Veronique de Rugy from Creators Syndicate Creators Syndicate is an international syndication company that represents cartoonists and columnists of the highest caliber. en Tue, 31 Mar 2020 14:56:06 -0700 Veronique de Rugy from Creators Syndicate 544749c88a5525eb8798b3edf85c7dd1 Creativity and Compassion Continue to Combat the Coronavirus for 03/26/2020 Thu, 26 Mar 2020 00:00:00 -0700 <p></p><p>It's easy to feel depressed and scared these days. News about the impact and death toll of the new coronavirus, COVID-19, is constant. Government responses have been chaotic, ranging from near-indifference to suddenly shutting down the economy, with politicians offering to pay for everything.</p> <p>Yet we shouldn't lose sight of the exceptional vitality that the private sector is demonstrating during this mess. It will make a difference, so cheer up!<p>Updated: Thu Mar 26, 2020</p> 069c8bd97ef5e01185405e2a1740a300 Coronavirus Pandemic Infected by a Spirit of Generosity for 03/19/2020 Thu, 19 Mar 2020 00:00:00 -0700 <p></p><p>While many of us turn to the government for answers to the COVID-19 pandemic, others rightfully seek solutions from the private sector. Last week, the Hoover Institution's Russ Roberts asked his many Twitter followers to help "create a list of voluntary (non-coercive) actions taking place right now to reduce COVID-19 spread or impact." The answers are too inspiring not to share.</p> <p>First, many of Roberts' followers shared a list the benefits offered by their employers that help to alleviate workers' financial hardships or ensure their health is protected. For instance, Walmart, Target, Gap and many other firms announced that they will provide up to two weeks of paid leave to every worker who is sick or taking care of sick family members.<p>Updated: Thu Mar 19, 2020</p> 7d408423b94cdd4150fe11fdafc465b4 Supply and Demand, Hoarding, Price Gouging -- and the Coronavirus for 03/12/2020 Thu, 12 Mar 2020 00:00:00 -0700 <p>As the saying goes, "Nothing is certain but death and taxes." I would add, "and anti-price gouging legislation in times of crisis." Yet price increases in the face of sudden shortages are an important impetus to restore supply and demand market conditions that are closer to normal.</p> <p>As many of us have experienced in the past few weeks, buying toilet paper, hand sanitizer and face masks has become more difficult and more expensive. The reason, of course, is that unusually large numbers of people are rushing to buy these and other products that might prevent the spread of the coronavirus. It's normal for people to stock up on supplies during crises. The immediate results are empty store shelves, soon followed by higher prices.</p> <p>When this happens, politicians around the globe demand an end to the price hikes. The goal is to improve consumer access to the products now in higher demand.<p>Updated: Thu Mar 12, 2020</p> 3386c7c67e7ee8b564c82c9894502f56 Paid Family Leave Act Will Have You Paying $10 for a $4 Cup of Coffee for 03/05/2020 Thu, 05 Mar 2020 00:00:00 -0800 <p>Following increased interest in expanding access to paid family and medical leave, Rep. Rosa DeLauro, D-Conn., joined forces with Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand, D-N.Y., to promote the Family and Medical Insurance Leave, or FAMILY, Act. If we believe the act's supporters, it would cost close to nothing and provide essential benefits to employees who don't currently receive them.</p> <p>Unfortunately, these claims are bogus.</p> <p>Under the FAMILY Act, the federal government would offer 12 weeks of paid time off to enable workers to care for infants, recover from major illnesses and care for severely ill relatives. During that time, employees would receive benefits administered by the Social Security Administration equal to 66% of their regular earnings, with a minimum monthly benefit of $580 and a maximum monthly benefit of $4,000. To pay for this new handout, the federal government would impose a 0.4% payroll tax to be divided evenly between employers and employees.<p>Updated: Thu Mar 05, 2020</p> 466282a9a6c220a4260deb1749eba42c Paid Leave and the Composition of Compensation for 02/27/2020 Thu, 27 Feb 2020 00:00:00 -0800 <p>Despite recent stock market jitters related to the coronavirus, the U.S. economy is doing well. Wages are growing, especially for lower-income workers, and unemployment is low. Yet calls are intensifying for the federal government to implement paid leave, which may unwittingly hurt those whom the program claims to help. Supporters often resort to the same misleading notions to make their case &#8212; misperceptions that must be continuously debunked, lest they lead to unnecessary harm to working families.