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Archive for December, 2009

I’m not sure what today will bring, but yesterday was a mixed experience. The skiing was fairly nice, even though the morning started with the thermostat reading -8.

The trip to the slopes was the bad part. I’m driving in a convoy of cars through a small Vermont town, going as fast as the car in front of me and the car behind me. But I made a big mistake. I had out-of-state plates on my car, so the local bureaucrat with a gun pulls me over for going 38 in a 25.

And people wonder why I don’t feel warm and fuzzy about government.

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A Michael Barone column in the Washington Examiner compares the bloated payrolls and happy times for the bureaucracy with the challenging times for workers in the productive sector of the economy. The column does not mention that bureaucrats also are vastly overpaid compared to private sector workers:

It looks like a happy new year for you — if you’re a public employee. That’s the takeaway from a recent Rasmussen poll that shows that 46 percent of government employees say the economy is getting better while just 31 percent say it’s getting worse. In contrast, 32 percent of those with private-sector jobs say the economy is getting better, while 49 percent it is getting worse. Nearly half, 44 percent, of government employees rate their personal finances as good or excellent. Only 33 percent of private-sector employees do. It sounds like public- and private-sector employees are looking at different Americas. And they are. Private-sector employment peaked at 115.8 million in December 2007, when the recession officially began. It was down to 108.5 million last November. That’s a 6 percent decline. Public-sector employment peaked at 22.6 million in August 2008. It fell a bit in 2009, then has rebounded back to 22.5 million in November. That’s less than a 1 percent decline. This is not an accident; it is the result of deliberate public policy. …At some point — and this already has occurred in much of Western Europe — public sector spending tends to choke off private-sector growth. America’s current high unemployment levels have been commonplace in much of Western Europe for the last 25 years. The question now is whether they will become commonplace in the United States in the decade ahead.

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Great column by Arnold Kling and Nick Schulz on how markets really operate – and why government intervention either causes problems or prevents markets from fixing them. For those of you who care to get in the weeds, this is one of the reasons why the “Austrian School” of Hayek and Mises is better for understanding economics than the (also great) “Chicago School” of Friedman and Becker:

Two camps have fought the political and philosophical battle for influence over the economy in the United States for the past 100 years. They differ in their views over the nature of markets and government. And both are wrong. One camp makes it sound as if markets can do no wrong. …The other camp argues, “Markets fail, and that’s why we need government.” …In the wake of the financial crisis that gave way to the broader economic downturn, the advocates of government involvement in the economy are once again on the march and traditional defenders of markets are in retreat. And so we have seen government advance its role with partial ownership of many big banks, with a take-over of automotive firms, with a large “stimulus” program, with proposals for cap-and-trade for carbon emissions, and with a major initiative on healthcare. …Over the past two generations, a different view of markets and government has begun to emerge, one whose moment may have arrived. It is a view that believes both traditional camps have overlooked some important aspects of markets. …This view can be summarized as “Markets fail. That’s why we need markets.” …According to this view, entrepreneurs at work in the economy–in finance, high tech, manufacturing, services, and beyond–are constantly experimenting, creating new business models, techniques, and technologies that upend the established order of things. Some new technologies and innovations are genuine improvements and are long-lasting welfare enhancers. But others are the basketball equivalent of pump fakes–they look like the real deal and prompt market actors to leap hastily into action, only to realize later that their bets were wrong. Given this dynamic, markets are unpredictable, prone to booms and busts, characterized by bouts of exuberance that are rational or irrational only in hindsight. But markets are also the only reliable mechanism for sorting out this messy process quickly. In spite of the booms and busts, markets drive genuine long-run innovation and wealth creation. When governments attempt to impose order on this chaotic and inherently risky process, they immediately run up against two serious dangers. The first is that they strangle new innovations before they can emerge. Thus proposals for a Consumer Financial Protection Agency, a systemic risk regulator, a public health insurance plan, a green jobs policy, or any attempt at top-down planning may do more harm than good. The second danger has to do with the nature of political economy. Politics creates its own kind of innovators who can be as destabilizing to markets as market actors themselves–but in far more pernicious ways. Economists call these political entrepreneurs “rent-seekers.” Rent-seekers gain wealth, not by creating it, but by channeling it through political favors. Examples include government-sponsored monopolies, “targeted” tax breaks for special industries, and legislative loopholes inserted by lobbyists. The boom in housing and mortgage securities that ended so badly was fueled by government policies that were encouraged by rent-seekers in the real estate, home building, and mortgage finance industries.

