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LA County Wants to Spend $425 Million Just to Connect Bike Paths (Not Build Them)

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

LA County Wants to Spend $425 Million Just to Connect Bike Paths (Not Build Them)

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

In November, Los Angeles County residents will be asked to vote on a new half-cent sales tax increase that would add $120 billion to the county’s public transit fund. The hike would extend the current sales tax for 18 years and raise its rate for four decades. Just the type of tax hike Californians do not need right now.

bikepathlaWhile the proposal was met with enthusiasm by the LA River Revitalization Corporation, a group that hopes to see an “unbroken 51-mile river spine, giving Los Angeles a ‘linear central park,’” the idea of using $425 million of that money to simply connect existing bicycle paths and provide access to the river—which is often mocked over the absence of water—is somewhat hard to process, even for some of the most pro-big government members of California’s media.

While the goal of the proposal is to use the $120 billion to double LA’s existing rail network, LA Weekly focused on the proposal’s goal of linking the bike paths and questioned county officials, asking whether these bike paths would “be paved with gold,” “[l]ined with tuxedo-wearing attendants serving riders hot cocoa,” or perhaps “speakers carefully hidden behind the shrubbery” will be made to play soft jazz throughout the day and that’s why the plan is so expensive.

In an official statement, Metro spokeswoman Pauletta Tonilas responded to the concerns claiming that since the LA river is “constrained by urban development,” and its roads, freeways, and rail provide a great deal of over-crossings, “bike path requires heavy civil construction.”

According to Tonilas, a complete “LA River Bike Path” will function “as the backbone of biking and walking infrastructure for densest parts of” the county.

Even bicycle activists like Joe Linton, who serves as the editor of StreetsblogLA, believe that the county is spending too much on the project. After all, LA Weekly reports, the goal is to “connect the existing paths,” not build new ones.

According to research from 2013, bike paths cost an average $133,000 per mile. The most costly paths can cost about $537,000 per mile. With those figures in mind, LA Weekly claims that the construction of an entirely new, 51-mile bike path should cost Angelenos anything between $7 million and $27 million. So why is the proposal’s estimated cost so high?

While the answer to that question may not be that easy to answer, this is not the first time we hear about bike path proposals carrying hefty price tags. In 2012, New York Governor Andrew Cuomo planned to spend $400 million on a 3-mile bike lane that would have realistically cost about $40 million.

At the federal level, the US government is often targeted by its own watchdog agency, the Government Accountability Office, for wasting billions in improper payments. In 2008 alone, GAO reports, the federal government wasted $72 billion on improper payments. While this particular report is associated with a series of agencies and doesn’t touch on transportation expenditure, it’s a great example of how easy it is for governments to misuse taxpayer money.

In an article for Heritage Foundation, Brian M. Riedl provides us with 50 examples of government waste. And while bike paths haven’t made the list then, it would be incredible to see the overblown expenses tied to the LA County’s bike bath plan getting audited. But first, Angelenos must agree with the proposal in the November ballot.

Why aren’t free markets dominating in countries with weak or failed governments?

in Ask Dr. Ruwart, Economic Liberty, Economics, Liberator Online by Mary Ruwart Comments are off

Why aren’t free markets dominating in countries with weak or failed governments?

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

Question: If a free market with no government oversight and protections for the People is a successful model, then how come countries with failed/weak governments are not mopping up all the worlds’ business?

Free Market

Short Answer: If by “failed/weak” governments you are referring to the Third World, some “mopping up” is indeed occurring. Since governments that exploit their people the most usually have the lowest wages, U.S. and European manufacturers are utilizing the “cheap labor” there. If by “failed/weak” governments you mean something else, please give me more detail and I’ll try to answer you.

By the way, a free market is not one without “protections for the People.” Truly free markets usually require those who defraud or harm others to compensate their victims; this usually keeps them more honest than government oversight does. Indeed, the penalties for violating government regulations usually do little or nothing to restore victims and may even cost them more. For example, those polluting river water were usually successfully sued by those downstream for damages in both Great Britain and the western territories of the U.S. before they became states). Once the U.S. government took over the waterways, however, downstream landowners rarely got compensation, even from the fines imposed by government. They not only had to put up with the pollution, they had to pay taxes for the government oversight.

Makes you wonder who is being protected from whom, doesn’t it?

White House Sacks the Treasury in the Name of Corporate Welfare

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

White House Sacks the Treasury in the Name of Corporate Welfare

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

Friday, one day before the President’s day holiday weekend, the Barack Obama Administration announced that $7.7 billion of taxpayer dollars would be allocated to Affordable Care Act insurers through the law’s reinsurance program.

From the Americans for Tax Reform website:

“For 2015 Obamacare reinsurance, the administration will pay out $6 billion raised from a fee on private health insurance and an additional $1.7 billion that under federal law belongs to the Treasury department.”

