Monday, June 4, 2012

Bloated Bureaucracy is No Life Raft for California’s Sinking Ship

The so-called California Cancer Research Act up soon for a vote is a misnomer. According to the measure, funds collected from California taxpayers are allowed to be spent researching elsewhere, including other countries. In an already bankrupt state, the $735 million projected to be raised yearly by this new tax will not help balance the budget or do a thing to pay down the $10 billion deficit.
Thanks to a loophole spotted by the career politician behind this measure, it also defies California’s constitutional amendment requiring a portion of all new taxes go to schools. Cleverly, Proposition 29 will shortchange schools out of more than $300 million per year!
Proposition 29 provides for money to be wasted on government agencies completely unrelated to cancer research. The State Controller’s Office, the Secretary for Environmental Protection, the State Water Resources Control Board, and the Financial Information System for California will all get a piece of the bloated pie.
Furthermore, the proposition dedicates up to $110 million a year to be spent on new buildings and facilities when California already has the finest research facilities in the world! It also duplicates existing tobacco control programs by parroting what California has already funded, but adds clone organizations run by an entirely new set of bureaucrats.
Of course, an additional $22 million a year will go toward tobacco-related law enforcement, not crimes with real victims like murder, robbery, or rape.
Some of the provisions for the massive overhead written into this proposition include $15 million a year for six political appointees’ travel, benefits, and salaries. They will have the sole authority, with no oversight, to spend taxpayer money until the end of time.
This measure sets out to prove that it pays big to be a political appointee. Taxpayers pick up the tab for the meetings they attend. The CEO reserves the right to appoint other people (i.e. personal friends) with no oversight and pay their huge salaries, too. There is no limit for how large this bureaucracy can grow!
Perhaps the most sickening part of this maniacal proposition is that the state’s governor or legislature is forbidden to make changes or correct problems within the organization’s bloated, taxpayer-funded bureaucracy for 15 years—even in instances of blatant waste, fraud, and abuse.
If the proposition is approved by voters on June 5, the committee will be able to operate under its own rules, changing them as frequently as desired. The language of the measure explicitly states that grants can go to the organizations that employ the committee members! In an effort to address conflicts of interest issues, the measure plainly admits that it was created to accommodate conflicts of interest! Check it out at
There are many reasons Californians should vote against Proposition 29. Its authors hope voters do not look past the childlike argument, “Cancer is bad. Tobacco is bad. Curing cancer is good.” A deeper look into the wording of the measure reveals its true intention—the same-old-same-old political backscratching that put California into bankruptcy in the first place.
To add insult to injury, the same guy who thought it would be a good idea to dump his fiancée, Sheryl Crow, when she was diagnosed with cancer is on the Board of Directors of this mess, California’s latest tax money laundering scam. Let’s hope the state’s voters wise up and vote against Lance Armstrong’s misleading Proposition 29.

Monday, March 28, 2011

Getting Involved in Civil Wars – An Alternative History of America

In 1863, Abraham Lincoln’s reputation in Europe was failing. Much of the Europe saw him as a tyrant who ignored the rule of law, imprisoned political enemies, and turned a blind eye toward war crimes by his generals against the Southern rebels. That’s not saying that they supported the Confederacy. They were viewed as backwards, fighting to preserve antiquated slavery. The American Civil War was seen as an internal issue, of little concern for Europeans, and the North was winning. Everyone expected the United States to survive as a Republic, albeit with some changes. But then General Sherman started marching south. News of pillaging and burning of civilian homes, as well as rumors of executions and rape made it back to Europe. General Sherman gained a reputation similar to Attila the Hun or Genghis Kahn. The Confederate separatists were viewed as freedom fighters, not unlike the Colonials that won independence from England. All but the most adamant slavery opponents were won over to at least vocal support of the Confederate cause. Both the French and the English saw opportunity in this, and began to get involved. By supporting the Southern rebellion, they could weaken their new imperial rival with the support of many of their citizens.

England and France joined forces to attack United States cities from the sea.

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Short Post on Public Sector Unions

In regards to my last post:  Lest we forget, public sector unions use taxpayer money to lobby the government for taxpayer money, and use taxpayer money to bargain contracts for more taxpayer money.  Limits on this by government are perfectly reasonable.

Sunday, February 20, 2011

Public Sector Unions, Liberals, and Shared Sacrifice

Every time governments run into budget crises and cuts have to be made, liberals start talking about the need for shared sacrifice.  The idea is instead of cutting every government worker necessary to balance the budget, you cut some people to make up some of the shortfall, asking the remaining workers to take a cut to make up some of the shortfall, and raising taxes to make up the remainder.  The theory is that everyone shares in the pain.  This is all well and good, but when public sector unions get involved, one of those options is taken off the table.  The current situation in Wisconsin is emblematic of this.  Governor Scott Walker has a plan where no public sector workers would have to be laid off, and no taxes would have to be raised, if state and local workers just agree to contribute a reasonable amount to their generous pensions and healthcare.  If these reasonable cuts are not made, 6000 state and local workers will have to be laid off.  The unions have said that they would prefer the layoffs to having to take any cuts.  In states like California, where Governor Gray Davis was strongly supported by public sector unions, the budget gaps are almost all going to be made up layoffs.  Shared sacrifice be damned.

Saturday, January 8, 2011

The Mandate of the 112th Congress

This week, a new Congress has been sworn in (well, mostly), with higher expectations by conservatives than any Congress in at least 2 years.  And the first week has been full of a couple of  good things, and a lot of good symbolism.  One of the first things to happen was a reading of the Constitution on the floor of the House.  One of the first bills that the House will pass is a repeal of Obamacare.  A new House rule will require every bill to refer to the part of the Constitution where they were authorized, and other House rules will open up debate on amendments and expand floor debate in general.  I support all of these things, but I don't care that much.  While they are either small positive steps or good symbolism, they don't mean that much. 

We have a $14 Trillion national debt, and a $1.3 Trillion national deficit.  Japan and China, our two major creditors, are fighting their own fiscal issues, and have been unwilling or unable to buy very many of our bonds.  The deficit has been financed by major US banks buying Treasury bonds, with money borrowed from the Fed at 0.25% interest rate, and the Quantitative Easing by the Fed itself.  Both of these are inflationary measures with slow effects, because the money goes to the Government first.  The debt and the deficit is doing major harm to the economy.  Republicans have promised to cut $100 Billion in discretionary spending. Let's say that they do, and that the economy really starts to pick up steam, and grows by 3% in 2010 (increases tax receipts by about $65 Billion).  And lets say that Obama has a rare fit of sanity and brings all the troops home from Iraq and Afghanistan (saves $100 Billion).  Even with all of that, and the wailing and gnashing of teeth from the media about lost medical science grants and bridges falling down and dumb children who can't learn without grants from the Department of Education, we'd still have $1 Trillion deficit.

And you can't solve the problem with taxes either.  It is unlikely that the new Congress will recommend any tax increases (even those that involve lower, simpler tax rates, like Reagan signed into law), but even if so, the historical revenue limit says that would be limited to about 19% of GDP, and they're about 17% of GDP now.  So the maximum increase in tax receipts would be about $300 Billion.  If they did all of that, plus the reductions in spending mentioned above, there's still a $700 Billion deficit, and it's getting worse with every retired baby boomer.  A country with a $14 Trillion debt and a $700 Billion deficit is in better shape than one with a $1.3 Trillion deficit, but it is still headed for default.

The new Republican-led house must pass major reforms to get the country's checkbook in order.  They must get Social Security and especially Medicare on the table.  They must start talking about things like Medicare vouchers, and admitting to baby boomers that they won't be able to give them what was promised.  This won't be easy, but with everyone from Ron Paul to Paul Ryan to Paul Volcker talking about the dire situation of the national debt (in Paul Krugman bizarroland, we need a bigger deficit and I don't know what RuPaul thinks), it is possible.  It will take compromise, but any compromise must still lead to financial solvency. 

To the 112th Congress, I must say that I like the talk so far, and I like the symbolism.  But if the American people wanted great talk and symbolism, we would have elected Glenn Beck and Lee Greenwood.  Let's see some results.

Monday, December 13, 2010

Let the Bush Tax Cuts Expire

I'm not for raising income tax rates.  I'm almost never for raising any taxes.  If a government entity really doesn't have enough money, and they can't raise enough money with bake sales to build their bombs, roads, sewers, or schools, then maybe, but that instance is so rare that it's not really worth discussing. 

Besides that, letting the Bush tax cuts expire is counterproductive.  Raising taxes on just the rich from 35% to 39.6% would increase revenue little, if any.  The wealthy have the most elastic wages of all income groups.  If you raise taxes on someone living paycheck-to-paycheck, you can get more revenue, because not only will they have to pay the taxes, they will have to work more to make up the lost income.  The wealthy are much more likely to be in a position to choose whether or to absorb the hit, increase their income (through working more or whatever) to make up for it, or reduce their income due to the reduced incentive.  A 4.6% tax increase wouldn't reduce incentives for very many wealthy people, but the marginal ones might make a difference in this recession.

All that being said, the Republicans in Congress should let Bush tax cuts expire.  Basically, the agreement has been to extend the Bush tax cuts by two years, spend a lot of Federal dollars on stimulus measures that the President has wanted for some time, and add enough pork to buy off enough Democratic Congresscritters to get it passed.  This isn't a good deal.  Republican voters should demand more.  Sure, taxes will go up January 1, but if the newly-elected Republican House gets on it and passes a better tax bill immediately, workers might only see the taxes for one paycheck.  If only there were a ready-made tax plan that reduced rates for almost everyone, would have a stimulative effect on the economy, and reduced the deficit...

