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Archive for November, 2013

It’s no secret that I have very little faith in the competence and good will of government.

I focus primarily on the fecklessness of Washington, but I also can’t resist highlighting malfeasance and stupidity by local governments, state governments, and foreign governments.

Indeed, I’ve even had to create special categories to keep track of some of the more amazing episodes of bureaucratic blundering. Here are just a few that will leave you shaking your head in disbelief.

A bizarre collection of examples showing anti-gun political correctness in schools.

A local government stupidity contest.

A bunch of supposed victories in the Drug War.

A comparison of government stupidity in the United States and United Kingdom.

A list of new “rights” concocted by governments.

A pick-the-dumbest-regulation poll.

And even a strange collection of stories about anti-Bambi persecution by bureaucrats.

Today, we’re going to add to this collection. But I’m not sure how to categorize this story. Is is a great moment in local law enforcement, like when cops bust little girls with lemonade stands, or they arrest young men for the horrible crime of saving people from drowning?

Or is it an example of the regulatory state run amok, like when the FDA conducted a raid to stop consenting adults from buying and selling unpasteurized milk,  or when the Greek bureaucracy required submission of stool samples in order to set up an online company.

You’ll understand why it’s hard to decide after reading this story. The issue is (gasp!) unregulated topless hair cutting. Here’s some of what was reported by the New York Times.

A woman who allegedly offered topless hairstyling services in northern Colorado faces criminal charges. But police say the problem isn’t cutting hair without a top. …46-year old Suzette Hall was arrested Wednesday night on suspicion of practicing cosmetology without a license.

I don’t know about you, but I’m going to sleep better tonight knowing that the dangerous scourge of unlicensed haircutting in Colorado has been stifled.

Aren’t we lucky that the government is protecting us from such dangers!

Interestingly, the Rebel Barber (who is not the same person as the Rebel Economist) actually tried to comply with the government’s regulatory demands. But there was no license for her particular form of business.

Hall’s ex-husband told police she set up shop in Loveland and offered services as “Rebel Barber.” He told police she applied for “a nude license for hairstylists,” but no such license exists.

Perhaps we can get some federal legislation requiring all states to have new bureaucracies for the purposes of licensing and regulating nude hairstylists?

Actually, I shouldn’t even make that kind of joke. Some politician might take the suggestion seriously.

Better to leave such matters in the hands of local governments. That way, the potential damage is limited by borders.

Speaking of which, the politicians of Snohomish County in Washington have created special licensing rules for adult coffees shops.

Though that’s amateur hour compared to the Germans, who have figured out how to use parking meters to tax prostitutes.

In other words, governments don’t mind sex so long as they can figure out how to regulate it or tax it.

P.S. The all-time record for government incompetence was set by Fall River, Massachusetts in 2011.

P.P.S. As you might imagine, Dave Barry is very funny when he decides to mock government.

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The genius of capitalism is that there is a link between effort and reward. In a genuine market economy (as opposed to cronyism), people can only make themselves rich by working harder and smarter to satisfy the needs and wants of others.

The blunder of statism is that the link between effort and reward is damaged. Punitive tax rates, for instance, punish people for producing. Redistribution programs, meanwhile, create incentives for dependency. And regulation throws lots of sand in the gears of the economy, while also creating big opportunities for corrupt cronyism.

I sometimes try to make this clear by citing the failure of communism. And by failure, I’m not talking about the brutality of Soviet-style dictatorships. Instead, I’m referring to the basic failure of state-controlled economies. Heck, places such as Cuba and Venezuela can’t even produce enough toilet paper!

And North Korea is such a basket case that it reduced physical requirements for military service after pervasive famine led to a stunted generation.

But I don’t want anyone to accuse me of red-baiting, so let’s pretend communism never existed and look at an unfortunate episode from American history.

When the colonists created the Plymouth Colony, they used a socialist model. This video from Reason TV explains how that system foundered.

Gee, what a surprise. Socialism was the problem and capitalism was the solution. When you give people property rights and establish a clear link between effort and reward, good things happen.

