Author Archive
October 21st, 2013 at 10:28 am
Federal Employees Run Up High Tab During Vegas Jaunt

A Denver news station uncovered that six Colorado-based employees from the Office of Natural Resources Revenue spent more than $13,000 in Las Vegas “to attend a fraud investigators conference in June even though a similar conference offered by the Colorado fraud investigator’s chapter was planned for Denver.”

The federal employees claimed they stuck taxpayers with the bill for their pricey Las Vegas getaway because they needed continuing education credits offered at the event. However, NBC affiliate 9News found that the continuing education credits could have been attained at the Colorado conference for a small fraction of the cost of the Vegas vacation.

But what fun is staying in Colorado when you can force taxpayers to send you to Vegas?

The cost to taxpayers skyrocketed because many of the attendees waited until the last minute to book their flights and insisted on staying in Vegas an extra day to vacation after the conference ended – all using tax dollars.

October 17th, 2013 at 3:13 pm
A Victory for Liberty as Monks Allowed to Sell Caskets

A group of Benedictine monks secured one of the biggest victories for economic liberty in recent memory this week.

The U.S. Supreme Court rejected the petition of the Louisiana State Board of Embalmers and Funeral Directors seeking to overturn a U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals decision to strike down Louisiana’s law requiring a funeral director’s license to sell a casket, according to the Institute for Justice.

Saint Joseph Abbey, a century-old Benedictine monastery in Covington, La., hatched a plan to make and sell caskets in 2007 to support the monks’ educational and healthcare expenses. But before the monks sold a single casket, the Louisiana State Board of Embalmers and Funeral Directors informed them of a ridiculous state law allowing only licensed funeral directors to sell “funeral merchandise.”

The law actually required people who sold boxes to store dead folks to have comprehensive knowledge of embalming and running a funeral business.

The Board of Embalmers and Funeral Directors shepherded the outlandish law through the state legislature knowing it would give the funeral industry a monopoly on casket sales, killing competition and allowing them to charge outrageous prices.

With representation from a team of attorneys from the Institute for Justice, the Saint Joseph Abbey monks won a series of court battles. In March, the 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals overturned the Louisiana law requiring a funeral director’s license to sell a casket, affirming “the constitutional right to earn an honest living without unreasonable government interference.”

After the U.S. Court of Appeals struck down the law, declaring it an illegal state-enforced industry monopoly, the creeps at the Louisiana State Board of Embalmers and Funeral Directors attempted to bring the case to the Supreme Court. Fortunately, the Supreme Court refused to hear the case, allowing the earlier court ruling to stand.

Finally, after a five-year fight, the monks at Saint Joseph Abbey are finally able to make and sell their hand-crafted coffins.

October 17th, 2013 at 1:32 pm
ObamaCare Failures Offer a Laugh – and a Glimmer of Hope

Software glitches and tepid interest in the program have famously plagued Obamacare signup efforts since open enrollment began on October 1.

Now, more than two weeks in, hard numbers are leaking out that prove the failures of Obamacare registration efforts are more humiliating than anyone ever imagined.

The Obama administration announced a goal of 7 million enrollees in the new exchanges by the end of March. Embarrassingly, just 36,000 people completed Obamacare applications during the first week.

At that rate, fewer than a million Americans will sign up for the scheme by the March goal. The Obamacare enrollment website is receiving a good number of hits – nearly 9.5 million unique visitors in the first week – but a laughable .004 percent of the people who have visited actually signed up for the service, according to Jeff Dunetz at “The Lid.”

State-specific Obamacare enrollment information is beginning to trickle in, as well, providing additional comic relief.

In the first two weeks, no one at all from Alaska enrolled in the Obamacare exchange. Zero out of 731,449 people. And that’s despite having one of the highest percentages of uninsured residents in the country.

What does that mean for Obamacare? It’s too early to say. But the more times the program can fall on its face in these early stages, the more likely it is that free market, limited government-minded lawmakers can eliminate the program – or at least gut the most reprehensible portions of the law – in years to come.

