Appeasement: Our Western Illness

I suspect when asked if they know what the word appeasement means most educated people will say, “Yes. It has to do with British Prime Minister Neville Chamberlain giving part of Czechoslovakia to Adolph Hitler in 1938, claiming he had achieved “peace in our time.”

In fact, however, the lesson of appeasement was not learned. It is alive and well, causing myriad problems in our Western political universe. I’ll relate examples offered by Natan Sharansky in his extended essay “Defending Identity” and then point out how the appeasement disease still survives in the West in the 21st century.

Natan Sharansky is one of the most well-known of a group that came to be known as the “refuseniks.” He was exiled to Siberia by the Soviet Union because of his refusal to confess his crimes and name his co-conspirators. His crimes were these: He was active in publicizing human rights violations by the Soviet Union and he sought to move to Israel.

Eventually, Sharansky and the other refuseniks won. They delivered a deathblow to the Soviet Union as a result of their courageous refusal to cooperate even when faced with death. His case gained widespread support from ordinary citizens throughout the West. Ronald Reagan helped push the Soviet regime into the dust bin of history, but his voice alone without Sharansky’s moral stand, would have run up against a brick wall.

After moving to Israel, Sharansky was invited to serve as a minister in two administrations. He very publicly resigned from both because the prime ministers were engaged in appeasing Israel’s enemies in ways Sharansky believed would be devastating for the young nation.

In 2000, Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Barak entered into negotiations at Camp David with Yasser Arafat. Sharansky objected when Barak offered Arafat more than any other Israeli leader had offered the Palestinians, including a pledge to divide Jerusalem. Why? He believed Barak was foolishly appeasing Arafat who was responsible for the deaths of hundreds of innocent Israelis. In return for peace, Barak was willing to give up important locations essential to the Jewish people’s historical identity­­.

The second time Sharansky resigned from an Israeli government was in 2005 when Ariel Sharon decided to evacuate Gaza––a strip of land along the Mediterranean that was home to twenty-one Jewish communities. He argued that doing so unilaterally would not bring peace to Israel, nor would it improve life for the Palestinians. Unfortunately, his prediction came true. Gaza has turned out to be an open sore on Israel’s southern flank with no clear resolution in sight.

The common thread of the two situations was the leaders were willing to appease their enemies––giving up a lot in return for little or nothing. Despite the common narrative that Israel is responsible for the lack of peace in the Middle East, the truth, the reality of the situation is that Israel has consistently offered concessions while consistently losing opportunities to stand firm on principle.

Another example cited by Sharansky is Oslo––the 1993 Agreement that was supposed to bring about a resolution of the conflict that began with the formation of a Jewish state in 1948. Sharansky argues Oslo was flawed for two reasons. First, it failed to deal with the fact that Yasser Arafat was a dictator. Strengthening him was the worst thing that could have happened to the Palestinian people as can be seen today given that nothing close to democratic rights exists in the PLO-dominated territory. If we in the West believe our rhetoric––that all human beings are entitled to certain basic rights, why do we keep ignoring the fact that the Palestinians lack the right of free speech, free assembly, freedom of religion and the right to choose their own leaders?

The second evil perpetuated by Oslo was Israel’s failure to insist that the PLO recognize the Jewish people’s right to a Jewish state in its current location. Failing to demand that concession has meant the PLO could continue to foster hatred of Jews, pay the families of deceased or imprisoned terrorists, and claim their right to the entire region. The consequence was that Israel has had to devote a major portion of its population and resources on security.

Western International Appeasement

America and Europe have consistently tried appeasement in dealing with China and Iran resulting in greater problems amplified today by the economic and military agreement between the two nations. The entire world is endangered by the aggressive policies these nations display today in large part because they do not believe the West will go beyond rhetoric to stop them.

The case of Iran is the clearer of the two. Iran’s aggression in its region has led to wars in Iraq, Syria, Lebanon and Yemen, with resulting tens of thousands killed and hundreds of thousands of refugees. How has the West responded? President Obama tried to buy off Iran with a foolish deal that asked them to postpone becoming a nuclear power in return for a huge financial payment. Fortunately, President Trump revoked America’s part of the agreement, but Europe has demurred, emboldening Iran to continue to be aggressive on several fronts.

