Category: Public Policy

taylor-swift-moneyMargaret Thatcher famously said the problem with socialist governments is that, “They always run out of other people’s money.” Unfortunately, that’s true for almost all governments. Even more unfortunate, though, is that some people refuse to believe that government can ever run out of other people’s money.

Some people claim, for instance, that the government can continue to borrow and spend (and should do more of both since interest rates are currently low) since the national debt is not a problem. Take, for example, Matthew Yglesias, who writes about economics for Vox. He famously said (and repeats far too often) that, “the U.S. government can never run out of dollars. Unlike you, or the company you work for, or the town you live in, the federal government prints dollars.”

Unpacking the economic ignorance embedded in that claim would take all day. So let’s set aside the question of how the government will be able to pay off the debt in the future and focus instead on the part of the debt the government pays right now: interest.

How does government pay that interest? The answer, of course, is with “other people’s money” (i.e., taxes). Interest on the debt is paid out of the tax dollars that are taken from the American people. That is money that comes out of our pockets today to pay for money we borrowed in the past. And it’s a lot of money.
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pharma-pills-and-moneyLast month Turing Pharmaceuticals felt the backlash after a medication they sold for $1 a pill in 2010 increased overnight to $750 a tablet.

Politicians like Hillary Rodham Clinton and Bernie Sanders were quick to claim that this is why we needed more government intervention in the healthcare system. But at the time I pointed out that the reason Turing was able to raise the price so spectacularly was not because of a failure of the free market but because of government intervention:

The free market isn’t the reason [Turing’s CEO] Shkreli was able to raise the price. In fact, if he had to sell his product in a truly free market environment the price would likely remain low. And even now, if he continued to keep the price high, some enterprising pharmaceutical company would start making Daraprim themselves, increasing the supply and lowering the cost.

And that’s just what happened. That enterprising pharmaceutical company turned out to be Imprimis Pharmaceuticals. The company announced yesterday that it will start offering customizable compounded formulations of pyrimethamine (the generic name for Daraprim) and leucovorin in oral capsules starting as low as $99.00 for a 100 count bottle, or at a cost of under a dollar per capsule.

In making the announcement Mark L. Baum, CEO of Imprimis, said,
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During CNN’s Democratic debate, presidential candidate, senator from Vermont, and self-proclaimed socialist Bernie Sanders promised that if elected he would work to “raise the [federal] minimum wage to $15 an hour.”

From an economic point of view, this policy would run the risk of sparking a wage/price spiral, where wages are tied to a cost-of-living index and their increase, in turn, raises the cost of living, sending inflation out of control and ultimately working against the intended goal of helping low-wage workers.

The Neo-Calvinist theologian Abraham Kuyper, however, offers a challenge not just to the economic consequences of such a policy but to its consistency, in principle, with another of Senator Sanders’ positions: his support for unions. (more…)

and112812blogSince its inception in the 1990s, the payday lending industry has grown at an astonishing pace. Currently, there are about 22,000 payday lending locations—more than two for every Starbucks—that originate an estimated $27 billion in annual loan volume.

Christians and others worried about the poor tend to be very uncomfortable with this industry. While there may be forms of payday lending that are ethical, the concern is that most such lending is predatory, and that the industry takes advantage of the poor and others in financial distress.

So what makes a payday loan a predatory loan? The obvious answer would seem to be “high interest rates.” But interest rates are often tied to credit risk, and so charging high interest rates is not always wrong. Another answer may be that the loans appear to be targeted toward minorities. But research shows that the industry appeals to those with financial problems regardless of race or ethnicity.

What then tips a loan into the predatory column? At a blog hosted by the New York Federal Reserve, Robert DeYoung, Ronald J. Mann, Donald P. Morgan, and Michael R. Strain attempt to answer that question:
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pollution“The rules don’t apply to me,” is a favorite maxim of toddlers, narcissists, and government officials. This is especially true of the legislative branch, which frequently exempts itself—and its 30,000 employees—from federal laws that apply to the rest of us.

But just as often government at all levels simply ignores laws it finds too burdensome to comply with. A recent study published last month in the American Journal of Political Science titled “When Governments Regulate Governments” found that “compared with private firms, governments violate [the U.S. Clean Air Act and Safe Drinking Water Act] significantly more frequently and are less likely to be penalized for violations.”

Researchers David Konisky and Manny Teodoro viewed records of more than 3,000 power plants, 1,000 hospitals and 4,200 water utilities. Some of their findings include:
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Ahhhh, the Left! So often passionate, so obstinately assured of the rightness of their secular crusades mounted under the variety of flags and anthems espousing “social justice” and “environmental sustainability.” And, unfortunately, so often just plain wrong.

Such is the case with As You Sow, the Interfaith Center on Corporate Responsibility and other shareholder activist groups that each year apply their supposed religious authority to the proxy resolutions they submit to major companies. Certainly, AYS and ICCR investors believe from the sanctuary of their respective progressive bubbles that they’re working for the benefit of humankind when it comes to such topics as climate-change mitigation and genetically modified organisms. Yet, nothing could be further from reality viewed through the lenses of science, religion, economics and common sense.

For the purpose of this post, let’s take a look at the work AYS and ICCR apply against GMOs. Both shareholder activist groups are affiliated with Inside GMO coalition – AYS as an acknowledged member and ICCR listing Inside GMO as a featured resource. The Inside GMO website portentously lists the organization’s purpose:

Large agribusiness and chemical companies oppose our right to know when foods have GMOs. These are the same companies that put GMOs out on the market without adequate testing – turning us all into lab rats in a giant science experiment.

GMO Inside is a campaign dedicated to helping all Americans know which foods have GMOs inside, and the non-GMO verified and organic certified alternatives to genetically engineered foods. We believe that everyone has a right to know what’s in their food and to choose foods that are proven safe for themselves, their families, and the environment.

GMO Inside gives people information and tools, and provides a place for a growing community of people from all walks of life, to share information and actions around genetically engineered foods.

Sigh. It gets worse. (more…)

Blog author: jballor
Thursday, October 15, 2015
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664975_084I saw The Martian this week and was struck by the number of resonant themes on a variety of is issues, including creation, creativity, innovation, entrepreneurship, exploration, work, suffering, risk, and civilization.

I won’t be exploring all of these in the brief reflections below, but will simply be highlighting some salient features. The film communicates something seriously important about the threefold relations of human beings: to God, to one another, and to the creation.

There will be some potential spoilers in the discussion below the jump after this line.
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