Helplessly Hoping Progressives

The absurdity of progressive politics is now on full display. Let us consider just two of the many inherently contradictory initiatives championed by the Biden-Schumer-Pelosi axis. What these initiatives share is the preposterous notion that a huge centralized bureaucracy is not only capable of achieving progressive’s stated goals, but that the goals are worthy in themselves. Neither is true.

First, there is climate change, or in the overwrought language of progressives, the climate “emergency”. (Pretty much everything that progressives favor is pitched as a way to address some “emergency” that requires governmental action.) President Biden & Co are in the business of restricting, with an eye to eventually eliminating, the use of fossil fuels as an energy source. Some examples: the Biden Administration has expansively interpreted its regulatory authority to restrict fracking; President Biden revoked a key permit for the Keystone pipeline thus shutting down the project; and the Biden Administration has strong-armed the Fed into incorporating climate change risk into its regulatory mandate.

At the same time, as the Wall Street Journal points out, Mr Biden is pleading with OPEC to reach a deal to raise production quotas so that gas prices don’t rise further. So we have the spectacle of the U.S. President promulgating regulations designed to reduce domestic production of fossil fuels while imploring OPEC to produce more. 

But wait—it gets better. Who are the chief beneficiaries of this schizophrenic policy choice? Well, how about Iran, Saudi Arabia and Russia. And to boot it is a slap in the face to our longstanding ally Canada. 

Most astoundingly, the Biden Administration has adopted a policy stance designed to limit domestic production of fossil fuels by restricting permits and raising regulatory costs while at the same time hoping against hope that retail gas prices will stay the same or decline. The self-evident absurdity of this apparently lies beyond the reach of progressives. 

Second, there is  critical race theory (CRT), which has been around for 35 years or so. It was developed in elite American Law schools in the 1980s and 90s, but has just recently become a topic of public controversy.  While much of the discussion has been reduced to dueling bumper sticker slogans, the behavior of the progressive vanguard has been remarkable for its display of cognitive dissonance. 

The progressive obfuscation relies on a pretty familiar tactic. Quite simply it claims that opponents of CRT don’t understand what it is and are cherry picking a few over-the-top incidents to mischaracterize CRT in particular and progressivism in general. Students of the game will instantly recognize this ruse, perfected by Noam Chomsky, as the “Real Socialism has never been tried gambit”. Except that of course it has been tried— many times and the result has always and everywhere been misery for the people who were its supposed beneficiaries.

 So what is Critical Race Theory?  CRT is essentially a warmed over version of the Marxist class war dialectic (circa 1848) that argues that history is a series of clashes between the haves (oppressors) and have-nots (oppressed) that will eventually lead to a workers paradise where all are equal. Just substitute race, class, gender, sexuality for class and voila—we now have CRT. 

Riotously enough, Randi Weingarten (head of the American Federation of Teachers and cheerleader for President Biden and his faux scholar wife Dr. Jill Biden, Ed.D.) insisted the other day that “…Critical Race Theory is not taught in elementary schools or high schools. It’s a method of examination taught in law school and college that helps analyze whether systemic racism exists”. 

The problem is that if Weingarten’s claim were true, then it’s pretty hard to explain why, for instance, the Fairfax County Public School system felt compelled to put the following statement on its website.

“To achieve educational equity, FCPS is analyzing and addressing the beliefs and policies that inform what is taught in schools. The school division is beginning the process by revising the existing Controversial Issues Policy (Policy 3280.3) and developing a new Anti-Racism, Anti-Bias Education Curriculum Policy.”

Especially when the existing policy adopted in 1996 and last reviewed in March 2014, is perfectly reasonable. It specifically states:

III. PHILOSOPHY The preparation for effective citizenship includes the study of issues that are controversial. The study of controversial issues shall create an atmosphere in which knowledge can be freely imparted and the critical thinking of students can be developed through research and classroom discussion, within the guidelines of the Program of Studies. 

IV. PROCEDURES Such studies shall be carried out in an atmosphere of freedom from bias, prejudice, or coercion. 

It is also difficult to explain why Fairfax County paid CRT theorist Ibram Kendi a $20,000 fee for a 1 hour “conversation”. Or why Fairfax County spent $24,000 for books by Kendi promoting critical race theory and “anti-racism”, and making them required reading for K – 12 students. Or why Kendi’s virtual talk came amid Fairfax County’s “Virginia’s Racial Truth and Reconciliation Week” or why such a County sponsored propaganda week was necessary in the first place. 

Deep blue Fairfax County is hardly an outlier; neighboring Loudon County’s school board is in the middle of a dispute over its handling of these issues as well. In fact, these disputes are breaking out all over the country. 

In any event, no sooner had Weingarten spoken to deceptively assure us that CRT was not being taught in the public schools, the National Education Association (NEA) wiped its website clean of the following statements. 

