In a modern social insurance state, all of us are both contributors and beneficiaries.
We pay taxes. We receive schooling, Medicare, and Social Security. We are eligible for Medicaid, food stamps, unemployment insurance, low-income housing vouchers, and so on and on.
When the United States chooses to admit somebody as a resident, it accepts a fiscal bargain. The newcomer promises to contribute; the newcomer is entitled to receive.
How will that bargain balance?
The Washington Post reports on an intriguing new study on "ultra-conserved words," holdovers from our common ancestral tongue:
The traditional view is that words can’t survive for more than 8,000 to 9,000 years. Evolution, linguistic “weathering” and the adoption of replacements from other languages eventually drive ancient words to extinction, just like the dinosaurs of the Jurassic era.
A new study, however, suggests that’s not always true. A team of researchers has come up with a list of two dozen “ultraconserved words” that have survived 150 centuries. It includes some predictable entries: “mother,” “not,” “what,” “to hear” and “man.” It also contains surprises: “to flow,” “ashes” and “worm.”
The existence of the long-lived words suggests there was a “proto-Eurasiatic” language that was the common ancestor to about 700 contemporary languages that are the native tongues of more than half the world’s people.
Mother Jones' Timothy Murphy, in an article wondering where the Boston terrorist will be buried, recounts how cities have historically dealth with society's least beloved:
No cemetery in the city of Chicago would allow the four men hanged for their role in the 1886 Haymarket Riot, in which seven police officers and four civilians were killed in a bombing, to be buried within the city limits. Instead, they were relegated to a plot in the suburb of Forest Park. Leon Czolgosz, the anarchist who assassinated President William McKinley, was dissolved in sulphuric acid, Breaking Bad-style, to prevent admirers from visiting his grave. Lee Harvey Oswald's corpse was flipped from Dallas cemeteries like a hot potato before finally finding a resting place in Fort Worth.
Chris Christie, the most popular Republican in the United States, finally decided being morbidly obese was unacceptable. Good.
Dave Kotinsky/Getty Images
As the Associated Press reports, Christie had a restrictive band attached to his stomach back in February. He's already lost a reported 40 pounds, and he's projected to lose considerably more. (Given that he was somewhere between 300 and 350 pounds, he's probably got a ways to go.)
This should be cheered for one basic reason: as a huge public figure, Christie's decision to lose weight pushes back at the public health crisis of the 21st century. The United States has had its share of fat presidents, but in today's America, we need leaders who provide a positive example of personal health. The fact that Christie clearly views being fat as an obstacle to the White House is quite heartening, and his example will help show young kids in America that obesity is not a permanent, unchangeable affliction.
Will the Tea Party - the reactionary anti-spending movement that spawned figures like Ted Cruz, Mike Lee, and Rand Paul - be willing to accept blue and purple state Republicans who have a shot at winning elections?
In Ohio, Tea Party figures want that answer to be a resounding NO.
Ohio Republican Governor John Kasich (Scott Olson/Getty Images)
As Joe Hallet reported this morning for the Columbus Dispatch, long frustrated conservative activists are exploring forming a new party.
The Wall Street Journal reports that coal is not finished yet, not at least in the Midwest.
Last year, overall coal production in the U.S. fell 7% from a year earlier, with the biggest decline in Wyoming's Powder River Basin and in Central Appalachia mines of West Virginia and eastern Kentucky. But in the Illinois Basin, which includes southern Illinois and Indiana and western Kentucky, coal output rose by 10% last year, and the region over the next several years is projected to surpass Central Appalachia in coal output for the first time ever. New technologies are the primary reason for the boom. The Midwest boasts easily accessible deposits of coal that tend to be thicker than the more depleted eastern coal fields. Mining companies long ignored coal in Illinois and surrounding states because of its high sulfur content, but with utilities adding new equipment called scrubbers that remove sulfur to meet emissions standards, they can burn Illinois Basin coal more efficiently. It costs roughly half as much to dig coal out of the ground here as it does in Central Appalachia, industry analysts say
From my CNN column: why jobless Americans shouldn't expect any help from their government. Get well, soon, America -- you are on your own.
The U.S. economy added 165,000 jobs in April. That's not a bad result, except for this fact: Technically speaking, the economy has been in recovery since the summer of 2009. Yet after nearly four years of economic expansion, nearly 12 million people remain unemployed.
If we continue to add jobs every month at the April rate, not until the fall of 2014 will we again have as many people working as we did back in January 2008.
And of course, the American workforce has expanded since January 2008 as young people reach working age and as new immigrants arrive. At present job creation trends, it will take until 2021 to drive the unemployment rate down to a rate that is considered "full employment."
Another Cinco de Mayo anniversary:
On May 5, 1877, Sitting Bull led his warriors to refuge in Canada after the Battle of Little Big Horn. What happened next …
In the fall of 1876, Colonel Nelson A. Miles met with Sitting Bull at a neutral location and tried to talk him into surrendering and relocating to a reservation. Although anxious for peace, Sitting Bull refused. As the victor of the Battle of the Little Big Horn, Sitting Bull felt he should be dictating terms to Miles, not the other way around.
Angered by what he saw as Sitting Bull's foolish obstinacy, Miles stepped up his campaign of harassment against the chief and his people. Sitting Bull's band continued to roam about Montana in search of increasingly scarce buffalo, but the constant travel, lack of food, and military pressure began to take a toll. On this day in 1877, Sitting Bull abandoned his traditional homeland in Montana and led his people north across the border into Canada.
Enough about Niall Ferguson; let's talk about me. Twenty years ago, I wrote a critique/appreciation of JM Keynes for the New Criterion. The uproar over Ferguson's off-the-cuff quip sent me back to reread it. Parts stand up reasonably well; others not so much. Submitted for your inspection.
Keynes well understood the attractions of Communism to the affluent young. “When Cambridge undergraduates take their inevitable trip to Bolshiedom, are they disillusioned when they find it all dreadfully uncomfortable? Of course not. That is what they are looking for.” In his liberal way, however, he found the conversion to Marxism comical rather than horrifying.
As Keynes’s funny but deadly animadversions on Marxism suggest, much of the impact of his ideas originated in his remarkable personal charm. In a small society like that of interwar England, personality counted. And Keynes’s was evidently delightful. He treated his Bloomsbury friends with extraordinary generosity, generosity that was seldom returned. Cambridge followed his ideas at least in part because it liked him so much. It makes one wonder whether the course of modern economic life would have been different had Ludwig von Mises not been such a pedantic and irascible old man, or if Hayek had been quicker with a joke.
This weekend we posted an item here on Gov. Rick Perry and the University of Texas. The author has accepted a position as a law clerk, and on reflection decided that the expression of such political opinions was inconsistent with his work commitments. The article has been removed.
Fred Bauer writes at National Review on a part of comprehensive immigration reform that isn't getting the notoriety it deserves, the guest worker program:
After Mitt Romney’s defeat in November 2012, many on the right, including Senator Marco Rubio (R., Fla.), came to the conclusion that the Republican party needed to become a party of middle-class restoration, economic opportunity, and upward mobility. This conclusion has been complemented by a growing recognition that the stagnation of opportunity and the undermining of the middle class pose serious threats to the future of small-government conservatism.
If that is the case, a guest-worker program could cause big problems for the GOP. Many of the institutions that would be central for administering this program are premised on the notion of bureaucratic control of the free market. The regulatory structure of a guest-worker program, combined with birthright citizenship, could place millions more in legal and cultural gray areas. And the expansion of such programs could put further pressure on the incomes and employment prospects of both native-born citizens and permanent residents. This guest-worker bill could at once deter Americans from working in the fields of the future and make life even harder for those at the economic margins. The precise details of the Gang of Eight’s guest-worker program clearly need more explication, but there might also be a broader theoretical difficulty with a Republican embrace of it.
Class divisions are hardening in America, and the reasons may go deeper than the economic. Earlier in April, the New York Times reported on the lifelong effects of the simple act of talking to your baby. One of the most important changes of our time has been the trend since about 1980 of upper-class families to invest more time in their children even as lower-class families have invested less.
Children whose families were on welfare heard about 600 words per hour. Working-class children heard 1,200 words per hour, and children from professional families heard 2,100 words. By age 3, a poor child would have heard 30 million fewer words in his home environment than a child from a professional family. And the disparity mattered: the greater the number of words children heard from their parents or caregivers before they were 3, the higher their IQ and the better they did in school. TV talk not only didn’t help, it was detrimental.
Hart and Risley later wrote that children’s level of language development starts to level off when it matches that of their parents — so a language deficit is passed down through generations. They found that parents talk much more to girls than to boys (perhaps because girls are more sociable, or because it is Mom who does most of the care, and parents talk more to children of their gender). This might explain why young, poor boys have particular trouble in school.
The doctor who led the United States to Osama bin Laden's lair still languishes in a Pakistani prison - a shocking revelation of the Pakistan government's true orientation and of America's diplomatic weakness. Newsweek offers a powerful report on the enraging case of Dr. Shakeel Afridi. Don't miss it.
Add "being swallowed by a hippo" to the list of things to avoid in Africa:
I reached over to grab his outstretched hand but as our fingers were about to touch, I was engulfed in darkness. There was no transition at all, no sense of approaching danger. It was as if I had suddenly gone blind and deaf.
I was aware that my legs were surrounded by water, but my top half was almost dry. I seemed to be trapped in something slimy. There was a terrible, sulphurous smell, like rotten eggs, and a tremendous pressure against my chest. My arms were trapped but I managed to free one hand and felt around – my palm passed through the wiry bristles of the hippo's snout. It was only then that I realised I was underwater, trapped up to my waist in his mouth.
I wriggled as hard as I could, and in the few seconds for which he opened his jaws, I managed to escape. I swam towards Evans, but the hippo struck again, dragging me back under the surface. I'd never heard of a hippo attacking repeatedly like this, but he clearly wanted me dead.
The most important article of the weekend was Byron York's astute analysis of election results to debunk the promise that immigration reform will save the Republican party. Read the article in full to absorb the news in all its starkness:
In 2012, President Obama famously won 71 percent of the Hispanic vote to Mitt Romney's 27 percent. If all other factors remained the same, how large a percentage of the Hispanic vote would Romney have had to win to capture the White House? …
According to the Times' calculator, Romney would have had to win 73 percent of the Hispanic vote to prevail in 2012. Which suggests that Romney, and Republicans, had bigger problems than Hispanic voters.
The most serious of those problems was that Romney was not able to connect with white voters who were so turned off by the campaign that they abandoned the GOP and in many cases stayed away from the polls altogether. Recent reports suggest as many as 5 million white voters simply stayed home on Election Day. If they had voted at the same rate they did in 2004, even with the demographic changes since then, Romney would have won. Likewise, the white vote is so large that an improvement of 4 points -- going from 60 percent to 64 percent of those whites who did vote -- would have won the race for Romney.