On Monday, the National Journal reported that "documents filed by other groups show that two labor organizations, the International Union of Operating Engineers and the Laborers' International Union of North America, directed a combined $400,000 to the Republican group [the Defending Main Street super PAC] in September and October."
The Defending Main Street super PAC was organized at the end of 2012 by former Congressman Steve LaTourette (R-OH), and has very publicly declared war on the Tea Party. It is affiliated with and has offices at the same location as the Republican Main Street Project, which LaTourette currently heads and which former Congressman Tom Davis (R-VA) led from 2009 to 2012.
The group will not be required to file its first financial report with the Federal Election Commission until January 15, 2014, but earlier press reports indicate that it claims to have already raised $4 million of a planned $8 million to defeat Tea Party candidates in Republican primaries.
In October, LaTourette told the National Journal that "we'll go into eight to ten races and beat the snot out of them [Tea Party candidates] . . . We're going to be very aggressive and we're going to get in their faces."
Tea Party activists around the country were not surprised that the Republican establishment has enlisted the financial support of unions in their efforts to defeat limited government policies. Ben Cunningham, founder of the Nashville Tea Party, told Breitbart News on Monday "this confirms our belief that Washington, D.C. is about one thing and that is power. Whatever method will allow those in D.C. to keep power will be used."
Image source: Buildingoneamerica.org
Recent years have convinced me that republicans don't care all that much about spending. They remain spending kittens compared to the democrat spending sabertooth tigers, though.
Republican and Democratic negotiators are expected to agree to a budget deal this week setting spending levels for 2014. The Washington Post says that the deal will amount to “little more than a cease-fire.”
However, the deal being described in media reports would be much worse than a cease-fire for Republicans, at least for fiscally conservative Republicans. That’s because the Budget Control Act of 2011 and related sequester have started bearing fruit and are currently providing substantial discretionary spending control. Yet Republican leaders are apparently planning to throw it away in return for revenue increases and paltry spending trims.
In theory, Republicans have the upper hand in budget talks because current law specifies that discretionary spending will be modestly reduced in 2014 to $967 billion. Republicans always claim that they are for spending restraint, and here they just need to hold firm on current-law budget caps to save serious money over time.
However, the Post story indicates that the GOP may agree to scrap the budget cap for 2014 and spend up to $1.015 billion in return for a tiny cut to federal pensions and a revenue increase, possibly from auctioning radio spectrum.
That would be a giant cave-in because a precedent will have been set. The next decade of savings from current-law budget caps would be in jeopardy. If Republican leaders up-end the budget caps this year, they will empower big-spending Democrats, liberal Republicans, and appropriators to completely blow up the caps in later years.
A $48 billion cap overrun this year could set the stage for spending hundreds of billions of dollars more over the coming decade. That would be snatching defeat from the jaws of 2011’s modest budget victory.
K. William Watson
I would like to second Simon Lester’s ambivalent endorsement of the trade agreement reached by WTO members in Bali last week. Despite cheers from governments and embarrassingly unrealistic claims of economic value, the new WTO agreement on trade facilitation is hardly something for free traders to get super-excited about.
There was some excitement, however, when a bit of last-minute diplomatic drama at the talks threatened to derail everything. Cuba, it turns out, had some genuine demands for actual trade liberalization and indecorously refused to be ignored. As reported by Inside U.S Trade [$]:
Cuba and three other Latin American countries – Bolivia, Venezuela and Nicaragua – had withheld consensus from the so-called Bali package consisting of a trade facilitation agreement as well as agriculture and development components.
Specifically, Cuba had refused to endorse the package until its demands were met for a provision in the trade facilitation deal that would prevent countries from applying discriminatory measures to goods in transit. This was aimed at counteracting a part of the U.S. trade embargo that prevents ships that engage in trade in Cuban ports from unloading cargo in the U.S. for 180 days thereafter.
After Cuba’s demands on trade facilitation came to the fore as the last outstanding issue on the evening of Dec. 6, WTO Director-General Roberto Azevedo held consultations throughout the night with the U.S. and Cuban delegations until 6 am. At that point, the two sides agreed to compromise language to address Cuba’s demands, according to an informed source.
The compromise language consists of one sentence in the Bali ministerial declaration that appears immediately after a sentence adopting the trade facilitation deal. It states: “In this regard, we affirm that the non-discrimination principle in Article V of the [General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade] 1994 remains valid.”
This “compromise” means that the U.S. takes on no new obligations, and the embargo remains as is. Cuba wasn’t looking for an end to the embargo with its demands, merely recognition that this one small component of the embargo violates the brand new, U.S.-approved WTO rules.
It’s difficult to imagine, however, that the process could have worked out any differently. If there’s one thing that’s clear about the new WTO package at this point, it’s that the deal will not have any meaningful impact on U.S. trade policy.
Something is amiss when the global trading system’s achievements depend on the United States convincing Cuba and Venezuela to stop demanding freer trade.
No introduction necessary.
You and Tatertot Tim have stumbled, if that’s the correct word, onto something having more repercussions of which we “resistant-starchers” may be aware. The following is of course anecdotal, strictly an N=1 experiment.
Some relevant background: I am 61 years old, weigh 240 pounds (still obese but 60 pounds less so), and my menu is 99% very-low carb, less than 20 gm/day. In the past I ate sugar and its variants with abandon, to the point of gluttony; I love the stuff. As a result I had very high blood pressure and I was on the verge of becoming a full-blown T2 diabetic. My sugar cravings are now under control, my blood pressure is way down, the diabetes threat is non-existent, and blah, blah, blah, you know the story. However, a couple of things have continued to bother me.
Diarrhea has been a curse for many years, due no doubt to my pre-paleo menu, and any amount of sugar would result in an impressive blood glucose spike with an attendant spike in my blood pressure. Even if I spent the day completely avoiding carbohydrates, a single cookie or sliver of pie would result in the spikes and a bad night in bed with heartburn and small regurgitations of stomach contents. It’s been this way for the past few years.
Until your posts about resistant starches...
