DYSPEPSIA GENERATION

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Archive for the 'Your tax dollars at work – and play.' Category

Feds Spend $579,301 on Video Game to Teach College Students About Rape

29th May 2015

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I am not making this up.

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Jailhouse Crock: Unfinished Prison Costs Detroit Area Taxpayers $1.2M Per Month

29th May 2015

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A prison in downtown Detroit that was deemed too expensive to complete is now a construction site frozen in time that still costs cash-strapped local taxpayers more than $1 million a month.

It was supposed to be a state-of-art lockup in the heart of the Motor City, but four years after breaking ground, with construction costs totaling $150 million and no end in sight, the city pulled the plug on the project four years ago.

Now, the Wayne County Jail sits empty among the ruins of a bankrupt city, costing taxpayers upwards of $1.2 million in debt service and monthly upkeep costs for electricity, security, sump pumps – and even off-site storage for pre-fabricated jail cells that will never be used.

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Woman Calls Non-Emergency Number to Get Help for Suicidal Boyfriend. Cops Arrive, Kill Him.

28th May 2015

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When was the last time you got that level of service from a police department.

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Amtrak Has Problems, But a Lack of Federal Funding Is Not One of Them

28th May 2015

Veronique de Rugy pulls back the curtain.

While this continued faith in government’s ability to heal most wounds with funding is par for the course in Washington, it’s time to set the record straight. The reasons for Amtrak’s struggles have more to do with its history of poor management than they do with its lack of cash. One need only peruse reports from the Government Accountability Office and Amtrak’s own inspector general to see what can go wrong when the discipline of the market is absent. As the IG noted last year, Amtrak “has not consistently used sound business practices in each phase of the capital planning process, including developing sound project proposals with performance measures, learning from the execution and outcome of projects, and controlling unauthorized expenditures.”

Amtrak’s fundamental problem, however, is the same one that afflicts all government endeavors: Operational decisions are often made on the basis of political concerns rather than sound economic and financial reasoning. The clearest examples of this are Amtrak’s money-losing long-distance passenger routes, which are kept on life support with federal funds because politicians generally prefer to waste other people’s money than confront the tiny but vocal minority of people who benefit.

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Low-Speed, Infrequent Rail

28th May 2015

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Quentin Kopp, who once chaired the California High-Speed Rail Authority and led the effort to persuade voters to pass the 2008 law authorizing its construction, is speaking out against the project as currently planned. To succeed, he says, high-speed rail needs to run on dedicated tracks at high speeds and frequencies.

Instead, the current plan calls for California’s high-speed trains to run on the same tracks as slower Amtrak and commuter train. This will greatly reduce the average speeds because high-speed and conventional trains can’t be safely operated together. The current projected frequencies are two to four trains per hour (half in each direction), while Kopp says 10 to 20 trains per hour is needed for the trains to be “financially secure,” which presumably means that fares cover operating costs as required by the 2008 law.

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Young, Poor and Needing a Job, Not a Raise

27th May 2015

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Los Angeles is the latest large city in recent years to lift its local wage floor well above the federal minimum of $7.25. Seattle and San Francisco are already implementing $15 minimums, which likewise have been proposed in New York City and Washington, D.C. Last year, Chicago passed legislation that will boost the minimum in stages to $13 an hour in 2019, a 58% increase over five years.

The biggest backers of these measures tend to be unions, who want to reduce the supply of labor by increasing its cost. Unions call for higher minimums in the name of helping the working poor, reducing inequality, increasing purchasing power and so forth. But a union’s primary objective is to protect its members, and Big Labor’s minimum-wage advocacy primarily is in the service of pricing nonunion workers out of the labor force. The average union worker in Los Angeles earns more than $27 an hour, a wage that is easier to command when people who will work for less are too expensive to employ thanks to a mandated minimum wage.

Yeah, unions — the workers’ friend.

