Category Archives: The Welfare State

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

Now it’s personal:

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

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

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

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

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

Hat Tip: Reason

Nominal SSA/Medicare “Solvency” Dates Worsen Slightly; Journalists Apoplectic

As I’ve thoroughly explained here and here, the whole Social Security “trust fund” issue is a joke. It’s an accounting gimmick designed to push the supposed date of concern out into the future.

When does Social Security become “insolvent”? Well, let’s look at what the word means:

adjective
not solvent; unable to satisfy creditors or discharge liabilities, either because liabilities exceed assets or because of inability to pay debts as they mature.

Assets are a printing press, taxpayers, or the farce of a “trust fund” that contains nothing but promises to raid the printing press or taxpayers in the future. There is absolutely nothing tangible there. Nothing backs up the future liabilities of the system.

But the accounting gimmick is still there, and people still argue as to what year Social Security and Medicare will start running into trouble. They argue about this as a problem to be solved for the future, but those dates for both Social Security and Medicare are coming in a bit as the economy collapses:

The financial health of Social Security and Medicare, the government’s two biggest benefit programs, have worsened because of the severe recession, and Medicare is now paying out more than it receives.

Trustees of the programs said Tuesday that Social Security will start paying out more in benefits than it collects in taxes in 2016, one year sooner than projected last year, and the giant trust fund will be depleted by 2037, four years sooner.

Medicare is in even worse shape. The trustees said the program for hospital expenses will pay out more in benefits than it collects this year and will be insolvent by 2017, two years earlier than the date projected in last year’s report.

The trust funds — which exist in paper form in a filing cabinet in Parkersburg, W.Va. — are bonds that are backed by the government’s “full faith and credit” but not by any actual assets. That money has been spent over the years to fund other parts of government. To redeem the trust fund bonds, the government would have to borrow in public debt markets or raise taxes.

I credit this AP writer for pointing out the italicized text, and for hammering the point home later in the article. Very few journalists have understood or expressed the idea that the “trust fund” is not full of actual assets, only promises. This doesn’t mean the situation will be bad in another decade and only dire in the 2037 time frame; it means this situation is worsening every year.

To illustrate this [yet again], let’s pull out a business example. Let’s create a corporation, and we’ll call it Ubiquitous Spending & Aggravation, Inc. We’ll use USA, Inc. for short.

Let’s say USA, Inc. has three divisions. They have the General Products Division, the Depends Adult Diaper Business Unit, and the Viagra & Ensure Business Unit. As you’d expect, one is a general purpose spending group, another caters to the general needs of the elderly, and the final caters to the medical needs of the elderly.

So assume that the below are true:

Today:
USA, Inc. Today

So it looks to me like USA, Inc. is losing $20 Million per year, but two business units are profitable. Would you call that a healthy company? Would you invest in it?

Now, let’s project earnings into the future.

2017:
USA, Inc. 2017

So what’s happened here? The company is still losing $20M a year, and now the two previously profitable divisions are losing money, while the General Products division is actually earning money due to the CEO instituting his AMP – Advanced Mugging Policy. Does this now look like a healthy company? Does it now look investment-worthy? Unfortunately, you’re already invested, because their stock certificates are printed with the words “Federal Reserve Note”. And they’re going to be issuing new shares soon.

I’ve said it before and I’m sure I’ll say it again. This is all a shell game. As long as the government keeps borrowing money and the debt keeps going up, it doesn’t matter how the individual accounting entities are performing. They can raise payroll taxes, offset by a cut in the income tax, and if it’s overall revenue neutral, it doesn’t matter whether Social Security and Medicare are “saved”. About the only benefit to doing so would be that journalists could quit wasting ink arguing over whether 2016, 2017, 2137 or 2141 are the “important” milestones.

There are no “important milestones”. The feds are going to run a $1.8T deficit this year! The problems we have are far larger than a 4-year swing in projected “insolvency” of an entity that is completely insolvent right now. The only “assets” the Social Security administration has access to are the Federal Reserve printing press or our wallets, and you can be SURE they’re going to be reaching for both.

Let’s Talk, Barack.

So Barack Obama has a few snide remarks for the tea partiers:

Asked about fiscal discipline and entitlements reform, Obama seemed to be repressing a smile as he jabbed critics of his spending plans.

“Those of you who are watching certain news channels on which I’m not very popular, and you see folks waving tea bags around, Obama said, “let me just remind them that I am happy to have a serious conversation about how we are going to cut our health care costs down over the long term, how we are going to stabilize Social Security.”

“But,” Obama continued, “let’s not play games and pretend that the reason [for the deficit] is because of the Recovery Act.”

Well, a few options… We’ve all written quite a few words here on healthcare and Social Security here. I’d welcome a serious conversation. But I don’t think Obama actually wants a serious conversation if it involves a discussion of the policy proscriptions I’d recommend. For healthcare, I support expanding the free market through severing the tax advantage of employer-based healthcare and thus returning to a model where the patient is typically both the insurance purchaser and payer, giving them a much wider choice of providers and plans than a typical corporate plan full of state-mandated coverages will offer. I think that will do a great job of bringing down costs. For Social Security, my first thought is means-testing the benefits. I’d forego guaranteed benefits in the future if it meant that my SS taxes dropped from 12% of my income to 6% of my income. The nice thing about means-testing is that if my personal investment and retirement plans don’t pan out, the SS plan would be a true “safety net” rather than “entitlement” program.

