What Ails the White Working Class?

At City Journal, Aaron Renn has published a review of J.D. Vance’s Hillbilly Elegy. It’s interesting throughout, but I found the following excerpt particularly insightful:

For the Left, the unpleasant truth is what Vance makes clear if not explicit: the sexual revolution has been a disaster for the working class. No-fault divorce and the diminishment of the stigmas attached to casual sex and single or divorced motherhood have been a liberating dream—or at least a manageable reality—for educated urbanites. But these changes have been a nightmare for the children growing up in a white working-class world, where broken homes and a string of romantic and sexual partners for Mom is the new normal. “Of all the things that I hated about my childhood,” Vance writes, “nothing compared to the revolving door of father figures.” …

Vance overcame his domestic instability. Many others don’t. Harvard economist Raj Chetty found that when it comes to explaining the variance in upward social mobility across so-called commuting zones, “the strongest and most robust predictor is the fraction of children with single parents.” That observation is likely to prove about as popular among liberals as the Moynihan Report.

By Vance’s own account, the confidence, discipline, and work ethic he acquired in the Marine Corps enabled him to overcome a difficult background. But the Marines don’t instill order into the disordered lives of recruits by inspiration or encouragement; they impose it by force. Historically, de facto legal and social controls limited personally and socially destructive choices in many working-class communities (if not Appalachian ones). These norms were undoubtedly repressive and often cruel, but so are drill sergeants. The elimination of these norms—at the behest of the educated, not working, classes—has corrosively undermined the supports that once sustained functional working class communities, particularly when combined with the rise in college attendance that has sucked out the most talented, like Vance, and routed them to metro or neighborhood enclaves of the similarly successful…. 

The major form of social control that we have retained with full vigor is the criminal justice system. So today, problems previously handled through other means now fall into the lap of police and judges, with predictable challenges. We have continued to use traditional social-control mechanisms for some purposes: promulgating gay rights, reducing the use of the Confederate flag, and so on. Until we’re willing to re-embrace similar means to restore a semblance of family stability in poor and working-class communities—white or otherwise—too many children will never stand a chance.

National review tackles N.C. voter ID law

The latest print edition of National Review devotes the following blurb to North Carolina’s 2013 election law:

In 2013, North Carolina passed a law requiring voters to show a government-issued photo ID, ending same-day registration, and shortening the length of early voting from 17 days to ten. The Left rent its garments — Hillary Clinton called it an “assault on voting rights” — and foretold mass disenfranchisement. It never happened. In 2010, before North Carolina’s law, 38.5 percent of blacks in North Carolina voted in the year’s midterms; in 2014, with the law in effect, it was 41.1 percent. Nonetheless, the Fourth Circuit has swatted down the law, going out of its way to ignore evidence, impugn the motives of North Carolina’s legislature, and concoct specious legal rationales to reach its verdict. The Left’s ultimate quarry is Shelby County v. Holder, the 2013 Supreme Court decision that made North Carolina’s law possible by striking down part of Section 4 of the Voting Rights Act. That section required jurisdictions that had a history of voter suppression as of the early 1970s to receive federal permission for any changes to election procedures. Given the strong provisions that remain in place to protect voting rights, pretending that the decision began a downhill march back to literacy tests and poll taxes is sheer demagoguery. Voter-ID laws have longstanding legal precedent, broad popular support, and ample justification. That is why the Left is turning to the courts, the self-appointed legislatures of last resort, to quash them.

NC’s ACT scores unchanged

While the national ACT scores dropped slightly, the percentage of North Carolina students who met college readiness benchmarks in English, math, reading, and science remained at 18 percent.  The percentage of students who met college readiness benchmarks in each of the four subjects also did not change from 2015.

(Click on the graphic to enlarge.)

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Say Yes hiccups

Surprise—-the Say Yes Guilford program is experiencing a few hiccups— much to the angst of parents sending their kids off to college:

Haven’t seen your Say Yes money yet? The program’s local director has three words for you:

Please be patient.

