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Risk Aversion in Stocks and in Politics

Here’s an interesting find from Justin LaHart in the Wall Street Journal, in a brief article titled “Why the Stock Market Doesn’t Like Republicans“:

The two economists created a model where people have a choice between being entrepreneurs and working for the government, and of voting for a political party that favors lower taxes or higher taxes. When risk aversion is low, more people want to be entrepreneurs and to vote for the low-tax party. When risk aversion is high, the opposite is true.

It is a highly simplified version of U.S. politics and economics. But the implications for stock prices are interesting. The low-tax party gets elected when risk aversion is low, and then if risk aversion merely returns to the mean, stocks suffer. For the high-tax party, the opposite is true.

The next question, obviously, is what causes these changes in sentiment, because the variables seem more to correlate than to cause one another.

Of course, they may have a causative relationship indirectly.  The high-tax party, for example, is likely to sense this dynamic (whether consciously recognizing it or not) and change policy in a way that makes people more risk-averse (such as regulations to make independent activity more difficulty while acclimating people to dependence on government’s socialization of risk).  Indeed, even when they promote entrepreneurialism, they strive to make it seem like something that cannot be done without the safety net of government subsidies.  (“You didn’t build that.“)

The insight has implications for advocacy, too.  Conservatives who make a theme of imminent doom under progressive rule — however accurate that theme is — may be making the public more inclined to fall for progressive promises of security.  The key, perhaps, is to make people feel secure in their families and their own ability to transcend

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The Anti-Poverty Idea That Became a Dependency Trap

Jason Riley recently wrote, in the Wall Street Journal, about Peter Cove, who once was a warrior in the “War on Poverty” but has come to the quite different conclusion that the government is now promoting dependency:

“We have edged toward a moral cliff where the shame of being dependent on government aid has been replaced by a breezy bonhomie for entitlement,” he writes in a new book, “Poor No More.” “We have moved from a commitment to serve the deserving poor to an assumption that all are deserving. And much of this rests at the feet of politicians trolling for votes by larding on the largesse.”

What Cove is talking about, in my view, is the business model of the government plantation.

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Psst… Lack of Mandate Is Not Lack of Choice

The Trump administration’s change of course on the issue of transgender bathrooms (and similar facilities) — sending the question back to state governments — was excellent for illustrating the narrative-driven bias in the news.  The best expression that I’ve seen came from the Newport Daily News, which ran a front-page headline last Thursday proclaiming that “Transgender students lose bathroom choice.”

The McClatchy news service article beneath the headline, however, immediately tells a different story:

The Trump administration Wednesday told public school districts across the nation that they no longer have to allow transgender students to use the bathroom that matches their gender identity.

In the progressive lexicon, when the federal government doesn’t force a position that progressives support, it is automatically forcing the opposite position.  In the terms of the headline, transgender students didn’t lose anything by this decision; rather, states gained a choice.

And what happened?  At least in Rhode Island (which should be the central concern of the Newport Daily News), Education Commissioner Ken Wagner immediately issued a statement to say:

The rescinding of this federal guidance does not change our policy – there is no room for discrimination in our schools, and we will continue to protect all students, including transgender and gender nonconforming students, from any type of bias.

Of course, what he says isn’t exactly true.  Students who aren’t comfortable sharing bathrooms with those of a different sex are “all students,” but the system is explicitly biased against accommodating them.  If they should be so bold as to express their discomfort, the state government suggests, “administrators and counseling staff” should get involved to change their beliefs.

Be that as it may, the fact remains that the state of Rhode Island is perfectly able to continue setting its policy, and several school districts have made a point of proclaiming their agreement.

For some, though, that’s never sufficient.  They are incensed by the notion that people hundreds or thousands of miles away might be able to agree among themselves to disagree with the progressives of Rhode Island.  Our freedom is only ever to agree with the Left.

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The Left’s Town Halls: “Pray on Your Own Time.”

Well, this isn’t very much like the Tea Party town halls:

As U.S. senators and representatives took a brief recess this week, visiting their home states for town hall meetings with constituents, one senator ran into some issues with a tough crowd. Bill Cassidy, a first-term Republican senator from Louisiana, was meeting with a crowd of constituents in Metairie yesterday, but as Louisiana State chaplain Michael Sprague begun to recite an opening prayer, the crowd immediately began to heckle him.

One man interrupted Sprague’s first words to shout, “Amen! Let’s get on with it.” Another person added, “Pray on your own time. This is our time.” Meanwhile, a group of people began to chant repeatedly, “Separation of church and state.”

