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  • Today's must-read

    December 4, 2006 12:06 PM

    A must-read is today's lead editorial in The Wall Street Journal (free subscription required) — “Global Warming Gag Order — Senators to Exxon: Shut up, and pay up.” It hits Senators Snowe and Rockefeller's letter to ExxonMobil telling the oil company to stop funding “global warming deniers” like CEI, which almost single-handedly has kept climate change proposals from being enacted.

    We particularly like these words from the editorial:

    “We respect the folks at the Competitive Enterprise Institute, but we didn't know until reading the Rockefeller-Snowe letter that they ran U.S. climate policy and led the mainstream media around by the nose, too. Congratulations.

    “Let's compare the balance of forces: on one side, CEI; on the other, the Pew Charitable Trusts, the Sierra Club, Environmental Defense, the U.N. and EU, Hollywood, Al Gore, and every politically correct journalist in the country. We'll grant that's a fair intellectual fight. But if the Senators are so afraid that a handful of policy wonks at a single small think-tank are in danger of winning this debate, they must not have much confidence in the merits of their own case.”

  • I invented that sandwich!

    December 4, 2006 11:50 AM

    It's not often that one can claim she invented something more than a half-century ago that now in making it big in the retail sector.

    It seems that Tesco, the giant retailer in the UK, is introducing a pre-packaged banana and chocolate sandwich that was purportedly “the brainchild of a youngster representing children's charity Whizz-kidz.”

    I beg to differ: When I was seven and taking a cooking class with the Brownie Scouts, I concocted an original — a banana and chocolate sandwich on Wonder Bread -- and served it to my father. He gamely ate the treat, pronounced it great, but didn't put up the funds for me to start my entrepreneurial career.

    You can't check the veracity of my accomplishment — citations only exist in family lore. Maybe I can sue. After all, it's my intellectual property.

  • When in the course of human events...

    December 4, 2006 11:50 AM

    Seemingly forgetting about a little thing called the Declaration of Independence, Albert Gore Jr., former Vice President of the United States of America has joined with the Heir to the throne of Great Britain and the primate of its Established Church to push their policies on the peoples of the world.

    As Chris Horner here just remarked, "It always warms my heart when a couple of guys can get together to discuss how to save the environment with a simple note, 'one of your places or one of mine?'"

  • Specialty crops want their share of farm subsidies

    December 4, 2006 11:43 AM

    The New York Times yesterday told how the specialty crop producers — those farmers who grow fruits, vegetables, nuts, and other non-commodity crops — feel left out of federal farm subsidy largess and want to get their share. They've formed a new coalition to lobby for more than $1 billion in new programs.

    That's not good news. Currently, the large commodity producers of corn, cotton, rice, wheat and soybeans are the ones taxpayers are paying — to the tune of about $15 billion per year. Now the fruit and vegetable farmers think it's their turn to feed at the public trough. Traditionally, they have been a counterforce to mega-farmers on the public dole — independent and competitive.

    The article quoted a Professor Morici at the University of Maryland, who defended the new push for government aid: “Things that help farmers band together and compete are not inherently protectionist or harmful. It is not an unreasonable thing for a fragmented industry to ask the government for assistance to make the virtues of their industry better known.”

    Give me a break. How about boutiques in the U.S. getting together to ask for government assistance? After all, how can they compete with the mega-stores?

  • A Graphic Display of Government Power

    December 1, 2006 3:36 PM

    Word from /. has it that the Justice Department's Antitrust division just found a couple more potential tech victims: graphics chipmakers Nvidia and AMD received subpoenas this week.

  • CEI's first employee -- done good and done well

    December 1, 2006 2:28 PM

    Presidential-hopeful Governor Mitt Romney just named his top economic advisors for his campaign: Glenn Hubbard, former chairman of the Council of Economic Advisors; Greg Mankiw, another former CEA chairman; and Cesar Conda, who previously served as Vice President Cheney's chief domestic advisor. Cesar will serve as Gov. Romney's Senior Economic Advisor in his quest.

    The reason I'm blogging about this is for non-partisan reasons: Cesar was CEI's first-ever employee and board member. In 1984, he used to knock on the door of our apartment to begin his work day with Fred.

    A lot of CEI alumni have done very well in a wide range of post-thinktank lives. Chris Culp comes to mind — he's a leading derivatives expert and co-authored a book with Nobel laureate Merton Miller. Andy Thompson, one of CEI's early staffers, is now the publisher of Bird Watcher's Digest. Another recruit then was Deanna Tanner Okun, who served as chairman of the International Trade Commission. And, of course, we can't forget Jon Adler, now a tenured Professor of Law at Case Western Reserve.

