Thursday, July 28, 2011

Is it the Taxes? I wish.

Is it the Taxes? No it's not the taxes, it's not even the budget, it's the philosophy stupid!

While I'm viscerally opposed to unwarranted tax hikes, here's an image that comes to mind when I hear people screaming primarily about raising taxes.

Picture a person who has been beaten, eyes closed, lips pressed tightly and silently together as he is being tied to a stake with thick red duct tape, tinder is gathered at his feet and the edges of it have been lit. Next the attacker reaches into the victims pocket for his wallet and begins pulling dollar bills out. The victim now opens his eyes and screams "No! Don't take my money!".

It's a matter of perspective, don't you see? Is it bad that the attacker is stealing his money? Of course it is, but there are a few other issues that should be foremost in the victims mind - screaming for help might be a good start. Kicking away the tinder wouldn't be bad either, but mostly breaking free of the red tape ought to be numero uno on his list of things to do.
The attacker of course, is the statist (Left and Right), and the submissive and misordered victim is the American people, particularly the businessmen, and the red tape... is red tape (sometimes a cigar is just a cigar).

Government red tape, regulations, rules, requirements, are the real physical threat, the thing that is holding us back from escaping this disaster that is heating up all around us - regulatory law IS the disaster! Raising taxes is bad, it would be even more disastrous for our economy if it happens, but not raising taxes will do nothing to fix the economy, not raising taxes will do nothing to get America back to creating jobs and producing wealth.

Reducing taxes would be helpful, but they wouldn't fix the problem.

The taxes are bad and they are everywhere, they are involved in everything we do and buy. But even more pervasive and destructive, are the regulations which saturate and burden our lives more deeply than mere taxation could ever manage - taxes are applied to what you do, Regulations prevent you from doing it as you judge best, or even at all. I'd wager that there is nothing in your life that is free from the direct burden of regulations; regulations have hurt us beyond measure, and we are blind to them, deaf to them, and mute about them, even as we complain about the very real disasters which they have wrought upon us.

Why are businesses fleeing the country? Taxation is certainly a part of the equation, but far more integral to the matter are the tyrannical regulations which make every effort to make it impossible to operate a profitable business, make it impossible to make the decisions that need to be made as they need to be made on a daily basis, especially regarding manufacturing, in the United States of America.

Listen closely to this man who is trying to create a productive business, a coal mine, which could employ hundreds in his town, as he has listened for hours about how he would be hurting the town rather than helping it:

“Nearly every day without fail…men stream to these [mining] operations looking for work in Walker County. They can’t pay their mortgage. They can’t pay their car note. They can’t feed their families. They don’t have health insurance. And as I stand here today, I just…you know…what’s the use? I got a permit to open up an underground coal mine that would employ probably 125 people. They’d be paid wages from $50,000 to $150,000 a year. We would consume probably $50 million to $60 million in consumables a year, putting more men to work. And my only idea today is to go home. What’s the use? I see these guys—I see them with tears in their eyes—looking for work. And if there’s so much opposition to these guys making a living, I feel like there’s no need in me putting out the effort to provide work for them. So…basically what I’ve decided is not to open the mine. I’m just quitting. Thank you.”
It wasn't taxation that drove this man to Shrug away his plan to create a new and productive business. It wasn't taxation that drove Boeing to abandon Seattle to invest millions of dollars in a new plant across the country in South Carolina, and it isn't taxation that is now threatening to hang them with their best efforts to open their new operations. It isn't taxation that is threatening to destroy the thousands of new jobs which Boeing was creating in that state.

It is the Regulations that are tying us up and setting our nation aflame.

There is no more difference between the NLRB, EPA, FDA, FTC, EEOC, SEC, WTF, ETC, than between the positions of defensive linemen preparing to execute a blitz - they are all on the same opposing team and the name of the game is to plow through our line (businesses), sack our Quarterback (the Constitution, if you hadn't guessed), take them out of the game and defeat us.

If that's not clear to you by now... I can't help you out.

John Mauldin is a popular financial commentator, someone who is thoughtful, informative and whose conclusions I usually disagree with, at least in part, but he made several excellent points in one of his recent letters. He discusses the economic crisis centering around Greece, our own economic situation and how they show more than a few similarities to the tightly shut eyes & mouth of our own red taped victim, down to his misplaced alarm over the lesser threats to his life.

Here he's relating a very depressing examination by a well connected friend of his who was trying to explain to him about the employment numbers, and the amount of jobs needed to begin returning us to the 6% rate which is thought 'ideal', and the futility of focusing on the wrong issue. I won't bother with the stats, but his ending summary is quite good:
"The times Barry talks about, of large job creation, were during periods of either high innovation or significant home and infrastructure building and increasing leverage. That is just not in the cards now. It requires an economy rocking and rolling north of 4% GDP growth. We are barely at 2%. In May, total state payrolls (the data came out today) were down 64,000; in June they were up 65,200, averaging out to +1,200 for the two months combined.

We keep hearing about what the government should do to create jobs. And the reality is that it can do precious little. Private businesses create jobs, and nearly all net new jobs for the last two decades have come from start-up businesses. What government can do is create an environment that encourages new businesses, get rid of red tape (especially in biotech, where the FDA is mired in the 1980s!), stop creating even more rules that make it costly for new businesses to hire, and so on. I could go on, but the fact is, we are in for a rather long period of higher-than-comfortable unemployment. And that means lower tax revenues and a more difficult economy."
We have been bound and tied to the stake by regulations, even more so than by bad laws – NLRB, EPA, FDA, FTC, EEOC, SEC, with their progeny in 'Cap and Trade', 'Net Neutrality' and so forth and so on, these are the things that have driven manufacturing out of the country, taxation is simply the final straw... removing that last straw will do very little to bring those jobs back, and it will do little to enable small businesses to be able to do the things they would do, if regulations didn’t bar them, or intensely slow them, from doing them.

You think our tax rate is high? Try calculating the man hours, the actual expenses and the forcible prevention of productive decisions and actions, which regulations impose upon our economy.

Spending will always be an issue, we will always argue about it, and some of us will always holler that taxes - no matter the form - are too high. That is a given. It's human nature.

What is also human nature, but is not unavoidable, is the urge to control your neighbor for their own good. Primitive societies are held down to subsistence level by their refusal to let their fellow make their own decisions, their refusal to let anyone break with the tribe, and their unrestrained willingness to use physical force to keep things as they are. That is why stone age tribes remain stone age tribes, even in our day.

But what began to lift civilization out of the darkness of pre-history, was the slowly developing idea of freedom and liberty, which, ironically, given the news of the day, first began to dawn in Greece, and culminated 2,500 years later with the Constitution of the United States of America.

With the enshrinement of individual rights anchored upon an understanding of property rights, under the protection of the rule of law, for the first time in human history, preserving the ability of each citizen to engage in "... life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness..." became the purpose of the power of government.

And before the ink was dry, of course, the old, primitive urge, to keep everyone down, to keep everyone equal, and under the delusion that such ideas would be progress, rather than regress, the proregressives have been gradually perverting our rule of law and subverting our understanding of property rights, in order to impose unjust restrictions upon us all, in the name of egalitarian "Equality of results for all" - which translates best into Justice for none.

Victor Davis Hanson's compatriot, Bruce Thornton, recently wrote a post "It's the philosophy stupid", which hits a part of this theme,
"... the real issue here isn’t economics, it’s philosophical. The essence of the progressive vision is the equality of result predicated on the assumption of radical egalitarianism, the notion that “those who are equal in any respect are equal in all respects” as Aristotle put it. And since people in reality aren’t all equal and success reflects differences in ability, virtue, and hard work, the coercive power of the state must be used to achieve the aim of what Plato criticized as “dispensing a sort of equality to equals and unequals alike,” a form of injustice that ignores differences of talent, effort, and achievement.

As always, behind every policy is a good idea or a bad idea about human nature and existence. The progressive notion that the power of the state wielded by techno-elites can create a more just world is one of modernity’s worst ideas. Pace Bill Clinton, it’s not “the economy, stupid,” it’s the philosophy. That’s where the battle of 2012 must be waged."
And with that, I agree entirely.

The foolishness of thinking that these ancient and primitive tribal notions of egalitarianism can lead an advanced civilization in any direction resembling progress, is nearly incomprehensible. Mauldin captured a bit of that in this bit as well, as he tries to wrap his mind around putting failed ideas in charge of managing successful ones, summarizing the view as:
"Ok, the Greek economy is in a depression, so let’s fire up a jobs program. Run by socialists and bureaucrats. The entire Eurozone is slipping into a slow-growth recession, and these guys are just focusing on Greece.

It’s Not Just Greece - And that’s the problem with this latest patchwork fix. It assumes that Greece is the problem and if we solve Greece everything else will get solved."
Truly, there's nothing so destructive as bad ideas in the service of good intentions.

It isn't Greece, it isn't the taxes, it isn't even the budget, it's the philosophy stupid!


mushroom said...

Absolutely correct. Right-wing statists are just as destructive as left-wing statists.

Government, though bad, is necessary -- we just don't want more than the required minimum. I go back to my comparison from the other day of government to castor oil. A small amount of regulation on occasion may be necessary, but it still mostly produces crap.

Our friend Bastiat acknowledges that paying the government for a necessary and beneficial service is no different than giving money to a mechanic or a merchant. But all too often we are paying for worthless annoyance if not outright destruction.

USS Ben USN (Ret) said...

There is no more difference between the NLRB, EPA, FDA, FTC, EEOC, SEC, WTF, ETC, than between the positions of offensive linemen preparing to execute a blitz - they are all on the same opposing team and the name of the game is to plow through our line (businesses), sack our Quarterback (the Constitution, if you hadn't guessed), take them out of the game and defeat us."

Um, that would be defensive linemen Van (not to mention DB's, DE's, and even the safety and corners on occassion. I know you meant to say that because, in effect, a blitzing defense is offensive in nature. :^)

Outstanding post, Van!

When I was in the Navy (and it's far worse today) the number one complaint by enlisted and officers both was the red tape, bureaucracy, and asinine regulations that made our jobs much harder and sometimes even prevented us from doing our jobs effectively.

I don't know how many meetings, lectures, "training" classes, etc., we had to go to because of regulations.

And these weren't one time annoyances that wasted manpower.
The BureauRats wanted us to do this repeatedly, because we were too stupid to remember the first sexual harrassment lecture or the "don't be a racist" multi-cult BS propaganda.

Talk about fraud, waste and abuse, the draconian and ridiculous regulations of OSHA was a nightmare.

During actual emergencies we all ignored the idiotic regulations because saving lives is far more important that stoking some imbecile bureauRat's ego.

I don't know how many times my shipmates and I would say: "what f#ckin' idiot came up up with this retarded f#ckin' regulation?"

Then there was the regulations that looked good on paper but in reality were "clusterf*cks" as we used to call them.

On very rare occasions (and this took a long time and lots of complaints by the right people) we would get a regulation erased or at least watered down.

We would save a bundle if we got rid of these business and anti-productive regulations.
Common sense safety regs I can understand however, bureauRats never stop there.

For the most part, everyone...okay not everyone, but most of us knew all the safety precautations and procedures we needed to do to do our jobs most efficiently.

It was OSHA's, the Pentagon's, some idiotic politician's, agencies, oversight commitees, etc., jobs to make our jobs ten times harder, more dangerous and less efficient.

They do a worse number on businesses. My heart goes out to guys like this coal mine owner.

It makes my blood boil that some (worse than) useless scumbag bureauRat is, in effect, telling those unemployed workers to go to hell because their precious regulations are more important than the workers and their families.

That's how these slimey pukes think. Spit.

Van Harvey said...

Mushroom said "I go back to my comparison from the other day of government to castor oil. A small amount of regulation on occasion may be necessary, but it still mostly produces crap."

LOL. Yep, crap stinks, but just try going without it.

Van Harvey said...

Ben said "Um, that would be defensive linemen Van (not to mention DB's, DE's, and even the safety and corners on occassion."

DOH! Damn, I hope my boys didn't see that. Thanks, corrected it. Through years of playing 'rushing' in neighborhood foot(& fist)ball (I'd stand there and listen to one of our guys call a 'play', then I'd wait to hear 'hike!' and I'd smash who ever was in front of me and chase down the guy who had the ball. That was fun! (unless it was our guy who had the ball, then it was a bit embarrassing, but hey)), and 6 yrs each of both boys teams... I can still only remember Quarterback, Center, Kicker... Runner... well... you get the picture.

But I've never had a problem with Defense and Offense!

Van Harvey said...

"Talk about fraud, waste and abuse, the draconian and ridiculous regulations of OSHA was a nightmare."

It really is a nightmare.

It's also so frustrating that the right puts such emphasis on combatting taxes, and rarely mention regulations. The result is that most people who pay only scant attention, grasp that taxes are annoying but necessary, and mostly shrug it off.

Everybody though, has had to deal with idiotic rules and regulations, and they know they hurt their ability to do what they know is best. I think the Right would make far more progress in 'public opinion' if they targeted what the real problem is, focused on issues like this coal miner, or the oil rigs being forced out of the Gulf and to Brazil... Taxes are annoying, and if excessive highly damaging, but Regulations are killing us.

Joan of Argghh! said...

Good stuff. It must be in the air. . .

Patrick Deneen has some very good thoughts on the dynamic tension between individualism, liberty, and liberalism.

Very thought-provoking. As ever.