Seal According to pro-taxpayer organization, at least $1.7 billion of the $7.7 being used to cover insurers is being funneled illegally.

Doug Badger of the Galen Institute explains that ACA’s reinsurance program works by silently taxing every individual in America with health insurance. In 2015 and 2016, each individual with insurance is being allegedly taxed a total of $107. According to Badger, the program is designed to “prop up insurers that have agreed to sell Obamacare policies in the individual market.”

While the administration continues to claim that ACA is working, insurers that participate are losing money. But since the reinsurance program exists to cover the losses of the insurers, the administration seems to think keeping corporations happy with the deal is more important than following the law.

With the failure of the system, and with a growing number of consumers referring to alternative methods to have access to care, the administration is having to get creative.

According to the New York Post, not one dollar out of the $7.7 billion being promised to insurers should be taken from the Treasury under ACA law.

From the New York Post:

“The law states a fixed share ‘shall be deposited into the general fund of the Treasury of the United States and may not be used’ to offset insurance companies’ losses.

But the administration gave all of it to the insurance companies last year, and got away with that heist. So now they’re trying it again.”

While the administration projected it would be raising $12 billion for the ACA reinsurance program in 2014, it was $2 billion short. In order to handle the situation, the administration decided to keep the money from the Treasury, using it instead to hand it over to the participating companies.

The administration isn’t a stranger to this type of move. According to the House Energy and Commerce Committee, at least $8.5 billion in taxpayer money has already been illegally funneled to ACA’s corporate welfare programs.

Another initiative designed to shield insurers enshrined in ACA also seeks to secure the investment of insurers. The initiative is known as the Risk Corridor program, and it has also been tied to scandals in the past.

In 2014, insurers requested $2.87 billion in “risk corridors” payments, but the administration only offered 12.6 percent of that value.

The risk corridor program works by redistributing funds from insurers that make money with the Obamacare exchange to insurers that don’t. Not knowing how sick their customers were going to be due to the new healthcare law and its mandates, insurers were not being able to set premiums realistically, making it hard for companies to turn a profit.

Despite falling short on the risk corridor payments, the administration decided to bail out insurers that weren’t making money off the exchanges last year. ACA chief Andy Slavitt, who’s also the former Vice-President for United Health, made the announcement in December of 2015, saying the federal government was going to bail out insurers and offer them the amount they had previously asked. Later, however, Congress blocked the $2.5 billion “risk corridor” payment. The effort was championed by several conservative and libertarian organizations that came together to urge Congress to act.

If nothing is done this time around, taxpayers will have to foot the bill and cover the $7.7 billion the administration has vowed

New Jersey’s Takeover of Camden Proves Freedom is Better Than Taxpayer-Backed Revitalization Projects

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

New Jersey’s Takeover of Camden Proves Freedom is Better Than Taxpayer-Backed Revitalization Projects

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

Governor Chris Christie has recently announced that the state will take control of Atlantic City’s finances. As the city’s huge debt looms over its residents and the state vows to take over, critics and experts take a closer look at a previous major takeover of the city of Camden. And since many argue that state intervention ended up failing some of Camden’s most vulnerable residents, the promise of a better Atlantic City after intervention seems somewhat unrealistic.

In 2002, the state of New Jersey poured millions of taxpayer dollars into one of the largest takeover projects in US history. At least one law school, an aquarium, and a hospital were updated. But despite the taxpayer-backed incentives, the lives of residents did not improve. Instead, poverty and crime rates in the city remain high.

Camden

Despite the interventionist failures since 2002, the state announced in 2013 that it had decided to take over the education in Camden. As you will see, the results were equally disappointing.

According to a report from 2009, the initial revitalization campaign in the city counted with $175 million in bonds and loans and a one-time $7.5 million appropriation from the state budget. Shortly after, the then-Governor Jim McGreevey appointed a chief operating officer to take over the local government and the school board. The plan was to create jobs, bring in new businesses, fix the schools and the sewers, and demolish unsafe vacant businesses.

But as the takeover came to an end in 2010, Camden remained one of the most dangerous cities in New Jersey. And despite the state’s repeating efforts to reform the education system in the city, Camden school districts remain problematic.

The New Jersey government has been responsible for running the Paterson, Newark, and Jersey City school districts for more than 20 years. In 2013, it took over Camden’s as well. During the first years under state control, Camden failed to meet performance requirements in at least five areas.

While Paterson, Newark, and Jersey City report that their graduation rates had improved, local educational leaders claim that the improvement is due to the work members of the community have been doing in partnership with educational groups.

According to Paterson Education Fund’s executive director Rosie Grant, the state takeover meant little to the community.

“The gains that we have made,” she told The Record, “have been for the most part despite the state takeover.” Instead, Grant believes that the city’s decision to break the region’s largest high schools to form smaller academies is what made Paterson great.

But not all is lost in Camden.

When it comes to education, the real revolution arrived in the form of school choice.

