Free Markets, Free People

Nanny State

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Time to put government back inside the box

By that I mean, make it a servant of the public again. I don’t know how this “serves the public”:

FORT LAUDERDALE, Fla. -Local 10 first brought you the story of the 90-year-old man who was arrested for illegally feeding the homeless in Fort Lauderdale. Wednesday he was back to continue his cause.

“Illegally feeding the homeless.” No, seriously. It is now a crime, in Ft. Lauderdale, to use your own money, buy and prepare food, search out those in need of nourishment, and feed them.

I can’t get over that phrase – “Illegally feeding the homeless”.

Why? Well here, let this idiot explain:

Mayor Jack Seiler, who supports the ordinance, said he’s gotten massive feedback as well, though not always so positive. But he said the law is meant to help the homeless, not to keep them from eating.

“Mr. Abbott has decided that he doesn’t think these individuals should have to have any interaction with government, that they should be fed in the parks. We disagree,” Seiler said.

I’ll bet he’s gotten “massive feedback”.  My guess is Mr. Seiler is probably Julia’s child. Imagine – not having “any interaction with government”.  Dude, that’s a feature in my book. Who in the hell do these people think they are? So the fact that this little tin dictator disagrees, he’s happy to use the force of government to put a 90 year old feeding the homeless in jail? This is just homegrown authoritarianism.

What is this bit of totalitarianism based on? “Experts, of course:

“It’s a pubic safety issue. It’s a public health issue,” said Seiler. “The experts have all said that if you’re going to feed them to get them from breakfast to lunch to dinner, all you’re doing is enabling that cycle of homelessness. They don’t interact with anyone, they don’t receive the aid that they need.”

Blah, blah, blah … another authoritarian does a little appealing to authority.

They don’t interact with anyone? They interact with those they want to interact with, including the guy feeding them. Not good enough, say the “experts”.

As with most experts, however, their good intentions usually have crap outcomes:

“What the city is doing by cutting out feeding is very simple — they are forcing homeless people to go dumpster-diving all over again,” Abbott said. “They will steal. That’s what the mayor is forcing the homeless to do.”

Well, that’s a little overboard too, i.e. no one is “forcing” anyone to steal. The point, however, is if this is a public safety issue and if it is a public health issue then why in the world would one of the acceptable outcome of this idiotic law be to encourage dumpster diving or theft by removing the ability of the homeless to receive food from someone other than a government official? Why don’t they have a right to do that? Other than this stupid law and this idiot trying to justify it, when did feeding someone less fortunate than you become “illegal”?

~McQ

To the Shepard Smiths of the world, STFU!

Smith has essentially jumped the shark by lecturing the audience to remain calm and not to believe most of the media hype surrounding the Ebola scare.   And Smith should know about media hype being one of the main purveyors of it during the Hurricane Katrina coverage.  Anyone remember that?  Yeah, me too.

But here’s the point.  I’m remaining calm.  I’m not panicking.  However I am more than a little bit angry about the fiasco, the circus, that surrounds the US case of Ebola.

Here’s a hint about why the CDC has been so blastedly inept in its handling of a single freaking case:

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention is a public-health agency, and public health is an uneasy combination of two very different things: emergency disease containment and nannyist do-goodism. It is a field that exists to save us from the plague and to tell us to drink less soda. To expect the same agency, and many of the same people, to be very good at both of these missions is a lot to ask, and the CDC is much better at the second than the first. Since (thank God) we don’t experience many plague outbreaks, public health spends most of its time on that second mission: preaching the virtues of green vegetables and contraception. So the CDC is for the most part an agency engaged in a kind of low-grade, often silly social activism much of the time. When we confront a disease outbreak or similar public-health emergency, the CDC turns to the other part of its mission, and has an impressive core of experts and resources to call upon in doing so. But the turn is no simple matter, and the fact is we (thankfully) just haven’t had much experience with public-health emergencies on American soil, so the people charged with handling them haven’t had much practice here. It is not hard to imagine how all of this could lead to failures of the sort we have seen.

And who is the head of the CDC?  The same guy who helped NYC’s mayor Bloomberg impose tobacco bans, try to ban Big Gulps and chase your salt use.  That’s right, a “nannyist do-gooder” who hasn’t the faintest idea, or so it seems, on how to address the core mission of the CDC (i.e. the mission for which it was originally formed).  Shouldn’t we be angry and upset about that? After the initial whining by the bureaucrats about how “funding” was a problem we learned about how they prioritized the funding they got (which, by the way, was more than adequate).  It certainly wasn’t primarily spent on the core mission as is now very obvious.

