William K. Black
February 7, 2016 Bloomington, MN
The New York Times has produced a wonderful, unintended, juxtaposition in their pages on February 6, 2016. Two articles report on think tanks calling for the government to engage in right-wing propaganda campaigns to restore “manly” men. One article discusses the Chinese think tanks that have convinced the (Communist) government to engage in a massive propaganda campaign.
Worried that a shortage of male teachers has produced a generation of timid, self-centered and effeminate boys, Chinese educators are working to reinforce traditional gender roles and values in the classroom.
This is how the article begins:
FUZHOU, China — The history class began with a lesson on being manly.
Lin Wei, 27, one of a handful of male sixth-grade teachers at a primary school here, has made a habit of telling stories about warlords who threw witches into rivers and soldiers who outsmarted Japanese troops. “Men have special duties,” he said. “They have to be brave, protect women and take responsibility for wrongdoing.”
The journalist may have felt it was too obvious to be necessary to point out to the reader that teaching boys to become “manly” and “protect women” by “telling stories about warlords who threw witches into rivers” as examples of how men fulfilled their “special duties” “to be brave” illustrates the problems with government propaganda designed to prevent social change. There are no witches. Throughout history all over the world, the “witches” being murdered are overwhelmingly women. The warlords were not “brave” when they ordered their armies to murder these helpless women. Killing women does not “protect women.” The women committed no “wrongdoing.” The dominant male in these “stories” not only fails to “take responsibility for wrongdoing,” he is praised by the “manly” teacher for his “wrongdoing” in murdering innocent women, destroying their relatives’ reputations, and almost certainly stealing their victims’ property. Powerful men kill innocent women as witches because of “traditional gender roles” that they wish to maintain because those roles grant them dominant power over women – and purport that this is natural. Indeed, it was common to label women as “witches” precisely because they did not maintain “traditional gender roles.”
The U.S. has its paternalists eager to create a moral panic based on a purported plague of “effete” males. Kay S. Hymowitz is the William E. Simon Fellow at the ultra-right wing Manhattan Institute Hymowitz is the author of Manning Up: How the Rise of Women Has Turned Men into Boys (2011). She has an M.A. in English Literature. Yes, the effete males are all the fault of liberals in general and feminists in particular. Males are helpless putty warped by emasculating feminists into childish helplessness who never become truly adult.
Hymowitz is the link that ties the Chinese tale of paternalistic state intervention to save “manly” men and the second ode to government paternalism to save manly men reported today in the New York Times. Eduardo Porter is ecstatic about Hymowitz and friends’ “bipartisan” plan to “champion an increase in the minimum wage” and to “endorse marriage.” (The group worked together for 14 months to “endorse marriage?” If we had given them another year to work out their differences they probably would have “endorsed babies.”) Porter is easily impressed. Here is his breathless account.
If you have been paying any attention to America’s paralyzed politics, you are not going to believe this.
Even as substantive legislation in Washington remained largely bogged down by bitter partisan mistrust, some of the leading thinkers on opposite sides of the ideological divide — experts on the right who have advised Republican policy makers alongside left-leaning scholars who have Democrats’ ear — came together to champion an increase in the minimum wage.
They didn’t stop there. In a report published in December by the Brookings Institution and the American Enterprise Institute, they also recommended attaching a job requirement to the food stamp program, to compel poor people to work. They strongly endorsed marriage, as well as birth control.
Unremarkably, Porter’s text and memes read exactly like AEI’s press release on the plan.
Why does anyone care what Hymowitz’s fantasies are about any issue, much less the minimum wage? Why did the right-wing American Enterprise Institute (AEI) put a wacko on this “bipartisan” mash up? They did so for the obvious reason, to stack the deck with a wacko who was only interested in one issue – “marriage promotion” and would throw a wrench into the group unless they endorsed her fevered plan to save us from feminists perverting boys into effete males. In this first of a two-part series I’ll show why Porter’s claims about the minimum wage are false. In the second part I’ll address the sheer lunacy of the Hymowitz marriage fantasies that were actually “championed” by this bizarre AEIb report. I use the lower case “b” to reflect Brookings’ minimal progressive input to the report and its role in providing political cover for AEI’s continuing smear of the poor.
