When Government Spending Hurts the Most Vulnerable

“a review of the literature about the impact of government spending on growth reveals that, generally, such spending crowds out the private sector. This dispels the hope that more spending will produce economic wonders.

Deficit spending will eventually result in higher taxes for future generations. That’s a profoundly unfair burden. Debt is also expansive in and of itself, as interest payments on an enormous amount of debt—even when interest rates are low—will result in a larger and expanding deficit. According to Brian Riedl at the Manhattan Institute, Congressional Budget Office data reveal that by 2049, “Interest payments on the national debt would be the federal government’s largest annual expenditure, consuming 42% of all projected tax revenues.”

Eventually, growing debt will also slow economic growth. Lower growth means fewer innovations, lower wage growth, and higher unemployment. It’s all-around bad news. Finally, higher debt could result in a debt crisis. These are good enough reasons for me to want to restrict the size of government and impose fiscal prudence.”

“Interestingly, recent concerns over inflation have highlighted one additional reason why higher debt is problematic. You see, when it comes to inflation, people’s expectations about the price trajectory in the next few years are what really matters. So, it matters less than we think that the current inflationary forces are likely transitory. If people believe that inflation is here to stay, they will try to protect themselves from it today, and we will indeed have inflation today.

Under that scenario, to get inflation under control, the Federal Reserve will have to raise interest rates. And this is where your debt levels matter. Higher interest rates result in a large increase in overall interest payments fairly quickly, as so much of our debt needs to be rolled over on a short-term basis. A sudden increase in interest rates would slow down the recovery, too, which hurts lower-income Americans.

If the Fed were immune to political pressures, this reality might not matter. However, we can expect that political pressure to be enormous. No administration would be happy to see a large increase in interest payments suddenly show up on its balance sheet followed by a large increase in the size of the deficit, especially if that administration is already planning to spend a larger amount of money in the first place. This pressure only grows under an administration that will resist any rate change that could hurt growth. The Fed may also be slow to act because it has made addressing inequality one of its priorities.”

“Do I know what expectations are and how long inflation will stick around? I don’t. But in truth, no one really does. That’s part of the point. In that context, fiscal prudence now is the best course of action, because with so much political pressure in the worst-case scenario, there will be fewer opportunities when the Fed must actually raise interest rates.”

Don’t worry about inflation

“the biggest price increases affecting “core” non-gas or food inflation in recent months have come from new and used cars and air travel. The Biden Council of Economic Advisers estimates that at least 60 percent of inflation in June was due to car prices alone, and a big chunk of the rest came from services like air travel increasing in price as everyone rushes back to travel post-pandemic.

A huge part of the rise in car prices is a semiconductor shortage — implying that a better way to tackle inflation than the Fed raising interest rates might be an effort to improve supply of semiconductors, including boosting production in the US. Biden’s recent efforts to get Taiwan to boost production for US car companies is exactly the kind of intervention implied by this analysis.

The Fed itself seems to be thinking this way; Powell recently testified to Congress that “supply constraints have been restraining activity in some industries, most notably in the motor vehicle industry, where the worldwide shortage of semiconductors has sharply curtailed production so far this year.” Lael Brainard, an influential member of the Fed’s Board of Governors, has said the same.

“If you do think that this supply side story is convincing, then that does really change the way you want to think about this,” Steinsson told me. “Somebody’s going to build a new semiconductor factory at some point … that gives you a rationale for not using the blunt tool of raising interest rates for the whole economy.”

Yes, inflation is rising, there is a great deal of uncertainty, and the specter of the ’70s looms large. But given how much economic pain was visited on millions in the fight against inflation decades ago, it’s encouraging that today’s policymakers seem more willing to consider the path their predecessors did not take.”

Joe Biden’s Executive Order on ‘Promoting Competition’ Covers Everything From Farmers Markets to Net Neutrality

“Not all of the encouragement is bad. For instance, Biden “encourages the [Federal Trade Commission (FTC)] to ban unnecessary occupational licensing restrictions that impede economic mobility.” This is one area where U.S. antitrust policy does have a lot of room for improvement.

Another bit of positive encouragement: Biden is directing the Department of Health and Human Services “to consider issuing proposed rules within 120 days for allowing hearing aids to be sold over the counter.”

It also touches on “right to repair” rules, encouraging the FTC to limit “equipment manufacturers from restricting people’s ability to use independent repair shops or do DIY repairs—such as when tractor companies block farmers from repairing their own tractors” and to “issue rules against anticompetitive restrictions on using independent repair shops or doing DIY repairs of your own devices and equipment.”

“the order “encourages the FTC to ban or limit non-compete agreements” and to establish new rules on internet user data. He encourages the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) to restore net neutrality rules, to ban landlords from making deals with internet service providers that say tenants must choose a particular internet service, and to create a “nutrition label” for internet service. He orders the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) to support farmers markets, and further “directs USDA to consider issuing new rules defining when meat can bear ‘Product of USA’ labels” and to develop new labeling standards “so that consumers can choose to buy products that treat farmers fairly.”

He also announces a general “policy of greater scrutiny of mergers, especially by dominant internet platforms, with particular attention to the acquisition of nascent competitors, serial mergers, the accumulation of data, competition by ‘free’ products, and the effect on user privacy.”

The White House will establish a new Competition Council, led by the director of the National Economic Council, “to monitor progress on finalizing the initiatives.””

Robots were supposed to take our jobs. Instead, they’re making them worse.

“often spend so much time talking about the potential for robots to take our jobs that we fail to look at how they are already changing them — sometimes for the better, but sometimes not. New technologies can give corporations tools for monitoring, managing, and motivating their workforces, sometimes in ways that are harmful. The technology itself might not be innately nefarious, but it makes it easier for companies to maintain tight control on workers and squeeze and exploit them to maximize profits.

“The basic incentives of the system have always been there: employers wanting to maximize the value they get out of their workers while minimizing the cost of labor, the incentive to want to control and monitor and surveil their workers,” said Brian Chen, staff attorney at the National Employment Law Project (NELP). “And if technology allows them to do that more cheaply or more efficiently, well then of course they’re going to use technology to do that.”

Tracking software for remote workers, which saw a bump in sales at the start of the pandemic, can follow every second of a person’s workday in front of the computer. Delivery companies can use motion sensors to track their drivers’ every move, measure extra seconds, and ding drivers for falling short.

Automation hasn’t replaced all the workers in warehouses, but it has made work more intense, even dangerous, and changed how tightly workers are managed. Gig workers can find themselves at the whims of an app’s black-box algorithm that lets workers flood the app to compete with each other at a frantic pace for pay so low that how lucrative any given trip or job is can depend on the tip, leaving workers reliant on the generosity of an anonymous stranger. Worse, gig work means they’re doing their jobs without many typical labor protections.

In these circumstances, the robots aren’t taking jobs, they’re making jobs worse. Companies are automating away autonomy and putting profit-maximizing strategies on digital overdrive, turning work into a space with fewer carrots and more sticks.”

The Bipartisan Infrastructure Bill Will Add More Than $250 Billion to the Deficit. Does Anyone Care?

“The Congressional Budget Office (CBO), the legislature’s nonpartisan number-crunching agency, says the bipartisan infrastructure bill would add about $256 billion to the deficit over 10 years. The real figure is likely to be higher, because the package contains a few gimmicky elements that are designed to trick the CBO’s forecasting metrics.

The biggest of those gimmicks is the promise that Congress will reallocate more than $200 billion of COVID relief funds to cover infrastructure costs. It remains unclear exactly what unused COVID funds will be redirected, and the bill only rescinds $50 billion in actual budget authority from previously passed COVID relief bills, according to an analysis by the Committee for a Responsible Federal Budget (CRFB).

Other proposals to save and redirect federal dollars to pay for the infrastructure bill are also unlikely to materialize. Take the $49 billion lawmakers plan to “save” by further delaying an already-delayed Trump administration regulation altering how prescription drug discounts are applied by health insurers. “Because the Congressional Budget Office projected that the so-called rebate rule would increase federal spending in Medicare and Medicaid by about $177 billion over a decade, due to a rise in Medicare premiums (and therefore, taxpayer-funded subsidies for Medicare premiums), lawmakers get to count a further delay in the rule (beyond the Biden administration’s one-year delay) as ‘savings’ for the federal government,” explains the National Taxpayers Union.”

“When you filter out the gimmicks designed to game the CBO score of the infrastructure bill, the CRFB says the package will probably add $340 billion to the deficit over 10 years.”

“But as the CBO’s report makes clear, actually paying for the infrastructure makes those benefits bigger than they otherwise would be. A fully offset infrastructure package would boost GDP by an estimated 0.11 percent over the next 30 years while a deficit-financed package would barely break even. That’s because, as the CRFB notes, running higher deficits to pay for infrastructure spending will reduce private investment over the long term and, thus, lower future economic growth as well.”

Broadway Hit Hamilton Could Get Up to $50 Million Federal Bailout

“That’s the problem with almost all government bail-out schemes. You gotta be in the room where it happens—metaphorically, at least. Successful businesses will always have an advantage over those who lack the lobbyists, name recognition, or culture cachet required to cash in.

