Posted by on September 18, 2017

There are many possible contenders for the title of “Most Consummate Ass in Politics,” but the Mayor of New York City, Bill de Blasio, is certainly in the running.[1]

We won’t even talk about his personal life, which appears to be a long exercise in political advertising and virtue signalling.  Let’s just look at three recent articles about him.

The first comes from Reason and contains his mindless ramblings on the evils of private property.  I could not possibly summarize these in a more damming manner than de Blasio himself, so here is the full quote:

What’s been hardest is the way our legal system is structured to favor private property. I think people all over this city, of every background, would like to have the city government be able to determine which building goes where, how high it will be, who gets to live in it, what the rent will be. I think there’s a socialistic impulse, which I hear every day, in every kind of community, that they would like things to be planned in accordance to their needs. And I would, too. Unfortunately, what stands in the way of that is hundreds of years of history that have elevated property rights and wealth to the point that that’s the reality that calls the tune on a lot of development….

 Look, if I had my druthers, the city government would determine every single plot of land, how development would proceed. And there would be very stringent requirements around income levels and rents. That’s a world I’d love to see, and I think what we have, in this city at least, are people who would love to have the New Deal back, on one level. They’d love to have a very, very powerful government, including a federal government, involved in directly addressing their day-to-day reality.

It’s not surprising that the editor of Reason calls de Blasio “a perfect Ayn Rand villain.”

The next comes from the New York Times and is entitled “New York’s Bad Teachers, Back on the Job.”  This is written by the former principal of a high school in the Bronx, and deputy chancellor of the Department of Education in the administration of Mayor Bloomberg, who knows whereof he speaks.

In addition to being generally clueless, de Blasio is completely in the pocket of the public sector unions, prominent among my bêtes noires.  And he doesn’t really care how much damage to, particularly, the underprivileged youth of New York City he has to do in order to feed the beast.

New York City runs something called an “Absent Teacher Reserve” pool.  This is the type of exercise in surrealism that can only result from the collusive “negotiating” between politicians and their paymasters in the unions.  The pool currently holds 800 non-working teachers who cannot simply be fired due to contract restrictions and seniority rules.  They get paid as normal.

A third of these teachers have faced disciplinary or legal action at some point in their careers.  Twenty percent have received poor performance ratings, versus an average of seven percent.  Although they are supposed to be looking for a job in NYC’s 1,700 public schools, in the last year only about half mustered the ambition to do so.

The pool costs NYC $150 million per year.  This is a pure dead-weight cost on which other cities put time limits.  But not New York.  Teachers can linger in the pool until retirement.  Twenty-five percent have already been there for more than five years.

Still, in the Bloomberg administration, the decision was made to incur the cost rather than further demoralize principals, teaching colleagues and students by forcing incompetent and lazy instructors on them.  This is a second-best solution that, just two weeks after the State Legislature returned control of the public school system to de Blasio, has been overturned.  And, of course, the first-best solution, getting rid of the pool or greatly limiting it, is unthinkable.

Teacher vacancies are two to three times higher in the poor parts of NYC than in affluent neighborhoods, which means that these underperformers will be primarily inflicted on the poor and minorities.  You know, the ones that de Blasio and his Democratic party claim to champion.

A decision like this might be pardonable if it were part of an overall program of financial discipline.  This is where the  third article comes in, alliteratively entitled “Bill de Blasio’s Budget Blowout.”

NYC is booming, thanks to 21% more jobs than the previous peak and a record 60.3 million tourists.  Tax revenue follows, rising by about 11% since de Blasio took office in 2014.  Rather than spending the money on NYC’s faltering infrastructure or its massive pension deficits, de Blasio has increased wages for city employees by over 20%, accounting for over half of the total increase in expenditure he has overseen.  The average NYC employee will be paid $98,604 in 2017 versus $83,617 in 2014, an almost 18% increase.  Both figures exclude very generous pension and healthcare benefits, which almost certainly make total compensation at least 25% higher.

The average income in NYC is currently $69,103.  It has risen by about 5% since 2014.

Bill de Blasio stands 6’5” tall.  Who would have thought that you could pile…?

Mandatory Reading

The article, “An Open Letter to Ta-Nehisi Coates,” is written by a Jamaican immigrant to America who has become a Professor of Philosophy at DePaul University and author of several books.  The theme of the article is how African-American victimhood, of the type apparently peddled by Coates in his book The Beautiful Struggle, is so destructive.  Although the writing is sometimes overwrought, it mostly soars.  Here’s the money quote:

In the 32 years I have lived in this great country, I have never once actively fought racism. I have simply used my own example as evidence of its utter stupidity and moved forward with absolute metaphysical confidence, knowing that the ability of other people to name or label me has no power over my self-esteem, my mind, my judgment, and—above all—my capacity to liberate myself through my own efforts.

