Monthly Archives: September 2012

Let There Be Light

to care for him who shall have borne the battle

Abraham Lincoln

During World War II director John Huston produced three films for the US government.  Let There Be Light was shot for the Army Signal Corps.  It covers the treatment of 75 US soldiers traumatized by their combat experiences in World War II.  The film is narrated by Walter Huston, the academy award-winning actor father of John Huston.  The Army brass did not like the finished product, thinking that its focus on men who suffered psychological damage from their service could be demoralizing to the troops, and banned the film on the grounds that it invaded the privacy of the soldiers featured in the film and that the releases they signed had been lost.  (This reason was pretextual, but as a matter of law I would not place any reliance on a release signed by someone undergoing mental treatment standing up for an instant in court.) →']);" class="more-link">Continue reading

Barack Obama is Unfit to be President

The Obama administration continues to show complete contempt for American liberties.

In the wake of the Benghazi and Cairo debacles, and the administration being caught completely flat-footed in regard to these coordinated assaults on our embassies, the Obama administration has acted to attempt to escape any responsibility.

First, they have had their lickspittle media friends blame Romney for speaking out.  Ah yes, Romney attacking the craven statement of the Cairo embassy is the chief problem and not minor issues like the Middle East going up in flames and the Obama administration being completely clueless as to what to do.

Second, the State Department is refusing to take questions, from those few members of the media who still occasionally act like reporters instead of unpaid Obama press agents, until their investigation is complete.  The Good Lord knows how long that would take, but I would wager Wednesday November 7, 2012.

Third, the administration is still attempting to claim that these attacks are the result of the film attacking Mohammed.  Of course that was merely the pretext for the attacks.  The administration knows this, but its policy of appeasement of jihadists would be in jeopardy if they admitted that the silly film had virtually nothing to do with these revenge attacks on the anniversary of 9-11.

Fourth, when one is seeking to evade responsibility having a nice fat scapegoat is very convenient.  Thus we have the maker of the film, who is on probation for a bank fraud conviction, being taken into custody for questioning as to his alleged violation of the terms of his probation.  The alleged violation is for using a computer not connected with his work.  Of course the administration cares not a fig about that.  It wants jihadists abroad and Americans at home to see that Obama is getting tough with this fellow who stirred up all the trouble.  (Ignore all those jihadists!  It is all the fault of this guy!)  That this tramples over the man’s First Amendment rights is of absolutely no concern.  The Administration might wish to eventually haul in this fellow’s co-conspirators:  John Adams, Thomas Jefferson, George Washington, James Madison and all the other Founding Fathers who gave us the freedom that Obama is seeking to shred.

Glenn Reynolds, Instapundit, speaks for me in reaction to this: →']);" class="more-link">Continue reading

Clint Eastwood: Don’t Kiss Up to Politicians

 

One of the more dispiriting features of the ongoing national disaster that is the Obama Presidency, is the way some of his more crazed acolytes have given him the type of adulation that should be reserved for God.  Go here to read an early example of this bilge.  And who could possibly forget the Obama kids, tools in the hands of parents who were worshipers of the South Side Messiah:

Obama is merely the latest manifestation of the disturbing trend on the Left in this country for politics to serve as a substitute religion.

Clint Eastwood’s empty chair takedown of Obama was a healthy reaction to this horse manure.  Eastwood reminded us that politicians are hired hands, our servants, and not little tin gods to bow down to.  Eastwood got to the heart of what he wanted to accomplish in a speech yesterday:

“People don’t have to kiss it up with politicians, no matter what party they’re in,” he added. “You should evaluate their work and make your judgments accordingly. That’s the way you do in life in every other subject. But sometimes in America we get gaga, you know, we look at the wrong values.” →']);" class="more-link">Continue reading

Obamanomics: Trillions for Nothing

 

 

Another fine, and timely, econ 101 video from the Center for Freedom and Prosperity.  When future historians write the history of the Obama administration, and what a sad farce that tale will consist of, I think they will stand aghast at all the borrowed money poured out by the Federal government with virtually zero positive impact on the economy.  In regard to Keynsian economics, the Obama administration is proof that one of Karl Marx’s maxims has proven to be a largely accurate observation on human affairs:  Hegel remarks somewhere that all facts and personages of great importance in world history occur, as it were, twice. He forgot to add: the first time as tragedy, the second as farce. ']);" class="more-link">Continue reading

Obama, Can You Spare a Dime?

