It sounds like folks inside the Obama administration and Congress are thinking about a VAT to make up for all of the additional revenue they’re going to need to cover their massive increases in spending. This would be a terrible, horrible, no-good idea for anybody who likes growth rates higher than in Europe. The one benefit to a VAT is that you don’t have to calculate sales taxes after the fact, so when the sticker says $10, it’s really $10 and not $10.68 or whatever state or local sales taxes apply. This, however, is also the huge negative: in the US, you can see quickly how much sales tax you have to pay, right at the register. You pick up a $100 device, you see the $6.75 (in central Ohio) sales tax immediately. If you’re like me, you usually mumble a curse under your breath when you see that, too. In Germany, however, there is no such feeling of disdain. Sure, it prints out on the receipt how much you had to pay in taxes, but many people don’t pay as much attention to that. This is part of how the VAT in Germany has jumped to 19%, whereas sales taxes remain relatively low in the US. Imagining that on top of all of the other taxes that we have to pay, our tax burden will quickly jump up to German or French levels, and we would likely get the worst end of it both ways: a federal VAT, as well as state sales taxes on top of that, so we still have to mentally calculate how much that $49.95 product will end up costing you…except now you’re starting out at $59.95…
Here is a great lecture given by Murray Rothbard on the early history of the Federal Reserve. It’s interesting listening to how closely inter-related so many of the actors were in this event: Treasury Secretaries who were close allies of Rockefeller and Morgan (who were both in favor of a monetary/banking cartel), Senators making mysteriously large sums of money over their careers, etc.
Also of note is the early portion of the talk, in which Rothbard describes how so much of the “Progressive” legisltation came about: big business leaders want to form cartels, but because these don’t hold up so well in free markets, they assume the guise of “enlightened” businessmen and propose legislation to regulate their own industries “for the common good.” Populist politicians jump on the bandwagon (the old bootleggers and Baptists problem, if you wish to be charitable toward the populists) and the end result is cartelization. Particularly interesting is the ICC forcing prices up. I remember in my high school history books reading about how these big businesses would offer lower rates to their friends, and the ICC was going to stop that. What they don’t describe is that they forced the rates up, not down, and worked in the best interest of large, existing firms and at the expense of consumers, smaller businesses, and businesses which were not yet formed. In other words, organizations like the ICC limited competition by erecting barriers to entry and setting price floors, thereby giving larger businesses an opportunity to cartelize successfully, making us all worse off in the process.
Preliminary CO2 emissions estimates are now available, and in the US, apparently, there was a 2.8% drop in CO2 output. Steven Heyward notes that the bulk of this is estimated to have come from energy efficiency rather than an economic downturn. Looking at the chart, 3 of the 4 years with drops happened to occur in recessions, so I’m not quite so sure. However, if we suppose a) that Heyward’s interpretation and the DoE estimates are true, and b) that carbon dioxide production is a factor in anthropogenic global warming (and c) that this is a bad thing overall), it would appear that we could be seeing a market-based shift without the major changes in regulation that people on the left desire.
Here are a few DBA notes while I’m still in Germany. I’ve finally had a chance to clear out my mailbox, and these came up in the clearing process.
– David McKinney has an ingenious method for using a CTE to fake a linked-list in SQL Server. I will probably use this many a time now, especially for data warehousing and reporting purposes.
– A while back, I had to import Excel data into SQL Server. It turns out that there’s a Powershell script that can do that. “There’s a Powershell script that can do that” is something I’m saying more and more often, and I really want to learn Powershell because it sounds like it would make my life significantly easier.
– Here are a few more important queries for performance and maintenance purposes. I figure I’ll add a couple of them into my DBA toolkit (as I have some similar ones).
– Want to set up Database Mail without going through the GUI (for example, if you have to do it on multiple servers)? Dan Guzman has you covered.
A fellow I took a couple of accounting courses with regularly criticizes lack of accessibility as a problem with websites. By doing a few relatively simple things (not using graphics for your text, using appropriate headers and markup, tagging your images, etc.), you can make an Internet experience significantly easier for somebody who is, say, blind.
Similarly, sometimes a keyboard just doesn’t cut it. That’s why Dasher exists. Dasher is an interface tool that takes a few minutes to learn, but is an entirely different paradigm for data entry. Sure, it’s not going to be as fast as a good touch typist (they say that experienced users will enter data at about 40 WPM), but for somebody who cannot use a keyboard due to physical disability, that’s still awesome. It turns out that I have this installed on my computer, so I was playing around with it, trying to understand how it works. You can also try a version in your browser, without having to download the program.
Obama continues to show why he’s so much better than that insufferable cowboy when it comes to foreign affairs: this time, he’s played bait-and-switch on the Japanese, sending as their ambassador a fund-raiser after saying that he would send a well-respected political scientist. Not such a smart idea, and after appointing a good ambassador to China, this is a slap in the face to the Japanese. But hey, all the foreigners swoon for his bass and pizzazz, right?
I disagree with Arnold Kling and agree with Bryan Caplan. I’m not so big on the “ethnic voting bloc” idea when it comes to long-term political trends. Ideas matter in these things, as well as cycles. This is different than local politics, where one-party politics can spring up. There is significantly more information on the national level, and the differences between candidates is greater on a practical basis (in other words, the difference between a “conservative” city council member and a “liberal” city council member will, for most of us, be pretty much irrelevant). And given all elections between now and 2017, I would also take the $100 bet. Considering that the Republican party looked like a rump party in 1976 and Democrats did in 2002, things can change very quickly in party politics.