Nov 292010

Excellent article by Diane Ravitch at the WSJ, on “The GOP’s Education Dilemna.”

In addition to reminding us of all the usual bad things about George W. Bush’s “No Child Left Behind” act, she tells us that it’s also causing the closure of community schools.    I wish she had given us some examples of how that works, but it’s not surprising.   Every time you centralize more authority (= funding) you tend to wipe out some of the smaller players.

Way to destroy local communities, Mr. Compassionate Conservative.

Nov 292010

My comment at Weasel Zippers:

The government doesn’t want us to have any secret transactions. Pay someone more than $10,000 in cash and the government wants to know what that’s all about. With the ObamaCare act, businesses are supposed to report any transaction over $600.

So if we can’t keep any secrets from the government, what good reason is there for the government to keep so many secrets from us?

I can understand that we don’t want secret military technology to fall into other hands. If we were at war, we wouldn’t the enemy to know about our strategizing. (Q. How do I know we’re not at war? A. Congress hasn’t declared any war that I’ve heard of.) But we’re not at war, so there isn’t a lot of information that needs to be kept so secret.

And I’m a bit suspicious of Rep. Peter King, anyhow.     Sounds to me like his call for WikiLeaks to be treated as a terrorist organization, besides being a stupid move that robs the term “terrorism” of any slight bit of meaning it may still have, is an excuse for him not to be spending time on his real job, which is to find  ways to cut spending and cut the deficit.

Nov 222010

This is what I wrote in response to Stephen Moore and Richard Vedder’s article, “Higher Taxes won’t Reduce the Deficit : History shows that when Congress gets more revenue, the pols spend it.”

The only way tax increases MIGHT work is if Congress first shows that it knows how to cut spending. Zero out NPR funding on budgetary and First Amendment grounds. Repeal ObamaCare. Eliminate ag subsidies, ethanol subsidies, wind generation subsidies, and corporate welfare in general. Cut the budget for Congressional staffs and White House staffs in half. (I’d prefer to give Members of Congress healthy increases in pay and pensions, though.)

This isn’t going to deal with the problem of entitlements, but it is going to give Congress some much-needed practice in making cuts. It will give Congress a chance to prove that it knows how to do it.

Then, after it obtains a Constitutional amendment for Congressional term limits (it needn’t consist of drastic limits) we might talk about tax increases, if we can find a way to pay for them. Until then Congress has a lot of other work to do to have any kind of credibility at all.

If Congress can’t get those preliminaries done, there is no point in raising taxes.

Nov 212010

I presume Krugman said “real solution” because “final solution” was already taken:

Some years down the pike, we’re going to get the real solution, which is going to be a combination of death panels and sales taxes. It’s going to be that we’re actually going to take Medicare under control, and we’re going to have to get some additional revenue, probably from a VAT. But it’s not going to happen now. URL.

BTW, both Palin and Krugman have clarified their original remarks. Krugman is the one we don’t want to have anywhere near the levers of power.

BTW(2), this is an example of why we should not be seeking solutions to our problems. We should instead seek to ameliorate them. (I’m trying to break myself of any lingering tendency to ever speak of any reform as a “solution.”)

Nov 202010

Timmy Geithner is not only an accomplished tax evader, but he’s pretty good at political demagoguery, too. From Bloomberg:

U.S. Treasury Secretary Timothy F. Geithner said the Obama administration would oppose any effort to strip the Federal Reserve of its mandate to pursue full employment and warned Republicans against politicizing the central bank.

“It is very important to keep politics out of monetary policy,” Geithner said in an interview airing on Bloomberg Television’s “Political Capital with Al Hunt” this weekend. “You want to be very careful not to take steps that hurt our credibility.”

Not everyone would have the skills to criticize an effort to unpoliticize the Fed on the grounds that they shouldn’t politicize the Fed.

Of course, Geithner shouldn’t get all the credit. Al Hunt’s people helped, too, by not laughing out loud.

But to think, some people criticized the Tea Partier who is supposed to have said, “Keep your government hands off my medicare.” Maybe the Partier was just auditioning for a job in the Treasury Department.

Nov 202010

Reuters: “Obama favors renewing the tax cuts only for those at or below those level, saying the nation cannot afford to renew them for wealthier Americans.”

