Tag: socialism

It Takes a Village to Waste Money

For a time, it looked like Hillary Clinton might actually end up being the more conservative candidate in the race. Trump has been talking about restricting trade, blowing holes in the debt, opposing entitlement reform and expanding executive power.

Well, no longer. Apparently afraid that Bernie Sanders will bolt the Democratic Party for the Green (this tends to happen when you let people run who aren’t technically members of your party), she has now basically adopted Bernie Sander’s agenda in full.

  • She’s supporting the push for universal Pre-K, proposing a new bunch of subsidies and tax credits, doubling the size of the failed Head Start program and pushing for 12 weeks of mandatory paid leave. I’ve argued before the universal pre-K is a solution stumbling around in search of a problem and documented the complete failure of universal pre-K efforts. Clinton doesn’t care; there’s votes to be bought!
  • Clinton has now abandoned education reform in favor of more spending and more spending. There’s no evidence that this approach does anything but employ more union members. Clinton doesn’t care; there’s votes to be bought!
  • She’s now supporting a $15 minimum wage, a plank taken straight from Bernie Sanders. I’ve pointed out before that the push for $15 is a kind of mass insanity that has gripped the Left, only slightly more scientific than if the Republicans had responded to the Ebola epidemic with prayer. The cruelty of this is that it if the Democrats are wrong, it will not destroy their jobs, but the jobs for the people they purport to care for: the poor, the workings class, minorities, dropouts and convicted criminals trying to straighten out their lives. Clint doesn’t care; there’s votes to be bought!
  • She’s now embraced Bernie’s plan to massively inflate college tuition … uh … “make college more affordable“. As has been pointed out innumerable times, shoveling money at colleges will simply raises costs, increase debt and persuade more people to waste their time in college when they could be working or training. Clinton doesn’t care; there’s votes to be bought!
  • She’s now supporting creating a public option for Obamacare. Obama is now calling for this too, claiming the markets are not competitive enough. You have to admire the gall. First, the crush the insurance market with Obamacare. Then, they refuse to let insurance be sold across state lines. Then they propose a “public option” to bankrupt the insurance companies that remain. Every day, Obamacare looks more and more like a deliberate plan to destroy the private insurance market to create the “need” for socialized medicine. In this case, Clinton does care; there’s vote to bought!
  • She’s now turned not just against TPP but against free trade in general. Never mind that trade has made our country wealthy while almost eliminating poverty in other countries. Clinton doesn’t care; there’s votes to be bought!
  • All of this will be paid for with big tax hikes on “the rich”, who are close to maxed out. Clinton doesn’t care; there’s votes to be bought!

The $15 minimum wage is the issue for me with Democrats. It is so mindless, so stupid, so at variance with economics and so destructive to the future of the people it supposedly helps. If you wanted to create unemployment, make poverty more intractable and condemn a generation of people to lifelong unemployment and poverty, you’d be hard pressed to come up with a better plan than the $15 minimum wage.

I realize that a lot of liberal organizations don’t pay their interns or, in the case of groups like Ralph Nader’s, pay them sub-minimum wage through legal loopholes. But the University of California already fired 500 people to account for the minimum wage. Even the dumbest Democrat can do math. And Hillary Clinton is many things, but she’s not dumb. They must know, on some level, that this is going to be bad. They just Don’t. Fucking. Care.

But it’s worse. As McArdle points out in the link above, Clinton is proposing to pay for all this stuff with the usual litany of Democratic tax hikes: raising rates, eliminating the Social Security cap, closing the “carried interest” loophole, etc., etc. She’a also proposing to eliminate almost all tax deductions for the rich (which will produce 100+% marginal rate in some income brackets). But:

For while it is true that these programs are paid for, that doesn’t mean that the budget math is sound. The government’s spending capacity is, in the end, limited, and every dollar that you spend on one thing is a dollar that cannot be spent on something else. Virtually all of Clinton’s “pay fors” are concentrated on a relatively small number of affluent-to-rich people, and because of that, they represent a large cut of those incomes; if she managed to enact all of her plans, her top bracket would be inching close to a marginal tax rate of 50 percent before you factor in state and local taxes that can easily add another 10 percentage points to that figure.

