Are 45 million dead just a statistic?

A famous, perhaps spurious quotation attributed to the monster Josef Stalin has it that “one death is a tragedy, a million a statistic.” Heartless, but revealing. The recent story of Charlie Gard has garnered more attention than the painful deaths of thousands in Syria or Africa. A recent article by Professor Ilya Somin helps to put all this into contemporary perspective: the Great Leap Forward (1958-62) of Mao’s Communist China, the biggest mass murder in history, led to the deaths of “up to 45 million people.”

Professor R. J. Rummel, in his celebrated book, Death by Government, documented the millions of civilians murdered by their own governments. His tabulations of the deaths by totalitarian governments are beyond sobering. The Soviet total comes in at 61 million, the Nazis are 21million. Rummel’s data show Red China at 76 million – undercounted by at least 7 million if we consider the revision upward of his count for the Great Leap Forward. Other estimates will put the Chinese total well beyond 83 million.

Somin’s revised count puts Mao’s crime in stratospheric context, although it does not include the following horrors of the Red Guard period. The total count of the slaughter of innocents by twentieth century governments now goes well over 150 million. These deaths were not accidental; but consciously broken eggs in the confection of the omelette of the workers’ paradise. Rummel notes that the governments involved were totalitarian, authoritarian right-wing or Communist, but most expansionist. The crimes of authoritarian governments are at least two orders of magnitude greater than those of the democracies. Nazi crimes are always newsworthy, but where do we hear of the far greater crimes of the People’s Republic of China? Japan is chided for insufficient apologies for the crimes of the now defunct Empire of Japan. But where is the outrage over Chinese communist crimes? Who criticizes the current whitewashing of Stalin? The Blame America crowd points to the civilian deaths from the Hiroshima and Nagasaki bombings of 1945, necessary to end a war we did not start, but where is the outrage over the Communist mass murders? The very same Communist government responsible for these mass murders is still very much in power. Many Chinese today have parents, grandparents, and other relatives slaughtered by Mao’s minions. They cannot speak out for fear of persecution, but who will speak up for them and the dead? Are they to become forgotten statistical wraiths? Don’t the guilty deserve an opportunity for absolution? Germany long ago forswore the unspeakable crimes of the Nazi government and brought to justice those guilty. The PRC merely says Mao made some mistakes. The PRC is a vicious tyranny; mass murder may no longer be practiced, but there is still cruel repression of dissidents, including Christians and practitioners of Falun Gong. It ruthlessly quashed the nationwide protests of 1989 centered in Tiananmen Square. The viciousness of the culture under the PRC dictatorship can be encapsulated in the blowtorches used to prepare dogs for slaughter during the Yulin dog festival. We used to celebrate Captive Nations Week, to call attention to the cruel Soviet hegemony in Eastern Europe. How can we justify not doing the same for those suffering under Communism in China and Korea? How can we justify not naming the enemy correctly: it is communism. Where are the calls for the International Criminal Court to bring to justice the criminals responsible for Mao’s mass murders?

Could it be that there is implicit acceptance of the Marxist claim that revolutionary violence is not violence, that there should be no enemies to the left?

Sidebar: is this situation not similar to the call for Trump to single out white nationalists for rebuke, but to keep silent about black nationalists? And how does ‘nationalism’ become something evil, except by comparison with left-wing internationalism?

This is not just dead history; there are contemporary implications. The problem with North Korea was started by Soviet expansion into Korea in the last days of World War II. The civil war in China after the withdrawal of the Japanese occupiers was won by the Communists, with help from the U.S. American communists and fellow travelers lobbied for aid to Chiang Kai-shek to be cut off. He was portrayed as a fascist murderer, while Mao was a gentle lover of democracy. Truman eventually did cut off aid to Chiang and the nationalists, leading to the Communist victory in 1949 and the debate over Who Lost China? Then in 1950 the North Korean puppet government invaded the South, at Stalin’s urging. The PRC soon entered the war, with great loss of American life. The PRC is still our enemy, despite the trade between it and our country. (I note that a branch of the Chinese military illegally channeled contributions to the 1996 Clinton campaign through the DNC. Remember Johnny Chung and others in the Chinagate conspiracy? There was no independent investigator looking into this collusion.) The PRC is planning to become the world’s foremost superpower. The PRC’s expansionist claims in the South China Sea and its theft of American and European trade and technical secrets betray this ambition. Its Made in China 2025 project gives their ambition a date. Let’s not forget that twenty-first-century warfare will be as different from the twentieth as the twentieth was different from the nineteenth. Cyberwarfare is just one aspect of the new threats. A good pop view of cyberwarfare will be found here.

