Saturday, November 20, 2010

Barack Obama arrives at NATO Green Energy Summit in "Beast" Limo

From the "Good for thee but not for me" department, with a fresh coat of Whitening to Yahoo News:

LISBON (AFP) – The Portuguese hosts of Friday's NATO summit hoped to use the event to promote clean-energy and electric cars, but all eyes were on US President Barack Obama's diesel-guzzling "Beast" instead.

As is usual when he travels, Obama's eight-tonne armoured behemoth of a limousine was flown out to Lisbon before the US leader's arrival, and it ferried him from the airport tarmac to his first meetings of the weekend.

Doubtless he didn't intend the Beast's roar to drown out his hosts' green message, but a US presidential motorcade and its attendant escort of Secret Service SUVs do attract attention, even at the most elite gatherings.

Earlier, Prime Minister Jose Socrates and his fellow Portuguese, the president of the European Commission Jose Manuel Barroso, had arrived at the summit in quiet, zero-emission electric cars.

"I'd like to underline the priority both our countries assign to renewable energy and electric vehicles," Socrates said, after meeting Obama, amid amused sniping from the Portuguese press at the mixed messages.

Portugal is proud of the lead it has taken in introducing what it says is the world's first national electric vehicle charging network, with 100 power outlets in 25 towns and plans to install 1,300 by next year.

The government was particularly keen for the press covering the summit to underline this, and a news release describing the recharging network was already on each of the tables in the media centre as the global pack arrived.

Within the highly secure summit site, electric buses were put on to ferry journalists between venues.

In theory, at least, Obama was on side with the plan, remarking: "An area where I want to congratulate the prime minister and the Portuguese people is for the extraordinary leadership that you?ve shown in clean energy.

"The prime minister's leadership on electric cars will create new opportunities for American companies here in Portugal ... and this is an example of what Portugal and America can achieve together."

But there was no immediate reaction from the White House to criticism of Obama's rather less green form of transport, and the administration has in the past said that the president's security arrangements are non-negotiable.

Of course they are non-negotiable.  The green scam does not apply to them, and it never will.  TSA patdowns don't apply to John Boehner.  ObamaCare doesn't apply to Congress, or the staffers who wrote the bill.  Social Security's "contributions" don't apply to schoolteachers. 
Good for thee, but not for me. 
How much longer are you going to take it? 

The Great TSA "My-Ding-A-Ling" Singalong

Okay, everybody, get warmed up and follow the bouncing ball(s)....

Friday, November 19, 2010

Pilgrims, Chinese Farmers, and Property Rights

“Any man worth his salt would fight for his home but only a damn fool would fight for his boarding house.”
                                                                    -Mark Twain

Here's a story that I first heard in China several years ago, and I'm probably going to re-run this post about it every Thanksgiving until I die.  The best online account I've found is on the World Socialist Website (chuckle chuckle).  It's about some Chinese farmers who got tired of starving. 

On one night in Nov. 1978, 18 villagers of Xiaogang, including (leader) Yan Jinchang, risked their lives to sign secretly an agreement, which divided the then People's Commune-owned farmland into pieces for each family to cultivate.
This was a bold move, as it was seen as "capitalist" and might have led to severe punishment from the government at that time.
Thus, on that secret agreement covered with villagers' seals and red fingerprints, there was a wobbly line saying that "If any word about this is divulged and the team leader is put in prison, other team members shall share the responsibility to bring up his child till he (or she) is 18. "

The original copy of this agreement is now in a museum someplace in China.  It had a huge influence.  Instead of farming the land together, and putting up with slackers, loafers, regulatory parasites and the other inevitable Socialist baggage, this brave group of Chinese farmers decided that each family would be responsible for a certain section of the land. 
That clause about agreeing to care for each others' children was a simple insurance policy.  To the best of my knowledge, none of the farmers agreed to care for the families of those who didn't share their risks.  In other words, you couldn't waltz into the agreement AFTER losing your head of household.  There's not even a hint of Obamacare in this document. 

The facts proved that it's worthwhile to take the adventure. Allocating farmland to each household, also known as "household contract responsibility system", fired the locals' enthusiasm for agriculture production, which had been contained in the outmoded planned economy, and helped poverty-stricken locals out of starvation.

That's just what happened when they agreed to stop the collectivist nonsense.  Think of what could happen if they'd been allowed to own the land, instead of having it allocated to them by their "leaders".   