October 10th, 2013 at 12:23 pm
The Los Angeles Times Opinion Page Bars Opinions About Climate Change

In a chilling decision to silence discussion about climate change, the Los Angeles Times opinion page announced that letters to the editor that “deny global warming,” imply that “climate change is a hoax,” claim global warming is “a scheme by liberals to curtail personal freedom,” or dispute that “that human activity is indeed linked to climate change” are banned from its pages.

The choice by the hysterically hyper-environmentalist loons that run the LA Times opinion pages to restrict sincere debate and differences of opinion from a forum that is intended to challenge readers’ views is equal parts depressing, disgusting and alarming.

The LA Times opinion page points out that the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change recently claimed “it was was 95 percent certain that we fossil-fuel-burning humans are driving global warming.” The problems with that statement are numerous. For one, that nagging 5 percent of doubt should be enough to keep the channels of discussion and debate open. Also, there remains a significant minority of members of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change who disagree with the assertion that humans alter the Earth’s climate. Many others debate the extent to which human action is responsible for changes in the climate.  In the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change’s majority rule structure, their voices are powerless.

Even if there were indisputable proof that human actions directly cause climate change, there would be the question of “how much?.” Solar activity appears to play a much larger role in climate change than humans ever could – and we can’t do anything about that.

That means the real debate should be: “If humans play a minute role in climate change, what reactions are actually justified?”

If human activity causes temperatures to rise or fall a tiny fraction of a degree over some long period of time, should we prevent developing countries from rising out of poverty? Should we stand in the way of economic growth that would lead to greater global stability, improved health and educational outcomes, and increased longevity? Should the poorest people in the world be left without food, medicines and clean drinking water in the name of stopping them from producing CO2?

Those are serious questions that must be raised, considered and debated in years to come. Sadly, it appears the LA Times is more than happy to keep such discussions out of its pages.

October 8th, 2013 at 1:26 pm
Startling Graph about the Debt Ceiling and the National Debt

In anticipation of the debt ceiling debate/crisis/hysteria, Veronique de Rugy, a senior research fellow at the Mercatus Center at George Mason University tweeted a graph of all the times the debt ceiling has been raised since 1980.

It’s a simple but shocking illustration that tells the story of how America went from a national debt of $930 million to a national debt of $16.7 trillion in just over three decades.

The graph indicates that we clearly have two big government presidents to thank for putting Americans and the American economy in such a dire predicament: George W. Bush and Barack Obama.

October 8th, 2013 at 1:08 pm
Meet the Sleazy Environmentalist Who Could Make Millions by Standing in the Way of Keystone XL

Why hasn’t the Keystone XL pipeline been built yet? After all, it would benefit the United States with tens of thousands of jobs, reduce our nation’s dependence on foreign oil, generate millions in state and local tax revenues and reduce energy costs for Americans.

A major reason seems to be the behind-the-scenes arm twisting and the very public advertising assault led by Tom Steyer. The shady billionaire and progressive campaign funder claims his opposition to Keystone XL is rooted in environmental concerns, which seems more than a little puzzling since the federal government completed an “exhaustive environmental review… with a finding that the pipeline would have limited adverse environmental impacts during construction and operation.”

In a piece I authored for The Daily Caller, I explain Steyer’s real motivation for trying to kill the pipeline.

It turns out that if Keystone XL fails, Steyer stands to make millions of dollars because of his investment in the TransMountain pipeline. Without Keystone in the way TransMountain would have a monopoly in transporting oil from Alberta to refineries and shipping terminals in the U.S. and Canada. Cha-Ching!

Oddly, Steyer has refused to criticize the TransMountain pipeline – even though TransMountain pipeline is functionally identical to Keystone.

Read the whole disgusting story of Steyer’s sleazy behavior here.

October 4th, 2013 at 6:00 pm
The White House Fishes for Shutdown Sob Stories

The Obama Administration seems happy to continue its despicable tactic of making the government shutdown seem more harsh than it actually is (including barricading access to the open-air WWII Memorial,ordering the service academies to suspend all intercollegiate athletic events and forcing a privately funded colonial living history farm to close its doors).

At the same time that the Administration is locking doors, barricading entrances and sending people home unnecessarily, the White House is staffing up its website and pleading with Americans to send in dramatic stories of how the government shutdown impacted them.

