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Archive for July 22nd, 2010

Senator Coburn’s office circulates a “Pork Report” every day, which I probably shouldn’t read since my blood pressure spikes. Today’s collection of stories included this outrageous example of federal bureaucrats living the good life with our tax dollars.
Federal investigators said Benjamin Clayton, a former U.S. Department of Energy employee is a crook who racked up $10,000 in unauthorized purchases by using his government issued gas card over and over again.’ Clayton served 25 days in a lockup. In Ohio, a top Commerce Department official, David Mullins, was investigated and fired for misusing his gas card and his government vehicle for unauthorized fill-ups and unauthorized drives through Ohio and forged receipts. Our investigation of government records, handwritten memos and audits found hundreds of pages of reports. Federal workers have been misusing their debit cards in recent months for everything from steak dinners to video game systems, college tuition, drinks, flights, hotels and travel. So how many government workers are walking the street with government-issued credit cards? It is a shocking 1.7 million workers. …government debit card purchases will top $30 billion nationwide this year. That is $4 billion more than just a year ago.

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I’m glad I read Instapundit, because my day has been made brighter by the news that Arizona’s statists have given up on their money-grubbing speed camera program. Here’s a cheerful story which explains that widespread noncompliance was the key.
Dozens of photo-enforcement cameras on freeways throughout the state are coming down this week. A total of 76 cameras will cease operation on Thursday. …While the cameras have done a good job at snapping speeders, drivers have been ignoring the tickets. According to the Department of Public Safety, the cameras led to more than 700,000 tickets in the first year of operation. Many of those people, however, never paid the fines. …Any driver who ignored a photo-enforcement ticket was supposed to have been served. One problem was that process servers were inundated and simply couldn’t get to everybody. If a person was not served, his or her ticket became invalid after three months. The speeding tickets should have generated about $90 million in the first year of the program. About one-third of that was actually collected.
And here’s a website with further details, including about how one group of activists were vandalizing the revenue cameras. As the person who wrote the article says, “I say to the people of Arizona: Bravo! How very American of you.”
The State, as an institution, thrives on confrontation. The best antidote is peaceful non-compliance. Simply ignore the State, disengage, and the State is rendered impotent. Through the highway camera system, it was hoped that an additional burst of revenue would roll in. Instead, it became a massive drain on the state’s budget. Not only did it not bring in the hoped-for revenue, it didn’t even make enough money to pay for expense of installing and maintaining the cameras. The citizens simply ignored the tickets that arrived in the mail. The state of Arizona doesn’t have the money nor the resources to follow up on the unpaid tickets. To top that all off, a group of activists went around vandalizing the traffic cams ‘” icing on the cake. 
Allow me to conclude with my personal experiences. I’ve been nailed by speed (revenue) cameras twice. In both cases, the speed limits were set absurdly low. In one case, it was a 45-mph limit on a stretch of interstate highway. In the other case, a 25-mph limit on a six lane major artery. Sadly, I had to pay. But the real outrage is that there is no plausible explanation for those speed limits/camera placements other than to rip off drivers. I just hope someday I have jury duty and the case is about somebody arrested for vandalizing a camera.

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In a column in today’s New York Post, I mock White House unemployment calculations and then explain why companies are not anxious to hire more workers.

The White House last year released a supposedly scientific analysis that claimed to show that adopting the “stimulus” bill would cut unemployment. Indeed, the report specifically estimated that the unemployment rate today would be down to 7.5 percent. Something obviously went wrong. The actual unemployment rate is 9.5 percent, a statistic that doesn’t include the millions who’ve given up looking for work or can only find part-time jobs. What were President Obama’s biggest mistakes? …the bigger stumbling block is the folks in the White House seem to have no clue how the real-world economy works. Critics have noted that the Obama Cabinet sets the record for the lowest-ever level of private-sector experience. That doesn’t necessarily mean people who don’t understand how and why jobs are created — but that seems to be the case with this administration. Let’s start with two common- sense observations. First, businesses are not charities. They only create jobs when they think that the total revenue generated by new workers will exceed the total cost of employing those workers. In other words, if it’s not profitable to hire workers, it’s not going to happen. …Unfortunately, almost everything Washington’s done the last 18 months has sent the opposite message. The “stimulus” boosted federal spending, thus draining funds from private-capital markets and diverting resources from the productive sector of the economy. The main jobs that it “saved” were employees of state and local governments — shielding the public sector from pain even as it inflicted more agony on the private sector. …The health-care law is a cornucopia of new taxes, mandates and regulations — directly increasing the cost of hiring new employees (as well as of keeping old ones on). By telling employers that the cost of hiring is set to rise sharply in the years ahead, it makes them far more cautious about hiring. …Investors, entrepreneurs and other job creators also look into the future. If they think economic conditions will improve and that they can make money by expanding employment, they’re more likely to take that risk. But what’s happening in Washington gives them little reason to feel optimistic. A big challenge is that tax rates are going to rise. The 2001 and 2003 tax cuts are scheduled to expire as the ball drops in Times Square on New Year’s Eve. This means higher income-tax rates, higher dividend-tax rates, more double-taxation of capital gains and a reinvigorated death tax. Each provision will increase the cost of productive behavior and specifically make it more expensive to provide the capital needed for job creation. …The good news is that the economy is creating some jobs. This is to be expected — the private sector is naturally self-correcting and capable of withstanding lots of bad policy. It takes a lot of missteps in Washington to keep an economy in recession. The bad news is that the United States is gradually becoming a European-style welfare state. This means that we’ll have growth in most years, but it will be tepid growth. It means jobs will be created — but probably not enough to move the unemployment rate from its unacceptably high level. To get truly robust job creation, we need to stop growing government and start getting it out of the way.

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