Veronique de Rugy from Creators Syndicate Creators Syndicate is an international syndication company that represents cartoonists and columnists of the highest caliber. en Fri, 03 Jul 2020 06:44:23 -0700 Veronique de Rugy from Creators Syndicate eb896ec872143f0c3610883e0908844a As Bastiat Would Say, Peer Past the Obvious With Pandemic Policies for 07/02/2020 Thu, 02 Jul 2020 00:00:00 -0700 <p></p><p>This week marks the 219th birthday of the great 19th-century French economist Frederic Bastiat. It's the perfect time to talk about his famous essay, "That Which is Seen, and that Which is Not Seen," published in his book, "The Law." This timeless work remains an essential guide to thinking about policymaking.</p> <p>In that essay, Bastiat writes: "In the department of economy, an act, a habit, an institution, a law, gives birth not only to an effect, but to a series of effects. Of these effects, the first only is immediate; it manifests itself simultaneously with its cause &#8212; it is seen. The others unfold in succession &#8212; they are not seen: it is well for us if they are foreseen. Between a good and a bad economist this constitutes the whole difference &#8212; the one takes account of the visible effect; the other takes account both of the effects which are seen and also of those which it is necessary to foresee."<p>Updated: Thu Jul 02, 2020</p> 4473d23954ceae71a6ae49353b07e61a Congress Predictably Drops the Ball on Small Business Rescue for 06/25/2020 Thu, 25 Jun 2020 00:00:00 -0700 <p></p><p>The Payroll Protection Program, or the PPP, is the crown jewel of the Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security Act's attempt to rescue small businesses from effects of the coronavirus pandemic. Unfortunately, the program has been a mess in its implementation and its results. This predictable failure is likely to distort and delay our economic recovery.</p> <p>Here's the idea behind the PPP: The Small Business Administration, with the help of the Treasury Department, would issue hundreds of billions of dollars in low-interest-rate loans to small businesses. In theory, all small businesses with fewer than 500 employees qualified. Also in theory, if a business used 75% or more of its loan to cover payroll costs and keep paying workers for an eight-week period after the loan was granted, that loan would be forgiven.<p>Updated: Thu Jun 25, 2020</p> 8007bf2064ecfd5b1da5bad71ab7bf9a Give Individuals and Small Businesses a Government-Backed Line of Credit for 06/18/2020 Thu, 18 Jun 2020 00:00:00 -0700 <p>The economy is reopening. Consumer spending increased by almost 18% last month, sending the stock market soaring. That's the good news. The bad news is that with no COVID-19 vaccine or cure on the horizon, consumers have not fully resumed their prepandemic activities, and they might not do so for quite a while. There are no silver bullets to help everyone weather this storm. There is, however, a policy that could help the economy &#8212; businesses and individuals alike &#8212; in a fiscally responsible manner.</p> <p>That policy is to extend a low-interest rate, government-backed line of credit to everyone with a checking account.</p> <p>This idea was first designed and introduced by economist Arnold Kling as a much better alternative to the Payroll Protection Program, or the PPP. He and I wrote a policy brief for the Mercatus Center explaining the details of the proposal, which are quite straightforward. Take the amount of prepandemic income that went into every checking account in the country for the months of January and February 2020, and use that amount to determine each business's and person's available line of credit. Implementing this policy requires only that banks write a few lines of computer code.<p>Updated: Thu Jun 18, 2020</p> 300a1c23d2f5acc77b235111fe7097a8 The Tariff Man and Lobster King Could Learn From Confucius for 06/11/2020 Thu, 11 Jun 2020 00:00:00 -0700 <p>Apparently, the United States now has a Lobster King. This great title was bestowed upon the Trump administration's trade adviser, Peter Navarro, when the president recently threatened to impose tariffs on European Union cars if the bloc does not drop its tariff on American lobsters. Needless to say, the president is upset. </p> <p>Trade wars are indeed upsetting because they make the price of things consumers want to consume, like cars and lobsters, more expensive. But let's not forget that President Donald Trump is the one who unilaterally started this trade war back in 2018. He didn't seem to think imposing high tariffs on others was such a problem when he made Americans pay more for hundreds of billions of dollars of goods imported from China, the EU and elsewhere.</p> <p>In fact, he was so proud of it that he nicknamed himself the Tariff Man. And indeed, he used tariffs for everything from forcing countries (most notably Mexico and Canada) to renegotiate their trade agreement with the United States to bossing other governments into doing all sorts of nontrade-related things. An example of his tariff threat was to pressure the Mexican government to more actively control illegal immigration to the United States through our southern border.<p>Updated: Thu Jun 11, 2020</p> d40af03a3365d645ca461210b261042c Is a Universal Basic Income Program Worth the Costs? for 06/04/2020 Thu, 04 Jun 2020 00:00:00 -0700 <p>Spain is the latest country talking about adopting a universal basic income, or UBI, program in response to the COVID-19 pandemic. Many libertarians, including myself, have always been open to the idea of moving away from traditional welfare programs to cash payments. That said, I have never come around to endorsing the concept, which suffers from very serious flaws. Unfortunately, the proposed Spanish program would suffer from these same flaws and add a few others to the mix.</p> <p>The idea of a UBI isn't new. It isn't even a particularly progressive idea. Libertarian/conservative scholar Charles Murray of the American Enterprise Institute gave UBI a new lease on life a few years ago when he published his book "In Our Hands: A Plan to Replace the Welfare State." Murray argued for an unconditional $10,000 annual cash payment from the government to all adult Americans, coupled with the repeal of all other welfare transfer programs. Further, many libertarian giants such as Milton Friedman, Friedrich Hayek and even Nobel laureate James Buchanan have praised one form or another of a UBI.</p> <p>In a world where governments already redistribute income with all of the inefficiency that comes with overlapping bureaucracies, frequently resulting a very mediocre welfare system, the notion of direct cash payments has some appeal due to its relative simplicity and fairness. For many, it is certainly preferable to the current system.<p>Updated: Thu Jun 04, 2020</p> f3bf3852663d1e88c9b452f9ed045438 Alberto Alesina and Austerity's Influence for 05/28/2020 Thu, 28 May 2020 00:00:00 -0700 <p></p><p>The world has lost a great economist. Alberto Alesina suddenly passed away from cardiac arrest while on a walk with his wife on May 23. He was 63. A prolific researcher, his voice will be missed in the coming years, as we must yet again debate the merits of austerity in the aftermath of COVID-19-inspired, all-out spending.</p> <p>For the few last decades, Harvard University's Alesina and his co-authors have dominated the field of research about the best way for governments to reduce their debt-to-GDP ratios. They produced dozens of high-quality academic articles, policy papers and opinion pieces. This topic is incredibly important, as the governments of most industrialized countries are highly indebted, and a few are close to financial ruin.<p>Updated: Thu May 28, 2020</p> 7cb24fdc99e869e963d7911819b67107 A Dollar by Any Other Name Would Spend the Same for 05/21/2020 Thu, 21 May 2020 00:00:00 -0700 <p></p><p>One of the new ways critics like to slice and dice rich people these days is to question the value they provide to others by minimizing the importance of their charitable giving. For instance, the top 20 richest people in America gave a cumulative $8.7 billion to charity in 2018, but we are told that this sum is <i>only</i> 0.8% of their wealth. The most recent example of this tut-tutting comes to us after Mark Zuckerberg and his wife, Priscilla Chan, donated $100,000 to each of eight of their favorite Bay Area restaurants.</p> <p>The goal was to help these establishments cope with COVID-19 and hopefully stay afloat during these times of lower demand. In a San Francisco Gate article later recapped by Business Insider, Jessica Snouwaert recognizes that this gesture is "nice," but then writes, "It can be helpful to examine what a comparable donation would like from a nonbillionaire family. In this case, comparing the scale of Zuckerberg's wealth with the wealth of the average US household shows just how deep economic divides run between billionaires and everyday Americans."<p>Updated: Thu May 21, 2020</p> 908f5679023bd147634fedf4101cbe5a Turning 50 in a Time of Pandemic for 05/14/2020 Thu, 14 May 2020 00:00:00 -0700 <p>It was going to be the party of the year: my 50th birthday. I rented a fantastic place, picked a great menu and sent funny invitations designed by my hilarious friend Brooke. I was counting down the weeks. Then COVID-19 hit. Lockdowns were ordered. No party for me. Yet what replaced it was the purest expression of the best that humanity has to offer, springing from creative forces that neither this virus &#8212; nor other negative forces &#8212; can kill.</p> <p>My party being canceled is, of course, a minuscule tragedy compared with the deaths and economic destruction we've witnessed in the last few months. Still, I was sad that what was supposed to be a great weekend spent with family coming from France and friends coming from all over the country has been postponed indefinitely. I knew my teenagers would, no matter what, make the day special &#8212; it was Mother's Day, too &#8212; and that I would still hear from my friends.</p> <p><span class="column--highlighted-text">And what replaced the party was so much more meaningful and amazing because it was fueled by my friends' love and creativity, and by the amazing innovators who make coping with the isolation more tolerable.</span><p>Updated: Thu May 14, 2020</p> 84a12de0512b0e87c794d3c8ada35d58 Coronavirus Blame Game Continues to Spread for 05/07/2020 Thu, 07 May 2020 00:00:00 -0700 <p></p><p>The coronavirus did apparently originate in China. Now President Donald Trump wants to punish that country for its role in letting the virus spread to the United States. This is just another poor excuse to push the same protectionist policies he has always favored. It's also a way for him to deflect responsibility for the failures of his own administration and the many agencies that intrude daily into our lives.</p> <p>Trump's administration is reportedly exploring the exact details of potential punishments to inflict on China. Among the options being discussed by senior U.S officials are $1 trillion in tariffs on Chinese products and canceling part of the U.S. debt obligation to China. While both of these options may hurt China, when all is said and done, Americans will be hurt the most.