ThreeSourcers are familiar with the fact that concentrated interests, i.e. special interest lobbying groups, have an advantage when lobbying government over diffuse interests, i.e. individual taxpayers. A similar inequality [yes, I admit the gratuitous use of a leftist dog whistle term - anyone think it will prompt the righteous indignation that is due? - me neither] exists in the harm done to commerce by government.
Americans for Prosperity's Brent Gardner writes in a WSJ piece that multinational corporations are well situated to demand and receive special treatment from government. On one hand I support such behavior, on the grounds that government should not be taxing corporations in the first place. But government should not be taxing mom and pop businesses either, and they have less leverage to fight the (equal) injustice.
To coin a phrase, the harm to a large company is often acute where the harm to thousands of small companies is chronic. Large companies are often unable to pursue a particular market without these special carve outs. Not only can they do something about it, they have the accounting and business development wherewithal to be aware of it in the first place. Many entrepreneurs simply wonder why its so hard to keep the doors open. One large hint: Taxation.
But the villain in this story is not multinational corporations, nor any large business. It is the government who favors them in naked surrender to the power of their concentrated interest. Gardner:
If state and local lawmakers are truly interested in spurring job creation and economic growth, they have better options than handing out taxpayer money to a lucky few.
States could start with eliminating tax carve outs and replacing them with lower-overall tax rates and lighter regulatory burdens. Federal lawmakers could also do their part by lowering Americas highest-in-the-developed-world corporate tax rate. These already proven ideas would help states create a healthy economic climate to attract businesses and investment.
Embracing these policies would protect taxpayers, who should never be forced to fork over their money to companies that include multinational firms with multimillion-dollar profit margins. Consumers and taxpayers will also benefit once a level economic playing field forces businesses to compete with each other based solely on the quality of their products and services.
Readers will note that the entire excerpt starts with the word "if."
First, allow me to quote American Thinker's Rick Moran:
"Oh. My. God."
Does Disneyland measure wait times? Does Disneyland measure wait times!! You clueless bureaucrat, Disneyland knows the wait time for every major attraction in every park to the minute - in real-time. And, much more importantly, Disneyland, like every private-sector business, does everything in their power to reduce their wait times. Even going so far as to accept appointments for the highest demand attractions, as is done with great efficiency in industries such as, for instance, with no specific reason for mentioning it, MEDICINE! Unless government is in charge. You clowns can screw up anything. Perhaps because, since your job doesn't depend on it, you really don't care about your "customers."
2015 will soon be Auld Lang Syne and Thomas Sowell says, Good riddance.
Lying, by itself, is obviously not new. What is new is the growing acceptance of lying as "no big deal" by smug sophisticates, so long as these are lies that advance their political causes. Many in the media greeted the exposure of Hillary Clinton's lies by admiring how well she handled herself.
Lies are a wall between us and reality -- and being walled off from reality is the biggest deal of all. Reality does not disappear because we don't see it. It just hits us like a ton of bricks when we least expect it.
But a wise man said, "If something cannot go on forever, it will stop." So raise your glass, friend:
I read an article about the Lafayette city elections from an Erie resident Kerry Bensman, who claimed to have served on city councils for over a decade. It noted how last year, the city council voted down the unionization of our fire department, 6-1. Now the big four (including the mayor) or so the letter claims are receiving union money for their reelection.
I'm a bit stung by union money (typ. out of state, one assumes) flooding local elections, especially keen as the JeffCo school board recall vote is clearly an attempt (Complete Colorado has been covering that quite well) at a power grab away from local families by national unions.
I've dug around a bit and not found any supporting information; anybody here hear anything... Bueller?
That's what Luigi Zingales [not a made up name, at least by me] advocates in this Financial Times article. He concludes:
When the media outlets in any country fail to challenge power, not only are they not part of the solution, they become part of the problem.
YES! But everything that comes before this is thoroughly misguided. To wit:
While nowadays almost all the world professes itself to be capitalist, not everybody experiences the same type of capitalism. In fact, the form of capitalism prevailing in most of the world is very distant from the ideal competitive and meritocratic system we economists theorise in our analyses and most of us aspire to. It is a corrupt form, in which incumbents and special-interest groups shape the rules of the game to their advantage, at the expense of everybody else: it is crony capitalism.
So far, so good.
The reason why a competitive capitalism is so difficult to achieve is that it requires an impartial arbiter to set the rules and enforce them. Markets work well only when the rules of the game are specified beforehand and are designed to level the playing field. But who has the incentives to design the rules in such an impartial way?
Rules? You mean, don't steal and don't commit fraud? No, he means "level the playing field."
While everybody benefits from a competitive market system, [everyone except the uncompetitive, that is] nobody benefits enough to spend resources to lobby for it. Business has very powerful lobbies; competitive markets do not. The diffused constituency that is in favour of competitive markets has few incentives to mobilise in its defence.
This is where the media can play a crucial role. By gathering information on the nature and cost of cronyism and distributing it among the public at large, media outlets can reduce the power of vested interests. By exposing the distortions created by powerful incumbents, they can create the political demand for a competitive capitalism.
This is well and good, until media outlets become a vested interest, or ally themselves with such. Then they are perfectly happy with "powerful incumbents." Then they choose what stories to cover - and not - to benefit those interests. Things like Benghazi and the myriad holes and inconsistencies in the "accepted, settled, science" behind the Global Climate Change movement.
"But who has the incentives to design the rules in such an impartial way?"
The founders of the United States, and the authors of the United States Constitution. That's who.
And in the name of "a competitive capitalism" the author advocates for ever more corporatism, the only difference being that media outlets will have a greater say.
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In the past decade economists have shown a growing interest in the media. Most of their attention has focused on the role the media play in limiting government corruption or in shaping electoral outcomes. Little attention has been dedicated to its influence on the type of capitalism prevailing in a country.
While nowadays almost all the world professes itself to be capitalist, not everybody experiences the same type of capitalism. In fact, the form of capitalism prevailing in most of the world is very distant from the ideal competitive and meritocratic system we economists theorise in our analyses and most of us aspire to. It is a corrupt form, in which incumbents and special-interest groups shape the rules of the game to their advantage, at the expense of everybody else: it is crony capitalism.
The reason why a competitive capitalism is so difficult to achieve is that it requires an impartial arbiter to set the rules and enforce them. Markets work well only when the rules of the game are specified beforehand and are designed to level the playing field. But who has the incentives to design the rules in such an impartial way?
While everybody benefits from a competitive market system, nobody benefits enough to spend resources to lobby for it. Business has very powerful lobbies; competitive markets do not. The diffused constituency that is in favour of competitive markets has few incentives to mobilise in its defence.
This is where the media can play a crucial role. By gathering information on the nature and cost of cronyism and distributing it among the public at large, media outlets can reduce the power of vested interests. By exposing the distortions created by powerful incumbents, they can create the political demand for a competitive capitalism.
This is the role that muckraking publications such as McClures magazine played in the US in the early 20th century, where the investigative reporting of Ida Tarbell created the political environment to break up Rockefellers Standard Oil monopoly. And it is the role that the business newspaper The Marker has played in Israel in exposing the effect on the national economy of the concentration of power and wealth in the hands of a few billionaires.
Unfortunately, this is not the most profitable sort of media activity. It can be very expensive, not so much from the costs of the resources dedicated to investigative journalists, but because of the economic repercussions from annoyed advertisers that these investigations can generate.
The value of the advertising that is withheld from muckraking media will generally exceed the additional revenues generated from new subscriptions.
Even if they do not lose money, muckraking newspapers at best break even. As a result, the important social role they play becomes the preserve of profitable media companies, which can afford investigative journalism as a sideline rather than a business model that can make profits.
Before the internet revolution, newspapers were very profitable and some of them were willing to fund costly investigative reporting and weather any possible retaliation by advertisers. Not any more. Plummeting advertising revenues, disappearing classified ads and dwindling subscriptions have all but hollowed out newsrooms and their investigative reporting teams.
So how can one restore this essential role of the media? Most countries have a group of readers who are interested in investigative journalism and are willing to pay for it. In France, for example, Mediapart, an online newspaper dedicated to investigative journalism, has 110,000 paid subscribers.
For most readers, however, it is difficult to ascertain whether investigative journalism is professional, independent and unbiased; or whether it only preys on easy targets, sparing the powerful players in the economy. Without any quality certification, the risk is that competition will drive the price of all news to zero, destroying any incentives to invest in quality.
If we want the media to play a key role in capitalist societies, we need to find a way to certify the quality of its investigative work. At stake here is not just good journalism, but capitalism itself and, eventually, even democracy.
Inquisitive, daring and influential media outlets willing to take a strong stand against economic power are essential in a competitive capitalist society. They are our defence against crony capitalism. When the media outlets in any country fail to challenge power, not only are they not part of the solution, they become part of the problem.
The writer, a professor at the University of Chicago Booth School of Business, will deliver the Wincott Foundation lecture on October 29 on crony capitalism and the media
United States of America
Let's talk about the 10th Amendment. Does it give states the power to ignore federal immigration law? Victor Davis Hanson writes:
Apparently, sanctuary cities do not understand the illiberal pedigree of federal nullification, which was at the heart of the Confederate secessionist movement of 1861. In the 1960s, segregationists declared that Supreme Court decisions and integration laws did not apply to their states. In some states, local law enforcement refused to cooperate with federal authorities to integrate schools.
What would San Franciscans do if conservative counties and towns followed their lead? Perhaps a rural Wyoming sheriff can now look the other way when he spots a cattleman shooting a federally protected grizzly bear or predatory timber wolf -- or at least shield the cattleman from federal officials. Should public schools in Provo, Utah, start the day with school-wide prayers?
The mayor and sheriff of sanctuary-city San Francisco are kindred spirits with Kentucky county clerks who want to opt out of licensing gay marriages.
Who'da thunk it - urban liberal constituencies leading the way to a modern resurgence of the states rights movement.
Possible sub-head: 'The modern reprise of Don Quixote.'
Since the wee hours of the TEA Party movement I've been pleading for elected representatives to call shenanigans on the Washington "establishment" that fleeces the citizenry while telling us "we're looking out for you." My representative, Congressman Ken Buck (A Republic - CO) is proving to be such a man.
While he angered my fellow liberty and conservative activists by not walking the plank in a futile effort to oust Speaker Boehner (Washington D.C. - OH) he proved his constitutional bona fides by being one of only 34 courageous Republicans to vote NO on the TPA bill, aka "Obamatrade." And now he is fundraising on it.
Bully, Congressman! I'm in. Don't tell dagny but I put my money where my blogging is.
Join me by visiting Ken's donate page. He suggested $25, which sounded fair to a tightwad like me.
From the "courageous Republicans" link above:
"Americans should be proud that 34 Republicans put their country before their political party today," Americans for Limited Government president Rick Manning tells Breitbart News. "Their vote to stop Obamatrade dead in its tracks is one that sets the stage for tomorrow's defeat of enabling him to fast track the Trans-Pacific Partnership and other treaties. The nation owes these 34 heroes a debt of gratitude."
California Regulators: Falling Down on the Job of "managing private profit"
Can any ThreeSourcer believe that California regulators have been passing up opportunities to control a for-profit industry in California since around 1987? I was truly amazed to learn this. Perhaps the old codger who used to do it died before training his successor. But California environmentalists are on the case:
According to Adam Scow, California director of Food and Water Watch, the governor and state agencies could in theory disregard the legislature and act on the California constitution which bars "waste or unreasonable use" of the state's water supply.
"We need to start managing and protecting groundwater as a public resource," Scow said. "In a drought, bottling public water for private profit qualifies as wasteful and unreasonable."
Because... DROUGHT! "Endless drought" in fact.
Nestlé itself insists its water use is efficient and has minimal impact on the environment - something the activists reject out of hand.
"While California is facing record drought conditions, it is unconscionable that Nestlé would continue to bottle the state's precious water, export it and sell it for profit," says the petition, which is sponsored by the political activist organisation the Courage Campaign.
But surely not as unconscionable as drawing a Mohammad cartoon. Right?
Please people. A little perspective is in order. Bottled water is measured in ounces and gallons. Irrigation and municipal water is measured in cubic feet per second and acre feet!
Nestlé and its competitors point out that bottled water accounts for a tiny fraction of California's overall use, particularly when compared with the state's vast agricultural infrastructure. Almond farming alone sucks down 10% of the state's water, at a rate of roughly one gallon per almond.
One key question will be how much water Nestlé is taking to create what one industry group delightfully calls "the quintessential hydrating beverage". The company claims 700m gallons a year, or about what it takes to keep two golf courses green.
this collection may be engaged at any number of points. The oversharp distinction between theoretical reflection and practical activity was alien to the leading members of the Founders' generation. They usually thought and acted as though theory and practice should inform each other rather than remain in separate compartments. The arrangement of this collection is meant to foster that kind of free movement and interchange.
According to the Free Dictionary there are 196 different meanings for the acronym "PMS." The two most popular, pre-menstrual syndrome and pantone matching system, are not the topic of this post. I refer to a 197th meaning: Politically Motivated Science
State senator Doug Whitsett, in Oregon of all places, named this enemy of the common man in his commencement speech to last year's graduating class of the OSU College of Veterinary Medicine:
Politically motivated science and statistically significant science are much like oil and water. First, they are nearly impossible to mix. Second, oil rises to the top like science that is fabricated to support political motives.
Estimated, assumed, surrogate or fabricated data points predictably produce 'counterfeit-science'.
Too often, we are asked to believe that biological systems are just 'too complex' to support science that is statistically significant. Moreover, we are expected to accept the unsubstantiated and often unverifiable assumptions that are used to calibrate the models.
Scientific reports that are not statistically significant are by definition, insignificant. They are irrelevant, immaterial and inconsequential.
