Wednesday, January 22, 2014

The Biggest Impediment for the Poor Is Government, not Inequality!

Townhall.com ^ | January 22, 2014 | Daniel J. Mitchell 


A bunch of well-connected rich people and government officials are descending upon Switzerland for the annual World Economic Forum meeting in Davos.
This upsets many people, and perhaps with some justification. After all, bad things often happen when big business and big government intersect.
But some folks reflexively think that wealth is bad and they would like us to believe that the economy is a fixed pie, meaning that the rich have more money because the poor have less money.
If you think I’m exaggerating, check out a new report from Oxfam, a UK-based group that was created to alleviate poverty but has largely morphed into a left-wing pressure group.
The folks at Oxfam complain about the supposed “capture of opportunities by the rich at the expense of the poor and middle classes” and that “tax rates for the richest have fallen in 29 of the 30 countries.”
Here are some excerpts from a report in the EU Observer.
As the world’s richest and most powerful men and women prepare to meet in the Swiss resort of Davos for the annual World Economic Forum on Wednesday (22 January), the British development charity, Oxfam, has issued a new report on global inequality. According to its findings, the wealth of the world’s 85 richest people – €81.2 trillion – amounts to that of the poorest half of the world population, or 3.5 billion people. …”In Europe, austerity has been imposed on the poor and middle classes under huge pressure from financial markets whose wealthy investors have benefited from state bailouts of financial institutions,” the charity said. Financial deregulation in the US has contributed to the situation, in which the richest one percent of the population has more money than ever since 1933. …The charity said Davos participants should reverse the trend and pledge to support higher taxes for the rich, while refraining from using their wealth to seek political favours.
There are several parts of this excerpt that deserve attention, including passages that are correct (such as bailouts giving undeserved money to the rich) and passages that are nonsensical (the financial crisis was caused by intervention, not deregulation).
But I want to focus solely on the inequality issue. Let’s assume Oxfam is right and that the world’s 85 richest people have $81.2 trillion of wealth. The group obviously wants us to think this accumulation of wealth is bad and that it somehow comes at the expense of the rest of us.
Tim Carney of the Washington Examiner hits the nail on the head, explaining that there’s a big difference between honest wealth and riches obtained through government coercion.
…is it a bad thing for a country to have some really rich people? Again, it depends on how they got rich. Sutirtha Bagchi of the University of Michigan’s business school and Jan Svejnar of Columbia’s School of International and Public Affairs studied how inequality correlates with economic growth. In general, more inequality meant slower growth, and less inequality meant faster growth. But in many countries, over various time periods, growing inequality had no effect on economic growth. The new study suggests that an increase in inequality hurt the economy when the rich were getting rich through political connections. That is, inequality hurts the economy when “a large share of the national wealth is held by a small number of politically connected families,” as the authors put it. …Bagchi and Svenjar took pains to classify political billionaires as narrowly as possible. …The political billionaires were only people who “would not have become a billionaire in the absence of political connections that resulted in favoritism and/or explicit government support.”
The oft-missed lesson here is that undeserving wealth generally is obtained because of big government.
Which reminds me of a very astute observation by a former Cato colleague, who wrote that, “…the more power the government has to pick winners and losers, the more power rich people will have relative to poor people.”
Carney continues, pointing out that wealth obtained through markets is good. Such success creates a bigger pie and helps boost living standards for everyone.
But wealth achieved via government is cronyism, and that contributes to economic stagnation.
When a country’s wealthiest got wealthy through market means, the resulting inequality has no negative effect on economic growth. This jibes with what we know about free markets. If people can get rich by providing valuable things at good prices, then society will get more valuable things at good prices—and people across the income spectrum benefit. But if people get rich by pocketing subsidies and using the state to crush competitors, then they gained their wealth at the expense of everyone else. Bill Gates became a billionaire by making and selling something that makes regular people more productive and more connected. Buffett got rich largely by providing capital to underfunded but well-run businesses. If Bagchi’s and Svejnar’s findings are correct, then the bottom line is this: Inequality itself doesn’t hurt the economy. Cronyism hurts the economy.
I fully agree with Tim’s analysis, though I would have drawn a distinction between the younger Warren Buffett, who was a savvy investor and the older Buffett, who has climbed into bed with the political elite.
The bottom line is that the poor aren’t poor because of honest rich people. The poor are suffering because of big government, including the cronyism that lines the pockets of dishonest companies and individuals that feed at the public trough.
Unfortunately, many insider leftists are perfectly content with those policies and they use inequality to distract voters from the real problem.
There are honest leftists, of course, and they presumably would be outraged by the sleaze in national capitals. Their problem is that they genuinely think the economic is fixed pie. Or they think that inequality is such a bad thing that they would be willing to reduce incomes for the poor if it meant the rich suffered even more.
If you don’t believe me, watch this marvelous video of Margaret Thatcher debunking the left.
And my old grad school colleague Steve Horwitz also has some very sage observations on income inequality and class warfare.
P.S. In its report on inequality, Oxfam also went after tax havens and said more revenue for government would help reduce poverty.
Oxfam also estimated that €15.5 trillion of the wealth is hidden from the taxman in offshore accounts, at a time when governments are cutting public spending. …tax avoidance by EU and US corporations in Africa is depriving its governments from resources which could be use to fight poverty.
wrote a study years ago exposing Oxfam’s sloppy methodology on tax competition issues. No wonder they’ve been labeled as being part of the “tax taliban.”
But what really irks me about that passage is the assumption that bigger government reduces poverty. That’s nonsense. The data shows that growth is the best way of helping the poor.
Christie JokeP.S. I wrote yesterday about Chris Christie’s problems in New Jersey. I said his real challenge was the need to reduce the burden of government, not the bridge scandal.
But I’m a sucker for good political humor, so enjoy this image that appeared in my inbox.
P.P.S. Since Oxfam criticized tax havens, I can’t resist calling your attention to my video tutorialon tax competition and tax haven.
Simply stated, we need some external check on the greed of the political class.

