October 19, 2007

An Inconvenient Demographic Truth

Hatched by Dafydd

Sen. Barack Obama (D-IL, 95%) is on a tear. He demands the arrest and execution -- all right, he demands the firing of the head of the Justice Department's civil-rights division, John Tanner, for allegedly racial comments Tanner delivered at the National Latino Congress. According to Obama, the comments were "patently erroneous, offensive and dangerous, and they are especially troubling coming from the federal official charged with protecting voting rights in this country."

(John Tanner of the DoJ is not to be confused with Rep. John S. Tanner, D-TN, 55%.)

So what, exactly, did the hapless Tanner say that got Sen. Obama so het up? This is according to AP, which got it from YouTube:

John Tanner's remarks came during an Oct. 5 panel discussion on minority voters before the National Latino Congreso in Los Angeles. Tanner addressed state laws that require photo identification for voting, saying that elderly voters disproportionately don't have the proper IDs.

"That's a shame, you know, creating problems for elderly persons just is not good under any circumstance," Tanner said, according to video posted on YouTube. "Of course, that also ties into the racial aspect because our society is such that minorities don't become elderly the way white people do. They die first.

"There are inequities in health care. There are a variety of inequities in this country, and so anything that disproportionately impacts the elderly has the opposite impact on minorities. Just the math is such as that," Tanner said.

So was Tanner's remark evidence of a deep-seated bias against minorities? Is Tanner, as Obama so clearly suggests (though he's too slick to openly accuse), a racist? Judge for yourself:

When I watch that video, and when I read the transcript, I actually get the opposite impression: I think Tanner is too closely aligned with the Democrats on the race issue. First of all, he laments that blacks and Hispanics don't have as long a lifespan as whites -- and then he immediately attributes this to "inequities in health care."

This is a liberal slogan -- "slogan," from the Gaelic sluagh-ghairm, "battle cry" -- similar to "tax cuts for the rich" or "speak truth to power." Nearly everybody who utters the phrase "inequities in health care" is either a liberal or is quoting one.

Long sidebar

What inequities are those? Is he saying that doctors look at a black patient and say, "oh, he's black -- let's not treat him?" Is he saying that surgeons operate less attentively on "minorities" than on whites, making more mistakes?

He does not even consider the possibility that the shorter lifespans could have a non-discriminatory cause: Eating and exercise habits, rate of smoking and drinking alcohol, differing cultural norms of how often to visit a doctor for routine checkups, and so forth.

Much of the lifespan gap can be attributed to poverty, particularly for blacks: As of 2006, the non-Hispanic white poverty rate is 8.2%, the Asian poverty rate is 10.3%, Hispanic is 20.6%.. and black is 24.3%, nearly three times the white rate. It should hardly shock anyone that poor people often have inadequate health care... and not for lack of federal programs to offer health care to the poor; rather, because government-run health-care facilities and government-supplied health insurance is not as good as privately run facilities and private health insurance.

So are more blacks and Hispanics poor because of racism? I suspect a tiny portion of the gap may be explained by that; but most is explained by behavior and mindset. Poverty is not "the lack of money;" people can be broke but not poor. In a capitalist country like the United States, poverty is primarily caused by a poverty mindset -- thinking and acting in identifiable ways that lead to repeated economic failure:

  • Bad work habits
  • Violence
  • Substance abuse
  • Crime
  • Laziness
  • Lack of education (which means lack of interest in an education, as education is widely available)
  • Not being married (married couples have a significantly higher income level than singles)
  • Refusal to accept personal responsibility for one's own condition

Sadly, the black culture in America today tends to encourage, to a much greater extent than the white culture, exactly these negative traits: Poor blacks aren't poor because of their skin pigmentation but because of the lousy black cultural elements they have internalized.

