In Response to the Daily: Debunking the BDS Myths

May 13th, 2014 § 0 comments § permalink

File_PhotoOn April 21st, Rami Faraj authored an article titled “An unsafe campus climate,” featured in The Michigan Daily in which he dismissed the barrage of insults targeted at pro-Israel students and death threats received by CSG officials. He went on to accuse Jews (codeword: Zionists) of theft: “you have taken our lands, taken our rights, and are now taking our seats in classrooms.” These accusations are based on gross distortions of historical facts. Sadly, they also manifest an underlying philosophy of hatred and intolerance, which seems to be a common trait running throughout the Arab world–hatred of Sunnis or Shiites or Christians or Hindus or Jews or any human being who does not subscribe to a particular set of beliefs.

For centuries, there has always been a Jewish presence in Israel, particularly in the holy cities of Jerusalem, Hebron, Safad, and Ashkelon. This was long before the Romans conquered Judea and renamed it “Palestine” to dejudaize it. Contrary to Mr, Faraj’s assertions, the Jews of the First and Second Aliyot (1882-1903 and 1904-1914) lawfully and openly purchased land from Arab landowners. They fertilized what was said to be non-arable land, established peaceful Kibbutzim and were happy to employ hundreds of Arabs looking for work.

Aggressive wars initiated by Arab countries that vehemently rejected the two state solutions set forth in 1937, 1947, 2000 and 2008 not only took land from the Palestinians, but also created the first and second refugee problems. Jordan (like Egypt) actually rescinded citizenship of all its refugees, ultimately leaving Israel to absorb the refugee crisis created by their wars. Jordan even booted the PLO out of Jordan several years after the 1967 War. Even today, the catastrophic war in Syria–another Arab war that Mr. Faraj ignores even though it is occurring right before our eyes and has created (and continues to create) enormous human suffering–has given rise to a massive refugee problem for Turkey. The suffering of Palestinian Muslims has been the direct result of actions by tyrannical leaders of the Arab states that have practiced discrimination against Palestinians for decades and which have used the conflict in the Middle East to divert the attention of their own subjects from the sorry state of their own condition.

In contrast, Israel has treated its Muslim and Christian residents in a manner that would be unheard of in Arab states. Indeed, Muslim residents of Israel vote in elections and serve as members of the Knesset (the Israeli parliament), justices on the Supreme Court and soldiers in the army. Palestinian students comprise 20% of Israeli university students and many pursue successful careers in medicine, law and business. If Mr. Faraj still believes in a mythical Israeli plot to debase the status of Palestinians, he is welcome to contact the Technion Medical School’s valedictorian of 2013, Mais Ali-Saleh, a Muslim Palestinian woman and staunch opponent of BDS.

Israel has gone to great lengths to reach an agreement with the Palestinians on a two-state solution. Not too long ago, that proposal was rejected by the Palestinian leadership under Yasser Arafat (who stole many millions of dollars from the Palestinian people and deposited the money in offshore bank accounts for the benefit of his family), and then embarked on an intifada against Israel that accomplished nothing but misery that has been disproportionately borne by the Palestinians.

Mr. Faraj’s claim that the Jews do not qualify as an “oppressed people” is, in a word, absurd. Perhaps he should study a little bit of modern European history and become acquainted with the activities of Adolf Hitler. His actions were the subject of open trials at Nuremburg and caused displacement, torture and execution of millions of human beings. Or perhaps Mr. Faraj should focus on the openly hostile and violent discrimination practiced by Sunni Muslims against Shiite Muslims and vice versa. Or the executions of, and destruction of property belonging to Christians and Buddhists in places like Afghanistan, Egypt, Iraq, Libya and Syria. How many millions of human beings have died because of this hatred and intolerance over the last 30 years in wars with Afghanistan, Iran, Iraq, Libya and Syria? This is a very clear historical record of hatred, intolerance and yes, discrimination, but these facts inconveniently require Mr. Faraj and the BDS movement to look in the mirror.

Obama Aims to Raise Minimum Wage

April 4th, 2014 § 0 comments § permalink

21eca1e9f8d83c0c500f6a706700db78On Wednesday, April 2nd, the University of Michigan had the pleasure of hosting the President of the United States as he came to give remarks about raising the federal minimum wage. At 2:45 pm at the Intramural Sports Building, at least 900 students stood by with bated breath, waiting for Barack Obama to finish his lunch at Zingerman’s.

