Free Markets, Free People

Daily Archives: March 20, 2009

Misguided populism and selective taxation

“A government big enough to give you everything you want, is strong enough to take everything you have.” – Thomas Jefferson

David Boaz has written a great post explaining why selective taxation, like we saw yesterday as the House passed a 90% tax on AIG bonuses, is a form of tyranny:

Everybody’s angry. But anger doesn’t make good law. And there are real questions about both the wisdom and the legality of such legislation. Bloggers like Conor Clarke, Megan McArdle, and Eugene Volokh have asked if the bonus tax is legal or constitutional. And thank goodness for bloggers who ask the questions that members of Congress and print journalists seem to ignore!

The bloggers wonder if after-the-fact taxes on specific people violate the constitutional ban on bills of attainder and ex post facto laws. (Ex post facto = after the fact.) Good questions indeed. But they should go further and ask, Are laws like this tyrannical? Ex post facto legislation isn’t just bad because it’s unconstitutional. It’s unconstitutional because it’s bad. (Nate Silver did raise these broader questions, arguing that the bonus tax bill was like the congressional intervention into the Terri Schiavo case: quite possibly legal and constitutional, but “it represented a gross overreach of the chamber’s authority, and ultimately undermined, at least a little bit, the rule of law.”)
[…]
The rule of law requires that like people be treated alike and that people know what the law is so that they can plan their lives in accord with the law. In this case, a law is being passed to impose taxes on a particular, politically unpopular group. That is a tyrannical abuse of Congress’s powers. And in addition, it is retroactive legislation, changing the law upon which AIG and its employees had relied. As James Madison wrote in Federalist 62, “It will be of little avail to the people, that the laws are made by men of their own choice, if the laws . . . undergo such incessant changes that no man, who knows what the law is to-day, can guess what it will be to-morrow.”

Selective taxation is tyranny. Ex post facto legislation violates the spirit of the liberal order, even if a particular piece of legislation can be “structured” to pass constitutional muster.

I saw some of the speeches by members of Congress yesterday. It wasn’t about taxpayer money being involved, because the bonuses make up a fraction of the TARP money, and if it really was about the taxpayers, each of them need only look in the mirror to see the real reason our dollars are being wasted. It was an opportunity to bash business by playing on this misguided populism that has taken hold in our country.

People need to stop and realize that if we allow our government to do this to people receiving these bonuses, what makes us think they won’t do it to us.

A Million French Can’t Be Wrong …

Yes, it is spring and that means protest season in France (note the previous attempt in January didn’t turn out too well due to global warming effects).  This time, though, it’s not the “youths” doing the protesting.  Instead we are treated to union driven protests.

 The reason?

The protests, which drew substantially more people into the streets than a similar outpouring Jan. 29, were depicted by union leaders as part of a sustained campaign to pressure President Nicolas Sarkozy to do more to defend French people against the economic upheaval that has unfurled across the planet since the fall. In particular, they called on him to raise low-end wages and unemployment benefits and to make it harder for business leaders to fire employees when profits sink.

It's a win-win - Kerry goes too!

It's a win-win - Kerry goes too!

And we complain about our liberals being economic ignoramuses. Per the French mob, the ticket to recovery is to raise wages, raise unemployment benefits and prevent businesses – which most likely pay for those unemployment benefits (not to mention higher wages) – from letting workers go when their profits sink. Wow … economics worthy of Timothy Geithner, Barney Frank and Chris Dodd.

See, the French really deserve our Congress for their legislature. They’d be absolutely perfect together. Simpatico. Nancy Pelosi would be the toast of Paris and Harry Reid – ok, even the French wouldn’t put up with Harry Reid, so let’s not get too carried away. But seriously, have you ever seen a mob and a Congress (or administration for that matter) that thought so much alike?

It’s like a marriage made in heaven. The Congress and administration could transfer themselves to a country where the economic damage has already been done and the economy is already chronically lethargic, the welfare state is established to include universal health care and the control they seek over industry and business is already in place. They’d be happier (and have much less work to do ruining their economy even further), we’d be happier (trust me, we would), and my guess is the French would just swoon over Obama.

And he’s about right for them – they’ve always believed in style over substance, always thought more of themselves than others have and always had a sense of hubris which never equaled their performance.

It’s freakin’ perfect.

Why didn’t we think of this before?

~McQ

Former CBO Director Now Finds CBO Numbers Not So Good

This parallel world that exists only within the DC beltway and where the laws of economics don’t apply has got to be merged again with the real world we all live in as soon as possible:

Despite new estimates that say President Barack Obama’s budget would generate unsustainable large deficits averaging almost $1 trillion a year, the White House insisted Friday that the flood of red ink won’t swamp its costly agenda.

The Congressional Budget Office figures released Friday predict Obama’s budget will produce $9.3 trillion worth of red ink over 2010-2019. That’s $2.3 trillion worse than the administration predicted in its budget just last month.

Worst of all, CBO says the deficit under Obama’s policies would never go below 4 percent of the size of the economy, figures that economists agree are unsustainable. By the end of the decade, the deficit would exceed 5 percent of gross domestic product, a dangerously high level.

Just feast your eyes on those statements. First – 10 years of trillion dollar deficits “won’t swamp” the “costly agenda” of the Obama administration? Really? Or is it just that the administration refuses to acknowledge the reality of the coming deficits and intends to imperil the economy to push its social agenda forward? Which is more likely true?

And how does the administration address the CBO projections?

White House budget chief Peter Orszag said that CBO’s economic projections are more pessimistic than those of the White House, private economists and the Federal Reserve and that he remained confident that Obama’s budget, if enacted, would produce smaller deficits.

About those deficits?

About those deficits?

Orszag, the former director of the CBO, now finds the CBO just isn’t an entity in which we should put much stock when it comes to budget analysis – especially when it finds such budget numbers “unsustainable”. Nope. Instead we should heed the Fed – which has proven to be such an economic font of solutions in this current crisis – and unnamed “private economists” whose only claim to fame is they agree with the administration’s projections. The organization Orszag previously led suddenly has a credibility problem.

However Orszag did have to admit that if the CBO is right, well, that’s a horse of a different color:

Even so, Orszag acknowledged that if the CBO projections prove accurate, Obama’s budget would produce deficits that could not be sustained. “Deficits in the, let’s say, 5 percent of GDP range would lead to rising debt-to-GDP ratios that would ultimately not be sustainable,” Orszag told reporters.

Of course there have been many economic analysts prior to the CBO projections who have found the administration’s projections to be very optimistic in outlying years, in fact the term “rose colored glasses” seems most apropos.

So which makes more sense to you in this particular time of financial crisis- listen to those who say your projections are too rosy and trim them back (and the deficits they produce) to ensure that should it happen as the more pessimistic projections hold, you don’t chance pushing the nation into a period of unsustainable debt, or waive them off and take the chance that you’re right and they’re not?

“Caution” seems like a very important watch-word at this point, or it should be.

Instead we’re seeing a “damn the icebergs, full speed ahead” attitude from the crew of the economic Titanic.

~McQ

From Here To Electricity

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Any rumors that the President and his muse were on the outs is pure folly, despite Obama been seen speaking out in public alone. From an interview with the TOTUS:

Teleprompter, is the president ever argumentative with you, or is he compliant with your instructions?

Teleprompter Of The United States

Teleprompter Of The United States


Good question. Look, like any relationship, we have our ups and downs. Last year on the campaign trail, The Big Guy came to me and told me that like the cigarettes, he really felt like he needed to start working through his dependency. Then he went out and did this townhall session on health care.

Suffice it to say, we aren’t having those unpleasant discussions any more.

[Photo by www.therightscoop.com; HT: HAHL]

Good Thing That Doofus Bush Is Out Of Office (UPDATE)

Because Mr. Smooth is much less likely to commit the same sorts of gaffes he was:

Leno asked the president whether the White House bowling alley had been “burned and closed down” in light of Obama’s gutter ball embarrassment on the campaign trail last year.

Obama replied, “No, no. I have been practicing . . . I bowled a 129.”

The audience roared with laughter, and the late-night talk show host assured Obama “that’s very good, Mr. President.” To which Obama interjected, “It’s like — it was like Special Olympics, or something.”

