Questions and Observations

Free Markets, Free People

Arrogance and ignorance on display on D.C. City Council

What they’ve done is pretty typical of liberal governments everywhere.  They are arrogant with their power and totally ignorant of the economic impact their decision will have on the city.  But boy did they strike out at big box stores and do they feel good about it:

D.C. lawmakers gave final approval Wednesday to a bill requiring some large retailers to pay their employees a 50 percent premium over the city’s minimum wage, a day after Wal-Mart warned that the law would jeopardize its plans in the city.

That’s right, the hated Wal-Mart must pay more because retailers with corporate sales of $1 billion or more and operating in spaces 75,000 square feet or larger will be required to pay employees no less than $12.50 an hour.

No arbitrary or capriciousness there, huh?  Not a discriminatory law at all.  And who cares, right, because as one of the council members says:

“The question here is a living wage; it’s not whether Wal-Mart comes or stays,” said council member Vincent B. Orange (D-At Large), a lead backer of the legislation, who added that the city did not need to kowtow to threats. “We’re at a point where we don’t need retailers. Retailers need us.”

Yeah, retailers need them.

Really?  That’s what he thinks.  What if retailers decide they don’t need them?  Not only do the goods go away, but so do the jobs.  So $12.50 times zero gives you what?  It gives you this:

“Nothing has changed from our perspective,” Wal-Mart spokesman Steven Restivo said in a statement after the vote, reiterating that the company will abandon plans for three unbuilt stores and “review the financial and legal implications” of not opening three others under construction.

So 6 stores and the jobs that go with them … poof, gone.  Oh, and this is gone as well:

Well before it had any solid plans to open stores in the District, Wal-Mart joined the D.C. Chamber of Commerce and began making inroads with politicians, community groups and local charities that work on anti-hunger initiatives.

The campaign was matched with cash. Through its charitable foundation, Wal-Mart made $3.8 million in donations last year to city organizations including D.C. Central Kitchen and the Capitol Area Food Bank, according to a company spokesman.

Yeah, there you go.  That’s worth it isn’t it?  6 x no jobs and about $4 million in charitable contributions to help those in need in the area … gone.  Just to make a political statement and display for all their insufferable arrogance and their economic ignorance.

Of course, all of these unintended consequences will likely go unnoticed by the usual suspects while they cheer the council slapping Wal-Mart around.

~McQ

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Congress? Who needs Congress? And the Constitution? Forget about it

That’s preciesly what this administration and president have done. Bypassed Congress and trashed the Constitution:

The employer mandate in the Affordable Care Act contains no provision allowing the president to suspend, delay or repeal it. Section 1513(d) states in no uncertain terms that “The amendments made by this section shall apply to months beginning after December 31, 2013.” Imagine the outcry if Mitt Romney had been elected president and simply refused to enforce the whole of ObamaCare.

This is not the first time Mr. Obama has suspended the operation of statutes by executive decree, but it is the most barefaced. In June of last year, for example, the administration stopped initiating deportation proceedings against some 800,000 illegal immigrants who came to the U.S. before age 16, lived here at least five years, and met a variety of other criteria. This was after Congress refused to enact the Dream Act, which would have allowed these individuals to stay in accordance with these conditions. Earlier in 2012, the president effectively replaced congressional requirements governing state compliance under the No Child Left Behind Act with new ones crafted by his administration.

The president defended his suspension of the immigration laws as an exercise of prosecutorial discretion. He defended his amending of No Child Left Behind as an exercise of authority in the statute to waive certain requirements. The administration has yet to offer a legal justification for last week’s suspension of the employer mandate.

There’s even talk of impeachment, although you know that will go nowhere (see my last post).  No one has the stomach to really enforce any rules up there and that goes for both sides.  But, as the Constitutional scholar that wrote the above points out, the Constitution pointedly charges the executive with “the faithful enforcement of the law”.  In fact it is his or her constitutional duty.

The Supreme Court has been pretty clear on this too.

Of all the stretches of executive power Americans have seen in the past few years, the president’s unilateral suspension of statutes may have the most disturbing long-term effects. As the Supreme Court said long ago (Kendall v. United States, 1838), allowing the president to refuse to enforce statutes passed by Congress “would be clothing the president with a power to control the legislation of congress, and paralyze the administration of justice.”

And that’s pretty much where this is headed.  We are being subjected to the arbitrary enforcement of law.  The rule of men.  In the case of the statutes for ObamaCare, it’s because of politics.  That’s why you hear no outraged voiced by Democrats.  They will benefit electorally by not having to face the uproar sure to come with it’s implementation should that happen before the 2014 midterms.  However, as noted above, if Mitt Romney had been elected and was the one doing this, Democrats would be squealing like stuck Constitutional hogs.

