The Crazy Liberal Attacks On Scott Walker

In 2010, while insulting Americans who vote for Republicans, President Obama explained that “we’re hardwired not to always think clearly when we’re scared.” Perhaps Obama’s Can’t-Think-Clearly-Because-Scared theory accounts for the spate of recent attacks by liberals on Wisconsin governor Scott Walker, as he emerges as a leading Republican candidate for president in 2016. Nothing else makes any sense.

Recently, the Washington Post published a front page article about Walker, detailing how – gasp! – Walker never graduated from college, but dropped out after three years. Walker himself has explained he left college to take a job, thinking that he would eventually go back and finish, but never got around to it. Yet the liberals at the Post, even though they know the reason for Walker’s decision, still characterize it as a “lingering mystery.”

Taking up the baton on MSNBC, Howard Dean, the former governor of Vermont and a failed candidate for president in 2004 (he of the infamous “Dean Scream”), questioned Walker’s fitness to be president because he lacked a college degree, which according to Dean, makes Walker “unknowledgeable.”

It’s hilarious that someone like Dean is questioning Walker’s educational credentials. Dean may have taken more undergraduate coursework than Walker, but his background is only marginally broader than Walker’s. And although Dean completed medical school, those studies are too specialized to add to the breadth of his general experience.

Both Dean and Walker have served as governors of states, but Dean served as governor of a politically and demographically homogeneous Vermont, a state with only one-tenth the population of Wisconsin. Voters in Wisconsin twice elected Walker governor and he survived a recall election led by public-employee unions. Walker also faced a politically motivated prosecution by a Democratic district attorney that the court finally shut down as abusive. As a governor, Dean can’t hold a candle to Walker.

Dean’s comments about Walker reek of arrogance and nastiness, but they also serve to remind us of how liberals (mis)understand knowledge and its role in society. Liberals like Dean define knowledge as mostly scientific or expert knowledge, of the sort that doctors like Dean might possess. And they ignore knowledge of particular circumstances which we all possess in favor of expert knowledge and the Rule of Experts (hello, Jonathan Gruber).

Knowledge is the foundation of economic progress and prosperity, yet the knowledge of Dean’s experts is limited and harmful when allowed to direct an economy or govern a society. As economist Thomas Sowell has noted:

the limited knowledge and insights of those leaders become decisive barriers to the progress of the whole economy. Even when leaders have more knowledge and insight than the average member of the society, they are unlikely to have nearly as much knowledge and insight as exists scattered among the millions of people subject to their governance.

Last week, the U.S. Dietary Guidelines Advisory Committee announced it will no longer recommend that cholesterol intake be limited to 300 milligrams per day. Apparently, the evidence now shows no link between dietary cholesterol and cholesterol present in the blood. In the view of the committee, cholesterol is no longer a “nutrient of concern for overconsumption.” After almost half a century, the experts are now telling us “never mind.” So much for the “knowledgeable” Howard Dean and the experts.

The attack on Walker’s college experience is incoherent on more than one level, but that hasn’t stopped liberals from continuing to make fools of themselves over Walker in other ways. The Washington Post published an editorial holding Walker responsible for  statements made by – wait for it – Rudy Giuliani, during a private fundraiser for Walker.

During the fundraiser, Giuliani suggested that Obama might not love America. This is mostly true, but it would have been more accurate if Giuliani had said that Obama hates half the people in America – i.e., those who vote for Republicans. Obama makes this clear every few years when he mocks Americans who “cling to their guns and religion,” “can’t think clearly,” or believe they built their own businesses.

Walker did not respond to Giuliani’s statements, which the Post’s editors and opinion writers characterized as “spineless” and “cowardly.” Really? Dana Milbank even went so far as to suggest that Walker’s silence “ought to disqualify him as a serious presidential contender” (whereas a lying Hillary Clinton is a most excellent candidate). Perhaps liberals think Walker should have challenged Giuliani to a duel, or something.

