Does Elizabeth Warren Even Understand What Real Corruption Is?

A few days ago I had a post evaluating Elizabeth Warren as a candidate for President. Needless to say, the evaluation wasn’t very favorable. But that post touched only lightly on a subject that Warren has sought to make a centerpiece of her campaign, namely political corruption. I thought that that subject deserved a post of its own.

First, some background. If you have been reading Manhattan Contrarian long enough, you know my view that government is inherently corrupt. The government consists of human beings, and it’s just part of human nature that people will act in ways to help those who somehow further the financial and career interests of the government officials. As one example among many of my posts on this subject, here is one from August 2016 covering the Clinton Foundation. The Clinton Foundation had collected some $2 billion in donations in the period 2001 to 2015, supposedly for charitable works. During most of that period, Hillary Clinton had been either running for President or serving as Secretary of State. A large percentage of the $2 billion came from people or governments with some major interest before the U.S. government or State Department. My post covers various government favors granted to certain of the donors. Meanwhile, tens of millions of dollars from the $2 billion went to support the personal lifestyles of the Clintons and/or the employment of potential Clinton campaign staff. Nobody was ever prosecuted, and in any event it’s not clear what the crime would have been. . . .

The best we can hope for is a situation where the government allocates a relatively small portion of the resources of society, leaving people with relatively little incentive to engage in corrupt manipulation of government favors. But as long as there is government, there will be an irreducible minimum of inherent corruption.

You will not be surprised to find out that Elizabeth Warren’s view of the situation is exactly the opposite of mine. . . .

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To Understand The Kavanaugh Kraziness, Look At The Courts' Role In Approving Or Blocking Major Policy Initiatives

By the time you read this, you almost certainly already know that the New York Times chose this past Saturday to publish an op-ed by authors of a new book about Brett Kavanaugh, raising a new allegation of alleged improper sexual conduct by Kavanaugh from his days at Yale more than 30 years ago. By the next day, the Times had been force to concede that the op-ed had omitted to state that the alleged victim of the event had told her friends that she did not remember such a thing. Moreover, the authors of the book and op-ed had not even interviewed the alleged victim. Would you have ever thought that the august New York Times would have stooped to that kind of level?

I don’t know what your first thought was on learning of this, but mine was, they must have information that Justice Ginsburg’s medical prognosis is not very good. You may also have seen the Supreme Court’s statement issued on August 23, announcing that Justice Ginsburg had just completed a three-week course of radiation therapy for a new tumor on her pancreas. The statement says that the Justice’s treatment was “definitive” — a term seemingly selected to convey upbeat confidence while clearly not being the equivalent of a clean bill of health. It would be rather surprising if the Times doesn’t have some sources with more particularized information on this one.

Could control of the Supreme Court really be worth the damage that the Times (and others, including multiple contenders for the Democratic presidential nomination) are now inflicting on themselves? . . .

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Evaluation Of Elizabeth Warren As Potential Democratic Candidate For President

In the polls for the past several months, the top three among the contenders for the Democratic nomination for President have been Joe Biden, Elizabeth Warren, and Bernie Sanders. I doubt that Biden will make it all the way to the end of this marathon; and I sense that Sanders’s shtick has started to wear thin and that he is fading. That would leave Elizabeth Warren as the most likely to get the nomination.

Heaven help us.

Warren has her own shtick. The basic idea is to claim that the U.S. economy is fundamentally not working for most people, and then to stir up resentment against anybody who has achieved any success, aka “the wealthy” or “the well-connected” or “the corporations.” These people are oppressing you, and you need Elizabeth to fight back. In her February 2019 speech announcing her candidacy, it was that “millions of American families are . . . struggling to survive in a system that has been rigged by the wealthy and well-connected.” Then there are the evil banks, who “steer [you] into overpriced credit products, risky sub-prime mortgages, and misleading insurance plans.”

But don’t worry — Warren has all the answers, in the form of some dozens of “plans,” each one a top-down directive from the federal government to get those evil exploiters to behave. Universal child care! 100% clean energy! Expanding social security! Hundreds of billions for housing! Trillions for free college and debt forgiveness! Wealth taxes on the rich! Tens of trillions for tackling the “climate crisis”! More tens of trillions for free health care for all! And those are just a small sample. It’s a good thing that the government’s resources are infinite. You name it, and there’s a “plan” and a new collection of regulations and orders and a few hundred billion or a few trillions or tens of trillions from the infinite free loot from above that will solve the problem instantly, at least once Elizabeth is in charge.

