Earlier this month, the 50th anniversary of the Civil Rights Act was celebrated. During the act's legislative debate, then-Sen. Hubert Humphrey, responding to predictions, promised, "I'll eat my hat if this leads to racial quotas." I don't know whether Humphrey got around to keeping his promise, but here's my question: Is it within the capacity of black Americans to make it in this society without the special favors variously called racial preferences, quotas, affirmative action and race-sensitive policies? What might a "yes" answer to that question assume and imply about blacks? Likewise, what would a "no" answer assume and imply? Let's look at it.
There are some areas of black life in which excellence can be found without the slightest hint of racial preferences. Young blacks dominate basketball, football and some track-and-field events despite the fact that there has been a history of gross racial discrimination in those activities. Blacks are also prominent in several areas of the entertainment industry. Those observations mean that racial discrimination alone is not an insurmountable barrier to success. By the way, I can't think of any two fields with more ruthless competition.
The U.S. Justice Department's Bureau of Justice Statistics reports that 2012 losses because of personal identity theft totaled $24.7 billion. The money losses from identity theft pale in comparison with the costs of paperwork, time and inconvenience imposed on the larger society in an effort to protect ourselves. According to LifeLock, while the laws against identity theft have gotten tougher, identity theft criminal prosecution is relatively rare. Unless we develop a low tolerance and a willingness to impose harsh sentences, identity thieves will continue to impose billions of dollars of costs on society.
Today's Americans tolerate what would have been unthinkable years ago. According to the National Center for Education Statistics and the BJS, 209,800 primary- and secondary-school teachers reported being physically attacked by a student during the 2011-12 academic year. Hundreds of thousands more are threatened with injury. On average, 1,175 teachers are physically attacked each day of the school year. These facts demonstrate an unwillingness to defend ourselves against these young barbarians, who often will grow into big barbarians.
Most who read my columns think that I'm only annoyed by politicians, growing government and Americans who have little respect or love for liberty and our Constitution. There are other things that annoy me.
One annoyance is people's seeming inability or unwillingness to differentiate between the number zero and the letter "o." I've had conversations with telephone operators who have told me that I can reach my party by dialing, for example, 31o-3o55. Sometimes I've asked, "If I follow your instructions, by dialing the letter 'o' instead of the number zero, will I reach my party?" They always answer no and that I must dial the zero. Then I ask, "Why did you tell me 'o' when you meant zero?" Our chitchat usually degrades after that. It's not only telephone operators. How many times have you heard a student or teacher say, "He has a 4 point o GPA"?
Donald Sterling, Los Angeles Clippers owner, was recorded by his mistress making some crude racist remarks. Since then, Sterling's racist comments have dominated the news, from talk radio to late-night shows. A few politicians have weighed in, with President Barack Obama congratulating the NBA for its sanctions against Sterling. There's little defense for Sterling, save his constitutional right to make racist remarks. But in a sea of self-righteous indignation, I think we're missing the most valuable lesson that we can learn from this affair — a lesson that's particularly important for black Americans.
Though Sterling might be a racist, there's an important "so what?" Does he act in ways commonly attributed to racists? Let's look at his employment policy. This season, Sterling paid his top three players salaries totaling over $46 million. His 20-person roster payroll totaled over $73 million. Here are a couple of questions for you: What race are the players whom racist Sterling paid the highest salaries? What race dominated the 20-man roster? The fact of business is that Sterling's highest-paid players are black, and 85 percent of Clippers players are black. Down through the years, hundreds of U.S. corporations have faced charges of racism, and many have been subjects of Equal Employment Opportunity Commission investigations, but none of them had such a favorable employment and wage policy as Sterling. How does one explain this? People with limited thinking ability might conclude that Sterling is a racist in his private life but a nice card-carrying liberal in his public life, manifested by his hiring so many blacks, not to mention paying Doc Rivers, the Clippers' black head coach, a healthy $7 million a year. The likelier explanation is given no attention at all.
"Engineering Evil" is a documentary recently shown on the Military History channel. It's a story of Nazi Germany's murder campaign before and during World War II. According to some estimates, 16 million Jews and other people died at the hands of Nazis (http://tinyurl.com/6duny9).