As Bono now understands. More remarkable, even Obama once said we should “let the market work.” So maybe there’s hope.

In honor of the season, let’s share a few more Thanksgiving cartoons, all of which – as you might expect – make fun of Obamacare.

Continuing a theme from some of yesterday’s cartoons, we have the Turkey of the Year.

TG II Cartoon 1

And an observation on how well the law is working.

TG II Cartoon 2

This Lisa Benson cartoon is very appropriate since the Mayflower carried the first colonists to Plymouth.

TG II Cartoon 3

P.S. I don’t want to pass up this opportunity for some well-deserved mockery of the evil philosophy of communism,. You can see some great Reagan jokes in the fourth video of this link and the first video in this link. And this doctored image makes a very powerful point in an amusing fashion.

P.P.S. Back in 2010, I also debunked the leftist counter-argument in a post that included the Reason video and a John Stossel column on the topic of the Pilgrims and property rights.

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Tim Carney of the Washington Examiner is a must-read columnist and expert on the pervasive corruption in Washington.

He’s also an insightful commentator on why freedom and morality go hand in hand, which suggests libertarians and conservatives should be strong allies.

But today, in honor of the holidays, let’s address a lighter topic. Tim has some helpful advice on how to educate your crazy statist relatives.

When Thanksgiving talk turns political, do you feel like you and your liberal relatives can’t communicate? It’s okay. I can help you. I was born in Greenwich Village to a lawyer dad and community-organizer mom. I used to live on Capitol Hill, and now I live in Montgomery County in Maryland. I even served a year as an MSNBC contributor. This is all to say, I speak liberal. …So let me offer my conservative and libertarian readers the first annual Thanksgiving Guide to Making Conservative Arguments in Liberals’ Language.

Tim shows how you can help them understand that regulation is misguided.

Your liberal relatives generally trust government regulations to solve problems. They don’t sweat the costs to the economy as much as you do. Throw in a healthy distrust of Corporate America — often even an unhealthy disdain for it — and progressives (this is what they call themselves these days) end up regarding regulation as a force for good. You can plant a seed of skepticism about regulators’ ability to do good, though, by pointing to the salad course Trevor brought. The organic, local, sustainable kale in it might be impossible to get after the Obama administration’s food safety rules go into effect. …At work here are two dynamics common to regulation: They’re called “regulatory capture” and “the overhead smash.” Obama’s food safety czar is Michael Taylor, former top lobbyist for Monsanto. (You’ll be amazed at the power of the word “Monsanto” with some of your relatives.) Industrial farms and major food processors hire the best lobbyists and thus get a seat at the table when the FDA writes the rules. Thus, the biggest players in the regulated industry have “captured” the agency that regulates them. “The overhead smash” is my phrase for the tendency of regulations to add to overhead — the fixed costs of doing business — which smashes smaller competitors while protecting the big guys. In the food safety realm, small farms are begging to be exempted from these rules that only big farms can afford.

Since regulation imposes a staggering cost on the economy, I hope Tim’s suggested approach is successful.

And he explains how you can open their eyes about the need for Social Security reform.

FDR is still probably a god to these relatives, so you’ve got an uphill battle convincing them Social Security needs reforming. Here’s one place to start: Social Security is funded by a regressive tax and it redistributes wealth from minorities to whites. Here’s a line for you: For every $100 that white beneficiaries pay in taxes, they receive $113 in benefits, blacks receive $89 and Hispanics receive $58. …Social Security’s redistribution isn’t due to some racist Republican rule change. …White people live longer and are less likely to be immigrants, so they earn more credits and collect for longer.

And since more than 30 jurisdictions around the world have implemented personal retirement accounts (most recently the Faroe Islands), we know that reform can be very successful.

But let’s not get all serious when there’s turkey and football to occupy our attention, so let’s close with some great cartoons.

We’ll begin with a gem from Henry Payne, who identifies the top turkey of the season.

TG Cartoon 5

Michael Ramirez then identifies a prayer that no longer applies.

TG Cartoon 7

Robert Ariail suggests that the wrong turkey got pardoned at the White House.

