The education debate among political leaders in America is increasingly becoming a fantasy reminiscent of Lake Woebegone Minnesota. Lake Woebegone, an invention of Humorist Garrison Keillor of the Prairie Home Companion, is a mythical American town which Keillor enters as a story teller by saying "Welcome to Lake Wobegon, where all the women are strong, all the men are good-looking, and all the children are above average." Well, our educational debate sounds like it is conducted by people who live in Lake Woebegone. Along Lake Woebegone's citizens are America's governors and Microsoft founder and chairman Bill Gates who met together recently to jointly fantasize that all American children are above average and therefore capable of doing college level work.
"The key problem is political will," he said, discussing resistance to change. He said it was "morally wrong" to offer more advanced levels of coursework to high-income students compared with that offered many minority and low-income scholars. And he trumpeted the goal of preparing every high-school student for either two- or four-year college programs.
"Only one-third of our students graduate from high school ready for college, work and citizenship," he said. Gates spoke bluntly about the high dropout rates in America compared with those of other developed countries, and the differences between America's high-tech graduate degrees and those in India and China.
Never mind that over half (and rising) of the American population have IQs less than 100. In Lake Woebegone America the mainstream fantasy is that everyone can and should go to college. His argument amonts to asserting that all children are above average. I seriously doubt he really believes that though.
"Our high schools were designed 50 years ago to meet the needs of another age," said Gates, whose philanthropic foundation has committed nearly a billion dollars to the challenge of improving high schools. "Until we design them to meet the needs of this century, we will keep limiting, even ruining, the lives of millions of Americans every year."
Speaking of another age: I think our immigration system is designed for a previous age when manual labor and less skilled labor were more valuable.
Gov. Mark Warner of Virginia, a Democrat who is chairman of the association, said: "Three out of 10 students who enter high school do not graduate. Four out of 10 who do graduate lack the skills and knowledge to go on to college or to succeed in the work force. The economic ramifications of that could be devastating to our country."
Why does the United States have such a low rate of high school graduation? Only 50% of blacks and 53% of Hispanics graduate from high school. If politically correct dogmas didn't reign in the mainstream of America's press and higher education institutions one might expect Governors to get together and call for an end to immigration of groups that have low high school graduation rates and low college graduation rates even among 2nd, 3rd, and 4th generation descendants of those immigrants.
“We can’t keep explaining to our nation’s parents or business leaders or college faculties why these kids can’t do the work,” said Virginia Democratic Gov. Mark Warner, as the state leaders convened for the first National Education Summit aimed at rallying governors around high school reform.
Does he really believe what he is saying? Warner and others of his ilk are going to have to keep on explaining why some students do poorly in school because they insist on putting the bulk of the blame for poor performance on the schools. Obvious causes such as low intelligence, low motivation, and other causes that lie within the students are ignord in their Lake Woebegone fantasies. So the mainstream debate about educational policy in America remains very unrealistic.
Governor Mike Huckabee of Arkansas also spins a fantasy about the primacy of environmental stimulation.
Gov. Mike Huckabee, R-Ark., said the most reliable predictor of success in college is a student’s exposure to challenging high school courses — and that governors know they must act.
Oh come on Mike. What do you think is being measured? Did you even consider the possibility that much brighter kids might be far more inclined to take "challenging" classes in high school? And what are "challenging" classes? To a kid with 90 IQ simple algebra is very challenging. To a kid with 160 IQ it is unlikely that anything taught in 99.9% of American high schools is challenging at all. They sit in high school classes bored out of their skulls at the slow rate that course material is taught. Governors are elected officials with considerable prestige and power in American society. But it is hard to take them seriously when they get together and peddle predictably wrong conventional wisdom.
Is there a bottom half of the Bell Curve? No, can't say that. At least publically Bill Gates essentially rejects psychometric research.
"Only a fraction of our kids are getting the best education," Gates said. "Once we realize that we are keeping low-income and minority kids out of the rigorous courses, there can only be two arguments for keeping it that way: Either we think they can't learn, or we think they're not worth teaching.
"The first argument would be factually wrong. The second would be morally wrong."
This is kinda funny coming from him. On other occasions he has talked in a very un-Lake Woebegone fashion.
A collaborative culture, reinforced by information flow, makes it possible for smart people all over a company to be in touch with each other. When you get a critical mass of high-IQ people working in concert, the energy level shoots way up.
MM: Last night [at the Fall Comdex 2003 keynote address] you were talking about certain other companies who you think are real competitors, who are doing good work: Sony, Nokia, Google. What about those companies makes them the companies that you admire? What can Microsoft learn from them?
BG: Well, they have high-IQ engineers. We do too. A lot of great things happen when these companies that can take a long-term approach, and have real research, and have good engineers, go after interesting problems.
Here's another quote from the days when America's richest man could be more honest. A November 25, 1996 Fortune article by Randall E. Stross, entitled "Microsoft's Big Advantage - Hiring Only the Supersmart," featured some surprisingly frank statements by Bill Gates that sound like The Bell Curve on steroids:
Gates is blunt. "There is no way of getting around [the fact] that, in terms of IQ, you've got to be very elitist in picking the people who deserve to write software." … Microsoft could teach its employees in specific skill areas, but it could not instill intelligence and creativity - those, Gates said, were "reasonably innate." The best programmers, in Gates's view, are people who are "supersmart." … His self-confessed "bias" in hiring - "toward intelligence or smartness over anything else, even, in many cases, experience."
Where his own business is concerned Bill Gates is super realistic and we all know how well that realism has worked for him. If he wants to help our country he ought to try being realistic about the entire American population.
Restructuring elementary schools and high schools is not going to result in the creation of more high IQ students who are smart enough to appeal to Bill Gates as potential employees. The vast bulk of the super-brights are going to graduate from high school and go to college. However, there is one way in which educational restructuring in America could help Gates: If smart kids were allowed to get educated on much more rapid learning tracks via use of technology then they could graduate from high school and college years sooner and have easily 4 years added to their younger and smarter work years.
If Gates wanted to promote educational reforms that are in his company's economic interest he ought to push for the high resolution video recording of many college-level courses in scientific and technical fields so that bright teens could learn college material at a greatly accelerated rate while still living at home. He should fund the writing of college-level textbooks that can be downloaded for free by pre-college students. He also should fund the development of testing software that would automate tests delivered over the internet. Then bright people could enter the work force with younger minds and work more years while their minds are youthful and most vigorous.
The chattering class that discusses educational reform spouts lots of nonsense. Some do this out of ignorance. Some do so because they fear to break the taboos that must be broken in order to be able to discuss human minds realistically. Still others have a variety of self interests for propagating falsehoods. While some want to deceive and some are ignorant those who are more realistic in their own minds ought to try harder to promote policies that would work well for what humans are like in reality. For example, the idea of creating specialized personal curricula by use of technology would be a good idea even if everyone had the same intellectual capacity. Technology can deliver content that caters to specific interests of each student and could deliver course content in much more flexible, higher quality, and cheaper ways.
Another way that schooling could be made more realistic without the promoters of new policies violating liberal taboos about human intelligence would be to promote vocational learning by admitting that not everyone wants to go to college. Even among those who do go to college some do not learn anything useful there and, well, the carpentry work, electrical work, steel work, and other vocations are still there and there is a market demand for people to do these sorts of jobs. The schools are not serving these people well by providing them with the opportunity to learn marketable skills in occupations that they either can or want to do.
The New York Times has an awfully politically incorrect headline on an article about Dutch who are fleeing their country: "More Dutch Plan to Emigrate as Muslim Influx Tips Scales" (same article here)
This small nation is a magnet for immigrants, but statistics suggest there is a quickening flight of the white middle class. Dutch people pulling up roots said they felt a general pessimism about their small and crowded country and about the social tensions that had grown along with the waves of newcomers, most of them Muslims. "The Dutch are living in a kind of pressure cooker atmosphere," Mr. Hiltemann said.
Foreign born are 10% of the population of the Netherlands. Immigrants commit an outsized proportion of crimes.
Immigrant youths now make up half the prison population. More than 40 percent of immigrants receive some form of government assistance, a source of resentment among native Dutch. Immigrants say, though, that they are widely discriminated against.
If the second and later generation descendants of immigrants were included in the crime figures the picture would no doubt be even bleaker. Of coursethe immigrants are reproducing much miore rapidly than the Dutch. The Dutch should stop committing national suicide. They should put an end to all immigration.
A screening of Theo van Gogh's film 'Submission', scheduled for the Rotterdam film festival was cancelled by the producer of his film company, Gijs van Westerlaken, for 'security reasons. Ironically, the far left Groen Links and Socialist party joined forces with the Christian Democrats to petition the Justice Minister to insist the film be shown in order not to hand a victory to the terrorists.The decision not to show the film was widely criticised both in Holland and abroad, and seen as a victory for the terrorists,who are trying to impose Islamic law on Dutch society.
The Sunday Times of London has a great and rather long article about immigration in Europe which I highly recommend you read in full. Polls of Muslims in Holland about the 9/11 attacks helped catalyze the shift of Dutch positions away from tolerance of immigrants and this shift allowed Pim Fortuyn to launch his political career.
The consensus has shifted across the board. In a country that can still seem a parody of itself — a magistrate ruled recently that an armed robber was entitled to a tax rebate on the cost of his gun as a tool of his trade — even the leader of the Green party has called for it to be illegal for Muslims to import spouses through arranged marriages. Integrated teams, drawn from the police, social welfare and housing offices, are used to locate and arrest illegals. Social welfare knows who is drawing benefit, housing offices have addresses, and police check for criminal records. The number of asylum seekers has been slashed from 43,000 to 10,000 a year, nine-tenths of whom have their applications rejected.
Multiculturalism is damned. A recent poll found 80% in favour of stronger measures to get immigrants to integrate — and 40% said they "hoped" Muslims "no longer feel at home here".
How did this happen? The first open shift came in 2001, with 9/11. Frits Bolkestein, the leader of the VVD Conservative Liberals, had struck a chord in the 1990s with his insistence that immigrants conform to western culture, but immigration issues were largely the preserve of "racists" and "crypto-Nazis" on the political margins. Then came reports that the atrocities in New York and Washington had been greeted with cheers in parts of Rotterdam. Forum, the Dutch institute for multicultural development, commissioned an opinion poll of Dutch Muslims. It showed that 48% had "complete understanding" and 27% "some understanding" of the attacks. Overall, only 62% disapproved. Wim Kok, the then prime minister, expressed his shock. The poll was said to be "unbalanced".
Another was held. This found that, although only a small number of Turkish and Surinamese Muslims supported the attacks, 26% of ethnic Moroccans approved of them.
Facts about the Muslim Moroccan immigrant assassin of Dutch filmmaker Theo Van Gogh call into question the argument for assimilation as the solution. Van Gogh's assassin could write excellent Dutch and even had adopted some Dutch cultural practices.
The murder forced another highly sensitive issue — religion — into the mix. The Dutch were brought face to face with the disturbing fact that a full-blown jihadist group had grown up in their midst, and that it was locally born and recruited. It was, they say, their own 9/11. Van Gogh's alleged assassin, Mohammed B, a 26-year-old Dutch Moroccan, spoke and wrote excellent Dutch. The farewell letter found on him when he was arrested was written in rhyming couplets, in the style that Dutch families send to one another each Sinterklaas (Santa Claus) Day, December 5. He had studied at a well-regarded lyceum before dropping out of a technical institute.
He then started spending time at the Al-Tawhid mosque in Amsterdam. At some stage he joined a militant Islamic group, the Hofstad group, named after the Hague, where it was based. It was led by Redouan al-Issa, alias Abu Khaled, a Syrian-born geologist turned spiritual leader. Mohammed B's friends included Samir Azzouz, an 18-year-old radical later arrested for plotting to bomb Schiphol airport and the Dutch parliament.
Slums and poverty played no part in Mohammed B's background. He grew up in pleasant, low-rise housing in west Amsterdam, graffiti-free, with open spaces and playgrounds. When arrested, he was living in good council housing. The street has small, modern houses, with well-tended gardens, the hedges trimmed, and a heron often standing on a rooftop. Lace curtains mark the Dutch houses; satellite dishes are the ubiquitous indicator of immigrants.
