Purple People Without a Political Party: A purple person recounts a lifetime of living among the red and blue

Estimated Reading Time: 6 minutes

TUCSON – As the nation has divided into red and blue (Republican and Democrat), purple people like myself no longer have a political party.

Most of us are classical liberals or distant cousins to today’s libertarians.

Purple had become our color because we had preferred a blend of red and blue policies at the national level. But we no longer prefer the blend because of what the two parties have become.

A long time ago, the Democrat Party was attractive to purple people because it stood for civil liberties, working stiffs, the poor and balanced budgets. And the Republican Party was attractive because it stood for prosperity, low taxes and balanced budgets.

Both parties then proceeded to tarnish themselves with foolish wars (Vietnam, Afghanistan, Iraq and the War on Drugs), huge deficits, a big government isolated in the out-of-touch Imperial City of Washington, the financialization of the economy, the screwing of working stiffs, and a failure to address the root problems among the black underclass, choosing instead to pander to middle- and upper-class blacks, who were doing well without the paternalism and tokenism of half-baked diversity programs.

Democrats went on to embrace globalism, racial and identity politics and socialism while taking money from Wall Street and Silicon Valley and snookering poor minorities. Republicans went on to embrace globalism and corporatism while forgetting Main Street.

Trump saw a political opening and stepped in with his nationalism and his populist appeals to working stiffs. In some ways he was like Teddy Roosevelt and the Bull Moose Party. Unlike the old Bull Moose Party, however, Trump succeeded in winning the presidency; but like the Bull Moose Party, his movement could end in the dustbin of history, due to demographic trends and corresponding changes in American values, especially among miseducated millennials and their offspring.

Democrats and Republicans have become eaters of purple people, in the political sense. They should adopt the hit song of 1958, “The Purple People Eater,” as their theme song.

Although Democrats and Republicans have forsaken purple people at the national level, many reddish cities and states are better for them at the local level, including those run by Democrats who govern with a reddish tint. Reddish locales are also better for people of all political colors, skin colors and socioeconomic classes.

To that point, two respected demographic researchers have developed an Upward Mobility Index for the nation’s 107 largest metropolitan areas—those with populations of 500,000 or more in 2018. The index weighs the factors that lead to upward mobility and entry into the middle class for the three largest ethnic and racial minorities: African-Americans, Latinos and Asians.

The Upward Mobility Index shows that cities with bluish policies—affirmative action, programs for racial redress, strict labor and environmental laws—help nonwhites far less than reddish cities with low housing costs, friendly business conditions and reasonable tax rates.

That finding matches my own research and my own experience in living in red and blue locales.

I began life in the working-class neighborhood of my hometown of blue St. Louis, then later moved to the blue barrio of San Antonio, then served in the blue/red Army, then moved to blue Chicago to start my business career, then moved to the red metropolis of Phoenix, then moved to blue New Jersey, then moved back to the red metropolis of Phoenix, and finally, for family reasons, then moved in retirement to the deep blue of the Tucson metropolis, where Democrats have had a political monopoly for decades in the City of Tucson and the surrounding Pima County.

Now I find myself living in a blue state, due to Arizona turning from red to blue in the 2020 election and voting in favor of a class-resentment proposition that will increase taxes on the so-called wealthy and cause the state to lose its primary competitive advantage. As a result, fewer Californians escaping the Golden State will move to Arizona. They will keep driving until they reach Texas, where they will try to turn that state blue.

To see what life is like among the blue and red, below is a synopsis of life in each of the places I’ve lived.

City of St. Louis

The Democrat machine of the City of St. Louis brought corruption, bloated government, decline and crime to what had been one of the nation’s largest and most prosperous cities in the early twentieth century. During its heyday, the city wanted nothing to do with the surrounding reddish county, even to the extent of establishing its own county-level courts and services. Now it’s dependent on the county for life support.

Personal anecdote: When the city was well into its decline, one of my college jobs was working for a former city mayor whose shady company specialized in helping taverns in renewing their liquor license. The job required getting the signatures of a majority of property owners within a 200-foot radius of a drinking establishment, which was often in a slum. I quit after seeing the sordidness of the process and learning that most slumlords lived in leafy liberal enclaves.

San Antonio

This city was an impoverished, crime-ridden economic backwater when I lived there. It later became wealthier by means of reddish economic policies and the annexation of much of the surrounding reddish Bexar County. It also had the benefit of being located in reddish, low-tax Texas.

Personal anecdote: I would be awakened in the barrio to the sound of gunfire, got caught in the middle of a gunfight one night and had my car stolen once and my wheels stolen twice.

Chicago

It’s difficult to top Chicago and Cook County in corruption, high taxes, crime, and bloated government. This is such common knowledge that nothing else needs to be said.

Personal anecdote: Chicago was so corrupt that when I was buying a house there, my real estate attorney asked for $200 to bribe a county clerk to expedite the title recording.

New Jersey

On second thought, the Garden State may top Chicago in corruption, taxes and bloated government.

Life in the Garden State came with potholed county and state roads, piles of trash and litter along roadsides, and sleazy Italian mobsters who gave Italians a bad name by controlling the garbage industry, other industries and politicians. The state was so disgusting and misgoverned that an overpass on the major east-west artery of Interstate 78 burned down and was closed for months when a 40-foot-tall pile of illegally-dumped trash started on fire.

Personal anecdote: Taxes in New Jersey were so high that my wife and I paid annual property taxes of $14,000 (in today’s dollars) on our 2,200 sq. ft. house in the suburb of Basking Ridge. By contrast, we paid $3,500 in property taxes on our former 3,700 sq. ft. house in the Phoenix suburb of Scottsdale.

Metro Phoenix

When my wife and I first moved decades ago to a blue-collar neighborhood in bluish Phoenix, the city was still somewhat of a cowboy town, with a smattering of resorts and retirement communities. It was not unusual to see guys in cowboy hats and boots with six-shooters and holsters on their hips. But the metropolis was clean, well-managed, had visionary leadership and bipartisan elections and oozed optimism and promise.

