You are browsing the archive for 2013 February 22.

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The Fairy Tale on Spending Cuts

February 22, 2013 in Economics

By Michael D. Tanner

Michael D. Tanner

“The sequester is coming, the sequester is coming,” cries Chicken Little, speaking of the across-the-board spending reductions set to kick in next Friday. As a result, much of the Washington establishment, politicians of both parties, and the media are bracing for the apocalypse.

Henny Penny worries about poisoned meat going uninspected, the air traffic control system shutting down, and schools being forced to close. Meanwhile Turkey Lurkey is afraid that national security is threatened because our military will be gutted. And Foxy Loxy is concerned there will be massive job losses and our economy will crash.

Some think the sequester imposes savage spending cuts, but that’s not true.”

The reality, though, is that most of what we are being told about the sequester is just a fairy tale. Here’s why:

The sequester imposes savage spending cuts

Actually, the sequester doesn’t cut federal spending at all, or rather it cuts it only in the Washington sense of any reduction from projected baseline increases is a cut. In reality, even if the sequester goes through, the federal government will spend more every single year. In fact, in 2023 it will be spending $2.39 trillion more than it does today.

OK, but at least the reductions in projected spending are big, right?

Hardly. This year, the sequester would slow the growth in federal spending by just $85 billion, from an expected, pre-sequester budget of $3.64 trillion — less than a 2.3% reduction. To put that in perspective, the federal government borrows $85 billion every 28 days . In fact, this actually overstates the size of this year’s cuts. Because of ongoing contracts and the Byzantine labyrinth of federal budgeting, only $44 billion of that $85 billion will actually be cut from this year’s budget. The rest will be cut in future years, but attributed to this year’s budget. So, the real reduction in federal spending this year is just 1.2%. If the federal government can’t reduce spending by less than a penny-and-a-half on the dollar without throwing us into the dark ages, something is truly wrong.

But aren’t the cuts larger for domestic discretionary spending?

It is true that the cuts are not spread equally across all types of federal spending. Entitlement programs, such as Medicare, Medicaid and Social Security are generally exempt — Grandma’s Social Security check won’t be cut — meaning that discretionary spending takes a disproportionately larger hit. Still, we are talking about a reduction …read more
Source: OP-EDS

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Gun Rights and Liberty Go Hand in Hand

February 22, 2013 in Economics

By Doug Bandow

Doug Bandow

Until the Newtown school shooting tragedy, the Obama administration ignored the issue of gun control. Despite pressure to act, Congress should look before it legislates, since gun rights generally correspond to the liberties fundamental in a free society.

Four years ago Dave Kopel of the Independence Institute, William & Mary economist Carlisle Moody and author Howard Nemerov published an article assessing the relationship between guns and freedom, “Is There a Relationship Between Guns and Freedom? Comparative Results From Fifty-Nine Nations.”

They found there was no simple conclusion.

The United Nations was on the case before President Obama. In 1999 U.N. Secretary General Kofi Annan contended widespread firearm ownership has “damaged development prospects and imperiled human society.”

More recently the global organization has been pushing an international convention to regulate the international trade in small arms.

The three researchers found that data on gun ownership wasn’t easy to collect. People often lie to government and even pollsters about the issue. There almost certainly are more guns in circulation in America than there are Americans. The bigger the undercount, the greater the practical obstacles facing any new gun restrictions.

Tragedies like the Newtown murders reflect human evil, not gun ownership.”

In any case, Kopel, Moody and Nemerov do their best utilizing indexes on political liberty, corruption and economic freedom. They find that countries with significantly higher gun ownership have greater political and civil liberties. Noted the researchers, “the average of the countries in the first quartile is ‘free,’ while the average for all other quartiles is ‘partly free.’”

Gun-owning societies also are notably less corrupt. The top quartile, reported the three authors, is “mostly clean.” The next three quartiles suffer from “moderate corruption.”

Nations where people own more firearms also tend to have greater economic liberty.

When it came to political liberty, the authors found that the countries in every quartile averaged a rating of “moderately free.” There was a certain self-selection bias to the data.

Still, the authors reported: “The first quartile had the highest average, but not quite 70, which is the threshold for ‘mostly free.’ For all three indices of liberty, the top firearms quartile rates higher than every other quartile.”

Similar results were found when the three researchers ran the numbers per quintile.

The authors found: “When we looked at the countries with the most guns, we saw that they had the most freedom as measured by the liberty indices, but the relationship was only pronounced for high-gun …read more
Source: OP-EDS

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Immigration Parole, Not Amnesty

February 22, 2013 in Economics

By Ilya Shapiro

Ilya Shapiro

As a legal immigrant, I could be expected to object the loudest to the immigration reforms now circulating on Capitol Hill. After all, I navigated the bureaucratic morass — I finally got my green card four years ago after living in the country on temporary visas for 14 years — so why shouldn’t everyone? Why should we “amnesty” people who didn’t play by the rules I painstakingly followed?

The answer is simple, but our immigration laws are so schizophrenic that reform critics can’t fathom that in this context it’s the law’s fault, not the law-breakers’.

First, there is no “line” to get into. Even for those like me who have earned multiple degrees in the United States, there’s no way to simply apply for permanent residence (as my Russian parents did when they brought me to Canada as a child). Instead, unless they go the marriage route, even U.S.-educated scientists, engineers, and other professionals have to find employers willing to spend significant resources playing lawyer games with the Labor Department while the applicant’s life is in a state of suspended animation. The wait takes years, particularly for those unfortunate enough to be from places that export skilled workers, like India.

Unskilled workers — your stereotypical Mexican day laborer — don’t even have that. That’s why it’s so important that any immigration reform have a guest-worker component (which President Obama is resisting because union bosses oppose it). Give people the opportunity to earn an honest living and they’ll take it — and then you can deport the criminals.

Our immigration laws are so schizophrenic that reform critics can’t fathom that in this context it’s the law’s fault, not the law-breakers’.”

And that’s the second point: “Amnesty” is a misnomer. None of the immigration proposals contemplate forgiving anyone who’s committed any crimes here. Instead we’re talking about hard-working people chasing the American dream.

Look at the subtle shift that Marco Rubio has made in addressing the issue: illegal aliens are human beings who make understandable choices given the options they face. They’re not hurting people — immigrant crime rates are lower than for the native-born — or becoming welfare queens. Abuses of the social safety net, such as using the emergency room for primary care, are much higher among the native-born — and illegals aren’t eligible for welfare or unemployment insurance.

All of those undocumented gardeners, roofers, busboys, and chambermaids would be happy to …read more
Source: OP-EDS

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Republicans Declare War on College

February 22, 2013 in Blogs

By Andrew Leonard, Salon


Are you crazy? The Internet will definitely ruin college!

That’s what my inbox has been telling me ever since my story two weeks ago about the inevitable invasion of MOOCs (massive open online courses) into higher education, “The Internet Will Not Ruin College.” The negativity wasn’t unanimous, but it was definitely illuminating.

Information is not the same as knowledge! Online education might work for remedial algebra or the basics of computer programming, conceded several professors, but when the goal is to teach students to think and write critically about history or literature, the benefits of teaching thousands of students simultaneously via their iPads becomes much hazier. University administrators pushing MOOCs, they argued, are more interested in cutting costs or finding new sources of revenue than in delivering the best education possible. Most students who do register for MOOCs never finish them, they warned, and the available data suggests the kinds of students who need the most educational assistance tend to be the ones who benefit the least from online classes.

Oh yeah, and the whole thing is a right-wing plot to defund public education, screw the humanities, and help corporations profit off of students.

The critics of MOOCs make many good points. And yet, from the perspective of someone who has watched closely as Internet-enabled distribution turned the music and publishing industries upside down, a lot of the clamor initially sounded a little like passengers on a sinking ship in the middle of a typhoon complaining about bad weather. Yeah, it sucks, butstorm’s a coming, people; it’s time to start swimming! The spread of quality, low-cost online education is going to shake things up. As one professor said to me via email, “The large lecture at a community college or a satellite state university is about to go the way of the passenger pigeon, and the mass extinction will be just about as fast.”

But what if MOOCs actually turned out to be part of a right-wing plot?

After some reflection, it’s become clear to me that there is a crucial difference in how …read more

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Gun Owners Are Obsessed with Zombies

February 22, 2013 in Blogs

By Marc Herman, Pacific Standard

This piece originally appeared on 

By mid-2012 zombie gun vogue had grown sufficiently to support theme events. Live-fire zombie shoots sprouted up. These were sport shooting events where you could dress as a zombie hunter and navigate a shooting course designed to simulate the apocalypse. Less popular than zombie pub crawlspeaking around the same time, the undead shoot-ups attracted crowds that were small enough to fly under the national radar, but large enough to make it worth an organizer’s while. One event drew 1,200 in Minnesota. Sponsors at a Nebraska zombie shoot, Pandemic 2012: Zombies in the Heartland, included the state’s Army National Guard.

Smaller players had gotten into the game. Florida gun parts dealer Spike’s Tactical marketed a zombie-themed trigger assembly for an AR-15 assault rifle, in which the “safety” selector has three settings, “Live,” “Dead,” and “Undead.” It’s currently on back order from nine to 12 months.

That’s typical. Cabela’s, another retailer with a well-known shooting accessories business, has trouble keeping zombie-branded bullets in stock. This year, when the post-Newtown national spike in gun sales came, the zombie trend went with it, catching a second wind.

A lot of the most popular zombie gun accessories are inexpensive. “Radioactive” cartridge boxes, or a $25 zombie handgrip for your pistol, are the little touches that dress up a gun rack without breaking the bank. Accessories: think of a good hat or the right earrings. In the case of Cabela’s, the famous hunting supplier mentioned above, it’s fair to say the stuff’s low cost might be the whole appeal: ZombieMax bullets are competitively priced, and stalking deer is an expensive hobby.

But most of the zombie gear isn’t marketed to hunters. It’s marketed to what the industry terms the “tactical” sector of the retail gun industry, which are companies that sell guns used for shooting people, not animals. Tactical weapons are also an accessory-heavy business, and it’s easy to paint a spare part zombie green and tack on five bucks. If you’ve spent time with shade tree auto mechanics, or people who like to build their own computers, or bicycles, you know the so-called “Tactical Ted”  firearm customer. The zombie marketing …read more