Worse, computer models are too often manipulated to fabricate alleged scientific support to justify a political end.
The modelled reports are then employed to mislead those who believe that science is the 'final word'.
There is no such thing as 'the final word in science'.
Moreover, there is no such thing as 'scientific consensus' or 'settled science'. The scientific method requires that we continue to question, continue to probe, and continue to debate the validity of every scientific assumption.
If you break a government law, "public officers" with guns are empowered to commit justifiable homicide: "When necessarily committed in overcoming actual resistance to the execution of some legal process, or in the discharge of any other legal duty..."
I do not suggest that it be otherwise, but merely that we think long and hard every time we create a new government law. For example, do we really want to subject either the citizenry or the police officers we hire to "serve and protect" to life and death disputes over the taxes that may or may not be paid on individual cigarettes?
New York has by far the highest cigarette taxes over 5 bucks a pack. As it always does, this kind of policy has triggered black market trade. In March, Governor Cuomo announced the formation of the "Cigarette Strike Force" to crack down on illegal tobacco trafficking. A strike force. Sounds pretty violent. As Robert Tracinski has pointed out, the Garner case should remind us that government is force and more government has predictable returns. And if you believe cops are racist and unduly violent in general, every time you pass some silly law all you do is give them more opportunity.
And so begins the 'War on Loosies.' "It's okay, ma'am. We're justified."
Hat tip: Blog friend Terri, for alerting me that Harsanyi had written about the "Revenuer" angle of the Eric Garner case.
What's more important - the safety net, or saving people?
In a comment thread my blog brother invokes The Ronald (Reagan) in defense of a modest social safety net for the "truly needy." So when I read in the October 2014 Imprimus that in the 16 years comprising the terms of Carter, Reagan 1 and 2, and Bush Sr., federal "welfare state" spending increased by 58% (adjusted for both inflation and population growth) it ocurred to me that perhaps even Republican presidents have a liberal definition of "truly needy." Indeed, after 8 years of Clinton and 8 more of Bush Jr., federal welfare state spending increased another 59%. (And this doesn't even include the $728B spent at the state and local levels.) "But it's all worth it because of the tremendous reduction in poverty," some might say. But they would be wrong. From William Voegli's 'The Case Against Liberal Compassion' in the aforementioned issue of Imprimis:
In fact, however, liberals do not seem all that concerned about whether the machine they've built, and want to keep expanding, is running well. For inflation-adjusted, per capita federal welfare state spending to increase by 254 percent from 1977 to 2013, without a correspondingly dramatic reduction in poverty, and for liberals to react to this phenomenon by taking the position that our welfare state's only real defect is that it is insufficiently generous, rather than insufficiently effective, suggests a basic problem.
That defect, I came to think, can be explained as follows: The problem with liberalism may be that no one knows how to get the government to do the benevolent things liberals want it to do.
I'll leave the ending for those who click through to read the whole thing, but will give readers a hint, though: "Selflessness" is often, in the end, selfish.
As Jean-Jacques Rousseau wrote in Emile, "When the strength of an expansive soul makes me identify myself with my fellow, and I feel that I am, so to speak, in him, it is in order not to suffer that I do not want him to suffer. I am interested in him for love of myself."
The city also needs a marketing campaign to engage the community in a shared goal, he [Boulder Senior Environmental Planner Brett KenCairn] said. (...)
"What motivates a community to participate in this level of transformation?" he said. "The way we have been framing the problem and the goal is now part of the problem. Aspirational goals are deeply personal. Climate as catastrophe is not a good motivator."
Question: Once regional drivers pass the city limit sign, don't they belong to someone else's ambitious climate goals?
Gallup: Free Enterprise, Small Business, Viewed Positively by 90% of Americans
Ayn Rand summarized her system of morality this way:
"I am not primarily an advocate of capitalism, but of egoism; and I am not primarily an advocate of egoism, but of reason. If one recognizes the supremacy of reason and applies it consistently, all the rest follows."
And I have learned this week that, were she alive today, she would be required to replace the word "capitalism" with "free enterprise." At least until our misguided electorate learns what actual capitalism is.
Perhaps I missed the 2012 Reason Magazine article, that I outlined here and we discussed later here, when it first appeared. But I distinctly remember reading the 2010 Gallup poll that blog brother jk reprised yesterday. And yet the real lesson of its findings eluded me just as it eluded Gallup at the time, as they concluded:
It is apparent that "free enterprise" evokes more positive responses than "capitalism," despite the apparent similarity between the two terms.
Thus concluded their curiosity on the subject. I suppose then that I may be excused for taking so long to see it.
"Americans were asked to indicate whether their top-of-mind reactions to each were positive or negative. Respondents were not given explanations or descriptions of the terms."
"Capitalism," the word typically used to describe the United States' prevailing economic system, generates positive ratings from a majority of Americans, with a third saying their reaction is negative."
Egads, if the over-taxed, over-regulated, dysfunctionally central-managed economy we now labor under is what most Americans think is "capitalism," it's a minor miracle it scored as positively as it did! But my grandmother's capitalism - defined by Rand as "a full, pure, uncontrolled, unregulated laissez-faire capitalism -- with a separation of state and economics, in the same way and for the same reasons as the separation of state and church" - has not only an "apparent similarity" with free enterprise, it is exactly free enterprise. Or did nobody notice the word "free?"
My wise blog brother observes that libertarians are wrong to insist on pure principles and instead, we liberty and freedom lovers had better, "in our Madisonian system -- form coalitions and use our strengths wisely."
So if Libertarians are the party of liberty uber alles, Republicans the party of big business corporatism and Democrats the party of federal government corporatism where and how do we organize the party of free-market, free-enterprise, small business entrepreneurs? It would seem an easy thing to do inasmuch as it's membership includes over four-fifths of the entire electorate. And yet, we are brought to heel by the established, entrenched, neo-mercantilist statists. Where is the friggin' light switch?
I have advocated a takeover of the GOP. A replacement of all things "establishment" by either "Tea Party Darlings" or "Liberty Activists." We seem to be losing battles in that war at least as often as we win them, perhaps because the battle lines are so convoluted. So this may be a plan for the next primary season rather than any general election but the question for every voter needs to be: Are you with the backroom dealers in both parties who have brought us crisis after crisis, and riches to the well-connected, or are you with we entrepreneurs - the advocates of free enterprise, and the renewal of the American Dream we promise to bring to you?
That's the sort of guarantee we're all accustomed to when doing business with a private concern. Can we ask for, maybe, half our money back from government?
Over 100 million people, about one third of the U.S. population, received aid from at least one welfare program at an average cost of $9,000 per recipient in 2013. If converted into cash, current means-tested spending is five times the amount needed to eliminate all poverty in the U.S.
After all, 80 percent of the almost one triiiiilion dollars spent on Means Tested Welfare Spending each year is wasted.
I must caution myself against regarding this the key to a prosperous future of joyous non-partisanship, but it does seem to have that potential.
Somehow we seem to have missed this February, 2012 Reason article: Corporatism is Not the Free Market by Sheldon Richman. It's value is not so much embodied in the title subject, although that is necessary background. It's novelty is the way it explains the rise of hyper-partisanship in the 21st century. He quotes heavily from this article by the Libertarian theorist Roderick Long:
Long sees capitalism in its common usage as similar.
By "capitalism" most people mean neither the free market simpliciter nor the prevailing neomercantilist system simpliciter. Rather, what most people mean by "capitalism" is this free-market system that currently prevails in the western world. In short, the term "capitalism" as generally used conceals an assumption that the prevailing system is a free market. And since the prevailing system is in fact one of government favoritism toward business, the ordinary use of the term carries with it the assumption that the free market is government favoritism toward business.
Similarly for socialism, Long writes. He thinks most people mean nothing more specific than "the opposite of capitalism."
Then if "capitalism" is a package-deal term, so is "socialism" -- it conveys opposition to the free market, and opposition to neomercantilism, as though these were one and the same.
And that, I suggest, is the function of these terms: to blur the distinction between the free market and neomercantilism. Such confusion prevails because it works to the advantage of the statist establishment: those who want to defend the free market can more easily be seduced into defending neomercantilism, and those who want to combat neomercantilism can more easily be seduced into combating the free market. Either way, the state remains secure.
Other than to say the present neomercantilist system favors politically connected business, not business as a whole, I will leave further discussion to the comments. And for reference, I will include both a dictionary definition of capitalism and a more precise definition by Rand.
And I will plead guilty to having fallen into the trap of defending neomercantilism, unwittingly. If nothing else, by not explicitly stating up front that this is NOT what I am defending.
In a move that, from this side of the pond, is reminiscent of secession-like movements in several US states, Scots are set to vote on national independence from the United Kingdom later this month. Today I read why the independence of Scotland, whose representation in UK's parliament is heavily leftist, would probably send ripples of de-unification and hence, in my opinion at least, increased individual liberty and national competition, through western Europe.
The disappearance of a clutch of Labour lawmakers would empower the Conservative Party. That in turn is likely to increase the clout of the anti-EU faction in parliament, with Tories typically more hostile to what they regard as ceding sovereignty to Brussels. Scottish voters, by contrast, tend to be more pro-European, so their absence from the referendum on EU-membership that Prime Minister David Cameron has promised for the U.K. by 2017 would also make an exit more likely.
Sons of Scotland, it's all for nothing if you don't have FREEDOM!
What the Hell is Administrative Law, and Where Did it Come From?
That is the question which is, by every account, answered brilliantly in a new book by Professor Philip Hamburger of the Columbia Law School: Is Administrative Law Unlawful?
Amazon reviewer Ross Huebner wrote last month:
Professor Hamburger outlines the fact that administrative law (outside of very limited circumstances) is not only unconstitutional, but it is anti-constitutional as well. I recommend this book as a worthy legal history of administrative law and state simply that it should be in every serious scholar's library for both historical and legal purposes.
In a radio interview this morning the author explained that administrative law, essentially the rules and regulations of Administrative Branch agencies, crept into our government after its founding as a holdover from the pre-Constitutional era and do not have any justification under the Constitution. To the contrary, Article I Section 1 begins: "All legislative Powers herein granted shall be vested in a Congress of the United States..." therefore any legislative powers exercised outside of Congress are illegal.
And not just legislative, but judicial powers are wrongly exercised under color of "administrative law." Who may lay his finger on the Constitutional passage that enumerates that? Article III Section 1 begins: "The judicial Power of the United States, shall be vested in one supreme Court, and in such inferior Courts as the Congress may from time to time ordain and establish." No mention of EPA or FDA that I could find.
That Jenny with her anti-vaccination, hysterical, junk-science bullpuckey!
Nope -- I mean Tailgunner Joe, the Senator from Wisconsin. If Helen launched a thousand ships, Senator Mac launched a thousand preening Hollywood films.
Jesse Walker lists Four Great Myths of the McCarthy Era. And it is very good.
It may be tempting to put all the madness of the early Cold War on the shoulders of one Wisconsin senator, and then to cheer as Joseph Welch ritually exorcises him on the floor of the Senate and the TV screens of America. The truth, alas, is much messier and uglier than that. When it comes to the Red Scare, there's plenty of shame to go around.
Underappreciated in the discussion is the perfidy of the 17th Amendment (oh, man, here he goes...). In "Master of the Senate," Robert A. Caro details Sen. McCarty's fundraising prowess. He and Johnson pioneered the habit of raising prodigious amounts of money to fund the campaigns of those who would play along. To hear Caro tell it, there were quite a few members of that august body who tired of McCarthy's tactics, but incumbency always comes first, and the difference between his financing your campaign or your competitors -- or his besmirching your name in campaign materials -- kept those in line who may have normally calmed him down a bit.
Plundering the wealth of one's neighbor is a mean of survival as old as time, or at least as old as ancient Athens.
And, as the Romans learned, it is not merely a vocation for individuals. It can be done, legally and effectively, by government.
Many people believe the "rich" can afford to pay higher taxes since they command a disproportionate share of the nation's income. However, the current amount of redistribution already takes 21% of the top quintile's income. That would have to soar to 74% to make every family in America "average."
These are the missing pieces of the current inequality debate. To recap: Current federal tax-and-spending policies combine to redistribute $1.5 trillion each year from the top 40% of Americans to the bottom 60%. To close the income gap to zero would require $4 trillion.
The questions to those who say we should do more to narrow the income gap are: Where on that continuum should we aim, and what policies would achieve these goals without bringing the economy to its knees?
So writes Scott Hodge, President of the inestimable Tax Foundation, which plays these issues non-partisan. As for "what policies would achieve these goals without bringing the economy to its knees," Art Laffer, call your office. As for "where on that continuum should we aim," paging Hank Rearden and Ragnar Danneskjold. (And Jefferson, Madison, Franklin ...)
My flirtation with the idea of a "mincome" or "Uncle Sam's Allowance" is well chronicled here but, in that same post, fellow Objectivist Craig Biddle explains how, despite my unbeknownst Platonic impulse to smooth over social divisions, the path to respecting individual rights is not embarked upon merely by violating those rights with more efficiency, transparency and less waste.
JK pragmatically concluded, "If the mincome were popular, I'd enjoy its strengths and accept its weaknesses as the pragmatic price of reform." Unfortunately, in pursuing popularity of a mincome, Republicans and Democrats would most surely find a "balance" more in line with the conditions enumerated by one entitled little twerp called Jesse A. Myerson. I won't link to his Rolling Stone piece - Jonah Goldberg did it so that I wouldn't have to - but to Jonah's deconstruction of it, which commences thusly:
"In America," Oscar Wilde quipped, "the young are always ready to give to those who are older than themselves the full benefits of their inexperience." And they often do it in the pages of Rolling Stone.
