Free Markets, Free People


TSA and America’s attitudes

W have dueling polls concerning the level of anger/distress/rejection of the new TSA procedures being introduced in airports recently.  Zogby International and Gallup have come up with different results of polls they’ve recently taken about how the flying public feels about the “don’t touch my junk” controversy.

Gallup says that the overwhelming number of frequent flyers really don’t have a problem with the new procedures.  Since millions of flyers move through the system and at last count I saw, only about 170,000 had been subjected to the advanced pat down, I have to wonder if that high number is a result of the fact that while they’ve heard about the pat downs, they’ve never experienced one.   And certainly, I assume a good number of them simply have no problem with the possible health care aspects of the back scatter x-ray or with some nameless bureaucrat ogling their “junk”.


Anyway, per Gallup, frequent travelers are “largely” ok with full body scanners but not as enthused with the possibility of an advanced pat down.

They put the number at 71% who claim that the loss of personal privacy (through full body scan or pat down) is “worth it”  to prevent acts of terrorism.  27% say it is not worth it.  What’s the old saying?  A liberal is someone who has never been mugged before?  I get the impression that “in theory” they may find it to be “worth it” but I really have to wonder if they’d hold to that if they had to undergo the procedures.

As you get into the poll you find this:

The majority (57%) say they are not bothered by the prospect of undergoing a full-body scan at airport security checkpoints. The same percentage, however, say they are bothered, if not angry, about the prospect of undergoing a full-body pat-down. Still, fewer than one in three frequent air travelers are "angry" about undergoing either procedure.TSA3

Again, note the wording – they’re not bothered “by the prospect” of undergoing a full-body scan.  And it isn’t some “vast majority” like the 71% implies.  It’s 57% of which I’d guess most haven’t undergone either procedure (I believe the scanners are only in 70 or so airports at this time).

Zogby, on the other hand, come up with much different result than did Gallup:

Of the 2,032 likely voters polled between November 19 and November 22, 61 percent said they oppose the use of body scanners and pat downs.

Now that does wander into “vast majority” territory.  It also completely contradicts a CBS News poll that said only 15% were opposed to the full-body scanners.  Of course the poll was conducted November 7-10, before the “don’t touch my junk” controversy had really exploded in the media.TSA4

  The Zogby poll also mentions something that has gotten very little media attention.  The administration came out early saying that all their scientists say the x-ray scanners pose no health threat to the flying public.  But that’s not necessarily true.  I know, I know – you’re shocked, aren’t you?  But it is a matter of statistics that in fact someone will get skin cancer according to Dr. Michael Love of Johns Hopkins:

"They say the risk is minimal, but statistically someone is going to get skin cancer from these x-rays," Dr. Michael Love, who runs an x-ray lab at Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine, said.

When you consider how absurdly far the government sometimes goes in order to minimize risk in other health areas, it seems a bit contradictory to me to see it now claiming safety for something that obviously will statistically cause cancer in those who undergo the procedure.


Now as mentioned it may not be a major risk, but it is certainly something people must consider when submitting.  And how about their kids? 

If they opt out because of those concerns, they get the grope treatment instead.  Not exactly what you’d expect in the “land of the free and the home of the brave” in terms of choices which preserve individual liberty and privacy.

Zogby reports, contrary to Gallup’s findings:

The poll also found that men were slightly more opposed than women, with 63 percent of men and 60 percent of women opposing the TSA’s new checkpoint procedures.

In addition, 52 percent of respondents think the new security procedures will not prevent terrorist activity, 48 percent consider it a violation of privacy rights and 32 percent consider it to be sexual harassment.

Zogby looks at the politics of the issue – and guess who manages to find themselves on the wrong side of an individual rights issue?

Republicans and Independents are more opposed to the new body scans and pat downs than Democrats, with 69 percent of Republicans and 65 percent of Independents opposing them, compared to only 50 percent of Democrats.

And finally, the business aspect of all of this.  Gallup somehow finds an increase in the number of frequent travelers (flown 2 or more times this year) vs. those who would seek an alternate means of travel.  They note that in January of this year, 27% would seek alternate means of travel while in this recent survey, only 19% would seek an alternative to avoid the “hassles” associated with flying.