Apparently Obama and Co. are going to use the sob stories to vilify Republicans and tug at the heartstrings of Americans in the hopes ending the shutdown – or, more likely, score political points.

It’ll be interesting to see what stories are released. It’ll be even more interesting to find out if the stories that are released are actually real.

October 2nd, 2013 at 1:18 pm
Obama Administration Forces Living History Farm to Close – Even Though it Receives No Federal Money

In a disgusting PR stunt intended to sensationalize the government shutdown, the federal government barricaded a small living history farm and museum in McLean, Va., and ordered it closed – even though the historical reenactment site receives no federal resources to operate.

The Claude Moore Colonial Farm uses costumed interpreters and authentic recreations of period clothes, tools and buildings to transport visitors to 1770s Colonial America. At least that’s what the Farm did until Tuesday when the National Park Service ordered law enforcement personnel to remove staff and volunteers from the property and barricaded the facility due to the government shutdown.  The Farm sits on NPS land but is operated entirely with private funds.

In an email to supporters, Anna Eberly, the managing director of the Claude Moore Colonial Farm, called the government’s decision to close the facility “utter crap.”

“In previous budget dramas, the Farm has always been exempted since the NPS provides no staff or resources to operate the Farm,” Eberly wrote. “In all the [46] years I have worked with the National Park Service … I have never worked with a more arrogant, arbitrary and vindictive group representing the NPS.”

Eberly said that Farm administrators pleaded with the NPS to remain open, but “Every appeal our Board of Directors made to the NPS administration was denied.”

In her email, Eberly points out that closing the Farm actually costs the federal government money, while taxpayers would pay nothing if the facility remained open:

We have operated the Farm successfully for 32 years after the NPS cut the Farm from its budget in 1980 and are fully staffed and prepared to open today. But there are barricades at the Pavilions and entrance to the Farm. And if you were to park on the grass and visit on your own, you run the risk of being arrested. Of course, that will cost the NPS staff salaries to police the Farm against intruders while leaving it open will cost them nothing.

“You do have to wonder about the wisdom of an organization that would use staff they don’t have the money to pay to evict visitors from a park site that operates without costing them any money,” she said.

By forcing law enforcement personnel to shutter a historical reenactment site meant to educate children about our nation’s history in order to make the government shutdown seem worse than it actually is, the Obama Administration has sunk to new lows.

September 30th, 2013 at 7:19 pm
Breaking Worse: How Government’s Goofy Response to Meth Assaults Liberty

Meth may have inspired “Breaking Bad,” one of the greatest shows in the history of television, but the drug also inspired some of the dumbest laws in U.S. history. 

As part of a futile attempt to reduce meth production, state and local governments are engaged in an inept and insulting war on innocent Americans.

Pseudoephedrine, the active ingredient in cold and allergy medicines such as Sudafed, Actifed, Contac and Claritin-D, can be used as a component in methamphetamine production. Upon realizing this, governments reacted in a truly ridiculous way. Rather than punishing the people who cook and distribute the dangerous illegal drug, governments have attacked the freedoms of responsible adults by making it an extraordinary hassle to obtain simple cold medicines.

States have forced retailers to put pseudoephedrine products behind the counter and placed strict limits on how much pseudoephedrine a customer can purchase. Some state and local governments even require a doctor’s prescription to purchase these previously over-the-counter and widely available cold and allergy relief products.

In a chilling case of Big Brother gone wild, a national database has even been devised to collect names, birthdates and other personal data in order to track individuals who buy pseudoephedrine.

Such laws are an affront to the presumption of innocence, since the policies operate on the nonsensical basis that every person walking into a Walgreens to buy a box of Actifed is guilty of cooking meth.

To make matters worse, none of these laws that harm innocent Americans struggling with colds and allergies actually prevent people who want to cook meth from doing so. In some cases, meth producers pay groups of people to purchase legal amounts of pseudoephedrine for them. With a large enough band of helpers, they still easily collect more than enough pseudoephedrine to cook meth.

Other meth producers simply respond by inventing newer meth recipes that require less pseudoephedrine. In “Breaking Bad,” meth producers bypass pseudoephedrine restrictions by eliminating pseudoephedrine altogether from their recipes.

