Monthly Archives: September 2009

Obama Repeals NAFTA

Okay, that’s probably a bit of an overstatement… But I don’t think that starting a trade war with the Americans who say “eh” and “aboot” Canadians is a really good idea. Via co-blogger Jason Pye at his personal blog:

Canada’s six NHL teams are scrambling to find alternative travel arrangements south of the border after the U.S. Department of Transportation banned Air Canada’s charter fleet from flying between U.S. cities.

In a furious exchange with the Obama administration over the mid-August ruling, Canada has launched its own investigation and will soon close its skies to U.S. sports team charters in retaliation, warns Transport Minister John Baird.

The sticking point is an eight-year-old exemption that had allowed sports and celebrity charters to make several pit stops in American cities. Under existing open skies agreements, regular Canadian airline flights can only visit one U.S. city before returning.

The ruling also side-swipes musicians and other artists on tour.

The matter was pushed by the U.S. Air Line Pilots Association. It had demanded an investigation of passenger lists on the NHL flights, which found a few examples of injured players, personal trainers and team owners boarding the charter south of the border and departing at another U.S. city in a technical violation of the agreement.

Emphasis added to point out — as Jason does — that this is more about appeasing a union than anything else. This isn’t about safety. This isn’t about the NHL or Canada. This is about protecting an American union from competition. And if economic inefficiency is the result, so be it. If trade retaliation is the result, so be it. Campaigns don’t finance themselves, people! Ya gotta take care of your friends.

Happy Constitution Day

Constitutionalconvention

Two Hundred Twenty Two years ago in Philadelphia, the Constitution Convention in Philadelphia completed it’s work.

At the close of the Constitutional Convention in Philadelphia on September 18, 1787, a Mrs. Powel anxiously awaited the results, and as Benjamin Franklin emerged from the long task now finished, asked him directly: “Well Doctor, what have we got, a republic or a monarchy?” “A republic if you can keep it” responded Franklin.

222 years later, Mrs. Powell’s question, and Franklin’s response, remain undecided.

Do yourself a favor — read The Constitution, and then ask whether we’re still following it the way the Founders intended, and whether we’re going to be able to keep the Republic that Franklin was talking about.

Hope And Change Update: Obama Backs Extension Of PATRIOT Act

The more things change, the more they stay the same:

WASHINGTON — The Obama administration supports extending three key provisions of the Patriot Act that are due to expire at the end of the year, the Justice Department told Congress in a letter made public Tuesday.

Lawmakers and civil rights groups had been pressing the Democratic administration to say whether it wants to preserve the post-Sept. 11 law’s authority to access business records, as well as monitor so-called “lone wolf” terrorists and conduct roving wiretaps.

The provision on business records was long criticized by rights groups as giving the government access to citizens’ library records, and a coalition of liberal and conservative groups complained that the Patriot Act gives the government too much authority to snoop into Americans’ private lives.

As a presidential candidate, Barack Obama said he would take a close look at the law, based on his past expertise in constitutional law. Back in May, President Obama said legal institutions must be updated to deal with the threat of terrorism, but in a way that preserves the rule of law and accountability.

The most egregious thing about Obama’s extension proposal is that none of the provisions he wants to extend require a search warrant issued by a judge or even the existence of probable cause. Moreover, as Jason points out over at United Liberty, the PATRIOT Act itself has been rife with abuse ever since implementation:

In 2007, FBI Director Robert Mueller admitted to abuses of the PATRIOT Act. In fact, there were more than 1,000 instances of the FBI misusing the law. According to the Washington Post, the “audit [covered] just 10 percent of the bureau’s national security investigations since 2002, and so the mistakes in the FBI’s domestic surveillance efforts probably number several thousand.”

And yet Obama wants to extend it.

The more things change, the less hope I have.

