Tuesday, April 29, 2014

What’s more important, a minimum wage hike, or fixing the economy?

An analysis by the Congressional Budget Office (CBO), a nonpartisan arm of Congress, shows that both sides in the debate over whether to raise the federal minimum wage from $7.25 an hour to $9.00, $10.10, or even $15 an hour have relevant points to make.

Advocates believe that the wage hike would lift nearly a million people out of poverty, increase productivity, reduce turnover and give those receiving the raise more money to spend, and that would translate to businesses recording higher sales, and an overall improvement in economic activity.

A $10.10 minimum wage, the CBO says, means 900,000 fewer people in poverty, and job losses will comprise only 0.3 percent of jobs affected by the wage hike.

The hike would boost wages for most low-wage workers, as about 16.5 million workers who make less than $10.10 an hour would see higher earnings once the higher minimum is fully implemented, which Democrats in the House and Senate have been calling for. And then, those making slightly more than the new minimum wage may feel they need a raise too, and employers would be virtually compelled to give them one in what the CBO calls a "ripple effect."

Let’s review: Advocates believe we should raise the minimum wage because the more low-wage workers make, the more they'll have to spend, and the better that will be for businesses selling products and services. People move out of poverty and spend more and consequently businesses prosper from greater sales. Our economic problems magically dissolve. Does it get any better than this?

Unfortunately for the advocates, good decision-making requires looking at all the factors, not just the ones that support a particular position.

Opponents point out that higher wages lead to higher prices, and lost jobs, and wages need to be related to the work involved and its value to the company, not artificially determined by Washington bureaucrats.

An essential factor that needs to be considered is what happens inside businesses when their labor costs increase? They must make adjustments in other expense areas, increase productivity or increase prices to maintain profitability and stay in business.

The other side of the CBO job loss estimate is that while only 0.3 percent of minimum wage workers will lose their jobs with the proposed wage hike to $10.10 an hour, and that sounds like a small effect, the number of actual people comprising that 0.3 percent is 500,000. So 900,000 will be lifted out of poverty, but more than half that number will lose their jobs. Thus, the picture painted by the CBO is somewhat less rosy than the advocates believe.

A study for the National Center for Policy Analysis by Richard B. McKenzie, explains that there are other forms of compensation to consider, nonmonetary benefits that may be as much as 30 percent over and above wages of all workers, a substantial percentage of the total compensation employees receive. Faced with higher labor costs, employers may make adjustments to these nonmonetary benefits to balance things. These benefits include relaxed work demands, workplace atmosphere, schedule flexibility, job security, and hours of work. Employers may also have to cut jobs, curb summer hiring, opt not to replace workers who leave; lower their profitability and/or raise prices to customers.

Despite what you may hear, read or think, most employers want the best employees they can get; the most productive, best trained, and most devoted workers they can find. They are willing to pay them to keep competitors from luring them away, however, there are financial limits to what businesses can pay without making other changes.

They may reduce jobs or cut worker hours, increase demands on existing employees and impose a stricter work atmosphere to increase productivity, replace workers with machines, or look for cheaper materials from overseas where labor costs are lower, affecting American suppliers.

The US economy is suffering, as evidenced by, among other indicators, the labor force participation rate, which shows that only 63.2 percent of Americans age 16 or older are participating in the labor force, the rate having fallen over the last several years to 1977 levels.

We need an atmosphere that encourages businesses to create jobs, not artificially raise the wages of the least skilled, least experienced people in the labor force, particularly when doing so will cost 500,000 jobs, and further depress the participation rate.

Among the many stunning failures of the Obama administration is its proclivity to pander to small constituencies to gain political support, all the while ignoring the broader problems facing the nation.

When an administration chooses to implement narrowly focused policies conceived for political gain, you get what the Obama administration has produced: an almost non-existent recovery from the recent recession, millions of Americans who can’t find a job, millions more who are too discouraged to keep looking and have dropped out of the labor force, and still millions more Americans on food stamps and other forms of welfare.

The Obama administration and Congressional Democrats have shown conclusively that the serious problems of the nation are far less important to them than winning the next election.

