The Public Policy

The Public Policy

How Ted Cruz Would Balance the Budget

By 11.12.15

At the CNBC debate on October 28, Ted Cruz . released his tax reform proposal, which I believe is the best of all the presidential candidates’ plans. At Tuesday night’s debate, Crux released a spending reduction plan showing how he will pay for the tax cut involved in the tax reform plan.

For the individual income tax under his tax reform, Cruz’s plan provides for one flat rate of 10% on everything – wages, capital gains, dividends, personal business income, rent, interest, and all other forms of individual income. The corporate income tax would be abolished, and replaced with a 16% Business Flat Tax, which applies to sales of goods and services, minus all purchases and expenses for inputs for production. It automatically provides for immediate “expensing,” or an immediate deduction for all purchases of plant and equipment, and all other capital investment, which inherently involves purchases of inputs from other businesses. It is essentially a consumption tax for business.

The Public Policy

Ignoring the Obvious

By 11.3.15

A recent, widely publicized incident in which a policeman was called to a school classroom to deal with a disruptive student has provoked all sorts of comments on whether the policeman used “excessive force.”

What has received far less attention, though it is a far larger question, with more sweeping implications, is the role of disruptive students in schools.

Critics of charter schools have often pointed to those schools’ ability to expel uncooperative and disruptive students, far more readily than regular public schools can, as a reason for some charter schools” far better educational outcomes, as shown on many tests.

The message of these critics is that it is “unfair” to compare regular public schools” results with those of charter schools serving the same neighborhoods — and often in the same buildings. This criticism ignores the fact that schools do not exist to provide jobs for teachers or “fairness” to institutions, but to provide education for students.

“Fairness” is for human beings, not for institutions. Institutions that are not serving the needs of people should either be changed or phased out and replaced, when they persistently fail.

The Public Policy

Open Season on the Police

By 10.20.15

In recent months there have been a series of cases reported in the media, where some teenage thug — white, black, or Hispanic in different cases — has been stopped by a policeman for some routine violation of the law and, instead of complying with lawful instructions, such as “show me your driver’s license,” chooses instead to defy the policeman, resist arrest, and finally ends up physically assaulting the cop.

In the most recent case, the teenager happened to be white, but the story doesn’t seem to change much, whatever the complexion of the guy who violated the law. Nor does the sad ending change, with the young wise guy shot dead. Nor do the reactions of the media and the parents vary much.

“He was only a kid” is an almost automatic reaction of the parents and the media. “He didn’t deserve to be killed” over a traffic violation, or because he didn’t drop a toy gun when ordered to, or some other minor infraction.

Are we so addicted to talking points and sound bites that we can’t be bothered to use common sense? If you are killed by a teenager, you are just as dead as if you had been killed by the oldest man in the world.

The Public Policy

The ‘Gun Control’ Farce: Part II

By 10.15.15

The grand illusion of zealots for laws preventing ordinary, law-abiding people from having guns is that “gun control” laws actually control guns. In a country with many millions of guns, not all of them registered, this is a fantasy and a farce.

Guns do not vanish into thin air because there are gun control laws. Guns — whether legal or illegal — can last for centuries. Passing laws against guns may enable zealots to feel good about themselves, but at the cost of other people’s lives.

Why anyone would think that criminals who disobey other laws, including laws against murder, would obey gun control laws is a mystery. A disarmed population makes crime a safer occupation and street violence a safer sport.

The “knockout game” of suddenly throwing a punch to the head of some unsuspecting passer-by would not be nearly so much fun for street hoodlums, if there was a serious risk that the passer-by was carrying a concealed firearm.

The Public Policy

The ‘Gun Control’ Farce

By 10.13.15

President Obama’s intrusion into the mourning community of Roseburg, Oregon, in order to promote his political crusade for stronger gun control laws, is part of a pattern of his using various other sites of shooting rampages in the past to promote this long-standing crusade of the political left.

The zealotry of gun control advocates might make some sense if they had any serious evidence that more restrictive gun control laws actually reduce gun crimes. But they seldom even discuss the issue in terms of empirical evidence.

Saving lives is serious business. But claiming to be saving lives and refusing to deal with evidence is a farce. Nor is the Second Amendment or the National Rifle Association the real issue, despite how much the media and the intelligentsia focus on them.

