Written by Marian Tupy, a policy analyst, Center for the Global Liberty and Prosperity at the Cato Institute. Posted with permission from Cato @ Liberty.
Few Frenchmen are more recognizable at home and abroad than the movie star Gerard Depardieu. Last week, Depardieu caused a great controversy in his native land by moving to Belgium – partly to avoid the 75 percent income tax on the wealthy that was introduced by the socialist President of France, Francois Hollande. Depardieu’s move was condemned by the French political establishment, including the Prime Minister Jean-Marc Ayrault who called the actor’s action “pathetic.”
Depardieu shot back and, in an open letter to Monsieur Ayrault, wrote, “I’m leaving because you think success, creation, talent and anything different should be punished. I am sending you back my passport and social security, which I have never used.” The French actor claims to have “paid 85 percent taxes on his revenues this year  and estimated that he had paid €145m ($189m) in total since he started work as a printer at the age of 14.”
Written by Juan Carlos Hidalgo, policy analyst on Latin America at the Cato Institute. Posted with permission from Cato @ Liberty.
Venezuelans will go to the polls on Sunday for their most important presidential election in a generation. At stake is the end of the thuggish, corrupt, and autocratic 14 year-old regime of Hugo Chávez.
The opposition, led by Governor Henrique Capriles Radonsky, has a real chance of winning the vote—if it’s fairly done. The most credible polls show a very tight race with still a number of Venezuelans undecided. However, there are good reasons to believe that most of the undecided are actually “hidden” votes for Capriles, people who are intimidated or afraid to express their support for the opposition candidate.
As I’ve written before, it won’t be a fair election. Four out of the five seats in the National Electoral Council (CNE) are loyal chavistas. The CNE has resorted to increasingly dirty tricks. The latest has been to announce that people who mark one of Capriles’ pictures in the ballot won’t actually be voting for him, but for a lesser known third candidate (see the explanation here).
The electoral registry, which is controlled by Cuban operatives, has increased its size by 58 percent since 2001, even though Venezuela’s population has risen only 18 percent during that period. Fourteen of the country’s 24 states have more registered voters than total adult population. There is even the documented case of 2,272,706 voters that appear to live at the same address.
A few weeks ago we brought you a video from an Occupy meeting where the stated goal was to overthrow capitalism. A few commenters took issue with this, claiming it was an isolated statement and that Occupy is a loose-knit group.
I had the opportunity to be with the Occupy protesters at the RNC and the DNC over the past few weeks and I can assuredly tell you that it is not an isolated statement. True, there are many groups represented at the demonstrations, and maybe not all of them will outright say that they want to overthrow capitalism. But when you promote a socialist economy, by definition you are advocating the overthrow of capitalism.
I covered the “March on the RNC” in Tampa and was able to have a conversation with a socialist marcher about the economy:
A few of his comments deserve special attention.
“We need to tax the wealthiest people in the country, who aren’t paying their fair share - it’s not shared sacrifice for them.”
This is a common refrain among not only the Occupy movement but among liberals in general. Consider that the top 20 percent of earners - going way beyond the famed 1 percent - makes a little more than half the money yet pays two-thirds of the federal taxes. And once you hit $200,000 in adjusted gross income, your tax rate nearly doubles - going from an average of 11.9 percent to 19.6 percent.
International Data on Living Standards Show that the United States Should Not Become More Like Europe
I’m not a big fan on international bureaucracies, particularly the Paris-based Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development. The OECD, funded by American tax dollars, has become infamous for its support of statist pro-Obama policies.
This weekend heralded the Opening Ceremonies of the thirtieth Olympiad of the modern era, kicking off the world’s greatest sporting spectacle as the best athletes in the world converge to see who will lay claim to the titles conveyed in the spirit of the Olympic motto, “Citius, Altius, Fortius” (“Higher, Faster, Stronger”). For the next two weeks, literally billions of people from all over the world will be cheering on their country’s athletes, urging them towards their ultimate goal of being draped with a gold medal. These athletes represent the finest in the world, those that have combined natural athletic talent with single-minded focus, grueling workouts, and year after year of tremendous energy expended in perfecting their craft. In the end that talent and hard work, sprinkled with a touch of luck and fate, will reveal who shall be crowned the athletic gods and goddesses of Mount Olympus.
As I watched the parade of athletes entering the Olympic stadium, my thoughts began to wander, as they often do, to the current polarization of the political climate, with one side (limited government conservatives and libertarians) who believe in minimal government interference and robust competition in a true free market), and the other side (liberal Democrats, socialists, and the Occupy Wall Street crowd) who believe in a heavy-handed government which uses force and coercion to right the perceived wrongs of the world.
In that context, I began to imagine what the Olympics would look like if our current president, whose actions could lead one to legitimately question whether he has mistaken himself for our emperor, were given complete omnipotence over the Olympic Games. So with that in mind, may I welcome you to the games of the first Obamalympiad:
This past week, the Obama re-election campaign revealed its latest campaign slogan, “Forward.” I suppose they had to pick something new to reinvigorate the campaign, since “Hope and Change” is no longer viable with the president having a record now on which he can be judged, a record that has all but killed hope in the heart of the American worker, and change which few would have voted for had they known just what type of change was coming.
“Forward” beat out other re-election campaign slogans that did not test well with the focus groups, such as “Obama 2012 – Hey, It Could Have Been Worse,” “Obama 2012 – My President Went On Vacation and All I Got Was This Lousy $5 TRILLION in New Debt,” or “Obama 2012 – My Dog Ate My Homework, So I Ate My Dog.” It was quite a struggle for them to come up with something that would truly capture the essence of the message they were trying to convey, and “Forward” seemed to fit the bill. Nice, clean and simple, giving the impression of something positive without the nuisance of actually getting into specifics. Without doubt, Obama wants to stay away from specifics; hence, no catchy promises of “Recovery Summer” or “Shovel Ready Jobs.”
We’re winding down on another year. Much like recent years, 2011 represented challenges for liberty and the Constitution. These hurdles came from all sides, including the Obama Administration and Republicans in Congress, and we are ending the year a little less free than in 2010.
Below is a recap of some of bigger stories of the year that were covered here at United Liberty (though a couple are thrown in for fun). Thanks for reading in what was a record breaking year for this blog. We appreciate the readership and hope you’ll keep coming back in 2012
Happy New Year!
— The Death of Osama bin Laden (Jason Pye): On Sunday, May 1st, word broke that the White House had called notified the press of a major announcement. You could tell that it was a significant event since the president was making such a statement late on a Sunday evening.As you probably remember, wild speculation started almost immediately as many people said that it could have only meant a couple of things, either we were going to war or Osama bin Laden had finally been captured.
Around 11pm, President Barack Obama told Americans that, after nearly 10 years after murdering nearly 3,000 innocent people, Osama bin Laden was dead. Bin Laden, leader of the terrorist group, al-Qaeda, was killed in Abbottabad, Pakistan by a group of Navy SEALS at a compound that he had lived in for five years.
With the economy in a sustained recession, unemployment at or above nine percent for approaching three years, and tens of millions of Americans struggling just to put food on their table, perhaps few people or organizations have been showered with such hostility and ill-repute as have “corporations.” Yet, of all of the root causes of our current economic malaise, such contempt may nowhere be more misplaced.
Obama, after the shellacking his party took in the 2010 elections and with no end in sight to the economic downturn, has turned to finding a scapegoat or two to deflect blame for the anger and frustration America feels. His two favorite targets are Republican “obstructionism” and those evil, faceless corporations that steal from the poor to sate their insatiable greed.
Maybe he has a point though. After all, we all know that Steve Jobs became one of the richest men in the world as the head of Apple by hiring legions on thugs to go out across America to households and college campuses, brandishing guns and clubs and threatening violence if the poor masses did not give these brutes their money in exchange for little pieces of molded plastic and silicon and copper which Jobs called “Macs” and “iPods”, “iPhones” and “iPads”. His reign of terror was so complete that every time Jobs released a new version of these little pieces of plastic, hundreds and thousands of people would camp out overnight at one of his stores to give up their money in exchange for these gadgets, in the hope that by voluntarily doing so his thugs would not show up at their homes, schools and places of businesses and threaten them there.
As the Occupy Wall Street movement faces eviction from their humble abode smack dab in the middle of the city that never sleeps, it has truly been a beast of a different feather. Even should the eviction happen, I suspect they’re just find somewhere else to be. But what exactly is the Occupy Wall Street movement?
The real answer is that no one really knows. A list of demands took to the web, but it was quickly discounted by many as “unofficial” when non-supporters began lambasting those very demands, and there in lies the genius of the Occupy Wall Street movement.
When the Tea Party first coalesced, despite its leaderless nature there were very real goals. There were some universal ideas that spread throughout the Tea Party, and the Tea Party acknowledged it. The Tea Party was anti-bailouts for one, and it was against tax increases as well. It stood for some very real thing that anyone who was at a Tea Party as a participant – and not just as a spectator or rabble rouser – was likely to believe.
However, Occupy Wall Street has a built in defense mechanism. When someone lists a demand as “Guaranteed living wage income regardless of employment,” and opponents jump on it, Occupy Wall Street supporters can say, “Oh no! That’s not a demand. There aren’t any demands!”
You see, without any demands, they don’t actually have to do anything. They don’t have to work towards any goals, because they don’t have them. They are protesting, but no one seems to know what they actually want, and that amorphous nature allows them to adapt to any situation. All they have to say is that they are representing “the 99%” and to soldier on.
For several years now there has been an ongoing debate regarding the impetus for President Obama’s economic policies. Were they the work of the smartest president in history, a man so intelligent that his wisdom could supplant the collective experience and choices of 300 million Americans, and in so doing restore our economy? Were they the well-intentioned but errant contemplations on an Ivy League egghead with lots of “book learnin’”, but without a shred of private sector experience that is the proving grounds for such ideas, being exposed to the unmerciful judgment of markets?
At this point I have come to the conclusion that it is an intentional effort to replace America’s free-enterprise system with a democratic-socialist style, centrally-planned, government run economy. Look at the evidence…the massive stimulus package which failed spectacularly, the auto union bailouts, government employee bailouts, Cash for Clunkers, Son of Stimulus, and myriad other economic “remedies”. Combine this with calls for increased taxes of “the rich”, more regulation and more government intervention in the market, and we end up with a long-term stagnant economy. One can no longer chalk it up to pure stupidity. If it were pure stupidity then the law of probabilities would dictate that Obama would have made the right decisions, even if only by accident, somewhat approaching fifty percent of the time.