Free Markets, Free People

Mark Steyn

Observations: The QandO Podcast for 16 Feb 14

This week, Bruce, Michael, and Dale discuss Venezuela and the Mark Steyn libel case.

The podcast can be found on Stitcher here.

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Quote of the day: Rutherford B. Hayes edition

President Obama fumbled a historical anecdote about as completely as one can when he tried to tie our 19th president to backward thinking.

Mark Steyn, as is does so well, looks at the real backward thinking one of the two:

But obviously Rutherford B. Hayes isn’t as “forward-looking” as a 21st-century president who believes in Jimmy Carter malaise, 1970s Eurostatist industrial policy, 1940s British health-care reforms, 1930s New Deal–sized entitlements premised on mid-20th-century birth rates and life expectancy, and all paid for by a budget with more zeroes than anybody’s seen since the Weimar Republic. If that’s not a shoo-in for Mount Rushmore, I don’t know what is.

Sign him up.

~McQ

Twitter: @McQandO

Mark Steyn is brilliant—and grim

Mark Steyn, writing in Investors Business Daily, isn’t pulling any punches about what the near future holds for us if the Federal government keeps spending like there is no tomorrow. There won’t be.

[B]y 2020 just the interest payments on the debt will be larger than the U.S. military budget. That’s not paying down the debt, but merely staying current on the servicing — like when you get your MasterCard statement and you can’t afford to pay off any of what you borrowed but you can just about cover the monthly interest charge.

Except in this case the interest charge for U.S. taxpayers will be greater than the military budgets of China, Britain, France, Russia, Japan, Germany, Saudi Arabia, India, Italy, South Korea, Brazil, Canada, Australia, Spain, Turkey and Israel combined.

When interest payments consume about 20% of federal revenues, that means a fifth of your taxes are entirely wasted. Pious celebrities often simper that they’d be willing to pay more in taxes for better government services.

But a fifth of what you pay won’t be going to government services at all, unless by "government services" you mean the People’s Liberation Army of China, which will be entirely funded by U.S. taxpayers by about 2015…

And even those numbers presuppose interest rates will remain at their present historic low. Last week, the firm of Macroeconomic Advisors, one of the Obama administration’s favorite economic analysts, predicted that interest rates on 10-year U.S. Treasury notes would be just shy of 9% by 2021. If that number is right, there are two possibilities:

The Chinese will be able to quintuple the size of their armed forces and stick us with the tab. Or we’ll be living in a Mad Max theme park. I’d bet on the latter myself.

And we all know who’ll be running Bartertown.

Look, there’s no way to sugar-coat this. What’s coming isn’t gonna be pretty. Too many politically powerful groups have their fingers stuck too deeply into the DC pie to let it all just slip away without fighting tooth and nail. There are too many people who believe the gravy train of benefits coming out of DC should be endless to kiss that goodbye without a fight.

Look at what has been happening in Greece.  They’ve built up two generations of people who cannot and will not accept that they’re simply out of money.  Despite the fact that system has been thoroughly looted, they are adamant that the looting should continue.

If we don’t cut spending—and I mean real cuts, not cuts to some imaginary baseline that has $9 trillion is spending increases baked in—and some sort of serious tax reform that widens the tax base to raise more revenue, we’re done.

And don’t come back at me with some lame "Our GDP:Debt ratio was 120% at the end of WWII" silliness.  Yes it was. And you know how we fixed it? We cut Federal spending from $92 billion in 1945 to $38 billion in 1949. For 2011, 40% of the federal budget was financed with borrowed money: We’ll spend  $3.818 trillion, of which  $1.645 trillion is borrowed. If we funded only defense, Medicare/Medicaid, and Social Security, and interest on the debt, we’d still have a deficit of $673 billion. Just to balance the budget this year—forget paying off any debt—we’d have to cut an additional ~25% from Health, Defense, and Pensions. Follow the link and download the CSV file, open it up in Excel, and run the numbers yourself. The magic number to balance the budget this year is the revenue of $2.174 trillion.

There’s no big mystery as to why we got a downgrade from S&P. The mystery is why Fitch and Moody’s haven’t downgraded US debt yet.

To begin paying down the debt will require massive cuts in government spending, substantially widening the tax base, and some healthy economic growth—and good luck with that as we add another couple hundred k government workers to the unemployment roles, lay off 1/3 of government contractors to boot, and start asking the bottom 50% of taxpayers to actually, you know, pay taxes, along with everyone else.

If you’re under 50, and reach retirement age with any modicum of personal wealth, you can forget seeing a dime in Social Security or Medicare benefits when you retire. You’ll be means-tested right out of all that.

You think the debt ceiling battle was disruptive? Well, hold on to your hats, folks.

~
Dale Franks
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Nanny and the “Kinder Eggs”

I hope everyone one had a bright and sunny Easter (or Passover)weekend and were able to enjoy it with their family and friends.  It was nice to take a day off from just about everything.

Mark Steyn’s kids apparently didn’t get the opportunity to enjoy it in the way they wished.  Apparently as the family tried to reenter the US from Canada, our sharp eyed border agents protected them from something that they didn’t even realize was a threat.  Yes, friends, Nanny took away the kid’s “Kinder Eggs” to protect them from a potential choking hazard:

Late last night, crossing the Quebec/Vermont border, my children had two boxes of “Kinder Eggs” (“Est. Dom. Value $7.50″) confiscated by Customs & Border Protection.

Don’t worry, it’s for their own safety. I had no idea that the United States is the only nation on the planet (well, okay, excepting North Korea and Saudi Arabia and one or two others) to ban Kinder Eggs. According to the CBP:

Kinder Chocolate Eggs are hollow milk chocolate eggs about the size of a large hen’s egg usually packaged in a colorful foil wrapper. They are a popular treat and collector’s item during holiday periods in various countries around the world, including those in Europe, South America and even Canada. A toy within the egg is contained in an oval-shaped plastic capsule. The toy requires assembly and each egg contains a different toy. Many of the toys that have been tested by the Consumer Product Safety Commission in the past were determined to present a choking hazard for young children.

And yet oddly enough generations of European and Latin American children remain unchoked. Gotta love that “even Canada”, by the way: Is that an implied threat that Kinder Egg consumption is incompatible with participation in NORAD or membership of NAFTA?

Obviously Nanny doesn’t feel that Steyn is enough of a parent to supervise his children’s consumption of this confection and the CPC, enforced by the CBP have decided no parent in the US is qualified or should be allowed to have this product. Steyn is obviously an unfit parent just for allowing the little tykes to buy the eggs, no? 

And just to make you feel safer, they keep stats of how many eggs they’ve confiscated, because, you know, it’s all "for the children".   Always nice to be able to tout how vigilant you’ve been with confiscating kid’s confections even while the border remains a super-highway for illegal immigrants:

The Food and Drug Administration has issued an import alert for Kinder Eggs, because they are a confectionery product with a non-nutritive object imbedded in it. As in years past, CBP, the Food and Drug Administration and CPSC work in close collaboration to ensure the safety of imported goods by examining, sampling and testing products that may present such import safety hazards. Last year, CBP officers discovered more than 25,000 of these banned chocolate eggs. More than 2,000 separate seizures were made of this product.

I assume some smart bureaucrat will at some point translate that into a claim the lives of 25,000 children have been saved, or some such nonsense.  They could use that to at least justify in their own minds the unwarranted intrusion into the role of the parent, or something, right?  Not that they’ve felt a need to justify that in the past (I wonder what Nanny thinks of Cracker Jacks?).

Speaking of intrusion, you had better secure your WiFi network if you haven’t already – otherwise ICE’s SWAT team may be planning a visit, especially if you have a pervert for a neighbor. 

But be thankful today – Nanny is on the case and Kinder Eggs shall not touch your child’s lips.

Don’t you feel so much safer and secure?

~McQ

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Quote of the Day–how screwed up are we edition

Actually we have a pair of quotes of the day.  First from Roger Pilon who is the VP for legal affairs at Cato”

Our tax system sucks the substance and spirit of entrepreneurs and workers alike, filters that substance through Washington, then sends it back through countless federal programs that instruct us in minute detail about how to use the government’s beneficence. Manufacturing, housing, education, health care, transportation, energy, recreation — is there anything today over which the federal government does not have control? A federal judge held recently that Congress can regulate the "mental act" of deciding not to buy health insurance.

Steel on target.  Key word?  “Control”.

Our next quote in this edition comes from Mark Steyn about our Sneerer in Chief who addressed the concerns of an American had about gas prices by telling him maybe he ought to get rid of his gas hog:

America, 2011: A man gets driven in a motorcade to sneer at a man who has to drive himself to work. A guy who has never generated a dime of wealth, never had to make payroll, never worked at any job other than his own tireless self-promotion literally cannot comprehend that out there beyond the far fringes of the motorcade outriders are people who drive a long distance to jobs whose economic viability is greatly diminished when getting there costs twice as much as the buck-eighty-per-gallon it cost back at the dawn of the Hopeychangey Era.

Bingo. Definitely  campaign advertising fodder.  A “let them eat cake” moment. The man defines “don’t care” and “out of touch”. One assumes he considers statements like that to be "leadership".

~McQ

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