The Public Policy

The Public Policy

Federal Agencies Exceeding Their Authority, Over and Over Again

By 1.19.15

Ultra vires. No, it’s not some dangerous infectious disease like Ebola. But, in a democracy it signals one of the most dangerous trends that threaten to disturb the delicate balance of powers crafted by our founding fathers.

“Ultra vires” is another of those Latin expressions lawyers use so frequently in lieu of plain English. It means “beyond the authority.” And, in this administration, there are all too many examples of federal agencies that have acted or attempted to act beyond the authority Congress has given them.

The NLRB’s proposed new rule for expedited union elections is just the latest example. The 733-page rule was finalized in December and will take effect on April 14. NLRB Chairman Mark Gaston Pearce said the rule is designed to ensure that the “representation process remains a model of fairness and efficiency for all.” The board’s two Republican members voted against it, calling it “the Mount Everest of regulations: massive in scale and unforgiving in its effect.”

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The Public Policy

The ‘Equality’ Racket

By 1.6.15

Some time ago, burglars in England scrawled a message on the wall of a home they had looted: “RICH BASTARDS.”

Those two words captured the spirit of the politicized vision of equality — that it was a grievance when someone was better off than themselves.

That, of course, is not the only meaning of equality, but it is the predominant political meaning in practice, where economic “disparities” and “gaps” are automatically treated as “inequities.” If one racial or ethnic group has a lower income than another, that is automatically called “discrimination” by many people in politics, the media, and academia.

It doesn’t matter how much evidence there is that some groups work harder in school, perform better, and spend more postgraduate years studying to acquire valuable skills in medicine, science, or engineering. If the economic end results are unequal, that is treated as a grievance against those with better outcomes, and a sign of an “unfair” society.

The rhetoric of clever people often confuses the undeniable fact that life is unfair with the claim that a given institution or society is unfair.

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The Public Policy

Your Majesty Obama…And Other Random Thoughts

By 12.30.14

Random thoughts on the passing scene:

Now that Barack Obama is ruling by decree, he seems more like a king than a president. Maybe it is time we change the way we address him. “Your Majesty” may be a little too much, but perhaps “Your Royal Glibness” might be appropriate.

It tells us a lot about academia that the president of Smith College quickly apologized for saying, “All lives matter,” after being criticized by those who are pushing the slogan, “Black lives matter.” If science could cross breed a jellyfish with a parrot, it could create academic administrators.

Mitt Romney seems to be ready to try again to run for president in 2016. But most defeated presidential candidates who ran again lost again. There are much stronger Republican candidates available now than there were in 2012, including governors Scott Walker of Wisconsin and Bobby Jindal of Louisiana. At this crucial juncture in the nation’s history, why run a retreaded candidate?

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Piling New Regulations Atop Unworkable Older Ones

By 12.4.14

While you were thinking about cooking turkey and how to survive your weird uncle, the White House was sliding information out into the public without you noticing.

They seem to have made it a tradition of dropping regulatory agendas into the public at the end of the week, right before holidays. This year was no different. On the Friday before Thanksgiving, the White House quietly released its plan for new regulations in 2015. As Common Core battles continue in multiple states, the Department of Education’s regulations prepare to gain ever more control over our kids’ education. Will Estrada, Director of Federal Relations for the Home School Legal Defense Association, says they’re concerned about three areas in particular:

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The Public Policy

Racial Quota Punishment

By 11.19.14

If anyone still has any doubt about the utter cynicism of the Obama administration, a recent agreement between the federal government and the Minneapolis Public Schools should open their eyes.

Under the Obama administration, both the Department of Education and the Department of Justice have been leaning on public schools around the country to reduce what they call the “disproportionate” numbers of black male students who are punished for various offenses in schools.

Under an implicit threat of losing their federal subsidies, the Minneapolis Public Schools have agreed to reduce the disparity in punishment of black students by 25 percent by the end of this school year, and then by 50 percent, 75 percent and finally 100 percent in each of the following years. In other words, there are now racial quota limits for punishment in the Minneapolis schools.

