% over the last two decades. In 2003, the average US household spent $3,114 on food annually--thus Wal-Mart has saved Joe American $283 per year just on sustenance. This may mean nothing to corpulent silver-spooners like Kennedy, but for the working class that is substantial. The one-stop shopping also saves consumers time and expenses spent on transportation. This is the reason that the lauded mom-and-pop stores get run out of town when Wal-Mart shows up--they can't give shoppers what they want.

No one is forcing consumers to choose Wal-Mart, nor is anyone forcing 1.3 million Americans to become 'associates'--in a free market system people vote with their collective wallets. If you're peeved at the company's practices, don't own stock, shop, or work there. What gets me is how it is usually supercilious metropolitan types that rail on Wal-Mart. Or it's the unions (the Zogby poll referred to earlier was funded by a union group)--of course, if Wal-Mart became unionized, operational costs would rise, efficiencies would fall, and store growth would stagnate (see GM). And when Wal-Mart advocates something that the Kennedys of the world putatively support, like increasing the minimum wage, the attacks do not relent and instead Wal-Mart just puts off its supporters like myself (though given Wal-Mart's average hourly wage of $9.68, an upping of the minimum wage would hardly increase its costs while giving at least an initial financial boost to a large portion of its shoppers).

Kennedy makes some good points, especially the accolades he gives to Costco for the company's corporate citizenship. And Costco's stock has certainly outperformed Wal-Mart's as of late, as has the company's more prestigious antagonist, Target. Let Americans choose who they want to do business with, invest in, and work for. If Wal-Mart is regarded as too callous or vile the company will sink. Retailing is something that literally anyone can participate in (used Ebay lately?)--it's not like big oil where antitrust issues are pertinent. There's no need for meddling from the likes of Kennedy.


What state is the most generous (con't)? (November 23 2005)

Here's how it comes out with the median:mean ratio taken into account. Just for the heck of it, I color-coded the states to the 2004 Presidential election. There's apparently no meaningful relationship between the propensity to give and voting patterns:

1 Utah
2 New York
3 Maryland
4 California
5 Alabama
6 Wyoming
7 New Jersey
8 Oklahoma
9 Connecticut
10 Georgia
11 South Carolina
12 North Carolina
13 Hawaii
14 Arizona
15 Virginia
16 Idaho
17 Massachusetts
18 Oregon
19 Mississippi
20 Colorado
21 Minnesota
22 Delaware
23 Tennessee
24 Rhode Island
25 Arkansas
26 Nevada
27 Florida
28 Pennsylvania
29 Michigan
30 Montana
31 Kentucky
32 Nebraska
33 Illinois
34 Washington
35 Missouri
36 Kansas
37 Louisiana
38 New Mexico
39 Ohio
40 Iowa
41 Wisconsin
42 Vermont
43 Texas
44 Alaska
45 Indiana
46 New Hampshire
47 South Dakota
48 Maine
49 North Dakota
50 West Virginia

Only a few minor shifts. This is as accurate as I think I'll be able to get it.

What state is the most generous? (November 23 2005)

The Catalogue for Philanthropy recently released a report on the generosity of the nation's 50 states. The Bible Belt has enjoyed the positive light this puts them in. However, the methodology is crucial to consider--we can find a more accurate indicator of giving with a little work.

There's a lot at play here. The CFP chart refers to computes the "generosity index" by taking a state's ranking in Average AGI (which is gross income after deductions for things like IRA contributions, education, self-employed business expenses, capital and sec 1231 losses but before the itemized deductions that most people think of when they hear "you can deduct that") and subtracting it by the state's ranking in itemized charitable deductions. A married couple must have at least $10,000 in itemized deductions to even be counted in this index (itemized deductions include just about everything else that's not listed above--medical and misc expenses beyond a % of AGI threshold, property and state taxes, mortgage interest, charitable contributions, etc)--if they have less than $10,000, they just take the standard deduction.

