Fund Your Utopia Without Me.™

16 February 2013

Perform Criminal Background Checks at Your Peril



 image

A federal policy intended to help minorities is likely to have the opposite effect.



By James Bovard

Should it be a federal crime for businesses to refuse to hire ex-convicts? Yes, according to the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, which recently released 20,000 convoluted words of regulatory "guidance" to direct businesses to hire more felons and other ex-offenders.

In the late 1970s, the EEOC began stretching Title VII of the 1964 Civil Rights Act to sue businesses for practically any hiring practice that adversely affected minorities. In 1989, the agency sued Carolina Freight Carrier Corp. of Hollywood, Fla., for refusing to hire as a truck driver a Hispanic man who had multiple arrests and had served 18 months in prison for larceny. The EEOC argued that the only legitimate qualification for the job was the ability to operate a tractor trailer.

U.S. District Judge Jose Alejandro Gonzalez Jr., in ruling against the agency, said: "EEOC's position that minorities should be held to lower standards is an insult to millions of honest Hispanics. Obviously a rule refusing honest employment to convicted applicants is going to have a disparate impact upon thieves."

The EEOC ignored that judicial thrashing and pressed on. Last April, the agency unveiled its "Enforcement Guidance on the Consideration of arrest and Conviction Records in Employment Decisions," declaring that "criminal record exclusions have a disparate impact based on race and national origin."

Though blacks make up only 13% of the U.S. population, more blacks were arrested nationwide for robbery, murder and manslaughter in 2009 than whites, according to the FBI. The imprisonment rate for black men "was nearly 7 times higher than White men and almost 3 times higher than Hispanic men," notes the EEOC. These statistical disparities inspired the EEOC to rewrite the corporate hiring handbook to level the playing field between "protected groups" and the rest of the workforce.

Most businesses perform criminal background checks on job applicants, but the EEOC guidance frowns on such checks and creates new legal tripwires that could spark federal lawsuits. One EEOC commissioner who opposed the new policy, Constance Barker, warned in April that "the only real impact the new Guidance will have will be to scare business owners from ever conducting criminal background checks. . . . The Guidance tells them that they are taking a tremendous risk if they do."

If a background check discloses a criminal offense, the EEOC expects a company to do an intricate "individualized assessment" that will somehow prove that it has a "business necessity" not to hire the ex-offender (or that his offense disqualifies him for a specific job). Former EEOC General Counsel Donald Livingston, in testimony in December to the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights, warned that employers could be considered guilty of "race discrimination if they choose law abiding applicants over applicants with criminal convictions" unless they conduct a comprehensive analysis of the ex-offender's recent life history.

It is difficult to overstate the EEOC's zealotry on this issue. The agency is demanding that one of Mr. Livingston's clients—the Freeman Companies, a convention and corporate events planner—pay compensation to rejected job applicants who lied about their criminal records.

The biggest bombshell in the new guidelines is that businesses complying with state or local laws that require employee background checks can still be targeted for EEOC lawsuits. This is a key issue in a case the EEOC commenced in 2010 against G4S Secure Solutions after the company refused to hire a twice-convicted Pennsylvania thief as a security guard.

G4S provides guards for nuclear power plants, chemical plants, government buildings and other sensitive sites, and it is prohibited by state law from hiring people with felony convictions as security officers. But, as G4S counsel Julie Payne testified before the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights this past December, the EEOC insists "that state and local laws are pre-empted by Title VII" and is pressuring the company "to defend the use of background checks in every hiring decision we have made over a period of decades."

The EEOC's new regime leaves businesses in a Catch-22. As Todd McCracken of the National Small Business Association recently warned: "State and federal courts will allow potentially devastating tort lawsuits against businesses that hire felons who commit crimes at the workplace or in customers' homes. Yet the EEOC is threatening to launch lawsuits if they do not hire those same felons."

