Home
In this issue
April 21, 2014

Andrew Silow-Carroll: Passoverkill? Suggestions to make next year's seders even more culturally sensitive

Sara Israelsen Hartley: Seeking the Divine: An ancient connection in a new context

Christine M. Flowers: Priest's execution in Syria should be call to action

Courtnie Erickson: How to help kids accept the poor decisions of others

Lizette Borreli: A Glass Of Milk A Day Keeps Knee Arthritis At Bay

Lizette Borreli: 5 Health Conditions Your Breath Knows Before You Do

The Kosher Gourmet by Betty Rosbottom Coconut Walnut Bars' golden brown morsels are a beautifully balanced delectable delight

April 18, 2014

Rabbi Yonason Goldson: Clarifying one of the greatest philosophical conundrums in theology

Caroline B. Glick: The disappearance of US will

Megan Wallgren: 10 things I've learned from my teenagers

Lizette Borreli: Green Tea Boosts Brain Power, May Help Treat Dementia

John Ericson: Trying hard to be 'positive' but never succeeding? Blame Your Brain

The Kosher Gourmet by Julie Rothman Almondy, flourless torta del re (Italian king's cake), has royal roots, is simple to make, . . . but devour it because it's simply delicious

April 14, 2014

Rabbi Dr Naftali Brawer: Passover frees us from the tyranny of time

Greg Crosby: Passing Over Religion

Eric Schulzke: First degree: How America really recovered from a murder epidemic

Georgia Lee: When love is not enough: Teaching your kids about the realities of adult relationships

Cameron Huddleston: Freebies for Your Lawn and Garden

Gordon Pape: How you can tell if your financial adviser is setting you up for potential ruin

Dana Dovey: Up to 500,000 people die each year from hepatitis C-related liver disease. New Treatment Has Over 90% Success Rate

Justin Caba: Eating Watermelon Can Help Control High Blood Pressure

The Kosher Gourmet by Joshua E. London and Lou Marmon Don't dare pass over these Pesach picks for Manischewitz!

April 11, 2014

Rabbi Hillel Goldberg: Silence is much more than golden

Caroline B. Glick: Forgetting freedom at Passover

Susan Swann: How to value a child for who he is, not just what he does

Cameron Huddleston: 7 Financial Tasks You Should Tackle Right Now

Sandra Block and Lisa Gerstner: How to Profit From Your Passion

Susan Scutti: A Simple Blood Test Might Soon Diagnose Cancer

Chris Weller: Have A Slow Metabolism? Let Science Speed It Up For You

The Kosher Gourmet by Diane Rossen Worthington Whitefish Terrine: A French take on gefilte fish

April 9, 2014

Jonathan Tobin: Why Did Kerry Lie About Israeli Blame?

Samuel G. Freedman: A resolution 70 years later for a father's unsettling legacy of ashes from Dachau

Jessica Ivins: A resolution 70 years later for a father's unsettling legacy of ashes from Dachau

Kim Giles: Asking for help is not weakness

Kathy Kristof and Barbara Hoch Marcus: 7 Great Growth Israeli Stocks

Matthew Mientka: How Beans, Peas, And Chickpeas Cleanse Bad Cholesterol and Lowers Risk of Heart Disease

Sabrina Bachai: 5 At-Home Treatments For Headaches

The Kosher Gourmet by Daniel Neman Have yourself a matzo ball: The secrets bubby never told you and recipes she could have never imagined

April 8, 2014

Lori Nawyn: At Your Wit's End and Back: Finding Peace

Susan B. Garland and Rachel L. Sheedy: Strategies Married Couples Can Use to Boost Benefits

David Muhlbaum: Smart Tax Deductions Non-Itemizers Can Claim

Jill Weisenberger, M.S., R.D.N., C.D.E : Before You Lose Your Mental Edge

Dana Dovey: Coffee Drinkers Rejoice! Your Cup Of Joe Can Prevent Death From Liver Disease

Chris Weller: Electric 'Thinking Cap' Puts Your Brain Power Into High Gear

The Kosher Gourmet by Marlene Parrish A gift of hazelnuts keeps giving --- for a variety of nutty recipes: Entree, side, soup, dessert

April 4, 2014

Rabbi David Gutterman: The Word for Nothing Means Everything

Charles Krauthammer: Kerry's folly, Chapter 3

Amy Peterson: A life of love: How to build lasting relationships with your children

John Ericson: Older Women: Save Your Heart, Prevent Stroke Don't Drink Diet

John Ericson: Why 50 million Americans will still have spring allergies after taking meds

Cameron Huddleston: Best and Worst Buys of April 2014

Stacy Rapacon: Great Mutual Funds for Young Investors

Sarah Boesveld: Teacher keeps promise to mail thousands of former students letters written by their past selves

The Kosher Gourmet by Sharon Thompson Anyone can make a salad, you say. But can they make a great salad? (SECRETS, TESTED TECHNIQUES + 4 RECIPES, INCLUDING DRESSINGS)

April 2, 2014

Paul Greenberg: Death and joy in the spring

Dan Barry: Should South Carolina Jews be forced to maintain this chimney built by Germans serving the Nazis?