TG Cartoon 4

And here’s another one of his cartoons mocking the President’s reprehensible dishonesty.

TG Cartoon 6

Nate Beeler also has some fun with the notion of a White House turkey pardon.

TG Cartoon 1

This Glenn McCoy classic is probably my favorite from today’s collection.

TG Cartoon 2

Last but not least, we have another Ramirez cartoon, which also weaves in some Iran humor.

TG Cartoon 3

P.S. Looking through the archives, we had some good class-warfare cartoons last year.

P.P.S. In 2011, we had a cartoon about politicians and a dismal vision of a future Thanksgiving caused by Obama and Bloomberg.

P.P.P.S. We shared a serious lesson about incentives and private property in 2010, but also had some non-political humor here and here.

P.P.P.P.S. In the blog’s first year, we looked at how government makes Thanksgiving more expensive and wondered why the PC crowd doesn’t like the holiday.

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Citing polling data with poorly (or dishonestly) worded questions, anti-Second Amendment ideologues often argue that gun control is popular.

The real test, though, is what happens on election day. That’s why it was such big news when two incumbent Democrats from Colorado’s State Senate were defeated in a recall election.

They both represented districts that had voted for Obama, yet they were easily tossed out of office after voting for legislation to restrict the rights of law-abiding citizens.

Well, as Yogi Berra would say, it’s deja vu all over again. Another statist politician has been forced out of a job in Colorado. Here are some details from a local news report.

Sen Evie Hudak

Political thug gives up her seat after undermining constitutional freedoms

State Sen. Evie Hudak has decided to resign rather than risk facing a recall election… Hudak, D-Westminster, could have been the third Democratic lawmaker to face a recall over a package of gun control bills they helped pass earlier this year. Sens. John Morse, D-Colorado Springs, and Angela Giron, D-Pueblo, both decided to fight recall elections against them, but were ousted in September in favor of Republican replacements.

So why is she throwing in the towel? Because she thinks she will lose and that would give the GOP control of the State Senate.

Hudak is playing it safe. By resigning before the signatures are turned in, she assures that a Democratic vacancy committee will appoint her replacement, keeping the seat — and the senate — in the party’s hands, at least through November, when her successor will be forced to win reelection.

It’s almost a shame that there won’t be a recall election. Not because I care about whether Republicans take over the State Senate, but rather because I would like to see the outgoing Napoleonic Mayor of New York, Michael Bloomberg, squander more of his fortune on another Colorado contest. He blew a lot of money on the earlier gun-related recall elections, and he also dropped a lot of cash on a failed effort to replace the state’s flat tax with a so-called progressive scheme that would set Colorado on a path to becoming another California.

But I won’t let that little detail reduce the happiness I feel that a political thug has been forced to resign. Particularly since that sends a signal to other politicians all across the nation.

Since we’re on the topic of gun control, this is a great opportunity to call attention to a powerful column by Stephen Halbrook. He explains how the Nazis used gun control to advance their totalitarian and murderous agenda.

Historians have documented most everything about it except what made it so easy to attack the defenseless Jews without fear of resistance. Their guns were registered and thus easily confiscated.

He provides some of the sordid history of the period.

The Nazis immediately used the firearms-registration records to identify, disarm and attack “enemies of the state,” a euphemism for Social Democrats and other political opponents of all types. …The Gestapo cautioned the police that it would endanger public safety to issue gun permits to Jews. …By fall of 1938, the Nazis were ratcheting up measures to expropriate the assets of Jews. To ensure that they had no means of resistance, the Jews were ordered to surrender their firearms. …This scenario took place all over Germany — firearms were confiscated from all Jews registered as gun owners. …Under the pretense of searching for weapons, Jewish homes were vandalized, businesses ransacked and synagogues burned. Jews were terrorized, beaten and killed. Orders were sent to shoot anyone who resisted. SS head Heinrich Himmler decreed that possession of a gun by a Jew was punishable by 20 years in a concentration camp.

So what’s the message. Halbrook puts it in very stark terms.