Tuesday, April 22, 2014

Bundy is a lawbreaker, and the government is much too aggressive

We have learned more about the standoff in Nevada between a rancher and the Bureau of Land Management (BLM), and most of the new information comes from the government side. We knew right off the bat that Cliven Bundy has refused to pay fees for about 20 years to graze his cattle on land first grazed on by his grandfather more than 130 years ago, now restricted by the federal government. We knew that the BLM sent approximately 200 heavily armed agents to take Mr. Bundy’s cattle because of his fee debt to the government.

Sen. Harry Reid, the Nevada Democrat who is Senate Majority Leader, apparently asserts that the Bundy family are lawbreakers because they have refused to pay grazing fees, and that justifies whatever action the BLM decides to take against the family. But not everyone agrees with the government’s actions, and hundreds of Americans came to the ranch to stand with the Bundy family against what they believe is unacceptable and intolerable action from the BLM. These people Sen. Reid has ridiculously characterized as “domestic terrorists.”

When you apply a little conscious thought to this situation, which Sen. Reid probably didn’t, what the Bundy family and their supporters are doing is participating in the age-old and venerated activity called “civil disobedience.” It’s not different from what occurred during the Civil Rights Movement, or what our ancestors did at the Boston Tea Party in 1773. I wonder if Sen. Reid thinks those folks were domestic terrorists?

Rational folks think the Tsarnaev brothers who killed and injured several people at the Boston Marathon last year are domestic terrorists, and the Army doctor who killed 13 at Fort Hood is a domestic terrorist. Does Sen. Reid?

Declaring that the action against the Bundy family is not over, he told a Reno TV station “We can’t have an American people that violate the law and just walk away from it.”

Apparently, his idea of what constitutes law breaking is as foggy and duplicitous as his idea of domestic terrorism. He wants lowly citizens to obey the laws, but looks the other way when government agencies and officials don’t. President Barack Obama routinely breaks laws, like ignoring and modifying some of the decrees of the Affordable Care Act, which we are endlessly reminded is “the law of the land.” He selectively chooses which immigration laws to enforce, and circumvents the Congress with Executive Orders. But we hear nothing about that from Majority Leader Reid.

Nor does he think it important to follow the real law of the land, the US Constitution, and bring an annual budget up for the Senate to vote on, as the Congress is required to do by Article I. He also sits on his hands when bureaucrats in the Obama administration refuse to respond to requests for documents from Congressional committees charged by the Constitution with oversight of administrative agencies.

And, he has not voiced opposition to the over-the-top behavior of the heavily armed agents of the Bureau of Land Management against citizens of his own state. The Bundy family has been subjected to heavy-handed roundup practices that have injured calves, slaughtered cows and bulls and buried them in mass graves, damaged water system equipment, and torn down fences. That was not a part of the government plan, we are told. And, of course, the foolish and dangerous idea that 200 militarily equipped troops needed to respond to a case of overdue fees, the collection of which is usually assured through a lien on property.

You might also think that Nevada’s Senator would at some point consider standing up for the interests of the people he represents, who inexplicably keep returning him to office, and oppose federal control of a huge majority of the state’s land. According to the Nevada Policy Research Institute, the federal government owns or controls 86 percent of the land in Nevada and 89 percent in Clark County, where the Bundy ranch is located.

“The tight federal grip on this land is causing economic harm — and, in many cases, genuine hardship — to local developers, workers, renters and would-be homeowners,” author Charles F. Barr wrote in the Executive Summary of a 2007 study titled “The Federal Land Stranglehold.” The situation has changed little since then.

Watching the outrageous response of the BLM to the Bundy situation, one wonders if whomever thought up this plan imagined it would be sensible and appropriate to point “assault weapons” at citizens and threaten them for doing no more than protesting a government action; attempt to restrict their free speech to “First Amendment Areas”; seize and kill privately owned cattle, and destroy fencing and watering systems?

That person should first be disciplined, perhaps fired, and even prosecuted, along with the BLM agents who imposed this heavy-handed outrage on citizens of the United States.

We can no longer allow government wrongdoers to indulge in improper and/or criminal behavior with impunity. Unless we begin very soon to hold to account those who abuse their positions and abuse the people they are paid to serve, what once was “the land of the free” will no longer be.

