Comey is a disgrace to the FBI

This is very sad since I knew Jim Comey in college, and was one of his staunchest defenders in the early days of his tenure at the FBI.

The appearance of fired and disgraced FBI Director James Comey before two congressional committees Friday is a reminder of his brief but profoundly disappointing tenure leading the FBI – the outstanding law enforcement agency where I served for 24 years.

Unfortunately, members of the House Judiciary Committee and the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee were unable to get satisfactory answers from Comey regarding his illegal actions and violations of longstanding FBI and Justice Department regulations and procedures.

The chairmen of the two committees released a 235-page transcript Saturday of their interview with Comey.

According to a statement issued by the office of Oversight Committee Chairman Trey Gowdy, R-S.C., Comey said “I don’t remember” 71 times, “I don’t know” 166 times, and “I don’t recall” eight times during his interview.

Comey flat-out refused to answer some questions dealing with the investigation now led by Special Counsel Robert Mueller of Russian interference in the 2016 presidential election.

“To the extent, I recall facts developed during our investigation of Russian interference and the potential connection of Americans, I think that’s a question that the FBI doesn’t want me answering,” Comey said in response to a question.

Comey’s record of lawbreaking and violations dealt with prosecution judgments, media leaks, the theft of government records and the conduct of objective investigations.


When FBI agents hit the street to conduct
an investigation – and especially when
trying to persuade people to provide
needed information – their greatest asset
is the respect and credibility of the FBI
as an institution and the reputation of
FBI agents for fairness and impartiality.

Juries that base their verdicts on FBI
evidence and testimony trust that the
scales were not tipped by the personal
biases or political considerations of FBI
agents and officials.

Unfortunately, the actions of Comey
and his inner circle caused too many
Americans to question the
core values of the FBI as an institution.


It’s a tragedy in that Comey and his former inner circle – the now infamous troika of fired FBI Deputy Director Andrew McCabe, fired FBI agent Peter Strzok and former FBI lawyer Lisa Page – have attempted to cloak themselves in the FBI’s rich tradition of fidelity, bravery, and integrity.

In reality, these four former FBI officials have done more to hinder the daily work of the 35,000 selfless and hardworking men and women of the FBI than anyone in the storied agency’s history.

As a proud veteran of the FBI, it pains me to hear from friends, associates and colleagues who now question the FBI’s impartiality and motives in conducting sensitive investigations.

Unfortunately, no one can blame people for being skeptical of the FBI in light of the excruciating, Trump-hating texts during the 2016 presidential election campaign between Strzok and Page (who were engaged in an extramarital affair at the time), and following Comey’s well-publicized anti-Trump comments.

The former FBI director has written a book, given numerous media interviews, and used social media to bash President Trump, and urged Americans to “vote Democrat” before the midterm elections in November.

On top of this, there have been stark revelations in the Justice Department inspector general’s reports concerning former Deputy Director McCabe’s lies and leaks under the direct tutelage of Comey, who tried to make his own lies and leaks seem virtuous.

When FBI agents hit the street to conduct an investigation – and especially when trying to persuade people to provide needed information – their greatest asset is the respect and credibility of the FBI as an institution and the reputation of FBI agents for fairness and impartiality.

Juries that base their verdicts on FBI evidence and testimony trust that the scales were not tipped by the personal biases or political considerations of FBI agents and officials.

Unfortunately, the actions of Comey and his inner circle caused too many Americans to question the core values of the FBI as an institution.

It is out of total respect for the finest law enforcement and intelligence organization in the world and outstanding professionals that many former FBI executives – including me – have broken tradition and publicly criticized Comey and his troika for their misconduct, which can’t be disputed.

First, as the Justice Department inspector general found, Comey was insubordinate and violated department rules in playing the role of investigator, prosecutor, and judge in publicly exonerating former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton in her email scandal.

Clinton – who used a private email account and server rather than the State Department email system she was required to use – was the subject of one of the most sensitive FBI investigations in history when she was running for president.

It is fundamental to our justice system that investigators do not also play the role of prosecutor. Yet instead of reporting the findings of the FBI investigation of Clinton to then-Attorney General Loretta Lynch so Lynch could decide what action to take, Comey staged a news conference to announce that he had concluded Clinton should not be prosecuted.

If I had pulled the same stunt when I was head of FBI’s Criminal Investigative Division under then-Deputy Attorney General Comey, I would have – and should have – been suspended and fired. So much for the value of fidelity.

Second, Comey illegally removed his notes and memos describing details of his meetings with President Trump that were conducted as part of his official duties as FBI director. These records belonged to the FBI – not Comey.

Comey then indirectly leaked his memos and notes to the media by laundering them through a university professor. If the FBI director acts as if he is not subject to the well-established rules of the Justice Department and is above the law, it is easy to understand why his deputy director felt justified in doing the same.

In fact, leaking stolen FBI documents is illegal – regardless of how virtuous you view your actions. Scratch the integrity core value.

Third, the extensive personal and political bias that prevailed within Comey’s inner circle is beyond unacceptable. Strozk and Page’s texts denouncing then-presidential candidate Trump speak for themselves.

It is amazing that neither Comey nor McCabe saw any problems with McCabe personally initiating and supervising the investigation of whether the Trump campaign and Russia worked together to get Trump elected president.

McCabe should have recused himself from any involvement in the “Russia collusion” investigation because his wife was an unsuccessful Democratic candidate for the state Senate in Virginia when she accepted over $1 million in political campaign donations. The donations were bundled together by Clinton loyalist and then-Virginia Democratic Gov. Terry McAuliffe.

McCabe was also known to freely and openly express his disdain for Trump in meetings with other FBI executives.

Fourth, under Comey’s leadership, his inner circle used an unreliable opposition research “dossier” financed in part by Hillary Clinton’s campaign when she was running for president against Trump in 2016. The dossier was used to support a series of electronic surveillance warrants under the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA) to intercept communications of Trump campaign operatives.

Had the FISA judge been informed of the true origins of the information it is highly unlikely that the judge would have issued the requisite orders. The Justice Department inspector general is investigating this alleged abuse of FISA and his findings will be far more credible that any partisan congressional committee.

Fourth, Comey’s courage failed him when it was most needed. When Attorney General Lynch instructed him to refer to the Clinton investigation as a “matter” and severely restricted the scope of the Clinton email and Clinton Foundation investigations, Comey went along.

When President Trump allegedly demanded Comey’s loyalty and asked for leniency for former White House National Security Adviser Michael Flynn, Comey scurried back to the office and prepared memos. Clearly, Comey placed his job security over pushing back forcefully on the use of the FBI to achieve political ends. Scratch the bravery element.

Finally, anyone who questions the appointment of Special Counsel Mueller to conduct an independent investigation of the Russia case can thank Comey and McCabe.

In the words of ex-FBI Assistant Director Kevin Brock, my former colleague: “Comey personally fast-tracked McCabe’s career into the deputy director position. McCabe was not happy that the president fired his boss and that (Deputy Attorney General Rod) Rosenstein provided the ammo.”

Rosenstein was faced with a tough decision. He could leave the Russia investigation in the hands of the angry and hopelessly biased team of Acting FBI Director McCabe, Deputy Assistant Director Strzok and attorney Page. Or, he could appoint a special counsel with integrity and a reputation for impartiality. He wisely chose the latter, appointing Mueller.


The American public deserves to know

the full scope and extent of the actions

and roles of the Comey inner circle in

order to prevent future abuses. Let’s

hope the ongoing Justice Department

inspector general’s investigation will

ultimately hold the right people

accountable.

It is obvious that toothless and

bloviating congressional committees

will never get to the truth.


From the cradle of the FBI Academy, FBI agents are taught to always maintain the confidentiality of investigations, sources and methods. Keeping a low profile goes with the job, so it’s unusual to see former FBI agents criticize FBI leadership.

Those of us who are speaking out now believe deeply that the agency where we served honorably should never become a tool to promote political agendas.

This separation of law enforcement from politics is what separates America from Vladimir Putin’s Russia. Nor should operatives of the nation’s primary law enforcement and intelligence agency allow themselves to succumb to a temptation to impose their notions of morality on the electorate. That is the slipperiest of slopes.

The American public deserves to know the full scope and extent of the actions and roles of the Comey inner circle in order to prevent future abuses. Let’s hope the ongoing Justice Department inspector general’s investigation will ultimately hold the right people accountable.

It is obvious that toothless and bloviating congressional committees will never get to the truth.

A thousand congressional hearings will never get Comey to admit what we all suspect: his personal hubris and feelings of moral superiority allowed him to believe the normal rules established by the American people through duly enacted laws, regulations and procedures did not apply to him.

We need to draw a clear distinction between the FBI as an institution of 35,000 dedicated professionals and Comey – a brief aberration in the bureau’s distinguished 110-year history.

Comey’s name should be forever removed from the roster of FBI employees who have embraced the core values of the FBI and who have wielded the enormous power of the justice system with impartiality and integrity.​​​​​


Chris E. Swecker served 24 years in FBI as Special Agent. He retired from the Bureau as Assistant Director with responsibility over all FBI Criminal Investigations. He currently practices law in Charlotte, N.C.

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Unseen Costs of Hiring No/Low-Skill Workers

This article is a good discussion of the unseen costs of hiring the no-skill or low-skill employee.  These are often overlooked when emotion gets involved in the discussion of minimum wage.

Your First Job: Real Costs of the Minimum Wage

By Peter C. Earle

With midterm elections approaching, ideological battlegrounds are being staked out — and few carry greater promise of enticing voters than minimum wage policy. Recent political developments in this area include repurposing the minimum wage as a “living wage”, conflating and popularizing the notion of a “Universal Basic Income”, and a “corporations can afford it”/”fight for $15” narrative. The latter is the most insidious owing to its simplicity and, relatedly, its utter inaccuracy.

First: the minimum wage is derived arbitrarily and imposed politically on an indiscriminate “one size fits all” basis: it doesn’t take into account the size of a given firm, the specific business it is engaged in, or the goals of the entrepreneur (the risk-free rate, after all, is only a baseline), all of which directly impact profit margins. Second, costs of the minimum wage are more easily borne by large enterprises which tend to have more pricing power than small firms do. For these reasons the minimum wage falls disproportionately hard upon small businesses, the engine of economic growth in the United States.

Yet the impact of the minimum wage is not only a matter of the ‘seen’, which is to say the explicit hourly wage stipulated; it also includes numerous and sizable unseen costs: opportunity costs, foregone earnings, and others. As Bastiat wrote,

In the department of economy, an act, a habit, an institution, a law, gives birth not only to an effect, but to a series of effects. Of these effects, the first only is immediate; it manifests itself simultaneously with its cause — it is seen. The others unfold in succession — they are not seen: it is well for us, if they are foreseen. Between a good and a bad economist this constitutes the whole difference — the one takes account of the visible effect; the other takes account both of the effects which are seen, and also of those which it is necessary to foresee. Now this difference is enormous, for it almost always happens that when the immediate consequence is favourable, the ultimate consequences are fatal, and the converse. Hence it follows that the bad economist pursues a small present good, which will be followed by a great evil to come, while the true economist pursues a great good to come, — at the risk of a small present evil.


 many minimum wage earners must learn, or re-learn, the fundamentals of simply being an employee.


Most individuals to whom the minimum wage applies fit into several distinct categories within the labor market. They are overwhelmingly unskilled workers, a sizable portion of whom are new to the job market; teenagers or individuals who, for whatever reason, have rarely or never worked before. Others are returning to the workforce following a substantial hiatus: years or decades spent raising children, caring for an elderly parent, etc. Still others have had trouble finding employment at higher wages for reasons ranging from a history of frequent job changes to possessing unmarketable skills to having a personal history of legal entanglements — even incarceration. The upshot of this is that — as described to me by a successful entrepreneur in the Bay Area, and echoed by many others — many minimum wage earners must learn, or re-learn, the fundamentals of simply being an employee.

These are acquired skills, albeit having nothing to do with the actual position they are hired for, and constitute the baseline minimum of the employee side of the labor compact: coming in on time and leaving at whatever time constitutes a full day; if, how and where breaks can be taken; to call in if one is sick or intends to miss a day; to punch in and out duly; to report problems; to take direction from managers; and so on.

Next and often simultaneously, the individual must receive job specific training. This may take a few days or weeks and in addition to the explicit cost of wages while training and instructional materials comes unseen costs associated with (a) being unproductive or inefficient while learning, and sometimes (b) distracting trained, productive employees from their job to teach, oversee, or correct the new employee. The cost of redirecting the efforts of experienced, fully-functional employees to train new, inexperienced employees comes furthermore at a considerably higher cost, as experienced employees typically earn more than minimum wage.

Once training is complete — or sufficient enough to set the employee off on their own — additional unseen costs come into play. New employees, even when trained, tend to be less efficient than their more experienced co-workers for some time.

It is at roughly this point where some of the greatest unseen costs of all factor in: a minimum wage employee, once trained and reasonably experienced, can easily depart for a new job of the same or similar type to earn slightly more than the minimum wage. While labor mobility is reasonable and economically defensible, it bears noting that the first employer has borne substantially all of the costs — explicit and implicit, seen and unseen — associated with developing a viable employee in the workforce; perhaps for a direct competitor.

Costs associated with employee turnover are considerable, and thus for those entrepreneurs to whom this applies the hiring process will be circumspect and likely favor individuals with some experience over those just starting out.

None of this, incidentally, involves the massive costs — again, seen and unseen — associated with damaged equipment and inventory, workplace injuries (and the knock-on effects of such), theft, or any of a host of other issues.

The minimum wage is only the visible portion of what quickly amounts to a vast array of considerable, often unseen costs. To a large extent these hidden costs account for the reasons why, facing a minimum wage hike – especially a substantial one, such as the $7.25/hr to $15.00/hr increase variously proposed – small firms will overwhelmingly choose to either cut their headcount, hire only experienced employees, or both. The minimum wage has the largest, most negative impact on those it purportedly attempts to aid, and adds instability to a critical portion of the U. S. private sector.

Income Inequality Explained

Mark Perry posts about this regularly and I will too because it’s good stuff.  Here’s the money quote:

The good news is that the key demographic factors that explain differences in household income are not fixed over our lifetimes and are largely under our control (e.g., staying in school and graduating, getting and staying married, working full-time, etc.), which means that individuals and households are not destined to remain in a single income quintile forever…

And because the key income-determining demographic variables are largely under our control and change dynamically over our lifetimes, income mobility and the American dream are still “alive and well” in the US.

Income2018

Explaining US income inequality by household demographics, 2017 update

The Census Bureau released its annual report yesterday on “Income and Poverty in the United States” with lots of newly updated data on household income and household demographics. Based on those new data, I present my annual post titled “Explaining Income Inequality by Household Demographics” (see my previous versions of this analysis for years 2013, 2014, 2015 and 2016).

Most of the discussion on income inequality focuses on the relative differences over time between low-income and high-income American households. But it’s also informative to analyze the demographic differences among income groups at a given point in time to answer questions like:

  • How are high-income households different demographically from low-income households that would help us better understand income inequality?
  • For low-income households today who aspire to become higher-income households in the future, what lifestyle and demographic changes might facilitate the path to a higher income?

The chart above shows some key demographic characteristics of US households by income quintiles (five equal groups of US households) for 2017, using Census Bureau available here and here. Below is a summary of some of the key demographic differences between American households in different income quintiles in 2017:

1. Mean number of earners per household. On average, there are significantly more income earners per household in the top income quintile households (2.06) than earners per household in the lowest-income households (0.41). It can also be seen that the average number of earners increases for each higher income quintile, demonstrating that one of the main factors in explaining differences in income among US households is the number of earners per household. Also, the unadjusted ratio of average income for the highest to the lowest quintile of 18.0 times ($221,846 to $12,319), falls to a ratio of only 3.6 times when comparing “income per earner” of those two quintiles: $107,692 for the top fifth to $30,046 for the bottom fifth.

2. Share of households with no earners. More than 63% of American households in the bottom fifth of households by income had no earners for the entire year in 2017. In contrast, only 4.3% of the households in the top fifth had no earners last year, providing more evidence of the strong relationship between household income and income earners per household.

3. Marital status of householders. Married-couple households represent a much greater share of the top income quintile (76.1%) than for the bottom income quintile (17.1%), and single-parent or single households represented a much greater share of the bottom one-fifth of households (82.9%) than for the top one-fifth (23.9%). Consistent with the pattern for the average number of earners per household, the share of married-couple households also increases for each higher income quintile, from 17.1% (lowest quintile) to 35.3% (second lowest quintile) to 48.1% (middle quintile) to 63.5% (second highest quintile) to 76.1% (highest quintile).

4. Age of householders. About 7 out of every 10 households (69.4%) in the top income quintile included individuals in their prime earning years between the ages of 35-64, compared to fewer than half (41.1%) of household members in the bottom income quintile who were in that prime earning age group last year. The share of householders in the prime earning age group of 35-64 year-olds increases with each higher income quintile, from 41.1% (lowest quintile) to 43.9% to 52.0% (middle quintile) to 60.6% to 69.4% (highest quintile). Compared to members of the top income quintile of households by income, household members in the bottom income quintile were more likely (19.5% for the lowest quintile vs. 15.0% for the highest quintile) to be in the youngest age group (under 35 years), and more than twice as likely (39.4% vs. 15.6%) to be in the oldest age group (65 years and over).

By average age, the highest three income groups are the youngest (about 50 years on average) and the lowest income group is the oldest quintile on average (56 years).

5. Work status of householders. More than four times as many top quintile households included at least one adult who was working full-time in 2017 (77.4%) compared to the bottom income quintile (only 18.4%), and five times as many households in the bottom quintile included adults who did not work at all (68.5%) compared to top quintile households whose family members did not work (13.2%). The share of householders working full-time increases at each higher income quintile (18.4% to 47.1% to 61.2% to 71.0% to 77.4%).

6. Education of householders. Family members of households in the top fifth by income were 4.2 times more likely to have a college degree (65.4%) than members of households in the bottom income quintile (only 15.4%). In contrast, householders in the lowest income quintile were 11.3 times more likely than those in the top income quintile to have less than a high school degree in 2017 (21.5% vs. 1.1%). As expected, the Census data show that there is a significantly positive relationship between education and income.

Bottom Line: Household demographics, including the average number of earners per household and the marital status, age, and education of householders are all very highly correlated with household income. Specifically, high-income households have a greater average number of income-earners than households in lower-income quintiles, and individuals in high-income households are far more likely than individuals in low-income households to be well-educated, married, working full-time, and in their prime earning years. In contrast, individuals in lower-income households are far more likely than their counterparts in higher-income households to be less-educated, working part-time, either very young (under 35 years) or very old (over 65 years), and living in single-parent or single households.

The good news is that the key demographic factors that explain differences in household income are not fixed over our lifetimes and are largely under our control (e.g., staying in school and graduating, getting and staying married, working full-time, etc.), which means that individuals and households are not destined to remain in a single income quintile forever. Fortunately, studies that track people over time indicate that individuals and households move up and down the income quintiles over their lifetimes, as the key demographic variables highlighted above change, see related CD posts here, here and here. And Thomas Sowell pointed out in one of his syndicated columns in March 2013 “Economic Mobility” that:

Most working Americans who were initially in the bottom 20% of income-earners, rise out of that bottom 20%. More of them end up in the top 20% than remain in the bottom 20%. People who were initially in the bottom 20% in income have had the highest rate of increase in their incomes, while those who were initially in the top 20% have had the lowest. This is the direct opposite of the pattern found when following income brackets over time, rather than following individual people.

MP: It’s highly likely that most of today’s high-income, college-educated, married individuals who are now in their peak earning years were in a lower-income quintile in their prior, single, younger years before they acquired education and job experience. It’s also likely that individuals in today’s top income quintiles will move back down to a lower income quintile in the future during their retirement years, which is just part of the natural lifetime cycle of moving up and down the income quintiles for most Americans. So when we hear the media and progressives talk about an “income inequality crisis” in America, we should keep in mind that basic household demographics go a long way towards explaining the differences in household income in the United States. And because the key income-determining demographic variables are largely under our control and change dynamically over our lifetimes, income mobility and the American dream are still “alive and well” in the US.

Nephew: “Damn it! Every Time I Turn Around I’m Appropriating Someone’s Culture!”

Great commentary from the Chicago Tribune

My nephew tried to school me on cultural appropriation. It didn’t end well.

They got him. Just as I feared they would.

My nephew Kyle came to live with us this summer after his freshman year of college. Apparently he’s now a deputized member of the cultural-appropriation police.

He hadn’t even unpacked his massive bag of dirty laundry when he made a snide comment about the three straw hats hanging in our hallway collected during our years living in Southeast Asia.

The next day when Kyle and I were backing out of the driveway and I called out “Adios” to my neighbor, Kyle mumbled, “Appropriate much?”

But then the following Saturday, I overheard Kyle ask my wife if we had any sunscreen he could borrow. “Brenna and I are going kayaking.”

I poked my head around the corner. “Mmm. Kayaks. You mean that watercraft appropriated from the Inuit people of the Arctic region?”

Quick on his feet, Kyle recovered and retorted, “I meant to say we’re renting canoes.”

“As in the canoe that was developed by the indigenous people of North America?”

Stymied, Kyle canceled his plans. He and Brenna spent the day sitting quietly on a park bench.


 My wife told me to leave the poor boy alone. But hey, as his uncle, I feel it’s my job to help him live out his passionately held core values.


The following Monday our neighbor offered Kyle 50 bucks to move a mound of dirt into his backyard. I was glad to see the boy working. But when I saw he’d helped himself to the wheelbarrow from my shed, I couldn’t help myself.

“Whatcha doing there, McFly?”

“Moving this dirt for some quick cash.”

“Using a wheelbarrow?”

“Yup.”

He continued shoveling.

“As in the one-wheeled cart invented by the Chinese?”

Kyle looked at me for a long moment as he processed this information before finally lowering the handles of the wheelbarrow.

He switched to lugging the dirt in a five-gallon bucket. It took him the rest of the afternoon. The job worked out to four dollars an hour.

The next day he was so stiff and sore, Brenna suggested they go stretch out at “Yoga in the Park.” Until I pointed out yoga is a sacred practice rooted in Hinduism.

Brenna went by herself.

My wife told me to leave the poor boy alone. But hey, as his uncle, I feel it’s my job to help him live out his passionately held core values.

In the summer our family eats most of our dinners on the deck which is conveniently located off our kitchen. Well convenient for most of us. Not for Kyle. Once I pointed out that modern architects got their inspiration for the sliding glass door from the Japanese shoji, Kyle stopped using our sliding door. You know, it having been appropriated and all.

At dinnertime Kyle now goes out through the garage, runs down the hill on the side of the house, jumps the fence, cuts through the hedges, and climbs the stairs to the deck. I get exhausted just watching him.

Once when it was his turn to help prep for dinner, he made seven trips. One of them after we’d all sat down. I pointed out he’d forgotten to bring the salt shaker.

Last week, prompted by a text from his mother, Kyle came home with birthday flowers for my wife. Anticipating my efforts to help him rout out all cultural appropriation from his life, Kyle brought home tulips. We are Dutch-Americans, after all. As he walked past me he beamed victoriously, pointed at the flowers, and boldly declared, “Dutch.”

“Um, Kyle.”

He paused. His confidence seemed to waver ever so slightly.

“Tulips aren’t native to the Netherlands. The Dutch first imported them from Turkey in the 1500s.” Kyle’s shoulders sagged. His face darkened. He lowered the flowers to his side.


Last time I checked on him, he was whimpering quietly to himself. It’s been a rough summer to be Kyle.

Me? Oh, I’m doing fine, thank you very much. I am sitting here (guilt free, mind you) in my Hawaiian shirt, sipping my Tusker lager from Kenya, and listening to Bob Marley.


The next morning I found the bouquet on top of our compost pile. I tried to lighten Kyle’s spirits by taking him out for lunch. He attempted to order a jumbo fries until I pointed out the word jumbo comes from the Swahili “jambo.”

He ordered a small.

But it didn’t matter. Shortly after we sat down, he refused to eat his fries. I may have mentioned something about potatoes not being native to North America or Europe. They originate from South America.

He pushed his fries toward me and focused his attention on his sweet tea. Until I asked him how Southerners might feel about him — a Northerner — appropriating their regional drink.

I used his sweet tea to wash down his fries.

Most weeks, his less-woke friends go out for Taco Tuesdays, but not Kyle. No more hummus. No more bagels. No mo’ pho. Poor Kyle. Living the unappropriated life is tough business.

Whenever it rains, Kyle gets soaked. No more umbrellas for him. Chinese.

Kyle has stopped binge watching “The Walking Dead” once I mentioned the word for, and the concept of, zombies were appropriated from West Africa.

Kyle was taking a summer math course at the community college. But he dropped out. It was just too hard. His homework was taking all evening. He was doing all his assignments using Roman numerals since Arabic numerals are … well, Arabic.

These days, Kyle doesn’t go out or do much of anything. He was spending the majority of his time in the basement curled up on the futon he’d lugged home from college until someone — I’m not going to say who — pointed out that futons are Japanese. Now he just spends his waking hours curled up on the floor in a wad of blankets.

Last time I checked on him, he was whimpering quietly to himself. It’s been a rough summer to be Kyle.

Me? Oh, I’m doing fine, thank you very much. I am sitting here (guilt free, mind you) in my Hawaiian shirt, sipping my Tusker lager from Kenya, and listening to Bob Marley.

Life is good. Good, indeed.

Walter Williams… Again

I can’t think of anyone who can take an issue and get to its essence quite like Walter Williams.  In this column he takes two of his best ideas and puts them together like only he can.  I have put the two ideas as pull quotes in the article.

Socialism’s big question: Is it OK to steal?

Poverty is no mystery, and it’s easily avoidable. The poverty line the Census Bureau used in 2016 for a single person was an income of $12,486 that year. For a two-person household, it was $16,072, and for a four-person household, it was $24,755. To beat those poverty thresholds is fairly simple. Here’s the road map: Complete high school; get a job, any kind of a job; get married before having children; and be a law-abiding citizen.


Poverty is no mystery, and it’s easily avoidable… Here’s the road map: Complete high school; get a job, any kind of a job; get married before having children; and be a law-abiding citizen.


How about some numbers? A single person taking a minimum wage job would earn an annual income of $15,080. A married couple would earn $30,160. By the way, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, less than 4 percent of hourly workers in 2016 were paid the minimum wage. That means that over 96 percent of workers earned more than the minimum wage. Not surprising is the fact that among both black and white married couples, the poverty rate is in the single digits. Most poverty is in female-headed households.

Socialist Sen. Bernie Sanders’ presidential campaign garnered considerable appeal from millennials. These young people see socialism as superior to free market capitalism. Capitalism doesn’t do well in popularity polls, despite the fact that it has eliminated many of mankind’s worst problems, such as pestilence and gross hunger and poverty. One of the reasons is that capitalism is always evaluated against the nonexistent, non-realizable utopias of socialism or communism. Any earthly system, when compared with a utopia, will not fare well. Indeed, socialism sounds good but, when practiced, leads to disaster. Those disasters have been experienced in countries such as the USSR, China, most African nations and, most recently, Venezuela. When these disasters are pointed out, the excuse is inadequacies of socialist leaders rather than socialism itself. For the ordinary person, free market capitalism, with all of its warts, is superior to any system yet devised to deal with our everyday needs and desires.

Here are a couple of questions: Does an act clearly immoral when done privately become moral when done collectively? Does legality or majority consensus establish morality? Before you answer, consider that slavery was legal; South African apartheid was legal; the horrendous Stalinist, Nazi and Maoist purges were legal. Clearly, the fact of legality or a majority consensus cannot establish morality.

You might ask, “If you’re so smart, Williams, what establishes morality?” That’s easy, and you tell me when I make the wrong step. My initial premise is that we own ourselves. You are your private property, and I am mine. Self-ownership reveals what’s moral and immoral. Rape is immoral because it violates private property. So is murder and any other initiation of violence. Most people probably agree with me that rape and murder are immoral, but what about theft? Some Americans would have a problem deciding whether theft is moral or immoral.

Let’s first define what theft is. A fairly good working definition of theft is the taking by force of one person’s property and the giving of it to another to whom it does not belong. Most Americans think that doing that is OK as long as it’s done by government. We think that it is OK for Congress to take the earnings of one American to give to another American in the form of agricultural subsidies, business bailouts, aid for higher education, food stamps, welfare and other such activities that make up at least two-thirds of the federal budget. If I took some of your earnings to give to a poor person, I’d go to jail. If a congressman did the same thing, he’d be praised.


…theft is the taking by force of one person’s property and the giving of it to another to whom it does not belong… If I took some of your earnings to give to a poor person, I’d go to jail. If a congressman did the same thing, he’d be praised.


People tend to love a powerful government. Quite naturally, a big, powerful government tends to draw into it people with bloated egos, people who think they know more than everyone else and have little hesitance in coercing their fellow man. Nobel laureate Friedrich Hayek explained why corruption is rife in government: “In government, the scum rises to the top.”