Criminalizing Politics by David Boaz

Steve Poizner, the California insurance commissioner who is seeking the Republican nomination for governor, created a stir this week by charging opponent Meg Whitman's campaign with attempting to coerce him out of the race. He said he had reported her campaign to state and federal law enforcement authorities. What did Whitman actually do? Well, Poizner said that Whitman consultant Mike Murphy had contacted a Poizner staffer by phone and email to urge him to withdraw from the race. The email, released by Poizner, said: "I hate the idea of each of us spending $20 million beating on the other in the primary, only to have a badly damaged nominee. And we can spend $40 million tearing up Steve if we must; bad for him, bad for us, and a crazy waste to tear up a guy with great future statewide potential." In the email, Murphy went on to suggest that if Poizner dropped out of the race before the June 8 vote, Whitman and her team would immediately get behind him for a 2012 challenge to Sen. Dianne Feinstein. Poizner says that's not only "strong-arm tactics" but possibly an illegal inducement to get him to withdraw. But isn't this really just politics as usual? Don't candidates as a matter of course say "support me this time, and I'll support you next time" or "run for a different office and I'll endorse you"? Presidential candidates, or their campaign managers, are often said to have promised the vice presidency to more than one rival to clear the field. The point about spending $40 million of Republican money tearing up fellow Republicans is a pretty common complaint about party primaries. In fact, National Review correspondent John J. Miller raised just that concern about the Rick Perry-Kay Bailey Hutchison showdown in Texas. Even during the Rod Blagojevich flap over "selling" a Senate seat, the always-provocative Jack Shafer and Jim Harper both asked, Isn't this what politicians do? They make deals -- including deals like "I'll support your campaign if you'll make my buddy (or me) a Cabinet secretary." No doubt the promises are often worthless, but they still get made. Blagojevich and Murphy have reminded pols all over the country that such deals are better made in person, not via email or telephone. Politics ain't beanbag, Mr. Poizner. Accept the deal or reject it. But "let's clear the field and spend our money fighting the other party" is pretty standard politics. And a darn sight better than another standard political practice, using the taxpayers' money to bribe the voters to support you.

Posted on February 3, 2010  Posted to Cato@Liberty

Why the Slow Recovery? by David Boaz

"Wealthy Face Higher Taxes." That's the headline that greeted two million American businesspeople Tuesday when they opened their Wall Street Journals. Inside, another banner head: "Big Firms Would Face Deeper Tax Bite." Turn to the New York Times: "A Red-Ink Decade/Obama Budget Sees Years of Deficits." The Financial Times: "Obama to target overseas tax breaks." Investor's Business Daily: "Higher Taxes for All in Obama Budget, $1.6 Tril 2010 Deficit." And the Washington Post (not that many productive people get that on their doorstep): "Obama budget would spend billions more." And President Obama wonders why banks aren't lending, employers aren't hiring, and investors are holding back? As the Economic Policy Institute illustrates, this is the slowest recovery of any postwar recession. [chart: Current downturn is far worse than any other in post-War period] Let's hope the Obama administration soon learns that higher taxes, more regulation, a larger share of GDP shifted to government, fears of Fed monetization of soaring debt -- not to mention newspaper reports of Obama budgeteers "flipp[ing] through the tax code, looking for ideas" -- can only discourage employers, investors, and entrepreneurs. Robert Higgs has cited the role of "regime uncertainty" in prolonging the Great Depression, as investors worried about what FDR might do next. Will Wilkinson points to Treasury Secretary Tim Geithner's saying "businesses want certainty. They need certainty so they can make long-term plans today." Unfortunately, Will says, "Creating completely irresponsible, economically chilling regime uncertainty would appear to be the basic modus operandi of the Obama administration." Taxes, regulation, and uncertainty -- and Obama asks why businesses aren't lending, investing, and hiring.

Posted on February 3, 2010  Posted to Cato@Liberty

Debate: Is Obama Failing? by David Boaz

At the Economist website, I'm debating the question, "This house believes that Barack Obama is failing." I'm taking the affirmative. Readers are allowed to vote, and the Economist's typically left-leaning readers are voting for Obama by about the same margin that Americans are rejecting his health care plan. So feel free to mosey on over there, read both sides of the argument, and cast your vote. My bottom line:
When your policies aren't working, the voters have noticed and your transformative ideological agenda is moving broad public opinion in the other direction, it's safe to say you're failing.
Rebuttals and closing statements will follow in a few days. But don't delay! Visit today!

Posted on February 2, 2010  Posted to Cato@Liberty

Financial Fiasco: ‘Best Books of 2009’ by David Boaz

Johan Norberg's Financial Fiasco: How America's Infatuation with Homeownership and Easy Money Created the Economic Crisis has been named one of the best books of 2009 by the Spectator, Britain's most important political affairs magazine. Excerpt:
Ever since the crash, I have been waiting for Johan Norberg to write about it -- and finally, this year, he has obliged. I have three copies of his first book, In Defence of Globalisation, with varying degrees of annotation. I have already started to deface Financial Fiasco, his book showing how governments created this mess. The American government pumped up the housing bubble -- and then there was a collective delusion that the market was rational. As Norberg says, the market is no more than a collection of humans who fall prey to hubris. And their hubris was imagining that computer models had eliminated risk: that the boom would not be followed by a bust.
It previously got an excellent review in the Financial Times. It's enough to make you think that the elite British press are smarter than the elite American press.

Posted on February 1, 2010  Posted to Cato@Liberty

Were You a Cato Intern? by David Boaz

After 33 years in business, and 33 years of Cato interns, we're finally getting around to creating an intern alumni newsletter -- and an intern reunion this May. So if you were ever an intern for Cato, and you're not sure Director of Student Programs Joey Coon knows where you are, please let him know. And if you're still in touch with other fellow interns, please tell them about our plans. If you'd like to be on the alumni newsletter list, and/or get an invitation to the reunion, please contact Joey at and give him your email address and the year/semester you interned at Cato. Throw in your mailing address if you like. And by the way, if you valued your internship at Cato and the work that Cato continues to do, and you're now a productive income-earning citizen, and you're not already a Cato Sponsor, isn't it time you were? The defense of freedom doesn't grow on trees, you know. Make your commitment here.

Posted on February 1, 2010  Posted to Cato@Liberty

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