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14 Jan 02:22

Google managers kept blacklists of conservative employees — and one manager even considered holding 'trials', alleges a new lawsuit (GOOG, GOOGL)

by Julie Bort

Google logo office employee

  • Employees at Google who express "conservative viewpoints in politically-charged debates" may find themselves blacklisted by managers at the company, alleges an explosive new lawsuit.
  • And by blacklisted, that means their names may appear on actual lists, the suit contends.
  • Google employees who identify as conservative say they have complained to HR and senior management about the blacklists.
  • These allegations are part of a lawsuit filed on behalf of fired Google engineer James Damore that seeks to represent white males and conservatives who feel like they've been the target of discrimination.


A well-known Republican San Francisco lawyer has filed a lawsuit against Google seeking to represent white, male or conservative employees who believe the company has discriminated against them.

The lawyer is Harmeet Dhillon, a partner with the Dhillon Law Group in San Francisco and the former chairwoman of the Republican Party in San Francisco.  

She has been on the hunt for such victims since she took on fired Google engineer James Damore as a client in August. And on Monday she presented the first fruits of her research in a 161-page complaint that's chock full of allegations and screenshots.

The most jaw-dropping allegation is that "Google publicly endorsed blacklists" of conservatives. The lawsuit claims that several hiring managers publicly vowed not to hire people categorized as "hostile voices" aka conservatives.

For instance, one manager wrote on one internal forum, "I will never, ever hire/transfer you onto my team. Ever."

Another manager wrote in another, "I keep a written blacklist of people whom I will never allow on or near my team, based on how they view and treat their coworkers. That blacklist got a little longer today."

The lawsuit cites another post from another hiring manager that said, "If you express a dunderheaded opinion about religion, about politics, or about ‘social justice’, it turns out I am allowed to think you’re a halfwit... I’m perfectly within my rights to mentally categorize you in my [d*ckhead] box... Yes, I maintain (mentally, and not (yet) publicly)."

Interestingly, the lawsuit doesn't show the statements that provoked such strong reactions from these managers. It only characterizes them as "tactfully expressed conservative viewpoints in politically-charged debates."

Whether expressing anti-diversity sentiments at a workplace is a protected "conservative viewpoint" or, rather, a form of bigotry that actually creates a hostile environment is at the heart of the case — and it reflects a broader debate gripping the country under the divisive presidency of Donald Trump.

"Something resembling a trial"

The lawsuit shows that in at least one case, a manager (a white woman), was contemplating keeping some kind of actual, public list of employee names.

The manager wrote on an internal post, "I am thinking of something like a google doc that accepts comments, and which calls out those googlers that are unsupportive of diversity," she wrote.

She wondered, in the post, whether special "trials" should be held for employees nominated for the list, to determine whether they belonged on it or not. 

The lawsuit shows her post as evidence:

Alleged Google blacklist

The lawsuit names other instances, too. It says that conservative employees reported such lists or other attempts to block them and their comments on Google's internal social media sites to HR who told them that employees have the right to block others or make statements about the type of employees they liked to work with.

The lawsuit says that conservative employees on two occassions in the fall of 2017, also brought the matter of such lists up with Paul Manwell, Google CEO Sundar Pichai’s chief of staff, and to senior lawyer Kent Walker. 

This lawsuit was filed on behalf of Damore, the engineer who created a firestorm last summer with his memo about women in tech and his comments about how Google treats conservatives. It seeks class-action status to represent other white or male or conservatives employees who believe they faced discrimination at Google.

A Google spokesperson says the company is ready to fight this lawsuit, telling us. "We look forward to defending against Mr. Damore's lawsuit in court."

SEE ALSO: The engineer fired for his memo about women in tech is suing Google for discrimination over being white, male, and conservative

Join the conversation about this story »

NOW WATCH: Why airplane windows have tiny holes

29 Nov 11:38

An Economist Chews over Thanksgiving

by Timothy Taylor
As Thanksgiving preparations arrive, I naturally find my thoughts veering to the evolution of demand for turkey, technological change in turkey production, market concentration in the turkey industry, and price indexes for a classic Thanksgiving dinner. Not that there's anything wrong with that. [Note: This is an updated and amended version of a post that was first published on Thanksgiving Day 2011.]

The last time the U.S. Department of Agriculture did a detailed "Overview of the U.S. Turkey Industry" appears to be back in 2007, although an update was published in April 2014 . Some themes about the turkey market waddle out from those reports on both the demand and supply sides.

On the demand side, the quantity of turkey per person consumed rose dramatically from the mid-1970s up to about 1990, but then declined somewhat, but appears to have made a modest recovery in the last couple of years The figure below is from the Eatturkey.com website run by the National Turkey Federation.




On the production side, the National Turkey Federation explains: "Turkey companies are vertically integrated, meaning they control or contract for all phases of production and processing - from breeding through delivery to retail." However, production of turkeys has shifted substantially, away from a model in which turkeys were hatched and raised all in one place, and toward a model in which the steps of turkey production have become separated and specialized--with some of these steps happening at much larger scale. The result has been an efficiency gain in the production of turkeys. Here is some commentary from the 2007 USDA report, with references to charts omitted for readability:

"In 1975, there were 180 turkey hatcheries in the United States compared with 55 operations in 2007, or 31 percent of the 1975 hatcheries. Incubator capacity in 1975 was 41.9 million eggs, compared with 38.7 million eggs in 2007. Hatchery intensity increased from an average 33 thousand egg capacity per hatchery in 1975 to 704 thousand egg capacity per hatchery in 2007.
Some decades ago, turkeys were historically hatched and raised on the same operation and either slaughtered on or close to where they were raised. Historically, operations owned the parent stock of the turkeys they raised while supplying their own eggs. The increase in technology and mastery of turkey breeding has led to highly specialized operations. Each production process of the turkey industry is now mainly represented by various specialized operations.
Eggs are produced at laying facilities, some of which have had the same genetic turkey breed for more than a century. Eggs are immediately shipped to hatcheries and set in incubators. Once the poults are hatched, they are then typically shipped to a brooder barn. As poults mature, they are moved to growout facilities until they reach slaughter weight. Some operations use the same building for the entire growout process of turkeys. Once the turkeys reach slaughter weight, they are shipped to slaughter facilities and processed for meat products or sold as whole birds.
Turkeys have been carefully bred to become the efficient meat producers they are today. In 1986, a turkey weighed an average of 20.0 pounds. This average has increased to 28.2 pounds per bird in 2006. The increase in bird weight reflects an efficiency gain for growers of about 41 percent."
The 2014 report points out that the capacity of eggs per hatchery has continued to rise (again, references to charts omitted):
"For several decades, the number of turkey hatcheries has declined steadily. During the last six years, however, this decrease began to slow down. As of 2013, there are 54 turkey hatcheries in the United States, down from 58 in 2008, but up from the historical low of 49 reached in 2012. The total capacity of these facilities remained steady during this period at approximately 39.4 million eggs. The average capacity per hatchery reached a record high in 2012. During 2013, average capacity per hatchery was 730 thousand (data records are available from 1965 to present)."
U.S. agriculture is full of examples of remarkable increases in yields over perionds of a few decades, but they always drop my jaw. I tend to think of a "turkey" as a product that doesn't have a lot of opportunity for technological development, but clearly I'm wrong. Here's a graph showing the rise in size of turkeys over time from the 2007 report.




The production of turkey remains an industry that is not very concentrated, with three relatively large producers and then more than a dozen mid-sized producers. Here's a list of top turkey producers in 2015 from the National Turkey Federation:
Given this reasonably competitive environment, it's interesting to note that the price markups for turkey--that is, the margin between the wholesale and the retail price--tend to decline around Thanksgiving, which obviously helps to keep the price lower for consumers. Mildred Haley of the US Department of Agriculture spells this out in the "Livestock, Dairy, and Poultry Outlook" report of October 2017. The vertical lines in the figure show that the markups clearly fall around Thanksgiving.

In the past, the US turkey industry has at some times suffers from outbreaks of HPAI
(Highly Pathogenic Avian Influenza): for discussion of the 2015 outbreak, see the November 17, 2015 issue of the "Livestock, Dairy, and Poultry Outlook" from the US Department of Agriculture, Kenneth Mathews and Mildred Haley offer some details. But for Thanksgiving 2017, supply seems to have remained strong and turkey prices are down a bit.

For some reason, this entire post is reminding me of the old line that if you want to have free-flowing and cordial conversation at dinner party, never seat two economists beside each other. Did I mention that I make an excellent chestnut stuffing?

Anyway, the starting point for measuring inflation is to define a relevant "basket" or group of goods, and then to track how the price of this basket of goods changes over time. When the Bureau of Labor Statistics measures the Consumer Price Index, the basket of goods is defined as what a typical U.S. household buys. But one can also define a more specific basket of goods if desired, and since 1986, the American Farm Bureau Federation has been using more than 100 shoppers in states across the country to estimate the cost of purchasing a Thanksgiving dinner. The basket of goods for their Classic Thanksgiving Dinner Price Index looks like this:



The cost of buying the Classic Thanksgiving Dinner actually declined by a bit in 2017, falling to $49.12 from $49.87 in 2016. The top line of the graph that follows shows the nominal price of purchasing the basket of goods for the Classic Thanksgiving Dinner. The lower line on the graph shows the price of the Classic Thanksgiving Dinner adjusted for the overall inflation rate in the economy. The line is relatively flat, which means that inflation in the Classic Thanksgiving Dinner has actually been a pretty good measure of the overall inflation rate.



Thanksgiving is a distinctively American holiday, and it's my favorite. Good food, good company, no presents--and all these good topics for conversation. What's not to like?
29 Nov 06:19

Net neutrality: A primer - AEI - American Enterprise Institute: Freedom, Opportunity, Enterprise

by Hao-Kai Pai

If you went online this Thanksgiving holiday weekend, you probably encountered a post (or 20) about net neutrality. Prompted by the Federal Communications Commission’s (FCC) proposal to repeal its 2015 Open Internet Order, social media was inundated with alarmist screeds lamenting the demise of “the internet as we know it.”

net neutrality primer

Ajit Pai, Chairman of the Federal Communications Commission, REUTERS.

But as with many social media outbursts, the rhetoric far outpaces reality. The proposed order would restore the legal framework that governed broadband providers until 2015 — the framework under which “the internet as we know it” grew and flourished. And it would restore the Federal Trade Commission’s (FTC) authority to regulate broadband providers’ business practices (including consumer privacy), which was stripped by the FCC in 2015.

That’s not to say that there are no good arguments for and against net neutrality. But the nuances of the debate are not easily reducible to 140 (or even 280) character sound bites. This blog post is designed as a primer for those interested in getting up to speed on the net neutrality debate.

What is net neutrality?

Net neutrality is the idea that broadband providers should treat all internet traffic the same, regardless of its content or sender. In 2015, the FCC enshrined this principle in a rule that prohibited broadband providers from blocking or throttling internet content, from prioritizing some traffic over others on its network for a fee, and from otherwise engaging in conduct that would unreasonably interfere with or disadvantage the ability of internet content providers to reach consumers or vice versa. To provide legal authority for this rule, the FCC reclassified broadband providers as Title II common carriers, subjecting them to the regulatory framework written to govern the old wireline telephone network.

Why might that be important?

Proponents argue these rules are necessary because of the unusual position that broadband providers play in the internet ecosystem. Broadband providers control the route between a consumer and the internet. Critics fear that a broadband provider may abuse this position by blocking information with which the company disagrees, or by favoring traffic from affiliated companies over internet-based competitors. They also fear that allowing paid prioritization would favor well-funded internet content providers over less wealthy startups.

Are these concerns valid?

The speech concern seems specious. Broadband providers have never blocked content with which they disagree, and any attempt to do so would likely face public condemnation. Perhaps the most high-profile silencing of an online voice came earlier this year, when the neo-Nazi Daily Stormer newsletter was shut down following the Charlottesville rally. But it was suppressed not by broadband providers but by companies such as GoDaddy, Google, and Cloudflare. The Daily Stormer incident revealed that there are multiple chokepoints in the internet ecosystem, which undermines the argument that broadband providers pose a unique threat to the flow of information online.

The anticompetitive concerns are somewhat stronger. Broadband providers have incentives to favor affiliated companies over unaffiliated competitors. In 2005, a small telephone company called Madison River blocked its internet customers from using Vonage’s internet-based phone service because it feared customers would cancel their telephone service. One could imagine a broadband provider with a cable affiliate taking similar action to disadvantage Netflix or other internet-based video competitors.

