Recent Degrowth Policies Will “Reduce Medicare and Social Security Tax Revenue by at Least $400 Billion”

(p. A13) President Biden released his 2024 budget request Thursday while continuing to accuse Republicans of scheming to cut benefits for seniors. But he’s got it backward. By advancing policies that hinder the economic growth that drives prosperity, Mr. Biden and his Democratic colleagues are the ones depriving Social Security and Medicare of the hundreds of billions of dollars those programs need to remain solvent.

. . .

My own research on the Biden agenda’s effect on Social Security and Medicare makes clear that low economic growth translates into smaller benefits for seniors. These programs give the elderly a share of the earnings of the nation’s current workers. The more people who work, and the more each worker earns, the more payroll tax revenue is available to fund Social Security and Medicare. I estimate that degrowth policies since 2020 will cumulatively reduce Medicare and Social Security tax revenue by at least $400 billion—and perhaps as much as $900 billion. The tax base will shrink even more if Mr. Biden succeeds in levying higher wealth and business taxes.

For the full commentary, see:

Casey B. Mulligan. “Biden’s Assault on Social Security.” The Wall Street Journal (Monday, March 10, 2023): A13.

(Note: ellipsis added.)

(Note: the online version of the commentary has the date March 9, 2023, and has the title “Biden’s Budget Is an Assault on Social Security.”)

A somewhat more detailed version of Mulligan’s argument can be found in:

Mulligan, Casey B. “Payroll Tax Revenues Down $400 to $900 Billion Due to Lower Wages and Less Growth.” Washington, D.C.: Committee to Unleash Prosperity, March 2023.

Launching Europe’s Largest Nuclear Reactor Gives Finland Electricity Resilience Against Russian Disruptions

(p. A7) Finland has started regular electricity output at Europe’s largest nuclear reactor, a move that contrasts with developments in other European countries, where opposition to nuclear power is stronger.

The long-delayed Olkiluoto 3 reactor is the first European nuclear-power facility to open in 16 years. Alongside two other nuclear reactors on the Olkiluoto island off Finland’s west coast, the new 1.6-gigawatt plant will eventually produce nearly one-third of the country’s electricity.

. . .

Finland’s reliance on nuclear energy, in combination with hydro and wind power, is part of the Nordic nation’s transition toward carbon neutrality, which has helped make Finland resilient against energy-supply disruptions, such as those following Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.

For the full story, see:

Sune Engel Rasmussen. “Finland Launches Nuclear Reactor.” The Wall Street Journal (Tuesday, April 18, 2023): A7.

(Note: ellipsis added)

(Note: the online version of the story has the date April 17, 2023, and has the title “Europe’s Largest Nuclear Reactor Launches as Continent Splits Over Atomic Energy.”)

Poor People Benefit More From “Entrepreneurial Capitalism” Than From Philanthropy

(p. A15) Paul David Hewson said it best during a 2012 speech at Georgetown University. Wait, who? “Aid is just a stopgap,” said Mr. Hewson, whose stage name is Bono. “Commerce [and] entrepreneurial capitalism take more people out of poverty than aid. We need Africa to become an economic powerhouse.” We still haven’t found what he’s looking for. An economic powerhouse would be able to afford mosquito nets and malaria drugs without handouts. That should be the endgame.

. . .

At its best, lots of philanthropy is very useful, but may not be sustainable over time—a sugar high that rarely enables that “teach a man how to fish” thing. Effective altruism may be an oxymoron. And it’s hard to miss that much of philanthropy is to fix government failures in education, welfare or medicine. I think that was Bono’s point.

But at its shadiest, philanthropy drives the misallocation of capital, overvaluing professors, the U.N. and climate poets and undervaluing those who can productively increase societal wealth to fund solutions to the future’s harder problems.

If only there were a way to use capital to provide opportunity, train workers, pay middle-class wages, help people build wealth . . . wait, it just came to me. How about starting new companies and investing in entrepreneurs and world-changing technology?

For the full commentary, see:

Andy Kessler. “INSIDE VIEW; A Wrench Thrown Into Capitalism.” The Wall Street Journal (Monday, April 17, 2023): A15.

(Note: ellipsis between paragraphs, added; ellipsis internal to last quoted paragraph, in original; bracketed word in original.)

(Note: the online version of the commentary has the date April 16, 2023, and has the same title as the print version.)

