OCTAVIO Nava Cabrera lived in America for 27 years before being deported in 2013, when police in Illinois pulled him over for a traffic violation
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WHEN on January 15th Barack Obama announced that Maria Contreras-Sweet would be his nominee to head the Small Business Administration (SBA), a government agency that helps Americans starting their own businesses, he extolled the virtues of small firms. They are “the lifeblood of our economy”, Mr Obama said. Their owners “create new products and expand their businesses every single day.”
One would be hard pressed to find a politician who has not waxed lyrical about small-business owners. But how good are they at creating new jobs? What kind of impact do they have on the economy? As it happens, most small businesses are Mom-and-Pop stores that will always stay in the family. Few innovate, and fewer still make expansion a priority.
Entrepreneurs come in two categories. The first are self-employed types who run small businesses that replicate other businesses (eg, nail salons, dry cleaners, etc). The second are disruptive innovators who come up with new ideas. The first type of entrepreneur...Continue reading
GIVEN New Orleans’ reputation, it seems odd that Ray Nagin was the city’s first mayor to be charged with accepting bribes. On February 12th he was convicted on 20 counts; jurors exonerated him of only one. Mr Nagin, a Democrat who won global notoriety for his inept response to Hurricane Katrina in 2005, left office under a cloud in 2010, mostly because voters were fed up with his erratic personality and judgment.
The charges against him were filed last year. They were pedestrian, even picayune: he solicited bribes. He defended them during his nine-day trial as “investments” in a granite-countertop firm he had started with his grown-up sons. Mr Nagin thought the granite business would boom after Katrina, since 80% of the city’s residents needed to rebuild. Yet his firm, Stone Age, foundered, and he leaned on city contractors to prop it up. He also squeezed Home Depot, a retail giant, in 2007 when it was looking to build a store in New Orleans. Home Depot, which wanted and got some concessions from the city, wound up hiring the Nagin family firm as an exclusive...Continue reading
THE catwalks of New York Fashion Week have nothing on the Westminster Kennel Club Dog Show, which also took place this week. Sky, a ginger wire fox terrier, was deemed Best in Show. The judge said the winning pooch left her speechless. She beat crowd-favourite Norman, a bloodhound, and Ally, a poodle with a pom-pom hair-style. More than 2,800 dogs entered the show in 187 different breeds or varieties. As usual, mongrels were barred from the main show. But this canine apartheid is starting to relax.
Mixed-breeds, euphemistically known as “All-Americans”, were invited to enter the inaugural agility championship, making this year the first time they have taken part at Westminster since the show began in 1884. “We wanted to open it up,” said David Frei of the Westminster Kennel Club, which claims to celebrate all dogs.
Some 200 dogs, including 16 mutts, competed in the televised event. They raced up and down a seesaw, jumped through a tyre, wove around poles and dashed through tunnels. They were judged on speed and skill.
The mongrels acquitted themselves well. Roo, who was rescued from a shelter, won the prize for...Continue reading
THE Affordable Care Act remains Barack Obama’s biggest domestic achievement. Obamacare, as the law is called, is indeed packed with important policies to expand health-care to those who need it. So it may seem surprising that the president and his deputies continue to delay the law's rollout. The latest deferral, announced by the treasury on February 10th, grants firms another year before they must offer affordable coverage to all full-time workers. Some call this administrative flexibility. Republicans call it chaos.
Obamacare’s many delays reflect two realities. First, the White House has had trouble meeting the law’s own deadlines. Implementation was always going to be complex, but bureaucratic ineptitude has made it farcical. Second, Obamacare includes some provisions that are more popular than others. So any delay is part of a larger effort to appease the law’s critics.
Yet the administration’s attempts to fix one problem may make another one worse. For example, the health department's move in December to allow people to keep their previously cancelled insurance plans for another year may end up discouraging healthy people from signing up for coverage. That would leave insurers with too many sick, expensive patients, which would then drive up insurance prices.
The most recent delay is another attempt to placate the law's...Continue reading
“TREACHERY, dissembling, promising, lying, falsehood, etc,” Henry Fielding wrote in 1745, are “summed up in the collective name of policy, of politics, or rather pollitricks.” (*) The latest cyber-tricks politicians are pulling in this year’s congressional races—fake websites that appear to support Democratic candidates (but in fact raise funds for Republicans)—would not have caught the English satirist by surprise. Nor would they disturb Machiavelli’s slumber. But these phony websites do raise a few important questions.
The first is legal. In Continue reading
I have recently written a 172-page manuscript, inspired by several tweetstreams. Not sure whether or not it was a single tweet or something else that got me going, but get me going it did! I am, in short, appalled by most of the “change management” literature. In a word, it’s 99% (or so it feels) […]
MY colleague is absolutely right that the new CBO report about the Affordable Care Act, or Obamacare, is bad for Democrats. That is chiefly because the CBO's estimation that the law will ultimately cut the total number of hours worked played into the Republican claim that Obamacare "destroys jobs". This is extremely misleading, as my other colleague (along with Josh Barro, Jordan Weissman, Brian Beutler, Matthew Yglesias, Continue reading
INEQUALITY is on the rise, but the poor have not been rising up against it. Recent posts here disagree about why they are so quiet. W.W. argues that the poor aren’t bothered by inequality because they already have decent access to consumer goods, and the extra money the rich have doesn’t make them that much better off. Once one has an ordinary refrigerator, he writes, the added value of a luxury brand is not that great. W.W. is appealing to the familiar idea that the marginal utility of an extra dollar declines with income. As a general matter this is surely correct.
Yet we must ask: at what point does the marginal utility of income get so small that it’s not worth complaining about the fact that 95% of economic growth has gone to the top 1% since the end of the recession, while median income for non-elderly households has Continue reading
FOR all the progress women have experienced in the workplace, these are dark days for female journalists. This, at least, is the verdict of several recent articles on the subject. Writing in Slate, Amanda Hess presented figures showing that most female journalists have been harshly treated at work, but few speak up about it. Another article, also by Ms Hess, was about how she had been stalked by a horrid cyber-nut, and it included similar stories by other women. The third piece, by Amy Wallace in the New York Times, looked at the way women journalists tend to be singled out for sexualised taunting.
These articles are full of grim anecdotes. Yet there is little statistical evidence to support the view that female journalists...Continue reading
LAST night I attended the much-heralded debate over evolution between Ken Ham, a young-earth creationist who believes the earth is just 6,000 years old, and Bill Nye, a mechanical engineer who hosts "Bill Nye the Science Guy", a popular television programme for children (not this guy). The question under debate was "Is creation a viable model of origins in today's modern scientific era?" The setting was an auditorium at Mr Ham's Creation Museum, which is dedicated to his young-earth view, and shows dinosaurs cavorting among people, Noah shepherding animals onto his ark, and so forth. Despite the venue, the audience was noisy with Darwinists (judging by applause level and the smattering of bow-ties—a sartorial tribute to Mr Nye's trademark look).
Broadly speaking, creationists are Continue reading
A COUPLE of weeks back Tom Perkins, a successful venture capitalist, wrote a letter to the Wall Street Journal in which he "call[ed] attention to the parallels of fascist Nazi Germany to its war on its 'one percent,' namely its Jews, to the progressive war on the American one percent, namely the 'rich'." The letter ended by asking, "Kristallnacht was unthinkable in 1930; is its descendant 'progressive' radicalism unthinkable now?"
