Monthly Archives: July 2009

Kevin Drum on Doha

Kevin Drum actually makes sense on this one!

Trade talks aren’t quite that bad. But they’re close. The Doha round in particular lives or dies based on the willingness of rich nations to substantially reduce tariffs and subsidies on agricultural products, and seriously, what are the odds of that? We can’t even have a serious discussion about reducing subsidies on corn ethanol, possibly the stupidest use of taxpayer dollars in the past century, let alone reducing farm support payments to ConAgra and Archer Daniels Midland. Meanwhile, the European attitude toward farming makes ours look positively levelheaded and beneficient. Paris would probably go up in flames if EU farm payments were ever rationalized.

So: what are the odds of making progress on agricultural issues? Especially these days, you’d need scientific notation to express it properly. Might as well wish for a pony instead.

He makes sense… And yet…

…and yet he’ll still put the same idiots in charge of agriculture in charge of our health care system.

And he doesn’t see the inconsistency in such a position.

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If You Kill Your Cattle, You Will Starve

Over at the Master Resource Blog,  law professor Gail Heriot points out the similarities between global warming, fear-monger Al Gore and Xhosa Prophetess Nongqawuse:

Nongqawuse was a teenager and a member of the Xhosa tribe in South Africa.  One day in April or May of 1856, she went down to the river to fetch water.  When she returned, she said that she had encountered the spirits of three of her ancestors who told her that her people must destroy their crops and kill their cattle.  In return, the sun would rise red on February 18, 1857, and the Xhosa ancestors would sweep the British settlers from the land and bring them fresh, healthier cattle.  (Some of the Xhosa cattle had been suffering from a lung ailment, which may or may not have been brought by the British settlers’ cattle.)

Astonishingly, the Xhosa chieftain, Sarhili, agreed to do exactly as this young girl urged.  Over the next year, a frenzy occurred in which it is estimated that between 300,000 and 400,000 cattle were killed and crops destroyed.  Historians sometimes call it the “Great Cattle Killing.”

But on February 18, 1857, the sun rose as usual.  It was not red.  And the Xhosa ancestors did not show.  But the Xhosa people had destroyed their livelihood.  In the resulting famine, the population of the area dropped from 105,000 to less than 27,000.  Cannibalism was reported.  Following Nongqawuse’s advice was a calamity of staggering proportions for the Xhosa people.

Like Nongqawuse, Gore tells us that the sun will soon rise red over the land.  Well, maybe.  But already the models that he relies on have been proven wrong.  The intense period of warming that these models predicted over the past ten years never came to pass.  Yet we are repeatedly told that it’s still coming and that it’s just a little late.  Apparently, we should pay no attention to the fact that the polar ice is expanding again.  Instead, we must put the brakes on our use of energy–the very thing that makes the modern world possible–to avoid antagonizing the spirits of our ancestors, I mean to avoid climate disaster.

The most infuriating aspect of the fear-mongers’ movement is that their solution to climate change is for humanity to adopt an economic system that has brought misery and death nearly every time it has been tried.  From the tropics to the poles,  free markets have brought prosperity, comfort and longevity to the masses.  No matter how well intentioned they are, the fear-mongers threaten to wreck the engine that allows the Earth to support a human population in the billions.

The Earth’s climate is in a state of flux. The notion that humanity should doom itself to privation and famines in a futile attempt to maintain climactic parameters within a set of narrow bands is the height of folly.  If we kill our cattle, we too will starve.

I am an anarcho-capitalist living just west of Boston Massachussetts. I am married, have two children, and am trying to start my own computer consulting company.

Quote Of The Day

This one is filed in the “unintentional humor” category. Co-blogger Jason Pye, writing over at United Liberty [more on that to come in the near future] links a story about Blue Dog Democrats expressing concerns about government health care:

To win their support, they said, any legislation would need to be much more aggressive in reining in the growth of health care.

Oh, I’m sure once the government is involved, health care won’t be growing!

Health care spending might be growing. Health care costs might be growing. But health care efficiency, effectiveness, or technological advance certainly won’t be.

The Blue Dog Democrats are on to something. If you want to stop the growth of health care, you should certainly put it in government hands!

Yo Meghan, the revolution already started. Where have you been?

Meghan McCain writes:

I understand that my place within the Young Republicans and the Republican Party is a controversial one, which is something I am still trying to get comfortable with. I am criticized almost daily for not being “conservative enough.” But the Republican Party needs to reach out to all kinds of voters. The last time I checked, most conservatives are already Republicans. It’s the independents that we need to sway. We need to make them believe we really do practice what we preached about less government, less spending, national security, etc, and we aren’t recruiting leaders who are old and out of touch.

This is interesting to me, because a few weeks ago, I went to a Young Republicans event in Birmingham. The following night, I cohosted a Liberty on the Rocks event in the same town. Both were on weekday nights, held in popular bars with decent food not too far away from each other, the weather was about the same (hot and muggy, of course), but quite a few more folks were at the latter event.  There were more Ron Paul voters at the LOTR event than voters for all of the GOP presidential candidates combined at the YR event.  To add fuel to the fire, there were even some Ron Paul supporters I know at the YR event.

From a libertarian perspective, both Meghan and her father have come out positively on a few issues, such as torture and gay rights. She made some comments about racism in her article with which libertarians will approve. With respect to less government and less spending, they’d both do well to spend a few hours around the good doctor from Texas. I don’t know if there is anything which can be done about the McCain impulse to go to war with little provocation, but I can easily set her up with some noted conservative/libertarian authors and politicans who would be willing to take the time to discuss the issue with her.

