Archive for August, 2011

Ben DeGrow vs. Rollie Heath on Channel 9

Posted by on Aug 31 2011 | education, PPC, Taxes

Education Policy Analyst Ben DeGrow was featured on Channel 9′s Your Show last week in a debate with Senator Rollie Heath. They went head to head on Rollie’s proposed tax increase for education. Below is the debate in two parts. Before watching the debate, keep these facts in mind:

1. Colorado already spends more than $9,000 per student
2. Per pupil spending has been increasing for decades with no results, as studies show
3. Senator Heath’s proposal doesn’t solve the problem but does kill jobs
4. It’s time for school districts to pursue innovation and spend dollars more wisely



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In Colorado, We Play Double-A Ball

Posted by on Aug 30 2011 | Economy, PPC

According to this Barron’s magazine report, we’re not California and we’re not Illinois.


Barron’s cover story this week is about state credit ratings. As you might imagine, California and Illinois are at the bottom of the list. Moving from the absolute bottom of the barrel on up, you run into some other pretty obvious states: New York, Pennsylvania, Massachusetts, Colorado… what? Colorado? Yes, you read that correctly. Don’t believe me? Take a look at their worst of the worst list here. Colorado is placed squarely in the bottom half of states with a “AA” rating. There are many factors that go into a state’s credit rating, so it’s difficult to nail one or two things down that we need to improve upon, but I’d suggest that Medicaid is a great place to start. I’d also consider looking at the best of the best list and seeing what these states do differently.

Georgia? Yes, I saw Georgia there too, with a “AAA” rating. Never thought I’d say it but, we need to be more like Georgia.

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How Will CO Figure in 2012?

Posted by on Aug 29 2011 | elections, Idiot Box (TV Show), PPC

How will Colorado figure in this coming presidential election? Watch the latest episode of my show to find out!

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Movie Night at Independence!

Posted by on Aug 25 2011 | education, Events, PPC

If you haven’t seen Waiting for Superman, it’s time you do!

Join us at our offices for a free viewing of Waiting for Superman on Tuesday, September 13, at 7:00 PM (doors open at 6:30 PM.) The film provides the compelling stories of five unforgettable students who are desperate to escape failing schools. Seating is limited and is on a first-come, first-served basis. Popcorn and candy will be available. Donations to the Independence Institute will be accepted.

Waiting for Superman’s director Davis Guggenheim sat down for an interview with education policy analyst Ben DeGrow last October before the film’s debut in Colorado. Guggenheim discusses the film’s education reform themes, his optimistic assessment of Colorado’s reform agenda, and ideas for motivated film goers to take action and help improve American public schools. Listen to this podcast here.

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John Andrews and Curtis Hubbard Join Me

Posted by on Aug 23 2011 | Idiot Box (TV Show), PPC

From my show last Friday. First up, John Andrews talks about his new book:

Then the Post’s new editorial page editor Curtis Hubbard joins me:

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“Creating” Jobs, Literally 1 at a Time

Posted by on Aug 22 2011 | Economics, Economy, Environment, Government Largess, Labor, PPC, Taxes

Recently I’ve been poking fun at government’s attempts at “stimulating” the economy and creating jobs. You might remember the first food stamp debacle, then the unemployment insurance hilarity, and finally the second food stamp nonsense. Well, my jibes were mere child’s play compared to Amy Oliver’s article on the green jobs fallacy. Amy carefully picks apart the Obama administration’s “weatherization” program meant to “stimulate” the economy with new green jobs all while reducing carbon emissions and saving the planet! It’s like magic!

Unfortunately, down in the land of economic reality, government’s attempts at creating jobs always fails fantastically. For example, after receiving a federal grant of $20 million, Seattle went to work on its weatherization scheme. So what was the result of this massive influx of taxpayer cash over one year later? A whopping 14 jobs “created” and a rise in the unemployment rate. Sounds like success to me! Just imagine all the prosperity we could bring around the country if only the government could help “create” more jobs at nearly $1.5 million a pop. Cha-ching!

Amy reveals not only the massive waste that these jobs programs are, but also the fact that in order to execute these schemes, Washington, DC has to impose its will further into the purview of local affairs. In other words, some bureaucrat in DC has the authority to set the “fair living wage” that the local weatherization workers earn while pretending to do work. Because DC always knows better than you.

