“The 1619 Project” Shows How Government Policies “Discriminated Against African-Americans”

(p. A15) Hulu’s series “The 1619 Project” blames economic inequality between blacks and whites on “racial capitalism.” But almost every example presented is the result of government policies that, in purpose or effect, discriminated against African-Americans. “The 1619 Project” makes an unintentional case for capitalism.

The series gives many examples of government interventions that undercut free markets and property rights. Eminent domain, racial red lining of mortgages, and government support and enforcement of union monopolies figure prominently.

The final episode opens by telling how the federal government forcibly evicted black residents of Harris Neck, Ga., during World War II to build a military base. The Army gave residents three weeks to relocate before the bulldozers moved in, paying below-market rates through eminent domain. After the war, the government refused to let the former residents return. Violation of property rights is the opposite of capitalism.

For the full commentary, see:

David R. Henderson and Phillip W. Magness. “‘The 1619 Project’ Vindicates Capitalism.” The Wall Street Journal (Tuesday, Feb. 21, 2023): A15.

(Note: the online version of the commentary has the date February 20, 2023, and has the title “‘The 1619 Project’ on Hulu Vindicates Capitalism.”)

The commentary quoted above is related to Magness’s book:

Magness, Phillip W. The 1619 Project: A Critique. Great Barrington, Massachusetts: American Institute for Economic Research, 2020.

As College Enrollments Drop, Apprenticeships Flourish

(p. A5) Today, colleges and universities enroll about 15 million undergraduate students, while companies employ about 800,000 apprentices. In the past decade, college enrollment has declined by about 15%, while the number of apprentices has increased by more than 50%, according to federal data and Robert Lerman, a labor economist at the Urban Institute and co-founder of Apprenticeships for America.

Apprenticeship programs are increasing in both number and variety. About 40% are now outside of construction trades, where most have traditionally been, Dr. Lerman said. Programs are expanding into white-collar industries such as banking, cybersecurity and consulting at companies including McDonald’s Corp., Accenture PLC and JPMorgan Chase & Co.

. . .

. . ., some employers say a mismatch has developed between the skills employers are seeking and the lessons students are learning in college and university courses. To address the mismatch, companies are dropping requirements for degrees for some jobs, and states are rebuilding the vocational-education pathways that were de-emphasized two generations ago when the nation adopted a college-preparatory path for nearly all students.

. . .

Companies such as Alphabet Inc.’s Google, Delta Air Lines Inc. and International Business Machines Corp. have responded by dropping college degrees as requirements for some positions and shifting hiring to focus more on skills and experience. Pennsylvania has cut college-degree requirements for some state jobs, and Maryland has set a statewide goal of 45% of high-school students starting a registered apprenticeship by 2031.

For the full story, see:

Douglas Belkin. “More Choose Apprenticeships Instead of Heading to College.” The Wall Street Journal (Saturday, March 18, 2023): A5.

(Note: ellipses added.)

(Note: the online version of the story was updated March 16, 2023, and has the title “More Students Are Turning Away From College and Toward Apprenticeships.”)

California Bureaucracy and Regulations Block Nimble Use of Flood Waters to Recharge Depleted Groundwater

(p. A15) It sounds like an obvious fix for California’s whipsawing cycles of deluge and drought: Capture the water from downpours so it can be used during dry spells.

Pump it out of flood-engorged rivers and spread it in fields or sandy basins, where it can seep into the ground and replenish the region’s huge, badly depleted aquifers. The state’s roomiest place for storing water isn’t in its reservoirs or on mountaintops as snow, but underground, squeezed between soil particles.

Yet even this winter, when the skies delivered bounties of water not seen in half a decade, large amounts of it surged down rivers and out into the ocean.

Water agencies and experts say California bureaucracy is increasingly to blame — the state tightly regulates who gets to take water from streams and creeks to protect the rights of people downriver, and its rules don’t adjust nimbly even when storms are delivering a torrent of new supply.

During last month’s drenching storms, some water districts got the state’s green light to take floodwater only as the rains were ending, allowing them to siphon off just a few days’ worth. Others couldn’t take any at all because floods overwhelmed their equipment.

. . .

