Free Markets, Free People

Daily Archives: April 7, 2010

So who are the racists?

I assume this AP story won’t quite get the coverage or have the legs that the unsubstantiated stories about racist slurs being hurled at members of the black caucus received:

They’ve been called Oreos, traitors and Uncle Toms, and are used to having to defend their values. Now black conservatives are really taking heat for their involvement in the mostly white tea party movement—and for having the audacity to oppose the policies of the nation’s first black president.

“I’ve been told I hate myself. I’ve been called an Uncle Tom. I’ve been told I’m a spook at the door,” said Timothy F. Johnson, chairman of the Frederick Douglass Foundation, a group of black conservatives who support free market principles and limited government.

[…]

Johnson and other black conservatives say they were drawn to the tea party movement because of what they consider its commonsense fiscal values of controlled spending, less taxes and smaller government. The fact that they’re black—or that most tea partyers are white—should have nothing to do with it, they say.

“You have to be honest and true to yourself. What am I supposed to do, vote Democratic just to be popular? Just to fit in?” asked Clifton Bazar, a 45-year-old New Jersey freelance photographer and conservative blogger.

I throw this out there for the Frank Rich’s of the world who’re convinced that a) all Tea Partiers are racists and b) only Tea Partiers can be racist.  If Rich is really that concerned about racism, isn’t about time he addressed this blatant example?

CNN adds a little more for contemplation as it covered 5 stops on the western Tea Party tour:

But here’s what you don’t often see in the coverage of Tea Party rallies: Patriotic signs professing a love for country; mothers and fathers with their children; African-Americans proudly participating; and senior citizens bopping to a hip-hop rapper.

[…]

It is important to show the colorful anger Americans might have against elected leaders and Washington. But people should also see the orange-vested Tea Party hospitality handlers who welcome you with colorful smiles.

There were a few signs that could be seen as offensive to African-Americans. But by and large, no one I spoke with or I heard from on stage said anything that was approaching racist.

Almost everyone I met was welcoming to this African-American television news producer.

That can’t be right can it – after all, Frank Rich has assured us that the Tea Parties are the new home of the racists.  And Steve Cohen has made it clear that they’re just klansman without robes.

Conclusion?  I guess you just can’t trust CNN, huh?

~McQ

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The sin tax gambit

We’ve talked, at various times, about sin taxes. Recently, however, the focus has been on taxing sodas. Coke. Pepsi. Mountain Dew. Gatorade. Red Bull. Of course, as with all “sin taxes” the supposed reason for them is to save you. That’s what the cigarette sin tax was about (while the government continued to pay tobacco subsidies).

So let’s review the official reason for saving you from yourself:

Of course, policymakers never sell “sin taxes” as a revenue generator. It’s all about public health. This time around, they preach to us about America’s “obesity epidemic,” a largely self-induced affliction that at least one billion of the world’s population probably wouldn’t mind having.

The causes of obesity are the same as they’ve always been—excessive caloric intake, lack of exercise, and genetics—but politicians say they have a solution to this age old problem that is as easy as, and healthier than, pie. Save the sinner: tax the sin. To summarize the logic of a recent report in the New England Journal of Medicine—making soda more expensive will force people to consume less soda and lose more weight, all while raising much needed tax revenue.

Have you ever heard such a tax presented as “hey, we’re in debt and need the revenue?” Of course not – “obesity” is the new crusade and taxing behavior we don’t want is the way to “prevent it”. But as Rob Raffety points out, soda – sugary drinks – are simply one of a veritable universe bad caloric decisions one can make. And, even if those are taxed to the heavens, unless the government can require exercise and reverse genetics, it’s approach and focus on one tiny part of the problem really doesn’t solve anything – does it?

Proof?

More to the point, the very thing that makes sin taxes, or the soda tax, so successful at generating revenue is that they rarely achieve the desired health effects for which they are ostensibly adopted. This is because the degree to which people change their behavior in response to a tax varies widely depending on how high the tax is and how sensitive consumers are to the change in price. Consider Arkansas and West Virginia – both states levy taxes on soda; both rank very poorly in obesity, 10th and 3rd respectively. Are the residents of these states measurably better off—any less obese—because they pay higher prices for pop?

It’s practically impossible to project any positive health effects of the soda tax due to the plethora of high-calorie substitute beverages available to consumers. As noted in a recent report by my colleague at the Mercatus Center, Dr. Richard Williams, someone who swaps a Pepsi for an apple juice, milk or lemonade is actually consuming more calories than before. Exactly how beneficial to one’s waistline is a policy that potentially shifts consumption to from a can of soda to a beverage that has more calories?

