Things We Read Today (54)


Busy Populating Rhode Island

I’ve been low on the content-creation this week for a reason: I’ve been moving my father up to Rhode Island from New Jersey.  My grandparents are likely to follow.  In the same time frame, a fourth child will be added to the youngest of the four generations of Katzes that will be in the state before the end of the year.

I offer this not by way of gratuitous biography, but just to let those who (out of selfishness or ignorance) are driving my friends and allies out of Rhode Island that at least one thorn in your side is not going anywhere.  What’s more, my interest in turning this staggering creature of a state around is increasing, not fading.

Whether there are enough thorns remaining to initiate the turn remains to be seen, but be aware that somebody will be keeping a chronicle of your misdeeds and blatant errors.

A Reason Not to Leave

I periodically am asked, when I make statements such as the above, why people with an interest in building their futures or securing their retirements should stay.  One reason I give is that the rot that’s infected Rhode Island is spreading and will find expatriates wherever they go.

President Obama’s been helpfully making that an easy case for which to find evidence.  Here’s the Wall Street Journal’s reaction to Obama’s commemorating (after his own fashion) the fiftieth anniversary of the March on Washington:

But then Mr. Obama tried to yoke that King aspiration to our current political debates, and here his rhetoric turned to a too-familiar politics of polarization. He spoke about stagnant wages for “working Americans” of all races, “even as corporate profits soar, even as the pay of a fortunate few explodes.”

And who is to blame? We’ll quote the President at length: “Entrenched interests—those who benefit from an unjust status quo resisted any government efforts to give working families a fair deal, marshaling an army of lobbyists and opinion makers to argue that minimum wage increases or stronger labor laws or taxes on the wealthy who could afford it just to fund crumbling schools—that all these things violated sound economic principles.

“We’d be told that growing inequality was the price for a growing economy, a measure of the free market—that greed was good and compassion ineffective, and those without jobs or health care had only themselves to blame.”

This bit of disgusting strawman rending of the American people comes even as the administration’s own policies ensure that meager economic growth will accrue to the wealthy rather than the worker.  Call it the Audacity of Cynicism, but it’s one of the older plays in the statist book: Government’s creating problems or making them worse makes it more feasible for government to offer a solution, while benefiting powerful people in the present.

But the point, here, is that the American people seem to be susceptible to the ploy.  Somebody recently forwarded to me a few paragraphs ostensibly taken from a Czech newspaper making the point that blaming the president for being whom he obviously was going to be skirts the larger problem that he was able to claim the office in the first place.

It’s popular then to blame Americans themselves, but I think the challenge might be more intractable than that.  The last century so corrupted our civic system that the balance of strength may have permanently shifted to the government rather than the people.

Rhode Island gives an excellent context for what may be the question of the century currently underway: In our small state, it’s easy enough to up and leave when one obtains clarity about the difficulty of fixing things.  Finding sanctuary from a nation that’s headed in the same direction will be much more difficult.

So there’s a positive to the negative rationale I’ve given for staying in Rhode Island.  If the rot will spread, so too may the solution.  Future generations need us to stay and find it where it will be most obvious.

The Solution (As We All Know, Deep Down) Is Freedom

A Commentary essay by Seth Mandel almost too perfectly pulls together some of the threads of this post:

Almost all the students using vouchers [in Louisiana] are black, according to the superintendent. This is a program largely designed to find ways to get black students stuck in failing schools an education. The government’s public-school monopoly, designed to enrich union bosses, is failing. The Louisiana government, under the leadership of Governor Bobby Jindal, isn’t willing to give up on those students, and is throwing them a rope. The United States Department of Justice, under the leadership of Eric Holder, will do anything to cut that rope.

The left likes to talk a lot about disparate impact. In ruling against the NYPD’s stop and frisk program, Judge Shira Scheindlin even found a new term for it–“indirect racial profiling.” So imagine what Democrats would make of a policy that disproportionately harmed black students trying to get a decent education if the partisan roles were reversed.

Jason Bedrick follows the point up well in response to somebody else’s call for self sacrifice to bolster the education monopoly of government schools:

Scratch away the economic ignorance and smug self-righteousness [behind a statement that private schools are immoral] and you find a compelling argument for school choice. Yes, low-income families also want access to good quality schools that meet their kids’ individual needs. But forcing everyone into the same school isn’t going to help. The author correctly identifies the problem but fails to arrive at the right solution. If we want true equality of opportunity, we should expand the educational options available to low- and middle-income families, not restrict the choices of everyone.

Of course, imposing restrictions instead of expanding freedom gives the government more authority over people’s lives, rather than less, in part by making it the universal solution for the problems that it creates.  One begins to see a pattern and to think that may be the ultimately objective of statist policies, with do-gooderism as a thin water-based coat of paint.

Telling Addendum

This closing section doesn’t really fit with the rest, but it’s just too amusing to let go.  During the initial year and a half or so of the RI Center for Freedom & Prosperity’s existence, I complained frequently that the Providence Journal seemed to have made it a plank of its style guide to treat the think tank as if it were merely an outgrowth of the Rhode Island Republican Party.

It simply wasn’t, but it took repeated statements publicly and privately to stop the practice.  Having had that experience, I couldn’t help but chuckle when I saw this in today’s paper:

A lawyer for Army Pvt. Chelsea Manning — the former Bradley Manning — said in a blog post on Thursday the soldier is doing well as she goes through processing at the military prison at Fort Leavenworth.

The only thing that’s changed about Bradley Manning recently (apart from his being convicted for giving classified documents to WikiLeaks) is that he’s requested to be called a woman (and ginned up some controversy about whether the American people will now have to pay for his sex-change treatments).  As the Washington Times puts it (emphasis added):

As for Pvt. Manning’s current state of mind, his attorney said he’s adjusting well to his new surroundings and appreciates the support of many in the media who willingly call him by his new name and recognize his wish to be female. AP, for example, put forth a policy that all wire reports would refer to Pvt. Manning with the feminine pronoun, as he requested.

Lesson: Sell out your country, but make a sensation by flirting with transgenderism, and you’ll receive media “support”; work to push back against a corrupt establishment in Rhode Island, and some in the media will do their best to write you off in crass political terms.

Perhaps at our next staff meeting, we should draw straws to see who will give Manning’s strategy a try in our group.  I’ll argue against being included, though, on the grounds that my number of children would make it too hard of a sell.