If there is hard evidence that stronger gun control laws actually reduce gun crimes in general or reduce murders in particular, the Second Amendment can be repealed, as other Amendments have been repealed. Constitutional Amendments exist to serve the people. People do not exist to be sacrificed to Constitutional Amendments.

The Public Policy

Charlatans and Sheep: Part III

By 10.8.15

The prevailing social dogma of our time — that economic and other disparities among groups are strange, if not sinister — has set off bitter disputes between those who blame genetic differences and those who blame discrimination.

Both sides ignore the possibility that groups themselves may differ in their orientations, their priorities, and in what they are prepared to sacrifice for the sake of other things.

Back in the early 19th century, an official of the Russian Empire reported that even the poorest Jews saw to it that their daughters could read, and their homes had at least ten books. This was at a time when the vast majority of the population of the Russian Empire were illiterate.

During that same era, Thomas Jefferson complained that there was not a single bookstore where he lived. In Frederick Law Olmsted’s travels through the antebellum South, he noted that even plantation owners seldom had many books.

But in mid-18th century Scotland, even people of modest means had books, and those too poor to buy them could rent books from lending libraries, which were common throughout Scottish towns.

The Public Policy

Charlatans and Sheep: Part II

By 10.7.15

One of the secrets of successful magicians on stage is directing the audience’s attention to something that is attractive or distracting, but irrelevant to what is actually being done. That is also the secret of successful political charlatans.

Consider the message directed at business owners by Senator Elizabeth Warren and President Barack Obama — “You didn’t build that!”

Assuming for the sake of argument that a man who owns a business simply inherited it from his father, what follows? That politicians can use the inherited resources better than the heir? Such a sweeping assumption has neither logic nor evidence behind it — but rhetoric doesn’t have to have logic or evidence to be politically effective.

The conclusion is insinuated, rather than spelled out, so it is less likely to be scrutinized. Moreover, attention is directed toward the undeserved good fortune of the heir, and away from the crucial question as to whether society will in fact be better off if politicians take over more of either the management or the earnings of the business.

The Public Policy

Charlatans and Sheep

By 10.6.15

One of the many painful signs of the mindlessness of our times was a recent section of the Wall Street Journal, built around the theme “What’s Holding Women Back in the Workplace?”

Whenever some group is not equally represented in some institution or activity, the automatic response in some quarters is to assume that someone has prevented equality of outcomes.

This preconception of equal outcomes requires not one speck of evidence, and defies mountains of evidence to the contrary. Even in activities where individual performances are what determine outcomes, and those performances are easily measured objectively, there is seldom anything resembling equal representation.

For 12 consecutive years — from 2001 through 2012 — each home run leader in the American League had a Hispanic surname. When two American boys whose ancestors came from India tied for first place in the U.S. National Spelling Bee in 2014, it was the 7th consecutive year in which the U.S. National Spelling Bee was won by an Asian Indian.

The Public Policy

Will Property Crime Uptick Become Crime Wave?

By 10.5.15

“Crime drops to new lows,” read Tuesday’s San Francisco Chronicle headline for a story about historic lows in crime statistics, nationally as well as in the Bay Area. I hope you enjoyed that headline, because it could be the last time you will read it for at least a decade. Though violent crime rates dropped in California in 2014, some property crime is rising. Some fear that changes in California law that have led to increases in property crime eventually could result in a rise in more serious offenses.

The Public Policy

The ‘Affordable Housing’ Fraud

By 9.29.15

Nowhere has there been so much hand-wringing over a lack of “affordable housing,” as among politicians and others in coastal California. And nobody has done more to make housing unaffordable than those same politicians and their supporters.

A recent survey showed that the average monthly rent for a one-bedroom apartment in San Francisco was just over $3,500. Some people are paying $1,800 a month just to rent a bunk bed in a San Francisco apartment.

It is not just in San Francisco that putting a roof over your head can take a big chunk out of your pay check. The whole Bay Area is like that. Thirty miles away, Palo Alto home prices are similarly unbelievable.

One house in Palo Alto, built more than 70 years ago, and just over one thousand square feet in size, was offered for sale at $1.5 million. And most asking prices are bid up further in such places.

Another city in the Bay Area with astronomical housing prices, San Mateo, recently held a public meeting and appointed a task force to look into the issue of “affordable housing.”