I don't blog a lot for the simple reason that given the vast and erudite amount of commentary out there, mine will probably not add much. While I have opinions on most every subject, I don't have sufficiently well-informed opinions to weigh in. 'Tis better to be thought a fool....One opinion I do hold strongly is that there are far to many opinions on the web. Every blogger feels its his or her duty to bring forth his views on X. The recent election of Pope Benedict XVI is a good example. I'm a Catholic (not a very devout one, I should add), but I don't follow Vatican politics much and to be honest, I'd never heard of Ratzinger before a few months ago when I stumbled upon an article on him. But I'm willing to bet that most American commentators had not heard of him either. Yet, blogs were abuzz with proclamations on his "fitness" or his "conservatism" or this or that. Many were not Catholics and probably most had never heard of him until Pope John Paul II's death. Yet a quick internet search, a perusal of some favorite sources and PRESTO, instant and regurgitated commentary. It's all so cliched, so banal, so shallow. Does having a blog require you to speak on every topic? All of a sudden we've got Tsunami experts, terrorism experts, and monetary experts amazing their readers with an analysis of why wages haven't followed productivity. While I generally enjoy blogs, we're in a blog bubble, one that's elevated every half-witted political junky into a second-rate George Will or Milton Friedman.
"Unlike conservatives, we believe that the people can enlarge their freedom through the only power that they share in common, which is their government. Taxes are the price we pay for that expanded vision of freedom."
The front-page of the Wall Street Journal screams something everybody has always know: Congress is corrupt.
One thing in particular stood out:
"Members of Congress have the potential to legislate you out of business, so we want them to have as much information about local broadcasting as possible," says Dennis Wharton, spokesman for the National Association of Broadcasters. The broadcasters will host seven lawmakers at their annual convention next week in Las Vegas.
The increase in business-sponsored travel is also an unintended consequence of the 2002 law changing campaign-finance rules. When enacted, the law banned individuals, corporations and interest groups from donating more than $25,000 to the Republican or Democratic national parties.
That closed "a huge point of entry" for corporations seeking to win over politicians, says Mark Glaze, director of government ethics at the Campaign Legal Center, a watchdog group. "It's natural to expect that some of those interests would be looking for another way to curry favor with lawmakers. Travel and associated perks are one way to do that."
This is why any attempt to end corruption by any means other than limiting government is doomed to fail. As long as Congress has the power to shut your business down, you will do pretty much anything to change their mind. While we'd like to believe that the only reason companies lobby government is for handouts, often times they do so because ignoring them is done at their peril. For more on this, see the excellent article that also ran on the front-page of the WSJ earlier this week:
Kris Engskov, head of Starbucks Corp.'s fledgling lobbying effort, won his first real victory last October: a tax break worth millions to the company. His boss had mixed emotions.
Starbucks Chairman Howard Schultz was glad to win the tax break, but he was disturbed by a wave of editorials and news reports labeling his hip and fast-growing company a money-grubbing special interest and referring to the provision in the 2004 tax bill as the "Starbucks footnote." Mr. Schultz recalls promptly tracking down Mr. Engskov at the company's headquarters and, waving some of the articles, pressing him for an explanation. "Tell me about this," he said.
Mr. Schultz's discomfort offers a glimpse at the uneasy transition a group of cutting-edge entrepreneurs of the 1990s face as they take their first steps into Capitol Hill lobbying. They saw explosive growth in recent years but now realize the road to future prosperity runs through Washington.
The Washington Post reports today that Wal-Mart is closing its doors in Jonquiere, Quebec after its employees voted to unionize.
Here's another way of looking at it:
Acme has a well known policy of not allowing its employees to wear red hats during work hours. Knowing this, you apply at Acme although you have the option of seeking employment with companies that allow red hats. You are given a job, but one day you show up wearing a red hat and you summarily fired. Who's to blame?
The House voted yesterday to permanently repeal the Estate Tax (cleverly dubbed the "death tax" by its opponents). As one would expect, the opposition has been fierce and laced with vitriol. Opponents call the repeal the "Paris Hilton Benefit Act," showing both their contempt for an innocent (albeit trampy) young women, and their lack of imagination in crafting rebuttals.
Thoroughly unconvincing is the only way to describe their arguments. Consider the reasoning of Matthew Yglesias on his blog:
I might be an earnest, hardworking dude who works in the store. And somebody might die and give the store to me. The store may be worth millions and millions of dollars. If so, I ought to pay tax on it. Why? Because I've just inherited millions and millions of dollars, that's why. That I'm earnest and hardworking, and that my riches came in the form of a valuable store rather than a heaping plate of gold matters not a whit. What about those sad folks forced to sell the family business? Don't cry for them. Here you are, you inherit a store worth $X. You owe $Y in taxes, with Y being less than X. So you are "forced" to sell the store, and accept "only" $X-Y as your inheritance. Note that X is a figure in the millions, and Y a small proportion of X. This is a very good problem to have, abstracting away from the fact that someone you love has probably died and this is probably a bigger concern of yours that the tax bill. This is, in other words, a non-problem.
