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State, national columnists

Rhetoric remains the liberals’ strong suit

By From page A11 | January 22, 2014

Editor’s note: This is the first in a four-part series on the topic of fact-free liberals.

Someone summarized Barack Obama in three words – “educated,” “smart” and “ignorant.” Unfortunately, those same three words would describe all too many of the people who come out of our most prestigious colleges and universities today.

President Obama seems completely unaware of how many of the policies he is trying to impose have been tried before, in many times and places around the world, and have failed time and again. Economic equality? That was tried in the 19th century, in communities set up by Robert Owen, the man who coined the term “socialism.” Those communities all collapsed.

It was tried even earlier, in 18th century Georgia, when that was a British colony. People in Georgia ended up fleeing to other colonies, as many other people would vote with their feet in the 20th century, by fleeing many other societies around the world that were established in the name of economic equality.

But who reads history these days? Moreover, those parts of history that would undermine the vision of the left – which prevails in our education system from elementary school to postgraduate study – are not likely to get much attention.

The net results are bright people, with impressive degrees, who have been told for years how brilliant they are, but who are often ignorant of facts that might cause them to question what they have been indoctrinated with in schools and colleges.

Recently Kirsten Powers repeated on Fox News Channel the discredited claim that women are paid only about three-quarters of what a man is paid for doing the same work.

But there have been empirical studies, going back for decades, showing that there is no such gap when the women and men are in the same occupation, with the same skills, experience, education, hours of work and continuous years of full-time work.

Income differences between the sexes reflect the fact that women and men differ in all these things – and more. Young male doctors earn much more than young female doctors. But young male doctors work more than 500 hours a year more than young female doctors.

Then there is the current hysteria which claims that people in the famous “top 1 percent” have incomes that are rising sharply and absorbing a wholly disproportionate share of all the income in the country.

But check out a Treasury Department study titled “Income Mobility in the U.S. from 1996 to 2005.” It uses income tax data, showing that people who were in the top 1 percent in 1996 had their incomes fall – repeat, fall – by 26 percent by 2005.

What about the other studies that seem to say the opposite? Those are studies of income brackets, not studies of the flesh-and-blood human beings who are moving from one bracket to another over time. More than half the people who were in the top 1 percent in 1996 were no longer there in 2005.

This is hardly surprising when you consider that their incomes were going down while there was widespread hysteria over the belief that their incomes were going up.

Empirical studies that follow income brackets over time repeatedly reach opposite conclusions from studies that follow individuals. But people in the media, in politics and even in academia, cite statistics about income brackets as if they are discussing what happens to actual human beings over time.

All too often when liberals cite statistics, they forget the statisticians’ warning that correlation is not causation. For example The New York Times crusaded for government-provided prenatal care, citing the fact that black mothers had prenatal care less often than white mothers – and that there were higher rates of infant mortality among blacks.

But was correlation causation? American women of Chinese, Japanese and Filipino ancestry also had less prenatal care than whites – and lower rates of infant mortality than either blacks or whites.

When statistics showed that black applicants for conventional mortgage loans were turned down at twice the rate for white applicants, the media went ballistic crying racial discrimination. But whites were turned down almost twice as often as Asian Americans – and no one thinks that is racial discrimination.

Facts are not liberals’ strong suit. Rhetoric is.

Thomas Sowell is an author, economist and senior fellow at the Hoover Institution, Stanford University.

Thomas Sowell


Discussion | 34 comments

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  • Mike KirchubelJanuary 22, 2014 - 8:41 am

    Reader's note: This is the first in a four-part series on the topic of "fact-free conservatives. Someone summarized Tommy Sowell in three words - "educated," "smart," and "a paid sell out for the wealthy." Unfortunately, those same three words would describe all too many people writing for the right, usually found on these pages. Rhetoric remains the far-right's strong suit, in fact, their only suit.

