Tag Archives: Communism

INCOME INEQUALITY AND EDUCATION (Hint: Blame the left!)

John Mauldin

John Mauldin

I apologize in advance for the length of this post, but I think it will be worth your time.

I have mentioned before that I am a huge fan of John Mauldin. Mauldin is an investment analyst/economist from Texas. (You can check out my review of his newest book, Code Red.) I think he’s one of the most brilliant guys I have ever read.

He publishes a free weekly newsletter called Thoughts from the Frontline. There are close to a million people that read it. It’s basically Mauldin’s attempt to explain the world as he sees it. No matter whether you care about investing or not, I think Mauldin does an exponentially better job of reporting what is really going on in the world today. He is incredibly well read, and has quite a knack for the written word. Much of his analysis is done through the lens of economics.

Recentlym he had a three part series on income inequality (“The Problem with Keynesianism“, March 9, 2014; “Inequality and Opportunity“, March 16, 2014; and “When Inequality Isn’t“, March 29, 2014). The whole series is worth your time, but I thought I’d dish out the stuff I found most interesting and appropriate for our purposes here. I’m going to underline the parts I found most important.

Equality of Opportunity

In one of the most far-reaching studies I’ve seen, a group of Harvard economists have compared upward mobility – the ability to rise from lower to higher income groups – among US metropolitan areas, as well as among developed nations. Their rather remarkable website and database can be found here. Their one-paragraph summary is:

In two recent studies, we find that: (1) Upward income mobility varies substantially within the U.S. [summary][paperAreas with greater mobility tend to have five characteristics: less segregation, less income inequality, better schools, greater social capital, and more stable families. (2) Contrary to popular perception, economic mobility has not changed significantly over time; however, it is consistently lower in the U.S. than in most developed countries. [summary][paper].

Silence of the Left

Conveniently for the discussion of our topic, John Goodman posted a brief article on Townhall.com this week called “Silence of the Left”:

The topic du jour on the left these days is inequality. But why does the left care about inequality? Do they really want to lift those at the bottom of the income ladder? Or are they just looking for one more reason to increase the power of government? If you care about those at the bottom then you are wasting your time and everyone else’s time unless you focus on one and only one phenomenon: the inequality of educational opportunity. Poor kids are almost always enrolled in bad schools. Rich kids are almost always in good schools.

It turns out that homes cost roughly 20% more in areas with good schools. School choice is already in effect because people with more money buy homes in areas with better public schools. Children of families with less money on average tend to be stuck in lower-performing public schools.

Goodman cites a Brookings Institution study that investigated the same phenomenon nationwide:

  • Across the 100 largest metropolitan areas, housing costs an average of 2.4 times as much, or nearly $11,000 more per year, near a high-scoring public school than near a low-scoring public school.
  • This housing cost gap reflects that home values are $205,000 higher on average in the neighborhoods of high-scoring versus low-scoring schools. Near high-scoring schools, typical homes have 1.5 additional rooms and the share of housing units that are rented is roughly 30 percentage points lower than in neighborhoods near low-scoring schools.

Goodman continues:

You almost never see anything written by left-of-center folks on reforming the public schools. And I have noticed on TV talk shows that it’s almost impossible to get liberals to agree to the most modest of all reform ideas: getting rid of bad teachers and making sure we keep the good ones.

Here is the uncomfortable reality:

1. Our system of public education is one of the most regressive features of American society.

2. There is almost nothing we could do that would be more impactful in reducing inequality of educational opportunity and inequality overall than to do what Sweden has done: give every child a voucher and let them select a school of choice.

3. Yet on the left there is almost uniform resistance to this idea or any other idea that challenges the power of the teachers’ unions.

That “socialist” bastion of income equality and mobility – Sweden – uses vouchers for education.

Krugman argues against school vouchers because they might reduce support for public schools. And then he actually writes, “And – dare we say it? – we should in general oppose privatization plans if they are likely to destroy public sector unions.”

