A+ A A-

Michael Barone - Voters reject economic redistribution

The opinion pages, economic journals and liberal websites are atwitter (a-Twitter?) these days over French economist Thomas Piketty's "Capital in the Twenty-First Century." Left-wingers cite Piketty's statistics showing growing wealth inequality — though some have been challenged by the Financial Times — in support of Piketty's policy response, huge taxes on high incomes and accumulated wealth.

One suspects that many of his fans have another agenda in mind. They'd like to gull a majority of the 99 percent to vote for parties that would put their friends in control of an engorged state apparatus.

There they could stamp out fossil fuels in favor of renewables — and get all those overweight suburbanites out of their vulgar SUVs and into subways, and out of their ticky-tack subdivisions and into gleaming mid-20th century modern high-rises. (Actually, there is a great city like that: Moscow.)

The only problem is that voters won't cooperate. They don't seem interested in centralized direction from the chattering classes. The protest votes around the world are mostly going not to redistributionist parties of the left but to various anti-centralization parties of the right.

Current polling points to Republican victories in the 2014 off-year elections, and Pew Research reports that 65 percent want the next president to follow policies different from Barack Obama's. Our Anglosphere cousins Britain, Canada and Australia all have center-right governments.

Then there are last week's European Union parliament elections. In Britain, the United Kingdom Independence party, which wants out of the EU and tougher limits on immigration, came in first, ahead of recently redistributionist Labour — the first time in 30 years the national opposition party wasn't first.

In France, first place went to the more sinister Front National led by Marine Le Pen. President Francois Hollande's Socialist party, which Piketty has supported, won 14 percent of the votes.

The Denmark People's party won there. Parties for which Nazi comparisons are not wholly unjustified — Jobbik in Hungary, Golden Dawn in Greece — won seats in those countries. Beleaguered Greece was the only country that lurched to the redistributionist left.

The European fringe parties are not a united lot (UKIP won't caucus with Front National). They express attitudes specific to each nation and lack a common platform. What they have in common is distaste for nanny state liberalism imposed by unaccountable E.U. bureaucrats and executives. In effect, they are saying that the original purpose of the E.U. — to unite Europe to prevent a third world war — is obsolete, now that war in Europe (beyond the former Soviet Union) is unthinkable.

Instead, they see the democratic nation-state as their protector and the legitimate object of their allegiance. And, despite some fringers' admiration for Vladimir Putin, they tend to prefer capitalism to mandarin-mandated economic redistribution and regulation.

Europe and North America are not the only parts of the world rejecting Piketty politics. In the world's largest democracy, India, 554 million people voted and gave a resounding victory and the first outright parliamentary majority in 30 years to Narendra Modi's Bharatiya Janata Party. Modi promised to unleash free markets and encourage growth as he had done in the state of Gujarat. The BJP won 282 seats. The Congress party, in power for 49 of India's 67 years, promised more welfare and won 44.

Across the Pacific, a plurality of voters in Colombia favored Oscar Ivan Zuluaga, endorsed by former President Alvaro Uribe, over incumbent Juan Manuel Santos. Zuluaga criticized Santos for negotiating with the FARC narcoterrorists rather than continuing Uribe's tougher policies.

Either could win the runoff June 15. But the weak showing of Santos, widely praised internationally, suggests Colombians put a priority on public safety. Redistribution isn't an issue in a country with great economic inequality.

Not all elections around the world go the same way, and sometimes voters just rotate politicians in office. Americans have twice elected a leftish president, and last year, New York City elected a leftist mayor.

But over the last 40 years, Piketty's years of increasing economic inequality, the biggest electoral successes have been free-marketeers (Margaret Thatcher, Ronald Reagan) and light-on-redistribution moderates (Tony Blair, Bill Clinton).

Leftists hope the Piketty book will spark an electoral surge for redistribution that will let them install nanny state policies micromanaging ordinary people's lives.

But the lesson of recent history is that, even when the inequality increases in the economic marketplace, there's not much demand in the political marketplace for economic redistribution.

(Syndicated columnist Michael Barone is senior political analyst for The Washington Examiner, is a resident fellow at the American Enterprise Institute, a Fox News Channel contributor and co-author of The Almanac of American Politics.)

Last Updated on Wednesday, 31 December 1969 07:00

Hits: 269

Susan Estrich - No road from Hollywood to UC-Santa Barbara

Of all the things that have been said in the nonstop chatter since an obviously deranged young man killed six college students here in Southern California last weekend, by far the dumbest comes from Washington, D.C., where The Washington Post's film critic actually said that these mass murders were tied to white men in Hollywood promoting "escapist fantasies" that "revolve around vigilantism and sexual wish-fulfillment."

Wrote Ann Hornaday, who hopefully knows more about film than about crime, "As Rodger bemoaned his life of 'loneliness, rejection and unfulfilled desire' and arrogantly announced that he would now prove his own status as 'the true alpha male,' he unwittingly expressed the toxic double helix of insecurity and entitlement that comprises Hollywood's DNA."

There's more: "For generations, mass entertainment has been overwhelmingly controlled by white men, whose escapist fantasies so often revolve around vigilantism and sexual wish-fulfillment (often, if not always, featuring a steady through-line of casual misogyny)."

And more: "How many students watch outsized frat-boy fantasies like 'Neighbors' and feel, as Rodger did, unjustly shut out of college life that should be full of 'sex and fun and pleasure'? How many men, raised on a steady diet of Judd Apatow comedies in which the shlubby arrested adolescent always gets the girl, find that those happy endings constantly elude them and conclude, 'It's not fair'?"

So Apatow, a happily married man and the father of beautiful daughters, is responsible for a seriously ill young man's murdering six students because that young man — unlike Seth Rogen or a character in an Apatow movie — didn't get the girl?

This is nuts. Just nuts. How many of us didn't get the girl or guy we wanted, didn't get the job we wanted, had our hearts broken any number of ways? We don't kill. This is not what people do after watching escapist movies and getting dumped by real people. If it were, our college campuses would be wastelands.

Maybe Hornaday is auditioning for a job as a loudmouth screamer who wants to blame Hollywood for everything.

Maybe she's out to become the new Ann Coulter of culture: wrong, tasteless and offensive, but plenty of airtime. No doubt she'll succeed. If I had more readers, I'd probably be giving her a boost.
It would be funny (okay, entertaining, because that is what this discussion is really about: ratings and attention. Maybe Hornaday will get her own show if she's crazy enough.) if this were not a life-and-death problem.

Elliot Rodger was a dangerous and sick young man. He should not have been buying guns and living on his own. His parents knew he was troubled, but clearly they didn't know just how seriously ill he was — or they didn't know what to do about it. He had therapists who didn't know just how imminent a danger he posed. He was a college student, but they apparently didn't know or do anything. He had parents who thought they were doing enough and weren't. I have no doubt that they (not Seth or Judd) will blame themselves forever, Ms. Hornaday.

And now six kids — it could have been any of our kids — are dead.

Could we please focus on the killer and not the movies? Could we please try to figure out how to keep sick and dangerous kids who have easy access to guns from killing our children?

I'm happy to rant and rave till the cows come home about discrimination against women in almost every aspect of life — from Hollywood to the op-ed pages of even The Washington Post (which has improved somewhat, in gender terms, since I self-immolated trying to make it an issue). I'm glad to see women with a voice in the op-ed pages. I realize that women, as Hornaday clearly proved, can be every bit as uninformed and offensive as men, but equality doesn't always mean excellence.

But as a parent and a professor, I would like to believe that campuses are safe places. We need to help the parents of deeply disturbed kids get help for their children, we need to help campuses step up to mental health issues, and we need to deal with the sale of guns to young people who should not be allowed to buy them. That's a big list. Judd Apatow and Seth Rogen really don't belong on it.

(Susan Estrich is a professor of Law and Political Science at the University of Southern California Law Center. A best-selling author, lawyer and politician, as well as a teacher, she first gained national prominence as national campaign manager for Dukakis for President in 1988.)

 

Last Updated on Wednesday, 31 December 1969 07:00

Hits: 255

Froma Harrop - Fight heroin with marijuana

A plague of heroin addiction is upon us. Another plague. Heroin was the crisis that prompted Richard Nixon to launch the war on drugs in 1971.

Time marched on. Cocaine and then crack cocaine and then methamphetamine overtook heroin as the drugs of the moment. Now heroin is back — and badder than ever.

The war on drugs also grinds expensively on, an estimated $1 trillion down the hole so far. Amid the triumphant announcements of massive drug seizures and arrests of the kingpins, heroin has never been more abundant or so easy to find, in urban and rural America alike.

Still, marijuana accounts for almost half of drug arrests, and most of those are for possession, not selling. This may sound counterintuitive, but as states ease up on the sale and use of pot, opportunity knocks for dealing with the heroin scourge.

"If I had to write a prescription for the heroin problem," retired Cincinnati police Capt. Howard Rahtz told me, "the first thing I'd do is legalize marijuana."

Rahtz has fought this battle on several front lines. After serving 18 years as a law officer, he ran a methadone clinic to treat addicts. A member of Law Enforcement Against Prohibition, Rahtz won't go so far as the group's official position, which is to legalize all drugs.

