A few months ago, I was reading a fascinating paper by Thomas Leonard on “Eugenics and Economics in the Progressive Era.” The paper is full of interesting tidbits, but I was especially struck by the discussion of Progressive Era arguments for the minimum wage.
Most readers of this blog will be familiar with the argument that minimum wage laws create unemployment. And most of us, no doubt, regard this as a powerful argument against the minimum wage.
As Leonard’s paper shows, progressives like Sidney Webb were familiar with this argument. But rather than viewing additional unemployment as a cost of minimum wage laws, they actually regarded it as a positive benefit! After all, you see, the people most likely to be disemployed by a minimum wage were those who were among the least employable anyway – the drunks, the idiots, and the immigrants – especially those who were members of “low-wage races.” And, according to the grand progressive vision, anything we can do to identify such individuals and segregate them from healthy, productive white society was a step in the right direction for the human race.
The only logically consistent and economically sound supporters of a minimum wage are racists, government-protected unions, and large corporations as they have the most to gain relative to the rest of us. Oh, and of course politicians.
Report: Thousands of Nonviolent Americans Sentenced to Life in Prison Due to War on Drugs and Mandatory Minimums →
The ACLU released a new report this week examining the growing trend of judges sentencing nonviolent offenders to life in prison without parole. The ACLU found, perhaps unsurprisingly, that the War on Drugs, mandatory minimums, and “tough-on-crime” policies are to blame.
The report, A Living Death: A Life Without Parole for Nonviolent Offenders, profiles 110 of the 3,278 inmates currently serving their life sentences for nonviolent crimes. Most of the offenders were charged with crimes like possession of small amounts of drugs or petty theft. …
In addition to the inmate profiles—which are a horribly depressing, but worthwhile read—the report discovered several interesting facts about life without parole (LWOP) in the US.
The Number of LWOP Sentences Has Been Growing For Decades
Offenders serving life without parole, whether violent or not, has been one of the most rapidly growing populations in the prison system. According to the report: “The number of people sentenced to LWOP quadrupled nationwide between 1992 and 2012, from 12,453 to 49,081.”
LWOP Is Due to the War on Drugs, Mandatory Minimums, and Other “Tough on Crime” Policies
Nearly 80 percent of non-violent LWOP offenses are for drug crimes. Among the cases the ACLU surveyed, 83 percent of offenders were placed there because of mandatory minimums or three-strike laws—in other words, the judges had no choice. As the ACLU said:
The prevalence of LWOP sentences for nonviolent offenses is a symptom of the relentless onslaught of more than four decades of the War on Drugs and “tough-on crime” policies, which drove the passage of unnecessarily harsh sentencing laws, including three-strikes provisions…and mandatory minimum sentences.
There Are Racial Disparities
Like most aspects of the criminal justice system, there are stark racial disparities in life without parole sentences. Sixty-five percent of LWOP inmates are black, while in some states the disparity is even higher. In Louisiana, 91 percent are black. In the federal system, blacks are 20 times more likely to be sentenced to LWOP than whites.
This Is A Uniquely American Problem
The US is part of the mere 20 percent of countries that even offer LWOP sentences. And of those countries, the vast majority “place stringent restrictions on where they can be issued and limit their use to crimes of murder.” As a result, the US’s LWOP prison population dwarfs that of other countries’. According to the University of San Francisco’s report on U.S. Sentencing Practices in a Global Context, the US’s LWOP population is 51 times greater than Australia’s and 173 times greater than England’s.
Thomas Sowell is in top form here in this appearance on Firing Line from 1981. Though this conversation is nearly as old as I am, the arguments are still applicable today. It’s truly worth an hour of your time.
And note how the feminist guest’s particular line of repeated questioning, while cloaked in concern for minorities, is basically “how can we trust black people to make smart decisions for their children when they themselves are so dumb?” (h/t Cafe Hayek)
The minimum-wage law has been, and continues to be, one of the most effective tools in the arsenal of racists everywhere around the world.
How would Martin Luther King feel if he were still alive today? Barack Obama may be President, but for millions of black Americans life is shockingly deprived: a black man today is more likely to be imprisoned than in apartheid South Africa.
