Free Markets, Free People

Dale Franks

Dale Franks’ QandO posts

Observations: The QandO Podcast for 14 Oct 12

This week, Michael, and Dale talk about the vice presidential debate and game the electoral college.

The direct link to the podcast can be found here.

Observations

As a reminder, if you are an iTunes user, don’t forget to subscribe to the QandO podcast, Observations, through iTunes. For those of you who don’t have iTunes, you can subscribe at Podcast Alley. And, of course, for you newsreader subscriber types, our podcast RSS Feed is here. For podcasts from 2005 to 2010, they can be accessed through the RSS Archive Feed.

2012 California Ballot Propositions

Once again, it’s time to take a look at the biennial crap that various idiots try to foist on us here in California at election time, known as the ballot propositions. This election there are ten of them. Let’s see what they’ve cooked up for us this year.

PROP 30: TEMPORARY TAXES TO FUND EDUCATION. GUARANTEED LOCAL PUBLIC SAFETY FUNDING. INITIATIVE CONSTITUTIONAL AMENDMENT.

Increases taxes on earnings over $250,000 for seven years and sales taxes by ¼ cent for four years, to fund schools. Guarantees public safety realignment funding. Fiscal Impact: Increased state tax revenues through 2018–19, averaging about $6 billion annually over the next few years. Revenues available for funding state budget. In 2012–13, planned spending reductions, primarily to education programs, would not occur.

NO: California already has incredibly steep income taxes. The top rate of 9.8% hits at $38,000 per year. And the sales tax rate is already over 7%. This is just insane, and they want to make it…insaner. Hey, here’s an idea, how about we stop cops and CDF firemen retiring at 50 with 85% of their top salary? How about we randomly fire half the Administrators in our schools, who ,in many districts, outnumber the actual teachers? Or, how ’bout weekly tarring and feathering of state legislators until they figure out how to cut spending?

PROP 31: STATE BUDGET. STATE AND LOCAL GOVERNMENT. INITIATIVE CONSTITUTIONAL AMENDMENT AND STATUTE.

Establishes two-year state budget. Sets rules for offsetting new expenditures, and Governor budget cuts in fiscal emergencies. Local governments can alter application of laws governing state-funded programs. Fiscal Impact: Decreased state sales tax revenues of $200 million annually, with corresponding increases of funding to local governments. Other, potentially more significant changes in state and local budgets, depending on future decisions by public officials.

NO: The California Democratic Party opposes it. I can’t imagine anything the California Democratic Party opposes that I would not automatically be for. Except maybe this. This seems like a disaster in the making. It’s so fricken’ complicated and gives so much power—including tax power—to unelected bureaucrats, that I can’t see how this could possibly do anything but make things worse. The GOP is for it, but the California Federation of Republican Women and some TEA Party groups are against it. This one is just all over the map. Absent something clearer and less complicated, I’m saying "No". There’s a way to fix Sacramento, but this ain’t it.

PROP 32: POLITICAL CONTRIBUTIONS BY PAYROLL DEDUCTION. CONTRIBUTIONS TO CANDIDATES. INITIATIVE STATUTE.

Prohibits unions from using payroll-deducted funds for political purposes. Applies same use prohibition to payroll deductions, if any, by corporations or government contractors. Prohibits union and corporate contributions to candidates and their committees. Prohibits government contractor contributions to elected officers or their committees. Fiscal Impact: Increased costs to state and local government, potentially exceeding $1 million annually, to implement and enforce the measure’s requirements.

YES: This is a similar bill to the one that Gov. Scott Walker got passed in Wisconsin. The unions that currently own Sacramento HATE it. They can go screw.

PROP 33: AUTO INSURANCE COMPANIES. PRICES BASED ON DRIVER’S HISTORY OF INSURANCE COVERAGE. INITIATIVE STATUTE.

Changes current law to allow insurance companies to set prices based on whether the driver previously carried auto insurance with any insurance company. Allows proportional discount for drivers with some prior coverage. Allows increased cost for drivers without history of continuous coverage. Fiscal Impact: Probably no significant fiscal effect on state insurance premium tax revenues.

