At Ohio St. Obama showed that he does not understand the nature of this country, “Individual ambition” is the problem?
For a supposed Constitutional scholar Mr. Obama seems to lack a basic understanding of why we have the Constitution.
It is probably more likely that he actually does understand it but doesn’t like the nature of the document which fundamentally limits the power of the government over the people.
That’s why we have it. A group of colonists decided that they could think for themselves, that individuals who lacked noble birthright were capable, indeed could do a better job of running things than the established aristocracy. So they threw off the shackles of a king and enshrined the rights of the citizen to pursue his or her own ends in dignity.
What the Constitution absolutely did not provide for was a vision of a centralized government which seeks to achieve “great” ends at the expense of the individual. The kings of Europe had done that for a 1000 years. Wars were waged in the name of the greatness of the home country and were always paid for with the blood of the unlanded peasantry. Our founders specifically sought to limit the grandiose vision of the government. Individual ambition, the pursuit of happiness was and as far as I am concerned, is the very point of America.
But our president, the president of the United States, doesn’t believe this. ”Individual ambition” is the problem. This idea is in direct conflict with the very core of what America is. And again, this guy in the President.
(From The Wall Street Journal)
Mr. Obama’s vision. “The Founders left us the keys to a system of self-government,” he went on, “the tool to do big and important things together that we could not possibly do alone.” And what “big and important things” cannot be done except through government? On the president’s list are railroads, the electrical grid, highways, education, health care, charity and more. One imagines a historical vision reaching as far back as the New Deal. Americans “chose to do these things together,” he added, “because we know this country cannot accomplish great things if we pursue nothing greater than our own individual ambition.”
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The Government Accountability Office has released its third annual report on fragmented, overlapping, or duplicative federal programs and activities. Proponents of making the government more efficient view the findings as an opportunity to achieve cost savings. While there’s obviously nothing wrong with the government spending less money than it has to, the goal should be to permanently shut the trains down – not just try to get them to run on time.
- The GAO says “Enhanced collaboration between the Small Business Administration and two other agencies could help to limit overlapping export-related services for small businesses.” The federal government shouldn’t be subsidizing export promotion for commercial interests, period. (See here and here.)
- The GAO says “Federal agencies providing assistance for higher education should better coordinate to improve program administration and help reduce fragmentation.” The federal government should not be subsidizing higher education, period. (See here.)
- The GAO says, “To achieve up to $1.2 billion per year in cost savings in the Federal Crop Insurance program, Congress could consider limiting the subsidy for premiums that an individual farmer can receive each year, reducing the subsidy for all or high-income farmers participating in the program, or some combination of limiting and reducing these subsidies.” Federal crop insurance subsidies and all farm subsidies should be abolished, period. (See here and here.)
- The GAO says, “Federal support for wind and solar energy, biofuels, and other renewable energy sources, which has been estimated at several billion dollars per year, is fragmented because 23 agencies implemented hundreds of renewable energy initiatives in fiscal year 2010—the latest year for which GAO developed these original data.” The federal government shouldn’t subsidize renewable energy (or traditional sources of energy), period. (See here.)
There have been numerous attempts to “reinvent government,” “streamline the bureaucracy,” etc, over the decades as the government has expanded in size and scope. Perhaps the GAO report will spur another. But while the initiatives change, the result is always the same: we still end up stuck with a bloated Leviathan that continues to have its snotty nose in every facet of our lives.
As I often point out, waste always comes with government the same way a Happy Meal always comes with a toy and drink. There is duplication and waste in the federal government because it has become massive and there are virtually no limits on what politicians can spend money on.
I’m not suggesting that government waste should be ignored. Indeed, examples of waste should be held up as reasons to terminate entire government agencies and programs. But I believe that a myopic fixation on “eliminating duplication and waste” is itself a waste. That’s because duplication and waste are merely symptoms of the real problem of big government.