Something for a weekend.  A variant on the song of the First Great Depression, Buddy Can You Spare a Dime.  It seemed timely in regard to the terrible economic news that came out this week:

1.  AA- -Credit rating firm reduced the United States Credit Rating to AA-.  Here is why

Egan-Jones said it believes the Fed’s third round of quantitative easing,  which sent stock prices surging on Thursday, “will hurt the U.S. economy and, by  extension, credit quality.”

The firm said that while the program should boost equity markets, issuing  additional currency and depressing interest rates through purchasing  mortgage-backed securities will hurt the value of the U.S. dollar and cause a  painful increase in commodity prices.

“In our opinion, QE3 will be detrimental to credit quality for the U.S.,” Egan-Jones said.

At the same time, Egan-Jones warned that the cost to finance U.S. debt will “slowly rise” as the global economy rebounds and the Fed scales back on its  purchases of Treasury securities.

The ratio of U.S. debt to gross domestic product soared to 104% in recent  months from 66% in 2006 and will likely increase to 110% in a year, the firm  said. By comparison, Spain’s debt-to-GDP stands at 68.5%.

2.  Median Income-Under Obama Median income per household has fallen to $50,054.00.   When adjusted for inflation this is the lowest median income per household since 1995.

3.  Industrial Production-Down-US industrial production fell 1.2% in August pointing to a slowing economy.

4.  Unemployment-Fed analysts estimate that unemployment will not reach 7% until 2014. →']);" class="more-link">Continue reading

Waging War Against the Catholic Church While Appeasing Islam

 

Newt Gingrich in a great article sums up the surreal world we now inhabit thanks to the Obama Administration:

The policies of Obama have made our intellectual incoherence and strategic  incompetence even worse.

It is no accident that the embassy in Cairo issued a groveling statement,  apologizing to the haters for having inconvenienced them with American freedom  of speech.

The embassy was simply following Clinton’s lead, set months earlier in her  meetings with the Organization of Islamic Cooperation.

The OIC has a long- term campaign to manipulate the U.S. government into  defining any criticism or improper reference to Islam as unacceptable.

No one should be confused by this. As Andy McCarthy wrote yesterday, the Islamist definition of heresy would  destroy American free speech.

The Obama administration is waging war on the Catholic Church while appeasing  the most extreme elements of Islam.

This is the bizarre situation we now find ourselves in. ']);" class="more-link">Continue reading

William Saletan, Meet Christopher Johnson!

 

William Saletan is a Leftist who writes a political column for Slate.  His prescience at predicting the future was amply demonstrated on September 14, 2000 when, based on then current polls, he stated that the election was over and Gore was a sure winner.  Go here to read that masterpiece of prognostication.  Now he has a piece attacking Romney for standing up for American freedom of speech as opposed to the craven apology for our freedom issued by the Cairo embassy.  Christopher Johnson, a Protestant who has taken up the cudgels so frequently for the Church that I have named him Defender of the Faith, gives Saletan a fisking to remember at Midwest Conservative Journal:

to Slate’s William Saletan, freely expressing your opinion can be an abuse of your right to freely express your opinion:

Mitt Romney says the U.S. Embassy in Cairo has betrayed “American values.” He’s wrong. The embassy is standing for American values. It’s Romney who’s betraying them.

How’s that, Sally?

The fight began brewing Tuesday morning as Egyptian protesters gathered outside the embassy. They were furious at a sophomoric American-made movie that ridiculed the prophet Mohammed. In response, the embassy issued a statement saying that it “condemns the continuing efforts by misguided individuals to hurt the religious feelings of Muslims—as we condemn efforts to offend believers of all religions.” The statement added: “We firmly reject the actions by those who abuse the universal right of free speech to hurt the religious beliefs of others.”

Quick observation.  If the universal right of free speech can be “abused,” then the universal right of free speech is not universal at all but has definite limits.  Saletan most emphatically agrees.

When you read the tweets alongside the initial statement, the message is clear. Free speech is a universal right. The Muslim-baiting movie is an abuse of that right. The embassy rejects the movie but defends free speech and condemns the invasion of its compound.

You keep using the word “universal,” Sally.  I do not think that word means what you think it means.

At his press conference, Romney accused Obama of “having that embassy reiterate a statement effectively apologizing for the right of free speech.” Romney claimed that the embassy had said, in his paraphrase, “We stand by our comments that suggest that there’s something wrong with the right of free speech.” This, too, was a Romney lie. The embassy had declared five times in writing that free speech was a universal right.

In other words, everyone has, or should have, the right to free speech.  But there are some things that you shouldn’t be allowed to say.

What made Romney’s statement and press conference disturbing, however, was his repeated use of the words sympathize and apology to conflate three issues the Cairo embassy had carefully separated: bigotry, free speech, and violence. The embassy had stipulated that expressions of bigotry, while wrong, were protected by freedom of speech and didn’t warrant retaliatory violence.

Then why did the embassy grovelingly apologize for them?

Romney, by accusing the embassy of “sympathizing with those who had breached” the compound, equated moral criticism of the Mohammed movie with support for violence. In so doing, Romney embraced the illiberal Islamist mindset that led to the embassy invasion: To declare a movie offensive is to authorize its suppression.

Um..what?!!  Project much, Sally?  It was the embassy that declared that movie “offensive,” idiot.  Why else would they have apologized for it and prattled on about some alleged hurt feelings Muslims may or may not have actually had?

“The Embassy of the United States issued what appeared to be an apology for American principles,” Romney asserted at the press conference. “It’s a terrible course for America to stand in apology for our values. … An apology for America’s values is never the right course.” Lest anyone miss his buzzwords, Romney called the embassy’s comments “a disgraceful statement on the part of our administration to apologize for American values.”

One of the foremost of which is basically unrestricted freedom of speech.

What, exactly, does Romney mean by “American values”? The embassy never apologized for free speech or diplomatic sovereignty. The only American offense it criticized was the movie’s “bigotry” and “efforts by misguided individuals to hurt the religious feelings of Muslims.” Does Romney regard this criticism as an “apology for American values”? Is bigotry an American value? Is it weak or un-American to repudiate slurs against Muslims?

National Review will have none of “yes, but” attitudes like Sally’s.

Nobody in the U.S. government, least of all the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff acting in his official capacity, should be calling Terry Jones or any other American citizen about the Mohammed spoof. Not only does that elevate Jones to some sort of semi-official status, but spoofs of deities are entirely within our rights and absolutely no business of the government’s. The U.S. government should not be taking an official position on the Mohammed spoof.  It is entirely outside the official competence of United States military to be calling private citizens asking them be quiet, especially when they are exercising a constitutional right. Offending people is not an incitement to violence. Otherwise I could get everyone who wears a Che Guevara t-shirt brought up on charges of incitement.

Do I enjoy it when some work of “art,” some movie or some television show blasphemes Jesus Christ or insults and belittles Christians?  Of course not.  But unlike adherents of the Islamic religion, I’ve figured out a civilized way to deal with it.  I simply don’t patronize or stop patronizing those businesses who produce or support such works.

Conversely, if a work of art exalts Christ or displays Christians as they truly are, that work of art, whatever it is, will receive whatever support I can give it.  So what William Saletan is essentially saying here is that speech should be suppressed if someone anywhere is angry enough about that speech to kill people and burn things.

Saletan’s mindset basiclly gives the savages editorial control over all forms of expression everywhere which means that my opinions must perfectly accord with theirs or my expression of my opinion is an “abuse” of free speech.  I don’t know if Saletan realizes this or not but that is precisely why so many of us made a point of patronizing Chick-fil-A’s during that recent controversy. ']);" class="more-link">Continue reading

Libyan Questions

 

If we had a mainstream media that consisted of journalists instead of consisting largely of unpaid Obama press agents, reporters would be asking the following questions to the Obama administration about the Benghazi disaster:

1.  Why were there no Marine guards at the Benghazi consulate?

2.  Why was security dependent upon Libyan mercenaries at the Benghazi consulate?

3.  Is it true that the attackers had assistance from some of the Libyan mercenaries at the Benghazi consulate?

4.  Did the State Department receive credible evidence that embassies would be attacked in the Middle East 48 hours prior to the attack and failed to give any warning?