Am I confusing you yet? The IRC (internal revenue code that has all the tax rules) is a ridiculously complicated thing of over 3.4 million words. The bottom line is that only 30% of people in the country itemize--generally these people are at least moderately affluent, because to ring up $10,000 just in deductions, you usually have to make quite a bit. We don't know from this how generously the more modest people in the various states give--we're only looking at the upper-middle and upper crust of each state. Anyway, here's the equation:

AAGI rank - Itemized charitable ded. rate = generosity gap

The CFP then takes each state's gap and ranks them against the other states (so, if a state is the fifth wealthiest but only gives the 25th most, it gets a -20 (5-25)--that's bad. If the state is the 25th wealthiest but gives the 5th most, it gets 20 (25-5)--that's good.) From these gaps, the states are ordered accordingly--the highest gap score (which will be a high positive number like 30) is considered the most generous state, and the lowest gap score (a numerically high negative score like -30) is considered the least generous.

The index is problematic in its computation. Take Conneticut, the highest earning state in the country, to illustrate: Using the formula, we see:

AAGI (1, as it is the highest earning) - Conn avg item charitable giving = gap

Without even telling you how Conneticut ranks in charitable giving, do you see a problem here? The best the state can hope to get, if it is the biggest giver in the country, is a gap of zero. Intuitively you may have realized that the total gap of all states combined is going to average zero (some having a positive (generous) score, some with a (cheap) negative). Thus, all Conneticut can hope for is to rank smack in the middle, even if it gives the most. Conversely, Mississippi, the nation's poorest state, can do no worse than ranking smack in the middle (AAGI 50 - Avg giving 50 = gap of 0).

Not suprisingly, Mississippi came in first overall (highest gap score of 45). And Conneticut finished a lousy 44th (-25 gap). So the index is rigged heavily in favor of poorer states--the entire South, the poorest region in the country, is within the top 50%.

A more accurate indicator of giving, (at least for the upper crust of each state that this report included), is to take the total amount of money each state gave in itemized charitable contributions and divide that by the number of people in each state who gave. (Ex: If in state A there was $1,000 total given and ten people who gave, this would come to $100. In state B, there's $500 given but twenty people give, and we get $25.) Graciously, CFP has their excel data available. Running the numbers this way puts Utah way on top, $2,110 (Mormons are apparently magnanimous people). The next closest is New York at $1,440.

But that's still not quite fair, because making $200,000 in New York is not comparable to making $200,000 in Utah. Our Mormon buddy is going to find it easier to dole out the cash, because after the cost of living takes its toll, he has more money leftover than the New Yorker. On the flip side, there are more people who make big big money in New York than in Utah, who even with the high cost of living have a chunk of change to potentially give out.

Thus, we need to take standard of living into account. That is, if people live in a place like Minnesota, where income is high relative to the cost of living (great standard of living), they should be expected to give more than people in Cali, where income is low relative to the cost of living (austere standard of living). Throwing that into the mix, here's how the state's come out (this isn't perfect and slightly favors states with more income inequality, but in my estimation it's much more accurate than the way the data has been presented by the CFP):

1 Utah
2 New York
3 California
4 Maryland
5 Alabama
6 Connecticut
7 New Jersey
8 Georgia
9 Oklahoma
10 North Carolina
11 South Carolina
12 Wyoming
13 Arizona
14 Virginia
15 Mississippi
16 Hawaii
17 Oregon
18 Massachusetts
19 Idaho
20 Arkansas
21 Florida
22 Tennessee
23 Colorado
24 Nevada
25 Delaware
26 Minnesota
27 Rhode Island
28 Kentucky
29 Illinois
30 Michigan
31 Montana
32 Pennsylvania
33 Louisiana
34 Washington
35 Kansas
36 Nebraska
37 Missouri
38 Texas
39 New Mexico
40 Ohio
41 Iowa
42 Wisconsin
43 Vermont
44 Indiana
45 Alaska
46 New Hampshire
47 South Dakota
48 Maine
49 West Virginia
50 North Dakota

Utah still comes out on top, but just by a hair. Sheesh, 35th--I'm a little embarrassed :)

I'm going to do a little more with this, but at first glance there doesn't seem to be any clear geographical edge, although the bottom states are mostly red. However, blue states tend to have more income inequality than red states--I'm going to adjust for that next and then I'll post the list with the difference between mean and median income taken into account.