The proof is that blacks who don't evince such a mindset tend to do very well in society and have no obvious "ceiling" -- as testified by Sen. Barack Obama himself, as well as Justice Clarence Thomas, Secretary of State and former National Security Advisor Condoleezza Rice, former Secretary of State and Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Gen. Colin Powell, Black Entertainment Television founder Robert L. Johnson, talk-show hosts Tavis Smiley and Larry Elder, tens of thousands of black executives, hundreds of thousands of black entrepeneurs, and the 2.5 million black families earning more than $75,000 per year... all of whom are just as black (racially) as those blacks in poverty. The difference is cultural mindset. (And notice that I didn't even bother listing any entertainers or sports figures.)

Among Hispanics, I would guess that a large portion of the poverty gap is explained by immigration status and by lack of English language skills; again, that is not racism, and it is remediable.

So let's get back to poor John Tanner (remember him? this post is all about him!) We've established that Tanner believes that the life-expectancy gap is due to "inequities in health care." This is not only wrong, it's a liberal shibboleth: If you don't loudly and frequently proclaim that racism is responsible for all the ills (in this case, literally) of minorities in the United States, I think they yank your ACLU card.

I convict John Tanner of harboring and expressing liberal ideas. If he is a racist, it's only in the liberal mode of assuming that the fate of minorities lies not in their own hands but those of their oppressors.

Was Tanner wrong?

But let's get to the meat of Obama's complaint. He lambastes Tanner's remark -- which, in case you've forgotten in all the excitement, was that "minorities don't become elderly the way white people do. They die first" -- as "patently erroneous, offensive and dangerous."

I cannot speak to whether it was offensive; if Obama says he was offended, I'll take his word for it. But being offensive is not a firable, uh, offense; otherwise, the president, the Court, and the entire congressional leadership (both sides) would be in the unemployment line.

Was it dangerous? Perhaps -- but I suspect Obama and I would disagree about which was the dangerous part: the bit about minorities not living as long as whites, or the explanation that this was due to "inequities."

So let's stick to the only Obama claim that is actually testable: Was Tanner's off the cuff remark "patently erroneous?"

AP takes a stab at answering this question:

It is well documented that black Americans - particularly black males - have shorter life expectancies than whites. But blacks do live to become senior citizens.

A black person born in 2004 had an average life expectancy of 73.1 years, about five years less than for whites, according to the National Center for Health Statistics.

Alas, this is risible. They look at the lifespan of blacks and whites born in 2004, who will not hit the "Social Security retirement age" of 67, typically thought to be the beginning of "senior citizen" status, until 2071, long after the period of enforcement of voter ID laws we're talking about today. But hold on, partner -- will the Social Security full-benefit retirement age still be 67 in 2071?

Hardly likely: As lifespans increase, causing a huge increase in the percent of living adults who are older than 67 (by then, they will probably outnumber working adults who are younger than 67), we will have to make radical changes in Social Security; it will collapse otherwise, for the obvious reason that one worker cannot walk around carrying two retired people on his back. Clearly, we will be forced to privatize the system; but we will also be forced to raise the "retirement age" significantly -- which makes sense in a world of people routinely living to 120 (or older).

So if it were really true that the expected lifespan of blacks born in 2004 were 73 years, that would almost certainly be less than the "retirement age" (for Social Security purposes) then. Fortunately, it's poppycock to assert that human lifespans will be so short seventy years from now. That expectation assumes that a life-expectancy curve that has been rising exponentially abruptly turned linear three years ago, and that there will be no stunning medical breakthroughs in the next seven decades. I believe it's far more likely that human lifespans will be measured in centuries by 2071.

In any event, AP completely misses the target: The question is not how long blacks will live by 2071. Tanner made his remarks this year, speaking in the present tense; and he didn't say "senior citizens" -- he said "elderly," which is quite different. He was not predicting whether minorities would tend to reach Social-Security retirement age 67 years from now; he was talking about how many lived to become "elderly" today.

Well... how many do? Again, we turn to the United States Census, the best arbiter of such questions. And let's take a stab at what "elderly" means.