Ranchers Fed up with Destruction Immigrants Leave Behind (South Texas Illegals)

KRGV ^ | Jan 21, 2014 

HIDALGO COUNTY - Illegal immigration is forcing a rancher to move his livestock away from a property along the Rio Grande.
Jose Cavazos said it's become nearly impossible to maintain his fences. He said immigrants damage them when they flee from Border Patrol agents.
Cavazos isn't the only rancher dealing with the destruction.
Damaged fences lead to stray cattle, ranchers said.
"They completely destroyed the fence. I had to move (the livestock) to another 76 acres," Cavazos said.
Cavazos lives along the Rio Grande, just south of Mission.
Cavazos said Border Patrol boats force illegal immigrants onto his property. He said it costs him thousands of dollars to fix the damage.
The immigrants also leave behind inner tubes and other refuse.
CHANNEL 5 NEWS Reporter John Bartell spoke with Rep. Henry Cuellar (D-Texas) about the issue.
"That is a problem we need to address. It's not just the undocumented aliens that cross, but sometimes it's Border Patrol that crash and do damage," Cuellar said.
Cuellar said the U.S. Government Accountability Office is working on a one-year study that may lead to restitution for landowners.

Aetna CEO: We May Just Have to Pull Out of Obamacare!

PJ Media ^ | January 22, 2014 | Bryan Preston 

The Obama administration claims that its Obamacare sign-up numbers aren’t that far off from where they need to be. They have a vested interest in selling the program as a success, and have proven themselves dishonest about it from the beginning. Obama knew that his “if you like your healthcare, you can keep your healthcare” promise was bogus the entire time.
The CEO of Aetna insurance, Mark Bertolini, has a different take on the president’s signature healthcare law.
Aetna CEO Mark Bertolini told CNBC on Wednesday that Obamacare has failed to attract the uninsured, and he offered a scenario in which the insurance company could be forced to pull out of program.
The company will be submitting Obamacare rates for 2015 on May 15.
“Are they going to be double-digit [increases] or are we going to get beat up because they’re double-digit or are we just going to have to pull out of the program?” Bertolini asked in a “Squawk Box” interview from the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland. “Those questions can’t be answered until we see the population we have today. And we really don’t have a good view on that.”
He said that so far, Obamacare has just shifted people who were insured in the individual market to the public exchanges where they could get a better deal on a subsidy for coverage. “We see only 11 percent of the population is actually people that were firmly uninsured that are now insured. So [it] didn’t really eat into the uninsured population.”
Obamacare has actually added to the number of uninsured, with Target being the latest company to announce that it was ending healthcare for its part-time workers. They will be dumped onto the exchanges, and some will be subsidized by the government, meaning the cost to taxpayers will increase.

The Amnesty Scam!

RightWingPatriot.com ^ | January 22, 2014 | RightWingPatriot 

A lot of forces are colluding in order to push illegal alien amnesty upon the American public. Progressive liberals, establishment politicians of both parties, major corporations, and the US Chamber of Commerce are all striving to make amnesty a fact and not just a liberal wish for Kwanzaa. In fact, the US Chamber of Commerce is going to spend tens of millions to fight against conservative candidates in the upcoming 2014 midterm elections. To push this agenda, they've been pulling out all the stops: sob-inducing stories where children of illegal aliens beg not to be deported or have the family broken up, painting all illegal aliens as hard-working people who only want a chance at economic prosperity, or that America is a nation of immigrants. One such argument that these anti-law abiding groups push is that immigrants are needed to do the work that Americans won't do. This is an utter lie.
The employment picture in America right now is dismal and grows worse with each passing day. Almost 92 million Americans have dropped out of the labor force (which is why the unemployment rate seems to be floating between 7-8% despite jobs disappearing every day). Since 2009, there has been an additional 9.6 million Americans of working age that are unemployed. The number of jobs created aren't even enough to keep pace with population growth, much less putting people back to work. But yet we're told again and again we need to open the borders and allow millions of illegals to flock here and that it'll be good for the economy.
Such a situation such as amnesty is only good for a select few. First, it's good for Democrats as illegal aliens will vote overwhelming liberal. Ensuring a huge expansion of voters for decades to come is a win-win for Democrats, even as America disintegrates around them. Second, it's good for big businesses that want to push their profits as high as they can go. I'm a free market conservative and think that it's great for corporations to make money. Normally, such a situation would be that when corporations make money, they expand and hire more people. If they have good people working for them, they're willing to pay them more to keep them lest some rival snatch them away. However, amnesty wipes that model out completely. Corporations know that they can pay amnestied immigrants much cheaper than native Americans. This is why the US Chamber of Commerce and Mark Zuckerberg of Facebook are pushing amnesty. They want skilled workers, but they don't want to pay fair market value for them. A question that is never asked in the media is if there are so many Americans out of work, how is flooding the market with cheap foreign labor going to help? It defies rational thought and any economic sense.
As for jobs that Americans won't do, that's an utter crock. I see grown men and women doing the most menial of tasks, such as landscaping, in order to make ends meet. When was the last time you had your yard mowed or your newspaper delivered by a teenager? How many bag boys or cashiers at the local supermarket are middle-aged or older when it used to be mostly high school or college kids? It looks to me that Americans are quite willing to work. The only problem is that there aren't any jobs available. If you're lucky enough to find one, many people are reluctant to take it as they'll lose all their federal benefits, such as food stamps or disability if they do so. The system is rigged to keep people from working on multiple fronts. There are few jobs. If you take a job, you lose benefits. Thus we get pro-amnesty groups saying we need more labor to come into the market. It's all a scam. The great amnesty shell game and it's the American people who are getting conned.

AARP: One More Big Brother?

American Thinker ^ | 1-22-2014 | Patty Ellis 

Now that ObamaCare is having an enormously detrimental effect on the health care seniors can expect, it is most assuredly time for us to give credit where credit is due. The role our devoted AARP has played in this national fiasco is without question. From that same article...

"What motivated AARP, given its membership of 37 million people 50 years old and older was clearly opposed to ObamaCare? The answer appears to be: pure ideology."
Ideology, indeed. In breathless anticipation of an unrealistic nirvana some wacky professor opened their childish eyes to many moons ago, these radicals sworn to "fundamentally change America" are salivating as their socialist daydreams come true. And we hard-working, taxpaying schmucks, who, by the way, embody most of AARP's membership, get to finance their silly pipe dreams.
So this month's magazine arrives -- and on the cover is Maria Shriver. Forget that she is Democrat Royalty and chief torch bearer for the spurious Kennedy clan. But is it mere coincidence she is being so honored by the AARP just as her latest "Shriver Report" arrives hot off the presses?
Entitled "A Woman's Nation Pushes Back from the Brink", (Holy Cow!) this report was cosponsored by left-wing Center for American Progress (a George Soros baby) and cowritten by mental heavyweights Beyonce, Jada Pinkett Smith, LeBron James, and Eva Longoria. Lest we dare conclude this simply another bouquet of Hollywood absurdity concerning the pending doom of American women, Hilary Clinton joins in with a 'non-partisan' regurgitation of her own "war on women" baloney. By the way, the Shriver Report has garnered Obama's solemn endorsement. Something must be done! Maybe he'll give another speech.
(Excerpt) Read more at americanthinker.com ...

