Tuesday, June 11, 2013

Mugged by reality 1: White quotas, special preferences and government jobs

Conservative pundit Ann Coulter can be funny and interesting, and a spot-on scourge of liberals, but has a history of bogus or distorted claims, or half, even quarter-truths. In her book "Mugged", for example Coulter claims that black advances are due to "affirmative action". Such "facts" have become a standard talking point in many quarters, including some "progressive" ones. Before this shaky "truth" she cites well-known conservative economist Thomas Sowell, apparently neglecting to see how (a) Sowell's work undermines her own argument, and (b) the selfsame Sowell dismisses the "due to affirmative action" argument in several of his books- see Affirmative Action Around the World, Ethnic America, Knowledge and Decisions etc etc... Once subjected to even elementary scrutiny, Coulter's claims are easily exposed on 4 counts:

1) Black progress is a long-standing trend, well before any significant influence by affirmative action quota programs of the 1970s. In fact,  long before any "affirmative action" quotas in the 1970s, or under Nixon's famous "Philadelphia Plan" of 1969 to counteract union discrimination against blacks, a majority of said blacks had already pulled themselves above the poverty line, as shown by scholars like Thomas Sowell (2004, 1994, 1981.)  Black managerial, professional, technical and higher end skilled employment was ALREADY well on the upswing PRIOR to AA quotas. In The Economics and Politics of Race, (1983), Ethnic America (1981), Affirmative Action (2004), and other books, Sowell shows that in the five years prior to the 1964 Civil Rights Act black gains in employment and education were actually higher than in the five years after.

Black progress in employment and education was a long-standing trend from the WWII era, almost two decades before the 1964 law, and before the era of affirmative action in the mid 1970s. Black gains in education and employment after 1964, Sowell demonstrates, continued this upward movement in the booming postwar economy. The passage of the race-neutral Civil Rights Act of 1964 complemented this upward swing and, by removing unjust legal barriers, provided significant equal opportunity. Sowell sharply contrasts equal opportunity (fair treatment across the board regardless of race) with the disguised or open race quotas and head counts of affirmative action. Thus prior to the 1964 Act, when few welfare or transfer payment programs as such were in place, blacks were already moving forward IN SPITE of open hostility from many whites and open segregation and discrimination in job and housing markets.

Black education likewise shows the same pattern, with an upward swing of college admissions due to things like the race-neutral GI Bill, not the "diversity" programs of white liberals. And most blacks in college do not rely on "affirmative action"- the many in Historically black colleges don't, nor do the many in regular degree programs at various state colleges, nor do a substantial number at the more elite institutions.

In short, Coulter is simply regurgitating long debunked right-wing talking points, and is undermined by the very scholar (Sowell) she uses to buttress her claims. Then there is the case of white affirmative action- but that's another tale, also skipped over by Coulter.


2) "Affirmative Action" is a term appearing as far back as the 1930s when it was used in legal cases of courts granting relief to white union members discriminated against because of their union membership. Said white unionists got court ordered remedies, including back-pay for discriminatory treatment, not mere toothless "cease and desist" orders. Again, conservative scholar Sowell debunks Coulter. QUOTE:

"The general principle behind "affirmative action" is that a court order to "cease and desist" from some discriminatory practice may not be sufficient to undo the harm already done, or even to prevent additional harm as the result of a pattern of events set in motion by the prior illegal activity. This general principle goes back much further than the civil-rights legislation of the 1960's, and extends well beyond questions involving ethnic minorities or women. In 1935, the Wagner Act prescribed "affirmative action" as well as "cease and desist" remedies against employers whose anti-union activities had violated the law. Thus, in the landmark Jones and Laughlin Steel case which established the constitutionality of the Act, the National Labor Relations Board ordered the company not only to stop discriminating against those of its employees who were union members, but also to post notices to that effect in conspicuous places and to reinstate unlawfully discharged workers, with back pay. Had the company merely been ordered to "cease and desist" from economic (and physical) retaliation against union members,the future effect of its past intimidation would have continued to inhibit the free-choice elections guaranteed by the National Labor Relations Act.

Racial discrimination is another obvious area where merely to "cease and desist" is not enough. If a firm has engaged in racial discrimination for years, and has an all-white work force as a result, then simply to stop explicit discrimination will mean little as long as the firm continues to hire by word-of-mouth referrals to its current employees' friends and relatives. (Many firms hire in just this way, regardless of their racial policies.) Clearly, the area of racial discrimination is one in which positive or affirmative steps of some kind seem reasonable-which is not to say that the particular policies actually followed make sense."

