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Fiscal Policy Report Card on America's Governors

Fiscal Policy Report Card on America's Governors →

The Cato Institute recently released the 2012 version of their annual report card on the nation's governors. As a supporter of the Tea Party movement, it's gratifying to see that the Republican governors are actually improving and are growing more fiscally responsible.

Wisconsin's own Scott Walker earns a "C", for some very good reasons. I hope he can pull that up to an "A" over the next 2 years.

Are Republicans and Democrats Any Different?

Advocates of smaller government often lament that politicians of both major par- ties tax and spend too much. While that is certainly true, Cato report cards have found that Republican governors are a bit more fiscally conservative than Democratic governors, on average. In the 2008 report card, Republican and Democratic governors had average scores of 55 and 46, respectively. In the 2010 report card, they had average scores of 55 and 47, respectively.

This pattern is even more pronounced in the 2012 report card. This time around, Republican and Democratic governors had average scores of 57 and 43, respectively. And, as in prior report cards, the difference between the two parties is slightly more pronounced on taxes than on spending.

The fiscal differences between governors of the two parties have increased a bit. In this year’s results, there are fewer governors than in prior reports who are out of step with the typical policies of their parties. In both the 2008 and 2010 reports, for example, Democrat Joe Manchin earned an “A,” while Republican Jodi Rell earned an “F.” But in this year’s report, all four “A” governors are Republicans and all five “F” governors are Democrats.

A Reminder of How Bad the Farm Bill Is

A Reminder of How Bad the Farm Bill Is →

Veronique de Rugy sheds some light on the farm bill. Here's a small taste.

here is a little reminder of what is in the farm bill, how big it is, and other details relevant to this discussion:

The farm bill is massive; it would spend almost $1 trillion over the next decade.

For the most part, farmers are doing very well. As Drew White at Heritage reminds us, in spite of and partially thanks to this year’s drought, net farm income is estimated to set a new record of $122.2 billion in 2012.

Charles G. Koch: Corporate Cronyism Harms America

Charles G. Koch: Corporate Cronyism Harms America →

Charles Koch speaks out against the bipartisan corruption of crony capitalism.

Far too many businesses have been all too eager to lobby for maintaining and increasing subsidies and mandates paid by taxpayers and consumers. This growing partnership between business and government is a destructive force, undermining not just our economy and our political system, but the very foundations of our culture.

So why isn't economic freedom the "default setting" for our economy? What upsets this productive state of affairs? Trouble begins whenever businesses take their eyes off the needs and wants of consumers—and instead cast longing glances on government and the favors it can bestow. When currying favor with Washington is seen as a much easier way to make money, businesses inevitably begin to compete with rivals in securing government largess, rather than in winning customers.

We have a term for this kind of collusion between business and government. It used to be known as rent-seeking. Now we call it cronyism. Rampant cronyism threatens the economic foundations that have made this the most prosperous country in the world.

This entry was tagged. Government Subsidy

State Dept Mum on Missing Priest in Greece

State Dept Mum on Missing Priest in Greece →

How safe do you feel?

Father Christiaan Kappes, a priest for the Indianapolis Archdiocese, went missing in Greece last Monday after telling his family he feared for his life. His father, Virgil Kappes, encouraged his son to go to the US Embassy for help. While at the embassy, Father Kappes called his father, who over heard the conversation. The State Department confirmed Father Kappes did visit the embassy, but he did not request safe haven. His father said his son left the embassy because he was denied safe haven. Mr. Kappes thinks the State Department is trying to cover up a mistake.

“This is the incompetency of the administration, not taking a person in,” he said.

This entry was tagged. Government

It's Easier to Get Welfare Than to Work

It's Easier to Get Welfare Than to Work →

John Stossel reports on "jobs centers" in New York City.

My intern learned a lot from this experience. Here are her conclusions:

  • It's easier to get welfare than to work.
  • The government would rather sign me up for welfare than help me find work.
  • America has taxpayer-funded bureaucracies that encourage people to be dependent. They incentivize people to take "free stuff," not to take initiative.
  • It was easier to find job openings on my own. The private market for jobs works better than government "job centers."

Yet now New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg wants to expand Workforce1, claiming that it helps people "find real opportunities." I bet he never sends people in to find out whether they really do.

Keep that in mind whenever you hear politicians talk about expanding work programs or job training programs.

