Mike Kueber's Blog

August 31, 2012

Who wears the pants in modern America?

Filed under: Culture — Mike Kueber @ 4:42 pm
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A few days ago, I posted in my blog about a book titled The Richer Sex by Lisa Mundy.  The book explains why women will become the dominant breadwinner in most families and then describes how families will be affected by having a female as the dominant breadwinner. 

This weekend, the New York Times Magazine is publishing an extensive 8-page article, titled “Who Wears the Pants in this Family?,” that adapts a book titled The End of Men: And the Rise of Women by Hanna Rosin.  Apparently, brilliant minds think alike.  Mundy’s book and Rosin’s article are incredibly similar.   The following are examples of Rosin’s verbiage that mirrors concepts described in Mundy’s book:

  • As the usual path to the middle class disappears, what’s emerging in its place is a nascent middle-class matriarchy, in which women like Patsy pay the mortgage and the cable bills while the men try to find their place.
  • The former Russell men are sometimes categorized by people in town as one of three types: the “transients,” who drive as far as three hours to Montgomery for work and never make it home for dinner; the “domestics,” who idle at the house during the day, looking for work; and the “gophers,” who drive their wives to and from work, spending the hours in between hunting or fishing.  [Rosin’s article focuses on a small town in Alabama whose major employer, Russell sportswear, has been decimated by outsourcing.]
  • Reuben has a college degree and doesn’t seem especially preoccupied with machismo, so I asked him why, given how many different kinds of jobs he has held, he couldn’t train for one of the jobs that he knew was available: something related to schools, nursing or retail, for example. One reason was obvious — those jobs don’t pay as much as he was accustomed to making — but he said there was another. “We’re in the South,” he told me. “A man needs a strong, macho job. He’s not going to be a schoolteacher or a legal secretary or some beauty-shop queen. He’s got to be a man.”
  • Charles has more time on his hands but not necessarily fewer worries. “Probably no one has had their wife move up the ladder as far as I’ve moved down,” he told me the first night we talked, in his blunt and wry way. “For years I was the major breadwinner, and this has flipped the family around. Now she is the major breadwinner.”  [Mundy’s book used the term “The Big Flip” to describe this major transformation to families.]
  • He told me: “It used to bug me, but now I’ve gotten used to it.” What helped was realizing that he wasn’t alone in this upside down world he was living in. Shortly after he left Russell, Charles called the unemployment office in Montgomery to ask a question. The voice on the phone sounded familiar, and after a few minutes he realized he was talking to a woman who had worked with him at Russell. She transferred him to her supervisor, who turned out to be another woman who had worked with him. “You’re gonna laugh at this,” Charles told me, “but it was harder on the men than the women. It seems like their skills were more, what’s the word, transferable? I was born in the South, where the men take care of their women. Suddenly, it’s us who are relying on the women. Suddenly, we got the women in control.”

Both Mundy and Rosin talk a lot about trying to reconcile “The Big Flip” with the biblical command for women to be submissive to their men.  Rosin made the following interesting insights:

  • About two years ago, Gerald Hallmark, then the pastor of First Baptist, saw a man, who had been a plant manager, selling shirts at J. C. Penney. The man tried to avoid him, but Hallmark did his best to make him feel comfortable, by walking up and asking him how the new job was working out. After that, Hallmark had to make slight adjustments in what he had preached for nearly 20 years. Instead of reminding the men that the Bible instructs them to be the head of the household, he tells them, “Your manhood shows in your reaction to hard times.”
  • Like everyone of their generation I spoke to, Charles and Sarah Beth Gettys both insisted that Charles was still the “head of the household.” I often asked couples why the men got to retain the title if they weren’t fulfilling most of the attending duties. Sometimes they answered by redefining “head” as “spiritual head,” meaning biblically ordained as the leader. Often it came down to the man as the ultimate protector, the domestic superhero: if someone broke into the house, if the children were in trouble or out of control, if the roof caved in, if there was a tornado, if we needed him, he would rescue us. One man I met, Rob Pridgen, even discussed this in vaguely apocalyptic terms. If the country was self-destructing, and if we could no longer import food or rely on our government to protect us, then we would all remember what men were for.
  • Sarah Beth told me that she now asks her Sunday-school group of high-school girls to reflect on what being “submissive” means in today’s world. Theoretically, as head of the household, Charles could decide that he and Sarah Beth should move somewhere else, and Sarah Beth would follow. They both insist that’s how it would unfold. But given Sarah Beth’s success at her work, that scenario seems very theoretical.
  • Rob Pridgen’s wife, Connie, sometimes used the word “submissive” but usually put it in air quotes.

A major difference between Mundy’s book and Rosin’s article is that the Mundy book explains why “The Big Flip” is occurring and is more of a sociological treatment whereas the Rosin article focuses real individuals from a psychological perspective.  The Rosin article serves as an excellent supplement to Mundy’s book.  Together, they strongly support the proposition that millions of men and women in America are going to be experiencing unsettled times in the coming years.   


August 30, 2012

President Obama as an existential threat to American as we know it?

Filed under: Media,People,Politics — Mike Kueber @ 4:21 am
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Road trips to North Dakota have always presented me with an existential threat – i.e., driving straight through for 24 hours creates a significant risk of falling asleep at the wheel.  Recently, however, I have discovered a surprising way to reduce that risk – conservative talk radio.  The talk-show hosts are interesting and provocative.  Although I almost never find the time to listen to the radio during a typical day, finding the time is easy during a road trip to North Dakota.  Today, as I drove to ND, I had the opportunity to listen to Laura Ingraham in the morning, Rush at lunch, Sean in the afternoon, and The Great One during dinner.      

As usual, The Great One was the most interesting.  In addition to providing a plethora of quotes from his favorite politician, Ronald Reagan, Mark Levin asserted that President Obama was an existential threat to American as we know it.  In support of this assertion, Levin quoted Obama as saying shortly before his 2008 election, “We are five days away from fundamentally transforming the United States of America.” 

Technically, I suppose that someone who wants to fundamentally transform something arguably wants to destroy it.  Indeed, that is what the Democrats say about Paul Ryan’s plan to reform Medicare – i.e., they charge that Ryan wants to destroy Medicare as we know it.  If this were a formal debate, Ryan would counter that Medicare as we know it is unsustainable and that wanting to keep Medicare as it is would be foolhardy.  But this isn’t a formal debate, so Ryan and the Republicans find themselves playing defense. 

Getting back to the issue of whether President Obama is an existential threat to America as we know it, what do I think? 

I have heard countless conservatives, including Paul Ryan in his acceptance speech last night, argue that this is a watershed election and that if President Obama is re-elected, America will be condemned to follow in a path made by France and possibly even Greece.  But I recall liberals in the past warning of dire consequences if Bush-43 were elected (or re-elected), yet none of those dire things happening.

My judgment is that conservatives are currently over-reacting to the danger of Obama’s re-election, just as liberals previously over-reacted to the danger of Bush-43 being re-elected, because pundits often underestimate the resiliency of people.  Yes, a re-elected Obama would push America to act more like a European welfare state, but as British P.M. Margaret Thatcher pointed out, such a government eventually runs out of other people’s money to spend.  At that point, the voters will see the error of their way and shift back toward freedom over dependency. 

The people are resilient and the system is designed for self-correction.  As they say, keep working on it, and things will work out, even with another Obama term.

August 28, 2012

The Crackpot Caucus

Filed under: Issues,Politics,Religion — Mike Kueber @ 10:52 am
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A good friend from Austin recently suggested to me that the TEA Party seems to be infused with more than its share of dullards who lack the ability to engage in critical thinking.  I responded in my blog that this perception may have arisen because the TEA Party is decentralized and thus doesn’t have articulate, smooth-talking spokespersons as the face of the party. 

My Austin friend isn’t the only one who thinks conservatives are stupid.  Timothy Egan of the NY Times recently charged that congressional Republicans were “The Crackpot Caucus.”    In his blog to justify his charge, Egan’s exhibit #1 was the “legitimate rape” guy from Missouri, Todd Akin, and he then attempted to show that Akin is not an anomaly.  Among the knuckle-draggers in Congress:

  • Climate change.  We’re currently experiencing the worst drought in 60 years, a siege of wildfires, and the hottest temperatures since records were kept.  But to Republicans in Congress, it’s all a big hoax. The chairman of a subcommittee that oversees issues related to climate change,  Representative John Shimkus of Illinois is —  you guessed it  — a climate-change denier.  At a 2009 hearing, Shimkus said not to worry about a fatally dyspeptic planet: the biblical signs have yet to properly align. “The earth will end only when God declares it to be over,” he said, and then he went on to quote Genesis at some length.  It’s worth repeating: This guy is the chairman.
  • Global warning.  On the same committee is an oil-company tool and 27-year veteran of Congress, Representative Joe L. Barton of Texas.  You may remember Barton as the politician who apologized to the head of BP in 2010 after the government dared to insist that the company pay for those whose livelihoods were ruined by the gulf oil spill.  Barton cited the Almighty in questioning energy from wind turbines. Careful, he warned, “wind is God’s way of balancing heat.”  Clean energy, he said, “would slow the winds down” and thus could make it hotter. You never know.  “You can’t regulate God!” Barton barked at the House speaker, Nancy Pelosi, in the midst of discussion on measures to curb global warming.
  • EvolutionThe Catholic Church long ago made its peace with evolution, but the same cannot be said of House Republicans.  Jack Kingston of Georgia, a 20-year veteran of the House, is an evolution denier, apparently because he can’t see the indent where his ancestors’ monkey tail used to be. “Where’s the missing link?” he said in 2011. “I just want to know what it is.” He serves on a committee that oversees education.  In his party, Kingston is in the mainstream. A Gallup poll in June found that 58 percent of Republicans believe God created humans in the present form just within the last 10,000 years — a wealth of anthropological evidence to the contrary.
  • AbortionAnother Georgia congressman, Paul Broun, introduced the so-called personhood legislation in the House — backed by Akin and Representative Paul Ryan — that would have given a fertilized egg the same constitutional protections as a fully developed human being.  Broun is on the same science, space and technology committee that Akin is. Yes, science is part of their purview.  Where do they get this stuff? The Bible, yes, but much of the misinformation and the fables that inform Republican politicians comes from hearsay, often amplified by their media wing.
  • ScienceRemember the crazy statement that helped to kill the presidential aspirations of Michele Bachmann?  A vaccine, designed to prevent a virus linked to cervical cancer, could cause mental retardation, she proclaimed. Bachmann knew this, she insisted, because some random lady told her so at a campaign event.  Fearful of the genuine damage Bachmann’s assertion could do to public health, the American Academy of Pediatrics promptly rushed out a notice, saying, “there is absolutely no scientific validity to this statement.”  Nor is there reputable scientific validity to those who deny that the globe’s climate is changing for the worse. But Bachmann calls that authoritative consensus a hoax, and faces no censure from her party.

Egan concluded his posting by noting that at least two Republicans (albeit RINOs) see their party’s mistake:

  • A handful of Republicans have tried to fight the know-nothings. “I believe in evolution and trust scientists on global warming,” said Jon Huntsman, the former Utah governor, during his ill-fated run for his party’s presidential nomination. “Call me crazy.”
  • And in an on-air plea for sanity, Joe Scarborough, the former G.O.P. congressman and MSNBC host, said, “I’m just tired of the Republican Party being the stupid party.”  I feel for him.  But don’t expect the reality chorus to grow. For if intelligence were contagious, his party would be giving out vaccines for it.