Sure, it’s a little unfair to pull one anecdote from across the country as representative, but it’s also not entirely surprising that something like this would happen.  That’s particularly true if one remembers the move within the national Democrat Party to remove mention of God from its platform, with boos when the party bosses maneuvered to reverse the decision.

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Government Coercion by Another Means

Here’s the article I mentioned in this week’s podcast, about tax deals for corporate charity:

A bipartisan group of congressmen recently introduced a new bill intended to reinvigorate America’s poorest communities. The Investing in Opportunity Act (IOA) will allow investors to temporarily delay paying capital-gains taxes on their investments if they choose to reinvest the money into “opportunity zones” or distressed communities across the country.

The legislation was cosponsored in the Senate by Republican Tim Scott of South Carolina and Democrat Cory Booker of New Jersey, and in the House by Pat Tiberi (R-Ohio) and Ron Kind (D-Wisc.).  These congressmen report that their bill has garnered bipartisan support in both chambers, and they believe that its provisions will allow for tremendous economic growth in some of the country’s most underserved communities.

I might have misspoken in the podcast and attributed the article to the legislator.  The legislator is Tim Scott; the writer is Alexandra Desanctis. Whatever the case, this isn’t a direction in which we should go.

There’s a push among conservatives, recently, to rephrase policies in terms more amenable to the themes in which the Left has caught up the public conversation.  On one end, this is an obvious thing to do — to explain why conservative policies are the ones that will actually help individuals and families come to their full fruition.

Less obvious are policies that accomplish some of the Left’s goals (like making government central to charity), but that have potential to start to reshape thinking.  In that way, for example, taking the step suggested by Representative Scott could lead, in the future, to the additional step of questioning why government’s picking charitable causes at all.

I think this proposal goes a little too far over that line.

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Roger Williams Exhibit Drifting from Its Mission

Such developments as this too often go unchallenged:

Hoping to avoid boring visitors with “the life of a dead guy,” staff of the Roger Williams National Memorial Visitors Center presented a new exhibit Saturday that brought the political leader’s provocative viewpoints into the 21st century.

The exhibit, “New and Dangerous Opinions,” is the center’s first new show in more than 20 years. It draws parallels between Williams’ exile from Massachusetts and modern struggles for equality, seen with the refugee crisis and the Black Lives Matter movement.

If the goal isn’t to maintain awareness about an important “dead guy” and the details of his life, why are we funding it?  Moreover, looking for modern parallels will inevitably turn the exhibit into political propaganda to advance a particular viewpoint and should not be maintained with taxpayer dollars.

One suspects, for example, that the “refugee crisis” is presented in a decidedly left-wing way and that the celebration of the Black Lives Matter movement is not accompanied by any parallel that isn’t encompassed by the progressive, Democrat-helping narrative.  One suspects, for example, that such an exhibit would never lead visitors to see a similarity between Roger Williams’s exile to Rhode Island and Christian small-businesses’ inability to decide what projects they will take for moral reasons.

Again, if taxpayers aren’t funding straightforward maintenance of historical artifacts, then the programs ought to be ended and the money returned to the people.  Let the exhibit designers find some other way to advance the progressive cause and the destruction of Western civilization that isn’t funded with money confiscated from people who’d rather keep it.

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Changing Emphasis for the Right and the Left’s Plot Twist

Gary Sasse has an essay published with the Ripon Society that raises a point one hears more and more on the right side of the aisle:

Political success will require many things. Rather than talking about the economy in broad terms, for example, GOP governors must be ready to focus on specifics that place state government on the side of both working families and small business. Rather than being critical of social programs, Republican governors must lead and promote those that foster work, opportunity and self-sufficiency. Rather than imposing state mandates, Republican governors must deliver services based on the principles of choice and devolving responsibilities to communities. Finally, New England’s GOP governors must contrast their “fix it” solutions for failing schools, unsafe streets, economic stagnation, over-taxation, costly regulation and cronyism to the Democrat’s identity politics and liberal overreach.

Through the turmoil of the last half century, conservatives have had difficulty adjusting to the new demands of the Left’s “narrative” approach to public discourse.  First, the Right condemned; then, we relied on a common sense and a nostalgia for the good days that the Left was working to undermine.  We’re finally realizing that we have to do the work of explaining why our approach is really the one that puts people, not ideology, first.

