Tuesday, March 31, 2009

WSJ.com - Cap and Trade War


WSJ.com - Opinion: Cap and Trade War


So in addition to all the other economic harm, a cap-and-trade tax will make foreign companies more competitive while eroding market share for U.S. businesses. The most harm will accrue to the very U.S. manufacturing and heavy-industry jobs that Democrats and unions claim to want to keep inside the U.S. A cap-and-tax plan would be the greatest outsourcing boon in history. And it may even increase CO2 emissions overall, because the developing nations where businesses are likely to relocate -- if they don't simply close -- tend to use energy less efficiently than does the U.S.



Friday, March 27, 2009

WSJ.com - National Health Preview


In Massachusetts's latest crisis, Governor Deval Patrick and his Democratic colleagues are starting to move down the path that government health plans always follow when spending collides with reality -- i.e., price controls. As costs continue to rise, the inevitable results are coverage restrictions and waiting periods. It was only a matter of time.

They're trying to manage the huge costs of the subsidized middle-class insurance program that is gradually swallowing the state budget.

Which brings us to Washington, where Mr. Obama and Congressional Democrats are about to try their own Bay State bait and switch: First create vast new entitlements that can never be repealed, then later take the less popular step of rationing care when it's their last hope to save the federal fisc.

The consequences of that deception will be far worse than those in Massachusetts, however, given that prior to 2006 the state already had a far smaller percentage of its population uninsured than the national average. The real lesson of Massachusetts is that reform proponents won't tell Americans the truth about what "universal" coverage really means: Runaway costs followed by price controls and bureaucratic rationing.



Thursday, March 26, 2009

WSJ.com - Europe Syndrome

Note: This article is longer than most (and so is my excerpt), but I highly recommend a thoughtful read of the several points made by the author.
Do we want the United States to be like Europe?
First, I will argue that the European model is fundamentally flawed because, despite its material successes, it is not suited to the way that human beings flourish--it does not conduce to Aristotelian happiness.

To become a source of deep satisfaction, a human activity has to meet some stringent requirements. It has to have been important (we don't get deep satisfaction from trivial things). You have to have put a lot of effort into it (hence the cliché "nothing worth having comes easily"). And you have to have been responsible for the consequences.

There aren't many activities in life that can satisfy those three requirements... If we ask what are the institutions through which human beings achieve deep satisfactions in life, the answer is that there are just four: family, community, vocation and faith...

It is not necessary for any individual to make use of all four institutions, nor do I array them in a hierarchy. I merely assert that these four are all there are. The stuff of life--the elemental events surrounding birth, death, raising children, fulfilling one's personal potential, dealing with adversity, intimate relationships--coping with life as it exists around us in all its richness--occurs within those four institutions.

Seen in this light, the goal of social policy is to ensure that those institutions are robust and vital. And that's what's wrong with the European model. It doesn't do that. It enfeebles every single one of them.


The 20th century was a very strange century, riddled from beginning to end with toxic political movements and nutty ideas. For some years a metaphor has been stuck in my mind: the twentieth century was the adolescence of Homo sapiens. Nineteenth-century science, from Darwin to Freud, offered a series of body blows to ways of thinking about human beings and human lives that had prevailed since the dawn of civilization. Humans, just like adolescents, were deprived of some of the comforting simplicities of childhood and exposed to more complex knowledge about the world. And 20th-century intellectuals reacted precisely the way that adolescents react when they think they have discovered Mom and Dad are hopelessly out of date. They think that the grown-ups are wrong about everything. In the case of 20th-century intellectuals, it was as if they thought that if Darwin was right about evolution, then Aquinas is no longer worth reading; that if Freud was right about the unconscious mind, the "Nicomachean Ethics" had nothing to teach us.

The nice thing about adolescence is that it is temporary, and, when it passes, people discover that their parents were smarter than they thought. I think that may be happening with the advent of the new century, as postmodernist answers to solemn questions about human existence start to wear thin--we're growing out of adolescence. The kinds of scientific advances in understanding human nature are going to accelerate that process. All of us who deal in social policy will be thinking less like adolescents, entranced with the most titillating new idea, and thinking more like grown-ups.


American exceptionalism is not just something that Americans claim for themselves. Historically, Americans have been different as a people, even peculiar, and everyone around the world has recognized it. I'm thinking of qualities such as American optimism even when there doesn't seem to be any good reason for it. That's quite uncommon among the peoples of the world. There is the striking lack of class envy in America--by and large, Americans celebrate others' success instead of resenting it. That's just about unique, certainly compared to European countries, and something that drives European intellectuals crazy. And then there is perhaps the most important symptom of all, the signature of American exceptionalism--the assumption by most Americans that they are in control of their own destinies. It is hard to think of a more inspiriting quality for a population to possess, and the American population still possesses it to an astonishing degree. No other country comes close.

