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A Down Under ‘Hillbilly Elegy’

Michael Barone writes: “The habits of progressive social and political discourse almost seem calculated to alienate and aggravate lower class whites.” That sounds like something an American might say, but actually it was written by an Australian.

Shannon Burns, who is now an academic but grew up in what he describes as a lumpen neighborhood, grew up with working class whites and Asian immigrants in Adelaide, the largest city in South Australia and, incidentally, the home town of media baron Rupert Murdoch. His work appeared in the literary magazine Meanjin Quarterly, headlined “In Defence of the Bad, White Working Class,” and came to my attention thanks to Glenn Reynolds‘s invaluable Instapundit.

“I confess,” Burns goes on, “that if a well-dressed, university-educated middle-class person of any gender or ethnicity so much as hinted at my ‘white privilege’ while I was a lumpen child, or my ‘male privilege’ while I was an unskilled labourer who couldn’t afford basic necessities, or my ‘hetero-privilege’ while I was a homeless solitary, I’d have taken special pleasure in voting for their nightmare. And I would have been right to do so.” Read the rest of this entry »

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Michael Barone: Why Do So Many Liberals Want to Suppress Political Speech? 

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barone-sqMichael Barone writes: The knee jerk response of many liberals to political attacks seems to be to suppress such speech. Examples abound. Michigan Rep. Gary Peters, running for the Senate, threatens the broadcast licenses of stations that run adsliberal-huhcriticizing him. Over at salon.com Fred Jerome imagines what it would be like to nationalize — have the government take over — Fox News. And of course evidence continues to accumulate that high Internal Revenue Service officials denied approval to conservative groups in order to suppress political speech.

[Read the full story here, at Washington Examiner]

Then there’s the Federal Communications Commission‘s “Multi-Market Study of Critical Information Needs”–put on hold Friday. The FCC was going to query TV station and newspaper
writers about their “coverage choices.” As my Washington Examiner colleague Byron York explains, this “study” was the project of Democratic FCC Commissioner Mignon Clyburn, daughter of Rep. James Clyburn, and it was scheduled to be rolled out first in Columbia, S.C. — which just happens to be the Clyburns’ hometown. Read the rest of this entry »


Michael Barone: The Negative Impact of New York Times Front-Page Editorials

Barone-3Michael Barone writes: What influence does a front-page editorial in The New York Times have on public opinion? A strong negative influence, judging from the only two examples from the last 95 years. The Times famously ran a front-page editorial Dec. 4 calling for drastic gun control measures, including confiscation of weapons. The response: No. The latest CBS/New York Times poll reports that 50 percent oppose “a nationwide ban on assault weapons,” while only 44 percent support it.

[Read the full story here, at the Washington Examiner]

That’s a sharp reversal of trend: In January 2011, 63 percent supported the ban on “assault weapons” — a vague term that invites agreement, even though any gun, even a toy pistol, can be used to assault someone (consult your law dictionary) and the 1990s legislation banning “assault weapons” distinguished them from other guns by purely cosmetic criteria.

The report contends that so called assault rifles are rarely used in mass shootings in the US.

So-called ‘assault rifles’ are rarely used in mass shootings in the US.

The Times’ second-most recent front-page editorial, published in June 1920, had a similar effect. It criticized the Republican National Conventions‘ nomination of Warren G. Harding as that of “a candidate whose nomination will be received with astonishment and dismay by the party whose suffrages he invites.” Voters took a different view that fall….(read more)

Source: Washington Examiner


Obama Gets Really Angry — at Americans

He could have acknowledged people’s qualms as legitimate and argued at greater length…But that would have meant not taking cheap shots against the political opposition at home — the people who really make him angry.

Michael BaroneBarone-3 writes: Three days after the Islamic State terrorist attacks in Paris, Americans were primed to hear their president express heartfelt anger, which he did in his press conference in Antalya, Turkey, at the end of the G-20 Conference. And they did hear him describe the Islamic State as “this barbaric terrorist organization” and acknowledge that “the terrible events in Paris were a terrible and sickening setback.”

“What really got him angry, as the transcript and videotape make clear, were reporters’ repeated questions about the minimal success of his strategy against the Islamic State and Republicans’ proposals for more active engagement in Syria and Iraq.”

