It’s Not About Race, Rev. Wright

African Americans today are split between two cultures. One is a culture of assimilation and success. The other is a culture of victimization and failure. There have always been African Americans who didn’t buy into the “street” subculture, who have striven to rise up out of the ghettos, to assimilate and succeed in mainstream American life. Many have done it, and many more continue to do so. Assimilation is never easy, and can take generations. But the common success factor is a persistent focus on individual accomplishment, hard work, and pushing the children to get the best education they can to prepare them to succeed in a highly competitive world.

The African Americans who embrace the street/ghetto culture have defined themselves (and all African Americans) as victims, and perpetuate a subculture steeped in resentment and entitlement. People who define themselves as victims don’t aspire to success, because they’ve already conceded failure and placed the blame on someone else. Perceived victimization engenders resentment, which justifies a sense of entitlement. Instead of aspiring to rise higher with each successive generation, they sink deeper into the culture of poverty and recrimination, accepting the ghetto as their fate and entitlements as their due.

Participants in the street culture look down on those who work to achieve something better, sneer at education, and prey on those who live according to traditional values. They prey on each other, too. The street culture glorifies violence, drugs, and crime. It thrives on hatred — hatred of whites, hatred of the country in which they live, hatred of other races, and hatred of other African Americans. It’s a culture of self-victimization and false entitlement, and it will forever resist assimilation because its values are antithetical to the values of mainstream America.

This subculture, exploited by the media, and pandered to by black leaders, makes it much harder for those who want to rise up, who want to participate in the opportunities of mainstream American culture, and who want to leave a legacy of success for their children instead of a legacy of failure and resentment.

There is no question that African Americans have suffered from persecution and discrimination in this country. But, throughout human history, cultures have overrun, oppressed, abused, enslaved, and persecuted other cultures. (See What about the Jews?) That doesn’t make it right. It’s wrong. But history goes on. The survivors survive and adapt, and cultures change and evolve. But individuals don’t succeed, and cultures don’t evolve, by clinging to victimhood or by accepting/demanding entitlements to sustain the status quo. They survive, succeed, and evolve by overcoming and, by overcoming, becoming stronger.

Leaders whose truly desire to help their people achieve success do not preach hate. Hate is a cancer that eats the soul, and is ultimately more harmful to those who hate than to those who are hated. They do not preach victimization, resentment, and separatism; they teach individual accomplishment, responsibility, and assimilation. They don’t lead their people deeper into the ghetto mentality that holds them back and keeps them firmly entrenched in the ghetto; they lead them out of it. Those misguided or narcissistic leaders who reinforce the barriers that separate their people from all the freedoms and opportunities that America has to offer should be repudiated, not supported, by those who have successfully assimilated and who know there’s more to life than the everlasting ghetto.

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What About the Jews?

Moses led the Jews out of slavery in Egypt and, after forty years in the desert, brought them to the Promised Land. In the sixth century B.C., the Babylonians overran their land, demolished their Temple, sold many Israelites into slavery, and drove the rest into exile. After the Baylonians were defeated by the Persians, many Jews returned and rebuilt the Temple. But, in the first century A.D., the Romans destroyed the entire city of Jerusalem and, once again, drove out all the Jews who weren’t sold into slavery. After being forced from their homeland for the second time, the Jewish people dispersed throughout the Middle East and what later became known as Europe.

Distrust of outsiders was common then and, wherever the exiled Israelites went, they were ostracized by the local population. European Jews were not permitted to own land, or to work in any agriculture-related field, or to hold any job that required membership in a trade guild. Well into the 19th century, they were forced by law to live in ghettos, and throughout the 19th century, they were victims of pogroms. In the 20th century, they were rounded up and sent to death camps by the Nazis, with the goal of ultimately exterminating the entire Jewish race.

But the Ashkenazi Jews were neither destroyed nor defeated. The ordeals they endured strengthened their resolve to not only survive, but to overcome and rise above their circumstances. They reacted to persecution and oppression by developing a culture of determined self-reliance and dedication to personal achievement, along with helping and encouraging each other. When Jewish children were prohibited from attending public schools, the Jews formed their own schools in the ghettos and tutored their children themselves. Being barred from trades and agriculture, the few professions open to them required skills in math and business, so education was a high priority.

After six million Jews were slaughtered in the Holocaust, many of the survivors left Europe never to return. The land that is now Israel was an arid desert then, undeveloped, and thought by many to be undevelopable. After the dissolution of the Ottoman Empire, that entire area was divided up by the United Nations to establish the current Arab states. The area called the Palestinian Territory was set up as a British Mandate, as it was not a part of any nation, and had no government of its own. Because this area was sparsely populated, and because of the historical connection, it was determined to be the most viable place to establish a homeland for the displaced Jews. The founders of the new Israeli nation offered automatic citizenship to any who were living there who desired to stay, and cautioned that those who left would not be permitted to return and claim citizenship later. Many Arabs did stay and became full Israeli citizens, but many fled out of fear and ignorance, believing the propaganda spread by the neighboring Arab states.

The surrounding Arab states vehemently objected to having a Jewish state in their midst. They swore that “Israel will be wiped off the map” and “every Jew will be driven into the sea.” They immediately set about attacking Israel, bombarding it from every border, forcing the Israelis to defend their existence from the very start, even as they struggled to build a new nation. But the Jews had learned a hard lesson in Europe, and they understood what it meant to either fight or die. This time, they were prepared to fight back. They were already accustomed to hardship, and brought with them a culture of diligent perseverance. They relentlessly pursued their dream of establishing a land of freedom and Democracy in the middle of the unforgiving desert. Though continually beset with wars and terrorism, against seemingly insurmountable odds, they managed to build a new nation, with modern cities and a thriving agricultural and high tech-economy, where previously there was nothing but poverty and sand. But still, they’re surrounded by enemies on all sides, who seek the destruction of their nation, and they live in constant vigilance against terrorist attacks.

Not all the Jews who fled Europe went to Israel. A great many came to the United States. Though many had lost everything in the Holocaust, and came here with little or no possessions, they brought with them their culture of survival and self-sufficiency, their strong work ethic and belief in education as the road to progress. Those values served them well in this land of freedom and opportunity. Like every other immigrant group, they started out huddling together in ghettos. But the Jews had had enough of ghettos in Europe, and were quick to realize the value of assimilation. They had no sense of entitlement to anything from anybody, but were grateful for the opportunity to earn an honest living in whatever way they could, and to educate their children, and reap the rewards of their own efforts. They fit right in with the American ideal, eager to leverage every opportunity. They made sure their children got the best educations they could, and with each successive generation, they worked their way higher up the socio-economic ladder.

But still there are people who, out of envy or ignorance, resent the Jews for the very successes they fought so hard to achieve, and find excuses to dismiss their accomplishments or accuse them of having “unfair advantages.” Such is human nature.

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Guilt by Assimilation

According to the latest census data, until the mid-1990s, over 30% of all African Americans lived in poverty. Since then, the percentage has dropped into the 20s and, since 2000, it has never exceeded 25%. Clearly, there’s an accelerating upward economic trend among African Americans.

According to other census data, in the 1980s, only 51.2% of African Americans had a high school education, and only 8.4% had a college education. By 2006, 80.7% had a high school education and 18.5% were college graduates. That’s pretty impressive. African Americans are not only better educated and better off economically now than at any point in history, but the rate of progress has increased dramatically over the last 20 years.

The current generation of African Americans have much greater opportunities than their parents’ generation had. And their parents’ generation had vastly greater opportunities than their parents’ generation had. That’s the good news.

The bad news is that, among both blacks and whites, there’s a widespread and destructive stereotype of African American culture, based on what is actually a minority of African Americans, — the ghetto culture. The ghetto culture, even though a minority, gets all the media attention. TV, movies, music, hip hop chic, etc. all glorify this violent, crime-ridden, drug-fueled, defiantly anti-white subculture, and foster the impression that this is the “real” black culture. And the worse news is, blacks who have no part in this subculture are made to feel somehow guilty, or “less black,” for the very reason that they have nothing to do with it.

