Rule Five Welfare State Friday
Recently I found this from one of my regular reads, Dan Mitchell over at International Liberty; it’s a great piece on why the U.S. would not be well-served to become a European-styled welfare state. Excerpt:
The United States has a medium-sized welfare state and nations in Western Europe have large-sized welfare states.
Which approach is better (or, to be more accurate, less worse)?
To answer that question, you want to compare living standards. And that means looking at how much people earn, adjusted for factors such as how much they get to keep after taxes.
The United States wins that contest. Americans earn more and they get to keep more.
That’s apparent when you look at average levels of consumption on both sides of the Atlantic. And it’s even true when you compare living standards of low-income and poor Americans to living standards for average Europeans.
But what if Americans only earn more because they work longer hours? When my left-of-center friends make this argument, my usual response has been that Americans choose to work longer hours because they have better incentives (i.e., lower tax rates).
Read the whole thing, and examine the chart therein.
The simple truth is that Americans are more productive, per hour worked, than almost anyone else on the planet. (These days I’m not altogether certain whether that’s an accolade for Americans or a comment on the sad state of the rest of the world.) And the situation may be even more marked than the raw data here would suggest, given that the source of the data, the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) is not known for producing impartial information.
I will point out, though, that (at least by my reckoning) examining income as shown here, adjusted per hour worked, is probably the best way to examine how well the people working in the economy are doing. Poverty levels aren’t terribly indicative, as that indicator is usually calculated as being a certain percentage of the average household income, meaning that there will always be a certain number of people below the poverty level no matter what is done to ameliorate that situation.
Feature, not bug. There is no way that the poverty graft industry, consisting of politicians and activists both, can continue to ring the “OMG we need to help the poor” bell it we honestly acknowledge that in the United States today we have the wealthiest “poor” people in the world, and that “poor” folks in the US have better lifestyles than many of the middle class in Europe, much less the rest of the world.
As I’ve said for years, there is little or no abject poverty in the United States. There is only relative poverty. Incidentally, the OECD data presents relative poverty, in a world where abject poverty is at historic lows.
The poverty industry also focuses a lot on “income distribution,” as though the economy was a fixed pie that can only be divided. That’s a canard; in a free-market economy, it’s always possible to make more and bigger pies.
I’d point out that people who focus on growth tend to also favor liberty; the ones who yap about distribution of wealth tend to favor government control. Draw your own conclusions from that.
Animal’s Daily Income Tax News
Just when you thought tax law couldn’t get any more idiotic. Excerpt:
Can the government impose an income tax when you never had income? That may seem like a trick question, but it’s exactly what happened to Charles and Kathleen Moore. In 2006, the Moores invested in a start‐up Indian company called KisanKraft, whose goal was to provide low‐cost, efficient tools to rural Indian farmers. The Moores believed in KisanKraft’s mission and retained their shares of KisanKraft for over a decade, never selling it for a profit. And KisanKraft reinvested all of its own profits in the company, never paying dividends. For that reason, the Moores never saw a dollar from their investment.
Yet in 2017, the Moores suddenly received a hefty federal tax bill for their ownership stake in KisanKraft. How could that be, if they never earned any money from their holdings? The reason is a provision of the 2017 Tax Cuts and Jobs Act called the Mandatory Repatriation Tax. For U.S. taxpayers who met a certain minimum threshold of ownership in certain foreign corporations, the Mandatory Repatriation Tax imposed a tax bill as if those taxpayers had earned a 2017 dividend from the corporation for profits going back years. Because the Moores owned roughly 13 percent of KisanKraft shares, they were taxed as if KisanKraft had paid them a 2017 dividend worth 13 percent of KisanKraft’s earnings since 2006. Even though that 2017 dividend was fictional, their tax bill was very real.
Read the whole article for the legal wrangling that’s going on; with a bit of luck and judges with some actual activity in their brain pans, the Moores won’t end up having to pay this ridiculous tax bill.