Mr Perkins was roundly and rightly pilloried for his reference to Kristallnacht—a two-day long riot in Germany and Austria in 1938 that saw thousands of synagogues and Jewish-owned businesses destroyed, as well as 91 Jews killed and 30,000 Jews rounded up and shipped off to concentration camps. Mr Perkins Continue reading
An old topic from me. Yet always new. That is, ripe for improvement or at least monitoring. Namely “A Bias For Action.” The #1 of eight “Basics of Excellence” from In Search of Excellence in 1982. And even more important today as the pace of change accelerates. This is less about “ideas to implement” than […]
THE Affordable Care Act, better known as Obamacare, was supposed to transform American health insurance. Critics have long feared that it would do much more. Republicans have cast Obamacare as a job-killing, economy-crushing villain. Democrats have brushed them off, exalting the law as a blessing to American industry. On February 4th this fiery debate was doused with reason, in the form of a 182-page report from the Congressional Budget Office (CBO). The new data are devastating to Democrats.
The CBO, the government’s nonpartisan number-cruncher, included the figures in its projection of economic growth over the next decade. The CBO estimates that Obamacare will lower full-time employment by 2.3m in 2021, compared with what might have been without reform. That 2.3m drop is nearly three times larger than the CBO’s earlier projection.
The CBO does not give credence to Republicans’ common claim that Obamacare is already reducing employment....Continue reading
THE chasm between the salaries of chief executives and the wages of rank-and-file workers has been growing steadily over the past few decades. Egalitarians are right to highlight this trend as a factor in the well-reported surge of wealth inequality in America. But ideas for narrowing the gap have been scarce. So it was with cautious optimism that I turned to Douglas Smith’s op-ed piece in Monday’s New York Times, “A New Way to Rein in Fat Cats”. Unfortunately, his proposal is a study in botched logic.
For Mr Smith, it is not enough for President Obama to raise the minimum wage for employees of federal contractors. He suggests there should be a cap—or "maximum wage"—on how much...Continue reading
"WHY didn't anyone lock her up?" snarls the protagonist of Caleb Crain's novel "Necessary Errors", on hearing that a friend, a talented poet, has committed suicide on her second attempt. Told that involuntary commitment is not always so easy, his anger turns towards public policy: "It should be."
Like many people, I reacted to the death of Philip Seymour Hoffman by heroin overdose with a similar sense of unfocused outrage, as though we had just been insulted by the universe. Mr Hoffman was among the best of a generation of actors who over the past two decades have become so good, and have undertaken such challenging and surprising projects, that they seemed to be ripping open unconsidered elements of the human experience with each new film. From "Happiness" to "The Master", his characters were simultaneously self-hating and authoritative, sadistic and compassionate; he was a Generation-X Orson Welles, but with less ego and a...Continue reading
IMMIGRATION reform was dead. Then it roared back to life. Then it fell into a deep sleep. And now it may have been roused again by the tender mercies of John Boehner and other senior House Republicans.
It is far from clear that the "Standards for immigration reform" that Mr Boehner circulated to his members yesterday will lead to a bill in the House of Representatives (the Senate passed its own bill last summer, but that appears to be dead). Some Republicans will reject anything that offers a clear alternative to the mass deportation...Continue reading
THE joy of a Scarlett Johansson performance lies in watching her vacillate evasively in the face of grave alternatives, sensing all the while, with delicious dread, that she will ultimately make the wrong choice. In "Match Point" we see her alternately provoke and resist Jonathan Rhys Meyers' adulterous craving for her, then helplessly give in. In "Vicky Cristina Barcelona" we watch her scattered quest for self-actualisation draw her step by step into a psychotic menage a trois with Javier Bardem* and Penelope Cruz. Ms Johansson projects a seductive combination of cleverness, empathy and poor appetite control; the characters who get involved with her already suspect they're in for a wild, shamefully enjoyable, probably disastrous ride, at the end of which they will have learned things about themselves they wish they didn't know. Her latest love triangle, pitting Oxfam, an international charity, against SodaStream, an Israeli home soda-machine company, has ended with Ms Johansson in the arms of the Israelis, and...Continue reading