Sunday, May 24, 2020

Walter Williams

By Walter E. Williams | May 21, 2020 3:44 PM EDT

Black politicians, civil rights leaders and their white liberal advocates have little or no interest in doing anything effective to deal with what's no less than an education crisis among black students. In city after city with large black populations, such as Baltimore, St. Louis, Detroit, Philadelphia and Washington, D.C., less than 10% of students test proficient in reading and math. For example, in 2016, in 13 Baltimore high schools, not a single student tested proficient in math. In six other high schools, only 1% tested proficient in math. Citywide, only 15% of Baltimore students passed the state's English test. Despite these academic deficiencies, about 70% of the students graduate and are conferred a high school diploma.

Ballou High School is in Washington, D.C. Five percent of its students test proficient in reading and 1% test proficient in math. In 2017, all 189 students in Ballou High School's senior class applied to college. All 189 members of the graduating class of 2017 were accepted to universities. In November 2017, an investigation showed that half of Ballou's 2017 graduates had more than three months of unexcused absences. One in five of the graduating class was absent more than present, therefore missing more than 90 days of school.

Examples of academic underachievement can be seen at predominantly black public schools across the nation, but that's only part of the story. The strangest part of this is that poor academic performance is accepted and tolerated by black politicians, civil rights organizations and white liberals. Poor performance is often blamed on finances; however, the poorest performing schools have the highest per pupil spending. New York, Washington, D.C., and Baltimore rank among the nation's highest in per pupil educational spending.

The underachievement story is compounded by the gross dishonesty of colleges that admit many of these students. I cannot imagine that students who are not proficient in reading and math can do real college work. In a futile attempt to make up for 12 years of rotten education, colleges put these students in remedial courses. They also design courses with little or no true academic content. Colleges have their own agendas. They want the money that comes from admitting these students. Also, they want to make their diversity and multiculturalism administrators happy.
Poor black education is not preordained. Dr. Thomas Sowell has examined schools in New York City and student performance on the NY State English Language Arts Test in 2016-17. Thirty percent of Brooklyn's William Floyd elementary school third graders scored well below proficient in English and language arts, but at Success Academy charter school in the same building, only one did. At William Floyd, 36% were below proficient, with 24% being proficient and none testing above proficient. By contrast, at Success Academy, only 17% of third graders were below proficient, with 70% being proficient and 11% being above proficient. Among Success Academy's fourth graders, 51% and 43%, respectively, scored proficient and above proficient, while their William Floyd counterparts scored 23% and 6%, respectively. Similar high performance can be found in some other Manhattan charter schools such as KIPP Infinity Middle School.

Liberals tell us that racial integration is a necessary condition for black academic excellence. Public charter schools such as those mentioned above belie that vision. Sowell points out that only 39% of students in all New York state schools who were recently tested scored at the "proficient" level in math, but 100% of the students at the Crown Heights Success Academy tested proficient where blacks and Hispanics constitute 90% of the student body.

There's little question that many charter schools provide superior educational opportunities for black youngsters. The New York Times wrote, "Over 100,000 students in hundreds of the city's charter schools are doing well on state tests, and tens of thousands of children are on waiting lists for spots." But here's New York Mayor Bill de Blasio's take on charter schools, expressing the interests of the education establishment: "Get away from high-stakes testing, get away from charter schools. No federal funding for charter schools.

Black people cannot afford to buy into any attack on education alternatives. Charter schools across the nation offer a way out of the educational abyss.

Saturday, May 16, 2020

Walter Williams

By Walter E. Williams | May 13, 2020 10:42 PM EDT

Former Barack Obama adviser Rahm Emanuel, during a recent interview, reminded us of his 2008 financial crisis quotation, "Never allow a crisis to go to waste." The COVID-19 pandemic has presented a wonderful opportunity for those of us who want greater control over our lives. Sadly, too many Americans have already taken the bait. We've allowed politicians and bureaucrats to dictate to us what's an essential business and what isn't, who has access to hospitals and who hasn't, and a host of minor and major dictates.