In his typical charming fashion, the President began his remarks by congratulating our basketball team on a cut-short-too-soon season, hemming and hawing before getting to the meat of this “meanwich.”

Though expected to explain an increase in the federal minimum wage, President Obama spent far more time endorsing what he has embraced as “Obamacare” and vilifying congressional Republicans. There are now 7.1 million people signed up for “Affordable Health Care,” (although that number reflects people who already had healthcare as well as those who were kicked off their old insurance plans), but at least 30 million Americans are still uninsured. He took this speech as yet another social opportunity to push his incredibly impractical healthcare initiative, and directly insult the Republican Party, which has passed around fifty economic recovery proposals, only to have them shot down by Senate Democrats. Luckily for the President, much of the audience consisted of young college students, who don’t yet realize the impacts his policies could have on their future.

Once he got to the topic at hand, the President brought up his lunch at Zingerman’s in an attempt to connect with the young Ann Arborites and tried to tie in how Zingerman’s was “an excellent example of fair wages for employees.” Though he may not have realized while ordering the Reuben, but Zingerman’s isn’t exactly the most affordable lunch fare. A small Reuben costs fourteen dollars, while the regular costs nearly seventeen. For the average worker, that is more than expensive for a day’s meal.  Instead, Zingerman’s is relished for special occasions or parties. It’s held on such a pedestal not only because the sandwiches are delicious, but because people don’t eat there every day. Obama’s “high wages high profits” remark failed to include one incredibly important detail: high costs.

Obama proclaims that his party is the champion of the middle class; that Republicans only concern is for the “1%.” However, raising the federal minimum wage is anything but helpful to the middle class. He claimed that “raising wages isn’t just a job for elected officials, it’s also a job for businesses,” without considering the real effect these higher wages will have. The economy isn’t doing well enough for additional pressure to be placed on business owners. Small business owners across Michigan have expressed concern that the extra costs of employees will force them to raise the prices of their products and cut back on regular employees, who Obama identified as an average of thirty-five years old (hardly helpful to graduating seniors looking for any means of living). The costs of living will increase, and people will struggle more than ever.

President Obama is a cool guy. He comes off as very charming and personable, which makes him the ideal candidate for college students. But he isn’t trying to enable these young people to get them standing on their own two feet. All he wants to do is come off as their “friend,” as someone to hang out with, to ensure that this generation remains faithful to the party that has kept them jobless, paying increased taxes to cover the uninsured, and completely blind to the long-term implications of these plans.

Why President Obama Should Approve Keystone XL

March 23rd, 2014 § 0 comments § permalink

There is currently a heated debate around the proposed Keystone XL expansion – the final stage of a project that began in 2008 and is nearly finished. This article, the second of two articles on the Keystone XL expansion, will explore whether or not the US government should and will approve the Keystone XL expansion.

North America is currently in the midst of an oil boom. However, we are failing to capitalize on this boom. In 2008, TransCanada and ConocoPhillips submitted a proposal for the Keystone XL extension, which would nearly double the capacity of the Keystone pipeline, yet the Obama administration has delayed the approval of Keystone XL (for more information see my previous article on Keystone XL). These delays have led to reliance on a less safe and more costly means of transporting oil: railroads. Last year has been characterized as the worst year on record for oil spills by railroads. Given the poor status quo, the Obama administration has an opportunity to approve the Keystone XL extension, subject to environmental reforms that reduce our dependence on oil. They should take it.

Keystone XL provides many benefits to the United States, including increased efficiency and safety compared to rail, and helps us become less reliant on oil from oppressive regimes, such as Saudi Arabia and Venezuela. Keystone XL is more efficient than rail since it lowers the cost of shipping oil and frees up railroad capacity for other goods. Keystone XL is safer than trains because pipelines are less subject to human error and other issues that plague railroads. While there is a risk of oil spills for pipelines, such as the 2010 spill in Michigan’s Kalamazoo River, the risk is far higher for railroads. Finally, by tapping domestic oil sources, Keystone XL frees us from unhealthy alliances with oppressive regimes.

