Free Markets, Free People

Government

Quote Of The Day

It comes from Paul Krugman

So it seems that we aren’t going to have a second Great Depression after all. What saved us? The answer, basically, is Big Government.

Is it? Or is it a false premise?

Who said we were headed for a “second Great Depression”? And how does a non-falsifiable claim prove the point that “Big Government” saved us from anything?

~McQ

Got My Bit Of Astroturf (update)

Back during the presidential campaign, I signed on to Barack Obama’s website to receive email “alerts”. As an avid blogger, I wanted the info firsthand.

Obviously that information is now part of a coordinated astroturfing campaign:

organizing_america_email_header

Friend —

I wanted to send you an urgent invitation to an important town hall with Rep. Hank Johnson on Monday evening (August 10th). He’ll be talking to constituents and gathering feedback — this is an ideal opportunity to make sure your support for health insurance reform is seen and heard at exactly the right time.

Our congressional representatives are back home this month, and they’re facing more and more pressure from special interests on health insurance reform. It’s critical that we get out there and show them where we stand.

I hope you can join us.

What: Health Care Town Hall with
Rep. Hank Johnson

Where: Georgia Perimeter College
555 North Indian Creek Drive
Clarkston, GA 30021

When: Monday, August 10th
7:00 p.m. – 9:00 p.m.

RSVP

Our representatives are under attack by Washington insiders, insurance companies, and well-financed special interests who don’t go a day without spreading lies and stirring up fear. We need to show that we’re sick and tired of it, and that we’re ready for real change, this year.

Please try to arrive early to the town hall, and make sure that the most powerful voices in this debate are those calling for real reform, not angrily clamoring for the status quo.

RSVP here:

http://ga.barackobama.com/ClarkstonTH

Thanks,

Lee

Lee Goodall
Georgia State Director
Organizing for America

P.S. — Before the event, please print off a flyer to display and make sure that your support is visible.

I’m not in Hank Johnson’s congressional district, but apparently that doesn’t matter. So feel free to copy the url and “RSVP”. If you’re in the area, feel free to drop by.

UPDATE: More astroturfing. This time from Mitch Stewart, the Director of Organizing America (a subsidiary of ACORN International – just kidding, kind of):

Friend —

All throughout August, our members of Congress are back in town. Insurance companies and partisan attack groups are stirring up fear with false rumors about the President’s plan, and it’s extremely important that folks like you speak up now.

So we’ve cooked up an easy, powerful way for you to make a big impression: Office Visits for Health Reform.

All this week, OFA members like you will be stopping by local congressional offices to show our support for insurance reform. You can have a quick conversation with the local staff, tell your personal story, or even just drop off a customized flyer and say that reform matters to you.

We’ll provide everything you need: the address, phone number, and open hours for the office, information about how the health care crisis affects your state for you to drop off (with the option of adding your personal story), and a step-by-step guide for your visit.

According to our records, you live near Rep. John Linder’s office in Lawrenceville, GA.

Sign up now to visit Rep. John Linder’s office in Lawrenceville this week.

(Not your representative, or think there might be another office that’s easier for you to get to? Click here to find a different office.)

As you’ve probably seen in the news, special interest attack groups are stirring up partisan mobs with lies about health reform, and it’s getting ugly. Across the country, members of Congress who support reform are being shouted down, physically assaulted, hung in effigy, and receiving death threats. We can’t let extremists hijack this debate, or confuse Congress about where the people stand.

Office Visits for Health Reform are our chance to show that the vast majority of American voters know that the cost of inaction is too high to bear, and strongly support passing health reform in 2009.

Don’t worry if you’ve never done anything like this before. The congressional staff is there to listen, and your opinion as a constituent matters a lot. And if you bring a friend, you’ll have more fun and make an even greater impact.

Click below to sign up for an Office Visit for Health Reform:

http://my.barackobama.com/OfficeVisit

Wherever you live, these visits matter: Many representatives are pushing hard toward reform, and they are taking a lot of heat from special interests. They deserve our thanks and need our support to continue the fight. But those who are still putting insurance companies and partisan point-scoring ahead of their constituents must know that voters are watching — and that we expect better.

Earlier this week, the President wrote that “this is the moment our movement was built for” and asked us all to commit to join at least one event this month. This is the way to answer that call, and rise to the challenge of this moment together.

