Here’s a letter I recently sent to The New York Times:
TO THE EDITOR:
Richard Sennett and Saskia Sassen worry in their August 11 op-ed that government spending cuts may be causing the UK riots. They also hint at what that could imply for the U.S.
A problem with their argument is that government spending in the UK has gone up sharply over the last decade. Government spending there is currently about 45 percent of GDP. In 2000, it was only 34 percent. There were no riots then.
A similar story has played out in America. When President Clinton left office, federal spending was 18 percent of GDP. Now it is 24 percent.
If spending cuts cause riots, then we should have nothing to worry about. The fact that we do means something else must be behind the looting.
Washington, D.C. Aug. 11, 2011
The writer is a fellow at the Competitive Enterprise Institute.
This week, the Brewers will play a series against the Yankees in New York for the first time since 1997. The New York Times used the occasion to profile Ryan Braun. It’s worth a read; very rarely does a player of his caliber stay with a small-market team for an entire career. Braun signed a contract extension earlier this season to stay in Milwaukee through 2020, when he’ll turn 36. This fan wishes there were more like him.
Partisans are strange creatures. They can support a policy for years when their guys are in charge, then oppose it in the blink of an eye when the other team takes power. Ross Douthat takes a thoughtful look inside the partisan mind in today’s New York Times:
[M]illions of liberals can live with indefinite detention for accused terrorists and intimate body scans for everyone else, so long as a Democrat is overseeing them. And millions of conservatives find wartime security measures vastly more frightening when they’re pushed by Janet “Big Sis” Napolitano (as the Drudge Report calls her) rather than a Republican like Tom Ridge.
He also identifies a bright side to partisanship that I hadn’t thought of:
But for the country as a whole, partisanship does have one modest virtue. It guarantees that even when there’s an elite consensus behind whatever the ruling party wants to do (whether it’s invading Iraq or passing Obamacare), there will always be a reasonably passionate opposition as well. Given how much authority is concentrated in Washington, especially in the executive branch, even a hypocritical and inconsistent opposition is better than no opposition at all.
My colleague Ryan Radia and I recently sent this letter to The New York Times:
Editor, New York Times:
Catherine Rampell’s September 7 article, “Once a Dynamo, the Tech Sector Is Slow to Hire,” mourns the recent decline in U.S. data processing jobs. She blames much of the decline on the automation of previously tedious tasks.
May we suggest one way to get those jobs back: No more automation. Ban the use of computers for data processing. Imagine how much information flows through today’s global economy in an average day. Computers handle most of the load. That costs millions of jobs.
The effects would reverberate far beyond the tech sector. The paper, pen, and pencil industries would also boom.
Companies are dead-set on doing more with less. True, that creates more jobs in the long run by freeing up resources — and employees — for new ventures. But if only they would consider doing less with more, they could create more data processing jobs.
Ryan Young and Ryan Radia
Competitive Enterprise Institute
Posted in Business Cycles, Economics, The Market Process
Tagged basic economics, catherine rampell, creative destruction, data processing, econ 101, Economics, economics 101, employment, high tech jobs, jobs, new york times, outsourcing, progress
When King Tutankhamen’s tomb was discovered in 1922, six chariots were among the artifacts found inside. One of them even had some wear and tear; maybe Pharaoh had personally used it for hunting.
It is even possible that falling off that very chariot caused the broken leg that is believed to have ultimately killed him at the age of 18 or so. That chariot is now on display in New York as part of a traveling exhibition of Tutenkhamen’s artifacts.
Getting the chariot from Egypt to New York was quite an ordeal. At roughly 3,300 years of age, the wood is fragile. First it was carefully packed into a truck and driven to Cairo from the Luxor museum. Then it was loaded onto a New York-bound cargo jet. A curator was by its side at all times.