AEI has a long record of using Brookings as its fig leaf and enabler for “consensus” hard-right positions. In my field, finance, the AEI-Brookings Joint Center on Regulatory Studies successfully championed deregulation and desupervision for decades under Presidents Bush and Clinton. Brookings was once associated with “liberals,” but on most issues it represents the Wall Street wing of the Democratic Party. Robert Litan was the long-time leader on the Brookings side of the “Joint Center” with the AEI. The Joint Center’s policies proved disastrous and did immense damage to the United States and the global economy. They helped create a criminogenic environment in finance not just in the U.S., but because the Joint Center promoted the global “race to the bottom” in financial regulation they helped destroy any chance of effective regulation in other nations as well.
Litan was recently let go from Brookings after Senator Warren blew the whistle on his violation of Brookings’ rules. Litan testifies overwhelmingly in opposition to regulation and is funded largely by industry groups that are dedicated to preventing any effective financial regulation. The Wall Street wing of the Democratic Party was incensed with Warren’s blowing the whistle on Litan.
AEI is notorious. A newspaper aptly labeled its offer to pay $10,000 to writers if they would attack a public report on global climate change by real scientists as “bribes.” In a delicious irony, an attempt by Representative Issa to smear members of the Financial Crisis Inquiry Commission appointed by Democrats, led to the disclosure of emails and messages to and from the FCIC appointees. Those emails and messages show that Peter Wallison, the AEI official that Republicans appointed to the FCIC had plotted to cause the FCIC to fail in its mission and that he tried to coordinate with Congressional Republicans to use that failure to assist them in repealing Dodd-Frank. Wallison shaped the Reagan administration’s disastrous financial deregulation and desupervision before joining AEI as its financial deregulation guru to continue that destruction of effective financial regulation and supervision. Wallison, of course, was certain as a FCIC Commissioner to proclaim that deregulation and desupervision had nothing to do with the crisis. The Republican Vice-Chair of FCIC was discovered to be leaking confidential FCIC internal documents to another AEI official.
Robert Bork, Jr., an AEI “fellow” was caught creating an “astro turf” effort to repeal Dodd-Frank in its entirety.
Bork, the son of famed Reagan Supreme Court nominee, has made a career coordinating front groups on behalf of corporations facing negative scrutiny. In a memo to an association for corporate attorneys, Bork explained that he improves the perception of his corporate clients by using right-wing bloggers and nonprofits to drape an ideological cover over abuses related to environmental crimes or defective consumer products:
“A carefully designed communication strategy that includes third parties has the potential to persuade key audiences. It gives you credibility and increases your chances of success.”
Bork notes that he can be paid to recruit groups like the Federalist Society, the American Enterprise Institute, the Manhattan Institute, and other right-leaning think tanks as “allies” for his business clients. Indeed, Bork pitched his services in a letter to tobacco company R.J. Reynolds to create a “campaign of op-eds by surrogates attacking” legislation that would reduce the deductibility of tobacco advertisements. He later used his position as a fellow at the American Enterprise Institute to pen an op-ed slamming the Clinton administration for pursuing a RICO suit against the tobacco industry.
What a deal, you can be an AEI “fellow” and get paid by a company whose business is killing and sickening its customers (fairly slowly) for recruiting the AEI to provide cover to that company.
No one should deal with AEI. Brookings continued partnerships with AEI represent the worst of Washington, but Eduardo Porter is gobsmacked at the faux bipartisanship that gives respectability and cover to AEI. Recall Porter’s claim: that the report by Hymowitz and company represents the “leading thinkers on opposite sides of the ideological divide.” No one would ever claim with a straight (not effete!) face that Hymowitz was a “leading thinker” on anything, including English literature. Many of the other members of the group have real expertise in fields such as political science and philosophy, but they are not remotely “on opposite sides of the ideological divide.” The group was primarily selected because they shared a core belief that the poor were poor because the poor are screwed up. The core group does not have “oppos[ing]” views on the core issues, and the core group is a majority of the entire group.
Tom Frank’s newest book, Listen Liberal: or Whatever Happened to the Party of the People crushes Porter’s claim that there is some immense “divide” between the right and New Democrats on a wide range of issues. Frank shows that the “New Democrats” who dominated the modern Democratic Party have championed anti-regulatory and anti-union policies and refused to make reversing the surging rise in inequality and our embarrassing rates of poverty a priority issue. The AEIb report that Porter describes in rapturous terms is a further proof of the accuracy of Frank’s thesis (as is the history of prior partnerships that I have explained). Three of the Brookings “liberals” are:
STUART BUTLER, Senior Fellow in Economic Studies, Brookings Institution. Prior to joining Brookings as a senior fellow, Stuart Butler spent 35 years at The Heritage Foundation. Heritage, occupies the outmost fringes of right wing groups.
RON HASKINS, Cabot Family Chair and Senior Fellow, Economic Studies, Brookings Institution
His Brookings bio brags that “he was instrumental in the 1996 overhaul of national welfare policy” and notes that he was President’s Bush’s senior advisor for welfare policy. He spent years as a Republican congressional staffer trying to end welfare.
RICHARD V. REEVES, Senior Fellow in Economic Studies, Brookings Institution
1997-1998 Principal Policy Adviser to the Minister for Welfare Reform [UK]
2010-2012 Director of Strategy to the Deputy Prime Minister of the UK
This requires a bit of explanation to a broader U.S. audience. Like Bill Clinton and the “New Democrats”, that he used as his model, Tony Blair and his “New Labour” Party wanted to engage in dramatic “welfare reform.” He appointed Reeves to lead that effort. After the Tories and the “Liberal-Democrats” defeated New Labour in the 2010 elections, Reeves became Director of Strategy for the hapless Nick Clegg, leader of the “Lib-Dems.” Clegg brought the Lib-Dems into a coalition government with the Tories, which led to the near-annihilation of the Lib-Dems in the most recent election. The name “Liberal” as part of the UK’s “Lib-Dem” Party means the opposite of what it means in the U.S. “Liberal” means presumptive hostility to government “interference” in the inevitable triumph of “free markets.” To sum it up, Reeves started out as the equivalent of a “New Democrat” dedicated to using government paternalism against the poor and moved even further to the right over time.
The Brookings team was selected in a manner that (1) reveals that Brookings is a place in which ultra conservative Republicans and New Democrats have substantial leadership roles, and (2) guarantees that the ultra-conservative members would dominate the group. Reeves and Haskins’ backgrounds demonstrate a second pattern – the core of the joint group was chosen because rather than being on “opposite” sides of the paramount issue they actually were intense partisans on the same side of that issue. The paramount issue is support for using government paternalism against the poor. “Welfare reform” was the passion of the core group of the AEIb appointees. Porter is amazed (and somehow favorably impressed) that they agreed on “attaching a job requirement to the food stamp program, to compel poor people to work.” But that was inevitable given the core group’s long held positions. Look at their backgrounds and the fact that the core group shares the same desire to blame the poor for poverty leaps out.
JONATHAN HAIDT. Haidt is a self-described liberal, but one beloved by the Wall Street Journal’s editorial staff, which is a powerful statement of how far right he is. Here is what he emphasized to the WSJ:
“The moral rot a [traditional] liberal welfare state creates over generations—I mean, the right is right about that,” says Mr. Haidt, “and the left can’t see it.”
Helping the poor, the elderly, the orphans, and the disabled inherently produces “moral rot” – and the “right is right about that” while the “left can’t see it.” Haidt went on to explain his disdain for Western Europe and Muslims and his claim that climate change was over-hyped because the survival of species was treated as a “sacred issue” by the left. He wants the Democratic Party to attack unions. He then, claimed that when he made these statements he was actually deliberately pulling his punches because some of his best friends are liberals. In sum, he exemplifies Tom Frank’s portrait of “liberals” who detest the concept of the Democratic Party as a party of the people that is dedicated to ending the way the system is rigged to produce massive inequality.
The AEI press release on the report notes that Haidt was the moderator overseeing the entire joint project. Haidt is dead wrong, progressives can see and smell the stink of “the moral rot” in everything about this joint process. The AEI first used Brookings’ New Democrats to destroy effective financial regulation and supervision and now they are repeating the same tactic to further shred the safety net and pervert the meaning of “moral.”
DAVID T. ELLWOOD, Scott M. Black Professor of Political Economy, Harvard University
“In 1993, he was named Assistant Secretary for Planning and Evaluation at the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) where he served as co-chair of President Clinton’s Working Group on Welfare Reform….”
JUDITH M. GUERON, President Emerita, MDRC
Gueron is the author of From Welfare to Work, which praises “welfare reform.”
LAWRENCE M. MEAD. An AEI “visitor” who claims credit for being the principal driver of “welfare reform.” Mead occupied a senior position with the Republican National Committee and was an aide to Henry Kissinger.
The other AEI appointees to the group support “welfare reform.”
The Core AEIb Group Blames Poverty on the Poor and Deifies the Rigged System
Mead was the “thought leader” driving “welfare reform,” which was embraced by the New Democrats. The two most famous New Democrats, Bill Clinton and Al Gore worked with Newt Gingrich to adopt and implement Mead’s plan to force poor women with young children to work outside the home or be cut off from federal aid.
On April 18, 2013, after the financial crash and the release of copious evidence on how the system was rigged by elites and for elites, Mead had a revealing interview conducted by one of his political allies and personal friends, David Blankenhorn. Blankenhorn served as the “expert” witness on the perfidy of gay parents in the famous trial in California in which the proponents of Proposition 8 attempted to prove that it was rational to forbid gays to marry. Blankenhorn was eviscerated on cross-examination. His attempt to explain why polygamy was acceptable while same sex marriage was not is painful to read even today. He was humiliated so totally that he gave up the fight as a lost cause.
Blankenhorn had no professional expertise in the subject, so opposing counsel: “objected to Blankenhorn’s qualification as an expert. The district court agreed, finding Blankenhorn’s opinion testimony to be ‘unreliable and entitled to essentially no weight.’” Blankenhorn self-identifies as a “liberal Democrat,” so he exemplifies Tom Frank’s thesis in “Listen Liberal.”
The point is that Blankenhorn’s interview of Mead was fawning rather than some clever and misleading effort to trap him. The interview presents Mead’s unvarnished views.
Mead begins the interview by explaining that he wants to make being married to central to being a “citizen.” You will see that Mead packs a great deal into that word. He seeks to make the case for a new paternalism, one that imposes duties on the poor. He claims that the key to long term poverty was that “The poor suffered from a lack of obligations.” He says that this means that they failed to fulfill the common obligations of citizenry, which include “working” and “speaking English.” To Mead, citizens owe duties solely to other citizens. If you do not work you are not a citizen. Mead complained that the “poor had more rights than obligations.” Returning to new paternalism, he opines that “we had to require work” from poor unmarried mothers with small children in order to force them to “fulfill common obligations.” Again, a “citizen,” even an unmarried mother with very young children, has an “obligation” to work.
Poverty is due to “a breakdown of order.” Mead stresses that we need to give the poor “fewer choices” and “require them to work.” “We should offer people direction” “rather than choices.”
Poverty arises because of birth outside of marriage and then the parents’ failure to work. “The focus should be on lifestyle” to explain poverty. Inequality is only a meaningful concept for those who are working.
He states that a mother who is required to work is more likely to get married. He then complains that poor women have “crazy” attitudes. He is flummoxed that when they have increased income from working – they feel they can afford to marry. He thinks that is “crazy” because they’d be less likely to be poor if they got married.
He sadly observes that programs to promote marriage don’t “evaluate well” because they are not mandatory. The only answer is to “restore stigma” to unmarried mothers. We need to “withdraw … tolerance” for single mothers. “I don’t see an alternative” to return to stigma. “We have to do it” [return to stigma].
Mead claims that the state of the economy is irrelevant to the ability of the poor to find jobs. “Jobs are available.” He asserts that anyone who works regularly in America will not be poor. Therefore, we can’t blame marriage problems on the economy.
Mead wants to make it vastly harder to divorce. The person seeking a divorce would have to prove to a counselor appointed by the State that the marriage disputes were “irreconcilable.” These State official would decide whether divorce would be allowed. Mead is a political scientist and former speech flack for Henry Kissinger and policy spinner for the Republican National Committee. Mead has no expertise in economics, the family, or the law, but he has the advantage of revealed truth untainted by doubt (or reality) in each of these fields. Mead represents the core beliefs of the core group that dominated AEIb.
Porter: AEIb “Came Together to Champion an Increase in the Minimum Wage”
I have shown that Porter’s claim that AEIb is a group with “opposing” views that miraculously achieved a bipartisan consensus is a myth. Porter’s supposedly astounding and outstanding example of this consensus according to Porter is that the group “came together to champion an increase in the minimum wage.” Actually, they wrote to unanimously oppose President Obama’s modest proposed increase in the minimum wage. The document first mentions the words “minimum wage” on p. 28. There may be three wonks reading the document by p. 46 where the substantive discussion of it begins. When you “champion” something you put it front and center on page one, not page forty-six. You also don’t try to kill the President’s effort to achieve a modest increase in the minimum wage. AEIb (p. 46) states notes that the President proposes “to raise the minimum up to $10.10 per hour over three years and then index it to inflation.”
The federal minimum hourly wage is $7.25. A full time worker at the wage would earn roughly $14,500. In real (adjusted for inflation) terms the minimum wage would have had to have been increased in 2015 to $9 just to return to the level under President Reagan.
Far from “champion[ing]” the President’s proposed increase, the AEIb report (p. 46) actually opposes any substantial increase in the minimum wage.
“In a clear example of how values can influence the reading of research evidence, many progressives believe that this tradeoff is worth making and thus embrace the President’s proposal. By contrast, many conservatives believe that the estimated employment costs and the effects on prices are too high, that four-fifths of the increase in earnings would accrue to households that are not in poverty, and that the CBO might have underestimated the potential employment losses. In addition, the vast research on the minimum wage says little about how increases affect long-run job growth; nor can it say much about larger increases in the minimum wage. The “net” job loss estimate might also obscure larger job losses among some groups of workers that may be balanced out by job gains to new entrants from other groups. Accordingly, many conservatives oppose expanding the minimum wage.”
That passage is not remotely a “neutral” data-driven explanation of the issues. The real source of opposition to the minimum wage law is that conservative employers fight any rise in the minimum wage like a battle to the death, but that disappears entirely from the narrative. Instead, the conservatives’ positions is radically transformed into a love affair for the poorest of Americans. Every caution on the data limitations is biased against any significant increase in the minimum wage. The CBO economists are overwhelmingly neoclassical economists who are taught in their graduate programs to be hostile to the minimum wage. It is far more probable that such a group has overestimated rather than “underestimated the potential employment losses.” Indeed, if you are one of two people in the world that are so wonky that you read AEIb footnote 113 on p. 80 you would learn that under the CBO’s estimates the job loss could have been zero. But we all know this is how you bias a report to undercut rather than “champion” the case for a substantial increase in the minimum wage. The main text was deliberately crafted to mislead the reader.
But this understates the bias in the CBO’s methodology, for the income effects of a substantial raise in the minimum wage could have reduced the insufficient demand and raised total employment. The CBO methodology excludes such effects.
AEIb’s implicit suggestion that increasing the minimum wage is of limited advantage because four-fifths of the earnings would go to those not in poverty is crafted to mislead. The bulk of the gains will go to people who are under or just barely above the poverty line. Both groups desperately need additional income, particularly if the AEIb aim to “promote marriage.” Increasing the minimum wage substantially would materially reduce income inequality – the AEIb does not even consider that enormous advantage.
The reality is that the federal minimum wage is lower than most state minimum wages and far lower than average pay in even large fast food chains.
On April 1, McDonald’s announced that it will raise starting pay at company-owned restaurants to $1 over the locally mandated minimum wage.
By the end of 2016, McDonald’s projects that the average hourly wage rate for employees at company-owned restaurants will be in excess of $10.
If you were wonky enough to read footnote 106 on p. 79 of the AEIb report you would learn critical information about the minimum wage.
Calculations show that 2000 hours of work at less than $9 an hour by a single working adult leaves family income below the official poverty line for a family of three, while the same is true at less than $11 an hour for a family of four.
Note first that minimum wage jobs are often intermittent particularly as we descend into the dystopian “gig economy.” If one puts in a more realistic number of annual hours of work than 2000, the need for a much higher minimum wage becomes even more apparent. But only if you want to make reality apparent.
At $7.25, the minimum wage is what conservatives want it to be – a farce. If Obama’s proposal was adopted it would take three years for it to reach $10.10, leaving the families of many full-time minimum wage workers in poverty. Progressives are seeking a $15 minimum wage that would actually be transformative. The AEIb report does not even discuss progressive policies on the minimum wage, which tell you everything you need to know about the true (trivial) philosophical divisions among the AEIb members. Hymowitz is so far to the right that a counterpart on the left would be an anarchist-Maoist. AEIb could even muster a single mild progressive who would insist on explaining in the report the powerful progressive case for a $15 minimum wage.
What does AEIb propose as a new minimum wage? The report does not tell the reader. It simply says (p. 47) that they could not even muster a consensus in support of Obama’s proposed modest increase in the minimum wage. They want the President’s proposal chopped back to some unspecified lower number that will be what conservatives designed the AEIb “consensus” to be – a farce. But not to worry, Porter assures us that AEI staff now “champion” increasing the minimum wage. Look at AEI’s web pages. AEI “champions” eliminating any minimum wage protections. Remember another key fact, this is the only material area in which the AEI gave the “liberals” even a fig leaf of a concession from the right.
In part two I address what AEIb actually “championed” – an insane government propaganda campaign to convince poor black straight women that they must marry the doctor of their dreams and move to a great suburb with a range rover and BWM in the two-car attached garage.