Capitalism

Freedom isn’t just economics, it’s a story too

Usually, when we argue for the cause of freedom and liberty, we do so by engaging in arguments using economics. The broken window fallacy, third-party payer problems, supply and demand, etc. They do work, to an extent, and they are good tools. But they aren’t the only tools in the basket.

My good friend Sean Malone, the Director of Video Production* over at the Charles Koch Institute, has put together a new series of videos for the Economic Freedom Project, which tell the stories of small business entrepreneurs who are forced to survive in an environment marred by over regulation, cronyism, corruption, and a far too large business. The first had yours truly as a video assistant, which really meant that I went into the break room to steal the “guest only” Coke Zeros for Sean. But don’t tell anyone.

We have to remember that we’re not fighting for liberty just because it’s more economically efficient, or that it fits some philosophical message. (Well, it does, but…) We’re doing it because there are people out there, people who are legitimately suffering from too much government and not enough freedom. If more Americans see this—hell, if more homo sapiens see this—then maybe they will wisen up and realize that the “1%” or whomever is the target of today’s Two-Minute Hate is not some intangible, inanimate object, but is in fact a real human being, and deserves to be treated as such.

That’s what really matters. And that’s what we need to be telling people.

Timid Mitt: Romney Unable or Unwilling to Fight Back

Mitt Romney

Over the last few weeks, the Obama campaign and their friends in the main stream media have had a field day.  First, going after Romney for having a Swiss bank account and several offshore accounts.  This line of attack, has been followed by a relentless series of attacks over exactly when Mitt Romney left Bain Capital.

Both of these attacks were opportunities for Romney and his campaign team to turn the tables aggressively on Obama and on the media.  At a time when unemployment remains over 8% and with our nation teetering on the verge of fiscal collapse, the Obama/media fascination with the minutiae of Mitt Romney’s background is an example of grotesque political slight of hand.  It is the ultimate distraction from the issues that matter most.

Unfortunately, Mitt the timid and his camaign have - so far - failed miserably at fighting back.

On the issue of the offshore accounts, why didn’t Romney come forward and say “yes, I had accounts in Switzerland and the Cayman Islands, but guess what?  There is absolutely nothing illegal about these accounts and, indeed, these accounts are the product of an overly complex and uncompetetive tax code that Obama and Democrats are hell bent on defending!”

On the issue of when he left Bain, why hasn’t Mitt and his campaign said “who cares!?”  What if Romney was still at Bain after 1999?  Does that suddenly change Obama’s failed record as President?  Does that suddenly balance our budgets?  Does it suddenly create jobs?  Of course not.  Why in God’s name is the Romney campaign taking the bait on these distractions?

If Mitt the timid thinks he can just run out the clock and win this election, he is sorely mistaken.  The Obama campaign has shown how ruthlessly it will distort and distract, and Obama has the giant megaphone of the main stream media as his willing accomplice.

Federal Incompetence Stifles Job

“Were we directed from Washington when to sow, and when to reap, we should soon want bread.” ~ Thomas Jefferson

Each day we see proofs of the wisdom of the Founding Fathers in the creation of a federalist form of government which gave superior authority to a central government within a very limited sphere, and left all other functions to the states, or the people. Far from being the limited government which our Founders envisioned, the federal government today is a monstrous leviathan which is equal parts incompetence and avarice. This is what happens when government attains more power. Government is the only entity legally able to use force to achieve its goals. Government is a monopoly, and therefore does not have to be efficient or innovative on order to retain its “customers.” It is essentially immune from the disastrous consequences of its decisions and actions. It can compel continued allegiance and higher payments.

A timely example of the results of government expansionism is in the continued stagnancy of our economy. In the last days of the Bush presidency, and expanded throughout the Obama presidency, the federal government took steps which would supposedly save the economy from a financial collapse (which itself was the result of government interference in the market). With the passage of the “stimulus” bill, unemployment was not supposed to reach 8% according to the Obama administration, yet it did that and more. Unemployment spiked above 10% AFTER the near-trillion dollar stimulus was passed, and stayed at or above 9% for almost three years, before dropping to above 8%, a point we were not supposed to have reached at all.

Paul Krugman is Delusional

It’s official: the New York Times’ resident Nobel Prize Laureate/Loony is delusional. He wrote on his blog Monday about “how right he was”:

We’re coming up on the second anniversary of my piece “Myths of Austerity“, in which I tried to knock down the simply insane conventional wisdom then gelling among Very Serious People. Intellectually it was, I think I can say without false modesty, a huge win; I (and those of like mind) have been right about everything.

But I had no success in deflecting the terrible wrong turn in policy. Moreover, as far as I can tell none of the people responsible for that wrong turn has paid any price, not even in reputation; they’re still regarded as Very Serious, treated with great deference. And the political tendency behind that terrible economic analysis has at least a 50% chance of triumphing in America.

Oh well.

“Oh well” is right.

His first problem is that he says he has “been right about everything.” When one looks at the stimulus programs that have been enacted since this recession began, and the high unemployment that has persisted, the evidence is blatantly clear: Krugman is an idiot.

His second problem is his statement that “I had no success in deflecting the terrible wrong turn in policy.” Um, lest I am living on a different worldline than Krugman, the man’s main policy prescription has been stimulus, and we’ve had a lot of it:

A Love Letter to Ron Paul Die-Hards and Anarcho-Capitalists

EDIT: I’m not saying that Ron Paul fans are necessarily anarcho-capitalists. They are two camps that need to be addressed equally, and thus share a post. I apologize if the title seems a bit misleading.

I love you guys. Well and truly.

You are truly the only people who can say, with a straight face, that you want to see absolutely no government in the world, or that parents should be able to sell their children, or that law could be perfectly administered through courts that competed for customers like car dealerships. (“You need a court that respects your right for others to pay for your contraception? Come in and get no money down on a brand new 2012 court case!”)

The unbound and unhampered loyalty you have to a Texas congressman who preaches liberty and peace is just simply adorable. You call his son a sellout for not endorsing his father, start riots at state GOP conventions to grab as many delegates for him as possible, and even started a campaign to sue the Republicans for not allowing delegates bound to other candidates to vote for him. Just adorable. You’re like little puppies, yipping and yapping at anyone who gets too close to your candidate, anyone who might might be some big ugly meanie in disguise. It’s cute.

So that’s why, since I’m so in love with you, that I have to take a moment and tell you to stop hurting yourself.

No, really.

You’re starting to make yourself look foolish. Childish, even. Your inability to accept that Ron Paul will not win the nomination is a sign of being a poor loser, and nobody likes a poor loser. Your other inability to accept compromise with others—such as you demonization Paul’s son Rand—means you won’t have any friends. And for some of you, your inability to take what you can get, rather than singing Queen’s “I Want It All” at the top of your lungs every day, makes you look utterly crazy.

The Land of the Fee and Home of the Slave

In the days leading up to the IPO (Initial Public Offering) of Facebook stock as it became a publicly traded company, much of the news surrounding the company was made not by founder Mark Zuckerberg, but by Eduardo Saverin, a young man who became very rich after he invested his life savings in that unknown company running out of a Harvard dorm room. Saverin had announced that he was renouncing his U.S. citizenship, preferring to make his ties with Singapore instead.

In the aftermath of his announcement, it was claimed that he was doing so in order to avoid the heavy tax burden placed on his wealth by the United States. Senator Chuck Schumer (D-NY), a man of whom former Senator Bob Dole once said that “the most dangerous place in Washington is between Charles Schumer and a television camera,” wasted no time in turning this into face time with the press to score political points, joining with fellow Democrat, Senator Bob Casey (D-PA) in announcing their intention to submit the “Ex-PATRIOT” Act.

According to Schumer, this law would “re-impose taxes on expatriates like Saverin even after they flee the United States and take up residence in a foreign country.” Like a modern-day Rasputin, this would enact into law the assumption that politicians have supernatural powers of mind-reading, and would presume any person who renounced U.S. citizenship, while having a net worth greater than $2 million, or an average five-year income tax liability of at least $148,000, had done so for the purpose of tax avoidance. The law, eviscerating the Constitution’s presumption of “innocent until proven guilty” principle, would require the individual to prove to the IRS that they’d not done so for tax avoidance purposes, or risk additional capital gains taxes on any future investment gains.

‘London Whale’ upsets J.P. Morgan

As many of you may already know, insvestment banking firm J.P Morgan recently lost nearly $2.3 billion dollars on some very, very, bad bets.

Sources in the MSM accordingly, show a trader only dignified by the sobriquet ‘London Whale’ was able to hedge together larger shares of Morgan company money and place them on malevolent trade returns. They did not pay off.

Some circles call it business as usual. Other circles call this collusion, or extended risk. Yet others would call this, hedging- or: placing large assets on wide-open targets, at just the right time and place. I don’t need to mention the implications of this; we’re back to 2007, when the Recession we are currently in, evolved- by these means.

Now, clearly- you could claim- the company knew what it’s employees were aiming at with their stoked assets. They didn’t. This story is just emerging, but it seems clear that this is a perfect example of those who don’t know what they are doing, laksadaising large amounts of money; and wielding power so great, there could be serious repercussions.

Gladly, at least so far, there have been few.

Nevertheless, what this shows is not only nefariousness on the part of some, but also the evident close ties in finance between Europe and the United States. We may think this country is just pulling from a recession, when in reality we’re right back to 2007, or earlier.

