Lottery Jackpot Represents 73 Minutes of Federal Spending

PowerballThe largest lottery jackpot in US history headlines as a princely sum of $1.5 billion.

But if you’re the lucky winner – overcoming the astronomical odds of 1 in 292 million – and managing to not split the pot with other lucky individuals who also managed to overcome the same astronomical odds….you’ll never see that much thanks to your long lost friends in the Internal Revenue Service and state departments of revenue.

That’s right, not only will you have to fight off droves of never before seen “cousins,” long lost friends, acquaintances, that guy who held the door open for you that one time when you went to buy a lottery ticket…you’ll have to fight off scores of government bureaucrats looking to feast on your winnings in exchange for all the value the government provides to you for the roads they haven’t been building or maintaining.

First, the cash option drops “Billion” from the figure – presently standing at $930 million.

The federal government stands to collect 39.6% in federal income taxes: $368.2 Million

Next, most Americans will face a state tax bite – which varies by state (0% in some states all the way up to a top rate of 12.3% in California. Really California?! No wonder people are packing up and leaving you…), but we’ll estimate state taxes at 5% : $46.5 million

Some will also face city or local income taxes – but we’ll disregard those for now.

Your net winnings will be approximately $515 million.

Federal spending in 2015 was $3.687 trillion (about $421 million per hour).

Meaning the amount of money you’d expect to see from winning the largest lottery jackpot recorded in US history will net you…..73 minutes worth of federal spending.

May the odds be ever in your favor…

Lottery Jackpot
Photo Credit:

“Money” by Pictures of Money

Debt Files: Peepin’ On the Debt

While wandering around a store this weekend, we saw shelves stocked full of Easter candy: jelly beans, chocolate bunnies, crème eggs, and of course, iconic marshmallow Peeps to name a few.

And as our sweet tooth was being tempted, we thought, hey how much of this stuff could we buy with the national debt? Quite a bit as it turns out (as one would expect with more than $18 trillion to play with). And that’s pre-Easter candy pricing!

Check out our other national debt comparisons at www.freedomforgepress.com/debt, and if you have an idea for a debt file, let us know in the comments or find us on Facebook or Twitter.

peeping-into-the-national-debt-infographic

Debt Files: Gasoline and the National Debt

You asked for it!

A few weeks ago, we asked for interesting items, services, or ideas to translate the national debt into. And some of you had some pretty interesting ideas!

Here’s the first one: Gasoline and the National Debt. Others will be coming soon; you can find them on our blog or see the running collection here.

Got an idea you’d like to see us try to relate to the national debt? Post it in the comments or find us on Facebook or Twitter and we’ll see what we can do!

gasoline-and-the-national-debt

Government Debt Levels Equate to Unsportsmanlike Conduct on America’s Future

american-football-151765_640Just in time for the Big Game tonight!

The NFL as an organization has a very expensive evening ahead of it. The organization expects to pay approximately $97,000 per player for each person on the winning team’s 53-man roster. It’ll also pay $49,000 per player to the losing team.

Then there’s the trophy: an estimated $12,500 expense from Tiffany and Company for the Vince Lombardi Super Bowl Trophy to be awarded to the winning team.

The NFL also kicks in a subsidy toward commemorative jewelry for the winning team – $5,000 per person up to 150 pieces for players, coaches, and other team support staff. The losing team can expect a $2,500 per person subsidy.

And last, but certainly not least, the game balls–properly inflated we can only hope. Each team receives 54 game plus an additional 12 balls for kickers for a total of 120 balls at an estimated $150 per ball. Total cost: $18,000.

All in, the NFL can expect to fork over $8,839,500 in Big Game consumables and bonuses alone.

The US Government’s current debt exceeds 18,104,541,000,000 (18 TRILLION…). The US government’s debt could have paid for 2,048,140 Super Bowl events. That’s enough Big Games to fill 5,607 years worth of Super Bowls if one game were played every single day.

Talk about pass interference! Each dollar of debt will need to come from somewhere, be it raised taxes, reduced spending for actual legitimate federal government expenses (few as those may be). With as big a trench as politicians from both political parties have collectively dug (and continue to dig!) for American taxpayers of the present and future, one has to hope sooner or later voters will muster the courage to throw a penalty flag at all politicians who promise hope and change but fail miserably to deliver.

PHOTO CREDIT: “American Football” a free vector graphic from Pixabay.

