Monday, March 28, 2011

Fear of a Black Planet… or at least of a minority majority country…

Earlier this month a demographer in Texas cause something of a stir with a report headlined: "It's basically over for Anglos". Fundamentally what he was saying was that within a few decades Hispanics would be the majority in Texas. Two out of three children in the state are already non-Anglo, and the minority birthrate far outpaces whites.

That was followed up this week by a report in the Wall Street Journal discussing the fact that the overwhelming majority of the growth in the United States population is coming from – and will continue to come from – minorities, particularly Hispanics and blacks. At the current rate, whites will be a minority in the United States soon after 2040.

The ramifications from that change could be significant. How? Minorities have higher crime rates, higher welfare rates, higher dropout rates, higher unemployment rates, more child poverty, lower literacy rates and more unwed mothers than whites. To the degree that those elevated numbers become the norm, that is problem.

One narrative from this data might suggest that the prospect of whites being a minority has great dangers in terms of the continued economic and social well being of the United States.

That is not the narrative I would posit however. Rather, I would suggest that the color of the skin of the majority of the American population today or in 2040 is of no consequence.

While it is beyond dispute that whites have been behind the majority of the advances of the last two centuries, the truth of the matter is that it had nothing to do with their DNA and everything to do with America’s entrepreneurial spirit, something that was denied for 150 years to many minorities. From Elisha Otis to Charles Goodyear to Kemmons Wilson to Bill Gates, it was the free market that allowed these men and many others to transform the world. Importantly, free markets can only thrive within a political framework of individual liberty and private property, and those laws don’t care about race.

The problem with the future of America is not that minorities will eventually be the majority, but rather that anti-capitalist liberals may eventually be the majority. Put another way, the problem for America’s future is not that there are too many minorities, but rather too many minorities may end up as liberals.

The challenge for those who are concerned with the future of the United States, is not to fret over demographic shifts, but instead to attract the coming majority of blacks, Hispanics and Asians to the conservative position.

Today we have a country that is fundamentally falling apart. The government takes too much money from the citizens yet still spends even more. One third of all income comes from that government. Almost half of the population pays no income tax. Government employee unions have a death grip on state and city finances while teacher’s unions have destroyed the public education system. The policies that facilitated most of these problems (as well as many of the challenges listed above that so negatively affect many minority communities) found their genesis in the Democratic Party: Welfare, government employee unions, the 17th Amendment, etc.

Unfortunately for America, today a majority of minorities consider themselves Democrats, or at least vote that way. Biased media, a liberal judiciary, brainwashing schools and pandering politicians… the reasons behind why they do is unimportant. What is important however (to the future prosperity of the country) is that conservatives figure out how to reach out to minorities and persuade them that it is in their best interests, and indeed those of their families, their communities and the county, that they become conservatives and vote that way. To put that another way, the GOP must demonstrate to minority voters that the solutions to the problems detailed above are not to be found in more Democrat big government programs, but rather in traditional conservative governance based on free markets and individual liberty coupled with individual responsibility and family cohesion.

Many in the GOP say that minorities should vote for them simply because polls suggest that they share many conservative values. While that may make some sense, it has not proven to be a successful strategy in terms of attracting votes, and everyone knows what Einstein said about doing the same thing and expecting different results.

If the GOP hopes to retain a voice in American politics it will have to do more to attract minorities. (Although I’m somewhat using the GOP interchangeably here with conservatives, it is actually conservatives who need to act, either through the GOP or through the Tea Parties if the GOP doesn’t have the stomach.) That does not mean changing or compromising conservative values, but rather finding ways of communicating to minorities that conservative ideas are the recipe for success today just as they have been for the last 200 years.

Make no mistake, this is an uphill battle. As long as unions are able to coerce hundreds of millions of dollars out of employee’s paychecks every year and spend those dollars to vilify Republicans and lie about Democrat success, this will be a struggle. Add to that the left leaning mainstream media and it’s going to be a very tough road. Nonetheless the fact remains, if conservatives do not act, all hope is lost.

The reality is that the future of the country has a darker tinge to it and the $64,000 question is, is the GOP going to do what is necessary to make sure that that future majority appreciates and supports the conservative foundations that created an Exceptional America or will it simply allow the country to implode under the weight of a bloated, smothering insolvent federal government that abandoned Constitutional principals decades ago. With ramparts manned by the likes of Herman Cain, Marco Rubio, and Thomas Sowell there just might be a chance.

