Friday, May 29, 2009

$1.4 million per job saved: Cheaper than letting GM fail?

The Globe and Mail is reporting on the new cost estimates of the auto sector bailout bill, which could be as large as $13.5 billion dollars. What kind of cost is that putting on taxpayers - many of whom don't have the high wages or padded benefits packages that autoworkers enjoy?

At General Motors of Canada Ltd. alone, the rescue package could amount to a staggering $1.4-million for every job saved, with no guarantee that the bailout will ensure the long-term survival of the company's remaining auto assembly and engine plants.

You read that right - GM alone will cost taxpayers $1.4 million per job.

What's worse is that it's awfully hard to believe that these bailouts actually create or save any jobs at all.

“You're not going to save jobs. All you are going to do is destroy jobs at Ford and Toyota,” said Mark Milke, director of research at the Frontier Centre for Public Policy in Calgary.

Mr. Milke dismisses the bailouts of GM and Chrysler as “a massive transfer of wealth to companies that consumers have already rejected.” The result, he maintains, is that governments “are punishing the companies that have actually run their businesses very well.”

More evidence that when government gets involved in business it's no longer "give the customers what they want," it's "make them pay for what they don't."

Cross posted to the Shotgun.

h/t: taxpayerblog.com

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Shameful behaviour by striking CUPE workers in Windsor, ON

I live in Windsor, Ontario, where city workers have been striking since mid-April. There has been no garbage pickup or park maintenance, but I've been happy to see the people of Windsor stepping up to do what they can to take care of the city. People have started going out with their kids to help clean up parks as a way to teach them about littering and keeping the planet clean. One major cleanup by pitch-in.ca folks cleared piles of Tim Horton's cups and other garbage from the riverfront.

Entrepreneurs have also come to the forefront, offering garbage pickup with their trucks and trailers for people who don't want to leave their garbage at the road in the hot weather for rats or raccoons to tear open or to store it in their basements as the city suggests. It's been absolutely heartwarming to see people helping one another in my city.

Apparently, though, this isn't OK with the city workers, who shout at those trying to clean up and have been reported to have even grabbed garbage from workers at local businesses to dump it into city parks. Most startling so far, though, is this cell phone video of a woman shouting at a couple and their granddaughter as they pick up garbage in a park. The woman aggressively approaches them, tears open a bag of garbage and kicks it all over the ground the child and couple have finished cleaning, telling them, "Here's some more garbage, since you think you should be doing our jobs."


The man who shot the video is afraid to be identified because he's worried the union will retaliate against him. Apparently he should be. The columnist who wrote the article on entrepreneurs linked above had his car vandalized after his article was printed for the first time in a long career of controversial writing.


When unions were first started they had a noble purpose - to protect workers from mistreatment and to give them an equal voice when bargaining for their jobs. The high value of the workers protected their jobs when they were on strike and reminded employers of their value.

Over the years this purpose has been completely lost, especially as legislation has taken away the ability of the employer to have equal status when bargaining -striking employees cannot be fired and replaced if others are willing to do their job for less. Although employees' labour does not have the high value it once did, employers are forced to treat them as though it did.

Public sector unions, though, are the worst. When they go on strike they are basically holding third parties - taxpayers and citizens - hostage to get their demands. Because they provide public services, they are infuriated even by something as positive as people working together to make the world a better place.

The rumour here in Windsor is that CUPE president Sid Ryan is using Windsor to set an example and let municipalities know that CUPE will not take lower raises or benefits because of the economic downturn, dispite the hardships their taxpayers might be facing.

If this is true and Ryan is looking to make an example, perhaps he should start with the CUPE picketers who would intimidate, frighten or shout at the people, including children, trying to keep their parks safe.

Cross posted to the Shotgun.

You know those ads to raise awareness of the government's new and various tax credits? "You've earned it. Claim it!" - as though you hadn't earned every last penny of the taxes you'd paid instead of just the ones the Ottawa plans to toss back your way.

With this year's deficit forecast to be $16 billion higher than planned, clocking in at over $50 billion, it's becoming obvious that Canadians are not getting their money's worth from this stimulus. It seems that the government's real slogan, says Terence Corcoran, is "We've borrowed it. Now you pay for it."

There are roughly 18 million income-tax filers in Canada, which means Mr. Flaherty's new deficit will put the average Canadian taxpayer about $2,700 deeper in hock by the end of this fiscal year. Add in the deficits running up in places like Ontario, and the total average debt load per income-tax filer could run to $5,000.

That's a lot to pay for the thrill of "stimulating" the economy.

How many Canadians will get $5,000 worth of benefit out of what is quickly becoming a major national extravaganza of spending and borrowing? Canadians who spent $1,350 on home reno materials this year will be in debt for three times that amount.

Oh well. I guess at least we're not $2 trillion (and counting) in the hole like the land of the free is this year, but their deficit will surely come back to bite us, too.

Cross posted to the Shotgun.

Don't blame the economy

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As we all know, Finance Minister Jim Flaherty announced yesterday that the government's 2009-2010 budget deficit will be upwards of $50 billion dollars, rather than the originally planned $33.7 billion laid out in the budget.

Surely, though, this is simply a result of poorer-than-expected economic performance, right? The finance minister and government couldn't be at fault.

Not quite, says Terence Corcoran.

... blaming growing deficits on the recession and unforeseen turns in the economy is a political device rather than a solid explanation. Today's deficits in Ottawa are a direct product of five years of fiscal expansionism and continued spending increases. Spending has been rising at twice the rate of population growth and inflation, an unsustainable trend.

In a commentary today in the Financial Post, the Fraser Institute's Niels Veldhuis plots the numbers. Mostly under a Conservative government, average annual spending rose 6.2%, exactly double the rate of growth suggested by the increase in population and inflation. Spending this year is heading for a gain of more than 10% - before taking into account the final auto bailout numbers.

When governments run up big spending increases during boom times - as Ottawa and all the province did - then there's nothing left to tap into when the economy slows down. There's no buffer. Revenues fall and spending growth increases, creating a deficit trap from which there is no escape other than waiting for the private economy to catch up with public spending and begin the "Now you pay for it" phase.

Veldhuis, in his article, suggests legal restrictions on government spending to help to keep it from getting out of control as it has in Canada and, to be fair, all over the world. Canadians ought to see his point.

Cross posted to the Shotgun.

Surprise, surprise: the deficit is going to be bigger than expected

Finance Minister Jim Flaherty is starting to prepare Canadians for bigger deficit numbers than the government predicted when it tabled its budget in January.

This isn't surprising - or shouldn't be to anyone who's a fan of public choice. We should expect to see (and I've predicted) the same thing happen to the McGuinty government's projected deficit in Ontario, and to any other government expecting a deficit this year.

Realistically, and thankfully, Canada's debt-to-GDP is the smallest in the G7, so borrowing is cheaper for us than it is for most. That doesn't mean that expanding or continuing budgets are excusable, though.

For all the rigmarole surrounding Ignatieff's assertion that Ottawa is going to have to raise taxes (or make spending cuts, but thankfully the Tories didn't attack him for that half of the comment), he's right. Getting out of deficit isn't going to be easy or painless for Canadians, and as much pressure as possible needs to be put on the Conservatives to stop piling up the debt so that they don't have to be the ones to make the cuts.

UPDATE: Finance minister Jim Flaherty now says that the deficit will be $50 billion this year, up from the original estimate of $34 billion. This alone will raise the five-year deficit up to $102 billion, barring unexpectedly high economic growth over those years. I have a hard time believing it will happen but realistically no one knows.