Atlas Shrugged Part III

2014_08_08_Wallpaper_WIJGBY VAL MULLER

Atlas Shrugged Part III (Who Is John Galt?) is now out in theatres, and I’m looking forward to it.

I donated to the Atlas Shrugged Kickstarter campaign (you can even find my name on the Producer’s Wall at http://www.atlasshruggedmovie.com/kickstarter?p=19) because I think the ideas in the novel are important to share. Although I’m not sure a three-part movie can concisely deliver the ideas of the book to those who aren’t already fans, I was glad to hear it was finally being made into a movie.

For those who haven’t read the book, I wanted to share why I think Rand’s philosophy is such an important concept.

First, a bit on Ayn Rand. Rand was born in Russia in the early 1900s and moved to America in the 1920s. In Russia, her father worked hard to run and own his own business, but under Lenin, that business was confiscated. Seeing the damage done by fanaticism, including seeing thugs take over the college she was attending, Rand dedicated herself to reason above all else. Her experience in Russia allowed her to see how damaging “groupthink” can be as well as what happens when people stop being guided by reason and let other, more emotional, concerns lead them.

In her writing, Rand liked to make sure the reader got the point. That’s why her novels are so long. She had a definite idea of what she wanted her novel to be, and she was uncompromising in seeing that idea to fruition—in some ways, she is like her main characters. The problem is, this makes for a long-winded novel, the length of which intimidates most would-be readers.

I have taught The Fountainhead and Atlas Shrugged several times. The main lessons my students gather from these texts is not something I taught them—it’s something they came to on their own, and it surprised me. But they are right: They have learned that our society tends to value people’s intentions over results.

As a broad example, if a politician institutes a program with the intention of helping the poor, but that program becomes bankrupt or backfires or ends up making the people it’s trying to help too dependent or even worse off, we tend to reward that politician for wanting to help the poor—regardless of the results. On the other hand, if a business owner produces dozens of jobs—thus helping people in need of work—we still look critically at him because his intention from the start: to make money for himself. Even if the result is that consumers now have goods to purchase and people now have jobs, his intent from the start was inherently selfish, and thus we judge him as a bad person.

Our society has it backwards. We should judge results rather than intent. After all, wasn’t Hitler trying to make the world a better place (at least in his own mind)? Should we judge his intent, or the results?

In Atlas Shrugged, we see a war between government and business. The government in the book is one not dissimilar from our government today: one rooted in crony capitalism and nepotism, one that encourages the public not to think but to blindly follow emotions. The government in Atlas Shrugged, in short, over-regulates the country to (literal) death. In The Fountainhead, the media—controlled by a small group of powerful people—puts out so many pointless stories that people aren’t even able to think about what truly is important anymore. In fact, they blindly follow what they are told to think by their preferred media source. Sound familiar?

Like our government today, those in power in Atlas Shrugged pick the winners and losers. If one company is becoming too successful, the government creates new regulations that cripple that company, all in the name of giving other companies a fair chance. The result of this is that those with prowess in business—those who are able to provide quality products for low prices—are punished. Those who are unable to provide quality products for low prices are rewarded with subsidies and other protections. The end results, of course, is mediocrity that hurts everyone. Now, instead of some people having minimum wage jobs and other people living like Carnegie, Jobs, or Gates, no one has jobs. Everyone suffers and misery is shared equally.

I can’t help thinking about GM (at present, I own a Chevy, which has greatly disappointed me despite my desire to “buy American.”). The government recently subsidized the Volt through various incentives and tax credits, both for buyers and for manufacturers at each step of the process. This is an example of the government deciding on a “good intention” (electric cars). The results, however, were not what was desired. Electric cars, even today, are not very efficient. And they ignore the fact that electricity is usually produced with the same non-renewable sources electric cars are trying to avoid. Again, moving to electric cars is a good intention, but the result of government interference was not useful. The same is true for the government’s movement to produce gasoline using corn (ethanol). Remember when corn used to be so cheap at the grocery store? Not anymore. Even environmentalists have come out to say that producing gas from corn is not efficient—it costs too much energy to produce. Again, the intention was “good”—to help shed our dependency on foreign fuels. But the result was actually harmful.

Borough Market cake stall, London, England - Oct 2008

If an electric car were made by a big company with no subsidies, or a new form of gasoline were created by a private company, both businesses would probably be criticized because of their “greed” and their desire to make money. But in business, decisions must be made based on logic. Whereas the government has an “unending” supply of (tax) money and borrowed debt it can throw at pet projects, businesses need to make economic sense. In a true free-market economy, an electric car would only be produced if it could be made as a reliable car for a price people would be willing to pay.

The government can force its “customers” to buy a product or service that it creates or that it permits businesses to offer (an obvious example is the Affordable Care Act). Some health insurers quickly gave their support to the idea of government-mandated insurance because it would bring them a steady supply of customers forced into their storefronts by the threat of government fines, higher taxes, even imprisonment or men and women with guns showing up to enforce the government’s will.

As long as an insurance company met the mandatory minimum coverages of the health law, there would be customers and guaranteed revenue. In the absence of free markets and competition, businesses lack incentive to provide a better quality, more affordable product. As a result prices increase and customer satisfaction suffers. In the free market, a business earns its customers because a transaction in the free market does not take place unless both parties derive some benefit from it. With several choices and healthy competition, prices remain low over the long term and innovation brings people new and exciting products such as smart phones and smart watches.

But in Atlas Shrugged and in our world today, people complain because of the “unfairness” of businesses (those heartless, greedy capitalists!). Remember when cell phones first came out? They were quite the status symbol. Only the very wealthy could afford the brick-sized phones. It wasn’t fair to people who couldn’t afford them. But in the long run, they made things better for everyone. Now, cell phone technology has improved so that almost everyone has one. (Though the government is still messing around with the cell phone market, as with most things today).

The point Rand made in Atlas Shrugged is that people need to use common sense—logic—and not be persuaded by emotions that are often exploited to take greater control of our lives. The events in the book—which lead to starvation and freezing to death when food and fuel become scarce—seem so outlandish as to be a hyperbole. But they were based on Rand’s personal experience following the upheaval in Russia where she saw deaths from starvation and freezing as the government seized businesses in order to eliminate “unfairness.” The events Rand witnessed and used in her book illustrate the potential end result of crony capitalism and allowing the government to manipulate us and give up our freedom of choice.

She also saw the greatness that could happen when people are allowed to produce within a free market—when consumers are allowed to willingly pay for something they desire as a way of rewarding insight and punishing shoddy products. And this is the bottom line. If everyone simply used logic in everyday interaction, most bad decisions would be eradicated from the start. But in Atlas Shrugged, as in our modern culture, we transfer the responsibility to think for ourselves to media outlets with deep agendas on both sides of the spectrum, and we reward intentions rather than outcomes. In both cases, we’re just asking for trouble.

Val Muller started writing as soon as she could hold a pencil. Teacher, writer, and editor, Val pens a children’s mystery series, Corgi Capers, inspired by her growly-dog Leia and her fraidy-dog Yoda. Her supernatural chiller, Faulkner’s Apprentice, is her most recent outlet for purging her nightmares, with her young adult novels, The Man With the Crystal Ankh and The Scarred Letter, forthcoming. Her favorite novel is Orwell’s 1984, and she believes strongly in promoting freedom and celebrating individual achievement as a way of bettering the lives of all. Stalk her at www.ValMuller.com

Photo Credit:

“Borough Market cake stall, London, England” By Diliff (Own work) [CC-BY-SA-3.0 or GFDL], via Wikimedia Commons

Many Are Missing the Point of Today’s Hobby Lobby Decision

heart_pills_whiteToday the US Supreme Court ruled in the controversial “Hobby Lobby Case” that the government has no authority to require closely-held companies to provide, at their expense, free birth control to women. We see it as a small victory for freedom.

From this ruling, various political movements on either side of the issue have found a victory or a rallying call. Pro-life groups see it as a ruling in their favor. Liberal women’s groups professing a conservative “war on women” have used it as a call to vote in November’s elections or donate money.

As we said a little over 2 years ago, the idea of a “right to birth control” means that people have a right to purchase or a right to use birth control. It does NOT mean that someone else has to pay for it so you can have it for free.

The Hobby Lobby case was about that very question. Should the owners of Hobby Lobby have to pay for employees to have birth control coverage that included some methods of birth control that the company’s owners found to be against their religious beliefs?

The Affordable Care Act (aka Obamacare) mandates that employer-provided health insurance must cover a variety of medical services. For example, for birth control alone, the law required employers who pay for employee coverage to cover “at no cost” some 20 different methods of birth control. Hobby Lobby’s owners objected to 4 such methods. (More on “at no cost” in a moment.)

And that is where the progressives charge in. Their righteous indignation and vitriol at the Hobby Lobby ruling is only starting:

Wendy Davis, Democrat candidate for the Texas governor’s seat: “Today’s disappointing decision to restrict access to birth control puts employers between women and their doctors.”

Lena Dunham and Sandra Fluke:

Even Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg in her dissenting opinion used terms like “radical,” “havoc,” “startling breadth,” and “minefield,” perhaps displaying her own limited intellectual capacity to grasp the concepts of freedom and individual responsibility.

All invoke an image of a greedy male cigar-clad fat cat sitting in the corner of the exam room of his helpless female employee’s doctor visit in order to snatch away her birth control pills. If only he would just let her have them!

People like Wendy Davis, Sandra Fluke, and Lena Dunham don’t want you to realize that many forms of birth control can be obtained inexpensively–with some methods, depending on circumstances, being paid for completely by private foundations. US News & World Report put together this survey the last time the issue bubbled over in 2012. Liberal progressives want you to think that the only way a woman can get birth control is for the government to require someone else to give it to them for free.

This begs the question, is this issue truly about birth control, or is it about power? Suppose Hobby Lobby were to increase the paychecks of their employees by an amount equal to what the average birth control method would cost. The employee would then be free to purchase said birth control or use the money for something that was more important to him or her. (Yes, that’s right, men would get the increase too.) But we doubt that would be satisfactory to the Sandra Flukes of the world.

To us this seems to be as anti-freedom as it gets. Convincing women that they need to be dependent on someone else to give them free stuff that is available in the marketplace should be offensive.

What of the Hobby Lobby employee? There is no law or other government edict or executive order or action handed down by a pen and a phone that requires a female (or male!) employee to continue working at Hobby Lobby. If coverage of the 4 types of birth control that Hobby Lobby doesn’t want to cover is important to those individuals, they are free to seek employment with another company that does provide health insurance covering such services.

Hobby Lobby is also accountable to its customers. If they feel Hobby Lobby is treating its workforce unfairly, they are free to send their comments to the company or even shop elsewhere if they want to send a stronger message. Decisions have consequences, and Hobby Lobby is not immune from the consequences of its decisions.

We don’t know what the outcome will be for Hobby Lobby. Will its employees and customers support the bold decision to challenge the government’s health law? Will employees quit en masse to work for another company? Will customers flock to other craft supply stores?

Because people are free to interact (lawfully of course) with their employers and stores in a manner they see fit, we don’t know the exact consequence for Hobby Lobby of today’s Supreme Court action. But we do know one thing: Government can’t guarantee free birth control without controlling people. They can’t promise free stuff with one hand without taking the other and using it to force someone else to make it or to pay for it and give it away. The Sandra Flukes of the world would have us think that the Affordable Care Act provides free birth control and that this is something that must be fought for in order to maintain. But is it really free?

The Daily Caller reported in April that Morgan Stanley surveyed health insurance issuers earlier this year about the cost increases of health insurance policies. Not surprisingly, it is one of the largest annual price spikes (of nearly four times the previous annual growth rate) in recent years as the regulatory impact of Obamacare has become known to insurers. Before Obamacare was implemented, women using birth control pills likely had a co-pay or co-insurance fee.

When this charge disappeared, liberal progressives gleefully pointed out this fact, hoped for votes and campaign contributions, and decried a Republican “war on women” at any attempt to limit or change the arrangement. But birth control wasn’t free before Obamacare, and the unfortunate news is that despite the best-laid plans of progressives, birth control pills are still not free. As the super-sized annual insurance premium increases show, instead of a co-pay, now you just have to pay for birth control pills up front in your annual policy premium whether you use them or not.

If you think the 4 forms of birth control that Hobby Lobby objects to are a key concern, then write the company and vow to do all of your craft supply shopping elsewhere (and follow through! Alternatively, you could give up your crafting habit and donate these funds to one of the organizations that provides free birth control to women). Conversely, if you strongly agree that Hobby Lobby is doing the right thing, then let them know that too and do all your craft supply shopping there. If the issue is not of high importance to you, then shop at whichever craft supply store offers the best coupons or weekly ad deals. This is the essence of freedom, and that is a beautiful thing.

Is Virginia’s Recent Lyft and Uber Ban An Example of Keeping It All in the Family for Governor Terry McAuliffe?

Did the McAuliffe Administration Ban Uber and Lyft from Operating in Virginia as a Favor to the Cousin of the Governor’s Father-in-Law?

