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Archive for July, 2012

I made a serious point the other day about how government plays a very important role in the lives of entrepreneurs.

But since I was talking about the staggering burden of red tape and regulation, I wasn’t being very supportive of the President’s assertion that government deserves a big chunk of the credit when a business is successful.

This cartoon makes the same point, but adds taxation to the mix.

As far as I recall (I sound like a politician under oath when I write something like that), this is the first Branco cartoon I’ve used, but I think it’s the best one in this post, so I’m looking forward to more of his (her?) work.

Regular readers know about Michael Ramirez, of course, and he has an amusing take on the you-didn’t-build-that controversy.

I’ve used lots of Ramirez cartoons over the past few years, and you can enjoy some of his work here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here, herehereherehereherehere, and here.

The Obama campaign has been complaining that the President’s words were misinterpreted, so this Eric Allie cartoon is quite amusing and appropriate.

You can laugh at more Allie cartoons here, here, here, and here.

Fortunately for Obama, he has some allies to help him out, as Lisa Benson reminds us.

More funny Lisa Benson cartoons can be seen here, here, herehere, here, here, herehere, and here.

Last but not least, we have another Allie cartoon. I think this is the first time I’ve used two cartoons by the same person, but I think you’ll agree they’re worth sharing.

This gives me an opportunity to end on a serious note. The Obama campaign is asserting that the President was simply stating that private sector prosperity is made possible by the provision of “public goods” such as roads and bridges.

This is a perfectly fair point, as I explain in this video about the Rahn Curve.

But what Obama conveniently overlooks is that spending on so-called public goods is only about 10 percent of the federal budget. The vast majority of government spending is for unambiguously harmful outlays on transfers, consumption, and entitlements.

Which is why the second Allie cartoon is so good. Even when government does something that is theoretically good, it causes a lot of collateral damage because of the excessive size and scope of the welfare state.

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Since I’ve already written that polygamy – regardless of how weird it is – is not something that demands government intervention, you won’t be surprised that I also think that gay marriage is a non-issue.

I don’t care if two guys want to get together. I don’t care if some religion (or some other group) wants to sanction their union, and I don’t care if they want to call it marriage, or make up some new word.

But I also don’t care if some churches don’t want to sanction same-sex unions. And I don’t care if some religious people don’t want to give approval to such relationships.

The good thing about freedom is that there is room for diversity. We all don’t have to be the same and think the same.

Unless, of course, government is involved. Then private differences become policy disputes.

This is why I urged non-intervention in this CNN discussion about whether local governments should discriminate against a restaurant chain merely because the top executive has religious beliefs that irk some politicians.

Some of these local politicians are nothing but Chavez-style  thugs, willing to use government coercion for arbitrary and capricious reasons. I hope my disdain was apparent in the interview.

P.S. Just to show I’m consistent, here’s my post urging that Bush’s pro-marriage program be defunded.

P.P.S. And for those who appreciate humor, there are good gay marriage one-liners among the rest of the jokes you can peruse here, here, and here.

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I wrote a serious post last week asking why Brian Ross wasn’t fired after linking the shooter to the Tea Party on the basis of nothing more than a shared (and somewhat common) name.

Today, let’s look at some good political satire. Let’s start with a cartoon mocking Mr. Ross, the nitwit from ABC News.

You can see more good Bok cartoons here, here, here, here, here, and here.

And speaking of nitwits, here’s a good cartoon looking at several rich buffoons, all of who raced to exploit the tragedy by uttering vacuous platitudes about gun control and violence.

More amusing Eric Allie cartoons can be seen here, here, and here.

On the topic of gun control, one silver lining to the dark cloud of this madman’s actions is that it is increasingly clear that the left has basically given up on trying to violate the Constitution (though keep in mind that the Supreme Court has been upholding the Second Amendment by the narrowest of margins, so Obama – or Romney – can undo that victory in the next couple of years).

Chuck Asay, as regular readers know, is one of my favorites. You can see more of his work here, herehere, here, here, here, here, here, here, herehereherehere, and here.

Last but not least, I sometimes wish I was a statist. Wouldn’t it be fun, after all, to make a ridiculous and absurd accusation that the killings were somehow caused by getting a handout from the federal government?

Which is why this cartoon is amusing. It doesn’t directly make any silly charges, but it does point out the federal government’s tangential interaction in a way that will probably irk leftists (just as they irk me when they directly say something stupid and blame the Tea Party for murders).

You can enjoy a couple of additional Glenn McCoy cartoons here and here.

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A left-wing group recently put out a report criticizing low-tax jurisdictions for attracting capital and investment from high-tax nations.