It might be brought up was that more people in Mass gave than in places like Mississippi. This is not surprising, because nominally people in the Northeast make more than people in the South, and the federal tax guidelines do not take buying power into account (it's easier to come up with $10,000 of expenses in the NE than in the South b/c it costs more to live there and you're making more). But with the SOL taken into account, the disruption this causes in the data should be attenuated substantially.

50 Cent movie shooting (November 22 2005)

Plant a seed of pathology, cultivate it, and watch it sprout. The gansta rapper who goes by the pseudonym "50 Cent" stars in a movie that has provided a forum for violence:

One Pittsburgh-area movie house has said get lost to 50 Cent's Get Rich or Die Tryin' after a fatal shooting.

The Loews Cineplex in West Homestead yanked the rapper's controversial semi-autobiographical flick on Thursday, a day after a 30-year-old man was gunned down near a concession stand.

The man, Shelton Flowers, had come to the multiplex just east of Pittsburgh for the opening night of Fiddy's film debut. Police say Flowers got into an argument with others inside the bathroom around 11 p.m. The altercation spilled out into the concession area. Gunshots erupted and Flowers
was struck twice.

He was taken to an area hospital, but doctors were unable to save him.

The guy has had a hell of a rough life, and is only symptomatic of a larger pathology that is the contemporary hip-hop culture. But the black community in the US is in many ways facing dire challenges that are compounding as America changes increasingly into a knowledge-based, skill society.

The hip-hop culture is largely a modern day minstrel show. There are some black moguls, but for the most part the labels are controlled by white executives who traffic in pathologies that suburbia thinks are entertaining but not to be taken seriously, while urban kids absorb and internalize the pernicious influence.

That there are so many black celebrities glorifying the culture makes survival at 'ground zero' that much harder. Better not to have such 'role models' at all. Hispanics, for example, have very few celebrities to look up to compared to blacks--consequently, to some degree, Hispanics are more apt to work hard and live modestly. Blacks on the other hand see behavior that basically relegates them to a lifetime of poverty put on a pedestal and imitate it. It's disgusting. The black community needs less 50-Cent and more James Earl Jones.

In addition to the gansta-glory lifestyle, the 70% out-of-wedlock birthrate among blacks mean that most black children do not have a stable father figure. This makes them more vulnerable to the culture's more pernicious influences, and deprives them of a role model who gets up every morning and goes off to work.

Morally posturing by refusing to admit problems that are blatantly obvious does not do anyone any good. I've been heavily criticized for stating the unremarkable fact that African Americans, on average, score about one standard deviation lower on IQ tests than whites and for railing against the destructive hip hop culture. But if a social stigma arose around out-of-wedlock birth and hip hop, in conjunction with a discarding of the "education is a white thing" attitude among the black community, things could get better. Stymying illegal immigration, which floods the labor market with expendable, unskilled workers willing to put in for minimum wage, or less if under-the-table, would help, too.

(Previous post)

Patriot Bonds? (November 6 2005)

In an online discussion, someone said to me:

"And having China and Japan owning large amounts of America debt is unsettling," which made me decide that I should get my pet idea officially out so as to take credit for the one bit of perspicacity I might possess while I have the chance. I responded:

Yes, with the vitriolic anti-Americanism in the upper echelons of the PRC's government, especially the military. And the draconian one-child policy (which has recently been relaxed) means China has a glut of young men with no one to marry--the perfect candidates to invade Taiwan, Mongolia, maybe Siberia.

But we can always pull the debt back into US hands with a little yankee ingenuity. I'd create something called "Patriot Bonds" that the US government would sell exclusively to US citizens. With the money raised from this, the treasuries held by Asian banks could be bought back. If these Asian banks tried to buy the Patriot Bonds up from American holders, that's fine too. Just perpetually issue more, enriching US citizens in the process, until the Asian banks grow weary of taking a loss. I'm not sure how that would play out in the financial world, as it's an original idea I haven't heard from anyone else. But conceptually it seems like it would work if things got out of control.