Cross-posted to the Shotgun.

Monday, May 18, 2009

"Throw me in that briar patch, I'm guilty. I love liberty."

Governer Mark Sanford (R - South Carolina) responds in this short video to criticisms that he might be "too libertarian" in a way that more politicians ought to.

Cross posted to The Shotgun.

Montreal woman handcuffed for not properly riding an escalator

http://www.theglobeandmail.com/blogs/afghanistanblog/The Globe and Mail is reporting that a Montreal woman was handcuffed, detained and fined $420 for not holding the hand rail on an escalator in the Montreal subway system.

Bela Kosoian, a 38-year-old mother of two, says when she didn't hold the handrail Wednesday she was cuffed, dragged into a small holding cell and fined.

“It was horrible, disgusting behaviour [by police],” said Ms. Kosoian, a 38-year-old student of international law. “I did nothing wrong. They should go find the guys who stole my tires off the balcony.”

Ms. Kosoian, who studies at the Université du Québec à Montreal, was riding an escalator down to catch a 5:30 p.m. subway from the suburb of Laval to an evening class downtown when she started rifling through her backpack looking for a fare.

Ms. Kosoian, who grew up in Georgia when it was still part of the Soviet Union, says she didn't catch the officer's instruction to hold the rail when he first approached.

When he told her again to hang on, she says she replied, “I don't have three hands.” Besides, she had been sick and feared catching a new bug.

That's when the officer demanded identification so he could write her ticket, she said.

Ms. Kosoian started arguing. The officers handcuffed her and threw her into a small holding cell. The officers searched her bag and gave her a $100 ticket for failing to hold the banister and another $320 ticket for obstruction.

The handcuffs bruised Ms. Kosoian's wrists and an officer's boot scraped skin off the top of her foot.

She intends to fight the tickets.

Saturday, May 16, 2009

Fresh from the rumour mill: PCPO leadership contestants' membership sales

Stephen Taylor is reporting the following membership sales according to "a source close to the [Ontario PC] party."

Elliott: just over 8,000
Hillier: just over 3,100
Hudak: just under 7,000
Klees : just over 9,000
New memberships not attrubuted to a leadership candidate: 6,500

I've heard elsewhere that these numbers are very close to accurate.

Taylor also mentions that the CP reported that Elliott is way ahead of Hudak in fundraising, having raised ten times what he did.

If these numbers are representative of what's actually going on with the PCPO, the leadership vote might end up being more interesting than most had expected.

Cross posted to The Shotgun.

Thursday, May 07, 2009

More on the Canada-EU trade agreement

Back in October the Shotgun reported here and here on a possible trade agreement between Canada and the European Union as reported by the Wall Street Journal.

These talks are back in the news - this time in the Globe and Mail. Quebec now wants in the deal, demanding a role for the provinces in negotiations, and Newfoundland demands that the deal only go forward if the EU lifts its ban on seal products. Luckily, Harper's got his eye on the ball:

Mr. Harper said yesterday that his government is vigorously defending the sealing industry both domestically and internationally, but also said he would not allow Europe's ban on seal products to "contaminate" a potential trade deal.

"It is important that in any relationship, but particularly in a mature and complex commercial relationship like ours, that we not allow a dispute on one issue to contaminate our relations on a whole bunch of other things," he said during a news conference at the conclusion of a one-day summit between Canada and the EU.

"If we were to make our trade relations with the European Union only the sealing issue, we will never have any trading relations because as we know this is a disagreement of long standing, one of which I suspect we may never see eye to eye," he added.

...

It's hoped a deal, which will seek accord in areas such as labour mobility, customs procedures, food safety, sustainable development and goods, could be signed within a year.

Stockwell Day announced that a free trade agreement with the EU - Canada's second largest trading partner - would translate into an increase of $12 billion in exports and thousands of jobs. I'm not sure about the numbers, but he's right in saying that the impact of this agreement would be unambiguously positive.

I've been critical of the Harper government on a lot of issues but I've been fairly pleased with their performance on trade - or at least proliferating Canada's free trade relationships.They deserve more praise and encouragement here.

This trade agreement is something that all Canadians and EU members should look forward to... even the Newfies!

Cross posted to The Shotgun.

Stephen Taylor finishes off his series of PCPO leadership interviews with Randy Hillier this afternoon.

Hillier emphasizes the policies he's announced and their benefits to all Ontarians (rather than benefits only to targeted demographics) and delves into some new areas:


  • Musing over the idea of a flat tax, which he says is a worthy one. (He doesn't comment on Elliott's proposal specifically),
  • Condemning Hudak's policy announcement today where he said he would focus on asset seizure as part of tackling grow ops in Ontario,
  • Highlighting his top priority to get Ontario back on track: cutting regulation and red tape that he says stifles economic activity and freedom.

You can also watch Stephen Taylor's interviews with Tim Hudak, Christine Elliott and Frank Klees.

Cross posted to The Shotgun.

It's just plain sexy: Christine Elliott would implement a flat tax in Ontario.

Christine Elliott, once the "red tory" of the Ontario PC leadership race, announced this morning that she would implement a flat tax in Ontario if she were elected premier.

This is beyond my expectations for any major party politician. It's almost too good for me to believe that any leadership candidate in the PCs would endorse this. As a friend of mine often says, a flat tax is just plain sexy.

From Elliott's website:

“The tax burden on working families is too high and it’s getting worse. Ontario families pay more in taxes than for food, clothing and shelter combined,” said Elliott. [The Shotgun reported on that tidbit here.] “By making people pay a higher rate of tax as their income grows, Ontario’s tax system punishes hard work and initiative, and suffocates growth. As a result, it will take longer for us to recover from a recession, and it will be harder to take advantage of growth during times of recovery.”

“Others are proposing to merely tinker with the tax code,” said Elliott, “but now is the time to transform the tax system. Extraordinary times call for bold action.”

Elliott will phase in lower taxes for all Ontarians and collapse the three current brackets into one rate of tax. This means:
  • The Basic Personal Amount will increase from the current $8,881 to approximately $18,000 to provide tax cuts for all Ontarians and take low-income taxpayers completely off the tax roll.
  • The current three tax brackets will be collapsed into one single bracket of eight per cent.

“The most important feature of a flat tax is the positive impact on productivity, employment, income, living standard, and the economy in general,” said Elliott. “This has been achieved wherever flat taxes have been introduced.”

A flattened tax structure has been successfully implemented in both Alberta and New Brunswick and has been promoted by the Fraser Institute and the Canadian Taxpayers Federation.

...

Elliott’s plan specifically ensures that lower income earners will pay less by increasing the Basic Personal Amount. The proposal removes many low-income taxpayers from the tax roll without punishing high-income earners and the economy with high tax rates.

“My tax plan is competitive, fair and encourages economic growth,” said Elliott. “It is simply better.”

This is absolutely outstanding. Did I mention that already? Just in case you missed it: outstanding.

Cross posted to The Shotgun.

Hudak would focus on asset seizure as part of "tough on crime" policy

Back off Tim Moin Yahya posted an article that he wrote yesterday on the Supreme Court's horrendous decision in Chatterjee v. Ontario to allow asset seizure from those who are suspected of (not "charged with" or "convicted of") criminal activity.

Tim Hudak, who briefly redeemed himself to me last week with some good economic policy, has come out, guns blazing, in favour of this policy.

In fact, as part of his "tough on crime" policy package (which is otherwise fairly status-quo for a Conservative politician), he pledges to focus on asset seizure when dealing with grow-ops. From his website, Hudak says he would focus on:

  • Toughening laws and sentencing for violent crimes
  • Taking aggressive steps to stamp out grow ops in Ontario including a focus on asset seizure
  • Toughening prosecutorial and sentencing standards for organized crime
  • Increasing penalties for offenders caught in the act of defacing property

(emphasis mine.)

This is not some innocuous policy that only property rights "nuts" ought to be concerned with, nor is it something that can go wrong only in hypothetical cases. The fallout of allowing such property seizures in the United States has resulted in complete disregard for the law by some police officers - mostly warrants without probable cause - and extremely tragic cases such as the death of an innocent man in a raid that was motivated by a desire to seize his (impressive) assets and suicide by a woman who saw it as the only way to prevent asset seizure leading to homelessness and impoverishment.

Even if you are in favour of continuing the war on drugs, this complete disregard for property rights and the rule of law in Ontario should be wholeheartedly condemned by anyone who cares about either. It is extremely disappointing to see any serious Conservative politician (or anyone at all) endorsing this nonsense.

Cross posted to The Shotgun.

Tuesday, May 05, 2009

What part of legal immigration don't you understand?

What part of legal immigration don't you understand? Hit & Run reports
that Reason magazine has won a "Maggie Award," given by the Western Publishing Association, for the best editorial cartoon - entitled "What part of legal immigration don't you understand?"

I wish (oh, how I wish) that I could post it here in a way that would make it easier to view, but you'll just have to click on it instead. Please do - it's brilliant.

Cross posted to The Shotgun.

Quebec's civil registrar intervenes in naming babies

Apparently Quebec's civil registrar has the ability to reject names that parents want to give their children, as one Quebec couple found out while trying to give their child the middle name "Avalanche."

But Marie Godbout, a spokeswoman for the registrar, says the translated letter should have said the government had a problem with Logan's middle name, Avalanche.

She says the registrar only rejects uncommon names it feels will cause children to be ridiculed and that parents can appeal the decision.

William Azeff says he and his wife chose the name because it reflects their commitment to nature.

He said the registrar originally took issue with the name of his other son, Brant Glacier, before giving approval.

Sure, they're a couple of hippie parents naming their kids after cold-weather phenomena, but who cares? If this kind of legislation spread we might not have Moxie CrimeFighter Jillette.

h/t: Ker

Cross posted to The Shotgun.

Elliott would freeze minimum wage

Like Tim Hudak, Christine Elliott has promised that she would freeze Ontario's minimum wage for four years if she were elected Premier of Ontario to help job creation in the province.

Elliott voiced her concern about the impact Dalton McGuinty’s wage hikes are having on Ontario’s minimum wage workers: “It is vulnerable new entrants to the workforce especially young people and new Canadians—who are most affected by McGuinty’s foolish policy. Minimum wage jobs may soon become scarce in Dalton McGuinty’s Ontario. His wage increases have made it harder for businesses to hire that one additional employee – the costs are simply becoming prohibitive.”

...

Elliott, herself a small business owner, noted that “while a high minimum wage rate often sounds like a nice idea, the reality is that minimum wage employees and small business owners end up paying the higher price. It makes us less competitive at a time when we cannot afford it.”

It looks like this is a policy we can count on seeing in the platform of the PC party in the next election.

Cross posted to The Shotgun.

Monday, May 04, 2009

William Joseph reported last week on some promising economic policy (finally) from Tim Hudak's leadership camp.

Over the weekend Christine Elliott jumped into the fray as well, first calling for an end to the mandated 48 hour work week to return to the 60 hour work week as specified under the Employment Standards Act of 2000, and then calling for employment insurance reform that's better for Ontario and even considering pulling out of the federal EI program.

These are positive proposals, especially if she's serious about opting out of federal EI. Moving employment insurance to the provincial level, where it would be applied to a more similar workforce than it is when spread across the country, would be a good move that could see a reduction in the use of EI as a huge government slush fund and has the potential to make the program a lot more accountable.

These are good steps forward in the policy discussion that should be (and finally is) a part of this leadership race. Hopefully we can look forward to more fiscal policy from all candidates over the course of the week.

Cross-posted to The Shotgun.

Saturday, May 02, 2009

Harper quashes Coalition 2.0

Stephen Harper is denying any rumours that his government would form any sort of pact with the Bloc or the NDP. Harper was quoted in this story:

"That is absolutely untrue. We listen to all members of Parliament. The Bloc Quebecois stands for the breakup of this country. We will not govern this country in a pact or arrangement with the Bloc Quebecois. We've been clear on that for years. I don't know where that's coming from, but there is no contemplation of that, let alone possibility of that."

Well, as fun as it would have been if it panned out (I, for one, would have had a field day), I am happy to hear that the Conservatives aren't that inconsistent.

I reported on the rumors here and here, although as I said from the get-go, even if the Bloc and/or NDP did prop up the government, it would only be a "coalition" by the definition of some partisan Tories.

Cross posted to The Shotgun.

Thursday, April 30, 2009

More on Coalition 2: The Reckoning

From Aaron Wherry at Macleans:

Stephen Harper, Dec. 1.“I would certainly not want to find myself governing this economy today in a situation that required me to follow socialist economics and to be at the behest of a veto of the separatists.”

James Moore, heckling Gilles Duceppe, Dec. 1. “Traitor!”

Stephen Harper, Dec. 2. “The Canadian people made a choice to elect the Conservative Party to govern, without the support of the separatists.”

Dean Del Mastro, heckling Jack Layton, Dec. 3. “Jack, you’re a traitor.”

Stephen Harper, Dec. 3. “The Liberal Party leader proposes to help the economy by signing a pact with the Quebec sovereignists to govern the country. This is not a plan to improve the economy; it is a plan to destroy this country, which is why he should withdraw his proposal.”

Canadian Press, tonight. “The Harper government has sketched out a road map that would see it avoid an election in this recession year and survive to bask in the glory of the 2010 Olympic Games … The Tories need to stave off defeat in confidence votes until then and are considering ways to secure support from the NDP and Bloc Quebecois on a case-by-case basis … The Bloc will table its own list of economic demands Thursday, and they have been pushing for EI changes as well as a tax-harmonization deal for Quebec
One senior Conservative said there will be plenty of ways for the parties to work together. ‘We’re hopeful they’d want to work with us. … Maybe cooler heads will prevail,’ he said.”

h/t: Ker

Cross posted to The Shotgun.

Oh noes, not a coalition!!1!

I've written before about my feelings about using a dead coalition pioneered by Stephane Dion as a scapegoat for everything the Conservatives have been doing wrong since the last election.

So I took notice and was annoyed a few weeks ago when Tom Flanagan posited that, were Michael Ignatieff to get the NDP and the Bloc Québécois to vote with him to bring down the Harper government, he would, in essence, be "reactivat[ing] the coalition with the socialists and separatists against which Canadians reacted so strongly last fall."

So what, oh what, am I supposed to think about the Conservatives now looking for support from the "socialists and the separatists" to get their government through next winter?

This story has some commentary on the situation:

... didn't Stephen Harper once say something about the inadvisability of getting into bed with the socialists and separatists?

Like: "My friends, such an illegitimate government would be a catastrophe, for our democracy, our unity and our economy, especially at a time of global instability."

