George Sarant

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Posts Tagged ‘fairness

THE FALSE NARRATIVE

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The media has created a false myth regarding President Trump and the recent events in Virginia. Two weeks after the fact, the obsession has continued as “Charlottesville” has become a code word for associating the president with the most virulent forms of racism, and the left has been delighted to run with it ever since.  But even if you loathe Trump it ought to be evident that the coverage has been atrocious and the level of unfairness has been breathtaking. This has been used to relentlessly club him for things he didn’t say based on assumptions that have no basis in reality. Fairness and objectivity are essential if we are to receive and process information accurately before forming opinions. It has been completely missing here and has little to do with Trump and everything to do with the truth. 

The thing that has everyone rattled is the Nazis, thanks to the inordinate amount of attention on a group that represents no one, has no power or influence, and who are primarily useful as a tool for the left for fundraising and otherwise pushing goals that have little public support. The reality is that if you gathered all of the Nazis in this country you couldn’t fill a closet, and various hate groups combined have but a few thousand members nationwide even according to left-leaning sources. 

When Trump said there were “good people” and violence on “both sides” the media knew damn well he was referring to opponents of removing monuments, not the “Nazis” and the KKK. They nevertheless ran with the story they wanted to believe, and even though he subsequently denounced both groups, as well as, justifiably, the violent left-wing radical 

Antifa, the media ignored the latter and along with the left spread the lie that Trump was a sympathizer and “racist” himself. To link a president who has Orthodox Jewish grandchildren with the Nazis is beyond ridiculous. Otherwise, he didn’t denounce them strongly enough, yet nothing he could possibly say would satisfy these critics, who simply want to justify their preconceived prejudices. 

What is going on is a chance for people who have a grievance with Trump for other reasons to pile on, i.e.. especially Republicans piously condemning him, never mind that they in fact are supporting the left-narrative and delusion that there is widespread racism in America today. For what we really are seeing is a spate of violence from left, and unprecedented lawlessness in attacking statues as well as free speech. These are the same people who have blocked mainstream conservatives from even speaking on campus, and violently attacking police, yet little of this is being shown. It is also clear that most of the perpetrators are white radicals, not black people, who have more important things to worry about. 

Never mind that a solid majority of Americans of all backgrounds oppose removing confederate monuments and the President’s remarks reflected their views, as they have largely been able to see through all the unfairness and outright propaganda of the media. It has become evident as this lunacy spreads beyond confederate monuments to include even Lincoln, Columbus, and Joan of Arc! What is really happening is nothing short of an attempt by a small minority of self-hating white left-wing extremists to destroy the US, and for that matter western civilization in general. For these people object not only to the confederate flag but the American flag as well. Yet the political establishment, taking its cues from the media, has largely been silent on this. They have even further confronted spineless CEO’s and public officials with a false choice, based on a lie, of either condemning Trump or being pilloried themselves merely for associating with the administration, and most have folded given the power of the media to shape the perception of reality. 

The media has been guilty of ideological malfeasance in creating the Charlottesville myth, which nevertheless has rattled mostly the establishment elites, rather than the public. Yet while some may selectively process information to confirm their prejudices, most people are fair-minded and see through all the hysteria, so all this has done is to further delegitimize these institutions. The point here is not to absolve Trump but to point to the fact that the truth has been the biggest casualty in this whole affair. 

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Written by georgesarant

August 29, 2017 at 7:49 PM

HEY, TEACHER, ALL THOSE KIDS ARE SMART!

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There was a considerable amount of feedback on a piece I wrote previously about gifted students in city schools. One in particular alerted me to the fact that there is a kind of mirror opposite happening in some of the suburbs, but curiously producing the same kind of leveling results. In this case the number gifted, accelerated, honors, etc. classes are increasing, not being phased out. This might lead some to conclude that the kids have somehow gotten a lot brighter, but in reality it is more a matter of parents demanding their kids be placed in the accelerated classes, thereby diminishing their effectiveness, and thus diluted they in effect become the new “ordinary” class. As one teacher wrote me: 

 

Years ago, the accelerated classes were reserved for the upper 5% (give or take) of students who earned grades from 95%-100% during seventh grade in their Math and Science courses. In addition to their classroom grades, students were required to earn high marks on a placement tests to discover the truly gifted from those who were simply good students. In other words, if a student had a 95% average and scored high on the placement tests, they’d skip the general science and math courses and they’d start taking High School Regents classes ahead of time in the Middle School.  Today, since the placement tests are considered “biased”, parents can just call and ask to have their kids placed in accelerated classes. As a result, instead of one or two sections of accelerated courses in eighth grade, we now have four in Science and three in Math. This makes good publicity for the School Board, but with so many kids in accelerated classes (that don’t belong), the teachers are no longer challenging the highest 5%. Instead they’re spending most of their time trying to get kids to pass a Regents course, where their previous caseload was smart enough to pass the Regents from day one. In prior years it was assumed that the kids would inevitably pass the Regents, so more time was devoted to truly advanced lab and activities that would challenge the genuinely gifted. 

A a result, since all of the “good” students are now in accelerated courses, those who remain in the General Science classes tend to be our lower functioning kids who are now paired with Special Education students who have to take class in a general education setting as opposed to the old self-contained settings.

So here again the gifted students do not get the kind of education they should, being combined with what are essentially ordinary students, who have not suddenly become equally bright. While this gives bragging rights about all their “honor” students to parents and school officials, as the teacher further states, “Accelerated classes in 2014 are more like the “typical” classes of 15 or 20 years ago. The “typical” classes of 2014 would have been a Special Ed class in 1985.” Thus this kind of system also results in the general dumbing down  of the curriculum as in the city schools, only here the pretense is that most of the students are exceptionally bright, at least statistically, which is all that seems to matter these days. But in truth the end result is that there is essentially nothing for the truly gifted, with all the negative consequences  described previously. 

It is also unfair to the teachers to the extent that those with the “ordinary” students are evaluated the same way as those with the “bright” students, even though they cannot possibly get comparable results. Teachers have to do a lot more than produce statistics and it should definitely not be the only way to determine their effectiveness. To the extent this arises from federal mandates they are simply making things worse. I learned from another, unrelated context, that when you have to produce numbers you wind up not doing what you really were supposed to be doing substantively in the first place. There may be a “statistical” success, but little true progress. 

Written by georgesarant

February 7, 2014 at 7:42 PM

A TAXING SITUATION

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The congress and the President are now at an impass over just how to get more taxes out of the “rich.” The President thinks this consists of anyone making over $250,000 a year, but even some in his own party find this hard to swallow. Senator Schumer thinks it should apply only to those making over a million, apparently thinking of his high-income, hypocritical liberal constituents, given what the cost of living is here in New York. The Republicans, on the other hand, are willing to raise revenue by changing the tax code to eliminate or limit various deductions for the wealthy, while lowering rates across the board. 

 This may seem like a trivial difference to some people, especially in the affluent media, given that either way the government is going to get more tax revenue from those who are relatively well off, the Republicans having conceded as much already. But the underlying philosophies of each position stand in clear opposition. It essentially boils down to who should control other people’s money. The President’s position is that the rich should pay “more” on the basis of “fairness” and equality. Given that this kind of logic seems to appeal to a current majority of the public, he seems prepared to demagogue this issue over the “fiscal cliff,” even if alternative policies might actually raise more revenue with lower rates, calculating that with media support, he can successfully blame the consequences on the Republicans. They, in turn, argue, rather cogently I think, that this will only reduce investment and economic growth, particularly by burdening small business owners and confiscating capital from more productive uses. 

 It then ultimately becomes a question of who should spend the money- the people it belongs to or the government. It is as much about power and the direction of things as it is about revenue. The Democrats want it for social purposes, while the Republicans reject that for economic reasons, as well as based upon opposition to expanded government programs and power. The President essentially wants to maintain the current tax code and  simply raise income tax rates, while the Republicans want to maintain or reduce current rates and change the tax code. In this they have a strong argument; unfortunately they are not very good at articulating it. 

 The current tax code is full of deductions, exemptions, and benefits skewed towards particular interests (talk about fairness), that reduce the taxes they pay and raise everyone else’s. This results in crony capitalism, rewarding those favored by the government at the expense of others. The advocates of such policies mean well, to the extent that these favors are designed to get people to do things they otherwise would not do, or that make no economic sense on their own. This favorable treatment is designed to provide “incentives” to achieve various political goals, such as green energy through Solyndra-type outfits. Thus, the government then effectively controls how money is spend both indirectly, as well as directly, by taxing all those who are not favored more. It means more power over decision-making, based upon the assumption that somehow politicians and government bureaucrats know better how a business should invest, than its owners. 

 I’m not going to get into all the reasons these schemes frequently fail, or the distortion of investment decisions, but will address them on the liberals’ own terms: it’s just not fair. What would be fair is a system where the same rates apply to everyone without exception, even if they are progressive, and where no one could curry favors from the state. If all these exemptions and favors were eliminated, not only would there be less economic distortion, but then the rates for everyone could be lowered across the board. The Republicans have a strong argument here, provided they stick to it and don’t dole out favors themselves. Under the present system, to paraphrase Pericles, you may not be interested in government but government is interested in you. As long as exceptions and favors are done by the state, supposedly in the public interest, it forces organizations to be involved politically. This inevitably invites corruption.

 As bad as all this is on individual taxes, it is even worse when it comes to corporate taxes. Today the US has the highest corporate income taxes in the world, nominally, but exclusion and deductions effectively lower them for some who are favored. Eliminating the goodies for crony capitalists would allow rates to be significantly lowered across the board, thus encouraging more investment in this country. Again, by simply being fair, everyone would benefit. 

 But there are other interests at play besides the private sector, such as state and local government, and nonprofit organizations. Reducing, or eliminating deductions for state and local taxes usually leads to howls of protest from representatives of high tax states like New York. These concerns are, however, misplaced. New York sends far more taxes to Washington than it gets back. Thus logically every time a representative from here votes for more federal programs and taxes they are effectively voting against the interests of New York taxpayers. That is a strong argument that the Republicans in this state are unfortunately too inept to make, and thus keep losing elections. Reducing deductions for “charitable” contributions also results in protests from nonprofit organizations, who fear they might lose revenue. Never mind that wealthy donors often “contribute” via dinners and social events, they also get “naming” rights. In my view when a billionaire gets to plaster his name all over the place on something, usually in proportion to his ego, he should not get a tax benefit for it as well. Real charity is giving without expecting anything in return. People would still be charitable, it would just be on less of an industrial scale. 

 I’m not advocating eliminating any of these deductions or particular policies, but would insist than any increase in revenue be exclusively devoted to debt reduction. Beyond that, I would point out that any real reform also has to include state and local taxes, given how onerous, i.e. property taxes are for many people. I would suggest that we eliminate or drastically reduce taxes on all the necessities of life, such as food, clothing, shelter, and medical care. There could be limitations and caps to avoid rewarding ostentatiousness. Instead let everything beyond these elements be taxed, most of which is elective and not essential to life. Thus, for example, we ought to instead have an entertainment tax, (take that Hollywood) which would be relatively painless, given that it would be based upon optional expenditures. No one can seriously argue that entertainment is an essential expense at present.  Furthermore, if society continued to prosper (and this should delight liberals) the list of nontaxables might even eventually be expanded to include some “social” goods, at least as long as it does not increase debt or raise taxes. It is far preferable that these things be provided and decided by individuals themselves rather than the government. That means individual choice instead of state direction. This is only a preliminary proposal, but accompanied by a rational tax system that treats everyone equally, we could reduce overall taxation, increase growth, and pay down the debt. After all, its only fair. 

 

 

Written by georgesarant

December 6, 2012 at 4:46 PM