Thursday, March 2, 2017

March, 2017, Part 2, Political Class Insanity: A Corrupt Governor, A Busybody Mayor, and An Ignorant Mayor

It is the beginning of another month which means it is again time to review the latest political class insanity from Washington and around the world. Political class insanity takes many forms including the wasting of taxpayer wealth, criminal fraud within government programs, inane and stupid political quotes and actions, the inability to create and implement effective and efficient government programs, stupid and ill performing economic policies and strategies, and other forms of insanity that continue to evolve and surprise and shock us. 

Today and for all of the insanity posts this month, let’s start off with a welcome piece of honest political dialog. It comes from a State Department spokesperson. Mark Toner, who is about to start the daily State Department press briefing. In a joking matter, he makes the following quote: "Welcome to the State Department. I think we have some interns in the back. Welcome. Good to see you in this exercise in transparency and democracy." 

He then burst out laughing at his own quote, indicating he also knew what a joke the Obama administration has been, especially Mr. Toner’s State Department, when it comes to cover ups, lack of transparency, denial of Freedom of Information Act requests, the prosecution of whistleblowers, etc. But at least it was a little refreshing to finally hear some actual honesty out of Washington as we see from the actual clip of the news conference:

With that context of honesty, let’s see what other insanity has been going down:

1) It is no secret that most politicians are ignorant idiots when it comes to economics. They have no common sense, do not learn from their past mistakes, and continually are surprised when their ill conceived economic plans and actions do not work out. Consider the latest insanity as documented by the Red State Watcher website:

  • Philadelphia mayor, Jim Kenney, was a big supporter of a soda tax that his city enacted for soda sales within the city limits.
  • As a result, rather than seeing a nice increase in city tax revenue, soda sales have dropped by 30-50% within two months after the city soda tax took effect.
  • Of course, rather than blaming himself for a stupid tax, he is blaming the soda industry, too ignorant to realize that consumers would simply just go outside of the city limits to purchase less expensive soda that was not as heavily taxed: "I didn't think it was possible for the soda industry to be any greedier. … They are so committed to stopping this tax from spreading to other cities, that they are not only passing the tax they should be paying onto their customer, they are actually willing to threaten working men and women's jobs rather than marginally reduce their seven figure bonuses."
  • But it is not just tax revenue that is affected since one of the city’s largest soda distributors says it will cut its workforce by 20% because of the revenue shortfall caused by the city soda tax.
  • An owner of six ShopRite stores in Philadelphia says he expects to shed 300 workers this spring.
  • The Shoprite owner has had to cut 6,000 employee hours since January and not only are his soda sales down but overall sales are also down as people buy what groceries they need elsewhere when they go elsewhere to purchase their soda.
  • “People are seeing sales decline larger than anything they’ve seen up to this point in the city,” said Alex Baloga, vice president of external relations at the Pennsylvania Food Merchants Association.
  • Bob Brockway, who is the chief operating officer of Canada Dry Delaware Valley, which distributes about 20 percent of the city’s soft drinks, said its sales were down 45% in Philadelphia and that the company will lay off 20% of its workforce the first week in March.
  • While the city expected to collect $7.6 million from the soda tax, early returns are showing a monthly tax stream that is likely around $2.3 million, one third the expected revenue, likely because people are not stupid even if politicians are.
  • As expected, soda distributors and retailers just outside of the city limits have seen their soda sales spike upward.
So let’s review: the tax is not coming close to hit its target collection rate, city soda sales have been driven to sources outside of the city, causing financial hardship on businesses that sell soda in the city, retailers are hurting not only because of decreased soda sales but also overall sales, and Philadelphia workers are losing their jobs as a result. Typical politician’s failed economic reasoning and program. Insane.

2) Based on recent comments by New York City mayor, Bill DeBlasio, it appears that all of New York City’s problems have been solved. The crime rate must have dropped substantially, the homeless problem has finally been resolved, New York City schools are doing a great job education the city’s kids, all of the infrastructure problems have been repaired, it must be great to live in such a city that has not issues or crises.

