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.

Sunday, April 11, 2010

You Can't Even Give It Away

Crossposted from
Original Editorial by HALC member Jeff Larson
Even your time doesn’t belong to you
Non-"For-Profit" Intern With Supervisor
Have you lost your job in the last year, or do you know someone else who has lost their job?  Most of us have…these are hard times.  When the economy gets tough, one strategy is to take an unpaid internship with an established business.  The reasoning goes something like this:  you’re not going to be working anyplace else for a while, and you’ve decided that you’re not going to have a job like your old one, for whatever reason.  But, you have no experience doing some new kind of work that you think you’d enjoy.   So, you talk someone into “hiring” you, working for nothing for a few weeks or months.  You get relevant experience and on-the-job training without paying for tuition, and your new “employer” gets to try you out for nothing.  He or she might even get some useful work out of you for nothing…or next to nothing, since you’ll be taking up time and space while you learn the business.  At the end of it all, you might even be able to parlay your internship into a paid position…good for you, since you are no longer unemployed.  It’s also good for your new employer, who gets to hire someone who already has a track record with the company, instead of some unknown who fails to live up to their resume.
So, in these precarious economic times, what could possibly be wrong with this arrangement?

Well, as reported in the New York Times, according to US Department of Labor Deputy Secretary Nancy Leppink, head of the Wage and Hour Division, “If you’re a for-profit employer or you want to pursue an internship with a for-profit employer, there aren’t going to be many circumstances where you can have an internship and not be paid and still be in compliance with the law.”

Huh?  There’s a law against this?  Well, according to Deputy Secretary Leppink, that would be 20 CFR 663; Section 203(e) of the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA), which you probably know better as the “minimum wage law”.  But, if you’re not getting anything, how can it be said that you’re actually working at a job?  The Department of Labor has developed six criteria to determine if you are a “trainee” or an “employee”.  All employees must be paid the minimum wage plus time and a half for any overtime.  (Apparently, they don’t have such a thing as a category for “volunteers” or even “wannabees”.)  And you’d better believe that you must meet all six criteria for being a “trainee”, or the Department of Labor will sue your “employer” to force him to pay you all the wages that you deserve.
What are the six criteria?  You can find them below or at this website:
  • The training, even though it includes actual operation of the facilities of the employer, is similar to what would be given in a vocational school or academic educational instruction
  • The training is for the benefit of the trainees
  • The trainees do not displace regular employees, but work under their close observation
  • The employer that provides the training derives no immediate advantage from the activities of the trainees, and on occasion the employer’s operations may actually be impeded
  • The trainees are not necessarily entitled to a job at the conclusion of the training period
  • The employer and the trainees understand that the trainees are not entitled to wages for the time spent in training
Let’s take the first one, the one that practically requires the employer to run a vocational school.  Have these people ever heard the phrase, “on the job training”?  Well, I’ve worked at a very highly skilled job as a NASA contractor, providing mission support to the Space Shuttle (and later the Space Station).  Before I could ever sit down at a console and strap on a headset, I had to read through over a thousand pages of manuals.  What did that qualify me to do, as a paid employee?  It allowed me to sit next to a “certified operator”, watch and listen to what he was doing, ask a lot of stupid questions, and not push any buttons.  I also got to do his scut work…check the log to see when this or that happened, find out the address of the command he was going to send, even adding up columns of figures (it had something to do with some spacecraft’s power budget).
They didn’t even trust me with getting coffee.  And I can assure you, that’s pretty much exactly how it went for every summer intern who was privileged enough to “sit console” with us…and most of them were thrilled at the opportunity to do so, even if they never came back to work “for real” for NASA.
My friends in other fields tell me that it pretty much goes the same way for interns at their businesses…run the numbers on the Faversham account to see if it’s worth keeping, go out with a line crew and take an inventory on the poles they are working on, stand on the corner of Main and Vine and do a traffic count between the hours of 9 and 11.  It is work, it’s generally scut work, it’s never mission critical (unless the employer is dumber than a rock), and if you ask any intern, they’d rather be doing that than sitting in a classroom learning about how to fill out a time card, or the intricacies of how to fill a foreign order without running afoul of Federal export regulations, or some other nonsense.  But for some reason, if it doesn’t look like a vocational school setting, to the Feds it isn’t training – and that means they have to pay you for it.
I suppose next employers will have to issue some sort of “Certificate of Training”, certifying that their intern trainee is now certified to, uh, actually do something in the industry.  Maybe that would even be something important, like not sexually harassing his or her co-workers, or knowing how to work in a drug-free workplace.  At least, that’s what the Feds seem to think that important employee training encompasses.  Failing that, the intern employee will have to be paid at least the minimum wage, with Social Security, unemployment benefits, and now health care.
So, if some unemployed person you know tries to get a leg up on a new career by working for nothing, don’t be surprised if they tell you that they hear, “No internship for you!

