George, I was going to be disappointed if he didn't mention Cassandra, and he didn't disappoint: second paragraph!
Edited to add: Fans of the movie "Office Space" will remember the Geto Boys' song "Damn It Feels Good to Be a Gangsta" (here's the scene, but be warned: the lyrics contain the highly offensive, speech-codes-for-everybody sort of language that's permissible only in hip-hop for some reason); anyway, use that tune for these words:
Damn it feels bad to be libertarian A real freedom-lovin' dude who keeps his facts straight A real freedom-lovin' dude never runs after government dough 'Cause real freedom-lovin' dudes don't rent seek.
And freedom lovers always gotta stay on Warnin' politicians not to bankrupt us But real freedom-lovin' dudes don't persuade the nuts 'Cause real freedom-lovin' dudes know they lost 'em.
But everything's cool in the freedom lovers' minds 'Cause freedom-lovin' dudes think deep Up three-sixty-five a year 24/7 'Cause freedom-lovin' dudes can't sleep.
And all I gotta say to you Crybaby, so lazy, rent-seekin', money-eatin' cretins 'Cause when the "stimulus" dries up what's Obama doin' next? Damn it feels bad to be libertarian.
Helping hire, equip and pay police, a $4 billion item under the bill, might be a good idea, but writing checks to individual households for the same amount would do more to stimulate the economy. Ditto for $16 billion in Pell Grants for college students, $2.1 billion for Head Start and $50 million for the National Endowment for the Arts. All of those ideas may have merit, but why do they belong in an emergency measure aimed to kick-start the economy? For sheer irrationality, it would be hard to top the $4.19 billion the bill would give to the Neighborhood Stabilization Program, on top of $4 billion authorized last year. This program gives local governments money to buy and rehabilitate homes that have been foreclosed on -- thus giving lenders an incentive to foreclose on more houses.
Lost in all of the media attention about all of the House Republicans voting against the House stimulus bill is the fact that 11 Democrats also voted against it. Here is the list and their reasons for voting against the bill. Heath Shuler was the only NC Democrat voting against the bill.
President Obama has said projects to be funded through the stimulus package must be shovel ready. Some projects submitted by cities for funding should just get the shovel.
In a Wall Street Journal report this morning, cities across the county are trying to get a share of federal tax dollars for projects in their communities they claim will stimulate the economy and create jobs. The U.S. Conference of Mayors has submitted a wish list for 18,750 projects. Here are a few they apparently think are a good use of taxpayers’ money:
$4.5 million for an “eco park” with butterfly gardens and safe havens for gopher tortoises
$2 million for neon signs in Las Vegas
$500,000 for a dog park with shading and fountains
$3 million for an environmentally friendly clubhouse for a municipal golf course
$6 million for three aquatic centers with water slides
Eight Harley Davidson motorcycles for cops because “Harley-Davidson is great American company"
About a dozen golf course related projects. (They must not have seen Sanera's spotlights explaining how cities have no business being in the golf course business here, here, here and here.)
$1.1 million for park additions including a skateboard ramp and two splash parks
$886,000 for a 36 hole Frisbee golf course
$3.75 million for urban tree canopy protection
$1.8 million for tennis courts
Roy explained how the stimulus package is just bad economics here.
As the details of the package unfold, it's also just insulting.
If there was any doubt that the "stimulus" package is mostly about showering money on loyal Democratic constituencies, that should have been erased with the president's executive order restricting construction work to unionized firms. Read about it here.
If a company is even accused of any discrimination against a pro-union worker, the federal government attacks like a junkyard dog, but it's perfectly all right for the president to overtly discriminate against construction companies where the workers don't want a union.
The ethics record of the Obama administration gets worse and worse.
Writing in the New York Post, Ronald Utt excoriates the "stimulus" bill, pointing out (among other faults, but this is the key) that government spending that absorbs scarce resources is going to be harmful, not helpful, in restoring productivity in the economy. (Utt knows what few politicians do: we're interested in GDP, not just lowering the unemployment rate.) Read his piece here.
The "stimulus" bill is taking an intellectual pounding that's like the British Navy's shelling of the Bismarck. Will the administration acknowledge that, or just pretend that all is fine and resort to brute political power to shove it through?
Here are some new bills introduced in the legislature affecting freedom and individual rights that may be of interest:
1) Criminalizing Internet Libel (Sponsor: Senator Goss): SB 46
language: "It is unlawful for any person to communicate by transmission
through an electronic medium any false, defamatory statement that is
libelous or slanderous."
Quick Analysis: Libel already is a tort
(people can sue for libel and be awarded damages). I have no
idea why Internet libel is somehow worse than non-electronic libel.
2) Broadening Price Gouging Law (Sponsor: Senator Goss): SB 49
Key Change: As if the price gouging law wasn't bad enough, Goss wants
to take out the requirement that an emergency has to have occurred to
trigger the "price gouging."
Quick Analysis: Goss basically wants the government to decide in every
business transaction whether people are getting charged too much.
This is not a price-gouging law, it is an economy-wide price
3) Three-Fifths Vote to Levy Taxes (Sponsor: Rep. Blust): HB 44
Key Language: "No law shall be enacted to impose any tax upon the
people of the State, except by an act adopted by a vote of three‑fifths
of the members of each house of the General Assembly. This subsection
applies to laws increasing a tax rate and laws levying a new tax but
not to a law repealing or restricting a specific tax preference or a
law authorizing one or more local taxing units to levy a tax."
Quick Analysis: This would be a change to the NC Constitution. Sounds good to me.
Rep. Blust introduced several other interesting bills dealing with governmental reform--here are two of them:
Quick Analysis: Expands unconstitutionalprocess to state treasurer. In addition:
- Taxpayer financing compels taxpayers to support speech and candidates
they oppose. For example, let's say you oppose abortion and don't
want to support a judge that supports abortion (and vice-versa).
Guess what, you have no choice — as long as you pay taxes, you
will be supporting that judge.
- There is very little public support for these programs by evidence
that about 93 percent of taxpayers don't do the $3 check-off for judicial
races (this is a box on state tax returns that people can check to
divert $3 of their taxes to the judicial taxpayer-financing
program. This $3 doesn't increase taxes in any way, yet
people still don't check the box).
- In tough economic times, politicians think tax dollars shouldn't go
back to the citizens in the form of tax cuts, but instead should be
given directly to politicians to make their lives easier (i.e. welfare
- Protects incumbents because it equalizes funding thereby helping the
incumbent that has built-in advantages over competitors (such as name
Lots of politicians and rent-seeking lobbyists have been blathering away about how the US needs a new New Deal. Their position rests on the highly mistaken idea that the first New Deal was a success. That's one of the pillars of statist miseducation in the US, to get people to believe that freedom is dangerous and we need government action to save us from the horrors of capitalism.
In this Detroit News article today, Burt and Anita Folsom show that the New Deal did not rescue the nation from the Depression, but made it worse.
Drawing resources into spending that makes politicians happy is not the way to put them to their best use.
Avery county voters "approved" a land transfer tax yesterday. It was put on the ballot on that time tested voting day, the first Tuesday after the first Monday in February--just when everyone's thinking about going to the polls. Well, there was a 22 perecent turnout and slightly more than 50 percent of those voting approved. So yes, about 11 percent of the electorate got to raise taxes on the other 89 percent. You gotta love democracy. The local government, which like all governments has never seen a dollar in someone else's pocket that it didn't want to confiscate, sets a voting day to minimize turnout and therefore maximize the chances of passage. As we know, democracy is not about the people's will but about how you manipulate the vote.
Is the new reassignment plan unfriendly to families?
As noted in today's article, yesterday's vote on the plan was far from unanimous. In what's become an annual event for him, Ron Margiotta voted against the plan as he accused his colleagues of not listening to parents.
"Reassignment should be used solely for the purpose of filling new schools," Margiotta said. "I can’t vote for a plan that’s so family unfriendly.” ...
Even though [Beverly] Clark joined Margiotta in voting agianst the plan, she also downplayed the impact of reassignment.
"I hope that being reassigned is the worst crisis in their life they have to face, because if that’s the worst thing you ever have to face, you’re truly blessed," Clark said.
Astute TLR readers will remember Terry Stoops' report last year about North Carolina schools' abysmal performance in parent-friendliness. Clark's comments — though to be fair, not her vote — seem to reflect those findings; i.e., families would undoubtedly prefer a school system to set a benchmark considerably higher than "the worst crisis in their lives that they ever have to face."
Gerald Miller in Governing Magazine again provides terrifically valuable explanations of pension and retiree health care costs. His latest includes this:
There is nothing whatsoever inherent about a defined benefit plan that produces higher returns than a defined contribution plan. The superior investment performance reported in the studies results instead from collective vs. individual investments, which is not a function of defining benefits vs. defining contributions....
In fact, many defined benefit plans have suffered a fatal inherent investment inefficiency: They have granted a perpetual straddle option to employees that is a wickedly costly investment for taxpayers ("heads, I win; tails, you lose"). This straddle option is priced at zero by DB plans — yet its actual cost is immense. Certainly these perpetual options cost far more than any fees paid to mutual funds vs. pension money managers. In fact, they carry a cost far greater than all the investment inefficiencies of DC plans cited in the pension advocacy research.
What's the intrinsic value of the employees' perpetual straddle option? Ask yourself this: How much would you pay to an insurance company to guarantee that your IRA would always return 8 percent (the average pension discount rate), yet still give you all the upside if the markets do better than that? Your answer will depend on your risk tolerance, but I am confident that it's far more than the fractional difference in fees between mutual funds and institutional money management!
The following is an email I received from a teacher in Guilford County:
I don't know where you got your figures. I am a teacher with a master's degree in Guilford County, one of the higher paying counties in North Carolina. With ten years experience, I'm not even making $50,000. Our pay raises do not even keep up with the cost of living. Last year, our pay raise was a whopping 3%!
"Adjusted for pension contributions, teacher experience, and cost of living, North Carolina's adjusted annual teacher compensation is $59,252, high enough for North Carolina to rank No. 14 in the United States," said report author Terry Stoops, JLF Education Policy Analyst.
That is where I "got" my figures. You didn't even need to read the full report (or the entire press release for that matter) to know that I am using adjusted, not nominal, figures.
It is possible that teacher X is "not even making $50,000," but the salary schedule and local supplement combined should bring her gross salary up to around $48,000 a year. This does not include benefits like liability insurance (3%), Social Security (7.650%), retirement (8.140% per legislation), and hospitalization ($4,147 per legislation). These benefits alone add around $13,000 to her total compensation.
DPI indicates that teacher salary increases continue to outpace inflation. In their Highlights 2008 publication, they show that, since 1992, teacher salaries have increased 110.8 percent, while the Consumer Price Index has increased 52.8 percent.
The NCAT’s purpose is to offer seminars that “strengthen teachers’ classroom expertise by exposing them to new ideas and activities they can use with their students.”
Teachers who qualify have an all expense paid trip (including seminar materials, travel, lodging, meals, and substitute teacher costs) to the campus located near Western Carolina University. (Another is planned for Ocracoke.)
The NCAT offers dozens of seminars, one of them titled “Sea Level Rise: The Impact of Climate Change on the Outer Banks.” The center paid $4.3 million in salary and benefits to its almost 100 part-time or full-time staff members for 2008-09. The center has seminars running throughout the year.
Why does this strike me as nothing more than a taxpayer-funded resort? Don't get me wrong ... teachers should be fairly compensated for their work, but during lean times (and even not-so-lean), how is this appropriate?
While Jonathan Alter demonstrates his ignorance of economic principles, George Will uses his latest Newsweekpiece to expose more silliness connected with so-called federal stimulus measures:
During the Depression years of hunger, the New Deal ordered the slaughter of 6 million pigs. The theory (see President Roosevelt's May 14, 1935, speech on the Agricultural Adjustment Act) was, believe it or not, that one cause of the Depression—in 1935, people were selling apples on the streets; 20.1 percent were unemployed—was a "problem of overproduction." Government, FDR said, could keep production and consumption "in reasonable balance" so that farmers could charge "reasonable prices," as government intuited them. Last week Congress was importuned to have the government pay for the slaughter of dairy cattle in order to raise milk prices. Cows should die in Wisconsin so that mothers in Watts will pay a higher price—one that government deems "reasonable"—for milk for their children? The dairy lobby sees opportunity in a New Deal 2.0.
Fortunately, while the government, by its frenzied fidgets, is creating uncertainties that are certain to hinder recovery, the economy is responding to reality. Chrysler and the UAW have at long last agreed to terminate the preposterous "jobs bank," wherein laid-off workers receive almost full pay and benefits without working. A Wall Street Journal headline: PRICE CUTS SPUR HOME SALES. FALLING prices attract buyers—who knew?
Add this reason to the list: people like Jonathan Alter of Newsweek now feel entitled to dictate how private companies should do business.
Alter’s latest column targets the $18 billion in financial industry bonuses that drew President Obama’s condemnation:
The final line of bonus defense, seriously presented to me last fall by an Obama adviser, is that restricting bonuses smacks of a "populism" that is unrelated to solving our severe economic problems.
Actually, $18 billion smacks of, well, $18 billion. That's almost five times as much as we spend each year trying to cure cancer, which kills 500,000 Americans annually. It's twice what's in the stimulus for building mass transit, which creates thousands of jobs and cuts our dependence on foreign oil. The simplest thing would be for the banks to just collect the money back from their six-, seven- and eight-figure-income employees and lend it out to help get the economy moving again.
My first reaction to Alter’s complaint? Why does what “we” spend on cancer cures have to do with what a private entity decides to do with the proceeds of its business? Then I realized that Alter now equates at least some private-sector business decisions with politically motivated government decisions because taxpayers have “bailed out” these failing companies.
The solution is not to force businesses to make the same kind of poor decisions government makes. It’s to get government out of business decisions by keeping taxpayer money away from the private sector.
At least the column gives us a glimmer of hope that Alter’s employer has a better grasp of economics than he does:
I don't know about you, but I didn't get a bonus this year.
Do you think that might have anything to do with the abundant supply of moderately talented, left-leaning scribes? If Newsweek has no problem finding someone to take Alter's place, why bother paying him a bonus?
State law is clear about using taxpayer money to advocate for ballot initiatives. But it does allow for taxpayers to fund "educational" efforts about a given ballot initiative. The Association of Commissioners held classes to teach counties how to "educate" voters. It was a way to get right up to the legal line without crossing it. The following script ran in Avery County over their k-12 phone alert system, you tell me, does this seem like advocacy?
Please remember to vote on the upcoming referendum on Land Transfer Tax. One-stop voting is going on now in the Courthouse in Newland from 8am to 5pm Monday through Friday, and then from 8am to 1pm this Saturday, January 31st. Election day at the polls is February 3rd.
If this tax passes, 100% of this revenue will go to all schools for school renovations, classroom improvements, new and additional technology, and activity buses. We have been assured by the Board of Commissioners that this money will not reduce the funding the Board of Education is currently receiving.
It is VERT IMPORTANT that we all take the time to vote on this issue before this right is taken away from us.
The revenue actually goes to the general fund and current commissioners cannot bind future commissioners with respect to where the money will go. The Land Transfer Tax passed in Avery County yesterday by 25 votes with approximately 2800 total votes cast. Now the county commissioners will have to decide whether or not to enact a 200% increase in the Land Transfer Tax.