Saturday, January 30, 2010

Obama's Jobs Proposals

In the State of the Union address on Wednesday, and again at the Republican annual conference meeting on Friday, President Obama outlined several proposals for a "jobs bill". I'm trying to think through the pros and cons of each.

1) An up to $5000 tax credit for businesses for each employee hired in 2010.

2) A payroll tax refund (dollar for dollar) for employers who give raises to employees earning under $100,000 for the amount of the raise that is greater than the rate of inflation.

3) Eliminate the capital gains tax for small business investment.

4) Take $30 Billion returned from the Wall Street banks, and give it to community banks to start lending to small businesses again.

(well, I've typed out the proposals, but gotta run for now -- will analyze later)

Here's some more proposals from the meeting with Republicans on Friday:

5) A "modest fee on the nation's largest banks and financial institutions to fully recover for taxpayers' money that they provided to the financial sector when it was teetering on the brink of collapse, and it's designed to discourage them from taking reckless risks in the future."

6) "I propose that we close tax loopholes that reward companies for shipping American jobs overseas, and instead give companies greater incentive to create jobs right here at home."

7) "I've proposed a 3-year freeze in discretionary spending, other than what we need for national security... that's consistent with a lot of the talk... we can't blink when it's time to actually do the job."

8) PAYGO rules -- just passed in Senate.

9) Bipartisan fiscal commission -- I'm going to establish one by executive order, after one died in the Senate the other day. "I hope you participate fully..."

Obama goes on to health insurance, but I don't have time to fisk it all.

Saturday, January 23, 2010

International Welfare Creates Dependency Too

Bret Stephens takes the occasion of Haiti's plight to remind people that long-term Foreign Aid (as opposed to short-term emergency humanitarian assistance which almost everyone supports) is part of the problem.

Take something as seemingly straightforward as food aid. "At some point," Mr. Shikwati [, a Kenyan economist,] explains, "this corn ends up in the harbor of Mombasa. A portion of the corn often goes directly into the hands of unscrupulous politicians who then pass it on to their own tribe to boost their next election campaign. Another portion of the shipment ends up on the black market where the corn is dumped at extremely low prices. Local farmers may as well put down their hoes right away; no one can compete with the U.N.'s World Food Program."

Foreign Aid more often than not destroys the local production capacity of the items being provided as aid, and thus creates dependency instead. And to make matters worse, it always props up corrupt local politicians who use their power in the aided country to direct aid for political reasons, or make money off the aid using various schemes, such as buying and running the trucking companies that actually deliver the aid.

American foreign aid, apart from emergency aid like in Haiti right now, in my opinion, should be carefully limited to forms that promote local good governance and increased production capacity in the aided country. Otherwise, it does more harm than good.

The reasons that poor countries are poor is directly due to their economic and government systems. There are numerous examples of countries quickly rising out from the third to first world in a matter of a decade or two with free markets and protecting property rights. The ones that stay mired in poverty are almost all characterized by corrupt governments and dysfunctional economic systems. Foreign investment is almost non-existent in these countries.

Those core reasons for why a country remains poor are by-in-large harmed by long-term foreign aid.

Saturday, January 9, 2010

BigJourn: Fisking AP ClimateGate Article

On Andrew Breitbart's new website, there is a great fisking of the big AP writeup immediately after the ClimateGate scandal broke back in December 2009.

The AP's article probably had the largest reach of any writeup on the scandal, as it was no doubt featured prominently in most newspapers around the country as well as on countless news aggregator websites.

The AP assigned 5 reporters to the article, who reviewed the emails and got comment from only 4 scientists, taking pains to point out that the one AGW (anthropogenic global warming) skeptic was not a true scientist, even though the other quoted scientists were not in the field of climatology either. Further they distort what the scientists said, or at least what their positions were when contacted by the Big Journalism article's authors, to downplay the significance of the ClimateGate emails and computer code.

The AP article is also conspicuous in who it did not quote, including any of the Global Warming crowd who wrote the emails and computer code, or any of the skeptics who are frequently mentioned in the emails. I'll give them the benefit of the doubt that with the computer code, the AP just hadn't had enough time to have computer programmer pore through all the code yet.

Here's the link to the Big Journalism article.

Be sure to read it. Articles like these are crucial to understanding the bias inherent in supposedly "objective" news reporting.

The biggest error by the AP is in coming to such sweeping and pre-judged conclusions as the headline "Science Not Faked..." when that remains to be seen. There have been many articles since ClimateGate broke which question some of the data itself, and not much can be determined for sure until these Global Warming scientists open up their data and climate models for independent review. The AP headline could have just as easily and validly have been "Scientists' Methods & Motives Now In Question".