Another recent example of Obama’s arrogance is his “recess that wasn’t a recess” appointments to the National Labor Relations Board.  How can anyone have confidence in the rulings of the NLRB when it appears to have been illegally constituted – another arrogant example of ignoring the lines between executive and legislative power.  If a board is illegal, how are its rulings enforceable?

These are important questions that demand an answer.   Instead, they’re ignored, the corruption and arrogance grows and we’re subjected to arbitrary rule with no check.

If I’m not mistaken, we once based a revolution on those sorts of abuses.

~McQ

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Leftist collectivism fulfills the dreams of the segregationists

Over at Just One Minute, Tom takes a look at a couple of articles on the Zimmerman trial, and finds an astonishing admission from a black pastor.

If you’ve been paying attention to the trial, you know that it’s almost over, and every observer with a shred of objectivity thinks Zimmerman will get a “not guilty” verdict.

Problem is, the local black community was convinced from the beginning that Zimmerman was guilty. The media led them right to that conclusion with misleading reporting. For at least one outlet, NBC, it went beyond misleading into outright fraud.

Naturally, those craven journalists will never take responsibility and set the record straight. They even continue to fan the flames with race-baiting articles like the one Tom cites from the New York Times, which included this quote:

Mr. Oliver, the Sanford pastor, said he remained optimistic. “You can feel a little sense that anger is re-emerging,” he said.

You don’t have to be a trained sociologist* to know what that means – possible civil violence, maybe on the scale of the Rodney King riots.

Why anger? Isn’t an innocent man walking free a good thing? Ah, but we’re back to the world of post-modern narrative. Truth doesn’t matter, only narrative matters, and narrative doesn’t have to have any relationship to truth. In the black community, the dominant narrative is that Zimmerman is guilty. As that race-baiting article put it:

Still, black pastors, sociologists and community leaders said in interviews that they feared that Mr. Martin’s death would be a story of justice denied, an all-too common insult that to them places Trayvon Martin’s name next to those of Rodney King, Amadou Diallo and other black men who were abused, beaten or killed by police officers.

That paragraph only makes any sort of logical sense if you assume from the outset that Trayvon is innocent and Zimmerman is guilty.

Out in the real world, where people are watching the trial, there is a dawning realization that the media got it wrong in the first place, and Zimmerman deserves acquittal. Some of us actually went beyond the fraudulent reporting of the major media and realized that months ago.

But the local black community, and others like it across the nation, sounds like it is not prepared to accept that message. They’ve been told for too long how they are victims and Trayvon is just another one.

Despicable race baiters such as the author of that New York Times article, and the sociologist quoted in it, carefully nurture that attitude. Local leaders pick up the tune, amplifying it. The local educational system, mostly dominated by left-leaning teachers unions, reinforces it while simultaneously ensuring that the locals are handicapped in trying to ever break out of that cultural matrix.

The end result is a community culturally isolated from its larger society. It’s members reinforce each others prejudices, and nurture old grievances. They find themselves unsuited for life outside their local community, because they lack the education to fit in anywhere else. This becomes yet more evidence that the outside world has it in for them.

Thus is fulfilled the dreams of the southern white segregationists. Blacks are encouraged to stay in their own culturally isolated communities.** They are encouraged to believe they are somehow different and cannot mix with outside communities. Their poor education marks them as second class citizens.

Who would have thought that government dependence programs, corrupt Democratic city politicians, and a biased leftist media would accomplish what the white segregationists could not?

For me, it’s one more reason to despise the American left. I hate what they have done to my fellow citizens. I despair when I realize that a typical inner-city resident has no reasonable hope of social mobility, and is stuck in a cycle of government dependence, generation after generation. I shake my head at the nonsense peddled to them by the left and by the likes of Jesse Jackson, Al Sharpton, and Barack Obama.

I hate that one of the more likely outcomes of the Zimmerman trial is that, like the Rodney King affair, black neighborhoods will end up getting torched and looted – by blacks.***

Hey, New York Times and all your “compassionate” leftist race-baiters – does this make you happy?

 

* Like the race-baiting one in the article, who complained that the non-credible, borderline illiterate star witness for the state was “mammyfied”.

** As one of the effects, just look at how many wealthy suburbs of major American cities are lily-white.

*** I hope it doesn’t happen, and my incurable optimism says maybe the evidence is so clear in this trial that it won’t. But lately, my pessimistic side has a better track record than my optimistic side. 

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Economic Statistics for 9 Jul 13

Here are today’s statistics on the state of the economy:

The NFIB Small Business Optimism Index fell a point in June to 93.5.