(Previous post)

Tax reform proposals good for Republicans (November 6 2005)

Since politics will decide how much of the reform proposal gets through, its makes sense to look at the political implications. Seems to me that the first proposal (see page 5 for a summation of the new proposals), the only one that has a real shot of attracting actionable attention, would do much to help grow the Republican voter ranks.

First, it would end the subsidization of states with high state taxes by the states with low state taxes (requesting a synonym for the word 'state'!) Thus, states with a higher cost of living would likely have to decrease their state tax rates. Less money paid in taxes means more money to do things like start (or grow) a family. And a bigger family means mom and dad want politicians who espouse traditional values (easy to screech at the Boy Scouts for banning gay scout masters when you're childless, but when your son is heading off into the woods with one your perception changes).

Second, mortgages over $412,000 losing the deduction mean homes in cities on the coasts (Democratic bastions) are going to have a new economic disincentive--time to move to the cheaper inner flat lands and in the process start voting Republican.

No more pesky AMT. This helps sustain the middle class. Coupled with the fact that the plan is least friendly to the super rich, we have a recipe for more net income equality. And income parity (along with educational and cultural parity) means more Republican votes.

Small business owners are a Republican stalwart. The Simplified Income Tax Plan (first proposal) lowers the top rate small businesses can be taxed at to 33% and would allow most small businesses to use simple cash-basis accounting (deduct it from the books when you pay it and add it to the books when you receive it, instead of all that pesky stuff like deferrals and accruals).

In addition, a $1500 credit per child is patently more beneficial than the current $3200 exemption deduction. Having little urchins running around the house correlates with voting Republican.
And a further reduction in the marriage penalty encourages marriage. The majority of married individuals vote Republican while singles go for the Democrats.

Does anyone see a silver lining in this proposal for the Democrats? I don't. Chuck Shumer, who in my estimation is currently the sharpest limelight Democrat, certainly wasted no time in lambasting the proposal.

Hopefully some simplification will occur. The social incentives or disincentives are a point of argument, but cutting down on the estimated $190 billion spent each year to comply with federal tax laws is a deadloss we will all be better off without having (except maybe tax accounting firms like H&R Block).

(Previous post)

ACLU and refugee watch (September 23 2005)

In The Simpsons episode "Homer's Enemy", Bart buys a dilapidated factory for a $1 at an auction. Later, it collapses and the hordes of refugee rats crawl into Moe's Tavern. In the real world, up to one million Louisiana evacuees are scattering across the country. The bulk are from the New Orleans metro area, and they are running into trouble. Perhaps, more appropriately, I should say trouble is running into the cities that are taking them in. In Rhode Island:

State police did criminal background checks on every refugee and found that more than half had a criminal arrest records--

That is a high number, considering that only about one-fifth of US residents have a criminal background of some sort. But crime in the West envelopes a host of things not overtly threatening, like recreational drug use, jaywalking, or public defecation. Here's the kicker:

--a third for felonies.
The felony rate in the Ocean State is roughly 3%. So the indigents being admitted are around eleven times more likely to have committed violent crime than are Rhode Island natives. It seems commonsensical that gracious hosts willing to put people up on their own buck should be able to at least know who it is they are taking in. The public safety is at risk and prudence is being applied, so it is no surprise that the ACLU has appeared on the scene, interjecting accusations of white racism in an incendiary manner:

Civil libertarians call the checks thinly veiled race and class discrimination against people who have suffered already.

