Maryland Persecutes ‘Free-Range’ Parents

And what is a ‘free range’ parent, you ask? Apparently, it is just a parent who believes that children who are mature enough to exercise common sense don’t need to be supervised by an adult literally every second of their lives. Prior to the advent of the cult of helicopter parenting about 25 years ago, what is now called ‘free range’ was the view of parenting held by virtually every parent in the history of the human race. Those parenting practices that date from time immemorial are now apparently illegal.

The Maryland parents investigated for letting their young children walk home by themselves from a park were found responsible for “unsubstantiated” child neglect in a decision that has not fully resolved their clash with authorities over questions of parenting and children’s safety.

Danielle and Alexander Meitiv hoped the nationally debated case — which has lit up social media and brought a dozen television film crews to their Silver Spring home — would be dismissed after a two-month investigation by Montgomery County Child Protective Services.

But the finding of unsubstantiated child neglect means CPS will keep a file on the family for at least five years and leaves open the question of what would happen if the Meitiv children get reported again for walking without adult supervision.

The parents say they will continue to allow their son, Rafi, 10, and daughter Dvora, 6, to play or walk together, and won’t be swayed by the CPS finding.

“We don’t feel it was appropriate for an investigation to start, much less conclude that we are responsible for some form of child neglect,” said Danielle Meitiv, who said she and her husband plan to appeal and worry about being investigated again by CPS.

The parents “plan to appeal” a finding of “unsubstantiated child neglect”? If the charge is unsubstantiated, what is there to appeal? How can anyone be guilty if the state has not substantiated the charge? George Orwell, call your office.

Here’s a thought: if the CPS bureaucrats can’t substantiate a charge, then they should STFU and STFD. And instead of the bureaucrats keeping a file on citizens, the citizens should be keeping a file on the bureaucrats.

The case dates to Dec. 20, when police picked up the two Meitiv children walking in Silver Spring on a Saturday afternoon after someone reported them. The parents said that they gradually let the pair take walks on their own and that their children knew the area, which is along busy Georgia Avenue.

The Meitivs said they would not have allowed the one-mile outing from Woodside Park to their home if they did not feel their children were up to it. The siblings made it halfway before police stopped them.

Here’s another idea. The police, instead of busying themselves taking kids off the streets should focus on…wait for it…taking criminals off the streets. That way, we’d all be able to safely walk the streets.

Come to think of it, when the state says that the streets aren’t safe for a 10 year old, isn’t that an admission of utter failure? The state’s primary responsibility is to ensure the safety of citizens. If the streets aren’t safe, then the state has failed in its primary responsibility. Ironically, if the state is correct in asserting that a 10 year old cannot safely walk the streets, that’s an indictment not of the parents, but of the state itself.

The Meitivs, both scientists by training, embrace a “free-range” philosophy of parenting, believing that children learn self-reliance by being allowed to make choices, build independence and progressively experience the world on their own.

Both scientists? Pffft. What do they know? The CPS bureaucrats are the experts. They know better. In fact, maybe all parents should give up their children at birth to be raised by government bureaucrats. Isn’t that how it worked in Huxley’s Brave New World?

Though children have played unsupervised for generations, the so-called “free-range” movement goes back to 2008, when New York journalist Lenore Skenazy wrote a piece titled “Why I Let My 9-Year-Old Ride the Subway Alone.”

Skenazy, who developed a following for pushing back against what many see as a culture of helicopter parenting, said Monday that the Meitiv case follows others that raise similar issues but that it became the “walk heard round the world.”

“I think it has shifted the national narrative,” she said, suggesting that people have reacted with more concern about government intrusion and less focus on predator danger.

“The go-to narrative in the last 20 or 30 years for parents was, ‘Take your eyes off your kid for even a second and he’ll be snatched.’ What the Meitiv case did was pivot the story to: ‘Give your kid one second of freedom and the government will arrest you.’
[Emphasis added.]

The ABC News video report included some choice comments from soi-disant ‘parenting expert’ Stacy Kaiser.

