Our Future?

I think most Americans realize that Big Brother is getting to be a bit intrusive. Our computer searches are mined for advertising information, Alexa listens to our conversations, our government has been known to listen to our telephone conversations. This is not headed in a good direction. However, it gets even worse when you consider the fact that the next step will be modifying our behavior to fit some ideal created by someone who believes he has the right to control everyone. Not a pleasant thought. Think it’s too farfetched? An article posted at Wired on January 23 might change your mind.

The article begins:

A friend of mine, who runs a large television production company in the car-mad city of Los Angeles, recently noticed that his intern, an aspiring filmmaker from the People’s Republic of China, was walking to work.

When he offered to arrange a swifter mode of transportation, she declined. When he asked why, she explained that she “needed the steps” on her Fitbit to sign in to her social media accounts. If she fell below the right number of steps, it would lower her health and fitness rating, which is part of her social rating, which is monitored by the government. A low social rating could prevent her from working or traveling abroad.

China’s social rating system, which was announced by the ruling Communist Party in 2014, will soon be a fact of life for many more Chinese.

By 2020, if the Party’s plan holds, every footstep, keystroke, like, dislike, social media contact, and posting tracked by the state will affect one’s social rating.

Personal “creditworthiness” or “trustworthiness” points will be used to reward and punish individuals and companies by granting or denying them access to public services like health care, travel, and employment, according to a plan released last year by the municipal government of Beijing. High-scoring individuals will find themselves in a “green channel,” where they can more easily access social opportunities, while those who take actions that are disapproved of by the state will be “unable to move a step.”

We do an awful lot of business with China. When trade was opened with China, the idea was that our form of government and freedom would influence their government in the direction of freedom. Somehow, based on this story, I don’t think that is what has happened.

Please follow the link above to read the entire article. There is no way I can summarize all of it, but I would like to share a few more points.

The article continues:

Perhaps we are reading the wrong books. Instead of going back to Orwell for a sense of what a coming dystopia might look like, we might be better off reading We, which was written nearly a century ago by the Russian novelist Yevgeny Zamyatin. We is the diary of state mathematician D-503, whose experience of the highly disruptive emotion of love for I-330, a woman whose combination of black eyes, white skin, and black hair strike him as beautiful. This perception, which is also a feeling, draws him into a conspiracy against the centralized surveillance state.

The Only State, where We takes places, is ruled by a highly advanced mathematics of happiness, administered by a combination of programmers and machines.

The article concludes:

Beauty is the ultimate example of human un-freedom and un-reason, being a subjectivity that is rooted in our biology, yet at the same time rooted in external absolutes like mathematical ratios and the movement of time. As the critic Giovanni Basile writes in an extraordinarily perceptive critical essay, “The Algebra of Happiness,” the utopia implied by Zamyatin’s dystopia is “a world in which happiness is intertwined with a natural un-freedom that nobody imposes on anyone else: a different freedom from the one with which the Great Inquisitor protects mankind: a paradoxical freedom in which there is no ‘power’ if not in the nature of things, in music, in dance and in the harmony of mathematics.”

Against a centralized surveillance state that imposes a motionless and false order and an illusory happiness in the name of a utilitarian calculus of “justice,” Basile concludes, Zamyatin envisages a different utopia: “In fact, only within the ‘here and now’ of beauty may the equation of happiness be considered fully verified.” Human beings will never stop seeking beauty, Zamyatin insists, because they are human. They will reject and destroy any attempt to reorder their desires according to the logic of machines.

A national or global surveillance network that uses beneficent algorithms to reshape human thoughts and actions in ways that elites believe to be just or beneficial to all mankind is hardly the road to a new Eden. It’s the road to a prison camp. The question now—as in previous such moments—is how long it will take before we admit that the riddle of human existence is not the answer to an equation. It is something that we must each make for ourselves, continually, out of our own materials, in moments whose permanence is only a dream.

This is scary–not scary enough to get me to get rid of Alexa–but scary.

A Workplace Culture That Discourages Pregnancy

Yesterday The Washington Examiner posted an article about the way Planned Parenthood treats its pregnant employees. I suppose it is no surprise to anyone that Planned Parenthood does not really support the idea of pregnancy.

The article reports:

The New York Times revealed in a bombshell report that Planned Parenthood treats their pregnant employees unfairly to the point of discrimination. This isn’t surprising, given Planned Parenthood’s clear dislike of pregnancy. However, it is still disturbing. It’s also still more proof that while Congress and the White House enjoyed a GOP majority, they should have defunded the behemoth organization that has been receiving taxpayer-funded subsidies despite illegally profiting from the sale of aborted baby parts and now discriminating against its own pregnant employees.

On Thursday, the New York Times published a piece describing complaints anyone paying attention to Planned Parenthood’s company “values” could have predicted. Via interviews with “more than a dozen current and former employees,” the New York Times revealed, despite projecting an image of healthcare and respect for all women, the abortion business has been subject to a dozen lawsuits since 2013. The complaints range from denying pregnant employees rest periods, lunch breaks, and overtime pay to other forms of mistreatment. Even though Planned Parenthood regularly advocates for government-mandated healthcare, they themselves don’t offer paid maternity leave.

