A Related Note

I wrote recently about the Court’s ruling on Janus v AFCME Council 31, which eliminated public service unions’ ability to collect “agency fees” from non union members.

The dissent by Justice Elena Kagan and joined by her three cohorts in the Court’s liberal wing is instructive, and it foreshadows the kind of government we can expect from today’s “liberals,” should they succeed in gaining control of one or both Houses of Congress and then of the White House.

Capital Gains Taxes

Folks styling themselves conservatives want Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin to index capital gains taxes for inflation—and to do it by Executive Branch fiat.  Mnuchin, though, is reluctant to do so, not least because he’s unsure whether Treasury actually has the authority.  He’s also not convinced that Congress shouldn’t set such a requirement.

Mnuchin is right, though—this sort of thing should be determined legislatively rather than by Executive Branch regulation, Executive Order, or other diktat.  That’s the Conservative position.

Too, Congress should not be allowed to duck the matter: put the Congressmen on the record with their words and votes—every single one of them.

The Supremes Get One Right

Resoundingly so.  Janus v AFCME Council 31 is a case originating in Illinois concerning a public service union’s ability to collect a per centage of ordinary union dues—agency fees—from non-union members who work alongside the union’s bargaining unit in for a government agency.  A 40-year-old Supreme Court precedent, Abood v Detroit Board of Education, upheld this ability.

The Court’s opinion (a 5-4 majority) is summarized in the syllabus:

The State’s extraction of agency fees from nonconsenting public-sector employees violates the First Amendment. Abood erred in concluding otherwise, and stare decisis cannot support it. Abood is therefore overruled.

Rescissions and Politics

Senator Richard Burr (R, NC), recall, voted against a rescission of $15 billion  in unspent money because he wanted to preserve $15 million in unspent money in the Land and Water Conservation Fund.

The good Senator, objecting to The Wall Street Journal having called him out, wrote a Letter to the Editor, explaining himself.  The center of his argument is this:

The LWCF isn’t, as you suggest, a “slush fund” or a “land grab.” Nor is it a piggy bank Washington should raid at its convenience. Instead, it is a rare example of an effective government program that costs taxpayers nothing and benefits them entirely.

Privatize It

Among the proposals the Trump administration has offered for drastically restructuring and shrinking the Federal government is one for privatizing the US’ Postal Service.

Of course, the American Postal Workers Union opposes the move, but that’s just wind in the trees and nothing to take seriously.  The union claims that such a move would harm e-commerce and rural America as well as do away with regular mail and package service at affordable costs.  Because competition in the market place doesn’t drive down costs or spur innovation.  And because we all need our regular, daily fix of junk mail.

Ransomware and Government Entities

The Wall Street Journal, in an article about ransomware being used to hack city (and other) computer systems, asked the question Should Cities Pay?

Not only no, cities (and others) should not pay, but no2.

Aside from paying the ransom being an act of cowardice, it aids and abets the criminals—which is amoral, if not yet a felony.

Sure, it costs more in the moment to refuse and rebuild, but what costs are saved by not telling the hacker world that the city will gladly pay the ransom and so be hacked repeatedly?  What’s the cost to other, similarly situated, cities and towns (and public libraries) when one gladly aids and abets?

Protecting US Technology

The Trump administration is moving toward a set of rules that would heavily restrict the People’s Republic of China’s ability to acquire American technology-developing companies and American technology.

Of course, there are objections to protecting our stuff.

Industry groups…are mainly concerned that the export controls could negatively affect their businesses by preventing them from using their technological edge.

If such groups were truly serious about this, they’d be truly serious about hardening their member companies’ facilities against hacking.

And

While many object to the investment restrictions, they are seen as having less practical impact because Chinese investment has fallen off so drastically.

Bad Bonds?

Recall that Michigan State University agreed to pay $500 million to victims and associates of Larry Nassar’s sex abuse victims while he was pretending to treat our women gymnasts’ injuries.

Now the school intends to float bonds to raise the money to pay the bill.

Were I an investment advisor—which I’m not, nor do I play one on the radio—I’d advise against buying these bonds; I’m not satisfied Michigan State will be able to pay them off in the end, even with OPM.

AHPs

Association Health Plans are new plans that, by regulation, allow small businesses to band together across industries and state boundaries to form health insurance buying consortiums.  Using this larger size-generated buying power, they should be able to acquire cheaper, better tailored, more flexible plans for their employees, plans that those employees actually will want.

However.

The left says association plans are junk insurance that will blow up ObamaCare.

Some AHPs likely will be; that’s a fact of life in any market, free or centrally planned. However, a free market is self-regulating and quickly so; junk plans will be few and far between.  Blow up Obamacare?  That’s win-win.

A Proposed EU Budget

French President Emmanuel Macron and German Chancellor Angela Merkel have agreed a proposed EU budget.  As you might expect, I have a question.  One of the points of agreement is the purpose of the “single eurozone budget” they want to create:

The EU will set up a single eurozone budget to boost investment and promote economic convergence among all 19 member states.

What does this purpose statement mean, exactly?  Who will pay into the budget and in accordance with what parameters?  Who will pick the investments to be supported and on what basis?  On these two matters, details are yet to be worked out, certainly; it’s early in the process.