Even if you think that it would be politically possible to extract taxes at those levels, and that you could do so without causing any unwanted economic side effects, the question remains: What do you do for an encore? After enacting Clinton’s agenda, America will still need to fix Medicare, Social Security, state and local pensions, the disability insurance program, and so forth. And given that Democrats have proven as unwilling as Republicans to raise taxes on the middle class, where are we going to get the money?

I’ve said this many times and I will keep repeating it until it sinks in: you can’t fund a welfare state by taxing the rich. There simply isn’t enough money. European welfare states aren’t funded by the rich. They’re funded with massive taxes on the middle class.

The United States has one of the most progressive tax systems in the world, being very reliant on the wealthy for revenue. The European welfare states, by contrast, are more regressive, having flatter taxes and relying on VATs and sales taxes that are regressive. They have to be that way because you simply can’t finance a welfare state by taxing the 1%.

A welfare state financed by the rich doesn’t even work politically. When everyone is paying taxes, there is more support for a welfare state because everyone is pitching in. The perception is that you’re getting out something related to what you paid in, which is why Social Security and Medicare are popular in this country (both financed by a regressive tax that is denounced by Democrats for not soaking the rich enough). But a system that is dependent on taxing the rich isn’t a welfare state, it’s a plunder state. And as I’ve pointed out before, most people don’t want that. They don’t want to feel like they’re living on someone else’s dime or on stolen property. The Communists discovered this 70 years ago when they tried to “redistribute” estates to the commoners only to discover that the commoners didn’t want that wealth if it was stolen.

But proposing to fund this garbage through a middle-class tax hikes would be political suicide. So — in a situation where we are already half a trillion in deficit, have $19 trillion in existing debt and have trillions of dollars in future unfunded liabilities — the Democrats are proposing to burn our last few sources of revenue on a series of brand new will-o’-the-wisp social spending programs.

(Yes, yes, we once had marginal tax rates of 70%. And we also had a huge number of exemptions. No one ever paid that rate. We are very close the practical limit on marginal rates.)

I understand why Clinton is selling out wholesale like this. She’s afraid Bernie on the Green Party ticket will wreck her chances. But I think this tells you how principled Hillary Clinton is. She has either completely changed her views on several major issues or she is going to betray her campaign promises the second she gets into office. I don’t think she actually cares either way. She just wants to be President. And if she has to wreck the economy to get there, well, she’ll wreck the economy to get there. This is way more of a sell-out to the party fringe than any Republican has ever made. But you won’t see it described as such because 98% of our media are going to vote for Clinton anyway.

This is worst election ever. Two rich leftists are battling to see who gets to the screw the country over and how badly they can screw us. And people wonder why I’ve voting for Johnson:

I will not vote for Trump. And I will not for Clinton. To hell with them both. The only election I really care about is Congress. It is absolutely critical that the Republicans hold onto Congress, preferably retaining a majority in both houses. Look at the agenda. Imagine the damage Clinton could do with a Democratic Congress. And then, whatever you may think of Trump, put that Republicans roadblock in her way.

Venezuela Down the Drain

The situation in Venezuela is becoming grim. Hospitals are leaving infants to die. A country sitting on a lake of oil is experiencing huge power outages thanks to a drought. Their inflation is so bad they literally can’t buy paper to print the money on and India is proposing a return to the barter system where they would get drugs in exchange for oil.

It’s really bad:

In the last two years Venezuela has experienced the kind of implosion that hardly ever occurs in a middle-income country like it outside of war. Mortality rates are skyrocketing; one public service after another is collapsing; triple-digit inflation has left more than 70 percent of the population in poverty; an unmanageable crime wave keeps people locked indoors at night; shoppers have to stand in line for hours to buy food; babies die in large numbers for lack of simple, inexpensive medicines and equipment in hospitals, as do the elderly and those suffering from chronic illnesses.

This is not a visitation of fate. The collapse of oil prices is part of it (as I previously noted) and many former Chavez defenders are trying to weasel out of their previous words by citing oil prices and drought. But it’s not just that. Oil prices have fallen all over the planet. Drought and natural disaster happen all the time. Only Venezuela is imploding like this. It’s because of fundamental flaws in their system:

The real culprit is chavismo, the ruling philosophy named for Chavez and carried forward by Maduro, and its truly breathtaking propensity for mismanagement (the government plowed state money arbitrarily into foolish investments); institutional destruction (as Chavez and then Maduro became more authoritarian and crippled the country’s democratic institutions); nonsense policy-making (like price and currency controls); and plain thievery (as corruption has proliferated among unaccountable officials and their friends and families).

A case in point is the price controls, which have expanded to apply to more and more goods: food and vital medicines, yes, but also car batteries, essential medical services, deodorant, diapers, and, of course, toilet paper. The ostensible goal was to check inflation and keep goods affordable for the poor, but anyone with a basic grasp of economics could have foreseen the consequences: When prices are set below production costs, sellers can’t afford to keep the shelves stocked. Official prices are low, but it’s a mirage: The products have disappeared.

You can check out more from Reason and Hot Air. In the aftermath of this epic economic implosion, many people are digging up old articles that praised the Venezuela model. It’s important to remember just how many “wise” people though Chavez had successfully upended the free market consensus.

The situation in Venezuela isn’t funny. It’s tragic. It is the direct result of a flawed broken system that was enabled by apologists in wealthy countries who should have known better. And things are just going to get worse. They’re going to get a lot worse.

The Price of Socialism

Holy cow:

Sen. Bernie Sanders’ tax and spending proposals would provide new levels of health and education benefits for American families, but they’d also blow an $18-trillion hole in federal deficits, piling on so much debt they would damage the economy.

That sobering assessment comes from a joint analysis released Monday by the nonpartisan Urban-Brookings Tax Policy Center and the Urban Institute Health Policy Center, well-known Washington think tanks.

The bottom line: Democratic presidential candidate Sanders would raise taxes by more than $15 trillion over 10 years, with most of that paid by upper-income earners. But that wouldn’t be enough to cover the cost of his proposed government-run health care system, along with free undergraduate college, enhanced Social Security, family and medical leave, among other new programs.

As a result, Sanders would add $18 trillion to federal debt over a decade.

The Sanders campaign is trying to wriggle out of this, claiming that their healthcare plan will save lots of money because … because … well, because they want it to. But I am totally unsurprised by this. I have said it in this space a million times: you can’t pay for a social welfare state just by taxing “the rich”. There’s not enough money. Every European welfare state pays for itself with heavy taxes on the middle class — VATs, sales taxes, excise taxes, income taxes. Their tax systems are way less progressive than our because they have to be. In the end, you have to go where the money is.

This is the big problem with Sanders’ promises. You have to raise taxes on everyone to pay for them. And people don’t want higher taxes even if they supposedly come with Awesome Government Benefits. Sanders’ own state rejected socialized medicine because it was too expensive.

I’d say this would be the nail in the coffin of the Sanders campaign except that (1) many of his supporters don’t care about math; (2) I’m sure Clinton will find a way to bungle this incredibly easy and salient talking point.

Bernie to the Left of Sweden

Reason ran a great article this week, pointing out again that Bernie Sanders idea that we should be more like Sweden ignores the reality of Sweden is like these days:

Bernie Sanders thinks the U.S. should look to Sweden and other Scandinavian countries to “learn what they have accomplished for their working people.” The Vermont senator has said so repeatedly throughout his campaign for the Democratic presidential nomination, prompting GOP rival Marco Rubio to say, “I think Bernie Sanders is a good candidate for president—of Sweden.”

This reality will not endear my home country to American socialists, but it’s better to be hated for the right reasons than to be loved for the wrong ones, as the saying goes. Being more like modern Sweden actually means deregulation, free trade, a national school voucher system, partially privatized pensions, no property tax, no inheritance tax, and much lower corporate taxes. Sorry to burst your bubble, Bernie.

Sanders ideas of … really, everything … seem not to have moved much from the 1960’s ground in which they were sewed. Nowhere is this more pronounced than on economic policy. He still thinks of the Scandinavian countries as bastions of socialism when all of them have moved in a decidedly laissez faire direction over the last twenty years: smaller government, free trade and economic deregulation. They are still way more socialist than the United States. But all rank as “mostly free” in the Heritage Foundation’s economic freedom, with Denmark having occasionally ranked as more free than the United States. All of them rank ahead of us on Cato’s Human Freedom Index by dint of having more personal freedom and comparable economic freedom.

I think a large part of Bernie’s success so far has been that he’s not Clinton. The party elite and the Clintons themselves went to great efforts to preclude an alternative to Clinton this year (even, some conspiracy theorists think, to the point of encouraging Trump to run). Sanders, however, is not a Democrat and is not controlled by them. So he ran a real campaign and not a token one. The result has been a surge of support because his earnestness is so refreshing by comparison to Clinton’s deviousness.

I also think a large part, however, was the novelty. It’s been a while since an avowed socialist was on the political scene and I think that appealed to a lot of Democrats. However, Bernie’s ideas are as outdated now as they were when Bill Clinton reformed the Democratic Party back in ’92. And polls have shown that support for Bernie’s ideas evaporate when people become aware of how much they will cost (as the Sweden article notes, you can’t fund a welfare state entirely on the backs of the rich).

That’s why I think Clinton will still win this thing. As the hope of spring turns into the realities of summer/fall, people will remember why we don’t elect honest-to-God socialists in this country. And they will turn away from the junk food that is Sanders to the broccoli that is Clinton.

The Bernie Pill

The amazing thing about the Bernie Sanders campaign is that his ideas are so … tired. Nothing he has proposed — “free” healthcare, “free” college, “free” daycare — is particularly original or innovative. Sanders admits as much, saying that he wants is to imitate the model of the social democracies of Scandinavia. Of course, that itself is an indication of how outdated his ideas are. Many of those social democracies have moved beyond Sander’s 1970’s ideal of what they really are, privatizing and shrinking government and now enjoying comparable or even superior economic freedom compared to the United States.

Matt Welch has a thorough rundown of just how bad many of his ideas area. A lot of them are things I’ve hit on these pages: how expensive socialized medicine would be, how ineffective “universal pre-K” is, how bad a federal minimum wage of $15 would be. But it also hits a few topics I haven’t gotten around to such as Sanders’ opposition to reforming the VA:

Sanders was lucky the question wasn’t about his actual track record as chairman of the Senate Committee on Veterans Affairs. As The New York Times reported in February, “a review of his record in the job…shows that in a moment of crisis, his deep-seated faith in the fundamental goodness of government blinded him, at least at first, to a dangerous breakdown in the one corner of it he was supposed to police.” Ouch.

What was Sanders doing in May 2014 instead of holding oversight hearings and sounding the alarm bell over a national disgrace? Complaining to The Nation magazine about “a concerted effort to undermine the V.A.,” led by “the Koch brothers and others,” who “want to radically change the nature of society, and either make major cuts in all of these institutions, or maybe do away with them entirely.”

(The VA, incidentally, was long upheld as the shining model of what single payer healthcare would be like in this country. Well … they weren’t entirely wrong about that. Much of Sanders’ blind support for the VA was precisely because he wanted it to be the example for single payer.)

You should read the whole thing.

So why is Sanders so popular? Is it because America loves his crackpot ideas? No.

First, like Trump, he really isn’t that popular. He’s drawing about half the votes in a Democratic primary, which means about 10% of the vote. If he were the nominee, he’d have to get a lot more independent and conservative votes, which I don’t see materializing unless Trump is the Republican nominee.

Also, like Trump, he’s appealing to economic populism. Sanders supporters hate it when you compare Trump to Sanders (which is one of the reasons I like doing it). But they both harp on a similar message — trade is bad, Washington doesn’t work, you’re being rooked, vote for me. That sort of populism traces through a long and diverse array of politicians from Roosevelt I to George Wallace to Trump/Sanders. It never has worked out.

(Both also prefer a more isolationist foreign policy; another key element of populism).

But I think the main reason, as I’ve said before, is that Sanders isn’t Clinton. Sanders is honest about what he thinks, has stayed positive and his earnestness is almost refreshing contrasted against the calculated fumbling of Clinton. Last week, the Clinton camp said she wouldn’t debate Sanders any more unless he changed his “tone”. Even for Clinton supporters, like the ever-reliable Vox, this was laughable. Sanders’ tone has been very respectful toward Clinton. The only thing she could complain about is that he’s called her out — accurately, as it happens — on such things as her Wall Street ties, her support for the Iraq War and her role in runaway criminalization.

In any case, I don’t expect Sanders to be the nominee. But I do expect that his success will lead to an insistence that his ideas are awesome and that this country is ready for socialism. Don’t be fooled. Single payer healthcare failed to gain support in Sanders own state once it became obvious how much it was going to cost. Even Clinton’s plans are going to require big tax increases that I don’t see the public swallowing.

So let the socialists enjoy their moment. Once the extent and cost of their ideal system becomes clear, support for it will evaporate. Because it’s one thing to promise the moon; anyone can do that. It’s another to actually deliver it.

(PS – Speaking of Vox, Yglesias has another article arguing that the Democrats shouldn’t be too concerned with how to pay for their pipe dreams. Since interest rates are low, he argues, we should be borrowing to pay for “investments”.

Yglesias is usually a reasonable voice but this is one area where he, and many liberals, have lost their minds. Interest rates will not remain low forever. And when they come up, we’ll not only have $19 trillion in debt to roll over, but massive structural deficits for all this new spending. Any increase in spending increase the baseline for future spending. Deficit spending now because interest rates are low is a long walk off a short plank.

Besides, it’s not like the deficit isn’t about to explode anyway.)

The Tax Man Cometh

I’ve been remiss in posting this week. I have several draft and should post them soon.

In the meantime, Vox put together a calculator that shows you how much each candidate’s tax plan would cost or save you based on your income and status. We don’t make a huge amount of money, but we’d be paying $13,000 more a year if Bernie Sanders got his way. Keep in mind; many experts don’t think Sanders raises taxes enough to pay for socialized medicine. And we’re not in “the rich”, who would see marginal rates of 75%.

Now liberals will counter that we’re getting “free” healthcare and “free” college tuition. But the latter will only happen if the states cooperate, which they won’t. And the former is nice, I guess, but I’m dubious that my employer will roll those savings directly into my salary. So under Sanders, we’d be paying way more in taxes, getting crappy socialized medicine and “free” college at the two institutions that go along with his plan.

And, you know … there’s still a part of me that prefers him to Clinton.

(Trump and Cruz show a few thousand in tax cuts. I’m going to ignore those for the time being since I’m assuming the GOP won’t cut spending that much or blow that big a hole in the budget. But I’ve been wrong before on their willingness to pile up debt in pursuit of tax cuts.)

The Free College Fraud

One of the big promises the Democratic party is making these days is that they are going to make college “more affordable” or even “free” for Americans at public colleges and universities. Clinton is proposing $350 billion in new spending to basically replace student loans. Bernie Sanders wanted to make tuition free at public universities, which is a big reason for his support among young people. Matt Yglesias, one of the few liberals who was previously skeptical of this idea, has now come along for the free ride.

Now, never mind that we are already spending a lot of public money on higher education. States are spending more money than ever, over $80 billion, supporting their universities (per student spending is down because enrollments have swelled). Pell Grants alone have tripled over the last 15 years. And we have made a series of moves to try to make college loans more available.

The result? Higher costs, more spending, more debt. Tens of billions pumped in without college becoming one cent more affordable. Is there any reason to believe that another $35 billion a year or $50 billion a year or $100 billion a year will suddenly achieve that the previous trillions of have not?

No. Because economics exists.

Let’s imagine that you run an industry making sprockets. Let’s say that the American people are willing and able to pay about $100 billion for your sprockets. What would happen if the federal government came in and said, “Sprockets are too expensive! We will give the sprocket industry $50 billion to lower prices!” Unless they actually force you to lower prices, you’re going to now charge $150 billion for those sprockets — the $100 billion that Americans are willing to pay out of their own pockets plus the $50 billion you’re now getting from the government.

Indeed, this is what almost every economist has concluded about the cost of higher education. Massive government subsidies — through grants, state spending, scholarships and undischargeable loans — has massively increased the cost of higher education. It has resulted in universities hiring armies of administrators to do everything under the sun. It has resulted in a bloated overweight industry in which faculty hires are flat and much of the actual teaching is done by poorly-paid adjuncts.

So what’s going to happen when Clinton pours another $350 billion into that pool? Colleges will just raise the cost of higher education by about $350 billion, mainly by increasing enrollment.