Now he's right in that a financial gift puts you ahead so long as it's greater than 1 cent. Other than that, what an unbelievably stupid argument. I'm sure Mr. Yglesias is no totalitarian, but apparently he believes that the individual has no claim on his resources whatsoever. Even if we find it repugnant for Ms. Hilton to be handed a large inheritance, focusing on her is incorrect. In reality, it's the wishes of her parents that are being carried out. It's their property rights that are being protected. Just as my grandmother can send me a birthday card with $10 in it, so too may Mr. and Mrs. Hilton give to their daughter as much of their legitimately owned money as they please. (Not to mention that the estate tax is a tax on money that's already been taxed in one form or another while Mr. and Mrs. Hilton controlled it).
But don't these taxes only fall on the richest of the rich? Yes. But why single these individuals out? We've begun to address other forms of discrimination (racism, sexism, anti-semitism), but many still view the rich as different entities, somehow unlike us. They are the modern-day Kulaks.
Generally when I debate a statist over the size of government and why we should drastically limit it, I get this response: But how would we pay for roads and the courts? To which I answer: As if that's where 95% of the money is going!
Control breakdowns over the centrally billed accounts resulted in DOD paying for airline tickets that were not used and not processed for refund. DOD was not aware of this problem before our audit and did not maintain data on unused tickets. We determined, based on airline data, that DOD had purchased—primarily in fiscal years 2001 and 2002—about 58,000 tickets with a residual (unused) value of more than $21 million that remained unused and not refunded as of October 2003. We also identified more than 81,000 partially unused airline tickets with a purchase price of about $62 million that will require additional analysis to determine the residual value. Based on further analysis of the limited data, it is possible that DOD purchased at least $100 million in airline tickets that it did not use and for which it did not claim refunds from fiscal years 1997 through 2003.
There are strange things afoot in Washington these days. Congressional Democrats are extolling the virtues of the rule of law, constitutional protections and procedures, and the role of the Senate as a "cooling saucer."
Republicans, on the other hand, are now quoting Stalin, advocating a judicial revolution, violating principles of federalism, and linking arms to protect a majority leader so corrupt, even the Wall Street Journaladmits he has an "odor."
This would seem like a momentous turn of events if it wasn't the case that the minority waxes constitutional every time the other party raises its victory flag. In the 90s, the Republicans used the judicial filibuster, opposed foreign interventionism, and had at least a nominal respect for the rule of law and federalism. For God's sake they proposed abolishing the Department of Education! Our Democratic friends supported just about every Clinton-led foreign excursion, a plan to nationalize health care, and opposed the filibuster when it was used by Republicans.
So as we soak up the republican (emphasis on the small "r") talk from the Democrats, let's remember that in Washington, principles are ephemeral.
Q: "...why should Congress be more concerned about protecting Paris Hilton's inheritance than grandma's Social Security check?" E.J. Dionne in today's Washington Post
A: Let's look at it another way: instead of focusing on Paris, let's look at the rights of her parents. Do they have the right to bequeath wealth to their children? Do Mom and Dad Hilton have a right to give their justly earned fortune to another individual, in this case their daughter? By what moral authority is the State authorized to confiscate earned income and wealth from one citizen and give it to another?
It's also interesting that you speak of "grandma's Social Security check." As we all know, grandma's Social Security check comes from the confiscated earnings of the young. Grandma (relatively wealthier) uses government to steal from grandson (relatively poorer).
That, E.J., is why Congress should protect, not the inheritance of Paris Hilton, but the property rights of all citizens, including the right to discharge their property as they see fit.
Gary Heiman, president and chief executive of Standard Textile Co., in today'sWashington Post:
If more American textile and apparel manufacturers had been less insular, more willing to look for customers overseas instead of only within our borders, they would have improved their chances to grow, even as the market in the United States was shrinking. We, for example, sell to 49 countries. Rather than banking on high-powered lobbyists to stave off the march of globalization, we welcome the end of quotas.
It's not too late for more U.S. textile companies to shift course and adapt. Their survival will depend in large part on their ability to innovate and stay a step ahead of competitors elsewhere. Researchers have only just begun to figure out how nanotechnology, bioengineering and other relatively new disciplines can create the clothes that our grandchildren will wear. Technological ingenuity has always created new American jobs in the past. This can -- and must -- happen in my industry.