We have total academic, bureaucratic, and teachers’-union capture of public education. We are subjecting our children to an education system that that was designed for and that worked remarkably well during the first two industrial revolutions but that is now utterly inadequate for the coming Age of Transformation. The new New York City Mayor, Bill de Blasio, is working to shut down many of the best-performing schools in his city – charter schools – which are hated by teachers’ unions. Rather than ask what is good for the children, he and many others simply want to expand the power of the unions.

If we want to do something about income inequality, perhaps we should think about the data that shows the remarkable correlation between education, educational opportunity, and income.

report from the American Enterprise Institute gives us a good summary. Notice in the chart below that while the income of the highest fifth of the US population is almost 18 times that of the lowest fifth, there is only a 3.5x differential when it comes to the average earnings of the people actually working and making money in the household. It is just that high-income households have more than four times as many wage earners (on average) as poor households.

And married and thus two-earner households make more than single-person households. That seems obvious, of course, but it is a significant factor in income inequality. That doesn’t make the plight of the single working mom any better or easier, but it does help explain the statistical difference. And it does make a difference in lifestyle. Marriage drops the probability of childhood poverty by 82%.

The AEI report ends on this positive note:

Bottom Line: Household demographics, including the average number of earners per household and the marital status, age, and education of householders are all very highly correlated with household income. Specifically, high-income households have a greater average number of income-earners than households in lower-income quintiles, and individuals in high income households are far more likely than individuals in low-income households to be well-educated, married, working full-time, and in their prime earning years. In contrast, individuals in lower-income households are far more likely than their counterparts in higher-income households to be less-educated, working part-time, either very young (under 35 years) or very old (over 65 years), and living in single-parent households.

Take a look at this chart below. It looks at spending by households on various items split out by quintile. It goes back to 1986 because that was when pretty significant changes to the tax law occurred. Noticed specifically the differences in spending on education and reading.

annualexpenditure

At the beginning of this letter I promised you a “solution” to income inequality. Let me offer this one tongue-in-cheek, as an argumentum ad absurdum.

We simply need to penalize the incomes of older people, take away any advantage there is from being married, reduce opportunities for education, penalize people for working more than 35 hours per week, and of course levy a significant tax on any accumulated savings. This will quickly reduce inequalities of income. It has the slight disadvantage that it will also destroy the economy and create a massive depression; but if the goal is equal outcomes for all, then communist Russia might be the model you are looking for. Except that even there the bureaucrats and other insiders did quite well.

If you’re really serious about dealing with income inequality, you need to worry about equality of opportunity in education, and specifically about making sure that the education system is radically reformed by taking it out of the hands of bureaucrats and unions. We need to make sure the economic and legal playing field is level by getting government favoritism and bureaucratic meddling out of the way and making the pie larger for everyone. However, as I demonstrated a few weeks ago, a natural outcome of doubling the size of the economic pie over the coming 15 years will be that there is an even greater differential between those who have next to nothing and those who have accumulated the most. The only way to prevent such an outcome is to keep the total economic pie from growing, and that doesn’t seem like a very good economic policy.

If we truly want to do something about income inequality, we must stop listening to the left talk about it. They are completely and utterly uniformed on the topic. And more then anything else, they probably are the most to blame. They have destroyed our families socially and culturally, and they have destroyed our schools through unionization and bureaucratization.

Andrew Palmer is co-founder and editor of Conservative Teachers of America. You may reach him at [email protected]

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Book Review: PERSEPOLIS, VOLUME 1 by MARJANE SATRAPI

persepolisGuest book review by Dana R. Casey

The graphic novel Persepolis by Marjane Satrapi has become ubiquitous in America’s classrooms. Aside from the lowering of standards that is represented by the use of a graphic novel in a high school English classroom, this “novel” should raise some red flags for parents.