While I sought to establish a safe level of capitalist subsistence for every man such that he could pursue pleasurable and profitable pursuits, the young Myerson wants everyone to be paid for nothing because "jobs blow." Other things "blow" in Myerson's estimation, including "hoarding" or what my parents used to call "saving for a rainy day." Millenial Myerson's Rolling Stone Rant is essentially the Grasshopper's Manifesto Against the Ant. Tsk... winter is here, silly insect. To bad you failed to "hoard."
December 2009 were heady days for those intent on reining in the "abuses" of "big business." Just ten days prior to the midnight passage of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act by a straight party line vote of Democrat US Senators, Springfield, MO CEO Jack Stack started a blog page with a topic of 'Open the Books.'
Why would business owners want to open the books to their employees?
Because doing so has the power to change the way the company operates and to change the way employees think about their work. Let me quote former Representative Richard Gephardt, whom I introduced to open-book management and who has dedicated much of his time since leaving office to spreading the word: Open-book management, Mr. Gephardt wrote in his book, "An Even Better Place," represents "an overall approach to corporate governance that treats the employees like co-owners of the business who have to make sacrifices and take on the burdens that any owner assumes."
The idea is to get employees to start approaching their jobs as if they owned the place, which in fact they might.
This may or may not be a great idea for corporations, which must compete with other corporations in a marginally free market. But it sounds to me like a fantastic idea for government.
It's also a great idea according to Chicago's Adam Andrzejewski, who has invested considerable time and money on a project called Open the Books...
which allows users to see spending figures in their areas across multiple levels of government, going back 12 years in some cases. Shining light on such data is the means, but the primary goal of the site and app is to put pressure on governments to reduce wasteful spending, and it's already been downloaded more than 5,000 times in the Google Play store. It's also available in the Apple app store.
"There are no easy conversations in America anymore about spending and debt," Andrzejewski told me, "So everyday people have to start holding local officials accountable."
It is here that I learned that over three thousand Illinois government employees have higher salaries than the state's governor. And on the openthebooks.com page where I ran a search to discover how many federal employees earn over $300,000 per year (and that those at the top of the list all work for the VA or VHA.) In another search I found the names and addresses of Colorado farmers receiving multiple hundreds of thousands of dollars per year in "supplemental farm income" from the federal government!
Our goal was to teach our employees to think and act like owners. We started by trying to improve their financial literacy by turning topics like accounting into a game. We played this game with real money, however, and the games pieces were each and every employees quality of life. We called it The Great Game of Business.
Visit openthebooks.com. Run some searches. Make a donation. Share results on Facebook. Let's help Adam spread The Great Game of Government, and turn as many as possible of the current winners into the losers they really are.
"Congressmen" Udall and Bennet Vote to Discontinue US Senate
"When, in the course of human events, it becomes necessary for one people to dissolve the political bands which have connected them with another, and to assume among the powers of the earth, the separate and equal station to which the laws of nature and of nature's God entitle them, a decent respect to the opinions of mankind requires that they should declare the causes which impel them to the separation."
For five years, Senate Republicans have refused to allow confirmation votes on dozens of perfectly qualified candidates nominated by President Obama for government positions. They tried to nullify entire federal agencies by denying them leaders. They abused Senate rules past the point of tolerance or responsibility. And so they were left enraged and threatening revenge on Thursday when a majority did the only logical thing and stripped away their power to block the presidents nominees.
Part of the Times' defense of this headlong rush to make the Senate indistinguishable from the House is that it only applies to Presidential appointment nominations, not including the Supreme Court.
But now that the Senate has begun to tear down undemocratic procedures, the precedent set on Thursday will increase the pressure to end those filibusters, too.
"A republic, madam, if you can keep it."
"Keep it? From what?"
"From becoming a democracy."
Yesterday, Colorado's two Democrat Senators Mark Udall and Michael Bennet joined 50 other Democrats to resolve that the United States Government shall henceforth have two majoritarian chambers with little difference between them. In the process they essentially "demoted" themselves from Senators to Congressmen, and I for one shall refer to them as such.
UPDATE: Investors Business Daily, on the other hand, says this is the furthest thing from democracy.
Appearing as himself in "Mr. Smith Goes to Washington," then-CBS radio commentator H.V. Kaltenborn called the filibuster "democracy's finest show: the right to talk your head off, the American privilege of free speech in its most dramatic form."
Of the excitement surrounding Stewart's fictional senator taking a stand against a majority deluded into believing the slanders spread against him, Kaltenborn said: "In the diplomatic gallery are the envoys of two dictator powers. They have come to see what they can't see at home: democracy in action."
Thanks to Reid and his power-hungry liberals, Americans can no longer see it either.
PPACA Edition - (I regret to admit that I misnamed the "Horror Story of the Day" category for Obamacare. I left out the P P.)
This difference in reactions to failure dramatically highlights the primary reason for repealing Obamacare and replacing it with market-based reform. As the Edsel flop demonstrates, businesses in the free market are quite capable of making colossal mistakes. However, when they do so and the customer rejects their products, they make the necessary adjustments. And, despite the widely believed myth that the market fails to work for health care, any private enterprise that had produced an unpopular mess like Obamacare would by now have shut it down. But the President wont even consider delaying it. Why? Because his customers are required by law to avail themselves of his third-rate services.
After a lengthy "government shutdown" in which the greatest public sacrifices were borne by visitors to America's National Parks, Congress appears poised to "re-open" the federal government. One cannot truthfully say "for business" but for whatever it is that the federal government, particularly the "nonessential" portions of Leviathan, normally does.
I support this "surrender." Important points have been made:
1) Fully 43% of federal civilian employees are non-essential, and could likely be let go, gradually and humanely, of course.
2) Republicans, at least a handful of them, have warned Americans loudly and clearly that the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act will make most of them worse off than they were before. They are on record as having tried to stop it before it did whatever damage is sure to come.
3) By the way, did we mention that federal government spending is out of control and we really can stop it if enough voters send us enough principled house members in '14? Toward this end, every vote between now and then adds to the ideological war chest in coming primary battles.
Now, fellow Lilliputians, it is time to step back and let Leviathan stumble along his predictable path. There are triplines in place, put there not by the Administration's partisan opponents, but by the selfish interests of millions of Americans. "I work for a living, and I vote."
One point of caution I can think of now is to be prepared to deflect calls by the Administration to "fix" or "rework" or "tweek" Obamacare as a cover for its failings. The proper rebuttal will be, this law is flawed in its premise and must be replaced with a system that delivers cost-effective care as demanded by a customer base that is free to make purchasing choices at the point of care. You know, like iTunes.
Best of all, since the "reopening" is only for 2-3 months, we get to do this all over again soon... with myriad Obamacare horror stories betwixt. What a country!
John Stossel took a peek into Nancy Pelosi's "bare" cupboard last night to see if she was correct in saying there is nothing left to cut. Brilliantly, he placed Social Security, Medicare and military spending on top of the cupboard since "those are so big they don't even fit in the cupboard." Mark Steyn takes on the same issue today saying, Too Much of the Federal Government Can't Be Shut Down.
"Mandatory spending" (Social Security, Medicare et al.) is authorized in perpetuity -- or, at any rate, until total societal collapse. If you throw in the interest payments on the debt, that means two-thirds of the federal budget is beyond the control of Congress' so-called federal budget process.
That's why you're reading government "shutdown" stories about the PandaCam at the Washington Zoo and the First Lady's ghost-Tweeters being furloughed.
He segues from there to what passes for a spending prioritization process in the capitol of our national, nee federal, government.
Pace Sen. Reid, Republican proposals to allocate spending through targeted, mere multi-billion-dollar appropriations is not only not "irresponsible" but, in fact, a vast improvement over the "continuing resolution": To modify Lord Acton, power corrupts, but continuing power corrupts continually.
America has no budget process. That's why it's the brokest nation in history. So a budgeting process that can't control the budget in a legislature that can't legislate leads to a government shutdown that shuts down open areas of grassland and the unmanned boat launch on the Bighorn River in Montana.
I've been Tweeting and Facebooking that we're witnessing day whatever-it-is of "Essential Government." In reality, what's still steaming ahead full is well beyond what is essential.
A talk radio caller made a prescient comment this morning. We're not in the midst of a "government shutdown" or even a "partial government shutdown." Instead we're witnessing a "non-essential government shutdown." What a perfect opportunity for Americans to experience life without non-essential government! The longer it goes on, the less it will be missed as individuals take the initiative - much like several Republican congressmen who moved arbitrary barricades closing the WWII Memorial in D.C. yesterday - to solve problems and make things work. You know, that "land of the free" business.
Investors runs an editorial this morning that says not just that the "shutdown" was a good idea, but that Republicans should "own it" and keep it going as long as possible. Read the whole thing, but here is the lede, to whet your appetite:
The Republican Party didn't blink, and as a result non-essential aspects of the federal government are shutting down. Republican politicians and members should cheer, as the "Stupid Party" actually revealed a political and economic savvy that will serve it well in 2014 and beyond.
The Republican Party now has a brand that says it's willing to stand athwart the obnoxious growth of Leviathan. Its decision to allow a shutdown of the federal government, and ideally let it remain shut through the 2014 elections absent substantial concessions from the Democrats, is both good politics and economics.
There have been several awesome speakers at Brother Bryan's Liberty on the Rocks -- Flatirons and it is a fool's errand to pick a favorite. But fools we may be.
Rob Natleson would clearly be in the running. He spoke about the Article V process to amend the Constitution by the States' calling for a convention. It was a superb talk and the depth of his Q&A answers still astound.
Amendments are cool again with Mark Levin's book on the bestseller list (anybody read it? Correctly or not, I dismiss him as a "talk show host." But the book does sound interesting). Natleson addresses concerns -- as he did in his LOTR-F talk -- about a "runaway convention." This time, raised by Phyllis Schlafly.
As was true of earlier interstate gatherings, the convention for proposing amendments is called to propose solutions to discrete, pre-assigned problems. There is no record of any federal convention significantly exceeding its pre-assigned mandate -- not even the Constitutional Convention, despite erroneous claims to the contrary.
The state legislatures' applications fix the subject-matter for a convention for proposing amendments. When two-thirds of the states apply on a given subject, Congress must call the convention. However, the congressional call is limited to the time and place of meeting, and to reciting the state-determined subject.
In the unlikely event that the convention strays from its prescribed agenda (and the commissioners escape recall), any "proposal" they issue is ultra vires ("beyond powers") and void. Congress may not choose a "mode of ratification," and the necessary three-quarters of the states would not ratify it in any event.
Contrary to Mrs. Schlafly's claim that "Article V doesn't give any power to the courts to correct what does or does not happen," the courts can and do adjudicate Article V cases. There has been a long line of those cases from 1798 into the 21st century.
The infamous Internet Segue Machine brought this page to my screen today, offering a hand of friendship to Ralph Benko, who asks the GOPs libertarians to "bend a bit." I read it as the author counseling the faithful to keep Truth and law in their separate and proper stations.
Throughout his work, Lewis infused an interconnected worldview that championed objective truth, moral ethics, natural law, literary excellence, reason, science, individual liberty, personal responsibility and virtue, and Christian theism. In so doing, he critiqued naturalism, reductionism, nihilism, positivism, scientism, historicism, collectivism, atheism, statism, coercive egalitarianism, militarism, welfarism, and dehumanization and tyranny of all forms. Unlike progressive crusaders for predatory government power over the peaceful pursuits of innocent people, Lewis noted that "I do not like the pretensions of Government - the grounds on which it demands my obedience - to be pitched too high. I dont like the medicine-mans magical pretensions nor the Bourbons Divine Right. This is not solely because I disbelieve in magic and in Bossuets Politique. I believe in God, but I detest theocracy. For every Government consists of mere men and is, strictly viewed, a makeshift; if it adds to its commands 'Thus saith the Lord,' it lies, and lies dangerously."
Yes, "Lewis" is indeed C.S. Lewis, a thinker and author I had previously dismissed as an overt religionist. It appears the waters of his writing run deeper that that, and I am eager to go for a swim. I have made glacial progress in the winning of hearts and minds with the teachings of Rand. Perhaps I can have more success, in a practical endeavor, quoting Lewis and others who admire him. A good starting place may well be the founder and president of the C.S. Lewis Society of California, David J. Theroux.
I'm quite sure blog brother jk linked the George Will piece on Detroit already, but I just got around to reading it today via a still prominent position on the IBD Ed page. It contains an analogy just as apt as Starnesville.
The ichneumon insect inserts an egg in a caterpillar, and the larva hatched from the egg, he said, "gnaws the inside of the caterpillar, and though at last it has devoured almost every part of it except the skin and intestines, carefully all this time avoids injuring the vital organs, as if aware that its own existence depends on that of the insect on which it preys!"
Detroit's union bosses and "auto industry executives, who often were invertebrate mediocrities" were not, however, quite as intelligent as the lowly ichneumonidae. They knawed right through the alimentary canal. Why did the executives go along? Did they not know the lavish compensations were unsustainable? This matters little, for government followed the private-sector lead:
Then city officials gave their employees - who have 47 unions, including one for crossing guards - pay scales comparable to those of autoworkers.
Thus did private-sector decadence drive public-sector dysfunction - government negotiating with government-employees' unions that are government organized as an interest group to lobby itself to do what it wants to do: Grow.
And grow it did, in Detroit and in cities and states as far and wide as union influence stretched.
Detroit, which boomed during World War II when industrial America was "the arsenal of democracy," died of democracy.
Yet democracy lives on, an unnoticed and unindicted threat to the life of all American cities, states, and nation.
Charles Murray writes about the Eisenhower and Kennedy Administrations, when three-quarters of the governed "trusted the federal government to do the right thing most or all of the time."