But his final challenge is worthy of its own response. Obama is projecting a $1.75T deficit. He inherited several hundred billion from Bush, and the economic collapse probably gave him several hundred billion more due to revenue drops. So let’s charitably call half of his deficit, roughly $900B, not his fault. The other $850B, though, is his fault. He’s taking a rough fiscal position for the government and throwing fuel on the fire. For those of us who already feel overtaxed, we know that the endgame of this spending must, by logical necessity, be increased direct taxation or increased indirect (inflation) taxation, probably both. The Recovery Act is a big portion of it. There is a factual argument to support blaming most of the obscene deficits on his spending proposals.

Now, your median tea party protestor may not be ready for this discussion. That protestor realizes simply that spending is going through the roof, and that spending will eventually need to be paid for — with money collected from taxpayers, not from Congress. That protestor may not have the time nor energy to devote to policy wonk analysis of healthcare or Social Security, nor of in-depth fiscal management of government. But that protestor knows that going from spending $3T to nearly $4T, while projecting a drop in revenues, leading to a deficit the size of the 2000 budget, will not end well.

But there are those of us out here who have been paying attention for the last 8 years and longer, and who know the score. Obama may believe that he can flippantly dismiss the grassroots protestors because they may not always be “sophisticated” enough and informed enough to stand and fight for their position. But any time Obama wants to have a chat with us (or more likely our intellectual forebears like the guys from the Reason Foundation or Cato Institute), tell him we’d love to have a “serious conversation”.

Hat Tip: Below the Beltway

Obamessiah Pisses Away More of Your Money

In news that shocks absolutely no one, the Obamessiah found yet another way to piss away some more American taxpayer dollars, this time on a “national service” bill.

President Obama on Tuesday signed a bill authorizing a major expansion of funding to federal community-service programs, marking a rare example of Washington bipartisanship.

The legislation reauthorizes the Corporation for National and Community Service – the government agency that runs AmeriCorps and other service programs – for the first time since 1996. It calls for a 25 percent increase in funding, giving the CNCS $1.1 billion for next year and almost $6 billion through 2014, if the money is appropriated by Congress.

The legislation is named for Sen. Edward Kennedy (D) of Massachusetts, and it passed with strong support from both sides of the aisle – moving from proposal to passage in little more than a month.

“Programs like these are a force multiplier,” Mr. Obama said at the signing. “They leverage small numbers of members into thousands of volunteers.”

Currently, 75,000 Americans serve in AmeriCorps annually, and they train and manage some 2 million community volunteers. The legislation authorizes an expansion of the program over eight years to 250,000 people, which in turn will allow millions more Americans to volunteer.

There went the $100 million the Obamessiah saved.

Seriously, I thought the point of volunteering was doing something good while not expecting something in return. The United States government has no business paying “volunteers” to serve the volk.

What about those “fiscally-conservative” Republicans, well, they generally supported it. More than half the Senate Republicans and 70 GOP Congressmen supported this bailout of the Americorps, the remnants of Bush’s “compassionate conservatism”, and big government in general.

Remember these folks around election time.

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.

Medical Ethicist Suggests Senile “Have A Duty To Die”

This is what medical ethics has come to in Britain:

Medical ethics expert Baroness Warnock, 84, said senility sufferers were a burden to their families and doctors.

And she said there was nothing wrong with them feeling they had a “duty” to opt for euthanasia for the sake of others.

She said: “If you are demented you are wasting people’s lives, your family’s lives and you are wasting the resources of the NHS.

So much for the socialized medical systems “putting humanity before profit”. Sorry, granny, you’re not a person, you’re a burden. You’re not a patient, you’re a cost. And we need to cut costs these days.

This is what’s coming, America.

Hat Tip: Billy Beck

A Tea-Party Postscript

According to Nate Silver’s estimate, something approaching a quarter million people took part in the tea party protests that took place around the country yesterday. That seems like a large number, and maybe even the start of something big, right ?

Ross Douthat thinks not, and doubts that they’ll have any more impact on the growth of the state than the protests against the Iraq War did in stopping that conflict:

They resemble nothing so much as the anti-war protests during Bush’s first term.

(…)

But they do have all of the weaknesses of the anti-war marches: Their message is intertwined with a sense of disenfranchisement and all kinds of inchoate cultural resentments, they’ve brought various wacky extremists out of the woodwork (you know, like Glenn Beck), and just as George W. Bush benefited from having opposition to his policies identified with peacenik marchers in Berkeley and Ann Arbor, so Barack Obama probably benefits from having the opposition (such as it is) associated with a bunch of Fox News fans marching through the streets on Tax Day, parroting talk radio tropes and shouting about socialism.

(…)

Still, here we are in the sixth year of the Iraq War, and all those anti-war protests, their excesses and stupidities notwithstanding, look a lot more prescient in hindsight than they did (to me, at least) when they were going on. So if you’re inclined to sneer and giggle at the Tea Parties, keep in mind that just because a group of protesters looks ragged, resentful, and naive, that doesn’t necessarily mean they’re wrong to be alarmed:

Alarmed, yes, just as the anti-war protesters were alarmed at the idea of their country engaging in pre-emptive war based on dubious intelligence that latter proved to be entirely wrong, and fought a war without any idea of how to end it or what would follow in the wake of Saddam Hussein’s removal from power.

In hindsight, it seems clear that the anti-war protesters were more right than wrong but, despite their vocal opposition, we’ve lost thousands of troops and hundred of billions of dollars and have very little to show for it.

Along the same lines as Douthat, and echoing a question I raised yesterday, Alex Knapp believes that the movement’s biggest mistake is not figuring out what it’s for:

[I]ncreasing government spending is alarming. There’s no question about that. The higher deficits being predicted under an Obama Administration should be a cause for concern. But you can’t argue against higher deficits and for cutting taxes at the same time. Real life doesn’t work that way. You can’t simply wish federal revenue into being.