The novel shows the Iranian Islamic Revolution from the point of view of Marji, a preteen at the start of the revolution. The story opens with the hijab (veil) being imposed on Marji and her classmates for the first time. They are too young to understand the implications of the hijab and treat them as an irritating imposition or a toy to be used as a jump rope or horsey reins.

From the beginning, Marji gets an “education” from her family about the historical events that led up to the revolution. Her family, excited about the revolution at first because they are anti-shah communist intellectuals, soon realizes that the revolution has been usurped by Islamic radicals. As the plot develops, Marji comes of age as she watches her world become more limited and dangerous for everyone in general and for women in particular. Marji is finally sent to live in Austria at the end of the novel, not knowing if she will ever see her family again. There is a part two to answer that question, but that is for the next review. Be aware that both part one and part two are sometimes combined into one novel.

One of my first concerns with Persepolis, is its overtly positive presentation of communism and leftism. Marji’s parents, in trying to help her understand the revolution which they support at first, provide books and literature for her to read. The texts are about Castro, Palestine, Marxism, Hamid Ashraf, Iranian leftist would-be guerrilla revolutionary, and the evil Americans killing young Vietnamese communists. These texts “enlighten” her and she becomes fascinated with Karl Marx, who replaces her earlier fascination with God.

In a chapter called “The Heroes” Marji discusses two of the political prisoners released after the revolution. Both are communists, both are friends of the family, and both were imprisoned by the evil shah (the propaganda on the shah will be examined later) and would later be re-imprisoned and executed by the Islamic regime.

Her Uncle Anoosh who was also imprisoned by the shah, first supported Marji’s great Uncle Fereydoon who “elected himself Minister of Justice” in the Iranian province of Azerbaijan, which he and his revolutionary friends “declared” independent. He was eventually arrested and executed by the shah, but Anoosh escaped to the Soviet Union where he received a PhD. in Marxism-Leninism. After returning to Iran, he is arrested by the shah, but freed just before the revolution. Marji hangs on every word of her uncle, admiring his revolutionary sacrifices. Anoosh, becoming disappointed in the apparent religious turn of the revolution, declares, “But the religious don’t know how to govern. They will return to their mosques. The proletariat shall rule! It’s inevitable!!!That’s just what Lenin explained in ‘The State and the Revolution.’” Anoosh is ultimately also arrested and executed by the Islamic regime.

My second concern was the revisionist history. I nearly threw the book across the room when Marji’s grandmother says, “You know, my child, since the dawn of time dynasties have succeeded each other, but the kings always kept their promises. The shah kept none…” What really bothered me about this statement are the absolutes: kings always kept their promises; the shah kept NONE! Which kings have kept all of their promises? I would like to have one king revealed to me who kept all of his promises, a king from any country, anywhere, at any point in time.

The shah was certainly no angel by American standards, but by Middle Eastern standards, he was the most modern leader of his time. Under his rule, more Iranians were educated; class lines blurred; freedoms expanded; highways, railroads and universities were constructed; women had the full rights of women in western countries and were government leaders, university professors, lawyers, and doctors; Tehran was a cosmopolitan city. Did the shah imprison and torture revolutionaries and communists? Yep, but if we evaluate him against Middle Eastern standards, his actions paled compared to those in countries around him and, let’s face it, he was fighting communists and Islamists who were trying to take over the country. There is no doubt that the average, non-revolutionary citizen lived a freer life under the shah than under the ayatollah.

In fact, “Amnesty International … finally concluded in late 1978 that there were less than 2,400 political prisoners in the shah’s jails.” Under the Ayatollah “Amnesty International estimates the total number of deaths between 4,500 and 5,000, [and] … as many as 30,000 political prisoners, including children as young as 13…” These inconvenient facts were suspiciously absent from the materials provided to me in the curriculum supplied with this novel by my school system. These materials included several articles that took a positive stance on the hijab and none against.