Today, gun control, registration and prohibition are depicted as benign and progressive. Government should register gun owners and ban any guns it wishes, Americans are told, because government is inherently good and trustworthy. The experiences of Hitler’s Germany and, for that matter, Stalin’s Russia and Pol Pot’s Cambodia, are beneath the realm of possibility in exceptional America. Let’s hope so.

Most people assume that such awful things could never happen in America.

And maybe they’re right. But when you look at very grim numbers showing that the United States is headed for a fiscal collapse, and when you consider that there already has been rioting in Europe as the welfare state implodes, it doesn’t require a very vivid imagination to think that America could face some very tough times in the not-too-distant future.

That’s why I argued, in this interview with NRA TV, that gun ownership is very important in the event of societal breakdown.

Let’s conclude with a bit of gun control satire.

My fourth-most viewed post is a montage of dictators who supported gun control. But some dictators are worse than others.

And the former head of the National Socialists definitely is in that category.

So, given the wise words we just read from Stephen Halbrook, let’s all keep in mind this very powerful message from Jews for the Preservation of Firearms Ownership.

Hitler gun control

P.S. If you want more information on gun control, I strongly recommend this analysis from an actual firearms expert, as well as remarkable admissions from leftists that can be read here and here.

P.P.S. If you’re interested, my three posts with the most views are the set of cartoons showing why welfare states collapse, a joke about California and Texas, and a story of how you can use beer to explain the tax system.

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I have great sympathy for almost all segments of the population that have been disadvantaged by Obamacare.

Among the victims are many relatively powerless people, including children, low-income workers, and retirees.

It’s equally tragic that millions of families – notwithstanding the President’s oft-repeated promise – already have lost their insurance plans, and it’s a crisis that this number could swell to more than 50 million over the next year.

And taxpayers, needless to say, are going to incur heavy burdens because of the President’s reckless new entitlement.

Heck, compared to all these groups, the unfortunate people who merely had to endure the “third world experience” of the Obamacare website should consider themselves lucky.

Yet even though I am brimming with empathy for the victims of Obamacare, there is one group that is suffering and I can say without hesitation or reservation that the people affected don’t tug on my heart strings or engender feelings of sympathy.

I’m referring to the staffers on Capitol Hill. According to a Politico story, some of these folks are having to pay more thanks to the President’s scheme to expand government’s control over the healthcare system. Here are the key excerpts.

Veteran House Democratic aides are sick over the insurance prices they’ll pay under Obamacare, and they’re scrambling to find a cure. “In a shock to the system, the older staff in my office (folks over 59) have now found out their personal health insurance costs (even with the government contribution) have gone up 3-4 times what they were paying before,” Minh Ta, chief of staff to Rep. Gwen Moore (D-Wis.), wrote to fellow Democratic chiefs of staff… In the email, Ta noted that older congressional staffs may leave their jobs because of the change to their health insurance.

Oh no, they might leave? Perish the thought! Surely they have more money to waste, more regulations to impose, and higher taxes to approve.

You may detect a slight tone of sarcasm in my remarks, but that’s for a good reason. First of all, many of these staffers are only in an unpleasant situation because their bosses voted for Obamacare. If they want to complain, perhaps they should schedule a meeting with the power-hungry politicians that caused the mess in the first place.

Second, I have a hard time feeling much empathy for these people when the Obama Administration already has arbitrarily and illegally altered the law so that taxpayers will cover 75 percent of their health insurance expenditures. I realize there’s an entitlement mentality in Washington, but you would think these people would have some sense of shame!

Let’s finish by enjoying some new cartoons. Here’s one from Gary Varvel on the economic burden of Obamacare, which appeals to me for obvious reasons.

Nov 2013 Obamacare Economy Cartoon

By the way, if you like the Aflac duck and the GEICO gecko, here’s another Varvel cartoon you’ll appreciate.

Now we have a Bob Gorrell cartoon that starkly exposes the President’s illegal changes to Obamacare.

Nov 2013 Obamacare Constitution Cartoon

In other words, this bit of satire turned out to be reality.

Nate Beeler has a very good cartoon that captures Obama’s disdain for the suffering of ordinary people.

Nov 2013 Obamacare Lifesaver Cartoon

It fits in well with the Ramirez cartoon in this post.

Then we have Jerry Holbert showing a way to really punish Iran.

Nov 2013 Obamacare Iran Cartoon

Sort of like what Rand Paul said (quoting me!) about Syria.

Last but not least, here’s another Varvel cartoon that sums up what Obama staffers are trying to do.

Nov 2013 Obamacare Humpty Dumpty Cartoon

Surprisingly, this is only the second time I can recall sharing a cartoon featuring Humpty Dumpty.

But don’t laugh too hard at these cartoons. Obama may get the last laugh if he can survive the short-run political damage and create more long-run government dependency.

P.S. Actually, the title of this post is wrong. There is a group of people in America who don’t like Obamacare and – believe it or not – they are even less deserving of sympathy than the army of staffers on Capitol Hill.

P.P.S. Let’s keep our fingers crossed that politicians don’t deal with this issue by re-hiring the taxpayer-financed “grief counselors” who were used to console Democratic staffers after the 2010 elections.

P.P.P.S. Here’s a very funny parody video about the Obamacare disaster.

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Every so often, when the temptation is too great, I’ll comment on something written by Paul Krugman.

When he botched his analysis of Estonia, for instance, I joined that nation’s President in correcting some egregious errors.

And I periodically remind people that Krugman was wildly wrong to deny the scandalous shortcomings of the government-run health system in the United Kingdom.

Today, however, I want to agree with Paul Krugman. He recently wrote that there’s a “plot against France,” and I think that’s unambiguously true.

But we do have one small disagreement. Krugman thinks the plot is being carried out by right-wing ideologues who want to discredit France because it “committed the unforgivable sin of being fiscally responsible without inflicting pain on the poor and unlucky.”

I think, by contrast, that the plot against France is being carried out by France’s statist politicians.

Simply stated, it’s almost as if the nation’s political elite is trying to destroy the nation with a fiscal regime of reckless spending and punitive taxation.

And since France’s “leaders” presumably are aware of the country’s grim medium-term fiscal outlook, it certainly seems like they are scheming to impoverish their own people.

Let’s look at some evidence of France’s decline.

Canada’s Financial Post has an article about the growth of government dependency in France. Here are some of the horrifying details.

More than half of the active French population is living off the state, according to figures in a new book by a tax lawyer seeking to explain why so many of his clients in private enterprise are leaving France. …the author begins with France’s or civil servants, of which there are 5.2 million and whose number has increased by 36% since 1983. These represent 22% of the workforce compared with a European average of 15%, leading him to conclude that France has 1.5 million too many “fonctionnaires”. He then adds the 3.2 million unemployed people in France relying on state benefits, another 1.3 million taking low-income handouts, a further two million in the “parapublic” sector — majority state-owned companies — and more than a million people in state-funded associations such as charities. Under the current Socialist government, there are 750,000 state-subsidized jobs and the author includes a million people in the agricultural sector who rely largely on contributions from European Common Agricultural Policy subsidies.

Wow. I sometimes complain about growing dependency in the United States, but I guess we should count ourselves as being lucky that we’re not as far down the path as France.

The article continues with some observations about how the geese with the golden eggs are tired of being mistreated.

The book is written in the first person, supposedly by a successful boss of a medium-sized company who decided to move abroad with his wife and children to avoid “being treated like an enemy because I make a good living”. In fact, the narrator is a mixture of about 20 clients of Jean-Philippe Delsol, a tax advisor, who is also an author and administrator of the Institute for Research in Economic and Fiscal Issues, a think tank. Those fleeing France would only speak anonymously “to avoid reprisals from the tax authorities,” he explained. …The huge nanny state, he said, had “modified the very spirit of (French) society by turning everyone into fonctionnaires”. …soon “the system will no longer function as there will be less and less people working to support more and more people working less”, he argued.

The last quote in the excerpt, by the way, is a real-world version of the famous set of cartoons about what happens when too many people decide to climb in the wagon.

But not everybody has the ability to escape France’s tax net, and those that remain are protesting against a rapacious central government.

