November 26, 2011
Why Do Liberals Keep Sanitizing the Obama Story?
Tellingly, as Chait writes for affluent urban liberals who railed against the Bush Administration’s excesses in the War on Terrorism, he neither desires nor feels compelled to grapple with President Obama’s approach to foreign policy, national security, or homeland security.
Well no. Of course liberals keep sanitizing the Obama story, because the truth is too depressing to deal with. It’s tough to accept that no one, not even the annointed one, will stop the imperialistic war mongering, the assassinations of American citizens, the warrantless wiretapping, the state secrets, the corporatism.
Conor Friedersdorf says, “Telling the story of Obama’s first term without including any of it is a shocking failure of liberalism.”
It’s a feature, not a bug, of liberalism to gloss over government failures. If you admit that when “good liberals” are in charge they trample on rights just like the other guys, well then you have to take a step back. You have to consider the possibility that far-ranging coercive powers, no matter who has them, lead to rights violations. That war-making powers lead to war, that economic interventionism leads to crony capitalism and bailouts, that executive privilege leads to some shady motherfucking shit.
November 16, 2011
Senators introduce “STOCK Act” to stop “insider trading” in Congress
“Members of Congress should live under the same laws as everyone else,” Brown (Sen. Scott Brown, R-Mass.) said in a statement today. “If they trade on inside knowledge to line their own pockets, they should be punished. Serving the public is a privilege and honor, not an opportunity for personal gain.”
The bill is a response to Visa’s inviting Nancy Pelosi’s husband to buy stock before the public could. The bill Pelosi ended up pushing did not include a ban on swipe fees, a ban which Visa opposed.
First of all, if you really think “serving the public” isn’t an opportunity for personal gain, you are too stupid to warrant conversation. People make decisions based on incentives.
Secondly, members of Congress do not, by definition, live under the same laws as everyone else in one big, very important way. While those of us in the private sector have to benefit someone else in order to benefit, as all of our interactions and transactions have to be voluntary, and thus are generally mutually beneficial, that is not true of those in government. Instead, members of Congress have the power of coercion at their disposal, the power of law, the power of “do what I say or violence.” Where consent is not required, mutual benefit is not assured.
So, supporting Congress’s power to regulate business requires believing that we need protection from companies that, outside of government interference, have no coercive power over us. And believing that we’ll get that protection from Congresspeople who have near-absolute coercive power over us.
And the only problem with this setup is… insider trading.
November 14, 2011
Pelosi fires back at ’60 Minutes’ report on ‘soft corruption’
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s husband bought shares in VISA shortly before Nancy Pelosi voted on the Credit Cardholders’ Bill of Rights.
That legislation limited credit card companies’ ability to manage their own risk in lending. Meaning that instead of assessing each debtor’s risk profile and setting limits and interest rates accordingly, they had to set standard rates for everyone. These kinds of “truth in lending” regs have of course led to all sorts of expensive, hassling unintended consequences for cardholders.
It’s generally understood that a reasonable person doesn’t don’t buy stock in a company whose profits he or she expects to decrease as a result of punative legislation. So here we have two possibilities.
A. Nancy Pelosi’s husband was so far in the dark about his wife’s job and the state of possible regulations on VISA in general that he didn’t know what was going to happen with VISA yet bought stock anyway despite his ignorance.
B. He knew the Credit Cardholders’ Bill of Rights would we profitable for VISA so he bought stock in order to benefit personally from the windfall.
Now, the uproar seems to be over the fact that Congresspeople and their families are using inside information on upcoming legislation to make stock decisions. Okay, that’s unfair, true. But there are maybe thousands of people competing with Congresspeople and their families to make better stock choices.
On the other hand, millions of people have been negatively affected by the legislation itself. First there are the millions of credit-worthy people whose access to credit was limited by the legislation. But then consider that limiting entrepreneurs’ access to credit has lasting, negative effects on the economy as a whole that are impossible to calculate.
So the solution isn’t to somehow find a way to keep regulators and their families from using their understanding of how their regulations will affect certain companies to make money in the stock market. That’s both impossible and insufficient. The solution is to prohibit regulators from passing legislation that will benefit some companies, hurt others, and raise the cost of doing business for everyone else.
November 11, 2011
Amazon Just Became A Little More Like Wal-Mart, And A Little More Evil
Amazon now supports an internet sales tax. Just your garden-variety corporatism. Nothing to use the word evil about.
Let’s see what we have here. Totally bogus, opposite-of-what-it-is name for the legislation? Check. It’s called the Marketplace Fairness Act. Hilarious.
Bipartisan support? Check.
So basically, Amazon, because it’s huge, can afford a higher tax, and is calculating that it will be worse for other retailers.
Um, yes. That’s what businesses do. They lobby the government for marketplace advantages. Why would you be mad at Amazon for that? Amazon exists for the purpose of profit.
All I’m saying is that were I writing the news article, the headline would be “Senate moves to help Amazon at the expense of other retailers with a new tax on consumers.” Subhead: “Raising prices and increasing taxes all at the same time.” And I would begin the article with an investigation into what the Senators are getting for helping Amazon. But that’s just me.