Friday, November 28, 2008

Income Redistribution


Now here's the reality: The rich are being taxed at ever-higher levels,
while more workers at the bottom of the income ladder are paying no taxes at
all. As for spending, resources flowing to those at the bottom far outstrip
those flowing to those at the top.

Worse, a 'what's in it for me?' attitude seems increasingly the norm. Once a
nation of stoic, self-reliant individualists, America now seems full of people
who think other taxpayers owe them something. They see the 'system' as a giant
cow to be milked — and damn the cow. This is backed up by polling data. In a 1994 Pew poll, 57% agreed with the statement 'Government should care for those
who can't care for themselves.' Today, it's 69%.

Thursday, November 27, 2008

New Obama Appointee Rubin on Personal Responsibility

This ought to be an interesting 4-8 years. Let's hope it's 4. Robert Rubin on the Citibank mess:

Then there's board member and former Treasury Secretary Robert Rubin, who has received over $100 million in compensation from Citi in 10-plus years, according to the New York Post."I don't feel responsible, in light of the facts as I knew them in my role," Rubin told the New York Times back in April. "In hindsight, there are a lot of things we'd do differently. But in the context of the facts as I knew them and my role, I'm inclined to think probably not."

More from the Seattle Times.

Although Rubin has been cagey about his role at Citigroup, what is
indisputable is that all of the decisions that have led to the recent troubles
were taken while he was chairman of the executive committee and were made by
executives whom he supported and with whom he worked closely day to

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

‘Teaching Unprepared Students’

Over at
Many experts say that the United States can only truly see gains in the
percentages of adults who have a college degree if colleges and universities get
better at teaching students who arrived on campus unprepared for college-level
work. But many professors find themselves frustrated by teaching such students — and many of the students drop out....

The comments:

I never had a problem reaching and teaching underprepared students who
wanted to learn. However, the students who are both underprepared and who lack
any semblance of a work ethic are another matter. When these students have been
taught for twelve years that they will advance to the next grade regardless of
how little they have learned or how little effort they have invested, they are
incapable of performing at a college level. That is because many of them have
never even achieved a junior high school level of self-discipline. Such students
are doomed to fail not only in school, but in life. They are tomorrow’s blue-
and white-collar criminals.

The subject of the interview states “However, the reality is that right now
we have freshmen and transfer students who are not prepared, but who are
enrolled in our classes and want to learn.”
I challenge that logic. Too many
students are enrolled because they have been sold a bill of goods. They are not
their to learn. Rather, they are there to get a job. They have been told this by
high school teachers, family members, public policy makers, admission officers,
etc. All of them have said the key to getting a good job, making lots of money,
and having a great life is, all together now, a college degree.
students fail to take to ownership of their education. They will blame the
instructor for having grading standards, for demanding their work meet certain
criteria, and for inconveniencing their lives. These people do not care about

I work in a Catholic, college prep high school that sends over 95% of our
students to college. We are facing the same issues of unprepared and unmotivated
students as discussed in the article & comments. Every year it seems, we
(and all of our peer institutions in NH) admit very intelligent (high test
score) students, some who have a pathetic work-ethic; who want education to be
entertainment; and who lack basic academic skills. We have implemented a
“front-loaded” program for freshmen that involves a core of battle hardened
teachers along with various support services. Most kids catch on and eventually
become successful. But every year, there are more and more kids who arrive
without an adequate foundation. It’s scary to think about the students coming
up, what they’re going to need, and how many resources they will require. I wish
I could be optimistic but I see all of us caught in the cultural demise of what
learning and education is all about.

I would tend to agree with those regarding lack of work ethic. I see it
everyday. Some students have a sense of entitlement regarding their academic
performance, while others realize that their performance is a reflection of
their hard work and effort. For many students, there is a disconnect between
effort and performance. After many years of schooling this disconnect means
these students are at the bottom of a very large hill. They will need an
extraordinary amount of assistance to make any progress up the hill (forget
about getting to the top). My question is: Is this the job of the university

“Everything must be learner-centered.” I have seen first-hand, at the
secondary and post-secondary level, the debilitating effects this mantra has had
on the learning environment. Life beyond the Ivory Tower is not, and the sooner
we teach our self-absorbed students this fact, the better learners (and people)
they will become. The kumbaya feel-good vibe is something I save for students
who give a damn; I’ve been burned far too many times by diverting positive
emotional capital towards students who end up dropping or failing anyway.

Sunday, November 23, 2008

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

30 reasons for Great Depression 2 by 2011

Paul Farrell over at Martketwatch lists his 30 reasons why we'll be in a depression by 2011. He Cites greed several times, that's obvious but what about envy? It seems to me that envy drove the subprime mess. The feeling of wanting that house despite the lack of fiscal discipline and the politicians that fed that envy drove all of this. I've blogged before on the lack of fiscal discipline among groups of people (link 1, 2). It seems to me that we can't face up to the fact that we have equal oppurtunity but that doesn't give equal outcomes. And what if everyone couldn't be a homeowner? Renting, is that inhumane?

On that list of 30 items, here's the largest:

25. The 800-pound gorillas: Social Security, Medicare with $60 trillion in unfunded liabilities

We just voted in the political party least likely to fix this mess.

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

The American Voter

Over at Verum Serum:

Zogby Poll from

57.4% could NOT correctly say which party controls congress (50/50 shot just by guessing)81.8% could NOT correctly say Joe Biden quit a previous campaign because of plagiarism (25% chance by guessing)

82.6% could NOT correctly say that Barack Obama won his first election by getting opponents kicked off the ballot (25% chance by guessing)

88.4% could NOT correctly say that Obama said his policies would likely bankrupt the coal industry and make energy rates skyrocket (25% chance by guessing)

56.1% could NOT correctly say Obama started his political career at the home of two former members of the Weather Underground (25% chance by guessing).

And yet…..

Only 13.7% failed to identify Sarah Palin as the person on which their party spent $150,000 in clothes

Only 6.2% failed to identify Palin as the one with a pregnant teenage daughter

And 86.9 % thought that Palin said that she could see Russia from her “house,” even though that was Tina Fey who said that!!

Only 2.4% got at least 11 correct.

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

The End of Wall Street's Boom?

Over at Found at Steve Sailer's Blog:

...Long Beach Financial was moving money out the door as fast as it could, few questions asked, in loans built to self-destruct. It specialized in asking home­owners with bad credit and no proof of income to put no money down and defer interest payments for as long as possible. In Bakersfield, California, a Mexican strawberry picker with an income of $14,000 and no English was lent every penny he needed to buy a house for $720,000....

...Moses actually flew down to Miami and wandered around neighborhoods built with subprime loans to see how bad things were. “He’d call me and say, ‘Oh my God, this is a calamity here,’ ” recalls Eisman. All that was required for the BBB bonds to go to zero was for the default rate on the underlying loans to reach 14 percent. Eisman thought that, in certain sections of the country, it would go far, far higher....

...But he couldn’t figure out exactly how the rating agencies justified turning BBB loans into AAA-rated bonds. “I didn’t understand how they were turning all this garbage into gold,” he says. He brought some of the bond people from Goldman Sachs, Lehman Brothers, and UBS over for a visit. “We always asked the same question,” says Eisman. “Where are the rating agencies in all of this? And I’d always get the same reaction. It was a smirk.” He called Standard & Poor’s and asked what would happen to default rates if real estate prices fell. The man at S&P couldn’t say; its model for home prices had no ability to accept a negative number. “They were just assuming home prices would keep going up,” Eisman says...

...“With all due respect, sir,” Daniel told the C.E.O. deferentially as they left the meeting, “you’re delusional.” This wasn’t Fitch or even S&P. This was Moody’s, the aristocrats of the rating business, 20 percent owned by Warren Buffett. And the company’s C.E.O. was being told he was either a fool or a crook by one Vincent Daniel, from Queens....

Uncle Sam's Credit Line Running Out?

Over at Baron's.

Big Five

I'm a O95-C69-E53-A69-N27 Big Five!!

Monday, November 10, 2008

Derbyshire on his Obama-ness

Over at the NRO Corner Blog.

The sputtering-Left component of my email bag took particular exception to my calling Obama "shallow, ignorant, and self-obsessed." How dare I? Well, let's unpack it.