There is no doubt that Walker’s opponents in Wisconsin have searched far and wide for anything that might embarrass him. Obviously, nothing has shown up and if anything, liberals are embarrassing themselves in their latest feeble-minded attempts to criticize Walker.

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FCC Regulation Of Broadband Is Unnecessary

At the end of this month, the Federal Communications Commission will meet to consider whether to issue new rules to regulate the Internet. Under the pretense of maintaining “net neutrality,” the rules would prevent broadband suppliers from blocking the Internet, slowing down service, or creating “fast lanes” for those who pay for faster service. The FCC received over four million comments on the FCC’s proposed rules, most of them supportive.

FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler is proposing that the FCC reclassify the Internet as a communications service under Title II of the 1934 Communications Act (no, that’s not a misprint). Heretofore the FCC has treated the Internet as an information service and the switch to communications would allow it to treat the Internet as a public utility, although Wheeler promises the agency would “forebear” from exercising all of the power it would hold under Title II (insert laugh here).

Advocates of net neutrality are mostly liberals who love the idea of aggressive regulation, and no doubt salivate at the prospect of taxing the Internet. Such advocates argue that government regulation is needed to keep barriers to the Internet low for new websites and applications and to foster innovation. The innovation argument is especially funny coming from liberals whose ideology all but guarantees a stagnant economy and society.

It is doubtful that Internet providers are blocking or slowing down Internet service to the extent imagined by net neutrality supporters, so the FCC’s proposed rules seem to be a solution in search of a problem. Questions about slowing or prioritizing Internet traffic, however, imply that broadband congestion may be a genuine problem. Which is to say that broadband is a scarce resource that appears to be in short supply.

But appearances can be deceiving:  scarcity doesn’t necessarily create shortages. As we learned in Econ 101, government price controls usually cause shortages by keeping prices below the level that would otherwise exist in the market. Artificially low prices increase consumer demand at the same time they induce sellers to reduce supply and, as these incentives work themselves out, say hello to a shortage. Scarce resources are best shared through a market system where prices truly reflect supply and demand.

Broadband providers operate in (mostly) free markets, but their pricing practices lead to the same shortages as government price controls. Customers typically pay providers a flat monthly price instead of paying for the actual amount of data they use each month. Under flat-rate pricing, heavy broadband users have little incentive to control their consumption so as to save some broadband for the rest of us.

The answer to the broadband congestion problem isn’t heavy-handed regulation by the FCC, but a simple rule that requires broadband providers to charge customers for the amount of data they use. We pay for almost everything we consume in our daily lives on a per-unit basis, and Internet usage should be treated the same. Under a metered-pricing rule, market forces would still determine prices, not the FCC.

Of course, the broadband hogs will throw a fit at the idea of paying for the data they actually use. Heaven forbid that heavy users should moderate their streaming of movies, videos, and games (not to mention their porn videos and, ahem, related activities). And we might also expect the liberal tech companies to join the outcry. Perhaps Wikipedia will threaten to shut itself down again in protest.

But if broadband suppliers switched to a metered-pricing approach, the congestion problem and net neutrality concerns would disappear almost immediately. At some point, however, increasing demand would cause prices to rise as capacity is squeezed. Heavy users may not like this, but as pointed out above, increasing prices would provide an incentive for suppliers to increase capacity, which would ease the pressure on price.

No one could legitimately complain about metered-pricing. Heavy broadband users have no grounds for demanding that light users subsidize their movies, videos, and gaming, which is one result of flat-rate pricing. And heavy users would respond to metered-pricing by incrementally reducing the number of movies and videos they view. No one, not even low-income users, would be deprived of email, shopping or reading the news or gossip on-line because these are not the marginal activities.

Although a simple solution to the broadband congestion problem exists, the Democratic majority at the FCC will probably vote to impose regulations anyway. Like the broadband hogs, liberals are unable to restrain themselves. No sector of the economy is safe from them and our lives are worse off for it.

