Government Imperative to Regulate

This time in the commercial space industry. There is a bill slowly wending its way through the House that would limit—or not—regulation of the nascent commercial space industry. This is a bill that would

…extend and update federal protection for commercial launches from some potential liability involving property damage or personal injuries and fatalities on the ground. The legislation [also would bar] the Federal Aviation Administration from closely regulating fledgling space-tourism ventures for up to 10 more years….

There’s a hint about the wrong mindset there. The hint is clarified by the bill’s supporters’ attitude. They [emphasis added]

What’s in Your Food?

It’s not PC to ask or to know, according to the World Trade Organization.

The World Trade Organization (WTO) just ruled that America’s popular country-of-origin labeling law (COOL) enacted in 2008 violates global trade standards because it erects a trade barrier to US meat imports from countries like Canada and Mexico.

Japanese customers don’t get to know that the beef they’re thinking about buying came from the US. Nor do PRC diners. Nor do American customers get to know that their beef is coming from Canada.

Such knowledge constitutes a trade barrier, don’t you know.

Market Disruption

…is what happens in a free market, and one result is wealth redistribution, not by inefficient, politically motivated government mandate, but morally and efficiently by voluntary exchange among market participants—folks like you and me. One example of this is the price of taxi medallions.

…leading cabbies and fleet owners throughout the USA worried that their industry will be decimated if local and state government doesn’t intervene.

In Chicago, which has the country’s second biggest fleet with roughly 7,000 taxis, the median sale price for a medallion hovered around $70,000 in 2007 before reaching a median sales peak of $357,000 in late 2013.

The Ex-Im Bank

The Export-Import Bank’s charter is up for renewal in our Congress this spring. The bank is alleged to help American companies by lending money to foreign buyers of and American company’s products so that buyer can afford the purchase, which in turns helps the US company, and its employees.

That’s a pretty good deal, right?

Maybe not so much. It’s American taxpayers who are on the hook—not just the one American company and its employees—if the foreign buyer defaults on the loan. But that’s not all. American companies trying to compete with that foreign buyer also are harmed, whether or not that foreign buyer defaults. See the graph below, from AEIdeas:ExImBank

A Thought on the TPP

Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe spoke one out loud while addressing our Congress a bit ago. The Trans-Pacific Partnership agreement is more than just a trade agreement, he said.

What the TPP is all about [is an opportunity to] spread our shared values and have them take root: the rule of law, democracy, and freedom.

What he said.

The SEC’s Abuse of Authority

Actually, it’s Dodd-Frank’s abuse, and the SEC is only implementing the abuser’s requirement, but still….

At issue here is an SEC proposed rule that purports

to give investors greater clarity about the link between what corporate executives are paid each year compared to total shareholder return—the annual change in stock price plus reinvested dividends, according to people familiar with the measure.

There are a couple of things wrong with this. One, minor on the scale of this…rule’s…transgression is the idea that stock price and dividend handling are the measure of a business’ management. No, these are the outcomes; the actual measures are on the business’ financial sheets. Those P&L, Cash Flow, and Balance Sheets, among a host of other performance reporting documents, are freely available to shareholders—and to prospective shareholders: they’re public documents.

Venture Capital

The Department of Energy’s Loan Guarantee Program—its green energy loan program—is a money loser, according to the GAO.

The Government Accountability Office says the DOE’s oft-touted $28 billion loan program will cost taxpayers $2.21 billion over the lifetime of the loans. Not only that, the costs to taxpayers for green loans has risen about $500 million as “the result of loan guarantee defaults” from companies like Solyndra and Abound Solar.

That’s not bad by itself; the sorts of projects and companies being loaned to via this, essentially, venture funding program are high risk, losses are normal, and for a venture capital effort to lose money overall isn’t at all unusual.

Global Trade

Governor and Ambassador, and currently Chairman of the Atlantic Council, Jon Huntsman had some thoughts in a weekend Wall Street Journal.

Expanded exports and open markets were central to our economic-security efforts to reconstruct Europe and Japan and keep lower-income countries free from communism.

Indeed. Such free trade imperatives remain central to freedom, to helping lower-income countries escape despotism generally, and to mutual and widespread prosperity. Huntsman went on:

Whereas today the world economy is replete with far-flung supply chains for manufacturing physical goods, it will be the free flow of designs and ideas that will increasingly constitute the economic linkages of the future.

Time Warner and Comcast

The merger has gone bust, harassed into being discarded by the FCC and DoJ. The latter, for instance,

…said it had significant concerns that the merger would make Comcast “an unavoidable gatekeeper for Internet-based services that rely on a broadband connection to reach consumers.”

This is an…ironic…concern, given that DoJ’s partner in the merger’s destruction had only recently arrogated that gatekeeper role to itself with its Net “neutrality” rule recently announced.

Unfortunately, with this FCC and this DoJ, we can’t know whether the cancelation of the merger was a good idea or a bad one. And that’s bad for business and bad for American consumers.

Change We Can Hope For

A post-World War II-era program that forces raisin producers to give part of their annual crop to the government could soon be a relic of history.

Several Supreme Court justices expressed doubts Wednesday that federal officials can legally take raisins away from farmers without full payment even if the goal is to help boost overall market prices.

An immediately post-war New Deal law allows the Federal government to manipulate the market’s raisin supply by seizing a significant fraction of a raisin farmer’s crop and thereby prop up raisin prices—for the benefit of that farmer, you see.