5.  Since Libya in general, and Benghazi in particular, has been chaotic since the civil war, why were no precautions taken to give special protection to American diplomatic staff? →']);" class="more-link">Continue reading

Free Speech For Me, But Not For Thee

For if Men are to be precluded from offering their Sentiments on a matter, which may involve the most serious and alarming consequences, that can invite the consideration of Mankind, reason is of no use to us; the freedom of Speech may be taken away, and dumb and silent we may be led, like sheep, to the Slaughter.

George Washington

 

One of the interesting fall outs of the rampages in Cairo and Benghazi is the calls by some on the Left for jailing people for exercising freedom of speech.  Eugene Volokh of The Volokh Conspiracy blog pointed this out yesterday:

That’s what MSBNC contributors Mike Barnicle and Donny Deutsch, the University of Pennsylvania’s Prof. Anthea Butler (Religious Studies), and of course the Egyptian government argue with regard to the movie that mocks Mohammed:

Prof. Butler: “Good Morning. How soon is Sam Bacile going to be in jail folks? I need him to go now.When Americans die because you are stupid…” “And yes, I know we have First Amendment rights,but if you don’t understand the Religion you hate, STFU about it. Yes, I am ticked off.” “And people do go to jail for speech. First Amendment doesn’t cover EVERYTHING a PERSON says.” “[T]he murder of the Ambassador and the employees is wrong, wrong. But Bacile will have to face his actions which he had freedom[.]”

Mike Barnicle: “Given this supposed minister’s role in last year’s riots in Afghanistan, where people died, and given his apparent or his alleged role in this film, where, not yet nailed down, but at least one American, perhaps the American ambassador is dead, it might be time for the Department of Justice to start viewing his role as an accessory before or after the fact.”

Donny Deutsch: “I was thinking the same thing, yeah.”

In a way this is an unsurprising development.  The Left in this country, with honorable exceptions, has not been overly fond of the concept of free speech for some time.  Speech codes seeking to hamper the free speech rights of conservatives and Christians have been a staple at many colleges and universities for the past twenty years.  Conservative speakers are routinely shouted down when they speak on campuses.  The recent attack on Chik-Fil-A by the Mayors of Boston and Chicago was merely the latest manifestation of the willingness of many on the Left to use government power to suppress views they hate. →']);" class="more-link">Continue reading

Democrat Nostalgia?

Further evidence as to how detached most Democrat elites are from the United States military was given at the Democrat Convention last week:

On the last night of the Democratic National Convention, a retired Navy four-star took the stage to pay tribute to veterans. Behind him, on a giant screen, the image of four hulking warships reinforced his patriotic message.

But there was a big mistake in the stirring backdrop: those are Russian warships.

While retired Adm. John Nathman, a former commander of Fleet Forces Command, honored vets as America’s best, the ships from the Russian Federation Navy were arrayed like sentinels on the big screen above.

These were the very Soviet-era combatants that Nathman and Cold Warriors like him had once squared off against.

“The ships are definitely Russian,” said noted naval author Norman Polmar after reviewing hi-resolution photos from the event. “There’s no question of that in my mind.” ']);" class="more-link">Continue reading

Can the Private Sector Support What the Public Sector Claims To? (Part III)

This is the third part in a three-part series.  Part I can be found here, and Part II can be found here.

The Philosophy

Once the numbers are put to rest, the rest of the argument in favor of private giving over compulsory giving via a system of taxation is easy.  The philosophical argument can be broken down into two parts: one based on human teleology and the second based on a phenomenology of gift.

First, all being is in the process of becoming.  That is, all being has a certain perfection, a telos, towards which it tends.  A chair has the natural tendency to tend towards being that perfect chair after which it was designed.  Aristotle called this the final cause, and noted its place of prominence among the four causes of being, the other three being the material, the formal, and the efficient.  Humans, however, are unique in the material universe in that we can actively choose whether or not to tend towards that perfection of being fully human.  This is the gift of freedom that we are endowed with.  Of course, this freedom is not to be seen as merely the ability to choose between contraries, but rather as a freedom for excellence, as the ability to choose the good.  One might say that the ability to choose the good is part and parcel of what it means to be human.

When a human person acts charitably he is acting in a way fully consistent with that call to freedom.  It is the virtues that perfect the human person, and charity is among the most important of the virtues.  The curious thing about the virtues is that the only way to acquire them is to practice them.  They are habits.  The only way to become courageous is to act courageously, and the only way to become charitable is to perform acts of charity.  Thus, when a person acts freely in performing an act of charity, he is not only helping out his fellow members of the human race, but he is also serving to become a better person himself.  Further, the free act of giving has an impact on the recipient that extends past the offered resources.  The recipient recognizes the act of charity for what it is, and that act in turn becomes a model of charity in his own life.

In contrast to this, compulsory giving has nothing of the benefits shared by a voluntary act.  The agent, being forced to offer the money or service, is not acting in freedom, and thus it has no impact on his life of virtue.  Similarly, beyond the actual dollars and cents, the recipient of the tax dollars comes to see the funding as an entitlement rather than a freely offered act of charity.  Obligation replaces virtue, and the obligatory acts freezes both parties at the level of obligation, not allowing them to advance in virtue.  It should come as no surprise that modernity find these ideas difficult to understand.  Ever since William Ockham and his fellow Nominalists, even general morality has focussed exclusively on obligation rather than virtue.

Yet the perfection towards which a human person must strive is experienced in the human heart as a call to gift.  The deepest desire of the human condition is to give one’s self away and to receive another who is called to do the same.  In a paradoxical manner, we find our fulfillment by emptying ourselves to one another.  This call to become gift explains a myriad of human experiences like falling in love, risking one’s life for a person in danger, and acts of selflessness that seem to come naturally.  It explains the natural institution of marriage, the begetting of children, and dying for a cause.  We seek forever to give ourself away.

This is precisely why crowd our rates are not dollar for dollar.  Economists may refer to this as the “warm glow” effect, suggesting that people give because they receive some psychological benefit, an injection of happiness if you will, from the act of giving.  While there is a grain of truth to this, it is not the whole picture.  People give because they were made to give.  They become fully human in the very act of giving.  Private charitable giving is completely consistent with this call to be gift to one another, both for the giver and the recipient.  It is also why compulsory giving in the form of taxation never settles well with the one being taxed.  Deep down, people want to give – they don’t want to forced into virtue.

 

The Theology

The call to charitable acts is prevalent throughout the Gospels, and indeed the entire collection of Scriptures.  As a member of the Universal Church, one cannot dispense with the obligation to assist those less fortunate among us.  Yet the call to charity can never be disassociated from the call to spread the Gospel to the four corners of the earth.  Pope Benedict XVI tells us in Deus caritas est:

“The increase in diversified organizations engaged in meeting various human needs is ultimately due to the fact that the command of love of neighbour is inscribed by the Creator in man’s very nature. It is also a result of the presence of Christianity in the world, since Christianity constantly revives and acts out this imperative, so often profoundly obscured in the course of time … For this reason, it is very important that the Church’s charitable activity maintains all of its splendour and does not become just another form of social assistance …

“We are dealing with human beings, and human beings always need something more than technically proper care. They need humanity. They need heartfelt concern. Those who work for the Church’s charitable organizations must be distinguished by the fact that they do not merely meet the needs of the moment, but they dedicate themselves to others with heartfelt concern, enabling them to experience the richness of their humanity …

“[C]haritable activity must [not] leave God and Christ aside. For it is always concerned with the whole man. Often the deepest cause of suffering is the very absence of God. Those who practise charity in the Church’s name will never seek to impose the Church’s faith upon others. They realize that a pure and generous love is the best witness to the God in whom we believe and by whom we are driven to love. A Christian knows when it is time to speak of God and when it is better to say nothing and to let love alone speak. He knows that God is love (cf. 1 Jn 4:8) and that God’s presence is felt at the very time when the only thing we do is to love. He knows—to return to the questions raised earlier—that disdain for love is disdain for God and man alike; it is an attempt to do without God” (paragraph 31).