--Sowell, Thomas (1975) Affirmative Action Reconsidered. The Public Interest 3, pg 48-65

3) Coulter also laments heavy black representation in government employment (another boilerplate talking point) but such representation among WHITES is nothing unusual, and nothing new, and nothing special. But it seems to be a "problem" for Coulter. Conveniently, she forgets to mention heavy WHITE representation as with the white Irish and white Southerners in government jobs as Sowell (1981, 2005) shows. Her convenient miss is similar to the hypocritical Dinesh Dsouza, who only finds it a "parasitic" when black folk are getting a piece of the government action (See his "End of Racism" for example). Ironically, the Bombay-born D'souza himself grew up in a country where many have made a nice living off government jobs. But that's OK you see- they ain't black.

But the blunt fact is that whites have been feeding deeply and heavily from the government bucket and indeed used their control of that bucket to move themselves up economically. Government jobs were crucial in the economic and social progress of white Irish Americans for example, who manipulated that control to discriminate against other Americans. Take away the discriminatory manipulation and domination and the point still holds. Taking any opportunity open- including government jobs- is nothing special among US ethnic groups. It is only when a black man shows up that that it becomes "deplorable." Apparently only those under paler quotas are virtuous, and need apply. Let's look at how the white Irish benefited from and used government jobs:

"In the city's building trades such as plumbers and the masons, Irish-dominated unions adopted nepotistic membership requirements that kept out new arrivals... Similarly the Irish used their political connections to entrench themselves in both skilled and unskilled city government jobs for policemen, firefighters, rapid transit workers and school teachers, even before these workers had their unions recognized."

"nepotistic membership requirements that kept out new arrivals... Similarly the Irish used their political connections to entrench themselves in both skilled and unskilled city government jobs for policemen, firefighters, rapid transit workers and school teachers, even before these workers had their unions recognized."

"The work taken by Irish men differed from that of Irish women in some respects, however. Irish men were heavily tied up with the political machine. They could secure employment in municipal services, with the machine a powerful intermediary. This is not to say that Irish women had no connection with the machines in their search for bread. Some Irish women, usually American-born daughters of Irish immigrants were able to teach school through the help of the machine, and as the city expanded its educational services, these women benefited... But for men, connections to politicians, the ability to trade a vote for a job, helped them secure employment on large-scale construction projects, a labor sector that supported many New York Irish families. When in 1865 the New York State Supreme Court building was being constructed, Irish men made up the vast majority of those drawing a paycheck. Other heavily Irish male occupations also depended on the machine and on the governmental process.

As early as 1855 Irish men were the largest group of the cartmen of New York, including those that specialized in doing city work on sanitation, landfill road projects and the like. To be a private cartman one required a license; to work for the municipal government in particular one needed good connections. Even before the massive influx of the feminine Irish in 1843, the Democrat-dominated Common Council gave a large number of market licenses to Irish men, much to the chagrin of native American entrepreneurs."

--FROM: Bayor and Meagher 1996, The New York Irish, 96-97

"As a consequence, the public sector employed a full one-third of first, second and third-generation Irish Americans in 1930 compared with just 6 percent in 1900. This patronage helped produce a heavy concentration of Irish in jobs on the fire and police departments and in municipally owned subways, streetcars, waterworks and port facilities. Many of the city's Irish middle class worked on the public payroll, especially in the public schools, and thousands of others labored in construction jobs tied to city expenditures. For second-generation Irish-American women, jobs as schoolteachers were the most sought-after career. Such patronage policies would help to bind the Irish working class and much of the middle class Tammany Hall for another generation."
--Bayor and Meagher 1996. The New York Irish, p. 313


4) On the crime front, the same double standards are used by Coulter- oh so virtuous white people compared to evil minorities. But the reality is different. As regards the 2011 black homicide rate of 17.51 per thousand this is high, but often surpassed by whites- it just depends on the time period you want to study. The supposedly more self-restrained Dutch of Amsterdam posted a whopping 47 per 100,000 in the 16th century, higher than any rate ever recorded for New York City, Irish and all. (Epstein and Gang 2010. Migration and Culture, Vol 8) In Maryland the rate at which unrelated European adults killed was 29 per 100,000 adults per year in the mid 1600s. In white Virginia it was 37 per 100,000. The supposedly more virtuous Yankee peoples in colonial America in the Chesapeake posted a rate of 12 per 100,000.

In some decades of the 1800s, white San Francisco posted rates well above 17.5. Even allegedly milder white Oregon posted a rate around 30 per 100,000. (Randolph Roth- Homicide Rates in the American West) Using modern FBI formulas, mostly white Los Angeles County in the 19th century ran up a body count of about 414 homicides per 100,000. (McKanna 2002. Race and Homicide in 19th Century California). Nor is the West unique. Studies show the heavily white Scotch-Irish Kentucky-Tennessee borderlands posting a rate of 24 per 100,000 starting in the 1850s. ( –Randolph Roth, 2009. American Homicide). In a study of homicides in white Russia, it was found that in 1998, the homicide victimization rate was 23.9 per 100,000. The 1999 homicide figures were substantially up over those for 1998.” –Encyclopedia of Crime and Punishment, Vol 1. 2002 (David Levinson ed) p. 1426.

