Sunday, November 25, 2012

Global crisis: Obama imitates losers

Here is a chart showing that the economic crisis of 2008 was 1) global and 2) worse in other countries than in ours. Megan McArdle argues that this shows that blaming Bush or Obama for the terrible economy of the last four years doesn't make a lot of sense. However, it is worth pointing out that almost every major policy change of the Obama years has made our policies more like Europe's. If we did better than they in the global economic crisis, why is the Obama administration using the crisis as an excuse to move our economy in their direction? If the economies with more controls, welfare spending and regulations did worse during the crisis isn't that an argument against those policies? 

Opposing Tax Increases on the Rich

It has been argued that the Republicans are foolish and obstinate to oppose tax increases on the rich in the face of substantial majorities supporting the idea. The thing that such arguments over look is that this will not be the last time. The entitlement state is growing far faster than tax revenues, far faster than inflation. This will not be the last crisis. This is one in a series of 'crisises' that will continue, that will not, in fact, be crisises but which will inevitably become the standard order of business as we do nothing about a welfare state that metastasizes out of control. The state is permanently brooke, brooke by design. Tax increases on the investments and investors that create jobs and growth will make the desease worse, which will only lead to more calls for sacrifice from those who can most afford it to deal with the lastest 'temporary' emergency.

The question is not the proportion of spending cuts to tax or revenue increases, it is whether the spending 'cuts' (which I put in scare quotes as such cuts are almost always simply reductions in the rate of increase) solve the underlying problem: the permanent tendency of the welfare state's outlays to grow faster than our means of paying for them. Until that is dealt with in a permanent way we will only lurch from one crisis to the next with the latest emergency calling for shared sacrifice from those best able to bear the burden. Until the problem of stable financing of the welfare state is permanently solved every concession on taxes is simply another step down the steepening incline toward a sclerotic welfare state, stagnant and divided by envy, hate and despair.  

Saturday, November 24, 2012


Danish physicist Niels Bohr: “Prediction is very difficult, especially about the future.”
Harold Meyerson explains why the growth Democratic party is the true party of the maker by redefining welfare and wealth redistribution as 'investment'.

"Racial minorities, the young, single women — the groups whose share of the electorate is rising — all believe that government has a role to play in increasing opportunity and enlarging the rewards of work." 

Yes, even as the handout state increases unabated and brazenly calls out to more and more of the population to get on the such it is still ashamed of itself at some level. It feels obligated to cloak re-distribution of income from those who have earned it to those who have not as some sort of human capital investment regime.

"That doesn’t make them “takers,” however, unless you believe that public spending on schools and on a retirement fund to which American workers contribute constitutes an illegitimate drain on private resources." 

Just because you don't want the Mafia to control vending machines and garbage collection doesn't mean that you don't believe in vending machines and garbage collection. The modern redistributionist state has learned the trick the mafia learned a long time ago--marks don't like thinking of themselves as marks. The Don could save both himself and his customers money if he just came round and took a flat payment, but he knows his prey prefers to think of itself as supporting a slightly over-priced local business rather than as paying extortion money. So the tax eaters get their end in the form of padded payrolls, outsize pensions and the provision un-needed services rather than a simple cash payment for votes, allowing the mark--the tax payers--to maintain their self-respect. They are suckers, they are simply more civic minded than their neighbors. 

"While the level of labor-force participation for non-Hispanic whites was 64.6 percent, as measured by the Bureau of Labor Statistics from 2010 data, the level for Asians was 64.7 percent and for Latinos, 67.5 percent. So which group has more “takers” and which more workers?" 

The three percent difference in labor force participation does not tell us very much about the proportion of takers. There may be more people in the other groups in education. A man who goes through 8 years of higher education is more of a taker than one who drops out of high school to take a low paying job by this logic. The white population may be significantly older than the latino population and thus have more retirees. There may be more stay at home spouses. All of this would increase the proportion of "takers" by Meyer's definition but tell us little about a population's self-reliance. 

And you can work and take. What about the number of people that work and take food stamps? Also, people on unemployment benefits are 'in' the labor force, though they are strictly speaking, taking, not making. 

