We can be preached to forever about “clean electricity” messages, and bedazzle farmers with the prospects of on-going revenue from renewables, but the extensive mining worldwide for turbine and solar materials, and the decommissioning details, and the social changes that would be necessitated without the thousands of products from those deep earth minerals and fuels, remain the dark side of the unspoken realities of renewables.
Lets’ be clear about what that means. First, it’s not renewable energy, it’s only renewable electricity, and more accurately its only intermittent electricity. Renewables have been the primary driver for residents of Germany, Australia, and California behind the high costs of electricity. Second and most important is, electricity alone is unable to support militaries, aviation, and merchant ships, and all the transportation infrastructure that support commerce around the world.
Everyone knows that electricity is used extensively in residential, commercial, transportation, and the military, to power motors and lite the lights; but it’s the 6,000 products that get manufactured from crude oil that are used to make those motors, lights, and electronics (see table above). Noticeable by their absence, from turbines and solar panels, are those crude oil chemicals that renewables are currently incapable of providing.
We’ve had almost 200 years to develop clones or generics to replace the products we get from crude oil such as: medications, electronics, communications, tires, asphalt, fertilizers, military and transportation equipment. The social needs of our materialistic societies are most likely going to remain for all those chemicals that get manufactured out of crude oil, that makes everything that’s part of our daily lifestyles, and for continuous, uninterruptable, and reliable electricity from coal or natural gas generation backup. ….. Hopefully, before committing to an all-electric world, we can achieve the technical challenges of discovering a green replacement for the thousands of products based on fossil fuels being provided to every known earth based infrastructure, and society will accept the consequences of altering their lifestyles that will result from less services and more personal input to accommodate losing the advances fossil fuels have afforded them.
You’ll also hear critics claim dollar stores engage in “predatory” behavior by offering prices that are simultaneously too low (undercutting potential competitors) and also too high (as compared to a per-unit cost at the Costco 15 miles away).
Up until 2015, Haven, Kansas, a town of just over 1,200 people, had one grocery store: the Foodliner, a mom-and-pop store owned by a local, Dough Nech. Around 225 locals a day would cycle through the store, picking up basics like bagged lettuce and chicken.
That changed when a Dollar General opened in Haven in February 2015. Almost immediately, Nech saw a drop in the flow of customers through Foodliner. By last year, they rang up only around 125 people; sales dropped by 40%, he told The Guardian. This August, the Foodliner permanently closed.
Dollar General is the fastest-growing retailer in the U.S. and it, along with its competitors Dollar Tree and Family Dollar, have made a killing in recent years by expanding into some of the county’s most vulnerable communities: small, rural towns, and urban, predominantly black neighborhoods. When that happens, dollar stores essentially take over the market, making it impossible for independent local retailers, like Foodliner, to thrive.
The bags of flour at a Dollar Store just south of San Francisco cost only $1, but they also only weigh two pounds [50 cents per pound]. Most bags in the supermarket are five pounds, and can be scored for less than $2.50 [50 cents per pound] at cavernous retailers like Walmart or Costco – though these require time and, often, a car to access.
Dollar store raisins are only 4.5 ounces. At a big box store, however, 72 ounces of raisins cost $10.50 – meaning dollar store customers are paying 52% more.
Cartons of milk at a dollar store are only 16 ounces – which prorates to $8 per gallon, more than what you would pay for even top-of-the line milk at Whole Foods.
Note that those same criticisms could also be directed to the thousands of convenience stores and gas stations across the country that also charge higher prices for food items than Walmart, Costco, and Whole Foods. Plus, to get the low prices at Costco you need to first pay a $60 annual membership fee, which may be prohibitive for many low-income shoppers.
Here’s the conclusion of Willams’ article on the appalling elitism of banning dollar stores:
For people with cars, free time, and disposable income, “just drive two miles to the grocery store” may seem like benign advice. But for people just getting by, it’s dismissive of their real challenges.
If the same work had been done by a food bank—30,000 locations providing ultra-affordable, shelf-stable groceries, concentrated in areas with the most need—would we applaud it?
Perhaps, but only if the signage were subtle and they weren’t close enough that people could walk to them. We wouldn’t want to look like the kind of neighborhood that needs those.
It’s not wrong to care about community character or beautiful streets. But it’s an injustice to care about them so much that you’ll use government power to block (other) people’s access to affordable bread, pencils, and toilet paper. And it adds condescending insult to injury to claim to be doing so “for their own good.”