Thank you for going the extra mile when it matters the most,

Mitch

Mitch Stewart
Director
Organizing for America

I’m just flattered beyond belief. This time they got it right – Rep. Linder is my congressman. Of course he’s not going to vote for this nonsense, but apparently it again doesn’t matter if you are a member of his district or not. You are encouraged to stop by, deliver your preprinted flyer and “discuss”” health care with him. And you may want to take a square of astroturf as well just to let him from whence this all came.

~McQ

California Chutzpa

The disaster that is California government has now turned into the theater of the absurd:

Small businesses that received $682 million in IOUs from the state say California expects them to pay taxes on the worthless scraps of paper, but refuses to accept its own IOUs to pay debts or taxes.

The vendors have filed a federal class-action lawsuit. But the depth that government will stoop too to collect revenue never surprises me. With housing prices crashing everywhere, local governments continued to try to collect at the same value rates as before or, in some places, actually raise the taxes.

And here we have California issuing, what to this point are absolutely valueless promises to pay – maybe – and then expecting those in receipt of those worthless bits of script to treat them as real money and to pay taxes on the amount in real money.

The onions it takes to make that sort of demand is just breathtaking. Or perhaps arrogance is a better word. But regardless it is just a stunning thing to behold.

And, as an aside, you can’t help but wonder what California will pay the lawyers it hire to defend its indefensible demand. As a further aside, it wouldn’t surprise me at all to see the court find in the state’s favor.

~McQ

A Fork In the Road is Coming

As most of you know, I served on active duty as a USAF Security Policeman from 1984-1993.  Three of those years were spent in Brunssum, The Netherlands, working on the International Military Police force at Headquarters, Allied Forces Central Europe (AFCENT, now known as AFNORTH).  I noticed an interesting phenomenon while I was there.  As any policeman know, sometimes, you have some unpleasant interactions with members of the community you serve.  In general, those actions end up with you forcing that person to do something the really do not want to do.

In my experience, this type of unpleasantness usually occurred when dealing with a German, or an American.  But there was something interesting about the outcome.  When you forced a German to do something, every time they saw you after that, they would approach with a smile, “Hello, my friend!  How are you?”  It was almost as if they’d discovered during the confrontation where they stood in the pecking order related to you, and henceforth treated you with respect and friendliness.

Americans, on the other hand, didn’t react that way.  Once a confrontation had gone against them, then every time they saw you after that, they’d shoot angry glares at you.  Maybe they’d remark to a friend, “See that MP over there?  He’s a dick.”  Once you’d had that confrontation with an American, you were never going to be friends.

Frankly, Americans resent authority. We accept some measure of it as a necessary evil most times, but there are limits.  We can be pushed, often quite far, but when we reach a certain tipping point, enmity quickly flares.   We can have quite heated arguments as equals, then knock off and have a drink. But once we have a heated argument, then are forced to do something we don’t want to do…well,  we don’t like it.

That piece of our national character is being tried this month.

Over the past couple of days, we’ve seen arguments about national health care erupt into incidents of local violence. Yes, we yelled at each other bit back in 2005 or so, when Social Security reform was on the table.  But now we’re seeing thugs in SEIU T-shirts showing up and throwing punches at people who are gathered to demonstrate against the current version of health care reform. We’ve seen a local Democratic Party apparatchik shove a demonstrator in the face.  Billy Beck has often said it, and now he’s saying it again: “You have always heard it here first: All politics in this country now is just dress rehearsal for civil war.”

At this rate, I’m afraid that it’s going to become painfully obvious that a large number of people in this country are not going to politely doff their caps to the local SEIU grandees, once they’ve learned their lessons like good Germans.  Quite the reverse, in fact.

I’ve also said before–and every time I do, people like Oliver Willis call me crazy for saying it–we’re preparing this country to split apart.  There are two political camps in this country: collectivists, and and indvidualists.  (Forget party labels.  The parties are, at best, loose approximations of those two camps.)  It’s a fairly even split between the two camps. And the fundamental philosophies of those two camps have become irreconcilable, for a number of reasons, but primarily as a  result of centralization of power in Washington.