The permitting process is meant to ensure that the takers aren’t encroaching on other people’s water rights or harming fish and wildlife habitats. There are meetings and consultations to hash out details, and a public comment period to hear objections. The whole process can take months. And the resulting permit allows the holder to divert water only on a temporary basis, usually 180 days, and only when specific hydrological conditions are met.

. . .

The process is too slow and cumbersome to help corral big floods that come, like this winter’s, out of the blue.

The Omochumne-Hartnell Water District, which operates along a stretch of the Cosumnes River near Sacramento, applied for a permit last August. When the storms started up in December, its application was still pending.

“It was frustrating,” said Michael Wackman, the district’s general manager. He and his colleagues called up the State Water Board: “What’s going on there? Let’s get these things moving.”

Its permit finally came through on Jan. 11, more than a week after the swollen Cosumnes had crashed through nearby levees and killed at least two people. By that point, so much water was roaring down the river that it damaged the pumps that were supposed to send it away, Mr. Wackman said.

For the full story, see:

Raymond Zhong. “In Parched California, Rainwater Keeps Rushing Out to Sea.” The New York Times (Wednesday, February 22, 2023): A15.

(Note: ellipses added.)

(Note: the online version of the story has the date Feb. 21, 2023, and has the title “Parched California Misses a Chance to Store More Rain Underground.”)

“Singapore’s Bill Gates” Thought Innovation Should Not Require Government Permission

(p. A9) In the late 1990s, before Singapore was known as a global center of digital innovation, Sim Wong Hoo had a theory about what was holding his country back.

Mr. Sim, who went on to become the city-state’s first tech billionaire, called it the “No U-Turn Syndrome,” or NUTS. In the U.S., he said, cars could turn around anywhere unless a sign told them not to. But in Singapore, drivers wouldn’t dare if it wasn’t expressly allowed. The “no rule, no do” mentality kept Singaporeans from thinking outside the box, he said.

So he wrote some new rules. Mr. Sim was raised in a poor household by illiterate parents before founding a startup that revolutionized computer audio and inspired a generation of Asian entrepreneurs. Many admirers still call him

. . .

Born in Singapore in 1955, when it was still under British rule, Mr. Sim grew up in a village in an area now called Bukit Panjang with 10 siblings. Their father died when he was young, and his mother struggled to support their large family by selling whatever seasonal fruits grew on the unkempt 1-acre farm she leased for about $15 a year. When not in school, the young Mr. Sim helped her sell eggs at a local market for about 1 cent apiece.

In his 1999 book, “Chaotic Thoughts From the Old Millennium,” Mr. Sim described himself as a weird child who made his own toys and board games because he couldn’t afford to buy them.

For the full obituary, see:

Feliz Solomon. “Singaporean Inspired Asian Tech Innovators.” The Wall Street Journal (Saturday, Jan. 14, 2023): A9.

(Note: ellipsis added.)

(Note: the online version of the obituary has the date January 13, 2023, and has the title “Sim Wong Hoo, Creator of Sound Blaster, Inspired Asian Tech Innovators.”)

Mr. Sim’s book mentioned above is:

Sim, Wong Hoo. Chaotic Thoughts from the Old Millennium. Singapore: Creative O., 1999.

Environmentalists Want “Shooters in Helicopters” to “Gun Down” Free Range Cows

(p. A13) For the second year in a row, shooters in helicopters will gun down an estimated 150 feral cattle that are trampling habitats in the Gila Wilderness, a sprawling undeveloped area of more than a half million acres within the Gila National Forest in New Mexico.

. . .

Lethal removal of cattle in the Gila Wilderness has long been a divisive issue, with environmentalists and ranchers firmly at odds.

Cattle growers in New Mexico have unsuccessfully sued the Forest Service over the aerial shooting, claiming that the method imperils their privately owned cattle. The New Mexico Cattle Growers’ Association, a coalition of more than 1,000 ranchers, has previously challenged the Forest Service over cattle removal and maintains that shooting cattle from a helicopter violates state and federal laws and regulations.

. . .

The plaintiffs say that if their privately owned cattle are killed, it would be “nearly impossible” to know because the agencies intend to let the carcasses decompose where they die.

Loren Patterson, the association’s president, said he wished the authorities would address the cause of the growing feral cattle population by taking measures such as repairing shoddy fences that allow cattle to enter the Gila Wilderness.