The major source of revenue for Planned Parenthood is abortion. A pregnant employee is someone who chose not to get an abortion. Why wouldn’t Planned Parenthood treat them badly?

The article concludes:

The report reveals two important things at odds in society right now: First, the reality of how difficult it is for women to follow through with a progressive, feminist agenda which says women can work, have babies, and resume life like neither are in conflict. Both are still hard, and no matter how many waves of feminism American society observes, it may always be hard because these two ideas are simply difficult to achieve seamlessly. Second, it reveals that even the most progressive of feminist, flag-waving companies like Planned Parenthood, are often hypocrites.

While it was disturbing to see just how many pro-woman companies mistreat their own female employees as a result of being pregnant, the only organization in this story taxpayers fund — and quite robustly — is Planned Parenthood. It offers still more proof, as if we needed any, that the GOP should have defunded the organization when it had the chance. Unfortunately, it simply was not a priority. That is a grievous mistake for the women who work there, as well as the thousands of babies aborted every year.

At some point society is going to have to admit that men and women are different. Generally speaking (there are exceptions), they have different roles in society. Women have babies. It is difficult to manage a high-pressure job and a family. I know it seems unfair, but women in many cases have to choose between the two. If a women is in a financial position to hire a nanny, she will have a much easier time balancing home and career, but few women have the financial means to hire a nanny. It is unfortunate, however, that some companies do not make basic allowances for pregnant workers and mothers.

A Step In The Right Direction

The Washington Free Beacon is reporting today that the Michigan Department of Health & Human Services reinstated work requirements for people who receive taxpayer-funded food assistance. The change in the law will impact about 70,000 people in 69 Michigan counties.

The article reports:

Wheaton (Michigan Department of Health & Human Services Public Information Officer Bob Wheaton) said that these work requirements had been in effect before 2002, but were lifted because of high unemployment. With the economy improving, Wheaton said, the MDHH decided it was time to reinstate the policy.

Holly Wetzel, communications coordinator at the Michigan-based, free-market think tank the Mackinac Center, supports reinstating work requirements.

“Work requirements benefit the individual, taxpayers and the economy because they realign incentives within our welfare system that encourage, reward, and restore the dignity of work,” Wetzel told Watchdog.org.

Former Democratic President Bill Clinton incorporated work requirements in his welfare reform package in the 1990s, which Wetzel said were a great success. These policies, she said, preserve the food stamp system and ensure access to the most needy while incentivizing a sustainable lifestyle. Along with a more sustainable food stamp system, she said she expects that employers will see “a more vibrant and enterprising labor market,” which will help them fill positions in an economy that has brought more jobs to the country.

“[Food stamps] exist to help the truly vulnerable,” Wetzel said.

In addition to food stamp work requirements, Republican Gov. Rick Snyder is currently seeking to add work requirements to his Medicaid expansion program, called the Healthy Michigan plan. If Snyder succeeds, this will have the same work requirements as are currently required for food stamp recipients.

Putting a work requirement on food stamps provides incentive for those receiving food stamps to find employment. The fact that the state is referring people to programs where they can receive job training is also helpful. Part of human nature is not to appreciate things that you didn’t have to work for. Putting a work requirement of public assistance and training people for jobs helps the recipients of food stamps climb out of the poverty they are in. This worked in the 1990’s when it was first tried, and it will work successfully again.

The Law Of Unintended Consequences

America is one of the most generous countries in the world. When natural disasters occur, we send aid. When Americans are in need, we help them. Sometimes we are taken advantage of because of our generosity, and Americans have accumulated a lot of debt because of our generosity. Some aspects of that generosity may be beginning to change.

The American Thinker posted an article today about impact of some of President Trump’s policies on welfare programs.

The article reports:

Welfare bureaucrats are putting the scream on, with news that President Trump’s efforts to enforce U.S. immigration law are incentivizing illegal aliens to drop out of assorted welfare programs.

Get a load of this alarmism from the welfare administrative mafias quoted by Politico:

Immigrants [sic] are turning down government help to buy infant formula and healthy food for their young children because they’re afraid the Trump administration could bar them from getting a green card if they take federal aid.

The article concludes:

The bureaucrats and do-gooders quoted all admit that they aren’t actually entirely sure why the Women, Infants, and Children program has seen its numbers drop from 7.4 million to 6.8 million since President Trump took office.  There is a dismissive note about the “improving economy” but no recognition that the sudden availability of jobs in the Trump economy tends to have a large effect on whether people (legal and illegal) stay on welfare rolls.  For a lot of the poor, the promise of a job with the prospect of higher wages and an improved standard of living – and no government supervision, no need to keep heads down and incomes low – is preferable to any state welfare, so they’re taking the jobs and running.  Jobs in that much dismissed “improving economy” are likely the biggest reason the numbers of welfare recipients, both legal and illegal, are going down.  This, by the way, is correlated with falling food stamp rolls (illegals supposedly can’t get those) and declines in other welfare populations in the Trump economy.