Zogby found a much different result among those they polled:

"It is clear the majority of Americans are not happy with TSA and the enhanced security measures recently enacted," said pollster John Zogby. "The airlines should not be happy with 42 percent of frequent flyers seeking a different mode of transportation due to these enhancements."

Below I commented on the climate government creates in which businesses have to operate.  This is an interesting example of the point.  Although not exactly what I was alluding too below, it is indeed an example of government action effecting the financial health of a market sector.  And the moves are unilateral and obviously without consideration of the downside for that sector.  Not to mention all the liberty related problems any American should find with these procedures as well.


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TSA absurdities–trading liberty for security and getting neither

This TSA nonsense is getting past absurd very quickly. Yesterday in San Diego (again – that’s where "don’t touch my junk" was first heard) there was another incident. This time the guy in question refused the scanner and, knowing what was coming, and most likely trying to avoid being groped, stripped down to his underwear.

OK perhaps he shouldn’t have done that, but by doing so it became clear there was nothing hiding on his person. That’s where the laugh out loud and shake your head moment came in:

This time the defendant, Sam Wolanyk says he was asked to pass through the 3-D x-ray machine. When Wolanyk refused, Transportation Security Administration (TSA) personnel told him he would have to be patted down before he could pass through and board his airplane.

Wolanyk said he knew what was coming and took off his pants and shirt, leaving him in Calvin Klein bike undergarments.

“It was obvious that my underwear left nothing to the imagination,” he explained. “But that wasn’t enough for the TSA supervisor who was called to the scene and asked me to put my clothes on so I could be properly patted down.”

Yeah, that’s right – don’t believe you lyin’ eyes, only a good grope will satisfy the authorities.

This comes on the heels of another example of the absurdity we’re subjected too.  And no the following isn’t apocryphal, this happened and has been confirmed. These troops had already been cleared by customs in a detailed inspection to include sniffer dogs, the whole 9 yards. They had not been off the plane since. Over two hundred of them were on the plane with their M4 assault rifles and SAWs. The plane stopped in Indiana to drop off some troops and instead of letting the plane take off (it didn’t need to be refueled) to its final destination, TSA insisted the troops all get off for another inspection.  And, of course, TSA was very successful in finding a bunch of hidden weapons with which the plane could have been taken over. This was written by a soldier who witnessed the exchange:

So we’re in line, going through one at a time. One of our Soldiers had his Gerber multi-tool. TSA confiscated it. Kind of ridiculous, but it gets better. A few minutes later, a guy empties his pockets and has a pair of nail clippers. Nail clippers. TSA informs the Soldier that they’re going to confiscate his nail clippers. The conversation went something like this:

TSA Guy: You can’t take those on the plane.

Soldier: What? I’ve had them since we left country.

TSA Guy: You’re not suppose to have them.

Soldier: Why?

TSA Guy: They can be used as a weapon.

Soldier: [touches butt stock of the rifle] But this actually is a weapon. And I’m allowed to take it on.

TSA Guy: Yeah but you can’t use it to take over the plane. You don’t have bullets.

Soldier: And I can take over the plane with nail clippers?

TSA Guy: [awkward silence]

Me: Dude, just give him your damn nail clippers so we can get the f**k out of here. I’ll buy you a new set.

Soldier: [hands nail clippers to TSA guy, makes it through security]

This might be a good time to remind everyone that approximately 233 people re-boarded that plane with assault rifles, pistols, and machine guns-but nothing that could have been used as a weapon.

Meanwhile, back in San Diego – Wolanyk is paraded through 2 other terminals in his underwear, because one assumes, it would have been too much of a hassle to let him get dressed before removing him from the TSA area.  He was obviously in the wrong for disrobing, but what that necessary?

And another less publicized arrest took place there as well.  A woman was arrested for taking “illegally filming the x-ray, and TSA screening process with a video camera.”  Her camera was confiscated, she was issued a citation and released.

