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Free Money

Wednesday, April 16th, 2014

If an email popped up offering free money, what would you do?

Delete it? And wonder how it got past your spam filter?

Me, too.

Well, some Washington wags — call them re-distribution professionals — say we’re crazy.

As are Republicans in the 19 states that have refused to expand their states’ Medicaid rolls as part of Obamacare, and in the five states — Indiana, New Hampshire, Tennessee, Utah and Virginia — still debating whether to do so.

Republicans are “rejecting what is more or less nearly free money from the federal government,” says a baffled Josh Barro of the New York Times.

Karen Finney, host of MSNBC’s Disrupt, sneers that these GOP-led states are “leaving money on the table.”

“It’s free money!” exclaims an exasperated Joan Walsh of Salon.com, adding that, “It’s stimulative money.”

Under Obamacare, the federal government first demanded and now urges states to expand the Medicaid rolls well beyond those at the poverty line, with our central government generously offering to pay the cost for the massive expansion fully for three years . . . and then 90 percent after that.

One local newspaper identified one major issue, trust: “The trademark of Obamacare is broken promises.”

Will the federal government keep paying nearly all the cost? In Virginia, before any expansion, Medicaid already accounts for nearly one out of every four dollars in state spending.

“This is another picture of how extreme this Republican Party has become,” according to Walsh, “that you had this organized backlash to taking money that once would have been a no-brainer.”

This is the new GOP extremism, refusing to be bought off?

It’s no vice.

This is Common Sense. I’m Paul Jacob.

Firefox Fired

Wednesday, April 9th, 2014

Brendan Eich resigned last week as CEO of Mozilla under pressure from gay rights activists upset because six years ago Eich had given a thousand bucks to California’s anti-gay marriage initiative, Prop 8.

On Fox News’s Special Report, George Will dubbed the story “redundant evidence that progressives are for diversity in everything but thought,” as well as an alarming illustration of the intolerance of “sore winners.”

Whatever one thinks of the campaign to drive out Eich (and a number of prominent gay leaders have spoken out against it), those demanding Eich’s ouster were within their legal rights. Still, such a political attack wouldn’t be possible without government assistance in denying donor anonymity. That’s the major lesson Mr. Will drew from the fracas: anonymous contributions are vital:

The people advocating full disclosure of campaign contributions say, “we just want voters to be able to make an informed choice.” That’s not what they’re doing at all. They really want to enable themselves to mount punitive campaigns, to deter people, and to chill political speech.

What’s wrong with today’s vendetta politics (what Pat Buchanan calls “The New Blacklist”) is not that boycotts are immoral, but that, when made personal and coupled with ideological conflict, they lead to never-ending feuds.

Anonymous speech and press and donations remain key to a peaceful society.

Advocates of mandatory campaign finance disclosure should be asked, “do you also, then, oppose the secret ballot?”

The privacy of the voting booth was also instituted to insulate people from the worst aspects of partisan discord . . . and commerce from the legacy of the Hatfields and McCoys.

This is Common Sense. I’m Paul Jacob.

Video: Why George Will Changed His Mind on Contribution Disclosure

Saturday, April 5th, 2014

There’s a lot in this discussion, about the Mozilla CEO’s past political contribution and the hysterical and retributive boycott by advocates of gay marriage. But consider, especially, what George Will says:

One Cheer for an IRS Man?

Thursday, April 3rd, 2014

I’m hesitating. But given the way many IRS honchos have too often behaved throughout the agency’s history, including today — yes, I’ll applaud Randolph Thrower for saying no to a President.

Thrower died in March at the age of 100 as the “IRS Chief Who Resisted Nixon.” He had headed the agency from 1969 to 1971, before getting fired for challenging the administration’s political hardball. Nixon henchman John Ehrlichman delivered the pink slip.

White House staffers were pressuring the IRS to audit various activists, journalists and congressmen. These were persons that Nixon felt deserved government harassment.

Too often, IRS officers have been all too eager to politicize tax procedures at the behest of those in power. Not Thrower. He may have been guilty of naïveté. When asking to meet with the President, he said he felt sure that Nixon knew nothing of the pressure coming from underlings and would repudiate “any suggestion of the introduction of political influence into the IRS.”

Thrower’s request for a meeting was denied. The record shows that Nixon soon demanded his removal and also that the next IRS commissioner be a “ruthless [s.o.b.].”

My problem with Randolph Thrower is his failure to say anything publicly about why he was fired. By speaking out, he might have prevented some of the evildoing the White House would perpetrate over the next several years.

He owed that much to his employer: us.

This is Common Sense. I’m Paul Jacob.

Why Homeschoolers Make Good Citizens

Wednesday, April 2nd, 2014

Horace Mann promoted the “common school” not primarily to increase literacy or prepare kids for college. No, the movement that gave birth to the modern public school system in America was designed to inculcate good citizenship by putting all kids through a “shared experience.”

A few years ago, Mann’s notion was re-iterated by a college professor in an essay called “The Civic Perils of Homeschooling.” Public schooling, he wrote,

is one of the few remaining social institutions . . . in which people from all walks of life have a common interest and in which children might come to learn such common values as decency, civility, and respect.

Are we really supposed to believe that public schools instill decency, civility, and respect?

In “Does Homeschooling or Private Schooling Promote Political Intolerance? Evidence from a Christian University,” Journal of School Choice: International Research and Reform, 8(1), Albert Cheng left bald assertions aside and conducted some research. He concluded that private schooling does not decrease social tolerance, and “those [college students] with more exposure to homeschooling relative to public schooling tend to be more politically tolerant.”

Why might this be the case? Cheng himself offered two possible reasons — greater self-actualization in homeschooling, and religious instruction — but I can think of others.

For one, public schools bring together many, many kids, but through regimentation and Mann’s desire for “shared experience,” the results tend toward more conformity, and bullying, and less tolerance.

Meanwhile, homeschoolers are doing something different than the crowd, and perhaps are that much more wiling to accept others doing their own thing, even if not the norm.

So, hooray for homeschooling! The cradle of liberty.

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.