Florida: Waste and Abuse at the Sarasota County School Board

SB composite-photo (1)The Sarasota County School Board took up a discussion on a way to save the district money. The discussion died due to three school board members: Caroline Zucker, Jane Goodwin and Shirley Brown. This issue was about the costs associated with holding a tax increase referendum during an off year rather than during the November general election cycle. Here are some facts about the March tax increase referendum:

  • The tax increase referendum costs the School District $324,827.84 every four years. Five of these referendums have taken place costing approximately $1,714,139 to date.
  • Voter turnout is 16.76% during March referendums versus over 75% during a General Election.
  • The District March referendum suppresses the vote.
  • The Sarasota County School Board receives over 58% of all property taxes in the county.

The issue:

When the Sarasota County School Board has a “discussion” about issues, they get the feel for how everyone votes and then if there’s not a majority, they don’t schedule a public vote on it because they assume it’ll lose.

They only bring up winning votes instead of forcing votes and putting people on record. The threat of being on record and the accountability that comes from that could actually sway votes during a regularly scheduled School Board meeting. It would also allow for public input on this and many other issues that never make it out of these “discussions.” Discussions appear to be designed to keep important items off of the public meetings agenda.

This is a huge problem and amounts to the abuse of Sarasota County taxpayers, parents and voters.

Watch the video of the discussion held on August 17th, 2015:

During the discussion School Board (SB) Member Bridget Ziegler pushed to have the discussion about moving the Referendum to the General Election. SB Member Frank Kovach aggressively supported moving it as well.

Two of the three SB Members who opposed the move said that it would still pass in November. Caroline Zucker said it would pass in November (at 12:40) but opposed moving and saving money. Shirley Brown also said it would pass in November (at: 10:33 & 12:33) but opposed moving and saving money. Jane Goodwin did NOT support moving it.

Question: So why not save the money and hold the referendum in November?

There is no cost to the School District and taxpayers to add the tax increase referendum to the General Election unless it appears as a stand alone item on an extra sheet of paper, then the cost is only for the paper that is printed on for that one page, a minimal cost.

Those opposed argued that moving the tax increase referendum causes confusion for voters if they vote against referendum and then it’s still continuing from a previous vote. However, SB Member Kovach noted that the Sarasota County Commission did this and it caused no voter confusion.

The opposing SB members worried about the ballot getting crowded and being missed.  See: Too much on ballot SB Member Zucker at 12:40 in the above video. However, SB Member Ziegler rips that apart by referencing voter turnout for the items at the ballot during a presidential general being at 50%+ rather than under 17%. It is also easy to vote via absentee ballot and during the early voting period.

Question: Why should the SB make it more difficult to vote? People aren’t used to voting in March.

Why are Zucker, Brown and  Goodwin so concerned with the campaign to push for supporting the tax increase referendum rather than what’s best for taxpayers? Ziegler notes how bottom of the ballot items during a general election are three times higher than the tax increase referendum turnout. That means more voter engagement, not less.

SB Members have tried to paint first term SB Member Bridget Ziegler as a rookie. Maybe it’s good to have a fresh perspective to understand how much money this is costing the district. Maybe Ziegler is telling the truth and is being silenced at the expense of Sarasota County taxpayers?

Currently the tax referendum happens and is pitched as a rush and then when it’s passed there’s a rush on how to spend the money. It’s easy to spend money when it is not yours on off season tax increase referendums rather than on public school children. Especially when most of that money is used not to improve the classroom.

As SB Member Kovach pointed out the scheduling of the tax increase referendum is “more about victory versus the will of the people.”

Zucker is up for reelection. Perhaps she, Goodwin and Brown need to explain their anti-voter and anti-taxpayer positions?

Ethanol: Lies, Myths and the Immorality of using Food for Fuel

We have written about how using food for fuel is immoral because of the over 1 million people, mostly children, who die each year of starvation. Using corn based ethanol raises the prices of everything that depends on this food product from the cost of meat, cereals and every corn based product.

Not only is ethanol bad for the starving poor it is also bad for your vehicles engine, whether it be a car, boat or motorcycle. The American Motorcycle Association (AMA) in an email exposes the myths behind the ethanol special interests.

The AMA in an email titled “Stop the decade of E15 misinformation: Urge your representative to protect your access to safe fuel” states:

The first 10 years under the Renewable Fuel Standard, established in 2005, represent a decade of misinformation from the ethanol lobby concerning safe fuel for your motorcycle.

To protect your access to safe fuel, urge your representative to cosponsor the RFS Reform Act of 2015 (H.R. 704). The American Motorcyclist Association needs your help to pass this bill. You can send a prewritten email to your representative immediately by following the “Take Action” option and entering your information. The AMA encourages riders to personalize their message by drawing on their own personal riding experiences.

In an effort to prohibit the spread of E15 fuel, which contains up to 15 percent ethanol by volume, the AMA supports H.R. 704, sponsored by U.S. Reps. Bob Goodlatte (R-Va.) and Peter Welch’s (D-Vt.). The bipartisan bill would amend the Renewable Fuel Standard to recognize market conditions and realities. It also would prohibit the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency from allowing any station to sell gasoline containing more than 10 percent ethanol by volume and require those already selling it to stop.

In other words, the sale of E15 will not be permitted if this legislation becomes law.

The AMA has repeatedly expressed concerns to government officials and federal lawmakers about possible damage to motorcycle and all-terrain-vehicle fuel systems and engines from the inadvertent use of E15. Allowing the higher ethanol blends to become more readily available greatly increases the chance of misfueling.

In October 2010, the EPA approved E15 for use in model year 2007 and newer light duty vehicles (cars, light-duty trucks, and medium-duty passenger vehicles). In January 2011, it added model year 2001-2006 light duty vehicles to the approved list.

Passing H.R. 704 will help protect the estimated 22 million motorcycles and all-terrain vehicles currently in use on America’s roads and trails that are not approved to use E15, and the riders who depend on safe fuel for their operation.

Preventing inadvertent misfuelings has been one of the AMA’s top priorities, because motorcycles and ATVs are not designed to run on ethanol blends higher than 10 percent, and many older machines favored by vintage enthusiasts have problems with any ethanol at all in the fuel. Using fuel with more than 10 percent ethanol can void the manufacturer’s warranty, potentially leaving motorcyclists with thousands of dollars in additional maintenance costs.

RELATED ARTICLES:

The Ethanol Debacle

Time to help Ethanol Bite the Dust

Report: Florida ethanol plant a bust – zero gallons of biofuel produced

EDITORS NOTE: The AMA offers readers the opportunity to join the conversation with us by sharing the E15 fuel issue on Facebook and by clicking here to
Take Action.

Marco Rubio’s Brave Defense of Corporate Welfare, Farm Subsidies, and Protectionism by James Bovard

America would be more prosperous if not a single sugar beet or sugar cane were grown anywhere in the United States because bankrolling sugar production in Florida makes as little sense as growing bananas in Maine.

So when Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Fla., walked into the Koch conclave earlier this month and defended his home state boondoggle in front of the most powerful enemies of corporate welfare, he became the bravest man in politics.

Rarely has such political daring been offered in a more worthless cause. Federal price supports and import quotas combine to force American consumers to pay more than $3 billion a year in higher prices, according to the Commerce Department.

Federal sugar policy has a long, sordid history. In 1816, Congress imposed high tariffs on sugar imports in part to prop up the value of slaves in Louisiana. In the 1890s, Congress abolished and then re-imposed the sugar tariff, spurring a boom-bust in Cuba that helped drag the U.S. into the Spanish-American War.

Sugar is perhaps America’s least efficient welfare program, costing consumers vastly more than it benefits farmers. Despite subsidies, the number of sugar growers has fallen by about half in the past three decades. The General Accounting Office estimated in 1995 that 1% of sugar growers captured almost half of all the benefits from the program.