2. Video of the Day II (above): “BERNing Down America” from the Clean Energy Alliance. “The socialist senator is talking less like a presidential candidate than he is a religious prophet. His energy plans don’t just defy the laws of economics and energy, Green New Bernie defies reality itself. Here’s our humorous take on how Bernie must imagine himself as an energy prophet who is not bound by the laws of physics, economics, or even reality.”
3. Video of the Day III (above) is “Rewriting US History” from Tony Heller, who is concerned that “US temperature graphs released by government agencies bear no resemblance to the underlying thermometer data.”
4. Video of the Day IV (above) is “Everything On Demand” from John Stossel on how competition makes entertainment better and cheaper.
5. Video of the Day V (above) is “Protecting Children From Climate Fraud” is from Tony Heller who says “Climate education is now my full-time occupation. Protecting children from climate fraudsters is one of my primary goals.”
On Twitter, Patrick Moore recommends “an excellent and pithy piece on why the ‘climate crisis’ is fake.” According to Moore, “The world has warmed at a rate of 0.008C per year since 1880. Hardly unprecedented and we are in the Modern Warm Period regardless of CO2.” The Real Clear Markets article Dr. Moore recommends is “Paul Krugman Is a Global Warming Alarmist. Don’t Be Like Him” by David Simon, who provides the six factual reasons below that “global warming is a non-problem that warrants no action.”
1. The earth’s temperature has been rising at a microscopically slow pace. NASA’s data set for global temperatures goes back to 1880 and shows that since that year, the earth’s temperature has risen by only 1.14° C. An increase of 1.14° C over 139 years translates to an average increase of only 0.008° C per year.
2. A warmer earth saves lives. In 2015, the prestigious medical journal The Lancet reported that worldwide, cold kills over 17 times more people than heat. A group of 22 scientists examined over 74 million deaths in the United States, China, Brazil, and ten other countries in 1985-2012. They found that cold caused 7.29 percent of these deaths, while heat caused only 0.42 percent. And of these temperature-related deaths, “moderately hot and cold temperatures” caused 88.85 percent of the deaths, while “extreme” temperatures caused only 11.15 percent.
3. While the earth’s temperature has risen, the number of natural disaster deaths has been sharply declining. In 2019, EMDAT, The International Disaster Database, reported that since the 1920s, the number of people killed annually by natural disasters has declined by over 80 percent. And this happened as the world’s population quadrupled from less than two billion to over seven and half billion.
4. The global air pollution death rate has fallen by almost 50% since 1990. In 2019, University of Oxford economist Max Roser and researcher Hannah Ritchie reported in Our World in Data that “since 1990 the number of deaths per 100,000 people have nearly halved.”
5. Any impact on the economy is likely to be minimal. In 2019, the National Bureau of Economic Research estimated that if the earth’s temperature rises by 0.01° C per year through 2100 – 25% faster than it actually has since 1880 – total U.S. GDP in 2100 will be 1.88% lower in 2100 than it would otherwise be.
But the Congressional Budget Office in 2019 projected that in 2100, GDP per person will be about 180% higher (based on its projection of a 1.3% annual real long-term potential labor force productivity growth rate). So even if the reduction that NBER estimates pans out, GDP per person will still be about 178% higher. NBER also made a more extreme projection: if the earth’s temperature rises by 0.04° C per year through 2100, five times the actual rate since 1880, total U.S. GDP will be 10.52% lower in 2100 than it would otherwise be. Sounds dramatic. It’s not. This farfetched scenario leaves GDP per person about 170% higher.
In other words, per person income in 2100 will be almost triple today’s level, regardless of global warming.
6. Restricting carbon emissions to attempt to stop global warming is the wrong path – even the most severe restrictions will have almost zero impact on the earth’s temperature. Climatologist Patrick J. Michaels calculated that if the United States eliminated all carbon emissions – which would not only require Americans to give up fossil fuels, but also to stop breathing (to cease exhaling carbon dioxide) – it would only reduce global warming by a negligible 0.052° C by 2050.
Check the facts. Global warming has not been harmful and presents no danger to future generations.
