Stuff I’ve been up to (Ukraine, citizenship, CVS)

I know… After pledging to update the blog a bit more I go silent for a month or so.  

Anyway, I’ve been trying to write a bit more for the Daily Caller.  I had a blast writing this piece for them on why Ukrainian membership for NATO is probably the dumbest thing we could do right now.  I’ve had some good feedback on it so far, so please do share. 

I also wrote about my U.S. naturalization ceremony which, alas, was really an ode to the Department of Homeland Security.  My experience was a real shambles.

Finally, my post on why the right should be condemning, and not condoning, CVS received a great deal of interest.  I even had random people emailing me about how much they enjoyed it.  Which was nice.

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Obama and Republican Intransigence

Yes, it’s all the fault of the Republicans.  If only Congress would simply comply with the executive all would be well.  This is an argument many of us encounter, as if the legislature shouldn’t have a rule in, er, legislating.  It also suggests that observing checks and balances have become a courtesy, something many critics of executive power might even say is already happening.

Having said that, those that repeatedly blame Republicans in Congress regularly ignore this point below by A. Barton Hinkle at Reason.  In his quest for more powers, Obama often ignores areas that already fall under his purview.  His pathetic excuse over marijuana is another case in point.

Some of the president’s defenders have tried to portray him as the victim of an intransigent Republican Congress. Republicans have indeed been unhelpful. Yet the president can do a great deal without Congress. The NSA is an executive agency, after all. It answers to him — or ought to. By the same token, it is not Republicans’ fault that Obama has created the most secretive administration in memory and prosecuted more whistleblowers than all other presidents combined. It is not Republicans’ fault that he has violated his own expressed standards for military intervention abroad. It is not their fault he became what a writer for Salon has called “a civil libertarian’s nightmare: a supposedly liberal president who instead has expanded and fortified many of the Bush administration’s worst policies.”

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A couple of updates…

Although I’ve been a bit quiet on this blog, I’ve been fairly active over at Trending Central.

A few weeks back I wrote this piece about America’s ‘Tractor Statistic‘ economy, a reference to the country’s manipulated unemployment statistics.  

With Labour’s Ed Miliband citing Teddy Roosevelt as an inspiration, I decided to write this.  I’m not much of a fan of TR it’s safe to say. 

Finally, I wrote this article about TW Shannon, Oklahoma’s Speaker of the House and how he would be a really strong candidate to succeed Tom Coburn in the Senate.  A few days later Shannon announced his candidacy, which makes it all the more timely.

Stay posted — will try and write a bit more.

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The real Help to Buy story

So about this whole ‘was it/wasn’t it a Help to Buy PR stunt’ story in the UK is a little silly, mainly because this woman has legitimately taken advantage of the government’s program to help people onto the housing ladder.  She’s qualified for it and therefore no matter how stupid the policy is she’s entitled (I hate using that word) to using taxpayer support to purchase a property.  Trending Central did a pretty robust fact check on this.  What’s more the attacks on the woman are pretty shocking.

However, reporters have really missed the main story here which is about how Help to Buy is simply corporate welfare, using the fruits of taxpayers to boost banks, the construction industry, and property agents.  It was a PR stunt, but not in the way some people in the left-wing media have portrayed it.  It also says a lot about David Cameron’s team that they would send the prime minister out to meet someone who works as a property agent to, well, talk up a government initiative that helps property agents.

That’s naked corporate welfare.  That’s the real story here.  Not about the agent herself, but about how the industry at large is using taxpayers’ funds to line their pockets, inflate prices, and shift economic consumption away from productive assets towards bricks and mortar.  The prime minister, apparently, lacking faith in the free market is all too happy to participate as a spokesperson/prop for this government-backed, get rich scheme.

I’ve pointed out that Conservatives would be having a field day if they found out that a union member was waxing lyrical about a Labour-backed scheme to increase union membership.  Better still, if a car dealer decided to speak up about the benefits of Gordon Brown’s ‘Cash for Clunkers’ scheme.  But it sounds like their partisan biases are getting in the way here, which is a shame.

This underlines a pro-business bias that I’ve repeatedly confronted amongst Tories.  Why should we trust business, especially if they’re in bed with government?  Trusting markets would be a good start.

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Get rid of the mortgage interest deduction

Before Christmas I had a read of this latest report by the Reason Foundation on the mortgage deduction.

Few public policy issues grind my gears as this one.  In this season of goodwill, I’m incredibly thankful to all my friends and colleagues who rent a property and therefore subsidize my lifestyle choice of owning a home.  It’s also worth noting that people who can’t afford a home and pay taxes, are sending a gift to wealthier individuals for bricks and mortar.  It’s regressive, and patently absurd.

Obviously we have to contend with politics, but getting rid of the mortgage interest deduction (or at least reducing) would be huge as part of tax reform or cutting the deficit.

For policymakers more concerned about the increasing burden of debt that will likely require higher taxes on future generations than the potential negative effects of raising income taxes now, the extra revenue could help to reduce the deficit. According to a report by the JCT, ending the MID without any other income tax adjustment could eliminate as much as $68 billion from the FY2012 federal budget deficit. This would mean a roughly 6 percent reduction in the deficit from a full MID repeal.

And, as mentioned in the introduction, mortgage interest is the largest personal income tax deduction. In 2010, it totaled $394 billion; the next largest deduction was the one for state and local income taxes ($246 billion). The question for policymakers is whether this deficit cutting cash is worth a not-so-tacit increase in income taxes by about 5.5 percent.

Get rid of it.  Owning a home isn’t a right, but a lifestyle choice.  Subsidizing home ownership distorts the market and allocates wealth from the most needy to the comfortable.  But I imagine the banks, realtors, and construction industry might think otherwise.

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Coburn in the WSJ

In most political issues (bar some social stuff) I tend to find myself following a ‘Coburn Rule’ — if Senator Tom Coburn (R-OK) backs/opposes something, it’s usually a good idea.

This is certainly the case with the senator’s op-ed in the WSJ.  

In a republic, deception is destructive. Without truth there can be no trust. Without trust there can be no consent. And without consent we invite paralysis, if not chaos.

I believe Coburn is calling it quits in 2016 after serving two-terms in the U.S. Senate.  Republicans will miss his principled leadership greatly.

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Krauthammer in the Post

Fantastic stuff from Charles Krauthammer in the Washington Post today.  I particularly liked this:

Most people become aware of the hopeless inefficiency of sclerotic government by, oh, age 17 at the department of motor vehicles. 

 

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