Saturday, May 30, 2009
Boy, there were a LOT of "interesting" stories following the announcement of the nomination of liberal activist judge Sonia Sotomayor for the Supreme Court. Just reading the headlines of stories showed how well liberals have their game down.
Step 1 was to find a sufficiently liberal and activist judge to nominate.
Step 2 was to find one that conservatives might be hard-pressed to criticize. In this case, they chose one who is both a woman and a minority.
Step 3 is to have your willing accomplises in the media frame the narrative of news coverage in such a way that any less than fawning commentary will be construed as a vicious racist and sexist attack on a humble, up-by-her-bootstraps minority woman.
Here's a sampling of some story headlines I noticed this week:
- An Easy Choice: Souter with a Salsa Beat - Ruth Marcus, Washington Post
- Attacking Sotomayor as Too Darn Human - Dahlia Lithwick, Slate
- GOP Risks Losing Hispanics - Adam Nagourney, New York Times
- Sonia Sotomayor: A Justice Like No Other - Richard Lacayo, Time
- Diversity Helps Ensure Justice - William Marshall, Kansas City Star
Notwithstanding the fact that Pres. Bush had a number of high-level Hispanics in his administration (Alberto Gonzalez White House Counsel, and later Attorney General, Sect. of Commerce Carlos Gutierrez, HUD Sect. Mel Martinez), 67% of Hispanics - 2/3rds -- voted for Obama. This I suspect is due to successful efforts by liberals and the media to caste Republicans as anti-minorty and anti-immigrant. Notwithstanding the fact that this is another untruth, the fact is that it is widely accepted.
However, it begs the question: Republicans don't "risk" losing Hispanics by leveling legitimate criticism of Sotomayor. They don't have them to lose.
Wednesday, May 20, 2009
Cash; It's About Control
The Climate-Industrial Complex
Some businesses see nothing but profits in the green movement.
Some business leaders are cozying up with politicians and scientists to demand swift, drastic action on global warming. This is a new twist on a very old practice: companies using public policy to line their own pockets.
The tight relationship between the groups echoes the relationship among weapons makers, researchers and the U.S. military during the Cold War. President Dwight Eisenhower famously warned about the might of the "military-industrial complex," cautioning that "the potential for the disastrous rise of misplaced power exists and will persist." He worried that "there is a recurring temptation to feel that some spectacular and costly action could become the miraculous solution to all current difficulties."
This is certainly true of climate change. We are told that very expensive carbon regulations are the only way to respond to global warming, despite ample evidence that this approach does not pass a basic cost-benefit test. We must ask whether a "climate-industrial complex" is emerging, pressing taxpayers to fork over money to please those who stand to gain.
This phenomenon will be on display at the World Business Summit on Climate Change in Copenhagen this weekend. The organizers -- the Copenhagen Climate Council -- hope to push political leaders into more drastic promises when they negotiate the Kyoto Protocol's replacement in December.
The opening keynote address is to be delivered by Al Gore, who actually represents all three groups: He is a politician, a campaigner and the chair of a green private-equity firm invested in products that a climate-scared world would buy.
Naturally, many CEOs are genuinely concerned about global warming. But many of the most vocal stand to profit from carbon regulations. The term used by economists for their behavior is "rent-seeking."
The world's largest wind-turbine manufacturer, Copenhagen Climate Council member Vestas, urges governments to invest heavily in the wind market. It sponsors CNN's "Climate in Peril" segment, increasing support for policies that would increase Vestas's earnings. A fellow council member, Mr. Gore's green investment firm Generation Investment Management, warns of a significant risk to the U.S. economy unless a price is quickly placed on carbon.
Even companies that are not heavily engaged in green business stand to gain. European energy companies made tens of billions of euros in the first years of the European Trading System when they received free carbon emission allocations.
American electricity utility Duke Energy, a member of the Copenhagen Climate Council, has long promoted a U.S. cap-and-trade scheme. Yet the company bitterly opposed the Warner-Lieberman bill in the U.S. Senate that would have created such a scheme because it did not include European-style handouts to coal companies. The Waxman-Markey bill in the House of Representatives promises to bring back the free lunch.
U.S. companies and interest groups involved with climate change hired 2,430 lobbyists just last year, up 300% from five years ago. Fifty of the biggest U.S. electric utilities -- including Duke -- spent $51 million on lobbyists in just six months.
The massive transfer of wealth that many businesses seek is not necessarily good for the rest of the economy. Spain has been proclaimed a global example in providing financial aid to renewable energy companies to create green jobs. But research shows that each new job cost Spain 571,138 euros, with subsidies of more than one million euros required to create each new job in the uncompetitive wind industry. Moreover, the programs resulted in the destruction of nearly 110,000 jobs elsewhere in the economy, or 2.2 jobs for every job created.
The cozy corporate-climate relationship was pioneered by Enron, which bought up renewable energy companies and credit-trading outfits while boasting of its relationship with green interest groups. When the Kyoto Protocol was signed, an internal memo was sent within Enron that stated, "If implemented, [the Kyoto Protocol] will do more to promote Enron's business than almost any other regulatory business."
The World Business Summit will hear from "science and public policy leaders" seemingly selected for their scary views of global warming. They include James Lovelock, who believes that much of Europe will be Saharan and London will be underwater within 30 years; Sir Crispin Tickell, who believes that the United Kingdom's population needs to be cut by two-thirds so the country can cope with global warming; and Timothy Flannery, who warns of sea level rises as high as "an eight-story building."
Free speech is important. But these visions of catastrophe are a long way outside of mainstream scientific opinion, and they go much further than the careful findings of the United Nations panel of climate change scientists. When it comes to sea-level rise, for example, the United Nations expects a rise of between seven and 23 inches by 2100 -- considerably less than a one-story building.
There would be an outcry -- and rightfully so -- if big oil organized a climate change conference and invited only climate-change deniers.
The partnership among self-interested businesses, grandstanding politicians and alarmist campaigners truly is an unholy alliance. The climate-industrial complex does not promote discussion on how to overcome this challenge in a way that will be best for everybody. We should not be surprised or impressed that those who stand to make a profit are among the loudest calling for politicians to act. Spending a fortune on global carbon regulations will benefit a few, but dearly cost everybody else.
Mr. Lomborg is director of the Copenhagen Consensus, a think tank, and author of "Cool It: The Skeptical Environmentalist's Guide to Global Warming" (Knopf, 2007).
Great Journal op-ed on what should be plain old common sense in a rational country:
Soak the Rich, Lose the Rich
Americans know how to use the moving van to escape high taxes.
By ARTHUR LAFFER and STEPHEN MOORE
With states facing nearly $100 billion in combined budget deficits this year, we're seeing more governors than ever proposing the Barack Obama solution to balancing the budget: Soak the rich. Lawmakers in California, Connecticut, Delaware, Illinois, Minnesota, New Jersey, New York and Oregon want to raise income tax rates on the top 1% or 2% or 5% of their citizens. New Illinois Gov. Patrick Quinn wants a 50% increase in the income tax rate on the wealthy because this is the "fair" way to close his state's gaping deficit.
Mr. Quinn and other tax-raising governors have been emboldened by recent studies by left-wing groups like the Center for Budget and Policy Priorities that suggest that "tax increases, particularly tax increases on higher-income families, may be the best available option." A recent letter to New York Gov. David Paterson signed by 100 economists advises the Empire State to "raise tax rates for high income families right away."
Here's the problem for states that want to pry more money out of the wallets of rich people. It never works because people, investment capital and businesses are mobile: They can leave tax-unfriendly states and move to tax-friendly states.
And the evidence that we discovered in our new study for the American Legislative Exchange Council, "Rich States, Poor States," published in March, shows that Americans are more sensitive to high taxes than ever before. The tax differential between low-tax and high-tax states is widening, meaning that a relocation from high-tax California or Ohio, to no-income tax Texas or Tennessee, is all the more financially profitable both in terms of lower tax bills and more job opportunities.
Updating some research from Richard Vedder of Ohio University, we found that from 1998 to 2007, more than 1,100 people every day including Sundays and holidays moved from the nine highest income-tax states such as California, New Jersey, New York and Ohio and relocated mostly to the nine tax-haven states with no income tax, including Florida, Nevada, New Hampshire and Texas. We also found that over these same years the no-income tax states created 89% more jobs and had 32% faster personal income growth than their high-tax counterparts.
Did the greater prosperity in low-tax states happen by chance? Is it coincidence that the two highest tax-rate states in the nation, California and New York, have the biggest fiscal holes to repair? No. Dozens of academic studies -- old and new -- have found clear and irrefutable statistical evidence that high state and local taxes repel jobs and businesses.
Martin Feldstein, Harvard economist and former president of the National Bureau of Economic Research, co-authored a famous study in 1998 called "Can State Taxes Redistribute Income?" This should be required reading for today's state legislators. It concludes: "Since individuals can avoid unfavorable taxes by migrating to jurisdictions that offer more favorable tax conditions, a relatively unfavorable tax will cause gross wages to adjust. . . . A more progressive tax thus induces firms to hire fewer high skilled employees and to hire more low skilled employees."
More recently, Barry W. Poulson of the University of Colorado last year examined many factors that explain why some states grew richer than others from 1964 to 2004 and found "a significant negative impact of higher marginal tax rates on state economic growth." In other words, soaking the rich doesn't work. To the contrary, middle-class workers end up taking the hit.
Finally, there is the issue of whether high-income people move away from states that have high income-tax rates. Examining IRS tax return data by state, E.J. McMahon, a fiscal expert at the Manhattan Institute, measured the impact of large income-tax rate increases on the rich ($200,000 income or more) in Connecticut, which raised its tax rate in 2003 to 5% from 4.5%; in New Jersey, which raised its rate in 2004 to 8.97% from 6.35%; and in New York, which raised its tax rate in 2003 to 7.7% from 6.85%. Over the period 2002-2005, in each of these states the "soak the rich" tax hike was followed by a significant reduction in the number of rich people paying taxes in these states relative to the national average. Amazingly, these three states ranked 46th, 49th and 50th among all states in the percentage increase in wealthy tax filers in the years after they tried to soak the rich.
This result was all the more remarkable given that these were years when the stock market boomed and Wall Street gains were in the trillions of dollars. Examining data from a 2008 Princeton study on the New Jersey tax hike on the wealthy, we found that there were 4,000 missing half-millionaires in New Jersey after that tax took effect. New Jersey now has one of the largest budget deficits in the nation.
We believe there are three unintended consequences from states raising tax rates on the rich. First, some rich residents sell their homes and leave the state; second, those who stay in the state report less taxable income on their tax returns; and third, some rich people choose not to locate in a high-tax state. Since many rich people also tend to be successful business owners, jobs leave with them or they never arrive in the first place. This is why high income-tax states have such a tough time creating net new jobs for low-income residents and college graduates.
Those who disapprove of tax competition complain that lower state taxes only create a zero-sum competition where states "race to the bottom" and cut services to the poor as taxes fall to zero. They say that tax cutting inevitably means lower quality schools and police protection as lower tax rates mean starvation of public services.
They're wrong, and New Hampshire is our favorite illustration. The Live Free or Die State has no income or sales tax, yet it has high-quality schools and excellent public services. Students in New Hampshire public schools achieve the fourth-highest test scores in the nation -- even though the state spends about $1,000 a year less per resident on state and local government than the average state and, incredibly, $5,000 less per person than New York. And on the other side of the ledger, California in 2007 had the highest-paid classroom teachers in the nation, and yet the Golden State had the second-lowest test scores.
Or consider the fiasco of New Jersey. In the early 1960s, the state had no state income tax and no state sales tax. It was a rapidly growing state attracting people from everywhere and running budget surpluses. Today its income and sales taxes are among the highest in the nation yet it suffers from perpetual deficits and its schools rank among the worst in the nation -- much worse than those in New Hampshire. Most of the massive infusion of tax dollars over the past 40 years has simply enriched the public-employee unions in the Garden State. People are fleeing the state in droves.
One last point: States aren't simply competing with each other. As Texas Gov. Rick Perry recently told us, "Our state is competing with Germany, France, Japan and China for business. We'd better have a pro-growth tax system or those American jobs will be out-sourced." Gov. Perry and Texas have the jobs and prosperity model exactly right. Texas created more new jobs in 2008 than all other 49 states combined. And Texas is the only state other than Georgia and North Dakota that is cutting taxes this year.
The Texas economic model makes a whole lot more sense than the New Jersey model, and we hope the politicians in California, Delaware, Illinois, Minnesota and New York realize this before it's too late.
Mr. Laffer is president of Laffer Associates. Mr. Moore is senior economics writer for the Wall Street Journal. They are co-authors of "Rich States, Poor States" (American Legislative Exchange Council, 2009).
Cut and paste from the Wizbang blog:
Posted by Kim Priestap
Published: May 16, 2009 - 9:04 PM
James Delingpole brings us the news that a team of global warming explorers headed up to the North Pole to bring attention to all the damage global warming is wreaking on the polar ice caps. Sadly, they ran into a variety of problems that subfreezing temperatures tend to cause, one of which was they found that the ice caps are not melting but - shock!- are freezing.They set out to the high arctic 73 days ago full of high hopes. They were going to tramp all the way to the North Pole. (But were frustrated by the unseasonal cold.) They were going to march 1000 km (they managed 434). Above all, they were going to raise awareness of "climate change" by drilling lots of holes in the polar ice cap so as to show how worryingly thin it is, and in how imminent danger of doom. (But their equipment broke in the freezing temperatures and anyway, as Christopher Booker reported the other day, there are US Army buoys which already do this job perfectly well and have found that since last March the ice has thickened by "at least half a metre").
And now to cap it all (ho ho), comes the still more tragic news that the Arctic isn't warming up dramatically after all. According to figures from the Danish Meteorological Institute - as posted by Steven Goddard on the inestimable Watts Up With That site - Arctic mean temperatures have barely changed since the start of their records in 1958. The Arctic was in fact warmer in the 1940s than it is now, but cooled between 1940 and 1980.
This is not the first time global warming explorers conducted farces like this one and ended up looking foolish.
Riven With Waste and Fraud"
John Steele Gordon is an economic historian who wrote a great book on the development of the American economy entitled "Empire of Wealth". Today, he writes a great op-ed in the Journal on government's lousy track record of running businesses.
Why Government Can't Run a Business
Politicians need headlines. Executives need profits. By John Steele Gordon
The Obama administration is bent on becoming a major player in -- if not taking over entirely -- America's health-care, automobile and banking industries. Before that happens, it might be a good idea to look at the government's track record in running economic enterprises. It is terrible.
In 1913, for instance, thinking it was being overcharged by the steel companies for armor plate for warships, the federal government decided to build its own plant. It estimated that a plant with a 10,000-ton annual capacity could produce armor plate for only 70% of what the steel companies charged.
When the plant was finally finished, however -- three years after World War I had ended -- it was millions over budget and able to produce armor plate only at twice what the steel companies charged. It produced one batch and then shut down, never to reopen.
Or take Medicare. Other than the source of its premiums, Medicare is no different, economically, than a regular health-insurance company. But unlike, say, UnitedHealthcare, it is a bureaucracy-beclotted nightmare, riven with waste and fraud. Last year the Government Accountability Office estimated that no less than one-third of all Medicare disbursements for durable medical equipment, such as wheelchairs and hospital beds, were improper or fraudulent. Medicare was so lax in its oversight that it was approving orthopedic shoes for amputees.
These examples are not aberrations; they are typical of how governments run enterprises. There are a number of reasons why this is inherently so. Among them are:
1) Governments are run by politicians, not businessmen. Politicians can only make political decisions, not economic ones. They are, after all, first and foremost in the re-election business. Because of the need to be re-elected, politicians are always likely to have a short-term bias. What looks good right now is more important to politicians than long-term consequences even when those consequences can be easily foreseen. The gathering disaster of Social Security has been obvious for years, but politics has prevented needed reforms.
And politicians tend to favor parochial interests over sound economic sense. Consider a thought experiment. There is a national widget crisis and Sen. Wiley Snoot is chairman of the Senate Widget Committee. There are two technologies that are possible solutions to the problem, with Technology A widely thought to be the more promising of the two. But the company that has been developing Technology B is headquartered in Sen. Snoot's state and employs 40,000 workers there. Which technology is Sen. Snoot going to use his vast legislative influence to push?
2) Politicians need headlines. And this means they have a deep need to do something ("Sen. Snoot Moves on Widget Crisis!"), even when doing nothing would be the better option. Markets will always deal efficiently with gluts and shortages, but letting the market work doesn't produce favorable headlines and, indeed, often produces the opposite ("Sen. Snoot Fails to Move on Widget Crisis!").
3) Governments use other people's money. Corporations play with their own money. They are wealth-creating machines in which various people (investors, managers and labor) come together under a defined set of rules in hopes of creating more wealth collectively than they can create separately.
So a labor negotiation in a corporation is a negotiation over how to divide the wealth that is created between stockholders and workers. Each side knows that if they drive too hard a bargain they risk killing the goose that lays golden eggs for both sides. Just ask General Motors and the United Auto Workers.
But when, say, a school board sits down to negotiate with a teachers union or decide how many administrators are needed, the goose is the taxpayer. That's why public-service employees now often have much more generous benefits than their private-sector counterparts. And that's why the New York City public school system had an administrator-to-student ratio 10 times as high as the city's Catholic school system, at least until Mayor Michael Bloomberg (a more than competent businessman before he entered politics) took charge of the system.
4) Government does not tolerate competition. The Obama administration is talking about creating a "public option" that would compete in the health-insurance marketplace with profit-seeking companies. But has a government entity ever competed successfully on a level playing field with private companies? I don't know of one.
5) Government enterprises are almost always monopolies and thus do not face competition at all. But competition is exactly what makes capitalism so successful an economic system. The lack of it has always doomed socialist economies.
When the federal government nationalized the phone system in 1917, justifying it as a wartime measure that would lower costs, it turned it over to the Post Office to run. (The process was called "postalization," a word that should send shivers down the back of any believer in free markets.) But despite the promise of lower prices, practically the first thing the Post Office did when it took over was . . . raise prices.
Cost cutting is alien to the culture of all bureaucracies. Indeed, when cost cutting is inescapable, bureaucracies often make cuts that will produce maximum public inconvenience, generating political pressure to reverse the cuts.
6) Successful corporations are run by benevolent despots. The CEO of a corporation has the power to manage effectively. He decides company policy, organizes the corporate structure, and allocates resources pretty much as he thinks best. The board of directors ordinarily does nothing more than ratify his moves (or, of course, fire him). This allows a company to act quickly when needed.
But American government was designed by the Founding Fathers to be inefficient, and inefficient it most certainly is. The president is the government's CEO, but except for trivial matters he can't do anything without the permission of two separate, very large committees (the House and Senate) whose members have their own political agendas. Government always has many cooks, which is why the government's broth is so often spoiled.
7) Government is regulated by government. When "postalization" of the nation's phone system appeared imminent in 1917, Theodore Vail, the president of AT&T, admitted that his company was, effectively, a monopoly. But he noted that "all monopolies should be regulated. Government ownership would be an unregulated monopoly."
It is government's job to make and enforce the rules that allow a civilized society to flourish. But it has a dismal record of regulating itself. Imagine, for instance, if a corporation, seeking to make its bottom line look better, transferred employee contributions from the company pension fund to its own accounts, replaced the money with general obligation corporate bonds, and called the money it expropriated income. We all know what would happen: The company accountants would refuse to certify the books and management would likely -- and rightly -- end up in jail.
But that is exactly what the federal government (which, unlike corporations, decides how to keep its own books) does with Social Security. In the late 1990s, the government was running what it -- and a largely unquestioning Washington press corps -- called budget "surpluses." But the national debt still increased in every single one of those years because the government was borrowing money to create the "surpluses."
Capitalism isn't perfect. Indeed, to paraphrase Winston Churchill's famous description of democracy, it's the worst economic system except for all the others. But the inescapable fact is that only the profit motive and competition keep enterprises lean, efficient, innovative and customer-oriented.
Mr. Gordon is the author of "An Empire of Wealth: The Epic History of American Economic Power" (HarperCollins, 2004).
Thursday, May 07, 2009
Chesley Sullenberger has a problem. He borrowed a book from the Danville Library--and it's overdue. To complicate matters, the book was an interlibrary loan from Fresno State.
Sullenberger contacted librarians and asked for an extension on the loan and a waiver on the overdue fine. The reason? The book is in the cargo hold of the US Airways plane that made an emergency landing last month in New York's Hudson River. Sullenberger is the pilot who made that landing. No one was seriously injured.
Fresno State library officials were impressed with Sullenberger's sense of responsibility . . . and waived all fines and fees, even the one for losing the book. The library's going one step further: when the replacement book goes up on the shelf, it will have a special template in front, dedicating it to Chesley "Sully" Sullenberger.
Wednesday, May 06, 2009
A bit of schadenfreude here. That treasonous lizard, Arlen Specter of Penn., cut and ran over to the Democrats because his RINO credentials were finally catching up with him.
As part of the Benedict Arnold deal he cut with the Demo leaders, Specter was supposed to have kept his Senate leadership. This would enable him to be chairman of one or more Senate committees. Unfortunately, when a lying snake deals with lying snakes, he finds out that maybe they were lying to him too.
And so, according to this article on the RealClearPolitics blog, it appears Specter is not, in fact, going to keep his senior status. Not only is this a slap in the face to Specter, it could spell disaster if he gets challenged in the 2010 Demo primary.
Aw, gee, wouldn't that be just too bad.
Tuesday, May 05, 2009
There's an interesting poll being dissected in today's Capitol Journal column in the Wall Street Journal. The graphic particularly caught my eye:
The focus of the article is on Republicans and the problems they are having trying to attract / retain conservatives. But look at the Democrat / Liberal numbers.
42% of Americans identify themselves as 'Democrats', but only 24% identify themselves as 'Liberal'.
Democrats would likely cheerfully respond that they are the party of the "center" attracting moderates and independents. And, based on the last election, there's merit in that viewpoint.
However, I believe there's an alternative explanation. The "dirty little secret" I think Democrats would like to avoid is that the Democrats, with a big assist from the media, portray themselves and their policies as "moderate" and "centrist" even though they're not.
Conservatives have done a good job at giving the liberal brand a bad connotation. There's not too many folks who want to be branded as a "liberal" these days. But, instead of making substantive changes to their policies, the liberals in the Democrat party have simply "rebranded" their policies. They now call them"moderate" and "centrist" policies; and, anything really radical is labeled "progressive".
This way, they can trot out the same old liberal policies and people embrace them because they aren't called "liberal". The policies have changed, only the labels are different.
So, even though the Democrats have been quite successful, the success isn't with substantive ideas but with the effort to fool the electorate that the new labels represent something different.
- ► 2011 (56)
- ► 2010 (61)
- 'Nuff Said
- Sotomayor: A Case Study in Liberal Agitprop Boy, ...
- It's Not About the Climate -- It's About Cash; It'...
- Basic Economics: Higher Taxes = Less Prosperity ...
- AlGore Rushed to Hospital -- Mugged by Reality Cu...
- "A Bureaucracy-Beclotted Nightmare, Riven With Was...
- A Man With A Real Sense Of Honor Unlike the hypocr...
- "what can he do, switch back?" A bit of schadenfr...
- Democrat But Not Liberal? There's an interesting ...
- ▼ May (10)
- ► 2008 (89)
- ► 2007 (195)
- ► 2006 (293)