Audio Clips

29 February 2012

Teachers Unions vs. Charter Schools: Fighting the Inevitable

Juan Williams put together a 30-minute video on Chicago's successful charter school movement and the opposition that the teachers unions are creating.  Frankly, the unions are fighting a losing battle, but it highlights how little unions actually care about the children.  That probably doesn't come as a surprise to many people.

28 February 2012

Monetary Policy: Boring, But Crucial

James Dorn of the Cato Institute recently wrote an article that appeared in Forbes.  Whenever monetary policy comes up eyes glaze over and, frankly, I can completely understand.  It's not as fun to talk about as the newest movie.  However, it is absolutely vital that people understand why the Federal Reserve is the root of many of our long-term problems.  They create havoc in the system when they are unpredictable and they steal money from Americans when they print more dollars and hand it out to their cronies on Wall Street.  Please take a moment to read Mr. Dorn's article.  Here are a couple of excerpts:

After expanding its balance sheet from less than $1 trillion before 2008 to nearly $3 trillion today, the Fed has had little impact on the rate of unemployment but has greatly altered the allocation of credit and distorted the yield curve. It is ironic that while Congress criticizes China for manipulating its exchange rate, little is said about the Federal Reserve's manipulation of interest rates and asset prices. 
It is unnatural to have interest rates close to zero and to distort the yield curve by pegging longer-run bond prices at artificially high levels and suppressing yields. Keeping rates low to finance government debt is not a recipe for long-run growth or for credible U.S. monetary or fiscal policy. Purchasing MBS to fuel the housing market merely delays the readjustment of relative prices that needs to occur before the U.S housing market can return to normal. 
Rather than engaging in pure monetary policy to ensure long-run price stability and prevent erratic changes in nominal GDP, the U.S. central bank has engaged in fiscal policy by allocating credit to favored groups and thus politicized monetary policy.... 
Theory and practice both tell us that printing money cannot generate economic growth or lower the natural rate of unemployment, but it can cause inflation. An excess supply of money can also distort relative prices and misdirect investment. The Federal Reserve helped create the bubble in the housing market by keeping interest rates too low for too long and is now creating another bubble in the bond market. Pegging the federal funds rate close to zero for another three years and twisting the yield curve to lower longer-term rates will continue to misprice credit, penalize saving, and encourage risk.... 
Some asset prices need to come down. That readjustment is not deflation. It is the lowering of some prices relative to others in order to let markets clear. The Fed should be more concerned with maintaining a sound currency than with propping up housing prices and the prices of longer-term government securities, including agency debt. 
Asking the Federal Reserve to stimulate the economy and lower unemployment is asking too much. Monetary policy can wreak havoc on an economy when it is erratic. But when it limits itself to safeguarding the long-run value of money, it can grease the wheels of commerce and allow markets to perform their magic.

23 February 2012

The Rich Don't Pay Enough Taxes!!!

The top 25% of wage-earners ONLY pay 87% of the taxes.  Why aren't we making them pay ALL the taxes. The other 75% of us shouldn't be expected to have to contribute to the running of our country.  We're to busy playing Angry Birds.

Taken from Reason Magazine

21 February 2012

Stossel on Policing the World

John Stossel wrote a great article entitled "Policing the World" wherein he talks about the benefits of non-interventionism.  Here it is:
With an election approaching and at least some Americans upset about irresponsible spending, the president has finally expressed a political interest in cutting something. He says the Pentagon will spend “only” $525 billion next year. That’s slightly less than the current $531 billion.
A cut is good, but this will barely dent the deficit. We could save much more if America assumed a military policy designed for defense rather than policing the world. 
Presidential candidate Ron Paul gets criticized for advocating that. Paul’s opponents, including many of my colleagues, complain about his “isolationist foreign policy.” 
But shrinking the military’s role isn't the same as isolation. America can have a huge impact in the world without deploying our military. We already do. By all means, let our movies and music alarm mullahs. Let our websites and books disseminate ideas that autocrats consider dangerous. Above all, let’s trade with everyone. 
It’s said that when goods don’t cross borders, armies will. There’s plenty of evidence to support that. A report funded by European governments says armed conflict in Muslim countries is far lower today than it was two decades ago. A reason? Trade. 
Richard Cobden, a 19th-century British liberal statesman, said, “The progress of freedom depends more upon the maintenance of peace, the spread of commerce and the diffusion of education than upon the labors of Cabinets or foreign offices.” 
I agree. American music and consumer goods did more to bring down the Berlin Wall than our military did. 
Ron Paul doesn’t say that we shouldn’t defend ourselves. He supported our retaliation in Afghanistan after 9/11. He says if we are attacked, or clearly threatened with attack, America should fight. That’s defense. That’s different from policing the world. 
Today, America spends more on the military than we did when Russia threatened us with missiles. That’s irrational. And we can’t afford it. 
Still, I am uncomfortable writing about defense. I’m surrounded by smart people who say America needs to spend more on the military. Some studied war for years. I haven’t. My instinct is to believe the hawks. 
Except, I covered markets. I watched government try to improve on them. Doing that, I learned that government doesn’t do anything well. Why would that be different for military policy? 
It isn’t. In 2004, the U.S. military sent $12 billion in shrink-wrapped $100 bills to Iraq. That money disappeared. We don't know what happened to it. The U.S. official in charge said there was so much cash flying around his office that the staff called the packages “footballs” and threw passes to one another. 
There is no cure for military inefficiency any more than there’s a cure for waste at the post office. The point is that we should rely on government central planning as little as possible.
Today, some people want the military to contain China, chase terrorists, train foreign militaries to chase terrorists, protect sea lanes, keep oil cheap, stop genocide, protect foreign states from aggression, spread goodwill through humanitarian missions, respond to natural disasters, secure the Internet, police the Mexican border and transform failed states into democracies. 
Politicians have a hard time saying no to such noble-sounding goals. But the list is endless, which is part of the problem. 
Transforming states—nation-building—is the worst form of central planning. 
Running for president 11 years ago, George W. Bush called for a “humble” foreign policy and said, “I don’t think that our troops ought to be used for nation-building.” Yet four years later, he was nation-building in Iraq and Afghanistan. 
Candidate Bush, rather than President Bush, had the right idea. We have tried to build a working democracy in Afghanistan for more than 10 years now. Have we won hearts and minds? No. A recent poll of Afghans found just 43 percent had a favorable impression of the United States, way down from 83 percent in 2005. 
Nations are too complex for outsiders to “build.” Nations are organic bottom-up things. Saying no to nation-building is not isolationism. 
Ron Paul is in good company when he says an interventionist foreign policy makes enemies and provokes danger to ourselves. It’s time we stopped confusing defense with policing the world.

19 February 2012

Thieves and Bureaucrats Rob Haitians

Remember this story the next time someone tells you that the government just needs more money.

18 February 2012

Fun Taco Bell Drive Thru Song

This is a couple years old but Rhett and Link are hilarious.

Housing: Government's Favorite Asset

Nick Gillespie was on with Judge Andrew Napolitano discussing the disastrous results from government intervention in the housing market for the last several decades.

17 February 2012

USDA Abuses, Post 2

Please don't listen to today's posts until you have taken your blood pressure medication.  Listen to this post second.

USDA Abuses, Post 1

Please don't listen to today's posts until you have taken your blood pressure medication for the day.  Listen to this one first.

16 February 2012

Steven Pearlstein, Drama Queen

Steven Pearlstein recently wrote an article decrying the soul-corrupting influences of the SuperPACs.  He does so with the following proposal: "So, I propose that we finally give up the charade that we are not 'buying' elections and, in fact, do exactly that — mount an all-out political and legal challenge to laws preventing us from buying votes directly."

Geez, Steve, whine much?  Naturally, people being able to buy ad time to share their ideas and complaints is practically identical to voter bribery.  What a drama queen.  Of course, this is the same guy who said that anyone who criticizes President Obama's health care reform is a "political terrorist".  They probably kick puppies too.

Map: Using Guns in Defense

Cato Institute is beginning a map that shows instances where people have used guns for defense.  Interesting stuff.

15 February 2012

Government Wants to End Self-Respect

Is Obamacare's Penalty a Tax or a Fine?

Peter Suderman of Reason wrote today about an exchange between Congressman Scott Garrett and President Obama's Budget Director that happened today.  Here is what he wrote and the video of the exchange:

Part of the Obama administration's legal defense of ObamaCare's individual mandate to purchase health insurance rests on the argument that the penalty for not paying is justifiable under the conressional power to tax. ObamaCare doesn't actually require anyone to purchase anything, the argument goes; the law just makes people pay a tax if they don't.  
Courts have so far not been kind to this argument (in part because taxes must be intended to raise revenue rather than control behavior), and now a senior member of President Obama's staff seems to deny it as well. Here's an exchange between GOP Rep. Scott Garrett and newly appointed White House budget chief Jeffrey Zients from a congressional budget hearing earlier this week:

If Zients seems confused here, it's understandable: One the one hand, he's stuck with the administration's repeated promise that those with annual incomes of less than $250,000 won't face tax hikes. On the other hand, the administration's legal team is set to argue in front of the Supreme Court that a provision in President Obama's most prominent legislative achievement is justifable as a tax. Of course, Zients isn't exactly alone in his confusion: President Obama has in the past denied that the mandate is a tax too. At this point, I imagine the administration's official position on the question is—look! A blimp!

13 February 2012

Money IS Speech

John Samples of the Cato Institute recently wrote about campaign finance and it was a concise explanation of why money is speech.  Here it is:

As It Turns Out, Money Is SpeechBy John Samples 
Those who advocate for more restrictions on campaign finance generally practice a populist politics. They fulminate against the influence of money, demonize donors, and ascribe all the nation’s problems to Citizens United. Once you have read an example such reformist rhetoric, you have read all of them. (But if you must read more, here’s E.J. Dionne’s recent, especially over-the-top offering in the genre). 
But not all critics of campaign finance are so intellectually empty. Consider the recent op-ed by liberal law professor Geoffrey Stone. He addresses the question: “Is money speech?” For the conventional reformer, of course, money is not speech. Some even wish to amend the Constitution to recognize what they take to be the obvious truth that money is not speech. Stone shows why they are wrong. He remarks, “Not a single justice of the United States Supreme Court who has voted in any of the more than a dozen cases involving the constitutionality of campaign finance regulations, regardless of which way he or she came out in the case, hasever embraced the position that money is not speech.” 
Stone says the correct question to ask is “When should the government be allowed to regulate political contributions and expenditures — even if they are speech?” 
Regarding expenditures, the Supreme Court has for some time answered this question with “never.” Limits on spending abridge the freedom of speech. That answer makes sense. If any speech implicates “the freedom of speech,” political speech does. If spending funds political speech, the “make no law” admonition in the First Amendment applies to such spending. 
The Court has also been especially hostile to government regulations of the content of speech. But campaign finance regulations are always content-based. Most seek to advance a partisan cause expressed in speech. Others seek to suppress speech critical of current officeholders. The rest hope to cut funding to speech that they see as ideologically “incorrect.” 
Let’s face it: few would care about campaign finance regulations if such rules did not give hope of suppressing speech they disdain and thereby the triumph of a cause they hold dear. Campaign finance regulations should always be suspect in a nation that values in fact as well as words “the freedom of speech.” 
As It Turns Out, Money Is Speech is a post from Cato @ Liberty - Cato Institute Blog

12 February 2012

Why Capitalism Is Worth Defending

The Cato Institute recently published an article by Jim Powell that is worth a read.  Here is an excerpt:

For thousands of years, there was virtually no such thing as human progress. The great French historian Fernand Braudel observed, “Peasants represented immense numbers of people, the vast majority of human beings... constant poverty... For century upon century, clothing remained unchanged... the general rule was changelessness.” In Europe, peasant possessions were generally limited to little more than a shirt, a pair of pants, perhaps a simple jacket, a bench, a table and a straw-filled sack that served as a mattress. In India, there were hardly any chairs or tables to be found. There were few chairs in Islamic lands. Multitudes perished because of famines — France alone had hundreds of famines before 1800. Famine undermined the ability of people to resist common deadly diseases like typhoid fever, purple fever, whooping cough, sweating sickness, diphtheria, smallpox, influenza, syphilis and the plague.

Capitalism, as economic freedom is often called, has changed the world for the better by harnessing individual self-interest — the most reliable motivator there is. In markets, functioning without subsidies, special favors or bailouts, entrepreneurs have had powerful incentives to provide what consumers want.

Markets, cities and civilization arose along trade routes where it was convenient for people to gather, such as on rivers or a coast. “Markets,” Braudel declared, “endlessly worked on economies, stirring them up, bringing them to life.” Historian Will Durant added that “Trade was the great disturber of the primitive world.”

In many places, local people used common property for grazing, but they didn’t have any incentive to improve common property, since somebody else would gain at least part of the benefit. Then in England during the 1700s, higher grain prices led property owners to begin enclosing common property. In many cases, local people received cash settlements. In other cases, common property was enclosed by act of Parliament, and the affected local people were often angry. But once land was enclosed, owners had incentives to improve it, because they would benefit. They drained marshes, grew more crops, built walls and erected buildings including houses for laborers who worked on their property. Agricultural output went up, helping to banish famines.

10 February 2012

Theory of Relative Happiness

An interesting perspective from Dan Ariely who was burned over 70% of his body.

08 February 2012

06 February 2012

Are the Rich Not Paying a Fair Tax Rate?

Richard Rahn of the Cato Institute recently wrote an op-ed about President Obama's lack of understanding of tax rates.  It's worth a read, but this excerpt was particularly interesting:

President Obama keeps demanding that the rich pay more because “it is only fair.” In his State of Union address, he said millionaires should pay a minimum of 30 percent of their income in taxes. The 30 percent number seems to have come from divine inspiration rather than an exercise in logic.
In fact, the very rich pay far more in taxes than the relatively low nominal numbers they report on their tax returns. Many very wealthy people obtain most of their income from dividends, capital gains and interest on tax-free state and municipal bonds. The actual tax rate Mitt Romney, Warren Buffet and most other wealthy people pay on dividends, when correctly calculated, is about 52 percent, as reported by the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD), which includes the federal and state corporate-level-profits tax burden, plus federal and state taxes on dividends. My Cato colleague, Chris Edwards, who prepared the accompanying chart, notes: “Just about every industrial country provides relief for the double taxation of corporate equity, either by having a lower personal rate on dividends, a personal tax credit for dividends or a lower corporate-level tax. Despite the 2003 dividend tax cut, the overall U.S. rate of dividends... is still the fourth-highest among the 34 high-income nations of the OECD.”

02 February 2012

Rethinking Education

Jeff Sandefer is the founder of the Acton School of Business in Austin, Texas.  This is his speech at a TED event about how we need to abandon the public school system as presently constituted if we intend to actually help our children.  It's 20 minutes but it is a powerful message.