We’ll win, ultimately, because we’re both correct and more respectful of humanity, but progressives have had an unchallenged pop-cultural and academic field for decades to imbue into our society the sub-rational sense that we’re the bad guys.  It’s so thoroughly become a staple of movie plot twists, for example, that the bad guy will turn out to be the person whom 1950s America would have naturally seen as the good guy that plot twists don’t work anymore.

Well, just like the villain in such stories must do something decisive to prove to the hero and the audience that he’s really bad, it’s going to take a lot of absurdity, anger, and probably actual violence from the Left before a critical mass of Americans begins rooting them out of our institutions.

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Washington Supreme Court Decides Against Religious Freedom

People across the political spectrum concerned about religious liberty should give a read to an article by Matt Hadro of Catholic News Agency.  The Supreme Court of Washington state has upheld a ruling that a Christian florist is not free to choose her jobs:

“It’s wrong for the state to force any citizen to support a particular view about marriage or anything else against their will. Freedom of speech and religion aren’t subject to the whim of a majority; they are constitutional guarantees,” Kristin Waggoner, senior counsel with the group Alliance Defending Freedom who argued the case before the Washington Supreme Court, stated Feb. 16.

“This case is about crushing dissent. In a free America, people with differing beliefs must have room to coexist,” she added.

Consider the dangerous reasoning of the court:

The law “does not compel speech or association,” the court added, stating that it “is a neutral, generally applicable law that serves our state government’s compelling interest in eradicating discrimination in public accommodations.”

What couldn’t fall under this construct?  Particularly problematic is that it’s built on a patently false premise:  The law does “compel speech or association,” whether or not it is “neutral” or “generally applicable” or “serves [a] compelling interest.”  As a legal matter, the question would be whether the law can compel such speech or association, which it clearly cannot — hence the dissembling.

As for the neutrality and general applicability, that’s of no comfort at all.  A legislature (or executive or court, in our corrupted version of representative democracy) need only declare a particular group (and its behavior) as exempt from moral criticism and then forbid everybody from discriminating against it.

Furthermore, if the state government has this “compelling interest in eradicating discrimination,” why is it limited to public accommodations?  And why does it protect some types of human activity and identity and not others?

People who agree with the Washington Supreme Court simply don’t believe in religious liberty for people of whom they do not approve.  Whether they realize it or not, they’re implicit tyrants and very possibly bigots, too.

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A Well-Planned “Shock” To The System Is, Indeed, Warranted

According to the Rhode Island Family Prosperity Index, “startups aren’t the only thing when it comes to job growth. They’re the only thing.” The only way to incentivize enough start-up activity to make a difference in our state is to create a business climate that is attractive enough to make thousands of entrepreneurs want to invest here. Crony deals for a few dozen companies will not get it done.

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Keeping Information from the Deplorables Constructs a False Reality

CBC Radio Canada News takes up a second-order aspect to a news story about a man who is alleged to have inappropriately touched several teenage girls at a water park in Canada:

When Edmonton police announced the charges on Wednesday, they urged any other complainants or witnesses to contact them. One more complainant and one more witness have since come forward, police spokesperson Scott Pattison said Thursday.

The man charged in the case was a Syrian refugee who arrived in Canada in January 2016, a fact that was reported Wednesday by numerous news outlets, including CBC News.

The story was quickly picked up by alt-right websites and anti-immigration groups. It was shared widely on social media.

As CBC tweeted, “When a refugee faces criminal charges, should the public be told?” How can there be any other answer than “yes”?  As reaction to the story has proven, the detail is absolutely relevant to public discourse.  Sure, the new bogeymen on the “alt-right” will attempt to amplify any such stories to advance their own point of view.  But then, failing to report the detail is to aid and abet the “ctrl-left,” by maintaining talking points about how there’s no evidence of any problems with refugees.

The area across Northern America and Europe is sufficiently large that a unified decision among our media betters to withhold information they don’t find relevant in isolated cases could brush away hundreds of stories and present a false impression of reality to news consumers.  It would be Rotherham on a Western Civilizational scale.

A news media that doesn’t trust us to be sufficiently intelligent to absorb and process this information is just feeding us ideological propaganda because they think they’re better than us.  It’s that clear.