When we moved to Scottsdale years later, that suburb had grown from a sleepy bedroom community to a thriving, hip place to live, work and play, thanks to the visionary leadership of former mayor Herb Drinkwater, whose party affiliation was unknown to residents and didn’t matter to them.

Anecdote: Scottsdale government was so forward-looking and efficient that the city invented and implemented a new way of picking up trash, a way that reduced the number of employees per truck to one: the driver. Under the system, homeowners rolled a trash bin to the curb on pickup days, where the bin was picked up and emptied by a lift operated by the driver of the trash truck. The system is now widespread, but at the time it was the opposite of the prevailing union featherbedding in Chicago and New Jersey.

Tucson

The dark-blue City of Tucson and surrounding blue Pima County are examples of what decades of one-party government and partisan elections can do to a city and county.

The city has a poverty rate twice the national average, a rate of property crimes near the top nationally, below-average test scores, poorly maintained roads and parks and widespread shabbiness.

The surrounding unincorporated county is wealthier, but streets are in such disrepair that if I were to describe them accurately, you’d think I was lying. Parks are in similar condition and too many commercial and public properties are poorly maintained. Roads are so littered that my wife and I come home from our daily walks with bags that we’ve filled with the detritus from residents who have become accepting of bad government and desensitized to the consequences.

In spite of being the home of the University of Arizona, which is a major research university, the metropolis as a whole is an economic backwater shunned by large corporations as a headquarters location. As such, ambitious college graduates tend to move elsewhere for opportunities, especially to such cities as Phoenix, Denver and Dallas. And even though big companies are now letting their headquarters’ employees work from anywhere due to the coronavirus, Tucson doesn’t seem to be on their radar, in spite of its favorable climate, pretty natural setting and nearby outdoor attractions.

Meanwhile, local politicians engage in hollow virtue-signaling about the poor, climate change, and other progressive pieties. For instance, the mayor of Tucson wants to plant thousands of trees to counteract global warming – this in a city without abundant water that already does a lousy job of maintaining existing vegetation.

Personal anecdote: When my wife and I moved from well-run Scottsdale to badly-run metro Tucson, we ended up paying 50% more for the combined total of property taxes, water, sewer, trash pick-up, and fire service – although our house here has the same assessed value as our former house.

In conclusion, regardless of what color they are, people generally do better in reddish cities, including purple people.

Questions for Starbucks About Its New Diversity Policy

Estimated Reading Time: 3 minutes

Starbucks recently announced that it is tying pay to the accomplishment of diversity goals. Specifically, its goals are to have at least 30% of its U.S. corporate employees and 40% of its U.S. retail and manufacturing employees to be people of color defined as black people, other people of color and indigenous people. It will track them across 14 job levels.

The company reported that its workforce is currently 53.5% white, 10.5% Hispanic/Latino, 8% black, 5.5% Asian, 4.7% multiracial, and 1.3% other.

Starbucks is following the corporate herd. Other big corporations have announced similar goals, and some have even gone so far as to pledge that 40% of their management positions will be filled by selected races/ethnicities. In some cases, companies have used the catchall term “minorities” in stating their diversity goals.

Although I don’t patronize Starbucks, I have no doubt that the chain knows more about the coffee business than I do. But I doubt that it knows as much as I do about equal opportunity, affirmative action, diversity, and racial sensitivity training. Over my career I was at the leading edge of such initiatives and also had expertise in federal and state anti-discrimination laws and in designing compensation programs. I’ve also had a lifetime interest in the history of race in America and the reasons why there are socioeconomic differences between races and ethnic groups.

Based on that experience, I have the following questions for Starbucks and the rest of the herd:

  1. How do you define white, black, Hispanic/Latino, and Asian?  Do you define them based on physical traits, surnames, ancestral country, or something else?
  2. In what category do you put Egyptians? Palestinians? Turks? Persians? Arabs? Sicilians? Afghans? Pakistanis? Mongolians?
  3. Do you believe that all Asians think alike, see the world the same way, and have identical cultures, whether they’re Japanese, Korean, Han Chinese, Vietnamese, Filipino, Cambodians, Thais, Indonesians, or Malays?  If not, why do you lump them together in the name of diversity?  Do you see the contradiction in this?
  4. Do you have a similar belief about the 100 or so ethnicities/nationalities on the European continent and the Middle East? Do you believe that all of these peoples think alike, see the world the same way, have the same culture, and come from privilege?
  5. How do you determine whether someone is a person of color? Since my Italian skin is darker than the skin of many Hispanics and certainly darker than my Swedish/Scots-Irish wife, am I a person of color? What about the offspring of a Greek and a Korean?  Is that individual a person of color or an Asian or both?
  6. What is your definition of “minority?” Does it include Iranian Americans, who comprise less than one percent of the population?
  7. If you define minority in terms of people lacking in political and economic power, do you consider East Indians to be minorities? How about the fact that most emigrants from India are from an upper caste, or the fact that the Patel clan is the largest owner of independent motels and hotels in America, or the fact that a disproportionate percent of Indians hold high-paid jobs in Silicon Valley, or the fact that 70% of Indian immigrants have college degrees (versus about 7% of Mexican immigrants)?
  8. Does it cross your mind – your mind of pigeon-holes – that it might be demotivating for an employee of yours who is a poor Scots-Irish descendant of coal miners in West Virginia to be told that his opportunities are now limited because of being in the wrong pigeonhole? And do you understand how divisive this is corporately and nationally?
  9. If your objective relative to African Americans is to make up for past injustices and address the horrible problems in many black communities, do you realize how complex those problems are, what the root causes of the problems are, and how little the problems will improve by what you are doing?
  10. Why are you not sued for brazenly violating Title VII of the 1964 Civil Rights Act, which forbids making hiring and promotion decisions based on race and ethnicity, among other provisions?  Are you aware that courts and the EEOC have determined that affirmative action is legal in terms of reaching out to historically overlooked communities and increasing the applicant pool; but that it is not legal to set numerical targets for favoring some races/ethnicities and discriminating against others in hiring and promotions?

