Archive for February 26th, 2010

Saw this very encouraging CNN story linked on Hotair.com. According to a new poll, a comfortable majority of Americans recognize that the federal government is an immediate threat to the rights and freedoms of ordinary people. My only quibble is that we’re way past the threat stage. Between an oppressive tax system and a dependency-creating morass of spending programs, the federal government already is undermining our liberties. Our Founding Fathers would be very disappointed to see what has happened to our nation:

A majority of Americans think the federal government poses a threat to rights of Americans, according to a new national poll. Fifty-six percent of people questioned in a CNN/Opinion Research Corporation survey released Friday say they think the federal government’s become so large and powerful that it poses an immediate threat to the rights and freedoms of ordinary citizens. …According to CNN poll numbers released Sunday, Americans overwhelmingly think that the U.S. government is broken – though the public overwhelmingly holds out hope that what’s broken can be fixed.

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Since many of the politicians want America to be more like Europe (including full government-run healthcare), it’s worth contemplating what that would mean for the economy. America today is richer than Western Europe. Indeed, per-capita living standards are about 30 percent higher in the United States – and that’s according to the statists at the Paris-based Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (see page 6 of this report). And we have been growing faster, which presumably should not be the case according to convergence theory (see Annex Table No. 1 of this OECD database). It also seems that Europe’s economy is more likely to endure a double-dip recession. Bloomberg reports:

Europe’s economy may be coming unstuck from the global recovery as governments to the south of the region struggle to reverse budget deficits and consumers in the north pull back spending. After the 16-nation euro economy almost stagnated in the fourth quarter, data this week showed the weakness reaching into 2010. …“Europe is where we see the biggest risk of a double dip at the global level,” said Julian Callow, chief European economist at Barclays Capital in London. “Europe has been lagging and we’ve continued to see better numbers in Asia and now the U.S.” …“There are tentative signs that the U.S. economy may be pulling ahead from Europe,” Nelson said in a Feb. 23 report… “The sovereign debt crisis in Europe’s periphery reinforces drags on euro-area growth,” said Michael Saunders, an economist at Citigroup in London.

Irwin Stelzer, meanwhile, writes in the Washington Examiner about the same topic:

Europeans are comparing their close-to-zero growth rate in the last quarter of 2009 with our almost-6 percent growth. …We are growing and they are not. …Large numbers of shops in London are shuttered, students see no prospect of work when they graduate, and businessmen are groaning under rising tax burdens.

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I spoke yesterday afternoon to the Constitutional Law Quarterly 37th Annual Symposium at Hastings Law School in San Francisco.  The title of the event was “Waking from the California Dream: The Past, Present, and Future of California’s Fiscal Constitution,” and the discussion revolved around the state’s fiscal crisis.

Unsurprisingly, I was the only pro-taxpayer speaker, with the other 15 or so speakers ranging from center-left to far-left. So it was a fair fight. Not because I had some special talent, but rather because the evidence is so overwhelming that California has taxed and spent itself into a fiscal cul-de-sac. It is the Greece of America (though Illinois is providing some stiff competition for that dubious honor).

But the facts did not have much impact on the other speakers, who said that the state’s fiscal crisis exists because of Proposition 13, the supermajority tax-increase requirement, the initiative process, or some combination of the above.

I simply noted that California has very high tax rates, a bloated and expensive government bureaucracy, and one of the largest public sectors (as measured by government spending as a share of state economic output) in the country. This excellent report from the Pacific Research Institute has plenty of details.

The students who organized the conference took all the speakers to a nice dinner at the Asian Art Museum, where I did my best to rescue the ones at my table from wasted lives of statism. I suppose only time will tell whether I saved any souls.

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