On the other hand, the federal government’s firehose of COVID relief spending—$5.9 trillion and counting—means it is easier than ever to get bailed out. So far, the government has responded to the pandemic by sending money to people who earn six-figure paychecks, paying fully vaccinated people not to work even though there are millions of available jobs, bailing out state governments that are running huge surpluses, and using the pandemic as cover for a massive bailout of union-run pension funds, among other things.

Like with Hamilton, there doesn’t seem to be any consideration of when or how much government aid is necessary. We’ve pumped so much money into the system—nearly all of it borrowed and added to the country’s long-term debt problems—and it has to go somewhere.

Did a bunch of fake celebrities whose only claim to fame is being former contestants on The Bachelor need the federal government to dump as much as $20,000 apiece into their bank accounts? Nope, but they got the cash anyway, according to data gathered by ProPublica and reported in a variety of media outlets.”

Can Peru’s Constitution Survive a Marxist Onslaught?

“The battle in Peru is no longer about who won the election; it’s about preserving the country’s constitution. Drafted in 1993, the current constitution underpins the free market policies that helped the country reduce its poverty rate by roughly one-half, nearly triple its per capita income, and even slash inequality (as measured by a 12-percentage-point reduction in the Gini coefficient between 1998 and 2019). As Ian Vásquez and Ivan Alonso write for the Cato Institute, during the last decades, “Peruvians have experienced dramatic and widely shared improvements in well-being.”

Peru’s economic success is a rather new development. As recently as August 1990, the country experienced a 397 percent monthly inflation rate. Previously, dictator Juan Velasco Alvarado, a military officer who led a coup d’état in 1968, had nationalized key industries, creating state monopolies in oil and mining, fisheries, and food production, among other key sectors. He also expropriated large tracts of land and severely restricted imports, all according to a five-year plan of national production. Economists César Martinelli and Marco Vega argue that Velasco Alvarado’s statist program cost Peru “sizable losses” in economic growth during two decades, leading to the hyperstagflation of the late 1980s.

Once in power, Alberto Fujimori, who won the presidential election in 1990, took drastic measures to stabilize prices, mainly by restricting the money supply and government deficits. Meanwhile, he deregulated markets and shrank the state’s size by privatizing state-owned companies.”

“Today, the constitution is the only obstacle in the way of President-elect Castillo’s party platform, which praises Vladimir Lenin and Fidel Castro while promising a back-to-the-past agenda of nationalizing the mining sector and other major industries, expropriating land, and getting rid of Peru’s successful private pension system, which administers approximately USD $40.7 billion in citizens’ savings. Much like Velasco Alvarado, who nationalized news media companies, Castillo’s “Free Peru” party plans to “regulate” the press, claiming that a “muckraking” media is “fatal” to democracy.”

“Castillo’s “Free Peru” party calls for a new constitution to replace the one in place, which it rejects as “individualist, mercantilist, privatizing, and defeatist” in the face of foreign interests.”

“According to a recent poll, 77 percent of Peruvians are against doing away with the current constitution. As YouTuber Mirko Vidal remarks, this suggests that a good portion of Castillo’s vote wasn’t pro-Marxist as much as anti-Fujimori.

It remains to be seen whether Peru’s institutions can withstand Castillo’s certain onslaught once he is in power. It would be no surprise if he tried to get rid of term limits, a classic recipe of 21st century socialists such as Venezuela’s Hugo Chávez and Bolivia’s Evo Morales, caudillos who, like Alberto Fujimori, won an election and changed the rules of the game so as to hold on to power. Another similarity with Chávez and Morales is Castillo’s blend of anti-capitalist dogma with a strong sense of social conservatism; he opposes same-sex marriage, a “gender-focus” in education, and large-scale immigration. Repeatedly, he has promised to expel all illegal immigrants—meaning many of the 1 million Venezuelans who arrived in the country as they fled from Chavista socialism—just 72 hours after taking office. While these stances are electorally savvy, they make Castillo an odd bedfellow of the foreign progressives who praise him with titles such as son of the soil.”

People Love To Criticize Capitalism. Here’s Why They’re Wrong.

“Free markets increase total wealth. Competition encourages entrepreneurs to find new ways to release more value from both people and resources.

Because capitalism is voluntary and consumers have choices, the only way capitalists can get rich is to offer us something that we believe is better than we had before.

That creates new wealth.

Steve Jobs became a billionaire. But by creating Apple, he gave us more: millions of jobs and billions of dollars added to our economy.

Research shows that entrepreneurs only keep 2.2 percent of the additional wealth they generate. “In other words, the rest of us captured almost 98 percent of the benefits,” says economist Dan Mitchell of the Center for Freedom and Prosperity.

“I hope that we get 100 new super billionaires,” he adds, “Because that means 100 new people have figured out ways to make the rest of our lives better off.””