Morning Ed: Government {2016.06.21.T}

Government may be one of those things you notice when there is a problem, and don’t notice when things are working.

There is a lesson here.

Trevor Aaronson argues that the FBI’s “pursue every lead” policy actually helped the Orlando shooter slip away.

Education does police officers good. Or perhaps more accurately, having educated officers does police departments good.

As James Hanley pointed out to me, this strikes me as counterproductive. You want stores to provide cover, so taxing them for it is dumb.

Limiting flavors and taxing ecigarettes is a good way to reduce ecigarette use. Among current smokers, at least.

Poland is apparently cracking down on the whole Internet Freedom thing.

Josh Blackman argues that the government cannot actually mandate that employers, landlords, and so on use of preferred pronouns.


Editor-in-Chief
Home Page Twitter Google+ Pinterest 

Will Truman is the Editor-in-Chief of Ordinary Times. He is also on Twitter. ...more →

Please do be so kind as to share this post.
Share

125 thoughts on “Morning Ed: Government {2016.06.21.T}

  1. “no manufacturer anywhere in the world should be developing new models that are so clearly sub-standard,” he said. “Car makers must ensure that their new models pass the UN’s minimum crash test regulations, and support use of an airbag.”

    The frickin US has minimum crash test regs for cars? WTF?!! Since when? Christ. Who decided this was the UN’s business? The UN? Screw them.

    “air rights”. Money grab

      Quote  Link

    Report

    • Of course, that’s true if Brexit passes and they enter in a Norway style free trade agreement. If the UK wants free trade with Europe, joining the EEA has been mentioned by Brexiters, free migration would be part of the trade deal.

        Quote  Link

      Report

  2. Exactly how much money did the city expect to get from hhe “air rights” of balconies, etc? Such things are effectively a low cost luxury, and if the tax represents a significant percentage of the cost to build or restore one, it won’t happen.

      Quote  Link

    Report

    • If the purchase price of securing the air rights for a balcony cannot be absorbed by the tenant, the the market is sending a signal that balconies are not an efficient use of resources.

      It really just Econ 101, people.

        Quote  Link

      Report

      • That assumes that there’s a $4000 externality on the balcony, or that the city has some alternative use of that air space that’s worth $4000 or more. If there isn’t, and the city is just arbitrarily taxing it because they can, then balconies getting torn down or never built is deadweight loss, not an efficient outcome.

          Quote  Link

        Report

        • Exactly.
          So the city should be run like a business, and study feedback from sales of air rights to determine the optimal price point, thereby creating an iterative, positive sum, win-win right sized organic market.

            Quote  Link

          Report

        • Brandon Berg:
          That assumes that there’s a $4000 externality on the balcony, or that the city has some alternative use of that air space that’s worth $4000 or more. If there isn’t, and the city is just arbitrarily taxing it because they can, then balconies getting torn down or never built is deadweight loss, not an efficient outcome.

          I’d go further and argue that the city has no claim to air rights if the city approved the construction of those buildings and/or balconies. By allowing those balconies, the city transferred them to the property owners at a zero value.

          As it is, if they’re already part of the structure, any tax associated with the structure should be reflected in the property tax bill.

          Ah, bureaucrats showing us how smart they really aren’t….

            Quote  Link

          Report


          • I’d go further and argue that the city has no claim to air rights if the city approved the construction of those buildings and/or balconies. By allowing those balconies, the city transferred them to the property owners at a zero value.

            They should own the air rights anyway, as they literally own that air. Almost all properties go to the street (And up into space). Almost all sidewalks are on private property, they’re just on the *right-of-way*, as I understand it.

            What a property owner can *build* on a right-of-way is generally limited via zoning, and what the government can do there (Have a sidewalk, run power lines, etc.) is less limited. However, the property owner does actually own that space, and the idea of charging them to *rent* their own property is absurd, especially for an already-existing structure that was already approved.

            (I suspect that a lot of these balconies went back well before any sort of formal approval, but they’re still approved. If the government had no rule against them at the time. Frankly, everyone’s just lucky they didn’t build the walls of their building out to the edge of their property, all the way to the street, leaving nowhere to later put a sidewalk. That has happened in pre-zoning city construction before.)

            As it is, if they’re already part of the structure, any tax associated with the structure should be reflected in the property tax bill.