Despite these benefits, the extraction and shipment of oil from the Canadian oil sands imposes costs to the environment. These costs include increased carbon emissions, environmental damage, and a reduction of incentives to develop alternative sources of energy. Increased carbon emissions come from two sources: increased usage of oil and the energy usage from oil extraction in Canada. However, while oil extraction from the oil sands is energy intensive, it is only 18-25% more energy intensive over its lifecycle than “conventional” oil. The carbon emissions problem is due to oil, not just oil from the Canadian oil sands.

Environmental damage from this oil is due to the environmental costs of extraction on the land and the potential for spills. Extraction of oil from the oil sands involves excavation of the land and can permanently disfigure the landscape (for more detail on this process see my previous article). Additionally, oil spills, like the spill in the Kalamazoo River, do happen. This is why changes to the original Keystone XL extension proposal were made to avoid environmentally sensitive areas in Nebraska. Nevertheless, with approval of the Keystone XL extension, these costs need to be accounted for.

In order to account for these costs, the Obama administration should only approve the pipeline conditional on environmental regulations that reduce our dependence on oil immediately (not just foreign oil). Some of these incentives could include a reduction in public subsidization of roads, ending subsidized heating oil, liberalization of mass transit, and ending the commuter tax credit for drivers. Additionally, the Obama administration should impose tighter regulations on oil transport by rail in order to reduce the risk of oil spills.

The current oil boom is a tremendous opportunity, but it also has real costs that need to be accounted for. The current status quo is not working. The Obama administration needs to approve Keystone XL with sufficient reforms that reduce our dependence on oil. Otherwise, his delay in approving the project will only lead to the emergence of a damaging, under regulated substitute: rail.

 

Why President Obama Should Approve Keystone XL

March 21st, 2014 § 0 comments § permalink

There is currently a heated debate around the proposed Keystone XL expansion – the final stage of a project that began in 2008 and is nearly finished. This article, the second of two articles on the Keystone XL expansion, will explore whether or not the US government should and will approve the Keystone XL expansion.

North America is currently in the midst of an oil boom. However, we are failing to capitalize on this boom. In 2008, TransCanada and ConocoPhillips submitted a proposal for the Keystone XL extension, which would nearly double the capacity of the Keystone pipeline, yet the Obama administration has delayed the approval of Keystone XL (for more information see my previous article on Keystone XL). These delays have led to reliance on a less safe and more costly means of transporting oil: railroads. Last year has been characterized as the worst year on record for oil spills by railroads. Given the poor status quo, the Obama administration has an opportunity to approve the Keystone XL extension, subject to environmental reforms that reduce our dependence on oil. They should take it.

Keystone XL provides many benefits to the United States, including increased efficiency and safety compared to rail, and helps us become less reliant on oil from oppressive regimes, such as Saudi Arabia and Venezuela. Keystone XL is more efficient than rail since it lowers the cost of shipping oil and frees up railroad capacity for other goods. Keystone XL is safer than trains because pipelines are less subject to human error and other issues that plague railroads. While there is a risk of oil spills for pipelines, such as the 2010 spill in Michigan’s Kalamazoo River, the risk is far higher for railroads. Finally, by tapping domestic oil sources, Keystone XL frees us from unhealthy alliances with oppressive regimes.

Despite these benefits, the extraction and shipment of oil from the Canadian oil sands imposes costs to the environment. These costs include increased carbon emissions, environmental damage, and a reduction of incentives to develop alternative sources of energy. Increased carbon emissions come from two sources: increased usage of oil and the energy usage from oil extraction in Canada. However, while oil extraction from the oil sands is energy intensive, it is only 18-25% more energy intensive over its lifecycle than “conventional” oil. The carbon emissions problem is due to oil, not just oil from the Canadian oil sands.

Environmental damage from this oil is due to the environmental costs of extraction on the land and the potential for spills. Extraction of oil from the oil sands involves excavation of the land and can permanently disfigure the landscape (for more detail on this process see my previous article). Additionally, oil spills, like the spill in the Kalamazoo River, do happen. This is why changes to the original Keystone XL extension proposal were made to avoid environmentally sensitive areas in Nebraska. Nevertheless, with approval of the Keystone XL extension, these costs need to be accounted for.