This, True Believers, is an awfully good illustration of government gone nucking futz. These good folks are being ordered to pay an “income” tax where there was no income. It’s about as idiotic – that is to say, very idiotic – as President Biden(‘s handlers) idea that people should pay a “wealth tax” which, aside from being illegal and unconstitutional, would include taxing unrealized income. That is to say, potential income that the taxpayer has not received.
There’s an answer to all this, but it’s pretty unlikely to happen: Repeal the Sixteenth Amendment, do away with all production-based taxes including capital gains, and replace them with a consumption-based tax at the retail, and only the retail level. A sales tax, not a value-added tax. That would be much friendlier to business and economic growth while eliminating this kind of stupidity.
But, because it makes sense, it’s not likely to happen. Such is the nature of overbearing government.
Animal’s Hump Day News
Take a look at this. Key excerpt:
Speaking of that, there was also Biden’s special presidential envoy for climate John Kerry, who during a Friday interview with Yahoo News insulted the intelligence of every American by not only cheerleading forthcoming new climate mandates from Biden, but also by proclaiming that it was okay for global warming fanatics to be wildly hypocritical because not only do they allegedly do the “carbon offset” thing but also because “they are working harder than most people I know to be able to try to effect this transition…”
This prompted a response by media critic Joe Concha, who hit the nail on the head.
“They can still work harder and get to Davos by flying the middle seat in coach on Aer Lingus,” Concha tweeted. “The elitism is utterly breathtaking…”
Breathtaking, if anything, is a gross understatement. Seriously, fuck these Davos assholes, and fuck John “Lurch” Kerry (who, by the way, served in Vietnam, as he constantly reminds us) and while we’re at it, fuck all the horses they all rode in on – and by horses, I mean gas-guzzling private jets.
And so with that off my chest…
On To the Links!
“Organic” agriculture is bullshit. If you’da asked me, I could’a told you.
The SMOD may be closer than we think.
Second Amendment advocates go on the offensive.
It doesn’t matter whether a wealth tax would “work” or not – it’s illegal. Why are we still talking about this?
And Putin gives not even one single fuck.
Insane reparations math in Californey. I mean, the whole idea is nucking futz.
You fucked up! You trusted us!
Neandertals may have collected cool animal skulls.
Ron DeSantis isn’t tired of winning yet.
Nothing will come of this. Equal treatment under the law is a dead letter in this nation.
Holy crap! Hint: Don’t buy aftermarket reverse-offset wheels for your vehicle. Really hard on bearings and axles.
There may be a lot of water on the Moon.
This Week’s Idiots:
We have a bumper crop this week!
MSNBC’s Hayes Brown (Repeat Offender Alert) is an idiot. And it’s a twofer this week!
The LA Times’ Jackie Calmes is an idiot.
The Massachusetts DMV is apparently staffed with idiots.
San Francisco Board of Supervisors member Shamann Walton is an idiot. San Francisco voters are getting the government they wanted, good and hard.
Sheila Jackson Lee is an idiot.
The Tampa Bay Times’ Caroline Light is an idiot.
Stacy Abrams doesn’t know her ass from her face about energy, so…
Dr. Charles Darwin, please pick up the white courtesy phone.
This Week’s Cultural Edification:
In 1978 or so, I went to the UNI-Dome in Cedar Falls, Iowa, with a couple of buddies. We were there to see the main act, Foghat, and what a great show that was!
But that’s not who we’re going to present here today.
Before Foghat came on stage, the opening act came out. I remember one of my buddies looking at me and asking, “Eddie Money? Who the hell is Eddie Money?”
“Isn’t he that Two Tickets to Paradise guy?” I replied.
Eddie went on to have a pretty decent career after that, before his untimely passing in 2019. One of my favorites of his tunes was from his 1982 album No Control, the song being Shakin’. I remember listening to it quite a bit while wearing Uncle Sam’s colors, and I still give it a listen from time to time now. Here, then, is the official video (the smoking-hot Latina gal doesn’t hurt any, either) – enjoy.
Animal’s Daily Re-Declaration News
Before we start, take a look at the final segment of Breaking Out over at Glibertarians!