</p> <p>Among the most common claims used to make the case for government provision of paid leave is that not every working woman gets paid leave, which supposedly demonstrates a market failure. Still, data show that 63% of women today have access to such leave, a 280% increase since the 1960s. The women who don't receive this benefit are mostly lower-skilled workers with part-time and hourly jobs employed at small businesses.</p> <p>Undoubtedly, these women would like to get paid to stay home after the birth of their children, yet that's no more evidence of a market failure than is my not driving a Tesla, even though I'd like to drive one if it were free. This isn't a reason for government to mandate paid leave (or Teslas) for all workers.<p>Updated: Thu Feb 27, 2020</p> b94e460927a6d913b5be41c1f53c863c Sanders' Economic Plan Looks Like a Duck, Despite How Some Quack for 02/20/2020 Thu, 20 Feb 2020 00:00:00 -0800 <p>As Sen. Bernie Sanders looks more and more like the one who may win the Democratic presidential nomination, some tell us that he isn't the radical leftist others make him out to be. Maybe he's not even a socialist, despite his own claims. In fact, the storyline continues, compared to many prominent European political figures, Sanders is mainstream.</p> <p>Do not be fooled.</p> <p>It's true that, according to Sanders, his socialist vision for America is one that looks more like Denmark rather than Soviet Russia. Yes, he has praised oppressive communist and socialist regimes in the past, though he may no longer plan on nationalizing industries or implementing wholesale central planning of our economy. So it's true that he isn't a full-fledged socialist &#8212; yet.<p>Updated: Thu Feb 20, 2020</p> d3a9a32e44b9a5b2ced5f004288ade60 Trump's Budget Follows in the Footsteps of Giant Spenders for 02/13/2020 Thu, 13 Feb 2020 00:00:00 -0800 <p>President Donald Trump's proposed fiscal year 2021 budget has been released. Generally, budget documents are more of a statement about priorities and aspirations than of anything else. This proposal is typical: It's full of unrealistic assumptions, as well as "savings" that will never happen. It is, in short, a testament to fiscal irresponsibility. Unfortunately, when you use more realistic assumptions and take politics into consideration, you are left with a lot of spending.</p> <p>What this budget tells us is that this Republican president is a big spender. Under it, the federal government would spend $4.8 trillion in fiscal year 2021. That's 21% ($850 billon) more than when Trump took office, confirming that Republican presidents can't be trusted to restore fiscal sanity.</p> <p>After adjusting 2009 spending levels to remove the Troubled Asset Relief Program and the stimulus bill &#8212; which affected both President Barack Obama's and President George Bush's budgets, as well as excluding interest paid on the debt &#8212; the Cato Institute's Chris Edwards shows that during Trump's first term, he displayed the same proclivity to jack up spending as his Republicans predecessors. The data shows that Trump increased defense spending in real terms by 18%, with an overall spending growth rate of 10%. Presidents Ronald Reagan and George W. Bush increased defense spending by 28% and 36%, respectively (and overall spending by 9% and 24%). Compared with their Republican counterparts, Democratic presidents Obama and Bill Clinton look frugal.<p>Updated: Thu Feb 13, 2020</p> cc8161008478c7149b675d2c31b3f55a Uncle Sam Doubles Down on His Spending Addiction for 02/06/2020 Thu, 06 Feb 2020 00:00:00 -0800 <p></p><p>My fellow taxpayers, this is your quarterly warning that Uncle Sam is not a good steward of your money. The Congressional Budget Office just released its most recent 10-year projections for federal spending and revenues. The picture is not pretty.</p> <p>A quick overview: This fiscal year, 2020, the federal government will collect $3.6 trillion in tax revenues. But due to its spending addiction, the government will expend $4.6 trillion. This means that the government will have to borrow $1 trillion this year alone, in order to cover a deficit of 4.6% of GDP. This is the first trillion-dollar deficit not due to a global recession.<p>Updated: Thu Feb 06, 2020</p> 240bf8a1883c78e2714381f4fa9e2c2f Trump's Derivative Tariffs Continue Faulty Narrative for 01/30/2020 Thu, 30 Jan 2020 00:00:00 -0800 <p>The Tariff Man has done it again. President Donald Trump recently announced that he will expand import taxes on American consumers of auto parts, nails and other goods made in the United States with steel and aluminum. Apparently, untaxed imports of these metals put our national security at risk.</p> <p>Under the latest proclamation, some imports of products made with aluminum will be subject to an additional 10% tax, while some steel products will be hit with a 25% one. The decision comes two years after the first round of steel and aluminum tariffs, a little over a month following the United States-Mexico-Canada Agreement's approval by the U.S. Congress, two weeks after Trump signed a phase one trade deal with China and while the U.S. government is in the middle of some trade negotiations with the Europeans.