YES: Right now, if you have auto insurance, and you switch companies, your new company can’t offer you a discount for being continuously covered. Now, this could mean that if you voluntarily stop driving for a while, your new rates won’t be discounted. The opponents act like this is a Big Deal, and the Democrats shriek in horror at the very idea. I, on the other hand, would like to be able to switch companies without having a big premium increase.

PROP 34:  DEATH PENALTY. INITIATIVE STATUTE.

Repeals death penalty and replaces it with life imprisonment without possibility of parole. Applies retroactively to existing death sentences. Directs $100 million to law enforcement agencies for investigations of homicide and rape cases. Fiscal Impact: Ongoing state and county criminal justice savings of about $130 million annually within a few years, which could vary by tens of millions of dollars. One-time state costs of $100 million for local law enforcement grants.

YES: I don’t have any philosophical problem with the death penalty. Some people need killin’. On the other hand, I have no great respect for the system of criminal justice here in California, either. For whatever reason, we just don’t have a very good system for ensuring that the only people we execute are people who actually need killin’. Until we do, we probably shouldn’t be killing anybody.

PROP 35: HUMAN TRAFFICKING. PENALTIES. INITIATIVE STATUTE.

Increases prison sentences and fines for human trafficking convictions. Requires convicted human traffickers to register as sex offenders. Requires registered sex offenders to disclose Internet activities and identities. Fiscal Impact: Costs of a few million dollars annually to state and local governments for addressing human trafficking offenses. Potential increased annual fine revenue of a similar amount, dedicated primarily for human trafficking victims.

NO: First, we already have stiff penalties against human trafficking. We’re pretty serious about it. But this goes way too far. It reminds me of the Federal law in place for the military, where if you go to a strip club, and it’s later found to be engaged inn human trafficking, you could go to jail for many, many years. It’s draconian, and unnecessary, and will result in a lot of innocent people getting labeled as sex offenders and human traffickers who never actually engaged in human trafficking. It’s a wild over-reaction to an admittedly serious problem.

PROP 36: THREE STRIKES LAW. REPEAT FELONY OFFENDERS. PENALTIES. INITIATIVE STATUTE.

Revises law to impose life sentence only when new felony conviction is serious or violent. May authorize re-sentencing if third strike conviction was not serious or violent. Fiscal Impact: Ongoing state correctional savings of around $70 million annually, with even greater savings (up to $90 million) over the next couple of decades. These savings could vary significantly depending on future state actions.

YES: OK, I’m starting to come off like some bleeding heart, soft-on-crime, 60s liberal here, but this is a better application of the three strikes law. Right now, a guy with two strikes could a life sentence if his third strike is having an ounce of weed on him. Any third felony counts as a third strike. This would limit the third strike to a violent felony, which is who we really want in prison, anyway. There’ve been some ridiculous third strike convictions here in CA, and this would stop that, while ensuring violent offenders get put away.

PROP 37: GENETICALLY ENGINEERED FOODS. LABELING. INITIATIVE STATUTE. 

Requires labeling of food sold to consumers made from plants or animals with genetic material changed in specified ways. Prohibits marketing such food, or other processed food, as “natural.” Provides exemptions. Fiscal Impact: Increased annual state costs from a few hundred thousand dollars to over $1 million to regulate the labeling of genetically engineered foods. Additional, but likely not significant, governmental costs to address violations under the measure.

NO: More costly green crap. It’ll be a boon for trial laywers, make food in California more expensive, and will drive farmers out of the state, and small grocers out of business. Sheer idiocy.

PROP 38: TAX TO FUND EDUCATION AND EARLY CHILDHOOD PROGRAMS. INITIATIVE STATUTE.

Increases taxes on earnings using sliding scale, for twelve years. Revenues go to K–12 schools and early childhood programs, and for four years to repaying state debt. Fiscal Impact: Increased state tax revenues for 12 years—roughly $10 billion annually in initial years, tending to grow over time. Funds used for schools, child care, and preschool, as well as providing savings on state debt payments.

NO: I don’t have any kids. Give ’em gruel, and let ’em know in no uncertain terms that children are to be seen, not heard. Preferably with beatings. And get Sacramento’s hand out of my pockets. This state wastes a shocking amount of money, then when they come up short, somehow it becomes my problem.

PROP 39: TAX TREATMENT FOR MULTISTATE BUSINESSES. CLEAN ENERGY AND ENERGY EFFICIENCY FUNDING. INITIATIVE STATUTE.

