Friday, October 12, 2012

Review of Stealing You Blind

Below please find the link to an excellent review of my husband's book. In fact, please also find the review from The Freeman which is published by the Foundation for Economic Education. (Amazon link here.)

Stealing You Blind: How Government Fat Cats Are Getting Rich Off of You
Frédéric Bastiat introduced one of the most important concepts in political economy: “legal plunder,” the government’s forcible extraction of wealth from the populace for the benefit of the ruling class. French monarchs in Bastiat’s time sent out tax collectors to plunder the people, most of whom understood perfectly that the king was robbing them to pay for his extravagances and follies.

As Bastiat well knew, democratic governments also engage in legal plunder, although it is obscured by the myth that elected representatives do whatever is in the “public interest.” Under democracy the people supposedly are the government and therefore all its actions are justified. You certainly can’t steal from yourself.

Not so, declares Iain Murray of the Competitive Enterprise Institute in his book Stealing You Blind. Democracy is rife with legal plunder, Murray writes, and it’s no more justified than if a gang of thugs were to rob you at gunpoint. Politicians long ago figured out how to use government power to line their pockets, and special interest groups long ago figured out that by backing the right politicians, they could get far more wealth out of the public treasury than they could get through production and trade. As a result, Americans are heavily taxed to support “a new leisure class” that produces little or no value. It’s like having a huge tapeworm in your gut, feeding parasitically off the food you work to buy.

Much of the book consists of recent and infuriating instances of legal plunder, and that is why it is so effective. The stories Murray tells are memorable because they make you angry. For example, consider Bell, California: The city manager of this small, poor town, along with his cronies, managed to stack the city council with their friends, who voted to give them astronomical salaries. The city manager, Robert Rizzo, was pulling in a salary of nearly $800,000 per year. Did he produce that much in value for the taxpayers? Of course not. He probably couldn’t have earned a tenth of that in voluntary exchange with people in Bell, but his ability to manipulate democracy enabled him to live like a king.

Murray quotes the defensive statements he and his highly paid subordinates made when they were caught. The arrogance will make you see red. After years of living it up at public expense, Rizzo and his comrades were arrested and charged with crimes including fraud and breach of fiduciary duty. No matter how that litigation turns out, the taxpayers won’t get much if any of their money back, although Rizzo’s city pension was reduced to a mere $100,000 annually.

Is Bell an anomaly? No. Murray shows that such plunder is widespread, although often less blatant. Some of the worst legal plunder is done by government employee unions. Union officials have mastered the art of electing compliant politicians who are indebted to them for their campaign support. So when it comes to bargaining over the terms of the contract, they are in effect in control of both sides of the table. As a result compensation for government workers is now significantly higher than for comparable workers in the private sector. That is contrary to the cultivated myth that when people go into “public service” they’re making a financial sacrifice.

Moreover the lofty compensation for government employees is only half the problem. As Murray shows, discipline is often lax in government work, so “workers” can get away with a lot of loafing.

Murray devotes considerable space to documenting how we are plundered by the government’s education establishment. Teachers are paid handsomely whether or not their students make any academic progress, and the gigantic mass of administrative personnel drives the cost far higher. Murray correctly says that “an astonishing amount of money in public education budgets doesn’t go to educators, it goes to turf-protecting bureaucrats. . . .” Decades of government profligacy have driven city and state budgets into the red, but administrators can be counted on to cut spending on things that have some actual educational benefit (music classes, libraries, and so on) while preserving every dollar for the bloated administration.

By the time you’ve gotten to Murray’s final chapter, you’ll be convinced that taxpayers are in fact being robbed blind. What is to be done? Murray offers a number of sensible, if well-known ideas, including abolishing many federal departments that are havens for legal plunder (Education, Labor, Energy), ending labor union privileges and corporate welfare, and privatizing government functions wherever possible. He also suggests some that aren’t so familiar, such as ending government research grants (many of which involve enormous waste) and instead offering prizes for results, though of course these would be tax-financed.

Nothing will happen, however, until the taxpayers realize how badly they’re being plundered and get angry. This book will do much in that regard. 

Thursday, October 11, 2012

Dumbest Idea Ever

Every once in a while you come across something so spectacularly stupid, it is terrifying. 

Here's an example from this article "Can California end flight of wealth?" -
Given the widespread contempt for personal liberty and constitutional values, there might be a way for California politicians to solve their fiscal mess. They can simply stop wealthy people from leaving the state or, alternatively, like some Third World nations, set limits on the amount of assets a resident can take out of the state. This would surely be within their jurisdiction and would not raise any constitutional issues, because it would serve a compelling state purpose. In other words, if California were to set up border controls to stop people, as East Germans did at Checkpoint Charlie, before they cross the state line, such action would be protected by the 10th Amendment.

The fact that many Californians have managed to get their assets out of the state complicates the issue. Article 1, Section 8 of the Constitution authorizes Congress "To regulate Commerce with foreign Nations, and among the several States, and with the Indian Tribes." This is known as the commerce clause. There's no question that people who pull up stakes and leave California affect interstate commerce; California has less tax revenue, and recipient states have more. What California Attorney General Kamala D. Harris might do is sue Nevada, Arizona, Texas and Oregon in the federal courts for enticing, through lower taxes and less onerous regulations, wealthy California taxpayers.

Were California to take such measures and have a modicum of success, one wonders how many Americans would be offended by such an encroachment on personal liberty. After all, how would forcing an American to remain in a state differ in principle from forcing him to purchase health insurance?

I can only pray he is being snarky.  Otherwise, what the frack?

Random Round-Up 10-11-2012

A little good news first - Marine Pfc. Matthew Morgan carries Ben Baltz across the finish line at the Sea Turtle Tri on Pensacola Beach on Sunday after Ben’s prosthetic leg fell off during the run portion of the race.

Gunmen kill U.S. embassy security chief in Yemen

Libya Embassy Security Officer: Obama’s security strategy was ‘hope’

Mother of Slain State Dept. Official Tired of Being Lied To and Stonewalled by Obama Administration

Does it matter, either way heads should roll - Benghazi: White House Cover Up or Just Incompetence?
House Judiciary Chairman: Obama campaign staffers facilitating voter fraud should be fired; Team Obama silent

No crony-corruption here.  Move along - Biden, Dems enlisted by energy company to win billion-dollar loan deal, emails show

Elizabeth Warren’s implausible Dow Chemical claim

Well, his lips are moving - Obama and the L-Word 'Liar' is potent and ugly—with a sleazy political pedigree.

Data Massaging Continues: Initial Claims Tumble To 339K Lowest Since 2008, Far Below Lowest Expectation - not even the Labor Department is defending it: it said that "one large state didn't report some quarterly figures."

Well, for this administratio, exposing Union Finances would cut off their funds - Government Fails to Promote Transparent Union Finances

Holy Friggin' Crap. What this guy is suggesting is so wrong... - Can California end flight of wealth?

Yet another example of the "open-minded Liberal" - Bus Driver Tells 12 Year-Old He Should Have Been Aborted Because of Romney Yard Sign At this point, liberals love of abortion is tantamount to eugenics.

Will somebody PLEASE do something about this woman's god-awful hair! Wasserman Schultz: Wrong Statements About Libya Doesn't Mean They Were False

The truth can sting - Anti-Obama email wasn't a threat to employees. New taxes against CEO or company will force layoffs, Westgate head writes

Fedex to cut thousands from workforce

Spanish bonds are now just one level above Junk - S&P Downgrades Spain, Citing Region Backtracking on Bank

Fiscal Policy Report Card on America's Governors: 2012

Wednesday, October 10, 2012

Random Round-Up 10-10

Good News Everybody! - Romney’s Target Map Expands The GOP candidate's electoral horizons have grown considerably since the debate

Doesn't make sense unless they returned all those illegal foreign donations - DNC faces cash shortfall on eve of 2012 election

Because the optics on this is fantastic - ABC News scrambles to downplay Obama’s attendance at VP debate moderator’s wedding

From that non-partisan, fair-to-all class act that is the ACLU - ACLU pressuring vice presidential debate moderator to emphasize GOP ‘war on women’

Tell us something we don't know, please - NYT's Nate Silver Exposed as Obama Propagandist

At least he's honest - CEO to Workers: You'll Likely Be Fired If Obama Is Re-elected

Is that why they are blue? 2013 Business Tax Climate: Chilliest in Blue States

Jack Welch: I Was Right About That Strange Jobs Report The economy would need to be growing at breakneck speed for unemployment to drop to 7.8% from 8.3% in the course of two months.

O’s economic woes Prez unable to spin this mess
Latest O’Keefe Video Shows Obama Campaign Voter Fraud

$40 MILLION Dollars! - Akin chides gov't money tied to McCaskill's spouse

Never the crime, always the cover-up - MEDC Removes Video of Obama, Top Dems Praising Failed Battery Company

My bet is Mitt Romney has Harry Reid on tape as a pedophile - Why Harry Reid Hates Mitt Romney

Lamest. Ad. Ever. - Confirmed: Big Bird ad a flop across the entire political spectrum

A politician faces no wrath like a media scorned - The liberal media loved Obama to death

Obama's Death by Jobs

Nearly a month later?! - Congress Holds First Hearing on U.S. Consulate Attack in Libya

Be careful what you wish for little boy for you shall surely get it - Obama Says He Wants to Debate Civil Liberties With Romney; Here's Some Atrocious Decisions He Should Explain

Eye of The Sparrow AWESOME