Mayra Bitsko: Save me! An alien took over my child's personality

Frank Clayton: Get happy: 20 scientifically proven happiness activities

Susan Scutti: It's Genetic! Obesity and the 'Carb Breakdown' Gene

Lecia Bushak: Why Hand Sanitizer May Actually Harm Your Health

Stacy Rapacon: Great Funds You Can Own for $500 or Less

Cameron Huddleston: 7 Ways to Save on Home Decor

The Kosher Gourmet by Steve Petusevsky Exploring ingredients as edible-stuffed containers (TWO RECIPES + TIPS & TECHINQUES)

Jewish World Review July 8, 2014 / 10 Tammuz, 5774

[Fill-in-the-blank] is great for the economy!

By A. Barton Hinkle




http://www.JewishWorldReview.com | Rick Santorum and President Obama don't agree on much. But on this point they are in accord: Whatever they want, it will do wonders for the economy.

Last month Santorum, the Republican former senator from Pennsylvania, spoke at the 2014 March for Marriage, where he told a reporter for Townhall.com why gay marriage is wrong: "When we continue to see a decline in marriage and a redefinition of marriage, you get less marriage. You get families that aren't as strong, and as a result society generally, the economy suffers. ... " When you have less marriage, he went on, "then society struggles and suffers economically. ... So it's important for us to stand up for ... what's best for the economy."

You don't often hear such a thick goulash of nonsense, at least not outside of a New Orleans drunk tank. When you let more people marry, you get less marriage? Might need to see the math on that.

Santorum's economic argument, meanwhile, defies gravity. It hovers in midair, with nothing whatsoever to hold it up. It might sound theoretically plausible — with enough imagination, anything could be said to affect the economy. But empirically it is laughable. Economists still debate the effects of minimum wage hikes imposed many years ago — cases in which the variables are discrete and measureable. It is ludicrous to pretend anyone can divine the future economic effect of an amorphous social change, still much in progress, that touches upon everything from housing to tax collections.

And yet despite its gauziness — or, perhaps more accurately, because of it — the economy is the go-to argument for just about any topic under the sun. In his State of the Union speech last year, Obama exhorted Congress to expand early childhood education. Why? Because he also had a bunch of plans to improve "manufacturing, energy, infrastructure, and housing" — but "none of it will matter unless we also equip our citizens with the skills and training to fill those jobs. And that has to start at the earliest possible age."



It does? Preschool doesn't usually include lessons on how to drive a forklift. But again, it sounds theoretically plausible that expanding early childhood education could someday boost the U.S. manufacturing sector. (And hey, just try to prove that it won't!)

Theoretically plausible, however, is far from empirically demonstrable. When it comes to cause and effect, the president could not make even a much smaller claim without spiraling off into fiction. "Every dollar we invest in high-quality early childhood education," he said, "can save more than seven dollars later on." This was pure gasbaggery.

The claim rested on a couple of decades-old studies about two highly intensive and expensive experiments whose benefits are still debated. The federal government's own studies of the Head Start program, meanwhile, have found it produced "little evidence of systematic differences." Still, a 700 percent return on investment sure sounds good, doesn't it?

You see claims like that all the time. Regarding the federal stimulus of Obama's first term, a writer for The Nation averred that "building a clean energy economy will create three times more jobs within the U.S. than would spending on our existing fossil fuel infrastructure." (He also called the claim "irrefutable.") Nancy Pelosi agrees: Investing in "a green economy" is vital for "a brighter and more prosperous future," she says.

Indeed, no discussion of green-energy policy is complete without copious assertions about how many jobs it will create and how much it will benefit the economy. Often those assertions are built on dubious assumptions (e.g., green jobs pay more) and often they ignore countervailing considerations (e.g., consumers who pay more for green energy will have less to spend elsewhere). Yet when, say, Solyndra promises to create hundreds or thousands of new jobs, environmentalists treat the self-serving claim with a pie-eyed credulity they never would apply to a claim from ExxonMobil.

A fundamental principle of economics is the concept of trade-offs: Everything carries a cost, even if it is only the cost of forgoing one opportunity to pursue another. Another basic notion is diminishing returns: A person caught in the rain finds one umbrella very useful. He finds a second umbrella less so. Yet somehow, miraculously, seemingly every government policy produces a net economic gain — and the more you spend on it, the bigger the gain will be.

High culture? According to a report by Americans for the Arts, the arts and culture industry "generates nearly $30 billion in revenue to local, state, and federal governments every year" even though government spends "less than $4 billion annually to support arts and culture — a spectacular 7:1 return on investment that would even thrill Wall Street veterans." Ergo, "leaders who care about community and economic development can feel good about choosing to invest in the arts." Well, there you go.

Government handouts to Hollywood? Virginia's Film Office claims that for every $1 the state gives to film companies, it collects $12 in return. Spending more on the Department of Labor? It will, says Rep. Rosa DeLauro, D-Conn., "save money in the long run."

What about — oh, NASA? "Space is a $300 billion industry worldwide," said astrophysicist Neil deGrasse Tyson back in 2012, when he urged President Obama to double the agency's budget. "Innovation drives [the] economy."

Why give so much top billing to the bottom line? Well, Americans are pragmatic. They might not care about a particular endeavor by itself, but if you can show that it's good for business, they might agree to go along. The only trouble is that not everything can be good for business all the time.

The economic argument is also rather sad. There is more to life than dollars and cents, and it seems a little pusillanimous not to say so. Rick Santorum opposes gay marriage because he thinks it is vile and sinful — not because it supposedly harms the economy. (If a study could prove gay marriage helped the economy, would Santorum support it? Of course not.) Santorum thinks other people ought to think gay marriage is sinful, too. But preaching that it's bad for the economy isn't going to convince anyone of that.

Neil deGrasse Tyson believes in space exploration because of its glorious scientific promise — not because it might be good for Lockheed-Martin. Why not make the case for space on its own merits? We should educate children for their own benefit, not because of their potential future utility to us. People ought go to theaters and art galleries to gasp in wonder at artistic brilliance and beauty — not because of the multiplier effect.

That's the real irony of the ubiquitous economic argument. Worthwhile causes speak for themselves. Pitching them as little more than economic stimuli really just sells them short.

Every weekday JewishWorldReview.com publishes what many in in the media and Washington consider "must-reading". Sign up for the daily JWR update. It's free. Just click here.

A. Barton Hinkle is Deputy Editor of the Editorial Pages at Richmond Times-Dispatch Comment by clicking here.


Previously:




07/03/14: The Real Government Jobs Scandal
06/30/14: Change You Can Believe In,' political slogan, dead at 6
06/26/14: Hillary Clinton --- She works hard for the money
06/19/14: IRS scandal implicates Democrats
05/27/14: A modest proposal to ban volunteering
05/07/14: Loophole's Just Another Word for Freedom You Can Lose
05/05/14: Is It Time to Welcome Our Robot Overlords?
04/21/14: So who is standing in the way of progress?
04/14/14: Bush Lied. So Did Obama. And Clinton. And. . .
04/10/14: You can have my knife when you pry it from my cold, dead hands
04/07/14: Zoning's racist roots still bear fruit
04/01/14: You just can't fix stupid
03/27/14: Apostles of violence
03/24/14: What the Left Doesn't Know About Weaponizing the IRS
03/20/14: All the cliches about aging are true. Or: Hey, where'd the craft-beer me go?
03/14/14: Our long national austerity nightmare is over!
03/10/14: The progressive mirage
03/03/14: If Hillary had gotten her way
02/18/14: The Lovecraftian world of Obamacare
02/03/14: Eat your Frankenfood!
01/28/14: The retributionist case for limited government
01/22/14: Why school choice foes remain wrong
01/09/14: The great inequality debate
01/02/14: Do-nothing Congress? Please, Do Much Less
12/09/13: Mozart for babies all over again?
11/25/13: Food police are gluttons for punishment --- of others
11/12/13: Cheer up --- things are getting better
10/29/13: Cure for ignorant voters --- really small governments
10/24/13: If they can't cut the small stuff...
10/22/13: Political speech --- dumb as a ham sandwich
10/15/13: Why College Costs Will Soon Plunge
09/19/13: Progressives Reap What They Sow
09/13/13: You are being watched
09/10/13: Sorry, your business isn't desirable enough
09/05/13: The least bad option: Kill Assad
08/27/13: GOPers wrong ones to take on ObamaCare
08/08/13: Gas prices: What can the president do?
08/02/13: Chris Christie pulls a Dowd
07/29/13: Should Click and Clack wind up in the clink?
07/08/13: Commit any felonies lately?
06/18/13: Citizens and the State: the problem is bigger than you think
06/06/13: Political derangement threatens basic rights
05/30/13: Should we fear ex-Marine --- or those who detained him?
05/23/13: Professor of Constitution goes to war against it
05/23/13: REVEALED: IRS letter to tea party groups
05/15/13: Today on NPR: The smothering tax burden
04/30/13: What does Boston say about diversity?
04/25/13: For some libs, 'courage' = agreeing with them
04/18/13: Utterly outraged by their president's callous betrayal
04/11/13: Cognitive dissonance on guns
04/04/13: Do unto others, but not unto us, say the media
04/01/13: Observations from the auto shop holding pen
03/14/13: The nation-building follies
03/12/13: Will the right come around on pot?
03/07/13: Another U.S. dupe falls for a dictator
02/28/13: How dare you say that here!
02/26/13: Eating Frito-Lay chips at gunpoint
02/20/13: Death Star petitions are just what we need
02/13/13: ObamaCare proves law correct --- deep down you knew it would
01/29/13: It's Time to Get Judgy About Incompetency
01/23/13: Look who's mocking fascist fear-mongering now
01/16/13: Only in Washington could you get away with referring to spending and tax increases as spending 'cuts'
01/09/13: Obama begins his second term, Bush's fourth
01/07/13: Who's Attacking the Constitution Now?
01/03/13: Why, historically, January is the perfect time to debate the filibuster
12/26/12: When libs devalue diversity
12/20/12: Mark Your Calendars
12/13/12: Gun control, ad infinitum
12/11/12: Fracking can help fix the CO2 problem
12/06/12: Let's open the door to lots more immigration
12/04/12: Who's watching the kids? Just about everyone
11/29/12: The Real Middle-Class Champion was Mocked and Opposed
11/26/12: It's time to cut a deal on the budget
11/20/12: The case for a carbon tax
11/15/12: Cue the hysterics. Reports of Democracy's Death Greatly Exaggerated
11/07/12: The $4,000 Trash Can: We need regulation, but not this much
10/23/12: The Ballad of Islamist Rage Boy
10/17/12: Undermining the values that enable people in poverty to escape it? Sadly, yes
10/11/12: How Much Is This Tax Cut Gonna Cost Me, Doc?
10/04/12: Warrantless spying skyrockets under Obama
08/20/12: The wrong side absolutely must not win
08/14/12: America was not built on dirt alone
08/02/12: Libs Discover Their Inner Cheney
07/30/12: Feds want to help you --- whether you want help or not
07/23/12: Barack Obama, Storyteller-in-Chief
07/23/12: Nation's worst outsourcer? You
07/19/12: Listen up, America: You need to knuckle under
07/12/12: Obama, Romney: As Different as Two Peas in a Pod
07/05/12: Are teenagers big children --- or little adults?
06/25/12: Minorities treated as mere numbers
06/21/12: Memo to the the Little Guy: Seemingly innocuous activity could bring the federal hammer down out of a clear blue sky
06/19/12: We mustn't let America be buffaloed
05/31/12: Drop and Give Uncle Sam 20
05/15/12: The feds would like to know if you enjoyed that video
05/03/12: Obama inspires: 'America --- Still Not as Bad Off as Venezuela!'
04/26/12: It's everyone's favorite time of year again
03/29/12: GOP disillusionment is a good thing
03/27/12: Just what America needs: more red tape
03/20/12: Nation wondering: what happening to language?
02/21/12: Culture warriors resort to propaganda
02/15/12: Step away from that cookie and grab some air
02/08/12: Lessons in heresy
02/01/12: Do We Really Need Pickle-Flavored Potato Chips?
01/11/12: Shut up, they explained
12/30/11: A Modest Proposal: Let's Ban All Sports!
12/26/11: A Christmas letter from the Obamas
02/24/11: Will the next Watson need us?
12/24/10: Here Are Some Good Gifts for People You Hate
06/15/10: The Presinator
05/26/10: More than equal
04/08/10: Angry Right Takes a Page From Angry Left but guess who is ‘ugly’?
02/16/10: Either Obama owes George W. Bush an apology, or he owes the rest of us a very good explanation for his about-face on wiretapping
02/03/10: Talkin' to us 'tards
01/27/10: I never thought I'd see the day when progressives would howl in ragebecause the Supreme Court said government should not ban books
01/07/10: Gun-Control Advocates Play Fast and Loose
12/31/09: Nearly everything progressives say about neoconservative interventionism abroad applies to their own preferred policies at home





© 2011, A. Barton Hinkle

Columnists

Toons

Lifestyles

Quantcast