Free Markets, Free People

choice


“Choice”– something the left champions, right?

Well, not really.  Not when it comes to things like union membership.  It would rather you not have a choice.  Because when you do, you do stuff like this:

More than two years after Scott Walker’s showdown with organized labor in Wisconsin, the official numbers for the state’s public sector union membership are in — and they are down. Way down.

According a Labor Department filing made last week, membership at Wisconsin’s American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees Council 40 — one of AFSCME’s four branches in the state — has gone from the 31,730 it reported in 2011, to 29,777 in 2012, to just 20,488 now. That’s a drop of more than 11,000 — about a third — in just two years. The council represents city and county employees outside of Milwaukee County and child care workers across Wisconsin.

Labor Department filings also show that Wisconsin’s AFSCME Council 48, which represents city and county workers in Milwaukee County, went from 9,043 members in 2011, to 6,046 in 2012, to just 3,498 now.

For the left, “choice” is selective. I.e. they get to decide when you should have a choice.  For instance, you should have choice concerning “reproductive health” and the “right” to have someone else pay for it (those paying have no choice you see).

In the case of public service unions in Wisconsin, when finally given a real choice, about a third of those who had been forced to be members have opted out because the value they receive for the money taken isn’t worth it to them.   And, now, to keep the rest of their members and because they’re now answerable to them, union bosses are going to have to actually preform.

Oh, wait, that’s good right?

Choice!

~McQ


What is the Sierra Club’s real agenda?

The Sierra Club would like to convince you they’re all about clean air, water and protecting wildlife.  But if their latest campaign is any example, it’s really about banning fossil fuels.

We are in the middle of a growing natural gas boom.  We have a glut of the stuff.  Prices of natural gas continue to drop as more and more of the fuel is brought to market.  That opens up the field to new applications from a fuel supply that is acknowledged as cleaner burning than oil.   It could completely change the energy industry.

If it is given the chance.

Here’s the irony.  When the “drill, baby, drill” campaign to exploit our oil resources was underway, the Sierra Club was in the forefront of pushing natural gas as a much cleaner alternative.

And, in fact, it accepted $26 million in donations from Chesapeake Energy and others in the gas industry from 2007 to2010.

Now, suddenly, it is at war with the industry as reported by the Wall Street Journal:

The battle plan is called "Beyond Natural Gas," and Sierra Club executive director Michael Brune announced the goal in an interview with the National Journal this month: "We’re going to be preventing new gas plants from being built wherever we can." The big green lobbying machine has rolled out a new website that says "The natural gas industry is dirty, dangerous and running amok" and that "The closer we look at natural gas, the dirtier it appears; and the less of it we burn, the better off we will be." So the goal is to shut the industry down, not merely to impose higher safety standards.

Another, among many, who feels entitled to limit your choices.

The Sierra Club has lobbied to stop nuclear power plants from being built and against coal and oil.  They claim they are interested in fuels that have “lower carbon emissions”.  Natural gas is, well, a natural in that area.  And the statistics prove the point:

The federal Energy Information Administration reports that in 2009 "the 4% drop in the carbon intensity of the electric power sector, the largest in recent times, reflects a large increase in the use of lower-carbon natural gas because of an almost 50% decline in its price." The Department of Energy reports that natural gas electric plants produce 45% less carbon than coal plants, though newer coal plants are much cleaner.

Researchers at Harvard’s School of Engineering and Applied Sciences found that electric power plants reduced their greenhouse gases by 8.76% in 2009 alone. Most of the carbon reduction was driven not by mandates or regulation but by the economics of lower gas prices. The lead researcher, professor Michael McElroy, says: "Generating one kilowatt-hour of electricity from coal releases twice as much CO2 to the atmosphere as generating the same amount from natural gas, so a slight shift in the relative price of coal and natural gas can result in a sharp drop in carbon emissions."

So, what’s not to like?

The answer surely is the industry’s drilling success. The greens were happy to support natural gas as a "bridge fuel to the 21st century" when it cost $8 or more per million BTUs and seemed to be in limited domestic supply.