Commercial relations are well and good, but let’s call an evil spade evil and not trust beyond what can be verified. Let’s not sell the rope that will be used to hang us.   

 

Troglo  (L. H. Kevil)

A call for repeal of Missouri’s prevailing wage law

Why is repeal called for? Prevailing wage laws increase costs borne by the state, municipalities, and school districts and transferred to tax-payers by:

  • artificial, high minimum wages
  • burdensome and expensive regulations
  • limiting competition

This is not complicated. It is basic supply and demand economics.

The most basic axiom of economics is known to us all:  IF YOU REDUCE THE SUPPLY – PRICES WILL RISE.  It’s that simple. Prevailing wage laws reduce the supply of competitive bids, significantly increase the total costs of projects, and indirectly increase the burden on taxpayers. Add in required record keeping (so the state can compute the “true” prevailing wage for each craft in each locality) and the net result is fewer bids from non-union companies and substantial unnecessary costs to projects subject to prevailing wage. All this is well documented in the academic community as are the fraudulent claims of harm if prevailing wage legislation is repealed.

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Please note that Wednesday there will be a hearing in Jefferson City by the Senate Interim Committee on Labor Reform, Senator Dave Schatz, Chairman. It will take place in the Senate Lounge at 1 pm. You can testify whether you will be present or not. Simply fill out this form:

http://www.senate.mo.gov/17web/wp-content/uploads/2015/10/WitnessAppearanceForm.pdf.

Scan and email it to Senator Schatz, at dave.schatz@senate.mo.gov

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Before getting into economic analysis below, I think it might be worth mentioning how unfair prevailing wage laws are. At least minimum wage laws, however harmful, apply to all workers. Prevailing wage laws apply only to construction workers. Both laws create unemployment, but prevailing wage laws tax all to benefit only a chosen, privileged few. How can this abuse of government power be called fair?

You won’t hear supporters of Missouri’s prevailing wage law mentioning unnecessary red tape or the unjust “transfer of wealth” effects of prevailing wage.  Instead they disguise the real effect of prevailing wage by suggesting that less experienced workers, higher injury rates, lower wages, less health coverage and the effects of “harmful competition” will result if the prevailing wage law is repealed. They will also speak glowingly about higher increased earnings and taxes and the economic benefit that accrues from the “spending cycle” which results, they claim, from the higher prevailing wage rates.

Proponents of prevailing wage will also claim that there is a downward spiraling “multiplier” effect to all wage earners when prevailing wage laws are repealed. This claim is sometimes backed by studies, commissioned by the supporters of prevailing wage, that disregard and ignore the economic value of the savings that accrue from the repeal of prevailing wage.  They ignore the fact that these savings, either in form of reduced taxes to citizens or reduced cost to the state, it will reenter the economic cycle for other uses: e.g., other labor projects, other purchases, other services, etc..

For example: One recent study claimed that repeal of prevailing wage in West Virginia would reduce construction income (wages) by $31 to $47 million and result in a total loss of $51 to $77 million in wages, after application of the “multiplier effect” (spending cycle).  This study also claims the reduction of income and sales tax revenue to West Virginia of $4.5 to $6.8 million. Such studies ignore the effect of the economic benefit (for wages and other expenditures) of alternative utilization of the savings on construction wages as well as the multiplier effect of such alternative uses.   In addition, the income and sales tax revenue that would be derived from these alternative wages and expenditures is ignored.

Intuitively we know that if all labor costs were to be increased by law, prosperity would be harmed, not increased. Aggregate prosperity is improved only by increasing productivity – not by increasing wages.   Increased wages, without an increase in productivity, only transfers wealth and reduces prosperity.  If the opposite were true you would need only to pass a law increasing the minimum hourly rate to $500 per hour and we would all get rich.