[Read the full text Michael Barone’s article here, at Washington Examiner]

But what really got him angry, as the transcript and videotape make clear, were reporters’ repeated questions about the minimal success of his strategy against the Islamic State and Republicans’ proposals for more active engagement in Syria and Iraq. As well as critics of his decision to allow 10,000 Syrians into the United States.

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“The reporters did not seem this time to be absorbing his patient instruction.”

The reporters did not seem this time to be absorbing his patient instruction. The Islamic State “controls less territory than it did before,” he stated — but not much less, and is still holding Iraq’s second largest city and a huge swath of Iraqi and Syrian desert. Our bombs did pulverize the British-born Islamic State beheader. “We’ve obama-incandescentbeen coordinating internationally to reduce their financing capabilities.

“Most Americans want people who behead Americans destroyed considerably sooner than that. They wonder why the world’s greatest military can’t do that.”

Our military could dislodge them, he admitted, but explained that then we’d have to occupy and administer the places we capture. In other words, we’d be facing the kind of messy situations we faced, until the surge strategy he opposed, in Iraq.

But in his self-described goal, “to degrade and ultimately destroy,” the word “ultimately” looms uncomfortable large. Most Americans want people who behead Americans destroyed considerably sooner than that. They wonder why the world’s greatest military can’t do that.

[Read the full text Michael Barone’s article here, at Washington Examiner]

Such action, Obama suggested, might be bad public relations. The Islamic State has “a twisted ideology,” and we play into its “narrative” by treating it as a state and using “routine military tactics.” Read the rest of this entry »


Michael Barone: Is it Time for Civil Disobedience of Kludgeocratic Bureaucracy?

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Michael BaroneBarone-3 writes: Is there any way to reverse the trend to ever more intrusive, bossy government? Things have gotten to such a pass, argues Charles Murray, that only civil disobedience might — might — work. But the chances are good enough, he says, that he’s written a book about it: By the People: Rebuilding Liberty Without Permission.

“The Progressive push to give politically insulated bureaucrats power to impose detailed and often incomprehensible rules was a product of the industrial era, a time when it was supposed that experts with stopwatches could design maximally productive assembly lines.”

Murray has a track record of making seemingly outlandish proposals that turn out to be widely accepted public policy. His 1984 book Losing Ground recommended the radical 51j9hLRFPVL._SL250_step of abolishing all welfare payments. A dozen years later the federal welfare reform act took a long step in that direction.

[Order Charles Murray’s book “By the People: Rebuilding Liberty Without Permission” from Amazon.com]

Murray was prompted to write By the People, he says, when a friend who owns a small business was confronted by OSHA inspectors and had an experience similar to one recounted in Philip Howard’s The Death of Common Sense.

[Read the full text of Michael Barone’s article here, at WashingtonExaminer.com]

The inspector found violations. Railings in his factory were 40 inches high, not 42; there was no automatic shutoff on a conveyor belt cordoned off from workers; a worker with a beard was allowed to use a non-close-fitting dust mask. Picayune stuff. But unless changes were made, the inspector said, we’ll put you out of business.

“What is to be done? Citizens, says Murray, should be willing to violate laws that the ordinary person would instantly recognize as ridiculous. And deep-pocketed citizens should set up a Madison Fund, to subsidize their legal defense and pay their fines.”

How had things come to this pass? Murray ascribes it to the abandonment of effective limits on government embedded in the Constitution by its prime architect James Madison. That started with the early twentieth century Progressives, who passed laws setting up independent and supposedly expert bureaucrats in charge of regulation, and furthered by New Deal Supreme Court decisions.

“The cultural uniformity that people remember from the post-World War II decades is the exception rather than the rule in American history. We were a religiously, ethnically and regionally diverse nation in James Madison’s time, Murray says, and we are once again. The uniformity temporarily imposed by shared wartime and postwar experiences is no more.”

Murray argues that these mistakes cannot be reversed by the political or judicial processes. The Court won’t abandon longstanding doctrines on which millions of people have relied. Congress, even a Republican Congress working with a Republican president, won’t repeal vaguely worded statutes that give regulators wide-ranging discretion. Read the rest of this entry »


Are Today’s Millennials a New Victorian Generation?

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Michael BaroneBarone-3 writes: Public policymakers and political pundits tend to focus on problems — understandably, because if things are going right they aren’t thought to need attention. Yet positive developments can teach us things as well, when, for reasons not necessarily clear, great masses of people start to behave more constructively.