Private giving is free to be an act rooted in the call to follow Christ and preach His word.  This also raises the practical problem of government funds applied to social causes.  When giving becomes compulsory, there enters the possibility, and perhaps even the inevitability, of the funds being used in a manner contradictory to the consciences of individual taxpayers.  Herein lies the debate about tax dollars being used to fund abortion and contraception.  Yet these two issues are not the only ones on the table.  Nearly everyone has a list of causes that would be objectionable to their conscience, and natural outrage would be expressed if they were to be forced to donate to these causes through the tax system.  This reality is often used as an argument for taxation: if we left it to the individual giver, would there not be causes that would go unsupported?  It is an illusion to think that taxes ensure a baseline of morality.  Instead, they merely reflect the opinions of those in power, those elected officials tasked with budgeting the tax dollars.

Yet it remains true that the purpose of politics is justice as well as charity.  Is not the function of government to maintain some level of fairness and equality?  True, but it would be a mistake to think that this comes in a manner contradictory to charity.  The virtues are never in conflict, but rather support and strengthen one another.  Blind redistribution of wealth through compulsory giving, i.e. taxes, fails to incorporate man’s call to charity.  Even if it would lead to a more just economic reality, the picture would be incomplete at best, for as St. Paul reminds us, without charity, we are nothing.  Yet this takes us full circle to the mathematical argument in the first section that suggests that the monies available to a social cause are not increased by government subsidies, but all things considered, they are actually decreased.  It is really a loose-loose situation.  On the other hand, if we keep charity first and allow private giving to do its thing, justice follows as well.  This flip side is a win-win situation.

Finally, to echo the philosophical argument of person-as-gift, Pope Benedict offers the following:

“Saint Paul, in his hymn to charity (cf. 1 Cor 13), teaches us that it is always more than activity alone: ‘If I give away all I have, and if I deliver my body to be burned, but do not have love, I gain nothing’ (v. 3). This hymn must be the Magna Carta of all ecclesial service … Practical activity will always be insufficient, unless it visibly expresses a love for man, a love nourished by an encounter with Christ. My deep personal sharing in the needs and sufferings of others becomes a sharing of my very self with them: if my gift is not to prove a source of humiliation, I must give to others not only something that is my own, but my very self; I must be personally present in my gift” (34).

Conclusion

The philosophical and theological arguments are clear: the world and mankind are better off if social causes such as poverty are funded through voluntary private giving.  Man is made to be gift, and he fulfills his destiny insofar as he gives of himself freely.  The only argument that could stand up against this is the practical argument that private giving would be unable to fund social causes: mankind, poisoned as he is by original sin, would fail to selflessly give what is necessary to solve the problem.  Whether or not a cause can be completely funded is not the issue.  There are many social causes that will never be solved this side of heaven.  The issue is whether or not government taxation has an actual positive effect on the particular social cause – this is where the mathematical arguments from part one become so important.  It seems that compulsory giving through taxation actually serves to decrease the amount of funds actually available to a cause.  Once the economic argument falls, it seems that there is nothing left to justify government involvement in social programs.

Spitting in the Face of Uncle Sam: Part II

 

Yesterday I wrote a post, which may be read here, detailing how an Egyptian mob, inflamed by allegations about a movie attacking Mohammed, stormed our embassy.  The embassy issued a truly craven statement apologizing for the fact that Americans in this country still enjoy freedom of speech:

The Embassy of the United States in Cairo condemns the continuing efforts by misguided individuals to hurt the religious feelings of Muslims – as we condemn efforts to offend believers of all religions. Today, the 11th anniversary of the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks on the United States, Americans are honoring our patriots and those who serve our nation as the fitting response to the enemies of democracy. Respect for religious beliefs is a cornerstone of American democracy. We firmly reject the actions by those who abuse the universal right of free speech to hurt the religious beliefs of others.

When it became obvious that many Americans found this cowardly in the extreme, the embassy initially stood behind its statement with these tweets:

This morning’s condemnation (issued before protest began) still stands. As does our condemnation of unjustified breach of the Embassy.

