URLs du Jour

2020-09-04

[Amazon Link]

  • At AIER, Antony Davies and James R. Harrigan write on The Covid-19 Catastrophe. Making a lot of good points, but this is more generally applicable:

    [P]oliticians invariably feel the need to “do something.” Despite volumes of evidence from disparate fields like economics, social work, ecology, and medicine, it never seems to occur to politicians that sometimes doing less, or even doing nothing, is by far the better approach. Why should it occur to them? When politicians act and their actions do more harm than good, they always say the same thing: “Imagine how bad it would have been had we not acted.”

    A point I've been occasionally trying to make myself, more or less since I started blogging in 2005. Davies and Harrigan make it more eloquently than I've been able to do.

    I'd add: politicians do this because it works. Davies and Harrigan go on to invoke "the anger of the American people" as a solution. But "anger" is unprincipled, usually misdirected, and hard to maintain.

    Plus, you find yourself audited by the IRS.


  • Jonah Goldberg's G-File explores the Eternal Sunshine of the Youthful Mind. Specifically, taking on AOC's ad for MA Senator Ed Markey's (successful) primary campaign, where it's stated "it's not your age that counts, it’s the age of your ideas."

    Which, if you know any history, is hilarious.

    […] let’s start with the ideas Ocasio-Cortez categorizes as young: Medicare for All and the Green New Deal.

    These are young ideas? By any measure—and by any label—Medicare for All is not a new idea. Whether you call it socialized medicine, universal health care, social insurance, or M4A, this idea was old not merely when Ocasio-Cortez was born but when Ed Markey was born. Bismarck’s Germany implanted compulsory sickness insurance in 1883. Scandinavian countries started subsidizing mutual benefit societies—the precursors of health insurance companies—in the 90s … the 1890s, that is. Of course, the notion of communal ownership of, well, everything, goes back either to Francois Babeuf, who many consider the first Communist, or to some prehistoric caveperson (or cavepersons) whose monosyllabic grunt of a name has been lost because no one invented writing for another couple hundred thousand years. 

    Indeed, one of the best arguments for socialized medicine is that it is, in fact, a very old idea. That’s part of Bernie Sanders’ whole shtick when he describes Scandinavian countries—often inaccurately—as free health care success stories. For the better part of a century, American progressives have been looking longingly at European health care systems like cartoon bulldogs outside a butcher shop window.

    Green New Deal: ditto. Although 'tis tempting to put sneer quotes around every word. "Green" "New" "Deal".

    But that would be annoying, and I'm already annoying enough.


  • Bad news from the intrepid Veronique de Rugy: There's No Such Thing as a Free Tax Holiday. Assuming you know Trump's proposal to "defer" payroll taxes until next year:

    For one thing, as noted, the benefit may be short-lived. According to the IRS, unless Congress decides to go ahead and forgive the tax, it will eventually need to be collected by employers and sent to Uncle Sam. This is guaranteed to become a massive headache for employers, who will ultimately have to collect the deferred taxes from their employees. As a result, some large companies such as United Parcel Service have already announced that they will continue to collect the payroll tax from their employees and send the money to the federal government as usual.

    Second, Congress could go ahead and decide to forgive the tax as part of a future coronavirus-relief package. However, short of any other adjustments, that's a bad idea. For instance, no matter how some may try to present the move, it won't stimulate the economy. Data from the Congressional Budget Office show that tax cuts geared to lower- and middle-income earners return one-third in economic growth of what they cost in lost revenue.

    That leads me to my third issue with the policy. I am all in favor of letting taxpayers keep more of their money than they used to. I like my government bill as small as it can be. But that's only if you offset the reduction in tax revenue with a reduction in spending in general, or Social Security benefits in particular. You see, the portion of the payroll tax that would be cut is collected to fund spending on Social Security benefits for current retirees. It's also part of the process for current employees to become eligible for Social Security benefits in the future.

    I'm reminded of the aphorism (of unknown provenance): "If you have been in a poker game for a while, and you still don’t know who the patsy is, you’re the patsy."


  • Kevin D. Williamson is funny and accurate about Nancy Pelosi’s Haircut "Set Up". Speaking of poker:

    Little scandals often matter more than big scandals. The Obama administration’s IRS abuses and related shenanigans, which went almost nowhere as a scandal, were in substance more corrosive than the relatively minor check-kiting scandal that rocked Congress back in the 1990s. Donald Trump may have led audiences in chanting “Lock her up!” but it is an obscure Democrat-run prosecutor’s office in Texas that has in fact corruptly indicted major political figures (Tom DeLay, Kay Bailey Hutchison, Rick Perry) on laughably trumped-up felony charges, only to see them thrown out. Back in the 1990s, Hillary Rodham Clinton’s dodgy cattle-futures profits spoke to a much more serious kind of corruption than did Bill Clinton’s intern-bothering. But most people who are not members of the Ayn Rand Society know what sex is, and nobody gets futures trading. Try explaining it to Joe Voter and see how far you get before he’s lost in Drake’s latest Instagram post. On the other hand, relatively minor scandals that are easily comprehended can be major problems. The most easily comprehended of such scandals is the scandal of hypocrisy, which is what Nancy Pelosi is guilty of.

    There are worse things than hypocrisy, and Pelosi will brazen through this. She has a pretty good poker face to go along with the first-rate hair.

    Bonus quote from KDW:

    But members of the nomenklatura are entitled to their petty privileges: Bernie Sanders has his lakeside dacha, where he retires to practice his jeremiads against economic inequality, and Nancy Pelosi has her hair appointment.


  • Christopher Bedford's article at the Federalist is labeled "Humor", but I dunno… Joe Biden Isn't Senile, That's What The Russians Want You To Think.

    Has anyone noticed a slowdown with Joe? He isn’t drooling, he isn’t muttering to himself any more than plenty of other people do, but something seems different. Or maybe rather than different, something seems deeply familiar.

    No, it isn’t the sort of cognitive decline we’ve all seen with loved ones. Rather, according to ABC’s latest nuke, the encroaching senility that has our former vice president hiding in his basement is simply… Russian propaganda.

    Don’t laugh! This is serious stuff. National security! It took four reporters, with help from a fifth to write this story. It runs nearly 1,600 words. They have a document. It’s called: “Russia Likely to Denigrate Health of US Candidates to Influence 2020 Election,” and some super-earnest bureaucrat wanted it distributed to America’s top law enforcement so they could be on the lookout for this menace. His boss wouldn’t let him, so of course, he gave it to the media.

    Also Russian propaganda: Hillary was unlikeable and corrupt.


  • And to end on a serious note, a Cato report devoted to Separating Myth from Fact About the Troubles of the Postal Service. Key points conveniently up front:

    • The US Postal Service (USPS) will not run out of money in the foreseeable future. It has more than $13 billion in cash and a new $10 billion borrowing line with the US Treasury.
    • The agency’s mail collection, sorting, and delivery network has more than sufficient aggregate capacity to handle the ballots issued and cast by mail.
    • The USPS has short-term problems with its delivery performance, its preparation for possible workforce depletions due to the coronavirus, and its public communications. The agency can and should address these matters promptly to increase Americans’ confidence going into the November 2020 election.
    • The Postal Service has long-term problems, including more than $130 billion in unfunded obligations and structural operating deficits. Congress can directly address these problems with amendments to current postal law without radically cutting service or abandoning the USPS’s self-funding model.

    I can't improve on Jerry Seinfeld's take:

    […] a dazed and confused distant branch of the Cub Scouts, bumbling around the streets in embarrassing shorts and jackets with meaningless patches and victory medals, driving 4 miles an hour 20 feet at a time on the wrong side of a mentally handicapped Jeep.

    I love how the postal system has this financial emotional meltdown every three to five years that their business model from 1630 isn’t working any more. I can’t understand how a 21st century information system based on licking, walking and a random number of pennies is struggling to compete.

    I am probably a lot more irked than I should be at our local Democrats getting all melty-eyed over USPS, demanding that nothing change except… here's a bunch more taxpayer money, you're welcome.


Last Modified 2020-09-05 5:56 AM EDT