<p>Updated: Thu May 07, 2020</p> 3903487c4eeefd480ace80854042226c Economics, a San Francisco Treat? for 04/30/2020 Thu, 30 Apr 2020 00:00:00 -0700 <p></p><p>Have you ever wondered why it seems like some places have a high concentration of elected officials with little to no economic knowledge whatsoever? I have. While I don't have a solution for this deficiency, I'd like to highlight one city in particular where this seems to be the case: San Francisco.</p> <p>The COVID-19 pandemic now underway in the United States is, of course, wreaking havoc throughout our economy. Fortunately, entrepreneurs and corporate managers have been trying to figure out how to transform their operations in order to keep their businesses afloat. Thank goodness for the profit motive!<p>Updated: Thu Apr 30, 2020</p> 11163bb3798a8df0dfce66747854dccf We Need a New Base Realignment and Closure Commission -- Not a New Bureaucracy for 04/23/2020 Thu, 23 Apr 2020 00:00:00 -0700 <p>In times of crisis like the one we are now going through, calls to grow an already-bloated bureaucracy abound. Whether it's through more centralization, more powers to the federal government or the creation of new bureaucracy to address the pandemic, the hope is that next time around, a new arrangement will allow for a better and faster response. Not likely.</p> <p>Yet, it happens each time there's a crisis. After the 9/11 terrorist attacks, the federal government created the Department of Homeland Security and a centralized airport security agency, the Transportation Security Administration. Oh, and don't forget about the Providing Appropriate Tools Required to Intercept and Obstruct Terrorism Act, which expanded many other government powers.</p> <p>Similar growth in government occurred after the Great Recession. For instance, the federal government created the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, the Financial Stability Oversight Council, the Federal Insurance Office and many other bureaucracies and programs meant to prevent the next financial crisis. Uncle Sam also accumulated more control over the extension of credit, both mortgage and personal.<p>Updated: Thu Apr 23, 2020</p> 470cad0b8cc27282a265f3531178ebca Frivolous Litigators Bite the Hands That Care for Them for 04/16/2020 Thu, 16 Apr 2020 00:00:00 -0700 <p></p><p>In good economic times, the burdens of big government and excessive regulation are easy for many to ignore. When the system comes under heavy strain, however, those costs quickly become intolerable.</p> <p>That's why, even as freedoms are being restricted to unprecedented degrees in hopes of slowing the spread of COVID-19, politicians are also lifting regulations that hinder economic activity. These rules and mandates have always been counterproductive, but only now are their costs glaring enough to compel action.<p>Updated: Thu Apr 16, 2020</p> 57f92c5b576d2f5ca5556c1ea7a6425e Surface-Level Public Policy Prescriptions Exacerbate the Pandemic for 04/09/2020 Thu, 09 Apr 2020 00:00:00 -0700 <p>A pandemic is not the time for imprudent public policies. Unfortunately, the COVID-19 crisis, like many earlier ones, has resuscitated some seriously flawed ideas. I fear we may see two such notions implemented within the next few days or weeks.</p> <p>One such unwise idea is a call by White House trade adviser Peter Navarro for an executive order to bring pharmaceutical and medical supply chains back to the United States, in part by placing new "Buy American" requirements on certain government agencies. Buy American requirements have been with us since the days of President Herbert Hoover. They have always been a mistake, but as Dan Ikenson of the Cato Institute recently and sensibly wrote, "during a pandemic ... the White House should avoid measures that impede Americans' access to affordable, quality medical supplies."</p> <p>One can understand why this idea may have some appeal on the surface. It's often sold as a way to create more self-sufficiency. This administration also likes to claim that it's a way to distance ourselves from China for national security reasons. This longing for self-sufficiency is gaining supporters, a trend fueled by the often-cited claim that 80% of America's pharmaceuticals come from China. Never mind that this number is a completely misleading statistic "based on a misreading of a government report that says no such thing," as Eric Boehm of Reason magazine writes in a superb investigative piece.<p>Updated: Thu Apr 09, 2020</p> fe1b1531d2dfbe85a605a3ea8dd0ffe3 Coronavirus Puts Counterproductive Regulations Into Perspective for 04/02/2020 Thu, 02 Apr 2020 00:00:00 -0700 <p>Governments in the United States are restricting freedoms to unprecedented degrees in an effort to slow the spread of COVID-19. As dangerous as this expansion of power is, in some ways, federal, state and local governments are also reducing their intrusions into our lives by cutting many regulations.</p> <p>This deregulation falls into three categories: help people deal with the virus (including those who are confined to their homes with children who need to be home-schooled); help businesses stay open and cater to their consumers under these unusual circumstances; and free the private health care sector to better respond to the virus.</p> <p>Here are just a few of the rules that were lifted to enhance our freedom and our safety:<p>Updated: Thu Apr 02, 2020</p> 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>