Though the Holocaust ranks high among the great human tragedies, most people never consider the most important question: How did Adolf Hitler and the Nazis gain the power that they needed to commit such horror? Focusing solely on the evil of the Holocaust won't get us very far toward the goal of the Jewish slogan "Never Again."
Some statements and arguments are so asinine that you'd have to be an academic or a leftist to take them seriously. Take the accusation that Republicans and conservatives are conducting a war on women. Does that mean they're waging war on their daughters, wives, mothers and other female members of their families? If so, do they abide by the Geneva Conventions' bans on torture, or do they engage in enhanced interrogation and intimidation methods, such as waterboarding, with female family members? You might say that leftists don't mean actual war. Then why do they say it?
What would you think of a white conservative mayor's trying to defund charter schools where blacks are succeeding? While most of New York's black students could not pass a citywide math proficiency exam, there was a charter school where 82 percent of its students passed. New York's left-wing mayor, Bill de Blasio, is trying to shut it down, and so far, I've heard not one peep from the Big Apple's civil rights hustlers, including Al Sharpton and Charles Rangel. According to columnist Thomas Sowell, the attack on successful charter schools is happening in other cities, too.
What kind of rules should govern our lives? I'd argue that the best rules are those that we'd be satisfied with if our very worst enemy were in charge of decision-making. The foundation for such rules was laid out by my mother. Let's look at it.
My mother worked as a domestic servant. That meant that my younger sister and I often lunched at home by ourselves during our preteen years. Being bigger and stronger than my sister, I seldom divided the food evenly, especially the desserts. After a tiring day at work, Mom would be greeted by sob stories from my sister about my lunchtime injustices. Mom finally became fed up with the sibling hassles. She didn't admonish me to be more caring, fair, sensitive and considerate. She just made a rule: Whoever cuts the cake (pie, bread, meat, etc.) allows the other the first selection. With that new rule in place, you can bet that when either my sister or I divided food, it was divided equally.
Evil acts are given an aura of moral legitimacy by noble-sounding socialistic expressions, such as spreading the wealth, income redistribution, caring for the less fortunate, and the will of the majority. Let's have a thought experiment to consider just how much Americans sanction evil.
Imagine there are several elderly widows in your neighborhood. They have neither the strength to mow their lawns, clean their windows and perform other household tasks nor the financial means to hire someone to help them. Here's a question that I'm almost afraid to ask: Would you support a government mandate that forces you or one of your neighbors to mow these elderly widows' lawns, clean their windows and perform other household tasks? Moreover, if the person so ordered failed to obey the government mandate, would you approve of some sort of sanction, such as fines, property confiscation or imprisonment? I'm hoping, and I believe, that most of my fellow Americans would condemn such a mandate. They'd agree that it would be a form of slavery — namely, the forcible use of one person to serve the purposes of another.
Philadelphia's public school system has joined several other big-city school systems, such as those in Atlanta, Detroit and Washington, D.C., in widespread teacher-led cheating on standardized academic achievement tests. So far, the city has fired three school principals, and The Wall Street Journal reports, "Nearly 140 teachers and administrators in Philadelphia public schools have been implicated in one of the nation's largest cheating scandals." (1/23/14) (http://tinyurl.com/q5makm3). Investigators found that teachers got together after tests to erase the students' incorrect answers and replace them with correct answers. In some cases, they went as far as to give or show students answers during the test.
Jerry Jordan, president of the Philadelphia Federation of Teachers, identifies the problem as district officials focusing too heavily on test scores to judge teacher performance, and they've converted low-performing schools to charters run by independent groups that typically hire nonunion teachers. But William Hite, superintendent of the School District of Philadelphia, said cheating by adults harms students because schools use test scores to determine which students need remedial help, saying, "There is no circumstance, no matter how pressured the cooker, that adults should be cheating students."
Democrats plan to demagogue income inequality and the wealth gap for political gain in this year's elections. Most of what's said about income inequality is stupid or, at best, ill-informed. Much to their disgrace, economists focusing on measures of income inequality bring little light to the issue. Let's look at it.