And what will happen if Bernie Sanders guarantees “free” college? What’s to stop Michigan State from charging $100,000 a year for tuition? What’s to stop Georgia from enrolling 200,000 students? Even if half of those students fail, there are plenty more who will jump at a “free” education. And do you think North Carolina or Tennesee or any other university will care if they’re admitting semi-literate idiots as long as they get their money? (answer: no).

Bill James:

Anyone who believes that this program is actually going to reduce the cost of college, pardon my pointing this out, is an imbecile. Why? Because the price of anything depends on a) how much of it is purchased, and b) how much money is available to purchase it … When you make more money available to purchase anything, it simply drives up the cost of whatever is being purchased. Certain portions of our voting population, for reasons that baffle me, seem unable to learn this. Anything and everything that the government “helps to make more affordable” automatically becomes dramatically more expensive. The government makes money available to purchase health care; the cost of health care skyrockets. The government makes money available to purchase education; the cost of education skyrockets. These are, in fact, the two main things that the governments wants to pour money into, and the cost of both of them has been skyrocketing since the moment the government decided to make them “affordable” … There was a study about 15-20 years ago about the costs of various surgical proceedings; it studied about 20 different common surgeries. The study found that the normal price of every surgery that the government paid for — such as coronary bypass surgery — had gone up tremendously during the period of the study, while the price of every surgery that the government would NOT pay for, such as liposuction, laser eye surgery, and cosmetic dental repairs, had DROPPED dramatically in the same period. My memory is that every surgery that the government refused to pay for had dropped in price by at least 70% over the course of the study, while other health care costs were increasingly rapidly. Well, OF COURSE it would. Anyone who has ever taken Economics 101 should KNOW that that is what would happen, and would expect it to happen … And yet, cynical politicians like Hilary Clinton keep INSISTING, generation after generation, millions after millions, billions after billions, trillions after trillions, that they are “making health care affordable” when they pour more money into its purchase! It is unbelievable to me that anyone actually believes that this is true … Look, if you want the cost of college to drop, STOP POURING MONEY INTO ITS PURCHASE. Of course we have to help poor people get access to education; of course we have to help minorities get a fair shake. But the rest of us are NOT being helped by this insane policy.

As James noted in later discussions, the only way government have stayed out of this trap is by rationing and price-controlling. In the case of healthcare, limiting the number of procedures performed or capping doctor’s fees; in the case of higher education, limiting the number of students who go to college or limiting what universities can charge. No sane government would create a system where colleges could admit as many students as they wanted and charge whatever they wanted with a federal guarantee of payment.

Indeed, countries that guarantee “free education” send way fewer students to college than we do and limit what their colleges can spend. The problem is that this would never happen in the United States. It would never happen because academics are one of the most reliable sources of Democratic votes in the universe (95%, a level of party loyalty only seen among evangelical Christians, which make sense given that some academic sounds like they’re speaking in tongues). And it would never happen because public universities and colleges are state-controlled institutions.

Again … this is not rocket surgery. This is basic economics. No one would with an IQ larger than Donald Trump’s jock size thinks that just handing over money to an industry is a good idea. Clinton is not an idiot (Sanders might be). She certainly has people around her who understand this. The Democrats have repeatedly called for price controls or rationing in federal healthcare (they don’t call it that; they call it “negotiation”; but that’s what it is).

But when it comes to the cost controls necessary for “free” education, both candidates are oddly silent. Sanders’ “plan” is just a vague promise of free education with no sense of cost control. Clinton’s is more detailed but, if I understand it, would subsidize the states on the promise that they would control college costs. Even if the states controlled costs, they would do so by cutting their own subsidies to higher education so that they could spend it on something else (the same way that they used the lottery to fund K-12 education).

So why are Democrats pushing this nonsense? Why won’t they admit that the only this would make education more affordable is by forcing universities to cap costs or enroll fewer students? Part of this is to avoid pissing off their base of support among young people and academics. But there’s something else going on here. James again:

I refuse to believe that Hilary is actually stupid enough that she doesn’t realize what she is doing. She (and her cohorts) are deliberately driving up the cost of education in order to make the middle class dependent on the government

Give that man a cigar!

Remember a few years ago when the Obama Administration put out “the Life of Julia”? It depicts a woman going from cradle to grave with government subsidy after government subsidy directing her life. It created such a backlash that I can’t even find the original to link it. All the top links are mockeries, debunkings and parodies.