According to a 2015 video by Jim Epstein, school choice gave local families in Camden the ability to choose. Instead of relying solely on state-run schools that continue to fail Camden’s children to this day, the implementation of charter schools has given residents the opportunity to enroll their children in institutions where children actually learn, despite their economic background.

If the state’s intervention in Camden has anything to teach other cities across the country is that pouring taxpayer money into an issue won’t make it better. Boosting choice—and freedom—on the other hand, usually works.

If the current administration is serious about saving Atlantic City, it will avoid pouring money into the problems the city is facing. Opening its doors for businesses and competition, however, may just do the trick.

Increasing Costs Tied to Obamacare Make Healthcare Ministries More Appealing Than Insurance Providers

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

Increasing Costs Tied to Obamacare Make Healthcare Ministries More Appealing Than Insurance Providers

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

As the country is distracted by the presidential election, issues that aren’t getting as much air time as Donald Trump or Hillary Clinton become a side show.

With reports concerning the ineffectiveness of the Affordable Care Act, or Obamacare, hitting the news but being ignored by major news channels, crusaders take it to the Internet to discredit Obamacare critics. As new reports argue that Americans are fed up, smaller publications seek to downplay some of the fears brought up by conservatives and libertarians all along. When faced with evidence that shows ACA is making healthcare less affordable, will these pro-Obamacare crusaders back down?

Health Care

Exactly two days before Christmas, the New York Magazine ran an article tailored to take conservative-leaning Americans to task. The subject? One of the left’s most adored achievements (and one of the right’s biggest, and most disputed, creations): Obamacare.

According to Jonathan Chait, the author, the NY Mag piece was conceived in order to debunk arguments presented by Ross Douthat, who wrote a column on Obamacare for New York Times earlier that same week.

While the piece discusses the number of covered Americans before and after the enactment of Obamacare and other points made by Douthat, it’s when Chait focuses on the cost of healthcare before and after the enactment of ACA that things get interesting.

In the NY Mag piece, Chait introduces a seemingly detailed blueprint of how ACA has bent the overall healthcare cost to the average consumer. Yet he ignores actual evidence proving that no, Obamacare hasn’t helped to keep the cost of healthcare low. As a matter of fact, the constant meddling with the insurance business and the healthcare industry in the past has done nothing but to increase the overall cost of health care. Now, those who lost their previous plans and who are unable to sign up for insurance after Obamacare went into full force are being cornered. As a result, they are choosing to pay the IRS fee instead of getting coverage.

Even those who supported President Barack Obama’s signature law are getting desperate.

But as a number of consumers lose their hope, a report recently published by the Wall Street Journal shows that things might have just gotten worse.

According to the WSJ, the cost of health insurance is such a heavy burden for those who lost their insurance plans after ACA became the law of the land that many consumers are now turning to healthcare ministries to cover their medical expenses.

That’s right. Health insurance costs are so out of control that consumers are turning to ministries, which operate outside the insurance system, in order to get access to the health care they need.

Instead of functioning as an insurance provider, these ministries provide health care cost-sharing arrangements to those who share the same religious beliefs.

Ministries now count with about 500,000 members nationwide thanks to ACA. Previous to the law, there were about 200,000 members enrolled in the system. But things could get crowded soon, making it hard for ministries to take in more members.

While ACA gives these ministries an exception to the law, only groups that have operated continuously since at least December 31, 1999 are eligible. Without the possibility of expanding the number of participating ministries, helping those in need could become too heavy of a burden.

When the exception was added to the law, it hoped to satisfy a relatively small number of groups that argued that nonparticipation was a matter of religious freedom. Now, ministries are being sought after as a matter of survival. And as ministries become crowded, insurance commissioners begin to complain, claiming these groups operating outside ACA are hurting consumers.

But with ministries costing about 30 percent less than private insurance, consumers who choose the more affordable path can’t be blamed for taking the easier way out.

Claiming to have the consumer’s best interest at heart, insurance commissioners from Kentucky, Washington, and Oklahoma have, in the past, decided to take action against ministries in their states. Thankfully, legislatures blocked the efforts. But as the cost of care continues to grow and the number of uninsured only shrinks because of the threat associated with non-compliance, other states may attempt to put an end to faith-based healthcare providers again, hurting thousands of consumers if they succeed.

In light of this report, will NY Mag’s Chait finally agree that Obamacare is making healthcare less affordable? Probably not. Nevertheless, ministries may have to fight yet another battle to stay open if membership growth remains steady.

What’s Your Solution?

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

What’s Your Solution?

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

As libertarians, it’s pretty easy to point out the flaws and holes in solutions pitched to address the issues we face. It’s also very easy to just say no to everything, because the answer doesn’t pass muster with a libertarian worldview.

