Americans already expressed record satisfaction on economic conditions in the U.S., over three years…
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Image of the Day: Economy Even Better Than We Realized

Americans already expressed record satisfaction on economic conditions in the U.S., over three years into President Trump's tenure.  Turns out that things are even better than we initially realized, as employment data from the end of 2019 was just significantly updated:

. [caption id="" align="alignleft" width="480"] Even Better Than First Realized[/caption]

 

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February 14, 2020 • 10:06 am

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Big Government, Big Corruption Print
By CFIF Staff
Wednesday, June 03 2009
McCain-Feingold has done nothing to dry the river of money in politics. It has only rerouted it through independent groups that have less transparency, and thus less accountability.

Here’s one more respect in which the 2008 presidential election failed to offer you a real choice: John McCain and Barack Obama both campaigned on the notion that the root cause of public corruption is political liberty. McCain’s target was the freedom to give money in support of a candidate or cause – a right that he attempted to decapitate with his eponymous campaign finance reform act. Obama’s bugbear was lobbyists, who he (superficially, at least) attempted to keep at arm’s length from his campaign, and who he has subsequently made a show of sequestering from the halls of government.

At a visceral level, the appeal of both men’s instincts is understandable. There is no shortage of campaign donors in America for whom money is a proxy for access, and no deficit of lobbyists who come to Washington to bend public power for private gain. But what both McCain and Obama misunderstand is that the moneyed interests in Washington are a symptom rather than the cause of the problem.

Their approach is wrongheaded for two reasons.

First, it doesn’t work. McCain-Feingold has done nothing to dry the river of money in politics. It has only rerouted it through independent groups that have less transparency, and thus less accountability. Similarly, many Washington power brokers avoid the taint of lobbying simply by deciding not to register as lobbyists.

Second, it can only be accomplished by abolishing essential freedoms. On this point, James Madison’s Federalist 10 is instructive: “ [The remedy is] worse than the disease. Liberty is to faction what air is to fire, an aliment without which it instantly expires. But it could not be less folly to abolish liberty, which is essential to political life, because it nourishes faction, than it would be to wish the annihilation of air, which is essential to animal life, because it imparts to fire its destructive agency.”

Lobbying and capacious campaign contributions exist for a reason: they provide a return on investment. They are the product of sophisticated calculations that an outlay for influence in Washington, Sacramento, Austin or Albany will provide more in benefits than it does in costs. As any economist in America would tell you, this is utterly rational behavior.

The root cause of government corruption is thus neither donors nor lobbyists. It is the big government policies that enable them.

In a truly free society, the government’s role is to establish and enforce the rule of law and provide for the public goods that private markets can’t generate – things like national defense, law enforcement and certain varieties of infrastructure. But the more the government usurps the role of free markets – deciding how and to whom wealth is to be allocated – the greater the incentives for the private sector to spend resources chasing wealth transfers instead of creating value in the marketplace.

This is the great irony of Obama’s anti-lobbyist posturing. The President may be totally sincere in his disdain for the profession – but his policies are filling lobbyists’ trough to the brim.

The bankruptcies of Chrysler and General Motors, had they been handled through a traditional Chapter 11 process free of government meddling, could conceivably have given those two legendary automakers one last chance at market viability. But with federal intervention driven by the tremendous labor union support that put Obama in the White House, Chrysler came away with 55 percent of the company owned by the United Auto Workers. GM was forced to move much of its Chinese manufacturing to less efficient American plants as a subsidy to American labor. The result, in both cases, will be needlessly cost-intensive cars that will flounder on the market while enriching the unions.

The problem is not that big labor gave Obama money. It’s that the government took a major role in what should have been a private process.

Similarly, the Obama Administration has divided the opposition to its proposed government takeovers of the healthcare and energy sectors by offering handouts to corporations that are willing to shut up and play along. In normal times, healthcare providers and energy companies would surely balk at unprofitable policies that decades of experience prove the American people aren’t interested in. But when Washington sweetens the pot, the calculus changes.

Healthcare providers aren’t vowing to find $2 trillion in savings because Obama has been auditing their books in his downtime. They’re doing it in the hopes that they’ll receive preferential treatment when Capitol Hill starts running healthcare. And T. Boone Pickens didn’t spend millions of dollars pushing alternative energy in national television ads as a public service. He did it because he thought they would galvanize government subsidies for otherwise unaffordable energy sources.

The problem isn’t that big corporations are trying to stay one step ahead of the government. The problem is that government put them in that position in the first place.

For all of the labyrinthine provisions of McCain-Feingold and Obama’s lobbying restrictions, the core issue isn’t that complicated. As long as Washington is handing out trillions of taxpayer dollars, the private sector will be happy (and reasonable) to spend billions chasing it. This system benefits both those doing the lobbying and those being lobbied – so neither should be expected to upend the status quo. Whether the same can be said of the voters remains to be seen.

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How many Members of the House of Representatives have been on the general election ballot for President while they were still sitting House Members?
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