Now then: Have a read of Jeff Goldstein’s Re-Declaration of Independence, found here. Excerpt:
I am not a disease. My existence doesn’t “warm the planet.” I’m not interested in your “sustainability” concerns. I am not yours to manage.
I won’t eat your bugs, live in your pods, surrender my cars, or without consent be packed into your cities. I reject your charity. I unmask your intentions. I know what a woman is; I know that any race can practice racism; I know that 2+2=4, regardless of how contingent you wish to make reality. I despise your ideology. I refuse your relativism. You are not the Elect, and I am not answerable to the various neuroses you wear as badges of honor.
I know you better than you know yourselves. You are conditioned. Programmed. Automotons who believe themselves sentient beings. Your intolerance of “hate” is not a virtue. It’s a ruse. An excuse to practice your own intolerance and luxuriate in your own hatreds. You are a self-fulfilling prophecy. You are that which you claim to despise, and I am that which you claim to be.
I see you. Clearly. And I aim to misbehave.
Read it all. If I was in the audience and Mr. Goldstein delivered this live, it would rate a standing ovation. I especially like this bit:
I strive to be self-sufficient. I honor the founding ideals of my country, and I work to live up to their measure. I recognize the great fortune of my birth. History does not frighten me. I reject your blood libels: I am not responsible for that which I didn’t do, nor are you victims of what was never done to you. I will not proclaim your goodness while knowing your evil.
Now, it seems to me that the obvious next question is “All right, but what are we going to do about it?” But as a commenter to this piece points out, many major societal movements, among them the founding of the United States, began with words on paper, parchment or pixels. Scribes, commentators and bloviators on all sides of any issue burn up plenty of pixels yapping about what needs to be done, but there seems to be some evidence that ordinary folks are getting good and tired of waiting and are starting to do things themselves.
And that’s a good thing. Spread this one around, folks.
Goodbye, Blue Monday
Thanks as always to Pirate’s Cove, Bacon Time, The Other McCain, The Daley Gator, Flappr and Whores and Ale for the Rule Five links!
Holy crap, did Mississippi ever get nailed by mega-tornadoes the other day. Excerpt:
At least 24 people are dead in Mississippi after a tornado touched down just after sundown Friday in a storm system that delivered twisters, heavy rain, wind gusts and hail as it traveled throughout the South.
The storm system ripped through Mississippi and produced a tornado that touched down and caused catastrophic damage to communities across the state. In Rolling Fork, a rural town about 60 miles northwest from the state capital of Jackson, what were once buildings are now piles of scattered debris. The twister moved northeast, devastating rural areas.
The National Weather Service confirmed a tornado caused damage about 60 miles northeast of Jackson, Mississippi. Silver City and Rolling Fork were reporting destruction as the tornado continued sweeping northeast at 70 mph without weakening, racing towards Alabama through towns including Winona and Amory into the night. Thousands in the region are still without power, according to poweroutage.us.
Of course our hearts go out to the people who suffered this massive storm.
I grew up in tornado country (eastern Iowa) and have some experience with these destructive storms. A few years back our oldest, a highly experienced emergency medicine pro, deployed to Marshalltown, Iowa after a major tornado swept through that medium-sized (for Iowa) city. Along about 1980 I was riding my motorcycle down the highway and had a smallish twister chase me into a ditch before veering off and tearing up a cornfield. I also remember, when I was just a little tad, going along when my parents went to see Oelwein and later Charles City after those towns were hit; my memories are somewhat vague but I remember severe damage. A few years ago I had occasion to drive through a town just north of Nashville that had just come through a major twister; that town looked like it had been barraged by heavy artillery. Tornadoes are just plain no joke.
Nature is pretty capricious, and makes us look pretty puny by comparison. We’re fortunate here in the Great Land to have tornadoes be a pretty rare event, small when they do occur, and in a place with miles and miles of miles and miles with no folks living there, they tend to hit wilderness when they do happen. Instead, we deal with heavy snows, earthquakes and the occasional volcano, all of which also make us look pretty puny. Anywhere you go, there’s something.
Now, the usual suspects in the “climate change” crowd are wasting no time blaming SUVs and natural-gas stoves for this, but thankfully, at least as of the time of this writing, nobody seems to be taking their ghoulishness too seriously. We can, for the moment at least, be thankful for that.