This entry was tagged. Government Jobs

QE3: An Example of Regulatory Capture

QE3: An Example of Regulatory Capture →

The Federal Reserve Bank’s recent QE3 announcement that they will be buying $40 billion in mortgage-backed securities a month for an indefinite period of time is an excellent example of regulatory capture. Under Chairman Bernanke, the Fed has successfully pushed to increase its regulatory role over the financial industry, and Stigler’s capture theory would predict that the Fed, as a financial regulator, would act to benefit the financial industry it regulates.

In recent posts on The Beacon I have argued that the Fed’s purchases of these securities is unprecedented, that it is an example of crony capitalism, and now am arguing that it is an example of the regulatory capture that Stigler described. Just like the government’s purchase of Chevy Volts, the Fed is creating demand for a product (morgtage-backed securities) that is in weak demand, for the benefit of the industry it regulates.

Harrowing tale of near death in China

Harrowing tale of near death in China →

Progressives are always talking about the need for a good, benevolent government to take care of citizens and protect them. Well, before I give the government any more authority, I'd like to see if they're competent at providing a basic level of physical security.

Take the case of Warren Rothman, a San Francisco lawyer. Several years ago, he worked in Shanghai. There, he was given information about a large bribe that had recently been paid. Before he could report it, a Chinese legal aid tried to kill him. The legal aide conned the local American consulate into giving him the papers necessary to have Mr. Rothman involuntarily committed to mental institution. Once there, he tried to poison Mr. Rothman.

After Mr. Rothman escaped, he discovered the consulate's role in his kidnapping and near death.

So he contacted officials at the State Department Office of the Inspector General and told them of the distressing role the acting consul and other consulate officers had played in his own drama.

Well, late last month, the inspector general's office wrote back and told Rothman, "We have determined that the appropriate office to address your concerns is the Bureau of East Asian and Pacific Affairs" - the very State Department office where the diplomats in question worked.

How's that for good government?

This entry was tagged. Government

Fiscal Reality Wins a Victory in Wisconsin

Fiscal Reality Wins a Victory in Wisconsin →

This is why I worry about government spending levels. Wisconsin either needs to cut spending or raise taxes (or both) an average of $1522 more per household, per year. For the next 30 years.

Wisconsin voters know they are struggling. They sense that unchecked growth of local and state governments will grind them down even more. Government as usual was not an option.

But they need to know how bad things really are.

For example, without major reforms, the public pensions officially accounted at 100 percent funded actually need $1,563 more from the average household every year for 30 years just to pay benefits already promised, according to an updated study for the National Bureau of Economic Research by Robert Novy-Marx and Joshua Rauh.

Public retiree health-care funding is more than $2.3 billion short, according to the Pew “Widening Gap” study, and the state only paid 45 percent of the last payment due. Somebody is going to have to make up the difference.

Sandra Fluke and public obligations

Sandra Fluke and public obligations →

I like the way Jerry Pournelle puts this.

Sandra Fluke’s solution is to demand that taxpayers pay for her contraceptive pills and devices. She can’t afford to have sex because of the risk of pregnancy, and it is up to us to provide her with the wherewithal for contraception. She hasn’t spoken about protection from STD’s but I think it safe to assume she believes we ought to pay for her insurance for treatment of those when they fail. Of course there are contraception means that are also somewhat effective against STD’s, and they are considerably cheaper than the ones Sandra Fluke demands; but apparently the choice of what we pay for is not up to us. Sandra Fluke has a right to indulge in sex when and however she wants, and to the means of contraception that she wants, and it is up to the taxpayers to pay for it.

The real question here is simple: how do you acquire the obligation to pay for Sandra Fluke’s birth control devices and pills? But in the great flap over her virtue that question seems to have been lost.

We need to go back to it. Even if insuring Sandra Fluke’s health is an obligation that the rest of us must assume, when did contraception pills become health insurance? What illness are we preventing? Must we then insure her against being eaten by sharks when she insists on swimming in shark infested waters? Can her life insurance include provisions that she will not be covered if she goes hiking on the Iranian border? Must we pay for any activity that might result in death, dismemberment, pregnancy, etc.?

Leave alone the freedom of religion issue of requiring a Jesuit college to provide contraception. Where did the government get the right to require that we the people pay for anyone’s contraception? How did we acquire that obligation and can we not find some way to be shut of it?

