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Real Estate Developer’s Crony Relationship With NY Mayor Revealed

in Economic Liberty, Liberator Online, News You Can Use by Alice Salles Comments are off

Real Estate Developer’s Crony Relationship With NY Mayor Revealed

This article was featured in our weekly newsletter, the Liberator Online. To receive it in your inbox, sign up here.

Crony capitalism has long been the driving force behind political shifts in the United States. And while that is usually accepted as an undeniable truth by most, many fail to see crony capitalism on city and state levels as a serious problem.

Recently, real estate developer and political donor-gone-rogue Jona Rechnitz offered testimony before the Manhattan federal court that shed some light on the quid pro quo relationship between businesses and local governments.

After having a New York City Mayor de Blasio operative contact him and ask him for a $102,000 donation so that Senate Democrats would get a boost in their efforts to remain in office, Rechnitz first refused, precisely because he wasn’t getting the favors from the city he had been after.

crony

“All you do is you come here when you need money,” he told the operative.

Rechnitz had been slapped with a series of violations due to the city’s change of policy regarding subletting rooms and whole apartments at the popular lodging app Airbnb.

While Rechnitz had paid the fines, he was still looking for a way to talk to the Housing Department directly to explain why the violations were unfair. And while he had contacted de Blasio’s office to make the meeting happen in the past, he had been ignored.

He also wanted to fast track the process to sell a home that belonged to his friend, and the city was allegedly not helping.

But as soon as he refused to give the mayor any money, things began to change. As a result, Rechnitz made the contribution requested of him. De Blasio even called him in person to thank him and to let him know that the contribution meant a great deal.

In no time, Rechnitz had reportedly gotten a meeting with the city to discuss the Airbnb issue. He also got the answers he needed on the property deal he was trying to make, all thanks to the money he “invested” and the subsequent bribes he allegedly carried out so that friends would invest millions in union pension funds.

Still, the mayor’s spokesperson has denied Rechnitz’s accusations. But regardless of what officials say, we know for a fact that when someone like Rechnitz says he “owns” a politician, it might as well be true.

Men of means who are willing to do anything to bring down competition will do all in their power to have a good relationship with elected officials. Not because that’s in their nature, but because government’s very involvement in businesses through regulation allows for companies and individual businessmen with the cash to pay to keep competitors at bay by influencing policy.

And it’s thanks to this reality that governments will often pass laws implementing policies that often benefit big, powerful companies while hurting small competitors who are still trying to enter the market. That’s how large companies become bigger and stronger, while competitors have a harder time even getting started.

Who loses in the end? The consumer.

In New York, You Can’t Pet Sit Without The State’s Permission

in Economic Liberty, Liberator Online, News You Can Use by Alice Salles Comments are off

In New York, You Can’t Pet Sit Without The State’s Permission

This article was featured in our weekly newsletter, the Liberator Online. To receive it in your inbox, sign up here.

For pet owners and dog lovers, the app Rover is a gift sent from the heavens. It helps users find affordable, convenient, and accessible help with their pets when and where they need it the most, no matter how last minute the emergency may be. Like Uber or Airbnb, Rover allows people willing to take care of your dog to do so freely, making it also affordable for the pet owner. But in places like New York, people making cash by providing a service and users looking for reliable help with their pets through Rover are under attack.

pet

Recently, the New York Health Department announced that pet sitters using the Rover app are breaking the law across the state and that’s because in New York, you are not legally allowed to take care of pets unless you’re associated with a licensed kennel.

Back in October, the department reached out to DogVacay.com, the app now known as Rover, telling the company to require its users to get licenses. Siding with app users, the company refused to comply.

As the news broke that the health department was cracking down on illegal pet sitters, many started speaking out against the state’s rules.

Twenty-nine-year-old Chad Bacon is one of them. The Brooklyn pet sitter told NY Daily News the fact he’s considered a criminal is absurd.

“The laws are antiquated. If you’re qualified and able to provide a service, I don’t think you should be penalized,” he said. After all, if his customers are happy, why would he be targeted by officials?

Using the app, Bacon told reporters, helps him when he’s between jobs, making it easier for him to be able to pay bills. Now that he’s been working full time by only using the app, he’s afraid this could put him in a sticky situation.