In my aforementioned blog posting, I noted that there is a major difference between social conservatives (Moral Majority) and social conservatives (TEA Party), and the core of that difference is fundamentalist Christianity.  As Egan noted, the Catholic Church has made its peace with evolution (as has Mitt Romney), but the Fundamentalists haven’t.  And the Fundamentalists have too much power within the Republican Party because their energy level enables them to dominate the party primaries.  So, much like union power in the Democratic Party, this special interest causes the Republicans to say things and act in ways that are way out of the American mainstream.

August 27, 2012

Where are the conservative (non-radical) Republicans when we need them?

Filed under: Issues,Politics — Mike Kueber @ 1:48 am
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MySanAntonio.com recently published an interesting column by NT Times columnist Thomas Friedman.  In the column, Friedman lamented the fact that America was unable to address the four great problems of today because control of the Republican Party had been ceded by the conservatives to the TEA Party radicals. 

What are America’s four great problems?  According to Friedman:

  1. The nexus of debt, taxes, and entitlements;
  2. Immigration;
  3. Energy and climate; and
  4. Education

Friedman suggests that the solutions to these problems are obvious if you are as smart as he is.  Debt, taxes, and entitlements – we need to adopt significant tax increases and spending cuts – i.e., the Obama position.  Immigration – we need to create a path to citizenship for illegal immigrants – i.e., the Obama position.  Energy and climate – we need to require that the energy industry be accountable for all of its costs and then let the markets work.  That makes sense.  Education – teacher evaluations, core standards, charter schools, vouchers, and the elimination of union rules.  That makes sense, too.

Friedman fears that unless the TEA Party is shunted aside by the Republican Party, neither Obama nor Romney will be able to address these problems.  I disagree.  The TEA Party is not opposed to Friedman’s suggested energy and education reforms.  And with respect to taxes and immigration, Friedman will eventually learn that his positions in favor of higher taxes and paths to citizenship may be in the mainstream at the New York Times, but they are extreme positions to most of America.

As President Obama is wont to say, elections matter, and the election of 2012 will break the current logjam.

August 26, 2012

San Antonio’s keynoter receives some hometown treatment from the Express-News

Filed under: People,Politics — Mike Kueber @ 7:21 pm
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As he prepares to give the keynote address at the Democratic convention in a couple of weeks, San Antonio’s mayor Julian Castro is the subject of a lengthy profile in today’s San Antonio Express-News.  The profile involved such extensive reporting that the Express-News assigned two bigtime reporters to it – Gary Martin and Josh Baugh (hereinafter M&B), with contributions from John Gonzalez.  Unfortunately, M&B decide to write a puff piece instead of doing any real reporting. 

Some pundits have described Julian Castro as Obama-lite, and this article reveals a disturbing tendency of fawning media to fail in their responsibility to vet our public figures, as they did with President Obama. The following is a list of information that we learned in the piece as compared to what M&B failed to report.

  1. M&B tell us that Julian Castro’s dad lived with Julian’s mom, Rosie, until the twins were eight years old and always remained in their lives.  In addition to neglecting to tell us Dad’s name, M&B failed to tell us why the twins’ “activist” parents declined to get married.
  2. M&B tell us that the twins attended Stanford University as undergraduates.  Julian has previously admitted that he gained admission to Stanford based on affirmative action and has argued that his success is evidence that affirmative action works.  M&B should have asked Julian if he knows what happened to the better qualified individual whose place in Stanford he took.  Furthermore, if affirmative action is designed to help the disadvantaged, does Julian think that he and Joaquin, as the sons of two college-educated activists, were disadvantaged individuals entitled to admission preferences.
  3. M&B tell us that the twins’ mom Rosie, was “a leader in the La Raza Unida Party, who they ubiquitously point to as the foundation of their success.”  This issue reminds me of President Obama’s connection to Reverend Jeremiah Wright, of whom then-candidate Obama said, “I can no more disown him than I can my white grandmother,” before disowning him.  M&B should have asked Julian whether he shares his mother’s well-known views about the disgraceful quality of the men who defended the Alamo.
  4. M&B tell us that Julian was raising funds for a City Council campaign even before he had graduated from law school, which qualifies him as a career politician.  M&B should have asked Julian how a poor kid like himself has been able to sustain himself on low-paying, full-time political jobs.  There are rumors that he received a windfall from some legal settlement; detail, please?

