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This may be the golden age of presumptuous ignorance. The most recent demonstrations of that are the Occupy Wall Street mobs. It is doubtful how many of these semi-literate sloganizers could tell the difference between a stock and a bond.
Yet there they are, mouthing off about Wall Street on television, cheered on by politicians and the media. If this is not a golden age of presumptuous ignorance, perhaps it should be called a brass age.
No one has more brass than the president of the United States, though his brass may be more polished than that of the Occupy Wall Street mobs. When Barack Obama speaks loftily about “investing in the industries of the future,” does anyone ask: What in the world would qualify him to know what are the industries of the future?
Why would people who have spent their careers in politics know more about investing than people who have spent their careers as investors?
Presumptuous ignorance is not confined to politicians or rowdy political activists, by any means. From time to time, I get a huffy letter or e-mail from a reader who begins, “You obviously don’t know what you are talking about…”
The particular subject may be one on which my research assistants and I have amassed piles of research material and official statistics. It may even be a subject on which I have written a few books, but somehow the presumptuously ignorant just know that I didn’t really study that issue, because my conclusions don’t agree with theirs or with what they have heard.
At one time I was foolish enough to try to reason with such people. But one of the best New Year’s resolutions I ever made, some years ago, was to stop trying to reason with unreasonable people. It has been good for my blood pressure and probably for my health in general.
A recent column of mine that mentioned the “indirect subsidies” from the government to the Postal Service brought the presumptuously ignorant out in force, fighting mad.
Because the government does not directly subsidize the current operating expenses of the Postal Service, that is supposed to show that the Postal Service pays its own way and costs the taxpayers nothing.
Politicians may be crooks but they are not fools. Easily observable direct subsidies can create a political problem. Far better to set up an arrangement that will allow government-sponsored enterprises – whether the Postal Service, Fannie Mae, Freddie Mac, or the Tennessee Valley Authority – to operate in such a way that they can claim to be self-supporting and not costing the taxpayers anything, no matter how much indirect subsidy they get.
As just one example, the Postal Service has a multi-billion-dollar line of credit at the U.S. Department of the Treasury. Hey, we could all use a few billions, every now and then, to get us over the rough spots. But we are not the Postal Service.
Theoretically, the Postal Service is going to pay it all back some day, and that theoretical possibility keeps it from being called a direct subsidy. The Postal Service is also exempt from paying taxes, among other exemptions it has from costs that other businesses have to pay.
Exemption from taxes, and from other requirements that apply to other businesses, are also not called subsidies. For people who mistake words for realities, that is enough for them to buy the political line – and to get huffy with those who don’t.
Loan guarantees are a favorite form of hidden subsidies for all sorts of special interests. At a given point in time, it can be said that these guarantees cost the taxpayers nothing. But when they suddenly do cost something – as with Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac – they can cost billions.
One of the reasons for so much presumptuous ignorance flourishing in our time may be the emphasis on “self-esteem” in our schools and colleges. Children not yet a decade old have been encouraged, or even required, to write letters to public figures, sounding off on issues ranging from taxes to nuclear missiles.
Our schools begin promoting presumptuous ignorance early on. It is apparently one of the few things they teach well. The end result is people without much knowledge, but with a lot of brass.
Had enough of fat cat Barack Obama, his jet-setting wife and his multi-millionaire Chicago consigliere/real-estate mogul Valerie Jarrett attacking the “rich”? Well, brace yourselves. You’ll be hearing much more from the White House about the “wealthy few” who aren’t paying their “fair share” as Obama’s re-election campaign doubles down on class-war demagoguery.
As usual, there’s always a set of immunity charms for the privileged friends and family of the ruling class. When it comes to all the Green Robber Barons who’ve reaped an obscenely unfair share of billions of tax dollars from the Obama administration, the envy trumpeteers will be quieter than a nest of mute church mice.
The Romney campaign has been hitting Newt Gingrich hard over the 1990s ethics case that resulted in the former Speaker being reprimanded and paying a $300,000 penalty. Before the Iowa caucuses, Romney and his supporting super PAC did serious damage to Gingrich with an ad attacking Gingrich’s ethics past. Since then, Romney has made other ads and web videos focusing on the ethics matter, and at the Republican debate in Tampa Monday night, Romney said Gingrich “had to resign in disgrace.”
In private conversations, Romney aides often mention the ethics case as part of their larger argument that Gingrich would be unelectable in a race against President Obama.
Larry Sand’s article “No Wonder Johnny (Still) Can’t Read” – written for The John William Pope Center for Higher Education Policy, based in Raleigh, N.C. – blames schools of education for the decline in America’s education. Education professors drum into students that they should not “drill and kill” or be the “sage on the stage” but instead be the “guide on the side” who “facilitates student discovery.”
This kind of harebrained thinking, coupled with multicultural nonsense, explains today’s education. During his teacher education, Sand says, “teachers-to-be were forced to learn about this ethnic group, that impoverished group, this sexually anomalous group, that under-represented group, etc. – all under the rubric of ‘Culturally Responsive Education.'”
Abe Greenwald of Commentary magazine tweets: Is there any chance that Mark Steyn won’t use the Italian captain fleeing the sinking ship as the lead metaphor in a column on EU collapse?
Oh, dear. You’ve got to get up early in the morning to beat me to civilizational-collapse metaphors. Been there, done that. See page 185 of my most recent book, where I contrast the orderly, dignified, and moving behavior of those on the Titanic (the ship, not the mendacious Hollywood blockbuster) with that manifested in more recent disasters. There was no orderly evacuation from the Costa Concordia, just chaos punctuated by individual acts of courage from, for example, an Hungarian violinist in the orchestra and a ship’s entertainer in a Spiderman costume, both of whom helped children to safety, the former paying with his life.
Newt Gingrich’s ardent admiration for Franklin Delano Roosevelt owes more to the latter’s unflinching wartime leadership than his welfare-state policy prescriptions. This week, though, the former Speaker is also undoubtedly in accord with FDR’s aphorism, “I ask you to judge me by the enemies I have made.” To his great credit, Newt has made an enemy of CAIR.
The Council on American-Islamic Relations, that is. The nation’s best known cheerleader for radical Islam – or, as Fox News compliantly puts it, “the largest Muslim civil liberties group in the United States” – has issued a blistering press release that labels Gingrich “one of the nation’s worst promoters of anti-Muslim bigotry.”
The New York Times, which played a key role in getting convicted and unrepentant murderer Kathy Boudin a parole, has now published a similar massive plea posing as a news story for her accomplice, Judy Clark. The piece is maliciously titled “The Radical Transformation of Judy Clark” as though Clark, understanding the heinous nature of her crime which left 9 children fatherless, is prepared to renounce the life that led to it. Nothing could be further from the truth.
Of course Clark is in her sixties now and regrets her separation from the infant she abandoned to commit the crime (her last crime not her only crime). Her daughter is now 31 and she would obviously like to be able to share the kind of life with her that her victims cannot share with their dead fathers.
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