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Border Problems, Solutions?

Monday, July 14th, 2014

Bill Maher began the panel segment of his latest Real Time with Bill Maher episode taking on the “children at the border” problem. He identified the underlying cause: drug cartels.

His solution? Legalize all psychoactive drugs, particularly cocaine.

Wait a minute. The best response to a border crisis is to legalize drugs?

Seems orthogonal to the issue. “Out of left field.”

Which is not to say I don’t support legalizing drugs. But I try not to bring it up every discussion. Could Maher have drugs a tad too much on his brain?

Be that as it may or may not, for the facts I then turned to . . . Cato Institute.

Only to have the good folks at Cato back up Maher’s assertions.

On July 8, Ted Galen Carpenter, a Cato senior fellow, pinpointed the growth in drug cartels’ power in Central America as central to the whole issue. The drug cartels are “driving vulnerable populations northward to the United States to enhance their own profits.”

But the whole picture is more complicated.

A month earlier, Alex Nowrasteh, Cato’s immigration policy analyst, focused on two American border policies that “likely” and “unintentionally” incentivized “some of the migration and the smugglers that carry many of the migrants,” leading to the current debacle of thousands of unaccompanied minors now being housed — in poor conditions — in detainee centers.

True to form, Nowrasteh notes that “some American politicians who blame American law for the surge actually voted for that American law in the past.”

Which is more horrifying: The idea that politicians make things worse? Or that comedians make more sense than our elected representatives?

This is Common Sense. I’m Paul Jacob.

Losing with Obamacare

Tuesday, October 1st, 2013

Democrats and their many shills in the major media decry Republican intransigence and “absolutism” on the “settled matter” (un)popularly known as Obamacare. Yesterday, rather than give an inch to the House Republicans they accuse of intransigence, Senate Democrats voted to uphold the Affordable Care Act, including their own special exemption from it.

The House majority had been demanding the defunding of Obamacare as the price for keeping the government funded overall, but dropped that demand when Senate Democrats shook their heads No. Perhaps Republicans backpedalled because they surmised that they, not Democrats, would likely be blamed for the shut-down . . . Sen. Ted Cruz’s valiant efforts to re-define the debate notwithstanding.

Then Republicans downshifted, demanding a one-year delay in the implementation of Obamacare — granting to regular citizens, as Cruz puts it, the same solicitude Democrats have shown to big corporations — plus the deletion of a widely unpopular tax on medical devices and the repossession of Congress’s “Get-Out-of-Obamacare-Free” card.

Senate Democrats took less than half an hour to thumb their noses at the House, nixing all three provisions and leaving the federal government liable to partial shut-down. Obamacare, at least for the un-politically-connected, starts in earnest today!

Comedian Bill Maher is not alone in chiding Republicans for “refusing to admit” they “lost.”

Republicans, for their part, predict utter devastation from the reform bill’s implementation, and don’t see why the country should suffer from the Democrats’ intransigence.

If Tea Party-inclined Republicans do lose this battle and Obamacare’s bad results do pile up — increasing unemployment and depression, skyrocketing insurance rates, diminished private medical insurance rolls — would the Democrats concede that they’ve lost?

Or would they continue to think they’ve won?

This is Common Sense. I’m Paul Jacob.

Video: Decentralize the Schools

Saturday, June 29th, 2013

Too many people want to push America’s schools in the wrong direction. Neal McCluskey, of the Cato Institute, isn’t one of them:

Equally Unequal

Tuesday, November 20th, 2012

Two court cases come to our attention, courtesy of Cato’s Ilya Shapiro. Both involve the favoring of members of one group over another.

The Sixth Circuit ruled that a voter-approved amendment to the Michigan state constitution outlawing racial preferences in college admissions would violate the U.S. Constitution’s equal protection clause. The amendment states in part that Michigan public colleges and universities shall “not discriminate against, or grant preferential treatment to, any individual or group on the basis of race, sex, color, ethnicity, or national origin. . . .”

In his dissent, Judge Richard Griffin writes: “The post-Civil War amendment that guarantees equal protection to persons of all races has now been construed as barring a state from prohibiting discrimination on the basis of race.” Shapiro calls the decision Orwellian.

The other case involves California law banning sellers of eyewear who are not state-licensed optometrists and ophthalmologists from conducting eye exams and selling glasses at the same place of business. The law prevents national eyewear chains from competing effectively in California (since customers prefer to get their glasses and eye exams in one shop).

Cato joins an amicus brief urging the Supreme Court to take up the California case. Shapiro also says that because there are two conflicting lower-court decisions on the Michigan question, the Supreme Court is likely to add that case to its docket.

Let’s hope all further rulings are based on a clear-sighted respect for equal rights under the law.

This is Common Sense. I’m Paul Jacob.

Pest Control for Pesky Evidence

Wednesday, April 6th, 2011

Should courts be outlawed from thwarting outlaws?

The Environmental Protection Agency has acted to unilaterally ban a pesticide in use for decades. Writing for the Cato Institute’s blog, Ilya Shapiro notes that the agency’s move exemplifies “a growing trend among federal agencies and courts to incrementally expand the government’s enforcement power by adopting statutory interpretations that go beyond their plain meaning and intent.”

The pesticide is carbofuran, used to protect crops since 1969. What is the evidence that carbofuran poses a hitherto un-comprehended threat to human well-being? Federal law requires EPA to provide for a “notice and comment” period before altering an established legal threshold for pesticide residues on food. If “material issues of fact” are then raised, the agency must conduct a public evidentiary hearing. National Corn Growers indeed raised “material issues of fact” regarding the alleged hazards of carbofuran. So an evidentiary hearing is mandatory.

The DC Circuit ruled, however, that scientific disagreements are insufficient to trigger judicial review and that decisions about new residue tolerances should be left entirely to the EPA. If upheld, the decision means the agency could determine all by itself whether its regulatory actions are consistent with law. Even when they obviously aren’t.

Along with the National Corn Growers and other industry groups, the Cato Institute and Pacific Legal Foundation are challenging this latest assault on property rights and the rule of law — an assault you might even call a pestilence.

This is Common Sense. I’m Paul Jacob.

Fiasco Economics

Wednesday, April 28th, 2010

Every time a financial fiasco hits, politicians readily expand regulations. But what’s the point of adding to the regulatory barrage if it’s all just for show?

They studiously avoid asking the right questions:

  1. What previous regulations caused (or helped cause) the fiasco?
  2. What previous regulations that could have prevented the fiasco weren’t enforced?

Economist Gerald O’Driscoll, Jr., writing in the Wall Street Journal, adds a few notes of caution to the current regulation madness. Most regulatory bodies get “captured” by the businesses they regulate. A huge amount of research shows how supposedly anti-business regulations serve the interests of some businesses at the expense of their competitors.

It’s the crony capitalist equivalent to politicians making it harder for challengers using “campaign finance” regulations. Same game, different venue.

O’Driscoll also explains which regulations weren’t enforced prior to the recent meltdown — those against fraud. This form of regulation is not like the regs politicians usually propose. It’s basic rule of law, the government’s first responsibility.

And regarding Lehman Brothers, Goldman Sachs, and Bernie Madoff, government failed.

O’Driscoll argues that multiplying rules and regulations is not merely the wrong response, but a sorry repeat of the last century’s “great intellectual failure.” Pity, then, to see the current administration push just that.

Following this path will just lead to the same old recycling of the boom and bust cycle. Freedom and responsibility — where criminal fraud is actually fought by government, not encouraged — work better.

This is Common Sense. I’m Paul Jacob.

Where to Cut, and How

Friday, January 15th, 2010

State and local governments have been hard hit by the current depression. What to do?


But where?

Well, legislatures could simply repeal all increases and programs starting with the most recent, going back month by month, year by year to nix spending until total spending dips below current revenue. Legislatures around the country should go into sessions of repeal.

Or they could target endemic over-spending. According to a January Cato Institute Tax & Budget Bulletin, one area of over-spending in need of tackling is “Employee Compensation in State and Local Governments.”

According to the bulletin’s author, Chris Edwards, there are several distinct indicators that demonstrate that government workers are generally overpaid.

Comparisons of compensation between state and local workers and private sector workers show a 1.45 ratio, with government workers garnering nearly half again as much as private sector workers.

The percentage of government employees to receive benefit packages over salary is also significantly higher than private sector laborers.

Further, Edwards notes, “data show that the average quit rate in the state and local workforce is just one-third the rate in the private sector. This suggests that state and local pay is higher than needed to attract qualified workers.”

So, rational employers — that is, the citizenry — would start there, first by freezing wages and new hires, then by decreasing benefits and reining in profligate promises in retirement packages.

This is Common Sense. I’m Paul Jacob.