 As an optimist, I believe many Americans have learned a hard lesson in electing Barack Obama as president, and they won’t repeat the same mistake.  Let’s hope the media has also learned a lesson in its failure to vet Barack Obama and won’t repeat the mistake with Julian Castro.



Sunday Book Review #82 – The Richer Sex by Lisa Mundy

Filed under: Book reviews — Mike Kueber @ 6:24 pm
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After reading the first chapter of The Richer Sex by Liza Mundy, I noted the following in a previous posting to my blog:   

  • Coincidentally, the book that I am currently reading is titled The Richer Sex.  Although I am only one chapter deep in the book, its author Liza Mundy has already suggested that women are destined to lead most American households in the future.  She says this so-called “Big Flip” is almost inevitable because women will be better economic achievers in the new world that depends more on brains than brawn.  I will try to be open-minded in reading The Richer Sex, but Mundy seems to be overloaded with hubris.  Her Big Flip statement reminds me of Newt Gingrich crowing after one of his few electoral successes that his presidential nomination was almost inevitable.  Ironically, he never won again and soon dropped out of the race.  I suggest that women should quit declaring that every victory is due to merit while every defeat is due to unfair discrimination.  And before women start asking for a concession speech from men, they should quit asking for men to spot them some points before starting the game.

The Richer Sex is subtitled, “How the new majority of female breadwinners is transforming sex, love, and family.”  As suggested by this sub-title, the book is focused not primarily on whether women will become the dominant breadwinner in most families (the author assumes they will), but rather on how families will be affected by having a female as the dominant breadwinner. 

Even for those of us who reject the author’s assumption that females will be better economic achievers than males in the future, we recognize that this situation (a) will occur in an increasing number of families, and (b) will cause stress in the male’s traditional leadership role.  The Richer Sex does a good job of exploring those stresses, including not only homemaking, but also sex and societal stigma.  Unfortunately, some men deal poorly with their new status and either withdraw or give up.

One of the fundamental issues discussed by Mundy is whether men are “hard-wired” to be providers and women to be provided for.  This is critical because, if so, it suggests that a couple will never be happy with the woman being the dominant economic force in a relationship.  Fortunately, Mundy concludes that individuals are not hard-wired in this way, and that the traditional man-woman relationship developed because men were better suited to be providers, and thus when, in the future, women are better suited to be providers, relationships will shift to having the woman play many roles previously played by the man, and vica versa.  Furthermore, as the dominant female becomes more common, there will be less negative stigma attached to that relationship.

Something that Mundy doesn’t explain is why she thinks the current trend toward female ascendancy will continue.  According to her, the trend is based primarily on the cultural inclination of women to pursue higher education, which will pay huge dividends to them in the future.  But as the Army general, Rajin’ Cajun Russel Honore, said in New Orleans a few weeks after Katrina, “We aren’t stuck on stupid.”  My money says that guys will eventually realize success depends on brains, not brawn, and that we will have the intellectual candlepower, plus the testosterone, to at least keep up with the gals. 

I agree, however, that the traditional man-woman roles are a thing of the past.  Each couple will decide what works best for them.




Saturday Night at the Movies #43 – Mean Streets and XX/XY

Filed under: Movie reviews — Mike Kueber @ 2:24 am

Mean Streets is a 1973 drama dealing with a young man (Harvey Keitel) in NYC’s Little Italy trying to establish himself in organized crime while protecting his worthless friend (Robert De Niro) and romancing his epileptic girlfriend (Amy Robinson).  The plot is a bit implausible because De Niro is so irresponsible and self-destructive that no friend would stick with him as long as the seemingly responsible Keitel does.  I found it interesting that Keitel looks how I remember him, while De Niro looks shockingly young.  This movie was the first teaming of De Niro and director Martin Scorsese.  The Rotten Tomato critics give is a 98%, while the audience gives it 82%.  I agree with the audience and give it three stars out of four.  