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Minimum Wage Incoherence

As of the beginning of 2015, twenty-one states raised their minimum wage levels, ranging from 15 cents an hour in Washington state to $1.25 in South Dakota, and liberals are celebrating. As Steven Pearlstein of the Washington Post sees it, and he imagines that almost everyone else agrees with him (no doubt because his views are sooo reasonable and correct), the increases serve “economic justice,” whatever that means (see here).

As Pearlstein points out, the economic case against the minimum wage is that an increase (above the value of what workers produce) reduces employment of low-skilled workers due to the “iron law” of downward sloping demand. This results in a misallocation of resources and lessens market efficiency (although Pearlstein doesn’t mention this point). But Pearlstein questions this conventional view, claiming there are “countless” studies showing that minimum wage laws have no or negligible effect on low-wage employment.

The evidence supporting minimum wage laws is not as convincing as Pearlstein and other liberals like to suggest. In fact, the opposite is true. In a 2006 survey of the new research beginning in the early 1990s, economists David Neumark and William Wascher found that

A sizable majority of the studies surveyed in this monograph give a relatively consistent (although not always statistically significant) indication of negative employment effects of minimum wages. In addition, among the papers we view as providing the most credible evidence, almost all point to negative employment effects, both for the United States as well as for many other countries.

But never mind. After ignoring this evidence, Pearlstein reviews how business owners might deal with an increase in the minimum wage. For example, fast-food restaurants may pass along much of the wage increase to consumers in the form of higher prices, which in turn would reduce sales and employment. Pearlstein points out, however, that consumers who don’t buy more costly Big Mac meals would instead buy more Kraft macaroni and cheese, so employment at Kraft would increase.

Employment at Kraft may increase, not to mention that employment at firms producing automated equipment would also increase as low-skilled workers lose their jobs when replaced by automated equipment. Overall employment levels may not change much, but the question is what happens to low-skilled workers. And it’s unlikely that equipment manufacturers, or even Kraft, would add low-skilled workers as demand for their products increases.

Pearlstein goes on to suggest that workers who don’t lose their jobs as the minimum wage increases would have more money that they would spend on goods and services produced by other low-skilled workers, thus maintaining employment levels. But when the wage increase is passed along in the form of higher prices, the extra money that low-skilled workers would receive comes from the pockets of consumers who could just as well spend that money in the same way. So this point adds nothing to Pearlstein’s argument.

According to Pearlstein, business owners who are unable to pass on the minimum wage increase to consumers might offset the increase by reducing pay for supervisors or other higher-paid workers. But this is delusional. Any business that reduces pay for workers to below market levels will quickly lose those employees to its competitors. Pearlstein also believes that increased pay would enhance worker productivity because, after all, increased pay works as an incentive for “bonus-laden” CEOs. This is simply more delusion because a minimum wage increase is not a bonus.

Surprisingly, Pearlstein neglects to tout the minimum wage as an effective antipoverty tool, something that liberals from FDR to Ted Kennedy have emphasized. But in this case, the omission is appropriate because the typical beneficiary of the minimum wage is a part-time worker who is not a member of a poor family or the head of a household. As Jason Riley points out in his book Please Stop Helping Us: How Liberals Make It Harder for Blacks to Succeed:

Most poor families don’t have any workers. Raising the minimum wage does nothing for them, and to the extent that it reduces their employment opportunities, it’s a net negative. Reducing the number of entry-level jobs keeps people poor by limiting their ability to enter or remain in the workforce, where they have the opportunity to obtain the skills necessary to increase their productivity and pay, and ultimately improve their lives.

The minimum wage is not an effective antipoverty tool, so Pearlstein instead claims that the ultimate reason for raising the minimum wage is that “fairness matters.” Yes it does, but only a liberal would rely on “fairness” to justify government interference in the labor market that reduces entry-level jobs for those who especially need them (such as young African-American men) in favor of wage increases for middle class workers above the value of what they produce.