The irony of all of this is if anyone wanted to do what the 9/11 killers did, all they have to do is go charter a plane.  So none of this is going to stop a 9/11 type event if the killer in question is reasonably intelligent.  If the killers want to bring down a passenger plane, there are all sorts of other ways to do so that TSA hasn’t even imagined.  But the agency is reactive – not proactive.  It’s looking for repeats of things that have happened, despite the fact that none of the things which have happened have been repeated.

We spend all this money and time to produce an agency which proudly announces that it is in the rights violation business and that your rights are not more important than security.  And when confronted with the fact that the flying public is rebelling against this gross breech of their rights (as one woman said, after a pat down, “in some countries we’d be married right now”) the TSA administrator throws this out there:

“Do I understand the sensitivities of people? Yes,” Pistole said to CNN’s Candy Crowley on “State of the Union.” “If you’re asking, am I going to change the policies? No.”

Or, "screw you and your concerns about rights and propriety – once you get in my line, I decide what rights you have and what is or isn’t appropriate". Like all but strip-searching 12 year old boys.

A couple of points.  Much of the flying public that refuse to put up with such nonsense are going to be looking at alternatives.  Personally, anything 4 to 5 hours away by car is now automatically a car trip – I don’t even consider flying.  And given what’s going on, I’ll probably extend that to 8 hours away (which would cover 99% of my trips).  I don’t intend to reward a government policy which intrudes on my rights (and health) by subjecting myself to it.

Which makes the point that airlines may begin to see passenger traffic go down as the use of these scanners and and pat downs expand (another in a long line of innovative job/business killing policies by this administration).

I’m not willing to trade liberty for security.  And I’m damn sure not about to meekly submit to their intrusion in person.  I will refuse to use air travel as long as that’s the procedure.  And for the airlines, that’s another potential passenger you’ve lost until this TSA nonsense is stopped.

BTW, airlines –  it is my understanding you do not have to use TSA.  I’d be seriously considering that right now if I were you.  But regardless, you should be sitting in front of Pistole right now as a group pounding on his desk and demanding he change the policies and do so quickly.

Charles Krauthammer summed my thoughts up on this rather nicely last week:

We pretend that we go through this nonsense as a small price paid to ensure the safety of air travel. Rubbish. This has nothing to do with safety – 95 percent of these inspections, searches, shoe removals and pat-downs are ridiculously unnecessary. The only reason we continue to do this is that people are too cowed to even question the absurd taboo against profiling – when the profile of the airline attacker is narrow, concrete, uniquely definable and universally known. So instead of seeking out terrorists, we seek out tubes of gel in stroller pouches.

The junk man’s revolt marks the point at which a docile public declares that it will tolerate only so much idiocy. Metal detector? Back-of-the-hand pat? Okay. We will swallow hard and pretend airline attackers are randomly distributed in the population.

But now you insist on a full-body scan, a fairly accurate representation of my naked image to be viewed by a total stranger? Or alternatively, the full-body pat-down, which, as the junk man correctly noted, would be sexual assault if performed by anyone else?

This time you have gone too far, Big Bro’. The sleeping giant awakes. Take my shoes, remove my belt, waste my time and try my patience. But don’t touch my junk.



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TSA symptomatic of government’s growing fascism

You know, for the most part I’m not one to throw around inflammatory words if I can help it.  I think their use normally marginalizes the person using them as most folks tend to immediately turn off whatever that person has to say thinking them to be an extremist.

But frankly, I just don’t know how else to describe what I see going on out there.  Listening to current and former TSA officials say things like “hey, no one likes 4th Amendment violations, but we’re going to have to do it”, just sends a chill down my spine.  Talk about the banality of evil.

That’s not the only example.   Take cell phones for instance.  Your benevolent, freedom loving government is considering requiring technology in future cars that will allow them to disable cell phones.

Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood said using a cell phone while driving is so dangerous that devices may soon be installed in cars to forcibly stop drivers — and potentially anyone else in the vehicle — from using them.

“There’s a lot of technology out there now that can disable phones and we’re looking at that,” said LaHood on MSNBC. LaHood said the cellphone scramblers were one way, and also stressed the importance of “personal responsibility.”