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…at least for videos promoting the 2nd Amendment. Here’s a third video I found, this one featuring Ted Nugent:

Miserable drive to Vermont, by the way. Traffic in Maryland, New Jersey, New York and Connecticut.

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Hitting the Slopes

I’m heading to Vermont with the kids to see family and do some skiing.

That means less time for blogging. But since I only post three or four times per day, I’m not sure anyone will even notice if I post one or two times per day instead.

Here we are three years ago. With any luck, I’ll have an updated photo.

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The whole video is worth watching, but there’s a really powerful moment shortly after the five-minute mark.

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More TSA Incompetence

Isn’t this just wonderful? The feds have announced new rules, but it’s not clear what they are. According to some reports, though, passengers will not be allowed to have anything it their laps. Does this mean books? Blackberries? Are we allowed to twiddle our thumbs? Since I have speeches next month in Canada and the Cayman Islands, I look forward to seeing what petty and pointless inconveniences the bureaucrats at the Transportation Security Administration have in store for me:

The government was vague about the steps it was taking, saying that it wanted the security experience to be “unpredictable” and that passengers would not find the same measures at every airport — a prospect that may upset airlines and travelers alike. But several airlines released detailed information about the restrictions, saying that passengers on international flights coming to the United States will apparently have to remain in their seats for the last hour of a flight without any personal items on their laps. It was not clear how often the rule would affect domestic flights.

The key question, of course, is whether any of these rules make flying safer. After all, there are real nutjobs out there who want to kill Americans. But as Christopher Hitchens explains, the new rules are bureaucratic nonsense:

For some years after 9/11, passengers were forbidden to get up and use the lavatory on the Washington-New York shuttle. Zero tolerance! I suppose it must eventually have occurred to somebody that this ban would not deter a person who was willing to die, so the rule was scrapped. …But now fresh idiocies are in store. Nothing in your lap during final approach. Do you feel safer? If you were a suicide-killer, would you feel thwarted or deterred? …Why do we fail to detect or defeat the guilty, and why do we do so well at collective punishment of the innocent? The answer to the first question is: Because we can’t—or won’t. The answer to the second question is: Because we can. The fault here is not just with our endlessly incompetent security services, who give the benefit of the doubt to people who should have been arrested long ago or at least had their visas and travel rights revoked. It is also with a public opinion that sheepishly bleats to be made to “feel safe.” The demand to satisfy that sad illusion can be met with relative ease if you pay enough people to stand around and stare significantly at the citizens’ toothpaste. My impression as a frequent traveler is that intelligent Americans fail to protest at this inanity in case it is they who attract attention and end up on a no-fly list instead. Perfect. It was reported over the weekend that in the aftermath of the Detroit fiasco, no official decision was made about whether to raise the designated “threat level” from orange. Orange! Could this possibly be because it would be panicky and ridiculous to change it to red and really, really absurd to lower it to yellow? But isn’t it just as preposterous (and revealing), immediately after a known Muslim extremist has waltzed through every flimsy barrier, to leave it just where it was the day before?

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The guns-cause-crime mantra of the left has never made sense, particularly when there are some heavily-armed nations where crime is very low. Israel is a good example, but Switzerland may be an even better country to highlight since it has been living in peace with its neighbors since the Napoleanic Wars. This video helps explain why:

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Andrew Sullivan posted the following chart, which he found in National Geographic, and he noted, with considerable justification, that this was evidence of an insane and inefficient healthcare  system in America.