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New Rules Of Engagement For The Police

In response to the deaths in Ferguson, Mo., and Staten Island, N.Y., liberals are calling for new rules of engagement for the police in the United States. Writing in the Washington Post, Ian Ayres and Daniel Markovits, two law professors at Yale, argue that police should not be permitted to initiate force when “confronting misdemeanors and other less serious crimes” (see here). The authors believe that a forcible arrest for a misdemeanor is not proportional to the crime and can lead to bad outcomes.

Before considering the law professors’ proposal, however, we should note how Ayres and Markovits characterize the incident in Ferguson. Michael Brown committed a strong-arm robbery, assaulted a police officer, and resisted arrest, and yet Ayres and Markovits can see nothing more than “jaywalking” in all of this. Not only do they misunderstand what jaywalking is (walking in the middle of the street so that cars are forced to drive around goes beyond jaywalking), but they are clearly prejudiced and maybe even delusional.

In any event, rather than using force to make an arrest, Ayres and Markovits suggest that police officers who wish to take someone into custody issue a warning “like the Miranda warning.” Police would inform a suspect that if he does not voluntarily come to the station with the officer, the suspect will have committed yet a second crime for which he may be punished. If the suspect still refuses to consent to the arrest, then the officer must obtain a warrant from a judge before a forcible arrest would be permitted for both of the crimes.

Okay, but there appears to be a wee flaw in the authors’ suggestion:  what if the suspect refuses to identify himself to the police? Failure to identify oneself may or may not be a crime, depending on the state, but even if it were a crime, it would surely rank as only a misdemeanor, given that the original crime would be a misdemeanor. So we seem to be up to three crimes for which forcible arrest would not be permitted because they are all misdemeanors. And a suspect who refuses to identify himself would prevent the police from obtaining an arrest warrant or even writing a ticket for the infraction.

Ayres and Markovits cannot possibly believe that any suspects would disclose their names and addresses when a refusal would allow them to walk away free and clear. So Ayres and Markovits are simply calling for repeal of misdemeanors and other minor crimes, at least when committed in urban minority areas, and are only pretending to call for modification of policing procedure.

Many of the protesters in Ferguson and New York have carried signs demanding the end to “broken windows” policing. Under broken windows theory, a community refuses to tolerate small crimes and works to prevent deterioration of physical conditions in the neighborhood, an effort which is thought to reduce more serious crime. The protesters claim that such policing doesn’t work, and when Ayres and Markovits suggest reform, they agree with the broken windows claim, but in a way that avoids addressing the substance of the issue.

Ayres and Markovits claim that their new rules of engagement would promote “law and order.” We will learn whether or not this is true soon enough, after liberals put an end to broken windows policing, which is already happening to some extent in New York City and across the country. This means that liberals will use minority neighborhoods as laboratories for their experiment and African-Americans will serve as guinea pigs (shades of the Tuskegee syphilis experiment).

So the question really is:  have the African-Americans who will be the future victims of the new policing experiments in their neighborhoods given their consent?

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Obama Foreign Policy

Appeasing America’s enemies has been a mainstay of American foreign policy for the last six years and now President Obama has the gall to criticize Sony Pictures for its decision to cancel the release of the film The Interview. America won’t stand up to anti-American tyrants, but a private company should stand up to the North Koreans. O, the hypocrisy.

Obama declared that Sony “made a mistake” in its decision to shelve the film and pledged that America would respond to the North Korean hack attack on Sony “in a place and manner and time that we choose.” No doubt the North Koreans are shaking in their boots. At the rate he’s going, Obama will probably end up extending diplomatic recognition to North Korea, following his new approach with Cuba.