“They are not looking at solving the reason the cattle is there,” Mr. Patterson said, adding that for two consecutive years, federal authorities were instead opting for lethal removal as quick fixes.

For the full story, see:

Christine Chung. “Feral Cattle Will Be Shot From Above to Cull Herd.” The New York Times (Thursday, February 23, 2023): A13.

(Note: ellipses added.)

(Note: the online version of the story has the date Feb. 22, 2023, and has the title “Feral Cattle in New Mexico Will Be Shot From Helicopters.” The version quoted above omits a sentence that appears in the online, but not the print, version of the article.)

Billions in Subsidies for Solar and Wind Are Wasted by Delayed Approvals of Connections to a Slow-Growing Grid

(p. A1) Plans to install 3,000 acres of solar panels in Kentucky and Virginia are delayed for years. Wind farms in Minnesota and North Dakota have been abruptly canceled. And programs to encourage Massachusetts and Maine residents to adopt solar power are faltering.

The energy transition poised for takeoff in the United States amid record investment in wind, solar and other low-carbon technologies is facing a serious obstacle: The volume of projects has overwhelmed the nation’s antiquated systems to connect new sources of electricity to homes and businesses.

So many projects are trying to squeeze through the approval process that delays can drag on for years, leaving some developers to throw up their hands and walk away.

More than 8,100 energy projects — the vast majority of them wind, solar and batteries — were waiting for permission to connect to electric grids at the end of 2021, up from 5,600 the year before, jamming the system known as interconnection.

. . .

(p. A15) It now takes roughly four years, on average, for developers to get approval, double the time it took a decade ago.

And when companies finally get their projects reviewed, they often face another hurdle: the local grid is at capacity, and they are required to spend much more than they planned for new transmission lines and other upgrades.

. . .

Electricity production generates roughly one-quarter of the greenhouse gases produced by the United States; cleaning it up is key to President Biden’s plan to fight global warming. The landmark climate bill he signed last year provides $370 billion in subsidies to help make low-carbon energy technologies — like wind, solar, nuclear or batteries — cheaper than fossil fuels.

But the law does little to address many practical barriers to building clean energy projects, such as permitting holdups, local opposition or transmission constraints. Unless those obstacles get resolved, experts say, there’s a risk that billions in federal subsidies won’t translate into the deep emissions cuts envisioned by lawmakers.

. . .

Delays can upend the business models of renewable energy developers. As time ticks by, rising materials costs can erode a project’s viability. Options to buy land expire. Potential customers lose interest.

. . .

When a proposed energy project drops out of the queue, the grid operator often has to redo studies for other pending projects and shift costs to other developers, which can trigger more cancellations and delays.

It also creates perverse incentives, experts said. Some developers will submit multiple proposals for wind and solar farms at different locations without intending to build them all. Instead, they hope that one of their proposals will come after another developer who has to pay for major network upgrades. The rise of this sort of speculative bidding has further jammed up the queue.

“Imagine if we paid for highways this way,” said Rob Gramlich, president of the consulting group Grid Strategies. “If a highway is fully congested, the next car that gets on has to pay for a whole lane expansion. When that driver sees the bill, they drop off. Or, if they do pay for it themselves, everyone else gets to use that infrastructure. It doesn’t make any sense.”

. . .

Massachusetts and Maine offer a warning, said David Gahl, executive director of the Solar and Storage Industries Institute. In both states, lawmakers offered hefty incentives for small-scale solar installations. Investors poured money in, but within months, grid managers were overwhelmed, delaying hundreds of projects.

“There’s a lesson there,” Mr. Gahl said. “You can pass big, ambitious climate laws, but if you don’t pay attention to details like interconnection rules, you can quickly run into trouble.”

For the full story, see:

Brad Plumer. “U.S. Solar Goal Stalled by Wait On Creaky Grid.” The New York Times (Friday, February 24, 2023): A1 & A15.

(Note: ellipses added.)

(Note: the online version of the story was updated Feb. 28, 2023, and has the title “The U.S. Has Billions for Wind and Solar Projects. Good Luck Plugging Them In.”)

