Category: Business and Society

Blog author: jballor
Tuesday, June 5, 2007
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The number of jobs (nonfarm, not seasonally-adjusted) added to the US economy since 2004 numbers around 6 million.

But over the same period, Michigan has lost over 50,000 jobs. What’s going on?

A relative of mine recently described to me the situation from his perspective. His company has an office located in Michigan, and of the rather modest net profits accrued by the Michigan location, over 56% were paid to the state by means of the Single Business Tax (SBT).

The SBT has now been phased out going forward, but there’s been a huge partisan battle between Republicans in the state congress and Democratic Governor Jennifer Granholm about what to do. The debates are well-chronicled on the Democratic side by the ranking Democrat on the Senate Appropriations Committee, Senator Mickey Switalski (see, for instance, the Feb. 23, 2007 edition of his newsletter, The Insider).

It looks now like the new tax policy replacing the SBT will be “revenue neutral,” in large part because the state was already facing a $1 billion budget deficit before the SBT was to be phased out. Besides the punitive SBT, many blame the employment climate in Michigan on the state’s “heavily unionized culture.”

The “revenue neutral” nature of the new tax plan seems to indicate to me that businesses in Michigan can continue to expect big chunks of their profits going to the state’s coffers. And that can only mean that Michigan’s single-state recession will continue, even if the tax penalty for adding payroll is modified under the new plan.

Blog author: jspalink
Wednesday, May 30, 2007
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“Root of all evil” or liberator of mankind? Samuel Gregg examines the role that money plays in a free economy, particularly the way it “allows people to engage in the greater specialization of economic production which produces growth.”

Read the full commentary here.

Blog author: jspalink
Wednesday, May 30, 2007
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The news coming out of the World Bank in recent weeks has largely focused on the departure of Paul Wolfowitz and the nomination of Robert B. Zoellick to head the bank. At the same time, a little noticed power struggle was underway at the World Bank over policies related to “reproductive health” and family planning. Michael Miller takes a closer look at the bank’s Malthusian enthusiasm.

Read the full commentary here.

…The Milton Friedman Choir:

Via the Brussels Journal

Blog author: jarmstrong
Wednesday, May 23, 2007
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Both of our major political parties have missed what seems so obvious. One says that we need more tax cuts to strengthen the economy. This is correct. The problem is that they are not willing to also make serious budget cuts. That party has spent more than any previous administration. The other political party wants to expand federal government by spending more of our money by raising taxes. The first plan helps the economy in the short run but not in the long term. The second is an even worse disaster I think.

Look, budget deficits are not a good thing, at least not in my simplistic understanding of economics. What individual would decrease their revenue, at least for the short term, and then also increase spending, for the long term? I know, cutting tax rates generates more money in the long run and thus the government benefits. I agree with that proven principle. Ronald Reagan advanced it and to the astonishment of all his enemies it worked.

What I do not think is a proven fact is that you can keep raising government spending, so as to increase deficits, and not someday have to "pay the piper." The late Milton Friedman, a hero of mine, continually noted that the burden of government is best measured by the level of our spending, not by the level of our tax rates. John Stossel pointed this out very clearly in his syndicated column that appeared in my paper today.

Here is the bad news. Your FICA and Social Security taxes currently exceed the expenditures of these programs. But by 2017 or 2018 this will all change when the baby boomers start to retire in massive numbers and begin to drain the system. Stossel gives President Bush some credit for the falling deficit because of his tax cuts. This plan has shrunk the deficit, at least to some extent. Cutting taxes and cutting deficits are not opposites. Both can and should be done. There is enough blame to go around in Washington. I want to decrease tax rates even further but I also want to seriously decrease federal spending.

John Stossel notes that the anti-Federalist writer Melancton Smith (1787) wrote: "All governments find a use for as much money as they can raise." That is the real issue and few will admit it, whether Republicans or Democrats. One party generally does a better job with this issue than the other but the difference is more one of degree than of deep and true principle, or so it seems to this amateur. I am open to seeing this differently but I think the obvious is pretty obvious. We need to grow the economy, allow people to keep their own money so they can spend it and create new jobs, and limit the role of government in solving every social ill we face. I believe there are some pressing issues that demand federal solutions. I am not a libertarian Luddite. But I also believe that at some point we had better face this deficit issue and slow spending or we will soon face financial and social chaos like we have never imagined.

John H. Armstrong is founder and director of ACT 3, a ministry aimed at "encouraging the church, through its leadership, to pursue doctrinal and ethical reformation and to foster spiritual awakening."

Jennifer Roback Morse takes a look at The War Between the State and the Family, a book that examines some of the family unfriendly social policies of the United Kingdom. The state, she finds, is in the process of atomizing the family into a loose association of persons with easily separated relationships. “Decomposing society into nothing but a collection of unattached individuals has been destructive of individuals and society alike,” Morse writes.

Read the full commentary here.

New postal rates went into effect yesterday, but the biggest impact of the new rates and policies hasn’t yet been felt.

A new set of policies governing the delivery of magazines through the mail has been postponed until July. That’s a bit of needed good news for small magazines that will face rather hefty price increases.

The increases have even got The Nation’s Katrina vanden Heuvel complaining that “the Postal Service is a monopoly.”

Maybe it’s time for magazines that can’t afford to meet the new rates without untenable price hikes or layoffs (or both) to consider alternative delivery methods.

One option would be to go to a completely digital format, like Salon or Slate.

Another might be to partner with groups other than the Postal Service that already deliver to customer’s doors. The latter might be local delivery people who contract for daily or weekly newspapers.

It might be in the interests of both parties to partner up or combine their delivery efforts, in the same way that papers like The Wall Street Journal or the New York Times are delivered nationally.

Perhaps the local newspapers could get a boost to their profits by charging a small fee to deliver the magazines along with their daily routes.

Update: Much more on the postage increase at the Logos blog.