But these concerns are largely hypothetical. Madison River is the only clear example that critics cite of such anticompetitive behavior — which is a pretty good track record over the past 20 years. Broadband providers also have strong counterincentives not to block or degrade content. The more content a consumer can reach online, the more valuable the connection is, and the more the consumer is willing to pay for it.

Moreover, antitrust law already protects consumers from this type of anticompetitive behavior. Economists recognize these concerns as vertical foreclosure claims. Over the past several decades, courts have developed a robust and detailed framework to assess when such practices are likely to harm consumers. One of the ironies of the 2015 order is that it strips the FTC — America’s strongest antitrust cop — of jurisdiction over broadband providers. Net neutrality proponents thus bear the burden of proving why broadband providers should not be governed by the same competition laws that regulate the rest of the American economy.

The benefits of prioritization and innovation

The FCC’s 2015 net neutrality regulation also prohibits prioritization that may benefit consumers. Different applications have different sensitivities to congestion. A small delay in packet delivery may be imperceptible to someone browsing the web but can erode the quality of a video stream or a telemedicine app. Prioritizing these packets could improve the experience for Netflix users or rural doctors, without adversely affecting users of congestion-insensitive services. But this type of pro-consumer traffic optimization is forbidden by net neutrality because of fear of anticompetitive abuse. Even the post office offers priority delivery — everyone can use the first-class rate, and those who need to get there faster can buy express mail. But broadband providers cannot offer similar tiers of service.

More generally, net neutrality discourages innovation by broadband providers. It assumes that the way broadband is currently delivered is the way it must always be, which limits providers’ ability to test new business models. For example, Sprint sought to offer a low-cost wireless plan with unlimited talk, text, and access to a social media plan of the subscriber’s choice. Such plans are available in other countries and cater to consumers (like my teenage daughter) who use their phones primarily for Instagram or Facebook and do not need to pay for an all-inclusive wireless broadband plan (perhaps because they already have full access at home). But Sprint ultimately shelved its plans following criticism that such an offering violated net neutrality.

If you’re interested in a more detailed discussion of these issues, check out my recent article “Revisiting net neutrality,” which was part of the Free State Foundation’s Perspectives series.

An appeal to civility

Despite the rhetoric, the FCC’s decision to return to the light-touch regulation of pre-2015 does not pose an existential threat to the internet. Ultimately, the net neutrality debate boils down to a discussion about whether existing antitrust law is sufficient to guard against the anticompetitive harm of vertical foreclosure, and if not, whether the FCC’s additional prophylactic rules do more harm than good.

Reasonable minds can, and do, disagree about these issues. But they should do so reasonably. Over the Thanksgiving holiday, the debate turned dark and personal. Social media featured a stream of hostile, sometimes racist attacks on FCC Chairman Ajit Pai, who was also harassed at his residence and saw protesters call out his children by name. On this, I agree with net neutrality proponent Free Press: This vitriol has no place in this discussion. The net neutrality debate will not end with the FCC’s vote on December 14. But hopefully it will continue in a much more civil tone than was on display during this past week.

28 Nov 22:36

The Lazy Zeppelins and Breakneck Boeings of the Shark World

by Natasha Frost
article-image

Imagine a zeppelin and a Boeing 737 in the sky. The zeppelin glides along through low clouds, rotund and lighter than air. Much higher up, the heavy plane zips by at high speed, guzzling fuel to stay aloft. In the ocean, something very similar takes place—among sharks. In the frigid depths, where nutrients are scarce and light even scarcer, the rare bramble shark drifts lazily along—like a zeppelin. Almost 3,000 feet farther up, near the surface, whaler sharks zoom past, with wing-like fins lifting them in the water while their tails push their pace. To the bramble shark's blimp, they are jets—with a similar appetite for fuel.

According to a new paper published in Proceedings of the Royal Society B, sharks have developed a range of physical attributes that line up well with those of aircraft. And these variations are in more than just shape.

All sharks once had large, fatty, buoyant livers and lived near the bottom. As they evolved, some livers shrunk, which made life closer to the surface possible. Researchers investigated the body composition of some 32 shark species and found that more buoyant sharks, such as the bramble shark, slide slowly through the water, with fatty livers that make up more than a quarter of their body weight. Much like zeppelins, "[they] cruise near effortlessly at low speeds to save energy," Adrian Gleiss, lead author of the paper, from Murdoch University Centre for Fish and Fisheries Research, said in a statement. Negatively buoyant sharks, such as whaler sharks, are different. To remain afloat, they must motor through the water to generate lift, which requires a great deal more energy than their cousins below require. "For an animal to be wasteful with its energy expenditure should interfere with survival unless it would prove beneficial in some other manner," said study coauthor Jeremy Goldbogen of Stanford University-Hopkins Marine Station.

And indeed it is. Deep-dwelling sharks are round and bulky, while sharks in the shallows are sleek and javelin-like—the better to cut through the water, cut down on energy consumption, and keep pace with rapid surface prey. "The zeppelins of the shark world must live in cold places where slow swimming is the rule for both predator and prey," coauthor Jean Potvin of Saint Louis University said. For these sharks, more agile fish or squid are more or less off the menu—everything down there moves more slowly. Conversely, a fleet surface shark would never find enough fuel down there to keep going. In the great big ocean there's a place for both blimps and fighter jets.

28 Nov 14:15

Elon Musk Made the Kessel Run in Less Than Twelve Parsecs

by admin

I had to laugh at the stories the other day on the battery backup system Elon Musk and Tesla made for the Australian Power grid:

Tesla has completed its 100 megawatt Powerpack battery backup system in South Australia within 100 days (easily), as Elon Musk had promised. That means the company essentially won the "bet," and won't be on the hook for the entire cost of the project, estimated at $50 million. More importantly, it means that some 30,000 homes in South Australia will have a power backup in case there's no breeze at the Hornsdale Wind Farm located about two hours from Adelaide.

A megawatt is a measure of energy production or transmission rate.  As such, it is a perfectly appropriate way to size the capacity of a power plant that is assumed to have a continuous supply of fuel.  However, it is an extremely odd way to size a battery.  A battery has a fixed energy storage capacity, which is generally measured in watt-hours (or some conversion thereof). For example a 10 Wh battery would provide 10 watts for an hour before running out, or 5 watts for 2 hours, etc.  It is not clear if this is just a typo, that they really mean 100MWh, or if 100 megawatts is the peak discharge rate and they are being silent on exactly how long this lasts (ie how long can those 30,000 homes be powered?)  I checked the first 10 sources in a Google search and not a single media outlet that routinely chastises climate skeptics for being anti-science seems to have questioned the oddball and nearly meaningless 100MW figure.

I was going to compare the number on energy storage here and show that you could actually generate electricity from gas, not just store it, for well less than this.  But it is sort of hard to make the calculation when they don't get the units right.

By the way, if this is required to make wind power work, will we start seeing wind advocates building in $50 million batteries when they present their economics?  Any bets?

28 Nov 06:23

Robert Mueller, Agent of Willful Ignorance

by Robert Spencer

It has come to light that as director of the FBI, Robert Mueller, who is currently the special counsel looking for any dirt he can find on Donald Trump, presided over the 2012 removal of all counterterror training materials of any mention of Islam and jihad in connection with terrorism. Since then, our law enforcement and intelligence officials have been blundering along in self-imposed darkness about the motivating ideology behind the jihad threat. This, it turns out, was Mueller’s doing.

In February 2012, the Obama Administration purged more than one thousand documents and presentations from counter-terror training material for the FBI and other agencies. This material was discarded at the demand of Muslim groups, which had deemed it inaccurate or offensive to Muslims.

This purge was several years in the making, and I was – inadvertently – the one who touched it off. In August 2010, when I gave a talk on Islam and jihad to the FBI’s Joint Terrorism Task Force — one of many such talks I gave to government agencies and military groups in those years. While some had counseled me to keep these talks quiet so as to avoid attracting the ire of the Hamas-linked Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR), the possibility of that pressure seemed to me to make it all the more important to announce my appearances publicly, so as to show that the U.S. government was not going to take dictation from a group linked to Hamas and the Muslim Brotherhood.

Those who had urged silence were proven correct, however, for the Obama administration was indeed disposed to take dictation from CAIR. CAIR sent a series of letters to Mueller and others demanding that I be dropped as a counter-terror trainer; the organization even started a “coalition” echoing this demand, and Jesse Jackson and other Leftist luminaries joined it.

At the FBI, Mueller made no public comment on CAIR’s demand, and so it initially appeared that CAIR’s effort had failed. But I was never again invited to provide counter-terror training for any government agency, after having done so fairly regularly for the previous five years. CAIR’s campaign to keep me from taking part in counter-terror training was, of course, not personal. They targeted me simply because I told the truth, just as they would target anyone else who dared do so.

Although Mueller was publicly silent, now we know that he was not unresponsive. And the Islamic supremacists and their Leftist allies didn’t give up. In the summer and fall of 2011, the online tech journal Wired published several “exposés” by far-Left journalist Spencer Ackerman, who took the FBI to task for training material that spoke forthrightly and truthfully about the nature and magnitude of the jihad threat.

In a typical sally from one of these exposés, Ackerman condemned the training material for intimating that mainstream American Muslims were “likely to be terrorist sympathizers.” Certainly all the mainstream Muslim organizations condemn al-Qaeda and 9/11; however, as we have seen, some of the foremost of those organizations, such as ISNA, MAS, ICNA, the MSA, CAIR, and others, have links of various kinds to Hamas and the Muslim Brotherhood. A mainstream Muslim spokesman in the U.S., Ground Zero Mosque Imam Faisal Abdul Rauf, refused to condemn Hamas until it became too politically damaging for him not to do so; another, CAIR’s Nihad Awad, openly declared his support for Hamas in 1994. Other mainstream Muslim spokesmen in the U.S., such as Obama’s ambassador to the Organization of Islamic Cooperation, Rashad Hussain, and media gadfly Hussein Ibish, have praised and defended Sami al-Arian, the confessed leader of another jihad terror group, Palestinian Islamic Jihad.

Do these men and organizations represent a tiny minority of extremists that actually does not express the opinions of the broad mainstream of Muslims in this country? Maybe, but there simply are no counterparts — no individuals of comparable influence or groups of comparable size — that have not expressed sympathy for some Islamic terror group.

Nonetheless, in the face of Ackerman’s reports, the FBI went into full retreat. In September 2011 it announced that it was dropping one of the programs that Ackerman had zeroed in on.

Then on October 19, 2011, Farhana Khera of Muslim Advocates, who had complained for years about supposed Muslim profiling and entrapment, sent a letter to John Brennan, who was then the Assistant to the President on National Security for Homeland Security and Counter Terrorism. The letter was signed not just by Khera, but by the leaders of virtually all the significant Islamic groups in the United States: 57 Muslim, Arab, and South Asian organizations, many with ties to Hamas and the Muslim Brotherhood, including CAIR, the Islamic Society of North America, the Muslim American Society, the Islamic Circle of North America, Islamic Relief USA; and the Muslim Public Affairs Council.

The letter denounced what it characterized as U.S. government agencies’ “use of biased, false and highly offensive training materials about Muslims and Islam.” It criticized “the FBI’s use of biased experts and training materials.” Khera complained that my books could be found in “the FBI’s library at the FBI training academy in Quantico, Virginia”; that a reading list accompanying a powerpoint presentation by the FBI’s Law Enforcement Communications Unit recommended my book The Truth About Muhammad; and that in July 2010 I “presented a two-hour seminar on ‘the belief system of Islamic jihadists’ to the Joint Terrorism Task Force (JTTF) in Tidewater, Virginia,” and “presented a similar lecture to the U.S. Attorney’s Anti-Terrorism Advisory Council, which is co-hosted by the FBI’s Norfolk Field Office.”

These were supposed to be terrible things because I was bigoted and hateful. But many of the examples Khera adduced of “bigoted and distorted materials” involved statements that were not actually bigoted and distorted at all, but simply accurate. What was distorted was Khera’s representation of them. For instance, Khera stated,

A 2006 FBI intelligence report stating that individuals who convert to Islam are on the path to becoming “Homegrown Islamic Extremists,” if they exhibit any of the following behavior:

  • “Wearing traditional Muslim attire”
  • “Growing facial hair”
  • “Frequent attendance at a mosque or a prayer group”
  • “Travel to a Muslim country”
  • “Increased activity in a pro-Muslim social group or political cause”

But the FBI intelligence report Khera purported to be describing didn’t actually say that converts to Islam were necessarily “on the path” to becoming “extremists” if they wore traditional Muslim attire, grew facial hair, and frequently attended a mosque; it simply included these behaviors among a list of fourteen indicators to “identify an individual going through the radicalization process.” Others included “travel without obvious source of funds’; “suspicious purchases of bomb making paraphernalia or weapons”; “large transfer of funds, from or to overseas”; and “formation of operational cells.” Khera selectively quoted and misrepresented the list to give the impression that the FBI was saying that devout observance of Islam led inevitably and in every case to “extremism.”