Leftist politicians who want to get into our pocketbooks are beginning to argue that the COVID-19 pandemic is the best argument for a wealth tax. Let's first define a wealth tax. A wealth tax is applicable to and levied on a variety of accumulated assets that include cash, money market funds, real property, trust funds, owner-occupied housing and other wealth accumulations. Assume a taxpayer earns $150,000 a year and falls in the 32% tax bracket. That individual's income tax liability for the year will be 32% x $150,000 or $48,800. Say the taxpayer has a net worth of $500,000 consisting of a business or home and the government imposes a wealth tax of 32%, the person's tax liability is $160,000.

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The problem with most politicians is when they enact a law, they seldom ask, "Then what?" They assume a world of what economists call zero elasticity wherein people behave after a tax is imposed just as they behaved before the tax was imposed and the only difference is that more money comes into the government's tax coffers. The long-term effect of a wealth tax is that people will try to avoid it by not accumulating as much wealth or concealing the wealth they accumulate.

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A wealth tax has become increasingly attractive because it lends itself to demagoguery about the significant wealth disparity in the United States. The Federal Reserve reports that, in 2018, the wealthiest 10% of Americans owned 70% of the country's wealth, and the richest 1% owned 32% of the wealth. That fact gave Democratic presidential contenders such as Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren incentives to propose a wealth tax as a part of their campaign rhetoric. Leftists lament that multibillionaires such as Charles Koch, Warren Buffett, Larry Ellison and Sheldon Adelson have not made charitable efforts to address the coronavirus crisis.

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My questions to these political leeches are: To whom does the billionaire's wealth belong? And how did they accumulate such wealth?
Did they accumulate their great wealth by looting, plundering and enslaving their fellow man, as has been the case throughout most of human history? No, they accumulated great wealth by serving and pleasing their fellow man in the pursuit of profits. Unfortunately, demagoguery and lack of understanding has led to "profit" becoming a dirty word. Profit is a payment to entrepreneurs just as wages are payments to labor, interest to capital and rent to land. In order to earn profits in free markets, entrepreneurs must identify and satisfy human wants in a way that economizes on society's scarce resources.

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Here's a question for you. Which entities produce greater consumer satisfaction: for-profit enterprises such as supermarkets, computer makers and clothing stores, or nonprofit entities such as public schools, post offices and motor vehicle departments? I'm guessing you'll answer the former. Their survival depends on pleasing ordinary people. Public schools, post offices and motor vehicle departments' survival are not strictly tied to pleasing people but rather on politicians and the ability of government to impose taxes.
Some advocates of wealth taxes and other forms of taxation might argue that they are temporary measures to get us over the COVID-19 crisis. Do not buy that argument. The great Nobel Laureate economist Milton Friedman once said, "Nothing is more permanent than a temporary government program." The telephone tax was levied on wealthy Americans with telephones in 1898 to help fund the Spanish-American War. That tax was repealed over 100 years later in 2006. One of the objectives of the World War II withholding tax was to bring faster revenues to fight the war. The withholding of taxes is still with us blinding Americans on the taxes they pay. Let us not allow a crisis to bamboozle us again.

Saturday, May 2, 2020

Walter Williams

Dr. Victor Davis Hanson is a senior fellow at the Hoover Institution at Stanford University, a military historian and a professor emeritus of classics at California State University, Fresno. He has written two articles relevant to today's society. Last October he published, "Members of Previous Generations Now Seem Like Giants," and he recently wrote, "Is America a Roaring Giant or Crying Baby?"

In the first article, Hanson starts with some observations and questions regarding the greatness of previous generations compared with today's Americans. He asks: "Does anyone believe that contemporary Americans could build another transcontinental railroad in six years? ... America went to the moon in 1969 with supposedly primitive computers and backward engineering. Does anyone believe we could launch a similar moonshot today?" Hanson observes: "We have been fighting in Afghanistan without result for 18 years. Our forefathers helped to win World War II and defeat the Axis Powers in four years." Keep in mind that the Axis powers (Germany, Japan and Italy) had far greater firepower than the Afghan rebels that we've fought. Hanson also could have asked whether today's Americans could build a 1,700-mile road such as the ALCAN Highway, connecting the lower 48 states to Alaska, whose construction started in March 1942 and was completed in October that year.


