Welfare, Taxes, the Nanny State, and Supply-Side Economics

March 10, 2017

Remember, welfare traps people in poverty. It’s not a hand helping you up: it’s a hand grabbing your ankle and holding you back.

International Liberty

What’s the right way to define good tax policy? There are several possible answers to that question, including the all-important observation that the goal should be to only collect the amount of revenue needed to finance the legitimate functions of government, and not one penny above that amount.

But what if we want a more targeted definition? A simple principle to shape our understanding of tax policy?

I’m partial to what I wrote last year.

the essential insight of supply-side economics…when you tax something, you get less of it.

I’m not claiming this is my idea, by the way. It’s been around for a long time.

Indeed, it’s rumored that Reagan shared a version of this wisdom.

I don’t know if the Gipper actually said those exact words, but his grasp of tax policy was very impressive. And the changes he made led to very good results

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Statism: Obama’s theory of government

February 21, 2012

Peter Wehner had a good post in Commentary last week that, while talking about Obama’s latest risible budget proposal, neatly encapsulates the statist, progressive view of the relationship between the citizen and the State, Obama’s theory of government:

These numbers are important, but they need to be understood above all as a manifestation of a particular philosophy, which some have called reactionary liberalism. Barack Obama has an almost undiluted attachment for and belief in the wondrous powers of the federal government. He believes the role of the state is to redistribute wealth and level out differences. He would trade off greater prosperity in all classes and income brackets in order to narrow the gap in income inequality, which he considers to be a moral offense. Obama wants to punish wealth creators, empower unelected bureaucrats, undermine private enterprise and centralize power.

Beyond even that, Obama wants government to weaken, and eventually replace, civil society, create greater dependency, and expand the state’s reach into every nook and cranny of life, including into the internal life of the church. And at a time when Medicare in particular is driving us toward a Greece-like crisis, the president opposes any modernization of our entitlement state and savages those who are offering up reforms.

More than any president in our lifetime, Barack Obama identifies the state with society and wants society absorbed by the state.

(Emphasis added)

Wehner calls it “reactionary liberalism,” (1) but I think Goldberg (channeling H. G. Wells) names it best: “Liberal Fascism.” The State becomes the arbiter of a vague “Will of the People” (or “Spirit of the Nation,” or whatever), speaking for the collective and knowing better than the individual what the individual needs, for the good of the whole. Forget the goosestepping images of Nazis or Mussolini’s Blackshirts, and put side the insane racial nonsense the National Socialists added to Fascism; reactionary liberalism/liberal fascism can come with a warm smile and a motherly embrace, promising all sorts of wonderful things, if only you’ll be good and let Nanny State make the choices for you.

It is the infantilization of the individual citizen.

And it would be so easy to say “yes,” which is why, in 2012, we have to say “no.”

RELATED: In a later post, Wehner cites another example, that of Nancy Pelosi’s opinion on the HHS mandate and the proper response of religious organizations: “Shut up and obey.

Footnote:
(1) Although, really, the most reactionary people I’ve ever met have been supposedly broadminded liberals. Mildly challenge even one of their dearly held dogmas (such as the success of the New Deal or the desirability of abortion on demand), and many go into full frothing-and-shrieking mode. It’s almost Pavlovian.

(Crossposted at Sister Toldjah)


Dear Rick Santorum: Get your hands off my slot machine

February 17, 2012

Sigh. There are just no limited-government conservatives left in this race, are there? We all know about Mitt Romney and the indefensible individual mandate in RomneyCare. So, fine, we’ll just vote for the true conservative in the race, the man who savagely and effectively attacked Romney’s legacy, Rick Santorum, right? Right?

Ehh… Not so fast.

From an interview with Nevada journalist Jon Ralston, per Jim Geraghty:

I’m someone who takes the opinion that gaming is not something that is beneficial, particularly having that access on the Internet. Just as we’ve seen from a lot of other things that are vices on the Internet, they end to grow exponentially as a result of that. It’s one thing to come to Las Vegas and do gaming and participate in the shows and that kind of thing as entertainment, it’s another thing to sit in your home and have access to that it. I think it would be dangerous to our country to have that type of access to gaming on the Internet.

Freedom’s not absolute. What rights in the Constitution are absolute? There is no right to absolute freedom. There are limitations. You might want to say the same thing about a whole variety of other things that are on the Internet — “let everybody have it, let everybody do it.” No. There are certain things that actually do cost people a lot of money, cost them their lives, cost them their fortunes that we shouldn’t have and make available, to make it that easy to do. That’s why we regulate gambling. You have a big commission here that regulates gambling, for a reason.

