Posts tagged ‘Nick Gillespie’

All You Need to Know About State Fiscal Responsibility

Via Reason

The baseline takes state government budgets and grows them by population growth and inflation.  In other words, baseline spending in 2007 would be the same real level per capita as in 2002.  The Total Revenue line is the actual revenue collections by state governments.  Actual collections grew about 4 times faster than population and inflation in this period.  And states still did not balance their budgets or pay down debt in this period.  Nick Gillespie writes

Had the states kept their outlays constant while allowing for inflation and population growth, they would have been sitting on $2 trillion in reserves when the recession hit. Instead, they were broke heading into the recession and are in even worse position now.

Revenue is IRRELEVANT to fixing state budget problems.  No matter how much money is collected, governments will spend all the money and more.  The only solution I can see is imposition of statutory, perhaps Constitutional, spending caps in each state.

Correlation in Political Views

(via Popehat) one of the writers at Balloon Juice offers this test of a "reasonable" Conservative blog

1) Do you believe in evolution?

2) Do you believe that the average temperature on earth has increased over the past 30 years?

A few semi-random thoughts:

  • Count me as a yes for both
  • Is the best test of the likely reasonableness of a political blog really to ask two questions about science that such a blog might never even touch?  This is not an entirely rhetorical question -- just the other day I linked the data that suggested that asking your date about beer might be the best way to test their views on sex.  Sometimes odd cross-correlations exist, but I don't think these would be my first test
  • I find the Left's obsession with evolution as a litmus test for political thought to be funny, as the theory of evolution is largely irrelevant to any political questions except fairly narrowly the question of teaching evolution in schools.   I find it funny as much of the Left does not believe in a science - micro economics (very specifically differentiated from macro) - that is also fairly old and well understood and is much more relevant to typical political blog discourse.  I had a debate on national TV a few weeks ago with a man who claimed, as many on the Left will, that raising the minimum wage will increase employment.   If we want to test blogs based on scientific questions, why wouldn't a far more relevant question in public discourse be "do you believe demand curves slope down" or perhaps something like "do you believe breaking windows stimulates the economy?"
  • The second test is not a bad test of any site writing about global warming and climate change.  I don't know many science-based skeptics who would deny that global temperatures have likely increased over the last 30 years  (from a data base without UHI or alarmist manual adjustments or large data holes, the trend is something like 0.1C per decade).   I say "likely" because it could be argued that 0.1C is within the error bar of the measurement. Even so, this wouldn't be my first test, even for climate sites
  • I would tend to have four tests of the liberal and conservative sites I read
    • Is it interesting to read (after all, this is a freaking unpaid hobby)
    • Is the data-analysis-to-name-calling ratio fairly high
    • Are they willing to step out of team politics and question their own team from time to time
    • Do they have interesting perspectives on individual liberty.  I can plow through Marxist economic posts on progressive sites if from time to time they have a useful perspective on, say, indefinite detentions or gay marriage.  I can plow through some social Conservatism if they have useful posts on economics and fiscal policy.

This post from Nick Gillespie is sort of relevent, in which he talks about CPAC and social conservatives.  One line that struck me

A person's choice of sexual partner in no way means he or she can't be in favor of less spending on farm subsidies.

If I weeded out every blog that held some sort of view with which I disagree (or might even call "unreasonable") I would be down to about 3 blogs in my reader.

In Case You Were Not Depressed Enough...

I wrote the other day about restrictions in the Federal stimulus bill that substantially reduced the ability of state governments to cut spending in response to lower tax revenues.  It turns out there are a myriad of other limitations, including court cases and past consent decrees, that make it nearly impossible for states to do much if anything about their budget shortfalls (except raise taxes, of course).  Just about everyone except for taxpayers have a set of lawyers in courts full time preventing budget changes that affect their special interests.

If you thought elected officials in your state were running the budget show, you might be in for a surprise.  Likely as not the federal courts are more powerful budget authorities than the state's legislature or executive.  A few consent decrees can easily cripple any attempt to pass a balanced budget requirement in a state legislature, and overturn the act itself in federal court if it does happen to pass.  Tennessee, for instance, was shacked by three consent decrees, all of which were administered by federal judges.  Before even writing budget legislation, the governor of Tennessee had to persuade two federal judges, who were the de facto managers of the state's health care system, that any changes were a good idea.

The most damaging consent decrees to state budgets tend to be related to staffing levels.  A number of state agencies settled all manner of employment and discrimination claims by entering consent decrees freezing staff levels.  Often state employee unions were among the most active consent decree wielders.  These decrees tend to lock up not only staff levels, but salaries (through "constructive termination" clauses that equate even modest pay cuts with termination and thereby trigger staffing minimum clauses) and pension benefits as well.

Explain to me again how these government officials who signed these incredibly short-sighted consent decrees just to get through their own term in office are more long-term focused than private actors?  Would any of you short-term-focused capitalists sign an open-ended agreement to never cut staff or salaries or benefits for employees no matter what the future fortunes of your company were?

The only way through this is going to be a massive string of state and local government bankruptcies.

Update: Sort of related, I got this in my email today from a reader

The City of San Francisco pays for two Police Departments and two Fire Departments, less about 5%.
Both have one active-duty department and one retired-duty department.
When a cop or firefighter retires in San Francisco, he receives a 90% pension.

Then, every year THEREAFTER, the retiree receives 50% of every raise negotiated by the active duty Memorandum of Understanding.

He seems to have it right, he links to this site, which does indeed show that the COLA on retiree pay includes 50% of all raises given to active duty employees.  I wonder how early they are vested?

Update #2: Via Nick Gillespie, update #1 is not that unusual:

Retirement incomes for the most experienced government employees top out at 88 percent of their active-duty pay. Unlike most private-sector workers, whose retirement is driven by the strength of the stock market and their 401-k plans, the pensions for government employees are guaranteed.

In addition to higher average retirement incomes, government retirees in Ohio also enjoy government-sponsored health care, can retire as young as 48 for police and firefighters, and have the opportunity to 'retire' and collect a full pension while going back to work, often at full pay for doing the same job. Such 'double-dippers' were paid more than $741 million by the State Teachers Retirement System last year and $240 million by the Public Employees Retirement System, records show.

In Toledo, even the mayor is a double-dipper.

Since starting his current term in January 2006, Toledo Mayor Carty Finkbeiner has drawn his annual salary of $136,000 in addition to a state pension for more than two decades in elected and unelected positions. He is leaving office on Monday.

And because he is already receiving a Public Employees Retirement System pension, Toledo taxpayers have paid $75,221 into an annuity as an additional retirement fund for Finkbeiner.

I vote for Noble House

Nick Gillespie at Reason asks folks for their favorite business novels.  I vote for Noble House by James Clavell.   Ayn Rand's Atlas Shrugged has a great deal of influence on me, but that book is ultimately about government making business impossible, not about the conduct of business per se.  Noble House is a sympathetic and hugely entertaining depiction of business people being business people in as close to a libertarian environment as we might find (1960s Hong Kong) in the modern world.  Sure its not real business -- too much deal making, not enough productive investment, but it is a novel for god sakes, and not a seminar on the capital asset pricing model.

PS - Is there anyone out there who has read both novels and would rather hang out in a bar with Hank Reardon than Ian Dunross?  I didn't think so.

PPS- Personally, I think this business novel is good too.

Fortifying the Border

So we're going to build a wall and send an army to the border.

Maintaining a military to defend a group of people against outsiders who wish to use force against them is one of the core functions of government.  Even crazed libertarian anarcho-capitalists like myself concede it as a function of government.  If libertarians were to have their version of the ten commandments, the only phrase that would have to be on the stone is "Thou shalt not deal with thy neighbor through force or fraud."  The government maintains police and a military to handle the people who wish to violate this one commandment.

Throughout the years, countries have built armies and fortifications to defend against invaders who wanted to loot their lands, or steal their property, or impose their own version of racial or religious uniformity.  The US Army itself has fought for freedom, it has fought to restore democracy and individual rights, it has fought to stop genocides. 

Today, the US Army sallies forth again, to fight for and defend .... what? 

It fights to stop waves of Mexican immigrants that are dangerous because they ... want to freely exchange their labor with US Citizens?

It fights to protect Americans from ... competition for unskilled labor jobs?

It valiantly rides forth to make sure Americans never face the horror of ... interacting with someone with only broken English?

The soldiers racing to the borders are not fighting for me, because I am not in danger.  And neither is anyone around me here in Arizona -- no one from outside the border is threatening me with force or fraud (surprisingly frequent emailers sending me messages about Mexicans all being diseased criminals notwithstanding).  Its not like I live blithely ignorant of the border area in Kansas.  I life in Phoenix, and run businesses  right down on the border.  I don't feel a threat or danger.  In fact, the only danger I see is that the army may come down and drag families who are my friends out of their homes and out of the country (or into concentration camps, as one conservative writer longed for).

Immigration opponents are sometimes a little hazy about what danger they are trying to fix.  I agree there is a problem with the welfare state when it meets immigration, which I discussed here and proposed a solution for it here.  Democratic politicians still are confused on this particular problem, wanting some immigration solution but refusing to consider limiting access to the welfare state.   If the problem is infrastructure (police, prisons, schools, etc.) then it could be possible to provide national funds to border regions for this purpose, rather than for armies and walls (the Feds, after all, are handing out hundreds of billions to New Orleans).  And if the problem is too many people who don't look like us Anglo-Saxons, well, sorry  (If you don't think that this is the real issue for many anti-immigration folks, think about the recent scare headlines that soon a majority in the US may be Hispanic.  Can you imagine similar anxiety over the headline "majority of US may soon be of Canadian descent"?)

Update:  Nick Gillespie comments on the fact that Congress has given its official sanction to my speaking English.

Thank you, Middle Eastern 9/11 hijackers, for finally getting the point
through our thick skulls (forgive our slowness, but all too many of us are
descended from immigrants) that the greatest security threat to the United
States is the influx of Spanish speakers from across the border with Mexico.

Christ, it's bad enough that we have to eat foreign food, live in states
with Spanish-derived names, and answer that extra question about which
language to use at the ATM. (Thought experiment: How much is that extra
second or two of time slowing down the U.S. economy and driving down our
productivity, precisely at the moment when the Chinese are breathing down
necks like a bunch of post-industrial railroad coolies? You can be damn sure
that the Chinese government doesn't allow ATM users to pick their own

As I have written before, I have gotten more bizzaro emails on my pro-immigration stand than anything else I have written about.  Gillespie apparently has had the same experience.