The Future is Now: Bitcoin Acceptance is Growing

Over the last couple of years, many folks have been lured to the cryptocurrency space expecting to hold or trade their way to riches. Despite the 2018 downtrend in markets, those who bought in pre-summer 2017 are likely still looking at some healthy profits.

Bitcoin wasn’t just created for speculation though. The clue is in the name – digital currency. That said, the process of turning some of your gains into usable money can be arduous. You first must bring your funds out of cold storage, get them to a Bitcoin exchange that allows fiat withdrawals, register your bank details, and wait for the withdrawal. It’s all a bit convoluted. Fortunately, you often don’t have to worry about any of that (or the harsh withdrawal and exchange fees that usually accompany it).

Just about any purchase you could possibly make can already be completed entirely using Bitcoin. From web services to outdoor gear, online entertainment to real estate, the future is already here. Hell, you can even buy that famous cup of coffee that many Bitcoin protesters are always banging on about. Let’s look at some of the options in more detail.

Online Purchases

There are loads of ways to spend your Bitcoin in a strictly online capacity. Any firm that supports credit or debit card transactions can technically accept the digital currency. It’s actually a lot simpler than making a legacy systems payment too. Just scan a QR code or copy a string of digits into your wallet and hit send. You don’t have to worry about personal data being stolen by hackers from the site either!

Here are some of the main online retailers accepting Bitcoin as a payment for goods and services:

  • Overstock.com – this online retailer sells mostly homewares, along with toys, sporting goods, jewellery, clothes, and gadgets. Their prices are pretty good too!
  • Shopify stores – merchants operating their own stores on e-commerce platform Shopify can opt to accept Bitcoin if they choose so. You’ll find an eclectic bunch of goods offered for the virtual currency there.
  • Subscription services – some massive names accept Bitcoin to pay for the subscriptions they offer. These include Microsoft, 4Chan, Reddit, Bloomberg, WordPress.com, NameCheap, and Chicago Sun-Times.
  • Travel services – when booking your next flight or hotel, check out some of these options to spend your Bitcoin in getting you from A to B. You can even get somewhere to rest up when you arrive: Expedia, airBaltic, AirTreks, and CheapAir.com. If you really want to splash the cash on the most exotic trip possible, head over to Virgin Galactic and check out their Bitcoin offerings.

Real-World Purchases

Real-world purchases with Bitcoin are a little trickier than their online counterparts, for now. That’s because when you want to have a quick bite to eat or even to pay for a home in person, you’re limited by your geographical location. Since many retailers haven’t begun to accept Bitcoin yet, finding one might be more trouble than it’s worth!

  • Real-estate – if you did really well from Bitcoin’s meteoric rise over the last five years, you could buy property with the virtual currency. All budgets are catered for too. There was the famous example of the massive Moscow mansion selling for Bitcoin. Meanwhile, at the other end of the spectrum, a man from Grimsby, UK, offered to sell his modest, terrace house for crypto last year. The US has also joined the trend, and if you are looking to buy a lake house in the state of Minnesota, you can pay for it with Bitcoin at some real estate agencies.
  • Bars, restaurants, and coffee shops – this one is a little bit location-dependent. However, if you live or are visiting one of the destinations on the growing list of Bitcoin-friendly cities, you’ll have loads of options to spend your gains. Berlin, Reykjavik, and Ljubljana are amongst the top spots for live Bitcoin purchases. The likes of KFC Canada have even had cryptocurrency promotions in the past. However, these were for a limited period only.
  • Entertainment – if you’re out in Vegas at a loose end, you can even pay for a spot of late-night activities using Bitcoin in the flesh. A strip club in Las Vegas has seen the advantages of a pseudonymous payment system early, and some of their exotic dancers come adorned with QR codes, so you can tip them directly using Bitcoin.
  • Charity – the Twin Cities, which are Minneapolis and Saint Paul, have long embraced cryptocurrencies with Bitcoin ATMs popping up regularly across the area. But, it’s not the only space the community is seeking to disrupt. Recently, Minnesota’s charity organizations have started accepting Bitcoin donations. The relevant authorities believe this will not only contribute to the public good, but also help boost mass adoption of cryptocurrencies. 

Mixing the Virtual and the Physical

Finally, if the store you wanted to shop at doesn’t directly accept Bitcoin, that doesn’t mean you can’t use it. Several gift card services have sprung up in the last couple of years. You pay for the card in Bitcoin (or another supported cryptocurrency) and you receive the voucher to your email. You can then use the code from the card online or print the voucher off and take it down to the store to do your shopping in an old-school style.

The following services are more than happy to sell you a gift card in exchange for some Bitcoin: GiftOff, eGifter, and Gyft. These vendors offer gift cards for some massive companies including but certainly not limited to:

  • Decathlon
  • Tesco
  • Pizza Express
  • Nike
  • Amazon
  • Adidas
  • Domino’s
  • Dunkin’ Donuts
  • Macy’s

It’s even possible to use a peer-to-peer marketplace and sell your Bitcoin to someone directly in exchange for a gift voucher. You’ll be amazed at the price increase you can charge too. We’ve seen a trader offering Bitmain vouchers in exchange for Bitcoin with a 75% markup!

The list of places you can spend your Bitcoin continues to grow each week. With options to suit just about every taste, it can be quite difficult not to abandon your strategy and just blow a hefty chunk on a two-man kayak canoe, those Nike sneakers you’ve been pining after, or even a luxury apartment.

EDITORS NOTE: The featured image is by Pixabay.

Don’t Believe the Fake News. Tax Cuts for Everyday Americans Are Real.

The left-leaning media would have you believe that the 2017 tax cuts were nothing of the sort. Sen. Kamala Harris, D-Calif., recently tweeted that average refunds are down, calling the president’s tax cut a “middle-class tax hike.”

This is simply the latest episode in a long-running campaign to demagogue tax cuts that let the vast majority of Americans keep more of their hard-earned money.

Some of the biggest cuts are actually being enjoyed by the lowest-income Americans. A typical family of four got a $2,917 tax cut this year.

So what’s the complaint about?

In an early sample of tax returns, the IRS has reported that average refunds are down $170 from last year and that they hadn’t changed much from 2017, the year before.

But this is not relevant, for two reasons.

First, the sample of tax returns cited by the IRS is very small, and some analysts expect refunds will actually go up this year.

But second, and more importantly, tax refunds have nothing to do with the size of anyone’s tax cut. A refund is what you get back if you’ve paid too much in taxes throughout the year. Your tax cut is the drop in total taxes you owed to Uncle Sam last year. The two are not connected.

Employers across the country already gave us our tax cuts by withholding less money from our paychecks every pay period. Americans saw a bump to their paychecks in February 2018.

Of course, withholding is never perfectly accurate, so your refund or tax payment at the end of the year is simply a last-minute adjustment. But that refund does not cancel out the overall bump in take-home pay due to the tax cut.

Do you remember when House Speaker Nancy Pelosi called the tax cuts “monumental, brazen theft,” or when former Treasury Secretary Larry Summers predicted the tax cuts would kill 10,000 people every year? This most recent round of hysteria is just more of the same.

Last year, The Heritage Foundation calculated what Americans across the country can expect from the tax cuts. The average household can expect about $26,000 more in take-home pay over the next 10 years thanks to the tax reform.

Americans benefit twice from the tax cuts—first, by paying less in taxes, and a second time from higher wages generated by a faster-growing economy.

At the end of 2018, workers saw some of the largest wage gains in over 10 years, and unemployment rates remain historically low. Over the next 10 years, because of a larger economy, the typical American will benefit from over $26,000 more in take-home pay, or $44,697 for a family of four.

The average American household can expect to pay about $1,400 less in taxes in 2018. But depending on where you live and how many kids you have, the numbers can look different.

In communities that had high tax bills last year, such as Palo Alto, California’s district (CA-18) represented in the House by Anna Eshoo, or one of New York City’s Manhattan districts (NY-12) represented by Carolyn Maloney, the average tax cut could be as much as $3,000.

Lower-income communities, such as areas near Phoenix, Arizona (AZ-7), represented in the House by Ruben Gallego, as well as Philadelphia, Pennsylvania (PA-2), will see much larger cuts in their tax bills. In these communities, tax reform brought an average income tax cut of 18 percent or more.

And the tax cuts are especially good news for parents. A married couple filing jointly with two children will see their tax bills fall by $2,917.

In the coming years, the tax cuts will continue to raise wages, increase investment, and expand economic opportunities. They will also continue through 2025. 

Don’t let the misinformation about refunds throw you off. Middle-class and lower-income Americans are the biggest beneficiaries from the tax cuts.

COMMENTARY BY

Portrait of Adam Michel

Adam Michel

Adam Michel focuses on tax policy and the federal budget as a policy analyst in the Thomas A. Roe Institute for Economic Policy Studies at The Heritage Foundation. Twitter: @adamnmichel.

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EDITORS NOTE: This Daily Signal column with images is republished with permission. The featured image is by Pixabay.

Breakdown: The World Is Measurably Better Since January 2017

The largely unreported and to some ironic reality of the past two years is that the world overall is a better, safer, more prosperous place since the swearing in of Donald Trump as President of the United States in 2016. Better than it was under Barack Obama and better than it was under George W. Bush.

Despite the nonstop onslaught of negative reporting on Trump — 90 percent according to the Media Research Center (there’s been 10 percent positive?) — and the breathless reporting on the government shutdown, the latest Robert Mueller leak or arrest, the Kavanaugh hearing fiasco, fake news such as BuzzFeed’s flat wrong non-story on Trump telling Michael Cohen to lie, the disgusting anti-Christian bigotry associated with the MAG-hat Covington Catholic High School students and so on ad infinitum — Trump’s approval ratings remain right in the range they were when he took office, and ticking upward.

That suggests that the relentlessly anti-Trump, Democratic partisan media is washed out by what his actual policies have so clearly accomplished.

But it also suggests that a lot of Americans — probably more than are reflected in polls, and at least some who support Trump — simply do not feel safe saying to anyone that they realize how much better off the country and the world are. It wasn’t supposed to happen. But the media not reporting something does not mean it didn’t happen.

So here are some of the major areas where the world is demonstrably better off since January 2016:

→ First, the economy, duh! 304,000 jobs in January, blowing out all of the predictions. Manufacturing has burst back in the U.S. when President Obama said those jobs would never return. (Man, that guy was wrong a lot.) GDP growth 50 percent higher than it had been under Obama, even though the recovery is now long in the tooth. This has led to a growing consensus among non-political economists that what has driven the economic renaissance has been tax cuts, massive deregulation, stronger trade policy, tax breaks to lure back offshore capital, and a dramatic rise in oil and natural gas production.

→ The entire federal court system will be far more conservative and constitutional for a generation as Trump’s judicial nominees have been uniformly originalists and conservative…and young. This means that there should be fewer overtly political rulings in which the law and constitution are bent to judges’ political views like a reed in the wind, and more solid rules for governing and living.

→ The dishonest and duplicitous media has been unmasked for the partisans they are. This was unintended, of course, but Americans are better off knowing this (something I have known for many, many years as a former member of the mainstream media.) The media’s vicious partisanship has been widely self-exposed for Americans to see, although many members of the media themselves seem to remain in denial. The vast majority of Americans do not.

→ China’s systemic cheating on trade agreements and thieving of intellectual properties has been called out and responded to forcefully. Since Trump’s inauguration, an accepted consensus has emerged that China’s actions pose a commercial threat to world trade, to its geographic neighbors and to the security of the United States. Ultimately, we will end up with better, more fair trade that will absolutely benefit American companies and workers, but also will benefit most of the rest of the world, which will be more empowered to demand better, more fair agreements for their companies and workers.

→ Pulling out of the terrorist-enabling Iran nuclear agreement did not result in the end of the world, In fact, the world basically yawned past the regular hyperbolic media coverage. Further, most of the sanctions have been reinstated, including by our European friends, when the media Democrats assured us they could not be. Iran is feeling the pinch. Leashing up the murderous Mullah’s financially makes the world that much safer.

→Similarly, when the U.S. walked away from the essentially worthless, symbolic Paris Climate Accords, the world did not warm and seas did not rise. Actually, the U.S. continues to be a leader in reduction of carbon emissions, largely through the voluntary, innovative private sector.

→ The U.S. showed its promise-keeping resolve for the first time when Trump directed the U.S. embassy in Israel to be moved from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem — just like Obama, Bush and Bill Clinton had promised to do before him, but never did. The hyperventilating over lighting the Middle East tinderbox never materialized. The normal amount of Muslim terrorism and Israeli military response ensued afterwards as before.

→ Black Americans are enjoying an employment resurgence like that not seen since before the disastrous implementing of the Great Society. While overall U.S. unemployment hit a 50-year low in Trump’s second year, joblessness among black Americans has set a modern record as well. Black employment has risen about 1.3 million under Trump to hit a record 19.3 million in October. Now this clearly started before Trump, but that it accelerated this long into a recovery is fairly remarkable.

→ Russian aggression against Ukraine and other small neighbors has been held in check as the U.S. has sent arms and supplies to the Ukraine and stiffened the response to Russian belligerence. The tough talk had already been backed by missile attacks against Russian mercenaries in Syria and Russian-backed Syrian allies. Using the big stick once or twice means carrying it around becomes a deterrent — not a joke as with the previous president. The crossing of any red line is obviously not going to be acceptable and Russia knows that.

→ Trump’s forceful efforts to denuclearize North Korea resulted in a one-one-one summit with President Kim, and second one coming up. It started with tough talk, followed by the movement of U.S. naval and air power off the coast. It’s ended so far with the self-destruction of some of North Korea’s nuclear facilities and no more of the missile tests that had become common under Obama.

→ Most of our European allies in NATO have been weak and sometimes duplicitous on defense, refusing to live up to their promise on minimal military expenditures to help defend themselves from Russia. Trump again talked tough. Considering he had pulled out of the Paris climate accords and the Iran agreement, European leaders worry he could follow through on NATO threats. They have accordingly increased their defense spending by a combined $100 billion now so far — strengthening free countries against tyranny.

→ ISIS decapitated.

There are plenty more. But this hits the highlights. By all the evidence, it is unarguable, even by the Orange Man Bad crowd, that the world is better off now than two years ago.

EDITORS NOTE: This The Revolutionary Act column is republished with permission. The featured image is by Pixabay.

The State of the Black Union

During the month of February in America we celebrate Black History Month. As we celebrate the achievements of Blacks in the making of this great country, I can’t help but think about the state of the Black community in 2019.

The state of our Black union is depressing!

We, as a community, must stop asking others to do for us what we should be doing for ourselves. We have more education than our parents and grandparents; yet have a lower quality of life. We have more opportunities than our parents and grandparents yet have less to show for them.

We have more Blacks in elected political offices than ever before, yet our economic indices in cities run by Blacks are horrible, i.e.: Washington, DC, Baltimore, and Atlanta to name a few.

Hardly a week passes by without a Black person having some deadly encounter with law enforcement.

How did we, in the Black community, get to where it seems to be open season on our people by law enforcement? Yes, racism still exists, but racism is not the cause of the condition of our community.

According to the Centers for Disease control and Prevention, over 70% of Black babies are born to unwed mothers. It is estimated that since the Roe v. Wade Supreme Court decision legalizing abortion in 1973, that over 16 million Black babies have been murdered — 55 million babies in total.

In New York City every year, more Black babies are aborted than are born. Yes, you heard right. According to their Health Department, between 2012 and 2016, 136,426 Black babies were aborted versus 118,127 babies born. Blacks are the only group in America that have more babies aborted than born!

If Black lives matter, does that include their babies?

The solution to this culture of death in the Black community specifically, and America in general, is very simple. We need to reconstitute the family unit; meaning mother, father and children. These perverted variations of the traditional family unit will not restore our traditional values back to our community or our society.

Study after study has shown that if you graduate high school, get married, and then have children, you are almost guaranteed not to live in poverty.

The traditional family unit is the solution to all the ills facing the Black community and America.

But yet, the media appointed Black leaders and their radical liberal groups spend all of their time promoting homosexuality, amnesty for illegals, and Planned Parenthood.

When have you ever heard the Congressional Black Caucus, the NAACP, or the National Urban League talking about the traditional family unit is key to righting the ship in the Black community?

When Bill Cosby gave his famous “Pound Cake” speech, he was eviscerated by the Black liberal elites.

When have you ever heard Al Sharpton, President of the National Action Network, Derrick Johnson, President and CEO of the NAACP, or Marc Morial, President of the National Urban League talk about the family unit; or telling girls to keep their damn legs closed if they cannot financially afford to care for a child?

How did the Black community allow the homosexuals to hijack our fight for Civil Rights? Their issue has absolutely nothing to do with Civil Rights.

How did we allow George Soros, Bill Gates, the U.S. Chamber of Commerce and Mark Zuckerberg to get media-appointed Blacks to put illegals ahead of their own community? Can you imagine willingly training someone who is going to take your job and agreeing with them that they have a right to take your job.

According to Planned Parenthood’s 2017 annual report, they had total revenue of $1.3 billion, $555 million from the federal government. They made a profit of $77 million. Yes, they get paid to kill.

They also have spent over $38 million in political campaigns between 2012-2016. Yes, they buy Black, Democrat politicians!

To paraphrase Jay-Z, “Blacks folks got 99 problems, but homosexuality, amnesty, and Planned Parenthood should not be one.”

We survived slavery, overcame segregation, and fought discrimination and are still standing.

But, in order to restore the Black community, we must turn away from the media-appointed Black leaders. They have sold us out at every chance.

Just imagine if we put the same amount of energy fighting for our own people and causes like we do for other groups.

Just imagine if we took the energy we put into hating President Donald Trump and Republicans [put it] into getting young girls to stop having babies before marriage; getting Black entertainers and athletes to hire Black C.P.A.s, publicists, lawyers, managers, etc.; getting Black churches to stop caving in to the radical homosexual agenda; and creating more Black entrepreneurs.

We don’t need a law to make any of the above reality; but what we do need is leaders who cannot be bought off by those who have no concern for the Black community.

The state of our union can be brighter, but you can’t have union without “u” “n” “i.”

Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed in this article do not reflect the official policy or position of BlackPressUSA.com or the National Newspaper Publishers Association.

EDITORS NOTE: This Black Press USA column is republished with permission. The featured photo is by Victor Grabarczyk on Unsplash.

The Best and Worst Cities in the United States

There are several options if you want to measure economic freedom and competitiveness among nations (rankings from the Fraser InstituteHeritage Foundation, and World Economic Forum).

You also have many choices if you want to measure economic freedom and competitiveness among states (rankings from the Tax FoundationMercatus Center, and Fraser Institute).

But there’s never been a good source if you want to know which local jurisdiction is best.

Dean Stansel of Southern Methodist University is helping to fill this gap with a report looking at the relative quality of government policy in various metropolitan statistical areas (MSAs encompass not just a city but also economically relevant suburbs):

…the level of economic freedom can vary across subnational jurisdictions within the same country (e.g., Texas and Florida have less-burdensome economic policies and therefore much greater economic freedom than New York and California). However, levels of economic freedom can also vary within those subnational jurisdictions. For example, the San Jose metro area has substantially higher economic freedom than Los Angeles. The same is true for Nashville compared to Memphis. In some places, metropolitan areas straddle state borders, skewing state-level economic data. This report quantifies those intra-state disparities by providing a local-level version of the EFNA, ranking 382 metropolitan areas by their economic freedom levels.

So who wins this contest?

Here are the five most-free MSAs. It’s worth noting that all of them are in states with no income tax, which shows that good state policy helps:

What if we limit ourselves to large cities?

Here are the five most-free MSAs with populations over one million. As you can see, Houston is in first place, and zero-income-tax Texas and Florida are well represented:

Now let’s shift to the localities on the bottom of the rankings.

Which MSA is the worst place for economic freedom in America?

Congratulations to El Centro in California for winning this booby prize. As you can see, jurisdictions in New York and California dominate:

What if we look at larger jurisdictions, those with over one million people?

In this case, Riverside-San Bernardino-Ontario is the worst place to live.

Though if you want to focus on big cities, the NYC metro area deserves special mention:

Now let’s consider why economic freedom matters.

I’ve shared charts showing how more economic freedom leads to more prosperity in nations.

The same thing is true for states.

So you shouldn’t be surprised to discover that it also is true for metro areas:

Last but not least, here’s a map showing freedom in all MSAs:

I’m not surprised to see so much red in California and New York, but I didn’t realize that Ohio (thanks for nothing, Kasich), Oregon, and West Virginia were so bad.

And the good results for Texas and Florida are predictable, but I didn’t think Virginia would look so good.

This article was reprinted with permission from International Liberty.

COLUMN BY

Daniel J. Mitchell

Daniel J. Mitchell

Daniel J. Mitchell is a Washington-based economist who specializes in fiscal policy, particularly tax reform, international tax competition, and the economic burden of government spending. He also serves on the editorial board of the Cayman Financial Review. 

RELATED ARTICLE: These are the worst cities to live in America. Is yours one of them?

EDITORS NOTE: The featured image is by Pixabay.

Minimum Wage Memes: What They Miss and How They Mislead

Sifting through the internet’s conjecture and extracting the economic truth.

f you have spent much time on Facebook the last few days, you may have seen this meme being passed around from a user named Thomas Corbett:

It has already been shared over 109,000 times, and it is just one of a number of similar viral claims regarding minimum wage and housing from people engaged in the #FightFor15 (or I suppose #FightFor33 if you’re the New York Times).

Others include this one from @pookleblinkie on Twitter with over 60,200 retweets:

Or perhaps you’ve seen this infographic created by the National Low Income Housing Coalition:

They each make the case that housing is unaffordable for people working minimum wage jobs, largely in service of the overall case to raise the federally mandated wage floor.

So what’s wrong with these memes?

As it turns out… quite a bit.

One major red flag that should be immediately apparent is that the numbers for all three viral images are completely different. The first claims that the average rent is $1,418, the second claims $1,234, and the third is presented more circuitously but implicitly claims $1,018.

So who’s right? According to the US Census, nobody.

The NLIHC graphic comes close, but the latest numbers show that as of 2017, the real median rent in the United States was $1,012 per month. This makes Thomas Corbett’s rental price claim 40 percent higher than reality and it makes the one from “pookleblinkie” about 22 percent higher, so we can dismiss both of those as factually off-base from the start.

NLIHC’s website states that their source for housing prices is HUD’s “Fair Market Rents” database, so for the sake of argument, I’m happy to overlook any minor discrepancies there. To their credit, they also show a state-by-state comparison, which is important because the average cost of living varies significantly depending on what part of the country you’re in.

That said, even state-by-state data is probably insufficient as the significant cost of living differences are found between urban, suburban, and rural areas. Not merely based on what state you happen to live in.

Still, the idea that low-income earners have absolutely no way to afford housing is a popular belief, and even if the median rent for the United States is $1,012 a month, that would still be well out of range for someone earning the federal minimum wage of $7.25/hour. In fact, even if 100 percent of the minimum wage earner’s income went into housing—which is clearly impossible—they still would not be able to afford a home at all.

But here’s where we see another serious flaw in the argument.

We’re not comparing apples to apples.

It makes no sense to compare median rental prices to the lowest possible wages. It would only make sense to compare the bottom of the wage distribution to the bottom of the rent distribution. Making a more accurate comparison reveals a completely different picture. For instance, when we compare median rental prices to the median household income in the United States for 2017, we find that the annual cost of renting would be $12,144 on a salary of $60,336/year.

That means that the median rental price is only 20 percent of the median household income.

Unfortunately, I don’t believe there’s any way to break down rental home price data by quintile, but anyone familiar with the concept of a “median” knows that it is the number that falls in the middle of the data distribution.

This means that just as there are an immense number of rental homes that cost significantly higher than $1,012/mo. throughout America, there are an equal number of rental homes that cost less than $1,012/mo. There are also a number of housing options that make a lot more sense than trying to rent a place by yourself as someone working a single minimum wage job.

As someone who has spent his entire adult life post-bachelor’s degree living in expensive major cities (New York, Los Angeles, Washington, DC, Atlanta), I had roommates in every apartment I lived in long after my wages exceeded minimum wage. This is perfectly normal, and sharing costs is hardly something to see as a hardship or a social justice issue. As an added bonus, some of my former roommates are still close friends.

Another way to reduce living expenses is to rent a single room in an existing house—something I have also done at various points in my life. That can bring rental expenses down to the low hundreds of dollars per month even in city centers.

And speaking of city centers, the closer you live to the hub of urban activity, the more expensive rental prices are going to be, so expanding your apartment search to homes that are farther away and commuting in can also save hundreds of dollars a month on rent.

Like many adults, I’ve used each of these approaches to pay less than the median rental price in multiple cities, and I don’t think anyone should regard any of these experiences as humiliating or cruel. To the contrary, they are all frugal ways to make the most of your income.

This is also to say nothing of policy changes that would make new home construction more affordable and less time-consuming by streamlining the permitting processes, reducing zoning restrictions, reducing the number of aspects of the process that require city approval, and just generally lowering the barriers to building. Those kinds of policies would pave the way (pun intended) for an increase in the supply of new homes, which would reduce the cost of existing properties.

Tragically, the inaccurate cost claims are not the only major errors embedded in these images. They’re also more subtly deceptive regarding the demographics of minimum wage earners themselves.

Each of these memes suggests or implies that minimum wage workers are primarily adults with families who have only one income-earner. They also imply that a significant number of people are stuck in minimum wage jobs for their entire lives. And from the way our society frequently talks about minimum wage earners, you’d think that they were a massive group of people.

None of these implications are accurate.

In fact, just 2.6 percent of all wage and salary workers in the United States are working at minimum wage occupations. The overwhelming majority of our workforce earns more than minimum wage. What’s more, 50.4 percent of people working minimum wage jobs are under 25 years old, and 24 percent are still teenagers (16-19). According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics:

Although workers under age 25 represented only about one-fifth of hourly paid workers, they made up about half of those paid the Federal minimum wage or less.

Furthermore, people who work minimum wage jobs are far more likely to be unmarried/never-married, to lack a high school diploma (hardly a surprise when a large portion are still in high school), and most—64 percent—are working part-time. If when you picture minimum wage workers, you think of the high school or college-aged kid working at a grocery store or a quick-service food restaurant, your picture is pretty accurate.

That’s not to say that there aren’t older people with children trying to support themselves on minimum wage jobs. There are, but they are comparatively rare. Only about 15 percent of all minimum wage workers are the primary provider for a family with one or more children. That’s just 0.39 percent of the total workforce, which is around 600,000 people in the entire United States.

And of course, that group certainly qualifies for numerous forms of public assistance, including EBT and housing subsidies—which has not been factored into any of these memes either.

I know this has been a lot of statistics and math, but my goal is to arm the valiant readers who have made it to the end of this article with some better information and some logic so that when you’re browsing Facebook and come across misleading memes, you’re better able to spot the errors.