Despite the factual accuracy of the material about which they were complaining, the Muslim groups signing the letter demanded that the task force “purge all federal government training materials of biased materials”; “implement a mandatory re-training program for FBI agents, U.S. Army officers, and all federal, state and local law enforcement who have been subjected to biased training”; and more to ensure that all that law enforcement officials would learn about Islam and jihad would be what the signatories wanted them to learn.

Brennan immediately complied. In a November 3, 2011, letter to Khera, that significantly was written on White House stationery, Brennan promised that the government would “ensure that federal officials and state, local and tribal partners receive accurate, evidence-based information in these crucial areas.”

Numerous books and presentations that gave a perfectly accurate view of Islam and jihad were purged — and the Assistant to the President on National Security for Homeland Security and Counter Terrorism was complying with demands from quarters that could hardly be considered authentically moderate.

But it wasn’t just Brennan. Now we know that it was Mueller all along. Both Brennan and Mueller, of course, are part of the same Washington establishment that has wholeheartedly endorsed the idea that honest analysis of jihadis motives is “Islamophobia.” Find out why this view is so dangerous in my new book Confessions of an Islamophobe. Get your copy here now.

25 Nov 11:53

This Thanksgiving, I’m grateful Hillary Clinton is not president - AEI - American Enterprise Institute: Freedom, Opportunity, Enterprise

by Kevin Reagan

This Thanksgiving, I am grateful for many things — but when it comes to politics, I am especially thankful that Hillary Clinton is not sitting in the Oval Office.

I am thankful that Neil M. Gorsuch is on the Supreme Court and that President Trump has secured a conservative majority that will protect human life, religious liberty, the Second Amendment and limited government. I am also thankful the president is moving at record pace to fill the federal appeals courts with young conservative judges. While the Supreme Court only hears about 80 cases a year, the federal appeals courts get final say on about 60,000 — and because Democrats ended the filibuster, they can’t stop Trump from filling those courts with conservative legal rock stars. The Senate has already confirmed eight of Trump’s nine appellate nominees — the most this early in a presidency since Richard Nixon – and Trump will appoint plenty more before his first term expires. As former Clinton adviser Ronald A. Klain complained in The Post, “the next two generations of Americans will live under laws interpreted by hundreds of [Trump-appointed] judges.”

That alone is worth it. But there is more to be thankful for.

I’m thankful the New York Times’s Linda Greenhouse is complaining that Trump has appointed so many “individuals who have devoted their adult lifetimes to the anti-abortion cause” that federal agencies now resemble an “outpost of the National Right to Life Committee.”

While Congress could not repeal Obamacare, I’m thankful that failure now makes passage of conservative tax reform more likely, because House and Senate Republicans know that failure to do so is political suicide. And I’m thankful we have a president who is ready to sign that tax reform into law.

I’m thankful that Trump withdrew from the Paris climate agreement, is dismantling President Barack Obama’s Clean Power Plan, clearing the way for the Keystone XL pipeline, and undertaking the largest regulatory rollback in the EPA’s 46-year history.

I am thankful Trump has secured the release of American citizens imprisoned by China, North Korea, Egypt and the Taliban-linked Haqqani Network — without releasing senior Taliban leaders from Guantanamo Bay.

I am thankful that Trump finally enforced Obama’s red line on the use of chemical weapons in Syria, took the shackles off of our military in the fight against the Islamic State, got NATO allies to kick in $12 billion more for our collective security, imposed new sanctions on Iran’s Revolutionary Guard Corps, requested emergency funding for ballistic missile defense, declared North Korea a terrorist state, and sent a clear message to Pyongyang that it will not be permitted to threaten American cities with nuclear intercontinental ballistic missiles. His foreign policy is far from perfect, but it is a marked improvement over the Obama-Clinton approach.

Trump hasn’t ushered in a new era of American isolationism. And despite the dire warnings of creeping authoritarianism, there are no gulags in the United States today. Quite the opposite, there are plenty of checks on Trump’s power. Federal judges have narrowed his travel ban, blocked his cut of funding for sanctuary cities, and stopped his ban on transgender troops. He has not changed libel laws to go after a free press, restored waterboarding, or built his border wall. Heck, he could not even repeal Obamacare. Our system of Constitutional checks and balances works — in some cases, too well.

The republic will survive the Trump presidency, and so will the Republican Party. I don’t buy the argument that Trump is doing irreversible damage to the GOP or the Republican brand. Nixon resigned in disgrace in 1974, and six years later we were inaugurating Ronald Reagan and then it was Morning in America again. If Trump does end up dragging the Republican Party down, all it takes is one great leader to resurrect it.

In the meantime, I want Trump’s presidency to be a success. Trump was not my first choice for president (or my second . . . or third . . . or fourth), and I am well aware of his many deep flaws. When he is wrong, I have called him out and will continue to do so. But I want Trump to fill the courts with conservative judges, reform the tax code, take on North Korea, counter Iran, defeat Islamist radicalism, roll back the regulatory state, expand school choice, and protect the unborn. And I’m thankful that because of his election, we are making progress on these fronts — and that Clinton is hawking books for a living.

That is something worth celebrating this Thanksgiving.

03 Nov 06:50

Q: What nation on Earth has reduced its carbon emissions more than any other? - Publications – AEI

by Mark Perry

AEI
Q: What nation on Earth has reduced its carbon emissions more than any other?

Inconvenient Answer: According to climatologist Dr. Patrick Michaels, it’s “the good old USA, and that’s because we’ve been substituting natural gas for coal for power generation” as can be seen in the top chart above, which shows that CO2 emissions from electric power generation in the US last year were the lowest in 28 years, going all the way back to 1988. How often is that reported in the media?

Update: Bottom chart above shows total US CO2 emissions, which were the lowest during the January-June period this year since 1992, 25 years ago.

In the video below, Dr. Patrick Michaels, director of the Center for the Study of Science at the Cato Institute and author of the book Lukewarming: The New Climate Science that Changes Everything, offers a current assessment of the political debate over climate change. He explains how the free market is allowing natural gas to be substituted for coal  worldwide at a rate that will achieve a lower level of global warming than would occur with strict adherence to the regulations of the Paris Accords.

Q: What nation on Earth has reduced its carbon emissions more than any other?
Mark Perry

25 Oct 09:50

California Tried to Seize Millions of This Inventor’s Fortune. He Fought Back. And Won.

by Zach Weissmueller

In the early 1990s, California tax authorities traveled to Las Vegas in pursuit of Gilbert Hyatt, an inventor who earned a fortune as the patent holder of the microcomputer. They staked out his home, dug through his trash, and hired a private eye to look into his background. He'd moved to Nevada in 1991, but California made a claim that the state was entitled to millions of his recent earnings.

What transpired over the next twenty-five years is a story of greed, harassment, anti-semitism, and the abuse of power. And it wasn't the first time that the California tax agency has strong-armed a former state resident. What's so unusual about Gilbert Hyatt is that he fought back—and won.

California's marginal income tax rates are the nation's highest, driving many wealthy residents to pack up and leave. Hyatt says he moved to Las Vegas because casino billionaire Sheldon Adelson, who had dreams of creating a version of Silicon Valley in Sin City, lured him there during a computer technology conference known as Comdex. No matter the reason, California didn't want to let him go.

The state is often desperate for revenue to cover its out-of-control spending. In 1993, when tax agents began auditing Hyatt, California faced a budget deficit of $3.8 billion, the largest in the nation. The Franchise Tax Board itself faced huge cuts and even possible elimination.

In 1992, Hyatt was contacted by the California Franchise Tax Board. A tax agent had read an article about the possibility of billions in royalties pouring in as electronics companies like Phillips and Sony started licensing Hyatt's technology. The agency launched an investigation.

Ity concluded that his move was a sham and that he owed them more than $13 million in taxes, fees, and interest penalties. Hyatt, who says his father taught him to "never make a deal with an extortionist," decided to fight back and appeal the decision. This was the beginning of a decades-long battle between the wealthy inventor and the largest state tax collection agency in America.

Shortly after the tax board opened the audit, an agent called Hyatt's lawyers and advised him that most people just settle because "wealthy or well-known taxpayers...do not want to risk having their personal financial information made public." Hyatt thinks the tax auditors believed him to be "paranoid" about his privacy because he was protective of the trade secrets contained in his home office. He believes the auditors exploited those privacy concerns to gain leverage.

The Franchise Tax Board hired a private eye to interview Hyatt's former California neighbors, 22 of whom later testified that he did indeed move away after selling his house. They also sent letters of demand to his friends, former colleagues, and even his rabbi—letters that divulged personal information—including his social security number—and made everyone in his social and professional networks aware that he was under investigation for tax fraud.

Two agents even road tripped to Las Vegas, staked out Hyatt's new house, rifled through his trash, and took what a whistleblower later described as a "trophy photo" of his home.

This same whistle blower testified that her colleague, an agent named Sheila Cox, vowed to "get that Jew bastard."

Hyatt ended up fighting a 25-year court battle and spending more than $10 million. The state of California spent more than $25 million in pursuit of Hyatt, according to the tax agency's spokesman.

It all came down to a hearing before the Board of Equalization in August of 2017. Although he has a professional legal team, Hyatt decided to speak for himself.

"I've waited 20 years for this [opportunity]," Hyatt told the board members before beginning his opening remarks at the 13-hour meeting in Sacramento.

The board ultimately ruled in Hyatt's favor on the primary issue of residency. The tax agency claimed that by this time, Hyatt owed roughly $55 million in taxes, fees, and interest penalties. The board ruled he owed the state $1.9 million for appearing to operate portions of his business out of California during the disputed 6 month period, but it confirmed that he was indeed a Nevada resident during this time and was not liable for state taxes on his income.

Hyatt also sued the Franchise Tax Board for fraud and harassment years ago, and a Nevada jury awarded him a $388 million judgment. That amount was later reduced to $50,000 because of a statutory cap on the amount state agencies can be held liable for their conduct.

"Somebody has got to stand up against them," says Hyatt. "As the cliché goes, the power to tax is the power to destroy."

Representatives from the Franchise Tax Board declined to participate in this documentary.

Produced by Zach Weissmueller. Additional Graphics by Brett Raney. Music by Kai Engel.

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25 Oct 09:38

Trump’s deregulation efforts are driving market dynamism - Remarks by Vice President Mike Pence on tax reform - AEI

by Ryan Nabil

U.S. stock markets began rising almost immediately after Donald Trump was elected, and have now produced more record highs than at any time in the last 20 years. What accounts for this phenomenal growth? Many economists will attribute the markets’ enthusiasm to the possibility of tax reform that President Trump promised during the campaign. But business-friendly tax reform is at this point only a future possibility; reductions in regulation are happening now — and that’s the key to understanding the market’s dynamism.

Trump's government deregulation

President Donald Trump stands during a joint statement with Singapore’s Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong at the White House in Washington, DC, U.S. October 23, 2017. Reuters

This may seem counterintuitive to those who have been following the Trump administration’s regulatory reforms. Aside from a few executive orders and two Treasury reports about financial regulation, nothing much has happened. Moreover, it is becoming clear that reform of the Dodd-Frank Act — which made headway in the House with the adoption of Jeb Hensarling’s Financial Choice Act — is going nowhere in the Senate as long as the filibuster rule remains in effect.

But the problem of excessive regulation was so severe, and has been such an impediment to economic growth, that the mere slowing of new regulations can stimulate substantial new business confidence, investment, and hiring. And a slowing has occurred since Donald Trump took office.

During the Obama administration, the number of new regulations averaged more than 3,000 per year. Many of them — net neutrality rule from the FCC, the fiduciary rule from the Labor Department, Operation Choke Point led by the Justice Department, and the mortgage rule issued by the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau — reshaped (or threatened to reshape) whole industries. Many other rules from overzealous bank examiners reduced the formation of new small banks to almost zero. These rules also raised the compliance costs of existing banks to such an extent that there were little funds left for lending to the small firms and startups that are the source of most economic growth and new employment in the United States.

All this becomes clear if we look at the Obama administration as a whole. During the eight Obama years, economic growth was slightly less than 2 percent — far below any recovery in the last 60 years.

During this period there were only four policies that were significant enough to affect economic growth: the Economic Recovery Act, which spent over $800 billion on “shovel ready” projects; the Affordable Care Act, which poured more money into the economy through health-care subsidies; and the Fed’s Quantitative Easing (QE) program, which succeeded in keeping interest rates at historic lows.