We condemn the continuing efforts by misguided individuals to hurt the religious feelings of Muslims— US Embassy Cairo (@USEmbassyCairo) September 11, 2012

The embassy has since deleted these tweets, not realizing what a futile action this is in the age of the internet.

Mitt Romney has responded:

 “I’m outraged by the attacks on American diplomatic missions in Libya and Egypt and by the death of an American consulate worker in Benghazi.  It’s disgraceful that the Obama administration’s first response was not to condemn attacks on our diplomatic missions, but to sympathize with those who waged the attacks.”

After remaining silent throughout the day, the Obama administration finally responded….to Mitt Romney: →']);" class="more-link">Continue reading

Spitting in the Face of Uncle Sam

 

Today on the eleventh anniversary of 9-11 an Egyptian mob stormed our embassy in Cairo and burned our flag.  The rioters were offended by a film that they allege is insulting to Mohammed.  The ringing response of our embassy to this insult to this country on today of all days?  An announcement perhaps that the US will no longer waste sending billions of dollars a year in foreign aid to a people who obviously despise us?   A recall of our ambassador?  A warning to the Egyptian government that repetitions of this type of behavior will lead to a severing of diplomatic relations?

No, after getting down on their hands and knees presumably, this is what the officials at our embassy said: →']);" class="more-link">Continue reading

Tribute in Light – A Picture From a Reader

A reader sent me this shot of a test run of the Tribute in Lights. As he and a friend finished dinner and walked out of the Fraunces Tavern at the corner of Broad Street and Pearl Street last night, they noticed the lights were on for a moment, jumped into the car, and drove over to West Street to get this shot. It is taken from the sun roof of the car, paused at a lightd right next to the Battery Garage where the lights are set up.

Courtesy of Mr. Steve Tirone, Senior Business Analyst at TIAA-CREF. Thank you Steve! →']);" class="more-link">Continue reading

Can the Private Sector Support What the Public Sector Claims To? (Part II)

This is the second part in a three-part series.  Part I can be found here.  Part III can be found here.

_________________________________________

Crowding out on its own can never make a case for the privatization of social services.  Even with government crowd out, the total amount of money raised for a particular cause is higher with government involvement (or equal in the case of total crowd out).  For instance, if a cause is funded entirely by the private sector, say at $100, and the government steps in with a $50 subsidy.  Supposing the crowd out rate is 60%, the private donations drop by $30 because of the $50 government “donation.”  However, the total gift to the charity is now $120 (the government’s $50 plus the private sector’s $70), which is higher than the purely private $100.

However, this doesn’t take into account the efficiency contrast between the private and public sector.  Here is where my model begins to take shape.  For starters, suppose that the government operates with a 30/70 split and the private sector operates with a 70/30 split and a modest crowd out rate of 60%.  Let’s follow that tax dollar collect by the government.  Suppose that the government collects and budgets $1 in taxes for a social cause.  The amount of money actually going to the cause, after the deduction for administrative expenses, is $0.30.  However, that tax dollar also causes a crowd out of 60%, or $0.60 in private giving.  No, in fairness, the private giving also has its administrative expenses, so the actual causes experiences only 70% of the $0.60 in decreased funding, which amounts to $0.42.  The end result is that the extra $0.30 injected by the government is more than counteracted by a drop in $0.42.  Thus, the government involvement actually causes a drop in funding for the actual cause.

One is free to play with the numbers, of course.  We were conservative in our estimates of private giving efficiencies and crowd out rate.  If we continue to hold the private efficiency rate at 70/30, it turns out that the crowd out rate can drop to around 43% before we hit the break even point.  This is a comfortably low number by all accounts in the literature.  Yet even this assumes a modest 70/30 private giving efficiency.  If we adjust this to the median, which is closer to 90/10 (10% administrative costs), we find that the crowd out rate can fall as low as 33% before we hit the break even point.  What this tells us is that for more than half the charities, there is a substantial decrease in actual available funds when the government raises taxes to subsidize the programs.  Were such a reality to be understood and made public, it would cause a fiscal scandal greater than any experience by the few immoral and manipulative bad apples in the world of private charitable organizations.

