August 21, 2015
August 13, 2015
As hostility to religious practice grows in the military grows, depression and suicide rates are simultaneously reaching new heights. No secular course or counseling session can offer the consolation that religious practice provides. Furthermore it is free. If military commanders sincerely desire to improve the mental well-being of our country’s soldiers, they will not only allow our armed forces to freely worship God, but will even encourage it.
July 31, 2015
The Annie E. Casey Foundation (AECF) recently released its 2015 edition of Kids Count. This important annual study examines how the well-being of children changed between 2008 and 2013 in four areas: economic well-being, education, health, and family and community. To get a fuller picture of child well-being, MARRI believes one must include family structure.
- Kids Count 2015 shows numerous improvements in child well-being over the last five years, especially in education (reading and math proficiency) and health (declines in teen drug abuse and teen deaths). While these improvements are welcome news, the report also reported several declines.The portion of children in poverty and of children whose parents lack secure employment increased by 4% between 2008 and 2013.
- The proportion of children living in single-parent homes increased from 32% in 2008 to 35% in 2013.
- In 2013, 34% of children in single-parent families were living in poverty verses 11% of children from married families.
For children, the first aspect of well-being is their family and whether it is intact or not. Nothing shapes a child’s destiny as does her family. MARRI research has shown that children raised in single-parent families, as opposed to intact married families, are less likely to receive a high school degree. Likewise, children who experience parental divorce or separation are more likely to have health problems than those in intact married families. Those who grow up in non-intact married families are much more likely to be divorced or separated as adults than those who grew up in intact married families. And children from married, two parent families experience greater economic well-being than children raised in any other family structure, as the AECF report previously cited demonstrates.
Kids Count concludes, “With the right investments, we can provide all families and children with the opportunity to reach their full potential and, in the process, strengthen both our economy and our nation.” MARRI suggests that the most needed investment, for every child, is an always-intact married family.
July 23, 2015
The academic corruption MARRI previously described is not limited to same-sex marriage data: it is also present in abortion research. Studies repeatedly show that abortion inflicts mental and physical damage upon a sizeable proportion of women. Nevertheless, the American Psychological Association (APA) and similar professional organizations have refused to acknowledge this research, instead opting to cherry pick studies that support their pro-abortion policy agenda. Such an agenda is expected of Planned Parenthood; however, social science organizations are expected to serve the nation through a dispassionate search for the truth, letting the data do the talking.
The academy’s resistant response to David Fergusson’s research on the effects of abortion on mental health shows the distorting effects of abandoning scientific charter. Fergusson, who followed women over a 30-year period and controlled for over 30 variables, found that abortion can increase the risk of mental disorders. Fergusson, himself “pro-choice,” was already a much published and eminent researcher by the time of his first foray into the abortion field. He commented, “We went to four journals, which is very unusual for us – we normally get accepted the first time… I’m pro-choice but I’ve produced results which, if anything, favor a pro-life viewpoint… It’s obvious I’m not acting out of any agenda except to do reasonable science about a difficult problem.” He is a true scientist.
In 2008, in an attempt to dismiss a significant number of studies confirming abortion’s link to mental disorders, the American Psychological Association assembled a “Special Task Force” of pro-abortion researchers to evaluate the evidence. To reach their pre-determined conclusion, researchers violated many scientific standards. When questioned, lead author of the Task Force was unwilling to release the data for re-analysis because “It would be very difficult to pull this information together.” Despite these shortcomings, academia holds the APA report as the gold standard of research in this field.
Similar biases have marginalized research on the effect of abortion on physical health. For instance, advances in molecular breast biology and epidemiological studies have repeatedly found a link between abortion and breast cancer. After reviewing and synthesizing the existing research in this field, MARRI concluded that induced abortion is an independent risk factor for breast cancer. Still the National Cancer Institute refuses to acknowledge this clear evidence.
These professional organizations are expected to be “guardians of scientific standards,” and claim to be so. But by deliberately pursuing the academically corrupt practice of cherry picking data, they become agenda-driven organizations that conceal the truth about how women and their unborn babies are affected.
For example, the academy’s failure to publish research evenhandedly on abortion has made it much easier for Planned Parenthood to use women for their own monetary gain. Recently, the Center for Medical Progress released a video in which senior physicians of Planned Parenthood admit to performing abortions in the manner that most efficiently delivers the most profitable tissue/ organs, which are later sold. While haggling prices with potential tissue buyers, Dr. Mary Gatter, President of the Medical Directors’ Council of Planned Parenthood, laughed, “I want a Lamborghini!” It seems many directors of abortion centers treat the women coming to them as business opportunities for the extraction of the fetal body parts that they carry within them, rather than as vulnerable human beings. Needless to say, providing women with the best research-based information on the mental and physical risks associated with abortion would jeopardize Planned Parenthood’s access to these body parts.