The hard part, yet the one that helps you be taken seriously as a part of the conversation, is to have your solution, a libertarian solution, ready to share when you oppose the option(s) presented.

solutionIn my experience, we are quick to oppose a politician’s proposal because it increases spending and/or taxes. Or we see that it isn’t authorized by the Constitution. Or we have examined the likely outcomes, and find fault with those outcomes.

Even in cases of strict opposition, like a new tax, build a case to present about why the proposal is bad and offer a libertarian solution to reduce or eliminate the perceived need for increased spending.

When I worked against the continuation of a sales tax, our “Ax the Tax!” campaign focused on the wasteful spending that accompanied the tax.

We pointed out:

  • that additional spending on new capital projects increased the liability for future budgets for operations and maintenance of those projects, likely leading to future tax increases.
  • the projects were wasteful and unnecessary, designed to get the support of small constituencies to support the “whole pie” in order to get their “piece.”
  • several projects duplicated and directly competed with existing private sector businesses or replaced something that failed in the eyes of the market.
  • the regular budgeting process planned for the tax’s continuation to make the spending appear necessary. In this case, road “improvements” (paving and intersection changes) were 98% dependent on the continuation of the sales tax.

We were also involved early in the process, showing up to events and meetings to discuss why the ideas proposed were not acceptable. By being involved early, we won a small victory by reducing the size (and cost) of the proposed project list by a third before it was even presented to voters for the referendum. By showing these faults and offering that there were ways to address them all without the tax, we nearly defeated it, despite being outspent 100:1.

We built a coalition of like-minded and some unlikely allies, and our unified messaging that addressed our solutions received MULTIPLE positive news stories about our opposition to spending $600 million in taxpayer money.

Regardless of why you oppose a proposal, no ready solution negates your inclusion in the conversation, which limits your exposure outside your immediate allies. Those allies already have your support, so you end up “preaching to the choir” rather than getting more people on your side.

Libertarians cannot always be a force of opposition. Inclusion in the discussion gives us a way to share a libertarian solution and offer some common sense guidance to the outcome.

Do Libertarian Ideas Go Too Far?

in Ask Dr. Ruwart, Communicating Liberty, Economic Liberty, Liberator Online, Libertarianism, Taxes by Mary Ruwart Comments are off

Do Libertarian Ideas Go Too Far?

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

Question:

Ron SwansonI am coming around to libertarian ideas, but so many libertarian policies, while moving in the right direction, seem to go way too far. For instance, the idea of no taxation, only user fees, seems great. But it seems that some taxation would be necessary to pay government workers, maintain ambassadors and embassies to other nations, host state visits from other nations, and (a necessary evil) pay lawyers to defend the government against lawsuits, as well as a host of other little things that there couldn’t be a user fee for. Can zero taxation really stand up to reason?

Answer:

Yes!

Government workers would be paid by those individuals or groups that made their employment necessary. Lawyers defending the government in lawsuits, for example, would be paid for by the guilty party. Since government officials would not enjoy sovereign immunity in a libertarian society, they could be liable for attorney fees and damages for any wrongdoing. In other answers posted on the Web site, I’ve detailed the mechanism by which restitution could be made.

Since a libertarian government would not be restricting trade between nations, establishing embargoes, setting tariffs, handing out taxpayer guaranteed loans, etc., our top officials would not be wining and dining dignitaries from other countries as they do today. Naturally, heads of state from other countries could visit the U.S. at their own expense. Without the ability to pick the U.S. taxpayer’s pocket, however, few would bother.

If embassies were maintained in foreign nations, they would be supported by fees from travelers or others who might utilize their services.

Today, those who are too poor to travel pay taxes to support services for people who can afford to see the world. Taxes are one way in which government makes the poor poorer and the rich richer.


Editor’s Note: As former Advocates President Sharon Harris notes in this article from a past edition of the Liberator Online, making the case for ending the income tax is not a difficult task. One thing to consider when discussing libertarian ideas is the concept of the Overton window, which can be raised with a little help from this post from that same issue.

 

Free the Hops: Sin Taxes Drive Up the Cost of Beer

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

Free the Hops: Sin Taxes Drive Up the Cost of Beer

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

Your favorite frothy adult beverage would be a little cheaper if sin taxes were not part of the equation, according to a new report from the Tax Foundation, a nonpartisan policy research center.

Each state taxes beer by the gallon, with the costs ranging from just 2 cents in Wyoming to $1.29 in Tennessee.

“State and local governments use a variety of formulas to tax beer,” Scott Drenkard writes at the Tax Foundation. “The rates can include fixed per-volume taxes; wholesale taxes that are often a percentage of a product’s wholesale price; distributor taxes (sometimes structured as license fees as a percentage of revenues); case or bottle fees (which can vary based on size of container); and additional sales taxes (note that this measure does not include general sales tax, only those in excess of the general rate).”

There is a trend to be found in the rates, as well. States in the Southeast tend to have the highest beer taxes. Seven of the top 10 states with the highest beer taxes are located in the area of the country known as the “Bible belt.” Northeastern states tend to have lower beer taxes.

