Thursday, January 29, 2009

Best Line Yet

From NRO: Sen. Roger Wicker (R., Miss.): "Ladies and gentlemen, a trillion dollars is a terrible thing to waste."

How to do Real Stimulus

Rob Natelson, posting at Electric City Weblog has this from the Cato Institute showing that not everyone is in favor of the Democratic stimulus plan. It is indeed, a rather lengthy list of esteemed economists, but their bottom line is quite clear:
To improve the economy, policymakers should
focus on reforms that remove impediments to work, saving, investment and production. Lower tax rates and a reduction in the burden of government are the best ways of using fiscal policy to boost growth.
One of the problems with the so called "stimulus plan" is that it really does not kick in for another year and a half at the earliest. In spite of looking for "shovel ready" spending on infrastructure, it has instead become a grab bag of Democratic wishes, with almost nothing to actually create jobs outside of government accountants.
If Obama really wanted "shovel ready" there is an entire well developed set of infrastructure that is available to begin immediately hiring, investing, and creating the kind of good paying jobs that we all feel are necessary. It's called the business community.
Remove the taxes on businesses, eliminate capital gains taxes for a year, and let the government subsist off of the stimulus money instead of taxes. The potential for reducing unemployment, creation of wealth and restoration of the economy could take place in less than six months. Contrast this with the present plan that the Democrats say that Republicans are being "partisan" because they didn't buy into everything that the Democrats wanted. If you follow the CBO's analysis, we are just running up over another trillion in debt, and won't see anything for quite awhile.
But this plan would not be acceptable to the Democrats because they seem to believe that wealth is created by the government.
Our children and grandchildren will work their lives away paying for this mistake.

Wednesday, January 28, 2009

It's All in the Marketing

I have long resented certain terms that are designed to manipulate us in an unthinking manner. "For the Children" is one in which if the idea is idiotic and you oppose it, you are accused of wanting to kill children. Another is "Smart Growth." If you opposed their definition, you must of course be for "Dumb Growth." Never mind that the only thing smart about "Smart Growth" is the name. That it really is just an illegal power grab to keep you from actually owning and controlling your own property, while at the same time, artificially inflating costs of land just to keep poor people out.
Now we have the "Stimulus Package." Having declared an emergency, the government has thrown all of the old rules out the window in its purpose of making us all wards of the government. The funny thing is, even the New York Times is starting to realize that there is no, or at the most very little "stimulus" in this package. Some excerpts:
The stimulus bill working its way through Congress is not just a package of spending increases and tax cuts intended to jolt the nation out of recession. For Democrats, it is also a tool for rewriting the social contract with the poor, the uninsured and the unemployed, in ways they have long yearned to do.

How in the world, will $1 Billion for Amtrak, $3335 Million for STD Prevention, $180 Billion for more unemployment insurance and an extension of Medicaid, (Make me wonder if that includes fired Lehman Brothers executives?) to anyone on unemployment regardless of their financial situation be considered a stimulus? This is nothing but a grab bag that is labeled as "stimulus" but has nothing to do with the usual concept of what a stimulus is.
I am beginning to think that the best way to combat this waste of our unearned money is to point out that this kind of debt is going to keep nationalized health care from even having a chance. If Republicans started to point out that the money that is being spent to improve schools, fund the NEA, etc. is just money that they are taking from providing reasonably priced health care to all Americans. Might as well pit the differing constituencies of the Democratic Party against themselves.
If successful, we might be able to stop all of this madness.

UPDATE: Peter Ferrara of the American Spectator has an even broader examination of all the ways that your money for a stimulus is being misused. Read the whole thing.

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Building a Better Stimulus

James Pethokoukis of Capital Commerce in US News and World Report Offers 10 Reasons to Whack Obama's Stimulus Plan. Some of the better parts:

6) Christina Romer, the new head of the Council of Economic Advisers, coauthored a paper in which the following was written about taxes: "Tax increases appear to have a very large, sustained, and highly significant negative impact on output. Since most of our exogenous tax changes are in fact reductions, the more intuitive way to express this result is that tax cuts have very large and persistent positive output effects." And former Bush economic adviser Lawrence Lindsey tack on this addendum: "The macroeconomic benefits of tax cuts can be two to three times larger than common estimates of the benefits related to spending increases. The relative advantage of tax cuts over spending is even clearer when the recession is centered on the household balance sheet."

7) Economists Susan Woodward and Robert Hall find that the multiplier effect from infrastructure spending maybe just 1-for-1, less than that 3-to-1 ratio for tax cuts that Romer found: "We believe that the one-for-one rule derived from wartime increases in military spending would also apply to increases in infrastructure spending in a stimulus package. We should not count on any inducement of higher consumption from the infrastructure stimulus."

Read the whole thing.

What Goes Around . . .

Sen. Patrick Leahy, D-VT is demonstrating very clearly what the current definition of "bipartisanship" is in today's political environment. It seems that the good Senator from the Free State is not very happy that he has to hold up the nomination of Eric Holder to be Attorney General. Some reports are even saying that he is
"clearly agitated" and "did not try to mask his irritation."
Contrast his desire to support the President's picks in 2009 with what he felt in 2001 when a different party was in power:
"Most of us believe that a President has a right to nominate to Executive Branch positions those men and women whom he believes will help carry out his agenda and policies. But it is only with the consent of the Senate that the President may proceed to appoint. The Constitution is silent on the standard that Senators should use in exercising this responsibility. This leaves to each Senator the task of discerning that standard and deciding how it applies in the case of a controversial nomination."
Of course, that only applies when a Republican offers up a nomination.
Principles be damned, Leahy will push forward with the nomination of Holder who has serious questions about him regarding Mark Rich and many others of those who were pardoned by then President Clinton.
As I have said before, when Democrats were in the minority they wanted to be able to threaten a filibuster for anyone that they disliked, thereby giving the minority more power than they would have had otherwise. And as predicted, the Democrats are now in the majority, and will have to deal with a minority that has (hopefully) learned from them how to be obstructive.
But the bigger lesson for all politicians is that the past can no longer be ignored. Since 2001 when Leahy first made his efforts to delay the nomination of the Attorney General, the growth in people who can use the web to google past comments has exploded. Now, everything that you have ever said is reviewable. And you will have to decide do you want to be partisan or have principles? The advantages for us the abused children of the political processes, is that it won't take long to discover who is sincere, and who a charlatan.

How to Speed Up the Spending

The Obama administration is promising to spend 75% of the upcoming over 800 Billion dollar stimulus bill within 18 months. Even for our esteemed idiots in Washington, this is a daunting challenge. As the Atlantic notes, the CBO has estimated that even at full throttle with no supervision, the best that they can do is spend 64% of the money, and most of it will have no effect this fiscal year.
What with the grab bag of stupid ideas that are proposed as stimulus, such as contraception planning and over $6 Billion for the arts (yeah, that will really stoke the economy as we buy birth control pills and some really bad art), there has to be a more efficient way to get the money that we are borrowing into the hands of those that will be paying for it. And I have a plan.
First, recall all of the C-17s, C-141s, KC-35s that exist in the inventory. Load them up with $100 bills and fly over every population center of 3,000 people or more and drop the bills allowing them to float unfettered onto the folks below. At 8 billion individual bills to be airdropped, it would still take a lot of flights, but would give the recently unemployed something to do (chasing the money). Sure, there will be the disadvantaged, the blind, the bed ridden, those too old to fight off others, but this is an emergency that we are in people, we can't quibble about these things.
Sure the arts and Planned Parenthood will not be able to get as much money as they will through the patronage system that currently exists. But we are talking about real money here, not just payback for election support.

