Free Markets, Free People

Bruce McQuain

Federal Drug Warriors Double Down On The Drug War (UPDATE)

New administration, same lame approach:

U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton on Wednesday pledged to stand “shoulder to shoulder” with Mexico in its violent struggle against drug cartels, and acknowledged the U.S. shares blame because of its demand for drugs and supply of weapons.

She said the United States shares responsibility with Mexico for dealing with violence now spilling across the border and promised cooperation to improve security on both sides.

And it’s your fault:

“I feel very strongly we have a co-responsibility,” Clinton told reporters, adding: “Our insatiable demand for illegal drugs fuels the drug trade. 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.”

Of course, if we had control of our borders and drugs weren’t “illegal”, we probably wouldn’t be seeing the slaughter on the border now, would we?

Look, I know, as does everyone who reads this blog, that the sudden realization that it is the prohibition that drives all of this violence and not the demand, isn’t going to suddenly dawn on the politicians. The lessons of 1920’s prohibition have apparently been lost on them. The lawlessness, the gun violence, the flouting of the law by a majority of the population – all were essentially eliminated with the repeal of the 18th Amendment.

I’m not going to make the argument that drugs are good for you, harmless or something I’d want my grandkids to do. But I understand, despite all of that, that our approach – prohibition – is an abject failure and the war on the border is simply a manifestation of that failure.

The key to winning this war is to take the profit motive for criminals out of the equation. For most observers that seems self-evident. No profit, no war. No war, no need for guns and killing.
drugwar1
Yet governments seem to resist that obvious point. Instead they wage “war” on the producers, suppliers and users. But the profits, propped up by the government prohibition, are so obscene that the replacement of producers and suppliers taken out of the “business” is almost instant. And the size of the user population is such that only low single digit percentages of them are ever caught and prosecuted.  It is, relatively speaking, a low risk business with very high rewards for the producers.

In reality, a criminal business is motivated by the very same things as is a legal business. It responds to the same sorts of market incentives as a legal business. The market, however, isn’t created by natural demand and regulated by competition. Instead, the market is one created by government prohibition. No prohibition, no “illegal” demand. No illegal demand, no possibility of the obscene profits enjoyed and no real appeal to a criminal enterprise or syndicate.

So calling for more of the same in terms of addressing this problem seems insane. As long as the prohibition remains in place the profit motive for the criminal gangs remains in place as well. And as long as the profits are large enough to more than offset the losses incurred in the distribution process (and the fight with governments and police), they will continue in their “business” until such a profit motive disappears.  And as long as the price of drugs remains reasonably low and readily available (and the enjoyment remains high), and the population wanting them remains large, demand will remain pretty constant.

As has been demonstrated for decades, governmental efforts to stem both supply and demand through prohibition has been a pitiful failure. Yet here we are, getting ready to double down on this horribly failed policy.

In reality, this is again a manifestation of the nanny state. It is a determination by government that something it has decided is detrimental to individuals should be denied them. Instead of approaching the issue as it did with alcohol, our government has eschewed the lessons learned and the success of that effort in favor of the approach it is now taking.

To most rational people such an approach seems absurdly irrational. Yet there is no serious debate within government circles about the failure of the present approach or discussion of alternatives. And that’s in the face of evidence that drugs are now being used to finance terror organizations.

Something has got to change. And it needs to change quickly, or what you see on the border now will only grow worse. We’ve talked about how governments can distort markets. What you see now is a classic example of the results of such a distortion.

UPDATE: New York is trying something different in terms of combatting drugs.  Although still not signed into law, the Governor and legislature have agreed to legislation which would dismantle much of the ’70s era “mandatory sentencing” laws and put more of an emphasis on treatment:

The deal would repeal many of the mandatory minimum prison sentences now in place for lower-level drug felons, giving judges the authority to send first-time nonviolent offenders to treatment instead of prison.

The plan would also expand drug treatment programs and widen the reach of drug courts at a cost of at least $50 million.

New York’s drug sentencing laws, imposed during a heroin epidemic that was devastating urban areas nearly four decades ago, helped spur a nationwide trend toward mandatory sentences in drug crimes. But as many other states moved to roll back the mandatory minimum sentences in recent years, New York kept its laws on the books, leaving prosecutors with the sole discretion of whether offenders could be sent to treatment.

“We’re putting judges in the position to determine sentences based on the facts of a case, and not on mandatory minimum sentences,” said Jeffrion L. Aubry, an assemblyman from Queens who has led the effort for repeal.

“To me, that is the restoration of justice.”

To me, it’s a start.

~McQ

PETA – Finding Homes In Animal Heaven For 95% Of It’s Animals

Time to turn the funding faucet off for this bunch of hypocrites. It is the quickest way to get them to shape up or shut up:

Animal lovers worldwide now have access to more than a decade’s worth of proof that People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA) kills thousands of defenseless pets at its Norfolk, Virginia headquarters. Since 1998, PETA has opted to “put down” 21,339 adoptable dogs, cats, puppies, and kittens instead of finding homes for them.

PETA’s “Animal Record” report for 2008, filed with the Virginia Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services, shows that the animal rights group killed 95 percent of the dogs and cats in its care last year.  During all of 2008, PETA found adoptive homes for just seven pets.

Just seven animals — out of the 2,216 it took in. 

PETA has a budget of 35 million. Most of it is used to advertise their claim that people who eat or kill animals are “unethical”. Rather than cutting the ad budget to provide for the animals in its own care, it kills them.

Anyone – how expensive would an animal adoption program be to set up and run for a group that supposedly believes that killing animals is “unethical?”  And how big of a priority would you think that should be?

It wouldn’t cost that much, and yeah, it should be a top priority, shouldn’t it?

If you give this group one red dime in the future, you’ll simply be contributing to a 95% animal kill ratio for animals in their care while they pompously tell you that eating “sea kittens” is murder.

~McQ

[HT: Center for Consumer Freedom]

Fact Checking Obama

Believe it or not, it was AP which undertook this job. And although superficial, it was interesting to see the agency actually attempt some objectivity. That said, the one that really stands out as almost laugh outloud funny was where Obama did a little chiding of the Republicans:

First of all, I suspect that some of those Republican critics have a short memory, because, as I recall, I’m inheriting a $1.3 trillion deficit, annual deficit, from them.

Well, first of all, only Congress can appropriate money and for the last two years, when that 1.3 trillion was pile up, it was appropriated by a Democratic Congress.

Yes, Paulson rolled them and they ran around like a bunch of chickens with their heads cut off – and that includes Republicans – but trying to lay this deficit solely at the feet of the Republicans is simply laughable.

Laughable point two came when Obama claimed “In this budget, we have made the tough choices necessary to cut our deficit in half by the end of my first term even under the most pessimistic estimates.”

Well, that’s just not true. The “most pessimistic estimates” (in this case the CBO) essentially disagree with his point.

The Congressional Budget Office forecasts that Obama’s spending plan would leave a deficit of $672 billion by the end of 2013. Explaining the differences between his projections and CBO’s, Obama said his administration projects a higher growth rate.

It is also important to understand that “cutting the deficit in half” is a mask for the fact that it means he’ll still be running up a record deficit of over 600 billion a year. That is not progress in deficit reduction or  “fiscally responsible” government. But it sounds good when thrown out there in a sound bite. Here, maybe this will help make the point:

wapoobamabudget1

As you can see, both the most “pessimistic” and his own projections see huge deficits projected well into the future – and, as many economists have said, unsustainable deficits.

So let’s get a few facts straight concerning spending and deficits then and now:

-President Bush expanded the federal budget by a historic $700 billion through 2008. President Obama would add another $1 trillion.

-President Bush began a string of expensive financial bailouts. President Obama is accelerating that course.

-President Bush created a Medicare drug entitlement that will cost an estimated $800 billion in its first decade. President Obama has proposed a $634 billion down payment on a new govern ment health care fund.

-President Bush increased federal education spending 58 percent faster than inflation. President Obama would double it.

