Tuesday, November 26, 2013

WSJ.com - The Great Destroyer

The Great Destroyer

ObamaCare wreaks havoc on health care, the economy, American freedom and Obama's presidency.



Most interestingly, the administration and congressional Democrats seem genuinely surprised that their prized legislation, which was to be the crown jewel of the president's legacy and the culmination of decades of liberal ambition, simply doesn't work. Did these folks ever study history, economics or sociology? If they had, they would have known there was little chance of success for their attempt to snatch one-sixth of our economy and thrust it under a complex set of bureaucratic regulations, market disincentives, higher costs and new taxes.


Large government interventions in the market almost always fall short of their backers' dreams (although not usually this rapidly). Such programs suffer from a common set of flaws, all of which are found in ObamaCare. First, and perhaps foremost, is the hubris inherent in the assumption that bureaucrats in Washington (or Moscow, Beijing or Pyongyang) know better than families, individuals and businesses do what is best for them.


ObamaCare embodies the usual hypocrisy of large liberal programs, as the administration bestows benefits and exemptions on favored constituencies and the politically connected. We see waivers for big labor, relief from inconvenient mandates for congressional staff, and decisions timed to minimize harm to Democrats in the next election. Conversely, those who don't have politically correct views are ignored or mocked. We see lip service given to conscientious objections to abortion and birth control, but ObamaCare policies that run roughshod over these objections.


Perhaps most disappointing, we can observe in the administration's handling of ObamaCare a now all too familiar subversion of the rule of law, a fundamental precept of our nation's founding and of democracies everywhere. George Will notes that the administration has apparently decided it can adopt legislation by press conference as Mr. Obama simply announces changes to the law or that he will not enforce certain provisions. His administration then proceeds to strong-arm businesses and demonize critics.


There is the usual governmental failure to anticipate how people respond to economic incentives. Why would the administration expect the required large numbers of healthy, young people to enroll in ObamaCare in response to higher premiums? Why would the administration expect businesses to refrain from adjusting their staffing decisions based on the additional cost of ObamaCare?


Finally, we see the familiar curse of unintended consequences as the fantasy of better, more affordable insurance with more options runs into the reality of higher costs and fewer options. The failed exchange and the cancelled plans were just the beginning, followed by sticker shock at the cost of the government-mandated coverage and doctors being dropped from networks or opting out.


We don't yet know every way in which ObamaCare will damage our health-care system, our economy and our freedom, but we can be sure more pain is coming.

Tuesday, October 8, 2013

WSJ.com - Why Tough Teachers Get Good Results

Why Tough Teachers Get Good Results



"It's time to revive old-fashioned education... with strict discipline and unyielding demands. Because here's the thing: It works.  Studies have now shown, among other things, the benefits of moderate childhood stress; how praise kills kids' self-esteem; and why grit is a better predictor of success than SAT scores.


All of which flies in the face of the kinder, gentler philosophy that has dominated American education over the past few decades. The conventional wisdom holds that teachers are supposed to tease knowledge out of students, rather than pound it into their heads. Projects and collaborative learning are applauded; traditional methods like lecturing and memorization—derided as "drill and kill"—are frowned upon, dismissed as a surefire way to suck young minds dry of creativity and motivation.


But the conventional wisdom is wrong. And the following eight principles explain why.

1. A little pain is good for you.

2. Drill, baby, drill.

3. Failure is an option.

4. Strict is better than nice.

5. Creativity can be learned.

6. Grit trumps talent.

7. Praise makes you weak…

8.…while stress makes you strong.

Monday, September 30, 2013

WSJ.com - An Obama-Cruz Shutdown



The first thing to keep in mind is that this does not mean "anarchy," in Harry Reid's typically subtle formulation, or even a complete government shutdown. Functions deemed "essential" will continue, and it's debatable how many of those really are crucial to daily American life. The military will be paid, Social Security checks will still go out. Many Americans will be inconvenienced, but tens of millions may come to realize how easily they can do without most of the vast federal Leviathan.


A second reality is that both parties are responsible for getting to this point. Americans chose a divided government in 2010 and again in 2012, electing House Republicans as a check on Democrats whose undiluted liberalism alarmed millions of voters when they ran the entire government in 2009-2010. The inability to compromise now is rooted in the wide disagreement about the role of government that now separates the two parties.


This is a President who is eager to negotiate with dubiously elected Iranian mullahs but can't abide compromise with duly elected leaders of Congress.


Mr. Obama also refuses to bend on any part of ObamaCare—except when he unilaterally announces bending in his own political interest. He decided on his own, and contrary to the plain text of the law, to delay for a year the business mandate to provide insurance for employees.