“I think it will be done,” said LaHood. “I think the technology is there and I think you’re going to see the technology become adaptable in automobiles to disable these cell phones. We need to do a lot more if were going to save lives.”

Emphasis mine – but it highlights the rationalization used by government drones to restrict your freedoms and violate your rights.  It is the new “for the children”, the latest of excuses used to limit your freedom. 

The TSA and the nonsense spouted by LaHood are only the most visible examples of this growing phenomenon. Government, under the rationalization that it had to save us from financial failure, has intruded upon and taken over vast areas of the economy – health care, car companies, financial institutions.

It’s even trying to further expand its intrusion into the food production industry with a bill now being debated in the Senate (and which has 7 GOP senate cosponsors). The bill would place restrictions on even hobbiest farmers. It would also expand the powers of the FDA and place some power in the hands of Homeland Security.

That’s not the only attack going on in that area.

And the usual suspects are all for this sort of thing.  Oh, of course, you’ll hear them claim publicly about how important our freedoms are and how we should work to preserve them, but when blatant examples of right’s violations surface, they side with security over rights.

They’re also not at all concerned anymore with what they used to decry when it was the opposition holding the presidency.  Remember the outrage on the left about the so-called “imperial executive”, George W. Bush?  Remember the promises of reversing that if Barack Obama won the presidency?

Apparently that’s not that big of a deal anymore:

Former President Bill Clinton’s chief of staff John Podesta, now the head of the Center for American Progress, called on President Obama to push forward with his agenda using federal agencies and executive branch power Tuesday, even though Democrats were dealt a blow in the recent midterm elections. Podesta said the American people want the president to move forward with his agenda.

“I think most of the conversation since the election has been about how President Obama adjusts to the new situation on Capitol Hill,” Podesta said. “While that’s an important conversation, it simply ignores the president’s ability to use all levels of his power and authority to move the country forward.”

“Forward” toward what, Mr. Podesta?  Creeping fascism?  Heck, it’s not even creeping anymore.

"They who can give up essential liberty to obtain a little temporary safety, deserve neither liberty nor safety." – Ben Franklin

We’re rapidly approaching deserving neither. Freedom means risk. Security, in the hands of government, means oppression in its name. If you can’t see that growing more and more everyday, you’re simply blind. Time to say "stop this madness" and "hands off my freedoms" with a bit of emphasis and mean it.


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The politics of net neutrality

Net neutrality is back in the news.  So, are you for it or against it?

Given the debate that surrounds the subject, that’s not as easy a question to answer as you might imagine.  Because in order to answer it you have to understand what “for” and “against” even mean now.

The internet as a phenomenon broke onto the world’s stage some years ago and has been growing and improving exponentially for years.  It has not only improved the flow and availability of information but the lives of countless millions of people around the globe as well. And it has essentially accomplished all of this without any major government intervention.

Of course most knew that anything that powerful and uncontrolled must come to the attention of government at some point.  The question is – to what purpose? Why should government intrude on a network that is providing so much acknowledged good without it? The answer: because it is there. And the paranoid are sure that the corporations that are involved in it are up to no good. Thus we need government’s help to keep those evil corporations in line.

Enter the concept of “net neutrality” and the postulation that unless government steps in to ensure it remains “neutral”, greedy corporations would take advantage of the net to advance their bottom lines to the detriment of small consumers.

That’s not something made up in an effort to overstate the case. It is the argument of those who favor government’s involvement, such as Senator Al Franken. Speaking at a meeting on the subject of net neutrality on August 19th, Franken said, “When government does not act, corporations will.  And unlike government agencies which have a legal responsibility to protect consumers, the only thing corporations care about … is their bottom line.”

While it is certainly true that corporations care about their bottom line, the way corporations increase that bottom line is by making and keeping customers happy.  That critical part of how the “bottom line” is increased is somehow always lost on the “let’s get government involved” crowd who feed off of fear driven and unfounded paranoia to justify intrusion.

The debate and arguments for or against the proposed net neutrality regulation aren’t hard to find.  Google and Verizon have offered their version of net neutrality that has been seen as either corporations writing the rules to help themselves or as the maintenance of the status quo.  Frankly, the status quo seems to be working quite well for most.

