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Posts Tagged ‘Taxes’

Don’t ‘Californicate’ The Rest Of America – Issues & Insights

Posted by M. C. on November 20, 2020

It isn’t pretty, but that’s precisely where California is now. Other states should be concerned. As Instapundit’s Glenn Reynolds observes, some tax refugees from California and other “migrants from high tax states might bring their political attitudes with them, moving to new, low-tax states for the economic opportunity but then supporting the same policies that ruined the states they left.”

Never mind that the party for his buddy, himself a lobbyist, also included a bunch of medical industry lobbyists. The photos show not only more people in attendance than allowed under state guidelines, neither the governor nor his wife were wearing masks.

Newsom called it a “bad mistake.” A better term might be rank hypocrisy, as Newsom himself admitted: “I should have stood up and … drove back to my house … the spirit of what I’m preaching all the time was contradicted,” he said. “ I need to preach and practice, not just preach.”

Nice words, but Newsom isn’t alone in his two-faced behavior. This week, a handful of California legislators are enjoying an expenses-paid five-day vacation in Hawaii, where they’re attending the annual Independent Voter Project conference at a high-end resort.

https://issuesinsights.com/2020/11/19/dont-californicate-the-rest-of-america/

By I & I Editorial Board

Photo: Gage Skidmore, Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 2.0 Generic license

California was once a shining exemplar of everything a state should be — inventive, creative, energetic, freewheeling, fast-growing and conservative. No more. Today, it’s a giant welfare economy run by far-left kleptocrats and union shills who can’t even keep the lights on. As hundreds of thousands of Californians flee the once-Golden State, the rest of America should ask itself: Will they bring their politics with them?

Put another way, will California’s broken model be adopted by much of the rest of the country, turning reliably red states blue and seeding the nation with high taxes, more rules, corrupt politicians, and slow growth?

We hope not, but given the 2020 election, it’s not an idle question. California’s political class is widely regarded as among the most corrupt, irresponsible, hypocritical, hard left and incompetent of any comparable group of state politicians in the country, which is saying a lot.

The troubles have been on full display this week.

A week after imposing sweeping new restaurant closures across much of the state and telling Californians not to gather in groups for Thanksgiving, California Gov. Gavin Newsom admitted on Monday that he attended a birthday party for an old friend at an ultra-swank Napa Valley restaurant, The French Laundry.

Never mind that the party for his buddy, himself a lobbyist, also included a bunch of medical industry lobbyists. The photos show not only more people in attendance than allowed under state guidelines, neither the governor nor his wife were wearing masks.

Newsom called it a “bad mistake.” A better term might be rank hypocrisy, as Newsom himself admitted: “I should have stood up and … drove back to my house … the spirit of what I’m preaching all the time was contradicted,” he said. “ I need to preach and practice, not just preach.”

Nice words, but Newsom isn’t alone in his two-faced behavior. This week, a handful of California legislators are enjoying an expenses-paid five-day vacation in Hawaii, where they’re attending the annual Independent Voter Project conference at a high-end resort.

The Associated Press says the event “includes policy discussions and schmoozing with corporate sponsors.”

“Organizers booked about 50 rooms and have about 120 people staying at the Fairmont Kea Lani on Maui’s southwest shore,” the AP reported.

In short: One set of rules for average Californians, who have just had a new, strict lockdown imposed, and another for the state’s political elite.

These are just the most recent examples of the misrule and mismanagement of California, which has become a de facto one-party state under the Democrats, who were way ahead of the national curve in turning the state’s elections into fraudulent farces that encourage cheating which systematically benefits their party.

Faced with such poor governance, many Californians have said, “Enough!”

With taxes soaring, quality of life plunging as violent crime and homelessness surge, home prices out of reach, nonsensical government regulations spreading, an increasingly heavy-handed government and a slumping job market, California now ranks 47th out of 50 states on the widely followed Economic Freedom Index issued annually by Canada’s Fraser Institute.

As their future prospects dim, many longtime and even native Californians are leaving for better times in neighboring states such as Nevada, Arizona, Idaho, Utah and New Mexico.

More recently, the departing have moved even farther away, relocating in Texas, Tennessee, the Carolinas, Georgia and Alabama. It’s a “reverse Beverly Hillbillies” migration.

From 2007 to 2016, some 7 million Californians (gross total) left the state, most of them middle-class or upper-class in income. In 2018 alone, the number of economic and quality-of-life refugees surged by nearly 700,000, and the flood appears to be continuing today.

Here’s the problem. It’s one thing to move from a state because it’s going in the wrong direction. It’s quite another to move and not understand that you had something to do with it.

Looking at California’s surrounding states, once bright red in their political hue, there’s an increasing amount of purple and even blue. Former Californians who didn’t like what happened in their state have held on to their foolish leftist voting habits and beliefs, and repeated the pattern elsewhere.

