Economy

Biggest lies of ‘11?

Well reading Foreign Policy for that North Korean blog entry, I came across “The 14 Biggest Lies of 2011,” by David J. Rothkopf. I like list articles a lot; lots of information, in a very short time span, and gets you to focus on them. Sometimes, lists are completely, totally wrong; other times they are spot on; and in this case, it’s quite mixed. I want to offer some rebuttals to a few of his items, because they seem, to me, to be wildly inaccurate. Perhaps they are lies, but his own answers to them are not exactly encouraging. I will only focus on that we disagree on, to save space, but do read the entire list. I actually find it rather humorous…in a morbid sort of way.

I will start out by agreeing 100% with his introduction, however, that in DC, that lying is not an art form, but rather “is more reflexive, like breathing or taking cash from fat cats.” It is nothing but a pit of lies, and the Great Obamessiah himself is one of the best of them. All for civil liberties and ending the wars while running for president, not so much when he actually got into office. What a shame.

But onto Mr. Rothkopf’s list:

6 - “America is unthreatened by China’s growth.”

14 Fixes For Our Messed Up Country

Everyone seems to be proposing fixes for our country lately, whether it’s amendments to repeal the First Amendment or ban gays or whatever. I have a few ideas of my own that I think will go a long ways towards restoring some sanity in government and fixing what’s wrong with our society. Some of these will require constitutional amendments, and I don’t expect the entire list to actually get enacted unless magic somehow returns to the world and we resurrect Barry Goldwater, F.A. Hayek, and George Washington all at once.

I originally drafted a list of some 23 ideas, but I figured that it would be way too long for a blog post, so I shortened it to 14, a baker’s dozen. None of these are simple or light fixes, they are not tweaking around the edges to ensure a marginally better outcome. Judging from the situation our government and economy is in, from the horrific hard place our civil liberties are wedged behind, and the unmanageable mess that is Washington, I don’t think that “moderate” or “conservative” changes will do anything. We cannot pussyfoot around the issue; we need radical alterations to how our government works if we’re going to get us out of this morass. Again, most of these may never pass, but that’s to be expected.

Certainly, if you wish to hear my entire list, let me know and I’ll write it up, but for now, here are my 14 ideas for fixing our country:

1. Establish Approval Voting

I’ve already talked about this idea at length here, so I will not bore you again. In this post, all I will say is that I believe if we are to get anything done—and I do mean anything—we need to systematically reform how people actually get into office. That’s the foundation upon which any democracy stands, and when you’re up to your eyeballs in tar, the only way to get that fixed is to drain the swamp and start at the beginning.

Lies, Damned Lies, and Unemployment Statistics

Before Democrats, the Obama Administration, liberals, and progressives start crowing about the updated unemployment figures—which the Bureau of Labor Statistics say is now down to 8.6%—there’s something you should know about the why it is down—and it’s not pretty.

The BLS divides up the unemployment numbers into six figures, U-1 through U-6. U-3 is the “official” number, the one that’s always toted on the primetime news channels. U-6, however, is the real unemployment figure, which counts marginally attached workers (those that have stopped looking for work for the time being) and underemployed workers (those working part time but want full time work), among others. And the worst part is?

Even that is rosy compared to the “real truth.”

The truth comes in near the middle of the Bureau’s press release:

In November, the number of job losers and persons who completed temporary jobs declined by 432,000 to 7.6 million. The number of long-term unemployed (those jobless for 27 weeks and over) was little changed at 5.7 million and accounted for 43.0 percent of the unemployed. (See tables A-11 and A-12.)

The civilian labor force participation rate declined by 0.2 percentage point to 64.0 percent. The employment-population ratio, at 58.5 percent, changed little.(See table A-1.)

Emphasis mine.

