Relevant and even prescient commentary on news, politics and the economy.

Numbers

The interviewee says that blacks are disproportionately imprisoned in the United States; notes that though blacks only make up 13% of the general population, they make up 40% of the prison population. While it is quite likely that blacks are disproportionately imprisoned, it is what the interviewee didn’t say that begs asking. Why is it that blacks are being disproportionately imprisoned? For the answer to that, first, let’s take a look at some U.S. Department of Justice data on arrests:

Selected from the above linked table: Estimated number of arrests by offense and race, 2019, All ages:

All offenses blacks more than 25% of total

Murder and nonnegligent manslaughter blacks more than 50% of totalotal….

Robbery blacks more than 50% of total

….

Aggravated assault blacks more than 33% of total

….

These Justice Department figures tell us that blacks are in fact committing a disproportionate percentage of all crimes being committed. What else do we know in our search for the why?

It is known, or at least believed to be known: That, by far, most black citizens are law abiding. That upper and middle income blacks are exceptionally law abiding. That in modern day populations, males are far more likely to commit crimes than females. That almost all crimes by black Americans are committed by young black males. That nearly half of black Americans live in areas of concentrated poverty. That almost all of the crime committed by black Americans is committed by young black males between the ages of 12 and 34 years of age who live in areas of concentrated poverty (most of their victims live in these same areas).

It would help to know: What percentage of those black Americans who live in areas of concentrated poverty are males between the ages of 12 and 34. What percentage of this group commit criminal acts.

If we estimate 12 to 34 year old black males constitute 12% of the black population in areas of concentrated poverty, and that one-half of them are committing criminal acts; we aren’t looking at 13% of the population committing a disproportionate of all crimes committed. We are looking at (0.5 x 0.12 x 0.13 x 100 ~ 0.9%) less than 1%, of the overall population committing an extremely disproportionate per cent of all crimes committed. More specifically, we are talking about young black males in poor urban black communities committing an extremely disproportionate per cent of all crimes.

Why is it that 12 to 34 year old black males who live in urban areas of concentrated poverty are committing crimes at such a disproportionately high rate? Why is the cause we seek. Living in poor urban areas of concentrated poverty is the where. Why do young black males living in poor urban areas of concentrated poverty more like to commit criminal acts? It is known, or thought to be known, that young males are more likely to commit crimes. There appears to be little, if any evidence, that race alone is a factor. Leaving us with young males living in poor urban areas of concentrated poverty; with good reason to suppose that the lack of adequate housing, food, healthcare, education, hope, … of everything they need, and want, might be the most significant factor, the greater cause. These causes/things: inadequate housing, inadequate food, inadequate healthcare, inadequate education, little reason for hope, …, are things we as a society can do something about. Our doing so would be far better than going forward with the long failed more and more incarceration, imprisonment.

It appears that the most proximate cause of the most disproportionate percentage of young black males being incarcerated was their socioeconomic environs. Suppose that the reason for one group of citizens having a disproportionately high arrest rate was found to be because of their ‘culture’, their biology, their genetics, their upbringing, their psychology, …? Or, some combination of these things? What would an ‘Estimated number of arrests by offense and socioeconomic status’ look like? What would an ‘Estimated number of arrests by offense and culture’ look like? We have learned that there is a strong correlation between whether the child was wanted. What would an ‘Estimated number of arrests by offense and parenting’ look like? What other things do we not know? Asking the right questions and getting the correct answers is all important; is our best hope for finding solutions.

On Ghost Walls

Raffi Khatchadourian’s Ghost Walls {Surviving the Crackdown in Xinjiang ( As mass detentions and surveillance dominate the lives of China’s Uyghurs and Kazakhs, a woman struggles to free herself.)} is beyond Margaret Atwood dystopian. Ghost Walls gives a victim’s accounting of her own experiencing of China’s reaction to the cultural differences between the Uyghurs, Kazakhs, and other indigenous Turkic peoples, and China’s Han Chinese majority. A reaction that seems to be a crazy of mixture of the 13th and 21st Centuries with a f—ed up, post Mao, culture thrown in. For the world, the worst thing that could possibly happen is for this manic genocidal crackdown to succeed. When in doubt, when in China, double down. Can anybody make anyone do anything?

The idea of imposing one group’s set of values on another hasn’t worked very well so far. Seems it is rather a recipe for conflict and strife Looking ahead, this problem of living in multiracial, multicultural societies is an old one that is suddenly getting worse. One we really need to figure out.

It is said that Africa is home to more genotypes than the rest of the world combined. Our neighbor to the south is not a land of one people but is rather home to a thousand peoples. All around the world: Hong Kong, Tibet, Mongolia, and Xinjiang in China; the Kurds in Syria, Iraq, Turkey and Iran; the Palestinians in Israel (or vice versa); the Rohingya in Myanmar; all across Africa; …, the world is trying to come to grips with differences. Too often, we see one group trying to make another second group behave as they, the first group, think they should.

Tax Evasion by the High Income

Washington Equitable: Tax evasion at the top of the U.S. income distribution and How To Fight it.

There is another version of the issue starting off with Senior fellow (Urban-Brookings Tax Policy Center of the Urban Institute), Steven M. Rosenthal taking on the issue;

“If Congress Wants the IRS To Collect More Tax from The Rich, It Needs to Pass Better Laws.”

Or you can go to NBER version of the Washington Equitible Working Paper; Tax Evasion at the Top of the Income Distribution: Theory and Evidence, March 2021.

Your Choice.

The question?

“How much tax do high-income Americans evade? And what kinds of evasion tactics do they use?”

Random audits miss two of the more common methods used to minimize taxes. The audits underestimate tax evasion capturing little of the investor tax evasion by those using offshore accounts and pass-through businesses. Both methods present opportunities unlikely to be captured by the audits of income taxes and are significant to the top income brackets or the 1% of household taxpayers making greater that $500,000 annually (TPC).

In a July 2009 NYT article, it was determined Swiss bank UBS helped US citizens hide $20 billion. This is an old article and certainly later administrations did little to stifle tax avoidance.

4-Day Work Week

From Treehuggers; “Spain To Try Nationwide 4-Day Workweek”

A shorter workweek has been suggested s a means of improving work-life balance and reducing greenhouse gas emissions. Freelance Writer, Olivia Rosane. The topics of a shorter work week and climate control was brought up by Sandwichman at Econospeak with the former being touted numerous times by Sandwichman.

Íñigo Errejón, a representative from the new leftwing party Más País, tweeted that the government had agreed to launch a pilot project to trial a four-day workweek.

“We have agreed with the Government to promote a pilot project to reduce working hours. European funds must also serve to reorient the economy towards improving health, caring for the environment and increasing productivity, ”

Keeping Fingers Crossed As US Commits To Removing Military From Afghanistan

Keeping Fingers Crossed As US Commits To Removing Military From Afghanistan

 Yes, President Biden has bitten the bullet to remove US troops from Afghanistan by the 20th anniversary of the 9/11 attack that triggered our initial entry into that nation for our longest war.  Of course, we shall not quite be fully out as not only will there still be some Marines guarding the embassy in Kabul, but probably covert CIA forces will continue to operate and drone bombing will probably continue and possibly even continue the expansion that has been going on for some time, with over 7000 bombs dropped on the nation by the US in 2019 according to Juan Cole.  But, hey, still looking good.

Needless to say many are upset and whining and worrying.  David Ignatius in WaPo worries that the Taliban will take Kabul after a bloody war and allow al Qaeda or ISIS to establish themselves there, saying that the worst thing would be for the US to have to go back in again after having left the way we went back into Iraq after ISIS grabbed lots of territories after we left there.  But Biden has been through these discussions and decisions and was long reported to want out from Afghanistan way back when Obama was increasing troop levels up to about 100,000, with them now down to just a few thousand.  Most of the withdrawal has already happened, and with Trump having promised a May 1 withdrawal an effort to go back on that with lots of conditions would probably trigger an upsurge of Taliban attacks on US troops, making a mess of things.

What the Future Holds

It was a warm October evening, back in 1957, when we heard the news and began looking anew toward the night skies. The Union of Soviet Socialist Republics (USSR) had just launched a satellite that they called Sputnik into orbit; an event that changed the world forever. A whole new concept; actually, a couple, maybe more, new ones. Thenceforth everyone knew what a satellite was; well, most everyone. Took us awhile longer though to wrap our heads around the orbit bit.

That launch into orbit started a space race that pretty much defined the next 12 years. Actually, it was more of a technology race, a how to do and how to do it first race. How to get a rocket with a man onboard into orbit and on into outer space; how to do all sorts of things in a weightless, atmosphereless, environment? One small step for man, lots of giant leaps for technology. Care for some silicone grease on that silicon chip? How about a wafer with your eggs? All in all, not all that much was learned about space itself that we didn’t already know.