Planned Parenthood has no incentive to tell women the truth about the risks of abortion, while academic organizations like the APA refuse to acknowledge robust social science data revealing these risks. They are both complicit in a collusion of silence. Compassionate care for women involves fully informing them about the procedures they undergo and the effects of those procedures; dispassionate social science begins with an objective evaluation of data and subsequent reporting of robust research. At this stage, sadly, the APA cannot be trusted to abide by these basic expectations. That is an abortion of the role of the social sciences.
July 17, 2015
By Henry Potrykus
The Federal Reserve Bank of Atlanta published an important paper a little while ago on “The Implications of a Graying Japan for Government Policy.” The title rather understates demographics’ fiscal gravity. The analysis within the paper does a better job. Here I relate the findings to those of us here in the West in a four-part development: ‘context,’ ‘strengths,’ ‘weaknesses,’ and ‘implications.’ You might want to skip down to “implications” if you just want the highlights. The ‘context’ to follow also makes for relatively easy reading. ‘Strengths’ and ‘weaknesses’ will not be for everyone. They contain economics, which is a practical necessity – the paper is on economics.
Japan is not the United States. Critically, Japan did not have a post-war baby boom. Instead, its realized family size was high just before the War. This is the main way in which Japan is a forerunning first-world economy. Germany and other Western European countries will follow Japan’s demographics, and then we’ll have our own run of it.
Japan had exceptionally strong trade surpluses (Current Account surpluses; like Germany does). Remember worrying about Japan owning the US? Worry about that anymore? Even more important than that penchant for over-seas saving (which is being cashed-in on), is that Japan controls its own debt: Japanese savers (future retirees) buy Japanese paper.
Thus, as a demographics “policy experiment,” Japan might be considered an ideal case: The fiscal picture – issuance and redemption of bonds; payout of pensions; and the whole fiscal balance sheet – is centrally manageable. I am sure there are benefits to the US having the reserve currency of the world. Control over federal bond auctions is not one of them. (A lot of swaps have to be written between a lot of interested parties to “control” that market.)
Watching Tsunami footage also shows one how unified Japan is in caring for its elderly. (In this case that means watching 60 year-olds take care of 80 year-olds.) So, again – Japan has a relatively manageable problem. By way of comparison, Western states see incipient riots over public pension changes.
Perhaps that’s not a perfectly fair comparison, but, in one way, Japan’s problem is more urgent; in another, it is less so. In the latter sense, Japan may just be able to smoothly reallocate and reduce its population’s consumption and so avert Argentina-like fiscal crises. There is more on this in the ‘implications’ section.
With this paper, finally, economists get demographics. The paper models populations moving through the life cycle. Cohorts are born, grow up, get to working, retire, and die.
It should be obvious that when one wants to understand the fiscal picture of a state, enumerating aging populations is required: The picture for entitlements (think Social Security and Medicare; Japan has its analogs) is determined by whom you tax (workers) and who receives remittances (retirees, who, except in special circumstances, have not yet died). The fiscal picture for welfare states (like our own) is driven by their entitlements. This holds especially for Japan. (Allow me to throw our generous poverty programs in here, and the statement becomes general, and air-tight.)
Another “strength” is the simplicity and constancy by which the modelers treat the Japanese credit markets. This will be controversial to some (in particular, the public behaves “non-Ricardian”). What I find important is that interest rate spreads are held constant. Rate spikes (“runs”) that might take place – perhaps at any time – are not considered. (See below for other credit events.) In this sense, the central bank helps the government manage its debt burden well.
Many economists will find the dynamic model, with its perfect foresight, etc., to be a strength of the paper’s analysis framework. You say strength, I say assumption. Certainly it is good to attempt to model how people will shift their behaviors (“dynamically”) to changes in government policy like pension generosity and tax increase. Without further comment, let’s just say, “how do you know, quantitatively?”
Two quantitative parts of the analysis that are real, powerful factors in determining future fiscal economics are the rate of productivity growth (“total factor” productivity of the macro economy, irrespective of capital or labor contribution) and the fertility rate (rate of growth of the population).
The analysts treat the first term optimistically. I am being generous here (as they are, to Japan): Japan had a “lost decade” in the 1990s, and the hoped-for productivity recovery didn’t materialize in the 2000s. I link this phenomenon to demographics in “Decline of Economic Growth: Human Capital and Population Change.” (The term “total factor” means, precisely, that it is not so-linked in other analyses. The present analysis’ real departure is more subtle, however, again, because this work gets demographics “right.”) So, then, Japan has had two lost decades.