In 2015, Vermont Technical College introduced a single-sex, girl-only, no boys allowed program — Rosie’s Girls STEM Leadership Camp — that illegally violates Title IX’s prohibition of sex discrimination at colleges and universities that accept federal taxpayer funding, see press release here. Here’s an archived link to the college’s website in 2016 promoting the discriminatory program featuring the photo above and this description (bold added):
Vermont Tech’s summer camps create positive, safe, supportive, girl-centered environments, with teamwork, healthy body image and tons of fun woven in! A place where girls can enhance their leadership skills as well as get their hands dirty, express themselves creatively, explore what the world has to offer them, what they have to offer the world and take positive risks! It’s a great place for girls who have previously participated in Rosie’s Girls Day Camps now entering 9th or 10th grades or who have never participated and want to try something new.
This experience helps emerging young women expand their sense of the range of educational, work and career options available to them and offers a follow-up mentoring program.
It’s a violation of Title IX for colleges to discriminate in its educational programs based on sex, it’s illegal to exclude participants from educational programs based on sex, and it’s illegal to deny some students from the educational benefits of programs based on sex. By offering a single-sex, girl-only, no boys allowed program like Rosie’s Girls STEM Leadership Camp, Vermont Technical College was clearly in violation of Title IX because: a) it discriminated against boys, and b) it didn’t offer an equivalent, single-sex, boy-only STEM leadership camp that would have fairly and legally accommodated boys in Vermont entering 9th or 10th grade who were just as interested as their female counterparts in enhancing their leadership skills and expanding their sense of the range of educational, work and career options available to them.
Vermont Technical College also offered another discriminatory, single-sex, girl-only, no boys allowed program called the Coder Camp for Girls, which according to a college website that no longer exists was “designed to give young girls the opportunity to bring their creativity and translate that into an active software coding environment. The Coder Camp for Girls is a day camp designed for girls entering grades 7-11 who want to learn about software development and experience making a program of their own creation.” Like Rosie’s Girls STEM Leadership Camp, the Coder Camp for Girls illegally violated Title IX’s prohibition of sex discrimination because it operated as a girl-only program and the college didn’t offer an equivalent boy-only Coder Camp for Boys.
As a result of Title IX complaints I filed with the college’s Title IX office and at the federal level with the Office for Civil Rights, Vermont Technical College in recent months has quietly converted both of those discriminatory, illegal programs into legal co-ed, gender-neutral programs that now accommodate students of all gender identities.
The word “Girls” has been removed from the program name, which has been changed to “Rosie’s STEM Leadership Camp.” The program website now includes pictures of both boys and girls (see above) and the program description has been edited and changed as follows:
Vermont Tech’s summer camps create positive, safe, supportive, girl-centered environments.. A place where girlsstudents can enhance their leadership skills as well as get their hands dirty, express themselves creatively, explore what the world has to offer them, what they have to offer the world and take positive risks!
Coder Camp is designed to give young girlsyouth the opportunity to bring their creativity and translate that into an active software coding environment. The Coder Camp for Girls is a day camp designed for girlsyouth entering grades 7-11 who want to learn about software development and experience making a program of their own creation.
To legally comply with Title IX, universities have two basic options when offering educational programs: 1) offer single-sex programs like STEM camps or coding programs for males and females that are “separate but equal” or 2) offer legitimate co-ed programs that are open to students of all gender identities. But what is generally not allowed is for a university that accepts federaltaxpayer funding to offer single-sex, female-only, no males allowed programs (or scholarship, student award, faculty award, faculty fellowship, mentoring, networking opportunity, clubs, campus events, gym hours, conferences, etc.) only, without offering equivalent single-sex, male-only programs. And yet universities routinely engage in illegal sex discrimination and violate Title IX with impunity because they haven’t been challenged and held accountable for violating federal civil rights laws.
And even when universities like Vermont Technical College are challenged and get caught violating Title IX laws, they reluctantly make the necessary changes to stop engaging in illegal sex discrimination, but they never face any real consequences — no fines, no apologies, no admission of guilt, and never any expressions of regret for violating the civil rights of thousands of affected students and faculty.
Bottom Line: That’s why starting in 2016, I have been on a one-man mission to challenge universities across the country that violate Title IX by filing nearly 100 Title IX complaints so far with the Department of Education’s Office for Civil Rights. About a dozen of those complaints have been successfully resolved in my favor including the Vermont Technical College complaint, nearly 40 other complaints have resulted in federal investigations of civil rights violations that are ongoing, and about 40 other complaints are currently being reviewed by the Office for Civil Rights.
By exposing Title IX violations that are numerous and almost universally ignored, it is my mission to advance civil rights for all persons in higher education and end the hypocritical, double-standard for enforcement of sex discrimination that has prevailed for so many decades at colleges and universities across the US.
Today is Martin Luther King, Jr. Day and if he were alive on his birthday (January 15) this year Rev. King would have been 91 years old. Seven years ago marked an important milestone for Martin Luther King’s legacy – the year 2013 was the 50th anniversary of the “March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom” and Reverend King’s memorable “I Have a Dream” speech on August 28, 1963 (see photo above and the CNN article “9 things about MLK’s speech and the March on Washington“). Around that time of the 50th anniversary of the “I Have a Dream” speech in August 2013, economist Thomas Sowell offered some reflections on MLK’s legacy and the significance of his famous speech in a National Review article titled “A Poignant Anniversary.” Here are some excerpts from Dr. Sowell’s article to help reflect on today’s federal holiday and MLK’s legacy (emphasis added):
At the core of Dr. King’s speech was his dream of a world in which people would not be judged by the color of their skin, but by “the content of their character.” Judging individuals by their individual character is at the opposite pole from judging how groups are statistically represented among employees, college students, or political figures. Yet many — if not most — of those who celebrate the “I have a dream” speech today promote the directly opposite approach of group preferences, especially those based on skin color.
What was historic about that speech was not only what was said but how powerfully its message resonated among Americans of that time across the spectrum of race, ideology, and politics. A higher percentage of Republicans than Democrats voted in Congress for both the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and the Voting Rights Act of 1965.
To say that that was a hopeful time would be an understatement. To say that many of those hopes have since been disappointed would also be an understatement. There has been much documented racial progress since 1963. But there has also been much retrogression, of which the disintegration of the black family has been central, especially among those at the bottom of the social pyramid. Many people — especially politicians and activists — want to take credit for the economic and other advancement of blacks, even though a larger proportion of blacks rose out of poverty in the 20 years before 1960 than in the 20 years afterwards. But no one wants to take responsibility for the policies and ideologies that led to the breakup of the black family, which had survived centuries of slavery and generations of discrimination.
Many hopes were disappointed because those were unrealistic hopes to begin with. Economic and other disparities between groups have been common for centuries, in countries around the world — and many of those disparities have been, and still are, larger than the disparities between blacks and whites in America. Even when those who lagged behind have advanced, they have not always caught up, even after centuries, because others were advancing at the same time. But when blacks did not catch up with whites in America within a matter of decades, that was treated as strange — or even a sinister sign of crafty and covert racism.
Civil rights were necessary, but far from sufficient. Education and job skills are crucial, and the government cannot give you these things. All it can do is make them available. Race hustlers who blame all lags on the racism of others are among the obstacles to taking the fullest advantage of education and other opportunities. What does that say about the content of their character?
When the Civil Rights Act of 1964…. passed, it provoked no rethinking. Instead, it provoked all sorts of new demands. Judging everybody by the same standards came to be regarded in some quarters as “racist” because it precluded preferences and quotas. There are people today who talk “justice” when they really mean payback — including payback against people who were not even born when historic injustices were committed.
Unfortunately, Dr. Sowell ended his essay on MLK with this pessimistic conclusion:
We have a long way to go to catch up to what Martin Luther King said 50 years ago. And we are moving in the opposite direction.
MP: Thanks to Thomas Sowell for those keen insights and reflections on MLK and his famous speech for today’s holiday, which reinforce Robert Woodson’s commentary about the distortion of MLK’s legacy by the progressive left in Saturday’s Wall Street Journal featured on CD here.
…. is the title of an excellent op-ed in Saturday’s Wall Street Journal by Robert L. Woodson, president and founder of the DC-based Woodson Center, here are some “money quotes”:
History is full of inspiring examples of black people succeeding against the odds, including building their own schools, hotels, railroads and banking systems when doors were closed to them. These accomplishments were made possible by a set of values cherished among the blacks of the time: self-determination, resiliency, personal virtue, honesty, honor and accountability. Dr. King understood that these values would be the bedrock for black success once true equality was won.
Today the progressive left wants to ignore the achievements and pretend that blacks are perpetual victims of white racism. The New York Times’s “1619 Project” essay series is the latest salvo in this attack on America’s history and founding, claiming “anti-black racism runs in the very DNA of this country.” This statement is an abomination of everything Dr. King stood for. …..
Dr. King, who sought full participation in America, would never have indulged today’s grievance-based identity politics, whose social-justice warriors use race as a battering ram against the country. Yesterday’s values prepared blacks to walk through the doors of opportunity opened to them through civil rights. Family, faith, character and moral behavior were all crucial to their victories. Today’s social-justice warriors trade on the currency of oppression, deriding the concept of personal responsibility and always blaming external forces. I can think of no better way to instill hopelessness and fear in a young person than to tell him he is a victim, powerless to change his circumstance.