The grains that a local farmer turned over to the state in the following year almost totaled what he did in past two decades, recalled Yan Hongchang, one of the 18 Xiaogang villagers who initiated the contract system.
Their practice was later supported by Deng Xiaoping, chief architect of China's reform and opening-up drive, and recognized by the Chinese government. Xiaogang has since been labeled as the pace-setter of the nation's rural reform.

Here's a similar story, from the Volokh Conspiracy.  This one hits closer to home. 

Many people believe that after suffering through a severe winter, the Pilgrims’ food shortages were resolved the following spring when the Native Americans taught them to plant corn and a Thanksgiving celebration resulted. In fact, the pilgrims continued to face chronic food shortages for three years until the harvest of 1623. Bad weather or lack of farming knowledge did not cause the pilgrims’ shortages. Bad economic incentives did.

Time to quote Thomas Sowell for the 10,000th time.  Laws and policies should never be evaluated by their stated goals and objectives, but by the incentives they create. 

In 1620 Plymouth Plantation was founded with a system of communal property rights. Food and supplies were held in common and then distributed based on equality and need as determined by Plantation officials.

Like we're about to do with healthcare. 

People received the same rations whether or not they contributed to producing the food, and residents were forbidden from producing their own food. Governor William Bradford, in his 1647 history, Of Plymouth Plantation, wrote that this system was found to breed much confusion and discontent and retard much employment that would have been to their benefit and comfort. The problem was that young men, that were most able and fit for labour, did repine that they should spend their time and strength to work for other men’s wives and children without any recompense. Because of the poor incentives, little food was produced.

In other words, when the hardest-working, most creative Pilgrims realized that they were working themselves to death for people who didn't want to work as hard?  They started Going Galt.   

Faced with potential starvation in the spring of 1623, the colony decided to implement a new economic system. Every family was assigned a private parcel of land. They could then keep all they grew for themselves, but now they alone were responsible for feeding themselves. While not a complete private property system, the move away from communal ownership had dramatic results.

This change, Bradford wrote, had very good success, for it made all hands very industrious, so as much more corn was planted than otherwise would have been. Giving people economic incentives changed their behavior. Once the new system of property rights was in place, the women now went willingly into the field, and took their little ones with them to set corn; which before would allege weakness and inability.

Once the Pilgrims in the Plymouth Plantation abandoned their communal economic system and adopted one with greater individual property rights, they never again faced the starvation and food shortages of the first three years. It was only after allowing greater property rights that they could feast without worrying that famine was just around the corner.

And what have we learned from this? 
Nothing.  Absolutely nothing. 

The Socialism Kills sign came from here. 
The Pilgrims, from here.

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Thomas Sowell on tax cuts

Please stand for this month's reading from The Gospel According To Saint Thomas....

Economist Thomas Sowell, the smartest man in the world now that Milton Friedman is dead, has given us an assortment of new scriptures to ponder.

As Saint Thomas has grown old, his offerings to his disciples have become shorter, but no less pithy. We should treasure them, ponder them, and hold them in our hearts.

In this reading, The Good Doctor has arisen from his pallet to straighten out the issue of perverse incentives, tax cuts, and the issue of why people hire people and bother to be productive in the first place. 
We know that it has become tiresome for Saint Thomas to be bothered with stamping out ignorance in his old age, and value his contribution all the more because of his patience. 

Please remain standing until the end of the reading from the scriptures:

The first big cut in income taxes came in the 1920s, at the urging of Secretary of the Treasury Andrew Mellon. He argued that a reduction of the tax rates would increase the tax revenues. What actually happened?

In 1920, when the top tax rate was 73 percent, for people making over $100,000 a year, the federal government collected just over $700 million in income taxes-- and 30 percent of that was paid by people making over $100,000. After a series of tax cuts brought the top rate down to 24 percent, the federal government collected more than a billion dollars in income tax revenue-- and people making over $100,000 a year now paid 65 percent of the taxes.

How could that be? The answer is simple: People behave differently when tax rates are high as compared to when they are low. With low tax rates, they take their money out of tax shelters and put it to work in the economy, benefitting themselves, the economy and government, which collects more money in taxes because incomes rise.

High tax rates which very few people are actually paying, because of tax shelters, do not bring in as much revenue as lower tax rates that people are paying. It was much the same story after tax cuts during the Kennedy administration, the Reagan administration and the Bush Administration.