XX/XY is a 2002 romantic drama that I decided to watch because it starred Mark Ruffalo, a mildly interesting actor who I saw last week in The Kids Are All Right.  Amazingly, he played essentially the same character in both movies – i.e., a ladies’ man who is a nice guy lacking in integrity.  Result – disappointing.  The Rotten Tomato critics give the film a 44% grade and the audience gives it a 43%.  Wikipedia notes, “The characters are both unsympathetic and uninteresting.”  That’s about right, and I give it only two stars out of four.

August 25, 2012

How much liability insurance is enough?

Filed under: Insurance — Mike Kueber @ 5:56 pm
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An op-ed piece by Ron Lieber in today’s NY Times discusses a subject that was near and dear to my heart as a career auto-insurance attorney – i.e., how much liability insurance is enough?  The subject has renewed interest for me now because I am currently deciding whether to renew my $1 million umbrella policy that I have on top of my $300k auto-liability coverage.

I have always felt that the insurance industry and its consumers fundamentally misunderstood this subject, and I was optimistic that the august NY Times would use its renowned critical-thinking skills to develop a new framework for selecting liability limits.  Boy, was I disappointed.

The major flaw in the op-ed piece is that it unnecessarily complicates itself by including several references to uninsured/underinsured motorist coverage (UM/UIM coverage).  UM/UIM coverage and liability coverage are fundamentally different coverages and the factors that should be considered in selecting the amounts of coverage are different.  Because the scope of this op-ed piece was to discuss the factors relevant to deciding how much liability insurance is enough, there is no good reason for discussing UM/UIM coverage other than giving Lieber an excuse to start the op-ed piece with a long description of a scandalous trial in which Progressive ostensibly fought to blame its insured for an accident and defend the actions of the uninsured/underinsured driver.  To avoid ruining the story, Lieber fails to explain that is exactly what UM/UIM insurance is designed to do – i.e., it is liability coverage that insureds buy for the uninsured or underinsured drivers so that the insureds have a source of recovery for their damages incurred in an accident with the uninsured/underinsured drivers.

After wasting much verbiage on UM/UIM coverage, Lieber provides some relevant and useful liability-coverage information regarding (a) the likelihood of large liability claims that might exceed modest liability limits, (b) the small cost to increase those limits to $1 million, (c) the amount of an individual’s current and future assets, and (d) the practical risk to individuals who are subject to large judgments that exceed their liability limits (house and 401k are usually protected).  Based on these factors, Lieber concludes that he is willing to buy peace of mind by spending an additional $25 a month.    

Although Lieber’s four-point analysis is helpful, it contains three flaws:

  1. $1 million of coverage.  Umbrella policies typically start with $1 million of coverage, but offer limits up to $5 million.  Lieber assumes peace-of-mind is achieved by $1 million of coverage, but fails to apply his factors to higher limits that are available.
  2. Coverage vis-à-vis assets.  Insurance companies often suggest there should be a direct correlation between the amount of an individual’s non-protected assets and the amount of the individual’s liability coverage.  This suggestion incorrectly assumes that a bankruptcy would be more devastating to a person who has $3 million in assets than it would be to a person with only $500k in assets.  That is not necessarily true.  A more relevant factor would be whether the bankrupted person has an opportunity to rebuild an estate.  Thus, a bankruptcy to someone approaching retirement with $500k in assets would be more devastating than a bankruptcy to a young wunderkind who already has $3 million in assets.
  3. Ability to pay.  Lieber attempts to sidestep this issue, which I think is the most important, by placing the cost of $1 million in umbrella coverage at $25 a month, which he assumes everyone can pay.  That position fails to recognize that for some individuals $25 a month is a major sacrifice.  By contrast, others can easily pay more than $25 a month and those people should consider the elevated peace-of-mind that would come with $2-5 million of umbrella coverage.  

Based on Lieber’s factors and mine, I think that continuing my umbrella policy makes economic sense.  Plus, although Lieber failed to mention it, an umbrella policy covers several types of liability claims that aren’t covered by an auto or homeowners/renters policy. 