In closing, you might be interested to know why this Italian doesn’t patronize Starbucks.

First, Starbucks’ founder got the idea for the business on a visit to Italy and watching Italians stop for a quick shot of expresso on their way to work but the high-calorie milkshakes masquerading as coffee at Starbucks are unlike what is consumed in Italy.

Second, being the son of a tile setter and the grandson of an Italian immigrant who worked as a coal miner, I learned that the way to make it to the middle-class was to save money, live below one’s means, and invest in one’s future.  By making coffee at home and not buying a coffee and pastry at Starbucks, I’ve saved at least five dollars a day. If invested, that comes to about $145,000 in 30 years.

 

Diversity Lands on Mars

Estimated Reading Time: 4 minutes

The diversity movement has broken free of all earthly bounds

It was recently announced that 40% of management positions on Mars will be filled by minorities.

No, not the red planet, but my former employer, the privately-held Mars, Inc., a conglomerate with an estimated $37 billion in revenue and 130,000 employees.

The announcement is an example of how the diversity movement has become untethered from reality and is now being propelled across the ether by platitudes, virtue-signaling, group-think, double standards, and racial stereotypes.

The announcement was made almost simultaneously with the company changing the name of its Uncle Ben’s Rice to Ben’s Rice, after the Houston-based rice division had been accused of racial insensitivity for the former name and the accompanying caricature of a black man as venerable Uncle Ben. The accusation must’ve shocked the family owners, because they had always avoided politics and prided themselves on their progressive employment practices, high pay for plant workers, and concerns for all stakeholders.

No good deed goes unpunished in today’s hypersensitive America.

To digress for a moment, here’s why I’m qualified to speak about diversity and Mars:

In 1992, the Wall Street Journal published a long commentary of mine that touted the management philosophy of Mars, based on my experience working there as an executive in the 1980s. The article was subsequently used as a case study in business schools.

One of my responsibilities at the company was diversity, although it wasn’t called that at the time, because this was prior to the term being coined in 1990 by R. Roosevelt Thomas, Jr., in his landmark article in the Harvard Business Review. It was called equal employment opportunity or affirmative action and was often accompanied with sensitivity training and with the firing of managers and workers for prejudicial behavior—all of which I oversaw.

Mars was known for its marketing prowess and for high productivity and efficiency, a deserved reputation that was due in large part to its recruiting at some of the best business schools and engineering schools around the world, as well as its practice of rotating managers between divisions and countries in order to spread best practices across the organization. For example, when I worked at the headquarters of its U.S. confectionery division, the vice president of manufacturing was Dutch, the vice president of R&D was British, the division president was British, and the vice president of human resources had come from Mars’ pet food division.

The company’s divisional offices were always connected to a plant. Although one of the company’s first U.S. plants/offices was in Chicago, and although one of its first European plants/offices was in Slough, the working-class part of metro London, it preferred to locate its newer plants/offices in semi-rural locations in the States and Europe. The thinking was that the work ethic was better than in cities, and that cities had too many constraints in terms of limited space, poor truck access, and neighbors who might object to the noise and odors of 24/7 operations.

This is why, a half-century ago, the company moved the headquarters of its U.S. confectionery business, as well as the adjoining plant that made M&Ms, from Newark, NJ, to Hackettstown, NJ, in the northwestern part of the state near the Pennsylvania border.

It was of course more difficult to attract blacks and Hispanics in Hackettstown than in Newark. The same for semi-rural locations in the Netherlands and Germany. But these limitations were more than compensated for by its operations in diverse parts of Tennessee, Mississippi, and Texas.

Cultural dynamics changed within the company when the family retired from day-to-day operations. The dynamics further changed with Mars’ purchase of Chicago-based Wrigley in 2008 for $23 billion. It became more “professionally” managed, which is a euphemism for being managed in accord with conventional American business practices—practices that have resulted in manufacturing workers in other industries being treated like widgets and seeing their jobs shipped to Mexico and China.

It is Mars’ prerogative to change its longstanding management development policies and plant/office locations to advance diversity—and to send a potentially divisive message to its workforce that preferences will be given to some employees over others until 40% of managers are minorities. But there are two troubling societal aspects to this.

The first is legal. Title VII of the 1964 Civil Rights Act unequivocally states that employment decisions should not be based on race or ethnicity. Although it’s legal to eliminate racial and ethnic barriers to employment and promotion and to reach out to previously overlooked groups, it is legally questionable to favor some groups over others in order to meet some arbitrary racial mix—not that the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission cares about discrimination masquerading as diversity.

The second troubling aspect is the ambiguous meaning of “minority.” Most people would say they know what it means, but do they really?

They would say that in the context of diversity, “minority” refers to those races that are in the minority in America in terms of numbers, such as African Americans, Asians and non-white Latinos. Not only are there business benefits to this racial form of diversity, the thinking goes, but it’s a way of redressing past discrimination and achieving social justice for historically disadvantaged people.

 

A PhD dissertation could be written on the fallacies in this thinking, but since PhD dissertations put people to sleep, let’s look at the biggest fallacy.

The biggest fallacy of the current zeitgeist on diversity is that it is based on stereotypes. The underlying assumption is that all individuals within an official governmental racial category are the same in terms values, beliefs, outlooks, and socioeconomic circumstance. As such, all whites are seen as coming from privilege, even though many are impoverished, unlike, let’s say, college-educated emigrants from an upper-caste in India, or Latinos from the Spanish aristocracy of Mexico. Moreover, all whites are seen as being in the majority, even though there are over 100 unique ethnic minority groups within the so-called white race, such as Italian Americans, who are only six percent of the population, or Iranian Americans, who are only a tenth of a percent of the population.