Many law enforcement personnel see the pseudoephedrine restrictions as a joke and even admit they fail to curb meth production. According to a report by the Tennessee Comptroller of the Treasury, only 40 percent of law enforcement officers believe that decreasing the sales limits for pseudoephedrine is an effective policy option.

It’s clear that no matter what ludicrous laws governments dream up in an attempt to stop meth production, meth cooks will quickly figure out ways around them. In reality, the laws are only successful in keeping pseudoephedrine products out of the hands of Americans hoping to cure a stuffy nose.

If government is to fight meth, it should do so by penalizing producers and distributors, rather by harassing law-abiding Americans.

September 27th, 2013 at 6:35 pm
Even More Stupid Ways Government Wastes Your Money

The Atlantic magazine tallied billions of dollars of corporate welfare pocketed by the NFL and its teams through stadium subsidies, taxpayer-funded workout facilities and other handouts. Gregg Easterbrook, the author of the piece, pointed out the hypocrisy of Bob McDonnell, Virginia’s supposedly fiscally conservative governor, who “took $4 million from taxpayers’ pockets and handed the money to the Washington Redskins, for the team to upgrade a workout facility” while the legislature was out of session. The move benefited the Redskins’ billionaire owner, Dan Snyder.

Other recent state and local handouts to NFL teams highlighted in the article include:

  • More than $1 billion dollars in federal, state and local tax dollars to build and later renovate the Superdome, home of the New Orleans Saints;
  • As much as $950 million courtesy of Santa Clara, Calif., taxpayers to build the San Francisco 49ers new stadium;
  • $506 million to the Minnesota Vikings to subsidize a large portion of the cost of the team’s new stadium (even though the state was facing a $1.1 billion deficit);
  • $390 million of Washington State taxpayers money to underwrite construction costs of the Seattle Seahawks stadium that opened in 2001; and
  • $4 million a year from the state of Hawaii to entice (bribe) the NFL to schedule the Pro Bowl in Honolulu.


The National Science Foundation awarded the Smithsonian Institute a $443,010 grant to study tree biodiversity in China, found.

According to the project’s grant abstract, the nearly half-million dollar grant is justified because it “advance(s) understanding of how tree biodiversity determines the functional aspects of forests and to test hypotheses concerning the resilience of forests to global change.”

The Smithsonian Institute did not respond to numerous requests by to answer questions about the taxpayer-funded grant (probably because the Smithsonian Institute knew that the project is a total waste of tax dollars).


The Netflix original series, “House of Cards,” reveals the dirty underbelly of Washington politics. It seems disturbingly fitting that the show pockets millions in handouts and tax credits at the expense of Maryland taxpayers to film the series in the Old Line State.

Southern Maryland News Net reports that Governor Martin O’Malley demanded state lawmakers increase the handouts available to film productions such as “House of Cards” during the 2013 legislative session — even after he raised taxes an astounding 40 times.

The award-winning show may be downright offensive to many of the taxpayers who subsidize its production. “House of Cards” routinely contains enough nudity and coarse language to make Hugh Hefner blush.

September 24th, 2013 at 8:38 pm
Henry Porter’s Foolish, Outrageous and Wrong Take on Guns in America

Writing last week in The Observer, English columnist Henry Porter made a complete fool of himself. And it’s not that Porter is always a hopeless nincompoop. In fact, he is generally a reasonable and compelling writer who defends civil liberties and criticizes the growing government surveillance state in the U.K., the U.S. and beyond.

But on September 21, Porter penned a rant that was so ill-informed, off-base and ridiculous, that it called his abilities as a columnist – and his sanity – into question.

Exploiting the tragic story of the Navy Yard shooting to grind an anti-gun axe, Porter called gun violence in America “an international humanitarian crisis” and “a quasi civil war.”

Porter continues:

‘That’s America,’ we say, as news of the latest massacre breaks – last week it was the slaughter of 12 people by Aaron Alexis at Washington D.C.’s Navy Yard – and move on. But what if we no longer thought of this as just a problem for America and, instead, viewed it as, if you like, that calls for outside intervention? As citizens of the world, perhaps we should demand an end to the unimaginable suffering of victims and their families – the maiming and killing of children – just as America does in every new civil conflict around the globe.