In short, Cali, not to mention New York and other high-tax, high-regulation states that punish businesses and citizens alike, are hemorrhaging citizens to more-friendly states around the country.

The trends in California are especially ominous. As City Journal’s Steve Malanga pointed out in a piece earlier this year dubbed “Calculating the Californication,” a Berkeley Institute of Governmental Studies, found that 52% of those living in California were considering moving elsewhere.

Among those, more than 71% blamed soaring housing costs and 58% cited high taxes, while almost half pointed to the state’s increasingly radical left, toxic political environment — everything from the “cancel culture” and rampant political correctness, to a reliance on green energy, a crackdown on religion, the release of violent felons, and a decaying, union-run education system that teaches kids to hate America but not basic skills.

As evidence of the latter, one need only point to a recent headline: “Huck Finn, To Kill A Mockingbird, Other Classic Books Banned In California Schools For ‘Racism.’ ” Any wonder that a majority of confused, ignorant young people now embrace socialism and its ideas, while rejecting the greatest wealth- and freedom-creating system ever?

As for those who are leaving, numbers don’t lie.

“Conservatives and moderates are the most unhappy with the state and most anxious to leave,” says Malanga. “Liberals, by contrast, are mostly staying put, and some think life in California is just great. Only 38% of Democrats said that they were considering leaving, compared with 55% of independents and 71% of Republicans.”

As Michael Anton wrote in his recent book, The Stakes: America at the Point of No Return,” which details California’s dystopian government and dysfunctional political culture:

In barely one generation … California was … transformed into a left-liberal one-party state, the most economically unequal and socially divided in the country, ostensibly run by a cadre of would-be Solons in Sacramento and in the courts, but really by oligarchic power concentrated in a handful of industries, above all Big Tech and Big Hollywood.

The middle class — what’s left of them — continue to flee high taxes, higher costs, cratering standards of living, declining services, deteriorating infrastructure, worsening quality of life, and an elite that openly despises them and pushes policies to despoil and dispossess them.

It isn’t pretty, but that’s precisely where California is now. Other states should be concerned. As Instapundit’s Glenn Reynolds observes, some tax refugees from California and other “migrants from high tax states might bring their political attitudes with them, moving to new, low-tax states for the economic opportunity but then supporting the same policies that ruined the states they left.”

American states, beware. Take in as many Californians as you wish. But don’t accept California’s far-left, utterly broken governance and cultural model. It’s not “progressive” in any true meaning of the word. And once adopted, it will ruin your own state.

— Written by the I&I Editorial Board

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Doug Casey Debunks Four Myths About Trump, Taxes, & The Economy | Zero Hedge

Posted by M. C. on October 4, 2020

As far as Trump minimizing his taxes, congratulations to him. The object should be to cut the size of the US government in half, and cut it in half again, and again. And along with it, cut the tax burden that it imposes on the average American.

Trump should be proud of himself for cutting his taxes. It’s your patriotic duty as an American citizen to deny revenue to the State and the kind of people that are drawn to it and populate it.

The fact that some people resent others for not paying taxes is just evidence that they’ve been consumed by the vice of envy, which is one of the worst of the vices.

https://www.zerohedge.com/personal-finance/doug-casey-debunks-four-myths-about-trump-taxes-economy

Profile picture for user Tyler Durden

by Tyler Durden

Via InternationalMan.com,

International Man: For many years, President Trump has made no apologies for trying to pay the least amount of taxes possible. He’s clearly stated this in many interviews.

His desire to minimize his taxes has brought scorn from many in the mainstream media, and politicians from both sides of the aisle. These people are of the opinion that paying taxes is an honorable and necessary responsibility. It brings to mind the wrongheaded saying “taxes are the price we pay for a civilized society”, which came from US Supreme Court Justice Oliver Wendell Holmes. Many people believe this.

But if that’s true, how come low tax locales like Singapore, the Cayman Islands, Monaco aren’t backward hell holes, but rather sophisticated and civilized?

Doug Casey: Almost any lie can be accepted as truth if it’s said often enough and with enough certainty. That absolutely applies to what Holmes said. It’s shameful how people don’t think about its meaning, but slavishly repeat it.

Taxes aren’t the price we pay for civilized society. They’re a sign of the fact that society is becoming uncivilized. A civilized society is based on voluntarism. Taxes are all about coercion.

People don’t seem to recognize or remember that before 1913 there was no income tax in the US. There was no reporting of any kind to the US government. It was a much more civilized and far freer country then.

As far as Trump minimizing his taxes, congratulations to him. The object should be to cut the size of the US government in half, and cut it in half again, and again. And along with it, cut the tax burden that it imposes on the average American.