Well, Muslim kids will be Muslim kids. Playing around at blowing up Parliaments and airports, killing documentary filmmakers, all the regular stuff associated with growing up as a Muslim boy around non-Muslim populations. This is to be expected. Why do people make such a big deal of it? Oh right, the whole thing about the non-Muslims expecting more respect. But they are non-Muslims. How can they be expected to be treated as equals by Muslims? Of course many young Muslim hotheads will outgrow this youthful stage and develop greater ambitions like becoming a middle manager of terrorist cells or even a chief executive of a terrorist organization or, for those who want a more publically visible role as a pillar of the community, becoming a firebrand preacher rallying the next generation to Jihad at the local mosque. Some of the technically more adept may get into administering Islamist jihad websites. Even those caught committing crimes against non-believers can serve the constructive purpose of recruiting more Muslims to Jihad in the prisons.
In Holland, unlike in the mainstream media in America, higher rates of use of government entitlements is seen as a sign that immigrants just may not be vital to the economy.
The debate can be highly sensitive. Ethnic minorities account for 40% of social-security recipients, with a rate six times higher than for the native Dutch. They have a high unemployment rate, and they make up a large majority of the prison population. This is seen as undermining the accepted wisdom that immigrants are vital to the economy.
How could such a thing be true if a reigning national mythology of America is that immigration made America great and immigration is always a boon for existing Americans? Could it be that the people peddling this mythology are intellectual con artists peddling an agenda for their own economic or political or ethnic group interests? Could the mythology about immigration be a bright shining lie?
Well, here's an obviously anti-family policy: By letting Dutch Muslims to bring in spouses to marry they are encouraging a policy that causes marriages to end in divorce.
It includes marriage patterns. Three-quarters of young Muslims, including those who are Dutch born, marry a partner from their country of origin. "It's often a cash transaction," Wilders claims. "Two-thirds of them divorce after three years — the minimum period for the spouse to get the right of residence."
So the asylum root into Holland has been pretty much cut off. But the marriage route is alive and thriving. I bet a Moroccan Muslim in the Netherlands could marry a series of foreign partners to bring in many people. Oh, and they allow family reunification immigrants. So bring in the brother or son or mother. This allows chain immigration just as happens in the United States. Chain immigration should be brought to an end.
While Holland is cracking down Spain is being supremely stupid about immigration.
And what of the EU? "Migration has to be managed at a European level," Aboutaleb says. "But there is no common sense on asylum or illegals," he adds. Because EU passports are recognised throughout the union, the action of one country in accepting — or refusing — migrants affects others.
Aboutaleb cites Spain as an example. In 2000, it had an amnesty of 250,000 sin papeles (illegals). This month, at a time of increasing controls elsewhere, it announced another amnesty. "Spain has perhaps a million illegals, in agriculture and construction," Aboutaleb says. "The moment they get an EU passport, they can move all over Europe.
Predictably lots of people are flowing into Spain from within and outside of Europe with false papers trying to get in on the Spanish amnesty.
The mandarins in Brussels and some of the national governments are still intent on collective cultural suicide. The recent decision in Brussels to begin accession talks to make Muslim Turkey a member of the EU is folly on an enormous scale. But populations (and even some politicians) in some of the member states (most notably Holland and Denmark) are turning hard against immigration and against Muslim immigration in particular.
German publisher Mathias Dúpfner says that Europe is pursuing the same policy of appeasement toward Muslims that Europe pursued toward Hitler: appeasement.
Is Europe giving way to blackmail? The question was raised in Germany last month by an article in Die Welt, the country's most heavyweight paper, by Mathias Dúpfner, head of the big Axel Springer publishing group. He titled it Europe — Thy Name Is Cowardice. He said that a crusade is under way "by fanatic Muslims, focused on civilians, directed against our free, open western societies" that is set upon the "utter destruction" of western civilisation. This enemy, he said, was spurred on by "tolerance" and "accommodation", which were taken as signs of weakness. Europe's supine response, he said, was on a par with the appeasement of Hitler.
Can "The Death Of The West" be prevented? As demonstrated by the Theo Van Gogh murder it depends in part on the tactics adopted by the most extreme Muslims. Barring big shocks that wake people up to the damage that immigration is doing to Europe there is a tendency to slowly acclimate to gradually worsening conditions. Leftists who hate their own societies have been only too willing to rationalize and excuse the behavior of immigrants. Business interests that are interested in cheap labor provide another pillar of support for immigration that is a net harm to societies. To repeat a quote from James Q. Wilson which Steve Sailer has recently posted on his site:
The great achievement of Western culture since the Enlightenment is to make many of us peer over the wall and grant some respect to people outside it; the great failure of Western culture is to deny that walls are inevitable or important.
A curious thing is happening in Belgium these days: a small but vocal number of Jews are supporting a far-right party whose founders were Nazi collaborators. The xenophobic party, Vlaams Belang, plays on fears of Arab immigrants and, unlike the prewar parties from which it is descended, courts Jewish votes. Perhaps 5 percent of the city of Antwerp's Jews gave it their votes in the last election.
The Belgian example is extreme, but it represents the sharpest edge of a much broader political shift by European Jews - away from the left, particularly the far left, and toward the center and right, in the face of rising displays of anti-Semitism and the European left's embrace of the Palestinian cause.
Vlaams Belang is the reborn Vlaams Blok party which the leftists in power in Belgium banned. Political freedom in Belgium is pretty limited if you are not left-wing.
Despite having three times the population of Argentina, Mexico produces about 2,000 fewer titles each year. There are roughly 500 bookstores in Mexico, which translates into one for every 200,000 Mexicans, compared to a ratio of one to 35,000 in the US and one to 12,000 in Spain, according to the Mexican Booksellers Association. A recent UNESCO study revealed that Mexicans read on average just over two books per year, while Swedes finish that many every month.
The Mexican government has made great strides, reducing illiteracy to less than 8 percent, compared with around 20 percent two decades ago, placing it leagues ahead of Central American countries and even beyond Latin America's other economic powerhouse, Brazil. Yet it has had little success encouraging active reading.
Bookstores are a lot like America to most Mexicans: a foreign alien land.
But, some argue, the European countries already had a public predisposed to reading. "For the majority of Mexicans, bookstores are a completely alien place," says Jesus Anaya, editorial director at publishing house Grupo Planeta. Although more titles and lower prices would certainly appeal to current readers, he doubts they'll create new ones. "I'm not sure that waving a magic wand of fixed prices can bring this cadaver to life."
Of course this is consistent with average Mexican immigrant academic performance in the United States. Over 4 generations there is no trend of improvement in academic performance though the first generation native born descendants are an improvement over the average 8th grade educational level of the initial arrivals. America is a first world country with a highly productive and developed economy. That economy has a declining demand for low skilled manual laborers as demonstrated by a continually widening gap between the most and least skilled and as a result wages at the bottom end are not keeping up with average wage increases. The most developed economy in the world does not need immigrants who do not like books.
This study employs a new approach to examine the impact of immigration on the U.S. economy. Unlike earlier studies, we do not treat the movement of immigrant labor into this country in isolation. Older studies assumed that abundant resources and demand for labor was the primary reason for immigration, assumptions more appropriate to the 19th century. We start by assuming that the technological superiority of the modern American economy and resulting high standard of living is the primary factor motivating immigration. The study also takes into account the new global economy, including the movement of capital as well as trade. Our findings show that immigration creates a net loss for natives of nearly $70 billion annually.
Among the report’s findings:
- In 2002, the net loss to U.S. natives from immigration was $68 billion.
- This $68 billion annual loss represents a $14 billion increase just since 1998. As the size of the immigrant population has continued to increase, so has the loss.
- The decline in wages is relative to the price of goods and services, so the study takes into account any change in consumer prices brought about by immigration.
- The negative effect comes from increases in the supply of labor and not the legal status of immigrants.
- While natives lose from immigration, the findings show that immigrants themselves benefit substantially by coming to America.
- Those who remain behind in their home countries also benefit from the migration of their countrymen.
The model used in this study can be summarized as follows: High U.S. productivity motivates the entry of foreign workers and capital. As a consequence, the movement of foreign labor and capital into the United States expands U.S. exports and reduces exports by foreign countries who now have fewer workers and less capital. This depresses the prices of U.S. exports while raising the price of its imports, which is bad for U.S. natives. While the addition of immigrant workers makes the overall U.S. economy larger, natives in the United States are worse off because immigrants take not just the increase in income, but other income as well. This is because American workers are now competing with foreign workers who, because they have entered the United States, now have access to superior American technology, which is the primary source of American workers’ competitive advantage in the international economy. In other words, American workers are better off competing with foreigners if the foreign workers stay in their own countries and don’t have access to American technology. By allowing the foreign workers into the United States, Americans face competition with foreigners equipped with American technology.
This is an interesting argument. Their approach is valuable because they at least put the higher productivity of the US economy at the center of their analysis. But the analysis fails to take account for the reasons why American workers have access to superior technology. Most notably, American workers possess the capacity to develop advanced technology in the first place. Therefore it makes sense to differentiate between those immigrants who enhance our ability to develop productivity-increasing technology and those immigrants who detract from it. For example, engineers who develop ways to make car factories more productive are assets to the economy as a whole because they do work that raises the productivity of the American work force. By contrast, low riders who develop new ways to steal cars are quite glaring drags on the economy.
One of the reasons I favor a far more restrictionist approach to immigration is that our current mix of immigrants includes too many people who are not contributing to making the economy more productive and who are instead contributing to making the economy less productive. Take criminals for example. They destroy things and harm victims. But they also cause the labor of many more skilled workers to be diverted away from productivity-enhancing work. People who work as prosecuting attorneys and defense attorneys are people who are not working as patent lawyers, accountants, architects, engineers, or medical researchers among other more constructive occupations. Social workers spend their days dealing with the problems created by lower classes of society. Those social workers might otherwise be more productively employed in customer service and technical support of medical devices and software companies for example.
Put aside the mythology which has been promoted about all immigrants as beneficial to America and look at the actual empirical social science evidence on Hispanic immigrants in particular. The Hispanics create a number of problems for Americans. Hispanics are very poorly educated when they arrive, do not rise scholastically to American average levels over successive generations (and, generally speaking, immigrants quickly reach the level of scholastic achievement that their group will stay at in later generations, earn lower incomes (and hence pay less in taxes than they receive in benefits), have kids illegitimately at higher rates, and commit crimes at higher rates (and also see here).
Our country is made richer by innovators, inventors, venture capitalists, engineers, scientists, and sharp managers. Those people tend to be smarter and have advanced training in quite difficult subjects. Immigrant groups whose members are greatly underrepresented in higher educational attainment and in those occupations are not raising America up to higher living standards and better environments. The mythology that argues that all immigrants are beneficial to America is obviously false and we can no longer afford to embrace it just because it sounds nice and makes lots of people feel good.
Steve Sailer has a great quote from social scientist James Q. Wilson (whose books Thinking About Crime and Crime & Human Nature are worth the time to read btw) that sums up my own attitude about immigration:
The great achievement of Western culture since the Enlightenment is to make many of us peer over the wall and grant some respect to people outside it; the great failure of Western culture is to deny that walls are inevitable or important.
Economists and actuaries at the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services and the National Health Statistics Group are projecting much higher spending for medical care in the US economy by 2014.
National health spending growth is anticipated to remain stable at just over 7.0 percent through 2006, the result of diverging public- and private-sector spending trends. The faster public-sector spending growth is exemplified by the introduction of the new Medicare drug benefit in 2006. While this benefit is anticipated to have only a minor impact on overall health spending, it will result in a significant shift in funding from private payers and Medicaid to Medicare. By 2014, total health spending is projected to constitute 18.7 percent of gross domestic product, from 15.3 percent in 2003.
Of course medical costs will continue to rise beyond 2014. But 2014 is not even 10 years away. Think ahead another 10 years . Young people are going to become wage slaves for the old.
By 2014, overall medical payments are projected at about $3.6 trillion -- with the government footing $1.8 trillion, or 49.4 percent, and private funding covering just over 50 percent, the report said.
Keep in mind that George W. Bush just proposed a 2.57 trillion dollar US federal budget for 2006.