Public Unions Are “Designed for Inefficiency”

(p. A13) Mr. [Philip] Howard, a lawyer and writer, first noticed how unions stymie governance during his public service in New York as a member of a neighborhood zoning board and chairman of the Municipal Art Society. “I kept wondering why my friends who had responsible jobs in government couldn’t do what they thought was right,” he recalls. That might be speeding up a land-use review for a construction project or approving repairs on a school building.

“I’d have discussions with them about what made sense in a particular situation, and they would say, ‘I wish I could, but I can’t.’ ” Any careful or profitable plans were quickly blown up by union rules, such as limits on workers’ hours and duties.

This week the New York transit union gave an example for the ages. It blocked the subway system’s plan to sync its schedule to new ridership norms, with fewer trains on slow days and lightly traveled routes and more trains on busy ones. The change would have saved $1.5 million a year, benefited riders and preserved workers’ paid hours. But an arbitrator shelved it Tuesday because the union couldn’t bear the “variations in start and end times.”

“They’re not just inefficient,” Mr. Howard says of the unions. “They’re designed for inefficiency.”

“They’re designed to require a new work crew to come cut a tree limb because the people fixing the rails don’t have authority to remove a tree limb. They’re designed to prevent supervisors from observing teachers, except under very controlled circumstances. They’re designed to prevent the principal from giving extra training to a teacher. They’re designed to prevent a supervisor in an agency from going and talking to a worker and soliciting ideas about how to make things work better.”

Mr. Howard, 74, keeps listing examples until I jump in to stop him. They’re fresh in his mind because these schemes are the target of his new book, “Not Accountable: Rethinking the Constitutionality of Public Employee Unions.”

For the full interview, see:

Mene Ukueberuwa, interviewer. “THE WEEKEND INTERVIEW; Public Unions vs. the People.” The Wall Street Journal (Saturday, March 4, 2023): A13.

(Note: bracketed name added.)

(Note: the online version of the interview has the date March 23, 2023, and has the same title as the print version. In both versions, the word “designed” is in italics.)

Philip Howard’s book mentioned above is:

Howard, Philip K. Not Accountable: Rethinking the Constitutionality of Public Employee Unions. Garden City, NY: Rodin Books, 2023.

Toddlers Spontaneously Understand and Aid Puppies

(p. C4) A new study from Rachna Reddy at Duke University, Henry Wellman at the University of Michigan and their colleagues suggests that the special link between people and dogs runs deep. Even toddlers spontaneously treat dogs like people—figuring out what they want and helping them to get it.

. . .

Dr. Reddy and her colleagues enlisted the help of three canine experimenters—kid-friendly small dogs. The researchers showed nearly a hundred 2- to 3-year-olds the dogs in an enclosure, with a platform that was just out of reach. There was a treat on the platform, and the dogs naturally turned to the children and strained toward the treat, gazing at the kids with those notorious puppy-dog eyes. The toddlers spontaneously got the treat off the platform and gave it to the dogs or asked a grown-up to do it for them. Toddlers who had pet dogs at home helped the dogs out on 60% of the trials, but even toddlers without pets helped 40% of the time. The children helped more when the dogs were more engaged with them and were more enthusiastic about getting the treat.

. . .

The study suggests that humans succeeded in domesticating dogs because they spontaneously extended their abilities for cooperation and care to other animals. But this was a two-way street; dogs became adept at using signals that even very young children could understand.

For the full commentary, see:

Alison Gopnik. “MIND & MATTER; Our Deep Understanding Of Dogs’ Needs.” The Wall Street Journal (Saturday, March 4, 2023): C4.

(Note: ellipses added.)

(Note: the online version of the commentary has the date March 2, 2023, and has the title “MIND & MATTER; The Deep Bond Between Kids and Dogs.”)

The study discussed in the passages quoted above is:

Reddy, Rachna B., Margaret Echelbarger, Natalie Toomajian, Taeah Hammond, and Henry M. Wellman. “Do Children Help Dogs Spontaneously?” Human-Animal Interactions (Jan. 16, 2023)

Government Environmental Agency Accuses Itself of Bulldozing Habitat of “Threatened” Barred Owl and “Endangered” Redshouldered Hawk

(p. A18) A New Jersey state agency is accusing itself of violating its own regulations, saying it destroyed land that is home to rare owls and hawks while creating habitat for another type of bird.