I have a degree in geology—part of my course of study was paleoarcheology—and I have been interested in our evolutionary ancestors’ diet since those days forty years ago, though I’m more a dilettante than an actual student of the subject. Your post on resistant starches, like Mark Sisson’s book Primal Blueprint, opened doors in my mind that had heretofore been invisible. I immediately saw the implications on blood glucose, the gut biome, etc., including the reason why a lot of people, such as modern “primitives,” can eat primarily fruits and such with no apparent ill effect. (The fiber content, supposedly blunting the sugar effect, has never fully explained, to me, the lack of damage that might be caused by a fruit diet. Are there resistant starches in fruit? Is there such a thing as a resistant sugar?)
I immediately purchased two bags of potato starch. I have been using milk kefir for many months and while it did reduce the diarrhea, the problem was not cured. Adding your proposed two tablespoons of potato starch twice per day helped a bit more but the curse persisted. The almost immediate effect of the potato starch though was the blunting of my blood glucose spikes if I ate any sugar. Another effect was a minor lowering of my blood pressure.
I have a self-imposed upper limit of 90 mg/dL (5 mmol/L) blood glucose. If it rises above that I get mad, obsessively tracking down the reason. I feel really, really good when my blood glucose stays between 73 and 80 mg/dL (4 to 4.4 mmol/L). Pre-paleo my blood pressure was in the area of 140/105 mmHg, post-paleo the pressure had stayed around 118/80 mmHg. About a week after starting potato starch my blood pressure dropped to an average of 113/75 mmHg and my blood glucose averaged 80 mg/dL (4.4 mmol/L) daily. But, as I said, my diarrhea continued to be a problem.
The Monday before Thanksgiving I got pissed off about my diarrhea situation and decided to double the dosage of the potato starch. That morning I put four tablespoons of starch in my usual pint of kefir and again Monday night before I went to bed. And Tuesday and Wednesday. Thursday, Thanksgiving Day, no more diarrhea; and the problem has not returned in the 2 1/2 weeks since.
Now to the point of this story. On Thanksgiving Day I ate cornbread dressing, ONE roll with butter, and a SLIVER of pumpkin pie with whipped cream. My blood glucose did spike of course but not as high as my history indicates. I figured it was one of those anomalies one gets from day-to-day and ignored the reduced numbers (four measurements over four hours). What did get my attention was sleeping soundly that night with no regurgitations at all; I slept the entire night, not awakening once.
Damned interesting that, and my attention was heightened. I’ve continued the protocol of 8 tablespoons of potato starch—4 in morning and 4 before bed—since Thanksgiving, wondering whether or not I’d meandered into something meaningful but I couldn’t figure out how to test it. Two days ago, Friday, Dec. 5, I decided to just do my usual stupid act of a full-speed-ahead experiment. I fixed a large amount of white rice, about three cups, and ate the entire amount. This meal should have put me in a light coma, spiking my blood sugar into the heavens and elevating my blood pressure. Well, my blood glucose did of course rise but only to a max of 140 mg/dL (7.8 mmol). My blood pressure did rise but since I didn’t log it I can’t report the number but it didn’t go as high as I expected. Friday night I slept like a dead man, rising only once to urinate but immediately returning to sleep, and NO regurgitation.
Okay cool, fine, I’m onto something maybe. Now for an acid test; lets really stress this N=1 theory. Yesterday, Friday, Dec. 6, I went to the grocery store and purchased a large-ish chocolate bar, a package of Nabisco’s Fig Newtons, and a small bag of sugar cookies. After returning home I settled into my chair, turned the TV to one of those bad, but hilarious, science fiction movies wherein a beast is killing young people and the lone survivor is a 110 pound, axe-wielding teenage girl, and proceeded to eat the chocolate, one sleeve of the Fig Newtons, and the whole bag of Snickerdoodle cookies. I then waited for the consequences.
Over six hours my blood glucose peaked at 160 mg/dL from 78 mg/dL (4.3 to 8.9 mmol) and my blood pressure went from 105/69 to 136/88 mmHg. Whoa! The BG should have gone to the moon and the BP should have popped an artery like an overfilled balloon. One weird thing though, my head felt inflated as if it were indeed a balloon; a really strange sensation. I did fall asleep but I didn’t pass out as I would have in the past. (Unfortunately I cannot report the number of pieces into which the teenage heroine chopped the beast.) My stomach was not happy of course but I wasn’t suffering the usual torments either, another really weird non-event. Of course I didn’t eat anything for the rest of the day until bedtime when I drank a pint of kefir with four tablespoons of potato starch.
Now for the final act. I went to bed last night at midnight, expecting a really tough night. The amount of sugar and flour and bad, cheap oils I had eaten should have put me through unmitigated hell, Dante’s Third Ring as it were. I should have lain there for a couple of hours with heartburn, eventually falling asleep but awakening after an hour with a mouthful of stomach acid. In the past I would have brushed my teeth, drank a potion of water and baking soda to alleviate the acid stomach, and fallen back into a restless sleep. But not last night. I was asleep within minutes, even after having napped for a couple of hours, and didn’t awaken until 7:00 this morning. I did not have the usual heartburn, I was fully rested, and the usual morning-after bout of diarrhea was absent. My stomach is still somewhat annoyed but what does one expect after such goings on?
The really big news though is my blood glucose this morning was only 78 mg/dL (4.3 mmol), my blood pressure was at 103/65 mmHg, and my resting heart rate was 67 bpm. Genuinely startling numbers in light of my history. There is definitely something else occurring with the resistant starch protocol other than helping the gut biome. If the good bugs are way down in the colon and the spiking of insulin/blood glucose starts in the stomach or the mouth, why did my various numbers stay low? Why did my usual heartburn stay away, allowing a restful sleep? Obviously a high population of good gut bugs effects the entire body but I cannot connect the dots of a healthy colon and bad food in the mouth or stomach.
Regardless, whatever is going on, my life has gotten much better thanks to your posts on resistant starch. I sleep very well, my blood glucose stays in the 70 – 80 mg/dL (3.9 – 4.4 mmol), my blood pressure is usually around 105/65 mmHg, and the diarrhea has disappeared, all in just three weeks of a large intake of a resistant starch. Simply amazing and astounding and all the other synonyms.