Requires multistate businesses to pay income taxes based on percentage of their sales in California. Dedicates revenues for five years to clean/efficient energy projects. Fiscal Impact: Increased state revenues of $1 billion annually, with half of the revenues over the next five years spent on energy efficiency projects. Of the remaining revenues, a significant portion likely would be spent on schools.

NO: Another tax. This time on out of state businesses, to force them to pay CA income tax if they do business here. Well, guess what, they just won’t do business here, you dolts. So, A) you won’t get the tax revenue you say you will, B) people in CA who work for those companies will join the ranks of the unemployed, losing us even more tax revenue, and C) if you do get any revenue, you’ll blow it on wind-powered solar sails, or some such nonsense. And if there’s another Solyndra-style black hole to pour money into, you can bet the rocket scientists in Sacramento will unerringly find it.

PROP 40: REDISTRICTING. STATE SENATE DISTRICTS. REFERENDUM.

A “Yes” vote approves, and a “No” vote rejects, new State Senate districts drawn by the Citizens Redistricting Commission. If rejected, districts will be adjusted by officials supervised by the California Supreme Court. Fiscal Impact: Approving the referendum would have no fiscal impact on the state and local governments. Rejecting the referendum would result in a one-time cost of about $1 million to the state and counties.

YES: Even the sponsors of the proposition have withdrawn their sponsorship. The CA Supreme Court has already kept the old Senate districts in place for 2012, thwarting the will of the people on getting the redistricting out of the hands of the Democrats in Sacramento.  They’ll do it again in 2014 without it. Jeebus, this is such a corrupt state.

Well, that’s the run-down for this election. Now that you know how to vote properly, do your duty.

~
Dale Franks
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Musings

A couple of things have been on my mind recently, and this seeme like as good a time as any to get them off my chest. So, I’ll just skip from subject to subject until I get tired. But, I might as well start off with current events.

I guess most of you saw the debate between Eddie Munster and Smirky McAngry this week. Joe Biden’s ability to sit there and lie so magisterially and with such confident assurance really is something to behold. Like when he declared that he voted against the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. Both of which, of course, he voted for. He just boldly asserts this utter crap, and nobody ever calls him on it.

"You know, Joe, I got a copy of the Congressional Record lying around somewhere that says you did vote to approve the AUMF in both Afghanistan and Iraq. And you voted back in 98—during Operation Desert Fox—to make removing Saddam Hussein from power the policy of the United States Government. Oh, and by the way, not that it’s relevant at the moment, back in ’83, you voted to approve a constitutional amendment to overturn Roe v. Wade. You think you might want to backtrack on your last statement, there, Joe?"

Never happens.

During the debate, Joe’s smirk struck me as exactly the kind of condescending arrogance that, if it was coming at you from anyone else, you’d want to erase with an overhand right. His whole schtick was irritating. The constant interruptions, the yelling, and the condescending laughing were exactly the kinds of things that, if you pull ’em on some guy in a bar argument, will get your ass kicked.

The Left loved it, of course. They thought Good Ol’ Joe was finally sticking it to the wingnuts. And why shouldn’t they? Anytime anyone says anything nasty about them, their vaginas get all hurty, and they start moaning about "civility". But that’s not a rule they’re all that interested in, themselves. Some Lefty dolt on twitter thought that, considering Ryan’s position on abortion, his daughter should get "f*cked and pregnant when she’s 13".

Though, really, that’s pretty tame stuff compared to what comes over the transom at Michelle Malkin or Sister Toldjah.

It’s just amazing to me that these Lefties, who see themselves as the good guys, and the oh-so-compassionate defenders of the downtrodden, have these deep wells of rage that come spewing out at the first opportunity.

Amazing, but not surprising, really, because the political divide in this country really isn’t about politics anymore. It’s a battle of Good Vs. Evil. They are the forces of cosmic justice, and if you disagree with them, then you’re "the other", and not really as fully human as they are. Your disagreement is proof of your moral deficiency.

And, hey, there are people on the Right who feel the same way about lefties. I don’t think Lefties are bad people, necessarily. I do think they tend to be dumber than a bag of hammers, though.

Which is why I really don’t see us all living together in the same country much longer.