 On this matter, you have done your son—to whom you address your book—an injustice. You write: “The fact of history is that black people have not—probably no people ever have—liberated themselves strictly by their own efforts. In every great change in the lives of African Americans we see the hands of events that were beyond our individual control, events that were not unalloyed goods.”

I do not believe you intended to mislead your son, but in imparting this credo, you have potentially paralyzed him, unless he reappraises your philosophy and rejects it. In your misreading of America, you’ve communicated precisely why many blacks in this country have been alienated from their own agency and emancipatory capabilities. The most beleaguered people on the planet, the Jews, who have faced persecution since their birth as a people, are a living refutation of your claim. When they labored in slavery in Egypt, clamored in Palestine, made magnificent contributions to human civilization in European capitals, sojourned in Africa and Asia, and founded the modern State of Israel, no one gave these heroic people an affirmative-action plan to work anywhere. In spite of vitriol and invidious comparisons to vermin and pigs, and despite being subjected to countless pogroms and mandated ghettos, they thrived and flourished because not for one moment did they ever believe that their struggle for liberation lay in any hands other than their own.

Do read the whole thing.  It is long and a bit rambling, but worth it.

In the category of “Like Saturn, The PC Revolution Devours Its Young,” there is this Economist article entitled “Blue on blue.”  It tells the story of the travails of Lucia Martinez Valdivia, an assistant professor at ultra-liberal Reed College who describes herself as mixed race and queer.  Valdivia has run afoul of the social justice warriors for having the audacity to try to lecture – on Sappho, the ancient Greek poetess laureate of lesbianism, to boot – as part of the school’s mandatory Humanities 110 class, which the SJWs have condemned as “Eurocentric.”  This has earned her epithets of “race traitor,” “anti-black,” “ableist” and “gaslighter.”  The money quote here, from a blog written by Valdivia, is:

I am scared to teach courses on race, gender or sexuality or even texts that bring these issues up in any way…I’m at a loss as to how to begin to address it, especially since many of these students don’t believe in historicity or objective facts (they denounce the latter as being a tool of the white cisheteropatriarchy).

The word “cisheteropatriarchy” will definitely make it into my Twitter profile.  As in “a fully paid up member of the….”

Trump Agonistes

Back in May, when I gave up commenting on Trump – a pledge to which I have, at best, only partially adhered – I pointed my good readers in the direction of George F. Will and Bret Stephens for an ongoing evisceration of The Donald.  However, thanks to the sharp eye of @montanaskeptic, a cyber friend and fellow critic of all things Trump and Elon Musk, I am very pleased to add Kevin Williamson to this list.  He writes for National Review and proves once again that only the #NeverTrump crowd from the Right really understands their target.  The Left hates Trump, but usually for the wrong reasons (see Trump Inc. here).

Here is Williamson’s latest article, written as Trump, in his agony, thrashes around for allies and ideas in a desperate attempt to put something in the “W” column.  I can only stare in awe as Williamson reaches into the collective memory of my generation and equates Trump to the character Wimpy from Popeye: “I will gladly pay you Tuesday for a hamburger today.”

This is to whet your appetites, but you really must read the whole thing:

Donald J. Trump sold himself to voters as a masterful practitioner of the art of the deal. He presented himself as a tribune of the plebs, who through the democratic process deputized him to make deals on their behalf. Perhaps it did not occur to them that they were making a deal with Trump, too — and a pretty poor one at that. They never asked themselves what it was that Trump wanted out of his electoral transaction with them.

What Trump wanted was to be president of these United States and to be seen as successful in that endeavor. Once you’ve gold-plated all your toilets and married the Slovenian model and hosted a game show but still have not earned the respect of the people whose good opinion you desperately crave, that’s what you do: run for office. 

Some Hope

Cato reports that, at Harvard, the class “Economics 1017, A Libertarian Perspective on Economic and Social Policy,” is the fourth most popular class at the school, with attendance doubling over the last year.  It is taught by Jeffrey Miron, who, in addition to his professorship, is Cato’s Director of Economic Studies.  Most propitious of all: he is also from Detroit!

Roger Barris

Weybridge, United Kingdom

 

I Wish I Had Said That…

“This cat had one fuck to give, and that fuck is gone” from this Nobel Prize-winning tweet.