During the civil-rights movement blacks never permitted oppression to define who we were. Instead we cultivated moral competence, enterprise and thrift, and viewed oppression as a stumbling block, not an excuse. Dr. King would have refused to participate in today’s identity politics gamesmanship because it frames its grievances in opposition to the American principles of freedom and equality that he sought to redeem. He upheld the country’s founding principles and sought to destroy only what got in the way of delivering the promise of life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness, as well as the recognition that all men are created equal.
We must not let the purveyors of identity politics fudge the record: Martin Luther King Jr. believed in the promise of America. In fact, he helped to fulfill it.
1. Chart of the Day (above) displays another new US energy milestone. Last week, for the first time ever, America produced 13 million barrels of oil per day (bpd) according to EIA’s weekly oil report. Amazingly, in just over seven years, US oil output doubled from 6.5 million bpd in September 2012 to 13 million bpd last week. Carpe oleum
2. Map of the Day (above) shows the seven areas of the US that are producing record levels of crude oil and natural gas, which has elevated America to the world’s No. 1 producer of both oil and gas. We can thank the US petropreneurs who developed and implemented advanced Made-in-the-USA drilling and extraction technologies that accessed America’s oceans of shale resources in the areas in the map above and transformed the country into a global energy superpower. Carpe oleum
3. Chart of the Day II (above) shows another US energy-related milestone — the EIA predicts that CO2 emissions will fall next year to the lowest level in 33 years going all the way back to 1988 when Ronald Reagan was still president, “Rain Man” won Academy Awards for the Best Picture and Best Actor (Dustin Hoffman), Microsoft released Windows 2.1, and the Iran-Contra affair was making headline news and the Savings and Loan crisis was just getting started. For that “greening” of America, you can thank the abundance of US shale gas that has been gradually displacing coal to generate the country’s electric power (see chart below).
4. Chart of the Day III (above) shows the gradual displacement of natural gas for coal to generate America’s electricity which has significantly contributed to the “greening” of America (see item above).
Andrew asks another good question: Why this sudden ratcheting up of rhetoric?
Some of the rhetorical excess is also about money. Interest groups for various subpopulations have a financial interest in emphasizing oppression in order to keep donations flowing.
But a recent psychological study suggests a simpler explanation. Its core idea is what you might call “oppression creep” or, more neutrally, “prevalence-induced concept change.” The more progress we observe, the greater the remaining injustices appear. We seem incapable of keeping a concept stable over time when the prevalence of that concept declines.
6. 2020: What a Great Time to Be Alive is the title of a great post from Morgan Housel earlier this month and is an antidote to the “oppression creep” (above) that ignores the significant and ongoing progress that has been made in America (and throughout the world) in recent years on multiple dimensions, here’s an excerpt:
A common theme in history is that progress happens too slowly to notice while setbacks happen too quickly to overlook. There are many overnight tragedies. There are no overnight miracles. It’s a shame, because the amount of progress we’ve made during most of our lifetimes is both astounding and overlooked.
A new year brings dozens of articles analyzing what the past brought and what the future may hold. The problem with most these pieces is not their analysis; it’s their time frame. Analyzing 2020’s improvement over 2019 – or even a decade of progress – leaves you gasping for goofy things like “OLED screens will become more common this year” and “self-driving cars will see marginal improvements.”
When measuring progress we have to remember that it took 15 years from the time penicillin was discovered until it was widely used, and 20 years from the invention of the car until the time Henry Ford figured out mass production. These things take time.
The median American is 38 years old. If we use their birth year of 1981 as a starting point to measure progress during their lives, some astounding figures arise.
A pessimist will have no problem pointing out the world’s problems in 2020. Bad news is real and it is everywhere. Throw a rock, hit a problem. The difference between an optimist and a pessimist isn’t usually over substance. It’s the time frame they’re looking at. Problems are easier to spot today, but progress is almost always more powerful over time.
7. Is Girls Who Code discriminatory? I would say the answer is YES, if that discriminatory single-sex, girl-only program is hosted by a university, public school, or library that accepts federaltaxpayer funds and doesn’t offer an equivalent single-sex boy-only program like “Boys Who Code” (which doesn’t actually exist). Organizations that accept federaltaxpayer money are required, as a condition of accepting those public funds, to enforce Title IX’s prohibition of sex discrimination. Read here about somebody in California who is challenging a public library that hosts the single-sex, girl-only, gender-discriminatory program — Girls Who Code.