View full post on Cato @ Liberty
The #1 problem when owning gold
by SIMON BLACK on MARCH 6, 2013
Reporting from Sovereign Valley Farm, Chile
In official testimony before Congress in December 1912, just three months before his death, J.P. Morgan stated quite plainly:
“[Credit] is not the money itself. Money is gold, and nothing else.”
(the quote is almost Shakespearean in its unrhymed iambic pentameter…)
Of course, this testimony came only 253 days before H.R. 7837, better known as the Federal Reserve Act, was introduced on the floor of Congress.
The Federal Reserve Act went on to become law and pave the way for the perpetual fraud of fiat currency which underpins our modern financial system.
And if unbacked paper currency isn’t bad enough, we award dictatorial control of the money supply to a tiny handful of people, and then simply trust them to be good guys.
Between the four of them, Masaakai Shirakawa (Bank of Japan), Mario Draghi (European Central Bank), Mervyn King (Bank of England), and Benjamin Shalom Bernanke (US Federal Reserve) control an astounding $8.85 trillion.
And given the speed with which they are printing currency and expanding credit, it’s a number that’s only going to increase.
Morgan was right. Credit is not money. The word credit comes from the Latin ‘credere’, which means ‘to believe or trust.’
And when it comes to maintaining the purchasing power of their currencies, these guys have an absolutely stellar long-term track record, completely unblemished by success. In short, they have given us no reason to trust them.
Owning gold is the same as voting against this system, turning your paper currency into something that they cannot inflate or conjure out of thin air.
Yet there’s one problem.
While the world’s central bankers have given us absolutely no reason to trust them, our governments have given us every reason to NOT trust them.
Governments, especially the bankrupt insolvent ones, have a long history of theft, deceit, and plunder. As we have discussed so many times before, confiscation and/or criminalization of gold is not exactly a zero-risk prospect.
So while it’s critical to own gold, it’s equally important to store it abroad in a safe, stable jurisdiction outside of your home country.
One option if you have the means is to fly overseas and personally deposit your gold in a private, secure storage facility like Das Safe in Vienna or Cisco Certis in Singapore.
In general, it is perfectly legitimate to travel with precious metals. If you’re entering, leaving, or transiting through the US, be sure to file FinCEN form 105 if the FACE VALUE of your gold exceeds $10,000.
For example, as a US 1-ounce gold Eagle has a face value of $50, you would need to file the form if you’re carrying more than 200 Eagles (not including any additional cash/currency you happen to be carrying).
Canada, the UK, and continental Europe have similar rules in their own currencies.
If you don’t want to carry gold, both Singapore and Austria are full of options to purchase bullion, tax-free. In Austria, most banks sell Austrian Philharmonic coins– a 24 karat coin struck in 999.9 fineness that’s recognized around the world.
In Singapore, it’s also easy to buy gold at many banks, particularly the main branch of UOB downtown. Or if you prefer, you can stop in Hong Kong along the way and buy your gold there– Hong Kong banks consistently have ultra-low gold premiums.
A private box at Das Safe in Vienna starts at 360 euros per year (about $470). At Cisco Certis in Singapore, it’s much more cost effective at S$149 annually (about $120).
It’s also worth mentioning that if you are a US taxpayer, foreign safety deposit boxes where you have ultimate custody of your metal are currently non-reportable to Uncle Sam.
So not only can you make a giant vote against the financial system, you can also regain some privacy.
Statistics: Posted by yoda — Wed Mar 06, 2013 12:45 pm
View full post on opinions.caduceusx.com
Matt Zwolinski, in his most recent essay, merges two different philosophical issues in a way that obscures the difference between them. One, the problem of initial appropriation of land, is a hard problem, at least for libertarians: How do people get ownership rights over uncreated property, such as the surface of the earth, sufficient to give them a right to prevent others from using it. One is, at least for libertarians, an easy problem: How do individuals get ownership over created property, such as a railroad train, sufficient to prevent others from using it. Merging the two is a particularly unfortunate philosophical move since the easy problem provides a possible solution to the hard one.
To see why the second is an easy problem, try applying Zwolinski’s argument to what libertarians view as the most fundamental property claim, my ownership of my own body. You have a rifle and enjoy shooting things. I am standing between you and one of the things you would like to shoot. That’s no problem—you have a very powerful rifle, capable of putting a bullet through my body en route to your target. Is Zwolinski prepared to argue that if I forcibly prevent you from doing so, you “lack precisely the kind of negative freedom that libertarians purport to be concerned with—freedom from liability to physical interference by other human beings?” If he is not, why is he willing to make that argument when what I forcibly prevent you from using or damaging is not my body but my created property, objects which exist only due to the application of human effort to the (at this point in my argument) commonly available uncreated property? He puts his argument in terms of the efforts of “men with guns,” policemen, but nothing in it depends on whether other people forcibly defend my rights or I do it for myself.
Part of his response is that “But lack of money would be no obstacle to a solitary man on a desert island. And this is because money is an essentially social device. It derives its value from a system of norms that are socially recognized and socially enforced.” But the existence of money is in no way central to the existence of property rights. What is being enforced when a woman who cannot afford a ticket is ejected from a train is not a social convention about money but the right of the owner of the train to control who uses it. A solitary man on a desert island, like the woman ejected from the train, is constrained by the absence of objects he has a right to use; in the former case things he would like to use are physically absent, in the latter they are physically present but belong to someone else.
I started this comment by suggesting that rights to created property provided a possible solution to the problem of rights to uncreated property. The argument, from an old piece of mine, goes as follows:
You wish to stand on a certain piece of common property. I am there already. You have the same right as I do to stand there, but you do not have a right to move or injure me, hence you cannot exercise your right to stand there without acting unjustly. I have not appropriated the land I am standing on in the usual sense of the term, but I have “de facto” appropriated it for as long as I stand there, not by altering the nature of your right to the land but by making it impractical for you to exercise it without violating other rights.
You have (somehow) acquired a rifle and ammunition, and wish to engage in target practice. The whole world is your target range. But you cannot fire in my direction—because you do not have the right to injure me. My existence and my present location decrease the value of your rights to you without violating or reducing those rights. You still have a right to shoot anywhere you like. You do not have a right to shoot me. If in some ingenious way you can exercise the former right without violating the latter prohibition (for example, by using a weapon shooting harmless water drops or a radar controlled gun which will not go off when it is pointing exactly at me) you may do so. …
… I plant wheat in a field. You come and want to plant wheat in the same field. I point out to you that the field is common property which you are welcome to use, but the wheat I have planted is my property (the result of my labor in gathering seeds, watering them so they would sprout, etc.) and you do not have the right to disturb it. Any way you can figure out to exercise your right to the field without violating my right to the wheat is fine with me.
This example can, perhaps, be expanded into a full justification for “property rights” in uncreated property. Seen from this viewpoint the original right of freedom of action need never have been infringed. When I “mix” my labor with the land I make it inconvenient for you to use the land without violating my right to my labor. If you figure out a way of doing so, fine. You still have the right of freedom of action, and that right is still limited, as it always was, by my right not to have my private property violated. …
View full post on Libertarianism.org
Andrew J. Coulson
A Fordham Institute paper released today seeks to answer the question: do private schools really refuse to participate in heavily regulated school choice programs? Its authors tell us that “many proponents of private school choice… take [this] for granted,” citing two examples—one of them being the Cato Institute, whose Center for Educational Freedom I direct. The authors even cite a relevant commentary by former Cato policy analyst Adam Schaeffer.
The only problem is that the cited commentary says precisely the opposite. Describing Indiana’s voucher program, Schaeffer writes: “Because participating schools will have a significant financial advantage over non-participating schools, lightly regulated [non-participating] schools will face increasing financial pressure to participate.” This captures Schaeffer’s concern as well as my own (which I expressed over a decade ago in the political economy journal Independent Review): We do not fear that private schools will refuse to participate in heavily regulated school choice programs. We know that they ultimately will participate, or be driven out of business by their subsidized counterparts.
We know this because there is extensive evidence to that effect from all over the world and across history. Everywhere that private elementary and secondary schools are eligible for government subsidies, the share of unsubsidized school enrollment falls. The higher the subsidy and the longer it has been in place, the more the unsubsidized sector is generally diminished. The Dutch enacted a heavily regulated nationwide voucher program nearly a century ago. Unsubsidized private schooling remains legal, but has been reduced to a statistical asterisk—now making up less than one percent of enrollment, compared to roughly 70 percent for subsidized private schools.
Our reason for concern over this pattern is also grounded in empirical evidence: it is the least regulated, most market-like private schools that do the best job of serving families. That is the consensus of the worldwide within-country research, which I reviewed and tabulated for a 2009 paper in the Journal of School Choice. The Fordham paper does not discuss this evidence.
Despite imputing to Cato scholars the exact opposite of the view we hold, the paper does include some interesting data. In particular, it offers a new corroboration that voucher programs are more heavily regulated than tax credit programs (a difference whose magnitude and statistical significance was previously established here). This will make it even harder for objective observers to cling to the notion that vouchers and credits are functionally equivalent.
View full post on Cato @ Liberty
The United States Department of Justice has declared that food allergies can be considered a disability under the Americans With Disabilities Act, a legacy of the George H.W. Bush Administration. The declaration emerged in a little-noticed 2012 settlement with Lesley University, in Cambridge, Massachusetts. A student there complained to the federal government after Lesley declined to exempt the student from a meal plan. Lesley will now be required to serve gluten-free foods, make other accommodations, train staff about allergies and pay $50,000 to students affected in the case.
Eve Hill of the Justice Department’s Civil Rights Division said that “by preventing people from eating,” Lesley was “preventing them from accessing their educational program.” Hans Von Spakovsky, a veteran of the Justice Department’s civil rights division, called the move a major expansion of disability law and told reporters that “the fact that this is a federal case and the Justice Department is going to be deciding what kind of meals could be served in a dining hall is just absurd.” It’s actually worse.
As one commentator noted, it would have been much easier simply to cancel Lesley’s mandatory meal plan. And the consequences go beyond having the Justice Department dictate the menu. “To say that food allergies are a disability under the Americans With Disabilities Act and start mandating what’s on the menu leaves all food establishments at risk of lawsuits in the future.” And doubtless, those with other allergies, perhaps the perfume-adverse, now have new incentive to push for disabled status under ADA. As Richard Gelles noted in The Third Lie, the dynamic for self-serving government officials is to weld open the eligibility door. That will lead to yet more lawsuits and court settlements.
That is good for trial lawyers, certain to cash in. It will also enable government officials to impose more absurd rulings that waste taxpayer dollars, increase the cost of government, and make life more expensive and complicated for all. And they will do this while posturing as champions of justice and defenders of civil rights.
View full post on MyGovCost | Government Cost Calculator
Obama says; “We are not a deadbeat nation.” So let’s raise the debt limit and incur more debt we can’t pay back. Problem solved.
The President is still not happy. In the recent fiscal cliff deal he got, taxes went up versus cuts 41 to 1. Now he’s warning Congress about not raising the debt limit. “We are not a deadbeat nation.” he says. We are however a nation with spending habits which appear to be of a clinical level of concern.
But as we all know, the best thing to do with someone (or a nation) with a severe spending problem, someone with an obsession, an addiction, is to give them yet another credit card. This “solves” the problem until the limit on that card is reached, which is nearly instantaneous.
Obama is of the opinion that since we are not yet burning furniture from the Lincoln bedroom to heat the White House, that everything is OK. Just extend the credit limit. Who’s going to close the card anyway? We issue the card. We can work this for a few more years (at least 4) before people start leaving en masse for Canada. Interest rates will never go up. We will never see inflation.
The truth is I don’t think the president really understands the fire he’s playing with here. If he does then it’s even worse. Given his penchant for executive power maybe it really is the latter. Check out this quote from today’s conference;
“If the House and the Senate wants to give me the authority so they don’t have to take these tough votes… I’m happy to take it,” he said. But, Obama added: “There are no magic tricks here, no loopholes. There’s no easy way out.”
I’ll bet he would be happy to take it. Take it. Even if it was in jest (and I don’t think it was) I think the quote above offers a great window into Obama’s thinking. Power, always more power.
I suggest that we allow a government shutdown. All the people who freaked out in 1994 when the House forced a shutdown but now see why we should have started cutting government back then, I say settle in and ride out any storm. Call the President on this. It is only when the American people say that they have had enough, and that they are ready to endure some pain, that we are ever going to get this thing under control. The politicians wouldn’t know what to do if the American people just said, “Do it.”
They’d get their act together pretty damn quick I’ll bet.
Are a majority of the American people willing to do this? I have my doubts, but I think it is the only way Washington is ever going to realize that we are serious. That means our bond rating gets hit. That means social security checks are delayed (I promise they will make sure this happens so as to inflict maximum pain). National Parks will close, and so on. Every high profile government service which enjoys a large constituency will be hit first.
The president and the those who want to raise the debt limit (and there are many Republicans who are also in this camp) are the ones taking the country hostage, not those who wan’t to address the addiction.
Hopefully we won’t have to shut everything down. (I guess.) But after the President got all that he wanted earlier this month, after the president got a fiscal cliff deal which gave more in subsidies to favored companies than it raised in revenue, he has no business lecturing about being a “deadbeat nation.”
So we should just commit fiscal suicide instead then Mr. President? You hooked up your corporate buddies to the tune of $68 billion a year, and the people who don’t want to raise the debt limit are the irresponsible ones? I don’t think so.
Many people have called for years, for decades, for this country to get its fiscal act together. For it not to spend the way it has. We wouldn’t be talking about any kind of default at all had the powers that be not always and unceasingly expanded the footprint of the state.
You have plenty of money Mr. President. Start cutting.
View full post on AgainstCronyCapitalism.org
The outgoing Secretary of the U.S. Treasury, Timothy Geithner has issued the Citizen’s Guide to the 2012 Financial Report of the United States Government. There are two charts in the report that fully summarize the nation’s fiscal situation, which Geithner indicates should be considered together. Here they are:
In this first chart, we see that the Obama administration projects that the nation’s revenues from tax collections will be rock steady into the future, while spending because of interest payments on the nation’s excessive level of national debt skyrocket. The second chart Secretary Geithner want U.S. citizens to consider with this first chart shows the national debt is projected to grow as a percentage of the size of its economy:
Taking the two charts together, what Secretary Geithner would seem to be projecting is a national debt death spiral – where interest rates rising above today’s rock-bottom levels make it increasingly necessary to borrow even more money to make interest payments on the national debt.
Of course, even the optimistic scenario depicted in the charts above only hold true if the Obama administration’s economic projections are any good. Their track record to date is one of being exceedingly optimistic….
View full post on MyGovCost | Government Cost Calculator
The Senate has passed a bill raising income and investment taxes on the rich, keeping in place the new Obamacare tax on high-income families, extending tax credits for favored companies, extending unemployment benefits, and delaying the sequester again. In other words, as I wrote four days ago and also in August 2011:
That’s why fiscal conservatives should look very skeptically at the “fiscal cliff” and “grand bargain” proposals, most of which promise to cut spending some day—not this year, not next year, but swear to God some time in the next 10 years. As the White Queen said to Alice, ”Jam to-morrow and jam yesterday—but never jam to-day.” Cuts tomorrow and cuts in the out-years—but never cuts today.