Justice Moves Forward in Peru, IN

Two months ago, I wrote about a police officer who tazed a man with Alzheimer’s. This weekend, I followed-up on the story, to see what’s happened since then. I’m happy to report that the Peru, IN police chief recommended firing Officer Gregory Martin. The Peru Board of Works held a hearing from from July 30-August 10, to review the recommendation. They ultimately upheld the decision and voted to fire Officer Gregory Martin.

I’m happy about this decision but it’s not over yet. Officer Martin is planning to appeal the decision, in a Miami County court.

Off-Duty Executive Officer for the Minneapolis SWAT Team Beats a Man Into a Coma

Off-Duty Executive Officer for the Minneapolis SWAT Team Beats a Man Into a Coma →

Excerpt: Here’s another story where the public’s supposed protector practices assault and battery instead. Clifford claims in the police report that Vander Lee was using offensive language, but according to the criminal complaint, no one else in the restaurant heard it. No one claims Vander Lee struck Clifford first, though Clifford apparently claimed [...]

Here's another story where the public's supposed protector practices assault and battery instead.

Clifford claims in the police report that Vander Lee was using offensive language, but according to the criminal complaint, no one else in the restaurant heard it. No one claims Vander Lee struck Clifford first, though Clifford apparently claimed he feared Vander Lee was about to. After striking Vander Lee, Clifford then fled on foot to a nearby parking lot as Vander Lee’s brother and friend chased him. His wife then swung by in her car to pick him up, and the two of them fled. He turned himself in the next day.

The Minneapolis Police Department initially went into defensive mode, noting that Clifford had received two medals of valor and “no sustained allegations on his disciplinary record.” A couple things, there. First, let’s keep in mind that this is the same Minneapolis Police Department that gave its SWAT team “medals of valor” for raiding the wrong house, resulting in a shootout with an innocent Hmong man. His wife and six children were in the house, which the police filled with at least 22 rounds. As for Clifford’s alleged clean record, the key word in that sentence is sustained. In this case, it merely means he hasn’t yet done anything so severe that even other cops and prosecutors were willing to hold him accountable.

Peru, IN police Tase Alzheimer patient

Peru, IN police Tase Alzheimer patient →

This is despicable.

Police announced Monday they have launched an internal investigation, but would not comment about the incident or the investigation.

Police Chief Steve Hoover said no time frame has been set on the investigation, noting several people need to be interviewed regarding the incident.

“I would just ask from the citizens of Peru to be patient and allow us to do a thorough investigation into the matter,” he said Monday. “We assure you that we are taking this seriously, but it will take some time to do the investigation correctly.”

Given the alleged facts, the investigation should take about a day to do. And then the people involved should be fired with extreme prejudice. Given the "thin blue line" and the power of police unions, the people involved will probably end up with a medal for their valorous actions.

This entry was tagged. Government Police

Cronyism 101

Cronyism 101 →

John Hinderaker recently did a presentation on corporate cronyism. He cleaned it up and posted both the slides and details online. It's true that the presentation was given at a semi-annual seminar hosted by the evil Koch brothers. I'm hoping that my liberal friends can manage to overlook that long enough to read the presentation and think about whether this level of government/corporate entanglement is a good idea.

What we have seen more recently, especially in the Obama administration, is something much more sinister — private sector, or corporate, cronyism — where the government uses its power to tax and spend, and its power to regulate, to help some companies and industries, making them artificially more profitable or keeping them in business, while using the same powers to disadvantage and potentially destroy other companies and industries that are not allied with the White House or with Congress.

Does being an Obama crony pay off? This graphic from Peter Schweizer’s book sums it up as well as anything: the members of Obama’s national finance committee have already recouped an average of around $25,000 in federal dollars for their companies, for every dollar they raised for Obama’s campaign. Is that a good investment, or what?

I'm opposed to these shenanigans no matter who is in power.

Crime victim still takes it on the chin

Crime victim still takes it on the chin →

How insane is this?

If you defend your family and property from a knife-wielding druggie in Massachusetts, you’d better be prepared to also defend yourself from the justice system, too.

McKay is the young father who, seeing a local druggie breaking into his truck and stealing the tools he uses to pay the bills, confronted him, subdued him and held him for the police. When the police arrived, they found the bad guy had a knife, a billy club and — thanks to the unarmed McKay — a broken jaw.

Instead of thanking McKay for helping get an armed criminal off the streets, Swampscott officials charged him with a felony. As a Swampscott police spokesman said at the time, “We don’t urge anybody to fight back. We want them to call us.”