“What Young Republicans need is a revolution,” she writes.

In case she somehow missed the word, having been busy on the campaign trail and all, there already is one:

» Read more

Quote Of The Day

Gennady Zyuganov, the head of the Russian Communist Party, gives a thumbs up to Obama-nomics.

“I said that I had thoroughly studied the U.S. president’s anti-crisis program, that I liked it, as well as that it is socially oriented and primarily aimed at supporting poor people and enhancing the state’s role. I said all this to President Obama,” he said.

Sort of makes you think, huh ?

Letters To Boxer & Feinstein To Support S.604 On Auditing The Fed

Below is the text of a letter I’ve sent to Senators Barbara Boxer and Dianne Feinstein. H.R. 1207 (introduced by Ron Paul) and S. 604 (introduced by Bernie Sanders) is a bill that requires the Comptroller General to audit the Fed and report back to Congress within the next 18 months. Given that the only oversight they undergo is occasionally having Bernanke lie and befuddle Congress with confusing non-answers, I think it makes sense.

The below letter should be read as a potential template for readers to use when writing to your own Senators and Congressmen. However, there are two caveats to this. First, there are a few points here about California, as we have had some special challenges throughout the tech crunch and the housing collapse. Second, the tone of the letters is geared towards Democrats. If you’re sending this to Republicans, it would make sense to change the language in certain areas.

Either way, I wanted to provide potential talking points for readers who want to contact their Senators and get this ball moving.

July 9, 2009

Dear Senator XXXXX,

Senate bill S.604, a bill to require the Comptroller General of the US to audit the Federal Reserve, is currently under review with the Senate Committee on Banking, Housing, and Urban Affairs. I am writing to urge your support for this bill.

California has been the epicenter of two asset bubbles over the last two decades: the high tech bubble and the housing bubble. Both brought the illusion of wealth to our state, and both caused much pain to our residents and our state government when they collapsed. There are many causes of asset bubbles, but chief among them are the loose monetary policies of the Federal Reserve. These policies cause malinvestment and excessive speculation, the hallmark of any bubble.

The Federal Reserve policies of Alan Greenspan and continued by Ben Bernanke are placing the financial system of the United States in jeopardy. These policies are largely undertaken without Congressional or Federal oversight, and benefit the interests of our financial sector at the expense of our citizens.

Most recently, the Fed has expanded their balance sheet to $2T buying securities, all the while engaging in a policy of “quantitative easing”, which is the euphemistic term for “printing money”. These policies are unprecedented in American history, and their long-term effects may be far worse than the problems they’re expected to address today.

S. 604’s sister bill in the House (H.R. 1207) has widespread bipartisan support, and over 250 cosponsors – including 25 from California. S. 604 is rapidly gaining sponsorship in the senate, with three additional cosponsors added in the last several days to a (now) total of 7 sponsors.

The Federal Reserve is adopting policies that affect every American at the core of their economic life – the value of our dollars and the value of our homes. They are making these decisions without meaningful Congressional oversight and without allowing anyone to “check the books”.

Congress has a duty to Americans to ensure that the Federal Reserve is acting in our interests, and the first step to doing so is to understand what they’ve already done. An audit is necessary. I hope that I’ve convinced you to support and possibly cosponsor S.604.

Sincerely,
Brad Warbiany

(Followed by contact info)

Give it a shot. I prefer to fax things to elected officials, as I believe there to be a more definitive tactical feel to actual paper. When they see that it’s printed out and faxed, I think it carries a little bit more significance than an email. I also emailed this to both of them, just in case their staffers are more likely to read one than the other.

Counterpoint: The Tea Parties Portend A Liberty Movement Ceasing Its Silence

This post is the second portion of a feature we offer here at The Liberty Papers called “Point-Counterpoint”. In this feature, Kevin argued the Point yesterday that Tea Parties are ultimately damaging to the libertarian movement. Today, Brad responds with the below.

My boss is a mainstream Republican in his mid-40’s. He’s got a small crush on Sarah Palin. He recently took the Political Compass and ended up with a score of (+7.00, -0.67). He’s an accountant by training and salesman by profession. He’s not a protester by nature. In short, he’s a part of Nixon’s “silent majority”, the group described by wikipedia as not having “the ability or the time to take an active part in politics other than to vote.” His wife falls under the same general heading. My boss couldn’t make it to the April 15th Tea Parties — work was more important at the time — but strongly wanted to attend. His wife was able to make it to a Tea Party. These are people who are NOT the type to protest the actions of the government publicly. They are, IMHO, much more representative of the types of people who attended these current protests than those who are protesters by nature.

This is not the protester you're looking for.

This is not the protester you're looking for.


Oh, you’ve heard of those groups, I’m sure. These are the types that Kevin alludes to when he says the anti-war protests became anti-Bush protests. These are professional protesters (by professional, I mean that they don’t have day jobs that get in the way). They get their protest groove on before they even know what they’re protesting. Anti-war? Go away, fascists! Anti-WTO? Fine, you dastardly multinational capitalists! Anti-GMO? Leave my food alone! Anti-Bush? Selected, not elected! Described in the movie PCU as “causeheads” by character Droz (Jeremy Piven), they’re the career protesters that you find more often on the left:

“These, Tom, are the Causeheads. They find a world-threatening issue and stick with it for about a week.”