To those behind Rover, this type of policy hurts the poor and disadvantaged by forcing them to go through an expensive and laborious process in order to be allowed to offer pet-sitting services. The crackdown also hurts middle class and low-income pet owners who simply cannot afford to put their pets under the care of licensed professionals.

“You [are telling] the middle class you can’t own dogs unless you can pop in your Range Rover and drive to Connecticut for a boarding facility,” Rover’s general counsel John Lapham said.

Still, the department refuses to let go of the fear mongering rhetoric, claiming that without a license, pet owners are putting their beloved furry best friends in danger.

The same rhetoric all U.S. regulatory agencies employ whenever their credibility — and efficacy — is questioned.

Stories like this help to illustrate just how indefensible government interference in the market is. And yet, many well-meaning people who sometimes do agree that cases similar to this are absurd will still advocate for more government involvement in other fields.

It’s time to admit that government officials know little about the big wide world out there. Time to stop giving them the power to dictate how we should live our lives.

New York’s ‘Worker Protection’ Laws Will Only Hurt Workers

in Business and Economy, Economic Liberty, Liberator Online, News You Can Use by Alice Salles Comments are off

New York’s ‘Worker Protection’ Laws Will Only Hurt Workers

This article was featured in our weekly newsletter, the Liberator Online. To receive it in your inbox, sign up here.

Politicians cannot create value, and neither can governments. Still, voters are often the first ones to admit they chose a particular candidate because he or she promised to “create jobs.” With both conservative-leaning and progressive-leaning Americans making the case for government-sponsored programs that create more jobs, it’s easy to ignore the role of basic economics. After all, knowing economics in depth means that you understand that you cannot create jobs out of thin air. What you can create instead is value, and the only way to do so is by having government get out of the way completely.

Workers

In an environment where individuals are free to start businesses by basing their decisions on the demands of consumers, jobs are created out of a real necessity. By responding to an actual market need, employers then offer potential employees the opportunity to trade their labor for wages, which in turn will help them better their standard of living. As Robert Fellner wrote for the Mises Institute, “wages spring directly from, and are proportional to, the degree in which a job creates wealth by helping to satisfy an unmet need.” Or in other words, wages are the product of the wealth creation process triggered by a service or product created to meet the market’s demands.

When government attempts to “create jobs” and stipulate wages artificially by passing minimum wage laws, they are neither creating these positions out of a real necessity to meet a market demand nor raising standards of living by creating value. Instead, government-sponsored job creation is often the result of taxpayer-backed projects, which are in turn managed by central planners with little to no knowledge of market demands. And by increasing restrictions on the productive sector of the economy with minimum wage laws or other restrictive policies, the government takes the businessman’s freedom to give low-skilled individuals a chance at being employed, learning a trade and perhaps going on to take jobs in the future that offer higher wages.

 The new law also stipulates that workers may not work without breaks of at least 11 hours between shifts.

Needless to say, this new law will only hurt workers who are often the first to take on extra shifts and are willing to cover for colleagues due to an abrupt schedule change — not the employer. These individuals will be forced to take on extra side gigs to make ends meet instead of simply working more hours for their current employers.

If anti-poverty advocates were honest about helping those in need, they wouldn’t demand government do “something” about creating new jobs or raising wages artificially. Instead, they would look at the only viable way of actually helping the greatest number of people possible: the free market.

How Regulations Helped to Kill the Blackcurrant Berry Market in America

in Business and Economy, Economic Liberty, Liberator Online, News You Can Use by Alice Salles Comments are off

How Regulations Helped to Kill the Blackcurrant Berry Market in America

This article was featured in our weekly newsletter, the Liberator Online. To receive it in your inbox, sign up here.

It’s no secret that regulations are used as tools by rent-seeking firms in order to keep competitors off the market. But when US regulations restrict the production of items for long periods of time and for no apparent reason, it’s often hard to bring the same items back into particular communities.

FruitThis happened with the blackcurrant berry, which has impacted Skittles, the fruit-flavored sweets that are both produced and marketed by the Wrigley Company.

In the United States, the purple Skittle tastes like grape. But anywhere else, including the United Kingdom and Australia, the company uses blackcurrant to produce these pesky purple pieces of candy. Outside of the country, everyone knows what blackcurrant is. But in America, many haven’t even heard of the powerful fruit.

What many also don’t know is that blackcurrant berry is not widely known in America because of a regulatory black hole.