Scared you do not have or may lose medical insurance? You should be. The cost of medical insurance is rising quite rapidly. In fact, health insurance premiums rose 11.2% in 2004. That is a scary increase. The per person costs for medical care will be very high in 2014.
The new report, published yesterday, says spending for health cost will reach a projected $11,045 per person annually by 2014, up from $6,423 now. Nationally, health expenditures were $1.8 trillion last year. By 2014, they are expected to be $3.6 trillion, meaning the government would be paying about $1.8 trillion for health care. President Bush's entire proposed federal budget for next year is $2.57 trillion.
Think about that $11,045 per person figure. The cost is obviously higher for old folks. But working people need to pay for the medical care of older people who are no longer working. So for a person who is working who has a family which includes members that do not work that person has to be earning a really high income to be breaking even in their net financial lifetime effect on society. This illustrates why illegal immigrants who have low educational achievements, low productivity, and hence earn low wages are no bargain. They will cost far more over their lifetimes than they will pay in taxes.
"The whole idea of money moving from a private share to a public share is interesting," said Paul Fronstin, a senior research associate with the Employee Benefit Research Institute, a nonpartisan research group. "It seems to me it gives proponents of national health insurance ammunition to further make their argument that the government is already spending half; why not go the full amount and provide coverage for everybody?"
My guess is that the federal government will be in such a deep financial hole in 8 years that the idea of taking over paying for the health care of the entire population will be considered financially impossible. In 2014 the government will already be spending over 9.3% of the GDP on health care (the total will be 18.7% with the government paying 49.4% of that). It would need to grab over another 9% of the economy in taxes to be able to nationalise all of health care. But the tax increases needed just to support the existing expected increase in old age entitlements will make further tax increases for other non-old age entitlements impossible to enact.
Health care costs for public programs are already straining many state budgets: Texas Gov. Rick Perry last week said his state and others may go bankrupt unless they get additional federal assistance for their Medicaid programs. Many states have already made cuts to Medicaid. And they may have to do more: President Bush's 2006 budget proposes shaving $40 billion from the federal share of Medicaid over 10 years by cracking down on state accounting methods.
Poor folks are politically less organized and less informed than old folks. The poor can not hope to compete for limited dollars in entitlements spending. Don't be poor in 2014. It will not be fun.
Financial disaster is approaching. What is the solution? A huge increase in medical research spending could produce far more effective and therefore much cheaper treatments for diseases. I believe that science holds the only hope for solutions that can have a big enough effect to prevent America from becoming a massive old age home with most of its people working as wage slaves to pay for medical care.
Medicaid spending has shot up 63 percent in the last five years, so that federal and state outlays together now total more than $300 billion a year. With no change in current law, the Congressional Budget Office says, the cost will grow an average of 7.7 percent a year in the next decade.
Governors desperately want to slow the growth of Medicaid, which they say is eating up state tax revenues they want to use for education.
Education is going to experience budget cuts in the coming decades as medical expenses eat up more of state and federal budgets. Think education spending is too low now? It will go lower per student. The money will be channeled to pay for health care of poor folks and old folks.
My modest proposal to reduce the cost of Medicaid: Deport all the illegal aliens. Illegals are driving up the number of medically uninsured. Being medically uninsured is much more common among immigrants. That means everyone else pays more taxes to pay for Medicaid for immigrants. The cost of a single year's tax paid health care for illegal aliens would pay for a barrier to keep out illegals on the full length of the US-Mexican border. Then we'd just have to authorize police to round up illegals and we'd remove millions of people from public subsidy.
Reacting to the news that the new Medicare drug benefit cost has risen to $724 billion for the next 10 years David Brooks of the New York Times is predicting the rise of a young millionaire in Ross Perot's mold to make a run at the White House on the platform of cutting back old age retirement entitlements.
That means we're going to be spending the next few months bleeding over budget restraints that might produce savings in the millions, while the new prescription drug benefit will produce spending in the billions.
That means that as we spend the next year trying to get a grip on one entitlement, Social Security, we'll be launching a new one that is also unsustainable.
Over the next few months we will be watching a government that may be millions-wise, but trillions-foolish. We will be watching a government that sometimes seems to have lost all perspective - like a lunatic who tries to dry himself with a hand towel while standing in a torrential downpour.
It is refreshing to read in the New York Times that old age entitlements programs are going to eat the federal budget and that passing more big entitlements under these circumstances is irresponsible.
Brooks says the well organized old folks are screwing over the young and unborn.
We may as well be blunt about the driving force behind all this. The living and well organized are taking money from the weak and the unborn. Over the past decades we have seen a gigantic transfer of wealth from struggling young families and the next generation to members of the AARP. In 1990, 29 percent of federal spending went to seniors; by 2015 roughly half of all government spending will go to those over 65. This prescription drug measure is just part of that great redistribution.
We ought to be treating the physical aging of the US population as a huge economic problem that should be solved rather than serve as an occasion to further expand the already unsustainable entitlements programs. The population needs to spend more years working and to save more money while working.
To enable people to work longer we need a much more rapid rate of medical advances to produce treatments that will slow the rate of aging and delay the onset of debilitating medical conditions. A more rapid rate of advance in medical research would produce cheaper and better treatments and also allow people to work longer.
Another way to increase the size of the working age population would be to accelerate the rate at which children - especially adolescents - are educated. Video recordings of college level lectures and lectures on useful job skills should be made available to all late grade school and high school students. Standardized tests for college-level courses should be available to allow high school students to get college credit for mastery of subjects. Students should be able to learn 12 months a year at their own pace watching lectures any time of the day or night. If kids could do this then some would take the opportunity to shave years off the time it takes to get a higher education or to gain specific skills useful in the job market. Earlier entry into the job market would increase the size of the skilled labor pool and increase the tax revenue available to fund old age entitlements.
Military hawks who want a large aggressive US military out there in the world please read my lips: Your beloved military is going to be cut down to feed the monstrous old age entitlements programs. The United States is going to cease to be a global power because it is not going to be able to afford to maintain a large navy and bases all over the world. Hawks ought to treat the aging of the US population as a national security threat and measures to accelerate medical research and education should be seen as important to American national grand strategy.
The White House has crafted a clever bit of intellectual camouflage to do what's politically convenient: create a new government benefit at no obvious cost. True, borrowing is a cost, but it's largely hidden from the public. It's not as conspicuous as a tax. What we have here is an exercise in mass deception that, in a weird way, is encouraged by a public that prefers to be deceived rather than face the difficult choices posed by Social Security or the government's budget.
If personal accounts are worth having (they're not), then they're worth paying for through taxes or cuts in other government spending. Perish the thought. The administration created a massive Medicare drug benefit (estimated 2006-15 cost by the Congressional Budget Office: $795 billion) without new taxes, and why shouldn't it do the same for personal accounts? The White House estimates the needed borrowing at $754 billion in the next decade. Democrats on the House budget committee put the first full decade of borrowing at $1.4 trillion.
On the subject of cost estimates of entitlements program changes keep in mind that the historical record has been that the low estimates are usually wrong and greatly so. Though in this case the Democrats certainly have motive to inflate the costs because most of them want to maintain the current entitlements system and gradually increase taxes to pay for it. So it is not clear that their estimate can be trusted.
Entitlements programs can have their benefits cut. It can be argued that it is necessary to cut the entitlements programs for old age in America. Looked at from this perspective the biggest problem with Bush's proposal for private accounts is that he proposes to convert legislatively reducible promises to pay future benefits into legally firmer promises to pay back debts (i.e. US Treasury bonds). So Bush's proposal limits the extent to which benefits cuts (whether by raising retirement age or means testing or changing the formula for yearly increases in payment amounts) can be used as a way to reduce the size of the unfunded liabilities for old age entitlements.
A conservative can plausibly view Bush's proposal as an attempt to ensure the continuation of high tax big government. After all, the Bush proposal would greatly increase government debts and therefore increase the pressure to raise taxes even higher in order to pay down the debt. This would have the effect of racheting up the size of government once the debts have been paid down because taxes increased to pay for the transition costs to a private system would be hard to scale back after privatization costs were paid.
We have to reform the system. There is no free lunch. Private accounts are a fine idea for other problems, such as dependency and transferability to heirs. They are irrelevant to the solvency problem. We would have to raise taxes or cut benefits -- or borrow, endlessly and ruinously.
What, we face only unattractive choices? Then why aren't our leaders presenting those choices to us? Well, democracy is only as good as the voters.
Faced with little support for his proposal Bush is putting forward the idea to increase the Social Security salary cap (currently at $90,000) to raise taxes only on upper income taxpayers.
Marshall Wittmann, a senior fellow at the Democratic Leadership Council, says Bush is testing the waters to see if there's any way to salvage his proposal. But "so far, not so good," he says. "That's why he floated the idea of raising the salary cap, to see if that would fly. He's desperate to find Republican votes as well as Democratic votes."
But, as expected, economic conservative activists such as members of Club for Growth are set against raising the salary cap. The president can't afford to lose that constituency - or worse, have it working against him. So, analysts say, by floating the salary cap increase, he has effectively killed the idea.
The best argument I can see in favor of Bush's proposal is that people would probably be more willing to work long hours to pay high and rising percentages of their incomes into a personal retirement accounts which they think of as their own than pay that same amount of money into the Social Security Trust Fund. Though it must be admitted that money earned that is put into a forced savings account is unlikely to provide as much of an incentive to work as money that is paid into a regular checking account and available for immediate spending. How much of a difference in incentive comes from forcing some portion of income into a personal savings account? I'd love to know the answer to that question.
The biggest problem we face from the Democratic Party's preferred solution of higher taxes is that peoples who pay high tax rates generally work fewer hours per year and their national economies do not grow as rapidly. To the extent that a partial privatization of Social Security would cause workers to think a larger fraction of their paycheck is for themselves this would avoid some of the decrease in incentives for work that will come as taxes are raised to pay for aging populations.
My own favored proposal for attempting to solve the fiscal problems caused by an aging population is to provide much higher government funding to develop better and cheaper medical treatments. More effective medical treatments that attack the underlying mechanisms of disease development will be cheaper than today's less effective treatments and also will increase health so much that people will be able to work longer and pay taxes longer before starting to collect old age entitlements.
Update: For those who are skeptical that medical advances can solve the Western nations' developing old age entitlements funding crisis See William Saletan's Slate essay Biology can solve the Social Security debate.
The decline of physical labor is only one reason why older Americans can work more easily. The other reason is that these people are healthier than folks their age used to be. Last year, Johnson analyzed data on 55- to 60-year-old workers who said their jobs always required physical effort. In 1992, a plurality of these workers said they were in excellent health, and 17 percent said they were in fair or poor health. By 2002, a majority were in excellent health, and less than 11 percent were in fair or poor health. Over the long term, the changes in onset of disease are amazing. Two years ago, economist Lorens Helmchen compared American men born between 1830 and 1845 to those born between 1918 and 1927 (they would be 78 to 87 years old today). On average, the latter group got arthritis, heart disease, or respiratory disease a decade later in life than the former did.
An acceleration of the rate of advance of biomedical sciences would allow us to find ways to push out the onset of disability by still more years. Then people could work longer, pay taxes longer, and start collecting retirement benefits later. This would increase tax revenue while simultaneously decreasing outflows to pay for entitlements.
White parents are making use of Nebraska's rules that let parents send their kids to any public school and are pulling their kids out of schools with lots of Hispanic immigrants. (same article here and here)
Like many of Nebraska's school systems, the Lexington district where Eisenhauer is superintendent has seen an influx of Hispanics, largely because of jobs at the meatpacking plants, and an accompanying exodus of white students to public elementary schools just outside town.
And there is nothing Eisenhauer can do about it. Nebraska law allows students to switch schools without giving a reason.
The white parents are fleeing an ethnic group that does poorly in school and which has more problems with broken families, crime, and other social pathologies. But of course some scoundrels are going to unfairly accuse the parents of ignorant prejudice.
