Thursday, March 31, 2011

Captains of Corporatism

First, apologies for the length of time between posts. I have 4 or 5 drafts nearly ready to post, but, for various reasons, never completed them. Now they are out of date.

In any case, I'm writing about today's Lansing Chamber of Commerce Economic Club lunch, where Governor Rick Snyder was speaker.

The Governor is passionate about his plans, and is a decent speaker. He delivered an engaging address, without notes or teleprompter. He spoke about his thinking in preparing his economic plan, and addressed some of its controversial aspects with logic and reason.

The Governor's performance isn't why I write, however. At the end of his speech he answered a few questions. The questions were selected by the LCoC from emails sent by LCoC members. They were not all softballs. A couple were thoughtful and incisive. The Governor did a good job of answering them. I think he would have liked to expound on the difference between S-Corps and C-Corps, but he restrained himself.

The last question, however, stood out. It perfectly illustrated the single biggest problem with the thinking of "business people" today. The question was this (I paraphrase), "Given the obesity problem in Michigan, what are the chances of a government incentive to employers to help get their employees to become more fit?"

This question could have been planted by Michelle Obama. It clearly displays a fundamental misunderstanding of what "free market" means. It embodies the corporatist whore mentality. Yet, the LCoC presenter read it with no trace of irony or sarcasm.

Apparently, nobody in charge at the LCoC can parse that question, so I'll do it for them: "Governor, how can business use this "crisis" to get taxpayer dollars from the government?"

800 plus people had just listened to Rick Snyder tell us why he had proposed some tough economic reform. 800 plus people had just heard him talk about the dangers of government picking economic winners (though we still have Pure Michigan and the MEDC). 800 plus people had just heard him talk about his 3 principles of the tax code: Simplicity, fairness and efficiency.

Apparently, connecting that message to the negative aspects of granting of government favors is beyond the capability of the Lansing CoC.

Let's do the Snyder test on this question of subsidizing employers for their employees' fitness.

  1. It isn't simple because it has to have necessarily imperfect rules administered by necessarily imperfect bureaucrats.
  2. It isn't fair because it grants special status to one class of beggars.
  3. And it cannot be efficient because of the first two problems.
How is a subsidy to businesses to solve the "obesity crisis" any different than a subsidy to public employee unions for defined benefit pensions? Principle, people, principle. Read Atlas Shrugged to get a clue.

The Governor answered this question by talking about a Fall "initiative" on healthy living. He ended that answer with a comment about individual responsibility. I am hoping that was a subtle rebuke.

As for me, I would have ripped that question a new orifice.

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Al-taqiyya

Brutally stabbed to death in their home by Islamic fanatics: Udi and Ruth Fogel, 36 and 35, and their children Yoav, 11, Elad, 4 and baby Hadas, 3 months.

In the land of Hamas this atrocity was celebrated by dancing in the street and the passing out of candy. One can understand a twisted mind. This is a twisted people.

In defense, Hamas invoked Al-taqiyya, Islamist's standard operating procedure: Hamas Speaks

Monday, March 14, 2011

Try Bing, it's not good, but it's not double-plus ungood

Herb Kohl vows Google probe

Senator Kohl (D-WI) is of the opinion that net "neutrality" and Anti-Trust laws grant him the authority to regulate content providers, internet infrastructure and what you see when you type a search into Google.

Google disagrees. They consider their search algorithms to be protected property (and the results also belong to them), while having it that net "neutrality" - making bandwidth providers unable to control their property - makes sense. Senator Kohl is going to protect you from both:
"Maintaining competitive choices in this industry is crucial to consumers and the health of the national economy," he wrote. "We will also examine the issue of network neutrality principles and monitor whether consumers continue to have the freedom to access the Internet content they wish without interference from their internet service provider."
I guess he's right. That is, if Congress is going to prevent interference with content delivery they should prevent it without regard to which part of content delivery we're speaking of.

If we are to have net neutrality, let us start with publication of Google's search algorithms so that we may see wherein there may be bias, and to insure equal access to unbiased information for all. If the internet is a raw-data pipe then Google is an information pipe. Pipe rules ought to apply to both. No throttling of data speeds and no throttling of information. Google's ownership of its algorithms is no different than Verizon's ownership of its infrastructure.

Nothing whatever is surprising about Eric Schmidt (technology advisor to President Obama and chairman/CEO of Google), Andrew McLaughlin (Obama's deputy chief technology officer and Head of Global Public Policy and Government Affairs for Google), and Sonal Shah (head of the President's Office of Social Innovation and Civic Participation and former head of Google's head of Global Development Initiatives) joining Jeffrey Immelt (CEO of General Electric and chairman of the President's Council on Jobs and Competitiveness) as expert advisors to the President on some aspect of the economy in which their shared interest is crafting regulations favorable to their enterprises instead of delivering value.

Sunday, March 06, 2011

Paying Tribute to Sean Penn, Michael Moore, Oliver Stone and Alec Baldwin

Governor Snyder suggested in his budget plan that film subsidies should be eliminated. Nevertheless, he left $25 million on the table and gave the movie industry a reason to complain about uncertainty.

