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Archive for October 7th, 2010

Political Humor

I received this joke today. It’s definitely worth passing on. I don’t want to spoil the punch line, so I’ll just say it would be more amusing if there actually was a choice two years ago.  
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Guy goes into a bar, there’s a robot bartender.  
 
The robot says, “What will you have?”  
 
The guy says, “Martini.”  
 
The robot brings back the best martini ever and says to the man, “What’s your IQ.
The guy says, “168.” 
 
The robot then proceeds to talk about physics, space exploration and medical technology. 
 
The guy leaves, but he is curious… So he goes back into the bar. 
 
The robot bartender says, “What will you have?” 
 
The guy says, “Martini.”
 
Again, the robot makes a great martini gives it to the man and says, “What’s your IQ?”
 
The guy says, “100.”
 
The robot then starts to talk about Nascar, Budweiser and John Deere tractors.
 
The guy leaves, but finds it very interesting, so he thinks he will try it one more time.
 
He goes back into the bar.
 
The robot says, “What will you have?”
 
The guy says, “Martini,” and the robot brings him another great martini.
 
The robot then says, “What’s your IQ?”
 
The guy says, “Uh, about 50.”
 
The robot leans in real close and says, “So, are you still happy you voted for Obama?”

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As indicated by my post on how to handle prisoners with AIDS, I periodically run into issues where I’m not sure about the right answer. Here’s another case. Politicians in New York have a proposal to prohibit people from using food stamps to buy sugary drinks. Part of me is irritated by paternalistic, nanny-state busybodies who want to tell other people how to live. On the other hand, maybe this proposal will make people less willing to mooch off taxpayers by accepting food stamps (though I suspect they’ll just bring two carts to the checkout line, one with things that can be purchased with food stamps, and the other filled with sodas, booze, and other items that would require cash). The ideal answer, of course, is to get rid of the federal food stamp program and let states and communities experiment with the best way of handling these issues. Here’s an excerpt from the AP report.
New Yorkers on food stamps would not be allowed to spend them on sugar-sweetened drinks under an obesity-fighting proposal being floated by Mayor Michael Bloomberg and Gov. David Paterson. …If approved, it would be the first time an item would be banned from the federal program based solely on nutritional value. The idea has been suggested previously, including in 2008 in Maine, where it drew criticism from advocates for the poor who argued it unfairly singled out low-income people and risked scaring off potential needy recipients. And in 2004 the USDA rejected Minnesota’s plan to ban junk food, including soda and candy, from food stamp purchases, saying it would violate the Food Stamp Act’s definition of what is food and could create “confusion and embarrassment” at the register. The food stamp system…does not currently restrict any other foods based on nutrition. Recipients can essentially buy any food for the household, although there are some limits on hot or prepared foods. Food stamps also cannot be used to buy alcohol, cigarettes or items such as pet food, vitamins or household goods. …There still are many unhealthful products New Yorkers could purchase with food stamps, including potato chips, ice cream and candy.

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In a previous post, I commented on a Wall Street Journal column by former Senator Phil Gramm, calling attention to evidence that the economy is under-performing compared to what happened after previous recessions. This is an important issue, particularly when you compare the economy’s tepid performance today with the strong recovery following the implementation of Reaganomics. But there was another part of the column that also is worth highlighting. Much of what we are seeing from the Obama Administration is disturbingly reminiscent of the anti-growth policies of Hoover and Roosevelt, particularly the punitive class-warfare mentality. Here’s how Senator Gramm characterizes the similarities.

Today’s lagging growth and persistent high unemployment are reminiscent of the 1930s, perhaps because in no other period of American history has our government followed policies as similar to those of the Great Depression era. …The top individual income tax rate rose from 24% to 63% to 79% during the Hoover and Roosevelt administrations. Corporate rates were increased to 15% from 11%, and when private businesses did not invest, Congress imposed a 27% undistributed profits tax. In 1929, the U.S. government collected $1.1 billion in total income taxes; by 1935 collections had fallen to $527 million. …The Roosevelt administration also conducted a seven-year populist tirade against private business, which FDR denounced as the province of “economic royalists” and “malefactors of great wealth.” … Churchill, who was generally guarded when criticizing New Deal policies, could not hold back. “The disposition to hunt down rich men as if they were noxious beasts,” he noted in “Great Contemporaries” (1939), is “a very attractive sport.” But “confidence is shaken and enterprise chilled, and the unemployed queue up at the soup kitchens or march out to the public works with ever growing expense to the taxpayer and nothing more appetizing to take home to their families than the leg or wing of what was once a millionaire. . . It is indispensable to the wealth of nations and to the wage and life standards of labour, that capital and credit should be honoured and cherished partners in the economic system. . . .” The regulatory burden exploded during the Roosevelt administration, not just through the creation of new government agencies but through an extraordinary barrage of executive orders—more than all subsequent presidents through Bill Clinton combined. Then, as now, uncertainty reigned. …Henry Morgenthau summarized the policy failure to the House Ways and Means Committee in April 1939: “Now, gentleman, we have tried spending money. We are spending more than we have ever spent before and it does not work . . . I say after eight years of this administration we have just as much unemployment as when we started . . . and an enormous debt, to boot.”

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