The Public Policy

The Public Policy

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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The Public Policy

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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The Public Policy

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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Cheap Politicians Turn Out to Be Very Expensive Politicians

By 9.10.14

The recent bribery convictions of former Virginia governor Bob McDonnell and his wife are only the latest in a seemingly never-ending series of convictions of government officials.

A little item on the Internet featured government officials in prison, either currently or in recent times. Among them were a mayor of New Orleans, a mayor of Detroit, and a mayor of Washington; a governor of Connecticut, a governor of Louisiana, two governors of Illinois, and four members of Congress.

However much these and other government officials may have richly deserved being behind bars, the country does not deserve to have its confidence in government repeatedly undermined. A country with 100 percent cynicism about its government cannot be governed. And nobody wants anarchy.

In short, the damage done by government officials who betray the public’s trust goes far beyond the money stolen or misused, or whatever particular abuse of power landed them behind bars.

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Facts vs. Visions

By 8.26.14

The political left has been campaigning against the use of force since at least the 18th century. So it is not surprising that they are now arguing that heavily armed or aggressive police forces only inflame protesters and thus provoke violence.

Statisticians have long warned that correlation is not causation, but they have apparently warned in vain.

There is no reason to doubt that heavily armed police in riot gear may be more likely to show up where outbreaks of violence are expected. But when violence then breaks out, does that prove that it was the appearance of the police that caused it?

I strongly suspect that people who travel with armed guards are more likely to be murdered than people who do not travel with armed guards. After all, they are not paying to have armed guards for no reason.

If so, should we conclude from a higher murder rate among people with armed guards that having armed guards increases your chances of getting murdered? Shall we also conclude from this that we the taxpayers should no longer pay to have Secret Service agents guarding our presidents?

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The Public Policy

Attacking Achievement

By 8.12.14

New York’s mayor, Bill de Blasio, like so many others who call themselves “progressive,” is gung-ho to solve social problems. In fact, he is currently on a crusade to solve an educational problem that doesn’t exist, even though there are plenty of other educational problems that definitely do exist.

The non-existent problem is the use of tests to determine who gets admitted to the city’s three most outstanding public high schools — Stuyvesant, Bronx Science, and Brooklyn Tech. These admissions tests have been used for generations, and the students in these schools have had spectacular achievements for generations.

These achievements include many Westinghouse Science awards, Intel Science awards, and — in later life — Pulitzer Prizes and multiple Nobel Prizes. Graduates of Bronx Science alone have gone on to win five Nobel Prizes in physics alone. There are Nobel Prize winners from Stuyvesant and Brooklyn Tech as well.

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