Beer Tax

Beer Tax

The Beer Institute estimates that consumers pay $5.6 billion in federal and state excise taxes annually. “Surprisingly, taxes are the single most expensive ingredient in beer,” the beer centric think tank notes, “costing more than the labor and raw materials combined.”

Although the Tax Foundation report does not touch on the cost of federal and state regulation of beer, which adds to the cost of production, particular of micro-breweries and small craft beer producers.

In a June 2014 editorial at US News, Matthew Mitchell and Christopher Koopman, both research fellows at the Mercatus Center, explained that the excessive regulations, which are just another form of taxation, create burdensome barrier to entry for small brewers looking to take their product to market.

“Once in business, brewers face more hurdles. Among the least efficient regulations are the ‘franchise laws’ that restrict their ability to sell beer directly to consumers, instead mandating that they sell through distributors. These rules can even dictate how brewers may contract with distributors,” wrote Mitchell and Koopman. “For example, some grant distributors exclusive territories, and others limit the ability of a brewer to choose to work with someone else. A recent survey found that in most cases, these rules make consumers worse off.”

Beer taxes may be an easy target for lawmakers looking to raise revenue for big government programs and regulation may be a convenient way to protect big beer brewers, but these policies are keeping Americans from the frothy goodness that is their favorite brew. Raise a glass and tell your lawmakers to “free the hops!”

No One “Pays” Taxes

in Communicating Liberty, Liberator Online, One Minute Liberty Tip by Sharon Harris Comments are off

(From the One-Minute Liberty Tip section in Volume 20, No. 15 of the Liberator Online. Subscribe here!)

“You don’t ”pay’ taxes. The government TAKES them.” — comedian Chris Rock.Chris Rock

Not only is this quote funny (especially when you hear Chris Rock say it), it makes a profound point — one well worth remembering when talking about taxes and politics.

The word “pay,” in connection with taxes, is just government propaganda. Using it — saying we “pay taxes” or “paid our taxes” — hides and distorts the true nature of taxation. And that’s something libertarians shouldn’t do.

Here’s what I mean.

In common usage, the word “pay” strongly implies some kind of consensual agreement. If you’re selling apples and I want one, I pay you for it. If I don’t want the apple, I don’t have to pay. If someone else has a better deal on apples, I’m free to trade with him instead. Or I can skip apples altogether.

Similarly, if I borrow money from a loan company, I agree to pay it back with interest. If a competing company offers lower interest rates, I’m free to trade with them instead. I also of course have the option of not borrowing money at all.

Those are payments, voluntarily agreed to.

However, the word “pay” is inappropriate for a coerced exchange — like taxation.

As the great Lysander Spooner famously pointed out, if a criminal points a gun at you and demands all the money in your pocket, you aren’t “paying” the robber when you hand over your money. You didn’t “pay” — you were robbed!

If burglars enter your home at night and steal your valuables, you didn’t “pay” the burglar. He TOOK your money! You were robbed.

Libertarians view taxes as a form of coercion, no different in essence from robbery or theft. (By the way, a startlingly large number of Americans now agree with us on this. See the story “New Poll: Millions of Voters Say They’re Libertarian” above.)

So we should never use language like “pay taxes” or “paid taxes.” Saying so legitimizes taxation. It implies that taxation is just another form of legitimate exchange, like paying for goods and services you voluntarily purchased.

PickpocketInstead, when someone else uses that term, we should, if appropriate, gently disagree. And respond with something like: “Actually, I didn’t ‘pay’ taxes. No one PAYS taxes. The government just seizes money from you. There’s a big difference. Payments are voluntary. Taxes are coercive. Like… theft.”

Your wording, of course, will depend on who you’re speaking with and where. But one thing’s certain — you’ll have trouble improving on Chris Rock’s monologue:

“The messed-up thing about taxes is you don’t ‘pay’ taxes. The government TAKES them. You get your check and money is GONE! It was not an option! That ain’t a payment — that’s a JACK! I been TAX JACKED!”

Silicon Valley Innovators: Gov’t Is Biggest Barrier to U.S. Innovation

in Liberator Online by James W. Harris Comments are off

(From the Intellectual Ammunition section in Volume 19, No. 21 of the Liberator Online. Subscribe here!)

Innovation's biggest barrierWhat’s the worst drag on American technical innovation?

According to some of the most creative and successful people in America, it’s… government.

In a new “Silicon Valley Insiders Poll,” The Atlantic asked 50 “Silicon Valley Insiders” — described as leading “executives, innovators, and thinkers” — this question: “What’s the biggest barrier to innovation in the United States?”

The top three answers:

  1. “Government regulation/bureaucracy” — cited by 20% of respondents. 
  2. “Immigration policies” — cited by 16%.
  3. “Education” — yet another thumping government failure — cited by 14%. 

