Category: Robert Weissberg

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Faking Your Way to Racial Equality


Since the mid-1960s, billions have been spent to close race-related gaps in educational achievement.  While these gaps have been somewhat narrowed, they have remained substantial and seem impervious to nearly all nostrums – everything from early intervention programs such as Head Start to hard-headed businesslike remedies such as firing incompetent teachers.  Now, given decades of disappointment, what’s next?

Let me suggest that “a solution” is emerging, but it is not what gap-obsessed egalitarians have in mind.  This “solution” is deception – if genuine equally of outcome is unreachable, instead, provide the illusion of success.  Remarkably, this deceit is often welcomed as if it were the real thing, with little outrage when fraudsters are exposed.

The National Center for Fair and Open Testing argues that teachers illicitly boosting student test scores is endemic.  Such deception is particularly alluring at schools with large populations of underperforming minority students, where the dismal numbers can bring school closings or mass firings.  Such cheating has been documented in Atlanta; Baltimore; and Washington, D.C. as well as in schools in Pennsylvania and New Jersey and elsewhere.  They are, according to the center, just “the tip of the iceberg.

Cheating may simply entail erasing the wrong answers and replacing them with the correct ones.  Less blatant tactics include strongly hinting at the correct answer during the test under the guise of “helping” the puzzled test-taker, using similar test questions in classroom lessons, or just teaching the test and little else.

One teacher has even written a guide for potential cheaters that includes tips to minimize getting caught – for instance, allowing unauthorized extra time by putting a “do not enter” sign on the classroom door.  The Washington Post likewise offers multiple ingenious cheating tactics such as smartphones to forward pictures of exam questions.  Especially effective is to exclude the low performers (notably, students with disabilities and those with limited English) from taking the test.  Another ploy is to prevent expelled or suspended students from taking the test or encouraging the weakest students to drop out or enroll in GED programs prior to the test.

Levels of academic achievement can also be faked by substituting graduation rates for actual learning, a strategy particularly productive when targeting dropout-prone Hispanics and black males.  This tactic is easier than outright cheating and usually perfectly legal.  Everything can be accomplished openly, and those awarding diplomas to the undeserving will be hailed as heroes.  It is no wonder, then, that recent U.S. Department of Education statistics show that high school graduation rates in 2016 have hit an all-time high of 84%.

This fraud is often exposed when administrators just overdo it.  For example, the low-income, largely minority Ballou High School in Washington, D.C. recently reported that 100% of its senior class was accepted to college!  Thought this statistic was celebrated, it ignored the awkward reality that half of these graduates had missed more than three months of school during the previous year.  Moreover, a mere 3% of its seniors met the city standard on D.C.’s reading exam, and hardly any scored proficient on the math exam.

Achieving this “miracle” was not especially difficult.  Chronic truants were permitted no-effort ways to make up their lost school time to expunge their absences and were even awarded full credit for retaking watered down versions of missed classes.  The source of this “miracle” was the school’s principal, who manipulated teacher evaluations to punish those who refused to cooperate with the sham.  It was only by luck that a reporter uncovered the deception.

Unfortunately, this example from Washington is just part of the larger pattern of inflated graduation statistics, and, unlike what occurred at Ballou HS, this counterfeiting is totally above board.  One analysis of what it takes to be a high school graduate found that both California and New York recently lowered high school diploma requirements.  Meanwhile, in Tennessee, a third of the state’s high school graduates had failed to satisfy the state’s graduation requirement but still graduated.  Twenty-one states offer a less academically rigorous degree, but recipients are nevertheless counted as “high school graduates.”  In 2015, Los Angeles dropped its once mandatory high school exam, and presto, some 14,000 Los Angeles students who had failed that exam now “earned” a high school diploma.  Particularly devious is a widespread practice called “credit recovery,” where a student who missed months of classroom time can in a day or two complete an easy, brief assignment and get full credit.

Of the utmost importance, outsiders cannot be aware of dumbed down textbooks, fluff classroom lecture content, or overly generous grading standards.  Even a responsible teacher may award undeserved grades to avoid trouble or permit illiterates to graduate just to get rid of them.  In short, opportunities to deceive are everywhere, often rational, and difficult to detect.

The Consequences of Successful Fraud

The obvious winners here are politicians and their education appointees, who promised to “turn around failing schools.”  Dishonest teachers and school administrators especially benefit where schools embrace a “business model” of financially rewarding high performers.  Provided nobody smells a rat and perpetrators don’t overdo it, deception is just what the doctor ordered after a half-century of expensive failure. 

The losers are the students who now possess a piece of paper falsely certifying academic accomplishment.  Yes, a few may recognize the scam, but keep in mind that “getting a diploma” has taken on a magical quality in modern American society.  After all, graduates have attended an imposing ceremony, been decked out in academic gowns, been adored by their picture-taking family, and listened to high-sounding speeches assuring them of future economic success.

The damage goes far deeper than just hoodwinking gullible youngsters and their proud parents.  Particularly revealing is that over time, data show that while high school graduation rates of blacks and whites have substantially narrowed, income differences remain virtually unchanged.  Employers also will quickly learn that these “graduates” cannot perform basic math or write an understandable report and that many “graduates” will likely continue their bad habits (e.g., chronic absenteeism) that had zero costs when they “attended” high school.  Do these freshly employed youngsters expect the dishonest principal to rescue them?

These “graduates” may well figure it out when they realize that nobody will hire them despite their credential or, if hired, that they will be assigned menial jobs more appropriate to a dropout.  Repeating high school work at a community college may be their only option.

Things can get worse.  Egalitarian-minded researchers will “demonstrate” that black youngsters with a high school diploma earn less than their white counterparts, alleged smoking-gun proof of racism and discrimination.  Now, racism demonstrated, the call will be for draconian laws to force employers to hire these “graduates,” since, after all, the diploma is prima facie evidence of worthiness.

Faced with court orders (and fines) to hire fake graduates, businesses might relocate, ship the work overseas, or hire skilled immigrants.  In any case, pools of minority youngsters who are unemployable despite their high school or even college diplomas will be left behind.  Alas, few will admit the obvious: their joblessness is a result of youngsters escaping the effort necessary to earn a real diploma.

Will this charade end?  Might the recipients of fake certificates wake up and sue schools for deception?  Probably not, given that diploma recipients are apparently satisfied with this fakery.  Thousands of public officials and professional educators are also motivated to sustain this gravy train, regardless of the damage inflicted on these youngsters.  And what white official will demand an end to policies that help disadvantaged blacks earn a degree?  Perhaps most troubling, for countless public officials and professional educators, this fakery qualifies as progress in the quest for racial equality.

Since the mid-1960s, billions have been spent to close race-related gaps in educational achievement.  While these gaps have been somewhat narrowed, they have remained substantial and seem impervious to nearly all nostrums – everything from early intervention programs such as Head Start to hard-headed businesslike remedies such as firing incompetent teachers.  Now, given decades of disappointment, what’s next?

Let me suggest that “a solution” is emerging, but it is not what gap-obsessed egalitarians have in mind.  This “solution” is deception – if genuine equally of outcome is unreachable, instead, provide the illusion of success.  Remarkably, this deceit is often welcomed as if it were the real thing, with little outrage when fraudsters are exposed.

The National Center for Fair and Open Testing argues that teachers illicitly boosting student test scores is endemic.  Such deception is particularly alluring at schools with large populations of underperforming minority students, where the dismal numbers can bring school closings or mass firings.  Such cheating has been documented in Atlanta; Baltimore; and Washington, D.C. as well as in schools in Pennsylvania and New Jersey and elsewhere.  They are, according to the center, just “the tip of the iceberg.

Cheating may simply entail erasing the wrong answers and replacing them with the correct ones.  Less blatant tactics include strongly hinting at the correct answer during the test under the guise of “helping” the puzzled test-taker, using similar test questions in classroom lessons, or just teaching the test and little else.

One teacher has even written a guide for potential cheaters that includes tips to minimize getting caught – for instance, allowing unauthorized extra time by putting a “do not enter” sign on the classroom door.  The Washington Post likewise offers multiple ingenious cheating tactics such as smartphones to forward pictures of exam questions.  Especially effective is to exclude the low performers (notably, students with disabilities and those with limited English) from taking the test.  Another ploy is to prevent expelled or suspended students from taking the test or encouraging the weakest students to drop out or enroll in GED programs prior to the test.

Levels of academic achievement can also be faked by substituting graduation rates for actual learning, a strategy particularly productive when targeting dropout-prone Hispanics and black males.  This tactic is easier than outright cheating and usually perfectly legal.  Everything can be accomplished openly, and those awarding diplomas to the undeserving will be hailed as heroes.  It is no wonder, then, that recent U.S. Department of Education statistics show that high school graduation rates in 2016 have hit an all-time high of 84%.

This fraud is often exposed when administrators just overdo it.  For example, the low-income, largely minority Ballou High School in Washington, D.C. recently reported that 100% of its senior class was accepted to college!  Thought this statistic was celebrated, it ignored the awkward reality that half of these graduates had missed more than three months of school during the previous year.  Moreover, a mere 3% of its seniors met the city standard on D.C.’s reading exam, and hardly any scored proficient on the math exam.

Achieving this “miracle” was not especially difficult.  Chronic truants were permitted no-effort ways to make up their lost school time to expunge their absences and were even awarded full credit for retaking watered down versions of missed classes.  The source of this “miracle” was the school’s principal, who manipulated teacher evaluations to punish those who refused to cooperate with the sham.  It was only by luck that a reporter uncovered the deception.

Unfortunately, this example from Washington is just part of the larger pattern of inflated graduation statistics, and, unlike what occurred at Ballou HS, this counterfeiting is totally above board.  One analysis of what it takes to be a high school graduate found that both California and New York recently lowered high school diploma requirements.  Meanwhile, in Tennessee, a third of the state’s high school graduates had failed to satisfy the state’s graduation requirement but still graduated.  Twenty-one states offer a less academically rigorous degree, but recipients are nevertheless counted as “high school graduates.”  In 2015, Los Angeles dropped its once mandatory high school exam, and presto, some 14,000 Los Angeles students who had failed that exam now “earned” a high school diploma.  Particularly devious is a widespread practice called “credit recovery,” where a student who missed months of classroom time can in a day or two complete an easy, brief assignment and get full credit.

Of the utmost importance, outsiders cannot be aware of dumbed down textbooks, fluff classroom lecture content, or overly generous grading standards.  Even a responsible teacher may award undeserved grades to avoid trouble or permit illiterates to graduate just to get rid of them.  In short, opportunities to deceive are everywhere, often rational, and difficult to detect.

The Consequences of Successful Fraud

The obvious winners here are politicians and their education appointees, who promised to “turn around failing schools.”  Dishonest teachers and school administrators especially benefit where schools embrace a “business model” of financially rewarding high performers.  Provided nobody smells a rat and perpetrators don’t overdo it, deception is just what the doctor ordered after a half-century of expensive failure. 

The losers are the students who now possess a piece of paper falsely certifying academic accomplishment.  Yes, a few may recognize the scam, but keep in mind that “getting a diploma” has taken on a magical quality in modern American society.  After all, graduates have attended an imposing ceremony, been decked out in academic gowns, been adored by their picture-taking family, and listened to high-sounding speeches assuring them of future economic success.

The damage goes far deeper than just hoodwinking gullible youngsters and their proud parents.  Particularly revealing is that over time, data show that while high school graduation rates of blacks and whites have substantially narrowed, income differences remain virtually unchanged.  Employers also will quickly learn that these “graduates” cannot perform basic math or write an understandable report and that many “graduates” will likely continue their bad habits (e.g., chronic absenteeism) that had zero costs when they “attended” high school.  Do these freshly employed youngsters expect the dishonest principal to rescue them?

These “graduates” may well figure it out when they realize that nobody will hire them despite their credential or, if hired, that they will be assigned menial jobs more appropriate to a dropout.  Repeating high school work at a community college may be their only option.

Things can get worse.  Egalitarian-minded researchers will “demonstrate” that black youngsters with a high school diploma earn less than their white counterparts, alleged smoking-gun proof of racism and discrimination.  Now, racism demonstrated, the call will be for draconian laws to force employers to hire these “graduates,” since, after all, the diploma is prima facie evidence of worthiness.

Faced with court orders (and fines) to hire fake graduates, businesses might relocate, ship the work overseas, or hire skilled immigrants.  In any case, pools of minority youngsters who are unemployable despite their high school or even college diplomas will be left behind.  Alas, few will admit the obvious: their joblessness is a result of youngsters escaping the effort necessary to earn a real diploma.

Will this charade end?  Might the recipients of fake certificates wake up and sue schools for deception?  Probably not, given that diploma recipients are apparently satisfied with this fakery.  Thousands of public officials and professional educators are also motivated to sustain this gravy train, regardless of the damage inflicted on these youngsters.  And what white official will demand an end to policies that help disadvantaged blacks earn a degree?  Perhaps most troubling, for countless public officials and professional educators, this fakery qualifies as progress in the quest for racial equality.



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The Elephant at the Southern Border


Why do the public discussions of immigration overwhelmingly focus on our Southern border while the influx of almost equal numbers of Asians, Europeans, and Indians goes unnoticed?  Why fixate on Hispanics?

The prevailing explanation, at least the one advanced publicly by Donald Trump and his supporters, is that Hispanic immigrants are disproportionately inclined toward criminality and long-term welfare dependency vis-à-vis other immigrant groups.

The elephant in the room is the low I.Q. of these would-be future Americans.  Specifically, the average I.Q. in central American countries – Honduras 81, El Salvador 81, Guatemala 79, for example – would assign these migrants and their offspring to the “educable” or mildly retarded category in schools, unable to master all but the basics (Mexico might be a small exception with an average I.Q. of 88).

To be sure, the newcomers may be a tad smarter than their countrymen left behind, but even so, an average of a few points higher would not substantially alter their intellectual shortcomings.  Put into context, the average I.Q. of black Americans is 85, so these Central Americans would be at the very bottom of America’s educational achievement hierarchy.  This awkward reality is not totally racial – notable exceptions exist, and these “educable” Hispanic immigrants will be far outnumbered by whites with similarly low cognitive abilities.

Critically, low I.Q. is likely to persist across generations and is intractable compared to reversing criminality or welfare dependency, since criminality can be mitigated by tougher law enforcement, while welfare rolls can be trimmed.  Low I.Q., by contrast, is impossible to boost.  Skeptics should consider the failure of Head Start and countless similar interventions in this futile quest.

The influx of millions of low-I.Q. people will likely transform America (politics included) and conceivably even edge us closer to nations like Brazil and even Venezuela.  While recent immigrants from places like El Salvador on their own lack the numbers to execute this transformation, added to those of the Bernie Sanders ilk already here, they can turn electoral minorities into majorities.  California may be a harbinger.  Make no mistake: Trump and his supporters have a credible case that an open southern border may well alter American quantitatively, qualitatively, irreversibly, and for the worse.

Anticipating this transformation is hardly rocket science.

First, this will be a population plagued by innumeracy in a society requiring at least some ability to comprehend numbers.  How many low-I.Q. people understand what a million or billion is, let alone trillions, all commonplace terms in deliberations over the national debt and trade deficits?  Keep in mind that many of those with low I.Q.s love the lottery, where one-in-a million odds seem “reasonable.”  These are also people who as jurors can award damages in the hundreds of millions thanks to junk science.  Imagine a judicial system where a handful of juries regularly dictates hundred-million-dollar judgments that bankrupt corporations while creating extensive unemployment and destroying pensions.  Do these “generous” jurors honestly believe that their outsized kindness makes economic sense?

Meanwhile, picture the cognitively challenged following environmental disputes where, for example, a proposed regulation shifts from one part per hundred million to two parts per hundred million, a change that may be portrayed (accurately but probably deceptively) as doubling the permitted toxic waste but in fact may be environmentally meaningless, given infinitesimal quantities.  What does “a part per hundred million” mean to those mystified by “million”?  More importantly, can they grasp how seemingly high-sounding environmental intervention may have business-killing ramifications?

Imagine a low-I.Q. person trying to follow a public debate on, say, spending more on education, that includes such basic economic concepts as opportunity costs and trade-offs.  Can he draw the connection between government mandating cheaper medical costs and fewer doctors?  Probably not.

Ditto for calculating non-economic costs, especially non-obvious ones.  Try explaining to those who can’t get past 6th grade that artificially high minimum wages in practice harms intended beneficiaries, since these mandates raise the cost of hiring alleged beneficiaries.  Or that alluring soak-the-rich tax rates will fail, since the wealthy will escape confiscatory taxes or refuse to invest in economically productive ventures.

Can they grasp America’s foundational political principles?  Try explaining that the rule of law requires only following certain detailed procedures and that it does not guarantee that those “obviously” 100% guilty will, in fact, be convicted.  Or why the First Amendment protects hurtful or offensive speech.  Or that the morally offensive – for example, adultery – is not illegal unless prohibited by a specific statute.

Such intellectual insufficiencies almost guarantee widespread Bernie Sanders-style demagogy, a world where voters embrace free lunches thanks, supposedly, to an endless supply of billionaires agreeable to being fleeced.  Campaigns will see rivals competing to be Santa Claus, as if every alluring benefit were an unalienable government-funded right.  Pandering office-seekers will also demand that government just get rid of “bad things” regardless of cost or legal obstacles.  Just try to convince those of limited intelligence why eliminating all sexual harassment invites totalitarian cures far worse than the offending behavior.  Does the concept “totalitarian” mean anything to those stymied by 4th-grade reading lessons?

There is some upbeat news here.  The Founders fully understood this danger and, for those accusing Trump, et al. of racism, the Constitution was written at a time when America (excluding slaves, of course) was overwhelmingly white and of European ancestry.  Warnings of low I.Q. are not dog-whistle racism.  Many Founders were personally familiar with mass foolishness where people demanded “free” government handouts.  The Constitution itself was created in response to the Shays Rebellion, when mobs of destitute farmers attacked courthouses in the hope of forcefully discharging their debts.

The Constitution reflects the fear of the Great Unwashed: checks and balances; the separation of powers; federalism; explicit limits on government power (for example, Article I, Section 9 and the Bill of Rights); the lifetime appointment of judges; and the Electoral College, not a popular majority, electing the president, among multiple other barriers to foolish mob rule.  Meanwhile, the states sharply limited the franchise to property-owners to block the easily misled poor from heeding soak-the-rich demagogy. 

Nevertheless, the threat of rapacious economic appetites remains relevant.  Constitutional limits can accomplish only so much.  Puerto Rico is constrained by the U.S. Constitution, but it has nevertheless overspent itself into near bankruptcy.  California seems headed in this direction thanks to widespread beliefs that any idea that sounds good – for example, universal health care for all immigrants – deserves to be implemented.  Several cities such as Detroit have declared bankruptcy due to never having to say “no” to “good ideas” while refusing to pay the bills.

It is impossible to specify a tipping point when the U.S. drifts into a Third World-like wealth-destroying “socialism,” where government barely functions thanks to an inept workforce.  It may require an influx of millions more low-I.Q. immigrants before this calamity finally arrives, but this fear is not racist hyperbole.  This is the elephant at our southern border.

Why do the public discussions of immigration overwhelmingly focus on our Southern border while the influx of almost equal numbers of Asians, Europeans, and Indians goes unnoticed?  Why fixate on Hispanics?

The prevailing explanation, at least the one advanced publicly by Donald Trump and his supporters, is that Hispanic immigrants are disproportionately inclined toward criminality and long-term welfare dependency vis-à-vis other immigrant groups.

The elephant in the room is the low I.Q. of these would-be future Americans.  Specifically, the average I.Q. in central American countries – Honduras 81, El Salvador 81, Guatemala 79, for example – would assign these migrants and their offspring to the “educable” or mildly retarded category in schools, unable to master all but the basics (Mexico might be a small exception with an average I.Q. of 88).

To be sure, the newcomers may be a tad smarter than their countrymen left behind, but even so, an average of a few points higher would not substantially alter their intellectual shortcomings.  Put into context, the average I.Q. of black Americans is 85, so these Central Americans would be at the very bottom of America’s educational achievement hierarchy.  This awkward reality is not totally racial – notable exceptions exist, and these “educable” Hispanic immigrants will be far outnumbered by whites with similarly low cognitive abilities.

Critically, low I.Q. is likely to persist across generations and is intractable compared to reversing criminality or welfare dependency, since criminality can be mitigated by tougher law enforcement, while welfare rolls can be trimmed.  Low I.Q., by contrast, is impossible to boost.  Skeptics should consider the failure of Head Start and countless similar interventions in this futile quest.

The influx of millions of low-I.Q. people will likely transform America (politics included) and conceivably even edge us closer to nations like Brazil and even Venezuela.  While recent immigrants from places like El Salvador on their own lack the numbers to execute this transformation, added to those of the Bernie Sanders ilk already here, they can turn electoral minorities into majorities.  California may be a harbinger.  Make no mistake: Trump and his supporters have a credible case that an open southern border may well alter American quantitatively, qualitatively, irreversibly, and for the worse.

Anticipating this transformation is hardly rocket science.

First, this will be a population plagued by innumeracy in a society requiring at least some ability to comprehend numbers.  How many low-I.Q. people understand what a million or billion is, let alone trillions, all commonplace terms in deliberations over the national debt and trade deficits?  Keep in mind that many of those with low I.Q.s love the lottery, where one-in-a million odds seem “reasonable.”  These are also people who as jurors can award damages in the hundreds of millions thanks to junk science.  Imagine a judicial system where a handful of juries regularly dictates hundred-million-dollar judgments that bankrupt corporations while creating extensive unemployment and destroying pensions.  Do these “generous” jurors honestly believe that their outsized kindness makes economic sense?

Meanwhile, picture the cognitively challenged following environmental disputes where, for example, a proposed regulation shifts from one part per hundred million to two parts per hundred million, a change that may be portrayed (accurately but probably deceptively) as doubling the permitted toxic waste but in fact may be environmentally meaningless, given infinitesimal quantities.  What does “a part per hundred million” mean to those mystified by “million”?  More importantly, can they grasp how seemingly high-sounding environmental intervention may have business-killing ramifications?

Imagine a low-I.Q. person trying to follow a public debate on, say, spending more on education, that includes such basic economic concepts as opportunity costs and trade-offs.  Can he draw the connection between government mandating cheaper medical costs and fewer doctors?  Probably not.

Ditto for calculating non-economic costs, especially non-obvious ones.  Try explaining to those who can’t get past 6th grade that artificially high minimum wages in practice harms intended beneficiaries, since these mandates raise the cost of hiring alleged beneficiaries.  Or that alluring soak-the-rich tax rates will fail, since the wealthy will escape confiscatory taxes or refuse to invest in economically productive ventures.

Can they grasp America’s foundational political principles?  Try explaining that the rule of law requires only following certain detailed procedures and that it does not guarantee that those “obviously” 100% guilty will, in fact, be convicted.  Or why the First Amendment protects hurtful or offensive speech.  Or that the morally offensive – for example, adultery – is not illegal unless prohibited by a specific statute.

Such intellectual insufficiencies almost guarantee widespread Bernie Sanders-style demagogy, a world where voters embrace free lunches thanks, supposedly, to an endless supply of billionaires agreeable to being fleeced.  Campaigns will see rivals competing to be Santa Claus, as if every alluring benefit were an unalienable government-funded right.  Pandering office-seekers will also demand that government just get rid of “bad things” regardless of cost or legal obstacles.  Just try to convince those of limited intelligence why eliminating all sexual harassment invites totalitarian cures far worse than the offending behavior.  Does the concept “totalitarian” mean anything to those stymied by 4th-grade reading lessons?

There is some upbeat news here.  The Founders fully understood this danger and, for those accusing Trump, et al. of racism, the Constitution was written at a time when America (excluding slaves, of course) was overwhelmingly white and of European ancestry.  Warnings of low I.Q. are not dog-whistle racism.  Many Founders were personally familiar with mass foolishness where people demanded “free” government handouts.  The Constitution itself was created in response to the Shays Rebellion, when mobs of destitute farmers attacked courthouses in the hope of forcefully discharging their debts.

The Constitution reflects the fear of the Great Unwashed: checks and balances; the separation of powers; federalism; explicit limits on government power (for example, Article I, Section 9 and the Bill of Rights); the lifetime appointment of judges; and the Electoral College, not a popular majority, electing the president, among multiple other barriers to foolish mob rule.  Meanwhile, the states sharply limited the franchise to property-owners to block the easily misled poor from heeding soak-the-rich demagogy. 