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  • FDCJanuary 22, 2014 - 1:45 pm

    Once again, the crypto racist Mr. Kirchubel is compelled to attack the successful, nationally syndicated Thomas Sowell. The rhetorical champion of the left, Mike, is ignored by the rest of the world while Thomas Sowell draws acclaim. One of these days Mike just may figure out that his jealousy of Thomas Sowell is irrelevant. We just don't care what you think, Mike.

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  • Mike KirchubelJanuary 22, 2014 - 2:52 pm

    Once again, Crutchfield attacks the man rather than the idea. Any other arrows in your wee quiver, Cupid?

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  • Mr. PracticalJanuary 22, 2014 - 5:26 pm

    Gee Mike, and you never do that?

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  • Oh....Mr. Practical ! http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cFdCzN7RYbwJanuary 22, 2014 - 6:38 pm

    It is so nice to share time with you on this Blog!....Seems there is so little time in the day, so we may as well have some fun!.....I speak with Authority on this subject!......I usually do stay on message and try to make the message interesting!....I do like reading what you write, you say so much with so few well chosen words! ( Oh, how Practical you really are! ).......Well this has been fun, You agree YES? [ just trying to practice my rhetoric ]

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  • rlw895January 22, 2014 - 6:48 pm

    Thomas Sowell draws acclaim? Not here. He must be a budget columnist to be run regularly in the DR. Everyone should have stopped reading and moved on when Sowell claims right off that Obama believes in "economic equality."

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  • SavetheRepublicJanuary 22, 2014 - 8:50 am

    Mr. Sowell.....We need you to read the books Web of Debt and The Public Bank Solution ( Ellen is running for California Treasurer you know ) and No More National Debt by Bill Still and comment. I feel this is even more important than Combating the spreading Disease of Liberalism at this point in time.....Please consider doing this....Please are you a propagandist for the right-Neocons just like some people are propagandists for the left? Also if you are a very smart person tell us how to get rid of the Federal Reserve without the International Bankers crashing our economy....Should be a fun intellectual academic exercise for someone of your prominence and analysis abilities.....I find flattery and being polite are often times an appropriate approach....Do you agree Mr. Sowell ? ( please have a soul Mr. Sowell and respond to my petition ) Thank you.

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  • Give me HOPE and B my only (really smart) Boyfriend Mr. Sowell Man!January 22, 2014 - 9:02 am


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  • Puddin TaneJanuary 22, 2014 - 9:15 am

    Got some bad news, STR. Not only will Mr. Sowell never see or respond to your comment (not out of spite; his column is syndicated and carried all over), but he's also a fellow at the Hoover Institute, a notorious Neocon think tank at Stanford, which means he's likely a member of your hated Illuminati.

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  • Mike KirchubelJanuary 22, 2014 - 9:39 am

    Yes, Tommy works for the "Hoover Institute," as in Republican Herbert Hoover, the inventor of the Great Depression - which only helped the wealthy get richer at the expense of the rest of America. He's obviously a neo-con corporatist, probably a soulless, alien lizard too, though not a Klingon - they are not real.

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  • http://www.thedailybeast.com/articles/2013/03/12/the-reinvention-of-ted-cruz.htmlJanuary 22, 2014 - 9:55 am

    Google...03.12.13 The Reinvention of Ted Cruz Right-wing activists love the Texas senator’s anti-establishment persona. Which is strange, because until recently he was the consummate insider. Michelle Cottle reports. thedailybeast.............Here I will throw you guys a bone....if this is true it is very disturbing....backs up my thesis of...... trust no one......You guys are wrong, large portion of the Tea Party is wrong....nobody is left in place if they threaten Illuminati plans, so that anyone left standing is automatically one of them/Illuminati tool?.....It does look hopeless....READ REVELATION IN THE BIBLE

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  • Heart and Sowell .... The CleftonesJanuary 22, 2014 - 5:42 pm


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  • Mr. SmithJanuary 22, 2014 - 9:33 am

    Wrong again, Mike. For decades, political observers from both side have noted, and in the case of conservatives--bemoaned--the Republican politicians' lack of ability and/or willingness to make a strong case for their causes through rhetorical means. Republicans, traditionally, are not good at 'splainin' things to the masses. Rhetoric is not in their arsenal, in spite of your accusation. I wish it were.