Now, we should admit that this is based on a definition of “crowd out” that can be unclear in the literature.  Many authors use the term without defining whether the crowd out percentage is a function of the taxed dollar ($1) or the final injection after administrative costs are factored out ($0.30).  We assumed the later because in the two mathematical models (Krause and Andreoni) we were able to follow actual variables, and it was the taxed dollar that resulted in the crowd out.  However, is a subsequent paper, Andreoni himself seems to be leaning towards the later definition.  If that is true, the situation changes*.  It turns out that total available post-administrative funds is increased by government involvement in all cases (and only breaks even if private giving is perfectly efficient and crowd out is 100%), but the increase is such a small percentage of the total taxes collected (between 10% and 13% using the same efficiency and crowd our assumptions), that the expenditures become difficult to defend from any reasonable moral perspective.  Such a reality, even in this case, would cause a public scandal if it were explained to the average voter.

If their are economists among us who can clarify this definition with a solid reference, I would be more than grateful to hear an answer.  I have at least ten papers from economics journals on my desk, none of which are specific enough on the definition of crowd out to decide this point.

______________________________________

 * In the case that crowd out is defined as a function of the money spent on the actual cause by the government rather than the taxed dollar, the mathematical exercise is a bit more complicated.Out of the dollar collected via taxation, only $0.30 of it is going to make it through the bureaucratic structures of the government.  When the $0.30 is injected into the cause, it results it a decrease of $0.18 (60% of of $0.30) of private giving due to crowd out.  Of course, this is a decrease in $0.18 of giving, not of actual money to the cause.  In fairness, even the private charity has its administrative costs.  Thus, the decrease is private funding is only 70% of the $0.18, or $0.126.  Nevertheless, the total difference made by the government $1 is the $0.30 decreased by the crowded out $0.126, which comes to $0.174.  Therefore, it is a mistake to think that he government gets even its 30% of the dollar for the social cause.  The net gain experienced by the cause is only 12.6%.  Think about this on a larger scale.  In order for the government to make a $1,000,000 difference in a cause, it must collect $5.75 million in tax money.

One is free to play with the numbers to see the impact of combining efficiency and crowd out rates.  Our experiment was based on a conservative 70% private giving efficiency and a modest 60% crowd out.  If we assume the median private giving efficiency of 90% and Andreoni’s 70% crowd out rate, the net government difference on the tax dollar falls to 11.1%.  So to raise that $1,000,000, the government would have to collect over $9 million in taxes.

Notice that the cause is still “technically” better off.  Even in the more extreme case, the cause still gets its additional $1,000,000 in funding.  In fact, this will always be the case.  While the combined rate falls as private efficiency and crowd out rise, even with a private efficiency of 100% and a crowd out of 100%, the government simply replaces every dollar in the social cause.  Yet the replacement come at quite a cost to the taxpayer.  If a private charitable organization were to operate on these dismal percentages, it would make the front page of the New York Times in the most scandalous of manners.

 Read Part III here.

The White House and Sexualityism

While I understand the USCCB’s commitment to framing the HSS Mandate exclusively in terms of religious liberty, I have been, since the beginning, reminding people that it is in fact a contraception issue. Politically it may make sense to focus on religious liberty, but morally, the two are inseparable. Well-known law professor Helen Alvaré has a very well-written piece at the Witherspoon Institute:

It should be noted that sexualityism is no more than a theory about a claimed cause of women’s happiness—i.e., that its growth is directly proportional to women’s ability to express themselves sexually without commitment and without the possibility of children. The HHS mandate stands on this theory. In a world of easy availability of birth control and abortion, the only reason for a federal mandate for a “free” and universal supply is to try to send the sexualityism message. The White House has all but come out and said: “women of America, vote for the incumbent this presidential election year because he supports women’s equality and freedom, which he understands to include at the very least nonmarital and nonprocreative sexual expression.” Why else choose Sandra Fluke—an affluent, single, female law student, who demands a taxpayer-subsidized, 365-day supply of birth control as the price of female equality—as your spokeswoman? While every savvy media outlet understands the political theater going on here with the whole “war on women,” anti-Republicans message, still when the White House uses its powerful bully pulpit to send such a message, cultural damage is done.

Read the rest here.

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