Free Markets, Free People

Monthly Archives: April 2012

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Quote of the Day: How big and intrusive has government gotten edition

The quote comes from a Heritage Foundation post on taxes and notes that today is “tax freedom day”, or the day in which what you earn from now on actually is supposed to belong to you:

In other words, for the first 111 days of the year, everything you earned went straight to Uncle Sam. Compare that to back in 1900, when Americans paid only 5.9% of their income in taxes and Tax Freedom Day came on January 22.

And in 1900, Americans felt that amount was outrageous.  But this puts in context the huge growth of government in the last century.

Here’s the problem though, it’s going to get worse – 2013 would be the year of the Obama tax increases if he’s re-elected and Congress doesn’t move to keep the current tax rates (which the left insists on calling the “Bush tax cuts” but which have, instead, been our current tax rates for years).

If those tax rates are allowed to expire, you can tack on another 11 days before we see “tax freedom day”.

That’s all due to Taxmageddon — a slew of expiring tax cuts and new tax increases that will hit Americans on January 1, 2013, amounting to a $494 billion tax hike. Heritage’s Curtis Dubay reports that American households can expect to face an average tax increase of $3,800 and that 70 percent of Taxmageddon’s impact will fall directly on low-income and middle-income families, leaving them with $346 billion less to spend.

Like sequestration, these tax increases are scheduled to happen on January 1st of next year.  Both are likely to have huge negative economic impacts.

On the tax side, Heritage’s Dubay points to immediate impact of some of the taxes that will become effective on that day:

If Congress fails to act, workers won’t have to wait very long to feel the effects. Every payday, they would see a jump in their payroll tax as it takes a bigger bite out of every paycheck. And that only reflects one of the direct hits they’ll face. They’ll feel the pain of other tax hikes they won’t pay directly, like the health care surtax on investment income and salaries over $250,000 — which begins in 2013 along with five other Obamacare tax hikes — because these hikes will slow job creation by taking away resources from businesses, investors, and entrepreneurs.

James Pethakoukis puts it into a chart for you:

041612

Says Pethakoukis:

If you combine all the other tax increases from 1980-1993, they add up to 3.3% of GDP, according to the brilliant budget team at Strategas Research. The coming “taxmageddon” of 2013 surpasses all those tax hikes combined! How could the Obama White House even toy with the idea, which it has, of letting them happen?

If they happen, can anyone guess what will happen to the economy?

So obviously, stopping this is a priority with President Obama, right?

That fact, though, isn’t making its way into President Obama’s talking points. He’s not mentioning that, absent action, Americans will pay higher income taxes, payroll taxes, and death taxes. He hasn’t spoken about the impending increase in the marriage penalty, the decrease in the child tax credit and the adoption credit, or how those who get tax breaks for education or dependent care costs will see them decreased. He hasn’t mentioned the new taxes under Obamacare, or how middle-income families will be forced to pay higher taxes under the Alternative Minimum Tax — a measure that was only supposed to impact “the rich.” Sound familiar?

Instead of dealing with Taxmageddon, President Obama wants to change the subject with a gimmicky policy like the “Buffett Tax.” The Senate obliged him yesterday by voting on this distraction. Fortunately, it was rejected. Still, while President Obama trains his fire on this class warfare policy, he ignores that if Taxmageddon strikes, the lower and middle class Americans that he says he is fighting for will pay substantially more in taxes to the federal government starting on January 1. Call it the unadvertised side effect of Barack Obama’s failed leadership.

So many “unadvertised” leadership failures in so few years.  Let this happen and watch the economy head toward the bottom again.  Of course, Obama won’t particularly care if he’s re-elected.  He’ll no longer be answerable to the American people.  He’ll have more “flexibility”.  He’ll be free to move more to the left.

A wonderful scenario and, in answer to the question in the title – you ain’t seen nothin’ yet.

~McQ

Twitter: @McQandO


Secret Service misconduct may mean deeper leadership problems

Whore-gate?  Who is going to hang the “gate” on the Secret Service scandal?

But it is interesting, isn’t it? The head of the Secret Service claimed yesterday that the behavior of this team was not “indicative” of the rest of the Service’s behavior.

Yeah, sorry, I find that hard to believe, at least at this point.  Something gave this team the belief that they could do what they did and get away with it.  Leaders claiming such nonsense are always suspect.  I just don’t buy into this one advance team being an outlier.

I would assume, as a matter of leadership, that more senior members of the service make it a point to travel with advance teams without advance notice just to see how well the teams function and do their job.  Or at least I’d hope so.

Leadership is about supervision.  It’s about getting off your rear and checking out how well your unit functions, how closely they follow SOP and how well leaders junior to you do their jobs. 

Why am I getting  the feeling that’s not the case in the Secret Service?  Because of this fiasco in Columbia.

Now its been revealed that the President’s schedule was laying around in the hotel rooms they brought the hookers too.  Security?  Where?

I’ve also heard it said, mostly as an excuse, that they were “off duty”.  Sorry, that’s a no-go.  There are certain standards of conduct that are required in particular organizations that really never allow one to be “off duty”.   What a member of that unit does even when not actively engaged in their job reflects on their organization and could compromise their integrity. 

For instance, in this case, how difficult would it be to blackmail a Secret Service agent who knows that revealing his consorting with prostitutes would cost him his job?

This isn’t the first case of Agent misconduct.  But it is the most widespread and possibly one of the worst cases.  It speaks of a leadership problem to me.  Someone in a leadership position was trusted to lead an advance team.  That means those in higher leadership positions trusted this person to carry out the job professionally, morally and with integrity.  Someone was very mistaken.  That puts the entire leadership of the Secret Service under the microscope, not just this team.

The seriousness of this had me shake my head when I read this:

The Senate Judiciary Committee, which oversees the Secret Service, is weighing whether to launch an investigation into the prostitution allegations.

Weighing whether to launch an investigation?

Really?

~McQ

Twitter: @McQandO


ICYMI: Democrats losing the voter fraud argument

At least in the eyes of the American people if this Rasmussen poll is accurate:

Despite his insistence that voter fraud is not a serious problem, Attorney General Eric Holder was embarrassed last week when a video surfaced of someone illegally obtaining a ballot to vote under Holder’s name in his home precinct in Washington, D.C. Most voters consider voter fraud a problem in America today and continue to overwhelmingly support laws requiring people to show photo identification before being allowed to vote.

Why do they support the requirement so overwhelmingly?

Simple common sense.  The arguments we’ve been putting forward for years – a photo ID is absolutely necessary to do many of today’s daily chores, so producing one to vote is no big deal.   And, in fact, it helps maintain the integrity of a system that badly needs such a shot in the arm.

Or said another way, most Americans don’t buy the argument that voter fraud isn’t a problem.  Additionally most Americans certainly don’t see one of the solutions – voter ID—to be a problem either. 

We’re not talking about a slim majority here:

A new Rasmussen Reports national telephone survey finds that 64% of Likely U.S. Voters rate voter fraud at least a somewhat serious problem in the United States today, and just 24% disagree. This includes 35% who consider it a Very Serious problem and seven percent (7%) who view it as Not At All Serious. Twelve percent (12%) are undecided. (To see survey question wording, click here.)

As for photo IDs?

Seventy percent (70%) of Likely U.S. Voters believe voters should be required to show photo identification such as a driver’s license before being allowed to cast their ballot. A new Rasmussen Reports national telephone survey finds that just 22% oppose this kind of requirement. (To see survey question wording, click here.)

So here’s a loser for the left.  It is something that actually hurts the left because most people don’t accept the argument that obtaining acceptable ID is either discriminatory or difficult.  They also know, from personal experience, how often they are asked to produce such ID while navigating everyday life.

Consequently, when the left tries those arguments, it falls on deaf ears.  They are instead seen as a group with something to hide, a group with an ulterior motive for wanting the requirement struck down.  And that motive isn’t seen as a positive one either. 

So?  So let the left continue to push the issue and continue to alienate those who see the requirement as a common sense safeguard against fraud.  It certainly isn’t going to help Democrats convince voters they’re for voter integrity, that’s for sure.

~McQ

Twitter: @McQandO


In praise of lazy Harry Reid

Okay, yes, it’s a bit of a sarcastic title, but in a sense I mean it:

For those who need proof that the Senate was a do-nothing chamber in 2011 beyond the constant partisan bickering and failure to pass a federal budget, there is now hard evidence that it was among the laziest in 20 years.

In her latest report, Secretary of the Senate Nancy Erickson revealed a slew of data that put the first session of the 112th Senate at the bottom of Senates since 1992 in legislative productivity, an especially damning finding considering that it wasn’t an election year when congressional action is usually lower.

For example, while the Democratically-controlled Senate was in session for 170 days, it spent an average of just 6.5 hours in session on those days, the second lowest since 1992. Only 2008 logged a lower average of 5.4 hours a day, and that’s when action was put off because several senators were running for president, among them Hillary Clinton, Barack Obama and John McCain.

On the passage of public laws, arguably its most important job, the Senate notched just 90, the second lowest in 20 years, and it passed a total of 402 measures, also the second lowest. And as the president has been complaining about, the chamber confirmed a 20-year low of 19,815 judicial and other nominations.

Frankly, I think Congress should be a part-time job.  That was the way it was designed at the founding.  Come in, do the work necessary – you know, such as pass a budget? – and then go back to your real job.

So, in reality, I’m not against a Senate that doesn’t do much.  Unfortunately, we have an activist president who is more than happy to use the Senate’s laziness as a pretext for issuing executive orders and accomplishing his agenda via executive agencies with no accountability to the people.

And, it appears, Harry Reid is fine with that – not that anyone should be particularly surprised by that.

It is the only way Reid can apparently assist the President in doing what he wants to do.  You know, provide an excuse.  “We can’t wait on Congress”, something that is only a problem since the GOP took the House one assumes.  Of course somehow even lazy Harry Reid managed to at least rouse himself long enough to pass that abomination we know as ObamaCare. 

Once that was done, he went back into tax-payer subsidized hibernation.

But with Reid, how do you tell?

~McQ

Twitter: @McQandO


Obama: Doubling down on economic ignorance

Ever have one of those days?  My DSL has been down for 2 days, and I’m currently sitting in a public library trying to get some work done and sending out this post. 

And I was actually going to concentrate on work until I saw this article about something Obama said about the Buffett Rule:

President Barack Obama argued Sunday that his calls for wealthier Americans to pay a greater share of taxes aren’t about sharing the wealth, but about getting the American economy on a path for solid growth.

“That is not an argument about redistribution. That is an argument about growth,” Obama said in response to a reporter’s question at a news conference in Colombia. “In the history of the United States, we grow best when our growth is broad based.”

Broad based growth is not driven by heavily taxing one income class, Mr. Obama.  Nor is broad based growth driven by government spending (i.e. “redistribution” or “sharing the wealth”).

Broad based growth is driven by private enterprises having confidence in the economy and finding incentives to invest in both business and hiring.ISSdriv_101206.png

The “Buffet Rule” doesn’t do anything to provide those incentives or inspire that confidence.  In fact, it seems to be mostly a tax of desperation.  The numbers just don’t support the supposition that it will drive anything but more government spending, and, frankly, not much of that.

This is class warfare plain and simple.  It is also an attempt to offer up the rich as a panacea to the revenue problem blamed as the reason we’ve seen government borrow multi-trillions of dollars. 

There is no revenue problem.  There is a spending problem.  And taxing billionaires won’t solve that problem.  In fact it will likely exacerbate it. 

More importantly, the words Obama has spoken speak to two things: a) a deep seated ignorance of economics and b) a deep seated belief that government is the answer to all ills.

Both are dangerous and promise even more economic woes in our future. 

We can’t afford that.

~McQ

Twitter: @McQandO


Economic Statistics for 16 Apr 12

The following statistics were released today on the state of the US economy:

March retail sales were much stronger than expected, being up 0.8% at both the headline and core levels, and up 0.7% ex-gas and autos.

The Empire State Mfg Survey points to slow but steady manufacturing growth in the New York region, with the index at 6.56 in April.

The net inflow of securities to the US slowed sharply in February, to a net $10.1 billion vice a revised $102.4 billion last month.

Inventory accumulation will probably improve this quarter’s GDP, as February inventories increased by 0.6% due to rising demand.

The Housing Market Index fell 3 points to 25, after seven months of gains. All three components declined this month.

~
Dale Franks
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Observations: The QandO Podcast for 15 Apr 12

This week, Michael, and Dale talk about the Trayvon Martin case, Hillary Rosen, and the economy.

The direct link to the podcast can be found here.

Observations

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


Saturday Link-O-Rama

Hard to find the words to find the uh, “winning” in this quote:

“We were winning. We were winning in a very different way because we were touching hearts. We were raising issues that, well, frankly, a lot of people didn’t want to have raised”—Rick Santorum in his concession speech this week.

Um hmmm.

Is Crony Capitalism the reason your cell phone bill is 80% too high?

Factory farm raised beef is horrible, but organically raised beef?  It’s worse.  For what?  Well global warming of course:

Grass-grazing cows emit considerably more methane than grain-fed cows. Pastured organic chickens have a 20 percent greater impact on global warming. It requires 2 to 20 acres to raise a cow on grass. If we raised all the cows in the United States on grass (all 100 million of them), cattle would require (using the figure of 10 acres per cow) almost half the country’s land (and this figure excludes space needed for pastured chicken and pigs). A tract of land just larger than France has been carved out of the Brazilian rain forest and turned over to grazing cattle. Nothing about this is sustainable.

Is the Federal Government making a move to take more control of Natural Gas production in the states by Executive Order?

The federal government is concerned, since natural gas volumetric exploration in 2011 was so large, it eclipsed the all-time high production record of 1973, it must “ensure that we can successfully tap this critical resource for decades to come, we must develop it safely and responsibly.” Translation, we must control it and reduce its production so that our air and water are safe according to the EPA dictates. This is interesting because natural gas is one of the cleanest sources of energy.

Why Obama is no “Energy President”, or, perhaps, is the Anti-Energy President.

Rev. Jeremiah Wright makes the point that he’s never changed his preaching style and that Obama listened to that preaching for 20 years.  Who is lying here?

Secret Service agents misbehaving?

If you’re up for reading about one of the most absurd wastes of money it has been my misfortune to run across, hit the link.  In the big scheme of things, it’s not a lot of money, but when you read the whole story my guess is you’ll be seeing red … just like the financial red ink our country is drowning in precisely because of bureaucratic, wasteful and downright stupid spending like this.

The recent end of one man’s “white guilt”.  Mine died decades ago.

A pretty poor attempt to justify the healthcare mandate legally.

About those “green” jobs.

Farrakhan – Don’t breed with whites!  And get a load of this as well.  And finally, this.

DoJ has become a horrible joke.

Enjoy your Saturday.

~McQ

Twitter: @McQandO


Sure would hate to be a rocket scientist in NoKo right now

My guess is the population of rocket scientists (at least North Korean’s version of them) may be a bit smaller today.

For the new North Korean leader, Kim Jong-un, his government’s failure to put a satellite into orbit on Friday was a $1 billion humiliation.

[…]

The rocket reached only about 94 miles in altitude, far less than 310 miles required to place a satellite into orbit and, as North Korean officials liked to say, present “a gift” to the closest the North Koreans had to a heavenly God: Kim Il-sung.

[…]

“It is hard to imagine a greater humiliation,” a North Korea expert, Marcus Noland, said on his blog at the Web site of the Peter G. Peterson Institute for International Economics in Washington.

“The North Koreans have managed in a single stroke to not only defy the U.N. Security Council, the United States and even their patron China, but also demonstrate ineptitude,” Mr. Noland said. “Some of the scientists and engineers associated with the launch are likely facing death or the gulag as scapegoats for this embarrassment.”

Indeed.

And I don’t expect their ability to successfully launch a satellite to be enhanced by those who replace them.

There’s a very basic reason for that – even in such hard science areas as rocketry, their rise is based more in loyalty than ability.  Additionally, with little to no access to the outside world (except perhaps Iran), they must discover, through trial and error, many of the things more advanced countries learned decades ago.

And, of course when results like what happened yesterday yield “rewards” like death or the gulag, the rush to fill those vacancies and attempt the next launch are probably not among the highest priorities of whatever NoKo would consider its “brightest and best” in the field.

North Korea is a tragic joke.  Each time we’re led to believe they’ve developed something that threatens us all and they usually manage instead to embarrass themselves and to leave everyone questioning the hyperbole associated with the build up to their latest failed stunt.  They remind me more of a reckless kid with a chemistry set than a serious international threat. 

They are certainly a regional threat.  Any country with a million man army has to be taken seriously, at least conventionally.  But I think we can relax for the time being concerning ICBMs and nukes.  All they’re capable of right now is producing a rather expensive fireworks show.

As Zero Hedge said, “North Korea is redefining the term “minuteman”.

~McQ

Twitter: @McQandO


Economic Statistics for 13 Apr 12

The following statistics were released today on the state of the US economy:

The consumer sentiment index fell to 75.7, led by a an unusually steep drop in consumer assessment of current economic conditions.

Consumer prices increased by 0.3% last month, and 2.6% yearly. Ex-food and energy, the CPI rose 0.2% for the month and  2.3% for the year.

~
Dale Franks
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