... Oh yeah, the plan from the President's Debt Commission.  In a rare fit of sanity, the White House appointed a debt commission that ended up recommending a flatter income tax system with tax brackets of 9%, 15%, and 24%, and a corporate income tax rate reduced from an insane 35% to a still uncompetitive, but less onerous 24%.  It'll increase revenue by including capital gains as income, and significantly reducing the number of deductions, but almost every taxpayer will end up taking home more.  Also, it would greatly simplify tax returns.  What's not to like?  It has the backing of a bipartisan group from Tom Coburn to Dick Durbin, and the President even supports it.  (My guess is only because he commissioned it, but I don't know.)  House Republicans should be able to pass it as a package with an up-or-down vote, with no pork, and while the Senate may need to buy off some votes with pork, it won't be the crapfest that the Bush tax cut extension has become.  Let's see if Republicans have learned their lesson.

Friday, October 29, 2010

How the new Republican Congress can work with President Obama

Wednesday morning, we will wake up to a House of Representatives and potentially a Senate taken over by Republicans.  Republicans have opposed all of the unpopular programs that President Obama has promoted and will be rewarded by the American people.  Democrats and the liberal talking point repeaters have reminded everyone that will listen over and over that opposition to unpopular programs is not governing, and a Republican-majority Congress will have to govern.  They're right.  But it should be noted that the American people are not sending this new Congress to add Federal programs and laws and regulations, they're sending them to cut the Federal government and repeal laws and regulations.  This election is a mandate to increase freedom.  But with divided government, to make those cuts and repeal those laws and regulations, it will take bipartisanship.  Speaker Boehner (or whoever) will have to work with President Obama, Democrats in the Senate (even if Republicans do take back the Senate, it will be narrow), and probably some House Democrats.  To get this started on the right foot, I have a simple proposal:  Make the cuts that the Democrats ask for first.  Go to the President, and Democrats in Congress, and ask for a list of government programs and bureaucracies to cut (whole or partial), and laws and regulations to repeal.  Everything should be on the table.  Make those cuts first.  This won't be enough, but it will be a start, and a start on the right foot.  If Republicans let Democrats take some credit for the low-hanging fruit cuts, they should be more willing to work with Republicans when the cuts get harder.  The current fiscal and economic mess is a hole that was dug in a bipartisan fashion.  We'll need bipartisanship to get out of it.

Monday, May 17, 2010

Oil Sands Pipeline

My letter to the Beaumont Enterprise editor:
The Texas Sierra Club is trying to make political hay of the Horizon disaster in the Gulf, and use the public sentiment to block a pipeline project that is necessary for the continued economic growth in Southeast Texas. TransCanada's Keystone XL pipeline will bring synthetic and blended synthetic Canadian Crude Oil extracted and upgraded from Oil Sands to Nederland for use in local refineries. Currently the local refineries rely heavily on oil received from Mexico and Venezuela. Since these countries have nationalized their energy sectors, their production has been on a steady decline, and must be replaced with a more reliable source. The Canadian crude oil intended for Texas markets will be upgraded and/or blended to be as clean as or cleaner than the Mexican and Venezuelan crudes that they replace to ensure that the refineries can use them. Without this Canadian oil, some the refineries that thousands of Southeast Texans depend on for jobs may be at risk.

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Ron Paul vs. Barack Obama Poll

There are no details right now, but the Drudge Report is reporting a poll that says that if the 2012 Presidential Election were held today, and the candidates were Ron Paul and Barack Obama, 41% would vote for Paul, 42% for Obama.  Now, I hope libertarians and traditional conservatives can unite behind a younger and better (mostly just younger) candidate, but this is encouraging.  Despite all attempts to marginalize it, freedom is popular.

Monday, April 12, 2010

A Libertarian Debate on Slavery and Tyranny

A really interesting debate has been going on between a couple of the contributors from Reason.  It started with an article by Future of Freedom Foundation founder Jacob Hornberger where he laments the loss of freedom since the country's founding.  In response, Cato executive Vice President David Boaz, writes about the great strides in freedoms that women, minorities, and non-property owners.  Hornberger responds that while he certainly should have mentioned slavery and Jim Crow, the federal government had little to no role in most activities by citizens in say the 1880s.  Boaz responds that because the antebellum South based its entire economy on slavery, it can't just be a caveat to a celebration of the freedom, and that women and minorities still weren't very free in those 1880s.  That's where it stands right now, but I hope it goes a couple more rounds.

It's a great debate to have, and it's the kind of substantive civil debate that seems to only happen among great libertarian minds.  Were we freer as a whole when only white men were completely free and the government was less oppressive?  Or are we freer as a whole today with a more oppressive government, but with de jure discrimination almost completely eliminated?  I don't know where I stand completely, except that I firmly believe that the fact that the United States were founded on the idea of liberty and justice for all led to the abolition of slavery in the West.  I think that should be remembered when we try to judge the founding fathers.