Monday, February 23, 2009
America's Bloated Tick: Washington, D.C.
Just as I was about to check my Yahoo! email account Saturday, I ran across a news article about how one of America's largest metropolitan areas is apparently -- at least in the eyes of our journalists -- "unscathed" by the financial crisis:
As the nation's most populous metro area feels Wall Street's pain, the fourth-largest -- Washington -- is barely sensing the recession. In fact, Moody's Economy.com estimates that metro Washington's economy will actually grow 2.5% from mid-2008 through mid-2010. New York's economy is expected to shrink 4.2%.On second thought, forget the tick metaphor -- except as the nickname that Washington truly deserves.
It wouldn't be the first time that Washington benefited from a national crisis. Back in 1930 the District of Columbia was a quiet Southern town, scoffed at by New York sophisticates. But as the federal government ramped up to fight first the Great Depression and then World War II, its population grew 65% in two decades, vs. just 14% for New York City.
This story reads almost like a scene from a modern-day horror story about vampires, where the man whom we're led to believe might save the day by hunting down and killing the bloodsuckers is, unfortunately, "guided" by the philosophy of pragmatism. At some pivotal point, he decides that everyone around him is too weak and anemic to make a good ally -- except for one man, who seems healthier than ever. In principle, this would make him a prime suspect, but principles are inconvenient, and our "hero" "chucked" them about page two.
"Now Vlad over there, them vampires ain't gettin' to him. He's still strong. I'll go huntin' with him tonight. He'll watch my back."
For the millionth time, the government acting as economic "planner", not capitalism, is the cause of this crisis. The less of our national lifeblood we give to the government in that capacity, the better. Washington, as a center of government, can run only off wealth produced by others. The degree of its "prosperity" in the present circumstances is unfortunately related to the degree that it is making prosperity in general impossible for America.
When the Shit Hits the Fan
Paul Hsieh, posting at Noodlefood, discusses a recent Glenn Beck episode dealing with worst-case scenarios for the financial crisis. (One guest was Onkar Ghate of the Ayn Rand Institute.)
Hsieh doubts -- as do I -- that we are headed for an Argentina-style meltdown, but nevertheless points to an article by one of its survivors as food for thought for other more likely emergency scenarios: depressing and frightening, but well worth reading and thinking about.
Distance learning is software.
I will occasionally note that it is mistaken to think that the economics truism, "Controls breed controls," applies only narrowly to economics. Government intrusions on the economy are acts of force that violate man's rights, forcing individuals to act in ways that they would not, if left to their own devices. Just as economics is a system of abstractions drawn from the totality of our existence, so do economic decisions affect other areas of our lives. Freedom is of a piece, and attacks on freedom do not confine themselves to any one area of life.
And why should the desire to dominate our lives not seep down even into language? The magic formulae used by the government to legally extort money from those its officials are sworn to protect consist of words, and when the words of the statutes on the books aren't extracting enough money, should it be any surprise that the government gives them new, Orwellian, meanings?
While it does not carry the weight of law, the New York State Department of Taxation and Finance's January 29 opinion has potentially far-reaching implications, given the state's role as a trend setter for other states. The department asserts that an e-course offered by SkillSoft Corporation, a New Hampshire-based company, should be subject to sales tax as "software" purchased by the student. In so ruling, the department has justified an unprecedented tax on educational services, according to a tax consultant familiar with the case.Skillsoft's students do not even get copies of software when they take such courses!
"State governments are strapped for money, and this represents an administrative ruling that appears to me to broaden the tax base," said Melanie Hill, a tax specialist with Dow Lohnes Price Tax Consulting Group LLC. [bold added]
Somewhat in keeping with the general theme of this post, I'll mention some music I've been enjoying lately during commuting time: The Mirror Conspiracy, an album released in 2000 by The Thievery Corporation, and part of a recent raft of goodies sent me by my good friend, Adrian Hester.
My favorite tracks are "Shadows of Ourselves" and "Lebanese Blonde". Links go to YouTube videos.
Wikipedia says that, "Their music style mixes elements of dub, acid jazz, Indian classical and Brazilian (such as bossa nova) with a lounge aesthetic." Based on my limited knowledge, the group seems left-wing enough that I might buy other music of theirs used....
At any rate, enjoy!