Wednesday, April 7, 2010

Today I was accused of wanting to suppress the vote

Here in Texas early voting for the primary election runoffs is going on, and I voted today.  There was exactly one race on my ballot, for Supreme Court Place 3.  (I won't say who I voted for, but I voted against the candidate endorsed by Alberto Gonzales.)  When I asked for a Republican ballot, the sweet little old poll worker asked me if I had a baseball bat in my car.  I asked, "No, why?"  She answered, "To beat voters with."  Now she was joking, but the joke clearly represented some long-held bias.  Forget the fact that her side has been much worse with voter intimidation recently, and that the Democratic Machine in Jefferson County doesn't exactly have a spectacular record on voting integrity.  The truth is that this is why Conservatives have to have the utmost integrity.  When Liberals cheat, their voters rationalize it as what's necessary to "do the people's work".  When Conservatives cheat, it's part of a sinister plot.  We have to be honest, we have to be fair, and we have to be civil, as Senator Tom Coburn has urged for.

Saturday, April 3, 2010

The Falklands: Let's Give Neutrality a Try

There's a new development in an old rivalry that has been well covered in this article by Doug Bandow on Tucker Carlson's excellent new website, The Daily Caller.  Argentina has reasserted its long-held claim to the Falkland Islands, and now both Argentina and Great Britain want the United States to take their side.  Great Britain has ruled the islands since the last war (and before) and they're calling in favors for supporting the US in Iraq and Afghanistan.  Combine that with the fact that the United States supported them in the previous Falklands Conflict, and they're sure that the United States should support them now.  Argentina has been a strong US ally in Latin America, remembers the old Monroe Doctrine, and thinks that should count for something.  Both have legitimate arguments, but they're not really strong enough.  The United States has no real interest in the Falklands, and stands nothing to with either ally controlling the islands.  We should stay completely, 100% neutral.  We shouldn't even make a verbal statement that we support one nation over the other.  Argentina has never attacked us.  Great Britain hasn't for 180 years or so.  Both are trading partners.  Both have some claim to the islands.  It's none of our business.

It's been a while since the United States tried neutrality, so we may not be very good at it.  But the Falkland Islands conflict offers us a way to baby-step our way back into it.  Who knows, maybe we'll like it.  If it works here, maybe we can try it in Korea, Japan, Iran, or maybe even Palestine.

Friday, February 26, 2010

The 3rd Texas Gubernatorial Debate

A 3rd Texas Republican Gubernatorial debate was filmed in secret and the footage released on the internet. The results are revealing. Here's the video:

Texas Gubernatorial Debate 3 from guerilla.effect on Vimeo.

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

The Significance of Debra Medina

Article by Junta Member Will, also on and The Red Pub Magazine.

The 2010 Texas Governor’s race is arguably the most influential race in America. Texas is the largest conservative leaning state in the union and this implies that if Texas sets a good example then states may be willing emulators.

I first met Debra back in 2007 while standing in for proper leadership of the grassroots movement in Beaumont. She gladly drove the long trek to help remedy our hopelessly deep ignorance of grass roots politics.

Though she was knowledgeable, it was clear that she was merely just one of us, not having anything remotely akin to political super powers or that larger-than-life verve politicians often have. The only thing obvious about her was her sincerity.

To those involved in the Season of the Fix, that is the 2008 Texas GOP Convention season, where the party was enabling and rewarding bad actors, it is easy to say that for Medina, and the Liberty movement in Texas, it was a tough time. Debra was handed defeat after defeat by the entrenched elements in the party, and even some dissent about tactics by friends. Yet all of that disappointment evidently only fastened her resolve.

After these defeats, and contrary to contemporary wisdom, she decided to run for Governor; she started by tapping into the remnant of the grass roots movement, and tirelessly meeting every group that would have her, and some that wouldn’t.

Early on her opponents monopolized the money in the race, however, she had cornered the grass roots energy.

As a candidate she has one strategy: simply be the most prepared to lead. This means being more educated on the topics and not relying on sacred rhetorical cows. She has a very developed intellectual model of governance; policy is a function of the model not the other way around. In her model: men are best when free, everything else follows. Thus, men must be able to secure freedom and keep the fruits of their labor, implying that a government’s reason for existence is to maximize freedom.

One must bear in mind the new candidates must endure the scrutiny of a million opinions; a million sets of ideas battling their way to the top in the unfettered intellectual market place of ideas in the coffee shops, pubs and KC halls of Texas.

I cannot conjure the word for the opposite of a bubble, but if there is one it surely describes where she has dwelt for the last year.

And, what has a year’s worth of campaigning and time spent under the lamp wrought? Medina has simply become the most Coherent Candidate in this race in Texas and, potentially, in the Nation.

All that said, it does not do service to why she is important, for she is so because she is the realization of a simple thesis: Does the Toiling Class, those whose living is not based on the redistribution of wealth, have a Right to elect their own candidates?

It could very well be that Medina is an idea whose time has come; showing that a mere citizen with purpose, can develop the talents needed to free themselves, that politics need not be held solely by the political elite, in fact that the power does belong to the people, that is, We Texans.

Monday, February 1, 2010

News Flash: Bank Bailout Created Moral Hazard

Someone at the Treasury is actually doing his job, and admits that TARP caused the big banks that took on too much bad debt in the past decade to get bigger and take on even more bad debt.

The government's response to the financial meltdown has made it more likely the United States will face a deeper crisis in the future, an independent watchdog at the Treasury Department warned.

The problems that led to the last crisis have not yet been addressed, and in some cases have grown worse, says Neil Barofsky, the special inspector general for the trouble asset relief program, or TARP. The quarterly report to Congress was released Sunday.

"Even if TARP saved our financial system from driving off a cliff back in 2008, absent meaningful reform, we are still driving on the same winding mountain road, but this time in a faster car," Barofsky wrote.

Since Congress passed $700 billion financial bailout, the remaining institutions considered "too big to fail" have grown larger and failed to restrain the lavish pay for their executives, Barofsky wrote. He said the banks still have an incentive to take on risk because they know the government will save them rather than bring down the financial system.

Barofsky also said his office is investigating 77 cases of possible criminal and civil fraud, including crimes of tax evasion, insider trading, mortgage lending and payment collection, false statements and public corruption.

Who could have possibly predicted this? Well, basically anyone that has read Economics in One Lesson. It's too bad that the smartest financial minds are more concerned with inventing new ways to defraud American consumers, investors, and taxpayers than sound economics.

Thursday, January 21, 2010

A Huge Win for Freedom

No, not Scott Brown. That remains to be seen.

The biggest win for freedom this week came today. Today, the Supreme Court ruled as the 1st Amendment is written, and overturned the part of the Incumbent Protection Act, known more commonly as McCain-Feingold, that said that only corporations that could spend money on media time to support a national candidate or issue were media corporations. The Supreme Court reversed precedent from the Progressive Era and said that 1st Amendment Freedom of Speech includes political speech by corporations. This ruling still has a major gap. Individual contributions are still limited to $2400 per year per candidate. Hopefully, this will be cleared up soon. If I want to mortgage my house and donate all of that money to Bill Richardson in hopes that he releases Roswell Files, I should be able to do that, and the First Amendment gives me that right. That right was extended to corporations by Dartmouth College v. Woodward in 1874, but it's been afforded to individuals since the 1st Amendment was ratified.