A Geek With Guns

Chronicling the depravities of the State.

Archive for the ‘Mises Does Not Approve’ tag

This Time Will Be Different

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Albert Einstein is often credited with say, “The definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again, but expecting different results.” General Motors (GM) announced that it would be laying off 15 percent of its workforce. While tariffs aren’t entirely to blame for GM’s problems, they did contribute:

When President Trump announced tariffs last summer, Detroit’s Big Three automakers — GM, Ford and Fiat Chrysler — all trimmed their profit forecasts for the rest of the year, citing the rising commodity costs that would lead to hikes in prices and manufacturing costs. GM took a hard stance, warning of the fallout within the auto industry and saying that the tariffs risked “undermining GM’s competitiveness against foreign auto producers by erecting broad brush trade barriers that increase our global costs” in comments filed with the Commerce Department in June.

So tariffs didn’t bring economic prosperity to the automobile market (or any other market) so the solution must be more tariffs:

Donald Trump has renewed threats to impose tariffs on imported cars after General Motors announced job cuts and plant closures.

The US President tweeted that tariffs were “being studied” and that duties could have stopped the GM closures.

Tariffs have done nothing by damage to the economy so the solution is obviously more tariffs! There really should be a constitutional amendment that requires all incoming presidents to read the collected works of Ludwig von Mises and pass a comprehension test to guard against this kind of economic stupidity.

What’s even worse than the fact that the United States has a president that is committing economic seppuku is the fact that his successor will likely leave all of the tariffs in place. For some reasons politicians have an aversion to undoing the bad policies of previous politicians.

Written by Christopher Burg

November 29th, 2018 at 10:30 am

Fiscally Conservative

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If you ask most people what one of the major difference between the Republican and Democratic parties is, they will tell you that the Republican Party tends to be more fiscally conservative. The Republican Party is in power now so a wave of fiscal conservation is upon us, right? Not so much:

The U.S. federal budget deficit rose in fiscal 2018 to the highest level in six years as spending climbed, the Trump administration said Monday.

The deficit jumped to $779 billion, $113 billion or 17 percent higher than the previous fiscal period, according to a statement from Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin and Office of Management and Budget Director Mick Mulvaney. It was larger than any year since 2012, when it topped $1 trillion. The budget shortfall rose to 3.9 percent of U.S. gross domestic product.

It turns out that neither party is fiscally conservative. And really, why should they be? They’re not spending their own money. They’re not even primarily spending out money. They’re spending the money that they’re printing. Since they can print an infinite amount of money, there is no motivation for them to spend less… at least until the whole financial system collapses due to an irreconcilable misallocations of resources. But that’s a problem for the next generation, right?

Written by Christopher Burg

October 17th, 2018 at 10:00 am

Jacking Up the Rent

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If the primary difference between capitalist and socialist nations is that in capitalist nations property is held in private, then the United States is solidly a socialist nation. While the fiction of private property exists, the reality is that all property is owned by the State. That is why you have to pay rent on your property. And like any good landlord, the State can up the rent when it so chooses:

Hennepin County officials said Tuesday they need to raise $43 million more in property taxes next year, in part to pay for personnel and the surging costs of protecting children from abuse and neglect.

County Administrator David Hough proposed a 5.5 percent increase in the property tax levy during his budget presentation to the County Board. The proposal is a response to what Hough said were “significant ongoing challenges” faced by the county. He pointed to the massive new spending in recent years aimed at child protection services, which has drawn millions from budget reserves.

Of course it’s for the children. That makes it easy to criticize anybody who opposes the rent hike by claiming that they hate children.

Less surprising than claiming that the increase is for the children is the fact that the politicians are also claiming that this increase won’t impact people too much:

Property taxes pay for a third of the $2.4 billion county budget. If the levy is approved, the owner of a $281,000 house — the median value for the county — would pay $75 more in county property taxes, Lawless said.

If you can afford a home, you can afford an additional $75 a year, right? Maybe. It really depends on the family. Moreover, the politicians are only stating what this increase will add. What they’re ignoring is all of the previous increases. $75 might not be much on a $281,000 property but over the decades the increase has probably been notable. Add that to the fact that property value is assessed by the State and you realize that, in addition to the previous increases, the properties themselves are probably assessed much higher now than they were a decade or two ago. Couple these points with the fact that wages have stagnated and the cost of goods has increased due to inflation and suddenly this seemingly minor rent increase adds up to being far less minor. But none of that matters to the State. If you can’t pay your rent, you’ll be evicted.

Written by Christopher Burg

September 21st, 2018 at 10:30 am

Creating Jobs

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If you ask an advocate of tariffs what punishing consumers is supposed to accomplish, amongst other things they will claim that tariffs create domestic jobs. That ignorance is based on the belief that foreign companies don’t employ people domestically but since we live in a global economy, a lot of foreign companies hire domestic employees. So tariffs often destroy jobs rather than create them:

Alibaba’s founder and chairman Jack Ma says the Chinese mega e-commerce company no longer has plans to create 1 million jobs in the US, citing the ongoing trade conflict as the reason Alibaba is retracting its promise to Donald Trump. A new round of tariffs between the US and China will make mutual trade more difficult.