Rule Five Once-Golden State Friday
In a recent special edition of City Journal, Californian Michael Shellenberger – who I’ve quoted here before – had quite a treatise on the state of California and how best to fix it. A couple of excerpts, with my comments, follow.
Now the state has become America’s shadow self. True, it is more prosperous than ever, surpassing Germany last year to become the world’s fourth-largest economy. But Los Angeles, San Francisco, Sacramento, and smaller cities are today overrun by homeless encampments, which European researchers more accurately describe as “open drug scenes.” Crime has become so rampant that many have simply stopped reporting it, with nearly half of San Franciscans telling pollsters that they were a victim of theft in the last five years and a shocking one-quarter saying that they had been assaulted or threatened with assault.
This is, of course, news to precisely no one who has been conscious the last decade or so. I’ve often related how my Old Man would talk about visiting San Francisco not long after VJ-Day in 1945, and his impressions on what a beautiful, prosperous city it was, and how bemused and disappointed he was when he lived long enough to see the rot really take hold. And the rot has some easily identifiable sources:
These pathologies are just the most visible manifestations of a deeper rot. Less than half of California’s public school students are proficient in reading, and just one-third are proficient in math (with a stunning 9 percent of African-Americans and 12 percent of Latinos in L.A. public schools proficient in eighth-grade math). Education achievement declined precipitously in California in 2021, as the state kept children studying at home well after kids in other states had returned to the classroom. Californians pay the most income tax, gasoline tax, and sales tax in the United States, yet suffer from electricity blackouts and abysmal public services. Residential electricity prices grew three times faster in 2021 than they did in the rest of the United States. And the state government, dependent on income taxes, faces a projected $23 billion budget deficit that will only grow if the nation’s economy enters a recession. Perhaps unsurprisingly, given these trends, California’s population stopped expanding in 2014 and has slightly declined since, resulting in the loss of a congressional seat after the 2020 Census.
All of these things – every damn one of them – can be laid at the feet of California’s Democrat party politicians. They have managed to twiddle the election system in the once and former Golden State to ensure them a super-majority; every bit of policy in California was put in place by them. There is no escaping this conclusion: The Democrats screwed this state up, and now they are going to have to fucking own it.
Here’s my concern, and it’s where I part ways with Shellenberger: Can California be saved? Color me skeptical. Shellenberger writes:
It is thus understandable why so many have given up on California and treat it simply as an example of what not to do. But change in the U.S. often starts in California and moves east. And neither party has set forth a compelling alternative to the California model. Anti-woke liberals and conservatives alike who have chosen to stay in California should take the opportunity to build a new political movement based on a clear-eyed assessment of the situation, an expansive vision, and first principles. A political coalition that differentiated itself from the Democratic Party’s progressive wing, while retaining support from moderate Democrats, could command immense political support by focusing on two issues alone—homelessness and schools. Add public order, nuclear energy, water desalination, and sensible housing policies, and such a movement could be of generational importance.
While the author is right to point out that neither party (in California, at least) has set out a comprehensive reform program, I would counter that as long as California’s jungle primary system guarantees one-party rule of that state, the California GOP has very little reason to bother. As I pointed out earlier, the Dems have a solid supermajority, as long as the jungle primary system is in place they will likely continue to hold that supermajority, and as long as activists can cash in on all of the many and varied “crises” in this state – homelessness, crime, education, rolling brownouts and so forth – the legislature has no compelling reason to change anything.
Of course, Herb Stein’s law applies here: What can’t continue, won’t continue. But the “fix” isn’t going to be neat, clean or easy. It’s going to be messy, likely violent at times, and it may end up with California going through quite a catharsis before any semblance of sanity is restored. I may be wrong on that – I hope I am – but I’m afraid I’m not.
Animal’s Daily Royal Navy News
I’ve mentioned British historian Mark Felton before. He runs two excellent and very informative YouTube channels on military history, Mark Felton Productions and War Stories with Mark Felton, and has written several excellent works on military topics; you can find those books on his web site, linked above.
Recently he released a video I found alarming, as it addresses the military status of the United States’ closest ally: The United Kingdom. Have a watch:
I knew, as does anyone who is paying attention, that most of the countries of western Europe have been drawing down their military forces since the Cold War ended, and I (and many other folks) have been concerned that they are drawing down too far. Mark Felton shares that view.
But I was startled to see the actual numbers presented in this video. From having a Navy that once controlled the sea lanes of the entire planet, a task now taken over by the troubled US Navy, the once-Great Britain now fields what is little more than a coastal-defense frigate navy. The Royal Air Force and British Army have likewise been badly compromised by cuts in equipment and personnel.
A country, to remain free and independent, should be able at minimum to protect itself from attack. It’s not clear Britain can do that now, today. Are they counting on their former colony to come to their aid if attacked? Well, we are obligated by NATO treaties to do so, but that shouldn’t be construed as giving them license to hamstring their own armed forces.
Britain has gone, in the space of one long lifetime, from a nation that defiantly stood alone against the Third Reich, to a self-absorbed, insufficient country that can’t even protect itself. That, True Believers, is a tragedy of the first water, and it’s almost certainly not going to improve any time soon.
Animal’s Hump Day News
As of Monday, spring is here! Not just in the Great Land, mind you, but all over the Northern Hemisphere. Fishing plans for this year include some river and lake fishing for trout and (when the runs start) salmon, and hopefully some ocean fishing for halibut and maybe rockfish and ling cod. Fish is good for you!
I have friends who live in places like Florida and Arizona, and that’s great – every cat its own rat. But I’ve always preferred living where there are seasons. I think they define the year. Granted here in Alaska, we joke that the four seasons are “Ice Out, Mosquito, Road Work and Winter” but we still love it here. And, I will admit, we look forward to the return of the sun.
On To the Links!
Yeah, clubs were probably a weapon of choice.
Forget the ‘norm.’ Bailouts shouldn’t be a thing, period.
Are there any good options for dealing with Bidenflation?
Nothing will come of this. Nothing.
At light speed, nothing makes sense. I once saw a great documentary about the young life of Albert Einstein; here’s a relevant clip.
The return of the wealth tax debate. There really isn’t any debate; without an amendment to the Constitution, a wealth tax is illegal. End of debate.
Stolen Valor woman sentenced. Once in a while, some asshole gets what’s coming to them.
Banana republic status confirmed.
The Biden(‘s handlers) Administration is full of incompetents, item #1,283,928.
This Week’s Idiots:
Absolute fucking lunacy. I’ve paraded some real nitwits in this section, but the San Francisco Board of Supervisors has to be the biggest collection of drooling morons to date.
The Biden(‘s handlers) Administration once again doubles down on stupid.
The Center for American Progress (towards socialism)’s Jenny Rowland-Shea is an idiot.
Paul Krugman (Repeat Offender Alert) remains a cheap partisan hack, and an idiot.
Donna Brazile (Repeat Offender Alert) is an idiot.
The Atlantic’s Thomas Chatterton Williams is an idiot.
This Week’s Cultural Edification:
One of America’s most lasting and iconic rock & roll bands is Fleetwood Mac, having had a long and varied career as a group until the sad passing of Christine McVie a while back. They got an awful lot of radio play back in the Seventies and Eighties when I was a young fellow, and their 1977 album Rumours is still one of the best-selling albums of all time.
In 1982 they released the studio album Mirage, which took a generally softer tone than their previous album, 1979’s Tusk. Also in 1982, I went looking for a hunting dog, and ended up buying a beautiful little tricolor English Springer Spaniel pup who would be my closest hunting companion for almost eighteen years; a better dog never lived. Due to the pup’s tricolored coat and feathered ears and legs, I named her after a song from Mirage that was popular at the time; both song and puppy were Gypsy. I’m still of the opinion that this song (among others) really cemented the notion that Stevie Nicks, while an accomplished performer, was primarily a gifted songwriter.
Fleetwood Mac released an official music video for that song that I always thought was well-done. See for yourselves: