Different River

”You can never step in the same river twice.” –Heraclitus

January 1, 2006


Filed under: — Different River @ 9:25 pm

Today, January 1, is the fourth anniversary of the word “blogosphere.”

Or so they say.

(Hat tip: Instapundit.)

The World’s Happiest, Least Appreciated Anniversary

Filed under: — Different River @ 5:26 pm

I should have noted this yesterday, as David Kopel did:

December 31, 2005

Happy Anniversary:

On this date in 1991, the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics ceased to exist. As detailed by University of Hawaii political science professor R.J. Rummel on his website “Powerkills“, the 20th century was humanity’s worst century of genocide and democide (the latter including mass killings not based on religion, race, or ethnicity). By far the greatest perpetrators of genocide were Communist regimes. Although a few of the Communist genocide perpetrators eventually developed hostile relations with the U.S.S.R., none of the Communist regimes would ever have come to power without the support of the Evil Empire that arose in October 1917, and which began styling itself as the “U.S.S.R.” in 1922.

A retrospective article on the Heritage Foundation website reminds us how bitterly President Reagan was attacked for his magnificent speech at Westminster in 1982. Reagan was mocked as a deluded idealist by so-called “pragmatists” who thought they knew better. Yet Reagan was right when he declared:

It is the Soviet Union that runs against the tide of history by denying human freedom and human dignity to its citizens…
…the march of freedom and democracy…will leave Marxism-Leninism on the ash-heap of history…

The collapse of the Evil Empire came sooner than even Reagan had hoped. The Cuban efforts to impose new dictatorships on Nicaragua and El Salvador failed completely. Solidarity became the elected government of Poland, and later yielded power to another government following a free election. The Warsaw Pact is now nothing more than a scrap of paper, and all the countries which suffered under its jackboots are making their way–some faster than others–towards stable and democratic government.

(Hat tip: Below the Beltway.)

I wonder how many people remember enough about the history and rhetoric of Marxism to recognize that Reagan’s saying that we “will leave Marxism-Leninism on the ash-heap of history” was not merely a rhetorical flourish, but a devilshly clever taunt, turning one of the founding slogans of Marxism against it. As Patrick Ruffini described it:

The phrase was first used by Leon Trotsky who issued this warning to the opponents of the Bolshevik Revolution before the Petrograd Soviet on October 25, 1917: “You are miserable bankrupts, your role is played out: Go where you belong—to the ash heap of history.”

Well, in 1982 most people who heard Reagan’s speech, even if they recognized the clever turn of phrase, either thought he was being hopelessly idealistic (practical conservatives), trying to seem optimistic for strategic purposes (ideological conservatives), pathetically ignorant of geopolitical realities (pratical liberals), or pathetically ignorant of the “inevitable” leftward march of world history (ideological liberals). The most visible group was the last one. And most of them are still saying that Reagan was an ignorant dolt, rather than a visionary leader who took the world in a direction almost no one else thought it could go — despite the fact that that’s exactly what he did.

In 1982, Communist regimes were, it seemed, riding high and expanding all over the world. By 1991, the movement that had murdered nearly 100 million people was itself dead, having been killed without a single shot being fired, forced to collapse under the weight of its own contraditions — the very same thing that, under Communist theory, was supposed to cause the collapse of “capitalism.”

For more on the death toll of communism, see The Black Book of Communism, by Stephane Courtois, et. al..

For more on the reaction of the “experts” to this and other pronouncements of Ronald Reagan, see Ronald Reagan: How an Ordinary Man Became an Extraordinary Leader, by Dinesh D’Souza.

And, of course, don’t miss Bryan Caplan’s online Museum of Communism.


The Minimum Wage Myth

Filed under: — Different River @ 4:13 pm

Lots of people think there are lots of people trying to live and support a family on the minimum wage. They take the federal minimum wage ($5.15/hour) multiply it by 40 hours per week and 52 weeks per year, and get $10,712 — well below the government defined “poverty line.” They are then appalled at the notion that there are millions of people trying to support a family on only $10,712 per year — after taxes, if they think about taxes.

But this is a myth. While there are lots of minimum-wage jobs, very few are held by people actually trying to support families. A very large percentage of minimum-wage are teenagers and college students from middle- and upper-class families. Stuart K. Hayashi points out:

Actually, minimum-wage-earners comprise only 3.0 percent of all workers paid by the hour in the United States and only 1.8 percent of American wage and salary earners.

According to a July 2004 study by Joseph Sabia and Richard Burkhauser, only 5.3 percent of U.S. minimum-wage-earners come from households that are below the official U.S. poverty line. Some 40 percent of U.S. minimum-wage-earners live in households where the total yearly income is at least triple the maximum amount of income a household can receive and still be classified as being below the poverty line. And 63 percent of those who earn the minimum wage are not the highest income-earner in their household.

(Hat tip: James R. Ament.)

So: 1.8% of workers earn the minimum wage, and 5.3% of those workers come from households below the poverty line. In other words, only 0.0954% of workers — that is, less than 1 in 1,000 workers — are minimum-wage workers from households below the poverty line. And no doubt not all of them are the highest-earning worker in the household. Some of them probably even have other jobs themselves.

Of course, this is not much consolation if you are that 1 in 1,000+ workers. It is probably also not much consolation that at that level, you have to pay taxes on that income. Not regular income tax, but Social Security and Medicare tax. One who works 40 hours a week, 52 weeks a year pays $1,638.74 in Social Security and Medicare tax. Half of that is through a direct payroll deduction, and half is the “employer share,” which is money the employer must pay as a cost of hiring the employee, but which the employee does not actually receive. Thus, the net wages of a full-time, minimum-wage worker, after taxes is only $9,073.06.

We could give a substantial benefit to minumum-wage workers — at no cost to their employers — by exempting workers at that income level from Social Security and Medicare tax. The cost to the Treasury and the Social Security and Medicare systems would be minimal, since there are so few of those workers.

However, liberals never seem to advocate a common-sense solution like that. In fact, when a Republican proposed exactly that a few years ago, Democrats derided it as “more tax cuts for the rich.”

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