Chinese Worried Obamacare Is Too Expensive For Them To Pay For

Obama says that he won’t sign a healthcare bill that adds one dime to the deficit. I hope he’s right about that, because the people who are financing that deficit are a tad bit worried about the prospect:

And yet, there was budget director Peter Orszag rushing to a lunch with Chinese bureaucrats on a Monday in late July. To his surprise, when Orszag arrived at the site of the annual U.S.-China Strategic and Economic Dialogue (S&ED), the Chinese didn’t dwell on the Wall Street meltdown or the global recession. The bureaucrats at his table mostly wanted to know about health care reform, which Orszag has helped shepherd. “They were intrigued by the most recent legislative developments,” Orszag says. “It was like, ‘You’re fresh from the field, what can you tell us?’?”

As it happens, health care is much on the minds of the Chinese these days. Over the last few years, as China has become the world’s largest purchaser of Treasury bonds, the government has grown increasingly sophisticated in its understanding of U.S. budget deficits. The issue has become all the more pressing in recent months, as the financial crisis and recession pushed the deficit to record levels. With nearly half of their $2 trillion in foreign currency reserves invested in U.S. bonds alone, the Chinese are understandably concerned about our creditworthiness. And this concern has brought them ineluctably to the issue of health care. “At some point, if you refuse to contain health care costs, you’ll go bankrupt,” says Andy Xie, a prominent Shanghai-based economist, formerly of Morgan Stanley. “It’s widely known among [Chinese] policymakers.” Xie himself wrote a much-read piece on the subject in 2007 for Caijing magazine–kind of the Chinese version of Fortune.

The Chinese, unfortunately for them, have worked their way into a suicide pact with America. They are simply too heavily invested here to see any serious problems with our economy, government, or monetary base. Had they not spent the last decade buying up enormous Treasury holdings, they could let us implode our economy and “fix” our debt/spending issues through debasing our currency, and then swoop in to buy assets on the cheap once we hit bottom. But that’s not on the agenda. If we take the low road, we’re towing them along for the ride.

Obama says he won’t accept a bill that adds to the deficit. I don’t believe him, since I’ve already seen him fail to live up to his promises on taxes and legislative transparency. Even worse, though, he’s got the folks who plan to finance that deficit worried. And the last group you want to scare are the ones you’re trying to get to lend you money.

Hat Tip: Ezra Klein

What’s Next, Richard Gere’s Hamster?!

It's comin' right for us!

It's comin' right for us!


After reading the litany of Radley Balko’s Puppycide chronicles, I still took solace in the fact that if some brute squad mistakenly came to bust down my door instead of a neighbor’s, my 10 lb Yorkshire Terrier, who I refer to as a “barking cat” due to his laziness, would probably not get himself shot. After all, what cop would put a bullet into such a harmless little guy?

I’m sure you can see where this is going… From TJIC:

Cops find 19 year old deaf, declawed, 6 lb house cat that escaped … and wrap a rope around it’s neck, shoot it in the skull (twice), put it in a plastic bag, and throw it away.

Because, ummm, it probably had – like – rabies, or something.

What ?

City Manager Eric Berlin … said Tobey may have appeared to officers to be diseased because he was wet.

Oh, it was wet, from having been sprayed with a hose. OK, then, by all means, shoot it twice in the skull, spattering potentially rabies-carrying brain matter all over.

I’m sure there won’t be too much uproar, of course, because a deaf 19-year-old cat, wasting away at 6 lbs and suspected of disease probably didn’t have that great of a quality of life anyway. Maybe we should just call this an instance of “Death Panel v1.0″.

Nearly 1.5 Million Americans Arrested For Victimless Crimes In 2008

The new FBI Crime Report is out and reveals some interesting information:

  • Prostitution and “commercialized vice” — 75,004 arrests
  • Gambling — 9,811 arrests
  • Drug Possession — 1,401,188 arrests
    • Heroin or Cocaine Possession — 342,210 arrests
    • Marijuana — 754,224 arrests
    • Synthetic drugs (i.e., crystal meth) — 56,184 arrests
    • Other “dangerous” drugs — 248,570

Which leaves us with a grand total of 1,486,003 Americans arrested in 2008 for victimless crimes.

H/T: Coyote Blog and Radley Balko

Quote Of The Day

From The Economist, Buttonwood (their financial op-ed analyst):

This only adds to my worries about the Weekend at Bernie’s aspects of this recovery (and kudos to “Hedge fund guy” who first used the analogy). The Japanese spent much of the 1990s propping up their economy and sticking sunglasses on its face; every time they let go, it slumped again.

The discussion is the extent to which the economy will falter when government stops throwing money at the problem. It’s an issue that I doubt we’ll need to worry about, though, as our government has shown no signs of stopping.

Libertarianism Explained

From Coyote Blog:

Democrats: The people in power can’t be trusted.  You need to remove them and put our guys in charge

Republicans: The people in power can’t be trusted.  You need to remove them and put our guys in charge

libertarians: People in power can’t be trusted.  You need to remove their power and be in charge of your own damn self

Yep, that about sums it up.

The Other Bad Healthcare “Reform” Bill

The Senate Finance Committee is finishing up work this week on a “compromise” Obamacare bill that’s being billed as better than pure Obamacare because it doesn’t include “death panels”, a public option, and free healthcare for illegal aliens.

The chairman of the Senate Finance Committee said Monday that he will propose an overhaul of the nation’s health-care system that addresses a host of GOP concerns, including blocking illegal immigrants from gaining access to subsidized insurance, urging limits on medical malpractice lawsuits and banning federal subsidies for abortion.

But even after Max Baucus (D-Mont.) spoke optimistically of gaining bipartisan backing, lawmakers continued to haggle over a question at the heart of the debate: How can the government force people to buy insurance without imposing a huge new financial burden on millions of middle-class Americans?

Finally this bill is debating the real issue, what right does the Federal government have to force Americans to buy health insurance? Surprisingly, one of the most outspoken opponents of the individual mandate in this form is from the left.

Even within his own party, Baucus confronted a fresh wave of concern about affordability. Sen. Ron Wyden (D-Ore.) declared himself dissatisfied with the chairman’s plan, which, like other congressional reform proposals, would require every American to buy health insurance by 2013.

“Additional steps are going to have to be taken to make coverage more affordable,” Wyden said, “and my sense is that will be a concern to members on both sides of the aisle.”

Under the Baucus plan, described in a “framework” he released last week, as many as 4 million of the 46 million people who are currently uninsured would be required to buy coverage on their own, without government help, by some estimates. Millions more would qualify for federal tax credits, but could still end up paying as much as 13 percent of their income for insurance premiums — far more than most Americans now pay for coverage.

People further down the income scale would receive much bigger tax credits, effectively limiting their premiums at 3 percent of their earnings. But experts on affordability say even those families could find it difficult to meet the new mandate without straining their wallets.

“We’re talking about the equivalent of a middle-class tax increase,” said Michael D. Tanner, a health-care expert at the libertarian Cato Institute. “Yes, they’re paying it to an insurance company instead of to the government. But, suddenly, these people are paying more money to somebody.”

So American taxpayers will have to pay higher insurance premiums than they have to now or be fined by the government under this “compromise” bill. So far, this bill does nothing to solve the biggest problem with American healthcare, the high cost of it. Opponents of this bill on the left characterize this bill as nothing more than a giveaway to the insurance companies, and they’re right. The way to reduce the cost of healthcare is to increase competition and the free market’s role in healthcare and again, this bill does nothing to reduce regulation, increase competition, or promote the free market.

But there’s even more….

Also unresolved Monday was the question of how to pay for an expansion of Medicaid to cover every U.S. citizen whose income falls below 133 percent of the federal poverty level, about $14,500 for an individual or $29,500 for a family of four. Governors in both parties strongly oppose an expansion that is not fully financed by the federal government. The Senate negotiators are scheduled to brief governors by conference call Tuesday afternoon, and Baucus predicted they would be “pleasantly surprised.”

“The Medicaid costs,” he said, “are not going to cost states near as much as feared.”

Max Baucus wants the states to just “trust him”. In addition to higher insurance premiums and tax increases for those who don’t buy health insurance, Baucus plans on making the bad financial conditions that every state is in even worse with this unfunded mandate. States have to close their budget deficits some how and that some how is usually tax increases.

But there’s even more….from the Wall Street Journal

Sen. John Kerry (D., Mass.) raised concerns about Mr. Baucus’s mix of new taxes and other means of paying for the plan. Among other things, Mr. Baucus is proposing to levy a new tax on so-called gold-plated health policies. He also wants to levy new fees on health insurers, pharmaceutical companies and other health-care industries.

“There may be a better way to find that revenue,” Sen. Kerry said. He suggested he’ll be looking for changes, though he declined to offer specifics. “We are going to have a tug of war,” he said, describing the chairman’s soon-to-be-unveiled bill as a “starting point” for a new round of negotiations on details. “That’s the process of legislating,” he said.

So there’s even more tax increases, this time on health insurance companies (which will be a wash for them since they’re getting bailed out in this bill), drug companies, and the health care industry in general. In addition, if Max Baucus doesn’t like your health insurance policy, he’s going to tax it too. Well, the taxed businesses have to make up that lost revenue some how by raising their products’ prices or cutting jobs.

To recap, the Baucus “compromise” Obamacare/health insurance companies bailout plan:

Requires all Americans to buy “approved” health insurance plans and raises taxes on those who don’t buy health insurance plans Max Baucus likes

Gives the IRS more power to levy higher taxes, without due process

Raises taxes on health care related businesses

Makes every state’s financial situation even worse, which will lead to more budget cuts or tax increases through an unfunded mandate to increase Medicaid enrollment.

Increases the cost of health care for most Americans

“Hope and Change” indeed, comrades.

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.

H.R. 3311 is an oxymoron

Democratic Congressman Earl Blumenauer is seeking to inflict yet another tax on the American people. This one, though, is far more insidious than the average tax thought up by Congress:

The “Road User Fee Pilot Project” would be administered by the US Treasury Department. This agency in turn would issue millions in taxpayer-backed grants to well-connected commercial manufacturers of tolling equipment to help develop the required technology. Within eighteen months of the measure’s passage, the department would file an initial report outlining the best methods for adopting the new federal transportation tax.

So, why is it an oxymoron? Here’s the offending passage from Blumenauer’s legislation:

(3) EVALUATION OF METHODS AND TECH-
NOLOGIES.—Technologies and methods tested under
the Road User Fee Pilot Project shall be evaluated
on the basis of—

(A) protection of personal privacy,

- H.R. 3311

Blumenauer calls the Oregon experiment on this subject a success:

“Oregon has successfully tested a Vehicle Miles Traveled (VMT) fee, and it is time to expand and test the VMT program across the country,” Blumenauer said in a statement on the bill’s introduction. “A VMT system can better assess fees based on use of our roads and bridges, as well as during times of peak congestion, than a fee based on fuel consumption. It is time to get creative and find smart ways to rebuild and renew America’s deteriorating infrastructure.”

In January, I posted here on the same Oregon experiment:

[T]he device must be receiving precise positional data as an input from its GPS unit. It must also have a clock set to the real time and date as an input. This means that the device is getting data on the exact position of the vehicle at any moment, and that the control software is only storing certain datapoints based on this. This is an adequate privacy safeguard, right? Probably not.

Imagine this scenario: You’re driving a car with one of these GPS devices at the leisurely clip of 60 MPH on the highway leading into Klamath Falls. Like all highways in Oregon, the limit is still 55 MPH. A cop catches you going over the limit and pulls you over. You go through the normal rigmarole with him, except this time he checks your GPS devices and finds out that you’ve exceeded 55 MPH in the state of Oregon 22 times since the device was last read. You leave this encounter with 22 speeding tickets instead of one.

That scenario is possible with the hardware described in the device and minimal changes in the software. Only the good will of the Oregon state government is keeping it from being so. Should Oregonians really rely on that alone to protect their privacy?

The same holds true of Blumenauer’s proposal. To accomplish its stated goals, the technology must be designed in such a way that it either keeps a complete and total record of one’s driving or can be modified to do so. If Blumenauer’s proposal becomes law, each and every vehicle in the US will have a device carrying data about the habits of its drivers.

Even if we operate under the foolish assumption that the devices will, through their lifetimes, only be readable by those authorized to read them, they still pose a massive threat to privacy. There will exist a massive data set on each vehicle, tied by name to the owner. Such data sets are prime targets for “creative use” by miscreants both within government and outside it.

When one takes into account the exposure to cracking the Oregon model presents with readers in every gas station across the country and devices in every car, the idea that the content of these will remain secret to all but the government becomes ludicrous. The model presents the same problem as cell phone encryption. Once a security measure is cracked and vulnerable, how does one go about updating millions of pieces of hardware scattered over thousands of miles? If the devices’ security can be updated remotely, then malware can be inserted. If the devices’ security cannot be updated, then the device must be replaced every time the system is sufficiently compromised.

So, how does this bill meet its own requirement of protecting privacy? To abide by the quoted section of H.R. 3311, the researchers commissioned for the study must recommend that the other goals of the bill not be pursued. Of course, considering the bill’s intent is to find a way to track our cars, the people studying this issue are highly unlikely to issue such a recommendation, instead saying that the good graces of Washington and the presumed integrity of the security measures will be enough to keep our privacy intact. Like so much of what emanates from Congress, that will be pure bull****.

Obama Makes Highways More Dangerous

Barack Obama’s recent dictatorial decision to once again break his campaign promise on raising taxes byraising tariffs on Chinese made tires in order to payback political allies in organized labor is already having some consequences.

First of all, Obama has probably ignited a new trade tensions that may cause a trade war between the US and China. The last time a global trade war broke, well….the Great Depression was a result. The Asian and US stock markets were down this morning on the news.

More importantly, it seems that Barack Obama may be putting American lives at risk on the highway. Consumer Reports’ official blog had a writeup that was interesting to say the least.

The Obama administration on Friday imposed a new 35-percent tax on tires made in China. That includes many of the S- and T-rated tires in our recent upcoming tire test of all-season passenger car tires. More than half of the top 10-rated tires in the November issue are imported from China.

The tariff is likely to increase prices on tires for consumers at least in the short term, as China is by far the largest tire producer in the world. Also, some tire models could be harder to find temporarily if manufacturers decide to switch production to another low cost country.

China’s crime apparently was that it built low cost tires which are better in quality than tires made by Obama-supporting union thugs. The United Steelworkers Mafia couldn’t have that so they decide to try and eliminate the competition.

Average Americans may pay for this blatant act of political pandering…with their lives in some cases.

Because the tire industry is very competitive, tiremakers may not be able to pass the price whole price increase along to consumers for long. But we at Consumer Reports are concerned that the higher tariff may indirectly compromise safety by giving consumers incentive to delay replacing worn tires. The move is likely to put some pressure on consumers, but more on tire manufacturers.

In addition to the lost jobs at our ports and among our importers when China retaliates and/or as a direct result of this tax increase, in addition to higher tire prices, in addition to the economic and diplomatic damage this has caused, in addition to the clear example of old style political payback behind closed doors and without public input, this tax increase may prove fatal for some Americans who will have accidents that will be caused by worn tires that they could not replace because they cannot afford them.

“Hope and change” indeed.

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.

Newspapers Report Green Shoots — In Sep 2008?

Want a laugh? Well go back one year to this column, and ruminate on whether it could be possible for the author to be any more wrong…

There have been 11 recessions since the Great Depression. And we’re nowhere close to being in the 12th one now. This isn’t just a matter of opinion. Words — even words as seemingly subjective as “recession” — have meaning.

Whatever the political outcome this year, hopefully this will prove to be yet another instance of that iron law of economics and markets: The sentiment of the majority is always wrong at key turning points. And the majority is plenty pessimistic right now. That suggests that we’re on the brink not of recession, but of accelerating prosperity.

Yes, folks, that was Sep 14, 2008!

He goes on to talk about how employment, industrial production, and the housing market really aren’t that bad and not in for anything severe.

I’m all for optimism. Any chance I can get some of whatever Luskin was smokin’?

I think Barry Ritholtz at The Big Picture puts it best:

If you had a time machine, knew the future, and purposefully tried to write something where every word was literally wrong, you could not have done a better job.

Go read the whole thing. Then decide whether you can take the MSM’s announcement of green shoots seriously.

Norman Borlaug: The Man Who Saved A Billion People

borlaug

There are very men in history who we can say truly saved the world, but surely Norman Borlaug, who died yesterday at 95, counts as one of them:

Norman E. Borlaug, the plant scientist who did more than anyone else in the 20th century to teach the world to feed itself and whose work was credited with saving hundreds of millions of lives, died Saturday night. He was 95 and lived in Dallas.

The cause was complications from cancer, said Kathleen Phillips, a spokeswoman for Texas A&M University, where Dr. Borlaug had served on the faculty since 1984.

Dr. Borlaug’s advances in plant breeding led to spectacular success in increasing food production in Latin America and Asia and brought him international acclaim. In 1970, he was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize.

He was widely described as the father of the broad agricultural movement called the Green Revolution, though decidedly reluctant to accept the title. “A miserable term,” he said, characteristically shrugging off any air of self-importance.

Yet his work had a far-reaching impact on the lives of millions of people in developing countries. His breeding of high-yielding crop varieties helped to avert mass famines that were widely predicted in the 1960s, altering the course of history. Largely because of his work, countries that had been food deficient, like Mexico and India, became self-sufficient in producing cereal grains.

“More than any other single person of this age, he has helped provide bread for a hungry world,” the Nobel committee said in presenting him with the Peace Prize. “We have made this choice in the hope that providing bread will also give the world peace.”

The day the award was announced, Dr. Borlaug, vigorous and slender at 56, was working in a wheat field outside Mexico City when his wife, Margaret, drove up to tell him the news. “Someone’s pulling your leg,” he replied, according to one of his biographers, Leon Hesser. Assured that it was true, he kept on working, saying he would celebrate later.

Borlaug’s achievements are hard to understand as we sit here removed from time and space from when they happened, but they were truly remarkable:

In the late 1960s, most experts were speaking of imminent global famines in which billions would perish. “The battle to feed all of humanity is over,” biologist Paul Ehrlich famously wrote in his 1968 bestseller The Population Bomb. “In the 1970s and 1980s hundreds of millions of people will starve to death in spite of any crash programs embarked upon now.” Ehrlich also said, “I have yet to meet anyone familiar with the situation who thinks India will be self-sufficient in food by 1971.” He insisted that “India couldn’t possibly feed two hundred million more people by 1980.”

But Borlaug and his team were already engaged in the kind of crash program that Ehrlich declared wouldn’t work. Their dwarf wheat varieties resisted a wide spectrum of plant pests and diseases and produced two to three times more grain than the traditional varieties. In 1965, they had begun a massive campaign to ship the miracle wheat to Pakistan and India and teach local farmers how to cultivate it properly. By 1968, when Ehrlich’s book appeared, the U.S. Agency for International Development had already hailed Borlaug’s achievement as a “Green Revolution.”

In Pakistan, wheat yields rose from 4.6 million tons in 1965 to 8.4 million in 1970. In India, they rose from 12.3 million tons to 20 million. And the yields continue to increase. Last year, India harvested a record 73.5 million tons of wheat, up 11.5 percent from 1998. Since Ehrlich’s dire predictions in 1968, India’s population has more than doubled, its wheat production has more than tripled, and its economy has grown nine-fold. Soon after Borlaug’s success with wheat, his colleagues at the Consultative Group on International Agricultural Research developed high-yield rice varieties that quickly spread the Green Revolution through most of Asia.

