Sunday, November 11, 2012

The effects of Measure D on San Jose

Buried in the mountain of bad laws passed in California last week, was Measure D in the city of San Jose. Measure D raises the minimum wage in San Jose from $8 to $10 in 2013, and attempts to link the minimum wage in the city to the rate of inflation going forward. There are myriad problems with setting the price of labor based on government mandate that have been covered time and time again. However,  because Measure D will only be artificially increasing the cost of unskilled labor in a (relatively) small geographic region, the negative effects of the law for San Jose may very well be magnified. There are several obvious problems I foresee with this law. Granted, most of them have been dismissed by the measure's supporters, but I still feel like they need to be said:

  1. The measure will disproportionally affect small business owners. Small business owners are going to be facing a 20% increase in the cost of unskilled labor (plus the associated payroll tax increase). In this economic environment, many of these types of businesses will not be able to raise prices by 20% to make up the difference. Large businesses, however, will likely be better equipped to absorb the increased labor costs. Longterm, I expect that this will cause more and more small businesses, especially those dependent upon unskilled labor, to re-evaluating their decision to operate in San Jose, especially as leases come up for renewal. Shorter term, many small businesses will have no choice but to lay off employees.
  2. San Jose is surrounded by towns and communities where the cost of unskilled labor will be 20% cheaper. New businesses which rely on unskilled labor will gravitate towards these communities instead of San Jose.
  3. Consumers inside San Jose do not have to drive very far to escape businesses which have increased prices due to Measure D. If prices begin rising in San Jose, many consumers are only a 5-10 minute drive from a similar business in a neighboring community where the prices will be lower.
Business leaders inside San Jose have estimated that the measure will result in the loss of 3,100 jobs. I expect that number will grow over time, although the exact impact of the measure in terms of unemployment and lost sales tax revenue for the city of San Jose will be difficult to quantify, with both sides touting their own studies as evidence for or against the success of the minimum wage increase.

Sunday, July 1, 2012

After the health care ruling, what do we celebrate this July 4th?

As a child, I spent many July 4th holidays at the VP Fair, later renamed Fair St. Louis. For me, the best parts of the fair were always the air show and the fireworks. My chest would swell with patriotic pride watching the AIr National Guard planes, taking a break from their normal duty of defending us from communism, fly up and down the Mississippi river. Likewise, it was hard not to be overcome by emotion watching the fireworks dancing under the The Gateway Arch to the tune of Stars and Stripes forever. Back in those days, I had the luxury of living in a black and white world, at least as I perceived things. America and her allies were good, and the USSR and her allies were bad. The principles of the American Revolution and the Declaration of Independence lived on in their purest forms, and that's what we celebrated every July 4th.

These days, I am not so lucky. After ten years of fighting the war on terror, a four year old financial crisis, and two presidents whose agendas seem squarely focused on expanding the power of the federal government, the world seems a lot less black and white. Every year we get more and more news that cause many of us to question what exactly it means to be an American, and the values of our country. Travelers at the airport often find themselves faced with the choice of having a federal agent either take a picture of their genitals, or feel their genitals through their clothing. The private Federal Reserve has the ability to increase and decrease the purchasing power of our savings, and manipulate the interest rates we pay for loans and receive on our savings account. The president maintains secret kill lists containing American citizens that are not reviewable by a judge, and retains the authority to indefinitely detain American citizens without trial. And, as of last week, the federal government has the power to "tax" inactivity.

The timing of the health care ruling, six days before the 4th of July, serves as a stark reminder of just how delicate our freedoms are. When I heard the news, one of my first thoughts was, "Great, now what the heck am I going to celebrate next Wednesday?" After taking a few days to digest the ruling and what exactly it means for our nation, it became more and more clear to me that Americans need to use this ruling as an opportunity and a reminder. We need to remind ourselves that the enforcement of the Constitution and the preservation of our liberties does not begin and end with the Supreme Court. For generations, states and even individuals, have taken it upon themselves to stand up for liberty when the federal government will not. We have seen this time and time again whether it be Virginia and Kentucky resisting the Alien and Sedition Acts, northern states nullifying the Fugitive Slave Act, California and its medical marijuana laws, or states refusing to implement Real ID. So long as Americans rely on the federal government to be the sole judge of its own power, we can count on that power increasing in perpetuity. I found particular inspiration in a quote from a Wisconsin Supreme Court statement supporting nullification of the Fugitive Slave Act:

Resolved, That the government, formed by the Constitution of the United States was not the exclusive or final judge of the extent of the powers delegated to itself; but that, as in all other cases of compact among parties having no common judge, each party has an equal right to judge for itself, as well of infractions as of the mode and measure of redress.
Resolved, That the principle and construction contended for by the party which now rules in the councils of the nation, that the general government is the exclusive judge of the extent of the powers delegated to it, stop nothing short of despotism, since the discretion of those who administer the government, and not the Constitution, would be the measure of their powers; that the several states which formed that instrument, being sovereign and independent, have the unquestionable right to judge of its infraction; and that a positive defiance of those sovereignties, of all Unauthorized acts done or attempted to be done under color of that instrument, is the rightful remedy.

This July 4th let's celebrate our ability to enforce the Constitution and defend liberty in our neighborhoods, towns, cities, and states. Let's use this health care ruling as an opportunity to remind ourselves of the absurdity of a government that is itself the judge of its own powers, and recommit our nation to the principles laid out so eloquently by Thomas Jefferson and the Wisconsin Supreme Court.

Sunday, May 29, 2011

Texas Blinks

It went largely unnoticed by the so-called mainstream media, but a Constitutional showdown of epic proportions almost occurred in Texas this week. HB 1937, which passed the Texas House 138-0 before being stopped in the Senate, and would have given state law enforcement officers the ability to arrest TSA agents for touching the genitals of would-be flyers without reasonable suspicion that an individual might be hiding something in their crotch. The idea that a state would interpose itself between its citizens and an overreaching Federal government is nothing new. However, in an era where an apathetic American public, and equally apathetic state governments, have looked the other way time and time again while power is centralized in Washington DC, United States Attorney John E. Murphy showed just how easy it is for the Federal Government to intimidate any state wishing to exercise its sovereignty. Just before the bill was to be brought to the floor in the Senate, Mr. Murphy sent a letter to Texas lawmakers threatening to shutdown all flights to and from Texas should the bill pass. That was all it took. Support immediately evaporated and the bill was pulled from the floor. Having just visited Texas, I was impressed with the level of pride Texans, at least superficially, have in their state. It is not uncommon to see state flags flying where one would normally see the stars and stripes. However, the Federal Government last week showed just how little bite is left to back up the "don't mess with Texas" bark.

In case you missed it, here is a replay of the showdown between Austin and Washington:

Saturday, April 16, 2011

Texas University makes $1 billion dollar bet against the dollar

If you watch CNBC or read the New York Times, you probably know that gold is still largely considered an investment vehicle for whack jobs and conspiracy theorists by the so-called mainstream media. Still, gold's relentless climb in the face of a dollar that is under constant attack from Helicopter Ben Bernanke and his merry gang of money printers has not gone unnoticed by the University of Texas. The university, which manages almost $20 billion worth of assets, recently upped its gold position to 6,643 bars bringing its total position in the yellow metal to almost $1 billion at today's prices. This sobering news out of Texas, along with a dollar that is making new lows almost every week, should serve as a wake up call for the millions of Americans who are still following investment guru Michael Moore's strategy of hoarding Federal Reserve Notes.

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Going to war without Congressional approval used to be an impeachable offense

Just ask Joe Biden. Before Joe was Vice President, he used to believe that if George Bush were to attack Iran, it would be grounds for immediate impeachment. He was chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee, taught separation of powers in Constitutional law, convened a group of Constitutional experts to study the subject in 2007, and concluded that:

The President has no Constitutional authority to take this nation to war against a country of 70 million people [Iran] unless we're attacked, or unless there is proof we are about to be attacked. And if he does...I will move to impeach him.

Barack Obama used to agree with his good buddy Biden:

The President does not have power under the Constitution to unilaterally authorize a military attack in a situation that does not involve stopping an actual or imminent threat to the nation.

So what has changed since 2007? Maybe Obama and Biden believe that UN approval of a war act supersedes Congressional approval? Maybe they have secret intelligence that Libyan troops are massing on our borders? Or maybe they realize that the legislative branch of our government has surrendered so much of their power to the executive branch over the years that they can thumb their noses at Congress with impunity? My guess is it's the later.

Sunday, March 20, 2011

War Number 3

I can hardly believe it. A 1.6 trillion dollar deficit at home. Two wars in the Middle East. And now the Barack Obama is launching cruise missiles into Libya. How much will this cost? What is the end game? Where is the Congressional approval? Are we declaring war on Libya? Who is going to pay for this? What gives us the moral authority? Will the anti-war left ignore this just like they ignored Obama's Afghanistan escalation? Who are we fighting to support? Brace yourself, this is going to be a mess.

Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Robert M. Groves has a lot of Nerve

For months Groves has been inundating Americans with advertisements from the US Census Bureau directing them to fill out their census forms and return them. He tells us that without accurate census data there may not be enough hospitals, roads, or schools. He hails the census as way "to empower the people over their government, instead of the other way around". Former Census Bureau Director Kenneth Prewitt, however, is more honest in his assessment that the Census is used for the "planning of our economy...and of our social services needs, and so forth." He continues, "In fact, every question plays some key role in a public program or a regulatory activity." If you are like me, this sort of double talk may leave you scratching your head. On one hand, we have Groves telling us that responding to the Census "empowers" us over our government. On the other hand, we have Prewitt telling us that the information gathered by the census will be used to divvy up entitlements and create new regulations to restrict our activities. That doesn't sound very "empowering" to me.

Unfortunately for Groves (and fortunately for the American people), the Constitution does not provide a census for any of these reasons. Article I Section 2 makes no mention of hospitals, roads, schools, entitlements, or increased regulation. A Census is required ONLY for the purpose of apportioning representatives and making sure taxes are evenly distributed:

Representatives and direct Taxes shall be apportioned among the several States which may be included within this Union, according to their respective Numbers, which shall be determined by adding to the whole Number of free Persons, including those bound to Service for a Term of Years, and excluding Indians not taxed, three fifths of all other Persons. The actual Enumeration shall be made within three Years after the first Meeting of the Congress of the United States, and within every subsequent Term of ten Years, in such Manner as they shall by Law direct.

The latest generation of activist census takers are either oblivious to the Constitutional function of the census, deliberately ignoring it, or making up a fanciful interpretation of this clause in order to justify their behavior.

The good news is that at the end of the day, Groves and his minions are only as powerful as we the people allow them to be. If you feel "empowered" by telling the government your name, telephone number, ethnicity, if you own or rent your home, or if you sometimes live somewhere else, then by all means do it. However, know this: None of this information is Robert M. Groves' or any other census taker's business. It is certainly not required for "representatives and direct taxes" to be apportioned. So long as the American people remain apathetic, we can count on Groves and future Census Bureau directors to continue to abuse their power by prying deeper and deeper into our personal lives. If the Constitution is ever going to be taken seriously again, it must start with the people. As Groves would say, it's in our hands!