Posted by Michael A. LaFerrara on
Wednesday, October 1, 2014
Businessmen are Not Beasts of Burden
The statists' who fight for higher minimum or so-called "living" wage laws have recently begun employing a new rationalization: They claim that employers who pay low wages cost taxpayers money by causing their workers to go on public assistance to supplement their income. Employers are therefor being subsidized by taxpayers to the extent that their workers receive public assistance, and should be forced to pay higher wages to end the subsidy.
A 4/1/14 New Jersey Star-Ledger letter illustrates this tactic. In Renters' pay dilemma should be employers' burden, Brian T. Lynch takes issue with housing advocates who call for more public rental assistance funds for low income households. Instead, Lynch writes:
The real answer to affordable housing isn’t more taxpayer-funded housing programs, but higher wages. Funding employees to a level of economic self-sufficiency should be an employer’s burden.
Businesses directly profit from every dollar of tax subsidies that go to support their employees. When wages are suppressed, consumer spending declines and the whole economy slumps. Less spending means less commerce and fewer jobs. Fewer jobs and lower wages mean more government spending and less tax revenue.
Profitable business should be made to reimburse us for the added tax burden they impose by paying workers substandard wages.
I left these comments:
At first glance, I actually thought that this letter was an April Fool's joke, because I couldn't believe the economic ignorance, illogic, and depraved morals the letter embodies. Let's untangle this mess with some facts.
It is the government, not business, that imposes the tax burden of social welfare programs on us. Government seizes money by taxes—i.e., at gunpoint—from productive individuals and redistributes it to those who did not earn it. Businessmen, the most productive economic group, don't "profit from every dollar of tax subsidies" their workers may collect. They profit from the products and services they produce and market. They pay for those subsidies through their taxes. And businessmen ("the rich"), being the primary source of income taxes, are the biggest contributors to those subsidies. Businessmen are not the villains. They are the welfare state's biggest victims.
Businessmen/entrepreneurs across the economic scale are the exceptional individuals who step out from the crowd to organize the factors of production toward creating the products and services that our lives, well-being, and flourishing depend on. In the process, they create the jobs that enable self-responsible individuals to contribute to the productive process, earn money, and become consumers. Businessmen accomplish this by mutually beneficial, mutually consensual voluntary trade and contract; and all toward a morally virtuous end—the same end that motivates workers and consumers—his own profit and self-interest.
Businessmen—the highest type of laborer, the risk-taking intellectual laborer—are the unsung heroes of the economy and of our historically wealthy standard of living, achieved despite an ever-growing burden of regulations. Yet, in our ever-more-morally twisted culture, they are increasingly the victims of a bigotry, exploitation, and persecution as virulent as any that has ever existed. As evidence, I submit Renters' pay dilemma should be employers' burden.
Lynch views businessmen as parasites who somehow owe "us"; an "us" which businessmen are excommunicated from. Like a savage who just stepped out of a jungle, ignorant of basic economics, Lynch simplistically thinks that more money equals more wealth, that one can consume without producing, and that forcing businessmen at gunpoint to pay their employees more than they agreed to work for and more than they are worth to him and to the company's productive mission will somehow create commerce and jobs. Businessmen will somehow make the impossible work. Lynch has apparently never learned that there is no free lunch, either in nature or in economics.
There are basically two types of parasites—material and spiritual. Spiritual parasites are those busybody do-gooders who want to "help" one group by picking the pockets of other groups—and then, their professed "compassion" for the needy having cost them nothing, hypocritically beating their chests about how wonderful they are. The material parasite merely seeks unearned wealth. The spiritual parasite seeks unearned humanitarian accolades. Lynch is the second, most vicious and most dangerous type of parasite.
Lynch owes employers an apology for this despicably ignorant, bigoted, morally twisted letter.
As to New Jersey's so-called rental housing affordability crisis, one should look at the local zoning laws, environmental regulations, land preservation policies, rent control and other anti-landlord laws, and other government policies that combine to restrict or discourage adequate and affordable housing construction. Beyond that, people should stop blaming others for their problems, and learn to take responsibility for their own lives. As to those busybody Lynches of the world, they should put their own time and money where their mouths are, and butt out of other people's lives and pocketbooks.