The audience laughed. But the White House didn’t let the comment linger without clarification.

“The president made an offhand remark making fun of his own bowling that was in no way intended to disparage the Special Olympics,” White House spokesman Bill Burton told reporters flying aboard Air Force One after the taping of the show, according to a transcript released by the White House. “He thinks that the Special Olympics are a wonderful program that gives an opportunity to shine to people with disabilities from around the world.”

Ummm. Got it (and yes, I believe it – it was a poor attempt at humor by someone who still hasn’t figured out he needs to be very careful with his speech). That’s what you get when you let him go talk sans the teleprompter. And even with a teleprompter, he’s had some fun lately, hasn’t he?

Irish Prime Minister Brian Cowen was just a few paragraphs into an address at a St. Patrick’s Day celebration at the White House when he realized something sounded way too familiar. Turns out, he was repeating the speech President Barack Obama had just given.

Cowen was set to speak twice at the White House on Tuesday night because there were two different parties going on at the executive mansion. No matter — he would give the same speech to the two different audiences.

But Cowen was 20 seconds into his second address when it dawned on him that he was giving word for word the speech that Obama had just read from the same teleprompter.

Cowen stopped and looked back at the president to say, “That’s your speech.”

Obama laughed and returned to the podium to offer what might have been Cowen’s remarks. In doing so, President Obama thanked President Obama for inviting everyone over.

Of course no one expects these things to get the play they’d have gotten if the “Doofus-in-Chief” had still been in residence. You see, Mr. Obama is “brilliant” and consequently, these little gaffes are of no consequence or importance. On the other hand, Bush was a boob, and thus the same sorts of little gaffes pointed out how horribly the country had erred in picking him.

There. Glad we’ve settled that finally.

UPDATE: Apparently Obama was wrong about “Special Olympics” bowlers as well:

Kolan McConiughey, a Special Olympics competitor who has bowled three perfect 300 games, tells TMZ that the Prez has to score a lot higher than 129 to beat him. Kolan says he bowls an average of 266.

So with a 129, he might not even make the SO cut.

~McQ

Constitution? We Don’t Need No Stinkin’ Constitution!

As the Senate takes up its version of the violation of Article 1, Section 9 of the Constitution, also known as the bill to tax the hell out of the AIG bonuses, one note of sanity sounds through. Sen. John Kyl:

“I don’t believe that Congress should rush to pass yet another piece of hastily crafted legislation in this very toxic atmosphere, at least without understanding the facts and the potential unintended consequences,” he said.

“Frankly, I think that’s how we got into the current mess,” he added.

Heh … ya think?

Not that it matters – this will most likely pass the Senate as well and be signed into law by “Constitutional Law Professor” and President Barack Obama, but when it ends up in court and is declared unconstitutional, it shouldn’t come as a surprise. The Constitution always takes a back seat to populism and CYA.

~McQ

The Transcendant Brilliance of Timothy Geithner

So much for I only knew about this last Tuesday”.   And this was the guy Democrats said we had to have beceause his brilliance was such that we should over-look his tax problems?

Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner told CNN Thursday his department asked Sen. Chris Dodd to include a loophole in the stimulus bill that allowed bailed-out insurance giant American International Group to keep its bonuses.

In an interview with CNN’s Ali Velshi, Geithner said the Treasury Department was particularly concerned the government would face lawsuits if bonus contracts were breached.

Freakin’ amazing.

Geithner told Velshi Thursday he takes full responsibility for the situation.

After spending most of a week denying he even knew about it prior to last week. I don’t think Geithner understands what taking “full responsiblity” really means (or should mean).  Oh, and see Goodwin’s quote below.

~McQ

Quote Of The Day

Disgust is a bi-partisan concept. Michael Goodwin again:

Ronald Reagan’s famous line that “government is the problem” kept going through my head as the AIG hearing demonstrated the dangers of Washington’s role in the economy. The very people, Republicans and Democrats alike, who can’t balance America’s budget now claim the expertise to run banks, insurance companies and automakers.

If we let them, we’re dumber than they are.

Amen.

~McQ