 

[1] His ranking depends a little bit on whether you classify the current occupant of the White House as being “in politics.”

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Comments

  1. Stuart
    September 19, 2017

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    Great reading suggestions, thanks. The DeBlasio quote about private is so incredibly staggering – is he really serious? Unfortunately I believe he is.

    • Roger
      September 19, 2017

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      Yep, I think that he is serious. And who wouldn’t want a genius like Bill de Blasio determining how each plot of land in NYC gets used in order to best serve my “needs,” and the prices we should pay to have those needs fulfilled? Although the prices for public employees would be easy to determine: they would be zero.

  2. Pater Tenebrarum
    September 21, 2017

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    Roger, I agree wholeheartedly with most of the things you write (I plan to re-post your piece on de Blasio on AM), but I think you are giving the Republican establishment way to much benefit of the doubt and for all his undeniable flaws, I think you still underestimate Trump. I say this as someone who is 180 degrees opposed to some of his policy proposals (particularly on trade) and mildly disappointed at his performance so far – although it has to be noted that presidents have far less power to push through their agenda than seems to be widely believed, and Trump has practically the entire establishment arrayed against him and sabotaging everything he tries to do (McCain’s bizarre vote on health care is a prime example for that). You have to ask yourself why that is so –
    hint: it’s not because they’re worried about the “greater good”.

    • Roger
      September 21, 2017

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      Dear Heinz, I think that we are going to have to agree to disagree on Trump. The basic problem with Trump’s “agenda” is that it is incoherent and certainly Trump has no idea what he wants to do or how to accomplish it. Let’s take health care, for example. Trump’s entire contribution to this tricky issue is to declare that he is going to replace it with “something great” — Trump always has a plan to achieve each of his wonderful goals, but he can’t tell it to us because he doesn’t want to tip his negotiating hand — and then say that he wants to “keep the good parts” of Obamacare like pre-existing conditions and staying on your parents’ health insurance until you are 26. He then announces “Nobody knew healthcare could be so complicated” and leaves it to the “Republican establishment” to try to achieve these irreconcilable goals. Trump’s problem isn’t with the Republican establishment, it’s with reality.

      The only real way forward on healthcare is to introduce free market reforms: insurance that is real insurance (that is, against catastrophic costs), more direct payment by consumers (since there is no market that can function when 85-90% of the costs are paid by a third party), elimination of the tax incentives for over-insurance through companies (which will also break the link between employers and health insurance), elimination of supply-side restrictions (including via the FDA), and elimination of the mandates and other cross subsidies that make real competition impossible. All of this combined with a safety net for those who can’t afford catastrophic coverage in the free market. Now, I do not believe the “Republican establishment” has the balls to propose something like this, although certain members are at least heading in the right direction (through things like “super HSAs,” encouraging more high deductible insurance and automatic approval of drugs that have been certified in advanced markets like Europe and Japan), but Trump doesn’t even think in these terms. In fact, he sabotages any efforts to head in this direction when he says things like “keep the good parts” of Obamacare.

      Trump has made some good appointments (DeVos, the FDA/FCC guys, Chao, Gorsuch) but also some terrible ones (Sessions, Ross/Lighthizer, Flynn/Miller/Bannon) and a bunch of mediocre ones (Mnuchin). He is doing a decent job on deregulation. He has become a pure neo-con on foreign policy. Many of his core policies — foreign trade, “Build the Wall,” deport immigrants, Iran nuclear deal — are idiotic and pure demagoguery. And he continues to undermine himself and the “Republican establishment” with his childish, mindless, distracting behavior.

      Trump is a disaster foretold.

      Roger

  3. Anonymous
    October 2, 2017

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    Hoping you will comment on yet another American bloodbath initiated by yet another bunch of white americans rather than a bunch of disgruntled immigrants, Roger. Why is it that the impact of recent terrorist attacks in the US does not compare remotely to carnage initiated by in-born white americans?

    • Roger
      October 15, 2017

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      I think that words should have meanings. Terrorism, if it means anything, means an attack carried out in furtherance of a political agenda. It has nothing to do with the race of the perpetrator.

      For example, the Oklahoma bombing in 1995 of a government building was a terrorist attack and I believe that it was widely described that way – the attacker was white. The shooting in Law Vegas was a tragedy, but it was not terrorism.

      There is one way, however, in which your parallel is apt: both terrorism and mass shootings have a psychological impact far beyond their practical impact. In both cases, we make an error if we allow this fact to lead to an exaggerated policy response. As the lawyers say, “Hard cases make bad law.” So do tragedies.

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