“What accounts for this virtuous cycle? …I think what we are seeing is a mass changing of minds.”

One such trend is the better behavior of the young Americans of today compared to those 25 years ago. Almost no one anticipated it, the exception being William Strauss and Neil Howe in their 1991 book Generations, who named Americans born after 1981 the Millennial generation and predicted that “the tiny boys and girls now playing with Lego blocks” — and those then still unborn — would become “the nation’s next great Civic generation.”

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The most obvious evidence of the Millennials’ virtuous behavior is the vast decline in violent crime in the last 25 years. The most crime-prone age and gender cohort — 15-to-25-year-old males — are committing far fewer crimes than that cohort did in 1990.

Statistics tell the dramatic story. In two decades the murder rate fell 49 percent, the forcible rape rate 33 percent, the robbery rate 48 percent, the aggravated assault rate 39 percent. Government agencies report that sexual assaults against 12-to-17-year-olds declined by more than half and violent victimization of teenagers at school declined 60 percent.

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Binge-drinking by high school seniors is lower than at any time since 1976, sexual intercourse among ninth graders and the percentage of high school seniors with more than three partners has declined. Read the rest of this entry »


Michael Barone: How Far Should a Tolerant Society Tolerate Intolerance?

Charlie-Hebdo-Freedom

For the Free World, an Old Challenge Returns: The Charlie Hebdo massacre has reignited debate over how much intolerance our society should tolerate

Michael Barone writes:

barone-sq…It’s a difficult issue, one without any entirely satisfactory answer. And it’s a current issue in the days after 40 world leaders and the U.S. ambassador to France marched together in Paris against the jihadist Muslim murderers who targeted the French satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo.

English-speaking peoples, to use Winston Churchill’s phrase, have been dealing with this problem off and on for 300 years. In the late 17th century, most of continental Europe had established state churches and prohibited or disfavored other worship. England had an established church but also tolerated other forms of worship, including by Jews who were invited back into the country by Oliver Cromwell.

Winston-Churchill

“European nations seem likely to recoil from a vaguely defined multiculturalism that endorses the isolation of Muslim communities and toward the sense, long stronger in America, that potentially intolerant immigrants should assimilate toward national norms of toleration.”

But the English people regarded the Catholic Church as a threat to their liberty. The English sawking-james the great hegemon of the age, Louis XIV, as expanding the zone of intolerance through foreign invasion and the withdrawal in 1685 of tolerance of the Protestant Huguenots.

“In the 20th century, the problem of how far to tolerate intolerance flared with the growth of a significant Communist movement subordinate to the totalitarian Soviet Union.”

An earlier pope had called for the murder of Queen Elizabeth I, and a perennial English bestseller was Foxe’s Book of Martyrs, recounting the persecution of Protestants under her Catholic predecessor Mary I. So after the Catholic King James II was ousted in the Glorious Revolution of 1688–89, Parliament passed a Toleration Act that explicitly refused Catholics the right to hold public office or serve as military officers. There was a widespread belief that a Jesuit doctrine entitled Catholics to falsely swear oaths of loyalty if they had a “mental reservation.” Catholics, in this view, were intolerant and could not be trusted even if they swore they were not.

WAR & CONFLICT BOOK ERA:  WORLD WAR II/PERSONALITIES

“Congress responded in 1940 by making it a crime to advocate the violent overthrow of the United States. Free-speech advocates argued this went too far; violent revolutionary actions might be proscribed, but people should not be punished for uttering words. I tend to take this view, but there are obviously serious arguments on both sides.”

America’s Founding Fathers took a different view. Read the rest of this entry »


Michael Barone and The Mysterious Case of the ‘Democratic Dogs That Aren’t Barking’

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Silence of the Dogs

Barone-3Sherlock Holmes famously solved a mystery by noticing the dog that didn’t bark in the night. Dogs that are not barking at night — nor in prime time — provide some useful clues to understanding the significance of this year’s election.

Contrary to the disparagement of some liberal pundits, this election is not about nothing. But is not about certain, specific things they might like to hear.

[Michael Barone is the Senior Political Analyst for the Washington Examiner. Read the rest of Barone‘s article here]

President Obama recently said that Democrats in serious Senate and House contests this year back “every one” of his programs. But you hear very little dog-no-barkabout those programs in their ads.