Trump should be proud of himself for cutting his taxes. It’s your patriotic duty as an American citizen to deny revenue to the State and the kind of people that are drawn to it and populate it.

The fact that some people resent others for not paying taxes is just evidence that they’ve been consumed by the vice of envy, which is one of the worst of the vices. Jealousy says “if you have something that I want, I’ll try to take it from you, just because I want it.” Envy says “if you have something that I want, and I can’t take it from you, I’ll destroy it and hurt you.”

It’s speaks poorly of the ethics of the average American, that they’ll self-righteously shame their neighbors for not paying “enough” taxes to the State.

International Man: We often hear from politicians and the media that some people aren’t paying their “fair share” in taxes. Who gets to define what “fair” is, and based on what justifications?

Doug Casey: Whenever you hear the word fair, start running the other way. Everybody has a different idea of what’s “fair”— it’s an arbitrary concept. People manipulate its definition to their advantage. The only way to determine what might be fair is voluntary mutual agreement. That’s not possible with taxes—there’s no voluntarism involved. They are, in fact, a levy enforced at the point of a gun.

The most creative and productive people tend to have the highest incomes—unless they’re crony capitalists, which means they’re basically using the government to steal from everybody else.

Productive people shouldn’t be penalized for supplying more goods and services to their neighbors—to the market. The money they give to the government in taxes would have otherwise been used to create more wealth for the whole world. When it’s taken from them by taxes it’s mostly squandered on welfare and warfare.

The bottom half of the US really doesn’t pay any income tax. They only pay Social Security taxes, roughly a flat 15%. It’s theoretically a pension program, although in fact it’s a Ponzi scheme. Social Security is bankrupt. If anyone gets it in the years to come it will be at the expense of future taxpayers—not because any capital has been set aside.

Social Security is, and always has been, a swindle. It makes it harder for people to save on their own. And makes them feel they don’t have to. But it’s not a real pension plan; it’s a highly politicized welfare program. People have been propagandized into believing not just what isn’t true, but actually believing the opposite of the truth. The situation is actually pretty hopeless from a philosophical point of view and it’s getting worse. The average American believes Social Security and the income tax are both moral and necessary.

International Man: Doesn’t this system—which diverts wealth from productive use into government, which is naturally unproductive—make everyone worse off? You would think the lower and middle classes would be clamoring for more wealth creation that would also benefit them. Instead, many are asking for more wealth to be destroyed.

It seems this sort of thinking helps solidify a backwards system.

Doug Casey: Absolutely. The US government and its welfare programs are actually cementing the lower classes to the bottom of society.

You get what you encourage. When you give people free money for doing nothing, that’s what they’ll do. Take personal responsibility away from a man, and he’ll tend to act irresponsibly. The next step seems to be a guaranteed annual income for everybody where—presumably—where everybody can just sit around Starbucks all day sipping latte and playing with their iPhones, and be paid for it.

This trend has been building almost 100 years, and the curve is starting to go parabolic. To use a fashionable word, it’s “unsustainable” for everyone to try living at the expense of everyone else.

International Man: Another misnomer we often hear is that “deficits don’t matter”, a saying popularized by Dick Cheney, an ostensible fiscal conservative.

Doug Casey: Well, deficits do matter. In order to become wealthy you have to produce more than you consume and save the difference. Saving the difference builds capital. And you need capital to create more wealth.

Countries without capital are poor. Places like Zimbabwe, Cuba, and Mauritania. The only capital they have is sticks and stones.

The US government is in effect training people to consume more than they produce. Now, you can do that in basically two ways. One, by borrowing capital that’s been saved and created in the past, and consuming it. Or, two, you can do it by mortgaging your future.

It’s not a pro-survival policy to consume more than you produce. It’s possible for a while, of course, but will wind up in disaster. The US government is encouraging people to do just that, however, directly and indirectly.

International Man: Yet another misguided, yet popular, saying is that we shouldn’t worry about the national debt because “we owe it to ourselves.” What’s your take Doug?

Doug Casey: It’s another glib, gigantic, lie. “We” don’t owe it to ourselves. Some people owe it to some other people. If it’s not paid back somebody is going to walk away disappointed.

In fact, most of the debt is owed to non-Americans. Directly, in the form of the national debt. And indirectly, in the form of US dollars outside the US. For many years the major export of the US hasn’t been Boeings, or IBMs, or wheat. It’s been US dollars. We run a trade deficit of about $800 billion every year. In exchange, foreigners send us electronics, Mercedes, cocaine, and other real goods. This has artificially propped up the average American’s standard of living.

Those dollars circulate in other countries; the US dollar is the de facto currency of 50 other countries around the world.

At some point—since the US dollar is backed by nothing—if confidence goes away, those foreigners are going to want to get rid of their dollars. They’ll necessarily come back to the US where legal tender laws force Americans to accept them.