Those who are immersed in the ghetto subculture, either because they’re not motivated to work their way out of it, or because they’ve found ways to profit from it, have discovered the power of guilt they hold over many blacks who have assimilated into the mainstream of American culture. Those in the ghetto subculture minority jump on every opportunity to prey on that guilt, either to drag down those who have soared above them, or to manipulate and take advantage of them in any way they can. Many successful professional black Americans find themselves susceptible to these racial guilt trips. Aware of being a minority in the milieu in which they live and work, they feel an artificial connection to a subculture in which blacks appear to be the majority, thinking that, on some level, that’s where they “belong.” Nothing could be more false or insidious.

Every ethnic group that has come to this country started out clustering together in ghettos for support, and had to fight against ignorance and stereotypes until they gradually assimilated into the mainstream culture. That’s how the melting pot that is America works. It may be wrong to stereotype and automatically distrust those who are different, but it’s part of human nature. It goes back to pre-civilization, where survival depended on banding together with others who shared certain commonalities, and fighting off marauding intruders seeking to usurp their territory. Fear of “otherness” is genetically encoded in our species. As civilized humans, we’ve learned to overcome that atavistic instinct, but its vestiges are still there, lurking beneath the surface in all of us.

From an anthropological perspective, the fear of “otherness” is resolved by assimilation. An “other” becomes part of a society by adapting to the culture, adopting the social mores, and becoming a contributing member of the community. There’s nothing wrong with assimilation. It’s part of the natural evolution of societies. This country has become the great country it is today through the assimilation of all kinds of people from all over the world, benefiting both the country and the people who choose to share in its culture and leverage the myriad opportunities it offers.

The path to assimilation for African Americans has been longer than for other cultures in this country. There are many reasons for that, most of which are beyond the scope of this post. But, certainly, the burden of false guilt that successful black people are made to feel for not being “black enough” can only be counterproductive. It’s the successful African Americans, who are following the natural course of social adaptation, progress, and upward mobility, who are promoting the best interests of their race. There is no shame in that. The shame is on those who would hold them back.

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Barack Obama — Man of Mystery

Barack Obama has captured the imagination of the nation. He’s so wholesome, so sincere, so charismatic and charming, he almost comes off as naive. But underneath his ultra-smooth exterior, he’s obviously a very complex, and very conflicted, man.

The Chicago Tribune article, The Not-So-Simple Story of Barack Obama’s Youth tells the following story about his reinterpretation of a difficult period in his life, when he was attending a private boarding school in Hawaii.

In his best-selling autobiography, “Dreams from My Father,” Obama describes having heated conversations about racism with another black student, “Ray.” The real Ray, Keith Kakugawa, is half black and half Japanese. In an interview with the Tribune on Saturday, Kakugawa said he always considered himself mixed race, like so many of his friends in Hawaii, and was not an angry young black man.

He said he does recall long, soulful talks with the young Obama and that his friend confided his longing and loneliness. But those talks, Kakugawa said, were not about race. “Not even close,” he said, adding that Obama was dealing with “some inner turmoil” in those days.

So, Obama sometimes reinterprets real life to better to suit the myth. He seems to see his life as a sort of parable, in which the message is more important than the actual facts. Don’t all politicians do that, though? Perhaps so. But Obama is supposed to be different. The very thing that appeals to his loyal following is that he represents a whole new breed of politician. — In short, a politician you can trust.

Another example of reinterpretation of reality is his reaction to the recent publicity about his pastor and spiritual advisor. Obama claims to have attended church every Sunday for the last 20+ years. Yet, he claims to have never heard his pastor, the Rev. Jeremiah Wright, make any militant remarks about the evils of America, or of white people, or how we deserved 9/11. The videos of the Rev. Jeremiah Wright, and the reactions of the congregation, would seem to indicate that these are familiar themes to his parishioners. Was Obama just not listening to the parts he didn’t want to hear? For over 20 years?

Barack Obama was raised without any religious affiliation. His mother had exposed him to a number of religions, including Christianity, when he was growing up, but she did not subscribe to any of them. Obama himself never felt drawn to any particular religion until he encountered the Trinity United Church of Christ in the 1980s. It was the Rev. Jeremiah Wright who inspired him to embrace the Church and become immersed in that particular brand of Christianity.