As parents our role is to teach our children and give them the tools along the way, while giving them just enough space to try things out on their own. These parents are giving their children too much space.

But if that is true, then parents since the dawn of time have usually given their children too much space. When our dad was a kid, he often played unsupervised in Brooklawn Park in New Bedford, Massachusetts. One time, a tree in the park had been partially knocked down by the Great New England Hurricane of 1938. Our dad climbed up on that tree, fell off, and broke his arm. He was seven years old. We can only imagine how much trouble our grandparents would have gotten into if that had happened today instead of in 1938.

File under: We Hardly Recognize this Country Anymore.

Do the rich pay a lower tax rate?

We often hear the complaint that the ‘rich’ do not ‘pay their fair share’ of taxes. Of course, how much payment would be ‘fair’ is subjective and cannot be determined objectively. One generally accepted proposition, however, is that the tax system should be progressive, which means that the ‘rich’ should pay a higher percentage than should people who are merely middle class. In this regard, people often deny that the tax system in practice is progressive. For instance, back in 2012 Warren Buffett famously alleged that he paid a lower tax rate than did his secretary. Similarly, a commentor on our site claims that the rich “enjoy a lower tax rate than the average worker.” Is that true?

Not according to a new report issued by the Senate’s Joint Committee on Taxation. The statistic from the report making headlines today is that the top 1% of taxpayers earn 19% of total income but pay 49% of total income taxes. That figure clearly suggests that the rich are paying taxes well out of proportion to their income.

Note, however, that the 49% figure includes only personal income taxes and ignores payroll taxes, such as the Social Security tax. Leaving out payroll taxes overestimates the tax burden of the rich and underestimates the tax burden of the middle class. That’s because payroll taxes apply only to the first $117,000 or so of earnings. So a rich person earning $1 million would have most of his income–every dollar above $117,000–exempt from payroll taxes. Rich people also get a relatively larger share of their income from investments, and investment income is not subject to payroll taxes.

People earning below $117,000, however, have all of their wage or salary income subject to payroll tax. As a result, a majority of Americans today pay more in payroll tax than they do in personal income tax. The burden of payroll taxes is relatively greater for the working and middle classes than it is for the rich.

Some might object that payroll taxes are not really taxes because they are contributions that workers make to ‘buy into’ benefit programs such as Medicare and Social Security. In point of fact, however, the link between taxes and benefits is exceedingly weak. Furthermore, although the Social Security Administration refers to “contributions,” the payments are not voluntary. Like personal income taxes, payroll taxes are mandatory and collected, usually implicitly, at the point of a gun.

How much does the tax share of the rich change if we include payroll taxes? The Senate committee was kind enough to do the calculation for us, as can be seen in the following table from the report.

tax_tableAs the table shows, the top 1% consists almost precisely of those earning $500,000 or more. The relevant tax share that includes payroll and other taxes is reported in the column labeled “combined income, social insurance, business, and excise taxes under present law.”

As expected, the rich face a relatively light burden from payroll taxes. While the top 1% of earners account for 49% of personal income taxes, they pay only a bit more than 6% of payroll taxes. Overall, the ‘one percenters’ pay about 30% of the taxes combined. The figure is not as dramatic as the 49% share of personal income taxes, but still exceeds the rich’s income share of 19%.

For comparison, consider those earning between $40,000 and $100,000–the backbone of the American middle class. This group earns approximately 27% of total income and pays 20% of total taxes. Unlike the rich, the middle class has a tax share smaller than its income share.

To summarize:

The One Percent:   19% of income, 30% of taxes

The Middle Class:  27% of income, 20% of taxes

Hence the One Percent’s average tax rate is more than double that of the middle class.

The only major tax category omitted from this analysis would be the tax on corporate profits. The burden of this tax must similarly fall disproportionately on the rich because the rich own proportionately more corporate stock.

We conclude that the U.S. tax system is in fact progressive.

Chinese media pooh-pooh shoppers’ embrace of Japanese toilet seats

Via the L.A. Times:

For hundreds of thousands of Chinese travelers visiting Japan during the Chinese New Year holiday, the top item on their souvenir lists was headed straight for their bottoms.

Chinese tourists flooded Japan last week, spending an estimated $959 million in Japan’s shopping malls and department stores, according to Chinese state-run newspaper Global Times. While many splurged on luxury goods, the hot item this season was Japanese toilet seats.

The electric seats, known for being dizzyingly complicated, feature add-ons such as automatic disinfection, bidet services, warmers, perfumes and “masking noises” that can cover up any indiscreet sounds while one is using the loo. Some Chinese buyers didn’t even ask the price for the toilet seats when purchasing them, according to the Beijing Youth Daily. They sell for $300 and up.

On his social media account, Chinese finance writer Wu Xiaobo recently penned a post titled, “Go to Japan to buy a Toilet Seat,” in which he praised the accessories, calling them easy to install.

While the interest of Chinese consumers was a boon for Japanese businesses, the state-run Chinese media was a bit disturbed by the phenomenon.

The Global Times even found it necessary to pen an editorial on the trend, chiding Chinese buyers.

“That Chinese tourists swamp Japanese stores at a time when [China] is facing a sluggish domestic demand is certainly not something to be proud of,” the paper opined. China’s economic growth rate has been slowing, though it still far outpaces Japan’s.

Thought question for the class: Are these Japanese purchases by Chinese tourists helping to flush the Chinese domestic economy down the proverbial toilet? If those seats would just come with a built in cell phone charger they would make a bigger splash in the USA.

Redistribute GPAs? (Updated)

In chapter three of The Road to Freedom, Arthur Brooks points out that many of his students at Syracuse University believed that the government should redistribute wealth from rich to poor. Brooks proposed to the students the following idea. He would “take a quarter of the points earned by the top half of the class and pass them on to the students in the lower half of the class.” Despite their support for wealth redistribution, the students “were in unanimous agreement that this was a stupid idea.” Of course, but what’s the difference between grade-point redistribution and wealth distribution? If redistributing GPAs is wrong, doesn’t it follow that redistributing wealth is also wrong?

Turns out that Brooks is not alone in making this analogy, and many students have taken the opportunity to post amusing Youtube videos in which their fellow students struggle to explain why they support redistribution of wealth but not GPAs.

 

The GPA analogy must have hit a nerve, because “progressive” students got out their video cameras to make responses. Check out this reply by the young tax experts at something called TYT (The Young Turks) University.

 

To the best we can discern, the young people in this video make two main points.

First, the top 1% of rich people are not paying their fair share of taxes, as evinced by the fact that Mitt Romney paid only 13% of his income, while middle-class people typically have to pay a higher rate.

We agree that rich people should pay more in taxes than should middle-class or poor people. But the U.S. tax code is already very progressive. The top 1% of earners account for more than one-third of the income-tax revenue, and the top 10% account for more than one-half.

Furthermore, the 13% figure is grossly misleading. As the Young Turks themselves acknowledge, Romney’s tax rate was relatively low because the vast majority of his income was derived from investments, which are taxed at 15%, lower than the rate on “ordinary” income. What the Young Turks probably don’t realize is that there was a time, years ago, in this country when investment income was in fact taxed at a rate similar to that on ordinary income. That policy didn’t work out very well because the tax deterred investment and didn’t do much to generate revenue. As a result, something like a bipartisan consensus formed to tax investment income–dividends and capital gains–at a lower rate.

Nevertheless, it is not true that investors like Romney are taxed at only 15%, and that is because taxing investment income amounts to double taxation. The money that investors use to purchase securities comes from after-tax income. The money that Romney invested was already taxed–as ordinary income–at the time that he first earned it. If he had immediately blown the money he earned on hookers and booze, he would have owed no further tax. That’s because current consumption is taxed only once. But since Romney invested the money instead of spending it, he’s taxed again. Future consumption is taxed more than once, which creates a distortion and an inefficiency. It follows that the efficient tax rate on investment income is (approximately) ZERO, which happens to be the actual rate in Japan. The Young Turks think 15% is too low, but in fact the rate should be near zero!

Future consumption, however, is not just double taxed, it is triple taxed. That’s because, before the corporations get around to paying Romney his dividends, they must first pay the corporate income tax. At 35%, the U.S. has one of the highest corporate income tax rates of any country in the world. The tax accountants, however, usually find enough deductions so that corporations pay on average about 25%. Still, that means that Romney’s dividends were already taxed at 25% before being payed out to him, and then taxed another 15% when he received them. The combined effect of these taxes is 36.25%, and again, this falls on top of the taxes Romney already paid during the year in which he first saved the money.

Maybe the Young Turks should learn something about our tax system before they upload their thoughts about it to youtube.

The second major point the Turks try to make is that competition in the marketplace, unlike competition for school grades, is fundamentally unfair. Indeed, the female Turk argues that “the 1%” are “mostly bankers” who got rich by “cheating” or otherwise doing unspecified things “that society frowns upon,” and so they do not “deserve” the money that they have. The male Turk then uses bribery as a metaphor to describe how the rich got rich. In short, the whole system, according to the Turks, is rigged.

But can this be true? Did Henry Ford get rich by bribery, or by revolutionizing the auto industry? Did Bill Gates get rich by bribery, or by revolutionizing the computer industry? Was Steve Jobs a crooked banker? Look, nobody said life was fair, and we can always dig up examples of people trying to gain unfair advantage by engaging in various shenanigans. The fact remains, however, that our largely (for now) market-oriented system does, for the most part, reward hard work and ingenuity.

We do find it disturbing that young people in particular should argue that the system is rigged and opportunity a mirage. Young people, with the chance before them to shape their entire adult lives, should be optimistically planning and pursuing their dreams, not whining about how the deck is hopelessly stacked against them. For this failure, some of the blame must be assigned to the schools.

Furthermore, even if we accept the Young Turk argument that people are cheating, how does this justify redistribution? For instance, to pursue their own metaphor, suppose that some people were obtaining high grades by resorting to bribery. In that case, would the obvious solution be to redistribute grades by giving extra marks to those who have not earned them, and in the process perhaps also taking marks away from those who did earn them? Or would the proper response be to, you know, put a stop to the bribery?

And which is the economic system that eliminates getting ahead through ‘bribery’ of one sort or another? Would it be a socialistic system, where government officials have the power to determine who gets what, where, when and how? Or would it be a system of free-enterprise, where everyone is forced to earn their living by competing in the marketplace? If the Young Turks really want a “level playing field,” they should advocate for free markets.

The really interesting thing, however, is that the Turks felt compelled to argue that the rich did not earn their wealth legitimately. Inadvertently, they have effectively conceded the point that wealth earned legitimately should not be redistributed. Since different people have widely varying willingness and abilities to legitimately create wealth, it follows that wide disparities of wealth can exist without justifying distribution, just as wide disparities exist in GPAs. That was indeed the exact point that the GPA analogy was intended to make. As the kids say, “Game over.”

We cannot conclude this post, however, without noting Female Turk’s really jaw-dropping argument that the way the rich “give people opportunities” is by “paying taxes.” Oh, is that where opportunity comes from? Gosh, all these years we thought that rich people gave opportunities by starting and expanding businesses and thereby creating jobs.

Female Turk–another proud product of modern America’s schools.

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The Decline of the Culture: Whitney Houston vs. Taylor Swift

What does it say about our society that Taylor Swift’s “Shake It Off” last month hit #1 on the Adult Contemporary (AC) charts? “Shake It Off” has become ubiquitous; during our gym workouts, we’ve been involuntarily exposed to it more times than we care to remember. Initially, we dismissed the piece as the sort of dreck that only teenage girls would listen to. But here’s the thing; the target audience for AC is ages 25-44. Are adults over 25 really consuming pap like “Shake It Off”?

Blogger “Agnostic” argues that the success of “Shake It Off” says a lot about the trajectory of our society. In particular, he thinks it tells us that the Millennial generation is immature and socially inept. “Shake It Off”, says Agnostic, is

basically an anthem for bratty Millennials who don’t want to ever change themselves in the slightest to fit in better with their social environment — to have to adapt.

Anyone who doesn’t like you 100% the way you are, and tries to re-shape you so that your behavior will be more pleasing to others, is just a hater. Glib dismissal is the Millennials’ ideal response to haters, so that they never take any criticism to heart, however small and however accurate. No adaptation, no growth. Perpetual toddlers.

Childish emoting can also be heard in the AC #1’s “Roar,” “Stay with Me,” “Home,” etc etc etc.

When did the adult charts become so kiddie?

As Agnostic points out, it wasn’t always like this. Going back 30 years to 1985,

none of the adult contemporary #1’s sounds kiddie or even adolescent. “Careless Whisper,” “Smooth Operator,” “Everytime You Go Away,” and “Saving All My Love for You” all come from a mature stage of social development, with all its trials and complications. Even the upbeat dance hits are made for grown-ups — “Rhythm of the Night” and “Axel F”. There’s also the soft rock ballad “Inspiration” by Chicago, which however super-cheesey and grating it is, nevertheless is made by and for adults.

Below we have embedded the aforementioned “Saving All My Love For You” by Whitney Houston. We’re not a fan of this music, but no one can deny that, as Agnostic says, the music is “by and for adults.” And apart from the lyrics, consider the video. Whitney Houston’s video is stylish and classy, while Taylor Swift’s is garish and vulgar. Houston in her video looks like a fully grown-up adult, while Swift looks highschoolish; at one point she is even shown wearing a cheerleader’s outfit. The stark contrast in maturity is apparent despite the fact that, at the time their songs were released, Swift was actually older (24) than was Houston (22).

For purpose of comparison, we have also embedded the Swift piece. If youtube’s counter is to be believed, the video has garnered more than 616 million views.

For this phenomenon, Agnostic blames helicopter parenting.

The main factor here seems to be the level of cocooning or connection that the generations enjoyed while growing up. Social connection causes personal change, in a pro-social direction, i.e. growth or maturity. Folks who grew up entirely within the outgoing / rising-crime period of roughly 1960 to 1990 are the most comfortable with adult life. That would be the late Boomers and the earliest X-ers….

By the time you get to those born around 1990, they only grew up during the cocooning / helicopter parenting period, and have hardly matured at all, not even to the adolescent stage of wanting social connections, being willing to engage in the give-and-take, and honing their people-reading abilities. Again, you can hardly expect a different outcome from people who were socially deprived for their entire formative years.

An interesting theory. But at this point, we’re just hoping civilization holds up long enough for us to have a comfortable retirement.

As a palate cleanser, the third video below presents some real music: Gustavo Dudamel and the Simon Bolivar Symphony Orchestra playing Danzón No. 2 by Arturo Márquez.

And one final point. Of the three pieces below, the one that is the least sexy, despite all the butt-shaking, is Swift’s.

 

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The Rule of Law: No Ifs, Ands, or Buts

but

No public official or constitutional officer serving in any capacity, whether elected or appointed, should ever even think about following up “a nation of laws” with “but.” That “but” does not reflect the proper degree of fidelity to republican virtue and the Rule of Law that we should expect from our public officials. At least if we intend to preserve our rights and our free republic.

 

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Video: Created Equal (Updated)

Here is the video corresponding to chapter 5 of Free to Choose, covering the topic of fairness and equality. Don’t miss in particular the concluding roundtable discussion in which the great Thomas Sowell lays the smackdown on Socialist Frances Fox Piven.

Money quote, from Milt: “In this world, the greatest source of inequality has been special privileges granted by government.”

For more on fairness and the profit motive, see the short clip below from Milton Friedman’s 1979 guest appearance on Donahue. Milt takes Dayton native Phil Donahue to school.

 

 

Alaska becomes third state to legalize recreational marijuana

The law comes into effect today:

JUNEAU, Alaska –  Alaska on Tuesday became the third U.S. state to legalize the recreational use of marijuana, but organizers don’t expect any public celebrations since it remains illegal to smoke marijuana in public.

In the state’s largest city, Anchorage police officers are ready to start handing out $100 fines to make sure taking a toke remains something to be done behind closed doors.

Placing Alaska in the same category as Washington state and Colorado with legal marijuana was the goal of a coalition including libertarians, rugged individualists and small-government Republicans who prize the privacy rights enshrined in the Alaska state constitution.

Congratulations to all Alaskans on a victory for common sense as well as freedom.

Averting the Disability-Insurance Meltdown

Andrew Biggs of the American Enterprise Institute has a good recent piece in the Wall Street Journal on America’s fast growing disability epidemic:

Americans today are about as likely as those in the past to report that they have a work-limiting disability, according to Census Bureau data. For instance, 5.6% of Americans ages 35-44 reported having a work-limiting disability in 1984, while in 2014 that figure was 5.4%. Likewise, self-reported measures of overall health have improved and workplace injuries have fallen.

Yet the percentage of the working-age population collecting disability insurance benefits has more than doubled to 5.7% in 2014 from 2.7% in 1984. These increases were not anticipated: In 1984 Social Security’s trustees projected only 4% of working-age adults would collect disability in 2015.

Demographic factors have played a major role. Older workers are more likely to become disabled, and as more women entered the labor force in the 1970s and 1980s, they began receiving benefits alongside men.

But there is more than demography at work. Congress loosened eligibility standards in 1984, allowing multiple non-disabling ailments to be combined to qualify for disability benefits. The legislature also ordered the Social Security Administration to favor evidence provided by an applicant’s medical representatives over the judgments of SSA medical professionals.

Once Congress opened the door, incentives pushed many individuals through it. For less-educated workers, the typical annual disability package of almost $15,000 in cash payments and another $9,000 in Medicare benefits—coupled with the ability to earn more than $13,000 from work without losing benefits—can be attractive. High-school dropouts are one-half to two-thirds more likely to apply for disability than college graduates, regardless of health status, according to a January study published by economist Courtney Coile of Wellesley College.

There’s something particularly despicable about gaming the nation’s disability system, but an untold number of people are doing just that. Disability insurance—DI—is part of the Social Security program and it used to be small and inexpensive. But now it is large, prohibitively expensive and going broke. Disability has, in fact, become the default welfare program for many able bodied people.  The gaming of the system has become more common in recent years but has apparently been around in some degree for a long time as witnessed by this old joke:

An old Irishman walks into a bar, hauls his bad leg over the stool, and asks for a whiskey. “Hey,” he says, looking down the bar, “is that Jesus down there?” The bartender nods, so the Irishman orders Jesus one too.

An ailing Italian with a humpback walks in, shuffles up to the bar, and asks for a glass of Chianti. Noticing Jesus, the Italian orders Him a glass of Chianti too.

A redneck swaggers in and hollers, “Barkeep, set me up a cold one! Hey—is that God’s Boy down there?” The bartender nods, so the redneck orders Him a bottle of beer.

As Jesus gets up to leave, He touches the Irishman and says, “For your kindness, you are healed!” The Irishman jumps up and dances a jig.

Then Jesus touches the Italian and says, “For your kindness, you are healed!” The Italian’s humpback straightens, and he does a flip.

Just then the redneck yells, “Don’t touch me, Lord! I’m on full disability!”

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Notable and Quotable

“Dirty Jobs” Mike Rowe on the minimum wage:

From the business owners I’ve talked to, it seems clear that companies are responding to rising labor costs by embracing automation faster than ever. That’s eliminating thousands of low-paying, unskilled, entry level positions. What will that mean for those people trying to get started in the workforce? My job as an usher was the first rung on a long ladder of work that lead me to where I am today. But what if that rung wasn’t there? If the minimum wage in 1979 had been suddenly raised from $2.90 to $10 an hour, thousands of people would have applied for the same job. What chance would I have had, being seventeen years old with pimples and a big adams apple?

Mike Rowe.

Mike Rowe.