My Sabbath got slightly derailed yesterday. I had a lot of good stuff ready to put up so I posted it in the early hours of Saturday morning before I went to bed. There were posts here and also on TONGUE-TIED and POLITICAL CORRECTNESS WATCH.
The Fear Vote
If the election were held tomorrow, Mitt Romney would be the next president of the United States. Why? Because many voters are afraid, that's why. And fearful people usually try to change their circumstances.
If you listen to talk radio or watch cable news, you'd think everyone was an ideologue, obsessed with party politics. But many, perhaps most, American voters are not wedged into a voting pattern. The same country that elected the conservative George W. Bush voted for the very liberal Barack Obama the next time around. It is perception that wins national elections.
Bush was perceived to be a terror warrior, and that's why he won a second term. Voters wanted payback for 9/11, and Bush, along with the fierce Dick Cheney, simply had more tough guy cred than Al Gore or John Kerry. At least that was the perception.
Obama isn't nearly as tough as Sen. John McCain, but by 2008, the faltering economy had overridden the terror threat, and the slick senator from Illinois promised hope and change, a return to prosperity and fairness. McCain promised "Country First." Nobody quite knew what that meant, and voters did want a change from the vicious recessionary economy, so Obama won.
Now, voters are scared that their jobs may disappear. They already see their retirement and educational funds evaporating, and most of us know folks who are desperate for money. So the economic fear is real, not perceived, and President Obama has done little to soothe the angst. He's still hoping his Big Government policies will stimulate the economy even as the TV flashes pictures of Greeks rioting in the streets.
Romney is not exactly John Kennedy, so Obama still has a chance to squeak out a victory in November. Romney must perform well in the debates and convince Americans that the president simply does not understand economics -- and that he has the magic capitalistic touch that will rebuild the empire. If the governor can stay out of foolish controversies and dodge the landmines the pro-Obama media will lay for him, he will be living larger than he lives now. The White House dwarfs even Romney's lavish beachside shack in La Jolla, Calif.
I believe Obama knows he's in trouble, and that's why he is courting his leftwing base so hard. He has to get all of them out on Election Day, and if that means "evolving" on gay marriage, so be it. Obama is a hardball player who will do everything he can to keep his job. There are not that many openings for messiahs these days in the private sector.
The election is about five months from now, and many things can happen in that time. But fear is a powerful emotion and not easily diminished. So the president should be afraid. Very afraid.
Inequality has its benefits
John C. Goodman
The topic de jour on the political left is inequality. From President Obama to the editorial pages of The New York Times the message is the same: low taxes (especially on the wealthy) and deregulation are making the rich richer and the poor poorer. Their solution: more big government.
Here's the problem: nothing about this message is true. The George W. Bush tax cuts made after-tax incomes in the United States more equal, not less equal. Furthermore, all over the world low taxes, less regulation and limited government are associated with more income equality, not less. In addition, the greatest beneficiaries of economic freedom tend to be those at the bottom of the income ladder, not those at the top.
Because a lot of the work debunking left-wing myths about income inequality has been done by my colleagues at the National Center for Policy Analysis (NCPA), I have had a special interest in these questions over the years. What I am about to summarize are the results of careful study and analysis by some of the nation's top economists. These are studies that are routinely ignored by those who parrot the standard liberal line about how unfair capitalism is.
Let's start with the Bush tax cuts. Stephen F. Austin State University economist Michael Stroup has analyzed their impact based on statistics gathered by the Congressional Budget Office (CBO). As reported in an NCPA study, here is what he found:
* The Bush tax cuts (so hated by almost every left-wing columnist) led to a more progressive tax system — with the top 1% of the income distribution now paying about one third of all income taxes, while those in the bottom half saw their share of the tax burden cut in half (falling from 6.3% of income taxes to 3.5%).
* Further, those in the top 1% now pay a greater share of their income in taxes, while those at the bottom are paying a smaller share.
* Over time, pre-tax income in the United States has become more unequal; but the share of taxes paid by the rich has increased by more than their share of national income.
Incidentally, Stroup found that the tax system became more progressive throughout the 1990s as well – after the Bush (1990) tax increase, the Clinton (1993) tax increase and the Clinton (1970) decrease in the capital gains tax rate. But here is the message most voters never hear: Virtually every Republican tax cut — going all the way back to the early rate reductions under Ronald Reagan — left the tax system more progressive. One reason for that is that the Republican tax reform measures took millions of low-income families off the tax rolls. Even though high income taxpayers face lower rates than they once did, they are still shouldering a greater share of the overall tax burden.
As for the international evidence, the Frasier Institute of Canada has gathered an international team of economists to study and measure economic freedom in countries around the world and report annually. (Milton Friedman was an early participant in this project, as was yours truly.) Here are some recent findings:
* There is almost no relationship between the degree of economic freedom and the share of national income going to the poorest 10% of the population. (It’s 2.4% in the one-fifth of least free countries and 2.6% in the one-fifth of most free countries.)
* There is a huge difference in absolute income, however: Per capita income for the bottom 10% was only $1,061 in 2009 in the least free countries, but reached $8,735 in the most free.
By the way, economic freedom is also very important for the average person. In 2009, per capita income was $4,545 in the one-fifth of least free countries and a whopping $31,501 in the one-fifth of most free countries. In other words, the difference between living in a country with low taxes, low regulation and limited government versus living in a big government country is a nine-fold increase in income!
A final study of interest was produced by Gerald Scully, one of the finest economists of my generation who passed away a few years ago. Like Stroup, Scully used a general measure of overall inequality. In a seminal NCPA study he found that other things being equal:
* Freer economies enjoy higher rates of economic growth than less free ones.
* Economic growth increases income inequality, but the effect is small.
* Overall, the increase in inequality from economic growth is outweighed by the reduction in inequality caused by greater economic freedom — creating a net benefit to lower income groups.
Here is the bottom line: economies with the greatest degree of economic freedom not only produce higher incomes for the average family, they also produce a more equal distribution of income than would otherwise have been the case.
California Vote Deals Blow To Public Sector Unions
The news out of Wisconsin on Tuesday shook the world of politics. Less noticed but perhaps just as startling were the seismic results out of California, where two cities shook up their public unions.
Voters in San Diego (the nation's 8th-largest city) and San Jose (the 10th-largest) overwhelmingly approved big cuts to city workers' retirement benefits.
The size of the cities and the sweeping nature of the results will no doubt lead to similar challenges - not just in debt-strapped California, but across the nation.
That this would take place in the bluer-than-blue Golden State no doubt comes as a shock to public employee unions that have used their insider political clout to quietly fleece California taxpayers for decades. But it's now a bipartisan issue. In San Diego, two-thirds of voters voted for Proposition B, which trimmed benefits mainly for new city hires.
As the Associated Press reported, this came as the city's payments into its pension fund soared from $43 million in 1999 to $231.2 million this year, gobbling up 20% of the city's total spending.
San Jose, meanwhile, saw its pension payments jump from $73 million in 2001 to $245 million this year, more than a quarter of the city's entire budget. Some 70% of voters approved the plan - again, huge bipartisanship. At last it has sunk in: Overly generous spending on public employee benefits is killing California's cities.
San Diego is a case in point:"As the pension payments grew," the AP reports, "San Diego's 1.3 million residents saw roads deteriorate and libraries and recreation centers cut hours. For a while, some fire stations had to share engines and trucks."
Yet, following this defeat, union officials say they'll challenge the outcome in court. Well, let them.
San Diego and San Jose are emblematic of the tidal wave of pension liabilities faced by cities across California - and, indeed, the U.S. It's unsustainable.
Politicians took money and votes from public unions in exchange for ridiculously generous pay and benefits. They figured that sucker taxpayers would just pay the bill later - long after they were out of office.
Greek chief tax inspector says Christine Lagarde right to criticise evasion
Christine Lagarde was right to highlight the tax-dodging that costs Greece up to €45 billion a year, twice the sum the country needs to pay off its debts, the Greek chief tax inspector has admitted.
The head of the IMF sparked outrage in Greece two weeks ago after she suggested that it was “payback” time for Greeks who had worsened their country's finances by evading taxes.
But Nikos Lekkas, the head of the Greek tax inspectorate, the SDOE, has backed Mrs Lagarde and insisted that Greece could easily pay off its debts if taxes due for payment were paid into the Greek state's coffers.
”Tax evasion in Greece has reached 12 to 15 per cent of the gross national product,” he told Germany's Die Welt newspaper. “That is €40 to €45bn per year. If we could recover even half of that, Greece would have solved the problem. Our politicians have begun to understand that.”
Mr Lekkas expressed particular concern over 500 cases involving suspected tax evasion by Greek politicians, from different political parties and delays by banks to provide information on accounts, by which time the money “is probably gone”.
”Currently, I am sorry to say that there is not a good cooperation with the banks,” he said. “In over 5,000 cases, we have requested to inspect the accounts of suspects. Only in 214 cases were we successful.”
The tax inspector has warned the government that if the Greek elite remains unpunished for tax evasion amid the “systemic corruption that permeates the whole of society” then “there will be a social explosion.”
Mass killer Breivik may have rare forms of Aspergers and Tourette’s syndromes, says Norway's leading psychiatrist
Good testimony to the idiocy of psychiatry: Maybe Breivik is diabetic, hypertensive and suffering from peanut allergy too. A grab-bag of diagnoses makes no sense. It is undoubted that Breivik is a bit narcissistic but so are most politicians. And there has been NO evidence of Tourettes, a very noticeable disdorder. And if writing a lot and having a good memory makes you mad then I am as mad as a hatter.
Norwegian mass killer Anders Breivik has a rare, high-functioning form of Asperger's that has left him incapable of empathy or real friendship, one of Norway's most prominent psychiatrists has told a court in Oslo.
Professor Ulrik Fredrik Malt of Olso University told the court: 'It is plausible that there is Asperger's, Tourette's, and a narcissistic personality disorder.'
As evidence, he cited the lack of emotion Breivik showed when discussing those he killed, his impressive memory for details, his obsession with numbers, his hypergraphia [obsessive writing], and his monotonous tone of voice. All of these, he said, were evidence of 'functional disorders of the brain lobes'.
Breivik angrily interrupted Professor Malt's testimony, complaining that his claims were 'insulting' and 'abusive'.
But when given the opportunity to comment at the end of the day, he was cooly ironic. He said: 'I would like to congratulate Professor Malt for his well-executed character assassination. 'In the beginning I was quite offended, but in the end I thought it was pretty funny. The premises outlined are not true.'
The 33-year-old extremist has instructed his lawyers to fight for him to be declared sane, even though this would mean he spends the next 21 years in prison, rather than in a secure mental hospital.
As he has confessed to killing 77 people during his massacre last July, his sanity is the key question at the trial.
Professor Malt argued that Breivik did not appear to suffer from the absurd, bizarre delusions or hallucinations normal for a schizophrenic, so he did not agree with the conclusions of the first psychiatic report received by the court, which concluded he was insane.
But he agreed that Breivik could not be treated as responsible for his actions, contradicting a second psychiatric report, which argued Breivik was criminally accountable.
Prfessor Malt said: 'It is important that we take on board that this is something much more than only a pure right-wing extremist. 'It is a tragedy for Norway, and for us. But I believe it is also a tragedy for Breivik. The first time I saw Breivik coming into the hall, I did not see a monster. I saw a deeply lonely man.'
He said that Asperger's would explain the problems Breivik's mother had with her son when he was four years old, leading the two of them to spend several months staying at Norway's National Center for Child and Adolescent Psychiatry.
Breivik's mother, Wench Behring, has also described him as being constantly thirsty, a symptom Professor Malt said was frequently displayed by young Asperger's sufferers.
Breivik's violent acts could also be the result of a version of Tourette's syndrome, which is associated with Asperger's. He said had observed that Breivik suffered frequent suppressed tics.
Asperger's support groups in Norway have attacked previous attempts to attribute Breivik's massacre to the condition, arguing that there is no evidence that Asperger's is associated with increased criminality or violence. Norway's Dagbladet newspaper was forced to publish an official apology in February, after it failed to make this clear.
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The Big Lie of the late 20th century was that Nazism was Rightist. It was in fact typical of the Leftism of its day. It was only to the Right of Stalin's Communism. The very word "Nazi" is a German abbreviation for "National Socialist" (Nationalsozialist) and the full name of Hitler's political party (translated) was "The National Socialist German Workers' Party" (In German: Nationalsozialistische Deutsche Arbeiterpartei)