The transition to freer trade will be traumatic, and, unfortunately, there is no doubt this industry's American manufacturing base will continue to shrink in a quota-free world. But desperately and defiantly clinging to protectionism is not the way to meet this challenge. The answer is to innovate, export, become active in the global marketplace and become competitive again.
"The toothless skull of an early human ancestor, discovered in the Republic of Georgia, may attest to evolution's oldest known example of some kind of compassion for the elderly and handicapped in society, scientists are reporting today."
Declares Landsburg: “I hold this truth to be self-evident: It is just plain ugly to care more about total strangers in Detroit than about total strangers in Juarez. ... Even if Kerry-style (or Nader-style or Buchanan-style) protectionism could improve Americans’ well-being at the expense of foreigners, it would still be wrong.”
Now I do not know what parents pay to send their kids to the University of Rochester. But if the philosophical imbecility of Landsburg is representative of the faculty, it is too much.
To be more concerned about the well-being of one’s fellow Americans is not “xenophobia,” which means a fear or hatred or foreigners. It is patriotism, which entails a special love for one’s own country and countrymen, not a hatred of any other country or people. Preferring Americans no more means hating other peoples than preferring one’s family means hating all other families. An icy indifference as to whether one’s countrymen are winning—be it in a competition for jobs or Olympic medals—is moral treason and the mark of a dead soul.
As usual when waxing economic, Buchanan misses the mark. Admiring someone simply because they pay taxes in the same geographical area as you strikes me as odd. If your property abuts the Canadian boarder, why should you have a "special love" for your American neighbor, but not for your Canadian? Should I love my fellow Vermonters more than the inhabitants of another state? And did he really write that it's moral treason not to cheer for America in the Olympics?
[Maryland] Lawmakers said they did not set out to single out Wal-Mart when they drafted a bill requiring organizations with more than 10,000 employees to spend at least 8 percent of their payroll on health benefits -- or put the money directly into the state's health program for the poor.
8%? Does anyone else wonder how the wise and benevolent Maryland state legislators arrived at that number? And by what state constitutional authority? But hey, at least they're giving Wal Mart a choice.
In a feisty response to critics who accuse Wal-Mart of providing
poverty-level wages and few benefits, the executive, H. Lee Scott Jr.,
said Wal-Mart offered good, stable jobs, noting that when it opens a
store, more than 3,000 people often apply for the 300 jobs.
doesn't make sense," Mr. Scott said, "that people would line up for
jobs that are worse than they could get elsewhere, with fewer benefits
and less opportunity."
Moving to blunt China's clout in textiles, the U.S. launched a series of trade investigations that set the stage for imposing import curbs on Chinese-made apparel.
The Bush administration's announcement comes amid a surge in textile imports from China and complaints by American manufacturers and their supporters in Congress that the U.S. textile industry is fast losing ground.
In a written statement, Commerce Secretary Carlos Gutierrez said the move was a "first step" toward determining whether the U.S. market is indeed being disrupted, and whether the disruptions can be attributed to Chinese imports.
Zimbabweans went to the polls today in a crucial parliamentary vote that could severely threaten Mugabe's grip on power. Only problem is, the election was a foregone conclusion. The reports coming in only confirm what most already thought: Mugabe and his ruling party ZANU-PF have taken all precautions to ensure their victory.
One indication of the level of corruption in Zimbabwe comes from yesterday's Washington Post:
Hundreds of bags of cornmeal were stacked in front of a bar
near here this month, rising as high as its roof. The only problem for
the hungry people of this drought-stricken area was that the food, like
the bar, was controlled by officials from the ruling party. With a
crucial election nearing, they weren't about to give it to just anyone.
The officials first held a rally by their impressive
mound of food, witnesses here said. The next day, as hundreds of people
from surrounding villages gathered to collect the 110-pound bags they
had ordered and paid for months before, ruling party officials
announced that only their supporters were eligible. When the names of
opposition voters were called, they were simply handed back their
money, according to several people who were turned away. The leftover
bags went on sale hours later for twice the price.
Using food as a political weapon is nothing new. Mugabe, unfortunately, has perfected it.
China is trying to boost its tax proceeds, a
crucial step to modernizing its economy, by having consumers help build
a paper trail in this cash-based society.
I find this statement a bit perplexing: doesn't an economy "modernize" when left free? I find this statement especially confusing considering the country in question: China doesn't have the best of records when it comes to corruption and the waste of tax dollars. Is this evidence of a liberal bias in the press? Hardly. The real bias is not liberal or conservative, but governmental.