My kefir protocol.
Shake/mix/blend well and allow it to sit for 20 minutes to let everything get soaked or dissolved or whatever. (Immediate ingestion doesn’t seem to do have much effect in the gut except impressive flatulence. For me, allowing the mix to sit for a while eliminates the flatulence. NB: I have been using the starch for several months so reduced flatulence may be due to my gut bugs having acclimated but if I drink the mix without the suggested soaking time I will sing a different tune. This fact is very important at night. Sweet Thang, on some matters, is so narrow-minded she can look through a keyhole with both eyes.)
Mix well, etc.
Thanks for your blog,
Nothing left to say. Your turn. Please share it. You never know who might be helped, a life veritably saved...just because you did, right in time and on time. ...And to get caught up, here's all the many posts on Resistant Starch.
Would a free society be a crime-free society? We have good reason to anticipate it.
Don’t accuse me of utopianism. I don’t foresee a future of new human beings who consistently respect the rights of others. Rather, I’m drawing attention to the distinction between crime and tort — between offenses against the state (or society) and offenses against individual persons or their justly held property. We’re so used to this distinction, and the priority of the criminal law over tort law, that most of us don’t realize that things used to be different. At one time, an “offense” that was not an act of force against an individual was not an offense at all.
What happened? In England, the early kings recognized that the administration of justice could be a cash cow. So they grabbed on and never let go. As a result, the emphasis shifted to punishment (fines and imprisonment) and away from restitution (making victims or their heirs as whole as possible).
Liberty-minded people should regret this change. Yet again, the ruling elite exploited the people. It needed wealth to buy war materiel and allegiance, so it took it by force from the laboring masses, and corrupted the justice system in the process.
In The Enterprise of Law, Bruce Benson explains that before the royal preemption, customary law prevailed in England. One feature of this spontaneous order was that
offenses are treated as torts (private wrongs and injuries) rather than crimes (offenses against the state or the “society”). A potential action by one person has to affect someone else before any question of legality can arise; any action that does not, such as what a person does alone or in voluntary cooperation with someone else but in a manner that clearly harms no one, is not likely to become the subject of a rule of conduct under customary law.
Benson also notes that
prosecutorial duties fall to the victim and his reciprocal protection association. Thus, the law provides for restitution to victims arrived at through clearly designed participatory adjudication procedures, in order to both provide incentives to pursue prosecution and to quell victims’ desires for revenge.
In such a system of law, one was not likely to see “offenses” without true victims. Since cooperation through reciprocity is key to the success of customary law, the system is likely to be kept within narrow libertarian-ish limits. (Also relevant is John Hasnas’s paper “Toward a Theory of Empirical Natural Rights” [PDF].)
This arrangement worked out fairly well — until would-be rulers, who needed money to finance wars of conquest and buy loyalty by dispensing tax-funded jobs, discovered that there was gold to be had in the administration of justice.
Anglo-Saxon kings saw the justice process as a source of revenue, and violations of certain laws began to be referred to as violations of the “king’s peace.” Well before the Norman conquest , outlawry began to involve not only liability to be killed with impunity but [quoting historians Frederick Pollack and Frederick Maitland] “forfeiture of goods to the king.”
The idea of the “king’s peace” started small but eventually expanded to all of society. The incentive was obvious. “Violations of the king’s peace required payment to the king,” Benson writes. As customary law was co-opted by the crown, the concept felony, arbitrariness in punishment, and imprisonment came to the administration of “justice.” The people were not pleased with the shifting focus from victims to king and his cronies, so they had to be compelled to cooperate.
For example, royal law imposed coercive rules declaring that the victim was a criminal if he obtained restitution before he brought the offender before a king’s justice where the king could get his profits. This was not a strong enough inducement, so royal law created the crimes of “theftbote,” making it a misdemeanor for a victim to accept the return of stolen property or to make other arrangements with a felon in exchange for an agreement not to prosecute.
Benson sums up
By the end of the reign of Edward I , the basic institutions of government law had been established, and in many instances older custom had been altered or replaced by authoritarian rules to facilitate the transfer of wealth to relatively powerful groups. “Public interest” justifications for a government-dominated legal system and institutions must be viewed as ex postrationalizations rather than as ex ante explanations of their development.
Thus the criminal justice system as we know it is a product of state arrogation and a repudiation of individualism. This perverse approach to law was inherited by the representative democracies that succeeded the absolute monarchies in England and then America.
For reasons too obvious to need elaboration, a system of justice aimed at restitution makes eminently good sense. Someone is wronged, so the perpetrator should, to the extent possible, make things right. (In the case of murder, the victim’s heirs would have a monetary claim against the killer; in the case of an heirless victim, the claim could be homesteaded by anyone who puts the effort into identifying and prosecuting the killer.)
At the same time, the principle of restitution undercuts the case for punishment, correction, and deterrence as objectives of the justice system. The point isn’t to make perpetrators suffer or to reform them or to make potential perpetrators think twice. What good are these for the present victim? Correction and deterrence may be natural byproducts of a system of restitution, but they are not proper objectives, for where could a right to do more than require restitution come from?
Violence is so destructive of the conditions required by a community that facilitates human flourishing that its use is justifiable only when necessary to protect innocent life or to make victims whole. Thus it cannot be legitimate to use force to punish, reform, or deter. (Private nonviolent acts — for example, shunning — can have a proper role here. Also, a perpetrator who demonstrates that he is a continuing threat might legitimately be confined for reasons of self-defense.)
Punishment is wrong, Roderick Long writes, because “after all, we do not think that those who violate others’ rights accidentally should be made to suffer; but the only difference between a willing aggressor and an accidental aggressor lies in the contents of their thoughts — a matter over which the law has no legitimate jurisdiction.” (To my knowledge, Randy Barnett is the first libertarian of our era to lay out the case for a restitution-only system of justice.)
As Gary Chartier concludes in Anarchy and Legal Order, “Because there is no warrant for executions or punitive fines, and no warrant for restraint (which need not involve imprisonment) except as a matter of self-defense and the defense of others, there is no need for the distinctive institutions and practices of the criminal justice system.”
In a free society, crimes against person and property would be treated like torts. This would be a welcome change in a society that imprisons more people than any other, often for nonviolent and victimless “crimes.”
This column originally appeared at the Future of Freedom Foundation.
If you thought the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF) couldn't stoop any lower, you'd be wrong. The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel reports that the agency responsible for setting off the events that led to Waco and were at the center of the Fast and Furious gun-walking scandal are using mentally disabled teenagers to advertise businessess that are actually fronts for ATF sting operations.
The Journal Sentinel's expose leads with the tale of Aaron Key, a 19-year-old stoner whose mind is not quite all there. The ower of a head shop in Portland, Oregon, befriended Key and his friends online and then paid them to get neck tattoos advertising "Squid's Smoke Shop."
He and his friend, Marquis Glover, liked Squid's. It was their hangout. The 19-year-olds spent many afternoons there playing Xbox and chatting with the owner, "Squid," and the store clerks.
So they took the money and got the ink etched on their necks, tentacles creeping down to their collarbones.
It would be months before the young men learned the whole thing was a setup. The guys running Squid's were actually undercover ATF agents conducting a sting to get guns away from criminals and drugs off the street.
The tattoos had been sponsored by the U.S. government; advertisements for a fake storefront.
The teens found out as they were arrested and booked into jail.
Earlier this year, when the Journal Sentinel reported on an ATF sting operation in Milwaukee involving a "low IQ" informant, authorities wrote it off as an isolated act of rogue agents. The Journal Sentinel documents at least half-a-dozen stings from around the country that use the same "rogue" tactics of creating fake storefronts and using low IQ people to set stings in cities such as Pensacola, Florida, Albuquerque, New Mexico, and Wichita, Kansas.
"There is enough crime out there, why do you have to manufacture it?" said Jeff Griffith, a lawyer for a defendant in Wichita. "You are really creating crime, which then you are prosecuting. You wonder where the moral high ground is in this."
Apart from the moral issues (which are huge enough), there's a question of whether such operations are worth a damn in terms of serious collars:
In Albuquerque, for example, a man who was twice indicted on first-degree murder charges, once for killing a man in prison, was later busted in a storefront sting for being a felon in possession of weapon.
But in many cases examined by the Journal Sentinel, the people charged in the stings had minor criminal histories or nonviolent convictions such as burglary or drug possession.
In several of those cases, defendants still got stiff sentences, but others resulted in little or no punishment. In Wichita, nearly a third of the roughly 50 federal cases charged led to no prison time. Defendants got probation or had their case dismissed, records showed. One was acquitted by a jury.
Not the results federal agents typically trumpet.
In the case of Aaron Key and Marquis Glover, the judge handling the cases was puzzled over the ATF's decision to cajole the teens (who were ultimately convicted of crimes that were enabled by the government) into getting tattoos.
In federal court, a prosecutor who handled several of the ATF cases, including Key's, tried to explain to a judge why the agents employed the tactic.
The agents said they thought Key and Glover were testing them to see if they were law enforcement, Assistant U.S. Attorney Scott Kerin said in a January 2012 sentencing hearing.
Key and Glover supposedly did this by suggesting they all smoke marijuana.
Kerin said the agents then proposed Key and Glover get tattoos as a way to get them off their trail.
The explanation didn't make sense to U.S. District Judge Michael Mosman, a former federal prosecutor.
"I guess I don't make the connection," Mosman said. "They're concerned that if, among other things, they don't smoke marijuana with this guy that they'll be given up as law enforcement, so they think a way to derail that is to suggest that he get a tattoo?"
Kerin tried again to explain.
"Mr. Key and Mr. Glover were trying to identify them as law enforcement or possibly testing to determine if they were law enforcement."
The judge cut in: "I think I understand that part. I just don't understand why you put someone off your trail by suggesting they get a tattoo. How does that help?"
The judge ordered the ATF to pay for the removal of Key's tattoo.
Read the whole story, which details both how the ATF sets up fake businessess and the paltry results such efforts get in terms of doing anything about fighting criminal activity. And then ask yourself (and maybe your law enforcement and political representatives) just how bad does the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives have to be before it's finally disbanded?
For more Reason on ATF failings, click here.
Reminder: Gallup finds a record-high percentage of Americans (60 percent), especially those who identify as political independents (65 percent), think the government has too much power. Any questions?
Back in October, Reason TV reported on how Riverside County, California cops tricked an autistic kid into selling pot as part of a sting operation.
… is from pages 421-422 of Deirdre McCloskey’s stupendous 2010 volume, Bourgeois Dignity:
If bourgeois dignity and liberty are not on the whole embraced by public opinion, in the face of the sneers by the clerisy and the machinations of special interests, the enrichment of the poor doesn’t happen, because innovation doesn’t. You achieve merely through a doctrine of compelled charity in taxation and redistribution the “sanctification of envy,” as the Christian economist the late Paul Heyne put it. The older suppliers win. Everyone else loses. You ask God to take out two of your neighbor’s eyes, or to kill your neighbor’s goat. You work at your grandfather’s job in the field or factory instead of going to university. You stick with old ideas, and the old ferry company. You remain contentedly, or not so contentedly, at $3 a day, using the old design of a sickle. You continue to buy food for your kids at the liquor store at the corner of Cottage Grove and 79th Street. And most of us remain unspeakably poor and ignorant.
Yes. And so how very ironic that so much of “Progressive” ideology today is hostile to bourgeois dignity and liberty. How very dangerous that that ideology focuses upon interventions by Great Leaders, plans from the top, and taxation as keys to progress. How sad that “Progressives” concentrate – because of a combination of envy, childishness, and economic ignorance – on “redistribution” rather than upon institutions and markets and innovation and liberty that alone are able to ensure widespread and increasing prosperity for everyone.
Vice President Joe Biden is in China and as usual, he took the opportunity to try to insert his foot in his mouth. China may be veering towards its own brand of capitalism simply because it's a manufacturing powerhouse, but it's still a long way from being an open country in any other respect.
Biden's pep talk to some Chinese citizens gathered at the US embassy included this "empowering" exhortation.
