Monday, December 31, 2007
Sunday, December 30, 2007
Saturday, December 29, 2007
"Pay particular attention to talk about ethanol; the feel-good sound of the corn-based fuel as opposed to its hidden costs; the diversion of corn into subsidized fuel creating a shortage that already is driving up the prices of other food products for consumers and farmers -- especially those feeding corn to pigs and chickens. Pollan also points out ingesting corn really isn't good for cattle.
In "The Omnivore's Dilemma," he makes the point that the government's 51-cents-a-gallon subsidy for ethanol has only encouraged farmers to grow more and more corn for the sake of growing more corn -- all of it requiring more fuel and fertilizer.
The new energy bill requires a six-fold increase in ethanol use by 2022, and yet an Associated Press story said only about 1,000 of the 179,000 gasoline pumps around the country offer E-85 -- an 85 percent ethanol product -- and only about 5 million vehicles can handle it. It's also more expensive than gasoline.
Yes, corn prices have risen recently for farmers, but a New York Times story from Iowa said the ethanol boom may have begun to burst; there's already a surplus; the number of ethanol plants being built exceeds usable demand."
Another cost that the article doesn't mention, at least not directly, is that the increased use of fertilizer to grow more corn has adverse effects as far away as the Gulf of Mexico where every year a zone of oxygen depleted water spanning 5,000 to 8,000 square miles develops and fish and shrimp disappear from the waters. Agricultural runoff that feeds giant algal blooms is believed to be the primary cause of this.
Big Corn is taking the taxpayers for a very expensive ride, raising the costs of what we eat, the fuel we put in our cars, depleting water supplies and it is affecting our health. Taxpayer subsidization of the huge agricultural conglomerates has got to stop. Rational markets (good old-fashioned supply and demand) should drive what farmers produce. If farmers can't make money growing corn they should stop growing corn and grow something there is a demand for.
Tuesday, December 25, 2007
Wednesday, December 19, 2007
"The National Renewable Energy Laboratory states that, “Today, 1 Btu of fossil energy consumed in producing and delivering corn ethanol results in 1.3 Btu of usable energy in your fuel tank.” Even that modest payback may be overstated. Skeptics cite the research of Cornell Uni¬versity professor David Pimentel, who estimates that it takes approximately 1.3 gal. of oil to produce a single gallon of ethanol."
So, why is the Congress so anxious to mandate the use of even more ethanol? The usual reason, of course:
"There’s a simple reason that ethanol is popular with politicians: money. Substituting corn ethanol for a large fraction of the gasoline we burn will mean sluicing gushers of cash from more populated states to politically powerful farm states. And a lot of that cash will wind up in the pockets of the big agribusinesses, like Archer Daniels Midland, that dominate ethanol processing—and whose fat checkbooks wield enormous influence in Washington. "
Washington barely bothers to pretend to hide its endemic corruption any more. Both parties are guilty. How can we change this? I would venture that scrapping the abomination that is McCain-Feingold and replacing it with mandatory publication on the internet of all donations from all sources of any size would open a lot of eyes about who is paying for the best government that money can so easily buy.
"Al Gore says global warming is a planetary emergency. It is difficult to see how this can be so when record low temperatures are being set all over the world. In 2007, hundreds of people died, not from global warming, but from cold weather hazards.
Since the mid-19th century, the mean global temperature has increased by 0.7 degrees Celsius. This slight warming is not unusual, and lies well within the range of natural variation. Carbon dioxide continues to build in the atmosphere, but the mean planetary temperature hasn't increased significantly for nearly nine years. Antarctica is getting colder. Neither the intensity nor the frequency of hurricanes has increased. The 2007 season was the third-quietest since 1966. In 2006 not a single hurricane made
landfall in the U.S."
In the face of this kind of evidence it's hard to see how the alarmist global warming crowd can continue to claim we are facing some planetary emergency. Maybe it's time for them to cool it on the fear and panic mongering. Read the whole thing.
Sunday, December 16, 2007
Saturday, December 15, 2007
Thursday, December 13, 2007
"The study, published online this week in the International Journal of Climatology, found that while most of the models predicted that the middle and upper parts of the troposphere —1 to 6 miles above the Earth's surface — would have warmed drastically over the past 30 years, actual observations showed only a little warming, especially over tropical regions."
An abstract of the study can be found here.
Meanwhile, as our betters have jetted off to Bali for a climate change conference, now into its second week, no less a personage than the Pope is telling the Global Warmenist crowd to tone down the alarmism, "warning them that any solutions to global warming must be based on firm evidence and not on dubious ideology."
As the Blogfather has so often said about Global Warming: "I'll believe it's a crisis when the people who are telling be it's a crisis start acting like it's a crisis." Although, considering how gullible they seem to be I might add a "but maybe not even then."
Saturday, December 08, 2007
"It seems to me that we've reached the point at which a facility that bans firearms, making its patrons unable to defend themselves, should be subject to lawsuit for its failure to protect them."
This was also quoted over at Samizdata. A couple of the commenters seem to have missed Glenn's point though. After initially agreeing with Glenn, commenter Alisa had second thoughts:
"Well, now I am having a second thought. He is only right if it is a governmental facility which I cannot avoid visiting without breaching the law, like a courtroom, for example. In which case I would have to sue the government - good luck with that."Joshua sort of agrees:
"I am inclined to agree. Surely we should have the right to forbid our guests bringing guns into our homes, why can't businesses forbid patrons bringing guns onto their property?"
I had to throw in my two cents worth. Here is the comment I left:
"Alisa and Joshua, I think you miss the point that Glenn Reynolds was making, and Alisa, your first reaction was the right one.
A private property owner, such as the mall owner, does of course have every right to make whatever rules they want about who may come on their property and whether they can be armed or not. Glenn's point was that if they make a rule that says you can't carry your lawful concealed weapon then they must take responsibility if you are killed or injured on their property as a result of having been deprived of your means of self defense in a case like this one.
As we have seen with these "gun-free zones" the property owner's prohibition against guns is of no concern whatsoever to the loony bent on mayhem. The law abiding were either choosing to obey the rules and leave their weapons at home, as the law-abiding are wont to do, or perhaps exercisng their prerogative to avoid the place altogether. Either way, no armed people were there other than the gunman.
Laws or private property owner's rules against carrying weapons don't prevent these incidents from happening because they are directed against the wrong people, responsible, law-abiding gun owners. All they do is ensure that these people will be unable to defend themselves should an incident occur.
There was a similar incident in a shopping mall in Utah last year in which a disaffected Bosnian muslim youth went on a shooting rampage. That mall also banned weapons. It was stopped by an off-duty policeman who had ignored the ban and shot and killed the gunman. Subsequent news reports say it was the off-duty officer and the police, but the latter arrived after the shooter had been taken down. Had the off-duty officer not ignored the ban or not been there, the death toll of innocent shoppers would have been worse. [Update: news reports I can find right now don't confirm this shooter was killed before uniformed police arrived. That is my recollection. I am pretty sure the shooter was at least pinned down by the off-duty Ogden officer, so he couldn't harm more people.]
Wednesday, December 05, 2007
Sunday, November 25, 2007
One brilliant theory as to why sales might be slowing down is that sandals are a seasonal item and demand might just fall off a bit with the arrival of Winter. That may be so (and I'm not putting the theory down), but I have an additional observation.
Crocs is a one trick pony. Its sole (no pun intended) product is a line of garish, neon-colored, ugly, plastic sandals. I have a hunch that the market for such a product might be somewhat finite and once the demand is satisfied, sales are going to crash unless the company comes up with a way to reignite demand or comes up with some new products. Crocs apparently hasn't.
Like most fad investments, unless you invest in it early and look to get out before it peaks, you will get burned. Once everybody else has already noticed, it's too late. I have no sympathy for the kind of herd mentality investors who get into these things and then start whining about it when the bubble pops, as it inevitably does. I hope the plaintiffs get thrown out of court.
Sunday, November 18, 2007
"Who would have foreseen that the nation that inflicted fast food and drive-thru restaurants on the planet would then take the fastest menu item of all and turn it into a Kabuki-paced performance art? What mad genius!"
Of course he had a larger, more serious point to make.
"We know Eastern Europe was a totalitarian prison until the Nineties, but we forget that Mediterranean Europe (Greece, Spain, Portugal) has democratic roots going all the way back until, oh, the mid-Seventies; France and Germany's constitutions date back barely half a century, Italy's only to the 1940s, and Belgium's goes back about 20 minutes, and currently it's not clear whether even that latest rewrite remains operative. The U.S. Constitution is not only older than France's, Germany's, Italy's or Spain's constitution, it's older than all of them put together."
As Always, it's worth your time to read the whole thing.
"Human beings only have two ways to deal with one another: reason and force. If you want me to do something for you, you have a choice of either convincing me via argument, or force me to do your bidding under threat of force. Every human interaction falls into one of those two categories, without exception. Reason or force, that's it."
Read the whole thing.
Saturday, November 17, 2007
"7:44pm Three out of four undecided voters on CNN are pear-shaped middle-aged women with a tendency to ramble, and who want things from the government. Don't blame me if you think that's cruel--I'm just reporting what I see."
It's all pretty amusing really.
Tuesday, November 13, 2007
"I do not oppose environmentalism. I do not oppose the political positions of either party. However, Global Warming, i.e. Climate Change, is not about environmentalism or politics. It is not a religion. It is not something you “believe in.” It is science; the science of meteorology. This is my field of life-long expertise. And I am telling you Global Warming is a non-event, a manufactured crisis and a total scam. I say this knowing you probably won’t believe a me, a mere TV weatherman, challenging a Nobel Prize, Academy Award and Emmy Award winning former Vice President of United States. So be it. "
Wednesday, November 07, 2007
Sunday, October 28, 2007
And here is the actual film trailer:
Sunday, October 21, 2007
"And so, in a democratic system today's electors vote to keep the government gravy coming and leave it to tomorrow for "the children" to worry about. That's the real "war on children" – and every time you add a new entitlement to the budget you make it less and less likely they'll win it"
Friday, October 19, 2007
Saturday, October 13, 2007
Update: It's worse than I thought. The MSM ignored all the criticism of themselves, constituting a major chunk of the Sanchez speech, and focused their reporting on a criticism of George Bush and the strategy/prosecution of the war, thereby proving Sanchez' point about them, the MSM. Absolutely shameless.
Friday, October 12, 2007
- Yasser Arafat - bloodthirsty terrorist and;
- Jimmy Carter - one of the chief enablers of number 1
The Nobel Peace Prize has become a bad joke.
Update: Now you can win your own Nobel! Three easy ways to get it.
Update 2: I'd permalink the following but no matter what, I end up at the front page of the paper. Anyway, The Manchester Union-Leader thinks Gore's Nobel is worse than a joke. Here's the full post:
"Five Norwegians gave a prize to Al Gore, and all the world is supposed to heed his counsel henceforth. No, thanks.
Alfred Nobel felt horrible about the uses to which his invention -- dynamite -- was put. So he endowed the Nobel Peace Prize and instructed that it go "to the person who shall have done the most or the best work for fraternity between the nations, for the abolition or reduction of standing armies and for the holding and promotion of peace congresses."
Al Gore has done exactly none of those things.
Gore, however, did write a book and make a film about global warming. He has become the second environmental activist to win the peace prize in the past four years. Wangari Muta Maathai won it in 2004 for planting trees.
Thus we have indisputable confirmation that the Nobel Peace Prize is no longer a serious international award. In 1994 the five Norwegian politicians who award the prize gave it to the murdering thug Yasser Arafat. Two years before that they gave it to literary fraud Rigoberta Menchu, whose autobiography was largely fabricated. (An example: The brother she supposedly watched die of malnutrition was later found by a New York Times reporter to be very much alive and well.)
On Friday the prize was given to Al Gore and the International Panel on Climate Change. Two days before, a British judge ruled that Gore's film, "An Inconvenient Truth," contained so many errors (read: lies) that it could be shown in British public schools only if accompanied by a fact sheet correcting the errors.
The Nobel Peace Prize is worse than a joke. It's a fraud. It is such a transparent fraud that the five Norwegian politicians who award it have been reduced to defending their decision by concocting elaborate rationalizations. This year they laughably claimed that Gore deserves the prize because, well, global climate change" may induce large-scale migration and lead to greater competition for the Earth's resources," and "there may be increased danger of violent conflicts and wars." (Emphasis ours.)
And Islamic terrorists may give up jihad and sing Kumbaya after listening to old Cat Stevens records. But that's no basis for distributing the world's formerly most prestigious prize. If winning this useless medal prompts Al Gore to get into the presidential race, which we doubt, the irony will be that the American people will turn a more skeptical eye to His Smugness than the Nobel committee did.
The American public won't accept at face value Gore's self-righteous proclamations or his self-serving predictions of looming global catastrophe. And Gore has to know that, which is why he will almost certainly stick to the world of make-believe -- Hollywood and International Do-Goodery -- where he can pretend to be the great sage and savior he wishes he really were and left-wing Europeans and thespians try to convince us he is."
"The NHS is Britain’s last big state monopoly. It is the largest employer in the developed world. Its 1.4 million staff outnumber the private and public healthcare workforce of Germany, a country with 25 per cent more people and better health outcomes. Its powerful unions view any slowdown in spending growth as a “cut”. And cut is a deadly word in political terms. The Government had its chance, when it was flush with cash, to demand reform as a quid pro quo for more money. But it did not go far enough.
In the 1990s it was possible to argue that the NHS was starved of cash. But not any more. Britain is now spending at about the European average, but lags behind too many other European countries in terms of results. Far too many cancer patients, babies and stroke victims are still dying needlessly. Far too many patients, particularly the elderly, are treated with a callousness bordering on brutality. Almost everyone I know who has had a baby recently has been told by the nurses to bring their own Jif, and not to set foot in an NHS shower without scrubbing it. World-class that isn’t. "
Thursday, October 11, 2007
The reason I call BS on the lawyer, and why the NTSB got the accident cause exactly right (in short: inadequate planning/pilot error), is that I am familiar with that airspace and fly aircraft with similar capabilities to the SR20. I used to live in New York City and once in a while I'd rent a plane from an FBO up at White Plains airport.
The airspace around New York is Class B airspace, meaning you need to have a clearance from the local approach control to enter it. However, there is a corridor of class D airspace, where clearance is not required, running down the width of the Hudson River and below an altitude of 1,100 feet (or maybe 900', I don't have the chart and it's been a while) to the harbor then hooking left, around the tip of Manhattan and going up the East River to the tip of Roosevelt Island. This is where Mr. Lidle and his instructor came to grief that day.
Cory Lidle was a freshly minted private pilot. I don't know how long his instructor had been flying or how many hours he had but he was not familiar with the area or the airspace. I made the excursion down the Hudson several times, turned around in the harbor and came straight back up the Hudson again. I was very leery of trying the East River because it is essentially a dead end and it would be necessary to get the attention of New York Approach and get permission to penetrate controlled airspace and fly over Manhattan back to the Hudson. The alternative is to attempt to do a 180 degree turn and fly back to the harbor. I have a commercial license with instrument rating and at that time about 400 hours. I was not willing to go into that part of the airspace because the risks weren't worth the view in my opinion.
At the point where Lidle & Tyler attempted to turn around the East River is approximately 1,100 to 1,300 feet wide. Call it a quarter mile. On the day of the crash there was a fairly stiff wind coming from the East at about 12-15 knots (13-17 mph), nearly perpendicular to their direction of flight, coming from their right. The rules of the airspace (uncontrolled is a bit of a misnomer, there are still procedures to follow) are that in those corridors aircraft should stay to the right (just like a car on the road) with southbound traffic staying to the west side of the corridor and northbound traffic to the east. If they were doing this, then when they attempted to turn, they were turning left, downwind. The SR20 is a fairly high performance airplane for being a single-engine aircraft. It is capable of cruising at 150 knots (about 165 mph) or roughly 2.75 miles / 14,500 feet every minute. At that rate of travel, even allowing for the fact that he was flying in an arcing turn and not going straight across, he would have crossed the river in roughly 9-10 seconds and he picked up a 15 knot tailwind in the turn, thereby increasing his speed in relation to the ground. Even if they had banked the airplane to a steep 60 degrees, which would have produced about 12 degrees of direction change per second (4 times standard rate or 3 degrees/second, 180 degrees per minute), a 180 degree turn would have taken 15 seconds. As you can see, the math doesn't work out too well.
The only way they may have gotten away with this maneuver, and this is pure speculation, is if they had bent the rules by staying to the left coming up the river then turning into the wind. They might have violated controlled airspace but there's a lot less to hit on the east side of the river. As it was, they essentially sealed their fate the minute they made the decision to go up the river and not use the option of contacting approach and get clearance to exit what was effectively a box canyon by climbing and overflying Manhattan. Given the conditions that day, there was simply no way they could have gotten away with what they tried. There just wasn't enough physical airspace for it. It wasn't a matter of the "controls locking." I was always taught by my instructors that when I was flying, my head needed to arrive at where I was flying next at least five minutes ahead of the airplane, i.e., I needed to have anticipated what was coming and plan accordingly. Cory Lidle and Tyler Stanger didn't do it.
That's my long winded way of saying that Cirrus should not settle this case because it ought to be very clear, it wasn't the equipment. It was the operator. The problem is that the operator didn't leave a large enough estate and the aircraft manufacturer is perceived to have the deep pockets here, regardless of whether its product is actually at fault.
Update: corrected minor typo in second to last paragraph and added a couple of words for clarity in how many degrees of direction change per second for a standard rate turn.
Monday, October 08, 2007
I would also recommend getting a copy of Neal Boortz and John Linder's book on the FairTax. It's a quick read (because it really is that simple) and a great reference to have around. You can buy it at the following link:
The FairTax is nothing less than a revolution in the way we fund government and the biggest transfer of power from Washington back to the people since 1776.
Sunday, October 07, 2007
".....hospitals are at the mercy of specialists, who have been fleeing emergency departments because of burnout, financial pressure, legal liability or all three.
Shortages are most acute among neurosurgery, behavioral health, hand surgery, urology, orthopedics, gastroenterology and otolaryngology (ear, nose and throat).
Though the problem is nationwide, it’s become particularly acute in the fast-growing Valley, where physicians say their colleagues fear managed care and malpractice suits."
This is not something that a single-payer, government run health care bureaucracy is going to fix. No, that would make it even worse.
"If it ever occurred to Matthew Hay Brown, the Sun's "reporter", to look into just what kind of "woodworking" Mr Frost did, he managed to suppress the urge.
..........Mr Frost, the "woodworker", owns his own design company and the commercial property it operates from, part of which space he also rents out; they have a 3,000-sq-ft home on a street where a 2,000-sq-ft home recently sold for half a million dollars; he was able to afford to send two children simultaneously to a $20,000-a-year private school; his father and grandfather were successful New York designers and architects; etc. This is apparently the new definition of "working families":..."
The "health care crisis" is another one of those "issues" manufactured manufactured by those who want to have us completely beholden to, controlled by and dependent on the state.
Update: More perspective from Powerline.
Tuesday, October 02, 2007
I saw this article at the American Thinker earlier today that pretty well describes what it is that I like about the man. He's a no BS type and bluntly straightforward. I like that quality in a politician because, well, he doesn't sound like a politician, just trying to talk without actually saying anything.
Please do investigate for yourself. I hope you'll agree with me that Fred Thompson is the best candidate for President.
Sunday, September 30, 2007
Update: The government has guns. You don't. This is what happens.
Another good point.
Saturday, September 29, 2007
Sunday, September 23, 2007
On August 25, the Wall Street Journal published an op-ed piece by former deputy assistant secretary of the Treasury, Bruce Bartlett. The piece, entitled "FairTax, Flawed Tax," was absolutely stunning in how utterly wrong it was about nearly every point it made about the FairTax. I've seen a few people offer corrections to parts of it here and there in the blogosphere and in the letters to the editor of the WSJ but no comprehensive point-by-point rebuttal, otherwise known as a fisking. If anything cries out for a thorough fisking, this is it and seeing as nobody else seems to be getting around to it and I've never done one before, I thought I'd have a go. So, here is my attempt. The article's original text is in block-quoted text. My rebuttal is in normal text.
"Former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee's unexpectedly strong second-place showing in the recent Iowa Republican straw poll is widely attributed to his support for the FairTax.
For those who never heard about it, the FairTax is a national retail sales tax that would replace the entire current federal tax system. It was originally devised by the Church of Scientology in the early 1990s as a way to get rid of the Internal Revenue Service, with which the church was then at war (at the time the IRS refused to recognize it as a legitimate religion). The Scientologists' idea was that since almost all states have sales taxes, replacing federal taxes with the same sort of tax would allow them to collect the federal government's revenue and thereby get rid of their hated enemy, the IRS."
No quibbles about the first paragraph. He's just setting up the argument to follow. As we will see, it is largely a series of straw man arguments.
The FairTax has nothing whatsoever to do with the Church of Scientology. As Neal Boortz, co-author of The FairTax Book explains, Mr. Bartlett is confusing the group that has championed the FairTax, Americans for Fair Taxation (AFFT) with another group, Citizens for an Alternative Tax System, which actually was a Scientology front group. Neal has plenty of supporting links and background in his post that I won't reiterate here (a fisking should be succinct!). On with the op-ed:
"Rep. John Linder (R., Ga.) and Sen. Saxby Chambliss (R., Ga.) have introduced legislation (H.R. 25/S. 1025) to implement the FairTax. They assert that a rate of 23% would be sufficient to replace federal individual and corporate income taxes as well as payroll and estate taxes. Mr. Linder's Web site claims that U.S. gross domestic product will rise 10.5% the first year after enactment, exports will grow by 26%, and real investment spending will increase an astonishing 76%."
So far so good, this is just a recitation of claims the sponsors of the FairTax Bill are making for it.
"In reality, the FairTax rate is not 23%. Messrs. Linder and Chambliss get this figure by calculating the tax as if it were already incorporated into the price of goods and services. (This is known as the tax-inclusive rate.) Calculating it the conventional way that every other sales tax is calculated, with the tax on top of the price, yields a rate of 30%. (This is called the tax-exclusive rate.)"
Now he's setting himself up to completely misconstrue how to compare how pricing and taxes work under the FairTax to how things work under our present tax system by making an apples to rocks comparison between an income tax and a consumption tax system.
"The distinction is confusing, but think of it this way. If a product costs $1 at retail, the FairTax adds 30%, for a total of $1.30. Since the 30-cent tax is 23% of $1.30, FairTax supporters say the rate is 23% rather than 30%."
He's right. It is confusing and he demonstrated as much by getting confused himself. AFFT tries to uses the common denominator of the dollar spent as a baseline. He is missing a critical step in the process of understanding this (did he actually do any homework on it?). In mathematics, in order to compare two fractions you must first find the lowest common denominator. In this case, Mr. Bartlett fails to do that by comparing $1 at retail now with $1 at retail after enactment of the FairTax. To make a valid comparison you first have to account for the effect of income taxes on the $1 under the current system and how and when you apply it. AFFT claims a 23% tax rate and Mr. Bartlett and the other critics claim a 30% rate. AFFT is using the $1 of spending as the measurement baseline. The critics move the goal post. Under AFFT's example, the $1 spent includes the tax. The real price of the good is $0.77 and the tax is $0.23. This is 30% of the $0.77, and where the critics come up with that figure, but 23% of the total $1 spent. As 23%, it's an inclusive rate (included in the $1) but as 30% it's an exclusive rate (added to the $0.77). In a sense, both sides are right but are measuring against a different denominator. I don't know that AFFT necessarily helps its case by doing it this way. But as proposed, the FairTax will be adminsitered as an inclusive 23% tax. I prefer to look at the impact of the removal of embedded taxes on prices. i.e., more in the tax-exclusive mode, as easier to understand.
Currently, the corporate tax rate averages 34%, which is embedded in that $1 retail price and levied on the profit left after deducting costs. As a percentage of the retail price, it varies between about 15% and 26%, averaging out to around 22%. When a company works out the retail price of a good, it doesn't start at the $1, start deducting costs and hope there's something left when it's done. It starts with the profit (the shareholder's compensation for putting their capital at risk) it wants to make after all costs, including taxes, are accounted for. From there it starts adding back the cost of labor, materials, etc., and when all of that is accounted for then you have your $1 retail price. All those other costs, by the way, have taxes on the suppliers of the material and labor embedded in them too. I realize that competition in the market affects the ability of the company to actually get either the $1 price or the profit the shareholders desire but for purposes of this exercise, we'll let that go for the time being. The central point is that we need to be able to make an apples-to-apples comparison and Mr. Bartlett isn't doing it.
AFFT and the FairTax sponsors in Congress assert that with elimination of this embedded income tax, retail prices for goods and services will decrease. You may ask why retailers and service providers wouldn't just hold prices where they are and pocket the amount they no longer have to fork over to the government. The answer is that the marketplace, aka competition, will see to that. So how does it work then you ask? I'll borrow the comparison table from the AFFT article linked above:
Income Tax System
Spending Tax System
Receives Gross Pay
Pays Tax On Income
Has Left To Spend
Pays Tax On Spending
Amount of Goods Purchased
Taxes As % of Pay
Taxes As % of Spending
*includes the $25 tax.
In this example, Citizen Joe earns $125. Under the income tax system, he pays $25 on that income right off the top (This represents 20% of his income and is a tax-inclusive rate). In fact it's withheld from his paycheck and he never even gets his hands on it. He has $100 left to spend and if he spends all of it then the $25 tax represents 25% of his spending but 20% of his gross pay. Under the FairTax, Citizen Joe earns $125 in income and keeps all of it. He doesn't even file a tax return. If he goes and buys $100 worth of goods and services, he still pays $25 tax but it's based on the value of the goods and services purchased and paid only when he makes that purchase. If he decides he doesn't really need that HDTV right now, he doesn't pay it. The $25 is still 20% when compared to income but 25% when compared to spending. In other words, it's the same thing, a wash and it doesn't matter whether you call it inclusive or exclusive. In order to make an apples-to-apples comparison, AFFT quotes it both ways.
The difference this table does not take into account is that under the FairTax, the $100 will buy a lot more goods and services because the retail price will have come down by the amount of embedded income tax the retailer/service provider no longer has to account for. Let us proceed.
We get into a series of misunderstandings and/or misrepresentations here, basically all variations on the same basic error:
"This is only the beginning of the deceptions in the FairTax. Under the Linder-Chambliss bill, the federal government would have to pay taxes to itself on all of its purchases of goods and services. Thus if the Defense Department buys a tank that now costs $1 million, the manufacturer would have to add the FairTax and send it to the Treasury Department. The tank would then cost the federal government $300,000 more than it does today, but its tax collection will also be $300,000 higher.
This legerdemain is done solely to make revenues under the FairTax seem larger than they really are, so that its supporters can claim that it is revenue-neutral. But for the government to afford to purchase the same goods and services, it would have to raise spending by the amount of the tax it pays to itself. The FairTax rate, however, is not high enough to finance the higher spending it imposes. Therefore the proposal only works if federal purchases are cut by 30%, close to $300 billion -- the increased cost imposed by the FairTax."
The tank that now costs $1 million doesn't cost $1 million any more because the manufacturer no longer has to include the income taxes he'd pay in its pricing calculations. The price comes down accordingly and the government ends up paying the same $1 million. Uncle Sam pays the 30% now and it comes right back to his own pocket. It will be no different after the FairTax is enacted. The difference is transparency.
"Similarly, state and local governments would have to pay the FairTax on most of their purchases. This means that it is partly financed by higher state and local taxes. It's also worth remembering that state sales taxes now average 6%, which means that the total tax rate will be 36% on retail sales."
Most states will probably want to revise their tax rules but if they follow the FairTax lead and tax all goods and services, they will probably end up reducing rates because they will have a broader base of taxable items. Even if they don't, let's remember that Mr. Bartlett keeps trying to tell us that after the Fairtax the $1 spent will be $1.30, i.e., tax exclusive. Wrong, it will still be $1 spent, inclusive of the FairTax. So, even if the states do nothing and levy taxes on the $1 spent as they do now, nothing changes.
"State sales taxes have long exempted all but a few services because of the enormous difficulty in taxing intangibles. But the FairTax would apply to 100% of services, including medical care, thus increasing their cost by 30%. No state comes close to taxing services so broadly."
Service providers set their prices in the same way as any other business, as described above. Your doctor figures in her estimated taxes when setting her service rates so that when those and all her other costs (like office staff and malpractice insurance premiums) are taken into account she gets the return she needs to make all the agro of putting up with health insurance companies, patients who won't do as they're told, lawyers, etc., worth it. Under the FairTax, she just figures out her fees without having to account for the income tax (or the cost of figuring it out), tacks on the FairTax and sends it on in. Whether the tax is embedded in the fee, as it is with the income tax, or transparent, as it is with the FairTax the result is neutral.
"Consumers would also find themselves taxed on newly constructed homes. Imagine paying 30% to the federal government on top of the purchase price of your next house."
He's just compounding his previous error here. One more time; with the embedded tax taken out of the price, the price quoted for a given size of home will decrease by the amount of the embedded tax. Paying the FairTax on top of the newly lowered cost of the home gets you right back to the price you would have paid under the current system.
"Since sales taxes are regressive -- taking more in percentage terms from the incomes of the poor and middle class than the rich -- some provision is needed to prevent a vast increase in taxation on the nonwealthy. The FairTax does this by sending monthly checks to every household based on income."
The regressivity is dealt with by exempting everyone on the estimated expenditures for the basic necessities of every family up to the poverty level.
"Aside from the incredible complexity and intrusiveness of tracking every American's monthly income -- and creating a de facto national welfare program -- the FairTax does not include the cost of this rebate in the tax rate. As noted earlier, the FairTax is designed only to match current revenues and does not cover any increased spending that it may require. Since the rebate will cost at least $600 billion the first year, either federal discretionary spending would have to be cut by 60% or the rate would have to be five percentage points higher than advertised."
Once again Mr. Bartlett shows every indication of never laid eyes on the FairTax Bill. The FairTax rebate feature, (actually a "prebate", it comes in advance) does not rely on tracking anybody's income. It is paid to everyone, regardless of income, based on a formula taking into account the number of persons in the household and the current poverty level. Every head of household will receive a check based on the sales tax that would be payable on what the family is estimated to spend on goods and services. When they buy those goods and services, the Treasury just gets it back. The family must send in an annual registration with the names and social security numbers of each family member, information they already provide on their tax return anyway. There is no income reporting and no income test. As to the second paragraph, wrong again Mr. Bartlett. The 23% FairTax rate AFFT has put forward accounts for all of this. It is revenue neutral even after the rebate.
"Rejecting all the tricks of FairTax supporters and calculating the tax rate honestly -- by including the higher spending that it mandates and by being realistic about what could actually be taxed -- professional revenue estimators have always concluded that a national retail sales tax would have to be much, much higher than 23%."
I think we've pretty well established by now that the FairTax would not drive higher spending at all. Mr. Bartlett never did catch on to the concept that without income taxes embedded in the price of everything, prices would go down.
"A 2000 estimate by Congress's Joint Committee on Taxation found the tax-inclusive rate would have to be 36% and the tax-exclusive rate would be 57%. In 2005, the U.S. Treasury Department calculated that a tax-exclusive rate of 34% would be needed just to replace the income tax, leaving the payroll tax in place. But if evasion were high then the rate might have to rise to 49%. If the FairTax were only able to cover the limited sales tax base of a typical state, then a rate of 64% would be required (89% with high evasion)."
Now he's just throwing out large random numbers to scare you, FUD (Fear, Uncertainty and Doubt) if you prefer. This is a similar tactic to his assertion in the second paragraph of the article that the whole thing is a devious Scientologist plot. He's trying to discredit the FairTax by associating it with some, to put it mildly, out-of-the-mainstream cult religion. Evasion will be pretty difficult because any business selling to a consumer is responsible for remitting the tax, even if it fails to collect it. Also, evasion is high now due to somewhat elastic definitions of what constitutes income and a nearly impossible to understand tax code. There's nowhere to hide under the FairTax.
"I've emphasized problems with the FairTax rate because public opinion polls have long shown that support for flat-rate tax reforms is extremely sensitive to the proposed rate, with support dropping off sharply at a rate higher than 23%. But there are also massive technical and administrative problems with collecting all federal taxes at the checkout counter and relying entirely on state governments to collect the federal government's revenue."
Nonsense. Retailers deal with this everyday right now. In my neck of the woods, there are as many different sales tax rates as there are towns. There is a basic state sales tax rate then various local option add-ons. Program it into the POS system like you do every other tax, or temporary on-sale discount price. Done. Let's move on.
"Among the problems: What possible incentive would the states have to be vigorous in their federal tax collections? What is to stop them from slacking off and giving their citizens a tax cut at federal expense? What about states with no sales taxes? What's to stop people from bypassing retail outlets and buying their goods from producers or at wholesale, tax-free?"
Taking the last point first, retailers already report gross receipts to the states that have an income tax on a monthly basis and remit the sales taxes collected. States that don't have a sales tax (there are only five) may either contract with another state to collect it on their behalf or they may contract with the federal government to do it or they can do nothing and the federal government will administer it directly.
Slacking off? States levy their own taxes because they need to pay for things their citizens want that the federal government doesn't provide. Mr. Bartlett seems to be implying that the federal government will automatically pick up the slack if the states reduce their taxes. If the states reduce their own taxes it will mean they can't provide the services those taxes were funding. That is a matter between the state government and the citizens of that state. The federal government doesn't come into it at all.
"Perhaps the biggest deception in the FairTax, however, is its promise to relieve individuals from having to file income tax returns, keep extensive financial records and potentially suffer audits. Judging by the emphasis FairTax supporters place on the idea of making April 15 just another day, this seems to be a major selling point for their proposal."
The only information an individual or family would need to provide is the names and social security numbers of the family members so that the Social Security Administration knows a) who to send the prebate check to and b) how much it should be made out for. The only consequence for not doing this is that you wouldn't get a check.
"Yet all but six states now have state income taxes. So unless one lives in one of those states, this promise is an empty one indeed. In short, the FairTax is too good to be true, and voters should not take seriously any candidate who supports it."
The person that should not be taken seriously is the person who either didn't do his homework or is intentionally misrepresenting the FairTax and how it would work. I'd say Mr. Bartlett's op-ed bears all the hallmarks of having been written for him by someone else, someone with a vested interest in preventing the FairTax from ever being enacted, which would be just about anyone in Washington DC who benefits from the current system where the tax code is used to pick winners and losers, and makes possible the incredible corruption rampant in the US Congress today. If it were my name going in the byline of this article, I'd have made very sure that what was being put forth in my name was accurate and true. Almost none of this article is.
Wednesday, September 19, 2007
Update: More on what's ailing healthcare from John Stossel:
"America's health-care problem is not that some people lack insurance, it is that 250 million Americans do have it."
Another Update: Mark Steyn weighs in on HIllarycare Mk. II:
"So, out of 45 million uninsured Americans, nine million aren't American, nine million are insured, 18 million are young and healthy. And the rest of these poor helpless waifs trapped in Uninsured Hell waiting for Hillary to rescue them are, in fact, wealthier than the general population. According to the Census Bureau's August 2006 report on "Income, Poverty and Health Insurance Coverage, "37% of those without health insurance — that's 17 million people — come from households earning more than $50,000. Nineteen percent — 8.7 million people — of those downtrodden paupers crushed by the brutal inequities of capitalism come from households earning more than $75,000.
In other words, if they fall off the roof, they can write a check."
Yup. Sounds like a crisis to me.
Monday, September 17, 2007
I had my own encounter with OJ several years ago and it made my flesh crawl. I was on my way back from a business trip to SE Asia in the spring of 1998. I had returned via LAX and had several hours layover before catching a red-eye to Chicago and thence on home. It was far enough ahead of my flight that a gate wasn't assigned yet so I was sitting just inside the security checkpoint trying to read.
I heard a bit of a commotion at the checkpoint, nothing alarming, just some guy whistling some tune or other and trying to engage the security personnel in conversation. As he passed through and came into clear view I recognized him immediately. He was still whistling and carrying on somewhat and I realized at that point that we was trying to draw attention to himself and make eye contact with as many people as he could. Now I don't encounter celebrities (or notorieties in this case) every day but I thought that his behavior was kind of odd. I generally think of celebrities trying to blend in and not draw attention to themselves in settings like that. This guy had a kind of a sneer on his face, which I couldn't quite figure out at first. As he passed by where I was sitting our eyes met very briefly and it hit me that he didn't want attention just for attention's sake. He was laughing at everybody. In the brief few seconds I met his eyes, I had the feeling I was looking at a window into pure evil. This was a man who had gotten away with killing two human beings in cold-blood and he knew we knew it. He was revelling in it and practically daring us to say anything to him and enjoying that he had this power to creep people out. I have to say I was and I quickly looked away, partly because I was a little unnerved but also because I didn't want to give him the pleasure of being acknowledged.
The encounter was over in a few seconds and he continued on his way. I've thought about the incident and how it made me feel many times since it happened. It's a feeling I hope never to have again.
Thursday, September 13, 2007
Sunday, September 09, 2007
"... You launch an act of war, and the victims respond with a lawsuit against their own countrymen.
But that's the American way:...."
Monday, September 03, 2007
We'll start with a short video that deals with a Canadian man and what started as a series of headaches. Had he passively accepted what the Canadian healthcare system was offering in the way of care, he'd be dead now.
My sister just returned from a visit to the UK where she discussed the subjectof "free" healthcare with several people, including some of our own relations. Here is what she had to say when she came back:
"We heard enough in two weeks, even from people defending the NHS, to solidify opposition. eg. The NHS is closing the Airedale oncology unit. Not for lack of custom, but for budgetary reasons. People in the dales and well beyond will have to find some way to get into Bradford [roughly 40 miles of country "A" roads] for their chemo.
e.g.: They're closing a hospital near Scarborough. Again, not for lack of custom. In fact, given the number of out of town visitors they have, they actually have far too few beds available already.
e.g.: [a male relative], who has recently had cancer, was forced to make a 90 minute drive for his chemo treatments. Friends from church helped out by taking turns driving him. I don't know what would have been done if he had not had friends...or was too depressed to bother. [he lives in a South Coast town of some size]
e.g.: [female relative]'s husband [G---], a diabetic, dropped a knife on his foot and got a nasty cut. The NHS bandaged it up nicely. A week later, he was in hospital with a line drawn around his ankle, marking the spot where they were going to amputate if his gangrene didn't clear up. Luckily, it did. He shared a 4-man room with a very loud-mouthed expat Brit who had broken his ankle in the US and somehow hobbled onto a plane so he could get his "free" treatment in Britain.
e.g.: [G---], by the way, is only allowed to see a diabetes specialist once a year. His local GP/gatekeeper, (who is mainly occupied by his other job as chief doctor for the British Sculling Team), won't approve him for any other visits. Period. No matter what.
About 3-4 years ago, another relative's husband had a mild heart attack. He went to the hospital they stabilized him but it was determined that he needed bypass surgery. In the US, if you are found to need bypass surgery, you need it RIGHT NOW and you will be in surgery in a matter of hours. In this case, he was put on a waiting list and had to wait over 19 weeks before finally getting the surgery.
The above are just examples from my own family of what socialized medicine delivers compared to what it promises. Americans would never put up with that.
Of course we've all heard the arguments about 47 million uninsured Americans but the reality is, nobody goes without treatment. If you show up at a hospital, you must be treated. I have underwritten some hospital transactions for medical equipment financing. If you know anything about the presentation of profit and loss statements, you have seen that companies will show a gross sales line and a net sales line. The latter is gross adjusted for returns and discounts. For most companies in non-health related fields, this adjustment is relatively trivial. Not in healthcare. I have seen hospital profit & loss statements where the gross to net adjustment is as much as 50%, occasionally more. The hospitals have to write off enormous amounts for unreimbursed care, either indigent care or the difference between the price of treatment and what insurance will reimburse. Then you start the deductions for cost of treatment, administrative costs, salaries, etc.
Is our system perfect? No. But it isn't irretrievably broken either and the way to make it better is with free market solutions and less interference therein by various governments. Health insurance mandates that differ by state, mandates for coverage that people don't want or need (e.g., maternity coverage for single men) all interfere with efficient service delivery. People need to get over the idea that someone else, whether it be government or an employer, should be responsible for their healthcare. As things stand now, we don't really know what our healthcare costs because we don't pay for it directly. If we did and if we werre free to purchse only the insurance we need, we'd see costs coming into line pretty quickly.
Update 9/8: I wrote the bulk of this last weekend. An interesting article was posted at TCS Daily two days ago. Michael Cannon argues that socialized medicine is closer than we may think.