</p> <p>Thanks to the new trade agreement, Canada and Mexico are exempt from these new levies. Argentina and Australia are exempt from the added aluminum tariffs, while Brazil and South Korea are exempt from the additional steel tariffs. This complexity could make a phase two agreement with China difficult, and it likely won't help with the Europeans.<p>Updated: Thu Jan 30, 2020</p> 6f0ce8329bfe4e55d7dc9803e395e71b Trump's Labor Department Provides Clarity on Joint Employment for 01/23/2020 Thu, 23 Jan 2020 00:00:00 -0800 <p>Three years into the Trump administration, we see a clear pattern forming. The Obama administration implemented labor rules that make the labor market less flexible, often at the expense of smaller businesses, but in ways that made unions happy. The Trump administration then takes these rules away. The latest example is the dismantling of the Obama Labor Department's joint employer rule.</p> <p>As the new Secretary of Labor Eugene Scalia and the Office of Management Director Mick Mulvaney explained recently in The Wall Street Journal, "When joint employment exists, two separate companies are responsible for ensuring that workers receive the federally mandated minimum wage and overtime pay. Two companies are responsible for ensuring the proper records are kept. And two companies can be taken to court if it's alleged that those responsibilities have not been met."</p> <p>The question is: When is there actually joint employment? From 1958 to 2015, joint employment was said to exist when two employers are "not completely disassociated" from each other. This needlessly vague phrasing was only worsened by the Obama administration's attempted clarification. A 2015 ruling by the National Labor Relations Board, followed by a 2016 legal interpretation adopted by the Labor Department, expanded joint employment to any business with "indirect influence" over another company's employment terms and conditions.<p>Updated: Thu Jan 23, 2020</p> 1d49e47ed678e75d079ba6e72ba8f923 Social Engineering Run Amok in the Department of Labor for 01/16/2020 Thu, 16 Jan 2020 00:00:00 -0800 <p>A few years ago, the U.S. Chamber of Commerce released two reports detailing enforcement and litigation abuses by the Department of Labor's Office of Federal Contract Compliance Programs, or OFCCP. Instead of holding firms accountable when they engage in real discrimination against their employees, the agency has become a government arm for securing high-dollar settlements on dubious grounds.</p> <p>Congress has not moved to rein in this abuse, though that may change if one of the few companies that are finally standing up to the agency prevails against its abuser.</p> <p>Created by a Lyndon Johnson-era Executive Order 11246, OFCCP enforces the federal government's affirmative action and anti-discrimination mandates on federal contractors. It typically does so through routine audits, which are often fishing expeditions. The behavior of its auditors has been widely criticized for decades. Complaints include allegations of arbitrary and abusive exercises of power, waste of resources and intimidation. There's no good excuse for this type of bullying by a government agency.<p>Updated: Thu Jan 16, 2020</p> 09a9dd18bbe24f93ccb4233ed689b415 Once Again, Government-Subsidized Projects Fail to Deliver for 01/09/2020 Thu, 09 Jan 2020 00:00:00 -0800 <p>In June 2018, President Donald Trump attended the groundbreaking ceremony for a Foxconn factory in Wisconsin. Ever exuberant in his comments, he called the project the "eighth wonder of the world" and "one of the great deals, ever." Always a bragger, his praise was directed at himself for orchestrating the use of state subsidies and tax credits to bring the Taiwanese multinational electronics company to Wisconsin for it to manufacture high-resolution LCD screens.</p> <p>To make this deal happen, the state legislature offered a subsidy package of $4.5 billion, mostly in direct cash payments, and lower-priced land acquired through eminent domain. In exchange, Foxconn promised to create more than 13,000 middle-class manufacturing jobs, a revived manufacturing sector and loads of tax revenue &#8212; the combination of which was projected to produce economic returns ranging from $39 billion to $78 billion over the next 15 years. If these returns sound like a great deal, you've been conned.</p> <p>A year and a half after Trump paraded at the site with his golden shovel, the reality isn't as bright. First, a few days before the ceremony, Foxconn announced that the factory would ultimately be smaller than the one initially promised. It would also be highly automated, with almost all of the assembly work done by robots, and would only require 3,000 employees &#8212; 90% of them "knowledge workers" such as engineers, programmers and designers. There's nothing wrong with such a modern factory, except that it's not what Trump and other government officials thought they were buying with taxpayers' money.