Once it arrived stateside, the New York Times tells of an unexpected regulatory hurdle through which the chariot had to pass before leaving JFK International Airport for its Times Square destination and painstaking reassembly:
When New York traffic officials reviewed the papers required for the oversize truck that would transport the chariot into Manhattan, they saw that the cargo inside was classified as a vehicle, and demanded its Vehicle Identification Number.
“I’m totally serious,” said Mr. Lach, the exhibition’s designer. “But we got it cleared up.”
Good for them. The exhibit is on until January 2 if you care to look for the chariot’s VIN yourself.
Posted in History, Regulation of the Day
Tagged ancient egypt, chariot, customs, Discovery Times Square Exposition, egypt, History, king tut, new york, new york times, Sanaa Ahmed Ali, tutankhamen, vin
This letter of mine ran in today’s New York Times in response to Paul Krugman’s July 4 column.
To the Editor:
Paul Krugman is at a loss to explain why some people oppose extending unemployment benefits. One reason people hold such an opinion is that when government subsidizes something, there tends to be more of it.
The more government subsidizes unemployment, the more people will indulge in it for longer periods of time.
Washington, July 6, 2010
The writer is a journalism fellow at the Competitive Enterprise Institute.
Posted in Correspondence, Economics, Price and Wage Controls, Publications, Spending
Tagged new york times, ny times, paul krugman, subsidies, unemployment, unemployment benefits, unintended consequences
New Yorkers have a reputation for being rude. But they are also a sensitive lot. Especially bus drivers. Last year, angry customers literally spit on bus drivers 51 times. The experience was so harrowing for one unidentified driver that he or she needed 191 days of paid leave to recover. The average driver took 64 days of paid leave after being spat upon.
Seems a bit much. But union leaders think it’s justified.
“Being spat upon — having a passenger spit in your face, spit in your mouth, spit in your eye — is a physically and psychologically traumatic experience,” said John Samuelsen, the union’s president. “If transit workers are assaulted, they are going to take off whatever amount of time they are going to take off to recuperate.”
Getting spit on is not fun. And it can certainly ruin one’s day. But the recovery time for most people is measured in minutes, not months.
Raul Morales, 52, has been driving city buses for five years, but his first encounter with spit came early.
“A guy wanted to get on the bus; I told him the fare; he didn’t want to pay it,” Mr. Morales said. “So, he spat at me.”
The spittle landed on his shirt and glasses. He stopped at a nearby McDonald’s to clean himself off, then finished his shift. “I just kept on going.” (An ice slushie was once thrown at him for the same reason.)
Mr. Morales said it did not occur to him to take an extended absence to recover.
Good to see that common sense isn’t completely dead.
It is sad that so many transit employees have no problem taking months-long vacations at taxpayer expense, using the flimsiest of excuses. That kind of behavior wouldn’t fly in the productive sector.
New York City Transit is running a $400 million deficit this year. Saliva-induced vacations alone account for nearly a million dollars of that, based on average salaries. That money could have gone towards softening looming service cuts. It could have gone to repairing aging infrastructure. It could have gone to employees who actually work.
But when labor rules are as generous as they are for many public-sector union workers, it should come as no surprise that some people will game the system.
Posted in Public Choice
Tagged bus, bus drivers, buses, john samuelsen, new york times, nyc transit, paid leave, public sector union, public sector unions, raul morales, rude new yorkers, spit, spittle, transit, transit workers, unions, vacation
Here’s a letter I sent recently to The New York Times:
May 14, 2010
Editor, The New York Times
620 Eighth Avenue
New York, NY 10018
To the Editor:
Your May 12 article “With Obama, Regulations Are Back in Fashion” (page A15) asserts that the Bush administration had a “deregulatory agenda.” If that is true, then President Bush failed miserably in executing it.
His administration added 31,634 new regulations to the books, and repealed hardly any. The cost of complying with federal regulations exceeded $1 trillion for the first time on Bush’s watch. 587,321 new pages were added to Federal Register during the Bush years.*
Even the regulation-intensive Obama administration is passing new regulations at a pace nearly ten percent slower than President Bush.
Contrary to the article, the Bush administration was the best friend regulators have had in a generation or more.
Warren T. Brookes Journalism Fellow
Competitive Enterprise Institute
*All data from Wayne Crews, Ten Thousand Commandments.
Posted in Correspondence, Media, regulation
Tagged bias, bush, busting myths, Correspondence, deregulation, letter, lte, media bias, misconception, myth, new york times, obama, regulation
In New York City, it is illegal for four or more unrelated people to live together. At least 15,000 New York homes openly flout the rule.
The ranks of lawless hooligans cut across lines of class and race. According to the New York Times, violators “include young actors and ponytailed post-graduates; rising and falling junior investment bankers; immigrants, legal and illegal; and trend-obsessed residents in Brooklyn neighborhoods.”
The Times also interviewed a young film star who lives with five other people. He is not related to any of them.
People break the regulation to save money on rent. Given the cost of living in New York, this is a smart and prudent way to save money. It also leaves more housing left over for others, which helps to drive down housing costs.
Even better, if enough people pool their resources, they can afford to live in a larger home in a nicer neighborhood than they could pay for alone.
The city has the good sense to rarely enforce the rule – just three times since July, according to the Times. This is good. What would be better is to repeal it. When a law is almost universally regarded as counterproductive, not only should go unenforced, it should go away.
Posted in Regulation of the Day
Tagged anachronisms, dumb laws, housing, housing regulations, laws, local ordinances, new york, new york city, new york times, regulation, Regulation of the Day, regulations, roommates
Having eliminated all crime from New York’s streets, ended homelessness, rebuilt Ground Zero, and fixed the state’s ailing public schools, New York’s state legislature has set its sights on how much salt you eat.
New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg already has a plan to reduce NYC residents’ salt intake by 25 percent over five years. But State Assemblyman Felix Ortiz (D-Brooklyn) thinks that doesn’t go nearly far enough. It only covers New York City, for starters. The rest of the state’s salt intake would remain perilously unregulated under the Bloomberg plan.
That’s why Mr. Ortiz has introduced statewide legislation that would “make it illegal for restaurants to use salt in the preparation of food. Period.”
A $1,000 fine would accompany each violation.
Tom Colicchio, who owns a restaurant and has appeared on the television show Top Chef, is livid. He told the New York Daily News that “New York City is considered the restaurant capital of the world. If they banned salt, nobody would come here anymore… Anybody who wants to taste food with no salt, go to a hospital and taste that.”
He’s right; the salt ban does offend culinary decency. But there’s another angle that’s at least as important: personal responsibility.
If I want to pile on the salt, as Mayor Bloomberg famously does, that’s my right. But I also need to be liable for the consequences. If chronic salt over-consumption gives me high blood pressure and heart trouble, that’s my fault. I should pay the cost.
But that’s not how the current health care system works. We suffer from the 12-cent problem: on average, people only pay 12 cents for every dollar of health care they consume. Roughly 50 cents are picked up by the government, and insurers cover the rest.
That means people have less incentive to watch what they eat than under a more honest system. Why not rack up huge health care bills? Everyone else is paying for me. Health care on sale! 88 percent off!
Freedom cannot exist without responsibility. Decades of government encroachments in health care have taken away a lot of our responsibility for health care decisions. So it makes some sense that Mr. Ortiz would finish the job by taking away peoples’ freedom to eat what they want.
A better solution would be to have both freedom and responsibility, instead of neither. Ban the salt ban. Give people more control over their health care dollars. Let us be free. Let us be responsible. We’re all adults here. Treat us as such, Mr. Ortiz.
Posted in Health Care, Nanny State, Regulation of the Day
Tagged bloomberg, brooklyn, diet, felix ortiz, freedom, health, Health Care, health care reform, mayor bloomberg, michael bloomberg, Nanny State, new york, new york city, new york daily news, new york state, new york times, nudge, nyc, paternalism, personal responsibility, push, responsibility, salt, salt ban, tom colicchio, top chef