"I would not make heroin available as a recreational drug," he said. "But I would make it available on a medical basis."

Rahtz sees treatment as the only promising way to truly confront the heroin epidemic. He recalls his days as a police captain going after the traffickers:

"We started getting record amounts of drugs, money and guns, and I'm writing memos to the chief. But then I'd ask the guys, 'Is anyone walking around Cincinnati unable to find drugs?'"

Because drug cartels garner 60 percent of their revenue from the marijuana trade, legalizing pot would smash up their business model.

"I have zero problem with recreational marijuana," Rahtz said.
He would like Colorado and other states now taxing marijuana to earmark the money for drug treatment and rehabilitation. It's crazy that only 10 percent of heroin addicts get into treatment, according to federal statistics.

Why the heroin epidemic now? Much of the surge in heroin use stems from the recent crackdown on prescribed painkillers. Those addicted to pain medication went looking for an easily available alternative and found heroin.

(One might question the value of making it hard for those hooked on prescription drugs to get them. At least then, a doctor would be on their case.)

Today's astounding heroin death tolls reflect the reality that heroin sold is now 10 times more pure than it was in the '70s. Adding to the tragedy, tolerance levels for heroin drop for those in treatment. The relapse rate in drug programs is high, and those who go back are killed by the strength of the drug on the street.

What should be obvious is the futility of dumping all this money into the war on drugs while putting those wanting treatment on waiting lists. Even if many of those treated end up going back into the dungeon of drug use, their weeks or months off the drug ate into the dealers' profits.

Bringing heroin addicts in for treatment deprives the cartels of their best high-volume customers. Legalizing pot puts them out of their most lucrative business. Using tax revenues from the legal sale of marijuana to pay for treatment completes the virtuous circle.

This virtuous circle can replace the vicious circle of the drug war. As odd as this sounds, we can fight heroin with marijuana.

(A member of the Providence Journal editorial board, Froma Harrop writes a nationally syndicated column from that city. She has written for such diverse publications as The New York Times, Harper's Bazaar and Institutional Investor.)

 

Last Updated on Wednesday, 31 December 1969 07:00

Hits: 396

Sanborn – The April Lakes Region Residential Sales Report

OK. Spring is here and I have to wonder what is going on with the real estate market. There were only 52 single family residential home sales in April at an average of $239,018. We had 62 sales in March and last April there were 77 sales at an average price of $299,681. We are definitely headed in the wrong direction as far as sales volume. There have been 224 sales so far this year compared to 248 for the first four months of 2013. That's not a huge difference as long as the trend doesn't continue. I don't think I will concede to blaming the shortfall on global warming, but I guess the extremely long, difficult winter could have something to do with it.

The good thing is that the average sales price is going up. For the first four months we averaged $297,698 compared to $242,367 in 2013. That most likely means that a greater number of higher priced homes are selling rather than any rise in overall home values.

Another good stat this month was that homes, on average, brought 99 percent of their asking price at the time of sale. But that's just one month. So far this year, sales prices have been averaging of 94 percent of the asking price (compared to 93 percent for the same period last year.) It should be noted that in both 2013 and 2014 the asking price at the time of sale averaged 5 percent lower than the original list price.

In some areas homes sold pretty quickly, too. The average time on market for the four sales in Alton was only 5 days last month! I decided to take a close look at what sold in Alton and see if I could get some insight to help me sell my listings quickly.

The least expensive sale was the home at 516 Alton Mtn Road which sold for the asking price of $65,000. It sold the same day it was put on the market. This property was actually a single wide manufactured home built in 1995 on a two acre lot. It has 1,000 square feet of space, 3 bedrooms, and two baths. The thing that really impressed me and opened my eyes to a new marketing strategy was that there are just two pictures on the MLS; the main picture was of the toilet and the other was of a very narrow hallway. I kid you not! It seems that this marketing approach is intended to make buyers so curious about the property that they are compelled to come see it and immediately purchase it. Yeah, I know, the agent likely had a buyer already in hand when she listed it, but would you use a toilet photo as the main picture regardless? The agent was from Rochester. Maybe they do things differently down there?

The next sale was at 58 Spring Street; this property was listed right at its assessed value of $85,900 and sold for $82,500 in just 1 day. No great surprise here, just a modest 1960's vintage, 1,000 square foot, five room, two bedroom cottage with lots of upside potential.

The third sale was a charming 1801 vintage cape style home on 5.8 acres at 407 Stockbridge Corner Road. This 1,973 square foot, three bedroom, two bath home has lots of character and some recent updates including a new septic system. It was listed for $175,000 and sold at full price after just 11 days on the market. It is assessed at $162,100. This was a pretty nice property for not a lot of money.