A story from France 24 discusses anti-tax riots. Here are some highlights.

Protest organisers said 30,000 people, including hauliers, fishermen and food industry workers, had gathered in the town of Quimper in Brittany to demonstrate against an environmental tax on trucks and layoffs, even though the government had earlier in the week suspended the application of the so-called ecotax. Authorities estimate that 15,000 people joined in the protest. Some of the protestors pelted police with stones, iron bars and even pots of chrysanthemum, while others burned palettes. Police responded with water cannons and tear gas. …protestors marched under banners such as “Right to work”, “Bretons yes, sheep no” and “France is not a cash cow”. Many also wore red caps, a symbol of the anti-tax campaign in Brittany in the 17th century. …52-year-old mason Claude Sergent said the taxes “are killing us”.

Even equestrians are agitated about the growing burden of the value-added tax. Here are some tidbits from a news report.

Thousands of horse-lovers paraded their animals through central Paris on Sunday in a protest against a planned sales tax rise they say will put riding centers out of business and send horses to the slaughterhouse. …Organizers of Sunday’s protest say the EU-mandated rise of France’s VAT to 20 percent as of January 1 – from the 7 percent reduced rate paid by equestrian centers today – will shut down a fifth of centers across France. Some 6,000 jobs will be lost, they estimate, and 80,000 horses will have to be sent to slaughter. “Riders, up in arms!” shouted protesters carrying signs reading “Sales tax at 20 percent – Death of Horses and Ponies”. A guillotine was wheeled through the streets, its blade poised above a toy horse’s head. Another horse effigy was mounted on a crucifix.

And since we’re on the subject of the VAT, it’s worth noting that the feckless Finance Minister is browbeating retailers in hopes that they will swallow the cost of a tax hike rather than passing it on to consumers. Here are key portions of a Reuters report.

France’s finance minister appealed to retailers’ better instincts on Thursday, urging them not to pass on a rise in sales tax to shoppers in January as public frustration grows over a tax-heavy 2014 budget. Following violent anti-tax protests in western France, Pierre Moscovici said he would not abandon plans to raise value added tax by 0.4 percent on Jan. 1. But he would ask retail chains – already struggling with smaller margins than some of their European peers – not to raise their prices. Nobody has to reflect this (VAT hike) in their prices,” he told RTL radio. “I think it’s important to show virtuous behaviour, notably in the retail sector which along with the French people must display a civic spirit.”

And let’s not overlook the government’s additional taxes on people who save. Here is some analysis from a column in the UK-based Telegraph.

This was the face of a future French Tea Party, a political development that seems increasingly likely. Mr Hollande also had to “suspend” — a word that fills the French with unease, as it promises a stealthy return of the same measures whenever the fracas dies down — a 15.5 per cent retroactive tax on savings schemes that seemed tailor-made to infuriated his most natural voters. A Parisian barrister, himself not a Hollande voter, told me that his Portuguese-born cleaning lady, a single mother of five children, had sworn never again to cast her ballot for the president, as she did last year. “You work hard all your life, you do what’s right, and then they come after the little bit you’ve managed to put aside for your retirement age?” she said. “What kind of a Left-wing government is that?” …Since the spending ministries do not really want to make hard cuts, the only way — or so he thinks — is through more taxes.” The Laffer curve theory (too much tax kills tax revenue) does not seem to have made it to Bercy, the massive brutalist fortress built 20 years go to accommodate the finance ministry’s plethoric troops. …An unchecked French civil servant can think up some pretty outlandish tax ideas. …The beginning of the week saw Mr Hollande’s ratings plunge even lower than before, breaking records of unpopularity. Two separate polls have given him the worst ratings of any French president.

So let’s sum up all these articles. France is in the toilet, with a stifling fiscal burden, growing social unrest, and a deeply unpopular political class.

Does that sound like a nation that has been, in the words of Krugman, a role model of “fiscal responsibility”?

Krugman’s response would be that the French government still has the ability to borrow at very low interest rates, meaning that there is faith among international investors that the nation is well managed.

