The Creeping Horror

Which came first, the dead chicken or the rotten egg?

A bit gruesome. Sure. But it’s Halloween, no? Trick or Treat time.

Anyway, the subject for today’s exploration into contemporary horror is the modern city, so expensive it frightens middle-income earners away.

But wait. It’s not all cities. Only some are horror shows.

Particularly, I’m referring to those in “blue” states, the ones run by “liberal” Democrats.

It’s been pretty obvious for some time — especially as we witness hordes of everyday folks moving to parts South, particularly to Texas’s sprawling cities. But if you needed some statistics and graphs and the like, Derek Thompson provides them over at The Atlantic. His title addresses his basic question: “Why Middle-Class Americans Can’t Afford to Live in Liberal Cities.” Citing economist Jed Kolko, he notes the most astounding thing about housing in modern cities: “Liberal cities seem to have the worst affordability crises.”

Or, as Kolko puts it, “[e]ven after adjusting for differences of income, liberal markets tend to have higher income inequality and worse affordability.”

Why? Thompson contemplates the chicken-and-eggness of it all. Do liberal progressives congregate in coastal cities with limited land availability, and just happen to find themselves crunching out home growth, thus raising prices and reducing affordability? Or do they cause it?

Considering the nature of their favored policies, they almost certainly (if inadvertently) cause it.

Big government inevitably yields big bad effects. Support big government? Expect more inequality, not less. Then demand more government to “solve” the problem. Which causes yet more bad effects.

This trick-and-treat trap should horrify big government advocates.

It certainly horrifies me.

This is Common Sense. I’m Paul Jacob.

We Need iPads

Every once in a while somebody explains that “we” don’t need this or that product, however great it may be and however great the demand for it. For example, a tech reviewer dubs Apple’s latest iPad models “largely unnecessary,” given last-year models almost as capable.

The charge of unnecessariness is surely false when we’re talking about customers who do want the most cutting-edge technology and can put it to good use. But it’s false in a broader perspective too — unless we suppose that all advances in human civilization beyond the level of the hut and the bearskin are “largely unnecessary” to human survival and well-being.

If technological progress is necessary, so are key aspects of how that progress happens, including the fact that it so often happens by “largely unnecessary” increments. Any given marginal advance in computer or PC tech may have been dispensable. But the same can’t be said of the process of cumulative improvement as a whole. Consider, for example, that some ninety percent of what we now do on our PCs would have been impossible to do with the 1980 PC. Our 2014 laptops could not have been crafted without myriad intermediate advances.

As striving human beings, our needs evolve as our means improve and enable us to pursue ends that we could not have pursued with less powerful means. Ergo, I welcome every little improvement we can get. And I can hardly wait for my 2025 iPad.

This is Common Sense. I’m Paul Jacob.

A Congressman’s Job

A few weeks ago, The Washingtonian published a best of/worst of list about Congress. It stands out amongst other “tops” lists because the voting is done by White House staffers. This is what the employees think about their prima donnas. I mean bosses.

The most interesting winner appeared near the end, “Lobbyists’ Worst Enemy.”

The “Lobbyists’ Best Friend” category was topped by John Boehner and Eric Cantor. The “Worst Enemy”— which has to be the highest badge of honor on this list — is Justin Amash.

And if you are wondering why lobbyists might not take a shine to this Republican Representative from Michigan’s Third Congressional District, consider the calumnies his detractors directed against him.

Mike Rogers, also a Michigan House Republican, accused Amash of being “Al Qaeda’s best friend in the Congress” because of Amash’s well-known anti-NSA stance. Devin Nunes, from California’s Republican delegation, insisted that Amash “votes more with the Democrats than with the Republicans,” was not serious, and just liked siding with the GOP’s opponents.

A debunking in Rare (“America’s News Feed”), published in June, beat down all these charges. Not only has Amash voted with his party over 80 percent of the time, he’s voted against former House Speaker Nancy Pelosi more than any other Representative.

But there’s something more impressive about Amash, as Rare points out. He has voted every chance he got. He has the longest tardy-free voting record in Congress. And, furthermore, Amash explains, via social media, every vote he makes.

That is, he does his job.

No wonder lobbyists don’t like him.

This is Common Sense. I’m Paul Jacob.

IRS Re-Unleashed

Outrageous. That’s the best word for the recent court decision letting the Internal Revenue Service off the hook for ideologically targeting organizations that apply for tax-exempt status.

True the Vote, which combats voter fraud, sued the Internal Revenue Service because of the tax agency’s deliberate obstruction of applications from Tea Party and conservative organizations like True the Vote. The long delay in approval was costly in part because many prospective contributors to TTV had been awaiting the granting of 501(c)(3) status before going ahead with their donations. True the Vote’s president, Catherine Engelbrecht, was also harassed by other government agencies after submitting the application to IRS.

Nevertheless, Judge Reggie Walton has cavalierly dismissed the suit, asserting that the eventual granting of the tax-exempt status means that the IRS had taken adequate “remedial steps to address the alleged behavior.”

Following the same exalted principle of jurisprudence, Walton would presumably dismiss charges against a mugger so long as at some point the arrested criminal had tossed the wallet back to his victim.

The dismissal, no matter how outrageous, is not in the tiniest bit surprising.

IRS personnel often behave as if they may assault our rights (e.g., to our bank accounts) with impunity, so long as they occasionally defer to our protests by announcing temporary or cosmetic reforms. Others in government cooperate in letting the agency run riot. Perhaps because they agree that the IRS (maybe themselves, too) should enjoy virtually unlimited power over us.

Or perhaps simply because they, like the rest of us, are scared of the IRS.

This is Common Sense. I’m Paul Jacob.

Downtime on Our Dime

What happens if you misbehave at work? Are you given a paid vacation?

No? Oh, you poor thing. You don’t work for the federal government.

The General Accounting Office — the extremely busy outfit tasked to investigate all the myriad rip-offs perpetrated against taxpayers  — has issued a new report. Seems federal workers accused of and often punished for bad behavior at work — from charging personal items on government credit cards to downloading porn — are regularly kept on paid leave for months and even years, while charges against them are investigated.

We’re talking somewhere upwards of 57,000 employees, costing $775 million over a three-year period for not showing up, for not working.

That’s only counting straight salary. These non-working workers also accrue sick leave and vacation time, as well as pad their pensions and move up the pay ladder.

Government rules already say that paid leave is only for “rare circumstances.”

The new meaning of “rare” appears to be “common.”

As The Washington Post explains, “Federal employees are generally entitled to more due process than their counterparts at private companies, which explains why the leave is paid.”

But it doesn’t explain why federal workers should be so “entitled.” We’re all equal, but some are more equal than others?

Sen. Charles Grassley (R-Iowa) is working with Sen. Jon Tester (D-Mont.) on a bill to narrowly define the rules on paid leave, limiting it to no more than a few days.

Don’t hold your breath, though. In our nation’s capital, reform has been on unpaid leave for quite some time.

This is Common Sense. I’m Paul Jacob.

Townhall: Paid Handsomely for Ugly Behavior

Over at Townhall, the idea of holding our “public servant” bureaucrats to the same standard we hold all others. Paul Jacob makes the case for doing so, in the course of explaining how cushy our federal government’s employees have it when investigated for workplace wrongdoing.

Click on over; then come back here for more:

Surely government workers shouldn’t have special privileges?!?

On the other hand, it wouldn’t be exactly “fair” for the bureaucracy to have to follow the rules, when folks in the Obama Administration and in Congress don’t seem to have to follow any.

Video: The Honest Person in the Race

A conversation with the candidate for governor of Florida who doesn’t sport an R or a D after his name: