Patterico's Pontifications


Second Circuit to New Haven: No Matter What You Do, You Are Going to be Sued…

Filed under: General — Aaron Worthing @ 5:19 pm

[Guest post by Aaron Worthing; if you have tips, please send them here.  Or by Twitter @AaronWorthing.]

Do you remember Ricci v. DeStefano?  Maybe not by that name, but it was more famously known as the New Haven Firefighter’s case.

I think it is useful when talking about what is happening today to look at the facts as set out by the Supreme Court in that case:

In 2003, 118 New Haven firefighters took examinations to qualify for promotion to the rank of lieutenant or captain. Promotion examinations in New Haven (or City) were infrequent, so the stakes were high. The results would determine which firefighters would be considered for promotions during the next two years, and the order in which they would be considered. Many firefighters studied for months, at considerable personal and financial cost.

When the examination results showed that white candidates had outperformed minority candidates, the mayor and other local politicians opened a public debate that turned rancorous. Some firefighters argued the tests should be discarded because the results showed the tests to be discriminatory. They threatened a discrimination lawsuit if the City made promotions based on the tests. Other firefighters said the exams were neutral and fair. And they, in turn, threatened a discrimination lawsuit if the City, relying on the statistical racial disparity, ignored the test results and denied promotions to the candidates who had performed well. In the end the City took the side of those who protested the test results. It threw out the examinations.

Certain white and Hispanic firefighters who likely would have been promoted based on their good test performance sued the City and some of its officials.

So the case went to the Supreme Court and the Court ruled that throwing out the test results was unlawful discrimination against the white and Hispanic firefighters.  I think the concluding paragraphs of this opinion are equally relevant and indeed ironic given what happened today:

Our holding today clarifies how Title VII applies to resolve competing expectations under the disparate-treatment and disparate-impact provisions. If, after it certifies the test results, the City faces a disparate-impact suit, then in light of our holding today it should be clear that the City would avoid disparate-impact liability based on the strong basis in evidence that, had it not certified the results, it would have been subject to disparate-treatment liability.

Petitioners are entitled to summary judgment on their Title VII claim, and we therefore need not decide the underlying constitutional question. The judgment of the Court of Appeals is reversed, and the cases are remanded for further proceedings consistent with this opinion.

So what happened today to make that ironic?  The Second Circuit Court of Appeals has ruled that a black firefighter can sue the New Haven Fire Department based on literally the same decision.  So basically the New Haven Fire Department lost in the Ricci case, was ordered to go forward with the promotions, and are now being sued for that exact decisions.

And I don’t mean that they are being sued for a similar decision, either.  I mean they are being sued for the promotions specifically involving Ricci and company.

They are literally being sued for obeying a court order.  Mull that over for a  moment and realize that our justice system is being reduced to absurdity.


Paul Krugman, Phone Home

Filed under: General — Karl @ 11:27 am

[Posted by Karl]

Someone needs to beam up fmr. Enron advisor Paul Krugman:

It’s very hard to get inflation in a depressed economy. But if you had a program of government spending plus an expansionary policy by the Fed, you could get that. So, if you think about using all of these things together, you could accomplish, you know, a great deal.

If we discovered that, you know, space aliens were planning to attack and we needed a massive buildup to counter the space alien threat and really inflation and budget deficits took secondary place to that, this slump would be over in 18 months.

Ed Morrissey savors the irony of the lefty economic icon turned warmonger. Tom Maguire notes fmr Obama economic advisor Christina Romer wrote (at the NYT, no less) just last weekend that WWII helped the recovery from the Depression, but the economy was improving long before military spending increased.

Romer’s recent piece is an understatement, even by her own standards, as Amity Shlaes recounted almost a year ago:

After shrinking 3.4% in 1938, real GDP grew 8.1% in 1939 and 8.9% in 1940, before Pearl Harbor.

What might have caused this upturn? There were monetary factors. Gold flowed to the United States as the crisis in Europe worsened. Since the U.S. was on a form of the gold standard this meant an effective loosening of money. The inflow was not sterilized, but whether the heads at Treasury and the Fed understood the full import of the non-sterilizing decision is not clear. In a 1991 National Bureau of Economic Research working paper Christina Romer, who just retired as chair of the Council of Economic Advisors, stresses the importance of these gold inflows for recovery. You can also argue there were spending factors – the government grew as a share of the economy, although not in the massive fashion that Dr. Krugman prescribes.

But other factors in the 1938-1939 upturn were taxes and the diminishment of [government-induced] uncertainty. In 1938, the political tide began to turn against Roosevelt. In the spring of 1938, lawmakers gutted his undistributed profits tax and dropped the graduated corporate income tax in spite of Roosevelt’s objections. Their bill became law without his signature. In the midterm Congressional elections of 1938, Democrats lost 81 seats, not enough to lose control of the House, but enough to chasten them. Bored and frustrated with the New Deal, FDR turned to foreign policy, an area to which he was better suited in any case. The Supreme Court ruled against sit down strikes, limiting the scope of union power. Washington’s war on business was suspended, in part because the president knew he would now need the same industrial giants he had prosecuted if he was going to arm the U.S. and Britain. Treasury Secretary Henry Morgenthau, who had personally sicced attorneys on his predecessor Andrew Mellon, now put a sign on his desk to signal friendship for business. The sign read “Does it contribute to recovery?” The policy mix of the late 1930s was far from ideal, but the direction was enough to cheer everyone.

The real question is not how war spending ended the Depression. It is why the Depression lasted so long. Spending, in any case, didn’t have much to do with the Depression’s end. As Dr. Romer herself summed up in that 1991 paper, “it is hard to argue that changes in government spending caused by the war were a major factor in the recovery. The recovery was nearly complete before the war had a noticeable fiscal impact.”

This is one of many things about which Krugman has been wrong. Indeed, there is a growing body of academic studies, including one from Romer (and her husband) showing that tax cuts would be a more effective economic stimulus. The magical-thinking establishment media will let the debate pass largely unnoticed, keeping their eyes on the skies.


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