Category Archives: Economics

Animal’s Daily Prescription Spectacles News

Like many men of my vintage (mid-to-late middle age) I have for a few years required some vision correction.  In my late forties I began to notice what was determined to be a fairly routine, normal, expected age-related farsightedness, and since then I have been wearing prescription bifocals.

Now, whenever I go to buy new glasses, I have to have an eye exam prior.  Sometimes I’m glad to do so – my last purchase of spectacles, for example, I sought out the eye exam as I was certain my prescription had changed, and indeed it had.  But what if I broke my glasses and just wanted a new pair?  Not so much.  Excerpt:

In every other country in which I’ve lived—Germany and Britain, France and Italy—it is far easier to buy glasses or contact lenses than it is here. In those countries, as in Peru, you can simply walk into an optician’s store and ask an employee to give you an eye test, likely free of charge. If you already know your strength, you can just tell them what you want. You can also buy contact lenses from the closest drugstore without having to talk to a single soul—no doctor’s prescription necessary.

So why does the United States require people who want to purchase something as simple as a curved piece of plastic to get a prescription, preceded by a costly medical exam?

The standard argument in favor of the American status quo is that impaired vision may point to serious health problems that a new pair of glasses will neither treat nor heal. Compelling Americans to see an optometrist helps to ensure that the largest possible number of cases of progressive eye diseases will be caught at an early stage.

As Barbara Horn, O.D., the president of the American Optometric Association (AOA), told me, “Today, at least 2.2 billion people around the world have a vision impairment, of whom at least 1 billion have a vision impairment that could have been prevented or has yet to be addressed … That’s why it’s clear to health experts, policymakers, the media, and the public that increased access to eye exams and eye doctors are needed to safeguard health and vision.”  

But this argument rather begs the question. After all, the added cost of having to see an optometrist presumably stops many Americans from accessing the corrective lenses they need to improve their vision. Is the desirability of an eye exam performed by a medical professional a sufficient reason to prevent Americans who would rather not—or cannot—visit an optometrist from buying glasses and contacts? We can only answer this question by acknowledging a trade-off between competing goods.

On the one hand, some number of Americans who visit an optometrist to get a new prescription will indeed discover that they have a serious condition that requires immediate care. On the other hand, it is likely that a much greater number keep wearing glasses that are too weak—or won’t wear glasses at all—because they want to avoid the cost, time, or stress of a visit to a doctor.

Let’s cut through the bullshit.  This is cronyism, pure and simple.  If the AOA wants to make the argument above, then let them make it – pure and simple – and let the public decide.  They argue that having to see an optometrist protects them from missing the diagnosis of a serious problem; but as the author here points out, the added cost may well prevent them from seeking new vision correction in the first place, so that argument doesn’t hold much water.

Once again:  It’s not the role of government to shield people from the consequences of their own bad decisions.  Get the government out of the business of mandating eye exams, let people make their own decisions, and let the damned AOA make their case directly to the public instead of lobbying pols to force people to do business with them!

Animal’s Daily Lotto Winner News

It’s all about the Benjamins.

Before we get going, make sure to check out my latest article over at Glibertarians – especially if you’re a fan of old Colt cap-and-ball revolvers.  And if you like that, you can read the rest of my Glibs articles at the link on the right.

Now then:  I’ve long referred to the various state lotteries as “a tax on stupidity.”  The New York Post’s Howard Husock agrees, but I do take issue with a couple of his points.  Excerpts, with my comments:

The advent of government-organized gambling, in the form of state lotteries, is one of our age’s most unnoticed social transformations. Before 1964, America had no such lotteries. Today, only five states don’t run their own, and most others permit interstate games such as Powerball, which jack up prizes to extravagant levels. Lottery participation has skyrocketed. Overall revenues total some $80 billion; New York is the state leader, with $10 billion in ticket sales. The spread of lotteries has played a leading role in the normalization of gambling, once considered a vice akin to drug use or prostitution — and lottery sales are boosted by publicly funded advertising campaigns that prey on the weakness of gambling addicts while encouraging non-gamblers to get involved, too.

Now, let me tell you where I sit before I tell you where I stand; I think that gambling should be legal.  It’s not the role of government to shield people from the consequences of their own bad decisions.  But with that said, I agree, the various levels of government should not be spending tax dollars to encourage people to play state-sponsored lotteries.  It’s a stupid waste of taxpayer’s money, which is, of course, money confiscated from the citizenry with the implied use of force.

