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Current Affairs

May 12, 2015

Two from Steven Malanga

"No Bonus for Taxpayers: Deeply indebted pension systems continue to dole out bonuses."

As the city of Detroit’s financial condition deteriorated, its employee-pension funds made hundreds of millions of dollars in bonus payments to retirees. Those extra checks swelled the city’s retirement debt and played a role in the Motor City’s eventual bankruptcy. Yet Detroit’s struggles haven’t stopped the retirement systems of other cities and states—including some with severely underfunded pensions—from continuing to dole out bonuses.

(Related, Stephen D. Eide, Manhattan Institute: "California Crowd-Out: How Rising Retirement Benefit Costs Threaten Municipal Services".)

"Pension Sticker Shock: Funding woes in Illinois and Arizona should worry New York taxpayers."

Some of the worst public-sector pension problems in America are playing out in states and cities where legislation or local court rulings have granted extraordinary protections to workers’ retirement benefits—far beyond those enjoyed by private-sector employees. 

"Seven Big Failed Environmentalist Predictions"

Robert Tracinski with another fine piece.

But by now you can get an idea for the major outlines of an environmental hysteria. The steps are: a) start with assumption that man is “ravaging the Earth,” b) latch onto an unproven scientific hypothesis that fits this preconception, c) extrapolate wildly from half-formed theories and short-term trends to predict a future apocalypse, d)pressure a bunch of people with “Ph.D.” after their names to endorse it so you can say it’s a consensus of experts, e) get the press to broadcast it with even less nuance and get a bunch of Hollywood celebrities who failed Freshman biology to adopt it as their pet cause, then finally f) quietly drop the whole thing when it doesn’t pan out—and move on with undiminished enthusiasm to the next environmental doomsday scenario.

"The real lessons of Reaganomics"

James Pethokoukis:

If you want to promote pro-market policies by citing the success of Reaganomics, don’t do it the wrong way.

And the wrong way is suggesting that the Reagan tax cuts paid for themselves. They didn’t (although their deficit impact was smaller than a static analysis shows). . . .

. . . the way to judge a huge change in public policy is over the long term. “Making changes to the tax system and regulatory policies of a mammoth economy like the U.S. is like turning the rudder slightly on a supertanker: The initial effects are small, but it leads to a big shift in course over time,” economist Michael Mandel wrote in a fantastic 2004 magazine piece on Reagan’s economic legacy.

And I agree with Larry Kudlow: "Snarking Hillary Is Not the Way to the White House".

May 11, 2015

"The Engineer’s Lament: Two ways of thinking about automotive safety"

Interesting piece by Malcolm Gladwell that offers insight into the difference between how engineers view the world and how the rest of us do.

Almost all engineering jokes—and there are many—are versions of this belief: that the habits of mind formed by the profession enable engineers to see things differently from the rest of us. “A pessimist sees the glass as half empty. An optimist sees the glass as half full. The engineer sees the glass as twice the size it needs to be.” To the others, the glass is a metaphor. Nonsense, the engineer says. The specifications are off. He doesn’t give free rein to temperament; he assesses the object. These jokes, like many of the jokes people tell about themselves, are grievances. The engineer doesn’t understand why the rest of us can’t make sense of the world the way he does.

It includes some interesting discussion of the infamous Pinto case.

"Ten Tax Hikes That Slammed Middle-Class Families: Courtesy of NC Democrats"

North Carolina's Civitas Institute on our always-unhappy Left.

The news that North Carolina’s state General Fund budget revenue is now predicted to come in $400 million above original estimates caused the Left to go into full spin mode. For months, liberal progressives were fretting about the end of Western Civilization as we know it due to earlier projections that revenue this year would come in below the amount used to set the budget.

Somehow blind to the irony, first they were upset that revenue may be too low this year, now they are upset that revenue may be too high. We are used to the narrative coming from the Left that government never has enough money, but now that revenues are higher than expectations liberals suddenly find compassion for taxpayers.

Related: "NC budget surplus: Leftists hardest hit".

"Why couldn’t $130 million transform one of Baltimore’s poorest places?"

Excellent question.

Some clues here: "Baltimore's Decline" and "My Baltimore Business Problem".

"Making the Trolls Pay: How One UK Company Made 1 Million [Pounds] in Four Days from Furious Social Justice Warriors"

If enough of this happens, it will put a stop, right quick, to the worst of the "social justice" baloney.

As JFK said, "Don't get mad. Get even."

"Free Speech in Peril"

Myron Magnet, simply great:

Second, the constant social pressure of having to monitor everything you say, lest some unguarded politically incorrect utterance loses you friends, dates, status, or even employment makes for (pardon the fifties’ expression) boring conformists, apparatchiks afraid to think for themselves—quite the opposite of the sturdily independent, resourceful, thoughtful, plainspoken, and creative character that used to be the American ideal. Take the case of Smith College president Kathleen McCartney, who joined her students’ “shared fury,” she said, as “we raise our voices in protest” against the grand jury decisions in Ferguson and Staten Island. Trouble is, she raised her voice in the wrong slogan, declaring that “All lives matter,” when the approved chant was “Black lives matter.” How could she be so disgracefully discriminatory in her nondiscrimination? her scandalized undergraduates exploded. A modern college president may be the very definition of an apparatchik, but there is something humiliating to human nature in the cringingly self-abasing apology that McCartney fairly sobbed out, without even having to be carted off in a dunce cap to a reeducation camp, as if she were her own Maoist cultural-revolutionary commissar. What would it take to make characters like this pull the lever at Treblinka?

May 10, 2015

"This Means War: Bedbugs are Infesting California"

As if California didn't have enough problems.

May 06, 2015

"Government Assistance and Work"

Economist Adam Ozimek attacks the claim that government assistance to low-income workers benefits big businesses that employ them such as Wal-Mart.

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