"...asked voters whether government should promote growth by spending more on education and infrastructure or should lower taxes on businesses and individuals. The groups that constitute the growing elements of the electorate all favored the spending option — 61 percent of Latinos favored it, 62 percent of blacks, 63 percent of voters under 30 and 64 percent of single women. White voters, however, preferred the lower-taxes option 52 percent to 42 percent."

Yes, the growing elements of the electorate would prefer their handouts be called 'investments,' that is very clear. That may seem cynical but it is a more comforting thought to me than to contemplate that there are still people there who think that the road to general prosperity is to funnel more money into services and good produced by public sector unions. Is it possible to believe that we don't have enough roads? Or that the reason our road system is not better is because we don't pay enough taxes to the government? The 800 billion dollar stimulas was enough to build over 1,600 Hoover Dams. Where did the money go? The suck. The great network of insiders, the players in the public sector mafia, from the big time former legislators now serving as consultants to the low level pensioners and union workers, all who get more for their labor and services through the coerced payments to the government than they could ever get from the freely volunteered payments of the open market, the great suck that drains the forces of energy and innovation that drive voluntary cooperation and enterprise and the creation of wealth. 

Meyerson then incredibly cites the example of California as an example to be emulated. The rise of minorities in that state's electorate has allowed them to finally outvote the white population that favored low taxes and approve, by referendum, increases in taxes on the those with incomes over 250,000, all to pay for increased 'investments' in roads and education. What Meyerson overlooks is that California is going broke and that rich people and business creators are leaving. 

"Median household income is shrinking as the share of company revenue going to wages descends and the share going to profits increases."

Yes, as you mandate more and more benefits per worker, businesses respond rationally by hiring fewer workers, which just proves that they are mean and that the government should mandate more benefits per worker. 

Meyer concludes, "If more private-sector workers were able to bargain collectively for wage increases, they would be less dependent on governmental income supplements and the safety net for rudimentary economic security." 

Ah yes, if only keep running the liquor and gambling he wouldn't have had to raise the prices on garbage. 

Sunday, November 18, 2012

Argo thoughts

I just saw the movie Argo last night and here are my initial thoughts:

Is the Canadian-American connection a model of international cooperation? It is an example of the basic decency of the peoples of the English speaking world. That is how is should be remembered, not as a matter of international law but as an example of the solidarity of two political communities based on the same institutions. It is an example of friendship, not law. 

The actual role of the Canadians is much greater, they play an active role in the rescue of the Americans. 

The original Wired article tells a different story. There was less bickering and panicking among the Americans. The Americans worked with the Iranians that were applying for visas to make an escape plan and the Iranians resourcefully contributed at key points. 

America has a bad habit of underplaying the contributions of its friends and allies. The British have been treated to a particularly cruel and gratuitous insult in this film. The movie says the escaping Americans were turned down for asylum by the British. There is no mention of this in the article. I seem to remember one marine making to the British embassy, but I certainly can’t believe that the British would have turned down Americans trying to escape the Iranian mob. 

Update: the British not only didn't turn us down but actually took us in and when the Iranian secret police had gotten suspicious helped our people to get to the Canadian Embassy. Here is the original Wired article 

Saturday, November 17, 2012

Property Rights to the Rescue

Why did fracking arise in the US instead of somewhere else? Property rights, federalism and open access.

In the US mineral rights belong to the surface landowner. In other countries they belong to the government. This made possible experimentation that has not happened in other countries where all decisions about how to exploit under ground resources are made by the government.

The federal structure of regulation also made possible experimentation that was later adopted by other states.

Finally, the open access structure of our pipeline system also facilitated the use of the same network for different fuels.

Merrill also notes that fracking has been good for the environment and is one of the main reasons that the US, without the help of the Kyoto treaty, has actually reduced its carbon emissions while Europe's have remained flat and Asia's have increased. Gas is a threat to renewables but it is a great threat to Coal, which is the main source of greenhouse gasses.

More speculatively, the drop in prices from fracking may make the economically correct thing to do--the imposition of a carbon tax--politically feasible as well.

Monday, November 12, 2012

Surprise! Another Surprise!

The USDA released the figures for food stamp enrollment 9 days late until after the election. Almost 500,000 people went on food stamps last month, more than twice as many as got jobs.

I think this post should be expanded as we get more 'surprises' from the most open administration in history. The Petraeus resignation and the Iranian attack on our drone are obvious examples.