I opposed gaming in Pennsylvania . . . A lot of people obviously don’t responsibly gamble and lose a lot and end up in not so great economic straits as a result of that. I believe there should be limitations.

Now, in one sense, Nanny Senator Santorum is right: freedom isn’t absolute. We have freedom of speech, but we cannot yell “fire!” in a crowded theater. We have freedom of religious practice, but no one advocates allowing human sacrifice as part of the service. (I hope.) Individual liberty generally meets its bounds where it endangers public safety or impinges on the rights of another. (1)

There are indeed limits.

But that’s not what Santorum is talking about here. He’s speaking in terms of a more moderate social cost (e.g., the damage done to a family by a gambling addiction) or simply the harm it might do to the individual person. And there’s the problem. As Allahpundit puts it:

You could swap in “drinking” for “gambling” there and have a rough argument for banning alcohol consumption in homes. (If you’re free to indulge in private, who’ll stop you from going overboard?) If you nominate Santorum, you’re getting a guy who’s more willing to try to save people from themselves than the average “personal responsibility” conservative, which means you’d better prepare for occasional moral tutelage from the presidential podium and maybe some new morals regulations if he can cobble together a congressional majority for it.

And for gambling or drinking, one could substitute all sorts private activities. Like to smoke? Want to order pipe tobacco or cigars from that great shop across the country? Hey, that stuff’s bad for you, bud! Want to watch an “adult” movie on late-night cable? President Santorum doesn’t think that’s “beneficial,” so he’s going to push Congress to regulate it.

Or what about credit card debt? Yes, there’s a real problem with people who wreck their finances abusing credit, but is it the government’s responsibility to protect us from ourselves? Would a President Santorum seek to limit us all to certain debt-to-income ratios? Do we get a “conservative” version of Dodd-Frank?

I’ll confess, it’s getting harder and harder to see much of an effective difference between the progressive liberal, Obama, and Rick Santorum, the self-proclaimed progressive conservative. Nannying is nannying, and statism is statism.

So, what does this mean for the election and how I’ll vote? I’ve said before that I’ll vote for any of the three serious potential Republican nominees over Obama, because I think any of them would be better than a second Obama term. But Santorum is making it much harder for me to be comfortable voting for him. If it is none of government’s business what health insurance I carry, neither is it their business if I choose to play some online poker — or a lot of online poker.

I’ve said before that I’ve decided to concentrate more on electing as conservative a Congress as possible (2) to rein in the big-government urges of whichever person is elected president. But this latest from Santorum has me thinking Romney would be the best choice for limited government conservatives.

Wait! I can explain! Put down the baseball bat!

Look at it this way: I’m convinced Mitt Romney has few set-in-stone principles and is more of a pragmatic problem-solver,willing to do what it takes to get the job done. In electoral races, that means he… “adjusts” his positions to fit what his target audience wants. In office, it means he works with whatever faction dominates the legislature to produce an accomplishment. In the end, this is a guy whose overriding urge is to be seen as successful. He is a tree that bends whichever way the prevailing wind blows.

Thus I’ve come to think that a President Romney would be open to the goals of limited government conservatism if he were faced with a Congress dominated by strong limited government, Tea Party factions in both chambers pressuring him from the Right. And he would be open to this influence in a way that a strongly principled social nanny-stater like Rick Santorum would never be.

Yep. It’s a “lesser of two evils” choice. Fun, eh?

Footnotes:
(1) Another illustration of why I’ll never be a “Big L” libertarian; the ones I’ve met tend to take annoyingly absolutist positions.
(2) Want to help California “right” it’s ship of state? Check out Elizabeth Emken, who’s running for the nomination to face Senator Feinstein in November.

PS: When you think about it, Rick Santorum has something in common with Melinda Henneberger.

RELATED: More from Bruce McQuain at The Conservatory. A rebuttal at Protein Wisdom.

(Crossposted at Sister Toldjah)


Entitlement spending as vote-buying heroin

January 27, 2012

Liberals decry all the corporate money in politics, while conservatives worry that President Obama plans to spend a billion dollars to fund his reelection campaign.

Bill Whittle calls that “chump change.”

In another of his Firewall videos, Bill examines what he calls “The Vote Pump:” the money the federal government can use to make sure you vote the way the statists want. It’s eye-opening, to say the least.