Proponents of prevailing wage also claim that all deficiencies or problems of prevailing wage laws can be cured by improving the “paperwork,” the reporting of wages used by the Missouri Department of Labor and Industrial Relations to calculate prevailing wage in each reporting area of the state. Utter nonsense.  First, as any contractor knows, unnecessary labor cost to “pick up a pencil” can increase the cost of construction just as much as an unneeded carpenter picking up a hammer.  It’s the equivalent of government forced “featherbedding”. No one is motivated to add unneeded cost to his overhead and will do so only when forced to by law.

I would like to address two other claims made by prevailing wage proponents in Missouri:

  1. That prevailing wage laws produce “fair and competitive” bidding:  This is a twist on the preposterous claim, often used by proponents of prevailing wage, which maintains that the construction industry is uniquely subject to “harmful competition” that slashes wages and reduces standards. Thus when wages are set by law that such harmful competition is limited. A claim of emotional argument, not objective analysis. Think about it and logic alone will tell you that if the wage portion of a contract is fixed and a low bid is secured, contractors will just as likely look to reduce costs in other areas. Thus grade B materials are used instead of grade A.

It is construction management, performance bonding, monitoring and oversight of construction specifications that ensure that quality and other construction standards are met – not the wage rate.

  1. Lack of prevailing wage laws promotes “unskilled workers”: Proponents of prevailing wage laws maintain that in their absence the training of construction workers is inadequate.  The inference is that the industry depends on unions for an adequate supply of trained workers. There is no evidence that there is more of a market failure in the training of construction workers than in the training of workers for any other occupation group. There are community colleges, private technical institutes and other training resources besides labor unions. In addition there is on-the-job training for less skilled “helpers”, who abound in free market construction contracts. With prevailing wage contracts contractors are motivated to hire union workers rather than less skilled helpers due to the cost disparity between the prevailing pay rate that they are forced to pay and the productive value of helpers.

These and other claims advanced by the supporters of prevailing wage laws are a complete disguise of their real PURPOSE: TO LIMIT COMPETITION BY THE FORCE OF LAW.  This purpose applies to both sellers of labor and sellers of construction contracts. The sellers of labor (unions and other labor organizations) want to limit the competition from others who might offer their labor at a lesser price; and sellers of construction contracts want to limit bidders to only those who pay comparable wages as they do, whether by force of union contacts or the force of prevailing wage laws.

Why is the real purpose (limited competition) disguised behind all these claims? As anyone with the most basic understanding of the way markets function knows: when competition is limited prices rise. It’s basic “supply and demand stuff.”  Added costs due to increased wages are paid by Missouri taxpayers. This results in fewer and lower quality government buildings and infrastructure or other “goods and services” than would otherwise be possible with free-market bids.

Of course proponents of prevailing wage can’t sell a prevailing wage scheme on the singular purpose of raising labor costs so they must attempt to justify the law with false and misleading claims.

 

There are many economic studies by scholars with no dog in the fight that debunk the claims by proponents of Prevailing Wage. You need only rely on your own economic knowledge base to determine that buyers love competition and sellers hate competition.

Reduced competition is what the sellers of prevailing wage are seeking. Don’t buy their flawed arguments that disguise the hidden purpose of Missouri’s prevailing wage law.    

Bruce Hillis

Mexico, MO 65265

573.380.1132 brucehillis@charter.net

August 13 , 2017

 

Ban the Box: another liberal idea backfires

I first posted on the foolishness of Ban the Box legislation several years ago. The idea behind this is that if employers are prohibited from asking about an applicant’s criminal history in a check box on job applications, all manner of good things will result.  A recent scholarly study the Powerline blog reported here has evidence that if  the people hiring cannot determine criminal history from an application, they will instead use race as a proxy. The result is: fewer black applicants are being called back and hired than when there were such evil boxes. Is this really a surprise? Do “good intentions” not all too often guarantee a bad result? Instead of crowning their skulls with halos,  the proponents should have used the gray matter inside, as indicated by this quip in the Powerline article:

Charles Murray commented on Twitter: “Any policy analyst who would not instantly predict this unintended outcome should find a new career track.”