Income is a result of something. As such, results alone cannot establish whether there is fairness or justice. Take a simple example to make the point. Suppose Tom, Dick and Harry play a weekly game of poker. The result is: Tom wins 75 percent of the time. Dick and Harry, respectively, win 15 percent and 10 percent of the time. Knowing only the game's result permits us to say absolutely nothing as to whether there has been poker fairness or justice. Tom's disproportionate winnings are consistent with his being either an astute player or a clever cheater.
There's little debate among academic economists about the effect of minimum wages. University of California, Irvine economist David Neumark has examined more than 100 major academic studies on the minimum wage. He reports that 85 percent of the studies "find a negative employment effect on low-skilled workers." A 1976 American Economic Association survey found that 90 percent of its members agreed that increasing the minimum wage raises unemployment among young and unskilled workers. A 1990 survey reported in the American Economic Review (1992) found that 80 percent of economists agreed with the statement that increases in the minimum wage cause unemployment among the youth and low-skilled. If you're searching for a consensus in a field of study, most of the time you can examine the field's introductory and intermediate college textbooks.
Economics textbooks that mention the minimum wage say that it increases unemployment for the least skilled worker. The only significant debate about the minimum wage is the magnitude of its effect. Some studies argue that a 10 percent increase in the minimum wage will cause a 1 percent increase in unemployment, whereas others predict a higher increase.
Here's a question that I've asked in the past that needs to be revisited. Unless one wishes to obfuscate, it has a simple yes or no answer. If one group of people prefers strong government control and management of people's lives while another group prefers liberty and desires to be left alone, should they be required to enter into conflict with one another and risk bloodshed and loss of life in order to impose their preferences on the other group? Yes or no. My answer is no; they should be able to peaceably part company and go their separate ways.
The problem our nation faces is very much like a marriage in which one partner has an established pattern of ignoring and breaking the marital vows. Moreover, the offending partner has no intention to mend his ways. Of course, the marriage can remain intact while one party tries to impose his will on the other and engages in the deviousness of one-upsmanship and retaliation. Rather than domination or submission by one party, or domestic violence, a more peaceable alternative is separation.
Pope Francis, in his apostolic exhortation, levied charges against free market capitalism, denying that "economic growth, encouraged by a free market, will inevitably succeed in bringing about greater justice and inclusiveness in the world" and concluding that "this opinion ... has never been confirmed by the facts." He went on to label unfettered capitalism as "a new tyranny." Let's look at the pope's tragic vision.
First, I acknowledge that capitalism fails miserably when compared with heaven or a utopia. Any earthly system is going to come up short in such a comparison. However, mankind must make choices among alternative economic systems that actually exist on earth. For the common man, capitalism is superior to any system yet devised to deal with his everyday needs and desires.
In a March 2008 column, I criticized pundits' concerns about whether America was ready for Barack Obama, suggesting that the more important issue was whether black people could afford Obama. I proposed that we look at it in the context of a historical tidbit.
In 1947, Jackie Robinson, after signing a contract with the Brooklyn Dodgers organization, broke the color barrier in Major League Baseball. He encountered open racist taunts and slurs from fans, opposing team players and even some members of his own team. Despite that, his batting average was nearly .300 in his first year. He led the National League in stolen bases and won the first Rookie of the Year award. There's no sense of justice that requires a player be as good as Robinson in order to have a chance in the major leagues, but the hard fact of the matter is that as the first black player, he had to be.
According to some estimates, there are more than 100 million traffic signals in the U.S., but whatever the number, how many of us would like Washington, in the name of public health and safety, to be in sole charge of their operation? Congress or a committee it authorizes would determine the position of traffic signals at intersections, the length of time the lights stay red, yellow and green, and what hours of the day they can be flashing red.
While you ponder that, how many Americans would like Washington to be in charge of managing the delivery of food and other items to the nation's supermarkets? Today's average well-stocked U.S. supermarket stocks 60,000 to 65,000 different items from all over the U.S. and the world. Congress or some congressionally created committee could organize the choice of products and their prices. Maybe there'd be some cost savings. After all, what says that we should have so many items from which to choose? Why wouldn't 10,000 do?