Ever hear of Dr. Nichole Lurie?  Yeah, me neither.  But she is the defacto “Ebola Czar”.

…Dr. Nicole Lurie, explains that the responsibilities of her office are “to help our country prepare for, respond to and recover from public health threats.” She says her major priority is to help the country prepare for emergencies and to “have the countermeasures—the medicines or vaccines that people might need to use in a public health emergency. So a large part of my office also is responsible for developing those countermeasures.”

Or, as National Journal rather glowingly puts it, “Lurie’s job is to plan for the unthinkable. A global flu pandemic? She has a plan. A bioterror attack? She’s on it. Massive earthquake? Yep. Her responsibilities as assistant secretary span public health, global health, and homeland security.” A profile of Lurie quoted her as saying, “I have responsibility for getting the nation prepared for public health emergencies—whether naturally occurring disasters or man-made, as well as for helping it respond and recover. It’s a pretty significant undertaking.” Still another refers to her as “the highest-ranking federal official in charge of preparing the nation to face such health crises as earthquakes, hurricanes, terrorist attacks, and pandemic influenza.”

Lurie is the Asst. Secretary of HHS for “preparedness and response, whose job it is to “lead the nation in preventing, responding to and recovering from the adverse health effects of public health emergencies and disasters, ranging from hurricanes to bioterrorism.””

Really?  Where IS she?!  Instead, CNN reports, we’re getting a different Ebola Czar:

President Barack Obama is expected to name Ron Klain, a former chief of staff to two Democratic vice presidents, as the country’s Ebola czar, knowledgeable sources told CNN’s Jake Tapper today.

Klain is a former chief of staff to Vice President Joe Biden and also to former Vice President Al Gore. Klain is currently president of Case Holdings and General Counsel of Revolution, an investment group. He has clerked for the U.S. Supreme Court and headed up Gore’s effort during the 2000 Florida recount.

Yes, that’s right friends, we’re getting a lawyer and political hack inserted into the mess.

Meanwhile, off the coast of Belize, a Carnival cruiseliner is being barred entry to a port because one of the healthcare workers who treated our Patient Zero is on board (so far no symptoms, thank goodness).  I guess it was too forward thinking to sequester all those workers to ensure they weren’t infected and didn’t pose a threat to others.  I mean, you know, Epidemic Prevention 101 is so 20th Century … or something.

So Shep, STFU.  You’re an overpaid news reader.  Confine yourself to doing that.  Talking about panicking because of media hype is about as hypocritical as anything you can do, given your history.

As for me, I’ll remain outspoken about how poorly this particular event has been handled and continues to be handled.  It is all about ineptness and lack of leadership at many levels and in many bureaucratic agencies.  It is the poison fruit of big government.  The only silver lining in all of this is the media coverage is keeping that front and center for the public to see.

I’m fine with that.

~McQ

Tales from the Nanny State

The first comes from our “hoist on their own petard” department:

A study from three sociologists based out of North Carolina State University charges that First Lady Michelle Obama’s campaign topromote healthy eating and decrease childhood obesity rates is classist and sexist in its implementation. This is because the model Obama advocates tends to put the onus of preparing healthy meals specifically on women, and also expects a level of disposable income, transportation options, and free time, which low-income families may lack.

The researchers interviewed 150 mothers and spent 250 hours observing 12 working-class and poor families as they shopped for food, cooked, and ate. They note:

In the fight to combat rising obesity rates, modern-day food gurus advocate a return to the kitchen. […] First lady Michelle Obama has also been influential in popularizing public health messages that emphasize the role that mothers play when it comes to helping children make healthy choices. The message that good parents — and in particular, good mothers — cook for their families dovetails with increasingly intensive and unrealistic standards of “good” mothering. [Sage Journals]

The study concludes that, “this emerging standard is a tasty illusion, one that is moralistic, and rather elitist, instead of a realistic vision of cooking today.”

Yes that’s right, the Interferer in Chief’s campaign has been declared classist and sexist.  Of course if this were a right winger we were talking about all the lefty blogs would be blaring this in the headlines with a healthy dose of “I told you so” and “they just can’t seem to help it, can they” thrown in.

Irony.  You have to love it.  Its things like this that make my day go somewhat easier.

The second comes to us from Seattle, WA and is an example of what happens when people lose control of their government and that government decides to micro-manage every aspect of their lives with the intent of making sure they live it the way their betters decide they should live it:

The City of Seattle just passed a new trash ordinance that would fine residents and businesses for throwing away too much food.

The new rules would allow garbage collectors to inspect trash cans and ticket offending parties if food and compostable material makes up 10 percent or more of the trash.

The fines will begin at $1 for residents and $50 for businesses and apartment buildings, according to the Seattle Times.

So who will be the biggest offenders?  Well, most likely schools which use the Michelle Obama program – okay, I had to tie them together somehow.  No word, however, on how restaurants will fare under the law.

But think of it in a larger sense.  You buy the food.  It’s yours, your property.  You can prepare it however you like (within reason) and eat it if you care too or  … not.  What you throw away or decide not to keep is entirely up to you  — it’s YOUR property. It is none of anyone’s business.

On the other hand, you pay a fee or taxes to have your trash hauled away.  That’s their job.  Nothing more.  Haul your trash away. In steps government and arbitrarily decides that you’re throwing too much food away (goodness knows where that perception comes from) and the “there ought to be a law” folks step up.  They give those who pick up your trash the power to ticket you if they find you’ve thrown away too much food. Yeah, that’s right – the garbage police!

Most of the time these yahoos can’t even pick up the trash on time, and, of course they’re all math majors, so figuring out what percentage of your weekly trash pick up is over 10% should be a snap.  They have plenty of time, right?  I mean, good lord.

And if, in fact, people take this seriously, what do you suppose might happen? They’ll dump elsewhere.  If they’re smart they’ll find dumpsters outside the Seattle city hall and dump their food excess there.  Then the city can fine itself.

But it is another example of an unworkable law which will be arbitrarily imposed (if at all) and will see people attempting to circumvent it by means that I would guess will be less than sanitary and good for the city’s overall health.

Nannys.

~McQ

“Economic patriotism” equals “stay here and pay punitive taxes to cover our ruinous spending habit”

“Economic patriotism” is the new meme that Democrats are throwing around to demonize companies that try to avoid taxes here in the US, i.e. you’re not a patriotic company if you attempt to avoid taxes the Dems think you should be paying.  Kevin Williamson covers it:

Jack Lew, late of Citigroup and currently of the Obama administration, has issued a call for “economic patriotism.” This phrase, which is without meaningful intellectual content, is popular in Democratic circles these days. Ted Strickland, the clownish xenophobe and nearly lifelong suckler upon all available taxpayer teats who once served as governor of Ohio, famously denounced Mitt Romney as a man lacking “economic patriotism” during the 2012 Democratic convention. President Barack Obama has used the phrase. It’s not that I do not appreciate lectures on “economic patriotism” from feckless former executives of dodgy Wall Street enterprises, guys who get rich monetizing their political celebrity, and second-rate ward-heelers from third-rate states; it’s just that nobody ever has been able to explain to me what the term is intended to mean.

The proximate cause of Mr. Lew’s distress is the fact that many U.S. firms either are up and leaving the country entirely or are acquiring foreign competitors in order to reorganize themselves as companies legally domiciled in friendly tax jurisdictions.

Now we’re not talking about 3rd world countries here … just countries that are much friendlier to business and have a lower tax rate.  For instance:

U.S. pharmaceutical firms in particular have been in a rush to acquire partners in order to escape punitive U.S. corporate taxes for the relatively hospitable climates of Ireland, the United Kingdom, and the Netherlands. Walgreen’s, a venerable firm that, like the lamentable political career of Barack Obama, has its origins in Chicago, is considering abandoning its hometown of 113 years for Switzerland. Eaton, a Cleveland-based manufacturer of electronic components, moved to Ireland. The list goes on.

Note that in spite of the would-be class warriors’ “race to the bottom” rhetoric, these firms are not moving to relatively low-wage countries such as China or India. Switzerland is not a Third World hellhole — especially if your immediate point of comparison is murderlicious Chicago, which endures more homicides in a typical July than gun-loving Switzerland sees in a typical year. The Netherlands is not Haiti, and Ireland is not Bangladesh.

Got an ironic chuckle out of his point about Chicago. Maybe some might consider they’re moving out of a 3rd world country if they’re Chicago (or Detroit) based.

Anyway, all of these places have one thing in common – lower taxes, less regulation and a friendlier business climate than exists in the US.  What they face here is the reason they’re becoming “unpatriotic”.  It is more than just taxes:

Mr. Lew is correct in his assertion that relative tax rates are a main driver in the desire of firms to relocate, though it is not the only driver — arbitrary and unpredictable regulation, a lousy tort environment, and unstable public finances surely play a role as well. The United States has the highest statutory corporate-income-tax rate in the developed world, and though effective rates are typically lower than the nominal rate, that is more of a bug than a feature: Our corporate-income-tax regime is riddled with handouts and political favoritism. Crony capitalism is not an inspiring condition for firms looking to make long-term investments.

The point of Democrats and their use of “economic patriotism”, of course, is to demonize and attempt to shame companies that seek relief from the business crippling effects of this government.  If the company doesn’t stay to be bled dry by the Dems to finance their utopian and big government schemes, well, they’re just “unpatriotic”.

Williamson summarizes:

“Economic patriotism” and its kissing cousin, economic nationalism, are ideas with a fairly stinky history, having been a mainstay of fascist rhetoric during the heyday of Franklin D. Roosevelt’s favorite “admirable Italian gentleman.” My colleague Jonah Goldberg has labored mightily in the task of illustrating the similarities between old-school fascist thinking and modern progressive thinking on matters political and social, but it is on economic questions that contemporary Democrats and vintage fascists are remarkably alike. In fact, their approaches are for all intents and purposes identical: As most economic historians agree, neither the Italian fascists nor the German national-socialists nor any similar movement of great significance had anything that could be described as a coherent economic philosophy. The Italian fascists put forward a number of different and incompatible economic theories during their reign, and the Third Reich, under the influence of Adolf Hitler’s heroic conception of history, mostly subordinated economic questions as such to purportedly grander concerns involving destiny and other abstractions.

Which is to say, what the economic nationalism of Benito Mussolini most has in common with the prattling and blockheaded talk of “economic patriotism” coming out of the mealy mouths of 21st-century Democrats is the habit of subordinating everything to immediate political concerns. In this context, “patriotism” doesn’t mean doing what’s best for your country — it means doing what is best for the Obama administration and its congressional allies.“Economic patriotism” and its kissing cousin, economic nationalism, are ideas with a fairly stinky history, having been a mainstay of fascist rhetoric during the heyday of Franklin D. Roosevelt’s favorite “admirable Italian gentleman.” My colleague Jonah Goldberg has labored mightily in the task of illustrating the similarities between old-school fascist thinking and modern progressive thinking on matters political and social, but it is on economic questions that contemporary Democrats and vintage fascists are remarkably alike. In fact, their approaches are for all intents and purposes identical: As most economic historians agree, neither the Italian fascists nor the German national-socialists nor any similar movement of great significance had anything that could be described as a coherent economic philosophy. The Italian fascists put forward a number of different and incompatible economic theories during their reign, and the Third Reich, under the influence of Adolf Hitler’s heroic conception of history, mostly subordinated economic questions as such to purportedly grander concerns involving destiny and other abstractions.

Which is to say, what the economic nationalism of Benito Mussolini most has in common with the prattling and blockheaded talk of “economic patriotism” coming out of the mealy mouths of 21st-century Democrats is the habit of subordinating everything to immediate political concerns. In this context, “patriotism” doesn’t mean doing what’s best for your country — it means doing what is best for the Obama administration and its congressional allies.

Another adventure in short-term political gain trumping a coherent economic policy that is pro-growth, pro-jobs, etc.  Nothing new in that, but I think the summary helps focus it’s purpose. And it has nothing to do with “patriotism” or “economics”.

~McQ

The bureaucratic state

While the enemies of freedom certainly are made up of politicians who would limit or take away your freedom, probably the most insidious of those enemies is the bureaucrat. As we’ve seen for decades, politicians come and go, but bureaucracies run the day to day machine of government. And as we’re seeing right now with the IRS, they’re both unelected and unaccountable, despite the volume of the outrage.

But remember, on the political side of this, one of the goals of the current administration was to help us believe that “big government” was a good thing … much better for many things than the private markets out there. One of the goals of ObamaCare was to take a giant step toward fully government run, single payer health care. But we’ve been feeding you stories for years about how badly the UK’s NHS performs and we’ve also pointed out that theirs isn’t an “exception” to the rule. If there is a rule, it is the rule of bureaucracies which says they exist to expand and protect themselves and really don’t much care about the original mission, in terms of performance. However, they’ll do just about anything to protect themselves. As I pointed out yesterday, the IRS director has committed himself to one of the most improbable stories about the fate of Lois Lerner’s emails since Bill Clinton uttered his infamous “I didn’t have sex with that woman …”. Everyone in the room knew he had. Everyone. And everyone in the Congressional hearing, including the witness, knew that his excuse for the loss of those emails was bogus.

Back to the point about “big government” being the best way to go and the liberal wet dream of government run health care (single payer) becoming reality. If, in fact, we want the American version of the NHS, we simply need to look at the only government run health care system in the America – VA (yes, I realize the military also runs a “single payer” system, but it isn’t set up for long care, etc – it’s a necessity that goes with the job). And what do we find in VA? Well check this out and tell me it doesn’t remind you of some of the horror stories you’ve seen from NHS. As you’ll see, it could very well be the NHS. As you’ll also see, the fault lies where? With the uncaring bureaucracy that has grown up around this system and its abuses are now coming to light:

Two psychiatric patients at a veterans facility in Brockton received no regular evaluations of their condition for years, part of a “troubling pattern of deficient patient care” that federal investigators say they have confirmed at veterans health care facilities nationwide.

One of the neglected patients at the Brockton Community Living Center who had been admitted for “significant and chronic mental health issues” was living in the 106-bed facility for eight years before he received his first psychiatric evaluation, investigators reported.

The other unidentified patient, although he was classified as 100 percent mentally disabled due to his military service, had only a single “psychiatric note” placed in his medical file between 2005 and 2013.

Let me make a prediction – as they get more and more into this, they’ll find this is just the proverbial “tip of the iceberg”. Of course, making such a prediction is certainly no high-risk venture.  Just look around you and take a gander at how well Leviathan is doing on almost any front.  Let’s just say “poorly” would be a compliment.  Justice?  Trashed.  Political influence of agencies?  See IRS.  See the misnamed Justice Department.  Bureaucratic overreach – see EPA and others.  Criminal incompetence?  See VA.   Etc.

Americans are going to have to make a choice and they’re going to have to make it quickly.  The bureaucratic state or the state of freedom.  Some would argue that we’re at the tipping point.  Some argue we’re beyond it.  That we’re looking at our future and the future is all down hill as the bureaucratic state transitions from servant to master.  Unelected, unaccountable and, frankly, uncaring – except to further its existence.

~McQ

Living with progressive values

Like they’re doing in New York City:

At her January inauguration, New York city council speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito told her colleagues, “Now is the time to embrace our progressive moment and put our values into action.”

Whoo hoo … right?  Yeah, not so much.  What that means is your business is their business and privacy is a vestage of simpler, more conservative times (you know, like the time in which the Constitution of the United States was written).  In the brave new world of progressive values, that old bit of parchment is passe.

One of the Democrat-dominated council’s first acts was to override former mayor Michael Bloomberg’s vetoes of bills from previous sessions. Then the 51-member legislative body got down to business: regulating the minutiae of New Yorkers’ lives, empowering city agencies to enter private property at will, and setting up task forces to study leisure activities.

At its semi-weekly “stated” meeting—where members pass bills and introduce new legislation—the council directed the Department of Health to develop a registry of convicted animal abusers, along the lines of the sex-offender registries that all states maintain. The registry would ensure that animal abusers cannot own animals for at least five years following their conviction or incarceration. Abusers will have to submit to annual reviews of their living situations, and pet stores and animal shelters will need to check the registry before selling an animal. Preventing animal abuse is a laudable goal, but the new law suffers from several deficiencies. For one thing, the Department of Health opposed its passage. The DOH has no enforcement capability or experience in monitoring criminals.

So where will the possible abuse probably occur?  Yup … DOH.

But that’s nothing compared to this next beauty:

Meanwhile, Upper Manhattan councilmember Ydanis Rodriguez proposed a bill that would expand city workers’ authority to demand entry into many buildings. The bill, Intro 18, covers all buildings that receive tax benefits under Section 421-a of the tax code, which covers affordable housing. Councilmember Rodriguez’s bill would allow representatives of “any city agency” to access any such building for any reason—and “such request for access need not be made in writing.”

Intro 18 doesn’t specify which areas of a building must be made accessible to city employees, nor does it specifically limit the scope of the investigations. The bill comes with no memo explaining its intent, as is typically included when a bill makes its way through committee hearings. But one could reasonably imagine a scenario where an inspector wanted to check, say, if the affordable units in a rental building or co-op were outfitted with the same appliances and fixtures as market-rate units. According to the bill’s language, it appears the tenants or unit owners could be forced to open their doors to inspectors at any time. The potential for abuse is clear. Picture a series of minor administrative factotums waiting to have their palms greased to stave off endless inspections. Rodriguez’s bill suggests a city where private property is a privilege that can be taken away by a bureaucrat’s will.

And, of course, they’ll be “shocked, shocked I tell you” when, in 6 months, they uncover their first corruption scandal involving city employees or discover the bill is being abused by bureaucrats.  Note that the bill is “proposed” for the time being.  But it certainly reflects these progressive’s values, doesn’t it?

Another proposed bill reflecting those progressive values?

Another proposed law, Intro 8, addresses the grave problem of businesses claiming to be “environmentally friendly.” New Yorkers, a naïve and trusting group of rubes, apparently are getting snookered by greener-than-thou businesses. So much so that Brooklyn councilmember Vincent Gentile wants the city to establish an official “environmentally friendly” designation for which businesses can apply. The bill’s text calls for the Commissioner of Small Business Services to “coordinate with the Department of Environmental Protection, the Department of Consumer Affairs, the Mayor’s Office of Long Term Planning and Sustainability and any other city agency or agencies that regulate businesses,” to devise categories of environmentally friendly businesses and non-environmentally friendly businesses. Should this it really be a top priority for the city council?

Should it?  No.  But will that stop them?  No.

More:

Perhaps topping them all, councilmember Ruben Wills of southeast Queens has submitted Intro 44, “in relation to the creation of a task force on the sport of cricket.” The bill’s multiple sub-sections and sub-sub sections describe the constitution of the task force and detail the making of appointments, filling of vacancies, and so on. After a year, the envisioned task force will deliver a report that “shall include specific recommendations on the following topics: i. funding sources for team equipment, uniforms, and umpires; ii. promoting cricket in New York City; iii. potential economic development initiatives.”

Cricket’s popularity in Pakistan, India, and Trinidad stems in part from the ease with which it can be played, pickup-style, with limited equipment: a ball, a bat, and some sticks for the wicket. Visit any playing field in central Brooklyn or eastern Queens and you’ll see plenty of people enthusiastically playing. It’s not clear why the city needs a task force to brainstorm “funding sources” for an already popular pastime.

Critical fraking stuff, no?  Very important that Cricket be regulated in some form or fashion to the benefit of … NYC of course.  Er, I mean NYC’s citizens.

If these are examples of progressive values, I’ll live in my backwater and more conservative/libertarian area where citizens, for the most part, continue to tell local pols to mind their own business not theirs and to ensure they pick up the trash on time and keep the roads clear.

~McQ

Scheming away your money … and privacy

That’s primarily what politicians seem to want to do despite protestations to the contrary by some.  They’re always looking for a new “revenue stream”.  And since tax payers are the only folks who actually pay taxes, they’re constantly dreaming up new ways to “access” your wallet.

Such as:

Rep. Earl Blumenauer (D-Ore.) on Tuesday reintroduced legislation that would require the government to study the most practical ways of taxing drivers based on how far they drive, in order to help fund federal highway programs.

Blumenauer’s bill, H.R. 3638, would set up a Road Usage Fee Pilot Program, which he said would study mileage-based fee systems. He cast his bill as a long-term solution for funding highway programs, and proposed it along with a shorter-term plan to nearly double the gas tax, from 18.4 cents to 33.4 cents per gallon.

“As we extend the gas tax, we must also think about how to replace it with something more sustainable,” Blumenauer said Tuesday. “The best candidate would be the vehicle mile traveled fee being explored by pilot projects in Oregon and implemented there on a voluntary basis next year.”

Because, you know, taxpayers paid for the highways, taxpayers have funded the maintenance of the highways and now they should pay for the privilege of driving on them as well. So, many single moms, who can barely afford gas for the car,  will likely be paying by the mile to go to work (as with most of these stupid schemes, the one’s who can afford it the least will get hit the hardest by it).

Brilliant!  Aw, what the heck, they can take public transportation, huh?

And what about privacy? What business is it of government how far you drive. One assumes they’ll be able to verify your mileage somehow, no? Do you really think it will be up to you to voluntarily keep records and report to the government? Of course not. So somehow the system has to be able to track you and tally mileage.

Yup:

In 2011, the Congressional Budget Office (CBO) released a study that explored how a VMT system might work. That report suggested devices could be fitted onto cars that log how far they have traveled, and these devices could be electronically read at gas stations to general tax bills for drivers.

That’s what I want … a government tracking device on my car.

Where’s Orwell when you need him?

~McQ

Bloomberg’s NYC soda ban ruled “unconstitutional” by court

I love it when petty tyrants are struck down:

New York City’s crackdown on big, sugary sodas is staying on ice.

An appeals court ruled Tuesday that the city’s Board of Health exceeded its legal authority and acted unconstitutionally when it tried to put a size limit on soft drinks served in city restaurants.

In a unanimous opinion, the four-judge panel of the state Supreme Court Appellate Division said that the health board was acting too much like a legislature when it created the limit, which would have stopped sales of non-diet soda and other sugar-laden beverages in containers bigger than 16 ounces.

The judges wrote that while the board had the power to ban “inherently harmful” foodstuffs from being served to the public, sweetened beverages didn’t fall into that category. They also said the board appeared to have crafted much of the new rules based on political or economic considerations, rather than health concerns.

Bingo.  In fact, they were instrumental in carrying out the wishes of one man – Mayor Michael Bloomberg.  His is a personal agenda that has little to do with health and much to do with what he perceives as his duty to stop people from using substances that he deems harmful.

Thankfully the court said he doesn’t get to do that – at least not without substantial evidence to support his use of a ban.  If ever there was an example of “arbitrary and capricious”, Bloomberg’s ban defines it.

But as a rule, petty tyrants don’t like getting their hands slapped.  So, instead of seeing the handwriting on the wall, this one will spend more of NY taxpayers money pursuing a loss in a higher court:

The city’s law department promised a quick appeal.

“Today’s decision is a temporary setback, and we plan to appeal this decision as we continue the fight against the obesity epidemic,” Mayor Michael Bloomberg said in a statement.

And if you ever wanted to understand why these busy-body do-gooders exist, here’s a fine statement to illustrate the point and the problem:

“We have a responsibility, as human beings, to do something, to save each other. … So while other people will wring their hands over the problem of sugary drinks, in New York City, we’re doing something about it,” Bloomberg said at a news conference after the measure was struck down in March.

Uh no, you don’t “have a responsibility” to “do something”.  It’s none of your freaking business, sir.  What you are doing is interfering in the life of people who haven’t asked you to do so and are therefore violating their right to do as they wish as long and they don’t violate the rights of others.  That’s something petty tyrants can’t seem to get through there heads.

Freedom means the right to be fat, unhealthy and to fail.  You may not like those things personally, but that indeed is the cost of freedom.  If you’d prefer to be free to make your own choices rather than have some nanny make them for you, then you believe in freedom.  Mayor Bloomberg does not.

~McQ

Regulation nation a symptom of an incurable disease?

Niall Ferguson has a piece in the Wall Street Journal which talks about the growth of regulation within the nation.  He starts with a quote from de Tocqueville in which de Tocqueville marvels at how Americans manage to self-regulate through associations.  He then notes that de Tocqueville wouldn’t recognize the US if he were to suddenly come back.  It looks too much like Europe.

Why?

Regulation has crept in to help smother us all the while the culture has changed to where Americans seem to no longer look to each other to solve problems, but instead look to government.

Regulations are simply a symptom of this business and autonomy killing movement.  And their growth track pretty well with our demise:

As the Competitive Enterprise Institute’s Clyde Wayne Crews shows in his invaluable annual survey of the federal regulatory state, we have become the regulation nation almost imperceptibly. Excluding blank pages, the 2012 Federal Register—the official directory of regulation—today runs to 78,961 pages. Back in 1986 it was 44,812 pages. In 1936 it was just 2,620.

True, our economy today is much larger than it was in 1936—around 12 times larger, allowing for inflation. But the Federal Register has grown by a factor of 30 in the same period.

The last time regulation was cut was under Ronald Reagan, when the number of pages in the Federal Register fell by 31%. Surprise: Real GDP grew by 30% in that same period. But Leviathan’s diet lasted just eight years. Since 1993, 81,883 new rules have been issued. In the past 10 years, the “final rules” issued by our 63 federal departments, agencies and commissions have outnumbered laws passed by Congress 223 to 1.

Right now there are 4,062 new regulations at various stages of implementation, of which 224 are deemed “economically significant,” i.e., their economic impact will exceed $100 million.

The cost of all this, Mr. Crews estimates, is $1.8 trillion annually—that’s on top of the federal government’s $3.5 trillion in outlays, so it is equivalent to an invisible 65% surcharge on your federal taxes, or nearly 12% of GDP. Especially invidious is the fact that the costs of regulation for small businesses (those with fewer than 20 employees) are 36% higher per employee than they are for bigger firms.