There are many trillions of dollars that are now abroad are a liability. Someday they’re going to be traded for US shares of stock, US real estate, US technology, and US labor.

Americans, who have grown accustomed to an artificially high standard of living for many years, are going to have a very real drop in their standard of living when those dollars come home.

We’re sending dollars to the Chinese and other foreigners. We’re also selling US government debt to the Federal Reserve, which then credits the government’s accounts at commercial banks with dollars. But that’s another story. It’s all a moving paper fantasy. It’s going to end badly, and end soon.

It could easily destroy everybody’s savings. And that, in turn, could destroy the very basis of society.

*  *  *

The days of the US Dollar as the reserve currency are numbered. When that happens, the US will experience an economic crisis unlike we’ve seen before. The window to prepare yourself is still open. That’s why Doug’s Casey and his team have created this urgent new report on what to expect and how to protect yourself. Click here to download it now.

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Want Less Police Brutality? Write Less Laws

Posted by M. C. on July 22, 2020

The people who support eliminating police violence also regularly support the passage of new mandates, redistribution schemes, and regulatory impositions. Without police, how do they think all these new laws and rules will be enforced?

By advocating for more laws, rules, and taxes, these people are effectively advocating for an increase in police violence. Abolishing the entity called “police” won’t solve the issue, since the state will inevitably have to form a new entity that does all the same things and has all the same powers.

https://libertarianinstitute.org/articles/want-less-police-brutality-write-less-laws/

by

One of the most perplexing displays of cognitive dissonance this year is the strong support for a large state can be found within the various protest movements that are targeting the issue of law enforcement misconduct. Logically, groups opposing police misconduct should also be strong supporters of the libertarian ideology. However, this does not appear to be the case. This movement, oddly enough, has quite a bit of overlap with support for gun control, the welfare state, and more regulation. The central organization, Black Lives Matter, is a fully Marxist entity.

Socialism, Marxism, communism, and other ideologies revolve around the strong or total domination of the state in everyday life. The state, as defined by Murray Rothbard in Anatomy of the State, is an “organization in society which attempts to maintain a monopoly of the use of force and violence in a given territorial area.” The way the state maintains authority within its jurisdiction is with the application of laws.

The Nature of a Law

A law is defined as “a rule of conduct or action prescribed…or formally recognized as binding or enforced by a controlling authority.” It is a set of rules that either obligate or forbid action with a penalty for failure to comply. While it may sound good to have a set of rules that individuals must adhere to and penalties to incentivize compliance, the nature of those penalties is where we run into issues.

While laws may have formally designated penalties for noncompliance, those penalties can be best viewed as a minimum sentence. The maximum penalty for failure to comply with any given law is execution of the perpetrator. While this sounds like hyperbole, it’s important to understand why this is the case and how law enforcement must resort to this.

Take a case of counterfeit money. The sentencing guidelines for counterfeiting money are a sixteen-month minimum and in some states a fine with a maximum prison sentence of twenty years. However, what if the accused refuses to show up in court? The court could then find the perpetrator guilty in absentia and apply the sentence and fine. Should the person refuse to part with their resources or report to prison, the court would then order an enforcement agent to collect the accused. This is also what could happen should the accused refuse to show up for court itself. And should the accused resist this arrest? This is where grievous bodily harm up to and including death can occur.

If you think this is hyperbole, this is exactly the situation that led to the death of George Floyd; a twenty-dollar counterfeit bill and refusal to be taken into law enforcement custody.

The reason state agents resort to killing an accused for refusal to comply is that, despite the verbal claims to the contrary by the state itself, there is no other way to ensure compliance with laws. If the general public knows that the worst the state will ever do is send easily ignored bills in the mail for fines, then laws would never be followed and the state would collapse. Because the state is an institution of violence, all laws must be backed with violence. The state may be careful to conceal this reality, but the ultimate refusal of compliance is always a summary execution.

More Laws Means More Violence

Police brutality, in a sense, is just a matter of numbers. As the number of interactions with an enforcement agent increase, the number of instances of violent interactions will also increase. If the odds of death from a single interaction remain the same, or even decline, this can be overwhelmed if the legal system expects greater instances of interaction with the general public through the application of more laws.

This can be demonstrated by the increasing number of death by legal intervention within the baseline white ethnicity in the United States in the aftermath of the war on drugs, particularly after the 1984 Sentencing Reform ActPer a Harvard study, the rate of killings via legal intervention of whites in 1985, the year after the US government decided to get tough on crime, stood at 0.28 per 100,000. By 2005 this number had risen to 0.37 per 100,000, an increase of 32 percent.

The reason I used whites as the baseline is due to the high volatility in the black legal intervention deaths. The underlying increase in the white death rate could indicate that the improvement in the black victimization rate should be even steeper than is reported now, but the overall impact is difficult to identify with other factors overwhelming the effects.

Further evidence that more law means more violence can be found in strong statist regimes. Enforcement killings in regimes like Venezuela are significantly worse and large-scale executions have been used to ensure legal compliance in societies like Maoist China and the Soviet Union. A society that believes it can solve all of its problems with the imposition of law will inevitably find itself engaging in large-scale killings to enforce it. The more aggressive the attempt at transforming society through legal imposition, the more aggressive the killing will be.

Don’t Just Defund the Police, End State Law

This is where the cognitive dissonance with the defund police movements comes into play. The people who support eliminating police violence also regularly support the passage of new mandates, redistribution schemes, and regulatory impositions. Without police, how do they think all these new laws and rules will be enforced? If taxation were a voluntary affair, few individuals would turn a substantial portion of their annual earnings over to the state for redistribution. If gun control were a suggestion, few people would make any effort to submit to the FFL (Federal Firearms License) sales regulations.

By advocating for more laws, rules, and taxes, these people are effectively advocating for an increase in police violence. Abolishing the entity called “police” won’t solve the issue, since the state will inevitably have to form a new entity that does all the same things and has all the same powers. Outlets like Vox can advocate for the creation of mobile response units and community mediators all they want; these entities are, from the viewpoint of the state, toothless without any means to initiate violence to ensure compliance with rules. Community mediators will either find themselves armed or calling on some newly created entity that looks and acts a lot like current police but is called something different to deal with a belligerent individual who refuses to follow the mandate. As anyone with a glove box filled with unpaid parking tickets can tell you, it’s easy to ignore a piece of paper with a fine on it. The state is going to inevitably need an armed, violent agency to handle noncompliant individuals.

The only way to ensure an end to police brutality is not concocting new entities with different names or, worse, focusing on the ethnic element of it, as all that does is try and argue that police violence is fine so long as it’s dished out equally along ethnic lines. The only way is to abolish the state. Without a state, there is no state law. Without state law, there isn’t a need for enforcement by an entity that operates with the language of violence. Without violent enforcement, there isn’t anyone getting killed for noncompliance.

Private structures have little incentive to kill noncompliant actors, and they are able to create stronger enforcement structures than state actors can. Social ostracizing, ejection from business groups, or a ban from a shop would have an equally strong impact compared to the threat of violence. Further, private security agencies that quickly utilize violence would find themselves undesired by customers and lose favor, especially if these agencies create the impression that they are against a particular group of potential customers.

As nice as it would be to believe that police can exist solely as a protection service, this isn’t the case. There’s a reason they’re called law enforcement and not protective services. The U.S. Supreme Court has already definitively told us that our police agencies have no obligation to protect anyone. Their only priority is enforcing the laws, and as those laws expand, the chances we’ll find ourselves interacting unfavorably with an enforcer will increase.

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Authorities Are Still Looking for Any Clear Motives for the Attack – LewRockwell

Posted by M. C. on July 18, 2020

Each year adults all over the “developed” world spend the first half of the year working without pay, in a form of slavery creatively called the income tax.

It’s slavery.

Clear motives for the attack? Is that really a serious question?

https://www.lewrockwell.com/2020/07/allan-stevo/authorities-are-still-looking-for-any-clear-motives-for-the-attack/

By

What do you call a system in which a person is forced to work for someone else without pay?

Slavery.

Each year adults all over the “developed” world spend the first half of the year working without pay, in a form of slavery creatively called the income tax.

It’s slavery.

Doesn’t matter what foolish name they give it.

Each year, tens of thousands of people around the globe learn who really owns their home when they neglect to pay taxes on it and are forced out.

Property tax they call it. No matter whose name is on the deed, skip your property tax payments and be reminded that you’re just a tenant with no actual property rights.

It’s tenancy.

Doesn’t matter what foolish name they give it.

I make something. You like it. You offer to buy it from me. I say yes. We agree to a price, and you pull out the money. Some guy sticks his hand through the window and takes 13% of the money just as it’s passing between your hands and mine.

That’s stealing.

Doesn’t matter what foolish name they give it.

It doesn’t matter if it’s 1%, 13%, or 21%. It’s still stealing. There’s no nominal amount of stealing that’s appropriate. There’s no justifiable quantity. There’s no moral amount that can be stolen. It’s all bad.

I don’t care if the guy calls it sales tax, VAT, or protection money, the money is still stolen.

In Kozani, Greece on Thursday, July 16, 2020, a 45-year-old man walked into the government tax office on Aristotle Street with an ax and started swinging away at people working there.

The dramatic retelling of the story ends with the reporter saying “Authorities are still looking for any clear motives for the attack…”

Really?

Clear motives to want to do harm to thieves?