The last, and largest sale, was at 122 Smith Point Road in Alton which most people consider to be a suburb of Gilford. This 3,500 square foot, contemporary style, multi-level waterfront home has been very well maintained. It has three bedrooms, three baths, large kitchen, open concept living and dining area, plus a large deck with great views of the lake. It sits on a .47 acre nicely landscaped lot with bluestone patios, gardens, lawn, and 100 feet of water frontage. This property was listed at $979,000 and sold for $950,000 after 9 days on the market. It is assessed at $861,000. Nice house, good price, quick sale.

So last month in Alton we had a mobile home, a small cottage, an antique cape, and a nice waterfront all sell very quickly with two at full price and two very close to the asking price. It seems like the key here is to either price a property correctly or... just put one picture of the bathroom toilet on the MLS. Which way do you want to go?

Please feel free to visit www.lakesregionhome.com to learn more about the Lakes Region real estate market and comment on this article and others. Data was compiled using the Northern New England Real Estate MLS System as of 5/21/14. Roy Sanborn is a realtor at Four Seasons Sotheby's International Realty and can be reached at 603-455-0335.

Last Updated on Wednesday, 31 December 1969 07:00

Hits: 348

Froma Harrop - Don't privatize the veterans' hosptials

President Obama can do himself a big political favor this month by saying simply this: "I will not privatize the VA hospitals."

That's the bottom line for the current right-wing crusade mixing patriotic posturing with loathing of government in general and Obama specifically. We speak of allegations that a Phoenix hospital (and perhaps others) run by the Department of Veterans Affairs hid deadly delays for treatment by using secret waiting lists.

The theme is government can't do anything right. And if you're Rush Limbaugh, it's also running death panels for veterans. "There's nobody that has any real-world, private-sector experience running anything to do with health care or medical treatment or medical care," El Rushbo declared from happy orbit.

Actual veterans could not disagree more.

"We're against privatizing the VA system," Joe Davis, national spokesman for Veterans of Foreign Wars, told me in no uncertain terms. "To privatize the VA puts us on a waiting list with everyone else out in the United States."

You see, getting medical care can be rougher outside government-run programs than inside them, as contented veterans and Medicare beneficiaries repeatedly tell pollsters.

A 2004 RAND study determined that the VA system delivered higher-quality care than private hospitals on all measures except acute care. (They were even on acute care.) And the American Customer Satisfaction Index, run by the University of Michigan, found 85 percent of patients in VA hospitals satisfied with their care, versus 77 percent in private hospitals.

"The people who receive VA care by and large rave about it," the VFW's Davis said.

But that's no reason not to mess with it, right? In 2010, Ken Buck, Republican candidate for the U.S. Senate in Colorado, said privatization would make the hospitals "better run." Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney wanted to give veterans vouchers to shop for care in the private sector.

(Both later backed away from their proposals when veterans loudly objected.)
Now, the latest allegations — that the Phoenix VA Health Care System covered up long wait times by manipulating the waiting list — are serious. But they're still allegations. And so are reports that 40 or more veterans died as a result.

"The story has taken on its own truth," Davis said with exasperation in his voice.

Many in the media are taking the death toll number as gospel truth, but at least one probing reporter, Brian Skoloff of The Associated Press, probed into the sources of it. One was Dr. Samuel Foote, who, before retiring from the Phoenix hospital, was repeatedly reprimanded for taking Fridays off. Another employee raising the concerns had been fired last year and has a pending wrongful termination suit against the hospital.

"What we want is the (VA Office of Inspector General) report, and we know it won't come out until August," said Davis. "Do you want it good, or do you want it now?"

The hospital's administrators vehemently deny the allegations. Director Sharon Helman is now under police protection after receiving numerous death threats.

No surprise, given such hysterical and uncorroborated headlines as this one by CNN: "Veterans languish and die on a VA hospital's secret list."

Here's a sturdy spark to send the fringe right's manic hatred of government into high boil once again. Bernie Sanders, a Vermont independent and chairman of the Senate Veterans' Affairs Committee, summed up the situation nicely when he said: "What I don't want to see is this issue politicized by these same folks who don't like Social Security, they don't like Medicare, they don't like Medicaid, they don't like the Postal Service."

Too late, Bernie. Too late.

(A member of the Providence Journal editorial board, Froma Harrop writes a nationally syndicated column from that city. She has written for such diverse publications as The New York Times, Harper's Bazaar and Institutional Investor.)

Last Updated on Wednesday, 31 December 1969 07:00

Hits: 270

 
The Laconia Daily Sun - All Rights Reserved
Privacy Policy
Powered by BENN a division of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette

Login or Register

LOG IN