On December 17, Obama announced that the U.S. will begin to normalize relations with Cuba. The Washington Post criticized the decision in an editorial, accusing Obama of giving the Castro regime an undeserved bailout (see here). This is true, but as the paper also printed an article in which reporters tripped over themselves in their haste to praise the decision (see here), it seems the editors at the Post can’t make up their minds about the issue.

Calling the Cuba deal a “breakthrough,” the Post article reports that the new policy “emphasizes pragmatism over ideology, engaging enemies rather than isolating them and setting aside historic grievances in order to reshape the future.” According to the Post, Obama’s speech “read like his entire foreign policy philosophy in microcosm.”

Okay, but let’s review that policy. Soon after Obama took office in 2009, the Benghazi Liar a/k/a Hillary Clinton gave Russia’s foreign minister a mock “reset” button (Obama’s version of the Staples “Easy” button) to symbolize the start of a new era of relations between the U.S. and Russia. Obama later scrapped missile defense projects in Poland and the Czech Republic because of Russian objections and entered into a new nuclear arms reduction treaty that generally favored Russia.

As we know, dealings with Russia have not been easy at all, despite the button. Russia responded to Obama’s “pragmatism” and “engagement” by taking Crimea from Ukraine, creating other unrest in eastern Ukraine, and opposing American positions on Syria and Iran’s nuclear program. And now, Putin apparently is courting Kim Jong Un of North Korea in the wake of the Sony hacking incident.

After taking office, Obama also pursued engagement with Iran’s mullahs. During this courtship, he looked away when Iranians demonstrated for democracy and ignored deadlines for negotiations over Iran’s nuclear weapons program. Evidently, Obama believed his personality would cause the mullahs to slap themselves on the forehead and realize they were wrong all along. Time to stop the nuclear program, accept the right of Israel to exist, and become buddies with the Great Satan. Yeah, that’s the ticket.

True, the U.S. imposed sanctions on Iran, but that was mostly the doing of Congress, which dragged Obama along kicking and screaming all the way. Obama has not kept the pressure on Iran with either sanctions or negotiation deadlines and it’s all but certain that Iran will soon have nuclear weapons or at least possess quick “breakout” capability.

Given Obama’s track record, we shouldn’t expect much from his “engagement” with Cuba or his vow to respond to North Korea. Perhaps Obama or Joe Biden will lecture North Korea like they lectured Russia, explaining that we now live in the 21st century and that nations should not act like it’s the 19th century. But that will be hard to do as the Internet and hacking didn’t even exist in the 19th century.

Obama’s critics think he is either incompetent or naïve. The latter is more likely as Obama seems to believe that America’s enemies are not enemies, but victims of past American aggression. Thus, America must become a better international citizen, which for liberals means that, as Charles Krauthammer has pointed out, American policy should be “subservient to, dependent on, constricted by the will – and interests – of other nations.”

This may be true, but based on Obama’s recent unilateral and heavy-handed actions on domestic matters, he may sympathize with authoritarian regimes simply because the authoritarian impulse lies deep within him. The ability of a leader to impose his will on others with little hindrance may explain his attraction to and appeasement of Russia, Iran, and now Cuba.

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Thousands Rally For Self-Improvement

It appears that alternative universes in fact do exist. Experts have determined that the following news item, describing last Saturday’s “Justice For All” rally in Washington D.C., is from another dimension. Well, it may not be our universe, but at least some people in some reality are moving in the right direction (see  here for our world’s version of the events):

Washington (AP) – In a great display of unity, thousands of black marchers joined a rally in Washington with calls to stop blaming others for the conditions under which many African-Americans live.

Speaking in the cold afternoon air, passing the microphone like a baton, one speaker after another urged the crowd to accept that internal cultural sources may account for many of the problems of the black community.

Mothers and fathers declared it time to acknowledge that crime rates are too high in too many black communities. “It is not surprising that the increased police presence required in high crime areas leads to confrontations that might turn out badly,” said one demonstrator.

