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Archive for May 17th, 2012

I’m at the United Nations in New York City for something called “The High Level Thematic Debate on the State of the World Economy.”

Most speakers so far, including the Secretary General of the United Nations, the President of the European Commission, Paul Volcker, and Professor Joseph Stiglitz, have to varying degrees blamed private markets and called for more government.

I speak later today as part of a roundtable on the economic crisis (see full schedule here), and I will be offering a different point of view.

The other thing I’ve noticed is the over-use of certain terms. Reminded me of the state-of-the-union bingo game about Obama’s buzz words. It seems every speaker was required to use all of the following phrases.

From a philosophical perspective, I’d rather be sitting next to the Liechtenstein delegation

  • “sustainable development”
  • “equitable growth”
  • “forward looking”
  • “transparent”
  • “interdependence”
  • “collective action”
  • “firewalls”
  • “women and youth”

Other than “collective action,” these are all fine concepts. Unfortunately, most of the speakers use them as part of speeches urging more statism.

Assuming I don’t get burnt at the stake for heretical thoughts, I’ll give an update tomorrow on how my remarks were received.

I will say, though, that at least the United Nations is willing to have contrary voices – unlike the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development, which threatened to cancel a Global Tax Forum because of my short-lived participation.

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A few months ago, I wrote some very nice things about a budget plan put together by Senator Rand Paul of Kentucky, noting that:

Senator Paul and his colleagues are highlighting the fact that the plan generates a balanced budget in just five years. That’s a good outcome, but it should be a secondary selling point. All the good results in the plan – including the reduction in red ink and the flat tax – are made possible because the overall burden of federal spending is lowered.

Not surprising, one of the columnists at the Washington Post has a different perspective. In his hyperventilating column today, Dana Milbank says that Senator’s Paul’s proposal is “monstrous” and “nasty” for reining in the federal government.

The tea party darling’s plan would, among other things, cut the average Social Security recipient’s benefits by nearly 40 percent, reduce defense spending by nearly $100 billion below a level the Pentagon calls “devastating,” and end the current Medicare program in two years — even for current recipients, according to the Senate Budget Committee staff. It would eliminate the education, energy, housing and commerce departments, decimate homeland security, eviscerate programs for the poor, and give the wealthy a bonanza by reducing tax rates to 17 percent and eliminating taxes on capital gains and dividends. It is, all in all, quite a nasty piece of work.

Setting aside some of the inaccuracies (Social Security benefits would rise, for instance, but not as fast as they would under current law), I have two reactions to Milbank’s screed.

1. Milbank seems to think that Rand Paul’s budget is heartless and mean. Does that mean it would be nice and caring to let America descend into Greek-style fiscal chaos and economic decline? Should the United States be more like Europe, even though living standards are about 30 percent lower?

2. More amusingly, what does he think about the fact that the Senate voted against Obama’s tax-and-spend budget by a stunning margin of 99-0? That’s even worse than the 97-0 vote against the budget Obama proposed last year. The 16 votes for Rand Paul’s budget may not sound like much, but 16 is a lot more than zero.

Setting aside the snarky comments, all that Rand Paul is proposing is to limit the growth of government so that the federal budget grows by an average of about 2 percent annually.

Other nations, such as Canada and New Zealand were much more frugal when they solved their fiscal problems. But for leftists such as Milbank, any fiscal restraint apparently is “nasty” and “monsrous.”

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