The annual toll from firearms in the U.S. is running at 32,000 deaths and climbing, even though the general crime rate is on a downward path (it is 40% lower than in 1980). If this perennial slaughter doesn’t qualify for intercession by the UN and all relevant NGOs, it is hard to know what does.

While Porter’s point about America’s pompous and condescending tone that becomes apparent each time our leaders dare to chastise other nations when we are guilty of some of the same offenses reads as completely legitimate, the rest of his argument is utter nonsense.

Yes, the death toll from guns in the U.S. is about 32,000 a year. But over 19,000 of those gun deaths are suicides. In fact, about 61 percent of firearms deaths in America are suicides — less than 35 percent are homicides.

Since suicide rates in the U.S. and the U.K. are nearly identical – 12 per 100,000 U.S. residents and 11.8 per every 100,000 U.K. residents annually– it’s inaccurate to say the relative ease of accessing firearms in the U.S. leads to more suicides.

What is accurate to say is that gun deaths are decreasing in America, and have been for some time. According to a Pew Research Center analysis of government data released in May, homicides in America have decreased from 7 per 100,000 residents in 1993 to 3.6 per 100,000 residents in 2010. So if Porter wants an alphabet soup of useless NGOs and throngs of well-meaning, but ignorant anti-gun activists to invade America to take our guns in hopes of protecting us from ourselves, he’s too late.

It seems Porter’s grand dream for America is to make our nation one big gun-free zone. Well, he needs to look no further than the Navy Yard shooting he is so busily perverting to show just how poorly that would work: the Navy Yard tragedy occurred in a gun-free zone…in a gun-free city. In fact, every mass shooting in America over the last 65 years except for one occurred in a gun-free zone. (Which makes sense, since gunmen looking to cause maximum harm know that no one in a gun-free zone is capable of fighting back.)

Certainly any act of violence is revolting and any injury or life lost at the hands of an evildoer is tragic – whether the criminal’s weapon of choice was a fist or a gun, a stone or a sword, an arrow or a nuclear warhead.

It would benefit Porter and other anti-gun extremists to recognize that the criminal, not the weapon, is the problem.

September 23rd, 2013 at 12:26 pm
North Carolina Joining the Low Tax Movement

North Carolina will soon look a lot more appealing to Americans looking to make more money, start a new business or live the good life.

The Tar Heel state recently overhauled its tax code for the better. The wise policy decisions are “expected to move the Tar Heel State from 44th to 17thplace in the Tax Foundation’s State Business Tax Climate Index,” according to an op-ed in Forbes magazine.

What does that mean for North Carolina? Well, if other low-tax states like Texas, Florida, Tennessee and Washington are any indication, North Carolina will soon be blessed with “more job creation, capital formation and higher wages.”

AccountingWEB, an accounting news website, pointed out last month that state tax rates are redrawing the population map – and redirecting money around the country.

“A recent review of IRS data from 1040 forms filed in 1995 through 2010 showed a clear pattern of people moving to states with lower personal income tax rates, especially those with no tax,” according to the website.

From 1995 to 2010, “ the nine states that have no personal income tax – Alaska, Florida, New Hampshire, Nevada, South Dakota, Tennessee, Texas, Washington, and Wyoming – gained $146.2 billion in adjusted gross income (AGI) .” Collectively, however, “the areas with the highest personal income tax – California, Hawaii, Oregon, Iowa, New Jersey, Vermont, New York, Maine, and Washington, DC – lost $107.4 billion AGI.”

“Looked at another way, the ten states with the lowest per capita state and local tax burden netted an increase of $69.9 billion in AGI. The ten states with the highest state and local tax burden per capita lost a whopping $139 billion in AGI,” AccountingWEB found.

North Carolina leaders are wise to realize that taxes matter and act accordingly. The move, as the research shows, will mean more people with more money to create more jobs for the state.