We’re all RINOs now

Dan Drezner, a columnist at Foreign Policy magazine, has a great blog post up explaining why he calls himself a “RINO,” or “Republican-In-Name-Only,” that epithet usually utilized by such sagacious and distinguished intellects as Rush Limbaugh, Bill O’Reilly, and Ann Coulter. While it does lean towards foreign policy (naturally), the whole thing is a good read. Here’s the snippet I want to focus on, though, his three reasons for being a RINO:

In my case, at this point in time,  I believe that last appellation to be entirely fair and accurate.  I’m not a Democrat, and I don’t think I’ve become more liberal over time.  That said, three things have affected my political loyalties over the past few years.  First, I’ve become more uncertain about various dimensions of GOP ideology over time.  It’s simply impossible for me to look at the aftermath of the 2003 invasion of Iraq and the 2008 financial crisis and not ponder the myriad ways in which my party has made some categorical errors in judgment. So I’m a bigger fan of the politics of doubt during an era when doubt has been banished in political discourse.

Second, the GOP has undeniably shifted further to the right over the past few years, and while I’m sympathetic to some of these shifts, most of it looks like a mutated version of “cargo cult science” directed at either Ludwig Von Mises or the U.S. Constitution (which, of course, is sacred and inviolate, unless conservatives want to amend it).  Sorry, I’m not embracing outdated concepts like the gold standard or repealing the 16th Amendment.  Not happening.

Rick Perry’s New Groove (Maybe)

Rick Perry, looking to get back on top of the GOP primary, has unveiled a new reform plan that will “uproot, tear down and rebuild Washington, D.C. and our federal institutions,” as he puts it:

Blasting the congressional “creatures of Washington” for being overpaid and detached from the struggles of the people outside the Beltway, Texas Gov. and GOP presidential hopeful Rick Perry vowed Tuesday to eliminate federal agencies, set term limits for federal judges and push for a part-time Congress where both members’ pay and office budgets are sliced in half.

The three-term governor, speaking on a campaign swing in Bettendorf, Iowa, said he would lead by example by cutting his salary as president until the federal budget is balanced, and said that lawmakers who use information to profit from stock trades should go to jail — in what appeared to be a clear reference to recent news reports alleging insider trading involving House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi.

“I do not believe Washington needs a new coat of paint, it needs a complete overhaul,” Mr. Perry said, according to prepared remarks. “We need to uproot, tear down and rebuild Washington, D.C. and our federal institutions.”

I’m reading his actual plan right here, and I have to say, there are some good ideas here, and one very bad one.

Pontificating on a New Global Economic Authority

Recently, the Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace (a branch of the Roman Curia established to promote justice, peace and human rights in the world from the perspective of the Roman Catholic Church) released a treatise on the global monetary system entitled “Note on Financial Reform”, which examines what it believes to be the root cause of global suffering and inequality, and proposed solutions to remedy that suffering. Normally a religious pronouncement of this nature would elicit little more than a few raised eyebrows, but coming from on official body of a church whose adherents account for nearly one quarter of the global population, one must give weight to the commentary regardless of concurrence in the conclusions.

Weighing in at just under 6500 words, a detailed analysis in this space is impossible, so some general summarizations are necessary. In short, the Pontifical Council seems to believe that the root of global suffering lies in an unequal distribution of resources, growth of credit markets that far outpaced real markets (agriculture, manufacturing, etc.), a world too enamored with capitalism, a lack of regulation and control on national and supranational financial transactions and markets, and the need for governing authorities to submit acquisition of material wealth and national sovereignty to the needs of the global “common good.”

With all due respect to the august body of the leadership of the Catholic Church, while they make a valid point regarding the physical suffering of many, the assessment of the root causes is, in my opinion, deeply in error, and as a result the Council’s conclusions and proposals are also in error.

R.I.P. William Niskanen (1933-2011)

It is with heavy hearts that United Liberty mourns the passing of political economist William Niskanen, former Chairman Emeritus of the Cato Institute in Washington, DC, and former acting chairman of President Ronald Reagan’s Council of Economic Advisors. He suffered a massive stroke at his home on Tuesday evening, October 25, 2011 while still recovering from heart surgery in September, and passed away yesterday in a Washington hospital.

“He was a giant of Public Choice,” said American University professor Laura Langbein, a long-time friend of Niskanen’s, in an email. “Bill spent a lot of his life pointing out, in an article published in the Journal of Law and Economics in 1975 and in later books, that, contrary to what he first wrote in [Bureaucracy and Representative Government (1971)], bureaus DON’T maximize budgets.  Rather, bureaucrats (individual government employees) maximize a mix of output and slack. This is a far more generalizable model. Bill had a great mind, and he was a nice guy. He also had a fine sense of humor.”

Many other economists also lauded Niskanen’s commitment to scholarship, as noted by Cato:

Niskanen was granted a Professional Achievement Award by the University of Chicago Alumni Association in 2005, sharing the stage with fellow recipient David Broder, the late longtime Washington Post columnist, and philosopher Richard Rorty. The announcement of the award described Niskanen as “the embodiment of what the University of Chicago stands for in terms of scholarship, professionalism, integrity, and dedication.”

“Let’s Flatten This Joint”

One suspects that the above title might be the new slogan for the Republican Party, with the joint being the Internal Revenue Service’s buildings. Why? Because now Gov. Perry has unveiled a flat tax plan:

 

The code that Perry is proposing would feature a 20% personal income and corporate tax, the elimination of Social Security and capital gains taxes, and the preservation of popular deductions for mortgage interest and charitable giving. Under the “cut, balance, and grow” plan, tax loopholes for corporations would be phased out while the standard exemption for those earning $500,000 or less would be increased to $12,500.

His economic team believes that those changes, combined with deep spending cuts and entitlement reforms including a gradual increase in the retirement age, will encourage so much growth and save families and corporations so much in compliance costs that the budget could be balanced by 2020.

One thing I am glad Perry’s team admits is that the tax, by itself, will not fix our problems. They say “combined with deep spending cuts and entitlement reforms”. That is what we need to fix our problems; however, if we need to have a discussion about tax policy first to get there, then so be it.

Occupy Wall Street: The Young and the Clueless

“Now since man is naturally inclined to avoid pain - and since labor is pain in itself - it follows that men will resort to plunder whenever plunder is easier than work. History shows this quite clearly. And under these conditions, neither religion nor morality can stop it.” ~French Economist Frederick Bastiat, 1845, Economic Sophisms”

“There are many well-meaning people today who work at placing an economic floor beneath all of us so that no one shall exist below a certain level or standard of living, and certainly we don’t quarrel with this. But look more closely and you may find that all too often these well-meaning people are building a ceiling above which no one shall be permitted to climb and between the two are pressing us all into conformity, into a mold of standardized mediocrity.” ~President Ronald Reagan

For the past few weeks, America has been treated to a steady news coverage diet of Occupy Wall Street, a motley amalgam of former hippies, idealistic but misinformed college students, Marxist advocates, seekers of mayhem for mayhem’s sake, and the just plain clueless. Welcome to the Flea Party, the far left’s answer to the organic uprising of the TEA Party. However, that is where the comparison stops. Whereas the TEA Party uprising has been peaceful, the Flea Party has been a study in anti-social behavior masquerading as noble civil disobedience.

The GOP’s Energy Economy Short-Sightedness: It’s the Internet, Stupid

Though I didn’t notice it at the time, techPresident’s Nick Judd makes a very astute observation about the recent Bloomberg/Washington Post GOP presidential debate on the economy:

 

  • Number of times the Internet was mentioned by name in a debate about the economy: 2.
  • Number of jobs that were in the American information sector in 2007: 3,496,773.

 

Texas Governor Rick Perry will unveil his economic plan in Pittsburgh (emphasis mine):

My plan is based on this simple premise: Make what Americans buy. Buy what Americans make. And sell it to the world. We are standing atop the next American economic boom…energy. The quickest way to give our economy a shot in the arm is to deploy American ingenuity to tap American energy. But we can only do that if environmental bureaucrats are told to stand down. My plan will break the grip of dependence we have today on foreign oil from hostile nations like Venezuela and unstable nations in the Middle East to grow jobs and our economy at home.


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