Archives for September 2011

About the Buffett Rule…

While the so-called “Buffett Rule” is the talk of the week, Megan McArdle notes that the White House isn’t pushing a policy that would impose more taxes on Warren Buffett, a guy that could send a gift to the government if he feels he isn’t paying enough: (emphasis mine):

[I]n the White House document that I read, I saw no proposal to set some sort of AMT on millionaires.  Instead, it claims to do this, while rehashing a bunch of things that the administration has long proposed: allowing the Bush tax cuts to expire for those making more than $250,000; changing the treatment of carried interest income accrued from capital gains; and altering the treatment of deductions for very high earners. If all of these things were passed, guess who would still pay a lower effective tax rate than his secretary?  Hint:  his initials are WB, and he lives in Omaha, Nebraska.

If a “Buffett Rule” is such a great idea, how come the administration doesn’t actually propose enacting one?

Presumably for some of the following reasons: it would add complexity to the tax code; it might not be possible to do in a way that would stand up even in our very IRS-friendly tax courts; it would have upsetting effects on the market for various forms of capital, particularly municipal bonds; it might well involve taking away deductions that less well-heeled voters currently enjoy, and they’d freak out.  Note that I do not include “Republican obstructionism” on this list, because the existing proposals won’t pass the house; there’s no reason not to include a real hard “Buffett Rule” if they think such a thing is even vaguely workable.  From the fact that they didn’t, I infer that they thought the idea maybe had some problems.

TIME magazine riding the anti-gun pony

Time magazine is riding the anti-gun pony.  At least writer Adam Cohen is.  The article starts out talking about the courts overturning a gag order which prevented doctors in Florida from asking about guns.  In truth, I oppose such laws.  My doctor is free to ask any question he wants, and I’m free to tell him it’s none of his business.  However, the article argues that doctors need to know such things.

Pediatricians routinely inquire about health-and-safety risks to their young patients. That can include whether a child wears a bicycle helmet, whether there are household chemicals or alcohol within reach — and whether there are firearms in the home. More than 3,000 children and teens were killed by guns, and more than 20,000 injured, in recent years, and the rate of child deaths, injuries and suicides is far higher in homes where guns are present.

Truly alarming.  Of course, whether a gun is in the house is irrelevant.  Whether it is properly stored is a different matter.  A properly stored and secured weapon has never been used by a child for anything.  Doctors don’t need to know which cleaning agents I have in my house.  They need to know if my child has access to them.  All my doctor needs to know about my guns is that my child can’t get to them.

As for his statistics, I simply want to point out that correlation does not equal causation.  The truth of the matter is that these statistics often seem to miss that suicides are not caused by guns.  A determined person will find a way to kill themselves.  Injuries are the result of improper storage of firearms or at time the result of pure negligence.  However, if one were to compare the rates of gun causalities to automobiles, then perhaps we need tougher car control measures.

Veronique de Rugy: It’s not just about taxes

Over the last couple of days, we’ve explained why President Barack Obama’s latest tax hike proposal is a campaign ploy, not a serious policy proposal. But Veronique de Rugy, an economist at George Mason University, notes that what’s getting lost in the shuffle from conservatives and libertarians in the debate is that government has grown out of control and that has served as an impediment to economic:

Former president Bill Clinton hit the morning shows on Sunday and Monday. The purpose was mainly to highlight his Clinton Global Initiative meeting in New York this week, but he also used the opportunity to remind people that the economy won’t suffer from letting marginal tax rates creep back up to the pre-Bush-tax-cut levels. His evidence: The economy was doing well during his presidency in spite of the 39.6 percent top marginal rate on income.

To be sure, the economy was doing well in the nineties, even with higher marginal rates. However, the burden of taxation isn’t the only factor in the health of an economy. A factor consistently overlooked by those calling for higher marginal tax rates is the size of government as measured by its spending.

According to OMB’s historical tables, when Clinton left office, government spending as a share of the economy was 18.2 percent. In FY 2005, the government spent $2 trillion. This year, government spending as a share of the economy is 25.3 percent, and real spending has reached $3.3 trillion. That’s significantly larger than when Clinton left office.

