Death Threats Against Ted Cruz Abound on Twitter

With some death threats against Ted Cruz making headlines, there are plenty more people wishing death upon the senator from Texas. Searching Twitter only back through October 15 led to quite a few other people sharing similar sentiments.

LANGUAGE WARNING:

CruzDeathThreat6CruzDeathThreat8CruzDeathThreat10

CruzDeathThreat9 CruzDeathThreat1 CruzDeathThreat2CruzDeathThreat4   Others had less initiative and just had death wishes for Senator Cruz:

CruzDeathThreat3CruzDeathThreat5CruzDeathThreat7These sorts of threats are not rare. Many malevolent defenders of big government are out there willing to use intimidation and scare tactics to attempt to silence dissent. Mitt Romney received a slew of death threats around the time of the election. Phil Mickelson was derided simply for speaking out against high tax rates. Albeit, Ted Cruz is not one to back away from the fight over the proper role of government, so hopefully these threats won’t get to him.

–Jonathan Ellis (follow me on Twitter @JHartEllis)

The Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad, ‘Clean’ CR

As the shutdown continues congressional Democrats and a handful of small Republicans have been repeatedly calling for a “clean” continuing resolution to end the shutdown and fund the government at historic levels. This description, a clean bill, sounds nearly pleasant until you remember that the legislation at the heart of the shutdown debate is the incongruously named law known as the “Affordable” Care Act. Just as this promise of affordability has turned out to be a grand farce, so to would this notion that continuing to fund the government at nosebleed levels fail to be any sort of “clean”.

KeepUsingThatWord

It may sound simple or just to continue spending on autopilot until you remember just how monstrously huge the U.S. federal budget has become. What was promised as a one-time stimulus in the wake of the great recession soon became absorbed by the general budget. A “clean” continuing resolution merely perpetuates the spending binge that has created budget-busting deficits and made the debt soar. Presented below is a table of recent budget figures in real dollars:

US Federal Budget Historical Figures (constant 2005 dollars)
FY Outlays in $2005 Outlays  %GDP Receipts $2005 Receipts %GDP Deficit  $2005 Deficit %GDP
2007 2564.1 19.7 2413.1 18.5 -151.0 -1.2
2008 2703.8 20.8 2288.1 17.6 -415.7 -3.2
2009 3176.8 25.2 1901.0 15.1 -1275.8 -10.1
2010 3083.6 24.1 1929.1 15.1 -1154.5 -9.0
2011 3149.8 24.1 2013.7 15.4 -1136.1 -8.7
2012 3022.2 22.8 2093.4 15.8 -928.8 -7.0
2013 3086.2 22.7 2271.4 16.7 -814.8 -6.0
Source: http://www.whitehouse.gov/omb/budget/historicals/

The stimulus that was promised to be a temporary spike in the budget instead led to a plateau of hand-over-fist spending. Just to return to 2007-levels of spending of 19.7% of GDP, the federal budget would need to be slashed 11.0%, and it’s not as if 2007 was some consummate example of extraordinary fiscal responsibility. Incidentally, this number would also shrink the budget deficit to around 3% of GDP, the Eurozone standard in which anything over 3% is considered irresponsible. To get spending under 20%, a threshold often called for under a balanced-budget amendment (a fight that is always worth revisiting), the federal budget would need to be cut 9.7%. Even with cuts in this ballpark, deficits would continue at north of $400 billion (nominal) per year.

To put these numbers in perspective, the bitter battle over the sequestration was over a cut of approximately 3%, and this wasn’t even a real cut: budgets are currently set to continue to be larger year-over-year indefinitely until they get completely out of control. Just to roll back the size of government by only a couple years would necessitate across-the-board cuts that would be four to five times more potent. Is that a good route to pursue? Not especially, but the point is that with such large cuts needed, continuing to spend at current levels is grotesquely feckless.

If across-the-board cuts aren’t the best solution, it becomes paramount to look at how the scope of government can and must be cut. It’s better to cut a few bad programs by 100% than to cut both the good and the bad by a certain amount, and Obamacare is a prime example of a bad program that needs to be cut entirely. Now a “clean” continuing resolution implies that funding simply continues only for current programs, but Obamcare would continue to roll out under the “clean” bill. So a “clean” CR would not only maintain current dizzying levels of spending, but it also would fund the implementation of a new and massive bureaucratic nightmare that would vastly increase the scope of government at a time when that scope needs to be reduced.

As the shutdown continues, the debt ceiling date draws closer and closer, and these two issues will likely be addressed simultaneously. If politicians are willing to keep the government shut down for two weeks or more (as many have hinted), then it means they are willing to keep the government in shutdown for more than 4% of the year. As such 4%, targeted or not, then seems like an amicable short-term, budget-reduction target. That plus stopping the expansion of federal power by halting implementation of the Affordable Care Act seems like a reasonable solution. Together, these two provisions would at least start to address our fiscal issues and move us toward sustainable budgets. Doing nothing, that is, passing a “clean” continuing resolution and blindly passing a debt ceiling hike, keeps us on the path of fiscal ruin.

–Jonathan Ellis (follow me on Twitter @JHartEllis)

Lefties hate on Lefty, why Phil Mickelson apologized

Phil Mickelson, also known as Lefty for his left-handed swing, says that he regrets remarks he made about his higher tax bill. New taxes from California’s Prop 30 plus the taxes from the recent fiscal cliff deal will push his effective tax rate somewhere near or north of 50%. So what sort of atrocious comments did he make that warranted an apology? Here’s what he said:

“There are going to be some drastic changes for me because I happen to be in that zone that has been targeted both federally and by the state, and it doesn’t work for me right now, so I’m going to have to make some changes.”

The audacity! The absurdity! How dare he! Okay, so this is tame at best and is mostly just an acknowledgement that tax policy does indeed affect behavior, but the nerve on this guy! What’s strange about this is that for as mild a statement that Mickelson made about taxes, he somehow felt compelled to take back his thoughts:

“I apologize to those I have upset or insulted, and assure you I intend not to let it happen again.”

It’s somewhat puzzling as to who the heck might actually feel upset or insulted over Phil making personal decisions due to the new tax environment. Looking at France recently, there actually is precedent for hating on people trying to escape taxes. President Hollande of France has been pushing for a 75% tax rate, and that has led to an exodus of high-profile people leaving the country. Bernard Arnault, France’s richest man, sought to move to Belgium. Gerard Depardieu was given Russian citizenship after taking a stand against Hollande’s policy. Even Nicolas Sarkozy, the former french president, is rumored to be thinking of leaving. Depardieu took umbrage at the insults:

“I am leaving because you believe that success, creation, talent, anything different must be sanctioned”

But proud socialist dogma is basically unique to France, right? Well, scouring the comments sections of sites reporting on this story revealed many people mocking Mickelson. There was also no shortage of Phil hatred on Twitter:

LANGUAGE WARNING!

We’ve come a long way from when dissent was patriotic. Now you can’t even disagree with policy–you’re just expected to shut up and do what you’re told and pay your taxes.

Also on the subject of patriotism, remember when Joe Biden said that paying more in taxes was patriotic? The natural derivative of that is that questioning tax policy is somehow unpatriotic, and lefties were at their worst in throwing this judgment at Mickelson:

The culture is changing. Success is demonized, wealth is viewed as a shameful result of greed or luck, and this will only get worse so long as cowards such as Mickelson bow under the pressure.

‘Twas the Night Before Cliffmas

‘Twas the night before Cliffmas, when all thro’ the House,

Every creature was stirring, every last louse;

My savings I clung to in worry and fear,

In hopes that the fiscal mess soon would be clear;

The Dems didn’t wrestle–all smug for the feds,

As visions of revenue danc’d in their heads.

Obama in his golf shorts for a ten-hour flight,

Had just landed to join in the long winter’s fight-

When just then on C-SPAN there arose such a clatter,

I sprang from the bed to see what was the matter.

Away to the TV I flew like a flash,

Turned up the volume–almost threw up my hash,

For applause and handshakes before the foul show,

Gave the foresight this mid-day presser would blow;

When, what to my wandering eyes should appear,

But a miniature man, “Now let me be clear,”

With a little old phrase, just like an old clock,

I knew in a moment it must be Barack.

More vapid than celebs he laid out the blame,

And he whistled, and shouted, and call’d them by name:

“Not Harry! nor Biden! nor Pelosi (that vixen!),

“But Boehner (Oh, stupid!), McConnell–that chicken”;

Says a “balanced approach,” no cuts on the wall;

“Now tax away! tax away! tax away all!”

As Depardieu ‘fore the wild tax hikes fly,

When met with oppression, mounts out of sight;

But up to the House and the Senate O moves,

With a bill full of taxes Obama approves:

And then in a twinkling, I heard at the door

The shuffling of papers, “You need to pay more!”

As I scratched at my head, and was turning around,

Through the door IRS agents burst with a bound:

They were dress’d all in black, from their feet to their eyes,

And their purpose all tarnished from Washington lies;

A bundle of forms was flung at my feet,

“You don’t look like a peddler, we want these complete.

