Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Business climate has many companies
singing “California, here I go”

California has been losing businesses at a ridiculous rate; 70 of them this year, as of mid-April, or nearly 5 each week. That number is up almost one company per week from last year. The Golden State has lost 1.2 million jobs in the last three years, and in April had an unemployment rate of 11.9 percent, second highest in the nation.

According to Chief Executive magazine, California sits atop the Worst States for Business list, for the second straight year. To rank the states the publication consulted more than 500 CEOs on “a wide range of criteria, from taxation and regulation to workforce quality and living environment.”

So why are businesses and jobs leaving the Golden State, and where are they going?

The painful reality is that businesses will pick up and move from a state that makes life difficult to a friendlier atmosphere, something California authorities, and those in some other states, apparently do not understand. But their counterparts in Texas do understand, and their state is one that attracts businesses that are unhappy elsewhere. Texas is rated as the best state in the nation for business, and when California lost 70 businesses, Texas gained 14 of them. While California lost more than a million jobs, Texas added 165,000 (61,000 of those came from California in 2009). While California has a 12 percent unemployment rate, Texas sports an 8 percent rate. Other states that benefited from the Golden State’s poor business environment are Kentucky, Florida, South Dakota, Utah and Georgia.

According to Chief Executive magazine, the ten worst states for business are: California, New York, Illinois, New Jersey, Michigan, Massachusetts, Connecticut, Hawaii, West Virginia, and Ohio. And the magazine’s ten best states are: Texas, North Carolina, Florida, Tennessee, Georgia, Indiana, Virginia, South Carolina, Utah, and Nevada.

Columnist John Fund of The Wall Street Journal wrote about California’s plight last month, discussing a trip to Texas by a group consisting mostly of Republican California lawmakers and Democrat Lt. Gov. Gavin Newsom to learn why firms abandoned California for the Lone Star State.

Mr. Fund recounted the negative experience of Andy Puzder, the CEO of Hardee's Restaurants. “He said it takes six months to two years to secure permits to build a new Carl's Jr. restaurant in the Golden State, versus the six weeks it takes in Texas,” Mr. Fund wrote. “California is also one of only three states that demands overtime pay after an eight-hour day, rather than after a 40-hour week. Such rules wreak havoc on flexible work schedules based on actual need. … ‘You can't build in California, you can't manage in California and you have to pay a big tax,’ Mr. Puzder told the legislators. ‘In Texas, it's the opposite—which is why we're building 300 new stores there this year.’"

More evidence demonstrating California’s anti-business atmosphere came from Mark Tolley, managing partner of real estate developer B. Knightly Homes. Mr. Tolley’s company left Long Beach back in 2005 for Austin. "The red tape is ridiculous," he said. "Regulators see developers as wearing a black hat and the environmental laws have run amok."

“I’m a pro-jobs Democrat,” Lt. Gov. Newsom told Mr. Fund. “My party needs to get back into the business of jobs.” We can give state Democrats credit for finally waking up to reality and taking steps to repair California’s business environment, but it really isn’t a secret what attracts businesses. The problem is that the things it takes to attract businesses run counter to the ideology and political methodology of many politicians, who show favoritism for workers over the people who employ them. In fact, several Democrat legislators who had planned to go on the trip yielded to pressure from public-employee unions, and didn’t go along to find out how to create jobs and attract businesses.

Despite the fact that businesses make and sell things people want and need, pay people wages to make and sell those things, pay taxes and fees that keep governments running, and generally do good things in their communities, politicians and governments often treat them as an enemy, making them the subjects of scorn and derision, and the targets of heavy regulation, punishing taxation, and adverse legal systems. Business is the engine that powers our economy and we need lots of them making enough of a profit to keep their doors open and keep people working.

Most of us believe that it is better to work and earn a living than to depend upon others to support us. However, today 15 of every 100 people wanting to work cannot find a job that meets their needs, or any job at all. Government policies like those of the Worst States for Business, and those so loved by Congress and administrative departments and agencies in Washington, DC, are designed not to foster business and job creation, but to serve special interests. Since January 2008, the US lost 8.7 million jobs, and so far only 1.8 million have been regained.

If the world we want is a world with 15 percent unemployment and underemployment, we should just keep on making it difficult for businesses to start up and operate.