The Tea Parties, at least traditionally, haven’t been dominated by Causeheads. They’ve been attended by regular people — like my boss’ wife — who see that in modern America, the train has derailed and they’re afraid of the carnage to come. It’s people who understand that something is very, very wrong — but they aren’t yet sure why or how to fix it. It is a protest movement in its infancy, and it’s largely populated by people who are more likely to eventually follow the side of someone like Ron Paul* than the “birthers”.

Yes, there are a lot of elements trying to grab hold of the Tea Party movement for their own purposes. But I believe that the modern Tea Party movement can largely ignore those elements, because the Tea Party movement is an effect, not a cause. It is not Joe the Plumber dragging people to Tea Parties; it is their own sense of morality and outrage at what is going on. It is a group of people who is sick and tired of government meddling, but endured in silence for several years while “their party” was in power. When Bush at the end of his term and Obama ever since have hit the throttle on government spending and control, they simply couldn’t take it in silence any more.

The Silent Majority is speaking up.

Stephen Gordon wrote a pretty expansive round-up of Tea Parties that he attended and that he had knowledge of for the Independence Day protests. Throughout that post, it’s clear that this is a grassroots movement, although that in some places it’s more dominated by the local GOP political establishment than in others. In many of these protests, elected officials were barred from speaking, allowing individual non-political Americans to speak.

That is a recipe for a true grass-roots movement. Of course, letting anyone with an opinion speak is also a recipe for a few of them to say things that you may not entirely support. Giving everyone who wants a microphone access to one makes for a bit of a messy message — just look at the blogosphere! When you get that many people together, you may not be 100% comfortable with everyone. Imagine if I’d attended a Tea Party protest. Would your typical mainstream Republican be happy being associated with a radical atheist anarchist who wants to legalize all drugs, let gays get married, and thinks Sarah Palin is the worst thing to happen to the Republican Party since the atrocious George W. Bush? I’d like to think of myself as a consistent advocate for liberty in the face of our government, but I would think that many mainstream republicans would be put off by the views I espouse.

But all that doesn’t change the fact that what is animating these protests is not birthers, or truthers, or Joe the Plumber. The animating force behind these protests is a latent hostility to big activist government that has been piqued by bailouts, stimulus, and the understanding that you must have confiscatory taxes or widespread inflation down the road to pay for it.

We are at a tipping point when it comes to these protests. April 15th was the first shot in a fight against obscene spending and painful taxes. The July 4 protests are a difficult case, however, because they were more of a protest to keep the fires stoked than anything else. On July 4, I think it was more about having a protest than it was about protesting a concrete action. That will soon change. There are strong rumors of a second stimulus**. We have seen the House pass Cap and Tax. We are watching Congress move forward on government health care. These are specific proposals that any advocate of limited government must fight vigorously.

Americans are seeing the Democrats move forward with the same big-government agenda and top-down central planning that we know does not work. We watch as the Republicans either compromise by only enacting the big-government agenda 80% as fast as the Democrats want, or by cutting pork-laden deals to get something in exchange for going with the flow. Nobody in this debate is standing up for the taxpayers, and that means that you can expect more of these Tea Parties in the future.

Will these Tea Parties be good for liberty? These Tea Parties are the effect of liberty-minded individuals expressing their ideals in concrete action, not a cause of those ideals. Thus, for all the efforts of Joe the Plumber, the birthers, or avaricious politicos to manipulate the Tea Parties for their own ends, the fact still stands: the Tea Parties aren’t about these sideshows. Their presence doesn’t change the ideals of those who attended, and in the grand scheme of things, will not materially affect the fight for liberty.

The Tea Parties have one benefit that hasn’t been discussed. If my account is accurate — that these protesters are the “silent majority” speaking up — the Tea Parties are working to mobilize and connect a group of people that largely exist below the political radar. The biggest difficulty I had as a libertarian prior to widespread internet activity was the feeling that maybe I was the outsider and that nobody else agreed. But through blogging (in general, and The Liberty Papers in particular) I am now connected to like-minded people and am building the networks and connections to make real change. The Tea Parties have the same affect on those who believe in small government. In these protests, friendships are made. Connections are forged. The on-the-ground networks that will one day help us to rein in the excesses of our leaders begin to take shape. This, above anything else, is what I hope we will see as the legacy of the Tea Party movement.

As for whether the Tea Parties will ultimately be successful, I cannot be sure. There is a large contingent of this country that wants the government to be their nanny and has no problem forcing the rest of us to pay for it, and I’m not entirely sure that they can be stopped at this late stage. If that contingent is successful, we may someday point at the Tea Parties in hindsight and say “if only they did X, or Y, we might have won.” But as it stands today, they’re one of the only concrete ways for us to get Congress’ attention, they’re one of the ways that the movers and shakers of the future will forge their networks, and they’re serving their purpose despite Joe the Plumber and the “birthers”.
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You Don’t Deserve That Right

Tell me, just once, where a government that has created a million-name no-fly list gets a legitimate power to ban people arbitrarily placed on that list from firearm ownership?

Ladies and gentlemen, I give you Rahm Emanuel, Chief of Staff to the Obama White House!

Critical text (h/t David Rittgers, Cato@Liberty):

“if you’re on that no-fly list, your access to the right to bear arms is cancelled, because you’re not part of the American family; you don’t deserve that right. There is no right for you if you’re on that terrorist list.”

I’m sure all those who have faced false positives on that list feel great about Rahm’s statement.

