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Archive for February, 2012

I’ve expressed my disdain for the bureaucrats from the Transportation Security Administration, including stories such as:

Confiscating a plastic hammer from a mentally retarded man.

Detaining a woman for carrying breast milk.

Hassling a woman for the unexplained red flag of having sequentially numbered checks.

Demanding that a handicapped 4-year old boy walk through a metal detector without his leg braces.

Putting an 8-year old cub scout on the no-fly list.

o Stopping a teenager from flying because her purse had an image of a gun.

Yet these Keystone Cops still fail to catch guns and box cutters – even when using the body-scan equipment!

So let’s make fun of these bureaucrats by looking at some of my favorites images mocking the TSA from Cracked.com. There are 17 of them, and I’ve only picked four, so feel free to peruse the rest.

And here are three other pics that rank high on my list. Click to enlarge.

The only thing that worries me about these clever parodies is that some TSA bureaucrat may see them and decide they’re a good idea.

By the way, if you like music and TSA humor, enjoy this, this, this, and this.

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I’ve always been partial to these dependency cartoons produced by a former Cato intern, but these two are well worth sharing.

If you want to see more of Chuck Asay’s great cartoons, click herehere, here, and here.

On a related theme, here’s a cartoon from Lisa Benson.

The good news, as shown in this polling data, is that a majority of Americans still believe in individual responsibility. Let’s hope that spirit of self reliance lasts long enough for us to roll back the welfare state.

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I’ve been a big critic of Obama’s policies on taxes, spending, regulation, and intervention, so you won’t be surprised that I argued on CNBC that his policies have made the economy worse.

Here are two graphs, which I posted earlier this month, that make my point. The red lines show the economy is finally – and slowly – moving in the right direction, but the blue lines show how the economy boomed under Reaganomics.

The gap between the two lines in the charts is a measure of how Obama’s policies have undermined the economy, as I mentioned on the program. However, I also said that this may not matter much this November if Republicans are incapable of making coherent economic arguments.

One last thing to emphasize is that Jared resorted to dishonest Washington math when discussing Obama’s make-believe budget cuts. When you use honest numbers, as i did when analyzing the President’s new budget, you find that the burden of government spending is going to climb by $2 trillion between 2012 and 2022.

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Nothing compares to the depth and substance of Professor George Selgin’s scholarly take-down of the Federal Reserve, but this video by a local libertarian has a very authentic feel.

Julie lists 10 reasons to dislike the Fed.

1.    The Fed has too much power.
2.    The Fed has devalued the currency.
3.    The Fed hurts the poor and middle class.
4.    The Fed is unaccountable.
5.    The Fed destabilizes the economy.
6.    The Fed is too secretive.
7.    The Fed benefits special interests.
8.    The Fed is unconstitutional.
9.    The Fed facilitates bailouts.
10.    The Fed encourages deficit spending.

If I want to nit-pick, I’m not sure that I agree with number 8 since the Constitution gives the federal government the power to coin money. I guess it depends how one interprets that particular power.

Also, I suspect politicians would waste just as much money even if the Fed didn’t exist, so number 10 may be a bit superfluous.

The main argument against the Fed is number 5. Looking at the economic chaos of the 1930s and 1970s, as well as the recent economic crisis, it is no exaggeration to say that the Federal Reserve deserves the lion’s share of the blame.

For those that like monetary policy, here’s my video that looks at the origin of central banking.

And I can’t resist including a link to the famous “Ben Bernank” QE2 video that was a viral smash.

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I’ve been having fun in recent months by comparing some of the foolish decisions of politicians and bureaucrats in the United States and United Kingdom. Here’s part of what I wrote in early January.

In June of last year, I posted several examples of idiotic government policy from both the United States and United Kingdom and asked which nation had the dumbest bureaucrats and politicians.

Since then, we have found new examples of brain-dead government and jaw-dropping political correctness from England, including an effort to stop children from watching Olympic shooting events and (what must be) the most pointless sign in the history of the world.

But American politicians have been busy as well in recent months, with impressive displays of incompetence and stupidity such as preventing a girl from boarding a plane because her purse had an image of a gun and a local school calling the police because a little girl kissed a little boy in gym class.

These examples are so absurd that one hopes the reporters somehow screwed up and get their stories wrong.

But now, thanks to a story sent by a friend, I’ve come to the conclusion that there is no limit to stupid and clueless behavior by government.  Here are some of the mind-bogglingly unbelievable details from an English-language Greek news site.

It took 10 months, a fat bundle of paperwork, countless certificates, long hours of haggling with bureaucrats and overcoming myriad other inconceivable obstacles for one group of young entrepreneurs to open an online store. …opening an online store based in Greece is no job for the fainthearted. …Antonopoulos and his partners spent hours collecting papers from tax offices, the Athens Chamber of Commerce and Industry, the municipal service where the company is based, the health inspector’s office, the fire department and banks. At the health department, they were told that all the shareholders of the company would have to provide chest X-rays, and, in the most surreal demand of all, stool samples.

As you can imagine, I think it’s ridiculous that a business has to take 10 months to get permission to operate. You also can guess that I’m shaking my head with dismay at all the regulatory hurdles. And I am utterly dumbfounded that you need to submit chest X-rays to open an online store.

But I can’t even begin to describe my reaction to the requirement for stool samples. I was tempted to write the previous sentence in ALL CAPS. I also thought about unleashing my inner teenager and writing WTF, OMG, and LMAO.

New Symbol of the Greek Government?

I confess, though, that I’m not quite sure what to write. It’s as if we’ve passed into a parallel dimension where parody and satire have become superfluous.

The only thing that rivals this is the story about the Greek government deciding that pedophiles deserve disability payments.

And to add insult to injury, the politicians from Europe and elsewhere are processing yet another bailout for this wasteful and spendthrift government.

Some people thought I was being a bit over-the-top when I did an interview and said the Greeks shouldn’t be allowed to “loot and mooch their way through life.”

But I think I understated the problem. Brainless policy choices are probably the inevitable result of having so many bureaucrats that they resort to asking for stool samples to justify their pointless and empty lives.

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What is the best way improve economic performance and boost living standards?

If you listen to politicians, they would like us to think that adopting Policy A or repealing Policy B is a magic elixir. And if that means adopting a flat tax or repealing Obamacare, I’ll certainly be happy.

But this video, based on analysis and data from the Economic Freedom of the World Index, shows that there is no silver bullet. Prosperity depends on several factors.

I mention this because I’m currently in the Dominican Republic for a conference on how best to improve competitiveness and growth (as you can see from the photo, this is hardship duty and I’m very sad that I’m missing the wonderful February weather in Washington).

My speech this morning was about tax reform, and I explained why a flat tax is the best way of collecting revenue in a way that minimizes economic damage and reduces opportunities for corruption.

But even though I’m a big advocate for better tax policy, the lesson from the Economic Freedom of the World Index, and as explained in the video, is that adopting a flat tax won’t solve a nation’s economic problems if politicians are doing the wrong thing in other areas.

There are five major policy areas, each of which counts for 20 percent of a nation’s grade.

  1. Size of government
  2. Regulation
  3. Monetary Policy
  4. Trade
  5. Rule of Law/Property Rights

Now let’s pick Ukraine as an example. As a proponent of tax reform, I like that lawmakers have implemented a 15 percent flat tax.

But that doesn’t mean Ukraine is a role model. When looking at the mix of all policies, the country gets a very poor score from Economic Freedom of the World Index, ranking 125 out of 141 nations.

Conversely, Denmark has a very bad tax system, but it has very free market policies in other areas, so it ranks 15 out of 141 countries.

The moral of the story is simple. A country should have a small public sector and a pro-growth tax system, but that’s only 20 percent of the answer. Prosperity requires good policy in many areas.

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What is it about Mitt Romney? The United States desperately needs smaller government, lower taxes, and less intervention, yet his comments and track record on issues such as the  value-added tax, healthcare, Social Security reform, budget savings, ethanol subsidies, and the minimum wage leave a lot to be desired.

We can now add something else to the list. The former Massachusetts governor has come out of the closet as a Keynesian.

This is worrisome, particularly since he is speaking extemporaneously and thus more likely to be letting us see his real views.

To be fair, Romney’s statement doesn’t automatically make him a big-spending Keynesian. Even I have written that, in the short run, “there will be transitional costs when the burden of public spending is reduced.”

But when I say something like that, it is also in the context of explaining the myriad ways that the economy benefits when a bloated public sector is pared back.

And I like to think that I’m second to none in disseminating the medium-term and long-term advantages of less government.

Mitt Romney, needless to say, doesn’t seem to fully share those views.

For more information on this issue, here’s my take on Keynesianism.

I made a snarky comment in a previous post that, “If the answer is bigger government, you’ve asked a very strange question.” I’m worried, though, that Romney doesn’t think that’s a joke.

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