5) The white Irish also figured prominently in establishment of corrupt urban political machines – a development that poisioned America's civil life- from Daley in Chicago, to Frank Hague in Jersey City, and numerous places in between.

Let’s look at white Irish boss Frank Hague. Hague has a widely known reputation for corruption and bossism and has been called “the granddaddy of Jersey bosses.”  By the time he left office in 1947, he enjoyed palatial homes, European vacations, and a private suite at the Plaza Hotel. His wealth has been estimated to have been over $10 million at the time of his death, although his City salary never exceeded $8,500 per year and he had no other legitimate source of income.

 During the height of his power Hague’s political machine, known as “the organization,” was one of the most powerful in the United States controlling politics on local, county, and state levels. Hague’s personal influence extended to the national level, influencing federal patronage and Presidential campaigns. The  Irish also greatly increased voter fraud in running America' big cities- making the shenanigans of many modern  urban mayors seem like Boy Scouts at play.. Under Irish boss Hague for example, Jersey City had 160,050 registered voters, but only 147,000 people who were at least 21 years old—the legal voting age.
(Sources: Jersey City's Mayor Hague: Last of the Bosses...". Life. 1938-02-07. p. 45; Hague's End", TIME, 1949-05-23).

 White politicians like Hague caused massive tax burdens to be laid on hard-working white people, from Boston to Jersey. Indeed some of these taxes bankrupted certain businesses. (Jersey City's Mayor Hague: Last of the Bosses...". Life. 1938-02-07) Other notorious white public feeders – some of the worse leaders in America- include Chicago’s “Big Bill” Thompson, and James Curley of Boston. But not to worry. In their footsteps followed people like Richard Daley and Governor Rod Blagojevich, now doing 14 years in prison. (See book- Gerald Leinwand 2004. Mackerels in the Moonlight: Four Corrupt American Mayors.)

The white Irish also pioneered "official" or "legal" thuggery and abuse of civil liberties in running America' cities. Irish boss Hague for had a law passed requiring making political speeches to obtain clearance from the chief of police. A 1930 ordinance gave the public safety commissioner—Hague himself—the power to turn down permits for meetings if he felt it necessary to prevent "riots, disturbances or disorderly assemblage." The latter ordinance was struck down as unconstitutional by the Supreme Court of the United States, but continued to be enforced for several years after that decision. The police were also allowed to stop and search anyone without probable cause or a warrant after 9 pm. (Sources: Jersey City's Mayor Hague: Last of the Bosses...". Life. 1938-02-07. p. 45; Hague's End", TIME, 1949-05-23).


6) But some may say- are white people the only feeders? What about Asians? Well Asians are themselves trough feeders par excellence- in fact they pioneered several aspects of heavy handed and oppressive government bureaucracy. It was Asians that pioneered one of the world’s first comprehensive, massive bureaucratic systems- notably the Confucianist flavored civil service system in China. And today Asians continue that tradition with the most massive parasitical bureaucracy in the world- numbering in the tens of millions. It is called the Chinese Communist Party.

What about other Asians? Let’s take India- a land known for its massive parasitical bureaucracy. Indians themselves are critical of it.. As one Indian study says: ” India’s massive bureaucracy is maintained at a huge cost to the country’s taxpayer, whose average income is among the lowest in the world.” A biased Western view you say? Not at all. Indians themselves are critical- quote:” [the public perception is that they are ‘burdensome low performers’ heading a highly bloated bureaucracy that is often perceived to be corrupt and inefficient.. lack of professionalism and poor capacity building, inefficient incentive systems that do not appreciate upright and outstanding civil servants but reward the corrupt and the incompetent..”
 (Sabharwa and Berman 2013, Public Administration in South Asia)

7) As regards welfare- white people are no paragons. Not only are their recipient numbers greater but despite being more affluent than poorer minorities, in states where there is heavy black population, welfare benefits are lower than where whites are a majority. From 1960 to 1990 for example, states with larger black welfare populations offered significantly LOWER welfare benefits, than in states with larger white populations. In essence, white welfare recipients saw greater amounts of aid given than blacks proportionately in said states, even though whites overall are better off than blacks, whether measured by income, net worth or family structure.