Productivity (irrespective of capital and labor) is especially important in systems where capital is crowded-out by an all-consuming public sector (trust for a little while that I am not being alarmist here; we’ll return to it as we go into ‘implications’ below), and labor declines (a demographic hole).
So, optimistic views of productivity can help us gloss-over public-sector rapacity and labor collapse. In other work I [and others] analyze on how labor collapse can be the harbinger of economic depression. Other think tanks have spilt plenty of ink on public-sector encroachment. Maybe I should weigh-in myself sometime.
If the first term is treated optimistically, the second term is treated fancifully. Japan will rediscover its lost desire to have families, we are told. Now, Japanese sociology deserves its own study, which I haven’t done yet! But, closer to home, there are plenty of sociologically compelling reasons to ignore fairy tales of demographic recovery. It is obvious that population replacement affects the fiscal picture, quantitatively. (Sensitivities vary. See the next paragraph and the ‘implications,’ below.) But I have another, seriously wonkish point to make here: The authors desire closed, solvable systems (in a very formal sense; they need so-called “transversality conditions”). I think it’s time we jettison silly assumptions that dictate family recovery and start accepting the solution that asymptotes to zero. The former is nowhere indicated by any of our real social policies anywhere. Zero is a mathematically serious number. It is fiscally serious too.
One will note that even without more reasonable demographics, the study still finds that there is nearly one pensioner for every working-age Japanese individual (by around 2090). Let’s get into the ‘implications’ of that.
If Japan doesn’t reform its “Social Security” and “Medicare” system (they don’t use our terms), nor its tax system, they would have to raise consumption taxes to never-witnessed levels; likely beyond 55 percent. This must happen before 2040, which turns out to be an annus mirabilis – see below.
That’s more than half of consumption, taxed away, if they just kick the can. If Japan raises taxes quickly to the required level (by 2018; remember this is “quick” by public standards), that level “only” needs to be 35 percent or so. The welfare-state paradises of Denmark and Finland have value-added taxes of about 25 percent. Higher levels (still below the needed 35 percent) are hardly seen. This, and the resistance to Prime Minister Abe’s comparatively small consumption tax increases, pretty much signals the infeasibility of this line of reckoning.
Obviously, what is going on here is that there are many retirees. Workers need to be taxed as much to ensure enough money is transferred to keep the pensioners at their current (and expected) standard of living. I have heard people say that this does not “necessarily” constitute an inter-generational inequity, but I personally find that to be a tough horse-pill to swallow. I’ll let you decide; but let’s look into those inequities.
First, the study goes through other ways to balance the budget. (The government is given the chance to do this in the long run; I’ll go into what this entails in two paragraphs.) Besides substantial “Medicare” copays and deeper cuts to pensions, the analysts also consider cuts to other government programs. For the US that would mean cuts to defense and poverty programs. Of these ways, it turns out that increased copays look the most fair. That is, the other balancing techniques have sometimes impressively large net income redistributions between the generations. These can be something like 10 percent or more of lifetime income. I would imagine most would consider these rather large inequities. Lowering pensions doesn’t level the playing field much from the (massive) consumption tax increases posited in the work.
In pretty much any case, big inter-generational transfers are afoot for Japan, and about any other first-world country with similar welfare-state programs.
Now back to why 2040 is an annus mirabilis. Elsewhere, Congressman Paul Ryan (referencing the CBO) mentioned an interesting phenomenon in fiscal modeling: When the going gets tough, sometimes you can’t find a budgetary solution! For the present study this happened at debt-to-GDP ratios below 4. What this means is, if you don’t change taxes or spending or both by enough and soon-enough (see above) there is no path forward for the government fiscal apparatus. Of course, this trusts, to a certain extent, the completeness of the computer’s algorithm in finding solutions. Let’s soft-peddle that wonkish issue and say these algorithms are “reasonably good” at doing their job (searching for and finding a budgetary solution over time, if one exists).
If that is the case, and the simulations reasonably mirror reality (they aren’t out-of-this world, I assure you; re-distributable GDP doesn’t fall from helicopters, after all), doing nothing up to 2040 means creating a set of real fiscal flows that cannot be sustained long term. ‘Fiscal flows’ here means pension outlays, medical payments, programs, taxation, and bond issuances and payments.
This failure (“epic fail,” the younger generations once said) is the simulation analog of the situation where compounding interest payments take up more and more of government income. That is, the government must float more debt just to pay interest on debt. At that point (interest compounding), things get out of hand fast, and it is safe to say a credit event will occur. For everyone apart from Dr. Krugman and maybe the Kirchners, this is a bad thing.