Point: The Tea Parties Are Ultimately Bad For Liberty

This post is the opening salvo of a feature we occasionally offer here at The Liberty Papers called “Point-Counterpoint”. In this feature, Kevin is arguing the Point that Tea Parties are ultimately damaging to the libertarian movement. Tomorrow, Brad will respond to this argument with his Counterpoint (response here).

The so-called Tea Party movement has been upheld by some as a movement of Americans fed up with overtaxation and excessive spending by the Federal government. These supposedly disgruntled ordinary Americans have been having rallies all across the country to show their disgust with the fiscal shape of the country. However, there is more beneath the surface of the Tea Party movement. In reality, the Tea Party movement has become a platform for assorted kooks, Republican party operatives looking to regain credibility with the American people, and libertarian and conservative activists who frankly should know better than to associate with the above.

Many of the featured Tea Party speakers this weekend were either tax hiking, big government politicians themselves or can be safely classified as kooky.

One of the cases in point is none other than celebrity Joe the Plumber aka Samuel Wurzelbacher who turned an Austin Tea Party into an anti-immigration rant:

“I believe we need to spend a little more on illegal immigrants get them the (expletive) out of our (expletive) country, and close the borders down,” Wurzelbacher said. “We can do it.”

“We’ve got the greatest military in the world and you’re telling me we can’t close our borders- that’s just ridiculous.”

Another group of kooks gathered in Duval County, Florida at an event organized by the county’s Republican Party.

The Republican Party of Duval County is backing away from their promotion of an event that featured numerous controversial comparisons of President Barack Obama with German Dictator Adolf Hitler. The event, a Tea Party held at the Jacksonville Landing on July 2, was organized by the First Coast Tea Party. However, the Duval County Republican Party promoted the event with e-mails that stated “Paid by Republican Party of Duval County.” Duval Republican Party Chairman Lenny Curry also broadcasted live from the event on the party’s weekly radio broadcast hosted by AM 1320.

The event, which was attended by Florida State Representatives Lake Ray, Charles McBurney and Mike Weinstein and Florida State Senator Stephen Wise, drew about 1,000 people to the Jacksonville Landing. Local party officials were on stage, along with numerous members of the Jacksonville business community.

While partisan rhetoric at any rally is expected, controversy has arisen over numerous signs that were prominently displayed at the gathering, including two that featured Barack Obama in Nazi garb. One sign, in fact, had altered Obama’s appearance to resemble Hitler. Other signs compared ACORN, the community organizing group accused of voter registration irregularities, with the SS—the Nazi organization responsible for enacting the Holocaust and the group responsible for most of the crimes against humanity committed by the Third Reich.

In short, the Tea Parties have become less about opposition to bailouts and reckless spending and instead have begun to resemble the “anti-war” rallies of the Bush years. The “anti-war” rallies were generally nothing more than “We Hate Bush” rallies and the Tea Parties have become “We Hate Obama” rallies where every phony outrage and faux scandal about Obama are aired to a country that is rejecting them. The Tea Parties have lost their original purpose of promoting fiscal responsibility in most of the country and the movement has come to the point where it harms the liberty movement by continuing to associate with them.

Plus, while original supporters of bailouts, higher taxes, and higher spending are being booed at some events, other tax and spend hypocrites are being welcomed as speakers and are cheered because they’re playing for the right team aka the GOP. By cheering on the same politicians who created the fiscal mess our country is in, the Tea Party movement continues the same fiscal mess they claim to oppose.

If the only purpose of the Tea Parties is to elect more Republicans then we have failed. Instead, we as libertarians must let this movement lose steam and fade away, like all populist movements do. Especially when we start seeing talk of the Tea Party movement nominating Sarah Palin, who is an enemy of everything classical liberalism stands for, to be its presidential candidate. If the point is to gain publicity for our causes, we are failing in this because the media is focusing on the fringe participation and the Republican party sponsorship of these events.

In short, libertarians and the Tea Party movement must divorce if the liberty movement is to survive. Or the Tea Party movement must clean its own house and get back to its core issues of fiscal responsibility.

I’m one of the original co-founders of The Liberty Papers all the way back in 2005. Since then, I wound up doing this blogging thing professionally. Now I’m running the site now. You can find my other work at IJ Review.com and Rare. You can also find me over at the R Street Institute.

Pope Benedict XVI Would Make Marx Proud

Pope Benedict XVI has decided to wade into territory which he has no understanding or expertise: the global economy. The New York Times reports that the pope is now calling for a “New World Economic Order”*

VATICAN CITY — Pope Benedict XVI on Tuesday called for a radical rethinking of the global economy, criticizing a growing divide between rich and poor and urging the establishment of a “world political authority” to oversee the economy and work for the “common good.”

He criticized the current economic system, “where the pernicious effects of sin are evident,” and urged financiers in particular to “rediscover the genuinely ethical foundation of their activity.

I have to ask the question to my Catholic friends who believe in Papal infallibility that also happen to believe in free market capitalism: how do you square the two philosophies? (Argument withdrawn; I am by no means infallible and was lacking in my understanding of this concept)

The article continues:

In many ways, the document is a somewhat puzzling cross between an anti-globalization tract and a government white paper, another indication that the Vatican does not comfortably fit into traditional political categories of right and left.

“There are paragraphs that sound like Ayn Rand, next to paragraphs that sound like ‘The Grapes of Wrath.’ That’s quite intentional,” Vincent J. Miller, a theologian at the University of Dayton, a Catholic institution in Ohio, said in a telephone interview.

