January 20, 2013

Corporate welfare — it’s the American way

Filed under: Business, Government, USA — Tags: , , , , — Nicholas @ 12:08

Sheldon Richman on the amazingly inefficient US tax code and some of the ways it got that way:

When Congress and President Obama came up with their beyond-the-last-minute deal to put off addressing the coming fiscal crisis, The Wall Street Journal turned the spotlight on a little-noticed, yet too typical aspect of Washington’s machinations: “The bill’s seedier underside is the $40 billion or so in tax payoffs to every crony capitalist and special pleader with a lobbyist worth his million-dollar salary. Congress and the White House want everyone to ignore this corporate-welfare blowout,” the Journal reported.

So a bill that was represented as the first steps toward fiscal responsibility (try not to laugh too hard) contained billions of dollars in corporate welfare. And it was a bipartisan affair.

[. . .]

Manipulating the tax code to benefit particular interests has obvious appeal for politicians — it’s a source of power and influence — and a code that did not permit such manipulation would be much less attractive to them. Outright cash subsidies from the taxpayers, while not unheard of, smacks too much of cronyism and is more likely to alienate taxpayers. But complicated exceptions written into the tax laws can be presented as creative governance on behalf of the public interest. But it is cronyism as offensive as outright subsidies.

[. . .]

Corporate welfare is not primarily about lowering taxes. That would be a worthwhile goal, of course, and could be achieved simply by slashing tax rates and simplifying the code. But when taxes are lowered selectively by writing complicated exceptions into the law, the goal is to bestow privileges on cronies, not to reduce the burden of government on all. Corporate welfare, among its many sins, violates equal protection under the law.

Pennsylvania quashes latest terror threat

Filed under: Bureaucracy, Education, Liberty, USA — Tags: , , , — Nicholas @ 11:59

This story is not taken from the pages of The Onion:

The incident occurred Jan. 10 while the girl was waiting in line for a school bus, said Robin Ficker, the Maryland lawyer retained by the girl’s family. He would not identify the girl or her parents, but gave this version of events:

Talking with a friend, the girl said something to the effect “I’m going to shoot you and I will shoot myself” in reference to the device that shoots out bubbles. The girl did not have the bubble gun with her and has never shot a real gun in her life, Ficker said.

Elementary school officials learned of the conversation and questioned the girls the next day, Fickler said. He said the girl did not have a parent present during the 30 minutes of questioning.

The result, he said, was that the student was labeled a “terrorist threat” and suspended for 10 days, Ficker said. The school also required her to be evaluated by a psychologist, Ficker said.

This designated terrorist is five.

H/T to Dan Mitchell for the link.

We also need to protect our kids from being exposed to bureaucrats who are jaw-droppingly stupid.

Actually, WordPress is telling me that “droppingly” isn’t a word. So maybe instead we should take Instapundit’s advice and reward these idiot officials with some tar and feathers.

And I hope the tattle-tale punk from the bus stop who ratted out the little girls is condemned to some sort of grade-school purgatory featuring never-ending wedgies.

On a more serious note, I hope the parents sue the you-know-what out of the school.

Identifying Britain’s “greatest” land battle

Filed under: Britain, Cancon, Europe, History, Military — Tags: , , , — Nicholas @ 11:41

Setting aside the fact that there’s no rational way to compare battles from different wars in different eras, the National Army Museum is holding a poll to determine the top five British battles, then a debate among historians followed by a concluding vote to determine the “best” of them.

As well as famous battles, the list includes some less well-known clashes, such as Megiddo in 1918, in modern-day Israel, where a British-led force decisively broke through the Ottoman front lines.

The earliest battle on the list is the English Civil War clash at Naseby, in 1645, in which the Royalists were defeated by the Parliamentarians’ disciplined New Model Army.

It is one of two that took place on British soil between two armies from this country. The other is Culloden (1745), which marked the end of the Jacobite rebellion.

Not all the battles ended in victory. The list includes the failed Gallipoli campaign (1915-1916), in which Britain and its allies tried to invade the Ottoman Empire.

Others are less conclusive: such as the Crimean clash of Balaklava (1854) – noted for the disastrous Charge of the Light Brigade — and the Somme (1916).

The most recent engagement is Musa Qala, in Afghanistan, where, in 2006, a small garrison of British, Danish and Afghan troops withstood a lengthy Taliban siege.

Only land battles are being considered, ruling out naval victories such as Trafalgar (1805) and air campaigns such as the Battle of Britain (1940).

Speaking non-scientifically, clearly the most important land battle in British history was the clash between Wolfe and Montcalm on the Plains of Abraham:

… also known as the Battle of Quebec, (Bataille des Plaines d’Abraham or Première bataille de Québec in French) was a pivotal battle in the Seven Years’ War (referred to as the French and Indian War in the United States). The battle, which began on 13 September 1759, was fought between the British Army and Navy, and the French Army, on a plateau just outside the walls of Quebec City, on land that was originally owned by a farmer named Abraham Martin, hence the name of the battle.

The battle involved fewer than 10,000 troops between both sides, but proved to be a deciding moment in the conflict between France and Britain over the fate of New France, influencing the later creation of Canada.[2]

The battle (and its aftermath) tend to be ignored in Quebec, but it shouldn’t be:

Montcalm died before dawn on the 14th. Hit again, probably by a Canadien militiaman, Wolfe died as the French ranks dissolved. Fighting on the Plains continued until dusk, sustained by Canadien militia and their native allies. When Quebec sovereignists killed plans to re-enact the battle they helped keep that heroic story secret. Perhaps they had no idea that it happened. When French regulars fled, the militia fought on.

Five times they stopped Fraser’s terrifying Highlanders from slaughtering the terrified regulars. Thanks to their despised militia and aboriginal allies, Montcalm’s French regulars could safely stop at Beauport, catch their breath, and begin a long, dreary march back to Montreal to prepare for another year of war. Did the separatists not want anyone to know?

Oxfam and the top 1%

Filed under: Economics, Media — Tags: , , , , — Nicholas @ 10:43

Oxfam is publicly blaming and shaming the top 1% of income-earners for their evil money-grubbing ways that deprive the worst-off and make poverty worse in developing countries. Simon Cooke explains why they’re wonderfully, gloriously wrong:

    “Concentration of resources in the hands of the top 1% depresses economic activity and makes life harder for everyone else — particularly those at the bottom of the economic ladder.”

And that top 1% isn’t you and me we’re led to believe — it’s those evil billionaire capitalists who are stealing the very bread from the mouths of the starving children. Let’s leave aside the fact that poverty is largely unrelated to inequality — people do not become rich by making others poor, however often Oxfam want to pretend that this is so. Instead let’s remind ourselves who the 1% are in terms of world development and poverty:

    The truth is that the entry level income for the world’s top 1% of earners is:


    That’s it, in real money not a great deal more than £20,000 a year gets you into the 1% club — sits you among the world’s filthy rich, among those to blame for all the sins and evil of the world. Capitalist scum.

Most of you reading this blog are in the top 1% sucking up all those resources — depriving the poor in Africa and elsewhere of the chance to grow, to get out of poverty.

Except you’re not. Sit back, put a smile on you face — punch the air with joy. You and me — capitalists both — have sat getting a little richer for thirteen years while a billion folk have escaped absolute poverty. All the international trade, all those businesses and those business folk filling the posh seats in aeroplanes flitting across the world — they’ve done that, they’ve lifted those people out of poverty.

Oxfam are wrong. Neoliberalism is making all the world richer. Even the UN celebrates that neoliberal success:

    “For the first time since records on poverty began, the number of people living in extreme poverty has fallen in every developing region, including sub-Saharan Africa. Preliminary estimates indicate that the proportion of people living on less than $1.25 per day fell in 2010 to less than half the 1990 rate…”

This is what capitalism does. Isn’t it wonderful.

A petition for Richard III to be reburied at York Minster

Filed under: Britain, History — Tags: , , — Nicholas @ 10:20

Elizabeth linked to this petition which might be of interest to Ricardians:

Joe Ann Ricca, Founder and Chief Executive of The Richard III Foundation, Inc., said: “Richard obviously had no choice after he was killed as to where his remains were taken, but today we have the opportunity to right the many wrongs that have been done to this unjustly maligned king, by correcting the distorted picture that has been painted of Richard over the centuries, and by bringing his remains home to Yorkshire, and to York Minster as he wanted.”

Richard, who was the last Plantagenet king, and the last English monarch to die in battle, had strong connections with the City of York and the County of Yorkshire. He spent much of his youth at Middleham Castle and for 12 years he ruled the North of England on behalf of his elder brother, King Edward IV, earning a widespread reputation for fair-mindedness and justice. After becoming king, he visited York several times and was showered with gifts each time. His son, Edward, was crowned Prince of Wales whilst in York.

Although entitled to be buried at Westminster Abbey alongside other kings and queens of England, Richard III announced his intention to be buried at York, and in 1483 set in motion plans for a new chantry chapel at York Minster. Indeed, so strongly was Richard linked to York that the City authorities greeted the news of his death at the Battle of Bosworth with these words: “King Richard, late mercifully reigning over us, was, through great treason, piteously slain and murdered, to the great heaviness of this city.”

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