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Posts Tagged ‘government’

Cutting gov’t spending is so easy a 6th-grader can do it

Posted by Richard on March 29, 2014

Peter Suderman at Reason Hit & Run reported:

Figuring out how to save taxpayers hundreds of millions of dollars on ink is so easy a sixth grader could do it. In fact, one did.

Suvir Mirchandani, a student at a Pittsburgh middle school, decided he wanted to look for ways to reduce waste at his school. So for a school science project, he measured how much ink was used …

It turned out his school district could reduce its annual ink usage by 24 percent and save $21,000 a year by switching to Garamond, a lighter font with thinner, less ink-heavy strokes.

After submitting his work to a journal for young researchers run by Harvard grad students, Mirchandani was encouraged to expand his research.

Young Mirchandani took on the more arduous task of analyzing the printer ink usage of the federal government’s General Services Administration and determined that it could cut ink costs by 30% — $136 million per year — by simply changing fonts. State governments, according to his calculations, could save an additional $234 million.

So will the Government Printing Office make a change? I wouldn’t count on it:

Gary Somerset, media and public relations manager at the Government Printing Office, describes Suvir’s work as “remarkable.” But he was noncommittal on whether the GPO would introduce changes to typeface, saying the GPO’s efforts to become more environmentally sustainable were focused on shifting content to the Web.

Sounds like Mirchandani may end up learning two lessons: With a little thought, a smart person can find simple ways for the government to save money—and the government doesn’t seem terribly interested in pursuing them.

I’m impressed by Suvir Mirchandani’s efforts. But I’m also a bit disappointed. I suspect his findings are the death knell for my crusade to have all government publications printed in Comic Sans.

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Warren on Washington weather

Posted by Richard on February 10, 2010

From Americans for Limited Government, here are a couple of William Warren cartoons that might amuse (or maybe annoy) those of you back East trying to dig out from the latest massive winter storm.

Warren cartoon - snow or irony

Warren cartoon - Capitol South
ALG Editor's Note: William Warren's award-winning cartoons published at are a free service of ALG News Bureau. They may be reused and redistributed free of charge.

Not to rub it in or anything, but the total snowfall to date in Denver this winter is less than what much of the East Coast got in the last 24 hours. Happy Snowmaggedon!

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Venn diagram political humor

Posted by Richard on December 4, 2009

Catching up on The Liberty Papers, I spotted this amusing Venn diagram of government effectiveness from Graph Jam. If you click through to their post, you'll find some interesting comments. And lots more fun with graphs. 

funny graphs and charts
see more Funny Graphs

Graph Jam is a part of the Cheezburger Network, home of the indispensible I Can Has Cheezburger? (a.k.a Lolcats), FAIL Blog, and the somewhat disturbing Emails From Crazy People. They have their own blog, too, where you can keep up with what new weird things they're planning.

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Bureaucrats party on our dime

Posted by Richard on July 16, 2009

The financial situation of Social Security has dramatically worsened recently. A few years ago, it was expected to run a surplus until 2025. That was recently revised to 2017. Now, thanks to the recession, it looks like the fund will go into the red this year.

So what's the Social Security Administration doing to cope with this grim news? Well, they just treated hundreds of SSA executives and managers from all over the country to three days in Phoenix at the posh Arizona Biltmore Resort and Spa and a nearby casino. It was an "essential" conference for helping these bureaucrats learn how to relieve stress. 

Remember a few months ago when the Prez, Congress, and their PR mouthpieces (AKA the mainstream media) were chiding corporations for their "unseemly" conferences at lavish resorts and "junkets" to Las Vegas during these grim economic times? Apparently, the same standards that apply to private businesses and investors don't apply to government bureaucrats. 

They're not "public servants" anymore. They're the ruling class.

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Happy Friedman Day!

Posted by Richard on June 7, 2009

You've no doubt heard of the Tax Foundation's "Tax Freedom Day," the day when Americans have finally earned enough money to pay all our taxes. This year, it was April 13. But because of borrowing, taxes don't pay the full costs of government. This year, it's not even close.

Today, we've finally reached what the American Institute for Economic Research calls Friedman Day, the day that we've worked enough to pay for all government spending. Friedman Day has been coming later and later in the past eight years, and this year it came seven weeks after Tax Freedom Day and nearly halfway through the year: 

The reason? The federal government deficit for the fiscal year ending Sept. 30 has mushroomed to $1.84 trillion.  This means that about 46 cents of every dollar of federal spending will be financed by borrowing through the sale of new U.S. Treasury securities. 