Who would have guessed that alienating one of the largest economies on Earth would have consequences?

Written by Christopher Burg

September 20th, 2018 at 10:00 am

Buying Less for More

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The Trump administration has decided to devalue your dollars even more by placing additional tariffs on Chinese goods:

The US is imposing new tariffs on $200bn (£150bn) of Chinese goods as it escalates its trade war with Beijing.

These will apply to almost 6,000 items, marking the biggest round of US tariffs so far.

Handbags, rice and textiles will be included, but some items expected to be targeted such as smart watches and high chairs have been excluded.

The Chinese commerce ministry said it had no choice but to retaliate but is yet to detail what action it will take.

The US taxes will take effect from 24 September, starting at 10% and increasing to 25% from the start of next year unless the two countries agree a deal.

The upside of trade wars is that they don’t start out as shooting wars. The downside of trade wars is that they’re a war on consumers. Every tariff means that consumers are stuck paying more for less. A bag of rice that costs $5.00 can suddenly cost $6.25 for no reason other than where it was produced. A cell phone that costs $500 can suddenly cost $625. What makes tariffs a real gut punch though is that since they’re usually calculated by the price of a good, they increase as inflation causes prices to increase. If that $500 cell pone begins to cost $600 due to inflation, the cost with the tariff tax included will be $750.

The only winner in a trade war is the government because it pockets the tariffs.

Written by Christopher Burg

September 18th, 2018 at 10:00 am

Government Creates the Problems It Solves

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Here’s a familiar story. A government body implements a new policy that causes major hardships for a large number of people then swoops in to “fix” the problem. That’s what’s happening here:

The Trump administration plans to offer up to $12 billion in aid to farmers hit by tariffs on their goods, an emergency bailout intended to ease the pain caused by Trump’s escalating trade war in key electoral states, Secretary of Agriculture Sonny Perdue told reporters Tuesday.

First the government created the problem by implementing tariffs then it offered to redistribute some wealth to those hurt by the tariffs. Of course the redistributed wealth has to come from somewhere, which means another problem will be created by the government that it will then claim to solve.

Written by Christopher Burg

July 25th, 2018 at 10:00 am

Domestic Tariffs

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Tariffs are in the news after Trump decided that the playing field between the bureaucratically choked United States and the rest of the world needed leveling. But what about domestic tariffs? The states that make up the United States aren’t supposed to implement tariffs against each other but thanks to the Supreme Court they now can:

If an internet retailer in Pasadena, CA sells a good or service to a resident of Washington, D.C., simple logic dictates that the transaction not be sales-taxed in Washington, D.C. It shouldn’t because the business isn’t in Washington. It’s on the other side of the country, and there the business will pay Pasadena taxes. So when judges and politicians talk about the importance of levying sales taxes on outside vendors, what they’re really saying is that they want government to dip its hands into our pockets twice.

Stating the obvious, the internet sales tax isn’t about leveling the tax playing field as much as it’s yet another grab of the economy by politicians. “Grab of the economy” is an apt phrase simply because politicians don’t tax away our dollars to stare lovingly at them; rather they take our dollars for what they can be exchanged for. The more tax dollars that politicians collect, the greater their ability to be size buyers of cars, trucks, land, buildings, and most economy-suffocating of all, human labor. Having decided they’re not collecting enough of what we earn, and plainly averse to competing with other locales when it comes to keeping taxes down, gluttonous local governments naturally love the idea of using internet commerce as another way to take.

About all this, let’s make no mistake about what these tax-thirsty governments are doing. Much like businesses that seek protection from competition, they’re seeking protection from lower-tax cities, states and countries. To be very clear, they’re seeking tariff-protection. Let’s call them domestic protectionists.

The reason the issue of online sales taxes arose is because politicians in tax heavy states were losing out to states with less burdensome taxes. Online retailers can operate anywhere in the world, which means many operate in states with relatively low sales tax. For example, an online retailer could headquarter in Montana, which has no sales tax and sell to somebody living in Minnesota, which has an absurdly high 6.875 percent sales tax. The person in Minnesota will be encouraged to purchase from the online retailer over a local sellers because the local seller will charge an addition 6.875 percent on top of the cost of the good or service. This arrangement upsets the politicians in Minnesota because they lose the opportunity to pocket some of the buyer’s money. If Minnesota can force the retailer in Montana to collect sales tax for it, it wins (and, of course, retailers throughout the country lose because they have to become experts on Minnesota sales tax laws along with the sales tax laws of their own state).

A lot of people believe that arrangement sounds fair (funny enough, they’re often the same people who are currently bitching about federal tariffs). But the alternative, states with high sales taxes having to lower their taxes in order to compete with states with low sales taxes, would be far fairer to consumers, especially poorer consumers to whom an additional 6.875 percent isn’t chump change.