Sunday, March 20, 2011

Why I love Sarah Palin

I love Sarah Palin. There, I’ve said it. While I’ve never met her, that is beside the point.

What is right on point however is why I love her. Sarah Palin bleeds American. She is not American simply because of an accident of birth. Rather, she understands what makes America different; she believes that America is exceptional and knows what makes it so; she is passionately pro-American without being jingoistic; she is willing to fight for what she believes regardless of who’s lined up against her; she is willing to put her credibility and reputation on the line to help others who share her views. Finally, and perhaps most importantly, she is a normal, average, regular person.

Sarah Palin did not grow up rich or attend an Ivy League school. She did not spend her life in a courtroom extorting money from corporations or small businesses. She did not spend her life in an ivory tower or in an editorial room pontificating about how the world works in some fantasy universe where government regulations make everyone pure and everything perfect in every circumstance. No, she has lived a fairly normal life, one you might call working class.

I remember back in ’88 or ’92 someone asked George H.W. Bush if he knew the price of milk, and he didn’t. He was of course pilloried for being “out of touch” with the common man. (Frankly it doesn’t bother me at all that the VP or President of the United States doesn’t know the price of milk… let someone else buy the milk, I’d rather him focus on knowing how much of our money government is wasting!) Sarah Palin probably knows the price of a gallon of milk. More importantly, she understands America from where the tire hits the road. She started out her political career at the PTA because she wanted to improve the education her children were getting. From there she spent four years on the Wasilla city council and six years as mayor. Next she was appointed to chair the Alaska Oil and Gas Conservation Commission and later defeated the incumbent to become the Governor of Alaska. In every one of those endeavors Palin showed herself to be not only capable, but effective and successful as well. Indeed, the latter two positions found her fighting an Alaska version of Tammany Hall.

She has demonstrated a willingness to fight for what she believes in, even if it is within her own party. She defeated the Murkowski machine in Alaska and she stood side by side with tea party candidates across the country in 2010, often against the wishes of the entrenched GOP establishment. Christine O’Donnell may have been a flawed candidate, but at least the citizens of Delaware had a choice between two distinctly different paths rather than the choice between the liberal and more liberal paths they would have had with Chris Coons and Mike Castle. They may have chosen bigger government, but at least for a change they had a choice, and Sarah Palin helped give them one.

Sarah Palin is also average in another way. She is not polished – or at least she wasn’t when she burst upon the national stage. She is not slick. She does not have a sound bite sized answer at the ready in case she gets asked any questions. Just the opposite, actually, often you can see her crafting an answer on the spot. The interview with Katie Couric was indeed painful to watch. The truth however is that her less than stellar performance in that and other early interviews were not signs that she was a dolt as many suggested, but rather the consequence of being thrown onto the world’s biggest stage with the klieg lights on max. You might say she was… shell-shocked. Many people, including myself, wondered how she could not name a single newspaper she read regularly or give a coherent answer on the Middle East. Knowing the answers and delivering them in front of a world wide audience are two different things. (Example: say the alphabet using nouns to represent each letter: Apple, Barrel, Continent etc. Now imagine having to do it in 20 seconds in front of 1,000 people and your job rests on your success…) Her poor performance communicated more about her interview preparation than her qualification to be President. Indeed a week later she outperformed Joe Biden in their debate, and few lefties would argue he was unqualified to be President. Her early performances were those of someone whose persona was not forged in front of camera. I’ll take someone who is right on the issues but flubs an interview 10 times out of 10…

And the issues are where Sarah Palin shines. Like Ronald Reagan, she understands that government is the problem more often than the solution. She understands that low taxes and fiscal discipline are an absolute necessity as government has no money other than that which it takes from taxpayers. She understands that Barack Obama was right when he suggested the Constitution “Says what the states can’t do to you. Says what the federal government can’t do to you, but doesn’t say what the federal government or state government must do on your behalf…” The difference is that to Obama and the left, that’s the problem whereas Sarah Palin understands that that is why the Constitution exists in the first place. She understands that an unconstrained government will continue to grow and usurp powers until eventually it strangles the life out of its citizens and our republic.

In addition to the issues, Sarah Palin seems to be made of steel. She has undergone a seemingly unending barrage of mocking and criticism to a degree that perhaps no other American politician has had to endure in modern times. Through it all however she has carried herself with grace, good humor and most importantly, she has understood that the issue is not her, it’s the country. The fact that she is willing to stand up and respond to the left – particularly the media – should not be seen as a symptom of being thin-skinned or even petty, but rather a desire to keep the focus where it should be, on policy and Constitutional government.