Nevertheless, the threat of rapacious economic appetites remains relevant.  Constitutional limits can accomplish only so much.  Puerto Rico is constrained by the U.S. Constitution, but it has nevertheless overspent itself into near bankruptcy.  California seems headed in this direction thanks to widespread beliefs that any idea that sounds good – for example, universal health care for all immigrants – deserves to be implemented.  Several cities such as Detroit have declared bankruptcy due to never having to say “no” to “good ideas” while refusing to pay the bills.

It is impossible to specify a tipping point when the U.S. drifts into a Third World-like wealth-destroying “socialism,” where government barely functions thanks to an inept workforce.  It may require an influx of millions more low-I.Q. immigrants before this calamity finally arrives, but this fear is not racist hyperbole.  This is the elephant at our southern border.



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Would Progress in Genetics Research End the Racial Spoils System?


A recent NY Times essay. “How Genetics Is Changing Our Understanding of ‘Race’” by Harvard genetics professor David Reich directly confronted the Mother of All Taboos: racial differences in intelligence. Despite his references to Nazis and condemning as “racists” past researchers who have intimated this race-IQ link, Reich concludes that the onward march of genetic research might uncover the race/intelligence link though he prudently admits that smoking gun proof is not yet in hand.

The overwhelming reaction to Reich’s ever-so-tentative conclusion has, predictably, been condemnation. Nevertheless, qualifiers aside, there is no doubt that, at least in his expert opinion, thanks to multiplying breakthroughs in DNA research, the days of “no racial differences in cognitive ability” as “settled science” may well be numbered.  

Reich is explicit:

I have deep sympathy for the concern that genetic discoveries could be misused to justify racism. But as a geneticist I also know that it is simply no longer possible to ignore average genetic differences among “races.” (snip)


Is performance on an intelligence test or the number of years of school a person attends shaped by the way a person is brought up? Of course. But does it measure something having to do with some aspect of behavior or cognition? Almost certainly. And since all traits influenced by genetics are expected to differ across populations (because the frequencies of genetic variations are rarely exactly the same across populations), the genetic influences on behavior and cognition will differ across populations, too.

Now for the $64 political questions: what might happen if a group of eminent scientists present a report (we’ll call it “The Report”) demonstrating that after multiple careful studies, the overwhelming preponderance of scientific evidence confirms that (1) racial categories, understood as Caucasian, blacks, Asian and American Indian, are biological realities not “social constructs” and (2) Caucasians on average are more intelligent than blacks with East Asians (i.e., Chinese, Japanese and Korean) being smarter than whites and American Indians a bit smarter than blacks. To be sure, evidence for this race-related hierarchy of cognitive ability already abounds (see here and  here, among many summaries of findings depicting this link) but what makes The Report significant is that these group differences and now scientifically proven to be substantially biologically based, not largely environmentally determined.

For those anxious that this potential forthcoming explosive scientific truth will upend today’s racial accommodations, let me predict that barely anything would change. All the talk of white racism, racial discrimination and other evils will not recede, while the flow of billions to close racial gaps and all the rest will scarcely be touched. On the other side, however, disappointment will await those who had hoped that biological science will, at long last, bring a color-blind, merit-based America. The Great Taboo will survive.   

Let me suggest why near-zero change if The Report finally arrives, if ever, of course.

First, genetics is exceedingly complicated and abounds with myriad technical terms whose understanding require a decent knowledge of statistics. and leaving aside a provocative headline like “Scientists prove whites smarter than blacks,” The Report would draw scant popular attention. The New York Times, the Washington Post and the like will surely cover it, but beyond that, it’s hard to see ordinary folk paying serious attention. The left-leaning media might acknowledge it but only to condemn it as crackpot pseudo-science. At most, a few “race realist” websites would celebrate the findings, but this audience is tiny and even here, coverage will fade.

This reaction would be totally unlike research about sex, for example, the Kinsey Report and the findings of Masters and Johnson, that became talked about best sellers with millions pouring over turgid analyses to extract “hot” nuggets about homosexuality or female orgasm.

The Report’s author’s will also encourage public indifference by making it a formidable read, a tactic comparable to Victorians writing about sex by favoring Latin and impenetrable prose (try navigating Kraft-Ebbing’s Psychopathia Sexualis). It is also quite unlikely that fair-minded, more accessible versions will appear in magazines such as The Atlantic so non-specialists can see the evidence themselves. Such liberal-leaning magazines might well risk outraged subscribers canceling.  

Such obtuseness and reluctance to go public has a practical justification. Report authors would know full well the costs of racial heresy — ad hominem denunciations, classroom disruptions, demands that this “Nazi” research be defunded and, no doubt, death threats. Recall how Harvard’s Edwin O. Wilson, the founder of sociobiology, was physically attacked at an academic conference, and he was only one of many who suffered this fate. Most likely, more than a few of The Report researchers would request anonymity. How many would defend their work on TV or pen an op-ed column?  Not many, if any.

Immense and very vocal opposition might kill The Report altogether. Guaranteed, there would be an avalanche of open letters, signed declarations and other hostile public outcries. Distinguished geneticists worried over their funding might join this vitriolic chorus and pick apart The Report for its “premature” conclusions. Add the usual collection of left-wing social justice academics who know little about genetics, calling themselves something like “Professors Against Racism.” And woe to anybody on campus who oppose their goodthink views. Given the risks of being associated with challenging Mother of All Taboo beliefs, opponents would out-number Report defenders at least 10 to 1.

Forget about a marketplace of idea where scientific truth wins out by defeating falsehoods; a better parallel is a Tower of Babel, often filled with preposterous lies, that leaves the public confused — a “he say that, she say” version of scientific “debate.” Within a few weeks the public will tire of the uncivil squabbling and news of The Report will fade. Recall the trajectory of The Bell Curve — an uproar, endless unscientific name-calling followed by decades of amnesia.

But most of all, The Report will not reverse race-related public policy for the simple reason that race relations in the US exists independently of scientific facts. Everything, top to bottom, is politically driven.  Demands for well-paying set-aside jobs are impervious to IQ statistics, nor do college instructors stop hectoring whites for their unearned “white privilege.” Indeed, The Report might only exacerbated cries of institutional racism as opponents denounce it as typical “white” science that justifies white hegemony.

To be blunt, The Report would not be exactly shockingly new news. Admissions officers at elite colleges have known for decades that blacks score well below whites and Asians on standardized tests, and this holds even for blacks from well-off families, and this enduring gap strongly hints of genetic differences, yet racial preferences continue. Moreover, the diversity defense has zero to do with genetics, so why drop racial preferences?  Ditto for all the corporations, including the US military, that hire diversity specialists to attract more black and Hispanic workers. Has any diversity advocate ever talked about genetics? If one needs an historical parallel, consider those centuries back when many people believed that fact-based science would demolish religions with their alleged superstitions and fantasies.

In sum, opponents of the racial preferences, affirmative action and all the rest are wasting their time by awaiting the Messiah of genetic research. Yes, scientifically verified truth is important, but in this instance, millions simply don’t care, refuse to believe it or will vigorously defend falsehoods. Change is most likely to occur — sad to say — when bridges collapse, or airplanes fall from the sky, but until such catastrophes, the racial spoils system marches on.

A recent NY Times essay. “How Genetics Is Changing Our Understanding of ‘Race’” by Harvard genetics professor David Reich directly confronted the Mother of All Taboos: racial differences in intelligence. Despite his references to Nazis and condemning as “racists” past researchers who have intimated this race-IQ link, Reich concludes that the onward march of genetic research might uncover the race/intelligence link though he prudently admits that smoking gun proof is not yet in hand.

The overwhelming reaction to Reich’s ever-so-tentative conclusion has, predictably, been condemnation. Nevertheless, qualifiers aside, there is no doubt that, at least in his expert opinion, thanks to multiplying breakthroughs in DNA research, the days of “no racial differences in cognitive ability” as “settled science” may well be numbered.  

Reich is explicit:

I have deep sympathy for the concern that genetic discoveries could be misused to justify racism. But as a geneticist I also know that it is simply no longer possible to ignore average genetic differences among “races.” (snip)


Is performance on an intelligence test or the number of years of school a person attends shaped by the way a person is brought up? Of course. But does it measure something having to do with some aspect of behavior or cognition? Almost certainly. And since all traits influenced by genetics are expected to differ across populations (because the frequencies of genetic variations are rarely exactly the same across populations), the genetic influences on behavior and cognition will differ across populations, too.

Now for the $64 political questions: what might happen if a group of eminent scientists present a report (we’ll call it “The Report”) demonstrating that after multiple careful studies, the overwhelming preponderance of scientific evidence confirms that (1) racial categories, understood as Caucasian, blacks, Asian and American Indian, are biological realities not “social constructs” and (2) Caucasians on average are more intelligent than blacks with East Asians (i.e., Chinese, Japanese and Korean) being smarter than whites and American Indians a bit smarter than blacks. To be sure, evidence for this race-related hierarchy of cognitive ability already abounds (see here and  here, among many summaries of findings depicting this link) but what makes The Report significant is that these group differences and now scientifically proven to be substantially biologically based, not largely environmentally determined.

For those anxious that this potential forthcoming explosive scientific truth will upend today’s racial accommodations, let me predict that barely anything would change. All the talk of white racism, racial discrimination and other evils will not recede, while the flow of billions to close racial gaps and all the rest will scarcely be touched. On the other side, however, disappointment will await those who had hoped that biological science will, at long last, bring a color-blind, merit-based America. The Great Taboo will survive.   

Let me suggest why near-zero change if The Report finally arrives, if ever, of course.

First, genetics is exceedingly complicated and abounds with myriad technical terms whose understanding require a decent knowledge of statistics. and leaving aside a provocative headline like “Scientists prove whites smarter than blacks,” The Report would draw scant popular attention. The New York Times, the Washington Post and the like will surely cover it, but beyond that, it’s hard to see ordinary folk paying serious attention. The left-leaning media might acknowledge it but only to condemn it as crackpot pseudo-science. At most, a few “race realist” websites would celebrate the findings, but this audience is tiny and even here, coverage will fade.

This reaction would be totally unlike research about sex, for example, the Kinsey Report and the findings of Masters and Johnson, that became talked about best sellers with millions pouring over turgid analyses to extract “hot” nuggets about homosexuality or female orgasm.

The Report’s author’s will also encourage public indifference by making it a formidable read, a tactic comparable to Victorians writing about sex by favoring Latin and impenetrable prose (try navigating Kraft-Ebbing’s Psychopathia Sexualis). It is also quite unlikely that fair-minded, more accessible versions will appear in magazines such as The Atlantic so non-specialists can see the evidence themselves. Such liberal-leaning magazines might well risk outraged subscribers canceling.  

Such obtuseness and reluctance to go public has a practical justification. Report authors would know full well the costs of racial heresy — ad hominem denunciations, classroom disruptions, demands that this “Nazi” research be defunded and, no doubt, death threats. Recall how Harvard’s Edwin O. Wilson, the founder of sociobiology, was physically attacked at an academic conference, and he was only one of many who suffered this fate. Most likely, more than a few of The Report researchers would request anonymity. How many would defend their work on TV or pen an op-ed column?  Not many, if any.

Immense and very vocal opposition might kill The Report altogether. Guaranteed, there would be an avalanche of open letters, signed declarations and other hostile public outcries. Distinguished geneticists worried over their funding might join this vitriolic chorus and pick apart The Report for its “premature” conclusions. Add the usual collection of left-wing social justice academics who know little about genetics, calling themselves something like “Professors Against Racism.” And woe to anybody on campus who oppose their goodthink views. Given the risks of being associated with challenging Mother of All Taboo beliefs, opponents would out-number Report defenders at least 10 to 1.

Forget about a marketplace of idea where scientific truth wins out by defeating falsehoods; a better parallel is a Tower of Babel, often filled with preposterous lies, that leaves the public confused — a “he say that, she say” version of scientific “debate.” Within a few weeks the public will tire of the uncivil squabbling and news of The Report will fade. Recall the trajectory of The Bell Curve — an uproar, endless unscientific name-calling followed by decades of amnesia.

But most of all, The Report will not reverse race-related public policy for the simple reason that race relations in the US exists independently of scientific facts. Everything, top to bottom, is politically driven.  Demands for well-paying set-aside jobs are impervious to IQ statistics, nor do college instructors stop hectoring whites for their unearned “white privilege.” Indeed, The Report might only exacerbated cries of institutional racism as opponents denounce it as typical “white” science that justifies white hegemony.