In terms of learning, Hanson asks whether anyone believes that a 2020 college graduate knows half of what a 1950 graduate knew. In the 1940s, he says, young people read the works of William Faulkner, F. Scott Fitzgerald, Pearl Buck and John Steinbeck. He doubts that today's high school graduates could even finish "The Good Earth" or "The Grapes of Wrath." I attended Benjamin Franklin High School from 1950 to 1954, and our senior English class required reading included Geoffrey Chaucer's "The Canterbury Tales" and William Shakespeare's "Macbeth" and "Julius Caesar." By the way, when I attended Benjamin Franklin High, it was ranked the lowest among Philadelphia's high schools.


Hanson's second article asks whether our response to the COVID-19 epidemic will be that of a "roaring giant" or "crying baby." We can awaken, just as we did on Dec. 8, 1941, with massive amounts of fight, ready to get on a war footing. For those who were not around then or do not know our history, in 1941 our nation had seven fleet aircraft carriers and one escort carrier. By 1945, it was deploying 27 fleet and 72 escort carriers. In December 1941, we had 2.2 million service members in the U.S. military. By the war's end, there were more than 12 million Americans in the armed services. That's an astonishing mobilization considering our population was a little over 132 million. What's even more amazing is that our gross domestic product for 1944 exceeded the combined economic output of the Soviet Union, the United Kingdom, Japan, Italy and Germany.


Hanson says that our other choice regarding the epidemic is whether to continue the partisan bickering and blaming. We can ignore the importance of the crisis and instead scapegoat and play the blame game. We can talk not of an America in crisis but of the virus's effects on particular groups. We can decide that to hold China responsible for lying about the virus is mean, racist and, at best, xenophobic.


In other words, Hanson says, "The choice is ours whether America awakens as a roaring giant or a crying baby." My prediction is that Americans, left to their own tendencies, will roar together as giants and will ignore the political and media crybabies.

Friday, April 17, 2020

Walter Williams


Fixing College Corruption


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By Walter E. Williams | April 16, 2020 3:10 PM EDT

America's colleges are rife with corruption. The financial squeeze resulting from COVID-19 offers opportunities for a bit of remediation. Let's first examine what might be the root of academic corruption, suggested by the title of a recent study, "Academic Grievance Studies and the Corruption of Scholarship." The study was done by Areo, an opinion and analysis digital magazine. By the way, Areo is short for Areopagitica, a speech delivered by John Milton in defense of free speech.
Authors Helen Pluckrose, James A. Lindsay and Peter Boghossian say that something has gone drastically wrong in academia, especially within certain fields within the humanities. They call these fields "grievance studies," where scholarship is not so much based upon finding truth but upon attending to social grievances. Grievance scholars bully students, administrators and other departments into adhering to their worldview. The worldview they promote is neither scientific nor rigorous. Grievance studies consist of disciplines such as sociology, anthropology, gender studies, queer, sexuality and critical race studies.
In 2017 and 2018, authors Pluckrose, Lindsay and Boghossian started submitting bogus academic papers to academic journals in cultural, queer, race, gender, fat and sexuality studies to determine if they would pass peer review and be accepted for publication. Acceptance of dubious research that journal editors found sympathetic to their intersectional or postmodern leftist vision of the world proves the problem of low academic standards.

Several of the fake research papers were accepted for publication. The Fat Studies journal published a hoax paper that argued the term bodybuilding was exclusionary and should be replaced with "fat bodybuilding, as a fat-inclusive politicized performance." One reviewer said, "I thoroughly enjoyed reading this article and believe it has an important contribution to make to the field and this journal." "Our Struggle Is My Struggle: Solidarity Feminism as an Intersectional Reply to Neoliberal and Choice Feminism," was accepted for publication by Affilia, a feminist journal for social workers. The paper consisted in part of a rewritten passage from Mein Kampf. Two other hoax papers were published, including "Rape Culture and Queer Performativity at Urban Dog Parks." This paper's subject was dog-on-dog rape. But the dog rape paper eventually forced Boghossian, Pluckrose and Lindsay to prematurely out themselves. A Wall Street Journal writer had figured out what they were doing.
Some papers accepted for publication in academic journals advocated training men like dogs and punishing white male college students for historical slavery by asking them to sit in silence in the floor in chains during class and to be expected to learn from the discomfort. Other papers celebrated morbid obesity as a healthy life choice and advocated treating privately conducted masturbation as a form of sexual violence against women. Typically, academic journal editors send submitted papers out to referees for review. In recommending acceptance for publication, many reviewers gave these papers glowing praise.
Political scientist Zach Goldberg ran certain grievance studies concepts through the Lexis/Nexis database, to see how often they appeared in our press over the years. He found huge increases in the usages of "white privilege," "unconscious bias," "critical race theory" and "whiteness." All of this is being taught to college students, many of whom become primary and secondary school teachers who then indoctrinate our young people.

I doubt whether the coronavirus-caused financial crunch will give college and university administrators, who are a crossbreed between a parrot and jellyfish, the guts and backbone to restore academic respectability. Far too often, they get much of their political support from campus grievance people who are members of the faculty and diversity and multicultural administrative offices. The best hope lies with boards of trustees, though many serve as yes men for the university president. I think that a good start would be to find 1950s or 1960s catalogs. Look at the course offerings at a time when college graduates knew how to read, write and compute, and make them today's curricula. Another helpful tool would be to give careful consideration to eliminating all classes/majors/minors containing the word "studies," such as women, Asian, black or queer studies. I'd bet that by restoring the traditional academic mission to colleges, they would put a serious dent into the COVID-19 budget shortfall.

Saturday, April 4, 2020

Walter Williams

By Walter E. Williams | April 2, 2020 2:23 PM EDT

I'm not sure whether COVID-19, first identified in Wuhan, China, in the U.S. qualifies as a true disaster. Putting the disease in perspective, we might look at current influenza illnesses. According to Centers for Disease Control estimates, between Oct. 1, 2019, and March 14, 2020, there have been 390,000 to 710,000 hospitalizations as a result of the flu, 38,000,000 to 54,000,000 flu illnesses and 23,000 to 59,000 flu deaths. That's compared with, as of March 27, a total of 85,356 cases of COVID-19 resulting in the deaths of 1,246 people.

But let's agree that COVID-19 is a disaster and ask what the appropriate steps are to deal with it. One of the first observations about any disaster is that the quantity demanded of many goods greatly exceeds the supply. There is a shortage. The natural market response when there is a shortage is for prices to rise. Rising prices produce several beneficial effects. They reduce the incentive for people to hoard while suppliers, motivated by the prospect of higher profits, are incentivized to produce more of the good in short supply.
Thirty-four states and the District of Columbia have anti-price gouging laws that prohibit "excessive and unjustified" increases in prices of essential consumer goods and services during a federal, state or local declared emergency. Price gouging is legally defined as charging 10 to 25% more for something than you charged for it during the month before an emergency. Sellers convicted of price gouging face stiff fines and perhaps prison terms.

But what about hoarding? Often hoarding creates the shortage. In uncertain times, people may purchase three dozen eggs instead of one dozen. They may want to maintain stockpiles of canned goods and buy up large quantities of cleaners, paper towels and toilet paper. This kind of behavior has left some with overflowing freezers, shelves of sanitizers and garages full of toilet paper while their neighbors are left either wanting for the same items or paying what some call "excessive and unjustified" prices.
While it's difficult to get beyond emotions, the fact is that consumers are not forced to buy products for the higher (gouged) price. If they pay, it is likely because they see themselves as being better off acquiring the good than the alternative - keeping their money in their pocket. Higher prices charged have a couple of unappreciated benefits. First, they get people to economize on the use of the good whose price has risen. That is higher prices reduce demand and encourage conservation. That helps with the disaster.
With higher prices, profit-seeking suppliers know that they can make more money by bringing additional quantities of the goods to the market. This increases the supply of goods, which helps to drive prices back down. Anti-price gouging laws disrupt these two very important functions of the marketplace and enhance and prolong a disaster. In other words, in a disaster, we want people to economize their use of goods and services and we want suppliers of these goods and services to produce more. Rising prices encourage these actions. Anti-price gouging laws stymy those incentives and create the pretense that a disaster does not exist.

Some people might reluctantly agree that allowing prices to rise during a disaster helps allocate resources. But they'll complain that's not the intention of greedy sellers who are out to profit. I say, so what? It's not sellers' intentions that count but what their actions accomplish that's important -- namely, getting people to conserve more and suppliers to produce more.
Many of the problems associated with a disaster would be eliminated if people's buying behavior were the same as it was before the disaster. To get people to behave nicely and consider their neighbors is the ultimate challenge. I think rising prices are the best and most dependable way to get people to be considerate of their fellow man.

Monday, March 23, 2020

Walter Williams

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Socialism’s Past


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By Walter E. Williams | March 18, 2020 2:22 PM EDT

Senator Bernie Sanders' call for socialism has resonated among many Americans, particularly young Americans. They've fallen prey to the idea of a paradise here on Earth where things are free and there's little want. But socialists never reveal what turns out to be their true agenda. Let's look at the kind of statements they used to gain power. You'll note that all of their slogans before gaining power bore little relation to the facts after they had power.
Vladimir Lenin promised, "Under socialism all will govern in turn and will soon become accustomed to no one governing." That's Friedrich Engel's prediction about "the withering away of the state." Lenin also promised, "Communism is Soviet power plus electrification," and "No amount of political freedom will satisfy the hungry masses." Lenin's successor, Joseph Stalin, said, "Advance towards socialism cannot but cause the exploiting elements to resist the advance, and the resistance of the exploiters cannot but lead to the inevitable sharpening of the class struggle." He also said, "Gaiety is the most outstanding feature of the Soviet Union," and that "Gratitude is a sickness suffered by dogs."

Then there's China's Chairman Mao Zedong, who said: "Socialism must be developed in China, and the route toward such an end is a democratic revolution, which will enable socialist and communist consolidation over a length of time. It is also important to unite with the middle peasants, and educate them on the failings of capitalism." Mao advised: "A communist must be selfless, with the interests of the masses at heart. He must also possess a largeness of mind, as well as a practical, far-sighted mindset."
Cuban dictator Fidel Castro said: "Capitalism has neither the capacity, nor the morality, nor the ethics to solve the problems of poverty. We must establish a new world order based on justice, on equity, and on peace." He added, "I find capitalism repugnant. It is filthy, it is gross, it is alienating... because it causes war, hypocrisy and competition."
Venezuelan dictator Hugo Chavez promised: "I am going to do my best to try to create a country in which children are not living in poverty, in which kids can go to college, in which old people have health care. Will I succeed? I can't guarantee you that, but I can tell you that from a human point of view it is better to show up than to give up." Adding, "I am convinced that the path to a new, better and possible world is not capitalism, the path is socialism."

His successor Nicolas Maduro said: "Fidel Castro represents the dignity of the South American continent against empires. He's a living legend: an icon of independence and freedom across the continent."
Bernie Sanders' statements are not that different from those of Lenin, Stalin, Castro, Chavez and other tyrants. Sanders says, "Let us wage a moral and political war against the billionaires and corporate leaders, on Wall Street and elsewhere, whose policies and greed are destroying the middle class of America," and "We need to change the power structure in America, we need to end the political oligarchy."
Stalin's campaign didn't mention that he would enact policies that would lead to the slaughter of 62 million people in the Soviet Union between 1917 to 1987. Mao Zedong didn't mention that his People's Republic of China would engage in brutal acts that would lead to the loss of 76 million lives at the hands of the government from 1949 to 1987. The late Professor Rudolph J. Rummel of the University of Hawaii documented this tragedy in his book "Death by Government: Genocide and Mass Murder Since 1900."
Because socialism is a fight against basic human nature, it requires brute force in the attempt to reach its goals. The best warning about socialism comes from Aesop, who said, "Those who voluntarily put power into the hands of a tyrant ... must not wonder if it be at last turned against themselves." We shouldn't ignore Martin Luther King Jr.'s warning, "Never forget that everything Hitler did in Germany was legal."

Wednesday, March 18, 2020

Walter Williams

By Walter E. Williams | March 18, 2020 2:22 PM EDT

Senator Bernie Sanders' call for socialism has resonated among many Americans, particularly young Americans. They've fallen prey to the idea of a paradise here on Earth where things are free and there's little want. But socialists never reveal what turns out to be their true agenda. Let's look at the kind of statements they used to gain power. You'll note that all of their slogans before gaining power bore little relation to the facts after they had power.

Vladimir Lenin promised, "Under socialism all will govern in turn and will soon become accustomed to no one governing." That's Friedrich Engel's prediction about "the withering away of the state." Lenin also promised, "Communism is Soviet power plus electrification," and "No amount of political freedom will satisfy the hungry masses." Lenin's successor, Joseph Stalin, said, "Advance towards socialism cannot but cause the exploiting elements to resist the advance, and the resistance of the exploiters cannot but lead to the inevitable sharpening of the class struggle." He also said, "Gaiety is the most outstanding feature of the Soviet Union," and that "Gratitude is a sickness suffered by dogs."

Then there's China's Chairman Mao Zedong, who said: "Socialism must be developed in China, and the route toward such an end is a democratic revolution, which will enable socialist and communist consolidation over a length of time. It is also important to unite with the middle peasants, and educate them on the failings of capitalism." Mao advised: "A communist must be selfless, with the interests of the masses at heart. He must also possess a largeness of mind, as well as a practical, far-sighted mindset."
Cuban dictator Fidel Castro said: "Capitalism has neither the capacity, nor the morality, nor the ethics to solve the problems of poverty. We must establish a new world order based on justice, on equity, and on peace." He added, "I find capitalism repugnant. It is filthy, it is gross, it is alienating... because it causes war, hypocrisy and competition."
Venezuelan dictator Hugo Chavez promised: "I am going to do my best to try to create a country in which children are not living in poverty, in which kids can go to college, in which old people have health care. Will I succeed? I can't guarantee you that, but I can tell you that from a human point of view it is better to show up than to give up." Adding, "I am convinced that the path to a new, better and possible world is not capitalism, the path is socialism."

His successor Nicolas Maduro said: "Fidel Castro represents the dignity of the South American continent against empires. He's a living legend: an icon of independence and freedom across the continent."
Bernie Sanders' statements are not that different from those of Lenin, Stalin, Castro, Chavez and other tyrants. Sanders says, "Let us wage a moral and political war against the billionaires and corporate leaders, on Wall Street and elsewhere, whose policies and greed are destroying the middle class of America," and "We need to change the power structure in America, we need to end the political oligarchy."
Stalin's campaign didn't mention that he would enact policies that would lead to the slaughter of 62 million people in the Soviet Union between 1917 to 1987. Mao Zedong didn't mention that his People's Republic of China would engage in brutal acts that would lead to the loss of 76 million lives at the hands of the government from 1949 to 1987. The late Professor Rudolph J. Rummel of the University of Hawaii documented this tragedy in his book "Death by Government: Genocide and Mass Murder Since 1900."
Because socialism is a fight against basic human nature, it requires brute force in the attempt to reach its goals. The best warning about socialism comes from Aesop, who said, "Those who voluntarily put power into the hands of a tyrant ... must not wonder if it be at last turned against themselves." We shouldn't ignore Martin Luther King Jr.'s warning, "Never forget that everything Hitler did in Germany was legal."