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  • @ Mr. Smith.....January 22, 2014 - 9:37 am

    So you would endorse Jeb Bush for President?

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  • Mike KirchubelJanuary 22, 2014 - 9:53 am

    Gosh, really? You really believe that??? You ARE aware, aren't you, of the many, many, many "foundations" like Tommy's Hoover Institute that are funded by the wealthy and devoted to the endless publication of right-wing theory and concepts? And the fact that every form of mass media is owned and dominated by the wealthy who use it for their benefit, just as you or I would if we were wealthy? And that most of what you think is given to you, force-fed, pre-digested, by people who want you to vote for policies and politicians who will make them richer and you poorer, and the only way they can convince you to vote against your own best interests is to deluge you with propaganda, right? And you know, don't you, that all this "bemoaning" of progressive rhetoric, and the leftist media, and unlimited union campaign contributions is nothing when compared to the right-wing rhetoric, media, and campaign contributions from corporations and the wealthy? You do know that, don't you?

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  • @ Mike KirchubelJanuary 22, 2014 - 9:59 am

    So you would endorse Hillary Clinton for President?

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  • Mike KirchubelJanuary 22, 2014 - 10:15 am

    StR, Who will be running, on either side, in 2016? Ask me when we get closer to the election, the differences between the candidates will probably be sharp by election day. If I'm still around then, you will, no doubt, know who I favor and why. And no, both parties are not the same. They may share similarities on some of your hot-button issues, but they are not, not, not the same.

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  • SavetheRepublic...@ MikeJanuary 22, 2014 - 10:10 am

    Anything you can accuse Republican/Conservatives of, is same same as sins of Democrat/Progressive/Liberals...Google Liberal Think Tanks, Aspen Institute, Clinton global Initiative.....The Bilderbergs, and top level Illuminati all have "conservative" and "liberal" membership.....When will you Mike realize that there is no difference between the two when one digs deeper.....Bye enforcer is mad at me again, got to leave....must go have my late breakfast of oatmeal......

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  • FairfieldJanuary 22, 2014 - 10:34 am

    Fairfield thanks you, Enforcer.

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  • Mr. SmithJanuary 22, 2014 - 10:04 am

    Mike: I stand by what I wrote. My comments were aimed at Republican politicians--period.

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  • Mike KirchubelJanuary 22, 2014 - 10:08 am

    And you don't think Republican politicians use rhetoric: "the art of effective or persuasive speaking or writing, esp. the use of figures of speech and other compositional techniques." It's a wonder how any of them get elected... maybe it's all the right-wing media, money, and mouth-pieces.

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  • Mr. SmithJanuary 22, 2014 - 1:52 pm

    Mike: Of course Republican pols attempt to persuade people to accept their agendas. I'm just saying a lot of folks on both sides of the aisle don't think they are very good at it. And, speaking of [empty] rhetoric, we haven't heard from the POTUS in a few hours. Is he ill, or on vacation?

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  • Mike KirchubelJanuary 22, 2014 - 2:45 pm

    Are Republicans less educated, or less intelligent, or less connected, or less funded??? Or is it that the Republicans have to lie and trick voters into voting against their own best interests, while progressives merely have to tell the truth?

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  • U never did explain...January 22, 2014 - 3:01 pm

    What is a "progressive" vs a Democrat....is there a difference...you sure are chatty today. oops got to go.

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  • Mike KirchubelJanuary 22, 2014 - 4:16 pm

    They don't go for all that new world order stuff. They understand the consequences of letting corporations run the government and they don't like it. Progressives are like tea partiers that understand how the world really works.

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  • Mr. SmithJanuary 22, 2014 - 2:58 pm

    "Progressives merely have to tell the truth." Hahahaha! Stop it, Mike! You're killin' us here!

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  • Mr. SmithJanuary 22, 2014 - 5:58 pm

    Progressives "understand how the world really works?" Mike, you are more delusional this evening than ever. You progressives are systematically destroying the United States of America, piece by piece, under your glorious progressive leader, Barack Obama--who vowed early on to "fundamentally change the country." The ACA and its aftermath will be his everlasting legacy of shame. And that's just one example among dozens.

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  • MrSmithJanuary 22, 2014 - 6:04 pm

    Let me preface this post by first stating that I am in no way a fan of Obama. His actions as both a senator and President could not and should not be labeled as liberal. Furthermore, there is both good and bad policies, especially in terms of economics, on both sides of the political spectrum. Obama is in no way trying to pave the way for income equality. [Almost] No one in America believes that a doctor should be paid the same as a janitor. You should do some self reflection about that whole rhetoric characteristic that you seem to love to label your opponents with. Income equality will never happen in this country nor should it, however lessening the massive income inequality we have at this present time should be the goal of any intelligent human being seeking to avoid a catastrophic collapse of the largest economy in the world. My first advice to you, Sowell, is to heed those warnings that you state about correlation does not equal causation. Case in point, 18th century Georgia was in no way a case study about socialism. And the people fleeing Georgia had far more to do with the numerous wars going on then anything to do with economics. This is the 18th century, massive migrations didn't happen because of economic situations. You couldn't just pack your stuff into your car and take off. Just about the only reason people moved was for survival and survival had little to do with the simple economies of the time period. So half of the people in the 1% in 1996 were no longer in the top 1% in 2005? Hmmm, any educated person would see why that is. Dotcom bubble ring a bell? Loads of people were making millions on any idea that had even a remote chance of becoming successful. Investors were just throwing all sorts of money in hopes of seeing a huge return. I would bet you could see the same thing from 2004-2010 in terms of the drop off from individuals in the top 1% due to the real estate bubble. Tens of thousands of people were making millions in the real estate biz and I bet most of them are no longer making those millions. The real problem isn't that the 1% is taking in too much, but that the top 10% of the top 1% is taking too much. When you have more wealth than you could possibly spend in your lifetime, you are taking away opportunities from other people to scratch out a living without providing any boost in your own standard of living. You fail to see the writing on the wall. Think about it as a game of monopoly. The game ends when one person has all of the money. Well eventually, in an unregulated free market, one person ends up with all of the money. Ronald Reagan was right, a rising tide does life all boats. However, he was wrong in attributed which economic class the rising tide is. The rising tide is the middle and poor classes that when they have some disposable income, there are far greater opportunities for people to get rich and join the people on the rising boats. You should be a role model and stop with the rhetoric first before asking that your opponents stop doing it.

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  • Mike KirchubelJanuary 22, 2014 - 6:47 pm

    Thats actually very good. Except for the part about the doctor and janitor making the same. Nobody is seriously saying that. Its like when people say that the minimum wage should go up a little and people on the right start screaming, "why not raise it to $100 an hour and we'll all be rich." It doesnt help your cause, but you seem to be getting the real message with the bulk of your post. Good work.

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  • rlw and Mike Kirchubel...TAKE OVER THE WORLD....boo ha haJanuary 22, 2014 - 7:19 pm


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  • rlw895January 22, 2014 - 6:52 pm

    Sowell somehow thinks it's important that the top 1% changes over time--it's not the same people. Does anyone else agree? Did anyone think the top 1% DOESN'T naturally change over time? Sowell can't dispute the fact that income is concentrating in the top 1%, so he obfuscates. That's a tactic that should cause an intelligent person to question his motives.

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  • Mr. SmithJanuary 22, 2014 - 7:06 pm

    RLW: Good point. Since I question Obama every time he obfuscates, my IQ must be through the roof! How do we know when Obama is obfuscating? When his lips are moving! Hahahaha. Bada bing!

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  • Confusion beg to differ say......January 22, 2014 - 7:32 pm

    rlw not make good point, he too dull,,,,duh

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  • rlw895January 22, 2014 - 7:46 pm

    Mr.S: Now wait a minute, I didn't say questioning motives makes you more intelligent! You're ODing on Obama.

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