Many advanced the theory that by playing nice with China they would reform their totalitarian practices. Instead China today is an aggressive dictatorship, repressing ethnic minorities, attempting to take over Taiwan and Hong Kong and dominate the South China Sea region, while pushing on its border with India. China’s economy has grown thanks to the West’s willingness to ignore China’s predatory policies in return for access to its market. In response, China engaged in the theft of Western technology and limited its market in multiple ways while undercutting Western economies with its state-owned enterprises.

The West’s failure to demand Iran and China conform to Western human rights practices in order to receive the benefits of our technology was and remains a huge mistake. President Trump is correct in placing demands on both countries, although I worry that U.S. pressure can only achieve limited results without Europe’s support.

Domestic Appeasement

Appeasement is a popular ploy in the U.S. to tamper down demands by domestic populations. I’m not arguing that minority communities don’t deserve a share of our nation’s riches, but instead of policies that expand equal opportunity, our political class has favored hand-outs to selected representatives, enriching a few at the expense of the many.

The failures of hand-out programs such as welfare, public housing and affirmative action is evidenced by the fact that 60 years after this policy was started as Lyndon Johnson’s Great Society, the same groups are legitimately pointing out that they have greater poverty, greater unemployment and greater numbers in prison that the majority population.

The Great Society created a political class that each year comes to Washington claiming to represent their people while asking for more money and more programs. Sadly, the poverty program cheerleaders refuse to recognize that enormous progress has been made outside these poverty programs simply by people taking advantage of opportunities to get an education and obtain skills that could be translated into economic advanced.

The Trump presidency demonstrated that more could be accomplished for minorities by means of an expanding economy than all the handout programs combined.

The Alternative to Appeasement

Appeasement is the tendency to believe giving in to the demands of others can put an end to the problem. Even when the demands are legitimate, there has to be a price paid before an exchange can be effective. As Natan Sharansky demonstrated giving in to Israel’s enemies without getting sufficient concessions in return was disastrous.

We have learned that in the case of demands made in foreign relations, the dominant side has to view those making the demand as enemies with regard to that specific negotiation. Mexico and Canada were America’s enemies when trying to replace NAFTA. Thinking in that mode resulted in an one hundred percent better agreement. Iran and China are our enemies, not our friends. As a result, a quid pro quo should be required of any agreement.

In domestic conflicts, financial aid should only be given when the receiving community has agreed to honest and thorough record-keeping demonstrating that the aid went to the intended audience. If that had been done in the past, the record of fraud and abuse in these programs would have been cut in half and needy people would have gotten help. But even beyond accounting, receiving communities must agree to engage in additional steps on their own behalf, such as requiring recipients to participate in programs designed to elevate them out of poverty. An example would be schooling for those who are not proficient in English; another would be schooling for adults who dropped out of school without completing high school.

Appeasement is giving in to demands without asking anything in return. It is often agreed to out of guilt. Its time to recognize appeasement didn’t end with Nevile Chamberlain. Its continuing record of failure in international and domestic relations should teach us a lesson. Leaders must display backbone. Giving in may gain short-term peace, but rarely solves the problem and typically results in worse problems down the road.

Who will be making decisions if Joe Biden becomes President?

If Joe Biden wins the presidency in November, the question we’ll be asking for the next four years is who is making the decisions? It’s no secret that Biden is dealing with diminished mental capacity. That’s nothing to be ashamed of. It happens to the best of us as we age. The question, however, that must be answered before you vote for Biden is who actually will be making the decisions if and when Biden’s ability to do so declines?

Some argue the vice-president will be in charge. After all, she—he’s announced he will pick a female of color––will take over if Biden’s issues become so severe that he can be persuaded to resign or if he dies while in office. Yet there are other contenders––unknown and unnamed people who are advising Biden today and who might be added to his team if he wins the election.