Interesting, isn’t it? We currently take in more than enough revenue to fund the actual government (setting aside for the moment how many of those are legitimate functions), but what’s killing us is the nearly 60% of all federal spending that goes toward entitlements.

And it’s a percentage that, under current conditions, is only going to go up as the population ages.

Bill calls this a vote pump — money in, votes out. I think of it more as a form of economic heroin: give people “free money” and make them dependent, afraid to give it up. And, no matter how much they realize intellectually that the system is unsustainable and bad for the nation, that fear will lead most to vote to keep in power those who promise to keep the smack coming — the statists, whether Democrat or Republican.

It’s as de Tocqueville once wrote:

The American Republic will endure until the day Congress discovers that it can bribe the public with the public’s money. (1)

So when conservatives mock Gingrich for proposing a lunar base (“Too expensive!!”) or lefties decry all the money for the military (“Think of the children!!”), just take another look at Whittle’s chart and remind yourself of what the real problem is.

And then look at Greece to see where it will lead.

Footnote:
(1) Arguably misattributed.

(Crossposted at Sister Toldjah)


Plant a garden, go to jail

August 4, 2011

Oh, the evil of people trying to be self-sufficient, and the obscenity of doing it in public — in front of the neighbors!!

Presenting Reason.TV‘s Nanny of the Month: Oak Park, Michigan, official Kevin Rulkowski, whose objection to Julie Bass’ front-yard garden might cost her 93 days in jail.

Now, I’m not wholly without sympathy for Mr. Rulkowski; I was taught in real estate classes that uniformity in look helps maintain house prices, and I’m sure many of us have had to suffer with neighbors who park junk vehicles on their front lawns or paint their houses garish, eye-hurting colors. (Such as the bright orange house with black trim near me.) So I can see some reason to sensible zoning regulations.

But a garden? Really? Jail time? Seriously??

Rulkowski should leave Ms. Bass and her garden alone and concentrate on a real problem — such as rogue lemonade stands.

(Crossposted at Sister Toldjah)


Small victory in the Lemonade Stand War

August 3, 2011

Seeing a chance to strike a blow for freedom, capitalism,  and oppressed child-lemonade vendors everywhere (as well as earn some good press), the people who run the Jekyll Island resort invited the girls who had their stand shut down by Marietta authorities to reopen their business on the island:

The Jekyll Island Authority invited the girls from Midway — 14-year-old Kasity Dixon, 12-year-old Tiffany Cassin and 10-year-old Skylar Roberts — to sell their lemonade at Summer Waves Water Park at the island state park. Island officials said the girls planned to be there Sunday.

The offer came after Midway police forced the girls to shut down their lemonade stand earlier this month. Police said the girls needed a business license, a peddler’s permit and a food permit to sell drinks, even in their own yard.

Jekyll Island staff not only invited the girls, but built them a new lemonade stand.

Bravo, JIA!

LINKS: Earlier posts in the Great Lemonade Stand War.

PS: In case you wonder why I harp on this issue, stupidity needs all the laughing, pointing, and mockery it can get. And these stompings of young kids’ fun are so mind-numbingly dumb that I can’t not mock them.

(Crossposted at Sister Toldjah)


Lemonade stands! My God, they’re everywhere!!!

August 3, 2011

The news is grim, friends. I thought we had the threat contained to the Eastern seaboard (with that one tragic outbreak in Oregon), but it’s spread all the way to the heartland of America: a four-year old girl was operating a lemonade stand in Iowa… brace yourselves… without a license!

The horror:

Police closed down a lemonade stand in Coralville last week, telling its 4-year-old operator and her dad that she didn’t have a permit.

An officer told Abigail Krutsinger’s father Friday that she couldn’t run the stand as RAGBRAI bicyclers poured into Coralville.

I mean, think what would have happened if the police hadn’t been there to shut down this rogue preschooler’s citrusy speakeasy? No business permit? The city wouldn’t get its cut! The consequences of no health inspection? Are you willing to risk an outbreak of cooties??

Whew! That was close!

Thank God the regulatory state that our dedicated public servants bureaucratic betters were on the job.

PS: Have you noticed that all these accused lemonade bootleggers have been girls? I smell a conspiracy…

PPS: Iowa, eh? I wonder where the candidates stand on the Lemonade Menace? Romney probably has his finger in the wind even now.

LINKS: Prior posts in the War Against Lemonade Stands. E.D. Kain at Forbes has noticed the war, too, and brings the news that August 20th is National Lemonade Freedom Day.

(Crossposted at Sister Toldjah)