Monthly Archives: August 2014

The Low Information Voter And The Demise Of America – Part Three

The Low Information Voter And The Demise Of America –  Part Three by Peter Burrows 8/30/14

Thanks to the wonders of the Internet, you can watch William Buckley interview Thomas Sowell on a 1981 Firing Line show. The issues discussed are still relevant.

Sowell, now in his 80’s, was just starting to be recognized as one of America’s leading scholars. At the time, he had written about a dozen books, and now his total is forty, plus another ten or so of collected essays.  He is long overdue for at least one Nobel prize in economics.

Buckley’s other guest was Harriet F. Pilpel, whom Buckley introduced as a distinguished attorney and feminist.  She impressed me as snobish, elitist, and probably racist.  She could not accept, for example, that an uneducated mother could possibly make better decisions about her children’s education than government experts, so why bother with school vouchers and school choice?

Like liberals everywhere and always, she could not understand that poor, uneducated people are poor and uneducated, NOT STUPID.

She died in 1991 at age 79, and her obituary notes she was a frequent guest on Buckley’s show, and also that she was a long-time ACLU member. (Buckley had a number of good friends on the left of the political spectrum, most notably John Kenneth Galbraith.) She was a graduate of Vassar and Columbia Law, i.e. a highly educated woman.

Sowell became visibly agitated by Ms. Pilpel’s inability to understand that discrimination plays such a minor role in the income disparities of women and minorities.  You see, without discrimination by evil white people, male chauvinist pigs and Republicans there would be no need for affirmative action, the EEOC, feminist causes and all the other BS that makes people like Ms. Pilpel feel good about themselves.

I enjoyed her very much.  She was a wonderful confirmation of my bias against most liberals, especially wealthy East Coast liberals. Over thirty years later, today’s liberals are still spouting the same nonsense about the same issues. Plus ca change, eh?

The gender pay gap, for example, was recently called “an embarrassment” by President Obama: “Today, the average full-time working woman earns just 77 cents for every dollar a man earns — in 2014, that’s an embarrassment. It is wrong.” (Remarks on equal pay for equal work, April 8, 2014.)

The next day, The Washington Post, no conservative bastion, ran a story under “Washington Post Fact Checker” subtitled, “President Obama’s persistent ‘77-cent’ claim gets a new Pinocchio rating: Two vs. One.”

When the Washington Post fact checker finds stories or statements that don’t gibe with the facts, the perpetrators are awarded one to four Pinocchios, One being “some shading of the facts, selective telling of the truth,” four being “Whoppers.”

The Washington Post article of April 9, 2014 by Glenn Kessler, had this to say about Obama’s “77-cent” gender gap: “In 2012— The Fact Checker took a deep dive into the statistics behind this factoid and found it wanting.  We awarded the president only (one) Pinocchio, largely because he is citing Census Bureau data, but have wondered since if we were too generous.  We also called out the president when he used this fact in the 2013 State of the Union address, and in the 2014 State of the Union address. And yet he keeps using it, as do many other Democrats.”

The rest of the article has a pretty good rundown on why the pay gap disappears when all factors are considered.  Included was the finding that “women who do not get married have virtually no wage gap –.” Sowell made the same point in 1981 on Firing Line. (1981!) He said the pay gap between single women and single men was very misleading because “never married” single women frequently had HIGHER incomes than their male counterparts.

(Marriage interrupts many more female careers than male careers, and career interruptions hurt earning power, but the category “single” doesn’t distinguish between women with interrupted and uninterrupted careers.  The divorced or widowed woman thrown back into the job market is going to suffer a lower income than if she had never married and never left the job. That’s just a sad fact of life.)

For a really thorough analysis of the gender pay issue, I strongly recommend Kay Hymowitz’s articles on the topic, especially “Why the Gender Gap Won’t Go Away. Ever.”, City Journal, Summer 2011.  For more distaff objections to gender gap demagoguery, Google June E. O’Neill, another brilliant lady.

The Washington Post article concludes by noting that the Census Bureau’s raw 77-cent figure is, from the Democrats’ perspective, “golden,” something Democrats “can keep bringing up every two years.”  The president, however, should “acknowledge that ‘77 cents’ does not begin to capture what is actually happening in the work force and society. Thus we are boosting the rating on this factoid to Two Pinocchios.”

They were tempted to go to three but didn’t because “the president was relying on an official government statistic—.”  Horse pucky, as MASH’s Colonel Sherman T. Potter would say.  The president is engaging in demagoguery approaching outright lying, and I think he’s smart enough to know it. He doesn’t care, because getting a couple of Pinocchios from the Washington Post is an inside the beltway joke, something the rest of the country won’t pay any attention to.

The same standards used to get the 77-cent figure also show that on the president’s staff women earn only 91- cents per dollar of men‘s wages.  That’s good compared to women working for the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee, who are paid only 70 cents for every dollar men make.

So what and who cares? The low information voter is going to hear the 77-cent mantra and buy into the charge that Republicans are against equal pay for equal work. To further this low-info-vote-getter theme, on April 1 — an apt date — of this year, Senator Barbara Mikulski (D-MD) introduced the Paycheck Fairness Act.  Similar bills have bounced around Congress since 2009 and none have gone far, probably because no one, except lawyers, really wants to implement such a draconian overhaul of the Fair Labor Standards Act of 1938, known as the Equal Pay Act.

Wikipedia has a detailed description of the bill, and under Debate and Discussion has the following:  “Democrats said they intend to use the votes on this bill and the issue of equal pay as political issues in the 2014 midterm elections. Sen. Charles Schumer (D-NY) told reporters that ‘pay equity, that’s women, that’s 53 percent of the vote.’ ”

Schumer is correctly assuming that Republicans will vote against the bill, especially since no amendments are being allowed by Harry Reid in the senate, and that it blatantly benefits trial lawyers, a Democrat special interest group, by removing caps on punitive damages against businesses found guilty of discriminating against women.  Plus, as I read it, the bill places proof of innocence on the accused, i.e. accused employers are guilty until proven innocent.  Of the lawyers, by the lawyers and for the lawyers.

Expect the Democrats to beat this old pay-gap lie for all its worth. For example, first term Senator from Massachusetts, rising progressive star and Cherokee descendent Elizabeth Warren, recently gave a speech laying out her 11 “Commandments of Progressivism,” number eight being: “We believe – I can’t believe I have to say this in 2014 – we believe in equal pay for equal work.”

Gosh, Senator, Harvard Professor and Native American wanna be, so do the rest of us.  And if you actually believe there ISN’T equal pay for equal work, why don’t you start a company and hire women for 78-cents on the dollar, a raise from the 77-cent MCP companies pay, and then put those 100-cent male companies out of business, thanks to your lower wage costs?

Oh well, that would require thinking instead of emoting.  Speaking of which, Senator Barbara Mikulski, who introduced the bill, said, “It brings tears to my eyes to know women are working so hard and  being paid less– it makes me emotional when I hear that — I get angry, I get outraged and I get volcanic.”

Oh, my. What to say? One is at a loss for words.  Perhaps it’s time to channel my dear late grandmother, whose default emotion was compassion: “Oh, the poor Dear.” Or, perhaps it is time to bend over and call into service what Mark Twain called “the nether throat” and deliver unto Ms. Mikulski an appropriate response, also volcanic.

The Low Information Voter And The Demise of America – Part Two

The Low Information Voter And The Demise of America – Part Two by Peter Burrows 8/25/14

Winston Churchill once famously quipped, “It has been said democracy is the worst form of government except all the others that have been tried.”  He also said, “The best argument against democracy is a five minute conversation with the average voter.”

The Founding Fathers probably would have agreed with both of Churchill’s observations.  While they wanted nothing to do with monarchies or dictatorships, they also profoundly distrusted democracies, which they saw as fatally susceptible to demagoguery and mob rule.  However, the right kind of democracy, a representative democracy, or republic, if properly designed might provide sufficient protection from democracy’s tendency to self destruct.

To put the people in charge, yet check the power of the madding crowd, one of the protective things our Founding Fathers did was design a clever system that required laws be approved by two very different legislative bodies. One would be a House of Representatives whose members serve two years and are voted into office by the people.  The other would be a Senate composed of state representatives, two per state, whose members serve six years and would  protect the states’ rights against any trespasses by the central government.

The kicker, which very few people today are aware of, was that these state senators were not to be elected by the people, but as the Constitution directs, “chosen by the Legislature thereof”, i.e. the state legislators.  This changed in 1913 with the seventeenth amendment, which directed senators also be elected by the general populace.

While this was a step toward a more “pure” democracy, it also greatly increased our exposure to the self destructive abuses of democracy.  Instead of having one house of two-year elected politicians held in check by a second house of six-year citizen volunteers, we now have both houses composed of elected politicians, almost all of whom have as their number one priority getting reelected.

Today, contrary to constitutional design, there is no essential difference between the House and the Senate.  Of course, since senators only run for reelection every six years instead of two, they don‘t have to spend ALL their time campaigning and raising money. This means senators can study issues more thoroughly, be more statesman-like, even wise, in their decisions and pronouncements.  Senator Harry Reid of Nevada comes to mind.

Now, imagine the seventeenth amendment was never passed.  What kind of people do you think state legislatures  would consider for appointment to the U.S. Senate?

The first thing that comes to my mind when pondering that question is that there are many people who would make great senators who wouldn’t ever consider running for the office.  The campaign mechanics are too daunting.  It takes some sort of masochist to endure the travel, speeches, fund raising, butt-kissing, and loss of privacy, not to mention the ad hominem gauntlet candidates have to run.

Wouldn’t it be nice to have a senate where many of the members were appointed because they had distinguished themselves in medicine, science, business or academia, i.e. some field other than politics?  Wouldn’t it be nice to have a senate where most members didn’t care about running for reelection, or in fact wouldn‘t even be interested in another term?

Wouldn’t it be nice to have a senate where the members had the political freedom to actually read the bills before they voted on them? Wouldn’t it be nice to have a senate where no member was beholden to special interests, or, most importantly, had to worry about the opinion of those average voters that Churchill jokingly (?) referred to?

No sense in daydreaming: We don’t have an Olympian Senate to protect us from ourselves. Churchill’s average voter elects both the House and the Senate, and the complexity of the issues today means that each of us is a low information voter on most issues, susceptible to demagoguery and prone to vote for politicians who say they can “fix” things if only we give them enough power, which always means a bigger and more intrusive government

The truth of what Jefferson said almost 200 years ago is becoming apparent: “If a nation expects to be ignorant – and free – in a state of civilization, it expects what never was and never will be.”

The Low Information Voter And The Demise Of America

The Low Information Voter And The Demise Of America by Peter Burrows – 8/15/14 –

I‘m not a big Bill O‘Reilly fan, but his segment “Watters’ World” is a hoot. Reporter Jesse Watters takes his microphone and cameraman into the damnedest places and asks people the damnedest questions, some funny and some not so funny.  The question that always pops into my mind: “These people VOTE??”

Sadly, most people Watters talks to don’t know much, if anything, about current affairs or American history.  He says he doesn’t cherry pick his broadcasted interviews, and I tend to believe him, for the simple reason that the low information voter is hardly a new phenomenon.  I remember years ago the Steve Allen Show would occasionally have live interviews of the man on the street. Typical question and answer:

Q. “Do you think President Eisenhower has scruples?”
A. “No. I think his doctors would have found them by now.”

Government has gotten a lot more intrusive and complex since then.  We didn’t as many have federal bureaucracies constantly issuing new regulations telling us what kind of light bulbs to buy or how much water our toilets can use.  Since Ike’s day, cabinet level government departments have been created to deal with perceived problems in the areas of energy, housing, environment, education, transportation and terrorism.

Back then, Congress wasn’t passing laws that numbered in the thousands of pages that no elected official either read or wrote.  As Speaker Pelosi said of the Affordable Care Act, “We have to pass the bill so you can find out what’s in it.”  She took some flak for that comment, but she was just telling it like it is in Washington.

As the government takes on more and more duties, most of which I think are unconstitutional, “pass the law to know what’s in it” simply reflects the fact that complex legislation is being written by, and our government is being run by, bureaucratic “experts,” and they will write the laws and run the government for their benefit, not ours.

In this, they are strongly abetted by some elected office holders who openly think America’s democratic republic is cumbersome, inefficient and way too slow.  The New York Times columnist and progressive Thomas Friedman, in one of his books and at least twice on television, has fantasized about how nice it would be to be China for a day, “–where we could actually, you know, authorize the right solutions –.”

Right solutions? I guarantee my right solutions aren’t your right solutions, Tom.  For instance, every now and then I fantasize I’m Mao for a day, and the first thing I do is strip America’s Tom Friedmans of all their worldly assets and send them down to Cuba to help the Castro brothers harvest sugar cane.  From each according to his abilities, you know.

Somebody should clue Friedman in: THE CONSTITUTION WAS WRITTEN TO MAKE GOVERNING DIFFICULT. Naturally, this is something people with a totalitarian bent don’t like, and in America, such people have included Presidents Teddy Roosevelt, Woodrow Wilson and Franklin Delano Roosevelt, to which we can now add Barrack Obama, who is issuing executive orders that many say are in contempt of the Constitution.

A primary goal of our Constitution was to ensure the executive branch didn’t acquire dictatorial powers.  The legislative and the judicial branches were to act as checks to the executive.  They aren’t doing this and it’s our fault.  Very few people know how our government is supposed to work or, more importantly, WHY the Constitution was written as it was.

This is the number one ignorance that can lead to the demise of what may be an impossible dream: That government of the people, by the people for the people, shall not perish from the earth.