Economics & Taxes Archives

Friday Link Wrap-up

California, like Greece, has been spending like there’s no tomorrow. And, like Greece, there may not be a tomorrow, if they can find $3.3 billion in the couch cushions.

Occupy Wall Street complained about how powerless they were against big banks and other members of "the 1%". Their solution was more government intervention to make things "fair". Ironically, their best success came when they themselves, the people, switched banks to protest fees and other things. In many cases, we don’t need government to act for us, we just need to act. The people already have the power. Use it!

James Taranto on the fallout from the Planned Parenthood / Susan G. Komen for the Cure dustup: "Planned Parenthood’s bitter campaign against Komen–aided by left-liberal activists and media–is analogous to a protection racket: Nice charity you’ve got there. It’d be a shame if anything happened to it. The message to other Planned Parenthood donors is that if they don’t play nice and keep coughing up the cash, they’ll get the Komen treatment."

Speaking of which, if even a New York Times columnist recognizes press bias in anything dealing with abortion, you know it’s getting much worse.

Speaking of which, while the media did report that donations to Planned Parenthood were up after the controversy, they conveniently didn’t report that Komen donations doubled.

Abortion pill via vending machine. Talk about changing the concept of "over the counter". What does it say about our society that a university finds it useful to dedicate entire vending machines to abortion pills? A cousin of mine commented, "These are the same people, of course, who will freak out at the presence of Chemicals In Food. But take a pill strong enough to abort before the fertilized egg attaches to the uterine wall? No biggie."

Churches using school buildings during weekends is not a church-state issue. It just isn’t. New York City politicians are evicting some because of fear of lawsuits, not for any actual legal reasons. As Ed Stetzer says, "Any constitutional concerns about church use of public school buildings can be answered by a religion-neutral approach. A government that is religion-neutral we will not discriminate based on the content of speech–even unpopular religious speech. Thus, I stand with my Muslim friends who wish to rent on Friday, my Jewish friends on Saturday, and my Christian friends on Sunday–all paying money to use space that belongs to us all."

Will They Fall For It?

James Taranto quotes from last night’s State of the Union address and ponders.

In the next few weeks, I will sign an executive order clearing away the red tape that slows down too many [federally funded] construction projects. But you need to fund these projects. Take the money we’re no longer spending at war, use half of it to pay down our debt, and use the rest to do some nation-building right here at home.

"The money we’re no longer spending at war" is a fiction. It is money that has never been collected or borrowed and won’t have to be because there is (touch wood) no war to fight. It’s like a wife demanding that her husband buy her an expensive gift with the money she saved by not buying herself something even more expensive. Does Obama really think Americans foolish enough to fall for this?

The answer, unfortunately, is a resounding "Yes" for those who voted for the man.

Biometrics Making Big Strides in India

This is not the Mark of the Beast. But you certainly don’t get there without something like this.

India has launched an ambitious program to fit each of its 1.2 billion residents with an Unique identification number (UID). Each number will be tied into three pieces of biometric data: fingerprints (all ten digits), iris scans (both eyes), and a picture of the face. Starting this month, the Unique Identification Authority of India (UIDAI) will begin processing people in various locations around the country. UIDAI aims to slowly roll out the program through February of 2011 and to ID 600 million people in the next four years!

It’s being instituted to combat social welfare fraud, but it won’t stop there.

Yet the UID is going to be used for much more than social welfare programs. The UIDAI is in discussions with many institutions (banks, local/state governments, etc) to allow them to use the UID as a means of identity verification. These institutions will pay the UIDAI some fee to cover costs and generate revenue. There seems to be little doubt that once it is established, the UID will become a preferred method (if not the preferred method) of identification in India.

It’s optional now, but how long do you think that will last? Never mind the Biblical overtones, many layers of privacy are being stripped away. And the further question is, why does the government need to know every little thing that I do?

Sounds like a power grab to me.

The #1 Most Charitable-Giving Nation

It’s us.

The United States now ranks the highest in terms of charity in a massive global survey that put the nation in fifth place in 2010, according to CAFAmerica, a member organization of the United Kingdom based Charities Aid Foundation International Network of Offices, providing charitable financial services to individuals, global corporations, charities, and foundations.