Shallow: Have you ever heard Obama say anything interesting? Me neither. I saw him on the telly the other day fielding a question about illegal immigrants. He said something like: "We can't deport ten million people. We need to find a way to bring them out of the shadows. Thet should have to pay a fine, learn English, and go to the back of the line for citizenship." Now, here is an issue that's of major concern to millions of Americans, who feel they are losing the nation they grew up in. It's been argued for years at high levels of discourse, with many fine books written. (Most recently, one by our own Mark Krikorian.) Yet Obama can address it only with the tiredest, most threadbare clich├ęs of the open-borders Left. It's plain he has never given a moment's real thought to the issue. Shallow.
Ignorant: Obama strikes me as a very intelligent person, but with that intelligence narrowly focused. He has spent his adult life among the tiny sub-class of black Americans who have grown wealthy, or hope to, via the affirmative-action rackets. He has never ventured outside that milieu, and I seriously doubt he knows much about life outside it. I doubt, for example, that he knows anything much at all about business, the military, science, work (other than paper-shuffling), or high culture. I'll be glad to be proved wrong, but nothing I've heard him say, nor my (admittedly incomplete) acquaintance with what he's written, refutes that.
Self-obsessed: A guy who publishes a 464-page autobiography at age 34 is self-obsessed, what can I tell ya? If he publishes a second autobiography at age 45, you can print "self-obsessed" in capital letters. (Yeah, I know, it's a "campaign book." The content is mainly autobiographical, though.)

Saturday, November 08, 2008

WSJ on the Death of Michael Crichton

His viewpoints will be missed. He was respected by most, and his well-founded but contrarian views were at least considered by those holding conventional wisdom.

"Crichton was sometimes accused of being a Luddite. In fact, he was a champion of good science, and never more so than in a 2003 lecture at Caltech, hilariously titled "Aliens Cause Global Warming."

"As the 20th century drew to a close," he warned, "the connection between hard scientific fact and public policy became increasingly elastic. In part this was possible because of the complacency of the scientific profession; in part because of the lack of good science education among the public; in part because of the rise of specialized advocacy groups which have been enormously effective in getting publicity and shaping policy; and in great part because of the decline of the media as an independent assessor of fact."

Thursday, November 06, 2008

2004 Generosity Index and the Red States Gone Blue

In my search for charity data in the last post I came across this piece of data from the non-partisan Catalogue For Philanthropy at Michelle Malkin's Blog:Notice that the '04 Red States that went Blue in 2008 (i.e. Iowa, Ohio, Virginia, Arizona, New Mexico, Nevada, & Colorado) were the lowest givers for the Reds in 2004. Only and North Carolina and Florida stand out as exceptions.

Note added 1:40 pm: It often gets Blue State people upset that it appears that Red Staters give more. They always focus on the church and the tithe. How does that excuse Blue Staters from giving to non-church entities?

The Didache on Abortion and Charity - Possible Modern Implications

I blogged on the Didache last year. It is an instruction manual for new Christians (primarily conversions of gentiles) and may be the earliest writings of the Apostles, dating as early as 49 AD. It's too bad that it's not better known by Christians. It has implications for the modern Christian. Specifically, on abortion and the modern welfare state.

First on abortion:

Didache 2:2 -
You shall not murder a child by abortion or commit infanticide.

Pretty clear isn't it? Why is abortion not discussed in the gospels? My guess is that Jesus preached primarily to the 1st century Jews where such practice was not widespread. The Greco-Romans practiced abortion and exposure. Jews believed in the primacy of the fetus in that era. The Jewish historian, Philo of Alexandria discusses Ex. 21:22-23 in context of the LXX. From Philo on Jewish Identity and Culture:

“The LXX transformed these Biblical verses into laws protecting the fetus.”

Now on the modern welfare state where everyone receives (bold emphasis added):

Didache 1.5c - Woe to the one who receives. For if he receives because he has need, he is guiltless, but if he does not have need, he shall stand trial as to why he received and for what, and being put in prison he will be examined about what he has done, and he will not come out of it until he pays the last penny.

Many would disagree, but I believe that so much of the profligate ways of the modern welfare state goes to those not in need. The senior prescription drug plan is just one such example.

Also note that Didache strongly advises Christians to be charitable and defend the poor but adds this:

1.6 But of this it was also said, 'Let your charitable gift sweat in your hands until you know to whom you give'.

Christians must be discerning to who is in need. However, the modern welfare state completely abrogates this aspect of giving. It’s interesting to note the amount of charitable giving between the prosperous blue (and secular) states versus the red states.

