Monthly Archives: June 2009

Menu Planning With CSPI

It must be getting close to lunchtime… I want to go eat ALL OF THIS!

South Beach Diet Friendly!

This is a Cheeseburger in Paradise!

Take Applebee’s Quesadilla Burger.

Heaven knows, it’s tough to put a new spin on burgers. And quesadillas—two largetortillas stuffed with cheese—have made it big on appetizer menus.

Mix them together and you’ve got the Quesadilla Burger—a beef patty plus cheddar cheese, pepper-Jack cheese, bacon, Mexi-ranch sauce, pico de gallo, and shredded lettuce tucked into two white-flour tortillas.

With fries (440 calories), your platter comes to 1,820 calories and 46 grams of saturated fat. (“Add chili & cheese to your fries for $1.49,” says the menu. Let’s not even go there.)

Now, as you might expect, I’ve got some ideological differences with the folks at CSPI. They’d probably prefer to outlaw food like this, while folks like me — genetically blessed with low cholesterol — understand that eating this type of meal once in a blue moon is not that bad. I certainly don’t blame them for highlighting just how unhealthy this meal truly is, disagreeing with them, though, on their proposed menu labeling laws. But when it goes to the inevitable next step (the “fat tax”), we’re going to have major issues.

But I have to give CSPI some credit. They sure know how to make a guy hungry!

Hat Tip: Ezra Klein

You Can Tax My Beer When You Pry It From My Cold Drunk Hands!

Now it’s personal:

Consumers in the United States may have to hand over nearly $2 more for a case of beer to help provide health insurance for all.

Details of the proposed beer tax are described in a Senate Finance Committee document that will be used to brief lawmakers Wednesday at a closed-door meeting.

Taxes on wine and hard liquor would also go up. And there might be a new tax on soda and other sugary drinks blamed for contributing to obesity. No taxes on diet drinks, however.

Beer taxes would go up by 48 cents a six-pack, wine taxes would rise by 49 cents per bottle, and the tax on hard liquor would increase by 40 cents per fifth. Proceeds from the new taxes would help cover an estimated 50 million uninsured Americans.

I suppose, if this goes through, I’ll just have to homebrew more often. In addition to being cheaper in general, this tax won’t apply. Yeah, that missing tax revenue may mean that little Timmy never gets his operation… But that’s what the little bastard gets for basing his health care plan on my drinking habits.

Hat Tip: Reason

Agree Now, Or Your Regulator Will Make You Agree Later

Interesting notes that Judicial Watch has gotten hold of from Paulson/Bernanke’s offer they can’t refuse back in October. It’s the talking points from the meeting… “Strongarm” would be an understatement:

We plan to announce the program tomorrow–and–that your nine firms will be the initial participants….

This is a combined program (bank liability guarantee and capital purchase). Your firms need to agree to both.

  • We don’t believe it is tenable to opt out because doing so would leave you vulnerable and exposed.
  • If a capital infusion is not appealing, you should be aware that your regulator will require it in any circumstance.

I’m left wondering how it could have possibly been worse, but then I came up with a scenario.

Bush could have given the banks to the UAW. At least he didn’t do that!

Hat Tip: Reason

Quote Of The Day

When I posted the below open thread, one of the data points used to suggest things were actually recovering was a rise in income that was 0.6% higher than expect (and actually positive — expectation was negative). But it appears that this might be an anomaly brought on by our Congress. From The Big Picture:

April Personal Income rose .5%, much better than expectations of a drop of .2% while Spending fell .1%, .1% better than forecasts. The revisions to March were modest. The factor in the surprise gain in income was related to the Government’s stimulus plan where transfer payments rose smartly and there was also reduced personal current taxes. The Commerce Dept specifically said the income component “was boosted as a result of provisions of the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009.”

So hey, the economy isn’t actually recovering, but boy we’re at least paying people to do government work with newly-printed money. Boy, how I love the New New Deal!

Monday Open Thread — DoubleDip?

All, if you’ve been reading me for any extended period of time, you know that I’m a bit of a Cassandra when it comes to the economy. I think the fundamentals are f***ed, and that this little lull of stock market strength is the calm before the storm. I have a lot of reasons to continue my bearishness, such as the recent rapid rise in foreclosures, but economic news lately has been slowly improving, and I’m left wondering what to think. As Keynes said when accused of flip-flopping on monetary policy:

When the facts change, I change my mind. What do you do, sir?

I suppose that there’s at least some evidence that the facts have changed. Dale @ QandO points out data points released this morning here, here, and here that point to an improvement in economic conditions.

So I’m opening this up to everyone. Where are we headed, and why? Stabilization and a return to a growth trend, or is the light at the end of the tunnel an oncoming freight train?

Education Is Not One-Size-Fits-All

Kevin Drum recounts a tale of a specific charter school that has had excellent results. He unwittingly makes a good argument for school choice:

In a nutshell, this story explains pretty well why I like charter schools [snip] So I say: fine. If there are some parents who want their kids to go to schools like this, let ‘em.

It makes sense to try out different kinds of schools for different kinds of kids and different kinds of neighborhoods. With a few obvious caveats, I’m all for it. But let’s not pretend that any particular one of these charters is necessarily the model for everyone else on the basis of 18 cherry-picked graduates. It ain’t so.

Well, given that he was marginally quoting someone else’s strawman, I’ll let his aside about pretending that any one of these is “necessarily the model for everyone else”. As far as I can tell, most libertarians and most advocates of vouchers don’t think that there’s a one-size-fits-all model.

And Kevin Drum, from these comments, doesn’t seem to think that there’s a one-size-fits-all model.

But the education bureaucracy seems to want to put everyone into a one-size-fits-all model.

Most reasonable collectivists I know are honestly more concerned with making education work than making it uniform. To some extent, they view things as charter schools as laboratories to test new educational methods, which can then be integrated into “regular” public schools. But they forget that there’s an enormous entrenched bureaucracy that is adamantly opposed to doing anything outside of what is best for the unions.

I agree with Kevin Drum that it makes sense to try out different kinds of schools for different kinds of kids and different kinds of neighborhoods. But where I suspect we disagree is in the assumption that the educational bureaucracy will EVER allow charter schools to do this in any meaningful way. They have too much stake in controlling the debate, and charter schools allow the debate to slip out of their grasp.

The only way to fix education is to offer real choice. Allow parents the ability to make the choice where to send their kids on a real widespread basis, not limited by geography or a tiny number of charter schools with far too many applicants for slots. And the only realistic way that I can see to achieve real choice, given the landscape as it currently sits, is through vouchers.

Education is not one-size-fits-all. We need to stop pretending that we can make it so*.
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