“We oppose attempts to ban critical race theory and/or The 1619 Project.” 

Before it tried—unsuccessfully— to hide the evidence, the NEA also proposed to push a study that “critiques empire, white supremacy, anti-Blackness, anti-Indigeneity, racism, patriarchy, cisheteropatriarchy, capitalism, ableism, anthropocentrism, and other forms of power and oppression at the intersections of our society.”

In addition, the NEA voted to conduct opposition research on groups that oppose integrating CRT into academic frameworks. 

Needless to say, once parents began to find out about all this, they began to revolt. There are school board fights breaking out in deep blue districts as well as traditionally conservative ones. Perhaps because so many children were subjected to what we euphemistically call “at home learning” via Zoom, parents who had been unaware of what was going on in their children’s schools began to take notice. 

It is unfortunate that in their zeal to stop indoctrination from replacing education, conservative politicians have adopted the same top-down one-size-fits-all approach favored by liberals and progressives. There is a far better solution to the specific problem of indoctrination in the public schools that applies to the disastrous performance of public schools in general. That solution is: competition.

In general, charter schools, school voucher programs, private and parochial schools do a much better job of educating students than do the public schools, especially in less affluent areas. These alternatives are a threat to the ideology factories (AKA monopoly public schools) that are owned and operated by the teachers unions. Instead of trying to legislate curricula, legislators ought to aggressively push to open the field to competition and parental choice. That would solve two problems. 

JFB

Progressive Good Crime

Coinciding with the Biden Administration’s push for higher taxes on wealthy individuals and a greatly expanded IRS, ProPublica published documents that purport to show private tax information of several high profile billionaires including Jeff Bezos, Bill Gates, Michael Bloomberg and others. 

Leaking these documents is, of course, illegal. And just like the Lois Lerner episode, no one will be punished for committing this crime. That’s because in the progressive mind this is Good Crime. Chances are, the perpetrators will never be revealed. 

ProPublica has said that it doesn’t know the source of the documents. Fat chance of that, by the way. If ProPublica doesn’t know its source, there is be no way they could have authenticated the documents or determined their accuracy. But they printed the documents anyway, undoubtedly because it furthers the story—fiction really—that the rich don’t pay their “fair share”. 

Among other stunning revelations, the documents, if accurate, show that (1) wealthy individuals (like everybody else) didn’t pay income taxes when their reportable income was zero; (2) wealthy individuals (like everyone else) didn’t pay capital gains taxes in years when they didn’t realize any capital gains by selling assets, and (3) wealthy individuals used plenty of lawyers and accountants to make sure that they legally minimized their tax bills. Which is to say that the behavior of these individuals was both legal, proper and rational. 

On the other hand, amid all the faux indignation, it should be noted that the documents that were leaked were leaked illegally. In so doing the leakers (1) violated the privacy of those whose documents were leaked and (2) demonstrated for the umpteenth time the gross incompetence of the IRS when it comes to guarding citizen privacy. More likely it is worse; the IRS simply followed the orders of its political masters to weaponize the agency, as in the recent case of Lois Lerner. Which is not to leave out Richard Nixon and Lyndon Johnson. 

As to the substance of the matter: Congress is supposed to determine tax policy. For some reason or other all those lefties wailing about “saving our democracy” don’t seem to think much of our democratic processes.  If they did they wouldn’t be cheering on the clearly illegal leaking of documents designed to gin up outrage against success while running around the legislative process. 

As it turns out, progressives are at least half-right when they assert that the rich do not pay their fair share of the tax burden. The rich pay far too much. It is the middle class that is undertaxed. 

Consider the following statistics, using the latest available data. In 2017 the top 50% of taxpayers paid 97% of all federal income taxes. They bottom 50% paid the remaining 3%. The top 1% paid 38.5% of individual income taxes; the bottom 90% paid only 29.9%. The top 5% paid 59%; the top 10% paid 70%. As these numbers make clear, the tax income burden is shouldered by the wealthy, not by the middle class. These data are available in greater detail here

The middle class, as it turns out, is by far the greater net beneficiary of federal largesse. Lower income Americans on balance receive net cash benefits from the government. That is offset by the junky schools they have to put up with and inadequate police protection in poor neighborhoods. All the cash payments do is create a permanent dependent class. This is the vote buying operation that is the hallmark of progressive politics (tax, spend and vote). It remains firmly in place, and has so since the days when it was instituted by FDR. 

If progressives were truly interested in tax fairness, which they manifestly are not, they would specify ahead of time what tax shares would constitute fairness for the different deciles of the income distribution. But of course they never do that. Moreover, there is a simple way to ensure that everybody pays the same tax rate. The tax code could be amended so that everyone earning $25,000 per year or more would be required to pay 17% of their income in tax. No exemptions, no deductions. Period.

The mere hint of a flat tax where everybody pays the same rate would have progressives screaming bloody murder along with tax lawyers, accountants and lobbyists. I should say other lobbyists. The reason is simple. Progressives are not interested in either tax fairness or tax efficiency. What they are really interested in is command-and-control of the nation’s economy. Progressives want to use the police power of the federal government to commandeer private resources so that they can regulate and transform America into a little socialist utopia. No matter how long they have to goose-step their way toward the goal.  

JFB

St. Andrew Gets Caught or Why Did it Take so Long?

Back on January 28, 2021, Letitia James, New York State Attorney General released a blistering report documenting the Cuomo administration’s undercount of nursing home deaths as a result of Covid-19. Recall that Governor Andrew Cuomo issued a directive requiring nursing homes to admit Covid infected patients into their facilities. 

Now it turns out that a top aid to the governor, one Melissa DeRosa, admitted in a conference call with Democratic lawmakers that the Cuomo administration deliberately covered up the real numbers. They did so, she confessed, to spare the Governor political accountability. It turns out the reported numbers were off by at least 50%. 

Chris Cillizza, in a piece for CNN describes this as a “stunning admission.” He goes on to write: “This is only the latest bit of evidence that suggests the Cuomo administration may not have dealt as effectively with the coronavirus pandemic as was initially believed.”

Perhaps we should begin by asking a few questions, like for instance: Who, exactly was “stunned” by the substance of the admission and why?  It was perfectly obvious to roughly everyone but the adoring press corp / fan club that the Cuomo administration has long been a combination of mendacity and incompetence. 

Then there is Andrew Cuomo himself, Man of Science. Just 2 weeks ago the NY Times reported that over the last 6 months, 9 top level health officials in NY State resigned—because of the Governor’s behavior in handling the pandemic. Those resignations included the deputy commissioner for public health in NY, the director of the bureau for communicable disease control, the medical director for epidemiology and the state epidemiologist. 

The Times quoted Mr. Cuomo as follows. “When I say ‘experts’ in air quotes, it sounds like I’m saying I don’t really trust the experts,” Gov. Andrew Cuomo said of pandemic policies. “Because I don’t.” Saint Andrew sounds positively Trumpian here, and not for the first time.  

To that, add Cillizza’s risible assertion (passive voice naturally) that Cuomo may not have been as effective as previously believed. Which begs the question, (again excepting the rubes in the press corp) who thought that Cuomo was effective in the first place?

And now just as day follows night, we have the predictable feigned outrage and calls for Cuomo’s resignation. Again the obvious question: Why? This is what the supposedly enlightened electorate voted for. Is there anybody even dimly aware of how  progressive politics actually works in practice who is truly surprised by any of this? 

New York State and New Jersey with its similarly progressive policies have been far and away the leaders in the Covid death count from the very beginning. And all the while the press deflected and focused on the supposed horror show in Florida where the designated villain, Governor Ron DeSantis did not shut everything down, Cuomo style. 

Consider the numbers. New Jersey (pop 8.9 million) the fatality-rate leader as of February 12, has a death rate of 251 per 100,000. New York (second place, pop 19.4 million) has a death rate of 231 per 100,000. Florida (pop 21.5 million) is #25 with a death rate of 132 per million, about 57% of New York’s. Now consider that the median age of Florida (state rank #5) is 42.2 and New York’s (state rank #22) median age is 39. And consider that over 20% of Florida’s population is over 65, and a clear picture begins to emerge about where policy successes and failures lie. 

It would be bad enough if this episode could be described as just that. A singular bad episode. But that is, unfortunately, not the case. A similar story can be told about the public schools, especially in the deep blue states, which are owned and operated by the teachers unions. Which in turn own the Democratic Party. 

Before this is all over, the public schools in the big cities, virtually all of which are controlled by Democratic machine politics, will have been mostly closed to in-class instruction for the better part of 2 years thanks to the teachers unions. Upper middle class parents will continue to abandon the public schools in droves and send their kids to private and parochial schools where they will actually learn. The rest will fall further behind.  

The management of big city police departments tells a similar story. Since the Black Lives Matter protests (and riots) over the summer, progressive politicians have, for the most part, supported various versions of the “defund the police” drive.  All of which has been accompanied by soaring murder rates especially in inner cities as the police back off. 

To accompany this we have the spectacle of all-white residents in well-to-do neighborhoods decorating their houses with BLM flags, knowing full well they will be protected by the police in the unlikely event they are needed. And we have upper middle class white college kids screaming “racist” at minority police officers before heading back to their fully protected dorms. 

Progressives will, of course, deflect. They will launch into a typically mindless diatribe about the “structural racism” that is really to blame. All of which is hard to take seriously since it is progressives and liberals (now virtually indistinguishable) who have been running the show for decades in the big cities where the problems are manifest. Are they implicitly confessing that liberals and progressives are irredeemably racist?

Which is not to deny that we have structural problems that should be dealt with. The root of the structural problem is…Progressivism, with its contempt for individualism and individual rights; its command-and-control authoritarianism, its preference for bureaucratic control over civil society, its baked in corruption and its inevitable adoption of cancel culture. 

That is the structural problem that must be dealt with first. The rest comes later. 

JFB

Judge Amy Coney Barrett

The Party of Science is about to make yet another spectacular display of its rampant anti-intellectualism as it gears up to contest the nomination of Judge Amy Coney Barrett to the Supreme Court. Among other things, we are told that Judge Barrett should be denied a seat on the nation’s highest Court because she has 7 kids, 2 of whom are non-white adoptees from Haiti. Trans racial adoption is supposedly evidence of racism. Then again, for progressives, everything is evidence of racism of one sort or another. 

One Democratic operative went so far as to insinuate (without evidence as CNN loves to report about Donald Trump) that Judge Barrett and her husband may have illegally spirited the 2 children in question out of Haiti. Dana Houle, a Democratic operative, recently tweeted that “[He]… would love to know which adoption agency Amy Coney Barrett and her husband used…Some adoptions for Haiti were legit. Many were sketchy as hell. And if the press learned they were unethical and maybe illegal adoptions, would they report it? Or not bc it involves her children.” 

Needless to say the airwaves haven’t been full of progressive objections to this sleazy innuendo. 

We have also been treated to attacks on Judge Barrett as being emblematic of the submissive women in Margaret Atwood’s dystopian novel the Handmaid’s Tale. This despite the fact that she graduated #1 in her class at Notre Dame Law school, served as executive editor of the Notre Dame Law Review, served as a clerk for Justice Antonin Scalia, served as a tenured Professor at Notre Dame Law school where she was awarded the Distinguished Professor of the Year 3 times, and despite the quality of her academic publications as well as her signed opinions as a federal appeals Court judge on the 7th circuit. 

Judge Barrett’s long publication record will be used —misused actually—to distort her positions on legal and political questions. Then again it is important to understand that truth is of little importance to Judge Barrett’s progressive opposition. Their goal is to make the confirmation vote as costly as possible for Republicans. Their chosen tactic will be to smear the Judge and her family with personal attacks on her religious beliefs and her policy preferences, and then imply that the Judge will use her position on the Court to impose those beliefs on the nation. 

The irony in this is obvious. It is progressive justices who have done precisely that, arguing that the Constitution is a “living breathing” document; apparently believing it is a document only capable of breathing progressive doctrine. And here it is worth considering what Judge Barrett has actually said and written.

For example, when during her 2017 confirmation she was queried about if and when it would be proper for a judge to impose her personal beliefs when applying the law, this is how she responded. (See The Washington Post).

“Never. It’s never appropriate for a judge to impose that judge’s personal convictions, whether they derive from faith or anywhere else on the law.” 

This is where the rubber meets the road. Progressives and Democrats are united in their opposition to Judge Barrett precisely because she actually believes and acts in a way that progressives only pretend to. The proof is in the campaign against her. Progressives argue that she “will take your health care away”, that she will “restrict abortion rights”, that she has had the effrontery to write that 2nd amendment rights are not second class rights, and that she will not show sufficient deference to a bureaucracy dominated by progressives. 

These are all complaints about preferred policy outcomes; they are not legal arguments. Courts are not supposed to be super legislatures. Ruling on the law as written is what judging is supposed to be about. In a democracy changing the law requires gathering the votes to do so. The more important the change, the larger the required margin. That requires using powers of persuasion to develop a legislative consensus.  

That is why Amy Coney Barrett is such a threat to the control freaks who call themselves progressives. By adhering to the law as written, she respects the structure of the U.S. government as it was founded, with its checks and balances designed to allow a functioning democratic government while protecting individual people’s “unalienable rights” from the majority’s passions of the day. 

She should be confirmed without delay. 

JFB

We’ve Seen this Movie Before

By now it should be clear to all sentient beings that protests over the killing of George Floyd have been hijacked by left wing radicals. Moreover, they (the radicals) mean to transform America by any means necessary, including the use of violence. The response from the political establishment that runs American cities set ablaze has been stone cold silence. It is then followed by a predictable cave-in to mob violence. What explains this?

It helps to look at history.

In the 1960s, the forerunner to today’s violence, Jamil Abdullah Al-Amin, formerly known as H. Rap Brown proclaimed that “Violence is as American as cherry pie”. He urged his followers to use violence to resist the American government which he characterized as the “Fourth Reich” and urged his followers on with such comments as “If America don’t come around, we’re gonna burn it down.” That wasn’t an isolated remark. 