The Rev. Jeremiah Wright preaches that Jesus was a poor black man, living under an oppressive white regime (the Romans). Much of the teachings of his church are about the oppression of the blacks, and the evil of the rich white people who run this country. He has a close personal relationship with the militant, anti-Semitic, black separatist leader, Louis Farakkhan. The angry, militant message of racial separatism spewed by the Rev. Jeremiah Wright seems antithetical to Obama’s message of unity and his calm insistence that his candidacy has nothing to do with race. If Obama is so race-agnostic, one can’t help but wonder why, of all the churches in the country, he would be exculsively drawn to one that’s so focused on such a racially charged message.

When I first heard some of the things Michelle Obama said about her feelings toward this country, they struck me as very peculiar. But now that we have some insight into the Obama family’s spiritual life, it all starts to make sense. Obama has tried to distance himself from the dire imprecations of the Rev. Jeremiah Wright against America and against white people, but how could he immerse himself and his family in this racially charged atmosphere every Sunday for over 20 years, and fail to notice it? Why would someone who feels race is not relevant want to expose his young daughters to such radical hate speech as the Rev. Jeremiah Wright habitually preaches? It just isn’t credible — unless he has one of those personality disorders that cause the sufferer to dissociate from experiences too disturbing to acknowledge, resulting in a bifurcated personality.

Obama is clearly a far more complex person than his public persona reveals. The glimpses we’re starting to see into the personal life of the man behind the public persona have vaguely disturbing undertones, like in a movie where you get subtle hints that the almost-too-perfect protagonist isn’t what he seems to be… It isn’t just a question of the indisputably poor judgment of someone in Obama’s position making someone so politically incorrect his spiritual advisor. The more ominous question is what are the deep undercurrents in Obama’s character that draw him to people like Wright and, for that matter, his wife, who are so outspoken in their distrust and seeming hatred for the very country of which Obama desires to become president.

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Nuclear Terrorism — Coming Soon

There are three steps required to build nuclear weapons.

  1. You need to have a missile capable of delivering the bomb to its target.
  2. You need to process a sufficient quantity of enriched uranium to produce a nuclear bomb.
  3. You need to assemble a warhead and attach it to the missile.

Iran already has a missile capable of delivering a nuclear bomb. Last month, Iran conducted a successful test of their upgraded three-stage Shahab-3B missile. According to Viktor Yesin, former Chief of Staff of Russia’s Strategic Missile Force, the tests demonstrated Iran’s capacity to produce rocket engines that would give these missiles a range of 2,500 miles or more. With that range, they could easily reach targets in Europe. (With strap-on boosters, they could potentially reach North America.) Iran insists their intentions for this missile are entirely peaceful, referring to it as a “space launch vehicle” for orbiting satellites.

However, evidence presented at the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) last month revealed detailed designs from Iranian military labs for a nuclear warhead, including how it would fit in a Shahab-3 missile. Other evidence included documentation of experiments with warheads and missile trajectories where “the height of the burst … didn’t make sense for conventional warheads,” according to a senior diplomat who attended the IAEA meeting. IAEA Director General Oli Heinonen commented on an Iranian video showing mock-ups of a missile reentry vehicle that it was “configured in a way that strongly suggests it was meant to carry a nuclear warhead.”

Iran will have sufficient weapons grade uranium to make a nuclear bomb within the next two years. The European Commission Joint Research Center (JRC) recently ran computer simulations that modeled the centrifuges that Iran is currently operating at its Natanz nuclear facility. Based on the simulations, they determined that Iran could produce sufficient quantities of enriched uranium to make a nuclear bomb by the end of this year (operating at optimal efficiency) or by 2010 (operating at only 25% efficiency). Iran claims their uranium enrichment program is intended for “purely industrial purposes” to generate electricity.

