May 27, 2018

The Jobs and GDP Growth Aren’t There Because Taxes Weren’t Really Cut

s and p one year triangleU.S. stock markets remain volatile and their direction uncertain, although the S&P 500 may have broken out of what technical traders would call a “bullish triangle,” which began forming after the market fell approximately 12 percent in early February from a high of 2,872 the previous month. However, traders will also tell you every technical pattern can tell at least two stories. One must look to the fundamentals for confirmation, and they have been anything but unanimous on the underlying economy.

Stagnant Growth

Corporate earnings have been strong, but that may not be a real indicator of economic growth as much of the earnings per share increases are due to stock buybacks rather than organically increasing profits. And jobs numbers continue to disappoint. Not only did April’s number come in lower than expectations, January’s number was adjusted down by a whopping 63,000 jobs.

Job growth for the first four months of 2018 is still ahead of 2017, but by a lot less than previously thought and we don’t know if March and April numbers will be adjusted downward. Consumer spending remains weak, and surging energy prices, especially gasoline, may continue to eat up what would otherwise be discretionary spending dollars for average households. While unemployment is at or near record lows, so is workforce participation, a statistic conservatives seem to have completely forgotten about since President Trump was inaugurated.

GDP growth slightly beat expectations at 2.3 percent but is far below the 5.4 percent predicted by the Atlanta Federal Reserve just two months ago. Despite missing the real number by a country mile, the same institution isnow predicting 4.0 percent growth for Q2. Why should anyone expect this “irrational exuberance” to be any more accurate than last quarter’s?

Tax Cuts?

The trump card (pun intended) is supposed to be tax cuts. Although they obviously haven’t delivered the jobs or growth promised to date, sooner or later the supposedly smaller slice the government is taking must result in more domestic investment, jobs, production, and growth.

The problem is taxes haven’t really been cut. They’ve simply been deferred. The federal government is going to spend more this year, and every year for the foreseeable future, than in any year in U.S. history. That spending is ultimately going to be paid with taxes, either now or in the future.

Read the rest at Foundation for Economic Education…

Why They’ll Really Hate You

EEB80D72-3353-41D7-BB50-FDB05777BC38They will hate you if you refuse to let them rule you. They will hate you if you don’t let them plan your life, spend your money and run your business. They will hate you if you don’t let them “educate” your children. They will hate you if you pursue your own happiness, encouraging your fellow men and women to do the same.

They will hate you if you have opinions they don’t approve of. They will hate you if you have real courage, which means saying what the government doesn’t want you to say, rather than ignorantly and self-destructively parroting its talking points. In short, they will hate you if you do not do the thing all their marches, propaganda, and televised hysterics are designed to force you to do: bend the knee.

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.

Why the Bull Market May Be a Jedi Mind Trick

Publication1The Bureau of Labor Statistics reported Friday that over 300,000 jobs were created in February, making it the best single-month total since July 2016. And unless you’ve been exploring the Arctic Circle or were kicked off Twitter for expressing politically incorrect views, you know that’s just the latest “great” news about the booming economy, bull market in stocks, and, best of all, the significant new job creation since Donald Trump became president.

Certainly, there is no denying that the stock market has continued to rise, with the S&P 500 up over 27 percent since 11/7/2016, as of this writing. But as for the overall economy and, specifically, job creation, even the Trump-hating liberal media seems to have fallen for an economic Jedi mind trick. Regardless of single-month spikes like the one that occurred last month, it only takes one click of the mouse to see that job creation continued to fallin 2017, as it had the previous two years. Looking at yearly totals over the past ten years, job creation looks a lot more like a protracted version of the last business cycle leading up to the 2008 crash.

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.

Economics Was Invented to Refute Trump’s Tariff Arguments

twoboatsWhen 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.

Bastiat remade Smith’s case in 1848. Henry Hazlitt did so again in 1946. Still, these economic fallacies persist because they offer the victims of other bad economic policies villains they can blame for largely self-inflicted wounds.

