Please Smoke

I’m amused when governments become dependent upon revenue from sin taxes, then find themselves in trouble when the taxes do what they always do—produce less of the taxed activity. Today’s example is Arizona, which depends on tobacco settlement money to pay for Medicaid. Cigarettes are heavily taxed, so fewer people are smoking, so the tobacco industry is earning less money, so Arizona collects less lawsuit settlement money to pay for Medicaid. Now the state needs to shrink the program, but may not be able to given the wording of the proposition that created the Medicaid payment scheme.

Arizonans, light one up for your state’s budgetary health.

Protest at Houston HEB Over “Sanctuary Cities” Lobbying

In a follow-up to the Texas Businesses Opposed to the “Sanctuary Cities” post, Ramparts360 reports there will be a protest at an HEB store in Houston on Saturday, July 9, drawing attention to Charles E. Butt’s lobbying against the “sanctuary cities” bill. I suspect this will be new territory for HEB.

Happy Independence Day

Dave Carter wrote an excellent post at Ricochet entitled, “The Audacity of Independence”:

And what of our young President who energetically leads the charge down the road to serfdom? This is a man who jets and copters about like no president before him, who vacations and relaxes, who golfs and shoots hoops, who throws lavish dinners and concerts, yet who on occasion manages to rouse himself and threatens to commit an act of governance against the lot of us. A head of state who remains a student of collectivist academic rubbish, he sees his people harassed and robbed by agents of the government over which he presides, and then goes straightaway to Martha’s Vineyard. A contemporary potentate, he stuffs down a greasy cheeseburger while his executive agencies draft regulations ordering grocery manufacturers and restaurants to retool their recipes on everything from cereal to bagels, fruit juice to menu items, or face advertising restrictions that could have crippling ripple effects on a huge swath of the private sector.

I’m not quite as pessimistic as Dave, but I agree that the Fourth of July should be “a call to action rather than an empty nod to what we once had.”

Deep Sea Rare Earths

China began cutting its export quotas for rare earth metals last year, driving up prices for the raw materials and the high tech products that depend on them. Congressman Mike Coffman of Colorado introduced legislation to encourage U.S. production of rare earths, and Molycorp plans to restart production at a rare earth mine in the Mojave Desert, the largest such mine outside China. Now Japanese geologists claim they’ve discovered high concentrations of rare earth metals in mud deposits in deep water areas of the Pacific Ocean. If the discovery is confirmed and it’s technically feasible to recover and process the material, it could have a huge impact on the rare earth market, where prices doubled in a two week period last month.

This isn’t the first time Japan has contemplated deep sea mining. They discovered deposits of methane hydrate (methane trapped in frozen water) off their coasts in the 1990s, and in 2008 signed an agreement with the U.S. to develop commercial technology for recovering it. The first test wells are scheduled to be drilled this year.

Economic Freedom in the U.S.

I like this YouTube video produced by the Charles G. Koch Charitable Foundation (yes, he’s one of the Koch brothers that liberals have been treating as boogeymen):

According to Caleb Brown at the Cato Institute, this video draws on the Economic Freedom of the World: 2010 Annual Report from Canada’s Fraser Institute. The Heritage Foundation conducts research on economic freedom, too, and arrives at the same conclusion as the video: economic freedom in the U.S. has been on a steep decline since the 2008 financial market meltdown and the laws and policies that were enacted in its aftermath—TARP, the un-stimulating stimulus, the GM and Chrysler bail-outs, the Frank-Dodd bill, etc. Piling on the regulatory burdens and costs associated with Obamacare didn’t help.

We in the private sector can’t regain our economic freedom (and the quality of life and other freedoms derived from it) until the federal government relaxes its regulatory grip and reduces spending to a meaningful degree. Barack Obama and Harry Reid show no signs of taking action here—in fact, according to Chuck Schumer, the administration is exploring how to justify ignoring the debt limit (they’re even studying the Constitution!). It’s crucial that the Congressional Republicans stand tall on the debt limit issue—it’s the only lever they have that can force reductions in federal spending before the 2012 election.

Lesser Known Founding Fathers

Quin Hillyer wrote an article for the American Spectator that describes two of our lesser known founding fathers, Roger Sherman and Robert Livingston. I remember reading Sherman’s name, but I didn’t appreciate his accomplishments. He signed the Articles of Association of the Congress of 1774, the Declaration of Independence, the Articles of Confederation, and the Constitution—he’s the only person to sign all four. He ran a store, worked as a county surveyor, served as a judge on Connecticut’s highest court, and was elected mayor of New Haven—the first person to hold that office. He designed the Connecticut Compromise, which called for the states to be represented proportional to their population in the House of Representatives but equally in the Senate. To top it off, he was elected to the House and the Senate, although he passed away (at age 72) before he took office as a senator. His Wikipedia entry says he died of typhoid fever. I wouldn’t be surprised if it was exhaustion that did him in—he accomplished extraordinary things.

Texas Businesses Opposed to the “Sanctuary Cities” Bill

Reuters reports that Texas business interests lobbied against “sanctuary cities” legislation, specifically naming homebuilder Bob Perry and grocery store magnate Charles E. Butt. Unnamed Texas lawmakers told the reporter that these business interests were “worried that the law would allow police to harass their workers.” The sanctuary cities legislation died in the Texas Senate during this year’s regular legislative session and died in the House during the special session.

Meanwhile, Bloomberg reports that on June 9, Alabama’s governor signed an immigration law that’s more strict than Arizona’s law, and is much more strict than Texas’ failed sanctuary cities bill. Illegal immigrants are reacting by leaving Alabama in droves, including many who would otherwise be rebuilding Tuscaloosa after its April 27 tornado.

So if the Texas businesses who lobbied against the sanctuary cities bill are trying to avoid the outcome that Alabama is experiencing, who are those businesses employing?