Stressed Cities


WalletHub has a report posted listing the cities in the U.S. with the most-stressed and least-stressed populations. (H/T, Mark Tapscott at Instapundit) I took the cities with the stress scores in the 90th percentile or higher (i.e., the worst 10 percent) and looked up the party affiliations of their mayors. The Gentle Reader may make whatever he wishes of these data.

First Amendment 1, Baltimore 0


Several years ago, a Baltimore resident called 911 to report a burglary and wound being beaten, tased, and arrested by the police officers who responded to the call. Her claim against the Baltimore Police Department spent several years in the courts and was finally settled. Baltimore includes a “non-disparagement” clause in such settlement agreements, so when the women spoke to the press about her experience, the city reduced her settlement payment in accordance with the non-disparagement clause.

She sued in U.S. District Court, claiming that the clause violated her First Amendment right to speak freely about the government. She was joined in the suit by the Baltimore Brew. The Brew claimed that the city’s use of such agreements violated its free press right to investigate and report on matters of public interest such as police misconduct. That suit was thrown out by the District Court on summary judgment.

The Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit has reversed the District Court’s granting summary judgment in Baltimore’s favor and sent the case back to the lower court.

The City has not identified a comparably compelling public good or other legitimate governmental aim that was, or could be, furthered by enforcement of the non- disparagement clause (other than a general interest in using settlements to resolve lawsuits). Consequently, the City is not entitled to summary judgment on Overbey’s First Amendment claim.

Also,

we conclude that the Brew has sufficiently pleaded an ongoing or imminent injury in fact that is both traceable to the City’s challenged conduct and redressable by the court. As discussed above, neither the parties’ arguments below nor the district court’s disposition went meaningfully beyond the pleadings in evaluating the Brew’s standing. We therefore decline to do so ourselves— even though the order under review is nominally a grant of summary judgment to the City. Instead, we remand to give the parties and the district court an opportunity to develop the evidentiary record relevant to the Brew’s claims.

It will be interesting to see how the case unfolds.

A More Basic Question


Paul Mirengoff has a post over at PowerLine with A Question for Joe Biden. Biden showed some backbone during the last debate by refusing to apologize for his position on forced school bussing of children across communities for the purpose of achieving racial balance in school. During the Obama administration, HUD promulgated regulations aimed at  “affirmatively furthering fair housing.” AFFH has the goal of moving whole families across town to new neighborhoods to racial balance neighborhood populations. The Trump administration has reinterpreted those regulations, effectively putting them on hold.

Here’s Miregoff’s question for Biden—

I’d like to hear Biden say whether he supports the idea of the federal government conditioning grants to localities on their willingness to require that a certain amount of housing in mostly White neighborhoods be occupied by African-Americans. If Biden says he does this, and I think he almost has to, I’d like to hear him explain why it’s a good idea whereas busing was a bad one.

One possible answer would be that the goal of racial balance is good and that having minority children spread through the community eliminates the need for such bandaids as forced school busing.

I have a more basic question. Is racial balance for its own sake always a good goal? The last census data is almost a decade old, but it’s what we’ve got for now. It showed that blacks make up about 12.6 percent of the U.S. population and that Hispanics make up around 16.3 percent. Should NBA teams be forced to staff their benches with more Hispanics than Blacks? Or should the Lakers have different quotas from the Celtics because of the different balances in their cities? Or should we force families to move from LA to Boston in the name of balance?

Or should we let NBA teams hire on the basis of merit? If we allow a meritocracy in sports, why not in other businesses? Why not elsewhere?

The problem of sorting for merit is that half the population is below average. As a result, any system that sorts for merit tends to disproportionally reward top performers. As a rule of thumb, roughly the square root of any population will do half the work. (This may also be stated as 20 percent of the customers drink 80 percent of the beer.) That rule implies that in a country the size of America about 18,000 people would control half the wealth—and that about a dozen would have control of ten percent of the wealth. That’s not too far off from what we see in the Real World.

So here’s a yet more basic question, if we want to allow the best to rise to the top and given that the Marxist experiments of the 20th century all ended disastrously, what can we do to provide humanely for those among us who aren’t successful?

TANSTAAFL


Andrew Yang wants the government to give every adult in America a thousand bucks a month. There are around 250,000,000 of us, so that works out to about $3 trillion a year and would not quite double federal spending. (That’s roughly $3.8 trillion.) He would pay for it with a value added tax that he estimates would bring in less than a trillion dollars a year.

Math is hard, so I’m not sure how that works out in the real world, but I was able to do the math necessary to see the federal government already costs the average adult American over $15,000 a year.

Let’s assume that we’re willing to give kids a free ride until they reach 18. In that case, the average adult’s fair share (that is, the average tax rate) should be whatever proportion $15,000 is of the average income. Average income is about $47,000, so that implies a combined federal (FICA, income, excise, VAT, whatever) tax rate in the range of 32 percent. There aren’t enough rich to soak with the 70 percent max rate proposed by one of the B-Card Democrats won’t pull the average up that high.

Socialist governments traditionally do make a financial mess. They always run out of other people’s money. It’s quite a characteristic of them.

—Margaret Thatcher

Everything’s Up To Date In Kansas City


However, it seems that some federal bureaucrats would rather stay in the DC area than move there. Politico and The Hill are reporting that the Department of Agriculture has decided to move a pair of its research agencies closer to the center where farming is conducted. Kansas City was chosen, in part, because of the USDA’s existing presence there and its proximity with many of the land grant universities doing work for the USDA. The move is supposed to save the government $300 million over the next 20 years.

Politico reports that employees at the Economic Research Service (research areas include climate change, nutrition, and the farm economy) allege that the relocation is an attempt to shrink the agency and dial back research that doesn’t align with the Trump administration’s priorities, but they have not offered any explanation of how working in a lower cost-of-living area in the middle of the farming heartland would adversely affect their work. OTOH, the USDA says the high cost of living the DC area hinders recruitment and retention at the agencies.

Politico further reports that workers at the National Institute of Food and Agriculture who arrange federal grants for agricultural research institutions believe the move is rooted in politics, but they have not explained how reducing the average distance between them and those research institutions will create any problems.

Of course, the decision to move these agencies is political. In 2016, the American people elected a President with a particular management philosophy, and he’s implementing it. Elections have consequences.