URLs du Jour

2021-06-20

[Amazon Link, See Disclaimer] Greetings to all fellow dads out there. Hope your day goes as well as mine will. (Well, that's the plan.)

  • IRS Delenda Est. Daniel Mitchell writes a link-filled post on Elizabeth Warren’s Plan to Reward a Corrupt IRS.

    The IRS played partisan politics during the Obama years by targeting taxpayer organizations such “Tea Party” groups. Now the IRS is at it again, this time leaking the tax returns of selected rich people to advance Biden’s class-warfare agenda.

    There are two logical responses.

    1. Cut the IRS budget so the bureaucrats learn a very important lesson that corruption is bad.
    2. Reform the tax code with a simple and fair flat tax so the IRS can be dramatically downsized.

    I suspect most Americans would select both options.

    I wish that were true, but I expect not.


  • The Google LFOD News Alert rang for an unlikely LTE in the Conway (NH) Daily Sun: We Need Paid Leave. It's from Christopher Bellis, co-owner of the Cranmore Inn in North Conway. It's a very earnest plea for national "Paid Family and Medical Leave" legislation and here's LFOD:

    I’ve always been an independent sort of person who tries to balance the needs of myself and my family with the needs of the greater community. I think most people in New Hampshire approach life that way too — we don’t put “Live Free or Die” on our license plates for nothing. And a national paid leave program is all about freedom — the freedom not to have to choose between their family and their job at a time of crisis. The freedom to start a small business, on a level playing field with the big corporate types. The freedom to take time you need to be healthy, or to care for your family the way you need to. The freedom to live the kind of life that makes our businesses, our communities, and our state strong.

    I can't help but admire the mental gymnastics necessary to twist LFOD into "the freedom not to have to choose.

    A negatory take is (of course) available from Veronique de Rugy: A Federal Paid Leave Program Would Be a Permanent Solution to a Temporary Problem

    I should be used to such opportunistic policymaking since the favorite pre-pandemic talking point by those who wanted to implement a federal paid leave program was that the United States doesn't offer paid leave for workers. Yet, this claim is bunk. While the United States government doesn't have a federal paid leave program, government surveys show that some 65 percent of American workers nevertheless have access to some form of paid leave. In fact, the absence of a federal program means we are also a country with a vast and expanding network of companies that provide benefits like paid leave programs that are flexible, accommodating and often more generous than the plan some liberals and conservatives have in mind.

    The irony is that this pandemic has forced employers and employees to try new workplace arrangements and use technology in ways that could lead to a major shake-up in the flexibility afforded to parents who must both work and take care of children. Implementing one-size-fits-all government policies now could stop this transformation as employers might feel better able to require employees to work on-site.

    I think Veronique has a better argument here, and she didn't even need to invoke LFOD to make it.


  • Pun Salad Endorses. And in response to the new Federal holiday, America's Newspaper of Record reports something that came to my mind as well: Nation's Libertarians Renew Push for 365 Federal Holidays a Year.

    U.S.—After the passing of Juneteenth as a federal holiday, the libertarians of the nation are renewing their push for 365 federal holidays a year.

    "We're glad the federal government will not be working one more day -- but it's not enough," said local libertarian man Jake Fluglehorn of Idaho. "We will not rest until the federal government has a holiday every single day of the year."

    There are suggestions for additional holidays at the link, most notably "Throw Commies Out Of Helicopters Day". Let's do that one first.

    No, just kidding. I'm not a fan of Commies, but let's just keep an eye on them.

URLs du Jour

2021-06-19

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  • Baloney Gets No Respect. P. J. O'Rourke is peeved with The Baloney American Jobs Plan.

    The Biden administration’s $6.25 trillion “American Jobs Plan” promises…

    Oh, what doesn’t it promise?

    … reliable transportation, safe water, affordable housing, healthy schools, clean electricity, broadband for all, five golden rings, four calling birds, three French hens, two turtle doves, and a partridge in a pear tree.

    I may be slightly misquoting the last part. But not by much.

    This article would be much shorter if I made a list of what the American Jobs Plan is not vowing to accomplish. In fact, I might be able to write the piece in three words…

    Make pigs fly.

    No. Strike that. We’d have to put wings on a whole bunch of swine if all the pork that Biden proposes is going to get off the ground.

    Among all the luncheon meats, it seems only "baloney" is used scornfully. Must have gotten a bad rep in the past.


  • Invoking Plan B. Veronique de Rugy looks at a problematic strategy that more folks seem to be adopting: If You Can't Beat Them, Bully Them into Joining You.

    For several decades now, politicians around the world have tried to curtail tax competition to make it easier for them to increase the tax burdens on their citizens without them fleeing to other lower-tax jurisdictions. The best way to achieve their goal is to create a global high-tax cartel. If implemented, the recent G7 countries' agreement to impose minimum taxes on multinational companies would get them much closer to this shady objective.

    It's no mystery why politicians don't like tax competition. In a global economy like ours, individuals and businesses are better able to work and invest in nations with lower tax rates. The ability to shift residences and operations from country to country puts pressure on governments to keep taxes on income, investment, and wealth lower than politicians would like. Politicians in each country fear that raising taxes will prompt high-income earners and capital to move away.

    Veronique calls this by the correct name: a cartel. And notes that its actual purpose (never mind the lofty do-good rhetoric) is to redistribute money and power to states.


  • Because YouTube is Stupidly Censorious. Zach Weissmueller wonders: Why Did YouTube Remove This Reason Video?

    On Monday, YouTube sent Reason an automated takedown notification for a March 13, 2020, video titled "Biohackers Are on a Secret Hunt for the Coronavirus Vaccine." The message said our video violated the company's spam, deceptive practices, and scams policy.

    YouTube denied Reason's appeal, informing us that the video violates the company's "medical misinformation policy."

    Did this 16-month-old video really promote "medical misinformation"?

    Speaking as the journalist who produced it: absolutely not. While YouTube, as a private company, is within its rights to decide what to carry, the decision to remove this video illustrates a disturbing, censorial trend that has accelerated in the age of COVID.

    Yes, you read that correctly: after leaving the video alone for sixteen months, YouTube suddenly noticed its unacceptability.

    And they couldn't even provide consistent reasoning. In violation of "spam, deceptive practices, and scams" policy, or "medical misinformation" policy?

    Perhaps their takedown department is being run by Franz Kafka.


  • Doing a Point/Counterpoint. Providing the Point is Glenn Greenwald. He has Questions About the FBI's Role in 1/6 are Mocked Because the FBI Shapes Liberal Corporate Media.

    The axis of liberal media outlets and their allied activist groups CNN, NBC News, The Washington Post, Media Matters — are in an angry uproar over a recent report questioning the foreknowledge and involvement of the FBI in the January 6 Capitol riot. As soon as that new report was published on Monday, a consensus instantly emerged in these liberal media precincts that this is an unhinged, ignorant and insane conspiracy theory that deserves no consideration.

    The original report, published by Revolver News and then amplified by Fox News’ Tucker Carlson, documented ample evidence of FBI infiltration of the three key groups at the center of the 1/6 investigation — the Oath Keepers, the Proud Boys, and the Three Percenters — and noted how many alleged riot leaders from these groups have not yet been indicted. While low-level protesters have been aggressively charged with major felonies and held without bail, many of the alleged plot leaders have thus far been shielded from charges.

    Interesting! And there's more. Glenn goes on to note that a lot of the "experts" called upon by the "axis of liberal media outlets" are truth-challenged ex-FBI apparatchiks.

    So there's that. But…


  • Here's the Counterpoint. And it's provided by Andrew C. McCarthy at National Review And his position is: The Capitol Riot Indictments Do Not Suggest an FBI Entrapment Scheme.

    I finally watched Tucker Carlson’s monologue from Tuesday night, which has understandably caused a stir.

    Tucker speculates that the January 6 Capitol tumult was more likely an FBI fabrication than a riot instigated by the Oath Keepers militia group and other Trump supporters. His theory relies heavily on a Revolver news report that is long on conspiracy theory and short on evidence. It is a shark-jump from Carlson’s run-of-the-mill populist fare: the notion that the government so routinely entraps essentially law-abiding people that high-profile crimes are as likely to be FBI inventions as real offenses.

    What a muddle. Both McCarthy and Greenwald have good reputations for reliability here. Perhaps you, the reader, might be able to piece together a coherent picture of reality drawing on both articles. I confess it's beyond my powers.

URLs du Jour

2021-06-18

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  • California, Man. Scott Shackford notes some non-mellowness on the Left Coast: California Wants To Throw $100 Million at Its Mismanaged Retail Marijuana Sector.

    California's nascent legal recreational marijuana industry is so heavily taxed and regulated that the black market still dominates. It's so burdensome to try to get conventional permission to grow and sell marijuana the "legal" way that thousands of dispensaries operate without proper licenses. Government officials have been attempting to crack down on the problem and force them to close their doors.

    On Monday California lawmakers attempted to address this problem in a very California way: Assembly members authorized a $100 million subsidy to help potential marijuana vendors get properly licensed.

    As the Los Angeles Times explains, the subsidy isn't going to the dispensaries or growers themselves—not that it should. The $100 million is instead going to local government agencies and cities so they can "hire experts and staff to assist businesses in completing the environmental studies and transitioning the licenses."

    Hilarious, unless you're a California taxpayer. But that brings us to our next item…


  • A Growth Industry In Which We're All Forced to Invest. Albert Einstein probably never said "Insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting a different result."

    But I'm starting the rumor that he said something even more profound: "Insanity is developing New Government Programs to Fix Failed Government Programs." Here's David Boaz:

    Scott Lincicome points out that “U.S. law and regulation are littered with attempts to ‘fix’ problems caused by other government policies—not by reforming or eliminating those policies but through even more subsidies, tariffs, regulations, or waivers.” He focuses especially on industrial policy proposals that propose to use government action to counter existing government policies — not to repeal those existing policies but to pile on new interventions. But that’s not the only place where we can see the phenomenon.

    David goes on to mention the California pot thing, above. But also:

    Or how about President Biden’s $213 billion federal program for affordable housing? He proposes to build 500,000 affordable units. And upgrade others. And also “an innovative, new competitive grant program” to encourage cities and states to reform or eliminate exclusionary zoning rules. So that part is good, but why do cities and states need a federal grant to change their laws? Meanwhile, Amazon is planning to spend $2 billion to encourage affordable housing. But why spend all this taxpayer (and shareholder) money? Just fix the original problem: zoning and land‐​use regulations drive up the cost and complexity of building housing. All these new affordable‐​housing programs are trying to fix a problem caused by existing government programs.

    Also (just off the top of my head) proposals to drop Federal Helicopter Money on improving broadband access. When the lack of such access is largely due to government-granted monopolies, regulatory capture, and old-fashioned corruption.


  • Probability Zero. Jerry Coyne excerpts a modest proposal from a Chronicle of Higher Education article by fellow Chicago prof Tom Ginsburg: Universities Need Dedicated Units and Officers to Protect Academic Freedom and Free Speech. (The Chronicle has an obnoxious semi-permeable paywall, but the excerpt will give you the gist.)

    In recent years, colleges have devoted significant resources to institutionalizing diversity, inclusion, and equity. These efforts accelerated after the murder of George Floyd, and many colleges are now creating vice president- or vice provost-level positions, leading entire bureaucracies devoted to this effort. As a requirement of federal law, colleges have also developed Title IX bureaucracies, which help to ensure that institutions receiving federal money deal with sexual harassment. Whatever one thinks of the implementation (and the implementation of Title IX in particular has been controversial), it is clear that colleges are serious about these important goals.

    In contrast, in most institutions of higher learning, issues of academic freedom or free speech have no designated campus officer. There is no emerging profession devoted to it, no mandatory training programs, no resources for faculty members and students who want to understand what it means. There are no job ads posted for vice presidents for academic freedom. Instead, academic-freedom controversies tend to be left to faculty committees, whose membership turns over regularly, or to ad hoc decisions by provosts and presidents. Among students, questions of freedom of expression are left to deans of students or in some cases to the diversity bureaucracy. Without an institutional base to protect free inquiry, standards are applied in an uneven way. The risk is that administrators will simply give in to the loudest voice in the room, which will, by definition, never be someone whose full-time job is to speak up for academic freedom.

    Excellent point, and a decent idea. It's a pity that free speech principles aren't deeply ingrained in university administrators; as it is, they can't be trusted to push back on illiberalism on their own.


  • Whew. John McWhorter reassures: You Are Not A Racist To Criticize Critical Race Theory.

    Since a year ago, CRT-infused members of The Elect, traditionally overrepresented in the world of schools of education, have sought to take the opportunity furnished by our “racial reckoning” to turn American schools into academies of “antiracist” indoctrination.

    And the backlash is on.  One by one parents, teachers and even students are speaking out against the idea that the soul of education must be to battle the power that whites have over others.

    Yes, that’s the watchcry. It’s why The Elect can make so little sense to the rest of us: they actually believe that the heart of all intellectual, moral, and artistic endeavor must be battling power differentials. They get this from Critical Race Theory. And what most alarms The Elect is that state legislatures are proposing to ban the teaching of Critical Race Theory in schools, Florida being the latest example.

    One response to this backlash is that anyone who questions the takeover of schools by CRT is against schoolkids learning about racism, and wants schoolkids to have the adulatory view of the American story typical of the 1950s and before. […]

    I doubt if Professor McWhorter read Robert Azzi's recent column, but (gee) that crack about the 1950s was on target. Here's Azzi's second paragraph about the people opposing CRT:

    The message embedded in their anti-BIPOC (Black, Indigenous, People of Color) screeds – and in the anti-American legislation they inspire – is racist; opposed to anything that post-dates The Donna Reed Show and Father Knows Best and which presumes that they – white Americans – know better than people of color what the oppressed and disenfranchised have endured for generations – and continue to endure.

    Before you point out that Professor McWhorter is a Person of Color, note that Azzi dismissed that in the previous paragraph: he's one of those BIPOCs "seduced by their proximity to power."


  • Same As The Old Know-Nothings. Jonah Goldberg's midweek G-File is behind the Dispatch paywall, but there's a New Hampshire angle in The New Know Nothings that I'll quote:

    Let’s consider Jason Riddle.

    Riddle, the pride of Keene, New Hampshire, was one of the Capitol rioters. You may have seen images of him quaffing some vino he stole from a liquor cabinet he found amid the ransacking. He got a little taste of fame as a result and now wants to run for office, in part because pro-riot folks told him he should. As he explained to a local NBC affiliate, “In the long run, if you're running for office, any attention is good attention, so I think it will help me.”

    And in a world of Marjorie Taylor Greenes and Matt Gaetzes, who can really argue?

    Asked what his arrest for participating in the riot should tell voters, Riddle said, “It tells them I show up. I'm going to actually keep my promises and make some changes.” His campaign platform will be something like “Let’s get back to work.”

    He’s now running against Democratic Rep. Annie Kuster in the 2022 midterms.

    Now, you really should watch the video to get the full effect. But the next time we hear from Riddle, he says, “I thought Anne was a state representative.”

    NBC reporter Katherine Underwood explains to Riddle that his intended opponent is actually a congresswoman in Washington, not a state rep in Concord, New Hampshire.

    “Oh, I guess I gotta run against that, then,” Riddle says.

    Look, I don’t know jack about this guy beyond what I just told you. He may be a genius at canasta. He could be a hair’s breadth from completing his cold fusion reactor in his garage. For all I know, he may be the only person in the world who has Kobayashi Maru-ed 12-minute brownies by baking them in only seven minutes. But when it comes to politics, this guy is a moron; the “back to work” candidate isn’t willing to put any work at all into figuring out what he’s doing.

    He's also an idiot. And Jonah explains the distinction, but you'll have to pony up to the Dispatch for that.

URLs du Jour

2021-06-17

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  • More Like InAccuVote, Amirite? Certified smart person Andrew Appel looks at the Windham voting imbroglio, a readable and interesting account of what likely happened to screw up the reported election totals last November: New Hampshire Election Audit, part 1 and part 2. Basically: the AccuVote optical scanners used by many New Hampshire towns ain't that trustworthy if they aren't maintained. One of the more interesting recommendations Andrew makes, at the end of part 2:

    Adopt Risk-Limiting Audits statewide. All the [previous recommendations] above are reactive to the specific unforeseen problem that occurred last time. But what different problem will come up next time? The purpose of mandatory, every-election RLAs is to detect any kind of problem that might cause machine-reported results to be different from what you’d get in a correct manual recount. And these mandatory RLAs should be done before results are certified, so that if the RLA does detect a problem, then it can be immediately corrected by a recount. And one thing we learned from this is that the Secretary of State’s office can do recounts accurately.

    The True Trump-Won Believers up at Granite Grok are, bless them, aghast that the Windham investigation didn't prove … well, something. At this point, I can't tell.


  • Can You Take One More Anti-ProPublica Article? Yes you can. You'll take it and like it.

    Sorry, shweetheart.

    Holman W. Jenkins, Jr. has a good point I haven't seen explicitly made elsewhere: Your Stolen Tax Records Are News.

    We can save the pros and cons of a wealth tax for another day, but notice how gratuitous was ProPublica’s use of stolen tax data for 25 wealthy taxpayers (and it claims to have data on thousands more Americans).

    By definition, these returns don’t contain information about unrealized stock-market, real estate and other asset gains that aren’t “income” under U.S. tax law but ProPublica has decided should be. For almost the entirety of its purpose, ProPublica relies on Forbes’s long-running research into the wealth of the richest Americans.

    Forbes did the work, tracking down and valuing the wealthy’s assets for the years 2014 to 2018. More to the point, at any time in the past three years, anyone could have calculated how much the wealthy would have owed if unrealized gains were taxed. And did. Using the same Forbes data, economists Emmanuel Saez and Gabriel Zucman, in a single sentence in a Washington Post op-ed in April, said everything ProPublica really had to say.

    Forbes engaged in enterprising journalism. Whoever stole the tax returns was enterprising in another sense. ProPublica was enterprising only in inventing a piffling rationalization for publishing the stolen data and proclaiming itself the author of an important scoop.

    Holman (I call him Holman) goes on to highlight the real news: the "tax returns of thousands of Americans, which the government is pledged to protect, now are in the hands of unknown numbers of private parties and criminals."

    The IRS can't be trusted with your tax data.


  • Not Enough Suffering, the Democrat Complained. Christian Britschgi was paid to pay attention, and noticed: Former Biden Senior COVID Adviser Admonishes Americans for Their Lack of ‘Sacrifice’ During the Pandemic.

    The Biden administration's COVID-19 czar thinks Americans didn't sacrifice enough during the pandemic. At the risk of being unpopular, former White House senior COVID-19 adviser Andy Slavitt knows who to blame for the 600,000 American lives lost during the pandemic: It's you, the viewer.

    Slavitt resigned from his position on the Biden administration's pandemic policy team last week and has since been making the rounds to promote his book Preventable. A big part of his message is that had individuals done more to curb their own selfish desires for social interaction during the last 18 months, we would have seen far fewer COVID-19 deaths.

    "I also think we all need to look at one another and ask ourselves, 'what do we need to do better next time?'" said Slavitt during a Monday appearance on CBS This Morning. "Being able to sacrifice a little bit for one another to get through this and save more lives is essential."

    I got a chuckle from a Matt Kibbe tweet:


  • I learned it by watching you! Charles C. W. Cooke adapts a like from a great drug war PSA: This Is Your Brain on Critical Race Theory.

    Last week, the actor Tom Hanks responded to calls for a more robust accounting of America’s racial history by penning a piece in the New York Times about the 1921 Tulsa Race Massacre. “For all my study,” Hanks conceded, “I never read a page of any school history book about how, in 1921, a mob of white people burned down a place called Black Wall Street, killed as many as 300 of its Black citizens and displaced thousands of Black Americans who lived in Tulsa, Okla.” This, Hanks suggested, was perhaps because “History was mostly written by white people about white people like me, while the history of Black people — including the horrors of Tulsa — was too often left out.”

    Yesterday, writing for NPR, Eric Deggans explained that what Hanks had written in the Times was “not enough.” “Tom Hanks,” Deggans proposed, “is a non-racist.” But, he added, “it’s time for him to be anti-racist.” Echoing almost verbatim an argument that has been advanced by Ibram X. Kendi, Deggans explained that there is a “difference between being non-racist and being anti-racist” and that Hanks had not yet bridged the gap. “Anti-racism,” Deggans submitted, “implies action — looking around your universe and taking specific steps to dismantle systemic racism.” And while Hanks’s words are nice, they did not change the fact that he “has built a sizable part of his career on stories about American white men Doing the Right Thing.” “If he really wants to make a difference,” Deggans concluded, “Hanks and other stars need to talk specifically about how their work has contributed to these problems and how they will change.”

    Deggans’s essay serves as a perfect illustration of the cynical Motte and Bailey game that is currently being played by America’s self-appointed “anti-racists.” While in their Motte, the sponsors of critical race theory and its equally ugly relatives insist that all they truly want is for America’s schools to do a better job of teaching the history of American racism. On Twitter yesterday, Berkeley’s Robert Reich provided a solid example of this position with the claim that, by opposing the adoption of CRT in schools, the Republican Party is “trying to ban educators from teaching about the anguished role racism has played in the shaping of America.” In the safe haven of the Bailey, however, such defensible-sounding arguments are quickly swapped out for a set of considerably more extreme contentions, such as the claim that unless a person spends his days actively dismantling whatever “structures” a handful of “experts” have decided are problematic — including himself and his work, if necessary — he is in practice aiding and abetting racism. Clearly, Tom Hanks thought that he was playing inside the Motte. Clearly, he was not.

