Tuesday, March 25, 2014

A Blog I Would Like to Write

Sometimes I think about writing a blog that focuses more on policy issues, such as putting tight and responsible reins on fiscal and monetary policy, limiting government to its essential purposes, promoting fair and growth oriented tax policies, managing and demanding efficient provision of government services, freeing the economy from the crippling weight of unpredictable, confusing, overlapping, burdensome and excessively intrusive regulatory regimes, constraining the police state and ending the militirization of police, putting an end to crony capitalism and the pernicious partnerships that have arise in recent years among the government and the nonprofit and union sectors, reforming entitlements, aligning defense planning and expenditures strategically, stopping centralized government control and management of the economy, and taking on and breaking down virtually all concentrations of power, whether in government, finance, business or elsewhere. All the problems in these areas are getting bigger with each passing day.

But others do much of this writing incredibly well. I pipe up from time to time when I believe I have an unique experience or can offer a fresh perspective. Or sometimes I opine a bit ahead of the game. One of my best such experience-based posts is one I wrote about lobbyists (It's That Fella Across the Street) which highlighted my personal experience living inside the Beltway, where it seems there is a lobbyist at every corner, or at least across the street. I once lived across the street from the chief lobbyist for Fannie Mae (a Republican who freely acknowledged that is what he did), and, another time, lived across the street from the chief lobbyist for the Obamacare website contractor (a Democrat who denied he was a lobbyist -- ethics have careened downhill in the era of Obama). Washington, DC is run by lobbyists and the special interests they represent, much much more than most of you will allow yourselves to understand.  

Listed at the bottom of my blog is one of my favorite blogs, the "Growls" -- authored by a gentleman by the name of Tim Wise, who is pretty much a one man show, challenging fiscal excess, insider dealing and regulatory overreach in my former residence of Arlington, Virginia. He operates under the aegis of the Arlington County Taxpayers' Association (ACTA).
Arlington is across the Potomac River from DC. It is top five among counties nationwide in household incomes, and is awash in the federal government spending bubble. Seldom has so much self importance, and such an incredibly high sense of entitlement, been concentrated in a single place.

Arlington's residents include federal contractors and consultants, high level federal employees (grade inflation is rampant in the DC metro area), lobbyists and lawyers who all feed, in one way or another, at the federal trough. Commercial real estate is huge in Arlington, with the primary tenants being various federal government agencies and bureaus, and contract operations serving the same. Rather than build to own, the federal tenants primarily lease properties that are built to suit their needs. Arlington has become a monument to rampant corporate cronyism. 

The crony capitalist landlords (primarily large REITs, like Vornado, Simon and Federal Realty Trust) and the local property tax man love these arrangements.  Federal tenants pay top rents; they are not low cost solution seekers. Commercial buildings use little in the way of municipal services, and attract jobs that relieve social service 

Vornado/Charles E. Smith realty is the largest
commercial real estate operation in the DC
metropolitan area.  By market cap Vornado
is the third largest publicly traded US REIT. It
has $3.7 billion invested in Arlington, alone.

Federally occupied real estate is a cash cow that feeds rental income to the crony capitalists and property tax revenues and fees into the pockets of the liberal elites in Arlington County government. The elites praise themselves for their economic development prowess, when they are doing nothing more than feasting on federal largess -- largess that is being financed by sending our children and grandchildren into debilitating debt.

At the same time, there is not a federal funded grant program or project that escapes Arlington's notice -- its federally employed citizens make sure of that. There is no more aggressive, knowledgeable and successful seeker of federal funds than Arlington County, Virginia. Last year we blogged on the million dollar bus stops. DC metropolitan area governments are sucking the federal treasury dry in more ways than you can count.

Many of the the Growls posts capture the local flavor of spending without limit.  Other are more oriented to the national picture.

One of the Growls most recent posts links to a local newspaper editorial that concludes as follows:
We live with the delusion that the government serves the public, not the other way around. But taxpayers just never seem to be the top priority when there’s extra money on hand.
Earlier this week, The Growls quoted from "A Thought on the Morality of Progressive Economics" published in The American Spectator.
"Far too many Americans behave as if government spending is “free money,” as if there is a free lunch if it’s paid for by Uncle Sam. But few things are more effective arguments with younger and slightly liberal voters than “You and your kids are going to pay for all this. They are bankrupting your future, and your children’s future. Isn’t that wrong no matter how they try to justify it?” 
"Again, this isn’t a technical point; it’s a moral one: It is simply wrong to burden our children and their children with opportunity-destroying debt incurred in pursuit of buying votes, or even of buying “equality” or “free” birth control. 
"If your parents created debt that was somehow passed down to you, even if it originated with a good intention of theirs (but not one to benefit your family), how would you feel about it, especially when paying off the debt meant you couldn’t buy a house or couldn’t put your own children through college? 
"It’s not just unfair or rude; it’s wrong. And it is exactly what every “liberal” economic policy is doing to YOUR future and your children’s future. 
"THIS is the argument that Republicans and conservatives fail to make in a convincing and repeated way. (Repetition is as important as the argument itself because people almost never take to heart a message they hear only a few times.)" (Emphases in the original)
~ Ross Kaminsky
A few days earlier the Growls wrote on the erosion of the United States Constitution, this time quoting from The National Review.
"The administration of Franklin D. Roosevelt dealt our Constitution a grave blow. When the Supreme Court rubber-stamped the New Deal, the framework of limited and enumerated federal powers — which shaped the very structure of our Constitution — was swept away. Federal power over every aspect of our lives has been expanding ever since, with no end in sight.  
"Conservatives understand that much. What they don’t yet understand iswhy this happened. That’s a problem. After all, how much good can a doctor do if he doesn’t understand what’s making the patient sick? In recent years, luminaries of constitutional history such as Richard A. Epstein and Michael Greve have made important strides in helping us understand how the progressive movement of the last hundred years has ravaged our Constitution. Some of their insights are startling.  
"The great internal danger to the democratic form of government is its vulnerability to capture by political elites. James Madison called them “factions”; today we call them “special interests.” The Constitution was designed to protect against them, chiefly by limiting the federal government’s power and guaranteeing strong property rights and freedom of exchange.  
"The Bill of Rights contains important protections. But the greatest protections the Constitution provides are the structural limitations it places on federal power. In key areas, those limitations have eroded, leading to the very expansion of federal power that opponents of the original Constitution warned about during the ratification debates."
~ Mario Loyola, Senior Fellow, Texas Public Policy Foundation
Growls finds and shares the trenchant quotes and passages from throughout the literature. Tim Wise says what needs to be said and present the messages better than I ever can or will. Check in with the Growls and you will be informed and enlightened.  Ignore the Growls and like-minded sources and you will never rise above being one of the sheeple. Check it out. The man actually researches and uses data from  time to time.

Arlington County Virginia, 2013 Annual Financial Report (note the doubling of assessed values during a time period when other markets have been relatively flat)

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