In order to account for these costs, the Obama administration should only approve the pipeline conditional on environmental regulations that reduce our dependence on oil immediately (not just foreign oil). Some of these incentives could include a reduction in public subsidization of roads, ending subsidized heating oil, liberalization of mass transit, and ending the commuter tax credit for drivers. Additionally, the Obama administration should impose tighter regulations on oil transport by rail in order to reduce the risk of oil spills.

The current oil boom is a tremendous opportunity, but it also has real costs that need to be accounted for. The current status quo is not working. The Obama administration needs to approve Keystone XL with sufficient reforms that reduce our dependence on oil. Otherwise, his delay in approving the project will only lead to the emergence of a damaging, under regulated substitute: rail.

 

#BBUM, An Intolerant History

March 19th, 2014 § 0 comments § permalink

bbum

The Being Black at the University of Michigan movement – a name by which one can immediately grasp the character of it’s organizers – and the subsequent BSU protests and demands, have their roots in an advertisement by a fraternity for a “Hood Ratchet” themed party on campus.

Citing racism on campus against black students, but making no mention of the fact that black students on campus and black cultural icons make frequent use of the term towards themselves, students took to Twitter, using #BBUM, to attack the university administration for such terrible crimes against black students as “Having your opinions be second guessed or ignored in a group assignment” and “Being soft spoken in class because you don’t feel you belong, but then being docked points because you are not engaged in class.”

What followed was a protest led by the Black Student Union and a reading of a list of seven demands, the granting of $300,000 to the Trotter Multicultural Center, the drafting of resolutions by the CSG, the creation of a “Color” section of the Michigan Daily, an all night sit-in of the Shapiro Undergraduate Library, and an ongoing student campaign for CSG which aims to bring race and ethnicity requirements to the Engineering school.

The nature of the demands can be illustrated by the tactics of the protesters, who threatened, ambiguously at first, “physical action” if the administration did not capitulate within seven days. While they later qualified their statement and remarked that they did not mean violent action, this did not stop the protestors from taking over the undergraduate library and demanding that students who were studying move elsewhere. Nor did it stop the threats, slander and harassment of students by allied group By Any Means Necessary, who late last year also protested an event about the Michigan ban on affirmative action by banging on the windows of the venue and making the atmosphere of the event so unsafe that the speaker, Jennifer Gratz, had to be escorted away by police.

Gratz, CEO of the XIV Foundation, herself perhaps best described the current protestors in three words: “Racists. Terrorists. Buffoons.”

Instead of sanctioning the BSU and it’s affiliates, as the administration would have and should have done for any right leaning group, on January 21st, Provost Martha Pollack took the protestors side in an email sent to the Michigan community in which she wrote that administrators

“…have identified three areas that need our most immediate attention: improving campus climate, increasing enrollment of underrepresented minorities to the fullest extent permitted by law, and addressing issues surrounding the Trotter Multicultural Center.”

Observe that what exactly was wrong with the campus climate before the protests was never defined. Nor was it explained how the blocking of traffic and threats of “physical action” contributed to improving the student climate. The most important evasion by Pollack however, was in her failing to answer why diversity of skin color constitutes a kind of diversity that will add to the intellectual life on campus, and how equality can ever be achieved in a system that values race over merit.

President Coleman then characteristically invited the students for a formal sit-down. During the discussions, which were nothing more than a puff job since the administration had already decided to give in to the BSU’s demands, the university proposed to give $300,000 for “renovations” to the Trotter Multicultural Center, a building intended for use by minority students only. What exactly these “renovations” entailed was never made public.

To reward these students, to even negotiate with them, is to lend sanction to an act of extortion and to teach students that threats of ambiguous and possibly illegal actions are right. Worse still, it is a savage hypocrisy for a self styled “progressive” institution of higher education to doll out favors to certain groups because of the color of their skin. Jennifer Gratz notes the problems that pandering to skin deep special interests causes in an excellent letter to the editor:

” ….The result of monumental efforts to restore special preferences for certain races and ethnicities has been to reinforce a way of thinking that imposes stale racial categories on unique individuals. Sadly, it is no wonder that students struggle with racial stereotypes when their administrators insist on treating minorities as racial tokens.”

Indeed, how can administrators expect a campus in which people are judged by the content of their character when they tell students that the color of their skin is the most important thing they have to offer? Such a stance does not only serve to hurt race relations on campus, but is itself, to use a much abused word, racist.

