Free Markets, Free People

Government

Stray voltage

More subjects than one can conveniently throw a stick at … so we’ll throw several sticks.

Have you seen the latest Brookings Institute poll on Obama’s “greatness” as a President?  It is interesting.  They decided to poll the American Political Science Association.  Their “consensus”?

First, President Obama ranks 18th overall, but beneath the surface of the aggregate figures lurks evidence of significant ambivalence. For example, those who view Obama as one of the worst American presidents outnumber those who view him as one of the best by nearly a 3-1 margin. Similarly, nearly twice as many respondents view Obama as over-rated than do those who consider him under-rated.

Well there you go.  Even a liberal leaning think tank polling liberal leaning academics can’t manage to put lipstick on a pig.  18th overall?  Hilarious.

Remember we were told that Iraq was “poorly thought out” and that “armed intervention” was a mistake?

Wouldn’t it be interesting if someone applied the same standard to Libya?  Yesterday we got to see what some of the result of that awful decision when 21 Coptic Christians were beheaded by ISIS.  And the White House reaction?

The United States condemns the despicable and cowardly murder of twenty-one Egyptian citizens in Libya by ISIL-affiliated terrorists.

Can’t even get up the gumption to identify who the “Egyptians citizens” were.  They weren’t beheaded for being Egyptians, folks.

We call on all Libyans to strongly reject this and all acts of terrorism and to unite in the face of this shared and growing threat.  We continue to strongly support the efforts of the United Nations Special Representative of the Secretary-General Bernardino Leon to facilitate formation of a national unity government and help foster a political solution in Libya.

Because, you know, Obama and the boys kind of broke the last government.

Meanwhile in Oregon, the Democratic governor resigns in disgrace, a victim of corruption in the “green energy” field.

It is a safe bet that Kitzhaber’s implosion has sent the rest of the nation’s Democratic governors, and even a few officeholders in Washington, scrambling to review their affairs. It is the very nature of green energy that its unprofitability ensures that it is only viable in the marketplace if it is subsidized at taxpayer expense. The political class’ favorability toward clean energy and the media’s deference to the project of green technology have created the perfect conditions where corruption can thrive.

Leftist billionaire Tom Steyer is deeply implicated in all of this.  I wonder if he’ll get the “Koch brothers” treatment by the media.

You can read on when you stop laughing hysterically.

Oh, and here’s another in a long line of damning reports about ObamaCare.

On another subject, I’m old enough to remember friends crippled by polio and the “iron lung”:

“We are at a stage where people have no memory of just how dangerous pathogens used to be. There is no visceral fear of viruses and bacteria. Children in wheelchairs as a result of polio are a thing of the past because the United States has been polio free since 1979 as a result of vaccines. The only people I’ve ever met who were hobbled by damage from polio were older than me. . . . I do not expect an innumerate and unscientific public to become more trusting of medical organizations that support vaccination. In some communities herd immunity has already been lost and it will be lost in more other communities. This trend will continue until an old disease comes sweeping thru and racks up lots of damage and fatalities.”

On the other hand, the government has reported for 40 years that cholesterol was going to kill us and then, recently said, “never mind”.  But they still want us to believe their science about “global warming”.  That said, one small pox plague and I’d bet everything would change.  Its hard to be fearful when you’ve never had to live with the results of awful afflictions like polio.   I remember that being the greatest fear of many parents.  Now, well, now they don’t even give it a second thought.  That’s because of a vaccination, for heaven sake.  Same with small pox.  But then anti-vaxxers are using the same sort of science that warming alarmists do, so you shouldn’t be particularly surprised.

Meanwhile in Wisconsin (not surprisingly, Madison, WI) 30 homes were spray painted with anti-Semitic graffiti.  My guess is the White House would characterize the act as “a random act by some juvenile delinquents”.  I’m still in awe of the spineless characterization of the victims in the Kosher Deli in Paris as some “folks” in a random incident.  But then, this is the same administration that for years characterized the Ft. Hood shootings as “workplace violence”, so it really isn’t a big surprise.  Back in Madison, don’t even begin to believe that the vandalism will ever be classified as a hate crime.  That is reserved for favored minorities only.

Graeme Wood (read the whole thing) lays the wood to the cowardly among us who can’t find it in themselves to identify the enemy and the enemy’s foundation:

The reality is that the Islamic State is Islamic. Very Islamic. Yes, it has attracted psychopaths and adventure seekers, drawn largely from the disaffected populations of the Middle East and Europe. But the religion preached by its most ardent followers derives from coherent and even learned interpretations of Islam.