Monday, January 26, 2009

The True Value of Labor

The Chicago Boyz, a blog on economics, has an interesting assessment of the value of labor. I have always been of the opinion that labor had its own value, but that it was enhanced by the addition of management and capital. That is, if you are a worker, even if you have the tools of your trade, by yourself you will not be able to achieve as much as if you have other people who are working to secure future work and clients, or coordinate improvements to make the worker even more productive.
The ideas of many (like Mark T.) seems to be that management is but a parasite, sucking the productivity from the worker. The article above certainly puts another, more plausible explanation.

UPDATE: Link broken before, hopefully it's fixed now. Thanks Andy.

Sunday, January 25, 2009

Draining the Swamp by Adding More Water

Nancy Pelosi, the Speaker of the House, at one time claimed that she was going to preside over the most "ethical Congress in history." If you measure it by number of actual investigations, she may be right. But if you measure it by investigating allegations of wrongdoing, that would be totally incorrect.
Take for instance, Rep. Charles Rangel of New York. He is the chairman of the Ways and Means Committee, which writes the tax laws that us minions are expected to obey. Old Charlie though, seems to have had a tough time understanding that you are supposed to pay income tax from rentals, even if they are in the Dominican Republic. That and his four rent controlled apartments in New York, though you are only supposed to have at most one. And how about the homestead exemption for his property in D.C.? These are just a beginning, and I am sure that Chairman Rangel would welcome a chance to make his case of why what he did was not wrong, even if it is just to establish his bona fides to be a future Secretary of the Treasury.
But Ms. Pelosi, seems to be less than interested in helping to clear her colleagues name. She started an investigation by the House Ethics Committee, but didn't object when they failed to meet her deadline for a report, and now she has delayed appointing any replacements to the ethics committee.
Of course, another interpretation would be that she knows that he is guilty as sin, and is trying to cover for him. But you would have to be the same sort of cynic who thinks that politics is all about our "leaders" being above the requirements of us mere mortals, to think that was true. So, if you don't believe that this is the most ethical Congress in history, just remember that you as a private citizen are more likely to be audited by the IRS than Charlie Rangel is.
And don't you forget it.

Thursday, January 22, 2009

Whites Need Not Apply

During a hearing before the House Steering and Policy Committee, Former Secretary Robert Reich had this to say about where the proposed stimulus should go:
I am concerned, as I'm sure many of you are, that these jobs not simply go to high skilled people who are already professions or to white male construction workers. I have nothing against white male construction workers.

A rather curious statement. I just hope that in this post racial world that we live in, this is not going to become the norm.

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Do We Need This?

The F-22 Raptor s without a doubt the most sophisticated and stealthy fighter that has ever been developed. With the ability to be invisible to radar and at the same time, to cruise at supersonic speeds to the battlespace, it is an incredible aircraft. But do we need it, and can we afford it? Obama is apparently thinking of canceling the program, although if I remember right, there already is an operational wing in service. The people who are building the airplane are calling on Obama to keep the aircraft production line open in order to preserve 90,000 jobs.
If you look at any potential threat aircraft that can challenge the USAF's ability for air supremacy, the most likely candidates are the Mig-31 and the Su-27 and their Chinese clones. But even then, it ignores the human factor of the pilot and training that make the Air Force pilots so darned good. Chuck Yaeger, who broke the sound barrier for the first time was an excellent pilot. He observed that in the Korean war if the planes on each side had been swapped, the Americans still would have maintained air superiority because of their better piloting skills.
So maybe, the trick is not more airplanes, but more air time for the pilots who fly the F-15 and -16. Cheaper, and just as effective against the presently perceived threats.
Of course, it would be even better if we went with unmanned stealthy aircraft piloted by E-4s who have at least 3000 hours on Playstation 3. Now, there would be a formidable force.

Why the Bailout Cannot Work

I have been busy, too busy to blog, what with my new job, getting my house ready to sell, etc. But I have been waiting on Mr. Budge to come out and rail against the misappropriation of the public fisc through the so-called "Bailout.". Unfortunately, Dave seems to remain dormant. Nonetheless, in a spirit of a concerned taxpaying (and yes, tax consuming) citizen, I have decided that I need to address it at at least a basic level.
But first, you have probably heard of the aphorism that "Time is Money." And when you think about any equation, the reverse is also true, i.e. money is time as well.Take a $20 bill out of your wallet and look at it. If you are making minimum wage, that $20 represents approximately three hours of your life. If you are making $40,000 per year, it represents approximately one hour of your life. If you are President Obama at $500,000 per year, it's about 15 minutes, and I have heard that some lawyers are now charging $1,000 per hour in some of the bigger markets, so it is only about three minutes of their life.
The point of the above exercise is to show how much of your life is being taken up by the $850 billion or so "stimulus package." At present, every person in this country owes around $180,000 as their share of the national debt. If you make $9 per hour, that means every working hour of your life, without any exceptions for food, housing or anything else will take 10 years of your life to pay for. With the stimulus in effect, we will easily double our individual share that is owed.
So, where does the money for the stimulus come from? Borrowing of course, but with the 800 lb. gorilla of the Fed borrowing, it reduces the amount of money that can be borrowed by us as individuals, small businesses and even giant corporations. Because the capital will be rarer, it will come with a higher cost (interest rates) which will further sap the amount of money available for improvements or investments.
So, what do we get for our money from the stimulus? Unfortunately, it seems to be a grab bag of every form of perceived need by every government official from the dog catcher all the way up. This is their using your future earnings to finance their pet projects to ensure their election in the future.
At one time, the deficit used to be the constraining feature on this sort of problem. By declaring an emergency, the restraints are removed. All you kids out there under 35, congratulations on your inheriting our excess. We have just leveraged ourselves into involuntary servitude with this stimulus.
And good luck getting that second job to pay for it all.

Friday, January 16, 2009

The Castle Doctrine and Law Enforcement

The Montana Legislature is considering SB 95 which will change the law to allow that a resident does not have to flee first to avoid an intruder, but may instead use "deadly force" to protect themselves and others in the house. There is a companion bill that would allow damages for any employer who created a gun free zone where individuals who are law abiding are not allowed to bring personal protection with them, and some lunatic decides to ignore the gun free requirement, and starts to shoot up the place. Personally, I am in favor of both of these bills. It is the ambiguity of being caught that stops more crimes than not. Contrast the Appalachian Law School shootings with those of the Virginia Tech Massacre and you will notice the difference was that in the former case, there were students who were armed, and in the latter, they were all at the mercy of the gunman.
But the problem I see, is when law enforcement officers start to break into the wrong house, and the owner, not knowing that they are law enforcement, sensing the violence at his doors, begins to shoot. Don't think that it hasn't happened. Look at Cory Maye, who may still be sentenced to death for shooting a cop who was breaking into the wrong house. Or Ryan Frederick, who is facing charges for a bogus tip that led to the death of a detective, trying to invade a house to determine if marijuana really was being grown there.
Might just give law enforcement pause to think before they start to batter down doors and terrorizing innocent victims of their mistakes.