Please read Amy’s whole piece, but first put a hat on so you don’t pull out your hair.

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Could President Perry carry a gun?

Posted by on Aug 19 2011 | Executive Branch, Rick Perry, Right to carry

Chris Moody attempts to analyze the issue for The Ticket. The analysis could have been improved by reading the laws of the District of Columbia.

Moody describes D.C. as “a city that bans carrying firearms.” That’s not exactly correct. The D.C. Code generally prohibits carrying a firearm “without a license issued pursuant to District of Columbia law.” D.C. Code § 22-4504. It is true that in practice, the D.C. government virtually never issues carry licenses to citizens. However, the Code makes various exceptions to the license requirement, including that “The provisions of § 22-4504 shall not apply . . .to officers or employees of the United States duly authorized to carry a concealed pistol . . .” § 22-4505(a).

Thus President Perry could simply authorize himself to carry a concealed pistol. For good measure, he could likewise authorize the entire White House staff, or indeed every single employee of the United States government, to also carry a concealed pistol in D.C.

As the Moody article points out, President Perry could ask the D.C. police to deputize him, in order to take advantage of the D.C. law allowing the police to carry guns, but President Perry would have no practical need to ask the D.C. police to use their discretion to grant him the ability to do something he can do without their permission anyway.

UCLA’s Adam Winkler suggests that President Perry could issue an Executive Order authorizing him to carry. Executive Orders can apply solely to the Executive Branch of the federal government. An Executive Order could be  one mechanism (although certainly not the only one) by which President Perry could “duly authorize[]” gun carrying by himself or Executive Branch employees. However, if the D.C. Code did not have the exception for federal  employees, then it’s doubtful that an Executive Order could overcome a carrying ban enacted by the D.C. City Council. One might argue that since the entire D.C. city government, with its limited home rule powers granted by Congress, is part of the federal government, the President can by Executive Order negate the operation of a D.C. City Council law. However, as far as I know no President has ever tried to go so far with an Executive Order. And an Executive Order certainly cannot violate a specific congressional statute, including the statute granting partial home rule powers to the D.C. City Council. (The congressional grant of home rule actually excluded criminal law, so D.C. styles its anti-gun laws as “health” laws, and the courts have thus far let D.C. get away with it. However, even if the D.C. gun laws are arguably ultra vires, an Executive Order would not seem to be the appropriate mechanism to deal with them.)

Moody also raises the issue of the Secret Service:

The Secret Service, however, could make a very serious argument that the president shouldn’t be carrying a weapon for his own protection. Remember, a spirited debate broke out in the days leading up to President Obama’s inauguration over whether he would be forced to surrender his Blackberry for security concerns. (In the end, Obama got to keep his Blackberry, but under certain conditions.) If a Blackberry’s almost off limits, you can imagine how the Secret Service might react if the president wanted to pack a Glock.

Well, President Obama’s decision to accept some restrictions on his Blackberry was his choice, presumably made after considering the advice of the Secret Service. The President is in charge of the Secret Service, and not vice versa. The Secret Service cannot “force” him to do anything. They’re not a Praetorian Guard. So when First Lady Eleanor Roosevelt refused to allow the Secret Service to drive for her, or even accompany her, as she traveled around the United States, there was nothing the Secret Service could do about it. The Secret Service did urge her to carry a concealed handgun, and learn how to use it, and she took their advice. After the assassination of President William McKinley, new President Theodore Roosevelt started carrying his own handgun for protection.

As far as we know, there is not a shred of evidence that concealed carry by either Roosevelt had any negative impact on their security. So there’s no reason to imagine that the Secret Service would have a good reason to urge President Perry not to carry a handgun. Unlike a Blackberry, a handgun does not send wireless communications which could be intercepted by foreign spies, nor does it contain a GPS device which can reveal the user’s location.

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John Andrews, Curtis Hubbard Join Me

Posted by on Aug 19 2011 | Idiot Box (TV Show), PPC

Want to show that special someone that you are both good looking AND cerebral? Then stay in and watch Devil’s Advocate together tonight. First, I am joined by Centennial Institute president John Andrews to discuss his new book “Responsibility Reborn.” Then Denver Post editorial page editor Curtis Hubbard sits down to talk Republican presidential hopefuls and Colorado’s potential role in the 2012 elections. That’s tonight at 8:30 PM on Colorado Public Television 12.

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Most Valuable Blogger Awards

Posted by on Aug 18 2011 | PPC, Purely Personal

Too many choices! What’s a guy to do? I feel like Dave Kopel trying to choose between a Star Trek and Doctor Who convention. CBS Denver channel 4 is having a contest to award the most valuable Denver area blogger. I feel fortunate to have some skin in the game with both our own Amy Oliver’s Energy Policy blog and the great blog facilitator Peoples Press Collective, of which I contribute to regularly. Additionally, Colorado Peak Politics is also in the running. And I really like them too.

I think when it’s all said and done, my loyalty has to be with Amy and her Energy blog. It’s really one of a kind here in Colorado. There is no other place to go for the latest in free market energy and environmental news in Colorado. I won’t tell you who to vote for, but if you need a little nudge, click on Energy Policy for me. We appreciate it.

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The Food Stamp Panacea

Posted by on Aug 17 2011 | Economics, Economy, Government Largess, PPC, Taxes

Remember Whitehouse press secretary Jay Carney and his ridiculous statement about paying the unemployed and how that “stimulated” the economy? Well, agriculture secretary Tom Vilsack tried to one-up Mr. Carney earlier today. Watch this video (and try not to roll your eyes. I dare you):

Ok, so now food stamps are the most direct way to stimulate the economy. Apparently, unemployment insurance just doesn’t cut it anymore. Sorry Jay. But the truth is no different with food stamps than it was with unemployment insurance: wealth transfers don’t stimulate the economy. Let me repeat. Taking from some (who earned it) and giving to others (who did not earn it) does not, in any way, create wealth. It does not matter what the wealth transfer vehicle is – food stamps or cash – the result remains the same.

The Keynesian story that both Jay Carney and Tom Vilsack tell is nothing more than a half truth. They both focus on what is seen. Some people “spending” on items they might not have purchased without the stolen loot they were given by Daddy Government. In their minds, these purchases spur economic growth and hiring. Put more specifically, in the Keynesian story, these purchases spur economic growth and hiring with no offsetting costs. And that’s where the story ultimately fails. It only considers one side of the equation. The side that is seen. The side that they neglect to mention is the important “unseen” side – all of the costs associated with the redistribution program.

If told this Keynesian fairy tale, an intelligent lay person might wonder where the money came from to give some people food stamps to spend and to give others cash to spend. This is the million dollar question. To answer this question reveals the unseen costs these programs incur. By taking money from productive people, either now or in the future, the government is skewing the incentives in a few important ways. First, the productive people (including business owners) who are targeted for the government shakedowns have a disincentive to keep producing wealth and earning more money. Why keep earning more money if you can’t keep all of it? After a certain point, the take home percentage becomes small enough where the entrepreneur is better off just enjoying some leisure. Secondly, the unemployed who are being paid to remain jobless have the incentive to, now stay with me here… remain jobless. If the government is paying you because you don’t have a job, why would you get a job that could potentially pay you less than you earn sitting on your couch? Finally, the employers who are paying higher taxes in order to give jobless people money and food stamps could have used the money taken from them to hire productive people. These wealth transfers are realized in the higher costs of doing business for employers. Last I checked, it’s employers who hire and create wealth. How about we refrain from taking their money so they can more easily hire employees.

Even if we accept the Keynesian notion of a world with no costs, the whole food stamp scheme still doesn’t make any sense. If it did, then we could create more wealth and prosperity by simply adding more people to the food stamp rolls. Why stop at a few million people here and there? Why not put the whole country on food stamps? Clearly, wealth doesn’t come from buying food with food stamps. It comes from production. Food stamps, oddly enough, are not production.

I don’t want to place all of the blame on Tom Vilsack though. Remember Colorado Springs Gazette reporter Emily Wilkins? She made the same disastrous case for food stamps and their magical stimulus powers in this Gazette article. You’ll recall that Ms. Wilkins lamented the fact that only around 40% of Coloradans eligible for food stamps actually apply for them. She thought it was a shame. I think it’s a shame that economic ignorance is pervasive among bureaucrats in Washington and even some journalists in great newspapers like the Gazette. After all, it doesn’t take a rocket scientist to see through these stimulus scams. The results are all around us. $11 trillion in stimulus money spent since George W. Bush – and look where that got us.

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