Tuesday, April 15, 2014

Cattle grazing standoff in Nevada ends peacefully with BLM retreat

Thankfully, the standoff at the Bundy ranch in Nevada ended fairly peacefully. Bureau of Land Management (BLM) Director Neil Kornze made a good decision, and the correct decision, when he pulled his officers out after returning some 400 head of seized cattle to the land on which they had been grazing. He took the action “because of our serious concern about the safety of [BLM] employees and members of the public.”

The Internet is rife with stories about this incident from national and local news outlets including ABC, the local CBS channel KLAS-TV,, the Los Angeles Times, the Las Vegas Review-Journal, the Associated Press, and others.

Some will say that rancher Cliven Bundy was at fault in this incident. Mr. Bundy raises cattle on the ranch his grandfather started in the1870s, and he and his ancestors and neighbors have been grazing their herds on this land for well over a hundred years.

The federal government, through the BLM, took control of a huge area in Nevada when a tortoise that makes its home there was labeled “threatened” many years ago. In order to graze their cattle there, ranchers had to pay a fee. The new paradigm engendered the shutting down of several ranches, Mr. Bundy asserts, and he refused to be one of them. He continued to graze his cattle there and has refused to pay the fee on the basis that the federal government had no right to take control of the land that belonged to the State of Nevada.

He and others dispute the stated reason for the federal encroachment, the “threatened” tortoise. They say that the tortoise is not endangered at all, and that even if it was, cattle do not harm the habitat or the tortoises. Thus, the federal government had no basis for the take-over, and the court actions against him are therefore moot.

After losing court actions, Mr. Bundy still grazed his cattle on the land for years without paying. In response to a court order, the BLM recently sent an estimated 200 heavily armed officers and police dogs to the area and began rounding up the cattle.

And that’s when the revolt against what protesters viewed as over-reaching on the part of the BLM/federal government starting building steam. The protestors began rolling in from across the country. Some were armed and some were on horseback, reportedly attempting to free cattle seized by the BLM.

Tensions grew and were aggravated when Mr. Bundy’s son was shot twice with a stun gun, and a BLM officer tackled Mr. Bundy’s 57-year-old sister to the ground.

As tensions grew among the protestors, and the potential for violence grew, Director Kornze made the decision to return the captured cattle and withdraw the BLM personnel.

Some believe the federal retreat signals a victory for Mr. Bundy and his supporters. Others believe the federal intervention was a test to determine whether, and to what extent, the American people will stand up against federal over-reaching. Whatever the case, it has gotten the attention of millions of Americans.

Now it’s time for answers to some important questions about the BLM and its actions, and the basis for the court decisions. The most important of these questions is: Where does the federal government find the authority for the BLM to take control of land belonging to a sovereign state?

Some legal authorities say that the Bureau of Land Management action is a direct violation of Article 1, Section 8, Clause 17 of the US Constitution. That clause, the Enclave Clause, authorizes Congress to purchase, own and control land in a state only under specific and limited conditions, such as “for the erection of forts, magazines, arsenals, dockyards, and other needful buildings.” It does not mention uses such as to protect endangered animals.

Legal scholar Mark Levin said that the BLM negotiated agreements with Mr. Bundy and other ranchers many years ago for water rights, grazing rights, and for building roads and irrigation. The BLM then changed the rules in what Mr. Levin called a “systematic and deliberate campaign to drive ranchers out of Southern Nevada.” The fact that Mr. Bundy is the lone remaining rancher in the area adds credence to this charge.

And why swoop in with heavily armed federal agents and forcibly take Mr. Bundy’s cattle? This action is not only uncalled for, but is dangerous and irresponsible. There are other methods for the federal government to get what it is due in fees without armed force.

It is an encouraging sign that so many Americans from so many states felt strongly enough about this issue to travel to Nevada and stand beside Mr. Bundy and his family in the face of federal tyranny.

Each time the government oversteps its bounds, the people complain, but usually to no avail. Let us hope that this time the message that the government that exists only to serve the best interests of Americans will not be allowed to endlessly abuse them.

People are more important than animals, and the American people are more important than their government. Our government and our leaders need to be reminded of their proper place.