There is a bill in the Nebraska legislature (which is uniquely unicameral if memory serves) to put a stop to white flight from schools. The one Hispanic state legislator is outraged that whites would flee from Hispanics. By contrast, I am outraged that illegal aliens are spreading across the great plains and that George W. Bush and Karl Rove want more, not less, of this. I am also outraged that these Hispanic illegal immigrants are there to drive down the wages in meatpacking plants where wages were already pretty low to begin with.
The ability to send kids to other districts is preventing a white flight at the level of residential neighborhood living.
Beginning in the 1960s, white flight to the suburbs left many big-city school systems across the country predominantly black. But what is happening in Nebraska is a different phenomenon: The white families are staying put; they are just sending their kids to school outside town.
This is possible because Nebraska, unlike many other states and communities, does not require students to attend the schools in the district in which they live.
If this bill passes then the white flight will escalate to the level of selling houses and buying or building houses in other school districts. This will be far more expensive for the white parents and will do serious harm to the quality of life in the towns and cities the whites will flee from. Take away the group that has the highest level of reproduction in marriage (Hispanics have about twice the illegitimacy rate of whites) and the most economically successful, educated, law-abiding, and civically active members of a community and that community will deteriorate. Of course, if more people who are poorly educated, earn lower incomes, have kids illegitimately at higher rates, and commit crimes at higher rates (and also see here) then the whites will eventually flee anyway. But take away their ability to put their kids in better schools and they will flee sooner and in larger numbers.
What is most disappointing about this story if that even if a person is willing to move to a fairly lowly populated state that is widely seen as undesirable due to climate and business conditions immigration still reaches such places and make them worse than they already are. We need to put a stop to massive immigration before more places in America become places to flee from.
Update: One other point: Nebraska has a grade school system that is, in effect, a public school voucher system. Why hasn't this fact attracted more attention from policy wonks and political commentators? Parents can send their kids to any public school that they can manage to arrange to have their kids transported to daily. It would be interesting to know what percentage of the parents used this ability before the Hispanics showed up. One reason vouchers are feared by middle and upper class suburbanites is that the suburbanites see vouchers as a mechanism that would take from them the rights to good schools (read: good fellow students) that they purchased when they bought their expensive houses. If Hispanics rather than whites start using the Nebraska system to send their kids to schools in other districts then expect the white population in Nebraska to quickly shift against the continuance of the current system.
Brain draining is happening all over the world. While medical brain draining of Africa is a tragedy that gets a lot of continuing press what is less remarked upon is the brain draining of Eastern Europe.
According to a recent survey of the Faculty of Medicine in Budapest, 66 percent of graduates in the European Union's new member said they plan to work abroad while 33 percent said they have already started searching for work in western Europe.
Some 430 young doctors have left the country for better paying jobs since Hungary joined the bloc on May 1 of last year, according to Ivan Golub, president of the Union of Hungarian Hospitals.
Anyone know how many doctors are in Hungary? The country has a total population of about 10 million people. The United States has about 190 physicians per 100,000 population (which is similar to Norway and a few other Western countries if memory serves - though socialist Canada is of course substantially lower). So we'd expect Hungary to have about 19,000 physicians if it had a ratio similar to that of the United States.
Hungary is turning around and brain-draining even poorer countries.
The job vacancies in Hungary are often filled by ethnic Hungarians who live in poor neighbouring countries, such as Romania, Ukraine or Serbia.
Up to one-third of the vacant medical positions in central Hungary are filled with doctors from these countries, MTI national news agency reported earlier this month.
When a country that has medical doctor salaries that are a tenth the Swiss level can turn around and brain drain its neighbors you just know that the neighbors have pathetically low salaries. What will happen to those pathetically poor countries in the future?
The Ukraine and Serbia are outside of the EU and hence it is harder for their nationals to get work in European Union countries. But think about Romania. It is now in the EU and while some labor movement restrictions are still in place it is so poor that even Hungary can brain drain it. That does not bode well for the future ability of Romania's people to get health care.
One factor that makes it easier for Hungary to brain drain Romania is that Romania contains ethnic Hungarians within its borders.
Perhaps the Romanian government could work out a deal whereby it trained many more doctors in exchange for those doctors taking on training cost debts that they could pay off by working in wealthier European countries. Might the Romanian government even strike a deal with some of those countries to guarantee collection of such debts from salaries paid in those countries? If the price for the training was set high enough then the Romanian medical schools could use the debt payback to fund the training of other doctors who would be obligated to work some number of years in Romania before leaving.
The film, "Those People, That Time," opened this month amid a firestorm of conservative criticism for its fictionalized portrayal of the 1979 assassination of dictator Park Chung Hee.
A major conservative party in South Korea supported efforts to get the film banned by a court ruling. A court ordered editorial changes in the film.
The conservative Grand National Party supports the campaign against the film, in part because Park's daughter is its leader. A court ruled against a ban of the film, but ordered the deletion of newsreel footage that gives a veneer of historical accuracy.
Park Jin, a conservative party leader in the National Assembly, says he still believes that many who see the film "could easily be confused." And, he says, he could not "exclude the possibility that the message of the film was political."
Leave aside the debate by South Koreans over their own history. What is noteworthy here is that a South Korean court could order newsreel footage taken out of a movie. Imagine a US court ordering the removal of news clips from, say, Fahrenheit 9/11 because the court judge(s) decided the news clips lent too much authority or credence to the political message of the film. It would correctly be seen as a clear violation of speech rights. Yet in South Korea this is obvioulsy acceptable. The judge or judges who made this ruling will not be removed from the bench because they have stepped over the line.
Democracy is oversold (notably by neocon liberals but also by conventional liberals) as the panacea that can solve all the political problems of the world. But democracy does not automatically and reliably produce freedom. Lots of democracies amount to dictatorships by the elite leaders of the majority. Democracy does not always produce political harmony or peace. Some nations have had elections and then immediately plunged into civil war (the United States in 1860 and Algeria in 1992 to cite just two examples). Democracy and a free press do not always produce governments and news media that are friendly to the United States as events in Islamic Turkey are demonstrating. The neoconservative strategy of forced democratization is based on false assumptions about human nature and politics.
The "operators," Special Forces troops qualified to go out into the field and deal with terrorists, or any other situation, are not numerous. Three years ago, there were 3,850 of them. Special Forces training schools turned out about 350 new ones each year. Soon after September 11, 2001, it was decided to double the number of operators, but in three years, the number has only increased to 3,950. The Special Forces schools are turning out 620 new operators a year. The major cause for the inability to increase the number of Special Forces is not casualties. Losses from death and disability have been less than a hundred. Most of the losses have been from experienced operators retiring (if they have at least 20 years of service), or just quitting (if not) to take better paying civilian jobs.
Well stop and ask yourself: What are these better paying civilian jobs? My guess is the vast bulk of those jobs are in Iraq for security of Western contractors working there doing rebuilding. So the invasion of Iraq is causing the draining of special forces into the private sector. Plus, there are no doubt special forces soldiers tied down in Iraq who are still serving in the US military. Therefore the number of "operators" available for use outside of Iraq is lower now than it was before 9/11. Next time someone claims that Iraq has not been a distraction from the war against terrorists here's another reason to cite for why it has been.
If anyone comes across any articles on the number of ex-Special Forces serving in Iraq as private contractors please post in the comments.
Update: The original source for this story appears to be a Rowan Scarborough article in the Washington Times (same article here) and it is about the Green Berets specifically.
The Army is producing slightly more Green Berets as the chiefs of U.S. regional commands, called combatant commanders, place increased mission demands on the commandos. The five groups boast 3,950 Special Forces-qualified soldiers today, compared with 3,850 three years ago.
I've previously read reports that a similar pattern is happening with other elite forces such as SEALs and Delta Force. If anyone comes across information about the staffing levels of those other elite units please post links in the comments.
In addition, the Pentagon's 2006 budget proposal calls for increasing the current special forces by 1,200 military and 200 civilians. There are about 49,000 people in U.S. special forces today.
Yet some special operations branches already can't meet their authorized strength. The Navy SEALs have only 89 percent of the enlisted personnel they're supposed to have, Raines said, while an Army spokesman said the Green Berets are running at about 98 percent of expected strength.
Note that contrary to the argument of one person in the comments the military itself refers to all the soldiers in the special operations branches as "special forces".
William Gheen of the American for Legal Immigration Political Action Committee (AILPAC) has an article in VDare reporting on a purge of immigration restrictionist advocates from the Frree Republic web site discussion forums.
Members and readers of Free Republic would be surprised to know that many members of their community have fallen silent on the discussions about illegal immigration lately because free speech is an illusion on FreeRepublic.com. They are silent because they have been banned from the Web site without warning, cause, or explanation in most cases. For weeks the moderators have been suspending and banning new members that chimed in quickly on the immigration debates.[Cache of ALIPAC posts, banned]
Now this trend has broadened as the first groups of long-term users were suspended or banned this past week. Although Robinson and his staff removed many members of the Free Republic community in the first few days of the purge, those that religiously support President Bush's immigration plan, open borders and approve of public benefits for illegal aliens remain on the forum. Those that were banned were the members that wanted more done to control illegal immigration and a strict observance to the President's Oath of Office.
By taking sides with the open borders lobby, Jim Robinson has taken a position that is at odds with more than 80 percent of the Free Republic community and the majority of conservatives in America. The fact he is using tactics his own users would find unethical to censor articles and silence opposition with banishments and intimidation is of great concern to all of us as Americans. New members of Free Republic and those that are not aware of Robinson's covert attempts to stifle debate should be warned.
Robinson predictably calls the restrictionists all sorts of the standard nasty names.
In an update Gheen reports that conservative Fox TV News political talk show host Sean Hannity has a dim view of the Free Republic.
Robinson’s biggest mistake, besides implying he was fighting to keep Free Republic safe from secret Nazi conspiracies, was to show that the points of the original article were true for all to see. He banned true conservatives left and right in a vain attempt to control the debate while calling people names without any evidence his character attacks were true. He shot himself in the foot while that foot was placed deeply in his own mouth.
Robinson later admitted he had no direct evidence that any of the groups and individuals he banned and maligned were racists. He even admitted that he supported the President’s guest worker plan and ran a new poll that shows Freeper conservatives are clearly opposed to the Bush immigration plan. In this case it is Mr. Robinson that represents the fringe element and has supported unsubstantiated personal attacks on his forum.
Even Sean Hannity has written off Free Republic, saying "Everyone I knew basically left because of so much childish immature personal attacks, the propensity there to eat their own." [Listen to Sean Hannity’s Statement about Free Republic. ]
There is perhaps irony in Hannity's reaction because the claim has been made that Hannity's own discussion board censors posters who oppose Bush's illegal alien immigration plan. Parenthetically, there is a reason why criticism of Bush's plan has to be censored: It is really bad. See my previous post "Thinking About Bush's Less Than Half-Baked Worker Permit Proposal" to read about just how bad that proposal really is.
I used to think that Robinson was simply an egotistical fool. Now, with the revelation of Bush White House subsidies to media supporters, I naturally wonder if more is involved.
My take on Jim Robinson's move is that it is seriously backfiring. He has scaled up his on-going purges to a level that has made them too visible and he's chosen to do this on an issue which elicits strongly held views and where he's far out of sync with the views of the majority of the people on the political right. Free Republic is going to become a shadow of its former self in terms of influence. So many members will be banned or leave on their own accord that Free Republic's hey days are likely behind it. Other sites that host uncensored (except for spam) conservative political debate forums are going to receive a fair number of new members as former Freepers look for new places to go. If enough sites of that sort do not already exist they can be created fairly easily and cheaply. If you know of any conservative or otherwise right-wing general political discussion forum sites (as distinct from blog sites that allow comments) which do not censor immigration restrictionist add links to them in the comments. Gheen has a list of threads in various sites that are discussing the Freeper purge. AILPAC has its own discussion forums including a section devoted to threads on the Freeper purge.
Robinson's purge is backfiring most strongly in the debate about immigration. His purge fits into a larger pattern of elite disdain for popular opinion and the purge serves to draw attention to the extent of the elite disdain of popular opinion on immigration and of the extreme measures which many in the Open Borders lobby will adopt in their attempt to shut out popular views.
US Senator John Cornun (R-TX) thinks George W. Bush's proposal for a massive worker permit program for illegal aliens is too strict because it requires illegals to go back to their country of origin before applying to return with a work permit. Cornyn wants to simply convert illegals already in the United States into legal temporary workers.