The mass imprisonment of black people in America today has been described as “The New Jim Crow”. Blacks account for 13 per cent of drug users, but 37 per cent of defendants. They receive sentences that are 20 per cent longer than white men for identical crimes. And, while there is little medical difference in the effects of crack and powder cocaine, crack, traditionally associated with black people, has a federal penalty 18 times greater. So it’s little surprise that one in every three black men go to prison over their lifetimes. And punishment doesn’t end at the prison gates, as former felons lose access to housing and other benefits of citizenship upon their release.
The notion anyone stopped has done absolutely nothing wrong is not really the case.
New York City Police Commissioner Ray Kelly on NYPD’s “Stop-and-Frisk” program, something he calls “essential to policing.”
As noted yesterday, Kelly is being considered for Obama’s Secretary of Homeland Security.
The Equal Protection Clause strips States of all authority to use race as a factor in providing education. All applicants must be treated equally under the law, and no benefit in the eye of the beholder can justify racial discrimination. … I think the lesson of history is clear enough: Racial discrimination is never benign. … [T]he Court has repeatedly held that
strict scrutiny applies to all racial classifications, regardless of whether the government has benevolent motives. … Although cloaked in good intentions, the University’s racial tinkering harms the very people it claims to be helping.
The Equal Protection Clause strips States of all authority to use race as a factor in providing education. All applicants must be treated equally under the law, and no benefit in the eye of the beholder can justify racial discrimination. …
I think the lesson of history is clear enough: Racial discrimination is never benign. … [T]he Court has repeatedly held that strict scrutiny applies to all racial classifications, regardless of whether the government has benevolent motives. …
Although cloaked in good intentions, the University’s racial tinkering harms the very people it claims to be helping.
He further notes: “For the foregoing reasons, I would overrule Grutter. However, because the Court correctly concludes that the Court of Appeals did not apply strict scrutiny, I join its opinion.”
New York City’s institutionally racist and privacy-violating stop-and-frisk procedure is currently on trial for constitutionality:
Devin Almonor, the teenage son of a former police officer, said he was thrown against an unmarked car and temporarily handcuffed walking home from a bus stop. Medical student David Floyd was frisked by officers outside of his apartment as he helped a neighbor locked out of his home.
For both, the experience was humiliating and frightening. They also say it was illegal, because they believe they were stopped because of their race. Both are black.
“I am not a criminal. I did not commit any criminal acts,” said Floyd, who testified along with Almonor at the opening of a federal trial.
Testimony continued Tuesday in the case that challenges the constitutionality of some encounters under the controversial law enforcement tactic of stopping, questioning and frisking New Yorkers on the street.
Minimum-wage laws date to the 1930s, and supporters in Congress at the time were explicit about using them to stop blacks from displacing whites in the labor force by working for less money. Milton Friedman regarded the minimum wage as “one of the most, if not the most, anti-black laws on the statute books.” When you artificially increase the cost of labor, you wind up with surplus labor, which takes the form of unemployment. Younger and less-experienced workers—a disproportionate number of whom are black—are more likely to be priced out of the labor force when the cost of hiring someone goes up. Prior to the passage of minimum-wage laws—and in an era of open and rampant racial discrimination in the U.S.—the unemployment rate for black men was much lower than it is now and similar to that of whites in the same age group. Today, unemployment stands at 7.9% overall but is 13.8% among blacks (versus 7% among whites), 14.5% among black men (versus 7.2% among white men) and 37.8% among black teens (versus 20.8% among white teens). Yet Mr. Obama has proposed increasing the minimum wage by 24% to $9 an hour to placate his union supporters who want less competition for their members. A higher minimum wage might lift earnings for existing workers—provided they keep their jobs—but it also reduces job opportunities for millions of people out of work. Out of political expediency, Mr. Obama is putting the interests of Big Labor ahead of the urban poor.
Minimum-wage laws date to the 1930s, and supporters in Congress at the time were explicit about using them to stop blacks from displacing whites in the labor force by working for less money. Milton Friedman regarded the minimum wage as “one of the most, if not the most, anti-black laws on the statute books.”
When you artificially increase the cost of labor, you wind up with surplus labor, which takes the form of unemployment. Younger and less-experienced workers—a disproportionate number of whom are black—are more likely to be priced out of the labor force when the cost of hiring someone goes up. Prior to the passage of minimum-wage laws—and in an era of open and rampant racial discrimination in the U.S.—the unemployment rate for black men was much lower than it is now and similar to that of whites in the same age group.
Today, unemployment stands at 7.9% overall but is 13.8% among blacks (versus 7% among whites), 14.5% among black men (versus 7.2% among white men) and 37.8% among black teens (versus 20.8% among white teens). Yet Mr. Obama has proposed increasing the minimum wage by 24% to $9 an hour to placate his union supporters who want less competition for their members. A higher minimum wage might lift earnings for existing workers—provided they keep their jobs—but it also reduces job opportunities for millions of people out of work.
Out of political expediency, Mr. Obama is putting the interests of Big Labor ahead of the urban poor.
As a member of a Hollywood union, I face a sort of minimum wage hurdle of my own. The next step up in my career is a substantial one - and one in which I am more than capable of making (a position I held - with, in fact, greater pay - on a number of non-union reality shows). But because of the union, I cannot take that position without being paid the union minimum for that position. In other words, the studio and producers would have to pay me the same rate they would pay a multiple-Emmy winner with 30 years of experience. I cannot offer to work for less as an opportunity to prove myself. I have no leverage - I cannot offer any incentive - for producers to hire a [relatively] young and eager talent over a reliable veteran. And indeed, I have missed out on multiple jobs precisely because of this artificial price floor.
Perhaps the most telling data concerns the racial makeup of who goes to prison for gun violations. According to the U.S. Sentencing Commission, for Fiscal Year 2011, 49.6% of those sentenced to federal incarceration with a primary offense of firearms violations were black, 20.6% were Hispanic, and only 27.5% were white.
This is how gun laws actually work—those caught violating them go to prison. For the mere act of owning an illegal weapon—not necessarily for using it, not for threatening anyone with it, not for being irresponsible with it—people who have harmed no one are locked up in prison for years at a time. As with the rest of the criminal justice system, particularly the war on drugs, these laws disproportionately harm the poor and minorities. That is the inescapable reality of gun control.
It makes sense that blacks and others living in the inner city would rely more on private, illegal guns for self-defense. The police are unreliable at best in many of these communities. It also makes sense that minorities would be disproportionately hurt by these laws, because so many of the dynamics in play are the same as with the drug war—people are being punished for what they own, rather than what they have done to others; it is easier for police to go after those in poor neighborhoods than to search middle-class folks in nice neighborhoods; jurors approved by prosecutors tend to believe police testimony over the word of minority defendants; prosecutors tend to use discretion in possession crime cases that fall more painfully on the disenfranchised; public defenders offer inadequate services for those loads of court-appointed clients, and so forth.
I’ve previously noted my personal experience with the “tolerance” of Leftywood here.
So there’s been a group of people running around the United States for 30 years or so who call themselves Constitutionalists, among other things. They have — shall we say —quirky ideas about the rule of the law, the nature of the US constitution and of citizens’ rights within it.
My personal favorite of their claims is that — in their claiming, not mine — that I (meaning Politicalprof and people like me) are “sovereign citizens.” What this means in practice is that since people like me — white, male and property owning — were legally entitled to be citizens of the US before the US Constitution was created, we are “sovereign” — e.g., superior — to the Constitution. This means that I — meaning Politicalprof and people like me — have the personal right to reject or nullify laws that seem to us to intrude on our freedom since, obviously, we would never have consented to such laws in 1787. I am sovereign over the federal government, which cannot take away my rights as I define them.
Now, many of my sharp and sophisticated readers will be have their brows in a knot, going, “but, Politicalprof, what if you’re NOT a white male property owner? What if you’re a woman? Or a minority? Or an immigrant?” No worries: you are what is known as a “14th Amendment citizen.” That is, you are a citizen, but not a sovereign citizen. (Again, this is their argument, not mine.) Rather, you were granted citizenship by the 14th Amendment.