Contrary to Ehrlich’s bold pronouncements, hundreds of millions didn’t die in massive famines. India fed far more than 200 million more people, and it was close enough to self-sufficiency in food production by 1971 that Ehrlich discreetly omitted his prediction about that from later editions of The Population Bomb. The last four decades have seen a “progress explosion” that has handily outmatched any “population explosion.”

Borlaug, who unfortunately is far less well-known than doom-sayer Ehrlich, is responsible for much of the progress humanity has made against hunger. Despite occasional local famines caused by armed conflicts or political mischief, food is more abundant and cheaper today than ever before in history, due in large part to the work of Borlaug and his colleagues.

Forty years later, there are entire generations that are alive thanks to the work that Borlaug did. I’d say that’s a pretty damn good accomplishment.

Reason did a great interview with Borlaug that you can read here.

And, here’s a short video describing Borlaug’s role in the “Green Revolution:”

Obama Raises Taxes Without Vote of Congress

“I can make a firm pledge….no family making less than $250,000 will see any form of tax increase…..not any of your taxes”-Barack Obama, September 12, 2008

Once again, President Obama has lied to the country. After raising cigarette taxes earlier this year, Obama just ordered another tax increase. This time, he raised every American’s taxes without a vote of Congress and with the simple stroke of a pen. Obama increased taxes on Chinese-made tires.

In one of his first major decisions on trade policy, President Obama opted Friday to impose a tariff on tires from China, a move that fulfills his campaign promise to “crack down” on imports that unfairly undermine American workers but risks angering the nation’s second-largest trading partner.

The decision is intended to bolster the ailing U.S. tire industry, in which more than 5,000 jobs have been lost over the past five years as the volume of Chinese tires in the market has tripled.

It comes at a sensitive time, however. Leaders from the world’s largest economies are preparing to gather in Pittsburgh in less than two weeks to discuss more cooperation amid tensions over trade.

The tire tariff will amount to 35 percent the first year, 30 percent the second and 25 percent the third.

Which means American consumers will see an increase in prices of at least 35% for their tires in the name of saving 5,000 jobs. Chinese and US companies with factories overseas are not going to pay the tariffs, they’ll pass them on to consumers. There is also the latest example of the Obama administration diplomatic ineptness of angering trade partners before major trade talks with China among other countries. Also, there was not much public debate over this, since this decision was reached behind closed doors with the help of an obscure Federal trade panel with no citizen input.

Of course with the Obama administration, there’s always someone or some group to be paid back.

Although a federal trade panel had recommended higher levies — of 55, 45 and 35 percent, respectively — the decision is considered a victory for the United Steelworkers union, which filed the trade complaint.

The United Steelworkers union endorsed Obama’s presidential bid and the Steelworkers had a massive grassroots effort that claimed credit for helping win Pennsylvania, Ohio, and Virginia; among other states.

“Hope and Change” indeed.

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.

Two More Perspectives on Obama’s Speech

In addition to my own take, there are two other takes on the speech I’d like to highlight as being dead on. The first is from Cato@Liberty, which offers us a look at Obama’s speech in plain English:

Translation: I, Barack Obama, ignoring thousands of years of failed price-control schemes, will impose price controls on health insurance. I will force insurers to sell a $50k policies for $10k. What could go wrong?

With a dose of lightweight sarcasm, this would make a good warm-up read before getting to the more incisive analysis by Shikha Dalmia in Forbes:

t gets worse. In exchange for these bitter tax pills, Obama promised Americans would get eternal health care “security and stability.” To deliver that, he would of course ban insurance companies from denying coverage to those with pre-existing conditions–tantamount to forcing fire insurance companies to write coverage on a burning building. He would also prohibit insurers from putting any limits on the coverage they offer and cap what they can require patients to pay out-of-pocket.

In other words, Obama would encourage unlimited health care consumption by patients while eliminating the last vestige of price consciousness.

Insurance is dead. Long live insurance! Really, the more people actually parse and analyze this speech, the more I wonder just how stupid Barack Obama thinks we really are.

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