            Not just ‘should’, but already are, as a fact.

              Quote  Link

            Report

        • As far as I can tell, Louisiana is a budget disaster zone. There is not one place in Louisiana that has a decent budget. This is because of a combination of Jindal’s radical tax cuts and the oil bubble bursting.

          New Orleans (and the rest of the state) can’t afford to fund anything it seems. School budgets are being slashed. The state can’t afford to pay for public defenders.

          My theory/guess is that New Orleans would not be doing the air rights tax thing if they had a better way to make the money/budget.

          The Norquist brigade believes that if you radically destroy a government’s ability to get revenue/budget, government will radically lower in size. This does not seem to be true. There are simply too many functions that people believe government must do except for a small minority that toys with minimal government and/or anarcho-capitalism. Most Americans seem to believe that the legal system should be run by government and it should ruin well. This costs money. Same with roads, schools, libraries, etc. The small government crowd has never been able to convince the majority that these things should be handled by private enterprise or not at all.

          But very few people like paying taxes so they took the low-tax stuff without changing the budget or noting that many state constitutions have mandates for school funding.

            Quote  Link

          Report

          • I’m fine with everything you said, except one thing:

            There are simply too many functions that some people believe government must do

            FTFY

            It’s a nasty knot to untangle, but we all know that plenty of functions of government only really benefit* a very small minority of well connected people. You can’t starve a beast that is free to hunt. Maybe Norquist, et. al. get this, but that little detail doesn’t seem to come across in his talking points, which is why he never gets the results he hopes for.

            *usually sold by highlighting some second order benefit to a larger population, but the bulk of the funding goes to a government department or private company that isn’t interested in contracting during the budget crisis.

              Quote  Link

            Report

            • Maybe but there is also the other article that Will linked to above about how we don’t notice when government is performing its jobs and functions well.

              My girlfriend likes to complain about how much she pays in taxes and how little she gets for them. She ignores that SF has a great public library system that keeps most (or all) branches open 7 days a week and the main branch is open 60 hours a day. We have great parks that people spend a lot of free time in and are updating irrigation systems and public restrooms in the park. That the homeless and mentally ill situation would probably be much worse in SF if it were not for welfare services and the SF department of public health, etc.

              90 percent of Americans students attend public schools and only a few anarcho-capitalists seem to believe that privatizing the courts is a good idea. It is not my job to be swayed by the anarcho-capitalists.

                Quote  Link

              Report

              • Why do you always run to the extreme and rebut as if that was my position?

                I agree that government does lots of good things that the population as a whole values greatly, and that article is correct when it says a well run government isn’t much noticed.

                But, when budgets are tight, for whatever reason (I don’t care if it’s economic or political), government has to either raise revenue or contract. If it wants to raise revenue, it has to be smart about it. Placing an significant tax on a minor luxury, especially one that can do double duty as a public good, is not a smart way to raise revenue. Perhaps they are at the end of their fiscal rope, but that just makes this desperate, not smart, and it’s very unlikely to get them any significant revenue.

                Likewise, if it has to contract, it needs to be smart about it, and that means cutting out non-essentials first*, even if that means pissing off well-heeled beneficiaries of the public. Ideally, it should try to do both things (raise revenue & contract).

                *I say this with a firm understanding, courtesy of our own Brother Cain, that this is not as simple a thing as it looks, thanks to various state laws or pre-existing contracts that can’t be broken. Still, if they are diving straight in to cut schools or public safety, I’m not buying it that they’ve explored all the other options.

                  Quote  Link

                Report

                • Silly boy, budgets don’t contract. They just “borrow” the money from transportation funds, highway funds, reduce public service hours like the DMV / library or garbage pick up. That squeezes the tax base to pony up more money because they see the most forward facing services being “cut”.

                    Quote  Link

                  Report

                • I recall our local school district running into financial trouble once, and deciding the best thing to cut was after school sports. This made people so angry that they immediately started raising money to restore sports, and in the next election passed a parcel tax to make sure that those jerks had no excuse to do away with sports ever again.

                  School boards are not always as dumb as we assume.

                    Quote  Link

                  Report

                    • Oh, it gets worse. Take a school that passes a bond to fund some required renovations. One of the renovations added was updating the school stadium (which admittedly was 40 years old and needed repairs) and included a ritzy new electronic scoreboard (which doesn’t cost what people think it does, but still).