What creates more dependence? People paying $10,000 out of their own pockets for a $10,000 higher education? Or people paying $10,000 out of their pockets and getting $30,000 in government grants for a $40,000 education?

This is the Democratic vision for America — total dependence upon the state from cradle to grave with every election being an auction between two big parties promising ever greater baubles.

The bad news is that, at this point, it seems that Clinton is very likely to be the next President. And if she isn’t, Sanders might be. And if he isn’t, Trump might be and God know what Trump will do. The good news, however, is that none of this can get done without Congress.

This will be a recurring them with me for the next eight months. It would be nice if the Republicans won the White House. But is absolutely vital that they retain the House, if not the Senate as well. It’s the only way to keep a cap on this madness.

The Daycare Dilemma

Once again, folks, we see the Law of Unintended Consequences in effect:

Programs for young children — whether you call them day care or preschool or even third grade — serve two purposes. On the one hand, they are educational settings that are supposed to help foster the kids’ long-term development. On the other hand, they are safe places where parents can put their children so they can go do other things during the day — things like work for a living. In an ideal world, of course, they do both. The best preschool programs have been shown to have significant lifelong benefits for their students, and they’re doubtless a huge help to parents too. But a sobering new analysis by Michael Baker, Jonathan Gruber (yes, that Jonathan Gruber), and Kevin Milligan of Quebec’s effort to expand access to child care on the cheap is a painful reminder that the two issues can come apart.

The program was designed to increase mothers’ labor force participation rate, and it worked. Lots of people used the system, lots of moms went to work, incomes and GDP rose, and the program was quite affordable to the taxpayer. Kids’ test scores stayed flat.

But contrasting trends in Quebec kids with kids from other Canadian provinces, the authors find “a significant worsening in self-reported health and in life satisfaction among teens” who grew up exposed to the program* along with a “sharp and contemporaneous increase in criminal behavior among the cohorts exposed to the Quebec program, relative to their peers in other provinces.”

What happened was that the government of Quebec decided that everyone deserved cheap daycare — as a little as $5 a day. And a lot cheap daycare is what they got. With such a huge influx of children, poor quality daycare providers proliferated. And many of these providers were much worse than, you know, parents. Worse, many of them were focused on academics, at the government’s urgency. But most research (and almost all parents) will tell you that learning social skills is way more important to preschoolers than learning their ABC’s.

I’ve written about the idiocy of the push for universal pre-K numerous times. You can also check out Megan McArdle, who goes into detail about why the push for universal pre-K is ill-advised. Note, importantly, that the federal push is for more academics and “accelerated learning” — precisely the emphasis that has produced such a disaster in Quebec.

But this about more than the expected Democratic push for universal pre-K. This about the expected Democratic push for federally mandated everything. There is nothing more dangerous than good intentions. The Democrats have given us a series of financial reforms to “protect Americans” that have created a series of financial crises (with Dodd-Frank likely to precipitate the next one. They’ve poured money into making sure everyone can get a college education … which has made college obscenely expensive. They’ve given us “universal healthcare” that has caused insurance rates to skyrocket. And they’ve created a free public education system which is one of the worst-performing in the developed world.

The push for universal pre-K is on. Let’s use Quebec as an example of what not to do. Because it would really be a tragedy if one of the more functional parts of our education system — the dynamic and mostly private pre-K system — was wrecked the slime engine of big government.

Labour Moves to the Fringe

Earlier this year, the United Kingdom had a stunning electoral result. The conservatives won a clear majority in the parliament, defying electoral expectations. Labour expected to do well with the collapse of the Liberal Democrats but what they gained in England, they more than lost in Scotland as the Scottish National Party swept up almost all of the seats. In the aftermath, Labour leader Ed Milibrand stepped down.

Today, the Labour Party appointed new leadership: certified nutter Jeremy Corbyn:

Veteran far-left lawmaker Jeremy Corbyn was elected leader of Britain’s opposition Labour Party on Saturday, a runaway victory that threatens to further divide the party as it struggles to recover from a heavy defeat in elections earlier this year.

Corbyn’s win is one of the biggest political shake-ups in British politics in decades, marking a sharp left turn for his party and a rejection of the more centrist policies of his predecessors.

The silver-haired and bearded Corbyn, 66, has drawn vitriol and admiration in equal measure with his old-school socialist views: He wants more taxation for the rich, strongly opposes Britain’s austerity measures, and argues for nationalizing industry. Considered an eccentric outsider just three months ago, he has surged in popularity to become the favorite over his three more mainstream rivals.

Corbyn’s beliefs are a radical left smorgasbord of bullshit: nationalizing industries, inflation, wage caps, trade restrictions, nationalizing schools, nationalizing childcare, rent control, raising taxes through the roof, withdrawing from NATO, abandoning the campaign against ISIS, scrapping Britain’s nuclear weapons, wealth redistribution and massive increases in spending (because Britons are apparently not taxed enough). He even wants to re-open Britain’s coal mines because what Britain really needs right now is to send another generation of men deep into the ground to have their bodies destroyed digging out a mineral that is an economic sinkhole and is the worst fuel in terms of global warming. Oh, and he also has ties to anti-Israel organizations.

Back in the 1990’s, when the Tories lost the government, they went into the wilderness, becoming more radical and stupid before finding their way back under Cameron. Since 2008, the Republicans have done something similar, albeit in a less decisive fashion. In both cases, the result of purifying themselves was to elect the opposition. We’ll have to hope Britain’s economy stays afloat under Cameron. Because if Labour wins while Corbyn is in charge of Labour, the British ship of state could sink very far and very fast. Imagine the UK, only with Syriza in charge.

Update: The current generation has never seen real socialism. Oh, they’ve seen Socialism Lite: big wealth transfer programs, big spending programs, high taxes. But they haven’t seen it like it was in the 70’s when labor unions could dictate industrial policy, when entire unprofitable industries were propped up with billions in taxpayer money, when you had to fight with store clerks to keep them from raising the prices on things while you were trying to buy them, when the West almost abandoned Israel to the wolves.

With Venezuela, Bolivia, Greece and now possibly the UK, they’re about to get a quick refresher course. Let’s hope it’s a quick lesson. We can’t afford to learn as slowly as we did forty years ago.

Declaration of Dependence

I hope you guys had a good Fourth yesterday. Knowing the readership of this blog, I’m sure you were well aware of the significance of the date and what it really means. What struck me last night, as I thought about it, is how little independence actually remains to us and how great an ongoing effort there is — cheered by various pundits — to squash what independence remains to us. In the world of the progressives (and some neocons) we would:

No longer have the independence to choose what we eat and drink. Our sugar and fat intake would be restricted or taxed heavily.

No longer have what little independence we have to choose our schools. Home schooling and private schools would be regulated like the public schools.

No longer have the independence to choose our healthcare or our retirement. Social Security would be expanded and single payer healthcare implemented, funded with taxes on wealth.

No longer have the independence to speak, thanks to speech codes and anti-hate-speech laws.

No longer have the independence of religion or conscience. For example, we could be fined $135,000 for refusing to bake a cake for a gay wedding, even thought we are not a public accommodation.

No longer have the independence of free press. Campaigns would be publicly financed; films like “Hillary: the Movie” would be illegal to show before an election and laws like SOPA would tightly control what we put on the internet. Not to mention “the right to be forgotten” and a crackdown on anonymous posting and commenting (see the federal investigation into Reason’s commenters). Hell, you might even find reporters happily submitting to being roped off like sheep and asking only milquetoast questions of a major Presidential candidate.

No longer have freedom of association. For example, we would be forced to do “volunteer” work to finish publish schooling.

Trial by jury, innocent until proven guilty, right to council … these would be outdated concepts. Our college campuses would be but testbeds for the legal regime they would like to impose on us. And entire communities, including poor ones, would be turned upside down and vigorously shaken to pry revenue from them.

We would live in a police state where the government has unlimited authority to spy on us, arrest us, detain us and harass us.

And that’s just the beginning.

Robert Heinlein famously said: “Political tags – such as royalist, communist, democrat, populist, fascist, liberal, conservative, and so forth – are never basic criteria. The human race divides politically into those who want people to be controlled and those who have no such desire.” We are overrun with the former. And the latter had better get their shit together.