The New York Times reported in 2006: "An unexpectedly steep rise in tax revenues from corporations and the wealthy is driving down the projected budget deficit this year."

Expectations are in the eyes of the beholder-- and in the rhetoric of the demagogues. If class warfare is more important to some politicians than collecting more revenue when there is a deficit, then let the voters know that.

The man has spoken.

Thus endeth the reading from The Gospel According To Saint Thomas.

You may be seated.

We do not ordinarily show videos on pull-down screens here at the Chapel of Saint Sowell, but in this case, as an aid to worship, we have included the following:
This is a video of someone who just....doesn't....get it.  If you have children in The Chapel who can't view this type of material without laughing, please take them to the nursery now. 

This is why Our Gospel must be spread throughout our land, the world, even to D.C. and The New York Times. 

Thank you all for attending our services this morning. Let's all go to Luby's !

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Can you balance the U.S. budget in 5 minutes?

The New York Times has posted a budget simulator that allows you to mess around with the current U.S. budget deficit by cutting programs and salaries or by raising taxes. 

This being the New York Times, they don't acknowledge that if you raise too many taxes to a higher level, the amount of revenue drops. 
The Bush tax cuts raised the amount of money coming into the Treasury. 
The percentage of the total taxes paid by the evil top earners increased after the Bush tax cuts. 
Getting the NYT to admit this would be like getting them to acknowledge the effectiveness of HUD.  Or busing.  Or rent control. 

The simulator won't allow you to cut military spending by 75%, bring the boys and girls back home, and have the remaining troops defend the borders.  (Our borders.  Not Korea's.)

You can't legalize weed, allowing for a 50% cut in police, judges, narcotics agents, border guards, parole officers, probation specialists, jailers, counselors, piss-testers, urine samplers, stool-sniffers, and Sharia Law enforcers. 
You can't eliminate the Departments of Energy or Education.
You can't sell off the prime real estate currently occupied by the U.N. 
Other than that, it is a interesting little exercise. 

My employer, Jukt Micronics, went through a similar exercise a couple of years ago.  The only difference?  It was real.  We had to cut employees.  We had to examine every penny in purchasing.  For the second time in the company's existence, some people had to take pay cuts.  Forget about pay raises.  The percentages in cuts that we had to deal with were twice as large as the cuts proposed by the Times.  We sold off every unnecessary asset.  We sold off some assets that were necessary.  (Lee, I'm still pissed off about those 8 tires of mine that you sold.) 

If we hadn't done these things, we would be out of business.  (We can't print money.  Go here to see how Fed Chairman Ben Bernanke is trying to harm low income people for the benefit of those at the top who want the spending orgy to continue.)

If you take the test, you'll see that Starving The Beast won't be easy,but it should be simple.  We just have to decide when we're going to do it.  So why the delay?  Here's a comment from an Instapundit reader:
I think they are sending the wrong message with this calculator– it shows me how easy it is to eliminate the deficit! I was able to do so in a few minutes, even within the constraints imposed by the NYT’s calculator. If I can do it so easily, why can’t the politicians?

That’s a rhetorical question– the answer is that there are not enough opportunities for graft in deficit elimination.
There you have it. 

The cartoon came from here.  The "grim reaper on a budget" poster came from here

Monday, November 15, 2010

Councilman Michael Wolfensohn shuts down cupcake stand after discovering that his city isn't getting a percentage.

A politician in a New York suburb called police on two 13-year-old boys for selling cupcakes and other baked goods without a permit, according to a report Monday.

The Journal News in Westchester County said the boys, Andrew DeMarchis and Kevin Graff, had a brisk business selling cupcakes, cookies, brownies and Rice Krispie treats for $1 each in a Chappaqua park.

However, New Castle Councilman Michael Wolfensohn called the police after discovering the sale was not for charity, the newspaper said.

Anyone wanting to contact the city of New Castle, or Councilman Wolfensohn, can go here, BTW. 
Kevin’s mother, Laura Graff, said the teens were “good kids” who were scared by the police call.

“I am shocked and sad for the boys. It was such a great idea, and they worked hard at it,” Laura Graff, Kevin’s mother, told The Journal News. “But then some Town Board member decided to get on his high horse and wreck their dreams.”…

“All vendors selling on town property have to have a license, whether it’s boys selling baked goods or a hot dog vendor,” Wolfensohn said.