“He’ll wax poetically about the virtuous capitalist, but then he’ll give you this very clear analysis of the ways in which global capital and the shareholder system cause managers to focus on short term good at the expense of the community, of workers, of the environment.”

Indeed, sometimes Benedict sounds like an old-school European socialist, lamenting the decline of the social welfare state and praising the “importance” of labor unions to protect workers. Without stable work, he notes, people lose hope and tend not to get married and have children.

Sorry padre, you can’t have it both ways. If you truly believe the Communist/Socialist model is morally superior to Capitalism (an admittedly selfish system by honest supporters such as Ayn Rand) just come out and say so! If one honestly reads the scriptures, one will see that the teachings of Christ are much more in line with Karl Marx than Adam Smith.

But wait, it gets worse…

Benedict also calls for a reform of the United Nations so that there can be a unified “global political body” that allows the less powerful of the earth to have a voice, and calls on rich nations to help less fortunate ones.

In other words, the U.N. should force the citizens of the most efficient and productive nations at gun point to give money to people in nations who are less efficient and less productive in large part because they subscribe to the philosophy of the Pope: “From each according to his ability, to each according to his need.” There’s a word for this; it’s called extortion.

» Read more

A few thoughts about last weekend’s Tea Parties

While I’ve not had enough time to take a comprehensive look at Tea Parties held around the nation on or around Independence Day, here are some quick observations from this full-time Tea Party enthusiast and part-time skeptic.

First of all, Senator John Cornyn (R-TX) was booed when he spoke in Austin, Texas.  The key reason reason seems to be that he voted for the Fannie Mae/Freddie Mac bailout in order to protect “free market capitalism, with our civil liberties, [which are] are the foundation of American exceptionalism.”  In the hyperlinked explanation for his vote, he quoted Senator Tom Coburn (R-OK) and former House Speaker Newt Gingrich in order to help spread the blame.  “This bill does not represent a new and sudden departure from free market principles…” explained Cornyn, who was quoting Coburn.

Coburn has also infuriated fiscal conservatives because, in his role as chairman of the National Republican Senatorial Committee, he sided with “establishment candidate, Florida Gov. Charlie Crist, in a Senate primary against young conservative leader, former Florida House Speaker Marco Rubio” in the Florida Senate race.

Coburn probably wasn’t the only Republican Party leader booed in Texas.  I’ve seen some video of Texas Governor Rick Perry speaking in San Antonio, but I’ve not seen any video with jeers from the audience from anywhere in Texas (he wasn’t allowed to speak at the major Dallas event).  However, there are multiple reports that he was booed for “his advocacy of toll roads to relieve traffic congestion.” I tried to obtain additional information on Twitter and it seems my suspicions were correct: He received some sporadic booing, not specifically because of toll roads, but that the road in question is the “NAFTA Superhighway” or “Trans-Texas Corridor”.  Based upon observations during my campaign work in east Texas in 2006, there are probably quite a few Birchers who still vehemently oppose this effort.

The least biased view of the Austin event which I’ve read comes from Robbie Cooper: » Read more

California’s problem is taxation

Instapundit links to a NYT Magazine propaganda piece about governing California, and the part about taxation reads as if it were written by Assembly Speaker Karen Bass, right down to euphemistically renaming taxes “revenue”:

In the view of many, the origins of the mud slog began with the passage of Proposition 13 in 1978, the landmark referendum that capped property taxes. “Over 50 percent of our revenue is dependent on personal income tax, and that’s a very important part of explaining the boom-and-bust cycle,” according to another Republican candidate for governor, Tom Campbell, an immaculately credentialed policy marvel who graduated from Harvard Law School magna cum laude and who later studied under the conservative economist Milton Friedman before going on to represent Silicon Valley for five terms in the United States Congress.

This dependence on income tax was the first thing Dianne Feinstein mentioned when I asked her to assess California’s problems. “In most states, it’s one-third property tax, one-third sales tax and one-third income tax,” Feinstein said. “It’s 55 percent income tax in California. And 45 percent of that comes from the top brackets.”

When the economy is booming, the stock market soaring and jobs abundant, relying on income taxes is not a problem. That was the case in the years after Schwarzenegger first became governor in 2003, and he was hailed as a “postpartisan” leader who cut taxes and appealed to Democrats by aggressively tackling issues like global warming. But in today’s cratering economy — in which California faces a decline in personal income for the first time since 1938 and unemployment sits at 11.5 percent — the state’s coffers have shriveled up quickly, along with the governor’s popularity.

Passing a budget or increasing revenues in California is dicey in the best of times. The state constitution requires that two-thirds of the Legislature agree on a budget or higher taxes — the kind of overwhelming political consensus, in other words, usually reserved for amendments to the federal Constitution. (California is one of just a handful states that require a two-thirds vote to pass a budget.)

These words were written not by Speaker Bass, but rather by the Times’ own Mark Leibovich. He gets some of the facts right, but draws from them a woefully wrong conclusion. Where Liebovich sees a state that would be better off if only politicians could increase property taxes without limit or one party had total control of the budgeting process, I see a state that manages to overtax its citizens despite some pretty robust taxpayer protections in the state constitution. What’s the difference between me and Mark Leibovich? I actually have to pay for the excesses of Sacramento.