Clear motives to want to do harm to thieves who not only enslave you, threaten your home and steal from you, but also now use their ill gotten gains to lock you into your home, pump the airwaves with fear, refuse to let you visit the sick, divide families, close playgrounds, close beaches, make beloved childhood activities illegal, foment societal division, put the elderly in group homes to die neglected and alone, close stadiums, bring the recovered alcoholic back to the bottle, cancel lifesaving surgeries for those on the brink of death, push the depressive over the edge, stop therapy for those with cancer creeping through their body, make life so unnecessarily challenging for the marginalized who were just starting to get things together, deny families a funeral, close down the churches, and destroy the economizing human cooperation that we call our civilization?

And then if you don’t go along with their destructionism they say you are so dishonorable that you hate people and are anti-science.

Clear motives for the attack? Is that really a serious question?

The Greek man with the ax might be more sane than anyone I know. He’s one in a billion. The real question isn’t “What’s wrong with him?” The real question is “What’s wrong with the rest of us?”

Be seeing you

 

 

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A sneaky attempt to end encryption is worming its way through Congress – The Verge

Posted by M. C. on March 21, 2020

Maryland, Nebraska, and New York have all proposed taxes that would force tech companies to hand over a portion of the revenue generated from digital advertising.

For starters, it’s not clear that companies have to “earn” what are already protections provided under the First Amendment: to publish, and to allow their users to publish, with very few legal restrictions. But if the EARN IT Act were passed, tech companies could be held liable if their users posted illegal content.

“Illegal content” is what exactly? What the government and silicon vallet says it is.

Guilty until proven innocent.

https://www.theverge.com/interface/2020/3/12/21174815/earn-it-act-encryption-killer-lindsay-graham-match-group?fbclid=IwAR359rLkVvdOX7UDufhZKrRoxc4f52FDeI1MeAE5zGvD7y3yR-qFEOOc4QI

The EARN IT Act could give law enforcement officials the backdoor they have long wanted — unless tech companies come together to stop it

A thing about writing a newsletter about technology and democracy during a global pandemic is that technology and democracy are no longer really at the forefront of everyone’s attention. The relationship between big platforms and the nations they operate in remains vitally important for all sorts of reasons, and I’ve argued that the platforms have been unusually proactive in their efforts to promote high-quality information sources. Still, these moves are a sideshow compared to the questions we’re all now asking. How many people will get COVID-19? How many people will die? Will our healthcare system be overwhelmed? How long will it take our economy to recover?

We won’t know the answers for weeks, but I’m starting to fear the worst. On Wednesday the World Health Organization declared that COVID-19 had officially become a pandemic. A former director for the Centers for Disease Control now says that in the worst case scenario, more than 1 million Americans could die.

This piece by Tomas Pueyo argues persuasively that the United States is currently seeing exponential growth in the number of people contracting the disease, and that hospitals are likely to be overwhelmed. Pueyo’s back ground is in growth marketing, not in epidemiology. But by now we have seen enough outbreaks in enough countries to have a rough idea of how the disease spreads, and to understand the value of “social distancing” — that is, staying behind closed doors. So I want to recommend that everyone here reads that piece, and consider modifying your behavior if you’re still planning events or spending a lot of time in public.

* * *

One risk of having the world pay attention to a single, all-consuming story is that less important but still urgent stories are missed along the way. One such unfolding story in our domain is the (deep breath) Eliminating Abusive and Rampant Neglect of Interactive Technologies (“EARN IT”) Act, which was the subject of a Senate hearing on Wednesday. Here’s Alfred Ng with an explainer in CNET:

The EARN IT Act was introduced by Sen. Lindsey Graham (Republican of South Carolina) and Sen. Richard Blumenthal (Democrat of Connecticut), along with Sen. Josh Hawley (Republican of Missouri) and Sen. Dianne Feinstein (Democrat of California) on March 5.

The premise of the bill is that technology companies have to earn Section 230 protections rather than being granted immunity by default, as the Communications Decency Act has provided for over two decades.

For starters, it’s not clear that companies have to “earn” what are already protections provided under the First Amendment: to publish, and to allow their users to publish, with very few legal restrictions. But if the EARN IT Act were passed, tech companies could be held liable if their users posted illegal content. This would represent a significant and potentially devastating amendment to Section 230, a much-misunderstood law that many consider a pillar of the internet and the businesses that operate on top of it.

When internet companies become liable for what their users post, those companies aggressively moderate speech. This was the chief outcome of FOSTA-SESTA, the last bill Congress passed to amend Section 230. It was putatively written to eliminate sex trafficking, and was passed into law after Facebook endorsed it. I wrote about the aftermath in October:

[The law] threatens any website owner with up to 10 years in prison for hosting even one instance of prostitution-related content. As a result, sites like Craigslist removed their entire online personals sections. Sex workers who had previously been working as their own bosses were driven back onto the streets, often forced to work for pimps. Prostitution-related crime in San Francisco alone — including violence against workers — more than tripled.