Of course, the two philosophies have always been incompatible, but in a more federated America, the incompatibility didn’t matter as much.  People in Wisconsin could be as progressive as possible, and no one in New Mexico cared much.  And if people in Wisconsin or New Mexico didn’t like the local political climate, they could just move to somewhere whe the climate was more to their liking. But with the arrogation of so much power by Washington, that’s no longer an option.  In a federal system, nobody in Texas much cares if some yankees in a state far away set up The People’s Autonomous Oblast of Massachussets.  But if Bostonians think that some Alabama ‘seed  in Washington is gonna force them to dance while handling snakes and speaking in tongues…well, you can’t square that circle.

Unfortunately, if the solons in Washington declare we must do X, there’s no way to escape the consequences of that decision.  And so, every political decision is now fraught with national, rather than local consequences. As a result, the incompatibility between collectivists and individualists is reaching a boiling point.  The centralization of power in Washington, and the nationalization of practically every domestic issue, has done nothing but poison our politics, and degraded our political discourse.

This has happened once before in American history.  Between the founding of the country and the 1850s, Slavery moved from an issue of local sovereignty to a national moral issue.  And as abolitionists gained power in both the house–and especially the Senate–it became clear to the Southern states that the abolition of slavery by Congress was inevitable.  Once that happened, given the temper of the times, secession was inevitable as well.

Whether the Civil War was inevitable is a matter of debate.  I tend to think that the peculiar character of Lincoln made it so.  Given a different president, we might have two very different nations–and probably more, in what is now the United States.

By the same token, I don’t believe we are in for a shooting war between the Red and Blue states. Quite apart from the fact that people in the red states tend to be the people with all the guns, there seems to be a declining interest in both Red and Blue states to live under the same political regime.  Blue staters are increasingly uninterested in delaying their march to Utopia by having to make concessions to Bible-thumping, gay-hating hayseeds, and Red staters are not willing to live in a Peasants’ and Workers’ Paradise run by Godless, unborn-baby-killing Commies.

We’re already struggling with the nearly impossible political task of how to reconcile two irreconcilable philosophies under a powerful central government.  Having union thugs show up and deliver beatings and intimidation is only going to raise the anger level among Americans who feel they are being forced to do something they don’t want to do, increase their resentment, and push the country closer to dissolution.

And this won’t be a case like 1860, where 70% of the country successfully forced their will on the remaining 30%.  We’ve got a nearly even 50-50 split between those two philosophies now. We’re too evenly divided to make force an easy, or even viable option.  If things keep going in this direction, then I think we’re on the way to divorce court, where we’ll be citing “irreconcilable differences”.

An Interesting But Apparently Obscure Health Care Fact

One of the questions constantly posed as the debate over health care insurance reform rages is, “if we have such a great health care system, why is our life expectancy lower than countries with socialized care?”

Well apparently it is our propensity to murder each other and die in car accidents which obscures the fact that with those factored out, we actually enjoy the longest life expectancy. James Joyner provides the numbers and a handy little chart.

But the bottom line is when you remove homicide and car crashes, we jump from number 15 with a life expectancy of 75.3 to number 1 with a life expectancy of 76.9.

So we must be doing something right in the medical field wouldn’t you say – certainly more so than anyone else if you want to hang your hat on life expectancy data that only focuses on what medicine can help.  Drive safely and avoid getting on the losing side of a gun fight and you can expect to be around for longer than any of those in the so-called “more advanced” countries.

And, as Dodd points out, there’s even a way to improve the homicide numbers:

Homicide, however, we could impact immediately and irrevocably right now simply by decriminalizing most (or all) currently illegal drugs. Remove the artificial, government-created scarcity, and the profits and incentive to engage in underworld violence that goes with it, and the homicide rate would fall significantly. More of our young men would survive to middle adulthood, hundreds of thousands of prisoners would be freed (or never created) to engage in productive work, and our life expectancy at birth would jump immediately and permanently. All without the government having to nationalize one-sixth of the economy and expropriate trillions more dollars from the private sector to pay for the hope that the outcome will be improved.

He’s right, of course – remove profit, remove incentive. The drug market today is a government created market. And it reacts to the distorted incentives prohibition introduces into such a market.

We know how to regulate such markets legally. We do it fairly successfully with alcohol. And we don’t have booze gangs shooting it out in turf wars or finding bunches of bodies from bootleg deals gone wrong.

Why we don’t consider reform in this area is beyond me. Life expectancy numbers would certainly see an increase if we did. So would our freedom and liberty numbers.

~McQ

Middle Class Tax? Knock, Knock – “Hello Out There!”

