On What Planet? ( General ) by David Boaz

Peter Beinart writes in the New Republic:
The struggle that initially roiled the Clinton administration--between deficit hawks and deficit spenders--is basically over; today, even the most liberal Democrats are fiscal conservatives.
Stephen Slivinski's new book does demonstrate that today's Republicans are bigger spenders than LBJ. But as the National Taxpayers Union notes in its latest rating of congressional voting, the average Democrat still votes for far more spending than the average Republican. Democrats offer no plan to avert the impending insolvency of the Social Security system. They have denounced the Republicans' trillion-dollar expansion of Medicare on the grounds that it isn't generous enough. Even the relatively conservative Democrats at the Democratic Leadership Council recently released a plan to spend hundreds of billions more taxpayer dollars on everything from college tuition to housing to socialized health care for children to McGovern-style "demogrants" for every baby, with no plausible offsetting spending cuts.

Posted on July 31, 2006  Posted to Cato@Liberty

Political Entrepreneurship ( General ) by David Boaz

From the Washington Post:
[Kevin] Schieffer is trying to persuade the Federal Railroad Administration to give him a $2.5 billion loan for the project [to build a 1000-mile rail line from Wyoming to Minnesota], among the largest in history. If it succeeds, it could be a boon to farmers -- and Schieffer. The project would cut transportation costs for coal, corn and ethanol, and would make Schieffer what Fortune magazine calls "America's first self-made railroad baron since the days of Teddy Roosevelt."... "He's talking about using eminent domain out here and just wiping out 110 or 120 farms and ranches out here," [rancher Paul] Jensen said. Schieffer received help from an old friend, someone he admired as a South Dakota basketball legend years ago: Sen. John Thune (R), who defeated Senate Majority Leader Thomas A. Daschle (D) in 2004. Despite opposition from the White House, Thune helped persuade Congress last year to increase the amount of the program from $3.5 billion to $35 billion. Thune, who received campaign contributions from Schieffer and who earned $220,000 as DM&E's chief lobbyist in the 18 months before joining the Senate, is promoting the project to lure jobs. The law would allow Schieffer to put down no collateral and to make no payments for up to six years. [Sen. Mark] Dayton and other critics fear that taxpayers would be on the hook if the project were to fail.
He's no James J. Hill.

Posted on July 31, 2006  Posted to Cato@Liberty

Capitalism Saves ( Government & Politics ) by David Boaz

The Sunday New York Times has a great article — the first of a series on aging — titled "So Big and Healthy Nowadays That Grandpa Wouldn't Even Know You." Reporter Gina Kolata begins with this 19th-century biography:
Valentin Keller enlisted in an all-German unit of the Union Army in Hamilton, Ohio, in 1862. He was 26, a small, slender man, 5 feet 4 inches tall, who had just become a naturalized citizen. He listed his occupation as tailor. A year later, Keller was honorably discharged, sick and broken. He had a lung ailment and was so crippled from arthritis in his hips that he could barely walk. His pension record tells of his suffering. “His rheumatism is so that he is unable to walk without the aid of crutches and then only with great pain,” it says. His lungs and his joints never got better, and Keller never worked again. Read more...

Posted on July 29, 2006  Posted to Cato@Liberty

The New Social Engineering ( Law & Legal Issues ) by David Boaz

Apparently I'm behind the times. I've always understood the term "social engineering" to mean what the American Heritage Dictionary calls "the practical application of sociological principles to particular social problems," or what Mises called "treat[ing] human beings in the same way in which the engineer treats the stuff out of which he builds bridges, roads, and machines." But in Thursday's Wall Street Journal I discover that "social engineering" now means "tactics that try to fool users into giving up sensitive financial data that criminals can use to steal their money and even their identities." It includes "phishing" and other online scam tactics. If you Google "social engineering," you can wade through pages and pages before you find any links to the older meaning. I guess there is a connection between the two kinds of social engineering. One online tech dictionary says, "Social engineering is manipulating people into doing what you want, in much the same way that electrical engineering is manipulating electronics into doing what you want." Read more...

Posted on July 28, 2006  Posted to Cato@Liberty

A Telling Analogy ( Criminal Justice ) by David Boaz

From the Washington Post:
"At this point, it seems like the war on drugs in America," added Spec. David Fulcher, 22, a medic from Lynchburg, Va., who sat [in a barracks in Baghdad]. "It's like this never-ending battle, like, we find one IED, if we do find it before it hits us, so what? You know it's just like if the cops make a big bust, next week the next higher-up puts more back out there."