So the reasons I love Sarah Palin are thus: She knows what it will take to put the country back on solid economic footing. She’s a rabid Constitutionalist who will rein in the federal government. She will let American interests and the interests of the American people dictate American foreign policy rather than looking to international bodies for direction. She understands the importance of free markets, free trade and energy independence. She believes in American exceptionalism, and perhaps most of all, she understands that individual responsibility is the cornerstone of upon which character, community and country are built. Without that everything else collapses.

2012 is going to be the most important election in more than a century. Our nation has been shaken to its very foundations by an onslaught of government encroachment and unprecedented fiscal irresponsibility. In times like these, when those basic fundamental things that made America great in the first place are the very things being undermined, we would be lucky to have a ticket headed by someone who truly understands what it’s like to live and thrive as an average American, someone who didn’t spend most of her adult life in the insulated and unrealistic universe of liberalism consisting of courtrooms, college classrooms and the corridors of power that make up Washington D.C.

Monday, March 14, 2011

The rich don't pay their fair share... unfortunately that's true.

There’s an old saying; A picture is worth a thousand words. Pie charts will likely never be confused with great art in terms of story telling, but they have a way of making complicated issues clear. Income taxes are one of those things that are naturally difficult to grasp and the issue is made that much more opaque because liberals love to obscure the facts.

One of the shibboleths of the left is that the rich don’t pay their fair share of taxes. One of the more amusing segments of the 2008 Presidential campaign involved Neal Boortz asking then Democrat hopeful Dennis Kucinich two simple questions:
  1. What percentage of total income is earned by the top 1% of income earners?

  2. What percentage of total federal income taxes are paid by the top 1% of income earners.

Congressman Kucinich answered: He thought the top 1% of income earners earned 60% of the income and paid about 15% of the taxes. He was a little off. In fact, the top 1% of income earners earn approximately 17% of all the earnings in the country. That’s certainly higher than the 1% they represent of the population but a far cry from Congressman Kucinich’s 60%. More astounding however, is that they pay fully 39% of all of the federal income taxes - according to a 2009 Congressional Budget Office report. The below chart demonstrates clearly the absurdity of the notion that the rich do not pay their fair share of taxes.

The first chart shows that the rich do indeed pay far more than their oft cited “fair share” of income taxes. Not only that, it also shows that the bottom 40% of wage earners actually have a negative tax rate and get money back from the government in the form of income tax credits!

Another of the left’s arguments is that the lower income wage earners pay a disproportionate amount of the Social Security / Medicare tax. That too is false. The second chart states that the top 10% of wage earners pay 43.5% of all social insurance taxes while the bottom 40% pay just 15%.

Why does any of this matter in the first place? The third chart (taken from a 2010 report from the Tax Foundation) demonstrates why…Jobs. It compares wage & salary, capital gain, and dividend income for all income earners. As you can see, for the 80% of income earners below $200,000 per year, wages (i.e. a job) make up almost their entire incomes. Without jobs that someone else creates they would have no income... except government transfer payments.

At the $200,000 and above level, business and dividend income starts to take off and by the $1,000,000 and above level the three are almost equivalent. Those are the telltale signs of success. Those people earning those $200,000 and above incomes are the people creating the jobs that employ most of the remaining 80% of the population.

Put another way, jobs are not created by wage earners. Jobs are created by entrepreneurs risking their capital to start businesses… And those entrepreneurs are the usually found in that $200,000 and above group. The businesses they start generate 65% of all new jobs created in the United States.

While the first two charts debunk the myth that the rich do not pay their “fair share” the above chart demonstrates why it matters: The rich are the ones starting small businesses and creating jobs and prosperity.

Myths die hard, particularly when their proponents willingly ignore the facts. The myth that the rich don’t pay their fair share should soon be headed the way of the global warming hoax. Clearly it is the people at the upper end of the income spectrum that are being treated unfairly. They are not paying their fair share... They are paying more. Not only are they responsible for 2/3 of all new jobs created, but in return they are rewarded with being allowed to keep even less of their income as they become more successful. Perhaps as more Americans examine and understand what it takes to generate and sustain a dynamic and growing economy the “tax the rich” cries will begin to fall on deaf ears. That’s exactly what America could use right now, a reinvigorated entrepreneurial class striving to put more money in their pockets… and generating millions of jobs in the process.

