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Value the Vote

Thursday, April 24th, 2014

What happens when politicians create a special new election date in order to place a tax increase before voters . . . when least expected?

Did I mention that, as the Seattle Times reported, Proposition 1 “enjoyed massive support among politicians, labor unions, environmentalists, social-equity groups and business coalitions”?

Or that the YES campaign outspent the NO side by $654,922 to a mere $7,700, a nearly 100 to 1 margin?

The answer: On Tuesday, voters in one of the most liberal counties in America said NO. A solid 55 percent rejected the ballot measure.

Proposition 1 would have hiked King County’s 9.5-cent sales tax by 0.1 percent and imposed a $60 annual car-tab fee. The idea was to provide more funding for mass transit and local roads, with 60 percent of that revenue going toward the area’s mass transit system.

Transit officials argued that without the additional dough they’d have to make deep service cuts.

“The voters are not rejecting Metro; they are rejecting this particular means of funding Metro,” explained County Executive Dow Constantine. “We know the people of King County love and value their transit service.”

Love? Perhaps. Ridership is reportedly at a near-record high, about 400,000 a day.

Value? Not so much.

This very “progressive” electorate expressed, with utmost clarity, their unwillingness to pay higher taxes for transit. Further, there’s an unmistakable signal in the refusal of King County Metro officials to consider raising the price of their beloved service to become sustainable.

Isn’t it only fair to ask those riding the bus to pay the fare?

This is Common Sense. I’m Paul Jacob.

The Tiny State of Nevada

Friday, April 18th, 2014

Nevada isn’t really that big of a state. Oh, sure, it appears large on the map.

But 81 percent of that land mass isn’t Nevada. It’s federal government property, run by various branches of the nation’s central government in Washington, D.C.

Much of the controversy surrounding the Cliven Bundy ranch, and the rustled cattle, and the standoff with the federales, has to do with federal government land.

From my reading of the Bundy family ranch affair, it appears that the legal question is not one of taxes, but of usage fees; not of endangered tortoises, but cattle. But mostly about land. My sympathies are with the Bundies. They seem to have a very old adverse possession case against the government.

I wasn’t surprised to learn that federal judges didn’t look very kindly to the Bundies’ customary rights. Federal judges prefer legislated law to common law. We’re a long way from our roots, folks.

But the issue lurking behind all other issues is the over-dominance of the federal government in twelve western states. Five of them have over half of their land titled to and run by the federal government: Oregon, Idaho, Alaska, Utah and Nevada. This imbalance gives just too much power and purview to federal agencies, who are then tempted to run roughshod over locals. That is, state citizens.

Cliven Bundy may be dead wrong legally, but politically, he has a point.

The federal government should privatize all or most of its grazing lands and desert lands. Its forest lands should at least be “state-ized” — given back to the states.

This is a federal republic, right? Not an empire?

The states are not supposed to be mere conquered provinces.

This is Common Sense. I’m Paul Jacob.

This Is the Government We Pay For

Tuesday, April 15th, 2014

We live in a time when the governing political party and the dominant strain in the major media constantly harp on two themes:

  1. Capitalism is wasteful, not environmentally sound, and
  2. We need more regulation from government.

So, it is especially droll to witness the Food and Drug Administration pounce upon an age-old recycling practice between breweries and farms. In the name of “better regulation,” and “safety,” of course.

For well over a century beer brewers have disposed of their spent grain product — the non-beer product of the beer-making process — by giving or selling it cheaply to farmers, who feed it to livestock.

It would cost a lot to dispose of this in landfills, so brewers save money by letting farmers take the dregs off their hands.

But now the FDA, in a new set of proposed rules (proposed not by Congress, by the way), wants to protect cattle’s food supply by requiring brewers to dry the spent grain before shipping it off.

That’s a killer cost. One Oregonian brewer referred to it as an “enormous burden,” and warned that higher consumer prices would be the result.

I’m with Oregon Senator Ron Wyden (D), who demands that the agency go back to the drawing board.

“I don’t know everything about beer,” Wyden has been quoted, “but I do know when a federal agency acts like it has had one too many.”

For my part, I don’t see this as aberrant behavior from a federal agency. I see it as typical.

Typically drunk on power.

This is Common Sense. I’m Paul Jacob.

The Ten Trillion Dollar Decade

Monday, April 14th, 2014

It’s Tax Day tomorrow. Waiting till the last moment to file because you’ll have to write a check?

It hurts, but you must be financially better off than the federal government, which itself owes $17.5 trillion, all because Congress and the President refuse to balance budgets.

In the last ten years, according to a convenient Department of Treasury website, the federal government’s debt has not merely doubled, it has ballooned … by more than $10 trillion.

During the Reagan Administration, we were aghast at the idea of a “mere” one trillion dollar debt. I remember “No Trillion Dollar Debt” signs.

Waving signs didn’t help.

But something’s gotta give. As J. D. Tuccille writes, “you have to think that it’s going to occur to people that the United States government seems neither willing nor able to stop borrowing, and to start paying the sum down, even a little bit.”