Since I’m a big defender of tax havens and tax competition, I noted that the assumptions in the report were very dodgy. As the Wall Street Journal noted, “Dan Mitchell, a senior fellow at the libertarian Cato Institute, compared the report’s findings to some estimates of climate change.”

And here’s some of what CNBC reported.

The problem, says Dan Mitchell, a senior fellow at the Cato Institute, is that the estimate is based on a series of assumptions aimed at making people “believe that much of cross-border investing is all about tax evasion and that all this money should go to government, and that this would be a good thing.” The real problem facing governments, Mitchell says, is spending not revenues.

I also was part of this CNN report.

A few things about this interview are worth highlighting.

1. First, it’s a bit disappointing that CNN even bothered to cover this non-story. This is akin to me pulling numbers out of the air, claiming that tax reform cures cancer, and then having Fox News report my make-believe nonsense simply because some of the programming is conservative.

It’s also rather revealing that they referred to the Tax Justice Network merely as an “advocacy group” rather than revealing that they have a hard-left orientation. I don’t object to Cato being identified as “libertarian-leaning,” but why not also let viewers know that the cranks at TJN also have a point of view?

2. Now let’s shift to policy. The second thing worth noting is that Mr. Henry says (around the 2:23 mark) that it would be good for politicians to get their grubby hands on cross-border investment capital so it can be “put to use.”

This is a remarkably radical and misguided assertion, as you can see from this chart. Henry is basically saying that money should be diverted from private capital markets, where it funds wage-boosting investment, in order to facilitate higher spending by politicians who already have spent their nations into fiscal crisis.

3. Even though I wasn’t given credit for the comment, I’m glad that the reporter (at the 2:38 mark) noted my argument that the real problem is that many nations have class-warfare tax systems that penalize work, saving, and investment.

This is why, when I give speeches in the so-called tax havens, I frequently say that they should be worried about “onshore” nations adopting the flat tax. Sadly, there’s no short-run possibility of replacing the corrupt tax system in America, so places like Singapore, Switzerland, and the Cayman Islands don’t have to worry about competitive pressure from the United States.

The main thing to understand about this “tax haven” debate is that groups like the Tax Justice Network are closely allied with governments in left-wing nations such as France, and they share the same goals as statist international bureaucracies such as the Paris-based Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development.

If they succeed in crippling tax competition and setting up some sort of global network of tax police, more politicians will raise tax rates, causing more misery, and bringing more nations one step closer to Greek-style fiscal collapse.

P.S. The TJN report isn’t total nonsense. The author correctly recognizes, for instance, that the United States is a so-called tax haven. Where we disagree is that Mr. Henry wants American lawmakers to deliberately make the United States less attractive to international investors and I think it is a gross mistake to enact policies that will hurt American workers by driving capital out of the economy.

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President Obama recently got himself in a bit of hot water with his “you didn’t build that” remark, which trivialized the hard work of entrepreneurs.

But he is right – in a perverse way – about government playing a big role in the life of small businesses. Thanks to a maze of regulations, the government is an unwelcome silent partner for every entrepreneur. And we’re not talking small numbers.

But sometimes an image helps to make things easy to understand. Here’s a chart from the Joint Economic Committee, which maps out the web of regulation imposed by Washington.

This chart does more than just show sources of red tape coming from Washington. It shows that “Washington” is really several entities, such as Congress, the executive branch, the courts, and so-called regulatory agencies.

These varies entities then impose regulatory burdens in various fields, such as labor, finance, tax, and environment.

Keep in mind, by the way, that each small pink circle actually represents an entire field of regulation. So when you see, for instance, the “Obamacare” circle, what you’re really seeing is this nightmarish image of regulatory complexity.

And don’t forget the role of state and local government.

Last but not least, remember that each regulatory bureaucracy is then capable of making individual decisions that…well, you judge for yourself.

Gee, it’s almost enough to make you think regulation might be the problem and not the solution.

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The United Kingdom has a magnificent history and has produced great leaders.

I get inspired, for instance, when I watch these Margaret Thatcher speeches about “public money” and “the poor poorer.” Sort of the same feeling I get when I watch the Gipper talking about Washington being a “company town” and the “unnecessary and excessive growth of government.”

But just as the United States has devolved by moving over time from Reagan to Obama, the United Kingdom has degenerated by going from Thatcher to David Cameron.

Cameron is supposedly a conservative, but it’s more accurate to say he’s an English version of George W. Bush. Some of the lowlights of his tenure include:

And his statist mentality infects other Tory politicians.

Here is a report on the intellectually bankrupt ramblings of another enemy of freedom, as reported by the Telegraph.