Suskind: RomneyCare was inspiration for ObamaCare

Ron Suskind’s new book, Confidence Men, has raised eyebrows and caused the Obama Administration some stress this week. But it also shows us, once again, that RomneyCare served as the blueprint for ObamaCare, notes Matt Lewis at the Daily Caller:

it reveals that in a memo to President Obama concerning potential health care reform options, White House chief health care official Nancy-Ann DeParle,

directed Obama’s attention to the only working model for reform in the country: Massachusetts, whose health care overhaul bill passed in 2005 under a brokered deal between then-governor Mitt Romney and the state’s Democratic legislature.” (p. 262)

Suskind goes on to demonstrate that President Obama, who previously had not embraced the individual mandate, was impressed by RomneyCare’s impact in Massachusetts:

“… the centerpiece of that program, the individual mandate, was something Obama had drawn up short of endorsing during the campaign, much to the ire of Hillary Clinton, who called him ‘all talk, no action’ on health care. Now, DeParle, in her memo, stressed that Obama should embrace a plan much like that in Massachusetts, driven by the teeth of a mandate, where individuals would be fined for not having health insurance. Obama, never much for the mandate, was concerned about legal challenges to it but was impressed by DeParle’s coverage numbers. Without the mandate, the still-sketchy Obama plan would leave twenty-eight million Americans uninsured; with the mandate, the estimates of the number left uninsured were well below ten million.” (p. 262-263)

Romney leads big in New Hampshire

Mitt Romney’s support in New Hampshire is still overwhelming, according to a new poll from Suffolk University. The numbers show Ron Paul coming in a very distant 2nd and Jon Huntsman, who hasn’t done well in many polls, not far behind.

  • Mitt Romney: 41%
  • Ron Paul: 14%
  • Jon Huntsman: 10%
  • Rick Perry: 8%
  • Sarah Palin: 6%
  • Michele Bachmann: 5%
  • Newt Gingrich: 4%
  • Rick Santorum: 1%
  • Herman Cain: 1%
  • Buddy Roemer: 1%
  • Undecided: 11%

Romney, Paul, and Huntsmann each picked up 6 points since the previous Suffolk poll out of New Hampshire in June. Bachmann has, unsurprisingly, lost support dropping from 11% to 5%.Perry’s lackluster performance isn’t odd since hasn’t focused much on New Hampshire, despite being hosting the first primary in the nation. He has instead spent much of his efforts in Iowa and South Carolina.

Suffolk notes that Romney’s support is solid:

In the event that their first choice dropped out of the Republican primary, those polled named Romney (21 percent) over Perry (20 percent) as their “second choice.” Paul received 9 percent as a second choice.

“Romney’s added strength in the second-choice question reduces the probability that any other candidate will be able to mobilize and capture all of the non-Romney voters as well as the undecided voters,” said Paleologos. “Romney is not only the overwhelming first choice, but he also has a competitive edge as a fallback option among voters who support other candidates.”

A primary challenge for Obama?

President Obama has been taking a beating lately.  His approval rating is pretty dismal.  Unfortunately, as is clear from things that have only recently transpired, things ain’t exactly getting better.

You see, while Obama has held his own against a variety of GOP challengers in head to head polls, Rasmussen found that he has a 64% disapproval rating among undecided voters.  Let’s face it folks, Democrats aren’t likely to abandon Obama and Republicans aren’t exactly lining up to jump ship for bluer waters.  The battle is for the hearts and minds of the undecideds, and on that battleground Obama is clearly getting his butt kicked.

This comes amid news that left wing crusader and former Green Party presidential candidate Ralph Nadar is pushing for a primary challenger to hit Obama from the left.  From the Washington Times:

“What we are looking at now is the dullest presidential campaign since Walter Mondale — and that’s saying something, believe me,” Mr. Nader told The Washington Times.

The group’s call has been endorsed by more than 45 other liberal leaders. They want to recruit six candidates who bring expertise ranging from poverty to the military.

Mr. Nader said the intent is not to defeat Mr. Obama but to make him focus on issues that might get lost in a purely Obama-versus-GOP discussion.

A primary challenge would definitely hurt Obama.  As it is now, he can campaign against GOP talking points while the GOP is busy fighting itself to pick who will challenge him next November.  Having to battle with the left wing of his own party would put him in the position of having to argue left wing policy.  For the record, there are a lot of folks who aren’t crazy about left wing policy at the moment.

Fox News will include Gary Johnson in Thursday’s debate

Gary Johnson, a former two-term Governor of New Mexico, has a lot to bring to the table in the race for the Republican presidential nomination. Up until this point, however, he’s only been allowed to participate in one debate despite polling on the same level as Jon Huntsman, who has been included in every debate since entering the race.

But Fox News has confirmed that Johnson will take the stage along side eight other candidates on Thursday evening in Orlando:

The Republican presidential field may be headed toward a two-man race between Rick Perry and Mitt Romney, but don’t tell that to Gary Johnson, the former governor of New Mexico.