8. How Trump’s Trade War Is Making Lobbyists Rich And Slamming Small Businesses from ProPublica. Washington’s influence industry, including former Trump officials and allies, has made big money helping companies get exemptions from tariffs — sometimes by undercutting small business owners.
9. Quotations of the Day from Thomas Sowell:
a. If you are serious about wanting to improve education, do not vote more money for the education establishment that has been dumbing down the schools for years. Vote for vouchers, tax credits, or anything else that will transfer decision-making power to parents.
b. Envy was once considered to be one of the seven deadly sins before it became one of the most admired virtues under its new name, “social justice.”
c. No one can really understand the political left without understanding that they are about making themselves feel superior, however much they may talk piously about what they are going to do to help others.
10. Video of the Day (below) from ReasonTV with John McWhorter on how “America Has Never Been Less Racist” despite the “oppression creep” that Andrew Sullivan describes above.
Here’s another Storyline Trend Guessing Game courtesy of graphic designer Olivier Ballou, this one tests your knowledge (or guesses) of trends over time between 1971 and 2017 for the female shares of US bachelor’s degrees in a:) Engineering, b) Biology, c) Computer Science, d) Architecture and e) Business. Good Luck!
Important Notice: After about a four-month delay, the Comment Section of CD has finally been updated to a new system (Disqus) that will hopefully be a big improvement and will allow embedded comments (finally). You can now sign in using your social media account, username, or email address and you can now add media to your comments. Feedback is appreciated so I can make adjustments to the options and settings that are now available.
The Protectionist-in-Chief’s Director of Trade and Manufacturing Policy Peter Navarro defends Trump’s tariff-fueled trade war in an op-ed in today’s Wall Street Journal “Give Trump’s Tariffs a Fair Test.”
According to National Taxpayer Union Foundation’s Bryan Riley, Navarro’s defense of Tariff Man’s trade war is “riddled with misstatements and half-truths.” Ten to be exact, and Bryan sets the record straight.
Don Boudreaux is equally unimpressed with Navarro’s “cascade of contradictions and confusions so immense that even listing them would require an unusually long op-ed.” Don focuses on just two of Navarro’s sophomoric errors in a Letter to the Wall Street Journal here’s the first one:
First, in a March 6th, 2017 piece Mr. Navarro argued that U.S. trade deficits inflict such harm on the American economy that U.S. trade restrictions are justified as a means of trying to reduce these deficits. Yet in today’s op-ed he boasts that the “threat of auto tariffs has likewise drawn billions of dollars of new foreign direct investment from the likes of Toyota, Volkswagen and Mercedes-Benz.” Mr. Navarro apparently doesn’t understand the elementary fact that, because every dollar invested in the U.S. by foreigners is a dollar not spent on U.S. exports, the investments about which Mr. Navarro today boasts promote the very trade deficits that, in other contexts, he bemoans (see Venn diagram version above).
And Don concludes as follows:
I understand the importance of giving some of your valuable ink to prominent officials. But you insult your readers by repeatedly publishing arguments [by Navarro] that are so comically self-contradictory and intellectually insupportable that the author, were he to submit them as answers to a high-school economics quiz, would receive an F-.
As I wrote in the summer of 2018 on CD, I’ve probably created and posted more than 3,000 graphics on CD, Twitter, and Facebook that have included charts, graphs, tables, figures, maps, and Venn diagrams over the last 13 years. Of all of those graphics, I don’t think any has gotten more attention, links, re-Tweets, re-posts, and mentions than the one above (and previous versions), which has been referred to as “the Chart of the Century.” Here are some examples of the attention that past versions of the chart above have gotten:
A multi-colored graphic that’s made the rounds at the Federal Reserve hints at what Chairman Jerome Powell could face if President Donald Trump succeeds in throwing globalization into reverse: Higher prices for many goods and potentially faster inflation. Plugged as possibly the chart of the century by economist and originator Mark Perry, it shows that prices of goods subject to foreign competition — think toys and television sets — have tumbled over the past two decades as trade barriers have come down around the world. Prices of so-called non-tradeables — hospital stays and college tuition, to name two — have surged.
A chart that has been making the rounds at the Fed from economist Mark Perry shows how falling prices for trade-sensitive things like TV sets and toys have helped offset rising costs for things like medical services, housing and education.