The U.N. Security Council adopted a new resolution last week, imposing further sanctions on Iran for refusing to cease its uranium enrichment program. Iranian president Ahmadinejad beat them to the punch in making it clear that he doesn’t care. In a televised interview last month, he said “If they want to continue with that path of sanctions, we will not be harmed. They can issue resolutions for 100 years.”

Iran could assemble a nuclear warhead in a matter of months, once they have enough enriched uranium. The National Intelligence Estimate issued in December, which determined that Iran had “halted” its nuclear weapons program in 2003, was focused exclusively on nuclear warhead development. It explicilty ignored the uranium enrichment program, since Iran claimed that was for “industrial purposes.” Mike McConnell, Director of National Intelligence and primary author of the NIE report, later conceded that developing a nuclear warhead is, in fact, “the least significant part” of a nuclear weapons program. Prior to this NIE report, uranium enrichment has always been used as the key indicator of nuclear weapons development programs. Since the NIE report was made public, Mr. McConnell has expressed concerns about its effect in downplaying the continuing nucelar threat from Iran. On February 26, he said unequivocally “Our estimate is they intend to have a nuclear weapon.”

Iran denies that it has ever engaged in any design or development of nuclear weapons technology. They insist that all of the evidence presented at the IAEA conference last month were forgeries.

But Iran has a proven track record as a world leader in the funding and training of radical Islamic terrorists. Iran’s president, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, has declared that Israel should (and will) be “wiped off the map.” Ahmadinejad was also a member of the Islamic terrorist organization that took 52 Americans hostage at the U.S. embassy in Tehran in 1979. This blog entry lists a Chronology of Islamic Terrorist Attacks Against the U.S. between 1979 and 2001. A great many of these were perpetrated by Hezbollah, which is funded by Iran. Hezbollah also provided explosives training for Al Qaeda operatives, in Iran, prior to 9/11, as discussed the post Sunni and Shiite Unite Against the West.

Why would anybody be gullible enough to believe that this terrorist nation is amassing all the means to build nuclear weapons “for purely industrial purposes?” Israel knows better. Europe knows better. Russia knows better. The U.N. knows better! Nobody in the world believes Iran has stopped its nuclear development program, except for certain people in the U.S. who, because of their own agenda, were all too eager to latch on to the now discredited NIE report, — and even they don’t believe it anymore.

What could be more menacing than nuclear weapons in the hands of a terrorist nation with a suicide bomber mentaility that has repeatedly characterized the United States “the Great Satan?” Is the reason we’re being so squeamish about acknowledging this threat simply because the left keeps calling Bush a liar on account of not finding any WMDs in Iraq? Could it really be possible that our nation’s leaders are more afraid of name-calling from the left than of an increasingly imminent nuclear threat from Iran? That’s a scary thought.

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How to Stop Propagating Poverty

According to the U.S. Census Bureau (2006), 10.8% of adults in the U.S., and 17.4% of children, live below the poverty line. As long as the poor reproduce at a higher rate than the non-poor, it stands to reason that the rate of poverty will  increase. We’ve tried for years to reduce poverty by subsidizing it. That hasn’t worked. No matter how much money we pay poor people to have more children, the numbers of the poor keep increasing.  It would seem that a more effective approach would be to try to reduce the rate of reproduction among the poor.

It’s irresponsible to have more children than one can afford to raise. If the poor have high birth rates because they choose to have more children, the solution is to hold them accountable for their choices. If everybody knew they would have to assume full responsibility for any children they brought into the world, people would stop having more children than they can afford. But, as long as we reward people for doing something we don’t think they should do, why should we be surprised that they keep doing it?

On the other hand, if the poor have more children, not by choice, but by accident, then we should make it easier not to have accidents. The consequences to society of unwanted children go far beyond just the cost of public assistance programs. There are tremendous social costs as well. A great many people who live in poverty are drug and alcohol abusers. Fetal alcohol syndrome causes irreversible neurological damage to the frontal lobes, resulting in the incapacity to develop judgment, empathy, remorse, and conscience. A high percentage of FAS babies are irremediably destined to be sociopaths.

“On average, each FASD individual costs the taxpayer more than $3 million in his or her lifetime (health problems, special education, psychotherapy and counseling, welfare, crime, and the justice system).