But now that the hydraulic fracturing and shale revolution has sent gas prices down to $2.50, the lobby fears natural gas will come to dominate U.S. energy production. At that price, the Sierra Club’s Valhalla of wind, solar and biofuel power may never be competitive. So the green left has decided it must do everything it can to reduce the supply of gas and keep its price as high as possible.

And that means attacking hydraulic fracturing (something we’ve been doing since 1948 in over a million wells) as the villain.  Because it would seem somewhat hypocritical to attack the fuel that they’ve been touting for years, wouldn’t it? So instead, they’ll attempt to make the process the problem.

So let’s ask the “what if” question.  What if they succeed in this hypocritical campaign of theirs?

The losers if this effort succeeds would be the millions of Americans who are benefitting from the shale boom. Shale gas supports some 600,000 jobs in the natural gas industry, according to an analysis by the consulting firm IHS Global Insight. That’s almost eight times more jobs than are employed by the wind industry.

But the losers would also include electricity consumers paying lower prices at home; the steel workers in Youngstown, Ohio who have been rehired to make pipe for gas drillers in the Marcellus Shale; and the thousands of high-paying jobs in chemicals, fertilizer and other manufacturing that is returning to the U.S. because natural gas prices are so much lower.

They’d limit your choice, drive up your energy bill, kill jobs and all for what?

For their extremist agenda, which, by the way, really has little to do with clean air, water and protecting wildlife.

It’s a cult with money – the most dangerous kind.

~McQ

Twitter: @McQandO


Concession prices too high at theaters? Then don’t buy them

But suing to make the theaters reduce the price?  Really?

Joshua Thompson loves the movies.

But he hates the prices theaters charge for concessions like pop and candy.

This week, the 20-something security technician from Livonia decided to do something about it: He filed a class action in Wayne County Circuit Court against his local AMC theater in hopes of forcing theaters statewide to dial down snack prices.

"He got tired of being taken advantage of," said Thompson’s lawyer, Kerry Morgan of Wyandotte. "It’s hard to justify prices that are three- and four-times higher than anywhere else."

I usually don’t go to movies. Believe it or not, since I’ve gotten older, I’ve begun to get motion sickness in a theater if there is a lot of action on the screen.  It’s weird but that happens to me (also happens with first person shooter games). 

But, when I did go, I never went to the concession stand.  I agree with Thompson, prices are too high and I’m not willing to pay them.  However, I’m also not willing to use the force of government to “force” prices down, for heaven sake.

The way consumers make this point is to quit buying the stuff.  Yeah, it takes will.  It takes perseverance.  It takes a collective action over time.  But what it should never take is bringing government in to it.

The suit accused AMC theaters of violating the Michigan Consumer Protection Act by charging grossly excessive prices for snacks.

The suit seeks refunds for customers who were overcharged, a civil penalty against the theater chain and any other relief Judge Kathleen Macdonald might grant.

So who gets to decide what is a fair price?  A judge?  Or the consumer?   How does the consumer decide what a “fair price” is?  By not paying what he or she considers to be an unfair price.  That’s how.  Not by going to the state and attempting to use its power to force a lower price.

No one forces anyone to go to a movie, pay what they’re asking or eat their snacks.  Everyone of those is an individual decision and choice. Just as we decide not to buy other products we can’t afford or think are priced too high, it is up to us to make the same sort of decision at a theater concession stand.   If enough refuse to buy, it will eventually come to the attention of the theater chains.  That’s how pricing is set by markets (you know, all that talk about pricing signals and such?).  And the state has no business being involved in that system whatsoever, either legislatively or judicially (and the law suit probably won’t go anywhere, I understand that, but I’m addressing the mindset).

~McQ

Twitter: @McQandO


McCarthy – "no reason that these devices should be available to general public."

One of the reasons I repeat over and over again that "freedom is choice" is to give context to stories like the one that follows and to give the reader an idea of why I am usually against anything that limits choice.