To be blunt, The Report would not be exactly shockingly new news. Admissions officers at elite colleges have known for decades that blacks score well below whites and Asians on standardized tests, and this holds even for blacks from well-off families, and this enduring gap strongly hints of genetic differences, yet racial preferences continue. Moreover, the diversity defense has zero to do with genetics, so why drop racial preferences?  Ditto for all the corporations, including the US military, that hire diversity specialists to attract more black and Hispanic workers. Has any diversity advocate ever talked about genetics? If one needs an historical parallel, consider those centuries back when many people believed that fact-based science would demolish religions with their alleged superstitions and fantasies.

In sum, opponents of the racial preferences, affirmative action and all the rest are wasting their time by awaiting the Messiah of genetic research. Yes, scientifically verified truth is important, but in this instance, millions simply don’t care, refuse to believe it or will vigorously defend falsehoods. Change is most likely to occur — sad to say — when bridges collapse, or airplanes fall from the sky, but until such catastrophes, the racial spoils system marches on.



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Spending Millions to Fill Garbage Cans with Nutritious Meals


 

For most people, even those paying attention, the seemingly endless expansion of government spending and its accompanying debt is a mystery. A timely parallel might be a tropical storm out in the middle of nowhere developing into a Cat 5 hurricane. So it is with public budgets—a modest program almost unnoticed balloons into a tax-eating monster and while we can track it, who really knows how it got that way?

 

Happily, the mechanics of this budget-bloating are occasionally exposed to public view and it is not a pleasant sight (here and here). Perhaps the disagreeable nature of this exposure explains why the mass media prefers fluff—you need a strong stomach to watch public officials flush millions, sometime billions, down the toilet.    

A recent example of this budgets-running-wild occurred in New York City when its Department of Education announced that beginning with the current school term, all students, even rich kids in tony private schools, would receive free breakfasts and lunches. In the past “only” 75% of the city’s school kids given family poverty were eligible. Now, however, it’s free eats for all, and according to City’s estimates, this would add 200,000 pupils to the total of those on the gravy train. That’s 400,000 meals a day! The average New York family would save $300 a year with the cost of the meal calculated at $1.75.

Surprisingly, this tax-funded generosity received scant attention, and nearly all upbeat. Why the silence? New Yorkers are a savvy bunch and at least somebody should have challenged a costly endeavor that only deepened dependence on government. Is it now Politically Incorrect to insist that not everyone deserves a free meals?

Public justifications of this meals program offer powerful insights into how today’s welfare state soars out of control. Believe it or not, city officials side-stepped the increased tax burden by claiming that the expansion would not cost the city anything. To wit, since Uncle Sam currently pays for everybody’s food if 62.5% of students receive free meals due to parental poverty, the city now can collect the funding for the additional 200,000 since the city has overall reached the 62.5% threshold.  Moreover, these additional free meals did not result from actual poverty as an average person might define it, for example, a lower income. Rather, accountants discovered this “poverty” by scrutinized parental food stamp and Medicaid records. That is, thousands did not know that they were poor but, thanks to diligent state officials, they can now join the poverty club. (According to this logic, benefiting from multiple government entitlement justified even more programs.) 

Recall the days when government congratulated itself for reducing poverty. How 1960s! More telling is how free-food money is defined as “free” when supplied by Washington as if New Yorkers don’t pay federal taxes? Remember when the Rev. Al Sharpton was asked why today’s Americans should pay reparations to descendents of slaves? His response was that people would not pay; the government would send out the checks. This mentality has now gone mainstream—Doug Turetsky, a spokesman for the city’s Independent Budget Office pronounced that upping the freebies was “revenue neutral.” Did anybody phone Uncle Sam and tell him that he was now on the hook for additional millions?

Predictably, this financial shell game was obscured by cliché-mongering.  The Chancellor of the City’s schools, Carmen Fariña, announced that “This is about equity” and “all communities matter.” For Mayor Bill de Blasio who is up for re-election this year, free food was part of his “Equity Agenda.” He also explained that “We know that students cannot learn or thrive in school if they are hungry all day,” and “Free school lunch will not only ensure that every kid in New York City has the fuel they need to succeed but also further our goal of providing an excellent and equitable education for all students.” This is an audacious lie: the city has unsuccessfully spent billions trying to improve educational outcomes but, finally and at long last, we have the cure—free food. Brilliant! No doubt, with the free food trucks on the way, race-related differences in academic achievement will soon vanish.

How giving meals to rich kids gratis promotes “equity” seems unclear and a better argument would be charging rich kids more would better promote fairness (how many New Yorkers can, in fact, define “equity”?  Technically, of course, the wealthy will eventually subsidize these “free” meals since they—unlike the indigent–actually will pay income taxes so an honest characterization of this program is not “an equity agenda” but income re-distribution as in socialism but de Blasio obviously eschews that more accurate label.  

What makes this supposed generosity especially stupid is that it doesn’t work. Since the Healthy, Hunger-Free Act of 2010 school meals must satisfy strict nutritional  standards on such things as fat and sodium and, as we all know, adolescent don’t want more fruits and veggies; they want cheeseburgers. The upshot, predictably, is that fewer and fewer youngsters avail themselves of the free meals. And since these uneaten meals must go into the garbage, spending yet more on “free” meals only means more high-nutrition garbage (the estimated waste is $1.2 billion a year [cited here]). In fact, administrators tacitly acknowledge this extensive waste when they aver that students are provided with meals; nothing said about what’s eaten.

Now, while we can all agree that Harvey and Irma victims might justifiably receive free food, why should thousands of school kids (including every school-enrolled youngster in Boston, Dallas, Chicago and Detroit) benefit from such largess? Are we in the midst of an epidemic where millions of American youngsters suffer from malnutrition or live in homes bereft of food?   

The logic for taxpayer generosity is a bit more complicated and, to be blunt, dishonest. First, nobody is claiming any nutritional justification for this generosity, for example, youngsters that suffer from calcium deficiencies and thus need government-supplied milk. Nor is there any claim that parts of the U.S. now resemble Third World countries like Somalia where starvation promotes deadly diseases. But, a “disease” exists that allegedly adversely affects millions of youngsters—shame. That is, lots of youngsters refuse free food since this would stigmatize them and thus would rather go hungry than be ridiculed. In an odd sense, being offered a free meal triggers an eating disorder whose cure is to provide free meals to every student in the school.  Yesterday’s war on hunger has become today’s war on shame.

It does not take much to see where all this might lead given that adolescents are easily shamed. No doubt, a few dread coming to school with last year’s Air Jordans while others are short and fat. This campaign is totally open-ended and who knows where it will go next? This is egalitarianism on steroids to create a Utopia where nobody worries about being shamed.  

To be sure, the City’s free meals program is only one of thousands of such entitlement programs and, in the grand scheme things, small potatoes. But, its operation is undoubtedly typical of many other programs that, like small tropical storms, grow into Cat 5 financial hurricanes. The pattern is a universal one: start with a modest low-cost idea (a free lunch for hungry kids); gradually expand its scope (add breakfasts); include more recipients (lower eligibility standards); insist that the costs are minimal (somebody else pays); and justify the program’s existence with high-sounding verbiage (kids can’t learn on empty stomachs). And then obscure it all with nice-sounding lies.

And, it seems to work–as of now, de Blasio looks like a shoe-in for re-election.

 

For most people, even those paying attention, the seemingly endless expansion of government spending and its accompanying debt is a mystery. A timely parallel might be a tropical storm out in the middle of nowhere developing into a Cat 5 hurricane. So it is with public budgets—a modest program almost unnoticed balloons into a tax-eating monster and while we can track it, who really knows how it got that way?

 

Happily, the mechanics of this budget-bloating are occasionally exposed to public view and it is not a pleasant sight (here and here). Perhaps the disagreeable nature of this exposure explains why the mass media prefers fluff—you need a strong stomach to watch public officials flush millions, sometime billions, down the toilet.    

A recent example of this budgets-running-wild occurred in New York City when its Department of Education announced that beginning with the current school term, all students, even rich kids in tony private schools, would receive free breakfasts and lunches. In the past “only” 75% of the city’s school kids given family poverty were eligible. Now, however, it’s free eats for all, and according to City’s estimates, this would add 200,000 pupils to the total of those on the gravy train. That’s 400,000 meals a day! The average New York family would save $300 a year with the cost of the meal calculated at $1.75.

Surprisingly, this tax-funded generosity received scant attention, and nearly all upbeat. Why the silence? New Yorkers are a savvy bunch and at least somebody should have challenged a costly endeavor that only deepened dependence on government. Is it now Politically Incorrect to insist that not everyone deserves a free meals?

Public justifications of this meals program offer powerful insights into how today’s welfare state soars out of control. Believe it or not, city officials side-stepped the increased tax burden by claiming that the expansion would not cost the city anything. To wit, since Uncle Sam currently pays for everybody’s food if 62.5% of students receive free meals due to parental poverty, the city now can collect the funding for the additional 200,000 since the city has overall reached the 62.5% threshold.  Moreover, these additional free meals did not result from actual poverty as an average person might define it, for example, a lower income. Rather, accountants discovered this “poverty” by scrutinized parental food stamp and Medicaid records. That is, thousands did not know that they were poor but, thanks to diligent state officials, they can now join the poverty club. (According to this logic, benefiting from multiple government entitlement justified even more programs.) 

Recall the days when government congratulated itself for reducing poverty. How 1960s! More telling is how free-food money is defined as “free” when supplied by Washington as if New Yorkers don’t pay federal taxes? Remember when the Rev. Al Sharpton was asked why today’s Americans should pay reparations to descendents of slaves? His response was that people would not pay; the government would send out the checks. This mentality has now gone mainstream—Doug Turetsky, a spokesman for the city’s Independent Budget Office pronounced that upping the freebies was “revenue neutral.” Did anybody phone Uncle Sam and tell him that he was now on the hook for additional millions?

Predictably, this financial shell game was obscured by cliché-mongering.  The Chancellor of the City’s schools, Carmen Fariña, announced that “This is about equity” and “all communities matter.” For Mayor Bill de Blasio who is up for re-election this year, free food was part of his “Equity Agenda.” He also explained that “We know that students cannot learn or thrive in school if they are hungry all day,” and “Free school lunch will not only ensure that every kid in New York City has the fuel they need to succeed but also further our goal of providing an excellent and equitable education for all students.” This is an audacious lie: the city has unsuccessfully spent billions trying to improve educational outcomes but, finally and at long last, we have the cure—free food. Brilliant! No doubt, with the free food trucks on the way, race-related differences in academic achievement will soon vanish.

How giving meals to rich kids gratis promotes “equity” seems unclear and a better argument would be charging rich kids more would better promote fairness (how many New Yorkers can, in fact, define “equity”?  Technically, of course, the wealthy will eventually subsidize these “free” meals since they—unlike the indigent–actually will pay income taxes so an honest characterization of this program is not “an equity agenda” but income re-distribution as in socialism but de Blasio obviously eschews that more accurate label.  

What makes this supposed generosity especially stupid is that it doesn’t work. Since the Healthy, Hunger-Free Act of 2010 school meals must satisfy strict nutritional  standards on such things as fat and sodium and, as we all know, adolescent don’t want more fruits and veggies; they want cheeseburgers. The upshot, predictably, is that fewer and fewer youngsters avail themselves of the free meals. And since these uneaten meals must go into the garbage, spending yet more on “free” meals only means more high-nutrition garbage (the estimated waste is $1.2 billion a year [cited here]). In fact, administrators tacitly acknowledge this extensive waste when they aver that students are provided with meals; nothing said about what’s eaten.

Now, while we can all agree that Harvey and Irma victims might justifiably receive free food, why should thousands of school kids (including every school-enrolled youngster in Boston, Dallas, Chicago and Detroit) benefit from such largess? Are we in the midst of an epidemic where millions of American youngsters suffer from malnutrition or live in homes bereft of food?   

The logic for taxpayer generosity is a bit more complicated and, to be blunt, dishonest. First, nobody is claiming any nutritional justification for this generosity, for example, youngsters that suffer from calcium deficiencies and thus need government-supplied milk. Nor is there any claim that parts of the U.S. now resemble Third World countries like Somalia where starvation promotes deadly diseases. But, a “disease” exists that allegedly adversely affects millions of youngsters—shame. That is, lots of youngsters refuse free food since this would stigmatize them and thus would rather go hungry than be ridiculed. In an odd sense, being offered a free meal triggers an eating disorder whose cure is to provide free meals to every student in the school.  Yesterday’s war on hunger has become today’s war on shame.