Sen. John Cornyn, Texas Republican and the chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee's immigration subcommittee, also said he thinks new temporary workers from overseas must return home after their work visa ends, but he is skeptical about how successful it would be to have illegal aliens return home before applying for the program in the first place.
"A program that told people you'd have to leave to go apply for it would be viewed as sufficiently punitive that people would say, 'Look, I'll just take my chances under the status quo,' which to me is not good," Mr. Cornyn told The Washington Times in a recent interview in his office in the Senate Hart Office Building.
Now, it can be argued that he did not explicitly say the illegals should be able to apply for legal work permits while still in the United States. But he does not like the requirement to make them go home and he likes the work permit program idea. So his preferred solution is obvious: let them stay and just become legal workers.
If illegal aliens can not be expected to return home to apply for a work visa then why is it reasonable to expect that they would voluntarily return home when their work visa expired? Also, my guess is that many illegals who are already here working will just choose to stay here working illegally rather than identify themselves to authorities by applying for a work visa that might not be granted. After all, if an illegal has been here for many years already he or she probably thinks the odds of getting caught are pretty low. There is a big disincentive for illegals to become temporary workers: the application for a temporary worker permit effectively identifies and tags them to the government and starts a clock running where they will be expected to leave either if their work permit application is rejected or when their work permit expires. Why should long term illegal aliens - or those who have the ambition to be long term illegal aliens - give up the potential to live and work here many more years by applying for a work permit?
There are many reasons why Bush's illegal alien worker permit program will have many harmful effects and will not stop the flow of illegal aliens into the United States. See my previous post "Thinking About Bush's Less Than Half-Baked Worker Permit Proposal" for lists of arguments on various aspects of Bush's proposal.
In his January 2005 State Of The Union message George W. Bush made it clear that he still favors his massive alien worker permit program.
"It is time for an immigration policy that permits temporary guest workers to fill jobs Americans will not take, that rejects amnesty, that tells us who is entering and leaving our country, and that closes the border to drug dealers and terrorists," Mr. Bush said.
The door can't be closed to terrorists without making illegal entry into the country extremely difficult for everyone. But Bush is not pushing to make all illegal entry much more difficult. So Bush is not really pushing to make illegal entry by terrorists much more difficult.
But the plan still faces serious obstacles, including strong opposition from a group of about 70 House conservatives led by Rep. Tom Tancredo, R-Colo., who has called it a "pig with lipstick."
Mark Krikorian doesn't think George W. Bush is being rational in formulating his immigration policies.
Mark Krikorian, president of the Center for Immigration Studies, a group favoring tighter immigration laws, says most guest workers will not want to return to their home countries.
A guest worker plan "assumes that we can use the labor of people and then get rid of them. No guest worker program has ever succeeded in doing that anywhere in the world," he said.
"The president is emotionally committed to open immigration," he said. "He is projecting his feelings for his gardener and his cook to all immigrants."
Yes, Bush's immigration policies are seem irrational (at least if we expect immigration policy to be formulated from the standpoint of US national interests). Though he may be pursuing rather narrow family interests by promoting the political future of his half-Mexican nephew George P. Bush. But even George P. Bush can't hope to pull in many Hispanic votes unless he switches his allegiance to the Democratic Party.
Cornyn and other Senators who favor either a worker permit program or even a more overt amnesty want to take the Real ID Act recently passed by the US House of Representatives and add the Real ID Act to a larger immigration bill that would create a work permit system.
Sen. John Cornyn, the Texas Republican who chairs the Senate Judiciary immigration subcommittee, said he is working with Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist, R-Tenn., to determine how to address the Sensenbrenner bill.
"I have always believed that we need to take a comprehensive look at immigration," said Cornyn, who supports the driver's license elements of the House bill.
The measure also mandates completion of a border fence near San Diego that has been held up amid environmental concerns.
So the immigration political fight of 2005 is shaping up as a fight between a US Senate that overall favors turning millions of illegal aliens into legalized workers in a worker permit system and a US House of Representatives whose Republican majority is opposed to worker permit proposals and who favor cracking down on illegals via a number of means including tougher laws for getting drivers licenses and tougher immigration law enforcement.
As the immigration debate develops in 2005 keep in mind the arguments I have in my post "Thinking About Bush's Less Than Half-Baked Worker Permit Proposal" for why the Bush proposal will not stop the flow of illegal aliens over the border and why it will not convert many of the currently illegal into legal status. The main effect of the Bush bill will be to create conditions for even larger influxes of illegals as more people come and work here and establish ties and accumulate resources here that will help them return illegally when their worker permits expire and to bring in family members illegally.
A record number of students define themselves at the political extremes of "far right" and "far left," according to the results of UCLA's annual survey of the nation's students entering undergraduate classes. The fall 2004 survey, conducted by the Higher Education Research Institute (HERI) at UCLA's Graduate School of Education & Information Studies, finds that 3.4 percent of students consider themselves as "far left" and 2.2 percent as "far right."
"Although these percentages are small, the change between 2003 and 2004 numbers — concurrent with the presidential election year — reflects the largest one-year shift in students' political orientation in the 35 years that it has been included in the survey," said Linda J. Sax, UCLA associate professor of education and director of the survey.
Identification as either "liberal" (26.1 percent) or "conservative" (21.9 percent) is also up from last year. "Middle-of-the-road" remains the most popular category at 46.4 percent, but reaches its lowest point in more than 30 years, and marks a nearly four-percentage point drop since last year (50.3 percent in 2003). (See Figure 1.)
Now in its 39th year, the UCLA survey is the nation's longest running and most comprehensive assessment of student attitudes and plans. The survey serves as a resource for researchers, practitioners and policy makers throughout the world.
The 2004 freshman norms are based on the responses of 289,452 students at 440 of the nation's baccalaureate colleges and universities. The data have been statistically adjusted to reflect the responses of the 1.2 million first-time, full-time students entering four-year colleges and universities as freshmen in 2004.
It would be interesting to see break-downs on these trends by sex, race, ethnicity, parental income, and SAT scores. Are men more likely to be extreme than women? Probably. Also, since women are a growing percentage of college students is that shifting the results toward the political Left? Also, are political differences between men and women narrower in college and then wider as single women out in the work force raising kids alone find themselves with much different political interests?
The races are becoming more separated socially.
Recent declines in interaction patterns are also evident, with 67.8 percent of freshmen in 2004 stating that they frequently socialized with someone of a different racial/ethnic group in high school, a decline from 70 percent in 2001. Moreover, while 63.1 percent of entering freshmen report that chances are "very good" that they will socialize with someone of a different racial/ethnic background during college, the current figure is the lowest since the question's inclusion in the survey in 2000. "In an increasingly multicultural world, curricular and co‑curricular activities designed to improve students' knowledge and skills in this realm, such as diversity courses and inter-group dialogue, may be especially important," Hurtado said.
One would like to see this survey done on college seniors as well. How do their expectations match up with their eventual experiences? Which races are least likely to socialize with each other? My guess is that the greater the difference in cognitive ability (e.g. use the differences in SAT scores as a proxy) the less likely the races in a given college or university will socialize together. So a school that has smaller differences between the races in incoming classes will have lower self-segregation by race. People who are not on the same intellectual level are going to have less to talk about with each other.
Also, comparison with college seniors would be interesting in terms of how the college experience changes student attitudes. Though to be rigorous about it the same students who get interviewed as freshman should be re-interviewed as seniors. The differences in drop-out rates as a function of race, sex, and intellectual ability are going to cause average senior attitudes to differ from average freshman attitudes. Therefore given that some will drop out the original freshman answers should be saved and separately tabulated for drop-outs and non-drop-out to compare how they differed as freshmen.
I expect to see deepening differences in attitudes in the American population in the future for a number of reasons. First off, the differences in economic outcomes continue to widen. Also, the growth of large numbers of narrowly aimed media channels such as blogs and cable TV channels producing content for narrow demographic segments is reducing the amount of common experiences of the population. The more cable channels, talk radio programs (which are going to grow even more as satellite radio takes off), and internet sites the more people are going to dial in to hear and read the thoughts of like minds.
Immigration is another cause of a decrease in the feeling of common interests. Each major racial group performs at a different average level in school and achieves a different average level of success. Some ethnic and racial groups self-segregate while at the same time some groups literally flee from the presence of other groups. Increased mobility is allowing increased segregation. The term "cocooning" to refer to people who stay in their houses and in small social circles denotes another way that segregation is being put into practice.
A decline in the feeling of common interests can produce an effect similar to that of a snowball running down a hill getting bigger as it goes along. When people feel less common interests they will push for interests more narrowly their own. This will reduce the benefits they receive that they share in common with all and therefore reduce their feelings of loyalty and interest in institutions that span the entire society. Altruistic behaviors such as being willing to provide information such as eyewitness descriptions about crimes committed against others can be expected to decline in frequency.
Does anyone reading this agree or disagree with this assessment? Are there reasons why we can expect an increasing sense of sharing common interests? The only reason I can think of off the top of my head for a future growing sense of common interests is the images of disasters on TV. People can feel for earthquake and tsunami disasters better today because they can see the images from those disasters live and in color on TV.
It is not clear to me whether international trade increases or decreases the sense of shared common interests. Maybe it does both but in different directions to different segments of populations. Elites feel more in common but the lower classes feel less in common with their own elites or with the distant lower classes they compete with. Sound right or wrong to you?
Andrew Jacobs has an article in the New York Times about how some gay activists have become so frustrated by continued irresponsible sexual behavior by HIV-infected gays that the activists want to take more aggressive actions to stop HIV-infected people from spreading the disease.
As news of a potentially virulent strain of H.I.V. settles in, gay activists and AIDS prevention workers say they are dismayed and angry that the 25-year-old battle against the disease might have to begin all over again.
While many are calling for a renewed commitment to prevention efforts and free condoms, some veterans of the war on AIDS are advocating an entirely new approach to the spread of unsafe sex, much of which is fueled by a surge in methamphetamine abuse. They want to track down those who knowingly engage in risky behavior and try to stop them before they can infect others.
Well duh. The disease has been around for about a quarter of a century. During this time the vast majority of the vocal and politically active gays (with notable honorable exceptions such as Chandler Burr) have worked hard to defeat the conventional public health policy response used against dangerous epidemic diseases: a systematic effort to identify all infected and prevent them - by force of law if necessary - from spreading the dangerous pathogen they carry. The irresponsibility of all these activists in blocking standard public health measures has allowed continued disease spread, plenty of ill people, continued avoidable deaths and lots of costs to the rest of society. The anti-retrovirals are not a reason for complacency. The anti-retrovirals used in the "HAART" therapies have all sorts of nasty side effects and HIV patients are at greater risk of liver cancer and other fatal illnesses.
Now apparently the lack of any cure on the horizon and the continued spread of the disease has, after a couple of decades, finally led at least some gay activists to conclude that more drastic measures are needed to stop the spread of the disease.
But the measures discussed in the article still fall short of a full public health response and assorted predictable fears are still voiced:
"You have to remember that was the era when Jesse Helms and others were saying that gay people got what they deserved, and that the government shouldn't spend any money to help them," said David Evans, an H.I.V. treatment advocate who writes about prevention. "There was a time when people thought, 'Oh my god, they're going to put us in camps.' "
Think about that. They are against locking up any HIV-positive people. Effectively this means that many gays have been arguing basically for a legal right to kill other people through passing a deadly disease during sex.
Why has the general public tolerated this level of irresponsibility? Basically because once it became clear to most heterosexuals that their odds of getting HIV and AIDS were very low that there was no reason to demand the implementation of real public health measures to stop the spread of HIV.
I see two ways that HIV could have been stopped. First off, the simplest would have been to test anyone who was at risk of being HIV positive (gays, junkies, sexual partners of those found to be HIV positive). Then put all HIV-positive people in isolated communities. This is what was done with tuberculosis and other diseases. Get a communicable disease that is deadly? Get locked up or otherwise isolated.The forced isolation of all HIV positive has the problem that it would punish even those who were willing to give up sex once they learned of their HIV status.
Another approach would be to maintain a record of all HIV positive people and whenever a newly HIV positive person was discovered trace back who they got it from and if anyone who was found to know of their HIV status was in that chain of sexual contacts at a date after that person learned of their HIV status then that person could have been locked up. To make this system workable as a method to stop the spread of disease a large number of people would need to be classified as gay or as junkies or as members of other at-risk groups and then by force of law required to be periodically tested. This approach would allow HIV-positive people who do not pass on their virus to others to remain free.
My expectation is that a substantial portion of the gay population will continue to act irresponsibly killing each other (and occasionally some of the rest of us) and an even larger portion of the gays will continue to block a traditional public health response to the disease. While doing this they will cry out for even higher funding for HIV/AIDS research and for greater respect and acceptance from the rest of us.
"We have manufactured nukes for self-defence to cope with the Bush administration's ever more undisguised policy to isolate and stifle the [north]," the North Korean foreign ministry said in a statement carried on the state-run Korean Central News Agency.
The United States is in no position to push around North Korea anyhow. The US won't attack. The North Koreans do not need US aid.
South Korea echoed Koizumi's comments, saying the decision to quit the talks was "regrettable" and a matter of deep concern.
South Korean government officials said a nuclear North Korea would not be tolerated.
Australian Prime Minister John Howard said he thought Pyongyang's statement contained an "element of bluff".
The North Koreans are bluffing? Maybe. But I think it more likely that the South Koreans are bluffing. South Korea isn't going to tolerate a nuclear North Korea? Really? What is the South going to do in response? Cut off aid? Cut trade? Invade? I doubt it.
Dong-A Ilbo says the U.N. Security Council must take action. North Korea "must not forget that there is no single neighboring country, including China that will tolerate its nuclear armament."
Chosun Ilbo says, "North Korea must awaken from the self-induced trance where it believes it can gain something only when it takes on the international community head-on. ...[A]n attachment to the strategies of the past could mean that the situation spirals out of control with Pyongyang itself the ultimate victim."
I have news for the Chosun Ilbo: It was you guys and China and the United States that helped North Korea get into that trance. North was rewarded for its behavior. South Korea and China continue to reward North Korea for its behavior. So why should the Dear Leader stop?
North Korea is now the eighth country with currently declared nuclear weapons. The others are the United States, Britain, France, China and Russia, all signatories of the 1968 Non-Proliferation Treaty, and India and Pakistan, which have not signed the treaty. Israel is considered by analysts to have nuclear weapons, but has not acknowledged possessing them. South Africa built a bomb in the 1970s but later renounced its nuclear program.
My guess is that Iran will be the next member of the club. Eventually so many will join that membership will just plain lose its allure. Living in big cities and other likely targets of terrorist nukes will lose its allure for related reasons...
The White House played down the significance of the North Korean statement. "It's rhetoric we've heard before," press secretary Scott McClellan told reporters traveling with President Bush in North Carolina. "We remain committed to the six-party talks. We remain committed to a peaceful diplomatic resolution to the nuclear issue with regards to North Korea."
What more can the Bushies say? It is not like they are going to do anything about it regardless of what press release comes out of the Pyongyang regime in North Korea.
What is new about the latest NK statement is that it shows a greater willingness on the part of Dear Leader Kim Jong Il and company to defy China and South Korea.
The conservative Chosun Ilbo said in an editorial the North may be trying to raise the stakes to increase the concessions it will receive to head back to the bargaining table.
"We shall have to watch closely whether that is a real admission or simply typical of the Stalinist country's brinkmanship in attempting to ratchet up the tension with the United States," it said.
Ratchet up tensions with the United States? The US is too overextended in the Middle East to ratchet up tensions in Northeast Asia. Not going to happen. America is going to remain flaccid no matter how provocative a pose the Dear Leader assumes.
Writing for the Washington Post Glenn Kessler and Anthony Faiola think the Dear Leader and his regime are asking for acceptance of North Korea's status as a nuclear power.
By heightening the stakes in a two-year standoff, North Korea has signaled it has little interest in giving up its nuclear programs for relatively minor upfront concessions from the Bush administration -- and appears to be gambling that the United States and its allies will ultimately accept the idea of a nuclear North Korea.
At each step of the way in the crisis, the government in Pyongyang has carefully crossed once-unthinkable thresholds, with little apparent consequence. North Korea's announcement yesterday that it has nuclear weapons and is withdrawing from negotiations on its nuclear programs has once again upped the ante. But it appears unlikely it will jar the United States and its allies to take any dramatic actions, analysts and officials said.
I am guessing that Kim has a pretty good chance of gaining that acceptance. But if that happens then at some point down the line Japan may go nuclear in response. Then China may have no choice but to accept a nuclear Japan. Of course, once that happens the Taiwanese may decide to follow. In Taiwan's case nuclear power status would be the best protection from mainland Chinese ambitions to conquer the island.
Is there a bottom line in all of this? I think so: The United States by itself can not stop North Korea's nuclear program - at least not for any cost that the American public could possibly be convinced to pay. South Korea and China are helping to keep the North Korean regime viable through aid and trade. That has been true for years and it continues to be the case. North Korea's statements matter more for their effect on thinking in China and South Korea than they do for their impact on Bush Administration thinking. Regardless of Kim Jong Il's motive he is making it harder for South Korea and China to ignore his nuclear weapons development efforts. How will South Korea and China will react? Is Kim pushing to to a point where they will cut aid to North Korea in order to yank on the Dear Leader's chain? Or is there nothing short of a mushroom cloud that will change their collective minds?
This latest twist in the North Korean nuclear weapons saga reminds me of a post by Noah Millman where he argues that asking China to invade North Korea would bolster Chinese influence and prestige.
Finally, just one small point. We've adopted a "unilateralist" policy of regime change because supposedly the world can't come to agreement on who needs to be offed, at least not in a timely fashion. We, America, and "coalitions of the willing" composed of (mostly) democratic allies with similar interests will do a better job of policing the world. But here comes a proposal to have *another* nation - not an ally, not a democracy, not someone with whom we have clear common interests - unilaterally act to overthrow an odious regime on the grounds of its odiousness. Why on earth would we want to set such a precedent? And why should we prefer it to an attempt to get action authorized by some international body - fine, the UN, for all its own odiousness - that might bless the action with some legitimacy internationally, and act as a restraint on future unilateral action of this sort by other states? Particularly given that one objection to diplomacy on North Korea is that China would have to approve of any UN-authorized action against them, and China is the power we're outsourcing our "regime change" efforts to in this scenario!
It's depressing to think that anyone is seriously suggesting that the only way we can deal with North Korea is to ask the Chinese to invade and install a new regime. Depressing on so many levels, I don't know how to count them.
Asking for Chinese help on North Korea is - regardless of whether that help comes in the form of something as extreme as invasion or less extreme measures like an aid cut-off to North Korea - is going to make rather undemocratic China have more prestige and power. But, hey, there is no alternative way to stop North Korea's nuclear weapons program and China is a rapidly rising power that is likely to eventually surpass the United States as a military power at some point in the 21st century anyhow.
The REAL ID Act (H.R.418), was introduced by House Judiciary Committee Chairman James Sensenbrenner (R-WI) to revive the terrorist travel provisions that were stripped from the 9/11 intelligence reform bill to get the 9/11 bill passed by the US Senate. The REAL ID Act has just passed in the House of Representatives in a 261 to 161 vote.
House Republicans approved a package of immigration-control measures yesterday that would make deportation easier, make political asylum tougher and exempt the federal government from environmental laws in building roads and barriers along U.S. borders.
The bill -- touted as a major anti-terrorism initiative -- is aimed at making it easier for authorities to keep illegal immigrants out, track down those in the country and hinder their travel. The measure would impose new requirements on states to seek proof of applicants' legal residence in issuing driver's licenses.
Only 8 Republicans voted against it and only 42 Democrats voted for it. House Republicans continue to be the biggest supporters of real immigration law enforcement, especially measures to make it more difficult for terrorists to enter and operate in the United States.
States would be required to demand proof of the person's Social Security number and confirm that number with the Social Security Administration. They would also have to scan in documents showing the person's date of birth and immigration status, and create a massive store "so that the (scanned) images can be retained in electronic storage in a transferable format" permanently.
Rep. Jim Sensenbrenner's Real ID Act would force states to stop issuing licenses to illegal immigrants. Utah is one of 11 states that don't require proof of legal residency.
My guess is that some illegals would buy fake birth certificates and other fake documentation to present as documents when applying for drivers licenses. But the Real ID Act would reduce the number of illegals getting drivers licenses and other documentation. So the Act would raise the level of difficulty for living in the United States illegally and increase the odds of getting caught by law enforcement officers.
Chairman Sensenbrenner stated, “The goal of the Real ID Act is straightforward: it seeks to prevent another 9/11-type attack by disrupting terrorist travel. First, this legislation does not try to set state policy for who may or may not drive a car, but it does address the use of a driver’s license as a form of identification to a federal official. American citizens have the right to know who is in their country, that people are who they say they are, and that the name on a driver’s license is the holder’s real name, not some alias.
“The 9/11 hijackers could have used their passports to board the planes, but only one did. Why? Those murderers chose our driver’s licenses and state ID’s as their forms of identification because these documents allowed them to blend in and not raise suspicion or concern. Mohammed Atta received a 6-month visa to stay in the U.S. yet received a Florida driver’s license good for 6 years!
“The Real ID Act will end this by establishing a uniform rule for all states that temporary driver’s licenses for foreign visitors expire when their visa terms expire, and establishing tough rules for confirming identity before temporary driver’s licenses are issued.
“The Real ID Act tightens our asylum system that has been abused by terrorists with deadly consequences. It will finish the 3-mile hole in the fortified U.S./Mexico fence near San Diego. And it will protect the American people by ensuring that all terrorism-related grounds for inadmissability are also grounds for deportation.
One can argue that the Real ID Act will not make it impossible for terrorists to get into the US or to operate here. Of course. But the Act puts up obstacles that make it harder for terrorists to operate. While some terrorists are fairly bright others are not the sharpest tools in the shed. Set up some hoops for them to have to hop through and at least some of them will get tripped up. They will need to solve more different problems to carry out a terrorist attack. They will need more training and more coordination and more brains.
In hopes of forcing the Senate to act on the bill, House Republican leaders intend to roll it into the first must-pass legislation of the year, likely to be the supplemental funding for the war in Iraq. That move could set up a confrontation with Senate GOP leaders, who have said they don't want to load the Iraq bill with extra measures.
Mark Krikorian of the Center for Immigration Studies testified to Congress that large scale violations of immigration laws creates conditions ideal for terrorists.
Tolerating illegal immigration facilitates terrorism. Of course, vast majority of aliens who violate immigration laws are not terrorists. However, allowing a large illegal population to reside in the United States facilitates terrorism for two reasons. First, it has created a large underground industry that furnishes illegals with fraudulent identities and documents that terrorists can (and have) tapped into. Several of the 9/11 terrorists were assisted in getting their Virginia driver's licenses from someone who specialized in helping run-of-the-mill illegal aliens obtain them. Second, the existence of a huge illegal population creates a general contempt or disregard for immigration law. Although the general public may still want the law enforced, the scale of illegal immigration creates a tacit acceptance by law enforcement, policymakers, and even immigration-enforcement personnel themselves. With millions of illegal immigrants already in the country, and with immigration laws widely flouted, it is perhaps easy to understand why the immigration inspector at Miami's airport allowed Mohammed Atta back into the country in January 2001 even though he had overstayed his visa on his last visit and had abandoned his application to change status to vocational student by leaving the country.
This is basically the "Broken Windows" argument for law enforcement applied to the threat from terrorism.
In general, banks allow those with visitor visas to open checking accounts if they have a driver's license. (Since Atta did not receive his license until May 2001, he apparently was able to open his account without one.) Getting an American driver's license is helpful not only in opening bank accounts but also facilitates the renting of motor vehicles and small aircraft, holding a job, buying ammunition, accessing government archives, and of course, boarding commercial airplanes. Atta and al Shehhi received their driver's licenses from Florida in May 2001 despite the fact that Atta had been stopped for driving without a license a few months earlier in the state. According to the Washington Post, at least eight other 9/11 terrorists obtained Virginia licenses illegally.9 Virginia was used by the terrorists because prior to 9/11 the requirement for obtaining a license in that state was one of the weakest in the nation. There is little question that the ability to obtain what has become our nation's de facto national ID — a U.S. driver's license — was very important to the 9/11 hijackers and for this reason many of them went to the trouble of obtaining them.
Coverage of problems associated with illegal-immigrant access to state driver licenses and other documents used to establish false identity or avoid detection has also been remiss. According to authorities, many of the hijackers obtained multiple state driver licenses, using them to blend into society or to bolster false identities that made them difficult for law enforcement to identify or track. (Virginia, where a robust black market in licenses and official ID cards has flourished for at least four years, was a particularly easy mark — seven hijackers got identification documents there, courtesy of a network of corrupt lawyers and notaries public, as well as Latin American immigrants who knew the ropes and offered facilitation services.)9 Yet when the subject of illegal-alien access to driver licenses got any press attention at all, most analyses presented it favorably, as a way for illegals to connect to mainstream society and economic opportunity, and as a way for them to feel more “personal independence.”
Lack of coordination between state and local police and federal immigration authorities is another major shortcoming. In the normal course of their work, police frequently encounter aliens. For instance, Mohammed Atta was ticketed in Broward County, Florida, in the spring of 2001 for driving without a license. But the officer had no mechanism to inform him that Atta had overstayed his visa during his prior trip to the United States. Although not an overstayer, another hijacker, Ziad Samir Jarrah, was issued a speeding ticket in Maryland just two days before 9/11, proving that even the most effective terrorists have run afoul of the law before launching their attacks.
My guess is that some terrorists could choose to present their passport rather than an expired drivers license when boarding an airplane since obviously legitimate foreign tourist visitors who do not have US drivers licenses will have to be able to offer up their passports as ID. Also, a terrorist pulled over for speeding could just say they forgot their drivers license rather than show an expired license. But eventually biometric databases will defeat these attempts to present incriminating forms of ID. Cops could scan the eyes or handprints of a person pulled over for a moving violation and get back ID information that shows the person has overstayed a visa.
On the practicality of immigration law enforcement in the interior of the United States see from the Center for Immigration Studies the articles Making Interior Enforcement Work, The Role of State and Local Law Enforcement in Immigration, Can Immigration Law Be Enforced? and Officers Need Backup.
When the plan to help seniors cope with skyrocketing drug costs passed Congress in 2003, the advertised price was $400 billion over 10 years. Two months later, the Bush administration “revised” the estimate to $534 billion. Now, Medicare officials project the cost to be $724 billion from 2006 to 2015, its first full decade.
The new figure for years 2006 through 2015 is much higher than the $534 billion cost calculated for years 2004 through 2013. That’s because under the previous decade-long projection, the benefit did not exist for two of the 10 years.
The chief actuary of the US government's Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) was silenced by the Bush Administration to prevent Congress from learning how expensive the drug benefit was going to be before the bill creating it was voted on.
Rick Foster, CMS’s top actuary, said last year he would have been fired if he provided his price tag of the Medicare bill as it was working its way through Congress.
The new estimates show spending of $98 billion in 2014 and $109.2 billion in 2015. That reflects more beneficiaries, more prescriptions being filled and inflation, said Medicare administrator Mark McClellan.
Imagine what the Medicare drug benefit money could have accomplished if instead the money had been allocated to increasing basic and applied biomedical research. Allocated to the NIH it would have more than quadrupled the NIH's budget.
The United States is peaking as a world power because rising medical costs are going to eat the federal budget and rising taxes to pay for medical costs are going to choke future US economic growth. The Medicare drug benefit alone has a bigger unfunded liability than Social Security. The United States is going to become like Europe with a slower rate of economic growth and a less motivated workforce working many fewer hours per year at paying jobs as high marginal tax rates make work less financially rewarding and less attractive.
I see only one way to avoid economic stagnation: fund medical research to discover cheaper ways to treat and cure illnesses.
Because of the financial crisis building up in the Medicare program Tyler Cowen argues for indexing Social Security to inflation rather than to wage increases.
3. It is necessary to freeze social security benefits only because Medicare is in future fiscal trouble. Social security itself can keep on going at current levels with only marginal adjustments, if we so choose. But broader fiscal problems loom, as Bush's critics so correctly and frequently remind us. Medicare, of course, benefits the elderly. We would not be freezing social security benefits to throw a giant party for the young. I will admit that if we can solve the Medicare problem (I don't know how to), we can drop my social security proposal. I will also admit that my social security proposal is only one drop in a much bigger bucket; other reforms and spending cuts will be needed also. Many of these burdens should fall on the young, which will make the relative effects fairer to some degree.
4. The projected growth in Medicare implies a huge shift in relative resources devoted to the elderly. A gradual freeze of social securty benefits should be viewed in this broader context. The net flow of resources is still very much toward the elderly.
Tyler also argues that the indexing should be to the inflation rate that the elderly experience for their market basket of goods. But this proposal brings up an obvious question: Is it reasonable to assume that the inflation rate for the mix of goods and services the elderly purchase is less than the rate of increase of wages for the working population? To put it another way, do the elderly spend so much out-of-pocket for medical treatments that the inflation rate for their market basket of goods and services is higher than the rate at which wages increase?
What is the rate at which, for example, the price of nursing home care is going up? The rising average age of the elderly is increasing the fraction of them that need nursing home care. For example, half of the people over the age of 85 have Alzheimer's. (Alzheimer's would be, btw, a very cost effective disease on which to spend research money to find a cure.) So even if the cost of a year of nursing home care does not go up faster than the overall rate of inflation isn't the amount of nursing home care purchased per elderly person going up so fast that the elderly are really experiencing rapidly rising costs of care?
An argument can be made for lowering monthly Social Security payments for people in their 60s and early 70s and then increasing the payments in their 80s and 90s to pay for the more expensive forms of care that the elderly need as they become more frail and cognitively impaired.
Update: One factor that may work in favor of proposals to change Social Security indexing from wages to inflation is that most Americans incorrectly believe that the cost of living has been rising more rapidly than wages over the last 20 years.
Perhaps most significant, about seven in 10 Americans believe that the cost of living has been rising faster than wages over the past 20 years, although the reverse is true. This belief probably shapes policy preferences: The same percentage wants to peg initial Social Security benefits to the cost of living, as Bush reportedly wants, instead of the current formula, which pegs them to wage increases. That change would result in significantly lower guaranteed benefits for future generations, according to both supporters and opponents.
Of course in some parts of the country housing costs have been rising faster than wages. But does a larger fraction of the people in those parts of the country which have rapidly rising housing costs report that wages are not keeping up with inflation? Also, do people who have medical insurance through their jobs perceive a faster or slower rate of rise in costs than those who pay medical insurance payments directly? What is behind these perceptions?
Some continued supporters of the war in Iraq are thrilled that Americans are in Iraq because they think America is fighting for democracy. But these fans of democracy lose sight of the fact that democracy is a means to an end rather than an end in itself. Democracy does not automatically and reliably produce the sorts of outcomes that most Westerners envision when they think of a democratic society. Classically liberal support for the rights of others - including respect for the right to freedom of speech even by those critical of a government or critical of majority beliefs - is not always a feature of democracy everywhere in the world. The reason is simple: Lots of people do not believe in some of the rights that are recognized in the West and some reject the idea of rights altogether. Take Iraq for instance. The harder core Islamist Shiites in Iraq want a more Islamic constitution now that they appear to be headed to electoral victory.
NAJAF, Iraq, Feb. 4 - With religious Shiite parties poised to take power in the new constitutional assembly, leading Shiite clerics are pushing for Islam to be recognized as the guiding principle of the new constitution.
Exactly how Islamic to make the document is the subject of debate.
At the very least, the clerics say, the constitution should ensure that legal measures overseeing personal matters like marriage, divorce and family inheritance fall under Shariah, or Koranic law. For example, daughters would receive half the inheritances of sons under that law.
Equal rights for women? Not where claims of rights clash with interpretations of the Koran. One irony here is that the Koranic requirement that women get one third of inheritances was a step toward sexual equality when it was first implemented. But the codification of that rule into religious doctrine now is an impediment to equality before the law.
In educational, political and social terms, the gulf is enormous. A tiny proportion of people in the south can be described as muthaqaf, or cultured and educated, compared to those in the north.
In the south, 60 per cent have not progressed beyond primary education, a difference compounded by the religiosity of the largely Shia south.
News flash: poorly educated believers in an oppressive religion are not enlightened voters.
The two most powerful parties in the coalition are the Supreme Council for the Islamic Revolution in Iraq (SCIRI) and Dawa, religiously based parties supported by Iran, with whom they were allied during the 1980-88 Iran-Iraq war.
SCIRI, in particular, was long seen as being partially controlled by Tehran and the Badr Brigade, its militia, fought for Iran against Iraq during the Iran-Iraq war.
This is what American boys are dying for: a democratically elected Shia religious state run by people who are fond of the Ayatollahs of Iran. This is the very same Iran that the neocons want to attack next.
Adam Lawson of the Modern Tribalist (cool blog name btw) points to an article by Thanassis Cambanis of the Boston Globe who claims that the constitutional debate in Iraq on the place of religion in government will be between moderate Islamists and hard-core Islamists with the secularists scarcely to be heard.
The clerics of Najaf who orchestrated the Shi'ite political party coalition say they expect a constitutional debate between hard-core Islamists, who want Koranic law to be the constitution's primary source, and moderate Islamists, who want a milder form of religious law. This debate, they say, will dwarf any challenge from secular parties.
Neato, huh? We are helping to give birth to an Islamic state and we are paying for this outcome with blood and money. The US invasion of Iraq was one of George W. Bush's faith-based initiatives.
Already many branches of government ministries and the Army have become "balkanised" by Shi’ite political groups such as the Dawa Party, making it difficult for non-members to get jobs. And after 30 years of systematic discrimination by Saddam in favour of his fellow Sunnis, nobody is optimistic that anti-discrimination laws will be listened to much.
Secular Iraqis also suspect the Shi’ite religious parties have a much longer-term game in mind, one in which curbs on the rights of women, and religious tinkering in government will only begin after the watchful US presence ends.
"The Shi’ite Islamists are not stupid people," said Dr Ghanem Saleh, a senior figure in the Omar Party, a new political grouping made up partly of exiles from the Saddam-era Iraqi opposition movement in Britain. "They will establish rule step by step, just as they did in Iran. Right now they are happy to accept secular figures in government, but they are gradually preparing the country for an Islamic state."
Kurdish Muslims are complaining that Iraqi government Arabs prevented the Kurds from getting enough ballots to vote while at the same time Christians in the Iraqi north living under Kurdish Muslim domination complain that the Kurdish Muslims prevented the Christians from getting enough ballots.
The Kurdish deputy governor of Mosul, Khasro Goran, said Kurdish parties also would lodge a complaint with the election commission about the alleged irregularities in the north.
"This affects 200,000 people," he said. Without giving details, Goran alleged that election officials had deliberately tried to suppress the Kurdish vote in the north, an ethnic tinderbox.
Patto also said that while other Assyrian-populated towns had ballot boxes, there was an inadequate supply of ballots. She estimated voting irregularities prevented 50,000 Assyrians from voting.
In another recent ethnic incident, a Christian demonstrator was so severely beaten up by Kurdish political party workers, he is still in the hospital, Isho said. Christians protested Monday near the northern city of Mosul, complaining that an estimated 150,000 did not get a chance to vote because ballot boxes never arrived.
Infuriated Assyrians filled the streets of Baghdeda- the largest Assyrian town in the Nineveh Plain-and demonstrated against the KDP's overt disenfranchisement of Assyrians.
According to Iraq sources, the ballot boxes had been stored in Arbil, the stronghold of the KDP. The resulting unavailability of ballot boxes affected up to 100,000 Assyrian voters and tens of thousands of Yezidis, Shabak, and Turkman voters. The outright denial of voting rights to Assyrians and other non-Kurdish minorities culminates several months of intimidation, beatings, beheadings, burnings, and mutilations of Assyrian Christians in the Nineveh Plain.
Mind you, this is what these groups are willing to do with about 150,000 US soldiers in the country. Imagine what they will do once American soldiers leave.
In northern Iraq, protests have repeatedly broken out over the last few days in several cities, where officials claim that hundreds of thousands of citizens, many of them Kurdish Christians, were not able to vote because balloting materials arrived inexplicably late.
While reading articles to write this post I came across a number of reports of voters voting the way they did because they felt obliged to follow the spiritual leader of their religious sect. Others dutifully followed the instructions of polling place workers to vote for the list that the poll workers favored.
At the Al-Khazrajiya school in the city's old quarter, Najat Ridha, 48, was ushered into a classroom and handed two ballots, one for the national assembly and another for the local provincial council.
An election worker suggested she vote for list 285 headed by interim Prime Minister Iyad Allawi and a local list headed by governor Duraid Kashmula.
She ticked the boxes obligingly and walked out - just as Zahra Ibrahim, 60, did before her.
"I really just did what they asked me to do," she said as the Iraqi national anthem crackled on a loudspeaker in the background.
For one thing, the assembly will need to elect a new president and prime minister by a two-thirds majority. Since no single group is likely to win two-thirds of the seats, several competing groups are predicted to strike alliances in order to form a government.
In the next round of negotiations to create a permanent (okay, not permanent, but pretend permanent) Iraqi constitution expect to see the Shiites try to remove the super-majority requirement for selecting the Iraqi president and prime minister.
William Norman Grigg argues that Democracy Isn't Liberty.
In a democracy, voting is, at best, an exercise in participatory plunder. At worst, it is a means of empowering a majority to oppress or even liquidate the minority. In a constitutional republic, by way of contrast, the voting franchise serves a fundamentally defensive purpose. It is a means not only of choosing representative leaders, but also of removing them should they prove a threat to individual rights and property. While the vote is a crucial mechanism of accountability, it will avail little for the cause of liberty in the absence of a written constitution that limits the powers that government can exercise.
As James Madison noted in The Federalist Papers, in a quote all genuine conservatives should recall, "democracies have ever been spectacles of turbulence and contention; have ever been found incompatible with personal security or the rights of property; and have in general been as short in their lives as they have been violent in their deaths."
The Rwandan genocide, perpetrated by that African nation’s Hutu majority against its Tutsi minority, could be considered a particularly vigorous exercise of the type of democracy Madison alluded to. The Yugoslavian civil wars of the 1990s were, in large measure, prompted by fears of similar majoritarian massacres. Given the horrible fate historically suffered by ethnic minorities in the region, Serbs, Croats, and Bosnian Muslims all sought to create ethnic states where they would be in the majority.
There are many obstacles to creation of sustainable liberal democracy in Iraq which the US occupation either can not or will not address. Also, most US interventions in other countries did not create sustainable democracies. How long will not-exactly-liberal democracy be sustained in Iraq? How long will it take for the elections to become so manipulated that the democratic process in Iraq becomes a charade?
They show the United Iraqi Alliance winning 71.6% in the areas involved.
The interim prime minister Ayad Allawi has 18.1%; no other party has more than 1% or 2%.
I am surprised Allawi did that well. Did some Iraqis think that putting a former CIA asset in charge would get them more influence with the American government.
Iraqi ChaldoAssyrians Christians understand that these results put them at the mercy of the Shias as a headline from a ChaldoAssyrian web site states it: "Early Election Results Bad News for ChaldoAssyrians".
How about pouring some gasoline on the flames? While perhaps 20% of Iraq's population the Sunni Arabs will probably have less than 10% of the Iraqi 275 member National Assembly.
Juburi said that figures he has seen suggest a turnout of less than 40 percent in Salahuddin and Mosul, and slightly more than 10 percent in Anbar, the restive western province most afflicted by the insurgency.
By his calculation, Sunni Arab parties will receive no more than 25 seats in the assembly, which will leave Sunnis, who account for about 20 percent of the population, dramatically underrepresented.
Will the US government quietly behind the scenes press for fixing of vote counts to produce more votes for Sunnis and Kurds? Or are the Shias going to get 70+% of the National Assembly? Why should the Sunnis stop fighting if that is the case? The Sunnis might start pushing for secession and so might the Kurds. As for the Turkmen, Chaldeans, etc: I wouldn't want to be you. Sorry guys.
It is hard to figure out where the United Iraqi Alliance (UIA) stands because the UIA is made up of a list of 22 different parties. So will it really govern as a single majority party? Or will it have many internal splits between the parties that it contains? The Shiite Arab majority in the national assembly is going to be so huge that from the standpoint of the various minority groups the internal Shia splits probably will not matter very much. Those splits will likely center more around which Shia factions get the spoils that will come from controlling the levers of power.
Problems in Mosul could lead to an outcry from a variety of communities that they were squeezed out of the balloting: Mosul and surrounding Ninevah province have large Sunni Arab, Kurdish and Christian populations.
Insurgents are launching new attacks across the country and battling American and Iraqi security troops in scattered clashes following the easing of security measures that had been in place to guard last weekend's elections. At least 33 people have been killed in violence since Wednesday night.
The Iraqi election is not about freedom. Steve Sailler says this election is all about who gets to dominate who.
I've said it before, but I have to keep it saying it again. Even more than most people, what Muslims want is not so much freedom for all as domination for themselves. Cruel history has taught them that the only way to avoid the bite of the whip is to crack the whip themselves. The Grand Ayatollah is perfectly happy to use an election now to gain power, just as his fellow Shiite ayatollah, Khomeini (remember him?), was happy to hold elections throughout the 1980s next door in Sistani's native Iran, as long as his boys could win the elections, which they did for quite some time.
It is also about who gets to funnel away large chunks of the public purse to get rich from holding an elected or appointed office. Let me insert here (at the risk of boring long time readers) my standard list of obstacles to non-corrupt liberal democracy in Iraq. If you haven't clicked through and read all the posts on the list of items in the middle of that post then please do so. You will know why Iraq is not going to be a glorious success story and poster child for liberal democracy.
Researchers at Harvard Medical School-affiliated McLean Hospital think Taiwanese men have a more accurate view of what women see as ideal male bodies. How sexy is major musculature?
The researchers, led by Chi-Fu Jeffrey Yang, administered a computerized test, asking 55 male university students in Taiwan to choose pictures corresponding to their own bodies, the body they would like to have, the body of an average Taiwanese male, and the body that Taiwanese women would prefer. They then compared these results to those previously obtained in an identical study in the U.S. and Europe.
The Western men estimated that women preferred a male body with 20 to 30 pounds more muscle than an average man. But when actual Western women were asked to choose the male body that they liked, they selected an ordinary male body without all of the added muscle. By contrast, the Taiwanese men did not show this distortion; they correctly recognized that women did not prefer a bulked-up male body.
"Our findings suggest that Western men may have a very distorted view of what they ideally should look like, whereas men in Taiwan don't seem to have this problem," says senior author Harrison Pope Jr., MD, director of McLean Hospital's Biological Psychiatry Laboratory. "These factors may explain why body dysmorphic disorder and anabolic steroid abuse are far more serious in the West than in Taiwan. In fact, we have seen almost no evidence of steroid abuse anywhere in the Pacific Rim."
Is this difference in perceptions genetic or cultural? I have no idea. If it is cultural then where is it coming from? Are Hollywood movies with big strong action heroes the cause? But then why are those movies made? Also, Taiwanese people see some Hollywood movies.
Also, do American women really not prefer physically stronger men? My impression is that this is at least partially a function of intelligence and social class. There is a stronger preference for muscular men among lower than among upper class women. Is that preference (assuming I'm correct) due to economic or genetic causes? One can see how at least in the past strength was of greater value for earning higher salaries when doing manual labor. So did women prefer muscular men at least in part due to recognition of higher earnings potential?
Glenn Kessler of the Washington Post reports that the Bush Administration says North Korea exported weapons-grade plutonium to Libya.
North Korea has reprocessed 8,000 spent fuel rods into weapons-grade plutonium and appears to have exported nuclear material to Libya, U.S. officials informed Asian allies this week.
The New York Times also passes along the claims of a high level of confidence in this conclusion. Though some in the US government see problems with the analysis.
It is unclear if there are any dissenting views in the government, though some outside experts have accused the administration of overstating intelligence on North Korea. Officials cautioned that the analysis of the uranium had been hampered by the fact that the United States has no sample of known North Korean uranium for comparison with the Libya material. The study was done by eliminating other possible sources of uranium, a result that is less certain than the nuclear equivalent of matching DNA samples.
A day later Glenn Kessler and Dafna Linzer report on dissenters from the official Bush Administration position. A number of experts in the US government and the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) do not see the evidence as conclusive by any means.
The Bush administration's claim this week that North Korea appears to have been the supplier of converted uranium to Libya is based on evidence that could just as easily point to Pakistan, a key U.S. ally, as the source, according to analysts and officials familiar with the data.
The Bush Administration does not have a good track record examining evidence about nuclear proliferation. Look at their wildly unrealistic analyses of various pieces of bogus evidence from Iraq's supposed nuclear weapons development efforts before the US invasion of Iraq.
Read the full articles. My interpretation: Pakistan as the source of the uranium is not politically acceptable in the Bush White House. Pervez Musharraf is our friend. He is a friend of democracy. Never mind that he is a dictatorship. He's a good guy who went to Harvard just like Bush did. He's letting us fly over his country to get to Afghanistan. We have agents operating in his country hunting down Al Qaeda. So Pakistan is not and has not done much bad.
By contrast, Kim Jong Il, being pretty blatantly a very bad guy in reality and running an odious regime where lots of people unnecessarily die from hunger, makes a far better choice to blame as a source of enriched uranium. Also, it fits with a larger Bush Administration agenda:
But Albright did not discount the possibility that North Korea may have been the source. "That has been a theory since last spring," he said. "What amazes me is why this is coming out again now, and the timing has to make one suspicious that the information is being used to pressure allies to take a tougher line with North Korea."
We don't know what the level of expertise was of the Department of Energy technicians who examined the samples from Libya. We do not know how politically pressured anyone was to serve up a desired conclusion. But certainly the Bush Administration track record is that the higher ups are willing to lean on the CIA and other agencies to produce desired conclusions. So I do not know what to make of this story.
Wilders now travels everywhere with six bodyguards. He cannot sleep in his own home, but is moved around between various undisclosed safe houses. He sees his wife twice a week, at a safe house. Visitors to his parliament office must be cleared in advance and are thoroughly searched; even ballpoint pens are carefully examined.
"It's like being caught in a bad B movie," Wilders said. The guards are always there: "If I go to the toilet, they are standing behind the door."
The irony, he said, is that the people who are threatening him walk the streets freely, while "the people who are threatened are more or less in prison."
Wilders has concluded that Islam can't be reconciled with liberal democracy.
Wilders's transgression, according to the extremists demanding his death, is his insulting of Muslims in the Netherlands, with frequent denunciations of Islam. "Islam and democracy are fully incompatible," he said in the interview. "They will never be compatible -- not today, and not in a million years."
Holland is known for a sort of extremism in tolerance of alternative lifestyles. But the Dutch never calculated the possibility that some cultures and religions have a intolerance built into them that is incompatible with Dutch society. Even if that intolerance manifests in only a small fraction of a Muslim immigrant group the extreme lengths that the most hostile Muslims are willing to go to are enough to get people killed and other people living in fear and under police protection.
Wilders wants to field a list of candidates in next Dutch election as part of his Wilders Group party. But anyone who joins his list will immediately have to go under continuous 24 hour per day police protection. The Muslim militants are therefore already a very practical obstacle to the creation of Dutch political parties which oppose Muslim immigration and Muslim radicalism.
Western nations should put a stop to Muslim immigration. There is no compelling reason why we should inflict upon ourselves the problem that the Dutch are having. What is going on in the Netherlands reminds me of the Monty Python character who accidentally enters the room for "Getting Hit On The Head Lessons". Well, does anyone aside from some masochists want to have "Getting Hit On The Head Lessons"? That is what the Dutch, through their foolish immigration policy, have effectively inflicted upon themselves. The US is doing the same with massive Hispanic immigration but with a different set of resulting problems.