Among the nations of the earth, the ties that bind Americans to their national government have been uniquely idealistic. We have been in love with the idea of being American citizens, free and independent, equal before the law with every other American, living our lives as we see fit. The national government validated that celebratory view of ourselves, and we loved the government for doing it. We and our government maintained this happy state of affairs by observing three tacit compacts.
First, from the founding through the early 1960s, citizens did not expect much from the federal government. Running the daily life of society was the job of "we the people." It is one of the pleasant side effects of limited government: the government doesnt get blamed for failing to solve problems that are none of its business. And more: when we did solve our own problems, we gave credit to the political system that left us free to do so, the system embodied in the federal government.
Second, the federal government tried hard to avoid taking sides in specific moral disputes that divided Americans. The moral battles that arose -- slavery, suffrage for women, and prohibition, for example -- were resolved via constitutional amendment. The whole nation had to take a stand, and the federal government didnt get too far out in front.
Third, the national government made it easy for us to pride ourselves in being good citizens. If the ordinary Joe did nothing more than make an honest living and take care of his family, he was as good an American as the highest in the land. Presidents, senators, and congressmen constantly said so. And in practice as well, the federal government didnt ask much more than that -- through the 1950s, remarkably few federal laws affected individuals or businesses.
It's instructive to view ourselves through a Russian mirror. The term "paranoid Russian" is a pleonasm. The fact is that all Russian politicians are clever. The stupid ones are all dead. By contrast, America in its complacency promotes dullards. A deadly miscommunication arises from this asymmetry. The Russians cannot believe that the Americans are as stupid as they look, and conclude that Washington wants to destroy them, -- David Goldman
On February 3, 1913, Delaware became the 36th state to ratify the Sixteenth Amendment to the Constitution. In 30 fateful words it read, "The Congress shall have power to lay and collect taxes on incomes, from whatever source derived, without apportionment among the several States, and without regard to any census or enumeration."
However, in order for there to be a peaceful resolution to this crisis, certain things need to happen. There must be reform of outdated and poorly-envisioned legislation, written to be so broadly applied as to make a felony crime out of violation of terms of service, creating in effect vast swathes of crimes, and allowing for selective punishment. There must be reform of mandatory minimum sentencing. There must be a return to proportionality of punishment with respect to actual harm caused, and consideration of motive and mens rea. The inalienable right to a presumption of innocence and the recourse to trial and possibility of exoneration must be returned to its sacred status, and not gambled away by pre-trial bargaining in the face of overwhelming sentences, unaffordable justice and disfavourable odds. Laws must be upheld unselectively, and not used as a weapon of government to make examples of those it deems threatening to its power.
For good reason the statue of lady justice is blindfolded. No more should her innocence be besmirked, her scales tipped, nor her swordhand guided. Furthermore there must be a solemn commitment to freedom of the internet, this last great common space of humanity, and to the common ownership of information to further the common good.
We make this statement do not expect to be negotiated with; we do not desire to be negotiated with. We understand that due to the actions we take we exclude ourselves from the system within which solutions are found. There are others who serve that purpose, people far more respectable than us, people whose voices emerge from the light, and not the shadows. These voices are already making clear the reforms that have been necessary for some time, and are outright required now.
It is these people that the justice system, the government, and law enforcement must engage with. Their voices are already ringing strong with a chorus of determined resolution. We demand only that this chorus is not ignored. We demand the government does not make the mistake of hoping that time will dampen its ringing, that they can ride out this wave of determination, that business as usual can continue after a sufficient period of lip-service and back-patting.
Not this time. This time there will be change, or there will be chaos
In the vernacular of the posting, my voice emerges from the light. I ask those who would denounce hacking as a tactic to explain how else these alleged abuses of official justice could be effectively challenged?
I supported John Boehner's Plan B. I did so because it had so many income tax fixes and made them permanently.* I didn't follow the holiday-lawmaking closely but what I did hear and read was depressing. The "millionaire's tax rate hike" was lowered from $1M to $400,000 ($450,000 for couples [marriage penalty anyone?]) and the ratio of tax revenue increases to spending cuts was forty-three to one. But dagny emails an article that looks at the full portion of the glass.
Yesterday, the government voted to extend almost all of the Bush Tax Cuts permanently.
Not temporarily, as a stimulus measure.
Ever since the Bush Tax Cuts were first enacted in 2001, one goal of the Republican party has been to "make the Bush Tax Cuts permanent."
For most of the last decade, this goal has seemed like an extremist view: Making the Bush Tax Cuts permanent would drastically reduce the federal government's revenue. It would also increase inequality and balloon the national debt and deficit--so how could we possibly justify doing that?
And yet now, suddenly, almost all of the Bush Tax Cuts are permanent.
The Republicans also got another good deal for America's investor and owner class, making the Bush dividend tax cut permanent. This saves a lot of money in tax bills for America's wealthier investors.
It's true that the Republicans have not yet won much ground on the other front that the party claims to be fighting on--namely spending cuts on programs that primarily benefit low-income and middle-income Americans (food stamps, Medicare, Medicaid, Social Security, unemployment insurance, and so forth).
But the key word there is "yet."
This is not to say our market economy is in the clear but as far as the legislative action taken yesterday, it could have been much worse.
* "Permanently" only means without an expiration date, but it is still important because significant political capital must be expended before it changes again.
A few days back I posted a link to Part I of Brit philosopher Nick Land's crushing take on democracy and liberty, "The Dark Enlightnement." Strangely enough, the orignal entries disappeared from the "That's Shanghai" website shortly after the piece began to be extensively linked...
Fortunately, a Tumblr named Matt Leslie had posted it in full back in September. At over 27,000 words of reading neither easy or light, it's not everyone cup of tea, but I present it for your consideration.
I know that not everyone here agrees completely, but we are entering interesting times. It is not the end of civilization or a return to the Dark Ages, but it is indeed the kind of inflection point that has been seen before, many times, in human history. Things that cannot go on, will not. Reality is not subject to a filibuster in the Senate.
I wrote before that I am dead to national politics now, though I am still involved at the state and local level. Some states and locales will be much better to live in than others, when the New WoMen really get their program in place.
It's now about Flight, or Exit. Since there is no new frontier on Earth, and space isn't quite ready yet, it's going to be an internal exit. In the next few years a lot of the best people we've got are going to quit working so hard, quit trying to deal with DC, quit trying to make the world "better." Just for awhile.
Rand's vision was awesome, because it relied on the reality of human beings qua human beings, and the reality of this earth. "Is Atlas Shrugging?" articles have been written periodically for over 50 years. Maybe I'm wrong; but I hear it coming, like the faint low staccato of a distant stampede, that no one can stop. One can only get out of its way.
I'm not "depressed" (what a typical modernism!) by this, not at all. Again, interesting times! I'm with author Sarah Hoyt (of Colorado):
And then theres the fact that in the rest of the world, if things get unbearable, you can always go to America. But we dont have an America to go to. Which will only make us more determined to ignore the order, buck the directive, roll up our sleeves and do for ourselves.
This is why statists of any stripe so often throw their hands up and call us ungovernable. Not that this gives them the idea they shouldnt try. No. Instead, they try to devise more cunning ways of governing us. You have them to give credit for dreaming the impossible dream. Its the one proof we have that the sons of beetles are Americans.
So after sixty years of creeping statism, theyve now captured the flag they have actually got all of the important systems sewn up: news, entertainment, education, government.
They think can you blame them? that they won.
I wont say they cant hurt us. They can. The mechanisms theyve seized hold of are important and they are natch misusing them.
Im not saying that this will be easy. It wont. Our economy is likely to be an incredible shambles, and Ive said before I think well lose at least one city.
But, listen, the problem with these sons of Babel is that they might be American, but theyre not American ENOUGH. If they were, theyd understand ungovernable and this willingness for each of us to go it alone (often for common benefit, but on own recognizance, nonetheless) is not a bug. Its a feature. And that its baked in the cake of a people who came here to escape the top-down spirit of other places. Some of the black sheep (or as one friend of mine calls it, the plaid sheep) attitude is genetic, hereditary, inborn. And enough of us have it.
I'll tell you what's really funny; I've basically returned to where I was back in '75 when I read Harry Browne's How I Found Freedom in an Unfree World. If you haven't read it, I recommend you do. No spoilers here.
It seems to me that most of us Three Sourcers had a pretty good idea that the election of Mitt Romney was not going to "solve" America's problems. We didn't talk about it much, explicitly, but deep in our hearts I think this extraordinarily bright collection of humans knew that this is the way things really are.
He gives it the catchy title "The Dark Enlightnement" but I might just call it reality. If you have a few minutes, read the piece and let us discuss our next move. I don't think mine will be to research whether Rubio, Ryan or Jindahl is the best choice for 2016...
Last week I endorsed the Venezuelan Model for challenging and ultimately defeating a corrupt and dishonest leftist president - namely, fiercely denounce the crime, corruption, inflation and fiscal incontinence of the regime.
But a sad and predictable thing happened on the way from the polling places to the official results.
According to the Associated Press, Venezuelas electoral council has declared that Hugo Chavez beat Henriques Capriles in Sundays presidential election with about 54 percent of the vote, despite exit polls showing otherwise.
The independent exit polls showed the challenger won 51.3% to 48.06%. [No word yet from President Carter.] The result: Tanks in the streets.
Let's hope it doesn't come to that in the North American version of this tale.
The Refugee would like to humbly put forth a simple way to make sense of world politics. Foreign governments should be placed into at least one of three categories:
1. The country is an ally of the United States.
2. The country respects the United States.
3. The country fears the United States.
Any combination of the above is OK and leads to stability. However, "none of the above" is not an option and portends violence. Unfortunately, too many counties in the Middle East fall into this last category. When it comes to Islamic extremism, (paraphrasing President Kennedy), "To make violent confrontation acceptable makes peaceful dialog impossible."
I finally made a cogent point out of a post I put up day before yesterday:
Government tax revenues as a percentage of national GDP:
China - 17%
USA - 26.9%
France - 44.6%
Doing much to explain why manufacturing [of Olympic uniforms and other necessities] is less costly in communist China than in "free" America. Also revealing why leftists think Americans are whiny losers for claiming we are Taxed Enough Already.
Even so, wouldn't France be much better off if they didn't waste so much tax money on smart bombs and aircraft carriers?
Well aware that I'm risking graphic chart overload here, I couldn't resist posting the graph below showing the combined total, in percentage points, of corporate income tax rate, personal income tax rate, employer SS tax rate, employee SS tax rate, VAT/sales tax rate and wealth tax rate for the countries that have such a thing. Sixty-one countries are listed, including China. Since both corporate and personal taxes are listed I suppose the theoretical maximum index score is 200, or 100 percent of personal income plus 100 percent of corporate income. But this is no justification for US federal government confiscation of 42.65 percent of both personal and corporate income. (61.6% and 53.9% in NYC when state and local taxes are included.)
Of sixty one nations, four have a TMI below 52 points: Qatar, UAE, Hong Kong and Georgia. The rest start at 70 points and go up from there. I find it mind boggling that Americans take to the streets to protest taxes that approach 50 percent, while Frenchmen sit still for tax rates of 79.4% on corporations and 86.7% on individuals. I realize these are top marginal rates, paid only by evil "one percenters" and corporations. Nonetheless...
And despite the second highest Tax Misery Index in the world, China is still better disposed to make American Olympic Team costumes. (Perhaps this is better explained by an average US hourly compensation cost of $34.74.)
A Tweet from Doug Giles alerted me to this story posted yesterday at a blog called Freedom Outpost. It includes the original text of a written notice from Google Shopping (Mountain View, CA) to weapons parts and accessories vendor Hamlund Tactical.
We do not allow the promotion or sale of weapons and any related products such as ammunitions or accessory kits on Google Shopping. In order to comply with our new policies, please remove any weapon-related products from your data feed and then re-submit your feed in the Merchant Center.
So glad I'm already practicing a "boycott Google" policy. For those inclined to join me, just say no to:
On last week's post criticizing the City of Boulder's "Climate Change Preparedness Plan" brother JK glibly (sarcastically?) quipped that "if things get too warm here [in Weld County] I can drive right over the line [into Boulder County]" where presumably he'll be "saved" from the "deleterious" effects of global, or regional, umm county-wide climate change. Not so fast, dear friend. There's big trouble in little Nirvana.
Seems the CCPP is part of a larger Climate Action Plan (CAP) that is enabled by a voter-approved tax that expires next March. The tax collects $1.8 million annually for the City of Boulder's pet enviro projects. Apparently Boulder County thinks the city is on to something and they are contemplating a "sustainability tax" of their own. Boulder Daily Camera:
"I'm very concerned that if the county goes ahead, our CAP tax will stand a very good chance of losing," Mayor Matt Appelbaum said. "And that will just kill us. That will set us way back. It would be a huge loss for us if we lost the momentum. There are many programs that are just getting going."
Councilwoman Suzy Ageton said the programs will "crash" if the tax is not renewed.
"We're going to go off a cliff if this doesn't pass," she said.
One wonders if Boulder County's "sustainability tax" will be more sustainable than Boulder City's CAP tax.
Reagan famously asked, "Are you better off than you were four years ago" to defeat incumbent President Jimmy Carter. Mitt is using a similar strategy against today's incumbent president. This graph shows why it might be a winning play. Substantially more people are at a diminished income than there were at any time in the last 50 years, and there's a long way to go back to the baseline.
A story on Investor's Ed Page today introduced me to the American Legislative Exchange Council. Seems the organization has a process by which individual legislators from many states work together to craft model legislation, for potential implementation in state governments, that promote limited government, free markets, and federalism. Evidence of their effectiveness is the all-out campaign by Progressive groups to silence them.