Monday, March 7, 2011

Scott Walker has a messaging problem

Wisconsin governor Scott Walker has a problem. It’s not the smelly, indian sitting - Kumbaya singing activists who are turning the statehouse into Woodstock ’11. Although they are a problem – it’s primarily to the olfactory system. Nor is it the union thugs who are harassing reporters, people who dare to voice their support of the Governor and representatives on their way to their offices.

No, the Governor’s problem is one of messaging. For much of the last two weeks the news cycle has been focusing on Madison. Much of the coverage in the mainstream media has focused on the union message of standing up for “working families”, protecting union “rights” and “fairness”. That’s a problem for the Governor. Americans generally will pull for an underdog in a fair fight and the mainstream media is making this out to be a David and Goliath competition… and he’s Goliath.

Few Americans (or Wisconsinites for that matter) are actually in Madison and able to see exactly what is going on it the Capitol. As such they are forced to rely on what is being reported, primarily on television, but also on the Internet. While Fox News dominates the cable news arena, their numbers are very small when compared to broadcast network news. The average news program on Fox News attracts approximately 2 million viewers nightly while ABC, NBC and CBS have a combined 23 million viewers between them. Online Fox News defeats the news websites of the networks, its traffic is dwarfed by CNN’s.

At the end of the day, this story, like most stories, political and otherwise, comes down to two things, facts and communication. On the facts, Scott Walker has everything on his side. The state’s finances are a mess. Unionized government workers earn more money, have better benefits and much more job security than their private sector counterparts, i.e. the taxpayers. (The average Milwaukee public-school teacher earns $56,500 a year in salary and another $43,500 in benefits for total of $100,000, and in return Milwaukee students perform far below national standards…) The state’s income tax rates are higher than 37 other states and its corporate income rate is higher than 32 others. According to Arthur Laffer, in 2010 Wisconsin came in 44 out of 50 states in economic performance. The facts are in his corner. It’s the communication that Governor Walker is missing.

Most Wisconsinites, like most Americans, when looking at this situation would understand that something needs to be done, and that raising taxes is not the solution. At the same time there seems to be some residual support for unions and collective bargaining. This in large part has to do with the sympathetic portrayal of the public sector employees by the media. What you rarely see from the mainstream media however is the thug tactics that unions across the country… including Wisconsin, use to harass, intimidate and threaten their opponents. (That last piece is from the NYT and a hat tip is due for one of the rare MSM pieces that mentions such tactics.) This is fundamentally why unions want Card Check. It’s one thing to vote against a union secure in the anonymity provided by a secret ballot, it’s a completely different thing when the union enforcers are standing at the front door of your home with a clipboard or hovering over you at the signature table.

In this current environment Walker should take a page from another darling of the GOP Chris Christie. Christie has been out in the trenches mixing it up with union members across the state. The web is chock full of videos of Christie taking questions from audience members complaining about having to pay for their own benefits or having their wage raises limited. In each case he clearly explains the situation the state is in, why the state is in that situation (usually demonstrating how union intransigence helped bring it about) and what he is trying to do to fix the situation. Invariably audiences understand his position and the state’s population largely does as well.

Although Walker has been crystal clear in his critique of Democratic lawmakers and has spoken about the challenges the state faces, he has yet to put on a full court press in bringing his message to the citizens of Wisconsin. This can be seen in the latest Rasmussen poll that shows support for his position down to 43% amongst likely state voters. While a governor should never govern by poll, this poll suggests that he is not getting his message out clearly. This is particularly true given the fact that Wisconsin voters just put him in the Governor’s mansion and gave the GOP both houses of the legislature with a mandate to fix the state’s financial mess. Given that, the public should be poised to give him benefit of the doubt. The fact that his numbers are moving in the wrong direction suggest he has a communication / messaging problem.

The support of a majority of the voters is not a requirement for implementing a policy. The foundation for this was perhaps best said by Edmund Burke: Your representative owes you, not his industry only, but his judgment; and he betrays instead of serving you if he sacrifices it to your opinion. Majority support is however critical for long term success of any policy, particularly when not all legislators live up to Burke’s ideal. As long as Walker allows the flower children, the union thugs and the mainstream media to define the discussion, his numbers will continue to decline. If he hopes to succeed in his pursuit of transforming Wisconsin from an economic laggard to a job creating dynamo, he might want to figure out how to take control of his own story and get the message across to the voters of Wisconsin that their state is a landed version of the Titanic headed towards an iceberg and he’s the only one suggesting a change of course.