Sunday, August 28, 2011

Politicized Raids?

Very scary if true:

Why Gibson?
Putting aside the presumably misguided motivation to enforce another sovereign nation’s laws, why would a homegrown American company be the target of the Department of Justice in the first place?
It’s worth pointing out that Henry E. Juszkiewicz, Gibson’s Chief Executive Officer, is a donor to a couple of Republican politicians. According to the Open Secrets database, Juszkiewicz donated $2000 to Rep. Marsha Blackburn (R-TN07) last year, as well as $1500 each to Sen. Lamar Alexander (R-TN). Juszkiewicz also has donated $10,000 to the Consumer Electronics Association, a PAC that contributed $92.5k to Republican candidates last year, as opposed to $72k to Democrats. (The CEA did, however, contribute more to Democrats in the 2008 election cycle.)

When warrants as ridiculous such as these are issued and executed, there appears no other reason than because the company or individual at hand is being targeted, not because there is any sort of wrongdoing. As a company, Gibson is a legendary. They’ve done nothing wrong, except, apparently, deigning to have a Republican CEO.
The plot thickens, however.
One of Gibson’s leading competitors is C.F. Martin & Company. The C.E.O., Chris Martin IV, is a long-time Democratic supporter, with $35,400 in contributions to Democratic candidates and the DNC over the past couple of election cycles. According to C.F. Martin’s catalog, several of their guitars contain “East Indian Rosewood.” In case you were wondering, that is the exact same wood in at least ten of Gibson’s guitars.

Saturday, August 27, 2011

Returning to a Gold Standard

John Allison and John Chapman provide a good overview of the merits of a gold standard.

Friday, August 26, 2011

More on California Business Climate

From Forbes:

"California is like France," he said. "I try not to hire here, and I certainly would not launch a company here. But the wine is good."


 Now when Vector invests in a California company, the firm methodically asks: Which jobs must remain here? Most go elsewhere.

When Vector recently acquired a 140-employee technology outfit based in Sunnyvale, Calif., it sent nearly all jobs out of state. Developers, including some Ph.D.s went to St. Louis, where income taxes and living expenses are lower. Vector is hiring actively there from Washington University's graduate pools. Back-office jobs went to Asia. Only 10 people from the firm stayed in California.

"California is facing French-like entitlement systems that will only become more expensive," says Mehta. He's worried about ever increasing tax burdens on high-earners (like his engineers) and businesses. This is a clear factor when hiring senior talent. "These people are trying hard not to be based out of California. They hope to get seriously rich on equity, and are concerned about what will happen to California's tax code in the future," says Mehta.

Thursday, August 25, 2011

Taxing its Way to Poverty takes a look at the impact of taxes and regulations on Illinois' employment scene.

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

A Doctor's View of Canada's Medical System

An interesting indictment of Canada's supposedly exemplary medical system.  But given that the problem is identified as "selfishness" -- not socialism -- I doubt it will get better any time soon.

Monday, August 22, 2011

Unemployment and the Payroll Tax

Remember when President Obama and his team promised that if only we passed an emergency “stimulus” bill allowing them to wantonly spend $787 billion, unemployment would be capped at 8%? Two years later, having soared as high as 9.8%, July’s unemployment rate stands at a dismal 9.1% overall, and at a staggering 25% for those aged 16 to 19! Throw in so-called “discouraged” and “underemployed” workers, and these rates increase by half again.

Simultaneously, the costs of the government’s massive redistribution efforts have torpedoed our once pristine credit rating, shell-shocked private business owners, disillusioned the few employed taxpayers who still remain, and sent consumer confidence to a new 30 year low.

Mercifully, however, there is a silver lining. It appears that the utter failing of all of Obama’s programs and predictions has him tinkering with something new. Rather than reflexively using more government force to further redistribute wealth and impede commerce, he’s actually considering restoring a modicum of freedom to the labor markets. In various speeches around the country, the President now says he’ll propose an extension to the temporary 2% reduction in payroll taxes that was instituted for 2011.

Recall that payroll taxes are imposed on both employees and employers allegedly to pay for future Social Security and Medicare benefits. In reality, the funds aren’t segregated and are effectively spent as they’re collected. As a result, payroll taxes constitute another form by which the government redistributes wealth.

Moreover these taxes are by no means trivial. Prior to the temporary 2% reduction, most employees had to surrender 15.3% of their earnings directly to Washington. This is a significant percentage, particularly when expressed as a fraction of an employee’s discretionary income. Indeed, many lower income earners have no discretionary income at all in large part due to the payroll tax.

Obama’s proposal then is a tacit acknowledgement that payroll taxes represent a hefty punishment for working and a powerful disincentive to hire. And while these taxes are damaging to every potential worker — they’re perhaps most harmful to those who don’t yet have the experience or skills to justify higher wages, i.e. to the young. No wonder a quarter of our youths can’t find a job.

So, possibly for the first time ever, I find myself agreeing with the President. Reducing the payroll tax is a good idea. But if a temporary 2% reduction is good, wouldn’t a permanent end to the entire 15.3% tax be much better?

Consider that under the President’s proposal, wages are still taxed at 13.3%, and would jump back to 15.3% in a year. That’s not exactly conducive to hiring. Why not fully apply the logic behind the reduction? Eliminate the tax entirely, so that anyone who’s willing, can once again be productively employed. And make the cut permanent so that private business owners — the people who create real jobs — can do so in a stable and predictable environment (something which would be a welcome novelty from this administration).

Now of course for anyone who’s fiscally responsible (which likely leaves out the President), a cut in taxes must also entail a counterbalancing cut in spending. Consistent with an end to payroll taxes would be an end to the programs they’re earmarked for. That means phasing out the immoral, Ponzi-like schemes of impossible promises which are our entitlement programs. (Elsewhere I’ve suggested a starting point on how to go about this. The basic idea would be to return the dollar amounts that people have contributed to the programs, but to stop accruing any more money towards them.)

Ending entitlement programs means that instead of treating workers as helpless wards of the State, they’d be recognized as the adults they are; fully capable of planning for their own retirements and healthcare. Put more broadly, it means abandoning government paternalism by empowering those who earn the money to save, spend, and invest it according to their own personal needs, values and priorities.

Understood this way, eliminating payroll taxes — and the paternalistic programs they’re associated with — is a win-win proposition whose time has come.

Sunday, August 21, 2011

Ayn Rand Documentary

I'm looking forward to this (though I've never liked the terms prophet or prophecy):

Thursday, August 18, 2011

Subsidizing Crime

I guess it's time to move the HUD up on the list of government programs to eliminate sooner rather than later. From an interesting WSJ article:
In the 1990s, the feds were embarrassed by skyrocketing crime rates in public housing—up to 10 times the national average, according to HUD studies and many newspaper reports. The government's response was to hand out vouchers to residents of the projects (authorized under Section 8 of the Housing and Community Development Act of 1974), dispersing them to safer and more upscale locales.


After a four-year investigation, the Indianapolis Housing Authority (IHA) in 2006 linked 80% of criminal homicides in Marion County, Ind., to individuals fraudulently obtaining federal assistance "in either the public housing program or the Section 8 program administered by the agency." The IHA released an update last month citing recent crackdowns on a "nationwide criminal motorcycle gang operating out of a Section 8 home." It also noted one "attorney who allegedly operated a law practice from a Section 8 home for eight years, providing shelter to unauthorized occupants who were linked to 10 homicides, 431 police calls and 394 criminal arrests during that time period."
Read the whole thing.

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Criticism without Substance

James Valliant has a well done article on the paucity of actual arguments put forth by the best of Ayn Rand's critics.

Monday, August 15, 2011

Obama Tells Car Companies How to Run Their Businesses

Here's a fun fisking of Obama's latest campaign speech.

Sunday, August 14, 2011

Bowden on Obamacare Legislation

Tom Bowden has a good column out looking at the bigger picture of the recent Obamacare legislation.

Friday, August 12, 2011

USPS Tries to Address Labor Costs

This is worth keeping an eye on, as it could be a model for cuts to federal, state and local government employees as well.

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Regulation Destroys Commerce

Another illustration.

Tuesday, August 09, 2011

Let's Leave the Debt to Our Children

This is a well done parody. The opening gives a good taste of the rest of the piece:

Wow, that whole debt-ceiling debate was scary. For a while there, it looked like a few radical extremists were going to keep the country from going further into debt. And then where would we be? Without all the free stuff we like, because some people are stuck on the primitive notion that a budget should balance? I think you can say without hyperbole that people who think like that are literally terrorists, except a million times worse.

Monday, August 08, 2011

Why Believe the Government's Rosy Forecasts?

According to the CBO's forecast from 2000, the US should currently have a net surplus of $2.5T. It illustrates how much of a sham the government's deficit projections are, particularly as they apply to further out years. (And yes, I realize that 9/11 skews the results, but not nearly to the extent of the miss.)

Hopefully the electorate at large will begin to see this and insist on immediate cuts, not ones to take place 5 years down the road, and to use conservative private projections instead of government ones.

Sunday, August 07, 2011

Government Science

Robert LeChevalier points out the perfectly appropriate logo for the Smithsonian's new "Department of Innovation": three gears that can't turn! How about we leave science and technology to the private sector?

Saturday, August 06, 2011

Arthur Brooks Sees a Moral Dimension in the Fight Against Statism

While his moral views leave a lot to be desired, I found it encouraging that defenders of the free market are starting to appreciate that the real battle is at the level of morality, not just economics. I think it's an indication of how far Ayn Rand's ideas are starting to penetrate the culture (thanks in no small part to the efforts of the Ayn Rand Institute).

Friday, August 05, 2011

Announcement from The Undercurrent

From the staff at the Undercurrent:

Dear Potential Supporter,

In his lecture at this summer’s Objectivist conference, Yaron Brook, President of the Ayn Rand Institute, reflected on the first 50 years of the Objectivist movement. During that session, Dr. Brook stated that if we are to succeed in changing the culture, "we need more than an Institute: we need a movement."

We at The Undercurrent wholeheartedly agree, and we think a key part of the Objectivist movement needs to be a student movement. For the upcoming academic year, we're planning a number of programs designed to spark an Objectivist student movement on college campuses. To make these programs possible, we're asking for your support.

Foremost among our 2011-2012 programs is an event called "Capitalism Awareness Week." This week-long event will consist of a series of lectures and discussions at different college campuses across the country. Each lecture will be broadcast live via the Internet so students elsewhere may participate.

This event follows in the footsteps of last Spring's virtual campus lecture, "Ideas Matter: Ayn Rand's Message to Today's World", which was broadcast to 20 other campuses live and attained a student audience of just over 600. (If you haven't seen it, that lecture is available to view here:

For this and other programs, we're seeking to raise $40,000 for the upcoming academic year. I hope you can help us as we fight to change the culture.

For more information on our plans for the year, I invite you to browse through our donor package. And if you have any questions, please feel free to contact me.

Best Regards,

Jared Seehafer


The Undercurrent

To make a one-time donation, visit this page

To make a recurring donation, visit our donation page and follow the instructions for “Recurring Monthly Payments”.

Thursday, August 04, 2011

Remembering and Learning From the Horrors of Communism

This 1 1/2 hour lecture is well worth listening to. I think that many of Dr. Kors' points illustrate the crucial importance of morality: if one treats the morality of altruism as unquestionable -- as the West (and indeed the world) currently does -- then no real lessons can be drawn from the horrors of communism, nor from its contrast to freer societies.

It's one of her many feats of intellectual genius that Ayn Rand could in effect stand outside of the ubiquitous moral climate and carefully question and analyze it (to spectacular effect). Armed with her analyses, the facts that Dr. Kors cites can't help but drive home the fact that altruism really is a form of zero worship (= death worship).

Wednesday, August 03, 2011

Gary Johnson

I hope that Gary Johnson is able to make some gains in the GOP presidential primaries. What I've seen of him so far is head and shoulders above any of the other candidates.

Tuesday, August 02, 2011

Washington's Newspeak

Cato has a good post showing what's now taken as a "cut" by the politicians in Washington. Here's what it looks like graphically:

Of course ultimately this speaks not to the politicians but to the electorate at large and to the intellectuals who educate them. As things stand now, any aspiring politician who speaks plainly, andwho doesn't pander to those living in a fantasy world, is unelectable.

There's simply no getting around the fact that the only way to achieve any long term, meaningful political change is by instituting a significant cultural and educational shift.

Monday, August 01, 2011

2011 Crossfit Games

I attended the 2011 Crossfit games this weekend. While they were enjoyable, I'd put them well below the 2010 games for a variety of reasons. But congrats to my two favorites who both took second: Josh Bridges and Kristan Clever. Here are two photos of Josh which one commenter aptly describes as "Beast Mode On" and "Beast Mode Off".

Update: Here's a video showing Bridges' amazing capacity. For anyone wishing to try it, it's a rep scheme of 3 100 lbs thrusters, 3 chest to bar pullups, then 6/6; 9/9 and just keep going for 7 minutes. He ended up finishing the round of 21 and then got 1 thruster!