At least the lotteries are voluntary.

It’s common for states to frame lotteries as being for a good cause — for public education, say. The claim is meaningless, though: All state money is fungible. The lottery proceeds go into the state’s general fund; one could just as easily say that they’re used to pay down interest on debt.

In Colorado, the money supposedly goes to parks and open spaces – but as Husock points out, that’s all fungible.  Money is money is money, and once absorbed into the State, it’s impossible to control where it goes.

But here’s where Husock and I part ways:

It’s time for states to ban lottery advertising. Sure, let people play, post the winning numbers — but stop selling the dream.

Let’s be careful with the terminology here.  I think the various state governments should cease wasting taxpayer dollars on advertising the lotteries – and lots of other things.  But a complete ban on advertising?  That would imply a prohibition on a private store owner putting up a sign stating “Lottery tickets sold here!”  That’s not reasonable.

Weaning government from our addiction to promoting lotteries wouldn’t be easy. An adjustment period would be necessary as lottery revenues fell — though perhaps the adjustment would not be dramatic. Massachusetts, among the first states to mount a lottery, later moved to limit advertising — at one point, cutting it from $12 million to just $400,000 a year — but the state has not seen lottery revenues crater.

I doubt many states would see much difference.  Everyone knows the lotteries are there.  Everyone knows where you can get tickets.

On the positive side, tax revenues might even increase as citizens, freed from such dispiriting messages, re-embrace working and saving. In any case, though, getting states out of lottery advertising is the right thing to do.

I doubt that.  If you were to draw a Venn diagram with one side being “people who embrace working and saving” and “people who plan on the lottery as their retirement plan,” you’d have very little overlap.

Most people don’t want to make money. They just want to spend money.

My issue with state lotteries, and the reason I call them “a tax on stupidity,” is primarily this:  The odds are awful.  And why?  The vigorish.  That’s the cut the house takes in any gamble.  If you want to gamble, your odds are much better if you just go to the nearest casino and play slot machines.  In Las Vegas, most slots pay out between 95 and 98 cents on each dollar gambled.  The state lotteries?  Under 50 cents.  The vigorish on state lotteries is awful, which is why the states love them.

So, play the lotteries if you like; it’s a free country, and there’s nothing wrong with paying a couple of bucks for the chance to fantasize about what you’d do if you won.  Just be aware that the odds are astronomically small.  And, yes, be aware that your state may well be wasting taxpayer dollars encouraging you to indulge in a bad deal.

Goodbye, Blue Monday

Goodbye, Blue Monday!

Hard to believe we’re in the last month of the year already – 2019, we hardly knew ye.   Meanwhile, thanks to Pirate’s Cove and Bacon Time for the Rule Five links!

So, speaking of energy – there’s a new kind of fission reactor being developed called a traveling-wave reactor, and if it works as predicted, it could change the face of energy production.  But here’s the catch:  It’s being developed, using American funding, in China.  Why?  Because too many Americans are morons when it comes to nuclear power.  Excerpts, with my comments:

For well over a decade, Bill Gates has funded TerraPower, a startup seeking to design, build, and commercialize a revolutionary nuclear reactor. Their traveling-wave reactor design uses depleted uranium to operate, rather than uranium-235 like in current reactors, and is built so that if left unattended, it will slowly shut down, making a catastrophic meltdown a near impossibility. Optimistic estimates from the company suggest that current American stockpiles of spent nuclear fuel could be used in traveling-wave reactors to electrify the entire country for hundreds of years, and for far cheaper than current nuclear plants. This is carbon-free, baseload electricity that could easily provide the foundation for a next-generation, renewable-focused energy grid.

This would rattle a lot of cages.  Combined with clean natural gas for various purposes (like heating, for example) this would be great for delivering cheap energy.  And cheap energy is like octane-booster for a nation’s economy.  In the case of something like this, there’s really no down side.  So why China?

In partnership with the state-owned China National Nuclear Corporation (CNNC), TerraPower was preparing to break ground on a prototype 600 MegaWatt reactor in Fujian province, but then political disaster struck. Late in 2018, Department of Energy policy changes stemming from the U.S. – China trade war forced TerraPower to end its agreement with the CNNC, leaving their potentially game-changing reactor without a home.

So bring it home.  Let’s start building this reactor here, in the United States.

We can’t, you say?   Why not?

Science!

This saga brings up a key question: why was an American company, funded by one of America’s most wealthy and respected philanthropists, going to China to build their next-generation nuclear reactor? Why not here? The simple answer is that Americans are notoriously afraid of and unfriendly toward nuclear power. Though nuclear has reliably and safely provided roughly 20% of electricity in the U.S. for the past quarter-century, a majority of Americans oppose it and politicians have repeatedly erected more and more regulatory roadblocks, driving up costs and making new nuclear power plants nearly impossible to build. Even innovative ideas like what Bill Gates and TerraPower are proposing are not welcome.

As I said, too many Americans are morons when it comes to nuclear energy – and too many of those morons are warming chairs in the Imperial City.

Seriously, folks, there are few better examples of how an overbearing government can screw things up for everybody.  Here we have an innovative technology that could deliver cheap, clean, nigh-unlimited energy to millions, and it’s being logjammed because OMG NUKULAR!

The article closes with:

There’s no guarantee that TerraPower’s traveling-wave reactor will work in practice. Its system of liquid sodium cooling has been attempted before with little success. Moreover, power production efficiencies could end up far lower than what their simulations suggest. Other, unforeseen problems could also arise.

But we’ll never know unless government gets out of the way and allows our scientists, entrepreneurs, and engineers to build the nuclear reactor prototypes that could power the future.

The government won’t get out of the way.  Not voluntarily.  The Nuclear Energy Leadership Act mentioned in the article would be a spit into a hurricane.  The only way we’ll know if a traveling-wave reactor will work is to build one, and I’ll be the most amazed guy around if the Imperial government allows it in our country.

I could be wrong.  I’d love to be wrong.  But I don’t think I am.

Rule Five Taxation is Theft Friday

A Wealth of Bad Ideas

It’s no surprise to anyone that has been paying attention that Democrat Presidential candidate Spreading Bull Warren is proposing a wealth tax to pay for her massive spending proposals, not least of which is “Medicare for All.”  While her proposals suck for a number of reasons, this one is perhaps one of the worst.  Let’s look at the reasons why.

Practical Reasons

Let’s forget legal aspects for a moment and look at the practical aspects of this proposal to confiscate the wealth of successful Americans by force.

By her own words, she claims that her proposal would only affect either “billionaires” or “the top 1%,” depending on which day you listen to her.  But these people are the same people who are best equipped, best prepared and most able to evade just such a tax; the inevitable result of this plan would yield only a massive capital flight from our shores, and a resulting catastrophic crash of our financial markets.  Less wealthy Americans, less able to flee the new taxation scheme, would see their retirement accounts evaporate.  Businesses would suffer; layoffs and business closings would follow.

And bear in mind that her proposal isn’t a one time thing.  It would tax the assets of every American that meets the criteria, every year.  And her claim of 2%?  Well, that’s how the income tax started, too.  How long do you suppose the wealth tax would stay at 2%?

At best, we could expect a prolonged recession that would make the 2008-2009 “Great Recession” look like a blip.  At worst, we could see a prolonged Depression, quite possibly worse than the 1928-1938 Depression, very likely the worst downturn in our nation’s history.

But there are stronger arguments against Princess Spreading Bull’s plan, and those are found in the Constitution.

Constitutional Reasons

Article One, Section Nine of the U.S. Constitution, Limits on Congress, contains the following unambiguous statement:

No capitation, or other direct, Tax shall be laid, unless in Proportion to the Census or Enumeration herein before directed to be taken.

What does this mean?  Simply this:  Congress can levy no direct tax unless that tax is levied in proportion to the population of the several States.  In other words, if California contains 12% of the nation’s population, then California must supply 12% of any direct tax.  If Alaska contains 2%, then the residents of Alaska are only responsible for 2% of the total.  Now it’s pretty apparent to anyone who’s been paying attention that a few states, like New York and California, contain a proportion of wealth far higher than their percentage of the nation’s total population; other states, like Alaska and Arkansas, rather less so.

In order to levy the existing income tax, the Sixteenth Amendment was passed:

The Congress shall have power to lay and collect taxes on incomes, from whatever source derived, without apportionment among the several States, and without regard to any census or enumeration.