As Reason’s Nick Gillespie notes in the Daily Beast: “Given the role it plays in setting immigration policy and controlling education at all levels through a mix of money and mandates, that means government takes the gold, silver, and bronze medals at making life harder.”

(Fourth place was “Talent Shortage,” cited by 10% of respondents, which is also at least in part a consequence of the second and third government-created barriers.)

Further, it’s not just the tech sector reporting serious damage from government. A 2010 survey conducted by the National Federation of Independent Businesses asked small business owners to identify the biggest problems they face. Twenty-two percent of respondents said the single most important problem facing small businesses was “Taxes. Another thirteen percent said “Government Regulations and Red Tape.” Both, of course, are direct manifestations of Big Government. Combined, they add up to 35% — making Big Government the biggest problem small businesses say they face.

And Americans in general seem to agree. As we reported earlier this year, a Gallup poll found a record 72% of Americans picked big government as “the biggest threat to this country in the future” compared with big business or big labor.

Halloween: Share Some Scary Facts About… Government

in Communicating Liberty, Liberator Online, One Minute Liberty Tip by Sharon Harris Comments are off

(From the One-Minute Liberty Tip section in Volume 19, No. 18 of the Liberator Online. Subscribe here!)

HalloweenThe scariest holiday of the year is fast approaching. Bloodsuckers, devils, demons and creeps will roam the streets, demanding we hand over our goodies — or face nasty consequences.

No, not the elections — Halloween!

Holidays can be a great time to share libertarian ideas with family and friends. We recommend libertarians gather liberty-themed facts, figures and stories specific for each holiday and share them if and when appropriate. (We try to share such info in the Liberator Online as major holidays near.)

Below is a fun and startling report from Americans for Tax Reform (ATR) that gives some genuinely shocking figures about how much government is adding to the cost of your family’s Halloween celebration this year.

Unfortunately, ATR first posted this in 2011, and they haven’t updated it as we go to press. It’s still very usable, though. Just point out the date by saying something like “as Americans for Tax Reform noted a few Halloweens back…”)

So, if the opportunity arises, scare your family and friends with some of this truly terrifying information. You can share it online, too, by linking here.

You’ll surely open some minds about the creepiest House of Horrors of them all— the federal government! Happy Halloween!

The Frightening Cost of Halloween — Thanks to Government
(from Americans for Tax Reform)

Think Halloween is scary? Ha! It’s nothing compared to the Frightfest of taxes and hidden costs government adds to this beloved holiday.

Each year, parents spend $1 billion on kid costumes for Halloween. On average, for the estimated 41 million trick-or-treaters, each kid wears a costume costing almost $25 — a hefty sum for parents who know this annual investment is only going to get a few hours of use.

Taxes make up a shocking amount of that cost.

Kids’ costumes are almost all made of heavily taxed synthetic fibers. On top of the state sales tax paid at the register, the government increases the cost of buying these costumes by imposing a 17 percent tariff on many of these imported costumes. Businesses not only have to absorb these costs, but also those imposed by income taxes, payroll taxes, corporate taxes, property taxes, capital gains taxes, unemployment insurance taxes, workmen’s compensation taxes, and other payments to federal, state, and local forms of government.

When all is said and done, government taxes compose a terrifying 47.82 percent of the cost of the average kid’s costume — $11.66 of the average price. Boo!

But the government’s tricks don’t end there. The Halloween season brings with it $2 billion in candy purchases. Due to excise taxation on sweets in addition to the burden of taxes placed on the confectionery industry, the government takes a 30.81 percent bite out of the average trick-or-treaters’ candy haul. Ouch!

Altogether, the cost of celebrating our scariest holiday is made all the more frightening by the costs imposed by government: hidden taxes and other costs constitute 40.91 percent of your Halloween celebration. 

This amounts to a burden of $688 million — or $16.80 per kid. The remaining $1.3 billion of candy not distributed during trick-or-treating represents another $406 million in taxes. Finally, after including taxes on adults for decorations and costumes the total Halloween tax bite comes to… a bloody and bruising $2.7 billion.

And the cost is even higher if you attend a spooky party with alcoholic beverages. Wine, distilled spirits and beer are all subject to more hidden taxes. Going out to dinner instead of trick-or-treating also carries higher government costs. And if you have to drive your kids to trick-or-treat, the government bite of gasoline also takes a hefty bite out of your wallet…

Wherever you turn, wherever you go, you can’t escape the bloodsucking horror of… the federal government.

Hey, if you’re still searching for a truly bone-chilling costume idea, here’s one: dress up as… Uncle Sam.

Burger King: “Bye” to U.S. High Taxes

in Liberator Online by James W. Harris Comments are off

Burger King(From the Intellectual Ammunition section in Volume 19, No. 14 of the Liberator Online. Subscribe here!)

This popular meme floating around the web pretty much says it all:

Statists: If you don’t like the laws, then leave!

Burger King: K, bye.