Why yes! I think he did.

To be clear: I don't think that this is a coalition, but if I actually believed the Conservatives' rhetoric on this stuff, I would. That's why it's so funny, and that's why I'm enjoying this way too much.

h/t: Ker

Cross posted to The Shotgun.

The Night the Prime Minister Purged Libertarians from Canadian Conservatism

Terence Corcoran has written on the speech Harper delivered at the Manning Centre conference in March. Shotgun bloggers have covered this multiple times, and it's nice to have Corcoran weighing in as well. From the column:

What followed was Mr. Harper’s conscious rebuke of libertarianism. In fact, more words were spent undermining libertarians than Liberals. Libertarians, he said, “believe that the solution to all problems lays in less government. More specifically, they believe in individual freedom, freedom from government, the freedom that does in fact underlie the market economy.”

The essence of Mr. Harper’s conservatism is that it is a happy middle ground between two undesirable extremes, the small-government push of libertarianism and the big-government push of Liberalism. This middle ground is based on “conservative values,” which he defined by the three “Fs” — freedom, faith and family. Freedom, he said, can only exist if it is “used well,” as if to achieve public good.

Mr. Harper’s attempt to purge libertarians from Canadian conservatism reached its lowest point when he pretty much blamed libertarianism for the economic crisis. Wall Street, he implied mockingly, was the heart of libertarianism, and Wall Street and the
libertarian free market tanked the economy.

... As if Wall Street bankers were libertarians. Worse, as if Wall Street bankers were libertarians who deserved to have their banks nationalized and their compensation controlled by government.

Do libertarians pose some kind of threat to the Harper Conservatives? Apparently they do, judging by Mr. Harper’s attempt to eliminate them from the party. And he might be right.

(Emphasis mine.)

Obviously libertarians (and fiscal conservatives, who had as much of a right to be upset as libertarians, imho) got the message. There was outrage all 'round.

Partisan Tories, though, often wonder how we could think Harper would think anything different. It's not as though we're talking about a guy who's ever said that, say, "all taxes are bad," or "I'm very libertarian in the sense that I believe in small government and, as a general rule, I don't believe in imposing values upon people."

Stephen Harper knew better and still knows better than the nonsense he was spewing at the Manning Centre conference. I have an awfully hard time believing he will ever find redemption from those he denounced in that speech, and I don't think he would deserve it if he did.

Cross posted to The Shotgun.

Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Rebates ≠ tax cuts

We seem to have angered some Hudak supporters by alleging that his rebate programs would not constitute tax cuts.

This is puzzling to me, since all rebate programs proposed by Liberals are opposed as "big government socialism!" or something like that by Conservatives, but when it's a Tory policy, it's a tax cut.

In the comments of Hugh's post on whether Hudak is the new Tory, someone asked how a rebate is any different than a tax cut. The argument is that at the end of the day you end up with more of your money (true, though you also end up with more of mine) and therefore you are paying fewer taxes (false).

Tax cuts are when everyone sends less money to the government, not when the government benevolently decides to send some of it back.

Consider this comparison: What if Dalton McGuinty had called his handouts right before the next election (convenient, isn't it?) a "sales tax rebate" to help increase economic activity while Ontario's economy adjusts to a harmonized sales tax? Would supporters of Conservative rebates suddenly support McGuinty's handout? I doubt it. And they shouldn't! It's awful, blatant vote buying that everyone should oppose. They shouldn't oppose it less when the vote buying panders to some (Conservative-supporting) demographics over others. Unfortunately, at the end of the day support for these ideas comes from nothing other than who's announcing them in politics, and I have no patience for that sort of inconsistency.

That said, I do have more tolerance for some of these social programs than others. I blogged this morning about having mixed feelings about Elliott announcing she would increase the tax rebates for charitable donations. I said I have mixed feelings there - I don't like the government encouraging any kind of behaviour, even good behaviour - and my feelings were mixed only because of her kind words towards the effectiveness of charities over government.

But encouraging people to make charitable donations is a lot more excusable (in my opinion, anyway) than encouraging people who, for whatever reason, have decided not to have children or to have them yet to have them in spite of the fact that they might not be able to afford it or don't want to make the sacrifices you should make if you're having children. If you're not ready for kids, the government shouldn't be trying to push them down your throat, and so I have no qualms about going after Hudak for that nonsense here.

At any rate, if Tim Hudak is in favour of lower taxes and that's why you're supporting him, that's fantastic. Perhaps you should encourage him to announce it.

Cross posted to The Shotgun.

Hudak announces new goals for education

I'm impressed to see that any provincial leadership candidate is willing to touch education with a ten-foot pole after the whole, you know, faith-based funding thing. Honestly, I wasn't expecting it.

Hudak has announced some minor changes that he would make, mostly in the goals of the education system rather than in any kind of substantial reform. The press release is "Supporting families through quality education," which really left me with high hopes that maybe, just maybe, there would be some acknowledgment that parents might know where the best place to send their kids is (vouchers!) but since any education announcement is a surprise, I suppose I can't be too disappointed to not see major changes. It's not like I should expect that after, say, taking french for five years in public school you should expect we'd want a system that would tach students to be able to actually *speak* it.

Anyway, here are the proposed education goals from Hudak's website:

  • Enhanced Use of Phonics: Greater emphasis on phonics as a basis for literacy and enhanced training and support for teachers in its use.
  • High School Exit Exams: Work with the Education Quality and Accountability Office to introduce province-wide high school exit exams to provide more information to parents, students and post-secondary institutions.
  • Financial Literacy: Make economic and financial literacy a mandatory part of the high school curriculum.
  • Fair and Accurate Grading: Eliminate unfair pressure on teachers to make sure students pass even if the student is unwilling or unable to complete the work.

So there you go. All of those are probably good ideas. No strong feelings from my end on any of it, I just thought I'd let y'all know what's up.

Cross posted to The Shotgun.

Elliott would double tax credits on charitable donations

Christine Elliott announced today that she would double the amount that Ontarians can claim for charitable donations over $200. From her website:

Elliott says she would increase the rate of provincial charitable tax credit for donations over $200 from 11 percent to 22 percent, bringing the combined federal and provincial tax credit from 40 percent to 51 percent.

I do have some mixed feelings about subsidizing charitable donations, but really I'm not going to get all up in the business of politicians trying to encourage charitable donations, especially when there are much more important, discriminatory and economically ridiculous policies to worry about. And even more when the sentiment is something like this:

Elliott believes that local charities benefiting from this policy can often be more effective than government at delivering much-needed assistance to Ontarians.

“This measure would strengthen the volunteer organizations and community groups who do the things that are very challenging for governments to accomplish,” said Elliott.

It is nice to hear a politician admit every once in a while that maybe they can't solve all of our problems.

Cross posted to The Shotgun.

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Tim Hudak misunderstands the word "fair"

Tim Hudak has made a few policy announcements on government subsidies to families. From his announcement:

  • The introduction of a Newborn Savings Account to provide the
    parents of every newborn child with an immediate $1,000 deposit to a
    locked-in, flexible investment plan; and
  • Allowing income splitting for all families with pre-school age
    children, providing parents with the opportunity and the flexibility to
    significantly lower their household tax burden.

I know this will appeal to some of social conservatives who are less concerned with simplifying the tax code or economic efficiency, but I think it's flat-out nonsense, and anyone concerned with economic liberty should, too.