Written by Christopher Burg

July 24th, 2018 at 11:00 am

How Tariffs Work

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People who subscribe to mercantilism tend to favor internal trading over external trading. If external trading is to occur, they prefer that their nation only export goods while the other nations of the world only import goods. But that ideal is difficult to realize because people in one nation are often interested in the goods and services provided by people of other nations and that interest leads to mutual trade. How can a mercantilist thwart this mutual trade? By imposing artificial barriers on international economic activity. While there are many such barriers that can be raised, the most popular barrier today is the tariff. The Mercantilists imagine that implementing tariffs means that its people will develop a preference for domestic products over foreign products while foreigners will still prefer importing the goods of their nation. Nobody likes an unfair deal so in actuality all that happens is that the nation implementing the tariffs is bypassed:

The European Union and Japan have signed one of the world’s biggest free trade deals, covering nearly a third of the world’s GDP and 600 million people.

One of the biggest EU exports to Japan is dairy goods, while cars are one of Japan’s biggest exports.

The move contrasts sharply with actions by the US Trump administration, which has introduced steep import tariffs.

If the United States won’t play fair, then it won’t get to play at all.

The current administration is playing a stupid game. It’s trying to develop domestic economic activity by artificially raising the price of imported goods even though the United States doesn’t have the experience or capacity to manufacture many imported goods on a scale that can satisfy demands. The result of this game is that consumers in the United States will be forced to pay more for their goods while the rest of the world bypasses the United States.

Written by Christopher Burg

July 17th, 2018 at 10:00 am

Unsurprising Results

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What happens when your government decides to place additions taxes in the form of tariffs on imported materials that your business relies on? You face the possibility of going out of business:

Steel tariffs could force the nation’s largest nail manufacturer to close or move to Mexico.

The Mid-Continent Nail plant in Poplar Bluff, Missouri, laid off 60 of its 500 workers last week because of increased steel costs. The company blames the 25% tariff on imported steel. Orders for nails plunged 50% after the company raised its prices to deal with higher steel costs.

The company is in danger of shutting production by Labor Day unless the Commerce Department grants it an exclusion from paying the tariffs, company spokesman James Glassman told CNN’s Poppy Harlow.

Shocking, I know.

This isn’t the first business to announced difficulties due to Trump’s new tariffs. Harley Davidson announced that it will move at least some production outside of the United States to get around the new tariffs. More dominoes are likely to fall as well.

“But, Chris, why don’t these unpatriotic companies buy American steel instead,” you ask? Because America doesn’t produce a whole lot of steel and what steel it does produce costs more than imported steel. “Well these tariffs will cause domestic steel production to increase, right?” Not so much. Profit is only one reason for the lack of domestic production. There is also a terrible amount of red tape strangling steel production. The environmental regulations on mining raw materials are many and when those regulations are finally dealt with the refineries get to deal with a bunch of additional environmental regulations. Labor is another factor. American labor isn’t cheap, especially when employers are required to pay Social Security, Medicare, disability, and other mandatory benefits for each employee they hire. Then there is the simple fact that a lot of Americans don’t want a job working in mines or refining metals.

Domestic manufacturers import foreign steel because it’s cheaper but foreign steel is cheaper due to many factors. While the recently implemented tariffs are likely to encourage some increase in domestic steel production, the additional steel probably won’t be enough to satisfy domestic needs and will almost certainly be more expensive than foreign steel, which means domestic manufacturers will still have to move outside of the country if they want to keep their prices at a level to which consumers have become accustomed.

Written by Christopher Burg

June 27th, 2018 at 10:00 am

With Friends Like the United States, Who Needs Enemies

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A lot of people refer to Trump as a fascist. While he (along with almost every other politician) certainly displays a lot of fascist tendencies, I think it would be more accurate, at least economically, to refer to him as a mercantilist. His policies have been aimed at discouraging importing goods in favor of internal trade. While many people still believe that mercantilism is a sound economic policy, it wrecks havoc on international relations:

The US is to impose tariffs on steel and aluminium imports from key allies in Europe and North America.

The US said a 25% tax on steel and 10% tax on aluminium from the EU, Mexico and Canada will start at midnight.

The move immediately triggered vows of retaliation from Mexico, Canada and the EU, which called the tariffs “protectionism, pure and simple”.

With friends like the United States, who needs enemies?

Mercantilism falls apart because it discourages international trade. First one nation implements a policy that harms another nation. Then that nation implements its own policy in retaliation to harm the first nation. This cycle can continue until trade between the two nations halts entirely.

I know a lot of people believe that this will bring prosperity to the United States. However, if you believe that policies like this will bring back the good old days of the 1950s where a single factory worker could buy a house, truck, and boat, you’re sorely mistaken. Manufacturing is highly automated, which reduces the number of available factory jobs. Moreover, the regulatory red tape makes many economic activities such as resource extraction, resource refinement, and manufacturing cost prohibitive. In addition to all of that, the United States has been out of the game for so long that it lacks the experience and knowledge necessary to mass produce many desired consumer goods. Overcoming all of those issues will take a significant amount of time and even if they are overcome, the available market will be tiny because foreign nations will have already implemented retaliatory policies prohibiting trade with the United States (not having the biggest market in the world, China, available would itself strongly discourage manufacturing goods in the United States).

Written by Christopher Burg

June 1st, 2018 at 10:00 am