Memo to stereotypers: A coal miner’s daughter in West Virginia didn’t grow up with the privileges and perspectives of a Mars daughter. Likewise, this grandson of a coal miner didn’t grow up with the privileges and perspectives of a descendant of a Boston blueblood family that became wealthy from the cotton trade. For you to believe otherwise suggests a political agenda or reflects appalling ignorance.

Japan, South Korea and China are manufacturing powerhouses and big markets for Mars and other American companies. But, ironically, they are not very diverse in terms of race, although China has some degree of ethnic diversity. Time will tell if diversity will prove to be a competitive advantage for U.S.-based companies. But even if it doesn’t, diversity should be pursued for other reasons, as long as it’s done legally and includes ethnic and socioeconomic diversity.

The only group that should be excluded from diversity considerations are aliens from the planet Mars.

IMPRIMIS: A Sensible and Compassionate Anti-COVID Strategy

Estimated Reading Time: 4 minutes

The following is adapted from a panel presentation on October 9, 2020, in Omaha, Nebraska, at a Hillsdale College Free Market Forum.

My goal today is, first, to present the facts about how deadly COVID-19 actually is; second, to present the facts about who is at risk from COVID; third, to present some facts about how deadly the widespread lockdowns have been; and fourth, to recommend a shift in public policy.

1. The COVID-19 Fatality Rate

In discussing the deadliness of COVID, we need to distinguish COVID casesfrom COVID infections. A lot of fear and confusion has resulted from failing to understand the difference.

We have heard much this year about the “case fatality rate” of COVID. In early March, the case fatality rate in the U.S. was roughly three percent—nearly three out of every hundred people who were identified as “cases” of COVID in early March died from it. Compare that to today, when the fatality rate of COVID is known to be less than one half of one percent.

In other words, when the World Health Organization said back in early March that three percent of people who get COVID die from it, they were wrong by at least one order of magnitude. The COVID fatality rate is much closer to 0.2 or 0.3 percent. The reason for the highly inaccurate early estimates is simple: in early March, we were not identifying most of the people who had been infected by COVID.

“Case fatality rate” is computed by dividing the number of deaths by the total number of confirmed cases. But to obtain an accurate COVID fatality rate, the number in the denominator should be the number of people who have been infected—the number of people who have actually had the disease—rather than the number of confirmed cases.

In March, only the small fraction of infected people who got sick and went to the hospital were identified as cases. But the majority of people who are infected by COVID have very mild symptoms or no symptoms at all. These people weren’t identified in the early days, which resulted in a highly misleading fatality rate. And that is what drove public policy. Even worse, it continues to sow fear and panic, because the perception of too many people about COVID is frozen in the misleading data from March.

So how do we get an accurate fatality rate? To use a technical term, we test for seroprevalence—in other words, we test to find out how many people have evidence in their bloodstream of having had COVID.

This is easy with some viruses. Anyone who has had chickenpox, for instance, still has that virus living in them—it stays in the body forever. COVID, on the other hand, like other coronaviruses, doesn’t stay in the body. Someone who is infected with COVID and then clears it will be immune from it, but it won’t still be living in them.

What we need to test for, then, are antibodies or other evidence that someone has had COVID. And even antibodies fade over time, so testing for them still results in an underestimate of total infections.

Seroprevalence is what I worked on in the early days of the epidemic. In April, I ran a series of studies, using antibody tests, to see how many people in California’s Santa Clara County, where I live, had been infected. At the time, there were about 1,000 COVID cases that had been identified in the county, but our antibody tests found that 50,000 people had been infected—i.e., there were 50 times more infections than identified cases. This was enormously important, because it meant that the fatality rate was not three percent, but closer to 0.2 percent; not three in 100, but two in 1,000.

When it came out, this Santa Clara study was controversial. But science is like that, and the way science tests controversial studies is to see if they can be replicated. And indeed, there are now 82 similar seroprevalence studies from around the world, and the median result of these 82 studies is a fatality rate of about 0.2 percent—exactly what we found in Santa Clara County.

In some places, of course, the fatality rate was higher: in New York City it was more like 0.5 percent. In other places it was lower: the rate in Idaho was 0.13 percent. What this variation shows is that the fatality rate is not simply a function of how deadly a virus is. It is also a function of who gets infected and of the quality of the health care system. In the early days of the virus, our health care systems managed COVID poorly. Part of this was due to ignorance: we pursued very aggressive treatments, for instance, such as the use of ventilators, that in retrospect might have been counterproductive. And part of it was due to negligence: in some places, we needlessly allowed a lot of people in nursing homes to get infected.

But the bottom line is that the COVID fatality rate is in the neighborhood of 0.2 percent.

Continue reading at:  https://imprimis.hillsdale.edu/sensible-compassionate-anti-covid-strategy


********************

Jay Bhattacharya is a Professor of Medicine at Stanford University, where he received both an M.D. and a Ph.D. in economics. He is also a research associate at the National Bureau of Economics Research, a senior fellow at the Stanford Institute for Economic Policy Research and at the Freeman Spogli Institute for International Studies, and director of the Stanford Center on the Demography and Economics of Health and Aging. A co-author of the Great Barrington Declaration, his research has been published in economics, statistics, legal, medical, public health, and health policy journals.

 

Reprinted by permission from Imprimis, a publication of Hillsdale College. ©All rights reserved. The opinions expressed may not necessarily reflect the views of The Prickly Pear or of the sponsors.

 

A Perspective on Social Justice

Estimated Reading Time: 5 minutes

Consider the expression “social justice”. What does it actually mean? Presumably, everyone is in favor of justice, as opposed to unfairness. But let’s consider what the people bloviating most strongly actually mean by the expression. What do they really want?

In the broadest sense the expression suggests that someone (or some group) is getting more than they deserve, while someone else (or some other group) is getting less than they deserve. It is not necessarily money. It can be anything from treatment by police to treatment by banks when considering mortgage applications or treatment by employers when deciding whom to promote.

Proponents of social justice always assume that either there is bad will on the part of someone making decisions or else that unfair outcomes have been institutionalized by historical events. In other words, either decisions are being made by racists or inherent racism is just the way things have developed over time. Such racism may be either overt or covert. Here I am using the word “racism” to cover all forms of discrimination for reasons of gender, religion, ethnicity, or sexual orientation.

