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.
No, seriously, that is what this man has become. He recently blogged a chart on his blog (inappropriately—or maybe entirely appropriately—named “Conscience of a Liberal,”) showing first quarter growth for five countries:
He then goes, “Wait, what? Japan as star performer? What’s that about? Actually, no mystery.”
Japan’s economy expanded faster than estimated in the first quarter, boosted by reconstruction spending that’s poised to fade just as a worsening in Europe’s crisis threatens to curtail export demand.
So he then argues that the tsunami reconstruction has led to great economic growth, while so-called “austerity” (which isn’t actually austerity at all, if Krugman had bothered to pay attention) has doomed Italy.
It makes perfect sense! Absolutely! Let’s hit Japan with another tsunami that will kill over 15,000 people, injure 27,000 citizens, and make 3,155 go missing! If only the 2011 tsunami had destroyed even more than that paltry 130,000 buildings—if only it had actually caused Fukushima to go critical and explode—it would have created so much potential for rebuilding! It would have shot the Japanese GDP right over the moon!
On Wednesday, the United States Senate narrowly avoided a two-year ban on the closing of post offices, which prompted me to ask: do you guys still live in the 1950s?
In a world of Gmail, Twitter, Facebook, cloud services, Google Drive, Dropbox, 3D printing, UPS, DHL, and who knows what else, I have to ask: who still uses the postal service any more?
There are only a few people with which I still get mail from through the USPS. The first are direct mail types, and nobody reads those sort of things. (This is the way your trash can goes “OM NOM NOM.”) The second are my parents and grandparents, so, in other words, old people.
The thing is, as I said, nobody is reading the former, and the latter are getting fewer and fewer. Meanwhile, the postal service is hemmorraghing money; the Cato Institute’s Downsizing Government project notes that it lost $20 billion between 2007 and 2010, and it hasn’t done any better since then. The thing is, we taxpayers are being forced to foot the bill. A bill for something that these days, an increasingly small portion of the populace actually wants. And, at the same time there’s decreasing demand for its services, its costs have continued to go up as it struggles to deal with employee pensions. Not a good situation to be in.
Here’s a better idea: let’s just privatize the post office. And by privatize it, I don’t mean sell it to one major corporation, but let’s privatize the entire industry. Allow competing mail delivery services in the market. Ensure that there are no more monopolies on first-class mail within the United States.
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.
If you missed the debate on CNN last night in Arizona, count yourself lucky. It was miserable. I only watched it because I discovered—much to my chagrin—that a recently purchased WiMAX adapter allowed me to stream video directly off the web at a framerate that wouldn’t make my brain explode. (It instead left that job up to the candidates.)
If you were a conservative turning in to your first presidential debate, you may have been surprised. Up on stage was one Rick Santorum, former senator from Pennsylvania, who in a number of statements said that he voted against spending and was dead set against the big government philosophy of Barack Obama…only to then say that he wanted to use the power of the government to force his own view of family life on people, and that he was for the big government philosophy of Barack Obama.
Just, you know, for his things. Riiight.
If you were still unswayed by the arguments by myself or Kevin or anyone else that Santorum was not a friend to libertarians or even fiscal conservatives, well, Santorum should have swayed you tonight. Let us focus on his whopper of a quote during one of his numerous tirades against Mitt Romney:
[C]ongress has a role of allocating resources when they think the administration has it wrong.
Newsflash, Santorum: Neither Congress nor the administration has the role of allocating resources. We have this thing called the “free market” that does that. Now, one could say that I was misconstruing Santorum’s argument, because he was only talking about resources that were justly appropriated for government use (though that is a whole Pandora’s box right there.) But as Alex Roarty over at the National Journal points out, the whole thing came in over a discussion on earmarks, something that Santorum has defended.
I didn’t put it in my “14 Fixes for our Messed up Country” list, since I thought it was long enough, but one of the things I really think needs to be reformed is the utterly insane institution of “baseline budgeting,” aka “Washington accounting,” aka “DC moonbattery.”
Apparently, though, according to CNS News (no, that’s not a typo) baseline budgeting might be on the ropes:
The House approved a potentially sweeping budget reform Friday that would force federal agencies to justify an annual increase, as opposed to getting an automatic increase under current budget law.
“What we are about to do could be the most responsible financial thing this Congress has done, this House has done in the whole last year,” Rep. Louie Gohmert (R-Texas) said before the vote. “It could be $1.4 trillion in cuts over the next 10 years and all we’re doing is just stopping the automatic increase.”
The Baseline Reform Act of 2012 passed the House by a near party-line vote of 235-177. However, the bill will likely have a difficult time passing the Democrat-controlled Senate.
Under current federal budget law, the amount of money a federal agency will automatically get for the next year is based on the current year’s amount, plus inflation, which is the “baseline” for the next budget year.
Read that last paragraph again, and then ask yourself: where, outside of the federal government, does that sort of accounting work? Do you ever give yourself a budget equal to last year plus inflation automatically? I don’t even think Warren Buffet, as wealthy as he is, does that, nor Mitt Romney. Probably not even Trump, but who really knows what the Donald does.
It’s not often that the media give Ronald Paul (R-Texas) a chance to speak.
There were reasons, why I didn’t watch the second GOP debate on Sunday.
Ronald Paul cleared the field on Saturday, he was the last man standing! After some initial tampering with his microphone, and pitch, he opened his arguments by restating his offensive tactic on “big-government Republican”, Rick Santorum. The only two real Tea Party contenders: Ronald Paul and Rick Perry, were left to languish on stage for the better part of 15 minutes, until allowed to join the discussion.
Mitt Romney was busy arguing how many jobs were, lost and gained under his CEO leisure. Newt Gingrich quoted the New York Times. Paul smoothly stepped back, blocked Santorum’s smugness by raining down: “he voted to raise the debt [ceiling] five times.”
Rick Santorum let loose liberal counter-attacks, naming sources “leftist”, and calling Mitt Romney class-consciously dangerous. In so doing, Santorum looked less Republican, more like a blue-state lawyer from the Northeast. Neither Paul nor Romney delved deep into his attacks, mostly picking up on their own strengths. Santorum was a negative force, not a positivist in this debate, Saturday night January 7th.
When Ronald Paul raised his hand for a response, the slick Stephonopilis retorted back to Paul (his senior by quite a few years): “we’ll stay with the subject, don’t you worry.” Brilliance in public debate rarely comes to the fore, especially on television. Paul showed it by counterstriking first Santorum, then defecting the attack from Rick Perry, onto Santorum and Newt Gingrich.
Jon Huntsman decided not to attack. Mitt Romney largely left the debate unscathed. Only because Ronald Paul made no concerted effort to attack the former Massachusetts blue-state Governor. It was easy for Paul to slice-down the cryptic schizophrenity of Gingrich, whose attempted slur of Ronald Paul on “style”, many see as hearnestness.
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.
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.)
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.