Much of the Didache is what I would assume to be a common sense approach to ethics, not just Christian ethics.

Wednesday, November 05, 2008

Peter Schiff on Obama

The University of IdahoSchiff was one of the few hedge fund managers to predict this crisis a few years back. He doesn’t like Obama. Found at Housing Doom blog.

Tuesday, November 04, 2008

Paul Johnson on Modern Western Society

My favorite historian Paul Johnson chimes in on Forbes:
"in a nutshell: We are traveling along the high road to incompetence and poverty, led by a farcical coalition of fashionably liberal academics on the make, assorted eco-crackpots and media wiseacres. "

The rest is here.

Policy Predictions for After an Obama Victory

Over at Rasmussen' blog, a comprehensive list. Sounds like a to do list for the left.

Immigration, Affirmative Action, Bucking The Bailout - All Potential Election Winners For McCain

A Steve Sailer column on what the Republicans should have done. Well - we'll have to sit back and take it. We're moving towards a nanny state. The home mortgage defaulters, the aging baby boomers, and the young sycophants will rule the day. The dumbest of the bunch? The young sycophants as they will be paying for the mess and get very little for it.

Sunday, November 02, 2008

Moscow Idaho makes the British Press

Peter Hitchens on this little corner of the world in the Daily Mail of London.

As America approaches her most momentous presidential election for decades, I am in the True (but not specially Wild) West, the top left-hand corner of the United States, a hard-core Republican state that most visitors only fly over.

They think it's dull. How wrong they are...

Hitchens treats the average Moscow resident with respect.

On the other hand he has these representative observations about the local liberals:

...Mr Reece, a courtly retired academic-with a Colonel Sanders moustache and Danish ancestry, has Moscow's biggest concentration of posters backing Obama sprouting on his front lawn. He usually displays a good crop of placards at election times but admits that he has never put up so many before....

....Mr Reece's language about Obama is almost religious. He uses words such as 'visionary' and 'inspiration'. He also says, rather frankly, that Obama is 'not too black'. But he knows little about him.

He has never heard of Tony Rezko, the Chicago businessman recently convicted of fraud and corruption, who seems to have helped Obama buy his house, and whom Obama lobbied for.

He has also never heard of John Stroger, a dreary business-as-usual Chicago machine politician whom Obama backed against a reform candidate, rather undermining his claim to be the apostle of change, and to be much of a visionary....

...This knowledge puts him ahead of another deeply civilised Obama fan, Tom Lamar, a liberal member of the City Council and head of a not-for-profit environmental institute.

He hasn't heard of any of these unattractive and unvisionary figures in Obama's past and present. But despite being so weakly informed about his hero, he is an unshiftable supporter.

When I put it to him that Obama has been handled softly by the American media, Mr Lamar responded: 'I haven't really noticed any free pass. I don't feel that he is untested and unexamined.'....

...But he was stuck for an answer when I pointed out that an effigy of Sarah Palin, complete with glasses, red dress and beehive hair, had been suspended by the neck from a noose in a Hollywood street as part of a Hallowe'en display.

Police have described this as a legitimate expression of opinion. Perhaps. Yet it is quite clear that if anyone hanged Obama in effigy, especially in the Lynching Belt of the Deep South, it would ignite a huge explosion of rage, and not be treated as 'legitimate'....

It's the educated elite like Reece and Lamar that will lead the USA to its downfall. The elites in this country are uncritical in their thinking and resemble the emotionalism found in primitive charismatic churches. They speak in tongues, only they channel simple Marxist blather rather any supposed divine inspiration. The elites fail to understand the basis of this republic and the role of that unique American character of the individual. The hyper-aggressive nature of that American will now be diverted away from the market that produces goods for the masses based on a profit motive towards obtaining wealth from the government. Just use the public education system as prime example number one. We spend more per pupil and get less for it than any other country in the world. Thank the hyper-aggressive teacher's unions for that.

Saturday, November 01, 2008

Savings rates in 401k's

From the Seattle PI.
Although African-Americans are enrolled in employer- sponsored defined-
contribution plans at about the same rate as whites, they save far less each
month and have a considerably smaller portfolio balance. The median monthly
amount that blacks contribute to their 401(k) plan is $169, while whites
contribute about 50 percent more, or $249 each month. As a result, the median
total household savings for retirement reported by black respondents is $53,000,
compared with $114,000 for whites.