This Is the Government We Pay For

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

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.

Townhall: Old Media Curses the Wind

Two American freedom fighters share April 13 as their birth date: Thomas Jefferson, author of the Declaration of Independence, and Jane Jacob, my mother. Happy Birthday to you both, Tom and Mom!

There, you have read the ending to my current Townhall column. Why not read the rest of it? Click on over. Then come back here for more reading:

Video: More Competitive Political Races?

Campaign finance regulation is in the news. Today’s video of former FEC Commissioner Brad Smith speaking to a Cato Institute audience about the impact of the Citizens United and Speech Now decisions is not news (a year old), but it is an important message, too seldom heard.

Smith argues that these court decisions have “made races more fluid” because “it is possible to get money into a political race much more quickly than used to be the case.” He recognizes that “most incumbent politicians tend to view that as bad.”

He points out that since the FEC (Federal Election Commission) was created in 1974, the incumbent spending advantage over challengers has grown from 1.5 to 1 to a whopping 4 to 1.

Smith also urges ending restrictions on contributing to political parties, which happened last week with the Supreme Court decision in McCutcheon v. FEC.

Next, let’s end the limits on what an individual can contribute to an individual candidate.

We’ll be talking more about that — right here at Common Sense.

Professor of Dumbocracy

“It’s not enough for governments to simply be democratic,” Oxford professor Stein Ringen recently wrote in the Washington Post, “they must deliver or decay.”

Deliver what, you ask?

Ringen isn’t clear — surprise, surprise — but attacks “Thatcherite inequality” — though, he admits it’s worse today in Great Britain than when Margaret Thatcher was prime minister (1979-1990). Why no progress to his apparent ideal of economic equality? According to Ringen, “concentrations of economic power . . . have become unmanageable.”

He advances the same analysis of U.S. “democracy,” claiming that power has been “usurped by actors such as PACs, think tanks, media and lobbying organizations.”

Think tanks are a problem?

Ringen doesn’t explain how these additional voices serve to undercut “democracy.” Instead, he simply hurls broadsides against our “mega-expensive politics,” warning that, “When money is allowed to transgress from markets, where it belongs, to politics, where it has no business, those who control it gain power to decide who the successful candidates will be — those they wish to fund — and what they can decide once they are in office.”

There is generally money on both or numerous sides of any given policy question. There is certainly no monolithic “they” constituting “the rich” who decide our public policy over tea at the club. Pretending there is won’t help democracy.

“It is a misunderstanding to think that candidates chase money,” writes the professor from his ivory tower. “It is money that chases candidates.”

Really? Ringen can easily test his hypothesis: run for office and wait for all that money to chase him down.

This is Common Sense. I’m Paul Jacob.

Maxine’s Ex-Im Brokerage

“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.


Firefox Fired

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.