I don’t think there is much argument that overt racism has been on the decline for many years. It certainly is not gone completely but incidents of everything from lynching to official redlining are no longer acceptable. When they do occur (as it appears may have been the case in the George Floyd killing) public outcry swiftly condemns perpetrators.

It is the hidden aspects of the problem that is causing the recent upsurge in controversy. How do we account for disparate punishment of criminals by courts? How do we explain pay disparities between groups that seems alike except for race, gender, etc.? Why do certain groups never seem to make it into positions of preference, power or prestige?  Is “the system” somehow holding them back or do they have certain characteristics or behavior that is a root cause of the problem?

I do not want to get caught up in debate over whether cops arrest more blacks because blacks commit more crimes or the issue of why blacks get harsher sentences on average than white. I know the arguments on both sides and I know the remedies that have been suggested. If society does not like “search and frisk” policies, it has to choose between frisking fewer blacks, frisking more whites, or frisking no one. NYC is conducting a lab with respect to the third alternative under Mayor de Blasio and the results are not encouraging.

However, the debate over social justice has moved beyond preventing discrimination in the future to undoing it in the past. In its most daring form, it is called “a conversation about reparations”. It starts with a recitation of past history and argues that bad things that happened in the past have effects that carry over into current generations and prevent them from achieving equality. Therefore, the argument goes, society has a moral obligation to somehow make up to the current generation of “victims” for the past injustices to their forebears. For example, if slave families were callously broken up a century and a half ago, that should excuse weak acceptance of familial responsibilities among many black men today. Similarly, if slaves were denied an education, that explains (at least in part) why blacks tend to do less well in school today, since they may not have grown up in a family environment that fostered educational achievement.

While these arguments are weakened by the multigenerational time periods involved since slavery ended, nevertheless, they cannot be dismissed out of hand.

The question is what can and should be done about it, if anything?

No matter how one tries to present it in order to make it palatable, social “justice” boils down to taking money from one group (taxpayers) and transferring it either in cash or services to a group labeled as “victims” of past injustice, even if was perpetrated on others many years ago. The scheme proposed by Senator Warren involves a wealth tax, which is simply a way of clawing back “ill-gotten gains” and redistributing them. If an entrepreneur or CEO paid his employees starvation wages while rewarding himself handsomely, the concept is to recapture and redistribute some of his accumulated wealth.

In theory, that is not absurd, although obviously not all of those being clawed would agree that their wealth was obtained immorally. This is not like seizing Bernie Madoff’s stolen funds and making restitution to those whom he defrauded. This is an all-wise Government deciding who is deserving of fleecing, who was shorn and who should benefit from it all.

In practice, “reparations” is a non-starter, even if you believe it has moral value (which I don’t, for reasons I will get to in a minute). Here are some real practical problems.

  1. Who decides and on what basis?
  2. What is the justification for taxing wealthy individuals whose parents were immigrants and did not benefit from slavery?
  3. Do those who qualify on racial grounds but are already wealthy get benefits or do they pay a reparations tax?
  4. How can the public be protected from benefits going primarily to supporters of the party in power?
  5. Why just blacks? Many other groups have also suffered from lack of social justice. Once we start deciding on victims, where does it end?
  6. Reparations are just another form of reverse-discrimination, doing good for one group by doing bad for the rest.

America was created out of equality of opportunity, not equality of outcomes. There is no question that various groups have been used and abused, starting with the indigenous peoples we threw off their lands and extending through various waves of immigrants. Not just black slaves, but also Irish, middle Europeans, Asians, Jews, Catholics, homosexuals, etc. all had to fight their way out of poverty and extreme, often brutal discrimination. Women also were in many ways kept in bondage for many decades. It may not have been as legal slaves, but they were systematically denied opportunities for education, training, and admission to professions for which they were deemed incompetent. Women were told they were mentally inferior.

This was all unjust. But tearing everything down in order to right the wrongs of the past will not make a stronger America. It will only strengthen the bitter animosity that divides us now. It will be in everyone’s interest to personally identify with some group of victims in order to get in on the largess. (Pocahontas comes to mind.) All of the groups mentioned above have made tremendous strides, sometimes helped by laws but more often by hard work and sacrifice. Little was handed to them on a silver platter. Now the folks clamoring for more social justice today want it for free, by taking from someone else, in order that they may live better. Confiscation is never a sound basis for social harmony and economic strength. Progress takes time, but we are increasingly living in a world dangerously used to and insistent upon instant answers.

Despite the fact that the overwhelming majority of players in the NBA and NFL are black, the BLM movement insists that there is discrimination because too few coaches are black. There are few jobs more competitive than sports coaching. It is truly a matter of produce or perish. Black coaches have been appointed, but only a few have succeeded. I have no easy explanation. Undoubtedly, more will be tried. But is it not insanity for teams to aim for racial equality in the coaching positions instead of success on the field? If black coaches have talent, they will succeed, just as they have in the games. But most coaches fail. It isn’t easy nor should it be.

Some will argue that economic growth should take a back seat to social justice. This is the naive thinking of dreamers who believe that mankind is a perfectible species, capable of whatever sacrifice is needed to realize their dreams. While civilized humans possess an unusual willingness to help their neighbor and often exhibit a high degree of altruism, there are limits. Martyrs for a cause are in short supply. Dreamers would prefer that someone else be the martyr for their cause.

The economist Henry Hazlitt once summed it up by observing that when A and B get together and worry about the plight of C, they often call on D to do something about it. Hazlitt said that in that situation, the one that he worries about more is D.

I do not advocate doing nothing about discrimination, bad cops, etc. Specific situations need to be addressed, as it seems they have not been in the past. But defunding the police, toppling statues, rewriting history, and reparations are not the answer. Many injustices were ignored for too long and many remain to be corrected. Nothing, however, will be achieved by hatred and violence.