The exceptionalism has not been a figment of anyone's imagination, and it has been wonderful. But it isn't something in the water that has made us that way. It comes from the cultural capital generated by the system that the Founders laid down, a system that says people must be free to live life as they see fit and to be responsible for the consequences of their actions; that it is not the government's job to protect people from themselves; that it is not the government's job to stage-manage how people interact with each other. Discard the system that created the cultural capital, and the qualities we love about Americans can go away. In some circles, they are going away.

...The drift toward the European model can be slowed by piecemeal victories on specific items of legislation, but only slowed. It is going to be stopped only when we are all talking again about why America is exceptional, and why it is so important that America remain exceptional. That requires once again seeing the American project for what it is: a different way for people to live together, unique among the nations of the earth, and immeasurably precious.


Tuesday, March 17, 2009

WSJ.com - Immigrants Can Help Fix the Housing Bubble

The Obama administration should seriously consider granting resident status to foreigners who buy surplus houses in this country. This makes more sense than the president's $275 billion housing bailout plan, which Americans greeted with a Bronx cheer. 

America's relatively open immigration policy makes this country better off than many other developed lands whose governments also must fund the pensions and health care for growing numbers of retirees. Yet there's still a huge need for more productive and skilled people, both current residents and immigrants, who will produce enough goods and services to provide for their own needs and for those in retirement. Otherwise, entitlement spending eventually will touch off intergenerational warfare.

Granting permanent resident status to foreigners who buy houses in this country will curtail a primary driver of the deepening recession and financial crises -- excess house inventories and the resulting collapse of prices. Since the people who will buy these houses will tend to have money, education, skills and entrepreneurial talents, they will be substantial assets to America in both the short and long runs.


Monday, March 16, 2009

WSJ.com - Life Stories: Children Find Meaning in Old Family Tales

As parents cut budgets, many are finding family stories have surprising power to help children through hard times. Storytelling experts say the phenomenon reflects a growing national interest in telling tales, evidenced by a rise in storytelling events and festivals. New research bears out the value of family stories, linking teens' knowledge of them to better behavior and mental health. 
An Emory University study of 65 families with children ages 14 to 16 found kids' ability to retell parents' stories was linked to a lower rate of depression and anxiety and less acting-out of frustration or anger, says Robyn Fivush, a psychology professor. Knowing family stories "helps children put their own experience in perspective,"

Friday, March 13, 2009

WSJ.com - Islam Should Prove It's a Religion of Peace


Many Muslims seem to believe that it is acceptable to teach hatred and violence in the name of their religion -- while at the same time expecting the world to respect Islam as a religion of peace, love and harmony.

Scholars in the most prestigious Islamic institutes and universities continue to teach things like Jews are "pigs and monkeys," that women and men must be stoned to death for adultery, or that Muslims must fight the world to spread their religion. Isn't, then, Mr. Wilders's criticism appropriate? Instead of blaming him, we must blame the leading Islamic scholars for having failed to produce an authoritative book on Islamic jurisprudence that is accepted in the Islamic world and unambiguously rejects these violent teachings.

While many religious texts preach violence, the interpretation, modern usage and implementation of these teachings make all the difference. 


Wednesday, March 11, 2009

WSJ.com -Soccer Is Ruining America

I’m not sure I agree much with this article, but I found it very enjoyable to read!


WSJ.com - Opinion: Soccer Is Ruining America


Soccer is running America into the ground, and there is very little anyone can do about it. Social critics have long observed that we live in a therapeutic society that treats young people as if they can do no wrong. Every kid is a winner, and nobody is ever left behind, no matter how many times they watch the ball going the other way. Whether the dumbing down of America or soccer came first is hard to say, but soccer is clearly an important means by which American energy, drive and competitiveness are being undermined to the point of no return.


What other game, to put it bluntly, is so boring to watch? (Bowling and golf come to mind, but the sound of crashing pins and the sight of the well-attired strolling on perfectly kept greens are at least inherently pleasurable activities.) The linear, two-dimensional action of soccer is like the rocking of a boat but without any storm and while the boat has not even left the dock. Think of two posses pursuing their prey in opposite directions without any bullets in their guns. Soccer is the fluoridation of the American sporting scene.


For those who think I jest, let me put forth four points, which is more points than most fans will see in a week of games—and more points than most soccer players have scored since their pee-wee days.



WSJ.com -When Congress Spends, Worse Is Better


Politicians and citizens understand earmarks in different ways. Politicians understand that not all earmarks are pork, and not all pork comes in the form of an earmark. They also appreciate the ease of inserting pet projects into large spending bills without any debate or scrutiny.

The public understands that this way of handling taxpayer dollars is corrupting even when it doesn't lead to a federal indictment. In fact, since the Jack Abramoff scandals and the now-notorious "bridge to nowhere," earmark has become a dirty word. So when citizens see these earmarks exposed in the press and lampooned on late-night TV, they assume it makes it more difficult for our congresspersons to pass them.