Labeling income splitting as "tax fairness" is absurd. What it is is a complicated subsidy program where people who are not having children or staying at home when they could be working are forced to pay a higher tax rate in order to pay for the lifestyles of others. If this is fair then so are all sorts of tax credits and subsidy schemes for the arts, culture, and green technology that lots of Conservatives oppose.

It is not unfair that a couple is taxed at a different rate than a person making the same amount as their combined incomes. There are costs and benefits to staying at home, and to those who decide to stay at home (or take a less well-paying job), the benefits simply outweigh the costs. They are already staying home for a reason and we don't need to compensate them for their decision.

If you are concerned about tax fairness, flattening the tax system is the way to go. Government shouldn't waste time and money picking winners and losers, whether it's in the economy or in families.

Likewise with handouts for having babies - if you're not the type of people already planning to save for your children when they're born, I'd really rather you do your best to wait until you are before you have them, rather than forcing others to contribute to your government handout.

You know, I wonder how Tim feels about McGuinty's handouts to compensate Ontarians for the increased costs of the HST. Opposing one but not the other seems awfully strange to me.

This is tremendously disappointing to hear coming from Hudak, who I never expected to be this at odds with going into the race.

Cross posted to The Shotgun.

Klees has policy!

In an interview with Stephen Taylor, Klees finally lays out a little policy. Take a look - policy talk starts at around 5:50:

Stephen Taylor interviews Frank Klees from Stephen Taylor on Vimeo.

Klees says he is:

Cross posted to The Shotgun.

Klees would not end monopoly on beer and wine distribution

Yesterday I wondered about the positions of the Ontario PC leadership hopefuls (other than Hillier, who has announced his policy) on the ending of the economically outrageous policy of granting a distribution monopoly to The Beer Store.

Frank Klees, in this video interview with Stephen Taylor, clears up his position: he opposes ending the monopoly.

Cross posted to The Shotgun.

Elliott talks some sense on the HST?

I've heard from a few people this weekend that at an event in Windsor Christine Elliott, in conversations with members, revealed that were she premier she would not stop harmonization of the provincial sales tax, but would instead simply cut the rate.This is, of course, the right thing to do. It's what should be done when the harmonization is brought in.

It is also not what her announced position on the policy is, and her campaign should formally announce this positive development if it's true. If Elliott believes that harmonization itself is good, but the Liberals are bringing it in at the wrong time (believable from her quote in this story), it wouldn't be inconsistent of her to want to only cut a few points off, rather than moving away from the reform.

Should Elliott make this announcement there's going to be a lot more head scratching than there already has been over people wondering whether Elliott is the "red" Tory candidate. This would be good, common sense fiscal conservative policy.

William Joseph also reported that Tim Hudak was back peddling on his position on the HST:

He said he would be willing to propose eliminating it, but he did not say that this would be in his platform and that it will depend on how it is working. I followed up with saying I wished he would be attacking the spending in the budget more than the HST since pretty much every economist thinks it's a good idea. He claimed he does also talk about this, but his website seems to only focus on the "DST," or "Dalton Sales Tax".

Since Hudak has been unbelievably vocal about "stopping the DST" (see his website for an idea of how strongly it's emphasized) it's going to be so terribly typically political of him if he later decides that he's for it, now that he's been against it.

It would be nice to see the candidates clear up their positions on this important issue. I guess we'll have to wait and see.

Cross posted to The Shotgun.

Monday, April 27, 2009

PC leadership hopefuls on the Beer Store's distribution monopoly

The-beer-store-791533As reported earlier today, Randy Hillier has promised that as premier he would end the Beer Store's monopoly on distribution and would allow corner stores to sell beer and wine.

It's too bad that there isn't talk of also ending the province's liqour monopoly, but frankly this is a politically smart way to breach the subject.

As Hillier points out, the Beer Store is actually a government-sanctioned monopoly owned by foreign companies. The foreign ownership doesn't much concern me, but it does bring into question why the Beer Store's monopoly isn't questioned more often by those who it does concern.

What is outrageous is that the Beer Store's monopoly status forces any microbreweries or new beers trying to make it into Ontario to allow their competitors to do their distribution and marketing. Think of the incentives this creates!

William Joseph reported this weekend that Christine Elliott has also expressed some enthusiasm for privatizing liquor sales (though we can assume this would be bound by her commitment to the party's policy process) and that, unfortunately, Tim Hudak did not share her enthusiasm. Still waiting to hear if Frank Klees has a position on this issue - I have it on good authority that his team is working hard and policy announcements can probably be expected soon.

Cross-posted to The Shotgun.

Friday, April 24, 2009

Christine Elliott on Northern development

While Hudak's been talking tax suspension and Hillier's been talking ban repeals, Christine Elliott has been talking Northern development. The candidate announced on Wednesday her plan for helping Northern Ontario:

  • Establishing a law school in Northern Ontario

  • Ensuring affordable access to broadband. (Elliott does not elaborate on what would constitute "affordable" or how the government would assure that it would be.)

  • Establishing "centres of excellence in transforming resource based industries into high value-added, green technology job generators."

  • Supporting the Law Foundation of Ontario’s proposal (I think that's what she's talking about) to use existing videoconferencing systems that are in place for health services to
    provide legal service in remote areas and perhaps creating incentives for law students to move to and practice in under-serviced areas.

Yeah, it's all a little vague, but at least it gives you an idea of where she's coming from. It's a step in the right direction.

So there you have it. It seems that three of the four candidates have jumped into the policy race. It's good to see that Ontario PCs will have something to sink their teeth into when they're deciding who to support. I'm a little disappointed to see so many plans for government to do more, but not all PCs will be and hopefully there's some real debate on ideas coming our way.

(To be fair, Klees has a policy section on the front page of his website, but so far it basically lists the party's principles rather than any substantive policy. I look forward to seeing a contribution from the guy brave enough to breach the topic of privatizing aspects of health care last time around.)

Cross posted to The Shotgun.

Tim Hudak on taxes

Tim Hudak's leadership campaign sent out an email this morning outlining some policy announced yesterday at the Economic Club of Canada:

  • An immediate one-year payroll tax holiday on new hires

  • Suspending the Land Transfer Tax for one-year on all new and resale home purchases, saving homebuyers almost $3,000 on the purchase of a $300,000 home

  • Stopping sales tax harmonization in Ontario

  • A $2,000 government subsidy to anyone purchasing or leasing a new car, provided they are turning in a car that is more than 10 years old

  • A wage freeze across the Ontario Public Service for senior government administrators, non-unionized employees and MPPs for the duration of the recession

  • A less-specific promise to lay out a plan for business taxes that would stimulate private sector job creation

I've been really disappointed that the candidates have not announced any policy involving broad-based tax cuts, which in an over-taxed jurisdiction like Ontario should be front-and-center in the minds of conservatives and Conservatives.

An obvious one would still be to repeal (immediately) McGuinty's health slush fund tax. Even John Tory almost promised that. Flattening the tax rates would also be good policy. Instead, some temporary suspensions of taxes seems to be what's being promised. It's disappointing to see this from a guy who has, for the most part, talked common sense on taxes in the past.

(I'll refrain from making more snarky remarks on Hudak's continually baffling attacks on the HST since I dedicated a whole post to it last weekend.)

Cross posted to The Shotgun.

Thursday, April 23, 2009

Hillier would repeal the pit bull ban

Happy pitbullRandy Hillier announced today that, were he made Premier of Ontario he would repeal the province's pit bull ban.