What tripe. When poor blacks are mixed with any other demographic segment, the other is virtually guaranteed to suffer. In fact, blacks are 39 times more likely to commit violent crimes against whites than viceversa, and as much as 250 times as likely to commit multiple perpetrator crimes against whites than viceversa (more than one offender attacking the victim in a gang). Rhode Island is 82% white. Further, these refugees are coming from America's most murderous city with a litany of gravely concerning problems. An ACLU drone spit out this miasma:

"I think it's happening partly because who these people are and where they came from," said Steve Brown, executive director of the Rhode Island ACLU. "The mere fact that people have past criminal records in and of itself doesn't say anything about harm to the community."
You have to be kidding me. I suppose the fact that the criminal recidivism rate for prisoners is 67% in the US "doesn't say anything". The anarchical melee in New Orleans following Katrina in contrast to the stable resolve in more affluent areas nakedly brought the stark differences in human populations into everyone's living room--the race aggressors had to hastily turn yet more evidence of blacks threatening whites around to appear as if whites were threatening blacks, claiming that Bush, the media, and kitchen sink were plotting to destroy New Orleans' poor colored people.

Obviously most people who have literally had their lives ripped asunder are decent people who need a helping hand and a place to stay. No one should ever rely on the government to provide anything for them, most especially physical protection. But this country is too humane to leave them out to dry for their failings, and America's generosity is admirable. If there is a silver lining here, it is that the concentration of pathological criminals are no longer concentrated in America's cesspool. Being disparately dispersed across the country will probably make them less dangerous.

Here are what some other states are dealing with:

In South Carolina, state police checked every evacuee flown there by the government. Of 547 people checked, 301 had criminal records, according to Robert Stewart, state Law Enforcement Division Chief.

The state police in West Virginia said roughly half of the nearly 350 Katrina victims evacuated by the government to that state had criminal records, and 22 percent have a history of committing a violent crime.

In Massachusetts, where about 200 evacuees were flown to a military base on Cape Cod, criminal background checks turned up six sex offenders and one man wanted for rape in Louisiana.

In Texas, with more than 300,000 refugees, local officials have run 20,000 criminal background checks on evacuees, as well as the relief workers helping them and people who have opened up their homes.

In Tennessee, police checked every federal evacuee flown to Knoxville and found outstanding warrants for two people in Louisiana - but Louisiana did not want to extradite them.

The rats have been flushed out. Why would the Bayou want them back?

(Previous post)

Katrina and the blame game (September 11, 2005)

The finger-pointing has gotten pretty intense. Obviously when something disastrous of this magnitude occurs, no one wants to be the the guy at the helm who oversaw the incompetence. In that sense, Vice Admiral Thad Allen, who has replaced the now defunct Mike Brown, will benefit greatly from being able to slice through red tape secured by the fact that any audacious moves he makes are going to be an improvement over what preceded him.

There are three big names coming out of Katrina's aftermath who share in responsibility to some extent: President Bush, Louisiana Governor Blanco, and NO Mayor Nagin. Before divvying up blame, keep in mind that demographically New Orleans is a disaster. Ravaged by decades of decadence, the city's "Let the good times roll" mantra applied to a population of mostly black and largely impoverished citizens is a tragedy waiting to happen. The city's police force was gutted by a race-spoiling "residency requirement" that mandated officers live within the city's boundaries, not in the surrounding suburbs (this requirement also applied to firefighters and certain city officials). To fill the ranks, the police force had to resort to lower standards, taking in recruits who had previous DUIs, criminal records, and other misconduct. Not surprisingly, some 500 of the city's 1,600 police officers didn't show up for duty as the storm approached. During the looting, many NOPD members joined in (unbelievable photo)! Can you imagine the NYPD doing the same following 9/11? Thankfully, the Big Apple's standards do not suffer from such politically correct madness. On top of all of this, the most affluent, intelligent of the city's inhabitants left before the storm arrived leaving drug-addicted troglodytes and gangbangers to roam the flooded streets after the hurricane had passed.

