A Trade War

Russia has announced that it won’t buy certain goods from certain of the nations that are sanctioning Russia over its invasion of Ukraine and its fomenting of rebellion in eastern Ukraine. This is a trade war that Russia shouldn’t be expected to win.

For one thing, Russia’s economy is the size of Italy’s and more moribund, so any trade war can only hurt Russia relatively more than it can hurt the far larger economies of the US, the EU, Australia, Canada, even Norway, who are the targets of the Russian boycott.

For another thing, here are some facts related to this boycott.

Entitlements and Taxes

Dr Ben Carson had a couple thoughts a while ago; they’re still valid.

On taxes:

What we need to do is come up with something simple. And when I pick up my Bible, you know what I see? I see the fairest individual in the universe, God, and he’s given us a system. It’s called a tithe.

We don’t necessarily have to do 10% but it’s the principle. He didn’t say if your crops fail, don’t give me any tithe, or if you have a bumper crop, give me triple tithe. So there must be something inherently fair about proportionality. You make $10 billion, you put in a billion. You make $10 you put in one. Of course you’ve got to get rid of the loopholes.

Appellate Court En Banc Hearings

The DC Circuit a short time ago held in Halbig v Burwell that Federal regulations regarding Federal health plan exchanges violate Obamacare’s plain language: Federal subsidies, contrary to those regulations, are available only to health plan holders who got their plans through State-run health plan exchanges.

Adam White, in a recent Wall Street Journal piece in the context of that ruling and the Federal government’s subsequent appeal to the DC Circuit to rehear the case en banc, noted a couple of things.

One is how rare en banc (re)hearings are, especially for the DC Circuit:

Another Government Overreach

In a recent op-ed piece, The Wall Street Journal correctly decried the Financial Industry Regulatory Authority’s CARDS program. This program, cynically named “Comprehensive Automated Risk Data System,” is a program that wants to require all of our brokerage houses to report to FINRA massive amounts of data concerning our investment accounts, including what we’re doing in (with?) those accounts.

The op-ed correctly objected to CARDS’ massive collection of data, saying

FINRA says the ocean of data will help it spot a problem almost in real time, far earlier than if it showed up during a regular examination. …

Paul Ryan’s Expanding Opportunity in America

House Budget Committee Chairman Paul Ryan’s “Expanding Opportunity in America” proposal can be seen in full here. I’ll only comment on parts of it in this post.

On the 50th anniversary of the War on Poverty, then, we should reexamine the federal government’s role. For too long, the federal government has tried to supplant, and not to support, the people fighting poverty on the front lines—families, neighborhoods, community groups. In the fight against poverty, the people ultimately are the vanguard, and government is the rearguard. Government protects the supply lines. But it is the people themselves who take to the front lines.

Define “Fair”

Some think the mortgage interest deduction from our income taxes is unfair. After all, says one such,

I can easily construct a situation in which a taxpayer essentially enjoys no [mortgage related] tax benefits whatsoever. How about the single individual or possibly a married couple without children, who make just enough to make ends meet but still cannot save to buy a house? Or possibly, they prefer renting to the onerous commitment of home ownership. There doesn’t appear to be any tax breaks for them.

The Wrong Question

Jim Angle, of Fox News, usually does better than this.

“Right now the savings that was projected to pay for all this spending [on Obamacare] is not being collected as originally projected,” said Charles Blahous, of the Mercatus Center. He estimated the law will eventually cost $200 billion a year by 2020.

And

“There was about $100 billion that was supposed to come in over the next 10 years from penalties on individuals, if they did not carry health insurance, penalties on employers, if they do not offer health insurance, and to date, those penalties have not been enforced,” Blahous said.

A…Misunderstanding…on the Supreme Court

The liberal wing of the Supreme Court is at it again. The three women of the wing are furthering their demand that women generally are entitled to get their contraceptives via OPM, rather than with the women’s own money—apparently, it seems, because these three female Justices think women generally are too helpless to have their own money. These three also are continuing their demand that access to contraceptives must take priority over the religious tenets of the ones they would require to make the provision.

Contradictions of the Export-Import Bank

The Export-Import Bank is a hoary, old financial institution with the purpose of facilitating American exports by providing financing or guaranteeing loans for cross-border transactions in which the private sector declines to participate.

There’s a hint there.

It may be that such government involvement might have done some good in the bad, old days before widespread free trade agreements. It may be, too, that tariffs were a good idea a long time ago. Or maybe not.

Free trade agreements signed since those days have facilitated lower prices, more freely moving “factors”—economist-speak for the goods that companies take in and process into goods that they then sell—and more freely moving labor.

The Uselessness of Obamacare

Here’s another example of the ineffectiveness of the Obama administration—of government generally—as a business manager. HHS’ Office of the Inspector General conducted a review of ObamaMart’s performance last fall and early winter—from October through the end of December—although it didn’t include four ObamaMart centers that chose not to comply with the IG’s request for information.

As of the first quarter of 2014, the Federal marketplace [ObamaMart] was unable to resolve about 2.6 million of 2.9 million inconsistencies because the CMS eligibility system was not fully operational. It was unable to resolve inconsistencies even if applicants submitted appropriate documentation.

Moreover,