Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Oh the Inanity!

I sometimes wonder if I can continue reading the New York Times. OK, I only read it at Equinox where it is free, and I use it to get my heart pumping. But the editorial and op-ed writers (excepting David Brooks) are so ideologically tilted as to overshadow the Leaning Tower of Pisa. One could make a career out of debunking the economic “wisdom” of Paul Krugman (whose answer to every question is more government spending) and the socio-political confusion of Bob Herbert.

On Feb 11, while the throngs celebrated in Cairo, Herbert wrote a piece called “When Democracy Weakens.” In it he mused: “I couldn’t help wondering about what is happening to democracy here in the United States. I think it’s on the ropes. We’re in serious danger of becoming a democracy in name only.”

I wondered what was going on in Bob’s head? Why is he so worried about America?

Herbert again: “So what we get in this democracy of ours are astounding and increasingly obscene tax breaks and other windfall benefits for the wealthiest, while the bought-and-paid-for politicians hack away at essential public services and the social safety net, saying we can’t afford them. Public employees across the country are walking the plank by the tens of thousands.”

There it is. Bob frets that the top tax rate is still “only” 36% and politicians, faced with a $14 trillion federal debt and a $1.6 trillion deficit this year, are looking to cut the budget. “We’re in serious danger of becoming a democracy in name only.”

Well, what about that? The dictionary definition of democracy is a “form of government in which all the people hold the ruling power either directly or through elected representatives.” It is generally agreed that democracies must guarantee “equality of rights, opportunity and treatment” through the rule of law and that includes the right to hold public office. By that definition there were exactly zero democracies in the world in 1900. Women did not get the vote until somewhat later. Today, however, there are 89 democracies in the world comprising 46% of the world population. That is remarkable progress!

Like all leftists, Herbert thinks of democracy primarily in economic terms. So what about the poor that he thinks are, somehow, disenfranchised? Overall, the typical American defined as poor by the government has a car, air conditioning, two color televisions, cable or satellite TV reception, a DVD player, and a stereo. In fact, 46% of all poor households actually own their own homes. As a group, America's poor are far from being chronically undernourished. The average consumption of protein, vitamins, and minerals is virtually the same for poor and middle class children and, in most cases, is well above recommended norms.

Not one poor American is denied the right to vote or hold public office or equality under the law. And not one pays a single dollar in Federal income tax. Bob needs to stop the inanity and worry about what is really wrong with American culture.
There are two main reasons why American children are poor: Their parents don't work much, and fathers are absent from the home.

The typical poor family with children is supported by only 800 hours of work during a year. (16 hours of work per week) If total work in each family were raised to 2,000 hours per year, the equivalent of one adult working 40 hours per week, nearly 75% of poor children would be lifted out of official poverty.

Father absence is another major cause of child poverty. Nearly two thirds of poor children reside in single parent homes; each year, an additional 1.3 million children are born out of wedlock. If poor mothers married the fathers of their children, almost three quarters would immediately be lifted out of poverty.

Look to your community, Bob.


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