Below is my original post on the Ban the Box issue in Columbia, Missouri.

December 2, 2014 the Columbia City Council unanimously voted to prohibit city and private employers from asking about or investigating applicants’ criminal histories until after a conditional job offer has been made. See a newspaper article here. The box on a job application form asking if the applicant has ever been convicted of a crime is now banned.

This step, the first for any Missouri city, is intended to:

  • Level the playing field for offenders
  • Reduce violent crime
  • Reduce recidivism by having more offenders employed
  • Compensate for the “flaws” in our criminal justice system
  • Reduce the cost of enforcement and increase tax revenue
  • Benefit society as a whole

So what’s not to like?

In our opinion just about everything. This is a horrible example of feel-good government activism and abusive overreach, a precedent for even more far-reaching legislation. Regulating essential aspects of business practice is not a legitimate function of local government. It is not government’s business to level playing fields, particularly those tilted by criminal activity. In our opinion it is not a bad thing for criminals released from prison not to have an easy time finding a job. Bad decisions should have consequences. What will happen if this experiment in social justice should be seen not to work? Will we then see affirmative action quotas? Reduction in violent crime by waving magic wands of unproven legislation is wishful thinking. Crime can be reduced – but never eliminated – by incarceration and hiring more police officers. These are costs of essential government services, not frills to be reduced. As for the ‘flaws’ in our justice system, this is liberal twaddle. For some it is too easy to blame the ‘system’ and not the criminal.  Troglo

Troglo

Michela Skelton, Marx, and Scripture: what is the problem?

A special election early next month will pit Democrat Skelton against Sara Walsh, Republican, for the seat in the 50th Missouri House district. A forum given by the Columbia Chamber of Commerce was reported by the Columbia Daily Tribune July 12th here. At the forum Mrs Skelton quoted Karl Marx to justify her opposition to a tax reduction. Will Scharf, the Missouri Governor’s policy director, noticed here that the Tribune article failed to report this rather significant statement. Following up, the Tribune reporter in a subsequent July 16 article corrected his omission:

As she argued in favor of repealing a tax cut scheduled to take effect Jan. 1, Skelton said the principle should be “from each according to ability and to each according to need.”

This paraphrase without ‘sexist’ pronouns is clearly from Karl Marx. It is a fundamental characteristic of the workers’ paradise as envisaged by the Communist philosopher (Critique of the Gotha Program, 1875.) The July 16 story continues with Skelton’s reply to Will Scharf:

Skelton responded by pointing to a bible verse that is also similar.

But no ‘similar’ Biblical quotation or citation is given – probably because one does not exist. However, there is a verse that answers Marx and his progressive epigones:

If anyone is not willing to work, let him not eat. 2 Thessalonians 3:10 (ESV)

The problem is not confusing Marx with Scripture or even being a Christian Marxist. But in knowing full well that the source is Marx, refusing to acknowledge that fact, and – worse – then claiming to be quoting Scripture. A gaffe, in other words, which is when someone in politics inadvertently says what he really thinks. In this case, it is when a progressive tries to mask her true beliefs, which are out of step with the voters.   

Troglo

Ps: Mrs Skelton’s website under the rubric of Values has this curious statement: “It is time we stand up and demand that the freedom and welfare of the people must be the supreme law of the land.” Curious because as an attorney she knows that the Constitution is the supreme law of the land, that it was carefully constructed to preserve our liberty from the depredations and vaticinations of those who would wreck it thinking they know better.

The disastrous Medicaid Expansion – an update

My original comments yesterday are here. In this post I’ll add some additional information – new data, but no new conclusions, just more confirmation of the harm the ObamaCare Medicaid Expansion has caused.

For background, please read Fact check: ObamaCare does hurt our neediest neighbors. The take-away there is that for traditional Medicaid the states are reimbursed by the Feds at 55% and the Expansion at 100% originally, now 95% this year. So if a state is running out of money, which program do you think it would cut? You don’t need to be familiar with public-choice theory to know that government takes care of itself first. My last post shows that the truly needy were left out in Ohio, despite the Governor’s preening moralism.