American Enterprise Institute economist Mark J. Perry is highly and justifiably respected for his ability to convey complicated economic relationships by way of rather simple charts and graphs. The most famous example of this, shown here, is called by some the “chart of the century.” The high praise comes about because the chart is loaded with information regarding the types of challenges faced by the Fed and other Washington policymakers. Perry’s most recent version reports price increases from 1998 through 2018 for 14 categories of goods and services along with the average wage and overall Consumer Price Index.
Based on today’s BLS report for CPI price data through December 2019, I’ve updated the chart above with price changes through the end of last year. During the most recent 22-year period from January 1998 to December 2019, the CPI for All Items increased by 59.6% and the chart displays the relative price increases over that time period for 14 selected consumer goods and services, and for average hourly earnings (wages). Seven of those goods and services have increased more than average inflation of 59.6%, led by hospital services (+220%), college tuition (+188%), and college textbooks (+179%). Average wages have also increased more than average inflation since January 1998 — by 86% — indicating that hourly wages adjusted for inflation have increased by more than 26% over the last several decades.
The other seven price series have declined since January 1998, led by TVs (-97.6%), toys (-75.5%), software (-71%) and cell phone service (-53%). The CPI series for new cars, household furnishings (furniture, appliances, window coverings, lamps, dishes, etc.) and clothing have remained relatively flat for the last 22 years while average prices have increased by almost 60% and wages increased 86%.
Various observations that have been made about the huge divergence in price patterns over the last several decades displayed in the chart include:
a. The greater (lower) the degree of government involvement in the provision of a good or service the greater (lower) the price increases (decreases) over time, e.g., hospital and medical costs, college tuition, childcare with both large degrees of government funding/regulation and large price increases vs. software, electronics, toys, cars and clothing with both relatively less government funding/regulation and falling prices. As somebody on Twitter commented:
Blue lines = prices subject to free market forces. Red lines = prices subject to regulatory capture by government. Food and drink is debatable either way. Conclusion: remind me why socialism is so great again.
b. Prices for manufactured goods (cars, clothing, appliances, furniture, electronic goods, toys) have experienced large price declines over time relative to overall inflation, wages, and prices for services (education, medical care, and childcare).
c. The greater the degree of international competition for tradeable goods, the greater the decline in prices over time, e.g., toys, clothing, TVs, appliances, furniture, footwear, etc.
d. The price series that has shown the greatest change recently is the CPI for Educational Books (mostly college textbooks). Textbook prices rose an average of nearly 6% annually between January 1998 and December 2016, nearly three times average annual inflation during that period of just above 2%. But starting in early 2017, the CPI for Educational Books flattened for the first time ever, and actually fell by 2.0% over the last 12 months through December 2019. In October and November of last year, the CPI series for textbooks reached the lowest level since mid-2016, more than three years ago.
We can expect future declines in the prices of college textbooks, as the traditional textbook market faces increasingly tough competition from alternative options including hundreds of “open textbooks” that have been funded, published, and licensed to be freely used, adapted, and distributed. The University of Minnesota’s Center for Open Education maintains an “Open Textbook Library” website that lists hundreds of textbooks in more than 20 academic subjects that are available for free online or as a PDF file, or as a print copy at a low-cost ($33.50 for print copies from OpenStax). Just in the field of economics, there are more than 20 free open textbooks for Economics courses including Principles of Microeconomics, Principles of Macroeconomics, International Economics, Money and Banking, Economic Analysis and Principles of Political Economy.
Based on the evidence in the chart above showing stagnating and falling college textbook prices following half a century of rising prices, Hurricane Joseph (Schumpeter) appears to be hitting the college textbook market with a very large, tsunami of creative destruction called “The Open Textbook Effect.”
e. The annual increase in college tuition and fees of only 1.7% through December of last year was the smallest yearly increase in the history of the CPI for college tuition and fees for any month going all the way back to 1978. And the year-over-increase of 1.7% for college tuition through December was less than annual CPI inflation of 2.3% over that same period, indicating the real cost of college tuition and fees actually decreased in 2019. So perhaps the “higher education bubble” is finally starting to show signs of deflating?
MP: I’ll continue to update the price chart every six months, look for the next version in July 2020 with data through June 2020.
Many universities, organizations and “woke” corporations are increasingly committed to closing the gender gap in STEM and especially tech, and hundreds of millions, if not many billions of dollars have been spent on efforts to increase the female share of STEM degrees and jobs. For example, although they are illegal and violate Title IX’s prohibition of sex discrimination (and are therefore now being successfully challenged), hundreds of US universities spend millions of dollars every year offering single-sex, female-only STEM programs, summer camps, computer coding clubs, scholarships, awards, fellowships, initiatives, collectives, clubs, industry and networking events, and mentoring programs.
Then there are the nonprofit-organizations Girls Who Code, Black Girls Code, and Latina Girls Code that have raised and spent millions of dollars “to support and increase the number of women in computer science by equipping young women with the necessary computing skills to pursue 21st-century opportunities…and close the gender employment difference in technology.” Girls Who Code lists nearly 200 corporate sponsors who have collectively provided tens of millions of dollars, with some corporations like AT&T, Lyft, Prudential, Uber, United Technologies and Walmart donating more than $1 million to the organization’s efforts to “close the gender gap in technology.”
And yet despite all of the money spent and all of the ongoing efforts devoted to the alleged “problem” of not enough women in STEM, perhaps closing the gender gap in technology might be an impossible mission. At least that is what the data are telling us. For example, the top chart above shows the female share of bachelor’s degrees in computer and information sciences from 1971 to 2017 based on data from the Department of Education. Women’s share of computer science degrees peaked at slightly above 37% in 1984 and has been on a gradual decline ever since and has been below 20% for more than a decade. Perhaps the massive efforts of universities and organizations like Girls Who Code stopped a further decline in the female share of computer science degrees and helped stabilize it at just below 20%. But to somehow “close the gender gap” and reach gender parity for tech degrees seems like a very, very expensive and futile fool’s errand that has no realistic chance of ever being achieved, no matter how much money “virtue signalling” and “woke” corporations direct to address the “problem.”
The bottom chart above provides additional empirical data illustrating the uphill and perhaps non-achievable goal of ever reaching anything close to gender parity in STEM and tech. Department of Education data are displayed for computer science degrees as a share of all bachelor’s degrees earned by men and women separately from 1980 to 2017. In 1986, 3% of college women earned a bachelor’s degree in computer science. Subsequently, the computer science share of all female bachelor’s degrees declined and fell below 1% in each of the years from 2007 to 2015 before increasing above 1% in 2016 and 2017. In contrast, computer science degrees represented 3% of all male bachelor’s degrees in the early 1980s and that share has been increasing over time and has more than doubled to just below 7% in 2017.
To have achieved gender parity in 2017 for computer science bachelor’s degrees, the percentage of women choosing a major in computer science would have had to increase from 1.2% to more than 5% (and not the full 7% because there are more women than men in college), and that percentage would have to be even higher in future years given the increasing popularity of computer science degrees among men. Organizations, corporations, and universities can spend many more billions of dollars, but it’s totally unrealistic to ever expect that the percentage of women selecting and finishing a bachelor’s degree in computer science will ever exceed the 3% peak back in 1986, much less rise to something like the +5% it would take in the future to reach gender parity in tech degrees. Just not gonna happen.
In 2018, senior lecturer Stuart Reges, who manages the introductory computer science classes at the Paul G. Allen School of Computer Science and Engineering at the University of Washington, wrote a provocative and controversial article for Quillette titled “Why Women Don’t Code,” where he concluded that:
Our community must face the difficult truth that we aren’t likely to make further progress in attracting women to computer science. Women can code, but often they don’t want to. We will never reach gender parity. You can shame and fire all of the James Damores you find, but that won’t change the underlying reality.
It’s time for everyone to be honest, and my honest view is that having 20 percent women in tech is probably the best we are likely to achieve. Accepting that idea doesn’t mean that women should feel unwelcome. Recognizing that women will be in the minority makes me even more appreciative of the women who choose to join us.
Although the data above, especially the top chart, confirm Reges’s assertion that a 20% female share of tech degrees and tech positions may be most the realistic outcome, that didn’t stop his university from demoting him and placing him on probation. And it won’t stop “woke” corporations from funneling millions and millions of dollars to single-sex, female-only STEM efforts at universities and organizations, some of them operating illegal programs in brazen violation of Title IX’s prohibition of sex discrimination, in search of the elusive and unattainable “holy grail” of gender parity in STEM and tech. But at some point in the future, billions of dollars from now, we’ll probably have to admit that the very, very expensive social engineering experiment of trying to artificially force more women in STEM and tech is a costly mission doomed to fail.