The Broken Window Fallacy

Every time a Trump supporter sees “Made in China” on a pair of sneakers, he throws up his hands and says, “Do you see that? They’re stealing our manufacturing jobs.” He then repeats a version of Bastiat’s broken windowfallacy. It goes something like this:

China puts tariffs on our products so our exports can’t compete in its markets. But we don’t put tariffs on China’s exports, making their sneakers cheaper than we can make them here. American sneaker manufacturing jobs go to China, but no Chinese manufacturing jobs come to the United States.

Not only do millions of Americans lose their jobs, say the protectionists, but all of the money they would have spent domestically is instead spent in China. This causes other American businesses to fail, cut production, or not expand as much as they otherwise would. The unemployed American factory worker doesn’t eat out at the local restaurant. The restaurant needs fewer wait staff and cooks, who in turn don’t have money to spend on new clothing, etc.

As Bastiat would say, this is “what is seen.” But their argument ignores what is unseen.

What is unseen is the money American consumers no longer have when the tariffs are put in place. For example, the tariff may result in them paying $200 for the same pair of sneakers they previously paid $100 for. That means they no longer have $100 they previously had after buying the sneakers, which they could spend on other products. Whatever jobs they were supporting with that $100 are now lost.

Read the rest at Foundation for Economic Education…

Newsflash: Teachers Are Already Armed

armedwomanIn the wake of yet another mass shooting in a public school, a host of familiar recommendations have resurfaced about how to “prevent this from ever happening again.” Predictably, both conservatives and liberals are looking to the government for a solution. Americans have somehow arrived at a point where they cannot conceive of human action that is not either prohibited, mandated, or, at the very least, centrally planned.

Just Like Drugs

The first problem is the goal. It is absurdly unrealistic to believe any set of rules is going to prevent anything from “ever happening again.” If you doubt that, I invite you to examine the war on drugs. Many decades ago, politicians decided American citizens taking heroin was never going to happen again. They banned that drug completely. You aren’t allowed to possess or sell it under any circumstances. Not after a background check. Not with a doctor’s prescription. Not at all.

Ban them completely for the civilian population, they say, and mass shooters won’t be able to obtain them.

Today, that drug is at the center of what the same government calls an opioid “epidemic.” Epidemic. So much for heroin overdoses “never happening again.”

Yet, despite this evidence, liberals still suggest what they’ve always suggested: further restrictions on gun ownership. A good portion of them believes that only government employees charged with national defense or public safety should be allowed to carry guns. Ban them completely for the civilian population, they say, and mass shooters won’t be able to obtain them.

You know, just like drugs.

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.

Progressives Sink to New Low Using Teenagers as Political Pawns for Gun Control

Picture3Just when you thought the left-wing totalitarians among us couldn’t sink any lower, they have. Not content to simply exploit the tragedy of school shootings in the third person, they have now recruited teenage survivors to organize themselves as a political special interest group, demanding hundreds of millions of innocent people be forced to their will.

Shame on their parents for allowing children who have no experience yet in the real world – and no, being shot at in those soft-target prisons known as “public schools” is not the real world – to be used as political pawns by people who don’t care about them one bit.

The media lionizing these misinformed adolescents – as well as whoever is encouraging and/or funding this latest propaganda effort – are hoping no one would dare dispute the word of “the children” who survived the tragedy. I hope they’re wrong.

The answer should be some tough love to the little darlings, along these lines:

“Listen you little brats. I’m sorry you were exposed to this terrible tragedy and lost friends and loved ones. And I’m glad you survived. But none of that gives you the right to “demand” the rights of hundreds of millions of innocent people be violated, leaving them more vulnerable to precisely the kind of tragedy you just experienced.

Get back to us after you’ve paid taxes for a few years, rather than consumed them. And if you’re going to demand anything, demand your parents pull you out of the Progressive Brainwashing Centers that have skewed your thinking so badly and almost got you killed.”

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 and His Supporters Make the Bubble Economy Great Again

blowingbubbles“Well, you know, the participation rate is going to go down over time because all these boomers are retiring,” said Jon Hilsenrath on Fox Business’ “Mornings with Maria” Friday. Hilsenrath, a frequent guest, was referring to the labor participation rate, which measures the overall percentage of workers who are presently employed. It differs from the unemployment rate in that the latter only counts those actively looking for work.

The Participation Rate

Hilsenrath’s statement would have been rather uncontroversial if it weren’t for the previous, eight-year cacophony from conservatives on how falling unemployment numbers were misleading. After every jobs report during Obama’s presidency, Republicans would, without fail, point out falling participation rate numbers, concluding, “People aren’t going back to work; they’re just giving up looking for work.”

While there undoubtedly were some conservatives who acknowledged that some part of the participation rate decline represented people who were just retiring (perhaps even Hilsenrath himself), this writer never heard it mentioned on a conservative program once. Not a single time in eight years.

Perhaps aware of the context, Hilsenrath went on to say, “The fact that it’s held steady is a sign that people that aren’t aging, you know, older people, are coming back into the labor force and that’s a good sign. I’m watching the unemployment rate today. We talked about this earlier. If it goes below four percent, then that shows me an economy on fire.”

Not to pile on, but even the participation rate “holding steady” began during Obama’s presidency, the last dip below 63 percent coming in 2015, followed by a recovery to 63 percent in early 2016 that has held steady ever since.

The President Doesn’t Really Matter

This is not meant as an endorsement of Obama’s economic policies nor necessarily criticism of President Trump’s. Rather, it is an acknowledgment that long-term trends in these metrics haven’t really changed since 2010, other than a leveling off in the labor participation rate, and neither president has had much to do with them, regardless of what they or their supporters would like you to think.

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.

You Deserve a Tax Break and Your Boss Does Too

taxbreak_mini 3Republicans during the Reagan and Bush administrations had a pretty straightforward fiscal policy: increase federal spending dramatically and cut marginal income tax rates modestly, predicting the resulting economic growth would eventually balance the budget. Both administrations increased spending roughly 80-100 percent, depending upon where you draw the start and end lines, given the government’s fiscal year running October 1 – September 30. Predictably, federal debt exploded during both administrations.

This time around, some things are the same, but some are different. The predictable (and predicted) growth of entitlements and the quasi-religious belief military spending must always increase (the military must be “rebuilt!”) has produced what should be a frightening result: federal debt doubled during a Democratic administration under which federal spending increased a mere 28-33 percent, again depending on where you draw the lines.

It’s All Class Warfare

So, the usual Republican modus operandi is not going to fly this time around. Not only have Republicans run on making government smaller, before again blowing up spending once they got in power, but they’ve railed for eight years against Obama’s debt legacy.

They can’t just ignore deficits as they have in the past and expect to win again in future elections, so they’re left with only one choice: “reform” the tax code so it collects the same or more revenue and sell it as a tax cut.

That’s not to say it’s going to work. Federal tax revenue will likely decrease overall under their plan, despite their efforts to raise taxes on some people while cutting them for others. But Republicans can ignore reality as well as Democrats when they need to. If you doubt that, ask any ten Republicans at random if the government got bigger or smaller while Reagan was president.

Republicans are also virtually identical to Democrats in their Marxist view of society.For Republicans, just like Democrats and communists, it is made up of different “classes” of people, competing with each other in a zero-sum game for pieces of a static, finite “pie.” This is explicit in their rhetoric about “tax cuts for the middle class” or the sublimely obtuse “working class” (doesn’t anyone generating an income, large or small, work?)

While it’s true the idea of classes in society predates Marx, it is his vision which dominates the tax code, most strikingly in its assumption there is some fundamental difference between employees of going concerns and owners.

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.

Why Are We Thanking the Troops for Disastrous Wars Like Iraq?

Veterans-Day-2016Another Veteran’s Day has come and gone, with the usual high fives all around for anyone who has ever donned a U.S. military uniform. The holiday falling on a Friday this year meant the pro-military sentiments generally lasted throughout the weekend at sporting events and other public gatherings. As always, the ubiquitous mantra from every corner of the republic was, “Thank the troops.”

Sooner or later, somebody has to ask: For what?

The general answer is for the great sacrifices the troops have made to defend freedom. But when was the last time any American’s freedom was in jeopardy from an external threat? Would any American be less free if the U.S. did not invade Afghanistan or Iraq? Vietnam? Deep down, everyone knows Americans aren’t freer because of these wars. So, why do we keep talking like they are?

Let’s take the two wars virtually everyone, across the political spectrum, agree were mistakes: Iraq and Vietnam. It turns out there were no weapons of mass destruction in Iraq and no “domino effect” after Vietnam, even though the mission there was unsuccessful. The communists did take over the country, but Asia and eventually the rest of the world did not fall to communism afterwards. On the contrary, once we stopped fighting them, the Vietnamese had the good sense to abandon communism relatively quickly after we left. Today, they are a major trading partner.

So, neither of these wars benefited the people who paid for them. In fact, American taxpayers and just about everyone else on the planet would have been far better off if neither had been fought at all.

To preempt hysteria in the comments section, no, the men and women in uniform don’t decide which wars they fight and where they are deployed. Fine. But just because the soldiers shouldn’t be blamed for the war, it doesn’t necessarily follow they should be thanked for it, either. If you’re talking to a friend at a cocktail party and a drunken guest bumps him, causing him to spill his drink on your suit, you may not blame your friend for ruining your suit. But would you thank him for it?

Read the rest at HuffPost…

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.

Response to Elie Mystal’s ‘Libertarian Hero Meets The Justice Of The Streets (Err.. Suburbs)’

Rand_Paul,_official_portrait,_112th_Congress_alternateI read Elie Mystal’s article on Rand Paul’s assault, which suggests such violent encounters are the inevitable result of libertarianism in practice. He makes two errors. First, he contends Rand Paul ignores the rules of his HOA based on his libertarian philosophy. Second, he contends basing a legal framework on the libertarian non-aggression principle (NAP) is unworkable.

Regarding the first error, libertarianism is based on the sanctity of voluntary contracts. An HOA is a perfect example of what libertarians would replace zoning regulations with – an enforceable contract voluntarily entered into by every individual, instead of a set of rules imposed on the whole by a supposed majority. Mystal conflates voluntary contracts with regulations near the end of his piece, writing, “Rand Paul’s broken ribs are a goddamn case study in why we need regulations.” This begs the question, “Why do we need regulations, rather than just enforcement of the HOA?”

Neither Mystal nor I know the terms of Rand Paul’s HOA contract, but if they prohibit either pumpkin patches or compost heaps, then Rand Paul appears to be in violation of that contract. Libertarians would side with the HOA, not Rand Paul. However, the HOA contract also provides penalties for violation of the terms, which I’m fairly certain don’t include bum-rushing him and breaking his ribs.

This all assumes there is any truth to reports Senator Paul used his property in ways his neighbors found offensive, whether compliant with the letter of his HOA agreement or not. Several of his neighbors have come forward since Mystal’s piece was written to refute those reports.

Even in the absence of a written agreement, libertarians recognize longstanding local conditions as binding on new property owners. Thus, I cannot come into a quiet community and build an airport on my land, subjecting my neighbors to the noise and other inconveniences of having an airport border their land. By the same token, I cannot buy the land next to an existing airport and then demand the airport stop making noise or doing the other things an airport must do to conduct its business. This principle extends to all sorts of questions, including air pollution, zoning, etc. Murray Rothbard wrote about this concept many times. Here is an example.

Second, Mystal’s article includes this passage:

“You can do what you want and I can do what I want and, so long as we’re not hurting anybody, the government can do nothing.” It’s… cute, as theories of social interactions go. It’s not a workable basis for law and governance.”

I would refer the writer to this passage from Thomas Jefferson’s First Inaugural address:

“With all these blessings, what more is necessary to make us a happy and a prosperous people? Still one thing more, fellow-citizens — a wise and frugal Government, which shall restrain men from injuring one another, shall leave them otherwise free to regulate their own pursuits of industry and improvement, and shall not take from the mouth of labor the bread it has earned. This is the sum of good government, and this is necessary to close the circle of our felicities. [emphasis added]

In fact, Jefferson reiterated the NAP as the basis for law and governance many times over the course of his life. Examples include this, this and this.

Rather than a “cute theory of social interaction,” the NAP was the guiding principle of American liberty for well over a century, until Woodrow Wilson specifically called it out as no longer adequate for what he considered too complex a society for the NAP to govern. Libertarians disagree with Wilson. Mystal may not. But it would be a much more valuable discussion if libertarianism would at least be represented correctly when criticized, rather than presented in the cartoonish fashion our sound bite media so often resorts to.

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.