David Gauke, a Treasury minister, told The Daily Telegraph that home owners who allow workmen to evade VAT or income tax were forcing others to pay more. …critics accused the Government of being “unnecessarily moralistic” about ordinary people trying to keep their household bills down. …According to a report by the Public Accounts Committee, more than two million people make cash-in-hand payments costing the Treasury an estimated £2  billion. There is no law against paying someone in cash… In a speech to the Policy Exchange think tank, he said that while using Isas and claiming gift aid on charitable donations was acceptable, buying homes through companies to avoid stamp duty and using service companies to reduce income tax was “morally repugnant”. Mr Gauke said: “These schemes damage our ability to fund public services and provide support to those who need it. They harm businesses by distorting competition. They damage public confidence. And they undermine the actions of the vast majority of taxpayers, who pay more in tax as a consequence of others enjoying a free ride.”

Can anyone imagine Margaret Thatcher saying something this offensive?

Particularly since it is Gauke’s views that are “morally repugnant,” not the actions of people who are trying to protect their property from a rapacious and greedy government.

Keep in mind that the burden of government spending in the United Kingdom consumes nearly 49 percent of economic output according to OECD data. That’s more than Greece, Portugal, Ireland, or Spain!

Sort of makes you wonder how long it will take before investors decide that it’s no longer a good idea to lend money to such a profligate government.

The good news is that the English people aren’t as bad as their politicians. As part of the story, the Telegraph is conducting an online poll, which you can see to your left.

Notwithstanding the statolatry of UK politicians, the voting so far is overwhelmingly on the side of taxpayers rather than the government.

But public opinion doesn’t really matter if government policy continues to drift in the wrong direction.

And, as you can see from this data, the long-term outlook for the United Kingdom is very grim. And we know Cameron isn’t doing anything to address this looming crisis.

Not that this makes the UK special. Thanks to reckless entitlement programs, the same data shows that the United States also is headed for Greek-style fiscal chaos.

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In a recent post about Brian Ross and the despicable behavior of ABC News, I included examples of what I categorized as deliberate and accidental media bias.

Here’s a good (or perhaps I should say bad) example of accidental bias, demonstrating how statist premises get incorporated into news reports.

Here’s how the Associated Press began a recent story about expected increases in the poverty rate.

The ranks of America’s poor are on track to climb to levels unseen in nearly half a century, erasing gains from the war on poverty in the 1960s amid a weak economy and fraying government safety net.

At first glance, the story seems fine. After all, I’ve already reported on the record number of people living in poverty under Obama’s watch.

But my complaint is about the latter part of the sentence, which blithely assumes that the so-called War on Poverty improved the lives of poor people.

Check out this chart, which I first posted back last September.

As you can see, the poverty rate in America was falling at a rapid clip, but progress stopped once the so-called War on Poverty began. And ever since, the poverty rate has stayed relatively constant, oscillating between 11 percent-15 percent.

To be sure, this chart doesn’t prove that Lyndon Johnson’s redistribution programs – such as Medicaid – halted the progress that was being made.

But surely these numbers show that the folks at the Associated Press were smoking crack when they wrote that the War on Poverty led to “gains.”

The left, incidentally, does have their spin on the story. They basically cherry pick two data points and make it seem as if the diminished rate of progress during that time period was because of the War on Poverty.

…poverty never fell below a 1973 low of 11.1 percent. That low point came after President Lyndon Johnson’s war on poverty, launched in 1964, created Medicaid, Medicare and other social welfare programs. “I’m reluctant to say that we’ve gone back to where we were in the 1960s. The programs we enacted make a big difference…,” Edelman said.

That’s creative, but not convincing. What the data really show is that we were making good progress before LBJ imposed all his redistribution. But that rapid progress turned into slow progress and then basically came to a grinding halt within a couple of years. If that’s evidence of success, I’d hate to see what failure looks like.

If anything, the data show the benefits of moving policy in the other direction. During the Reagan years, for instance, redistribution programs were constrained and the poverty rate began to fall. And during the Clinton years, welfare reform and other market-friendly policies led to another drop in the poverty rate.

But that’s a separate issue. The main point of this post is to expose a remarkably flawed and inaccurate bit of bias embedded in an Associated Press report. I suspect it was accidental bias, presumably from some reporter who lives in a bubble and automatically assumed that government programs are like fairy dust and have magical effects.

In reality, of course, government programs tend to make problems worse, and that’s definitely been the case with the supposed War on Poverty. We have record levels of food stamp dependency, with more and more people being trapped in lives of dependency.

But watch this video and decide for yourself.

P.S. With support from left-wing international bureaucracies such as the OECD,  the Obama White House wants to rig the poverty numbers to justify even more redistribution.

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