Mr. Johnson is also a candidate for the White House, but he’s dropped off the national radar since being excluded from several televised debates.

But his standing in several national polls has finally cracked 1 percent, the standard by which Fox News Channel has decided to include presidential hopefuls in Thursday night’s contest in Orlando, Fla.

And so Mr. Johnson, a libertarian who favors the legalization of marijuana and is against the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, will stand on the stage with the other eight Republican candidates. A spokeswoman for Fox News confirmed the decision Tuesday evening.

About damned time. Let’s hope CNN and MSNBC follow suit.

David Boaz for President?

Back in July, Executive Vice President of the libertarian Cato Institute David Boaz chimed in on the 2012 GOP nomination asking “Is There Still Time?

Barry Goldwater announced his candidacy for president on January 3, 1964, about nine weeks before the New Hampshire primary. A decade later, Ronald Reagan announced his challenge to President Gerald Ford on November 20, 1975. After that unsuccessful race, he announced another, this time successful candidacy, on November 13, 1979.

I’m not suggesting that Sarah Palin, Rick Perry, or Chris Christie is another Ronald Reagan or even another Goldwater. Nor am I unaware of the changes in the campaign process. But I do wonder if a candidate with real appeal really has to announce his or her candidacy so many months before earlier candidates did.

Now he’s asking “Is It Too Late for Another Candidate?

Now the William J. Clinton Presidential Center (whatever happened to good ol’ Bill? I guess “William J. Clinton” sounds more presidential) reminds us of a more recent president who started his campaign later than any of today’s contenders. From September 30 to October 3, the center will celebrate the 20th anniversary of Bill Clinton’s announcement of his candidacy, which happened on October 2, 1991.

Is time running out? Or could a candidate with something attractive to offer still get into the race? It’s still earlier in the season than when Ronald Reagan and Bill Clinton announced their candidacies.

Romney catching up to Perry

The race for the Republican presidential nomination is beginning to get interesting as the gap in the polls between Rick Perry and Mitt Romney begins to close, according to the latest numbers from Gallup.

  • Rick Perry: 31%
  • Mitt Romney: 24%
  • Ron Paul: 13%
  • Michele Bachmann: 5%
  • Newt Gingrich: 5%
  • Herman Cain: 5%
  • Rick Santorum: 2%
  • Jon Huntsman: 1%
  • Other: 4%
  • No opinion: 10%

Perry did pick up two points from last the Gallup survey in the race. But Romney gained substantially, jumping from 17% to 24% in just a few weeks. While he’s still in third overall, Ron Paul is held steady. Michele Bachmann, continuing the trend irrelevance in the race, fell sharply from 10% in late August to 5%.

It’s bad news for Perry because he is beginning to fall back to earth. Moreover, Perry lost ground in a potential head-to-head matchup with President Barack Obama (he was tied last month) while Romney remained steady.

Barack Obama v. Rick Perry

  • Obama: 50%
  • Perry: 45%
  • Other: 3%
  • No opinion: 2%

Barack Obama v. Mitt Romney

Economic freedom is on the decline in the US

The Fraser Institute, a libertarian-leaning think thank based in Canada, issued the annual Economic Freedom of the World report yesterday. The report weights countries commitments to the principles of a free economy, including the size of government, security of property rights, sound money, free trade, and regulation; rating each country on a scale of 1 (less free) to 10 (most free).

Unfortunately, the report shows that economic freedom has “suffered another setback” as the “average economic freedom score rose from 5.53 (out of 10) in 1980 to 6.74 in 2007, but fell back to 6.67 in 2008, and to 6.64 in 2009, the most recent year for which data are available.”

Here’s the top 10 freest economies:

  1. Hong Kong (9.01)
  2. Singapore (8.68)
  3. New Zealand (8.20)
  4. Switzerland (8.03)
  5. Austrailia (7.98)
  6. Canada (7.81)
  7. Chile (7.77)
  8. United Kingdom (7.71)
  9. Mauritius (7.67)
  10. United States (7.60)

The United States is down from 7th in 2008 (we were ranked as the 3rd freest economy in 2000). What’s the reason for the decline of economic freedom in the US? The report shows that “[m]uch of this decline is a result of higher government spending and borrowing and lower scores for the legal structure and property rights components.”

Our scores declined across the board, including falling from 2nd on “Access to Sound Money” to 11th. We also fell from 29th to 44th in “Freedom to Trade Internationally,” a fundamentally economic right. Although Bill Clinton declared more than a decade ago the that the “era of big government is over,” the report shows us ranked 54th in terms of the “Size of Government.”

 
 


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