President Pinocchio

Townhall.com ^ | January 22, 2014 | Donald Lambro 


WASHINGTON - President Obama's bogus promises, predictions and claims are legendary, but perhaps you've forgotten his "sky is falling" forecast about the $85 billion budget sequester.
Last February, as Congress's automatic budget cuts began chipping away at the government's out-of-control spending levels, Obama went hyperbolic. The spending cuts would deal a "huge blow... to our economy as a whole" and "all our economic progress could be at risk."
In a string of speeches, the president played his fear card again. Air traffic control operations were being put at risk. Cancer research projects would be halted. Your food safety was in jeopardy.
The White House was put on a full, scare-them-to-death alert to frighten Americans into thinking the sequestered cuts would doom economic growth and destroy the very foundations of our economy.
Alan Krueger, who chaired the White House Council of Economic Advisers at the time, said the sequesters would slash 750,000 by year's end.
Democratic Leader Harry Reid went on the Senate floor to claim that "We have learned that the sequestration has cut 1.6 million jobs." The Washington Post's combination fact checker and lie detector, Glenn Kessler, awarded Reid his highest score for
dishonesty: four Pinocchios.
Well, it turned out that Obama's economic fear rhetoric was no more truthful than when he promised Americans, "If you like your health insurance plan, you can keep it."
The sequester cuts didn't hurt our economy, they helped it. Wiser voices who said the budget reductions would be a net plus for the economy were of course right.
As the sequester was doing its work throughout 2013, budget watchers and economic analysts pointed out that the number of jobs being created didn't decline, they grew. Nowhere near the number needed to bring unemployment down to normal levels, but they did move in the opposite direction that Obama and his fellow fear-mongers were predicting.
"The economy added about 1 million new jobs over the period during which the sequester was supposed to cost 750,000 jobs (or 1.6 million, if you believed Harry Reid," Tom Giovanetti, economic analyst at the Institute for Policy Innovation, wrote late last year.
"In fact, Nobel Prize-winning economist Gary Becker observed that private sector job growth has more than compensated for public sector job losses, which means the effort that formally went toward hobbling the private sector is now being productively put to work in the private sector," Giovanetti added.
As the sequester worked its will over the course of past year, the trillion dollar budget deficits fell to $650 billion. That was due in part to the spending reductions but also to slightly better economic growth.
By the second quarter of 2013, the economy grew at 1.7 percent when economic forecasters were predicting slower growth in the 1 percent range.
By the third quarter, the nation's gross domestic product -- the largest measure of our economy's growth -- rose by 3.6 percent, according to the Commerce Department's Bureau of Economic Analysis.
Much of that growth was due to inventory accumulation that many forecasters said would not hold up in the fourth quarter.
Nevertheless, the GDP number was a far cry from Obama's hysterical and obviously erroneous warnings that the nightly network news media swallowed hook, line and sinker.
The fact that the administration would try to make such an issue over just $85 billion in budget cuts -- divided equally between defense and non-defense appropriated funding -- was preposterous on its face.
You don't have to be a math genius to understand that $85 billion is a very small percentage out of a $3.5 trillion budget in a nearly $17 trillion economy.
But over the past year, there has been feed back from the small business community and smaller government advocates that the sequester cuts were at least a step in the right direction.
"I believe the... sequestration helped the economy," said small business owner and certified public accountant Gene Marks. "It is comforting to know that the legislative branch can stand up in the face of withering criticism and dire warnings from the media and even the president to take action..."
By the middle of 2013, even some in the network news media were beginning to question Obama's furious attacks on the budget cuts. One analysis on the ABC News web site that got the White House's grudging attention, asked, "Did Obama cry wolf on the sequester?"
"The sequester's barely visible economic impact, combined with relatively strong economic forecasts, doesn't seem to have hurt Republicans politically and may have even made them bolder," wrote ABC analyst Abby D. Phillip.
The 2014 compromise budget approved this month and sent to Obama for his signature suggests the West Wing, and Democratic leaders, may have gotten the message.
The $1.1 trillion budget restores some sequester cuts to programs like Head Start, medical research and job training. But it left many agency budgets "tens of billions of dollars lower than Obama had requested and... Democrats had sought," the Post reported.
That was seen as "a victory" for Republicans "who have succeeded in rolling back agency appropriations to a level on a par with the final years of the George W. Bush administration," the newspaper reported.
There are two, unmistakable political messages in all of this that the Obama administration still refuses to accept.
First, Americans will support significant spending cuts when they see budget reductions leading to an improved economy and more jobs.
Second, Obama no longer has any credibility on fiscal policy issues if he had any to begin with.
With his approval polls falling to 40 percent and a new Gallup poll finding that "Americans' economic outlook has soured" in recent weeks, the GOP's political prospects in the November midterm elections are looking better all the time.

Poll: Majority Believe Obama's White House is Incompetent!

Townhall.com ^ | January 22, 2014 | Katie Pavlich 


According to new polling from Quinnipiac, a majority of Americans view President Obama's White House as incompetent. In addition, a majority of Americans are still questioning Obama's character and view him as dishonest and untrustworthy.
The Obama administration is not competent running the government, voters say 53 - 42 percent. The president is paying attention to what his administration is doing, 45 percent say, while 47 percent say he is not paying attention.

The president's character measures remain low:

46 percent say he is honest and trustworthy and 49 percent say he is not;
49 percent say he is a strong leader and 48 percent say he is not;
51 percent say he cares about their needs and problems and 46 percent say he does not. Olympic Terrorism
In the same poll, Americans still list their top priority as the economy, which explains their response about White House competency. For 77 percent of Americans, the economy is viewed as "not good" with a majority saying the economy is not getting better despite the White House touting economic improvement.
The economy is perceived as "not so good" or "poor" by 77 percent of voters. A small minority say the economy is getting better and many Americans say it is getting worse.
Naming "the top priority for President Obama and Congress in 2014," 15 percent of voters say the economy, while 16 percent list jobs or unemployment, a total of 31 percent, while 18 percent list healthcare, the independent Quinnipiac (KWIN-uh-pe-ack) University poll finds. A total of 10 percent list the budget, the budget deficit, spending or other budget-related items. Another 4 percent list bi-partisanship or cooperation and 2 percent list education.

The economy is "not so good" or "poor," a total of 77 percent of voters say. Only 28 percent say the economy is getting better, while 26 percent say it is getting worse and 44 percent say it's the same.

"'It's the economy, Mr. President,' say dissatisfied American voters who are not yet willing to give President Barack Obama a thumbs up on his presidency," said Tim Malloy, assistant director of the Quinnipiac University Polling Institute.

Over the past few weeks, President Obama has been focused on income inequality and is expected to highlight the issue in his State of the Union Address next week.

Pentagon relaxes rules on religious apparel, facial hair!

fox news ^ | january 22, 2014 

The Pentagon on Wednesday relaxed its rules governing the religious apparel and facial hair that troops can wear or maintain while in uniform, permitting in some cases tattoos, body piercings and other religious items.
The Defense Department issued the changes via a directive Wednesday afternoon. As part of the military's changing approach to making religious accommodations, the new policy will allow service members to sport different kinds of religious garb and hairstyles so long as they don't have an "adverse effect on military readiness, mission accomplishment, unit cohesion, and good order and discipline."
The changes create several new categories, besides clothing, of religion-based features that can be displayed by troops. These now include facial hair, such as beards, and religious tattoos and piercings.
(Excerpt) Read more at foxnews.com ...

Secretly Record Your Friends and Enemies With Handy Pocket Camera Dron

The New York Observer's BetaBeat ^ | January 21, 2014 | Molly Mulshine 


That? Oh, that’s just a mosquito, now tell me more about your top secret project.

Do you ever feel frustrated that you can’t keep tabs on your significant other at all times? Nervous that everyone is hanging out without you? Curious about what the heck your neighbors are doing over there?
Thankfully, there’s a Pocket Drone currently being funded on Kickstarter that will solve these problems and more. It only takes 20 seconds to unpack and launch. Then, you can load it up with any video camera you own, as long as the payload is less than half a pound. Hit record and you’re off, creating surveillance footage of everyone you know.
Control Pocket Drone with an app on your phone or tablet, and you can access hard-to-reach places like the café where that hot neighbor you’ve been Facebook stalking gets his coffee every morning.
“Weird,” he may say to himself, “there seems to be a tiny helicopter buzzing about my head.”
Hopefully, he’ll think nothing of it so you can secretly record his entire order, then memorize it and show up at his door with it the next morning. 21st century dating!
The Pocket Drone’s flights last as long as 20 minutes, so you might even be able to surreptitiously record an entire business meeting to which you weren’t invited. And its open source software means you can hack it to do whatever you want. Surveillance footage of our siblings talking sh^t about us, seen through the “rise” Instagram filter? Yes, please!
The project’s Kickstarter has blown past its $35,000 goal and still has 49 days left, Mashable reports. Each backer gets his or her own video drone. The only setback is that you have to have an Android phone or tablet to control it — but we’d deign to purchase a Samsung Galaxy Note if it meant finally being able to hear what our hair dresser is saying when she periodically retreats into the back room for no apparent reason.
(VIDEO-AT-LINK)

Shudda' Known Better!

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Lawless vs Ball-less

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UTOPIA

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To be BOTH!

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Chrissy Mathews

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Wealth Re-Distribution

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The two branches!

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Hey! Tea Party!

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Learning to read!

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It is permanent!

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Understanding

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War on Poverty

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Liberal Rules

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NSA

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Just like booze!

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Rich Man vs Poor Man

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In recess!

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Of course!

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Must be nice!

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Awesome!

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The Workforce

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One More!

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