    I have problems thinking about whether I'm in the Motte, but it's entirely due to the fact that I can never remember which is the Motte and which is the Bailey.


  • It Provides Psychic Relief to the Aggrieved, Though. Megan McArdle explains it to her WaPo audience: Raising taxes on the wealthy won’t magically fix our inequality problem.

    Last week I noted some of the problems with trying to attack inequality by taxing the wealth, or the unrealized capital gains, of billionaires: When you tax something heavily, you generally get less of it. And capital isn’t something we want less of; capital is what gets invested to make the economy more productive. A more productive economy means we all get more stuff for less work — and even if you think “more stuff” sounds dubious, surely “less work” has some appeal.

    But some sort of tax hikes are definitely coming, because the U.S. fiscal gap is too large to sustain indefinitely. And many people figure the folks sitting on giant piles of wealth are the ones who can most easily afford tax hikes.

    They’re right. But given the flaws of capital taxation, I’d ask: Is it their wealth we want to redistribute? Or is a better target the real goods and services they use that wealth to consume?

    Probably realizing that spending restraint is not politically feasible. Megan makes the argument for a consumption tax. She notes (however) a nasty detail: "For one thing, the transition would probably be fantastically expensive, since we’d have to make allowances for those who, say, planned their retirement around the old tax code."

    She's talking about me, and just about every other financially responsible baby boomer.

URLs du Jour

2021-06-16

[Amazon Link, See Disclaimer] Today's Amazon Product du Jour doesn't have anything to do with our URLs, I just like it.

I don't use sudo though. Bias against letting people issue privileged commands without knowing the root password.

Alternate t-shirt slogan suggestion: "I Love Linux. So su me."

  • I Predict a Significant Increase in Headlines Containing "Biden" and "Confuses". Christian Britschgi has one: Biden’s Infrastructure Plan Confuses Costs for Benefits.

    The list of things that President Joe Biden hopes to accomplish with his American Jobs Plan is nearly as impressive as its $2 trillion price tag. "It's not a plan that tinkers around the edges," Biden bragged during an April speech in Pittsburgh. "It's a once-in-a-generation investment in America. It'll create millions of jobs, good-paying jobs. It'll grow the economy, make us more competitive around the world, promote our national security interest, and put us in a position to win the global competition with China."

    The president's speech did not dwell on the specific projects he wants to fund or how he might go about delivering them in a cost-effective manner. He focused instead on all the money he plans to spend and its potential for stimulating the economy. For Biden, the actual impact of new roads and rail lines on commute times and shipping costs is less important than the gargantuan price. That attitude suggests Biden's plan will buy a lot less infrastructure than it would if he prioritized efficiency.

    Britschgi's being awfully kind with "suggests" in that last sentence.

    Also in the news: Biden confuses Libya and Syria three times during remarks at G-7 summit.


  • Continuing the Confusion… Peter Suderman is also pretty rough on Biden: Study Finds Biden’s American Jobs Plan Would Result in Fewer American Jobs.

    If you've been following recent congressional spending negotiations, you've probably heard about President Joe Biden's $2.2 trillion infrastructure plan. This is a bit of a misnomer, since the plan would spend hundreds of billions on programs that are not, strictly speaking, infrastructure, though, for the purposes of politics, the Biden administration and Democrats in Congress have decided to call infrastructure. But the Infrastructure and a Bunch of Other Unrelated Stuff That We're Going to Insist Is Actually Infrastructure Plan is a bit of a mouthful, and sadly doesn't produce a memorable acronym. So they named the proposal the American Jobs Plan instead.

    Biden certainly has lofty ambitions for the Jobs Plan. A White House fact sheet on the proposal declares it will, among other things, "unify and mobilize the country to meet the great challenges of our time" (climate change and increased competition from China, the fact sheet says) and "invest in America in a way we have not invested since we built the interstate highways and won the Space Race." (Fine, sure, if you say so…although I'm not quite sure I'd call these puffy statements facts.) There are mentions of racial justice and rural communities, clean energy and caregiving, and even a few nods to roads and bridges. Biden wants his Jobs Plan to do it all—or, at the very least, to do an awful lot until the next trillion dollar plan comes around.

    But here, too, there is a problem with the name. For as it turns out, there's good reason to think Biden's American Jobs Plan would result in fewer American jobs.

    But there will be a lot more resources devoted to what politicians want, a lot fewer devoted to what private citizens want.


  • I Really Should Read More Popper. Martin Gurri channels him pretty well, though: The Enemies of the Open Society.

    In The Open Society and Its Enemies, the great philosopher Karl Popper posited two general types of communities. One was open to information. By multiplying knowledge, it sought to adapt to a changing world and improve the conditions of life. The institution that propelled and sustained the open society, Popper believed, was modern science. Its preferred political vehicle was liberal democracy.

    The second type of community, which Popper sometimes called “tribal,” considered its laws and customs to be part of an immutable cosmic order and condemned innovation as a crime against the hidden forces that upheld that order. New information entailed the corruption of morals; the highest duty of those in authority was to freeze social relations in place. The tribal mind inclined to magic—that “charmed circle of unchanging taboos.” While this was a very ancient way of organizing humanity, Popper observed that it had provided a model for the totalitarian systems of the 20th century in their revolt against the open society.

    I happened to be re-reading Popper when the controversy about a possible Wuhan laboratory spill staggered, zombie-like, out of its grave. That story is worth repeating. It begins with our abysmal ignorance about the origins of the COVID-19 pandemic. We know that the first cases appeared in China, specifically in the city of Wuhan—where there happens to be a lab specializing in virology. We know, too, that the Chinese regime has persistently lied about and obfuscated the subject. That’s what it does in awkward situations.

    Awkward indeed. Gurri notes that "science" did its part, transforming itself "from an enterprise that still largely valued the dispassionate study of nature into an avenging goddess of anti-Trumpism."


  • Everything You Know Is Wrong, Part CLXII. Glenn Greenwald writes on The Enduring False Narrative About the PULSE Massacre Shows the Power of Media Propaganda.

    On the fifth anniversary of the PULSE nightclub massacre in Orlando, numerous senators, politicians and activist groups commemorated that tragic event by propagating an absolute falsehood: namely, that the shooter, Omar Mateen, was motivated by anti-LGBT animus. The evidence is definitive and conclusive that this is false — Mateen, like so many others who committed similar acts of violence, was motivated by rage over President Obama's bombing campaigns in Syria, Iraq and Afghanistan, and chose PULSE at random without even knowing it was a gay club — yet this media-consecrated lie continues to fester.

    On Saturday, Sen. Cory Booker (D-NJ) falsely described the massacre as an "unspeakable act of hate toward the LGBTQ+ community.” Sen. Tammy Duckworth (D-IL) went even further, claiming “the LGBTQ+ community was targeted and killed—all because they dared to live their lives.” Her fellow Illinois Democrat, Sen. Dick Durbin, claimed forty-nine lives were lost due to “anti-LGBTQ hate” (he forgot the +). These false claims were compiled by the gay socialist activist Matt Thomas, who correctly objected: “the shooter literally picked PULSE at random from Google after security was too tight at the mall he went to first,” adding that while LGBT groups “are hopeless of course,” too much money and power is at stake for them to give up this self-serving fiction. But he asked, “Shouldn’t the bar be a little higher for senators?”

    Those who think Trump-addled Republicans are uniquely wedded to their evidence-free narratives should definitely read this. It's a bipartisan phenomenon. Except the "mainstream" media is an enthusiastic accomplice on one side.


  • Low-Information Voters Get Low-Information Candidates. I'm not sure whether to be amused or depressed by this story. Michael Graham writes: He Thought Kuster Was a State Rep, But Capitol Hill Rioter Says He's Running Against Her Anyway.

    Supporters of U.S Rep. Annie Kuster were no doubt surprised to learn she was facing a challenge for her Second District congressional seat from a January 6 Capitol Hill rioter. But they weren’t nearly as surprised as he was.

    “I thought Ann was a state representative,” Jason Riddle of Keene, N.H. told NBC Boston last week.

    Keene, man. It's our state's version of Austin, Texas.

URLs du Jour

2021-06-15

  • Twitter is for Snarking at Senators. I was irked enough by New Hampshire's Senator Maggie to tweet.

    I bet Maggie thinks honest language might make her position less palatable with voters.


  • Recipe for Citizen Abuse: First, Start With a Harvard Prof. The WSJ's editorialists correctly trace the genealogy of a Biden Administration proposal: it's Elizabeth Warren’s IRS Entitlement.

    The Internal Revenue Service leak of taxpayer returns to left-leaning media outlet ProPublica is a prime example of why Congress should refuse to give the tax agency more money and power. That includes President Biden’s little-noticed but politically consequential plan to put IRS funding on autopilot.

    An overlooked part of Mr. Biden’s plan to supercharge the IRS would exclude most of its funding over the next decade from Congress’s annual appropriations. His plan calls for a “dedicated stream of mandatory funds ($72.5 billion over a decade)” that will “provide for a sustained, multi-year commitment to revitalizing the IRS that will give the agency the certainty it needs to rebuild.” By “certainty” Mr. Biden means insulating the agency from accountability to Congress and its power of the purse.

    Like so much else in the Biden Presidency, this follows the Elizabeth Warren model. The Massachusetts Senator last month introduced a bill that would nearly triple the annual IRS budget to $31.5 billion, which would be indexed to inflation and come from money “in the Treasury not otherwise appropriated," such as from interest that the Federal Reserve earns from its asset portfolio. This is what Ms. Warren and Democrats did when they created the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, which gets its funding directly from the Fed.

    Warren knows that accountability is dangerous to her brand of rule-by-politicized-bureaucrats. (I was going to say "Warren and Biden" there, but it's not safe to assume Biden knows much.)


  • Did You Hear That Flushing Sound? It was taxpayer money down the toilet, as reported by Scott Shackford: Feds Restore $929 Million in Funds for California’s Billion-Dollar Bullet Train Boondoggle.

    California's wasteful high-speed rail project is getting a predictable boost under train-loving President Joe Biden. On Thursday, the Biden administration announced it was restoring $929 million in grants that had been revoked by the U.S. Department of Transportation under President Donald Trump.

    Trump used the terrible state of the rail project—years behind schedule, billions over budget, and without a realistic plan for actually connecting Los Angeles and San Francisco—as a reason to shut the funding down. His feud with California political leadership certainly played a role in the decision, but the reality is that the entire train project has been an expensive disaster that has lined a bunch of contractors' and consultants' pockets.

    Do you think you'll ever want to take a fast train from Stockton to Fresno? Me neither, but we're payin' for it anyway.


  • Bringing Californian Stupidity to New Hampshire. Gee, Thanks. Michael Graham notes that New Hampshire Congressional Democracts love their 19th-century tech: Kuster, Pappas Want to Bring California-Style Bullet Train Project to New England.

    New Hampshire U.S. Reps. Annie Kuster and Chris Pappas are backing a $105 billion high-speed rail project for New England, similar to the high-profile – and highly controversial bullet train project currently under construction in California.

    Reading on:

    High-speed rail advocates make the “if you built it, they will ride” argument, but they aren’t doing it now. As the Boston-based Pioneer Institute pointed out, “MBTA commuter rail ridership declined from 36.13 million in 2012 to 32.14 million in 2018, an 11 percent drop over six years.” And that was before COVID-19 and concerns about social distancing. Commuter rail ridership fell more than 65 percent during the pandemic.

    Passenger rail already needs massive taxpayer funding to keep ticket costs competitive, and that’s for rail systems like Amtrak that are far less expensive than the NAR proposal. Despite claims Amtrak is profitable, Randal O’Toole of the Cato Institute notes that when you account for the revenues from state subidies, Amtrak lost more tham $1 billion in 2019.

    Well, "lost" is a euphemism. They know where it went.


  • He Giveth and He Taketh Away. Ronald Bailey notes another small problem with our current system of governance: Keystone Pipeline’s Cancellation Shows How Arbitrary Presidential Power Subverts the Rule of Law.

    The rule of law can be serviceably defined as restricting the arbitrary exercise of power by subordinating it to well-defined and established laws. Unfortunately, politicians have learned how to subvert the rule of law by laundering their decisions through supine federal bureaucracies that interpret badly-defined laws and regulations to suit the desires of the president and his minions.

    The decade-long saga of the Keystone XL oil pipeline is a near-perfect example of how this works. (Don't get me started on arbitrary presidential power to impose tariffs and exercise secret emergency powers.)

    Earlier this week, bowing to President Biden's January declaration that its pipeline was not in the U.S.'s national interest, the builder of the pipeline, TC Energy, announced that it was permanently canceling construction of its Keystone pipeline. That project would have transported more than 800,000 barrels of Canadian oil daily to refineries on the Gulf Coast.

    Pretty soon investors will get the lesson: don't depend on government to let projects proceed if they irk the right set of politically well-connected folks. And we'll all be poorer for that realization.


  • A Good Argument For Not Buying Kindle Books. Kyle Smith notes the latest outrage: Authors Bow to Online Mobs, Change Passages in Published Novels.

    Here’s a bit of a watershed in American publishing: Social-media commenters are now successfully editing already-published books in order to alter the remarks of fictional characters.

    It’s unbelievable, yet true: Best-selling writer Elin Hilderbrand, who writes beach books with titles suggesting upper-middle-class-white-lady luxury, was so cowed by a few posts on Instagram complaining about a passage in one of her books that she agreed to strike the language from future editions.

    I left a comment at the NR site: "I eagerly await my revised copy of 1984. Always thought Orwell was way too tough on Big Brother."

Pun Salad Whitesplains It All For You

[Newspaper Fail]

Yesterday's local paper, SeacoastSunday, contained an op-ed column by the always-irritating Robert Azzi, headlined "Clutching privilege, pearls, pistols". First paragraph (don't worry, I'm not doing the whole thing):

I am increasingly tired of white people – or nonwhites seduced by their proximity to whiteness – trying to “whitesplain” away the existence of systemic racism or Critical Race Theory (CRT) as some sort of insidious socialist / marxist / communist / wokeness / leftist / BLM conspiracy to undermine an exceptional [white] America – as alien usurpers trying to dethrone God’s chosen guardians of American “excellence” and “exceptionalism.”

Unfortunately, Azzi isn't too tired to write 1100 or so words in defense of CRT. He tars white CRT critics as racist. It's inconvenient to his thesis that there are non-white critics? Ah, never mind, they've been "seduced by their proximity to whiteness". Only CRT is true! All hail CRT! Down with the whitesplainers! And the clutchers!

It's all Standard Operating Procedure for Azzi. But there's something even more irritating further down:

We need CRT, too, to understand that Katherine Johnson, a NASA mathematician whose calculations of orbital mechanics were critical to American crewed space flights – including for Gordon Cooper’s Project Mercury-Atlas 9 spaceflight – couldn’t use the bathrooms in the building where she worked because she was African-American.

That caused me to write one of my very infrequent LTEs. Here 'tis, appropriate links added:

Dear Editor --

Robert Azzi's recent column on "Whitesplaining" attempted to rebut criticisms of "Critical Race Theory" (CRT). One of his assertions caught my eye: that CRT is needed to explain why NASA's Katherine Johnson (whose career was featured in the movie Hidden Figures) "couldn’t use the bathrooms in the building where she worked because she was African-American."

If CRT helps us "understand" that, then so much the worse for CRT. According to the Wikipedia page for Hidden Figures, Katherine Johnson was originally unaware of the segregated facilities; she went ahead and used the convenient "whites-only" restrooms. Eventually, after years, someone complained. She ignored those complaints. And when NASA was estabilished in 1958, it ended any remaining segregation policies at its workplaces.

So, according to Azzi, CRT helps us understand things that didn't actually happen.

It doesn't matter. Azzi could easily replace his 60-year-old fake historical anecdotes with more accurate, and more recent ones. It's important to know those. But CRT doesn't "explain" those, nor does it aid in "understanding" them. And it doesn't explain why, given its assumptions of "systemic racism" and overbearing "white supremacy", how Katherine Johnson overcame every obstacle to learn math, master the thorny details of orbital mechanics (rocket science!), and have her stellar career at NASA. So CRT not only explains things that didn't happen, it fails to explain things that did. It's worthless.

But it's worse than that. When thinking of Katherine Johnson and her co-workers I was reminded of the CRT-inspired "Equitable Math" website (equitablemath.org), which has a self-proclaimed goal of "dismantling white supremacy in math classrooms". What are the "characteristics of white supremacy" in math education? In their list: "Perfectionism", "Sense of Urgency", "Objectivity". They deride the focus "on getting the 'right' answer".

I can't help but think that Katherine Johnson would consider that a bunch of hooey. And she might point out that astronauts' lives depended on her perfectionism, and "getting the right answer". When it comes to learning important and useful things, CRT is more of an obstacle than is systemic racism.

I assume Azzi will dismiss all this as racist "Whitesplaining". Too bad.

That's it. I'll let you know if it's published.

URLs du Jour

2021-06-13

[Amazon Link, See Disclaimer]

  • Boy, Does Amazon Offer a Lot Of Anti-Gun Merch. There have to be hundreds of different "Ban Assault Weapons" garments. Fortunately, after enough searching, I found the Amazon Product du Jour.

    But there are major problems with that slogan, and Jacob Sullum tells us the primary one: Here’s Why California’s ‘Assault Weapon’ Ban Is Unconstitutional.

    When California legislators enacted the country's first ban on military-style rifles in 1989, they gave no weight to the fundamental right of armed self-defense guaranteed by the Second Amendment—a right the U.S. Supreme Court did not explicitly acknowledge until nearly two decades later. But as U.S. District Judge Roger Benitez observed in his ruling against California's "assault weapon" ban last Friday, it should now be clear that the outright prohibition of such firearms cannot pass constitutional muster.

    California's Assault Weapons Control Act (AWCA), which is similar to laws enforced by a handful of other states, originally applied to a list of more than 50 specific brands and models. In 1999 the law was amended to cover any semi-automatic, centerfire rifle that accepts a detachable magazine and has any of these features: a pistol grip that "protrudes conspicuously beneath the action of the weapon," a forward pistol grip, a thumbhole stock, a folding or telescoping stock, a flash suppressor, or a grenade/flare launcher.

    I think "Ban Assault Weapons" t-shirts should have text on the back too: "I don't know what those are."


  • Scurrilous. Andrew Stuttaford looks at the ProPublica article, considering it to be A Low Road to Higher Taxes.

    However much some on the left might like to deny it, there is a legitimate distinction between capital appreciation and income, and however much some of them might understand it, failing to account properly for that distinction presents too good a propaganda opportunity to be passed up.

    And so when ProPublica, “an independent, nonprofit newsroom that produces investigative journalism with moral force” “obtained” and then, in an article by Jesse Eisinger, Jeff Ernsthausen, and Paul Kiel, publicized some of the details of “a vast cache of IRS information showing how billionaires like Jeff Bezos, Elon Musk and Warren Buffett pay little in income tax compared to their massive wealth — sometimes, even nothing,” much of the secondhand reporting of their story, not to speak of the ProPublica article itself, followed an all too predictable narrative.

    Andrew quotes the ProPublica authors extensively, debunking as he goes. His bottom line:

    In reality, […] this article is just another salvo in the attempt by one section of the elite to wrestle power (and what flows from it) from another. That the result would result in severe damage to the economy and to the aspirations of millions is, it seems, beside the point.


  • Hey, Remember When People Were Upset About Dubya Snooping Your Library Checkouts? Matt Welch notes the latest proposal to violate your right to privacy: Biden Won’t Close the ‘Tax Gap,’ but He Will Snoop on Your Bank Records.

    Biden's American Families Plan Tax Compliance Agenda seeks to build on the model of [the Foreign Account Tax Compliant Act's] intrusive third-party reporting requirements, constructing a "comprehensive financial account reporting regime" that would force a wider grouping of financial institutions and platforms (PayPal, settlement companies, "crypto asset exchanges," etc.) to "report gross inflows and outflows on all business and personal accounts…including bank, loan, and investment accounts."

    But there's no need to worry if you've got nothing to hide.

    "For already compliant taxpayers, the only effect of this regime is to provide easy access to summary information on financial accounts and to decrease the likelihood of costly 'no fault' examinations once the IRS is able to better target its enforcement efforts," Treasury reassures us. "For noncompliant taxpayers, this regime would encourage voluntary compliance as evaders realize that the risk of evasion being detected has risen noticeably."

    Matt notes that past efforts to boost "compliance" have been unimpressive in terms of revenue.


  • I Could Talk About This Forever, And Will. David Harsanyi derides The Democrats' Filibuster Con.

    When Sen. Joe Manchin, D-W.Va., closed the door on eliminating the legislative filibuster this week, promising not to “weaken or eliminate” the 60-vote threshold, he “dashed” the “dreams” of Democrats, according to The New York Times.

    Hypocrisy is nothing new in Washington, but it takes a preternatural shamelessness to have participated in over 300 filibusters, as Democrats did in the past few years, and then one day turn around and treat the procedure as an odious racist relic that threatens “democracy.”

    But this is an emergency, norm-breakers will tell you. Isn’t it always? Sen. Jacky Rosen, D-Nev., after a quick reversal of position, told The Washington Post that she would nuke the procedure only “in the case of protecting democracy.” Of course, if we adopted the Democrats’ evolving standard of “voting rights,” then we’d be forced to treat every election before 2020’s free-for-all as illegitimate.

    At last report, our state's Senators Are Skeptical Of Killing The Filibuster

    New Hampshire Sens. Maggie Hassan and Jeanne Shaheen do not endorse completely eliminating the procedure, CNN reported Thursday. They join Arizona Sen. Kyrsten Sinema and West Virginia Sen. Joe Manchin in their opposition to the move.

    “I don’t think getting rid of [the filibuster] is the best approach,” Shaheen said, although “I think we should look at ways to reform the filibuster.”

    Hassan also has “concerns about eliminating the filibuster,” but would be open to some reforms, according to a spokesman. Neither senator explained what those reforms would be.

    Unspecified "reforms"? I bet that went over well in focus groups.

URLs du Jour

2021-06-12

[Amazon Link, See Disclaimer]

  • Calling It "Analysis" is Generous, But… Chris Edwards mentions the illegality briefly, but mostly discusses the main problem with the ProPublica Analysis of Taxes on Wealthy.

    Let’s focus on ProPublica’s click‐​friendly headline: “You May Be Paying a Higher Tax Rate Than a Billionaire.” The article says that a “typical” worker with $45,000 in wages pays a higher federal tax rate than the average of the 25 wealthy people on the stolen tax returns. Including income and payroll taxes, ProPublica says that the typical taxpayer pays 19 percent while the 25 wealthy people pay just 16 percent.

    The claim that people in the middle pay a higher tax rate than people at the top is at odds with data from four authoritative sources: the Congressional Budget Office (CBO), the Tax Policy Center (TPC), the Joint Committee on Taxation (JCT), and the Internal Revenue Service (IRS).

    Extending and amplifying Edwards' point is Ed Morrisey, whose headline is more plain-spoken: ProPublica argument on taxes is nonsense.

    This brings us back to the ethics of publishing this data in the first place. As Edwards says, ProPublica could easily have gotten much more comprehensive and representative data from any or all of these four sources without rewarding an abuse of power (and a crime). They could have at least checked this data against the more robust and representative data to see whether these returns matched up to it — or whether they were specifically chosen to misrepresent the results of the current tax code. Instead of reporting on the returns it received, ProPublica could have fulfilled its self-declared mission by focusing on the abuse of power committed by an IRS official attempting to manipulate public policy through a selective release of public data rather than embrace that abuse of power because the bureaucrat’s political agenda matched its own.

    Instead, they chose … poorly. And their hard-earned credibility has vanished in the dishonesty that ProPublica both enabled and then amplified.

    I'd guess that the folks behind ProPublica simply don't care about bourgeois values of objectivity and fairness. They're looking to gin up envy and resentment among the peepul, in order to make Biden's tax proposals easier to enact. I hope that tactic fails, but I fear it won't.


  • Resentment Sells, But Who's Buying? Robert Bork Jr. writes on The Dangers of Conservative ‘Antitrust Revival’.

    Rachel Bovard has a well-written piece in The American Conservative that argues for those of us on the right to rediscover our true tradition of using antitrust law to stand up to powerful concentrations of market power. By the time you finish reading her piece, it will seem as if aggressive antitrust action is as Republican as splitting rails and running an underground railroad.

    But conservatives should reject her approach. Throughout her piece, Bovard focuses solely on a handful of Big Tech companies for their content decisions that anger conservatives. On this narrow concern, she endorses a purported return to a conservative stand against bigness that would, if enacted, mean the end of capitalism as we know it in America.

    If that sounds a bit hyperbolic, consider the two leading antitrust bills in the Senate today.

    One of them, authored by Senator Josh Hawley, would outlaw all mergers and acquisitions for every company with a market cap over $100 billion. That’s roughly a Who’s Who of American capitalism, almost 80 companies in all. So conservatives should go along with ossifying Procter & Gamble, Exxon-Mobil, Boeing, CISCO, AT&T, Eli Lilly, and Texas Instruments because we’re upset that Facebook and Twitter no longer let Donald Trump post?

    Bork Jr. also looks at the "even more radical Democratic antitrust bill."

    It used to be that the GOP at least had half-decent economic policies. That seems to be history.


  • Another Bit of Economic Sense. This one from Arnold Kling, who defies everything you've heard in the papers and the TV news: There is No Labor Shortage.

    Today, one hears talk of a "labor shortage," or a "skilled labor shortage." For example, the attendees of a recent conference for the staffing/recruiting industry were told that for the next 20 years the challenge would be to find job candidates. The speaker showed graphs of "demand" for workers growing faster than "supply."

    The causal factor in this analysis is the proposition that demographic trends imply slow labor force growth in the U.S. relative to overall population growth. The baby boomers will reach retirement age, while a smaller cohort enters the working age.

    If we want, we can add another demographic hypothesis to this analysis. We might suppose that until they do retire, baby boomers will be saving at higher rates, thereby increasing the supply of capital.

    Now we are ready to pose the question for our first-year economics students: describe the new equilibrium in an economy in which the supply of labor falls and the supply of capital increases.

    The answer, of course, is that the wage rate increases and the rate of return on capital declines. At higher wages, people will supply more labor (although perhaps not much more), and firms will demand less labor. With these market mechanisms working, there will not be any shortage.

    You might have noticed the slightly anachronistic references to baby boomers. That's because Arnold wrote this in 1997.


  • How Dare They! Robby Soave noticed that someone's getting delusions of … well, something. Maybe not grandeur, but like that: Anthony Fauci Says His Critics Are Attacking Science Itself.

    In an interview with MNSBC host Chuck Todd on Wednesday, White House coronavirus advisor Anthony Fauci fired back at his detractors—explicitly suggesting that the recent criticism he has received from Republicans constitutes an attack on science itself.

    "If you are trying to get at me as a public health official and a scientist, you're really attacking not only Dr. Anthony Fauci, you're attacking science," said Fauci, speaking in the third person. "Anybody who looks at what's going on clearly sees that. You'd have to be asleep not to see that. That's what's going on. Science and the truth are being attacked."

    This statement was prompted by a question from Todd, who fretted that conservative critiques of Fauci were undermining the credibility of public health officials and could cause vaccine hesitancy. "Look at Russia," said Todd. "They have a good vaccine and none of their citizens will take it because they don't trust their own government."

    As the kids say: I can't even.

    (There's a really good article by Michael Brendan Dougherty in the current print issue of National Review about Fauci. Bottom line: as a scientist, he's an excellent bureaucrat.)


  • Humility Doesn't Sell As Well As Fear. Peter Suderman suggests The Pandemic Is a Case for Policy Humility.

    One thing that's more clear than ever after a year of pandemic governance is that politicians and policymakers know less than they think they do, in part because they have less power over individual lives and choices than they assume.

    A brief case study: When Texas' Republican Gov. Greg Abbott lifted the state's mask mandate and ended all capacity limits at the beginning of March, becoming the first state to do so, his decision was greeted by a flood of high-profile criticism from left-leaning lawmakers and policymakers.

    California's Democratic Gov. Gavin Newsom, who has presided over the nation's most restrictive coronavirus policy regime, called the move "absolutely reckless." Andy Slavitt, President Joe Biden's senior advisor for COVID response, said, "We think it's a mistake to lift the mask mandates too early. Masks are saving a lot of lives." Biden himself called the move "Neanderthal thinking." And Centers for Disease Control and Prevention Director Rochelle Walensky insisted, "Now is not the time to relax the critical safeguards."

