Tax and Spend. Or Just Spend

by Kieran Healy on September 16, 2005

About a year and a half ago, the White House floated the “moondoggle”: Remember that? Casting about for some legacy or other, Karl Rove came up with the idea of a permanent base on the moon. (And “a pony”: At the time I wondered whether the initiative would be funded by a series of aggressive tax cuts. After the President’s speech yesterday, it’s clear that while the moon is no more (so to speak), the “payment plan for Katrina-cleanup”: is the same. “You bet it’s going to cost money,” the President said, “… It’s going to cost whatever it costs.” Reported estimates are that it’s going to cost at least as much as the War in Iraq has so far.

Meanwhile, White House economic adviser Allan Hubbard said the administration still plans to make the Bush tax cuts permanent, while at the same time “cutting the deficit in half by 2009.”: The White House Press Corps laughed roundly at this statement. No, of course they didn’t. The President also proposed to create a “Gulf Opportunity Zone”:, which would provide subsidies to business, because “he said”:, “It is entrepreneurship that creates jobs and opportunity … and we will take the side of entrepreneurs as they lead the economic revival of the Gulf region.” This reminds me of a comment I heard the economist “Geoff Brennan”: make during a conversation about alternative forms of energy. Someone suggested that entrepreneurs should lead the way in this area, and Geoff agreed. They then said the government should maybe offer some subsidies or assistance to them as part of some program. “I think you have a different concept of entrepreneur from me,” says Geoff. As “Max says”:

bq. If the city is cleaned up, its infrastructure restored, and flood protection established, there should be no need for subsidies to make business development flourish. On the other hand, individuals will need compensation to get on their feet again, including access to credit for business start-ups. Such access would not be a subsidy if it plugged preexisting holes in the market — the sort of red-lining that prevents solvent, lower-income people, especially minorities, from getting the loans they need and can repay to buy housing and start businesses.

And I’m not sure whether to hope he’s right about this or fear that he is right about this:

bq. However messy the use of money becomes in the hands of the Bushists, I maintain that this is a watershed moment for the limited-government movement. What we have in this Administration is an unwholesome mixture — the term toxic soup comes to mind — of Christian fundy prejudice (towards non-Christians, science, and the Enlightenment), Wilsonian jingoism, and blind anti-tax sentiment. Big, stupid government is all over your bedroom and your public schools, driving your kids further into debt, rattling an insubstantial sabre at a legion of emboldened international miscreants. These people will be the death of us all.

Glorifying terrorism

by Chris Bertram on September 16, 2005

There doesn’t seem to be a lot of blogospheric comment yet about the more surreal aspects of the British governments “intention”: to “criminalize”:,15935,1571350,00.html the “glorification” of terrorism. Saying that a particular terrorist act or event was a good thing is set to be a criminal offence unless the event was more than 20 years ago, except that the Home Secretary will draw up a list of older events the “glorification” of which will also be an offence. So far there’s no clear indication of what will be on the list except the suggestion that glorifying the Easter Rising of 1916 or the French Revolution (1789-whenever you think it ended) will not be illegal. Will it be illegal to praise the following events?

* The Irgun bombing of the King David Hotel (1946)

* Any bombings or shootings by the Baader-Meinhof gang.

* ETA’s assassination of Prime Minister Carrero Blanco in 1973

* Any acts of Palestinian terrorism.

* The assassination by Mossad of Palestinian leaders in foreign countries.

* The assassination of any member of the Nehru-Gandhi dynasty.

* The sinking of the Rainbow Warrior by the French secret service in 1985.

However repusive it may be to praise some of these acts, it is just incompatible with a free society for it to be in some politician’s gift to decide which historical events it is or isn’t acceptable to “glorify”.


by Chris Bertram on September 16, 2005

Alan Johnson of Labour Friends of Iraq emails to tell me of a new online journal he’s editing, “Democratiya”: . It won’t be any great secret around here that we’ve not exactly seen eye-to-eye recently with people who call themselves the “pro-liberation” left (or similar). But Demokratiya includes writings from some people who didn’t think the war was such a great idea, such as Gideon Calder (who has an “interesting review of Walzer on war”: ), and involves some others whom I continue to like and respect. And I certainly share with them the hope (against hope) that Iraq somehow turns into a flourishing democracy. So surf over there and take a look.

Excuse me?

by Chris Bertram on September 16, 2005

I hesitate to come over all Mel P here, but I was astonished to read “the following bit of opportunism”: in the Law Society Gazette from the Solicitors’ Pro Bono Group:

bq. The government should not profit from compensation payments made to victims of the London bombings when its own policies may have contributed to the attacks, the Solicitors Pro Bono Group (SPBG) claimed last week. SPBG acting chief executive Robert Gill said that lawyers had not provided advice to victims free of charge ‘so that the government could save money’. ….

bq. ‘It is normal for CICA payments to be taken off benefits, but in these circumstances it should be different. It is about a particular set of actions which in part were brought about by the fact that Britain has taken a prominent role in Iraq – which was a government decision. Government action is part of the reason [for the events], so it is not fair that the government should benefit from private citizens who are injured.’

The government quite reasonably insists that the same rules apply for all Criminal Injuries compensation cases and that bomb victims should be treated the same as everyone else.