Entire Markets and nations are tanking in Europe: acidic debt scouring away at the health of entire economies. The European Union ready to dissect into multiple breakaway-province nationalities. National furor is high, while economic support has hit all-time lows.

At first sight, the entire investments-gone-wrong scenario would yearn for more oversight- but beware of what you ask for! Oversight by whom? I don’t think market regulation is a particularly good example of solving fiscal ‘problems’ by any stretch of the economic imagination.

Who Has The Party Delegates?

What all the GOP candidates are after, are so-called ‘delegates.’Elected officials that will broker the convention of either party this fall. Officials are parcelled by the amount of votes, the candidates receive in the primary.

During Michigan’s primary recently, for instance, there were 30 official delegates, state-wide. Two were ‘at-large’ candidates, which meant they could be assigned individually to any winning candidate. The other 28 were ‘proportional’ ones, alotted through 14 congressional districts. During the push for the nominations in Michigan last night, Mitt Romney and Rick Santorum spent millions of dollars to influence the voting population; with TV ads, pamphlets, media, interviews, rallies, stickers, and much more. Michigan’s grand sum of politcal expenditure was near six million bucks.

Delegates are what really counts at the GOP convention. What looks to be happening, is that no clear winner will come out victorious. There’s a righteous number: 1444 delegates will win any nominee the victory-nod of the Republican National Committee. Nationwide, 2169 delegates are extended for contestation, until the RNC celebration in Tampa, Florida. From the RN Committee, an additional 117 delegates are added into the mix, ostensibly to keep debate lively and clear-up dead locks. So what appears, on first looks, to be a rather hot-headed and fast paced Republican rocket-launch to the RNC, is more like a jammed or misfired pistol in a duel.

Momentarily, Mitt Romney is in the lead, with 167 total delegates. Rick Santorum is second with roughly half, at 87. Newt Gingrich won only one state and has 32, while Ron Paul has 19 carefully collected delegations. The count may reshuffle at any moment, since constitutionalism and populism together, ring alarm-bells in states such as Arkansas, Kentucky, Tennessee, Texas, Oklahoma and New Mexico.

The Road To Tax Reform: More Potholes Than I Like

Some panels are off in nowhere, little rooms here and there. Other panels are in giant ballrooms, like the Marshall Ballroom, second largest to the Marriott where all the major speakers are, well, speaking. (Perhaps “blustering” is a better word.) And sometimes, those ballrooms were not full. But then maybe I got there early.

It was certainly an illustrious panel, which explained why it began to fill up shortly after it officially began. It was chaired by Grover Norquist himself, President of Americans for Tax Reforms, and the legendary proponent of the “No New Taxes” Pledge he encouraged (some on the left would say “forced”) politicians to take up. To his right was Lew Uhler , chair of the National Tax Limitation Committee, and to his left were Benjamin Powell of the Independent Institute and Phil Kerpen, Vice President for Policy, of Americans For Prosperity. I went because the subtitle implied there was going to be a debate between supporters of the Flat Tax, Fair Tax, a VAT, and maybe even 9-9-9—and that plan’s author, Rich Lowrie, did show up in the audience. But there really wasn’t any debate on that front.

And let’s face it, what kind of debate can we really have on taxes? Even the left admits that the tax code we have now is horrifically complex, prone to corruption and gaming the system. Though they disagree about “broadening the base and lowering the rates,” I don’t think any sane American, left, right, or center, can look at the miasma we have now and say, “Yeah, it works.” For whom?

There were some interesting points to be made, but ultimately I didn’t think the solutions that Norquist posed during question time were all that good. But let’s focus on the interesting first:

New York State commits economic suicide

It’s pretty hard to kill oneself when you’re already dead. I suppose some vampires have tried it, to end their miserable existence, but I don’t recall any zombies doing so. New York state may be the first to try, however.

The reason being is that Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver (the Assembly being New York’s equivalent of a “House of Representatives”) has introduced a bill that will raise the state’s minimum wage from $7.50 an hour to $8.25 an hour:

Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver, joined by dozens of colleagues from his chamber controlled by Democrats, said census data show nearly half of the U.S. population has fallen into poverty or joined the ranks of the working poor. He said New York’s minimum wage has risen 10 cents in the last six years, it is lower here than in 18 other states, and increasing it is “a matter of human dignity.”

Gov. Andrew Cuomo has supported previous proposals to raise the minimum and his office will review this one through the legislative session, spokesman Matthew Wing said Monday

Scott Reif, spokesman for Republicans who control the Senate, said the Senate GOP would “continue to promote policies that encourage job growth and make New York a more business-friendly state, just as we did last year partnering with Governor Cuomo.”

The New York Farm Bureau and the state Business Council said raising the minimum wage would hurt small businesses, farms and nonprofits that are struggling to meet payrolls now. Farm Bureau President Dean Norton called it “a stealth tax.”

 
 


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