Altruism obviously lies behind Lynch's reasoning. Since altruism holds that need is a moral claim on others, someone must be forced to supplement low-wage workers' incomes. Once you accept that notion, the debate comes down to who must be forced. It is only altruism that gives plausibility to the Lynch-type argument that profitable businessmen are beasts of burden.
3 Essays on Minimum Wage
NJ's "Affordable Housing Crisis" - It's the Zoning, Stupid It's the Zoning, Stupid!
Altruism vs. America—Craig Biddle
Labels: Business and Economics, Minimum Wage, Welfare State
Posted by Michael A. LaFerrara on
Sunday, September 28, 2014
Is ObamaCare "Working"?
All those doomsday scenarios that Republicans spun about the Affordable Care Act have one thing in common: None of them has happened.
If pointing to beneficiaries is the standard of what “works”, then every dictatorship that ever existed worked.
But the ends don’t justify the means. Keep in mind that the newly insured are subsidized by money stolen from others via higher insurance premiums or government subsidies (taxpayers). More than 80% had insurance before ObamaCare. All ObamaCare did was create a new class of government dependents and empower a whole new class of bureaucrats to regulate all of our healthcare choices.
Also, keep in mind that all of the problems in pre-ObamaCare American healthcare were caused by government intervention into the market. E.G.: The pre-existing conditions problem came about because government tied insurance to employment via discriminatory tax policy that favors employers, so an insured loses his insurance on changing jobs. E.G.: The soaring cost of insurance was largely driven by insurance mandates that force people to buy coverages they don’t need, want, or can afford. Yet Obama didn’t correct these government policies. He simply doubled down on those failed policies, rather than legalize real health insurance.
Like the story of the fireman who starts fires, and then plays the “hero” who saves property and lives, ObamaCare is a government “fix” for government-created problems—except it’s not even a fix. It’s merely a further consolidation of political control over our healthcare.
ObamaCare is not working by any moral, rights-respecting standard worthy of a country Founded on the principle of individual rights and limited, right-protecting government.
No Free Market Health Reform Will "Work"—by Socialist Standards
Posted by Michael A. LaFerrara on
Friday, September 26, 2014
Stamato vs. Zemack on Science, Political "Courage,” and Special Interests
As I noted yesterday, I lauded Rutgers University’s Linda Stamato for her willingness to intellectually engage readers in the New Jersey Star-Ledger’s comments section. Her willingness extends beyond her own article, too. The Star-Ledger Editorial Board’s Building a movement on climate, which was the subject of my 9/21/14 post, also featured comments by Stamato.
In her comments, Stamato directly replied to mine, which were posted under my screen name “Zemack”. Stamato said, in part:
Science told us that smoking was causing cancer and we were--finally--smart enough to promote good health practices including ridding the air we breathe of second hand smoke and curbing advertising including appeals to young people to reduce smoking. Science tells us a lot and we ignore what it says at our peril. "Never mind the climate science," Zemack? Wrong. Mind it and figure out the best strategies for minimizing climate change . . .
Science doesn't have to tell us what to do about what it tells us; we're supposed to be smart enough to develop the policies and plans that reflect our ingenuity and draws on our political will and courage to do what science has revealed. All too often, it's the special interests, those that profit by continuing practices that science uncovers are harmful, that push back and mislead the public.
I reject the comparison to smoking. Smoking is demonstrably harmful. Fossil fuels are demonstrably and overwhelmingly beneficial, on balance.
The issue is not just practical. It is moral. Special interests? They’re everywhere. We live in a mixed economy. You have a special interest; to use government force to impose your taxes, controls, and subsidies. The IPCC is a special interest. Being funded by politicians, it is the very definition of politicization. It must produce conclusions that satisfy the politicians, who seek ever more power and control. What should not be allowed is for special interests to use government as the hired gun to impose their values on everyone else by force of law, in the name of some collective “we”.
Droughts, rising sea levels, hurricanes, floods, blizzards, heat and cold waves, wildfires; all of these have always been with us. The difference is, we now have the technological capacity to adapt to and protect ourselves from nature’s harmful forces, and plentiful cheap energy is needed to drive that capacity. Reducing that capacity through government policies is the real long-term danger.
I would also dispute that using government force to impose “solutions” to climate change requires “political courage.” Initiating force is not courageous. It is the mark of a cowardly thug. The government’s only proper job is to protect individual rights, which includes objective laws against actual pollution. CO2 is not pollution. It is a gas essential to life on earth. Courage is on the side of those of us who battle against the climate change statists aggressors despite the degrading smears, demonization, and minimization of the statists, most of whom don’t themselves have the courage to engage opposing ideas in open intellectual debate.
Also, my opening reply about smoking should not be interpreted to imply support for government policies that “promote good health practices including ridding the air we breathe of second hand smoke and curbing advertising including appeals to young people to reduce smoking.” Many of those “public health” policies, such as imposing legal bans on smoking inside private establishments, are rights-violating and wrong. I wanted to stay on-topic, and getting into the propriety of government policies on smoking would have detracted from the main subject.
Attack on "Carbon Pollution" an Attack on Human Life
Labels: Climate Change, Climate Science, Constitution and Law, Mixed Economy, Politics 2014
Posted by Michael A. LaFerrara on
Thursday, September 25, 2014
Answering Linda Stamato on Oil Company Tax Breaks, Subsidies, and Other Matters
Linda Stamato is one of those intellectual activists who does not shy away from getting “down and dirty” with the riff-raff in the comments section. For that, I give her credit, especially considering most of the correspondents are hostile to her arguments. I respect and appreciate her willingness to intellectually engage.
“The U.S. wastes more than $4 billion a year by giving oil and gas companies tax breaks that do not benefit consumers or the economy. . .”
It’s not a waste to the productive oil and gas companies, who get to keep more of the money they earn. Since these companies earn money by providing valuable, affordable products to consumers, consumers benefit. Since the companies and their customers are part of the economy, the economy benefits. The economy is not some mystical entity apart from the individuals who produce and trade, to which sacrificial offerings of productive companies must be made.
“If the preference of some readers is to get government out of energy markets, why allow these subsidies to continue?”
First, let’s distinguish between tax breaks and subsidies. A tax break allows the company to keep more of what it earns. A subsidy is a direct transfer from taxpayers to the company. The $4 billion are not subsidies. It is money earned by oil and gas companies.
Having said that, I’ve called for eliminating all energy subsidies, including so-called “green energy” subsidies (which really are subsidies). I’ve also called for lowering and flattening the corporate income tax in exchange for eliminating the myriad special tax provisions that lard up the code.
“. . . whether you believe climate change is a serious matter or you don't . . .”
Finally, I accept that the climate is changing, and fossil fuel use is contributing to it. But I utterly reject that human-caused climate change is bad. We’ve heard predictions of disaster for at least 50 years, starting with Paul Ehrlich. Yet in that time, fossil fuel use has doubled globally, the climate has not perceptibly changed, and billions more people have gotten access to electricity, bountiful food production powered by fossil fuels, and better, longer lives overall. The only climate disasters exist inside “experts’” computer models, which continue to be spectacularly wrong. The market has spoken. Despite massive subsidies, green energy has failed to deliver, and the market—i.e., the people—have overwhelmingly chosen reliable, affordable fossil fuel energy. Even Green Japan, site of Kyoto, turned to fossil fuels, not “renewables”, to recover from the nuclear shutdown after the 2011 Tōhoku earthquake.
By all means, let’s leave green energy companies free to peddle their wares in a freely competitive market. But let’s level the economic playing field of energy, and leave more power to decide which is best in the hands of energy consumers rather than “experts” and their political masters.
[“This special treatment for the fossil-fuel industry . . . maintains the country's dependence on a finite natural resource that produces greenhouse gases that affect the climate.”]
The climate change ideologues are completely one-sided and non-objective, and thus dishonest. They have vastly exaggerated the risks of fossil fuels while ignoring it benefits, while greatly exaggerating the potential of green technologies—all the while demonizing opponents and refusing to address their counter-arguments. It’s a monumentally fraudulent movement.
End All Corporate Welfare
Labels: Energy, Government and Economics, Taxes
Posted by Michael A. LaFerrara on
Wednesday, September 24, 2014
Linda Stamato Unveils the Fascist Underpinnings of the Environmentalists’ "Peoples Climate March"
Given the growing challenges to life on this planet and the concomitant need for policy change and political courage – notably from climate change deniers, whether they are governed by profit or political cowardice -- one yearns for leadership.
It’s wanting. But is it in demand? Do we have what it takes to face the challenges of climate change seriously?
The answer may arrive at the People’s Climate March in New York City Sunday morning, when we learn whether we are ready to move beyond willful ignorance, politics, and corporate resistance.
Stamato’s piece is classic. She discounts her opponents’ viewpoints without even bothering to cite and refute them. If you disagree with the Statists’ assertions on climate change science and related political agenda, you’re a “holocaust” . . ., excuse me, a “climate change denier,” a coward, just plain ignorant, or corrupted by base motives, like profit-seeking.
The piece takes the form of citing a panoply of supposed experts on the climate change “crisis”, and a series of questions—11 in all. Why the questions? Because the public simply isn’t taking the catastrophe claims seriously. Stamato cites a Pew Research Center poll, which “found that 67 percent of Americans believe that global warming is real, but it ranks 19th on a list of 20 issues that they think should occupy the minds of Congress and the president.”
The public’s ho-hum attitude probably explains the increasingly shrill predictions by “consensus” experts of global climate catastrophe, complete even with predictions of “global instability and conflict.” Cry wolf long enough, and people tune out the cry. So let me pose a question of my own: Are Americans coming around to the realization that the predictions of catastrophe are simply not credible?
This doesn’t mean that we’re not vulnerable to the statists’ political agenda. The Peoples Climate March may succeed in “changing public perceptions” enough for Americans to give the statists the benefit of the doubt on some of their policy prescriptions. This could open the door to the climate change statists’ real, underlying agenda. Remember how far along the road to socialism America has come in the last 100 years, even though Americans never voted for socialism, and rejected it whenever it was overtly offered. The Socialist Party USA has never gained any political traction, yet its “Democratic Socialism” agenda gets ever closer to reality.
Stamato continues in that tradition. Stamato sneaks in a stealth call for another big step toward Socialist Party USA’s goal, without calling it socialism.
In my comments, I zeroed in on these questions:
Is climate change a sufficiently challenging concern? To paraphrase Pogo: Is the enemy not them, but us? Do we not have a profound obligation to the next generation, and the next? Are natural resources not a public trust? Can we breathe life into this necessary cause?
This is a tacit admission that climate change is nothing more than a vehicle for statism.
“Are natural resources not a public trust?”
What are “natural resources”? They are raw materials that, through active human minds, are transformed into usable ingredients for life-enhancing material products. The foundation and source of natural resources is the individual reasoning human mind, which guides physical labor into productive work.
What is “the public”? The public is made up of individual human beings, each of whom possess a reasoning mind. There is no public mind. Only individual human beings think, discover knowledge, judge, act, and productively work and trade. The “public” can do none of this: it is an abstraction denoting actual human individuals. The term “public trust” means, in practice, government trust; which means, government control. Control of what? Of individuals. Sound familiar? When someone calls for “natural resources” to be placed into a “public trust”, they call for government control of the means of production—which means, of human beings’ productive activities. Haven’t we learned from the 20th Century?
Since man’s mind—the ultimate “natural resource”—is an individual, not social, attribute, the social requirements for human well-being is individual liberty and government protection of individual rights, including the right to produce, trade, and keep the product of his labor. If government controls “natural resources,” government controls human beings, the opposite of liberty. Environmentalism in all of its manifestations, including the current Climate Change March, is really a means to “breathe life” into an ancient evil: It is a reincarnation of political tyranny.
“Do we not have a profound obligation to the next generation, and the next?”
What we owe future generations is to reject any “public trust” of natural resources. The best we can do for future generations is to bequeath to them a free society.
Thankfully, there were no environmentalists around before the Industrial Revolution to put natural resources into a public trust. If there had been, the few of us that would be around today would still be existing in short, miserable lives, ever at the mercy of "untouched" nature; rather than enjoying the advanced technological industrialization bequeathed to us. We should celebrate the fact that the natural resources weren’t preserved in a public trust for our, as a “future generation,” alleged benefit. By leaving earlier individuals free to turn earth’s raw materials including oil, coal, and natural gas into the natural resources that feed our energy and other needs, we inherited a much better life than would have been possible otherwise. By building on the progress we inherited to make our lives still better and happier—e.g., by respecting the rights of productive individuals and their companies to turn still more raw materials into still more man-made natural resources—we will pass on to the next generation an even more technologically advanced society for them to build upon, in the process benefitting the next generation after that. Progress begets progress—unless, of course, we allow environmentalists to stop that progress.
We need individual freedom, free markets, capitalism, and a proper rights-protecting government, not “public trusts” or anything of the kind. Thankfully, we had the Founding Fathers to create the free society that enabled earlier industrious scientists, industrialists, entrepreneurs, and workers to create the natural resources and technological industrialization we now enjoy. We do have “a profound obligation to the next generation”—to emulate the Founding Fathers, and resolve to do the same.
One of the most important principles I’ve learned from Objectivism is to always zero in on essentials, and anchor those essentials to reality. In other works, think objectively. What does this slogan really mean in practice? That is the question I asked of Stamato’s questions. Beware stealth socialism; i.e., fascism.
Environmentalists, Luddites, and Collectivism
Labels: Environmentalism, Political Philosophy
Posted by Michael A. LaFerrara on
Tuesday, September 23, 2014
Democracy for All Amendment: Proponents Don't Even Believe Their Own "Drown Out" Hype
As I observed in yesterday’s post, backers rationalize that the Democracy for All amendment is needed so the political voice of the average citizen isn’t “drowned out” by big money.
Perhaps the best comeback against this ridiculous notion is that the proponents don’t even believe it.
People for the American Way, a Leftist advocacy group, has launched a “grassroots” campaign to promote the Democracy for All amendment. What’s that again? A grassroots campaign? Doesn’t “grassroots” mean “average” folks?
PAW has a webpage laying out an “activist toolkit”—a whole litany of ways for those “drowned out” average Americans to exercise their “right to be heard.” Here is what PAW says in its introduction:
The effects of [Citizens United, McCutcheon,] and other [SCOTUS] decisions have not been hard to see. The 2012 election was the most expensive election in our country’s history. In that election, almost 60 percent of super PAC donations came from just 159 donors. Over 93 percent came from 3,318 donors, or 0.0011 percent of the US population. And the influx of money into our elections only continues to get worse. A report released in late July shows that in this year’s elections, “dark money” spending is fifteen times what it was at this point in the 2010 midterm elections. As money pours into our political system, the voices of everyday Americans – who don’t have a corporate treasury to spend from or millions in their bank accounts – are becoming increasingly hard to hear.
With the proposed Democracy for All Amendment, we have a chance to take our democracy back from corporations and billionaires. There is tremendous grassroots momentum backing this effort.
PAW isn’t alone. Free Speech for People, another pro-amendment activist group, also has an “online action page.” It certainly doesn’t look like these people feel “increasingly hard to hear.” Otherwise, why make the effort?
This is hysterical! Where are the billionaires, who supposedly have the power to “drown out the average person’s voice?” If a grassroots campaign to enact their amendment is worthwhile, why can’t the same grassroots activism be used to counter the message of the 3,318 wealthy donors? Instead of spending their energy and resources trying to violate these folks free speech rights, why not engage them directly in the political arena?
I fully agree that there are myriad opportunities for average citizens to be heard. Average persons can’t be drowned out by anyone’s private campaign spending, and the statists know it. Their emerging grassroots campaign refutes their own rationalizations.
Labels: Constitution and Law, First Amendment
Posted by Michael A. LaFerrara on
Monday, September 22, 2014
Democracy for All: The "Drown Out the Voice of Average Americans" Amendment
The Democracy for All amendment, which would empower federal and state governments to enact broad restrictions on campaign spending by private citizens with their own money, was defeated in the Senate, as expected. But this was only the statists’ opening shot. This overt attack on First Amendment protections for freedom of speech is not going away, and the Left is gearing up for a long-haul fight to get it enacted. The Right should be gearing up for a long-term fight against it.
As part of this fight, let’s examine the argument most often advanced by the statists in favor of their amendment; that billionaires and wealthy groups such as corporations, if allowed to spend on political campaigns without restrictions, will “drown out the average person’s voice,” harming his “right to be heard.” Under current law, said Senator Robert Menendez, “wealthy billionaires and radical special interests can now flood the air waves with unlimited, undisclosed money.” In the name of leveling the political playing field, the argument goes, we must enact strict spending limits on wealthy factions’ campaign spending.
But far from helping average folks “be heard,” these limits will harm them. Under the First Amendment, the average person needs no special protection. Every person’s free speech rights are protected equally and at all times. The average person gains nothing by silencing wealthier individuals. The truth, in fact, is the exact opposite: Silencing wealthy individuals and groups harms the average person.
Every time someone expresses a political opinion, he speaks not only for himself, but for anyone who agrees with him. When wealthy activists reach millions of people, they speak for the millions who agree with the message, effectively giving airtime to those like-minded folks who individually could never spread their viewpoints on such a wide scale. For example, when the Left’s favorite whipping boys, the Koch brothers, spend their millions promoting their Right-wing message, they often speak for me and millions of other average Americans. When George Soros, the Right’s favorite whipping boy, spends his millions promoting Left-wing viewpoints, he speaks for millions who like his message. Far from drowning out average folks, these wealthy activists supercharge the average person’s beliefs. When you silence someone, you effectively silence anyone who holds that person’s viewpoint.
And what of the average folks that disagree with a viewpoint expressed by some wealthy activist? For one thing, a person can simply refuse to listen. No one, including wealthy individuals or groups, has a “right to be heard.” But for those with a little more intellectual courage, disagreeable viewpoints offer an opportunity. Do I have anything to gain by silencing Soros? Hardly. Confronting and rebutting opposing viewpoints is integral to advancing one’s own viewpoints. I welcome the chance to engage my ideological adversaries. When Soros speaks, it’s an opportunity for me to offer counter arguments in whatever venue is open to me.
And that venue is wide, indeed. “Average”, “everyday” folks don’t need the wealthy to participate in the political arena. There are myriad tools at our disposal. No private citizen can drown out anyone’s voice. As I wrote for the Objective Standard:
No matter how much anyone spends on his own speech, no private citizen or institution can stifle anyone else’s voice. An “ordinary” individual can write letters to the editor, speak to friends and co-workers, attend town-hall meetings, start a blog, or participate in social media or online debate forums. He can pool his money with others to take out ads, or donate money to think tanks or PACs that advocate views he agrees with. Who could stop him?
Another really effective way average Americans can “be heard” is to contact their congressman directly and let them know what they think. In fact, politicians are more likely to pay attention to what their constituents think than anything else. This is where average Americans have a huge advantage over billionaires. Billionaires may have more to spend on political ads. But in the voting booth, they have no more power than anyone else. Contrary to the Left’s ridiculous assertions, the wealthy can’t buy elections. Each voter is in the booth alone. No matter what, it’s still one-man-one-vote. Politicians know that, which is why they always have their finger on the pulse of their constituents. Go ahead, give your congressman a piece of your mind. Neither the Koch brothers or George Soros can stop you.
There is, however, someone who can get in your way; your very own “protectors”—statist politicians themselves. As I wrote:
Only the government, with its law-making powers, can “drown out” a person’s voice, and any attempt by government to legally restrict any person’s freedom to spend his own money for the purpose of advocating his viewpoint is an attack on everyone’s First Amendment rights.
That’s what the fraudulently labeled Democracy for All amendment will do. In the name of “everyday Americans’ right to be heard,” the amendment shrinks every American’s chance to be heard.
The “flooding of the airwaves” is exactly what the democratic process demands. Anyone with the financial means to broadcast ideas to a wide national audience adds to the public discourse and debate, providing a true “public service”. Far from “drowning out” the voice of the average American, big money in politics brings relevant political issues to the public forefront, gives voice to millions of everyday people, and fosters debate in coffee houses, around kitchen tables, in social media, in online debate forums, in newspaper letters sections—anywhere ordinary people gather to chat. This amendment will deprive all people of access to ideas and information about candidates and issues they may not have known much or anything about, and the chance to debate them. Contrary to the alleged intent of the amendments’ proponents, their amendment will drown out public and private debate for all Americans, and subvert the electoral process.
Anyone who supports the disastrous Democracy for All amendment and others like it is either ignorant, an intellectual coward, or a proponent of statist tyranny.
Political “Left” and “Right” Properly Defined - The Objective Standard—Craig Biddle
Labels: Campaign Finance Laws, First Amendment, Politics