Americans “Vote with Their Feet” Against Higher Taxes

(p. A15) The Tax Foundation’s 2021 State Business Tax Climate report ranks California’s state and local taxes as the second highest in the nation, just below New Jersey and above New York. People are fleeing these states.

. . .

I analyzed all 50 states’ net domestic migration levels and compared those levels with each state’s overall tax ranking. The ranking includes a weighing of taxes on corporate profits, individual income, sales, property and unemployment insurance.

The 10 states with the lowest taxes gained an average of 948 per 100,000 total population. For states that ranked 11th through 20th on taxes, the average was 457. For states ranking 21st to 30th, the gain was only 97. Net domestic migration turned negative for states ranking 31st to 40th with a loss of 141. And for the 10 states with the highest taxes, the average loss was 809 per 100,000.

These findings strongly reinforce the popular saying that people vote with their feet. They will leave places with relatively high taxes for those with lower levies. It may surprise Mr. Newsom, but people generally want to keep more of the money they earn.

For the full commentary, see:

James L. Doti. “Californians Aren’t the Only Tax Refugees.” The Wall Street Journal (Thursday, Jan. 12, 2023): A15.

(Note: ellipsis added.)

(Note: the online version of the commentary has the date January 11, 2023, and has the same title as the print version.)

The Tax Foundation’s report mentioned above is:

Walczak, Jared, and Janelle Cammenga. “2021 State Business Tax Climate Index.” Washington, D.C.: Tax Foundation, 2020.

Over 100,000 “Non-Covid Excess Deaths” Per Year in 2020 and 2021

(p. A15) Covid-19 is deadly, but so were the draconian steps taken to mitigate it. During the first two years of the pandemic, “excess deaths”—the death toll above the historical trend—markedly exceeded the number of deaths attributed to Covid. In a paper we just published in Inquiry, based on data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, we found that “non-Covid excess deaths” totaled nearly 100,000 a year in 2020 and 2021.

Even these numbers likely overestimate deaths from Covid and underestimate those from other causes. Covid testing has become ubiquitous in hospitals, and the official count of “Covid deaths” includes people who tested positive but died of other causes.

For the full commentary, see:

Rob Arnott and Casey B. Mulligan. “How Deadly Were the Covid Lockdowns?” The Wall Street Journal (Thursday, Jan. 12, 2023): A15.

(Note: the online version of the commentary has the date January 11, 2023, and has the same title as the print version.)

The Mulligan and Arnott commentary is based on their academic article:

Mulligan, Casey B., and Robert D. Arnott. “The Young Were Not Spared: What Death Certificates Reveal About Non-Covid Excess Deaths.” INQUIRY: The Journal of Health Care Organization, Provision, and Financing 59 (Jan.-Dec. 2022): 00469580221139016.

“Nonprofit” Hospitals “Enjoy Lucrative Tax Exemptions” but Often Pressure Poor to Pay More

(p. 1) More than half the nation’s roughly 5,000 hospitals are nonprofits like Providence. They enjoy lucrative tax exemptions; Providence avoids more than $1 billion a year in taxes. In exchange, the Internal Revenue Service requires them to provide services, such as free care for the poor, that benefit the communities in which they operate.

But in recent decades, many of the hospitals have become virtually indistinguishable from for-profit companies, adopting an unrelenting focus on the bottom line and straying from their traditional charitable missions.

To understand the shift, The Times reviewed thousands of pages of court records, internal hospital financial records and memos, tax filings, and complaints filed with regulators, and interviewed dozens of patients, lawyers, current and former hospital executives, doctors, nurses and consultants.

The Times found that the consequences have been stark. Many nonprofit hospitals were ill equipped for a flood of critically sick Covid-19 patients because they had been operating with skeleton staffs in an effort to cut costs and boost profits. Others lacked intensive care units and other resources to weather a pandemic because the nonprofit chains that owned them had focused on investments in rich communities at the expense of poorer ones.

And, as Providence illustrates, some hospital systems have not only reduced their emphasis on providing free care to the poor but also developed elaborate systems to convert needy patients into sources of revenue. The result, in (p. 22) the case of Providence, is that thousands of poor patients were saddled with debts that they never should have owed, The Times found.

Founded by nuns in the 1850s, Providence says its mission is to be “steadfast in serving all, especially those who are poor and vulnerable.” Today, based in Renton, Wash., Providence is one of the largest nonprofit health systems in the country, with 51 hospitals and more than 900 clinics. Its revenue last year exceeded $27 billion.