So what's got the left so agitated? Is ALEC involved in organized crime? Has it stolen money from state treasuries? Bribed officials? Polluted the environment? Clubbed baby seals?
Nope. The left is targeting ALEC for the simple reason that it's been effective in promoting pro-business, free-market ideas and policies, mainly by drafting model legislation that lawmakers can use as a template in their own legislatures.
Those bills, mind you, still have to make it through their states' representative bodies, and then get signed by their governors.
In other words, it's democracy at work.
ALEC answers its critics directly on its FAQ page.
Q: What does ALEC have to say about its detractors, including Common Cause?
A: ALEC encourages all Americans to actively participate in the public policies of this country. As legislatures and governors pursue the best solutions for their states, ALEC understands and expects that some groups may oppose solutions that emphasize free markets and limited government. ALEC respects these disagreements. It is disappointed, though, that some have chosen rhetoric over honest discussion by attacking and distorting ALECs nature and record to advance their own political agendas.
ALEC is proud of its work and its limited role. It provides a venue for earnest discussion on important economic issues. ALEC does not lobby in any state. Its model bills and resolutions are public policy resources for state legislators. To the extent any ALEC model bill is successful, it is because it provides legislators and their constituents with the kind of free market, limited government solutions they want.
Bloomberg television carried this 20-minute debate live yesterday. Drudge linked it with the headline: Ron Paul staying in race, may not support Romney. But I don't think I would have pitched it that way. I had already seen the story as a hit on my Google Alert for "Liberty Dollar." Andrew Kirell via MEDIAite wrote:
Krugman, grinning through Rep. Pauls answers, responded that if you think you can avoid [the government setting monetary policy], youre living in the world that was 150 years ago. Predictably, Krugman continued on to defend our monetary policy as a response to free market economy gone amok, and explain why he thinks government is necessary in order to prevent future depressions.
When discussing the topic of inflation (something Krugman wants more of), Rep. Paul hit back that [Krugman] wants to go back 1,000 years to the Greco-Roman times when inflationary monetary policy was a common practice. Paul explains how the Roman empire eventually destroyed their currency through inflation, implying that Krugmans desire for the federal government to print more money could lead to similar consequences.
Krugman chuckled and responded: I am not a defender of the economic policies of the emperor Diocletian. So lets just make that clear.
Well, you are. Thats exactly what youre defending, Paul insisted.
Mitt Romney, take notice: When you're opponent says, "I'm not _________" the correct reply is, "That's exactly what you're doing."
When co-host Trish Regan questioned Paul on whether he wants to abolish the Federal Reserve entirely, he explained that he wants to legalize private currencies to compete with the government monopoly on currency. As it stands today, if people use a private currency, they can go to to jail (as we saw several years ago with the federal raid on the Paul-inspired Liberty Dollar).
"What astonishing changes a few years are capable of producing! I am told that even respectable characters speak of a monarchical form of government without horror. From thinking proceeds speaking, thence to acting is often but a single step. But how irrevocable & tremendous! What a triumph for the advocates of despotism to find that we are incapable of governing ourselves, and that systems founded on the basis of equal liberty are merely ideal & falacious! Would to God that wise measures may be taken in time to avert the consequences we have but too much reason to apprehend." --George Washington, Letter to John Jay, 15 August, 1786
dagny shares a financial "article of the day" via email. "The interesting thing about this is the comments" she writes. "The majority of commenters seem to think that reducing business taxes (i.e. letting business keep the money they made) is a, 'handout,' or, 'corporate welfare.' Betcha they don't think that about refundable tax credits like the EIC."
And why wouldn't commenters such as Chicago's own "gsdfhdgjhfdhjjjjjkgkjgjks" believe that accelerated depreciation and an R&D tax credit are handouts to corporations. President Obama and groups like Clean Energy Works are turning the entire English language upside down:
A memo circulating from Clean Energy Works, an alliance of about 60 groups, outlines a strategy of framing tax benefits the industry receives as corporate welfare. The memo calls the messaging plan a "line of attack" to counteract the description of climate legislation as a national energy tax.
"What they don't want anyone to know is that the American people already have a national energy tax -- The Big Oil Welfare Tax -- in the form of billions of dollars in subsidies to the wildly profitable big oil companies," the memo adds.
So first, "subsidies" to specific corporations equate to a "tax" on individuals. Well, I can see the logic here if the effects of economic growth spurred by a larger (and cheaper) energy supply and continued government spending on unrelated programs are ignored. But this misses the real point that taxing something less than it might be taxed can not in any sense be considered a subsidy. The government is taking wealth from wealth-producing companies. In English this is known as "taxation."
But even if one believes, as I do, that "Big Oil" should be taxed just as much as any other industry it is erroneous to examine a few specific tax categories where rates may differ and proclaim preferential treatment.
According to the Energy Information Administration, the industry's effective federal income tax rate is more than two-thirds higher than the average for all manufacturing industries.
Furthermore, those throwing stones at the oil industry over corporate welfare would do well to first look in the mirror, for the vast majority of them are vocal proponents of so-called "renewable" energy.
Another EIA study shows renewable energy industries enjoy double the incentives of those for oil and natural gas."
But punitive taxation is nothing new in America or anywhere else where wealth is produced and standards of living have been raised. And despite taking one-quarter or more of the freely created wealth of for-profit corporations and individuals, they still manage to keep working and producing and, getting the shaft. Our commenter from Chicago put it succinctly in the comments to the original article. In reply to a previous sarcastic comment which read:
"Nice. kick businesses in the teeth--the ones who hire the most-- and increase gov spending and deficits. Now THAT'S the way to make jobs!"
The non-binding Presidential Preference Poll is getting all the Publicity but for my money, the most important way for individual caucus-goers to be influential in party politics is to help shape what the party stands for. A significant part of this is the party platform. We're familiar with this at its completed stage but it has its origins at the most basic level of self-governance: the individual party member.
The process begins with individual "resolutions" being submitted tonight at each neighborhood precinct caucus meeting. Each and every resolution is accepted and, after a process of aggregation and distillation, voted upon at each county's party convention. Approved resolutions are advanced to the state convention, re-aggregated and re-voted, with the approved resolutions going on to the national convention for their final votes.
If one of your aims in "getting involved" is to help shape the values and positions of the party then this is your most urgent action item: Draw up the ideas that are important to you and hand them to your precinct captain tonight. If your idea is clear and compelling and popular with your fellow party members it could make its way to the national convention and help guide the thinking of current and future office holders. (I'll promise you more influence than possible from your single vote on election day. How much more I shall not promise.)
The formulation is usually, "The _________ county Republican Party resolves (or supports, affirms, opposes, etc.) ...
After watching a large part of this David Stockman interview with Bill Moyers I'm about ready to adopt the dirty hippies #Occupy meme. When they villified "Wall Street" and "Greedy Corporations" I always had a mental image of Fidelity Investments and WalMart. But if I replace that with Goldman Sachs and General Electric I think we would agree on more than we differ.
This also magnifies my distrust of the GOP establishment and, by association, the Romney candidacy.
The other day Cornel West showed up at the Occupy Wall Street protest with a sign reading, "If only the war on poverty was a real war, then we would actually be putting money into it." Funny. But the premise is flat-out wrong. In 2009 alone Washington spent $591 billion on means-tested anti-poverty programs. (Others, such as Medicare and Social Security, are not means-tested.) By comparison, 2009 federal appropriations for the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan were $130 billion. Since the War on Poverty began, Americans have shelled out more than $13 trillion to fight it.
The austerity message has really gotten through. The USPS is reducing the amount of money paid to workers to do nothing.
The U.S. Postal Service, expecting about $9 billion in losses this year amid slumping mail volume, is still paying thousands of its workers millions of dollars each year to do nothing.
But it's paying tens of millions of dollars less for "standby time" than it did just two years ago, according to a new report.
Long-standing labor agreements with two major postal unions prohibit the Postal Service from laying off or reassigning workers because of broken equipment or periods of low mail volume. Instead, idled employees show up for work, sit in a break room or cafeteria and do nothing.
It's like Ron Paul has already been inaugurated or something. Tens of millions less!
This might explain why it feels like people think I'm a drug dealer when they see my money clip.
Bankers see cash the way government does. Theres always going to be some people, for good or nefarious reasons, who want to use cash, Doug Johnson, vice president for risk management policy at the American Bankers Association, tells the Times.
So while Keynesians see cash hoarding as evil, government and bankers believe those using cash are up to no good.
I must admit that my darling baby sister recognized this one before I did. Now I've found a nice writeup on it in IBD Editorials:
Wait! What happened to Social Security's "guarantee"? You know, the iron-clad assurance of Social Security benefits in exchange for paying into the program your whole working life? It's something Democrats constantly talk about, particularly when attacking Republicans who propose privatizing the program.
As Nancy Pelosi once put it: "Social Security has never failed to pay promised benefits, and Democrats will fight to make sure that Republicans do not turn a guaranteed benefit into a guaranteed gamble."
The AFL-CIO warned in 2005 about "President Bush's plan to replace Social Security's guaranteed benefits with risky private accounts." The AARP describes Social Security as "the guaranteed part of your retirement plan." Etc., etc.
Turns out, this "guarantee" is a lie.
And the close...
Whatever happens, the fact remains that Obama has accidentally made a pretty good case for Social Security reform by revealing the program for what it really is.
Leftist Democrat cites Laffer; Calls for Tax Cuts to Grow Government Revenue
First-term Democratic Congressman Jared Polis, representing Colorado's second congressional district including the very left-leaning city of Boulder, wrote an op-ed for the Wall Street Journal today that among other things suggested lowering tax rates "to more reasonable levels" in order to "make revenues increase." He calls it Raise Revenues, Not Taxes.
In my home state of Colorado, and in 15 other states and the District of Columbia, local revenues have increased by millions of dollars since lawmakers decided to legalize and regulate medical marijuana. By reducing the current 100% confiscatory tax on marijuana to more reasonable levels, we can make revenues increase. If we were to nationally legalize, regulate and reduce federal taxes on marijuana, we could receive as much as $2.4 billion in additional revenue annually, according to a 2005 study conducted by Harvard economist Jeffrey Miron.
If true, this could be the tip of a very large iceberg of new government funds. If lowering tax rates on the relatively small market commodity marijuana can bring in upwards of two billion dollars the results would be even more substantial when applied to mainstream commodities such as tobacco, transportation, communications, and even coal, oil and other fuels. And there's no reason to limit this new principle to excise taxes. Income taxes, capital gains taxes and inheritance taxes are all ripe targets for this simple approach to replentish the government's coffers.
Please call or write your congressman today and urge them to give their full support to Representative Polis' plan to pay off the debt and grow the economy buy cutting tax rates wherever they may be found. Congressman Polis is brilliant and his idea could be the bipartisan breakthrough we've been waiting for! And if his plan is implemented he deserves to be re-elected for as long as he remains its champion.
Senator Jon Kyl went on Fox News Sunday yesterday to explain why he withdrew from deficit reduction negotiations over the President's conditional requirement that government revenues be raised as part of a "balanced" solution. "But isn't one dollar of new taxes for every three dollars of spending cuts a fair deal" asked Chris Wallace?
But you don't want to pile taxes on at a time when companies don't have the ability to invest and hire people. That's the primary reason we are opposed to raising taxes right now.
Treasury Secretary Geithner explains the real reason for insisting on tax hikes.
"If you don't touch revenues," Geithner said, "you have to shrink the overall size of government programs, things like education, to levels that we could not accept as a country."
What do you mean "we" Kemosabe? Investor's Business Daily opines:
Some factions just won't accept shrinking the size of government. Most in them run in the same tight circles as Geithner. Never hearing anything other than support for increasing the size of government, they assume that's what Americans want.
But quite a few Americans have been wanting to cut government for decades, and that number is growing as the almost intractable problems created by overspending have become more obvious.
From Social Security and Medicare to housing assistance and farm subsidies to, yes, even education, federal programs need to shrink or be eliminated. There's not a single item in the budget, including defense, that can't use some judicious trimming.
No Tim, America's economy has shrunk. Americans' net worth has shrunk. It's well past time for America's government to shrink.
EPA: "Employee salary is our highest budget priority"
On his radio show today Mike Rosen read a copy [2:00 to 4:55] of an internal memo from EPA Regional Administrator James Martin to all Region 8 EPA employees. Subject: Fiscal Year 2011 Budget Decisions.
I want to update you on the status of Region eight's budget. The most important thing to tell you is that we continue to protect salary for our on-board EPA employees. It is our highest budget priority and that has not and will not change.
Our OCFO has been able to provide us with some relief for our payroll shortfall. This will allow us to maintain our support services at the current levels as we work to meet our agency's mission. We are continuing to work with headquarters for additional relief. In the meantime, to meet the remaining payroll needs we'll be reducing our programmatic funds by 30 percent, as well as some regional support funds.
A distinct difference, to be sure, from EPA's stated policy on private sector jobs.
I set out on the internet this morning to find support for a personal premise: The existence of unenforced laws undermines respect for those laws that are enforced. The experience caused me to recognize an unacknowledged subsequent premise: Individual liberty is enhanced in a law-abiding society. For some time now I have thought the first premise was a call to action in furtherance of the second premise but then I questioned the validity of that objective, and of the second premise itself.
Slate magazine published, in October 2007, a rather wide-ranging compendium of unenforced law discussion by Tim Wu.
He addressed the drug war, illegal immigration, copyright, polygamy and more. Wu seems to conclude that non-enforcement is good for America. Not, as I would attempt, in furtherance of greater liberty but of "the economic interests of the nation."
Immigration policy is perhaps the strongest example of the ways in which tolerated lawbreaking is used to make the legal system closer to what lies in the economic interests of the nation but cannot be achieved by rational politics. All this is why the Bush administration faces an uphill battle in the course of trying a real internal enforcement strategy.