Let me list out for you the taxes and fees I remember having to pay in the last year:

  • Income tax
  • Sales tax
  • Property tax
  • Gas tax
  • Vehicle License fee

This doesn’t include the various line items about government surcharges and fees on every utility bill I pay, some of which I’m sure is attributable to the state. Even so, the taxes and fees I listed above still amount to about 25% of my income. On top of the 30% of my income that goes to Washington D.C., that’s more than half my income.

You might think that such a fate could only happen to someone who was rich enough not to worry about only having 55% of his income go to Washington and Sacramento. You’d be wrong. I’m very solidly in the middle class, and it would be even harder making ends meet if California’s political class could force me to surrender even more of my hard-earned income. I hear the same from nearly everyone I know.

I’m a Californian, and I pay more for government than I do for anything else. From the perspective of a citizen, California’s problem is taxation–too much, not too little.

Independence 1776. Independence 201x?

From the time of 1765 forward, the American people, in fits and starts, began moving closer and closer to breaking ties with Britain and declaring independence. They grew increasingly angry at being dragged into [or paying for] the wars of the Crown. The King had largely held a hands-off approach with the colonies, who largely learned the self-governance necessary to carve a new nation out of wilderness. As the colonies became more prosperous, though, the King saw potential. He saw the potential to tax them as Englishmen but without giving them the full rights and representation of those in the home country. He tried to impose English hands-on governance upon a people who had learned to exist without such meddling. And this meddling was NOT appreciated.

We focus, and rightly so, a lot of energy and time on the Declaration of Independence and July 4, 1776. It is the watershed moment in our rise from loosely-joined colonies into a nation. But there’s more to the story.

For those who view today’s America as the culmination of the vision of the founders, it is right to view Independence Day as a day of remembrance of things past. For those of us who consider our current government (being the establishment since the New Deal and only accelerated by GWB and BHO) to be antithetical to the ideals that founded this nation and still rest latent within its people, it’s instructive to look at this from a far wider perspective.

July 4, 1776, and the Declaration of Independence, was one of the most important steps in the American Revolution. But it was only a step, and that step was squarely in the middle of the game, not the beginning. In fact, it occurred over a year after armed hostilities erupted at Lexington and Concord, and the Battle of Bunker Hill took place the prior month. In terms of our nation, the Declaration of Independence is important because it marks the point at which our hostilities against the British became a struggle for independence, rather than a struggle for reparation. But in terms of the history of the struggle, the stage was truly set over the course of the prior decade.

There is not enough space to delve deeply into the history here. For reference, I heartily recommend A Leap In The Dark by John Ferling, and The Ideological Origins of The American Revolution by Bernard Bailyn. To summarize, one of the watershed moments of the lead-up was the Stamp Act of 1765. This was a tax on most paper products in use at the time, and it was a very visible and direct tax. It hit many colonists close to home, and was a new tax to these shores. The tax ignited protests a decade in advance of actual hostilities. For many, these protests were some of their first concrete actions in opposition to policies of their government.

But it was just a tax. Americans at the time considered it a piece of bad policy foisted upon them by the King, and when the King rescinded the tax, things simmered down. There had not yet developed an adversarial relationship between the colonists and the Crown. Over the next decade, though, a King who wanted to claim control over the colonies engaged in consistent escalation of his taxation and attempts to rein in what he considered improper actions of “his subjects”.

Throughout this decade, independence was never a foregone conclusion. Many in the colonies were not opposed to British rule, they simply wanted a hand in direction of that rule. Most people in the colonies viewed themselves as Englishmen first, citizens of their colony second, and Americans third. There was a very strong emotional connection to the Crown and to the people — many of them family — of the home country. The path to Independence was a jerking motion as the Crown bullied the populace, the populace resented the Crown, and all through that time voices towards independence helped frame the debate.

Samuel Adams was one of those key voices early on. In 1765, he was already advocating against Britain and — although difficult to speak out publicly for Independence — it is clear that he saw an American rift with Britain coming in the future. During the ensuing decade, Samuel Adams was a key instigator and key voice in framing the debate for Independence. He was instrumental during the “quiet period” of 1770-73, when the British somewhat reduced their acts of encroachment on the colonies. During this time, as anti-British sentiment waned, Samuel Adams was the key voice keeping the narrative of colonies vs. Crown in the minds of the people. It was never ONLY what the Crown did that led to independence; it was the voices of the rabble-rousers who saw the end game of subjugation to the crown who brought it to bear.

How did they bring it to bear? They changed the perception of the people. Prior to the Stamp Act, most colonists thought of themselves as Englishmen and saw the Crown as their legitimate government. Over that decade leading to July 4, 1776, that perception changed. The colonists increasingly saw the Crown as an arbitrary government willing to completely abrogate their rights in order to achieve its own ends. It saw the Crown treating the colonists in ways they believed it would never treat a true Englishman. They, as a people, ceased to give the government their consent.

This was a decade-long (and possibly extending farther back) effort. Few at the days of the first Stamp Act protests were likely envisioning a war of Independence brewing. Few are today.

In 2005, the Supreme Court found in Kelo that Americans could have their homes seized, at will, for nearly anything a local government claimed a “public use”, including handing it to developers who will build private-use structures. This hits every American in their homes. It makes every American understand that the whim of the government can take their highest-value, most cherished possession and give it to someone they think will make better use of it.

Since 2005, the United States Government has engaged in domestic wiretapping programs without judicial oversight, proving that the United States Government can listen in on your phone calls at the discretion of any civil-service bureaucrat who deems it necessary. It has created a terrorist watch-list of over 1,000,000 names, without any clear discussion of who is on that list, why, or how to have your name removed. If you’re on that list, you can expect to be hassled endlessly if you choose to engage in mundane civil activities such as air travel. During that time, it was learned that the United States Government has been engaged in “enhanced interrogation techniques” that — whether they’re technically defined torture or not — curl your hair to think about. Waterboarding is one that likely doesn’t sound as bad as it feels, but I defy anyone to support a government who engages in crucifixion.

In late 2008, in the midst of a financial crisis unlike any we’ve seen since the Depression, the United States Government decided that it could take $700B and simply hand it out to banks — more accurately, force banks to take it — and don’t have any real duty to the public regarding oversight of those funds. In the same time, the Federal Reserve and United States Treasury have either used or promised guarantees to over $14T in assets — larger than the GDP of the nation.

Since the election of Barack Obama, the United States Government passed a $787B stimulus bill not supported by a majority of Americans. The United States Government has de facto nationalized and illegally bankrupted two domestic automakers, rewriting the rules of bankruptcy in order to give out sweetheart deals to unions and the government. Most recently, the House Of Representatives has passed an enormous 1200-page Cap and Trade proposal (hidden tax) that included a 300-page amendment added only hours before the final vote. To believe that our “representatives” actually read this bill or its amendment is laughable. It is likely that over the next several months, the United States Government will pass a bill speeding us down the road to the nationalization of the healthcare industry, and to pay for it, enact a VAT to give them yet another revenue stream to extract the fruits of our labor.

Throughout all this time, the United States Government pays lip service to the Constitution, but routinely acts contrary to both its letter and its spirit at every turn. It is therefore defying even its own supreme blueprint.

If the United States Government is willing to act against the will of Americans, and if our “representatives” are willing to pass bills that they cannot and have not read — bills often giving law-making ability to unelected bureaucracies like the EPA, how can we really believe that we are a representative democracy? If the United States Government engages in barbaric acts such as crucifixion, how can we support it? If we have truly reached, as I believe, a point where our government views us not as citizens but as subjects, we must denounce the United States Government as illegitimate.

On this anniversary of the date of American Independence, it is right to celebrate. It is right to remember the valiant and principled action of the Founding Fathers to take on the world’s great superpower and assert their rights — many lost their lives in the effort. We have a nation worth celebrating.

But in remembrance of those who we are celebrating, it is important to understand their significance in a historic context (again, see the books recommended above). It is important to remember that the principles they are fighting for are again in peril. And it important to realize that in order for those principles to be recovered, we must tirelessly call the United States Government for what it is — illegitimate.

The time between the Stamp Act and the Treaty of Paris was 18 years. Between the Stamp Act and the Declaration of Independence, it was only the efforts of those who were willing to call the actions of their government deplorable that ensured that the yoke of that government would be lifted. It is now time for those of us who love our country and despise the United States Government to stand up and do the same. The American people are an industrious people, and often have little time to devote to paying attention to the actions of our government. They have a media more focused on the daily lives of TV celebrities than the outcome of legislation that will affect everyone’s daily life. They have been educated quite literally by the state to see the United States Government as a trusted friend and helpful assistant. This must change, and it is the work of those of us who believe in liberty to keep the fires stoked and educate them to the truth. This is not going to be a small job, and won’t happen quickly. But if we do not continually work towards this goal, we are resigning ourselves to a future led by a government by the power brokers, of the power brokers, and for the power brokers.

Today is a remembrance of America’s Independence Day. It is also a day to remember that committed citizens, in the cause of freedom, can break the chains of the greatest superpower seen on earth and claim their rightful liberty. It is a day to remember and celebrate those who did it before, but it’s also a day to steel yourself — there’s work to be done again.

UPDATE: Welcome readers from Let A Thousand Nations Bloom, and of course the many thousands arriving from Google News.

UPDATE 2: Welcome Carolina Sons Of Liberty readers!

1776 Project

A friend has started an organization called the 1776 Project, which he’s kicking off today “hoping to inform and educate voters by promoting the values and principles of a Constitutional government.” Here’s press release explaining the motivation:

The 1776 Project stresses that our Constitution is the single most important civic document in governing our nation. Its provisions, protections and prescriptions are all that is necessary and sufficient to the operation of a good, just and efficient government.

Organizers of the 1776 Project reject the notion that rights are given by government, instead believing the Bill of Rights protects the basic, individual liberties that are derived from natural rights that promote the pursuit of happiness.

Further rejecting the idea that the Constitution can be interpreted and changed however any political party wants to suit their needs, the organizers of the 1776 Project believe the document that created this Republic can only be changed by the process specifically laid out in Article V of the Constitution.

“Government cannot provide happiness, that is not its purpose,” says Jorge Gonzalez, founder of the organization. “It is up to each one of us, as individuals, to pursue our own desires and versions of happiness. This is the only way that we can really be a country united in one purpose.”

The 1776 Project will be announcing more events and providing information, resources and offering solutions on how Americans can take back their government through peaceful revolution and community outreach. Organizers welcome anyone who agrees with these values, regardless of political party, to join the 1776 Project to bring back a Constitutional government.

Check out the organization’s website and get involved on Facebook and Twitter.