Said another way, the only possible way for there to be any health benefits derived from this sort of a tax is to make the tax a broad based one that covers all “unhealthy” high caloric food or drink and their alternatives to the point they’re too expensive to buy. And again, that doesn’t address the questions of exercise or genetics.

So what is a tax on soda? Simply another in a long line of revenue generators presented to the gullible among us as an attempt to make us more healthy. Taxing Ding Dongs and potato chips wouldn’t be far behind.  But there’s a basic inescapable truth to this sort of a tax that our government overseers would prefer we just ignore:

After all, if the tax worked, people would stop drinking soda and it wouldn’t raise any money at all. In other words, the notion that the true purpose of the soda tax is to make people healthier is all wet.

For those in doubt, revisit the tax on cigarettes. And besides – it’s really none of the government’s business (or it wasn’t until HCR passed, huh?).

[HT: Eliza]

~McQ

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So are we in “death panel” territory here?

David Leonhardt spends about a 1,000 words in the New York Times banging around the edges of what has to be done by government to cut health care costs. Or, as he calls it “In Medicine, the Power of No”. He wonders if we can every really learn to say “no”. And, of course, he’s talking about saying no to sick people, to patients – denying them care.

From an economic perspective, health reform will fail if we can’t sometimes push back against the try-anything instinct. The new agencies will be hounded by accusations of rationing, and Medicare’s long-term budget deficit will grow.

So figuring out how we can say no may be the single toughest and most important task facing the people who will be in charge of carrying out reform. “Being able to say no,” Dr. Alan Garber of Stanford says, “is the heart of the issue.”

Maybe I’m reading to much into this, but what is being said here is “the new agencies” which will be “in charge of carrying out reform” need to learn to “say no”.

Huh? I thought all this reform was about leaving such decisions about treatment between your doctor and yourself and not those evil, mean insurance companies. Who are these agencies – these “new” agencies – and why are they in they charged with “saying no?” If they’re “new” they’re a creation of the HCR monstrosity and if they have the ability to say “no” aren’t they strangely like the supposed mythical “death panels” Sarah Palin commented on?

Of course any sane person reviewing the claims of those pushing this piece of garbage known as health care reform knew that to drive down costs, rationing and the denial of care was not only possible but absolutely necessary. And, like so many other aspects of this bill, what was promised to gain support is almost the opposite of what was passed in the legislation.

Leonhardt knows where he’s going with his piece, but he is loath to actually say it. So he dances all around it, but if you read carefully you understand that despite all the rigmarole about bringing patients in on the decision and his belief that if they’re informed they’ll choose the least costly methods, he understands that as he says in his title that someone in authority is going to ultimately have to say “no” to make this work. And that pretty much means, much to the chagrin of the left, that Sarah Palin was right.

~McQ

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Laying the groundwork for new taxes

There is no one out there that won’t agree that government has gotten us into a debt-ridden fiscal mess.  Note I said government, meaning both Republicans and Democrats.  And now, on a spending binge from hell, we’re starting to see how this particular administration plans to address the growing concern over the debt.  Given some choices  -cut spending, cut the size and cost of government or increase taxes – it appears it will choose the taxation route.  And Paul Volker is just one of many who will be making the case.  Reuters reports:

The United States should consider raising taxes to help bring deficits under control and may need to consider a European-style value-added tax, White House adviser Paul Volcker said on Tuesday.

Volcker, answering a question from the audience at a New York Historical Society event, said the value-added tax “was not as toxic an idea” as it has been in the past and also said a carbon or other energy-related tax may become necessary.

Though he acknowledged that both were still unpopular ideas, he said getting entitlement costs and the U.S. budget deficit under control may require such moves. “If at the end of the day we need to raise taxes, we should raise taxes,” he said.

Should we?  Or should we approach it from a different direction – such as the first two choices.  But the expansion of government is an ideological choice of the party in power.  Don’t believe it, check out this article about hiring.  The government is seeking to add 193,000 new jobs in the next two years.  So, uh, it’s up to you to pay off the deficit and get those entitlement costs under control.  And, of course, notice that Volker points to both a VAT and a tax like cap-and-trade as “necessary”.  Note too that neither tax is a direct income tax although both would directly and expensively impact income of all consumers by making virtually everything cost more.  However, the charade of “95% of you won’t see your taxes go up by a dime” will be maintained.

What voters need to do this November is make the Congressional races about the difference between the choices I’ve laid out.  And, unlike Volker’s conjecture, we need to make the VAT and cap-and-trade as electorally toxic as possible to those that support them while rewarding those who take the alternative approach.  There is no reason that increasing taxes should or must be the only solution to the unchecked profligacy of government.  Perhaps, instead, it is time to limit government’s ability to spend us into oblivion and put the people in office who can start that process rolling.

~McQ

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