<p>Updated: Thu Jan 09, 2020</p> e4011c6c621b7fa9cac67ed3343b5f62 It's Resolution Time for Congress and the Administration for 01/02/2020 Thu, 02 Jan 2020 00:00:00 -0800 <p>Mark Twain once wrote, "New Year's is a harmless annual institution, of no particular use to anybody save as a scapegoat for promiscuous drunks, and friendly calls, and humbug resolutions, and we wish you to enjoy it with a looseness suited to the greatness of the occasion." I love this quote, which is unfortunately all too accurate. Yet, I can't help but hope that as this new year begins, some in Congress and in the administration might find it worthwhile to follow a few resolutions that I offer below.</p> <p>Resolution No. 1: Don't apply new tariffs. </p> <p>Last year's trade policy was chaotic. This was largely a result of the president's random announcements, often on Twitter, that he'd apply tariffs on goods coming into the country. In some cases, the tariffs were meant to negotiate radically different trade deals than the ones we already had, a goal never achieved so far. In other cases, tariff threats were a way to get foreign governments to do things that have nothing to do with trade, such as reducing the number of immigrants crossing the U.S.-Mexico border or forcing Brazil and Argentina to somehow keep economic turmoil from causing the value of their currencies to fall. In yet other instances, the president's announcements seemed to be triggered by some weird need to show that he's still in control and untamed.<p>Updated: Thu Jan 02, 2020</p> 769fd44ef43d33a839704fabb7bddc2c Was 2019 the Year of Peak Entitlement Mentality? for 12/26/2019 Thu, 26 Dec 2019 00:00:00 -0800 <p></p><p>Looking back at 2019 is incredibly disorienting. The country is horribly divided. In fact, the president of the United States was just impeached along partisan lines. The government is running trillion dollar (and growing) annual budget deficits, even though the economy is doing well. Still, listening to many politicians and pundits, you'd think the nation is doing terribly and the government isn't spending a dime. That's 2019 in a nutshell.</p> <p>The economy is entering its 11th year of expansion. Poverty is at an all-time low; so are African American and Hispanic unemployment rates. The 3.5% overall unemployment rate hasn't been that low since 1969. The unemployment rate for women hasn't been this low since 1952. The employment rate for workers ages 25 to 54 is finally back above its pre-Great Recession level. Wages are on the rise, especially at the bottom of the income distribution. The stock market is on fire. Small businesses and many industries are complaining that they can't find enough workers to fill all the jobs they have.<p>Updated: Thu Dec 26, 2019</p> 398514372981c8d160157f9be4fafe76 Politicians Are Addicted to Price Controls for 12/19/2019 Thu, 19 Dec 2019 00:00:00 -0800 <p></p><p>Despite overwhelming historical evidence demonstrating the folly of government-imposed price controls, modern politicians just can't seem to quit inflicting them on us. One obvious example involves health care, where price controls on prescription medications always seem to be just around the corner and are now being considered in the rush to eliminate surprise medical bills. Fewer people know about similar efforts regarding the aluminum market, where some politicians are contemplating price controls to compensate victims of the trade war.</p> <p>Back in March 2018, President Donald Trump announced that he would impose a 10% tariff on all imported aluminum (unless an exemption was later granted by the Department of Commerce).<p>Updated: Thu Dec 19, 2019</p> dbb7584de452bdb4bd83bd67dbe83ddb Will the Fed Edge Out the Competition With Real-Time Payments? for 12/12/2019 Thu, 12 Dec 2019 00:00:00 -0800 <p></p><p>Imagine what it must be like for private companies that have invested in a new technology and suddenly find out they have to compete with a tax-supported government agency &#8212; the very one that also regulates the industry. That's what happened when the Federal Reserve entered the real-time payments market. What this development means for the private companies and the consumers they serve in this market is unclear. The outcome will depend on the Fed's willingness to play by the rules.</p> <p>The Fed plans to develop what it's calling the FedNow Service, which is expected to launch sometime in the next five years. FedNow is to be a real-time gross settlement service that would compete against private-sector options like The Clearing House, or TCH, payment platform, which is run by a consortium of large banks. Real-time payments would significantly speed up the current slow speed of many payments. That's more convenient for American businesses and consumers, and it reduces the burden on lower-income Americans.