By the same token, you can’t just go around saying we need to “cut spending.” That’s just mindless handwaving. Let’s put this simply. 80% of the budget falls into five categories: Social Security, Medicare/Medicaid, Defense, Veteran’s Benefits, and Interest on the Debt. EIGHTY PERCENT. So if you don’t tell me what you’re going to be able to feasibly cut in those categories, you are not approaching the problem seriously.

Knapp is, of course, entirely correct.

The problems that we face are far bigger, and far more serious, than the relatively paltry sums that most people point to when they talk about government waste (earmarks, for example, account for less than 1 percent of the total Federal Budget). We aren’t going to solve are problems by nibbling at the margins, it’s going to take real sacrifice, it’s going to cause real pain, and it’s something we need to be talking about now.

Standing around calling Obama a socialist, or wearing a t-shirt that says “Who is John Galt ?” accomplishes nothing.

A Question For The Tea Partyers

It’s fairly clear what your against and, by and large I agree, but what, exactly, are you for:

Protesting government spending is meaningless unless you say what you’d cut.

(…)

All protests against spending that do not tell us how to reduce it are fatuous pieces of theater, not constructive acts of politics. And until the right is able to make a constructive and specific argument about how they intend to reduce spending and debt and borrowing, they deserve to be dismissed as performance artists in a desperate search for coherence in an age that has left them bewilderingly behind.

It is, I think, an entirely fair question.

C/P: Below The Beltway

The Trouble with Involuntary Collectivists

… and in fact leftists of any stripe (and some on the far right for that matter), is that everything they believe is wrong.

Yes, I mean that directly, literally, and completely. Everything they believe is wrong. Incorrect. False.

Everything they believe in is wrong, because it all flows from absolutely wrong first principles, which can best be summarized as:

  1. If it makes me feel good, it must be alright
  2. If it makes me feel bad it must be wrong
  3. If I can get enough people to go along with me, we can do whatever we want, because we say so
  4. If someone is very intelligent, and gets a lot of people to agree with him, I should agree with him too or there’s something wrong with me
  5. If we want something to be true bad enough, no matter what, it is true, because we say so
  6. Anyone who disagrees with any of this is wrong and bad
  7. Everything we do is right because we say so, and anyone who disagrees with is wrong and bad; therefore anyone who wants to stop us is stupid or evil
  8. Anything goes so long as we get what we want

These are not principles at all of course; merely an attempt to rationalize doing what they want to do.

This, fundamentally, is evil, because it abnegates human liberty and the human spirit; and because it recognizes neither morality, nor ethics (one cannot call such notions ethics). Not only does it allow for the tyranny of the majority, it requires it. The will of the collective outweighs all.

Oh and never mind the inherent contradictions there. They are obvious and irreconcilable to a non-collectivist; but somehow not to a collectivist (though at least some distinction has to be made here between involuntary collectivists, and voluntary. The voluntary are still incorrect, but they aren’t forcing anyone else into it, so that’s OK).

Simply put, the coercive restraint of human liberty is inherently evil. Control of ones person, property, and behavior should be the exclusive province of the sovereign man. The only legitimate limitation of liberty is that which prevents transgression on the liberty of others, or which compensates those transgressed upon.

Collectivism purports to advocate for human liberty; but it does so through restraining it for the good of the collective? Only by giving up your freedom to all can you be free?

Doublespeak, and nothing more.

All they are really saying is, “Give up all your freedom and liberty to us, and we’ll LET you do, what WE think you ought to do, when WE think you should do it”.

It is entirely about command and control; just as is fascism, or any other kind of totalitarianism. They believe that if you give the “right” people, total control, then all the “right” decisions will be made, and everyone will be better off and happier.

This, frankly, is evil.

Intelligent leftists then spend all their intellectual energy creating increasingly convoluted, twisted, circular, and inductive arguments… no, to call them arguments gives them too much credit, they are in the main, mere tautologies; to justify what they believe in, and why they believe in it; even though reality shows again and again that their ideas are incorrect.

Amazingly, they often reach the same point as non-leftists do, by twisting their reasoning enough to reconcile their false first principles with the way the world really works. After all, at some point you have to say that an orange is an orange, don’t you?

And that really is the proof of the thing. Leftists ideas simply do not work. They are not true. They are false. Reality disagrees with them.

When your theory does not match the facts, you must change the theory. Reality doesn’t give a damn about your feelings.

The collectivist theory fails utterly. It doesn’t match the facts at all. Twisting both the theory and the facts out of all semblance to reality to “prove” your pet theory, does not make it true.

Individualism in a relatively loose collective (a society, no matter the size), is the natural state of man. We are social individuals, but we are individuals.

We may band tighter together at time, when it is to our advantage to survive; but we do so out of enlightened self interest, not of a collective nature.

We may sacrifice, so that others might live, or live better lives; but we do this for the benefit of other individuals, and for that which we believe in; not for the collective.

In all things, we are individuals.

Capitalism is what naturally happens when people get together freely to exchange goods and services.

Private property and competition are what naturally happens when people seek to improve their lives, and their situations.

Unless people are artificially restrained from doing so, their natural condition is one of competition, and markets.

Yes, there are those who will seek to gain advantage by restraining competition, gaining monopolies, imposing laws and regulations… but those are not failures of liberty, failures of markets, failures of capitalism; they are the failures of command and control.

Command and control will always fail. It cannot succeed, because in order to work the commander and controller must have perfect information and perfect reason. Such a thing does not exist. There is no perfect man, nor any perfect collective of men, and there cannot be.

Not only that, but humans by nature are both rebellious beasts, and greedy beasts.

Yes, many are content to be… even crave to be… controlled. Many crave to control others (even if it si only as part of a collective). This is proven to us more and more every day. It was proven quite convincingly just a few months ago; when the great masses voted for a “perfect man”, “the one”; the man on a horse, coming to simply sweep in and “heal us all”.

