Archive for January, 2011

Citizens’ Budget Facts

Posted by on Jan 20 2011 | Citizens' Budget, PPC

Citizens’ Budget project director Penn Pfiffner has been sending “facts of the day” to our state legislature every morning. These are little informational nuggets that can be found inside our project, but might get overlooked due to the sheer size of our Citizens’ Budget. I think these factoids are great, so I’m sharing the first four days facts with you all:

The State’s budget problem is not caused by an inadequate tax burden. Compare Colorado, which is modestly below the national average for per capita state & local spending, with high-tax states. New Jersey is the highest and New York comes in second in combined tax burdens. Both are in dire crisis; worse than our state. California has issued I.O.U.s due to running out of funds and suffers the 6th highest burden in the nation. Collecting more taxes does not shield a state from budgetary woes, and counter-intuitively, even appears to exacerbate them.

The Children’s Basic Health Plan (CBHP) began as a small state program funded by “gifts, grants, and donations” in 1990. Vigorous enrollment expansion has added to Colorado’s budget woes. From June 2005 to June 2006, enrollment rose 32.4 percent, the largest percentage increase in the country. CBHP has reached the point where half of the households in the state are expected to bear all the medical expenses for the other half’s children.

We recommend that the legislature move to a “priority-based budgeting” system. It is crucial that the structure for setting a State budget more closely conform to the reality of expected income, not only for the ensuing year but well into the future. Washington State adopted this type of budget reform, and is now being employed in New Jersey to deal with a budget crisis. Washington Governor Gary Locke did not believe his administration or the legislature could or should figure a way to raise enough taxes to eliminate the deficit. The figure stood at $2.8 billion in a state only a little larger than Colorado. By utilizing the new method, Washington state was able to close the budget hole without raising taxes.

The College Opportunity Fund program (stipends) should be retained because it forms an excellent base on which to build changes for funding higher education. It must be expanded and modified to conform to the real needs. Funds currently allocated to higher education from the General Fund, and service contract funding, would be used to fund the stipend plan. A goal of stipends is to create competition among all qualified post-secondary institutions. This stipend-based higher education system would create incentives for institutions to deliver quality education at lower cost. Replacing the current system of direct state funding to higher education institutions with a stipend plan funding students and families will generate public support.

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Independence Institute Weekend Print Media Wrap-Up

Posted by on Jan 18 2011 | Citizens' Budget, Media, PPC

The Independence Institute scored an opinion editorial triple-play over the long holiday weekend, publishing articles by three different Independence Institute authors in three different Colorado newspapers over a three day period.

First, check out Senior Fellow Rob Natelson in Saturday’s Colorado Springs Gazette on statist politicians’ highly selective calls for civility. Next, Citizens’ Budget project director Penn Pfiffner has a piece in Sunday’s Denver Post about…you guessed it, the Citizens’ Budget.  Then in Monday’s Colorado Daily, Ari Armstrong explains the economic fallacies behind Colorado’s “new energy economy.”

And as an added bonus, Independence Institute health care blogger Brian Schwartz, who is also on the Boulder Daily Camera’s editorial advisory board, has a piece on “cutting wasteful spending” in Saturday’s Camera.

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Citizens’ Budget on the Jimmy Sengenberger Show

Posted by on Jan 14 2011 | Citizens' Budget, Media, PPC

Jimmy Sengenberger is a blogger, radio host, and podcast maker extraordinaire who hosts a website called the Seng Center. You can also catch his blog posts on PPC. Just the other day on his radio show Jimmy interviewed Penn Pfiffner about the Citizens’ Budget project. Specifically, why this project is so important in light of the $1 billion budget shortfall our legislature will be dealing with this year, and how we can close that budget hole without raising taxes or fees. You can access the interview via podcast here on the Seng Center’s website.

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First Conceal Carry, Then the Bully RTD

Posted by on Jan 13 2011 | Idiot Box (TV Show), PPC

Tune in for a double dose of Devil’s Advocate this Friday night, it’s the same half-hour of public policy, but with two different segments.  First, I am joined by Weld County Sheriff John Cooke and Boulder County Sheriff Joe Pelle for a discussion about the efficacy of Colorado’s Concealed Carry Weapon (CCW) database.  Then stay tuned for a discussion of RTD as a property rights bully with local property rights attorney Jessica Corry and Kim Gillan from Citizens for Responsible Development.  That’s this Friday, January 14 at 8:30 PM on Colorado Public Television 12.  Re-broadcast the following Monday at 1:30 PM.

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Violent Euphemisms

Posted by on Jan 12 2011 | guns, PPC, Second Amendment

The New York Times, that bastion of fair and balanced reporting, has an entertaining opinion section called “Room for Debate.” In it, knowledgeable outsiders contribute little opinion pieces concerning the current events of the day. For example, the Tuscon, AZ shooting prompted the Times to solicit arguments for and against the notion that “more guns means less crime.” Our own Research Director Dave Kopel wrote a piece affirming the statement titled, “A Chance to Fight Back.” In it, he shares a fantastic anecdote about Teddy Roosevelt’s family packing heat to ward off would-be attackers. Politicians were so much cooler back then.

On a related note, in light of the backlash against language that references war or violence to get a point across, I’m curious what the left might or might not say about this headline today, “State employees benefits in the cross hairs.” Cross hairs?! Don’t they realize what kind of violence they could be inciting with language like that? And don’t even get me started on the New England Patriots’ “aerial attack” or Tom Brady chucking “bombs” down field. No longer do violent video games, music, and movies breed violence like in the good ol’ days, violent euphemisms invoke violent behavior as well. What is the world coming to?

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Why the media should not put the Tucson killer’s picture on the front page

Posted by on Jan 12 2011 | Media

(David Kopel)

Because, as Jack Shafer explains on Slate, the killer was seeking publicity. And such publicity encourages copycats, as I detailed in Rocky Mountain News columns in December and April 2007. Regarding copycats, Clayton Cramer’s award-winning “Ethical Problems of Mass Murder Coverage in the Mass Media,” Journal of Mass Media Ethics 9:1 [Winter, 1993–94] 26–42 is well worth reading.

There was some value in reporting the killer’s name initially, in part so that people who knew him could come forward and provide information. At this point, however, repeating the name adds nothing useful. In general, a publicity-seeking murderer’s name should be mentioned only if clearly necessary (for example, in an encyclopedia entury, or in a newspaper report about judicial proceedings), and never otherwise. Let his name sink like a stone to the bottom of the ocean. Let us remember instead the names of the vicitms and the heroes.


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Dave Kopel in NY Times: A Chance to Fight Back

Posted by on Jan 11 2011 | guns, PPC, Second Amendment

Independence Institute research director Dave Kopel has a piece in the New York TimesRoom for Debate series on the Arizona shootings, and calls by some for more guns, rather than more gun control.  Money quote from Dave:

There’s no guarantee that evil-doers will always be stopped, but the record is clear that oftentimes lives are saved when victims can fight back.

Read the whole thing here.

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More Guns, Less Crime? Answers from Kopel and others

Posted by on Jan 11 2011 | Uncategorized

(David Kopel)

The New York Times on-line “Room for Debate” feature poses this question today: “In Arizona, the shootings have led some citizens to call for more guns, not more gun control. Why is that?” Diverse answers are supplied by John Donohue (Stanford), John Lott (U. Maryland), James Alan Fox (Northeastern), Daniel Webster (Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health), and me.


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On Energy, Ritter Earns an “F”

Posted by on Jan 11 2011 | Economics, energy, Government Largess, PPC, Taxes

While at Founders Night this year, I was interviewed by Energy Now TV-news magazine. We talked about Ritter’s “new energy economy” and the future of energy in our great state of Colorado. The interview is about 9 minutes long, check it out:

Reporter Susan McGinnis did a great job of playing devils advocate with me (hey, wait a minute). The interview eventually devolves into the predictable jobs conversation. As we’ve heard numerous times before, regarding all sorts of government interventions and manipulations – “but Mr. Caldara, program X will create jobs!” Each time I hear that assertion, my mind wanders to visualizing Frederic Bastiat doing somersaults in his grave. I would very much like to shout something like, “THAT IS THE SEEN. YOU ARE MISSING THE UNSEEN – THE OTHER HALF OF THE EQUATION!” But shouting economic logic generally gets me nowhere. So instead, I reply with a calm voice and a gleam in the eye, “The jobs government creates are visible and come at the expense of the jobs they destroy – the unseen.” My rule of thumb is, let Mr. Bastiat do the talking whenever possible. If you prefer, you can apply a more recent twist on that rule of thumb by changing Mr. Bastiat to Mr. Hazlitt.

Evidently Ari Armstrong agrees with me. He just wrote an op-ed on the Governor’s energy delusions appropriately titled, “Ritter’s New Energy Economy Based on Old Fallacies.” In the article, Ari tackles the age old jobs assertion with Bastiat’s economic insights. Here are a couple of my favorite quotes,

Corporate welfare does not just fall from the sky. It comes from taxpayers. That money is no longer available to those who earned it to create jobs and support businesses in other sectors. While Ritter creates jobs with one hand, he destroys them with the other. The difference is that the jobs Ritter creates serve political interests rather than the interests of consumers.

In the interview above, I mention several times that no energy company or sources should be getting any subsidies from taxpayers. Rather, we need a level playing field where energy companies compete with each other on the same terms. The market will pick the winners and losers – NOT politicians. The second great quote from Ari is a little trick called reductio ad absurdum, which exposes an argument’s fallacies by drawing its conclusions to their logical ends.

Consider, as Bastiat might do, the logical absurdities of Ritter’s position. If mandating “new” energy creates jobs, then why stop at 30 percent? Why not 100 percent? Why not expand subsidies 1,000 fold? Why not outlaw all coal, oil, and natural gas in Colorado, and force every property owner to install solar panels and windmills? Think of all the new jobs that would require!

Tasty isn’t it?

Bastiat himself used reductio ad absurdum to expose protectionist polices nearly 200 years ago. He wrote a mock petition arguing for extinguishing the sun’s light in order to protect candle makers and others who were in the artificial light business. This line of argument is just as effective today. Ari uses it perfectly in his new op-ed. I suggest you take up a little reductio ad absurdum in your next debate. It will be fun, I promise!

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Bleg on Eleanor and Theodore Roosevelt carry handguns

Posted by on Jan 11 2011 | guns

(David Kopel)

Here’s a picture of Eleanor in 1934 practicing with the revolver she had obtained the previous year. What type is it?

Note: the Secret Service gave her the gun in 1933, when she insisted on traveling on her own without the agents. So the gun would be whatever the Secret Service was carrying in 1933.

The NRA National Firearms Museum collection includes Theodore Roosevelt’s 1900 Fabrique Nationale semi-automatic. The museum reports the Roosevelt family tradition that this was the gun he kept on his bedside table while he was President. It seems likely that this would have been the same handgun that he carried for protection while he was President. Does anyone have information indicating he carried a different gun?


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