Ironically, one issue that raises its head repeatedly is Marji’s education. Her parents are determined that she receive a French education. She is in a French school at the beginning the novel, her parents struggle to keep her in French schools throughout all of the difficulties of the post-revolution. They finally send her out of the country to a friend in Austria where she will again study at a French school. I am left to wonder why such a dedicated communist family would not send their daughter to Moscow to study. Apparently a Western education is superior.

Much of the rest of the book deals with the realities of life under an Islamic totalitarian regime. There are constant jabs against the West throughout, but having known several refugees from Iran, much of the oppression of the Islamic regime rings true. Of course Satrapi fails to realize that life under a communist totalitarian regime would have been just as oppressive to any citizen who dared oppose them.

One additional concern is the graphic elements in the novel, both in pictures and in language. Four letter words are scattered throughout. One of the more brutal lines comes from the mother when she is stranded after her car breaks down. She is approached by two fundamentalist thugs who say to her as she reports, “Women like me [unveiled] should be pushed up against the wall and fucked and then thrown in the garbage.” Does this truthfully reveal life in Islamic Iran? No doubt. Does it belong in a book being given to 7th, 8th, & 9th graders? Absolutely not!

There are offensive visual elements too. A man who has been tortured is on the ground while a guard urinates on his whip-marked back. The guard’s penis is clearly drawn. Another man is shown being burned with an iron. A third man is cut into pieces.

One of the most disturbing examples of the brutal contents in this novel is the discussion about Marji’s friend, only 12 years old too, who is executed. Before she is executed, she is raped, because it is illegal to execute virgins. The rapist then sends the family a symbolic bride price. I do not think that such graphic images and human cruelty should be given to young teens. The School Library Journal omits any mention of these elements which, as a resource for making book choices used by schools and school libraries, is a serious omission.

Finally, I have to say that I do not like Marji. She is arrogant, obnoxious, defiant, and difficult to deal with on many levels. Of course, this could be said of many teens. She smokes, she cuts school, she back-talks her teachers, and she actually punches a principal in the face (though that woman may have had it coming). But many of my students love Marji and are surprised to see an Iranian teen go through some of the same challenges and confusions that they face. In fact, my students love this novel completely which is why we should be concerned about the propaganda and leftism presented in the tale. American students are absorbing this misinformation in an appealing package. They receive no counter-balancing perspective and so they will walk away from this book sympathetic to leftists and communists.

Dana R. Casey is a veteran high school English teacher of more than two decades in an East-coast urban system.  She is a life-long student of theology, philosophy, and politics, dedicated to the true Liberalism of the Enlightenment, as defined by our Founders and enshrined in our Declaration of Independence, Constitution and Bill of Rights.

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BOOK REVIEW: Between Shades of Gray by Ruta Sepetys

betweenshadesofgrayRating: 5/5 Stars

Recommended Audience: Middle school to adult

I read this book back in February of 2013. For some reason, I never got around to reviewing it until today. This is an outstanding historical fiction book that covers a topic that is often missing in literature and history classrooms in American education.

Much young adult historical fiction from World War II is focused on America, Hitler, and the Holocaust. All pertinent and important topics, but I was really excited to see a story that focus on the atrocities committed by Stalin and the Russians. For whatever reason, the story of the evils of communism and the Soviets is rarely told to young adults.

Between Shades of Gray tells the story of fifteen-year-old Lina and her Lithuanian family’s forced deportation from their homes to a Siberian prison camp by Stalin and the Russians.

The story is at times heartbreaking as the evil acts of the Russian military officers remind the reader of the evils of German military officers during WWII. The Lithuanians were forcibly removed from their homes, herded into rail cars with little food or water, and sent thousands of miles to the Siberian prison camps. Along the way the reader is shown the worst of human nature as the Lithuanians are treated like human chattel by the Soviet military.

