Tuesday, January 09, 2018

Cruising the Web

Kyle Smith explodes some of the bubble of self-satisfaction from the Golden Globes.
A defining head-spinner was the appearance by Elisabeth Moss, who won for The Handmaid’s Tale, a drama about an imaginary Christian-led theocratic dystopia where women dress alike to symbolize their oppression by conservative men. She accepted her Best Actress award dressed in black, like virtually all of the women present, to symbolize actual oppression by liberal Hollywood men. Then she gave a we-will-not-be-silenced speech even as she continues to belong to the restrictive Church of Scientology, which reportedly covered for an actor accused of rape.

In short, when caught up in its most disturbing scandal since (at least) the Communist era, Hollywood’s rebuttal is exactly what Weinstein’s was: But we’re liberal! It may not be the case that liberalism and sexual abuse are linked — though nearly all of the men caught up in the pervnado in the last 90 days are strongly identified with the Left. But it is certainly the case that impeccable liberal and Democratic-party credentials did nothing to save Hollywood from a decades-long regime of sexual tyranny.
Couldn't any of these Hollywood stars so concerned about a possible Handmaid's Tale fate for the United States could have spared a few words for the women of Iran protesting for the right to appear in public without the hijab?

William McGurn ridicules the angry response that Governor Andrew Cuomo has had to the GOP tax reform bill that limited deductions for state and local taxes to $10,000.
...Cuomo and his fellow civil warriors will consider anything to hold the blue line—anything, that is, except address the root problem by lowering their taxes and spending. Because to do so would require taking on the public unions that drive much of state spending and debt, and are the key constituency of the 21st-century Democratic Party.

Ironically, in the course of denouncing the attack from Republicans in Congress and the White House, Mr. Cuomo ceded their core argument: Tax rates affect behavior. For in his declaration of war, Mr. Cuomo admitted his worry that hiking the marginal tax rate on New Yorkers gives them an incentive to relocate. Until now it was supposed to be a Republican canard that highly taxed blue staters defect to lower-taxed red states.

Just as illuminating, this is a battle being waged for the wealthy. In his speech Mr. Cuomo hailed the Empire State as a progressive “beacon” unto the nation. But in a Monday post, Thurston Powers, a legislative analyst for the American Legislative Exchange Council’s Center for State Fiscal Reform, noted that 88% of the savings from the SALT deduction were enjoyed by people with incomes of $100,000 or more.

Note to New York City mayor and self-styled Progressive in Chief Bill de Blasio : The elimination of this deduction diminishes an effective subsidy for wealthier taxpayers. So where are the shouts of support for making the rich pay their “fair share”?

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Armageddon keeps
rolling on.

Ah, bureaucracy at its finest.
Renovation costs for the brand new Consumer Financial Protection Bureau headquarters have skyrocketed, posting 25 percent in cost overruns — significantly above the original budget set by the General Services Administration, according to a Daily Caller News Foundation investigation.

Original cost estimates for the CFPB’s renovation were estimated at $55 million, but the bureau ran up the proposed cost to $216 million. The Federal Reserve Inspector General rejected the proposal in 2014, saying there was no “sound basis” for the figure.

As the CFPB renovation costs continued to escalate, renovation was taken out of the CFPB’s hands and transferred to the General Services Administration (GSA). GSA’s budget, however, was nearly twice the original $55 million, hitting $99 million.

That figure ballooned to more than $124 million, according to a June 30, 2017, GSA document obtained by The DCNF under the Freedom of Information Act.

Too many states are headed toward what Sheila Weinberg terms "a financial bomb cyclone" in 2018. They've just piled up too much debt for what their treasuries can pay.
Recently updated government financial disclosures show alarming levels of red ink on statehouse ledger books across the country. A 2017 analysis shows $1.5 trillion in state debt, a 15 percent increase over the previous year and part of a long-term worsening trend. In the last year, only seven states reported improved financials, while three were unchanged, and 40 are on a troubling downward trajectory.

There is a significant variation in the fortunes of the 40 downward trending states, which include examples at both ends of the extreme, such as Alaska’s declining surplus and New Jersey’s skyrocketing $208 billion debt. However, when the data is taken as whole it is hard to understate the scale of the precarious fiscal situation at the state government level. Truth in Accounting, an organization I founded in 2002, analyzes the most recent Comprehensive Annual Financial Reports, and our data shows that the average state now carries a staggering $10,020 in debt for every one of its taxpayers....