I tend to agree with this conclusion but I attribute as cause the very American attitude of individual liberty amongst voters who won't tolerate a heavy hand against individual workers and employers. More to the point is what this does to our representative government. Since our legislatures cannot achieve rational laws our judiciaries and our executives, at both state and federal levels, exercise discretion in which laws are enforced and to what extent. This appears, at first, to be a good outcome since the forces that guide the police and the courts are those of public opinion which derive, in turn, from individuals. We effectively have 300 million citizen legislators. However, this system has (at least) two major flaws.
First is the disparate influence on the legal system from concentrated versus individual interests and the tyranny of the majority. Allowing the trial lawyers lobby, the AARP and SEIU to dictate which laws are left to wither (and which to be bolstered) is no boon to liberty.
But worse yet, the ability of government to "get" any individual on some trumped up charge whenever it is "necessary" is a hallmark of totalitarian states.
At the federal prosecutor's office in the Southern District of New York, the staff, over beer and pretzels, used to play a darkly humorous game. Junior and senior prosecutors would sit around, and someone would name a random celebrity--say, Mother Theresa or John Lennon.
It would then be up to the junior prosecutors to figure out a plausible crime for which to indict him or her. (...) The trick and the skill lay in finding the more obscure offenses that fit the character of the celebrity and carried the toughest sentences. The, result, however, was inevitable: "prison time."
It's one thing when government lawyers make selective prosecution into a drinking game, but quite another when used as a tool of coercion and intimidation. In the name of liberty, laws to prevent "injuring a mail bag" have no place in a just society. Liberty is enhanced when laws are obeyed, but said laws must first be not just objective and knowable but also justified in the cause of protecting individuals from others and not from themselves.
550 CEO's recently surveyed by Chief Executive Magazine rated the several states as the best/worst for business. Wisconsin's ranking rose 17 places from 41 to 24. This was the largest gain of any state, and likely attributable to Gov. Scott Walker's pro-business, smaller government changes. Illinois, in contrast, has dropped 40 place in five years to 48 overall.
Of other note to Three Sourcers, Colorado dropped from 8 to 12, Pennsylvania fell from 32 to 39 and California remained steady at 50th. (Sorry, Brother Keith. The good news is that it can't get worse, at least ranking-wise.)
This is the name that Emma Lazarus gave to the Statue of Liberty when it was gifted to America from France in the 19th century. The poem she reluctantly wrote to aid in raising funds for the building of a base to place it upon came to be the statue's meaning put into words:
Not like the brazen giant of Greek fame
With conquering limbs astride from land to land;
Here at our sea-washed, sunset gates shall stand
A mighty woman with a torch, whose flame
Is the imprisoned lightning, and her name
Mother of Exiles. From her beacon-hand
Glows world-wide welcome; her mild eyes command
The air-bridged harbor that twin cities frame,
"Keep, ancient lands, your storied pomp!" cries she
With silent lips. "Give me your tired, your poor,
Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free,
The wretched refuse of your teeming shore,
Send these, the homeless, tempest-tossed to me,
I lift my lamp beside the golden door!"
One analysis of the poem published by the University of Virginia errs in its characterization of an irony:
"As political propaganda for France, the Statue of Liberty was first intended to be a path of enlightenment for the countries of Europe still battling tyranny and oppression. Lazarus' words, however, turned that idea on its head: the Statue of Liberty would forever on be considered a beacon of welcome for immigrants leaving their mother countries."
I disagree with this conclusion. The statue and Lazarus' words were, in fact, symbols of enlightenment and freedom and did stand in contrast to European tyranny and oppression. However, the fault for European emmigration was not America's new statue but the fecklessness and intransigence of Old Europe's governments.
Is this germane again, today? Do the words in the great statue's base beckon to a new generation of American Patriots to strive for not just "democracy" but liberty?
It is true that much progress toward liberty has been made in America's 19th and 20th centuries, but in many other ways the once "golden door" of America has become as tarnished as the oppressive societies to whom she once showed the way. From the U of VA's concluding paragraph:
Just as Lazarus' poem gave new meaning to the statue, the statue emitted a new ideal for the United States. Liberty did not only mean freedom from the aristocracy of Britain that led the American colonists to the Revolutionary War. Liberty also meant freedom to come to the United States and create a new life without religious and ethnic persecution.
Yet this means little if economic persecution remains. Let not the New Colossus be transformed from the Mother of Exiles to the Mother of Equals, nor let our "tired" our "poor" our "huddled masses" once able to breathe free, succumb to the persecution of "shared sacrifice." Some lecture us that "cutting programs that help those who need them most is morally wrong" and "when Jesus talked about how God will judge nations, he said that God will focus on what we did or did not do for the neediest among us." And yet, how do government policies which violate the eighth and tenth commandments advance Jesus' word?
God's judgement, and liberty itself, are things reserved only to individuals and not to the abstract form we call "nations." Our government "overlords" would do well to remember this important distinction, as would voters.
Using numbers from the U.S. Treasury, we see that the debt during Bush's eight years in office increased from $5.7 trillion to $10.6 trillion, or $4.9 trillion over eight years. That's bad; that's basically $610 billion per year. But in the less than three years Obama has been in office, the debt has increased from $10.6 trillion to $14.2 trillion, a $3.6 trillion increase in about 27 months. In other words, Obama is increasing the debt by $1.6 trillion per year, three times as fast as Bush.
"Why should out-of-state companies that sell their products online have an unfair advantage over Main Street bricks-and-mortar businesses?" Durbin said in a speech in Collinsville, Ill., in February. "Out-of-state companies that aren't paying their fair share of taxes are sticking Illinois residents and businesses with the tab."
Exactly. Let's abolish the regressive sales tax. Oh wait, he has a different idea.
When news of a 2011-12 budget compromise between Colorado's Republican House and Democrat Senate was announced this week the big story was that cuts to state funding of K-12 education would be $82 million less than our Democrat Governor had recommended - $250 million instead of $332 million. Despite this change and that Democrats are largely in control, the house majority leader's insistence on some relief from last year's new $60 million per year tax on local businesses earned him the blame of at least one house Democrat, Pueblo's Sal Pace:
"I think it's disappointing that a greater reduction in cuts to K-12 didn't materialize, and it could have if the speaker didnt insist on corporate special-interest tax cuts," Pace told members of his party during a caucus meeting immediately after the budget compromise was announced. "We could have minimized the cut to schools to around $200 million if (McNulty) wasnt protecting his (campaign) donors."
But Pace and his fellow Democrats had an opportunity to save far more than $40 million in cuts to schools by agreeing to another Republican proposal that was scuttled:
McNulty also pressed to allow local government agencies like school districts to raise the employee contribution rates to the Public Employees' Retirement Association.
In the end, McNulty got it all, except the local PERA hike.
No figures were given for what kind of savings could have resulted but PERA costs are counted in billions, not millions of dollars. So the Democrats had a choice to cut funding to schools or ask unionized teachers and state employees to pay a slightly larger share of their own retirement costs. Judging by which way they went it is clear that McNulty isn't the only one who can be accused of "protecting his (campaign) donors."
A NY Times editoral yesterday squeaked, "It's Not Over in Wisconsin." But I'm quite happy to correct them - as the WSJ notes, it really is. But what most interested me in the execrable Times piece was it's opening line:
Republican lawmakers in Wisconsin have reversed half-a-centurys middle-class progress in the state by erasing collective-bargaining rights for public employees.
First of all, this explains why Progressives are so agitated - issuing death threats - calling for "class war" - with the democratically enacted legislation in Wisconsin. It took them fifty years to achieve the present state of their glorious people's state, yet in a few weeks a handful of Republican politicians have pulled out one card and the rest of the house-of-cards came tumbling down.
But what else does this seethingly indignant sentence say? Middle-class progress over the last 50 years is to the credit of - unions? Then why are unions such a minority presence in the private sector? But I digress. To fully understand what "progress" means for the middle-class one must first consider how the middle class has changed in five decades. The graphs at this Tax Foundation post show that the 1960 middle class consisted mostly of married couples, a large portion of whom had children. Fast forward to 2007 and that demographic is mostly represented in the top two quintiles of taxpayers. (You know, the "rich.") Today's middle class is single filers.
These demographic shifts have no doubt contributed to the perception of rising income inequality. When the so-called rich are increasingly couples with two incomes, they will naturally look wealthier than the vast number of single taxpayers who now populate the statistical middle.
But those single taxpayers aren't poor. They're now the middle class!
As for the nuveaux "upper class"...
Because of the progressivity of the federal tax code, these couples end up facing the highest federal income tax rates even though they live distinctly "middle-class" lifestyles.
As lawmakers look for solutions to the economic challenges facing today's "middle-class" but upper-income families, they would do well to consider the way in which taxes--federal and local--are contributing to the problem.
And that, boys and girls, is what is driving the events in Wisconsin. To borrow from the SEIU mob vernacular, "This is what middle-class progress looks like!"
I didn't do so well in yesterday's effort to find a potent list of federal regulatory reforms for our ersatz "pro-business" president. Fortunately, blog brother JK was there to bail me out with the Armey/Kibbey article. But today I think I've done better.
Anyone who's been here more than a week knows that I believe taxation is moral issue, i.e. taking money from people against their will is theft, even if done by our "democratic" government. If I'm right, thinks I, then there's probably a high proportion of taxpayers who do whatever they can to lower their tax burden and consequently, limit how badly they are robbed.
This Freakonomics Quorum from 2009 includes some data related by University of Michigan economics professor Joel Slemrod:
About two-thirds of all underreporting of income happens on the individual income tax. Of that, business income -- as opposed to wages or investment income -- accounts for about two-thirds.
The I.R.S. estimates that the net misreporting rate is 53.9 percent, 8.5 percent, and 4.5 percent for income types subject to "little or no," "some," and "substantial" information reporting, respectively, and is just 1.2 percent for those amounts subject to both withholding and substantial information reporting.
So when taxpayers know they are being watched, they are honest, and when they know they are not, 53.9 percent of them are not. But how can this be? In the next paragraph Slemrod wrote, "In a recent survey, 96 percent of people mostly or completely agreed that 'It is every Americans civic duty to pay their fair share of taxes;'"
So 96 percent of us believe that paying "their fair share" is his duty but only 46 percent report all of the income that isn't traceable. Is there a better case to be made that roughly half of American taxpayers don't consider their tax rate to be representative of "their fair share?"
It was predictable that frustrated gun-grabbers would leap at the opportunity to villify handguns provided by the tragic shooting of Arizona Rep. Gabrielle Giffords and numerous bystanders yesterday. But they're making it a two-fer by blaming the TEA Party movement at the same time. The first such conclusive leap I saw was posted on the same day as the shooting - 'Lock and Load and Lost in Tucson Today: What's the Matter with My Arizona?' Wherin Jeff Biggers cites Gregory McNamee-
"What is clear to me, at this chaotic moment, is that no one should be surprised by this turn of events. The bullets that were fired in Tucson this morning are the logical extension of every bit of partisan hatred that came spewing out during the last election, in which Gabrielle Giffords---a centrist, representing well and faithfully a centrist district---was vilified and demonized as a socialist, a communist, a fascist, a job-killer, a traitor, and more.
Anyone who uttered such words or paid for them to be uttered has his or her name etched on those bullets."
And Biggers himself-
Now in Arizona--and the nation--do we have the courage and wisdom to deal with our gun laws? To stop the hatred from finding its all-too-easy expression through the barrel of the gun?
"While we are all still learning details about this shooting, and particularly the 22-year old responsible for this horrendous act, we should find it unacceptable that when Americans and our elected leaders are assembling in public places, their lives are at risk from gun violence."
"America's gun culture claims its latest victims."
"If the attempted murder of one of their colleagues does not force Congress and President Obama to face the gun issue, what will?"
Perhaps worst of all is this, from former Colorado Senator Gary Hart who I have to believe truly knows better: 'Words Have Consequences'-
"Today we have seen the results of this rhetoric. (...) We all know that there are unstable and potentially dangerous people among us. To repeatedly appeal to their basest instincts is to invite and welcome their predictable violence.
So long as we all tolerate this kind of irresponsible and dangerous rhetoric (...) so long will we place all those in public life, whom the provocateurs dislike, in the crosshairs of danger.
That this is carried out, and often rewarded, in the name of the Constitution, democratic rights and liberties, and patriotism is a mockery of all this nation claims to believe and almost all of us continue to struggle to preserve. America is better than this."
Some creative Englishpersons have suggested a fresh look for US currency, and it includes replacing the image on the one dollar bill of America's first president, stodgy old white guy George Washington, with America's hip and worldly celebrated "First African American President."
As for the "reason" to redesign America's money:
Fast Company's Suzanne LaBarre praised the Dowling Duncan design, writing, "The Obama bill anchors their sweeping concept for redesigning U.S. banknotes ... The impetus: The greenback has an image problem. It has come to represent everything that's wrong with the American economy, and worse, with its cartoonish graphics and vaguely sinister styling, it actually looks the part."
That's right. The image above certainly isn't "cartoonish" is it? The president's ears can't possibly be as big as those in this caricature.
New commenter "PoppaGary" (welcome!) explains that Washington State's defeated "income tax for the rich" was distrusted, in part, because "in Washington, most initiatives can be changed after 2 yrs by a simple majority of the Legislature" and "based on their past behavior, in 2 yrs they would have forced it on everyone." This reminded me of the way the federal income tax was foisted upon Americans in 1913. It was justified as a tax "only on the rich."
Beginning in 1913 the income tax was levied against "adjusted gross income" as it is today. Considering just the personal exemptions the tax was zero on the first $3000 of earnings for single persons or $4000 for married couples. Adjusted for inflation from 1913 to 2010 these tax floors are equivalent to $66,193.64 and $88,258.18, respectively.