As a result, the public may not known who has made a key decision about a major issue, or who is really in charge, but the bigger issue is whether the Biden team will be able to make decisions in a timely fashion in a crisis?

Most likely there will be a battle among a variety of players including Biden’s wife and family, the vice president, and his advisors. As these players battle it over who is making the decisions, they might become parallelized if and when access to Biden becomes restricted due to his health issues. Will the players be able to act without his signature? That represents a potentially dangerous situation––particularly when it comes to dealing with foreign leaders.

Some plan to vote for Biden because they dislike Donald Trump. Such voters should know that they may be creating major problems for the country should a mentally disabled man become president. Is that a price that’s worth paying to get rid of a man whose list of accomplishments is long and praise worthy?

One Israeli’s views on Zionism and the path to Peace

Einat Wilf, Telling Our Story: Recent Essays on Zionism, the Middle East, and the Path to Peace (self-published, 2018)

Einat Wilf is a former Israeli politician who served as a member of the Knesset for Independence and Labor Parties. She served as a foreign policy advisor to Shimon Peres and has written frequently for “left-wing” media include Haaretz, but her essays have also appeared in “right-wing” media such as The Tower Magazine.

Most of the essays in Telling Our Story appeared in 2016 and 2017. One observation reading these essays three and four years after they appeared in print is how much has changed . . . and how little has changed.

The big change since these essays has been the impact of the presidency of Donald Trump on Israeli politics. By moving the American embassy to Jerusalem, by recognizing the Golan Heights as a legitimate part of Israel, and by submitting a peace proposal early in 2020, Trump has re-defined some of the issues Wilf discusses. Additional factors Wilf could not have foreseen were the three inconclusive elections held in 2019 and 2020 and the impact of the corona virus pandemic.

Yet there is been almost no movement on underlying problems that have prevented a peace agreement from being forged between the leaders of the organizations that claim to represent the Palestinian people and the Jewish state of Israel. The primary issues where little or no movement has occurred are setting permanent boundaries between the two sides and the “right of return” issue.

On the question of boundaries, Trump’s peace proposal calls for inclusion within the boundaries of Israel virtually all of the West Bank settlement communities. Wilf on the other hand only proposed 75% of the population should be included.

On the ‘right of return’ issue, Trump and Wilf both recognize the Arabs’ demand for a ‘right of return’ for any and all Arabs who claim ancestry in land now occupied by Israel is incompatible with a two-state solution.

Wilf’s essays were directed mainly at the Israeli Left, believing the Left’s positions on the Palestinian question were a roadblock to a solution. Whether she still holds that position today is an open question. However, it is clear the Left no longer holds a strong enough political position in Israel to have much of an influence on the outcome of negotiations. A large majority of the Jewish Israeli public side with Likud on the topic. Even a majority of supporters of the centrist Blue and White Party that entered into a coalition government with Likud in the spring of 2020 hold strong defense-first views on the issues.

Wilf is probably the hundred and first person to try to define in writing the details of a territorial-specific peace agreement. None though written in good faith, seeking to be fair to the Palestinians, have yielded the desired results. Such is the problem when one side wants peace and the other side wants all or nothing.

The Trump proposal struck a new direction in permitting Israel to take steps to apply sovereignty to specific communities that would be part of Israel under any agreement on the theory that this would pressure the Palestinian’s leaders to get off their behinds and agree to negotiate.

I have little hope that this tactic will succeed. The reason? Any Palestinian official who accepts the premise has just consigned himself and his entire family to the nearest cemetery. That is why the majority of Israelis have reached the only rational point of view. They favor those policies that maintain maximum security and reject any that jeopardize security. Who can blame them?

 

Schooling’s False Promises. A Review of Fredrik deBoer’s “The Cult of Smart” (St. Martin’s Press, 2020)

What major federal policy has every president from Lyndon Johnson to Barak Obama agreed on? Answer: Advancing educational opportunity as a path to societal equality. They may have differed on how to expand schooling, but not that it was a goal to be achieved in order to reduce social inequality. Why then have the results not lived up to the promise? The answer is simple according to Fredrik deBoer: schooling can never produce social equality––not because we don’t spend enough or because teachers aren’t good enough. It’s because not all people are academically talented.