Not content with taking free money at the expense of their peers and alumni, the BSU worked with the Central Student Government to craft a resolution on racial diversity. The proposal included CSG’s support of the seven demands of the Black Student Union, increases in recruiting among minorities and the creation of the Dream Scholarship for undocumented students. The resolution also demanded that minority enrollment for the 2014 to 2015 year doubles, though it offered no solution as to how this could be accomplished within the bounds of the law.

Once more, the integrity of the resolution can be judged by the behavior of it’s drafter, Samual Molnar, who, when asked by the Michigan Daily what he thought of a free speech amendment proposed by CSG President Michael Proppe, replied:

“This isn’t a resolution about free speech, it’s a resolution about racism.”

The amendment was turned down, but the CSG assembly eventually decided that it could lend some limited support to free speech if it directly related to combating racism. The final amendment reads, “CSG defends the right of all students to speak the plain truth about racism,” which does nothing more than grant protestors the protection to label anyone who opposes them a racist.

Perhaps the decision would have gone differently if the Michigan Daily had honestly reported the facts for what they were: a small group of radical students, claiming to represent all students, being pandered to by the university after issuing unconstitutional and racist demands, and slandering anyone who spoke out against them. But the Daily, outdoing it’s own previous commitment to untruth, launched Michigan in Color, a blog dedicated to inflating the scale of the protests and undercutting opposition.

A bit of unlettered writing – characteristic of the blog  – which appeared in a post entitled “Angered and Intimidated” on February 18th  ,best captures the reasoning that informs the entire movement and the shameless attempt by the Daily to puff it up:

“There is not a large amount of Black students, which means that they do not desire to have Black students, this means that they do not think there are enough Black people who are “the leaders and the best…”

That the students on the Daily should accept this as a piece of journalism worth publishing is symptom of a diseased university that teaches students to place their instincts and feelings above facts. “What does it matter if the “author” can’t write? What does it matter if the reasoning is groundless?”

Even more telling though is the attitude the Daily has taken towards students who disagree. When a student, who will remain anonymous, submitted an article that questioned the validity of the entire movement, Daily staffers informed him that they could not publish the article because they did not want to be offensive. Notice that they did not question the truth in the article, they simply shrugged and tacitly suggested that they didn’t care.

These, ladies and gentlemen, are the products of a university that is consistently ranked in the top twenty universities in the world: students who are trained to respect anything but the truth, and to sneer at, to twist, to deconstruct anything so long as it doesn’t offend a small group of minorities.

A group of these students now seeks to impose race and ethnicity requirements on the Business and Engineering schools, and they will likely succeed, if the past months are any indicator.

The question that is to be asked, when reflecting on this brief history of the movement is: what is it really about? The facts speak for themselves. It has nothing to do with diversity and even less to do with equality.

In an article in the National Review, Jennifer Gratz explained this:

“To date, university officials have championed superficial diversity, and not even the kind that matters. They have found great pride in praising U-M’s racial enrollment statistics and producing pretty brochures highlighting all the different skin colors on campus…”

She goes on in another letter to praise “diversity of thought,” and points out the hypocrisy of an administration that has always been hostile to any idea that doesn’t fit its world view but champions something so insignificant as diversity of race.

“Race does not determine an individual’s background, views, talents or achievements. Every student, regardless of color, deserves to be seen as he is, not as public officials wish him to be.”

BBUM, the BSU, and BAMN think otherwise. What the protestors want is to fight an ill defined, unprovable “racism” with racism. They want special privileges because of their skin color to be acquired at the expense of other students. They want separate rules and separate treatment for minority students. They care nothing for equality under the law – their very movement is a rejection of legal equality – and what’s worse, they have been able to openly acknowledge this without any serious pushback from anyone within the Coleman administration. Diversity of thought may be good, they and the university claim, but diversity of color is better. Some Wolverines are equal, but others are more equal.

 

Derek Magill

Derek Magill

Derek Magill is a LSA student in the Classics Department

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Conservative Congressmen No Longer Under Heritage Action’s Thumbs

February 18th, 2014 § 0 comments § permalink

The Heritage Action for America organization held its first ever Conservative Policy Summit on Monday, February 10, 2014. The daylong conference brought together nine conservative politicians from all over the country to discuss a new reform agenda that will hopefully be pursued in the coming years.