Posted on July 28, 2006  Posted to Cato@Liberty

Presidential finger-crossing

Should President Bush use 'signing statements' to alter bills If you are a conservative, ask yourself: would you want Hillary Clinton to have this power

Posted on July 26, 2006  Posted to The Guardian

Presidential Finger-Crossing ( General ) by David Boaz

Over at the Guardian blog I offer some thoughts about presidential "signing statements," with this challenge to conservative defenders of the administration:
When the Bush administration claims some power and promises to use it wisely, conservatives should ask themselves: would you want Hillary Clinton to have this power?

Posted on July 26, 2006  Posted to Cato@Liberty

Rent-Seeking Weasels ( General ) by David Boaz

We've all heard about how actor-director Rob Reiner sponsored an initiative in California in 1998 to raise cigarette taxes to fund preschool programs. Reiner then became chairman of the state agency created by the initiative. And then he funneled $230 million of state spending through the ad and PR agencies that had worked on the initiative. And then he spent another $23 million of state money to support Proposition 82 this spring, to create universal preschool programs. He had to resign from his position, and voters turned down Prop 82. But he's not the only person sponsoring an initative that would benefit himself, his family, or his friends. A wealthy real estate developer who thought stem cell research would benefit his diabetic son spent $3 million of his own money to get Californians to create a $3 billion taxpayer-funded stem cell research organization, which he then became chairman of. And now comes Vinod Khosla, a founder of Sun Microsystems and former partner in the fabulously successful Silicon Valley venture capital firm Kleiner, Perkins, Caufield and Byers, and recently number 1 on Forbes magazine's Midas list of "the people who most successfully use venture capital to create wealth for their investors." He's been the subject of two admiring profiles in the Washington Post (one reprinted from Slate) in the past two days for his latest venture: ethanol. If Vinod Khosla says ethanol is a good investment, don't bet against him. Or against fellow Silicon Valley megamillionaire Bill Gross, who says that "reinventing energy . . . dwarfs any business opportunity in history." But if it's such a good investment, why is Khosla "supporting an initiative on this fall's ballot in California that would tax oil companies to generate $4 billion to help encourage the use of alternative energy," as Slate writer Daniel Gross notes? Khosla told Post columnist Sebastian Mallaby that he wants just a little help from the federal government, too: "Khosla wants government to require auto companies to make more flex-fuel cars that run on gasoline or ethanol. . . .  Khosla wants government to require big gasoline distributors to install ethanol pumps at a tenth of their gas stations." Oh, and a better subsidy. Taxing your competitors to subsidize your industry is a rent-seeker's dream. Usually you have to be more subtle about it. But if you have a "green" business idea, you can get liberal journalists to write gushing stories about you without even stopping to ask, "Hey, aren't you going to benefit from these initiatives and laws you're pushing? Isn't that sort of like, you know, corporate welfare? Like we're always accusing the oil industry of?" We shouldn't bet against Khosla. But if his latest investment is really such a great business opportunity, we should feel free to vote against subsidizing it.

Posted on July 25, 2006  Posted to Cato@Liberty

The DLC Moves Left? ( General ) by David Boaz

By teaming up with the Democratic Leadership Council, is Hillary Clinton moving to the center in preparation for a presidential run? Or is the DLC moving left to get closer to the front-runner? Yesterday Senator Clinton released a DLC plan, the "American Dream Initiative," a laundry list of government transfers and handouts. The New York Times called the programs "modest" and "relatively small-scale." Taxpayers might have a different view if they read the Washington Post, which noted that DLC president Bruce Reed estimated the cost of the programs at $500 billion over 10 years -- and taxpayers have learned by now that government entitlement programs often cost far more than their advocates estimate in advance. (Remember when Medicaid was projected to cost $1 billion a year? Oops.) And the DLC promises to raise taxes to cover the costs. There are millions of libertarian-leaning voters disgruntled with the Republicans' social conservatism, soaring spending, and ill-fated war. And Democrats are doing everything they can to discourage those voters from switching parties.

Posted on July 25, 2006  Posted to Cato@Liberty

Working to Cut the Deficit ( General ) by David Boaz

In an online fundraising letter, President Bush (or someone authorized to sign his name) writes, "Republicans are also working to cut the deficit. The best way to reduce the deficit is to keep pro-growth economic policies in place, and be wise about how we spend your money -- which is exactly what Republicans are doing in Washington." Just how high would spending be if the Republicans weren't being wise about how they spend our money?

Posted on July 24, 2006  Posted to Cato@Liberty

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