The tax on adjusted incomes up to $20,000 ($441,290.91) was just 1 percent, or a maximum of $200 ($3,750.97).
The top tax bracket was for adjusted incomes over $500,000 ($11,032,272.73) and was just 7 percent.
These numbers make today's argument that individuals earning over $200,000 are "the rich" pretty da_n laughable: $200,000 today is equivalent to $9,064.32 in 1913 dollars, resulting in a tax of $90.64 ($1999.93.) I don't make anywhere near 200K but I'd gladly trade my tax burden for that of 1913's version of "the rich."
In last Tuesday's election 1,339,522 Washington State voters chose not to "demand the unearned" when they rejected Initiative 1098 by a whopping 2-1 margin. What did this Democrat-leaning state find so objectionable? I-1098 proposed a new state income tax on people making $200,000 per year or more (adjusted gross income.) A chief advocate for the proposal, Bill Gates Sr., said "Our tax code is unfair" and "Poor people and middle-income people are paying too much to support the state and rich people aren't paying enough. That's the starting point for me." Is it also unfair that poor people get exactly the same number of votes as rich people - one per person? Why then is it unfair that everyone pay an equal share of the cost of running the state?
Michelle Malkin uses the Washington result to urge "outing" the White House's "war on wealth."
I-1098's promoters tried to disguise their wealth-suppression vehicle as tax "relief" by tossing in a few stray targeted cuts. But they were called out by a judge and slapped with a court order to make the income tax burden explicit in the ballot title.
If only the taxmen in Washington, D.C., were required to do the same. Obama's budget proposal is a soak-the-rich scheme adorned with a few business tax breaks that would -- for starters -- impose nearly $1 trillion in higher taxes on couples making more than $250,000 and individuals making more than $200,000. Some "relief."
Now a few words on those who did attempt to "demand the unearned." The I-1098 campaign was naturally supported by donations from Bill Gate's Sr., in the amount of $600,000, but also by many thousands of unwitting supporters who are members of the Service Employees International Union (SEIU) and the National Education Association (NEA.) These two unions were the measure's 1st and 2nd highest donors, respectively giving a combined $3.3 million. And they committed a moral crime by using union dues to lobby for this new tax against the wishes of doubtless thousands of members. In essence, the unions used unearned dues from coerced members to buy the megaphones they used to demand unearned tax dollars from productive Washingtonians.
But they failed. For their effort, however, I will thank them for the referendum that proves the unpopularity of their "fairness" scheme. Hope for liberty still flickers.
JK recently wondered aloud why the job creation success in Texas doesn't constitute "Game, Set, Match for pro-growth policies" over the tax and spend statism models of Michigan, New York and California. The answer, of course, is that leftists don't want growth.
Today a radio ad tipped me to the existence of a website that explains the historical accomplishments of a Liberal Cabal in Colorado and warned of what they have in mind for the future. Not only do they oppose the tax limiting Amendments 60, 61 and Proposition 101, they plan to hike future taxes by $1.5 to over $5 billion in our state... anually. They call their three models, "Go Medium, Go Long, or Go California."
The impetus for the Colorado Reform Roundtables formation is the states mounting structural spending shortfall: in round numbers, Colorado government has about $1 billion more in permanent programs than it does in permanent revenues.
[Keep in mind that this is a recent phenomenon. See the graphs here, particularly state debt since 2000.]
From this sending off point, many of the left-leaning organizations that make up the Colorado Reform Roundtable contend that there is no way to balance the budget without significant tax increases. While many argue that the state should reduce spending to align its budgets, liberal advocacy groups scoff at the notion that spending cuts are the answer.
The fundamental belief that state government is starved forms the foundation for the formal tax hike plan that will likely emerge from the Colorado Reform Roundtable sometime in the months after the November 2010 election.
This may be the first mention of Colorado's three restraint-of-government ballot initiatives - Amendments 60, 61 and Proposition 101. Opponents (governments and pro-government groups) have dubbed them "the ugly three."
Is there enough anti-government spending sentiment in the current climate to pass any of these three tough measures? Do any other states have similar limits? Let the discourse begin.
In the first of what is sure to be many linked articles from Independent Women's Forum, Nicole Kurokawa cites a Heritage Foundation report explaining how easy it would be to balance the budget with spending cuts-
Instead of finding new ways to take money from American's pockets, government should focus on cutting spending. And there is plenty to cut. The Heritage Foundation's Brian Riedl notes, "Simply bringing real federal spending back to the $21,000 per household average that prevailed in the 1980s and 1990s would balance the budget by 2012 without raising a single tax on anyone.
"Never let a crisis go to waste," even if you have to create it yourself.
'Getting the government's hands off our money, our guns, our lives.' The 2008 Grover Norquist book by this name posited a future politics driven by the "Leave Us Alone Coalition" on one side and the "Takings Coalition" on the other. This dovetails nicely with our recent discussion and Norquist apparently addresses the social values schizm toward the end of the book [Craig Matteson review]:
If I disagree with Norquist on anything it is his rough dismissal of social conservative issues towards the end of the book. However, I understand his emphasis on economic issues and their rough correlation with social conservative issues. That is, if you look at all economic conservatives in the Republican party, they will also include almost all of the social conservatives and some of those who are more liberal on social issues. So, we get more voters to help us win our issues with economics. This ignores the reality that for social conservatives, some issues are so vital that sitting home or creating a new party would be better alternatives than letting them slip out of the public debate.
If there is anything that religious leaders can do to help save America and the American way of life it is to disabuse their flocks from keeping social issues in the public political debate. Take them back to the public moral debate where they rightly belong.
Sprint showed us what it would look like "If Firefighters Ran the World."
Senators Harry Reid, Charles Schumer, Richard Durbin and Christopher Dodd show us what would happen "If the Mafia Ran the World."
Problem is, the Sprint ad was hypothetical and the Senate's actions are all too real. It can legitimately be argued that the Democrat party has become a full-fledged criminal syndicate. Just listen to Judge Napolitano.
Is what we are seeing today much different than if a majority of Mafioso had been elected to Congress?
All around the world as leftism has failed everywhere, shut-upery has been called to its defense. The full-blown leftists, the communists, say "shut up" with prisons and guns. But western leftists, laboring under traditions of freedom, are subtler.
So now, the left is in charge of America and "shut up" is on the march.
That's the warning given by Liberal Democrat Treasury spokesman Vincent Cable regarding the powerful central government in ... the United Kingdom.
He told delegates that the party was committed to "generally federal solutions" that would let the Scots, the Welsh and the Northern Irish gain more revenue-raising powers to create "much more genuine home rule but within the UK".
"Unless we grapple with this, it will lead to conflict and possible secession. We have to start raising the warning here and now about what could happen."
Apparently they have some Limey Glen Beck over there raising his own rabble. Another common theme between UK and US governments was also mentioned:
He also called for electoral reform to stop the practice of "rotten boroughs", where MPs felt under no threat due to their large majorities. Making votes count was crucial to improving the behaviour of MPs, said Cable.
I'd like to co-opt that term for the congressional districts of Jared Polis and Diana DeGette of Colorado, Barney Frank of Massachusetts, Charles Rangel of New York, and at least a hundred other congressmen across the land. Can I get a hell yeah?
(And 10 bonus points to the first who can explain what an "unelected quango" is.)
The headline for today's Denver Post trumpets, "Dems pare health bill's tab." According to the story, the "parties rebellious rank-and-file conservatives" drove a hard bargain and trimmed the cost of the healthcare bill from $1 trillion to a mere $900 billion. Whew! What a victory for fiscal sanity! But wait, it turns out to be an accounting trick because they simply deleted the $245 billion per year increase to Medicare line item (the $100 billion "savings" is over 10 years). Moreover, the party liberals are not happy with these "cuts" and may not support the current bill.
With Blue Dogs like these, who needs Yellow Dogs? They'd better get a package done soon, because The Refugee is about to be sick...
Since JK brings up the subject of bread, The Refugee links to this report of a Missouri bakery owner livid about the climate change bill that he estimates will cost his business $15,000 per year. Although the articles does not say so, this probably means that one person in his firm will lose his/her job. Maybe Obama will call to offer encouragement about contributing to "the greater good." One wonders how many workers will be in a similar boat. But The Refugee digresses - that's not the point of this post.
A quote from the article states:
Mike Wilson, who led a protest in Cincinnati of about 100 people on June 27 across from the offices of Rep. Steve Driehaus, D-Ohio, said he was appalled by the 1,500-page legislation, which was fast-tracked by House leaders for a vote Friday. A 310-page amendment was slapped onto the bill Friday morning.
"It was, quite frankly, criminal passing a bill that you didn't read," said Wilson, founder of the anti-tax group Cincinnati Tea Party.
This lead to The Refugees brainstorm: why not resurrect the Poll Test, albeit in a different form? Before any member of the House and Senate can vote on a bill, they have to pass a test about that bill with at least a 70%. Of course, we'll have to confiscate cell phones and other communication devices during the test to discourage cheating. Moreover, anyone caught cheating will be expelled.
Before panic sets into the Chambers, The Refugee hastens to clarify that he means cheating on the test, not their spouse which would clear both Chambers. Come to think of it, that brings up a second idea...
dagny and I thought this emailed "Governmentium" joke was funny enough to post, even though it's been around for years. I'll not reprint it but instead link to another blog that posted it in '07. There are also some good comments there.
This link is to an audio recording of the entire 3rd hour of his show. The segment I'm in starts at 25:10 (it only takes a minute or two to download to that point) with my specific content starting at 27:50 (about 3.5 minutes long). No, he doesn't mention my name or the name of the blog but he did put the idea out on 50,000 AM watts from Denver.
Twice as many now believe 'U.S. evolving into socialist state'
Before Obama was elected president a good friend disputed our impassioned arguments that America is becoming a socialist country. "I've been to Europe many times and I know what socialism looks like. We're not there and we're not going there anytime soon." Every time I see him I resist the urge to ask him about this again. But TechnoMetrica Market Intelligence has been asking, and compared the answers now to those from last August.
A thumbnail summary of the results is that among Republicans and independents, the group who believes America is becoming a socialist country has doubled (from 1/3 to 2/3 of Republicans and from 1/4 to 1/2 of independents). Democrats, more eager to support the ideology than speak its name, were more likely to see socialism in our future under Bush than Obama.
The link is a brief essay and explains the results of the larger poll as representing three groups: Undeclared Socialists, Passionate Capitalists, and Hybrid Deniers. (Worth reading just to see those in the squishy middle called "deniers.")
Most of us, I'm sure, are familiar with the idea that "left" vs. "right" or "liberal" vs. "conservative" are imprecise definitions of political philosophy. What I've promoted instead is that political structures are organized along a continuum from fully collectivized to complete individual liberty.
This excellent video presentation by YouTube's "notdemocracy" describes the balance as one between "total government" and "no government." Five basic types of government cover the spectrum: monarchy - oligarchy - democracy - republic - anarchy. But only two of these are "stable" forms of government: oligarchy and republic. The other three naturally evolve into one of those two. (Hint: Everything becomes an oligarchy except a republic.)
Readers who watch this will understand why I consider it so important to fight for the integrity of the original Constitution, which means removing antithetical amendments to it such as the 16th.
The absence of any statutes creating a specific liability for subtitle A income taxes means, quite simply, that federal income taxes are totally and completely voluntary, in the common everyday meaning of that term. Liability only begins when Form 1040 is signed.
So it would seem that refusing to complete a tax return, or even completing it and refusing to sign it, may legally absolve an individual of any federal income tax liability. I met a man who actually adhered to this strategy in the early 1990's. At the time I thought he was a madman. Now I believe I've found his justification.
Further stunning proof that these taxes are truly voluntary can be found at IRC section 3402(n). Here, Congress has authorized a form called the withholding exemption certificate abbreviated WEC. The term withholding exemption certificate occurs a total of seventeen (17) times in that one statute alone.
However, the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) has never created an official form for the WEC.
I haven't yet found any information on the status of the legal action since the date of this press release. (Is there an honest judge left anywhere in the United States Federal Government?) Here, however, is Counselor Mitchell's brief essay "Let's Dismantle the IRS: This Racket is Busted"
Lets Dismantle IRS:
This Racket is Busted
Paul Andrew Mitchell
Private Attorney General
All Rights Reserved without Prejudice
Its time to dismantle the Internal Revenue Service. This organization has outlived its usefulness.
The hunt was on, several years ago, when activists like this writer confirmed that IRS was never created by any Act of Congress. It cannot be found in any of the laws which created the U.S. Department of the Treasury.
The U.S. Supreme Court quietly admitted as much, at footnote 23 in Chrysler Corp. v. Brown. In a nation governed by the rule of law, this omission is monumental.
The search for its real origins has taken this nation down many blind alleys, so convoluted and complicated are the statutes and regulations which govern its employees rarely, if ever.
The best explanation now favors its links to Prohibition, the ill-fated experiment in outlawing alcohol.
The Womens Temperance Movement, we believe, was secretly underwritten by the petroleum cartel, to perfect a monopoly over automotive fuels. Once that monopoly was in place, Prohibition was repealed, leaving alcohol high and dry as the preferred fuel for cars and trucks, and leaving a federal police force inside the several States, to extort money from the American People.
All evidence indicates that IRS is an alias for the Federal Alcohol Administration (FAA), which was declared unconstitutional inside the several States by the U.S. Supreme Court in 1935. The result of the high Courts decision in U.S. v. Constantine confined that FAA to federal territories, like Puerto Rico, where Congress is the state legislature.
Further confirmation can be found in a decision by the First Circuit Court of Appeals in Used Tire International, Inc. v. Manual Diaz-Saldana, which identified the latter as the real Secretary of the Treasury. The Code of Federal Regulations for Title 27 also identifies this other Secretary as an office in San Juan, Puerto Rico.
This is ominous data. It serves to suggest that IRS has no authority whatsoever to mail envelopes from the Department of the Treasury. Such obvious deception is prohibited by federal mail fraud statutes, and defined as a predicate to racketeering.
Moreover, the vagueness now proven to frequent the Internal Revenue Code forces a legal conclusion that the entire Code is necessarily void, read no legal effect. The high Courts test for vagueness is obviously violated when men and women of common intelligence cannot agree on its correct meaning, its proper construction, or its territorial application.
Take, for instance, a statute at IRC section 7851. Here, Congress has said that all the enforcement provisions in subtitle F shall take effect on the day after the date this title is enacted. These provisions include, for example, filing requirements, penalties for failing to file, and tax evasion.
Title 26 has never been enacted into positive law, rendering every single section in subtitle F a big pile of spaghetti, with no teeth whatsoever. Throughout most federal laws, the consistent legislative practice is to use the term this title to refer to a Title of the United States Code.
To make matters worse, conscientious courts (an endangered species) have ruled that taxes cannot be imposed without statutes assigning a specific liability to certain parties.
There are no statutes creating a specific liability for taxes imposed by subtitle A of the Internal Revenue Code. This is the set of statutes that impose the federal income tax.
Look at it this way: if Congress imposed a tax on chickens, would that necessarily mean that the chickens are liable for the tax?
Obviously not! Congress would also need to define the farmer, or the consumer, or the wholesaler, as the party liable for paying that tax. Chickens, where are your tax returns?
Without a liability statute, there can be no liability.
This now opens another, deeper layer in this can of rotting worms. If IRS is really using fear tactics to extort an unlawful debt, then it qualifies for careful scrutiny, and prosecution, under the Racketeer-Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act aka RICO.
How fitting, and how ironic, that IRS is legally domiciled in Puerto RICO.
When we get down to brass tacks, we find that Congress encourages private Citizens to investigate and bust rackets, mainly because it perceived a shortage of public prosecutors talented enough to enforce RICO statutes against organized crime syndicates.
This shortage is the real reason why the RICO statute at 18 U.S.C. 1964 awards triple damages to any party who prevails, using the civil remedies it provides. And, happily, State courts like the Superior Court of California also enjoy original jurisdiction to litigate and issue these remedies.
All of this would approach comedy in the extreme, were it not also the case that IRS launders huge sums of money, every day, into foreign banks chiefly owned by the families that founded the Federal Reserve system.
Did you think the Federal Reserve was federal government? Guess again!
One of the biggest shocks of the last century was an admission by President Reagans Grace Commission, that none of the income taxes collected by IRS goes to pay for any federal government services.
Those taxes are paying interest to these foreign banks, and benefit payments to recipients of entitlement programs, like federal pension funds.
So, the next time your neighbors accuse you of being unpatriotic for challenging the IRS, we recommend that you demand from them proof that IRS is really funding any federal government services, like air traffic control, the Pentagon, the Congress, the Courts, or the White House.
Dont hold your breath.
Honestly, when all the facts are put on a level table top, there is not a single reason why America should put up with this massive fiscal fraud for one more day.
Its now time to dismantle the Internal Revenue Service.
Keeping all those laundered funds inside this country will result in economic prosperity without precedent in our nations history.
Lets bury IRS beneath the Titanic, where it can rust in peace forever along with the rest of the planets jellyfish.
America deserves to be a living, thriving Republic, not another victim of Plank Number Two in the Communist Manifesto.
About the Author:
Paul Andrew Mitchell is a Private Attorney General and
Webmaster of the Supreme Law Library on the Internet:
U.S. Secretary of the Treasury Falls Silent in Face of SUBPOENA for Tax Liability Statutes
31 Questions and Answers about the IRS
What Is the Federal Income Tax?
Electronic Censors Found at U.C. Berkeleys Law School
Private Attorney General Backs UCBs Graduate Instructors
Paul Mitchell Blasts Clinton, Rubin for Racketeering
Paul Mitchell Applauds House Vote to Kill IRC
Paul Mitchell Urges Nation to Boycott IRS
The Kick-Back Racket: PMRS
Congresswoman Suspected of Income Tax Evasion
Our Proposal to Save Social Security
Charitable Contributions by the Federal Reserve
Legal Notice in re Withholding Exemption Certificates
When you're depressed about the US Congress, you are acting rationally.
It may or may not cheer you up to realize how bad government is everywhere. Natalie Solent at Samizdata brings us this gem: Members of The European Parliament show up Friday at seven in the morning to sign in (thus ensuring they get all pay and allowances for the day's work). Yet all of them seem to have suitcases and none really plan on staying for a lot of EU legislative arbeit.
Fred Thompson, my first choice for GOP candidate has an piece in the Wall Street Journal decrying the chicken-littles who are marking the end of conservatism. (again)
Conservatives should stay true to their principles and remember:
- Congress cannot repeal the laws of economics. There are no short-term fixes without longer term consequences.
- In a free and dynamic country with social mobility, there will be great opportunity but also economic disparity, especially if the country has liberal immigration policies and a high divorce rate.
- An education system cannot overcome the breakdown of the family, and the social fabric that surrounds children daily.
- Free markets, not an expanding and more powerful government, are the solution to today's problems. Many of these problems, such as health-care costs, energy dependency and the subprime mortgage crisis, were caused in large part by government policies.
Half a cents worth of tap water is now worth a dollar and a half.
According to the Philadelphia Coca-Cola Bottling Company website, our local plant is the fourth largest nationwide with over half a billion dollars in annual sales. Both Pepsi and Coke have reported that bottled water sales are among the fastest growing in their companies and may soon catch up or even overtake the sale of carbonated beverages. That means there are a lot of potential water consumers in Philadelphia.
The simpler way to profit off of water is to tax Pepsi and Coke at a higher rate for their water usage. I had some trouble figuring out the PWDs business tax rate (hello Philadelphia, can we get some good city websites up or what?), but for consumers, it costs about $17 in taxes for 600 gallons of water. Philly Cokes website says it serves about 5 million consumers a year. If one-third of these people buy one 20 oz. bottle of water a year, were talking at least 278,437 gallons of water sold annually.
I dont really care how we make money off of water, but the point here is that in these cash strapped times, we are stupid if we dont.
Our water supply is currently being exploited by Coke and Pepsi. As the largest municipality collecting and cleaning water for drinking in the region, Coke and Pepsi cant really get the tap water they need for Dasani and Aquafina anywhere else but Philly (and shipping tap water from other places would likely cut too deeply into their bottom line). That means that whether we tax them more, or bottle our own water, Philadelphia is in a good place to be able to better take advantage of a natural resource.
Admittedly, I am not a degreed economist, but I'm sure this is a catastrophically bad liberal idea, but I repeat myself.
I'll say it slowly. (Please read along slowly for full effect)
1) If the city of Philadelphia can not control crime within it's own boundaries, how in the hell is it supposed to compete with two massively global companies that have had their horns locked for years?
2) If the city of Philadelphia charges big soda more for water, they can go bottle tap water somewhere else. There is nothing special about what Trenton flushes into the Delaware River. Really. Nothing.
Bonus part of that is when they close their bottling plants in the city and move them outside of the city limits, the city loses wage tax collection, property taxes, etc... a win-win!
Never mind that whole issue of a government specifically targetting two industrial consumers of water to the exclusion of the other industrial consumers. How many gallons of water go into a box of Oreos from the Nabisco bakery? ... what about my precious Tasty-Klair Pie? or a case from the Yards Brewery? *
Ideas like this are nicely nucleated examples of liberalprogressive thinking.
... and it goes without saying that if you buy bottled water that's municipal sourced, you're a dope, no matter who puts a screw top on it.
Get a Nalgene bottle and fill it before you leave the house... and use the bottle again, and again, and again. It takes two liters of water to make a one liter plastic bottle, btw.
See? You can be conservative and environmentally conscious!
* Note: I'd list more water consuming businesses within city-limits, but great business friendly ideas like this have chased most out into the suburbs, or the south or Mexico.
The federal deficit has improved significantly in the first three months of the new budget year, helped by a continued surge in tax revenues.
Whoa... despite tax cuts for the rich?
Tax collections are running 8.2 percent higher than a year ago while government spending is up by just 0.7 percent from a year ago. Last year's spending totals were boosted by significant payments to help the victims of the Gulf Coast hurricanes.
The Treasury said for December, the government actually ran a surplus of $44.5 billion, the largest surplus ever recorded in December and a gain that reflected a big jump in quarterly corporate tax payments.
The $80.4 billion deficit for the first three months of the current budget year was down 32.6 percent from the imbalance for the same period a year ago of $119.4 billion.
For the year, analysts are still forecasting that the deficit will worsen from last year's total of $248.2 billion, which had been the lowest in four years.
The President has been in office for 6 years... so that's not yet a record to be proud of, but there's still two to go.
Notice anything about it? Besides, the plummet in oil prices, at the current price, they're not going to make their budget... and the longer it stays below, the higher it needs to climb to just balance the books.
A fancy new garage controlled by a robot that inserts cars into slots stopped working.
In the course of a contract dispute, the city of Hoboken had police escort the Robotic employees from the premises just a few days before the contract between both parties was set to expire. What the city didn't understand or perhaps concern itself with, is that they sent the company packing with its manuals and the intellectual property rights to the software that made the giant robotic parking structure work.
The Hoboken garage is one of a handful of fully automated parking structures that make more efficient use of space by eliminating ramps and driving lanes, lifting and sliding automobiles into slots and shuffling them as needed. If the robot shuts down, there is no practical way to manually remove parked vehicles.
The city began licensing the software month by month, and whoops... eventually the software expired.
It's funny, but I think that's kind of weak. They own the garage, they should have paid for the software and all should have moved on. I don't know how advanced garage automation is, so maybe there'd be a small maintenance fee yearly. A lot of very high end software is sold that way. But it shouldn't stop the garage.
In the 80s, there was a company selling compressor and turbine control software to third world nations.... and companies within them. Obviously on big equipment, it gets installed, running and then the payments get completed. After a run of "non-payments" the controls company began installing code with a month or two "startup grace", and then after a while, it would stop. If you're using turbines to make electricity, you can imagine what kind of a bind that put the theives in.
A West Texas cowboy was herding his cows in a remote pasture when suddenly a brand-new BMW advanced out of a dust cloud towards him.
The driver, a young man in a Brioni suit, Gucci shoes, Ray Ban sunglasses and YSL tie, leans out the window and asks the cowboy,
"If I tell you exactly how many cows and calves you have in your herd, will you give me a calf?"
The cowboy looks at the man, obviously a yuppie, then looks at his peacefully grazing herd and calmly answers, "Sure, Why not?"
The yuppie parks his car, whips out his Dell notebook computer, connects it to his Cingular RAZR V3 cell phone, and surfs to a NASA page on the Internet, where he calls up a GPS satellite navigation system to get an exact fix on his location which he then feeds to another NASA satellite that scans the area in an ultra-high-resolution photo. The young man then opens the digital photo in Adobe Photoshop and exports it to an image processing facility in Hamburg, Germany. Within minutes he receives an email on his Palm Pilot that the image has been processed and the data stored. He then accesses a MS-SQL database through an ODBC connected Excel spreadsheet with email on his Blackberry and, after a few minutes, receives a response.
Finally, he prints out a full-color, 150- page report on his hi-tech, miniaturized HP LaserJet printer and finally turns to the cowboy and says, "You have exactly 1,586 cows and calves."
"That's right. Well, I guess you can take one of my calves," says the cowboy.
He watches the young man select one of the animals and looks on amused as the young man stuffs it into the trunk of his car.
Then the cowboy says to the young man, "Hey, if I can tell you exactly what your business is, will you give me back my calf?"
The young man thinks about it for a second and then says, "Okay, why not?"
You're a Congressman for the U.S. Government", says the cowboy.
"Wow! That's correct," says the yuppie, "but how did you guess that?"
"No guessing required." answered the cowboy.
"You showed up here even though nobody called you; you want to get paid for an answer I already knew, to a question I never asked. You tried to show me how much smarter than me you are; and you don't know a thing about cows. Now ... give me back my dog."
Today's NY Times editorial As the Ethics Panel Ossifies calls for the Democrats to get serious and force Rep Alan Mollohan of West Virginia to resign his seat on the House ethics committee, which the editorial calls "inert and feckless".
Thinking of the general dysfunction in Congress makes me wonder if there is any achievable way to reform the system. As was mentioned in the "Little likelihood of tax system overhaul" thread below, both parties are so entrenched and vested in the status quo. There was a lot of heat and perhaps a little light as the Abramoff scandal flared up, but the furor and the feigned interest of the 535 in enacting reforms has died down. I imagine some of you would support abolishing government altogether, but I'm curious to hear your ideas on reforms that might improve the current system. A couple of examples that come to mind are the abolition of earmarks and halting the practive of bringing massive bills up for a vote when members have had little or no time to read the hundreds or thousands of pages in the legislation.
Thoughts on why these two proposals work or suck? Other proposals?
Pennsylvania's highest court ruled Thursday that a county may replace its mechanical lever voting machines without voter approval in a case that pitted new federal election laws against the state constitution.
The state Supreme Court's ruling eased concerns about possible disruptions in the ongoing upgrading of voting systems in dozens of counties before the May 16 primary election.
"We're very happy with the decision," said Allison Hrestak, spokeswoman for the State Department, a defendant in the lawsuit and the agency responsible for certifying which voting machines meet the requirements of federal law in Pennsylvania. "It reinforces our position all along â that the federal law supersedes state law."