Providence is sitting on $10 billion that it invests, Wall Street-style, alongside top private equity firms. It even runs its own venture capital fund.

For the full story, see:

Jessica Silver-Greenberg and Katie Thomas. “Entitled to Free Treatment But Hounded by Hospitals.” The New York Times, First Section (Sunday, September 25, 2022): 1 & 22-23.

(Note: the online version of the story was updated Dec. [sic] 15, 2022, and has the title “They Were Entitled to Free Care. Hospitals Hounded Them to Pay.”)

New York City and State Government Workers “Stole More Than $1.5 Million” of Federal Covid Loan Subsidies

(p. A19) A New York City correction official, eight Police Department employees and eight other current and former city and state workers schemed to defraud Covid relief programs that were intended to provide money to struggling business owners, the authorities said on Wednesday.

The defendants submitted phony applications for disaster relief loans on behalf of hair and nail salons and day care programs that did not exist, federal prosecutors in Manhattan said. The prosecutors said many defendants spent the proceeds of their loans on personal expenses, like casino gambling, stocks, furniture and luxury clothing.

They collectively stole more than $1.5 million from the federal Small Business Administration and financial institutions that issued guaranteed loans, and the intent was to steal hundreds of thousands of dollars more, the prosecutors said.

. . .

The charges unsealed on Wednesday [Nov. 30, 2022] are part of wave of fraud prosecutions around the country related to the trillions of dollars that the government has pumped into programs to bolster the economy and provide assistance to people who had lost their jobs. The New York Times reported in August that the government had charged 1,500 people with defrauding programs that provide pandemic aid, with more than 450 convictions resulting from the cases. The Small Business Administration’s inspector general’s office has agents going through two million potentially fraudulent loan applications.

For the full story, see:

Benjamin Weiser, Chelsia Rose Marcius and Jan Ransom. “17 Public Workers Are Charged With Stealing Covid Funds.” The New York Times (Thursday, December 1, 2022): A19.

(Note: ellipsis, and bracketed date, added.]

(Note: the online version of the story has the date Nov. 30, 2022, and has the title “17 Public Employees Charged in Schemes to Steal Covid Relief Funds.”)

Taiwanese Engineers Who Built Dictator Xi’s Computer Chips, Are Voting With Their Feet for Taiwan’s Democracy and Freedom

(p. B1) TAIPEI, Taiwan — The job offer from a Chinese semiconductor company was appealing. A higher salary. Work trips to explore new technologies.

No matter that it would be less prestigious for Kevin Li than his job in Taiwan at one of the world’s leading chip makers. Mr. Li eagerly moved to northeast China in 2018, taking part in a wave of corporate migration as the Chinese government moved aggressively to build up its semiconductor industry.

He went back to Taiwan after two years, as Covid-19 swept through China and global tensions intensified. Other highly skilled Taiwanese engineers are going home, too.

For many, the strict pandemic measures have been tiresome. Geopolitics has made the job even more fraught, with China increasingly vocal about staking its claim on Taiwan, a self-ruled democracy.

. . .

(p. B4) For now, Mr. Li is staying in Taiwan, working for an American chip company operating there and siding with the invigorated patriotic sentiment and the ethos of individual liberty.

“The advantage of working in Taiwan is that you don’t have to worry about officials shutting down the whole company because of one thought,” he said. “The atmosphere is very important. At least I can watch all kinds of programs criticizing the governments on both sides of the Taiwan Strait without worrying about being arrested.”

For the full story, see:

Jane Perlez, Amy Chang Chien and John Liu. “Taiwanese Who Built Up Chip Sector in China Are Fed Up and Going Home.” The New York Times (Tuesday, November 22, 2022): B1 & B4.

(Note: the online version of the story has the date Nov. 16, 2022, and has the title “Engineers From Taiwan Bolstered China’s Chip Industry. Now They’re Leaving.” The online version says that the title of the print version is “They Built Up China’s Chip Sector. Now, They’re Going Home to Taiwan” but the title of my national edition copy is “Taiwanese Who Built Up Chip Sector in China Are Fed Up and Going Home.”)