If we stop and think — as old-fashioned as that may seem — there is not the slightest reason to expect black males to commit the same number of offenses as Asian females or any other set of students.

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The Public Policy

A Legacy of Liberalism

By 11.18.14

Supreme Court Justice Oliver Wendell Holmes said there were “phrases that serve as an excuse for not thinking.” One of these phrases that substitute for thought today is one that depicts the current problems of blacks in America as “a legacy of slavery.”

New York Times writer Nicholas Kristof asserts that there is “overwhelming evidence that centuries of racial subjugation still shape inequity in the 21st century” and he mentions “the lingering effects of slavery.” But before we become overwhelmed, that evidence should be checked out.

The evidence offered by Mr. Kristof in the November 16th issue of the New York Times seems considerably short of overwhelming, to put it charitably. He cites a study showing that “counties in America that had a higher proportion of slaves in 1860 are still more unequal today.” Has he never heard statisticians’ repeated warnings that correlation is not causation?

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Make Offers to Public Employee Unions They Can’t Refuse

By 10.31.14

The recent statement by U.S. Bankruptcy Judge Christopher Klein that public pensions deserve no special protection in municipal default has elicited understandable praise from fiscally sane observers. Alongside a similar ruling by the federal judge overseeing Detroit’s restructuring, Klein’s long awaited opinion in the case of Stockton, California, gives elected state and municipal officials nationwide needed leverage to begin rolling back unrealistic pension expectations.

But if the ability of bankrupt governments to treat pension debt on a par with other obligations results in nothing more than increased pressure on public employee unions to renegotiate extravagant retirement promises, the result will be, as Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel might put it, “the waste of an opportune crisis.”

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Federal Grant Spent $300K Studying How to Ride a Bike

By 9.30.14

Welcome to today’s edition of “Where are my tax dollars going?” The government’s latest creative use of tax revenue is a $300,000 study on how to ride a bike.

Oh, you thought you already knew how to ride a bike? Allow the National Science Foundation to correct you: “(Almost) everybody knows how to ride a bike, but (almost) no one knows how we ride a bike.”

Isn’t that deep?

The National Science Foundation gave a three hundred thousand dollar grant to professors at the University of California-Davis to “improve the fundamental understanding of how humans interact with bicycles.”

It seems the ultimate goal was to get more people biking and less people driving, in order to save the environment. If we just understood the complex dynamics between rider and bicycle, we’d be more likely to use bikes. The dynamics of driving a motor vehicle must be more understandable; that’s why we drive so much.

There can be no other explanation.

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The Public Policy

Washington’s Unelected Regulation Factory

By 9.23.14

Republicans are rightly complaining about Obama’s abuse of power in the issuance of sweeping executive orders to trump their opposition in Congress on important policy issues.

But, as abusive as that use of power is, the danger it poses to our representative democracy is dwarfed by federal agencies’ continuing issuance of massive federal regulations. Over the decades the Code of Federal Regulations has dwarfed the United States Code (statutes written by Congress).

The Constitution dictates that Congress passes the laws that govern our nation. But in administrations (both Republican and Democrat) over several decades, Congress has blithely delegated that law-making power to a myriad of federal agencies. And the Supreme Court has readily endorsed that shift in power by ordering lower courts to defer to a federal agency’s interpretations of the law.

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The Public Policy

Raising the Minimum Wage Means Giving In To Mob Rule

By 9.11.14

While we talk about democracy and equal rights, we seem increasingly to let both private and government decisions be determined by mob rule. There is nothing democratic about mob rule. It means that some people’s votes are to be overruled by other people's disruptions, harassments, and threats.

The latest examples are the mobs in the streets in cities across the country, demanding that employers pay a minimum wage of $15 an hour, or else that the government make them do so by law. Some of the more gullible observers think the issue is whether what some people are making now is “a living wage.” This misconstrues the whole point of hiring someone to do work. Those who are being hired are paid for the value of the work they do.

If their work is really worth more than what their employer is paying them, all they have to do is quit and go work for some other employer, who will pay them what their work is really worth. If they can't find any other employer who will pay them more, then what makes them think their work is worth more?

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