Saturday, April 29, 2006

Father of the Bush Doctrine

Daniel Henninger writes about his interview with former Secretary of State George Schultz. Here is one interesting passage:
"I wonder out loud whether this view made people nervous back then. GS: 'President Reagan thought it was OK, but there were a lot of people that didn't.' DH: 'Now it's part of the Bush doctrine.' GS: 'I think the idea that you would do everything you can to prevent what is coming at you by way of something very disruptive -- a 9/11 -- it's a no-brainer.'

Was a no-brainer. President Bush's approval rating is in the dumpster, and much of the public is discomfited by the violent reports out of Iraq, which ironically are the product of the same mentality that killed the Marines in 1983. The Iraq war may or may not turn out well, but clearly now it is in a dark moment. When I put this to the former secretary of state, his response, characteristically, is optimism: 'I think this is the most promising moment, almost, in the history of the world -- a time when the information age has made it clear to people what it takes for them to get ahead in their lives and succeed, to have prosperity, to have growth, and it's a critical matter not to have that great opportunity aborted by a wave of radically inspired terrorists. So we have to confront this, and we have to do it on a sustainable basis because it's going to take a long time.'"

Isn't this an interesting point, and one worth much contemplation? It is possible in this day and age to understand the conditions necessary to experience economic prosperity. While it is possible, it seems that even in our own prosperous country it is a lesson relatively few have come to understand.

Mommy, Why are gas prices so high?

Why are gas prices so high? This is the policy debate in a nutshell.

[Hat tip: Arnold Kling]

Friday, April 28, 2006

Say It With Me: Supply and Demand

Charles Krauthammer:
"Supply is down. Start with supply disruptions in Nigeria, decreased production in Iraq, and the continuing loss of 5 percent of our national refining capacity because of damage from hurricanes Katrina and Rita. Add to that the mischief of idiotic new regulations. Last year's energy bill mandates arbitrary increases in blended ethanol use that so exceed current ethanol production that it is causing gasoline shortages and therefore huge price spikes.

Why don't we import the missing ethanol? Brazil makes a ton of it, and very cheaply. Answer: the Iowa caucuses. Iowa grows corn and chooses presidents. So we have a ridiculously high 54-cent ethanol tariff and ethanol shortages."
I think his commentary is very helpful in putting the oil prices in perspective. The ethanol tariff is something I have not discovered before. Very interesting observation. But, who would ever think that Congress would take a consistent approach to law and policy?

Thursday, April 27, 2006

Smell The Bacon

WSJ today:
"Just when you thought Republicans had sworn off pork spending, along comes an emergency appropriations bill that has Capitol Hill engulfed in the unmistakable aroma of bacon. President Bush has requested $92.2 billion for Iraq and hurricane relief, to which GOP Senators have added $14 billion or more in earmarks to benefit casino operators, condo developers, the shrimp and oyster industry, defense contractors, cotton and corn farmers and other urgent priorities. Mr. Bush threatens his first-ever veto unless the spending bill is cut back to below $95 billion.

Running to the taxpayers' rescue is Senate pork-buster Tom Coburn, last seen battling Alaska's infamous $233 million Bridge to Nowhere. As early as today the Oklahoma Republican will force an up-or-down vote on whether to strip the bill of $700 million for the proposed 'Railroad to Nowhere.' This pet project of Mississippi Republicans Trent Lott and Thad Cochran would reroute railroad tracks that CSX spent $250 million to repair after Hurricane Katrina. The Senators wish to make room for a new road that would just happen to service the gambling and beachfront condominium district of Biloxi."
But the WSJ is a bit late.

Here is the Porkbusters report on the Senate vote which continues spending on the "Railroad to Nowhere":
"Let us all take a moment to honor those brave Senators who stood up for pork barrel spending; who rose to the challenge and declared with one voice 'Screw reform. More pork, please!'

Roll call of shame is below...