Stimulus Package

Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act

Higher Tax Rates on High Earners

Foreign Policy

The stimulus package, for example, is not mentioned much. Nor are proposals by serious Democrats like Clinton administration veteran William Galston for a national infrastructure bank. These dogs aren’t barking.

“As Holmes might deduce, the solution to the clue of the non-barking Democratic dogs is that most voters lack faith in government to solve problems, to make their lives better or even to perform with minimal competence.”

The reasons are obvious. The stimulus didn’t stimulate the economy the way the Reagan tax cuts did in the 1980s. As for infrastructure, as Obama sheepishly admitted, there is no such thing — given environmental reviews and bureaucratic torpor—as a shovel-ready project. Read the rest of this entry »


The Gangsters of Election 2014: The Paramilitary Arm of Wisconsin Progressive Democrats’ Campaign to Defeat Scott Walker

swat raid

The Nastiest Political Tactic this Year

imrs.phpThe early-morning paramilitary-style raids on citizens’ homes were conducted by law enforcement officers, sometimes wearing bulletproof vests and lugging battering rams, pounding on doors and issuing threats. Spouses were separated as the police seized computers, including those of children still in pajamas. Clothes drawers, including the children’s, were APPROVED-STAMP-panic-redransacked, cellphones were confiscated and the citizens were told that it would be a crime to tell anyone of the raids.

“Such misbehavior takes a toll on something that already is in short supply: belief in government’s legitimacy.”

Some raids were precursors of, others were parts of, the nastiest episode of this unlovely political season, an episode that has occurred in an unlikely place. This attempted criminalization of politics to silence people occupying just one portion of the political spectrum has happened in Wisconsin, which often has conducted robust political arguments with Midwestern civility.

battering ram

Because of Chisholm’s recklessness, the candidate he is trying to elect, Burke, can only win a tainted victory, and if she wins she will govern with a taint of illegitimacy.

From the progressivism of Robert La Follette to the conservatism of Gov. Scott Walker (R) today, Wisconsin has been fertile soil for conviction politics. Today, the state’s senators are the very conservative Ron Johnson (R)and the very liberal Tammy Baldwin (D). Now, however, Wisconsin, which to its chagrin produced Sen. Joe McCarthy (R), has been embarrassed by Milwaukee County’s Democratic district attorney, John Chisholm.

“Chisholm’s aim — to have a chilling effect on conservative speech — has been achieved by bombarding Walker supporters with raids and subpoenas: Instead of raising money to disseminate their political speech, conservative individuals and groups, harassed and intimidated, have gone into a defensive crouch, raising little money and spending much money on defensive litigation.”

He has used Wisconsin’s uniquely odious “John Doe” process to launch sweeping and virtually unsupervised investigations while imposing gag orders to prevent investigated people from defending themselves or rebutting politically motivated leaks.

Midterm_Elections_Governors_-0cbdd-5048

Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker speaks in Chicago. (Kamil Krzaczynski/AP)

According to several published reports, Chisholm told subordinates that his wife, a teachers union shop steward at her school, is anguished by her detestation of Walker’s restrictions on government employee unions, so Chisholm considers it his duty to help defeat Walker.

[More Dirty Tactics in Wisconsin Governor’s Race]

[Also see – Gangster government — Michael Barone’s description of using government machinery to punish political opponents or reward supporters]

In collaboration with Wisconsin’s misbegotten Government Accountability Board, which exists to regulate political speech, Chisholm has misinterpreted Wisconsin campaign law in a way that looks willful. He has done so to justify a “John Doe” process that has searched for evidence of “coordination” between Walker’s campaign and conservative issue advocacy groups. Read the rest of this entry »


Michael Barone: How the GOP Got This Way

photo/politico

editor-commen-deskThis article is an example of why Michael Barone is considered indispensable among political reporters and media wonks. Even for the blog surfers and unreformed political news junkies like the rest of us, he’s the guy to read this election year. It’s a long one, worth investing time in. In a sweeping but brisk history of a half-century of party evolution, Barone summarizes both Republican and Democratic party transformations over the years. Read a sample below, for more, read it all here.

For the Washington ExaminerMichael Barone writes: America’s two great political parties are constantly transforming themselves, sometimes in small increments, sometimes in sudden lurches. They respond to cues sent to them by voters — which can range from attaboy! to fuhggedaboutit — and to the initiatives of party leaders, especially presidents.