Ken Veit is a retired insurance company CEO and actuary.

The Injustice of Social Justice

Estimated Reading Time: 4 minutes

In today’s understanding of “social justice”, it is axiomatic that differences in populations are attributed to race.  This is precisely the position held by such enlightened organizations as the Ku Klux Klan.

People who are white are lumped together, regardless of socio-economic background or ethnic differences, and treated as a lump of humanity.  Likewise, are “people of color”.

This is the very essence of racism in that it treats all differences as a matter of skin color or in some cases, sexual preferences.

How just is this procedure?

Suppose you are on the Admissions Committee to assess and select incoming medical students for recently or long-established School of Medicine somewhere in the United States.  Imbued with the latest fads about “diversity”, “social justice” and “fairness”, you feel that you must admit people of color or marginalized sexual groups to have a “fair” admissions process.

In order to do this, you must downgrade objective criteria of performance such as grades, test scores, life experiences, the ability to write, to think and to deal with people.  For if you do use merit as the leading criterion, the mix of people you might select will differ from your goal to uplift underrepresented groups in the name of diversity, social justice and fairness.

Thus, a person of superior merit and achievement might well be rejected because of their skin color or because they aren’t defined as disadvantaged or of a particular group identity.  Is that fair treatment to a student that has worked very hard and sacrificed a lot to get where they are?  What if they are Asian?  Do you discriminate against Asians in favor of African Americans?  The answer to the latter is probably yes because that is precisely what many universities do.

What about the future quality of care provided by the medical schools of our nation?  If you don’t select, educate and train the best, are you likely to get the best outcomes for patients?  If the answer is no, is that ethical for the care of patients and supportive of the institutional reputation of a given medical school?  It has taken generations to establish and maintain that reputation, but does that simply get discounted in order to satisfy the desire to make the medical school classes look acceptable to the medical school faculty and administrators steeped in a culture of “diversity “, social justice and political correctness?

What about the patients and their families, some who travel hundreds or possibly thousands of miles to receive what they are led to believe is the very best treatment?  They are willing to pay premium prices for such care.  They come to the institution with some of the most difficult medical problems, many of life and death importance. But instead, in the future, the diversity-based selection of tomorrow’s physicians may well lower the quality of care because merit-based selection was not as important. You are not only being unfair (in medical practice, the more appropriate term in unethical) to future patients, you may well be defrauding them. And, by providing less than optimal care you may well injure or kill somebody.  Is that fair?  Is that just?

And what about the candidates themselves?  Having been selected by you in the name of diversity and fairness, they get the appointment that they otherwise may not deserve. Do they go to sleep at night wondering if they really are the best or are they simply a product of your diversity-based prejudice? Is that fair?  Is that just?

What does this process do to the medical profession itself?  Is the public justified in having confidence in professional training and treatment?  Or is that confidence now unjustified?  How do the members now view themselves?  Do they view themselves as the best life savers possible or just another institution corrupted by politics?

We use Arizona’s and the nation’s medical schools here as an example.  But you could make similar arguments about the teacher who forms your children, your lawyer, your tax accountant, your financial manager or your airline pilot.  In these situations, should you not expect the institution you are dealing with to provide the best possible service with the best personnel?  That can only be achieved by selecting and hiring the best people available.

Another way to look at this is to reverse the process.  Let’s look at professional basketball as an institution.  An institution incidentally, that loudly proclaims for “social justice.”

African Americans make up about 13% of the population.  A fraction of that are males in the age bracket to play professional basketball.  Yet, African Americans overwhelmingly dominate the game.

What if the NBA hired not out of merit but to achieve diversity so the team in question looks like the community it serves? Only about 6% of the population of Portland, Oregon is African American. Is that the way the Portland Trailblazers look to you?  If you really hired on the basis of the “community”, roughly one player should be African American, the rest white, Latino or Asian.  Incidentally, as Latinos are lumped together as a group (Cubans, Mexicans, El Salvadorans, etc.), how many Latinos are there in the NBA?  And where are the Jews?  At one time, Jews made up a considerable percentage of the NBA. The first basketball point ever scored in the NBA was shot by a Jew.

Was firing the Jews and hiring African Americans justice?  Yes, if replaced on the basis of merit and ability. But why is basketball more important than medicine?  Why does merit count when throwing an inflated bladder through a hoop but not when saving lives?

This is the problem you get into when all disparities in performance are assumed to be racial and compound the problem by arbitrarily lumping all individuals together into a group or class to be moved about like pawns in a chess game based on some quite arbitrary notion of diversity.

Social justice as practiced today is not justice, it is reverse discrimination.  You cannot reverse whatever historical injustice that may have existed by practicing injustice in the here and now.

 

 

Leg-Shootin’ Joe (Biden)

Estimated Reading Time: 3 minutes

To paraphrase Will Rogers, it ain’t so much what Joe Biden doesn’t know about guns; it’s what he is sure he knows that just isn’t so.

Biden considers himself an expert on guns; just ask him. He is completely unaware that he knows nothing, and that what he thinks he knows is just flat wrong. Jaw-droppingly, eye- rollingly, what-in-blazes-is-he-babbling-about wrong. Like Cliff Klaven, he speaks foolishness, but with supreme confidence. “Always wrong, but never in doubt.”

His latest Klavenism is this, in response to an ABC interviewer’s question about police reform:

“There’s a lot of things we’ve learned and it takes time, but we can do this,” Biden said. “You can ban chokeholds … you have to teach people how to de-escalate circumstances. … Instead of anybody coming at you and the first thing you do is shoot to kill, you shoot them in the leg.”

Shoot them in the leg? Really? Seriously? He said that? Out loud? On television? OMG.