Politicians like President Obama and civil-rights groups like the NAACP insist that the minimum wage is an effective antipoverty tool. But most minimum-wage earners do not hail from poor households, let alone head them. Rather, they tend to be teenagers or young adults working part time. The majority of poor families in the U.S. have no workers. What they need most is a job, not a raise.

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‘John Wayne Day’ in Texas Honors Actor’s 108th Birthday

27th May 2015

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All due respect to the Duke, but this just goes to show that even Texas politicians can be remarkably silly at times.

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Why Is The Attorney General Making Claims About PATRIOT Act That Her Own Agency’s Report Says Are Not True?

22nd May 2015

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Uh, because she’s a statist lying Democrat weasel who was appointed by a statist lying Democrat weasel primarily because she was black and female?

That’s just a guess, you understand, but it fits the available evidence.

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ACA Health Insurance Rates Set to Skyrocket

22nd May 2015

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In 2016, insurance premiums could go through the roof as big insurers across the country apply for large rate increases for their ACA plans. For example, Blue Cross Blue Shield of Tennessee, the state’s biggest insurer, wants to raise rates 36.3 percent on average. New Mexico (at a truly eye-popping 51.6 percent), Maryland, and Oregon are seeing similar big numbers. Even in states where insurers are requesting more moderate increases, the percentages are still high enough to give one pause (Michigan’s Blue Care Network, for example, wants a 10 percent bump). Only in Maine has a state’s main insurer signaled its intent to keep rates flat for 2016.

That’s why they called it the Affordable Care Act, because laws are always titled the opposite of the effect that they have.

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‘What the Hell?’ Boehner Rips VA for Firing Almost Nobody, Year After Shinseki Resignation

21st May 2015

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That’s the way the Crust takes care of its own — nobody gets fired, nobody goes to jail.

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Healthcare.gov Consultant Gets Tax-Free Golden Parachute in Latest Obamacare Exchange Scandal

18th May 2015

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In more bad news for Obamacare exchanges, QSSI, the information technology firm that manages the federally run Healthcare.gov unexpectedly quit last Thursday. The IT firm, which is the third to manage Healthcare.gov in its brief two year history, has been marred by controversy over its relationship with administration officials.

While QSSI has been credited with saving the federal exchange following its disastrous 2013 rollout, its relationship with the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) has come under scrutiny for possible conflicts of interest. Andy Slavitt, formerly an executive at QSSI’s parent groups United Healthcare Group and Optum, was later made a senior advisor at CMS.

Slavitt was strangely allowed to pocket at least $4.8 million in tax-free income by indefinitely deferring capital gains taxes on the sales of millions in stock upon joining CMS. Slavitt was also granted a rare federal ethics waiver which allowed him ignore the one-year mandatory cooling off period and simultaneously be involved in contracting issues for Optum and United Healthcare while working at CMS.

The Affordable Care Act ought to have been named the Incompetents Full Employment Act.

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Regulating Sscalators and Escalating Regulation

18th May 2015

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What do restaurant menus, refrigerators, community banks and escalators have in common? All were subjected to yet more federal regulation last year.

No fewer than 184 “major” new rules have been imposed since the start of the Obama administration, costing Americans about $80 billion per year in additional regulatory costs. And many more regulations are on the way. Another 126 such rules are on the administration’s agenda, such as directives to farmers for growing and harvesting fruits and vegetables; strict limits on credit access for service members; and another redesign of light bulbs.

A new Heritage Foundation study found that in 2014, red tape entangled virtually every aspect of American life. The largest single area was financial services, which has been inundated with hundreds of new regulations as a result of the 2010 Dodd-Frank law. The full effects of the act have yet to be felt, but its restrictions are already crippling community banks and increasing consumers’ banking costs, while doing little to reduce the threat of bailouts.

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Ten Thousand Commandments 2015

17th May 2015

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Ten Thousand Commandments is the Competitive Enterprise Institute’s annual survey of the size, scope and cost of federal regulations, and how they affect American consumers, businesses, and the U.S. economy. Authored by CEI Vice President for Policy Clyde Wayne Crews Jr., it shines a light on the large, growing “hidden tax” of America’s regulatory state.

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Sister Diana’s Testimony Before Congress — at Last

15th May 2015

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Sister Diana Momeka, OP, finally made it from Kurdistan to Congress to testify about the fate of the Nineveh Christians among whom she lived before ISIS invaded Mosul. No thanks are due to the State Department for her visit, though it’s not clear who exactly held State’s feet to the fire for their original refusal of her visit. Their “reasoning” , if you remember my first post on this story was based on an idiotic estimation that Sister Diana would use the occasion of a week’s visit to become an illegal alien. We should be so lucky, considering the numbers of sketchy individuals that very same State Department dumps into the United States by the thousands every year.

For the ignorant among you, “OP” stands for Ordo Praedicatorum; she’s a Roman Catholic Dominican nun.

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Too Much Money Going to the Wrong Places

14th May 2015

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It appears that the Amtrak crash that killed seven people Tuesday resulted from speeding, but big-government advocates are already using this accident to make their case for more infrastructure spending. In fact, the problem is not too little money, but too much money going to the wrong places.

In 2008, President Bush signed a law mandating that most railroads, including Amtrak, install positive train control (PTC) by December of 2015. PTC would force trains to slow or stop if the operator ignored signals or speed limits.

In 2009 and 2010, President Obama asked a Democratic Congress to give him $10 billion to spend on high-speed trains, and Congress agreed. Not one cent of that money went to installing PTC in Amtrak’s Northeast Corridor.

PTC would have prevented this accident. There was plenty of money available to install it, but the Obama administration, in its infinite wisdom, chose to spend it elsewhere. Two days ago, it would have been embarrassing to realize that the government-run Amtrak hadn’t yet completed installation of PTC on its highest-speed corridor. Today, it’s a tragedy. But how is it the fault of fiscal conservatives?

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“How the Housing Crisis Left Us More Racially Segregated”

9th May 2015

Steve Sailer fisks the Washington Post — granted, not a difficult task.

Racial segregation between blacks and whites in the U.S. has been declining for decades, but very gradually, and in some places less so than others. The recent uptick in segregation that Hall, Crowder and Spring measured is small but still significant. It was also particularly large in Western cities heavily hit by the housing bubble like Las Vegas and Sacramento.

Alternatively, you could say that the Housing Bubble that preceded the Housing Bust artificially increased integration by giving more mortgages to minorities, as President Bush had insisted at his 10/15/2002 White House Conference on Increasing Minority Homeownership. There, Bush demanded 5.5 million additional minority homeowners by 2010, and he told his federal regulators (as well as financial and real estate industry leaders) that the way to get to this higher level of racial equality was to stop being so persnickety about traditional credit standards, such as down payments and documentation.

Unfortunately, it turned out that the old-fashioned ideas about credit risks were more realistic about who could afford to pay back mortgages than Bush’s notion that outdated redlining prejudices were the cause of the racial Housing Gap.

Those who think that George W Bush was a conservative need to take a look at his record, not the contrast with more-Leftists Democrats.

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Obama Plans to Press Ahead With Guantanamo Bay Closure

7th May 2015

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Reminds me of the scene in Monty Python and the Holly Grail where Lancelot is running toward the castle and never seems to get there.

He’s been ‘pressing ahead’ with that closure ever since he got elected six years ago.

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GAO: Gov’t Waste of Natural Gas Costing Taxpayers Millions

7th May 2015

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Significant amounts of natural gas on federal lands are being wasted, costing taxpayers tens of millions of dollars each year and adding to harmful greenhouse gas emissions, a congressional investigation has found.

The nonpartisan Government Accountability Office also said the Bureau of Land Management failed to conduct production inspections for hundreds of high-priority oil and gas wells — roughly 1 out of 5 — to ensure full payment of royalties to the U.S.

Prediction: Nobody will get fired, nobody will go to jail.

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It’s Going to Be a Bumpy Ride

6th May 2015

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Last December, Honolulu’s rail transit project was estimated to be $700 million over budget. Now they are saying it is closer to a billion. Never fear, however: the state legislature just agreed to extend a half-percent excise tax, which was supposed to expire in 2022, indefinitely to pay for the rail and its cost overruns.

My, what a surprise! Aren’t you surprised? I’m sure surprised.

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NOAA Caught Rewriting US Temperature History (Again)

5th May 2015

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Hey, if you don’t like the facts you find, find some facts you like. It’s not as if anybody who works for the government ever gets fired.

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University of Washington Event – Learn How to Become an Abortion Activist

3rd May 2015

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It is hardly surprising that the universities on the Left Coast are boot camps for Crustian activism.

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Feds Preparing Criminal Charges Against NY State Senate Leader

3rd May 2015

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The activity detailed in the draft complaint involves a real-estate developer and an environmental technology company, according to the person.

When government has such great power to determine winners and losers, some of the losers are going to want to buy a win.

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19 Reasons Why Technologists Don’t Want to Work at Your Government Agency

2nd May 2015

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And these reasons pretty much go for anybody for whom the security and power of a government job doesn’t outweigh the stifling sclerotic atmosphere, or who have the wit and education to escape it.

It really all boils down to whether one can honestly say ‘I don’t have to put up with this shit.’

For those for whom that is a true statement, who presumably have the talent and qualifications to go elsewhere, then elsewhere they’ll go. For those for whom that is not a true statement, there they’ll stay.

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Obama Admin. Won’t Let States Ask for Proof of Citizenship … On Voter Registration Form!

1st May 2015

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 Federal law says that states must accept and use a federal form for registering voters. But the federal form doesn’t require any proof that the person submitting the form is a citizen.

The form just asks the registrant to check a box.

Meanwhile, federal law mandates that voter registration forms be made available and pushed everywhere from licensing branches to welfare offices.

Of course not. Perish the thought.

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Denver-Area School Won’t Let Child Eat Cookies in Lunchbox, Sends Note About Healthy Options

1st May 2015

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And the Nanny State proceeds apace. This is why you don’t want to send your kid to a government school. (Well, one of the reasons.)

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Is There a Cure for Cancer Sitting at the Back of the Medicine Cabinet Already?

27th April 2015

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So, how come a generic drug that costs pennies compared to a new targeted agent that costs thousands of pounds isn’t in clinical use? The data is there, the drugs are there and certainly the patients are there. At this point we begin to stray from medicine and into the arena of intellectual property and incentives.

There is a huge regulatory burden and massive costs involved in running the largest Phase III trials normally required to convince doctors to change medical practice. What’s more, drugs need to be licensed for new uses and this also incurs costs. Who pays for all this?

With no guarantee of a return on investment, we’re left with a class of drugs that has huge potential but we don’t have the incentives in place to see the science confirmed and the drugs moved into clinical use after that confirmation.

And God help you, as a private citizen, attempting to do this on your own — they can’t put you in jail for using it but they can sure as shit put the people who make it and the people who sell it to you in jail (Hell, War On Drugs!).

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California “Inclusionary Zones” Exclude Most People From Affordable Housing

25th April 2015

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California’s housing prices plummeted after the bubble burst in 2008, but now are approaching levels not seen since the market’s height—especially along the Southern California coast and around San Francisco Bay. This has reignited the perennial question: What should policy makers do to promote “affordable” housing?

Of course, Stay The Hell Out Of It is never on the table.

In San Jose, the subject of the court case, the city requires builders of more than 20 housing units to set aside 15 percent of them at these lower prices—or build 20 percent as low-income housing elsewhere in the city, or pay the city a fee of $122,000 for each “inclusionary” unit. The city requires the buyers of these reduced-price houses to sell them to other lower-income buyers in the future, or turn over price gains to the city.

The legal issue isn’t solely about housing, but about whether cities have unlimited power to extract concessions from homebuilders for things that are not “impacts” from the project. In other words, it’s legitimate for government to require new developments to pay to mitigate the effect of the new residents on local infrastructure (roads, sewers, fire service), but is it OK for cities to require affordable housing just because officials want to see more of it built?

Apparently so.

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Only 1 in 4 Americans Trust the Federal Government ‘Most of the Time’

22nd April 2015

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I’m surprised it’s that high.

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Brickbat: Separate But Not Equal

22nd April 2015

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Officials with the South Bend, Indiana, school system have postponed college field trips for some third-graders. The trips were originally to include only black students, but after local media reported that students of other races would be excluded, many parents began to complain. The trips are reportedly being changed to include all students who qualify for free and reduced lunches as well as any who would be first-generation college students.

In other words, a way to ensure that they are predominantly black students without appearing to arrange it so.

It would be interesting to check back later and see how many of those students actually, you know, went on to graduate from college.

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The Food Stamp Pirouette

21st April 2015

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You’re not alone if you’ve ever wondered how the government at all levels can spend about $1 trillion per year on “anti-poverty” programs, while the poverty rate never goes down. By the federal government’s official standard, the poverty rate stood at about 15 percent when the War on Poverty began more than 50 years ago—and it remains about 15 percent today, despite more than $20 trillion of anti-poverty spending since then. Could all that money really have had no effect? The question puts government officials in a tricky position. On the one hand, they feel duty-bound to defend the effectiveness of the spending; on the other, any major reduction in the official measure of poverty risks undermining political support for continued and increased spending.

So they lie. Surely this doesn’t come as a surprise.

Among the many federal anti-poverty programs, food stamps play a role that seems almost magical. The program currently spends approximately $80 billion per year, supposedly to combat poverty and hunger. Yet in official Census Bureau poverty statistics, food stamps are defined as “in-kind” benefits that don’t count as part of the “cash-income” poverty measure. And the food stamp program also somehow manages not to make a dent in the government’s most-cited proxy for “hunger”—the annual “food insecurity” survey, also administered by Vilsack’s department, which asks people whether they felt “food insecure” at any time during the past year. Since food stamps require recipients to make a budget last for a month, many beneficiaries understandably answer that question in the affirmative. And thus, somehow, the number of people declaring food insecurity has barely declined at all during the Obama presidency, even as the number of food stamp recipients has mushroomed, from about 32 million to more than 46 million.

Funny how that works. Or doesn’t, if you catch my drift.

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Census Costs Soar as Americans Toss Surveys

21st April 2015

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We’re still a few years from the 2020 census, but federal agencies are already bracing themselves for the barrage of nosy questions they’ll fire our way. Well, actually, they’re bracing for the growing expense of getting us to answer those nosy questions. If the Census Bureau doesn’t get off its butt and make some already recommended changes, the Government Accountability Office (GAO) warns, the next nose-counting is likely to cost a bundle without being especially reliable.

As the GAO notes in a report published yesterday, the average cost of counting each household has risen, in constant 2010 dollars, from $16 in 1970 to $94 in 2010. That’s probably in part because the response rate has declined over that period. This just may—I’m speculating here—have something to do wth a muttered, “you gotta be kidding me” after a glance at the form, then a flick toward the trash.

The Census is a prime example of government bureucrats taking a legitimate government function and expanding it into a football stadium complete with luxury boxes.

The Census Bureau acknowledges that it faces growing resistance to lengthening surveys (both short and unbelievably long) and census takers. Part of its response, unveiled last year, is to bully us. What the Census Bureau should do, suggested Tasha Boone, Assistant Division Chief for the American Community Survey, is to write “YOUR RESPONSE IS REQUIRED BY LAW” in bigger letters than ever on the envelope.

Why more government workers don’t find a second career in marketing is a mystery to me.

The Constitution requires a count — nothing more, nothing less — of the people of the United States every ten years; it does not authorize a collective body cavity search of the American people.

The GAO also emphasizes that it’s made 121 suggestions regarding Internet surveys, research and testing, and improving IT management and security. “The Bureau needs to take action to address the recommendations GAO has made in prior reports. If these actions are not taken, cost overruns, schedule delays, and performance shortfalls will likely diminish the potential cost savings that the Bureau estimates will result from redesigning the census for 2020.”

So…We should pretty much just count on high costs and “performance shortfalls” then, eh?

Oh, and those nosy questions, of course.

UPDATE: A commentor referred me to this delightful response to Census nosyparkers, which I recommend to all.

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Hunting Witches in Wisconsin

21st April 2015

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To the question of whether armed police can storm your house and take away your personal effects and tell you to shut up about it, based simply on your political advocacy, Wisconsin answered for years, “Why, yes, they can — now please, shut up about it.”

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How the Fed Ended Up Fueling a Subprime Boom

21st April 2015

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To err is human; government rounds all those people up and points them in the same direction.

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Brickbat: Seizing the Fort

21st April 2015

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Code enforcement officers in Ogden, Utah, have ordered Jeremy Trentelman to take down the fort he built in his yard for his three-year-old son. They say the fort, which is made out of cardboard, violates city litter laws.

Really, you can’t make this stuff up.

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Dentist Attacked for Charging Too Little

20th April 2015

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There is no monopoly that is not back by the government’s guns.

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TSA’s Investigation Into Groping Agents Ensured They Wouldn’t Be Prosecuted

19th April 2015

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By now, you may have heard the story about how two TSA agents at Denver International Airport were fired recently after it was revealed that they had worked out a scam by which one agent was able to grope and fondle the genitals of male passengers he found attractive. The plan involved him signalling to a colleague who was working the scanning computer. That agent would tell the computer that the individual being scanned was female, which apparently would set off an “anomaly” alert for the groin area, allowing the male TSA agent to conduct a “pat down” of that area. Leaving aside the fact that these computers even have “male” and “female” settings and it can determine an “anomaly in the genital area” if they don’t match — this kind of thing was exactly what many insisted was going to happen when the TSA put in place these advanced screening procedures. And if you think that this is the only case of it happening, well, then, you probably think the TSA doesn’t rifle through and steal stuff from your luggage as well.

Now here’s the thing: this only came out because the TSA agent blabbed about it to a colleague, who then reported it, leading to an investigation. Many people find it odd that the two TSA agents (who are still unnamed) merely lost their jobs, rather than got arrested for this activity. Chris Bray, over at TSA News (found via Amy Alkon — herself no stranger to intrusive TSA searches), went and grabbed the actual Denver police report on the incident, revealing that it appears that the TSA set up its “investigation” in a manner to almost guarantee no criminal charges and that the names of the TSA agents would remain secret.

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L.A. School District Cancels iPad Pearson Curriculum, Asks Apple for Refund

19th April 2015

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Of course. They squander billions on an idea that any high-school kid could tell was stupid, and then act as if it’s somebody else’s fault.

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San Antonio Gave a Woman a $2,000 Ticket for Feeding the Homeless

17th April 2015

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‘All within the state, nothing outside the state, nothing against the state.’ — Benito Mussolini

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Mississippi Backs Off Harassing Doctor Making House Calls

17th April 2015

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“If I don’t help these people, they won’t be able to get medical care at all, and they could lose their jobs or their home. I can’t let that happen,” says Dr. Landrum, who at times drives as far as 50 miles to see as many as three patients a day in their homes.

But a bureaucrat with the Mississippi State Board of Medical Licensure, apparently seeking to justify his or her position, thought house calls violate some arcane state law that few likely read, and demanded that Dr. Landrum not only stop seeing patients, but also that he forfeit his medical license. When he stood up, the board, of course, made a formal inquiry into his practice.

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Local Governments, Continuing to Bar Us From Feeding the Homeless

16th April 2015

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And you know why. ‘All within the state, nothing outside the state, nothing against the state.’ — Benito Mussolini

 

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Tax Take Keeps Growing—But Good Luck Catching Up With Government Spending

16th April 2015

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The federal government took in $1,477,901,000,000 in federal tax deposits between October 1, 2014 and April 14 of this year—the fiscal year to date. That number comes courtesy of the U.S. government’s Daily Treasury Statement. The good folks at CNSNews.com did the math so that I don’t have to and found that this is “an all-time record for the amount of inflation-adjusted tax revenue brought into the federal Treasury from the beginning of the fiscal year through the April 15 tax-filing deadline.”

That same Daily Treasury Statement revealed a total public debt outstanding of $18,152,014,000,000. That’s $18 trillion give or take. Unlike tax deposits, it’s not a record number. It’s close enough though, since federal debt hit $18 trillion for the first time last November. Don’t expect it to drop much. The Congressional Budget Office (CBO) anticipates expenditures to outstrip revenue, requiring more borrowing, into the foreseeable future. “[B]udget deficits are projected to rise steadily and, by 2039, to push federal debt held by the public up to a percentage of GDP seen only once before in U.S. history (just after World War II),” warned the CBO last summer.

No growth of wealth can match the spending prowess of a bureaucrat with his snout in the trough.

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Ten Outrageous Items the IRS Purchased With Taxpayer’s Money

15th April 2015

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A Tax Day special.

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Thought for the Day

15th April 2015

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How The IRS Repeatedly Rewrites Obamacare Tax Credit Provisions

14th April 2015

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The plaintiffs in King v. Burwell argue that an IRS regulation unlawfully extends tax credit eligibility beyond what is expressly authorized under Section 1401 of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (PPACA).  It appears that this sort of administrative rewrite of the PPACA may be more the rule than the exception, as there are at least two other instances of the IRS rewriting the PPACA’s tax credit eligibility requirements.

My, what a surprise! Aren’t you aurprised? I’m sure surprised.

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Deeply Indebted Pension Systems Continue to Dole Out Bonuses.

12th April 2015

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As the city of Detroit’s financial condition deteriorated, its employee-pension funds made hundreds of millions of dollars in bonus payments to retirees. Those extra checks swelled the city’s retirement debt and played a role in the Motor City’s eventual bankruptcy. Yet Detroit’s struggles haven’t stopped the retirement systems of other cities and states—including some with severely underfunded pensions—from continuing to dole out bonuses.

The Philadelphia school system, with less than half the assets it needs to meet its future obligations, is set to hand out $62 million in bonuses, sometimes referred to as 13th checks, to its retirees this year. The payments are authorized by 2007 legislation that grants the extra checks when the pension system exceeds its investment projections, regardless of the system’s debt. Rising retirement costs—up from $55 million in 2011 to $154 million last year—have aggravated a financial crisis in the city’s schools. Despite a state-approved $60 million boost in cigarette taxes last year to bolster their finances, Philly schools project an $80 million deficit next year, partly because of another $34 million spike in pension costs. Still, the Philadelphia city council has refused to rescind the 2007 bonus law, arguing that the extra retiree payments this year will be only a small component of the system’s $5 billion in debt. Mayor Michael Nutter, by contrast, has called the payments irresponsible and tried to stop them.

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Theory, Evidence and Examples of FDA Harm

11th April 2015

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To obtain permission to market a drug, the manufacturer must satisfy the FDA that the drug is both safe and effective. Additional testing often enhances safety and effectiveness, but requiring a lot of testing has at least two negative effects. First, it delays the arrival of superior drugs. During the delay, some people who would have lived end up dying. Second, additional testing requirements raise the costs of bringing a new drug to market; hence, many drugs that would have been developed are not, and all the people who would have been helped, even saved, are not.

In addition, because FDA approval is mandatory, industry and medicine must heed FDA standards regardless of their relevance, efficiency, and appropriateness. Not all testing is equally beneficial. The FDA apparatus mandates testing that, in some cases, is not useful or not appropriately designed. The case against the FDA is not that premarket testing is unnecessary but that the costs and benefits of premarket testing would be better evaluated and the trade-offs better navigated in a voluntary, competitive system of drug development.

Three bodies of evidence indicate that the costs of FDA requirements exceed the benefits. In other words, three bodies of evidence suggest that the FDA kills and harms, on net. First, we compare pre-1962 drug approval times and rates of drug introduction with post-1962 approval times and rates of introduction. Second, we compare drug availability and safety in the United States with the same in other countries. Third, we compare the relatively unregulated market of off-label drug uses in the United States with the on-label market. In the final section, before turning to reform options, we also discuss the evidence showing that the costs of FDA advertising restrictions exceed the benefits.

Under the masquerade of making life better, government meddling almost always makes it worse.

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Malice vs Incompetence

11th April 2015

Richard Fernandez blows the whistle.

One of today’s man-bites-dog stories is that America cannot evacuate its nationals from war torn Yemen. Rather it hopes countries like India can do it for them. A State Department official said the U.S. government, which is providing logistical support for the Saudi campaign, believes it is too dangerous to risk a military operation to rescue Americans. “There are no current U.S. government-sponsored plans to evacuate private U.S. citizens from Yemen,” the official said. “We encourage all U.S. citizens to shelter in a secure location until they are able to depart safely.”

Fortunately New Delhi will ride to the rescue of Uncle Sam. “India has won many friends by evacuating nearly 1,000 nationals of 41 countries from warring Yemen. … Along with some 4,600 Indians, Singh’s mission rescued citizens of Britain, France and the United States.”  The days of “exceptionalism” are over.  Americans being left on the beach alongside wretched 3rd World nationals is part of the march toward making it a normal country occupying a status considerably below India and perhaps above Nepal.

There was a time of course when claiming American citizenship carried the same weight as the ancient civis romanus sum.  ”I am a Roman citizen.” It conjured images of  grey warships offshore and grim faced Marines poised behind the ramps of landing craft. It implied diplomats who could pound the table as the local warlords quivered.  And even if it didn’t always quiver they sometimes did, for the despots could never be sure the Navy was not actually there.

But today even diplomats have no expectation of being saved from the tender mercies of knife-clattering Jihadis. If local secret agents who risked their lives for America can be left to their grueseome fates then ordinary citizens will have to make their own arrangements. At a State Department press briefing  one journalist actually asked Marie Harf if Americans should swim out of the country.

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Who Pays Federal Income Taxes?

11th April 2015

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Time for the annual reminder that the top end of the income ladder pays most of the taxes.

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Rule by ‘Dear Colleague’ Letter: The Department of Education’s Stealth Regulation

11th April 2015

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We’ve noted repeatedly how the U.S. Department of Education, using authority it claims under Title IX and other federal laws, has arm-twisted the nation’s colleges and universities into stripping away procedural protections for faculty and students facing charges of sexual misconduct, sought to regulate speech as “verbal conduct,” and urged colleges to record microaggressive behaviors that do not rise to the level of harassment or assault but might add up in time to some future pattern. The resulting federal pressure has done much to generate a campus atmosphere in which administrators like those at the University of Virginia react even to unsubstantiated and soon-refuted assault claims with harsh crackdowns directed at whole groups of students against whom no misconduct whatsoever has been charged.

The substance of what the feds have been doing in this area has rightly stirred outrage, but another side of it also deserves scrutiny: it’s based on sheer fiat, on a series of “because we say so” edicts.

Remind me again why education is any business of the Federal governemnt…? Oh, right, teachers’ unions. Duh.

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IRS Spends 500,000 Hours Per Year on Union Activities

10th April 2015

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IRS employees waste over 500,000 hours each year on “union activities” said House Ways and Means Oversight Subcommittee Chairman Peter Roskam (R-Ill.) on Wednesday.

As Roskam points out, this squandered an estimated $23.5 million in taxpayer funds, all while the IRS pleads poverty and makes excuses for not answering the phone.

As Jerry Pournelle has often said, the function of government is to hire and pay government workers.

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