<p>Updated: Thu Dec 12, 2019</p> 211fbf288d885d51c10bf9c20d0e20e1 Congress' Continuing Resolution Is an Opportunity for Reform for 12/05/2019 Thu, 05 Dec 2019 00:00:00 -0800 <p>Once again, Congress failed to pass its budget before the end of the fiscal year on Sept. 30. It also failed to do this critical part of its job before the continuing resolution, or CR &#8212; which they enacted in September to fund the government &#8212; expired on Nov. 21. The sorry result is that Congress compelled itself to adopt yet another CR, one that will run through Dec. 20. If this tale sounds familiar and irresponsible, that's because it is.</p> <p>As of now, Congress finds itself, yet again, in the same position it was in last year when it faced a year-end shutdown. Unfortunately, this combination of budgetary cowardice and irresponsibility is not new. As the Pew Research Center explains, "In the four decades since the current system for budgeting and spending tax dollars has been in effect, Congress has managed to pass all its required appropriations measures on time only four times: in fiscal 1977 (the first full fiscal year under the current system), 1989, 1995 and 1997."</p> <p>Always the optimist, I hope that Congress will, this time, use the remaining days on the CR to do the right thing on a few items:<p>Updated: Thu Dec 05, 2019</p> ed15084da0537612fc9efac8fe3540d1 The End Is Not Nigh -- There Is Much to Be Thankful For for 11/28/2019 Thu, 28 Nov 2019 00:00:00 -0800 <p>At a time when our country seems as divided as ever and many are talking as if the end times are coming, it's more important than ever to look at what we should be thankful for.</p> <p>Unemployment is at its lowest level in nearly 50 years. Poverty is down, too. Since 1990, average life expectancy in the United States increased from 75.4 to 78.6 years. Our workplaces are also safer, as demonstrated by the 30% decline in the rate of workplace deaths from 1992 to 2017 and a 69% drop in the rate of workplace injury and illness.</p> <p>Our cities and country as a whole are safer, with crime rates falling dramatically. In fact, Washington, D.C. experienced an incredible increase among the world's safest cities ranking. It jumped from the 23rd safest city in the world in 2017 to number 7 in 2019. Negative indicators, such as teen pregnancies and abortion rates, are also declining.<p>Updated: Thu Nov 28, 2019</p> 0fd6af07f43c02d2185d7de3c9c447ec Export-Import Bank Reauthorization Lacks Needed Reform for 11/21/2019 Thu, 21 Nov 2019 00:00:00 -0800 <p>When the U.S. House of Representatives voted to reauthorize the Export-Import Bank last week, special interests got their way in the swamp that is Washington. While advocates for the nation's official export credit agency pretend it supports small businesses, grows exports and sustains growth, the reality is quite different. Ex-Im Bank is better described as a vessel for corporate welfare, mostly for the benefit of large domestic and foreign manufacturers.</p> <p>This is a sad statement about the state of policymaking in Congress. The House bill that passed with 235-184 in favor of reauthorization is an even worse version of the mediocre reform bill that legislators previously hoped to pass. It makes no real effort to reform the way Ex-Im Bank allocates its deals, which shows that legislators continue to support business as usual at the bank. That means more corporate welfare for huge companies with armies of lobbyists. It also means a return to 40% of the bank's activities benefiting the aircraft manufacturer Boeing, which is why many of us call Ex-Im "Boeing's Bank."</p> <p>This is disheartening in light of growing evidence that Boeing's cozy relationship with government officials at the Federal Aviation Agency played some role in Boeing's recent failures to fix problems with its software, which ultimately led to two fatal plane crashes.<p>Updated: Thu Nov 21, 2019</p> 688a0e866736452c506f3595ab63665b Crony Christmas Lists Crammed Into Congressional Crisis for 11/14/2019 Thu, 14 Nov 2019 00:00:00 -0800 <p></p><p>Here we go again. We're approaching another deadline to pass a government spending bill or risk a government shutdown. Legislators routinely manufacture this sort of "crisis" to ram through provisions that wouldn't survive scrutiny standing on their own. Congress is reportedly likely to push the budget deadline into December, but whenever the next full funding bill is finally taken up, there will inevitably be an effort to load it up with crony handouts.</p> <p>At the top of the wish list will be "tax extenders." These are tax provisions that generally bestow benefits on particular business interests, but they expire every year or so. They must be renewed regularly if the benefits are to continue.<p>Updated: Thu Nov 14, 2019</p>