Last Friday (6/6/14), Virginia’s Department of Motor Vehicles fired the latest salvo in the ongoing battle of corrupt governments and tech start-up firms Uber and Lyft, which use technology to match drivers and riders. Virginia’s DMV issued a cease and desist order to the companies because they do not have the appropriate business model per state law. This action follows civil penalties the DMV assessed in April: $26,000 for Uber and $9,000 for Lyft.

We are always suspicious when a government shows a sudden and unexplained interest in an issue—much like our suspicion of New York City mayor Bill De Blasio’s immediate fixation upon taking office with banning the city’s horse drawn carriages despite it being a rather distant issue in his campaign. Likewise, we became very interested when one of Virginia’s executive agencies, under the administrative direction of Governor Terry McAuliffe, showed a sudden and intense interest with Uber and Lyft.

We have to build the case from several scraps of information, so bear with us.

Virginia’s DMV Commissioner Richard Holcomb returned to head the DMV in 2010 following an appointment from Virginia’s previous governor, Bob McDonnell. He remains in office now under the McAuliffe administration. Lyft and Uber have had a presence in the Northern Virginia area outside of DC since 2011—without any publicly reported issues from the DMV until this year. So the timing is certainly curious. Why the focused attention on these two companies? Why now? Why with so many other issues in the Commonwealth, from passing a budget to fixing roads, is Lyft and Uber worthy of attention?

By our reckoning, only one thing has changed since the DMV Commissioner returned to office in 2010. Terry McAuliffe. McAuliffe assumed office in January 2014 after winning a plurality of votes in Virginia’s 2013 gubernatorial election to succeed Bob McDonnell.

Does the governor have an axe to grind against Lyft and Uber? Maybe not a personal one, but organized taxicab companies sure do. They view these start-ups as unregulated and not playing on a level playing field. And that’s where things start to get interesting.

The Taxicab Limousine & Paratransit Association (TLPA) is a trade group representing 1,100 member companies with 100,000 passenger vehicles. This association, like any “good” trade group, sends letters to elected officials asking for rules and laws that favor their members—or for governments to simply ensure that those rules and laws are applied to all competitors in the marketplace “equally”—to ensure “fairness” you see. To translate into basic English, this group wants to protect the status quo, with all the rules, regulations, and barriers to entry for new competitors, and political gift giving intact. If you’re a new business like Lyft or Uber, and you are a threat to the status quo, or you don’t give your fair share of political tribute to elected officials, then woe be unto you.

Following the money was the logical starting point.

Paul Mears Donation VPAPAccording to the Virginia Public Access Project, Virginia’s taxi and limousine transportation industry was the fifth largest provider of campaign cash in the 2013 Virginia election cycle. We drilled down to statewide campaign donations, and found that the largest individual donor from this industry group was Paul S. Mears, Jr., of Orlando, Florida. His political contribution of $5,000 to the McAuliffe campaign was more than double the second-largest individual donation recorded from the taxi and limousine industry. Paul Mears III also showed up on the list, contributing an additional $1,000 to the McAuliffe campaign.

Paul Mears, Jr. operates Orlando-based Mears Transportation Group. According to the company’s website, Mears offers luxury van, sedan, SUV, and shuttle services in 51 airports and metropolitan areas, including Dulles International Airport and Reagan National Airport in Virginia.

Interesting stuff indeed, but would McAuliffe, following the nationally-splashed ethics headlines of the previous governor’s administration, engage in political chicanery for a measly $6,000? If he would, it certainly would be a fantastic return on investment for the Mears family.

But perhaps there’s a force even stronger than money and the political influence it can buy.

Further digging into the bowels of the Internets turned up an Orlando Sentinel article from 1998 describing business deals between Terry McAuliffe and father-in-law Richard Swann.

Of McAuliffe, the article quoted Eileen Miller, then the executive director of Public Campaign, which seeks to reform campaign fund raising (emphasis is ours):

“He’s always been a mover and shaker when it comes to the money trees,” said Ellen Miller, executive director of a nonprofit group, Public Campaign, which advocates reform of campaign fund- raising. “It’s inevitable he would get caught with his hand near the cookie jar. McAuliffe is playing fast and loose on the edges of what’s ethical.” 

A separate Orlando Sentinel article on Richard Swann had this to say:

Whispers of political cronyism seem to dog Swann whatever he does. A prominent Orlando lawyer and full-time chairman of American Pioneer, Swann has been mentioned in federal investigations of prominent Democrats at both the state and national levels.