Let’s start with the basics: The only thing that justifies shooting another human being is the overwhelming need to make that person stop doing whatever they are doing to imperil a life. That need must be so urgent that it does not matter – morally or legally – whether that person dies. Here is an example: A Bad Guy (hereinafter “BG” – and how judgmental!) is running through a shopping mall, hacking people with his machete. He has already hacked six people, and now he is approaching a young mother holding her child. You have a gun. If you do not shoot, it is 100% certain that he will chop the mother and the child. Are you justified in shooting? Of course. What if you shoot the BG, but he chops the mother and the child, and then dies in the ambulance? Was that a successful shooting? No, because you didn’t stop him. What if you shoot the BG, and he stops, and does not chop the mother and child – but recovers from his gunshot wound and does not die? Successful shooting? Yes, because the objective was to stop him, not kill him. Whether he dies or not is irrelevant. Thus, we (police and non-police alike) never shoot to kill; we shoot to stop. We don’t care whether the BG lives or dies, because the goal is to make the BG stop.

Here is a surprise for the Bidens of the world: people don’t always stop when you shoot them. This ain’t the movies, where BGs are thrown backwards through plate glass windows when they are shot, while Good Guys shake it off because “it’s only a flesh wound.” If the bullet happens to hit the central nervous system (brain or spinal column), then the BG stops instantaneously; the electrical system is shut down. Otherwise, stopping is caused by one of three things: blood loss, pain, or psychological distress (fear). Blood loss can take a long time, often too long. Pain is an iffy thing, especially if the BG has lots of painkillers on board (alcohol and/or other drugs). Most stops are caused by fear: “Oh my God; I’ve been shot! I’m gonna die!”

Here is another surprise for those, like Biden, who are not knowledgeable about guns: hitting what you are shooting at is difficult. It’s darned hard to hit a human-sized paper target that is not moving. It’s much harder to hit an actual human who is moving, and who is trying, with great determination, to kill you. Depending on the police department, police officers hit the people they are trying to shoot somewhere between 10 and 50 percent of the time. For that reason, we practice shooting “center of mass.” That improves our chances of hitting the BG somewhere. If we aim at the center of the torso (approximately the heart), we consider ourselves lucky – and skilled – if we manage to hit the elbow or the hip. Because BGs don’t always stop when shot, and because so many shots miss, we don’t just shoot once and admire our work; we shoot a lot. How much? Twice? Ten times? We shoot until the BG stops doing the awful thing that made shooting him necessary and justified.

Trying to shoot somebody in the leg is an incredibly stupid idea. For one thing, it greatly increases the chances of missing. There are two downsides of missing: (1) the BG will not stop doing the awful thing that we need him to stop doing, and (2) every shot that misses has the potential to hit a Good Guy, such as the child that the BG was trying to hack with the machete or the man on the bus  a mile away. In addition, a shot in the leg rarely causes a person to stop, unless by luck the shot hits the femoral artery, in which case quick death is almost certain. Ironically, then, leg shots decrease the likelihood of stopping, but increase the likelihood of death. Biden certainly does not understand this.

On the subject of guns, as well as so many other subjects, Leg-Shootin’ Biden is full of – um – misinformation.

Don’t Mail Your Ballot (Anymore)!  But do VOTE.  And vote for me (please!)

Estimated Reading Time: 2 minutes

Election Day is less than a week away and that means that if you’re an Arizona voter, you should no longer mail your ballot.  If you’re a resident of Maricopa County, you can still take your mail-in ballot to any of the locations listed on this website, and drop it in a special box without waiting in line.  If you choose to vote this way, please drop off your ballot by Friday, so that it can be signature verified in time to be part of the initial returns.  You can then track your ballot by clicking “Check Your Status” on this website. You can also, of course, vote in person on Tuesday, Election Day.  By going to that same website, you can find a nearby voting location that allows in person voting.  You must bring valid identification.  You will get a ballot printed after waiting in line.  Fill out the ballot, and then feed it directly into a tabulation machine.

Whatever method you prefer, please VOTE!

So far, significantly more Democrats have voted.

As of October 26, Maricopa County has had:

  • 457,859 Democrat ballots returned
  • 421,858 Republican ballots returned
  • 295,622 Other ballots returned (Independents, No Party Declared, Libertarian)

This is not good for Republicans, but there is still time to catch and pass the Democrats.  There are approximately 2.6 million registered voters in Maricopa County.  They are divided accordingly:

  • Republicans = 917,596 (35.3%)
  • Democrats = 815,894 (31.4%)
  • Libertarians = 25,061 (1%)
  • Others = 839,407 (32.3%)

Republicans have the registration advantage.  Now we just need to put it to work by VOTING.

When you do vote, I ask that you vote for me, Stephen Richer, for Maricopa County Recorder, the office that oversees recordings, voter registration, and election administration.

I wrote previously for The Prickly Pear that we need to Make The Recorder’s Office Boring Again.”  If you want a reminder as to how it unfortunately became not-boring, then check out www.FireFontes.com or PhonyFontes.com, a website produced by The Arizona Free Enterprise Club to get a sense of how the current Recorder has been incompetent, unfair, unlawful, and uncivil.

VOTE!

Stephen Richer is an attorney, businessman, and the Republican nominee for Maricopa County Recorder. He and his wife (who met while both in law school at The University of Chicago) live at the base of South Mountain in Phoenix. Learn more about Stephen at his website www.RicherForRecorder.com.

The “Myth” of Pre-Existing Conditions

Estimated Reading Time: 3 minutes

If you have a history of hypertension, diabetes, rheumatoid arthritis, breast or prostate cancer, lumbar stenosis, treated grand-mal seizures or any of tens of thousands of conditions in the spectrum of human disease, you have a pre-existing condition.  As a member of the human race, you either have or will eventually have one or multiple pre-existing conditions in your life. Not one medical condition or diagnosis in the vast universe of human pathology, whether minor or life-threatening, is mythical. As an anesthesiologist retired from a forty-year clinical career, virtually all of my patients had one or multiple “pre-existing” conditions. The co-morbidities in a given patient often have an important or critical impact on the management of the anesthetic. Why have I entitled this essay as The “Myth” of Pre-existing Conditions?

