The Difference Between Equity and Equality

I have devoted many posts on my blog, ”It Does Not Add Up,” to the topic of racism in America, one of the most contentious topics in the public domain today. For example, “Is There Structural Racism Still Remaining in the U.S?” concludes that the major form of structural racism still existing is the academic achievement gap between blacks and whites, and suggests specific programs for addressing this disparity.

The newest hot topic in race relations is the concept of equity which means equal outcomes achieved, if necessary, by unequal treatment, biased competition, and preferential judging.  Equality, on the other hand, means equal treatment, unbiased competition, and impartially judged outcomes.

The problem with the concept of equity is that it challenges America’s bedrock principle that people should be treated equally and judged as individuals, not as members of groups.

Americans are very generous and support some form of social safety net for the poor and disadvantaged.  The debate has always been about how extensive the social safety net should be and how long it should last for each recipient.  But most Americans don’t want to turn welfare programs into large and permanent entitlement programs, giving substantially different treatment to different groups, even if those groups have suffered historical wrongs.

The black policy expert, Shelby Steele, says that blacks don’t have to fight so much for freedom anymore, but have to do something more difficult: fully accept that they are free, and stop acting like victims.

The black linguist, John McWhorter, explains that the current version of antiracism, in its focus on an oversimplified sense of what racism is and what one does about it, is content to harm black people in the name of what can only be called dogma. It exploits modern Americans’ fear of being thought racist to promulgate not just antiracism, but an obsessive, self-involved, totalitarian, and utterly unnecessary kind of cultural reprogramming.

The black scholar, Ian Rowe, promotes the four-point plan F.R.E.E. (freedom, religion, education, and entrepreneurship) for all children to overcome the victimhood narrative and discover their pathway to power.

Conclusion.  The problem with equity is that it has the radical goal of re-engineering society through coercion.   Equity is just a new brand name for a very old program of achieving equal outcomes.  Its name is socialism and we know from long experience that it doesn’t work.

Sign-up for my Email Newsletter
Follow me on Facebook
Follow me on Twitter

The Enormous Achievements of Western Civilization

“Hey, hey, ho, ho, Western Civ has got to go”
Reverend Jesse Jackson, Stanford University, January 15, 1987

Americans, and other people growing up in the western world today, are among the luckiest people in human history.  We are lucky because men and women before us worked hard to make it so and performed feats extraordinary and mundane to see that luck was what we got.  A luck that much of the world still wants to take part in.

Douglas Murray, in his new book, “The War on the West,” describes very clearly why westerners are so lucky.

Consider:

  • The west has given the world a disproportionate number, if not most, of the things that the world currently benefits from.
  • They include almost every medical advancement that the world now enjoys. They include almost every scientific advancement that the world now benefits from.
  • The west led the world in the invention and promotion of the written word. Westerners founded most of the world’s oldest and longest established educational institutions.
  • Western peoples happen to have also developed all the world’s most successful means of commerce, including the free flow of capital.  The system of free-market capitalism has lifted more than one billion people out of extreme poverty just in the twenty-first century alone.
  • It is the western people who developed the principle of representative government of the people, by the people and for the people. The western world has developed the principles and practice of political liberty, of freedom of thought and conscience, of freedom of speech and expression.  It evolved the principles of ‘civil rights,’ rights that do not exist in much of the rest of the world.
  • Western achievements have led to a footfall that is entirely one-directional. There is today no serious movement of peoples in the world struggling to get into China or Russia, as they are, at great personal risk, trying to move to America.  The migrant ships across the Mediterranean go in only one direction – north.  In spite of everything that is said against it, America is still the world’s number one destination for migrants worldwide.
  • The culture which is now so fashionable to deprecate remains the only culture in the world that not only tolerates but actively encourages a dialogue against itself.

Conclusion.  For all the above reasons and many more, Americans and other westerners have the highest quality of life that has ever been achieved in human history.  It is truly amazing that so many people in the West today apparently cannot see this.  Most of the rest of the world wants the same prosperity as well as the personal freedom and security that we enjoy in such great abundance.