“Innovation can only occur when you can breathe free, challenge the government, challenge your teachers, challenge religious leaders.”All well and good, I suppose. Of course, it's much easier said than done, and Biden's contribution only included the "saying" part. These sort of challenges have actual repercussions in China, which still wishes unruly citizens into high-walled political
This week’s announcement that New York magazine was becoming a biweekly was greeted, in my profession, with the sort of cheer that might herald the announcement of a sewer line backup or a mid-honeymoon appendectomy.What I find remarkable is how many of these institutions will glumly permit themselves to sink into oblivion without ever doing anything to significantly address the core issues. CNN is going to try to compete with every other network showing reality shows rather than make any attempt to appeal to the other half of the ideological spectrum. New York magazine has gone to a biweekly rather than attempt to broaden its appeal beyond liberals who live in New York and liberals who wish they did.
New York magazine is very successful. Its editor is very well regarded, and it wins lots of awards. It gets scads of Web traffic. It publishes magazine features that win the admiration of fellow journalists and has also become practically ubiquitous on social media. And, apparently, it still can’t pay the bills as a weekly publication. Hearing that New York magazine can’t make it as a weekly is, for a professional journalist, rather like being told that your teddy bear has cancer. How is that even possible?
The answer is that the circulation of print magazines is declining, while advertising revenue has taken a suicidal plunge. Companies who wanted to inform people about their firm’s activities used to have basically three choices: print media, television or radio. (OK, four if you count billboards.) These were all media companies, and they used the money corporations gave them to produce news.
On November 29, as most Americans staggered through a tryptophan-induced haze, the federal government published final rules (PDF) for the Health Insurance Providers Fee—or Health Insurance Tax, to be more honest. It's a strange fee; one for which the amount to be collected is predetermined, and then parceled out among each "covered entity" that charges premiums for health coverage, proportionate to the insurer’s share of net premiums. Which is to say, it's a tax that hits individuals, and small-to-medium-sized businesses that have to pool risks, but explicitly excludes the sort of "self-insured plan" offered by large employers. Unless you work for a large company that self-insures, you can expect the fee to be passed on and to add a couple of percent to the cost of your health coverage.
How much the tax will add to your bill is a bit of a guessing game, since the government has already decided how much it will collect, but the size of the market is a bit up in the air in the age of crashing government Websites and legally required policy cancellations. Buried on page 832 (yes, really) of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (PDF) is Section 9010(e), which announces, bluntly, that the IRS will collect:
After that, "the applicable amount shall be the applicable amount for the preceding calendar year increased by the rate of premium growth."
It's good to have confidence in how much revenue you'll collect, isn't it? I'll bet the health insurance providers who will be passing this tax on to their customers wish they had the same confidence.
In fact, the new tax is enough of a concern that insurers, like Aetna, are distributing brochures (PDF) explaining why premiums are subject to a somewhat unpredictable new levy. "Because the new federal fee will impact the cost of plans going forward," cautions Aetna, "we feel it’s important for you to understand this fee. By doing so, you can better anticipate and plan for the expected impacts."
How much will the new tax add to the average health coverage bill? The Heritage Foundation's David R. Burton says it "will increase individual and small group health insurance premiums by an additional 2–3 percent."
Douglas Holtz-Eakin, president of the American Action Forum and former director of the Congressional Budget Office, performed detailed calculations of the costs Obamacare is likely to inflict on health care, and predicts the "anticipated impact is as much as 3 percent or nearly $5,000 per family over a decade."
When the Obama administration promised us cost control on health care, we should have realized that meant upwards.
Watch the video above to find out how inflexible bureaucrats successfully manged to stifle, kill and shut down an entrepreneur’s (Zina Murray) successful (temporarily), innovative small food business in a rough Chicago neighborhood, and put 15 people out of work.
Here’s some background from the Institute for Justice’s (IJ) Clinic on Entrepreneurship at the University of Chicago, which produced the video above.
Zina Murray turned a vacant building in her neighborhood into a beautiful, eco-friendly business, Logan Square Kitchen. It allowed entrepreneurs to start food enterprises in a safe, legal and licensed environment. But constant delays, holdups and expenses from city hall – including 14 separate inspections – proved deadly to Zina’s Little American Dream Factory. She was forced to close her doors.
In the video, Zina summarizes her frustration dealing with “city hall” and its army of bureaucrats that couldn’t accommodate innovation:
Our experience has been with the city of Chicago has been that innovation and things that are new are to be treated with extreme caution and as always potentially harmful, and I’m here to say that sometimes those things can be really good.
The IJ Clinic on Entrepreneurship at the University of Chicago Law School has helped hundreds of low- and moderate-income entrepreneurs across the city of Chicago who need legal assistance but cannot afford it. Recently, the director of the IJ Center Beth Kregor authored a paper, Space to Work: Opening Job Opportunities by Reducing Regulation, profiling several Chicago entrepreneurs and the problems they face from city regulations. For more on IJ’s “Space to Work” project and today’s video, go here.
Thanks to the Institute for Justice for its legal advocacy on behalf of hundreds of politically-unconnected entrepreneurs and small business owners across the US, and for its ongoing efforts:
a) advancing the human rights of entrepreneurs struggling to survive against oppressive city, state and federal government regulations;
b) defending the economic liberty of small business owners and their right to earn an honest living and create jobs;
c) bringing legal challenges to anti-competitive industry cartels that use government force to enrich politically-connected industry insiders at the expense of small business owners, entrepreneurs, and the general public;
d) protecting the rights of consumers to have access to the greatest amount of market competition and the lowest possible prices; and
e) challenging the many cases of economic protectionism across the country that stifle competition, drive up prices for consumers, and reduce economic growth and job creation.
Daniel J. Mitchell
There’s a saying in sports that teams that come back to win in the final minutes often “snatch victory from the jaws of defeat .”
I don’t like that phrase because it reminds me of the painful way my beloved Georgia Bulldogs were defeated a couple of weeks ago by Auburn. But I also don’t like the saying because it describes what President Obama and other advocates of big government must be thinking now that Republicans apparently are about to do away with the sequester.
Specifically, the GOP appears willing to give away the sequester’s real and meaningful spending restraint and replace that fiscal discipline with a package of gimmicks and new revenues.
I warned last month that something like this might happen, but even a pessimist like me didn’t envision such a big defeat for fiscal responsibility.
Sen. Patty Murray (D., Wash.) and Rep. Paul Ryan (R., Wis.), chief negotiators for their parties, are closing in on a deal… At issue are efforts to craft a compromise that would ease across-the-board spending cuts due to take effect in January, known as the sequester, and replace them with a mix of increased fees and cuts in mandatory spending programs.
The supposed cuts wouldn’t include any genuine entitlement reform. And there would be back-door tax hikes.
Officials familiar with the talks say negotiators are stitching together a package of offsets to the planned sequester cuts that would include none of the major cuts in Medicare or other entitlement programs that Mr. Ryan has wanted… Instead, it would include more targeted and arcane measures, such as increased fees for airport-security and federal guarantees of private pensions.
The package may get even worse before the ink is dry.
Democrats on Thursday stepped up their demands in advance of the closing days of negotiations between Ms. Murray and Mr. Ryan. House Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi (D., Calif.) brought a fresh demand to the table by saying she wouldn’t support any budget deal unless in included or was accompanied by an agreement to renew expanded unemployment benefits that expire before the end of the year—which would be a major threat to any deal.
Gee, wouldn’t that be wonderful. Not only would the GOPers surrender the sequester and acquiesce to some tax hikes, but they could also condemn unemployed people to further joblessness and despair.
That’s even worse than the part of the plan that would increase taxes on airline travel to further subsidize the Keystone Cops of the TSA.
But look at the bright side—for D.C. insiders. If the sequester is gutted, that will be a big victory for lobbyists. That means they’ll get larger bonuses, which means their kids will have even more presents under the Christmas tree.
As for the rest of the nation? Well, you can’t make an omelet without breaking a few eggs.
P.S.: I suppose we should consider ourselves lucky that this looming agreement isn’t as bad as some past budget deals, such as the read-my-lips fiasco of 1990.
While it may appear at first glance that the first chart below shows just one data series, what we have shown are two data sets: one presents, on an inverted axis, the Civilian Employment-to-Population rate, which unlike the unemployment rate as a fraction of the labor force (most recently printing at just 7%), has barely budged since the Lehman collapse. The other data set shows what an implied unemployment rate as calculated by Zero Hedge would be assuming a long-term average of 65.8% worker labor participation rate.
As we reported earlier, according to the BLS this number most recently was 63.0%: a 20 bps rebound from the 35 year low posted in October, but still woefully wrong. The chart shows much more accurately what the real unemployment rate would be when looking at the overall noninstitutional population instead of the ever rising amount of Americans who for one reason or another are not in the labor force.
On the next chart, we then proceed to juxtapose the implied unemployment rate with the officially reported BLS data.
In short: applying a realistic labor force participation rate to the unemployment rate series, shows that the real US unemployment rate is now 11.5%, a 4.5% difference from the reported number, and the second highest ever, only better compared to October's 4.7%.
Of course, don't inform the Fed of this discrepancy: if aware, the Fed's monetary mandarins would likely never taper. Then again, if indeed the Fed never does taper as many suggest (since it is the flow, not the stock), we will know just which series of unemployment data the Fed is looking at.
The Internal Revenue Service quietly proposed new regulations aimed at 501(c)(4) organizations during the Thanksgiving recess that Rep. Darrell Issa (R-CA), Chairman of the House Oversight Committee, called "a crass political effort by the Administration to get what political advantage they can, when they can."
Tea Party groups and other conservative organizations were apparently singled out by the IRS starting in 2010, and the heavy hand of government suppression of these groups may have greatly attributed to Obama's re-election, an American Enterprise Institute study revealed in October.
The Washington Post reported last week the Treasury Department said the new rules “may be both more restrictive and more permissive than the current approach.” The new rules focus on organizations known as "social welfare" groups that regulated within section 501(c)(4) of the tax code. Conservative political operations, liberal groups before them, began to organize under the 501 (c)(4) umbrella in the past ten years, and having such a tax status would allow these organizations from disclosing their donors.
A 54-year-old rule says that an organization can become a social welfare organization “if it is primarily engaged in promoting in some way the common good and general welfare of the people of the community.” The new IRS regulation now says “campaign-related political activity” cannot count towards a group’s social welfare mission. Such a regulation would discount numerous conservative advocacy groups either seeking for or wanting to maintain a 501(c)(4) tax status. According to the Post:
“The phone and e-mail exploded,” said Dan Backer, an Alexandria lawyer specializing in election law who represents many nonprofit groups on the right. “We are all going to spend a tremendous amount of time and energy fighting back against this.”
“The IRS is approaching this as, ‘We are giving you the right to speak and you are going to speak within the confines we tell you,’ ” Backer added. “And that’s wrong. This whole effort is simply a way to empower government to regulate speech.” ...
“Treasury and the IRS drew a very deep and troubling line in the sand,” the Alliance for Justice, an association of more than 100 nonprofit groups on the left, said in a statement. “Though the new definitions attempt to clarify existing rules, they also create a danger to citizen participation in our democracy.”
Issa's Committee has been investigating evidence this past year showing the IRS targeted Tea Party, religious, and other conservative organizations. In a statement released by Issa's Committee office last week, the chairman said:
This new effort by the Obama Administration to limit traditional advocacy efforts by social welfare organizations will have a much more profound impact on grassroots and community organizations than on the well-heeled groups it supposedly targets. The fact that the Administration’s new effort only applies to social welfare organizations — and not powerful unions or business groups — underscores that this is a crass political effort by the Administration to get what political advantage they can, when they can.
The Committee’s interim report into the IRS’s targeting scandal explained how the Citizens United decision caused the IRS to handle conservative tax-exempt applicants in a distinct and unfair manner. The regulation released today continues this Administration’s unfortunate pattern of stifling constitutional free speech.
Rep. Elijah Cummings (D-MD), Ranking Member of the Committee, saw the new IRS regulations as a positive step forward. Cummings' office released a statement last week expressing the congressman's satisfaction with the new rules:
Today by clarifying the confusing regulations governing the amount of political campaign activity that tax-exempt organizations can conduct, the Internal Revenue Service and the Treasury Department have taken another important step in implementing the recommendations made by the Inspector General earlier this year. Our investigation has shown that reforming these tax rules is essential, and I hope that we can put aside partisan politics and work together to ensure that these reforms work for everyone.
In the meantime, the Oversight Committee, according to Issa, continues to be stonewalled by the FBI over the Committee's investigation into whether the IRS targeted the conservative group True the Vote. Issa is now threatening to subpoena FBI director James Comey to get the information he says Oversight needs.
The original subtitle of my blog has long-ago been eclipsed. I am trying out a new one. Our tributes usually wear a lot of copper.
In September, New York Police officers responded to an emotionally disturbed man causing a ruckus at a Times Square bus terminal by opening fire on him while they were surrounded by crowds and traffic. They missed him and hit two innocent bystanders (one of whom was in a walker). Police said at the time they thought the man, Glenn Broadnax, was reaching for a gun, but he turned out to be unarmed.
Even though Broadnax was not armed, an indictment unsealed Wednesday is charging him with assault for the injuries caused by police gunfire. From the New York Times:
The man, Glenn Broadnax, 35, of Brooklyn, created a disturbance on Sept. 14, wading into traffic at 42nd Street and Eighth Avenue and throwing himself into the path of oncoming cars.
A curious crowd grew. Police officers arrived and tried to corral Mr. Broadnax, a 250-pound man. When he reached into his pants pocket, two officers, who, the police said, thought he was pulling a gun, opened fire, missing Mr. Broadnax, but hitting two nearby women. Finally, a police sergeant knocked Mr. Broadnax down with a Taser. …
Initially Mr. Broadnax was arrested on misdemeanor charges of menacing, drug possession and resisting arrest. But the Manhattan district attorney’s office persuaded a grand jury to charge Mr. Broadnax with assault, a felony carrying a maximum sentence of 25 years. Specifically, the nine-count indictment unsealed on Wednesday said Mr. Broadnax “recklessly engaged in conduct which created a grave risk of death.”
“The defendant is the one that created the situation that injured innocent bystanders,” said an assistant district attorney, Shannon Lucey.
Broadnax was taken to Bellevue Hospital after they got him down and told police he was hearing voices of dead relatives and was trying to commit suicide. But a psychologist has nevertheless found him competent to stand trial.
One of the women shot by the police is absolutely not having it:
Mariann Wang, a lawyer representing Sahar Khoshakhlagh, one of the women who was wounded, said the district attorney should be pursuing charges against the two officers who fired their weapons in a crowd, not against Mr. Broadnax. “It’s an incredibly unfortunate use of prosecutorial discretion to be prosecuting a man who didn’t even injure my client,” she said. “It’s the police who injured my client.”
New York City spends hundreds of millions of dollars every year settling claims against the city (though not all are tied to police behavior). Despite trying to redirect responsibility Broadnax’s way, it should not be a surprise to see six figures or more of city money heading in the direction of Khoshakhlagh and the other woman shot.
Like philosopher Michael Huemer and my colleague Bryan Caplan, my libertarian ethics grow from, and remain grounded in, what Huemer calls “common sense morality” – a common sense that understands the homage that statism pays to liberty. With this short background in mind, I have yet other questions for proponents of minimum-wage legislation – namely:
Suppose that you’re at a McDonald’s restaurant or at a Safeway supermarket or at the office of a maid-service company and you see a 20-something young woman. The woman is obviously poor by American standards and her English is broken and heavily accented. She has no certifiable job experience. She applies for a job and is rejected. She – with entrepreneurial gumption – responds to the rejection by offering to work, not for the minimum wage of $7.25 per hour but, instead, for $5.00 per hour. You observe the manager’s evident interest in her counteroffer. The manager ponders for a minute or two and then whispers to her – yet loud enough for you to overhear – “Look, that’s against the law, but I can use you at $5.00 per hour. So, okay, you’re hired! But please don’t tell anyone or else I’ll be in serious trouble and you’ll lose this job.”
Would you – you personally – intervene to stop this woman from taking this job? Would you – you personally - be willing to look her in the eyes and tell her that she may not take that job? Would you – you personally – inform this young woman (with regret, of course) that she must remain unemployed for the time being and resume her job search elsewhere? And would you – you personally - be willing to use force against this woman to prevent her from working at $5.00 per hour if she stubbornly ignores your demands? Would you be willing, if her stubborn refusal to refuse the job persists, to poke a gun in her face to prevent her from working at an hourly wage of $5.00 per hour?
I have little doubt that many of you would willingly – even happily – take action against the manager who offers to employ this woman at $5.00 per hour (although you’d probably prefer to take this action out of eyesight and earshot of the woman whose job you’ll destroy by bringing the scofflaw manager to ‘justice’; you don’t want the woman to know that you, personally, are responsible for her misfortune). And I have no doubt that even more of you would be eager to rush home to call the police to report this incident and demand that armed cops intervene to punish the manager and to keep this woman from working at $5.00 per hour. But I wonder how many of you – you personally - have the courage of your moral convictions to be able to look the woman in her eyes and expose yourself personally, to her, as someone willing to deny her the opportunity to work at the highest wage she can now earn.
And if I’m correct, how can you, in good conscience, continue to feel that minimum-wage legislation is ethically justified?
The video above features an interview with retired police captain Peter Christ on WGRZ-TV in Buffalo, NY. Captain Christ is co-founder and vice-chair of Law Enforcement Against Prohibition (LEAP), a nonprofit organization made up of current and former members of the law enforcement and criminal justice communities who are speaking out about the failures of America’s War on Drugs.
Starting at about 2:45, Captain Christ makes a key point:
When you institute a prohibition like we have with drugs in this country, what you are doing is not protecting people from other people, you are attempting to use law enforcement to protect people from themselves. Protecting you from yourself is a function of family, church, education, and the health care system. It never is, and never should have been intended to be, a law enforcement function. We are out there enforcing morality when we enforce drug laws, and that is not our job. We were not trained to do it, we are not capable of doing it, and if anything else you see the failure of it.
