Shreds and Snippets

October 29, 2015

Good Jobs First — An analysis of more than 4,200 economic-development incentive awards in 14 states including Indiana, finds that — holy crony capitalist! — big businesses were awarded 90 percent of the dollars. These are the same businesses that are least loyal to the local economy, most likely to demand more benefits than they pay in taxes and produce on average the fewest new jobs over time. They also are the same players who presume to be the voice of “business” through their control of the local and state Chambers of Commerce. Reform can be achieved, the study’s authors argue, without leaving your community vulnerable to the eco-devo crazies down the road: “To fund public investments and credit-access needs, we recommend that states reform their incentive rules by narrowing eligibility to exclude large recipients. One could call it means-testing corporate welfare. To do so is entirely consistent with the theory of incentives, which is to address ‘market imperfections,’ or to ‘prime the pump’ and then pull back when the market’s invisible hand takes over.”

Following Obama’s Lead, Cities Are Punishing Business — In Minneapolis, politicians are debating whether to require employers to provide advance notice of work schedules and pay extra if schedules change without “proper” notice. In Washington, D.C., they want to give all residents up to 16 weeks of paid family and medical leave for bonding with a new child or caring for an ill family member. In Madison, Wis., there are criminal prohibitions against discriminating against atheists. They don’t want you drug-testing employees in Boulder or Berkeley, for obvious reasons, nor applying criminal background or credit checks to new employees in New York or Philadelphia. And yes, there are those finely crafted specifications regulating who can bake or not bake cakes for whom and what. Some states, however, are passing legislation prohibiting such wacko rules. Indiana, with a conservative governor and a super-majority GOP legislature, will surely be among them. Right?

Lured by Cheap Foreclosures, a Developer Buys a Bunch — The St. Louis Post-Dispatch gives us a fascinating look inside the operation of a property developer such as the ones who both Indianapolis mayoral candidates have disparaged as “absentee landlords.” A fair reading of the story leaves you impressed with how well the profit motive works to the good of a depressed neighborhood, although perhaps not as fast as someone seeking City Hall employment might like. But then, have you ever taken a good look at the alternative, a government-housing project?

China’s Bid to Alter Demographic Trends — There are more profound ways to look at this, but the vintage Chiffon margarine commercial will do: “It’s not nice to fool Mother Nature.” The coverage of China’s decision to abandon its one-child policy tip-toes around the obvious lesson that if the most ruthless of tyrannical regimes could not apply social engineering without unintended consequence — on penalty of death, over three generations — what chance have we to minimize, say, schoolyard bullying, inattentive recycling, or nuances of racial and sexual discernment?

Fewer Fires, So Why Are There More Firefighters? — Our adjunct Ryan Cummins brought this to the membership’s attention when he was on the appropriations committee of a city council, but here is some up-to-date documentation: As the number of fires drops (sprinklers, fire codes, etc.), the number of firefighters increases. There are half as many fires as 30 years ago but twice as many firefighters. Today, fewer than 4 percent of the calls answered by a typical department involve fires. Can you spell mandatory public-sector collective bargaining?

Testimony Explodes Criminal Justice Myths — Here is a last, noble attempt to counter the wildly popular narrative that imprisonment is a racial conspiracy. The size of America’s prison population is a function of our violent crime rate, not harassment of inner-city youth for minor violations of the drug laws. As it is, our homicide rate is seven times higher than the combined rate of 21 Western nations plus Japan.

Graffiti: Art or Nuisance? — American society, having lost discernment, struggles with the definition of a war, of a woman or of a GOP debate, so it is not surprising that it is having trouble with the question of what is art. One would have hoped, though, that a well-grounded city in the middle of Indiana would not have to strain its artistic conscience to draw the line somewhere short of defacing the property of others.

Nordic Exceptionalism Doesn’t Mean What you Think it Means — Here is an explanation for the Nordic model of government that flies in the face of everything you learned in school — in college, at least. It turns out that the lauded Scandinavians, et al., succeed in spite of their soft-headed social policies and not because of them. “Small homogeneous countries, with high levels of trust, are successful because they can get away with — up to a point — larger welfare states in a way that larger economies cannot,” the author says. “Trust also reduces ‘transaction costs’ and therefore encourages greater economic activity. So powerful is the effect that some studies show that the positive effect of trust outweighs the negative effect of big government on growth.”

Saudi Prince Accused of Lewd Sex Act in Los Angeles — The Saudi Arabian prince accused of bizarre behavior by three female staffers at his Los Angeles home reportedly explained, “I am a prince, and I do what I want.” Before you dismiss this as an off-beat “aren’t foreigners interesting” story, ask yourself whether it might not signify America’s flop over to default setting of Saudi Arabia and much of the rest of the world, i.e., that the law in fact is whatever the prince (or president or whoever is in power) says it is.

The Absurdity of Demanding Reparations — The esteemed Dan Hannan takes apart the case for African-American slavery reparations and perhaps all race-based entitlement by noting that it is virtually impossible to find any people who have not been sold into slavery, some of them nearly in the same historical frame as American Blacks. Among his points: Slavery was endemic in Africa, so much so that it increased when the competition from across the Atlantic was abolished.

— Craig Ladwig



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