Thursday, January 08, 2009

More on the Falsely Named Free Choice Act

Craig at mtpolitics is talking about the abomination that is called The Employee Free Choice Act. The choice for employees already exists, in that if enough of them want it, there will be an election called to determine if a true majority of the workers want to be represented by a union. This vote presently, is done in secret, so that neither management nor the union could influence the worker's choice on whether to unionize or not. The result has been a continuing drop in union membership.
Recognizing that unions are losing members, and along with it, their ability to extort a portion of their wages, unions are now going to Congress to get them to pass the EFCA in order to reverse the decline in membership and dues. The premise is that the union organizers will be standing just outside of the business, and will harass, annoy, delay and confuse workers until they sign the card. Once the card is signed, the worker will be left in peace until half of the employees are signed up, and they suddenly find out that they are required to pay dues, and have to answer to someone not their boss in order to do their job.
I only belonged to one union in my lifetime, and that was when I worked at Safeway as a bagger during my High School years. I didn't care for them, and later when I was older and learned that many of the things that I was doing violated labor laws, I realized that the only thing that mattered to the union was paying my dues. When I joined up with the Office of Public Defenders, I found out that the defenders who were already unionized got to vote on having a union before anyone was hired. I refused to join, and took steps to decertify the union, which I put on hold to wait and see how they did in protecting the members of the union. What I learned was that the union did absolutely nothing.
They promised to increase our wages, which they didn't do. Sure, that is a problem that the Legislature is the only source of funding, but why promise what you can't deliver? Then the union expanded from the attorneys, the newest who are making about $46k per year, and roped in the support staff who average around $25k per year. The funny thing is, that everyone pays the same union dues. Cost effectively, the lawyers have the best deal, paying a smaller percentage of their salary than the support staff for absolutely nothing.
Amusingly, the unions continue to ignore unlawful and illegal management practices, even in the OPD. If I ever get fired, my retirement plan is going to be a civil suit against the State and the union for their acts.
Oh heck, why wait? Maybe I should start a suit against the union now for fraud, misrepresentation and malpractice. Maybe all forced unionized workers should do that.

Wednesday, January 07, 2009

End of an Era

I have been reassigned to the Polson office of the Office of Public Defender but I still keep touch with friends in Hamilton where I used to work. It appears that the restaurant bakery, "A Place to Ponder" has closed, a victim of the recession. I will miss that place.
When I first started my practice, I had a small space on the second floor overlooking Main Street, and Place to Ponder was on the way to the courthouse. I would stop in for coffee to go and either one of their famous lemon bars or a brownie. The food was always terrific, and their Tuesday tomato soup was always a treat.
Kory and Vicki poured their lives into the place and it worked well for them. So much so, that they expanded into a newly created building. Unfortunately, their new locations was not as convenient for walking customers, and I think that may have had some effect.
Kory and Vicki were and are still, the kind of people who will continue to make this country great. Risking it all, investing their money, time and lives, they tried to make a go of the American Dream.
Knowing both of them, I am sure that this is just a setback, not the end of the story.

Saturday, January 03, 2009

The Truth about Global Warming

Okay, Global Warming is no longer the term of choice, mainly because it is not happening, but the Huffington Post has an article that is dead on with everything that I know scientifically and historically in showing that the whole "climate change" movement is a hoax. One of the observations made by the author, is that solar activity may have not only an effect on temperatures, but may have an effect on volcanic activity. Couple this with the recent earthquake storms, and we have the possibility of a true natural disaster if the Yellowstone caldera should suddenly erupt. Specifically:
Many solar physicists anticipate that the slumbering Sun of early 2009 is likely to continue for at least two solar cycles, or about the next 25 years. Whether the Grand Solar Minimum, if it comes to pass, is as serious as the Maunder Minimum is not knowable, at present. Major solar minima (and maxima, such as the one during the second half of the 20th century) have also been shown to correlate with significant volcanic eruptions. These are likely the result of solar magnetic flux affecting geomagnetic flux, which affects the distribution of magma in Earth's molten iron core and under its thin mantle. So, let us say, just for the sake of argument, that such an eruption takes place over the course of the next two decades. Like all major eruptions, this one will have a temporary cooling effect on global temperatures, perhaps a large one. The larger the eruption, the greater the effect. History shows that periods of cold are far more stressful to humanity than periods of warm. Would the eruption and consequent cooling be a climate-modifier that exists outside of nature, somehow? Who is the "flat-Earther" now?

Read the whole thing.

This is a Darned Good Idea

The Montana GOP has created a blog for the upcoming session which they call the Rotunda Report. I have never really felt that writing letters or making phone calls have much of an effect on our elected leaders, but by publishing a blog and allowing comments (registration required, and the comments are moderated) you will be able to see that your comments made it, and you can also see the comments after yours.
This idea is truly revolutionary, and could probably only done in a state like Montana, where you have a better chance of actually knowing your representative. Well done to them. Now let's get the comments going on how they are doing.