What the public does not understand is that the more earmarks there are in a bill, the harder it will be to vote against it. The reason is simple: With every earmark, a congressman or senator gains a personal stake in the passage of a bill he or she might otherwise oppose.



Tuesday, March 10, 2009

WSJ.com - Who Pays for Cap and Trade?

Cap and trade is the tax that dare not speak its name, and Democrats are hoping in particular that no one notices who would pay for their climate ambitions. With President Obama depending on vast new carbon revenues in his budget and Congress promising a bill by May, perhaps Americans would like to know the deeply unequal ways that climate costs would be distributed across regions and income groups. 

Politicians love cap and trade because they can claim to be taxing "polluters," not workers. Hardly. Once the government creates a scarce new commodity -- in this case the right to emit carbon -- and then mandates that businesses buy it, the costs would inevitably be passed on to all consumers in the form of higher prices. Stating the obvious, Peter Orszag -- now Mr. Obama's budget director -- told Congress last year that "Those price increases are essential to the success of a cap-and-trade program."

Hit hardest would be the "95% of working families" Mr. Obama keeps mentioning, usually omitting that his no-new-taxes pledge comes with the caveat "unless you use energy." Putting a price on carbon is regressive by definition because poor and middle-income households spend more of their paychecks on things like gas to drive to work, groceries or home heating.


Monday, March 9, 2009

WSJ.com - Health 'Reformers' Ignore Facts

If members of Congress slow down long enough to read the detailed reports of their own Congressional Budget Office (CBO) -- or even its director's recent Senate testimony -- they will understand that many of the slogans they use to justify government intervention are false. 

Health care certainly plays a major role in the U.S. economy, and by almost any objective account a highly positive role. It employs 13 million Americans and accounts for one out of 10 jobs. But the assertion that the costs of providing health insurance cripples American corporations in the global economy is simply wrong.

CBO director Douglas W. Elmendorf explained this last week to the Senate Committee on Finance... The point is that for employers, health care is merely a part of total compensation: It reduces cash compensation for employees but it does not increase costs of employment.

recent CBO report ("Key Issues in Analyzing Major Health Insurance Proposals, " December 2008) is clear on one issue: Working to achieve universal coverage through expanding government's role in health care will increase total costs and therefore either increase premiums or taxes, not reduce them. 

WSJ.com - Packing Heat: The Firepower of the Lowly Caulk Gun


Cutting-Edge Energy Technologies Such as Solar Panels Don't Deliver as Much Bang as Plugging Leaky Homes

Marketers, politicians and consumers like to imagine a world of solar panels, wind turbines and cars fueled by wood chips. But none of that gadgetry packs the here-and-now punch of a decades-old option: plugging leaky homes with a caulk gun.

In the drive to curb the growth in fossil-fuel use and greenhouse-gas emissions, "it's the leaky holes that matter..." 

By 2030, improving the energy efficiency of buildings could limit greenhouse-gas emissions more than ramping up either wind or solar power... And that energy-efficiency push would save more money than it costs while the renewable-energy alternatives would cost more than they save. 



Wednesday, March 4, 2009

WSJ.com - The Obama Economy

...it's also true that the economy has fallen far enough, and long enough, that much of the excess that led to recession is being worked off. Already 15 months old, the current recession will soon match the average length -- and average job loss -- of the last three postwar downturns. What goes down will come up -- unless destructive policies interfere with the sources of potential recovery.
[Monday] the Dow fell another 4.24% to 6763, for an overall decline of 25% in two months and to its lowest level since 1997.
So what has happened in the last two months? The economy has received no great new outside shock. Exchange rates and other prices have been stable, and there are no security crises of note. The reality of a sharp recession has been known and built into stock prices since last year's fourth quarter.

What is new is the unveiling of Mr. Obama's agenda and his approach to governance. Every new President has a finite stock of capital -- financial and political -- to deploy, and amid recession Mr. Obama has more than most. But one negative revelation has been the way he has chosen to spend his scarce resources on income transfers rather than growth promotion. Most of his "stimulus" spending was devoted to social programs, rather than public works, and nearly all of the tax cuts were devoted to income maintenance rather than to improving incentives to work or invest.



Monday, March 2, 2009

WSJ.com - Oops! I'll Do It Again. And Again. And Again...

We do children no favors by teaching them that they have a right to a favorable outcome in all that they do. It used to be the case that education was thought of not just as the acquisition of knowledge -- still less as the acquisition of credentials -- but as a form of character building. And one of the ways to build character is to submit students to the same sorts of stresses and failures that adult life does, in order to teach them how to cope with such things. 
If you fail, sooner or later that failure will have to be recognized, confronted and put to rights. Not to do so in a timely fashion is only to spread the consequences of failure much more widely -- to the whole educational system in the case of the SATs and the ordinary taxpayer in the case of the bailouts. Both deserve better.