Trump Puts His Own Economic Agenda in Danger
Much has happened over the last week. It's worth considering where we are now.
The week started off very badly for Donald Trump when Congressional testimony by the NSA, the FBI, and Trump's own DOJ finally laid bare what we already knew: his wiretapping claims were fabricated. He followed this testimony with a string of dishonest and/or misleading tweets, which served only to compound the problem for his administration. Then the apparent source of his "information" on wiretaps, Andrew Napolitano, was suspended indefinitely from Fox News--because of his false wiretapping claims. To make matters even worse, the FBI director not only indicated that Trump's tweets were fabricated, but he also publicly confirmed (for the first time) that Trump's campaign is under a criminal investigation.
The situation had become so one-sided that Representative Nunes tried to throw Trump a little cover by claiming that Trump's team's communications had, in fact, been picked up by intelligence surveillance, an assertion that ran into trouble almost immediately. Nunes himself acknowledged that these collections were both "legal" and "incidental." The next day he found himself apologizing for handling the situation as he did, and the day after that, he walked back his comments overall. Now he just looks partisan and ridiculous.
Aside from the fact that Trump ought to apologize to all of us for wasting so much time with this, the bottom line is that the allegations were false, and the Trump administration needed a success--badly. That's not what happened though.
The most notable event--and probably the most consequential one as well--was the failure of Trump and establishment Republicans to replace Obamacare. The messaging that followed the bill's demise hasn't boded well for the future either.
I was furious that this situation was handled as it was because I deeply believe that Obamacare MUST be replaced. Obamacare did nothing to address the rampant fraud in, especially, Medicare. By the Obama DHHS's own admission, it has raised health care costs above where they would otherwise have been. It levies additional taxes, and it locks millions of Americans into appallingly high premiums that are rising at an even more appalling rate. Replacing the Affordable Care Act (which, ironically, makes healthcare even more unaffordable for many) was and is a high priority of mine.
The replacement bill needed to be one that took care of those who purchased health insurance on the ACA exchanges. It also needed to lessen the impact of our government's health care spending on our national debt. It had to protect those with pre-conditions, address fraud, and eliminate single-state monopolies. To accomplish lofty goals like this, two things were needed above all else: compromise and skilled negotiation.
Unfortunately, neither of those occurred. An element of the modern Republican Party views any compromise with Democrats as weakness and borderline un-American, which ensures that any substantial reform we undertake faces a very up-hill climb to passage. They've forgotten the wisdom of the greatest modern Republican President (and one of the greatest overall), Ronald Reagan: he famously said that he'd be happy to get 70 or 80 percent of what he wanted and just come back for the rest later.
In a further blow to Trump, who is a self-proclaimed "brilliant" negotiator, negotiation over the bill's contents went absolutely nowhere. It appears that Trump's idea of negotiation was to make only token changes to the bill and then to have Steve Bannon threaten, twist arms, and otherwise try to force Tea Party-style Republicans to vote for his flawed, establishment bill. (This is quite an empty threat coming from a President with fewer legislative achievements--none--than any other President at this point in a Presidency [even though his party controls both houses of Congress] and the lowest approval rating ever recorded for a President so early in a Presidency--37%.) The result was predictable: Trump and the establishment were defeated by the very strain of the Republican Party that worked to elect Trump in the first place, a result made all the more likely by Trump's demand that voting on the bill tax place on Friday before all potential avenues to reconciliation had been pursued.
Trump's response in the aftermath has been, honestly, appalling. First, he blamed the Democrats, which is odd since the Democrats don't have enough votes to stop bills in the first place. Then he blamed Republicans, even though he himself is a Republican who was involved in crafting this bill. (Interpretation: "Everyone who isn't named Donald J. Trump is at fault. Everyone who is named Donald J. Trump is not at fault.")
His position right now is to simply give up and stick with Obamacare. Really? Stick with Obamacare? Yes, his "great" plan now is to simply keep Obamacare "until it implodes" so that he can blame it on Democrats. Aside from the fact that it's difficult to imagine a more partisan position, it's even harder to imagine an outcome that would hurt more Americans or add more to our national debt than an Obamacare implosion. Our President is not paid to watch policies crash and burn. He is paid to proactively get ahead of problems and to fix them before they "implode." He and Republican Congressional leadership should role up their sleeves and get to work on a serious replacement bill right now.
Instead, they say that they are going to tackle tax reform. I am on board with this as well. The national debt is my top issue, but tax reform is a close second (besides, the two are closely linked). The first step down this path was Trump's budget submission, yet much to Democrats' delight, his budget included no entitlement reform--none! What kind of conservative declines to try to reform entitlements? This amounts to trying to cut tax rates at the same time you're trying to increase spending. No thank you. We should be cutting both tax rates AND spending.
I agree with the writer of the Bloomberg article I just shared here: when Trump was first elected, I felt that perhaps the best thing that would come of it is serious tax reform. I was confident about that. After observing what I have observed over the last two months--and especially over the last week--I must admit that my confidence in our enacting more-than-nominal tax and spending reform is no higher than 50%. Trump is not coming into that challenge from a position of strength. Nor, for that matter, is the GOP overall. This is crucial though, and I will remain hopeful.
I'm sure that many Democrats stand ready to excoriate me for this last bit, but there are two positive developments that are worth mentioning. Voter ID laws, which I firmly support, appear to be making a comeback, most recently in Arkansas. Trump's DOJ is helping to facilitate this. Additionally, more than 500 companies are expected to bid on Trump's border wall--another policy of his that I support. (I may write more on these two policy items later, but before anyone rushes to tell me how hateful and discriminatory I am, perhaps you could ask first why I feel as I do--if I've not yet written a post about them, that is.)
So maybe all isn't lost. Time will tell. Still, if we cannot reform our tax system or our spending, then I'm not sure how much the rest is worth anyway... One can hope.
Have you seen/read the President's interview with Time magazine?
Honestly, I just don't know what to say anymore. He clearly has some sort of psychological issues that simply are not normal. The symptoms of it are everywhere:
-Extreme obsession with publicity
-Infatuation with himself
-No apparent qualms with indiscriminate lying
-Sensitivity on a level generally seen in children
-Robust sense of entitlement
-Elevation of loyalty to himself personally over capability (even at risk of ethics violations)
I could go on and on, but the bottom line is that he displays a number of character flaws that, frankly, would cause me tell my kids, "Don't be like him; don't be like the President."
In many ways, he doesn't seem to have developed mentally beyond childhood. His vocabulary appears to be quite small, and the way he thinks about himself and expresses his thoughts is very simple and basic. (He simply doesn't know how to speak publicly without using the same adjectives--"great," "huge," "stupid," etc.--over and over again. When describing North Korea's leader, he said that Kim is "behaving very, very badly," which is how children generally think. Kim's issues are far more complex than just "behaving badly," but this is the very simple-minded way Trump views complex problems that he doesn't understand.) To top it all off, he brags about not reading--again, something one generally sees in junior high and high school students.
He takes everything personally and simply cannot help but to respond to insults. Again, that's what children do. His own responses to insults frequently involve criticizing one's weight, appearance, intellect, etc. I feel as though I'm repeating myself here, but that's how children criticize each other. When he doesn't get what he wants, he whines and lashes out on Twitter, and I honestly do see that more frequently in people under the age of 18 than over it. Even this article itself contains a lot of evidence of this: saying, "I'm the President, and you're not" reminds me of "you're not my mom, so I don't have to listen to you!" This is the very simple way he sees things. He sees things so simply that he actually can't see that he sees things simply--even that escapes him.
I think he hasn't ever matured because he simply hasn't had to: he's always been rich. He doesn't understand the lower or middle classes because he's never been in either. He's been rich since he was born. He was occasionally dropped off at school in a limousine, which is very, very odd even for people far wealthier than he.
I feel as though he was always taught that he was special because he was a Trump and has always been taught to take what he wants--so he does. It's not clear to me that he's really ever earned anything himself. Someone else makes decisions at his company for him. Someone else wrote his books. Someone else wrote The Apprentice. Someone else negotiates on his behalf. Recently he's decided to take credit for using the tax code to his advantage, but, lo and behold, someone else (his CPA) does that for him too. I could go on and on, but it appears that someone else is responsible for most of what's behind his brand, while he sits by profiting from their efforts and from the name "Trump" and lives a lavish lifestyle. The few times when he appears to have taken real, major initiative, his efforts have led to fraud (Trump University) or bankruptcy (SIX times). Several people who've worked with him have said that he simply doesn't have an attention span at all. He just cannot stay focused. Others have said that he's just a "sign on the bottom line" kind of guy. When you consider all of this, it makes sense: he signs papers put in front of him. He's not a "thinker." Maybe it's an extreme form of ADD. Maybe not. It's certainly odd though, and it would be hard to argue that it's been an effective style so far. After all, his executive orders have either had no impact or have tossed out by the courts, and he's had exactly zero bills pushed through Congress.
Pointing to his wealthy, entitled background is only part of the cause though. After all, there are plenty of people who have always been fabulously wealth (e.g., Bill Gates--many, many times wealthier than Trump) who are wonderful people. In fact, MOST rich people are not like Trump. So there's something more--something chemically simply different about Trump's brain. What is it? Who knows. It's obvious though.
So I really just don't know. I could speculate all day long right here and never know the answer. It's clear that it's more than just fighting to put America first though. Something's being put first, but I'm not sure that it's America.
I hope no one interprets this as maliciousness. It is not. It's just an objective assessment of what I'm observing each day.
Editor's Note: Yes, it'd still be horrible with Hillary at the wheel as well!
Countable posted a new video today titled, "Impeach the President!" Rhetoric or Reality? Embedded below.
Following in the footsteps of the media's 'Hysteria over Everything' campaign, calls to impeach Trump are bubbling up in the media. The push for impeachment is a political tool to tarnish the reputation of the sitting president because it serves multiple functions.
First, it reinforces the confirmation bias in half the nation who voted for the other guy/gal. Everything the other team does is evil and the presence of the Impeach Trump headline reinforces them that they are the correct team, the moral team.
Secondly, it allows for political opposition to create their Lists of Evil. Every President has had this. Compare:
If you opposed George W Bush you could easily rattle off:
Both presidents lined the pockets of the military industrial complex. Both destroyed individual civil liberties. Both increased the size and scope of government. Both doubled the national debt.
If you naturally agree with one list and resist the other maybe it's time to 'diversify your portfolio' and find more outlets of information. Neither party is interested in the behavior of the President unless he belongs to the opposing party. In the political spectrum, there is not much difference between Democrats and Republicans, despite the common belief that they are the only two choices and polar opposites.
This cognitive dissonance is reinforced by our news sources and partisan commentary. Most people don't get their news from actually reading Bill texts, policy papers or hear multiple sources from differing viewpoints. This becomes evident when they attempt to make their voices heard. As you read, you can hear the talking points relentlessly drummed out since November, mostly conjecture, assertions and falsehoods.
Here are a couple gems from real citizens whose vote has the same equal voting power as yours:
One citizen is delusional enough to think there is a pathway to impeachment and restoration of Democratic Party rule:
The writer’s proposed solution is that everyone simply agree with the writer.
Unfortunately, our biases have reinforced the influence of the two-party system. Until we shake out cognitive dissonance and re-examine events and policies, we will continue to get the leaders we deserve. The true solution to escaping the influence of the opposing political party is limit the government so that the politicians that do slither into office can't impact our lives as easily. Instead of a system where you are trying to force someone to live by your desires, and half your life suffering from their policies, the system needs to limit the power of every part of government.
Instead of Left and Right, a better critique focuses on Liberty. Both parties have expanded the government and increased taxes, regulations, and passed laws that limit your liberties. These policies limit your freedom, your choices, your behavior and your power as a citizen. Ask if the bill your representative is writing is going to make life easier, ask what the cost will be, examine the impact that similar laws have had. Focus on the content, and not the originator. A government should not be about one group winning while another loses. In focusing on liberty, we aim for the win-win in politics.
In contrast, the hyperbolic calls for impeachment are about a person, not an office, not an idea, and not a policy. Such calls stop dialogue, stop negotiations, and widen the divide as people take sides instead of meeting in the middle.
"Get the equivalent of a Ph.D. in libertarian thought and free-market economics online for just 24 cents a day."
This bill would prohibit federal funding for student loans and grants to colleges and universities that adopt “sanctuary campus” policies and refuse to cooperate with federal immigration authorities. Specifically, funding from Title IV of the Higher Education Act would be cut off, which funds the Direct Loan, Federal Perkins Loan, and Pell Grant programs among others.
In response to President-elect Donald Trump’s pledge to deny federal law enforcement funding to sanctuary cities that don’t comply with federal immigration law, numerous colleges and universities across the country have declared themselves sanctuaries as well. At least 28 higher education institutions have declared themselves to be sanctuary campuses so far.
A “sanctuary campus” would be defined as any college or university that:
An institution of higher education wouldn’t be considered a sanctuary campus solely based on having a policy that prohibits its staff from reporting an unauthorized immigrant who comes forward as a crime victim or witness.
If this bill is enacted, it wouldn’t take effect for 90 days, so colleges and universities would have time to potentially change their campus policies to comply with this legislation.
It is theft to allow anyone in the world access to US taxpayer money. When an illegal immigrant comes into the U.S. and gets taxpayer funds in order to go to college, the taxpayer suffers unjustly.
Government is responsible in the protection of life, liberty, and property. Taxpayer money is property.
The "Argument Opposed" is written with an emotional appeal fallacy. Because, of course, voting yay would be "spiteful". It also claims that it would affect colleges just 'because the school doesn’t want to help deport unauthorized immigrants'.
In fact, nowhere does it say the college will assist in deporting illegal immigrants. This bill intends to negatively incentivized those colleges that are going out of there way to get funding from the IS taxpayer for their illegal immigrant students.
Why would a University want to be a sanctuary college? Because it expands their market (student population). And with an expanded market comes greater profits and a better bottom line. And where does this taxpayer money go? Why, it's spent THERE AT THE UNIVERSITY thus lining their own pockets.
And they say greed is a unique trait of the Right...
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Henry Hazlitt’s 1946 book Economics in One Lesson is regarded as a classic introduction to free market economics. Nobel prize winning economist Milton Friedman said of the book: “[Hazlitt’s] explanation of how a price system works is a true classic: timeless, correct, painlessly instructive.” The book’s titular lesson argues:
The art of economics consists in looking not merely at the immediate but at the longer effects of any act or policy; it consists in tracing the consequences of that policy not merely for one group but for all groups.
The entire premise of the book is found in this one sentence, and the chapters that follow are filled with examples of what happens when economic central planners focus on policy effects to one group while ignoring the secondary effects of their policies on all other groups. Hazlitt goes on to explain, in Chapter 17, the effects of governmental price fixing:
Let us first see what happens when the government tries to keep the price of a single commodity, or a small group of commodities, below the price that would be set in a free competitive market.
The argument for holding down the price of these goods will run something like this: If we leave beef (let us say) to the mercies of the free market, the price will be pushed up by competitive bidding so that only the rich will get it. People will get beef not in proportion to their need, but only in proportion to their purchasing power. If we keep the price down, everyone will get his fair share.
The first thing to be noticed about this argument is that if it is valid the policy adopted is inconsistent and timorous. For if purchasing power rather than need determines the distribution of beef at a market price of $2.25 cents a pound, it would also determine it, though perhaps to a slightly smaller degree, at, say, a legal “ceiling” price of $1.50 cents a pound. The purchasing-power-rather-than-need argument, in fact, holds as long as we charge anything for beef whatever. It would cease to apply only if beef were given away.
A similar situation exists in Bitcoin where the independent development team known as Bitcoin Core is artificially suppressing the cost of full-node operation — in effect, impeding free market forces. “This is for the benefit of the consumers,” they say, ignoring the effects of this policy on the >99.9% of Bitcoin users who do not run a full node. As Hazlitt notes, this line of thinking is inconsistent because, regardless of the price at which something is fixed, there will always be people who cannot afford it. The only sound logical conclusions to be drawn from this line of thinking are to either set the price at zero or to allow the price to be dictated by the free market. More tenuous still is the supposition that current full node users will be “priced out” by a block size increase.
Not your typical full node users.
But schemes for maximum price-fixing usually begin as efforts to “keep the cost of living from rising.” And so their sponsors unconsciously assume that there is something peculiarly “normal” or sacrosanct about the market price at the moment from which their control starts. That starting or previous price is regarded as “reasonable,” and any price above that as “unreasonable,” regardless of changes in the conditions of production or demand since that starting price was first established.
Bitcoin Core’s central planning inherently declares the cost of node operation today to be reasonable, but this is done without providing any hard data about which users are running a node, much less what their needs are, which costs they can bear, and so on.
In discussing this subject, there is no point in assuming a price control that would fix prices exactly where a free market would place them in any case. That would be the same as having no price control at all. We must assume that the purchasing power in the hands of the public is greater than the supply of goods available, and that prices are being held down by the government below the levels to which a free market would put them.
Now we cannot hold the price of any commodity below its market level without in time bringing about two consequences. The first is to increase the demand for that commodity. Because the commodity is cheaper, people are both tempted to buy, and can afford to buy, more of it. The second consequence is to reduce the supply of that commodity. Because people buy more, the accumulated supply is more quickly taken from the shelves of merchants. But in addition to this, production of that commodity is discouraged. Profit margins are reduced or wiped out. The marginal producers are driven out of business. Even the most efficient producers may be called upon to turn out their product at a loss. This happened in World War II when slaughterhouses were required by the Office of Price Administration to slaughter and process meat for less than the cost to them of cattle on the hoof and the labor of slaughter and processing.
In Bitcoin, block space is the commodity supply being artificially restricted. The producers of this commodity are the miners (although they do not produce a physical good, the analogy holds). Restricting the availability of the block space commodity indeed discourages the further production of such. New entrants into the Bitcoin mining business are thereby disincentivized: if the cost of producing a bitcoin has already reached its marginal level, then the profits available to new market entrants are not great enough to incentivize the risk-taking required of new mining operations. By dictating such policies and not allowing goods to be subject to the free-market-at-work, Core discourages new competitors and directly contributes to the centralization of mining!
If we did nothing else, therefore, the consequence of fixing a maximum price for a particular commodity would be to bring about a shortage of that commodity. But this is precisely the opposite of what the government regulators originally wanted to do. For it is the very commodities selected for maximum price-fixing that the regulators most want to keep in abundant supply. But when they limit the wages and the profits of those who make these commodities, without also limiting the wages and profits of those who make luxuries or semiluxuries, they discourage the production of the price-controlled necessities while they relatively stimulate the production of less essential goods.
The regulators wish to keep the ability of consumers to perform Bitcoin transactions in abundant supply, while simultaneously restricting the available supply of on-chain Bitcoin transactions. Thus the production of “luxuries” or less essential goods is stimulated: Lightning networks, sidechains, centralized clearinghouses, and altcoins. More foolish than the governmental central planners in Hazlitt’s example, many of the goods that Core assumes will pick up the slack for scarcity of on-chain transactions do not even exist yet.
Some of these consequences in time become apparent to the regulators, who then adopt various other devices and controls in an attempt to avert them. Among these devices are rationing, cost-control, subsidies, and universal price-fixing.
The cost of making a normal Bitcoin transaction becomes too high, so the cost of a segwit transaction shall then be fixed at one-fourth the cost of a regular Bitcoin transaction, Core has decided. Problem solved? Hazlitt explains,
When it becomes obvious that a shortage of some commodity is developing as a result of a price fixed below the market, rich consumers are accused of taking “more than their fair share;” or, if it is a raw material that enters into manufacture, individual firms are accused of “hoarding” it. The government then adopts a set of rules concerning who shall have priority in buying that commodity, or to whom and in what quantities it shall be allocated, or how it shall be rationed. If a rationing system is adopted, it means that each consumer can have only a certain maximum supply, no matter how much he is willing to pay for more.
We can see this today in Bitcoin when certain transactions are accused of being “spam” or of taking unfair advantage of the limited block space commodity. Nevermind that these so-called spam transactions pay the fair market rate to be included, or that these transactions are slapped with the spam epithet on no grounds other than their frequency or their size.
The government may try to meet this difficulty through subsidies. It recognizes, for example, that when it keeps the price of milk or butter below the level of the market, or below the relative level at which it fixes other prices, a shortage may result because of lower wages or profit margins for the production of milk or butter as compared with other commodities. Therefore the government attempts to compensate for this by paying a subsidy to the milk and butter producers. Passing over the administrative difficulties involved in this, and assuming that the subsidy is just enough to assure the desired relative production of milk and butter, it is clear that, though the subsidy is paid to producers, those who are really being subsidized are the consumers. For the producers are on net balance getting no more for their milk and butter than if they had been allowed to charge the free market price in the first place; but the consumers are getting their milk and butter at a great deal below the free market price. They are being subsidized to the extent of the difference — that is, by the amount of subsidy paid ostensibly to the producers.
Again, the consumer is told that the price controls are for their own benefit: “Why are you concerned? You’ll be able to make transactions for less than you can now!” But the producers are on net balance getting no more for their block space than if they had been allowed to charge the free market price in the first place. Worse still, if all Bitcoin transaction activity switched to the segwit format overnight, the miners are now being paid the same as before while bearing four times the burden of resources required. That Core does not consider this outcome disastrous is only a testament to the trivial cost of node operation even as resource requirements are increased.
Now unless the subsidized commodity is also rationed, it is those with the most purchasing power that can buy most of it. This means that they are being subsidized more than those with less purchasing power. Who subsidizes the consumers will depend upon the incidence of taxation. But men in their role of taxpayers will be subsidizing themselves in their role of consumers. It becomes a little difficult to trace in this maze precisely who is subsidizing whom. What is forgotten is that subsidies are paid for by someone, and that no method has been discovered by which the community gets something for nothing.
Treating segregated witness as a capacity increase, as the Bitcoin Core development team does, ignores that the subsidized commodity is still kept in restricted supply. By not allowing the supply to grow in line with what the free market is capable of providing, discounting segwit transactions allows only for a bit of breathing room until those transactions also end up in short supply and begin rising in cost, as is happening with regular transactions today.
Price-fixing may often appear for a short period to be successful. It can seem to work well for a while, particularly in wartime, when it is supported by patriotism and a sense of crisis. But the longer it is in effect the more its difficulties increase. When prices are arbitrarily held down by government compulsion, demand is chronically in excess of supply. We have seen that if the government attempts to prevent a shortage of a commodity by reducing also the prices of the labor, raw materials and other factors that go into its cost of production, it creates a shortage of these in turn. But not only will the government, if it pursues this course, find it necessary to extend price control more and more downwards, or “vertically”; it will find it no less necessary to extend price control “horizontally.” If we ration one commodity, and the public cannot get enough of it, though it still has excess purchasing power, it will turn to some substitute. The rationing of each commodity as it grows scarce, in other words, must put more and more pressure on the unrationed commodities that remain. If we assume that the government is successful in its efforts to prevent black markets (or at least prevents them from developing on a sufficient scale to nullify its legal prices), continued price control must drive it to the rationing of more and more commodities. This rationing cannot stop with consumers. In World War II it did not stop with consumers. It was applied first of all, in fact, in the allocation of raw materials to producers.
Assuming that the public has a fixed or growing demand for using money transfer systems, of which Bitcoin is merely one type, then the end result of restricting the available supply of Bitcoin transactions is that more and more pressure is put on unrationed commodities. Whether those unrationed commodities are traditional payment methods or altcoins, the end result spells disaster for Bitcoin.
The natural consequence of a thoroughgoing over-all price control which seeks to perpetuate a given historic price level, in brief, must ultimately be a completely regimented economy. Wages would have to be held down as rigidly as prices. Labor would have to be rationed as ruthlessly as raw materials. The end result would be that the government would not only tell each consumer precisely how much of each commodity he could have; it would tell each manufacturer precisely what quantity of each raw material he could have and what quantity of labor. Competitive bidding for workers could no more be tolerated than competitive bidding for materials. The result would be a petrified totalitarian economy, with every business firm and every worker at the mercy of the government, and with a final abandonment of all the traditional liberties we have known.
The Bitcoin economy, unlike state economies, is thankfully one of voluntary participation. While the end result of price controls, a petrified totalitarian economy, will be the same, the consumers in the Bitcoin economy have a choice and do not need to remain participants. Packing up and moving to another cryptocurrency is far simpler than packing up and moving to a country with more favorable economic policies, and this is exactly what will happen (we are already seeing it happen with the news of Circle abandoning Bitcoin this week). Attempting to centrally plan Bitcoin’s underlying economics, as the Bitcoin Core developers do today, is guaranteed to lead Bitcoin down the path of irrelevance.
This first appeared at Medium.com
John Blocke writes at Medium.com.
This article was originally published on FEE.org. Read the original article.
Since Congress and our Intelligence Agencies have little to no credibility amongst the public, Reason.com urges them to heed Justin Amash's call for transparency in the matter.
Reason.com notes "The stories, however, are based on anonymous sources from groups whose records of obfuscations, mistakes, and screw-ups are legendary."
Specifically, the Washington Post reports:
"It is the assessment of the intelligence community that Russia's goal here was to favor one candidate over the other, to help Trump get elected," said a senior U.S. official briefed on an intelligence presentation made to U.S. senators. "That's the consensus view."
"The CIA shared its latest assessment with key senators in a closed-door briefing on Capitol Hill last week, in which agency officials cited a growing body of intelligence from multiple sources. Agency briefers told the senators it was now "quite clear" that electing Trump was Russia's goal, according to the officials, who spoke on the condition of anonymity to discuss intelligence matters."
Neither Amash or Reason.com's skepticism is out in left field here. Let's look at a quick report card of lies told by the CIA and repeated by the New York Times which ultimately led to war.
Gulf of Tonkin (Vietnam)
Questions about the Gulf of Tonkin incidents have persisted for more than 40 years. But once-classified documents and tapes released in the past several years, combined with previously uncovered facts, make clear that high government officials distorted facts and deceived the American public about events that led to full U.S. involvement in the Vietnam War.
The Washington Post, now claiming Russian hacking led with this headline on Aug. 5, 1964: “American Planes Hit North Vietnam After Second Attack on Our Destroyers; Move Taken to Halt New Aggression”. That same day, the front page of the New York Times reported: “President Johnson has ordered retaliatory action against gunboats and ‘certain supporting facilities in North Vietnam’ after renewed attacks against American destroyers in the Gulf of Tonkin.”
But there was no “second attack” by North Vietnam — no “renewed attacks against American destroyers.” By reporting official claims as absolute truths, American journalism opened the floodgates for the bloody Vietnam War.
Babies dumped out of incubators in Kuwait (Gulf War)
The Nayirah testimony was a false testimony given before the Congressional Human Rights Caucus on October 10, 1990 by a 15-year-old girl who provided only her first name, Nayirah. Her tear-jerking story included "312 premature babies at Kuwait City's maternity hospital who died after Iraqi soldiers stole their incubators and left the infants on the floor," and of "babies pulled from incubators and scattered like firewood across the floor." The testimony was widely publicized, and was cited numerous times by United States senators and President George H.W. Bush in their rationale to back Kuwait in the Gulf War.
In 1992, it was revealed that Nayirah's last name was al-Ṣabaḥ and that she was the daughter of Saud Al-Sabah, the Kuwaiti ambassador to the United States. Furthermore, it was revealed that her testimony was organized as part of the Citizens for a Free Kuwait public relations campaign which was run by American Hill & Knowlton for the Kuwaiti government. Following this, al-Sabah's testimony has come to be regarded as a classic example of modern atrocity propaganda.
Iraqi WMD (2003 invasion of Iraq)
The United States and the UK asserted that Saddam Hussein still possessed large hidden stockpiles of weapons of mass destruction (WMD) in 2003, and that he was clandestinely procuring and producing more. Inspections by the UN to resolve the status of unresolved disarmament questions restarted between November 2002 and March 2003, under UN Security Council Resolution 1441, which demanded Saddam give "immediate, unconditional and active cooperation" with UN and IAEA inspections, shortly before his country was attacked.
The CIA later declassified the document that supposedly proved our involvement in Iraq, one that persists after 12 years with no end in sight. But its contents are not what top Bush administration officials said during their campaign to sell the war to the American public. Those officials, citing the same classified document, asserted with no uncertainty that Iraq was actively pursuing nuclear weapons, concealing a vast chemical and biological weapons arsenal, and posing an immediate and grave threat to US national security.
Fake CIA videos of beheadings in Syria (Not technically on this list as it failed to get Boots-on-Ground)
A 2010 Washington Post article authored by former Army Intelligence Officer Jeff Stein features a detailed account of how the CIA admittedly filmed a fake Bin Laden video during the run up to the 2003 Iraq war. The article, which includes comments from multiple sources within the CIA’s Iraq Operations Group, explains how the agency had planned to “flood Iraq with the videos” depicting several controversial scenarios.
“The agency actually did make a video purporting to show Osama bin Laden and his cronies sitting around a campfire swigging bottles of liquor and savoring their conquests with boys, one of the former CIA officers recalled, chuckling at the memory,” the article states. “The actors were drawn from ‘some of us darker-skinned employees.’”
If you recall, after a fierce pushback of public outrage at the thought of intervening in Syria, the beheading videos turned the tide of US Interventionism. There are no believable reports at this time that the CIA was directly involved with the fake Foley beheading videos though it's been proven the beheadings we fake and this ia a tool in their toolbox.
Don't you think maybe skepticism and investigation are in order?
Some have already thought aloud of the possibility that the CIA is hoping to raise enough doubt to change electors from casting faithful Trump votes. There's irony for you. In an attempt to ensure 'Russian Hackers' from affecting our election, Electoral College voters cast votes against the will of the people for an apparent criminal.
In its continuing coverage, The New York Times notes that the new revelations aren't even based on new evidence:
"The C.I.A.'s conclusion does not appear to be the product of specific new intelligence obtained since the election, several American officials, including some who had read the agency's briefing, said on Sunday. Rather, it was an analysis of what many believe is overwhelming circumstantial evidence—evidence that others feel does not support firm judgments—that the Russians put a thumb on the scale for Mr. Trump, and got their desired outcome.
It is unclear why the C.I.A. did not produce this formal assessment before the election, although several officials said that parts of it had been made available to President Obama in the presidential daily briefing in the weeks before the vote. But the conclusion that Moscow ran an operation to help install the next president is one of the most consequential analyses by American spy agencies in years."
We should demand transparency. And as long as we're demanding transparency, let's get it as well for Soros donations and for foreign government donations to the Clinton Foundation, just in the unlikely event that any of that affected the election. That won't happen though because there was a day where getting information on political people (Nixon) would get you a Pulitzer, these days releasing the truth gets you threats of prison.
Finally, the CIA is the masters of the universe whose foreign policy Hillary exemplifies, and Trump potentially threatens. Conflict of interest exists to say the very least. The FBI is denying that there is any evidence that Russia hacked the DNC or the RNC. But why don't we start with the CIA and see their evidence. Then, don't stop there. Release information on all the Foreign Elections we have rigged as well. Like this one in Russia:
Don't forget to check out our Drain the Swamp Tracker here!
If you ask what worries me about the incoming Trump Administration, I’ll immediately point to a bunch of policy issues.
Others, though, are more focused on whether Trump’s business empire will distort decisions in the White House.
Here’s what Paul Krugman recently wrote about Trump and potential corruption.
I’m tempted to ask why Krugman wasn’t similarly worried about corruption over the past eight years. Was he fretting about Solyndra-type scams? About the pay-to-play antics at the Clinton Foundation? About Operation Choke Point and arbitrary denial of financial services to law-abiding citizens?
He seems to think that the problem of malfeasance only exists when his team isn’t in power. But that’s totally backwards. As I wrote back in 2010, people should be especially concerned and vigilant when their party holds power. It’s not just common sense. It should be a moral obligation.
But even if Krugman is a hypocrite, that doesn’t mean he’s wrong. At least not in this case. He is absolutely on the mark when he frets about the “incentives” for massive looting by Trump and his allies.
But what frustrates me is that he doesn’t draw the obvious conclusion, which is that the incentive to loot mostly exists because there’s an ability to loot. And the ability to loot mostly exists because the federal government is so big and has so much power.
And as Lord Acton famously warned, power is very tempting and very corrupting.
Which is why I’m hoping that Krugman will read John Stossel’s new column for Reason. In the piece, John correctly points out that the only way to “drain the swamp” is to shrink the size and scope of government.
As you can see, Stossel understands “public choice” and recognizes that making government smaller is the only sure-fire way of reducing public corruption.
Which is music to my ears, for obvious reasons.
By the way, the same problem exists in many other countries and this connects to the controversies about Trump and his business dealings. Many of the stories about potential misbehavior during a Trump Administration focus on whether the President will adjust American policy in exchange for permits and other favors from foreign governments.
But that temptation wouldn’t exist if entrepreneurs didn’t need to get permission from bureaucrats before building things such as hotels and golf courses. In other words, if more nations copied Singapore and New Zealand, there wouldn’t be much reason to worry whether the new president was willing to swap policy for permits.
Republished from Dan Mitchell's blog.
Daniel J. Mitchell is a senior fellow at the Cato Institute who specializes in fiscal policy, particularly tax reform, international tax competition, and the economic burden of government spending. He also serves on the editorial board of the Cayman Financial Review.
This article was originally published on FEE.org. Read the original article.
There is so much wrong with the American healthcare system. It is hobbled by mandates, subsidies, price controls, and every manner of middleman standing between you and what you want.
Fixing all of this – and the bad regulations date back decades if not a full century – requires far more political courage that D.C. has mustered in my lifetime.
Or we could just take the easy route: let insurances offer to willing buyers whatever kinds of healthcare they want.
I explain this in the video below.
There were many bad features of Obamacare, as people are now fully discovering. It combined a mandate that insurers not discriminate against preexisting conditions with community pricing, factors which caused the so-called death spiral. It put too many restraints on competition across geographic lines. It imposed what amounts to a new tax.
But one of the worst features is hardly mentioned. It prepackaged what precisely must be insured, and allowed no room for flexibility. This is one reason premiums rose so much so fast. Insurers simply tallied up the benefits and the risks and dished out new terms. You had no choice in the matter.
We don't do this in any other part of life. If you go to McDonald's and ask for fries, they don't say, "Sorry, we can't sell those separately. You have to buy the double Quarter Pounder Value Meal with a dessert, or else we can't sell you anything."
My proposal is simple. Get rid of the government mandates over what can and cannot be part of what is called health insurance. Let consumers and insurers get together and decide this for themselves. This would immediately create a variety of new lower-priced options.
I explain more below.
Matt Kibbe is a leading advocate for personal, civil and economic liberties. An economist by training, Kibbe is a public policy expert, bestselling author and political commentator. He served as Senior Advisor to Concerned American Voters, a Rand Paul Super PAC. He is also Distinguished Senior Fellow at the Austrian Economic Center in Vienna, Austria. He is a member of the FEE faculty network and cooperates in running Free the People.
This article was originally published on FEE.org. Read the original article.
How the Left's Racial Politics Backfired
Get out the Doritos. Pop the top on your Bud Light. Go down to your man cave, plop down on your La-Z-Boy, invite your friends over and turn on the Packers game.
Normally, white people just don't think much about race. But they are now surrounded by a culture obsessed with both race and gender.
Here come the White people.
CNN commentator Van Jones, clearly upset by the results coming in last night, claimed that Democrats got “White-lashed.” In a way, he was right. But he has only himself to blame.
The problem with liberals is that they want all the advantages of racial politics and none of the detriments. They have succeeded in weaponizing entire racial groups, but when they find that they have inadvertently weaponized the ones who vote the other way, they get upset.
Nate Cohn at the New York Times said something interesting about Trump's win to which everyone should pay careful attention. He said that “white working class voters just decided to vote like a minority group. They're [over] 40% of the electorate.”
The White Minority
In a sense, I think a large part of Donald Trump's vote consisted of people who felt like saying, “You want racial politics? We’ll give you racial politics!”
These people are not racist. They’ve got too many other issues to deal with that really matter. Under normal circumstances, white people just don't think very much about race. They have always been the default ethnic group, so they've never had to think about race. But they are now surrounded by a culture obsessed with both race and gender. And they are regularly lectured by the liberal elites who just got spanked at the polls that they should think about it all the time.
Black Lives Matter, but your little White honky life is politically meaningless. Go help your children finish their Black History Month coloring assignment from school and shut up. And don't even think about touching that Peach crayon. If your finger even touches anything lighter than Burnt Sienna we'll cut it off.
This is what many Whites think they hear. They may be wrong or right, but that is beside the point. And when other things in their lives make them feel undervalued—the loss of their manufacturing job, the collapse of their marriage, the effect of drugs on their family, the bad schools their kids have to go to—when this is the reality of their lives, then watching television and hearing about how everyone except you deserves more attention and assistance becomes just a little hard to bear.
And when you are forced toward sentiments you don’t really think you should have by a self-righteous cultural establishment that is always telling you how you should feel, you tend to get a little cranky, and when you get cranky you end up as the beer frame at the bowling alley. And you take it out on someone who represents this establishment at the polls.
The problem is that when Whites are forced to think about race, they are also forced to act like a minority.
So Hillary did serve some purpose.
Just look at where Trump was the strongest: in the Appalachias and the rust belt. There’s a reason J. D. Vance, author of Hillbilly Elegy, is the man of the hour. It is he who has presented the liberal Democrats with their causa mortis. He’s the one who, by mere reflection on the plight of the White middle and underclass—and its underappreciation—did more to predict what happened yesterday than all the sophisters and calculators manipulating the polling data.
Race did play a role in Trump's win, but not in the way that the liberal media thought. Through their control of what Richard Weaver called the “great stereopticon”—the media construct by which we are all propagandized—we are told that we should think about race and gender everywhere all the time. The problem is that when Whites are forced to think about race, they are also forced to act like a minority—as Cohn points out, a very large one. The problem here is that the result is almost exactly the opposite of what the purveyors of racial politics intended.
Quite frankly, it serves them right.
And when you add gender into the mix, it becomes nitro to the racial glycerin. Liberal Democrats victimized themselves on election night. They need to think harder about whether they really want the kind of culture they have been trying to create: one divided along lines of race and gender.
What they found out on election night is that it doesn't always work to their advantage.
Republished from Intellectual Takeout.
Martin Cothran, the author of Memoria Press’ Traditional Logic, Material Logic and Classical Rhetoric programs, is an instructor of Latin, Logic, Rhetoric, and Classical Studies at Highlands Latin School.
This article was originally published on FEE.org. Read the original article.
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After giving businesses more than six months to prepare, the final U.S. Department of Labor rule change regarding overtime regulations will become effective Dec. 1, affecting more than 4.2 million workers within the United States. With only one month left, do you know how the law will impact you and your employees?
If you recall back in June 2015, President Barack Obama proposed an adjustment to the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) — which establishes the 40-hour workweek and rules to provide employees with a minimum wage and time and a half of their regular rate pay for working overtime — that would raise the minimum salary threshold for exempt employees.
Obama's main goal with the new rule is to strengthen the middle class, expand opportunity and grow the economy.
Check out Jason Stapleton's take below:
Patrice L. Onwuka from IWF.org says the first day of December can't come slow enough for many American employers who are scrambling to figure out how to avoid a financial blow when the Obama Administration’s new overtime rule kicks in. Check out her article "New Overtime Rules Will Have Unintended Consequences" here.
Overtime Rules Based on Bogus Economic Theory
This very day, millions of business managers are pulling their hair out, dealing with a genuine and traumatizing October Surprise that has nothing to do with the election. The Department of Labor, on its own and without a vote from Congress, has made a seemingly small administrative change that is profoundly and disastrously affecting the lives of probably tens of millions of people (if you include everyone directly and indirectly affected).
Its final implementation happens December 1, which means the clock is ticking.
People who six months ago imagined a career with a particular company now find themselves ghosted in light of financial realities.Anyone making less than $48,000 a year in salary is directly affected, and for many businesses this means thousands of people. This seemingly small change is upending many things about people’s career paths, sense of professional identity, and life plans.
And so many others, who are seeking entry-level positions to show how awesome they are, will be denied the opportunity to enter professional life at all, and their absence will not be counted because the costs are unseen. People who six months ago imagined a career with a particular company now find themselves ghosted in light of financial realities.
The regulatory change sounds merely technical at first. The government requires overtime pay for anyone working more than 40 hours per week (“time and a half”), but it only pertains to employees making less than $23.6K a year. We’ve come to think of this rule as applying only to entry-level wage employees.
No, You Can’t
I can recall being 18 years old and begging for more time but being denied by my boss due to this rule – an early experience in dealing with the effects of government regulation. It’s a strange situation: I wanted to work more and my employer wanted me to work more, but government rules made it too costly, so we both lost out. Such rules prevent mutually beneficial exchanges.
If you force payment, it means forgoing other things.Still, you were safe once you got on salary and made more than $23.6K. Only then are you free to work as much as you want.
But now the Department of Labor, with the stroke of a pen, has raised this level to $48K, meaning that some 4.2 million people are immediately and directly affected. If they work more than 40 hours per week, the regulations now require that employers pay them more for extra hours. That means, at minimum, massive new record-keeping requirements for both individuals and businesses. It turns out that businesses do not have some box stuffed with cash somewhere in a closet that they can raid to toss more money to existing employees. If you force payment, it means forgoing other things.
Bureaucrats with lifetime jobs know nothing about work in the private sector.The new rule could mean that millions of people will be reclassified to a lower-status job position: from salaried to per-hour wage. That’s not what anyone wants to happen.
Of course, the Department of Labor – because bureaucrats with lifetime jobs know nothing about work in the private sector – thinks that this is going to create new opportunities for the good life, because passing laws does this for society.
Actually, the rule is hugely disruptive of people’s actual plans and their capacity to make their own deals with their employers. People who desire to work more will be denied the chance, effectively forbidden by their own bosses from providing more value.
It’s true that probably millions of others making between $35-40K will be bumped up to $48K, a raise forced by administrative edict. This is so they can escape the overtime rules, but it comes at a cost.
They will be required to put in more value to the company in order to earn this salary increase, which means more work and less leisure time on their part – exactly the opposite of the stated purpose of the new rule.
Entry-level positions will be foregone in favor of regulatory compliance.These raises also come at the expense of job creation. Entry-level positions will be foregone in favor of regulatory compliance, which is to say that this small change is a job destroyer of the first order.
There are many terrible features of this change. The old law was becoming mercifully less and less relevant to American workers, one of the few good trends in business today. It was always an overly scripted, planned, and coercive way of granting “labor rights” by administrative edict, with all the secondary consequences that kind of bureaucratic rationalism inevitably entails. The Obama administration – with its unfailing instinct for making more messes within sectors that were repairing themselves gradually – has seen fit to blot out of the few good trends in labor markets today.
But consider too just how strange the government’s fixation on “labor hours” is. The idea is that the number of hours you work is the only real determination of the value you bring to your job, the only and definitive way to measure productivity. It’s like they are taking seriously Woody Allen’s dictum that “eighty percent of success is just showing up.” Clock in, clock out. You work more (or just show up more), you thereby produce more value; it’s the assumption that productivity is machine-like, and that value is somehow inherent in labor.
The Labor Theory of Value
Students of history will recognize this whole idea as the labor theory of value. If labor is the source of value, it is surely exploitation for the capitalist to gain so much in profit from the sale of goods. Government still adheres to it. Its outlines were mapped out by the classical economists, possibly even dating back to St. Thomas Aquinas. The classic formulation comes from David Ricardo, as a mistaken derivation of the relationship between cause and effect: “The value of a commodity, or the quantity of any other commodity for which it will exchange, depends on the relative quantity of labour which is necessary for its production..."
This minor error, intuitively plausible, persisted for centuries. It took Karl Marx to add the reductio ad absurdum: if labor is the source of value, it is surely exploitation for the capitalist to gain so much in profit from the sale of goods. Everything that doesn’t return to the worker constitutes ill-gotten gains and hence exploitation of the working man.
Now, just a moment’s reflection makes you realize that this supposed relationship between work and value is not direct. You can’t just make anything, do anything, sit in a chair, show up on time and vanish at the appointed hour, make whatever, and have the results be thereby valued in the marketplace.
The Marxian mania over the labor theory of value caused a generation of economists in the late 19th century to rethink the whole issue and discover the actual source of value. Value emanates from the human mind itself. It is the consumers who act on their values in the marketplace for final goods and services that signal producers about their own decisions. (Their theory in time came to be called the Subjective Theory of Value.)
And all capitalists know this. Everything they produce, every penny they spend on workers or research or marketing, is subject to a final test in the marketplace. Consumers can make a rock valuable or worthless, a song go gold or die immediately, a smartphone all the rage or sit on the shelf, a strip mall become a profit center or be boarded up due to lack of interest. There is nothing that more labor can add to determine whether something is or isn’t a success in the marketplace.
Work as a Proxy
It’s true that sizable portions of today’s contracting workforce charge “by the hour” for its work. By doing so, what you have is the estimation of the passage of time in value terms, given the existence of opportunity costs for the use of that time. But charging by the hour is only a convenient proxy for productivity in general; it is not claiming literally that the passage of time on the clock somehow causes wealth to be produced. And every contractor knows this: if your results are not good, the contract will be discontinued.
The Department of Labor wildly exaggerates the role of labor hours in discerning, determining, and measuring economic value.But in the hands of bureaucrats, the allegorical proxy becomes the real thing. With its mechanical understanding of the process of wealth generation, the Department of Labor wildly exaggerates the role of labor hours in discerning, determining, and measuring economic value. It cares nothing for smarter work, more efficient work, the differences in talent between workers, the aspect of learning, the role of entrepreneurship in speculating about the value of future final output, or anything else. Instead, they use a model derived from mechanics to govern human action, which is anything but mechanical.
The subjective theory of economic value was a revolutionary insight precisely because it blew up the old assumptions concerning the causative relationship between work and reward. In theory, a worker who has one billion-dollar insight that took 5 seconds to discern is worth vastly more than a worker who spent ten thousand hours making mud pies. And what does this imply about the capacity of outside agents in government to manage economic relationships? It means it can’t be done. We have to leave to market forces to work out what is best for everyone in the ongoing process of experimentation, marketing, innovation, and learning.
Bad Theory Comes Home
But tell that to the arrogant public servants ensconced in marble palaces in the Beltway. Armed with their dated and formalistic models, they imagine that they can merely change a rule and thereby cause justice to be newly born in the world. They have been trying for 100 years, limiting work, channeling work, managing work, slicing and dicing work.
The greatest and most intense cost will be felt by the young and ambitious among entry-level employees. There is far more complexity in labor markets than these rules would indicate. This is especially true today, when people work from everywhere, whenever, however, under an ever-greater variety of institutional arrangements. Every intervention designed to manipulate outcomes will produce unexpected costs that benefit neither workers nor capitalists. At best the attempt creates headaches. At worst, it ruins lives.
What will be the worst result of this rule? It will reduce productivity, demoralize many employees, and create vast and useless paperwork.
I continue to believe that the greatest and most intense cost will be felt by the young and ambitious among entry-level employees. This person might be hired at $32K but desire to put in an extra 10, 20, or 30 hours will be blocked by supervisors. Excellence is punished. Ambition is blocked. Dreams are crushed. And all from one change in the regulations.
In the real world, as versus the artificial models tossed around the halls of the regulatory bureaucracies, bad theory leads to a worsening of the quality of life. And all this happens at the worst possible time for both business and labor. Yes, markets will adapt. They always do. But never think that it doesn’t come at a high cost.
Jeffrey Tucker is Director of Content for the Foundation for Economic Education and CLO of the startup Liberty.me. Author of five books, and many thousands of articles, he speaks at FEE summer seminars and other events. His latest book is Bit by Bit: How P2P Is Freeing the World. Follow on Twitter and Like on Facebook. Email. Tweets by @jeffreyatucker
This article was originally published on FEE.org. Read the original article.
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