The quoted bureaucrats do say that, because they have fielded inquiries from illegals, those same people who supposedly aren’t bright enough to manage a voter ID card yet are amazingly cognizant on the minutiae of maintaining the exact qualifications for welfare, and who want to make sure that being a public charge won’t hurt their green card chances.

What this shows is that the open borders lobby and the welfare industrial complex are amazingly integrated, and President Trump’s effort to restore rule of law at the border and protect taxpayer assets is a threat to their money interests and raison d’être.  What it also shows is that President Trump can’t keep pushing hard enough on this.  Striking out at the money trail has always been a surefire effort to end corrupt regimes and, by extension, corrupt bureaucratic empires.

I don’t want to see anyone’s child go hungry or not get the medical services they need, but there is a message in this. People are coming to America to take advantage of our welfare programs–they want to take from America, not contribute to America. Preferential treatment should be given to people who want to contribute to America. We need to remember that although we are a nation of immigrants, early immigrants did not have welfare programs they could join. They were expected to work hard to achieve the American Dream. That was the vision of America–it was a land of opportunity, not a land of the free lunch.

The Real Unemployment Story Under President Obama

This is a chart of the labor participation rate since 2004:

The chart is from an article posted Friday at Doug Ross @ Journal. As you can see from the chart, the rate was a pretty solid 66 percent for the years 2004 through 2008. It began to drop in 2009 and has continued downward. The current low unemployment rate was obtained by not counting the people who have dropped out of the labor force.  As you can see, there have been a lot of them since 2009. The bottom line here is simple–the economy is not recovering at this time. It is limping along and will be further limited by the President’s war on coal and other environmental decisions.

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It’s Not The Unemployment Numbers–It’s The Number Of People Who Have Dropped Out Of The Labor Force

Today’s Daily Caller reported that the percentage of Americans in the labor force has reached a record low–62.8 percent. According to the article, a record high 91,541,000 Americans did not participate in the labor force this October. Since January 2009, more than 11 million people have dropped out of the labor force.
The article concludes:

The economic blog Zero Hedge notes that at the current rate, the number of people not participating in the labor force could exceed those working in about four years.

This is unlike any economic recovery from a recession we have ever had.

The Unintended Consequences Of Accountability

This article has two sources, an article in the U.K. Telegraph posted on March 30 and an article posted at Real Clear Politics yesterday.

As the British government struggles to keep pace with the expenses involved in providing a safety net for its citizens, some government programs are being phased out and combined with other programs. One of the programs under scrutiny is the sickness benefit program.

Iain Duncan Smith, the Work and Pensions Secretary. is attempting to combine dozens of different out-of-work benefits into a single payment with the aim of ensuring an individual is always better off working than collecting benefits. As part of that process, there is an assessment of the people on the sickness benefit program to determine whether or not they are fit to work. Some 878,300 people on that program decided to come off the program rather than submit to the assessment. We need to learn from this experience.

The article at Real Clear Politics looks at disability payments in America:

In 1960, when vastly more Americans were involved in physical labor of some kind, 0.65% of workforce participants between the ages of 18 and 64 were receiving Social Security disability insurance payments. Fifty years later, in a much healthier America that number has grown to 5.6%.

In 1960, 134 Americans were working for every officially recognized disabled worker. Five decades later that ratio fell to roughly 16 to 1.

I am sure that in most cases disability payments are warranted. In fact, I am sure that everyone who is disabled does not necessarily look disabled. I can think of one example in particular where a person received severe neck damage in a work-related car accident and on some days appears to be perfectly normal. On other days, that person can barely move. Unfortunately, there is no way of predicting which days are which. However, I do think there are people among us who would rather ride in the wagon than help pull it. The problem is that at this point we have too few people pulling the wagon and too many people sitting in the wagon.

Government workers have no incentive to cut disability payments–their jobs depend on administering these programs–if you cut the programs, you might have to cut the number of administrators. Government spending has become like the hamster on the exercise wheel–it keeps moving (and growing) but nothing is actually being accomplished.

If we are serious about ever balancing the federal (and states) budget, we need to take a serious look at who is receiving payments from that government and what the basis for those payments is. Until we are willing to help people enter the workforce instead of helping them enter generations of dependency on government, we will not solve our financial problems.

There Were Some Things Left Out In The Unemployment Numbers

Yesterday Breitbart posted some of the facts the media seems to have missed in reporting on the jobless numbers this week. The article quotes James Pethokoukis at the American Enterprise Institute (AEI):

The labor force participation rate fell again as potential workers stopped looking for work.  … [I]f the LFP rate was where it was in January 2009, the unemployment rate would be 10.8%. …

The share of the unemployed out of work for 27 weeks or longer increased to 40.2% from 38.1% in January.

The employment-population ratio is exactly where it was a year ago, at an almost rock-bottom 58.6%.

This really doesn’t look like much of an economic recovery to me.

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