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Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Dismantling the Constitution:
the 4th Amendment is under attack

As the delegates to the Constitutional Convention wrangled over the precise form of the document for governing their new nation some delegates refused to sign a draft because it did not include a bill of rights, a feature typical of the constitutions of the several states. Those delegates wanted there to be no question that certain rights were to be honored by the federal government, and this issue was so important to the Anti-Federalists that they used the absence of a bill of rights as reason enough to not ratify the Constitution. Eventually, it was agreed to include a Bill of Rights comprised of 10 amendments in the Constitution of the United States of America.

Of the 10 rights considered important enough to be specifically guaranteed, the 4th Amendment states: “The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated, and no Warrants shall issue, but upon probable cause, supported by Oath or affirmation, and particularly describing the place to be searched, and the persons or things to be seized.”

Go back and read that statement carefully.

The 4th Amendment is about as plain a statement of the sanctity of one’s home, person and personal property as can be made, and it states as clearly as it can be stated that strict procedures must be followed in order to suspend the right of citizens to be free of government intrusion, even when there is legitimate suspicion that a crime may have been committed.

So, how do we explain educated people, trained in the law, and presumably fluent in the King’s English, failing to understand this simple, straightforward, and unambiguous statement – a forthright guarantee of the personal right to privacy – except when strict standards are met to justify suspending that right?

One body that should be held to account is the Indiana Supreme Court, whose majority in one case stated that “[we] hold that there is no right to reasonably resist unlawful entry by police officers.”

Another body to be held to account is the Supreme Court of the United States, whose failure to obey the clear language of our Constitution was reported by the Los Angeles Times: “The Supreme Court … gave police more leeway to break into residences in search of illegal drugs. The justices in an 8-1 decision said officers who loudly knock on a door and then hear sounds suggesting evidence is being destroyed may break down the door and enter without a search warrant.” The ruling came in an appeal of a Kentucky case in which the state Supreme Court overturned a lower court’s conviction of a man whose apartment police broke into in the manner described.

Justice Samuel Alito wrote that people who "attempt to destroy evidence have only themselves to blame," when police break down their door. But the lone dissenter, Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, wrote that “police officers may not knock, listen and then break the door down.” That violates the 4th Amendment, she correctly noted.

The judicially conservative Justice Alito and the judicially liberal Justice Ginsburg have switched places on this issue.

Justice Alito’s comment begs the question, “just what does evidence being destroyed sound like through a closed door?” After knocking on the door the police hear a toilet flush. “Uh-oh,” one of them says, “someone is destroying evidence,” and they break the door down. Leaving aside the issue of how likely it is that someone at the front door could hear a toilet flush inside a residence, what if someone inside was merely using the bathroom?

Under this ultra-liberal standard police conceivably could go to any residence for any reason, or for no reason in particular, knock on the door, then break it down because they “thought” evidence was being destroyed. That is precisely what the 4th Amendment is intended to prevent.

Remember, just because the police knock on your door, you are not obligated to open it, or let them in. It’s your residence; you decide who to let in, as Justice Alito himself stated before he forgot that we have a 4th Amendment: "When law enforcement officers who are not armed with a warrant knock on a door, they [may] do no more than any private citizen may do." Thus, if a private citizen breaks down the door, the resident would be justified in using necessary force in defending himself from an intruder who has no authority to enter the premises.

If there is probable cause to believe there are illegal drugs in a residence, police must take the time and follow procedures to get a warrant. Catching every drug dealer at every single opportunity is not more important than the right of the people to be free from government tyranny and over-zealous police.

Justice Ginsburg, apparently the only justice in command of good sense, said the court's approach "arms the police with a way routinely to dishonor the 4th Amendment's warrant requirement in drug cases.”

The 4th Amendment is what separates the United States from tyrannical police states. Someone should remind our judges of that crucial fact.

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Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Here are three important questions
Americans should think about

1. Why have so many Americans traded liberty for government control?

The federal tax code is 17,000 pages and involves more than 700 different forms. According to the IRS, Americans spend something like 5.1 billion hours each year preparing their taxes, and tax preparation drains an estimated $194 billion annually from the U.S. economy, according to the Tax Foundation.

The Code of Federal Regulations, the codification of the general and permanent rules created by Congress and the executive departments and agencies of the federal government, comprises a mind-blowing 163,000 pages, weighs more than 1,600 pounds, and stands 54 feet high.