Virtually every major decision and law promulgated by the Islamic State adheres to what it calls, in its press and pronouncements, and on its billboards, license plates, stationery, and coins, “the Prophetic methodology,” which means following the prophecy and example of Muhammad, in punctilious detail. Muslims can reject the Islamic State; nearly all do. But pretending that it isn’t actually a religious, millenarian group, with theology that must be understood to be combatted, has already led the United States to underestimate it and back foolish schemes to counter it. We’ll need to get acquainted with the Islamic State’s intellectual genealogy if we are to react in a way that will not strengthen it, but instead help it self-immolate in its own excessive zeal.

Meanwhile, at the State Department and White House …

~McQ

Stuff and whatnot

The idiocy continues on all sorts of fronts.  A few things that caught my eye.  David Axlerod’s autobiography and his expectations:

“More than anything, this is what’s terrible about modern media and how these books roll out,” Axelrod says. “I was determined to write a book that wasn’t going to be characterized by some titillating nugget that had about a three-day half-life, but rather an entire story of my life and the conclusions that life has led me to. I wanted to write a book that people might want to read years from now and not just today’s publication because they wanted to find out who had been knifing who.”

A lovely sentiment. But Axelrod, who likes to think of himself as a real-world idealist, surely knew not to get his hopes up.

Oh balderdash.  Axelrod is about as calculating a political hack as one can find.  To assume he was so naive or stupid to believe his book would be treated any other way is irony on steroids.  The only thing interesting about the man at all are the political secrets he may reveal.  I got a good laugh out of his disappointment.

Under the sarcastic title of “wow, I’d have never guessed this … ” we find:

A shadowy Bermudan company that has funneled tens of millions of dollars to anti-fracking environmentalist groups in the United States is run by executives with deep ties to Russian oil interests and offshore money laundering schemes involving members of President Vladimir Putin’s inner circle.

Look, those guys learned how to successfully co-opt liberal left anti-war groups ages ago.  This is just the updated effort.  Why this would surprise anyone is a mystery to me.  And, of course, it’s the big names of the movement – Sierra Club, the Natural Resource Defense Council, Food and Water Watch, the League of Conservation Voters, and the Center for American Progress.  Bought and paid for … by evil oil.

Irony … it’s just lost on the left.

Under the title of “when bureaucrats get huffy”, things got a little testy in a Congressional hearing yesterday with the newest VA Secretary.  Apparently he’s not used to having his competence questioned:

The fracas started when Coffman criticized the VA for citing its effort to defend cost and time overruns at a Denver hospital projects as a major accomplishment.

“How is that a success?”

[Rep. Mike] Coffman [(R-Colo.)] asked. “You lost that case on every single point for the hospital in my district that is hundreds of millions of dollars over budget and years behind schedule.”

“I think that that’s just characteristic of your glossing over the extraordinary problems confronted by your department,” Coffman added. “This is a department mired in bureaucratic incompetence and corruption. And I gotta tell you, I think the public relations is great today, but there’s no substance.”

McDonald said he was offended by those remarks, and then dodged the question and tried to shift the blame to Coffman and others in Congress.

“Actually, I’ve been here six months,” McDonald said to Coffman. “You’ve been here longer than I have. If there’s a problem in Denver, I think you own it more than I do.”

Really … because Coffman has what to do with running the VA project in question?  After all the failure of the past 6 years, that’s just what you need, an egoistic, thin-skinned nincompoop at the head of the VA.  McDonald followed that little jewel up by showing he knew nothing about the person he was insulting:

… McDonald ended by barking at Coffman, “I’ve run a large company, sir. What have you done?”

Well, as it happens, Mike Coffman is a combat veteran who started his own company, and is the only member of Congress to have served in both Iraq wars.  And as it happens, Secretary McDonald is an ass, just like the head of the IRS, just like our Attorney General, just like … yes, it’s the culture and climate that has evolved within this administration and it all goes directly to the head of it all … our snarky, sarcastic and disrespectful president.

Btw, in my estimation, McDonald ended up looking like a fool, something he richly deserved.

Instead of hurling insults, McDonald should be interested in actually doing something useful.  Like his job:

The Department of Veterans Affairs’ vast health network — beset by a scandal last year over delayed care — has been listed as a high-risk federal program by congressional auditors for the first time.

The report by the watchdog Government Accountability Office, which is issued every two years, includes a broad indictment of the $55.5 billion VA program, one of the nation’s largest health care systems. USA TODAY obtained the VA section of the report, scheduled for release Wednesday.

And this goob, like most of the administration, is trying to lay off any blame.  It’s a perfect example of an ossified bureaucracy that is more than incompetent, it’s lethal.

Finally, for those of you who like strolling down the memory lane of climate alarmist predictions, there’s a website up dedicated to reminding us again how wrong they’ve all been:

A senior environmental official at the United Nations, Noel Brown, says entire nations could be wiped off the face of the earth by rising sea levels if global warming is not reversed by the year 2000.

San Jose Mercury News 30 Jun 1989

Ah, yes, the good old days.

~McQ

When your government lies to you

Jim Clifton, Chairman and CEO of Gallup lays out one of the biggest lies our government is party to each month.

The unemployment rate.

Right now the lie claims that only 5.6% of those who want to work aren’t working.  That’s simply not true.

But it is a lie that banks on you not looking into how the government computes this number.  It banks on you using a different definition – i.e. one that defines unemployment as I have above – the unemployed are those who want work but can’t find work.

However, the government uses an entirely different set of criteria to come up with their number and ignore a  huge portion of the public which is out of work.

Clifton points out:

If you, a family member or anyone is unemployed and has subsequently given up on finding a job — if you are so hopelessly out of work that you’ve stopped looking over the past four weeks — the Department of Labor doesn’t count you as unemployed. That’s right. While you are as unemployed as one can possibly be, and tragically may never find work again, you are not counted in the figure we see relentlessly in the news — currently 5.6%. Right now, as many as 30 million Americans are either out of work or severely underemployed.

Yet politicians and the media keep pushing that number out there without any caveat or qualifier.  They too expect you to use your definition of unemployment while they knowingly push this lie.

And, it’s even worse than that.  Here’s another way they pad that official number:

There’s another reason why the official rate is misleading. Say you’re an out-of-work engineer or healthcare worker or construction worker or retail manager: If you perform a minimum of one hour of work in a week and are paid at least $20 — maybe someone pays you to mow their lawn — you’re not officially counted as unemployed in the much-reported 5.6%. Few Americans know this.

Of course “few Americans know this”.  It’s because our government goes out of its way to avoid telling us this. The official unemployment numbers is a fantasy number with very little basis in reality.  It is aimed at serving the political resumes of our government masters.  It is designed to pretend there has been progress in the employment field.  There hasn’t.  Period.

Yet another figure of importance that doesn’t get much press: those working part time but wanting full-time work. If you have a degree in chemistry or math and are working 10 hours part time because it is all you can find — in other words, you are severely underemployed — the government doesn’t count you in the 5.6%. Few Americans know this.

None of this gets much press.   The politicians and bureaucrats glibly push this lie and the media dutifully publish it with little or no research into its efficacy.  We have the lowest labor participation rate in about 40 years meaning huge numbers of Americans remain unemployed or grossly underemployed while our political betters celebrate false employment numbers and claim things are “getting better”.  It is all about the next election instead of service to this country for them.

Clifton concludes:

I hear all the time that “unemployment is greatly reduced, but the people aren’t feeling it.” When the media, talking heads, the White House and Wall Street start reporting the truth — the percent of Americans in good jobs; jobs that are full time and real – then we will quit wondering why Americans aren’t “feeling” something that doesn’t remotely reflect the reality in their lives. And we will also quit wondering what hollowed out the middle class.

The middle class is the real victim of these horrid economic conditions.  Pretending that “all is well” on the employment front lets politicians off the hook when it comes to addressing the problems the middle class in this country are facing – like UNEMPLOYMENT!  They simply point to the lie and claim that “historically” that rate signifies “full employment” and they’re the heroes that brought it down.

When your government purposely lies to you, any trust you may have in it vanishes.  And it portends even worse problems.  If it will lie about the unemployment rate, what else will it lie about?  And what steps will it take to maintain those lies and protect those who tell them?

What was supposed to be a servant to the people is evolving quite rapidly into the people’s master.  Government wasn’t envisioned like this at all at our founding.  In fact, what we have today is anathema to what our founders envisioned.  A huge, bloated, powerful, coercive and dishonest government which seems to think it has the right to intrude at all levels of our life.   The particular lie Clifton exposes is only one of many it has pushed over the years.  And unless something is done and done quickly it will only get worse.

Maybe it is time for a convention of the states.

~McQ

They call them “economic laws” for a reason

So the citizens of San Francisco voted themselves an increase in prices, er, excuse me, a “$15 minimum wage” and thumb their noses at the laws of economics.

Reality hits back.  Borderland Books, an iconic SF bookstore, provides the perfect two-fold example with this announcement:

In November, San Francisco voters overwhelmingly passed a measure that will increase the minimum wage within the city to $15 per hour by 2018. Although all of us at Borderlands support the concept of a living wage in principal and we believe that it’s possible that the new law will be good for San Francisco — Borderlands Books as it exists is not a financially viable business if subject to that minimum wage. Consequently we will be closing our doors no later than March 31st. The cafe will continue to operate until at least the end of this year.

Many businesses can make adjustments to allow for increased wages. The cafe side of Borderlands, for example, should have no difficulty at all. Viability is simply a matter of increasing prices. And, since all the other cafes in the city will be under the same pressure, all the prices will float upwards. But books are a special case because the price is set by the publisher and printed on the book. Furthermore, for years part of the challenge for brick-and-mortar bookstores is that companies like Amazon.com have made it difficult to get people to pay retail prices. So it is inconceivable to adjust our prices upwards to cover increased wages.

The change in minimum wage will mean our payroll will increase roughly 39%. That increase will in turn bring up our total operating expenses by 18%. To make up for that expense, we would need to increase our sales by a minimum of 20%. We do not believe that is a realistic possibility for a bookstore in San Francisco at this time.

Note the key lines.  “The change in minimum wage will mean our payroll will increase roughly 39%.”  Yet, there’s not 39% room in the earnings to weather that increase, because an 18% increase in operating costs puts them in the red.  Borderland Books explains why – retail price is almost impossible to get anymore so they can’t increase the price of the product to cover the cost.  Result?  The workers in the bookstore will have a wage of $0 as of March 31.  I’m sure they’re thrilled.

Meanwhile the cafe will stay open because it can do what?  Pass the cost on to the customer.  So in essence, those who voted for the increase in minimum wage voted dollars out of the pockets of those who opposed it as well as their own.  While the workers in the cafe will get their $15 an hour minimum wage, it will be achieved in an increase in the price of the goods the cafe sells (about 20%).  And if their experience is anything like Seattle’s (which also instituted a $15 minimum wage) tips will dry up to next to nothing, while perks (such as free meals, parking, etc.) will be discontinued now that the workers make enough money to pay for most of them.

Yes, economic illiteracy has a price – and here it is.  Fewer jobs, higher prices, all a result of fools who thought they could magic “a living wage” out of a vote without that having any consequences to the workers or themselves.

Idiots.

~McQ

ObamaCare – the numbers are in

“It’ll save the average family $2,500 a year!”  That was the promise.  Here’s the reality:

… It will cost the federal government – taxpayers, that is – $50,000 for every person who gets health insurance under the Obamacare law, the Congressional Budget Office revealed on Monday.

… The numbers are daunting: It will take $1.993 trillion, a number that looks like $1,993,000,000,000, to provide insurance subsidies to poor and middle-class Americans, and to pay for a massive expansion of Medicaid and CHIP (Children’s Health Insurance Program) costs.

Offsetting that massive outlay will be $643 billion in new taxes, penalties and fees related to the Obamacare law. …

Enjoy!

~McQ

Check The Sky For Flying Pigs

Because this actually happened:

In response to Uber ride-sharing drivers now working in the city, the [Portsmouth, NH] Taxi Commission on Wednesday recommended the elimination of taxi medallions, regulation of taxi fares, city taxi inspections and the Taxi Commission itself.
The commission voted unanimously to send a memo to the City Council outlining its recommendations to lift many regulations currently imposed on drivers-for-hire. The council will be asked to instruct City Attorney Robert Sullivan to rewrite the city’s taxi ordinance to reflect the following changes:
* Recognize so-called ride-sharing services offered by platforms including Uber.
* Replace the current taxi medallion system with a registration process that would require all drivers to register with the city clerk’s office and provide proof of commercial insurance.
* Require the Police Department to conduct criminal background checks on all registered drivers, who would be charged a fee for the background checks.
* Require all drivers-for-hire to sign and adhere to a code of conduct.

That’s right. The Taxi Commission voted, unanimously, to end its own existence. I honestly don’t know if that has ever happened before. And if it has has, it was a very long time ago.

[Taxi Commissioner Larry] Cataldo said if drivers are smoking, or offering rides in unkempt vehicles, consumers will decide if they want to hire them. Under the proposal, police would continue to conduct background checks of registered drivers who would also have to provide proof that their passengers are insured for a minimum of $300,000 under a commercial policy.

Several commissioners compared the proposed deregulation of taxi fares to the fact that someone can buy a glass of beer for $4 at a downtown pub and pay $8 for a glass of the same beer at a nearby restaurant.

“I guess it’s going to come down to what consumers want to do,” said Lt. Chris Cummings, the Police Department’s liaison to the Taxi Commission.

Novel concept, huh?

Just to put this in perspective, local officials, who are often the source of particularly pernicious intrusions into our personal lives, have agreed to give up power in favor of consumer choice. Power that can be lucrative in the form of kickbacks, favoritism, and political brokering. Yet, this body of politicians decided that what was best for their constituents was to put in place simple rules and disband itself. That’s just … amazing.

Of course, don’t go hunkering down in your pig blind any time too soon. The ordinary state of affairs looks like this:

After being a promised a blizzard of historic and catastrophic proportions on Monday, New York City residents woke up today to rather meager snow totals and a lot of questions for their public officials.

[…]

The focus, in particular, seems to be about the decision to shut down New York City at 11:00 p.m. Tuesday night. All roads in the region (not just in the city, but in Connecticut and New Jersey, as well) were closed to non-emergency traffic, but Governor Andrew Cuomo also made the unprecedented decision to preemptively shut down the entire NYC subway system. That’s never happened in the 100-plus years of the subways due to snow.

Yet, by 11:00 p.m., it was already becoming clear that such a move was likely going to be unnecessary. That confusion quickly turned to outrage after a report by The Brooklyn Paper that the subway was actually still running. In order to keep the power on and the tracks clear, the MTA continued to shuttle empty trains all throughout the system and was planning to all along. It was apparently Cuomo’s decision to shut the system to passengers, a move that caught MTA off guard and appeared to be unnecessary.

Naturally, some people are upset about the overreaction. It’s one thing to clear the streets of cars, but the subway is the lifeline of the city, particularly for those people who work third-shift jobs or have family and friends in other boroughs. Cries of “nanny state”-ism, political posturing, or just plain cowardice are ringing out today.

Ace describes it this way:

So, now it’s accepted that government officials will essentially declare Martial Law on a whim. Martial Law has become mainstreamed, thanks to our viciously incompetent media.

[…]

These high-handed, alarmist, panicky, lawless actions are being defended on grounds of “safety.”

This is not an overblown statement: All forms of fascism and totalitarianism proceed under the guise of securing the public’s “safety and security.” I don’t think you can cite a single time where fascism did not ride upon twin horses named Public Safety and Public Security.

We seem to becoming jaded by frequent assertions of dictatorial power for this claimed emergency or that imagined crisis.

And let us be clear about things: Cuomo did not do this to “protect the public safety.” He did this to protect his own political safety.

Let us stop pretending to believe the most ridiculous lies of politicians. Let us start dealing forthrightly with one another.

Hearkening back to the Boston Bomber manhunt, he’s not that far off. The question, as always, is how much will the citizenry put up with, and at what point do they stop acting like sheep in the face of “do as we command; it’s for your own good!”

At least in Portsmouth, NH, they’re getting a chance to decide for themselves what’s in their own interests. Let’s hope that catches on.

(h/t: Instapundit)

~ MJW
Twitter: @mjwadeesq

The sad state of the union

Richard Epstein analyzes the performance of Barack Obama as President of the United States, and unsurprisingly, finds it wanting.

In working with matters overseas, the President must lead.  The most that one can expect of Congress is to authorize or ratify the actions that the President must implement. Presidential leadership, announced in a single and decisive voice, is essential, for no one can expect a deliberative body to take the lead in foreign statecraft. On domestic affairs, the opposite stance is appropriate. It is wise in general to look to the Congress to take some leadership in setting basic social and economic policies. But the President gets this division of labor exactly backwards. He is far too passive on foreign affairs and far too meddlesome on domestic ones, which is why his policies in both domains have failed.

A very succinct statement of Obama’s failure.  That leadership thing again … he isn’t one.  And he has no idea how to deal within the political reality of a 3 branch government … even though he was, allegedly, a legislator and Constitutional scholar.  He’s spineless when it comes to the part of the governmental pie that is his pretty exclusively (i.e. foreign policy) and a petulant child in matters concerning domestic affairs using his “pen and phone” to accomplish his goals (goals that are likely to be dismantled at the first opportunity a new president has) rather than working in the prescribed system.

Epstein goes on:

Starting on the foreign policy side, Obama’s policies are driven by the flawed proposition that “smarter” leadership lies in building coalitions that “combine military power with strong diplomacy.” This position, he said in his State of the Union, pays concrete dividends: “In Iraq and Syria, American leadership—including our military power—is stopping ISIL’s advance. Instead of getting dragged into another ground war in the Middle East, we are leading a broad coalition, including Arab nations, to degrade and ultimately destroy this terrorist group.” 

It is all wishful thinking. Militarily, it is never enough to stop an advance if it allows the enemy to use the breathing space to entrench itself further in the places that are under occupation. Obama’s word choice of “ultimately” allows for endless equivocation and delay. The odds of putting together an effective coalition without demonstrable leadership are slim to none, for the President’s only firm commitment—not to use ground troops ever against ISIL—signals to our allies that they too can discharge their obligations by flying the occasional sortie against ISIL positions.

The President may think that it has been an accomplishment to reduce over the past six years the number of American troops in Iraq and Afghanistan from close to 180,000 to under 15,000. But to everyone else, the civil disorder attributable to American disengagement signals that America is not an ally to be trusted.

The President therefore grossly miscalculates when he concludes that “The shadow of crisis has passed, and the State of the Union is strong.” Unfortunately, the facts on the ground show the opposite. Right now the President is bogged down in negotiations with the Iranians over their deployment of nuclear weapons. Little visible progress has been made to date.

And there’s very little incentive for the Iranians to actually cooperate.  It’s all about stalling and buying time.  Meanwhile, Russia and Iran have signed a military pact.  Any guess who has already lost to Iran and just doesn’t know it yet?  It appears at least Congress does and is trying to do something about it (and yes, it’s supposedly outside the scope of their charter, however, Mr. Pen and Phone has declared how he plans to operate … why not Congress.  As someone said, ‘it’s like there are no rules anymore’).

Originally, the President supported at most a six-month moratorium on sanctions in order to lead the Iranians to the bargaining table. Yet when faced with their stalling tactics, he has pleaded for additional time, thus backing away from his explicit promise to keep a firm deadline for making a deal and vowing to veto any legislation that tries to firm up the initial position. Congress may well intervene to keep him to his original word. Generally, this kind of interference is most unwise, but the bipartisan unhappiness on the Iran problem reveals a complete and bipartisan breakdown in trust between Congress and the President.

That’s probably as interesting as anything – even Democrats in Congress have had their fill of Obama’s foreign policy incompetence.  Bottom line?

The President, through his foreign policy, has lost the confidence of his allies across the globe and has emboldened the aggressive behavior of our enemies. Lacking confidence in the United States, our allies will have to fend for themselves, which helps explain the hopeless impasse in the Israeli-Palestinian negotiations, and the recent coup in Yemen, to which a few drone attacks are no response. There is also the strong likelihood that Afghanistan will lapse into further violence. It boggles the mind that the President can gloss over such massive failures with empty platitudes.

Indeed. But then “empty platitudes” are one of his few “strengths”.  Naturally, he’s full of them.

Domestically:

The situation on the domestic front is different. On these issues, the President knows that none of his short-term proposals are likely to get through a Republican Congress that is set against further tax increases and government transfer payments. But he nonetheless charges forward in an effort to build a populist political base that will perhaps in time enact most of his program.

But politics aside, the President wholly fails to understand the importance of economic growth in his relentless attack on economic inequality. The difference between these two programs is striking. A growth-program seeks to expand the size of the overall pie, trusting that the able and hardworking people whom the President lauds will be able to garner their share of the pie. The key point here is that gains from growth are sustainable because no firm has any incentive to back away from employment contracts that work to its own advantage. The hands-off policy thus improves economic incentives and reduces administrative overhead at the same time.

None of this makes the slightest impression on the President, who has concluded that his own brand of “middle-class economics works.” At one level, he is surely correct to insist that everyone “gets their fair shot, everyone does their fair share, and everyone plays by the same set of rules.” But it hardly follows that the way to make “working class families feel more secure” is to ply them with a set of educational, housing, and health care subsidies, all of which have to be paid for by someone else, whose life is made less secure by the constant threat of ad hoc government intervention.

This is the cognitive dissonance we often note with leftists in power.  They may be quite bright intellectually, but economically, most are illiterate.  Nothing is “free” … someone pays for it.  And 90% of the time those paying for it are in the middle class.

Then there are the big lies they push in an effort to make themselves look better in the eyes of the public, even though fact don’t support their claims.  Not that it stops them from continuing to claim success.  For instance:

He speaks about the 11 million jobs created since the depths of the last recession. But his claim is full of holes. Right now, the total number of employed individuals in the United States is about what it was six years ago, notwithstanding a population gain of over 15 million people. Worse still, virtually all the gain in employment has come from part-time employment, which is encouraged in part by the Obamacare mandate that stipulates that employers must provide health care insurance for those who work 30-hours a week or more—a topic on which the President was mysteriously silent in his State of the Union address.

So what happens when you begin to believe your own lies?  You make stupid decisions or you back stupid policies:

Unfortunately, the President has already proposed an increase in the capital gains tax to 28 percent for people who earn more than $500,000 in order to fund a variety of educational programs, chiefly by offering a free ride to students who attend community colleges and maintain a 2.5 average, which he hopes would hone skills needed for middle class jobs, but which is more likely to lead to grade inflation. But the argument is wrong on both sides. Proprietary schools are more likely to train people for jobs than community colleges, because they face market responses when they don’t perform. The President’s program thus increases government subsidies without any promise or expectation of improved performance.

Yet the increase in the capital gains tax creates a double whammy. The first point is that the reduction in capital investment that this tax promises will make it more difficult for wages to rise. The simple proposition here is that capital and labor are complementary goods, so that higher wages depend on the better facilities and equipment that makes labor more productive. The second point is that the increase in capital gains rates is likely to translate into a reduction of taxable income. Unlike income from earnings, the capital gains tax is only triggered by a sale or other disposition of property. The high tax results in a reduction of the number of sales. That in turn not only decreases tax revenues, but also the efficiency of the capital markets, because it is more costly for people to switch their investments from inefficient to efficient firms.