For many years, growing the sweet and tart berry in the United States was outlawed. Since the early 1990s, farmers were forced to drop the production, but it wasn’t because there wasn’t a demand. Instead, the policy was embraced after legislators learned that the berry bushes could act as a vector for white pine blister rust, which could destroy the wood. That was a problem for lumber producers, and the berry was outlawed.

While in the 1960s the federal government loosened restrictions, allowing states to set their own rules, a few have kept the ban in place. Nevertheless, most states now allow farmers to grow the berry. Regardless of the policy change, the decades of obscurity made Americans remain unaware of the very existence of blackcurrant berry. The fruit, which is widely popular in Europe, is seldom found anywhere in the United States.

One man’s journey to formally decriminalize the fruit in New York started in Germany, where he ran a restaurant in the Bavaria region. Coming back to New York, Greg Quinn lobbied local lawmakers, helping overturn the ban on growing the fruit. Ever since 2003, Quinn has been growing blackcurrants in Hudson Valley, and now counts with at least 10,000 bushes in his backyard.

Ever since the very first moment he learned about the berry, he knew he alone had to help reintroduce the flavor back to the American palate.

As his brand of juices and concentrates start to slowly hit the market, many cocktail bars and restaurants appear to like the products, but the flavor is so foreign to Americans that the product is often seen as a tough sell.

Until blackcurrant berries are popular in America again, one can only hope that this story will help others to think twice before supporting more restrictions in the future.

NYC Weed Arrests Up Again, Is Full Legalization the Solution?

in Drugs, Liberator Online, News You Can Use, Personal Liberty by Alice Salles Comments are off

NYC Weed Arrests Up Again, Is Full Legalization the Solution?

This article was featured in our weekly newsletter, the Liberator Online. To receive it in your inbox, sign up here.

Someone forgot to tell progressive New York Mayor Bill de Blasio that times, they have already changed.

NYPDDuring the then mayoral candidate’s campaign, de Blasio vowed to ensure the New York Police Department would cease to treat possession of small amounts of marijuana as a crime, but ever since he was elected, the number of marijuana-related arrests went up. This year, Gothamist.com reports, it went up nearly a third.

In 1977, New York decriminalized possession of fewer than 25 grams of weed. Users smoking or holding the bud in public, however, were still subject to police scrutiny. But while commissioner Ray Kelly was in command between 2002 and 2013, arrests for possession of small amounts of marijuana went up considerably. In 2010, low-level pot possession had become the top cause of arrest in the city, mostly due to the fact 50,383 people had been arrested for related offenses throughout that year.

That’s when pressure began to mount.

Faced with countless accusations of racial bias, commissioner Kelly decided to send officers a memo asking them to stop “improper” marijuana arrests, which often involved blacks and Latinos.

Once de Blasio took office, however, marijuana-related arrests dropped, but that didn’t last. In 2014, police had made 26,400 weed-related arrests. Now, recent figures show that the number of people going to prison for related offenses has increased considerably.

During the first half of 2015, NYPD had arrested 7,236 people for marijuana possession, but during the same period this year, the number went up to 9,331: A 30 percent increase.

Despite de Blasio’s campaign promises, things might not get better for pot smokers in the Big Apple unless state laws change.

A bill from 2015 that is still stuck in the state legislature could help give marijuana users more peace of mind. But the bill isn’t perfect.

If S. 1747, or the Marijuana Taxation and Regulation Act, passes, marijuana would be regulated and taxed like tobacco and alcohol. Proponents of similar pieces of legislation often say that while similar measures might have a negative effect on the overall cost of weed, it would keep officers from knocking people’s doors down in the middle of the night. But to many libertarians, only decriminalization of all substances, including marijuana, tobacco, and alcohol, works.

Mises Institute’s David Gordon argues in a piece from 2002 that punishing a person for using drugs is to “impose a severe disability on him; and justice requires that punishment be imposed only on someone who violates rights.” Drug use, therefore, cannot be criminalized simply because it could lead to bad social consequences. After all, Gordon continues, “[t]o punish people simply because their acts encourage others to act in a way deemed undesirable is to use people as means, in a morally unacceptable way.”

Despite the strong support the Marijuana Taxation and Regulation Act has obtained over the past year, many proponents of the bill believe that it could take years for something similar to pass through the state legislature, forcing New Yorkers to think twice before stepping outside with a small amount of weed in their pocket.