    These are people whose job is to shape policy at the highest levels of government, and they were united in their belief that Abbott's move was dangerous. They were certain that without mandates set down from above, Texas was in for a world of hurt. Yet their dire warnings didn't pan out.

    I would almost be an automatic vote for a politician who said Gee, I was wrong about that. Sorry.

URLs du Jour

2021-06-11

[Amazon Link, See Disclaimer]

  • Hopefully, You Didn't Die. Drew Cline beat our Governor Sununu to the punch with this article posted yesterday morning: The COVID-19 emergency is over in New Hampshire.

    When Gov. Chris Sununu announced the end of the statewide mask mandate on April 15, the seven-day rolling average of positive COVID-19 cases was 411.6, the number of positive cases in the state was 3,763, and 130 people were hospitalized with COVID-19.

    By June 8, the number of known COVID-19 cases had declined by 91% from April 15, hospitalizations had declined by 78%, and the seven-day average of new cases had declined by 88%.

    Only 28 people were hospitalized on June 8, and only 322 known cases existed in the state.

    More happy numbers at the link. And sure enough, later yesterday, as reported by Commie Radio: After More Than One Year, Gov. Sununu Will Let State Of Emergency Expire. So, yay.

    There are still (as I type) some "bitter clingers" to the religion. The University Near Here still requires testing of even vaccinated employees and students. They haven't had a single positive test result for two weeks. And (this especially sucks for me) you can't even think about entering the UNH Library unless you are "part of the UNH COVID testing protocol."

    The UNH motto: "Remain In Fear".

    The Portsmouth Public Library still (again, as I type): requires patrons to mask up. Why? "Given that we serve a population that, for the time being, cannot be vaccinated, the library requires masks."

    I suspect that when the "population" can be vaccinated, they'll come up with some other, even lamer, excuse.


  • Dud. Over the past few days we've yammered about the political motives behind the IRS rich-people tax return leak. Andrews Moylan and Wilford consider the substance and find there's remarkably little: ProPublica’s Bombshell Tax Report That Wasn’t.

    In a report hyped as a "bombshell," investigative journalism outlet ProPublica managed to get access to and publish the private tax returns of thousands of the nation's wealthiest individuals. They claim the data "demolishes" the "myth" that the wealthiest Americans pay the most in taxes, and the authors employ tortured reasoning to attempt to come up with a new, nonsensical "true tax rate" for the tax data that no genuine tax policy expert would take seriously.

    The idea that the tax code is already fairly progressive is not a myth at all, though—wealthier Americans pay a much higher tax rate on their income than lower-income taxpayers do.

    Despite ProPublica's best efforts to make the information enclosed within seem damning, the data tell us little we didn't already know. For the 2018 tax year, the last year for which we have data, the top 1 percent paid over 40 percent of federal income taxes, despite earning just under 21 percent of total adjusted gross income (AGI). The bottom 50 percent of taxpayers earned 11.6 percent of total AGI, but paid less than 3 percent of income taxes. The same story holds when looking at all revenue sources too, so it's not just the income tax that is progressive.

    The WSJ's James Freeman makes a wicked good point: Tax-Exempt Group Favors Higher Rates on Taxpayers.

    This week an organization that may benefit from heavy tax burdens on rich people is launching a campaign to advocate for heavier tax burdens on rich people.

    One of the richies who escaped paying US income tax three years in a row: George Soros. Whose charitable donations to his "Open Society Foundation" funds various lefty groups, including… ProPublica.


  • From the Headline, I Was Expecting a Longer Article. Jonah Goldberg details What ProPublica Gets Wrong About the Wealthy and Taxes.

    Billionaires often pay little in income taxes because billionaires don’t typically make their money from a salary. Billionaires exist for the most part because they own assets—stocks, businesses, commodities, property, etc.—and the paper value of those assets amounts to the bulk of their wealth. And in America, we do not tax wealth. 

    Nor should we. 

    Let’s say you collect baseball cards. On paper, your collection is worth a bundle. But its real value is realized only when you sell it. Do you think the IRS should tax you every year for what your collection could be worth if you sold it? Do you want the IRS to tax you for the value of your wedding ring—not at purchase, but forever—even if you’re never going to sell it?

    The same principle applies to other unrealized gains. If your stock portfolio increases in value, you get taxed on your gains when you sell. 

    ProPublica ignores all this. “We compared how much in taxes the 25 richest Americans paid each year to how much Forbes estimated their wealth grew in that same time period,” they explain. “We’re going to call this their true tax rate.”

    Except, as Jonah notes, there's nothing "true" about it.


  • Because She Thinks We Deserve Punishment, and the Rack Is No Longer An Option. Janet Yellen’s International Tax Plan Would Punish America. From the National Review editorial staff:

    Janet Yellen celebrated a recent G7 tax agreement as a win for “the middle class and working people in the U.S.” In reality, the scheme to establish a minimum global corporate-tax rate would transfer revenues from the U.S. treasury to foreign governments while putting American businesses at a disadvantage in international markets.

    At the heart of the current drive for a global tax system is the fact that President Biden is pushing $4 trillion worth of spending plans at a time of record debt. Because suburbanites are now a core part of the Democratic coalition, there could be severe political ramifications to forcing the upper middle class to pay for too much of his agenda. The lowest-hanging fruit from a revenue and political standpoint is to hike corporate taxes. But Yellen recognizes that, under the current system, raising corporate-tax rates risks making the U.S. uncompetitive. Thus, she’s determined to create some sort of global corporate-tax system to reduce the incentive for multinational companies to seek out lower-tax jurisdictions.

    Also, hiking the corporate tax is a cowardly method for pols to pretend that they aren't raising taxes on "the people". When of course, people will see higher prices, lower stock prices, and less innovation.


  • Wondered About This Myself. George F. Will asks: Is the America of today even capable of performing great building feats?. (Betteridge's law of headlines confirmed again, I fear.)

    Construction of the San Francisco-Oakland Bay Bridge took four years in the 1930s, but after a 1989 earthquake, when one-third of the Bay Bridge had to be replaced, the project took over two decades. A nation planning to quickly spend hundreds of billions on infrastructure should wonder why the repair proceeded so sluggishly — and why economists have found that the inflation-adjusted cost of building a mile of the interstate highway system tripled between the 1960s and 1980s.

    The Claremont Institute’s William Voegeli considers this evidence of “activist government’s dysfunction” — government’s inability, or unwillingness, to do one thing at a time. Government cannot simply repair a bridge; it must do so while complying with an ever-thickening, sometimes immobilizing web of ever-multiplying environmental, labor, safety and other mandates. They also now include, as part of what Voegeli calls the Biden administration’s “shock-and-awe statism,” Washington’s obsession with “equity” — racial distributions of government goods and services.

    Remember Barack Obama’s 2010 epiphany about the nonexistence of his promised “shovel-ready” projects? According to Alan Greenspan and Adrian Wooldridge in “Capitalism in America: A History” (2018), “Today bigger highway projects take a decade just to clear the various bureaucratic hurdles before workers can actually get to work.”

    GFW is a little too kind to Ben Domenech's paean to JFK's Moon Stunt than I was a few days back.

    I'd be happy if they could build Seabrook Unit 2 in a couple years.