Friday, March 13, 2009

Fact-Checking the AG

Attorney General Eric Holder has taken a lot of heat for his speech in which he called the United States a "nation of cowards" about race. Not only was his speech regarded by many as insulting it was sadly misinformed, as when he said this:

On Saturdays and Sundays America in the year 2009 does not, in some ways, differ significantly from the country that existed some fifty years ago. This is truly sad. Given all that we as a nation went through during the civil rights struggle it is hard for me to accept that the result of those efforts was to create an America that is more prosperous, more positively race conscious and yet is voluntarily socially segregated.

Abigail Thernstrom points out that this statement just doesn't square with the facts. Writing at NRO she notes:

A little fact-checking is in order. Saturdays and Sundays looked quite different even less than 50 years ago. In 1964 only 18 percent of whites said they had black friends; the figure today is 87 percent. Raise the bar to "a fairly close personal friend" and the proportion jumps from a mere 9 percent in 1975 to 75 percent in 2005. The share of blacks with close white friends has soared from 21 percent to 82 percent over that same period.

We don't have much in the way of historical data on interracial dating because, not so long ago, the figure would have been too low for pollsters to bother tabulating. But we do know that in 1963 only 10 percent of whites approved of it. In 2006, however, a Washington Post/Kaiser poll found that 59 percent of black men and 41 percent of black women had dated someone who is white. And 41 percent of white women and 36 percent of white men had crossed the racial-dating divide. Today, the number of black-white marriages is up to almost half a million - still low, but a steep rise over the last 40 years. Presumably, these couples generally spend Saturdays and Sundays together.

Holder says that on the weekends blacks and whites lead separate lives. That's not so easy to do, given the racial composition of many American neighborhoods. Half a century ago, only 20 percent of whites reported having black neighbors; today the figure is above 60 percent. Blacks, on average, live in communities that are only half black. Do blacks and whites living in close proximity never chat about common concerns - the schools, the traffic, and the life of their kids in and out of school? Do the whites who voted for Barack Obama refuse to talk to the blacks who live on their street?

There's much else in her excellent essay to reward the reader. Those who nodded either in assent or dissent when they read Holder's remarks should read it.


Card Check

Jim Wallis at Sojourners draws the astonishing conclusion from the fact that corporate CEOs have obscene incomes, especially relative to their employees, that we should therefore rectify this unfairness by doing away with secret ballots in union elections. Or something like that. How the one follows from the other Mr. Wallis doesn't explain, but he supports "card check" (Employee Free Choice Act) which is essentially a system for preventing employees from casting a confidential vote on whether or not they want to organize a union. The EFCA would allow union organizers to know exactly which employees oppose unionizing a particular business, and what they would do with this information is not hard to imagine.

Card check is an abridgement of the common-sense principle that an election can be fair only if the votes are secret. Otherwise there is the ugly possibility of coercion, intimidation, and retribution. To give an idea of how radical and antithetical to basic freedoms the measure is, one of the most liberal Democrats in modern history, George McGovern, took out an ad opposing it.

The EFCA is being pushed by the Democrat-controlled congress, but it's beginning to look as if this particular assault on American freedoms will falter. At least for now and no thanks to Mr. Wallis.


Buyer's Remorse

Another victim of candidate Obama's seductions comes forward to announce her buyer's remorse. Here's Megan McArdle at The Atlantic:

Our sister publication asks analysts whether the administration's economic forecasts are too optimistic. They would have gotten a more interesting discussion if their query had been "Is the Pope Catholic?" Of course they're too optimistic. In fact, the word optimistic is too optimistic. A better choice might have been "insane". Like Greg Mankiw, I would love to find a sucker investor who is willing to take the other end of a bet that both growth and revenue will fall short of the administration's predictions.

Having defended Obama's candidacy largely on his economic team, I'm having serious buyer's remorse. Geithner, who is rapidly starting to look like the weakest link, is rattling around by himself in Treasury. Meanwhile, the administration has clearly prioritized a stimulus package that will not work without fixing the banks over, um, fixing the banking system. Unlike most fiscal conservatives, I'm not mad at him for trying to increase the size of the government; that's, after all, what he got elected promising to do. But he also promised to be non-partisan and accountable, and the size and composition of the stimulus package looks like just one more attempt to ram through his ideological agenda without much scrutiny, with the heaviest focus on programs that will be especially hard to cut.

The budget numbers are just one more blow to the credibility he worked hard to establish during the election. Back then, people like me handed him kudos for using numbers that were really much less mendacious than the general run of candidate program promises. Now he's building a budget on the promise that this recession will be milder than average with growth merely dipping to 1.2% this year and returning to trend in 2010. Isn't there anyone at BLS (Bureau of Labor Statistics) who could have filled him in on the unemployment figures, or at Treasury who could have explained what a disproportionate impact finance salaries have on tax revenue? These numbers . . . well, I can't really fully describe them on a family blog. But he has now raced passed Bush in the Delusional Budget Math Olympics.

Like so many others who thought that, despite Obama's record as an extreme leftist, he would really govern from the center because he talked about "hope" and he "seemed" so reasonable and sophisticated and everyone governs from the center anyway, Ms McArdle is without excuse. Last November was like Spring Break for just over half of American voters. Normally sober and sensible people found themselves transmogrified into irrational, irresponsible, self-deluded hedonists, and elected a man with a r�sum� that could fit on the back of a postage stamp simply because he spoke well. Now as the voters emerge from the haze and torpor of their dionysian bacchanal they can't believe they could have been so stupid.

There'll be many more Megan McArdles to come, no doubt, and lots more reasons to feel "stupid."