Thanks to the long holiday weekend, ICSC-Goldman is reporting retail sales rose 3.0% last week, up 2.9% from last year. Redbook also shows retail sales strength, with 3.6% year-over-year sales growth.

Consumer credit rose a sharp $19.6 billion in May, the largest gain in a year.

~
Dale Franks
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Accountability? Not requiring it or enforcing it leads to corruption

It really is that simple. And you don’t need a PhD to figure that out. It is a “Human Nature 101″ course. If there’s no incentive for you to behave correctly and every incentive not to (i.e. no punishment), then why behave correctly?

Now, consider the government we have today and all the various scandals. Who is the last person who blatantly violated the public trust that you’ve seen frog-marched to jail? Hmmm. But it takes a bunch of academics to again remind us that human nature still rules:

In a new study, Stern School of Business assistant professor of economics Vasiliki Skreta and co-authors, Karthik Reddy of Harvard Law School and Moritz Schularick of the University of Bonn, examine statutory immunity provisions that obstruct or limit the criminal liability of politicians, and which exist throughout much of the modern democratic world.

…The researchers quantified the strength of immunity protection in 74 democracies and verified that immunity is strongly associated with corruption on an aggregate level. They also developed a theoretical model that demonstrated how stronger immunity protection can lead to higher corruption. The model suggested that unaccountable politicians under immunity protection can enhance their chance of re-election by using illegal means, namely supporting interest groups through lax law enforcement, non-collection of taxes, and other forms of favoritism that will go unpunished.

Where’s Charley Rangel? Chris Dodd? Barney Frank? Oh, enjoying retirement. Turbo Tax Tim Geithner? Well, not in jail.

And how about Lois Lerner? From what does she want immunity? Well in reality, she wants immunity from accountability.  There’s no other reason to seek immunity otherwise.

Unfortunately, she’ll probably get it and we’ll watch the level of corruption within government continue to grow, and grow and grow.

You want to know why people don’t trust government?

That’s why.

~McQ

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The upside down country

Among all the distractions, scandals and foreign policy failures, we’ve sort of lost track on how the economy is going.  And that’s one small favor I assume the administration is happy about.

For instance the jobs picture.

Behind Wal-Mart, the second-largest employer in America is Kelly Services, a temporary work provider.

Friday’s disappointing jobs report showed that part-time jobs are at anall-time high, with 28 million Americans now working part-time. The report also showed another disturbing fact: There are now a record number of Americans with temporary jobs.

Approximately 2.7 million, in fact. And the trend has been growing.

And dependance:

The number of Americans receiving subsidized food assistance from the federal government has risen to 101 million, representing roughly a third of the U.S. population.

The U.S. Department of Agriculture estimates that a total of 101,000,000 people currently participate in at least one of the 15 food programs offered by the agency, at a cost of $114 billion in fiscal year 2012.

That means the number of Americans receiving food assistance has surpassed the number of private sector workers in the U.S.

Oh happy day.  We now have more people receiving food assistance than are working (other than regulations, what do government workers contribute to the economy?).  That’s obviously something that can’t continue, can it?  Reminds one of Social Security, which is approaching the same problem.  Not enough workers to support those drawing SS.

So who is going to pay for all this?  Those temp workers?

But not to worry, we have ObamaCare on the horizon which will mean “less costly” health care, right?  And there are stringent checks to ensure that  only those eligible for “government funded subsidies”, aka taxpayer funded, will get them:

The Washington Post reported on Saturday that the Obama Administration will get rid of verification requirements in ObamaCare to determine whether or not applicants are eligible for taxpayer-funded subsidies to purchase health insurance coverage from the state exchanges.

“The Obama administration announced Friday that it would significantly scale back the health law’s requirements that new insurance marketplaces verify consumers’ income and health insurance status,” wrote Sarah Kliff and Sandhya Somashekhar at the Washington Post. “Instead, the federal government will rely more heavily on consumers’ self-reported information until 2015, when it plans to have stronger verification systems in place.”

Wait, what?  2015 … maybe?  In the meantime, free-for-all, just apply and you’ll get it, because, you know, there’s no such thing as fraud (*cough* 60 billion in Medicare each year *cough*).  And besides, all those young folks who don’t want or need health insurance will be picking up the tab anyway.

~McQ

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Observations: The QandO Podcast for 07 Jul 13

This week, Bruce, Michael, and Dale discuss Egypt, The Supreme Court, and an interesting and unusual 3rd Amendment case.

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.