It does not take much to see where all this might lead given that adolescents are easily shamed. No doubt, a few dread coming to school with last year’s Air Jordans while others are short and fat. This campaign is totally open-ended and who knows where it will go next? This is egalitarianism on steroids to create a Utopia where nobody worries about being shamed.  

To be sure, the City’s free meals program is only one of thousands of such entitlement programs and, in the grand scheme things, small potatoes. But, its operation is undoubtedly typical of many other programs that, like small tropical storms, grow into Cat 5 financial hurricanes. The pattern is a universal one: start with a modest low-cost idea (a free lunch for hungry kids); gradually expand its scope (add breakfasts); include more recipients (lower eligibility standards); insist that the costs are minimal (somebody else pays); and justify the program’s existence with high-sounding verbiage (kids can’t learn on empty stomachs). And then obscure it all with nice-sounding lies.

And, it seems to work–as of now, de Blasio looks like a shoe-in for re-election.



Source link

Training Americans for Dependency One Bite at a Time


Over the last century America has gone from a nation that prized self-reliance to one where  millions seem unbothered by dependency. For a political leader just to hint at curtailing entitlements or adding a work requirement certifies him as evil. This is hardly surprising is that Washington itself promotes dependency and this training for irresponsibility begins early in life. Long before a youngster can vote, he or she learns, regardless of what economist say, that there really is such a thing as a free lunch.   

A recent Wall Street Journal article (July 19, 2017, A3) highlighted how this sorrowful condition is encouraged. The Journal article concerns government financed school meals (lunches but increasingly larger numbers of breakfasts). This generosity, in addition to providing daily vitamins and minerals also supplies a daily message that government, not parents, put food on the table. To be specific, in 2016, 73.3% of all school children availing themselves of school lunches ate either free or reduced priced lunches; this compares to 15.1% in 1969.

More is involved than just instructing youngsters in the statist Lord’s Prayer where the Department of Agriculture (USDA), not the Lord, gives us our daily bread. This “instruction” also applies to the millions of other youngsters whose families do not financially qualify for subsidized meals and must therefore pay something toward their daily bread. At least they, unlike those on the subsidized meal plan, ought to see the connection between the sweat of somebody’s brow and their daily bread. 

No such luck. Though the Department of Agriculture that administers school food programs explicitly requires schools to notify parents when junior is a deadbeat, inaction regarding no-pays is commonplace. Yes, some school districts are cracking down, for example, banning freeloaders from attending graduation or even withholding meals until the bill is paid (legally permissible), but many other school districts permit junior (and his parents) to stiff Uncle Sam. For example, the Los Angeles Unified School District recently absorbed $629,000 in debt for these unpaid meals; the Yonkers New York School District had an even more forgiving policy and thus wound up with a deficit of $800,000. 

This tolerance for freeloading is predictable. Public schools are not like McDonald’s and few educators seem alarmed over burgeoning education costs. In fact, some educators resist any effort to get deadbeats to pay up for their meals and if a school instead supplies a bag lunch to lunchroom deadbeats, the school is condemned for “lunch shaming” (nearly half of all schools engage in some form of shaming). Though shaming is permitted by USDA rules, Texas and New Mexico currently prohibited it and other states are now considering anti-shaming measures. A proposed federal law — the Anti-Lunch Shaming Act of 2017 — has even been introduced in Congress. And needless to say, a no money, no food policy is unthinkable in today’s educational hyper-compassionate environment.  

Almost on cue, private philanthropic organizations — Fund the Future Forward, School Lunch Fairy, among others — have stepped in to rescue the children  of parents who, despite being financially able as per federal guidelines, refuse to pay junior’s debt. For these philanthropic do-gooders, better to bail out deadbeat parents than to have children suffer shame.     

Imagine what youngsters absorb from their daily school cafeteria experiences. They will learn that at least for meals, poverty has no costs but escaping poverty does — “escapees” must pay for meals. Nor do needy students pay a price for parental poverty by receiving less, for example, just a peanut butter sandwich while the “rich” dine on hot roast beef. True egalitarianism, if not socialism begins early.

Most of all, no link now exists between work and benefits since those unable to pay are not required to earn the meals. Perhaps educators view helping clean up a mess as illegal child labor. Even more “educational,” is that those who actually do pay are just chumps since being a deadbeat often has no consequences. Further add that those receiving free meals are rarely pitiful emaciated barefoot kids dressed in rags. Many, no doubt, will have cell phones and dress stylishly.

This is an oft-repeated lesson — assuming attendance of 170 days per school year, by his or her junior year, Washington’s free school food programs will have been witnessed some 1700 or so times (double that if there is a breakfast program). Perfect training for a seamless adult transition to food stamps, Section 8 housing, no-pay ER care and all the rest of today’s “free”  entitlements.     

Today’s government school meals program offers an ideological dividend: teach people that political power, not holding a job, is now what puts food on the table. No wonder so many of those permanently on welfare feel no shame — years of free lunches have been eaten with zero embarrassment. And to be frank, it is probably more cost effective for educators to pressure government for these benefits than to implore parents to fix meals for junior.  

Sadly, training for dependency only expands. Under Washington’s Community Eligibility Provision schools in high poverty areas (see here for details) can enroll all students, no application needed, in the free breakfast and lunch program regardless of family income (both Chicago and Boston among others are already in the program). In the meantime, the Department of Agriculture itself is busy instructing the public on how to lobby local officials for yet more government school meal assistance. The list of tactics to extract yet more “free” food includes forming partnerships with food banks and libraries, encouraging schools to work with migrants, coordinating efforts with hunger hotlines, and providing school children with flyers to take home and multiple other tactics to pressure Uncle Sam to pick up the check.

These free and subsidized meals are, of course, only a small part of training citizens for dependency. But, for those uneasy about such training it would be a mistake to focus the debate on hunger — nobody wants starving children. The deeper issue is somehow restoring the link between eating and work. We are not psychologically debilitating youngsters by teaching them that somebody pays for putting bread on the table. School meals are not manna from heaven. Can we really be surprised that millions of Americans are no longer terrified by the prospect of falling into poverty given that they have personally witnessed the advantages of poverty — you get “free” food.

Now imagine an alternative school meals universe. Everyone is now guaranteed minimum nutrition, for example, a cheese sandwich on white bread and a glass of milk. But students could sign up for various school jobs, from cooking to removing graffiti, all of which would, of course, reduce education expenses and impart some real-world skills. Teachers would check that the work was performed correctly, on-time and completing the task would earn “school dollars” redeemable for food, including goodies like ice cream cones. Students could now receive better meals all the while building good work habits while taxes would decline.   

What’s “wrong” with that picture? Let me guess that at least one ex-community activist from Chicago would denounce the program in a speech explaining, “this is not who we are.” 

Over the last century America has gone from a nation that prized self-reliance to one where  millions seem unbothered by dependency. For a political leader just to hint at curtailing entitlements or adding a work requirement certifies him as evil. This is hardly surprising is that Washington itself promotes dependency and this training for irresponsibility begins early in life. Long before a youngster can vote, he or she learns, regardless of what economist say, that there really is such a thing as a free lunch.   

A recent Wall Street Journal article (July 19, 2017, A3) highlighted how this sorrowful condition is encouraged. The Journal article concerns government financed school meals (lunches but increasingly larger numbers of breakfasts). This generosity, in addition to providing daily vitamins and minerals also supplies a daily message that government, not parents, put food on the table. To be specific, in 2016, 73.3% of all school children availing themselves of school lunches ate either free or reduced priced lunches; this compares to 15.1% in 1969.

More is involved than just instructing youngsters in the statist Lord’s Prayer where the Department of Agriculture (USDA), not the Lord, gives us our daily bread. This “instruction” also applies to the millions of other youngsters whose families do not financially qualify for subsidized meals and must therefore pay something toward their daily bread. At least they, unlike those on the subsidized meal plan, ought to see the connection between the sweat of somebody’s brow and their daily bread. 

No such luck. Though the Department of Agriculture that administers school food programs explicitly requires schools to notify parents when junior is a deadbeat, inaction regarding no-pays is commonplace. Yes, some school districts are cracking down, for example, banning freeloaders from attending graduation or even withholding meals until the bill is paid (legally permissible), but many other school districts permit junior (and his parents) to stiff Uncle Sam. For example, the Los Angeles Unified School District recently absorbed $629,000 in debt for these unpaid meals; the Yonkers New York School District had an even more forgiving policy and thus wound up with a deficit of $800,000. 

This tolerance for freeloading is predictable. Public schools are not like McDonald’s and few educators seem alarmed over burgeoning education costs. In fact, some educators resist any effort to get deadbeats to pay up for their meals and if a school instead supplies a bag lunch to lunchroom deadbeats, the school is condemned for “lunch shaming” (nearly half of all schools engage in some form of shaming). Though shaming is permitted by USDA rules, Texas and New Mexico currently prohibited it and other states are now considering anti-shaming measures. A proposed federal law — the Anti-Lunch Shaming Act of 2017 — has even been introduced in Congress. And needless to say, a no money, no food policy is unthinkable in today’s educational hyper-compassionate environment.  

Almost on cue, private philanthropic organizations — Fund the Future Forward, School Lunch Fairy, among others — have stepped in to rescue the children  of parents who, despite being financially able as per federal guidelines, refuse to pay junior’s debt. For these philanthropic do-gooders, better to bail out deadbeat parents than to have children suffer shame.     

Imagine what youngsters absorb from their daily school cafeteria experiences. They will learn that at least for meals, poverty has no costs but escaping poverty does — “escapees” must pay for meals. Nor do needy students pay a price for parental poverty by receiving less, for example, just a peanut butter sandwich while the “rich” dine on hot roast beef. True egalitarianism, if not socialism begins early.

Most of all, no link now exists between work and benefits since those unable to pay are not required to earn the meals. Perhaps educators view helping clean up a mess as illegal child labor. Even more “educational,” is that those who actually do pay are just chumps since being a deadbeat often has no consequences. Further add that those receiving free meals are rarely pitiful emaciated barefoot kids dressed in rags. Many, no doubt, will have cell phones and dress stylishly.

This is an oft-repeated lesson — assuming attendance of 170 days per school year, by his or her junior year, Washington’s free school food programs will have been witnessed some 1700 or so times (double that if there is a breakfast program). Perfect training for a seamless adult transition to food stamps, Section 8 housing, no-pay ER care and all the rest of today’s “free”  entitlements.     

Today’s government school meals program offers an ideological dividend: teach people that political power, not holding a job, is now what puts food on the table. No wonder so many of those permanently on welfare feel no shame — years of free lunches have been eaten with zero embarrassment. And to be frank, it is probably more cost effective for educators to pressure government for these benefits than to implore parents to fix meals for junior.  

Sadly, training for dependency only expands. Under Washington’s Community Eligibility Provision schools in high poverty areas (see here for details) can enroll all students, no application needed, in the free breakfast and lunch program regardless of family income (both Chicago and Boston among others are already in the program). In the meantime, the Department of Agriculture itself is busy instructing the public on how to lobby local officials for yet more government school meal assistance. The list of tactics to extract yet more “free” food includes forming partnerships with food banks and libraries, encouraging schools to work with migrants, coordinating efforts with hunger hotlines, and providing school children with flyers to take home and multiple other tactics to pressure Uncle Sam to pick up the check.

These free and subsidized meals are, of course, only a small part of training citizens for dependency. But, for those uneasy about such training it would be a mistake to focus the debate on hunger — nobody wants starving children. The deeper issue is somehow restoring the link between eating and work. We are not psychologically debilitating youngsters by teaching them that somebody pays for putting bread on the table. School meals are not manna from heaven. Can we really be surprised that millions of Americans are no longer terrified by the prospect of falling into poverty given that they have personally witnessed the advantages of poverty — you get “free” food.

Now imagine an alternative school meals universe. Everyone is now guaranteed minimum nutrition, for example, a cheese sandwich on white bread and a glass of milk. But students could sign up for various school jobs, from cooking to removing graffiti, all of which would, of course, reduce education expenses and impart some real-world skills. Teachers would check that the work was performed correctly, on-time and completing the task would earn “school dollars” redeemable for food, including goodies like ice cream cones. Students could now receive better meals all the while building good work habits while taxes would decline.   

What’s “wrong” with that picture? Let me guess that at least one ex-community activist from Chicago would denounce the program in a speech explaining, “this is not who we are.” 



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Improving Health Care: The Doc-in-a-Box Option


The current debate over government-subsidized health care seems unsolvable — there is just not enough money to give everyone what they demand. Nevertheless, this circle can be squared, at least partially, and in a way that will satisfy both free market conservatives and champions of helping the poor. The solution depends on is how health care is viewed and what constitutes “accessibility.” Moreover, this could be accomplished quickly and, in fact, much of it already exists without budget-busting machinations. While admittedly far from perfect, it will certainly help millions of Americans gain better and more affordable health care.

“Health care” should be viewed as a consumer product comparable to food, housing, clothing and other marketplace commodities. So, just as some people of equal incomes daily patronize McDonald’s for cheap burgers, others will skimp for monthly steakhouse filet mignon. In medical terms, some with a medical problem will insist on costly physician at a university-based hospital for their upset stomach; others just buy Pepto-Bismol and pray. Yes, the latter choice might be ill-advised, but choice is choice and it’s the consumer, not a government bureaucrat, who ultimately decides, and this autonomy deserves respect. If there is to be a role for government in this marketplace, it ought to be educational, perhaps warning those with chronic stomach disorders to visit an MD.  

Second, health insurance availability should not be conflated with improved quality of life (one might mistakenly gather from the mainstream media that legislators still enamored of ObamaCare believe that its repeal will deprive Americans of eternal life). Even single-payer Medicare-for-all, the Left’s disingenuous socialized medicine, will not improve the nation’s health if consumers disdain treatment. Put graphically, how many older Americans demand, and will actually use, free colonoscopies? One might predict that even generous “free” health care will not entice millions to no-cost annual check-ups. Again, subsidized health insurance does not automatically translated into better health.      

Third, despite the heated rhetoric about how the cancer-stricken face certain death if the Affordable Care Act (“ObamaCare”) is repealed, most illnesses are far more humdrum and these should be an important element for government-assisted medical care, particularly for those on limited budgets. Yes, these maladies seldom kill and being generally exempt from government compilations of illnesses, rarely draw much attention, but they are the day-to-day conditions that can make life miserable. Just ask a parent whose child is suffering from a throbbing ear infection. Everybody is familiar with low-level injuries such as sprains, back pains and lacerations, minor burns, insect bites and rashes, allergic reactions, coughs and flu, nausea, diarrhea, asthma reactions, ear infections, severe headaches, urinary tract infections and multiple other “minor” illnesses whose numbers go unnoticed in congressional debates over government-subsidized health care. 

Fortunately capitalism has come to the rescue with thousands of neighborhood min-clinics that handle those maladies, usually quickly and at a reasonable price. This is a rapidly growing industry with many of the firms organized into the Convenient Care Association (founded in 2006 but with the first businesses going back only to 2000). The Urgent Care mini-clinics are typically located in malls, stand-alone buildings on highways (often nicknamed “Doc-in-a-Box”) and in high-traffic stores such as Walmart and Target. The drugstore chain CVS is making convenient care central in its expansion.

According to 2015 data, there were some 6400 such facilities and they are growing at the rate of 700 per year. Regarding care quality, the tough-minded American College of Physicians (ACP) endorses the role of these mini-clinics though the ACP warns about over-relying on them. 

They are truly the McDonald’s of health care, some even more so since they are available 24/7 and require no advance appointments. Moreover, their upfront price list is a godsend to patients unable to navigate complicated hospital bills where an itemized invoice continue for pages and the sum typically paid after negotiations may not reflect the initial charge. A 2014 PricewaterhouseCoopers study reported that the average urgent-care visit, for patients with or without insurance, averaged $121, and can include blood tests, urinalysis, X-rays, and basic metabolic analysis. An emergency room visit, by contrast, averaged $499, and this figure excluded the cost of lab work, which can run into the thousands. Many hospitals appreciate Doc-in-a-Box for this very reason — they free up already overburdened ERs.

As in the restaurant business, a wide range of quality exists. In some instances, the clinic is associated with a leading full-service hospital (and here) while more down-market facilities supply only a nurse practitioner who might refer you to a hospital if the illness is beyond his or her competency. Also as is true in the restaurant industry, clinics target the local clientele, for example, if lots of gays reside nearby, the available “menu” would features test for HIV/AIDS and shots for sexual transmitted diseases. And for good measure, urgent care facilities, like restaurants, are often rated by previous customers. 

Such localism also facilitates decent care for populations (including those who avoid “government” facilities) all too often underserved by megahospitals or specialized MDs. In fact, many of these customers might be fearful of applying for insurance. A CVS facility in an Hispanic neighborhood will probably employ Spanish-speaking doctors better acquainted with illnesses that disproportionately afflict Hispanics, for example, asthma. These local CVS employees may also cultivate personal ties with their clientele and families not possible in impersonal hospitals with dozens of staff doctors.       

Ironically, the very existence of these readily available, low-cost facilities may well discourage buying insurance and such rationality undermines the coerced coverage characteristic of government-subsidized health care plans. After all, why pay hundreds per month in premiums and with large deductibles when an unexpected illness can be treated cheaply at the nearby Walmart? Yet again, capitalism defeats what is government run or mandated.

Lastly, if Washington wants to subsidize health care for the low-income, it can be accomplished quickly and cheaply — adjust Electronic Benefit Transfer (EBT) cards (the same cards that provide “food stamps”) to allow charges at government-certified convenient care facilities. This straightforward needs-based solution would be dramatically cheaper and less cumbersome than the current system of private, paperwork-heavy insurance and would be totally transparent. If you have a pesky rash, just Google for a local Doc-in-the Box (or use the Yellow pages), request open hours, if they treat this condition and for how much?  No worry about co-pay or if Cigna will eventually send the payment — cash or credit cards eliminates all the hassles and cuts waiting time to a minimum. 

This does not, of course, provide solutions for catastrophic illnesses such as cancer or stroke. Those comparatively rare though fiendishly expensive illnesses are far beyond convenient care and must be addressed differently. In the meantime, however, the market-driven urgent care solution dramatically improves health care to those in need and at a reasonable cost with barely any costly bureaucracy and paperwork. Not even Rand Paul or Bernie Sanders can object to that.       

The current debate over government-subsidized health care seems unsolvable — there is just not enough money to give everyone what they demand. Nevertheless, this circle can be squared, at least partially, and in a way that will satisfy both free market conservatives and champions of helping the poor. The solution depends on is how health care is viewed and what constitutes “accessibility.” Moreover, this could be accomplished quickly and, in fact, much of it already exists without budget-busting machinations. While admittedly far from perfect, it will certainly help millions of Americans gain better and more affordable health care.

“Health care” should be viewed as a consumer product comparable to food, housing, clothing and other marketplace commodities. So, just as some people of equal incomes daily patronize McDonald’s for cheap burgers, others will skimp for monthly steakhouse filet mignon. In medical terms, some with a medical problem will insist on costly physician at a university-based hospital for their upset stomach; others just buy Pepto-Bismol and pray. Yes, the latter choice might be ill-advised, but choice is choice and it’s the consumer, not a government bureaucrat, who ultimately decides, and this autonomy deserves respect. If there is to be a role for government in this marketplace, it ought to be educational, perhaps warning those with chronic stomach disorders to visit an MD.  

Second, health insurance availability should not be conflated with improved quality of life (one might mistakenly gather from the mainstream media that legislators still enamored of ObamaCare believe that its repeal will deprive Americans of eternal life). Even single-payer Medicare-for-all, the Left’s disingenuous socialized medicine, will not improve the nation’s health if consumers disdain treatment. Put graphically, how many older Americans demand, and will actually use, free colonoscopies? One might predict that even generous “free” health care will not entice millions to no-cost annual check-ups. Again, subsidized health insurance does not automatically translated into better health.      

Third, despite the heated rhetoric about how the cancer-stricken face certain death if the Affordable Care Act (“ObamaCare”) is repealed, most illnesses are far more humdrum and these should be an important element for government-assisted medical care, particularly for those on limited budgets. Yes, these maladies seldom kill and being generally exempt from government compilations of illnesses, rarely draw much attention, but they are the day-to-day conditions that can make life miserable. Just ask a parent whose child is suffering from a throbbing ear infection. Everybody is familiar with low-level injuries such as sprains, back pains and lacerations, minor burns, insect bites and rashes, allergic reactions, coughs and flu, nausea, diarrhea, asthma reactions, ear infections, severe headaches, urinary tract infections and multiple other “minor” illnesses whose numbers go unnoticed in congressional debates over government-subsidized health care. 

Fortunately capitalism has come to the rescue with thousands of neighborhood min-clinics that handle those maladies, usually quickly and at a reasonable price. This is a rapidly growing industry with many of the firms organized into the Convenient Care Association (founded in 2006 but with the first businesses going back only to 2000). The Urgent Care mini-clinics are typically located in malls, stand-alone buildings on highways (often nicknamed “Doc-in-a-Box”) and in high-traffic stores such as Walmart and Target. The drugstore chain CVS is making convenient care central in its expansion.

According to 2015 data, there were some 6400 such facilities and they are growing at the rate of 700 per year. Regarding care quality, the tough-minded American College of Physicians (ACP) endorses the role of these mini-clinics though the ACP warns about over-relying on them. 

They are truly the McDonald’s of health care, some even more so since they are available 24/7 and require no advance appointments. Moreover, their upfront price list is a godsend to patients unable to navigate complicated hospital bills where an itemized invoice continue for pages and the sum typically paid after negotiations may not reflect the initial charge. A 2014 PricewaterhouseCoopers study reported that the average urgent-care visit, for patients with or without insurance, averaged $121, and can include blood tests, urinalysis, X-rays, and basic metabolic analysis. An emergency room visit, by contrast, averaged $499, and this figure excluded the cost of lab work, which can run into the thousands. Many hospitals appreciate Doc-in-a-Box for this very reason — they free up already overburdened ERs.

As in the restaurant business, a wide range of quality exists. In some instances, the clinic is associated with a leading full-service hospital (and here) while more down-market facilities supply only a nurse practitioner who might refer you to a hospital if the illness is beyond his or her competency. Also as is true in the restaurant industry, clinics target the local clientele, for example, if lots of gays reside nearby, the available “menu” would features test for HIV/AIDS and shots for sexual transmitted diseases. And for good measure, urgent care facilities, like restaurants, are often rated by previous customers. 

Such localism also facilitates decent care for populations (including those who avoid “government” facilities) all too often underserved by megahospitals or specialized MDs. In fact, many of these customers might be fearful of applying for insurance. A CVS facility in an Hispanic neighborhood will probably employ Spanish-speaking doctors better acquainted with illnesses that disproportionately afflict Hispanics, for example, asthma. These local CVS employees may also cultivate personal ties with their clientele and families not possible in impersonal hospitals with dozens of staff doctors.       

Ironically, the very existence of these readily available, low-cost facilities may well discourage buying insurance and such rationality undermines the coerced coverage characteristic of government-subsidized health care plans. After all, why pay hundreds per month in premiums and with large deductibles when an unexpected illness can be treated cheaply at the nearby Walmart? Yet again, capitalism defeats what is government run or mandated.

Lastly, if Washington wants to subsidize health care for the low-income, it can be accomplished quickly and cheaply — adjust Electronic Benefit Transfer (EBT) cards (the same cards that provide “food stamps”) to allow charges at government-certified convenient care facilities. This straightforward needs-based solution would be dramatically cheaper and less cumbersome than the current system of private, paperwork-heavy insurance and would be totally transparent. If you have a pesky rash, just Google for a local Doc-in-the Box (or use the Yellow pages), request open hours, if they treat this condition and for how much?  No worry about co-pay or if Cigna will eventually send the payment — cash or credit cards eliminates all the hassles and cuts waiting time to a minimum. 

This does not, of course, provide solutions for catastrophic illnesses such as cancer or stroke. Those comparatively rare though fiendishly expensive illnesses are far beyond convenient care and must be addressed differently. In the meantime, however, the market-driven urgent care solution dramatically improves health care to those in need and at a reasonable cost with barely any costly bureaucracy and paperwork. Not even Rand Paul or Bernie Sanders can object to that.       