This is Septys first novel to be published. She wrote the book because her grandfather was a Lithuanian military officer. Many of his family was deported and imprisoned. This is an outstanding first attempt for this author. I loved the characters, and thought Sepetys did an excellent job with the first-person voice of Lina.

The novel focuses more on the human element and experiences of the Lithuanians. There is not an extensive amount of background on Stalin, the Russians, and communism in the book. Part of me wishes there was a little more on the topic, but I do think that the book does a great job of sparking a young adult’s interest in this part of the story of WWII. We need more books in young adult literature that tells this story. Throughout American history, and especially in post-secondary education, we have seen so many dupes that buy the nonsense that communism is benign and is and always was nothing to worry about.

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BOOK REVIEW: Bomb: The Race to Build-And Steal-The World’s Most Dangerous Weapon by Steve Sheinkin

Bomb

by Andrew Palmer

While I do enjoy reading a great fiction book, I would much rather curl up with non-fiction book and learn something. I realize that not all readers are like that, and young adult readers are often very reluctant to read non-fiction texts. If more writers wrote non-fiction books like this one, more of you would want to join me, and more of our teens would be interested in history.

In the biography in the back of this book, it says that Steve Sheinkin “has dedicated his life to making up for his previous crimes by crafting gripping narratives of American history.” On the surface this is a humorous quip, the reality is this is a sad truth about American history textbooks. Frankly, most of them suck. They do not engage students in any meaningful way, and they never inspire kids to investigate more. Add in an uninspiring history teacher, and it is no wonder you have a society that is apathetic and knows very little about its own history. Sheinkin has another book out that has been fairly popular with some of my students, it is called The Notorious Benedict ArnoldBenedictArnold

In Bomb, Sheinkin takes three different story lines surrounding the development and building of the world’s most dangerous weapon and weaves them together. The first is the Americans trying to build the atomic bomb. The second is the Soviets and their attempts to steal the bomb through spies. I was fascinated with this part of the book. I was excited to see this written into a book for young adults. Sheinkin also includes a little information on the reality of who Stalin was. Young adults need to hear the truth on who the Soviets really were. Finally, the third story line was the Allies attempts to sabotage the German bomb program. This was really interesting, too. The details of these missions are sure to impress any reader.

Bomb is written in narrative non-fiction. For those that don’t know what this is, it is a genre that takes a historical event and tells it like a narrative story. It is such a valuable genre for getting readers to be interested in history. Those of us that are passionate about history know that it is best told in a story format. I wish more authors would write books in this manner for the young adult book market.

Bomb was a 2013 National Book Award Finalist, a Newbery Honor Book for 2013, a winner of the Excellence in Young Adult Nonfiction Award from YALSA-ALA, and it won the Robert F. Sibert Medal for best informational text. Sheinkin should be applauded for his work in this text.

Sheinkin

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AN INTERVIEW WITH YOUNG ADULT AUTHOR ANDREW KLAVAN

andrewklavanPopular, young-adult author, Andrew Klavan, took time out of his busy schedule Monday night to answer a few questions. Conservatives must understand that we can no longer ignore popular culture. We can not continue to sit around and talk about just policy and expect people to “get it”. I have read Mr. Klavan’s The Last Thing I RememberIt is an outstanding book! Pro-American, pro-freedom, and positive values all packaged in a fun, easy-to-read fictional book.tlir

Tell me a little bit about the new book that just came out If We Survive?

The book is about four kids who go down to a Central American country on a mercy mission to rebuild a school. Just as they are about to leave there is a violent Communist revolution. Suddenly the whole country is overrun by guys looking to kill Americans. Now faced with danger, these four kids have to find their way back to the border.

I noticed on Amazon.com that the book is listed as part of the Homelanders series. Is this right?

No,  If We Survive is a complete stand alone book. For some reason Amazon has it listed that way. I have tried to get them to fix it, but I have not had any luck. ifwesurvive

I saw on your website that there is a chance of a Homelanders movie in the works, any update?