For this post, because we are happily dealing with the easier and insular Japanese case, it means the necessity of a radical restructuring of how pensions and medical care are financed. That is, the system doesn’t work. But remember what we’re interested in studying is (Japanese) systems that do function. This requires raising taxes, and also – see above – reducing program generosity. (I tacitly assume one cannot realistically jettison the welfare-state apparatus, which, given what political interests are, is a Libertarian fantasy.)
It turns out things are worse. Those earlier (high taxation) solutions already had gradual reductions in a reformed pension payments system baked-in. I’m sure Prime Minister Abe fought hard to make those reforms reality. Our system has these reductions baked-in too; it’s called the Trust Fund, and I’m sure it will prove a battle-ground in time as well (cf. Greece, Detroit).
So, even that reduction is not enough. The authors of this important paper find Japan also needs a “Medicare” copay of 30 percent, in addition to (touching) Denmark’s rate of taxation. Well, I guess we know what the future looks like.
Except, it will probably be worse.
July 10, 2015
July 2, 2015
June 25, 2015
Marriage and family are the necessary foundations of the road towards a sound ecology and away from environmental degradation, contends Pope Francis in his recent encyclical Laudato Si.
Quick verification test: What major nation is the most abusive of the environment and of children? China, by far on both counts.
In Laudato Si Pope Francis indicates that only by protecting the family, the first environment every child encounters, will society experience effectual progress:
I would stress the great importance of the family, which is “the place in which life—the gift of God—can be properly welcomed and protected against the many attacks to which it is exposed, and can develop in accordance with what constitutes authentic human growth. In the face of the so-called culture of death, the family is the heart of the culture of life.” In the family we first learn how to show love and respect for life; we are taught the proper use of things, order and cleanliness, respect for the local ecosystem and care for all creatures. In the family we receive an integral education, which enables us to grow harmoniously in personal maturity. In the family we learn to ask without demanding, to say “thank you” as an expression of genuine gratitude for what we have been given, to control our aggressivity and greed, and to ask forgiveness when we have caused harm. These simple gestures of heartfelt courtesy help to create a culture of shared life and respect for our surroundings. (Paragraph 213)
Pope Francis contends that man’s hardened heart, and the society it has produced, has profoundly damaged the environment. While Francis grapples with ecological issues, he primarily laments the decrepit human environment wrought with selfishness, insensitivity, self-gratification, and irreligiosity. As MARRI research has found on so many non-environmental issues such as the economy and health, environmental reform must first address the foundation of all human interaction, the family, “the basic cell of society,” (paragraph 157).
In society today, premarital sex, divorce, and cohabitation have massively depleted our human ecology. In the United States, only 46% of 15- to 17-year-olds have been raised by their married biological parents, and only 17% of black 15- to 17-year-olds have always lived with their married mother and father. At a vulnerable age when children should learn forgiveness, self-control, and love of neighbor, they instead experience rejection from their very own parents.
Although the majority of single and divorced parents selflessly dedicate their lives to ensuring that their children are guided by love of God, love of God’s law, and love of God’s creation, the average child raised in a broken family is deprived of the gifts of life in some way. Slowly but increasingly, recent generations have been made “wound-bearers” by their parents and have to fend for themselves in ways not meant for children. They are being hardened to life and to their surroundings.
But there is hope. A revival of the intact married family will imbue children with the love and care that all children ought to receive in order to reflect it back onto their environment. MARRI data shows that children raised in intact families are more social, exhibit less aggression, and practice better self-control than those in non-intact families, all necessary for salvaging the biological environment.
June 18, 2015
In a previous whitepaper, we described research that shows TV negatively affects family formation and family intactness. Here we want to report on a new, similar study that shows Western television contributes to declining fertility rates.
In “Television Role Models and Fertility—Evidence from a Natural Experiment” two German econometricians looked at the effect of Western German programming on East German family formation over the Cold War.
During the first years of the Cold War, East Germany (GDR) was rather insular. For the purpose of the study it isn’t important if the GDR was behind a physical wall; what matters is that Western TV reception was rigorously streng verboten (forbidden): There were campaigns to tear down West-facing antennae found on East German homes.
With the arrival of the Honecker government in 1971, things changed. Détente arrived. With it came Western TV showing East Germans the ‘Western family ideal’: no kids.
Well, not all of East Germany saw this change. Dresden was a black-out zone – not because Westerners didn’t want to reach it, but because of physics: The signal didn’t propagate all the way over there.
Throughout these changes, East German TV was comparatively pro-child. Though women were still expected to be part of the economic-industrial machine, family was portrayed in a deliberately positive light.