-President Bush became the first President to spend 3 percent of GDP on federal antipoverty programs. President Obama has already in creased this spending by 20 percent.

-President Bush tilted the income tax burden more toward upper-income taxpayers. President Obama would continue that trend.

-President Bush presided over a $2.5 trillion increase in the public debt through 2008. Setting aside 2009 (for which Presidents Bush and Obama share responsibility for an additional $2.6 trillion in public debt), President Obama’s budget would add $4.9 trillion in public debt from the beginning of 2010 through 2016.

Yes, Bush did contribute to an expanded deficit. But Obama’s plans expand it beyond anything Bush did and it continues the spending well into the future. Obama’s budget is the blueprint for a huge and unsustainable expansion of government over the next decade.  What you see going on now is all Obama.

And don’t let him get away with pretending otherwise.

~McQ

And Republicans Wonder Why They’re In The Wilderness

Don’t buy or own any property in Mississippi, at least not while Republican Governor Haley Barbour is in the Governor’s mansion:

Mississippi Gov. Haley Barbour says he’s vetoing a bill that would limit the use of eminent domain because it would hurt the state’s ability to lure economic development projects.

The bill would’ve prevented the government from taking land for private projects. Barbour said Monday eminent domain was needed to lure projects such as the Nissan vehicle plant in Canton and the Toyota plant in north Mississippi.

And who is on the side of private property?

The bill was filed by Rep. Ed Blackmon, a Democrat from Canton. An attempt to override veto would have to start in the House, where Blackmon is head of the Judiciary A Committee.

Sen. Eric Powell, a Democrat from Corinth, said he voted for the bill and he doesn’t intend to change his vote.

Amazing. What in the hell happened to individual rights and small and less intrusive government among Republicans? And, at least in Mississippi, why are they ceding the fight to Democrats?

Is it any wonder the GOP is losing support at a dizzying rate? With “Republicans” like Barbour, the GOP doesn’t need any enemies.

~McQ

“Bernanke Bucks” And The Danger Of Hyper-Inflation

I saw the following two quotes in a Patrick J. Buchanan piece. Now I’m not much of a Buchanan person by any stretch, but the quotes resonated with me and I found myself agreeing with much of what Buchanan said.

“The first panacea for a mismanaged nation is inflation of the currency; the second is war. Both bring a temporary prosperity; both bring a permanent ruin. But both are the refuge of political and economic opportunists.” -Ernest Hemingway

Hemingway wasn’t an economist, but there are plenty out there consider John Maynard Keynes a fairly good one, even now. And he said much the same thing about the economic side of the Hemingway quote:

“The best way to destroy the capitalist system is to debauch the currency. By a continuing process of inflation, governments can confiscate, secretly and unobserved, an important part of the wealth of their citizens.”

Right now, in lieu of dollars, our Federal Reserve is in the midst of printing trillions of “Bernanke Bucks”. I hesitate to call them dollars, even though they’re similar in their look and feel. But in essence they are worth little more than the paper they’re printed on. And although you can’t tell them from the dollars circulating out there, their presence makes the those dollars worth less. The more BB’s there are out there, the less the remaining dollars are worth.

It is called “monetizing the debt”.

Or to pick up on Keyne’s point, we’re right in the middle of debauching our currency.

Now, there are several reasons for doing what is being done, and you may or may not agree with them. But it really doesn’t matter. Whether you agree or disagree, printing money for the right reasons or the wrong reasons still has the same effect.

If you think taxation is theft, inflation is no less than that. And in this case it is a calculated theft. Those printing the “Bernanke Bucks” know precisely what the effect on your net worth will be.

Buchanan concludes his piece pointing out what we’ve talked about here for months – this is all about the belief we can avoid the pain:

Yet one senses that we are doing again exactly what we have done before in this generation. Rather than endure the pain and accept the sacrifices to cure us of our addiction, we are going back to the heroin. And this time, with Dr. Bernanke handling the needle, we may just overdose.

The road to hyper-inflation is paved with good, but seriously misguided intentions.

~McQ

TOTUS Releases Exerpts From Tonights Script

The Teleprompter Of The United States (TOTUS) has released  the following excerpts of what it will be providing for the POTUS to read tonight:

Obama will tell Americans: “[W]e’ve put in place a comprehensive strategy designed to attack this crisis on all fronts. It’s a strategy to create jobs, to help responsible homeowners, to re-start lending, and to grow our economy over the long-term. And we are beginning to see signs of progress.”

“The budget I submitted to Congress will build our economic recovery on a stronger foundation, so that we do not face another crisis like this ten or twenty years from now. We invest in the renewable sources of energy that will lead to new jobs, new businesses, and less dependence on foreign oil. We invest in our schools and our teachers so that our children have the skills they need to compete with any workers in the world. We invest in reform that will bring down the cost of health care for families, businesses, and our government. And in this budget, we have made the tough choices necessary to cut our deficit in half by the end of my first term – even under the most pessimistic estimates.

“At the end of the day, the best way to bring our deficit down in the long run is not with a budget that continues the very same policies that have led to a narrow prosperity and massive debt. It’s with a budget that leads to broad economic growth by moving from an era of borrow and spend to one where we save and invest.

“That’s what clean energy jobs and businesses will do. That’s what a highly-skilled workforce will do. That’s what an efficient health care system that controls costs and entitlements like Medicare and Medicaid will do. That’s why this budget is inseparable from this recovery – because it is what lays the foundation for a secure and lasting prosperity.

“We will recover from this recession. But it will take time, it will take patience, and it will take an understanding that when we all work together; when each of us looks beyond our own short-term interests to the wider set of obligations we have to each other – that’s when we succeed. That’s when we prosper. And that’s what is needed right now. So let us look toward the future with a renewed sense of common purpose, a renewed determination, and most importantly, a renewed confidence that a better day will come.”

That’s pretty much the propaganda nut of it.

You’re excused if you’d rather spend your time doing useful things and wait until TOTUS releases the script. Frankly, rather than watching Obama, I’d much rather be watching Steve Wosniak on “Dancing With The Stars” or, better yet, getting a root canal.

~McQ

Arlen Specter And “Principle” Rarely Ever Meet In The Senate

If you ever had to put a picture next to the term “unprincipled political hack”, I think Arlen Specter’s would be a good choice. Read the following carefully. It’s not that Specter is against the union card check legislation itself (i.e. he accepts the premise that the right of a secret ballot should be denied American workers), he’s just is against it now. Of course many on the right are celebrating his decision, but in reality it’s a decision based in unprincipled and nonsensical reasoning (but, given the source, not at all surprising).  He’s hedged the hell out of it.  It’s his weasly way of placating those on the right who’re still mad at him about the “stimulus bill” vote by appearing to be against something they are against while really not being against it at all.  Is your head spinning a little bit?

Senator Specter ended speculation on where he would come down on the Employee Free Choice Act by declaring, on the Senate floor, that he would oppose the legislation until the economy improves.

“The problems of a recession make this a particularly bad time to enact Employee’s choice legislation,” he said. “Employers understandably complain that adding a burden would result in further job losses. If efforts are unsuccessful to give labor sufficient bargaining power through amendments to the [National Labor Relations Act] then I would be willing to reconsider Employees choice legislation when the economy returns to normalcy. I am announcing my decision now because I have consulted with a very large number of interested parties on both sides and I have made up my mind.”

So, per his statement, the premise is fully accepted as valid by Specter. But for reasons of political expediencey, he claims that the “burden” it would impose on businesses now would “result it further job losses” which makes it unacceptable at this time. But apparently when the economy returns to “normalcy” those “burdens” and “job losses” will then be considered acceptable, as will the denial of the secret ballot to workers.

Hey, he said it, not me. Ask him how the hell he explains the apparent contradictions or why he accepts the premise workers should be denied the secret ballot at some point in the future.

~McQ

Crisis For The Dollar? Is This The Calm Before The Storm?

A week or so ago, I mentioned the fact that Russia was lobbying for a new international currency to replace the dollar and opined that it most likely wouldn’t have any legs.  By itself, Russia just didn’t have enough clout to bring about such a change.   But apparently Russia was only the beginning.  Later that same week, the UN came out in favor of a new currency option:

A U.N. panel will next week recommend that the world ditch the dollar as its reserve currency in favor of a shared basket of currencies, a member of the panel said on Wednesday, adding to pressure on the dollar.

Currency specialist Avinash Persaud, a member of the panel of experts, told a Reuters Funds Summit in Luxembourg that the proposal was to create something like the old Ecu, or European currency unit, that was a hard-traded, weighted basket.

Persaud, chairman of consultants Intelligence Capital and a former currency chief at JPMorgan, said the recommendation would be one of a number delivered to the United Nations on March 25 by the U.N. Commission of Experts on International Financial Reform.

“It is a good moment to move to a shared reserve currency,” he said.

But does the UN have enough leverage to push something like this through? Probably not without some fairly powerful backers of the idea.  And speaking strictly of the UN, any such proposal would have to pass through the Security Council, and it’s unlikely the US would sanction such a change.

Today, though, China came out in favor of doing exactly what Russia and the UN recommend:

China’s central bank on Monday proposed replacing the US dollar as the international reserve currency with a new global system controlled by the International Monetary Fund.

In an essay posted on the People’s Bank of China’s website, Zhou Xiaochuan, the central bank’s governor, said the goal would be to create a reserve currency “that is disconnected from individual nations and is able to remain stable in the long run, thus removing the inherent deficiencies caused by using credit-based national currencies”.

As was noted last week, China has some concerns about the US economy:

“This is a clear sign that China, as the largest holder of US dollar financial assets, is concerned about the potential inflationary risk of the US Federal Reserve printing money,” said Qu Hongbin, chief China economist for HSBC.

And that’s a valid concern. With the Fed pumping out trillions of freshly printed dollars, inflation is almost assured.

In case you haven’t noticed, Russia and China are two of the four countries known as BRIC (Brazil, Russia, India, China). These emerging economies feel they deserve more clout than they now enjoy. And they’re meeting in advance of the upcoming G20 meeting in April of this year:

Finance ministers and central bankers from Brazil, Russia, India and China will convene ahead of the Group of 20 finance chiefs’ meeting in London on Friday, a Russian delegation source told Reuters on Thursday.

The source said the four will discuss the reform of international financial organizations such as the International Monetary Fund and the Financial Stability Forum, anti-crisis policies and preparations for the G20 summit in April.

Take a look again at China’s proposal for basing the international reserve currency in the IMF and the topic of their upcoming meeting in advance of the G20. Suddenly Russia’s proposal has some legs.

What clout does BRIC bring to the proposal? Well they are the holders of vast portions of the currency reserves around the world:

China runs the world’s biggest reserves, Russia comes 3rd, India 4th and Brazil 7th, as of last autumn.

Keep an eye out for Brazil and India weighing in on this. Should they come out in favor of such a change, as has China, it could portend some fireworks at the G20.

In the meantime, read this by Mikkel Fishman. It will explain some of the deeper and less evident problems we face.  Then take a moment to look around and reflect.  In my estimation, this truly is the calm before the storm.

~McQ

Quote Of The Day

Michael Goodwin at the NY Daily News gives this assessment of Obama in a recent column:

He is the most radical President of our times, far outside the mainstream of our political philosophy.

He is not a reformer who fixes things. He fancies himself “transformative,” a man who reshapes and reorders. It apparently begins with smashing the existing order under the pretext of managing the crisis he inherited.

During the campaign, a fellow journalist confided that “I know Obama is a Manchurian candidate, I just can’t figure out what for.”

I laughed then, but no more. Obama represents a secular religion that believes, no matter the malady, Washington is the antidote. More government is the chicken soup of his tribe.

In those four sentences, Goodwin capsulizes the essence of Obama and the “secular religion” he heads. Apparently we finally have a theocracy in place.

~McQ