That’s because Say Yes Guilford — the new scholarship program for graduates of Guilford County’s public schools — won’t be sending money to colleges until after the schools’ payment deadlines.

Normally, students who miss the deadline for paying their college bills find themselves no longer enrolled in the classes they picked. But Say Yes has worked out a payment arrangement with the four-year universities and the community colleges that local students will attend this fall.

“We have done our best to make sure students aren’t dropped from classes because of nonpayment of tuition,” Mary Vigue, the executive director of Say Yes Guilford, said in a telephone interview Monday.

Interesting that Say Yes was hailed as the greatest thing to happen to Guilford County in a long time but now suddenly is in hurry and wait mode.

Why the concerted fight against voter ID? Here’s one possibility

Joe Schoffstall reports for the Washington Free Beacon on one factor that appears to be driving the nationwide fight against sensible voter ID requirements.

A top priority of liberal billionaire George Soros is to enlarge the U.S. electorate by 10 million voters by 2018, according to leaked documents.

The plan to grow the electorate by millions of voters was discussed during a May 2014 board meeting of the Open Society Foundations, a liberal grant-making group founded by Soros. A 220-page guide detailing the plan was among more than 2,500 hacked Soros documents released by DC Leaks, which publishes documents from influential officials around the world.

The guide covers strategies and tactics the group will employ in the United States from 2015 to 2018. The top goals listed by the guide are to “advance electoral reform” and “combat suppression.”

“The following four goals form the scaffolding of U.S. Programs’ work,” the guide states. “1. An American democracy strengthened through increased meaningful participation, inclusive practice, and accountability.” The third strategic goal expands upon this, calling for “Full political, economic, and civic participation of immigrants and communities of color by dismantling the barriers and strengthening the conduits to opportunity.”

Later, the guide discusses expanding the electorate by “at least 10 million voters” in the United States. This would be accomplished “by lowering barriers to voter registration through the various forms of modernization and increased ballot access while sustaining and expanding the franchise by establishing strong protections against vote suppression, denial and dilution.”

An Open Society Foundations spokesperson affirmed the group’s interest in voter turnout.

“The Open Society Foundations supports efforts to encourage wider participation in U.S. elections, and opposes measures used to try to suppress voter participation,” the spokesperson said via email.

The leaked documents help explain why Soros has quietly funded efforts to battle voter identification laws and target Democratic-trending voters for registration.

Soros began supporting challenges to voter ID laws in 2014.

Walter Williams challenges attacks on free trade

Walter Williams explores in a Human Events column the real impact of free trade on American jobs.

It is true that the number of manufacturing jobs in the United States has been in steep decline for almost a half-century, but manufacturing employment disguises the true story of American manufacturing. U.S. manufacturing output has increased by almost 40 percent. Annual value added by U.S. factories has reached a record $2.4 trillion. To put that in perspective, if our manufacturing sector were a separate nation, it would be the seventh richest nation on the globe.

Daniel Griswold’s Los Angeles Times article tells the story: “Globalization isn’t killing factory jobs. Trade is actually why manufacturing is up 40 percent.” Griswold is senior research fellow and co-director of the Program on the American Economy and Globalization at George Mason University-based Mercatus Center. He says what has changed in recent decades is that our factories produce fewer shirts, shoes, toys and tables. Instead, America’s 21st-century manufacturing sector is dominated by petroleum refining, pharmaceuticals, plastics, fabricated metals, machinery, computers and other electronics, motor vehicles and other transportation equipment, and aircraft and aerospace equipment.

Griswold suggests that political anger about lost manufacturing jobs should be aimed at technology, not trade. According to a recent study by the Center for Business and Economic Research at Ball State University, productivity growth caused 85 percent of the job losses in manufacturing from 2000 to 2010, a period that saw 5.6 million factory jobs disappear. In that same period, international trade accounted for a mere 13 percent of job losses.

