Archives for November 2011

“Don’t Pick Sides!”

Clark Ruper, who is the VP of Students for Liberty, has a very good point to make vis-a-vis the Occupy Wall Street movement (for once, the bolding is not mine!):


A lot of the discussion lately has focused on whether Occupy Wall Street  (OWS) is good or bad for liberty, whether they favor more or less government, and similar questions.  While these are valid questions to ask, it is important to consider how we insert ourselves into the conversation.  The protesters have already framed the debate; it is them versus the corporate/political elite (99% vs 1%).  We have to move within that framework and in doing so find the most useful way to get a libertarian message across.

When the topic is government and corporations abusing power, neither of the two institutions are righteous. Rather, all parties are wrong for various reasons. Don’t pick sides! Too often we libertarians find ourselves defending corporations in our attempts to defend free market capitalism. These are the vary same corporations that often fight for and benefit from eminent domain abuse, bailouts, special tax code loopholes, protective tariff and import quotas, licensing laws to keep out market competition, and a whole host of corporate welfare programs. The analysis of corporations being moral is overly simplistic. While there are many corporations that play fair, there are clearly many that abuse their power.

That last line is officially the understatement of the week.

Cain is textbook unelectable

It has certainly been a bad week for Herman Cain. Instead of Cain’s campaign getting a handle on the story past allegations against him, it has only gotten worse as more allegations have surfaced; including a more recent claim made by a influential talk show host based in Iowa:

A third woman considered filing a workplace complaint against Herman Cain over what she deemed aggressive and unwanted behavior when she and Cain, now a Republican presidential candidate, worked together during the late 1990s, the woman told The Associated Press on Wednesday. She said the behavior included a private invitation to his corporate apartment.

The woman said he made sexually suggestive remarks or gestures about the same time that two co-workers had settled separate harassment complaints against Cain, who was then the head of the National Restaurant Association.

This woman isn’t bound by a non-disclosure agreement since she didn’t file a formal complaint. As noted another accusation came from talk show host Steve Deace:

In a cryptic comment made at National Journal’s Election 2012 Preview event Tuesday, Mark Block, Herman Cain’s campaign manager, made reference to an incident involving Cain and a receptionist for a radio talk show host.

More Random Musings and a Rebuttal

I have a confession to make…I love hate mail. I actually get disappointed if I go too long without getting a really nasty e-mail from someone. Hate mail means that I have challenged someone’s assumptions at a core level. Hopefully this irritates them enough to do research to try and mount an effective rebuttal, and in the process hopefully learn new truth. I don’t even care if hate mail comes from the political left or right. We all need our assumptions challenged. I used to be a die-hard advocate of the War on Drugs, until I looked at the facts and saw how it had failed at its stated purpose of reducing drug use, while simultaneously being used to destroy constitutional rights with such things as asset forfeiture laws, which allows government to accuse you of drug related activity, seize your assets, and then make you spend enormous money fighting them to prove your innocence and regain your property. Most people just give in to this tyranny.

Last week I offered some random thoughts, and I figured I’d do more of the same this week. However, before I do, I’ll respond to a few comments from an angry reader of last week’s article. The reader took exception to my mockery of the Occupy Wall Street protestors, accusing me of misrepresenting them. She said I ignored “corporate greed” and oppression of the poor, and asked “about all the corporations that want more and more from the general public”. She was upset that I pointed out that the socioeconomic demographic with the highest obesity rates is those below the poverty line, and claimed that it’s cheaper to eat junk food than to eat healthy fruits and vegetables.

Gerson gives the case for Mitt Romney

We’ve focused a lot on the negatives of Mitt Romney, the man who may very well be the GOP nominee in 2012. There things about the guy I’m not fond of, including RomneyCare and the frequency of which he changes his beliefs on an issue. But the case for Romney needs to be heard, and Michael Gerson offers it up:

Romney’s main political vulnerability is a serious one. Running for Massachusetts’ governor in 2002, he was a pro-choice, economically centrist, culturally liberal, business-oriented Republican. Running for president in 2008, he was a thoroughly pro-life, orthodox supply-side, culturally conservative, Fox News Republican. Romney’s shape-shifting 2008 campaign only reinforced the impression of a consultant-driven candidate.

Is drug testing welfare applicants a good idea?

A federal judge has recently blocked Florida’s new program to test welfare recipients for drugs:

Judge Mary Scriven’s ruling is in response to a lawsuit filed on behalf of a 35-year-old Navy veteran and single father who sought the benefits while finishing his college degree, but refused to take the test.

The judge said there was a good chance plaintiff Luis Lebron would succeed in his challenge to the law based on the Fourth Amendment protection against unreasonable searches. The drug test can reveal a host of private medical facts about the individual, Scriven wrote, adding that she found it “troubling” that the drug tests are not kept confidential like medical records. The results can also be shared with law enforcement officers and a drug abuse hotline.

“This potential interception of positive drug tests by law enforcement implicates a `far more substantial’ invasion of privacy than in ordinary civil drug testing cases,” Scriven said.

While allowing extensive access to medical records is certainly questionable and poses a privacy risk to patients, I see no inherent constitutional issue with requiring a drug test for voluntary welfare benefits. The intent is certainly honorable; we want to ensure that taxpayer funded welfare checks are not being used for recreation. The practice is popular among conservatives and tea party folk alike, but it distracts from the much larger issues and instead seeks to implement a solution on a subordinate level.

High-speed rail line in California sees cost projections triple

Here is a profile in government waste. A high-speed rail line in California, part of President Barack Obama’s vision for the future of transportation, has just seen its costs and estimated completion rise dramatically:

Faster than a speeding bullet train, the cost of the state’s massive high-speed rail project has zoomed to nearly $100 billion — triple the estimate given to voters and more than enough to run the entire state government for a year.

What’s more, bullet trains won’t be up and running until at least 2033, much later than the original estimate of 2020, although that depends on the state finding the remaining 90 percent of the funds needed to complete the plan.

The new figures come from a final business plan to be unveiled by the California High-Speed Rail Authority on Tuesday, though some of the details were leaked to the media, including this newspaper, on Monday. Officials at the rail authority did not respond to repeated requests for comment Monday.
The new business plan pegs the price tag at $98.5 billion, accounting for inflation — more than double the estimate of $42.6 billion from two years ago, when it was already the priciest public works development in the nation. It’s a little less than triple the estimate of $33.6 billion voters were told when they approved the project in 2008. By comparison, the total state budget this year is $86 billion.

It’s hard to call that a “business plan.” When you say that you think of an idea eventually making money or at least paying for itself. This high-speed rail line is a boondoggle that will drain taxpayer dollars for as long as it exists.

Pelosi: Shut down Boeing in South Carolina

During a recent interview with CNBC, Rep. Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) said that the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) should shut down the new Boeing plant in South Carolina:

This is a pretty big deal. One reason is because workers in South Carolina have decertified their union, a point noted recently by the Heritage Foundation, so this is a non-issue that Democrats and Big Labor are trying desperately to drum up:

Pelosi may or may not know that workers at the South Carolina plant in question voted resoundingly (199-68) to decertify their union two years ago. Government policies that would close the plant for being a non-union shop would simply be punishing those workers for exercising their right to determine union representation for themselves.

“The Administration is trying to foist unions on workers, whether they want them or not, whether union representation would help them or not,” Heritage’s James Sherk noted in response to Pelosi’s statement. As for the more general issue of Boeing’s suit, Sherk called it “a good way of discouraging businesses from building new factories or plants.”

Cain is inconsistent and off message

The story continues to play out over the alleged instance of sexual harrassment against Herman Cain. At this point it’s not so much whether the allegation actually occured, Cain himself has confirmed it and most of the details in the original Politico story, but whether or not we’re getting a clear picture from the campaign. Over at The New American, Raven Clabough explains:

Cain’s varying assertions regarding the events have been inconsistent. He first indicated that he was unaware of the allegations, then reported that he was “vaguely familiar” with the claims, before ultimately answering specific details regarding the accusations and the financial settlements with certainty.

Also inconsistent are Cain’s statements in light of a statement made by the National Restaurant Association. When Cain first acknowledged that he at least recalled the allegations, he indicated that the restaurant association and the human resources department had conducted an investigation into allegations about his conduct in the late 1990s.

“I recused myself and allowed my general counsel and my human resource officer to deal with the situation and it was concluded after a thorough investigation that it had no basis,” claimed Cain. In contrast, the head of the association’s human resources department indicated last week during an interview with Politico that she was unfamiliar with any complaints from female employees about Cain.

Peter Schiff talks to Occupy Wall Street

Peter Schiff, an investment manager and one of the few people that warned of the government-created housing bubble, recently went down, with a “I am the 1%, Let’s Talk” sign, to visit and engage the hipsters at Occupy Wall Street.

The message that Schiff wants to extend is that what the protesters are complaining about isn’t capitalism, rather corporatism; big government and big business colluding together to distort the market and rob taxpayers. Some of the conversation is interesting, much of it is one-sided with OWS protesters railing against capitalism and for bigger government. The ignorance of economics you’ll hear from the protesters is astounding.

Schiff later went on CNN’s Anderson Cooper 360 to debate some of the same topics with Cornel West, a self-decribed socialist who is supporting OWS. The conversation is more substantive, but West clearly believes big labor is what made our economy, not the ingenuity and minds of entrepreneurs:

Home prices expected to fall again

While President Barack Obama recently announced the expansion of HARP — a mortgage relief program established in 2009, one of the frequent points of critics is that the impact of the move is limited to a small number of homeowners. Bob Barr, a former Congressman from Georgia, explained this point over at The Daily Caller last week:

The program itself suffers from significant limitations. Most notably, it applies only to mortgages backed by Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac. According to Mark Calabria of the Cato Institute, the program “is available only to those who have already had a mortgage for over two years, are current on their mortgage, and have missed no more than one payment per year.” Calabria equates the program to “helping only those that do not need any help.”

James Pethokoukis, an economist at the American Enterprise Institute, explains that the idea behind HARP is full of holes, and that similar tricks in the past have not aided our sluggish economy. He notes, for example, that Obama promised that some 4 million homeowners would benefit with the creation of HARP in 2009. However, only about 20% took advantage of the program. Pethokoukis also concludes that the high-end estimate that 1 million homeowners will take advantage of HARP represents only a fraction of the 11 million property owners who are underwater in their mortgages.

But the point that this program does nothing really to lift the economy is further emphasized by the news that the housing market, which has yet to hit rock bottom, is heading for yet another dip:

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