As I've documented in the past, many leftist teachers teach our youngsters to hate our country. For example, University of Hawaii Professor Haunani-Kay Trask counseled her students, "We need to think very, very clearly about who the enemy is. The enemy is the United States of America and everyone who supports it." Some universities hire former terrorists to teach and indoctrinate students. Kathy Boudin, former Weather Underground member and convicted murderer, is on the Columbia University School of Social Work's faculty. Her Weather Underground comrade William Ayers teaches at the University of Illinois at Chicago. Bernardine Dohrn, his wife, is a professor at Northwestern University School of Law. Her stated mission is to overthrow capitalism.
America's domestic haters have international company. 24/7 Wall St. published an article titled "Ten Countries That Hate America Most." The list includes Serbia, Greece, Iran, Algeria, Egypt and Pakistan. Ranking America published an article titled "The U.S. ranks 3rd in liking the United States." Using data from the Pew Global Attitudes Project, it finds that just 79 percent of Americans in 2011 had a favorable view of Americans, compared with Japan and Kenya, which had 85 and 83 percent favorable views, respectively. Most European nations held a 60-plus percent favorable view of Americans, compared with countries such as Egypt, Pakistan and Turkey, with less than 20 percent favorable views.
Trade-offs apply to our economic lives, as well as our political lives. That means getting more of one thing requires giving up something else. Let's look at some examples.
Black congressmen and black public officials in general, including Barack Obama, always side with teachers unions in their opposition to educational vouchers, tuition tax credits, charter schools and other measures that would allow black parents to take their children out of failing public schools. Most black politicians and many black professionals take the position of the Rev. Jesse Jackson, who is on record as saying, "We shouldn't abandon the public schools."
No one can blame you if you start out in life poor, because how you start is not your fault. If you stay poor, you're to blame because it is your fault. Nowhere has this been made clearer than in Dennis Kimbro's new book, "The Wealth Choice: Success Secrets of Black Millionaires."
Kimbro, a business professor at Clark Atlanta University, conducted extensive face-to-face interviews, took surveys and had other interactions with nearly 1,000 of America's black financial elite, many of whom are multimillionaires, to discover the secret of their success. Kimbro's seven-year study included wealthy blacks such as Byron E. Lewis, Tyler Perry, Daymond John, Bob Johnson, Cathy Hughes and Antonio Reed. Kimbro says that many of today's black multimillionaires started out poor or worse. So what were their strategies?
Here's a question: What is the true test of one's commitment to freedom of expression? Is it when one permits others to express ideas with which he agrees? Or is it when he permits others to express ideas he finds deeply offensive? I'm betting that most people would wisely answer that it's the latter, and I'd agree. How about this question: What is the true test of one's commitment to freedom of association? Is it when people permit others to freely associate in ways of which they approve? Or is it when they permit others to freely associate in ways they deem despicable?
I'm sure that might be a considerable dispute about freedom of association compared with the one over freedom of expression. To be for freedom in either case requires that one be brave enough to accept the fact that some people will make offensive expressions and associate in offensive ways. Let's explore this with an example from the past.
Sometimes I wonder when black people will reject the patronizing insults of white progressives and their black handmaidens. After CNN's Piers Morgan's interview with the key witness in the George Zimmerman trial, he said: "Rachel Jeantel is not uneducated. She's a smart cookie." That's a remarkable conclusion. Here's a 19-year-old young lady, still in high school, who cannot read cursive and appears to be barely literate. Morgan may have meant Jeantel is smart — for a black person.
Progressives treat blacks as victims in need of kid glove treatment and special favors, such as racial quotas and preferences. This approach has been tried in education for decades and has revealed itself a failure. I say it's time we explore other approaches. One approach is suggested by sports. Blacks excel — perhaps dominate is a better word — in sports such as basketball, football and boxing to such an extent that blacks are 80 percent of professional basketball players, are 66 percent of professional football players and, for decades, have dominated most professional boxing categories.
Why is it that natural gas sells in the U.S. for $3.94 per 1,000 cubic feet and in Europe and Japan for $11.60 and $17, respectively? Part of the answer is our huge supply. With high-tech methods of extraction and with discovery of vast gas-rich shale deposits, estimated reserves are about 2.4 quadrillion cubic feet. That translates into more than a 100-year supply of natural gas at current usage rates. What partially explains the high European and Japanese prices is the fact that global natural gas markets are not integrated. Washington has stringent export restrictions on natural gas.