If Keynesian deficit spending actually did what its supporters claim, all of these policies should have stimulated substantial economic growth. It didn’t happen. A major reason for this was the Dodd-Frank Act — the fourth significant Obama policy — which was by far the most restrictive regulatory law since the New Deal. This law alone authorized almost 400 new regulations, many of which still had not been issued when the Obama administration ended.

Dodd-Frank was based on the false premise that the financial crisis was caused by insufficient or lax regulation of the financial industry. As I showed in my book, Hidden In Plain Sight, the financial crisis was actually caused by the government’s housing policies, which — because they were ignored as a factor in the crisis — continue to this day.

Along comes the Trump administration. In every agency where Trump has nominated the senior policy official, the need for new regulation — and the value of old ones — is being questioned. Both Treasury reports emphasized deregulating the economy through administrative action, which is clearly the most likely route to needed reform.

The business community is recognizing that they can plan for growth without new regulations adding to their costs. That’s why the markets are exuberant. Tax reform, as important as it is, will only be icing on the cake.

Peter J. Wallison is the Arthur F. Burns Fellow in Financial Policy Studies at the American Enterprise Institute. He is writing a book on the growth of the administrative state.

20 Oct 23:37

Fortune 500 firms 1955 v. 2017: Only 59 remain, thanks to the creative destruction that fuels economic prosperity - The politics of internet domain names and the case of .amazon

by Mark Perry

What do the companies in these three groups have in common?

Group A: American Motors, Brown Shoe, Studebaker, Collins Radio, Detroit Steel, Zenith Electronics and National Sugar Refining.

Group B: Boeing, Campbell Soup, Colgate-Palmolive, Deere, General Motors, IBM, Kellogg, Procter and Gamble, and Whirlpool.

Group C: Amazon, Facebook, eBay, Home Depot, Microsoft, Google, Netflix, Office Depot and Target.

All of the companies in Group A were in the Fortune 500 in 1955, but not in 2017.

All of the companies in Group B were in the Fortune 500 in both 1955 and 2017.

All of the companies in Group C were in the Fortune 500 in 2017, but not 1955.

The list of Fortune 500 companies in 1955 is available here and for 2017 here (based on sales for the fiscal year ended on or before Jan. 31, 2017). Comparing the 1955 Fortune 500 companies to the 2017 Fortune 500, there are only 59 companies that appear in both lists (see companies in the graphic above). In other words, fewer than 12% of the Fortune 500 companies included in 1955 were still on the list 62 years later in 2017, and more than 88% of the companies from 1955 have either gone bankrupt, merged with (or were acquired by) another firm, or they still exist but have fallen from the top Fortune 500 companies (ranked by total revenues). Many of the companies on the list in 1955 are unrecognizable, forgotten companies today (e.g., Armstrong Rubber, Cone Mills, Hines Lumber, Pacific Vegetable Oil, and Riegel Textile).

Economic Lessons: The fact that nearly 9 of every 10 Fortune 500 companies in 1955 are gone, merged, or contracted demonstrates that there’s been a lot of market disruption, churning, and Schumpeterian creative destruction over the last six decades. It’s reasonable to assume that when the Fortune 500 list is released 60 years from now in 2077, almost all of today’s Fortune 500 companies will no longer exist as currently configured, having been replaced by new companies in new, emerging industries, and for that we should be extremely thankful. The constant turnover in the Fortune 500 is a positive sign of the dynamism and innovation that characterizes a vibrant consumer-oriented market economy, and that dynamic turnover is speeding up in today’s hyper-competitive global economy.

According to a 2016 report by Innosight (“Corporate Longevity: Turbulence Ahead for Large Organizations“) corporations in the S&P 500 Index in 1965 stayed in the index for an average of 33 years. By 1990, average tenure in the S&P 500 had narrowed to 20 years and is now forecast to shrink to 14 years by 2026. At the current churn rate, about half of today’s S&P 500 firms will be replaced over the next 10 years as “we enter a period of heightened volatility for leading companies across a range of industries, with the next ten years shaping up to be the most potentially turbulent in modern history” according to Innosight.

Another economic lesson to be learned from the creative destruction that results in the constant churning of Fortune 500 (and S&P 500) companies over time is that the process of market disruption is being driven by the endless pursuit of sales and profits that can only come from serving customers with low prices, high-quality products and services, and great customer service. If we think of a company’s annual sales revenues as the number of “dollar votes” it gets every year from providing goods and services to consumers, we can then appreciate the fact that the Fortune 500 companies represent the 500 companies that have generated the greatest dollar votes of confidence from us as consumers – like Walmart (No. 1 this year at $486 billion in “dollar votes” for 2017, and No. 1 in 10 of the last 13 years), Apple (No. 3 at $216 billion), ExxonMobil (No. 4 at $205 billion), CVS (No. 7 at $178 billion), GM (No. 8 at $166 billion) and Amazon (No. 12 at $136 billion).

As consumers, we should appreciate the fact that we are the ultimate beneficiaries of the Schumpeterian creative destruction that drives the dynamism of the market economy and results in a constant churning of the firms who are ultimately fighting to attract as many of our dollar votes as possible. The 500 top winners of that competitive battle in any given year are the firms in the Fortune 500, ranked not by their profits, assets or number of employees, but by what is ultimately most important in a market economy: their dollar votes (sales revenues).

Update 1: The table above has been updated to remove CVS and add Colgate-Palmolive. A company called CVS is included in Fortune’s 1955 list but it must be a different company than the current CVS Pharmacy company, which didn’t start until 1963. By mistake, I left Colgate-Palmolive off the list, it’s now been added. Thanks to Gary Hoover for noting these issues in the comments.

Update 2: Both Gary Hoover and Lyle have suggested that AT&T Technologies and the original AT&T, despite sharing essentially the same name are different companies, so I’ve removed AT&T from the table above.

20 Oct 02:17

IBM's Stellar Move: Tech Giant Uses Cryptocurrency in Cross-Border Payments

by Michael del Castillo
IBM has been settling real cross-border payments in the South Pacific on a blockchain using Stellar's Lumen cryptocurrency.
19 Oct 13:06

Signed as Law: Pennsylvania Right to Try Act Rejects Some FDA Restrictions on Terminal Patients

by Mike Maharrey

HARRISBURG, Pa. (Oct. 12, 2017) – Yesterday, Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Wolf signed a bill into law that sets the foundation to nullify in practice some Food and Drug Administration (FDA) rules that deny access to experimental treatments by terminally ill patients.

Rep. Robert Godshall (R-Hatfield) sponsored House Bill 45 (HB45), along with nearly 40 cosponsors. The new law gives terminally ill patients access to medicines and treatments not yet given final approval for use by the FDA.

The Federal Food, Drug, and Cosmetic Act prohibits general access to experimental drugs. However, under the expanded access provision of the Federal Food, Drug, and Cosmetic Act, 21 U.S.C. 360bbb, patients with serious or immediately life-threatening diseases may access experimental drugs after receiving express FDA approval.

HB45 creates a process to bypass the FDA expanded access program and allows patients to obtain experimental drugs from manufacturers without first obtaining FDA approval. This procedure directly conflicts with the federal expanded access program and sets the stage to nullify it in practice.

HB45 passed the Senate by a 49-0 vote. and cleared the House by a 139-0 vote. With Gov. Wolf’s signature, the law will go into effect 60 days from the signing date.

HB45 includes protections for healthcare providers with a prohibition against revoking a license or issuing sanctions based on recommendation or issuance of investigational treatments. In addition, lawsuits against physicians who comply with terms specified in the bill are prohibited. The legislation also provides legal protections for manufacturers of experimental treatments and medications.

The impact of Right to Try isn’t merely theoretical.

Since the Texas Right to Try law went into effect in June 2015, at least 78 patients in the Lone Star State have received an experimental cancer treatment not allowed by the FDA. While the FDA would have allowed these patients to die, Houston-based oncologist Dr. Ebrahim Delpassand continued their treatment through the Texas law. (Watch a video about Dr. Delpassand here.)

Pennsylvania becomes the 38th state to enact Right to Try. Although these laws only address one small aspect of FDA regulation, they provide a clear model that demonstrates how to nullify federal statutes that violate the Constitution. The strategy narrows the influence of nullification to limited aspects of the law itself, which has proven to be very effective.

“Americans shouldn’t have to ask the government for permission to try to save their own lives,” said Darcy Olsen, president of the Goldwater Institute. “They should be able to work with their doctors directly to decide what potentially life-saving treatments they are willing to try. This is exactly what Right To Try does.”

The Right to Try Act is a no-brainer. When someone is on their deathbed, the fact that FDA regulations would let them die rather than try has got to be one of the most inhumane policies of the federal government. Every state should take action to nullify the FDA like this.

WHAT’S NEXT

The Pennsylvania Right to Try law will go into effect Dec. 10, 2017.

18 Oct 13:54

American Companies' Bad Tax Deal

by Veronique de Rugy

The United States' corporate income tax needs a makeover.

It's not just that Uncle Sam tries to take a piece of all corporate income, including money earned (and therefore taxed) in other nations. It's not just that America's top statutory rate is higher than in all other countries in the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD). (According to the Congressional Budget Office, it currently stands at 39.2 percent including state levies; Trump has proposed a significant reduction in the federal rate, but prospects look weak.) It's that over the years, American companies have seen other governments reform their tax systems while the U.S. has done almost nothing to fix ours.

This chart shows the evolution of top statutory corporate tax rates (combining taxes at all levels of government) from 2003 through 2012 in the so-called Group of 20—some 19 developed countries plus the government of the European Union. At the start of that period, a few places had higher rates than the United States. Not anymore.

The consequence is that U.S. companies must compete against foreign entities that enjoy a lower cost of doing business. Those earning income elsewhere can avoid being double-taxed by keeping that income overseas. But this reduces their freedom to make business decisions on the merits, forces them to spend money on tax avoidance techniques rather than investing it, and keeps those dollars out of the pockets of American consumers.

10 Oct 10:35

Lynchpin of teachers union power returns to the Supreme Court - AEI - American Enterprise Institute: Freedom, Opportunity, Enterprise

by Matt Winesett

Last week, the US Supreme Court announced that it would hear Janus v. American Federation of State, County, and Municipal Employees (AFSCME). While it is among the biggest cases on the court’s docket next year, it certainly holds the biggest stakes when it comes to public education. The case deals with mandatory union agency fees, which plaintiff Mark Janus, a child support specialist at the Illinois Department of Healthcare and Family Services, argues violate his First Amendment rights to free speech and free association.

US Supreme Court Justice Neil Gorsuch (top R) smiles as he joins his fellow justices in taking a new family photo including Gorsuch, their most recent addition. Following his appointment, the prospects look pretty bleak for agency fees and the union strength that depends on them. REUTERS/Jonathan Ernst

Illinois state law “compels state employees to pay agency fees to an exclusive representative for speaking and contracting with the state over governmental policies.” In short, non-union employees must pay unions, as the exclusive employee representatives in collective bargaining, to negotiate contracts on their behalf. Janus has long been critical of both the union and forced association through agency fees. He wrote last year in the Chicago Tribune, “The First Amendment guarantees freedom of speech and freedom of association. I don’t want to be associated with a union that claims to represent my interests and me when it really doesn’t.”

Janus targets a 40-year-old precedent set by Abood v. Detroit Board of Education, which permits allowing agency fees as a means to avoid a “free rider” problem: non-union members benefiting from union representation in contract negotiations, but not paying for that service. Abood allows agency fees, so long as the fees are limited to the portion of membership dues used solely for collect bargaining, and are separated from funds used for political purposes. Critics argue that agency fees make financially supporting a union, and its politics by extension, a precondition of public employment.

Janus follows Friedrichs v. California Teachers Association, a 2016 US Supreme Court case that almost brought an end to agency fees. Friedrichs, a public school teacher forced to pay agency fees to the California Teachers Association (CTA), brought suit using a First Amendment argument similar to Janus’s, also targeting Abood. Friedrich’s case made it to the Supreme Court, where a majority of justices seemed ready to rule in her favor and against the constitutionality of agency fees. But things changed when Justice Antonin Scalia died unexpectedly a month after oral arguments. That March, an equally divided eight-member court deadlocked on Friedrich’s case, leaving Abood intact.