Debts must be repaid, with interest. That goes for the last decade’s additional ten trillion tonnage of “bricks” now hanging over our heads.

Writing your check to the government isn’t made any more pleasant by pondering how paltry your payment is compared to what’s needed to make a dent in the debt. Moreover, even amid constant talk about “cuts,” federal government spending continues to increase. Thus, getting out of debt is not about writing checks to government. It’s about government writing fewer and smaller checks.

This is Common Sense. I’m Paul Jacob.

Maxine’s Ex-Im Brokerage

Thursday, April 10th, 2014

“In Maxine Waters’ economy,” wrote Timothy Carney yesterday, “big business rows the boat while government steers.”

The Democratic Congresswoman, known for championing the poor and the less well-off, just loves throwing money around.

Including to the rich.

Carney shows that, for all her anti-big biz talk, she’s playing into the hands of big business.

On Tuesday, Waters held a rally in support of the Export-Import Bank. Among the welfare queens on stage with her was a lobbyist for Boeing.

And not without reason. “More than 80 percent of Ex-Im’s subsidy dollars support big businesses,” Carney explains. “Ex-Im’s biggest subsidy product is long-term loan guarantees, and last year two-thirds of those . . . supported Boeing exports.”

Senator Mike Lee has come out swinging against Ex-Im, taking what he sees as the “moral high ground against political corruption.”

Maxine Waters objects to such upstart Republican interference in what she insists is a “legitimate” function of government. So used to robbing some to lavish on others, she apparently thinks this racket defines the government’s purview.

And Waters enthusiastically serves as a broker in the ongoing exploitation of consumers for the benefit of a few (insider-blessed) businesses.

In the marketplace, businesses get rich serving customers. When seeking taxpayer handouts, on the other hand, they get rich serving politicians.

Maybe that’s why  freedom troubles politician Waters.

This is Common Sense. I’m Paul Jacob.

 

Demanding Demand

Monday, March 31st, 2014

Midnight tonight marks another witching hour for Obamacare: the deadline for individuals to sign up for insurance on the federal and state exchanges.

Well, sorta . . . kinda.

The deadline was extended last week.

The dominant feature of the misnamed Affordable Care Act’s tedious rollout has been the incessant presidential fiddling with deadlines, especially those that might otherwise precede a national election. We’re told this extension is only for a couple weeks, though, and only for those who have attempted but been unable to sign up on the creaky websites.

Then again, there is absolutely no way to determine whether an individual actually attempted to purchase insurance. So, if you started the signup process but didn’t finish or just wish to so claim, you now have until mid-April.

Last week’s other big news was the administration’s self-congratulatory announcement that healthcare signups had surpassed the goal of six million.

This “success” comes only after downgrading the original goal of seven million, meaning one could more honestly claim the administration is nearly a million short of its goal. Additionally, these signups include people who “signed up” in the sense of having clicked “Yes, I can” but not having actually paid for it — something required by health insurance companies even under Obamacare.

Amidst all the boasting about how “popular,” how much “demand” there is for the taxpayer-subsidized insurance, a stark, but unspoken reality looms: There is no sign of legitimate demand for Obamacare.

It’s called “the individual mandate.” Mandate doesn’t mean free choice. Even forcing folks to sign up by penalty of law, the signups come slowly.

That’s popular?

This is Common Sense. I’m Paul Jacob.

Their Solution Is Our Problem

Friday, March 28th, 2014

J.D. Tuccille at Reason took on journalist Matthew Yglesias’s vox.com video that I wrote about yesterday, focusing on Yglesias’s pooh-poohing of the sheer size of the national debt. Tuccille noted that Yglesias under-reported its humungosity, and that the Congressional Budget Office finds, counter to Pollyanna-liberals, no small reason to worry about the ballooning debt.

But I’m still shaking my head that Yglesias really did argue the federal debt is no problem, because — get this! —  the Fed can always just print more money. 

We know! What he sees as a solution we see as a problem.

The modish government-as-savior view of society seems pure simplicity: major inputs and outputs — money supply, fiscal spending, debt, inflation — all of which liberal-progressives will “expertly” adjust.

Fed this, no wonder people ask questions like “why haven’t we seen inflation, following the huge influxes of quantitative easing?” Well, it is not just about consumer prices, but investment prices, too, which we have long known to be more volatile than consumer goods; investments can easily suck up new money to create an unstable boom, which bursts.

The biggest problem for today’s market recovery — aside from subsidies and wage controls and all the folderol that directly discourage new jobs — is federal government irresponsibility itself (symbolized neatly by the federal debt) which signals to investors and other market participants that they cannot make viable long-term plans.

Economist Robert Higgs called this effect “regime uncertainty.” It’s the uncertainty bred by bad policy.

Just the kind Yglesias and his comrades adore.

Fiddle with the economy’s dials, oh wise ones, and uncertainty seems a certain result.

This is Common Sense. I’m Paul Jacob.