Swann is comfortable in gray areas. A teetotaler at home among clinking cocktail glasses, Swann is not addicted to politics, friends say. Rather, his political strength comes from an ability to mix politics with business to forge a powerful network of friends that help him in both worlds, which is something he calls ”synergism.”

The article additionally discussed the relationship between Swann and McAuliffe, and Swann’s uncle, one Paul Mears, Sr., father of Paul Mears Jr.

The Mears family doesn’t seem to be a fan of Uber and Lyft. Mears III co-signed a letter (full text here) earlier this year from the TLPA discussing concerns with Uber and Lyft and other traditional taxi/limousine service company competitors.


Now isn’t that a coincidence? The governor’s father-in-law believes in mixing politics with business and calls it “synergism.” The cousin (Mears) of the governor’s father-in-law (Swann) provided the largest individual contribution by more than double of any other person involved in the taxi/limousine industry in Virginia in 2013. He provided it to Terry McAuliffe. And he has a taxi/limousine business presence in Virginia that sure doesn’t appear to care much for competitors such as Uber and Lyft. What a coincidence!

Perhaps Paul Mears and Terry McAuliffe are just engaging in Swann’s “synergism” though most honest people might call it corruption instead.

Of course money, cronyism, buying influence, and corruption is not limited to Terry McAuliffe or Democrats. We reported VPAP’s listing of campaign contributions from the taxi and limousine industry was the 5th largest of all Virginia industries. The largest organizational donation within this group ($60,500) belonged to the Virginia Taxicab Association. Seventy-five percent of those contributions went to Republican candidates for the Virginia General Assembly. The largest recipient was Republican Speaker of the Virginia House, William Howell.

Such contributions are rarely made without some expectation of a political dividend. Suppose Terry McAuliffe had not become governor. Who’s to say that the General Assembly might not have passed a state law to formalize what the DMV did instead?

Examples like this are exactly why government’s power must be limited. When government’s power grows, the value of holding office, and holding influence with office holders increases. In such a dynamic, free markets are perverted into the kind of crony capitalism (or crapitalism) that are so pervasive today where businesses spend more time coddling political relationships than improving their products or services. Free markets and the consumer would be better served by removing laws and restrictive regulations that limit competition and raise the cost of doing business.

We’ll leave you with the parting thought from the OS article that discussed McAuliffe’s and Swann’s business dealings:

The ethical watchdogs see people such as McAuliffe as a symptom of a political system in which fund-raisers earn clout that can be turned into opportunities to make money for themselves. “One of the problems we see is that very often the lines between political fund-raising and doing personal business are very blurry,” said Paul Hendrie of the Center for Responsive Politics, a non- partisan watchdog group. “It raises questions about whether the policy decisions being made are influenced by these relationships.”

Questions indeed…

Go Team USA, Your Government Needs Your Prize Money!

800px-Olympic_Rings.svgThe 2014 Olympic Winter Games are underway in Sochi!

Team USA Olympians are engaging in their quadrennial quest for winter gold, and, if they’re successful, they’ll pay for it. Each medal comes with a cash prize of $25,000 for gold, $15,000 for silver, and $10,000 for bronze (per medal) paid by the US Olympic Committee to the event winner.

And the IRS is already salivating at the opportunity to stick Team USA with tax bills on their winnings.  At the highest tax bracket, Americans for Tax Reform estimates an approximate $9,900 tax bill for each gold medal, $5,940 for a silver, and $3,960 for each bronze medal.

But let’s take it a step further.

There are 98 events at the Winter Games this time around.  If Team USA were to sweep the medal podiums and win every single medal available (gold, silver, AND bronze) in every single event, the IRS would need more than 122,000 Sochi Winter Games (at 98 events each!) just to pay the interest on the federal government’s debt, for this year alone!

Despite having imposed math mandates on states, it’s clear yet again from this example that federal government elected officials utterly fail to comprehend even the most basic math.

So ski, snowboard, skate, shoot, and curl hard Team USA. Your government needs you!

Slavery Is Freedom?

Harry Reid Argues Government-Induced Languidness Is Freedom

The Congressional Budget Office released a report revising employment projections under the Affordable Care Act (aka Obamacare). The report was not so good for defenders of the health care law.  The CBO projects approximately 2 million full time jobs lost by 2017, due to the provisions of the law, with another 500,000 full time jobs lost by 2024.

Then-Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi sagely remarked in 2010 that “we have to pass the bill so you can find out what is in it…”

As it turns out, what’s in there is a host of tax and regulatory provisions relating to income taxes and insurance subsidies provided by the federal government (i.e., the taxpayer) such that 2.5 million people will eventually make the decision that not working is more preferable to working.

The remarkable takeaway from the report is that it doesn’t quantify how many jobs might have been created by employers absent the tax and regulatory scheme that is Obamacare.  Instead, the report analyzes individual choices people make with respect to the level of free subsidies received from tax payers, the cost of insurance coverage, income levels, and what is available as public assistance.  The CBO proves an age-old adage that mankind generally wants what he wants, and he wants it in exchange for the least possible effort.

Perhaps competing with Nancy Pelosi for the dunce’s crown, Harry Reid is reported to have said at a meeting with the press, “We have the CBO report, which rightfully says, that people shouldn’t have job lock. If they — we live in a country where there should be free agency. People can do what they want.”

Generally we would agree, but this statement is about as dumb as they come.

Harry Reid is advocating that having a job to pay for one’s expenses represents  a kind of slavery from which one should be freed. “There should be free agency,” he says. But free agency refers to being “able to act freely without being controlled by someone else.” The good folks at Merriam-Webster even published that, maybe just for Harry!

People who make their decisions based on the coercion of government tax policy are not acting freely without being controlled by someone else.  They’re being controlled by the government and its policies. When the government makes a life of mooching mathematically valid and more profitable than a life of holding a job, three things are certain. One, the person giving up work for life on the public dole is definitely being controlled by government policy. Two, there are a healthy number of people who will take the government up on their offer. Three, someone else must pay the bill.

Is it truly freedom or slavery when a government-created policy creates a disincentive to work and favors collecting public welfare as a new career path? What about the person who faithfully maintains a job, pays his or her own bills, and pays taxes?

Is it freedom or slavery to take away the fruits of his or her labor and give them to someone who has made a conscious choice not to work and to collect tax-payer funded benefits?

wiley-reidWhat about the man who stands in front of you, and with all sincerity tells you that giving up your job in exchange for government benefits somehow sets you free? Is he showing you a tunnel to freedom and new opportunities? Or is he setting a trap for you to run at full speed into a boulder face? Is he offering you freedom? Or is he offering you slavery?

One thing is certain: it’s anything but “free agency” or “freedom.”

De Blasio’s Unbridled Corruption Play

deblasio_Fraud3New York City has itself a new mayor. And the first thing he is going to is tackle the city’s biggest problem of…horse drawn carriages?

De Blasio’s campaign website lists “A Humane City for New York’s Animals” as 14th in an overall list of issue priorities.  But at a press conference Monday, De Blasio said, “We are going to get rid of horse carriages, period,” bumping the issue up to be one of the first tasks he undertakes as mayor.  The escalation of priorities deserves scrutiny.  Let’s put De Blasio to the side for a moment and take a closer look at some players in the horse drawn carriage opposition “industry.”

One of New York City’s biggest advocates for banning horse-drawn carriages has been a group called New Yorkers for Clean Livable And Safe Streets (NYCLASS). Sounds like a decent group, right? Everybody likes clean, livable, and safe streets! Animals seem to be an afterthought in the organization name, but at NYCLASSleast they found room to clarify on their website tagline “Get political for animals.”

NYCLASS is a 501(c)4 non-profit “social welfare” organization. We’re assuming the IRS didn’t give this group the same flack in issuing their non-profit status the same way they have with other groups recently.

Steve NislickThe group’s founder, Steve Nislick includes his bio on the website as a member of the NYCLASS board of directors. Steve is “an avid equestrian,” “animal lover,” and “proud rescue dad of a former NYC carriage horse.”  Lovely titles–that is exactly the kind of  background suggesting someone would create a non-profit organization concerned with clean livable and safe streets that also advocates for animal rights.  If only that were true.

Steve Nislick seems to have left a bit out of his bio.  Both of the other board members listed a three paragraph bio on the website. Let’s help Steve a little bit since he seems to have forgotten about spending the past four decades at Edison Properties, a New Jersey-based real estate property development and investment firm.

Steve Nislick - Edison Properties But it seems that Mr. Nislick wasn’t always as slick at covering his connections to real estate development when it comes to the ongoing dispute over horse-drawn carriage rides in the city.

In 2009 Michael Gross published an article on his website after finding a 5-page pamphlet supporting a horse carriage ban, signed by none other than Steve Nislick.