September 20th, 2013 at 12:45 pm
Ridiculous State Sales Tax Rules

Avalara, a company that claims to provide “the fastest, easiest, most accurate and affordable way to manage sales tax compliance,” has released an entertaining video highlighting some of the craziest state sales tax rules in America.

In Colorado, according to Avalara, paper cups aren’t subject to state sales taxes, but the straws and lids needed to make them portable are.

Outdoor pool cleaning services are exempt from sales taxes in Nebraska. Indoor pool cleaning services, however, are taxed in the Cornhusker State – even though the same companies generally clean both indoor and outdoor pools.

Perhaps the dumbest sales tax rule in the U.S. comes from New York where there are no sales taxes on bagels…unless the bagel is sliced in half.

Dumb tax rules such as these increase prices for business (who have to hire companies like Avalara to comply with the litany of confusing sales tax regulations) and consumers. Instead of sticking some goods and services with punitive sales tax rates and creating loopholes to exempt others from being taxed at all, states should work to ensure sales taxes are as low as possible across the board on everything.

September 18th, 2013 at 10:22 am
Detroit’s Idiotic War on Small Businesses

Detroit leaders hoping to revitalize the collapsing city are shooting themselves in the foot by engaging in a war against small business, according to a fascinating article and video on Reason magazine’s website.

“Amidst a bankruptcy and a fast-dwindling population and tax base, the city has prioritized the task of ensuring that all businesses are in compliance with its codes and permitting. To accomplish this, Mayor David Bing announced in January that he’d assembled a task force to execute Operation Compliance,” writes Zach Weissmueller.

The only way to turn around a city facing an 18.6 percent unemployment rate, a population that declined from 2 million to 700,000 and a glut of more than 76,000 abandoned houses and businesses is to stimulate job growth by fostering a welcoming climate for small businesses and entrepreneurs. Bing’s foolish and vindictive Operation Compliance ignores that reality. His scheme actually began with a stated goal of shutting down 20 businesses a week.

The piece notes that “Operation Compliance unfairly targets small, struggling businesses in poor areas of town and that the city’s maze of regulations is nearly impossible to navigate, with permit fees that are excessive and damaging to businesses running on thin profit margins.”

In just eight months, the program has been responsible for the closure of 383 small businesses – and forcing thousands of additional Detroit residents to the unemployment line.

September 17th, 2013 at 12:29 pm
Three MORE Stupid Ways the Government Wastes Your Money

1) No manned space missions to Mars will be possible for at least 25 years, according to NASA projections. Still, NASA spends about $1 million a year “researching and building the Mars menu.” According to Sen. Tom Coburn’s annual “Wastebook” publication, NASA passed out an additional $947,000 in 2012 to researchers at Cornell University and the University of Hawaii to pretend they were on Mars and eat food that could be served on the Red Planet.

2) Because the federal government couldn’t actually afford to fund President Obama’s ill-conceived $833 billion stimulus debacle, American taxpayers will continue to pay for the scheme for years to come — with interest.

Among the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act’s more outrageous expenditures was a $20,785 handout to the Miccosukee Indian Village in Florida that funded, among other things, a high school-age alligator wrestler. Two other alligator wrestlers from the Miccosukee Tribe have been severely injured performing with gators in recent years. Now, thanks to Obama, taxpayers are helping to pay for a kid to engage in the senseless stunt.

3) In February the Government Accountability Office revealed that American taxpayers spent millions to shuttle the Attorney General and the FBI Director around in two high-tech luxury jets.

The pair of Gulfstream V jets were supposedly purchased for counterterrorism purposes, but were used more than 60 percent of the time for “non-mission flights” from 2007 to 2011. Flying Attorney General Eric Holder, his predecessor in the Bush administration and FBI Director Robert Mueller around on those “non-mission flights” cost taxpayers $11.4 million.

September 16th, 2013 at 6:39 pm
Navy Yard Tragedy Marks Yet Another Failure of Gun-Free Zones

Don’t we ever learn?

Within seconds of initial reports leaking out about Tuesday’s attack that left the apparent killer and 12 others dead in the Washington Navy Yard in southeast D.C., liberals and anti-gun activists took to Twitter to demand tougher gun controls laws.