Marshaling studies that expose the raw underbelly of schooling’s failures on top of insights from his personal experience as a teacher, and capping that off with a measure of behavioral genetics, deBoer concludes, “as long as our education system creates winners, it will also create losers.”

The problem with those seeking equality of results from schooling deBoer asserts is that that goal is built on a myth of equal inherent ability––the idea that each child’s mind is a blank slate capable of being filled with the necessary knowledge. When children don’t succeed, therefore, people either blame teachers or the schools or both.

deBoer dismisses the notion that source of schools’ failures is racial and gender differences. Differences of potential between groups are insignificant, he asserts, but within each group there is great variation. Some kids are just not cut out to succeed academically.

While deBoer relies on a variety of sources to justify his analysis, few would deny that that there is a broad variation of academic talent within any ethnic or social group. The conclusion that politicians and educational reformers refuse to accept, however, is that a large proportion of the variation in academic achievement is “permanently outside the hands of schools and teachers.”

Where Liberals and Conservatives Agree

DeBoer doesn’t see much difference between conservatives and liberals in terms of the (false) hopes they place on schooling. He worries that economically privileged liberals––more so than conservatives––are resistant to coming to terms with the fact that by passing their genes on to their children they make it harder for those beneath them to advance.

Preaching schooling as a means to economic opportunity for the disadvantaged allows wealthy parents to ignore the fact that they are part of an aristocracy of the talented and that their status represents a barrier to children born of less academically talented parents. The more schooling is based on academic achievement, deBoer tells us, the poorer a job it does of social leveling.

If schooling can’t solve societal inequality what should it be doing? As an avowed Marxist, deBoer wants American society to undergo a total transformation to a socialist utopia, but until that happens, he offers a number of short-term proposals to do justice to the “untalented” and undercut our false hopes for schooling as the means to economic equality. These include two measures that run contrary to universally supported policies of the recent past: loosening public school standards and allowing students as young as 12 to drop out of school. He would also provide universal after school care in addition to universal childcare at a cost of hundreds of billions annually, although he admits all these “reforms” will have trouble gaining adherents.

Fredrik deBoer’s Marxist Alternative

DeBoer’s trust in Marxism leads him astray in understanding the role schooling has played in American society over the past one hundred plus years. Universal public education was not implemented to provide a right for all children to learn as he suggests, but rather to Americanize the large immigrant population that had flooded our shores over the last decades of the 19th century.

Public education (k-12) had little connection to employment until after World War II when an educated workforce was needed to continue the momentum brought about by the mobilization to defeat the Axis Powers. That led to a major expansion of the number of higher education slots. Thus, while my mother got a master’s degree at the State College for Teachers in Albany in 1963, three years later, when I enrolled in a graduate program there, it was now the State University of New York at Albany on a new campus with a vastly enlarged curricula.

The expansion of higher education from the 1960s on fed the growth of the public sector, creating employment openings for blacks and women who hitherto had few opportunities to use a college degree. Higher education growth, however, inevitably led to over expansion as politicians from both parties continued to demand public schools prepare more and more children for college. Expecting almost all young people go to college has had a detrimental effect both on colleges and the workplace. Colleges have succumbed to political pressure to increase graduation rates by lowering academic standards. That has hurt graduates in the market place as more and more employers demand advanced degrees in order to identify applicants with necessary knowledge and skills.

DeBoer is correct that academic talent is linked to economic status, but a missing ingredient in his analysis is motivation. Children of immigrants have historically done well, while the recent college admissions bribery scandal suggests a percentage of upper middle class children are opting out of the competition.

Variation also follows college graduates into the work place. The academically talented don’t all succeed and those with other skill sets, such as leadership, initiative, and perseverance enable those not at the top academically to be successful economically and career wise. The biggest lacuna in deBoer’s vision, however, is his notion that merit should be set aside in the name of a doing justice to those who are not academically talented.