Here's why he should simply have been a "semi-tough guy of near average intelligence," and cut it completely:

Movie math
Why can't states grasp the absurdity of giving welfare to film and TV producers?
By Michael Kinsley
March 1, 2011

Film subsidy fans ignore critical facts
Movie industry tax breaks don't pay for themselves, they're a drain on the state
March 04. 2011 1:00AM
Frank Beckmann

Firefighters or Mitch Albom's Movie Subsidy?
By Kathy Hoekstra
Feb. 28, 2011

State Film Subsidies: Not Much Bang For Too Many Bucks
By Robert Tannenwald
December 9, 2010

Ernst & Young, however, says good things are happening in New York:
Study Says Film Subsidies Create Jobs, in New York
By MICHAEL CIEPLY
January 27, 2009

And Ernst & Young claims that for every $1 spent on film subsidies in Michigan the state gains $6: 
New study says film incentives bring millions of dollars to Michigan
February 21, 2011
By Jackie Headapohl

If Ernst is correct, it is hard to see why Michigan shouldn't spend $250 million on film subsidies.

Unfortunately, the Senate Fiscal Agency has another view. They tell us that we realize ten cents in tax revenue for every Michigan taxpayer dollar spent:
FILM INCENTIVES IN MICHIGAN

A Connecticut study reaches similar conclusions:
Fiddling While Rome Burns: Connecticut’s Multi-Million Dollar, Money-Losing Subsidy to the Entertainment Industry

So, there is good reason to eliminate, not reduce, the film subsidies. We should stop competing with other states to shove money into the pockets of the film industry. They've survived quite well on their own ever since the invention of talkies.


However, with Ernst & Young studies showing a 6 to 1 benefit (BS though that logically is) the Michael Moore Corporate Welfare Fund can't fail to get the Governor's approval for more than the $25 million he's toying with.

After all, he pushed to raise the “Pure Michigan” tourism permanent bail-in fund from $15.4 million to $25.4 million. In that case a study by Longwoods International (paid for by Travel Michigan, the tourism promotion agency within the Michigan Economic Development Corporation) purported to show a mere $2.23 was gained for every tax dollar spent. Pure Spending — GOP Finds More for Tourism Subsidies
By Ken Braun
March 4, 2011

Saturday, March 05, 2011

Politics ain't beanbag

Bringing a Bean Bag to a Gunfight
When Border Patrol Agent Brian Terry was murdered by drug smugglers in Arizona last December, Tom Tancredo revealed that Terry’s BORTAC unit (the Border Patrol’s equivalent of a SWAT team) were armed with bean-bag rounds in their weapons
Speaking for Janet Napolitano, officials at U. S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) would have us believe that Agent Terry chose, on his own, to fire beanbags at Mexican thugs armed with AK-47s. To believe this you must believe Terry, a former Marine, was incredibly stupid, stunningly naive or recklessly foolhardy; likely all three. It isn't true. Beanbags are policy.

While agent Terry followed the CBP rules of beangagement he was murdered by Mexican thugs who obtained their weapons via the sponsorship of another Federal agency; the Bureau of Alcohol, Firearms, Tobacco and Explosives.

Agent: I was ordered to let U.S. guns into Mexico
An Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms senior agent assigned to the Phoenix office in 2010, [John] Dodson's job is to stop gun trafficking across the border. Instead, he says he was ordered to sit by and watch it happen...

Surveillance video obtained by CBS News shows suspected drug cartel suppliers carrying boxes of weapons to their cars at a Phoenix gun shop. The long boxes shown in the video being loaded in were AK-47-type assault rifles.

So it turns out ATF not only allowed it - they videotaped it...

On Dec. 14, 2010, Border Patrol Agent Brian Terry was gunned down. Dodson got the bad news from a colleague...

Two assault rifles ATF had let go nearly a year before were found at Terry's murder...

Dodson said they never did take down a drug cartels. However, he said thousands of Fast and Furious [ATF sponsored] weapons are still out there and will be claiming victims on both sides of the border for years to come.
BATFE tells us that 90% of weapons they are asked to trace by Mexican authorities originate in the United States. The President and the Secretary of State and Mexico's Ambassador to the United States twist that into "90% of all weapons" seized by Mexican authorities originate in the US. I still want to know how many of the weapons BATFE traces were supplied under the protection of BATFE, and how many people have died as a result.

Mr. Finley Peter Dunne, a Chicago-based U.S. author in the late 19th and early 20th centuries, originated the phrase "Politics ain't beanbag," the entire quote is: "Politics ain't beanbag: 'tis a man's game, and women, children 'n' pro-hy-bitionists had best stay out of it."

Border patrol officers should be able to stay out of politics, too, because as Mr. Dunne also wrote: "A lie with a purpose is one of the worst kind, and the most profitable."

Update 2:28PM The Christian Science Monitor reports
ATF officials told the Center for Public Integrity that the ATF allowed a total of 1,998 weapons to pass from gun shops to straw buyers connected to the gun-running rings, with full understanding that those weapons could be used in the commission of crimes. Of those weapons, 797 were recovered by the ATF as a result of some kind of criminal investigation, including 195 inside Mexico.
It's quite reasonable to assume that there are still 1200 of these BATFE specials in Mexico. I wonder how they'll be counted if they're submitted to BATFE for tracing. Probably the same way they counted the 195 they already got.

Wednesday, March 02, 2011