Apparently in their haste to exploit a tragedy for political capital, these gun opponents didn’t take the time to recognize that the shooting took place in a gun-free zone — in the city with the most restrictive gun laws in America.

In fact, the mass shooting sprees at Sandy Hook Elementary School, Virginia Tech, the Cinemark Theater in Aurora, Colo., and Tuesday’s appalling episode at the Navy Yard all occurred in gun-free zones.

The reality is that mass gun violence almost only occurs in gun-free zones. Economist John Lott, recently discovered that “With just one single exception, the attack on congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords in Tucson in 2011, every public shooting since at least 1950 in the U.S. in which more than three people have been killed has taken place where citizens are not allowed to carry guns.”

Why are gun-free zones so ineffective? The answer is obvious:  A gunman knows the innocent people inside gun-free zones will be sitting ducks, unable to defend themselves or mount a resistance against someone carrying a gun.

No matter how much gun opponents want to claim otherwise, implementing more silly gun control measures or increasing the number of gun-free zones will only lead to more mass shootings. The easiest way to prevent tragedies like the Navy Yard shooting is to allow more responsible adults to take guns more places.

September 13th, 2013 at 2:19 pm
New Study Shows Members of Congress are Overpaid

Even though Congressional approval ratings remain near an all-time low, Congressional compensation is at an all-time high according to a study released  last month by the Taxpayers Protection Alliance.

The report found that, in addition to a salary of $174,000, members of Congress receive over $100,000 a year in benefits and perks. In total, the 435 House Members and 100 Senators each receive compensation of $286,000 annually.

Among Congress’ more questionable perks are months of paid time off every year, taxpayer-funded health and life insurance plans and, most shockingly, publicly financed “contributions toward retirement benefits equal to around 47 percent of their annual salaries, or about $82,000.”

The Taxpayers Protection Alliance points out that, on salary alone, members of Congress “make 3.4 times more than the average full-time American worker.” That’s a particularly startling fact when you consider that, for much of America’s history, service in Congress was considered a part-time job.

Writing for, Taxpayers Protection Alliance president David Williams highlighted the reality that U.S. Congressmen are paid much more handsomely that their counterparts in other wealthy nations:

Members of the United States Congress are among the highest-paid legislators in the world. On average, legislators in other parts of the world receive salaries equal to 2.3 times the average wage. In only one other country – Japan – are legislators paid more relative to the citizens they govern. In the United Kingdom, for instance, members of Parliament receive salaries equal to 2.2 times the average full-time worker wage.

When compared to either average hardworking Americans or national lawmakers from other countries, it is clear that members of Congress are overpaid. And, since taxpayers fund their bloated salaries and the nation is mired in suffocating debt, that’s a serious problem.

The Taxpayers Protection Alliance study encourages lawmakers to reduce their salaries to a more realistic $100,000 a year. That commonsense approach to getting Congressional salaries in line with the pay of regular Americans would save taxpayers $39 million annually.

September 11th, 2013 at 2:56 pm
Government’s Response to 9/11 Attacked American Values

On this anniversary of 9/11, the most devastating and tragic day in recent American history, it’s only natural for our minds to turn towards the 2,996 innocent lives taken by terrorists. As Americans, we must also never forget the rights and liberties taken by our own government in response to 9/11.

During a 14-month period following 9/11, the federal government expanded and the rights of Americans shrank faster than at any other point in U.S. history. During that time, Washington launched the War on Terror, ratified the Patriot Act, founded the Transportation Security Administration and created the Department of Homeland Security.

These measures did little, if anything, to make Americans safer. They did, however, manage to empower government to harass air travelers; spy on citizens; force the release of records from telecommunications and financial services companies without any court orders; imprison American citizens without proper due process, and largely strip the Fourth and Tenth Amendments of any practical value.

Since 9/11, largely as a result of government’s response to terrorism, the federal budget doubled from $1.9 trillion in 2001 to $3.8 trillion today. Annual per capita federal spending spiked from $6,752 in 2001 to well over $12,000 in 2013.

In the days following 9/11, Americans promised not to let the terrorists win. And we didn’t. What we didn’t realize at the time, though, were the threats to American principles of limited, constitutional government posed by our own government.