Statists: OMG NO, YOU CAN’T DO THAT, YOU UN-AMERICAN, TRAITOR, GREEDY PEOPLE! WE WANT TO STEAL MORE FROM YOU!

Read the next article from this issue here.

Go back to the full issue here.

Buckley for Senate

in Liberator Online, Libertarian Party by James W. Harris Comments are off

(From the Intellectual Ammunition section in Volume 19, No. 12 of the Liberator Online. Subscribe here!)

John BuckleyOne of the most famous family names in American political history is once again on the ballot and in the national news.

John Buckley — cousin of the renowned late conservative icon William F. Buckley and former U.S. Senator James L. Buckley — is running an active campaign as Libertarian Party candidate for U.S. Senate in West Virginia.

And he’s already drawing significant national attention. The Washington Post recently described his campaign as one of seven U.S. senate races in which a Libertarian Party candidate could win enough votes to affect the outcome of the election, thus forcing the campaigns of both older party candidates to seriously consider supporting libertarian positions if they want to win.

Said the Washington Post: “John Buckley knows something about winning political races. He’s a former state legislator in Virginia, and a former employee at the American Conservative Union, the Cato Institute and the Law and Economics Center at George Mason University.” He’s also a past National Chairman of Young Americans for Freedom and has worked for the Institute for Humane Studies and the National Tax Limitation Committee.

At his campaign website he sums this up: “All through my life, I’ve worked to promote freedom and prosperity.” His lifetime of political experience, he says, soured him on the Republican Party as a vehicle for liberty and led him to the Libertarian Party.

Buckley tells more about his background and beliefs at his Facebook page:

“I turned 60 in 2013 and, with what I see happening under the presidency of Barack Obama (and even the astonishing growth of government under President George Bush), I want to do my part to try to turn America around. We need less government, not more!

“I have also realized that principles of limited government should be applied across the board, not just as to taxes, spending, and economic regulation, but to personal, ‘lifestyle’ decisions as well. Thus, I favor drastically lowering the level of federal government taxes and spending, embracing Second Amendment gun ownership rights, and respecting private property;

“I also support the legalization of marijuana (common sense tells us it’s time to end the ruinously expensive, counterproductive, and failed ‘War on Drugs’), same-sex marriage, and ending Big Brother’s snooping and spying on American citizens.

“Most Americans don’t like being told what to do and don’t relish telling others what to do, either. The American way is ‘live and let live.’ We may not like the decisions our friends and neighbors make, but we express our moral suasion voluntarily (through churches and family and other peaceful expressions of community standards), not through laws and dictates.

“We certainly don’t like politicians, and especially not Congress or whoever is president, telling us what to do. Whether it’s fluorescent light bulbs, ‘Big Gulp’ sodas, how we run our businesses, how we choose to meet the moral obligation to help our neighbors in need, the curriculum of our children’s schools, our right to keep and bear arms, what we smoke or drink, who we can love or the terms of our health-care.

“I am in favor of liberty — that’s what ‘Libertarian’ means, favoring liberty. It’s the American way of life, but I’m afraid the principles of liberty have been largely abandoned under mainstream Republicans and Democrats. Let’s reclaim the greatness of the American system of limited government. I’ll hope you’ll join me in this campaign.”

Word Choices: Pro-Market, Not Pro-Business

in Communicating Liberty, Liberator Online, Libertarian Stances on Issues, Libertarianism by Sharon Harris Comments are off

(From the One-Minute Liberty Tip section in Volume 19, No. 9 of the Liberator Online. Subscribe here!)

Libertarians enormously appreciate the positive contributions so many businesses have made to our

world.

Because of this, libertarians are sometimes labeled “pro-business.”

But this is incorrect — and misleading.

Libertarians are not “pro-business.” We are “pro-market” — a very different thing.

The distinction is a vital one.

Libertarians support a free market where businesses are free to enter a field and offer their goods and services, in competition with any and all others who wish to do the same.

The resulting competition brings ever-better goods and services. Lower prices. Innovation. More convenience and more choice.

The companies that succeed in this free market competition do so by doing the best job of pleasing customers. Those that fail to sufficiently please consumers go out of business. The consumer is king.

This is the market process that libertarians strongly support.

But being “pro-business” is an entirely different thing. Politicians, lobbyists, economists, pundits and others who are pro-business — or who favor a particular business entity — may lobby for special favors for a particular business or area of commerce.

This may be pro-business. But it is anti-market.

Many who are pro-business want government to help particular businesses or industries that are unable to compete effectively. Sometimes they want government to use political power and tax dollars to entice a business to locate in a particular area.

Pro-business forces may want to prop up a favored business with bailouts of tax dollars or with other tax grants. They often call for punitive taxes on competition that challenges the favored business (especially if that competition is foreign). They may offer special zoning privileges to favored businesses. They may call on the government to seize private property through eminent domain and give it to a favored business.

Pro-business forces may endorse licensing, education requirements, regulations and other obstacles that protect favored businesses from competition. It often surprises people to learn that many large businesses love government regulation because it limits their competition. But as Nobel Prize winning economist George Stigler wrote: “…as a rule, regulation is acquired by the industry and is designed and operated primarily for its benefit.”

Governments may declare a business is “too big to fail” and thus deserves a huge taxpayer bailout. Or that a field is crucial to the “public interest,” and thus deserving of subsidies and special treatment; agriculture is a prime example.

You get the picture. All of this is done by pro-business people. And all of it is deeply, profoundly, anti-market.

In an excellent article on this topic, “‘Free Market’ Doesn’t Mean ‘Pro-Business“ economist Art Carden quotes a great passage from the book The Rational Optimist by Matt Ridley:

“I hold no brief for large corporations, whose inefficiencies, complacencies, and anti-competitive tendencies often drive me as crazy as the next man. Like Milton Friedman, I notice that ‘business corporations in general are not defenders of free enterprise. On the contrary, they are one of the chief sources of danger.’ They are addicted to corporate welfare, they love regulations that erect barriers to entry to their small competitors, they yearn for monopoly and they grow flabby and inefficient with age.”

The fruits of the pro-business mindset — taxes, unfairness, lack of competition and choice, over-priced goods and services, unemployment — are often the things that people hate most about our economic system. People naturally blame this on free enterprise, on the market system. Yet it is the pro-business mindset — not the market — that is responsible for these ills.

Let me give Art Carden the (almost) final word:

“In a free market, you are welcome, and indeed encouraged, to enter the mousetrap industry if you think you can build a better mousetrap or find a way to make similar mousetraps more efficiently. The other side of that coin is that you will be encouraged to leave the mousetrap industry if it turns out that your mousetraps are not better, but inferior.

“A ‘free market’ agenda is not the same thing as a ‘pro business’ agenda. Businesses should not be protected from competition, losses, and bankruptcy when they fail to deliver for the customer. All three are essential to truly free markets and free enterprise.”

Don’t use the label “pro-business.” And politely but firmly reject it if someone attempts to label you that way. Respond that you are pro-market, not pro-business. And explain the difference.

Libertarian Party Response to 2014 State of the Union Address: “Americans’ Rights Violated Like Never Before”

in Liberator Online, Libertarian Party by James W. Harris Comments are off
(From the Intellectual Ammunition section in Volume 19, No. 3 of the Liberator Online. Subscribe here!)
Perhaps you heard President Barack Obama’s State of the Union address and the GOP responses.The Libertarian Party responded as well, lambasting the Big Government policies of both parties and offering a pro-liberty alternative in a hard-hitting statement from Executive Director Wes Benedict.
Naturally the mass media declined to carry it, but don’t let that stop you State of the Union Responsefrom encountering a genuine libertarian State of the Union address. Some excerpts:
“Thanks to unprecedented levels of government interference and government coercion, Americans’ rights are violated like never before. We are harmed by taxes, regulations, prohibitions, and shocking privacy intrusions. …

“Our Libertarian hope is that we can convince enough Americans to change their minds. We hope voters will come to understand that government is force, and force is unjust.

“Here are some of the problems we see.

* The government debt situation is atrocious. Government debt is a terrible thing, because it forces future generations to pay off debts they never agreed to incur. From 2001 to 2008, George W. Bush doubled the debt, mostly with the support of a Republican Congress. Since 2009, Barack Obama and the Democrats (and Republicans) have nearly doubled it again. It doesn’t matter whether Republicans or Democrats control the government. Libertarians would quickly balance the budget by cutting spending on everything, including entitlements and the military.

* The employment situation is still pretty bad. Why? Because government gets in between employers and employees, and tries to dictate everything. Minimum wage laws, hiring laws, firing laws, subsidies, and business taxes all make it harder to create jobs and find jobs. These laws are supported by both Republicans and Democrats. Libertarians would eliminate the minimum wage, employment red tape, and business subsidies and taxes. …

* If there’s one thing we have learned since 2001, it’s that we can’t trust what government officials say. They lie. Bush and Cheney said there were weapons of mass destruction in Iraq. James Clapper (Director of National Intelligence) said under oath that the NSA does not collect data on Americans. Those are a couple of the most outrageous lies, but there have been many others. The more power government has, the more government officials will have the opportunity and incentive to lie. Libertarians would greatly reduce government power. …

* How about the military? The Libertarian attitude is pretty simple: the U.S. military should leave other countries alone, even if their governments are unstable, and even if there are people living there who hate Americans. We need to cut military spending a whole lot. Try getting Republicans or Democrats to support ANY cuts to military spending. …

“All in all, the state of our union is a big mess created by Republicans and Democrats. Libertarians offer a path forward to peace and prosperity.”

And there’s lots more good stuff. You can read the rest of the statement at the Libertarian Party’s website.

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.