I argue that 67 should not be considered "elderly" in the sense that Tanner uses the term. He isn't saying that people over 67 tend not to have drivers licenses; that's absurd. But at older ages, people do start having problems passing a drivers license vision examination; they start having difficulty driving and may lose their licenses because of too many infractions or collisions; they start being required to take driving tests each time they renew their licenses, and they can fail those tests.

If an oldster loses his drivers license, he loses his photo ID. He must make a special effort to get a new, different form of ID -- a state-issued ID card, a passport, something. The idea is that some portion will simply not care enough to get the ID, thus disenfranchising themselves.

(But of course, if the penalty for not getting new ID was the loss of the right to vote, then elderly voters -- who vote much more assiduously than youths -- would have more incentive to get the ID.)

In any event, the loss of driving ability is more associated with those over 80 than those aged 67. But let's be generous and give Sen. Obama the benefit of the doubt; let's say 70 and older is "elderly." To be 70 or older today, one must have been born in 1937 or earlier. So what was the lifespan of blacks, Hispanics, and Asians born then?

Alas, the numbers are sketchy that early; Table 27 (linked above) shows the figures for those born in 1900 and in 1950, but nothing in between. However, we can interpolate: The life expectancy for blacks born in 1900 was 33.0 years; for blacks born in 1950, it was 60.8. If we assume a linear increase, that would mean 0.6 extra years of lifespan per year of birth. Thus, blacks born in 1937 would have an interpolated life expectancy of just about 53 years.

Using the same rough interpolation model, whites born in 1937 would have a life expectancy of about 63.5 years. It should be obvious to all that the percent of blacks who are currently 70 and older will be much less than the percent of whites that old.

I don't have a similar table for Hispanics, but I would not be surprised if they fell somewhere in between white and black life-expectancy rates. Asians may well have longer expected lifespans; but they're a much smaller percent of the "minority" population of the United States.

The point of which is simply that Tanner's offhand remark -- was, in fact, factually correct: Blacks and Hispanics, as a group, do not "become elderly the way white people do;" they do, in fact, tend to die instead -- at a much larger rate than whites. It is a simple (and sad) fact of demography.

Clearly, even if a voter-ID bill had a significant impact on the enfranchisement of older voters, it would have a less-significant effect on blacks and Hispanics -- because fewer of them live to be elderly. And no scientific study I've heard of shows that whites and "minorities" of the same age have different rates of photo-ID possession.

Final thought

But somehow, I doubt that matters; nor does the strong likelihood that John Tanner, "head of the Justice Department's voting rights division," is in fact fairly liberal. I believe what really upsets Obama is not that small thing Tanner said in service to making a point about alleged and unnamed "inequities" in health care.

Rather, it is this:

Obama also criticized Tanner for clearing [approving] a Georgia law that requires voters to show government-issued photo IDs at the polls. It was upheld by a federal judge last month.

Opponents say photo ID laws will disenfranchise minorities, the poor and the elderly who don't have driver's licenses or other valid government-issued photo IDs. Supporters of such laws say they are needed to prevent voter fraud.

The Left profoundly believes, as an article of faith, that not only do voter-ID laws discriminate against minority voters... but that such discrimination is the core intent of conservatives who promote such laws.

Democrats and liberals believe that voter-ID laws will hurt them at the polls; which is true enough, since without the votes of aliens, felons, repeat-voters, and the dead, many fewer Democrats would hold office. But this doesn't require Republicans to be racists, as none of these types of people is a legitimate voter anyway.

But what the Left actually believes is that, for some odd and never explained reason, blacks, Hispanics, and single women don't carry drivers licenses. So any voter-ID law would turn away many valid voters who tend to vote Democratic.

I have no idea why liberals think that; perhaps it's the soft bigotry of low expectations rearing its ugly head again. But if true, and if that really were the intent of conservatives, then it would be reasonable to call conservatives racists and sexists.

The conservatives I know, however -- and even those liberals who support voter-ID, such as (I believe) John Tanner -- do not believe that such laws stop blacks, Hispanics, or single women from voting; rather, they believe it stops fraudulent voters from voting. There is no evidence at all that John Tanner is a racist... even though he supports voter-ID laws and even approved the one in Georgia.