Mayor Nagin was the first line of defense. It is his city, after all. The Louisiana Evacuation Plan specified that the mayor was to remove those who did not have personal access to transit from the city. Instead, the buses that were to do the moving became inundated during the deluge as they sat idle. Afterwords, he excoriated the federal government for a lack of buses that he desperately needed. Nagin, finally feeling pressure after a week of sympathetic, blame-Bush interviews, pushed the responsibility onto someone else, although he did not specify who. On Meet the Press this morning (transcript should be up shortly), Tim Russet tracked down Nagin's comments from months ago about the shortcomings in the city's evacuations plans and subsequently questioned the mayor on why no progress had been made. Nagin spun off platitudes about how it was an unprecedented disaster and that everyone made mistakes on account of their humanity (a fair enough answer, except that the day before he had no sympathy for others as he joined in the chorus of extortionists accusing the federal government of hating black people).

Governor Blanco appears to be the weakest link. FEMA and Northcom are not to takeover relief operations in an area until after state and local resources have been exhausted--in other words, until the governor of the state gives the okay. However, Blanco waited over twenty-four hours after Bush was ready to give FEMA control to issue that needed "okay", as Nagin attested to. Keep in mind, the governors of Mississippi and Alabama both called in the federal government for disaster relief long before Blanco did. In addition, Blanco withheld amenities provided by the Red Cross from those in the Superdome for fear of attracting too many people to the facility. As those shrill cries of "where's the food?" and "where's the water?" rang out, the Red Cross was literally standing by in New Orleans with the items but was unable to deliver them. Over a week after the hurricane hit, Blanco criticized Nagin's ordering of a complete evacuation of the city, stating that "The mayor certainly has ordered that, but the governor, and that would be me, will have to enforce it or implement it." The power-hungry termagent has now retired to her wringing her hands over the tragedy, ducking questions about why she waited so long to activate the state's National Guard units.

Bush has taken a hit in the realm of public opinion as the lethargic federal relief efforts have pushed his approval rating below 40 percent. The photo of Bush flying over New Orleans in Air Force One rather than being in the thick of the fray, barking out commands with his sleeves rolled up, does not bestow confidence or show urgency. The incompetence of the state and local officials in Louisiana shows that Bush should have verbally and ostensibly pressed hard to take over, although such a move would have invariably lead to criticism of the macho cowboy pushing aside a southern dame and a minority mayor. When FEMA finally did become mobilized, the stories of equipment laying around while bureaucrats gave speeches surely cost lives.

The Posse Comitatus Act of 1878 prohibits the federal government from dispatching military units to a state without the express consent of that state and the Congress. Because of the bright, shining lie that populations do not fundamentally differ from one another on a genetic as well as cultural level, many people did not foresee the anarchy that insued after the storm on the streets of New Orleans. Consequently, military combat units were not on hand to restore order. The depleted New Orleans police force (those that had the balls to stick around) bravely engaged the looters and suffered casualties in the process, but it wasn't enough to restore order. Relatively affluent, mainly white cities like Chalmette weathered the storm without looting, murder, rape, and other crimes even though they were hit harder than New Orleans itself. In the Big Easy, however, National Guard soldiers attempting to restore civility compared the environment to Baghdad. Said one,

"It's just so much like Iraq, it's not funny," said Atkinson, of Woodlawn, Ark., "except for all the water, and they speak English."

Said another:

"It's like Baghdad on a bad day," said Spec. Brian McKay, 19, of Mount Ida, Ark."

Said yet another:

"We're having some pretty intense gun battles breaking out around the city," said Capt. Jeff Winn of the New Orleans police SWAT team. "Armed gangs of from eight to 15 young men are riding around in pickup trucks, looting and raping," he said.

With this chaos has come virulent racism directed against whites, as I pointed out in a previous post.

Recapitulating, the government at all levels failed to protect the people. Commit it to memory: The government, Republican or Democrat, Federal or Local, cannot solve your problems. It cannot protect you, and it will not take care of you. Self-reliance is the key to survival. A lesson to take from Katrina includes moving settlements out of the way of natural disasters, not having more people retire to the Florida coastline. There is no reason to rebuild New Orleans, which is sinking, so it can be hammered again a decade from now. Another is to realize that people, and by extension groups of people, are not all alike. The reaction to a disaster like 9/11 where those involved were competent relief workers and well-educated, intelligent business people in the towers sits in stark contrast to the way less intelligent (and by extension chronically poor and drug-addicted, etc) urbanites react in a similar situation. We need policy that addresses these things directly, rather than pretending they don't exist, or tenaciously proclaiming that people have the right to build in stupid locations and then having the federal government (that's you and me) reimburse them for their idiocy.