A year-and-a-half later, following the appointment of Neil Gorsuch, the prospects look good for Janus, and, as they did leading up to Friedrichs, pretty bleak for agency fees and the union strength that depends on them. The immediate consequence of a Janus victory would be that public sector unions could no longer force nonmembers to pay agency fees. This would cause unions’ revenues to drop in the 20 states that allow agency fees. But that’s only the beginning. Taking away these fees would dramatically increase the real cost of union members’ dues. As I explained in in the context of Friedrichs:

In California, the real cost now is about $350, the difference between $1,000 in dues and the $650 fees. Without fees, the choice would be between $0 and $1,000, so the cost would rise to $1,000. This increase would encourage uncommitted members to leave and discourage new teachers from joining. Without agency fees, union membership would decline in states that now allow agency fees, and they would have far less political power.

The dramatic changes in costs would have outsized impacts on union membership and power. We have seen this play out before. In 2011, Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker signed Act 10, which did away with agency fees. The state’s largest teachers union, the Wisconsin Education Association Council (WEAC), saw a dramatic decrease in membership over a short period of time: falling from about 98,000 members in 2011 to about 40,000 in 2015. But, as the graph below shows, membership declines are only part of this story. WEAC’s annual expenditures on lobbying ranged from half to one-and-a-half million dollars from 2005 to 2010, peaking at $2.25 million during its fight to stop Act 10 in 2011. After 2011, WEAC’s lobbying outlays have remained under $150,000, and hours spent lobbying dropped dramatically as well.

It’s unclear how much of this drop should be attributed solely to the elimination of agency fees, as Act 10 included other measures to curb union power, but the overlap between the states that allow agency fees and union power is evident across the country.

The Thomas B. Fordham Institute released a study in 2012 that makes a state-by-state comparison of the strength of teachers unions. Measuring Union strength through numerous variables, they sorted the states into five categories, from strongest to weakest, each containing about 10 states. All ten of the strongest and 8 out of 10 of the strong states allow unions to collect agency fees from nonmembers. The number of states allowing agency fees continues to decline with weaker union strength. Fewer than half of states with average union strength, 4 out of 10 weak union states, and only 1 out of 10 of the weakest union states allow unions to collect agency fees.

If the judicial scales tip in favor of Janus — and it looks like they will — unions will enter a new era, and for them it looks pretty dreary. Losing agency fees would shrink teachers unions’ membership and clip unions’ political and economic wings not only in the 20 remaining states with agency fees, but also in the national headquarters that depend on these states for a disproportionate share of their membership and funds.

Could this be the end of unions? Probably not, but to maintain their power and influence, teachers unions will need to refocus on working on behalf of their members, in order to make a clear value proposition to teachers. Their chief challenge will be making the case to teachers that union membership — and dues — are worth the full cost of membership. Eliminating agency fees will almost certainly shrink unions, but it could also make them more energized, since remaining members would be the truly committed. What will happen to public schools after the most powerful force in the politics of education has its wings clipped? It looks like we are about to find out.

10 Oct 08:48

Gun Control and Homicide Rates

by David Friedman
Some recent comment threads on Slate Star Codex, my favorite blog, have dealt with the always lively issue of gun control. One standard argument is "we know gun control laws work because the U.S., which has relatively few restrictions, has a much higher homicide rate than countries such as Canada or the U.K., which have much more restrictions."

One response sometimes offered is that there are other countries, such as Mexico and Brazil, with both restrictive laws and homicide rates much higher than in the U.S. That then gets into the question of what comparisons are more relevant, in what respects the U.K. is more like the U.S. than Brazil is.

An alternative approach, which I think more useful, is to ask whether the difference in homicide rates existed prior to the difference in regulation. The web makes that question much easier to answer than it would have been twenty years ago. 

In the case of the U.K., the answer is pretty clear. According to the Wiki page on Firearms Policy in the U.K., the first restrictive legislation was the pistol act of 1903, but it had little effect:
The Act was more or less ineffective, as anyone wishing to buy a pistol commercially merely had to purchase a licence on demand over the counter from a Post Office before doing so. In addition, it did not regulate private sales of such firearms.
The first  significant restriction was the Firearms Act of 1920. There were additional acts in 1937, 1968, 1988, 1997 and 2006.

The data on Homicide rates per 100,000:


Year U.S.  England&Wales Ratio
1900 1.2 0.96 1.3
1910 4.6 0.81 5.7
1920 6.8 0.83 8.2
1930 8.8 0.75 11.7
*1946 6.4 0.81 7.9
1950 4.6 0.79 5.8
1960 5.1 0.62 8.2
1970 7.9 0.69 11.4
1980 10.2 1.11 9.2
1990 9.4 1.09 8.6
2000 5.5 **1.71 3.2
2010 4.8 1.14 4.2


*No data for the U.K. 1940-1945
**The figure is for the U.K. rather than England and Wales

Looking at those data, it is hard to believe that the reason the U.K. has a lower homicide rate than the U.S. is restrictive legislation.

My point here is not that gun control doesn't (or does) work. I wouldn't be surprised if some restrictions on firearm ownership reduced the homicide rate, but if so, the effect on the U.S./U.K. ratio is lost in the noise. My point is rather that the sort of factoids that show up in this sort of argument, even when they are true, are rarely as solid evidence as those who offer them claim.

This would be a better post if I had a good example on the other side of the same debate. I don't, but perhaps someone reading this can offer one.


08 Oct 07:40

Foreign Direct Investment in the US: Size and Effects

by Timothy Taylor
Foreign direct investment refers to a situation when a foreign firm invests in an affiliate in a substantial enough way that it gains some voice in the management of the enterprise. This is often defined in terms of having ownership of at least 10 percent of the company. The US is quite open to foreign direct investment from abroad. Michael Cortez tells the story in "Foreign Direct Investment in the United States," published by the Economics and Statistics Administration of the US Department of Commerce (ESA Issue Brief #06-17, October 3, 2017). The quick overview of 2016 sounds like this:
"FDI inflows on a historic cost basis in 2015 were the largest on record at $465.8 billion while 2016 inflows, though slightly lower at $457.1 billion, were at the second highest level on record. FDI in these two years was more than double the average annual inflows of roughly $200 billion for 2012-2014. Increased investment in manufacturing, specifically in chemical manufacturing, accounted for most of the investment gains for both 2015 and 2016.
"The United States had an inward FDI stock of $3.3 trillion and $3.7 trillion, on a historical-cost basis, for 2015 and 2016 respectively. The United States’ FDI stock in 2015 ($5.6 trillion on a current-cost basis) was more than three times larger than that of the next largest destination country. Total inward stock in the United States grew at an average annual rate of 7.8 percent per year from 2009-2016."


A common reason for foreign direct investment is that it helps a company be more confident about its international supply lines. Another reason for FDI in the United States is to take advantage of US-based expertise and R&D, Thus, it's no surprise that US-based firms with foreign direct investment are active in exports and in research and development. Cortez writes:
"Majority-owned U.S. affiliates of foreign entities exported $352.8 billion in goods, accounting for over 23 percent of total U.S. goods exports in 2015 (the most recent year for which this data is available). They are also a catalyst for research and development, spending $56.7 billion in 2015 on R&D and accounting for 15.8 percent of the U.S. total expenditure on R&D by businesses."

Given that FDI emphasizes manufacturing, R&D, and exports, it's not a surprise that the jobs with US affiliates of foreign firms tend to pay well.
"Majority-owned U.S. affiliates of foreign entities employed 6.8 million U.S. workers in 2015, up from 6.6 million in 2014, and provided compensation of nearly $80,000 per U.S. employee in 2015. That is higher than the U.S. average of $64,000 in the economy as a whole for the same year."




07 Oct 11:49

England ended free college—which was great for students - AEI - American Enterprise Institute: Freedom, Opportunity, Enterprise

by Preston Cooper

Advocates of free college often suggest that abolishing tuition fees would increase access to higher education. But according to a new NBER working paper by Richard Murphy, Judith Scott-Clayton, and Gillian Wyness, the exact opposite happened in England. The end of free college across the pond increased funding for higher education and allowed universities to enroll more students.

Prior to 1998, students paid nothing for tuition in England. Universities instead relied on taxpayers to pay for higher education. During the 1980s and 1990s, however, English universities saw a substantial increase in demand for degrees, partially due to the greater number of jobs requiring college-level skills.

More students placed greater strain on a limited pool of public funds. University funding per student plummeted in real terms, from over £13,000 (US$16,900) in the 1970s to under £7,000 (US$9,100) when free college ended in 1998. Due to funding constraints, universities turned away many students seeking degrees. This increased inequality, since rich students were more likely to attend schools with greater resources: from 1981 to 1999, the share of rich students earning college degrees increased more than 25 percentage points, while the share of poor students increased less than five.

All this led the center-left Labor government to introduce a small tuition fee of £1,000 per year in 1998. Over the following decades, subsequent governments raised tuition in stages. Charges currently max out at £9,250 (US$12,150). This is not a barrier to students of limited means, however. English students do not pay tuition upfront, but rather use government-issued loans to pay back the cost of their education. Loan payments are set according to graduates’ incomes and remaining balances are forgiven after thirty years.

Twenty years later, the reforms look like a success. Higher education funding per student climbed back up after the end of free college, since universities could now lean on tuition fees for revenue instead of just taxpayers (see chart). But higher prices did not reduce access: enrollments climbed after the end of free college, and enrollment gaps between rich and poor students narrowed. Due to tuition revenue, universities could serve more students who wanted degrees, and in 2015 the government was finally able to abolish all caps on enrollment of domestic students.

Source: Murphy, Scott-Clayton, and Wyness (2017). “Graduates” refers to former students paying back the cost of their education through the income-contingent loan system.

Problems remain in the English model. The government student loan system demands little of universities to maintain quality, and the authors note that it may enable schools to charge inflated prices. But overall, the system has dramatically improved in the two decades since the end of free college.

England’s experience highlights a fundamental problem with a government role in higher education: If universities rely more on government than students for funding, the level of investment in higher education hinges on on the whims of politicians rather than the needs of students.

Free college is the most extreme example. Under a market system, greater demand for degrees leads to more resources for universities, since more students pay tuition. But free tuition completely uncouples investment in higher education from student demand for degrees. Since tax revenues and competing spending priorities rarely align with the surges and slumps of student interest in college, governments usually cannot allocate the “right” amount of funding to universities.

This problem can have different consequences. England illustrates one set of repercussions, when government spending cannot keep up with student demand: strained resources, caps on enrollment, and inequality.

However, the consequences can also cut the other way. Free or heavily subsidized tuition may prop up enrollment at poor-quality schools, such as many community colleges in America. At these schools, a majority of students do not earn a degree within six years and a quarter of borrowers default on their student loans. Private colleges are not immune from such distortions: though not directly funded by the state, an abysmal for-profit sector in America has boomed due to loose credit from Uncle Sam. The result of government involvement is that bad colleges prosper and good colleges go underfunded.

Of course, a pure market system would have its own disadvantages, since many promising students might not afford tuition on their own. Innovation in college finance could address this problem to an extent, but a government role in funding higher education is necessary for the time being to preserve equity in access. But expanding the government role in college through free tuition should be out of the question: such a policy will undermine its own goals, as the experience of England demonstrates.

Despite the lessons of history, current Labor party leader Jeremy Corbyn wants a return to free college in the United Kingdom. If he succeeds, he will betray his own party’s legacy of reforming higher education for the better.