The distinction here is important: I was a citizen (allegedly) who could have made the Constitution, so my rights and liberties exist independent of the Constitution. Everyone else is a citizen as a result of the Constitution, and is bound therefore by its rules and limitations. In addition, we can take your citizenship and rights away through Constitutional changes, but we can never take mine away — as I define them — because people like me defined them in 1787.
Simple, huh? In any case, such persons are on the loose again. The anti-government fervor of the last years, mixed with the rise of a legalistic strain of libertarianism, has combined to make nonsense sound like Constitutional reasoning.
To wit, the post below. A group calling itself the “Republic for the united States of America” (the lowercase “u” matters) has decided that the United States you and I think of is not the real united States. More, they’ve decided they’ve recreated the real the united States. I am posting their words in full, cause hey: you need the full crazy.
Have fun! …
Can’t seem to find anything on their site about being “white, male, and land-owning.” Normally I’d think that would be beneath you but our past conversations have shown you perfectly willing to use dishonest rhetoric to make appeals to emotion.
Though even if that were the case (which, given their focus on the Constitution, may be true - though it’s not even implied as far as I can tell), that would make them completely opposed to most people who adopt the label of “sovereign individual.” (The group is already pretty obscure: their facebook page has fewer likes than Cannibalism. Will people eating other people be your next post of grave concern?) Also antithetical to the idea of being a sovereign individual is apologizing for the misdeeds of others, which they do in their credo.
The idea of the “sovereign individual,” contrary to your [possibly contrived] explanation above, is not presupposed by race, gender, or owning land; nor is it, contrary to the group’s claims above, founded on Constitutional principles. In fact, most people who declare themselves to be “sovereign individuals” would find it conflicting to replace one state with another.
The idea is that each of us is the ultimate authority over our lives and that we are all free to do - borrowing Leonard Read’s phrase - anything that’s peaceful. It is self-ownership: We own our lives, we own the ability to decide what we do with our lives (that which we voluntarily choose to do without aggressing others, or liberty), and we own the product of our lives (that which we traded our time and talents for, or property). It is about the principle of non-aggression - to not initiate violence against others - and the justice, peace, and prosperity that naturally flows from it.
But we’ve had this dance before. You have repeatedly disregarded the primacy of consent (here, here, and here). Because you believe that aggressively forced obligations are fundamental to a safe and functional society, and thus the individual does not necessarily have final say over his or her life, I can understand why people claiming to be “sovereign individuals” could ruffle your feathers.
Sadly, you wear your shackles too proudly to ever acknowledge the barbarity of your stance.
Re: The only thing I’m interested in actually talking about with this whole Bloomberg-soda extravaganza:
This isn’t a post debating the merits of the idea to ban the sale of sugary drinks beyond a certain size, but rather a challenge to the language being used to talk about it. The debate has sparked a momentary surge in the common use of the phrase “nanny state” and variations on the term/notion. (As in “I don’t want the nanny state telling me what kinds of things I can imbibe.”) I think that particularly popular bit of language is important to look at and challenge.
A version of stereotyped femininity gets to be shorthand for what is considered overbearing, misguided action on the part of the government. Once again female gets to be a stand-in for bad and wrong and stupid. It’s an oft-used term, but it’s really being embraced in this particular debate. I’m going to venture a guess and point to the involvement of food and eating habits for that one. Someone irritating telling you what to put in your mouth? Women stuff. Dieting? Women stuff. Worrying about sugar? Women stuff. Downsizing? That’s for the females. When someone is telling you what to do with your food, that’s a woman, right? For the last time, no. Bad ≠ female.
Dan Trombly of Slouching Towards Columbia brought up the point to me on Twitter that ‘paternalism’ is also phrase often used in situations like this. And yes, that’s true. I’m not arguing here that we should throw out the idea that the government can be wrong and bad and overbearing as sexist in itself. It isn’t. The use of the term “nanny state,” however, is using sexism as one of the boosters for the power of its argument. The sexism is a critical part of the idea and argument of a “nanny state” as something differently constructed than an argument challenging the broad notion of paternalism. (For example, the term nanny state is not one I hear used in reaction to the government placing restrictions on women’s access to abortion…)
An excellent example, a full page attack ad in the NYT (Via Brooklyn Mutt):
Cool beans, guys. Let’s see, how do we make Bloomberg look like he’s wrong and stupid… I know! Let’s dress him like a woman. That will instantly get the point across.
