• Thursday August 22, 2019 1:56 PM PDT •
Politicians in California like to show how much they care about making the world a better place by banning things. Making the world a better place isn’t something they seem to care much about, however, because if they did, they would be doing very different things.
As Exhibit A, please consider San Francisco’s new ban on sales of bottled water at the city’s international airport, which just took effect on August 20, 2019. The Wall Street Journal‘s Andy Kessler considers a scenario that may become all too common thanks to the city’s new law aimed at inconveniencing air travelers passing through SFO:
After running late for your flight after a 30-minute security line only to have TSA confiscate your Fiji water bottle, you’ll now have to stop at a crowded water fountain to fill your own metal flask. Or buy an overpriced glass or aluminum bottle at the concession stand, paying another 10 cents for a bag. And your teeth will chatter if you drink through a paper straw. Of course you could risk dehydration instead: Men lose up to a half-gallon of water during a 10-hour flight. Oddly, you can still buy sugary drinks in plastic bottles at SFO; only healthy, calorie-free water is banned in plastic. You can’t make this stuff up.
K. Lloyd Billingsley
• Thursday August 22, 2019 8:32 AM PDT •
“Among 226 economists surveyed by the National Association for Business Economics,” reports Justin Doom of ABC News, “34 percent said a recession would hit the U.S. in 2021, an increase from 25 percent who believed so in February.” This might come as good news to those who believe recession prophecies hurt President Trump’s chances for reelection. Even so, the predictions should stand as a warning to vulnerable states such as California.
The Golden State’s top one percent of earners provide about half the state’s income tax revenue, the largest source of funding for state government. This makes for high volatility during any economic downturn. “Volatility is not our friend, it’s our enemy,” proclaimed Governor-elect Gavin Newsom last November, adding, “I am not going to neglect this issue.” So far he has, and so did his predecessor.
K. Lloyd Billingsley
• Wednesday August 21, 2019 8:23 AM PDT •
Back in 2014, California state senator Mark DeSaulnier held hearings on the new span of the San Francisco-Oakland Bay Bridge, $5 billion over budget, 10 years late, and still riddled with safety issues. Witnesses testified that Caltrans, the state’s department of transportation, compromised public safety by ignoring problems with the bridge’s welds, bolts, rods, and too-brittle Chinese steel. One whistleblower called for a criminal investigation. Californians across the state were able to watch the hearing on the California Channel, but such observation will not be possible after October, when the California Channel ceases operations.
Like its model C-SPAN, the California Channel provided “gavel to gavel” coverage of the legislature and other government proceedings, unedited and without editorial comment. The California Cable and Telecommunications Association funds the California Channel, which claims to receive no state funding. On the other hand, the channel was subject to a certain level of state government control. In 2012, Senate President Darrell Steinberg shut down the live feed of a Senate Governance and Finance Committee hearing on Propositions 30, 31, 38 and 39, every one a measure on taxes and spending. In his lame apology, Steinberg claimed, “I pride myself on being open and transparent.”
K. Lloyd Billingsley
• Tuesday August 20, 2019 8:52 AM PDT •
Back in 2017, alert Mexicans launched a “Corruptor” sight-seeing service with 27 stops to see instances of waste, fraud, and abuse–including a dysfunctional government subway line costing more than $1 billion. Mexico thus sets a fine example for California, whose Corruptour could include the new span of the Bay Bridge, ten years late and $5 billion over budget, and the $3 billion California Institute for Regenerative Medicine (CIRM), which handed out more than 90 percent of its grants to organizations represented on its governing board while producing none of the promised cures and therapies.
The California Corruptour would have to cover the state Coastal Commission, an unelected body of regulatory zealots that threatens property rights, and whose commissioner Mark Nathanson served prison time for bribery charges. With all that and more, the first stop on the California Corruptour should be the state Department of Motor Vehicles, with a budget of more than $1 billion.
Raymond J. March
• Tuesday August 20, 2019 8:35 AM PDT •
Luka Kinard started vaping when he entered high school and quickly became addicted. By his sophomore year, his grades were slipping, and he was no longer interested in activities he once enjoyed. At one point, Luka spent nearly $150 a week on vaping products.
After experiencing a seizure, Luka sought substance abuse treatment. Fortunately, he was able to kick his habit. However, recently collected reports by the Food and Drug Administration indicate other teens may find themselves in similar situations.
Alvaro Vargas Llosa
• Monday August 19, 2019 12:26 PM PDT •
President Trump thinks foreign policy works like the New York real estate industry. In The Art of the Deal he recalls how he used to obtain profitable agreements from competitors by intimidating them, raising his bets to the limits of suicide, or beating them out of fatigue. Relations between states do not work like that because there are political considerations that cloud the boundaries between the rational and the irrational, because the consequences are suffered by actors who are not on stage as much as those who are, or because no government can control everything.
Trump thinks he can push China to the brink of despair and force a demoralized Xi Jinping into a trade deal. He doesn’t understand that the Chinese dictator, no matter how much his economy may hurt, owes his legitimacy to the nationalist ethos on which he has built his control over the Communist Party. He also seems oblivious of the fact that China still has several weapons at its disposal that could wreak havoc in the United States, including $1.2 trillion in U.S. bonds it could sell, a near monopoly on rare earth and, of course, the ability to devalue the yuan much further, regardless of how much these measures could also hurt China. (Remember: power politics is not a rational game.)
• Monday August 19, 2019 9:45 AM PDT •
Between now and the end of the U.S. government’s fiscal year on September 30, 2019, the Treasury Department will seek to borrow $443 billion. Between now and the end of the 2019 calendar year, it plans to borrow over $814 billion.
That’s a massive amount of money for the federal government to finance through the sale of U.S. Treasuries in a relatively short period of time, a volume that appears set to cause problems in global credit markets. ZeroHedge explains how flooding those markets with newly issued U.S. Treasuries to fund the new spending enabled by the 2019 bipartisan budget deal may come to wreak financial havoc in them:
Raymond J. March
• Friday August 16, 2019 10:22 AM PDT •
[This piece was co-authored by Vincent Geloso and originally published at the American Institute for Economic Research.]
Ramming an icepick through someone’s eyelid to remove a part of their brain sounds like a horrifying method of torture. However, this procedure, named the lobotomy, was a common method to treat mental illness in the United States for nearly 40 years. From 1936 until 1972, nearly 60,000 people were lobotomized. Most lobotomies were performed without the patient’s or their legal caretaker’s consent.
Unsurprisingly, the procedure was a spectacular failure. After surgery, patients often found themselves paranoid, emotionally volatile, incontinent, and with severely impaired intelligence. Surgical complications often left patients unable to function independently, requiring constant supervision and caretaking. When a patient was released from the asylum after being lobotomized, they typically found themselves returning within a few months. Upon their return, they often underwent a second (or, in one case, fourth) lobotomy.
K. Lloyd Billingsley
• Thursday August 15, 2019 12:21 PM PDT •
California’s 2014 Proposition 47 brought about some positive criminal justice reforms, but in the summer of 2018 the measure still managed to win the California Golden Fleece Award. As Lawrence McQuillan explains, the law “sparked a surge in automobile break-ins and shopliftings throughout the state.” Under Proposition 47, property worth $950 or less is reduced from a potential felony to a misdemeanor, and the measure “de-prioritizes justice for California residents and businesses, who now are increasingly victims of vandals and thieves operating with near impunity.” The latest surge targets the catalytic converters of automobiles.
Randall G. Holcombe
• Thursday August 15, 2019 12:15 PM PDT •
Too often, public policy discussions about economic redistribution do not make a clear distinction between the goals of helping those in poverty and reducing inequality. The implied assumption is that policies that reduce inequality also help those who are most in need.
That premise is not necessarily true. It is easier to reduce inequality by bringing down people at the top than helping lift those at the bottom. My subject today isn’t whether policies to reduce inequality are beneficial to those who are least fortunate—sometimes they are; sometimes they are not—but rather why the left tends to focus on inequality rather than trying to help out those who need it the most.