Should government decide the kind of light bulbs we can use, or the kind of toilets we can own, or the kind of sheets hotels put on their beds, or be able to tell us we have to buy a particular item? Now that the feds have taken over General Motors, is it okay that they require us to buy a Chevy instead of a Ford or a Dodge or a VW or a Subaru? (Chevy dealers may not participate in this poll.)

The answers to those questions are: “No, no, no, no, and absolutely not.”

2. Why have so many Americans traded self-sufficiency for dependency?

In 2009 there were 37.2 million food stamp recipients, 4.1 million on welfare and 9.1 million receiving unemployment support. In 2010 Medicaid had 58 million participants. Allowing for duplications of aid for some Americans, it is likely that more than one-fourth of the people living in the U.S. receive one or more forms of financial assistance from the federal government, not including Medicare.

And, 51 percent of the households in the country paid no income taxes to support their federal government in 2010. The Atlantic magazine reports in its online edition that “about fifteen million American households, or 10 percent of all taxpayers, receive more cash from the IRS than they contribute in federal income taxes and payroll taxes. That's thanks to ‘refundable credits,’ tax credits that can bring your tax bill into negative territory.”

Since President Lyndon B. Johnson launched the War on Poverty in 1964, welfare spending increased 13 times by FY 2008, rising from $50 billion to over $700 billion in inflation-adjusted dollars.

Despite having spent trillions of dollars on the War on Poverty, record numbers of Americans get federal assistance today. Obviously, some of these folks genuinely need help, but some of them are taking advantage of the situation, and are taking advantage of their tax-paying fellow Americans. We’ve made it attractive for people to become dependent.

3. Why have so many Americans forsaken our traditional values, like marriage and family?

In 2007 nearly 40 percent of babies born in the United States were born to unwed females, according to the National Center for Health Statistics. The 1.7 million out-of-wedlock births represent an increase of more than 25 percent over five years. The Guttmacher Institute estimates that nearly half of pregnancies among American women are unintended, and 40 percent of them end with abortion.

Heritage Foundation senior researcher Robert Rector wrote last year, “The principal cause of child poverty in the U.S. is the absence of married fathers in the home,” yet marriage continues to decline.

Columnist Cal Thomas wrote recently about Robert Woodson, president of the Center for Neighborhood Enterprise, an organization helping people rise out of poverty. He suggests that Mr. Woodson “would probably wince if you called him a ‘community organizer.’ That's because for the last 30 years … he has not spent time organizing the poor around ineffective government programs and other addictions, he has been helping them become self-sufficient.”

Mr. Woodson subscribes to the idea that life is 10 percent what happens to us and 90 percent how we respond to it, and says unlike other approaches, "takes time-tested principles and virtues and applies them to addictions, homelessness and other conditions. We have moral consistency," he believes. He also believes that "you can't learn anything by studying failure. If you want to learn anything, you must study the successful."

Cal Thomas recounts a day “visiting housing projects Woodson's organization supports and studying his success. I met former drug addicts, dealers, prostitutes and pimps – all of whom testify to having been through failed government programs – who now say they are clean, sober and off the streets.” The keys, Mr. Thomas concludes, are discipline, and raised expectations within a family atmosphere infused with tough love, imposed morality, and yes, hope.

Robert Woodson shows that what many, perhaps most, of the poor need in order to improve their lot in life is some good, old fashioned, traditional American values, personal liberty, and self-reliance. What they don’t need, and what has failed to help them, is more expensive government programs funded by high taxation and operated by a huge inefficient bureaucracy.

Tens of thousands of pages of government regulations, people depending upon government instead of themselves, and an eroding moral base reflect a society that has forsaken the standards that built it into the bright light of the world. Our infidelity to the founding principles is reducing the United States to another failing socialistic welfare state.

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Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Barack Obama’s ideology produces pain
for the American people

As President, Barack Obama has shown the occasional capacity to recognize good policies when he sees them.

As a candidate for president, Mr. Obama continuously condemned George W. Bush for the Guantanamo Bay enemy combatant facility, for enhanced interrogation techniques, rendition, black site interrogation facilities, virtually everything else the nation was doing in the “War on Terror,” and also for the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. That technique played well with voters and helped him win the election.

But as president he learned that things look different from inside the Oval Office than from outside on the campaign trail, and he used and benefitted from those same anti-terrorism policies he so bitterly criticized in finding and disposing of Osama bin Laden.