More from Ohio. As of May 2017 it had added more than 725,000 able-bodied, childless, and working-age people to the state’s Medicaid Expansion rolls. The budget called for no more than 450,000 enrollees. Expenditures are now nearly $7 billion over budget. All this at a cost of more than 34,000 ABD (aged, blind, or disabled) who no longer qualify under guidelines revised to cope with fiscal pressures. Ohio’s response to the crisis is to stop enrolling new people into the Expansion as of May 2018. Until then, of course, things will continue to get worse and more ABD will suffer. The cynical Democrats who crafted ObamaCare callously wanted to get as far to “single-payer” as they could, the cost in human suffering and death be damned.

In Arkansas things are no different. In early 2015 when the New Republican governor, Asa Hutchinson, took office following the Democrat who allowed Medicaid Expansion, Expansion rolls stood at 250,000. Barely two years later they stand at a budget-busting 325,000. Nearly half of the able-bodied, working-age, childless enrollees do not work. It appears that Arkansas will adopt a work requirement, but freezing new Expansion enrollment has failed in the state Senate. More details here.

Finally a few of the ‘moderate’ Democrats in the Senate are defending their support of the Expansion by dissembling that it helps curb the opioid epidemic. Skeptics will note that free access to prescribed opioids is not always helpful. According to the executive director of Physicians Responsible for Opioid Prescribing, “overprescribing of opioids is fueling the epidemic.” No surprise that Ohio is facing a huge increase in opioid deaths. “The CDC’s own study of Washington State showed that a person on Medicaid was 5.7 times more likely to die an opioid-related death than someone not on Medicaid.” (Sources of quotations here.)    

Troglo (L. H. Kevil)

Republican ‘health care’ proposals: the addiction stumbling block

This addiction, found in voters and politicians alike, is not medical, but still a critical public health issue. The addicts are not harmed, but the malady is transferred to the public. The Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act was deliberately designed to be nearly irrevocable. Feeding the addiction for free money is one of the hooks making repeal nearly impossible. The dependence of state politicians on Federal Medicaid money is the real question upon which turns the Senate debate.

The diabolical construction of Medicaid Expansion has created the most difficult stumbling block. Medicaid was originally designed to help the truly poor with children, not able-bodied adults with no dependents. To induce the states to consent to Medicaid Expansion the Federal government like a pusher offered to pay the states three to ten times more per person than for traditional Medicaid recipients. Thus the rush to accept this ’free money,’ risking financial peril a few years thence, since the states were then obligated to pay an increasing share of the bill. The problem is that even states with Republican governors accepted expansion. More than 80% of the national net increase in ObamaCare health insurance enrollment resulted from Medicaid Expansion. This Federal commitment unfortunately is an open-ended entitlement, encouraging the states to entrap as many people as possible and increasing the Federal deficit. The current House and Senate proposals would limit Federal money through various means, bringing the era of increasing free money to a gradual decline at some future point. However, the politics are such that limiting the growth is considered a cut. There are of course no actual cuts in any current proposal.

The Congressional and Senatorial representatives of most profligate and addicted states are now screaming bloody murder for relief from their states’ own greedy errors. As states face increasing financial pinches, new Medicaid enrollments have to stop or be slowed down. This means that the truly poor who qualify for traditional Medicaid are blocked out because so many able-bodied just above the poverty line and without children were let in. Good intentions are no excuse, given government’s inability to avoid disastrous unintended (but foreseeable) consequences and unwillingness to shut off the public teat to those who do not truly need it. (Witness the enormous growth in disability under Obama.) In the meantime the states that wisely refused Medicaid Expansion are in the position of having to share financially in the bailing out of the states that did.