In the aggregate she is proposing a total transformation of the U.S. economy, . . .

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Status Report On Bill de Blasio's Efforts To End Income Inequality In New York

Bill de Blasio — the guy currently languishing at the bottom of the polls among the Democratic candidates for President — was first elected Mayor of New York City on November 5, 2013. In a post on November 11, 2013, a few days after that election, I congratulated Mr. de Blasio on winning the office; but I had this comment:

[H]e seems to think he can solve problems that have defeated all of his predecessors and that are very likely beyond the competence of any government, let alone local government, to solve.

At the top of the list of such problems “very likely beyond the competence of any government to solve” was the problem of income inequality. It may be fading from memory today, but de Blasio had made addressing income inequality in New York City the most important focus of his campaign. During the campaign, he had frequently called income inequality “the defining challenge of our time,” and had claimed that life in New York under his two (Republican) predecessors (Giuliani and Bloomberg) had degenerated into a “Tale of two cities,” one rich and the other poor. In his victory speech on the night of his election, de Blasio re-emphasized his theme of ending income inequality:

That inequality, that feeling of a few doing very well while so many slip further behind — that is the defining challenge of our time. . . . But the challenge today is different. The creeping specter of inequality must be confronted, and will not weaken our resolve.

So, in my November 2013 post I posed the basic question to the new Mayor: “What exactly do you propose to do about income inequality?”

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Hey Democratic Candidates: Are You Going To Ban All Fossil Fuels?

The CNN climate “town hall” was just the beginning. With each passing day it seems that there is a louder and louder chorus of voices on the left demanding that all candidates get in line with a total war against use of all fossil fuels. After all, total eradication of these evil fuels is the only way to save humanity from climate apocalypse.

Probably, you don’t read these things, so I’ll just give you a couple of examples to demonstrate how completely unhinged they have become. . . .

try this one from Jonathan Franzen in the New Yorker on Sunday (September 8), titled “What If We Stopped Pretending? The climate apocalypse is coming.”  

[E]very one of the world’s major polluting countries [must] institute draconian conservation measures, shut down much of its energy and transportation infrastructure, and completely retool its economy. . . . [T]he carbon emissions from existing global infrastructure, if operated through its normal lifetime, will exceed our entire emissions “allowance”—the further gigatons of carbon that can be released without crossing the threshold of catastrophe. . . . To stay within that allowance, a top-down intervention needs to happen not only in every country but throughout every country. . . . [O]verwhelming numbers of human beings . . . need to accept high taxes and severe curtailment of their familiar life styles without revolting. . . . They have to make sacrifices for distant threatened nations and distant future generations. They have to be permanently terrified by hotter summers and more frequent natural disasters, rather than just getting used to them. Every day, instead of thinking about breakfast, they have to think about death.

So where do the candidates stand? Go through the leading contenders, and you find that sure enough they are quickly lining up to eradicate fossil fuels. . . .

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Add Rent Control To The List Of Progressive Policies That Are Sure To Increase Income Inequality

The list of progressive policy proposals supposedly designed to increase fairness and justice in the world just keeps getting longer and longer. Medicare for all. Free college. Higher minimum wages. Every kind of “climate justice” prescription. Reparations for slavery. And here’s one that seemed to have faded away in disgrace decades ago, but now is making a revival: rent control. Rent control is currently getting expanded and strengthened in numerous progressive jurisdictions, from New York to California, with new proposals now on the table in places like Minnesota and Illinois.

A recurring topic in this blog has been the extent to which progressive policies reduce — or instead, actually increase — income inequality. You will not be surprised to hear that there is a very close relationship between jurisdictions with more progressive and redistributive policies and higher income inequality. In an article I wrote in the City Journal in 2015 I pointed out the close relationship:

[In 2014] Bloomberg Rankings published a national study on income inequality, using U.S. Census Bureau income data to rank each of the 435 congressional districts by economists’ standard measure of inequality, the Gini coefficient. The study found high levels of income inequality in areas of the country known for their political progressivism. Topping the inequality list was New York’s tenth congressional district, which covers the West Side of Manhattan and Wall Street—including City Hall. Of the top 25 spots, 23 went to Democratic districts—and not just any Democratic districts. The five congressional districts covering some part of Manhattan earned the first, sixth, ninth, 13th, and 20th positions. Congressional districts in solidly liberal Chicago, Cambridge, Los Angeles, Santa Monica, and Berkeley placed in the Top 25. House minority leader Nancy Pelosi’s San Francisco district ranked 14th on the list . . . . And how about rent control? . . .

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