At issue in the unusual bureaucratic conflict is the clearing of about 20 acres of swampy forest in a state-owned wildlife preserve in the southern part of the state as part of a project to improve conditions for the American woodcock, a common, plump shorebird prized by hunters.

The state’s Department of Environmental Protection paid private contractors $200,000 for the job, which involved the removal of trees and the bulldozing of stumps, according to public documents obtained by the nonprofit New Jersey Conservation Foundation.

But clearing the forest, in the Glassboro Wildlife Management Area in Clayton, destroyed habitat for the barred owl, which is threatened in New Jersey, and the red-shouldered hawk, which is endangered, according to a notice of violation issued to one arm of the environmental agency by another on April 6 [2023].

“It’s just depressing, really,” Joe Arsenault, a plant ecologist and environmental consultant who lives nearby and has studied the area for 25 years, said of the project’s outcome. “The site had exquisite, mature growth. It had ancient trees. Today it’s like driving through a parking lot.”

. . .

The forest will slowly regrow, Mr. Arsenault said, adding that his surveys of the land had also uncovered evidence of early settlement by Native American tribes that could date to the earliest humans to settle in New Jersey. With the land upturned, the site’s archaeological record is lost forever.

“It’s a gut punch,” he said. “It is the epitome of poor decisions and poorly spent money.”

For the full story, see:

Christopher Maag. “Plan to Create Habitat Destroys Tract of Forest.” The New York Times (Saturday, April 15, 2023): A18.

(Note: ellipsis, and bracketed year, added.)

(Note: the online version of the story has the same date as the print version, and has the title “New Jersey Environmental Agency Accuses Itself of Harming Bird Habitats.”)

College Dropout Put Cheap Stores Where Oil-Stained Pavement Showed Presence of the Poor

(p. A10) Leon Levine, a college dropout, founded the Family Dollar chain in 1959, starting in North Carolina and spreading around the U.S.

He stocked cut-price clothing, food, toys and the smallest packages of toothpaste or hand cream for people without enough cash to buy jumbo sizes. The stores were in low-income neighborhoods or small towns. Mr. Levine sometimes found locations by looking for oil stains on the pavement—a sure sign of the leaky cars driven by poor people.

For the full obituary, see:

James R. Hagerty. “Family Dollar Founder Looked for Oil Stains.” The Wall Street Journal (Saturday, April 15, 2023): A10.

(Note: the online version of the obituary has the date April 12, 2023, and has the title “Leon Levine, Who Made Small Box Retailing Pay, Dies at 85.”)

Bell Labs Allowed Tanenbaum to Pursue Any Research that Interested Him

(p. A11) One evening in 1955, Morris Tanenbaum’s wife was playing bridge with friends. Dr. Tanenbaum, a chemist who worked for Bell Telephone Laboratories, the research arm of American Telephone & Telegraph Co., saw a chance to dash back to work to test his latest ideas about how to make better semiconductor devices out of silicon.

He tried a new way of connecting an aluminum wire to a silicon chip. He was thrilled when it worked, providing a way to make highly efficient transistors and other electronic devices, an essential technology for the Information Age.

“I don’t think I needed a car to get home that evening,” he said later in an oral history recorded by the IEEE History Center. “I was flying high.”

Dr. Tanenbaum’s pioneering work in the mid-1950s demonstrated that silicon was a better semiconductor material for transistors than germanium, the early favorite. He earned seven patents.

He later served as a senior executive of AT&T and helped manage the breakup of the phone monopoly mandated by the 1982 settlement of a Justice Department antitrust suit. At the signing of the consent decree, Dr. Tanenbaum cried gently, according to “The Deal of the Century,” a history of the breakup by Steve Coll.

What pained him most was the fate of Bell Laboratories, which had invented the transistor in 1947 and allowed him, as a young Ph.D. chemist in the early 1950s, to pursue basic research even if it didn’t promise near-term financial rewards.  . . .

“Bell Laboratories, the world’s premier industrial laboratory, was destroyed, a major national and global tragedy,” he wrote later in an unpublished memoir written for his family.

. . .

Hired by Bell Laboratories in Murray Hill, N.J. in 1952, he was told to look around for a research project that interested him. Researchers were allowed to pursue nearly any project “potentially related to some Bell System problem or future opportunity,” he wrote later. “What more could a young person expect?”

He zeroed in on studies of potential semiconducting materials. The first transistors were made from germanium, but that material was expensive. Silicon is abundant and thus cheaper. It also helps prevent overheating of circuits. Early efforts to use silicon for electronic devices hadn’t worked well, though. That was a challenge for Dr. Tanenbaum and his colleagues, including Ernie Buehler.

They weren’t alone in finding ways to use silicon. Gordon Teal was doing similar work at Texas Instruments Inc. in the mid-1950s. “From that moment forward, the world was focused on silicon,” Dr. Tanenbaum wrote.

Though AT&T made early breakthroughs, other companies, including Intel Corp. and Texas Instruments, charged ahead with better and faster microchips that transformed the world. AT&T was busy trying to defend its telephone monopoly. On the silicon front, Dr. Tanenbaum said, “we kind of dropped the ball.”

For the full obituary, see:

James R. Hagerty. “Chemist Helped Put Silicon in Microchips.” The Wall Street Journal (Saturday, March 04, 2023): A11.

(Note: ellipses added.)

(Note: the online version of the obituary has the date March 3, 2023, and has the title “Morris Tanenbaum, Who Helped Put Silicon in Microchips, Dies at 94.” The fourth paragraph quoted above appears in the online, but not the print, version.)

The book by Col mentioned above is:

Coll, Steve. The Deal of the Century: The Breakup of AT&T. New York: Atheneum Books, 1986.

Miami Cubans Sent “El Voto Castigo” Protest to Clinton’s Betrayal of Elián González

“Armed federal agents raided the Miami house where Elián González, second from right, was staying with relatives.” Source of photo and caption: NYT article quoted and cited below. The original photographer was Alan Diaz/Associated Press.

Today (April 22, 2023) is the 23rd anniversary of the day when the Clinton Administration seized a six year old boy in order to force him back into the slavery that his mother had died trying to escape.

(p. C1) MIAMI BEACH — Elián González, the little Cuban boy at the center of a new play bearing his name, never appears onstage. Instead, audiences hear the sound of a child’s high-pitched giggle, a haunting echo of the events that, more than two decades ago, ripped Miami apart and riveted the nation.

One of three survivors after a storm capsized the small boat carrying his mother and about a dozen others fleeing Cuba, Elián was the center of a monthslong custody battle — his father and the dictator Fidel Castro on one side, Miami relatives and Cuban exiles on the other — that became a proxy for a larger political struggle. After U.S. immigration agents launched a pre-dawn raid in Little Havana to reunite the boy with his father, who ultimately brought him back to Cuba, outraged opponents protested in the streets.

For years, the story’s enduring image has been the dramatic photograph of a terrified 6-year-old boy, cornered by an armed federal agent. Miami New Drama now hopes to broaden that portrait with “Elián,” by the Cuban American playwright Rogelio Martinez, which examines the pain, rage, confu-(p. C4)sion and division that still resonates in a city filled with immigrants.

“Elian was a pivotal event,” said Michel Hausmann, who directed the play and is Miami New Drama’s artistic director. “Let people get upset, let them argue. I think it’s part of our duty as artists.”

. . .

It is all part of Hausmann’s mission to speak to this majority Latino city. A Jewish Venezuelan who left his native country in 2009 amid rising antisemitism and attacks on his Caracas theater troupe from the socialist government, he has commissioned multiple popular plays centered on the Cuban American and Venezuelan communities.

. . .

Enraged by the U.S. government’s actions, thousands of Cuban Americans switched from Democrat to Republican in what they called “el voto castigo” (the punishment vote). It was a crucial shift in an election year, with George W. Bush becoming president after defeating Vice President Al Gore in Florida by 537 votes.

. . .

Martinez, the playwright, has long been interested in politics, with a Cold War trilogy among his plays that have been produced by leading theaters around the country. But with “Elián,” politics became personal.

Martinez’s mother brought him to the United States in the 1980 Mariel boatlift, when he was 9, but avoided telling him that the Cuban authorities were not allowing his father to leave.

“My mom said, ‘We’ll see him next week,’” Martinez said. “Like we’re just going ahead. But as we were getting into the car, my mom said, ‘Go, go back. Go hug your dad.’”

Martinez did not see his father again until he was an adult, and only briefly.

. . .

Diaz, the lawyer and former mayor, was 6 when his mother brought him to Miami in 1961, forced to leave behind his father, a political prisoner. He was deeply wounded by the raid, which the play portrays as a betrayal of an agreement Elián’s relatives in Miami had signed with Reno 12 hours before. His character struggles to reconcile his faith in the system with his feelings as an exile.

“If you forget these things, they can happen again,” the real-life Diaz said. “It was an incredible learning experience,” he added, “to find myself fighting my old country and my new country at the same time.”

. . .

“You are doing great work in presenting this,” a host for Mega TV, Padre Alberto, told Hausmann and Pelaez, his guests from the play. “Elián was very difficult for all of us, and it continues to be very hard to think about, and to make us very emotional.”

Glenda and Dariel Candelario experienced such emotion at a recent performance. The couple, who emigrated from Cuba in 2014, were among the thousands of children forced to attend rallies in Havana demanding Elián’s return. “They didn’t give us any choice,” Glenda Candelario said.

“We had been indoctrinated — we only had the Cuban government part of the story,” said her husband, who was 15 at the time. “I’m so excited to see this now, to hear the other side.”

For the full story, see:

Jordan Levin. “Divisive Battle Over Elián González Reverberates on a Miami Stage.” The New York Times (Saturday, September 12, 2022): C1 & C4.

[Note: ellipses added.]

(Note: the online version of the story was updated Nov. 15, 2022, and has the title “Cuban Boy’s Odyssey Is Revisited.” Where the wording differs between versions, the passages quoted above follow the online version.)

Elon Musk Says “Violent Crime in SF Is Horrific”

(p. A14) The fury erupted within hours, as word spread that the 43-year-old man who had been stabbed to death this week in an enclave of high-rise condominiums near the Bay Bridge was Bob Lee, a well-known tech executive.

The leaders of “lawless” San Francisco had Mr. Lee’s “literal blood on their hands,” Matt Ocko, a tech entrepreneur and venture capitalist in Palo Alto, Calif., tweeted. “I hate what San Francisco has become,” added Michael Arrington, the founder of the industry blog TechCrunch.

“Violent crime in SF is horrific,” Elon Musk, the chief executive of Twitter and Tesla, chimed in.

The drumbeat has built since then in the liberal city that only last year recalled its progressive district attorney amid calls for law and order and deepening frustration over the city’s homelessness crisis.

For the full story, see:

Kate Conger and Shawn Hubler. “Fatal Stabbing Stirs Outrage Over ‘Lawless’ San Francisco.” The New York Times (Saturday, April 8, 2023): A14.

(Note: the online version of the story was updated April 10, 2023, and has the title “Stabbing of Cash App Creator Raises Alarm, and Claims of ‘Lawless’ San Francisco.”)

“France’s Most Famous Public Intellectual” Fears That if Putin Conquers Ukraine Western Civilization “Might Collapse”

(p. C1) In his new documentary film “Slava Ukraini,” Bernard-Henri Lévy, France’s most famous public intellectual, dodges Russian sniper fire in Ukraine, nonchalantly wearing a khaki bulletproof vest over a chic bespoke suit.

He climbs onto a Ukrainian naval vessel in Odessa that is sweeping the Black Sea for Russian mines, his mane of graying hair blowing gently in the wind. And he surveys blown-out apartment blocks in Kyiv, descends into trenches with Ukrainian soldiers in Sloviansk and comforts a mother whose young son is so traumatized by war, he has stopped speaking.

It can be easy to dismiss Lévy — and plenty do — as a 74-year-old reckless war tourist, an heir to a timber fortune playing action hero as Russian missiles rain down on Kyiv, Kharkiv and Mariupol. But instead of spending the last 12 months in his art-filled home on Paris’s right bank or enjoying retirement at his 18th-century palace in Marrakesh, Lévy has been braving Russian military assaults, vertigo and what (p. C5) he calls his natural tendency for melancholy to make his Ukraine film.

It was, he said, a necessary cri de coeur to support Ukraine in a conflict he views as nothing less than a battle for the future of Europe, global liberalism and Western civilization.

“In Ukraine, I had the feeling for the first time that the world I knew, the world in which I grew up, the world that I want to leave to my children and grandchildren, might collapse,” he said during an interview at the Carlyle Hotel in New York earlier this month, . . .

For the full story, see:

Dan Bilefsky. “A Philosopher Chooses Action.” The New York Times (Wednesday, March 1, 2023): C1 & C5.

(Note: the online version of the story has the date Feb. 28, 2023, and has the title “A Polarizing French Philosopher Chooses War Zones Over Salons.”)