Category Archives: Unions

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.

When You Ask AARP Members to Voice Their Opinions About Healthcare…

…you better be prepared to hear opinions which don’t necessarily support the Democrats proposed government takeover of healthcare. The speaker at this meeting (in the video below) made the mistake of saying “I think we can all agree…”. From there, the AARP members took over.

Really brings a smile to your face huh?

Hat Tip: Boortz

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.

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Open Thread Question of the Day: To Whom or What Do You Pledge Your Allegiance?

I was listening to the local talk show host on my way to work this morning and the topic was the ongoing saga surrounding the auto makers. This particular talk show host is a very pro-union “buy American” (and therefore anti-free trade) kind of guy in the mold of Lou Dobbs. As I pulled into my parking space, he posed 2 questions 1.) To whom or what do YOU pledge your allegiance and 2.) To whom or what do these multi-national corporations pledge their allegiance?

My response was an immediate “to myself and to my family, but certainly not the federal government of the US!” (for many of the same reasons that tarran so eloquently explained). I’m quite certain that this is not a response this talk show host would appreciate. I’m also quite certain that in his view, these corporations are supposed to “provide American jobs” no matter how costly and no matter how much the federal government punishes them with taxes and regulations. To suggest that a business should make its first loyalty to pursuing profits for shareholders would be heretical! These populist propagandists ask such questions of these businesses but fail to ask the question of government “to whom or what does Washington pledge its allegiance?” (Hint: it certainly isn’t to free market principles or liberty).

After thinking about the question a little longer, I concluded that my allegiances are as follows: myself*, my family, and the defense of the principles of life, liberty, property and justice for all**.

Now I pose this question to you, the reader: To whom or what do you pledge your allegiance?

» Read more

Chrysler Bankruptcy: What Are The Workers Owed?

The news of the day is that Chrysler’s creditors have rejected the government’s pittance offering for what they’re owed in the prepackaged bankruptcy, and Obama is pissed. After all, he’s put together what he thinks to be a fair and equitable solution, and those unpatriotic assholes unfeeling greedy bastards creditors dared to defy him.

I have to tell you some did not. In particular, a group of investment firms and hedge funds decided to hold out for the prospect of an unjustified taxpayer-funded bailout. They were hoping that everybody else would make sacrifices, and they would have to make none. Some demanded twice the return that other lenders were getting. I don’t stand with them. I stand with Chrysler’s employees and their families and communities. I stand with Chrysler’s management, its dealers, and its suppliers. I stand with the millions of Americans who own and want to buy Chrysler cars. I don’t stand with those who held out when everybody else is making sacrifices.

So what’s happening as a result? Misinformation and misdirection, much like the worries about what would happen to GM (and their suppliers) in a bankruptcy. I assume you remember that, of course: the bankruptcy of GM would result in the loss of millions of jobs as the ripple effect of a vanishing company would take down suppliers, dealers, and the rest of the nation. After all, a bankruptcy would liquidate GM and they’d go completely out of business, right?? Or maybe not. It’s an argument that Warren Meyer at the excellent Coyote Blog has blasted to smithereens on numerous occasions.

But yet the argument resurfaces, today coming from Ezra Klein (with help) on the fate of the workers’ pensions in this bankruptcy:

In it, he described a hypothetical restructuring, and argued that you needed to think of both the workers and the bondholders as having made the equivalent of “loans” to the company. The difference was that the bondholder had settled on clear terms. They could end the relationship at any time by selling the bond on the open market. Labor’s “loan,” however, could not be cashed out. If the company failed to honor future obligations to workers, the money was, for labor, simply lost. Bloom explained:

They worked a lifetime and deferred a significant amount of current compensation in exchange for the company’s promise that, upon their retirement, they would be paid a fixed stream of cash and provided with help with their medical bills. Then, without their knowledge or consent, the company chose to not set aside enough money to honor that promise. In effect, the company borrowed money from them without even discussing the terms of the loan….So what we have is a bunch of old men and widows being forced to lend the company, for whom they worked a lifetime, some portion of the value of their pension and their health care. This loan was made on terms on which they have no input and they have no ability to liquidate their position.

Labor, in other words, has no ability to liquidate. The hedge funds do. And in the case of Chrysler, the workers have seen their position brutally and quickly reduced, with very little input from them. The hedge fund, conversely, refused to liquidate their own position, and demanded ever more favorable terms from the government. And Obama, it seems, quickly grew to judge their position repellent.