“Your Miss? She’ll pay extra. No time to be merry,

“Capital gains rising are especially hairy;

“You may not be wealthy, but we’ll have you know,

“If you don’t pay the bill, we’ll have you out in the snow;

“If you die this next year, you’ll pay through the teeth,

“But at least your employer now pays for Plan B.”

This is the broad base, but it hurt in my belly;

I shook as they laugh’d, like a bowl full of jelly:

Government was so plump–couldn’t fit on the shelf,

And I laugh’d when I saw them in spite of myself;

A glare of the eye and a twist of the head

Soon gave me to know I had nothing but dread.

They spoke no more words, but went straight to their work,

And took all my savings; then called me a jerk,

And pointing a finger directed at me,

And giving a nod, told me “Nothing is free.”

They sprung to their cars, and their team gave a whistle,

And away they all flew, like a drone’s lowly missile:

But I heard them exclaim, ere they drove out of sight-

“Happy Cliffmas to all; let there be no tax flight!”

–Jonathan Ellis @JHartEllis

Video Posted: Beyond the Laffer Curve (A New Approach)

Here is my first big personal project. This video is a compression of several thoughts. In the video I explore why the Laffer curve is sound, present the Laffer curve using a more idealistic tax-exclusive approach, and use differing growth rates as an explanation for why the Laffer curve must necessarily be different for varying lengths of time. It also involves honey badgers, so what’s not to love?

As hinted at the end, this is the first in a series–the better response, the faster I’ll get to the others, so please, please, please share it! :D
Also, I know I gloss over a lot of things, so feel free to ask me any questions here, or at my Twitter account (@JHartEllis), or send me an e-mail at theperfecteconomist at Yahoo.
Link: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=K9P2Yecyhu8

America the small

In the wake of the election that will usher in a new age of behemoth government, it seems obvious that the election was about very small things. The negative Obama campaign worked not by focusing on the macro level of the economy nor a grand vision of the future, but instead by defending nearly immaterial spending programs and by engaging in extremely petty attacks.

PBS may get $223 million a year in public funding, which is nothing to sneeze at, but it’s a drop in the bucket in a $3.8 trillion ($3,800,000 million) budget.  Being such a relatively small amount didn’t prevent Big Bird from becoming a big issue.  People said Romney wanted to “kill” Big Bird even though it’s not like programming such as Sesame Street would even disappear without the subsidy.  If such a small budgetary item can’t even be considered, where is the will for larger cuts?  But maybe it’s just because PBS is popular.  Take something more contentious like public funding of Planned Parenthood.

Planned Parenthood gets some $360 million in public assistance–or less than 1/10,000th of the federal budget.  Half the population is morally opposed to the funding even before looking at the cost. Still, the Democrats “War on Women” approach proved very effective and shielded Planned Parenthood from criticism.  This “War” certainly cost Akin and Mourdock their races and really had an impact in the general election.  Did Akin or Mourdock say anything “big,” policy-wise? No, they were small philosophical musings (or in Akin’s case an idiotic small philosophical musing) that wouldn’t have been a factor at all in drafting any actual legislation.

Another major component of this appeal to women was a defense of Obama’s contraception mandate: a mandate forcing employers to cover the cost of birth control for their employees.  The cost of birth control pills is only something like $9/month, and many employers (most notably institutional Catholic employers) have major qualms with such coverage based on personal beliefs and separation of church and state, so it seems odd that such a small provision would become a major focal point at the DNC with activist Sandra Fluke taking center stage.  Obama also made this a major part of his stump speech.  It’s maybe strange that voters didn’t seem to mind that they’re paying an extra $165/month for gas under Obama and an extra $250/month for healthcare.

People seem to not be able to see the forest for the trees when it comes to spending.  When polled people will often say they are in favor of reduced spending, but attach a specific program to it and people quickly sour.  Even in my local area, which is one of the most conservative areas of the country, people that would generally oppose higher taxes voted by 84% for a 0.1% sales tax for arts programs and parks. The programs probably aren’t worth it, and the tax is seemingly small, but it contributes to death by a thousand cuts.

Petty attacks also played a major role in the election. The Obama campaign basically made Romney out to be the murderer of the wife of a former steelworker.  This was entirely nonsensical when looking at the timeline, but because the detail weren’t self-evident, people sympathized.  “Binders full of women” was in the unique category of being an attack so small as to be based on absolutely nothing.  Obama’s last-minute call for “revenge” summed up his general pettiness.

As the fiscal cliff approaches while our debt continues to grow beyond it’s gargantuan $16 trillion present state, small issues seemed to dominate this cycle.  Fiscal collapse would be a very big deal, and that’s the path we’re currently on, but we won’t be able to do anything about it so long as we continue to be so small-minded.

–Jonathan Ellis (Twitter @JHartEllis)

Death threats against Romney flood Twitter as election nears

Not that liberals are usually wellsprings of bountiful love, but the election seems to be bringing out the very worst in them, and by very worst I mean taking murder into their own hands. Can’t really get much very worstier than that.

I’ve been retweeting death threats against Romney that I’ve seen on Twitter to call people out on their ugliness. Some people will then let it be known they were just joking, or some will just delete their tweet. Some will get angry at me for popping their little murderous bubble and tell me to mind my own business (albeit in a tad more salty language). Still, most will just ignore me and leave their intolerance on display. Here are a just a few that are still up at the time of writing:

And a bonus one just to show that people may not be all that serious:

 

A Weak Dollar from a Weak President

At the third and final debate at Lynn University, Obama took pride in currency exchange rates that “are at their most advantageous point for U.S. exporters since 1993.”  This is probably true, but to make sure, I spot-checked some major currencies: the Japanese yen, the Australian dollar, and the Swiss franc:

There’s definitely a downward trend indicating an advantageous point for U.S. exporters, but that’s only because the trend shows that the U.S. dollar is at historic lows. A weak dollar isn’t something to be gleamingly glad about–as Obama acted during the debate.  A weak dollar may make it relatively cheap to export, but it makes it more expensive to import. Apparently Obama doesn’t care about that part too much, though, as he also gloated about blocking China from selling cheap tires to the U.S.  Most consumers don’t want to have to pay more when they don’t have to.

A weak dollar is also generally indicative of another problem–chiefly, the monetization of debt. Larger and larger debts like we’ve had provide perverse incentive for government to lessen the value of the debt by debasing the currency.  We’re now in our third round of “quantitative easing,” which has done little to boost the economy, but a lot to weaken the dollar.  Debt monetization also runs the risk of inflation, which by some measurements has been low during these years of quantitative easing, but gas, for example, has gone from roughly $1.70 a gallon to $3.66 today.  Gold, a commonly used reverse-gauge for the value of the dollar, was about $750/oz in November 2008 when quantitative easing began, and it is now north of $1700. What started as a misguided Bush-era policy has continued and grown under Obama.

For more information on the subject, Larry Kudlow has long been a champion of “King Dollar” and talks about the failings of quantitative easing here. Conversely, he contends that a good-as-gold dollar was a major driving force in the success of the first Reagan term and the second Clinton term.

So what can we expect from Obama going forward?  From the debate:

Now with respect to what we’ve done with China already, U.S. exports have doubled since I came into office, to China and actually currencies are at their most advantageous point for U.S. exporters since 1993.

We absolutely have to make more progress and that’s why we’re going to keep on pressing.

Obama is going to continue to press for a weaker and weaker dollar because in his mind that is “progress.”

France’s richest man to change citizenship; most would do same in similar tax environment

Bernard Arnault, the richest man of France, is seeking Belgian citizenship amidst calls for higher taxes. François Hollande, newly-elected french President and member of the french Socialist Party, campaigned on raising top tax rates to 75% and seems intent on making that happen.  Arnault denies that he’s trying to escape taxes, but since no other reason is being mentioned for changing citizenship (so far as I can tell), even liberal articles about this event (like this one from HuffPo) seem to be based on the premise that tax considerations are the main reason for the nationality switch.

Corresponding to the news, Yahoo! Finance has this poll up on its main page:

This is just an Internet poll and would easily be subject to manipulation, but there are still things to be gleaned from it. The partisan responses would be the lowest rate possible for conservatives and to never leave for liberals. That a significant portion aren’t the partisan responses suggests the poll hasn’t been manipulated too much and may be somewhat honest. Overall, 66% say they’d leave at if taxes were higher than 70%, and 34% say they wouldn’t. The 34% may just not be satisfied with the 70% choice and might say they’d leave at, say, 90%, so there is some wiggle room there. This poll is probably mostly Americans, but probably includes some international responses.

The poll showing that more and more people would leave their country at higher and higher tax rates suggests a Laffer Curve effect. The Laffer Curve says there would be no tax revenue at a 100% tax rate due to a host of reasons, and these examples (Arnault and the poll) only address the direct effect of economic participation, but this is alone is enough to show the flaw of static analysis; people do change their behavior based on tax rates and may well just leave the economy in a harsh tax environment, which would leave the country imposing the higher tax rates with less revenue than anticipated. Furthermore, any policy that causes 66% of the population to want to physically uproot and leave the country is just on its face not a good policy.

However, some people just don’t care. They don’t care if raising taxes would actually bring in less revenue. One of these people: Barack Obama. Charlie Gibson questioned Obama on this subject during a 2008 debate:

 

OBAMA: Well, Charlie, what I’ve said is that I would look at raising the capital gains tax for purposes of fairness…

GIBSON: But history shows that when you drop the capital gains tax, the revenues go up.

OBAMA: Well, that might happen, or it might not. It depends on what’s happening on Wall Street and how business is going…

So Obama would raise taxes even if it brought in less revenue (from, say, driving people out of the country) just because it’s fair.  Fairness isn’t insanity, but Obama is still beating the tax drum four years later. As long as world leaders continue to do so, uncertainty will persist and people will keep looking at the option of moving.

DNC pretty predictable, or how I did on DNC Bingo

I made the Bingo card just to be flippant–mostly picking things I didn’t expect to actually be talked about, but oh how I was wrong. It was only a few minutes into Day 1 that I had the my first square, and I decided to take it seriously after that. I watched nearly all of the 3 days of speeches, and I may have missed something, but here were the final results:

THINGS THAT HAPPENED:

Chanting “Obama” — Happened a few times; more egregious example was one of the entertainment pieces on Day 2 blasphemously interlacing “Obama” with “You’re all I need to get back.”

BUSH! — Lots of references to an inherited economy. Video on Day 3 had pictures of Bush as a background to economic charts.

“Obama does care” — Judy Chu was the first to say “Obama cares.” John Larson was the first to say the exact phrase “Obama does care.” Others did also.

Mistaking m/b/trillion — One of the first speakers said 800 jobs instead of 800k jobs–satisfying being off by 3 orders of magnitude.

Biden’s IQ — Several people were calling him Dr. Biden to play up his intelligence instead of calling him Joe like they normally would to play up his friendliness.

“Empty chair” — Reference to “invisible man in the chair.”

Palin mockery — A couple speakers ragged on “drill, baby, drill,” most notably Ken Salazar. John Kerry said Palin said she could see Russia from Alaska; actual quote from Palin: “you can actually see Russia from land here in Alaska.”

*Free Stuff!* — Birth control, ’nuff said.

Obama’s physique — Michelle Obama intro vid really, really emphasized her ability to do push-ups. I may have meant Barack, but I’m using it.

“Literally” — Biden’s speech was littered with literallys including him saying “not figuratively–literally” when it was still figurative. Most hilarious example, however, was Lincoln Chafee say of independents that “We love the earth. Literally.” Lincoln Chafee: earth humper.

“You didn’t build that” hole deepening — Day 1 vid caused a stir by saying “Government’s the only thing we all belong to.”

“Jobs saved or created” — Day 3 economic vid talked of saved jobs. Jennifer Granholm was ranting about saved jobs.

Pick your own shock word — Slut buttons. Kal Penn also had a joke about how he can use 4-letter words since he’s not a politician; his word was V-O-T-E, but I really was thinking he might be crazy enough to say something, and making the audience think of foul words is basically the same as just saying them.

“War on women” — Nancy Pelosi used “assault on women’s reproductive health,” which violated “new tone” to my satisfaction.

Occupy adoration — John Lewis was the only Dem to talk about “the 1%” while the rest were talking about millionaires and billionaires.

Confusing conservatism with anarchism — Hoo, boy, this was prevalent. Best example was a speaker saying the GOP would tell 1st graders that they’re on their own.

Politifact — References to Romney saying he wouldn’t be dictated by fact checkers.

Of course, a lot of was talked about besides these things–a lot of mundane things and some really troubling things–but the Bingo card was the silly stuff that should have been avoided and largely wasn’t.

 

Some notes on the other squares:

BFD — This has been in campaign ads and on t-shirts, but it didn’t make it at the DNC.

Chevy Volt — Two free plugs for the Chevy Cruze, but no Volt.

Seamus — Nope.

Mormon mockery — Two mentions of Mormons, but not in a derisive way.

ATMs — Not from what I could tell.

“Chains” — Closest was John Lewis implying the GOP would take us back to segregation and race-based beatings, but not slavery.

“Taken out of context” — Not really.

Koch Bros. — Rove and Norquist name dropped, but not the Kochs.