Naturally, the next question is: Why are there natural gas export restrictions? Just follow the money. According to OpenSecrets.org, The Dow Chemical Co. "posted record lobbying expenditures last year, spending nearly $12 million, and is on pace to eclipse that number this year." The company has spent hundreds of thousands of dollars contributing to the political campaigns of congressmen who support export restrictions. Natural gas is a raw material for Dow. It benefits financially from cheap gas prices, which it fears would rise if Congress were to lift export restrictions. Dow argues, "Continuing optimism for U.S. manufacturing is founded on the prospect of an adequate, reliable and reasonably priced supply of natural gas." Of course, Dow and other big users of natural gas get support from environmentalists, who are anti-drilling and anticipate that export restrictions will serve their ends.
If we put ourselves into the shoes of racists who seek to sabotage black upward mobility, we couldn't develop a more effective agenda than that followed by civil rights organizations, black politicians, academics, liberals and the news media. Let's look at it.
First, weaken the black family, but don't blame it on individual choices. You have to preach that today's weak black family is a legacy of slavery, Jim Crow and racism. The truth is that black female-headed households were just 18 percent of households in 1950, as opposed to about 68 percent today. In fact, from 1890 to 1940, the black marriage rate was slightly higher than that of whites. Even during slavery, when marriage was forbidden for blacks, most black children lived in biological two-parent families. In New York City, in 1925, 85 percent of black households were two-parent households. A study of 1880 family structure in Philadelphia shows that three-quarters of black families were two-parent households.
What Egyptian citizens must recognize is that political liberty thrives best where there's a large measure of economic liberty. The Egyptian people are not the problem; it's the environment they're forced to live in. Why is it that Egyptians do well in the U.S. but not Egypt? We could make the same observation about Nigerians, Cambodians, Jamaicans and many other people who leave their homeland and immigrate to the U.S. For example, Indians in India suffer great poverty. But that's not true of Indians who immigrate to the U.S. They manage to start more Silicon Valley companies than any other immigrant group, and they do the same in Massachusetts, Texas, Florida, New York and New Jersey.
According to various reports, about 50 percent of Egypt's 83 million people live on or below the $2-per-day poverty line set by the World Bank. Overall, unemployment is 13 percent, and among youths, it's 25 percent. Those are the official numbers. The true rates are estimated to be twice as high.
As if more evidence were needed about the tragedy of black education, Rachel Jeantel, a witness for the prosecution in the George Zimmerman murder trial, put a face on it for the nation to see. Some of that evidence unfolded when Zimmerman's defense attorney asked 19-year-old Jeantel to read a letter that she allegedly had written to Trayvon Martin's mother. She responded that she doesn't read cursive, and that's in addition to her poor grammar, syntax and communication skills.
Jeantel is a senior at Miami Norland Senior High School. How in the world did she manage to become a 12th-grader without being able to read cursive writing? That's a skill one would expect from a fourth-grader. Jeantel is by no means an exception at her school. Here are a few achievement scores from her school: Thirty-nine percent of the students score basic for reading, and 38 percent score below basic. In math, 37 percent score basic, and 50 percent score below basic. Below basic is the score when a student is unable to demonstrate even partial mastery of knowledge and skills fundamental for proficient work at his grade level. Basic indicates only partial mastery.
There's a move on to prohibit Washington's football team from calling itself "Redskins," even though a 2009 U.S. Supreme Court decision said that it has that right. Now the name change advocates are turning to the political arena and intimidation. The NCAA has already banned the University of North Dakota from calling its football team the "Fighting Sioux."
This is the classic method of busybodies and tyrants; they start out with something trivial or small and then magnify and extend it. If these people are successful in banning the use of Indian names for football teams, you can bet the rent money that won't end their agenda. Our military has a number of fighting aircraft named with what busybodies and tyrants might consider racial slights, such as the Apache, Iroquois, Kiowa, Lakota and Mescalero. We also have military aircraft named after animals, such as the Eagle, Falcon, Raptor, Cobra and Dolphin. The people fighting against the Redskins name might form a coalition with the PETA animal rights kooks to ban the use of animal names.
