October 20, 2017

Newsweek: AS CONGRESS AND TRUMP GRIND TO A HALT, THE GOVERNMENT RUMBLES ON

gettyimages-642093036 Newsweek

Donald Trump in the East Room at the White House on February 16, 2017 in Washington, DC.MARIO TAMA/GETTY

President Trump spent the weekend embroiled in yet another Twitter skirmish, this time with retiring Republican Senator Bob Corker. Trump may even have suffered a rare defeat on his own turf, based on Corker’s hilarious rejoinder about someone missing their daycare shift at the White House. If Trump has a soul, even he laughed at that one.

But many blame this kind of drama as a major contributing reason to Trump “not getting anything done” so far during the first year of his presidency. Even those on the blood-in-their-eyes, Trump-hating left make this criticism. One would think they’d be glad he’s not getting anything done, but apparently, a government not doing anything is even worse for them than one doing things they don’t like.

If only “not getting anything done” were true. The Pentagon goes on waging war, uninterrupted by elections, supposed gridlock, or even “government shutdowns.” War has become the normal state, with “an act of Congress” required to stop it, rather than start it.

Domestically, all of Washington’s unconstitutional regulatory agencies have hummed along without pause. The FDA is still driving up prescription drug prices by keeping thousands of generics off the market. The TSA is still violating the 4th Amendment millions of times per day while virtually never discovering dangerous items brought on board, even during their own tests. And the Social Security Administration goes on cutting checks as if it didn’t have tens of trillions in unfunded liabilities.

Read the rest at Newsweek…

Tom Mullen is the author of Where Do Conservatives and Liberals Come From? And What Ever Happened to Life, Liberty and the Pursuit of Happiness? Part One and A Return to Common Sense: Reawakening Liberty in the Inhabitants of America.

How Long Can Americans Go on Hating the President and Each Other?

redandblueTrump Derangement Syndrome rages on, the latest symptoms flaring equally based on causes both legitimate and ridiculous. A key characteristic of the syndrome is its ability to evoke the same outrage over the president retweeting a harmless (and let’s admit it, funny) meme as threatening to destroy an entire nation. The breathless apoplexy over absolutely everything Trump-related, down to the shoes his wife wears while traveling, has desensitized Trump’s supporters to behavior even they should be concerned about.

It is true Trump has inspired new levels of hostility — even for politics — but Americans have been hating the president for this entire century, which is no longer in its infancy. Bush may not have been “literally Hitler,” but he was Hitler nonetheless to the Democrats, just as Obama was “literally Mao” to conservatives. But the proud American tradition of hurling invectives at the president isn’t nearly as ominous as the trend towards violence. Both the right and the left have mobilized armed groups, not just carrying signs but ready for violence. In fact, violent resistance is the far-left Antifa’s stated raison d’etre.

US Government Power Has Never Been Higher

It isn’t that the three men who have held the office since 2001 are monsters. Anyone who paid attention when Bush, Obama, or even Trump was caught in a quiet moment “off the record” would have to admit that they seem like reasonably likable people. That’s the rub. Government makes nice people do terrible things, things even they themselves would have considered barbarous before taking office.

Unfortunately, most Americans do not bat an eye at the worst offenses committed by the presidency, namely the killing of millions in undeclared wars of choice with nations who have never attacked the United States. But Americans on both the right and the left are increasingly feeling the effects of ceding power over domestic affairs to Washington and the executive branch in particular. The stakes of presidential elections are much higher now that Washington doesn’t just regulate interstate commerce, but regulates the minute details of how businesses are run, how crops are grown, what local public schools teach and even what signs they put on their restrooms.

Read the rest at Foundation for Economic Education…

Tom Mullen is the author of Where Do Conservatives and Liberals Come From? And What Ever Happened to Life, Liberty and the Pursuit of Happiness? Part One and A Return to Common Sense: Reawakening Liberty in the Inhabitants of America.

Trump’s Job-Killing Carrier Deal

trump-carrierDonald Trump has not taken office and already he is delivering on his promise to keep manufacturing jobs in the United States. Yesterday, he visited Indiana to celebrate his part in persuading Carrier to keep 1,100 jobs slated to move to Mexico at its Indiana facility. Speculation of bullying, tax-funded quid pro quo (Carrier’s parent company, United Technologies, holds large defense contracts) and corporate welfare were plentiful.

Today, Zero Hedge reports Carrier was persuaded by none of the above. Instead, the company received “$700,000 a year for a period of years in state tax incentives.” That means keeping the jobs cost the government about $636 per job annually in tax revenues.

It would seem a win-win. 1,100 Americans keep their jobs, Carrier gets lower taxes to avoid having to pass on the cost difference to its customers and all the local businesses in Indiana benefit from the purchasing power that remains there with the domestic Carrier employees instead of being exported to Mexico.

That, as 19th century political economist Frederic Bastiat would say, “is what is seen.” What is not seen is all the consequences of Carrier not moving those jobs to Mexico, where they could produce their products at a lower cost. When those consequences are considered and the ledger is balanced, the deal will have made the United States as a whole poorer and will have cost it jobs.

Let’s first consider the decision in a vacuum, without the tax incentive. Carrier was moving the jobs to Mexico because it could produce the same air conditioner there at a lower cost, which it could then pass on to its customers. Keeping the jobs in Indiana raises the cost of production above what it would be with the move. That forces Carrier to raise its prices.

And we must assume Carrier would have saved more than $636 per worker per year in tax breaks had they moved those jobs to Mexico, or the move wouldn’t have made financial sense. With each worker on average producing many air conditioners per year, saving $636 per worker works out to a negligible cost savings per unit. So, Carrier is likely absorbing some of the higher costs of keeping the jobs in Indiana, over and above what they are receiving from the government. Those costs must be passed on to customers or taken out of profits, the latter resulting in either lower dividends or less money reinvested in future improvements to production.

“Ah,” says the supporter of this move, “but many people are willing to pay a little more to keep those jobs in America!” Perhaps, but the economic consequences remain. Assuming the price of an air conditioner would be $5,000.00 if produced in Mexico and keeping the jobs in America only raises prices by the $500, Americans are now paying $5,500.00 for an air conditioner instead of $5000.00. They get no more for their money than they would have paying $5,000.00. All they have in exchange for the $5,500.00 is the same air conditioner.

Had the job moved to Mexico and that same air conditioner been available for $5,000.00, the customer would have been able to afford an air conditioner and a bicycle, or an air conditioner and a new carpet, or an air conditioner and a new suit, for the same $5,500.00 he now spends to get the air conditioner only. The consumer is poorer because of the deal. His standard of living is lower. And let’s not forget that for every one employee producing air conditioners, there are hundreds or thousands of people consuming what those employees produce.

At the end of the day, the ledger balances to this: the same number of air conditioners are being produced, but at a higher cost. That difference in the cost of production is lost. The standard of living of everyone who consumes air conditioners is lowered by however much more it costs to produce air conditioners in Indiana instead of Mexico. We assume it is $500, but the exact figure is not important. They are poorer by whatever amount the diminished efficiency increases production costs.

“But kind sir!” says the apologist, “you have missed something. You have forgotten the purchasing power of those 1,100 employees, which will help local businesses and keep that wealth in America. That creates jobs that otherwise would have been lost!”

No, it is not forgotten. It is merely balanced against purchasing power lost by all those consumers of air conditioners and against all the jobs they would have created with the $500.00 they would have spent with local businesses, had they saved it in purchasing the air conditioner. The air conditioner customer who also bought a bicycle, a new carpet or a new suit also created jobs or supported existing jobs, which are now lost. And not one in a million knows where they went. The unseen killer of those jobs is the decision to make the same air conditioner at a higher cost in Indiana than at a lower cost in Mexico.

It doesn’t end there. Let us not forget the 1,100 jobs lost in Mexico, the third largest importer of U.S. exports. Because of the lost purchasing power of Mexican consumers, U.S. companies who export to Mexico lose revenue and must lay off workers.

When the whole ledger is balanced, the jobs lost in the U.S. at least equals those 1,100 retained and likely far exceeds them, as inefficiency grows exponentially as its effects ripple throughout the economy.

Finally, the apologist for the deal makes his last stand. “Yes, good sir, you make many fine points. But this deal involved lowering taxes for Carrier, which bestows upon them the same savings they would have realized by moving the jobs to Mexico. And even you must agree that lowering taxes and paying productive workers is better than allowing the government to use it less efficiently!”

Well, there is the rub. The government is doing with those lost taxes precisely what the apologist said. It is using them less efficiently than the market would have. The market would have moved those jobs to Mexico and lowered the cost of air conditioners. The government has used its taxing power to keep the jobs in Indiana and raise the cost of air conditioners above what it would otherwise be if the jobs moved to Mexico, with or without the tax incentive.

But even on the tax incentive there is more that is not seen. It is not as if the $700,000.00 in tax revenues were left in the hands of the taxpayers, who might use it productively. 100% of it went to subsidize the higher cost of producing an air conditioner in Indiana instead of Mexico. And the government went on spending the same amount as before, simply collecting the $700,000.00 Carrier doesn’t pay from others, now or in the future.

So, while the cost of the tax break is not added to the sticker cost of the air conditioner, the public is still paying that additional $636 per worker per year in the additional taxes collected to make up the government’s loss on Carrier. The public is also poorer by whatever price increase or profit reduction is necessary to offset the additional costs the company agreed to absorb to make the deal work.

No matter what defense the apologist offers, there is no escaping this. By keeping those jobs in Indiana instead of letting them move where the market is directing them, the net effect is the United States as a whole is at least $636 poorer per year for every employee kept in Indiana by the deal. It also loses jobs due to the higher prices it still pays for air conditioners, over and above what the tax break could alleviate, or the wealth lost in dividends or reinvestment Carrier sacrificed to absorb whatever additional cost savings it had to forego to keep the jobs in Indiana.  And this is one little company and just 1,100 jobs. Imagine if Trump delivers on his promise to keep or bring back millions?

Tom Mullen is the author of Where Do Conservatives and Liberals Come From? And What Ever Happened to Life, Liberty and the Pursuit of Happiness? Part One and A Return to Common Sense: Reawakening Liberty in the Inhabitants of America.

What Trump and His Accusers Didn’t Say

trump_in_2013Forget foreign policy, economic policy, civil liberties or “muh roads.” With three weeks to go before Election Day, discussion of the so-called “issues” is over. From here on in, the candidates seem determined to do nothing but fire volleys of character assassination at the two easiest targets who ever ran for office.

Thank goodness for that, too, for as libertarian icon Lew Rockwell, wrote, “In contrast to campaign “substance” which is mostly always wrong, or skewed, the invective is mostly entirely true.” Never has this been truer, as both candidates have made compelling cases the other is unfit to serve as a garbage collector, much less president.

But while the candidates’ accusations have been mostly true, a goodly portion of the media reporting is demonstrably false. The most egregious example is the ubiquitous assertion that Trump admitted to “grabbing women by the …” on a recording made by Billy Bush. Trump never admitted to such on the video and, if you think you heard him do so, then you should watch the video again.

Read the rest at LewRockwell.com…

 

Tom Mullen is the author of Where Do Conservatives and Liberals Come From? And What Ever Happened to Life, Liberty and the Pursuit of Happiness? Part One and A Return to Common Sense: Reawakening Liberty in the Inhabitants of America.

Isn’t Hillary Clinton’s Syria no-fly zone worse than Donald Trump’s lewdness?

ap_16284103255269Unsurprisingly, Sunday’s presidential debate opened with a question on Trump’s “locker room talk” scandal. Neither Trump nor his supporters raised any serious objection. It had to be asked and Trump handled it about as well as anyone could expect to handle his indefensible comments. There is even an argument for it being charitable to Trump to open the debate with it, allowing him to address it and get it out of the way, instead of it hanging over the debate like a Sword of Damocles, waiting to torpedo any momentum Trump might have built later in the evening. John King made exactly that argument for why he opened a presidential debate with a Newt Gingrich scandal back in 2012.

And while the “debate” never got far out of the gutter for long, the two candidates did manage to move on and discuss other issues, one of which is getting surprisingly little emphasis from the media or the public at large: the candidates’ positions on Syria and Russia. Here, we have one of the few genuine issues of substance upon which the candidates fundamentally disagree, one far more important than any idiotic statements either of them may have made when they thought no one was listening.

Clinton has stuck by her position that deposing the Bashar Al-Assad regime in Syria is a foreign policy priority for the U.S. She has not backed away from her support for a no fly zone over Syria, despite Joint Chiefs of Staff Chairman Joseph Dunford’s unqualified statement that it would “require us to go to war” with Russia.

Read the rest at Rare…

Tom Mullen is the author of Where Do Conservatives and Liberals Come From? And What Ever Happened to Life, Liberty and the Pursuit of Happiness? Part One and A Return to Common Sense: Reawakening Liberty in the Inhabitants of America.

Trump confirms he’s a Hamiltonian; invokes Lincoln’s protectionist fallacies

GOP-2016-Trump_sham1-725x483Is Donald Trump reading this blog? If so, he’s not grasping that Trump Isn’t Hitler; He’s Hamilton and Reality Check: Trump’s Platform is Identical to Lincoln’s weren’t meant to be supportive of his mercantilist economic ideas. Maybe that’s on me, the writer.

Regardless, Trump invoked both Hamilton and Lincoln, starting at about the 10:30 mark, during a speech yesterday. He quotes Lincoln saying, “The abandonment of the protective policy by the American government will produce want and ruin among our people.”

Like all protectionists, Trump seems to have no idea about the concept of opportunity cost. He posits that tariffs on foreign imports will bring back manufacturing jobs, which he says “the nation” desperately needs. But it never occurs to him that when millions of Americans buy sneakers made in China for $100 instead of sneakers made in America for $200.00, they create other jobs with the $100 they save.

Trump’s speech confirms several of the arguments I make in my latest book. One can draw a virtually straight line from the Federalists, through the Whigs, to the Republicans. Obviously, there are nuances over such a long period, but the core tenets of protectionism, crony capitalism and central banking never cease to be the foundation this house is built on.

More importantly, these are the core tenets of true conservatism in the British-American tradition, since  before the dawn of the industrial revolution. You can call Trump a lot of things, but “not a real conservative” just doesn’t hold water. Free markets, individual liberty and limited government are classical liberal ideas that have only resided within the conservative movement recently and have never been very welcome. That’s because they are all anathema to the conservative worldview that any change, from within or without, threatens to break the barriers between society and man’s dark nature.

The creative destruction of the market, the free movement of labor, capital and goods, and Jefferson’s libertarian principle that the government should be limited to “restrain men from injuring one another, shall leave them otherwise free to regulate their own pursuits of industry and improvement” is the opposite of conservatism. That’s why Hamilton feared and loathed Jefferson; that’s why Trump fears and loathes the free market. He’s a true conservative, like Hamilton, Lincoln, Coolidge, Hoover and the rest.

 

Tom Mullen is the author of Where Do Conservatives and Liberals Come From? And What Ever Happened to Life, Liberty and the Pursuit of Happiness? Part One and A Return to Common Sense: Reawakening Liberty in the Inhabitants of America.

Without Rand Paul It Isn’t a Debate, Trump or No Trump

Republican presidential candidate Sen. Rand Paul, R-KY, addresses the Sunshine Summit in Orlando, Fla., Saturday, Nov. 14, 2015. (AP Photo/John Raoux)

Republican presidential candidate Sen. Rand Paul, R-KY, addresses the Sunshine Summit in Orlando, Fla., Saturday, Nov. 14, 2015. (AP Photo/John Raoux)

The big news from last Thursday’s Republican Presidential Debate on Fox News was the absence of what Meghan Kelly called, “the elephant not in the room.” Thanks to the ongoing feud between her and front runner Donald Trump, the latter was not on the stage. In what was largely treated as a footnote, Rand Paul was.

Several media have asserted the debate was more substantive without Trump, the issues having more space in the absence of his overpowering personality and the likely attention that would have been paid to his controversial style. But it wasn’t Trump’s absence that made this debate more substantive. It was Rand Paul’s presence. Without him, the last spectacle wasn’t a debate at all.

Debate moderators are television people. They are interested in whatever makes the best television and gets the highest ratings. The debate moderators on Thursday, echoing the larger media narrative, continually pushed the establishment vs. anti-establishment theme. That’s certainly a phenomenon in this election cycle, but it really means nothing in terms of policy.

The whole purpose of this exercise is to determine the difference, if any, between the candidates seeking the presidency. Without Rand Paul, there isn’t a difference to determine, not even with Trump. Trumps style might be different, but he’s a lot more like an establishment Republican than the media narrative would have one believe.

Read the rest at The Huffington Post…

 

Tom Mullen is the author of Where Do Conservatives and Liberals Come From? And What Ever Happened to Life, Liberty and the Pursuit of Happiness? Part One and A Return to Common Sense: Reawakening Liberty in the Inhabitants of America.

Five reasons Donald Trump is a true conservative

Donald_Trump_by_Gage_Skidmore_3Republican politicians as disparate as Jeb Bush and Rand Paul have long decried Donald Trump as a fake conservative, who doesn’t truly believe in the movement’s first principles. National Review recently published an entire issue “Against Trump,” making the same argument.

They’re all wrong. Trump is the only true conservative running for the Republican nomination, outside of long shot Rick Santorum.

Since the Democratic Party abandoned classical liberalism for progressivism at the turn of the 20th century, the classical liberal ideas of laissez faire free markets, personal liberty and a noninterventionist foreign policy have needed a new home. Due to the outright hostility towards them in the progressive-liberal movement, they’ve largely resided within the conservative movement.

This is a very unnatural marriage between worldviews that are for the most part antithetical to each other. American history during the 19th century was very much a war between classical liberal and conservative ideas, with the former dominating the first half of the century and the latter the second half. But after Woodrow Wilson, classical liberalism had nowhere else to go. As a result, classical liberal ideas have become jumbled together with classical conservative ones.

For example, the natural consistency in supporting a laissez faire (i.e., “noninterventionist”) economy and a noninterventionist foreign policy has disappeared. Today, one finds rabid supporters of free markets also supporting a highly interventionist foreign policy. They’ve selected positions they like without understanding the philosophical basis for either, resulting in a confused, self-contradictory worldview.

This is why so many on the right have decried Trump as an inauthentic conservative. They don’t understand the difference between the classic conservative worldview that informs Trump’s positions and the classical liberal worldview that has found a dubious home within the conservative movement. In an attempt to sort this out, here are five reasons Trump is, indeed, an authentic conservative:

  1. He’s a protectionist. British and American Conservatives from Edmund Burke (outside the British Empire) to Alexander Hamilton to Abraham Lincoln to Herbert Hoover to George W. Bush have all been protectionists. It’s the natural economic expression of their worldview.
  2. He’s a nationalist. Conservatism can be split between Hobbesian centralizers and Burkean constitutionalists. Trump is a classic example of the former, placing “national greatness,” as fellow conservative centralizer Alexander Hamilton put it, above the rights of the individual. That all rights, including liberty and property, are revocable by the sovereign power in the interests of preserving the commonwealth are inherent conservative principles. Trump’s enthusiastic support for eminent domain is just one example.
  3. He’s a militarist. Trump has expressed skepticism about the Iraq War (it turns out he only opposed it a year after the invasion), but he’s also said the U.S. should invade Iran and take their oil. Like all conservatives in British and American history, he believes only a worldwide military empire can ensure the “greatness” he wants to restore to the nation.
  4. He’s a nativist. Distrust of foreigners is another foundational conservative principle. Conservatives believe any disruption of longstanding traditions is a threat to all of society. Immigrants naturally bring with them different perspectives, worldviews and skill sets. They not only represent competition for domestic employment (see #1), but threaten to introduce new sensibilities to the population, which is a threat to societal order.
  5. He’s a Police Stater. Trump’s suggestions to “shut down parts of the internet” and his denigration of freedom of speech are classic conservative tendencies. Conservatives have always promoted unlimited power for law enforcement. That’s because they see law enforcement as the only thing that stands between a peaceful society and the “war of everyone against everyone” Hobbes asserted was man’s natural state. The Patriot Act, Military Commissions Act of 2006 and Trump’s ideas about the internet are all classic conservative responses to perceived threats.

Trump is horrifying those on the right and the left because he represents a return to pure conservatism. Ironically, what attracts most everyday people to the conservative movement isn’t true conservatism at all. It’s the classical liberal ideas tenuously residing within conservatism which more naturally belong to today’s libertarians.

I’ve tried to sort all of this out in my latest book. You can read a free excerpt here.

Tom Mullen is the author of Where Do Conservatives and Liberals Come From? And What Ever Happened to Life, Liberty and the Pursuit of Happiness? Part One and A Return to Common Sense: Reawakening Liberty in the Inhabitants of America.

The Real Reason Rand Paul is Losing to Trump and Carson: Republican Voters Want Bigger Government

Official PortraitRand Paul’s campaign actually showed faint signs of life in the last ABC/Washington Post poll, where his 5 percent showing has him within striking distance of Jeb Bush and every other candidate besides Donald Trump and Ben Carson. That’s little consolation considering the poll shows Carson at 20 percent and rising sharply and Trump doing the same at 33 percent.

There has been a lot of digital ink and hot air expended on why Paul fell from the GOP lead as “the most interesting man in politics” to a long shot candidate fighting for scraps with the Walkers, Bushes and other members of the rejected “establishment.” There have been reports of infighting among the campaign staff, Paul’s failure to energize his father’s activist base and even his reluctance to woo big money donors.

One would think that last “shortcoming” would be appealing to voters fed up with Washington insiders, but apparently not so for Paul.

The most prevalent theory is that in trying to avoid alienating mainstream Republican voters while championing his father’s libertarian platform, Paul has alienated both groups: libertarians and traditional Republicans. That sounds good, but it doesn’t add up.

Read the rest at The Huffington Post…

 

Tom Mullen is the author of A Return to Common Sense: Reawakening Liberty in the Inhabitants of America.

Trump’s Protectionist Fallacies Have Been Refuted By Free Market Economists for Hundreds of Years

n-ADAM-SMITH-largeIt’s easy to understand the visceral attraction to Donald Trump’s campaign. My own libertarian heart beats a little stiff when he waves the one finger salute at establishment institutions that crush our freedom, including the Republican Party leadership, the mainstream media and the useless D.C. politicians themselves.

It’s not what Donald Trump is against that bothers me. It’s what he’s for. So much attention has been paid to his immigration stance from a race perspective that no one seems to care how anti-free market his platform is. Trump is running on economic fallacies that have been consistently refuted by free market economists for hundreds of years.

When Adam Smith wrote Wealth of Nations, it wasn’t to refute the “godless socialists” 21st-century Republican voters believe are taking over the world. It was to refute the kinds of protectionist ideas championed by conservatives like Edmund Burke and Alexander Hamilton in Smith’s day, Abraham Lincoln eighty years later, and Trump today.

Read the rest at The Huffington Post…

 

Tom Mullen is the author of A Return to Common Sense: Reawakening Liberty in the Inhabitants of America.