More than 60% of prisoners are likely affected by alcohol in utero. It costs approximately $120,000/year to “house” a Young Offender and $82,000 for an adult offender. Punishment does not cure neurological damage.
Fetal Alcohol Disorders Society

Not all unwanted children are born with neurological defects. But even a normal infant, born to a mother who resents their existence and is ill-equipped to raise them, isn’t likely to grow into a well-adjusted productive member of society. Consider the mother who’s addicted to drugs, and will leave her baby with anyone while she goes out to find her next fix. Consider the children of prostitutes whose closest thing to a father figure is their mother’s pimp. In our inner cities, generation after generation grow up immersed in a lifestyle of drugs and crime, accepting that as normal, because it’s the way they were raised.

Children who grow up neglected or abused tend to end up as either predators or prey. We already have an enormous problem with abuse of social services by people who see themselves as victims of society, and believe the world owes them whatever they can get. We already have an enormous problem with more criminals than we have resources to warehouse. How will we manage to deal with ever-increasing numbers of such people? To reduce the proliferation of poverty, we have to reduce the rate of reproduction among the habitually poor.

I see four ways to accomplish this.

  1. Stop paying people to have babies. Those who can afford to raise children don’t need to be subsidized, and those who can’t shouldn’t have them.
  2. Make birth control readily available. Providing birth control does not encourage immoral or irresponsible behavior. Obviously, that behavior happens anyway. I’m far more concerned with the consequences to society of the lack of birth control than with making sure people who don’t care are aware of our disapproval.
  3. People who are too irresponsible, or stoned, or whatever, to use birth control are likely to be too irresponsible, or stoned, or whatever, to raise a child. Any children they end up having are at a high risk for the kind of irreversible neurological defects that exact a huge toll on society. While I’m opposed to abortions of viable fetuses, I do not oppose early-term abortions. In some situations, there are worse things than not being born.
  4. Sterilization should be made an option for people seeking abortions. For women seeking abortions at government expense, I’m in favor of offering a monetary incentive  for voluntary sterilization. It would be far more cost effective in the long run to pay a lump sum up front than to pay indefinitely after the child is born, and it would reduce the overall number of abortions as well as the number of future children to be raised at taxpayer expense.

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Protectionism Isn’t Patriotic

“It’s just a disaster. I’m extremely disappointed. It’s just one of the worst things in my whole life. I am just shocked over this.”  — Rep. Norm Dicks, D-Wash.

A free market means you have to be competitive. If you can’t deliver the best value, you lose. And that’s exactly as it should be. If we want American technology to be the best in the world, then it has to be able to compete in the world marketplace.

According to Air Force Secretary Michael Wynne, the Northrop Grumann plane that beat out the Boeing contender is not only less expensive, but “across the spectrum, all evaluated, the Northrop Grumman airplane was clearly a better performer.” The Northrop Grumman plane has more troop capacity, more cargo capacity, more fuel capacity, greater reliability, and “superior air-refueling and airlift capability, enabling it to carry out specified [combat] scenarios with fewer aircraft.”

So what should the Pentagon do? Should they waste the taxpayers’ money on less efficient, less reliable, and more expensive planes that would require more aircraft to deliver the same quantity of fuel, exposing more personnel and equipment to unnecessary risk, just so they can award the contract to an American company? Or should they do what any rational decision-maker would do in a free market, and select the product that best satisfies the requirements and delivers the highest return on investment?

This isn’t a case where we’re farming out strategic military technology to a rival foreign power. Building wide body jets isn’t rocket science. There are no military secrets involved.

It isn’t even a case where we’re shipping massive quantities of jobs overseas. The planes are going to be built in Alabama. Last I heard, Alabama is still part of the United States (unless the South seceded again, and nobody noticed). Boeing isn’t going to be laying off any employees because of the loss of this contract; they just won’t be hiring the 2,000 new employees they would have hired if the contract had come through. However, 1,500 new jobs will be created at a new widebody jet plant to be built in Alabama. (Arguably, it’s strategically beneficial to have widebody jet assembly capability in more than one region of the country. Having it all concentrated in one place could be a strategic vulnerability.)