How It Ought To Be Done

How It Ought To Be Done →

Radley Balko points out how the Occupy encampments should have been taken down.

All of the cops who weren’t busy transporting and processing the voluntary arrestees lined up, blocking the stairs down into the plaza. They stood shoulder to shoulder. They kept calm and silent. They positioned the weapons on their belts out of sight. They crossed their hands low in front of them, in exactly the least provocative posture known to man. And they peacefully, silently, respectfully occupied the plaza, using exactly the same non-violent resistance techniques that the protesters themselves had been trained in.

This entry was tagged. Government

Methanol Wins?

Methanol Wins? →

Dr. Robert Zubrin bangs a drum he's beaten before.

The Open Fuel Standard bill (H.R. 1687) would remedy this situation by requiring automakers to activate the flex-fuel capabilities of their vehicles. This would open the market to fuels producible from plentiful domestic resources not under cartel control, free us from looting by OPEC, create millions of jobs, slash our deficit, reduce the flow of income to the Islamists, and cushion us from counter-effects should forceful action be required to deal with threats such as the Iranian nuclear-bomb program. Introduced by Reps. John Shimkus (R., Ill.) and Eliot Engel (D., N.Y.), its current bipartisan list of sponsors includes liberals such as Jim McDermott (D., Wash.), Allyson Schwartz (D., Pa.), Steve Israel (D., N.Y.), and Howard Berman (D., Calif.) to conservatives Dan Burton (R., Ind.), Roscoe Bartlett (R., Md.), Tom Cole (R., Okla.), and Allen West (R., Fla.), as well as many in between. It is a bill clearly in the national interest, and should be supported by everyone from left to right.

By eliminating the artificial incompatibility between the vehicles we drive and the fuels we can make ourselves, the Open Fuel Standard bill will unchain the Invisible Hand, creating a true free market in vehicle fuels. Those reluctant to embrace it need to answer the following questions: In whose interest is it that Americans should continue to be denied fuel choice? In whose interest is it that America’s vast natural-gas, coal, and biomass resources remain unusable as a source of liquid vehicle fuel? In whose interest is it that America continue to give hundreds of billions of dollars each year to foreign potentates bent upon our destruction, instead of paying our own people to make fuel out of our own resources? In whose interest is it that a foreign cartel retains unlimited power to raise the cost of our fuel? In whose interest is it that we remain in the power of our enemies? Finally, should their interests be allowed to prevail, or should ours?

Bah. I dislike any proposal that starts with "someone is missing an opportunity to do some good" and ends with "let's force them to do it!". I don't care how good the idea is and I don't care whether it's proposed by a conservative or a liberal. I just care that your primary interest is in forcing it down everyone's throats and not in convincing everyone that it's in their own self interest.

If consumers were really shopping for methanol cars, manufacturers would be producing them. If methanol producers wanted consumers to drive methanol cars, they'd start an advocacy campaign and advertise about the benefits of methanol. That's how things should work. Bottom up change. Not top down coercion. And I don't care if Congressman Allen West does think this is a good idea. On this, he's wrong.

This entry was tagged. Government

WPRI Report: Rebuilding and Modernizing Wisconsin's Interstates with Toll Financing

WPRI Report: Rebuilding and Modernizing Wisconsin's Interstates with Toll Financing →

This is the real work of "rebuilding America's crumbling roads". And the money involved is going to require everyone to pitch in, especially the people who use Wisconsin's roads the most.

All highways wear out over time, despite ongoing maintenance. Over the next 30 years, most of Wisconsin’s Interstate system will exceed its nominal 50-to 60-year design life and will need complete reconstruction. When that point is reached, it makes sense to update designs to current safety and operational standards, as was done recently in the reconstruction of the Marquette interchange. And in corridors where demand is projected to exceed capacity, resulting in heavy congestion, it makes sense to add lanes.

Wisconsin already has a $1 billion per year highway funding gap. The total $26.2 billion cost of this Interstate program is far beyond the ability of current transportation funding sources to handle. Federal and state fuel tax revenues, the largest source of transportation funding, are in long-term decline in real, or inflation-adjusted, terms, and a portion of Wisconsin’s vehicle registration fee revenue is now committed for several decades to paying debt service on transportation revenue bonds issued since2003 to cover funding shortfalls. General obligation bonds, with general fund debt service, were also issued to make up for recent diversion of transportation fund revenue to the state’s general fund. To rebuild the rural Interstate and southeastern freeway system in a timely manner will require an additional source of transportation revenue.

This study explores the feasibility of using toll revenue financing to pay for this $26.2 billion reconstruction and modernization program. Under the principle of value-added tolling, tolls would not be charged on a corridor until it was reconstructed and modernized. All toll revenues would be dedicated to the rural Interstate and southeastern freeway system corridors, as pure user fees. Based on a 30-year program of reconstruction and assuming moderate toll rates comparable to those on other toll road systems, the study estimates that the entire rural Interstate program could be financed by toll revenue bonds. For the southeastern freeway system, one option is to toll only the new lanes, operating them as express toll lanes. Doing so would produce enough revenue to cover about 17% of the cost of the entire freeway system reconstruction. Tolling would be all electronic, with no toll booths or toll plazas to impede traffic. If political support could be garnered to price all lanes on the southeastern freeway system instead, our analysis estimates that the revenues would cover 71% of the cost of reconstruction.

At what point does the need for security eclipse human dignity and compassion?

At what point does the need for security eclipse human dignity and compassion? →

Yesterday I went through the imaging scanner at JFK Terminal 4 for my Virgin America flight to San Francisco.  Evidently they found something, because after the scan, I was asked to step aside to have my breast area examined.  I explained to the agent that I was a breast cancer patient and had a bilateral mastectomy in April and had tissue expanders put in to make way for reconstruction at a later date.

I told her that I was not comfortable with having my breasts touched and that I had a card in my wallet that explains the type of expanders, serial numbers and my doctor’s information pictured and asked to retrieve it. This request was denied.  Instead, she called over a female supervisor who told me the exam had to take place.  I was again told that I could not retrieve the card and needed to submit to a physical exam in order to be cleared.  She then said, “And if we don’t clear you, you don’t fly” loud enough for other passengers to hear.  And they did.  And they stared at the bald woman being yelled at by a TSA Supervisor.

There are reasons that I don't fly, unless I absolutely have to.

Fed Up: A Texas Bank Is Calling It Quits

Main Street had profits of $1 million in the second quarter and wrote off 1.25% of its loans as uncollectible. That is below the industry's charge-off rate of 1.82% in the FDIC's data for the first quarter, the latest available. The bank has earned nearly $11 million in the past year.

In July 2010, the FDIC slapped Main Street with a 25-page order to boost its capital, strengthen its controls and bring in a new top executive. Regulators also said the bank was putting too many eggs in one basket. Mr. Depping says regulators wanted the bank to shrink its small-business lending to about 25% of the total loan portfolio, down from about 90%.

There’s nothing quite like the arrogance of telling a successful business that it’s doing everything wrong and that it needs to change the cornerstone of it’s business model. The bank’s chairman is now planning on giving up the bank’s charter and selling the branches to other local banks.

This successful local business was killed by the too strict, cookie cutter, one-size fits all financial regulation coming out of Washington. Heckuva job guys.

This entry was tagged. Government Regulation

Government Is Not Society

If I was going to sum up my political philosophy as succinctly as possible, I think this is how I’d do it.

Perhaps the difference that most fundamentally separates true liberals and libertarians from others is that, to one degree or another, true liberals and libertarians are, unlike non-liberals and non-libertarians, dutiful sons and daughters of the Scottish Enlightenment. And one of the great lessons of that remarkable intellectual movement is the refinement of the understanding that state and society are not the same thing. Society is not created by the state, and the state’s activities not only do not define those of society but often diminish society’s activities.

Professor Don Boudreaux says this in the course of pointing out that FDR did much to destroy the private market for unemployment insurance. Prior to governments providing “free” unemployment insurance, many religious organizations, charities, businesses, and private societies provided it. People helping each other, reaching out, lending a hand to a neighbor in need. All of that was blown away and destroyed once the federal and state governments started providing unemployment insurance.

I found out today that it is possible to buy supplemental unemployment insurance to augment what the government provides. That’s welcome news but it’s a far cry from the vibrant assistance provided by society prior to the government’s take over.

Government has not brought us closer together by providing services that the private sector used to provide. Instead, it has pushed us further apart and made us less reliant on each other. That’s the exact opposite of the brotherly love and caring that President Obama constantly claims to want.

If you want a close knit society of caring people that look out for each other—slash government spending and get government out of the business of replacing society with bureaucracy.