If he can recognize and utilize successful policies in the areas of war and terrorism, he ought to be able to also do so in other important areas, such as economic policy and energy policy, particularly when the two are so critically important and so inextricably linked. And surely he understands that an unemployment rate above 7.0 percent, two full points below where it stands today, will sink his re-election in 2012.

Yes, the election is 19 months away, an eternity in politics, and a lot can happen. But none of the president’s leftist/socialist efforts to turn the economy around has accomplished much, and he shows no signs of getting government out of the way so that the economy can fix itself, as it has always done when government stays out of the way.

The White House keeps publicizing the number of jobs created each month, but notice that the unemployment rate has been above 8.0 percent since Mr. Obama took office, as high as 10.1, and it rose again to 9.0 in April. The more important number is the U-6, which includes those who are unemployed, underemployed, and who have given up looking for work. That number is 16.6 percent.

Creating jobs is obviously important, but maintaining existing jobs is just as important, and the Obama policies have failed spectacularly in that regard. We’re told of the thousands of new jobs created each month, but the unemployment rate is still 80 percent above normal levels. Unemployment rates were below 6.0 percent every year but one from 1995 through 2008.

Tim Cavanaugh notes on that “less than a year after the trough of the 1958 recession, the economy had reversed an unemployment spike of more than four percentage points,” and “in 1981-1982, job growth more than erased a 3.1 percentage point increase in unemployment within 11 months, leaving the rate lower than it was before the recession.” The Obama solutions are not working.

Furthermore, the Obama administration’s moratorium on offshore drilling is not only keeping thousands of American oil industry workers on the unemployment rolls; it also deprives governments of needed revenue, and that problem will grow unless new drilling leases in the Gulf of Mexico are sold this year and drilling resumes.

After the Deepwater Horizon explosion in the Gulf last spring, the Obama administration issued a moratorium on all drilling, suspending 33 separate projects in various stages of development, halting new lease sales and suspending permitting on existing leases, producing a decline of an estimated 240,000 barrels a day in oil production in the Gulf this year, according to the U.S. Energy Information Administration. The Heritage Foundation’s Rob Bluey estimates that this loss of royalties, lease bids, and taxes “represents billions of dollars in potential revenue that could help close the federal deficit.”

Mr. Obama lifted the moratorium last October, but since then virtually nothing has changed; oil companies are faced with a deliberate slowing of the permitting process. This year could be the first since 1965 that the federal government did not sell leases in the Gulf.

Policy over-reactions like the drilling ban impede the recovery and keep unemployment high. This one also reduces the world-wide supply of oil.

Less American oil in the system lowers the world supply and pushes oil prices higher; the higher the price of oil, the higher the price of gasoline; the more expensive gasoline becomes, the more pain the American people feel and the less objectionable those inefficient and expensive electric cars and hybrids that Mr. Obama loves so become.

“Never let a crisis go to waste,” the theory goes, and the administration is still trying to shove immature, undeveloped, inefficient and expensive green energy down our throats. Now the administration is promoting a transportation authorization bill that would require the study and implementation of a plan to tax automobile drivers on how many miles they drive. More pain from the Obama administration in its attempt to force green energy on the American people.

We would not put an adolescent into any position of responsibility, but that is precisely what Mr. Obama is attempting to do with regard to his green energy vision.

If the president can understand how sensible and effective the anti-terror policies of George W. Bush are, he ought to be able to understand that “green” technologies will be naturally and enthusiastically accepted when they are practical and make economic sense.

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Tuesday, May 03, 2011

The left is at it again,
demonizing business for fun and profit

With the current brouhaha over the national debt and projected trillion dollar budget deficits, one side wants to cut spending to solve the problem, the other wants to raise taxes on the wealthy and on businesses. The tax raisers talk about cutting spending, and make a token effort to cut a little bit, but mostly they’re just talking. They don’t do spending cuts; they only want to raise taxes.

Like many liberal solutions this one sounds good in the abstract. After all, when you want money, where better to get it than from those that have it? The notorious bank robber Willie Sutton apparently understood this. When asked why he robbed banks he is rumored to have answered, “Because that’s where the money is!” But he found there was a downside to going where the money was, spending about half of his adult life in prison.

And like many liberal solutions to problems there is also a downside to going after wealthy Americans and businesses to satisfy the government’s obsessive spending, and we hear a lot less about the downsides to these solutions than we hear about the wonders they supposedly will produce.

All jobs in the US are the result of activity in the private sector. Even government workers owe their jobs to American businesses, because without them there would be no one to tax to get the money to pay government employees.