Let us shift our focus to the political and insurance implications of “Pre-Existing Conditions”. This focus is quite different from the medical reality of 320 million Americans’ true health care profiles. A different story always emerges when actual facts are considered in any political story, especially during an election season immersed in malignant partisan behavior. Consider the following about the history of “pre-existing conditions” since the 1990s to the present day.

  • The incessant cry of Americans being bankrupted by a “pre-existing condition” was used in the run-up to the March, 2010 passage of the Affordable Care Act by a one-party majority legislative juggernaut with complete absence of any bipartisanship. Its purpose was to create fear and anxiety in the citizenry.
  • The real story of “pre-existing conditions” was then and is now that the vast majority of Americans, a large percentage of whom have existing medical conditions, are insured through employer-provided insurance (fully or in part), Medicare, Medicaid, VA coverage, the Indian Health Service and other insurance platforms that accept all patients with or without pre-existing conditions.
  • The problems of pre-existing conditions pertained to less than 1% of the population in 2009 and had been effectively dealt with by state-run, tax-subsidized high-risk pools in 37 states. The increasing movement toward state-subsidized, high-risk insurance plans for the very small (0.67%) segment of the American population trapped without insurance from job loss or a decision not to insure before illness occurred was growing, effective and appropriate for a society caring for its most needy. Obamacare ended this abruptly.
  • The 1996 HIPAA (Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act) legislation was directed at protecting the maintenance of health insurance for Americans as well as issues surrounding “confidentiality” of medical information. Insurance companies were forbidden by statute to cancel insurance for a new condition or charging exorbitant premiums for clients continually insured prior to a new, now “pre-existing condition”.
  • The Affordable Care Act, a.k.a. Obamacare, raised insurance costs for American families and limited insurance options to the extreme. If you have an ACA “protected” pre-existing condition and are insured in the market outside of Medicare or Medicaid, premiums are more than 200% of pre-ACA costs and individual and family deductibles have risen to many thousands of dollars. If you or a family member have an expensive medical condition that was previously (pre-Obamacare) well covered by private health insurance with affordable premiums and deductibles, the annual cost of ACA insurance premiums and deductibles may now reach $20,000 or more before the first dollar of insurance coverage is triggered. A family with an annual income of $60,000 or more and ineligible for Obamacare subsidies is in a financial nightmare. This is not protection of “pre-existing conditions”, the rallying cry and fear mongering that was used to force the ACA into existence by a one-party vote.

This constant “Pre-Existing Condition” cry by the Democrat party and every Democrat candidate in the 2018 mid-terms and in the current election is indeed a political myth. Despite the GOP response always being to “Protect Pre-Existing Conditions”, the mythical perversion of a real medical and insurance coverage concern for a very small segment of the American population is a disgraceful use of language as a propaganda tool.

Reform of health care costs is the overwhelming issue for our economy and for all Americans relating to their medical care and access to the health care system. Unless voters are armed with the facts about health insurance and the reality of actual coverage for pre-existing conditions, their votes may be cast for candidates and a party seeking to achieve the century-long goal of a single-payer, government health care system primarily to advance political power and to create dependence. The majority of Americans wisely know or sense that a government controlled, single-payer health care system would deprive us of high-quality medical care by mandated rationing of resources and diminished future advances in medical care we expect and deserve.

Biden’s Plans to Restrict Second Amendment Rights

Estimated Reading Time: 2 minutes

The Biden/Harris campaign has posted The Biden Plan To End Our Gun Violence Epidemic  on their campaign website.  To spare you the discomfort of having to read through their proposal to regulate the Second Amendment out of existence, the following are some key features.

  • Banning the manufacture and sale of so-called “high-capacity” magazines and “assault weapons,” identified by cosmetic and functional features. The Biden euphemism for these is “weapons of war.”  Candidate Biden also wants them regulated under the National Firearms Act (NFA) like full-auto firearms, short barrel rifles and sound suppressors.  Existing owners will have the “choice” of registering their “evil black rifles” as NFA firearms or surrendering them to the government.
  • Restricting firearm purchases to one-per-month and outlawing the private transfer of firearms. Online sales of firearms, ammunition, kits and gun parts would also be prohibited.  So would the possession of so-called “ghost guns” that can be assembled from kits, parts or 3D printing.  There would also be a federal requirement to report a lost or stolen firearm and punishment for not “safely” storing your firearm or preventing access by a minor.
  • Expanding prohibited possessors to include those convicted of certain misdemeanors and those adjudicated by the Social Security Administration (SSA) as unable to manage their affairs (like paying bills or writing checks) for mental reasons. They also propose the rapid identification of those who become prohibited possessors, for whatever reason, for swift confiscation of their firearms.
  • Extending the time limit that a NICS background check must be completed. Also, requiring local law enforcement to be notified when someone fails a background check.  Statistically, there is over a 99% chance that a failed NICS check is a false positive.  Under a President Biden, several hundred thousand law-abiding gun owners could experience an oh-dark-thirty SWAT raid simply because of a computer mismatch.
  • Incentivizing the state level passage of Red Flag laws that allow for firearms confiscations without due process. “Incentivizing” is political-speak for dangling the promise of federal funds to states to compel them to pass legislation.
  • Incentivizing states to establish a system to “license” firearms owners. Unelected bureaucrats would decide whether or not you would be allowed to exercise your Right to Keep and Bear Arms. They also want to treat “gun violence” as a public health epidemic.  It won’t be long before the dots are connected to prohibit firearms ownership as a medical preventative.
  • Repeal of the “Protection of Lawful Commerce in Arms Act” that protects firearms manufacturers from civil liability for criminal misuse of a firearm.
  • A whole lot more, such as empowering the U.S. Justice Department to enforce all these laws.
  • Remember in November!  How do you want your future as a gun owner to look?  Not voting is a decision to surrender your rights.

This article is reproduced by permission granted by the Arizona Citizens Defense League.

**********

The ACDL is the foremost Arizona organization protecting your Second Amendment rights, helping Arizona achieve the number one position in gun rights by Guns & Ammo magazine.