Home » 2015 » April

Monthly Archives: April 2015

Baltimore’s Burning

I’ve long had a soft spot in my heart for Baltimore. Maybe it stems from my love for The Wire, perhaps the best TV show of all time. Or maybe it’s because my wife works in the city, and I have numerous friends who live there. Regardless of the reason, it saddens me greatly to see the rioting, looting, and destruction that has taken place there over the last few days.

Ironically perhaps, even as the rioting was taking place, I was participating in a Youth Summit at the Smithsonian Museum of American History to discuss the War on Poverty. Most of my fellow panelists were full of praise for the War on Poverty, and called for renewed federal spending on social welfare programs. Yet, if the War on Poverty was such a success, why – trillions of dollars in government spending later – do we still see so much poverty, hopelessness and despair in a city like Baltimore.

My column today for National Review Online looks at the underlying causes of the Baltimore riots and suggests that decades of big government failed the city and its residents, particularly its poorest residents. From high taxes to failed government schools to the War on Drugs, Baltimore has been a victim of government.


No doubt, we can expect to hear the usual chorus about neglected neighborhoods and the need for government jobs programs or additional social spending. But, we learn nothing from five decades of big government failure — if we simply go back to throwing money at the same tired old programs — it will be just a matter of time until the next riot.

UPDATE: I have some additional thoughts in this column for Newsweek.



Nobody’s Perfect

The mistakes men make live after them…

Last week, I wrote a column for National Review Online about the minimum wage.


Most of the column dealt with some new studies that showed minimum wage increases resulted in job losses and hurt the vary low-wage workers they are designed to help. I also looked at where the Republican presidential candidates stand on the issue. Santorum is in favor of an increase. Rubio and Jindal oppose an increase but support the idea of a minimum wage. The others, including, surprisingly, Jeb, oppose the minimum wage to one degree or another.

In the course of the article, I mentioned that Seattle had recently voted to raise its minimum wage to $15/hour by 2022. I wrote that, while it was too early to know the results of that change, “There has also been a sharp fall-off in the number of firms seeking a business license in the city that has roughly corresponded with the passage of the minimum-wage hike.”

I was wrong.

The information came from looking at the Seattle Business License Database, which I compared with information supplied by economics blogger Evan Soltas. However, searching by specific NAICS code only returns those companies with a description, which is less than the total number of licenses. For every category except drinking places, this difference was not significant, which led me to believe, that the differences between the figures found through this method and Evan’s were directly comparable, especially because the number of licensed businesses had declined from 3829 to 3808 from December 2014 to March 2015 via Evan’s calculations.

The vast majority of the drop-off was concentrated in code Drinking Places (alcoholic beverages) and with this reduction the aggregate number of licensed business in the categories analyzed was lower. Thinking this odd, I hads my research assistant contact Evan to see if he had any thoughts on the matter. He later responded that he did not see the same effect, and that he used the index of the 100 most popular North American Industry Classification System codes for his results, which showed business licenses both with and without description. In using the index , we saw that there was a discrepancy between the licenses listed with descriptions in Drinking Places (275) and the total amount of licenses listed (currently 403).

The net result is that, while there has indeed been a decline in some categories such as “limited service restaurants,” there has not been an overall decline in business applications in the food and beverage industry.
By that time I was able to determine this, my NRO column had not only been printed, it had been picked up by other outlets. Mistake compounded.

I believe the basic article remains accurate, but clearly, in commenting on Seattle business licenses, I blew it. I regret the error.

GOP Hawks and Doves

This week brings another entry in my ongoing look at where the GOP presidential candidates – and potential candidates – stand on the issues. My latest column for National Review Online looks at the candidates on foreign policy, defense, and homeland security. Rand Paul, of course, is the most dovish of the candidates, though nowhere near as noninterventionist as his father (or as he’s often portrayed in the media). After Paul, its various shades of hawk, but there are surprising nuances among the candidates. Marco Rubio, for instance, seems to take the pure neocon line, intervention everywhere, while Ted Cruz falls somewhere between Paul and Rubio.


The Republicans on Health Reform — After Obamacare, What?

As part of my ongoing look at where the Republican presidential candidates stand on the issues, my latest column for National Review Online examines their proposals for health care reform. Of course they want to repeal Obamacare. Who doesn’t? But what do they want to replace it with. Most favor some form of tax break for individually purchased insurance and permitting the sale of insurance across state lines. But a few have much more detailed platforms. And, there are some big surprises (That would be you, Dr. Carson).


Can We End Poverty Conference — Livestream Now Available

Last week Cato sponsored a conference at Columbia University on “Can We End Poverty?”  The program looked at the failures of the War on Poverty and asked whether private charity can do a better job of helping the poor than can government welfare programs.

In addition to myself, participants included: John McWhorter, Center for American Studies, Columbia University; Ron Haskins, Co-Director, Center on Children and Families, Budgeting for National Priorities Project; Angela Glover Blackwell, Founder and CEO, PolicyLink; Christopher Wimer, Co-Director, Center on Poverty and Social Policy; Robert Doar, Morgridge Fellow in Poverty Studies, American Enterprise Institute; Jo Kwong, Director of Economic Opportunity Programs, Philanthropy Roundtable; Harriet Karr-McDonald, Executive Vice President, Doe Fund; Robert Woodson, Founder and President, Center for Neighborhood Enterprise; David Beito, Professor of American History, University of Alabama; and Ruth Rathblott, President and Chief Executive Office, Harlem Educational Activities Fund, among others.

You can now view the livestream of that event at