Much of the “let’s get government involved” movement is led by “Free Press”, a group which has made a cottage industry of the effort. Their main effort is focused on empowering the FCC to “regulate the internet” – a broad and, frankly, scary charter.  For some reason, Free Press is under the impression the FCC has the power to do so through the 1996 Telecom Act.   But does the FCC have that power?  Most familiar with the act don’t believe so. That includes a number of groups usually associated with progressive causes.

In fact, none other than John Kerry made that point in 1999.

“The overarching policy goal of the 1996 Act is to promote a market-driven, robustly competitive environment for all communications services.  Given that, we wish to make it clear that nothing in the 1996 (Telecommunications) Act or its legislative history suggests that Congress intended to alter the current classification of Internet and other information services or to expand traditional telephone regulation to new and advanced services.”

Of course that was before net neutrality became the “top technology priority” of the Obama administration.  That prompted something for which Mr. Kerry is quite famous – a flip-flop.

“A win for the [telecommunication and cable companies] would mean that the FCC couldn’t protect Net Neutrality, so the telecoms could throttle traffic as they wish — it would be at their discretion,” Kerry wrote in an April op-ed for the Huffington Post.

“The FCC couldn’t help disabled people access the Internet, give public officials priority access to the network in times of emergency, or implement a national broadband plan….In short, it would take away a key check on the power of phone and cable corporations to do whatever they want with our Internet.”

Naturally, what this does is align the ever flexible Mr. Kerry with the White House technology priority, not the law or its intent, which, strangely, he got right in 1999.  In fact, the goal of the 1996 Act was to “diminish regulatory burdens as competition grew”.  Free Press and other progressive organizations want to add more to that burden, not lessen it all while claiming that doing so will “spur innovation” and “new technologies”.  The history of regulation doesn’t support that formula at all.

The answer to the question originally posed?

If it is Free Press’s version of net neutrality, then I am most definitely “against”.


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If you can’t do it by law, do it by regulatory fiat

And the EPA seems to be the regulatory agency most bent on doing just that.   Attempting to regulate carbon emissions, apparently, isn’t enough for the EPA.  Now, it has decided, it may want to ban lead ammunition:

With the fall hunting season fast approaching, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) under Lisa Jackson, who was responsible for banning bear hunting in New Jersey, is now considering a petition by the Center for Biological Diversity (CBD) – a leading anti-hunting organization – to ban all traditional ammunition under the Toxic Substance Control Act of 1976, a law in which Congress expressly exempted ammunition.  If the EPA approves the petition, the result will be a total ban on all ammunition containing lead-core components, including hunting and target-shooting rounds. The EPA must decide to accept or reject this petition by November 1, 2010, the day before the midterm elections.

Note the emphasized portion of the cite (emphasis mine).  Now that would tell me, as a regulator, that this is outside the scope of my regulatory power to ban, or even address in any meaningful way.

Yet the EPA has decided that it does indeed have the power to do what the law forbids.

It is yet another example of government refusing to obey its own laws (ICE’s refusal to detain and deport illegal aliens found in traffic stops being another recent example).

This is being driven by an agenda, not law.  And this goes to the heart of the question of whether we’re a nation of laws or a nation of men who can arbitrarily deicide what laws to follow or not, according to their agenda (and the power they hold).

The National Shooting Sports Foundation points out:

* There is no scientific evidence that the use of traditional ammunition is having an adverse impact on wildlife populations.

* Wildlife management is the proper jurisdiction of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and the 50 state wildlife agencies.

* A 2008 study by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention on blood lead levels of North Dakota hunters confirmed that consuming game harvested with traditional ammunition does not pose a human health risk.

* A ban on traditional ammunition would have a negative impact on wildlife conservation. The federal excise tax that manufacturers pay on the sale of the ammunition (11 percent) is a primary source of wildlife conservation funding. The bald eagle’s recovery, considered to be a great conservation success story, was made possible and funded by hunters using traditional ammunition – the very ammunition organizations like the CBD are now demonizing.

* Recent statistics from the United States Fish and Wildlife Service show that from 1981 to 2006 the number of breeding pairs of bald eagles in the United States increased 724 percent. And much like the bald eagle, raptor populations throughout the United States are soaring.

The EPA is accepting comment on this petition now.

If you’re so inclined you can include yours here.

Be respectful but be blunt – the law forbids this – back off.


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Beware – revenue hungry Leviathan

Keeping with the previous post’s theme, and noting we’ve made the claim in earlier posts that government’s at all levels are revenue hungry (they want to maintain the size of the ravenous beast they’ve developed over the years and they want to do it with your money), this should come as no surprise to anyone:

Between her blog and infrequent contributions to, over the last few years she says she’s made about $50. To [Marilyn] Bess, her website is a hobby. To the city of Philadelphia, it’s a potential moneymaker, and the city wants its cut. In May, the city sent Bess a letter demanding that she pay $300, the price of a business privilege license.

“The real kick in the pants is that I don’t even have a full-time job, so for the city to tell me to pony up $300 for a business privilege license, pay wage tax, business privilege tax, net profits tax on a handful of money is outrageous,” Bess says.

I have no idea what Bess blogs about, but unless it is specifically set up to generate income I don’t see any justification for the tax/license. I do see a possibility of a First Amendment issue.

Certainly a blog that generates $50 has an income of sorts. And if, as the story mentions, it was "dutifully reported", then she probably paid whatever taxes were due during that dutiful reporting.

But, as Leviathan loves to do, government just decided to invent a new category of "fees" and licensing (to avoid the tax word) to suck up more revenue. And, most likely, recognizing that most blogs don’t make much revenue they opted for a licensing fee. For instance, if you’re government, which would you rather have from almost 99% of the blogs out there, 5% of their revenue generated or $300?

So, given the nature of blogging and the fact that it has democratized social commentary, could a $300 bogus "licensing" fee be considered a bar to entry? And doesn’t that have First Amendment implications concerning free speech?

You have to love the irony of the license name. A "privilege license". Government, for a measly $300 will allow you the privilege of putting your opinion on line.

Really? I thought that was what the First Amendment – incorporated over all the states – guaranteed without impediment by government. Did I somehow misunderstand the intent?

But the city of Philadelphia – once the seat of freedom – sees it differently:

Even though small-time bloggers aren’t exactly raking in the dough, the city requires privilege licenses for any business engaged in any "activity for profit," says tax attorney Michael Mandale of Center City law firm Mandale Kaufmann. This applies "whether or not they earned a profit during the preceding year," he adds.

So even if your blog collects a handful of hits a day, as long as there’s the potential for it to be lucrative — and, as Mandale points out, most hosting sites set aside space for bloggers to sell advertising — the city thinks you should cut it a check. According to Andrea Mannino of the Philadelphia Department of Revenue, in fact, simply choosing the option to make money from ads — regardless of how much or little money is actually generated — qualifies a blog as a business. The same rules apply to freelance writers.

Essentially, what this will do is have those who wish to blog without interference or “licensing” by government drop any advertising they might presently carry – even the $11 one other blogger the story highlights made in a year.  I.e bloggers will be forced to drop advertising to avoid the fee.  99% will.  Of the possible 1% that make more than the $300 fee, my guess is most will attempt to find a way to claim, legally, that their blog isn’t located in Philadelphia proper.  I’m not sure what you’d need to do to do that, but I’d guess it is possible (have a silent blogging partner who “owns” the blog and is resident in some other part of the country, I suppose).

But, this is government.  This is what it does.  Government, with the economic downturn, is on steroids.  And as it searches for more and more revenue to support itself, it will intrude into your life and on your freedoms more deeply every day. 

A jackal can’t help but act like a jackal – especially when it is hungry.


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Missouri says "no" to ObamaCare

In the most telling poll of all – a vote – the citizens of Missouri overwhelmingly voted not to participate in ObamaCare. 71% voted for Proposition C which prohibits Missouri from compelling people to pay a penalty or fine if they fail to carry health coverage.