Sign-up for my Email Newsletter
Follow me on Facebook

Americans Should be (Generally) Optimistic about the Future of our Country

According to a recent PEW poll, Americans are in a pessimistic mood.  Of course, there are a lot of things to be worried about right now, but things are not really as bad as they seem.  Consider:

  • The Pandemic. The pandemic is clearly subsiding.  94% of American adults now have Covid antibodies, either through vaccination or previous infection.  This means that we have achieved herd immunity.  The latest surge in new daily infections is also subsiding.  In other words, the pandemic is on track to becoming endemic (routine) and we will continue addressing it in the same way as we deal with the common seasonal flu on an annual basis.
  • Inflation appears to be leveling off at an annual rate of about 8% (8.5% in March, 8.3% in April, and 8.6% in May). The Fed will have to keep raising interest rates until the inflation rate comes down.  This process could take a year or more and, in the meantime, there will be real pain for millions of people on fixed incomes.  The current inflation was tripped off by the government’s fiscal stimulus in response to the pandemic and there will be political repercussions starting in November.  But inflation is likely to be back down to its normal 2% level about a year from now.

  • The Ukraine War. Ukraine wants to be free and independent and we are helping the Ukrainians defend themselves against Russian aggression.  The Ukrainians themselves will have to decide how to end the war: drive the Russians out or reach a lesser compromise.  But our willingness to defend democracy around the world is one important reason why America is so widely admired by other countries.
  • Polarization.  The current intense level of polarization in our politics is a sign of our vigorous democratic system in action.  There are many contentious issues such as an increase in crime, abortion rights, gun rights, and K-12 educational policy which can only be resolved through the democratic process.  The inter-workings can get messy, but this is how democracy operates in practice.
  • National Debt. This is the one issue that I am less optimistic about. Our national debt is now over $30 trillion and growing rapidly.  It will probably take a new financial crisis to force our national leaders to get federal spending sufficiently under control so that, at least, we stop adding to the debt and, therefore, shrink it as a percentage of GDP over time.  As the attached chart shows very clearly, it is entitlement spending that is the main culprit in our massive and growing debt accumulation.

Conclusion.  Many of our apparently severe political disagreements on such issues as abortion rights, gun rights and educational policy will be resolved through our normal, even if highly contentious, democratic processes.  The out-of-control national debt, unfortunately, may require a major new financial crisis to force our national leaders to take major corrective action.

Sign-up for my Email Newsletter
Follow me on Facebook
Follow me on Twitter

America is a Beacon of Democracy for the Rest of the World

Any free country like the United States will always have serious problems to solve: mass shootings, political polarization, inflation, etc.  But our democratic system of government and versatile economy are very good at addressing new problems as they arise.  Many other countries around the world admire our achievements and would like to be as free and prosperous as we are.

Consider:

  • The Pandemic. We have now virtually defeated the world-wide pandemic by adopting a decentralized approach with the states in charge of requiring lockdowns, mask mandates and school closures.  It is American pharmaceutical companies, which developed the world’s most effective vaccines in record time, that have allowed the U.S. to essentially achieve herd immunity. The latest U.S. variant is already decreasing in the number of new daily infections.  Compare this with the Chinese zero-Covid approach which is floundering and badly hurting their economy.
  • Democracy is flourishing around the world (see chart).  Democracy is fragile and hard to establish but it is also contagious because people everywhere have a yearning for the personal and political freedom which democracy provides.  More democracy means more peace in the world because democracies seldom go to war with each other.
  • The Ukraine War. Ukraine wants to be free and independent from Russia and the U.S. and its allies are rightly helping Ukraine defend itself.  Russia is a huge troublemaker all around the world and hopefully will be severely punished for starting this war.
  • Economic and social progress in the U.  The U.S. not only has the highest median individual and household incomes in the world among major economies, but also African/Americans are making much economic and social progress as well.  American social and economic progress is highly visible to the whole world and this, of course, adds greatly to our stature among other nations.