I must confess that this is a strong point. It’s possible to argue, of course, that the investors are wrong. After all, many investors thought Greece, Spain, Italy, etc, were in good shape before those nations suffered their fiscal crises.

My prediction, for what it’s worth, that France will suffer a fiscal crisis. As I’ve already admitted, I don’t pretend to know whether that crisis will start in 7 months or 7 years, but the underlying trend lines are unsustainable in the long run. This is a nation that violates my Golden Rule on a regular basis and that can’t end well.

P.S. To elaborate, I don’t think French politicians actually are plotting against their own country, just like I reject conspiracy theories that American leftists are deliberately trying to bring down the United States. Instead, what we’re witnessing is classic and predictable political behavior. Simply stated, politicians always have an incentive to buy votes with other people’s money and they very rarely are willing to engage in genuine reform until a crisis actually happens.

P.P.S. For those who think that it is “compassionate” for government to provide an extensive array of services, I’ll ask the same question I posed to a French audience earlier this year: Is there any evidence that the French government, which consumes 57 percent of the economy’s output, provides more and/or better services than the Swiss government, which accounts for only 34 percent of GDP?

P.P.P.S. I’ve written that Obama will never be able to make America as bad as France. But as this Michael Ramirez cartoon illustrates, that doesn’t mean he isn’t trying.

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One of my first blog posts, way back in 2009, was about bureaucrats from the Social Security Administration squandering more than $700,000 on a boondoggle conference at a fancy Arizona resort.

To pick a more recent example, taxpayers have plenty of reasons to be upset about IRS bureaucrats partying at their fancy conferences (including line dances, the real message of which is captured by this Lisa Benson cartoon).

The General Services Administration, meanwhile, had a good time on our dime at a posh confab in Las Vegas.

So did revelations about all this waste cause programs, agencies, and departments to be more careful with our tax money? As you can imagine, the answer is a big fat no.

The latest scandal to be unearthed is that “public servants” from a bunch of government agencies have been enjoying fun times in the Caribbean. Here are some excerpts from a Washington Times expose.

A group of federal officials skipped chilly Washington this month for a taxpayer-funded trip to the Virgin Islands in the name of protecting the world’s coral reef. The organizer, the U.S. Coral Reef Task Force, isn’t saying much about the total cost or reasons for the trip or why officials chose the St. Croix beachfront resort Buccaneer Hotel (made famous by an episode of TV’s “The Bachelor”) as their destination. But life couldn’t have been too bad for the G-men and G-women at the swanky resort, which is surrounded by a lush green golf course and boasts rooms with rates that begin at $323 a night. …topped off with a $74 meal per diem. …In addition to the room rates and food per diems, the various departments were also responsible for providing airfare for attendees. A quick search of travel websites shows that flights from Washington to St. Croix, where the meeting was held, range from $500 to $1,000.

So what was the total cost of this boondoggle? Well, we have no idea.

And this doesn’t even count the fact that many of the bureaucrats got to party at another sun-and-fun conference!

With 11 agencies involved in funding and support for the coral reef task force, it can be difficult to track down just how much is being spent and by whom. Spending records are spread across multiple agencies, with no single record of just how much these meeting might be costing taxpayers. An Interior Department representative said the task force meeting was held in conjunction with a meeting of the Caribbean Regional Planning Body, and many people participated in both.

So let’s think about big picture of what this means for taxpayers.

We know bureaucrats are overpaid.

We know they work fewer hours.

We even know bureaucrats admit to being lazy!

But the real insult to injury is when they get to do fun things at our expense.

Antigua

“If you outlaw cannons, only outlaws will have cannons”

P.S. By coincidence, I happen to be in Antigua while doing this post. I’m a big fan of the Caribbean, so it doesn’t bother me for people to go where there is warm sunshine. I just don’t want them taking trips at my expense.

P.P.S. I’m happy to report that I wasn’t detained at the airport, which happened on my last trip to Antigua.

P.P.P.S. My friend has a real (but non-operable) cannon mounted on one of his terraces. I think I read someplace that it’s legal to own a cannon in the United States, which is part of what makes America a great country. Heck, we’re allowed to own tanks, which is even cooler.

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