Sunday, September 11, 2011

Two Stories

Porn making society better?

The 82 cases [i.e., investigations culminating in prosecution for some form of support for jihadist terrorism] since 9/11 involved 32 plots. Few of these 32 got much beyond the discussion stage. Only 10 developed anything resembling an operational plan that identified a specific target, developed the means of attack, and offered a sequence of steps to carry out the planned action. Of these, six were Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) stings.
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Social Security Should Scare You


Social Security taxes have been raised some 40 times since the program began. The initial Social Security tax was 2 percent (split between the employer and employee), capped at $3,000 of earnings. That made for a maximum tax of $60. Today, the tax is 12.4 percent, capped at $106,800, for a maximum tax of $13,234. Even adjusting for inflation, that represents more than an 800 percent increase.
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Terrible Reagan Quote on Gun Control


Republicans in California eagerly supported increased gun control. Governor Reagan told reporters that afternoon that he saw “no reason why on the street today a citizen should be carrying loaded weapons.” He called guns a “ridiculous way to solve problems that have to be solved among people of good will.” In a later press conference, Reagan said he didn’t “know of any sportsman who leaves his home with a gun to go out into the field to hunt or for target shooting who carries that gun loaded.” The Mulford Act, he said, “would work no hardship on the honest citizen.”
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Monday, September 5, 2011

Total Government Spending Over Time

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How Closely Do Legislators Read Bills?

Competitive Enterprise Institute:

The Texas House of Representatives once unanimously passed a resolution honoring the Boston Strangler. The resolution’s sponsor wanted to point out to his colleagues that they should read bills before voting on them.
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On the Import-Export Bank

A pet peeve of mine.

The current cap on lending is $100 billion, with over $75 billion in total loans currently outstanding.6

[...]It is worth noting from the outset that the “dual mandate” of the bank—to finance only transactions that the private sector deems too risky, but to lend only when a reasonable chance of repayment exists—is inherently contradictory.

[...]It puts special emphasis on supporting “environmentally beneficial exports,” particularly renewable energy projects, and has engaged in picking winners by identifying certain industries as having “high potential for export growth.”8

[...]As a senior official at the General Accounting Office has testified, Government
export finance assistance programs may largely shift production among sectors within the economy rather than raise the overall level of employment in the economy.”18

[...]Second, the bank typically has made its loans, guarantees, and insurance to countries such as South Korea, China, Mexico, and Brazil—countries that have had little difficulty in attracting private investment on their own. Indeed, the bank’s relatively low default rate (less than 2 percent in 2010)39 suggests it is making
loans to creditworthy countries, which again raises the question of why we need an Ex-Im Bank to finance safe transactions that should be left to the private sector.

[...]In FY2010, the Ex-Im Bank offered over $300 million worth of loan guarantees to the United Arab Emirates (with a total exposure worth $3.6 billion) to buy aircraft.40

[...]For example, as noted above, the bank places limits on the amount of foreign
content in exports it supports. Any Ex-Im Bank–supported transaction worth more than
$20 million must be transported on a U.S.-flagged ship—a hidden subsidy to protected
shippers. As the CEE points out: “Today, an extremely limited number of U.S.-flag ‘break bulk’ carriers remain in operation, yielding transportation costs so high as to nullify the benefits of Ex-Im Bank financing.”

[...]First, it is no longer true that other rich countries subsidize their exporters at much higher levels than the United States. In fact, the United
States was the third-largest user, out of seven rich-country users, of medium- and long-term export credits when measured as a percentage of total merchandise exports in 2009, as Table 3 shows.

[...]The Ex-Im Bank has, however, occasionally stacked the deck against U.S. industries by subsidizing their foreign competitors. The support given to Mexico’s state-owned oil monopoly, Pemex—one of the top 10 beneficiaries of the Ex-Im Bank’s finance—is a questionable use of taxpayer dollars to say the least, and U.S.-based oil companies may be wondering why their competitors deserve support from a U.S. government agency.