Akaka (D-HI)
Alexander (R-TN)
Allard (R-CO)
Baucus (D-MT)
Bennett (R-UT)
Bond (R-MO)
Burns (R-MT)
Byrd (D-WV)
Clinton (D-NY)
Cochran (R-MS)
Coleman (R-MN)
Collins (R-ME)
Craig (R-ID)
Crapo (R-ID)
Dayton (D-MN)
DeWine (R-OH)
Domenici (R-NM)
Dorgan (D-ND)
Feinstein (D-CA)
Frist (R-TN)
Grassley (R-IA)
Gregg (R-NH)
Harkin (D-IA)
Hatch (R-UT)
Hutchison (R-TX)
Inouye (D-HI)
Jeffords (I-VT)
Johnson (D-SD)
Kennedy (D-MA)
Landrieu (D-LA)
Lautenberg (D-NJ)
Leahy (D-VT)
Lincoln (D-AR)
Lott (R-MS)
Martinez (R-FL)
McConnell (R-KY)
Menendez (D-NJ)
Mikulski (D-MD)
Murkowski (R-AK)
Pryor (D-AR)
Roberts (R-KS)
Sarbanes (D-MD)
Schumer (D-NY)
Smith (R-OR)
Snowe (R-ME)
Specter (R-PA)
Stevens (R-AK)
Vitter (R-LA)
Warner (R-VA)"
I take special note, for various reasons, of the following Senators supporting pork: Allard (my own), Byrd (does he ever vote against spending?), Clinton (pork Presidential?), Coleman, DeWine, Dorgan, Feinstein, Frist, Hatch, Kennedy (what else is new?), Landrieu (I'll vote for your pork if you'll vote for mine), Leahy (bigger is government is always better government no matter the reason?), Murkowski, Schumer (oil evil, government good, eh?), Specter, Stevens (why not a railroad to nowhere, I have a bridge to nowhere), Warner.

Do you know where your Senator was yesterday?

Gas: Markets or Politics?

Don Boudreaux on gasoline:
"I love this market process. People such as me -- people who lack even a whiff of creativity, people who are terribly risk-averse, people who lazily prefer to read novels and work at secure jobs and spend our evenings at home dining and drinking with family and friends -- just sit back and wait for profit-hungry hard-working anxiety-ridden creative entrepreneurs, each in competition with others, to find new ways to improve our lives. And we don't even have to accept what they devise. If we like it, we buy it. If not, we don't buy it."
I think you should read his entire post. I just wish our fearless political leaders understood the economy as Professor Boudreaux does.

Wednesday, April 26, 2006

Sowell on Immigration

Thomas Sowell:
"Both legal and illegal immigrants have come here primarily to work and make a better life for themselves and their families. But a country requires more than workers. It requires people who are citizens not only in name but in commitment.

Americanization did not happen automatically in earlier times and it will not happen automatically today. Immigrants in an earlier era had leaders and organizations actively working to transform them into Americans -- the Catholic Church with the Irish and numerous organizations among the Jews, for example.

Today's immigrant activists and the politicians who kowtow to them have just the opposite agenda, to keep foreigners foreign and to make other Americans accept and adjust to that. It will be a national tragedy if they succeed.

Just what problem will amnesty solve? Illegal aliens will benefit and politicians will benefit by sweeping the illegality under the rug by making it legal. But how will American citizens benefit? America can lose big time."

I think there is an important issue here that probably hasn't received explicit discussion. A system of political economy implies the foundation of a social contract to which people agree, and by which these people are said to be citizens for which there are both rights and responsibilities. Citizens of the United States share such a social contract and as a matter of simple definition non-citizens do not. As citizens we have the right not to share that social contract with people we do not choose to share it with. Our Constitution gives Congress the power, and thereby the responsibility, to define the criteria that must be satisfied for a non-citizen to become part of our social compact. With this in mind, I think we should expect Congress and the national government to enforce the relevant laws. With such enforcement as a backdrop, we can then consider whether We The People would like to change the criteria for citizenship. There seems little point in giving Congress the power to define (or change) such criteria if it will not first enforce the criteria that have been defined in the past.

Having the Constitution for Lunch

Don Boudreaux:
"I'm aware that what I'm about to ask is the intellectual equivalent of taking your date to a monster-truck rally -- that is, sure evidence of low-brow benightednes and crude sensibilities -- but on what Constitutional basis does the national government in the United States regulate the contents of school lunches?

That Uncle Sam does regulate school-lunch contents is beyond question. See this report in today's New York Times informing us that 'A bipartisan group in Congress plans to introduce legislation today that would prohibit the sale in school not only of French fries but also of other fatty or sugary foods, including soft drinks.'

Put aside all questions of the desirability of such legislation and ask 'Is this legislation Constitutional?'

I've read the U.S. Constitution several times, and nowhere -- not remotely, not even as a penumbra emanating from its text -- does it give to the national government the power to regulate the contents of school lunches. And yet, such a fact inspires no apparent hesitation in the typical member of Congress to regulate in this way."
I think this is an accurate assessment of the Constitution. Unfortunately, it is not just the typical member of Congress that thinks Congress has the power to impose such regulations. More importantly, far too many members of the judiciary seem not to have a copy of the Constitution that looks like the one Boudreaux and I have.

Immigration and the American Identity

Chris Coyne:
"Our core thesis is that Huntington is correct in arguing that the American culture and creed are in fact eroding, but mistaken in asserting that immigration is the mechanism through which we lost the American Creed; rather, the erosion is due to a more fundamental issue, namely the attrition of constitutional rules that provide a relatively higher payoff to engaging in activities that support the American Creed. The result has been an increase in activities that run counter to the creed. Where self-responsibility, the rule of law and productive entrepreneurship once largely characterized America, the country has become increasingly characterized by reliance on welfare and unproductive activities that focus on political transfers and taking from others.

Our main conclusion is that while historical traditions and cultural factors play a significant role in the political and economic development of any country, they should not be overestimated. While immigrants come from a diverse set of backgrounds, the American Creed can in fact be learned. The fundamental problem is not one of immigration or culture, but rather one of establishing institutions that create a relatively higher payoff to activities that recognize and respect the principles of liberty, equality, individualism, representative government and private property."

Just Deserts

Bryan Caplan:
"Olsaretti relies heavily on the Rawlsian premise that no one deserves to profit from inborn talent. If this is right, of course, the free market looks awful, precisely because it allows and indeed encourages talented people to get ahead. But this Rawlsian premise is truly bizarre. It implies, for example, that smart students don't deserve better grades, that great athletes don't deserve to win, and that inventors don't deserve to get rich from their ideas. And obviously they do."

This purported Rawlsian premise seems odd to me. I suspect the issue here involves the Rawlsian difference principle, which is that inequalities should be arranged to the advantage of the least well off. The very point of the difference principle was to identify the inequalities in a system of political economy that could be called just inequalities. Rawls of course understood that people are born with different abilities, different strengths and weaknesses. The question of justice was not the distribution of abilities and talents people are born with, but rather the question of justice concerns the way the system of political economy responds to the differences in talents and abilities. In coming to understand that the difference principle would be one of the principles of justice, Rawls specifically discussed the opportunities for inequalities to provide "rewards" to those with greater abilities. Such rewards would provide the incentives for people to invest and risk for future rewards that responded to their greater abilities. The inequalities that would result could nonetheless be to the advantage of the least well off in the community because the incentives would be in place for people to risk and invest in ways that benefitted others. Without such incentives the least well off may not find suppliers of medical and dental services, etc.

Further, the innate human tendency to exchange would seem to be ignored by the idea the people don't deserve to profit from inborn talent. It is the division of labor and specialization in production that allows each to choose to develop their special skills for greater personal rewards. These very same greater personal rewards are available precisely becuase the economic activity that results is valuable to others. Both parties to an exchange, both buyer and seller "profit" from the exchange. Both parties are better off. If we want to say the person who gains rewards from special talents that are undeserved, then perhaps we must also then say that the buyer as well does not deserve to benefit, to be rewarded, for the efforts of the supplier.

Tuesday, April 25, 2006

Oil Economics & Policy

Don Boudreaux:
"I've not blogged on this issue yet because, frankly, I've nothing new or interesting to say. The case for price controls, for government-mandated non-price rationing, and for a tax on so-called 'windfall profits' is so lame, so utterly gossamer, that pointing out its flaws seems to be an exercise in stating the obvious."
Yes, an economist might think that. Too bad most of the media and politicians seem so obviously in need of a refresher course in Econ 101.

Oil Prices

A person can't help notice gasoline prices these days, especially since the news industry and the politicians are all abuzz. Where can a person go to get some perspective? Check out Tim McMahon's chart from which he concludes:
"In other words, Oil would have to average $97.50 for the entire month to be as high as the price we saw in December of 1979. But we are 'only' paying about 2/3rds of that amount."
Or, you might consult Ronald Bailey:
"In other words, the price of oil would need to double from today's $70 per barrel to have the same impact on the U.S. and world economy that prices had during the 1970s oil crisis. This could happen because neither the oil majors nor state-owned companies invested much in boosting oil production or discovery when oil prices were so low in the 1990s. At the time there was also excess production capacity of 10 million barrels per day. Excess production capacity is down to 1 to 2 million barrels per day, so any disruption can cause a shortfall in supply, and since demand for petroleum is relatively inelastic in the short run, a rapid run up in prices."

Totalitarian Science

Read Arnold Kling's notes:
"Just what we needed. Another scientific excuse for totalitarianism."

Oil Slick Politicians?

OpinionJournal :
"There's been unconscionable behavior all right, most of it on Capitol Hill. A decent portion of the latest run-up in gas prices--and the entire cause of recent spot shortages--is the direct result of the energy bill Congress passed last summer. That self-serving legislation handed Congress's friends in the ethanol lobby a mandate that forces drivers to use 7.5 billion gallons annually of that oxygenate by 2012.

At the same time, Congress refused to provide liability protection to the makers of MTBE, a rival oxygenate getting hit with lawsuits. So MTBE makers are leaving the market in a rush, while overstretched ethanol producers (despite their promises) are in no way equipped to compensate for the loss of MTBE in the fuel supply. Ethanol is also difficult to ship and store outside of the Midwest, which is causing supply headaches and spot gas shortages along the East Coast and Texas.

These columns warned Republicans this would happen. As recently as last year, ethanol was selling for $1.45 a gallon. By December it had reached $2 and is now going for $2.77. So refiners are now having to buy both oil and ethanol at sky-high prices. In short, the only market manipulation has been by politicians."
Let's see, I think this means the price of ethanol has almost doubled since "as recently as last year." Perhaps all the yelling in Washington is really nothing more than politicians doing what they usually do when they screw up, i.e., start blaming any body but themselves.

Monday, April 24, 2006

Economists as Public Intellectuals

Peter Boettke:
"As Milton Friedman once told my colleague Walter Williams --- if you cannot explain economics to the general public in 700 words or less perhaps you don't really know economics. Friedman is perhaps the most effective spokesman for economics as a public intellectual we had in the 20th century and perhaps is rivaled only by Frederic Bastiat in the history of our discipline. When Milton Friedman says something we all better listen, and in this case his challenge to economists to learn to write clearly, simply, and efficiently is certainly one we should take on in vocation of being economists as public intellectuals."
This seems to me to make sense, assuming of course, that economists generally want non-economists to be informed about economic activity as well as about public policy tradeoffs. Is it fair to suggest that since so few economists seem to make an effort to engage the general public, it is probably the case that economists generally want merely to talk with one another?

Thursday, April 20, 2006

IRAQ: Give Me Liberty or . . . .

"He was not affiliated with any political party or movement and spent all his time working at the hospital or studying at home and he was dreaming of building a medical center for his specialty to serve the poor who cannot afford going to expensive private clinics.
We didn't know or anticipate that cruel times were waiting for a chance to assassinate the dream and kill the future.

It was the day he was celebrating the opening of a foundation that was going to offer essential services to the poor but the criminals were waiting for him to end his life with their evil bullets and to stab our family deep in the heart.

Grief and pain is killing me everyday as I hold my dear nephews, my sister is shocked beyond words while my parents are dead worried about the rest of us.
We are trying hard to close the wound, summon our patience and protect those still alive while we look forward to the future that we hope can bring peace for us.

The terrorists and criminals are targeting all elements of life and they target anyone who wants to do something good for this country…They think by assassinating one of us they could deter us from going forward but will never succeed, they can delay us for years but we will never go back and abandon our dream.
We have vowed to follow the steps of our true martyrs and we will raise the new generation to continue the march, these children of today are the hope and the future.

What a difference between those who work to preserve life and those who work to end it…it's terrorism and crime and there are no other words to describe these acts.
They will keep trying to steal life from us and we will keep fighting back and we will keep exposing them but not with bullets and swords, we never carried arms and we will never do because we are not afraid and because we are not weak unlike those cowards who know no language but that of treason.
April will always be there to remind us of the sacrifice and remind us of the dream we fight for.

My God keep safe the Iraqis and their friends who stand with them in their noble cause, peace and prosperity may seem far away but we will get there and I hope our sacrifices be a bridge to a better world."

Monday, April 17, 2006

Immigration: Low Wage Jobs & Econ 101

Dean Baker:
"One of the great absurdities in the debate over immigration policy is the frequently repeated claim that the U.S. economy is generating more “low wage” jobs than can be filled by the domestic workforce. This line has been endlessly repeated in news stories on the issue.

Quick trip back to econ 101: recall the concepts “supply” and “demand.” What makes a job a “low wage” job? In econ 101 world, a job will be a “low wage” job if the supply is high relative to the demand. When there is insufficient supply, then the wage rises. My students didn’t pass the course if they couldn’t get this one right. Econ 101 tells us that there is not a shortage of workers for low wage jobs; it tells us that there are employers who want to keep the wages for these jobs from rising.

Immigration has been one of the tools that have been used to depress wages for less-skilled workers over the last quarter century. Many of the “low-wage” jobs that cannot be filled today, such as jobs in construction and meat-packing, were not “low-wage” jobs thirty years ago. Thirty years ago, these were often high-paying union jobs that plenty of native born workers would have been happy to fill. These jobs have become hard to fill because the wages in these jobs have drifted down towards a minimum wage that is 30 percent lower than its 1970s level.

In response to this logic, the “low wage” job crew claims that if the wages in these jobs rose, then businesses couldn’t afford to hire the workers. It’s time for more econ 101. Businesses that can’t make money paying the prevailing prices go out of business – that is how a market economy works. Labor goes from less productive to more productive uses. This is why we don’t still have 20 percent of our workforce in agriculture.

So the economic side of the debate over immigration is a question about employers wanting access to cheap labor. . . ."

Saturday, April 15, 2006

Taxes: What Are They Spent On?

Brian Riedl:
"As the April 15 tax deadline edges closer, taxpayers frantically completing their 1040s may be wondering just what their hard-earned federal tax dollars pay for, anyway.

Washington will spend $23,760 per household in 2006 -- the highest inflation-adjusted total since World War II, and $6,500 more than in 2001. The federal government will collect $20,044 per household in taxes. The remaining $3,716 represents this year’s budget deficit per household, which, along with all prior government debt, will be dumped in the laps of our children."
It seems well worth noting that our national government will spend almost $24,000 per household in 2006, yet it only takes about $20,000 from a household, on average. I wonder how many households will pay less than that $20,000? How much less would be interesting as well? Do you suppose there are some households who pay $0 in taxes to the federal government this year? If so, those households will be sharing in the services provided by our national government, and that means, such a household would be enjoying what is provided by almost $24,000 expended in their behalf.

Mr. Riedl also tells us what government spends that $24,000 per household on:

1. $7,875 will be spent on Social Security & Medicare.
2. $4,701 will be spent on national defense.
3. $3,579 will be spent on low-income programs.
4. $1,930 will be spent on interest payment on the federal government's debt.
5. $870 will be spent on federal employment retirement benefits.
6. $732 will be spent on education.
7. $671 will be spent on health research and regulation.
8. $618 will be spent on veterans' benefits.
9. $456 will be spent on community and regional development.
10. $402 will be spent on highways and mass transit.
11. $363 will be spent on justice administration.
12. $338 will be spent on unemployment benefits.
13. $305 will be spent on international affairs.
14. $287 will be spent on natural resources and the environment.
15. $235 will be spent on agriculture and largely on subsidies to large farms.
16. $398 will be spent on other (including space exploration, social services, etc).

Besides wondering about why our national government spends on some of these items, I also have to wonder if the priorities are right. Oh, and I can't avoid thinking about just how little of the spending the federal government presumably does on behalf of my household (remember to the tune of about $24,000) actually involves something I benefit from. How do these numbers look to you?

Friday, April 14, 2006

Global Warming Science & Politics

Don Boudreaux:
"I'm not an atmospheric scientist, a climatologist, a meteorologist, or any other kind of hard scientist you care to name. (By the way, I'll bet that the vast majority of people who opine on global warming are just like me.) But I do know a thing or two about economics and the economics of politics. Regardless of the scientific merits of claims of global warming and claims of humankinds' role (or not) in promoting global warming, it is unscientific in the extreme to assume that government can or will handle whatever problem there is wisely. Simply to assume that, if problem X exists, giving power to government to solve problem X will actually solve problem X, or will do so without creating even worse problems Y and Z, is to ignore history and our scientific knowledge of politics."

I agree.

Liberty on Campus

Alliance Defense Fund:
"Scott Savage, who serves as a reference librarian for the university, suggested four best-selling conservative books for freshman reading in his role as a member of OSU Mansfield’s First Year Reading Experience Committee. The four books he suggested were The Marketing of Evil by David Kupelian, The Professors by David Horowitz, Eurabia: The Euro-Arab Axis by Bat Ye’or, and It Takes a Family by Senator Rick Santorum. Savage made the recommendations after other committee members had suggested a series of books with a left-wing perspective, by authors such as Jimmy Carter and Maria Shriver.

Savage was put under “investigation” by OSU’s Office of Human Resources after three professors filed a complaint of discrimination and harassment against him, saying that the book suggestions made them feel “unsafe.” The complaint came after the OSU Mansfield faculty voted without dissent to file charges against Savage. The faculty later voted to allow the individual professors to file charges.

[ . . . . ]

“The OSU Mansfield faculty is attempting to label a librarian as a ‘sexual harasser’ because they disagree with his book suggestions,” said French. “It is astonishing that an entire faculty would vote to launch a sexual harassment investigation because a librarian offered book suggestions in a committee whose purpose was to solicit such suggestions.”"


The Ethanol Tax

WSJ editorial:
"Congress has long required the use of such 'oxygenates' as ethanol and MTBE in gasoline. Midwest drivers have tended to rely on locally produced and corn-based ethanol, while places where ethanol is expensive to ship -- such as the East Coast and Texas -- have used petroleum-based MTBE. But the ethanol lobby wanted more market share, and so last year's energy bill included a giant new ethanol mandate, while at the same time denying liability protection for rival MTBE makers that are getting sued for having sold a product that Congress had once mandated.

MTBE makers are now fleeing the market; most oil companies will drop the additive entirely on May 5. So bye-bye to a significant portion of the domestic fuel supply, which already stretched ethanol producers have no hope of replacing any time soon. Since ethanol is difficult and expensive to transport, such highly populated cites as New York or Dallas that are far from the ethanol belt will suffer most from the gasoline shortages."
Congress and rent seeking is bad enough. But, getting sued for selling a product once mandated by Congress? Unfortunately, maybe I shouldn't be surprised.


Orin Kerr:
"The USA Today has a report on seven House Republicans who ran in favor of term limits and swore that they would only serve a set number of Terms — only to realize, after they themselves had served those Terms, that term limits are actually a bad idea. All seven are breaking their pledges and running for reelection.

I happen to agree that term limits are a bad idea, and I thought so even when it was out of fashion. But it's pretty pathetic to run on them when they help you and run aganst them when they hurt you. As John Miller puts it: 'Each one of them exploited popular sentiment about term limits for personal gain; they are now becoming what they once railed against.'

Here is the list of the seven Representatives:

Barbara Cubin, Wyoming
Jeff Flake, Arizona
Gil Gutknecht, Minnesota
Timothy Johnson, Illinois
Frank LoBiondo, New Jersey
Mark Souder, Indiana
Zach Wamp, Tennessee"
Surprise! Politicians can't be trusted, eh?

Back to Iraq

Michael J. Totten writes about a recent trip to Iraq:
"The whole thing was just weird. I don’t quite know how to convey how surreal it is to leave a country that maybe, just maybe, might join the European Union and enter a country that is a poster-child for wrenching war-torn catastrophe and have everything around me dramatically improve all at once. But that's how it goes these days when you cross into Iraq from Turkey. Even though Sean had never been there before, he, like me, breathed a sigh of relief at our arrival in a tranquil place at peace with itself."

The entire series of posts is well worth the time.

Thursday, April 13, 2006

Minimum Wages & Teenagers

David Neumark and William Wascher report on research on the effects of the minimum wage on teenagers. Here is the abstract:
"Minimum wages increase the probability that teenagers leave school to become employed or work more hours, and increase the probability that they leave school and become non-enrolled and non-employed. Minimum wages also increase the probability that lower-wage employed teenagers become non-enrolled and non-employed. This evidence suggests that (1) the competitive model of minimum wage effects is largely correct; and (2) that there are significant enrollment and employment effects associated with minimum wage changes that should be of concern to policy makers."

Congressional Earmarks, Continued Corruption

Wall Street Journal editorial:
"If Republicans lose control of Congress in November, they might want to look back at last Thursday as the day it was lost. That's when the big spenders among House Republicans blew up a deal between the leadership and rank-in-file to impose some modest spending discipline.

Unlike the collapse of the immigration bill, this fiasco can't be blamed on Senate Democrats. This one is all about Republicans and their refusal to give up their power to spend money at will and pass out 'earmarks' like a bartender offering drinks on the house. The chief culprits are the House Appropriators, led by Committee Chairman Jerry Lewis of California and his 13 subcommittee chairmen known as 'cardinals.' If Republicans lose the House--and they are well on their way--Mr. Lewis deserves the moniker of the minority maker.

For weeks, the Republican Study Committee, a group of fiscally conservative Members, had been negotiating a spending outline with the House leadership. But when they finally struck a deal last week, Mr. Lewis refused to go along and threatened to defeat the budget on the House floor if Speaker Denny Hastert brought it up. With Democrats opposing the budget as a matter of party unity, GOP leaders gave up and left town for Easter recess without a vote on their budget blueprint for 2007."
I guess it is okay to point out the republicans opposing reform on the practice of earmarks, but I would not let the democrats off the hook for "party unity." Anyone in Congress, republican or democrat, that supports the practice of earmarks seems to me to support political corruption.

"When President Bush recently asked Congress to pass a modified line-item veto, among the first to complain was Mr. Lewis. The spending baron told the Rules Committee last month that the line-item veto "could be a very serious error" that threatens the separation of powers. "We are the legislative branch of government."
Does this "we are the legislative branch" idea make any sense? The Constitution gives the President the veto power, which, of course, is not unconstrained. Congress has the power to override a veto. So, why could a line item veto power take the same form? The President could have the power to veto line items in budget bills, and Congress could have the power to override.

What about the reforms themselves?

"The reforms that Mr. Lewis objected to can only be called modest in any case. In return for supporting President Bush's $873 billion discretionary spending limit for Fiscal 2007, the conservatives had sought a few budget "process" reforms. Kevin Brady of Texas wanted a floor vote to establish a commission to sunset federal agencies that have outlived their usefulness. Paul Ryan of Wisconsin asked for a floor vote on the line-item veto--just a vote. Mr. Lewis and his band of spenders would still have the chance to try and defeat it on the House floor.

Jeff Flake of Arizona wanted each spending "earmark" to be identified along with the Member who requested it, so perhaps lawmakers might be shamed into using tax dollars more responsibly. He assumed, wrongly as it turned out, that a legislative body that has allowed these pork projects to quadruple in the past five years is still capable of being embarrassed.

Another important reform would have addressed the "supplemental" spending shell game on Capitol Hill, whereby initial spending requests that fall within the limits of a budget blueprint are inevitably augmented by so-called "emergency" spending. And since this "emergency" spending falls outside the budget framework, the sky's the limit. The proposed reform would have set criteria for what constitutes an emergency, established a rainy day fund for when one occurs, and required a House Budget Committee vote to increase spending beyond the amount in the reserve."

Now, come on. How hard is it to figure out that when individual members of Congress have the power to direct government spending to specific people and projects without having to identify themselves or the projects that corruption will result?

Tuesday, April 04, 2006

Politics of Global Warming Science

There is an interesting post about global warming and public policy, and it might be especially interesting if you aren't in a position to assess the actual science that is relevant to the issue. The post itself doesn't seem as interesting as the debate which emerges in the comments to the post. I suggest you take a look and see if you agree with the comment by John Greifendorff in which we find:
"It seems that american science has become a tool of political expediency. That is much more serious than global warming. President Bush's opinions matter, but they have no effect on the evidence.

I would hate to make a call that would affect my entire nation on the basis of this level of discussion. So would the President I expect."
I suspect the debate that emerges in the comments illustrates that when science becomes part of political debate, it is politics that overwhelms science and it becomes difficult to separate what is science from what is politics. I suppose by itself, such a conclusion need not be troubling. But couple this with an old adage that in politics rhetoric is reality, and there is much to be concerned with when science becomes part of politics.

Monday, April 03, 2006

The Love of Liberty

Donald Boudreaux:
". . . Hayek spent most of his career watching the worship of power supplant the love of liberty."


Glenn Reynolds:
"It's only sort of about economics: President Bush likes to say that immigrants do the jobs Americans won't do. That's true, of course, but it's really more accurate to say that immigrants do the jobs Americans won't do at the wages businesses want to pay. In my area, for example, American-born drywallers make 5-7 dollars more an hour than illegal immigrants. They're willing to do the work, just not for what the contractors want to pay. But I've talked to many of them and they actually admire the Mexican workers, who work hard and support their families.

Where I hear resentment of illegal immigrants, it's not so much based on the idea of them taking American jobs. At the moment, at least, unemployment is very, very low so people aren't thinking that way as much as they might if there were a recession. Instead, the resentment is based on the idea that people who come here illegally feel entitled to demand that they be treated like Americans. It's the devaluing of citizenship, as much as the loss of jobs, that seems to upset most people at the moment."