According to those surveyed, two out of three Americans said they donated money to charity (65 percent), more than two out of five volunteered their time (43 percent) and roughly three out of four helped a stranger (73 percent).  The new “World Giving Index (WGI) 2011” report is based on over 150,000 Gallup polling interviews with members of the public in 153 countries. The 2011 report looks at three aspects of giving behavior of individuals in the preceding month, asking if they have donated money to a charity, volunteered time to an organization, or helped a stranger. 

People like former President Jimmy Carter and singer Bono used to say that the US was "cheap", but John Stossel pointed out that that was not really true, (and Arthur Brooks noted that most charitable giving comes from the religious Right side of the political spectrum). We weren’t "cheap" then, and we’ve kept rising in this particular ranking since then.

I’m proud to be an American.

Friday Link Wrap-up

To date, 417 incidents of crime and death from Occupy Wall Street. If someone tells you OWS is just like the Tea Party, they’re lying.

The National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence (ironically acronymed "NICE") rejected a drug for MS that has been approved in the US. Seems that the costs outweigh the benefits, at least for them. I’m glad I live here. Well, until we get our own death panels.

Sorry, but I just have to quote 4 paragraphs from Glenn Reynold’s article about the higher-education bubble. When the government subsidizes something, it’s value changes over the long haul; it goes down.

This is a simple case of inflation: When you artificially pump up the supply of something (whether it’s currency or diplomas), the value drops. The reason why a bachelor’s degree on its own no longer conveys intelligence and capability is that the government decided that as many people as possible should have bachelor’s degrees.

There’s something of a pattern here. The government decides to try to increase the middle class by subsidizing things that middle class people have: If middle class people go to college and own homes, then surely if more people go to college and own homes, we’ll have more middle class people.

But homeownership and college aren’t causes of middle-class status, they’re markers for possessing the kinds of traits — self-discipline, the ability to defer gratification, etc. — that let you enter, and stay in, the middle class.

Subsidizing the markers doesn’t produce the traits; if anything, it undermines them. One might as well try to promote basketball skills by distributing expensive sneakers.

The President of the Unites States has declared that capitalism doesn’t work, and has never worked. Well, it did when we had it, but for at least 2 or 3 generations now, we haven’t had it.

The hotbed of pedophilia that is … Hollywood.

The New York Times speaks from the past, blasting Obama’s policies because no intelligent American would ever consider socialism.

Another Reason To Be Against Big Government Programs

A new source of income to pay for big new programs will never, ever go to paying just for the program.

In cash-strapped Washington, President Obama’s $1 trillion health care law is presenting a tempting target for lawmakers seeking funds for other projects, as Congress last week raided the health care piggy bank for the third time in less than a year.

Congress last week axed a part of Democrats’ signature domestic achievement to find $11 billion to cover the cost of repealing a withholding tax that otherwise would have hit government contractors in 2013. Mr. Obama signed that bill into law on Monday.

The withholding bill follows two other efforts — one in December and another in April — that reworked the health care law to squeeze savings for other priorities. The December bill funded higher payments for doctors who treat Medicare patients, and the April legislation repealed a paperwork provision in the original health care law that businesses said would be onerous.

All told, Congress and the president have tapped some $50 billion earmarked to pay for benefits and programs in the health care overhaul in future years to fund more-immediate spending needs.

In order to game the cost estimates (which only look out 10 years in the future), the health care bill started colleting taxes for a few years first before benefits hit. But a pile of money sitting around doing nothing (presently) is something Congress just can’t stand to see. So, it’s more than just giving DC too much power is a bad idea, but giving them the money to exercise that power means that their influence will expand even beyond the program itself.

Not a good idea.

Taxes and Morality

Daniel Hannan, writing for the London Telegraph, poses the following question.

Now that [Archbishop of Canterbury] Rowan Williams is intruding into the debate about a financial transactions tax, I’d like to ask him a question. Which does he consider more meritorious – to give your own money to good causes…or to force your customers, clients and shareholders to do so in the name of ‘corporate social responsibility’? Which has more virtue – to ‘sell that thou hast, and give to the poor’, or to be expropriated through the tax system?

His article is a good, short read on the subject.

Thinking Alike

Looks like someone else got the thought that Occupy Wall Street had a problem with one of the 10 Commandments.