Nor is the current 2009 deficit simply a one-year spike. The most recent estimate for the 2010 deficit is $1.3 trillion, still about 8.5% of GDP.

And the debt will go up accordingly, by another $1.3 trillion.

The United States seems to have entered a new era of historically high deficits and a national debt that is therefore growing by leaps and bounds.  Emergency or not, temporary or not, this is new territory for the federal government and for the economy.

You and I aren't paying the difference between Tax Freedom Day and Friedman Day out of our pockets, but we're on the hook for it — or our kids and grandkids are. And no, we don't "owe it to ourselves." We owe more than two-thirds of it to foreign investors and governments. And they've been getting antsy about our government's profligacy. 

When the subprime mortgage crisis heated up last July, foreign governments began to worry about the value of the U.S. securities they were holding.  When Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac started to look insolvent, Treasury officials had to make phone calls around the world, reassuring foreign holders of Treasury and especially "agency" (Freddie and Fannie) securities. Then the government nationalized Freddie and Fannie, taking explicit responsibility for their liabilities.

This was America's "Argentina moment." Suddenly, the United States could be viewed as a debtor nation, obliged to persuade the owners of its debt that everything would be OK. 

Friedman Day, as it inches ever closer to Milton Friedman's July 31 birthday, should serve as a warning that government is consuming way beyond its means. In the years ahead — and for future generations — everything may not be OK.

So take a moment to celebrate Friedman Day today. But then spend some time in sober reflection about our future.

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Why swine flu worries me

Posted by Richard on April 29, 2009

There are several reasons to be concerned about swine flu. But here's what worries me most:

"You never want a serious crisis to go to waste. And what I mean by that is an opportunity to do things you think you could not do before."
   — Rahm Emanuel, White House Chief of Staff


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Shovel-ready stimulus

Posted by Richard on March 1, 2009

Investor's Business Daily can't understand why the Obama administration and Congress are moving quickly to prevent off-shore drilling when supporting more drilling should be a no-brainer for our purportedly "pragmatist" president. After all, there are lots of new jobs, new tax revenues, and economic stimulus out there:

Vast amounts of energy lie right off our shores. Conservatively tallied, government data show 86 billion barrels of oil and 420 trillion cubic feet of natural gas in continental U.S. waters — enough to replace 20 years' worth of oil and gas imports.

This is also enough to insulate the U.S. from a potential energy shock or 1970s-style oil embargo. But here's the great part for Obama: It's shovel-ready stimulus.

As noted in a recent study by the American Energy Alliance, an industry research group, developing our offshore energy resources would create in the coming years:

• $8.2 trillion in additional GDP.

• $2.2 trillion in total new state and federal tax revenues.

• 1.2 million new jobs at high wages.

• $70 billion in added wages to the economy each year.

All this for doing nothing other than letting oil companies do what they do best: Find and develop potential energy sources.

But they make money. Oil companies sometimes rake in big profits — can't have that.

And they produce carbon dioxide emissions. Algore says those are destroying the planet — can't have that.

And they create private-sector jobs which people take in order to serve their own needs and goals, rather than to serve the "public interest" — can't have that.

And they equip those getting the new jobs with self-sufficiency and independence instead of dependence on government — can't have that. 

The Prez has declared several times over the past few weeks that he wants to create "not just any jobs – jobs that meet the needs we’ve neglected for far too long" — specifically jobs that meet the need for more government workers, government projects, government funding, and government goals.

The Prez is one of those politicians who, in the words of Howie Rich, "rhetorically extol the virtues that once made this country great while they systematically remove brick-by-brick the incentives needed to make it great once again."

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Treasury to be run by tax scofflaw

Posted by Richard on January 14, 2009

I seem to recall that the Obama transition team had a detailed questionnaire for potential appointees, some 16 or 20 pages long. One of the questions was, "Do you own a gun?" I wonder if there was a question like, "Do you always pay your taxes?" Because apparently, at least one Cabinet nominee would have had to answer no:

President-elect Barack Obama's nominee for Treasury Secretary, Timothy Geithner, failed to pay Social Security and Medicare taxes for himself for four years and employed a housekeeper whose immigration documentation lapsed while in his employ.

Geithner disclosed to senators earlier in the day that he had failed to pay $34,000 in taxes from 2001 to 2004, a last-minute complication in an otherwise smooth path to confirmation. 

… He paid all of his income taxes on his IMF income, but made a "common mistake" on his tax returns with regard to self-employment taxes, Obama transition aides told reporters Tuesday.

"Common mistake," my ass. While doing consulting/contract work, he failed to pay some or all of his Social Security and Medicare taxes. Trust me, I paid self-employment taxes for over a decade and know whereof I speak. Failure to pay those taxes (or to pay the correct rate, which is twice that of wage earners) may be a "common mistake" among self-employed handymen, plumbers, etc., with a high school education (although I doubt it's all that common). But the paperwork isn't that complicated and the instructions are quite clear. Anyone who can't figure out what they owe in self-employment tax isn't qualified to be a bookkeeper, much less Treasury Secretary. It's unlikely that Geithner is that grossly incompetent, so I don't buy the "honest mistake" claim.

The news report I heard said the IRS audited Geithner in 2006 for two of the four years and billed him for the unpaid taxes, but waived penalties. I had one experience with the IRS claiming I owed additional tax (they disallowed a deduction), and they didn't treat me so kindly. Of course, I wasn't president of the New York Federal Reserve Bank at the time.

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Crony capitalism

Posted by Richard on November 20, 2008

When you start handing out free money, expect a long line to form. Wall Street bankers and insurance companies have been joined in the bailout line by student loan debtors (and their creditors), domestic auto makers, states, municipalities, … I'm sure the line will get longer day by day.

The heads of the "big three" car makers were in Washington begging today (after flying there in their private jets). They were accompanied by UAW president Ron Gettelfinger, who joined them in begging for taxpayer money. But Gettelfinger made it clear that the union wouldn't accept any pay or benefit cuts.

This is absurd, and the claim that the current financial crisis caused the carmakers' problems is nonsense. GM's losses have averaged more than $1.5 billion per month for years, so its share of the proposed $25 billion bailout merely lets it continue on an unsustainable course for a few more months. It's like giving someone a transfusion while their severed carotid artery continues spurting blood. 

The severed artery that the "doctors" in Congress don't want repaired is the UAW contract. Total employee compensation for the "big three" averages about $73 per hour. For the American factories of Toyota, Honda, and Nissan, it's about $44 per hour.

And that cost disparity doesn't even take into account the deleterious effect of an inch-thick union contract full of bureaucratic, restrictive, and onerous work rules. Or the thousands of union members in the "jobs bank" program getting $31 an hour plus benefits to work crossword puzzles and watch TV for 40 hours a week.

Bill Wilson, president of Americans for Limited Government, neatly summarized what's wrong with this bailout plan in a letter to Congressional leaders: 

“The automotive industry’s problems cannot and should not be passed on to the American taxpayer. And they will only be compounded if the federal government now offers billions of dollars of taxpayer-financed loan guarantees to companies that would otherwise file for bankruptcy,” Wilson wrote in the letter.

“These taxpayer loans will, by design, perpetuate these companies in their present form,” Wilson said. “However, it is the very present forms of each company that must be addressed and resolved by market forces, a process that will not occur if government gets in the way of bankruptcy.”

Newt Gingrich has a name for what's happening in Washington these days: 

There’s a term that’s commonly applied to the economic systems of some Asian and Latin American countries. It’s “crony capitalism.”

Crony capitalism is when government controls significant parts of the economy. Under this kind of bureaucratic micromanagement, politicians — not the free market — call the shots. And that means that the decisions that control the economy are of necessity political decisions, not economic ones.

Crony capitalism is bad for government. Economic power in the hands of politicians breeds corruption. 

Crony capitalism is bad for democracy. Individuals and businesses outside favored industries have an unequal voice in self-government.

Crony capitalism is bad for business. Politicians wedded to the status quo stifle growth and innovation.

And there’s one more thing about crony capitalism: It’s come to America.

Read the whole thing. Then contact your senators and representative and tell them, "Enough! No more bailouts! No more crony capitalism!"

UPDATE: The Center for Individual Freedom will blast fax the President and Congressional leaders on your behalf. But in addition (or instead), it's best to call your congresscritters' offices and tell the nice staffer whose keeping a tally of calls for and against what you think. (Oops, forgot the link — fixed now.)


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Money hole

Posted by Richard on November 16, 2008

Friday night, Jed Baer emailed a few of us about this video at the von Mises Institute, but it wouldn't load for me. Yesterday, LGF posted it. It's damned funny, but in a slightly disturbing way — both the overall idea and the positions of the panel members are just too close to the truth.

It's from the Onion News Network, which Charles Johnson called "one of the last remaining credible mainstream news sources." Enjoy!

In The Know: Should The Government Stop Dumping Money Into A Giant Hole?

UPDATE: OK, the Flash embed here doesn't seem to be working reliably either. Click the link above to view it at the Onion site.

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Reasons for optimism

Posted by Richard on October 17, 2008

John Samples at Cato@Liberty looked at public opinion trends regarding government spending and saw reasons for limited-government advocates to be optimistic even if Obama wins:

If history is any guide, Obama will not have as much public support for more spending as Clinton or LBJ and such support as he has will begin to decline almost immediately after he takes power.

One can only hope. 

And the same trend might come in handy if McCain wins, too. 

HT: Booker Rising

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Envisioning the worst-case future

Posted by Richard on October 15, 2008

In his latest Weekly Standard column, Fred Barnes foresaw a bleak future for advocates of liberty and limited government (as if it isn't bleak enough, with half the nation's Republicans embracing Keynesian economic policies):

Thanks particularly to the month-long financial crisis, Republicans are in extremely poor shape with the election three weeks away. This means the worst case scenario is now a distinct possibility: a Democrat in the White House, a Democratic Senate with a filibuster-proof majority, and a Democratic House with a bolstered majority.

If this scenario unfolds, Washington would become a solidly liberal town again for the first time in decades. And the prospects of passing the liberal agenda–nearly all of it–would be bright. Enacting major parts of it would be even brighter. You can forget about bipartisanship.

The specifics are grim: big tax rate increases, liberal court appointments, protectionism, the fairness doctrine, Canada-like health care, card-check and other pro-union measures, cap-and-trade… Read the whole thing. 

Stephen Green, after an admittedly large intake of wine, envisioned new threats to free speech and in particular to bloggers:

If (when?) Obama is elected, by my estimation there’s an at least even chance that the newly-reconstructed FCC will reverse course and attempt to apply the New Fairness Doctrine to blogs.

If (when?) it happens, I’ll break that law. I will break it with all due malice and in full knowledge of the possible consequences. I’ll shout “Fire Obama!” in a crowded theater. And then, for the first time ever, I’ll ask for reader donations. Because I’ll going to need them, lots of them, to pay for the lawyers.

Green went on to make a point that dovetails with something I've maintained for some time — the left views its opponents as evil enemies to be crushed by any means necessary, and they're willing and eager to use any means necessary. The libertarian/conservative side simply can't and won't fight on that level: 

Libertarians/Conservatives like “Jay” and myself underestimate liberals/progressives — and what we’re guilty of is projection. But when we’re drunk and honest, we have to admit: We’re effing pikers. To restate more plainly: We don’t want power, and don’t know how to wield it. We’re pikers.

Progressives have no such qualms. Given power, they’ll take more and they’ll exercise it ruthlessly. Look at the Democrats in Congress these last two years. In not even 24 months, they’ve sunk to depths it took the Republican Congress six or more years to sink to. Their unpopularity levels are even worse than the Republicans’ in 2006. And what will happen in November? The Democrats will win seats — because they know how to wield their power to deliver the goods to please their corrupt, greedy, grabby, needy base.

I hope Barnes and Green are too pessimistic, but it's not looking good. 

Green was concerned enough to blast email his many influential contacts (and me, too) with "My First-Ever Mass Mailing In Almost Eight Years of Blogging," which may lead to some kind of organization or movement, or something. Maybe not right now, but probably — if the polls turn out to be right this time. 

Stay tuned. 




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The next step in health care rationing

Posted by Richard on August 4, 2008

I'm pro-choice on everything, including abortion and suicide. I think most of the "slippery slope" arguments of the pro-life people are specious. That said, I found this story disturbing. Oregon's state health care system does indeed seem to be on a slippery slope, and it looks like a double black diamond:

Opponents of physician-assisted suicide are fired up this summer, and rightfully so, over an ethically questionable provision of the Oregon Health Plan.

The conflict came to light in a recent report in The Register-Guard of Eugene. The newspaper described the sad plight of Barbara Wagner, a 64-year-old Springfield woman with lung cancer.

After her oncologist prescribed a cancer drug that would cost $4,000 a month, the newspaper reported, "Wagner was notified that the Oregon Health Plan wouldn't cover the treatment, but that it would cover palliative, or comfort, care, including, if she chose, doctor-assisted suicide."

Wow. How long will it be before the state health care system starts making these decisions for its "clients," especially those it deems incapable of deciding rationally for themselves? Will the State of Oregon, with its health care budget increasingly stressed, eventually behave like pet owners who decide that the cost of curing Fido just isn't worth it, and it's time to put him down?

He who pays the piper calls the tune.

Remember that the next time you think you're lucky that your employer pays most of your health insurance costs. When the purchaser of a service and the consumer of that service are different people, which one do you think the service provider is most motivated to listen to? 

(HT: Billll's Idle Mind

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General dissatisfaction

Posted by Richard on November 15, 2007

A new Gallup opinion poll found that Americans are feeling "distinctly negative" toward congressional Democrats — as negative as they were about the Republican Congress just before the 2006 elections. In six of seven major issues (the economy, government reform, health care, Iraq, immigration, and the budget deficit), a clear majority (53-68%) said they were disappointed or angry. Only on Democrats' handling of terrorism did a majority (52%) say they were pleased or neutral.

It's actually worse for Democrats than those numbers suggest. Although Gallup lumps the responses into two categories — Pleased and Neutral on one side, Disappointed and Angry on the other — that's quite misleading, because Disappointed doesn't counterbalance Neutral, it counterbalances Pleased.

Gallup's rating scale has two negative responses and only one positive response. Neutral is neither. A more fair scale would consist of Enthusiastic, Pleased, Neutral, Disappointed, and Angry. Maybe they tried that, but the number of Enthusiastic responses was statistically insignificant. 🙂 

On all seven issues, the clearly negative responses (Disappointed and Angry) far outweigh the clearly positive (Pleased). The margin ranges from about 3:1 (47% – 17%) to almost 10:1 (68% – 7%). 

Mark Tapscott warned Republicans not to gloat about the Democrats' "abysmal failure." He thinks these numbers reflect a wider and deeper problem, one for which the Republicans, too, bear responsibility (emphasis added):

We have created a federal Leviathan that promises to deliver something for everybody, with its regulations and taxation directing virtually every corner of daily life. There is no way any government can do that, so failures are inevitable. But over a period of time, as the failures in particular arenas multiply, there comes a point when the many specific failures merge into one general mood of dissatisfaction.

Within the next decade, as the seriousness of the entitlement crisis becomes more evident, it is likely that the general dissatisfaction with government that promises everything and delivers nothing but higher taxes, more waste and policy paralysis is going to grow more intense and deeper rooted.

This widespread dissatisfaction with the inability of Big Government to deliver on its promises presents conservatives with an historic opportunity to refocus public debate to redefine what is expected of government, to slim it down to more manageable proportions so that it can deliver on the most important things.

In short, the coming decade could be the greatest opportunity this generation is likely to see to make the case for a rejuvenated federalism of limited government. We simply have to find new ways to speak the timeless message of Ronald Reagan's first inaugural:

"It is my intention to curb the size and influence of the Federal establishment and to demand recognition of the distinction between the powers granted to the Federal Government and those reserved to the States or to the people. All of us need to be reminded that the Federal Government did not create the States; the States created the Federal Government.

"Now, so there will be no misunderstanding, it is not my intention to do away with government. It is, rather, to make it work — work with us, not over us; to stand by our side, not ride on our back. Government can and must provide opportunity, not smother it; foster productivity, not stifle it."

There is one more lesson of importance here for conservatives and it is one that ought to give us heart. When your political power depends, as it does for our liberal friends, on promising more and more, but doing so assures that you will be able to actually deliver less and less, you sow the seeds of your own downfall.

I think Tapscott might be right about the rising dissatisfaction and liberals' downfall, but not necessarily. After all, liberal politicians have been promising to solve a multitude of problems with government programs for many decades now. On how many of those promises have they delivered? Yet their supporters have generally ignored all those failures because their intentions were good.

The outcome Tapscott envisions will only come about if those who ostensibly desire that outcome do a much better job of "redefin[ing] what is expected of government" and "mak[ing] the case for … limited government" than they've done in the past — better even than Reagan did (or maybe just sustained more consistently over a longer period of time).

To do that, they'll have to make the moral case as well as the practical, they'll have to stop being defensive, apologetic, and half-hearted about the principles they claim to embrace, and they'll have to stop tolerating hypocrisy, cynical pragmatism, and corruption on their side.

The behavior of the Republican leadership over the past few years suggests they're far from up to the task.  

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Posted by Richard on July 24, 2007

There's a new Carnival of Principled Government — the tenth — over at Consent of the Governed. It looks very nice. Check it out.

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