Rep. Carolyn McCarthy’s (D-NY) bill would limit the magazine capacity for pistols. It is another "freedom traded for security" bill which limits choice simply because it makes some people uncomfortable for that choice to be available to you. They simply don’t believe you’re responsible enough to have it.

Here’s what she said:

“The only purpose for the existence of these devices is to be able to shoot as many people as possible as quickly as possible,” McCarthy wrote in a letter to her colleagues that accompanied the bill. “There is no reason that these devices should be available to the general public.”

For the sake of argument, let’s stipulate that’s true. That the only reason these high capacity magazines exist is to "shoot as many people as possible as quickly as possible". So what? As with most anything it can be used for a good purpose (defense) as well as a bad purpose (murder – in this case, mass murder). So on its face, shooting "as many people as possible as quickly as possible" can be a good or bad thing depending on the situation. McCarthy would like you to believe such a ban would only effect the "bad thing". Obviously, that’s not true.

But, that’s not the line I object too the most. I find "there is no reason that these devices should be available to the general public” to be something that should send chills down the spine of anyone who is concerned with growing government oppression.

Why? It’s an attitude that has gotten us in the shape we’re in today. What she is asking is for like minded legislators to agree with her premise that government should decide what the public can and can’t use responsibly.

Never mind that shoot-ups in Safeway parking lots involving members of Congress by deranged lunatics are as rare as hen’s teeth, Ms. McCarthy has decided that there is "no reason these devices should be available to the general public". She claims that should be government’s decision/choice – not yours.  This latest situation provides an excuse to attempt this power grab, not  a real reason.

So to you who’ve owned that Browning High Power for 20 years and have the original 13 round mag – she would make you a criminal upon passage of the bill (it would eliminate the exception for mags manufactured before ’94). If anyone finds out you have one and turns you in, you’re up for 10 years in the pokey.  The fact that you’ve responsibly had and used it for over 20 years means zip (although it does demonstrate the bankruptcy of her argument).

McCarthy’s reason for attempting to do this is personal:

Gun control is a personal matter for McCarthy, whose husband was murdered and son seriously injured in 1993, when a disturbed gunman opened fire on a Long Island commuter train. Like the alleged Arizona shooter, Jared Lee Loughner, the gunman who killed McCarthy’s husband also used a high-capacity magazine.

I’m sorry to hear that. However, it was the deranged killer that murdered her husband, not the high-capacity magazine. I’d love to hear the argument that says a deranged killer would have stopped firing after one 10 round mag if we’d just eliminate access to mags with capacity above that. Of course that’s nonsense. And changing a mag in a hand gun, with even minimal practice, is both quick and easy. It would be done before most realized it was happening.

As I’ve said many times, a free society is a messy society which entails risk. That is the price of freedom. But it also buys many more advantages than disadvantages. An authoritarian society is usually a tidy society with full jails and no choices in life. We’ve seen what they’re like.

Attitudes that say "we’ll decide what you can or can’t have or what should or shouldn’t be available to you" don’t belong in Congress or a free society. Not their job, although unfortunately that seems to be what it has devolved into.

We increasingly see government take more and more choice away from us. The attitude McCarthy enunciates isn’t uncommon at all. In fact it is quite common and reveals itself in much of the legislation that passes through Congress these days.

It is an attitude which we should demand be changed and changed quickly. Reducing choice and making otherwise law abiding citizens criminals with the stroke of a pen won’t change a thing in regards to deranged lunatics shooting up places with or without high-capacity mags. McCarthy’s bill isn’t about high-capacity mags, really – its about control, and not just gun control. And, as with most laws like this, it will only effect the law abiding as criminals and "deranged lunatics" will flat ignore it (and a thriving black market in high-capacity mag will establish itself and thrive).

“The United States Constitution guarantees to our citizens the right to keep and bear arms,” McCarthy wrote in a letter to her colleagues that accompanied the bill. “At the same time that we can all acknowledge this basic right, I believe that we should also be able to come together to develop reasonable laws designed to ensure that the right to bear arms is exercised safely and responsibly.”