Meanwhile, evidence that the law reduced sex trafficking is suspiciously hard to come by. And there is little reason to believe that the EARN IT Act will be a greater boon to public life.

Yet, for the reasons Issie Lapowsky lays out today in a good piece in Protocol, it may pass anyway. Once again Congress has lined up some sympathetic witnesses who paint a picture that, because of their misfortune, whole swathes of the internet should be eliminated. It would do that by setting up a byzantine checklist structure that would handcuff companies to a difficult-to-modify set of procedures. One item on that checklist could be eliminating end-to-end encryption in messaging apps, depriving the world of a secure communications tool at a time when authoritarian governments are surging around the world. Here’s Lapowsky:

The EARN IT Act would establish the National Commission on Online Child Sexual Exploitation Prevention, a 19-member commission, tasked with creating a set of best practices for online companies to abide by with regard to stopping child sexual abuse material. Those best practices would have to be approved by 14 members of the committee and submitted to the attorney general, the secretary of homeland security, and the chairman of the Federal Trade Commission for final approval. That list would then need to be enacted by Congress. Companies would have to certify that they’re following those best practices in order to retain their Section 230 immunity. Like FOSTA/SESTA before it, losing that immunity would be a significant blow to companies with millions, or billions, of users posting content every day.

The question now is whether the industry can convince lawmakers that the costs of the law outweigh the benefits. It’s a debate that will test what tech companies have learned from the FOSTA/SESTA battle — and how much clout they even have left on Capitol Hill.

The bill’s backers have not said definitively that they will demand a backdoor for law enforcement (and whoever else can find it) as part of the EARN IT Act. (In fact, Blumenthal denies it.) But nor have they written the bill to say they won’t. And Graham, one of the bill’s cosponsors, left little doubt on where he stands:

“Facebook is talking about end-to-end encryption which means they go blind,” Sen Graham said, later adding, “We’re not going to go blind and let this abuse go forward in the name of any other freedom.”

Notably, Match Group — the company behind Tinder, OKCupid, and many of the most popular dating apps in the United States — has come out in support of the bill. (That’s easy for Match: none of the apps it makes offer encrypted communications.) The platforms are starting to speak up against it, though — see this thread from WhatsApp chief Will Cathcart.

In the meantime, Graham raises the prospect that the federal government will get what it has long wanted — greatly expanded power to surveil our communications — by burying it in a complex piece of legislation that is nominally about reducing the spread of child abuse imagery. It’s a cynical move, and if the similar tactics employed in the FOSTA-SESTA debate were any indication, it might well be an effective one.

The Ratio

Trending up: Amazon and the Gates Foundation might team up to deliver coronavirus test kits to Seattle homes. The test kits include nose swabs that can be mailed to the University of Washington for analysis.

Trending up: Amazon will give all employees diagnosed with coronavirus or put into quarantine up to two weeks of paid sick leave. The policy includes part-time warehouse workers. COVID-19 has really been a watershed for tech giants treating their contract workers like the human beings they are.

Outbreak

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Taxing the Rich to Fund Welfare Is the Nobel Winner’s Growth Mantra

Posted by M. C. on October 31, 2019

The Nobel Prize

The dinosaur that forgot to die.

https://www.bloombergquint.com/global-economics/taxing-the-rich-to-fund-welfare-is-nobel-winner-s-growth-mantra

Vrishti Beniwal

(Bloomberg) — How do you spur demand in an economy? By raising taxes, not cutting them, says this year’s winner of the Nobel prize for economics. Reducing taxes to boost investment is a myth spread by businesses, says Abhijit Banerjee, who won the prize along with Esther Duflo of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and Michael Kremer of Harvard University for their approach to alleviating
A better approach would be to raise some taxes and distribute the money to people to spend, Banerjee said in an interview Monday in New Delhi, where he was promoting his book ‘Good Economics for Hard Times.’ “You don’t boost growth by cutting taxes, you do that by giving money to people,” he said. “Investment will respond to demand.” Countries from China to India to Indonesia are slashing taxes…

Read more at: https://www.bloombergquint.com/global-economics/taxing-the-rich-to-fund-welfare-is-nobel-winner-s-growth-mantra
Copyright © BloombergQuint

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WHOOPS! Nobel Committee Regrets Awarding Barack Obama The ...

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Quotes From Dead Guys

Posted by M. C. on October 17, 2019

…For we are opposed around the world by a monolithic and ruthless conspiracy that relies primarily on covert means for expanding its sphere of influence–on infiltration instead of invasion, on subversion instead of elections, on intimidation instead of free choice, on guerrillas by night instead of armies by day. It is a system which has conscripted vast human and material resources into the building of a tightly knit, highly efficient machine that combines military, diplomatic, intelligence, economic, scientific and political operations.

