Thursday, March 05, 2009

First, they came for the smokers

Here we go again. It's for our own good, after all:
“The dangers of second-hand smoke are undeniable — that’s why I made a restaurant smoking ban one of my legislative priorities. This legislation will make Virginia’s restaurants safer for both patrons and employees,” the governor said in a statement. “I’m proud to have been able to work with leaders in both parties of the General Assembly to find common ground on this reasonable and necessary public health measure.”
Of course, Virginia's bars and restaurants were already safe for patrons and employees -- you don't like secondhand smoke? You're free not to go to places that permit smoking. It's that easy. I've ranted about this before, and will likely rant about it in the future. But here's my rant today.

Legislation like this makes non-smokers, who represent a majority of folks in the Commonwealth, happy. It does so because they can now enjoy any restaurant without someone smoking near them. And, as our esteemed Governor points out, "[t]he dangers of secondhand smoke are undeniable."

Of course, the dangers of crossing the street are undeniable, also. As are the dangers of eating potato chips, staying up too late, drinking too much, playing music at loud volumes. The list of things about which the dangers are undeniable is endless. As the government increasingly invades our lives, and criminalizes or otherwise bans what were until very recently simply personal choices that one was free to make, we are all less free to do what we like.

Increasingly, we are becoming a society of positive rights -- we have only those rights that the government chooses to let us exercise. This is happening on a federal level, state level, and local level, without regard to party or political affiliation. This is a creeping shift from the notion behind the negative rights philosophy of the founding of our country -- that the government has only those powers that we, the people, grant to it. That which is not forbidden is permitted, and the government cannot interfere in our private affairs without good reason and the consent of the governed. The law exists to protect the least of us, after all -- it's the baseline for our common morality.

Now, perhaps you're of the opinion that, because the dangers of secondhand smoke are "undeniable", that this is appropriate legislation with a good and necessary goal relating to public health. That's fine, but I want those of you who think that to consider what this type of mission creep by government does, and what its logical end point is. Taking away unpopular freedoms in the name of public health can only lead to more intrusion by government into our personal choices. Is that really desirable?

Wednesday, March 04, 2009

Savings? Taking money from me is savings??

Apparently so:
In his speech to Congress last week, President Obama promised to "go line by line through the federal budget in order to eliminate wasteful and ineffective programs." Although the process was not completed yet, he said, "we have already identified $2 trillion in savings over the next decade."

But it turns out that tax increases account for half of those "savings." From Obama's perspective, it seems, letting people keep their own money qualifies as a "wasteful and ineffective program." That makes sense if you believe all resources are the government's to distribute as it sees fit, which is the premise underlying the multitrillion-dollar spending binge that Obama calls "A New Era of Responsibility."

and more!
In response to nonprofit organizations worried that limiting the deduction for charitable contributions will reduce donations, The Washington Times reports, Orszag "said Mr. Obama took care of that by giving charities government money to make up part of the difference." Orszag noted that "in the recovery act, there's $100 million to support nonprofits and charities." In essence, then, Obama plans to take money people otherwise would have given to the charities of their choice and give it to the charities of his choice.

Positive vs. negative rights, in action!

Is this kind of thing the Hope and Change folks voted for? If so, then I need to find a deserted's why:
Even the name of Obama's tax credit is insulting: "Making Work Pay." What makes work pay is the willingness of other people to pay for it. Taxes subtract value from this arrangement; they do not add to it. Obama not only wants to take his cut; he wants to take credit for taking less than he could have—indeed, for letting you keep anything at all. As far as he's concerned, the fruits of your labor are yours only by the grace of government.

Tuesday, March 03, 2009

Hold tight....ride's getting bumpier

How does a government spend money to "solve" a recession? Poorly, very very poorly.
Americans have welcomed the Obama era in the same spirit of hope the President campaigned on. But after five weeks in office, it's become clear that Mr. Obama's policies are slowing, if not stopping, what would otherwise be the normal process of economic recovery. From punishing business to squandering scarce national public resources, Team Obama is creating more uncertainty and less confidence -- and thus a longer period of recession or subpar growth.

The Democrats who now run Washington don't want to hear this, because they benefit from blaming all bad economic news on President Bush. And Mr. Obama has inherited an unusual recession deepened by credit problems, both of which will take time to climb out of. But it's also true that the economy has fallen far enough, and long enough, that much of the excess that led to recession is being worked off. Already 15 months old, the current recession will soon match the average length -- and average job loss -- of the last three postwar downturns. What goes down will come up -- unless destructive policies interfere with the sources of potential recovery.


What is new is the unveiling of Mr. Obama's agenda and his approach to governance. Every new President has a finite stock of capital -- financial and political -- to deploy, and amid recession Mr. Obama has more than most. But one negative revelation has been the way he has chosen to spend his scarce resources on income transfers rather than growth promotion. Most of his "stimulus" spending was devoted to social programs, rather than public works, and nearly all of the tax cuts were devoted to income maintenance rather than to improving incentives to work or invest.

Monday, March 02, 2009


Go here, you won't regret it. At all.

A taste?
Today, I found out my mother has another new boyfriend. She told me she wanted me to meet him, and I reluctantly agreed. When I walked out to meet him in the living room, to my surprise, I knew him. He's 18, my mother is 44. He also happens to be in my second period high school math class. FML.

Special thanks to the Kimzilla.