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'Free' Government-Funded Health Care


The rights enjoyed by Americans have undergone a major transformation from rights that constrain government power — for example, the Bill of Rights – to rights guaranteeing tangible benefits. This shift is especially notable for healthcare as millions have come to view “free” government-supplied healthcare as an inalienable right akin to the First Amendment’s protection of free speech.

This is a disaster waiting to happen. Slowly extending First Amendment rights is one thing; it’s quite another to expand a right whose implementation will cost tens of billions. Unfortunately, this potential calamity grows more likely by the days as liberal pundits denounce President Trump’s cost-cutting replacement of ObamaCare as mean-spirited and cruel while almost on cue TV crews discovers a father in a “red” congressional district who implores the president to keep ObamaCare to save his gravely ill son unable to afford expensive medical treatment.

Preventing the onward march of a budget-eating healthcare “right” must be accomplished prior to its arrival, since once in place, it will be irreversible. Let me suggest a proactive approach that challenges the intellectual foundation of this putative right.

First, what should government-supplied healthcare target? This is hardly hair-splitting if government must pay for curing “an illness.” What makes this question so timely is that “illness” has been expanding so that what was once a non-medical, purely personal infirmity is now a “sickness” that deserves medical attention. Indeed, countless “sins” now warrant government-paid doctor treatments.  

Examples of this expansive “medicalization” include obesity, sexual dysfunction, multiple addictions — gambling, alcohol and drug abuse, sexual behavior such as exhibitionism and child molestation — and crimes such as shoplifting (kleptomania). Millions of youngsters once chastised for being fidgety are now diagnosed with Attention Deficit Disorder and medicated with Ritalin or Adderall. How about people who experience episodic but not debilitating depression?  Surely occasional “being blue” is common but does everyone now have an unalienable right to Prozac?  Even violent criminal behavior can be a genetic disorder and thus possibly reversed by brain surgery, not incarceration.     

Innumerable mental conditions may be troublesome, but are they “illnesses” demanding treatment? Phobias are a perfect illustration and a compendium in alphabetic order runs for pages. Just under the letter A” are 21 distinct phobias, for example, Autophobia (fear of being alone). No doubt, sufferers might demand medical attention but should government be responsible for curing every phobia?

Taking a page from how the Soviet Union addressed political deviancy, are we to classify racism, xenophobia, homophobia, and Islamophobia as pathologies in need of medical intervention? Don’t laugh– such “dangerous” conditions are already been probed with medical devices while mandatory anti-bias “sensitivity training” is all the rage at many universities (even at Fox News) for those exhibiting “insensitivity.” At least for now, however, the cost of waging war on hate is beyond government-subsidized intervention.   

Then there’s cosmetic surgery. While many procedures are medical necessities, e.g., birth defects, millions are, as the term signifies, “cosmetic.” Should Uncle Sam pay for breast augmentations, breast lifts, buttock augmentation, facelifts, hair transplants and penile enlargements? (See here for countless other examples.) What makes this plastic surgery troublesome is that many procedures, for example, liposuction, can be both legitimate medical procedure while simultaneously bringing social benefits.

Finally, what about ER patients who just refuse to pay their medical bills? In 1986 Congress passed the Emergency Treatment and Labor Act (EMTALA) that  mandates “free” treatment for ER patients unable or unwilling to pay if the hospital accepts Medicare (most do). This guarantee is not unlimited (an emergency must exist) but in principle, millions of Americans currently enjoy this “free” care regardless of what President Trump or Congress decides. A little statutory tinkering could open a floodgate for millions of Americans to avail themselves of “free” medical care via the ER.    

The second issue in this medical-treatment-as-a-government-guaranteed-right concerns the appropriate level of professional intervention. As with defining “illness,” a vast gray area exists regarding Uncle Sam’s financial obligations. Suppose you have a headache. How about visiting a pharmacy and asking the druggist for free advice and then buy some extra-strength Tylenol? But this option requires an out-of-pocket expense, so it is cheaper to visit the “free” emergency room and get the painkiller gratis. Even better, take a government-paid ambulance and avoid a cab or bus fare. Though it is complicated to determine the costs of ER visits, at a minimum the cost will far exceed the $10.34 plus shipping for 50 extra-strength Tylenol tablets on Amazon.

Or, at the other extreme, since everything is “free,” make an appointment with a Mayo Clinic neurologist. Does “free medical care” somehow imply equal medical treatment for rich and poor, black and white citizen and non-citizen? Conceivably, the Supreme Court may answer “yes” (the parallel are cases involving equal school expenditures).

Finally, “free” brings what economists call demand elasticity — absent price constraint, the appetite for medical solutions becomes rapacious (hypochondria). Every pain, no matter how small, now justifies a visit to the doctor. To be sure, insurance usually caps some services, but the total menu of what can be gotten for “free’ may be huge. A cheapskate parent might use the family doctor for junior’s illnesses — rashes, sniffles, head lice, athlete’s foot — once treated with over-the-counter remedies or, occasionally, not treated at all.

This is only a brief sampling of the tribulations awaiting expansive “free” government-subsidized medical care. Clearly, Uncle Sam may be super-rich but nobody is sufficiently wealthy to pay for every health “problem” for every person, and this nightmare would be even worse if, as is now policy in Great Britain, “free” healthcare even extends to everybody physically in the country, even new arrivals. Absent unlimited funding, choices are inescapable, so some will be denied vital health care and will “needlessly” die despite a “free” healthcare right written in stone.

Particularly troublesome is the fact that few of the alternatives will be discussed or settled publicly. Congress cannot legislate everything, so nitty-gritty choices will be resolved by faceless bureaucrats, insurance providers, hospital administrators, and lobbyists agitating on behalf of those with serious skin in the game.

But, in all likelihood, when tough decisions arise in some obscure agency, the pressure will be to say “yes” to demands for yet more “free” government-provided help. When it comes to extracting government benefits, the impassioned few nearly always defeat the indifferent many. Few Americans will take to the streets to protest hyperexpensive government-provided fertility treatments for women unable to conceive the old-fashioned way. Meanwhile, who wants to deny an ER visit by a homeless drunk who needs a safe space to sleep it off? Result: national bankruptcy by a thousand cuts.  

A General Motors executive once quipped that GM is a health insurance company that occasionally builds cars. Unless we are willing to tackle the types of painful quandaries raised here, the federal government may well become a healthcare provider that on the side provides national defense, prints money, builds highways and otherwise offers some underfunded services.    

The rights enjoyed by Americans have undergone a major transformation from rights that constrain government power — for example, the Bill of Rights – to rights guaranteeing tangible benefits. This shift is especially notable for healthcare as millions have come to view “free” government-supplied healthcare as an inalienable right akin to the First Amendment’s protection of free speech.

This is a disaster waiting to happen. Slowly extending First Amendment rights is one thing; it’s quite another to expand a right whose implementation will cost tens of billions. Unfortunately, this potential calamity grows more likely by the days as liberal pundits denounce President Trump’s cost-cutting replacement of ObamaCare as mean-spirited and cruel while almost on cue TV crews discovers a father in a “red” congressional district who implores the president to keep ObamaCare to save his gravely ill son unable to afford expensive medical treatment.

Preventing the onward march of a budget-eating healthcare “right” must be accomplished prior to its arrival, since once in place, it will be irreversible. Let me suggest a proactive approach that challenges the intellectual foundation of this putative right.

First, what should government-supplied healthcare target? This is hardly hair-splitting if government must pay for curing “an illness.” What makes this question so timely is that “illness” has been expanding so that what was once a non-medical, purely personal infirmity is now a “sickness” that deserves medical attention. Indeed, countless “sins” now warrant government-paid doctor treatments.  

Examples of this expansive “medicalization” include obesity, sexual dysfunction, multiple addictions — gambling, alcohol and drug abuse, sexual behavior such as exhibitionism and child molestation — and crimes such as shoplifting (kleptomania). Millions of youngsters once chastised for being fidgety are now diagnosed with Attention Deficit Disorder and medicated with Ritalin or Adderall. How about people who experience episodic but not debilitating depression?  Surely occasional “being blue” is common but does everyone now have an unalienable right to Prozac?  Even violent criminal behavior can be a genetic disorder and thus possibly reversed by brain surgery, not incarceration.     

Innumerable mental conditions may be troublesome, but are they “illnesses” demanding treatment? Phobias are a perfect illustration and a compendium in alphabetic order runs for pages. Just under the letter A” are 21 distinct phobias, for example, Autophobia (fear of being alone). No doubt, sufferers might demand medical attention but should government be responsible for curing every phobia?

Taking a page from how the Soviet Union addressed political deviancy, are we to classify racism, xenophobia, homophobia, and Islamophobia as pathologies in need of medical intervention? Don’t laugh– such “dangerous” conditions are already been probed with medical devices while mandatory anti-bias “sensitivity training” is all the rage at many universities (even at Fox News) for those exhibiting “insensitivity.” At least for now, however, the cost of waging war on hate is beyond government-subsidized intervention.   

Then there’s cosmetic surgery. While many procedures are medical necessities, e.g., birth defects, millions are, as the term signifies, “cosmetic.” Should Uncle Sam pay for breast augmentations, breast lifts, buttock augmentation, facelifts, hair transplants and penile enlargements? (See here for countless other examples.) What makes this plastic surgery troublesome is that many procedures, for example, liposuction, can be both legitimate medical procedure while simultaneously bringing social benefits.

Finally, what about ER patients who just refuse to pay their medical bills? In 1986 Congress passed the Emergency Treatment and Labor Act (EMTALA) that  mandates “free” treatment for ER patients unable or unwilling to pay if the hospital accepts Medicare (most do). This guarantee is not unlimited (an emergency must exist) but in principle, millions of Americans currently enjoy this “free” care regardless of what President Trump or Congress decides. A little statutory tinkering could open a floodgate for millions of Americans to avail themselves of “free” medical care via the ER.    

The second issue in this medical-treatment-as-a-government-guaranteed-right concerns the appropriate level of professional intervention. As with defining “illness,” a vast gray area exists regarding Uncle Sam’s financial obligations. Suppose you have a headache. How about visiting a pharmacy and asking the druggist for free advice and then buy some extra-strength Tylenol? But this option requires an out-of-pocket expense, so it is cheaper to visit the “free” emergency room and get the painkiller gratis. Even better, take a government-paid ambulance and avoid a cab or bus fare. Though it is complicated to determine the costs of ER visits, at a minimum the cost will far exceed the $10.34 plus shipping for 50 extra-strength Tylenol tablets on Amazon.

Or, at the other extreme, since everything is “free,” make an appointment with a Mayo Clinic neurologist. Does “free medical care” somehow imply equal medical treatment for rich and poor, black and white citizen and non-citizen? Conceivably, the Supreme Court may answer “yes” (the parallel are cases involving equal school expenditures).

Finally, “free” brings what economists call demand elasticity — absent price constraint, the appetite for medical solutions becomes rapacious (hypochondria). Every pain, no matter how small, now justifies a visit to the doctor. To be sure, insurance usually caps some services, but the total menu of what can be gotten for “free’ may be huge. A cheapskate parent might use the family doctor for junior’s illnesses — rashes, sniffles, head lice, athlete’s foot — once treated with over-the-counter remedies or, occasionally, not treated at all.

This is only a brief sampling of the tribulations awaiting expansive “free” government-subsidized medical care. Clearly, Uncle Sam may be super-rich but nobody is sufficiently wealthy to pay for every health “problem” for every person, and this nightmare would be even worse if, as is now policy in Great Britain, “free” healthcare even extends to everybody physically in the country, even new arrivals. Absent unlimited funding, choices are inescapable, so some will be denied vital health care and will “needlessly” die despite a “free” healthcare right written in stone.

Particularly troublesome is the fact that few of the alternatives will be discussed or settled publicly. Congress cannot legislate everything, so nitty-gritty choices will be resolved by faceless bureaucrats, insurance providers, hospital administrators, and lobbyists agitating on behalf of those with serious skin in the game.

But, in all likelihood, when tough decisions arise in some obscure agency, the pressure will be to say “yes” to demands for yet more “free” government-provided help. When it comes to extracting government benefits, the impassioned few nearly always defeat the indifferent many. Few Americans will take to the streets to protest hyperexpensive government-provided fertility treatments for women unable to conceive the old-fashioned way. Meanwhile, who wants to deny an ER visit by a homeless drunk who needs a safe space to sleep it off? Result: national bankruptcy by a thousand cuts.  