Once again, Congress and the president have demonstrated that they just aren’t fazed by a $16 trillion national debt, trillion-dollar deficits forever, and a federal budget that has doubled in a decade. Our Greek future still looms.
View full post on Cato @ Liberty
In today’s debate over reauthorization of the FISA Amendments Act, Sen. Saxby Chambliss deployed a familiar rhetorical move popular with supporters of broad surveillance powers. Chambliss acknowledged that there have been “a few instances” in which the law has not operated as intended, permitting “overcollection” of entirely domestic communications. But this only goes to show that the oversight mechanisms embedded in the law are working so very well! Moreover, echoing Sen. Dianne Feinstein, he asserted (though of course we can’t check the claim) that the violations that have been discovered have been the result of error, not deliberate abuse.
The first thing to say about this argument is that it’s something of a tautology: Violations of the law (or its spirit) that we’ve identified have been successfully identified! If safeguards and oversight measures discover no such violations, we’re supposed to assume that everything is working great. If they do uncover violations, it’s proof that current oversight is robust and no further safeguards are needed. Catch 22!
A more subtle problem, however, is that oversight of large-scale secret surveillance programs are most likely to uncover inadvertent (and so relatively benign) violations rather than deliberate ones. I think of this as the Stephen Glass Problem, after the infamous fabulist who managed to publish dozens of wholly fabricated articles in The New Republic despite the magazine’s legendarily rigorous fact-checking process—a story wonderfully chronicled in the film Shattered Glass and a Vanity Fair article of the same name. The problem, as editors later realized, was that the fact checking process was very good at catching accidental errors, but not equipped to deal with a journalist who was deliberately fabricating stories, and then exploiting his knowledge of how the fact checkers worked to ensure that his fabrications would pass muster, creating phony web-sites, voice mail accounts, and e-mail addresses to “confirm” his bogus facts. Accidental violations are always easier to catch, because accidental violators are not taking steps to conceal their violations.
With traditional, individually targeted surveillance, this may be a tractable problem: When courts are reviewing applications for surveillance warrants that name specific individuals, it is relatively hard to fabricate convincing evidence of a counterterror or counterespionage reason to wiretap an innocent person for some nefarious purpose, and also pretty hard to escape consequences if such an attempt is detected.
The situation is very different with respect to warrantless dragnet surveillance that, by design, vacuums up millions or billions of communications, many if not most of which are quite innocent, stores them in a vast database indefinitely, and then relies on “minimization procedures” to ensure that only the incriminating ones are scrutinized and disseminated. Now, a bad actor doesn’t need to fabricate a warrant application: He only needs to query that vast database of communications for “incidentally collected” information that serves an illegitimate purpose.
If we look at the history of intelligence abuses, in fact, this is often what we find: Sometimes they involved wholly illegal wiretaps of innocent people and groups, but just as often, surveillance conducted for some superficially valid intelligence purpose yielded information that could be used for improper political ends. But despite his name, J. Edgar Hoover never had a vacuum cleaner as massive as NSA’s, or such an enormous pool of information to sift through.
A bad actor in this context need only ensure that his illegitimate queries don’t raise any red flags, or that he has some facially convincing innocent pretext for those queries on the off chance they do attract scrutiny. From what we can gather from the redacted audits of FISA dragnet surveillance that have been released publicly, oversight seems to be focused on problems at the collection stage—with the understanding that broad collection of innocent communications of Americans is not in itself a violation. That means a moderately savvy bad actor may not have too much to worry about. That’s why the proposal to require a warrant before the database can be queried for information about particular Americans is such an important safeguard—and the NSA’s resistance to it so disturbing. Current oversight mechanisms have picked up some inadvertent violations of the rules because, like The New Republic’s fact checking protocol, that’s just the kind of violation they’re well-designed to detect. They’re far less likely to spot the intelligence community equivalent of Stephen Glass—and if they do miss him, the consequences are likely to be more serious than a few phony magazine articles.
View full post on Cato @ Liberty