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Sowell on What Makes Poor Folks Poor – Liberal Racism and Inferior Culture

by Brian T. Lynch, MSW

Thomas Sowell is a conservative “scholar” at the Hoover Institute and author of a new book, Intellectuals and Race. I haven’t read his book yet, but I did watch Sowell’s interview with Peter Robinson of the Wall Street Journal. I found Thomas Sowell’s interview disturbing in that it seems to boil down to an old conservative argument that the poor have no one to blame but themselves and the liberals who made them helpless. You can watch his WSJ interview on You Tube.

ThosasSowell

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=H6ImP-gJvas

Several points stand out in Sowell’s arguments on the negative impact that ” liberal/progressive” intellectuals have had on our attitudes towards race vs. racism. First, he conflates liberalism with progressivism. These are two separate dynamics in their scholarly meaning. The opposite of progressive is conservative, but the opposite of liberal, in its classical meaning, is totalitarian. Within the actual social context of these two dynamics it is entirely possible to hold both liberal and conservative policy positions or progressive and totalitarian positions. For example, it would not have seemed inconsistent during the Progressive Era, in the early twentieth-century, to be for union rights but opposed to woman’s suffrage, Progressives then were not as liberal as most progressives are today. By treating these terms interchangeably, in their current colloquial sense, he maligns the liberal movement that seeks to empower today’s poor or marginalized people and make America more inclusive.

Secondly, he seems to conflate race with culture. These are also separate elements of sociology. The former is a largely subjective classification system based on superficial physical attributes associated with continent of origin. The latter is a complex set of rituals, customs, values, norms and shared history by loosely associated clans or social groups. There are as many different cultures within each race as there are among the races, even just within North America. Generalizations based on race as a culture are inherently flawed.

Thirdly, when distinguishing this amalgam of race based culture from “racism” he incorrectly identifies racism as primarily perceptual in nature. His concept of racism doesn’t incorporate the many physical racist acts that socially marginalized people endure every day. These foundational fallacies allow Sowell to make his larger points, the same ones often raised by other conservative thinkers. The first is that there are, and have always been, better and more adaptable cultures in the world. This is an accurate statement but he leaves it there, as if it were an immutable law. He offers no hint as to why this is so. He fails to mention our human capacity to alter social institutions in ways that improve the outcomes of individuals from variant cultures.

The other major point he raises is that marginalized people allow themselves to be defined by the racist perceptions against them by others. The “others”, he argues in his example, are liberal intellectuals, especially during the “progressive era”, who blamed the economic plight of African-Americans (among other groups) on broad social factors and government policies, rather than on the their mal-adaptive culture. This shift in the causal roots of their less successful living standards, according to Sowell, absolves the marginalized from responsibility for their own self-improvement and causes them to see themselves as helpless victims of a society organized against them.

The explicit argument here is that every person has within themselves the power to rise above all obstacles and prejudices set against them. It is the familiar argument of taking personal responsibility as the only condition for economic or personal success. The proof offered (as is so often the case) is the personal experiences of the writer and anecdotal examples of other success stories. The obvious logical fallacy is that these exceptions prove that everyone else can do what these few have done. Unfavorable social conditions are only controlling factors if individuals allow it to be so. The failing is theirs. It is their own fault. It is a weakness in their character or collective culture.

The empirical truth is that for the vast majority of those who are subjected to social or institutional discrimination, their chances for success in life are seriously harmed. All the physical racist acts they suffer cause immeasurable personal damage and have an accumulating effect on them as individuals. That there are rare exceptions who become successful doesn’t prove that the majority of marginalized people are flawed individuals. In fact, it proves the opposite, that the infrequency of exceptions is a measure of the extent of the damage discrimination causes.

If equal opportunity can’t produce equal personal outcomes under the best of circumstances, as most would agree, then why would unequal opportunity offer the same chances of success? And if policy  can benefit one group of individuals (as is certainly true), why is it an individual’s personal failing when policy choices disadvanges then. It makes no sense.

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Obamacare – Is It For Good or Evil?

Like anything else, you can use a thing or abuse it. The Affordable Care Act is being shredded for political reasons in many states to create proof that it doesn’t work. It’s a shambles in the hands of those who want to use it as a cudgel with which to beat up Obama.  More enlightened states are taking every advantage of the ACA and in doing so they are better serving their citizens and improving their state budgets. Here below is a snippet from an article in the Washington Post:

How we got Obamacare to work

By Jay Inslee, Steve Beshear and Dannel P. Malloy, Published: Washington Post, November 17, 2012

http://www.washingtonpost.com/opinions/how-we-got-obamacare-to-work/2013/11/17/3f2532bc-4e42-11e3-be6b-d3d28122e6d4_story.html

[snip]  In our states — Washington, Kentucky and Connecticut — the Affordable Care Act, or “Obamacare,” is working. Tens of thousands of our residents have enrolled in affordable health-care coverage. Many of them could not get insurance before the law was enacted.

People keep asking us why our states have been successful. Here’s a hint: It’s not about our Web sites.

Sure, having functioning Web sites for our health-care exchanges makes the job of meeting the enormous demand for affordable coverage much easier, but each of our state Web sites has had its share of technical glitches. As we have demonstrated on a near-daily basis, Web sites can continually be improved to meet consumers’ needs.

The Affordable Care Act has been successful in our states because our political and community leaders grasped the importance of expanding health-care coverage and have avoided the temptation to use health-care reform as a political football.

In Washington, the legislature authorized Medicaid expansion with overwhelmingly bipartisan votes in the House and Senate this summer because legislators understood that it could help create more than 10,000 jobs, save more than $300 million for the state in the first 18 months, and, most important, provide several hundred thousand uninsured Washingtonians with health coverage.

In Kentucky, two independent studies showed that the Bluegrass State couldn’t afford not to expand Medicaid. Expansion offered huge savings in the state budget and is expected to create 17,000 jobs.

In Connecticut, more than 50 percent of enrollment in the state exchange, Access Health CT, is for private health insurance. The Connecticut exchange has a customer satisfaction level of 96.5 percent, according to a survey of users in October, with more than 82 percent of enrollees either “extremely likely” or “very likely” to recommend the exchange to a colleague or friend.

In our states, elected leaders have decided to put people, not politics, first.

[Read more here: http://www.washingtonpost.com/opinions/how-we-got-obamacare-to-work/2013/11/17/3f2532bc-4e42-11e3-be6b-d3d28122e6d4_story.html ]

_______________ … _______________

If you feel  that the media isn’t doing a good job of covering the positive side this story and isn’t reaching the ACA doubters and haters you know, then do something about it. Point them to this article or refer them here to read something that is directly from the chief executives of states where the ACA is working.

What Good Can Be Salvaged from the Trayvon Martin Case

Trayvon Martin is dead and George Zimmerman walks free. Was justice served?

From http://www.flickr.com/photos/23354940@N03/9280339883/: Hood Up! Justice for Trayvon Martin
Hood Up! Justice for Trayvon Martin by musyani75

That answer depends on who is asking the question. It should be a national outrage that this question splits us along both racial and political lines, but this has all become too predictable for outrage on these grounds. If we focus on the facts of the case the verdict divides us and there is no chance for reconciling our opposing views. If we shift the focus to our racial divide the glacial pace of reconciliation is measured in generations and no satisfactory solution can be seen. If we shift the focus to politics the question of justice will fade like an echo in the wind of endless partisanship. But focusing strictly gun laws in Florida may hold some slim hope for something good to come out of Trayvon’s death.  If this trial has done anything useful, it has been to drawn attention to the crazy legal framework that informed this verdict.

Who instigates a conflict that turns deadly has always been a factor in determining guilt. The concept is that deadly conflicts are be avoided at the earliest possible stage, before they turn deadly. If you initiate the conflict, the onus is on you to end it before someone gets hurt. The “stand your ground” laws in Florida and elsewhere upends this logic. Now, whoever walks away from a murderous gun fight can legally claim it was self-defense, even if the dead guy was unarmed. It is mostly a reasonable assumption that the survivor of a deadly conflict must have felt their life was in danger at some point.

In Florida, you can now walk up to anyone in the street, provoke them into assaulting you physically and then shoot them in self-defense. You are no longer held responsible for their death. If this was not the intent of the “stand your ground” laws, it is the absurd practical implication following this verdict. These laws, with their faulty legal premises, need to be overturned.

Still I have to wonder what the legal outcome would have been if Trayvon also had a gun and ended up shooting Zimmerman first. Would days pass before he was arrested and charged?  Would he have been acquitted by this jury?

If the only twist to this story was that Trayvon had managed to turn the barrel of Zimmerman’s gun around at the last instant to kill him, would the legal premise of the stand your ground law have been applied to Mr. Martin?  Would the actions of the police and the outcome of the justice system been different?  These questions are too important to ignore, but I am afraid the best answers to them depends largely on what we teach our children.

Arizona’s “Papers Please” Supreme Court Ruling – An Abridged Syllabus

The Supreme Court struck down some but not all parts of SB1070, Arizona’s controversial immigration law. What follows is an abridged syllabus to help make the ruling more readable.  It is re-posted here as a reference site for the day that these issues resurface during the anticipated immigration debate to come. You can read the unabridged opinion here.

SUPREME COURT OF THE UNITED STATES 
Syllabus [Abridged]
ARIZONA ET AL. v. UNITED STATES 
CERTIORARI TO THE UNITED STATES COURT OF APPEALS FOR 
THE NINTH CIRCUIT 
No. 11–182. Argued April 25, 2012—Decided June 25, 2012

An Arizona statute known as S. B. 1070 was enacted in 2010 to address pressing issues related to the large number of unlawful aliens in the State. The United States sought to enjoin the law as preempted.  The District Court issued a preliminary injunction preventing four of its provisions from taking effect.

  • Section 3 makes failure to comply with federal alien-registration requirements a state misdemeanor;
  • Section 5(C) makes it a misdemeanor for an unauthorized alien to seek or engage in work in the State;
  • Section 6 authorizes state and local officers to arrest without a warrant a person “the officer has probable cause to believe . . . has committed any public offense that makes the person removable from the United States”; and
  • Section 2(B) requires officers conducting a stop, detention, or arrest to make efforts, in some circumstances, to verify the person’s immigration status with the Federal Government.

The Ninth Circuit affirmed, agreeing that the United States had established a likelihood of success on its preemption claims.

Held:

1.  The Federal Government’s broad, undoubted power over immigration and alien status rests, in part, on its constitutional power to “establish an uniform Rule of Naturalization,” and on its inherent sovereign power to control and conduct foreign relations,  Federal governance is extensive and complex. 
Among other things,

  • federal law specifies categories of aliens who are ineligible to be  admitted to the United States,
  • requires aliens to register with the Federal Government and to carry proof of status,
  •  imposes sanctions on employers who hire unauthorized workers, and
  • specifies which aliens may be removed and the procedures for doing so, removal is a civil matter, and one of its principal features

2  ARIZONA v. UNITED STATES is the broad discretion exercised by immigration officials, who must decide whether to pursue removal at all.  Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), an agency within the Department of Homeland Security, is responsible for identifying, apprehending, and removing illegal aliens.  It also operates the Law Enforcement Support Center, which provides immigration status information to federal, state, and local officials around the clock.

3.  The Supremacy Clause gives Congress the power to preempt state law. 
A statute may contain an express preemption provision, but state law must also give way to federal law in at least two other circumstances.  First, States are precluded from regulating conduct in a field that Congress has determined must be regulated by its exclusive governance.  Intent can be inferred from a framework of regulation “so pervasive . . . that Congress left no room for the States to supplement it” or where a “federal interest is so dominant that the federal system will be assumed to preclude enforcement of state laws on the same subject.”  Second, state laws are preempted when they conflict with federal law, including when they stand “as an obstacle to the accomplishment and execution of the full purposes and objectives of Congress.”  (a) Section 3 intrudes on the field of alien registration, a field in which Congress has left no room for States to regulate.  In Hines, a state alien-registration program was struck down on the ground that Congress intended its “complete” federal registration plan to be a “single integrated and all-embracing system.”   That scheme did not allow the States to “curtail or complement” federal law or “enforce additional  or auxiliary regulations.”   The federal registration framework remains comprehensive.  Because Congress has occupied the field, even complementary state regulation is impermissible.