Read this carefully. This is from George Stephanopoulos:

To get the economy back on track, will President Barack Obama have to break his pledge not to raise taxes on 95 percent of Americans? In a “This Week” exclusive, Treasury Secretary Tim Geithner told me, “We’re going to have to do what’s necessary.”

Geithner was clear that he believes a key component of economic recovery is deficit reduction. When I gave him several opportunities to rule out a middle class tax hike, he wouldn’t do it.

“We have to bring these deficits down very dramatically,” Geithner told me. “And that’s going to require some very hard choices.”

“We will not get this economy back on track, recovery will be not strong and sustained, unless we convince the American people that we are going to have the will to bring these deficits down once recovery is firmly established,” he said.

For the gullible who believed their taxes weren’t going to go up “one dime”, Turbo Tax Tim is laying the ground work to prove your gullibility.

For those who never believed the “promise” to begin with, big surprise, right?

But the more important point is found in Geithner’s last sentence in the cite. In there he’s telling the public that they have to bear the cost of this administration’s profligacy. Because, you see, they spent your money (like the porkapalooza they called the “stimulus package”) like drunken sailors on shore leave and it is now up to you – the sober ones in this deal – to bail them out. But watch ’em – they’re going to claim they saved the economy.

And now they’re ready to save the climate and fix your health care too.

Yes some very hard choices are going to have to be made – some adults are going to have to stand up to Timmy and the boys and say “no”.

~McQ

Dialing It Down On Health Care

Charles Krauthammer nails it today in an editorial in the Washington Post (and not just because he and I agree that something called “health care reform” is going to pass):

Yes, Obama’s aura has diminished, in part because of overweening overexposure. But by year’s end he will emerge with something he can call health-care reform. The Democrats in Congress will pass it because they must. Otherwise, they’ll have slain their own savior in his first year in office.

That’s party politics (which we’ve come to learn from both parties, usually means putting the party first and the country second). They are not going to be responsible for killing the presidency of a Democrat. But they’re also not going to pass anything like what they started out to pass.

So what will it be?

But that bill will look nothing like the massive reform Obama originally intended. The beginning of the retreat was signaled by Obama’s curious reference — made five times — to “health-insurance reform” during his July 22 news conference.

Thus the beginning of the campaign to demonize the insurance companies as “the villains”. And it is going to be a long and loud campaign until the “something” is passed.

Result?

Reforming the health-care system is dead. Cause of death? Blunt trauma administered not by Republicans, not even by Blue Dog Democrats, but by the green eyeshades at the Congressional Budget Office.

Krauthammer have a slight disagreement on this. Not that the CBO is the primary entity that put a lance through the heart of “health-care system” reform – and that is what Obama referenced repeatedly and, when you talk about type of care and changing the behavior of doctors, is obviously more than “insurance reform”.

Our disagreement stems from my belief that health-care system reformation isn’t at all dead, it’s just delayed. One things the Democrats are adept at is incrementalism. They’ve worked diligently for decades to expand relatively modest programs into huge, wasteful bureaucratic monstrosities that hand out money – at least that which finally works its way through the bureaucracy – like a political party handing out “walking around money”.

This, unfortunately will be no different. And even more unfortunately something on which the Democrats can begin their incremental construction will be law by this fall.

~McQ

Racism and Crying Wolf

As we discussed on the last podcast, as well as in various posts here at QandO, the biggest missed opportunity in the whole Gates kerfuffle was to draw attention to the civil liberties issues. By immediately crying racial profiling, Prof. Gates clouded an otherwise sympathetic view of his standing as a homeowner. Of course, if he hadn’t behaved the way that he did (calling Sgt. Crowley a racist cop), then he likely would never had been arrested in the first place. Nevertheless, what we should have taken from the l’affair Gates was that scenes such as the following are all too familiar:

Pepin Tuma, 33, was walking with two friends along Washington’s hip U Street corridor around midnight Saturday, complaining about how Gates had been rousted from his home for not showing a proper amount of deference to a cop. “We’d been talking about it all day,” said Tuma. “It seems like police have a tendency to act overly aggressively when they’re being pushed around,” Tuma recalled saying.

Then the group noticed five or six police cruisers surrounding two cars in an apparent traffic stop on the other side of the street. It seemed to Tuma that was more cops than necessary.

“That’s why I hate the police,” Tuma said. He told the Huffington Post that in a loud sing-song voice, he then chanted, “I hate the police, I hate the police.”