Every dollar taken from the private sector by government through taxation is a dollar that can’t be used to buy stuff. The more money people have the more goods and services they will buy. The more goods and services people want to buy, the more of them that have to be produced, and that is where jobs come from. Over-taxing the wealthy and businesses is in effect biting the hand that feeds you.

The left is fond of finding someone or something it can portray as evil and greedy, and get people all riled up about it. One of the most popular of those is the oil industry.

Conventional wisdom holds that the oil industry is one of the most profitable industries in the country, raking in billions of dollars each year, and it’s the greedy oil companies that control gasoline prices that are punishing Americans today. And since our leaders have spent us into a deep hole and want to spend even more, oil companies are a juicy target for additional tax revenue, and no one will complain if taxes are raised on oil companies.

But the oil industry is in the bottom half of industries on the profit list, as reported by the American Petroleum Institute (API) with nine industry groups that make higher profit margins than “Big Oil,” while seven have lower profit margins. The upper group includes chemicals, pharmaceuticals and medicines, computer and peripheral equipment, apparel and leather products, machinery, electrical equipment and related items, aerospace products and parts, and a category called “all manufacturing.”

The highest earning industry group, beverage and tobacco products, makes more than three times the profit margin (21.7 percent) of oil companies (5.7 percent). For every dollar of an oil company’s sales, after all expenses are paid the oil company has 5.7 cents left as profit. By no reasonable measure can that be called excessive profit.

The oil industry makes tens of billions in profits because it spends hundreds of billions doing business. The oil industry spent well in excess of $250 billion just on capital projects in the U.S. in 2010, and more than $58 billion on new low-and-zero emissions technologies for carbon mitigation, which is 44 percent of all expenditures for that purpose.

And on the subject of taxes, API reports that U.S. oil and natural gas companies pay considerably more in taxes than the average manufacturing company. In 2010 income tax expenses (as a share of net income before income taxes) averaged 41.1 percent, compared to 26.5 percent for other S&P Industrial companies.”

Market forces and government policies are responsible for raising gasoline prices, and higher gasoline prices only increase industry profits.

People believe taxing oil profits punishes greedy oil companies. They’re wrong. API explains: “If you’re wondering who owns ‘Big Oil,’ chances are good the answer is ‘you do.’ If you have a mutual fund account, and 55 million U.S. households do, there’s a good chance it invests in oil and natural gas stocks. If you have an IRA or personal retirement account, and 45 million U.S. households do, there’s a good chance it invests in energy stocks.” And, API says, only 1.5 percent of oil industry stock is owned by corporate management. “The rest is owned by tens of millions of Americans, many of them middle class, such as teachers, police and firefighters.”

While President Barack Obama and other liberal big spenders like to get folks all fired up about greedy “Big Oil” as a source for tax revenue, what he’s not telling you is that raising taxes on oil companies is raising taxes on you.

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Sunday, May 01, 2011

Westboro church creeps meet their match

No decent person defends the disgraceful behavior of members of the Westboro Baptist Church, and may of us are angered by their pultroonishness.

The following story recounts their defeat.

Brandon, Mississippi will go down in history as the town where the Westboro Baptist Church met its match.

The lunatics showed up to protest at the funeral of local hero Staff Sgt Jason Rogers who was killed in Afghanistan, but left town without making a peep. They may have made a few moans and groans, but no peeps.

Westboro Baptist is really more of an asylum than a church

The Hayride has the righteous report:

A couple of days before, one of them (Westboro protestors) ran his mouth at a Brandon gas station and got his arse waxed. Police were called and the beaten man could not give much of a description of who beat him. When they canvassed the station and spoke to the large crowd that had gathered around, no one seemed to remember anything about what had happened.

Rankin County handled this thing perfectly. There were many things that were put into place that most will never know about and at great expense to the county.

Most of the morons never made it out of their hotel parking lot. It seems that certain Rankin county pickup trucks were parked directly behind any car that had Kansas plates in the hotel parking lot and the drivers mysteriously disappeared until after the funeral was over. Police were called but their wrecker service was running behind and it was going to be a few hours before they could tow the trucks so the Kansas plated cars could get out.

A few made it to the funeral but were ushered away to be questioned about a crime they might have possibly been involved in. Turns out, after a few hours of questioning, that they were not involved and they were allowed to go on about their business.

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