COLUMN BY

Sean Malone

Sean Malone

Sean Malone is the Director of Media at FEE. His films have been featured in the mainstream media and throughout the free-market educational community.

EDITORS NOTE: This FEE column with images is republished with permission.

Freedom of Choice—Not Competition—Is What Sets Capitalism Apart

Capitalism is not “a system of competition” any more than any other system.

Capitalism has often been described as “a system of competition” by its adversaries, or a system “based on competition.” Naturally, this assertion is usually coupled with a spirited oration on how this “tooth ‘n’ nail” competition psychologically corrupts us—pitting man against man in a “race to the bottom.”

Many of capitalism’s most vocal advocates have themselves imbibed this premise uncritically. They leap to a fervent defense of competition, extolling its virtues—real or perceived. In my view, this is a mistake. To accept without evaluation the presupposition that capitalism is a system of competition—in contrast to other hypothetical systems of cooperation (namely socialism and communism)—is to frame the very debate itself in leftist terms and play the game on an unfairly tilted gameboard.

This is not to say that those who defend competition do not raise some worthy points. For example: If not competition, then what is the alternative? Is there to be one central provider of each good and service available who gets to decide on our behalf how it is best to be produced and then allocated?

Adding to that, if competition is wrong in the market, then why not in the political sphere? Surely democracy is out of the question if competition is a corrupting factor—because what do political candidates do if not compete for office? Think of the competition this generates between political parties, not to mention the ensuing competition between firms and individuals for preferential treatment from politicians and legislators and competition between lobbyists, think-tanks, and voters to receive benefits out of the public purse.

If the free and voluntary section of society is a system of competition, how much more so is government? Surely democracy is a “system of competition.” Politicians are competing for the very machinations of control in our society. For the right to pass and enforce laws that apply to everyone (whether they agree with them or not) and to force them to pay for their enforcement. They are not simply competing for market share where the winner of the competition is the one that satisfies the most demand.

We can sidestep the more mundane economic arguments in favor of competition for the moment, such as the case that it increases efficiency and cheapens goods while driving innovation, as we are all familiar with them already.

This is not to say that competition is necessarily an evil, either. The problem lies in defining capitalism as “a system of competition”—in comparison to other systems that are supposedly “cooperative”—is a rhetorical ploy. Those who profess it may honestly believe it to be so, but it’s not true. Capitalism is not “a system of competition” any more than any other system. Capitalism (at least in its free-market, laissez-faire ideal) is a system of the voluntary exchange of goods and services in the absence of physical coercion, theft, compulsion or fraud, predicated upon the fundamental right to own and accumulate property.

Or, for brevity: Capitalism is a system of voluntary exchange predicated upon the right to own property.

One might even venture, therefore, that it is capitalism that is the system most characterized by cooperation.

Granted, upon seeing this definition, many would still debate us over the morality of accumulating property. Or perhaps whether the “negative” right to ownership when it comes to the rich should take precedence over the “positive” right to healthcare or education at their expense when it comes to the poor. We can even debate whether the relationship between capitalists and their employees is really free of coercion given the power disparity between the two groups. Indeed, these are debates I delight in exploring further. However, none of this is a justification for defining capitalism as a system that is more competition-based than others.

After all, it is not the presence of private property or the free exchange of goods that creates the presence of competition in a capitalist system. Scarcity causes that. In any situation of scarcity of resources, there is bound to be some form of competition over those resources (as well as over how those resources are allocated).

If we have a system that allows voluntary exchange, some competition is bound to arise out of that, but that would happen under any system. Even if you had a completely communistic society that was centrally planned and involved no exchange of money whatsoever, people’s time would still be limited. If you were a filmmaker in this society, you would probably want as many people to see your films as possible, as would every other filmmaker. This would put you at least somewhat in competition with them. Does this mean that communism, too, is a system of competition?

Certainly, you would be competing for the only customer—the sponsorship of the state. Corruption and cronyism would surely be the result. Who gets their film made and who doesn’t? Who allocates the highly desirable job of being a filmmaker over the undesirable job of being a street-sweeper or refuse collector, and how can their favor be courted? The competition will commence, but instead of being decided by the free and voluntary exchange of filmgoers, investors, and filmmakers, it will be decided by someone else, I would argue, in a rather more authoritarian fashion. (For a particularly vivid and chilling illustration of how communism substitutes market competition over customers —which is at least tied to the provision of desirable services—for the completely unmeritocratic competition over gaining favor from the corrupt power structure of the state, I refer the reader to Ayn Rand’s first novel, We The Living.)

Competition is just a feature of living in a world of scarcity, and it would exist in any system. Socialism cannot do away with competition—nor can any other system.

The implications of these facts reach into any circumstances of scarcity beyond the economy. For example, suppose two friends each invite me over to dinner for an evening. I might have to make a choice between their invitations, which will result in one of them losing out on my company. Does this then mean that friendship is a system of competition?

We can’t see all of our friends all of the time, or even all of them at the same time. Even if we do, we are bound to have to split our attention among them. In addition to that, we can only maintain so many close friendships at once, and we definitely can’t be friends with everyone. All of this means that, inevitably, we have to make choices.

We each make decisions on who to make and maintain friendships with based upon our value judgments, conscious or unconscious. Perhaps based on how happy we feel around them, how long we have known one another, how much we have in common, how much we trust someone or how loyal they have shown themselves to be, how much they educate, enrich, or enlighten us, or perhaps based upon what roles they allow us to fulfill in their lives. There can be countless other reasons. The fact is we decide.

People who feel that they will benefit from our company, for whatever reason, will make attempts to spend time with us. We will invariably begin to make choices about who to spend time with based upon our values, schedule, and what other activities we are willing to sacrifice to see them. These are basic facts of life, but they hardly make friendship a system of competition.

Similarly, in the market, our time and resources are limited. We make value-based judgments about choices of products and services to consume based upon what utility we think they will bring to us, sacrificing some options for others. Maybe we will choose a coffee shop based on which has the best-tasting coffee, or maybe based on which provides the nicest atmosphere, or maybe based on which is closest, or where the customer service is best, or which is the cheapest, or which we have gone to the longest and therefore find familiar, or perhaps even based on which we think has the best ethos—for example, because they are a social enterprise that only sells fair trade produce and deliberately seeks to employ and train disadvantaged people. The fact is we decide.

Each service provider believes they will benefit from our custom and will make attempts to attract us, placing an upward pressure on the quality of services and a downward pressure on price, which we may correctly identify as a form of competition. Since human beings are not infallible, sometimes someone might buy a coffee that they don’t end up liking, but over the long-term, the competition is likely to be won by the satisfaction of customers.

The miraculous wonder we miss when we focus our attention upon the competition, which derives from choice, is the ability to choose, itself. For example, suppose two commercial events are being held on the same evening. Each prospective patron will want to choose whichever event appeals to them the most, and for whatever reasons they choose based upon what they value in an event. Now, to simply mention that these events are “in competition” would be to completely miss the crucial point that event-goers (who are in the majority compared to event organizers) have a choice of two events which they may prefer to go to one of rather than one alone.

In fact, there is actually far more cooperationinvolved in providing people with goods and services than there is competition. To accomplish anything in the marketplace, one must cooperate with buyers, sellers, managers, employees, suppliers, customers, advertisers, promoters, marketers, collective buyers, and so on.

Leonard E. Read, founder of the Foundation for Economic Education, illustrated this in his most famous essay, “I, Pencil,” first published in 1958. In it, he notes that not a single person on the face of this earth knows how to make a pencil. He goes onto explain that the cedarwood is sourced from Oregon and the logs milled in California. The graphite is mined in Ceylon, mixed with clay from Mississippi, and then treated with a hot mixture that includes candelilla wax from Mexico to increase its strength and smoothness. The six coats of lacquer come separately from the growers of castor beans and the refiners of castor oil. In fact, when you include those who manufacture and transport the equipment involved in these processes, you cannot help but marvel at the fact that millions of people have a hand in its creation. They are working in concert, in cooperation, and as a result, you can get a pencil for pennies.

Because people make choices with scarce resources and limited time, competition will be an inherent part of any economic system so long as there is scarcity. The primary feature of free-market capitalism is not competition, but choice. Rather than moderate the amount of competition in an economy, state intervention will replace competition to serve customers and convince them to voluntarily spend their money on a wide array of ever-expanding goods and services. We can contrast this with other systems in which competition rages over who can gain the favor of those who control the levers of government. That is where the real “tooth and nail” begins.

This article was reprinted from the Mises Institute.

COLUMN BY

Antony Sammeroff

Antony Sammeroff co-hosts the Scottish Liberty Podcast and has featured prominently on other libertarian-themed shows, including The Tom Woods Show, Lions of Liberty, the School Sucks Podcast, and many more.

EDITORS NOTE: This FEE column with images is republished with permission. Image credit: MaxPixel.

Economic Impact Of Super Bowl Dwarfs That Of Government Shutdown

It does sometimes feel as though many Americans actually think the success of the American economy is due to the behemoth in Washington, D.C., rather than in spite of it.

When Friday’s job’s numbers came out, they gobsmacked the media and economic experts, who were expecting 170,000 at the top end and were greeted with 304,000. But those figures were considerably less surprising to those of us who view the government as a hindrance to private enterprise and economic well-being — not an indispensable necessity.

Now an additional data point comes courtesy of Americans’ spending on last night’s Super Bowl — unarguably one of the most boring in history.

“American adults say they will spend an average $81.30 for a total of $14.8 billion as they watch the New England Patriots and the Los Angeles Rams meet up in the Super Bowl,” according to the annual survey by the National Retail Federation and Prosper Insights & Analytics conducted before Sunday’s game.

Meanwhile, the partial government shutdown cost the economy $11 billion, according to a new analysis from the Congressional Budget Office. The CBO says that is due to lost output from federal workers, delayed government spending and reduced demand resulting from those first two. But the CBO goes on to say it is really nowhere near that high.

“Although most of the damage to the economy will be reversed as federal workers return to their jobs, the CBO estimated $3 billion in economic activity is permanently lost after a quarter of the government was closed for nearly 35 days,” CNBC reported, desperately trying to make it seem as though there was economic significance to the shutdown. Media use the big number in the headlines and leads, but it is irrelevant. Only the net number is what counts: $3 billion.

Even the CBO report’s narrative made clear that, despite hyperbolic media attention, the government shutdown was a big snoozer when it came to economic impact.

“Among those who experienced the largest and most direct negative effects are federal workers who faced delayed compensation and private-sector entities that lost business,” the report said. “Some of those private-sector entities will never recoup that lost income.”

So to get this straight. Four hours of football and an entertainment halftime show created nearly five timesas much economic activity as was lost due to the month-long partial government shutdown.

It’s almost as if hundreds of thousands of bureaucrats not showing up in big drab government buildings to push papers, regulate small businesses and grind things slowly for a month didn’t hurt the economy. In fact, based on the job numbers Friday, the bureaucrats’ absence may actually have boosted things.

One downside to note: About 17 million people are expected to call in sick today, the day after the Super Bowl, with the pigskin pox. I’m going to suggest a lot of that is hangover related. That, along with all of the conversations about the game during work hours, could hurt economic output by $4 billion.

The 17 million calling in sick sounds pretty solid. But the $4 billion in economic impact seems a bit squishy considering they are trying to quantify the economic impact of five minutes here and there on the game — when there is no AB comparison given that people engage in water cooler talk year-round.

EDITORS NOTE: This Revolutionary Act column is republished with permission. The featured image is by Pixabay.

California’s New Governor Calls for a Tax on Drinking Water

Communities throughout the state struggle with dangerous pollutants in their supply, but opponents of the suggested tax say there is no need to tax residents in order to solve the problem.

California’s new governor has wasted little time continuing the state’s seemingly limitless expansion of government. Governor Gavin Newsom’s first budget proposal, published last week, suggests instituting a tax on drinking water in the name of cleaning up California’s water systems.

The “Environmental Protection” section of the 2019-2020 budget seeks to

establish a new special fund, with a dedicated funding source from new water, fertilizer, and dairy fees, to enable the State Water Resources Control Board to assist communities, particularly disadvantaged communities, in paying for the short-term and long-term costs of obtaining access to safe and affordable drinking water.

California’s drinking water quality is indeed poor. Communities throughout the state struggle with dangerous pollutants in their supply, but opponents of the suggested tax say there is no need to tax residents in order to solve the problem.

Jon Coupal of the Howard Jarvis Taxpayer Association has argued that the proposal is an example “of California’s knee-jerk reaction to default to a new tax whenever there’s a new problem,” the Sacramento Bee reported. (In another example, last year bureaucrats proposed a new tax on text messages that was ultimately shot down.) Coupal says there shouldn’t be new taxes for water system improvements when the state is sitting on a $14.2 billion surplus.

Similarly, the California Association of Water Agencies, a coalition of public water agencies throughout the state, has expressed opposition to the proposed tax, arguing that in light of the current surplus, a trust should be established to fund water clean-up efforts.  “The state should not tax something that is essential to life, such as water and food,” they said in a press release, adding that the costs of living in California are already too high and that another tax would make water less affordable.

Further, significant funding has already been allocated to help clean up water in disadvantaged communities, which experience disproportionate levels of polluted drinking water. For example, Assembly Bill 1471, passed in 2014, authorized$260 million “for grants and loans for public water system infrastructure improvements and related actions to meet safe drinking water standards, ensure affordable drinking water, or both.”

In 2015, as part of the emergency drought funding, then-Governor Jerry Brown approved an additional $19 million in funding was allocated “to meet interim emergency drinking water needs for disadvantaged communities with a contaminated water supply or suffering from drought-related water outages or threatened emergencies,” according to the state water board.

In June of last year, voters approved Proposition 68, which authorized $250 million for clean drinking water projects, as well as drought preparedness measures.

Further, in December, the EPA awarded California $187 billion in federal funds “for drinking water and wastewater infrastructure improvements.”

California already has one of the largest tax burdens in the country. Its top tier income rate is the highest at 13.3 percent, as is its sales tax rate of 7.25 percent. In 2017, the state collected $82 billion in tax revenue—nearly $4 billion more than expected.

Nevertheless, Newsom is modeling his new tax proposal on a funding bill state lawmakers rejected last year. According to his budget, “This proposal is consistent with the policy framework of SB 623, introduced in the 2017-18 legislative session.”

That bill sought to tax both homes and businesses to raise money for water cleanup and would have been capped at 95 cents per month, but it died in the Senate. (A similar attempt to tax drinking water in the state of New Jersey also languished in that state’s legislature last year.)

It appears voters could be growing apprehensive toward new fees for drinking water considering they defeated Proposition 3 in last year’s election, which would have allocated $500 million in bond funding to help the state’s water suppliers meet safe drinking water standards.

Newsom’s push has received praise from environmental groups, but the Sacramento Bee reports that while the budget has an increased chance of passing since Democrats regained their supermajority in the legislature, some Democrats are hesitant to approve new taxes on drinking water.

Considering the hundreds of millions of dollars that have already been allocated to fix the water problem, it seems the bigger issue isn’t a lack of funding but an excess of bureaucracy and intervention.

COLUMN BY

Carey Wedler

Carey Wedler

Carey Wedler is a video blogger and Senior Editor for Anti-Media.

EDITORS NOTE: This FEE column with images is republished with permission. The featured image is by Pixabay.

The Perils of Cash

People have been asking me as of late about holding cash, at least those that are reading the writing on the wall. Besides the fact that there is a war on cash and a cashless society coming soon,  there are other reasons as to the perils of cash. With the talk of a global financial reset, coupled with the stock market gyrations and the unsustainable debt, many people have gone to cash. It used to be known as “cash is king”. Well today, I say “cash is trash”. So what are the perils of holding an excessive amount of cash?

Perils of Cash

Low Interest:  Cash and cash equivalent accounts these days are paying perhaps about 1%-2% at best, often times less than that. If you are not keeping pace with the real rate of inflation, you are falling behind in purchasing power and may run out of money down the line.

Inflation: The government reports the inflation rate today to be at around 2%, but like the unemployment numbers, this is not really the case upon further inspection. You see back in the days of Bill Clinton, changes were made to just how it is that the government reports the inflation rate to the American people. It is known as the Boskin Commission. The Boskin Commission, formally called the “Advisory Commission to Study the Consumer Price Index”, was appointed by the United States Senate in 1995 to study possible bias in the computation of the Consumer Price Index (CPI), which is used to measure inflation in the United States. How To Rewrite Economic History? Here’s how.

The real rate of inflation as reported by Kirk Elliott, PhD, is at 6.12% today. Based upon Trump’s weak dollar policy and the Fed’s raising of interest rates, we can expect inflation to be on the rise. Interest rate cycles run 28 years on average. We just finished a 30-year declining interest rate environment and as of November 2016, we have embarked upon a rising interest rate cycle. So cash for now is trash. Hold some in the bank and perhaps some at home for emergencies and opportunities.

Global Financial Reset: What exactly is being reset? The debt is being reset and the value of the dollar will decline over time until sound money is restored. Easier said than done. Stay tuned. So once again excess cash may not be wise at this particular time in history. President Trump is now taking on the Federal Reserve, Rothschild World Banking Dynasty and the IMF as a move to restore sound money in order to MAGA. We will more than likely see a gold backed currency. So, buy gold (and silver). There is a reason you hear and use the expression, “it’s as good as gold”, own some. The signs are there indicating the reset is in motion. President Trump takes on the Fed.

Bank Bail-In: We learned all about the bank bail out in 2008-2009. How about the bank bail-in? A bail-inand a bailout are both designed to prevent the complete collapse of a failing bank. With a bank bail-in, the bank uses the money of its unsecured creditors, including depositors and bondholders, to restructure their capital so it can stay afloat. How much of your funds do you want caught in the bail-in? Again, right now cash is trash. Oh yeah, FDIC barely covers a fraction of the trillions on deposit. Take note. So what to do?

GOOTS

Get Out of the System: Well you cant really get out of the system unless you leave the planet. But there are alternative asset classes to consider in this paradigm shift of global economic and monetary policy to consider. I have a proprietary model which is truly a paradigm shift in thinking offering a new sound, superior, proactive approach to protecting and preserving wealth, utilizing both alternative paper assets as well as tangible assets. Follow the trend. The trend is your friend. The goal as wise and prudent investors is to identify and minimize risks and maximize returns keeping pace with inflation.

Does Wall Street have Main Street’s best interest in mind? I think we know the answer to this. While so many others will continue to operate in the deceitful and flawed modalities being advised by an industry they no longer trust. A great change is now upon us. The time for action is now. Better a day early than a day late. Request a copy of the Global Financial Reset Report here. To be continued…

EDITORS NOTE: This column with images is republished with permission.

Cleveland Clinic Won’t Recommend Medical Marijuana to Patients

Why the Cleveland Clinic won’t recommend medical marijuana for patients 

Doctors at Ohio’s Cleveland Clinic will not recommend marijuana for medical use, according to Paul Terpeluk, DO, medical director of the clinic’s employee health services. Writing in the Kent (OH) Record-Courier, Dr. Terpeluk explains why.
 
“In the world of healthcare, a medication is a drug that has endured extensive clinical trials, public hearings and approval by the U.S. Food & Drug Administration,” he says. “Medications are tested for safety and efficacy. They are closely regulated, from production to distribution. They are accurately dosed, down to the milligram. 
 
“Medical marijuana is none of those things,” he points out. 
 
He says governments, regulators, medical researchers, and pharmaceutical companies should focus on isolating marijuana components to produce dose-specific medication and submit it to testing and regulatory processes.
 
He notes that in 2017, the National Institutes of Health supported 330 projects totaling almost $140 million on cannabinoid research. Marijuana contains more than 500 chemicals. Slightly more than 100 of those, called cannabinoids, are unique to the cannabis plant. Thus far, pharmaceutical companies have developed four cannabinoid medications and FDA has approved them:Marinol (dronabinol) is man-made THC in pill form,Syndros (dronabinol) is man-made THC in liquid form,Cesamet (nabilone) is a man-made product similar to THC in pill form, andEpidiolex (cannabidiol) is a purified extract of marijuana in oil form. “As a healthcare provider our goal is to help patients, to treat their conditions, to improve their quality of life, and to ease their suffering – within the bounds of scientific evidence,” Dr. Terpeluk concludes.
 
Read Cleveland Clinic statement here.
 
Effect of Marijuana Smoking on Pulmonary Disease in HIV-Infected and Uninfected Men 

Published online prior to the publication of the December-January issue of EClinicalMedicine, this longitudinal study involved 1352 HIV-seropositive and 1352 HIV-seronegative men who have sex with men.
 
Eligible participants with self-reported marijuana and tobacco smoking had biannual study visits between 1996 and 2014. Researchers obtained pulmonary diagnoses from self-reports and medical records.
 
This study finds that “Among HIV-infected participants, recent marijuana smoking was associated with increased risk of infectious pulmonary diagnoses and chronic bronchitis independent of tobacco smoking and other risk factors for lung disease; . . . these risks were additive in participants smoking both substances. There was no association between marijuana smoking and pulmonary diagnoses in HIV-uninfected participants.”
 
Read full text of this NIH-funded study here.
 
Cannabis anonymous: Steamboat Springs therapist sees rise in marijuana addiction 

A Steamboat Springs, Colorado, licensed counselor and certified addictions therapist, Gary Guerney, has been treating substance abuse problems in patients for more than 20 years. In the last year, he has been shocked by the number of people who are coming to him for help with their addiction to marijuana, a drug most thought was not addictive.
 
“In all my years, I’ve never seen this,” he says.
 
Initially, he favored legalizing marijuana for medical use, but now he’s not so sure. He worries about the drug’s impact on mental health and addiction.
 
Marijuana use has more than doubled in the past decade.
 
Read Steamboat Pilot & Today story here.
 
Colorado: Owners of Sweet Leaf dispensary chain sentenced to a year in prison for illegal marijuana distribution 

A landmark case in the land of legal marijuana is getting widespread attention across the nation. Yes, pot is legal in Colorado, but no one can violate the Colorado Organized Crime Law by illegally selling and distributing marijuana even if they own licensed dispensaries.
 
The three owners of the Sweet Leaf dispensary chain pleaded guilty to violating this law. They were sentenced to one year in prison, to be followed by one year of parole, and one year of probation.
 
The owners admitted they knew that some customers were “looping,” a practice where someone buys the maximum amount of marijuana allowed and returns to the dispensary to buy the maximum amount again and again the same day. The maximum amount in Colorado is one ounce.
 
A Denver prosecutor told the judge that a year-long investigation by Denver police and an equally long investigation by a Denver grand jury resulted in the charges. The investigations produced evidence of loopers purchasing marijuana from Sweet Leaf dispensaries 30 to 40 times a day, leading to almost 2.5 tons of illegal marijuana going into the black market.
 
Sweet Leaf’s parent companies, Dynamic Growth Partner LLC and AJS Holdings LLC, also pleaded guilty and were fined $125,000 each.
 
Read the Denver Post story here.

“Is it lawful [for the President] to do good…?”

When I read the following recently I was struck by the parallel between the Democrats and the Media of our day, and the Pharisees and the Herodians of Christ’s day:

1 And he [Christ] entered again into the synagogue; and there was a man there which had a withered hand.

2 And they watched him, whether he would heal him on the sabbath day; that they might accuse him.

3 And he saith unto the man which had the withered hand, Stand forth.

4 And he saith unto them, Is it lawful to do good on the sabbath days, or to do evil? to save life, or to kill? But they held their peace.

5 And when he had looked round about on them with anger, being grieved for the hardness of their hearts, he saith unto the man, Stretch forth thine hand. And he stretched it out: and his hand was restored whole as the other.

6 And the Pharisees went forth, and straightway took counsel with the Herodians against him, how they might destroy him.  (Mark 3: 1-6)

So are we getting this?

Christ had entered into the synagogue, on the Sabbath, and saw a man there with “a withered hand.” And the Pharisees were waiting, watching to see if he, Jesus, had the temerity to heal this man on the Sabbath…thereby profaning it in their debauched minds. 

And He, of course, would do just that, but not before asking pointedly: “Is it lawful to do good on the sabbath days, or to do evil? to save life, or to kill?” Was the view of these religious zealots regarding “the Law” so warped that they actually considered it wrong (or “immoral”) to heal on the sabbath?

Clearly they did, as they “straightway took counsel with the Herodians…how they might destroy him.” And that reminded me of what the Media and the Democrats (with either the active or tacit support of Establishment Republicans) do to the President on a daily basis…no matter what his latest “crime” or offense.

The President is not a religious leader. That is not the point. The point is that his enemies – and he has rightly identified the Media as “the enemy of the People” (of those who elected him, at least) – takes “counsel…against him,” seeking “how they might destroy him” even when he is seeking to do good – or, at the very least, seeking to do the exact things that current and former Democrats – politicians and presidents – have either done or spoken strongly in favor of over the years. Now suddenly, these same things are “racist,” “immoral,” or a “symbol of hate.”

Dropping unemployment to a fifty-year low – including among Blacks and Hispanics, as well as women: BAD!   Bringing back record numbers of manufacturing job openings, and more jobs overall than people looking for work: WRONG!   Raising consumer confidence levels to near record highs: SELFISH!  

Renegotiating major international trade deals to benefit American workers and consumers, while reducing federal spending by hundreds of millions of dollars, as well as boosting the expansion of the GDP to near 4% (the average annual expansion rate during Barack Obama’s two terms was just below 1.5%): UNFAIR!   

Closing down our Southern Border to reduce the flow of illegal immigrants (which cost U.S. taxpayers an estimated $113 Billion a year), and doing all in his power to complete the construction of a wall (on our Southern Border) like some 65 nations (including the U.S.) have done. (There are 196 nations in the world, so one-third of them have walls.) IMMORAL!  

Bringing together the leaders of North and South Korea for the first time in nearly 70 years, and extracting a commitment from North Korean President Kim Jong Un to “pursue ‘complete’ denuclearization” – with no mention of an increase in U.S. foreign aid to North Korea to date; pulling out of the Paris Climate Accord which was costing us “a vast fortune” (the effects of which were “quantitatively trivial”); and canceling Barack Obama’s disastrous Iranian nuclear deal: EVIL!

All of which tells us that the answer to the question with which we started – “Is it lawful [for the President] to do good…?” – is a resounding NO!  according to the Media/Left in this country. So like the Pharisees of old, the new Sanhedrin in this country – the Global Elites – and their “Herodian” allies in the Deep State, while witnessing the President’s every effort to keep his campaign promises (as seen above) and fulfill his commitment “To Make America Great Again,” have continually sought ways that “they might destroy him.”

In the Meridian of Time, the cry went out with respect to the ‘King of the Jews’: “Let him be crucified! Let him be crucified!” Today, the equally-shrill cry on the part of the Democrats, the Deep State, a number of traitorous Republicans (Jeff Flake and Mitt Romney most notably), and virtually the entire Establishment Press regarding the man whom the People elected as their 45th President, Donald J. Trump, has been “Let him be investigated [until a crime can be found]!” and ultimately, “Let him be impeached!” 

In either case, the lust for blood has been the same…and the alleged “crimes” equally absurd.

Author’s Note:

Since the cry of impeachment is ALL that those who watch the Establishment Media ever see or hear, it is up to the rest of us to speak out, and post the TRUTH on Social Media (assuming it won’t be blocked)! While this may seem like a small thing, in the end it is HUGE, as what is trending effectively tells the world what WE are thinking…or, at least, what those who are not afraid to speak are thinking!  Have those of us who are Christians not all declared that had we been there in the crowd, on that dark day long ago, when Pilate asked the people what should be done with Jesus of Nazareth, WE would have cried out to save him? That we will never know…but do we remain silent now? Our President should not have to bear this, our burden, alone.

In speaking out we may not convince or sway the majority, but at least we may save ourselves, our family, and our friends. We ourselves are the only person whom any of us can control, but for each of us – and perhaps for the country and the world – that may just be enough!

EDITORS NOTE: The featured image is courtesy of WhiteHouse.gov.

Only Economic Growth Will Save the United States of America

Gordon Gekko missed the mark with his famous Wall Street monologue about American capitalism. It is not greed but economic growth that is, for lack of a better word, good. Growth is right. Growth works. Growth clarifies, cuts through, and captures the essence of the evolutionary spirit. Growth has marked the upward surge of mankind. And growth—you mark my words—will save that malfunctioning corporation called the USA.

This is probably pretty obvious to most Americans. Strong economic growth means more jobs and higher wages. Just take a look at the current expansion. It has only been moderate as goes the pace of growth, but it has been sustained. And month after month of a growing economy has brought down the unemployment rate to its lowest level since 1969, even as real wages continue to grow for all income levels. That’s especially true for working-class Americans. The 3.5 percent unemployment rate for Americans with only a high school diploma is the lowest since 2000. Indeed, despite all the debate about income inequality, earnings have been growing faster for those at the bottom than at the top.

U.S. President-elect Donald Trump tours a Carrier factory with Vice President-elect Mike Pence in Indianapolis, Indiana, U.S., December 1, 2016. Reuters/Mike Segar

Or look at it this way: In their research paper “Productivity and Pay: Is the link broken?” Harvard’s Anna Stansbury and Lawrence Summers find that higher productivity growth is associated with higher average and median compensation growth. The economists show that if productivity growth had been as fast from 1973 to 2016 as it was from 1949 to 1973—about twice as high—median and mean compensation would have been around 41 percent higher.

Yet a growing number of policymakers and pundits on the left and right are questioning the primacy of growth as the key objective of national economic policy. Democrats and progressives are focused on new policies to redistribute wealth, such as Medicare for all, a federal jobs guarantee, or a universal basic income. Meanwhile, Republicans and conservatives, grappling with a president who questions the value of free trade and immigration, have grown publicly skeptical of market capitalism. “The free market has been sorting it out for a while, and America has been losing,” said Vice President Mike Pence. And they have become skeptical of the core goal of increasing economic growth.

Leading the charge among the wonks is Oren Cass, a Manhattan Institute scholar and former policy director for the 2012 Mitt Romney presidential campaign. In his new book, The Once and Future Worker, Cass writes that although “economic growth and rising material living standards are laudable goals … they by no means guarantee the health of a labor market that will meet society’s long-term needs.”

The criticisms of growth skeptics range from the ahistorical to the utopian. Of course, a fast-rising tide of economic growth does not guarantee all boats will rise at the same pace or at a pace that society deems sufficient. “Guarantee,” after all, is a strong word. Depending on the strength one attributes to it, it’s possible nothing can “guarantee” the outcome that some growth critics want: all winners, no losers, no trade-offs, no disruption. But if by guarantee we don’t mean “ensure with ironclad certainty” but only “approximate more closely than any available alternative,” economic growth remains society’s best bet. Indeed, this very urge to undervalue growth’s benefits is the surest sign that growth in America has become a victim of its own success.

G.K. Chesterton famously noted how modern types of reformers see institutions or practices and think, “I don’t see the use of this; let us clear it away.” To which the wise reply, “If you don’t see the use of it, I certainly won’t let you clear it away.” Institutions and policies that endure decade after decade often serve a useful purpose even if that purpose isn’t immediately apparent, and we should be cautious before shrugging them off as unimportant. Our growth-oriented economic policy is a perfect example. It brings tremendous benefits, yet we now risk taking it for granted.

And what an odd time to question the benefits. The Obama administration was much derided for its apparently self-serving claim, made in the 2013 Economic Report of the President, “that in the 21st Century, real GDP growth in the United States is likely to be permanently slower than it was in earlier eras.” But it was a perfectly reasonable baseline forecast that continues to reflect the economic consensus from Wall Street to Washington. For instance: The Federal Reserve’s long-term, real GDP forecast stands at 1.8 percent, about half the average pace from 1947 to the start of the Great Recession. And even that reduced pace of growth seems a tad too optimistic for JP Morgan, which pegs the economy’s long-term growth potential at 1.5 percent.

There are good reasons why the experts seem so gloomy. The most important—and, perhaps, most inescapable—is demographics. The aging of the labor force, lower birth rates, and a slowing rate of immigration suggest a slowdown in the growth of the American labor force to around 0.5 percent annually going forward—as compared with roughly 2 percent in the 1960s and 1970s. The U.S. economy expanded at a 4.1 percent annual pace during the ’60s—a decade that today’s nationalist populists look back on with great nostalgia. But growth would have been less than 3 percent if the labor force had been growing as slowly back then as it is currently.

The other big obstacle to faster growth is weak productivity, which downshifted just before the Great Recession and has yet to rebound. For the American economy to grow as fast in the future as it has overall since World War II, output per worker will need to rise sharply. Indeed, that is a big goal of the 2017 Republican-pushed corporate tax cuts. They are supposed to increase business investment and eventually productivity growth. But there are no signs either is happening yet, much to the dismay of many conservative economists. The only other hope lies beyond Washington’s tinkering: The private sector continues to innovate. Maybe Silicon Valley will eventually come to the rescue, as innovation in areas such as artificial intelligence and robotics eventually spreads throughout the non-tech economy. The history of radical technological advances, such as electrification, suggest that it can take some time before businesses figure out how to effectively employ them.

It can be easy to dismiss all this talk of growth rates as the abstract muttering of economists far removed from the everyday concerns of the average American. As a corrective, George Mason economist Tyler Cowen poses a useful thought experiment in his latest book, Stubborn Attachments. Imagine we redo U.S. history, he says, “but assume the country’s economy had grown one percentage point less each year between 1870 and 1990. In that scenario, the United States of 1990 would be no richer than the Mexico of 1990.”

Michael Strain, my colleague at the American Enterprise Institute, makes a similar point when he writes:

Imagine the world in the year 1900. There was no air travel, no antibiotics, no iPhone, no Amazon Prime, no modern high school and no air conditioning. … Anyone who played down growth a century ago wouldn’t have known they were arguing against any of these things, because none of these growth-enabled features of modern life had been invented yet. But they would have been putting the existence of all these at risk by stifling, even marginally, the economic engine that allowed for their creation.

Sustained and solid growth is what makes these advances possible and is what separates the median American today from the median residents of the world’s developing economies. Sacrificing a tenth of a percentage point here and two-tenths there to, say, protect favored industries from foreign competition or levy punitive taxes on obscenely rich entrepreneurs may seem like a worthwhile tradeoff in the moment. But because of how growth compounds over time, in the long-term such trade-offs aren’t just unappealing but inexplicable. As the Nobel Laureate in economics Robert Lucas wrote, “Once one starts to think about [exponential growth], it is hard to think about anything else.” Marginally slowing down economic growth to achieve other policy goals might cause little harm to us, but it seems both less fair and less wise when the welfare of ensuing generations are accounted for. In Strain’s words, “What in the world of tomorrow doesn’t yet exist? We need growth in order to find the answer, both for ourselves, and for posterity.”

It is strange that intellectuals are dismissing the importance of economic growth at just the point when it is becoming harder to generate—and doubly weird after a long stretch of sluggish growth that has almost certainly played a role in the surge of populist politicians such as President Trump. And these populist leaders are pushing the sorts of policies that make a future of slow growth even more likely.

Trump looks back to the immediate decades after World War Two as the golden age of the American economy. His presidential campaign, for instance, made a point of promising the return of mass employment in the industrial-age industries of steel and coal. Cass, too, has pointed to those decades as an alternate model of economic growth. As he said during a recent think-tank event:

The period of time when productivity growth was really booming most in the American economy was a time when tax rates were much higher, immigration rates were much lower, there was virtually no international trade by the standards of the 1920s or today, and there was a much smaller or non-existent safety net. The idea that what we currently call the pro-growth agenda is actually what has aligned with high growth isn’t true.

That is a wrong-headed interpretation of economic history. While it is true that the so-called golden age era is known for fast economic and productivity growth, economists generally do not credit the lack of trade or immigration. Rather, notes the Congressional Budget Office in a review of research literature on the subject, “the golden age may be more accurately interpreted as the full final exploitation of an earlier burst of innovations through electrification, suburbanization, completion and increasing exploitation of the highway system, and production of consumer appliances.” In other words, huge technological advances in the 1920s and 1930s reaped benefits for decades.

Unfortunately, those productivity gains, along with American industrial superiority over its war-ravaged competitors, have created a myth about the postwar American economy—a myth that populists continue to spread. Yet Fortress America entered the 1970s ill-prepared for the inevitable global competition as the rest of the world’s advanced economies finally recovered.

Both Trump and Cass, therefore, have it backward. It wasn’t too much globalization and economic openness that undermined large swaths of the manufacturing economy, but too little. As Adrian Wooldridge of The Economist and former Federal Reserve Chairman Alan Greenspan write in Capitalism in America:

The 1970s was the decade when Americans finally had to grapple with the fact that it was losing its leadership in an ever widening range of industries. Though the best American companies such as General Electric and Pfizer powered ahead, a striking number treaded water. They had succeeded during the long postwar boom not because they had any particular merit, but because Europe and Japan were still recovering from World War Two and they collapsed at the first sniff of competition.

The last thing the American economy needs today is a reduction in competitive intensity, whether achieved by shielding industries with tariffs or keeping out the immigrants that help grow the workforce and provide expertise to key industries, especially technology. Nearly half of our “unicorn companies,” another name for U.S. startups worth over $1 billion dollars, were founded by immigrants. Immigrant scientists and entrepreneurs play a disproportionate role in driving the tech progress necessary for sustained productivity growth. Forty percent of Fortune 500 companies have a first- or second-generation immigrant founder. Immigrants may compete with other Americans, but they also employ them.

The critics of a growth-above-all approach might grant that no other national policy is better at generating material prosperity. But, they say, life requires more than mere materialism. We crave community, beauty, and a certain degree of stability. It is this objection that Harvard’s Benjamin Friedman sought to address in his 2006 book, The Moral Consequences of Economic Growth. True, capitalism and the creative destruction that drive it can disrupt traditional cultures or degrade the environment. And from the Old Testament to the present, men have fretted over usury’s effects on one’s soul (today we might say finance’s effects on one’s morals). But growth doesn’t only erode individual and societal morality. Besides improving material conditions, growth improves moral ones, as well.

Friedman notes how sustained growth “shapes the social, political and, ultimately, the moral character of a people” and “more often than not fosters greater opportunity, tolerance of diversity, social mobility, commitment to fairness, and dedication to democracy.” Slow growth, on the other hand, leads to ugly consequences, especially if voters begin to feel it is inevitable. In times of stagnation, economic policy tilts toward dividing up a fixed pie rather than enlarging everyone’s share. It could mean a society that is less willing to entertain the benefits of international trade, more hostile toward immigration and immigrants, and more comfortable with regulating business.

In fact, “could” is putting it mildly. The tariffs, legislative efforts to reduce immigration, and frequent threats to regulate America’s most successful companies, such as Google and Amazon, already show some of the consequences of the sluggish recovery from the Great Recession—and this from what is supposed to be America’s pro-growth party.

Growth is, and remains, good. Growth is right, staving off a zero-sum politics defined more by group conflict than productive cooperation. Growth works, improving everyone’s standard of living, if not always equally, at least steadily. Growth clarifies, exposing business to competition, and prevents industrial calcification. Growth signifies the evolutionary and upward surge of mankind, evident in everything from modern medicine to interstellar space travel. And a policy geared toward increasing economic growth—pursued attentively and unapologetically—will save the United States of America. All other national economic strategies are but pale imitations.

This article was reprinted from the American Enterprise Institute.

COLUMN BY

James Pethokoukis

James Pethokoukis

James Pethokoukis is a columnist and blogger at the American Enterprise Institute. Previously, he was the Washington columnist for Reuters Breakingviews, the opinion and commentary wing of Thomson Reuters.

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EDITORS NOTE: This FEE column with images is republished with permission. Image credit: Pixabay.

The Truth about the Shutdown: Daily Federal Spending Fell Just 7% During “the Government Shutdown”

Editor’s Note: Lawmakers reached a temporary agreement with the president to reopen the government on Friday.

In our Principles of Microeconomics courses, we sometimes consider whether a firm should shut down some line of production. A firm shuts down when it ceases operations—when it closes down and stops its production. The firm stops spending money on everything except its fixed costs.

A federal government “shutdown” has a completely different meaning.

There has been much handwringing over the current government shutdown that began on December 22 of last year. The Treasury Department, with its Daily Treasury Statements, has provided us with details regarding federal spending through January 18. So we have the data on the first four weeks of the shutdown. Let’s try to determine the definition of a government shutdown.

In order to have some baseline for comparison, consider the budget for Fiscal Year (FY) 2018. The Treasury Department reports on all of the dollars withdrawn from federal accounts. In one sense, this is all federal spending. In FY 2018, withdrawals from federal accounts totaled $13,961.9 billion. That works out to a daily average of $38.3 billion.

In the first 28 days of the shutdown, the feds’ total withdrawals were $1,163 billion. That’s a daily average of $41.5 billion. If we define federal spending as the total withdrawals from federal accounts, then average daily spending during the shutdown is about 8.5 percent higher than it was in FY 2018.

However, the federal government is rolling over a large amount of its debt. It is issuing new government securities and using the funds from the sale of these securities to pay for previous securities that have come due. These withdrawals are under the line item Public Debt Cash Redemptions (PDCR). It’s analogous to a firm borrowing money to make the principal payments on its debt.

The bulk of federal spending is this type of spending. The spending number is so high because of this debt service.

Most everyone, all households and businesses, would classify loan payments as spending even if they financed the loan payments by borrowing money. However, most analysts, when they discuss federal spending, omit this debt service. They usually only include the other types of spending. So let’s take a look at that.

In FY 2018, federal withdrawals (spending) not including the debt service (PDCR) totaled $4,757.8 billion. That’s a daily average of $13 billion. (As an aside, please note that two-thirds of federal spending in FY 2018 was debt payments. This should make us uneasy regarding the federal government’s long-term financial viability.)

For the first four weeks of the shutdown, December 22, 2018, to January 18 of this year, withdrawals less PDCR totaled $338.5 billion for a daily average of a little more than $12 billion.

So by this measure of federal spending, the feds are spending on average 7.3 percent less per day during this shutdown than they did in FY 2018.

Regardless of your position on the shutdown, we should recognize the deceit involved in calling this a shutdown. Spending $12 billion per day is not a shutdown. Spending 7 percent less than you spent last year is not a shutdown.

Calling the current budget impasse a shutdown is just another example of the political corruption of our language.

This article was reprinted from the Mises Institute.

COLUMN BY

Mark Brandly

Mark Brandly

Dr. Mark Brandly is a Fellow of the Mises Institute. He holds a PhD in economics from Auburn University, where he was a Mises Research Fellow specializing in the areas of Public Finance, International Economics, Natural Resource Economics, and Industrial Organization. He has published articles in The Wall Street JournalThe Journal of CommercePublic Finance ReviewThe Quarterly Journal of Austrian EconomicsThe Free Market, various newspapers and websites. 

EDITORS NOTE: This FEE column with images is republished with permission.

Take the Survey: Will You Still Purchase Gillette Products?

Last week, 2ndVote released a new company score, Edgewell Personal Care, as an alternative to Gillette and parent company Procter & Gamble. Edgewell is the owner of the Schick and Edge shaving product brands and has remained Neutral (3) on all the issues 2ndVote scores.

Gillette’s recent ad promoting the narrative of so-called “toxic masculinity” has received plenty of backlash, and according to Breitbart, it became the 28th most disliked YouTube video of all time. Greg Gutfeld of Fox News explains Gillette’s attempt at a “woke” business strategy:

Gillette makes an ad that shafts the company’s key audience, just to score a few virtue points with the social justice mob. They say they’re sparking conversation – but that’s what they call it when they tie you to a chair and shout accusations at you. Then ask you for your money.

But how enlightened is Gillette, really?

Look at these razors. The blue is for the males…the pink, females.

Talk about enforcing gender stereotypes.

Now, the cowardly media, scared of the social media mob, backs the ad.

Of course 2ndVote subscribers understand parent company Procter & Gamble’s (1.7 – Liberal) record of liberal activism means Gillette is not the best option for conservative shopping dollars. That is why our research team has been hard at work making sure we have the best information for finding alternative companies and discovering where Gillette’s competitors stand on the issues:

Schick and Edge (Edgewell Personal Care) – 3 (Neutral)

Harry’s Razors – 2.4 (Lean Liberal)

Dollar Shave Club – 1.9 (Liberal)

Please help us continue our work by taking the survey below on your shopping habits when it comes to your shaving products. Your input is valued, and helps us create content keeping you informed on why competitor companies like Harry’s Razors and Dollar Shave Club have also taken steps to advance the left’s agenda.

Take the survey!

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EDITORS NOTE: This 2ndVote column with images is republished with permission. The featured image is by Shutterstock.