Saturday Ethics Spasms, 5/15/21: Are You Reading This? I Don’t Want To Know!

Well, I’ve solved the annoying traffic problem on Ethics Alarms: I’m not checking the traffic any more. It doesn’t affect anything but my ego and enthusiasm. My ego is a lifetime problem, but my enthusiasm is important, and there’s no reason to deliberately upset myself. I kicked the traffic in the metaphorical solar plexus by being such a health-weenie the last couple of weeks, but I have to just focus on content, trying to maintain variety, and staying dedicated to the mission here. William Saroyan, with whom I have more in common than is good for me, liked to say that an artist has not lived in vain if one human being sings his song. I’ve always tried to act as if I believed him, and it’s high time that I really did.

1. President Biden and I agree on this, at least. The President put the kibosh on President Trump’s half-baked—maybe 25% baked—National Garden of America Heroes project. Good. I explained why this was bad history and a waste of time and money here.

In Trump’s defense, at least his worst ideas didn’t cost trillions of dollars…

2. Nah, there’s no mainstream media bias! Most media outlets are parroting this, from NASDAQ:

“Consumer sentiment in the U.S. has unexpectedly decreased in the month of May, according to preliminary data released by the University of Michigan on Friday.The report showed the consumer sentiment index dropped to 82.8 in May from 88.3 in April. The decrease surprised economists, who had expected the index to rise to 90.4.”Consumer confidence in early May tumbled due to higher inflation–the highest expected year-ahead inflation rate as well as the highest long term inflation rate in the past decade,” said Surveys of Consumers chief economist Richard Curtin.”

Unexpectedly? After the new administration has behaved as if the national debt was in Monopoly money,the Left slow-walking the opening up of the economy when it should never have been shut down, and the enthusiastic socialists who write the checks paying Americans not to work? Are economists that stupid, or do they just think the public is that stupid?

Continue reading

Unethical Quote Of The Month—But Awfully Revelatory, If You Have The Integrity To Accept What It Means—California Gov. Jerry Brown

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“Economically, minimum wages may not make sense. But morally, socially, and politically they make every sense because it binds the community together to make sure parents can take care of their kids.”

—–Governor Jerry Brown on April 4, as he signed into law a phased state-wide increase in the minimum wage to $15 dollars an hour.

As Commentary wrote in reaction to this jaw-dropping admission following an irresponsible act, “Good intentions have always inoculated the left against criticisms of the consequences of their policy preferences.” This has become a culture-wide, self-destructive malady during the Obama administration, led by the President. Lately, Obama has become increasingly open about it, as when the President killed the Keystone pipeline citing climate change concerns while admitting that doing so would have no likely effect on climate change, but most of his “signature policies” are similar. The Iran deal bids fair to leave Israel as a smoldering wasteland, and the Iranian government has gone out of its way to demonstrate that it cannot be trusted while already violating, as even Obama admits, the “spirit” of the deal, but God Bless Obama for trying to restrain its nuclear ambitions.

The Affordable Care Act is failing in virtually every respect, fulfilling most of the dire predictions of its opponents, but this is still an “achievement” because, and it’s true, more Americans are insured than before. Obama’s Education Department’s sincere—I’ve no doubt about it—effort to make women feel supported and safe on college campuses seeded extensive due process abuse and discrimination against male students, and the most-gender divided campus community since the Seventies. His civil rights policies and rhetoric have created the worst racial divide since the early 1960’s. The intentions in all of these cases were, at least arguably, impeccable and admirable, and apparently for committed progressives, it is that, and not that the policies in pursuit of Panglossian goals have been societally disastrous, that matters.

The mass insanity of raising the minimum wage is the apotheosis of this mania. Note that I am trying to attribute the best possible motives with this: I have read many conservative writers who believe that the left knows the policy will be catastrophic economically, but because it will be politically useful in the short-term, they don’t care about the long-range consequences. Admittedly, statements like Brown’s makes this difficult for me not to agree with them, except that it is usually considered stupid to tell voters that what you are doing makes no sense.

To state what should be obvious, if  large minimum wage increases don’t make sense economically, that means they are bad policy, incompetent, and thus unethical. And we know–know—that they do not make sense economically.

Here’s economist Robert Samuelson: Continue reading

The Dishonest And Irresponsible Minimum Wage Issue.

Good bye. I know when I'm licked...