Across all 50 states, we have seen expenditures creep up over the last 10 years in every category. Average state spending on education has increased 31 percent over the decade, spending on health and human services has risen 68 percent, and interest payments on debt have jumped by 36 percent. This spike in public-sector spending far outpaces inflation, and has pushed the average individual taxpayer's burden up from $8,900 in 2009 to $10,020 in 2016.

Increased government spending doesn’t necessarily foretell financial doom if it’s linked with corresponding revenue increases. But most states have opted to cover their spending sprees by unfairly shifting the burden onto future taxpayers, including our children and grandchildren. Vast amounts of money—mostly in public-sector pensions and other post-employment benefits such as retiree health care—have been promised on paper without sufficient funds to back them up.

This short-sighted accounting trick allows governments to claim they have balanced their budgets while artificially deflating their published debt numbers. However, the day will come when they have to decide whether to default on promises made to state workers, or hand the bill to surprised future taxpayers.
And when we consider that the national government is also piling up debt that future generations have to pay, the nation's financial future is precarious indeed.

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Tim Worstall explains something
about how taxes work in the democratic socialist countries of Scandinavia that are the focus of so much of the American left's wishful envy.
Yes, Sweden has a pretty good healthcare service. It’s paid for out of county, not country, taxes (Sweden’s a lot smaller than the U.S. but the size of a county isn’t far off that of one in the U.S.). The money is also spent within a county – it’s some reasonably small group of people taxing themselves to spend on themselves. The Norwegian national government gets a little under half the income tax revenue – local governments a little more than that.

In Denmark, that high tax country, the national income tax rate is 3.76 percent. The highest national income tax rate is 15 percent. The heavy tax bill comes at the level of the commune, something which can be as few as 10,000 people: Another 25 percent or so of income, as a useful average.

Imagine that there’s a Bjorn. The guy who both collects and allocates the tax money. In a system where the money is circulating around 10,000 people then it’s likely that you, the taxpayer or recipient, will know where he has his Friday night beer. He’ll also know that you’ll likely know. That fear that you’ll doorstep him to shout about it will mean a certain efficiency. That you can doorstep him, plus the manner in which you can see your tax money being spent on those around you, is going to lead to a willingness to pay higher taxes. Or perhaps less reluctance to do so.

Compare and contrast this with the progressive view of how the U.S. should work. Almost the money from 330 million people should go off to Washington, D.C., there to be allocated back out again. No wonder there’s a greater reluctance to buy things through government. The link between tax paid and goodies received has been attenuated to a breaking point.

Bjorn wouldn’t survive building vertical slums for the poor because he’d get tarred and feathered over his beer. HUD gets away with it just fine because we’ve got no damn idea who they are nor where.

That, I insist, is a large part of the American peculiar institution, that adamant refusal to have the social democracy that much of the rest of the rich world does. I should point out that I’m not in favor of it myself either, but for very much more ideological reasons. The American exception is because hauling off 35 to 45 percent of everything people do, shipping it thousands of miles then handing it out again, just doesn’t work on a human level. A centralized taxation system for hundreds of millions just doesn’t work. In order to have, as liberals insist must happen, all that government, the taxation and the spending must be done much, much, more locally than that.

Or, as we might put it, if you want Nordic social democracy then you’ve got to do what makes Nordic social democracy work, a major part of which is taxing and then spending at something akin to the U.S. county level – even most states are too large – or even perhaps a step below that. For that is what the Nordics do.

Progressive America won’t work because of the progressive insistence that it must be the federal government taxes and pays for progressive America. That’s just too far from Bjorn and his beer for people to put up with it.
I hadn't realized that aspect of how those country's tax systems work. It would never work here with the income discrepancies that exist by counties here in the U.S. It reminds me of how the poor laws worked in Britain up until the 1830s with local parishes responsible for what was called outdoor relief for the local people who had been born in that parish. That ended when some parishes just couldn't keep up with poor relief for all those who were suffering in their area and the nation passed a poor law that provided workhouses that were deliberately designed to be so awful that no one would go there except as a last resort.

The Trump administration is considering a proposal
that would help people who work for small businesses be able to get employer-provided insurance. It would be a great benefit to those who work for businesses that can't afford to provide insurance for their employees because they're too small and they fall under the 50-employee mandatory minimum in Obamacare. Naturally, the Democrats are opposing this common-sense proposal.
The share of workers at small businesses with employer-sponsored health benefits has dropped by a quarter since 2010 as insurance costs have ballooned in part due to government mandates. About 11 million workers employed by small businesses are uninsured. Some businesses have dropped their workers onto state insurance exchanges where premiums are subsidized by taxpayers.

Enter President Trump, who last fall directed Labor Secretary Alexander Acosta to consider “expanding the conditions that satisfy the commonality-of-interest requirements” for association health plans under the Employee Retirement Income Security Act, or Erisa.

Large-group plans that are self-insured—i.e., funded by unions or employers—are covered by Erisa. These plans are exempt from ObamaCare’s essential benefits requirements, though they must comply with rules on annual and lifetime limits and pre-existing conditions as well as state solvency regulations.

Mom-and-pop businesses and sole proprietors aren’t so lucky. Most purchase coverage from insurers in the small group or individual marketplaces, which are subject to ObamaCare’s coverage mandates and controls on premium prices. The Obama Administration precluded small employers from forming association plans that are exempt from Erisa by narrowly interpreting the “commonality of interest” membership requirements.

But on Thursday Mr. Acosta proposed a new rule-making that would broadly define “commonality of interest” among employers to include geographical area—say, a metropolitan area or state—as well as an industry, trade or profession. Local chambers of commerce and national industry groups could thus sponsor plans. The rule would also treat sole proprietors as both employers and employees, which would allow independent contractors—e.g., Uber drivers or freelance journalists—to form or join association plans.

Liberals are howling that President Trump is trying to destroy ObamaCare exchanges. But millions of small business workers and proprietors are uninsured because they can’t afford coverage on the exchanges. Many sole proprietors who earn too much to qualify for subsidies have been squeezed by soaring premiums.

Association plans could reduce costs by spreading administrative burdens and actuarial risks over more workers. The exemption from ObamaCare’s benefit mandates would also give groups more flexibility to design plans to meet worker needs. Young restaurant workers might be able to purchase less expensive plans. Small businesses would also have more leverage to negotiate lower prices with drug companies and providers.

Workers couldn’t be denied coverage or charged more because of their health status, which will limit the flexibility and potential costs reductions in association plans. Such plans would also still have to comply with state regulations, which might limit their growth. But states could facilitate their expansion with reciprocity agreements that would allow, say, Wisconsin to recognize any association plan approved by Michigan or Indiana.

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Now this the sort of protest
I can fully get behind.
ESPN’s story Saturday about LaVar Ball’s comments on Luke Walton has sparked a whole lot of backlash, from Dallas Mavericks’ coach Rick Carlisle blasting the network in comments and a National Basketball Coaches Association statement as well as a report that some NBA coaches would ask their media relations staffers to pull credentials from reporters who interview Ball (ESPN-affiliated or not). Now, Detroit Pistons’ coach Stan Van Gundy has weighed in, and done so in perhaps even a stronger manner than Carlisle.

As per Vince Ellis of The Detroit Free Press, Van Gundy called ESPN’s decision there “cheap (expletive)” and “a cheap shot” and said they “showed total disrespect.” He said “I got a problem with ESPN deciding that’s a story.” And most notably, he sent an e-mail to Carlisle, the NBA Players’ Association and NBA commissioner Adam Silver. That e-mail saw him directly threaten to not participate in production meetings or in-game interviews with ESPN during their Jan. 19 Pistons-Washington Wizards matchup. Here’s more on that from Ellis’ piece.
“I’m not meeting with their announcing crew before the game, I’m not doing the in-game interview,” Van Gundy said. “I’m not going to participate in the thing.”

When pressed if it means he’s threatening to withhold access, Van Gundy said: “I’m not denying them access. I’m not kicking them out of press conferences. They want extra stuff from us and they’re going to treat an NBA coach with that little respect? Then I’m going to choose not to give them extra access.”
When will sports media stop giving that blowhard so much public exposure? And what would the league do if other coaches jumped on the Stan bandwagon? I bet a whole lot of them would be happy to cut out some of that time spent catering to ESPN. The funny thing is that Lavar Ball is so sure that LeBron is going to come to L.A. to play with Lonzo. Well, besides the less than stellar play of the Lakers this year, another reason for LeBron not to go to L.A. is just not to have to deal with the Lavar circus.