Those people who have lived in a defined-benefit world have a contractual promise of certain benefits if they complete a certain term of service. For those who have completed that term of service and are already owed a pension, they may get screwed in a bankruptcy. Those who have partially completed their service, in that static union world, are still expecting to receive something back for their service. Part of the compensation, known going in, is that at the end of your work career you will have a pension to live out through old age.

So the argument is pretty simple. In a bankruptcy, all those pensioners get screwed because their company didn’t adequately fund the pension to meet their obligations. Thus, giving money to bondholders instead of pensioners is unfair. The argument is simple, but it’s also bullshit.

The defined benefit world is already on the way out. Many unionized corporations have already been obliterated by the defined benefit model, because large corporate managers, much like politicians, are often willing to promise to pay something tomorrow if it means they don’t have to make a tough decision today. Thus, the pensions grow bloated, the corporation becomes uncompetitive, and eventually goes bankrupt.

With this model on the way out, though, there is already a secondary method for dealing with this issue. It’s the same method that many states use to weather unemployment — insurance. Specifically, the Pension Benefit Guaranty Corporation, a government enterprise that charges insurance premiums to pension programs in order to protect the pensioners in case of a bankruptcy or other pension program cancellation.

So if the government’s proposed prepackaged bankruptcy fails, what happens to the pensions in the case of a standard bankruptcy proceeding?

At this point, nothing. The government agency that oversees pensions, the Pension Benefit Guaranty Corp., said it’s closely watching Chrysler’s pensions. Through a bankruptcy, a company could try to dump its pension obligation on the government. If that happens, pensions would not be wiped out, but capped, with younger retirees most likely to face larger reductions. The PBGC said it will work with Chrysler and other stakeholders to “ensure continuation of the pension plans.”

They may, like the bondholders, take a haircut on their pensions. But they won’t simply evaporate.

The bondholders aren’t waiting for another government bailout; they’re waiting for a standard bankruptcy proceeding. They (who I understand are mostly secured creditors) know that they have a position of strength here as bondholders. They buy bonds with less potential return than equities, but because they’re buying debt secured by the assets of the company, they will receive a preferred position in any standard bankruptcy proceeding. They’re sure to lose money, but they went into bond ownership with the understanding that the risk as a secured creditor is less than the risk as an equity holder.

Bankruptcy is a well-known and well-understood process. Obama is trying to change the game for political reasons, in order to protect an interest group [unions] which has been supportive of him in the past. We shouldn’t let the red herring of pensioners get in the way of understanding what is going on here.

The Trouble With Boston

The parent company of the Boston Globe newspaper, the New York Times; has threatened to shut the Globe down if they cannot get at least $20 million in savings out of the paper for next year.

[The story] quoted an unnamed person saying that in the meeting, management said that without the concessions, The Globe would lose $85 million in 2009.

The Times Company chairman, Arthur Sulzberger Jr., and Catherine J. Mathis, chief spokeswoman for the company, each declined to comment or confirm the article.

The company paid $1.1 billion for The Globe in 1993, the highest price ever paid for a single American newspaper, and it was highly profitable through that decade. But in recent years, the erosion of advertising and newspaper circulation has been more severe in the Boston area than in most of the country.

Advertising revenue for the industry fell 16.6 percent in 2008, according to the Newspaper Association of America.

The Times Company also wants to end a provision in The Globe’s contracts that gives certain employees lifetime job guarantees.

Well, first of all, seeking $20 million in cuts, in a paper that is losing $85 million a year seems… Absurdly inadequate I think is the phrase I’m looking for?

Also the fact that there are still lifetime job guarantees in today’s economy ought to be a pretty strong indicator of a company that isn’t exactly caught up to the realities of business today.

Though it’s not mentioned in the story, I happen to know those lifetime guarantees are printers union jobs. I’ve known a few people who had them. They also had (and have) RIDICULOUS pensions as well. People retiring at 55 (30 years as a master printer plus 7 years as an apprentice and journeyman, hired on right out of highschool) with 120% inflation indexed pensions and full gold plated medical for life.

Any concession they wrung on those lifetime guarantees would almost certainly NOT include losing those pensions and medical benefits of course.

Aside from the structural problems however, the article credits the decline in advertising revenues; saying only that the Boston market was harder hit than New York.

Really? Because other papers in the market aren’t seeing nearly the decline that the Globe is…

In fact, the Globe has been in decline faster and steeper than the other papers in the region, for about 16 years now. In 2008 the Globe’s average weekday circulation fell to 350,605, down from 382,503, or 8.3 percent. Sunday circulation fell 6.5 percent to 525,959.

The competing newspapers for the Boston Area, the Boston Herald, and the Patriot Ledger (and to a lesser extent, a smaller local paper, “The Enterprise”), are doing alright… as much as any newspaper is anyway. Both are down about 4%, HALF the decline of the Globe; and counter to the general trend in the newspaper business (actually in most any business) of the second and third papers in a market (which they are) losing more circulation in a downturn than the market leader.

The important thing there is, the Herald and Ledger are both TRULY local; and more conservative than the Globe, especially on social issues. Though they are now owned by the same publisher (as of 2006, The Enterprise), they maintain their respective moderate center right, and moderate center left stances.

In addition to the general downturn in newspapers over the past 20 years, the Globe has lost more and more circulation, as it has moved further and further left; and especially as it has been controlled more and more by the editorial voice and opinions of the NY Times corporation.

The Globe is very clearly a left newspaper. They spent most of their 137 year history as a center left paper, drifting gradually more to the left since the depression; until they turned SHARPLY left, with the takeover by the NY Times (though they are in fact still not as far left as the Times).

Ok, Boston’s something like the tenth most liberal major city in America, in the second most liberal state* right?

Well… Not really.

Massachusetts has a reputation as a very liberal state, and Boston a very liberal city; and to an extent that’s true. Certainly it is reflected in the states voting record, and much of it’s congressional contingent.

However, regarding Massachusetts as a liberal stronghold, fails to take into account the true nature of the states liberalism.

The vast majority of the Boston area is blue collar, and low level white collar, union, catholic, old line northeast democrats; with a significant minority of what we used to call Boston Brahmin democrats (rich, socially and politically conservative on a personal basis; but they support liberal politicians to seem “progressive”, to make sure “the right people” run things, and because democrats are easier to buy off).

Outside of the immediate Boston area, Massachusetts is basically politically identical to western Pennsylvania. It’s union Democrats, and center right Republicans; pro gun, pro hunting, pro business, and anti-leftist. Hell, still today, Western Massachusetts, and the adjoining parts of Connecticut and New York, are the firearms manufacturing capital of the western world.

I was born and raised in Boston, and just south of it. I know it. I lived it for more than 20 years (combined). I was born in Southie’ and have lived in Southie, Roslindale, West Roxubry, Dorchester, Mattapan, Milton, Quincy, Canton, Randolph, Newton, Dover, and Marlborough (not in that order).

I’m Boston Irish; with an Irish immigrant father, and a second generation mother. We’re walking stereotypes. My family are all either cops, criminals, lawyers, politicians, teachers, nurses, firemen, civil servants, or tradesmen (or sometimes more than one of the above). Blue collar and low level white collar, social and political conservative, Democrats (well… I’ve got an aunt and an uncle who are ridiculous lefties, and a pair of uncles who are to the right of Pat Buchannan… but they’re outliers).

Let me tell you, people from the area may vote Democrat; but they aren’t anything like the Democrats in San Francisco or LA.

What Boston area Democrats are, is machine voters. Democrats bring back more pork, more jobs, grant more favors etc…

If you want to be a part of the machine, you become a democrat, that’s how it is.

If you want a building permit, you go to your cousin, the selectman, and he talks to the zoning commissioner for you. Of course, all the selectmen for your area are democrats. If you want a construction contract, you go to the public works commissioner, your brother in laws old friend; also a Democrat. In fact all the public commissioners are Democrats too.

That’s how it is.

These folks aren’t leftists by any stretch, and in fact aren’t particularly socially liberal.

Just ask a gay man from Boston how easy it was to come out; or BE out, outside of downtown, Newton, Cambridge, and Brookline. Ask him if he would walk in Southie alone at night; or EVER hand in hand with his boyfriend.

So when the Globe is run by clearly anti-American, anti-religious, anti-catholic, anti-israel, pro-islam, New Yorkers (even though it has local editorial and reporting staff)… Well, people just don’t like it.

The Herald on the other hand does just fine with a center right viewpoint, a great sports page, a strong focus on being local issues, and criticism of Washington, no matter who is in power.

Funny enough, that suits Bostonians just about right.

* An aside for those of you counting more liberal cities and states: San Francisco, Washington D.C., Los Angeles, Chicago, Detroit, Philadelphia, Seattle, Portland, New York and Newark (not necessarily in order); and for states, California.

HT: Doug Mataconis

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

E-mail to GM President: “It’s time to pay for your [own] sins, Detroit”

My apologies to those who have already read this, but for those who haven’t this is just too good not to share. Since December 2008, the Knox e-mail to GM has been making its way to inboxes all over the world; I learned of it only yesterday when listening to Neal Boortz yesterday. Within an hour of Boortz reading the now infamous e-mail, Knox himself called the show to verify the authenticity of the letter. The letter has also been verified to be “correctly attributed” to Mr. Knox by Snopes.

First, the abridged letter from Troy Clarke, President of General Motors North America

Dear Employees & Suppliers,

Congress and the current Administration will soon determine whether to provide immediate support to the domestic auto industry to help it through one of the most difficult economic times in our nation’s history. Your elected officials must hear from all of us now on why this support is critical to our continuing the progress we began prior to the global financial crisis […] As an employee or supplier, you have a lot at stake and continue to be one of our most effective and passionate voices. I know GM can count on you to have your voice heard.

Thank you for your urgent action and ongoing support.

Troy Clarke
President General Motors North America

Knox wrote the following e-mail in response and had originally sent a cc to his mother who then asked if she could forward it to her friends. Shortly thereafter, the e-mail went viral (and after reading it, you’ll understand why).

Gentlemen:

In response to your request to contact legislators and ask for a bailout for the Big Three automakers please consider the following, and please pass my thoughts on to Troy Clark, President of General Motors North America.

Politicians and Management of the Big 3 are both infected with the same entitlement mentality that has spread like cancerous germs in UAW halls for the last countless decades, and whose plague is now sweeping this nation, awaiting our new “messiah”, Pres-elect Obama, to wave his magic wand and make all our problems go away, while at the same time allowing our once great nation to keep “living the dream”… Believe me folks, The dream is over!

This dream where we can ignore the consumer for years while management myopically focuses on its personal rewards packages at the same time that our factories have been filled with the worlds most overpaid, arrogant, ignorant and laziest entitlement minded “laborers” without paying the price for these atrocities…this dream where you still think the masses will line up to buy our products for ever and ever.
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Congress Transparently Shilling For Unions

The desire of the NEA to kill the DC Voucher program is well-covered, including by my co-contributor Doug here.

Now it seems that Congress has snuck in a provision for the Teamsters, to restrict Mexican truckers:

Buried in the $410 billion catch-all appropriations bill now before the U.S. Senate is a provision that would end a program that has allowed Mexican truck drivers to deliver goods to destinations inside the United States.

A provision in the original North American Free Trade Agreement of 1994 was supposed to allow U.S. and Mexican trucking companies to deliver goods in each other’s country. But opposition from the Teamsters union and old-fashioned prejudice against Mexicans has derailed implementation of the provision.

Under current restrictions, goods coming into the United States from Mexico by truck must be unloaded inside the “commercial zone” within 20 miles or so of either side of the border and transferred to U.S.-owned trucks for final delivery. U.S. goods going to Mexico face the same inefficient and unnecessary restrictions.

The Bush administration established a pilot program that allows certain Mexican trucking companies that meet U.S. safety and other standards to deliver goods directly to U.S. destinations, while the Mexican government has agreed to allow reciprocal access to its market. But the Democratic Congress and the new Democratic president have vowed to finally kill the program, and the provision inside the appropriations bill will probably deliver the final blow.

As I argued in an article in 2007, the Mexican trucks that have been allowed to operate in the United States under the pilot program have actually had a better safety record than U.S. trucks.

It’s not about safety, and the added inefficiency of transferring everything from one truck to another 20 miles inside the border shows that it’s not about reducing prices for consumers. So this is nothing but bald-faced protectionism to reward unions.

I guess someone in Congress didn’t read that Hope and Change memo, eh?

Why Nationalization Damages Liberty and Prosperity

Many progressives are looking forward to increased government oversight over the auto industry. They see this as a chance to influence the types of vehicles that are produced and to dictate that production be turned to socially beneficial uses, including the manufacture of green cars that auto manufacturers are not manufacturing. These vehicles are not manufactured presently because car manufacturers see bigger profits in continuing to produce SUV’s and more cheaply built sedans. Viewing this judgment as short-sighted, progressives are overjoyed at the prospect of including non-monetary considerations such as ecology or social needs in deciding what to produce. We who oppose the nationalization are viewed either as being too stupid to recognize the benefits of introducing considerations other than profits to production decisions, or as being wed to outdated economic theories or to be apologists for fat-cat capitalists.

This is incorrect. Rather, the progressives who support nationalization are being very short-sighted and are threatening to return society back to feudalism and are threatening to destroy the development of new technologies, technologies that will be vital to improving our standard of living while reducing the amount of pollution and natural resources needed to maintain such comfort. This not hyperbole but rather simple fact.

The problem, which has plagued all fascist and socialist economies throughout history, is that nationalization destroys the ability of the economy to rationally allocate capital goods and invest in the future. It is this incapability that is behind the phenomenon where communist countries seem to become mired in the past with stagnant technology, bare shelves in shops and factories that routinely fail to meet production quotas. » Read more

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.

Barack Obama’s Really Bad Plans For The Auto Industry

President-Elect Obama has already signaled his support for a Federal bailout for the automobile industry, but that only seems to be the beginning of what seems to be a plan to involve the Federal Government in the automobile industry to an unprecedented extent.

For example, he seems to like the idea of appointing a single individual with the authority to remake an entire industry:

The troubles of the ailing auto industry are quickly becoming a major focus for President-Elect Barack Obama’s young administration. As Congress and President Bush debate an industry bailout, sources indicate that Obama may favor creating a White House office, headed by an “auto industry czar,” to oversee reforming the troubled American auto industry.

The Detroit News reports that both “Bush and Obama are signaling they may favor appointment of an auto czar to oversee the government’s efforts to funnel emergency assistance to automakers.” Congressional leaders and members of both the outgoing and incoming administrations have all said that automakers might receive federal aid only on certain dictions, including efforts “to further improve fuel efficiency and show that they have a plan to return to profitability. Automakers could also be required to give the government preferred stock in the companies and accept government representatives as board members. As in the 1979-80 Chrysler bailout, workers may have to make wage concessions.”

As if that wasn’t enough, Obama’s transition team is apparently talking about implementing congestion charges on American highways:

The Manchester Evening News reports that President-elect Barack Obama’s transition team has contacted Jack Opiola, a transportation principal for the firm Booz, Allen and Hamilton. Opiola the brains behind a program to tax drivers £5 (US $8) when entering the city of Manchester during peak hours. “I was ‘noticed’ by key people in the Obama campaign and I have been providing input to his strategy team in Chicago, including information about Greater Manchester’s bid,” Opiola said. Previously, Senator Obama’s most specific transportation proposal was a proposal to create a $60b toll road bank. In March, Obama endorsed New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg’s scheme to charge a $9 toll on cars and a $22 toll for trucks that enter downtown Manhattan during working hours. Hoping to fill the gap with specifics, the American Association of State Highway and Transportation Officials (AASHTO) last month submitted a detailed $544 billion transportation re-authorization proposal designed to encourage the new administration to shore-up the domestic economy with heavy spending on infrastructure projects.

The new programs would be paid for with massive new tax hikes, including a per-mile driving tax that would begin with “proof of concept” trials as early as 2010. The tax would initially be one cent per mile to generate an estimated $32.4b a year. An extra one cent per gallon in the federal gasoline tax would generate another $1.8b, and a national sales tax on cars of one percent would generate $7.6b.

If that happens, then any idea that taxes would go down for most Americans, which Obama promised during the campaign, would be nothing but a lie.

Finally, Andrew Sullivan points to this old article that Obama wrote a few years back:

[W]e should then ensure that, within a decade, every new car sold in America can run on flexible fuel. We can advance this goal by offering manufacturers a $100 tax credit for every flexible-fuel tank they install before the decade is up.

As my friend Tom Daschle details in this report, millions of people driving flexible-fuel vehicles don’t even know it. The auto companies shouldn’t get CAFE credit for making these cars if they don’t let buyers know about them, so the entire auto industry should follow GM’s lead and put a yellow gas cap on all flexible fuel vehicles, and notify consumers in writing as well.

These may be admirable goals, but as Sullivan points out, accomplishing them, or trying to, via government fiat and state ownership of the auto companies isn’t the way to do it.

As Sully goes on to note, this is a test for Obama:

This is a real test for Obama: is he a market-friendly pragmatist or a knee-jerk socialist?

During the campaign and since the election, more than a few people told me that Obama was a indeed a market-friendly pragmatist. How he handles this will go a long way toward determining if they were right or not.

Originally posted at Below The Beltway

Third Party Debate

The City Club of Cleveland extended an invitation to the top six presidential candidates*. Of the six candidates, Libertarian Party candidate Bob Barr, Constitution Party candidate Chuck Baldwin, and independent candidate Ralph Nader participated; Democrat Barack Obama, Republican John McCain, and Green Party candidate Cynthia McKinney were no-shows.

Unlike the debates we have already seen in this cycle, the candidates in this debate actually debated the issues!

*The candidates who could theoretically receive the requisite electoral vote to win the presidency

Joe The Plumber And Professional Licensing Laws

After Joe Wurzelbacher became the star of the Wednesday night’s debate, the media started looking in to his background and it didn’t take long for someone to discovery that Joe the Plumber doesn’t have a plumber’s license.

Now, Wurzelbacher admits that and say that, because he works for someone who has a license, he isn’t required to be licensed under Ohio law.

Whether that’s true or not, though, Matthew Yglesias notes it raises another question entirely:

[Wurzelbacher] raises the issue of whether or not it really serves the public interest to have so many occupational licensing rules. Like most people, if I needed to hire a plumber, I’d probably look for a recommendation. I don’t have any real confidence that these licensing schemes are tracking quality in any meaningful way, just preventing a certain number of people from earning a living and raising the general cost of plumbing services for everyone else.

Yglesias has a point, and it applies to more than just plumbers. Depending on the jurisdiction you live in you have to get a license from the state to be a plumber, carpenter, landscaper, electrician, beautician, dog groomer, dog walker, and probably a whole host of other occupations that I can’t even think of right now.

But what purpose does the licensing really serve ? Does anyone really believe that the mere fact that one of these professionals has a piece of paper from the state or local government means that they are competent to do their job, or that they’ve never cheated someone on a job ?

Of course not. That’s why you don’t just rely on whether or not someone is licensed before hiring them to, say, remodel your basement, build a deck, or fix your water heater. You do what Yglesias would do, you’d look for recommendations from friends, family or neighbors.

So if it’s not guaranteeing good or even competent service, what purpose is the licensing serving ?

Well, one of Yglesias’s commentors, probably inadvertently, stated it pretty clearly:

The problem is that when you don’t have any licensing for skilled positions you have a glut of weekend warriors who drive the price down and put professionals out of business– and that eventually lowers quality. I knew a guy who had his own landscaping business but gave it up because there were too many people with a John Deere who would do stuff for absurdly low rates because it was only a hobby for them. When it came to doing actually skilled work, of course, they sucked at it– but people want to believe they can get quality work without paying for it. So they go with an unskilled cheap guy and the actual professional suffers.

In other words, the purpose of professional licensing, more often than not, is not to “protect the public,” it’s to protect incumbent businesses by creating barriers to entry, restricting the supply of skilled labor, and making the cost of that labor more expensive to the public.

Why Libertarians Should Vote: Threats to Liberty from the Left and the Right on the Colorado Ballot (Part 2 of 3)

Cont’d from Part 1

What motivates these very nice people to be such tyrants? Some will vote in ignorance of the issue* and others out of a sense of ‘social justice.’ Very few will intentionally vote to take liberty or property from a fellow citizen; most will vote to do so out of a well intentioned but misguided sense of right and wrong.

The Colorado ballot contains 18 ballot measures, most of which are proposed amendments to the state’s constitution. About half of these measures would restrict liberty, increase taxes, or otherwise punish individuals for activities which ought not to be a crime in a free state or country.

Threats to Liberty from the Left

Union backed amendments 53, 55, 56, and 57 are all very hostile to business. Amendment 53 targets business executives for criminal liability (as if business executives are not already criminally liable for committing crimes), 55 would change Colorado from a “right to work state” to a “just cause state,” 56 requires employers with 20 employees or more to provide health coverage for employees and their dependants, and 57 would put employers at greater liability than the existing workman’s comp laws.

All of these amendments would make Colorado a less attractive place to do business and would likely mean fewer decent paying jobs. Like most populist proposals, the people who the advocates of these measures are trying to help would be hurt the most.

Amendments 51, 58, and 59 concern taxation. Amendment 51 would increase the sales tax to fund programs for the developmentally disabled, 58 directly taxes the oil and gas industry (Coloradans who wish to pay more for gas should support this measure), and 59 redirects funds which under current law are rebated to taxpayers under the Taxpayer Bill of Rights (TABOR) to an education savings fund.

Given governments’ track record of mismanaging taxpayer money (especially given what’s going on in Washington), I am in no mood to pay additional taxes or allow the government at any level to keep more no matter what the reason.

Threats to Liberty from the Right

While many of the ballot measures are economically on the Left, at least one is socially conservative. Amendment 48, the so-called “personhood” amendment would amend the Colorado Constitution to define all fertilized eggs, embryos, and fetuses as people complete with all legal rights associated with being a person. Clearly, this amendment is an attempt to ban abortion in the state of Colorado. Inevitably, if 48 is passed, there will be legal challenges which 48’s proponents hope would ultimately lead to overturning Roe v. Wade.

Amendment 48 makes no exceptions for rape** or incest. While there is an exception for abortion in the event that the life of the mother is threatened, opponents of 48 believe that doctors would put women at unnecessary mortal risk out of fear of being prosecuted for murdering the unborn. Because a fertilized egg would have the same legal rights as a person, a woman and her doctor could face life imprisonment and even the death penalty (someone explain to me how this is “pro-life”!).

Opponents of 48 also fear that doctors would be compelled to violate doctor/patient confidentiality as they may be required to report miscarriages to the authorities if s/he has the slightest suspicion that the miscarriage was caused intentionally***.

Giving fertilized eggs a definition of personhood would also:

– Ban commonly used birth control such as the birth control pill and the morning after pill
– Ban embryonic stem cell research (both public and private)
– Raise additional legal reproductive rights questions on issues with regard to artificial insemination

Despite what both pro-lifers and pro-choicers say, the abortion issue is very complex and there is plenty of room for debate on the merits of this issue among libertarians. What I would hope abortion foes would realize is that this measure has implications far beyond a legal prohibition of abortion.

NEXT: Why Libertarians Should Vote: Restoring Liberty via the Ballot Box (Part 3 of 3)

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In fact, let me say unequivocally, I’m OK with more people dying, so long as we have more freedom; be it with drugs, or guns, or sex, or anything else.

Are there limits? Of course there are; at the very least, my fist is limited by your nose… but doing immoral, unethical, and unconstitutional things (and I include setting arbitrary limits on freedom in that list) in service of “a good cause”, does not make those things right.

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

Ron Paul’s Speech at the “Rally for the Republic”

Ron Paul spoke in front of a crowd of approximately 10,000 at the “Rally for the Republic” (AKA the “Ron Paul Convention”) across the river from the Republican National Convention.

Below are the first 3 parts of his speech, the full text of the speech can be read here.

Other speakers on the last day of the rally included Tucker Carlson, Lew Rockwell, Gov. Jesse Ventura (who hinted that he might make a presidential run in 2012), and Barry Goldwater Jr.

Libertarian presidential nominee Bob Barr was also in attendance at Ron Paul’s big show but Barr said he was not disappointed that Paul did not make an official endorsement of his campaign:

Barr, a former GOP congressman, told ABC News he respects Paul’s intent not to make an endorsement in the general election, and is “here today because there are thousands of people who believe we need to shrink the power, the size, the scope of the federal government.

“These are liberty-loving Americans, and those are my kind of people,” Barr exclaimed.

[…]

“We’re all in this together — we believe in the same things,” Barr said.

“Ron has chosen to work within the Republican Party, I’ve chosen to work through the Libertarian Party through the electoral route, but we all want the same thing,” he added.

http://www.campaignforliberty.com/

http://www.bobbarr2008.com/

A Tale of Two Drug Raids

It was the best of times, it was the worst of times. For those who wore the badge, they could do no wrong. For the “badge-nots,” they could do no right.

I only wish this was a work of fiction but it is not. When it comes to drug raids (often no-knock raids), suspects (whether guilty or innocent) are treated with a different standard when a life is taken by mistake. Cory Maye was convicted for defending his home whenever the slain intruder turned out to be Officer Ron Jones who was serving a warrant.

But what happens when the police shoot the wrong person?

The AP reported on August 5, 2008 that Sgt. Joseph Chavalia was found “not guilty” on counts of negligent homicide and negligent assault which resulted in the death of Tarika Wilson and the loss of a finger of her year-old son. Wilson was carrying her son and was unarmed.

Wilson’s boyfriend was the target of the raid as he was a suspected drug dealer.

The AP article Officers cheer police shooting verdict in Lima* demonstrates this double standard and is ripe for a thorough fisking.

A jury verdict that cleared a police officer in the drug-raid shooting death of an unarmed woman will allow other officers to do their job without hesitation, police union officials said.

Is the police union advocating a “shoot now, ask questions later” policy? If this is the lesson the Lima Police Department is getting from this verdict, then I am very frightened for the residents of Lima (or residents anywhere in the U.S. for that matter). I thought that the police were supposed to identify their target before shooting; this would necessarily require some hesitation.

Officers throughout the state closely watched the trial, fearing that a guilty judgment would have changed how they react in the line of fire.

If police officers are afraid of being in this situation here’s an idea: how about not raiding a person’s home whenever there is no immediate threat of danger to others? (such as a hostage situation). Also, before police officers “react in the line of fire” there ought to be “a line of fire.” In this instance, no shots were ever fired by anyone other than the police.

Jurors on Monday acquitted Sgt. Joseph Chavalia on charges of negligent homicide and negligent assault in the death of Tarika Wilson seven months ago. Her year-old son also was injured.

Compare the charges against Sgt. Joseph Chavalia versus the charges against Cory Maye**. For the police officer, the death penalty or life in prison wasn’t even on the table. Had Chavalia been convicted on both counts, he would have served a maximum of eight months in jail. For Cory Maye (a civilian), a person who just as Sgt. Chavalia did, shot someone who he thought was a threat when he pulled the trigger, received the death penalty!***

According to the prosecution in Maye’s case, an individual cannot claim self defense unless s/he has identified the target. Here’s an excerpt from the State’s closing argument in the case:

“If you take everything he [Cory Maye] said as being true, he’s at least guilty of murder. He just shoots in the direction of the noise without looking, without calling out, without doing anything. I submit to you that’s totally unreasonable. But if you take what he says to be true, he’s at the very least guilty of murder.”

When a citizen “just shoots” “without looking” its murder but when a police officer shoots because s/he is “reacting in the line of fire” its “Oh well, shit happens” (as his/her fellow police officer cheer when the verdict reads “not guilty.”)

The article continues:

Chavalia had testified that he thought his life was in danger when he fired the shots. He said he saw a shadow coming from behind the partially open bedroom door and heard gunshots that he thought were aimed at him.

It turned out that Wilson didn’t have a weapon and that the gunfire Chavalia heard was coming from downstairs, where officers shot two charging pit bulls.

I wonder what would happen if a citizen shot a police dog if s/he were threatened?

Prosecutor Jeffrey Strausbaugh repeatedly pointed out during the trial that Wilson was shot even though she didn’t have a gun.

But jurors were told by visiting Judge Richard Knepper during jury instructions that they could not consider the fact that she was unarmed because that was known only after the shooting.

Citing a 1985 U.S. Supreme Court ruling that set guidelines for use of force by police, the jurors were told they could only judge Chavalia’s actions based on what he was aware of when he fired into the bedroom where Wilson was with her six children.

Once again: one standard for the police and one for the citizen. If the Judge in Cory Maye’s case had given similar instructions to that jury, we probably wouldn’t even know Cory Maye’s name.

“It was an important distinction and one that had to be upheld,” said Michael Watkins, president of the Fraternal Order of Police in Lima.

“If the rules are changed, officers are going to react later,” Watkins said. “You’re going to have them hesitating, and there are more who are going to be injured or killed.”

Ugh. What can I say that I haven’t already? All I am asking is that the rules are the same for the citizen as the police. Is that really too much to ask?

During the trial, a Columbus SWAT officer and a retired FBI agent both testified that Chavalia had no choice but to shoot because he thought his life was in danger. They also said Chavalia should have fired sooner.

“Thank God it wasn’t me there and every officer feels the same way,” said James Scanlon, who has been with the Columbus police since 1978.

Watkins, who joined the Lima department a year before Chavalia in 1976, said he understands why Chavalia shot after hearing the gunfire.

“I knew there had to be more to it,” he said. “Joe isn’t a trigger happy officer.”

And I am sure that those who shoot police officers attempting to defend their homes aren’t trigger happy either. It seems to me that it doesn’t much matter if the intruder is a police officer or a violent criminal busting down your door. Either way, your life is in grave danger.

The verdict further angered Wilson’s family and others in Lima’s black community.

“The message I got out of all this is that it’s OK for police to go and kill in a drug raid,” said Arnold Manley, pastor of Pilgrim Rescue Missionary Baptist Church.

That message couldn’t be clearer if it was up in neon lights in Times Square.

In the lawsuit filed in federal court in Toledo, Wilson’s mother said police could have waited until the woman and her children were out of the house to try and arrest Wilson’s boyfriend, Anthony Terry, the target of the raid.

No they couldn’t. That would make too much sense. If they would have chosen a more peaceful method, they wouldn’t have been able to wear their spiffy paramilitary SWAT gear.

The shooting on Jan. 4 led to protests about how police treat minorities in the city where one in four residents is black. Chavalia is white and Wilson was black.

Chavalia’s lead attorney, Bill Kluge, said he thinks the only reason the officer was charged was because of the reaction within the community.

I’m not quite sure what to do with that. I’m not one to play the race card but how in the hell did Chavalia get a jury in 2008 without a single black person serving?

“Had this case waited two or three months going to the grand jury, it might have been different,” he said.

I know that the public has a short attention span but this is insulting. The citizens of Lima are outraged because of this double standard I’ve described here.

Chavalia’s career with the city’s police department is essentially over despite the verdict, Kluge said. He would not say what the officer planned to do next.

I should hope so! Whatever Chavalia decides to do next, it shouldn’t have anything at all to do with law enforcement.

Related by others:

Reason TV’s Drew Carey Project “Mississippi Drug War Blues

The Agitator “Police Militarization

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