Manufacturing job loss is a worldwide phenomenon. Charles Kenny, writing in Bloomberg, “Why Factory Jobs Are Shrinking Everywhere,” points out manufacturing employment has fallen in Europe and Korea and “one of the largest losers of manufacturing jobs has been China.”

While job loss can be traumatic for the individual who loses his job, for the nation job loss often indicates economic progress. In 1790, farmers were 90 percent of the U.S. labor force. By 1900, about 41 percent of our labor force was employed in agriculture. Today, less than 3 percent of Americans are employed in agriculture. What would Donald Trump or Hillary Clinton have done in the face of this precipitous loss of agricultural jobs? They might have outlawed all of the technological advances in science and machinery that have made our farmers the world’s most productive and capable of producing the world’s cheapest food.

Shocker! Federal department failing to get its house (pun intended) in order

Kathryn Watson of the Daily Caller details the latest evidence of problems at the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development.

Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) officials have ignored 63 financial management recommendations from Congress’ investigative arm since 2012 and only half-heartedly followed many more, resulting in the $43 billion agency’s books to be all but useless.

Things have gotten so bad at HUD so rapidly, that auditors who found only one “material weakness” in the department’s accounting in 2012 found nine in 2015, according to a Government Accountability Office (GAO) report published Monday.

Housing Secretary Julian Castro, who has been at HUD’s helm during much of its slide into financial disrepair, was prominently mentioned prior to the Democratic National Convention as a potential running-mate for Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton.

“The Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) has struggled to resolve persistent management challenges, in part because it has not consistently incorporated requirements and key practices identified by GAO to help ensure effective management into its operations,” GAO said. “In addition, HUD’s past remedial actions were not always effective because they were not sustained.” …

… The report — drawing from 15 years of GAO and HUD Office of Inspector General (IG) audits — particularly faulted HUD officials for failing to fix seven of eight financial accountability recommendations, and neglecting to dedicate staff members or policies to preventing waste, fraud and abuse.

GAO’s concern for HUD’s financial state surrounded poor audits. Auditors found more “material weaknesses” with each passing year; the number jumped from one in fiscal year 2012 to nine in fiscal year 2015. HUD’s books, which auditors gave a “clean” opinion for 13 consecutive years until 2013, were in such bad shape in 2014 and 2015 that auditors couldn’t issue an opinion on them.

GAO also criticized HUD for neglecting its oversight duties. The department “has not formalized key practices for program oversight and evaluation,” or “formally designated entities to manage fraud risk,” GAO said. HUD’s complicated structure, consisting of thousands of local housing authorities and contractors and dozens of programs, makes it ripe for waste and fraud, GAO said.

More money for useful research, less for junk science

Henry Miller and Jeff Stier explain at National Review Online why Congress should exercise greater scrutiny of federal funding for scientific research.

When Congress meddles in how federal agencies set research priorities and disburse grants, the scientific community is, understandably, distraught. But Congress is responsible for rooting out waste, fraud, and abuse at federal agencies, which sets up a fundamental conflict.

The administration’s spending should come under special scrutiny when bureaucrats claim they don’t have enough money to protect public health; while complaining of lack of funds, bureaucrats are squandering already allocated funds on research that is the subject of inter-agency squabbles.

In a concerted campaign, administration officials have bashed Congress for failing to provide funds needed to respond to the Zika-virus outbreak. …

… With NIH and several of its HHS siblings crying poverty, Congress should exercise its oversight function and ask how NIH is spending the rest of its budget and what guides those priorities.

To be sure, politicians should not make decisions about individual grant proposals, but they are responsible for oversight of federal agencies: setting overall priorities; combating waste, fraud and abuse; and putting a stop to inappropriate intransigence.

Especially when research appears to be flawed and to have a policy agenda, the Congress should certainly be involved. But some federal bureaucrats seem to disagree.