Sullivan Healthcare

The chart shows that America spends a lot more than other nations without a concomitant increase in life expectancy. Let’s set aside whether the right side of the chart is a bit misleading because American life-expectancy numbers are influenced by things that have nothing to do with the quality of the healthcare system, such as highway fatalities, homicides, and obesity, and focus on Andrew’s claim that Obama’s proposal will make things better because of its “cost-control measures.” Since the Administration’s own experts have predicted that Obama’s proposal will increase total healthcare spending, one can only wonder what he’s talking about. Does he actually think a new government entitlement program will lead to lower costs, when all the evidence suggests otherwise?

If he really wanted a chart that captures what’s wrong with America’s healthcare system, he should have gone to the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services’ national health expenditures data website and downloaded the figures showing how rampant third-party payment has resulted in consumers directly paying for less than 12 percent of healthcare costs. And when people are purchasing something with (what is perceived to be) other people’s money, it’s understandable that they don’t pay much attention to cost. My homemade chart does not compared to the one produced by National Geographic, but it does identify the real problem. Sadly, Obama’s plan (like Bush’s Medicare expansion, and everything else politicians have done for the past 50 years) will exacerbate the third-party payment problem and lead to even higher costs and more inefficiency.

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Another Dave Barry Classic

Here’s his annual year-in-review column. Plenty of good political satire. My favorite line, which comes eerily close to the truth since politicians in Sacramento do chase after taxpayers who flee to lower-tax states, is:

On the economic front, California is caught on videotape attempting to shoplift 17,000 taxpayers from Nevada.

There are also some good jabs at Geithner, bailouts, and popular culture.

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It hasn’t gotten this bad yet, but give the bureaucrats a bit more time.

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Having observed government in action for 25 year, I thought I was no longer at the stage where I could be shocked by bureaucratic stupidity. Looking at the response to the recent terrorist attack, I was wrong. No, I’m not talking about the fact that the government knew Abdul Farouk Umar Abdulmutallab was an Al Qaeda sympathizer yet they were too incompetent to put him on the no-fly list. Nor am I talking about the inane political correctness that leads to random searches of grandmothers rather than focusing on young muslim men. Or the periodic seizure of my toothpaste by TSA drones. These are examples of typical government behavior.

What does shock me are two of the new “security” rules announced in the wake of Friday’s attempt. According to the Washington Post, “Passengers must remain seated for the final hour before landing. During that time, they may not have access to their carry-on baggage or hold personal items on their laps.” Let’s think about what possible impact this may have. Imagine you are Achmed the terrorist, and that you have something dangerous in your carry-on luggage. If your goal is to crash the plane, is it really going to matter to you whether you launch your attack 65 minutes before landing or 55 minutes before landing? What exactly do the bureaucrats think they are accomplishing with this rule?

The second rule – which also only could be dreamed up by a bureaucrat – is that: “While over U.S. airspace, flight crews may not make any announcements to passengers concerning the flight path or the airplane’s position over cities or landmarks.” Once again, let’s put ourselves in the mind of Achmed. And let’s assume Achmed has an IQ above 53. Achmed knows the projected time for his flight, and he presumably knows how to tell time. Is there even the slightest chance that this rule would stop a terrorist from taking down a plane, even if he wants to strike while the plane is in U.S. airspace? Again, what do the bureaucrats think will be achieved by this rule? But I suppose we should be happy they didn’t insist that all the windows be covered with newspaper so Achmed can’t tell when the plane is over land rather than ocean.

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The Associated Press nails the GOP for budget hypocrisy, pointing out that a majority of Republicans voted for Bush’s reckless Medicare expansion. This story gives me an excuse to pontificate on why fans of limited government and free markets should not blindly link themselves with the Republican Party. And sometimes they should even hope Republicans lose. There is a very strong case to be made, for instance, that big-government RINOs such as Bush (on economic policy issues) are far more dangerous to economic liberty than Democrats. Not only do they expand government while in power, they create a fertile environment for Democrats, with their out-of-the-closet statism, to gain power and impose even more government.

That certainly has happened this decade. Bush’s profligacy slowed the economy and discouraged the GOP base, which (combined with unhappiness about his nation-building exercise in Iraq) helped deliver the House and Senate to Democrats in 2006 and the White House to Obama in 2008. It is quite likely, by contrast, that the GOP would control both ends of Pennsylvania Avenue today if Kerry had won the 2004 election. A Kerry victory almost certainly would have enabled Republicans to hold the House and Senate in 2006. And since Kerry would have followed Bush’s big-government interventionist policies, the bailout would have occurred on his watch, making it quite likely that the GOP would have enjoyed a strong year in 2008. There may have been some damage to liberty caused by a Kerry presidency (above and beyond the damage caused by Bush), but nothing compared to the damage now being imposed by Obama, Pelosi, and Reid. Food for thought. If nothing else, this AP story shows that we’d be better off if politicians of both parties stayed home all year long:

Republican senators attacking the cost of a Democratic health care bill showed far different concerns six years ago, when they approved a major Medicare expansion that has added tens of billions of dollars to federal deficits. The inconsistency — or hypocrisy, as some call it — has irked Democrats, who claim that their plan will pay for itself with higher taxes and spending cuts and cite the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office for support. By contrast, when Republicans controlled the House, Senate and White House in 2003, they overcame Democratic opposition to add a deficit-financed prescription drug benefit to Medicare. The program will cost a half-trillion dollars over 10 years, or more by some estimates. With no new taxes or spending offsets accompanying the Medicare drug program, the cost has been added to the federal debt. …”As far as I am concerned, any Republican who voted for the Medicare drug benefit has no right to criticize anything the Democrats have done in terms of adding to the national debt,” said Bruce Bartlett, an official in the administrations of Ronald Reagan and George H.W. Bush. He made his comments in a Forbes article titled “Republican Deficit Hypocrisy.” Bartlett said the 2003 Medicare expansion was “a pure giveaway” that cost more than this year’s Senate or House health bills will cost.

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Even though politicians already have flushed $400 billion down the rathole, the Obama Administration has announced that it will now give unlimited amounts of our money to prop up Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, the two government-created mortgage companies. While President Obama should be castigated for this decision, let’s not forget that this latest boondoggle is only possible because President Bush did not do the right thing and liquidate Fannie and Freddie when they collapsed last year. And, to add insult to injury, Obama’s pay czar played Santa Claus and announced that that a dozen top “executives” could divvy up $42 million of bonuses financed by you and me. Not a bad deal for a group of people that more properly should be classified as government bureaucrats. Here’s an excerpt from the Washington Post about the Administration’s latest punch in the gut for taxpayers:

The Obama administration pledged Thursday to provide unlimited financial assistance to mortgage giants Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, an eleventh-hour move that allows the government to exceed the current $400 billion cap on emergency aid without seeking permission from a bailout-weary Congress. The Christmas Eve announcement by the Treasury Department means that it can continue to run the companies, which were seized last year, as arms of the government for the rest of President Obama’s current term. But even as the administration was making this open-ended financial commitment, Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac disclosed that they had received approval from their federal regulator to pay $42 million in Wall Street-style compensation packages to 12 top executives for 2009. The compensation packages, including up to $6 million each to Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac’s chief executives, come amid an ongoing public debate about lavish payments to executives at banks and other financial firms that have received taxpayer aid. But while many firms on Wall Street have repaid the assistance, there is no prospect that Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac will do so.

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Speaking earlier this week to a group of kids, President Obama invoked Jesus and the three wise men to justify his agenda of redistribution. I’m not exactly a religious scholar, but this surely is absurd. Doesn’t Christianity (and, I assume, Judaism and other faiths) require individuals – using free will – to act charitably? Using the coercive power of government to forcibly redistribute other people’s money, by contrast, is moral preening at best and could be characterized as government thuggery. Writing for Townhall.com, Cal Thomas certainly was not amused:

Speaking Monday afternoon to a group of children from the Washington, D.C., Boys and Girls Club, the president delivered a mini sermon on “why we celebrate Christmas.” He asked the children if they knew. One piped up and said “The birth of baby Jesus.” …The president spoke of what Jesus “symbolizes for people all around the world,” which he said, “is the possibility of peace and people treating each other with respect.” And then, in the best tradition of a community organizer, the president said Jesus is about “doing something for other people.” Even the “three wise men” were invoked to support the president’s idea of wealth redistribution: “…these guys … have all this money, they’ve got all this wealth and power, and they took a long trip to a manger just to see a little baby.” And what conclusion should be drawn from that journey? The president told the children, “…it just shows you that because you’re powerful or you’re wealthy, that’s not what’s important. What’s important is … the kind of spirit you have.” To the president, this means the spirit of government taking from the productive and giving to the nonproductive. To Him, Jesus is a socialist, or perhaps an early Robin Hood. …only people can be compassionate. A government check too often brings dependence and a sense of entitlement.

I must quibble with one small part of Cal’s column. Robin Hood was a freedom fighter, not a redistributionist. His mission was to reclaim money that the nobles stole (i.e., taxed) from the peasantry. Modern society has turned the story upside down.

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A Politically Correct Christmas Greeting

To My Normal Friends: Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year!

To All My Left-Wing Friends: Please accept with no obligation, implied or explicit, my best wishes for an environmentally conscious, socially responsible, low-stress, non-addictive, gender-neutral celebration of the winter solstice holiday, practiced within the most enjoyable traditions of the religious persuasion of your choice, or secular practices of your choice, with respect for the religious/secular persuasion and/or traditions of others, or their choice not to practice religious or secular traditions at all. I also wish you a fiscally successful, personally fulfilling and medically uncomplicated recognition of the onset of the generally accepted Calendar Year 2010, but not without due respect for the calendars of choice of other cultures whose contributions to society have helped make America great. Not to imply that America is necessarily greater than any other country nor the only America in the Western Hemisphere . Also, this wish is made without regard to the race, creed, color, age, physical ability, religious faith or sexual preference of the wishee.

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Merry Christmas

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Here are a few stories to bring holiday cheer for taxpayers. First, we have an Associated Press report that several hundred thousand federal bureaucrats have serious tax delinquencies. The Department of Housing and Urban Development always ranks high on the list of government entities that should be abolished, so it’s interesting to see that HUD bureaucrats are most likely to be dodging their taxes:

More than 276,000 federal employees and retirees owed back income taxes as of Sept. 30, 2008, according to data from the Internal Revenue Service. The $3.04 billion owed was up from $2.7 billion owed by federal employees and retirees in 2007. Among cabinet agencies, the Department of Housing and Urban Development had the highest delinquency rate, at just over 4 percent.

This rampant nonpayment is especially outrageous since federal bureaucrats “earn” twice as much compensation, on average, as those of us laboring in the productive sector of the economy. One might think they would go out of their way to comply since their bloated salaries come from tax collections. Speaking of outrage, the internal watchdogs at the Treasury have just published a report showing that it is almost impossible to verify eligibility for the special interest tax breaks in the so-called stimulus. As Investor’s Business Daily opines, this is an invitation to fraud:

A new report from the Treasury Department’s Inspector General for Tax Administration counts 56 tax provisions in the bill having a potential cost of $325 billion. Of those, 20 are tax breaks for individuals and 36 are for businesses. The problem, the Inspector General says, is the IRS can’t verify taxpayer eligibility “for the majority of Recovery Act tax benefits and credits.” For individual taxpayers, 13 of the 20 benefits and credits can’t be verified; for businesses, it’s 26 of 36. …To suggest, as Treasury does, that the biggest chunk of the $325 billion in stimulus package tax breaks can’t be adequately followed violates the pledges of openness and fairness made when the stimulus was passed last February. As the government-stimulus-oversight Web site, recovery.gov, notes, last year’s package “requires that taxpayer dollars spent under the Act be subject to unprecedented accountability.” We wouldn’t call being unable to verify upwards of two-thirds of the $325 billion handed out as “unprecedented accountability.” Sounds more like an invitation to fraud, all at the expense of the taxpayers.

To be fair, even a competent government agency might have trouble making a bad law work, and the $787 boondoggle was rushed through the legislative process with very little – if any – attention paid to anything other than funneling other people’s money to special interest groups. That being said, the IRS has trouble even with routine tasks. According to another IG report, the agency has a staggering 70 percent error rate in its processing of taxpayer identification numbers for individual taxpayers:

The Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration (TIGTA) today publicly released its review of the IRS’s processing of applications for Individual Taxpayer Identification Numbers (ITINs). TIGTA reviewed a sample of ITIN applications and found that almost 70% contained significant errors and/or raised concerns that should have prevented the issuance of an ITIN. The IRS estimates that it has issued more than 14 million ITINs as of December 2008. ITINs are intended to provide tax identification numbers to resident and nonresident alien individuals who may have U.S. tax reporting or filing obligations but do not qualify for Social Security Numbers, which generally are only issued to U.S. citizens and individuals legally admitted to the U.S. …”The number of individual income tax returns filed using ITINs and reporting wage income has increased by 247 percent from 2001 to 2008,” commented J. Russell George, the Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration. “If the IRS continues to issue ITINs without proper verification, the risk of fraudulently filed returns – along with fraudulently claimed refunds – will continue to rise,” added Inspector General George.

Just think how much fun it will be when the IRS is in charge of determining those of us who should get fined or jailed for noncompliance with government-run healthcare! No wonder so many taxpayers put a flat tax or national sales tax on their Christmas lists.

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Walter Williams eviscerates the government education monopoly for its grotesque failure to properly educate most black students. Walter punctures every shibboleth the other side has created, including the notions that more money and smaller class sizes are the keys to educational achievement:

Detroit’s (predominantly black) public schools are the worst in the nation and it takes some doing to be worse than Washington, D.C. Only 3 percent of Detroit’s fourth-graders scored proficient on the most recent National Assessment of Education Progress (NAEP) test, sometimes called “The Nation’s Report Card.” Twenty-eight percent scored basic and 69 percent below basic. “Below basic” is the NAEP category when students are unable to demonstrate even partial mastery of knowledge and skills fundamental for proficient work at their grade level. It’s the same story for Detroit’s eighth-graders. Four percent scored proficient, 18 percent basic and 77 percent below basic. …The academic performance of black students in other large cities such as Philadelphia, Chicago, New York and Los Angeles is not much better than Detroit and Washington. What’s to be done about this tragic state of black education? The education establishment and politicians tell us that we need to spend more for higher teacher pay and smaller class size. The fact of business is higher teacher salaries and smaller class sizes mean little or nothing in terms of academic achievement. Washington, D.C., for example spends over $15,000 per student, has class sizes smaller than the nation’s average, and with an average annual salary of $61,195, its teachers are the most highly paid in the nation. What about role models? Standard psychobabble asserts a positive relationship between the race of teachers and administrators and student performance. That’s nonsense. Black academic performance is the worst in the very cities where large percentages of teachers and administrators are black, and often the school superintendent is black, the mayor is black, most of the city council is black and very often the chief of police is black. …Another issue deemed too delicate to discuss is the overall quality of people teaching our children. Students who have chosen education as their major have the lowest SAT scores of any other major. Students who have an education degree earn lower scores than any other major on graduate school admission tests such as the GRE, MCAT or LSAT. Schools of education, either graduate or undergraduate, represent the academic slums of most any university. They are home to the least able students and professors. Schools of education should be shut down.