Its preparations are concealed, not published. Its mistakes are buried, not headlined. Its dissenters are silenced, not praised. No expenditure is questioned, no rumor is printed, no secret is revealed. It conducts the Cold War, in short, with a war-time discipline no democracy would ever hope or wish to match…President John F. Kennedy
Waldorf-Astoria Hotel, New York City
April 27, 1961

“The most urgent necessity is, not that the State should teach, but that it should allow education. All monopolies are detestable, but the worst of all is the monopoly of education.” – Frederic Bastiat

“Armies, and debts, and taxes are the known instruments for bringing the many under the domination of the few.” – James Madison

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Patrick Buchanan: Tariffs — The Taxes That Made America Great

Posted by M. C. on May 15, 2019

Free trade. Free is good, right?

Buchanan seems to advocate permanent tariffs. The Donald appears to view tariffs as a non-permanent corrective measure, I think.

Tariffs encourage high domestic producer prices and lessen efficiency incentives.

A few win and we pay the price. Literally.

Is what was true 100 years ago true today? I am afraid we will find out the hard way. Time will tell.

https://www.cnsnews.com/commentary/patrick-j-buchanan/tariffs-taxes-made-america-great

By Patrick J. Buchanan

As his limo carried him to work at the White House Monday, Larry Kudlow could not have been pleased with the headline in The Washington Post: “Kudlow Contradicts Trump on Tariffs.”

The story began: “National Economic Council Director Lawrence Kudlow acknowledged Sunday that American consumers end up paying for the administration’s tariffs on Chinese imports, contradicting President Trump’s repeated inaccurate claim that the Chinese foot the bill.”

A free trade evangelical, Kudlow had conceded on Fox News that consumers pay the tariffs on products made abroad that they purchase here in the U.S. Yet that is by no means the whole story.

A tariff may be described as a sales or consumption tax the consumer pays, but tariffs are also a discretionary and an optional tax.

If you choose not to purchase Chinese goods and instead buy comparable goods made in other nations or the USA, then you do not pay the tariff.

China loses the sale. This is why Beijing, which runs $350 billion to $400 billion in annual trade surpluses at our expense is howling loudest. Should Donald Trump impose that 25% tariff on all $500 billion in Chinese exports to the USA, it would cripple China’s economy. Factories seeking assured access to the U.S. market would flee in panic from the Middle Kingdom.

Tariffs were the taxes that made America great…

What great nation did free traders ever build?

Free trade is the policy of fading and failing powers, past their prime. In the half-century following passage of the Corn Laws, the British showed the folly of free trade.

They began the second half of the 19th century with an economy twice that of the USA and ended it with an economy half of ours, and equaled by a Germany, which had, under Bismarck, adopted what was known as the American System.

Of the nations that have risen to economic preeminence in recent centuries — the British before 1850, the United States between 1789 and 1914, post-war Japan, China in recent decades — how many did so through free trade? None. All practiced economic nationalism…

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capitaism

 

 

 

 

 

 

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The Death of Socialism – LewRockwell

Posted by M. C. on May 3, 2019

https://www.lewrockwell.com/2019/05/martin-armstrong/the-death-of-socialism/

By

Armstrong Economics

Socialism is dying because governments have made promises they cannot keep. Now when people expect that they will be there, they suddenly find the promises have been constantly revised. They always point to the rich and how they will make them pay. Everything who thinks they cannot possibly be the rich cheer, but at the end of the day, their taxes never decline and the promised-land seems further and further away…

Socialism is dying and in the process this will only inspire violence. People believed in this system. They really believed those in power had their best interests at heart. Unfortunately, we are moving into this darkness where more and more people are beginning to realize that government is the number one problem – not Global Warming.

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5f4ca-Cortez12

 

 

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EconomicPolicyJournal.com: Krugman: Use Taxation to Do Hidden Regulation

Posted by M. C. on March 12, 2019

https://www.economicpolicyjournal.com/2019/03/krugman-use-taxation-to-do-hidden.html

In his latest New York Times column, the sneaky lefty, Paul Krugman, let his guard down and explained that taxation could be used as a sneaky way to regulate:

I guess there’s some case for using taxes rather than regulations to control pollution, since you won’t be telling people directly what to do.

What does he mean by pollution? Like Starbucks, he appears to hold the view that plastic straws from the United States are suffocating the ocean. He writes:

Plastic straws really are a source of ocean pollution.

To understand how misguided this Krugman sentence is, see: The Idiotic Thinking Behind the Elimination of Plastic Straws By Starbucks.

Krugman is nothing but an apologist for the expanding state.

RW

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