He portrays a socialist utopia that resembles a sci/fi world where robots do all the work and people lounge around doing artistic things like composing music and painting landscapes. This is based on his belief that scarcity is a thing of the past. Of course, deBoer came to that conclusion before COVID-19, but even without factoring in the impact of the pandemic as evidence for how thin a margin the world’s most advanced economy rests on, only an academic who hasn’t spent a day working on a farm, in a factory or policing a crime-ridden neighborhood would assert we have reached a point where we have enough for everyone if we’d just be willing to share.

America’s 21st century economic status reflects technological advances from steam engines to gasoline powered motors, from the assembly line to robotics, from microscopic discoveries to nanotechnology, and, of course, thanks to computers which keep rewarding society with opportunities to make work more productive and while less time need be spent on the mundane. In a society without competition based on merit where everyone’s basic needs would be met by some mysterious process, there would be no incentive to do work of any kind. Evidence of the problem are people who refuse to go back to jobs that pay less than the government is sending them.

If deBoer’s analysis is correct that schooling cannot accomplish the kind of leveling we desire, equalizing academic placement and its subsequent economic rewards, do we as a society give up the notion of equality? If that’s the alternative then most people would stick with a flawed academic meritocracy, but of course there’s another choice: continue to grow the economy such that other paths exist to the good life.

It’s interesting that deBoer doesn’t mention sports or entertainment––two highly remunerative career paths where intelligence plays a role, but not necessarily academic intelligence. Entrepreneurship offers another avenue. While not every young person hoping to become the next Bill Gates or Steve Jobs will reach that level, hundreds of start-ups have emerged in recent years as the capabilities of a computer-based society reach into new crevices of our complex world. Israel, for example, has been labeled “start up nation” as entrepreneurs have produced systems to extract water from air and enable self-driving cars. A factor in Israel’s success has been attributed to mandatory military service before college, suggesting something other than academic aptitude can play a role in motivating young people to create solutions to human kind’s endless supply of medical, economic and social needs.

The message I’d send parents is to downplay deBoer’s insistence that academic success is more and more the only ticket to economic well-being by reminding them that a growing standard of living has been capitalism’s gift to the world, including a reduction in poverty in the “third-world” in recent decades. While deBoer emphasizes the negative impact on young people who feel compelled to participate in the academic rat race and labels most work demeaning, the list of choices people have for employment today is so much greater than ever before. Smart is good, but free and unrestricted is just as good, if not better.

Antifa Coops Black Lives Matter

What are the goals of Black Lives Matter? Justice? Equality? An end to police violence against Blacks? Destroying America? Up until now, the latter has not been a goal, but that may change if Antifa militants get their way.

Antifa’s tactics during the George Floyd demonstrations are designed to bring police violence down on Black Lives Matter adherents. Here’s how they do that. BLM leaders are always at the front of any crowd facing the police. They exercise their verbal rights to protest and demand changes, but are not trying to provoke violence. Antifa people stand behind the BLM crowd where they are less visible to the cameras, armed with bricks and bottles, some loaded with accelerants, which they throw over the heads of the BLM people at the police. Their goal is to provoke the police to charge into the crowd, which if it occurs can then be used by Antifa to convince BLM they will never get justice in America. It has to be torn down.

Who is Antifa? Antifa is an ideology more than an organization. The name, which derives from “anti-fascist,” is a misnomer since their tactics are those of fascists, anarchists and communists. Their goal is undermining law and order, pushing the most vulnerable in society to give up their hopes for equality and justice through democracratic institutions, to convince people that violence is justified.

Antifa takes advantage of the rage felt by young Blacks, providing them with the tools to loot and burn along with fictional arguments. They don’t point out that fewer unarmed Blacks were killed by police confrontations in 2019––nine––than whites––19. They don’t point out the rising standard of living Blacks have achieved the past three years, the lowest unemployment rate, the criminal justice reforms––all produced by the current administration. Facts would upset their lies, would defeat their aims.