The effect of the law is that it unjustly targets responsible dog owners and brands Pit Bulls and other larger dogs as dangerous when all responsible dog owners know this is false and does nothing to advance public safety.

As the Premier of this Province and owner of “Robbie” (a Pitt Bull mix) I will overturn this specific breed ban. I will work in cooperation with groups like the CKC and other dog clubs have, to get this legislation overturned.

I will do my part to assist them to overturn this unjust law and protect people’s freedom to own dogs while protecting the public from people who own or train dogs in a manner that is dangerous to the public.

This would be a small but meaningful restoration of freedom to the people of Ontario, who under the McGuinty government have seen legislators and the bureaucracy gain far too much say over how they live their lives.

Cross-posted to The Shotgun.

Monday, April 20, 2009

Apr2009-columbinegetty Today is the ten year anniversary of the Columbine High School massacre, hard as it may be to believe that so much time has passed. (Read here how schools have changed largely as a result of Columbine since 1999.)

Although Columbine was not the first school shooting, they have, tragically, happened more frequently in the United States in the past ten years than they had previously. In spite of other serious shootings since Columbine (the most deadly being the Virginia Tech massacre just a little over two years ago) the debate about what, or who, is to blame seems to have fallen by the wayside. (Though a resulting debate on gun control and how it would affect future shootings continues.)

In the wake of the Columbine shootings, Ray Lehmann, who was the director of public affairs at the Independent Institute at the time, wrote that the shooting was not a product of the many bogeymen that were invoked by politicians and public pressure groups, such as gun culture or violent video games. Rather, he argued that the shootings were a result of the nihilistic ideology of Eric Harris and Dylan Klebold and of a culture that never challenged that ideology.

Here's an excerpt:

To have any force, moral law -- whether secular or faith-based -- needs to be more than a set of oft-repeated axioms, or it will be rendered hollow, and will not withstand the intellectual scrutiny of even a couple of 17-year-old boys. What was missing is not a system that teaches values. Conservative rhetoric aside, we've always had that. What we don't have is a system that defends them: engaging those who wish to learn, fostering critical thinking skills and demanding individual accountability for one's actions.

[...] Adolescence is a time of self-discovery, a time to figure out who you are and what you believe in. But just as important, it is a time to learn accountability, and to accept responsibility for one's own life. There have always been rebels. The difference today is that when an Eric Harris or a Dylan Klebold questions authority, authority never answers them back.

The public debate over Littleton is unlikely to ever turn to a serious discussion of nihilism and moral relativism. It's much easier to quote pop psychology and blame faceless institutions like "the media" or "gun culture" than to point the finger at any flesh and blood person or the values they embrace. President Clinton has pronounced that "we are all responsible" for Littleton. That may very well be. But no one, it seems, is accountable.

If we are to take anything away from this awful chapter, it should be the concept that ideas matter. "Ideas," as the title of Richard Weaver's classic book suggests, do indeed "have consequences." Let the graves in Littleton -- like the graves from Krakow and Dachau to Cambodia and Uganda -- stand as permanent memorial to the lesson we keep refusing to learn.

Read the whole article here.

Cross-posted to The Shotgun.

Sunday, April 19, 2009

Dissension in the ranks?

As I blogged earlier, Christine Elliott has semi-famously come out against Ontario's harmonization of its sales tax in spite of the fact that it's a policy strongly endorsed by her husband, (and economists, by the way) who happens to be the finance minister of Canada.

Elliott is an interesting candidate in that she's announced that she has the support of a couple federal members of parliament: Mike Wallace (Burlington) and Jeff Watson (Essex).

It would be nothing more than wild speculation to say that this uncharacteristic show of support by federal members could be perceived as opposition by the MPs to their government's plan for provincial sales tax harmonization. In fact, the MPs' endorsement of Elliott is almost certainly not an endorsement of her policy positions (after all, what does politics have to do with policy?)

That said, given Elliott's controversial stand on a major policy issue - and we could speculate some more and say the fact that it's the only issue on which she's taken any position is indicative of its importance to her - it is surprising to see federal MPs, who are usually kept on such a tight leash for the sake of the federal party's messaging efforts, publicly throwing their support behind any candidate in the race.

Cross-posted to The Shotgun.

Some PC leadership candidates have picked the wrong time to grow a pair

HstIt's no secret that the Ontario PCs have been largely useless since they were ousted from government in 2003. Despite the disaster that has been Dalton McGuinty as Premier of Ontario, the PCs have feebly disagreed with the most egregious of the Liberal government's policies (at best) and endorsed them (at worst) for five and a half years. So...

... what happens when McGuinty, after 5½ long years of unopposed incompetence, finally gets one right—and not just right, but spectacularly, gloriously right, right on a matter of huge importance to the province’s future, right in substance, right in timing, and right in a way that conservatives, if not Conservatives, ought to be cheering to the skies? Ah, that’s the point where the Conservatives decide to stand and fight.

That's what Andrew Coyne has to say, and I've got to agree with him, about the McGuinty government's decision to harmonize Ontario's sales tax and the Ontario PC's vehement opposition to the first good policy to come from the Premier.

So what do leadership candidates think of harmonization?

Disappointingly, Tim Hudak, the perceived frontrunner, has come out very strongly against this policy, even giving it a cheeky name: the "DST" - Dalton Sales Tax. You see what he did there? (Note- this is actually a policy position on Hudak's part that's displayed on his website and easy for PC members to find. Good for him for at least getting involved, even if he's picked the wrong side.)

Christine Elliott has also come out against the HST . This is confusing to some since she is Jim Flaherty's wife. Watching her try to distance herself from his position on this issue has been amusing. To me, anyway.

Frank Klees hasn't said much, so I can't figure out where he stands. I think he's against the HST without exemptions. I think. This Frank Klees supporter seems to think that this particular instance of Frank Klees not saying anything is illuminating - maybe readers will get more out of it than I did.

Randy Hiller doesn't appear to have taken a position on harmonization, but hasn't slammed it. Instead he has come out against bribing Ontarians with their own money and in favour of shaving down the provincial share of the sales tax.

When I first blogged about the Ontario budget I didn't feel strongly about the harmonization of the sales tax, though I acknowledged that economists seem to be in favour of it. Since then I've been convinced, and Coyne does a great job of explaining why you ought to be, too:

It isn’t as if there’s much division among expert opinion on this. Economists are as unanimous as they can be, not only on the merits of consumption taxes over income tax, but of value-added taxes like the GST over retail sales taxes. Ontario’s current sales tax, because it applies to many (though not all) of the inputs that businesses use, cascades through the various stages of production. Some of this eventually falls upon the consumer, haphazardly. But much of it amounts to a tax on investment: you know, the stuff that makes economies grow.

By eliminating this tax on inputs, via the GST’s familiar system of input credits, the [C.D.] Howe analysts estimate that harmonization alone would cut nearly 11 points off Ontario’s effective tax rate on new investment by 2012. It’s the single most positive thing the province could do to improve its competitive position. But what is that, compared to the delights of shouting “tax grab”?

Read the rest of Coyne's article here. I hope that we can count on Ontario's PC membership to give their leadership candidates a figurative slap upside the head on this one.

Cross-posted to The Shotgun.

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Is it time to cut the Pentagon's budget?

If you're an American looking to cut spending (as many apparently were today), the most unbelievably obvious place to start is with military spending. The Department of Defense spent somewhere around $800 billion dollars last year - that's around 30% of taxes collected in the United States and almost half of the world's military spending.

That's why Cato's Gene Healy believes that the U.S. needs to make "genuine, and deep, cuts to miltary spending."

Call for seriously downsizing DOD, and people tend to sniff at you like you reek of patchouli. Our stale defense policy debate only has room for two teams: hippies or hawks. Would you like to buy the world a Coke, or would you rather cow it into submission?

Fortunately, there's another option. Two of our better presidents pointed the way in their farewell addresses. George Washington condemned permanent alliances abroad, and Dwight Eisenhower warned against "mortgag[ing] the material assets of our grandchildren" to the "military-industrial complex."

Healy (and a book he recommends) argues that military spending as massive as that undertaken by the U.S. leads to decreased security since it encourages free-riding by American allies, and that it is no longer aimed at defense, which was its constitutional purpose.

You can read all of Healy's post here.

Cross-posted to The Shotgun.

Putting protests in perspective

Over at Hit & Run, Katherine Mangu-Ward writes:

Today's Tea Party protests may be having some permitting troubles, but here's a little dose of protest perspective from today's New York Times:

15afghan2-600  KABUL, Afghanistan — The young women stepped off the bus and moved toward the protest march just beginning on the other side of the street when they were spotted by a mob of men.

“Get out of here, you whores!” the men shouted. “Get out!”...

But the march continued anyway. About 300 Afghan women, facing an angry throng three times larger than their own, walked the streets of the capital on Wednesday to demand that Parliament repeal a new law that introduces a range of Taliban-like restrictions on women, and permits, among other things, marital rape.

The same post also refers to protests by same sex couples in Wisconsin, Iowa and South Dakota who believe they are being overcharged by the government because of discriminatory tax laws that favour traditional married couples over other relationships.

Cross-posted to The Shotgun.

Don't worry, it's easy to find out.

Cross-posted to The Shotgun.

More tea party goodness!

Tea Competitive Enterprise Institute, the think tank I interned at last summer with Bureaucrash, had a stockpile of tea in their office for today's festivities.

A photo tweeted by Wayne Crews, VP for policy at CEI first got my attention, but Bureaucrash has the high-res goods and more details on how CEI came to have tea piled to the ceiling in their office:

The good folks from MillionTeaBags.org dropped by CEI today after the Park Service told them that while they had a perfectly legal permit to demonstrate in LaFayette Park today, that they hadn’t specifically asked if they could display the 1 million bags of tea they had trucked in. It’s tougher to have a tea party these days—regulations and permits were not a part of the first one.

Thankfully, some of these tea partiers were friends of CEI.

So the tea bags—at least a portion of them—were stacked to the ceiling in our conference room. Each bag of tea represented the donation of someone to the project, meaning that over a million Americans are sick and tired of being treated like Nancy Pelosi, Harry Reid, and Barack Obama’s ATM.

Cross-posted to The Shotgun.

Tax tips from The Onion

This American tax day, The Onion offers valuable advice for completing tax forms. Although most of our readers are Canadian, I don't doubt they, too, will see the wisdom in these suggestions. Here are a few:

  • Pay your owed taxes in pennies. That will get you on the Yahoo! News
    front page, and it will most certainly make the IRS feel foolish.

  • Not putting that little dash through all of your sevens will result in a prison term of up to three years.

  • Screw over the IRS and save time and money by making less than $8,950 a year.

  • Be courteous and include a sheet of scratch paper with your forms for the IRS to do math on.

  • It's not widely publicized, but now that all taxpayers are part owners of Merrill Lynch, you can use their bathrooms.

Read the rest here.

h/t: Ker.

Cross-posted to The Shotgun.

More WSJ on tax day tea parties

Cross-posted to The Shotgun.

Tax day tea parties

CBC Newsworld just hit what is probably a new low in their coverage of the tax day Tea Parties taking place across the U.S. today. Coverage by "American Politics Panelists" Jeffrey Friedman and Rachel Sklar was less than illuminating. I learned that:

  • The tea party protests are organized by Republicans to protest Obama.

  • The tea party protests are actually tea
    parties! Or are they? She wasn't really sure.

  • It's weird that they're using "tea parties" as the name of their protest, since the idea of people sitting down to have tea and biscuits doesn't really fit with the tough messaging that Republicans typically use.

  • The tea party protests don't have a cohesive message because they are mostly organized by conspiracy theorists.

I usually don't get too upset about CBC bias (everyone's got a bias), but this was just awful reporting. While Friedman at least knew what was going on, Sklar didn't seem to have done any research on what she'd be talking about, nor did she seem to be aware that the name was in relation to the Boston Tea Party, and not something the Queen does each day at 4:00.

(UPDATE: Rachel Sklar defends herself in the comments on the Shotgun. Please check it out.)

The Wall Street Journal, not surprisingly, had much, much better coverage of the tea parties. There is an excellent article by Glenn Reynolds that lays out exactly why these protests are not organized by, nor necessarily good for the GOP. Rather than being simply anti-Obama, they're anti-establishment - at many rallies no politicians are being allowed to speak at all. Said one organizer, "This is an opportunity for Americans to speak, and elected officials to listen, not the other way around."

Not quite the same story that CBC painted, is it? Some more tidbits from Reynolds' article can be found after the jump.

So who's behind the Tax Day tea parties? Ordinary folks who are using the power of the Internet to organize...

... The protests began with bloggers in Seattle, Wash., who organized a demonstration on Feb. 16. As word of this spread, rallies in Denver and Mesa, Ariz., were quickly organized for the next day. Then came CNBC talker Rick Santelli's Feb. 19 "rant heard round the world" in which he called for a "Chicago tea party" on July Fourth.

(The Shotgun reported on Santelli's "rant" back in February)

As word spread, people got interested in picking a common date for nationwide protests, and decided on today, Tax Day, as the date. As I write this, various Web sites tracking tea parties are predicting anywhere between 300 and 500 protests at cities around the world...

The movement grew so fast that some bloggers at the Playboy Web site -- apparently unaware that we've entered the 21st century -- suggested that some secret organization must be behind all of this.

(This Playboy blog story is true, and also hilarious. The original article has been pulled down (and so has the cache) but you can read a copy and pasted version of the post here. It's just outrageous and hilarious.)

There's good news and bad news in this phenomenon for establishment politicians. The good news for Republicans is that, while the Republican Party flounders in its response to the Obama presidency and its programs, millions of Americans are getting organized on their own. The bad news is that those Americans, despite their opposition to President Obama's policies, aren't especially friendly to the GOP...

... And that's the good news and the bad news for Democrats. It's not a big Republican effort. It's a big popular effort. But a mass movement of ordinary people who don't feel that their voices are being heard doesn't bode well for the party that positioned itself as the organ of hope and change.

Read Reynolds' article in full here.

Cross-posted to The Shotgun.

Tax facts to make your head explode

Reason asks, is paying your taxes patriotic? If so, who are the most patriotic Americans?

Check out their fun video on American tax facts.



Cross-posted to The Shotgun.

Massachusetts to revoke consent of adults over 60?

A bill has been introduced in Massachusetts that would revoke the right of anyone disabled or over the age of 60 to consent to pose nude for photography or appear in a sexually explicit movie, regardless of their mental capacity. Says one blog:

According to the Massachusetts governement website, the proposal is to insert the phrase “an elder or a person with a disability” and similar language throughout the law that regulates child porn. So there you have it. If you’re over 60, you’re automatically included in the category of children and people with disabilities, regardless of your mental capacity. Further, it equates all people with disabilities into a single group, even though lots of people with disabilities are fully able to give or withhold consent.