Tuesday, April 08, 2014

The evidence is mounting: Idiocy is taking control of America

With her parents’ approval, 9-year-old Kamryn shaved her head in support of her friend, 11-year-old Delaney, who is battling neuroblastoma, a childhood cancer, and recently started chemotherapy.

“It felt like the right thing to do,” Kamryn told the local TV station news reporter.

Officials at Caprock Academy in Grand Junction, Colorado, however, told Kamryn she couldn’t come back to class without a wig or until her natural hair grew back because her shaved head violates the school’s dress code.

Wonder if they told Delaney the same thing? 


Schools seem to have a magnetic attraction for idiotic rules:

Several schools have banned students who have applied for admission to colleges from sharing their good news with fellow students because doing so might hurt the feelings of other students.

Another school bans the use of hand sanitizer without written permission. Perhaps a doctor’s note should be required.

And other schools have banned playing tag on the playground at recess. You remember tag? Where kids chase each other around and touch them with their hand when they catch them, saying, “You’re it?” Too dangerous, principals say. 

Josh, a second grader at Park Elementary School in Baltimore, Maryland, was suspended for two days because his teacher said he shaped a strawberry prebaked toaster pastry into something resembling a gun.

A similar fate befell Nathan, a 10-year-old student at Devonshire Alternative Elementary School in the Columbus, Ohio school system. For his crime of making a gun out of his index finger and thumb, and saying, “boom,” Nathan was suspended for three days. Apparently no one saw or heard what Nathan did, except a teacher. At a meeting with the school principal, his father learned that if it happened again, the punishment could be a longer suspension, or perhaps permanent suspension.

Fortunately, the SWAT team was not called and no one was injured or died from these hideous crimes, and the criminals have been duly punished.


Did you know that in the land of the free warming your car on a cold day is illegal in some states? Ohio, Texas, West Virginia, Maryland, Colorado, Wisconsin, South Carolina, and some cities in Minnesota forbid it.

In Ohio, if the public servants Ohioans pay to protect them from the criminal element find a resident trying to warm up their icy vehicle, they can be fined $150. In Texas it’s a Class C misdemeanor with a fine of up to $500.

And in West Virginia, the fine for the first offense is $100, but if you are dumb enough to get caught trying to make your car comfortable a second time, the cost is $500.

The reason for these laws is to protect the drivers warming up their cars from their own stupidity, and also to protect others of weak will from becoming car thieves. Apparently, a running but unoccupied vehicle is just too great a temptation for some folks to resist, and these laws punish vehicle owners in order to discourage this selfish behavior, which forces otherwise law-abiding citizens to steal cars.

By that reasoning, banks, retail stores and other business should be fined for deliberately providing strong temptation for people to commit robberies. 


From’s 10 Ridiculous Cases of Political Correctness: 

“Xbox Live recently banned Josh Moore for violating its gamers’ code of conduct.  His offense?  Filling out his Xbox Live profile.  You see, Mr. Moore lives in West Virginia. More specifically, in FORT GAY, West Virginia. As Microsoft says, the word ‘gay’ is always offensive. Never mind that several US townships incorporate the word into their name, many people have ‘Gay’ as a first or last name, and some homosexuals do identify themselves as ‘gay.’  No, Microsoft obviously had a wise guy in their midst, and he had to go. So, despite a total lack of customer complaints, Microsoft froze Moore’s account and warned him that he could lose his prepaid subscription if he badgered Customer Service further. Fort Gay Mayor, David Thompson, tried to intervene, but was told that the city’s name didn’t matter; the word ‘gay’ was inappropriate in any context. As a result, Moore missed a Search and Destroy competition and his team lost. Microsoft has since carefully reviewed the matter and reinstated Moore with full Xbox Live privileges (translation: the story hit the web).”


The parents of players on the boys baseball team at a Michigan high school took the initiative to raise private money and do the work themselves to make improvements to the field on which their sons play. But the federal government, which really should have nothing to say about a high school baseball field in Michigan, has intervened, citing federal civil rights law, and noting that the boys facility is now much nicer than the girls softball field. The Department of Justice has threatened fines for Plymouth Canton Community Schools, so the school system will remove the new scoreboard and bleachers put in by the parents.

It would obviously be unfair to simply tell the girls’ parents to get busy and take care of their own improvements, like the boys’ parents did. Better yet, the feds should just keep quiet.

Tuesday, April 01, 2014

Common Core State Standards Initiative has uncommonly bad problems

I attended a lecture by former Florida Governor Jeb Bush last year at which he spoke positively about the Common Core State Standards Initiative (CCSS), explaining that governors and state commissioners or secretaries of education developed the program. It is entirely voluntary, and is designed to set uniform high education standards in the states that participate.

The idea seems potentially beneficial, given that the states control it and not the federal government. In support, Mr. Bush cites the fact that the U.S. has fallen behind many other countries in educational attainment, and that CCSS can reverse this trend.

“Let me tell you something,” Mr. Bush said recently at the Broward Workshop business breakfast, as reported by The Miami Herald. “In Asia today, they don’t care about children’s self esteem. They care about math, whether they can read – in English – whether they understand why science is important, whether they have the grit and determination to be successful.”

Appearing on the Hugh Hewitt radio program the host breached the idea that CCSS would be a national curriculum. “In fact, standards are different than curriculum,” Mr. Bush responded, “and that’s where I think the biggest misnomer is where people legitimately get concerned. I would be concerned if we had a national curriculum influenced by the federal government. My God, I’d break out in a rash.” The curriculum, he said, “should be driven by state and local school districts and by policy makers at the state level.”

So, CCSS sounds pretty good. Ideas often fail to reach their expectations, however, and where Common Core is concerned there are numerous examples of how its implementation fails to match up with the high ideals Mr. Bush believes in.

To say that the Common Core approach to basic mathematics is different takes understatement to a new level. If the problem is to find the sum of 26 and 17, we would normally put the addends one above the other, add 7 and 6 to get 13, put the 3 down and carry the 1, then add the 1, the 2 and the other 1 to get 43.

Not so with Common Core math. Here’s how CCSS does it:

Add 26 + 17 by breaking apart numbers to make a ten. Use a number that adds with the 6 in 26 to make a 10. Since 6 + 4 = 10, use 4. Think: 17 = 4 + 13. Add 26 + 4 = 30. Add 30 + 13 = 43. So, 26 + 17 = 43.

Does the CCSS method work? Well, yes, it works. And perhaps some beneficial learning takes place. However it is somewhat like when trying to fly from Washington, DC to New York City, you first fly to Nashville, TN, then to Atlanta, GA, then to Boston, MA then to NYC.

Most important in education, however, is the content presented in the classroom. The most high-minded goals are meaningless if what students actually experience ignores them.

Testifying before the Alabama Senate Education Committee, Becky Gerritson focused primarily on an 11th grade literature textbook called The American Experience: 1900-Present by Prentice Hall, with the words “Common Core Edition” on the cover. She explained that it contains anti-American themes and misrepresents our nation’s founding, and she supports a bill to allow local school districts to opt out of Common Core.

But where she really got the Committee’s attention was when she began reading six sentences of Toni Morrison’s book The Bluest Eye, which she said is recommended reading for 11th graders.

What she read produced gasps from the audience, and the chairman stopped her, and did not allowed her to finish. You see, this book recommended for 11th graders is the story of an 8-year old black girl. The six sentences she chose to read were a graphic depiction of a sex act between a pedophile and the 8-year-old, and contained, among several pornographic phrases that are inappropriate for this column, the F-word that brought the testimony to a close.

Defenders of Common Core might argue that most 11th graders are familiar with such language and concepts, but that is totally beside the point. It is completely inappropriate for a high school classroom.

And political pressure is also present.

According to Susan Kimball, a kindergarten teacher of 20 years in the Sikeston, Missouri Public School District, her opposition to Common Core resulted in bullying and intimidation from administrators and fellow teachers.

Ms. Kimball related that she was told at an in-service meeting to “be careful about what you post on Facebook, or talk about in the public regarding Common Core.  Don’t say anything negative.  It could affect your job.” But she continued to speak out.

“When I turned in a personal day request to come support the rally for House Bill 1490,” she said, “I was asked by my principal, ‘Do you really want that in your personnel file?’ And then I was bullied and ostracized by my administration, a few other teachers and the president of the school board.  And that continues today,” she said.

Common Core must be carefully investigated and cleaned up before being adopted. Or maybe just scrap it.