I say all this because, according to a recent article by Kerry Picket of the Daily Caller, DeBLasio had enough spare time on his hands to write a letter to Wells Fargo CEO Timothy Sloan, in which he said he wanted to “express my deep concern about your involvement, and the involvement of other banks, in financing the Dakota Access Pipeline,” noting his concern is partly based on being a Mayor of a “coastal city threatened by climate change.” In addition, De Blasio said the pipeline would violate “human and tribal rights of the Standing Rock Indian Reservation” and would have “negative environmental consequences” to the land and water of the area.

So that is why I assume that all of New York City’s problems have been solved since this politician has the time to worry about and take action relative to an issue probably about 1,500 miles away from his constituents on an issue that probably 99% of his citizens do not even know exists. Pathetic set of priorities and totally insane for an east coast mayor to take time out from his own city’s problems to stick his nose in a far away problem that he is probably pretty ignorant about to begin with.

3) Politicians’ insanity does not only include ignorance on a whole range of subjects but also encompasses plain old corruption. Consider a corruption article by Ethan Barton writing for the Daily Caller website:

  • Oregon Governor, Kate Brown and her husband, recently stayed at a hotel and casino which is okay, who cares what someone does on their time away from the job.
  • However, the problem is the Oregon taxpayers paid for their stay, the governor got a $5,000 donation for her political campaign, and later got eleven times as much of a campaign donation from that same hotel and casino when she came out in opposition to a competing casino.
  • According to Mr. Barton: “The Democratic governor visited the Seven Feathers Resort – a hotel and casino owned by the Cow Creek Band of the Umpqua Indian Tribe – for a “government to government summit,” Brown’s official calendar shows. The trip included a “private breakfast with tribal chairs” on Dec. 16, 2015, and she charged her $212 hotel stay to Oregon taxpayers, credit card statements show. The Cow Creek Band donated $5,000 to Brown’s campaign the same day, campaign data shows...Brown announced her opposition in April 2016 to the Coquille Indian Tribe’s efforts to open a new casino. One study predicted that the new Coquille venue would cause Seven Feathers’ revenue to drop 13.2 percent, while the Cow Creek Band estimated a nearly 50 percent decrease, the Mail Tribune reported.”
  • But the corruption does not end there since after Brown announced her opposition to the competitive casino, the Cow Creek Band donated an additional $55,000 to her election campaign.
  • The ironic thing about this whole sordid affair and the sale of favors for political gain is that Brown became governor after her predecessor had to quit the office of governor for his own corruption and influence peddling.
  • Government watchdog group, Open The Books, also smelled something rotten, according to their CEO Adam Andrzejewski: “At arms-length, all of the individual transactions might be completely legal, however, the patterns are troubling. The fact that Kate Brown and staff are not answering questions, exercising an option to remain silent, is further cause for investigation.”
  • But the corruption gets even better if you consider that Brown also received a campaign donation from the president of an Oregon company that has already received more than $1 billion in state government contracts with ten of those contracts worth $444 million up for renewal during the governor’s term AND over 200 state contractors have chipped in over $800,000 to Brown and Oregon Attorney General Ellen Rosenblum since 2012.
This is just one of many, many examples of the corruption that is eating away at the heart of our democracy. And this problem could be fixed very easily, as outlined in our book, “Love My Country, Loathe My Government,” with either one of two easy steps:

Step 1: only individuals should be allowed to contribute to election campaigns. Unions, corporations, businesses, PACS, Super PACS, and any other non-individual entity should not be able to contribute to election campaigns. When the Founders wrote the First Amendment and included freedom of speech, I am quite sure that they did not want that freedom to extend to Super PACs, that it would apply only to individual citizens.

Step 2 - if a company, union, business, or charity receives any kind of business or money from any government agency, then that company, business, union, or charity is not allowed to contribute to any politician’s election campaign.

If either of these steps and principles were reality, we would not have to worry and experience the corruption and graft that the Oregon governor is wallowing in now.

That will do it for today’s political class insanity: a corrupt governor in Oregon, a mayor that will not mind his own business in New York City, and another mayor who is zero common sense and zero basic economic knowledge. More insanity tomorrow.

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