We used to make sure all Americans could lead a pretty good life
by Jon Margolis • Pittsburgh Post Gazette
One day last winter, Tom Ashbrook and his guests on his “On Point” public radio call-in program were talking about jobs and wages when a caller from Omaha named Valerie asked a blunt but valuable question.
Half the people, Valerie said, have an IQ of less than 100. “What do we do with all the ‘dumb’ people?” she wondered.
That sounds heartless, but Valerie didn’t seem to be scorning anyone as much as sympathizing with the increasingly bleak prospects some people are facing.
Valerie’s was not an original insight. Years earlier, the late columnist Murray Kempton noted that ours was a “society which, more lavishly than any in history, has managed the care and feeding of incompetent white people.” Continue reading
By PAUL BEDARD • Washington Examiner
The United States, ranked second in worldwide economic freedom as recently as 2000, has plummeted to 16th, according to a new report of world economies.
The Fraser Institute’s annual report, Economic Freedom of the World, showed that the country’s drop started in 2010, the second year of the Obama administration.
The world-recognized report showed that the U.S. fell in several areas, including legal and property rights and regulation. Continue reading
by Nicolas Loris • Daily Signal
The Obama administration unveiled its climate change regulations for new and existing power plants, calling the plan “the biggest, most important step we’ve ever taken to combat climate change.”
It may be the most “important” from a top-down, regulatory mandate for high energy prices, but it won’t accomplish much, if anything, in terms of combating climate change.
Even though electricity generation accounts for the single largest source of carbon dioxide emissions in the United States, the estimated reduction is minuscule compared to global greenhouse gas emissions.
Climatologists estimate that the administration’s climate regulations will avert less than two hundredths of a degree Celsius by 2100. Continue reading
On the 800th anniversary of the Magna Carta, an unhinged regulatory state is our doomsday machine.
by Holman W. Jenkins, Jr. • Wall Street Journal
AT&T is a taxpaying corporate citizen in good standing and agreed to a perfectly legal takeover with fellow taxpaying corporate citizen DirecTV. We know it was legal because the Justice Department approved the deal, saying it raised no concerns under the antitrust laws.
And yet to proceed with a consensual, private-market transaction AT&T still had to concede to a long list of demands, without a meaningful recourse—fighting in court would have taken too long and destroyed the value of the deal—presented by another government agency, the Federal Communications Commission.
Who cares about the swelling power of bureaucratic discretion in Washington over big business, since it doesn’t threaten your personal freedom and prosperity. Or does it? That question lurked in the background of a Hoover Institution discussion on June 25, hosted by economist and podcaster extraordinaire Russ Roberts. The occasion was the 800th anniversary of Britain’s Magna Carta, a landmark in the struggle for a rule of law. Continue reading
by Morgan Chalfant • Washington Free Beacon
U.S. employment costs posted the smallest increase on record in the second quarter of 2015.
The Labor Department released the figures Friday, Reuters reported. The Employment Cost Index, the general measure of labor costs that is used as an accurate indication of labor market slack, ticked up only 0.2 percent in the second quarter.
Down from a 0.7 percent gain in the first quarter, this represents the smallest gain since the government started measuring the employment cost index in 1982.
Some economists had anticipated that the figure would see a 0.6 percent increase in the second quarter.
“This data has periodically proved to be very lumpy and the sharp deceleration is inconsistent with other measures of wage inflation that are trending higher, not falling off a cliff,” said Eric Green, chief economist at TD Securities in New York City. Continue reading
by the Oklahoman Editorial Board
Barack Obama has always seen himself as an agent of change, a la Ronald Reagan. His goal was to do for progressive politics what Reagan had done for conservatism.
Thus it was no surprise that he parroted a Reagan trope in recently asking the question of whether Americans are better off today than when he took office — and then answering his own question by concluding that “the country is definitely better off than we were when I came into office.”
For Reagan, it was a campaign strategy drawn as a weapon against Jimmy Carter in 1980. Are you better off, he asked voters, than you were four years ago?
Such comparisons aren’t unique to Reagan and Obama, of course, but Reagan put his own stamp on it — quite successfully as it turns out.
“By every economic measure,” Obama told college students the other day, “we are better off than when I took office.” So not only has this president adopted the Reagan line (even crediting Reagan). He’s turned it into yet another example of repeated, robotic rhetoric in the endless campaign speeches made by a man “who is not running for anything except the exit,” in the words of Caroline Baum, a former Bloomberg News columnist. Continue reading
Happy days are not yet here again for American workers, regardless of the cheering generated by the government’s latest report on job creation.
The number of people collecting paychecks rose more than had been expected and the tally of people counted as jobless fell, placing the unemployment rate — 5.9% — at its lowest level since 2008.
While the trends are positive, they offer only distant hope to a middle class that is taking home less pay than it used to and can only watch as the wealthy enjoy ever greater prosperity.
It wasn’t supposed to be this way under President Obama, tribune of ordinary folks who, as he likes to say, play by the rules. Continue reading
by Thomas Sowell • Pittsburgh Tribune-Review
While we talk about democracy and equal rights, we seem increasingly to let both private and government decisions be determined by mob rule. There is nothing democratic about mob rule. It means that some people’s votes are to be overruled by other people’s disruptions, harassments and threats.
The latest examples are the mobs in the streets in cities across the country, demanding that employers pay a minimum wage of $15 an hour, or else that the government makes them do so by law. Some of the more gullible observers think the issue is whether what some people are making now is “a living wage.” This misconstrues the whole point of hiring someone to do work. Those who are being hired are paid for the value of the work they do.
If their work is really worth more than what their employer is paying them, all they have to do is quit and go work for some other employer, who will pay them what their work is really worth. If they can’t find any other employer who will pay them more, then what makes them think their work is worth more?