Last week a federal judge ordered Health and Human Services (HHS) Secretary Kathleen Sebelius to allow 10-year-old Sarah Murnaghan, who suffers from cystic fibrosis, to be moved to the adult lung transplant list. That gives her a better chance of receiving a potentially lifesaving transplant. Sarah Murnaghan's fate should force us to examine our organ transplant policy.
There are more than 88,000 Americans on the organ transplant waiting list. Roughly 10 percent of them will die before receiving an organ. These lost lives are not so much an act of God as they are an act of Congress because of its 1984 National Organ Transplant Act, as amended, which prohibits payment to organ donors.
Individually, Americans do not deserve to be subservient to such a fear-mongering, intimidating and powerful agency as the Internal Revenue Service; but collectively, we do. Let's look at it.
Since the 1791 ratification of our Constitution, until well into the 1920s, federal spending as a percentage of gross domestic product never exceeded 5 percent, except during war. Today federal spending is 25 percent of our GDP. State and local government spending is about 15 percent of the GDP. That means government spends more than 40 cents of each dollar we earn. If we add government's regulatory burden, which is simply a disguised form of taxation, the government take is more than 50 percent of what we produce.
Brothers Tamerlan and Dzhokhar Tsarnaev, who are accused of setting the bombs that exploded at the Boston Marathon, attended the University of Massachusetts. Maybe they hated our nation before college, but if you want lessons on hating America, college attendance might be a good start. Let's look at it.
"We need to think very, very clearly about who the enemy is. The enemy is the United States of America and everyone who supports it." That's taught to University of Hawaii students by Professor Haunani-Kay Trask. Richard Falk, professor emeritus at Princeton University and the U.N. Human Rights Council's Palestine monitor, explained the Boston bombings by saying, "The American global domination project is bound to generate all kinds of resistance in the post-colonial world." Professor Falk has also stated that President George W. Bush ordered the destruction of the twin towers.
One definition given for insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results; it might also be a definition of stupidity. Let's look at some cities where large percentages of black Americans live under poor conditions.
Experiencing a violent crime rate of 2,137 per 100,000 of the population, Detroit is the nation's most dangerous city. Rounding out Forbes magazine's 2012 list of the 10 most dangerous cities are St Louis; Oakland, Calif.; Memphis, Tenn.; Birmingham, Ala.; Atlanta; Baltimore; Stockton, Calif.; Cleveland; and Buffalo, N.Y. The most common characteristic of these predominantly black cities is that for decades, all of them have been run by Democratic and presumably liberal administrations. Some cities — such as Detroit, Buffalo, Newark, N.J., and Philadelphia — haven't elected a Republican mayor for more than a half-century. What's more is that in most of these cities, blacks have been mayors, chiefs of police, school superintendents and principals and have dominated city councils.
Suppose you buy a gallon of gas for $3. How much did it cost you? You say, "Williams, that's a silly question. It cost $3." That's where you're mistaken, because there's a difference between price and cost. To prove that price and cost are not the same, consider the following. Suppose you live and work in New York City and routinely pay $15 for a haircut. Imagine you were told that there's a barber in Boise, Idaho, who can give you the identical haircut for just $5. Would you start going to the Boise barber? I'm betting you'd answer no because even though the price is cheaper, the cost is greater.
We might think of price as the money that's actually given in exchange for the transfer of ownership. When you purchased the gallon of gas, you simply transferred your ownership of $3. What the gas cost you is a different matter. One way to determine the cost of a gallon of gas is to ask yourself what sacrifice you had to make in order to have $3 to buy it. Say that your annual salary is $75,000. Your total federal income tax, state income tax, local taxes and Social Security and Medicare taxes come to about 35 percent of your salary. That means that in order to purchase the $3 gallon of gas required that you earned about $4.60 in order to have $3 after taxes. That means a gallon of gas costs you $4.60 worth of sacrifice. But that's not so costly as it is to a richer person — for example, someone earning a yearly salary of $500,000. He has to earn more than $5 before taxes in order to have $3 after taxes to purchase gas.