So the President who wasted a trillion dollars of our money now says we can’t afford not to tax more. It’s like a guy coming back from Vegas after blowing the family savings plus whatever he could put on credit, and telling his wife that they can’t afford gas for the car to take her to work.

Nov 192010

A tea-partier is said to have said, “Keep your government hands off my medicare.” It looks like NPR now has its own version of that line:

“The proposal to prohibit public radio stations from using CPB grants to purchase NPR programming is an unwarranted attempt to interject federal authority into local station program decision-making,” NPR said, referring to its parent organization, Corporation for Public Broadcasting.


Nov 112010

Someone commented on the WSJ editorial, “A Deficit of Nerve : Obama’s commission has ideas that Republicans can use,” saying that many of the proposed budget cuts will kill people. My response:

Not making those cuts will kill people, too. Millions of lives could be at stake.

If we now have the histronics out of the way, maybe we can get down to serious discussion.

I agree with the editorial writers that there is much in the draft outline to build on. They makes the point that Canada doesn’t have a home mortgage interest deduction, yet has a higher rate of home ownership than we have. If this deduction can’t be zeroed out, I don’t know why it shouldn’t be reduced to say, $100,000 instead of the $500,000 suggested in the commission’s draft.

I also wish the commission had tackled the issue of health care reform. But it seems there were some taboo topics. According to the editorial:

More egregiously, the chairmen tiptoe around ObamaCare, which has led some on the right and left to claim that the commission is essentially endorsing the largest new entitlement in 40 years. We’re told the chairmen mostly dodged the subject because Democrats on the commission made that a nonnegotiable demand. A truly bold report would consider Congressman Paul Ryan’s model to make Medicare a defined contribution program. Instead, the chairmen settle for the familiar likes of “payment reforms,” which never work because of Medicare’s flawed political price-control model.

On that subject I posted the following comment:

Back in April, when setting up this commission, President Obama said everything needs to be on the table. But now we learn that the Democrats on the commission wouldn’t allow any health care reforms to be put on the table. It was non-negotiable. If they couldn’t accept the job they were commissioned to do, shouldn’t they have declined to serve on the commission, or if it was too late for that, resigned?

On the subject of taxes, I’m surprised they want to make our tax system more regressive by increasing the social security tax, of all taxes.

But there is one other item that would do more to reduce the budget deficit than any of their other proposals. Term limits would bring under control the budget distortions brought about by the power of incumbency. These limits wouldn’t need to be severe term limits to be effective.

We need a slogan: No justice, no peace.

Oops. Wrong slogan. It should be: No term limits, no tax hikes.

I’d say that if we eliminate ag subsidies (aka the root of all evil), zero out funding for NPR, and get a constitutional amendment to institute term limits for Congress, then we can think about a tax increase to get us out of our hole. If members of Congress are term-limited, we will have a better basis for trusting that they might really use new revenues for deficit reduction. Otherewise, that part should be just as non-negotiable as the Democrats’ refusal to reform our health care system.

Nov 102010

Remember all of those articles from the early-mid Bush administration days asking, “Why do they hate us?” Now we’re beginning to understand:

(Reuters) – Germany’s undiplomatic outbursts against U.S. policy, calling it “clueless” before a G20 summit, show growing estrangement on economics as America’s focus shifts away from transatlantic ties to domestic challenges and Asia.

“The Atlantic is getting wider,” said Anton Boerner, head of Germany’s Foreign Trade Association, who spoke of a “creeping alienation” between America and Europe, which has been exacerbated by the global financial crisis. [URL]

And there’s a related headline on the same page:

Obama returns fire after China slams Fed’s move

Nov 072010

So President Obama has been making business deals in India. No wonder capitalism gets a bad rap, if that’s how it works. I think it’s called crony capitalism when deals are made on the basis of connections.

He’s certainly not the first politician to do this. The last two governors of Michigan, one from each major party, have also acted as though this is appropriate behavior.

But if businesses can’t make these deals themselves without intervention from politicians (and what legitimate consideration could a politician possibly offer to sweeten the deal?) then it would seem that our news media need to be investigating. Maybe new laws and regulations are needed, or maybe bad ones need to be removed. But there is no news that any of that is getting done in the wake of the President’s visit.