Liberty Rock Friday: Declaration Day by Iced Earth

Iced Earth
“Declaration Day”
The Glorious Burden (2004)
iced-earth
Written by Jon Schaffer

A desperate situation
Forced to retaliation
The task ahead a burden
Men will suffer, that’s for certain
We’ll charge into the fire
The cause, we must inspire
We raise our fists to tyranny
A high price, freedom is not free

The odds are stacked against us
But with our resolve relentless
And arrogance their weakness
Our cause is just, we won’t be beaten
Upon this declaration
Will come a brand new nation
Where men are seen as equal
Governed for and by the people

CHORUS
So we make our stand and pray
On this declaration day
For independence I will fight
With liberty I will defy
So we make our stand and pray
On this declaration day
Give me liberty or give me death
I’ll fight ’till my last breath

With virtue as our beacon
Our cause is charged as treason
Battle worn and starving
Through the hell of war we’ll keep marching
The birth of our new nation
An act of desperation
We’ll force King George down to his knees
Capitulation

CHORUS
So we make our stand and pray
On this declaration day
For independence I will fight
With Liberty I will defy
So we make our stand and pray
On this declaration day
Give me liberty or give me death
I’ll fight ’till my last death

Hackers interpret idiotic government restrictions as damage…

…and route around them

By the by, for those who don’t get the reference, it’s a paraphrase of a quote from John Gilmore – “The internet interprets censorship as damage, and routes around it”

I am a cynically romantic optimistic pessimist. I am neither liberal, nor conservative. I am a (somewhat disgruntled) muscular minarchist… something like a constructive anarchist.

Basically what that means, is that I believe, all things being equal, responsible adults should be able to do whatever the hell they want to do, so long as nobody’s getting hurt, who isn’t paying extra

Quote Of The Day

From Gerald O’Driscoll @ Cato, regarding “too big to fail”:

The doctrine states that some banks (now financial institutions generally) are so large that their failure would incur “systemic risk” for the financial system. That sounds terrible and it is intended to. Financial services regulators and Treasury secretaries use it to frighten small children and congressmen.

Sometimes my “Quote Of The Day” posts are about content — and the content here is certainly quotable…

But this one is all about phraseology. “Small children and congressman” is incisive on a whole different level. Makes me wish I’d said that :-)

Diplomacy

Congress has been taking quite a few junkets on the taxpayer dime. Not a surprise, I know but the rate of increase (50% increase in last two years, 10x increase since 1995) is a bit of a shocker.

Spending by lawmakers on taxpayer-financed trips abroad has risen sharply in recent years, a Wall Street Journal analysis of travel records shows, involving everything from war-zone visits to trips to exotic spots such as the Galápagos Islands.

The spending on overseas travel is up almost tenfold since 1995, and has nearly tripled since 2001, according to the Journal analysis of 60,000 travel records. Hundreds of lawmakers traveled overseas in 2008 at a cost of about $13 million. That’s a 50% jump since Democrats took control of Congress two years ago.

The cost of so-called congressional delegations, known among lawmakers as “codels,” has risen nearly 70% since 2005, when an influence-peddling scandal led to a ban on travel funded by lobbyists, according to the data.

Lawmakers say that the trips are a good use of government funds because they allow members of Congress and their staff members to learn more about the world, inspect U.S. assets abroad and forge better working relationships with each other. The travel, for example, includes official visits to American troops in Iraq and Afghanistan.

Just a quick note to the Obama administration… If you want to improve the world’s opinion of America, letting them meet Congress is not going to do it.

H/T: Reason

Communist Party considers President Obama a success

Generally, the Communist Party spends a lot of time criticizing Democrats running for and holding public office for not being socialistic enough. This appears to have changed since President Obama was elected.

“In this legislative session, we can envision winning a Medicare-like public option and then going further in the years ahead,” writes Sam Webb, Chair of the Communist Party USA.

“The core of this struggle, whether we like it or not, turns on the inclusion of a public option in a health care bill,” continues Webb on government takeover of health care issue. “President Obama reaffirmed his support for such an option and the Congressional Progressive Caucus recently expressed its full support for a public option that is government run, covers everyone, and goes into effect right away.”

The conversation isn’t limited to health care issues, either.

“The new conditions of struggle are possible only – and I want to emphasize only – because we elected President Obama and a Congress with pronounced progressive and center currents,” adds Webb.

Here are some other points Webb made regarding fiscal policy:

  • We can visualize passing tough regulatory reforms on the financial industry, which brought the economy to ruin.
  • In the current political climate, the expansion of union rights becomes a real possibility.
  • Much the same can be said about winning a second stimulus bill, and we sure need one, given the still-rising rate, and likely long term persistence, of unemployment.
  • Isn’t it possible in the Obama era to create millions of green jobs in manufacturing and other sectors of the economy in tandem with an attack on global warming?

Considering that Obama’s actions have been pretty much in line with The Communist Manifesto, it makes sense that the Communist Party would be supporting his recent efforts.

On the other side of the aisle, Republicans like Karl Rove recently spent his time attacking Democratic socialized medicine by defending Republican socialized medicine. John McCain and Sarah Palin supported the Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac bailout. Newt Gingrich supported the Wall Street bailout. The National Republican Senatorial Committee is supporting Florida Governor Charlie Crist. Republican votes in favor of Cap and Trade just caused the bill to be passed in the House.

Arlen Specter may well have just changed parties because there was no longer any room for him on the Republican left.

With Communists now calling Democrats “comrade” and Republicans acting more like Democrats than fiscal conservatives, there is but one category remaining for most normal Americans: Screwed!

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