01 Oct 11:46

Women earned majority of doctoral degrees in 2016 for 8th straight year and outnumber men in grad school 135 to 100 - AEI - American Enterprise Institute: Freedom, Opportunity, Enterprise

by Mark Perry

The Council of Graduate Schools (CGS) released its annual report today on US graduate school enrollment and degrees for 2016 and here are some of the more interesting findings in this year’s report:

  1. For the eighth year in a row, women earned a majority of doctoral degrees awarded at US universities in 2016. Of the 78,744 doctoral degrees awarded in 2016 (Table B.25), women earned 40,407 of those degrees and 52.1% of the total, compared to 37,145 degrees awarded to men who earned 47.9% of the total (see top chart above). Women have now earned a majority of doctoral degrees in each academic year since 2009. Previously, women started earning a majority of associate’s degrees for the first time in 1978, a majority of master’s degrees in 1981, and a majority of bachelor’s degrees in 1982 according to the Department of Education. Therefore, 2009 marked the year when men officially became the “second sex” in higher education by earning a minority of college degrees at all college levels from associate’s degrees to doctoral degrees.
  2. By field of study, women earning doctoral degrees in 2016 outnumbered men in 7 of the 11 graduate fields tracked by the CGS (see top chart above): Arts and Humanities (54% female), Biology (51.7%, and one of the STEM fields that we hear so much about in terms of female under-representation), Education (69.4%), Health Sciences (69.9)%, Public Administration (77.4%), Social and Behavioral Studies (60.2%) and Other fields (50.7%). Men still earned a majority of 2016 doctoral degrees in the fields of Business (54.1% male), Engineering (77.2%), Math and Computer Science (74.2%), and Physical and Earth Sciences (66.4%).
  3. The middle chart above shows the gender breakdown for master’s degrees awarded in 2016 (from Table B.24) and the gender disparity in favor of females is significant – women earned 57.4% of all master’s degrees in 2016, which would also mean that women earned nearly 138 master’s degrees last year for every 100 degrees earned by men. Like for doctoral degrees, women outnumbered men in the same 7 out of the 11 fields of graduate study and in some of those fields the gender disparity was huge. For example, women earned more than 400 master’s degrees in health sciences for every 100 men and nearly 350 master’s degrees in both education and public administration for every 100 men.
  4. The bottom chart above displays total enrollment in 2016 by gender and field for all graduate school programs in the US (certificate, master’s and doctoral degrees from Table B.13), showing that there is a significant gender gap in favor of women for students attending US graduate schools. Women represent 57.5% of all graduate students in the US, meaning that there are now 135 women enrolled in graduate school for every 100 men. In certain fields like Education (75% female), Health Sciences (77.7% female) and Public Administration (77.1%), women outnumber men by a factor of almost three or more. By field of study, women enrolled in graduate school outnumber men in the same 7 out of the 11 graduate fields of study noted above, with females being a minority share of graduate students in only Business (45.1% female), Engineering (24.7% female), Math and Computer Science (31.5% female), and Physical and Earth Sciences (37% female).

MP: Here’s my prediction – the facts that: a) men are underrepresented in graduate school enrollment overall (100 men were enrolled in 2016 for every 135 women), b) men received fewer master’s (less than 42% of the total) and doctoral degrees (48.2% of the total) than women in 2016, and c) men were underrepresented in 7 out of 11 graduate fields of study at both the master’s and doctoral levels last year will get no attention at all from feminists, gender activists, women’s centers, the media, universities, or anybody else in the higher education industry.

Additionally, there will be no calls for government studies or increased government funding to address the significant gender disparities favoring women in graduate schools, and nobody will refer to the gender graduate school enrollment and degree gaps favoring women as a problem or a “crisis.” Further, despite their stated commitment to “gender equity,” the hundreds of university women’s centers around the country are unlikely to show any concern about the significant gender inequities in graduate school enrollment and degrees, and universities will not be allocating funding to set up men’s centers or men’s commissions on college campuses or providing funding for graduate scholarships for men.

Bottom Line: If there is any attention about gender differences in the CGS annual report, it will likely focus on the fact that women are a minority in 4 of the 11 fields of graduate study including engineering and computer science (a gender gap which some consider to be a “national crisis”), with calls for greater awareness of female under-representation in STEM graduate fields of study and careers (except for the STEM field of biology, where women have actually been over-represented for decades). But don’t expect any concern about the fact that men have increasingly become the second sex in higher education. The concern about gender imbalances will remain extremely selective, and will only focus on cases when women, not men, are underrepresented and in the minority.

To conclude, let me pose a few questions, paraphrasing George Mason University economist Walter E. Williams: If America’s diversity worshipers see any female under-representation as a problem and possibly even as proof of gender discrimination, what do they propose should be done about female over-representation in higher education at every level and in 7 out of 11 graduate fields? After all, to be logically consistent, aren’t female over-representation and female under-representation simply different sides of gender injustice?

01 Oct 11:38

Saw This Coming From A Mile Away: Russia Ads on Facebook Not Necessarily For Trump

by admin

In general, the whole Russia Facebook ad purchase story has been a huge yawner.  In an election where Hillary Clinton and her supporting PACs spent $1.2 billion and Trump spent about half that, are we really concerned about the impact of $100,000 in ad spend on Facebook?  Has there been anyone other than Russia and the Koch Brothers who the media could seriously write stories about manipulating an election by spending 0.0055% of the total advertising in the election? If that 0.0055% really turned the election, please send me the name of their ad agency.

The really interesting part of this story is that absolutely no one has said anything about that $100,000 actually having been spent on Trump.  People talk about the story as if they obviously were for Trump, but perhaps tellingly no one has actually confirmed this.  Certainly if you had asked me to guess in June of 2016 who Russia would have been making ads for, I would not have assumed Trump rather than Hillary was a sure bet.  And then there is this today from CNN

At least one of the Facebook ads bought by Russians during the 2016 presidential campaign referenced Black Lives Matter and was specifically targeted to reach audiences in Ferguson, Missouri and Baltimore, sources with knowledge of the ads told CNN.

Ferguson and Baltimore had gained widespread attention for the large and violent protests over police shootings of black men. The decision to target the ad in those two cities offers the first look at how accounts linked to the Russian government-affiliated troll farm known as the Internet Research Agency used geographically targeted advertising to sow political chaos in the United States, the sources said.

Hmmm.  I guess the apple does not fall far from the tree.  In the Cold War this is exactly the kind of thing the Soviets would have funded.  Though given how tribalized politics are I am not sure that spending money to target a political tribe to reinforce them in their already strongly-held beliefs is a super-productive way to spend money.  More to follow I am sure.

29 Sep 15:22

Women earned majority of doctoral degrees in 2016 for 8th straight year and outnumber men in grad school 135 to 100 - Publications – AEI

by Mark Perry

AEI
Women earned majority of doctoral degrees in 2016 for 8th straight year and outnumber men in grad school 135 to 100

The Council of Graduate Schools (CGS) released its annual report today on US graduate school enrollment and degrees for 2016 and here are some of the more interesting findings in this year’s report:

  1. For the eighth year in a row, women earned a majority of doctoral degrees awarded at US universities in 2016. Of the 78,744 doctoral degrees awarded in 2016 (Table B.25), women earned 40,407 of those degrees and 52.1% of the total, compared to 37,145 degrees awarded to men who earned 47.9% of the total (see top chart above). Women have now earned a majority of doctoral degrees in each academic year since 2009. Previously, women started earning a majority of associate’s degrees for the first time in 1978, a majority of master’s degrees in 1981, and a majority of bachelor’s degrees in 1982 according to the Department of Education. Therefore, 2009 marked the year when men officially became the “second sex” in higher education by earning a minority of college degrees at all college levels from associate’s degrees to doctoral degrees.
  2. By field of study, women earning doctoral degrees in 2016 outnumbered men in 7 of the 11 graduate fields tracked by the CGS (see top chart above): Arts and Humanities (54% female), Biology (51.7%, and one of the STEM fields that we hear so much about in terms of female under-representation), Education (69.4%), Health Sciences (69.9)%, Public Administration (77.4%), Social and Behavioral Studies (60.2%) and Other fields (50.7%). Men still earned a majority of 2016 doctoral degrees in the fields of Business (54.1% male), Engineering (77.2%), Math and Computer Science (74.2%), and Physical and Earth Sciences (66.4%).
  3. The middle chart above shows the gender breakdown for master’s degrees awarded in 2016 (from Table B.24) and the gender disparity in favor of females is significant – women earned 57.4% of all master’s degrees in 2016, which would also mean that women earned nearly 138 master’s degrees last year for every 100 degrees earned by men. Like for doctoral degrees, women outnumbered men in the same 7 out of the 11 fields of graduate study and in some of those fields the gender disparity was huge. For example, women earned more than 400 master’s degrees in health sciences for every 100 men and nearly 350 master’s degrees in both education and public administration for every 100 men.
  4. The bottom chart above displays total enrollment in 2016 by gender and field for all graduate school programs in the US (certificate, master’s and doctoral degrees from Table B.13), showing that there is a significant gender gap in favor of women for students attending US graduate schools. Women represent 57.5% of all graduate students in the US, meaning that there are now 135 women enrolled in graduate school for every 100 men. In certain fields like Education (75% female), Health Sciences (77.7% female) and Public Administration (77.1%), women outnumber men by a factor of almost three or more. By field of study, women enrolled in graduate school outnumber men in the same 7 out of the 11 graduate fields of study noted above, with females being a minority share of graduate students in only Business (45.1% female), Engineering (24.7% female), Math and Computer Science (31.5% female), and Physical and Earth Sciences (37% female).

MP: Here’s my prediction – the facts that: a) men are underrepresented in graduate school enrollment overall (100 men were enrolled in 2016 for every 135 women), b) men received fewer master’s (less than 42% of the total) and doctoral degrees (48.2% of the total) than women in 2016, and c) men were underrepresented in 7 out of 11 graduate fields of study at both the master’s and doctoral levels last year will get no attention at all from feminists, gender activists, women’s centers, the media, universities, or anybody else in the higher education industry.

Additionally, there will be no calls for government studies or increased government funding to address the significant gender disparities favoring women in graduate schools, and nobody will refer to the gender graduate school enrollment and degree gaps favoring women as a problem or a “crisis.” Further, despite their stated commitment to “gender equity,” the hundreds of university women’s centers around the country are unlikely to show any concern about the significant gender inequities in graduate school enrollment and degrees, and universities will not be allocating funding to set up men’s centers or men’s commissions on college campuses or providing funding for graduate scholarships for men.

Bottom Line: If there is any attention about gender differences in the CGS annual report, it will likely focus on the fact that women are a minority in 4 of the 11 fields of graduate study including engineering and computer science (a gender gap which some consider to be a “national crisis”), with calls for greater awareness of female under-representation in STEM graduate fields of study and careers (except for the STEM field of biology, where women have actually been over-represented for decades). But don’t expect any concern about the fact that men have increasingly become the second sex in higher education. The concern about gender imbalances will remain extremely selective, and will only focus on cases when women, not men, are underrepresented and in the minority.

To conclude, let me pose a few questions, paraphrasing George Mason University economist Walter E. Williams: If America’s diversity worshipers see any female under-representation as a problem and possibly even as proof of gender discrimination, what do they propose should be done about female over-representation in higher education at every level and in 7 out of 11 graduate fields? After all, to be logically consistent, aren’t female over-representation and female under-representation simply different sides of gender injustice?

Women earned majority of doctoral degrees in 2016 for 8th straight year and outnumber men in grad school 135 to 100
Mark Perry

28 Sep 19:54

Life With Nanny Norway

by Bruce Bawer

For thirteen years in a row, Business Insider – citing its standard of living, health-care system, and high life expectancy – has put Norway at the top of its annual list of “best countries to live in.”  The high life expectancy is an objective fact; the other items are a matter of debate. Norwegian health care? It works admirably, unless you require an operation or treatment that the government considers too expensive or for which there's a waiting list. Standard of living? Incomes are high, but so are taxes.

But I'm not here to argue with Business Insider's rankings. I'm here to point out an aspect of Norwegian life that never figures on any of these “best country” lists, whether put out by Business Insider or the United Nations or whomever. I'm talking about statism – the degree to which the state is a palpable part of everyday life. 

Briefly put, Norway is pretty much statism central. I'm more accustomed to it now, but when I was first living here I was acutely aware every single day of the presence of the government in my life. I'm not talking about some abstract, theoretical phenomenon. It's a real, palpable feeling. A feeling of being a bit less of an individual and a bit more part of a collective. An awareness that your eleven-digit “person number” (which includes your birth date) comes up a lot more often than your social-security number ever did back in the U.S. A sense of being covered by an umbrella, but also surrounded by a wall. 

For the last four years, to be sure, Norway has had a supposedly non-socialist coalition government, led by the Conservative Party, with Labor heading up the socialist opposition. In the September 11 elections, the governing coalition was returned to power. But the non-socialist label is deceptive: whichever party or parties happen to be running the country at any given time, the public sector is overwhelmingly dominated by Labor and other leftist parties. While in power, the so-called conservatives may pass legislation signaling a bit more support for business interests or the military, but they never do anything that significantly reverses Norwegian statism.

Now, to live under a statist system is, as it were, to live in someone else's house, and thus to live by their rules. Nanny Norway doesn't think it's good for you to drink. So she doesn't allow anyone other than herself to sell liquor, and makes buying it as costly and troublesome as possible. In my town of 12,000 people, there's one state-owned liquor outlet. Hours are limited. The tax on (for example) a bottle of vodka is 300%. Beer is more than twice as expensive as anywhere else on earth. 

Nanny Norway thinks it's best for you to eat at home, so going out to dinner is also a pricey proposition. Lunch? Almost nobody goes out to lunch. Years ago, in a New York Times article about Norway's high prices, I made casual reference to the matpakke, the modest packed lunch – usually a sandwich or two wrapped in wax paper or aluminum foil – that Norwegians of all socioeconomic levels take to work. After VG, Norway's largest daily, ran an article about my article, I received hundreds of emails and text messages – including death threats – savaging me for insulting a beloved national tradition. 

When I moved to Norway, I was introduced to another tradition: dugnad. If you rent a flat in somebody else's building, he's not responsible for taking care of the property – you are. You're expected to get together with the other tenants every so often and rake the leaves, mow the lawn, wash the stairs, and generally act as if you work for the guy you're paying rent to. 

It's interesting how the people of Norway have been taught to regard various forms of deprivation as cherished traditions. 

For a European country, Norway is very large yet also very thinly populated – which means that people have to drive long distances. But although she is a leading oil producer, Nanny Norway thinks it's bad for you to use gasoline. Hence, while her petroleum fund – which contains the profits from the sale of North Sea oil – is worth just under a trillion dollars, Norwegian citizens pay the planet's highest gas prices.

Nanny Norway has made laws about things you never imagined somebody might think of making a law about. We once considered having our cats declawed. It's illegal. (The vet looked at us as if we were savages for even contemplating it – yet the same vet will put a cat to sleep on request, no questions asked.) It's OK to keep the ashes of a beloved pet in your home – but illegal to possess the ashes of a human loved one. (They have to be buried in a cemetery – but if no relative is still around twenty-five years later to pay a renewal fee, the remains will be dug up and thrown out.) 

One thing has improved. When I moved here, the Web was in its infancy, and the media's ideological lockstep was numbing. The rise of independent online news and opinion sites has made a vast difference. Still, it irks to know that your tax money is helping to subsidize privately owned newspapers – all of which faithfully echo the political establishment's views, even as they pretend to be providing a wide spectrum of perspectives. Even more irksome is the compulsory semi-annual license fee (now $184) that supports the Norwegian Broadcasting Corporation, a shameless propaganda outfit that critics call the Labor Party Broadcasting Corporation. 

Unsurprisingly, running a small business is even tougher in Norway than in the U.S. To start any small business is, in a sense, to issue a declaration of independence, and that makes statists uncomfortable. So they make it as difficult as possible, piling on the rules, paperwork, and taxes. To work as a freelancer, I had to register as a business. But doing what I do is easy in Norway compared to trying to squeeze a profit out of a shop or restaurant. 

As a writer, I'm particularly aware of laws and practices that affect my profession. Publishing? If your book is being put out by a Norwegian house, there's no use hiring an agent to get you a good deal: everybody gets the same contract and advance. It's the law. Booksellers? If you own a bookstore, you can't lower prices on new books – the government sets the prices, and changing them is forbudt. (That's Norwegian for verboten.) Libraries? Every year, members of Arts Council Norway, a division of the Ministry of Culture, peruse the lists of new books and pick out those that the nation's libraries will be required to order. In a country as small as Norway, making the cut can spell the difference between a flop and a hit. 

Naturally, the fix is in – meaning that writers with friends in high places, or backgrounds in left-wing politics, do well under this system. Favored scribblers get handsome stipends every year or two from the state-supported writers' unions. A few especially favored writers even receive a taxpayer-funded annual income, comparable to a respectable professional salary. Again, the fix is in. 

Are there positive things about Norway? Plenty. Overwhelmingly, Norwegians are civilized, decent, honest, patriotic, down-to-earth, responsible-minded, and family-oriented. The landscape is spectacular, the air salubrious, the tap water excellent, and the products of Norwegian farms reliably tasty and wholesome. The country has a proud armed forces, manufactures cutting-edge defense systems, and pays more per capita on military expenses than any other NATO member. 

We've seen that Business Insider hails Norway's high life expectancy; my sense is that that genuinely impressive statistic has less to do with any welfare-state benefit than with good genes, healthful dietary habits that go back generations, and a tradition of participation in winter sports and other vigorous physical activity well into one's golden years. I could go on. But the bottom line is clear. All these stellar attributes exist in spite of statism – not because of it.  

24 Sep 13:24

Health Care Costs Are the Reason You're Not Getting a Raise

by Veronique de Rugy

Every Labor Day, you can count on seeing a spate of news stories saying that "real wages" in the United States haven't grown since the 1970s. That's true, more or less, but the reason for the stagnation might surprise you. It's a complex story, but it boils down to this: Blame health care costs.

According to the Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis, inflation-adjusted wages have grown by just 2.7 percent in the last 40 years. But inflation-adjusted total compensation—wages plus fringe benefits, such as health insurance, disability insurance, and paid vacation, along with employer-paid Social Security and Medicare taxesincreased by more than 60 percent in the same period.

Wages still make up a significant share of your total compensation: 68.3 percent, according to 2017 data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics, vs. 31.7 percent that goes to benefits. But that latter piece has grown significantly, in no small part due to the rising cost of health insurance. And that trend is only going to get worse.

This has political consequences, since most workers don't appreciate how hefty the non-wage share of their compensation is, nor do they generally realize just how much of the money their employer is shelling out on their behalf gets eaten up by health care. As a result, they demand that politicians intervene to deliver more raw pay.

To control health care costs, Americans will have to stop relying on third-party payers to cover small, routine expenditures (as opposed to large and unforeseen ones). According to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, out-of-pocket spendingcopays and the likewas only 11 percent of all health care spending in 2015, down from 43 percent in 1965.

It's an economic truism that if someone else is covering the bulk of the cost of something, you're likely to use more of itespecially if you don't realize that you're paying for it with foregone wages and higher taxes. This increases the overall demand for health services, which in turn increases the cost. It also creates an incentive for whoever is paying, be it the government or your insurance company, to start putting constraints on which services you can and cannot consume. The end result is that patients have become minor players in many of the financial and medical choices that deeply affect their lives.

Reversing this trend would be hard without a reduction in health care costs big enough to get people to stop expecting their insurance to pay for every little thing. Lower costs would also make it possible to free employers from the responsibility of providing coverage to their workersbecause if quality care is cheap and abundant, you don't need to look to your boss to make sure you can get it. That in turn would reduce the gap between compensation and wages. Controlling costs, then, really is the key.

Easier said than done? Yes and no.

This is, of course, a long-term project. It requires bringing to health care the kind of innovation we've seen in other sectors over the last few decades. And that means reducing the influence of government bureaucrats and special interests, which routinely obstruct new technologies and resist innovative ways for consumers to interact with their doctors.

Introducing novel tools and services can make health care more expensive at first. But as long as the government refrains from setting price controls, costs will eventually go down, just as with consumer goods, allowing ever more people to gain access. And some cost-saving steps can be taken immediately. For instance, why not allow medical tourism, reform the onerous Food and Drug Administration approval process, and end regulations that stop highly trained nurse practitioners and physician assistants from treating patients?

By freeing the health care sector from the grip of government and special interests, we can unleash the kind of innovation that has rocked the world of information technology in the last 25 years. Workers should be all for that.

24 Sep 07:46

The Ninth Circuit's Foie Gras Blunder

by Baylen Linnekin

Foie GrasLast week, the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals overturned a District Court ruling that had struck down California's dumb and unconstitutional foie gras ban. The plaintiffs are already planning their appeal. Technically the ban is back, but the law won't be enforced while the appeal is pending.

"It is unprecedented and unconstitutional that the California legislature can dictate how New York farmers care for their animals, produced in compliance with New York's strict animal welfare laws, and processed under federal inspection," said Marcus Henley, manager of Hudson Valley Foie Gras, a co-plaintiff that's based in New York State, in an email to me this week.

"States have the right to protect their citizens from inhumane and substandard products," said Paul Shapiro, spokesperson for The Humane Society of the United States, which wrote an amicus brief in support of the state law, in an email to me this week. "Rather than continuing to fight a losing battle, foie gras agribusinesses should join the 21st century and accept that the vast majority of Americans find violently force-feeding ducks simply too much cruelty to swallow."

To Shapiro's credit, he predicted this outcome to me in 2015.

While that prediction seems long ago, this case has been winding its way through the courts now for around five years. The plaintiffs, led by an association of Quebec-area foie gras producers and Hudson Valley, had argued that California has no authority to regulate out-of-state and international foie gras producers. But a federal court rejected those arguments, determining in 2012 that such "vagueness, Dormant Commerce Clause, and preemption arguments [we]re 'unlikely to succeed on the merits.'"

Ultimately, a U.S. District Court held in 2015 that the law was preempted by the federal Poultry Products Inspection Act (PPIA), which governs, among other things, poultry-product "ingredients." The Ninth Circuit decision last week disagreed about the ingredients issue and overturned the lower court's ruling.

"The PPIA prohibits states from imposing requirements on ingredients that contradict federal regulations," Reason's Scott Shackford wrote last week, in a post that nailed the details of the court's reasoning. "But this foie gras ban technically regulates a process, the manner by which the foie gras is made. Therefore, the judges ruled, the California law does not come into conflict with the PPIA at all."

"In our case, there can be no question that California imposes a requirement on the primary ingredient in my clients' USDA-approved foie gras products—i.e., that they may not contain any force-fed foie gras—which is a requirement that is 'in addition to or different than' those under federal law and is therefore preempted," said California attorney Michael Tenenbaum, who represented the plaintiffs in the foie gras case, in an email to me this week.

"The last time the Ninth Circuit tried this—i.e., reversed a district court's preemption finding in an effort to save a misguided state ban on USDA-approved products on the ground that 'states are free to decide which animals may be turned into meat'—it was reversed, 9-0, by a Supreme Court opinion that said (literally), 'We think not,' as it would allow states to 'make a mockery' of federal preemption," Tenenbaum says. (Case link added for reference purposes.)

Tenenbaum and Shackford are correct in their facts and analysis. Ultimately, though, this case isn't about statutory interpretation or ingredients or processes or the PPIA. This is a case—plain and simple—about a farmer's right to raise animals that consumers want to eat, and a big bully of a state working hand in hand with animal rights activists to impose its vague and burdensome laws on other states, and even other countries.

No state should have such power. Thankfully—hey!—the U.S. Constitution ensures no state has such power. But these federal courts have so far missed that point.

In 2015, just after the District Court ruling striking down the ban, I wrote that I was pleased with the case's ends, but not with the court's means of arriving there.

Does the PPIA in fact preempt the California law? I. Don't. Care.

"I believe strongly that even in the absence of a federal law that preempts California from legislating, the state has no authority to regulate interstate commerce," I wrote. "The foie gras ban isn't unconstitutional primarily because Congress has legislated in this area but because California cannot legislate in this area."

Ultimately, I hope a Ninth Circuit panel, the U.S. Supreme Court, or both will decide this case upon this and only this constitutionally sound rationale.

What are the case's prospects on appeal? Foie gras supporters are optimistic.

"We have every confidence that the unconstitutional law will eventually be overturned for good," Henley says.

"I have every confidence that we will prevail again," Tenenbaum tells me.

I do, too.

22 Sep 14:03

New Hillary Emails Warrant Special Prosecutor

It is time for President Trump to keep the promise he made in the presidential debate to indict Hillary Clinton for her crimes.
18 Sep 12:21

Some charts from the Census data released this week on US incomes in 2016 showing impressive gains for Americans - AEI - American Enterprise Institute: Freedom, Opportunity, Enterprise

by Mark Perry

The Census Bureau released its annual report this week on “Income and Poverty in the United States” with lots of new, updated data on household and family incomes, and household demographics, through 2016. Below are four charts based on the new Census data on household income through 2016.

1. Median and Average Household Income, and Average Household Size. The chart above shows: a) average annual household income in 2016 dollars (dark blue line), b) median household income in 2016 dollars (light blue line), and c) average household size (brown line), all from 1967 to 2016.

Median household income last year of $59,030 was an increase of 3.2% from 2015 and brought median income for US households to the highest level ever, above the previous record level of $58,665 in 1999. The income gain last year was the fourth consecutive annual increase in real median household income starting in 2013, following five consecutive declines from 2008 to 2012 due to the effects of the Great Recession. The last period of four consecutive gains in annual median household income was during the last 1990s at the end of the longest economic expansion in US history (120 months from March 1991 to March 2001).

Although it doesn’t get as much attention as median income because it’s influenced by outliers on the high end, average household income also increased to a new record level last year of $83,143, which was an increase of 3.6% from 2015.

Also notable is the fact that average size of US households has been falling steadily for the last 70 years (or more) and fell to an all-time low last year of 2.53 persons, down from an average of 3.28 persons per household in 1967, and down by more than one full person since the 3.56 average in 1947 (not shown above).

Income adjusted for household size is calculated and presented below, but it should be obvious that it’s not really fair to compare median household incomes over time because the size of US households keeps declining. While median household income has been flat or declining in recent years (and below the 1999 level until last year), it’s important to note that the gains over longer periods of time are quite impressive. The typical US household in 2016 had an annual income of $14,144 more (in 2016 dollars) than the typical household in 1967 – that’s almost $1,200 in additional income every month. And when you consider that the cost of most manufactured goods and many services including clothing, footwear, appliances, electronics, TVs, household furnishings, sporting goods, airline travel, telephone service, computers and automobiles have become cheaper and more affordable over time (relative to increases in overall consumer prices and incomes), along with the increased availability of services that are now almost free (GPS, music, cameras, Craigslist listings, Wikipedia information, Facebook, Twitter, blogs, etc.), that $14,000 annual increase in real household income translates into a much higher standard of living for the average American.

======================================

2. Average and Median Income per Household Member. The chart above displays average and median household income adjusted for household size. Both the average and median income per person in the US reached all-time highs in 2016 of $32,863 (in 2016 dollars) for average income per person and $23,337 for median income per household member last year of $23,335. Compared to 1967, the average household income per US household member has more than doubled from $15,300 to $32,862, while the median household income per person has increased by 70.5% from $13,687 to $23,336.

========================================

3. Married 2-Earner Households. The chart above shows annual median income from 1949 to 2016 for families headed by married couples with both spouses working. Income for a typical family in this group reached an all-time high last year of $106,000, and the median family income for this group of Americans has been above $100,000 for the last three years. Since 1949, the real median income for married couples with two earners has more than tripled and since 1963 income has doubled.

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4. The Disappearing Middle Class. This chart represents what might be one of the most important findings in the new Census data and confirms a trend I’ve highlighted many times before. Yes, the “middle-class is disappearing” as we hear all the time, but it’s because middle-income households in the US are gradually moving up to higher income groups, and not down into lower income groups. In 1967, only 8.1% of US households (fewer than 1 in 12) earned $100,000 or more (in 2016 dollars). Last year, more than 1 in 4 US household (27.7%) were in that high-income category, a new record high. In other words, over the last half-century, the share of US households earning incomes of $100,000 or more (in 2016 dollars) has more than tripled! At the same time, the share of middle-income households earning $35,000 to $100,000 (in 2016 dollars) has decreased over time, from more than half of US households in 1967 (53.2%) to less than half (only 42.2%) in 2016. Likewise, the share of low-income households earning $35,000 or less (in 2016 dollars) has decreased from more than one-third of households in 1967 (38.7%) to below one-third of US households last year (32.1%), a new record low.

Bottom Line: Here are some of the key takeaways from the new Census report on US incomes through 2016:

  • The 3.2% gain in real median US household income last year brought median income to more than $59,000, the highest level ever recorded.
  • The income gain in 2016 was the fourth annual increase and the first period of four consecutive increases in median household income since the late 1990s.
  • Compared to 1967, the typical US household today has $14,000 more annual income (in 2016 dollars) or $1,200 more per month, to spend on goods and services, many of which have become much more affordable today than in the 1960s (or weren’t even available then).
  • Adjusted for household size, which has been falling, real median household income per household member last year of $23,335 was the highest in history.
  • Real median income for married couples with both spouses working reached a new all-time record high last year of $106,000.
  • The share of US households with incomes of $100,000 or more (in 2016 dollars) reached a new record high of 27.7% last year, which is more than triple the share of households in 1967 with that level of income. At the same time, the share of US low-income households (incomes of $35,000 or below) fell to an all-time low of 32.1%
  • America’s middle-class is disappearing but into higher, not lower, income categories

 

17 Sep 13:53

Canadian Authoritarianism: Prosecuting People With the Wrong Opinions

by admin

This comes to us from that bastion of freedom called Canada, where half of Americans wanted to run when Trump got elected.

It’s like something out of George Orwell’s 1984**.

Canada’s Competition Bureau, an arm’s length agency funded by Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s government to the tune of almost $50 million annually, investigated three organizations accused of denying mainstream climate science for over a year, following a complaint from an environmental group.

The bureau discontinued its 14-month probe in June, citing “available evidence, the assessment of the facts in this case, and to ensure the effective allocation of limited resources”, according to Josephine A.L. Palumbo, Deputy Commissioner of Competition, Deceptive Marketing Practices Directorate.

But it will re-open its investigation should it receive relevant new information from the public.

The complaint was filed by Ecojustice on behalf of six “prominent” Canadians, including former Ontario NDP leader and UN ambassador Stephen Lewis.

It accused three groups, Friends of Science, the International Climate Science Coalition, and the Heartland Institute of making false and misleading claims about climate change, including that the sun is the main driver of climate change, not carbon dioxide, and that carbon dioxide is not a pollutant.

When it launched its complaint in December, 2015, Ecojustice told the National Observer it would press the Commissioner of Competition to refer the matter to the Attorney-General of Canada for “criminal charges against the denier groups”.

**I presume the author is referring to the general understanding of what 1984 was about, rather than Hillary Clinton's revisionist opinion that 1984 was a cautionary tale about the danger of not having enough respect for government authority figures.

07 Sep 13:30

The new Trump Doctrine: ‘Kick your friends while they’re down’ - AEI - American Enterprise Institute: Freedom, Opportunity, Enterprise

by Matt Winesett

The Trump administration’s calculated leak last weekend that it was considering withdrawing from the KORUS is truly a new low — even for this benighted White House. This is true even if it turns out the president and his trade minions thought this was a slick negotiating tactic right out of The Art of the Deal. With exquisite timing, the president confirmed the story on Saturday, just as word came down that North Korea had detonated an advanced thermonuclear device many times the size of previous explosions.

U.S. President Donald Trump (R) greets South Korean President Moon Jae-in prior to delivering a joint statement from the Rose Garden of the White House in Washington, U.S., June 30, 2017. REUTERS/Jim Bourg

Several basic facts underscore the folly of this proposed action. South Korea has been a treaty ally of the US since 1953 and a model of democracy since the 1980s. It is this nation’s 6th largest trading partner, with two-way trade amounting to $112 billion. Though thriving, it has lived under a constant threat from an unstable, dangerously reckless, North Korean Kim dynasty for decades — now compounded by the murderous and volatile regime of the Kim Jong-un. With the recent escalation of the (thus far) rhetorical war between the Trump administration and the Kim dictatorship, South Koreans are also living with the dire threat of massive casualties and ruinous property destruction.

On the economic front, the South Koreans are also facing large-scale retribution from Beijing as a result of the continued steadfastness in accepting the THAAD anti-missile system as a defense against North Korean missile attacks. China is South Korea’s number one export market, averaging 25% of Korea’s exports over the past decade. Firms such as Hyundai and the Lotte conglomerate have found markets and supply chains disrupted and cut off.

Piling on

Into this fraught situation comes the US bullying attempt to force South Korea to knuckle under US trade negotiating demands — or face immediate withdrawal from KORUS. Understandably, newly elected President Moon Jae-in and his trade negotiators have been reluctant to accede to a full-scale renegotiation of KORUS, particularly given Trump’s economically ignorant (and impossible) demand that a new agreement result in lowering the US-Korean trade deficit. Though USTR Robert Lighthizer is too smart to believe this nonsense, he has played the lackey to this president by pushing the same fallacious tie between bilateral trade agreement and a nation’s trade balance.

The effects of these recent follies are likely to be far-reaching. Combined with the summary withdrawal from the Trans-Pacific trade agreement, cavalierly threatening our stalwart South Korean ally will inevitably bring into question the future of US reliability and leadership in East Asia — and beyond.

15 Aug 11:48

Genetic evidence for self-domestication in humans

by gcochran9

There’s an interesting recent paper on the genetic basis of the changes we see in domestication – and the extent to which humans exhibit similar genetic changes. domesticated species end to have depigmentation, floppy ears, shorter muzzles, curly tails, smaller teeth, smaller cranial capacity, neotenous behavior, reduced sexual dimorphism, docility, and more frequent estrous cycles: the ‘domestication syndrome’. There is reason to think that this syndrome arises from a mild deficit of neural crest cells.

They talk about a number of loci that look to be involved in such changes in in anatomically modern humans, and show evidence of selection (when compared to archaic humans like Neanderthals and Denisovans). They discuss a number of such genes and gene pathways.

I noticed something interesting about one of the genes mentioned [ ERBB4] & the other genes it interacts with. ERBB4 (the neuregulin receptor) negatively regulates ERK, which plays a critical role in neural crest development and regulates neuronal gene expression in both the neocortex and hippocampus. Closely related is BRAF, upstream of ERK. BRAF interacts with YWHAH (selected in dogs), PPP2CA (selected in horses), while ERBB4 shows selection in anatomically modern humans and cattle. Upstream of BRAF, SOSI has been selected in domesticated foxes.

ERBB4 binds with NRG1, NRG2, NRG3, NRG4, and ADAM17. NRG2 was selected in cats, cattle, and dogs. NRG4 was selected in cattle, NRG3 in AMH.

But there’s more: there is evidence for recent regional selection of variants in the ERBB4 pathway [ work from Joe Pickrell] . ERBB4 shows strong signals of selection in all non-African populations, NRG3 shows strong signs of selection in West Eurasian populations, while NRG1, NRG2, and ADAM17 show signs of selection in East Asians.

It is not necessarily the case that all humans are equally domesticated, or became domesticated in exactly the same way. We know that some populations split off as long as a quarter of a million years ago. Although the earliest known AMH skeletons already show signs of the domestication syndrome ( the childlike flat face), their skulls were a good deal more robust than those of any people today. Probably the process has continued over time, quite possibly it even accelerated in dense agriculture agricultural populations in the Holocene. But that wouldn’t have taken the same course everywhere.

Members of populations that have gone further down the path of self-domestication should be easier to enslave.

For all I know, some populations moved into new environments that effectively reversed these selection pressures (feral humans] .

And with rapidly improving genetic technology, we could probably create truly feral humans.


13 Aug 05:48

Tax-credit scholarship programs provide options for parents - A “geoeconomics” approach to China: Hard-hitting economic tools and sanctions

by Grant Addison

Gov. Bruce Rauner has been clear and concise in his assessment of the Illinois school reform bill, reminding everyone that the point of it is, first and foremost, to ensure that every child in the state gets access to the education they deserve, and taxpayers and families get a positive social return from the millions they invest into the system. While the hard part of any political negotiation is to develop solutions that achieve those goals, thankfully a number of families in partnership with education, faith and business leaders are showing us how it can be done. We just have to be willing to listen to what this broad bipartisan, multi-ethnic coalition is trying to accomplish: Breaking the poverty of opportunity in Illinois.

tax-credit school choice

@lambretta1_22 via Twenty20

One way to accomplish this is to use the education funding bill to enact a tax credit scholarship program. Seventeen state legislatures have enacted tax credit laws that allow individuals and corporations to allocate a portion of their owed state taxes to private, nonprofit, scholarship-granting organizations that issue scholarships to K-12 students. These scholarships allow parents to choose to send their child to a private school if they believe that is the best option for their child.

None of these 17 states have had school districts go bankrupt because of the tax credit scholarship program, nor have millions of students been left without a public school to attend. Scare tactics of this nature were used in an attempt to stop the passage of the Illinois Tax Credits for Educational Expenses Program in 1999. Guess what? More than 285,000 parents with children enrolled in private and public schools benefited from this program in 2014.

Tools such as the tax credit scholarship further empower students to gain access to diverse learning environments, which is a good reason why tax credits are the fastest-growing private school choice program in the country.

Research also validates that parents’ decision to participate in a tax credit scholarship program goes beyond test scores alone. In Georgia, where I am a trustee of the largest tax credit scholarship program in the state, a 2013 study found that parents pick private schools for reasons that include more individualized attention, values of the school, class size, safety and learning (the same things public school parents want for their children). This finding is one of the most important aspects of the American parental choice movement: multiple factors matter in the school selection process.

Another important part about the American parental choice movement is that it is not anti-public education. Let us honor the fact that Illinois has some great public schools and teachers. Millions of families rely on them to help students obtain good jobs, prepare them for service in our armed forces, and pursue post-secondary opportunities. But let us acknowledge that Illinois has some great private schools and teachers, too.

Like many states, Illinois now finds itself at a crossroads. Faced with an extraordinarily challenging legislative fight over education funding, lawmakers must decide whether to trust families to choose where to enroll their children, or whether it is prudent to continue down the path of a one-size-fits all education mindset that has proven unable to break the cycle of poverty for all children.

Public and private schools matter to any opportunity society. So do family, educator, philanthropic, business, and nonprofit partnerships. This civil society approach is essential to help more students realize the benefits of a learning-and-earning economy.

Now, the moment is ripe for the Illinois governor and legislature to invent a new future — one that will have a profound impact on generations to come.