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In the good old days, members of Congress had very little staff, sometimes just one professional aide and one administrative person. Today, Capitol Hill has become a bloated bureaucracy with the average politician having a couple of dozen aides. That’s bad news, and it probably contributes to misguided policy since many of those staffers exist to help redistribute other people’s money to campaign contributors and other political supporters. But to add insult to injury, some polticians get to pad their payrolls and subsidize their expenses even after they leave office. The Politico reports that the former Speaker of the House is squandering $40,000 of our money every month, even though he is a highly-paid lobbyist:

U.S. taxpayers are spending more than $40,000 per month on office space, staff, cell phones and a leased SUV for former House Speaker Dennis Hastert, even as he works as a lobbyist for private corporations and foreign governments. …his spokesman, Brad Hahn, said the former 11-term congressman is in full compliance with rules covering how the federal funds are spent. Hahn said Hastert’s lobbying work “is completely separate [from the office of the former speaker], and he keeps them completely separate.” The federal government pays $6,300 per month to rent an office for Hastert and his staff in Yorkville, Ill. Hahn conceded that Hastert has no other office set aside for lobbying work in Illinois but said that the former speaker travels to Washington frequently for work. In addition to the office, the government pays the salaries of three of Hastert’s assistants in his Illinois office — each more than $100,000 in 2008. Bryan Hardin, Hastert’s administrative assistant (the title often used by a chief of staff in a congressional office) earned $138,000. …Taxpayers also make the lease payments on a 2008 GMC Yukon and pay for a satellite TV subscription, cell phones, laptops and other expenses. …Other expenditures include $745 for a printer and about $620 to transport a clock. …Hastert is authorized to spend as much as $840,000 annually to run his office but has not used all the money made available to him by Congress. “He’s worked on a nonpaid basis, but as a former speaker, [Hastert] helped out with the Chicago Olympic bid, Advance Illinois [an education program] and Illinois Works,” a jobs program, Hahn added.

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Isn’t it nice to know that our tax dollars were used for a study showing that – gasp! – that people are not totally honest when using online dating sites. Maybe the next taxpayer-financed study can investigate whether it’s hotter at the equator. The Washington Post reports on this boondoggle (though only about the results, of course, not about the waste of taxpayer money):

It won’t surprise anyone who’s tried online dating to learn that eight out of 10 people lie somewhere in their profiles, according to a series of studies funded in part by the National Science Foundation. And it didn’t surprise Jeffrey T. Hancock, a communications professor at Cornell University who conducted the research over the last few years and explained the findings in a NSF webcast earlier this month. Fabrications “have been driving human behavior for millennia,” Hancock says in a phone interview. “It’s new bottles, in a way, but very old wine.”

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For those of you who can’t find zhu zhu pets, here’s an option sure to bring a smile – a long-sleeved t-shirt honoring the Secretary of the Treasury. Maybe if you’ve been very good all year long, Santa will bring you a special Tim “Turbotax” Geithner free pass, allowing you to cheat on your taxes and get away with no penalties once you’re caught!

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Some students at King’s College in NYC interviewed me as part of a school project. I appear around 1:00 and again at 4:45 in their video, discussing the pro-growth principles of tax reform. I also comment on the moral benfits of a flat tax.

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Since Senators engaged in open extortion and bribery to enact Reid’s government-run healthcare plan, it is hardly newsworthy that Washington is riddled with Corruption. But the magnitude of sleaze is probably far greater than most people realize. There is a new study from a couple of academics at the University of Michigan, who found significant relationships between lobbying and bailout money, as well as a greater chance of getting bailouts depending on a bank’s ties with either the Federal Reserve or key members of Congress. Hopefully, people across America will draw the obvious conclusion and realize that big government is inherently corrupting, as discussed in this video. Reuters has the details on this latest example of big government and malfeasance:

U.S. banks that spent more money on lobbying were more likely to get government bailout money, according to a study released on Monday. Banks whose executives served on Federal Reserve boards were more likely to receive government bailout funds from the Troubled Asset Relief Program, according to the study from Ran Duchin and Denis Sosyura, professors at the University of Michigan’s Ross School of Business. Banks with headquarters in the district of a U.S. House of Representatives member who serves on a committee or subcommittee relating to TARP also received more funds. Political influence was most helpful for poorly performing banks, the study found. “Political connections play an important role in a firm’s access to capital,” Sosyura, a University of Michigan assistant professor of finance, said in a statement. Banks with an executive who sat on the board of a Federal Reserve Bank were 31 percent more likely to get bailouts through TARP’s Capital Purchase Program, the study showed. Banks with ties to a finance committee member were 26 percent more likely to get capital purchase program funds.

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I did this interview a while ago, and I thought it was well produced, but only just now figured out how to embed it.

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Weekly Political Humor

To be sure, this message also should be delivered to both Bush I and Bush II, Carter, Nixon, LBJ, and 90 percent of House and Senate members.

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Those fighting Obamacare keep hoping that there will be an issue radioactive enough to topple the legislation. At various times, they have focused on the individual mandate, the so-called public option, abortion, and taxes. Derailing the bill with any of these issues would be great, to be sure, but I’m not terribly optimistic. Democrats in Washington would like to have legislation that represented all their statist proclivities, of course, but the main goal – as George Will explains – is to create more dependency:

The legislation does solve the Democrats’ “problem” of figuring out how to worsen the dependency culture and the entitlement mentality that grows with it. By 2016, families with annual incomes of $96,000 will get subsidized health insurance premiums. …Reid was buying the votes of senators whose understanding of the duties of representation does not rise above looting the nation for local benefits. And Reid had two advantages — the spending, taxing and borrowing powers of the federal leviathan, and an almost gorgeous absence of scruples or principles. Principles are general rules, such as: Nebraska should not be exempt from burdens imposed on the other 49 states.

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Few things nauseate me more than leftists who send their kids to private schools while at the same time fighting against school choice for poor kids. There is no explanation for this hypocrisy beyond a selfish political desire to act as lapdogs for the teacher unions. It’s ironic that George Wallace and the segregationists stood in the schoolhouse door 40-plus years ago to lock black children out and now Democratic politicians are standing in the schoolhouse doore to lock them in. The Wall Street Journal opines:

Democrats in Congress voted to kill the District’s Opportunity Scholarship Program, which provides 1,700 disadvantaged kids with vouchers worth up to $7,500 per year to attend a private school. …The program’s popularity has generated long waiting lists. A federal evaluation earlier this year said the mostly black and Hispanic participants are making significant academic gains and narrowing the achievement gap. But for the teachers unions, this just can’t happen. The National Education Association instructed Democratic lawmakers to kill it. “Opposition to vouchers is a top priority for NEA,” declared the union in a letter sent to every Democrat in the House and Senate in March. …Senator Dick Durbin, who heads the subcommittee that oversees funding, has been saying for the better part of a year that he’s open to supporting the program’s continuation if certain conditions were met. In retrospect, this looks like bad faith. Earlier this year, Mr. Durbin said the local D.C. Council needed to sign off on the program before Congress could reauthorize it. The council did exactly that, sending Congress a letter expressing solid support for the scholarships. Senator Durbin then said he wants participating schools to administer the same exams to voucher students that D.C. public school students take. Done, said proponents. The program’s supporters now feel they’ve been had. “Durbin has engaged in that classic game of moving the goal posts,” says Kevin Chavous, a former D.C. council member and one of many local Democratic leaders who back school vouchers. “He’s just been less than honest. He’s made promises to colleagues and school leaders—like Michelle Rhee, our schools Chancellor—saying, ‘All I need is this.’ But the reality is that they’ve been finding reasons not to support the program.” The voucher program is closed to new students. “It’s duplicitous and shameful,” says Mr. Chavous. Strong language. But if you’re a kid in D.C. trying to escape its awful schools, maybe not strong enough.

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It’s difficult for me to imagine what it would be like to be a statist, but I wonder whether they really think they can turn people into collectivists with sex. If you think I’m kidding, just watch this video from Rock the Vote.

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Recent posts have reviewed the enviro war against toilet paper and suggested the ideal present for your neighborhood collectivist. So it is appropriate to mix these two themes and suggest the ideal Christmas present for beleaguered taxpayers. It’s a bit pricey (at least compared to what I spend at Costco) and I have no idea whether it is made of recycled fibers, but that shouldn’t matter since conservatives and libertarians generally don’t care about hollow gestures.

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