Feeds:
Posts
Comments

Archive for August, 2010

I don’t know if this exchange of letters is real, but what’s amusing (and sad) is that it could be real. Enjoy.

***************

Mr.  Ryan DeVries, 2088 Dagget Pierson, MI 49339

SUBJECT: DEQ File No.  97-59-0023; T11N; R10W, Sec.  20; Montcalm County

Dear Mr. DeVries:

It has come to the attention of the Department of Environmental Quality that there has been recent unauthorized activity on the above referenced parcel of property.  You have been certified as the legal landowner and/or contractor who did the following unauthorized activity:

Construction and maintenance of two wood debris dams across the outlet stream of Spring Pond.  A permit must be issued prior to the start of this type of activity.  A review of the Department’s files shows that no permits have been issued.  Therefore, the Department has determined that this activity is in violation of Part 301, Inland Lakes and Streams, of the Natural Resource and Environmental Protection Act, Act 451 of the Public Acts of 1994, being sections 324.30101 to 324.30113 of the Michigan Compiled Laws, annotated.

The Department has been informed that one or both of the dams partially failed during a recent rain event, causing debris and flooding at downstream locations.  We find that dams of this nature are inherently hazardous and cannot be permitted.  The Department therefore orders you to cease and desist all activities at this location, and to restore the stream to a free-flow condition by removing all wood and brush forming the dams from the stream channel.  All restoration work shall be completed no later than January 31, 2002.

Please notify this office when the restoration has been completed so that a follow-up site inspection may be scheduled by our staff.  Failure to comply with this request or any further unauthorized activity on the site may result in this case being referred for elevated enforcement action.

We anticipate and would appreciate your full cooperation in this matter. Please feel free to contact me at this office if you have any questions.

Sincerely, David L.  Price

District Representative Land and Water Management Division

*******************

This is the actual response sent back……..

*******************

Dear Mr.  Price,

Re: DEQ File No.  97-59-0023; T11N; R10W, Sec.  20;  Montcalm County.

Your certified letter dated 12/17/01 has been handed to me to respond to.

First of all, Mr. Ryan DeVries is not the legal Landowner and/or Contractor at 2088 Dagget, Pierson, Michigan.  I am the legal owner and a couple of beavers are in the (State unauthorized) process of constructing and maintaining two wood “debris” dams across the outlet stream of my Spring Pond.

While I did not pay for, authorize, nor supervise their dam project, I think they would be highly offended that you call their skillful use of natures building materials “debris.”

I would like to challenge your department to attempt to emulate their dam project any time and/or any place you choose.  I believe I can safely state there is no way you could ever match their dam skills, their dam resourcefulness, their dam ingenuity, their dam persistence, their dam determination and/or their dam work ethic.

As to your request, I do not think the beavers are aware that they must first fill out a dam permit prior to the start of this type of dam activity.

My first dam question to you is: (1) Are you trying to discriminate against my Spring Pond Beavers or (2) do you require all beavers throughout this State to conform to said dam request?

If you are not discriminating against these particular beavers, through the Freedom of Information Act, I request completed copies of all those other applicable beaver dam permits that have been issued.  Perhaps we will see if there really is a dam violation of Part 301, Inland Lakes and Streams, of the Natural Resource and Environmental Protection Act, Act 451 of the Public Acts of 1994, being sections 324.30101 to 324.30113 of the Michigan Compiled Laws, annotated.

I have several concerns.  My first concern is – aren’t the beavers entitled to legal representation?  The Spring Pond Beavers are financially destitute and are unable to pay for said representation – so the State will have to provide them with a dam lawyer.  The Department’s dam concern that either one or both of the dams failed during a recent rain event causing flooding is proof that this is a natural occurrence, which the Department is required to protect.

In other words, we should leave the Spring Pond Beavers alone rather than harassing them and calling their dam names. If you want the stream “restored” to a dam free-flow condition please contact the beavers – but if you are going to arrest them, they obviously did not pay any attention to your dam letter, they being unable to read English.

In my humble opinion, the Spring Pond Beavers have a right to build their unauthorized dams as long as the sky is blue, the grass is green and water flows downstream.  They have more dam rights than I do to live and enjoy Spring Pond.  If the Department of Natural Resources and Environmental Protection lives up to its name, it should protect the natural resources (Beavers) and the environment (Beavers’ Dams.).

So, as far as the beavers and I are concerned, this dam case can be referred for more elevated enforcement action right now.  Why wait until 1/31/2002?  The Spring Pond Beavers may be under the dam ice then and there will be no way for you or your dam staff to contact/harass them then.

In conclusion, I would like to bring to your attention to a real environmental quality (health) problem in the area.  It is the bears!  Bears are actually defecating in our woods.  I definitely believe you should be persecuting the defecating bears and leave the beavers alone.  If you are going to investigate the beaver dam, watch your step!  (The bears are not careful where they dump!)

Being unable to comply with your dam request, and being unable to contact you on your dam answering machine, I am sending this response to your dam office.