But reality doesn't really matter, does it? Under the Democratic definition of racism, a person is a racist if his "victims" feel as if they have been racially abused, no matter what the "victimizer" did or did not do. As Alexander Meiklejohn said (or at least, it has been attributed to him), "Some crimes are so heinous that not even innocence is a defense."

So brace yourselves for another hellstorm of hysteria from the Left, led in this case by Sen. Barack Hussein Obama, the man who would be America's second black president.

Hatched by Dafydd on this day, October 19, 2007, at the time of 7:40 PM

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» Obama: Acknowledging Actuarial Realities Is Racist from Rhymes With Right
After all, this comment is not based upon racism – it is based upon looking at the relative life expectancies within different racial groups. Democratic presidential candidate Barack Obama said Friday the head of the Justice Department's voting rights ... [Read More]

Tracked on October 20, 2007 12:56 PM

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And now...  the winning entries in the Watcher's Council vote for this week are The MSM's Rush Limbaugh Horror Story by Bookworm Room, and Resistance Is Futile by Michael Yon. Here are the full tallies of all votes cast:VotesCouncil link3 ... [Read More]

Tracked on October 27, 2007 6:45 AM


The following hissed in response by: Steelhand

Should be good for another WoW winner.

This is a perfect example of the differences between conservatives and liberals. Conservatives see personal responsibility where liberals see aggrieved victims. Conservatives see the right to vote as something one must accept responsibility for. If you wish to vote, then obtaining a photo ID would be one step in the process that you must take care of in order to participate. But if you wish to vote, then that is your responsibility.

Liberals see any impediment to voting as limiting a right, thus creating aggrieved parties. (Further ignoring the fact that illegal voting diminishes the exercise of that right by legal voters.) But they are not content to rest on that. They must further impugn the character of those who wish to impose limits to prevent illegal votes. They declare it a blatant attempt to impose limits on minorities , elderly, and the poor.

I am not so drunk on the kool-aid as to not suspect that the demographics of illegal voters play no role in the conservative push for these measures. But to ascribe that to racism/ageism (where's the sexism/homophobia angle?) is to take the type of leap that is typical of liberals. If you disagree with me, by definition, your motives are selfish, because mine are from care for those less advantaged (or just less) than myself.

The above hissed in response by: Steelhand [TypeKey Profile Page] at October 20, 2007 5:30 AM

The following hissed in response by: SlimGuy

All you have to do is look at research reports from various think tanks and academic institutions as well as minority advocate groups and you will see as he says the math is true.

A major impact is the combination of abortion rates and late term abortions (drive by shootings).

The above hissed in response by: SlimGuy [TypeKey Profile Page] at October 21, 2007 1:22 PM

The following hissed in response by: hunter

Obama, on nealry any issue that requires analysis in depth shows to be in over his head. He is fantastic on platitudes and nearly non-existant on substance.
He is a typical democrat in that. I think what he is really after is to control how people talk about race, and seek to keep it a democrat party-only province.

The above hissed in response by: hunter [TypeKey Profile Page] at October 21, 2007 6:26 PM

The following hissed in response by: BarbaraS

Dems don't want ID cards because then the dead, the lazy, the illegals, the clueless and the homeless can't vote for a pack of cigarettes or a bottle of wine.
These are the bulk of the dem party. This is why they are fighting tooth and nail to stop this ID from coming into fruition.

The above hissed in response by: BarbaraS [TypeKey Profile Page] at October 22, 2007 6:29 AM

The following hissed in response by: LarryD

That expectation assumes that a life-expectancy curve that has been rising exponentially abruptly turned linear three years ago, and that there will be no stunning medical breakthroughs in the next seven decades. I believe it's far more likely that human lifespans will be measured in centuries by 2071.

How much of this is more people living to a ripe old age, and how much is increase in maximum age of death, though?

The above hissed in response by: LarryD [TypeKey Profile Page] at October 22, 2007 8:51 AM

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