Antifa is a terrorist organization. It’s social media netwrok needs to be shut down and any of its members engaging in violent activity during the protests need to be arrested and charged with terrorist activity. And BLM leaders need to explain to their followers that engaging in looting and the like is doing a disservice to George Floyd and to their movement.

Is the problem white supremacy?

If you ask protesters what justifies their anger, most will tell you what happened to George Floyd is not unique––meaning a black man being killed by a white police officer, and that if the person being arrested was white, the officer would have acted differently.

That response is both right and wrong. It’s wrong in that Officer Chauvin has an extensive record of involvement in incidents that had to be investigated for behavior outside what is required of a member of the Minnesota Police Department, some of them involving whites. So in one sense the problem was this one officer and a system that failed to remove him from the force years ago.

Yet, it’s also true that there have been too many instances of white police officers engaging in behavior that caused serious injury or death to blacks without sufficient justification. Although the number of such incidents has declined precipitously in the past four decades, any such action that cannot be justified by circumstances, such as strong belief the person being arrested has a weapon and intends to use it, is unacceptable. The question is how we deal with those incidents. Is rioting––violence against police officers, theft and property destruction appropriate or justified? I think not.

Yet some will suggest the problem is not a few “bad” cops or improper or insufficient training; rather they claim American society is structurally organized to the disadvantage of black people––that whites enjoy racial privilege and therefore America is a white supremacist society.

This accusation cannot be backed by the numbers. Any attempt to do so must run up against data that shows that status of black Americans has risen from the lows of the first half of the 20th century under the separate and unequal Jim Crow system to to full legal equality with whites. Compare the number of black doctors, lawyers, police chiefs, school superintendents and principals, college presidents, corporation executives, and media personalities, etc. with any point in the past to 2020. Compare the status of black women in America in 1965 or 1995 to the present and you’ll see extraordinary progress. Compare the number of blacks enrolled in America’s colleges to any point in the past. Are there still blacks living in poverty? Yes, but that’s true for whites and Hispanics as well. Poverty is primary a class, not a racial, problem.

So why do some people think white supremacy is a dominant characteristic of American society? The source of the accusation is a Left professorate that has fostered this notion which has been picked up by the mainstream media and the Democrat Party. Faculty at elite colleges have for the past forty years marshaled selective incidents and partial data to justify this thesis which elevates them at the expense of their students. To be a militant on campus is the highest status a black or minority professor can achieve. In fact, if one is not militant, one is suspect and in danger of not getting tenure or promoted.

Why, you may ask, has the mainstream media bought into this thesis? The media plays to a left-leaning audience as a reflection of the composition of the reporting and editing staff. To be sympathetic to the poor, discriminated against and disadvantaged, makes these people feel good about themselves. It helps them ignore the hypocrisy of their privilege as members of a part of society that holds itself above criticism. While not condoning violence, the media’s desire to blame Donald Trump for everything they perceive to be wrong with America shows they will not condemn those protesters who go too far.

And what about the Democrat Party: why have they bought into the white supremacy argument? The answer is obvious. To be the champion today of the victims of white America enables Democrat candidates to gloss over the fact that their Party has been in control of our major cities as well as the states with the highest black population for the past 70-80 years. It is their party that ought to be held responsible for any lack of progress in those communities. So if police departments aren’t getting rid of people like George Floyd’s murderer, black people ought to look to the elected officials in those cities and hold them responsible.

There are a tiny number of whites who believe they belong to a superior race––a concept that is so vapid and without merit that any thinking American should know it could only be held by a few deranged individuals. The vast majority of white Americans seek justice and equality for all Americans. To suggest otherwise requires the accuser to identify laws and/or policies that advantage one race over another.

Americans must continue to work to live up to the ideals of the founding fathers who believed all men (and women) are equal and deserved to be treated that way. We’ve come a long way, but that doesn’t mean there isn’t more to that needs our attention. Let the discussion continue so that we can all share our views and identify problems that need to be addressed, but let’s also take a moment to glory in the progress. For without recognizing success, future progress will never be enough.