Sincerely,

Stephen L.Tvedten

Read Full Post »

I hope the title of this post is an exaggeration, but it’s certainly a logical conclusion based on what is written in the Congressional Budget Office’s updated Economic and Budget Outlook. The Capitol Hill bureaucracy basically has a deficit-über-alles view of fiscal policy. CBO’s long-run perspective, as shown by this excerpt, is that deficits reduce output by “crowding out” private capital and that anything that results in lower deficits (or larger surpluses) will improve economic performance – even if this means big increases in tax rates.

CBO has also examined an alternative fiscal scenario reflecting several changes to current law that are widely expected to occur or that would modify some provisions of law that might be difficult to sustain for a long period. That alternative scenario embodies small differences in outlays relative to those projected under current law but significant differences in revenues: Under that scenario, most of the cuts in individual income taxes enacted in 2001 and 2003 and now scheduled to expire at the end of this year (except the lower rates applying to high-income taxpayers) are extended through 2020; relief from the AMT, which expired after 2009, continues through 2020; and the 2009 estate tax rates and exemption amounts (adjusted for inflation) apply through 2020. …Under those alternative assumptions, real GDP would be…lower in subsequent years than under CBO’s baseline forecast. …Under that alternative fiscal scenario, real GDP would fall below the level in CBO’s baseline projections later in the coming decade because the larger budget deficits would reduce or “crowd out” investment in productive capital and result in a smaller capital stock.

There’s nothing necessarily wrong with CBO’s concern about deficits, but looking at fiscal policy through that prism is akin to deciding who wins a baseball game by looking at what happened during the 6th inning. Yes, government borrowing drains capital from the productive sector of the economy. And nations such as Greece are painful examples of what happens when governments go too far down this path. But taxes also undermine economic performance by reducing incentives to work, save, and invest. And nations such as France are gloomy reminders of what happens when punitive tax rates discourage productive behavior.

What’s missing for CBO’s analysis is any recognition or understanding that the real problem is excessive government spending. Regardless of whether spending is financed by borrowing or taxes, resources are being diverted from the private sector to government. In other words, government spending is the disease and deficits are basically a symptom of that underlying problem. Indeed, it’s worth noting that there’s not much evidence that deficits cause economic damage but plenty of evidence that bloated public sectors stunt growth. This video is a good antidote to CBO’s myopic focus on budget deficits.

Read Full Post »

A reader has asked me to weigh in on the mini-controversy that was triggered when a Wall Street financier said fighting Obama’s tax hikes was like a war and that the battle was “like when Hitler invaded Poland in 1939.” While it seems clear that Stephen Schwarzman was not saying Obama was a Nazi or that his policies were akin to those pursued by the National Socialist Workers Party, he obviously should have used a better analogy. Even if the intent is totally innocent and/or intellectually legitimate, it distracts from the core message when you make references to Nazis or fascism (indeed, I’ve made this point in previous posts about whether Obama is a socialist). Here’s an excerpt for those who want to know more about the story.

The billionaire Blackstone private equity boss Stephen Schwarzman, who is among Wall Street’s most visceral proponents of the free market, has been obliged to apologise after comparing Barack Obama’s tax policies to the Nazi advance across Europe at the beginning of the second world war. The tycoon, whose empire stretches from Hilton hotels to the Weather Channel, United Biscuits and the London Eye, has worked himself up into a lather about a proposed tax hike on so-called “carried interest” profits – the gains made when private equity firms buy and sell businesses – from 15% to as much as 35%. “It’s a war,” he told a board members of a non-profit organisation, whose members leaked Schwarzman’s remarks to Newsweek on condition of anonymity. “It’s like when Hitler invaded Poland in 1939.” …Schwarzman expressed regret for his comments, telling the New York Post: “I apologise for what was an inappropriate analogy.” But he added: “The fundamental issue of the administration’s need to work productively with business for the benefits of the overall economy is still of very serious concern not only to me, but also to large parts of the business community.”

P.S. Obama’s tax hikes are very misguided. But the best analogy is that this is like…um…when the Germans bombed Pearl Harbor.

Read Full Post »

I saw this jaw-dropping story linked on Instapundit. Some TSA bureaucrats, along with some Philadelphia cops, randomly decided to abuse an innocent woman. In a just world, all of these jerks would be fired and there were be strict new rules (in addition to the already-existing rules) unambiguously stating that the sole job of TSA bureaucrats is to look for things that threaten air travel. Period. Nothing else.

At what point does an airport search step over the line? How about when they start going through your checks, and the police call your husband, suspicious you were clearing out the bank account? That’s the complaint leveled by Kathy Parker, a 43-year-old Elkton, Md., woman, who was flying out of Philadelphia International Airport on Aug. 8. …A female Transportation Security Administration officer wanded her and patted her down, she says. Then she was walked over to where other TSA officers were searching her bags. “Everything in my purse was out, including my wallet and my checkbook. I had two prescriptions in there. One was diet pills. This was embarrassing. …What happened next, she says, was more than embarrassing. It was infuriating. That same screener started emptying her wallet. “He was taking out the receipts and looking at them,” she said. “I understand that TSA is tasked with strengthening national security but [it] surely does not need to know what I purchased at Kohl’s or Wal-Mart,” she wrote in her complaint, which she sent me last week. …In a side pocket she had tucked a deposit slip and seven checks made out to her and her husband, worth about $8,000. Her thought: “Oh, my God, this is none of his business.” Two Philadelphia police officers joined at least four TSA officers who had gathered around her. After conferring with the TSA screeners, one of the Philadelphia officers told her he was there because her checks were numbered sequentially, which she says they were not. “It’s an indication you’ve embezzled these checks,” she says the police officer told her. He also told her she appeared nervous. She hadn’t before that moment, she says. She protested when the officer started to walk away with the checks. “That’s my money,” she remembers saying. The officer’s reply? “It’s not your money.” …Thirty minutes after the police became involved, they decided to let her collect her belongings and board her plane. “I was shaking,” she says. “I was almost in tears.” When she got home, her husband of 20 years, John Parker, a self-employed plastics broker, said the police had called and told him that they’d suspected “a divorce situation” and that Kathy Parker was trying to empty their bank account. He set them straight. “I was so humiliated,” she said. What happened sounds to me like a violation of a TSA policy that went into effect Sept. 1, after the American Civil Liberties Union sued the agency on behalf of the former campaign treasurer of presidential candidate Ron Paul. In that case, Steven Bierfeldt was detained after screeners at Lambert-St. Louis International Airport discovered he was carrying about $4,700 in cash. He challenged their request that he explain where his money came from. The new TSA directive reads: “Screening may not be conducted to detect evidence of crimes unrelated to transportation security.” If evidence of a crime is discovered, then TSA agents are instructed to contact the appropriate law enforcement  agency. …Vic Walczak, legal director of the Pennsylvania ACLU, called what happened to Parker “preposterous” and a violation of the Fourth Amendment, which protects people from unreasonable searches. “I think they clearly crossed the line,” he said, adding that no one had probable cause to examine her checks. “None of this makes any sense except as a fishing expedition, which under the U.S. Constitution is not allowed. They can’t rummage through her personal life. I’m not surprised this woman is outraged. She should be.”

Read Full Post »

This video from Reason TV about school choice in New Orleans is a perfect example of something good resulting from a bad event. Lemonade out of lemons!

Read Full Post »

The news that China has surpassed Japan as the world’s second-largest economy has generated a lot of attention. It shouldn’t. There are roughly 10 times as many people in China as there are in Japan, so the fact that total gross domestic product in China is now bigger than total gross domestic product in Japan is hardly a sign of Chinese economic supremacy. Yes, China has been growing in recent decades, but it’s almost impossible not to grow when you start at the bottom – which is where China was in the late 1970s thanks to decades of communist oppression and mismanagement. And the growth they have experienced certainly has not been enough to overtake other nations based on measures that compare living standards. According to the World Bank, per capita GDP (adjusted for purchasing power parity) was $6,710 for China in 2009, compared to $33,280 for Japan (and $46,730 for the U.S.). If I got to choose where to be a middle-class person, China certainly wouldn’t be my first pick.

This is not to sneer at the positive changes in China. Hundreds of millions of people have experienced big increases in living standards. Better to have $6,710 of per capita GDP than $3,710. But China still has a long way to go if the goal is a vibrant and rich free-market economy. The country’s nominal communist leadership has allowed economic liberalization, but China is still an economically repressed nation. Economic Freedom of the World ranks China 82 out of 141, just one spot above Russia, and the Index of Economic Freedom has an even lower score, 140 out of 179 nations.

Hopefully, China will continue to move in the right direction. As Jonah Goldberg notes in his Townhall column, it is good for America to have China become a more prosperous nation.

Yes, technically, China’s gross domestic product is now slightly ahead of Japan’s. But GDP is a gross statistic. It doesn’t tell you nearly as much as you might think. In a very real way, China is still poorer than Japan. It’s also poorer than Tunisia, Ecuador, Gabon, Kazakhstan and Namibia. …China still has enormous problems, many of which aren’t reflected in its GDP growth rates, and without democracy, a free press and the rule of law, we can’t know what all of the problems are until they explode (and neither can the Chinese). But all of this misses the most important point. Economic “competitiveness” is a con. It assumes that when other countries prosper, America loses. That’s nonsense. If the average Chinese worker were as rich as the average Japanese worker, it would be an economic windfall for the United States. Conversely, if China’s economy imploded tomorrow, we would “gain” competitively but suffer economically. The cult of competitiveness is just a ruse used to justify the ambitions of economic planners and the pundits who worship them.

Read Full Post »

Here’s my debate on Larry Kudlow’s show about Social Security personal retirement accounts. 

Read Full Post »

Read Full Post »

Walter Williams looks at the terrible job Republicans did when they last held power and asks whether they deserve to win the House and/or Senate this November. Or perhaps the real question is whether it would make a difference for Republicans to regain control? The real test, Walter explains, is whether they would use their power of the purse to de-fund the implementation of Obamacare.

…what can liberty-minded Americans expect from a Republican majority? Maybe a good starting point for an answer might be to examine how Republicans have handled their majority in the past. …The 1994 elections gave Republican control of both the House and Senate. They held a majority for a decade. The 2000 election of George W. Bush as president gave Republicans what the Democrats have now, total control of the legislative and executive branches of government. When Bush came to office, federal spending was $1.788 trillion. When he left office, federal spending was $2.982 trillion. That’s a 60 percent increase in federal spending, closely matching the profligacy of Lyndon Johnson’s presidency. During the Republican control, the nation was saddled with massive federal interference in education through No Child Left Behind. Prescription drug handouts became a part of the Republican-controlled Congress’ legacy. And it was during this interval that Congress accelerated its interference, assisted by the Federal Reserve Bank, in the housing market in the name of homeownership that produced much of the financial meltdown that the nation suffered in 2008. …If Republicans win the House of Representatives, there are measures they should take in their first month of office, and that is to undo most of what the Democratically controlled Congress has done. If they don’t win a veto-proof Senate, they can’t undo Obamacare but the House alone can refuse to fund any part of it. There are numerous blocking tactics that a Republican-controlled House can take against those hell-bent on trampling on our Constitution. The question is whether they will have guts and principle to do it. After all, many Americans, including those who are Republicans, have a stake in big government control, special privileges and handouts.

I’m skeptical about the benefits of a GOP takeover. Look at the GOP leadership in the House and Senate and you will find a bunch of politicians who supported Bush’s big-government policies. They have been fighting against Obama’s statist schemes for the past two years, to be sure, but are they saying and doing the right thing now because they genuinely believe in freedom, or are they fighting Obama merely for partisan purposes? Needless to say, I’m not very confident about the answer to that question.

I’ve had conversations with people about whether it might be best for the nation to have Republicans go up to 215 seats in the House and 48 in the Senate. That would be enough (particularly in the Senate) to block any new Obama schemes such as cap-n-trade, but it would leave Democrats in the majority and give Republicans more time to purge the big-government virus that infected the party during the Bush years. But if I genuinely had confidence the GOP would de-fund the implementation of Obamacare, that might change the calculation.

Read Full Post »

Actually, I suppose we should clearly state that someone is having some fun by mocking Helicopter Ben, but that person did a good job. Kudos to Tertium Quids for finding this gem.

Read Full Post »

There’s been a bit of chatter in the blogosphere about a recent post on Ezra Klein’s blog featuring estimates from various economists about the revenue-maximizing tax rate. It won’t come as a surprise that people on the right tended to give lower estimates and folks on the left had higher guesses. Donald Luskin of National Review estimated 19 percent, for instance, while Emmanuel Saez, Dean Baker, Bruce Bartlett, and Brad DeLong all gave answers around 70 percent.

There are two things that are worth noting.

First, every single answer is to the right of the Joint Committee on Taxation. The revenue-estimators on Capitol Hill assume that taxes have no impact on overall economic performance. As such, even confiscatory tax rates have very little impact on taxable income. The JCT operates in a totally non-transparent fashion, so it is difficult to know whether they would say the revenue-maximizing tax rate is 90 percent, 95 percent, or 100 percent, but it is remarkable that a mini-bureaucracy with so much power is so far out of the mainstream (it’s even more remarkable that Republicans controlled Congress for 12 years, yet never fixed this problem, but that’s a separate story).

Second, very few of the respondents made the critically important observation that it should not be the goal of tax policy to maximize revenue. After all, the revenue-maximizing point is where the damage to the overall economy is so great that taxable income falls enough to offset the impact of the higher tax rates. Greg Mankiw of Harvard and Steve Moore of the Wall Street Journal indicated they understood this point since they both explained that the long-run revenue-maximizing rate was lower than the short-run revenue-maximizing rate. But Martin Feldstein of Harvard explicitly addressed this issue and hit the nail on the head.

Why look for the rate that maximizes revenue? As the tax rate rises, the “deadweight loss” (real loss to the economy rises) so as the rate gets close to maximizing revenue the loss to the economy exceeds the gain in revenue…. I dislike budget deficits as much as anyone else. But would I really want to give up say $1 billion of GDP in order to reduce the deficit by $100 million? No. National income is a goal in itself. That is what drives consumption and our standard of living.

For more information, I think my three-part video series on the Laffer Curve is a good summary of the key issues. Part I addresses the theory, and explicitly notes that policy makers should target the growth-maximizing tax rate rather than the revenue-maximizing tax rate. Part II reviews some of the evidence, including analysis of the huge increase in taxable income and tax revenue from upper-income taxpayers following the Reagan tax-rate reductions. Part III looks at the Joint Committee on Taxation’s dismal performance.

Read Full Post »

After my recent post on “bashing the IRS,” I got several emails and comments asking whether a national sales tax might be a better idea than the flat tax. I’m a big fan of proposals such as the Fair Tax. I’ve debated in favor of the national sales tax, done media interviews in favor of the national sales tax, written in favor of the national sales tax, and even defended the national sales tax in congressional testimony. As far as I’m concerned, we should junk the IRS for some type of single-rate, consumption-base (meaning no double taxation), loophole-free system. The flat tax is the most well-know approach for achieving these goals, but the national sales tax also would work. Indeed, the two plans are different sides of the same coin. A sales tax takes a piece of your income (but only one time and at one low rate) when it is spent, and a flat tax grabs a slice of your income (but only one time and at one low rate) when it is earned.

So why, then, do I devote most of my energies to a sales flat tax? The answer is that I don’t trust politicians. I fear that they will pull a bait-and-switch, and implement something like a Fair Tax but never complete the deal by getting rid of the income tax. The European experience certainly serves as a warning. Nations across Europe began implementing their version of a national sales tax (the value-added tax) in the late 1960s. Voters often were told that other taxes would be eliminated or reduced. But all the evidence shows that VATs simply led to a much higher tax burden and a much bigger burden of government.

I don’t want that to happen in America, as I explained 13 years ago for Reason and two years ago for the Media Research Center. But this video is probably the best summary of my argument.

By the way, some fans of the Fair Tax say the solution to this problem is an amendment to the Constitution. I fully agree, but then I point out that there are not even enough votes to approve a watered-down balanced budget amendment, so that seems an unlikely path to success. That being said, if we ever reach this point, and are able to repeal the 16th Amendment and replace it with something that unambiguously would stop the politicians from ever burdening America with an income tax, I will gladly offer my support and push a national sales tax

Read Full Post »

I appeared on CNBC earlier today to explain why a stake should be driven through the heart of Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac. My debate opponents seems to be somewhat on the right side and admits that Fannie and Freddie are bad news, but inexplicably wants to keep them alive.

Read Full Post »

This dropped in my inbox, along with some sarcastic commentary about politicians who talk trash about knowing “whose ass to kick.” If you think it’s funny, you’ll enjoy this gem from the archives.

Read Full Post »

Former House Majority Leader Dick Armey and Matt Kibbe of FreedomWorks have a column in today’s Wall Street Journal that explains the spontaneous, grassroots phenomenon of tea parties. They have plenty of interesting political and social analysis, but the most important part of their column is when they point out that the tea party movement is not a GOP-support organization. Instead, the tea party is engaging in a hostile takeover, forcing out the establishment Republican politicians that have become philosophically corrupted by the back-scratching network in Washington.
The tea party movement has blossomed into a powerful social phenomenon because it is leaderless—not directed by any one mind, political party or parochial agenda. The criteria for membership are straightforward: Stay true to principle even when it proves inconvenient, be assertive but respectful, add value and don’t taking credit for other people’s work. Our community is built on the Trader Principle: We associate by mutual consent, to further shared goals of restoring fiscal responsibility and constitutionally limited government. These were the principles that enabled the Sept. 12, 2009 taxpayer march on Washington to be one of the largest political protests in the history of our nation’s capital. …While the tea party is not a formal political party, local networks across the nation have moved beyond protests and turned to more practical matters of political accountability. Already, particularly in Republican primaries, fed-up Americans are turning out at the polls to vote out the big spenders. They are supporting candidates who have signed the Contract From America, a statement of policy principles generated online by hundreds of thousands of grass-roots activists. Published in April, the Contract amounts to a tea party “seal of approval.” It demands fiscal policies that limit government, restrain spending, promote market reforms in health care—and oppose ObamaCare, tax hikes and cap-and-trade restrictions that will kill job creation and stunt economic growth. Candidates who have signed the Contract—including Marco Rubio in Florida, Mike Lee in Utah and Tim Scott in South Carolina—have defeated Republican big spenders in primary elections all across the nation. These young legislative entrepreneurs will shift the balance in the next Congress, bringing with them a more serious, adult commitment to responsible, restrained government. But let us be clear about one thing: The tea party movement is not seeking a junior partnership with the Republican Party, but a hostile takeover of it.

Read Full Post »

Here’s a very nice video mixing powerful statements by Ronald Reagan with the incoherent ramblings of the buffoons now in charge of Washington.

Read Full Post »

Clever creation on someone’s part, but since we’re on the topic of government-created cars, this video is the best and funniest I’ve ever seen.

Read Full Post »

Being a lazy procrastinator, I filed an extension April 15 and then waited until this weekend to do my tax return. This experience has reinforced my hatred and disdain for our corrupt and punitive tax system. I don’t even have a remotely complicated tax return, just a Cato salary and a few payments for articles and speeches on the income side, along with a standard set of itemized deductions for things like home mortgage interest.

But even dealing with a relatively simple tax return causes lots of angst and makes me long for a simple and fair flat tax. Actually, it makes me long for a limited government, as envisioned by our Founders, in which case we might not need any broad-based tax. And I suppose I shouldn’t blame the IRS. The real villains are the politicians who have spent the past 97 years turning the tax code into a monstrosity.

Now that I’m done venting, I suppose I should include some educational content. In honor of tax day for procrastinators, here are three videos on the flat tax, the IRS, and the global flat tax revolution.

Read Full Post »

A conservative, in a wheelchair, entered a restaurant one afternoon and asked the waitress for a cup of coffee.  The conservative looked across the restaurant and asked, “Is that Jesus sitting over there?”
 
The waitress nodded “yes,” so the conservative requested that she give Jesus a cup of coffee, on him.
 
The next patron to come in was a libertarian, with a hunched back.  He shuffled over to a booth, painfully sat down, and asked the waitress for a cup of hot tea.  He also glanced across the restaurant and asked, “Is that Jesus, over there?”
 
The waitress nodded, so the libertarian asked her to give Jesus a cup of hot tea, “My treat.”
 
The third patron to come into the restaurant was a liberal on crutches.  He hobbled over to a booth, sat down and hollered, “Hey there honey!  How’s about gettin’ me a cold mug of Miller Light?”  He too looked across the restaurant and asked, “Isn’t that God’s boy over there?
 
The waitress nodded, so the liberal directed her to give Jesus a cold beer. “On my bill,” he said loudly.
 
As Jesus got up to leave, he passed by the conservative, touched him and said, “For your kindness, you are healed.”  The conservative felt the strength come back into his legs, got up, and danced a jig out the door.
 
Jesus passed by the libertarian, touched him and said, “For your kindness, you are healed.”  The libertarian felt his back straightening up and he raised his hands, praised the Lord, and did a series of back flips out the door.
 
Then, Jesus walked towards the liberal, who immediately jumped up and yelled, “Don’t touch me … I’m collecting disability!”

Read Full Post »

It’s hard to believe that anybody would classify the Germans as a master race after reading this Spiegel article. Bill Gates and Warren Buffett plan have a nutty (but at least non-coercive) plan for rich people to give away big share of their fortunes. The German billionaires are rejecting this plan. But not because they are sensible and want capital in the hands of those who know how to create wealth. Instead, they think private charity intrudes upon the government’s responsibility.

Germany’s super-rich have rejected an invitation by Bill Gates and Warren Buffett to join their ‘Giving Pledge’ to give away most of their fortune. The pledge has been criticized in Germany, with millionaires saying donations shouldn’t replace duties that would be better carried out by the state. Last week, Microsoft founder Bill Gates attempted to convince billionaires around the world to agree to give away half their money to charity. But in Germany, the “Giving Pledge,” backed by 40 of the world’s wealthiest people, including Gates and Warren Buffet, has met with skepticism, SPIEGEL has learned.

Here’s an actual section of an interview with a rich German. The most astounding comment is when he basically says that private charity is bad because the state should decide how resources are allocated.

SPIEGEL: But doesn’t the money that is donated serve the common good?

Krämer: It is all just a bad transfer of power from the state to billionaires. So it’s not the state that determines what is good for the people, but rather the rich want to decide. That’s a development that I find really bad. What legitimacy do these people have to decide where massive sums of money will flow?

SPIEGEL: It is their money at the end of the day.

Krämer: In this case, 40 superwealthy people want to decide what their money will be used for. That runs counter to the democratically legitimate state. In the end the billionaires are indulging in hobbies that might be in the common good, but are very personal.

Read Full Post »

Using road management as an example, John Stossel explains that government does a worse job than the private sector, even at things that theoretically are a government responsibility. Part of this is because of the profit motive, to be sure, but a big reason is probably because government bureaucracies inevitably are filled with overpaid bureaucrats who understand that job security is best assured by maintaining problems rather than solving them. Stossel makes an excellent point by noting that “contracting out” is not the same thing as genuine free enterprise. But at least it means whatever government is doing (either good things or bad things) will be done for less cost and with more competence.

Free enterprise does everything better. Why? Because if private companies don’t do things efficiently, they lose money and die. Unlike government, they cannot compel payment through the power to tax. Even when a private company operates a public facility under contract to government, it must perform. If it doesn’t, it will be “fired” — its contract won’t be renewed. Government is never fired. Contracting out to private enterprise isn’t the same thing as letting fully competitive free markets operate, but it still works better than government. Roads are one example. Politicians call road management a “public good” that “government must control.” Nonsense. In 1995, a private road company added two lanes in the middle of California Highway 91, right where the median strip used to be. It then used “congestion pricing” to let some drivers pay to speed past rush-hour traffic. Using the principles of supply and demand, road operators charge higher tolls at times of day when demand is high. That encourages those who are most in a hurry to pay for what they need. …for years there was a gap in the ring road surrounding Paris that created huge traffic problems. Then private developers made an unsolicited proposal to build a $2 billion toll tunnel in exchange for a 70-year lease to run it. They built a double-decker tunnel that fits six lanes of traffic in the space usually required for just two. The tunnel’s profit-seeking owners have an incentive to keep traffic moving. They collect tolls based on congestion pricing, and tolls are collected electronically, so cars don’t have to stop. The tunnel operators clear accidents quickly. Most are detected within 10 seconds — thanks to 350 cameras inside the tunnel. The private road has cut a 45-minute trip to 10 minutes.

Read Full Post »

I don’t agree with all the points in this column from Real Clear Markets, but I fully agree with the overall theme that the GOP would be wise to cut Bush out of the Party’s history. Like Nixon, he was a failed, big-government statist.

The sour economy is presenting Republicans with a golden opportunity to retake both houses of Congress. The Democrats will try to defend their seats by attacking Bush’s record on the economy. Republican candidates should counter this move by acknowledging the economic errors made during the Bush years. This will help restore the credibility of the Republican brand with respect to the economy and free up the candidates to move on to what really matters-the future. …Was Bush 43 the worst post-1952 president in terms of the economy? No, he was the second-worst. Jimmy Carter managed to drive the Real Dow down by 78% in just four years, 1976-1980. If considered as one presidency, Nixon/Ford was the third-worst… So, what were the mistakes that made Bush 43 the second-worst president since 1952 with respect to the economy? The biggest single economic error Bush made was his “weak dollar” policy. While the president has no direct control over monetary policy, it is said that a president always gets the monetary policy he wants. Bush (and his Treasury Secretaries) wanted a weak dollar, and they got one. The dollar lost 69% of its value against gold during the Bush years. This accounted for almost 80% of the decline in the Real Dow during his presidency. The unstable dollar during the Bush years was the root cause of the financial crisis of 2008. The dollar fell almost continuously during the first seven years of his term. By February 2008, it had lost 72% of its value. …The third biggest economic error under Bush was the design of the 2001 tax cuts, which phased in the reductions in the top income tax rate over 5 years. As we learned in 1981-1982, phased-in tax cuts guarantee economic sluggishness, because people defer income until the lower rates take effect. The result was a “jobless recovery”, slow growth, and escalating deficits. The 2001 tax cuts also wasted $58 billion on futile Keynesian “stimulus”, an error that Bush was to repeat in 2008. If Bush had gotten his 2001 tax cuts right, and economic growth in fiscal years 2002 and 2003 had averaged 3.5% instead of 1.6%, the “Bush deficits” would have peaked at 2.5% of GDP in FY2004, rather than at 3.5%. A continuation of 3.5% real growth would have put the budget in surplus by FY2007, despite the massive spending. …Because the Democrats have “doubled down” on Bush’s economic errors, Democrat-held House and Senate seats are ripe for the picking. During the first 18 months of the Obama administration (i.e., through June, 2010), the Real Dow fell by another 11% to 7.86, which was the level of June 1952. After 16 months of massive government “stimulus”, total employment in June 2010 was 6.0 million below what the administration predicted it would be if the stimulus bill passed, and 3.2 million lower than they said it would be if the stimulus bill didn’t pass. If the labor force participation rate had not unexpectedly declined, June’s unemployment rate would have been reported at 11%.

Read Full Post »

Like my views on many criminal justice issues, I’m a bit conflicted about this BBC story I saw on Drudge about a Swedish driver who is being fined about $1 million by Swiss authorities for driving 180 mph. This sounds absurd (and at some level, of course, it is), but if the idea of a fine is to deter speeders, then penalties based on income and/or wealth can be appropriate. On the other hand, I don’t like revenue-hungry politicians. I don’t like speed traps (though that’s presumably not an issue in this instance). And I don’t like class warfare policies designed to poke rich people in the eye for the sin of, well, being rich. Feedback is welcome, as always.

A Swedish motorist caught driving at 290km/h (180mph) in Switzerland could be given a world-record speeding fine of SFr1.08m ($1m; £656,000), prosecutors say. The 37-year-old, who has not been named, was clocked driving his Mercedes sports car at 170km/h over the limit. Under Swiss law, the level of fine is determined by the wealth of the driver and the speed recorded. In January, a Swiss driver was fined $290,000 – the current world record.

Read Full Post »

A very powerful video from the folks at Reason.tv. I hope the spokeswoman from the Nurse’s union suffers from guilty nightmares.

Read Full Post »

Read Full Post »

My former Heritage Foundation colleague has returned to youtube.com with a video asking taxpayers whether examples of government waste are true or false.

Read Full Post »

Appearing on Fox Business News, I summarize the many reasons why the Bush-Paulson-Obama-Geithner TARP bailout was – and still is – bad policy.

I’m sure I have plenty of flaws, but at least I am philosophically consistent. Here’s what I said about the issue more than 18 months ago. The core message is the same (though I also notice I have a bad habit of starting too many sentences with “well”).

Read Full Post »

Michael Fleischer is a brave man. He exposed himself and his company to retribution and attack by explaining how Obama’s policies are discouraging job creation in a column for the Wall Street Journal. Let’s hope he doesn’t mysteriously get audited, because he provides valuable real-world insight into how taxes and other forms of government intervention hinder job creation (and reduce take-home pay for those lucky enough to still have jobs).

Employing Sally costs plenty too. My company has to write checks for $74,000 so Sally can receive her nominal $59,000 in base pay. Health insurance is a big, added cost: While Sally pays nearly $2,400 for coverage, my company pays the rest—$9,561 for employee/spouse medical and dental. We also provide company-paid life and other insurance premiums amounting to $153. Altogether, company-paid benefits add $9,714 to the cost of employing Sally. Then the federal and state governments want a little something extra. They take $56 for federal unemployment coverage, $149 for disability insurance, $300 for workers’ comp and $505 for state unemployment insurance. Finally, the feds make me pay $856 for Sally’s Medicare and $3,661 for her Social Security. When you add it all up, it costs $74,000 to put $44,000 in Sally’s pocket and to give her $12,000 in benefits. Bottom line: Governments impose a 33% surtax on Sally’s job each year. Because my company has been conscripted by the government and forced to serve as a tax collector, we have lost control of a big chunk of our cost structure. Tax increases, whether cloaked as changes in unemployment or disability insurance, Medicare increases or in any other form can dramatically alter our financial situation. With government spending and deficits growing as fast as they have been, you know that more tax increases are coming—for my company, and even for Sally too. Companies have also been pressed into serving as providers of health insurance. In a saner world, health insurance would be something that individuals buy for themselves and their families, just as they do with auto insurance. Now, adding to the insanity, there is ObamaCare. Every year, we negotiate a renewal to our health coverage. This year, our provider demanded a 28% increase in premiums—for a lesser plan. This is in part a tax increase that the federal government has co-opted insurance providers to collect. We had never faced an increase anywhere near this large; in each of the last two years, the increase was under 10%. To offset tax increases and steepening rises in health-insurance premiums, my company needs sustainably higher profits and sales—something unlikely in this “summer of recovery.” We can’t pass the additional costs onto our customers, because the market is too tight and we’d lose sales. Only governments can raise prices repeatedly and pretend there will be no consequences. And even if the economic outlook were more encouraging, increasing revenues is always uncertain and expensive. As much as I might want to hire new salespeople, engineers and marketing staff in an effort to grow, I would be increasing my company’s vulnerability to government decisions to raise taxes, to policies that make health insurance more expensive, and to the difficulties of this economic environment. A life in business is filled with uncertainties, but I can be quite sure that every time I hire someone my obligations to the government go up. From where I sit, the government’s message is unmistakable: Creating a new job carries a punishing price.

Read Full Post »

Read Full Post »

John Stossel appropriately scolds the former Federal Reserve Chairman for blaming the financial crisis on the free market. I’ll go one step farther and say that Greenspan’s behavior is a reprehensible example of someone lacking the cojones to take responsibility for his mistakes. Greenspan is surely not responsible for the corrupt system of subsidies from the government-created nightmares known as Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, but he definitely deserves the lion’s share of the blame for the Fed’s easy-money policy of artificially-low interest rates. Greenspan presumably knows he screwed up, which makes his attack on free markets especially despicable. The icing on the cake is that he’s also sucking up to the political establishment by endorsing higher taxes. Hasn’t he already done enough damage?

I’m getting tired of Alan Greenspan. First, the former Federal Reserve chairman blamed an allegedly unregulated free market for the housing and financial debacle. Now he favors repealing the Bush-era tax cuts. …During a congressional hearing two years ago, Greenspan shocked me by blaming the free market — not Fed and housing policies — for the financial collapse. As The New York Times gleefully reported, “(A) humbled Mr. Greenspan admitted that he had put too much faith in the self-correcting power of free markets.” He said he favored regulation of big banks, as if the banking industry weren’t already a heavily regulated cartel run for the benefit of bankers. Bush-era deregulation is a myth perpetrated by those who would have government control the economy. We libertarians were distressed by Greenspan’s apparent abandonment of his free-market philosophy and his neglect of the government’s decisive role in the crisis. …now Greenspan, going beyond what even President Obama favors, calls on Congress to let the 2001 and 2003 Bush tax cuts expire — not just for upper-income people but for everyone. …the stupidest thing said about tax cuts is the often-repeated claim that “they ought to be paid for.” How absurd! Tax cuts merely let people keep money they rightfully own. It’s government programs, not tax cuts, that must be paid for. The tax-hungry politicians’ demand that cuts be “paid for” implies the federal budget isn’t $3 trillion, but $15 trillion — the whole GDP — with anything mercifully left in our pockets being some form of government spending. How monstrous!

Read Full Post »

« Newer Posts - Older Posts »

%d bloggers like this: