TBT: Leftism in a Nutshell

In looking at the inflationary effects of so many people staying out of work on unemployment, I’d completely forgotten about this short post from 1 June 2019, “Leftism in a Nutshell.”  The post looks at the “degrowth movement,” a movement that sought “to intentionally shrink the economy to address climate change.”

Well, the degrowth movement—which I have not heard of since 2019—had the chance to try out their deranged economic experiment in 2020 during The Age of The Virus.  It turns out that fewer people working doesn’t mean “not as many brands at the grocery store”; it just means less of everything, and it’s all more expensive!

I’m not opposed to some personal minimalism.  Despite my love for miscellaneous bric-a-brac, I appreciate living beneath my means and cutting down on spending (I’m only a spendthrift at Universal Studios).  But re-reading the Vice article about the degrowth movement makes me think it’s just a flimsy intellectual excuse for laziness.

That is, after all, Leftism in a nutshell:  always the grasshopper, never the ant.

Here is 1 June 2019’s “Leftism in a Nutshell“:

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Fighting Back Against Critical Race Theory

In the waning years of the Obama Administration, a strident new form of race hustling emerged.  Combining elements of identity politics, Foucaultean power dynamics, Cultural Marxism, and Nineties-style corporate diversity training, Critical Race Theory (CRT) emerged as a powerful ideological bludgeon with which to batter anyone with the audacity to be white.

At its core, CRT proposes a simple thesis:  any person of color, in any material or spiritual condition, is automatically oppressed compared to white people, because white people benefit from inherent privilege due to their whiteness.  Alternatively, black and brown people face systemic racism—racism present in the very structure of the West’s various institutions—so even when not facing overt acts of racism, they are still suffering from racism nonetheless.  The source of white people’s “privilege” is that systemic racism benefits them at the expense of black people.

The problem is easy to spot:  any personal accountability is jettisoned in favor of group identities, so any personal setbacks for a darker-skinned individual are not the result of that individual’s agency, but rather the outcome of sinister, invisible forces at play within society’s institutions themselves.  Similarly, any success on the part of a lighter-skinned individual is due to the privilege that individual enjoys.

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Ending Neverending Benefits

According to Scott Rasmussen’s Number of the Day for Tuesday, 8 June 2021, 71% of voters favor ending supplemental insurance benefits.  Indeed, according to last Friday’s Number of the Day, twenty-five States have already ended or plan to end pandemic-related unemployment benefits.  South Carolina is among those twenty-five States, all of which have Republican governors (Vermont and Massachusetts are the the only two States with Republican governors who have not ended the benefits), thus demonstrating once again that the Republican Party, for all of its faults, is still the party of commonsense.

As I’ve written recently, excessive unemployment benefits account for the current labor shortage, which in turn has fueled inflation.  It seemed to hit the fast food industry first, as workers could make more money staying at home than returning to their reopening restaurants.  As I detailed in “Fast Food Premium,” restaurants began offering higher pay, signing bonuses, and even cash for submitting an application.  All of those costs get factored into the price of the final product, causing prices to increase.

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The Interstate

I made it back from my latest trip to Universal Studios after a long, tedious drive that took up the better part of Sunday.  I’d intended to hammer out a belated Lazy Sunday upon my return, but I was so wiped from the drive, I just watched television instead.

With all the driving on I-4, I-95, I-26, I-77, and I-20, I had ample time to think about the pros and cons of the Interstate Highway System.  I have a bit of a love-hate relationship with the Interstate.  On the love side of the equation, I appreciate the convenience of being able to drive vast distances in reasonable times.  The trip that took us around seven hours to complete yesterday (and that was with terrible traffic and inclement weather) would have taken, according to Google Maps, between nine and ten hours.  In reality, that would have been closer to eleven or twelve hours with stops, traffic, etc.

As an engine for economic growth, the Interstate is probably the best investment the federal government ever made.  It was pitched to Congress as a national security project—we needed broad, interstate boulevards for our tanks to deploy swiftly against a Soviet invasion—an approach that John C. Calhoun attempted as Secretary of War in 1817 (under the strict constructionist Democratic-Republican James Madison, Calhoun’s Bonus Bill faced a swift veto).  But the real benefit of the Interstate Highway System is its ability to move people and goods swiftly, cutting down on shipping and transportation costs, and making longer commutes feasible.

Granted, there were downsides:  the small towns and tourist traps alongside old federal highways and State roads.  Just as the old railroad towns withered up when the trains stopped running—or repurposed into some other form—many small towns died out when the Interstate diverted traffic away from them.  Of course, the converse is true:  many towns boomed when the Interstate weaved their way.

So, one could surmise I appreciate the Interstate for its convenience and beneficial qualities.  So, where is the hate?

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Egged Off

An unfortunately perennial story that always gets traction here on the Right goes something like this:  precocious youngsters, hoping to engage in some earnest enterprise, start selling lemonade or the like from a roadside stand.  The kids are doing well and making good money (for kids), until an overzealous local health board official sends in the cops to bust up the lemonade stand.  Like Treasury Department revenuers smashing up a yokel’s still, these local officials destroy children’s dreams—and sometimes slap them with a fine.

It’s a story that guarantees outrage, and highlights the clueless, stringent rule-following of bureaucracies.  Yes, yes—technically you’re not supposed to sell lemonade and hot dogs without some kind of license, and the health department is supposed make sure your establishment is clean.  But these are kids, selling stuff on the side of the road.  Why bother?  Let them have fun and make a little money.

The latest such story involves two young ladies selling eggs in their town in Texas.  The Lone Star State has been reeling since the major winter storm hit a month or so back, and food supplies have been disrupted.  Having some backyard eggs for sale surely helped out some locals.

Unbeknownst to the girls—but beknownst to some overweening Karen, no doubt—a local ordinance prohibits the selling of eggs, though it permits the raising of chickens on one’s property.  That’s asinine.  Why can’t people sell eggs in a small town in Texas?

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TBT: Cass on Our Diminished Income

The other day my students and I were talking about the Model T Ford, which in the 1920s ran around $6000 in today’s money for a new car.  It is impossible to find a brand-new vehicle of any make for $6000 today.  Granted, a Ford Focus, for example, is packed with way more technology and safety features than a Model T from 100 years ago, and that technological advancement gets factored into the price.

But consider that in the 1990s, when Kia hit the American market, they advertised a new sedan for around $6999 (in 1990s’ dollars).  What would that be twenty-five years late—maybe $9000 or $10,000?  That price point, too, is virtually impossible.

I managed to purchase my current vehicle—a 2017 Nissan Versa Note SV—for right around $9100.  It has around 45,000 miles on it when I bought it, and had been a rental vehicle before I purchased it.  I got a steal on that car—the closest comparable I’ve found since then was a list price of around $8900 (the list for my car was $8000 even).  That’s for a four-year old subcompact hatchback.

I got lucky when I found that car.  I figured it would be easy enough to find a decent car for under $10,000 when I began vehicle shopping in late 2019.  Boy, was I wrong.  Vehicles last longer than ever before, and maintain their value a very long time.  They’re also, as mentioned, packed full of technology and safety features that weren’t present even twenty years ago.  Trucks in particular hold their value extremely well; to find a truck in my price range, I’d have had to purchase a Ford F-150 from 1994 with half-a-million miles on it.

It’s great that cars last longer and are safer.  But those features—many of which drivers will never need or use—drive up the costs substantially.  Such was the point of an illuminating Twitter thread by Oren Cass, which demonstrates that, despite earning more money, Americans’ expenses for basic goods are substantially higher, requiring a whopping fifty-three weeks of pay to cover now versus a mere thirty weeks in 1985.  Naturally, given that there are only fifty-two weeks in a year, that presents a problem.

I don’t know the solution, but as I wrote a year ago, “Something’s gotta give.”

Indeed.  Here is 28 April 2020’s “Cass on Our Diminished Income“:

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Fast Food Premium

There’s been a lot of discussion of UBI—Universal Basic Income—over the last few years, especially with the presidential primary run of Andrew Yang.  The concept is seductive in its simplicity:  gut the welfare state and its behemoth apparatus of bureaucratic pencil pushers and middlemen, and just cut every adult citizen a monthly check.

For fiscal conservatives, it’s a particularly toothsome Devil’s Bargain:  streamline an inefficient and wasteful bureaucracy and simply direct deposit a grand every month into Americans’ checking accounts.  Of course, it’s a siren song:  we’d just get the payments and still suffer with an entrenched bureaucracy, claiming $1000 a month isn’t enough to meet the specialized needs of whatever community they pretend to support.

Even if the deal were struck and every redundant welfare program were eliminated, there UBI would still be a bad idea.  Besides the absurdity of merely paying people to exist, it’s inherently inflationary:  if you give everyone $1000 a month, prices are going to go up.  Just as college tuition has soared because universities realized they could jack up the price and federal loans would expand to cover the costs, UBI would cause a similar rise in prices.  Sure, it’d be great at first, but the inflationary effects would kick in quickly.

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TBT^2: End the Income Tax

Well, here we are—another Tax Day in America.  Actually, Tax Day has been extended to 17 May 2021, so all of you irresponsible loafers have time to procrastinate further.

I have no room to talk:  I waited until 11 April 2021 to file my taxes, and apparently filed my 2019 taxes on 11 April 2020.  Unlike last year, though, I actually earned back a healthy refund, due in part to reduced lessons and gig income (though I still managed to rake in a respectable figure there, just under $5000, but substantially lower than 2019’s $9000ish).  The self-employment taxes kill me, but deducting mileage really helps.

Also, thanks to my younger brother review my tax filing information, I earned back a substantial portion of taxes by including the $6000 I invested in 2020 into a traditional IRA.  Unlike last year, where I paid a substantial tax bill, I’m getting back around $1500 from the State of South Carolina and the feds, all of which is going back to the emergency fund, which is need of replenishment after The Age of The Virus.

Still, even though I have reason to celebrate this Tax Day, I dislike handing over all this personal financial information to the federal government.  As I noted last year, “I keep a very detailed budget,” which helps when it comes time to calculate those self-employment deductions, but does Uncle Sam really need to know how much I spent on Spooktacular t-shirts?  I suppose if I want a few bucks of my money back, he does.

So I repeat my call of the last two years:  end the income tax!

With that, here is April 2020’s “TBT: End the Income Tax” (italicized) and April 2019’s “End the Income Tax“:

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When Does it End?

At my second Town of Lamar Council Meeting, my colleagues outvoted me 4-1 to renew Lamar’s mask ordinance for another sixty days.  They also shot down my proposal that we reopen council meetings to the public, who can currently only attend online via Facebook Live and Zoom.

That’s precisely what I expected to happen, and I appreciate their reasons:  concerns about safety, etc.  The big, lingering question—one I can’t get out of my mind—is “when does it end?”  At what point are we safe “enough” to remove our masks?

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