Heritage Action is a newly formed policy advocacy organization that works with activists across the country in order to support conservative legislation in Congress. Protecting privacy, transforming the welfare state, and higher education were all included at the Summit, as well as the overarching theme that “America will not prosper under managed decline and other European-style policies.”  Senators Ted Cruz, Tim Scott, and Matt Salmon all spoke.

Despite the Summit’s noteworthy Republican speakers, the Heritage Action’s influence in Congress has been rapidly diminishing. In fact, the Conservative Policy Summit was partly enacted in response to House Speaker John Boehner’s comment that the organization had “lost all credibility.” It’s hard line mission to defund President Obama’s health care reform law at all costs resulted in the disastrous government shutdown last year, and in response, many conservative congressmen have been walking away from the organization’s wishes.

Heritage Action created their power in Washington by developing “scorecards” that rate lawmakers on how they vote on key legislation. However, as of late, lawmakers say the threat of a low rating is no longer an effective scare tactic.

‘“I don’t look at them,” said Rep. Devin Nunes (R-Calif.), who received a 39 percent rating from Heritage Action. “More and more members need to understand, they represent their constituents, not outside groups.”’

“Their influence has waned since they became such a political arm. When they were a think tank, when it was Heritage Foundation, I think a lot of us read their material, listened to it, went to it for advice,” said Rep. Mike Simpson (R-Idaho). “Since they became so political, a lot of people said: ‘I don’t need that anymore.’”

This movement away from the Heritage Foundation’s political branch represents a newfound commitment to working across party lines in order to pass legislation. Though Republicans have the majority in the House of Representatives, there is still a democratic Senate with whom to negotiate. ‘“The problem is that [the Heritage Action] isn’t ‘educating’ the grass roots, they’re misleading them,” a GOP leadership aide said. “For example, by telling them we can defund Obamacare with control of only one House in Congress. And when it turned out they didn’t actually have a plan to win in the Senate, let alone get President [Barack] Obama to sign anything into law, the only effect was to damage the party and disillusion committed conservatives across the country.”’

Heritage Action contradicts itself by tying Republican legislators’ hands and encouraging government inaction all in the name of preserving conservative values. However, conservative congressman have finally realized the only way for Republican ideas to make it through both houses of government will be a bipartisan compromise.

Michigan Economists Oppose Proposed Minimum Wage Hike

February 2nd, 2014 § 0 comments § permalink

Recently, two University of Michigan Economists, Jeffrey Smith and Chris House, have voiced their opposition to a petition to raise the minimum wage. This petition was released on January 14, 2014, and was signed by over 600 economists, including six University of Michigan professors. The petition called for a hike in the minimum wage from $7.25 an hour to $10.10 an hour by 2016. Since then, several Michigan politicians met with Ann Arbor business owners at Zingerman’s on Thursday in support of a higher minimum wage. So what gives? Is a higher minimum wage actually a good thing?

In the petition, there are two main arguments for a higher minimum wage: higher wages and therefore higher incomes for low wage workers, and a small stimulative effect to the economy due to more disposable income from low income workers without much effect on employment. A higher minimum wage would lead to higher incomes for workers currently below the proposed minimum wage, $10.10, since employers would be obligated to pay higher wages and for workers just above the minimum wage as employers would have to compete to keep higher skilled workers. This would then lead to more money in the pockets of workers that they would then spend, helping to improve the economy.

However, anyone who has taken an introductory economics course will realize that this violates the law of supply and demand. As the price of a good or service goes up, demand for the good tends to fall. Thus, a higher minimum wage would lead to lower employment or fewer hours worked by these low wages workers. Given this, why do so many economists support this petition?

The petition cites “important developments in the academic literature on the effect of increases in the minimum wage on employment,” and they claim that “the weight of evidence now [shows] that increases in the minimum wage have had little or no negative effect on the employment of minimum-wage workers.”

However, Professor Smith argues that these results, while interesting, focus too much on the short-run effects or lack thereof of a higher minimum wage. Thus, while the short-run effects, namely lower employment or fewer hours, may be small, the long-run impact of a higher minimum wage on employment are quite large as employers invest more in labor saving technology to reduce labor costs.

In addition, both Professor Smith and Professor House argue that a minimum wage hike is poorly targeted. Some programs, such as the Earned Income Tax Credit, provide a tax credit to lower income households.  However, a higher minimum wage raises the wages of not just low-income households, but also other workers, such as college students or second earners who may not come from low-income households. Finally, as Professor House points out, if businesses raise prices in response to a higher minimum wage, it may actually hurt low-income households who are required to pay more, as a result.

Thus, even if a higher minimum wage might lead to higher incomes for low-wage workers in the short run with minimal costs in the long run, it is likely to reduce the employment of low-wage workers. There is “no free lunch,” which implies that higher wages for workers have to come from somewhere, either profits of the business or higher costs for households (who may be low-income). If the minimum wage is going to be a program to help lower income households, why not target them directly?

On the ASA Boycott of Israeli Universities

February 2nd, 2014 § 0 comments § permalink

This past December, members of the American Studies Association, the United States’ oldest and largest academic association dedicated to the interdisciplinary study of American history and culture, passed a resolution endorsing a boycott of Israeli universities. In the election that led to this endorsement, which drew the largest number of participants in the organization’s history, an overwhelming 66 percent of members voted in favor of the boycott. According to the ASA’s website, its endorsement stems from “Israel’s violation of international law and UN resolutions; the documented impact of the Israeli occupation on Palestinian scholars and students; [and] the extent to which Israeli institutions of higher education are a party to state policies that violate human rights…”

In passing such a resolution, the ASA has joined the growing international ranks of left-leaning  academic associations and individuals who have condemned Israel for its treatment of its Palestinian population. Some within this movement, including former U.S. President Jimmy Carter, have even drawn parallels between Israel and Apartheid South Africa. These condemnations have drawn consistent and impassioned criticism from a variety of fronts, notably academic and political, which have continued their criticism by reacting to the ASA’s recent boycott.

In the month and a half that has followed the resolution, at least five institutions have withdrawn their membership from the ASA while several current and former presidents of prominent American universities, including Amherst and Princeton, have condemned the ASA’s resolution.  In doing so, they have cited general opposition to academic boycotts for their negative impact on academic speech and exchange as well as displeasure with what they perceive as a double standard in the ASA’s decision. Furthermore, two Democratic state assembly men from New York have indicated plans to introduce legislation that would remove state support from any public or private college that participated in the ASA or any other group involved in a boycott of Israel.

Though such reactions may appear rash, they make sense when one considers several basic facts. Firstly, it is interesting to note that the ASA has not endorsed the boycotting of universities in countries with far worse human rights records than Israel’s, such as Iran or China. Following the ASA’s rationale that violations of human rights and international law by a country’s government merit repercussions against that country’s educational institutions, it is illogical and unfair that Israel’s universities alone should be singled out for boycott. The ASA’s decision to narrow its resolution to Israeli universities is thus logically inconsistent and, more importantly, intellectually dishonest.

The ASA ignores Israel’s tangible achievements in human rights as the strongest democracy in the Middle East, with free and open elections and minority representation in parliament. It also ignores Israel’s strides in reducing inequality of opportunity between Jews and minorities by instituting a comprehensive affirmative action program. Such a program has led to high minority enrollment at institutions such as the University of Haifa, where over 30 percent of the student body is Arab (with Arabs comprising roughly 20 percent of Israel’s total population). Rather than unfairly single out Israel by endorsing university boycotts that adversely affect the flow of ideas and the empowerment of a group of people on whose behalf the organization is claiming to act, the ASA should withdraw its support for the boycott and promote proactive policies that further assist Israel’s Palestinian population. It should also distribute its criticism more evenly and hold Israel’s neighbors to the same standards.