    A host of CEI alumni have distinguished themselves in the government, and others, in trying to bring rationality to Congress. Other alumni have -- or have had — prominent positions at leading think tanks, such as Cato, AEI, Heritage, Reason.

  • GAO report needs to hit harder

    December 1, 2006 12:40 PM

    A new report from the U.S. Government Accountability Office sent to the Congressional leadership on November 17, 2006, outlines some key areas where the incoming 110th Congress needs to provide greater oversight.

    The GAO's mission is “to help improve the performance and accountability of the federal government for the American people.” Thus, the report focuses on efficiency — making the government work better.

    Better, however, would have been more far-reaching recommendations, for instance, in the GAO's look at the U.S. Postal Service:

    • Ensure that the Postal Service maintains services consistent with its standards as it implements changes to reduce costs related to providing postal services.
    • Assess the Postal Service's changes to its mail processing and transportation networks to ensure that they are reasonable, transparent, and coordinated with affected stakeholders, and that they achieve intended cost savings and efficiencies.
    • Adopt flexible, performance-oriented, and market-based compensation systems for postal employees.

      Far, far better would have been to question the very existence of this outmoded and inefficient postal monopoly.

      The GAO's recommendations for the farm sector are much more specific and on target — and seem to recognize that U.S. farm programs dish out billions each year that go into the pockets of large producers:

    • Saudis to Sue Tobacco Companies

      December 1, 2006 1:30 AM

      The Saudi government is threatening to sue American tobacco companies such as Philip Morris to force them to pay the healthcare costs of Saudi smokers.

      The lawsuit may seem laughably inconsistent with the basic idea of personal responsibility. But the Saudis are just imitating America's own trial lawyers.

      in 1998, American trial lawyers, assisted by 46 state attorneys general, succeeded in getting Big Tobacco to pay $250 billion over 25 years to state governments, supposedly to pay for smokers' healthcare costs, in a backroom deal called the Master Settlement Agreement. (An extra $14 billion was paid to the lawyers. CEI is challenging the settlement in federal court as a violation of the Constitution's Compact Clause).

      Big Tobacco shortsightedly went along because the trial lawyers added a sweetener to the deal to offset its costs. One of the deal's conditions was that the states, as a condition of receiving their share of the loot, would impose anticompetitive restraints called escrow statutes on little tobacco companies that often underprice Big Tobacco, forcing them to make payments on each cigarette they sell. That preserves Big Tobacco's market share at their expense, even if it raises prices, and thus enables it to pass along the full cost of the tobacco settlement to consumers.

      The Saudis are now following in the footsteps of that bad 1998 tobacco settlement, seeking to make the tobacco companies pay for smokers' healthcare costs.

      But unlike American trial lawyers, who offered a sweetener to get the tobacco companies to pay up, the Saudis are offering nothing but threats, rejecting their settlement offers as inadequate.

    • Supreme Court Considers Whether to Preempt State Bank Red Tape

      November 30, 2006 7:34 PM

      On Thursday, November 29, the Supreme Court heard oral argument in Watters v. Wachovia Bank, which will decide whether federal law preempts state regulators from compelling many national bank subsidiaries to register with them.

      CEI filed an amicus brief with the Court on behalf of economists and legal scholars in support of the bank, pointing out that state lending regulations and red tape can increase the cost, and reduce the availability, of credit to borrowers.

      The State of Michigan sought to compel a subsidiary of Wachovia, a national bank, to register with it (Wachovia's subsidiary, Wachovia Mortgage, is chartered by the State of North Carolina).

    • 95% of Americans in Favor of Increasing Other People's Charitable Giving

      November 30, 2006 4:46 PM

      Quick quiz: what political types are more likely to donate to charity - lefty liberals or crochety conservatives? The Chronicle of Philanthropy has an interesting article on the answer:

      At the outset of his research, [economist Arthur] Brooks had assumed that those who favor a large role for government would be most likely to give to charity. But in fact, the opposite is true.

      Several times throughout the book, Mr. Brooks quotes Mr. Nader, the political activist, who said during his 2000 presidential campaign: "A society that has more justice is a society that needs less charity."

      Mr. Brooks calls it a "bitter irony" that those favoring income redistribution are not doing much redistributing from their own bank accounts — and he blames liberal leaders like Mr. Nader for letting liberals off the hook.

      "In essence, for many Americans, political opinions are a substitute for personal checks," Mr. Brooks writes.

      Seems like a rational choice, after all. Why spend your own money when you can support policies and elect politicians who will spend everyone else's instead?

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