Pp. 8–11. (b) Section 5(C)’s criminal penalty stands as an obstacle to the federal regulatory system.

The Immigration Reform and Control Act of 1986 (IRCA), a comprehensive framework for “combating the employment of illegal aliens,”  makes it illegal for employers to knowingly hire, recruit, refer, or continue to employ unauthorized workers, and requires employers to verify prospective employees’ employment authorization status.  It imposes criminal and civil penalties on employers, but only civil penalties on aliens who seek, or engage in, unauthorized employment.

IRCA’s express preemption provision, though silent about whether additional penalties may be imposed against employees, “does not bar the ordinary working of conflict pre-emption principles” or impose a “special burden” making it more difficult to establish the preemption of laws falling outside the clause.  The correct instruction to draw from the text, structure, and history of IRCA is that Congress decided it would be inappropriate to impose criminal penalties on unauthorized employees.  [emphasis mine] It follows that a state law to the contrary is an obstacle to the regulatory system Congress chose.
(c) By authorizing state and local officers to make warrantless arrests of certain aliens suspected of being removable, Section 6 also creates an obstacle to federal law.  As a general rule, it is not a crime for a removable alien to remain in the United States. [emphasis mine]

The federal scheme instructs when it is appropriate to arrest an alien during the removal
process. The Attorney General in some circumstances will issue a warrant for trained federal immigration officers to execute.  If no federal warrant has been issued, these officers have more limited authority.    They  may  arrest  an  alien  for being “in the United States in violation of any [immigration] law or regulation,” for example, but only where the alien “is likely to escape before a warrant can be obtained.”  Section 6 attempts to provide state officers with even greater arrest authority, which they could exercise with no instruction from the Federal Government.  This is not the system Congress created.  Federal law specifies limited circumstances in which state officers may perform an immigration officer’s functions. This includes instances where the Attorney General has granted that authority in a formal agreement with a state or local government.

Although federal law permits state officers to “cooperate with the Attorney General in the identification, apprehension, detention, or removal of aliens not lawfully present in the United States, this does not encompass the unilateral decision to detain authorized by Section 6.

4. It was improper to enjoin Section 2(B) before the state courts had an
opportunity to construe it and without some showing that Section 2(B)’s enforcement in fact conflicts with federal immigration law and its objectives. 
(a) The state provision has three limitations:

  • A detainee is presumed not to be an illegal alien if he or she provides a valid Arizona driver’s license or similar identification;
  • officers may not consider race, color, or national origin “except to the extent permitted by the United States [and] Arizona Constitution[s]”; and
  • Section 2(B) must be “implemented in a manner consistent with federal law regulating immigration, protecting the civil rights of all persons and respecting the privileges and immunities of United States citizens.”

(b) This Court finds unpersuasive the argument that, even with those limits, Section  2(B) must be held preempted at this stage.

  1. The mandatory nature of the status checks does not interfere with the federal immigration scheme.  Consultation between federal and state officials is an important feature of the immigration system.  In fact, Congress has encouraged the sharing of information about possible immigration violations.  The federal scheme thus leaves room for a policy requiring state officials to contact ICE as a routine matter.
  2. It is not clear at this stage and on this record that Section 2(B), in practice, will require state officers to delay the release of detainees for no reason other than to verify their immigration status.  This would raise constitutional concerns.  And it would disrupt the federal framework to put state officers in the position of holding aliens in custody for possible unlawful presence without federal direction and supervision.  But Section §2(B) could be read to avoid these concerns.  If the law only requires state officers to conduct a status check during the course of an authorized, lawful detention or after a detainee has been released, the provision would likely survive preemption—at least absent some showing that it has other consequences that are adverse to federal law and its objectives.  Without the benefit of a definitive interpretation from the state courts, it would be inappropriate to assume  Section 2(B) will be construed in a way that conflicts with federal law.

This opinion does not foreclose other preemption and constitutional challenges to the law as interpreted and applied after it goes into effect.  Pp. 22–24. 641 F. 3d 339, affirmed in part, reversed in part, and remanded.

KENNEDY, J., delivered the opinion of the Court, in which ROBERTS,
C. J., and GINSBURG, BREYER, and SOTOMAYOR, JJ., joined.  SCALIA, J.,
THOMAS, J., and ALITO, J., filed opinions concurring in part and dissenting in part. KAGAN, J., took no part in the consideration or decision of
the case.

High School Graduation Rates A National Disgrace

Educational achievement can be viewed as a long range predictor of a nations economic health and well being.  In advanced economies, a great deal depends on scientific and technical advantages.

A recent report from the World Economic Forum published a study on global business competitiveness that ranks 144 nations according to indicators in 12 categories.  While the United State ranked 7th in the world over all, our ranking in primary and secondary education measures were alarming.  The united states ranked 58th on primary school enrollments and 38th on the quality of our primary education. We ranked 47th in secondary school enrollment and 47th on the quality of math and science education.  (See report summary here )

Now the U.S. Department of Education has released data detailing state four-year high school graduation rates in 2010-11 – the first year for which all states used a common, rigorous measure. The report states:

“The varying methods formerly used by states to report graduation rates made comparisons between states unreliable, while the new, common metric can be used by states, districts and schools to promote greater accountability and to develop strategies that will reduce dropout rates and increase graduation rates in schools nationwide.

The new, uniform rate calculation is not comparable in absolute terms to previously reported rates. Therefore, while 26 states reported lower graduation rates and 24 states reported unchanged or increased rates under the new metric, these changes should not be viewed as measures of progress but rather as a more accurate snapshot. “

See States Four Year Graduation Rates here: http://www2.ed.gov/documents/press-releases/state-2010-11-graduation-rate-data.pdf  In reading the summary below please keep in mind that no data was available from Idaho, Kentucky, Oklahoma or Puerto Rico and some other states had data missing.

Summary of Finding

The highest graduation rate achieved by any state is in Iowa, which as an 88% high school graduation rate.  Wisconsin and Vermont were right behind Iowa with an 87% graduation rate.  The lowest high school graduation rate is just 59% in the District of Colombia.  Among the sovereign states the lowest graduation rates  were in Nevada (62%), New Mexico (63%), Georgia (67%), Alaska and Oregon  (both at 68%).  All together, 13 states have high school graduation rates at or below 75%.

When it comes to race and ethnicity, the graduation rates for Latino children in Maine and Hawaii are slightly better then for White students.  Beyond these two examples, in every other state the rates are lower for both Black and Latino students, and significantly so in some states.  In Minnesota and Nevada Black student have a graduation rate below 50%.  The disparity in Minnesota is stark.  White students in Minnesota graduate at a rate of 84% while the Latino graduation rate is 51% and only 49% of Black students graduate.  These numbers and other dramatic disparities among the states are a national disgrace.

Even more startling is the low graduation rates and huge rate disparity for children with disabilities.  Graduation rates for these children range from a high of  77% in Texas, 75% in Arkansas and 73% in both Kansas and New Jersey to a low of 23% in Mississippi and Nevada.  Only 33 states have graduation rates above 50% among children with disabilities.  Children with disabilities are not more severely handicapped in places like Louisiana (29%) than Pennsylvania (71%).

Children with limited English proficiency also graduate at lower rates in most states, but especially in Nevada (29%) and Arizona (25%).  Students with limited English proficiency actually have a better graduation rate in West Virginia (79%) than do White children for whom English is their primary language (77%).  In states as diverse as Arkansas and Maine limited English proficiency is hardly a barrier at all.  Nineteen states have high school graduation rates of less than 50% for children for whom English is not their primary language.

I would appear that childhood disabilities and limited English proficiency are not  that closely correlated with economic disadvantage.  There are no states in which the graduation rate for economically disadvantaged children falls below 50%.  In Arizona, for example, economically disadvantaged students have a 73% graduation rate and students with disabilities have a 67% rate of graduation while, as mentioned, students for whom need help learning English have a very low graduation rate (25%).  In the case of Mississippi economically disadvantaged students graduate at a rate of 69% while only 23% of disabled children graduate high school.

So what’s going on here?  From the broad strokes of this report it would seem that poor educational outcomes are less a result of funding or the demographics of being economically poor and more a matter of selective neglect for some student populations.  I this judgment is too harsh.  However, no matter how you look at this data, United States appears heading for national decline if we remain unable to turn around these educational outcomes.