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Obama probably didn’t overtly order the IRS Tea Party targeting–and that makes it worse

Obama’s shills have settled in on a long-term talking point concerning the IRS scandal. They say something along the lines of “Obama didn’t tell the IRS to target anyone for political reasons. That’s just crazy. And, since you can’t pin anything on Obama, there’s no scandal here.”

There are two clear logical fallacies in this position.

First, it’s a strawman argument. I don’t know anyone anywhere on the political spectrum who is saying that Obama actually issued any directives to anyone to start the targeting. In one of my previous posts about it, I explicitly said

Even if Obama isn’t directly involved (and he would have to be sand-poundingly stupid to have issued actual directives that resulted in this) his rhetoric towards these groups was a contributing factor, so he bears some responsibility.

Along the same lines, one of our commenters (jpm100) wrote this morning:

…these orders didn’t necessarily have to come from the Whitehouse.  The organization is corrupted by years democratic nepotism and recent leadership influenced by Team Obama and the tone of non-accountability set by the Whitehouse.  Team Obama knew the kind of people they were appointing.  These people knew what Team Obama wants.  And they knew the worst consequence for them would be a job change to some Democrat Party position or some job with a Democrat benefactor.  So they just did it.

The Whitehouse could be involved, but other than ensuring no serious consequences after the fact, it doesn’t have to be.

These comments also point up the second logical fallacy. Big-government fanciers really don’t want to face up to the possibility that the federal government is just as out of control as those on the right have been saying for years (or decades). They would very much like to pretend that there’s no scandal here.

So they use a complete non sequitur. “Obama didn’t give the directive” –> “There’s no scandal.”

This is stupid even by standards of leftist argument. Political targeting by the IRS is a serious and scandalous problem no matter how it started.

We know the political targeting is there. The attempted leftist misdirection that it wasn’t politically motivated and that “progressive groups were targeted too” failed just as badly as the “doctored emails” Benghazi talking point.

Two senior IRS bureaucrats have now taken the 5th. The FBI is stonewalling an investigation that Congress ordered. It’s possible, or even likely, that the targeting affected the outcome of the 2012 elections.

So we have a serious, serious scandal. I said in the earlier post that

The IRS scandal is bigger than Watergate, bigger than Benghazi, bigger than Fast and Furious, bigger than Iran-Contra, bigger than Monicagate – bigger than any other scandal for the federal government in my lifetime.

The reason I believe that is what the scandal says about the federal bureaucracy. The one agency that is supposed to be scrupulously non-partisan is revealed as having chosen sides in the partisan debate.

It doesn’t matter if Obama ordered it.* All he had to to was put forth enough “wink, wink, nudge, nudge” rhetoric for the IRS bureaucracy to know they likely would not be punished by him for doing it.**

It would only take one other essential ingredient – an IRS bureaucracy sympathetic to the Obama administration and hostile to his political opponents. That’s what the scandal shows us – that the supposedly non-partisan bureaucracy, the one we all have to deal with whether we like it or not, is now a de facto arm of political leftism.

We have additional evidence for this. We know that the IRS favors Obama in political contributions:

While IRS employees generally donated to Obama by a 4-to-1 ratio, the lawyers for that particular federal agency donated to Obama by an astounding 20-to-1 ratio, according to Robert Anderson, associate professor of law at Pepperdine University School of Law.

Lawyers are relevant because they are the ones taking the lead in writing regulations, litigating cases, and making delicate legal judgment calls in borderline cases.

The result is a solvent that is eating away at our civil society. Once half the country no longer trusts the government bureaucracy to even carry out it’s most basic functions in a non-partisan way, the seeds are sown for a terrible reckoning.

That’s what makes it even worse that the targeting probably was not ordered by Obama. Assuming he didn’t overtly order it, and the IRS bureaucrats came up with it on their own, means we are getting much closer to that reckoning that we thought.

* I’m not completely dismissing the possibility that someone in the White House did start the ball rolling. Probably not Obama, though – at most his role might have been some casual musing about how those Tea Party groups were getting pretty uppity, and someone should check into them. I’d be flabbergasted if any hard evidence turned up that he directly ordered the targeting.

** There is ample evidence that the Obama administration will cover for its allies reflexively. See the Black Panther voter intimidation case for an example. 

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Economic Statistics for 5 Jul 13

Today’s only economic statistic is the Employment Situation. The headline numbers: 195,000 Net new jobs were created in June; the unemployment rate remained steady at 7.6%; average weekly hours were unchanged at 34.5; average hourly earnings rose by 0.4% to $24.01. Looking a bit deeper, the labor force participation rate actually rose a tick to 63.5% as an additional 160,000 people were employed. The real unemployment rate is closer to 11.65%.

~
Dale Franks
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