(Previous post)

**Addition** Speaking on FoxNews Sunday, Louisiana Senator Mary Landrieu (D) had this exchange with host Chris Wallace:

WALLACE: Senator Landrieu, I want to ask you — and I'll ask you both, but let me start with you — about the local response.

Was it incompetent and insulting for Mayor Ray Nagin to order a mandatory evacuation, but then to leave buses — and we have a picture of them — hundreds of buses idle, so that they could be flooded, instead of using them to get people out.

LANDRIEU: Well, Chris, I was there, as you know, through the whole ordeal with state and local officials, and was right there with Louisiana Democrats and Republicans, city council members, police chiefs, mayors, the governors, and could watch what Haley Barbour was doing and Governor Riley in Alabama. I am not going to level criticism at the local level. These people

WALLACE: But I'd like you to answer, if you could, this one specific question.

LANDRIEU: Well, I will. I will answer it. I am not going to level criticism at local and state officials. Mayor Nagin and most mayors in this country have a hard time getting their people to work on a sunny day, let alone getting them out of the city in front of a hurricane. And it's because this administration and administrations before them do not understand the
difficulties that mayors — whether they are in Orlando, Miami, or New Orleans —

LANDRIEU: In other words, this administration did not believe in mass transit. They won't even get people to work on a sunny day, let alone getting them out...

Don't expect a firestorm over what is obviously being insinuated here because Landrieu is a Democrat. The so-called MSM will not crucify her for violating the bright shining lie that all differences in outcomes are indictments of societal unfairness rather than being biologically based--she has been too vociferous a critic of Bush's handling of Katrina to be thrown overboard. But the politicians are not as oblivious as their politically correct rhetoric would lead us to believe--she's aware of the dearth of human capital in mostly black urban areas.

There were plenty of decent, honest blacks who were victimized during the post-hurricane melee. Pretending that this is solely an issue of government incompetence rather than looking at the real reason for the problems--the populations of people themselves--is endemic in the US. If we just give them more stuff and treat them nicer, everyone will be a model citizen with the ability to be an astronaut or engineer. This isn't Lake Woebegon. People are dying and the country's coffers are being run dry on account of this nonsense.

Solutions for Katrina

A few of our pals from the venerable religion of peace are praising Katrina, calling it deserved punishment for our sins and the US support of the "parasitic" state of Israel (someone may want to tell the inbred sand simian that the Gaza Strip and West Bank rely on foreign aid for an astounding 90% of their sustenance while oil-dry Israel is one of the few--and the only nation to do so without heavy reliance on petroleum--economic powerhouses in the region). I'm consternated as to why anyone would build a city next to the ocean and pincered by an enormous lake in one of the most turbulent places on earth below sea level, but the sore is too trenchant to dwell on that at the moment.

The costs of the category four hurricane are estimated to run between $9 billion and $16 billion. It's silly to think that the most generous country on the planet is going to receive a pittance, if anything at all, from the putatively more compassionate international community (however, it should be noted that the antagonistic Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez admirably offered a helping hand to Americans ravaged by the storm).

But what could cover the cost of Katrina in full (with more than a pinch leftover)? US foreign aid for one year. The US magnanimously shells out $19 billion a year to countries all over the globe (twice that of the runner-up, the amazing country of Japan). By drying up the funds for a year we could give a reality check to the prodigous anti-American sentiment (don't bite the hand that feeds you!) and ameliorate Katrina's damage in one fell swoop. Instead, I fear we will hear for weeks of looting, insufficient funds, suffering, the need for more FEMA funding, the dangers of global warming, etc.

The Paul Revere Society has a list of a few more cogent ideas that don't involve lucrative no-bid contracts or huge amounts of government expenditures.

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