I have discussed in the past how it is that the son of two very liberal parents (with a very liberal sister) ended up becoming a pretty darned conservative guy. Like most things in my life, it was driven by the data. After sticking with family tradition and voting for Jimmy Carter two months after my 18th birthday in 1980, I saw just how devoid of workable ideas liberalism was. I watched with amazement how Ronald Reagan took a country from a downtrodden state of malaise back to self-respect and prosperity. And, I never looked back.
I have also written about the fundamental difference between liberalism’s desire to take from one group and give to another in order to feel better about themselves versus conservatism’s desire help those less fortunate folks find a quantitatively and qualitatively better life in a sustainable way. Something happened to me yesterday that made it clear that liberals have a long way to go in understanding this difference and this is having dire implications for those less fortunate folks amongst us.
I was having a drink with very good friends and we were talking about their son, who’s a senior in high school. Their son got his first part-time job, bussing tables at a low-end restaurant, where many of his co-workers are dependent upon their hourly wage to support themselves. Their son, of course, is just saving up some beer money for college. The mom in this family is quite liberal, but the son is following more in dad’s more conservative footsteps. They were both telling me how this work experience had opened his eyes to the need for less wealthy folks to work in low paying jobs to support themselves. I think we would all agree that is a great learning experience. We didn’t force that issue with our now college-aged son and I wish to hell we had. But, then the conversation took a bizarre turn. The mom said, “at this age he should be more liberal and I hope this experience helps him become more liberal.” I asked her what she meant and she said, “well, maybe he will see that some people need more help.”
We stopped there because it was not an appropriate time or place for a political debate, but her commentary was clear. She thought that seeing the struggles of the lower classes should make her son more liberal. The data suggest the exact opposite should happen. And, this, to me, is the mystery of liberalism.
I want to pause for a moment and acknowledge something really important. I truly believe that many, though certainly not all, liberals are often driven by true compassion. I know my friend in the story above is. I know my mother is. I know my sister is. My later father certainly was. These are really really good people* who sincerely want to help people who drew the low card out of the deck of life or, perhaps, as Warren Buffet said, lost the uterine lottery. So, it’s not a matter of bad intent. It’s just a matter of having the facts wrong.
Liberals are largely emotional animals who think and act based on emotion, not hard facts and data. That’s dangerous. If we extract away from politics for a moment, I would bet that the vast majority of Americans, independent of political affiliation, would agree with the following statement: “Better decisions are reached when they are made without emotion, but rather are based on the facts of the situation and the implications, short and long term, of the decision taken.” Yet, liberals constantly ignore, in fact eschew, data and facts in their decision making.
If you’re ever really bored, go back and read the comment section of many of my political blogs where my liberal cousin, Dan, and I go at it. I cite data to support my conclusions and he often comes back with things like, “just because I don’t have data doesn’t make my opinion count any less.” Well, yes it does. When decisions are made based on opinions and emotion, unintended consequences are ensured.
So, let’s get back to my friend and her son. In fact, the co-workers he has met at his low-end food service job are the lucky ones. They have a low-wage job. The odds are that many of them are young folks, like him. Economists have shown that the value of a low-wage entry level job goes way beyond a paycheck. Research published in the Journal of Labor Economics found that young people who worked part-time had a greater likelihood of higher wages and better benefits in future employment, as compared to their peers that didn’t have a job. So, for teenagers, any job at any wage is considerably better than no job at all.
Sadly, the current president has presided over the highest level of black teen unemployment in the last 50 years, currently well over 40% and more than double the rate for age-matched white teens. Therefore, any president of any color, especially one who has created the current Eurosclerotic perpetual unemployment situation would presumably be searching for policies that INCREASE the odds that all teens, but especially black teens, can find an entry level job. In his state of the union address, however, President Obama proposed the exact opposite. He proposed raising the federal minimum wage from $7.25 to $9.00.
Nobel Laureate in Economics, Milton Friedman, commented that, “The high rate of unemployment among teenagers, and especially black teenagers, is both a scandal and a serious source of social unrest. Yet it is largely a result of minimum wage laws.” Indeed, a recent review article found that 85% of all studies of the minimum wage from numerous economists show a direct correlation between increasing the minimum wage and increasing teen unemployment. Furthermore, this is just common sense. If you artificially increase a company’s labor rate, they will respond by reducing labor costs by hiring fewer people. Duh. So, our first ever black president, faced with the scandal of historically high black teen unemployment, has proposed a policy agenda that has been proven time and again to increase black teen unemployment. And, people voted for him, including 93% of blacks! I implore someone to please explain that to me.
I will close by saying that this is my single biggest frustration with the current state of American politics. Here we are with a truly scandalous situation with black teen unemployment and, indeed, unemployment in general. We have data-driven conservatives on the one hand, who want to enact pro-growth policies and wage policies that give all Americans, including black teens, a chance at employment and economic prosperity. We have emotional liberals on the other hand, who want to enact policies that have proven time and again to make it more difficult for young people, including black teens, to get a minimum wage job and enter the work force. And, the press paints the conservatives as the party of the wealthy and the liberals as the party of the less fortunate. It could not possibly be any more backwards. The data prove that.
*I don’t believe President Obama is a good person. He has too much access to too much data. He knows exactly what he’s doing and the impact it will have. He is living out a dream on the American dime and he knows the damage he’s doing.