A Survey of "The 99%"

The Wall Street Journal did a survey of 200 Occupy Wall Street protesters at Zuccotti Park to get an idea of what they thought. Does this sound like a grass-roots movement of 99% of the country? Does this look like America? Among the findings:

  • 31% would support violence to advance their agenda.
  • 65% say that government has a moral responsibility to guarantee all citizens access to affordable health care, a college education, and a secure retirement no matter the cost.
  • 77% support raising taxes on the wealthiest Americans (though I suppose it depends on who they consider "wealthiest").
  • "Thus Occupy Wall Street is a group of engaged progressives who are disillusioned with the capitalist system and have a distinct activist orientation. Among the general public, by contrast, 41% of Americans self-identify as conservative, 36% as moderate, and only 21% as liberal."

The pollster, Douglas Shoen, who was a pollster for Bill Clinton, summarizes their politics. "What binds a large majority of the protesters together—regardless of age, socioeconomic status or education—is a deep commitment to left-wing policies: opposition to free-market capitalism and support for radical redistribution of wealth, intense regulation of the private sector, and protectionist policies to keep American jobs from going overseas. "

People need to know who these protesters are before deciding to support them and their causes.

The "Grass Roots" of Occupy Wall Street

The OWS crowd insists that their uprising is purely a grass roots one. While some of it was certainly spontaneous, it’s origins were clearly planned by anti-capitalists.

The man behind the movement is a radical Canadian leftist agitator by the name of Kalle Lasn.  Lasn is founder of Ad Busters.  A self-described group of anarchists and neo-Luddites, Adbusters are not merely environmentalists, animal-rights activists, anti-technology activists, or neo-Prohibitionists. They are all these things and more.  In his book entitled Culture Jam, Lasn writes, “we will wreck this world.” And that is ultimately the goal of the organization he founded and runs.

A little research has uncovered the fact that the domain name was registered by Lasn’s organization in June 2011, several months BEFORE the first protests began in New York City.  What is a Canadian citizen doing registering a domain for a grassroots movement months before the protests began?  Its questions like this that are not being asked by our mainstream media.

The Left criticize the Tea Party’s "grass roots" bona fides because guys with lots of money happen to agree with them. But I doubt you’ll find the Koch brothers’ names on a central domain name used by any local Tea Party group months before the initial rallies.

Friday Link Wrap-up

Starting with Occupy Wall Street:

  • If the Tea Party had been shown to have done just a few of these things, if would have run on the nightly news for days. (Just recall how unsubstantiated accusations of racism were reported), and they would have been (rightly) castigated. When OWS does it, the press is mute.
  • Richmond charged the Tea Partiers $10,000 to have a rally. OWS, nothing. The Tea Party is going to ask for their money back on the grounds that the government is playing favorites.
  • It looks like even those who oppose the fat cats on Wall St. can act just like them. For a group upset at how the wealth has been spread around, they don’t do such a good job at spreading it themselves.
  • When Lech Walesa, Poland’s former President, said he support OWS, the AP was all over it. But when he got more details about what was really going on and what the demands were (such as they were), he decided not to support it, saying "American is sliding towards socialism."  All of a sudden, the AP website didn’t seem to think that Walesa existed. Oh, that liberal media.
  • Vagrants started to take advantage of the free food at the OWS protests, and all of a sudden the 99% started acting like the 1%. One protestor was quoted as saying, “It’s turning into us against them. They come in here and they’re looking at it as a way of getting a free meal and a place to crash, which is totally fine, but they don’t bring anything to the table at all.” It got so bad, the folks manning the kitchen staged their own protest against providing food for free to those who weren’t there to support the cause, aka freeloaders.
  • Take a look at these headlines. If they described Tea Partiers, you just know they’d be the top story on the nightly news. OWS gets a pass. A lot of passes, actually.

Folks who support assisted-suicide claim they just want to stop suffering. Today’s slippery slope defines "suffering" as "loneliness" and financial troubles.

James Taranto starts out by describing what sounds like the housing bubble. But he’s not. What other bubble is out there, inflating as we speak, and is ready to burst?

With a Democrat in the White House, the "no blood for oil" chant has gone on hiatus. Imagine if Dubya had gone into Libya.

And finally, speaking of OWS, here’s a graphic to help the media tell Occupy Wall Street and the Tea Party apart. (Click for a bigger image.)

What Could Possibly Go Wrong?

This just seems a little too end-times-ish for my taste.

The Vatican called on Monday for the establishment of a “global public authority” and a “central world bank” to rule over financial institutions that have become outdated and often ineffective in dealing fairly with crises. The document from the Vatican’s Justice and Peace department should please the “Occupy Wall Street” demonstrators and similar movements around the world who have protested against the economic downturn.

“Towards Reforming the International Financial and Monetary Systems in the Context of a Global Public Authority,” was at times very specific, calling, for example, for taxation measures on financial transactions. “The economic and financial crisis which the world is going through calls everyone, individuals and peoples, to examine in depth the principles and the cultural and moral values at the basis of social coexistence,” it said.

But never mind the Biblical implications, let’s just consider this from an "absolute power corrupts absolutely" perspective. Does the Vatican really think that a global authority on money is going to be better than those in any of our individual countries. Given that any institution is staffed by fallible, corruptible humans, what this would do is allow the mistakes and failings of a few to impact the entire planet. This is a better idea?

It called for the establishment of “a supranational authority” with worldwide scope and “universal jurisdiction” to guide economic policies and decisions.

Asked at a news conference if the document could become a manifesto for the movement of the “indignant ones”, who have criticised global economic policies, Cardinal Peter Turkson, head of the Vatican’s Justice and Peace department, said: “The people on Wall Street need to sit down and go through a process of discernment and see whether their role managing the finances of the world is actually serving the interests of humanity and the common good. “We are calling for all these bodies and organisations to sit down and do a little bit of re-thinking.”

I believe it’s the Vatican that needs to do some rethinking. This goes against every single understanding of human nature that the church teaches. Our US founding fathers understood this, which is why they set up distributed government.

Should we be expecting a proposal for one-world government next? 

Who’s the Problem?

I participated in a comment thread to a blog post suggesting that the Tea Party and the Occupy Wall Street protestors ought to come together and find common ground. It incorporated a Venn diagram of what the two groups think are the source of the problem and the intersection was what they could agree on.

Unfortunately, the diagram is just too simplistic. It equates corporate power with government post, which ignores the fact that much of the power corporations has comes from the government, because the government is susceptible to corruption. Because that’s true, the protest ought to be Occupy Pennsylvania Avenue. Trying to explain that to folks who agree with OWS was an exercise in futility. While buying power is wrong, selling it is worse, and is in fact the root cause of the problem.

One of the commenters, waynefromnaz, who understood this concept, put together a video showing the problem with the Venn diagram, and introducing one of his own that explains the real problem in a much better way. He highlights the fact that corporations aren’t the only ones who buy power, and thus the problem isn’t just that this or that group can buy it, but the main problem is that anyone can buy it, and thus we should go after the group selling it (i.e. government).

Additionally, this exposes the political motivation behind OWS. Why aren’t they protesting the unions that buy power and get special favors? Noticeably absent from the list of those being protested against are typical Democrat supporters. No, they’re concentrating on groups that many consider Republican constituencies. I don’t think that’s by accident.

Here, then, is the video, showing what the real problem is.

What About the 1% in Hollywood?

It would be easier to take the Occupy Wall Street crowd more seriously if they did something like Occupy Hollywood. How many multi-millionaires live there? Quite a few, actually. But not a peep from the OWS folk to them. Even though, as John Hayward notes, they do the same sort of things that the OWS accuse the Wall Street folks of doing.

Liberals are strangely incurious about why their betters never instruct them to hate Hollywood during their class-warfare lectures. I mean never. Movie stars, singers, producers, directors, and star athletes are the millionaires you’re never told to envy. Their “fair share,” and the methods they use to avoid paying it, are not topics for discussion.

Liberals are even willing to extend this consideration to a grotesque caricature like Michael Moore?, the greedy millionaire who made a fortune by making his fans look stupid, and refused to employ union labor while doing it. He walked right past union operatives to receive a warm welcome from the Wall Street protesters. He moved out of a luxurious New York City penthouse to avoid paying his “fair share” of New York taxes on his immense movie profits, celebrated the release of a movie lambasting capitalism with a posh party at another swanky penthouse, and filled in a wetland to put the finishing touches on his million-dollar Michigan estate.

Of course, most in Hollywood support the same liberal talking points that the OWS crowd is pushing. Which exposes this as a political movement, intent on pushing a socialist agenda, but under the guise of being an economic movement, concerned about spreading the wealth around. If it’s wealth that needs to be spread around, shouldn’t it also come from political allies? If you don’t care about that — if your friends can keep their money but your perceived enemies can’t — that’s just envy and covetousness, not concern.

Thou Shalt Not Covet the 1%’s House

One of God’s top 10.

“You shall not covet your neighbor’s house. You shall not covet your neighbor’s wife, or his manservant or maidservant, his ox or donkey, or anything that belongs to your neighbor.”

Contrary to what some think, coveting is not just wanting something. Coveting is wanting something that belongs to someone else. God made it pretty clear about not coveting that which is your neighbor’s. (And of course, Jesus explained to us that our neighbor is essentially anyone else.)

But right now, in cities and countries all over, there are protests going on, getting rave reviews from liberals and the media, where the key ingredient is precisely this; covetousness. Much of what you hear from videos and their own website, even the whole 99% thing, is out of a want, not for money, but for the money of the "1%". (But, because these things would be paid for by taxes, they’re really aiming for the wealth of the 53%.)

"You, cancel my loans!"

"You, pay me even when I’m not working!"

"You, finance my healthcare!"

And the target of their protests must pony up the cash. No, not "the 1%", but the 53%, and their children. These protestors want their money; no their own. That is not at all to say that cancelling loans, unemployment benefits or subsidized healthcare are, in and of themselves, a bad thing in moderation, and when circumstances may warrant. But the method these "99%" suggest — more power to a government that got us into this situation in the first place — is both ironic and sad at the same time because they propose we keep digging the hole we’re in rather than get out of it.

(And, by the way, the folks who say they are 99% of the country? Not so much.)

We have some modicum of socialism in this country already — Social Security, Medicare, for examples — but these programs are going bankrupt. Social Security is now paying out more than it is taking in, and has been for a year now, because the socialized method used to pay for it couldn’t handle a Baby Boom. And yet these folks want the 1%/53% to finance yet another iteration of this.

The blame is misplaced, and the solution follows the direction of failed policies. So what’s a country to do?

Brett McCracken writing at his blog The Search sums things up well, both the issues and the solution.

As a “movement,” Occupy Wall Street doesn’t reveal an organized grassroots agenda as much as it represents a general climate of anger, frustration, and antagonism against the “haves”–a suspiciously narrow (1%), heartless, no good very bad group whose entrepreneurial success and capitalistic success apparently oppress the 99% of us have-nots who are being unfairly kept from sharing in the 1 percent’s riches.

Mostly, though, Occupy Wall Street represents the natural discontent of an entitled generation raised on the notion that we deserve things, that the government owes us something, that everything we want should be accessible, and that somehow we are not responsible if we don’t end up quite as successful in life as we’d hoped. It’s a blame-shifting problem. It’s an inability to delay gratification or go without that which we believe is our right or destiny. And it’s a problem both on the micro/individual and macro/government level.

McCracken suggests that the blame is one that we all share, not just some tiny slice of us, from whom we need to extract our pound of flesh.

The thing is, “sharing blame” is hard for us humans to do. We’re infinitely averse to admitting our own culpability. In almost anything. Whether it be our own financial hardships, or those of our communities, or the high taxes under which we suffer… We have to lash out against someone. We have to go occupy something.

As Christians, though, I think we must first and foremost look within for the blame. We must own our share in the mess. Beyond institutions and hegemonies and Wall Street tycoons, how are we responsible for the trouble we’re in? True revolution begins here. True change begins with what we can actually control: our own lives, an awareness of our weaknesses and potentials, and a commitment to working to improve.

If we have to occupy something, let it be the dominion of our own culpable Self, the guiltiest of all institutions and the one we are likeliest to spur toward positive change.

I dare say that should this particular philosophy suddenly grip the Occupy Wall Street crowd, things might disperse rather quickly. Is there injustice in America? Yes, there is. But Jesus didn’t storm the house of Zacchaeus, among the "1%" of his day. Jesus didn’t complain that the government in Rome was unfair and make demands of it. He spoke truths to individuals, even the 1%ers. He changed hearts, which then changed the culture. Let’s follow that example instead.

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