A net loss of 500 potential jobs is unfortunate, but we would stand to lose a lot more by lowering our DoD standards to protect an American company from having to compete in the free market. In a free market, competition drives improvement in goods and services. When you shield a product or company from legitimate competition, or grant them an unearned advantage, the end result is to make them even weaker and less competitive in the future. Any enterprise will reach a stage of stasis and stagnation unless continually motivated by a need to improve. Competition provides that impetus. That’s why competition is good. If Boeing were granted this contract, in spite of their inferiority to the competition, it would further insulate them from any incentive to improve.  

By coddling American companies, protectionism makes our nation weaker, not stronger. How could that be patriotic?

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Alternative Energy and the Law of Unintended Consequences

The environmentalist lobby has been haranguing us for years about alternative energy sources. Fossil fuels = Bad. Alternative energy = Good. Don’t get me wrong. I’m all for alternative energy. However, every alternative energy source comes with its own set of issues. Once it’s implemented (always at great expense), the environmentalists turn to attack the new energy source with the same fervor with which they previously promoted it.

  • Wind farms have been roundly attacked by environmental groups for slicing and dicing migratory birds and decimating local bat populations.
  • Hydroelectric plants have been taken to task for their impact on fish habitats, and environmentalists have successfully litigated for the removal of dams (at great public expense) in salmon spawning areas.
  • Nuclear power is anathema to environmentalists because of the potential for leakage and questions about adequate waste disposal.

But biofuels were supposed to be the ultimate panacea that solved everything from global warming to war in the Middle East. After all, they’re natural, renewable, and, best of all, green! Yet, from both a social and environmental perspective, biofuel production is turning out to be one of the biggest disasters of all.

The environmentalist lobby finally succeeded in getting federal legislation passed to subsidize ethanol production and provide tax incentives to fuel companies to dilute gasoline with it. Some states, like Oregon, have even mandated that all gasoline sold in the state must consist of 10% ethanol. According to an article on Hidden Costs of Corn-Based Ethanol, in the Christian Science Monitor, “ethanol yields about 30% less energy per gallon than gasoline, so mileage drops off significantly.”  (That’s OK, though, because gas is taxed by the gallon, and fewer miles per gallon means more revenue for the state.) Diluting gasoline with ethanol won’t reduce the price per gallon, either, and may even make it higher, due to of the high cost of production and handling. But the negative impact on consumers is acceptable to the environmentalists because, if consumers were environmentally conscious, they wouldn’t be driving cars in the first place…

On the other hand, there are problems with biofuel production that hit a lot closer to home for the politically correct. Our national “investment” in subsidizing bio-fuel production has been so overwhelmingly successful that it’s had the effect of repurposing the majority of our corn crops to ethanol production. It has also motivated farmers to divert production from other crops to crops that can be used for biofuels.

Unfortunately, the unintended consequences of this noble effort have been to raise food prices, not only here in the U.S., but around the world. Rising food prices hit the poor the hardest, and accelerate the spread of poverty. In an article in Foreign Affairs, titled How Biofuels Could Starve the Poor, authors Runge and Senauer said “Filling the 25-gallon tank of an SUV with pure ethanol requires more than 450 pounds of corn – which contains enough calories to feed one person for a year.” Even as food shortages increase in countries where people are already starving, the U.S. is being forced to reduce its international food aid due to rising food costs at home, largely due to the diversion of crops to biofuel production.

The high demand for biofuels is also having an unintended impact on some of the environmentalists’ own pet causes. Palm oil and sugar cane are some of the more efficient biofuel crops. The surge in demand for these crops has been a boon to certain third world economies but has, by the same token, led to the clearing of rainforests to create palm and sugar plantations. The environmentalists don’t like that at all! And here in the U.S., some farmers who previously rotated corn crops with soybean crops are now growing only corn. Not rotating crops strips the topsoil of nutrients, requiring the farmers to use more fertilizers and pesticides, which eventually end up in the water supply.