As a result of the high prices, candy and other food manufacturers are shifting production to foreign nations (especially Canada). A study by Agralytica, an economic consulting firm, estimated the sugar program has cost over 120,000 jobs since 1997.

Because the U.S. mainland does not have a natural climate for sugar production, farmers have to compensate by dousing the land with fertilizer. As nearly 500,000 acres of the Everglades have been converted from swampland to sugar fields, phosphorous from the fertilizer has ravaged the region’s ecosystem. Politicians have launched hugely expensive efforts to curb the environmental harm but, as a New York Times 2010 exposé proved, the sugar industry benefited, not the Everglades.

The sugar program offers perennial confirmation of H.L. Mencken’s adage that every election is an “advance auction of stolen goods.” Congress shafts consumers because the sugar industry has directed millions to politicians, including almost $50 million in campaign contributions and lobbying between 2008 and 2013 alone. The economic arguments offered in defense of the program are merely camouflage for political plunder.

Food manufacturers, environmental groups and free-market activists are leading another assault on the program, and lawmakers are pushing a bill to limit the disruption the sugar program inflicts. That’s a first step, not a solution.


James Bovard

James Bovard is the author of ten books, includingPublic Policy Hooligan, Attention Deficit Democracy, andLost Rights: The Destruction of American Liberty. Find him on Twitter @JimBovard.

EDITORS NOTE: James Bovard is the author of Public Policy Hooligan and a member of USA Today’s Board of Contributors, where this post first appeared. Reprinted with permission.

Capitalists from Outer Space by B.K. Marcus

When the aliens stop trifling with crop circles, bumpkin abduction, and indelicate probes and finally introduce themselves to the rest of humanity, will they turn out to be partisans of central planning, interventionism, or unhampered markets?

This is not the question asked by the Search for Extraterrestrial Intelligence (SETI) Institute, but whether or not the institute’s scientists realize it, the answer is crucial to their search.

Signs of Intelligent Life

The SETI Institute was founded by Frank Drake and the late Carl Sagan. Its scientists do not believe we have been visited yet. UFO sightings and abduction stories don’t stand up under scientific scrutiny, they say. Nor are they waiting for flying saucers. Because the aliens’ signals will likely reach Earth before their spaceships do, SETI monitors the skies for transmissions from advanced civilizations orbiting distant stars.

The scientific search for evidence of advanced alien societies began in 1960, when Drake aimed a 25-meter dish at two nearby stars. The previous year, the journal Nature had published an article called “Searching for Interstellar Communications,” which suggested that distant civilizations might transmit greetings at the same wavelength as the radio emission of hydrogen (the universe’s most common element). Drake found no such signals, nor has SETI found any evidence of interstellar salutations since. But it’s not giving up.

The Truth Is Out There

Before we can ask after advanced alien political economy, we must confront the more basic question: Is there anybody out there? SETI has been searching for over half a century. That may seem like a long time, but there are, as Sagan underscored, “billions and billions of stars.” How many of them should we expect to monitor before finding one that’s transmitting?

In an attempt to address, if not answer, the question, Drake proposed an equation in 1961 to summarize the concepts scientists think are relevant to any educated guess.

Here is how Sagan explains the Drake equation in the book Cosmos:

N*, the number of stars in the Milky Way Galaxy;
fp, the fraction of stars that have planetary systems;
ne, the number of planets in a given system that are ecologically suitable for life;
fl, the fraction of otherwise suitable planets on which life actually arises;
fi, the fraction of inhabited planets on which an intelligent form of life evolves;
fc, the fraction of planets inhabited by intelligent beings on which a communicative technical civilization develops;
and fL, the fraction of a planetary lifetime graced by a technical civilization.

The End of the World as We Know It

Sagan expounds on all the terms in the equation, but it’s that last one that absorbs him: How long can an advanced civilization last before it destroys itself?

Perhaps civilizations arise repeatedly, inexorably, on innumerable planets in the Milky Way, but are generally unstable; so all but a tiny fraction are unable to survive their technology and succumb to greed and ignorance, pollution and nuclear war.

Sagan wrote Cosmos toward the end of the Cold War. He mentioned other threats — greed, ignorance, pollution — but the specter of mutual annihilation haunted him. When he imagined the end of an advanced society, he pictured something permanent.

“It is hardly out of the question,” he wrote, “that we might destroy ourselves tomorrow.” Perhaps, Sagan feared, the general pattern is for civilizations to “take billions of years of tortuous evolution to arise, and then snuff themselves out in an instant of unforgivable neglect.”

The Rise and Fall of Civilization

We cannot know if the civilizational survival rate on other planets is high or low, and so the final term in the Drake equation is guesswork, but some guesses are better than others.

“One of the great virtues of [Drake’s] equation,” Sagan wrote, “is that it involves subjects ranging from stellar and planetary astronomy to organic chemistry, evolutionary biology, history, politics and abnormal psychology.”

That’s quite an array of topics to inform an educated guess, but notice that he doesn’t mention economics.

Perhaps he thought politics covered it, but Sagan’s political focus was more on questions of war and peace than poverty and wealth. In particular, he considered the end of civilization to be an event from which it would take a planet billions of years to recover.

The history of our own species suggests that this view is too narrow. Yes, a nuclear war could wipe out humanity, but civilizations do destroy themselves in less permanent ways.

There have been two dark ages in Western history: the Mycenaean-Greek and the post-Roman. Both were marked by retrogression in technology, art, and literacy. Both saw a drop in overall population and in population density, as survivors left towns and cities for a more autarkic existence in the countryside. And both underwent a radical decline in foreign trade and the division of labor. Market societies deteriorated into disparate cultures of subsistence farming.

The ultimate causes of the Greek Dark Age are a mystery. As with the later fall of the Roman Empire, the Mycenaean demise was marked by “barbarian” invasions, but the hungry hoards weren’t new: successful invasions depend on weakened defenses and deteriorating infrastructure. What we know is that worsening poverty marked the fall, whether as cause, effect, or both.

The reasons for the fall of the Roman West are more evident, if still debated. Despite claims of lead poisoning, poor sanitation, too much religion, too little religion, and even, believe it or not, inadequate central planning, the empire’s decline resulted from bad economic policy.

To help us see this more clearly,Freeman writer Nicholas Davidson suggests in his magnificent 1987 article “The Ancient Suicide of the West” that we look to the signs of cultural and economic decline rather than to the changes, however drastic, in political leadership. While the Western empire did not fall to the barbarians until the fifth century AD, “The Roman economy [had] reached its peak toward the middle of the first century AD and thereafter began to decline.” As with the Mycenaean Greeks, the decay was evident in art and literature, science and technology. Civilization cannot advance in poverty. Wealth and civilization progress together.

How to Kill Progress

“The stagnation in all aspects of society,” Davidson writes, “was associated with a continuous extension of governmental functions. Social engineering was tried on the grand scale. The state relentlessly expanded into commerce, industry, and private life.”

As we look to our own future — or anticipate the politics of our alien brethren — we can draw on the experience of humanity’s past to help us appreciate the economics of progress and decline. Over and over, we see the same pattern: some group gains a temporary benefit from a world in flux. When further social and economic changes check those advantages, the old guard turn to the state to protect them from the dynamism of a healthy society. Adaptation is stymied. Nothing is allowed to evolve. The politically privileged — military and civilian, rich and poor — sacrifice their civilization in an doomed attempt to ward off change.

The Sustainable Society

Evolutionary science, economic theory, and cybernetics yield the same lessons: stability requires flexibility; complexity flourishes under spontaneous order; centralization leads to stagnation.

To those general lessons, economics adds insights specific to the context of scarcity: private property and voluntary exchange produce greater general wealth, longer time horizons, and ever more investment in the “luxuries” of scientific investigation, technological innovation, and a more active stewardship of the environment. Trade promotes peace, and a global division of labor unites the world’s cultures in mutual self-interest.