Far from “undue” black benefit, white people got higher welfare payments in many locales where they were the majority welfare population, while the black share was cut where they were the majority. We keep hearing about massive legions of “undeserving” blacks on welfare, but the bottom line is that better off whites, proportionately, are feeding more extensively and profitably from the welfare trough than blacks. TE:

Hostility to blacks is obviously more serious than hostility to Hispanics, and extends to the under-provision of such public goods as sewers and police in counties with high average incomes in the black population.. the percentage of blacks who are poor is positively associated with the number of welfare recipients and negatively associated with the average payment (indicating lower per recipient payments to blacks than to other groups."

--Roger D. Masters Why Welfare States Rise- and Fall.. in K. Salter (ed) Welfare, Ethnicity and Altruism: 2013. 273-275


"The percentage of African-American population had a negative effect on the average monthly grant. Therefore those states with higher African-American populations, especially the South, had lower monthly grant amounts.. Grant amounts for African- Americans in the South were significantly lower that those for whites, ranging from 7.3 percent less in Washington. D.C. to 37.6 percent less in South Carolina."
--Deborah Ward. 2009. The White Welfare State, p 77. 121

Another reason for black representation in government is that, relatively speaking, available jobs were more visible in government, which by law, HAS to openly advertise at least SOME available openings, as compared to the vast "hidden jobs" pool (read- white only for white cronies and relatives). Hence as early as the 1950s black employment in federal government was more than their statistical proportion of the general population. This was well before any "affirmative action" quotas. Said blacks learned about job openings, took the requisite civil service tests and earned placement- discriminatory placement sometimes up until the 1970s, but placement nevertheless. In short, when the playing field was made a bit more level- black folk could compete for available jobs actually  made known- versus the "hidden" white-network, word of mouth, buddy-system white crony and relative placement.

Another dodge of those who project a perfect world of "merit" is to minimize the fact that workplace discrimination is alive and well. As one news article notes:

"Research buttresses this evidence of wage discrimination with findings of significant race- and gender-based discrimination in hiring. For example, Harvard University researchers found that résumés with “white-sounding” names such as “Emily” are 50 percent more likely to elicit interviews than equivalent résumés with “black-sounding” names such as “Lakisha” (Bertrand and Mullainathan 2004). In addition, a multi-year, national study on race and sex discrimination in large and midsized private businesses found that intentional discrimination exists in every region of the country and in each of nine occupational categories, and it “is so pervasive that affirmative action programs continue to be necessary” (Blumrosen and Blumrosen 2002). Even as recently as this year, the U.S. Department of Labor Office of Federal Contract Compliance Programs found that FedEx engaged in discrimination against 21,000 applicants in 15 states (U.S. Department of Labor 2012). In short, although the American ideal may be to judge individuals by the content of their character, we have not yet guaranteed equal opportunity in all cases."
Source: Economic Policy Institute (2012) The Public Sector jobs crisis. http://www.epi.org/publication/bp339-public-sector-jobs-crisis/

Women by the way (a majority white as far as the workforce)  are also heavily represented in government employment, but see, that's OK. It's only when black folk show up to get a share of the pie that the  boosters of "merit," hitherto mysteriously silent, launch into paeans about the "problematic." As the EPI think tank notes in its comparison of blacks and women:

"..in 2011 women comprised 48.3 percent of overall employment, yet accounted for 59.5 percent of employment in state and local government, significantly higher than their 46.7 percent share of private-sector employment..  in 2011, African Americans accounted for 10.9 percent of overall employment, yet held 12.8 percent of state and local public-sector jobs and 10.3 percent of private-sector jobs.."
Source: Economic Policy Institute (2012) The Public Sector jobs crisis. http://www.epi.org/publication/bp339-public-sector-jobs-crisis/

Note above that blacks, as a proportion of their overall population, are not "massively overrepresented" in the public sector. Yes public sector employment is prominent, but hardly earth-shattering. Blacks make up a bit over 10% of the population, and hold roughly the same percentage weight in public sector job- 12.8%. In the private sector the proportion is about the same- 10.9%. Compared to white women, (who ALSO are overrepresented) the weights are roughly in the same range. Also compare to the white Irish, who in some decades posted a full ONE-THIRD of the working population in government employment ( Bayor and Meagher 1996 ). The selective, high dudgeon in some quarters about "the coloreds" suggests that the REAL problem there is that black folk are getting a piece of the action- which is no longer "reserved" for certain paler types.

Hypocritical "heriditarian" types like to lecture about "merit," but the record shows that in numerous instances, alleged white "role models" secured their positions not by "merit" and skill, but by political activity, uncompetitive crony/nepotistic networks, corruption and manipulation, feeding heavily from the taxpayer purse. Decades of such manipulation and corruption enabled them to lock out other Americans while they moved up the occupational ladder.

Note: This post is not a brief for affirmative action or government employment, but rather to point out the hypocrisy of the narrative from certain quarters that bashes blacks, while conveniently portraying whites as virtuous paragons of "merit" and "free markets." The record however shows a much less flattering reality.


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