Of Battenbergs, Brexit, and Brogues

Of Battenbergs, Brexit, and Brogues

 So, Philip Mountbatten, born Philip Schleswig-Holstein-Sonderbutg-Glucksburg, Duke of Edinburgh, Prince Consort of the United Kingdom, and many other titles, died peacefully at age 99 on April 9 about 2 months shy of making it to 100.  I am not going to either praise him or poke at him, with his long history that contains many things on both sides of that open to judgment.  Certainly he was part of a colonialist monarchy, but them most of its empire broke up and went away during the period he was in his position in the British monarchy.  I am more interested in some related items, noting initially that all sorts of people will be making lots of silly tings out of this ,starting with Brian Kilmeade of Fox News who somehow has decided that it is all the fault of Harry and Meghan having their interview with Oprah Winfrey. Not.

I do not think it triggered his death, which seems to have been coming for some time and almost happened during his recent long stay in the hospital.  But I am noting the odd coincidence that the day before he died saw the worst outbreak of violence in Northern Ireland in decades, possible since the famous Easter Peace agreement came about, which led to a long largely peaceful period between the two sharply split communities in Northern Ireland.  What is sad to me is that I especially saw this coming as an outcome of Brexit since visiting Belfast four years ago, taking a train from Dublin to there and back, no notice of crossing the border at all either way.  We took a tour around the formerly “troubled” neighborhoods, now troubled again.  One does not hear much about them, especially given how quiet they have been for so long. But there are still high walls in places with unpleasant graffiti on them and numerous signs that the people on each side of those walls really do not like each other much and have sharply conflicting memories about what happened back then, even as all then were saying they supported the peace agreement.

The USPS 10-year plan may have future rate increases

What the USPS 10-year plan may have to say about future rate increases

What the USPS 10-year plan may have to say about future rate increases, Steve Hutkins at “Save The Post Office

The mailers were probably disappointed that the Postal Service’s new 10-year plan released yesterday, “Delivering for America,” did not reveal how big of a rate increase the Postal Service intends to make using the new authority it was granted by the Postal Regulatory Commission. While they wait in suspense, here’s a guess: 3.6 percent.

We already know that the calculations the Postal Service submitted to the PRC in February indicate the hike could be as large as 5.56 percent (on top of the CPI increase), but the new system allows some of the rate authority to be banked for future years, so the increase could be smaller. And that is just what the following analysis suggests.

This analysis is based on two tables and a couple of comments that appear in the 10-year plan. The tables show revenue and expenses under two scenarios, a base case using the status quo and an alternative that uses the revenue and cost savings under the Delivering for America plan. The tables contain numbers for projected volumes and revenues over the next ten years that can be used to estimate what the Postal Service is planning for future price increases under the new rate authority.

Congress Steadily Degenerating

Congress Steadily Degenerating

 I doubt this will surprise anybody, aside from those who might have hoped that Dems retaking formal control of both houses of Congress, if by narrow margins (with that margin shrinking in the House due to the 2020 election).  But I have a more direct source for this conclusion.

I received a visit today from my niece and her family at our house about two hours southwest of Washington.  She is Erica Werner, a longtime reporter for the Washington Post who has covered economics issues that Congress deals with.  She has been high enough up at WaPo that when some of the major budget issues were being debated and passed, she was the lead author of the top front page story for several days in a row there.  She also covered the passage of the ACE at Congress back when that happened.  Anyway, she has been reporting on Congress for quite a few years and knows the people there inside out and really up close.

“…other enjoyments, of a purer, more lasting, and more exquisite nature.”

“…other enjoyments, of a purer, more lasting, and more exquisite nature.”

A defense of Weber’s Protestant Ethic thesis from the 1940s by Ephraim Fischoff makes the plausible argument that critics — and many supporters — of Weber’s essay attached unwarranted causality to it, as if “Calvinism caused capitalism.” Instead, Fischoff explained:

Weber’s thesis must be construed not according to the usual interpretation, as an effort to trace the causative influence of the Protestant ethic upon the emergence of capitalism, but as an exposition of the rich congruency of such diverse aspects of a culture as religion and economics.

Fair enough. Then along comes Colin Campbell 43 some odd years later talking about the Other Protestant Ethic. It was Campbell’s intention in The Romantic Ethic and the Spirit of Consumerism to update Weber and to fill in what he saw as a significant gap in Weber’s thesis — his failure to account for new consumer attitudes, which Campbell traced back to Sentimentalism and Romanticism, both adaptations of Protestantism.