If, as Sagan contends, an advanced civilization would require political stability and sizable long-term investment in science and technology to survive an interstellar spacefaring phase, then we should expect any such civilization to embrace a planetwide system of free trade and free markets grounded in private property. For the civilization to last the centuries and millennia necessary to explore and colonize the stars, its governing institutions will have to be minimal and decentralized.

The aliens will, in short, embrace what Adam Smith called “the system of natural liberty.” Behind their transmissions, SETI should expect to find the invisible hand.

Scientists versus Freedom

When we do make contact, “the consequences for our own civilization will be stunning,” Sagan wrote. Humanity will gain “insights on alien science and technology, art, music, politics, ethics, philosophy and religion…. We will know what else is possible.”

What did Sagan himself believe possible? Had he survived to witness first contact, would he be surprised to learn of the capitalist political economy at the foundation of an advanced extraterrestrial civilization?

Neil deGrasse Tyson, who remade the Cosmos television series for the 21st century, recommends reading Adam Smith’s Wealth of Nations but only “to learn that capitalism is an economy of greed, a force of nature unto itself.”

We shouldn’t assume that Tyson represents Sagan’s economic views, but when Sagan did address questions of policy, he advocated a larger welfare state and greater government spending. When he talked about “us” and “our” responsibilities, he invariably meant governments, not private individuals.

Sagan wrote, “It may be that civilizations can be divided into two great categories: one in which the scientists are unable to convince nonscientists to authorize a search for extraplanetary intelligence … and another category in which the grand vision of contact with other civilizations is shared widely.”

Why would scientists have to persuade anyone else to authorize anything? Sagan could only imagine science funded by government. It was apparently beyond credibility that less widely shared visions can secure sufficient funding.

It’s a safe guess, then, that when he talks of civilizations that are “unable to survive their technology and succumb to greed,” Sagan is talking about the profit motive.

And yet, it is the profit motive that drives innovation, and it is the great wealth generated by profit seekers that allows later generations of innovators to pursue their visions with fewer financial inducements. Whether directly or indirectly, profits pay for progress.

Self-Interested Enlightenment

Why does it matter if astronomers misunderstand the market? Does SETI really need to appreciate the virtues of individual liberty to monitor the heavens for signs of intelligent life?

Scientists can and do excel in their fields without understanding how society works. But that doesn’t mean their ignorance of economics is harmless. The more admired they are as scientists — especially as popularizers of science — the more damage they can do when they speak authoritatively outside their fields. Their brilliance in one discipline can make them overconfident about their grasp of others. And increasingly, the questions facing the scientific community cross multiple specialties. It was the cross-disciplinary nature of Drake’s equation that Sagan saw as its great virtue.

The predictions of the astronomer looking for extraterrestrial socialists will be different from those of someone who expects the first signals of alien origin to come from a radically decentralized civilization — a society of private individuals who have discovered the sustainable harmony of self-interest and the general welfare.

After that first contact, after we’ve gained “insights on alien science and technology” and we get around to learning alien history, will we discover that their species has witnessed civilizations rise and fall? What was it that finally allowed them to break the cycle? How did they avoid stagnation, decline, and self-destruction?

How did they, as a culture, come to accept the economic way of thinking, embrace the philosophy of freedom, and develop a sustainable civilization capable of reaching out to us, the denizens of a less developed world?


B.K. Marcus

B.K. Marcus is managing editor of the Freeman.

The Man Who Sowed the Seeds of Puerto Rico’s Collapse by Lawrence W. Reed

Is there anything more tragically monotonous than a failing welfare state? From ancient Rome to modern Greece, the story is one of the most repetitive in history. It goes like this:

People increasingly decide they’d rather vote for a living than work for one. An academic and intellectual class, dependent on subsidies and anxious to command the economy, advises the people that this is a really good thing. Politicians cater to them with high-sounding rhetoric (“We’ll take care of you”) and low-balling promises (“We can afford it. It won’t cost much. We’ll just take it from the rich”).

Responsibility, self-reliance, and enterprise give way to an entitlement mentality. Power concentrates and corruption ensues. Taxes and debt rise. The government debases the money. Crisis leads to more government, which leads to more crisis. What was always bankrupt morally finally goes bankrupt economically. Goodbye economy, liberty, and often even civilization itself. The barbarians take over. What else is new?

Now it’s Puerto Rico’s turn.

The Commonwealth of Puerto Rico is a US territory in the northeastern Caribbean. Its governor, Alejandro García Padilla, startled the world back in June when he announced that the island cannot pay back its $72 billion public debt.

“The debt is not payable,” García Padilla said. “There is no other option. I would love to have an easier option. This is not politics; this is math.”

He called the situation a “death spiral.” Suddenly, millions of Americans were learning what a basket case the Puerto Rican economy has become. It is indeed a crisis but one that was, to an embarrassing extent, made right here in America.

It was foisted on Puerto Ricans by one lousy New Dealer in particular. His name was Rexford Guy Tugwell.

More on the egghead Tugwell in a moment, but let me bring everybody up to date on just how bad things are down there. Be sure to read to the end because there’s a silver lining in this very dark cloud.

Puerto Rico has been in a funk for a good while. Its stubbornly high, double-digit unemployment rate is more than twice that of the United States. In fact, it hasn’t been below 9.7 percent in 40 years.

The island’s debt is higher on a per capita basis than that of any US state and four times that of Detroit, which went bankrupt two years ago. Businesses are collapsing. People are fleeing (200,000 have left since 2005). Almost half of the island’s 3.7 million residents earn incomes under the US federal poverty line. Nearly 40 percent of all households get food stamps. Until recently, the retirement age for government school teachers was as low as 47, prompting underfunded pension fund crisis so endemic to welfare states. (The retirement age has lately been raised to at least 55 for current teachers, and 62 for new teachers.)

As Tyler Durden explains at ZeroHedge.com, policies imposed from Washington must shoulder a big part of the blame for this mess: the wizards on the Potomac encouraged debt and deficit spending, priced hundreds of thousands of Puerto Ricans out of entry-level jobs with a punishing minimum wage, taxed and regulated commerce and investment to a crawl, and showered the island with debilitating welfare. The place would be a showcase of government-induced prosperity except for one sticking point: government.

All of this has been decades in the making, which brings me to the character named Tugwell. I’ve long had a distaste for this pompous meddler. The more I learn about his role as Puerto Rico’s appointed governor (1941–1946), the more I’m ashamed that a US president was dumb enough to put him in charge of anything.

I first heard of Tugwell as an undergraduate economics major at Grove City College in the early 1970s. Fascinated by what my econ prof, Dr. Hans Sennholz, had said in class about America’s 22nd and 24th president, Grover Cleveland, I checked out a biography of him. It carried the imaginative title, GroverCleveland, and included a revealing subtitle, A Biography of the President Whose Uncompromising Honesty and Integrity Failed America in a Time of Crisis.

The author was Rexford Guy Tugwell, widely regarded as the most influential ideologue of economic planning during Roosevelt’s New Deal. The Cleveland terms were largely wasted opportunities, according to Tugwell, because Cleveland would not turn the economy into his personal plaything. If only he had trashed his honesty and integrity, Cleveland could have been the scientist and the rest of us the lab rats.

Tugwell was the Jonathan Gruber of his day. (Recall the smug academic who admitted that deception was employed to fool stupid Americans into supporting Obamacare.) He went straight from academia as a student (the Wharton School at U-Penn, then Columbia) to academia as a professor (University of Washington, American University in Paris, and Columbia University). His intellectual mentors were socialists like Upton Sinclair and Edward Bellamy. Woodrow Wilson’s wartime administration gave him his first real glimpse of the glorious fun of central planning, and he loved it even when it flopped.

In 1932, President-elect Franklin Roosevelt invited Professor Tugwell to join the first White House “brain trust.” These were the whiz kids — the social scientists and experimenters of the administration. Blessed with power and attention, they were ready to “transform” America and “plan” our way out of the Great Depression.

H.L. Mencken was less charitable in his description. He called them “an astonishing rabble of impudent nobodies,” “a gang of half-educated pedagogues, starry-eyed uplifters and other such sorry wizards.” Along with FDR, they “planned” the Depression into the longest slump in American history.

Tugwell loved to set up and run what came to be known as “boondoggles.” He was an architect of the Agricultural Adjustment Act and later director of its Agricultural Adjustment Administration (AAA), which taxed agricultural processors and used the revenue to destroy crops and cattle to raise prices. It was declared unconstitutional by the Supreme Court and ridiculously destructive by clear thinkers.

From its inception in 1935, he directed the Resettlement Administration (RA), which relocated the rural unemployed to new, planned communities in suburbs. Urban authority Jane Jacobs, in her classic The Death and Life of Great American Cities, showed that his program simply displaced people and ruined neighborhoods. The RA was also thrown out as unconstitutional. True to the statist stereotype, Tugwell learned nothing from either experience. “Planning” was his religion and he was going to be its high priest, come hell or high water.

In 1936, Tugwell left Washington and two years later showed up as the first director of the New York City Planning Commission. He tried retroactively to enforce nonconforming land uses with almost no legal or public support. He proved too much an ideologue even for the polarizing Robert Moses, who killed Tugwell’s 50-year, pie-in-the-sky master plan for public housing.

Now let’s get back to Puerto Rico.

By 1941, Rexford Guy Tugwell had behind him a 20-year career of pontificating for big government and managing expensive government flops. Somehow that gave Franklin Roosevelt the idea of naming him governor of Puerto Rico. What Tugwell did for the mainland, he could now do for an island. Maybe this central planning stuff works better if you work small, right?

Nope.

So for five years, Professor Tugwell became Governor Tugwell. One of the first things he did was to create, with the legislature’s approval, the Puerto Rico Planning, Urbanization, and Zoning Board in 1942. If only he had done what John Copperthwaite did later in Hong Kong or what Ludwig Erhard did in postwar Germany or what inspired free marketers have done in freeing their cities, Puerto Rico might today be a beacon of liberty and prosperity. But Tugwell wanted to plan, plan, plan.

Pedro Serra is president of a new organization in Puerto Rico, the Alliance for the Protection of Liberties. He is a businessman from San Juan whose interest in free-market economics led him to work with the 2012 Ron Paul campaign. Looking back on the Tugwell period, he observes,

When President Roosevelt appointed Rexford G. Tugwell governor of Puerto Rico, it was in keeping with the same economic attitude that characterized the New Deal — that the government can solve an economy’s woes. Our government has since taken as an axiom that economic stagnation results from too little government, not too much. If this were the case, then today’s Puerto Rico should be paradise on earth. Instead our economy is depressed, our people jobless, and our government bankrupt.

Climate would seem to have blessed Puerto Rico for agricultural pursuits. Tugwell’s infinite wisdom suggested it should opt for industry instead, so he directed public policy against farming and toward manufacturing. He lobbied for all the aid and welfare from the mainland he could get. He set the tone for decades of a top-down welfare state. Joe Milligan, a colleague of Serra’s, is originally from Rochester, Michigan, and now brings his passion for free markets to San Juan, Puerto Rico, as the director of development for the Alliance for the Protection of Liberties. Here is how Milligan sums it up:

Governor Tugwell’s legacy is alive and apparent on the island. His tenure in office was characterized by central planning, government growth, and expansion of the welfare state. He stamped out the thriving sugar cane and coffee industries in favor of manufacturing. The result is that now we have neither. Today in Puerto Rico our government is the island’s largest employer and half of all residents require government financial assistance to subsist. In this sense Governor Tugwell truly left his mark.

Indeed, for many years after Governor Tugwell left Puerto Rico for academia back in the United States (where failure is celebrated as long as you worship the state and have good intentions), other New Dealers sojourned to the island to offer more of the same.

One of them was Hugh Barton, who had directed the US State Department’s Office of Strategic Services until he was fired for his knowledge of the communist affiliations of some of his top staff. Barton set up shop with the Puerto Rico Planning Board and the Office of Economic Research. If you had a college degree and a penchant for planning the economy of other people, you could get a government job in Puerto Rico in the 1950s and ’60s. Except for a brief retrenchment under one-term Governor Luis Fortuño, Puerto Rico has been run for decades as Tugwell first envisioned it, exacerbated by Washington’s poor policies to boot.

As I promised early in this article, there’s some good news in this bleak course of events. Puerto Rico now has a nascent libertarian movement and an organization devoted to spreading ideas of liberty as an antidote to the Tugwell legacy — the Alianza para la Protección de Libertades (Alliance for the Protection of Liberties) that Pedro Serra and Joe Milligan have launched.

The Alliance seeks to improve the lives of Puerto Ricans by building a new consensus around this proposition: a free society — not a centrally planned, politicized one — is a more prosperous and tolerant society. It works to build public support for smaller government and advise policy makers in choosing the proven path toward prosperity. The Alliance’s programs include developing a college campus lecture circuit, starting a YouTube channel specific to Puerto Rico’s issues, and disseminating compelling literature to legislators.

Never let a crisis go to waste, as the saying goes. Puerto Rico represents a unique opportunity to undo a painful, statist history. I hope readers will want to help.

To support the efforts of the Alliance, email Pedro Serra, the director, at pedro@protecciondelibertades.org.

“The curious task of economics,” Austrian economist F.A. Hayek taught us, “is to demonstrate to men how little they really know about what they imagine they can design.”

Rexford Guy Tugwell never understood that. With the help of the Alliance for the Protection of Liberties, Puerto Ricans may yet embrace Hayek’s wisdom and thereby shake the curse of Tugwell.


Lawrence W. Reed

Lawrence W. (“Larry”) Reed became president of FEE in 2008 after serving as chairman of its board of trustees in the 1990s and both writing and speaking for FEE since the late 1970s.

San Francisco: Hebrew Immigrant Aid Society Can’t Find Enough Housing for Gay ‘Refugees’

Mark Hetfield

Mark Hetfield, President & CEO of Hebrew Immigrant Aid Society.

Ho hum!  So we are bringing refugees from the highly touted welcoming-to-all “Rainbow Nation” of South Africa, dropping them off in San Francisco and now whining about how there isn’t enough housing for them.

Maybe one of the well-paid staffers at the Hebrew Immigrant Aid Society (HIAS) might welcome this gay refugee to their home!

A long sob story at the Bay Area Reporter:

Gay_Refugee_31_LRG

Isn’t HIAS PAID to take care of the refugees it resettles? Why is San Francisco gay refugee saying this: “In the U.S. I am facing homelessness,” Mayema told the Bay Area Reporter in a recent interview. “I don’t want to end up on the streets.”

“Our biggest challenge in helping these people is to find housing for them,” said Amy Weiss, the director of refugee and immigrant services at Jewish Family and Children’s Services of the East Bay. “They come with no employment history and no housing history. San Francisco is hard enough to find housing if you have an income. It is a huge problem for us and for them and to anybody resettling refugees.”

The agency is believed to be the only one in the country that has developed a specific program to work with LGBT refugees. It began four years ago when a number of Iranian LGBT refugees, who had fled to Turkey, needed help resettling in the U.S.

Since then the agency has worked with a number of LGBT refugees, mostly gay men from Africa and the Middle East. In November Junior Mayema arrived from Capetown, South Africa, where he had fled five years ago from the Democratic Republic of Congo.