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What You Are and Aren’t Allowed to Try to Change on the Left

Although some of us on the right find their viewpoints intellectually incoherent, progressives do have consistent guildelines that can help one to predict what their opinions will be on particular issues.  On matters of biology and sexuality, the guideline appears to be that any movement away from the attitudes and lifestyles that facilitated human society’s advancement through to the 1960s is good.  Consider legislation that Steve Ahlquist promotes on RI Future:

House Bill 5277, which if passed would prohibit “conversion therapy” by licensed health care professionals with respect to children under 18 years of age was popularly supported at the House Health Education and Welfare Committee meeting Wednesday evening. Conversion therapy as defined in the bill includes any practice that “seeks or purports to impose change of an individual’s sexual orientation or gender identity, practices which attempt or purport to change behavioral expression of an individual’s sexual orientation or gender identity or attempt or purport to eliminate or reduce sexual or romantic attractions or feelings toward individuals of the same sex.”

So, to review:  Progressive legislators have submitted an extremely broad and radical bill that would prevent just about any government interference when women want to kill their babies in the womb.  The Department of Education has issued regulations authorizing schools to guide students along the path of changing their genders, even if it means deceiving their parents.

And yet, progressives want to forbid people who wish to reduce or eliminate their same-sex attractions from working with professionals who might be able to help them do that.  This is pure ideology, like a fundamentalist dogma with no tolerance for individual choices that stray from the accepted beliefs.

Not to play Internet psychotherapist, but one gets the impression that people who’ve made radical lifestyle choices want to use the law to prevent others from choosing differently if their doing so might imply that the radical choice is wrong.  As for the progressive movement, as a movement, undermining the social structures and freedoms that empower individuals in the context of their families leaves a hurting population ripe for progressive rule.

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The State Police Catch the Diversity Virus

It would seem that progressive identity politics are now working their way up the scale of priorities of the state police:

In one of her first moves as the state’s top cop, Rhode Island State Police Col. Ann Assumpico has commissioned a study of recruitment practices aimed at retaining a “racially and gender-diverse department,” the state police announced Friday.

The project is expected to cost $225,000 and will be paid for from the state police’s remaining portion of funds secured in the federal settlement with Google.

Hopefully law enforcement remains the agency’s top priority, but two years of the Gina Raimondo in the governor’s chair haven’t been good for the institution’s once-impeccable reputation.  A diversity obsession can do a lot of damage.

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Selling Cars with Classism in a Dress

If the Super Bowl commercial for Audi cars caught your attention (in a good or bad way), be sure to read Jack Baruth’s  frame-by-frame analysis of the commercial:

After watching the one-minute advertisement carefully, however, I understood feminism, or equal pay, is the last thing Audi wants you to take away from it. The message is far subtler, and more powerful, than the dull recitation of the pseudo-progressive catechism droning on in the background. This spot is visual — and as you’ll see below, you can’t understand it until you watch it and see what it’s really telling you.

Let me tell you up front: chances are you won’t like what Audi has to say.

Basically, the commercial is about wealthy whites dominating working-class whites in all ways, including their virtue signaling. So, it’s pretty much an articulation of liberalism in a sixty seconds.

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Progressive Regunberg’s Trusted Source Highlights Gender Pay Gap Myth

Given that Democrat Representative Aaron Regunberg of Providence finds Glassdoor research so credible that he cites it as representative of the field of corporate information in legislation, perhaps this additional finding from the company will persuade him to agree that the talk of unequitable pay for women is a myth:

As above, with no controls men earn $21,410 more than women on average. However, adding controls for age and performance reviews that gap shrinks to $15,776. Finally, adding all controls the “adjusted” pay gap shrinks to -$425, which is a slight female pay advantage (but not statistically significant). Thus, once we make an apples-to-apples comparison of workers, there’s no material difference in pay by gender at Glassdoor.

Unfortunately, I suspect the “pay gap” is on the list of deceptions that are just way too valuable to the Left to allow correction.

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Holding Down Grandma for Euthanasia

Is this really the direction in which we want to go?  From an unsigned article of the Catholic News Agency:

[The elderly woman in Amsterdam] had reportedly expressed a desire for euthanasia when “the time was right” at an earlier date, but had not done so recently.

The senior doctor at the the nursing home determined that the woman’s condition meant that the time was right, and put a sleep-inducing drug into the woman’s coffee in order to administer the lethal injection without consulting the woman.

The woman woke up as the doctor was trying to give the injection, and fought the procedure. The doctor had to ask family members to hold the woman down while she completed the injection.

Hold your grandmother down while I kill her.  Aren’t some things self-evidently wrong?  In the popular imagination, there comes a time when people who’ve been moved down a dark path find that their actions are so extreme that it breaks through the social or psychological blinders that had hidden their true nature.  This seems like it should be one of those what-are-we-doing moments.

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Wanting Government Restrictions on Others’ Behalf

As far as arguments against a policy go, points like this are terrible: 

While some conservative Christians would like to see the rule [against religious organizations’ involvement in politics] abolished, others, especially the younger generation, support a clear separation of church and political endorsements. Many liberal churches are also active on policy issues, and could potentially get more involved in partisan politics.

Mayer noted that for some religious leaders, the IRS rule has given them a way to avoid political pressure for an endorsement.

“Now a church that wants to say no has an easy answer, it’s illegal,” Mayer said.

Really?  Those tasked with promoting and explaining a religion are timid about explaining why they might not want to endorse anybody, or even a particular candidate?  Nobody will be forced to express an opinion.  I suspect it’s more the truth that they don’t feel comfortable with it themselves and wish to restrain others from what they see as an unfair advantage.

Perhaps, too, those who object tend to be of the sort who are entirely on the same page as the secular culture, so they know their political work will get done, making it worth taking a slight hit in order to impede others whose Churches play a role to the secular culture.

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Different Risks for Different Faiths Suggest That Religious Consideration for Refugees Is Reasonable

This Perry Chiaramonte article on FoxNews provides an important reminder both to Western Christians and to our non-Christian peers who see us as the enemy:

The report comes on the heels of another study by the Center for Studies on New Religions that showed nearly 90,000 Christians were killed for their faith in 2016 and that as many as 600 million were prevented from practicing their faith through intimidation, forced conversions, bodily harm or even death.

“These numbers underscore what we already know,” Robert Nicholson of the Philos Project, an advocacy group for Christianity in the Middle East, told Fox News at the time of the report’s release. “There are many places on Earth where being a Christian is the most dangerous thing you can be. Those who think of Christianity as a religion of the powerful need to see that in many places it’s a religion of the powerless. And the powerless deserve to be protected.”

The reality of different degrees of risk around the world for people of different religions shines a different light on domestic arguments about policy.  In discussion of who can come to the United States in order to escape persecution and danger — refugees, which derives from the word “refuge,” let’s not forget — I have to confess that I find religion to be an absolutely appropriate criterion.  A blanket ban on a particular religion goes too far, in my view, but if left-wingers scream about a “Muslim ban” based on geographic restrictions, they’d obviously find religious-preference rules beyond the pale, even though it would arguably be more reasonable and humane.

Taking a step back, progressives should understand that a great many people agree with me on this point, and harassing them into silence only hardens positions and makes problems more difficult to solve.

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Political Football

Trump wins again.

On the largest sports and media stage in the world, several news outlets somehow got it into their heads that Brady’s sole responsibility wasn’t to concentrate on football and lead his team to a fifth Super Bowl title. No, he also had a moral responsibility to denounce his friend and golfing buddy, Donald Trump.

In their attempts to put Brady and the team on notice about their problematic friendship, the media somehow managed to convert former Patriots haters into fans. Because while few institutions are more hate-able than the Patriots, the media is definitely one of those institutions.

Obviously, we New Englanders don’t hate the Pats and it’s not our fault the rest of the country – or the NFL offices – can’t handle their success (but those of us who grew up as Yankee-haters do sorta get it!).

That being said, the week leading up to the Superbowl saw Brady, Belichick and Kraft join the ranks of other celebrities who have fallen afoul of the media moralizers.  “Spineless Feminist” Taylor Swift came in for criticism when she didn’t attend the Women’s March on Washington.  Fellow Diva Lady Gaga has now fallen afoul of the Progressive Prudes for not properly politicizing her Superbowl Halftime show. “[I]t’s disheartening to watch someone with so much heart (and guts and spleen) stare down a moment of this magnitude and blink.Twitter was full of lefty media types gloating over the Pats performance and correlating the blowout to their support for Trump.  Karma or something.  But then at least some of those tweets got deleted once the Pats won.

Here’s hoping things calm down soon. I don’t think we can take this amped up environment that politicizes everything.  Can we?

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Upward Mobility And Prosperity For Ocean State Families

New national research shows that Rhode Island ranked just 48th on the 2016 Family Prosperity Index (FPI). In December 2016, our Center in conjunction with our national partner, the American Conservative Union, issued a 52-page RI Family Prosperity report that highlighted contributing factors to our state’s poor rankings across 57 indexes. Among other discussions, the report suggests that Rhode Island has room to modernize and improve its criminal justice system. Reforms put forth as part of the state’s JRI, and by other organizations can help provide more opportunity for upward mobility and prosperity for Ocean State families.

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