And, in the end, it turns out that the fossil fuel energy required to produce and process the enormous quantities of corn it takes to convert into biofuel ends up costing almost as much energy as it produces. According to a PBS Science Report, “Producing ethanol yields about 25 percent more energy than is used in growing and harvesting the corn and converting it to fuel.” Given that the ethanol produced is 30% less efficient than gasoline, the whole process results in a net reduction in energy, along with all the social and environmental negatives it engenders. But, once you get the government to latch onto something, it’s awfully hard to reverse, no matter what the unintended consequences.

But, hey, it sure sounded like a good idea, didn’t it? And, after all, it’s the thought that counts…

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We’ve heard a lot about Hope and Change from Senator Obama, but his actual positions on the issues have so far struck me as vague. He almost seems to have become a modern cult figure, with hysterical fans fainting and squealing at his appearances, and all the frenetic excitement he’s generating among the young and ‘young at heart.’ So I decided to visit his Web site and see if I can figure out where he actually stands on some issues.

Naturally, the first issue that drew my attention was the Economy. According to Senator Obama, The Problem with the economy is twofold. The first part of the Problem is that “Wages are Stagnant as Prices Rise.”– As soon as I read that, I thought “Let me guess. He wants to raise the minimum wage.” Sure enough, further down the page, it says “Obama will also increase the minimum wage and index it to inflation to ensure it rises every year.”

Now, those of us who have taken Economics 101 know that’s like a puppy chasing its tail. As wages increase, they drive up the cost of goods and services, which, in turn drives up inflation. Wages being indexed to inflation, this drives up wages even higher, and the cycle perpetuates itself into a never-ending inflationary spiral. Sound like a good idea? Not to a fiscal conservative, perhaps, but the reaction of the average undereducated citizen is “Higher wages? Oh, boy, I’ll get a raise!” And, while Senator Obama may know better, himself, that’s exactly the reaction he’s counting on.

The second part of the Problem with the economy is apparently “Tax Cuts for Wealthy Instead of Middle Class: The Bush tax cuts give those who earn over $1 million dollars a tax cut nearly 160 times greater than that received by middle-income Americans.” Huh? When I read that, I couldn’t help but wonder where Senator Obama is getting his data. 

The Congressional Budget Office releases statistics on the Effective Federal Tax Rates for each year. (The latest figures are from 2005.) The effective tax rates are not the same as tax brackets, but represent the actual taxes paid as a percentage of total gross income from all sources before any deductions, exemptions, credits, etc.

Effective Individual Federal Income Tax Rates
Lowest Quintile -5.6 -6.5 -16.1%
Second Quintile 0.3 -1.0 -433.3%
Third Quintile 3.8 3.0 -21.1%
Fourth Quintile 7.2 6.0 -16.7%
Fifth Quintile 16.3 14.1 -13.5%

The data shows that the middle and lower-middle income distribution catagories have actually received larger effective tax cuts than the upper income categories. So it’s rather difficult to see what Senator Obama is talking about, especially since he didn’t reference any sources for his claim.

Even assuming he’s referring to actual dollar amounts, rather than percentages, it’s hard to imagine that the tax cuts received by those earning over $1 million a year amounted to 160 times (that’s 16,000 percent!) of the tax cuts received by the middle class. It’s true that the top five percent of earners did pay 60.7% of all taxes in 2005 but, in 2001, the top five percent of earners only paid 55.5% of all taxes. That means the wealthiest taxpayers actually paid a higher percentage of all taxes collected in 2005 than in 2001. So how is it they got 160 times the tax cuts that the middle class got? I’m trying to do the math, but it just doesn’t work.

As I said, I can’t help but wonder where Senator Obama got his figures. Perhaps it was a misunderstanding. Perhaps a campaign aide mistranscribed the data, or he misremembered something he thought he had heard. Who knows? Is it important? That depends. Perhaps the actual statistics aren’t as important as the underlying message. But, if so, why quote statistics at all?

Regarding the underlying message, someone sent me a link recently to a very insightful (and entertaining) Modern Fable of Taxing the Rich, written by one of our neighbors to the North. I highly recommend it.

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Published in: on March 2, 2008 at 12:00 am  Comments (6)  
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