A General Motors executive once quipped that GM is a health insurance company that occasionally builds cars. Unless we are willing to tackle the types of painful quandaries raised here, the federal government may well become a healthcare provider that on the side provides national defense, prints money, builds highways and otherwise offers some underfunded services.    



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The New York Times and Upper West Side Segregation


Of all of the taboo topics in today’s political landscape, absolutely nothing is more fraught with danger than race. Recall the old joke about how people dance at a nudist camp — carefully, very carefully. Everything from vocabulary to tone of voice must be carefully calculated and the slightest mistake can be career-ending.

A complex etiquette per se is not, however, the problem. Civil society would collapse if everybody spoke bluntly. The question is whether taboos blind us from serious problems that demand forthright, honest discussion. 

A perfect illustration of how the race taboo undermines honest discussions of serious social problems can be found in recent New York Times articles (and here) about redrawing school district lines in Manhattan’s über-liberal Upper West Side. These articles abound in euphemisms and omissions guaranteed to obscure awkward truths.

Manhattan’s Upper West Side is home to a multitude of affluent white liberals and large numbers of poor blacks and Hispanics residing in public housing. Some schools, all overwhelmingly white, excel academically. Not surprisingly, “white” schools in this neighborhood have long waiting lists for prospective enrollees. But, often only a few blocks away, are schools with large poor black and Hispanic enrollments plagued by fights (often involving weapons), classroom disorder, and appalling academic outcomes. The polite nonracial euphemism for these schools might be “schools with low test scores.”

For those with school-age children who strongly care about their education, school district demarcations are vital. Having one’s offspring attend a stellar grade-school with bright classmates is seen as the first step to admission to an elite college. Equally crucial  is safety — not even the most rabid Bernie Sanders fans would risk their children’s well-being, including the danger of acquiring bad habits (drug use, thievery, a penchant for violence, a rotten work ethic and similar underclass inclinations). As one education-minded parent said about these “diverse” schools, “My husband and I support public school education but not at the expense of our children’s educational and physical well-being,”

There are also major financial costs for parents in a lousy school district. For apartment owners, residing in a “bad school” attendance zone can substantially reduce the value of one’s residence, while the private school alternative can cost upward of $30,000 per child each year. If a private school is unaffordable, the remaining option is relocating to the suburbs, hardly appetizing to many Upper West Side liberals.    

Now, what happens when a Department of Education bureaucrat announces that junior may be bounced from his nearly all-white (and often-overcrowded) high-test score school, and instead sent to the nearby “diverse” school that, say the bureaucrats, offers junior a chance to benefit from diversity since “studies show” that such a racial/ethnic mixture is essential mastering today’s multicultural world?

Ironically, these well-educated, affluent “good thinking” Manhattan (white) residents now confront the same tribulations faced by down-market white Southerners over court-ordered integration post Brown v. Board of Education (1954). But, unlike these bigoted Rednecks, white liberal New Yorkers, aided by the racially hypersensitive New York Times, need not block the doorway of junior top-flight nearly all white school and shout, “Segregation today, segregation tomorrow….” while the federal government orders the New York City’s police to forcibly enroll residents of nearby public housing as junior’s classmates. These white liberals are expert at walking on eggshells (I’m not a racist but….”) and playing politics to keep their kids in white schools; there is even a website on how to game the system.

As one follows the Times’ accounts of school attendance zone wars, one can only recall the nudist camp joke — be careful — and, no doubt, few Times’ readers will notice the glaring omissions from these stories. While the newspaper identifies multiple underperforming largely African American and Hispanic schools, the problems that plague them are handled with kid gloves. A naive Times reader would surmise that the roots of the city’s segregated school system reside in white resistance to the benefits of diversity, or an unfamiliarity with the wonderful programs at largely black schools. Off the agenda is the possibility that affluent white “resisters” are behaving rationally — accurately perceiving unspeakable situations when it comes to their children’s well-being. To be impolite, these liberals are secret race-realists not fooled by experts touting the alleged benefits of diversity.

Why the Times eschews honestly depicting these disastrous “diverse” schools, is uncertain, but let me speculate. The silence reflects three PC Principles: First, “Thou Shall Not Criticize Black and Hispanic Educators No Matter How Bad their Performance;” second, one way or another, the educational deficiencies of blacks and Hispanics are all traceable to whites, so if whites would sent their smart kids to majority black schools, test results for everybody would soar; and third, calling attention to the black and Hispanic students themselves as the source of school shortcomings stigmatizes them, lowers their self-esteem and unfairly blames them for conditions over which they have no control, for example, institutional racism, underfunding, low expectations, and on and on.

To appreciate the harm inflicted by the truth-avoiding Times, imagine an alternative non-taboo universe. Here the Times’ headline might be “Concerned White Parents Resist Sending their Children to Dreadful Unsafe Largely Minority Schools.” The article would detail the education-killing chaos of these minority-majority schools and the inability of their staffs, many of whom are African American or Hispanic, to impose a modicum of order and learning. Moreover, the story would continue, these worried (white) taxpaying parents have a right to safe, effective schools, and unless they are provided, many might flee the city, as they did in the 1960s when public education almost collapsed thanks to race-related school violence.

Going one step further, this honest Times article would acknowledge what happens to other cities, e.g., Detroit, when affluent whites jumped ship rather than enroll junior in violence-ridden schools where, to be coy, nearly all students received free lunches and were staffed by “challenged” teachers.   

In sum, rather than address the real education problem — awful schools dominated by victim-minorities — the Times turns out story after story about how affluent whites scheme to keep their children out of these “vibrant” schools for largely unmentioned reasons. Nor does the Times examine why teachers and administrators in these appalling schools are incapable of imposing minimal standards of classroom behavior or imparting basic literacy, despite huge budgets and ample staff.  After all, past schools, particularly religious ones, with paltry resources accomplished this task.

But who knows where that opened can of worms will go? Better keep the lid on the can.

Especially taboo is the suggestion that forcibly ending widespread school segregation might undermine the education of thousands of whites with negligible benefits for blacks and Hispanics — and that these forcefully integrated schools might lower property values (and thus reduce city tax revenue) and drive the middle class to the suburbs. Perhaps frankness about racial segregation might even resurrect the ghost of George Wallace!  In the PC world of the New York Times, it is better not to offend certain sensitivities or raise uncomfortable questions than honestly address educational disasters. One can only be reminded of proper Victorians struggling to discuss venereal diseases as if sex never happened.

Of all of the taboo topics in today’s political landscape, absolutely nothing is more fraught with danger than race. Recall the old joke about how people dance at a nudist camp — carefully, very carefully. Everything from vocabulary to tone of voice must be carefully calculated and the slightest mistake can be career-ending.

A complex etiquette per se is not, however, the problem. Civil society would collapse if everybody spoke bluntly. The question is whether taboos blind us from serious problems that demand forthright, honest discussion. 

A perfect illustration of how the race taboo undermines honest discussions of serious social problems can be found in recent New York Times articles (and here) about redrawing school district lines in Manhattan’s über-liberal Upper West Side. These articles abound in euphemisms and omissions guaranteed to obscure awkward truths.

Manhattan’s Upper West Side is home to a multitude of affluent white liberals and large numbers of poor blacks and Hispanics residing in public housing. Some schools, all overwhelmingly white, excel academically. Not surprisingly, “white” schools in this neighborhood have long waiting lists for prospective enrollees. But, often only a few blocks away, are schools with large poor black and Hispanic enrollments plagued by fights (often involving weapons), classroom disorder, and appalling academic outcomes. The polite nonracial euphemism for these schools might be “schools with low test scores.”

For those with school-age children who strongly care about their education, school district demarcations are vital. Having one’s offspring attend a stellar grade-school with bright classmates is seen as the first step to admission to an elite college. Equally crucial  is safety — not even the most rabid Bernie Sanders fans would risk their children’s well-being, including the danger of acquiring bad habits (drug use, thievery, a penchant for violence, a rotten work ethic and similar underclass inclinations). As one education-minded parent said about these “diverse” schools, “My husband and I support public school education but not at the expense of our children’s educational and physical well-being,”

There are also major financial costs for parents in a lousy school district. For apartment owners, residing in a “bad school” attendance zone can substantially reduce the value of one’s residence, while the private school alternative can cost upward of $30,000 per child each year. If a private school is unaffordable, the remaining option is relocating to the suburbs, hardly appetizing to many Upper West Side liberals.    

Now, what happens when a Department of Education bureaucrat announces that junior may be bounced from his nearly all-white (and often-overcrowded) high-test score school, and instead sent to the nearby “diverse” school that, say the bureaucrats, offers junior a chance to benefit from diversity since “studies show” that such a racial/ethnic mixture is essential mastering today’s multicultural world?

Ironically, these well-educated, affluent “good thinking” Manhattan (white) residents now confront the same tribulations faced by down-market white Southerners over court-ordered integration post Brown v. Board of Education (1954). But, unlike these bigoted Rednecks, white liberal New Yorkers, aided by the racially hypersensitive New York Times, need not block the doorway of junior top-flight nearly all white school and shout, “Segregation today, segregation tomorrow….” while the federal government orders the New York City’s police to forcibly enroll residents of nearby public housing as junior’s classmates. These white liberals are expert at walking on eggshells (I’m not a racist but….”) and playing politics to keep their kids in white schools; there is even a website on how to game the system.

As one follows the Times’ accounts of school attendance zone wars, one can only recall the nudist camp joke — be careful — and, no doubt, few Times’ readers will notice the glaring omissions from these stories. While the newspaper identifies multiple underperforming largely African American and Hispanic schools, the problems that plague them are handled with kid gloves. A naive Times reader would surmise that the roots of the city’s segregated school system reside in white resistance to the benefits of diversity, or an unfamiliarity with the wonderful programs at largely black schools. Off the agenda is the possibility that affluent white “resisters” are behaving rationally — accurately perceiving unspeakable situations when it comes to their children’s well-being. To be impolite, these liberals are secret race-realists not fooled by experts touting the alleged benefits of diversity.

Why the Times eschews honestly depicting these disastrous “diverse” schools, is uncertain, but let me speculate. The silence reflects three PC Principles: First, “Thou Shall Not Criticize Black and Hispanic Educators No Matter How Bad their Performance;” second, one way or another, the educational deficiencies of blacks and Hispanics are all traceable to whites, so if whites would sent their smart kids to majority black schools, test results for everybody would soar; and third, calling attention to the black and Hispanic students themselves as the source of school shortcomings stigmatizes them, lowers their self-esteem and unfairly blames them for conditions over which they have no control, for example, institutional racism, underfunding, low expectations, and on and on.

To appreciate the harm inflicted by the truth-avoiding Times, imagine an alternative non-taboo universe. Here the Times’ headline might be “Concerned White Parents Resist Sending their Children to Dreadful Unsafe Largely Minority Schools.” The article would detail the education-killing chaos of these minority-majority schools and the inability of their staffs, many of whom are African American or Hispanic, to impose a modicum of order and learning. Moreover, the story would continue, these worried (white) taxpaying parents have a right to safe, effective schools, and unless they are provided, many might flee the city, as they did in the 1960s when public education almost collapsed thanks to race-related school violence.

Going one step further, this honest Times article would acknowledge what happens to other cities, e.g., Detroit, when affluent whites jumped ship rather than enroll junior in violence-ridden schools where, to be coy, nearly all students received free lunches and were staffed by “challenged” teachers.   

In sum, rather than address the real education problem — awful schools dominated by victim-minorities — the Times turns out story after story about how affluent whites scheme to keep their children out of these “vibrant” schools for largely unmentioned reasons. Nor does the Times examine why teachers and administrators in these appalling schools are incapable of imposing minimal standards of classroom behavior or imparting basic literacy, despite huge budgets and ample staff.  After all, past schools, particularly religious ones, with paltry resources accomplished this task.

But who knows where that opened can of worms will go? Better keep the lid on the can.

Especially taboo is the suggestion that forcibly ending widespread school segregation might undermine the education of thousands of whites with negligible benefits for blacks and Hispanics — and that these forcefully integrated schools might lower property values (and thus reduce city tax revenue) and drive the middle class to the suburbs. Perhaps frankness about racial segregation might even resurrect the ghost of George Wallace!  In the PC world of the New York Times, it is better not to offend certain sensitivities or raise uncomfortable questions than honestly address educational disasters. One can only be reminded of proper Victorians struggling to discuss venereal diseases as if sex never happened.



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