That, Ms. McCarthy,is demonstrated by the responsible behavior of multi millions of gun owners in this nation daily. The law she wants passed won’t change that at all. And that’s the point.

It’s about more control and less choice, and for the most part, any proposed law of that sort should be resisted fiercely.

~McQ


Nanny State savings

O

ne of the most insidious things about the development and expansion of the Nanny State is the programs that pave the way usually sound like a "good thing".

For instance, who wouldn’t think that saving for your future isn’t a good thing? Anyone? However, doing so if you so choose is the way a free people would approach that subject. Which is why, even though it may sound good to some, I would adamantly oppose any government savings program imposed on us:

The White House and congressional Democrats, with the backing of the AARP, will soon put forth a plan to automatically enroll new private-sector employees in investment retirement accounts (IRAs).

The measure will apply to new workers at firms that don’t currently offer 401(k) retirement plans, according to AARP, the lobby group for seniors. Workers would have the choice of opting out of the accounts.

Now most of you will spot the fact that the worker at a firm that doesn’t offer a 401(k) now is already able to open an IRA should they so choose. What the government and it’s crony – the AARP – are planning to do is change the choice. Now you will have an IRA unless you opt out.

Can anyone tell me where the burden will fall to ensure compliance? I mean what’s the natural collection point for this sort of paperwork? What entity will have to provide the initial paperwork as a matter of routine when the new employee is hired, ensure the option is presented and, if the employee chooses to open an IRA, provide assistance in doing so as well as provide the automatic payment allotment to the IRA?

And, last but not least, there will be a need for a new government bureaucracy to monitor and ensure compliance. In fact, this is just another in a long line of intrusions that most freedom loving people would say is none of the government’s business.

Defenders of a program like this would claim there’s nothing wrong with it, savings is good, and besides, new employees have an opportunity to opt out.

Well, right now, they have an opportunity to opt in. And that’s the point. Those who want to can choose to do so now without any government involvement or business compliance involved at all.

This boils down to another burden and cost imposed on business and yet another intrusion by government under the auspices of "you are unable to make smart choices for yourself, so we’ll do it for you".

Is anyone yet growing tired of that?

~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


Nannyism – the dangerous trend

One of the points of Jonah Goldberg’s “Liberal Fascism” is that if some form of totalitarianism ever establishes itself here, it will have a happy, smiley face and all be done in the name of what is “good for us”. And it will also be a sort of creeping totalitarianism – not done in one fell swoop as in a revolution, but in bits and pieces with the best of intentions. Call it “Nannyism” if you’re uncomfortable with fascism or totalitarianism. But I find it difficult to describe the following as anything but smiley-faced totalitarianism:

“No owner or operator of a restaurant in this state shall use salt in any form in the preparation of any food for consumption by customers of such restaurant, including food prepared to be consumed on the premises of such restaurant or off of such premises,” the bill, A. 10129 , states in part.

The legislation, which Assemblyman Felix Ortiz , D-Brooklyn, introduced on March 5, would fine restaurants $1,000 for each violation.

The first thing some are going to say is “well, this hasn’t a chance to pass”. That may be so, but it bespeaks a mindset that exists and is becoming more and more prevalent. The pending health care bill is another manifestation of this mentality which essentially says it is the job of government to ensure a certain style and quality of life which is best for you – whether you agree or not.

The problem of course is offering legislation like this isn’t that unusual. Trans fats. Soda taxes, etc. The nannies are constantly trying to decide for you what is best for you. Check out this story. Certainly the intent of the story isn’t to dictate what you can or can’t eat. But it takes a time when most people relax the rules a little and enjoy themselves and essentially tries to guilt them into “eating healthy”. It’s one of the more benign forms of nannyism, but it is still aimed at altering behavior based on the belief that they know better.

Of course the distinct possibility exists that if health care reform legislation passes and government takes control of the industry through direct or indirect means, such legislation won’t be confined to state legislatures. Already, with smiley faces, soda and snack machines are being taken out of schools for the ostensible reason “fighting childhood obesity” as if those particular machines are the reason children are fat and taking them out will somehow change a child’s eating habits outside of school and slim them up. Government controls the schools, so government dictates what will be available and what children should eat – not the parents.  As should be obvious, the government already believes you’re a failure – you have fat kids, don’t you?!

Given that precedent, why does anyone doubt that government wouldn’t extend such control to other areas it “pays” for (it pays for nothing, since it has no money – it is in the transfer business) with your tax dollars? Why wouldn’t Congress, on the advice of say the AMA (or some government research, etc), issue strict guidelines concerning salt in food? Sugar in food? Fatty content in food? Etc.?  Isn’t that something the FDA could end up doing?  Of course it is.  Look at what the EPA is trying to do now with “greenhouse gasses”.

If you buy into the government’s claim it can cut health care costs, and you give them the go ahead for passing legislation which will ostensibly do that, where do you draw the line on what is an isn’t unacceptable in pursuing those cost reductions? You don’t. By accepting their premise you give government the carte blanch authority to decide what is necessary to do what it says it can do. You’ve turned it over to them. If they decide that preventive care is the key, and critical to preventive care is healthy eating, what leg have you to stand on you claim they’ve gone too far and what you eat is none of their business? When the AMA says Americans need to cut their salt consumption and government acts on that, how do you say “none of your business?” When the First Lady claims sugary drinks should be taxed because they lead to unhealthy children and Congress agrees, what possible argument, given the fact you’ve abrogated your own personal responsibility to take care of yourself and your family and handed it over to government, can you make against that?

What seems to be almost laughable “nuisance” legislation right now is just a taste (no pun intended) of what will become routine legislation should this health care debacle pass. You have some marginal control over the way you live now. You still retain at least a modicum of control over your life. You still have the freedom to decide, at least for the moment, what you will or won’t eat. It is very possible that at some point in the near future, you could lose that freedom too.

Freedom means the freedom to fail, to eat what isn’t deemed healthy, to do as you please as long as you don’t violate the rights of others. Freedom isn’t always pretty and others may think you’re a raving dumb-ass for doing what you do to yourself. But freedom deems that to be your choice, again with the caveat you’re not violating the rights of others.

What we’re seeing with this creeping nannyism, this smiley-faced totalitarianism, is a change in philosophy driven by increasing government intrusion which in turn justifies even more intrusion. It is a paradigm shift of epic proportions from the founding principles of this country.  Freedom is a dying concept as we see more and more people buying into the preference that others should make decisions for them. They’re become increasingly comfortable with the control exercised over their lives by government. It’s “easier”. It’s “less of a hassle”. They don’t have to “worry about it”, whatever the specific “it” is.

But that sort of a life has a price that most don’t seem to understand – and that price is the pure essence of freedom: the ability to make choices. Salt bans, drink taxes, etc – all with the smiley-faced intention of doing what others believe is best for you and in every case, limiting or abolishing your freedom to choose.

Freedom isn’t always lost in big chunks like war or revolution. Sometimes it is lost a piece at a time. One of the things I think the Tea Party movement recognizes and is motivated by is this dawning realization that this creeping nannyism, the smiley-faced totalitarianism of “good intentions” forced on all, is very close to succeeding, or, if not fully succeeding, at least setting itself up for the final push in the near future. The convergence of the financial meltdown and the ambitious leftist agenda of this president served as a wake up call.  People realized that what was creeping nannyism has transitioned into nannyism at a full gallop. As it turns out, it may be the best thing that ever happened to this country – if its people successful in turning the nannyism back.

If not, then expect more things like salt bans to show up at much higher levels than state assemblies. And when you’re buying your salt on the black market from your local pusher, keep an eye out for “the salt police”. You wouldn’t want your government health care jeopardized by a salt abuse conviction, would you?

~McQ

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