                      So there’s a big bond — rebuild the stadium, repave a parking lot, upgrade the theater, fund an addition to the HS and build a new elementary school.

                      Then the Great Recession hits about 2 years into a 5 year bond project. Texas starts yanking back public school funding, tax receipts fall, and the school is struggling to handle payroll. The shortfall is…sizable. The school board says either they need a small property tax increase (after freezing wages, freezing hiring, and increasing class sizes temporarily, cutting back on lots of things like school trips) or they’ll have to cut quite a few extracurricular programs until the recession is over.

                      Only to face a public incredibly angry because “You’re spending all this money on a fancy new stadium and you can’t afford after school music classes!”.

                      Because the public, no matter how many times it’s explained, thinks the bond money is fungible. They don’t get that the entire purpose of a bond is to raise X dollars that can only be spent on the specific things listed. It was voted on by the public, and unless the bond bill has optional spending clauses in it the board’s hands are tied.

                      There was quite a bit of yelling about the “new stadium” while the school district “claimed it was broke”.

                        Quote  Link

                      Report

            • Well what Louisiana is suffering from is the more modern incarnation of political conservative-libertarianism as adopted by the GOP which promises libertarian levels of tax rates coupled with mumblemumble* levels of government services. This results in a budget crisis since the budget bleeds red ink everywhere and desperate county level administrators try to bridge the gaps with terrible ideas like the air space policy.

              It’s true that pure libertarian policy would not spray debt everywhere but pure libertarian policy has the minor problem that every time it’s presented unabashedly to an electorate the candidates end up relegated to taking their shirts off and chasing cats around during their suddenly very ample free time.

              *Being defined as the status quos minus a couple very evidently liberal and budgetary inconsequential elements.

                Quote  Link

              Report

  3. Alex Tabarrocks logic is weak.
    His argument is essentially that current drivers of highly unsafe motorcycles will trade up to slightly more safe autos which lack what we consider basic safety features.
    So mandating safety features forces these drivers out of the market, keeping them on unsafe motorcycles.

    The weakness here is in assuming that safety features are a direct 1:1 add on to the purchase price.

    But that’s not really how it works, is it?
    As with our discussions about minimum wages, increased costs of items get handled in different ways.

    Some cost is passed on, but some cost is just replaced- for instance, to add a seatbelt, the manufacturer uses a cheaper seat upholstery.

      Quote  Link

    Report

    • Some cost is passed on, but some cost is just replaced- for instance, to add a seatbelt, the manufacturer uses a cheaper seat upholstery.

      We’re talking about low-end, entry-level cars. In India. What makes you think there are hundreds of dollars’ worth of corners left to cut on cosmetic features?

        Quote  Link

      Report

      • I don’t know, are there?
        My example was just to show that the increased cost can and usually is, handled in more ways than just the one Alex assumes.

        My problem with Alex’s logic is that he is attempting to offer up what seems like a rigorous objective analysis, but is devoid of empirical data.
        Is India the very first nation ever to institute auto safety features?
        What happened when other nations did?
        In what way is India similar, or different?
        How many few people will buy cars because of the cost of safety features? Will the overall death rate go up or down?

        By ignoring the actual historical data of how the markets reacted to safety features in Europe and America, Alex is arguing like a medieval philosopher, all abstract theory which is untestable, unfalsifiable, and only a reflection of his own intuitions.

          Quote  Link

        Report

        • Tabarrok is making no assertions about any of this. He’s pointing out an unintended consequence imposing a wealthy country’s safety standards on a poor country could have. Global NCAP is the one making the assertions and proposing new laws. They’re the ones that need to be answering those questions.

            Quote  Link

          Report

        • To the best of my knowledge, current “best practices” have never been imposed on a country that is where India currently is at in development. James Dean might not have died if he hadn’t been a rebel without an airbag, and the USA of his day was a damn sight more able to handle increased marginal costs than (most of) today’s India.

          Not to mention, it’s India. The USA has hideous traffic safety numbers, but they pale compared to where India is at. Putting 6 people into a safe car while relegating 25 permanently to the current system of motorbikes and hitch-hiking on overloaded trucks isn’t necessarily an improvement.

