URLs du Jour

2021-11-26

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Caveat emptor: our Amazon product du jour features a spurious Thomas Jefferson quote.

Which doesn't make the quote untrue of course. Just misattributed. Ayn Rand wrote something closer.

  • A slow disaster using obsolete technology, mind you. But still. Randal O’Toole, as usual, is the go-to guy in Cato's Government Failure Department, Choo-Choo Division. His most recent report is The Midwest Rail Plan: A Disaster Waiting to Happen. The "plan" is to spend $116-162 billion on the tracks and trains, for the hordes of Omahans desperate to get to Kalamazoo without getting off the ground. Click over to see the map. But:

    Midwestern state transportation agencies have a lot of nerve writing this plan considering that they’ve already clearly demonstrated their incompetence in building such projects. Since 2009, using a combination of Obama high‐speed rail funds, other federal funds, and state funds, Illinois, Michigan, and other midwestern states spent more than $3.5 billion to increase speeds and frequencies of passenger trains on routes between Chicago and St. Louis, Chicago and Detroit, Chicago and Omaha, and others.

    Now, 12 years later, one of those routes–Chicago-Quincy–knocked 2 minutes off its schedule, increasing average speeds by 0.4 miles per hour. Otherwise, despite spending nearly $2 billion in the Chicago‐St. Louis corridor and the better part of a billion in the Chicago‐Detroit corridor, none of the Midwest routes saw any increases in either frequencies or speeds.

    Federal funds also included $370 million to buy 88 passenger cars and 21 locomotives. So far, only four cars and one locomotive have been delivered. Basically, the states wasted $3.5 billion.

    Well, all that money wound up in somebody's pockets. Wonder whose?


  • Some people, of course, want the debate clouded. Jacob Sullum notes: Legally Irrelevant Considerations Cloud the Debate About Kyle Rittenhouse’s Acquittal. And our current President managed to cloud things in his own mind.

    "I stand by what the jury has concluded," President Joe Biden told reporters on Friday after Kyle Rittenhouse was acquitted of all the charges he faced for shooting three people, two fatally, during an August 2020 protest in Kenosha, Wisconsin. "The jury system works, and we have to abide by it."

    Later that day, by contrast, Biden said the verdict left him "feeling angry and concerned." The president's confusing attempt to straddle anger and acceptance reflected a sharp division of opinion about the outcome of Rittenhouse's trial—a clash that was based mainly on legally irrelevant considerations.

    Also taken to task: the ACLU (they should probably change their name); Kamala; Cori Bush; Jerry Nadler; and (of course) anyone who breathlessly announced that Rittenhouse had "crossed state lines".

    I occasionally cross state lines walking my dog. Hope nobody busts me for that.


  • I'm not sure how many Moscow State University grads could get a job in Russia these days. Axios claims a Scoop: Centrist Dems sink Biden’s nominee for top bank regulator

    Five Democratic senators have told the White House they won't support Saule Omarova to head the Office of the Comptroller of the Currency, effectively killing her nomination for the powerful bank-regulator position.

    Good news. The five are Tester (MT); Warner (VA); Sinema (AZ); Hickenlooper (CO); and Kelly (AZ).

    Not on this list of "moderates": Shaheen (NH) and Hassan (NH).


  • Unsurprising news. We've previously identified the "Build Back Better" legislation's SALT cap increase as an unjustified giveaway to (mostly) rich people in (mostly) Blue states. But wait, that's not all. According to the WSJ editorialists, there's also A Tax Break for Union Dues.

    Democrats have agonized for months over where to find money for their blowout tax and spending bill, so it’s worth paying attention to the revenues they explicitly forgo. The bill offers tax breaks for key progressive constituencies, and one that has received little attention is a big gift to Big Labor.

    The bill the House passed would allow union members to deduct up to $250 of dues from their tax bills. The deduction is “above the line,” meaning filers can exclude the cost of dues from their gross income. In other words, union dues would get the same treatment now reserved for things like insurance premiums and retirement contributions. The deduction would last through 2025. The Joint Committee on Taxation estimates its cost at $1.8 billion.

    At last count, union membership was desperately unpopular in the private sector, with only 6.3% of employees belonging. Not shocking at all: it's more popular in the "public" sector, with 34.8% of employees belonging.

    The "tax break" is a naked effort to boost those numbers. Unions can't make the case for membership themselves, so they need a handout from Uncle Stupid.


  • Past performance is actually a pretty good way to judge future behavior. Eric Boehm notes another feature of "Build Back Better": Biden Wants To Empower the IRS Despite Its Track Record of Trampling Rights and Undermining Privacy.

    President Joe Biden's plan to beef up IRS enforcement and snoop on Americans' bank accounts will require hiring more than 80,000 additional tax cops—expanding a federal bureaucracy with a long track record of flouting due process and undermining privacy.

    As part of Biden's "Build Back Better" plan, the IRS would get $80 billion in additional funding over the next 10 years. The bulk of those new funds, nearly $45 billion, would be directed toward enforcement actions with the goal of doubling the number of annual audits of small businesses. By comparison, the bill spends a relatively meager $1.93 billion on improving taxpayer services, including education and filing assistance.

    In short, for every new dollar the IRS will spend helping Americans understand the endlessly complicated federal tax code, the agency will spend roughly $23 new dollars on enforcing those same rules.

    As P. J. O'Rourke said: "Giving money and power to government is like giving whiskey and car keys to teenage boys."

    Giving (more) money and power to the IRS is like giving them that, plus crystal meth and high powered weapons…


Last Modified 2021-11-27 5:29 AM EST