Note that final clause; a specific exemption was stated to allow the current income tax to be collected without regard to “…any census or enumeration.”

Liawatha Warren’s wealth tax, in which she proposes to confiscate the wealth of many successful Americans, a tax which would wreck our economy and lay a heavy levy on wealth generated with post tax dollars – thus representing double taxation – would require a Constitutional amendment, one which has rather less chances of ratification than would an amendment denying the vote to all persons with red hair and blue eyes.

In Conclusion…

Liawatha Warren is perhaps one of the most dangerous politicians to ever seek the office of the President.  Her proposals would destroy the Constitution, would result in economic ruin, and would drive wealth out of the country.  Fortunately, while she seems to be in a good position to gain the Democratic nomination, her odds thereafter are not good; if for no other reason, her Medicare-for-All plan would strip the generous,  union-negotiated health care plans of millions of blue-collar and middle-class Americans.  If the Democrats lose the labor unions, they lose the election, and this plan guarantees that loss.  Add to that the fact that her proposals would prove wildly unpopular to all Americans other than the far left, and her nomination is little more than a gift to the Trump re-election campaign.

But still, it’s important to examine her policy plans, and spread the word on why and how they would result in disaster.  Let’s hope most Americans are paying attention.

Animal’s Daily Californey Housing News

Housing prices in California have been the worst in the nation for some time, and there’s no relief on the horizon.  Bloomberg tells us why.  Excerpts, with my comments:

California, the land of golden dreams, has become America’s worst housing nightmare.

Recent wildfires have only heightened the stakes for a state that can’t seem to build enough new homes.

The median price for a house now tops $600,000, more than twice the national level. The state has four of the country’s five most expensive residential markets—Silicon Valley, San Francisco, Orange County and San Diego. (Los Angeles is seventh.) The poverty rate, when adjusted for the cost of living, is the worst in the nation. California accounts for 12% of the U.S. population, but a quarter of its homeless population.

That last bit isn’t solely due to housing prices.  While the salubrious climate plays a part – and I’ll admit, I’ve worked for extended periods in both the northern LA ‘burbs and in Silicon Valley, and the weather is to be envied – its more the Free Shit and the permissiveness that allows street bums to shoot up and crap on the sidewalks without consequence that is responsible for the homeless figure.

How did we get here? Simply put, bad government—from outdated zoning laws to a 40-year-old tax provision that benefits long-time homeowners at the expense of everyone else—has created a severe shortage of houses. While decades in the making, California’s slow-moving disaster has reached a critical point for state officials, businesses and the millions who are straining to live there.

And it’s not going to change any time soon?  Why?  Well, this isn’t going to help:

This fall, as President Donald Trump blamed Democrats for the situation on his swing through the state to raise money for his reelection, lawmakers in Sacramento passed some of the most sweeping legislation in years to address housing affordability. Google, Facebook Inc. and Apple Inc. are throwing billions of dollars at the issue. But nobody’s kidding themselves that it’s enough.

“Broadly speaking, there is no solution to the California housing crisis without the construction of millions of new houses,” said David Garcia, policy director for the Terner Center for Housing Innovation at the University of California, Berkeley.

But you can’t build millions of new houses in California.  Google can’t, Facebook can’t, and Apple can’t, for all their billions.  Why?  See the comments on bad government above.  Sacramento simply won’t allow it.

McKinsey & Co. estimated in 2016 that California needed some 3.5 million more homes by the middle of next decade—a figure that Governor Gavin Newsom made a central part of his administration’s goals. A more recent analysis suggests it may take the state until 2050 to meet the target.

Gavin Newsom is a horse’s ass, and will vigorously oppose any relaxing of zoning and regulation that might actually make housing more affordable – primarily by building more houses.  And better than houses, something that Bloomberg doesn’t mention – apartment buildings!  Some time ago, while on a visit to Japan, I wrote a piece on how Tokyo handles housing by vertical storage.  California could learn a thing or two from Japan.

As severe as this sounds, the rest of the country is becoming more—not less—like California. During the longest economic expansion on record, the U.S. has been building far fewer houses than it usually does, pushing prices further out of reach for a vast portion of the population that has barely seen incomes rise.

Government, True Believers, is the problem, not the solution.  As long as California remains a single-party state, allowing the elite Left Coast progressives to run the state unchecked, the housing situation is only going to get worse, no matter how many Silicon Valley tech companies try to make things better.