There are always enough however who are willing to take advantage, or gain a little extra comfort, or just get a bit ahead, a bit more power, a bit more advantage… On the other side of things, there are always enough who chafe at the yoke, who jump the fence… There are always enough who refuse to be controlled, that the “perfect” system will be taken down from within.

Collectivists, your very foundational ideas are evil and wrong. They don’t work. They are proven false every moment by the reality we live in. imposing them on us inevitably fails, and causes incredible misery, death, and destruction along the way.

Of course, this only makes them all the more dangerous. A man who is proven wrong at every turn, but who simply WILL NOT give up… well that is man who will do ANYTHING.

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

You are “The Rich”, and you didn’t even know it

Video From Reason.TV:

A lot of folks hear numbers like “the top 5%” of income earners, and they think that means Bill Gates, and fortune 500 CEOs etc…

No, although that’s exactly what the government, and the media, would love for you to believe.

It’s how they pit us against one another. It is a very deliberate divide and conquer strategy for class warfare; and the fact that 52 million people voted for it shows just how well it’s working.

It works, because “The Rich” is always the other guy. You aren’t “The Rich” after all, you’re “working class” or “middle class” whatever those mean (and who exactly says the “middle class” don’t work?).

Nobody wants to pay more taxes (well, except some of the extreme left), and very few people would vote to increase their own taxes; so they employ this class warfare rhetoric to get you to support tax increases on “The Rich”, which will supposedly favor you, and “the less fortunate”.

The only problem is, according to the government, there’s a pretty good chance that You (yes You, with a capital “Y”) ARE “The Rich”.

How can that be? They’re always talking about the “top 1%” or the “top 5%”, and again people start thinking about Bill Gates, and bank CEOs, and Wall Street traders…

Actually, the top 5% likely includes a lot of folks you know. Theres a fair chance it includes you. It almost certainly includes people you interact with every day.

When we get down to as low as say, the top 15%, most folks would think that got to be people making like $250,000 a year right?

No, actually people who make $250,000 a year are the top 1% (in fact, anyone over about $180,000 a year is in the top 1%. $250,000 puts you into the top .8% or so).

Wait a sec… the top 1% is just $180,000 a year?

Yes, yes it is.

The estimated individual income numbers for 2008 (actuals wont be available for another two years. Also don’t confuse these with household numbers, which account for multiple incomes) look like this:

The “top 1%” of earners in this country, is everyone who makes over about $180,000 a year.

The top 5% is everyone who makes over about $152,000 a year

In case you were interested, $100,000 is the top 5.63%

The top 10% is everyone who makes over $76,000 per year.

The top 15% is everyone who makes over about $64,000 a year.

The top 25% is everyone who makes over about $46,000 a year.

The top 50% is everyone who makes over about $32,000 a year.

So when somebody says “we’re going to tax the richest 15% to pay for the other 85%” what they’re really saying is anyone who makes more than $32 an hour.

Ayup, if you make more than $32 an hour, guess what, YOU are “The Rich”.

If they say “we’re going to tax the richest 25%” that means anyone who makes more than $23 an hour.

So, let me ask you, are you rich?

The top 15% pay more than 85% of all income taxes.

The top 50% pay more than 96% of all income taxes.

The bottom 50%, pay less than 4%.

The bottom 40% pay nothing at all.

The bottom 30% are actually PAID BY THE GOVERNMENT (and I don’t mean civil servants).

Plumbers, carpenters, electricians, mechanics, pretty much anyone with more than 10 years experience in any mid-level or higher job, in any professional career field or trade; that most likely puts you into the top 15% or so. Are you rich?

If you own your own business, the government ALMOST CERTAINLY classifies you as earning in the top 10% or higher… of course how much of that you actually KEEP is another story. Are you rich?

If you’re reading this right now, demographically speaking, it’s very likely you are in the top 15%. Are you rich?

If you have a college degree, live in or near a major city, and have more than 10 years experience in your career field, you are very likely to be in the top 5%, and almost certainly in the top 15%. Are you rich?

I’ll tell you right now, I’m in the top 5% of income earners, and with my wifes income we’re in the top 5% of household earners (in fact, the top 3%); and we are very definitely not rich.

We don’t live an extravagant lifestyle. We have a 1600 square foot house in an old neighborhood in Scottsdale (not one of the McMansion areas), two used cars that were both under $30,000 each when we bought them, and we send our two kids to Catholic school that’s subsidized by the parish, or else we couldn’t afford it. We don’t have a vacation home; no RV, no boat, no vacations to Switzerland every six months…

We’re not rich.

As far as the government is concerned though, we are “The Rich”.

In fact, it’s very likely that you are “The Rich” too.

What they’re really saying when they talk about “taxing the rich”, is taxing you. Because as far as the government is concerned, unless you’re taking money from them, hey, YOU’RE RICH.

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

Reforming America’s Prison System: The Time Has Come

Sen. Jim Webb (D-VA) in his recent article calling for a major reform of America’s prisons in Parade Magazine brought some very disturbing, eye opening, statistics about America’s prison system to light. In summary this is some of what he found:

-Since 1984, America’s prison population has quadrupled from 580,000 to 2.3 million

-Though the U.S. accounts for 5% of the world’s population, the U.S. accounts for 25% of the world’s reported prisoners

-Local, state, and federal spending on corrections costs the U.S. taxpayer about $68 billion annually* (California spent nearly $10 million on corrections last year by itself!)

-16% (350,000) adults in prison or jail are mentally ill

-3/4 of drug offenders in state prisons are non-violent offenders or in prison solely for drug offenses

-47.5% of all drug arrests in the U.S. were fore marijuana offenses

-Despite insignificant statistical differences regarding drug use among races, Blacks (accounting for 12% of the U.S. population) account for 37% of all drug arrests, 59% of which are convicted and account for 74% of all drug offenders sentenced to prison

Perhaps for the “tough on crime” types, this is all good news but for anyone else who thinks critically of these statistics, I would expect that most would be concerned if not horrified. In response to these statistics, Sen. Webb makes the following observation:

“With so many of our citizens in prison compared with the rest of the world, there are only two possibilities: Either we are home to the most evil people on earth or we are doing something different–and vastly counterproductive.”

For regular consumers of the evening news, it may seem that the first possibility could be true. Without fail, the evening news reports stories of violence, vandalism, kidnapping, rape, child molestation, and murder both locally and nationally. There is also no shortage of true crime programs** detailing the most heinous crimes one could imagine being committed against other human beings; it’s all very disturbing. Our jails and prisons surely must be overflowing from these creeps!

One would think that roving bands of murderous thugs are on every street in America, yet we each almost always make it to and from work, to and from running errands and eating out unmolested. Our odds of being killed in an auto accident*** are many times greater than being victim to this roving band of murderous thugs. How can this be?

While we should each be vigilant and aware of our surroundings and always use common sense, the perception that our prisoners are overflowing with mostly violent criminals just isn’t true. Figure 1 shows the U.S. prison population under the purview of the U.S. Bureau of Prisons. The BOP population accounts for 202,493 of America’s 2.3 million prisoners.

Figure 1

Source: Bureau of Prisons as of February 2009

Source: Bureau of Prisons as of February 2009


» Read more

Obama’s Policy to Fight Mexican Drug Cartels is Doomed to Fail

The Obama administration, rather than dealing with the root cause of the violence along the Mexican border, has decided to adopt a policy to deal with the symptoms. The problem is that this policy will neither alleviate the symptoms nor come close to treating the problem.

WASHINGTON – The Obama administration promised Tuesday to help Mexico fight its drug war by cutting off the cartels’ supply of guns and profits, while resisting the Texas governor’s call for a troop surge at the border to ward off spillover violence.

Let’s assume for a moment that Obama’s policy to prevent Mexico bound firearms from leaving the U.S. 100% successful. Given the fact that the drug cartels can acquire firearms from other sources (such as corrupt Mexican government agents with access to firearms among other sources) the only difference would be that the firearms are no longer coming from the U.S.

The Obama administration correctly identifies that the drug cartels are so powerful because of the profitability of the illicit drug trade. It’s this ability to make enormous profits, particularly in an impoverished country as Mexico, that attracts players into the business and makes corruption on the part of government officials almost irresistible. Unfortunately, though the Obama administration has identified the profitability of the drug trade as the source of the drug cartels’ power, there is clearly a profound misunderstanding of the way basic economics work (as if the bailouts, handouts, and myriad of other government programs were not proof enough).

The steps announced by Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano – 450 federal agents shifted to border duty, supplied with dogs trained to detect both drugs and cash, and scanners to check vehicles and railcars heading into Mexico – amount to a subtle but important shift:

The blockade of contraband will now be a two-way effort. The fence begun under the Bush administration will be completed, to deter smugglers of drugs and workers. But the new emphasis will be on disrupting the southbound flow of profits and weapons that fuel the cartels.

At his televised news conference Tuesday, President Barack Obama said that for now, it’s more important to disrupt the cartels’ access to profits and weapons than to fortify the border with soldiers.

“That’s what makes them so dangerous,” he said. “The steps that we’ve taken are designed to make sure that the border communities in the United States are protected and you’re not seeing a spillover of violence. … If the steps that we’ve taken do not get the job done, then we will do more.”

So what’s wrong with this approach? The basic economic law of supply and demand tells us that whenever a product is in high demand (drugs in this case) and the supply is lower (in this case by successful drug interdiction by the U.S. governemnt), those who supply the given demand stand to profit more NOT LESS! Whether Obama’s policy results in a decrease in the supply of drugs of 1% or 99%, those drugs which do make it to the end customer will pay even more to get them.

I would even go as far as to say that the Mexican drug cartels would cheer this policy. Sure, the cartels might have more difficulty moving their product into the U.S. and their profit and firearms out of the U.S. but for the most clever smugglers, these enhanced drug interdiction efforts would filter out the competition! (And we know how black market operators hate competition).

On some level, I do believe that even the political class understand this but somewhere, there is a disconnect. Just yesterday in her visit to Mexico, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton admitted that the war on (some) drugs over the past 30+ years “has not worked.”

“Our insatiable demand for illegal drugs fuels the drug trade.”

And now the disconnect:

“Our inability to prevent weapons from being illegally smuggled across the border to arm these criminals causes the deaths of police officers, soldiers and civilians…”

Mrs. Clinton apparently recognizes how the war on (some) drugs has been an abject failure fails to realize that the Chosen One’s policies will do little to reverse this trend. If she truly wants to do something productive, something has to be done about what she (correctly) describes as this “insatiable demand” for these drugs. She seems to understand that the “Just say No” campaign didn’t work but does she and others within the Obama administration really believe that more drug hysteria PSA’s will do anything to curb this demand?

Given how the Obama administration has decided to deal with the drug war related violence along the border, I’m not optimistic. If spending billions of dollars annually on this insane war on (some) drugs which has contributed to leading the world in the number of people in prison (imprisoning 1 out of every 100 adults; more than half of the U.S. prison population is there because of drug related offenses) has failed to curb the demand, then perhaps it’s time to try a different approach.

Nothing short of legalizing the drug trade will stop the violence, so why does the politicos, law enforcement, and government bureaucrats at almost every level continue the same “get tough” policy which clearly has not worked? The only conclusion I can come to: they must be high.

I WILL NOT OBEY

As I have said here before, I am a senior technical executive at a large bank.

As it happens, a bank that was forced at gunpoint, by the secretary of the treasury and chairman of the federal reserve, to accept TARP funds (as all the top surviving banks in the U.S were).

Let me be clear: We did not want TARP funds, or need them; but we, and all the other major banks, were told in no uncertain terms that we WOULD take them.

As obscene as that is, it is irrelevant to what follows; excepting that we did take TARP funds.

The United States House of Representatives recently passed a blatantly unconstitutional bill, placing confiscatory tax burdens on anyone making more than $250,000 and working for an institution that received more than 5 billion of TARP funds.

The bill was in theory specifically addressed at the false outrage over retention bonuses paid to AIG executives; and is targeted only to their bonuses.

In theory.

Of course, this would be an unconstitutional bill of attainder, which wouldn’t pass even the most cursory constitutional challenge; so it was re-written to be broader.

Broader of course means more people would be affected, and congress would be given more power to steal more money.

In fact, if you read into the implications of the bill; it could be used to levy a 90% tax on any income over $250,000, earned by any family making more than $250,000 per year, where either spouse is employed by an institution that received federal “bailout” funds.

It appears that the Senate, and the Obama administration are cold on the bill and that it will not pass, or be signed into law if it did.

I do not earn that much money; nor do my wife and I earn that much together (though in the next few years it is entirely possible that we will).

However, I have something important to say.

If congress should pass any such bill, and the president sign any such law, I WILL NOT OBEY IT.

I will not allow congress to tell me how much I can earn. I will not allow them to take my income because of the actions of others. If they attempt to make me do so by force, I will resist with force.

I will most likely die in the process, which I regret; but at some point a line must be drawn. The constitution must be respected, or it is meaningless.

Congress can make no law that is unconstitutional on it’s face. If such a law be passed, it is the duty of the president to repudiate it; and it must not be signed. If such a law is signed, it is the duty of the agents of the government to refuse to enforce it. If the agents of the state attempt to enforce it, then they must be resisted with force, at all costs.

Anything less is submission to tyranny, and the diminution of citizens, to subjects; or worse.

I have made clear in the past that I would resist police abuse of the constitution. I will resist congresses abuses no less. I will resist the presidents abuses no less.

Agents of the state cannot exceed the legitimate authority of the state. When they do so, they are criminals, and they must be resisted as criminals.

Normally I do not advertise where my lines are; but congress is now in the midst of a tantrum of self indulgence, overconfidence, and hubris not seen since reconstruction.

Nancy Pelosi, Harry Reid, and Barack Obama, are pushing our nation headlong into tyranny and ruin; and decrying those who resist as racists, or reactionaries; simply for not wanting to be serfs.

I would suggest that we petition for the impeachment and prosecution (for conspiracy to deprive every resident of the United States of their civil rights) of any congressman who voted for such a bill; but I know it would do no good.

Government must be made to understand, WE WILL NOT TOLERATE SUCH ABUSE.

We will resist.

We will revolt.

We will not be made subjects, serfs, or slaves.

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

Name That Socialist

Today, a news story came out where a company planned on purchasing chicken processing plants and the government was going to match the private company’s bid dollar for dollar. This plan is proposed under the guise of saving jobs. Now let me give you a hint who this socialist leader is; he’s a national leader.

Is it Barack Obama’s latest “stimulus” plan? Is it Harry Reid? Is this Ed Rendell or some other big state Democratic governor? Could it be even Charlie Crist or Arnold Schwarzenegger?

If you guessed any of the above, you’re wrong. The person proposing to give the government 50% ownership of certain chicken processing plants is none other the guy who came in second in the CPAC straw poll, Louisiana Governor and Republican Party savior, Bobby Jindal.

From the Monroe News Star

Gov. Bobby Jindal’s chief of staff said the state has found a buyer for Pilgrim’s Pride’s northeastern Louisiana operations and that an offer was expected to be made to the bankrupt company Tuesday night.

Timmy Teepell said the buyer will put up $20 million and the state will match it for a $40 million offer.

“(Jindal) has agreed to match it dollar for dollar with the stipulation that the company must keep the work force intact for five years,” Teepell said.

Pilgrim’s chief executive Don Jackson said at 7 p.m. Tuesday that he had not yet received an offer.

“I stated from the beginning that we would be receptive to any meaningful offer,” Jackson said.

The company announced Feb. 27 that it will close the Farmerville processing plants and the support infrastructure in April because of a glut of chicken on the market.

So the man who railed in a boring, self-centered speech against Barack Obama’s big government agenda plans to have the State of Louisiana own 50% of chicken processing plants. At least Obama in his takeover of Citigroup is only buying 36% of it. Maybe Rush Limbaugh can see if this is what Reagan would’ve done.

One other disturbing aspect of this proposal:

Teepell would not identify the company that made the offer to Pilgrim’s Pride, but he did say the company’s chief executive contacted Jackson before deciding to make the offer.

Bobby Jindal likes to talk about he cleaned up the most corrupt state in the country and how he reformed Louisiana’s ethics laws and improved transparency. Well, he passed some unenforceable new ethics laws while at the same time fought any attempts to bring transparency to the governor’s office. This secretive way of conducting business is the norm for the Jindal regime.

America, if you elect Bobby Jindal president in 2012, you can expect more socialism and more of the shadow government. If this is what the Republican Party has to offer, they won’t be returning to power anytime soon.

UPDATE:Pilgrim’s Pride rejected the offer from the State of Louisiana to buy the plant.

“Gov. Jindal and (Pilgrim’s chief executive Don) Jackson spoke by phone (on Tuesday night),” Pilgrim’s spokesman Ray Atkinson said in a written statement. “Dr. Jackson explained to the governor that the offer for the Farmerville complex was below our requirements.

“It would essentially put Foster (Farms) in business at a cost of entry of $20 million, well below the real cost and at a level with which neither Pilgrim’s Pride nor the rest of the industry could effectively compete.

“Dr. Jackson did not rule out a possible sale, but noted that it would have to be at a price well beyond $40 million. He also reiterated that selling the facility would not address the fundamental problem facing our industry: an oversupply of low-value commodity chicken.”

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.

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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Is Obama a Socialist?

communist-manifestoWriting that “Calling Barack Obama’s plan socialistic lacks any class,” Albor Ruiz argues that “fear mongering over a ‘class war’ and an Obama conspiracy to turn the U.S. into a ‘socialist’ country is reaching a fever pitch.”

He then cites “Tax Hike Mike” Huckabee as an example:

Huckabee, no doubt, takes the cake. “Lenin and Stalin would love this stuff,” he has said with quasi-religious fervor. “The Union of Soviet Socialist Republics may be dead, but a Union of American Socialist Republics is being born.”

First of all, citing Huckabee was a mistake, as he’s part of the problem and clearly not part of the solution.

My favored definition of socialism comes from Merriam-Webster: “ any of various economic and political theories advocating collective or governmental ownership and administration of the means of production and distribution of goods.”

This seems to describe the current administration, but there are other definitions which may or may not apply, as well.

If we are to pick an accurate word to describe Obama’s (to be fair, Bush laid the foundations which hadn’t already been established by previous administrations) designs on our children’s and even their children’s money, what should it be? If we are to better describe Obama’s move towards what Karl Marx called “a heavy progressive or graduated income tax,” how would we do it?

“Abolition of all right of inheritance?”  There is already talk of Obama toying with the Death Tax.

We may have moved from the Agrarian Age to the Information Age, but an “extension of factories and instruments of production owned by the State” seems to apply to AIG fairly well. If seventeen percent of our gross domestic spending is on health care, additional government control of this industry would certainly apply.  Control of the automobile industry clearly involves factories and instruments of production. While Obama has backed off his call for a Car Czar, the fact remains that he certainly made the attempt and likely will again if he gets the opportunity.

“Centralisation of the means of communication and transport in the hands of the State.”  Bush got a good start on transporation with the implementation of various TSA schemes and implementation of the Fairness Doctrine would move us closer to Marxism on the communications front.

While “a national bank with State capital and an exclusive monopoly,” may not precisely describe the Federal Reserve, for many intents and purposes it does.

Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac seem a major starting point for “centralisation of credit in the hands of the State.”  Purchasing shares and attaching federal strings to bank bailouts is certainly a big move in this direction.

Perhaps Mr. Ruiz is correct.  Should we be calling Obama’s attempted takeover of major portions of our economy while further redistributing the wealth socialist or Marxist?  Not that one necessarily excludes the other.

In reality, it all boils down to one simple question: Does it really matter if we call current policy socialism or a crap sandwich? It tastes the same either way.

Four Questions for Barack Obama

From CNN:

“It’s time for this waste and inefficiency to end. It’s time for a government that only invests in what works,” Obama said.

The president said the country must “turn the tide on an era of fiscal irresponsibility so that we can sustain our recovery, enhance accountability and avoid leaving our children a mountain of debt.”

Question Number One: If “it’s time for a government that only invests in what works,” why does it look like AIG may be receiving yet another “investment” of taxpayer dollars because their latest bailouts haven’t worked?

Question Number Two: If we are truly going to “turn the tide on an era of fiscal irresponsibility,” on what did we just spend $11.6 trillion of our children’s and grandchildren’s inheritance?

Question Number Three: If “it’s time for this waste and inefficiency to end,” why wasn’t it time for waste to end as late as yesterday?

Question Number Four: If we are to “avoid leaving our children a mountain of debt,” why aren’t we seeing the “change” we were promised?  The only change I see is an accelerated rate of fiscal irresponsibility which may ultimately lead to financial collapse.

Kids’ Nutrition Choices Made By Lobbyists, Not Doctors

Kevin Drum tells us “the reality is, this is how things get done”. In the below exchange, Kevin is MJ (Mother Jones), and Michael Pollan (Berkeley journalism prof & food author) is MP:

MJ: Does WIC [the Women, Infants, and Children program] still specify that you buy dairy?

MP: Yes. We had a huge fight to get a little more produce in the WIC basket, which is heavy on cheese and milk because the dairy lobby is very powerful. So they fought and they fought and they fought, and they got a bunch of carrots in there. [Laughs.]

MJ: Specifically? Who knew: the carrot lobby?

MP: Specifically carrots. The next big lobby. But there is also money in this farm bill for fresh produce in school lunch. The price of getting the subsidies was getting the California delegation on board, and their price was $2 billon for what are called specialty crops — fresh fruit and produce grown largely in California.

I would point out to Kevin that this not “how things get done” in my family. In my family, I [more accurately my wife] decides what the children eat, and we do so out of true and sincere care for their well-being. I’m not going to say that our decisions are always right, but they always incorporate the best knowledge we can find. I have no lobbyists showing up at my door paying me to feed my kids carrots instead of broccoli, and thus nothing to cloud my judgement.

Sadly, this is how things get done in government — a fact which I think would point more people towards libertarianism than many others.

Americans idealize government. We act as if it’s populated by well-meaning experts, who want nothing more than to provide humanity with their expertise and are looking out for us. We view them as able to integrate the demands of a wide-ranging polity into optimum policy, using their judgement and experience to improve life for all. Even more, we think they care about us.

The reality, on the other hand, is that government is a job. You do your job to satisfy your customers, which in politics is more often lobbyists than the general public. Why is dairy such a high component of WIC? Because the dairy lobby is enormous. Why did carrots — rather than broccoli, or asparagus, or cauliflower — get such favor? Because the carrot lobby, as strange as it may seem, is powerful. Seriously… CARROT LOBBY! If those two words placed in that order don’t disgust people about the arbitrary and capricious nature of government decision-making, you need to wake up.

The first step to mentally breaking with the government is to understand that government bureaucrats have their own interests — not yours — at heart. This isn’t a revelation. It occurs in business — workers often have goals that serve themselves more than their employer (such as a drive to earn a raise even if business conditions are down), and businesses often have goals that are counter to the best wishes of their customers (i.e. to earn the largest profit the market will bear to keep the doors open and please their shareholders). We understand in most commercial situations that we need to look out for ourselves, but then assume that the government is “looking out for us” in all others. When you assume the best about government bureaucrats, it blinds you to the fact that you’re giving these people coercive power and you can’t be sure that they’re going to use it in your interests.

As George Washington said:

Government is not reason; it is not eloquent; it is force. Like fire, it is a dangerous servant and a fearful master.

Government doesn’t have the best methods for making decisions. That’s why libertarians don’t want government making many decisions.

Octomom: A Microcosm of Democrat and Republican Policies Realized

Much to my delight and surprise, the news of Nadya Suleman (a.k.a. Octomom) giving birth to 8 children in addition to her other 6 children she could ill afford to support has not been well received by a large portion of the American public. Octomom seemed to go into this undertaking with the idea that she wouldn’t actually have to support these children herself because giving birth to so many children would make her an instant celebrity complete with book deals, TV specials, movie offer and other such ways to cash in. With the popularity of the Duggar and Gosselin families with their fame and modest fortunes derived from reality shows and book deals, it’s not too difficult to see how Octomom might come to such a conclusion (and at the end of the day, with our celebrity worship culture, her calculation might pay off).

But something unique about Octomom didn’t quite have the same charm as the Duggars and the Goslins: the ability to support the children. For all of my personal objections (which I will not get into here) I have with a family such as the Duggars cranking out 18 babies in a span of 12 years, I certainly respect the dedication of the parents to support their family themselves. While Jon and Kate Gosselin had the help of fertility science which resulted in 8 children in 2 separate pregnancies, they went into each hoping for just one child and also support the family themselves. The Duggar and Gosselin children also benefit from a two parent household.

In contrast, Octomom, an unemployed single woman on welfare, intentionally impregnates herself with the help of in vitro fertilization resulting in 14 children without any concern of how she would support these children if her celebrity scheme wasn’t realized.

What’s not to like?

This Octomom attitude seems to be that she’s entitled to have as many children as she wants because it has always been “her dream” to have lots and lots of children. Where does she get this notion that because someone has “a dream” she is entitled to force others to help her realize this dream?

One doesn’t have to look far to realize that this entitlement mentality has been fostered by the Democratic Party at least since FDR’s New Deal. The Democrats constantly demand that the most productive members of society support the “less fortunate” less productive class to help realize their dreams. According to the 2008 Democratic Party Platform, everyone has a right to a job that pays a “living wage,” “affordable” healthcare, free daycare, free education, paid family leave, and an “affordable” home.

What the Left fails to realize is that there’s no such thing as a free lunch. There never has and there never will be. Every one of these policies to give “free” or “affordable” service to those who do not have the wherewithal to provide these “rights” for themselves have to come from someone because they are not without cost. Whether or not Octomom paid for the birth of her 8 children, there was still a significant cost to the medical staff that provided this service. But what does she care? If she doesn’t get the multi-million dollar TV show, she can always count on the taxpayer to bail her out. No longer a single mother, Octomom will be married to the State.

While I’m sure many on the Right would nod in agreement with much of what I have said so far, I would have to ask them: where have you been the last 8 years? The Republican President Bush with Republican majorities in the House and the Senate for the majority of that time presided over the greatest expansion of government since LBJ’s Great Society programs. Yes, it was the G.O.P. that gave us No Child Left Behind, Medicare Part D, and TARP just to name a few. This is the party of small government?

Yes, in the Chairmen’s Preamble of the 2008 Republican Party Platform there’s a very libertarian friendly line that the Republican Party has “Distrust of government’s interference in people’s lives” then the document proceeds to outline exactly how they plan to have the government interfere in people’s lives. As awful as the Democrat Platform is, at least I can say they are honest and consistent; more than what I can say about the Republicans.

When the going got tough, the Republicans abandoned free market principles and adopted the Democrat’s approach of bailing out businesses which were “too big to fail.” Now that the Democrats run the show, the Republicans hope we will forget* that they were the other party of big government.

With the Republicans failing to stand up for these principles, perhaps Octomom also believed she was “too big to fail” (both figuratively and literally).

Oh, wait…the Republicans have stayed true to one principle: the old “every sperm is sacred” (every sperm, egg, embryo) principle. When asked why she chose to implant every single one of the embryos Octomom explained that if she allowed them to expire, it would be like killing them. As she has learned from the Republicans, if ever a “life” is created existing even on a multi-cellular level, she has a duty to give these tiny clumps of cells a “chance to be born” or otherwise be accosted for “murdering the unborn.”

I can’t help but wonder whether or not the Octomom culture would exist at all if it were Libertarian policies in place over the last 70 or so years rather than Democrat and Republican policies. If such were the case, I am sure Suleman would have made certain she had the resources to take care of herself first and playing the odds of celebrity roulette would probably been too big of a risk. If the thought of the government bailing out financial institutions and the big three was considered politically unfeasible because government only stayed within its Constitutional limits, then there certainly wouldn’t be any political will to support “one woman’s dream.”

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