In the article Gross quotes from the Nislick pamphlet that banning horse-drawn carriages would be “‘a windfall for the carriage industry from the sale of its multi-million-dollar stables alone.’ Nislick writes, before getting to his real point. ‘Currently, the stables consist of 64,000 square feet of valuable real estate on lots that could accomodate up to 150,000 square feet of development. These lots could be sold for new development.‘”

HMMM!  So the CEO of a real estate development and management company suddenly finds himself to be an emphatic friend of animals. The same CEO with nearly all of his company’s business interests in the City of New York. The same CEO whose company owns several storage and parking businesses situated in the same West Midtown area as the stables for the horses that power New York’s iconic horse-drawn carriage industry. And the same CEO who founded a social welfare organization that just happens to support a candidate who wants…well…what he wants. Neat, huh?! What a coincidence!!!

Besides putting his energy behind NYCLASS, Nislick also contributed the maximum $4,950 for an individual campaign contribution, held a fund raiser on Dec 13, 2010 for De Blasio, and in his board role at NYCLASS would have approved expenditures of some $770,000 for attack advertisements against De Blasio’s primary opponent Christine Quinn.  Sounds like a lot of effort to get to 14th place on the mayor’s list of priorities.

Let’s put Nislick back in his stable and return now to New York’s new mayor. De Blasio claims on his campaign website that carriage horses suffer “abuse” and  “inhumane treatment” which must be immediately banned in favor of “electric, vintage-replica tourist-friendly vehicles.”

But the New York Post reports that it looked into investigations completed by the city that might provide some evidence that there is widespread abuse or inhumane treatment of carriage horses. It found both the city health department and the ASPCA conducted investigations that determined no serious violations existed in terms of safety or health of the horses. The carriage industry hired a veterinarian from Cornell University to examine its horses. His report found “45% of the 130 animals inspected were “fat,” 50% were in good condition and 5% would be classified as thin. The thin horses were not unhealthy, just thin.” As far as finding any evidence of maltreatment of animals, there isn’t any. So what is the justification for government involvement?

May we humbly suggest, that if tourists wanted to be driven around the city or Central Park in electric, vintage-replica tourist-friendly vehicles, that an enterprising individual would be providing the service already.  Maybe Steve Nislick could have taken his 3/4 of a million spent on political activities and used it as seed money to start such a business.  He then could have seen for himself if the market wanted electric, vintage-replica tourist-friendly vehicles. When his business enjoyed undoubted success, he could have put the horse drawn carriage industry out of business and bought the property he coveted at a bankruptcy auction.

But instead, Nislick’s answer is to find a political opportunist in Bill De Blasio and legions of polyezniy idiots of liberal and progressive activists supporting causes like animal rights, social justice, and environmental activism to use as his and try to use the power of government to achieve his goals. The resulting loss of freedom impacts tourists, consumers, and the owners and employees of the current horse drawn industry.

And it’s important to remember that the existing business–despite being despised by political opportunists–are real people. Horse drawn carriage operators in the city accounts for more than $15 million in economic activity and provides nearly 300 jobs and stables for 200 horses. What about their freedom to operate their business without being badgered by idiot politicians who can’t find something better to do with the public’s time?

We’ll point out that Democrat Bill De Blasio doesn’t have a monopoly on this bad idea.  His Republican opponent in the mayor’s race, Joe Lhota, is reported as supporting replacing the horse drawn carriages with electric carriages also. It goes to show that neither party is immune from putting forward freedom killing bad ideas and pretending that government knows best or has the answers to life’s ills.

Business owners attempting to purchase political power within the colossus of government in order to achieve their business goals through force is not capitalism. This is corporatism and “crony capitalism,” better known as crapitalism. But it is not what one would expect to find in a society that values freedom, market competition, or free markets.

It’s what one would expect to find in a banana republic run by a despotic dictator where the dictator’s friends are rewarded for their loyalty and support. And where the dictator’s enemies are punished in order to give spoils to the supporters. (Kind of reminds us of how our current president does business, who commented on Oct. 25, 2010: “We’re gonna punish our enemies and we’re gonna reward our friends who stand with us on issues that are important to us.”).

We hope this effort to demonize one of New York’s tourist industries fails. The logic and politics behind the movement to end the horse drawn carriages are based on fraud, corruption, and kind of smell a lot like a steaming pile of the stuff that comes from the horses the mayor and his ilk are trying to forcibly retire.