Rule Five Income Inequality Friday

Denver’s own Mike Rosen weighs in on income inequality, and as usual, he nails it.  Excerpt:

In a political auction for seductive but unachievable outcomes at someone else’s expense, socialist and progressive politicians unconstrained by economic reality can always outbid conservatives. Bernie Sanders’ utopian ravings and Elizabeth Warren’s cornucopia of extravagant “plans” magically funded by a new tax on “wealth” (on top of sharp increases in taxes on income) is this election season’s theme.

Their rallying cry is the evil of “income inequality.” But income inequality is not evil, it’s unavoidable and an essential element of a market economy and a free society. As historian Will Durant observed: “The concentration of wealth is a natural and inevitable result of the concentration of abilities in a minority of men and regularly recurs in history.” In microcosm, an obvious example is the disparity in income between a relative handful of elite professional athletes, rock stars, actors and captains of industry compared to those of average ability in their respective fields.

Durant added, “Despotism may for a time retard the concentration; democracy, allowing the most liberty, accelerates it.” Throughout history, he noted, societies have dealt with income inequality through, “legislation redistributing wealth or by revolution distributing poverty.” Alexis de Tocqueville, writing in Democracy in America in the 1830s, cautioned that democracy could be taken too far, “that there exists in the human heart a depraved taste for equality, which impels the weak to attempt to lower the powerful to their own level, and reduces men to prefer equality in slavery to inequality in freedom.”

Take a good close look at that last line.

It’s been said that capitalism is the equal distribution of opportunity, while socialism is the equal distribution of misery.  Places like the former Soviet Union and present-day Venezuela illustrate that very plainly, although too many Americans aren’t paying attention.

But here’s the thing:  No two things in the world are equal – not a leaf, nor a tree.  Nothing and nobody.  There will always be differences in people, in talents, in abilities, in intelligence, in motivation, in circumstances.  That’s inevitable.

Whenever you hear someone decry income inequality or wealth inequality, remember this one fundamental fact:  They are proposing to satisfy someone’s envy by confiscating someone else’s property by force.  Were any private citizen or private company to do that, it would be robbery.  When the Imperial government (or any level of government) does it, it’s “taxation.”

And worst of all, the entire argument is based on a series of fallacies.  As Mike Rosen points out:

Incidentally, the influx of millions of legal and illegal immigrants from Latin America who took low paying jobs over these years had the effect of bringing down the national income average somewhat. Ironically, those same immigrants greatly improved their own standard of living from what it was in their native countries.

Income inequality is also skewed by official statistics that typically omit non-wage compensation like employer-provided health insurance and deferred compensation in the form of generous defined benefit pension plans for government employees. On top of that, the income of the rich is exaggerated by using their pre-tax earnings. This ignores the fact that the top one percent pays almost 40% of the total federal individual income tax burden all by themselves, while the bottom 50% pays only 3% of it.

Compounding the distortion, cash transfers and the value of government services and subsidies obtained by recipients amounting to trillions of dollars at the federal and state levels are simply ignored. It’s as if those taxes paid by the rich and the means-tested benefits given to those with lower incomes don’t exist.

Here’s the thing:  Income and wealth inequality just don’t matter – not today, not in the United States.   The poorest people in America today are inconceivably wealthy compared to the overwhelming majority of people that have ever lived on the planet; the poorest people in America today are in the top 10% of people on the planet.  There is no abject poverty in the U.S., only relative poverty, and the entire RHEEEEEE about inequality has only one goal for pols that engage in it – buying votes by peddling envy and promising Free Shit.

Mr. Rosen concludes:

As a matter of democratic political necessity, and in the name of “social justice” or public charity, government greatly mitigates income inequality in this country. Of equal importance is the reality that excessive taxation and redistribution of income and wealth can destroy a society economically. This is beyond Bernie’s and Lizzie’s comprehension ─ or concern.

I can add nothing to that.

Animal’s Hump Day News

It’s on to the links!

Salon writer Cody Cain is an idiot.

More than a third of millennials are idiots.

Max Boot is an idiot.  I know, that last one is low-hanging fruit, but still…

Strike a pose to look more attractive to the opposite sex.  Or, you know, whatever sex strikes your fancy, I guess.

Have a problem with rats?  Get some monkeys.

The Celts thought everyone should have wine.  I prefer beer, myself, but I can go along with the sentiment.

Duck!

Duck!

Goose!

California proposes to crack down on freelancers.  A stupid, stupid, stupid, stupid, stupid, stupid, stupid, stupid, stupid, stupid, stupid idea.  Add it to a long list of stupid, stupid, stupid, stupid, stupid, stupid, stupid, stupid, stupid, stupid, stupid ideas coming up in California these days.

The President has an idea for reducing criminal misuse of guns.  It makes some sense, so of course it won’t go anywhere in Congress.

In California, you can have unburned property, or you can have electricity.  Pick one.

In Colorado, we have mail-in ballots, which are starting to be returned.  So far Republicans and older voters are returning ballots at higher levels than Democrats and younger voters – all of which doesn’t mean much in our increasingly-blue state.  Still, it is an off year…

Turns out that Congress has several options for financing Medicare for all.  Here they are:

  • A 32 percent payroll tax
  • A 25 percent income surtax
  • A 42 percent value-added tax (VAT)
  • A mandatory public premium averaging $7,500 per capita – the equivalent of $12,000 per individual not otherwise on public insurance
  • More than doubling all individual and corporate income tax rates
  • An 80 percent reduction in non-health federal spending
  • A 108 percent of Gross Domestic Product (GDP) increase in the national debt
  • Impossibly high taxes on high earners, corporations, and the financial sector
  • A combination of approaches

To all of those I can only say three things:

  • Hell no
  • Fuck off, slavers
  • Taxation is theft!

On that note, we return you to your Wednesday, already in progress.

Animal’s Daily Chicago Free Fall News

Before we start, go over to Glibertarians and read my article on the Gold Standard of double-action revolvers – the Smith & Wesson Triple Lock!

Moving on:  Chicago is fast running out of other people’s money.  Excerpt:

Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot is dealing with a 12-day-old teachers strike that features a contest between the most radical union in the U.S. and one of the nation’s most radical mayors.

It’s not going to end well for her.

When the strike began she told the teachers “there is no more money.” All that did was whet the appetite for battle by the teachers who are now almost certainly going to get almost all of what they want.

Lightfoot is being hit over the head by reality.

Chicago Sun-Times:

“We spent the last 14 hours bargaining today, and we are not close to where we need to be on the big issues,” said Sybil Madison, deputy mayor for education. “We’re going to return tomorrow and work diligently to close the divide.”

Soon after, Chicago Teachers Union president Jesse Sharkey and vice president Stacy Davis Gates said that the union’s most recent proposal asks for an additional $38 million in funds over the city’s last offer.

“That’s the distance that remains between the two parties,” Sharkey said. “We feel like we need to be able to get there.

Prediction:  They won’t get there.

Chicago, like many of our major cities, has been swirling around the fiscal drain for a while now, and it’s looking like things are coming to a head.  The productive have been voting with their feet for decades now, leaving the folks with their hands out for Free Shit in place.

Now, consider that demographic fact for a moment.  What our major cities have in place is a self-reinforcing feedback loop.  They raise taxes and increase Free Shit, which causes the productive to leave and revenues to fall; the pols then raise taxes seeking more revenue and promise the increasingly-impoverished voters more Free Shit, more productive leave, and so on ad infinitum.

The very wealthy, of course, have ways to shield their wealth, or are simply wealthy enough that they don’t give a shit.  And in these cities, like in Chicago, many of  them like to fancy themselves “compassionate” by supporting Free Shit, so the cycle is reinforced.

Chicago, Los Angeles, San Francisco – these are how the cycle ends – with a Third-World mix of the very wealthy and very poor, and very little middle class to pay for everything.

Maybe Chicago should find a way to tax random violence.  That should solve their fiscal troubles.

Animal’s Daily Ethanol News

First things first:  Thanks once again to The Other McCain for the Rule Five links!  Also:  Check out the latest of my Profiles in Toxic Masculinity over at Glibertarians!  This week’s example is Master Sergeant Roy Benavidez, an honest to gosh American hero whose hand I was once honored to shake.

Moving on:  The Trump Administration has promised to expand the ethanol mandate.  It’s a stupid idea, and should be ended, not expanded.  Excerpt:

Already guaranteed a share of the energy market through the Renewable Fuel Standard, a regulation which mandates that fuel used for transportation contains a certain amount of renewable sources like ethanol, Big Corn is reaching out for even more.

This is a problem, as the ethanol mandate has never come cheap. Indeed, it’s hugely expensive, both economically and environmentally. University of California-Davis researchers determined that the mandate has raised corn and soybean prices 30% and 20%, respectively. Higher prices for food and feedstock are bad news for consumers and farmers raising chickens, cattle, turkeys, and other livestock.

The mandate has also produced undesirable environmental side-effects. The National Wildlife Foundation found that it resulted in the “conversion of 1.6 million acres of grassland, shrubland, wetland, and forestland into cropland between 2008 and 2016.”

Complying with the mandate is hugely expensive for American refiners as well. Naturally, those costs are passed on to consumers — sometimes costing them more than $1 billion a year. The Energy Policy Research Foundation and others estimate it has driven up gasoline prices 6 to 9 cents per gallon.

The article is well worth the read, and it’s a great illustration of why the Imperial government (or, for that matter, any other level of government) shouldn’t mess with markets.  Left alone, markets aren’t perfect – nothing is – but left alone, markets generally get things right in the long run.  And, besides, ethanol isn’t for fuel – it’s for drinking!

Not sure if she’s in favor of the ethanol mandate or not.

But the article, well-argued as it is, misses the biggest point.  I leave it to you, True Believers, to discover one thing for yourselves; examine this document, supposedly the law of the land above and beyond all others, and show me where the Imperial government has been granted the power to do this kind of meddling.  Go ahead; I’ll wait right here.

Back?  OK, good.  Didn’t find anything, did you?  Neither did I.  Probably because it isn’t in there.

I’d claim to be surprised, but you and I all know that isn’t true.  The Imperial Congress and most of our Presidents have been wiping their asses with the Constitution since about 1860, and that trend has just been getting worse.  This policy is no exception.

Goodbye, Blue Monday

Goodbye, Blue Monday!

Thanks as always to Pirate’s Cove for the Rule Five links, and to our pals over at The Daley Gator for the linkback!

If this doesn’t piss you off, I don’t know what will; Americans spend more on taxes than on health care, food and clothing.  Combined.  Excerpt:

Americans on average spent more on taxes in 2018 than they did on the basic necessities of food, clothing and health care combined, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics Consumer Expenditure Survey.

The survey’s recently published Table R-1 for 2018 lists the average “detailed expenditures” of what the BLS calls “consumer units.”

“Consumer units,” says BLS, “include families, single persons living alone or sharing a household with others but who are financially independent, or two or more persons living together who share major expenses.”

In 2018, according to Table R-1, American consumer units spent an average of $9,031.93 on federal income taxes; $5,023.73 on Social Security taxes (which the table calls “deductions”); $2,284.62 on state and local income taxes; $2,199.80 on property taxes; and $77.85 on what BLS calls “other taxes.”

The combined payments the average American consumer unit made for these five categories of taxes was $18,617.93.

At the same time the average American consumer unit was paying these taxes, it was spending $7,923.19 on food; $4,968.44 on health care; and $1,866.48 on “apparel and services.”

These combined expenditures equaled $14,758.11.

So, the $14,758.11 that the average American consumer unit paid for food, clothing and health care was $3,859.82 less than the $18,617.93 it paid in federal, state and local income taxes, property taxes, Social Security taxes and “other taxes.”

And here’s the kicker; you can choose what clothing and food to buy, and even in our increasingly-controlled health care market you still have some leeway as to what coverage you want to pay for.  But taxes?  No.  That is money that is taken from you by force; if you don’t pay up, the government will send men with guns out to compel you to pay.

That’s because businesses can only persuade you to conduct a transaction.  Government can force you, and they damn well will.

And the genesis of this?  As I noted recently, until early in the 20th century the Imperial government only consumed about 3% of GDP.  Now that figure is about 20%, and it’s still going up.  We have passed 22 trillion in debt, counting unfunded liabilities, and that is almost certainly past the point of no return.  But the government continues to confiscate our resources and, increasingly, to interfere with our affairs.  The tax code is so complex that an entire industry has sprung up to help the citizens navigate the torturous and twisted paths of taxation.

I’d like to think that, eventually, some semblance of fiscal sanity will return to the Imperial City, but honestly, I’ve given up hope.  That ratchet only goes one way, True Believers, and that way ain’t in our favor.