One officer reacted strongly to Tuma’s song. “Hey! Hey! Who do you think you’re talking to?” Tuma recalled the officer shouting as he strode across an intersection to where Tuma was standing. “Who do you think you are to think you can talk to a police officer like that?” the police officer said, according to Luke Platzer, 30, one of Tuma’s companions.

Tuma said he responded, “It is not illegal to say I hate the police. It’s not illegal to express my opinion walking down the street.”

According to Tuma and Platzer, the officer pushed Tuma against an electric utility box, continuing to ask who he thought he was and to say he couldn’t talk to police like that.

“I didn’t curse,” Tuma said. “I asked, am I being arrested? Why am I being arrested?”

It should come as no surprise that, in fact, Tuma was arrested on a charge of ‘disorderly conduct”:

D.C.’s disorderly conduct statute bars citizens from breaching the peace by doing anything “in such a manner as to annoy, disturb, interfere with, obstruct, or be offensive to others” or by shouting or making noise “either outside or inside a building during the nighttime to the annoyance or disturbance of any considerable number of persons.”

[…]

Tuma spent a few hours in a holding cell and was released early Sunday morning after forfeiting $35 in collateral to the police, he said. A “post and forfeit” is not an admission of guilt, and Tuma doesn’t have a court date — but the arrest will pop up if an employer does a background check.

So, adding insult to injury, Tuma gets arrested for expressing his opinion on a public street, spends the night in jail, and then is “legally” pickpocketed by the police. This is a problem, just as it was with the Gates mess, and is the real issue that should be discussed.

Forget racial profiling and other obscurants for a moment and contemplate just how much power has been granted to the police here. Is that a wise decision? Surely we want the police to be able to use their judgment in a given situation, but when a law is drafted so broadly as to provide cover when a cop feels insulted then such law flies in the face of constitutional protections.

Furthermore, situations like this really undermine the concept of police being “professionals”. Having the power to arrest someone because they get a little mouthy is not a power any real professional should want or need. Being a professional means being able to negotiate the situation through one’s abilities, not through one’s grant of extraordinary power. I mean, could you imagine if lawyers had the ability to throw people in clink for insulting them? Who would be safe?

The fact of the matter is that there are just too many laws to begin with. Cut down on number if infractions cops are expected to enforce, and you will cut down on the number of incidences where the police overstep their authority. When the only thing in danger is a cop’s feelings, then I think it’s safe to say that incarcerating anyone is a monumental waste of time and resources that could be better spent going after real criminals.

Welfare Statism Update

I showed you the chart yesterday – here are the numbers and trends behind it:

The top 1 percent, those earning over $410,000, consists of 1.4 million taxpayers, while the bottom 95 percent contains 134 million.

In 2000, before the 2001 and 2003 tax cuts that some claim disproportionately benefited the rich, the top 1 percent paid less than 38 percent of income taxes while the bottom 95 paid almost 44 percent. Since the tax cuts, the top 1 percent’s share increased over 2 percentage points while the bottom 95 percent’s share decreased 5 percentage points. Those that argue the tax cuts solely benefited the rich are mistaken.

President Obama plans to raise the top 2 marginal tax rates on those making over $250,000 a year, and Chairman Charlie Rangel (D-NY) wants to slap a 6 percent surtax on top of that to partially pay for a government take over the health care system. These tax hikes, in addition to damaging the already badly weakened economy, will further shift the burden of the income tax to the highest earners.

In contrast, the bottom 40% of taxpayers pays no income taxes on average. In fact, they get money from the tax code well above anything they paid in because of refundable credits. And President Obama’s Make Work Pay credit, passed as part of the stimulus, will increase the money redistribute to these non-taxpayers.

So you have 1.4 million paying more in income taxes than the bottom 134 million. And 40 million of those 134 pay nothing and, in fact “get money from the tax code well above anything they paid in”, which, of course, would be any withholding.

Fair? Of course not. Additionally Democrats are interested in increasing the marginal rate by 2% on those making $250,000 a year (can you even begin to imagine how many small businesses that will impact?) with Rangel all for piling another 6% on top of that.

And yet the economic picture is looking up?

I’m emphasizing this story because of the impact it has on this obvious movement from less freedom and more welfare statism. This is directly out of that playbook. Like the old saying goes, the problem with, in this case welfare statism, is at some point you run out of other people’s money.

~McQ