Conclusion.  America is leading the world by example.  We’ve got the pandemic under control with American-made vaccines and a decentralized political system.  We’re demonstrating our commitment to democracy by defending Ukraine against the Russian invasion.  We are constantly demonstrating the superiority of our own political and economic system by steadily improving the lives of the vast majority of our citizens.  We’re doing the big things right and tackling new problems as they arise.  We should be optimistic about the future of our country and its crucial role in world affairs.

Sign-up for my Email Newsletter
Follow me on Facebook
Follow me on Twitter

The Solution to Polarization: Decentralize by Giving States More Responsibility

Politics in the United States is highly polarized.  We easily recognize this at the national level because the parties in Congress are constantly squabbling with each other.  But it is also true in state government as well.  In fact, of our 50 states, only two, Minnesota and Virginia, have split legislative chambers.  All of the other 48 states have both legislative houses either Republican (30 including Nebraska which is unicameral) or Democratic (18).   Also, notice how both individual Democrats and Republicans are becoming more ideological in their views. This, of course, increases the degree of polarization at all levels.


Politics is polarized because there is such a sharp division of opinion in the country on so many basic issues.  The answer is not to try to force unification, which won’t work anyway, but rather to let the states resolve more issues on their own. Consider:

  • The Electoral College. This brilliant invention by our founding fathers aims to elect presidents who represent the nation’s great diversity by obliging them to earn votes across many states and regions.  It can bestow a broad-based national mandate on a president who won only a plurality of the popular vote such as Lincoln in 1860, Nixon in 1968, and Clinton in 1992.  Election by popular national vote would encourage candidates to campaign only in large, voter-rich metropolitan areas and media markets.  A multiparty democracy would result, in which runoff elections would be necessary for the ultimate winner to achieve a majority vote.
  • The pandemic. The attached chart shows which ten states did the best job overall handling Covid, based on the three variables of the economy, education, and mortality, and which ten did the worst.  The best performers were largely small red states (Florida is a large red state) and the worst performers were mostly large blue states.  The leaders largely avoided lockdowns, mask mandates, and kept their schools open.  A national Covid policy, run by the bureaucracy-controlled CDC, would have been a disaster.  Note also the huge red and blue difference in attitudes about the seriousness of Covid.         
  • The likely overturn of Roe vs Wade. The 1973 Roe vs Wade decision by the Supreme Court was clearly unconstitutional.  The likely repeal will return abortion policy to the states (closer to the people) where it will be resolved on a state-by-state basis.
  • Gun Control. Notice the widening gap between Republicans and Democrats on the attitude towards gun possession.  Red states and blue states will decide gun control issues differently as their legislatures see fit.  This is how it should be done.

Conclusion There is huge polarization in our body politic at both the state and national levels.  This polarization exists because there is such a wide divergence of views on so many fundamental issues.  Our constitution has set up a strong central government to perform basic national functions such as providing for national defense, conducting foreign relations, and maintaining a common currency.  But we should adhere more closely to the Tenth Amendment which says that all powers not specifically assigned to the federal government are reserved for the states.  This would go a long way to decentralizing the way public issues are resolved and defusing much of the hostility now directed at the federal government.  Making government closer to the people in this way would go a long way towards depolarizing our nation.

Sign-up for my Email Newsletter
Follow me on Facebook
Follow me on Twitter

Why Omaha is such a Great Place to Live

I have been writing this blog for almost 10 years, beginning shortly after the 2012 national elections.  I have named the blog “It Does Not Add Up” because my main focus is the fiscal health of the United States.  Our national debt, now in the neighborhood of $30 trillion, is far too large and is growing in an unsustainable manner.

It will be very difficult to fix the debt problem.  In theory, we can do it by controlling the cost of entitlement spending.  But this will be very hard to accomplish in practice.  I now have adopted the more pessimistic view that it will take some sort of a “crisis” for our national leadership to effectively address this problem.  The current 8% annual rate of inflation could become such a crisis but more likely will be brought back down to a tolerable level by aggressive Fed action in raising short-term interest rates.

Nevertheless, I am still optimistic about the long-range future of the “American Project”  because we have a fundamentally sound free enterprise economic system as well as a stable system of democratic government respecting individual rights.

My optimism about America is backed up by my personal satisfaction of living in the mid-sized city of Omaha, located in the deep-red state of Nebraska.  Consider these fundamental advantages:

  • Low cost of living. The cost of living in Omaha is 8% less than the national average.

  • Low crime rate. Homicides in Omaha are way below the national rate.

  • Low rate of homelessness. The entire state of Nebraska has “only” 2400 chronically homeless people, much less than most other states.

  • Income inequality. Income inequality in Nebraska is much lower than the national average, as is typical of red states in general.
  • Educational equity. The eleven school districts in metro Omaha comprise a Learning Community whose focus is on early childhood education to better prepare children from low-income families to succeed in school.

  • Unemployment rate. Nebraska’s current unemployment rate is 1.9%, the lowest in the U.S., and for Omaha, the unemployment rate is only 2.4%.

Conclusion.  While I no longer think that there is a simple or even relatively painless solution to fix our national debt problem, I am still optimistic about the long-term prospects for maintaining essential U.S. leadership in world affairs.  Perhaps my “rosy scenario” outlook is influenced by my own quality of life which is greatly enhanced by the favorable demographics of my city and state of residence.

Sign-up for my Email Newsletter
Follow me on Facebook
Follow me on Twitter

Americans are too Pessimistic about the Future II. Political Implications

In my last post, I gave several reasons why I think Americans are too pessimistic.  Others are saying similar things.

But the fact remains that Americans really are pessimistic at the present time and this will have implications for the November 2022 national elections.  Consider:

  • Foreign Policy is a plus for President Biden and the Democrats. Even though the Afghanistan withdrawal was handled poorly, Biden is now handling the Ukrainian situation very well.  Ukraine wants to be free and independent from Russia and we should do all we can to help them achieve this without getting directly involved in the war.  Furthermore, China’s current economic slowdown and failing Zero-Covid policy reflect poorly on its autocratic political system.
  • Inflation. This is, of course, the Democrat’s biggest problem by far.  Americans are reminded daily of the rapidly rising price of gasoline.  Even if the annual rate of inflation continues to taper off slowly (it dropped from an annual rate of 8.5% in March to 8.3% in April), it is likely to still be high in November.  In the meantime, the Fed will be raising interest rates aggressively to combat inflation and this will slow down the economy.  This will likely make the current low unemployment rate of 3.6% go up, even though there is now a huge number of open jobs (11 million) in the economy.  And even large current wage increases are not keeping up with inflation.

  • The likely repeal of Roe vs Wade. This will be a net wash politically.  Since state legislatures will now be in charge of setting abortion policy, both pro-lifers and pro-choicers will be working hard to boost voter turnout amongst their supporters.  Of course, more voting is very good for democracy in general.
  • The culture wars give a big advantage to the Republicans. Gender ideology (trans-gender encouragement) and critical race theory (white supremacy and systemic racism) are toxic to parents of young children.  Unnecessary school closings and mask mandates at the behest of teacher unions have also created animosity towards the education establishment.

Conclusion.  Joe Biden is doing well on foreign policy, but poorly on domestic issues, and his overall popularity is sinking.  In other words, domestic policy failures outweigh foreign policy successes for presidential popularity.  This bodes poorly for the Democrats in the November 2022 elections.

Sign-up for my Email Newsletter
Follow me on Facebook
Follow me on Twitter

Americans are Too Pessimistic about the Future

Maybe it’s just a combination of human nature and the way that the media emphasize negative news.  War, pandemic, inflation, this is what we hear about in the news and too many people are natural worriers.  Things sound pretty bad right now.  But I agree with Warren Buffett, the Oracle of Omaha, who says, “Never bet against America”.

Consider:

  • The Pandemic. According to the CDC, 94% of Americans ages 16 and up have Covid antibodies either through vaccination or prior infection.  Now, after the Omicron surge, half of us actually have infection-induced antibodies and these prior infections are helping to blunt the effect of new variants.  In other words, get vaccinated and exercise reasonable precautions.  If you do catch Covid, it is likely to be mild or even asymptomatic.

  • The Ukraine war.  Russia invaded Ukraine in February and brave Ukrainians are willing to fight and die to preserve their freedom and independence. The U.S. and its NATO allies are providing Ukraine with the military supplies it needs to drive the Russians out.  It is not only the right thing to do but also in our own best interest to defend democracy around the world as much as we reasonably can.
  • The end of Roe vs Wade? If Roe vs Wade is struck down by the Supreme Court, as now appears likely, then the issue of abortion restrictions returns to the states.  Especially in the red states which tend to be pro-life, this will inevitably boost voter turnout in future elections.   This is good for democracy!

  • Political polarization, dissension, and acrimony. Of course, we should try to disagree without being disagreeable, but democracy is inherently messy.  How much better it is to work out our differences under the rule of law than to risk violent insurrections.  This is one of the great virtues of our decentralized constitutional republic.
  • Inflation is now running at an annual rate of 8.5% (as of March 2022). The Fed has already raised short-term interest rates by .75 % (to a total of 1%) but will have to do much more.  According to Richard Clarida, former Fed vice-chairman, if inflation is still as high as 3% a year from now, the Fed will need to raise interest rates to 4% in order to bring inflation down to the Fed’s goal of 2%.  Of course, to reach 3% a year from now, the inflation rate needs to level off real soon and then start dropping.  Let’s be optimistic and expect something like this will happen.  In the meantime, there will be the short-term pain of rising prices, but our underlying strong economy, and low unemployment rate, should carry us through the inevitable downturn.

Conclusion.  There are always serious issues to confront in a democracy, but the U.S. is in good shape overall.  The Pandemic is under control.  Ukraine is effectively resisting Russian invasion with our support.  The likely repeal of Roe vs Wade will result in a big increase in voter turnout.  The Fed should be able to get inflation under control with some temporary pain for the next year or two.  All-in-all, democracy is thriving at home and abroad!

Sign-up for my Email Newsletter
Follow me on Facebook
Follow me on Twitter

Why Calling the U.S. Systemically Racist is Harmful to Black Progress

Although my focus on this website is mostly on fiscal and economic issues, I discuss other basic national issues as well.  Lately, I have been giving much attention to the Russian invasion of Ukraine because the defense of democracy and freedom around the world is so fundamental to our own national security.


Another very serious socio/economic problem in the U.S. is the relatively slow progress of African/Americans in achieving social and economic equality with white Americans.  The legal scholar, Peter Schuck, has a valuable article on this subject in the latest issue of the National Affairs.  According to Mr. Schuck:

  • The claim of progressive advocacy groups that the U.S. is systemically racist distracts from, and undermines, a more compelling priority: the repair of so many broken black communities in low-income areas. The language of systemic racism does not equip younger black Americans with the tools to pursue the many genuinely equal opportunities that now exist.

  • Almost three generations after the civil rights movement of the 1960s, decades of affirmative action, and trillions of anti-poverty dollars later, many Americans of all races remain painfully aware of continuing racial injustice and embedded inequality.
  • But there are four basic reasons to doubt that the racism in America today is truly systemic.
  • First, the rates of racist beliefs among individual Americans have declined over time. Public polling about white-black intermarriage, residential proximity, and other interactions show dramatic increases in tolerant attitudes among whites since the 1960s.
  • Second, the cohort of the U.S. population that has been most likely to hold racist views is slowly but inexorably dying out.
  • Third, anti-racist protests and highly publicized punishments of racist incidents have made racism much more newsworthy than it was in decades past.
  • Fourth, impressive upward mobility of other non-white groups is occurring all the time. Furthermore, black immigrants’ economic mobility is much greater than that of blacks born in the U.S.

To say that ongoing systemic racism is the primary driver of current disparities between black and white Americans today distracts attention from what may actually be causing or worsening the problem:

  • The first social factor contributing to socioeconomic disparities between blacks and white in America is the fragility of the black family. Black men today are far less likely to get married than white men.  Economically prosperous black men are less likely than poor black men to have ever married at all.  The best predictor of low prospects for children, regardless of race, is growing up in a single parent household.
  • A second factor contributing to socioeconomic disparities is isolation. The digital divide deprives blacks of information and social connections.  Blacks tend to live in areas of low economic growth and high unemployment which limits their access to resources that contribute to upward mobility.
  • A third factor is schooling. Even though high school graduation for blacks has risen from 25% in 1965 to now around 88%, graduation statistics conceal large skill gaps that remain.  At the primary and secondary school levels, blacks are disproportionately cited for misconduct which leads to higher drop-out rates.  Unfortunately, blacks often suffer from an oppositional culture that manifests itself in less time spent on homework, high rates of truancy, and greater indiscipline.
  • A fourth factor contributing to socioeconomic disparities is Unfortunately, de-incarceration would have little impact on incarceration rates.  This is because nonviolent offenders, such as drug users, seldom go to prison today.  Also, recidivism rates are very high: two-thirds of those released from prison are arrested for a new crime within three years.
  • Finally, a fifth factor is that many people, black and otherwise, find themselves in an impoverished state because they have made poor personal choices, such as excessive gambling, the abuse of alcohol or tobacco, or illicit drugs.
  • The so-called success sequence: finishing high school, marrying after the age of 20, and doing both before having a child – reduces the risk of falling into poverty to 2%, while failure to follow this path raises it to 75%.

Conclusion.  “The challenge we confront today is to identify and overcome those obstacles to black Americans’ progress that were placed there not only by racist systems of the past and programmatic failures of the present, but also by behaviors over which they and their communities have some control today.”

Sign-up for my Email Newsletter
Follow me on Facebook
Follow me on Twitter

How is Joe Biden Doing as President?

Joe Biden’s poll ratings have been steadily dropping from the mid-fifties, when he became President, to now in the low forties.  Here is my evaluation of his performance:

  • Biden is handling the Ukrainian situation very well.  Ukraine wants to be free and independent from Russia and it is important for the U.S. and its allies to provide as much military support as possible to resist the Russian invasion without putting troops on the ground.  Many NATO countries, encouraged by Biden, are also providing military weapons and supplies.  Even though Ukraine is not a member, NATO is still heavily involved, and rightly so, in helping Ukraine defend itself.

  • Inflation is increasing at an annual rate of 8.5% (as of March 2022). Although there are several underlying causes of inflation (massive deficit spending by Congress, quantitative easing by the Fed), it is the $3 trillion excess spending under Biden ($1.9 trillion for the American Rescue Plan and $1.1 trillion for infrastructure) that has tripped off the current surge.  Other than holding back on additional unnecessary spending (unnatural and unlikely for Democrats), there really isn’t anything Biden can do about it.  The Fed will have to raise interest rates significantly to slow the economy in order to bring the inflation rate down.  Of course, this may set off a recession but that may be what it takes to stop inflation.  In the meantime, inflation is a significant burden on the working class.
  • Culture Wars.  The progressive left, with Biden’s at least tacit if not overt support, is pushing a radical K-12 education agenda of gender ideology and critical race theory.  There is huge grassroots opposition to these measures, as already apparent in the 2021 off-term elections around the country.
  • Southern Border. There are now over 200,000 immigrant apprehensions at our southern border each month.  Most of these illegal immigrants claim asylum and are given temporary visas to remain in the U.S. until their cases are adjudicated by an immigration judge.  There is much opposition to such lax immigration procedures, even from some Democratic members of Congress.

Conclusion.  On foreign policy, after a disastrous withdrawal from Afghanistan, Joe Biden is now doing well in responding to the Ukrainian invasion crisis.  Where ha has fallen down badly, as reflected in his steadily dropping poll numbers, is on domestic issues, especially concerning inflation.  The inflation rate will probably level off soon but is unlikely to drop very fast.  In other words, the price of gasoline, for example, is likely to keep on rising indefinitely.  This reminds everyone on a daily basis of how bad inflation is.  The culture wars and “open” southern border are also damaging Mr. Biden’s support.  All of these factors will be reflected in the November 2022 midterm election results.

Sign-up for my Email Newsletter
Follow me on Facebook
Follow me on Twitter