Paul's amendment would ban laws that don’t apply equally to citizens and government. | AP Photo

“When you have a rush of hundreds of thousands of previously uninvolved people into electoral politics, you get a certain number of wackos, weirdos and witches. But you also get many new people who turn out to be serious citizens with exceptional political skills.”

But when the other party has held the White House for an extended period, the transformation process can be stormy and chaotic. Which is a pretty apt description of the Republican Party over the past few years. Its two living ex-presidents, the George Bushes, withdrew from active politics immediately after leaving the White House, and its two most recent nominees, John McCain and Mitt Romney, say they are not running for president again, although they do weigh in on issues. There is no obvious heir apparent and there are many politicians who may seek the 2016 presidential nomination. More than usual, the opposition party is up for grabs.

“Mainstream media will inevitably emphasize the discontentment in the Republican Party that originated in the second Bush term and flashed into prominence soon after Obama took office. It will tend to ignore the discontentment in the Democratic Party that are raging with increasing intensity.”

As the cartoon images of elephant and donkey suggest, our two parties are different kinds of animals. Republicans have generally been more cohesive, with a core made up of politicians and voters who see themselves, and are seen by others,

DonkeyHotey / Foter / CC BY

as typical Americans — white Northern Protestants in the 19th century, married white Christians today. But those groups, by themselves, have never been a majority of the nation. The Democratic Party has been made up of disparate groups of people regarded, by themselves and others, as outsiders in some way — Southern whites and Catholic immigrants in the 19th century, blacks and gentry liberals today. Our electoral system motivates both to amass coalitions larger than 50 percent of voters. Democrats tend to do so by adding additional disparate groups. Republicans tend to do so by coming up with appeals that unite their base and erode Democrats’ support from others. Read the rest of this entry »


Blinded by the White: Liberal writer on The Unbearable Whiteness of Liberal Media

unbearable-whiteness

For the WashingtonExaminerMichael Barone writes:

Nearly 40 percent of the country is non-white and/or Hispanic, but the number of minorities at the outlets included in this article’s tally—most of them self-identified as liberal or progressive—hovers around 10 percent. The Washington Monthly can boast 20 percent, but that’s because it only has nine staffers in total, two of whom belong to minority groups. Dissent, like the Prospect, has none. Given the broad commitment to diversity in our corner of the publishing world, why is the track record so poor?

Actually, the national percentage of “non-white and/or Hispanic” is below 30 percent, not “nearly 40 percent,” but Arana’s basic thesis is correct. But his list of categories is impoverished. “Whites” are assumed to be a single, uniformly “privileged” group, but of course this is not the case. My guess, based on decades of newsroom exposure, is that these liberal media outlets, and media outlets generally, tend to have disproportionately high percentages of Jews and of men and women from elite colleges and universities. I suspect that if you took a census of where their personnel went to high school, you would find disproportionately high numbers from elite private schools and from certain elite public high schools (Stuyvesant in New York, New Trier in the Chicago suburbs, etc.). I would bet considerable amounts of money that you won’t find many, if any, people who grew up in West Virginia or eastern Kentucky, in low-income rural counties in the South or farm counties in the Midwest. Read the rest of this entry »


Michael Barone: Lower Crime Now May Be a Fruit of Welfare Reform 20 Years Ago

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Welfare reform work requirements may be contributing to the remarkable decline in violent crime  (AP File)

Michael Barone writes: As I was looking over the depressing jobs data for the last five years and the large number of working-age people leaving the work force, I came up with a hypothesis on a related subject, one worth testing and, if valid, acting on.

The jobs data are certainly depressing, as economists of just about every ideological stripe agree. Total national employment is down from the 2007 peak of 147 million to 144 million.

“The most important factor in reducing crime has been improved policing, pioneered by New York Mayors Rudy Giuliani and Michael Bloomberg and imitated and adapted by others elsewhere.”

Labor-force participation–the percentage of the adult population with jobs–has been hovering around 63 percent, the lowest since 1978. The Millennial generation is getting socked the hardest. Labor-force participation for those age 20 to 24 is down to the lowest level since 1971.

Read the rest of this entry »


Concealed-Weapons Laws Have Changed America Regardless of National Debate on Gun Control

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For Washington Examiner, the Michael Barone writes:  Over the last 25 years, we have had related national debates over proposed federal gun-control laws designed to restrict access to certain firearms. But Concealed-Carry-Women2only one piece of major legislation has passed Congress, in the 1994 crime bill, and the electoral backlash against many of its supporters in the 1994 midterm elections convinced many Democrats inclined to support such restrictions to try to sidestep the issue.