Got that?  224 new regulations which will have an economic impact that will “exceed $100 million” dollars.  Negatively of course.  That was the purpose of having regulations rated like that – to understand the probable negative economic impact.  And we have 224 in the hopper, in a very down economy, which will exceed the negative $100 million dollar mark.  What are those people thinking?  Or are they?  Indications are they give it no thought when these new regulations are proffered. They just note the cost and move on. No skin of their rear ends.

And if you think that’s bad, just wait:

Next year’s big treat will be the implementation of the Affordable Care Act, something every small business in the country must be looking forward to with eager anticipation. Then, as Sen. Rob Portman (R., Ohio) warned readers on this page 10 months ago, there’s also the Labor Department’s new fiduciary rule, which will increase the cost of retirement planning for middle-class workers; the EPA’s new Ozone Rule, which will impose up to $90 billion in yearly costs on American manufacturers; and the Department of Transportation’s Rear-View Camera Rule. That’s so you never have to turn your head around when backing up.

Yes, that’s right, they’re hardly done. In fact, they’re not even slowing down. The accumulation of power within the central government – the ability to intrude in almost every aspect of your life – is attempting to reach warp speed.

Finally, as if what I’ve noted isn’t enough, we have another costly travesty in the gestation stage, i.e. the “Gang of 8’s” immigration bill.  From PowerLine:

The CBO confirms that the bill provides for a vast influx of new, legal immigration. The Senate Budget Committee says:

CBO projects 16 million new immigrants will be added by 2033 on top of the current law projected flow of 22 million and that 8 million illegal immigrants will be granted permanent status – for a total of 46 million legal immigrants, including a doubling of guest workers to 1.6 million in a single year.

Contrary to the claims of the bill’s sponsors, this influx will be overwhelmingly low-skilled. The CBO says:

[T]he new workers would be less skilled and have lower wages, on average, than the labor force under current law.

The result is that unemployment will increase, and wages will be driven down, for America’s existing blue collar work force:

Taking into account all of those flows of new immigrants, CBO and JCT expect that a greater number of immigrants with lower skills than with higher skills would be added to the workforce, slightly pushing down the average wage for the labor force as a whole… However, CBO and JCT expect that currently unauthorized workers who would obtain legal status under S. 744 would see an increase in their average wages.

Terrific: the only ones who would gain would be those who came here illegally, while native born workers would suffer. The CBO report continues:

[T]he average wage would be lower than under current law over the first dozen years. … CBO estimates that S. 744 would cause the unemployment rate to increase slightly between 2014 and 2020.

Ruinous? Along with everything else, pretty much.

To say America has lost it’s way is, well, an understatement. We aren’t close to being what was envisioned at our founding and we’re almost kissing cousins of that which our Founders attempted to keep us from becoming – today’s Europe.

Unfortunately, that ruinous drift and over reliance on government seems to be fine for all too many of those who call themselves Americans today.

~McQ

“I do think there are certain times we should infringe on your freedom”

Michael Bloomberg on what you’re going to have to put up with because, you know, freedom comes in second to safety:

In the wake of the Boston Marathon bombings, Mayor Michael Bloomberg said Monday the country’s interpretation of the Constitution will “have to change” to allow for greater security to stave off future attacks.

“The people who are worried about privacy have a legitimate worry,” Mr. Bloomberg said during a press conference in Midtown. “But we live in a complex word where you’re going to have to have a level of security greater than you did back in the olden days, if you will. And our laws and our interpretation of the Constitution, I think, have to change.”

Yeah … no.  What you’re seeing there is just a different way of saying what potential tyrants (authoritarians) have said for centuries.  A shorter version is what Bloomberg said before seen in the title.  That’s what he really means.  This? This is just him saying the same thing but trying to dress it up so it sounds semi-acceptable and reasonable.  It is neither.  What has to change is we need to stand up and say “no” finally.

Because, as you know, the Constitution has remained a consistent obstacle to the authoritarians who would rule over us:

“Look, we live in a very dangerous world. We know there are people who want to take away our freedoms. New Yorkers probably know that as much if not more than anybody else after the terrible tragedy of 9/11,” he said.

“We have to understand that in the world going forward, we’re going to have more cameras and that kind of stuff. That’s good in some sense, but it’s different from what we are used to,” he said.

Or, welcome to the surveillance state. You may surrender your privacy rights over there.

Face it – the terrorists have won.

~McQ

PS: Oh, btw, we made The New Yorker yesterday.  Ironic, no?

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