Mr. Obama's refusal to negotiate suggests that he wants a shutdown—either over the budget or debt limit. His agenda is dying on Capitol Hill, because of Senate Democrats as well as House Republicans. With his approval rating down and independents leaning toward the GOP, he figures his only chance to salvage a second-term domestic legacy is to restore Nancy Pelosi as Speaker in his final two years. His best opening to make that happen is a shutdown or debt-limit crisis that he will try to blame on Republicans. A shutdown is as much his strategy as it is Mr. Cruz's.

Monday, March 4, 2013

WSJ.com - Republicans and Their Faulty Moral Arithmetic

Republicans and Their Faulty Moral Arithmetic 

Conservative values and money issues are worth less than concern for the poor.



Conservatives are fighting a losing battle of moral arithmetic. They hand an argument with virtually 100% public support—care for the vulnerable—to progressives, and focus instead on materialistic concerns and minority moral viewpoints.

The irony is maddening. America's poor people have been saddled with generations of disastrous progressive policy results, from welfare-induced dependency to failing schools that continue to trap millions of children.

Meanwhile, the record of free enterprise in improving the lives of the poor both here and abroad is spectacular. According to Columbia University economist Xavier Sala-i-Martin, the percentage of people in the world living on a dollar a day or less—a traditional poverty measure—has fallen by 80% since 1970. This is the greatest antipoverty achievement in world history. That achievement is not the result of philanthropy or foreign aid. It occurred because billions of souls have been able to pull themselves out of poverty thanks to global free trade, property rights, the rule of law and entrepreneurship.

The left talks a big game about helping the bottom half, but its policies are gradually ruining the economy, which will have catastrophic results once the safety net is no longer affordable. Labyrinthine regulations, punitive taxation and wage distortions destroy the ability to create private-sector jobs. Opportunities for Americans on the bottom to better their station in life are being erased.


Tuesday, February 26, 2013

WSJ.com - Head Start for All



…what "study after study" really suggest is that government-funded pre-K programs are best when they are targeted at low-income, disadvantaged or minority children—those with the most need. Such a modest, practical reform may lack Mr. Obama's preferred political grandeur, but the other reason he didn't propose it is that the government has already been doing it for a half-century.


That would be Lyndon Johnson's Head Start program, birth date 1965. In December of last year, the Health and Human Services Department released the most comprehensive study of Head Start to date, which took years to prepare. The 346-page report followed toddlers who won lotteries to join Head Start in several states and those who didn't through the third grade. There were no measurable differences between the two groups across 47 outcome measures. In other words, Head Start's impact is no better than random.


Counting Head Start, special education and state-subsidized preschool, 42% of four-year-olds are now enrolled in a government program. Federal, state and local financing for early learning is closing in on $40 billion a year, double what it was a decade ago. But can anyone say that achievement is twice as good—or even as good?


The problem of America's undeveloped human potential is real, but Mr. Obama has set up a non-falsifiable evidentiary standard for government. The public schools fail the poor, but reforming them is hard and would upset the unions. So instead liberals propose Head Start to prepare poor kids for kindergarten. Head Start has little to show after 47 years, but rather than replacing it, the new liberal solution is to expand it to everyone.


Meanwhile, pundits who claim to be empiricists lecture Republicans to agree to all this so they don't appear to be so hostile to government. Everyone pretends that spending more on programs that have demonstrably failed is a sign of compassion and "what works," government expands without results, and the poor are offered only the false hope of liberal good intentions.

Saturday, February 9, 2013

WSJ.com - Are Polar Bears Really Disappearing?

I went north for a simple reason: I wanted to be a hero of the environmental movement and write a poetic obituary for a doomed species. The Center for Biological Diversity—the environmental group that sued the U.S. government to put polar bears on the Endangered Species list—had predicted that "two-thirds of the world's polar bears could be extinct by 2050."
But after months of reporting and hundreds of bear sightings, I kept running up against an inconvenient truth: There were a lot of well-meaning, well-credentialed scientists, wildlife officers and local experts who simply didn't believe that polar bears were one ice cube away from extinction. And they had the numbers to prove it.
Which was good news for the bears…even if it was terrible news for their careers as symbols of environmental doom.
Let's start with what we know. Almost everybody agrees that there are between 20,000 and 25,000 polar bears alive today. Here's another thing almost everyone agrees on: That number is a whole lot bigger than it was 40 years ago.
"Polar bears are one of the biggest conservation success stories in the world," says Drikus Gissing, wildlife director for the Canadian territory of Nunavut.