Of course that obviously doesn’t mean that percentage isn’t going to or doesn’t carry health coverage. Instead it is a grassroots rejection of the premise that the federal government has either the power or authority to make them. And they’ve just prohibited their state from enforcing such a law.


The Missouri vote is likely to have little immediate practical effect because the mandate doesn’t take effect until 2014. If federal courts uphold the federal law as constitutional, it would take precedence over any state law that contradicts it.

And, of course, I loved this:

Opponents included the Missouri Hospital Association, which said that if the mandate isn’t enforced some who can afford insurance will get a free ride and pass the costs on to those who are insured.

Really? You mean like what is done now under Medicare and Medicaid?

But I think this Missouri state senator may have the best point:

“This really wasn’t an effort to poke the president in the eye,” said State Senator Jim Lembke, a Republican. “First and foremost, this was about defining the role of state government and the role of federal government. Whether it’s here in Missouri with health care or in Arizona with illegal immigration, the states are going to get together on this now.”

States have been getting the short end of the mandate stick for decades.  Yet many of them work under two constraints the federal government doesn’t.  One, most of them are required by law to have a balanced budget.  Unfunded mandates of the sort imposed by ObamaCare take a wrecking ball to that sort of requirement.  Secondly, the states can’t print money at their whim.  Therefore they must borrow any money to fulfill the mandates.

This and the Arizona law may be the first shots in a long war that sees the states again asserting their rights.  It will mostly be fought out in the courts and its outcome is going to be critical to the America we are a part of in the future. 

If the courts side with the Obama administration, then there’s just about nothing the federal government can’t do or  which it can’t involve itself.   And as we’ve seen in the last 18 months, it doesn’t take long, if the circumstances are right, for it to intrude to levels never before seen.

But regardless of the outcome in court, the Missouri vote is important.  The “Show Me” state is a rather purple state, so I think most expected the vote to be somewhat close with those rejecting ObamaCare winning out.  Instead, we see a huge margin rejecting the premise.

It should send a signal to both parties, and it should certainly have Democrats quaking in their boots about November.

Whether or not the parties will heed the message remains to be seen, but the voters of Missouri have pretty much voiced what I think the majority of this country feels – “thanks, but no thanks”.  Back off, downsize and cut spending.  And stay out of our lives and our health care.


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Nanny State savings


ne of the most insidious things about the development and expansion of the Nanny State is the programs that pave the way usually sound like a "good thing".

For instance, who wouldn’t think that saving for your future isn’t a good thing? Anyone? However, doing so if you so choose is the way a free people would approach that subject. Which is why, even though it may sound good to some, I would adamantly oppose any government savings program imposed on us:

The White House and congressional Democrats, with the backing of the AARP, will soon put forth a plan to automatically enroll new private-sector employees in investment retirement accounts (IRAs).

The measure will apply to new workers at firms that don’t currently offer 401(k) retirement plans, according to AARP, the lobby group for seniors. Workers would have the choice of opting out of the accounts.

Now most of you will spot the fact that the worker at a firm that doesn’t offer a 401(k) now is already able to open an IRA should they so choose. What the government and it’s crony – the AARP – are planning to do is change the choice. Now you will have an IRA unless you opt out.

Can anyone tell me where the burden will fall to ensure compliance? I mean what’s the natural collection point for this sort of paperwork? What entity will have to provide the initial paperwork as a matter of routine when the new employee is hired, ensure the option is presented and, if the employee chooses to open an IRA, provide assistance in doing so as well as provide the automatic payment allotment to the IRA?

And, last but not least, there will be a need for a new government bureaucracy to monitor and ensure compliance. In fact, this is just another in a long line of intrusions that most freedom loving people would say is none of the government’s business.

Defenders of a program like this would claim there’s nothing wrong with it, savings is good, and besides, new employees have an opportunity to opt out.

Well, right now, they have an opportunity to opt in. And that’s the point. Those who want to can choose to do so now without any government involvement or business compliance involved at all.

This boils down to another burden and cost imposed on business and yet another intrusion by government under the auspices of "you are unable to make smart choices for yourself, so we’ll do it for you".