Good bye. I know when I’m licked…

I heard Bernie Sanders make another one of his economically-deranged statements as the crowd cheered, this one about how no American should work 40 hours a week and not have enough to live on. Then I went to the local Baskin-Robbins.

I ordered a single scoop of Chocolate Mousse Royale in a waffle cone. The cost was…$4.68.

For a single-scoop ice cream cone.

I will not go back to Baskin-Robbins again, which means I may have had my last ice cream cone. I also cannot believe that the company can continue selling ice cream cones at such absurd prices. When I worked for Baskin-Robbins as a summer job, a single-scoop cone cost $.29, and no, dinosaurs were not roaming the earth. I was paid the minimum wage, because a moron can do that job and you get to eat all the ice cream you want (within limits, which I thoroughly explored.)

Like most minimum wage jobs, scooping ice cream is overwhelmingly one filled by the young, who do not need a living wage, or those who have no skills or experience whatsoever and need to develop some. When the minimum wage goes up, companies eliminate jobs, and when it goes  up too much too fast, whole occupations and companies disappear. This isn’t capitalist propaganda: it’s true. Most of the jobs that disappear are those that make life a little more pleasant for those not doing them, like pumping gas, ushering in movie theaters, operating elevators, waiting on tables, and scooping ice cream, jobs that can be learned in about an hour or less by anyone with an IQ hovering around 90. Continue reading

Sorry, Mystery Thief: You’re No Ethics Hero

In fact, you’re still a thief.

That C-note isn't worth the $20, Mystery Theif. Nice try.

The UPI reported that an elderly Seattle man who stole money from a store more than 60 years ago “returned it last week — with interest.”

Aw. Except he didn’t.

The manager of a downtown Sears store says the man handed over an envelope containing a hundred dollar bill and a note to the customer desk, reading..

“During the late [1940s] I stole some money from the cash register in the amount of $20-$30. I want to pay you back this money in the amount of $100 to put in your theft account.”

I’m not impressed. He’s had the use of the money for more than 60 years, and now he’s financially secure, so he thinks he can make everything square and clear his conscience. He can’t. Theft is a wrong when it occurs, and unless it is voluntarily undone before any consequences result, there is no going back that clears the ethical slate. But this guy didn’t even try very hard. According to the useful calculator you (and he) can find here, the current day worth of $20 in 1948 is…

    $181.0  using the Consumer Price Index
   $153.00 using the GDP deflator
   $309.00 using the unskilled wage
    $375.00 using the Production Worker Compensation
    $510.00 using the nominal GDP per capita
   $1,080.00 using the relative share of GDP

…and that’s without interest.

So now he’s stealing brownie points.

(By the way…nice work, UPI. Was it really such a stretch to check out the “with interest” claim?)

Rahm Emanuel, History and Hyperbole Ethics

There are times when obvious exaggeration is nothing worse than politeness, nothing more than an expression of admiration and affection. “You’re the best boss anyone ever had,” is in this category, especially when the boss is retiring or dying. But when one is speaking in public about controversial and historical matters involving well-known public figures, the margin between excusable hyperbole and unethical dishonesty or worse is much smaller. Al Gore learned this when he played loyal Vice-President on the day his President was impeached by vote of the House of Representatives. Gore’s statement that Bill Clinton was “a man I believe will be regarded in the history books as one of our greatest Presidents” was intended as supportive, but interpreted as a toadying endorsement of Clinton’s unsavory and dishonest conduct, impeachable or not. It probably cost Gore the Presidency.

Worse yet was Trent Lott’s clumsy effort to praise the ancient, infirm and mentally failing Sen. Strom Thurmond at his 100th birthday party. Lott said, “I want to say this about my state: When Strom Thurmond ran for president we voted for him. We’re proud of it. And if the rest of the country had followed our lead, we wouldn’t have all these problems over all these years, either.” Thurmond, running on the Dixiecrat ticket, had opposed segregation, and Lott’s comment, less fact than flattery, made him sound like he longed for the days of Jim Crow and “white only”rest rooms. The lessons of these hyperbolic gaffes are similar: if the well-intentioned compliment concerns a public figure in historical context, historical exaggerations either appear to be unjust to history or its important figures, seem to make inappropriate value judgments, or come off as a blatant effort to mislead the public.

Rahm Emanuel hit the Trifecta with his fawning farewell to President Obama, as he left the White House to run for Mayor of Chicago. Obama, he said, is “the toughest leader any country could ask for, in the toughest times any president has ever faced.”

Wow. Continue reading