Update: Investor's Business Daily has an editorial cataloging the 'surprises' we have since the election. Average hourly earnings down by 2%, poverty up by 800,000 in a revision of the pre-election report, Food stamps being used by 15% of the population compared to just 7% a decade ago, 353 coal plants to close as a result of Obama environmental regulations, inflation up to 2.2% and thousands of small banks to be killed by Dodd-Frank.

The BLS jobs numbers are so out of sorts that many economists are claiming they can't be used for projections.

He is also taking 1.6 million acres out of oil shale extraction--wonder what effect that would have had in Colorado had the voters had known?

There are also the surprises written into law. President Obama asked sarcastically during the debates why Mitt Romney was not telling everyone the details of his plan now instead of waiting till after the election. He said, if I recall correctly, "If the details are so wonderful then why is he waiting?" The same could be said of the President's policies, though, no?

What about Obama care going into effect after the election. If it is so wonderful why not implement it now? Could we not stand to be so happy? Or would it be a bit too obvious that 'nothing in this bill says you can't keep your doctor' does not mean you won't be forced to change your doctor.

Dodd Frank regulations don't take effect till after the election (though this appears to be in part because the regulations are so complicated that they haven't been written yet--a whole other area of complaint).

"Tell Vladimir I'll have more flexibility after the election"

Saturday, November 10, 2012

Close election

Obama won with 50.4% of the vote and becomes the first president in history to win reelection by a smaller margin than that by which he first won election. Well, as a man whom I greatly admire might have said, he may have won with a small majority, but he won all of the presidency. The House, with its gerrymandered districts, is ill positioned to claim that they are the more authentic voice of the people.

Playing golf while Staten Islanders freeze

Imagine if it were Bush playing golf while Hurricane victims were freezing and homeless; the press would be seething with outrage. Add to the mouchers and Mandarins the suckers--working poor who voted for this guy.

Friday, November 09, 2012

Constitution Suspended?

I know the Obama campaign--excuse me--I meant the press corps, was never really interested in the story of Staten Island getting out, but it is shocking to hear reports of FEMA officials preventing the residents of their shelters from contacting the outside world and not allowing the press in the compounds. Is that even remotely constitutional? Is there anything that can rouse the press to outrage?

Where is Mr. Burns when you need him?

Here Mark Tapscott argues that in order to get a big deal done on the budget the parties should be forced to negotiate in public.

Wrong! Wrong! Wrong!

One always hears this ouch-less bandaid drivel about openness and sunshine and public negotiations from pundits and confused citizens when the country can't seem to come to a decision on a big issue. It is the aspirin the do-gooder's medicine chest, beneficial for many ailments and if not a cure at least something that does no harm. And when it is found to be largely useless the cure is always more openness.

This could not be more wrong. Nothing kills the possibility of finding real agreement on seriously contentious subjects like openness. If the public is presented with an agreement that requires all to sacrifice their own, narrow interests to some overall package to save the country there is at least some hope of getting all to go along. But is the public is presented with a series of hypothetical cuts to their own particular interests they will be called to mobilize in defense of each of these particular benefits or concessions as they occur. And as there will be no one on the other side to push against them politicians will forced to back away from every serious proposal as it is brought up. Nay, they will back down preemptively by not proposing such sacrifices in the first place.                                 

Negotiations held in public will be no negotiations at all.

Of course there will be private negotiations. They will simply be held before or during or after the public ones.

Thursday, November 08, 2012

Media Bias

Here is a cite dedicated to exposing liberal bias in the media; here is the best known liberal counter-part

Some strong arguments against the "liberal media" theory

A Pew study that supports the "liberal media" theory

Polling indicates that distrust of the media is at an all time high

Misplaced cries of media bias: the “nattering nabobs of negativism,” are no longer have a choke point of three news networks. 

Maybe the real problem is horse-race bias


Stuff I would like to link to

The Grumpy Economist's post election predictions

Cool graphs on election outcomes

More cool graphs

Ballot measures break for marijuana and, in a break with a long pattern, for gay marriage

Where did the White people go?

Landslide Lyndon--tell us how you do it!

It turns out that a Philidelphia precinct that illegally threw out Republican poll watchers had a 99.5% vote for Obama and a 90% turn out rate. This, of course, has not attracted the attention of professional journalists but it has come to the notice of certain admirers of the late Lyndon Johnson, or, as he was known during his first couple of years in the Senate (before everyone was too scared of him to address him as anything other than "Sir"), Landslide Lyndon.


Well, it seems that his first term in the Senate came about as the result of an election that he won by 128 votes. Not exactly a Texas sized margin. But what is truly remarkable, and what gives the whole story a certain sense of style, is the votes materialized only after all of the other results in the state had been reported and it had turned out that Johnson was behind by less than 100 votes. Moreover--and this is the master touch--the 128 illiterate Mexican voters were found to have managed to rare lexicographical feat of vote in alphabetical order.

And that is what is so disappointing about the Philidelphia episode. Why bother to steal and election before you have first found out whether you are winning? It is just piling on. No Chicago ward boss, let alone a master politician like Lyndon Johnson, would profane our sacred election processes just to pad his totals. It is third-world dictator behavior. Less Landslide Lyndon than Dear Leader. I should think even "Dragon Bone" Obama is, if not embarrassed at least disappointed.

States' rights for beginners

Conservatives are rightly engaged in soul-searching about how to broaden their appeal. Inevitably many social conservatives are being fingered, mainly by social liberals, naturally. But before we start compromising our principles we should at least fully explore the possibilities for ways in which our principles might appeal to new groups. One such group might be socially liberal young people.

One thing that conservatives could do to increase their appeal to young people is highlight ways in which the conservative agenda might benefit social liberals. An excellent example is the wave of states legalizing marijuana in some form or other. Colorado has just put pot on the same legal level as liquor. They will get harassment from the Feds. Conservatives should defend the states that choose this path on states rights grounds.

Nothing makes the tent bigger than a correct understanding of the Constitution's enumerated powers, giving the Federal government limited, specific powers and leaving to the states unlimited, broad powers. Most of the conflict between libertarians and traditional conservatives can be made to simply disappear by simply saying, "It is a state matter." Sending issues back to the states, leaving them where they always belonged in the first place, dissipates conflict by allowing more people to live under laws that they agree with. But more importantly, it is inherently conservative and mild. The state cannot borrow money or print money and so a break is put on the more grandios schemes of government and central planners. And the rules it enforces are always limited by the power of people to vote with their feet; if they really don't like a law they can not only move, they can visit. 

Wednesday, November 07, 2012

Revenge of the mandarines and moochers

From Michael Walsh:

"In the end, though, Mitt lost because he and his team were incapable of grasping one simple, terrible fact: Far too many Americans today don’t want a job, they want — again, to use Obama’s term — revenge.
They just got it. "

In the end that is it, perhaps. The sneering at Romney's mentioning that his wife drives two Cadillacs, for instance, or the sneers at his car elevator or just the sheer fact of his wealth, all of this was somehow an indictment. No matter that he earned the money, the mere fact that he had it was enough to make him an object of hatred. Rock stars, Rappers and sports figures can blow money on all sorts of nonsense without the slightest price in public esteem but a man who has earned a fortune through hard work and led a morally exemplary life can be sneered at. Why? Simple revenge. It is sad and hateful. 

By the way, Obama won 8 of the 10 richest counties in the country. The moocher/mandarine axis lives on. 


The concept of dignity is the dividing line.

One conception of dignity is the free market conception. It is defined by owing nothing to another man. To live by no man's leave under the law. To stand up on one's own. To having nothing that one has not earned, and 'earned' meaning providing something, some good or service, that others are willing to pay for un-coerced. To have nothing that one has not earned.

The other conception of dignity is the government conception. It is defined by having as much as other men. To give your political loyalty in exchange for favors. To be lifted up by the government. To get what one deserves, and 'deserves' meaning being treated equally, and being equally entitled to roughly what others have, to have one's labor valued by the judgement of its value to society rather than the relative scarcity of the services you are able to provide. 

Government helps the insiders

Government's efforts to help the little guy always end up helping the insiders.

They try to help the little guy with deposite insurance and shoring up the banking system and who profits? The bank executives.

They try to help students get higher education and who makes out? The universities and colleges.

They try to help out the poor and the elderly with Medicare and Medicaid and who makes out? The health care industry.

They try to help people buy homes and who makes out? The people that already had homes.

Young people voting for the Democratic party should look at the GM bailout to get an idea of what the future holds for them. The deal rescuing the un-payable pensions of the current work force were restored by public money, but the younger workers that have since been hired don't get those benefits. The people already working there are insiders. The ones that have not been hired yet are outsiders. Think about it, generation sucker.

Government goes into these markets driving up demand and instead of increasing consumption of the good merely drives up the price. And once the price is driven up government help becomes all the more essential. It becomes terrifying to think of trying to buy these goods without government help. Government's failure perpetuates its failure.

Government: the cause of the disease it claims to cure.

The doctor that gives you the sickness you pay him to treat you for.

Government, by 'helping' the little guy, only grinds him down more.

Good news for libertarians

It appears that several Ron Paul backed candidates did well. 

Postion on birth control?

It appears that one reason women favored Obama was Romney's position on birth control. Birth control? Did he have one?

Well, yes, he took (or at least did not vigorously deny) the conservative position that the Constitution says nothing about birth control and therefore a state could, if the majority of its representatives wanted it to, ban birth control. But that is not the same thing as being against birth control or even having a position on the issue of birth control itself.

Is there anything in the Constitution that says a state cannot ban automobiles? Surely not. Does that mean that the Constitution is anti-automobile? Does that mean that a politician who says the Constitution says nothing about automobiles is anti-automobile? Isn't that ridiculous? But of course the press always treats the issue of privacy rights and Griswold v. Connecticut as an issue about birth control. How is a meaningful interpretation of the Constitution to survive is silence means opposition, if believe (really, simple recognition) that the Constitution is silent on some matter is taken to mean support for whatever those who support the 'living' Constitution wish to use it to ban, and opposition to whatever they wish to support?

Does anyone think the Constitution prevents states from banning trans-fats or Big Gulps? Does anyone think that this implies being against trans-fats or Big Gulps? (I am not sure what trans-fats are but I am sure that, as in the case of Big Gulps, I consume more than my share.)

We are allowed to vote on less and less. More and more is decided by judicial decree. And the odd thing is, it is precisely the people that evince the most concern about the right of the people to vote who are the same people that deny them the right to vote on more and more. More and more people voting on less and less. More people must be allowed to vote and fewer issues may be put to a vote. You take away a man's right to vote by judicial fiat as surely as you do by poll taxes, literacy tests and voter ID laws. 

Maybe he meant it

When President Obama said, "Voting is the best revenge," he may have just been connecting with his base. Here is a post from Jim Lindgren explaining his paper showing that those who support economic redistribution are far more likely to be angry and to plot revenge. 

Tuesday, November 06, 2012

Mencken's law

Democracy is the theory that the common people know what they want, and deserve to get it good and hard. 
Read more at 

Quick study

As I walked into the MPB studio they "reminded" me that I was going to be talking about local races. I had thought that I was supposed to talk about the Presidential race. I had to learn as much as I could in five minutes but I really had to vamp. Fortunately there are no returns yet and not even any exit polls for me to be familiar with since they are only doing exit polls in the swing states and are ignoring the states which, like Mississippi, were never going to be in doubt. 

Take the Exit Polls with a dose of skepticism

The exit polls overstated Obama's vote share by 4.7% in 2008. If Romney is tied in the exit polls that may mean good news for the Republicans. Here is an short explanation. 

Michael Barone

Romney outperforming McCain by not necessarily by enough.

"Very close race." But he is saying that all the states look close. Can't say anything until the exit polls have been calibrated with the actual results in the precincts where the exit polls were done.

Candy Crowley

Candy Crowley just reported that Romney campaign's internals had him down 5 points in Ohio on Sunday. That might be another reason that Romney was in Pennsylvania campaigning--he needed another way to get to 270.

Another disturbing report from Virginia with only 21% of voters identifying themselves as White evangelicals. It was 28% in 2008. Could there really have been a problem with Romney's religion?

CNN reports that black turnout in Virginia is above 2008 levels according to the Obama campaign's internals. 

Leading indicators

Some of the leading indicators to watch for (reporting Mississippi time):

6:00: Romney losing Virginia: bad, 13 electoral votes

6:00: Margin in Indiana

7:00: Romney losing Florida: worse, 29 electoral votes.

7:15: Early voting in Ohio. 150,000 to 200,000 for Obama augers well for him. Less, bad.

Exit Polls

CNN reports that Democrats are 37%, Republicans 34% of the electorate. This is provisional and will change but they are much lower then the numbers that were assumed by most of the published polls, most of which assumed an at least 5 and some as much as 11 percent advantage for the Democrats.

They report 73% white voters, which is a problem for Romney, who (according to David Gergen, at least) needs 74% or more to have a good chance to win. Here is a discussion of why that is important. 

Just Remember

Just remember that the news media always reports the most favorable information possible for the Democratic Candidate. Think of Carter and Reagan in 1980.

2000: They reported an Al Gore victory in Florida before the polls had closed in the West of the state, discouraging many Bush voters in the Pan Handle.

2004: the early exit polls reported a Kerry win.

The 2008 polls and exist polls were reported as having a lead 4 points greater than he turned out to have gotten when the final vote was counted. Don't

First Exit Polls

CNN exit polls have 60% answering the economy is the most important issue and 17% naming the deficit. This should be good news for Romney, but only 51% say Romney is the better candidate to handle the economy, a number which I find surprisingly low. 

Republicans win in voter registration

In a first in the history of polling, the first time ever since 1936, registered Republicans outnumber registered Democrats in the electorate. This from exceptionally large samples from Rasmussen and Gallup. 

Not those Polls

Had a great experience talking to the students as a Polish University (the other 'Poles', you might say) where a former Millsaps student, Joseph Muller, is teaching English on a Fulbright Scholarship. They were the English Philology students at the University of Silesia at Katowice.

One interesting thing a student said in relation to the election was that though he, the student, was personally a Democrat, he was very impressed with Romney and pleasantly surprised by the good impression. He also noted that his visit was largely regarded by the Poles as a success.

It is a good indication of the influence press. We see that people get a very skewed view of events due to the influence of the liberal bias of the press.

I don't know what they thought of my answers but damn, they could sure speak English.


Moderate turnout at my nominally pro-Obama voting place. One ambiguous data point.

Rise of the Romney

Here is a good article explaining the rise of the quants. The main thing that is going on with Nate Silver and others is that they are combining information from several polls and doing meta-analysis with Baysian statistics. These models predict an easy Obama victory but combining information from several state level polls.

The reason I still disagree with them is that they are vulnerable to polls that are all making one systematic error: over-estimating the turnout among Democrats. I still think that is what is going on and combining information from a lot of polls that are making the same error simply re-enforces the error rather than corrects for it.

I still think that looking at the internals of these polls shows that Romney has strong leads among independents and that with anything like normal (i.e., non-2008 turnout levels) among Democrats and the increased enthusiasm among Republicans will lead to a Romney victory. 

Friday, November 02, 2012

Tea Partiers sabotage attempts at deficit reduction by insisting on deficit reduction!

This article reports on a poll showing a majority agreeing that Romney would be better able to end Washington gridlock. It mentions in passing that doing so will be important because, "And tea partyers who stymied efforts to reach a deficit-reduction deal seem certain to remain a substantial presence." 

--Yes, those darn Tea Partiers, who stymied efforts to reach a deficit reduction deal by insisting on deficit reduction! That is the problem! If not for those crazies from outside Washington the pros could have quickly converged its usual consensus on increasing spending a bit more slowly and increasing taxes a bit more quickly. 

Thursday, November 01, 2012

Economist Endorses Obama

I find it so strange when economists and people trained in economics endorse Obama. Here is the Economist's Leader doing the deed.

The article is very strange. It lays out the case against Obama admirably and then endorses him saying at least he staved off catastrophe.

The case against Romney is that he has tacked to the right in the primaries. He was a good, centrist, compromise seeking governor of Massachusetts but he has since taken no new tax pledges and must be considered likely to continue appeasing right-wingers in his party, the "head-bangers" as the Economist calls them. He is also guilty of appeasing the right wing on social causes and is pledged to nominate judges that would overturn Roe v. Wade. He is against new taxes, vague on what loopholes he would eliminate in order to lower the rates, will keep defense spending at 4% instead of letting it drift down to 3% of GDP and will generally give in to the parties increasingly "Southern Fried" style of social policy allowing more decisions to flow back to the states. The paper says that it longs for an open, tolerant Ronald Reagan like conservative.

And that is what is so bizarre. For the litany the Economist rolls out is a very good description of a Ronald Reagan conservative.