I’m going to try something new today. I read the local news “papers” online every day, and generally I run across various interesting stories that I wish I had time to pursue further. But I can only comment at length on a small fraction of the stories of the day. So I’m going to try compiling many of the interesting stories in a single blog, with quick comments. I hope this provides readers with some good leads and also indicates at least in outline the free-market, individual-rights response. I hope readers will submit comments with links to stories I’ve missed.
Both the Rocky Mountain News and the Denver Post review Governor Bill Ritter’s budget cuts. The Rocky begins, “Colorado must shut down two prisons, slice $225 million from schools and higher education and suspend property-tax breaks for senior citizens to close its funding shortfall, Gov. Bill Ritter’s budget director said Tuesday.” The Post adds “furloughing state workers.”
But why do the politicians and the media always lead with the relatively popular programs, rather than things like corporate welfare? (Don’t get me wrong; I think tax spending should be cut in those other areas as well.)
As Penn Pfiffner explains, most of the $600 million budget shortfall is actually a “cut” in proposed increases.
If the papers want to help put the budget in perspective — and I’ve seen no indication that they do — they’d offer their readers some historical context. I’d like to see the annual figures, in today’s dollars, for state and federal spending from the very beginning, in absolute terms, per capita, and as a fraction of GDP.
But, somehow, the papers seem more interested in sensationalism than in context. The idea seems to be that sensationalism sells papers. Well, that’s obviously not working.
Ritter’s Attack on the Right to Bear Arms
The Post’s article contains this ominous line: “The governor’s plan also has one money-generating proposal: a $10 to $15 fee for background checks on would-be gun owners. Officials said there had been a fee in previous years, but it had been eliminated.”
We have the right to bear arms. Ritter treats this right as though it were a political privilege. I guess we’ll see whether the Democrats wish to remain in power.
Oil Shale Rules
Why does the federal government get to set the rules for oil shale development? It’s because the federal government owns vast tracks of land, especially throughout the West. The owner of the property must set the rules for use. I have long proposed privatizing these lands, transferring deed to current users and giving the rest away to conservation groups.
Obama wants to spend another trillion or so of other people’s money. Somehow, I doubt that the Republicans, who started this bailout madness, will put up much of a fight. It would be nice, though, if some elected official, somewhere, took economic liberty seriously.
David Harsanyi writes a nice critique of the bailout.
Here’s a laugh: Ken Bonetti claims, “President Barack Obama’s economic stimulus is a welcome change from the counterproductive monetary policies and destructive laissez faire of the past 30 years.” What universe have you been living in, brother? “Laissez faire” means hands-off. During the past 30 years we’ve suffered under the Community Reinvestment Act, the Troubled Asset Relief Program, Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid, capricious Federal Reserve policies, No Child Left Behind, Sarbanes-Oxley, HUD, the FDA, the EPA, the IRS, the SEC, the FCC… do I really need to continue here?
Michelle Shomler argues, “There is no safe level of exposure to second-hand smoke, a leading cause of cancer and heart disease. People have the right to assemble or work in an environment free from this health hazard.”
Yes, people do have that right. They also have the right to assemble with smokers. What people do not have the right to do is dictate to property owners how they use their property. I agree with Shomler about one thing: establishments shouldn’t need to “apply for a license that would permit smoking of all tobacco products purchased on-site.” You shouldn’t need a license from bureaucrats to use your property with voluntary patrons as you see fit.
Vincent Carroll writes a critique of Obama’s cap-and-trade proposal for emissions.
Office of Economic Stagnation
Mike Williams writes, “The Denver Office of Economic Development receives $25 million to help 180 households at risk of foreclosure. What? That’s almost $139,000 per household! If they can only help 180 households with $25 million, they are incompetent – and we are stupid for letting them do it.” I haven’t checked into the numbers, but no matter what the numbers are, this is simply not a legitimate governmental function. Taxing stable homeowners to subsidize the unstable ones is wrong. It is indeed unfortunate, though, that the federal government promoted risky home loans, the central cause of the mortgage meltdown and the modern recession.
Climate Change Coordinator
Gov. Bill Ritter has appointed former House Majority Leader Alice Madden as Colorado’s new climate change coordinator.”
Well, isn’t that exciting. One of my friends wrote in, “It’s been damned cold lately! Tell her to turn up the global thermostat a few degrees!”
Plastic Bag Fines Hurt Environment
As I’ve argued, the real reason to oppose plastic bag fines is that they violate economic liberty. As Keith Lockitch points out, “Every value we create to advance our well-being–every ounce of food we grow, every structure we build, every iPhone we manufacture–is produced by extracting raw materials and reshaping them to serve our needs. Every good thing in our lives comes from altering nature for our own benefit.”
However, it is also a little bit funny that the fines actually end up harming the environment. Westword points out that in San Francisco “the ban has forced a proportional increase in the number of paper bags used. Since paper bags take up much more space than plastic bags, it has caused greater volume into landfills.” Way to go, eco nuts.
Of course, the environmentalist response to this would be to fine paper bags, too. Which is why getting to the core principles is important.