He said “in hindsight” he perhaps should have told the boys they needed a license rather than calling the cops. “The police are trained to deal with these sorts of issues,” he told The Journal News.

A permit to sell things in the park costs $150 to $350 for two hours and a $1 million insurance certificate is also required, the paper said…

Andrew DeMarchis told The Journal News of his disappointment.

“We were being entrepreneurs,” he said, “but now I feel a little defeated.”

Here's Radley Balko's take on the incident, which, as usual, is priceless.

I think I’ve changed my mind about these stories. If the point of having your kid start a lemonade stand, cupcake stand, or some other little venture is for him to learn what it’s like to be an entrepreneur, he might as well learn early on that part of being an entrepreneur is dealing with asshole politicians, petty bureaucrats, and rivals willing to use the law to shut you down rather than compete with you. It also means understanding that the costs of complying with all the bullshit hurdles the government puts in the way of starting up a business may mean you can never get your business off the ground, no matter how good your idea.

The cupcake kids will at least now grow up with a healthy distaste for politicians, and probably some newfound respect for the people who do actually manage to start a business in hostile environments that include requirements for million-dollar insurance policies and political slime like Michael Wolfensohn.

And that’s actually a pretty valuable lesson.

The picture of Michael Wolfensohn came from here. 

The Wal-Mart Greeter Blues

After walking away from it for about 25 years, I've started writing songs again. 

I heard some guy on a radio program say that if you're upper class in America, your name is on the building.  If you're middle class, your name is on your desk.  If you're working class, your name is on your shirt. 

When I heard that, I was reminded of this old-timer I once heard ranting at The White Elephant Saloon in the Fort Worth Stockyards.  He was talking about how his land was disappearing, how he couldn't make it as a rancher, and how "that Wal-Mart Greeter job is looking better every day". 

This is what I did with it.  Will put up a YouTube as soon as I meet someone with the time and the camera.

Granddad lifted me up high, and he put me on his saddle,
He said “Look at that horizon, boy, y’know one day soon all of that’ll,
That’ll be the land where your whole clan can feed and herd your cattle.”
But he didn’t prepare me for this concrete prairie,
My new home on the range, where the shopping carts rattle….
Here’s how I got the Wal-Mart Greeter Blues:
My granddad built an empire, and my old man drank it dry,
Then I lost a lot in Vegas, and those taxes were so high,
Some went to my last three wives, and the cost of just getting by,
That’s how I got the Wal-Mart Greeter Blues.
So keep those steers a movin’, boys!  Pampers are on aisle four. 
Come on boys, we’re burning daylight!  Just get ‘em in the store. 
Drive that herd to the preferred products on the floor,
Check the receipts, keep the lobby neat, and then
Herd ‘em out the door. 

I saw my granddad’s cattle brand all over the West,
I only saw my old man’s name on that sign that was on his desk,
My name ain’t nowhere but on this blue nylon vest,
And now I’ve got the Wal-Mart Greeter Blues. 
Repeat Chorus
So keep those steers a movin’, boys!  Detergent is on aisle four. 
Come on boys, we’re burning daylight!  Just get ‘em in the store. 
Drive that herd to the preferred products on the floor,
Check the receipts, keep the lobby neat, and then
Herd ‘em out the door. 
Look at you, you sweet young thing, with that cart there all by yourself.
Girl, I’ve got what your shopping for, and it ain’t on the shelf.
If I wasn’t stuck here, girl, I would help you find it myself. 
Instead, I’ve got the Wal-Mart Greeter Blues. 
Repeat Chorus. 
So keep those steers a movin’, boys!  Wishes are on aisle four. 
Come on boys, we’re burning daylight!  Just get ‘em in the store. 
Drive that herd to the preferred products on the floor,
Check the receipts, keep the lobby neat, and then
Herd ‘em out the door. 

The picture of a Wal-Mart Greeter came from here. 

Sunday, November 14, 2010

Joe Biden said this.

I don't know how I missed this, but Joe Biden, using his own lips, teeth, tongue and throat, under his own free will, made the following statement a few weeks ago:

“Every single great idea that has marked the 21st century, the 20th century and the 19th century has required government vision and government incentive,” he said. “In the middle of the Civil War you had a guy named Lincoln paying people $16,000 for every 40 miles of track they laid across the continental United States. … No private enterprise would have done that for another 35 years.”

You can go here to experience a joyous rebuttal from The Cato Institute:

Early American railroads were built almost entirely with private funds. These railroads provided such superior transportation that by 1850 they had put most toll roads and canals out of business. Individual states still competed with one another for business—and may have offered various favors to the railroads serving those states…. For the most part, however, no federal and few state subsidies went to railroads in the eastern United States.

But what about other areas?

Whenever politicians interfered in the railroad business, however, corruption and inefficiency inevitably occurred.....There was no money to be made from operating a railroad through a desolate wasteland, yet the federal government rewarded railroad contractors with big subsidies: a thirty-year loan at below market interest rates; twenty sections (12,800 acres) of government-owned land for every mile of track; and an additional subsidy of $48,000 for every mile of track laid in mountainous regions.

Thomas Durant, Oakes Ames, and other officers of the Union Pacific Railroad, which went a thousand miles west from Council Bluffs, Iowa, started the Credit Mobilier company in 1867 and retained it to do the construction. Credit Mobilier distributed to shareholders profits estimated at between $7 million and $23 million, depleting the Union Pacific’s resources. In an effort to stop congressional investigations, the officers bribed Speaker of the House James G. Blaine and other congressmen with Credit Mobilier stock. Seldom modest about their thievery, congressmen voted themselves a 50 percent pay raise. The Union Pacific Railroad fell deep into debt, without enough revenue from passengers or shippers, and went bankrupt in 1893.

Here's a Cato transportation timeline entry on all you need to know about the Credit Mobilier scandal:

1872:  The New York Sun exposes the Credit Mobilier scandal, perhaps the largest business subsidy scandal of the 19th century.8 Credit Mobilier is a construction company financially controlled by the leaders of the Union Pacific Railroad that makes huge profits at taxpayer expense. Congressman Oakes Ames (R-MA), who is an agent of Credit Mobilier and part-owner, distributes shares of the firm's stock to members of Congress at a discounted value. In return, those members treat Credit Mobilier favorably in a variety of ways, such as by voting to appropriate funds for the firm. The scandal illustrates the corruption that usually results when the government intervenes in the economy and subsidizes businesses.

If that's not enough, George Will opens a great column with Biden's quote.  In this case, its about our next transportation-subsidy-scandal-waiting-to-happen....The Chevy Volt. 
You might think that you've never purchased a Chevy Volt.  But you have.  Yes, you have. 

The federal government, although waist-deep in red ink, offers another bribe: Any purchaser can get a tax credit of up to 50 percent of the cost (up to $2,000) of an extra-powerful (240-volt) charger. California, although so strapped it recently issued IOUs to vendors, offers a $5,000 cash rebate for which Volt buyers are not eligible but purchasers of Nissan's electric Leaf are. Go figure.

In April, in a television commercial and a Wall Street Journal column headlined "The GM Bailout: Paid Back in Full," GM's then-CEO Ed Whitacre said "we have repaid our government loan, in full, with interest, five years ahead of the original schedule." Rubbish.

GM, which has received almost $50 billion in government subventions, repaid a $6.7 billion loan using other federal funds, a TARP-funded escrow account. Sen. Charles Grassley (R-Iowa) called this a "TARP money shuffle." A commentator compared it to "paying off your Visa credit card with your MasterCard."

Meretricious accounting and deceptive marketing are inevitable when government and its misnamed "private sector" accomplices foist state capitalism on an appalled country. But those who thought the ethanol debacle defined outer limits of government foolishness pertaining to automobiles were, alas, mistaken.

And finally, Reason magazine jumps on the dogpile with this:

What was the "government vision and government incentive" that produced the assembly line?Motion-picturefilmAirconditioning? The electric guitar?

How about the personalcomputer? The mobile phone? Non-violentresistance?  Aspirin?

Though Biden is generally not to be taken seriously, the government-centrism of his comments are an accurate reflection of his boss, and part of the reason why next Tuesday is going to be an awkward day
of work at 1600 Pennsylvania Ave.

As it turns out, last Tuesday was an awkward day of work at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue.  Unfortunately, Democrats were replaced by Republicans.  Republicans who favor many of the same economic interventions but for different industries. 

Oh well.  Joe Biden really did make that statement.  No eggs were thrown and no one laughed because it went largely unreported and unanalyzed in The Mainstream Media. 
Go here to read about The Mainstream Media's quest for a journalism subsidy. 

Joe Biden - A Real Man Of Genius