And that’s why this man should be no where near the White House.

But we told you all that before he ever ran.

~McQ

So typical

Who is the “servant” here?

With an increase in electric and hybrid vehicles along with better fuel-efficient vehicles, changing Bay Area drivers habit are posing a serious problem for state coffers.

As motorists use less and less gas, gas tax revenues to pay for state highways, roads and bridges shrink. Meanwhile, as gas prices fall, so does the sales tax generated by fuel sales. In California, among the taxes collected on fuel is a 2.25% sales tax on gasoline and a 9.67 percent tax on diesel.

Some state lawmakers feel a mileage tax is the best solution.

Solution for what?

The serious problems posed for “state coffers”.

Hey here’s an idea … when state revenue goes down, how about cutting spending?

Note as well that no one is saying a thing about doing away with the fuel tax.

Nope … it’s all about the “state” and its needs.  And all that needs to be done to deprive Californians of even more of their hard earned dollars is a vote of the legislature and a signature of the governor.  Bingo, instant revenue (and likely a large new bureaucracy to “manage” it).

And the federal government is no different.

When a government is desperate for cash, it goes after the middle class, because that’s where the money is….

Though millions of Americans have been putting money into “tax free” 529 plans to save for their children’s increasingly expensive college educations, President Obama would change the law so that withdrawals from the plans to fund college would be taxed as ordinary income. So while you used to be able to get a nice tax benefit by saving for college, now you’ll be shelling out to Uncle Sam every time you withdraw to pay for Junior’s dorm fees.

This doesn’t hurt the very rich — who just pay for college out of pocket — or the poor, who get financial aid, but it’s pretty rough on the middle– and upper–middle class. In a double-whammy, those withdrawals will show up as income on parents’ income tax forms, which are used to calculate financial aid, making them look richer, and hence reducing grants.

Likewise, Obama proposes to tax the appreciation on inherited homes.

Because, you know, save the middle class … or something.

Pay up, suckers.

~McQ

Even more this and that

Not sure how you stick with one topic a day when so much is going on, thus the appeal of commenting on lots of topics.

For instance, we find out that President Obama is the reason gas prices are down … if his SOTU is to be believed (yeah, it’s not).  The fact that you happened to be hanging out in Washington DC and your title is “President of the United States” doesn’t mean you did anything to make that happen.   As I pointed out earlier, his EPA will soon take care of that anyway.

There were a lot of other bits of fun and fantasy as well – free community college.  Because, you know, its free.  And not to worry, it’s those greedy rich folks that will pay for it.  Mr. Obama wants $320 billion in new taxes.  Capital gains tax – up.  Death tax – up.  Bank tax – up.  And  your 529 savings plan for your kids college?  Yeah, no longer tax free.

That, dear friends, is how you get “free” college.  Isn’t free stuff wonderful?

 

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On to your retirement savings:

There would be a new cap in the amount one could accumulate in the aggregate in all IRA and 401(k) type accounts of $3.4 million. After that, you can’t save any more new dollars. The idea is that this is enough to secure a $210,000 annual distribution in retirement, which the government apparently deems “enough” for a retiree.

Because, of course, nanny knows best.

Finally, if  you’re an employer:

In addition, all employers with more than 10 workers and who do not have a 401(k) type plan would be mandated to set up payroll deduction Traditional IRAs for their employees. Also, part-time workers would have to be covered under retirement plans if they have been working someplace long enough. These two things are a new kind of employer mandate from Obama.

Nice plan, no?  No.  As usual, that means precisely what the cartoon shows.  Someone has to pay for all of this and it isn’t just going to be the employer.

Of course the concept that someone must actually “pay” for these things is always left out of the discussion.  It’s “free” after all.

For a completely different subject, and in case you were wondering, yes, liberals in Hollywood (almost redundant, isn’t it) are still wringing their hands about the all white Oscars.  Or at least doing a good imitation of it.  My favorite theory?  “Racial fatigue”.

The unknowable question is whether the same voters who supported “12 Years a Slave” had racial fatigue after supporting a black film last year.

Because, you know, there’s only so much support those white Hollywood liberals can dole out a year, or something. They gave their all last year.  And you black folks just need to understand that!  By the way, I believe “racial fatigue” does indeed play a part.   People are tired of everything being made to be about race.

Speaking of culture, I found article to be very entertaining.  Is there a civil war brewing on the “progressive” left (one dearly hopes so)?  Why the question?  Dilemmas such as this:

Richard Dawkins, Sam Harris, Daniel Dennett and Christopher Hitchens were once known as the “Four Horsemen” of New Atheism. For a long while, there was nothing more amusing to a young liberal than watching one of them debate against a creationist, or someone who objected to abortion or gay marriage on religious grounds. Dawkins, for a while, was the darling of the British media.

Then things started to sour. Christopher Hitchens, in his full-throated defences of the second Iraq war, was the first to lose left-wing support. Notoriously, Feminist Frequency producer Jonathan McIntosh celebrated Hitchens’ death, saying he was a “despicable, warmongering, hateful human being. Good riddance.” (To put that in perspective, McIntosh had just a few months earlier refused to celebrate the death of Osama Bin Laden.)

Dawkins, who recently discovered the joys of deliberately offending people on Twitter, has become an even greater figure of hate for progressives. This is probably due to his indiscriminate rationalism: he is just as willing to poke holes in theories of post-modern feminism as he is to attack religion. And when he does attack religion, he insists that Islam is probably the worst one out there. He has become persona non grata in progressive circles as a result.

2014 saw atheists and progressives embroiled in what looked like an all-out war. Ayaan Hirsi Ali, a female genital mutilation survivor and one of the fiercest critics of Islam in the atheist movement, was disinvited from a planned speaking engagement at Brandeis University for her criticism of Islam, and was stripped of her honorary degree. Salon.com immediately applauded the decision.

Students at UC Berkeley attempted to do the same to Bill Maher over his alleged islamophobia, but were stopped by the college administration. Sam Harris, another of the “four horsemen”, felt compelled to engage in a three-hour debate with progressive commentator Cenk Uygur after enduring a wave of hatchet-jobs from media progressives for his own comments on Islam.

Progressives may be overwhelmingly atheist, but there is only so much heresy they can stand. One of their core beliefs is that you do not “punch down”–that is, attack vulnerable or marginalised communities. Islam, despite being the dominant religion of dozens of nation-states, is said by progressives to fall into this category.

We’ve watched this sort of cognitive dissonance have its way with the left before.  That’s because they aren’t really about principles as much as they are about biases.  Oh, and limiting your freedom:

A YouGov poll taken just last fall found that equal amounts of Americans support and oppose “hate speech laws,” defined as laws that would “make it a crime for people to make comments that advocate genocide or hatred against an identifiable group based on such things as their race, gender, religion, ethnic origin, or sexual orientation.” Thirty-six percent said sure and 38 percent said no way. That’s disturbing enough on its own, but here’s something even more unsettling: Fully 51 percent of self-identified Democrats supported hate-speech laws.

Somehow I’m not at all surprised, given the examples above … are you?

~McQ

Elitism driving “free” college proposal by Obama?

The short answer is “yes”. Megan McArdle makes the point :

Higher education is becoming the ginseng of the policy world: a sort of all-purpose snake oil for solving any problem you’d care to name, as long as we consume enough of it. Education is a very good thing, but it is not the only good thing. An indiscriminate focus on pushing more people into the system is no cure for society’s ills–and indeed, often functions as a substitute for helping the people who are struggling in the current system.

In fact (beside the fact we can’t afford “ObamaCare for colleges”):

What if people in the policy elite stopped assuming that the ideal was to make everyone more like them, and started thinking about making society more hospitable to those who aren’t? My grandfather graduated into a world where a man with a high-school diploma could reasonably hope to own his own business, or become someone else’s highly valued employee, a successful pillar of a supportive community. His grandchildren graduated into a world where a college diploma was almost the bare necessity to get any kind of a decent job. Why aren’t we at least asking ourselves if there’s something we can do to create more opportunity for people without diplomas, instead of asking how many more years we can keep everyone in school? Why do all of our proposed solutions essentially ratify the structure that excludes so many people, instead of questioning it?

Indeed. For too long our policies have been driven by an elite. And for the most part, the elite have made an awful mess of things. Now they want to take on “community colleges”.

Anyone? How long before they start looking at 4 year colleges?

McArdle suggests the following probable effects of any program like Obama has proposed:

1. Offer a subsidy to middle-class kids who don’t really need the money?

2. Encourage middle-class families to transfer their kids to community college for the first two years of school, and thus help to moderate college costs?

3. Encourage financially constrained students who might not have gone to college to enter the system en route to a degree?

4. Encourage marginal students with a low chance of completing a career-enhancing degree to attend school, mostly wasting government money and their own time?

As she points out 2 and 3 are actually not bad policy goals in and of themselves.  However, the much more likely effect will be 1 and 4.  Another government sponsored and taxpayer funded boondoggle that will essentially give community colleges a subsidy (it’ll be all about headcount – no one will really care if the student’s succeed) and create bureaucratic jobs while doing little or nothing in terms of “education advancement”.

Oh, yeah, did I mention we can’t afford it?

I thought I did.

~McQ