As I said a few months ago to a different blogger: “[I]f you lefties keep shouting “sexism” and “racism” at anything you don’t like, it undermines the meaning and takes away from true victims of racist or sexist actions.”
There is, of course, no sexism with regards to the use of the phrase “Nanny State.” There are no “nannys” for adults. The occupation is strictly the tending to the minutiae of a child’s care. As such, “nanny state” makes an appropriate comparison between a nanny and a state that intercedes in the often trivial decision-making that any capable adult should be able to make for him or herself. These adults, like the children under the care of nannies, may not know what’s best for them and intervention is required “for their own good” (or, perhaps, some so-called “greater good” as defined by the nanny).
In various cultures around the world, nannies are and have traditionally been women. Many people generally recognize females as natural caretakers, as is the case in most mammalian (and particularly primate) species, and as such invariably choose surrogate caretakers for their children who possess qualities they subjectively value in that role. Indeed not all individuals may neatly fall into this gender stereotype, but noting biological and historical tendencies is not sexist. There is no misogynistic conspiracy that led to the use of this very apt phrase.
And noting that “the term nanny state is not one I hear used in reaction to the government placing restrictions on women’s access to abortion” only speaks to the fact that most people who make such objections tend to be perfectly comfortable with a state that interferes in an individual’s choices in nearly almost every other area of life. Employing the rhetoric of “nanny state” would, for such individuals, be self-defeating. Observe this ridiculous (and, ultimately, substance-free) defense of Bloomberg’s paternalism as one example that those who plead for a greater role for the state to play in our lives will accept and vindicate its overreach lest their favored interventions be called into question. (Moreover, as I noted earlier, “nanny state” is usually in reference to interference in minutiae for someone’s own good; it is not usually employed as a catch-all for every government action.)
After all, you began this post implicitly noting that you had no interest in questioning the merit or fairness of such a policy; there was “only [one] thing [you were] interested in actually talking about with [regards to] this whole Bloomberg-soda extravaganza”: perceived sexism in the employ of a common phrase.
Which explains what all this probably is: deflection.
Alternate headline option: “Governor Vetoes Pro-Baby Bill As Promised”
Here’s the story, a follow-up to yesterday’s post on the same topic:
Gov. Dave Heineman was in Grand Island earlier talking about why he vetoed the bill allowing cities to raise their sales tax rates with a vote of the people.
Late Friday, Heineman vetoed a bill that would restore prenatal care to low-income women, including illegal immigrants.
Across the state, lawmakers held news conferences at hospitals explaining why they voted in favor of the prenatal bill.
They said that care would prevent babies from being born prematurely or with other complications.
“But what about the baby of that illegal immigrant that’s going to be born a citizen, who, with bad prenatal care or no prenatal care, may end up the ward of the state for the rest of their life?” asked Sen. Mike Gloor.
Nebraskans — who are generally a staunchly pro-life bunch — seem to agree with the Governor, or at least the 700+ who have voted in this unscientific online poll:
I wonder how people would have voted if the poll had asked the question a bit more honestly: “Should babies whose mothers are in this country without proper documentation — and who will be American citizens when they’re born — get state-funded care while in utero?”
Frankly, this seems like the easiest and most obvious thing to support. You don’t like undocumented immigrants? Fine. I get that. But the fetuses that you typically love so much? What’s your problem with them?
You know, perhaps the wording in the poll doesn’t matter. Perhaps all that really matters is the race of the babies and mothers in question. Perhaps …
I just can’t stand the naked hypocrisy. And when it’s so obviously coupled with blatant racism … well … then at least the hypocrisy isn’t the worst part.
And what about those who’d oppose the “State-Funded” part even if it said “American residents of Nebraska”? Or those who simply oppose the “State-Funded” part irrespective of whatever words follow? They’re probably racists, too, right (I mean, you say it’s both “obvious” and “blatant”)? After all, that’s the only reasonable conclusion: anyone who opposes something done by the state opposes it being done in toto, ergo RACIST!