“I’ve never seen anything so beautiful,” said the Rev. Al Sharpton, sensing the desire of the crowd to state the truth about the black underclass after decades of denial and to commit to gaining the knowledge, skills, and habits necessary for African-Americans to fully participate in the prosperity of the nation.

The march in D.C. was one of many that took place across the nation. Under the slogan “National Day of Humility,” rallies were also held in New York, Boston, Los Angeles, San Francisco, Bloomington, Ind., and Lexington, Ky., among other places.

In D.C., as well as other cities, police declared the rallies peaceful with no arrests.

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Grand Juries and Racial Profiling

First, a St. Louis county grand jury declined to indict a white police officer in the shooting death of Michael Brown, and now a grand jury in Staten Island has also declined to indict a white police officer in the death of Eric Garner.

Josh Voorhees of Slate magazine finds it impossible not to pair the two cases:  white officers, black suspects, unarmed, public demonstrations, and no indictment (see here). Except Voorhees forgets to mention that both men resisted arrest and both Brown and Garner were as large or larger than an NFL offensive lineman (the liberal Washington Post cannot even bring itself to use the words “resisting arrest,” instead calling the interaction an “encounter”).

Yet these facts help explain what happened. When a police officer faces resistance from a suspect that outweighs him by 100 to 150 pounds, it’s not hard to understand why he might quickly use lethal force. The uncertainty surrounding these circumstances creates the policing equivalent of the “fog of war.” And a suspect who continues to walk toward an officer, even with hands raised, is not surrendering. He is only creating more confusion that makes it even more likely that something bad will happen.

Although the evidence indicates that Michael Brown did not have his hands up, the hands-up gesture has become the symbol of protesters everywhere, including several members of Congress. Recently, five players on the NFL’s St. Louis Rams raised their arms in the hands-up gesture as they walked onto the field. By continuing to move forward instead of standing still, they at least got part of Brown’s action right. Maybe next time, the players will light a joint and reenact the strong-armed robbery portion of Brown’s activities on that morning.

Many people who support the Ferguson grand jury’s decision are surprised and upset by the Staten Island decision. Voorhees is not surprised that neither grand jury voted to indict because, as he explains, the default setting in our criminal justice system is to believe that an “on-duty officer who takes another citizen’s life was justified in doing so.”

Voorhees believes that this basic assumption should be changed, but given the difficulty of police work, the “justified” presumption is a reasonable starting point. Although the presumption sets up an obstacle, it is rebuttable, so strong evidence can overcome it. The Staten Island grand jury obviously found the evidence insufficient to overcome the presumption for a criminal action, which requires some degree of intent (although the case will continue through civil proceedings that are sure to follow).

Both grand juries did their job – the easiest thing in the world for the jurors would have been to wash their hands by indicting the police officers and letting someone else make the ultimate decisions. Unfortunately, liberals are already pointing to these cases as additional examples of system-wide racial profiling and mistreatment of minorities and the Obama administration is ready to announce new racial profiling regulations.

With a population of 315 million, individual incidents of police misconduct are bound to pop up in this country, but large scale racial profiling is unlikely. Liberals call it profiling if members of a group are disproportionately stopped by the police when compared with the proportion of that group in the general population. But as many have pointed out, the proper comparison is between the proportion of those stopped by the police with the proportion of the group in question engaged in the behavior for which the police stop people.

A famous study of racial profiling on the New Jersey turnpike in the late 1990s illustrates the proper approach. The study showed that although African-Americans comprise 13% of the population, they accounted for 25% of the speeders on the turnpike. Profiling could be claimed only if African-Americans accounted for more than 25% of the stops, not 13%. In fact, they accounted for only 23% of the stops so they were under-stopped.

Skepticism about systemic profiling is based on understanding that crime rates are not the same for all ethnic and racial groups. But liberals cannot accept this fact and continue to assume that profiling is rampant and widespread. They are deniers who will work to undercut law enforcement wherever they can, to the detriment of African-Americans who make up the majority of the victims of crime.

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