One Microaggression After Another

in First Amendment, Freedom On Campus, Liberator Online by Chloe Anagnos Comments are off

One Microaggression After Another

This article was featured in our weekly newsletter, the Liberator Online. To receive it in your inbox, sign up here.

Now more than ever, college campuses are offering training, courses and even online portals for students, faculty and staff to understand and report microaggressions. Failure to acknowledge harm caused by microaggressions on college campuses is resulting in the resignation of administrators.

Microaggression Microaggressions are small actions or word choices that seem on the surface to have no malicious intent but that are thought of as a tiny form of violence nonetheless.

For example, by some university guidelines, asking an Asian American where they are from is a microaggression because the questions implies that the person is not a real American.

Occidental College in California is instituting a microaggression reporting system, which comes as a response to recent student protests of President Jonathan Veitch, among other things.

Protests took place this past semester in support of other students of color at The University of Missouri, Yale, and Claremont McKenna College.

Although Veitch did not step down, he agreed to meet students’ demands which included: diversifying the faculty, creating a black studies program, increasing funding for diversity initiatives and training all campus staff on minority student needs, along with the microaggression reporting program.

Agreeing to student demands did not work for Ithaca College’s president, however.

In January, Ithaca College President Tom Rochon announced he would retire in 2017 which, appeased the groups of students and faculty members that called for his resignation. Rochon was accused of improperly handling racist incidents on campus, and offended student-activists and faculty wanted him out.

Really, only two incidents were reported. The first, an alumni panel discussion in which one panelist, an older white man, called another panelist, a younger black woman, a “savage” after the woman described herself as possessing “a savage hunger.” When the older man was told that his comments could be considered racial and malicious, although he did not mean them to be, he apologized. Rochon put out a statement and apologized:

On Thursday, October 8, we conducted a Blue Sky Reimagining kick-off event, featuring a conversation among four alumni followed by work in small groups brainstorming on how to make the Ithaca College educational experience more immersive.

Insensitive comments were made during the conversation. Immediately following the event, I (Tom Rochon) apologized to the alumna to whom the comments were addressed. We regret that what was intended to be a visionary moment for our community was diminished by insensitive comments.

In general, the college cannot prevent the use of hurtful language on campus. Such language, intentional or unintentional, exists in the world and will seep into our community. We can’t promise that the college will never host a speaker who could say something racist, homophobic, misogynistic, or otherwise disrespectful. Even so, we reaffirm our commitment to making our campus an inclusive and respectful community.

We recognize the concerns raised by members of the campus community about the language used during the Blue Sky event. We reiterate our commitment to the principles of respect and inclusion and to the goal of ensuring that Ithaca College is a place where all students, faculty, staff, and visitors feel safe and respected.

The other? A “Preps and Crooks” theme party that was hosted by a fraternity around Halloween. The dress of the “crooks” was racially insensitive according to some students. Ithaca’s vice president did indeed condemn the “destructive impact” of the event, but it did not satisfy Ithaca students.

By playing into student demands, college administrators are doing students a disservice for not adequately preparing them for the real world where one won’t be protected from speech, actions, or non-verbals that they may not like or agree with.

Aluminum Industry Wants Tax Deal, but Nobody Wants to Cut the Red Tape

in Economic Liberty, Economics, Liberator Online, News You Can Use, Taxes by Alice Salles Comments are off

Aluminum Industry Wants Tax Deal, but Nobody Wants to Cut the Red Tape

This article was featured in our weekly newsletter, the Liberator Online. To receive it in your inbox, sign up here.

Many think of crony capitalism as the source of all problems we face as a nation. They are not entirely wrong.

Take the domestic aluminum industry for instance. Despite the taxpayer investment, producers are losing their share of the market. Without freedom to compete, members of the industry take part in political games, using their influence with state governments and Washington politicians to beg for privileges that no other aluminum producers enjoy. The result? Major trouble for the consumer, employer, and worker.

Aluminum

In America, there are three companies that produce primary aluminum. Alcoa is the largest producer, operating multiple primary plants in New York, Washington, Indiana, and Texas.

In early November 2015, Alcoa announced that it would have to permanently close its Massena West smelter in New York. At the time, town supervisor Joe Gray said that the jobs Alcoa would take away if the smelter closed would be “next to impossible to replace,” considering the aluminum giant has been the major employer in the region for quite some time.

By late November, however, a deal was reached and the upstate New York smelting plant was saved. What happened? New York Governor Andrew Cuomo unveiled a $69 million incentive package that benefited Alcoa. At least 600 jobs were saved.

The plan was backed by Cuomo and Sen. Charles Schumer (D-NY), who made the announcement at the Alcoa plant in Massena. As union bosses celebrated the special relationship between the New York government and industry leaders, the incentives weren’t widely criticized, mainly because tax incentives aren’t seen as handouts by many. Instead, people often believe that tax incentives are good.

During the announcement event, Cuomo claimed that the incentives plan “is the state’s way of stepping up.” Yet none of those present were able to criticize the existing red tape that makes it so hard for companies to function in America in the first place.

If the cost of doing business in the country was not an obstacle, more competitors would fill up the gap, and cheap aluminum coming from China would have a hard time staying relevant. Instead of working to remove red tape and help all entrepreneurs and existing businesses to flourish, the state decided to give one group access to privileges that others in the same industry simply do not enjoy.

But as Alcoa enjoys the $30 million it got from the New York incentive package, things continue to look bad for the aluminum producers and its employees. Except now, the issue is not New York, it’s Indiana.

According to IndyStar.com, southwestern Indiana residents are now concerned that the Alcoa smelter in their state will shut down, shedding 600 jobs in the process. Early in January 2016, Alcoa announced it would be closing its Warrick Operations smelter by the end of March. This is a “major economic event,” said Warrick County Chamber of Commerce director Shari Sherman. But to Alcoa, the shutdown makes sense because the Indiana facility is not “competitive.” Meaning the cost of keeping it open is a burden.

The facility has been operating in Indiana for the past 55 years. As the smelter closes, multiple families brace for the impact. As workers struggle, so do companies that are finding it much harder to compete. The issue? They have a hard time covering the costs of doing business in America.

If workers and consumers are serious about seeing fewer job losses in their states and more prosperity, they’d be urging lawmakers to cut the red tape, not backroom deals.

Multiple Threats Made Against US School Systems Following San Bernardino Shootings

in Education, Liberator Online, News You Can Use by Chloe Anagnos Comments are off

Multiple Threats Made Against US School Systems Following San Bernardino Shootings

This article was featured in our weekly newsletter, the Liberator Online. To receive it in your inbox, sign up here.

In the weeks following the shootings in San Bernardino, California, that killed 14 people, multiple threats have been made against school systems in New York, Los Angeles, Houston, Dallas, Miami and Indiana.

Members of the Los Angeles Board of Education received a crudely written email that prompted officials to close all 900 schools in the nation’s second-largest school system Tuesday. School officials for the New York City school systems and local law enforcement dismissed an identical threat as a hoax.

On Thursday, school officials in Miami, Fort Lauderdale, Houston and Dallas said they received threats similar to the ones received by the Los Angeles and New York school districts earlier this week.

School

Two schools in Indiana canceled classes after also getting threats. The Danville Community School Corporation said two students were arrested after allegedly making threats against schools in separate incidents.

The Miami-Dade County, Dallas and Houston school districts announced on their websites that “less-than-credible” threats were received by email late Wednesday evening, and that schools would be open Thursday. Officials from Broward County Public Schools in Fort Lauderdale said they also received a threat.

The districts are among the nation’s largest — Miami ranks fourth, Broward is sixth, Houston is seventh and Dallas is 14th.

In Dallas, officials with the Dallas Independent School District said some teachers and staff members at two schools — Pinkston High and Martinez Elementary — received threats via email and notified district officials. The district’s police department activated its emergency response protocol and began working with other law enforcement agencies to make sure the schools were safe.

“We need to make sure that we don’t overreact to fear,” Dallas police Chief David Brown said. Dallas Mayor Mike Rawlings agreed, adding, “Obviously someone is trying to scare Dallas and that is not going to work.”

Robert Mock, police chief for the Houston Independent School District, said random overnight searches by explosives detecting dogs and patrol officers turned up nothing after district officials, including the superintendent, received the threat by email.

So far Thursday morning, “everything’s been normal, schools are in session, kids are learning,” Mock said.

He added that he doesn’t want to downplay the message because “a threat is a threat.” But he said the message referred to weapons and explosives among unsophisticated content that was “so far over the top the logistics just didn’t pan out.”

Details about the threats in Miami and Fort Lauderdale haven’t been released yet, but said on their websites they were similar to those received in New York and Los Angeles earlier in the week.

It’s unfortunate that some of the largest school systems in the U.S. let fear win – and dictate action. Instead of having the foresight to recognize hoaxes coming from some of these schools’ own students, the “better safe than sorry” mentality only succeeded in distracting students from what is really important – their education.

Are You Ready for the Next Industry Uber Innovates?

in From Me To You, Liberator Online by Brett Bittner Comments are off

This article was featured in our weekly newsletter, the Liberator Online. To receive it in your inbox, sign up here.

I am proud to admit that I am a HUGE fan of Uber.

uberWhen I travel, I use it almost exclusively for transportation. A few mornings a week, I even Uber to work to get ahead of the workday by knocking out a few e-mails or phone calls before my first trip to the refrigerator for a refreshing beverage (I don’t drink coffee). I Ubered to work this morning, because I knew that those few minutes I save result in greater productivity on the busiest day of the workweek around here.

When the story of the end to their experimentation with a courier-like service to become a full-featured delivery business model became widely shared yesterday, we saw the next innovation in the “sharing economy.” This change joins Amazon and Google in the instant gratification game. As a member of Amazon Prime (and more importantly, Prime Now) and Google Express, I enjoy near immediate delivery of many items to my office or my home that would otherwise require a trip to a grocery or big-box retail store.

After offering a free market alternative to taxis and buses and introducing the areas they serve to the “sharing economy,” Uber sought to grow into the logistics market. While not what they envisioned at the start, Uber’s experiment may result in providing small businesses, like restaurants and boutiques to offer same-day delivery without the overhead and development of a local logistics program.

What I found to be bigger news than their introduction of these services in New York, San Francisco, and Chicago, is that the demand for the service changed their implementation of the new business. The market demanded that the simple courier service they envisioned morph and adapt to accommodate the business side of a transaction, rather than compete directly with delivery services. The original offer is still available, though expanding to be a partner with the small business looking to meet their needs will likely be the driving force of their entrance into the delivery market.

Isn’t it great to have competition and cooperation to meet the customers’ needs, even if those needs didn’t match the beginning hypothesis?

No, Immigrants Don’t Make the U.S. Less Safe

in Immigration, Liberator Online, News You Can Use by Jackson Jones Comments are off

No, Immigrants Don’t Make the U.S. Less Safe

This article was featured in our weekly newsletter, the Liberator Online. To receive it in your inbox, sign up here.

Immigration has been catapulted back into the national political discussion in recent weeks, thanks to the comments of a bloviating celebrity businessman who is desperately seeking relevance.

immigrant family

“When Mexico sends its people, they’re not sending their best. They’re sending people that have lots of problems, and they’re bringing those problems with us. They’re bringing drugs. They’re bringing crime. They’re rapists,” he said last month. “And some, I assume, are good people.”

While some justifiably cringed at the notion, immigration restrictionists have praised the comments, especially after the tragic death of Kate Steinle, who was murdered by an illegal immigrant in San Francisco.

Mark Krikorian, executive director of the Center for Immigration Studies, a rabidly anti-immigration group, declared, in the wake of Steinle’s murder, that the celebrity’s “widely mocked warnings of this very danger have been vindicated.”

Former Arizona Gov. Jan Brewer, a Republican, who, in 2010 signed the toughest anti-immigration law in country, said the celebrity “is kind of telling it like it really, truly is.”

“I think that the people of Arizona realize that we picked up the tab for the majority of the violence that comes across our border in regards to the drug cartels, the smugglers, the drug houses,” Brewer said. “It has been horrendous.”

But is it true that immigrants bring crime to the United States? The answer may surprise you. Writing at Reason in July 2009, Radley Balko noted that despite its close proximity to Ciudad Juarez, which has been ravaged by Mexican drug cartels, El Paso, Texas “is among of the safest big cities in America.”

“There were just 18 murders in El Paso [in 2008], in a city of 736,000 people. To compare, Baltimore, with 637,000 residents, had 234 killings,” Balko explained. “In fact, since the beginning of 2008, there were nearly as many El Pasoans murdered while visiting Juarez (20) than there were murdered in their home town (23).”

“Numerous studies by independent researchers and government commissions over the past 100 years repeatedly and consistently have found that, in fact, immigrants are less likely to commit crimes or to be behind bars than are the native-born. This is true for the nation as a whole, as well as for cities with large immigrant populations such as Los Angeles, New York, Chicago, and Miami, and cities along the U.S.-Mexico border such as San Diego and El Paso,” he added.

On Tuesday, Alex Nowrasteh, an immigration policy expert at the Cato Institute, further countered the argument that more immigrants mean more crime in the United States.

“Both the Census-data driven studies and macro-level studies find that immigrants are less crime-prone than natives with some small potential exceptions. There are numerous reasons why immigrant criminality is lower than native criminality,” Nowrasteh wrote. “One explanation is that immigrants who commit crimes can be deported and thus are punished more for criminal behavior, making them less likely to break the law.”

“Another explanation is that immigrants self-select for those willing to work rather than those willing to commit crimes,” he added. “According to this “healthy immigrant thesis,” motivated and ambitious foreigners are more likely to immigrate and those folks are less likely to be criminals.”

None of this touches on the economic benefits of immigration or the dishonorable intentions of anti-immigration groups that drive the fear mongering. Those are topics, perhaps, for another day. But the fears about crime committed by immigrants are completely and utterly unfounded.

Your Favorite Distilled Beverage May Get a Little Cheaper

in Economic Liberty, Liberator Online, News You Can Use, Taxes by Jackson Jones Comments are off

Your Favorite Distilled Beverage May Get a Little Cheaper

This article was featured in our weekly newsletter, the Liberator Online. To receive it in your inbox, sign up here.

A bipartisan bill was introduced recently that would lower the per gallon excise tax on distilled drinks, including whiskey and rum.

The Distillery Innovation and Excise Tax Reform Act, introduced by Rep. Todd Young (R-Ind.), would relieve distilleries, especially newer ones, of some of the burdens they face when bringing products to market.

Currently, distilled drinks are taxed at $13.50 per proof gallon. Young’s bill seeks to lower the tax to $2.70 per proof gallon on the first 100,000 gallons produced by a distillery and $9 per proof thereafter.

Barrel

Rep. John Yarmuth (R-Ky.) has cosponsored the bill, which was referred to the House Ways and Means Committee on May 21. Rep. Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) chairs the powerful tax-writing committee.

“All around southern Indiana, many new craft distilleries are popping up, creating jobs and adding to the tax base,” Young said in a release on Wednesday. “But there’s a lot of red tape involved in getting a new distillery off the ground, and this bill helps reduce that burden. In addition, we have many large, established distilleries in our region of the country, and this bill will help them, too.”

The bill has support from the Distilled Spirits Council of the United States (DISCUS) and the American Craft Spirits Association (ACSA). “It is significant that the distillers of all sizes are united behind this important hospitality industry legislation,” Peter Cressy, CEO of DISCUS, said in a joint release with ACSA. “We thank the sponsors for recognizing the economic impact passage of this bill will have for our industry.”

Sen. Gary Peters (D-Mich.) introduced a companion bill in the Senate. Sens. Dan Sullivan (R-Alaska) and Kirsten Gillibrand (D-N.Y.) have signed on as cosponsors of the bill. Although the members represent states with a number of distilleries, the popularity of craft spirits has risen significantly and virtually every state now has distillery.

For the producers, the savings can mean expansion of their operations and more jobs for local communities.

“I started my distillery eight years ago to support Michigan jobs and prove that high quality spirits could be made right here in Michigan,” Rifino Valentine, founder of Valentine Distilling, said in a press release from Peters’ office. “While I’m proud to say we are expanding our facility, so many small distilleries are at a unique disadvantage as a result of the high federal excise tax.”

The bill may be common sense, but similar efforts to lower the excise tax on distilled spirits didn’t move out of committee in the previous Congress.

They Said It… From Eric Garner, Ethan Nadelmann, and More

in Liberator Online by James W. Harris Comments are off

(From the They Said It section in Volume 19, No. 23 of the Liberator Online. Subscribe here!)