But Congress and the laws it passes are not the only determinants of facts on the ground. Starting with a Florida law in 1987, most states have passed concealed weapons laws, allowing law-abiding citizens who have had relevant training to obtain licenses to carry concealed weapons. Such laws have been supplemented by court decisions covering a few states since the U.S. Supreme Court decision inHeller v. District of Columbia in 2008, which recognized that the Second Amendment guarantees an individual right to keep and bear arms.

The result has been that over the years the entire nation has become carry-concealed-weapons territory, as shown in a neat graphic in a Volokh Conspiracy blog post by Dave Kopel.

The chart below shows how Shall Issue laws for the licensed carrying of firearms for self-defense have become the American norm.

 

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By 2014, the percentage of people living in the Red states, with no possibility of even applying for a permit, has declined to zero. Illinois’ 2013 reforms ended the problem of states not even having a process theoretically available. (The problem persists in DC, but this chart is only for states.)

As of January 2014, about 2/3 of the population lived in a Green state, with a Shall Issue licensing statute.

Read the rest of this entry »


Obama Is Losing the Millennials

Young voters are unhappy with Obamacare, college costs, lack of jobs

Young voters are unhappy with Obamacare, college costs, lack of jobs

Michael Barone  writes:  What do young Americans want? Something different from what they’ve been getting from the president they voted for by such large margins.

Evidence comes in from various polls. Voters under 30, the Millennial generation, produced numbers for Barack Obama 13 percentage points above the national average in 2008 and nine points above in 2012.

But in recent polls, Obama’s approval among those under 30 has been higher than the national average by only one percentage point (Quinnipiac), two points (ABC/Washington Post) and three points (YouGov/Economist).

Those differences are statistically significant. And that’s politically significant, since a higher percentage of Millennials than of the general population are Hispanic or black.

Read the rest of this entry »


Population Declining in States with Relatively High Dependence on Government

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Michael Barone  writes:  The Census Bureau’s holiday treat is its release of annual state population estimates, to be digested slowly in the new year.

The headline from this year’s release is that population growth from July 2012 to July 2013 was 0.72 percent, lower than in the two preceding years and the lowest since the Great Depression 1930s.

This reflects continuing low, below-replacement-rate birth rates and lower immigration than in 1982-2007. Net immigration from Mexico evidently continues to be zero.

The Census Bureau reports that only 4.8 million Americans moved across state lines in 2012 -- about half the percentage that did so in the boom years of the 1990s. (Thinkstock Image)

The Census Bureau reports that only 4.8 million Americans moved across state lines in 2012 — about half the percentage that did so in the boom years of the 1990s. (Thinkstock Image)

The nation’s economy may be growing again, but Americans — and potential Americans — are not acting like it. There’s a parallel here with poll results showing that majorities still believe we are in a recession that the National Bureau of Economic Research says ended in June 2009, nearly five years ago.

Sluggish population growth is matched by sluggish geographic mobility. The Census Bureau reports that only 4.8 million Americans moved across state lines in 2012 — about half the percentage that did so in the boom years of the 1990s.

Read the rest of this entry »


Why Texas Is Growing (and Illinois Isn’t)

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Michael Barone writes:   The Census Bureau’s holiday treat is its release of annual state-population estimates, to be digested slowly in the new year.

The headline from this year’s release is that population growth from July 2012 to July 2013 was 0.72 percent, lower than in the two preceding years and the lowest since the Great Depression 1930s. This reflects continuing low, below-replacement-rate birth rates and lower immigration than in 1982–2007. Net immigration from Mexico evidently continues to be zero.

The nation’s economy may be growing again, but Americans — and potential Americans — are not acting like it. There’s a parallel here with poll results showing that majorities still believe we are in a recession that the National Bureau of Economic Research says ended in June 2009, nearly five years ago.

Read the rest of this entry »


Uncomfortable Truths about Family Breakdown

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Children without married parents miss out on more than just income

Michael Barone writes:  Christmastime is an occasion for families to come together. But the family is not what it used to be, as my former American Enterprise Institute colleague Nick Schulz argues in his short AEI book Home Economics: The Consequences of Changing Family Structure.

It’s a subject that many people are uncomfortable with. “Everyone either is or knows and has a deep personal connection to someone who is divorced, cohabiting, or gay,” Schulz writes. “Great numbers of people simply want to avoid awkward talk of what are seen as primarily personal issues or issues of individual morality.”

Nonetheless, it is an uncomfortable truth that children of divorce and children with unmarried parents tend to do much worse in life than children of two-parent families. (I’ll leave aside the sensitive issue of children of same-sex marriages because these haven’t existed in a non-stigmatized atmosphere long enough to produce measurable results.)

As Schulz points out, that uncomfortable truth is not controversial among social scientists. It is affirmed by undoubted liberals such as Harvard’s David Ellwood and Christopher Jencks.

Growing up outside a two-parent family means not just lower incomes and less social mobility, Schulz argues. It also reduces human capital — “the knowledge, education, habits, willpower — all the internal stuff that is largely intangible — a person has that helps produce an income.”

While children are born with certain innate capacities, those capacities can be broadened or narrowed by their upbringing. The numbers indicate that single or divorced parents — however caring and dedicated — are unable, on average, to broaden those capacities as much as married parents can.

Read the rest of this entry »


Analysis: Why Opposition to Gun Control has Increased over the Last Half-Century

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One of the fastest-growing segments of society taking gun safety classes: Women

Michael Barone writes: Economist Bryan Caplan notes that support for gun control — specifically, banning handguns or pistols — has decreased dramatically since the 1950s and 1960s. Back in 1959 Gallup reported that 60% of Americans favored banning possession of “pistols and revolvers,” while now 74% oppose banning “the possession of handguns,” except by police.

Caplan seems puzzled by this substantial change in opinion. I think it’s explainable by two developments.

(1) Violent crime roughly tripled between 1965 and 1975. As Caplan’s graph of Gallup’s results shows, majorities came to oppose handgun bans during this period. Americans saw more need to protect themselves.

(2) The success of laws permitting citizens to carry concealed weapons, starting with the Florida law in 1987 (thanks, Gov. Bob Martinez). Many, including me, predicted that this would lead to gunfights on the street and over traffic altercations. Those predictions have proved wrong. It turns out that ordinary citizens who can demonstrate that they know how to handle guns do so responsibly — just as they handle cars (potential weapons, after all) responsibly as well. The very few exceptions make news.

Read the rest of this entry »


What Obama and the Tea Party Have in Common

State Senator Barack Obama, Hyde Park Herald, July 11, 2001

State Senator Barack Obama, Hyde Park Herald, July 11, 2001

George F. Will: writes:  Much is wrong with Washington these days, including much of what is said about what is wrong. Many Americans say there is “too much politics” in Washington. Actually, there is too little. Barack Obama deplores “politics as usual” here. But recently Washington has been tumultuous because politics, as the Framers understood it, has disintegrated. Obama has been complicit in this collapse.His self-regard, the scale of which has a certain grandeur, reinforces progressivism’s celebration of untrammeled executive power and its consequent disparagement of legislative bargaining. This is why Obamacare passed without a single vote from the opposition party — and why it remains, as analyst Michael Barone says, the most divisive legislation since the 1854 Kansas-Nebraska Act.

Obama and his tea party adversaries have something important in common — disdain for the practice of politics within the Framers’ institutional architecture. He and they should read Jonathan Rauch’s “Rescuing Compromise” in the current issue of National Affairs quarterly. Read the rest of this entry »


What to Do About America’s Low-Skill Work Force

The U.S.’s economic future may not be as bright as its past.

Would you like fried with that?

Would you like fried with that?

Michael Barone writes: Some bad news for America, not on the political front this time, but in what corporate executives call human resources.

It’s from the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development’s report on adult skills, based on 166,000 interviews in 24 economically advanced countries in 2011 and 2012.

The verdict on the United States: “weak in literacy, very poor in numeracy, but only slightly below average in problem-solving in technology-rich environments.”

On literacy, just 12 percent of U.S. adults score at the top two levels, significantly lower than the 22 percent in largely monoethnic and culturally cohesive Japan and Finland. American average scores are below those in our Anglosphere cousins Australia, Canada, England, and Northern Ireland.

One-sixth of Americans score at the bottom two levels, compared with 5 percent in Japan and Finland.

On numeracy the United States does even worse — only 8 percent at the top levels and one-third in the lowest.

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