The hilarious part is that, after she [Washington Post columnist Ruth Marcus] lambastes Mr. Shapiro (and us), Ms. Marcus ends up agreeing with most of our point. “Would I be more comfortable if Biden hadn’t been quite so explicit? Yes. Partly because it carries an aura of unfairness to announce that no one will be considered who does not meet an announced racial test,” she writes.
So it’s okay to use a racial test for judges as long as it’s not explicit, but anyone other than Ruth Marcus who criticizes the explicit racial test is “racially tinged.” What she’s really saying is that conservatives are right in their criticism but only liberals can say so.
Now the phrase “lesser black woman” is a bad way of putting this, but it seems to me pretty clear that it was just a poorly chosen way of saying “less qualified black woman.” And that strikes me as an eminently legitimate criticism of Biden’s position, though as it happens one I don’t share. I think we should be having more debate about this subject, especially in law schools, rather than less; and I certainly don’t think professors or center directors should be fired for expressing such views (as some having been saying should happen to Shapiro).
President Biden had pledged that he’d select a black woman for this seat (he said he’d appoint a black woman to the Court, and this is likely the one vacancy that he’ll be able to fill in this presidential term). This is to say that he has limited himself to roughly 7% of the population. That makes it highly unlikely that whoever he picks would “objectively”—I take it Shapiro means based on professional qualifications apart from race and sex—be the best of the progressive picks for the spot.
To be sure, it’s of course possible that a black woman would be the most qualified candidate. It just isn’t very likely, the same way that it’s unlikely that you’re unlikely to get the objectively best person for any position if you announced that you would choose someone whose first name starts with D (also apparently about 7% of the population). Indeed, a common argument in favor of nondiscrimination in employment—and in favor of taking affirmative steps to broaden the pool of potential applicants—is that by artificially narrowing the pool of applicants (or even by failing to correct for existing narrowness of the pool) you’d be missing out on some of the best candidates.
(DBx: I describe the “rage” of the left against Shapiro as faux because it is abundantly clear from the context what Shapiro meant by his choice of words. To interpret his words as reflecting racist sentiments is to willfully misinterpret him – it is greedily and opportunistically to slander and libel Shapiro in order to score political points. Shapiro owed and owes no one an apology; the apology is owed to Shapiro. While we can all look back on nearly every phrase we’ve uttered or written and, pondering further, discover better ways to word our thoughts, there is no justification for holding anyone to a standard of perfection in communication. Again, an apology is owed to Shapiro by those who willfully and recklessly slander and libel him.)
But for all the talk of protecting consumers, antitrust cases are rarely about that. Long before becoming famous for his failed nomination to the U.S. Supreme Court, Robert Bork won plaudits for his 1978 book, The Antitrust Paradox. Bork demonstrated that during the first 80 years of its existence, antitrust was used to stifle competition and protect powerful incumbent firms from innovative and often smaller rivals.
Research done since then reveals that the original goal of the 1890 Sherman Antitrust Act (and subsequent statutes) wasn’t competition in the first place. The real goal was to protect politically powerful producers from market competition.
If Sen. John Sherman—after whom Congress’s first antitrust act is named—were really a friend of competition, he wouldn’t have staunchly supported the McKinley Tariff, which Congress passed a mere three months later. It was one of the largest tariff hikes in U.S. history and was meant to insulate powerful businesses from their rivals.
And so it goes today. Those who demand a revival of antitrust regulation to “promote competition” may not realize that they’re inciting a revival of cronyism to suppress competition.
The White House’s solution to this “crisis” is, no surprise, to throw a lot of money around. In addition to the $52 billion in direct subsidies for chipmakers, the bill would spend another $45 billion on grants and loans meant to address vague supply chain issues and another $7 billion to help develop 10 “technology hubs” around the United States. (Read Adam Thierer, a senior research fellow at the Mercatus Center, on why top-down investment meant to create “a Silicon Valley in every state” is folly.)
But the semiconductors are central to the whole thing. And before lawmakers vote to hurl $52 billion at chipmakers, they ought to ask two important questions. The first is: Do they need it?
They clearly don’t. Last year, when Intel announced plans to build a new $20 billion fabrication facility in Arizona, CEO Pat Gelsinger said the project “would not depend on a penny of government support or state support.” (Though he immediately followed that comment by saying that “of course … we want incentives” and it appears that Congress is prepared to dutifully provide them.)
There’s also a ton of private sector investment flowing into semiconductor manufacturers right now—equity markets, it turns out, are much more efficient at identifying and fulfilling a need than government subsidies are—and the big chipmakers are not short on cash. The Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing Company (TSMC), the world’s largest chipmaker, reported record profits last year. As of September, Intel’s net profit margin for the past decade was more than 15 percent.
In fact, Intel announced plans just this week for at least two new manufacturing facilities in Ohio. Samsung and the TSMC have also announced plans for U.S.-based factories. That’s not the sort of thing that industries and companies in desperate need of government aid tend to do—though they will surely be happy to receive taxpayer funds if Congress makes the offer.
Part of what made the Trump boom unique, however, is who benefited the most. The economy grew in ways that mostly benefited low-income and middle-class households, categories that cover a disproportionate number of blacks. In 2016 the percentage of blacks who hadn’t completed high school was nearly double that of whites—15% vs. 8%—and the percentage of adults with a bachelor’s degree was 35% for whites and only 21% for blacks.
These education gaps are reflected in work patterns. Blacks are overrepresented in the retail, healthcare and transportation industries, which provide tens of millions of working- and middle-class jobs. In 2019, 54% of black households earned less than $50,000 a year, versus 33% of white households. At the other end of the income distribution, slightly more than half of all white households (50.7%) earned at least $75,000, compared with less than a third (29.4%) of black households. What this means is that reductions in income inequality can translate into reductions in racial inequality, which is what the country experienced in the pre-pandemic Trump economy.
Between 2017 and 2019, median household incomes grew by 15.4% among blacks and only 11.5% among whites. The investment bank Goldman Sachs released a paper in March 2019 that showed pay for those at the lower end of the wage distribution rising at nearly double the rate of pay for those at the upper end. Average hourly earnings were growing at rates that hadn’t been seen in almost a decade, but what “has set this rise apart is that it’s the first time during the economic recovery that began in mid-2009 that the bottom half of earners are benefiting more than the top half—in fact, about twice as much,” CNBC reported.