Is anyone yet growing tired of that?


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Is Keynesianism finally dead?

By that I mean the belief that massive public deficit spending is the cure for an economic recession/depression?

It should be. And that’s the argument going on in at the G20 meeting in Toronto. The US is urging Europe and the rest of the world to “pump it up”. The rest of the world, rightly in my estimation, is resistant to the plea. The WSJ reviews why for us, using the US’s experience as the case study:

Like many bad ideas, the current Keynesian revival began under George W. Bush. Larry Summers, then a private economist, told Congress that a “timely, targeted and temporary” spending program of $150 billion was urgently needed to boost consumer “demand.” Democrats who had retaken Congress adopted the idea—they love an excuse to spend—and the politically tapped-out Mr. Bush went along with $168 billion in spending and one-time tax rebates.

The cash did produce a statistical blip in GDP growth in mid-2008, but it didn’t stop the financial panic and second phase of recession. So enter Stimulus II, with Mr. Summers again leading the intellectual charge, this time as President Obama’s adviser and this time suggesting upwards of $500 billion. When Congress was done two months later, in February 2009, the amount was $862 billion. A pair of White House economists famously promised that this spending would keep the unemployment rate below 8%.

Seventeen months later, and despite historically easy monetary policy for that entire period, the jobless rate is still 9.7%. Yesterday, the Bureau of Economic Analysis once again reduced the GDP estimate for first quarter growth, this time to 2.7%, while economic indicators in the second quarter have been mediocre. As the nearby table shows, this is a far cry from the snappy recovery that typically follows a steep recession, most recently in 1983-84 after the Reagan tax cuts.

The chart in question:

2.7% is not good, especially when most of the spending is government spending. Or said another way – this isn’t a great advertisement for over a trillion dollars spent to “stimulate” the economy.

And, as you see here – for the money, job creation has been absolutely abysmal, except for government jobs.

Now couple all of that with the awful news about house sales this past month (down 33%) and it would appear, economically, that the “stimulus” has essentially failed in its dual role of stimulating economic and job growth, wouldn’t you say?

Yet it seems the spin doctors in the administration want to pretend otherwise and, by the way, hook the rest of the world on their public spending addiciton. Thankfully, at least for their citizens, most of the rest of the world isn’t buying into the scheme. We, however, are stuck with the world’s most profligate spendthrifts in the guise of the Obama administration and the Democratic Congress.

We are told to let Congress continue to spend and borrow until the precise moment when Mr. Summers and Mark Zandi and the other architects of our current policy say it is time to raise taxes to reduce the huge deficits and debt that their spending has produced. Meanwhile, individuals and businesses are supposed to be unaffected by the prospect of future tax increases, higher interest rates, and more government control over nearly every area of the economy. Even the CEOs of the Business Roundtable now see the damage this is doing.

That’s a long way of saying the anticipation of raised taxes to pay off this unprecedented and massive assumption of public debt is keeping businesses on the sidelines and the business atmosphere unsettled. They’re not about to expand their businesses until they have a much better handle on what it will cost them to do so. That’s why, for what little recovery is taking place, it is mostly a jobless one.

Most who understand at least rudimentary economics knows that some “stimulus” from government spending, coupled with other government actions, such as tax cuts for individuals and businesses, may have a beneficial effect in times of recession. The stimulus funds get money in circulation and the tax cuts encourage businesses to expand and hire.

What we’ve seen is nothing but “stimulus” – no tax cuts, no incentive for businesses to come off the side lines. Additionally we’ve seen attacks on the business community, calls for much more draconian regulation and new mandates imposed by legislation such as health care reform.

The result has been a seemingly perpetually unsettled business atmosphere that has provided absolutely no incentive for companies to expand or hire.

What we should have all taken from this is that government “stimulus” funded by massive public debt isn’t the answer we were led to believe it was and, when it is all that is done, is more of a problem than any sort of a solution. All the “stimulus” has managed to accomplish is the promise of large tax increases to pay down the debt it created.

The other service it hopefully has rendered is to prove defective the once cherished Keynesian belief that government can spend us out of recessions.


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