In two days, the sequestration axe will either drop, or it won’t. Personally, I am about as close as you can get to the situation, and I have no idea how it will turn out. While the “national security” argument against sequestration was gradually left behind, the arguments against the cuts have become increasingly economic in nature. These arguments are problematic at best and disingenuous at worst.
A while back, I proposed a couple of ways to gradually cut more than sequestration does, therefore creating less pain in the current fiscal year; but as dieting often fails, cutting swiftly might be the only surefire method to actually cut spending. Putting the cuts into perspective, as George Will did in his article this weekend, $85 billion from a $3.6 trillion budget, or 2.3%, is miniscule. The “draconian” cuts merely return us to 2006 levels.
I have been advocating deeper cuts for some time now, and as a defense contractor, am prepared to lose my job as a result (although I don’t expect to). I will try to be as objective as possible herein as I offer a couple of personal thoughts as we draw closer to the actuality of sequestration:
Read these paragraphs and see if you can figure out who wrote them:
The Federal minimum wage has been frozen at $3.35 an hour for six years. In some states, it now compares unfavorably even with welfare benefits available without working. It’s no wonder then that Edward Kennedy, the new chairman of the Senate Labor Committee, is being pressed by organized labor to battle for an increase.
No wonder, but still a mistake. Anyone working in America surely deserves a better living standard than can be managed on $3.35 an hour. But there’s a virtual consensus among economists that the minimum wage is an idea whose time has passed. Raising the minimum wage by a substantial amount would price working poor people out of the job market. A far better way to help them would be to subsidize their wages or - better yet - help them acquire the skills needed to earn more on their own.
An increase in the minimum wage to, say, $4.35 would restore the purchasing power of bottom-tier wages. It would also permit a minimum-wage breadwinner to earn almost enough to keep a family of three above the official poverty line. There are catches, however. It would increase employers’ incentives to evade the law, expanding the underground economy. More important, it would increase unemployment: Raise the legal minimum price of labor above the productivity of the least skilled workers and fewer will be hired.
The idea of using a minimum wage to overcome poverty is old, honorable - and fundamentally flawed. It’s time to put this hoary debate behind us, and find a better way to improve the lives of people who work very hard for very little.
Guess? Guess? Hmm? Give up? All right then, the individual who wrote this was…
I’ve decided to start a new feature here at United Liberty, one that would run on a monthly basis. I’m calling it “7 on the 7th.” It will be a list of 7 agencies, on the 7th of the month, that we should get rid of. The purpose is to showcase just how many government agencie that exist, which most Americans just don’t realize. While they may think the government does too much stuff, I doubt that many know just what the government really does. Most don’t know about the ridiculous organizations that are prt of our government, and I can say because I don’t know.
So this will be informative not just for you, dear reader, but also for yours truly. What sort of stupid things can we uncover? Feel free to submit your suggestions for next month’s feature in the comments (but please, don’t be silly and tell me we must get rid of the Department of Defense; we’re moderate, sensible libertarians here, not barking-at-the-moon anarcho-capitalists.) Hopefully, if enough on the web read this feature, we may be able to spark a genuine discussion about the role of government and what it should actually be doing, so when some politician says we need more money to fund essential services, we can tell him (or her) that nothing he (or she) is demanding funding for is actually essential.
Now, on to the inaugural list. For this one I’ve decided to go for the low-hanging fruit, to get them out of the way and remove temptations for future entries. I don’t really expect to surprise anyone with these, but that just goes to show you how many folks think a lot of what our government does is rubbish.
1 - Department of Homeland Security
Senator Rand Paul has a new plan to prioritize government spending in order to stave off defaults and bring the country back towards solvency:
In a renewed attempt to force President Barack Obama’s hand on the debt limit, Kentucky Republican Sen. Rand Paul is pushing legislation that would ban federal spending on anything but interest payments on the national debt, Social Security checks, and military salaries.
Paul, who is traveling through Israel this week, told Business Insider here Thursday that he believes the GOP should take a more pro-active approach to the coming fight over raising the debt ceiling. Rather than march the country toward a government shutdown — and spook markets with possible default — Paul argued that Republicans should pass a bill that would force the government to prioritize payments to bondholders.
In an excellent piece urging that oral contraception become available over the counter that ran in this morning’s print edition of the Wall Street Journal (subscription may be required), Louisiana Governor Bobby Jindal, whose résumé includes a litany of health policy wonkery, sounded the death knell of both big government’s dominion over one aspect of reproductive health, and the pharmaceutical industry’s influence over that policy. Further, Jindal’s position masterfully bridges the gap between social conservatives and libertarians, as it accounts for both market-based health care (vs. Obamacare) and the protection of religious liberty and conscience (also vs. Obamacare). Here’s an excerpt:
Over the weekend, the USS Enterprise—the real one, not James T. Kirk’s ship—was retired in Virginia:
NORFOLK, Va. (AP) - The world’s first nuclear-powered aircraft carrier was retired from active service on Saturday, temporarily reducing the number of carriers in the U.S. fleet to 10 until 2015.
The USS Enterprise ended its notable 51-year career during a ceremony at its home port at Naval Station Norfolk, where thousands of former crew members, ship builders and their families lined a pier to bid farewell to one of the most decorated ships in the Navy.
“It’ll be a special memory. The tour yesterday was a highlight of the last 20 years of my life. I’ve missed the Enterprise since every day I walked off of it,” said Kirk McDonnell, a former interior communications electrician aboard the ship from 1983 to 1987 who now lives in Highmore, S.D.
The Enterprise was the largest ship in the world at the time it was built, earning the nickname “Big E.” It didn’t have to carry conventional fuel tanks for propulsion, allowing it to carry twice as much aircraft fuel and ordnance than conventional carriers at the time. Using nuclear reactors also allowed the ship to set speed records and stay out to sea during a deployment without ever having to refuel, one of the times ships are most vulnerable to attack.
Notice how the story says that the number of aircraft carriers is only “temporarily” reduced to 10 until 2015. That’s because they’re building more of them, and yes, the next one will be named Enterprise:
Grover Norquist is under fire. Unjustly.
With Republican Sens. Lindsey Graham, Saxby Chambliss, Rep. Peter King and others seemingly deserting Grover Norquist and the Taxpayer Protection Pledge created by his organization, Americans for Tax Reform, media outlets across the spectrum are declaring that the GOP is “Over Grover” and that his vicelike grip of eternal dominance on the GOP might not be so eternal after all. We have images like this one, showing Republican leaders bowing to him as if he is a god. And on and on and on.
What it really is, though, is just another round of misinformation, wrong data, and interpretations based on faulty premises. Yet another sideshow that is completely missing the point, the real debate we should be having in DC.
I don’t like to make political endorsements and, on principle, I certainly don’t discuss my vote before an election (the protection a secret ballot offers me from harassment and intimidation only works if I keep my preference a secret). I was stunned to read in an email yesterday, “I had no idea high-information, intelligent undecided voters even existed!” You know, as if the choice between an underwhelming incumbent president, an underwhelming challenger, a list of names with no mathematical chance to win, and not voting at all is an easy one to make. If your only goal is to beat the incumbent, then your decision is easier than mine. I, however, don’t only want to beat the incumbent; I want to elect a president worthy of the exercise of one of my most sacred rights, the right to vote.
I know we’re focused pretty intensely on the elections, which are only two weeks away, but we always need to focus as well on underlying principles and concepts that drive our economy and our government. Elections come and go; this stuff is forever. In that vein, you really need to take a look at a new paper from the Mercatus Center at George Mason University, by Randall Holcombe:
Crony capitalism describes an economic system in which the profitability of firms in a market economy is dependent on political connections. The term has been used in the popular press but rarely appears in academic literature. However, there has been a substantial amount of academic research on various components that, when aggregated, describe crony capitalism. This literature shows that crony capitalism exists only because those in government are in a position to target benefits to their cronies, and have an incentive to do so, because they get benefits in return. The ability to target those benefits is a result of the spending and regulatory power of government, so big government causes cronyism. One remedy often suggested for cronyism is more government regulation and oversight of the economy, but this remedy misunderstands the cause of cronyism. The substantial and well-established economic literature on the components of crony capitalism shows that big government is the cause of crony capitalism, not the solution.
By “crony capitalism,” of course, he refers to lobbyists, and big business using those lobbyists to get more power and take more wealth away from the public. It’s the reason we had Occupy Wall Street, and why many folks still cry out for “regulation” to “rein in” big business and the big banks.
There’s a pervasive myth floating around the progressive left that pro-market advocacy necessarily means pro-business advocacy (and, by extension, anti-poor people advocacy). That is, as I said, categorically a myth, but that doesn’t mean people don’t believe it — they do. Kudos are due many times over to the Washington Examiner’s Tim Carney for doing yeoman’s work to try to dispel these myths, like this thorough and merciless rebuttal to Anna Palmer’s joke of a POLITICO piece on a supposed resurgence of corporate lobbyist influence in the White House if Mitt Romney wins the election, as if there’s nothing to see in the Barack Obama White House:
You mean after he kicks out the lobbyists in Obama’s White House like Patton Boggs lobbyist Emmett Beliveau (7), O’Melveny & Myers lobbyist Derek Douglas (8), and Pfizer’s, AT&T’s lobbyist at Akin Gump Dana Singiser (9)?
By that point in the column, Carney had already identified six registered lobbyists working in the administration; by the end of the thrashing, he identifies a total fifty-five registered lobbyists working in the White House.