Update on 21st-Century Socialism
Venezuela has been in the news a lot lately, and it would appear that its descent into self-parody is now complete. Its state-sponsored tourism agency recently pulled an ad that used the tag line “We love Venezuela…for receiving foreigners as one of their own.” The tag line wasn’t the problem – the problem was the picture they used to accompany it. The ad included a picture of a very happy man. The ad was pulled when it came out that the reason the man (an American journalist based in Colombia) was so happy was that he had just been released after being detained for 48 hours by the Venezuelan government.
As I wrote in “Venezuela: Proving Mises Right,” the ridiculous economic controls imposed by the government have resulted (predictably) in shortages, scapegoating, and more government controls. The latest scapegoats are a group of store owners who were arrested recently by President Maduro for “annoying the Venezuelan people.” The long lines, shortages, and rampant inflation caused by the disastrous Chavista experiment have generated unrest in the country, but not to worry – the Maduro administration has authorized police to use deadly force against protesters.
21st-century socialism looks a lot like 20th-century totalitarianism.
Leave No Pocket Unpicked
President Obama announced his budget proposal, and the starting price comes in at a whopping $4 trillion. It is chock full of tax hikes and spending programs designed to sink the government hook even deeper into the American people’s jaw. One such program is his scheme to make community college “free” (TANSTAAFCC) by forcing everyone to pay for it. Specifically, he had the bright idea to tax 529 college savings plans, effectively punishing the people who are responsible enough to save for college and using their hard-earned money to
bribe reward the irresponsible. Progressives were referring to public education as “K-14″ almost before the ink was dry on the plan. Unfortunately for them (and fortunately for the rest of us), the backlash against Obama’s threat to renege on the deal the government made years ago when 529 accounts were created was so severe that he was soon forced to backpedal and drop the issue (once Nancy Pelosi convinced him it was “a distraction”).
That was just one proposal of many in the President’s plan to leave no pocket unpicked. Another is to raise taxes on companies’ foreign earnings. The President, who clearly does not care that the United States government already has one of the highest corporate income tax rates in the world, wants to hit them with a one-time 14% tax on accumulated overseas earnings, and a 19% minimum tax on future foreign profits. That’s where the money is, I guess.
The corporate tax rate is not the only record Obama wants to shatter. He’s also got his eyes on the death tax prize. If he gets his way, the effective estate tax (including state taxes) in the United States could go as high as 68%. Spouses would be exempt, but children would have to pay the tax (so he’s not stealing from widows, just orphans).
The GOP still can’t seem to get out of its own way. Shortly after taking a swipe at Beyoncé, the odious Mike Huckabee made the news again this week by saying homosexuality was a lifestyle choice, like drinking or swearing. He did not offer an opinion as to whether stupidity was also a lifestyle choice. And though they have not officially declared their candidacy for 2016 yet, both Mike Huckabee and Rick Santorum are looking like they will throw their moldy old hats into the ring one more time. That should make great material for this blog, but their participation in the presidential race can’t be good for their party, as they both represent the big-government social conservatism that will render the Republican Party obsolete if not quickly jettisoned.
Reconsidering Lance Armstrong
One of the early posts here at A Beginner’s Guide to Freedom was titled, “Athlete, Cancer Survivor, Politician (2 Out of 3 Ain’t Bad),” which discussed the prospect of a political career for Lance Armstrong. Before the persistent rumors of doping were confirmed, he leveraged his celebrity status to support passage of Proposition 15 in Texas. The ballot initiative was meant to force taypayers to fund the kind of medical research preferred by Mr. Armstrong, regardless of what other Texans may have preferred. Prop 15 passed easily, leading many in the state to suggest that Armstrong would make a great politician if he so desired. At the time I argued that Armstrong’s considerable talents would be better used in the productive sector rather than in the parasitic sector, but I may have to reconsider my original position now that it has been alleged Armstrong “hit two parked cars with an SUV after a night of partying in Aspen, Colorado, but agreed to let his longtime girlfriend take the blame to avoid national attention.”
Given his long history of destroying other people’s lives and property (while consistently attempting to avoid any responsibility for doing so), I must now conclude that politics is indeed the perfect arena for Lance Armstrong. He may not be suitable for anything else.