We don’t even speak the same language anymore. For instance, take the term "fairness". To me that refers to a process that is impartial, and predictable. If the process receives input X, then output Y tends to result. To a Progressive, fairness is a result. The process is immaterial, as long as it produces equal results. If it doesn’t, the process is flawed.

Those aren’t anything like the same thing. If we don’t even share concepts, there’s no way we’ll ever be satisfied with governing each other.

By the way, who was Biden thinking would be impressed by his debate performance, other than Obama fanboys? Who was he trying to convince?

I mean, usually, when you want to persuade people to join you in a cause, you don’t try to irritate the crap out of them.  You try to appeal to them through reason, good feeling, and moral persuasion. Smirky didn’t try to do much of that.

Maybe the whole point of Joe’s performance was to reassure the base that the Obama team was willing to fight hard. But if you’re four weeks out from an election and you’re still trying to motivate your base, then you’re probably in a fair amount of trouble.

The Lefties were just ecstatic that Joe was so Rude to Paul Ryan. They think that’s exactly what he deserves: rudeness, and arrogant condescension. Because, it’s not like he’s really a human being, or anything.

There were some big spikes in consumer confidence this week. Despite rising food and gas prices—the CPI rose 1.1% last month on those two items alone—and despite 20 million or so people not having jobs, folks seemed to have more confidence in the future.

The funny thing is that the consumer confidence surveys for this week were all taken after Obama got shelled by Romney in the first presidential debate. I wonder if that spike in consumer confidence popped up because people think there’s a better chance that Obama will be heading back to Chicago in January? Or, maybe even a leading indicator of that?

Baseball is designed to break your heart. I just watched the Cardinals come back from a 6-0 deficit to go ahead 9-7 in a 4-run 9th inning and beat the Nationals. Why won’t the Cardinals just die, for God’s sake?

I’ve spent my whole life hating the Cardinals. If I were to find an actual cardinal in the forest, twittering with happiness in the dappled sunlight, and I could get it to fly gently into my hand, I would squeeze it until I heard all its little bones break like tiny little twigs.

Then I would cackle with glee.

~
Dale Franks
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Economic Statistics for 11 Oct 12

The following US economic statistics were announced today:

The US trade balance worsened in August, as the trade deficit rose to $–44.2 billion, on declining exports due to economic weakness in both Asia and Europe.

Initial jobless claims fell unexpectedly and steeply, by 28,000, to 339,000, perhaps due to some odd seasonal adjustment factors this week. The four-week average is down 11,500 to 364,000, while continuing claims fell 15,000 to 3.273 million. This week’s level of 339,000 is the lowest of the recovery. But, as I said, there are some odd seasonal factors in play this week, so we’ll need to wait for the coming weeks’ reports to see if this low level is confirmed, or due for a big revision. UPDATE: As it turns out, California didn’t report any of its quarterly claims numbers. The seasonal adjustment was expecting a bump in those numbers, and that bump wasn’t there without the CA numbers. So, it’s thrown everything higgledy-piggledy.

Import prices rose 1.1% in August, while export prices rose 0.8%. On a year-over-basis, import prices fell –0.6%, while export prices fell –0.5%.

The Bloomberg Consumer Comfort Index dropped 1.4 points to -38.5.

~
Dale Franks
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Economic Statistics for 9 Oct 12

The following US economic statistics were announced today:

The NFIB Small Business Optimism Index dropped more than a point to 92.8, which is generally regarded as a recessionary reading.

In weekly retail sales, Redbook reports a year-on-year sales growth rate of a below trend 1.6% in the latest week. ICSC-Goldman reports slightly better sales, with weekly sales growth at 0.2%, and year-over-year growth at 2.8%.

~
Dale Franks
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Observations: The QandO Podcast for 07 Oct 12

This week, Bruce, Michael, and Dale talk about the election.

The direct link to the podcast can be found here.

Observations

As a reminder, if you are an iTunes user, don’t forget to subscribe to the QandO podcast, Observations, through iTunes. For those of you who don’t have iTunes, you can subscribe at Podcast Alley. And, of course, for you newsreader subscriber types, our podcast RSS Feed is here. For podcasts from 2005 to 2010, they can be accessed through the RSS Archive Feed.