Elected the 5th Chairman of the ironically named Student Non Violent Coordinating Committee (SNCC), he also served as Minister of Justice for the Black Panther Party. While Chairman of SNCC he urged followers at a Washington D.C. rally to “carry on guerrilla warfare in all the cities…and make the Viet Cong look like Sunday school teachers.” 

A little earlier Students for a Democratic Society (SDS), which later became the Weather Underground, made an appearance. For the Weathermen, violence was necessary to create change. Brian Flanagan, a founding member, said “When you feel you have right on your side, you can do some pretty horrible things.” 

And so the Weathermen set off a wave of violent protests and bombings across America. In 1970 Bernadine Dohrn announced a “declaration of War”. A few days later a bomb manufactured in a Greenwich Village townhouse, intended for an Army base, exploded killing three Weathermen. The explosion set off an FBI manhunt and the Weathermen went underground, hence the change of name to “Weather Underground”. 

Other leaders of the movement included the infamous Chicago 7, the group put on trial for fomenting the riots at the 1968 Democratic convention, helped along by the behavior of the Chicago police. This group included Tom Hayden, a graduate of the University of Michigan. He authored the Port Huron Statement, the founding document of the Weathermen. Later in life he married Jane Fonda and won seats in both the California Assembly and Senate. 

Renne Davis, who graduated from Oberlin College, was an early activist in the SDS. He was an organizer of MOBE, The National Mobilization Committee to end the War in Vietnam. His father had served as chief of staff of the Council of Economic Advisors under President Harry S Truman. Later in life Renee Davis became a business consultant advising Fortune 500 companies on business strategy.

Jerry Rubin, along with Abbie Hoffman, founded the Yippie Party. Rubin studied at Oberlin College before graduating from the University of Cincinnati with a degree in history. He attended the University of California, Berkeley in 1964, but quickly dropped out to pursue social activism. That included a trip to Havana to learn about the Cuban revolution. 

Meanwhile his fellow founder of the Yippies, Abbie Hoffman, studied at Brandies University where he became a student of Marxist theorist Herbert Marcuse. 

The influence of Herbert Marcuse, father of the New Left, can not be over emphasized. Marcuse worked as a professor at Columbia, Harvard and Brandeis Universities. It was at Brandies that he wrote his most influential work “One Dimensional Man”. Marcuse believed that “all questions of material existence have been solved, moral commands and prohibitions are no longer relevant”. The realization of man’s erotic nature was what was needed to truly liberate humanity. 

Liberating humanity, according to Marcuse, would require intolerance for heretical beliefs. Below I quote from Marcuse’s A Repressive Tolerance,1965.  

“Liberating tolerance, then, would mean intolerance against movements from the Right and toleration of movements from the Left. Surely, no government can be expected to foster its own subversion, but in a democracy such a right is vested in the people (i.e. in the majority of the people). This means that the ways should not be blocked on which a subversive majority could develop, and if they are blocked by organized repression and indoctrination, their reopening may require apparently undemocratic means. They would include the withdrawal of toleration of speech and assembly from groups and movements that promote aggressive policies, armament, chauvinism, discrimination on the grounds of race and religion, or that oppose the extension of public services, social security, medical care, etc.”

Sound familiar? It ought to because it is the animating idea behind today’s cancel culture. 

Which brings us to Black Lives Matter (BLM) and the real agenda the organization is pushing, which has precious little to do with civil rights. Because they have no use for civil rights for anybody. They are self described Marxists; individual rights are not part of their vocabulary.  Anyone who doubts this has only to view this 2 minute clip (below) in which Co-Founder Patrisse Cullors declares “We actually do have an ideological frame…we are trained Marxists.” 

Patrisse Cullo — Co-Founder of BLM

And if that is not good enough, go visit the BLM Website where they proclaim their goal to transform Western society into a socialist Utopia through revolution. Here is specifically what they say:

“We disrupt the Western-prescribed nuclear family structure requirement by supporting each other as extended families and “villages” that collectively care for one another, especially our children, to the degree that mothers, parents, and children are comfortable.

We foster a queer‐affirming network. When we gather, we do so with the intention of freeing ourselves from the tight grip of heteronormative thinking, or rather, the belief that all in the world are heterosexual (unless s/he or they disclose otherwise).”

So let us not be naive about this.  BLM is just one of many radical left wing Marxist groups who attack traditional Western institutions in an attempt to undermine the freedoms of a liberal society we take for granted. They, along with their brothers in arms, intend to stamp out those institutions that stand in their way; institutions like the traditional nuclear family, private property, the rule of law and the sovereignty of the individual.  

Like the Weather Underground before them, they are at war with human nature and Western society. There should be no doubt about this. All you have to do is listen to them. It is the same old story; we have been here before, it is merely a reboot of 1968. 