As for a “living wage,” the employer is not hiring people in order to acquire dependents and become their meal ticket. He is hiring them for what they produce. Continue reading
by Peter Ferrara • Forbes
One of the biggest drags on economic growth under President Obama has been Obamacare, enacted on a strictly partisan basis in 2010. That drag has come primarily from the sweeping overregulation of Obamacare.
The biggest culprit has been the employer mandate, which requires all employers of 50 or more full time workers to buy them health insurance with the terms and benefits as specified by the federal government. That is effectively a tax on employment of well over $10,000 a year per worker for family coverage.
Even for employers that already provide health insurance, the employer mandate will likely be a big tax increase on employment. That is because the mandated health insurance will most likely cost more than what the employer is already providing. That results first because the government responds to political pressure to require generous benefits most people will think the employer is paying for, to be include in the mandated health insurance. That drives up the cost of the mandatory health insurance. Continue reading
Ride-share services benefit consumers, but the taxi commission doesn’t want to give us a good deal.
The regulatory knives are out for Uber and Lyft, two ride-sharing services that make life easier for consumers and provide employment opportunities in a stagnant economy. Why are regulators unhappy? Basically, because these new services offer insufficient opportunity for graft.
Services like Uber and Lyft disrupt the current regulatory environment. I have the Uber app on my phone. If I need a car in areas where Uber operates, it looks up where I am using GPS, matches me with participating drivers nearby, and in my experience gets me a Town Car in just a few minutes. It’s the comfort of a limo service, with the convenience of a taxicab. I get a better service, the driver gets a job, but now there’s competition for those entrenched companies. Continue reading
Last month, when the Bureau of Economic Analysis announced that gross domestic product had grown at a lead-footed rate of 0.1 percent in the first quarter, economic analysts could focus on two pillars of hope. The first was that the winter weather was unusually awful, and first-quarter growth probably reflected that. And the second? This was a very preliminary number, and it seemed reasonable to think that it might be revised upward.
The operative word is “seemed.” Now the BEA has provided its first revision, and things only get more dismal: The economy actually contracted in the first quarter instead of just lying down on the sofa and feeling all mopey and sad. Key areas of decline were exports, inventories and nonresidential fixed investment. In other words, whatever happened was happening on the business side. Continue reading
“Despite what some argue, North American energy independence is not out of reach. The massive production gains expected in Canada combined with the output from Mexico and US domestic reserves could total 2.75 billion barrels per year by 2030. This figure exceeds expected US petroleum consumption by such a wide margin. This is only possible if increased volumes of Canadian petroleum can reach more distant US markets for competitive cost. To that end, pipeline projects such as Keystone XL are vital to any strategy of displacing oil imports from outside North America. Without them, Canadian oil will remain uncompetitive with foreign oil arriving by tanker, and even dramatic increases in Canadian production figures would not result in a reduced dependence on OPEC for most regions of the United States.”
by Kenneth Bloomquist
In 2013, the United States imported 16% of the total energy it consumed from all sources, 86% of which was petroleum. Reducing these imports is therefore the primary obstacle to attaining energy independence. To achieve this by 2030, approximately 2 billion barrels of imported petroleum will need to be displaced, either on the supply side by increasing domestic production or on the demand side by reducing consumption. Continue reading
Why do the loudest complaints about income inequality come from those whose policies worsen it?
by George F. Will
Someone who is determined to disbelieve something can manage to disregard an Everest of evidence for it. So Barack Obama will not temper his enthusiasm for increased equality with lucidity about the government’s role in exacerbating inequality.
In the movie “Animal House,” Otter, incensed by the expulsion of his fraternity, says: “I think that this situation absolutely requires a really futile and stupid gesture.” Such thinking gives us minimum-wage increases that do very little for very few. Meanwhile, there are farm bills, like the one Obama signed last month at Michigan State University.
MSU was one of the models for the land-grant colleges created under the 1862 Morrill Act, whose primary purpose was to apply learning to agriculture. Today, we apply crony capitalism to agriculture. The legislation Obama lavishly praised redistributes wealth upward by raising prices consumers pay. Vincent Smith of Montana State University says small non-farm businesses are almost 30 times more likely to fail than farms, partly because the $956 billion farm legislation continues agriculture’s thick safety net. The geyser of subsidies assures that farm households will continue to be 53 percent more affluent than average households. Continue reading
The Irish singer Bono once described a difference between America and his native land. “In the United States,” he explained, “you look at the guy that lives in the mansion on the hill, and you think, you know, one day, if I work really hard, I could live in that mansion. In Ireland, people look up at the guy in the mansion on the hill and go, one day, I’m going to get that bastard.”
Alexis de Tocqueville phrased it a little differently, but his classic 19th-century text contains the same observation. Visiting from France, he marveled at Americans’ ability to keep envy at bay, and to see others’ successes as portents of good times for all. Continue reading
Income Inequality talk is not about helping the poor, its about trying to cling to power. Sadly, the American dream is in trouble precisely because of policies designed to win make career politicians, but not help grow the economy or increase opportunity.
by David A. Keene
President Obama has all but announced that this fall’s House and Senate campaigns should focus not on the collapse of American influence abroad, or on the continuing disaster that we know as Obamacare, or even on the apparent inability of his policies to create jobs, but on “income inequality.”
The mantra from the administration, like the rantings of the “Occupy” crowd and the new finger-pointing quasi-Marxist mayor of New York City, is that in today’s United States, it is impossible to get ahead unless one is born rich, works on Wall Street or finds some other way to profit from the misery of others.
Their rhetoric and proposed policies play on envy and remind one of the class warfare that has dominate European politics for so long. Continue reading