Ohio provides a great object lesson. After accepting Medicaid Expansion the state’s share of Medicaid costs has been running 143% over budget. Consequently nearly 60,000 poor who qualify for traditional Medicaid have been put on a waiting list. Early estimates were that Medicaid Expansion would lead to 365,000 new enrollments. The actual number was 650, 000 leading to $2.7 billion in cost overruns in two years. (Ohioans like free money too.) Thus Senator Portman and the insufferable governor Kasich are screaming for more Federal money from the ‘repeal,’ since the able-bodied newly on Medicaid, just as addicted to government money as they are, would react in a ballot-unfriendly way if their Medicaid benefits were reduced or stopped. Republican Governor Kasich self-righteously bullied Ohio into accepting Medicare Expansion as a moral imperative, claiming he would get credit for helping the poor “when I get to the pearly gates.” But the morality play here is different: Kasich has hurt the truly poor to benefit the able-bodied, not to speak of the state generally. Ohio for example is financially unable to offer clinical services to opioid addicts. I remind the pious Governor of the moral imperative found in 2 Thessalonians 3:1 and 3: 10-11.    

Troglo (L. H. Kevil)

Random thoughts off the chest

It’s sex, not gender. Avoid the misleading term ‘gender.’ For quite a while lefties have invited us to confuse sex with gender. For them sex is a problem, given the differences between men and women. Gender is better; since it is imaginary, it can be stretched to cover many situations otherwise embarrassing to lefty ideology.

Just to be clear: if biology is not destiny, it is not far off. There are definite sexual differences between the two sexes, many with clear medical implications. Other differences appear in daily life. For instance, this article gives many  reasons why women cannot run as fast as men, Wonder Woman and transgenderism notwithstanding. (Would that the Pentagon accept this obvious truism.)

It’s race, not skin color. There are real racial differences, some with serious medical consequences. Some people from India have very dark skin, but have nothing to do racially with Africans. Race may have no moral meaning, but in many situations it can be a proxy for culture. And not all cultures are equal. None of this is trivial, though the use of the term ‘skin color’ is an attempt is make it so.

It’s about insurance, not health care. The current ‘health care’ proposal before the U.S. Senate is only the first step. A complete repealing and replacement is precluded at the moment by the Senate’s arcane and harmful rules – Senates are always a problem. – Despite that, Avik Roy, an expert in this field, thinks the Senate bill improves on the House bill, because it better enables the near-elderly working poor afford coverage. Click here for his and Guy Benson’s views. Follow the link to Roy’s enthusiastic Forbes article. My thoughts below.

Claims that n millions of people will be set adrift without ‘health care’ if the Republican plan is signed into law are NOT TRUE. The CBO scoring is so incomplete as to be fraudulent. Not even the Feds know who will and will not have insurance, absent knowledge of what the states will do and what millions of individual choices will be.

  • Having health insurance is not the same as having health care. Medicaid payments are so low that many, perhaps most doctors refuse to treat Medicaid patients. Insurance with large copayments and deductibles, not to speak of long waits for treatment, often leads to no care at all.
  • Some studies show that patients treated at emergency rooms receive care no worse and sometimes slightly better than through Medicaid. So the billions spent on Medicaid are …
  • Many of those who bought insurance from the ObamaCare exchanges did so only under compulsion of the individual mandate. They would rather not buy insurance at all and gamble on their youth or use the free care of the emergency room. Is permitting people to exercise their freedom cause for wailing and moaning? Millions did not die on the streets before the ObamaCare individual mandate.
  • Inexpensive policies covering disastrous medical conditions only may not be legally available to these people. Nor will the ability to buy insurance across state lines. But states will be free to enact work requirements for Medicaid. Some people may choose to forego subsidized insurance payments if it means having to work. Let’s not forget what Saint Paul said of those “walking in idleness:” If anyone is not willing to work, let him not eat.” (2 Thess, 3:10)
  • Many of those whose Federal subsidies might be reduced may indeed have to pay more. Or not – the market for individual policies has been ruined by ObamaCare, but costs may fall fairly quickly in a less regulated marketplace. (Again Senate rules preclude removing many of ObamaCare most damaging provisions.) What about paying one’s fair share?
  • No Federal law will prevent any state from supplementing Federal insurance subsidies with its own money. States like many people are completely dependent on suckling the Federal teat. States are also free to create their own insurance pools, as is done for car insurance. They may also reduce their regulations to lower the costs individual policies.

Perhaps it is not even about insurance, but simply votes.   

Troglo (L. H. Kevil)