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Archive for October 10th, 2011

Oh. My. God.

Sorry to sound like a teenager, but I am endlessly amazed at the hare–brained ways that politicians waste our money and interfere with our lives.

So as part of my ongoing series comparing foolish government policies (previous editions include the U.S. v Germany and the U.S. v. the U.K.), let’s figure out whether California or the European Union is more worthy of scorn.

We’ll start with European Union. Here’s an excerpt from a story in the UK-based Telegraph.

Children are to be banned from taking part in traditional Christmas games, from blowing up balloons to blowing on party whistles, because of new EU safety rules that have just entered into force. The EU toy safety directive, agreed and implemented by Government, states that balloons must not be blown up by unsupervised children under the age of eight, in case they accidentally swallow them and choke. …Apparently harmless toys that children have enjoyed for decades are now regarded by EU regulators as posing an unacceptable safety risk.Whistle blowers, that scroll out into a long coloured paper tongue when sounded – a party favourite at family Christmas meals – are now classed as unsafe for all children under 14. …As well as new rules for balloons and party whistles, the EU legislation will impose restrictions on how noisy toys, including rattles or musical instruments, are allowed to be.

Heck, let’s surround the little tykes with bubble wrap and never let them out of the house.

I’m pleasantly surprised, by the way, that a sociology professor defended freedom. Here’s another excerpt.

Frank Furedi, professor of sociology at the University of Kent, warned that toy safety bans were part of a trend to micro-manage children’s lives at the expense of allowing them to explore, learn and have fun through play. “Toys and activities, such as blowing up balloons, are part and parcel of the type of children’s play that helps them become independent and self-reliant,” he said.

Now let’s shift to California. The Golden State has a very schizophrenic approach to kids. Let’s start with a nanny state gesture, as reported by Reuters.

Minors in the state of California will no longer be allowed to use tanning beds after Governor Jerry Brown signed a bill on Sunday prohibiting anyone under the age of 18 from using ultraviolet tanning devices. California is the first state in the nation to ban minors from using tanning beds, legislators said. Previously, California had banned minors under the age of 14 from using tanning beds, but allowed those between 14 and 18 years of age to use tanning beds with parental consent. The bill was part of a cluster of legislation signed on Sunday designed to “improve the health and well-being of Californians,” according to a statement from the Governor’s office.

But lest you think California doesn’t want kids to have any fun, here’s a story from the LA Times about letting kids get STD treatment without parental consent or knowledge.

California Gov. Jerry Brown stepped into the middle of a debate over parental rights Sunday by signing legislation  giving children 12 or older the power to consent to medical care involving the prevention of sexually transmitted disease. …The measure was backed by groups including the California STD Controllers Assn., the Health Officers Assn. of California, ACT for Women and Girls and the American Civil Liberties Union. The bill was opposed by the California Catholic Conference, which opposed previous measures that allow minors to consent to certain treatments without the involvement of parents. That group wrote to legislators that “this bill is dangerous because it expands a faulty law which assumes that children know better than their parents and because it will allow minors access to HPV vaccines which may cause them permanent harm.”

This is rather surreal. The politicians apparently believe in letting kids make “adult” decisions in some ways, regardless of health risks, but don’t want to let kids make decisions in other ways, precisely because of health risks.

The only unifying theme is that California politicians obviously have very little regard for parental rights.

I guess Reagan was right when he said, “Government’s view of the economy could be summed up in a few short phrases: If it moves, tax it. If it keeps moving, regulate it. And if it stops moving, subsidize it.”

Though these stories also reminded me of a line from the funniest public policy video I’ve ever watched. “We’ve subsidized the features you want and taxed away the rest.”

By the way, here’s a post with five different examples of government stupidity in the United States and five different examples of government stupidity in the United Kingdom. One can only imagine how long the list will be 12 months from now.

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The budget fights this year began with the “shutdown” battle, followed by the Ryan budget and then the debt limit. These fights have mostly led to uninspiring kiss-your-sister outcomes, which is hardly surprising given divided government.

Now the crowd in DC is squabbling over Obama’s latest stimulus/tax-the-rich scheme, though that’s really more of a test run by the White House to determine whether class warfare will be an effective theme for  the 2012 campaign.

The real budget fight, the one we should be closely monitoring, is what will happen with the so-called Supercommittee.

To refresh your memory, this is the 12-member entity created as part of the debt limit legislation. Split evenly between Democrats and Republicans, the Supercommittee is supposed to recommend $1.2 trillion-$1.5 trillion of deficit reduction over the next 10 years. Assuming, of course, that 7 out of the 12 members can agree on anything.

There are two critical things to understand about the Supercommittee.

o The Democrats have openly stated that their top political goal is to seduce Republicans into capitulating to a tax hike.

o Harry Reid and Nancy Pelosi appointed hard-core leftists to the Supercommittee.

With these points in mind, it doesn’t take a genius to realize that the Supercommittee is designed – at least from the perspective of the left – to seduce gullible Republicans into going along with a tax hike.

In other words, the likelihood that the Supercommittee will produce a good plan is about the same as seeing me in the outfield during the World Series (the real world series, not this one).

Fortunately, there is a way to win this fight. All Republicans have to do is…(drum roll, please)…nothing.

To be more specific, if the Supercommittee can’t get a majority for a plan, then automatic budget cuts (a process known as sequestration) will go into effect. But don’t get too excited. We’re mostly talking about the DC version of spending cuts, which simply means that spending won’t rise as fast as previously planned.

But compared to an inside-the-beltway tax-hike deal, a sequester would be a great result.

You’re probably wondering if there’s a catch. After all, if Republicans can win a huge victory for taxpayers by simply rejecting the siren song of higher taxes, then isn’t victory a foregone conclusion?

It should be, but Republicans didn’t get the reputation of being the “Stupid Party” for nothing, and they are perfectly capable of snatching defeat from the jaws of victory.

There are three reasons why Republicans may fumble away victory, even though they have a first down on the opponent’s one-yard line.

o Republicans are gullible fools – as demonstrated by the cartoon in this post – and they will be tricked by Democrats.

o Republicans haven’t expunged the philosophical corruption of the Bush years and they still think big government is good even though they are telling voters they learned their lesson.

o Republicans are worried that a sequester will mean too little money for the defense budget.

If GOPers sell out for either of the first two reasons, then there’s really no hope. America will become Greece and we may as well stock up on canned goods, bottled water, and ammo.

The defense issue, though, is more challenging. Republicans instinctively want more defense spending, so Democrats are trying to exploit this vulnerability. They are saying – for all intents and purposes – that the defense budget will be cut unless GOPers agree to a tax hike.

Republicans should not give in to this budgetary blackmail.

I could make a conservative case for less defense spending, by arguing that the GOP should take a more skeptical view of nation building (the approach they had in the 1990s) and that they should reconsider the value of spending huge sums of money on an outdated NATO alliance.

But I’m going to make two other points instead, in hopes of demonstrating that a sequester is acceptable from the perspective of those who favor a strong national defense.

o First, the sequester does not take place until January 2013, so defense hawks will have ample opportunity to undo the defense cuts – either through supplemental spending bills or because the political situation changes after the 2012 elections.

o Second, the sequester is based on dishonest Washington budget math, so the defense budget would still grow, but not as fast as previously planned.

This chart shows what will happen to the defense budget over the next 10 years, based on Congressional Budget Office data comparing “baseline” outlays to spending under a sequester.

As you can see, even with a sequester, the defense budget climbs over the 10-year period by about $100 billion. And, as noted above, that doesn’t even factor in supplemental spending bills.

In other words, America’s national defense will not be eviscerated if there is a sequester.

Here’s the bottom line. The Supercommittee battle should be a no-brainer for the GOP.

They can capitulate on taxes, causing themselves political damage, undermining the economy, and enabling bigger government.

Or they can stick to their no-tax promise, generating significant budgetary savings with a sequester, and boosting economic performance by restraining the burden of government.

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