 

Are Billionaires the Problem?

Tara Isabella Burton, a columnist for the Religious News Service, wants to take advantage of the coronavirus pandemic to attack the free enterprise system that produced billionaires like Bill Gates and Oprah Winfrey. (Washington Post, May 17, 2020, B4) She would blame the conditions that created the most productive economic engine the world had ever seen with the lowest unemployment in half a century for requiring assistance of billionaires in fighting the virus.

The price of the freedoms we enjoy in the U.S. Burton asserts is that one in six children grow up in poverty, schools are unequally funded, and poor adults have healthcare issues. Even without pointing out that conditions in countries that value the collective good over individual rights are much, much worse for the majority than in the U.S.––vide Russia, China, Cuba and Venezuela––Burton must ignore the positives our system has provided its citizenry in order to focus on the negatives.

She doesn’t mention that life expectancy in the U.S. has increased steadily and was at 78.87 in 2018 up EIGHT years from 1970. She doesn’t mention that poverty is never an obstacle keeping academically talented young people out of college and on a path to the middle class. She doesn’t mention that senior citizens are healthier by far than their parents’ and grandparents’ generations, or that medical care has enabled cancer patients to live many years longer than just a generation ago.

Instead Burton relies on the language of the old Left. Telling us that we “worship” individual billionaires, and that the “collective good” has been sacrificed on the myth of the bootstrapper, and that “our obsession with freedom leaves behind our most vulnerable.” She also joins the media chorus claiming social conditions and an inept federal government are responsible for making the pandemic “so dire.”

Au contraire, Ms. Burton. Measuring the country’s response to the pandemic is as useful an exercise as the models estimating how many would have died if we did nothing. There’s no standard against which we can compare how we’ve done except to say we weren’t ready, we made mistakes, and yet we rallied and we are winning the battle. A vaccine might not be available by the end of the year, yet in record time the American manufacturing community provided life-saving equipment while the scientific community paved the way to creating a vaccine faster than for any other crisis in human history.

I would venture that in no country on Planet Earth are billionaires less admired than in the U.S. where the owner of a diner, a dairy farm or a bookstore feels just as important to society as the founders of Twitter or PayPal. We accept the existence of billionaires because we know the price we would have to pay of preventing people from rising that far above their inherent individual value would be the loss of the opportunity to rise out of poverty, to be elected to high office, or follow one’s dream career be that ballet dancer, special ed teacher or sports star. It’s a price Americans are not willing to pay because we know society as a whole benefits when each of us is responsible in large part for our successes and our failures. That’s what makes us Americans.

Alert: The Democrat Party is waging war against the private sector workforce!

There’s a war being waged on America’s private sector workforce by the Democrat Party. By keeping schools closed they are making it impossible for parents to go to their jobs. By keeping businesses closed they are causing thousands of small businesses to go bankrupt costing millions jobs. But the public sector is being paid…and now they want even more money to pay the public sector workforce who of course will be happy not just to vote for Sleep Joe, but also to donate and make phone calls on his behalf.

It’s time for parents to fight back. If your schools are not going to open in the fall, you need to take over the school buildings and throw the criminals out! Hire your own teachers and send your kids to school!

Mark my words: Inflation is coming

Mark Levin recently debated Arthur Laffer, the well-known supply side economist, as to whether inflation would be an outcome of the shutdown of the American economy. Laffer didn’t think so; Levin predicted it would be a problem and he’s right. The reasons are simple to understand. In economics, price is a function of supply and demand. Gold is rare; people want it; the price is high.

Why will the American economy suffer from inflation? The answer is simple. Conditions resulting in a supply problem for many products and services are already evident.

* Meat producers are having to destroy both mature and young cattle and pigs because shutting down restaurants and institutional purchasers has depressed demand. The impact will result in higher meat prices when restaurants reopen, as it will take months before producers are able to gear up. Some farmers may go out of business as a result of the lack of a market for their livestock. That too will affect supply.

* Farmers are having to let produce go unharvested due to decreased demand, but more important in the future is likely to be a lack of labor––a function of several factors that will remain in place even after the virus restrictions are lifted. Prices of products from other countries will also go up as they will be battling the same problems we’ll be facing.

* Restaurants are being asked to reduce seating when they reopen. That will result in higher prices as food prices will be higher and restaurants will need to earn more per customer to cover expenses.

* Products sourced from China are very likely to cost more for a variety of reasons including the fact that Chinese factories will need to make up for lost sales during the pandemic.

* The U.S. is looking to move production of medical equipment and pharmaceuticals out of China back to their home countries to prevent a reoccurrence of supply problems that arose at the beginning stages of the crisis. Given the cost of labor is higher in the U.S., products for everything from hand sanitizers to ventilators to pharmaceuticals will be higher than in the past.

* All other products produced overseas, such as clothing, will be higher as a result of the impact on suppliers––some will have been bankrupt, while others will need to raise prices to catch up.

* Labor prices in the U.S. will be higher in many industries as people will be trying to catch up for lost income.

* Governments may have to raise taxes and fees to avoid reducing services.

Higher prices in some cases will be temporary, but high prices has an affect like a tidal wave. When the price of labor, products and services increase, the user of those products must also raise prices. I don’t know what percentage of manufacturing equipment is made in China or other low-wage countries, but if hammers, lithium-ion batteries and robots cost more, those costs will have to be passed along to consumers.

Complicating this is the fact that consumers impacted by the shutdown will have less money to spend. Having lower sales, sellers must raise prices to achieve the income they need to stay in business.

Get ready, folks. Inflation is on its way. Sorry, Mr. Laffer. Your curve won’t solve this problem.

 

Garbage in, garbage out

Many of you might remember the early days of computer programming when the mantra was “garbage in, garbage out.” That needs to be applied to today to computer models predicting the severity of the coronavirus. A few examples should suffice.

The authors of an op-ed in Sunday’s Washington Post admit as much when they quote Anthony Fauci saying “Models are as good as the assumptions you put into them” at the end of an article in which they expose how sketchy the assumptions are that have been put into such models as the one out of University of Washington’s Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation that Fauci and others have been relying on.

One of the factors that is not included in any of these models that viruses mutate. A study from China (which of course would need to be replicated) found thirty strains of the virus that causes COVID-19. The author writes, “Sars-CoV-2 has acquired mutations capable of substantially changing its pathogenicity.” The implication of that finding is that the reason some people who are otherwise healthy get very sick and die while others are asymptomatic might be that the strain they came in contact with might be more virulent.

The models are being used today to justify extreme social distancing including shutting of all but “essential” businesses in most states. Suggestions that some states and counties can ease these restrictions have been met with outcries, claiming to do so invites more deaths. The problem with that assertion is that unless one knows FOR CERTAIN the number of people who have been infected by the virus the fear of tens of thousands of additional deaths is not backed by fact.

Some recent evidence suggests more people have had the virus that previously known, including people who had mild cases or who are asymptomatic. But the bottom line is we don’t have sufficient answers to make clear-cut policy decisions. As a result, governors and other elected officials are playing safe––not wanting to be blamed for causing deaths.

Unfortunately, there is a price to pay for being overly cautious in terms of millions of people’s livelihoods. The longer the country is shut down the harder it will be to get back up and the longer it will take. The exact price also cannot be calculated because we don’t have those answers either.

We do know there is a limit to how long the federal government can print money and distribute it to everyone in the country. One factor is that the debt even at zero interest will have been repaid. Another more immediate factor is that printing more money could result in rapid inflation––which coupled with scarcity of certain goods will have its own social cost.

My advice to governors is not to take the entire burden on yourself. With the assistance of your legislature and executive agency personnel, set broad guidelines for when certain types of businesses can reopen in each county of your state. That way when deaths occur you can deflect the blame and justify the policy. Some states are facing bankruptcy. It’s time to fight that war as well as the one brought about by the virus.