Saturday, November 11, 2006

Michigan Voters Say No To Affirmative Action

What happens when the Law of Unintended Consequences is fulfilled?

Affirmative Action, the offspring of the 1964 Civil Rights Act, once meant efforts to help America's Black minority achieve a substantial economic footing after centuries of abuse and discrimination. Initial efforts were intended to address overt roadblocks and covert hindrances. Scholarships, jobs, loans, support programs, and the like were established to address economic problems. Black coalitions were encouraged and established to create a political presence that was effective and representative. Companies created affirmative action programs to mentor Black trainees whose background was deficient in business skills.

While there was resistance, there was acceptance. Something had to be done to redress wrongs and help a significant segment of our population to truly integrate with the rest of society.

Then some strange mutations began, most notably that women were covered by the efforts. While not a "minority" in a population sense, women were now considered an oppressed segment because they were "under-represented" in business, average income levels, education, sports, and on and on. So legal action (Title VII) addressed that. If men had it; women should have it, too. Simple enough.

But then the courts began to find a pervasive discrimination in everything everywhere. So, the only "logical" way to address that was to move beyond prohibiting discrimination to creating outright preferences for Blacks and women... a "temporary" fix until everything was the way it should be. Businesses went from discrimination to non-discriminatory hiring and mentoring to "diversity programs". Universities created different and lower admission standards to increase "diversity." Governments required "representation" in police and fire departments at the executive and supervisory levels.

And a strange thing happened: white males began to make noises about "reverse discrimination." It didn't matter if you were the best qualified; you weren't "diverse." There were statistics to fix.

But government and business and education had bought into "diversity" programs so this temporary adjustment period had to go on... even if it did hurt some white males who had all of the other advantages... even the poor, white males.

Then something stranger happened: a young woman was denied entrance to the University of Michigan law school even though her academic credentials were superior to a Black student who was selected. Wait a minute!!!! This wasn't fair! Women were under-represented in law school, too! Well, sorry miss, a choice had to be made between oppressed groups and your group lost. Race trumped all.

Let's cut to the chase. This woman became the poster child for what was perceived as the civil wrongs of Civil Rights. A law intended to eliminate racial discrimination had become the basis for blatant racial discrimination. The law of unintended consequences was fulfilled.

A "diverse" and unlikely group became the core of an effort to get a proposal on the Michigan ballot that would direct the State to amend its Constitution to:

  • Ban public institutions from using affirmative action programs that give preferential treatment to groups or individuals based on their race, gender, color, ethnicity, or national origin for public employment, education or contracting purposes. Public institutions affected by the proposal include state government, local governments, public colleges and universities, community colleges and school districts
  • Prohibit public institutions from discriminating against groups or individuals due to their gender, ethnicity, race, color or national origin. (A separate provision of the state constitution already prohibits discrimination on the basis of race, color or national origin.)
The response from business, media, government and educational leaders was immediate and harsh. This was WRONG!

But when November 7 came and went, the voters... 2 to 1... said "this is right."

Two years ago I wrote to the president of the University of Michigan about their admissions program. You can read what I wrote here.

There are ways... and there are ways.

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There is always an easy solution to every human problem—neat, plausible, and wrong.
Henry Louis Mencken (1880–1956)
“The Divine Afflatus,” A Mencken Chrestomathy, chapter 25, p. 443 (1949)
... and one could add "not all human problems really are."
It was beautiful and simple, as truly great swindles are.
- O. Henry
... The Government is on course for an embarrassing showdown with the European Union, business groups and environmental charities after refusing to guarantee that billions of pounds of revenue it stands to earn from carbon-permit trading will be spent on combating climate change.
The Independent (UK)

Tracking Interest Rates

Tracking Interest Rates


SEARCH BLOG: FEDERAL RESERVE for full versions... or use the Blog Archive pulldown menu.

February 3, 2006
Go back to 1999-2000 and see what the Fed did. They are following the same pattern for 2005-06. If it ain't broke, the Fed will fix it... and good!
August 29, 2006 The Federal Reserve always acts on old information... and is the only cause of U.S. recessions.
December 5, 2006 Last spring I wrote about what I saw to be a sharp downturn in the economy in the "rustbelt" states, particularly Michigan.
March 28, 2007
The Federal Reserve sees no need to cut interest rates in the light of adverse recent economic data, Ben Bernanke said on Wednesday.
The Fed chairman said ”to date, the incoming data have supported the view that the current stance of policy is likely to foster sustainable economic growth and a gradual ebbing in core inflation”.

July 21, 2007 My guess is that if there is an interest rate change, a cut is more likely than an increase. The key variables to be watching at this point are real estate prices and the inventory of unsold homes.
August 11, 2007 I suspect that within 6 months the Federal Reserve will be forced to lower interest rates before housing becomes a black hole.
September 11, 2007 It only means that the overall process has flaws guaranteeing it will be slow in responding to changes in the economy... and tend to over-react as a result.
September 18, 2007 I think a 4% rate is really what is needed to turn the economy back on the right course. The rate may not get there, but more cuts will be needed with employment rates down and foreclosure rates up.
October 25, 2007 How long will it be before I will be able to write: "The Federal Reserve lowered its lending rate to 4% in response to the collapse of the U.S. housing market and massive numbers of foreclosures that threaten the banking and mortgage sectors."
"Should the elevated turbulence persist, it would increase the possibility of further tightening in financial conditions for households and businesses," he said.

"Uncertainties about the economic outlook are unusually high right now," he said. "These uncertainties require flexible and pragmatic policymaking -- nimble is the adjective I used a few weeks ago."

December 11, 2007 Somehow the Fed misses the obvious.
[Image from:]
December 13, 2007 [from The Christian Science Monitor]
"The odds of a recession are now above 50 percent," says Mark Zandi, chief economist at Moody's "We are right on the edge of a recession in part because of the Fed's reluctance to reduce interest rates more aggressively." [see my comments of September 11]
January 7, 2008 The real problem now is that consumers can't rescue the economy and manufacturing, which is already weakening, will continue to weaken. We've gutted the forces that could avoid a downturn. The question is not whether there will be a recession, but can it be dampened sufficiently so that it is very short.
January 11, 2008 This is death by a thousand cuts.
January 13, 2008 [N.Y. Times]
“The question is not whether we will have a recession, but how deep and prolonged it will be,” said David Rosenberg, the chief North American economist at Merrill Lynch. “Even if the Fed’s moves are going to work, it will not show up until the later part of 2008 or 2009.
January 17, 2008 A few days ago, Anna Schwartz, nonagenarian economist, implicated the Federal Reserve as the cause of the present lending crisis [from the Telegraph - UK]:
The high priestess of US monetarism - a revered figure at the Fed - says the central bank is itself the chief cause of the credit bubble, and now seems stunned as the consequences of its own actions engulf the financial system. "The new group at the Fed is not equal to the problem that faces it," she says, daring to utter a thought that fellow critics mostly utter sotto voce.
January 22, 2008 The cut has become infected and a limb is in danger. Ben Bernanke is panicking and the Fed has its emergency triage team cutting rates... this time by 3/4%. ...

What should the Federal Reserve do now? Step back... and don't be so anxious to raise rates at the first sign of economic improvement.
Individuals and businesses need stability in their financial cost structures so that they can plan effectively and keep their ships afloat. Wildly fluctuating rates... regardless of what the absolute levels are... create problems. Either too much spending or too much fear. It's just not that difficult to comprehend. Why has it been so difficult for the Fed?

About Me

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Michigan, United States
Air Force (SAC) captain 1968-72. Retired after 35 years of business and logistical planning, including running a small business. Two sons with advanced degrees; one with a business and pre-law degree. Beautiful wife who has put up with me for 4 decades. Education: B.A. (Sociology major; minors in philosopy, English literature, and German) M.S. Operations Management (like a mixture of an MBA with logistical planning)