I went back and visited the producers that are doing the movie and they have a draft of the script. The script has been sent into the studio. This project is taking a longer time because there has been some unexpected delays. The writer that is working on this project has been called away to work on another movie that is currently in production. There is no idea on a release date for the film as of yet.

Will there be multiple movies that match up to each book in the series?

There may be multiple movies of the Homelanders. The plan right now appears to be to merge the first three books into one script and leave the fourth book in the series open for a sequel.

Where did your first spark or interest in writing come from?  How were you encouraged and what helped you develop as a writer?  Was it a particular class, teacher, author, parents?

My spark in writing came from the fact that I was a real daydreamer as a kid. I had a strange habit, probably a little different from most kids, I wanted my daydreams to actually make sense. As a result I ended up working on them very hard. Writing was always something I wanted to do. To be honest, I didn’t get a lot of encouragement at home. It was really just a burning passion within myself that kept me at it. When I look back on it I feel like I must have been out of my mind because this is such a tough business to break into.

Tell me some books and authors, other than yourself and your books, that you would recommend for today’s youth.

I wouldn’t want to say the top three books because I think there are is an excellent variety of good books to read. A book that really meant a lot to me when I was a kid was the western Shane by Jack Schaefer. That book was just a really good story about being a boy and the rules of manhood that you look for as you grow up. I was very impressed with the Harry Potter novels by J.K. Rowling. She really did an excellent job with those. I think she has an excellent imagination which I think is very rare among today’s writers. There are also a lot of great adventure novels that are great reads that many people have forgotten about. Books like The Three Musketeers by Alexandre Dumas and Prisoner of Zenda by Anthony Hope that have absolutely outstanding stories. Modern books have gotten a little soft in some respects. Another modern series that I think kids would enjoy is the Rick Riordan series. Oh, and one other book that comes to mind is Tuck Everlasting by Natalie Babbitt.

In your opinion what does it mean to “be a conservative”?

Interestingly enough, I think in America it has a unique meaning because what we are trying to conserve is a revolutionary spirit which is kind of a contradiction in terms. In England when you are a conservative you are really trying to preserve ancient rites of nobleman and an elite class of people. You know, that’s just not true in America. In America, you are trying to preserve this spark of this revolutionary moment. It sort of declared that people have the right to decide their lives for themselves. This is the thing that is so hard to argue especially when you have a media that is on the other side.

Government can do a lot of good things for people, but it can’t do anything for people without compromising their freedom and their property. What you want is a world where nobody falls through the cracks, but you want to make sure that ultimately you can keep the sweat of your brow and you can make your own decisions. So when government starts to tell people what is good for them, they may be doing them a favor, but they are taking away more than they give. So for me, being a conservative in America means to preserve the right of the guy who disagrees with me. I think this is very difficult thing because humans have this instinct to tell one another what to do. A conservatives goal in America should be to “judge not, lest you be judged.”

Have you always been a conservative? If not, what caused the conversion?

No! I grew up in a very liberal household. My brother still doesn’t know what happened to me. The thing that really caused me to change was when the Berlin Wall came down. Only Ronald Reagan said that it would and had predicted that it would. His policies turned the economy around when everybody said they would not. He was constantly derided as a stupid man and a war mongerer. When it turned out that so much of what he said came true I started to reevaluate my positions. I was always a disgruntled liberal, but I didn’t really realize that the people I was taught were evil could actually have a point of view that made sense.

Why do you think conservatives struggle so much with popular culture?

Part of it may be built into our nature. Art tends to be wild and can go off into dark places that offends. Conservatives tend to draw back from that. I think the real truth is that conservatives have been kept out of the arts, almost blacklisted. When you go to the movies and find that your point of view has been derided and denigrated it tends to put you off. You start to think that the movies are not for me, and the books are not to me. So instead you would rather play a videogame or watch a football game.

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