Sen. Elizabeth Warren’s recent rant about lobbyists in the Trump transition team (just before they were all sent packing) brings me once again to editor David Rotman’s MIT Technology Review article Capitalism Behaving Badly. Specifically this:

[W]e should admit that markets are created and shaped by government policies, including government support of innovation.

If we are to admit that markets are created and shaped by government, we also must admit that lobbying is created by government as a protective reaction to that regulatory manipulation ‘market’ creation and shaping.

Don Boudreaux puts it well at Cafe Hayek

Sen. Elizabeth Warren is upset that President-elect Trump’s transition team includes many corporate lobbyists (“Elizabeth Warren Criticizes Donald Trump Over Lobbyists in Transition Team,” Nov. 15). Well now. Sen. Warren is second-to-none at empowering Uncle Sam to exercise broad discretionary powers over corporate affairs – powers that, if exercised one way, yield that company hundreds of millions of dollars in additional profits or, if exercised another way, saddle that company with hundreds of millions of dollars of additional costs. It is hardly surprising, therefore, that corporations work diligently to have their voices heard among the din of everyone clamoring for the new emperor’s attention.

For Sen. Warren to be upset that Trump’s transition team is filled with hordes of corporate lobbyists panting for political favors is akin to a Madam being upset that her bawdyhouse is filled with hordes of men panting for female favors.

Donald J. Boudreaux
Professor of Economics
Martha and Nelson Getchell Chair for the Study of Free Market Capitalism at the Mercatus Center
George Mason University
Fairfax, VA 22030

Lobbying is protected by the First Amendment. Even absent Constitutional protection, lobbying would continue at a level commensurate with the degree to which government creates and shapes markets, only it would be more nefarious – say like the Clinton Foundation pay-to-play shenanigans.

Meanwhile, the House GOP beat back a plan by some of its own members* to restore internal super-lobbying by reinstating earmarks.

*Who should now be Primaried.

Update 1:15PM: In the interests of naming names, “Reps. John Culberson of Texas, Mike Rogers of Alabama, and Tom Rooney of Florida are listed as sponsors of the amendment.”

Cognitive Dissonance

Our Democrat leaders in Washington passed a bill last week that they didn’t much like. The passage of this bill increased government tax receipts by about $30 million a day, and ‘saved or created’ 70,000 construction jobs along with 4,000 federal jobs. Since the Dems claim to be about ‘revenue enhancement’ and government ‘job creation,’ you might wonder why they weren’t patting themselves on the back, rather than complaining that the GOP “put a gun to our heads.”

The bill in question was a temporary extension (the 21st such since 2007) of the Federal Aviation Administration’s operating authority. Since July 23 of this year the lack of this authority had caused the FAA to miss collecting taxes of $28.6 million a day. If the partial suspension of FAA operations continued until September, when all our Congresscritters will have completed reunions with their Pomegranate trees consultations with their constituents, that could have totaled a billion dollars. That’s billion with a “B”.

The partial shutdown was caused by the Democrat’s insistence on preserving $17 million in pork and changing a unionization process rule that has been in place for 75 years. So, for Senate Democrats, pork preservation and enabling public service unions to more easily organize are higher priorities than jobs and tax receipts. These preferences come together under the general heading of ‘bribing the base.’

The Democrats were getting a bit squirmy about it, though. Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood and the president pleaded with Congress to solve the problem; As if the problem was the whole Congress and not just Democrats in the Senate insisting on pork and a mini-version of card-check:

The GOP-led House passed a long-term FAA funding bill last month that included a controversial labor provision that would overturn a decision by the National Mediation Board allowing airline and railroad employees to form a union by simple-majority vote. Republicans, who have long been concerned about union intimidation in these votes, want to keep the former rule treating a non-vote as a “no” vote.

But once that bill stalled over Democratic objections, lawmakers turned to a short-term extension that has passed 20 times before to keep the FAA operating since 2007.

But that effort stalled, too, when Republicans added a separate provision stripping $16.5 million in subsidies for rural airline services.

The rural airport subsidies come from the well-worn pork barrel Congressman John Murtha made infamous with the John Murtha Johnstown-Cambria County Airport.

The labor provision may have been ‘controversial,’ but only because the Senate Democrats were insisting on letting a bunch of bureaucrats at the NMB change a rule that’s been in place for over 75 years.

So what did the Senate Democrats do after passing a temporary extension they could have passed 2 weeks earlier? They called a press conference to tell us the delay was all the fault of the Republicans. This charade proved too much even for ABC:


What is scary is that Senior Democrats were not feigning outrage and shock when there wasn’t universal acceptance of their ludicrous assertions – they truly believe what they said. When leaders’ foundational beliefs and tried and true methods suddenly don’t work – even are mocked – dangerous things can happen.

There is a final twist. The Transportation Secretary announced that he is not bound by the pork elimination provision, in any case. So, the Democrats cost the United States Treasury over $200 million in tax receipts, and then will go ahead and spend another $17 million on several examples of Murtha’s folly in violation of the law they just passed.

Update 2:05PM: Debra J. Saunders reports in the San Francisco Chronicle that Senator Barbara Boxer, blocked a vote on the legislation.

Sen. Barbara Boxer chided Karl for showing “a certain naivete” in not understanding that “this is about government threats.” She also challenged Karl by asking if he had reported on GOP opposition to a vote on a “clean” bill. “Clean” here means no pork cuts.

Boxer seemed to have forgotten that she blocked a vote on the House Bill.

It’s the moral hazard, stupid!

How budget battles go without the earmarks

…[T]he absence of earmarks also allowed for a more freewheeling debate on the House floor during consideration of the Republican plan to slash $61 billion from this year’s budget since Democrats and Republicans were not caught up in protecting the special provisions they had worked so hard to tuck into the spending bill…

[Earmarks play] an insidious role in pushing up federal spending through what is known in legislative terms as logrolling.


Earmark aficionados have advanced 2 major defenses of the practice.

  1. Individual members best know the needs of their constituents, directing the money should not be left to bureaucrats.
  2. It’s a minuscule amount of money relative to the Federal budget.

Amazingly enough, the first argument evaporates when there is no money to direct. It appears to have depended on a presumption of what “presumption” means. As in presuming you have the right to a permanent floating slush-fund.

The second argument was never more than an attempt at obfuscating the 2 major moral hazards of earmarks: bribery by your peers using other people’s money, and becoming accustomed to it.

Without earmark trinkets, it becomes significantly more difficult to leverage a few millions here and there into trillions in Federal spending. Votes bought in exchange for Federally funding an indoor rain forest in Iowa, for example, will be harder to come by. When the bribery opportunities disappear, spending debates can be more nearly rational. Whooda thunk it?

Well, everybody. Really. Even most Lobbyists, Bureaucrats, Representatives and Senators.

The only point of earmarks has been assisting the continued growth of Big Government by enhancing the power of the loot dispensers. This issue is multi-partisan – excluding only those representatives who adhere to morally equivalent Big Government philosophies, like fascism and socialism.

If any of your congresscritters insist on defending earmarks, they need to be retired.

Find the porker

A list of Senators in descending order of earmark requests in the $trillon omnibus spending bill: The Omnibus Arrives

If your Senator appears, make a note of the name and then look up when they next stand for election. Start campaigning against them now, whenever that may be.

Only Congressional Republicans contemplate compromise


Regarding the potential temporary failure to prevent a tax increase: Tax deal: purists vs. dealmakers

Me, I’m a purist until they can demonstrate they aren’t making corrupt, sleazy deals. Which means never. Isn’t that the point of the recent election?

So. No pork because of The Dems’ Crackup The Democrats don’t want any compromise, so let’s not give it to them.

Taxes? Up or the same? If the GOP doesn’t say “You pick Nancy. On the merits,” then they should be replaced in 2012 along with Obama.

Stop spending. Stop Spending! STOP SPENDING!

The AP reported yesterday that the deal between the President and the GOP to maintain a taxation status quo is being modified to include load of pork. The pork is designed to bring reluctant Democrats on board.

Why? Let them vote no. Let them raise taxes; Just Stop Them From Spending.

The $5 billion dollar ethanol subsidy, by itself, demands a No vote. Just last week envirostatist, Nobelist, Oscar winner and former Tipper Dipper Al Gore called it a scam and a stupid idea.

The inconvenience of waiting until January to vote to preserve tax rates is well worth the message it sends: We are not going to buy votes for ethanol, windmills, transit subsidies, or any other unrelated items. If you want to preserve the current tax regime, lower payroll taxes and extend unemployment benefits – vote for it. If you don’t, vote against it. We’re done handing out billions of dollars to whiny political district-pimps at the behest of their lobbyist mobs. We don’t need your damn vote.

If you vote no, we’ll propose a bill you’ll like a lot less in January. If the Senate stops it, or the President vetoes it, we’ll bring it up again. And again. Until 2012. Higher taxes for the next 2 years will actually be a small price to pay for 5 decades or so of control of all 3 branches of government.

Every Republican should vote no if the tax-maintenance deal isn’t voted straight up-an-down on the merits. Make ethanol the poster child. If the GOP is going to eschew earmarks, why pander to Democrats’ earmarks?

By their earmarks, ye shall know them – redux

This post is recycled with minor changes from November of 2007, it seems even more appropriate now.

There are 535 elected members of the federal legislative branch. This is far too many to keep track of from memory. Who would actually recognize Sen. Richard Shelby (R-AL) if they bumped into him at Wal-Mart? And even if you could pick Rep. Henry Waxman (D-CA) out of a lineup of other guys from whom you would not buy a used car, would you admit it?

In an effort to reduce the obscurity and highlight the pork, The Other Club suggests that the 535 members be made more easily identifiable. Since it’s earmarks we’re concerned with here, why not use the long-established earmark method? After all, when you get to have more pigs than you can recognize on sight, you need to take action. The Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations tells us how it works. (Don’t tell PETA.) Emphasis mine:

Learning objectives

After studying this unit you should know:

1 Why do we identify animals.
2 How to notch the ear.
3 Reading the number of the pig.

Why we need to identify animals

If you have a few pigs or other animals, identifying them is no problem. You will be able to identify them by sight and may well have given them a name. [Such as Henry or Laura.] You will need some way to identify a large number of animals especially if you are going to keep records (see Annex 5). There are many ways to identify animals including numbered collars, tattoos, and plastic tags. Notching the ear is easy and is the cheapest way.

Notching the ear

A V-shaped notch can be cut out of the edge of the ear using a pair of clean scissors. Make the notch a few centimetres deep so in future you will be able to read it from a distance.

The notches on the left ear are for single numbers and on the right ear the notches are for tens.

Notching the ear

Recording the number of the pig

Look at the notches on the right and the left ears then add up the number on each ear to give the number of the animal.

Recording the number of the pig

There are some drawbacks. This method can only account for 121 out of 535 members. Worse, any appropriations bill to buy 535 of those yellow plastic ear tags normally used in such a case would undoubtedly attract all manner of airdrop earmarks. This limitation is more theoretical than actual however, 121 is enough when this method is applied only to the worst offenders, and anesthesia is not part of the process.

Another issue is that human ears vary considerably in size, shape and angle from the cranium. It seems likely, given our examples, that notches in Congressman Waxman’s ears would be more readable from a distance than in Senator Shelby’s case. In cases of small, and/or flat ears a prosthesis may be required to force the ears into a more forward orientation, which would supply the additional benefit of making it easier for our most pork-addicted representatives to listen.

Jeff Flake is fighting against Earmarks

I have advised those who read this blog to send money to The Club for Growth rather than the Republican National Committee to ensure that RINOs like Arlen Specter, Olympia Snowe (who does not even have any earmarks in the Omnibus Spending Bill, but will vote for it out of Porkulus Principle anyway), Susan Collins, Thad Cochran and others – but especially Richard Shelby – can’t benefit.

The Dallas Morning News editorializes about one Representative who opposes earmarks, which at one time were anathema to President Obama: Flake is fighting a lonely battle against earmarks

Most in Congress lack the will to police themselves, preferring to rail against wasteful earmarks while discreetly fattening up spending bills with pet projects. [Rep. Jeff] Flake [R-AZ] and Rep. Jeb Hensarling, R-Dallas, who doesn’t earmark any project, are among the few exceptions.

Flake should continue his crusade to expose Congress’ charade, which encourages waste and tolerates political corruption. The $410 billion omnibus spending bill contains at least $8 billion in earmarks, including 13 pet projects for clients of PMA Group, a lobbying firm under investigation for suspicious campaign donations to members of Congress. PMA had close ties to Rep. John Murtha, D-Pa., and other influential lawmakers who received substantial contributions from PMA’s employees and clients.

That $410 billion dollar bill is being passed in the Senate as I write this – with the support of Republicans. They should be thrown out of office. Start there and work backward to the Democrats. There’s less chance you’ll be stabbed in the back that way.

The justification from Harry Reid and Richard Shelby, respectively, for earmarks is that “faceless bureaucrats” or “the President” shouldn’t have the power to direct the money, because then it might be “”wasted.””

Well, under Shelby’s direction, $800,000 is going to oyster rehabilitation at the University of South Alabama. I don’t know what my share of that is, but, quite honestly, I think it’s an issue the people of Alabama have to address locally on behalf of themselves and the drug addicted oysters at the University of South Alabama. This approach would also protect the Senator Shelbys of the world from having to account for corrupt politicians like Rep. John Murtha, D-I’llaska.

Here’s another idea for the Senators to consider; “If you might be unhappy with how a bureaucrat or the President might spend taxpayer money if it was their choice, then it shouldn’t be your choice either. DON’T APPROPRIATE IT, Idiot!” Work instead to get the general government to observe the fact that the words “oyster” and “rehabilitation” appear nowhere in the Constitution. Maybe if the States didn’t have to send money to Washington in order to get back ninety cents on a dollar, they could afford their own oyster rehab programs.

Jeff Flake is a guy who deserves your direct support, as the article linked above makes clear. He has a lonely task, but it’s God’s work (apologies to commenter John Lofton, Recovering Republican). We should directly encourage it. Contribute
if you can.