 

 

The Review’s Take On the SOTU

February 1st, 2014 § 0 comments § permalink

By Andrew Craft

President Obama delivered his State of the Union address on Tuesday and laid out many agenda items for the upcoming year. But one key word kept creeping into the 56 minute long speech: inequality. The pervasive use of the word set a strong theme throughout as the President outlined reforms to close the gap between the rich and the poor. He focused on jobs and employment for a lengthy part of the address, emphasizing the crucial necessity of extending unemployment insurance in 2014 (something he himself could have overrode Congress on). But what was so markedly characteristic of the speech was the President’s emphasis on unilateral action that he will be taking this year. As if President Obama hadn’t already used more executive orders than any president before him, why should we be so shocked? He says, “America does not stand still and neither will I.” Sounds like the same self-aggrandizing language we’ve heard before. Bypassing Congress on instrumental reforms will surely maintain the divisive nature between Congress and the President. In addition, President Obama mentioned almost every hot button issue at the moment from renewable energy to immigration, from emphatically denouncing climate change deniers to vocally decrying wage disparity among females. He hit all his bases, in that respect.

The tone of the speech, however, seemed nebulous and disparate. President Obama at one point seemed to be out of breath from all the shout outs and recognitions he was giving to living examples of failed reforms and/or successful policy changes. Did he sound desperate for approval or merely raucous and lively to begin a new year? The jury is out. Cracking jokes about the healthcare website was just an example of a both very awkward comedic relief and weird political hilarity.

I enjoy watching the State of the Union to feel the pomp and circumstance of every branch of our government in the same room and seeing all the famous officials. There’s an eloquence and tradition about it that is indisputable. However, the content of the speech was nothing the American people hadn’t heard before. I won’t call it fluff, because it was constructive and hefty, but it was nothing nuanced or novice that was new. However, Politico Playbook put it best. “Things are actually starting to work. We have a budget, we have a farm bill, and there won’t be a white-knuckle debt-limit staredown. Both sides are at least flirting with immigration compromise. Both Obama and House Republican Conference Chair Cathy McMorris Rodgers gave upbeat speeches in hopes of keeping this hint of momentum going. This is no grand bargain. But it’s no longer grand dysfunction.” For that, I am somewhat optimistic and I hope every American watched the President’s address. In a sense, I find it to be a quasi-duty as a participating citizen. Know what’s going on around you because politics affects you in many ways, whether you like it or not.

#BBUM Students Demand Special Treatment in the Name of Equality

February 1st, 2014 § 0 comments § permalink

(Photo courtesy of mlive.com)

(Photo courtesy of mlive.com)

Martin Luther King, Jr. once said, “Peace is not merely a distant goal that we seek, but a means by which we arrive at that goal.” On January 20—the day we honor his life and celebrate his work towards transforming civil rights through non-violence and love—another group, Being Black at UM (BBUM), incited its own message of change. They vowed to use “physical action” if their demands were not met. So I ask: what is the first thing you think of when you hear the words “physical action”?

Imagine a right-leaning group declaring it would take physical action if their demands were not met. Every administrator and group on campus would denounce them for promoting violence. Most would probably even think that was a declaration for gun violence or a bomb threat. I would love to see a liberal defend their word choice because the double standard is truly amazing. As the past-president of a conservative group on campus, I understand the power of words and the impact they have—these words were meant to bring images of violence to mind.

Some scoff and say the list of demands is nothing serious. BBUM gave the University of Michigan seven days to give them more money, renovate the multicultural center, and increase the quota of blacks in the student body to 10%—or else. A group that purports to be for equality wants more financial support for tuition and astronomical Ann Arbor housing—issues that I assure you affect every student here. Rather than demand fairness, they want special treatment and further differentiation. Since the controversy, the University has met with the students over their demands (I would love to know just how many groups the University has ever met with in response to such outrageousness), and has decided to spend a whopping $300,000 on renovations for the multicultural center.

While that is astonishing, what is more frightening is how many people found this rhetoric usage acceptable. If Martin Luther King, Jr. was alive today, I cannot imagine how ashamed he would be if he saw these types of words being used. He was a religious man who used Jesus as an example to promote peace. He worked for equality by forcefully, but civilly making his wishes heard, and in the meantime gained the respect of his community and his adversaries.

Rhetoric. It’s a tricky thing. When used correctly, it is a powerful tool. BBUM wanted attention, but negative attention is not necessarily the good kind. This group thought thoroughly about how to make their message heard. They go to Michigan; they are smart enough to know the words “physical action” instill fear and images of violence in people’s minds. It is a tactic, but it does a greater disservice to this group than anything else. Intimidation and threats will go nowhere in society. BBUM complains their group has been ignored since the 1970s. Any look into the University’s history assures you quite the contrary, but with actions such as these, is it any surprise?