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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.

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.

 

Marketcare versus Obamacare

Tuesday, April 8th, 2014

Hurray! Waiting for hours! Problems! Snags!

As a sign-up deadline approached, Obamacare administrators heralded the long lines people endured to apply for a permitted insurance policy. The lines supposedly proved Obamacare’s invulnerable popularity.

Had officials not been told about the new penalties for taxpayers who lack insurance? That millions have lost policies thanks to Obamacare and see no alternative but to wait in Obamacare lines? That sometimes people procrastinate . . . especially about doing things they dislike?

Do the persons foisting Obamacare on us not see, at least, that it reduces the alternatives of persons who don’t want it?

There’s a better way, and the evidence is not only historical.

Despite the accelerating decline of medical freedom, private initiatives that sweep aside bureaucratic status quos are still possible. One example is what Carmine Gallo calls “The Hospital Steve Jobs Would Have Built.” This is the Walnut Hill Medical Center’s reimagining of “health care and the patient experience.”

The vision for the Dallas center was inspired by Gallo’s book on how Apple builds customer loyalty — despite lacking power to financially penalize non-buyers of Apple products. Everything from what kind of person Walnut Hill hires and how new hires are trained to floor plans and decor is designed to make patients feel the opposite of being stuck in a veterans hospital or in an Obamacare waiting list.

What achievements and alternatives in medical care will we never see because of the choices and resources being destroyed by Obamacare?

This is Common Sense. I’m Paul Jacob.

Maximum Mixed Feelings

Tuesday, April 1st, 2014

If a man with a gun claims he can get your boss to increase your pay, but that doing so might have the unfortunate result of killing your boss and/or ending your job altogether, what would you say?

“I have mixed feelings on it,” Rebecca Pentz-Jones told the Washington Post regarding legislation to increase Maryland’s minimum wage. It’s a case whereby a man with a gun (government) forces a pay raise, but accordingly risks her job and her employer’s business.

Mrs. Pentz-Jones works at Dollar Tree earning $7.95 an hour, but would rather make $10.10 an hour, the minimum being pushed by President Obama.

Polls show public support for upping wages, but Maryland Senate President Mike Miller argues, “We don’t just pass things because they’re popular.” Perhaps Miller has a larger perspective in mind. When pollsters ask people what they think of raising the minimum if the raise would increase unemployment, support for the hike flags.

Maryland Democrats haven’t downed enough of the president’s Kool-Aid. They fear the Congressional Budget Office analysis correctly predicts Obama’s higher minimum wage would cost 500,000 to a million people their jobs.

“I feel like I’m on a battleground,” explains Sen. Katherine Klausmeier of Baltimore County, “between trying to help a person make a living and trying to save my small businesses.”

Prince George’s County Del. Dereck Davis notes that a higher wage “will benefit some people, but at the expense of others” and “could result in the elimination of jobs.”

“It gets very confusing,” adds Sen. John Astle. “Sometimes it makes me wonder why we even have a minimum wage.”

Me, too, Senator.

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.

Not a Problem?

Thursday, March 27th, 2014

Increasing public debt is bad for a number of reasons. Journalist Matthew Yglesias, speaking on vox.com, gives voice to a very different, very Pollyannish perspective: “Debt is just not a problem right now,” he says.

Why?

“The U.S. can never run out of dollars.” After all, the Fed can just print more.

That’s not an uncommon view where I live, near the center of privilege, Washington, D.C.

The video starts with an instruction: “Stop freaking out about the debt.” It sports nifty, simple graphics and comforting music. Matt Yglesias sounds convinced himself.

Nothing he says convinces me. But I’ll concentrate just on the frank inflationism.

Yglesias mentions inflation. But it’s obvious he means CPI numbers, even though he offers the short-hand “too much money chasing a fixed amount of stuff” definition to stand in for the “supply of money increasing faster than the demand for money” definition that I hear from competent economists.

But while he admits that price inflation can be a problem, what he is promoting is inflationism. That’s the doctrine that central bank fiddling with increases in the rate of money growth is the way to control the economy. And that it’s costless.

Like money cranks of the old days, he only sees the costs of not inflating the credit system.

It never enters into his ideologically-driven thoughts that maybe artificially lowering interest rates fakes out investors and consumers, getting them to make bad investments that destabilize relative prices that, when they unravel, wreak havoc.

Inflationists are folks who are always trapped by the cure they prescribe. We’re left with boom-bust forever and ever.

This is Common Sense. I’m Paul Jacob.