We’ve been doing this for over 40 years since Nixon kicked it off, and the drugs are more available, of purer quality and cheaper than they’ve ever been before on the streets of America. And we’ve had 40,000 deaths in Mexico over the last five years fighting over this drug trade. Plus we’ve destroyed more lives than the drugs have by incarcerating people and hanging felony convictions on them and denying them college educations, denying them jobs, for no good reason.
And one other thing I want to point out in case people think that if we do it hard enough that this will actually be doable to make drugs go away. We have the largest prison system on the planet, and the most efficient prison systems on the planet. And in that huge efficient prison system, we do not have one drug-free prison in America. And if you cannot keep drugs out of prisons, who is going to be delusional enough to think you can keep them out of a free society?
This is an Obamacare documentary, right?
Earlier this year, Washington, D.C. flirted with the idea of creating a punitive "living wage" specifically designed to hit Walmart stores and a few other big-box retailers. Walmart threatened to pull out of the Capital City if they were forced to pay that wage. Mayor Vincent Gray vetoed the bill but promised to back in its place a general increase in the District's minimum wage. Now, the city council has responded with a bill to gradually increase the minimum wage for all businesses from $8.25 to $11.50 in 2016. The mayor has countered with $10 an hour but doesn't have the votes to stave off the higher number.
At the Washington Examiner, Sean Higgins explains how "America's Place for Savings" is the real winner if and when the minimum wage gets jacked up by government dictate:
In 2006, Walmart’s then-CEO Lee Scott said... "Though we do not intend to take a position on any single piece of legislation, we believe Congress should increase the minimum wage.”
In the case of the D.C. bill, Walmart often already does pay a $10 or $11.50 wage. According to Payscale.com, Walmart’s cashiers on average make between $7.50 and $10.77 and sales associates make between $7.63 and $11.83. Overall, its wages are just five percent below the retail industry average.
It is a different story for D.C.’s small neighborhood stores — which already face the daunting prospect of competing with Walmart. “Small businesses are the least able to absorb ... a dramatic increase in their labor costs,” notes the National Federation of Independent Business.
Score this a win for Walmart then. They can absorb the higher wage relatively easily while their smaller competitors cannot. And if faced with job loss or cutbacks at mom-and-pops, expect the City Council to try and pass an even-higher wage in order to help their constituents out.
Watch Reason TV's coverage of "The War on Walmart" (2011) which features future New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio bloviating about how Walmart stores are "Trojan horses" that sneak into cities and destroy their economies (really):
From the Washington Post editorial “Congress needs to roll back subsidies to sugar producers“:
Federal policy coddles the U.S. sugar industry through import controls, soft loans and price targets. The result is higher consumer prices — and fewer jobs in the U.S. food industry. Still, for many years Big Sugar and its defenders could claim that the program was designed to avoid any direct expenditure of taxpayer funds and that it had, in fact, achieved that goal.
Not anymore. The Agriculture Department lost $280 million on the sugar program in fiscal year 2013, with more losses expected next year. A surge of imports from Mexico has driven down U.S. sugar prices — to the point where it’s profitable for processors to take advantage of a U.S. law that lets them forfeit the sugar they posted as collateral for government loans and keep the cash. Stuck with mountains of excess sweetener, the government has two choices: hoard it until prices go up or sell it at a huge loss to the few ethanol makers willing to take it.
Even before this latest evidence of the sugar program’s irrationality, bipartisan critics in Congress had been trying to add reforms to the next five-year farm bill, which Congress is still debating. They failed.
Big Sugar argues that ending U.S. sugar protections would be unilateral disarmament, since Mexico subsidizes its industry, primarily through state ownership of one-fifth of the country’s sugar mills. That didn’t matter much as long as Mexico had to compete with other sugar exporters for an allotted quota of the U.S. market. But five years ago a provision of NAFTA took effect, allowing unlimited imports from Mexico. Now, the sugar lobby says, the United States should adopt a “zero-for-zero” policy: We’ll stop fiddling with the sugar market when everyone else in the world does the same.
It sounds reasonable. Indeed, though the world sugar trade has liberalized in recent years, about a tenth of it is still subject to bilateral agreements and preferential arrangements. Economics 101 says everyone would be better off if these controls were abolished.
Alas, Politics 101 says that’s not going to happen soon, so demanding “zero-for-zero” amounts to an excuse for perpetuating policies that benefit U.S. producers at the expense of food processors and consumers. The U.S. sugar industry has known since NAFTA’s ratification in 1993 that Mexican imports were coming; it could have used the time preparing to compete instead of lobbying for protection.
The United States should stand for free trade in sugar and against protectionism. Setting a better example would help.
MP: Might be a good time to quote Frederic Bastiat, who sent this message to a friend four days before the noted, free-market French economist died in 1850: “Treat all economic questions from the viewpoint of the consumer, for the interests of the consumer are the interests of the human race.”
Anti-consumer, protectionist US sugar policy has a long history, going back to 1789 when the First Congress of the United States imposed a tariff on foreign sugar, and is a perfect illustration of trade protection that ignores the viewpoint of disorganized, dispersed consumers in favor of the concentrated, well-organized interests of producers. US sugar policy violates the interests of consumers, and by doing so, violates the interests of the human race, in favor of a politically favored special interest group – “Big Sugar.” Kudos to the Washington Post for speaking up on behalf of the hundreds of millions of US consumers who pay about $3 billion in higher prices every year to Big Sugar because of the ongoing government-sanctioned protection that industry receives from more efficient foreign rivals.
|Rank||Country||Oil Production in July (Barrels/day)|
As I reported last week, Texas produced 2.726 million barrels per day (bpd) in September, and is on track to surpass 3 million bpd in early 2014, and then surpass 4 million bpd in the spring of 2015. With those projected increases in Texas oil output, the Lone Star State could soon surpass Kuwait, UAE, Iraq, Iran and even Canada to move up in the international oil production rankings to become the world’s No. 5 or No. 6 oil producer within the next few years.
“Saudi Texas” continues to be the shining star of The Great American Energy Boom.
An entire administration of hammers just looking for nails to crush...