At the same time that the EEOC is practically rewriting the law to add "criminal offender" to the list of protected groups under civil-rights statutes, the agency refuses to disclose whether it uses criminal background checks for its own hiring. When EEOC Assistant Legal Counsel Carol Miaskoff was challenged on this point in a recent federal case in Maryland, the agency insisted that revealing its hiring policies would violate the "governmental deliberative process privilege."

The EEOC is confident that its guidance will boost minority hiring, but studies published in the University of Chicago Legal Forum and the Journal of Law and Economics have found that businesses are much less likely to hire minority applicants when background checks are banned. As the majority of black and Hispanic job applicants have clean legal records, the new EEOC mandate may harm the very groups it purports to help.

Naturally, the EEOC will have no liability for any workplace trouble that results from its new hiring policy. But Americans can treat ex-offenders humanely without giving them legal advantages over similar individuals without criminal records. The EEOC's new regulatory regime is likely to chill hiring across the board and decrease opportunities for minority applicants. 




Obama Has No Answers for Skyrocketing Murder Rate in Chicago


M2RB:  Chicago







"Saturday...in the park...I think it was the Fourth of July..."
No, you're confused.  It was just a drive-by.





The president treads lightly on his former Chief of Staff's turf.





By Rick Moran

President Obama was in Chicago on Friday to talk about gun violence and push his domestic agenda. He was introduced at Hyde Park Academy, a high school about a mile from his home, by Chicago’s Mayor Rahm Emanuel, who has seen his city’s murder rate climb to heights not experienced in a generation.

More than 500 people were murdered in Chicago in 2012. Desperate to avoid blame for his policing policies that some experts believe have contributed to the killings, Emanuel has taken up the president’s call for more gun control with the fervor of a true believer. His extortionate tactics in trying to get banks to stop lending to gun makers unless they support “common sense” gun control is only the most recent of his efforts to shift blame from his own shoulders and place it squarely on those who buy, sell, and manufacture firearms.

But the president’s speech, where even he admitted “no law or set of laws can prevent every senseless act of violence,” was devoid of any proposals to address the problem. He even failed to mention the assault weapons ban. And giving a surreal touch to the proceedings, he told the audience:

[L]ast year there were 443 murders with a firearm on the streets of this city, and 65 of those victims were 18 and under. So that’s the equivalent of a Newtown every four months. And that’s precisely why the overwhelming majority of Americans are asking for some common-sense proposals to make it harder for criminals to get their hands on a gun.

[97% of Chicago’s gun-related murders last year were committed with HANDGUNS, not “assault weapons.  Further, according to the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, and Firearms, 93% of all guns used in criminal activities are acquired ILLEGALLY, i.e., on the street or through theft. - SoRo]

Never mind that the Newtown shooter wasn’t a criminal. And bare majorities support the assault weapons ban — the major focus of his gun control proposals. The tragedy of gun violence in Chicago has nothing whatsoever to do with Newtown. It has a lot more to do with policing policies that pulled officers out of high crime areas and cutting the police budget by reducing the number of officers. One can’t really say that the massive increase in murders was completely preventable. But the effort Emanuel is making to escape blame for the problem makes one think even he knows his policies have dramatically failed.

And in Chicago, forget about “criminals” getting their hands on guns. The city’s draconian gun control laws ensnare more law abiding citizens than law breakers:

A 55-year-old woman who works as a researcher at the University of Illinois at Chicago was jailed this week for bringing a pistol — licensed, unloaded and in a case – to her office.

The woman, who also holds an “Illinois firearm owners registration card,” told Chicago police that she had brought the handgun, recently purchased for home defense, to her workplace because she did not want to leave it at her residence while a work crew was there doing a renovation project.

But Chicago has perhaps the toughest gun laws in the nation and carrying the weapon, even without ammunition, is a serious offense.

A co-worker spotted the pistol case and called police who came and snatched up the information specialist from her workplace. The Chicago Tribune reports that the woman was held on $25,000 bond pending trial and placed on leave by the university.

The woman was released on $25,000 bail and awaits trial. And Emanuel can put another notch in his belt for taking a dangerous gun scofflaw off the streets.

Obama tried to tie his economic policy to reducing gun violence:

“If a child grows up with parents who have work, and have some education, and can be role models, and can teach integrity and responsibility, and discipline and delayed gratification — all those things give a child the kind of foundation that allows them to say, ‘my future, I can make it what I want,’” he said.

It is proper that the president point out that there is more to reducing violence than policing and gun control. But the president is addressing students living in an area where single mothers dominate and ideals like responsibility, delayed gratification, and discipline are virtually unknown.

There has been some buzz about Emanuel running for president in 2016. It probably isn’t in the cards. The mayor may want to be president, but one Chicago Machine pol in a lifetime is all the country can handle.



Morning Joe Scalds The Ferret


Ordinarily, I usually avoid the cognitive dissonance of Joe Scarborough, but even a blind squirrel finds The Ferret occasionally...




   
I would like to believe that Paul’s “Morning Joe” routine was simply an attempt to be provocative and bring to camera the ideological Vaudeville act that he performs daily on his hilariously entitled New York Times blog. This is where Krugman flails about at windmills while professing his omnipotence daily, in between stints as a serious economist.


By Joe Scarborough

America's fiscal predicament is serious. The problem has become obvious in the last few years, but it has been building for decades, largely the result of promises of extensive social benefits without a corresponding willingness to pay for them.

Investors may be growing skittish about U.S. government debt levels and the disordered state of U.S. fiscal policymaking.

From the beginning of 2002, when U.S. government debt was at its most recent minimum as a share of GDP, to the end of 2012, the dollar lost 25 percent of its value, in price-adjusted terms, against a basket of the currencies of major trading partners. This may have been because investors fear that the only way out of the current debt problems will be future inflation.

More troubling for the future is that private domestic investment—the fuel for future economic growth—shows a strong negative correlation with government debt levels over several business cycles dating back to the late 1950s. Continuing high debt does not bode well in this regard.

As the biggest economy in the world, America has a lot to say about how the world works. But the economics profession is beginning to understand that high levels of public debt can slow economic growth, especially when gross general government debt rises above 85 or 90 percent of GDP.

The United States crossed that threshold in 2009, and the negative effects are probably mostly out in the future. These will come at a bad time. The U.S. share of global economic output has been falling since 1999—by nearly 5 percentage points as of 2011. As America's GDP share declined, so did its share of world trade, which may reduce U.S. influence in setting the rules for international trade.

Putting U.S. government financing on a sustainable path will require painful adjustments over a number of years—increased government revenue and painful reductions in government outlays, almost certainly including outlays for defense and international affairs. During the necessary period of fiscal adjustment and constrained government resources, U.S. international influence may decline yet further.

If you believe that I am wrong and Paul Krugman is right, if you disagree that America's debt crisis is serious today, that it is draining American soft power globally, that it is devaluing the dollar, that it is undermining our influence with international trading partners, that painful adjustments in government outlays will be necessary, and that we cannot afford to wait until 2025 to worry about Medicare and other drivers of U.S. debt, then take it up with the RAND Corporation, whose senior economist wrote everything you have read here other than this concluding paragraph. The debt crisis is real and waiting another decade to fix it is not an option. Anyone who suggests it is operates well outside the mainstream of where serious economists reside.

Later...
 

Paul Krugman is a frustrated man — a Cassandra whose wise warnings are regularly ignored by fellow economists, policy experts and political leaders alike. This past week has been especially difficult for the Nobel Prize winner, who like Sisyphus, must continue to push back against the ignorant fools who dismiss his debt-denying ways as reckless.

Mr. Krugman came on “Morning Joe” and declared that Washington needn’t worry about its long-term debt problem until the moment that programs like Medicare begin melting down.

“If we are worried about health care costs in the year 2025, why do we have to worry about it now?” asked The New York Times columnist. It is a question regarding our looming entitlement crisis that is every bit as ridiculous as a healthy 50-year-old man asking why he should bother buying life insurance.

Paul Krugman justified this indefensible position by saying that since Washington politicians are too stupid to walk and chew gum at the same time, they are incapable of running short-term deficits while worrying about long-term debt.

The Krugman solution? Simply ignore America’s long-term debt.

That reckless conclusion shocked even the hardiest of Keynesians on the “Morning Joe” set last week. President Barack Obama’s car czar, Steve Rattner, described Krugman’s views as dangerous. Columbia University economist Jeffrey Sachs concurred, saying Krugman’s views were reckless, Democratic leader Ed Rendell politely explained to our guest that investment and debt control were not mutually exclusive, and Council on Foreign Relations President Richard Haass dismissed this form of debt-denial as deeply irresponsible.

Mr. Krugman responded to the flurry of criticism he received by excoriating “in-crowd” types like “Joe Scarborough, Erskine Bowles and Pete Peterson,” (and anyone else who disagreed with him) as members of an incestuous clique populated by shallow simpletons who draw their economic conclusions based on hearsay instead of rigorous study and hard data.

Unfortunately for the self-consumed professor, his latest lurch left has created an entirely new collection of critics that are a far cry from the right-wing straw men that he usually sets up to knock down. Instead, Krugman’s extreme view that Washington should ignore long-term debt until the bottom falls out of entitlements now places him at odds with liberal Keynesians as well as conservative Republicans.

I would like to believe that Paul’s “Morning Joe” routine was simply an attempt to be provocative and bring to camera the ideological Vaudeville act that he performs daily on his hilariously entitled New York Times blog. This is where Krugman flails about at windmills while professing his omnipotence daily, in between stints as a serious economist.

Krugman doubled down on that act this week, posting four blogs addressing his one “Morning Joe” segment. In those posts, he characterized me as an angry deficit scold who accused him of being outside the mainstream of economic thought.

That charge is only half right.

Krugman’s views on long-term debt are, in fact, wildly outside mainstream economic thought. But he is wrong in saying that his interview made me angry. Watch it here and see how I was polite, engaged and entertained by the preposterousness of his debt-denying logic. Far from being angered, I found the interview to be one of my favorites of the year. He is welcome back anytime. 

Unfortunately, Paul Krugman and his merry band of bloggers were not as excited by the “Morning Joe” appearance, as they rushed to their laptops to launch a ham-fisted defense of debt denial. Krugman’s apostles then proceeded to mischaracterize his critics and reframe the debate. 

Bloggers from The Washington Post, Business Insider and New York Magazine all wrote posts accusing Paul Krugman’s critics of being ignorant of basic economics. All three then proceeded to embarrass themselves by mixing up the most basic concepts of economics by repeatedly confusing the terms “deficits” and “debt.” 

The Washington Post’s Greg Sargent at least circled back to write a follow-up post that bothered to accurately reflect the views I have been repeating every morning for five years now. But the same could not be said of a fabulously misleading Business Insider post that claimed to list 11 economists who shared Krugman’s debt-denying views. Never mind the fact that most of the links provided actually undercut Krugman’s reckless position and supported my view that the most pressing fiscal crisis is not next year’s deficit but next decade’s debt. 

The Business Insider link to an Alan Blinder piece was particularly supportive of the “Morning Joe” panel’s view. Blinder, a former Fed vice chairman and Princeton economics professor, warned of “truly horrific problems” caused by long-term debt, health care costs and interest on the debt. Paul Krugman’s Princeton colleague even shared my conclusion that the coming Medicare crisis will be so great that Democrats won’t be able to tax their way out of it. 

Far from supporting Mr. Krugman’s extreme position, the link to Professor Blinder’s New Yorker article undercuts his Princeton colleague’s exaggerated “In-the-end-we’ll-all-be-dead” approach to U.S. long-term debt. 

After watching his debt-denying performance on “Morning Joe,” one wonders whether Paul Krugman will be as haughty and dismissive of his fellow Princeton economics professor as he is of all who disagree with his marginalized position. One hopes he instead does something that Mr. Krugman hates to do: just admit that he was wrong. 

I won’t hold my breath.



 

Nowhere To Run To, Baby: Key Democrats Turn on Obamacare


M2RB:  Martha & The Vandellas





Nowhere to run to, baby
Nowhere to hide
Got nowhere to run to, baby
Nowhere to hide

It's not love
I'm running from
It's the heartaches
That I know will come




By Walter Russell Mead


Powerful Democrats who helped write and pass Obamacare subjected the new law’s chief  administrator to withering criticism at a Senate hearing yesterday. Gary Cohen, the director of the Center for Consumer Information and Insurance Oversight, testified before the Senate Finance Committee, and the Democrats on the committee—from its Chairman Max Baucus to Senators Ron Wyden, Bill Nelson, and Maria Cantwell—tore into him. Kaiser Health News has more:


Wyden pressed Cohen to help find ways to resolve a glitch in the law which may result in the denial of federal assistance to millions of Americans of modest means who could be priced out of family health coverage at work….

“We’ve got millions of people—working-class, middle-class people—who are going to be pushed into a regulatory health coverage no man’s land,” Wyden said. “They are unable to afford the family coverage through their employer and ineligible for the subsidy that could be used by dependents on the exchange.”


And that’s just one senator. Each had his or her own complaints about different parts of the law’s implementation, from its elimination of funding for insurance co-operatives to the failure to meet important deadlines. The criticisms came fast and furious:


“You are overwhelmed by the details and technology, I get that point…. It seems as if the agency is taking pages out of the law,” she [Cantwell] said….

“The people of Florida are going to suffer,” he [Nelson] told Cohen. “I want someone to be held accountable for this.”


The about-face of these Democrats is a phenomenon worth pausing over. Many formerly supportive constituencies have grown wary of Obamacare in recent weeks as we’ve learned more about the effects it will have on the health care system. But these Senators’ 180-degree turns are something more severe.

The fate of the Democratic party in America over the next decade is tied to Obama’s healthcare reform. If it is seen to be a success, America could trend Democratic for the foreseeable future. If it fails, liberalism as we’ve known it will take a massive hit. But, so far, support for Obamacare has been waning instead of waxing. Even a recent piece by Talking Points Memo that placed the blame for Obamacare’s potential failure on Republicans noted that the law’s unpopularity with the public at large was the number one threat to its success. Democrats are getting nervous and consequently are trying to put some distance between themselves and the ACA.

We don’t blame them for trying, but it may be a futile effort. For better or worse, their fates are now tied to that of Obamacare.




Nowhere To Run To, Baby - Martha & The Vandellas

Nowhere to run to, baby
Nowhere to hide
Got nowhere to run to, baby
Nowhere to hide

It's not love
I'm running from
It's the heartaches
That I know will come

'Cause I know
You're no good for me
But you`ve become
A part of me

Everywhere I go
Your face I see
Every step I take
You take with me, yeah

Nowhere to run to, baby
Nowhere to hide
Got nowhere to run to, baby
Nowhere to hide

I know you're
No good for me
But free of you
I'll never be, no

Each night as I sleep
Into my heart you creep
I wake up feeling sorry I met you
Hoping soon that I'll forget you

When I look in the mirror
And comb my hair
I see your face
Just a-smiling there

Nowhere to run
Nowhere to hide
Got nowhere to run to, baby
Nowhere to hide

I know you're
No good for me
But you've become
A part of me

How can I fight a lover
That's sugar sweet
When it's so deep, so deep
Deep inside of me

My love reaches so high
I can't get over it
It's so wide
I can't get around it, no

Nowhere to run
Nowhere to hide
From you, baby
Just can't get away
No matter how I try

I know you're no good for me
But free of you I'll never be

Nowhere to run to, baby
Nowhere to hide
Got nowhere to run to, baby
Nowhere to hide
Got nowhere to run
Got nowhere to run