FRUITS OF THE DRUG WAR: “What has the War on Drugs done to the world? Look at the murder and Ethan Nadelmannmayhem in Mexico, Central America, so many other parts of the planet, the global black market estimated at 300 billion dollars a year, prisons packed in the United States and elsewhere, police and military drawn into an unwinnable war that violates basic rights, and ordinary citizens just hope they don’t get caught in the crossfire, and meanwhile, more people using more drugs than ever. It’s my country’s history with alcohol prohibition and Al Capone, times 50.” — renowned anti-Drug War activist Ethan Nadelmann from his October 2014 Ted Talk “Why We Need to end the War on Drugs.” THE FAILURE IN FERGUSON: Judge Andrew Napolitano“The failure in Ferguson is across the board. From a city government whose police force makes its minority populace feel vulnerable and defends an unnecessary public killing by one of its cops, to a county prosecutor afraid to take responsibility for a proper public prosecution, to a governor missing in action, to a president who sounds like he wants to federalize police, we have an out-of-control stewpot boiling over into a wave of destruction. … The militarization of local police — perfected during the past two presidential administrations, which have given local cops military surplus intended to be used on enemy armies in foreign lands — if uncorrected, will lead to a police state. A police state is one in which the government’s paramount concern is for its own safety, and not for the lives, liberties and properties of those it has sworn to protect.” — Judge Andrew P. Napolitano, “Ferguson,” syndicated column, December 4, 2014. I CAN’T BREATHE: “Every time you see me, you want to mess with me. I’m tired of it. It stops today. Why would you…? Everyone standing here will tell you I didn’t do nothing. I did not sell nothing. Because every time you see me, you want to harass me. You want to stop me [garbled] selling cigarettes. I’m minding my business, officer, I’m minding my business. Please just leave me alone. I told you the last time, please just leave me alone. Please please, don’t touch me. Do not touch me. [garbled] I can’t breathe. I can’t breathe. I can’t breathe. I can’t breathe. I can’t breathe. I can’t breathe. I can’t breathe. I can’t breathe. I can’t breathe.” — last words of Eric Garner of New York, who died from a police chokehold after police attempted to arrest him for allegedly selling “loosies” — single cigarettes — on the street. Garner was unarmed and nonthreatening. The officer was not indicted, leading to protests in New York and across the country this week. PARDON US, MR. PRESIDENT: “Prior to Thanksgiving, President Obama continued the presidential tradition of pardoning two turkeys. Too bad he didn’t use the occasion to also pardon every single victim of the U.S. government’s decades-long failed and destructive War on Drugs… all the people who have been convicted of violating federal laws against the possession or distribution of drugs, especially those people currently serving time in some federal penitentiary. Those people have no more business being in jail than people who have used, possessed, or distributed beer, liquor, wine, tobacco, fatty foods, or any other substance. … President Obama, who himself, by his own admission, has possessed and consumed illicit drugs, spared the life of those two turkeys prior to Thanksgiving. Too bad his compassion didn’t extend to the thousands of Drug War victims in America’s federal prisons. He still has time to issue a blanket pardon before Christmas.” — Jacob G. Hornberger, President of the Future of Freedom Foundation, “Why Not Pardon Drug War Victims in Addition to Turkeys?”, December 1, 2014.

Cost of Government Day: You Worked More Than Half This Year for Gov’t

in Liberator Online by James W. Harris Comments are off

(From the Intellectual Ammunition in Volume 18, No. 15 of the Liberator Online. Subscribe here!)

Did you notice? Sometime in mid-July, you stopped working for the government — and were finally allowed to start keeping the money you earn.

Each year the Cost of Government Center, in partnership with Americans for Tax Reform Foundation, calculates Cost of Government Day.

Cost of Government Day is the day on which the average American has earned enough income to pay off his or her share of the spending and regulatory burdens imposed by government at the federal, state and local levels.

This year Cost of Government Day arrived — finally! — on Saturday, July 13.

In other words, this year American workers are forced to labor 194 days out of the year just to meet all the costs imposed upon them by government.

And that’s just the average. Taxpayers in many states will have to work well past July 13 to pay for costs imposed by their bloated state governments. Notoriously high-tax, big-spending states such as California, Illinois and New York have some of the latest-arriving Cost of Government Days in the nation.

Worst of all is Connecticut — where residents must labor for the state until… August 31.

And if you feel that the burden has gotten worse during the past few years, you’re right.  This year marks the fifth consecutive year that Cost of Government Day has fallen in July. Prior to the Obama Administration, the latest-arriving Cost of Government Day recorded was June 27.