Another points out that some people who would fall under this legislation would include "Meryl Streep, Richard Gere, Bruce Springsteen, Stevie Nicks, Tom Brokaw, Barbara Walters, and Al Gore. Not to mention Sophia Loren." That's not exactly a list that makes me think the market for these photos or movies would be any greater, but the proposal is outrageous nontheless.

Cross-posted to The Shotgun.

Friday, April 10, 2009

Another good article on the drug war

You've heard it all before from me, so without further adieu here's another good article on the drug war from CNN.

And here's an excerpt:

Prohibition creates violence because it drives the drug market underground. This means buyers and sellers cannot resolve their disputes with lawsuits, arbitration or advertising, so they resort to violence instead.

Violence was common in the alcohol industry when it was banned during Prohibition, but not before or after.

Violence is the norm in illicit gambling markets but not in legal ones. Violence is routine when prostitution is banned but not when it's permitted. Violence results from policies that create black markets, not from the characteristics of the good or activity in question.

The only way to reduce violence, therefore, is to legalize drugs. Fortuitously, legalization is the right policy for a slew of other reasons...

h/t: Steve, who says: "Either you have drugs and violence on the streets, or just drugs. Seems like an obvious choice."

I'll second that.

Cross-posted to The Shotgun.

Quote of the day

There's a lot of speculation between those that care about ideas and policy over what needs to be done to get Canada (or any country) on the right track. All too often this debate devolves into an argument over which party is best to lead the country. There's contemplation over whether a party performing poorly is at least better than the alternatives, whether this makes them worth rooting for or not, or even whether there is any meaningful alternative at all.

Stephen Harper should be proof enough to principled conservatives, libertarians, or anyone who believes in smaller government and/or increasing individual liberty that it really does not matter who you elect when the electoral and government institutions of a country are rigged against doing the right thing.

Which brings us to what I declare to be the quote of the day, for no other reason than I wanted to share it:

“The important thing is to establish a political climate of opinion which will make it politically profitable for the wrong people to do the right thing. Unless it is politically profitable for the wrong people to do the right thing, the right people will not do the right thing either, or if they try, they will shortly be out of office.”

- Nobel Laureate Milton Friedman

It's an oldie, but a goodie.

Cross-posted to The Shotgun.

Kay to conservatives: stop blaming gay marriage

Jonathan Kay has a good article over at Full Comment in response to conservatives who are upset about the possibility that polygamy could win its battle in the courts and demand that we all renounce support for gay marriage as a result.

Kay doesn't think that polygamy will win in the courts, but he thinks it's beside the point, anyway.

... even if polygamy makes it through the courts, Warren can't put the
blame on gay marriage. The two are related only in the sense that both
are independent symptoms of a society gradually cutting itself adrift
from traditional Judeo-Christian mores. Correlation does not imply
causation.

In fact, it's unclear to me whether gay marriage has had any broad liberalizing effect on our society — notwithstanding the hysterical prophesies emitted by social conservatives upon its inception.

In fact, a recent poll of 5,500 Canadian teenagers shows that, if anything, the next generation of brides and grooms will be more responsible and conventionally bourgeois than its forebears (despite a marked decline in religiosity).

I threw in my two cents on the polygamy debate last month here.

Cross-posted to The Shotgun.

Libertarianism in a nutshell

Karen Selick's excellent five-minute explanation of libertarianism that she delivered at the Manning Networking Conference and Exhibition last month as part of the panel of ideological dimensions of conservatism (which I wrote about here) has been republished in the National Post.

One of the most important parts of Selick's talk is here:

I want to stress that libertarianism is strictly a political philosophy. Philosophy has five main branches: metaphysics, epistemology, ethics, aesthetics and politics. Politics is the branch that deals with the relationship between the individual and the state. Libertarianism is a political philosophy only. It's not a package deal. It says nothing whatsoever about any of the other branches of philosophy. So, for instance, there are some libertarians who are atheists, and others who are religious. The two groups have radically different views on metaphysics and epistemology, but they agree on politics. They agree on what the state should or shouldn't do to its citizens and for its citizens.

I feel compelled to address the erroneous notion that conservatives often have that libertarians are also libertines. A moment ago, I said that as a libertarian, I would legalize drugs, prostitution and so on. But in my own personal life, I neither engage in nor advocate that others engage in such activities. In fact, I personally behave pretty much like a social conservative. But I don't do it because that's what the state decrees. I do it because of the branch of philosophy called ethics. According to my ethics, self-destructive activities are evil, and people shouldn't engage in them. But that's entirely different from saying, "The state should outlaw them."

So if explanations of political philosophies are your thing, read the rest here..

Cross-posted to The Shotgun.

Thursday, April 02, 2009

The biggest perk of being a former Tory PM

When you ask to be removed from all lists someone actually listens. If you don't agree that this is a significant perk you are obviously not on and trying to be removed from any Conservative Party call lists.

I'd put money on him still receiving phone calls for years to come, though.

Cross-posted to The Shotgun.

Wednesday, April 01, 2009

No more black cars in the Golden State?

So rumour has it that California is thinking about banning black cars.

Yes, you read that right. No, I'm not making it up. It's not an April Fools story. Man, do I wish it was an April Fool's story.

The California Air Resources Board (CARB) has decided that non-reflective cars get hotter in the sun, which makes air conditioning systems work harder, which uses more gas, which increases greenhouse-gas emissions.

California legislators say that they have not called for a ban on any paint colours and have only said that cars must have reflective paint by legislated dates. Representatives for the automakers say that they can't meet CARB's demands without eliminating dark-coloured paint. Snopes tries to clear things up:

The rumor arose as the board considered requiring reflective car paints and windshields. The premise was that a cooler car would require a driver to use less air conditioning, which would require less gasoline, which would mean fewer greenhouse-gas emissions.

Several groups, including the Alliance of Automobile Manufacturers, which lobbies for the big automakers, complained that a draft proposal to change the car-painting process to make vehicles more reflective would "eliminate a significant number of vehicle colors" because darker colors absorb more heat." Even the ARB itself, in a PowerPoint presentation on the paint proposal, stated, "Jet black remains an issue," though it never said the color should be banned.

So to be fair to the legislators, they have not outright banned dark colours for cars, but the argument is that that's what's going to have to happen for automakers to fall in line with regulations.

Another auto blog elaborates on the paint problem:

According to Ward's, suppliers have reportedly been testing their pigments and processes to see if it's possible to meet CARB's proposed mandate of 20% solar reflectivity by 2016 with a phase-in period starting in 2012, and things aren't looking good. Apparently, when the proper pigments and chemicals are added to black paint, the resulting color is currently being referred to as "mud-puddle brown." That doesn't sound very attractive, now does it?

I'm sort of inclined to believe the automakers over the legislators since they know the business better, and legislators are typically inclined to pass legislation that sounds good without considering the unintended consequences. Obviously, though, both sides have vested interests.

If you ask me, what California needs is some legislation (or elimination of legislation) to make it CARB-free. Ha ha. Get it? (I'm sorry, that was awful.)

Still can't believe it? Read more about the depressing (or maybe it's hilarious... I really can't decide) truth here and here.

Cross-posted to The Shotgun.