Then look at this, even the UN High Commissioner for Refugees refers to the attack (the star of this story claimed he suffered) as an “alleged attack.” So, he was resettled in America even though it was never proven he was attacked in S. Africa?

UNHCR staff, after learning about Mayema’s alleged attack, referred his case for resettlement last summer. Four months later, according to the account, he was granted refugee status and, in November, arrived in the Bay Area where he received assistance from the Jewish agency and a local church-sponsored group in acclimating to his new surroundings.

And, by the way, as we admit hundreds of refugees from the supposedly welcoming country of South Africa, you can bet there are few if any persecuted white people in the group.  I wonder if a white person pretended to be gay or lesbian and said he or she was attacked, could they get in to the US from South Africa?

The sob story goes on and on, continue reading here.  It is largely a play for more taxpayer money!

Defend Freedom Tour: Fort Lauderdale, FL on Saturday, August 1st

Concerned Veterans for America’s Defend Freedom Tour 2015 Coming to Ft. Lauderdale on August 1st at the Round Up Country Western Night Club & Restaurant located at 9020 W State Rd 84, Davie, FL 33324.

The Concerned Veterans for America Advocacy Group Will Rally Support for VA Reform and Other Issues Affecting Vets, Military Families Arlington, Va. – Concerned Veterans for America’s Defend Freedom Tour is coming to Round Up Night Club in Ft. Lauderdale on Saturday, August 1st, from 6:00-9:00 p.m. CVA will rally support for Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) health care reform—among other pressing issues affecting veterans, members of the military, and their families—at this event. It’s been a little over a year since news broke that Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) hospitals across the country put veterans on secret waiting lists to give the appearance of access to timely medical care. While VA administrators pocketed bonuses for fudging the numbers, veterans faced excessive wait times and in some cases even died while waiting for an appointment. A year later, problems still persist at the VA.

The VA hospitals in Jacksonville and Tampa have had their fair share of issues this year. The Jacksonville VA has extensive wait times for veterans who are potentially facing life threatening health issues, while the Tampa VA is infested with rats, rodents, cockroaches, and feces. These issues are not local to Florida. Nationwide, the New York Times reports the number of veterans on wait lists one month or more is now 50 percent higher than it was during the height of last year’s scandal.

“It’s a disgrace that over one year after the VA wait list scandal first broke that almost no progress has been made to fix the department’s problems—and instead we continue to hear of new VA failures every week,” said Sean Parnell, Senior Advisor at CVA and a featured speaker on the Defend Freedom Tour. “Veterans have earned and deserve the highest quality health care, and shouldn’t have to fight to receive it. That’s why we’re committed to bringing real reform and accountability to the Department of Veterans Affairs.” Through the Defend Freedom Tour, CVA is bringing together veterans, military families, and patriotic Americans to preserve the freedom and prosperity that we and our families so proudly fought and sacrificed to defend.

Event Information Admission to the Ft. Lauderdale Defend Freedom Tour is FREE and includes a complimentary barbecue dinner. This event features an amazing lineup of inspirational speakers: Gold Star Mother Karen Vaughn; decorated Army Ranger and New York Times best-selling author Sean Parnell; and Navy SEAL and author Lieutenant Jason Redman. Madison Rising, the nation’s most patriotic rock band, and Ayla Brown, country music performer, will perform live. Register on Eventbrite. For more information, go to www.DefendFreedomTour.com.

Concerned Veterans for America is a non-partisan, non-profit, 501(c)(4) organization that advocates for policies that will preserve the freedom and prosperity we and our families so proudly fought and sacrificed to defend.

Watch the IRS Rob and Extort a Convenience Store Owner

The Institute for Justice reports on the strange, tragic case of Ken Quran:

Khalid “Ken” Quran moved to America in 1997, leaving behind a life as a fireman in a town ten miles north of Jerusalem, near Ramallah. Ken now lives in Greenville, N.C., with his wife, Dina, and their four kids.

Shortly after moving to this country, Ken purchased a small convenience store in Greenville, located on a dusty patch of land near the airport. Ken worked days and nights for years, often opening and closing the store, in order to build his business. He made a living selling goods at razor-thin margins and hardly ever taking a vacation.

Then, in June 2014, the government seized his entire bank account — more than $150,000. This was money that Ken worked for years to earn, and that he was counting on for his retirement. Ken had no prior warning before the government seized the account. The government told him they were taking the money because he withdrew cash from the bank in amounts under $10,000.

But the truly shocking thing is what happened next. A group of government agents — both from the IRS and local police — came to Ken’s store with an agreement already written up, under which Ken would agree to forever forfeit the money to the federal government.

The agents searched his store with dogs, barred the entrance to keep out customers, and then demanded that he sign the paper. Ken initially refused, explaining that he did not read English well and did not want to sign an agreement he could not understand.

Then, under compulsion — after one of the local police yelled and demanded that he sign, and after one of the IRS agents made clear that, otherwise, their next stop would be to talk to Ken’s wife to pressure her — Ken agreed to sign.

Sign the petition to get Ken’s money backLearn more about Ken and others like him who have had their legal and hard-earned money taken away for no good reason — and what the Institute for Justice is doing to help them fight back.

By Anything Peaceful

Anything Peaceful is FEE’s new online ideas marketplace, hosting original and aggregate content from across the Web.

Has Organized Crime Hijacked our Medical Delivery System? By Alieta Eck, MD

What is organized crime? The dictionary defines it as a means of generating income through bribery and threats of grievous retribution, often buying political patronage for immunity from exposure and prosecution. Perpetrators of organized crime typically use credible front organizations, such as hospitals and charities. These establishments do not tolerate competition and constantly fight for monopolization, or “market share.” When organized crime is involved, goods and services cost more.

So how does this apply to our current medical care delivery “system?” Since the passage of the Affordable Care Act, there is a concerted effort to put everyone into a highly organized “insurance plan,” despite the fact that the plan costs far more than the free market would dictate. The overpricing ensures a steady flow of revenue to be siphoned off to the administrators and government officials. Campaign or “foundation” coffers are regularly subsidized to ensure favorable treatment by elected officials. And the people pay a huge price for poorer access and diminished quality.

Insurance companies claim to provide “protection” against financial ruin by selling a card that promises access to high quality care whenever it is needed. But the protection is illusion, as the purported savings are often fictitious.

Here are two real life examples:

  1. A patient with insurance had four lab tests performed at an outpatient hospital lab with the amount billed at $732. The insurance company brought that amount to $328. The lab deductible (out-of-pocket by the patient) came to $200, and insurance paid $128. Most patients would not question the original sum and would feel secure knowing that their insurer protected them from financial ruin by taking more than half off the original price. But the hidden truth is that the whole system is a scam perpetrated by insurance companies and hospitals. These very same lab tests, when done for cash at a local lab can be obtained for a total of $57. Insurance encourages over-pricing.
  2. Another savvy patient learned that telling an urgent care center that she has insurance is a sure way to pay more. She went for a minor ailment, produced her insurance card and was told that she should just pay the $20 co-pay, getting the final bill in the near future. She argued that her insurance deductible, or money she would be expected to pay out of pocket before insurance paid anything, was $5,000, so she would be happy to settle the entire bill right away. But the clerk just smiled and said that this is not how things are done. Soon after, the same patient’s insurance was canceled, and when she needed care, she went back to the same establishment, as she liked the doctor. This time, her bill was $120, but she was told she owed $180 for the prior visit. “Wait! If the fee is $120 and I already paid $20, it seems I should only owe $100.”  It was carefully explained that the insurance company and urgent care center had negotiated $200 for a routine visit and that the $180 she owed was not a mistake. But they feel sorry for people without insurance, so are willing to accept the lower fee of $120 from the uninsured.

Most people trust that, once they have paid the premium, which approaches the level of a home mortgage, their insurance company is there to secure the best deal for them. But this is simply not the case. The insurance-medical industrial complex falls into the category of “organized crime” when they can extract more than the market price for goods or services.

In both of these examples, the insurance company and service provider each benefited at the expense of the person ultimately paying the bills—through higher negotiated fees, or higher insurance premiums. The hospital was looking at $200 extra while the urgent care facility was planning to pocket an extra $80. Multiply this by millions of transactions, and our health care system is costing billions of dollars more than it should.

The Affordable Care Act requires that all citizens purchase overpriced government approved “insurance,” and this only perpetuates and expands the fraud. It explains why the premiums and deductibles have risen. Having taxpayers subsidize these overpriced plans assures that the palms of many “organized crime participants” are continually greased.

RELATED ARTICLES/VIDEOS:

Dr. Eck interview on Fox News Channel’s Freedom Watch

How Medicaid and Obamacare Hurts the Poor and How to Fix Them

Video: Dr. Alieta Eck, M.D. testifies before U.S. Senate

EDITORS NOTE: This column is published with permission from Angel Pictures and Publicity. For additional information on Dr. Eck and to read more of her published positions, click here.

PRAVDA: U.S. Taxpayers pay $3.5M to Study Lesbian Obesity

Pravda.Ru reports:

The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services has conducted a research to find out how the sexual orientation influences the body build.
The U.S. taxpayers have already paid $3.5 million for the ‘significant’ project, and it is to last till June 30.

Sexual Orientation and Obesity: A Test of a Gendered Biopsychosocial Model,” seeks to determine why there is a disparity in the obesity rates between straight women and lesbian women and straight men and gay men.

According to the study, “It is now well-established that women of minority sexual orientation are disproportionately affected by the obesity epidemic, with nearly three-quarters of adult lesbians overweight or obese, compared to half of heterosexual women. In stark contrast, among men, heterosexual males have nearly double the risk of obesity compared to gay males.”

Meanwhile, the U.S. government debt is going to beat ‘records’ of WWII.

Read the full article here.

The Ex-Im Bank Is Dead — But Watch Out for Corporate Welfare Zombies by Daniel J. Ikenson

At midnight, the gears of crony capitalism ground to a halt at 811 Vermont Avenue, NW, Washington, D.C.

After 81 years of funneling taxpayer dollars to favored companies, projects, and geopolitical outcomes under the guise of advancing some vague conception of the “U.S. economic interest,” the Export-Import Bank of the United States will end its financing operations at midnight tonight.

No more subsidies to Fortune 100 businesses. No more siphoning revenues from unwitting U.S. firms and industries. No more loan guarantees to wealthy, autocratic foreign governments. No more crowding out of private lending. No more taxpayer exposure to a Fannie Mae-like fiasco. No more bribery and corruption scandals. No more collaboration and lending to China’s Export-Import Bank – you know, the entity whose support for Chinese companies is alleged to threaten U.S. exporters and jobs, and is the most frequently cited imperative for reauthorizing Ex-Im.

No more of any of this… for now.

Champions of small government and market capitalism should savor this rare victory. It was won with solid arguments, including over 20 years of analyses from Cato Institute scholars including Ian Vasquez, Aaron Lukas, Steve Slivinsky, Chris Edwards, Doug Bandow, Sallie James, and – perhaps most comprehensively and tirelessly – Veronique de Rugy.

It was won because of columnist/scholar Tim Carney’s persistence in focusing the public’s attention on the corruption bred of corporate welfare and because of the analytical contributions of Heritage’s Diane Katz, the Competitive Enterprise Institute’s Ryan Young, and others who continued to make compelling arguments for shuttering the Bank, despite steep odds against that outcome.

It was won because certain libertarian groups and conservative activists made the issue a priority, recognizing that corporate welfare is as great a threat to liberty as is the Welfare State, and that reining it in should be a priority because success there would lend greater credibility to the effort to rein in the Welfare State.

It was won against great odds, including vast political expenditures and arm-twisting by U.S. business interests on Capitol Hill, a mainstream media that is reflexively unsympathetic to any cause associated with “Tea Party Types,” and a general aversion among establishment organizations to any challenges to the status-quo.

Radical and reckless, excessive and extreme, ideological and idiotic have been the characterizations assigned by media, politicians, and Boeing lobbyists in their attempts to discredit legitimate efforts to purge “crony” and make “market” the new brand of capitalism.

And it was won because House Financial Services Committee Chairman Jeb Hensarling and Senate Banking Committee Chairman Richard Shelby, knowing the case against Ex-Im reauthorization was more substantive than the New York Times would allow, made good gatekeepers by putting the onus on Ex-Im proponents to answer the critics – a task at which they failed.

So, at midnight, the Export-Import Bank ceased in its capacity to issue new financing. That is something to cheer. It may also be short-lived.

Proponents of the Bank have been regrouping and strategizing to move legislation to reauthorize the Bank at the soonest possible chance. In fact the White House is hosting a conference call for the purpose of advancing that outcome. Here’s the text of the email:

Dear Friend,

Please join us for a conference call on Tuesday, June 30th, at 2:35 PM with President Barack Obama, Senior Advisor to the President, Valerie Jarrett, and Director of the National Economic Council, Jeff Zients, to discuss the importance of reauthorizing the Export-Import Bank of the United States.

The Export-Import Bank is a critical tool to help U.S. businesses and workers succeed in global markets and grow their exports – it supports high-quality jobs, is a vital tool for small businesses, and doesn’t cost taxpayers a penny. Its reauthorization is vital to U.S. competitiveness and leveling the playing field for American small business owners and workers. …

This call is off the record and is not for press purposes nor amplification on social media.

Thank you,

The White House Business Council

The battle may be over but the war continues. Given the sway that conservatives have had on this issue, it will be interesting to see whether and how Speaker Boehner tries to circumvent Hensarling’s committee to get a reauthorization bill to the floor. Majority Leader McConnell believes there’s enough support in the Senate for reauthorization, but most of the Republican presidential hopefuls have expressed opposition to reauthorization.

It seems to me that if Ex-Im reauthorization resurfaces in the weeks and months ahead, it will be an issue that provides Republicans with yet another opportunity to demonstrate commitment to limited government, free market principles. Maybe this time they’ll see the value in reclaiming that brand.


Daniel Ikenson

Dan Ikenson is director of Cato’s Herbert A. Stiefel Center for Trade Policy Studies, where he coordinates and conducts research on all manners of international trade and investment policy.

EDITORS NOTE: A version of this post first appeared at Cato.org.

Greeks Prepare to Be Pillaged by Jeffrey A. Tucker

In the world of banking, a “holiday” means you can’t get your money. It’s been a few years since we’ve seen that happen in any developed world economy, but that is exactly what the Greek government is doing, starting now, to stop a massive bank run.

Greece owes the International Monetary Fund a payment of $1.5 billion, due tomorrow, from the last time the government was bailed out. But, of course, governments can’t make wealth, and the money didn’t just magically materialize. They have to beg, borrow, and steal to get it, and Greece has finally found those limits.

Athens had hoped that it could once against tap the European Commission. But drained and fed up, other governments refused to extend yet another loan to Greece unless they agreed to reform their bloated and corrupt welfare state.

Unfortunately for Greeks, the ruling coalition in Greece swept into power in January on the platform of stopping “austerity” and rolling back budget cuts. They balked at the EU’s (and especially Germany’s) conditions for the next round of bailout money.

As a result, Athens has really and truly run out of money, and they will default on their debts starting tomorrow — and the European Central Bank has said it will cut off emergency credit to Greek banks if the government fails to pay its debts.

The news that no deal would be reached sent bank depositors into a panic, and thousands have been lined up at ATMs all over the country since Friday.

Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras announced that he was closing all banks for at least a week as a way to stem the tide. Many ATMs are empty; the rest, by government order, will only dispense €60 per person per day. The government is now imposing capital controls to stop cash from leaving the country.

One thing needs to be said about this frantic authoritarian approach: It never works. Bank closings add to the atmosphere of panic. They are often followed by an announcement that the government is going to devalue or outright steal people’s money. Whatever trust remains in the system is drained away along with the value of the currency.

But there’s another factor in play, for the first time. People are looking at Bitcoin as a way to store and move money.

There is now a Bitcoin ATM in Athens that is reportedly doing a brisk business. Redditors are sharing tips. And, of course, the exchange rate of Bitcoin is on the move again.

This past week, I was out of touch of the news entirely because I was at the New Hampshire liberty retreat, Porcfest. There you can buy almost anything with Bitcoin, so I was checking the price often. I noticed the upward price pressure, and I had an intuition that something serious was happening.

Sure enough, this morning I was awakened by a call from Russia Today. They wanted me on a two-hour segment today to talk about the meltdown in Greece. I turned them down because I haven’t followed it closely enough (though that doesn’t usually stop most commentators!).

But when I looked into it, I suddenly understood: Sure enough, Bitcoin is on the move for a reason.

Many price watchers are predicting another spike in the exchange rate if Greece actually defaults and leaves the euro. Maybe, maybe not. It actually doesn’t matter. The exchange rate can be anything; it doesn’t affect the utility of having access to a global currency and payment system that is outside regional banking systems — one that can’t be closed, controlled, confiscated, or devalued at the whim of desperate regimes.

Cryptocurrency is here to stay. It is the world’s new safe haven, displacing the role that gold once played. The reasons are rather obvious: Bitcoin is more liquid than gold. It takes up no space, weighs nothing, and is more secure. Once you are an owner, nothing can take away what you own — and you don’t have to rely on a third party such as a gold warehouse or a bank (or a government) to take care of your money.

Given all of this, there is supreme irony in the announcement made by the Greek central bank last year that consumers should be wary of Bitcoin. Bitcoin is vastly more safe and reliable than any national currency, including the euro and the dollar.

There is no government anywhere that would decline to shut the banks if their ruling class feared financial meltdown. That’s what’s happening in Greece. That could happen in any European country, and it could happen (and has happened) in the United States, too.

In the end, government regards itself as the ultimate owner of all a nation’s currency and the wealth it carries.

It’s wise to have another option, and people have long known that. The question is: What is that option? Today, not for the first time, and not for the last, Bitcoin is here to save the day.


Jeffrey A. Tucker

Jeffrey Tucker is Director of Digital Development at FEE, CLO of the startup Liberty.me, and editor at Laissez Faire Books. Author of five books, he speaks at FEE summer seminars and other events. His latest book is Bit by Bit: How P2P Is Freeing the World.

A Constitutional Federal Revenue System by Congressman Jim Bridenstine

“The power to tax involves the power to destroy.” – Chief Justice John Marshall, McCulloch v. Maryland, 1819

My vision for federal government revenue system is simple:

  1. Abolish the IRS
  2. Scrap the existing tax code
  3. Establish a new, simple, fair, pro-growth tax system worthy of the American people

As an essential step in reforming taxes and returning to constitutional government, the Internal Revenue Service should be abolished.  The IRS is a vast bureaucracy, costing $12.5 to $13 billion annually.  It would not be necessary under the FairTax.

The IRS has directly abused and harassed individual American citizens and organizations to advance political and policy agendas. The IRS has been used as a political weapon to suppress First Amendment and Fourth Amendment rights and influence elections.

The Fourth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution guarantees “The right of people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures.”  The Sixteenth Amendment, which established the income tax, effectively negated the Fourth Amendment by assigning the power to seize assets in payment of taxes due and implicitly violates the provision against “unreasonable searches” in the extent of information that must be reported. The Sixteenth Amendment should be repealed.

The federal income tax system has been used to distort the free market and drive social policies and agendas. Myriad tax loopholes encourage politically favored behavior with economic rewards. The constitutional “general welfare clause” (Article 1, Section 8, Clause 1) requires that federal laws provide for the general welfare of all citizens rather than the specific welfare of particular individuals, groups or classes.  Income tax loopholes violate that concept.

Beyond distorting the economy and favoring specific groups, numerous provisions of the complex U.S. tax code directly discourage economic growth. Taxpayers are required to report complex details of their personal financial life, costing Americans billions of hours in non-productive tax compliance efforts every year.  Onerous “death taxes” often force liquidation of businesses and the sale of family farms, forcing not only the elimination of viable businesses and jobs but also economic inefficiencies in tax avoidance schemes.  Tax penalties in the existing code discourage the repatriation of capital earned in international enterprises.  This diminishes potential capital investment in the United States, dampening economic growth and employment.

I favor implementing the FairTax to replace the current federal tax code. The FairTax would raise similar amounts as current federal taxes while being less intrusive, less coercive, less abusive, and less frustrating than the current system.

The FairTax replaces most existing federal taxes with a simple sales tax on all new goods and services at the retail level.  The FairTax does not distort markets, manipulate behavior, or create economic inefficiencies by favoring or penalizing businesses’ or individuals’ economic decisions.

Taxes will be transparent rather than hidden in the cost of goods. Unlike the current system, prices will not include hidden income and payroll taxes paid for labor at every step of production and will not be masked from the worker by employers “withholding” estimated taxes owed from paychecks.

The FairTax is simple to collect and places the burden of proof on the government rather than the taxpayer.  The collection of the FairTax is administered by the states, 45 of which already have sales tax, so collection is simplified.  Under the FairTax, the regressive nature of consumption taxes is eliminated by “prebates” paid to everyone to cover taxes paid on basic necessities.

Abolishing the IRS, scrapping the existing federal tax code, and establishing a simple, fair, pro-growth tax system such as the FairTax will be a move toward constitutional, limited government and a strong economy.  It will also be a great relief to individual Americans.

REP JIM BRIDENSTINEABOUT CONGRESSMAN JIM BRIDENSTINE (R-OK)

U.S. Congressman Jim Bridenstine (R-Okla.) is a member of the House Armed Services Committee and chairman of the Science, Space, and Technology Committee environment subcommittee. He has a triple major from Rice University in Economics, Business, and Psychology and an MBA from Cornell.

A Shrine to a Socialist Demagogue by Lawrence W. Reed

MANAGUA, Nicaragua — It’s May 27, 2015. Driving south on First Avenue toward Masaya on a hot, late-spring day in the Nicaraguan capital, my eye caught an image in the distance. “That looks like Curly from The Three Stooges!” I thought. Nah, what would he be doing here? Nyuk. Nyuk.

As we approached, I suddenly realized it only resembled Curly. It was actually somebody considerably less funny. The statue was a garish, tasteless manifestation of the late Venezuelan socialist strongman Hugo Chavez, surrounded by ugly, orange curlicues. I repressed the urge to gag as I stopped to take this photo:

Hugo Chavez shrine

This tribute to a man whose ceaseless demagoguery ruined his nation’s economy is the doing, of course, of Nicaraguan president Daniel Ortega and his party. Ortega, like Chavez, engineered constitutional changes that may make him effectively president for life. He has worshiped state power since the 1970s. He was a Cuban-trained Marxist and cofounder of the Frente Sandinista de Liberación Nacional, the Sandinistas. I visited the country five times in the 1980s to interview key political figures, and whenever I was there, Ortega was pushing government literacy programs; meanwhile, his government was harassing and shutting down the opposition press.

Back in the 1980s, Ortega relied heavily on subsidies from his Soviet and Cuban sponsors. But now that the Soviets are ancient history and the Cuban economy is on life support, he’s had to moderate. Nicaragua is a very poor country. Its per capita GDP is about a third of the world average, better than Yemen’s but not as deluxe as Uzbekistan’s. According to the 2015 Index of Economic Freedom, however, it’s ranked better than you might expect at 108th in the world. Seventy countries are actually less free.

Who do you think is ranked at the very bottom, at 176, 177, and 178?

None other than the workers’ paradises of Venezuela, Cuba, and North Korea.

If you want a glimpse of the current state of the Chavez/Maduro experiment in Venezuelan socialism, look no further than the relative scarcities of toilet paper (you’d better bring your own if you visit) and paper money (more abundant than ever at 510 percent inflation).

I asked my old friend Deroy Murdock, senior fellow with the Atlas Network, Fox News contributor, and keen observer of affairs in the Americas: How would you assess the legacy of the Venezuelan caudillo memorialized by Ortega’s regime in Nicaragua?

“Hugo Chavez arrived in Venezuela, determined to make his country a gleaming showcase of socialism, and renovate Cuba in the process,” Murdock said. “Now, Chavez is dead, Castro still lives, and both countries remain in dire straits. Chavez’s legacy is the enduring lesson that big government is bad, and huge government is even worse.”

Indeed. Seems pretty self-evident whether you look at the numbers from afar or walk the streets in person. Venezuela’s economy has been in free-fall for almost all of the past 15 years.

But there I was, gazing at a giant Hugo in Managua, a monument intended to say, “Way to go, man!” One wonders where an impoverished country gets the money or even the idea to construct such a hideous gargoyle.

Then I realized the answer: Ortega’s Nicaragua is run by socialists. And by typical socialist reasoning, you can be an architect of disaster but reckoned to be a “man of the people” just by claiming to be one.

If you produced the same results while advocating capitalism, you’d be reckoned a monster.


Lawrence W. Reed

Lawrence W. (“Larry”) Reed became president of FEE in 2008 after serving as chairman of its board of trustees in the 1990s and both writing and speaking for FEE since the late 1970s.

Florida Voters Refused To Listen – Now They Have Been Taken Again!

Many of us have done the research and then try to teach exactly what is happening with our lawmakers. Florida’s reputation for corruption and deceit is at the top of the charts. There is a great deal to be said regarding one party being in control for far too long – and that is certainly the case in Florida.

We have been lied to over education, environmental issues, Enterprise Florida, Charter School legislation, Public Private Partnerships and the list goes on.

Today we find out the Florida lawmakers have made very little progress in regard to budget negotiating sessions and their special session is almost over. Standing at the fore front of the disagreements between the Florida House and Senate are health care, education and the environment.

Now comes the truth – House members want to borrow nearly $300 million in bonds for projects related to Amendment 1, a referendum passed by the very voters we tried to educate before the last election showing the false statements being made in relationship to the environment. Legislators were contending they were going to use the money for conservation and environmental clean-up projects.

Voters didn’t listen to the warnings!

Sen. Alan Hayes, R-Umatilla doesn’t want to use any bonds in relationship to any Amendment 1 projects. “B-O-N-D is a four letter word” Hayes said.

House environmental budget chief Ben Albritton, R-Wauchula, withdrew bonding from the House’s latest offer Sunday, calling it an “olive branch.” “I cannot be any more clear: the House is very interested and supportive of bonding as (budget negotiations) go forward ,” Albritton said.

Now why would the legislators want to do this when Amendment 1 didn’t call for raising taxes one nickel; using bond money or borrowing any funds? Amendment 1 was merely about prioritizing, forcing the state to set aside a tiny percentage of its massive budget for clean water, fresh air and preserved land. (Specifically, we’re talking a third of existing doc-stamp taxes on real-estate, which equals about 1 percent of the state’s $77 billion budget.)

At least that is what the legislators wanted us to believe. Today, June 7, 2015 Scott Maxwell of the Orlando Sentinel did a marvelous job of exposing the Florida legislators and the massive shell games they continue to play:

Remember the Lottery?  Florida Politicians May Try the Same Shell Game With the Environment!

by Scott Maxwell

Most Floridians are painfully familiar with the Florida Lottery shell game.

It was the political con of the century — one that involved tens of billions of dollars.

It started in 1986 when voters were told that, if they approved a lottery, the money would go to education.

We even called it “The Education Lottery.” That way, when you plunk down 10 bucks for a scratch-off, you’re not really gambling … you’re donating to a scholarly cause. How altruistic of you.

Well, folks started “donating” by the droves. A billion bucks. Then $10 billion. Then $20 billion … all of it supposed to improve our schools.

But Floridians didn’t notice much change in education. We still had one of the lowest-funded school systems in America. We still do.

In fact, 20 years after the lottery started, the Sentinel did an investigation and determined that education funding had actually dropped from 59 percent of the state budget in 1987 to 51 percent in 2007.

Yes, after the “Education Lottery” raised billions of dollars, the percentage actually went down.

How? Well, politicians played shell games.

Yes, they spent the lottery money on schools. But they took money they had previously spent on schools and started spending it on other things.

Admittedly, it was important things, like renovating the Legislature’s dining room, but it was other things, nonetheless.

Now, we may be doing the whole sick shell-game thing again … only this time with the environment.

Last fall, Florida voters approved Amendment 1 to demand that Florida spend more on the environment.

The amendment didn’t call for raising taxes one nickel. It was merely about prioritizing, forcing the state to set aside a tiny percentage of its massive budget for clean water, fresh air and preserved land. (Specifically, we’re talking a third of existing doc-stamp taxes on real-estate, which equals about 1 percent of the state’s $77 billion budget.)

It’s hard to overstate how overwhelming the support was. Amendment 1 passed with 75 percent. No statewide candidate got anything close to that.

But Legislators are once again playing shell games.

For instance, the House budget proposes spending $38 million of this money on existing payroll for the state’s park services and $40 million on existing forest service employees.

Gov. Rick Scott’s proposal included $17.5 million for a wastewater-treatment project in the Florida Keys.

The Senate has $10 million for salaries in the Environmental Protection division.

Were you able to keep your eye on the pea? Did you see the shells move?

Most of those endeavors aren’t new. None of them involve land preservation.

Environmental groups are crying foul. So are government watchdogs. The Florida Today newspaper in Melbourne took the rare step of running a front-page editorial last week demanding that lawmakers “Respect voters, Obey Constitution on Amendment 1.”

Many critics complain there isn’t enough money for Florida Forever land preservation — practically nothing ($8 million-$15 million) this year compared to the days when Jeb Bush was governor ($300 million).

I don’t think we should be buying land simply for buying’s sake. But I do think we need to honor the amendment.

That means protecting natural areas, restoring wetlands and cleaning up our water supplies. Fixing the Everglades, improving the Indian River Lagoon and providing recreational trails.

There is no shortage of worthy ways to spend money in a state where water is both polluted and scarce enough that we have restrictions.

The amendment’s title was clear: “Water and Land Conservation: Dedicates funds to acquire and restore Florida conservation and recreation lands.”

And this time, those pushing it were smart. They included a provision that said this money can’t be “comingled” with the general funds the state had already been using.

That means if legislators play shell games with this money, there may be grounds to sue them.

It needn’t come to that.

Lawmakers and Gov. Rick Scott are looking at a record budget. And they are free to spend 99 percent of it on education, roads, incentives, public safety, their own health-care plans — or whatever else they want.

They simply have to dedicate 1 percent to the environment.

It’s what voters wanted — and now what the constitution demands.

Scott Maxwell June 7, 2015 Orlando Sentinel  smaxwell@orlandosentinel.com

I smell a lawsuit in relation to the use of the funds to be collected from the doc-stamp taxes on real-estate. The Florida legislators have proven to us numerous times they are not to be trusted and this reaches to Governor Scott’s office also.

The lies, deceit, manipulation and corruption have been on-going for far too many years. Time for them to have to answer to the people who not only pay their salaries, but put them in those seats in Tallahassee.