So why have progressives remained quiet in the face of this onslaught? After all, it is the progressive establishment that runs the major cities in America—the ones that have been torched. It is oh-so-progressive Seattle that stands by watching helplessly as a section of town is taken over by radicals in an armed insurrection.  It is progressive Minneapolis that has a police department so lawless that the city council decided to defund it and turn it over to someone else. It is progressive New York mayor Bill de Blasio who announced that he was going to reduce the NYC police budget by $1 Billion—presumably to improve the quality of policing. The list goes on. 

Why is it that in city after city minority citizens distrust police departments that report to progressive politicians? How is it that those same progressive politicians are silent when violent Marxist radicals hijack citizen demonstrations when those citizens peacefully and correctly demand that their rights be respected? 

The best word for it is cowardice. 

It was Aristotle who said the most important virtue is courage—because without courage the other virtues fade away. And so it is today. Progressives refuse to stand up for what they claim to believe about the rule of law, citizens’ rights and the liberal institutions that have protected what used to be known as the American way of life. 

It is progressives that have been responsible for the management and oversight of city police departments and school systems for the last 50 years or so. And they have failed miserably. Rather than admit error and implement the reforms so desperately needed, they choose instead to appease the mob. They do this because they are captured by special interest groups (like public sector unions) and are more interested in virtue-signaling than doing the hard work of governing responsibly. 

And so what we are left with is an incoherent political philosophy (progressivism) that lies at the root of the problem; a political class that would rather deal in sanctimony than govern, and affluent citizens who increasingly wall themselves off from the consequences of their votes. 

In the meantime poor and minority citizens are distrustful of police, a sure sign of a governance failure—at the very least. Meanwhile poor and minority citizens do not have access to quality schools that would enable them to better their lives and compete on a level playing field. That opportunity is denied by progressives who refuse to allow school competition either through vouchers or charter schools. 

So by all means, Progressives should keep on playing #Resistance. Virtue signaling is so fun and easy when somebody else pays the price. 

JFB

Defunding the Police

People misunderstand what “activists” mean by “defund the police”. It doesn’t mean the abolition of policing. It does mean moving the jurisdiction of policing to another larger political entity—for instance moving the jurisdiction (and management responsibility) from the city to the county. It also means that the taxing locus will be the county. But the city will not reduce its spending by the amount its police budget has been reduced. It will use that money for more “social services” which is to say income transfers and vote buying. 

So the Minneapolis city council, which for eons has been one of the most liberal cities in the country, has now voted to disband its police department by a veto-proof majority. 

They have, in effect, conceded that they are incapable of managing their own police department. The same is largely true of its public school system; they just haven’t gotten around to admitting it yet. 

This raises several rather obvious questions that Progressive cheerleaders in the press have thus far been reluctant to ask. 

  1. Is Minneapolis somehow significantly different from other big U.S. cities, and if so, how?
  2. Does the Minneapolis experience represent a failure of governance and government? If not, why not?
  3. How can it be that in Minneapolis (and everywhere else) the same one-party political machines that have consistently produced the same failures in policing and schools have been continuously re-elected for 50 years or so?
  4. How can it be that Progressives, who claim to represent the interests of minorities and the poor, and who have presided over this disaster, have any credibility left at all? 

JFB

While America Burns

Perhaps it was inevitable; it’s starting to look like 1968 again. According to press reports, at least 15 of America’s large cities have recently experienced what we decorously refer to as “civil unrest”. Needless to say, politicians—the people who are supposed to be passing laws and administering them—are confronting the situation by engaging in Twitter wars. 

The proximate cause of the unrest (we’ll return to definitions later) was the death of a 46 year old African-American male named George Floyd, while in police custody. The encounter between Mr. Floyd and police officers was captured on camera. In the video it seems reasonably clear that, at the every least, the police officers at the scene used excessive force that resulted in his death. 

The officers at the scene were quickly fired by Minneapolis Mayor Jeffrey Frey; Officer Derek Chauvin was charged with third degree murder and second degree manslaughter. The difference between the two charges is that third degree murder requires that the prosecution prove that the  officer’s behavior caused the death and that he acted with depraved indifference. On the other hand, the lesser manslaughter charge involves “culpable negligence creating an unreasonable risk of serious bodily harm”. The difference in the two charges is the potential sentence. The more serious murder charge carries a maximum sentence of 25 years; the homicide charge 10 years. It will be up to a jury to determine which (if either) charge fits the facts of the case. (More detail on the legal aspects of the case can be found in an article by Andrew McCarthy here). 

Let’s return to definitions, because the slippery among us will use deliberately sloppy language as they attempt to frame the “narrative” via Twitter, the press and other types of media.

There are thousands of people across America who have taken to the streets to protest the way George Floyd, a fellow human being, was treated. Good for them. They have exercised their first amendment right to peaceably assemble and petition their government for a redress of grievances. Another group, in all probability a small minority, has taken to the streets to commit violence. They are not protesters. They are simply thugs and should not be lumped in with protesters. 

It is clear that this case encapsulates long-held grievances within the African-American community. In a narrow sense the grievances center around how they are treated and how they perceive they are treated by police. More broadly it touches on how African-Americans believe they are treated generally. Moreover there is a wide and persistent gap between how whites and blacks perceive how fairly black people are treated by police, courts and other institutions relative to white people. See some typical survey data by Pew Research and Gallup here and here

With compelling evidence at hand, both with respect to polling data and behavior on the ground, it is hard to avoid coming to a rather straightforward conclusion. We are facing a massive failure of governance and government. Why government failure? Let us not forget that the purpose of government as conceived at the American Founding is to secure unalienable natural rights. Differential treatment of citizens as a result of race is a pretty strange way to do it. So is turning over control of the streets to mob violence.

Is there actually differential treatment or is it “merely” a question of perception? Well, it is hard to imagine an upper middle class white man from Scarsdale being treated the same way. Admittedly the evidence of this case is anecdotal; but mysteriously enough the vast majority of anecdotes of this sort seem to involve African-Americans being victimized. On the other hand it also seems safe to say that the vast majority of Americans were appalled at the behavior of the Minneapolis police.

Let’s go beyond the police and take city school systems for a moment.  According to the National Center for Education Statistics, about 85% of blacks in elementary and secondary public schools were in either large or midsized cities. And, according to a 2017 report published by search firm Advocate Staffing, in the 50 largest cities in America only about 53% of the students graduate from high school. Another study published in 2020 by the NCES reported that the national cohort adjusted graduation rate for black students was 79%, which suggests that the graduation rate falls off sharply in city schools. 

The graduation rate is only the tip of the iceberg. There has been a persistent black-white school achievement gap. While this is certainly not monocausal, it is hard to argue that the scores are not related to the quality of the schools these students attend. 

What do big city public schools and police departments have in common? First, they are two of the biggest responsibilities of city governments. Second, they (police and teachers) are highly organized and powerful political interest groups. Third, those interest groups exert a tremendous amount of pressure on city hall. They do so by turning out the votes in return for privileged treatment of their members. That is why machine politicians fight charter schools and vouchers. It is one reason why police officers are shown deference in investigations that civilians don’t enjoy.

In one sense it almost doesn’t matter if the perception of unfairness by a large group of citizens is accurate or not. The mere fact of its existence represents a failure of governance. And at the end of the day, it is hard to conclude that African-Americans are getting a fair shake when it comes to schools and other social services. 

The obvious question is: Where does responsibility for this lie?

The answer is equally obvious, although it isn’t one the majority of people wish to hear. It is the failure of a progressive, collectivist ideology that privileges groups and ignores individuals. Consider: of the 50 largest cities in the United States, 35 or 70% are run by political machines with liberal or progressive Mayors. And for the most part it has been that way for the better part of 50 years, and in some places, longer. 

The last time Chicago elected a Republican as Mayor it was William H. Thompson. That was in 1927. Milwaukee last elected a non-Democrat as Mayor in 1948. He was a socialist.  Washington DC has had a Democratic Mayor since 1956. New York City’s last nominally Republican Mayor, Michael Bloomberg, ran for the Democratic nomination for President. The one before him, Rudy Giuliani, in 1994 supported incumbent Democratic Governor Mario Cuomo for reelection over Republican George Pataki. And the one before him (John Lindsay) also ran for the Democratic nomination for President in 1972. 

When it comes right down to it, a few facts stand out that are indisputable. First, America’s large cities have been run by Democratic political machines for at least 50 years. The Mayors perched on top of those machines have been (for their time) liberals or progressives.  Second, they have failed to provide decent schools for at least a large minority, if not a majority of their citizens. Third, at least a large minority of the citizenry is distrustful that the police will protect their rights, and many believe that they are especially vulnerable to abuse by police. About that they may very well be correct. 

Liberal Administrations run by Democrats have presided over virtually all of this for at least a half century. But they always blame the results on somebody or something else.

This is the very definition of failure. Progressive governments–and that is what big city governments mostly are–have failed to provide essential services to large proportions of their populations. They have also failed to protect citizens’ lives and property. And so while the cities burn, the failed ideology that produced the fires continues to make the same tired arguments undaunted by the destruction it has unleashed.

JFB

Stopping Bernie

After Mike Bloomberg imploded onstage pretty much throughout the entirety of Wednesday night’s Democratic primary debate in Nevada, panic set in among the Party establishment. Keep in mind that Bloomberg was the perfect candidate for the pooh-bahs that run the Party machinery. (More on that later). On paper, Bloomberg checked all the right boxes. He is a climate fanatic, an abortion rights fanatic, an experienced executive in both the private and public sectors, and he is a technocrat with a record of competence. Plus he has a lot of money that he can spend on a campaign. A real lot. 

Bloomberg was supposed to be the Party savior who would rescue it from the clutches of Bernie Sanders, the likely nominee. And Sanders isn’t even a Democrat. But he effectively owns something like 25% to 30% of the Democratic’s primary electorate and he is almost certain to waltz into the Milwaukee convention with a plurality, and maybe a large plurality of the delegates. The game plan was (and is) for Bloomberg to consolidate the “moderate lane” behind his candidacy  and snatch the nomination away from comrade Sanders, whom the party is convinced is going to lead to a McGovern like debacle once November rolls around. 

There are a couple of problems with the plan. In fact there are lots of problems with the plan. To begin with, Sanders is rapidly moving the Party very far to the left. In the latest Washington Post-ABC News poll, 62% of Democratic-leaning adults said Sanders is “about right” ideologically. That result is not statistically distinguishable from the support given to Biden, Warren or Buttigieg. In addition, 72% of Democratic leaning voters say they believe Sanders would beat Trump. Nothing wins like winning. 

Polls in February are kind of fluid. It’s pretty hard to imagine that when the voting public actually begins to focus on the election that they will be quite so friendly to a socialist. Despite all the whining from the Sanders campaign, he has gotten relatively friendly treatment from the press. After all, he says he is a socialist, but his friends among the punditocracy take the edge off by insisting that he really isn’t a “real” socialist. 

Paul Krugman for instance says that Sanders socialism is just branding, the evidence being that Sanders hasn’t yet called for government to own all the means of production. I wonder if Krugman would characterize a candidate who carried around a dog eared copy of Mein Kampf as just working on his branding strategy. Somehow that’s pretty hard to imagine. We are not talking about dog whistles here. People who march around with swastikas do so for a reason. They are Nazi sympathizers or possibly outright Nazis. 

Let’s face it. Bernie Sanders is a socialist. At every opportunity he says he is a socialist. He advocates policies that only a socialist would advocate. Putting the qualifier “democratic” in front of the word socialist is a meaningless exercise. Communist dictatorships were always called “People’s Republics of…”. The end game is always the same. Occasionally people turn the boat around before it’s too late, as in the Nordic countries. (Memo to Bernie: they are arguably more capitalist than the U.S.)  Mostly however, the body count piles up before the citizens have a chance to recapture their freedom. That would be in places where Bernie has a lot of trouble criticizing the regime. Places like, Cuba, Nicaragua and Venezuela not to mention the former Soviet Union where he spent his honeymoon and then waxed effusive about the subway system. 

So the question is this: Is there any realistic hope that the Democratic Party establishment can stop comrade Sanders from capturing the Democratic Party nomination? 

The answer is: No. 

There are two reasons why the Democratic Party establishment can’t stop Bernie. First the party establishment no longer exists as an important force. The same is true of the Republicans. The party establishment imploded when it faced Donald Trump during the 2016 primary season and the party has been thoroughly Trumpified since then. Sanders is doing to the Democratic Party pretty much what Trump did to the Republicans. 

A second reason why the party establishment is incapable of stopping Sanders is that the party is ideologically incapable of countering Sanders socialism. Four years ago Convention Chair Debbie Wasserman Schultz tripped all over herself trying to explain the difference between socialism and progressivism. She couldn’t explain the difference because there isn’t any. Face it: there is no progressive limiting principle other than “trust us”. It is all government all the time.

American progressives have been attacking foundational American values for at least half  a century, and arguably longer, beginning with Teddy Roosevelt and Woodrow Wilson. Those are the foundations upon which the basic institutions of civil society depend. They have been so weakened that it is going to take a long time to rebuild them.  If ever. It is not merely a question is who is elected to what post. What is needed is structural reform, a change in the culture and the rebuilding of fundamental institutions. Progressives are the ones who led “the long march through the institutions” that resulted in today’s dismayingly relativistic culture and its dysfunctional politics. They are hardly the ones to rebuild civil society.  

It is certainly possible that Sanders may be denied the Democratic Party’s presidential nomination. That said, it is hard to see how the Party’s nearly powerless establishment would go about it. Any steps they take to block Sanders will certainly embitter Sanders partisans, whom the Party desperately needs for the general election in November. On the other hand, the nomination of Sanders would very likely lead to the re-election of Donald Trump. 

As awful as another 4 years of tweeting idiocy would be, the key question in politics remains: “Compared to what?”. A crushing defeat of socialism at the ballot box would be something to celebrate. It might also prompt the Democratic Party to seriously re-evaluate itself so it could spend its energies thinking seriously about public policy instead of having tantrums  about intersectionality. 

There is the small, but truly awful possibility that Bernie Sanders could actually win and bring in a big progressive wave along with him. Then New Zealand would be a pretty good place to move to for a couple of years. 

JFB