September 10th, 2013 at 3:28 pm
Remembering Ronald Coase’s contribution to liberty

“Transaction costs” are a familiar concept to any Economics 101 students today. Simply put, transaction costs are the costs other than the price that are incurred in trading goods or services. (Time and energy are two of the most obvious transaction costs.)

Given the universal acceptance of the idea of transaction costs, it might come as a surprise that the term wasn’t coined until the 1930s by Nobel Prize-winning economist Ronald Coase.

Coase died last week at age 102, spurring a number of glowing and well-deserved tributes. Perhaps none was more useful in explaining Coase’s impact to economics than an op-ed featured in The Times of London by author and Wall Street Journal columnist Matt Ridley:

Coase spent much of his career in the US, winning the Nobel Prize for Economics in 1991. His fame rested on two papers. The first, in 1937, explained why companies exist — islands of central planning in a sea of market negotiation. His answer was “transaction costs”: you could order a car from the suppliers of its many parts, but it’s a lot simpler to get Henry Ford to assemble it for you.

Not only do companies lower the cost of goods by co-ordinating production, they depend on having a reputation for doing so. You cannot know all the suppliers with whom you might deal, let alone if they can be trusted. Firms such as Amazon spring up to save us these transaction costs.

Companies also face transaction costs: for renting buildings, employing accountants and managers and so on. Coase taught us that the ideal size of a company will be set by the interplay of lower co-ordination costs through central planning and higher transaction costs associated with holding managers accountable.

This is a penetrating insight for markets and government. Steam and electricity, by making production lines possible, lowered co-ordination costs, making bigger firms viable. But bigger companies, like bigger government bureaucracies, have higher management costs. The difference, of course, is that profits in the marketplace signal whether firms are too big or too small.

Coase was not the tireless defender of free markets and competition that contemporaries such as Milton Friedman or Friedrich Hayek were, but his research led to a tremendous amount of skepticism about government’s ability to produce, manage or regulate efficiently and effectively. For that, all devotees of freedom and individual liberty owe Coase a debt of gratitude.

September 9th, 2013 at 1:38 pm
Three stupid ways the government wastes your money

Buried within the federal government’s $3.8 trillion budget are thousands of instances of waste, fraud and abuse of your hard-earned tax dollars. Here are three of the more ludicrous examples of government waste that we stumbled upon this week:

1)  The federal government wastes up to $8 billion annually maintaining its massive stash of vacant properties. How many unused properties does the federal government own? No one knows. It seems the government doesn’t care enough about taxpayers to keep track of how many vacant federal properties Americans are paying to maintain. Big Government estimates there are as many as 77,000 properties currently owned or leased by the federal government that are sitting empty.

Even if Congress and federal bureaucrats had the sense to sell the properties (a move that would help reduce the deficit by generating billions in revenue), an outlandish and outdated 1987 law “forces properties first to be offered to other federal agencies, then state agencies and finally offered for use as homeless shelters before they can be sold.” As a result, the process of selling off an unneeded building can take a decade – and taxpayers are stuck paying for the property’s maintenance and upkeep throughout the entire lengthy process.

2)  A new version of the $100 bill is scheduled to be released on October 8. The bill, which was supposed to be in circulation in 2011, has been plagued with problems and setbacks. “The first batch ended up with a blank spot, and the second round was lifted by thieves on their way to the Federal Reserve,” according to a CBSMiami/CNN article.

Now, because the U.S. Mint failed to properly plan for how the paper used for the new bills would soak up ink, the new Benjamins will use $4 million more worth of ink than estimated. The Mint promises the problem can be fixed in future rounds of printing. For now, however, taxpayers are on the hook for the mistake.

3)  The National Institutes of Health wasted $49,198 in hopes of improving “our understanding of the relation between alcohol use and within-session gambling behavior.” In other words, researchers hope to verify the already obvious reality that getting drunk as a skunk leads to losing money at a casino.

In order to perform the study, 21 to 30-year-olds played video poker while getting increasingly plastered on taxpayer-funded alcohol. The research, not surprisingly, was conducted at Arizona State University — a notorious party school.