For me, money well spent.

Romney’s new federalism

Filed under: Economics,Issues,Politics — Mike Kueber @ 12:53 pm
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The NY Times in a recent editorial complained that Mitt Romney wants to delegate too many functions to state government.  Although the Times’ complaint initially argued that some of the functions were national in scope (energy policy), the thrust of its argument is that some states (i.e., red states) don’t care as much about its poor as do other states (i.e., blue states), and thus the red states can’t be trusted with functions such as health care for the poor, food stamps, unemployment insurance, and immigration controls:

  • Don’t be fooled by his claims that states can perform these vital functions ‘more efficiently’ than Washington. They can’t. Battered by the downturn, states can barely perform the core functions they have. They have been laying off teachers and school personnel by the tens of thousands, cutting services to the poor past the bone and falling far behind on needed public works.”
  • “Mr. Romney is really saying that education and safety-net programs are so low on his priority list that he doesn’t care what states do with them. If a blue state wants to pay for an adequate Medicaid and food stamp program, it is free to do so. But many red states care more about low taxes, and will not pay a price, no matter how much residents suffer. Many states are likely to compete in a race to the bottom to drive the poor into other states with governments that have a more enlightened sense of their role.”

Isn’t it great that the Times cares more about Mississippi’s poor than does Mississippi?  The Times editorial concludes by asserting that, “Mr. Romney wants to put these programs on the backs of state governments he knows cannot handle the load, then reduce the resources they have now.  That may thrill a few die-hard opponents of government, but it could have disastrous consequences.”

Of course, the Times fails to acknowledge that the federal government is able to handle its current load only by taking on an insane amount of debt.  By contrast, the states are required to balance their budgets, and this forces them to restrain their spending.  Tell me who is responsible. 

Romney’s new federalism makes perfect economic sense.  There is nothing wrong with the states competing against each other to operate with maximum efficiency.  Although the Times would prefer to protect welfare states from competition, just as unions wages were protected from competition for many years, such protection is no longer possible.  As Thomas Friedman pointed out, The World Is Flat and profligate spenders are no longer viable.

Role models

Filed under: Culture,Entertainment — Mike Kueber @ 3:53 am
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In a recent blog about Lance Armstrong’s decision to give up his fight against doping charges, two readers provided contrasting comments.    My San Antonio friend, Bob Bevard, expressed his disappointment in Armstrong as a role model:

  • “They are not us-in almost any way-and they set very, very bad examples for our youngsters and their fans.  I still (perhaps Pollyannaishly) believe that our public figures ought to be models for our/their public and NOT behave outrageously in public forums nor cheat.  They truly are models–whether they like it or not. As long as they make their livings from the public and public appreciation and dollars, they need to BE careful and set high standards, not act like/be cheaters, gangsters, or reprobates.”

By contrast, my brother Kelly Kueber asserted that Armstrong remained a person worthy of admiration:

  • “I admire Lance Armstrong for his drive and motivation and competitive fire! I think he is a great human being. The other stuff I do not care about, I just look at his great determination and try to emulate him in any small way I can.”

Brilliant minds think alike, so I agree with my brother Kelly.  Armstrong’s drive is what sets him apart and it is worthy of emulation. 

I disagree with Bob’s suggestion that public figures should be role models for anything other than what they excel at.  Taylor Swift is a role model for a young girl wanting to be a successful singer, Cam Newton is a role model for a young man wanting to be a sports star, and Bill Gates is a role model for anyone wanting to succeed in business.  The key to their success, other than innate ability and luck, is often their work ethic (as documented by Malcolm Gladwell in his book Outliers). 

Significantly, their success is typically not closely connected to the values, ethics, and integrity that we want to instill in the youth of this country.  Those values are generally not essential to succeed in entertainment or business.  Steve Jobs is an example of a business success who seemed to be ethically challenged. 

Kids’ values, ethics, and integrity need to come from their parents and their community, not celebrities.

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