            Quote  Link

          Report

      • @dragonfrog

        The “Fruit of the Poison Tree” doctrine is rather unique to the United States. Most other liberal democracies allow illegally or questionably obtained physical evidence in to cases because the conduct used to obtain the physical evidence does not negate the reliability of the physical evidence like it would with an illegally obtained confession.

        The system that many other liberal democracies use is they punish the officer who obtained the physical evidence illegally,

        This is not a new strain of thought or one that exists only on the right. Justice Cardozo doubted the validity of the Poison Tree doctrine. Of course, this ignores the fact that it is completely impossible to get a proper punishment for police officers who obtain physical evidence illegally.

        I agree with the dissent but the ideas in the majority opinion are not unique to the United States.

          Quote  Link

        Report

        • Thanks. Honestly, if the officer got fired, or put on a Brady List, or something, I’d have less issue, since at least there is some incentive to not do it. But this decision just tells police, “Be bad, it’s OK, you’ll be fine & still get the win.”

            Quote  Link

          Report

        • The fourth amendment to the US constitution is rather unique to the US as well.

          Canada has the same rule, FWIW – see e.g. excluding 35 kilograms of cocaine from evidence because a traffic stop was illegal.

          In common with the US, punishing police for any crime (where the victim is not a fellow officer) short of murder seems practically impossible.

            Quote  Link

          Report

          • I’m also very skeptical that any punishment for police would actually be pursued. With the current system, defense attorneys have an incentive to police this type of abuse because it benefits their clients. It’s a bit like class action suits giving an incentive to police bad behavior with consequences that are too diffused for an individual to bother suing over.

            If we do away with that incentive, we have to rely on prosecutors to bring it up (also with no real incentive), and I think that history teaches us that’s pretty unlikely.

              Quote  Link

            Report

        • Your confusing the Exclusionary Rule with the Fruit of the Poisonous Tree doctrine. The Exclusionary Rules states that illegal obtained evidence or confessions may not be used against a criminal defendant. The Fruit of the Poisonous Tree keeps out evidence derived from the original illegality.

            Quote  Link

          Report

          • Yes, the Canadian legal rule for such situations would be whether admitting the evidence would “put the administration of justice in disrepute.” Whether the evidence is admitted or not depends on balancing a number of factors including how egrigious police conduct was, the degree the accused rights were violated and the impact excluding the evidence would have on having a trial on the merits.

            “Fruit of the poisonous tree” exclusions can happen as the evidence doesn’t have to be directly obtained by the violation of the accussed rights, merely that there be a causal nexus between the violation and the evidence. However, as this is going to be evaluated holistically and balanced against the other factors in play, this is a signficantly weaker exclusionary rule for evidence obtained further downstream of the rights violation than the American rule.

              Quote  Link

            Report

      • Also, we are all probably thinking of some kid getting found with dime bag of pot or something.

        What if the illegally obtained physical evidence is a dead body in a car trunk? Are we willing to let a guy who murdered his girlfriend go just because the police screwed up?

          Quote  Link

        Report

        • How many times has that happened? What if the police illegally searched a house and found the dozen bodies the local serial killer cuddles up with every night? How would the police get out of that quandary, eh?

          Process matters, or we might as well just give up the 4th as dead letter and enjoy our police state.

            Quote  Link

          Report

        • This is an argument against the entire exclusionary rule, or really any constitutional protection for criminal defendants at all. If a defendant really committed an awful crime, why let him go just because his attorney was incompetent, or the prosecutor withheld exculpatory evidence, or the prosecutor dismissed jurors on the basis of their race, etc etc etc.?

            Quote  Link

          Report

        • In the absence of some other effective mechanism to prevent police misconduct, yes, absolutely. We’re already right on the edge of allowing police to make up whatever rules they want. Excluding illegally collected evidence is basically the only thing left that prevents the police from running roughshod over everybody all the time.

          I see no evidence that our system can make the police follow rules if there’s an, “easier to get forgiveness than permission,” option that works every time.

            Quote  Link

          Report

        • 99 guilty guys with illegally obtained dead bodies in their trunk in exchange for the one innocent guy with an illegally planted dead body in his trunk? I can live with that.

          I have to do my job. The police should be held to the same standard – for criminy’s sake, they should be held to the highest possible standard.

            Quote  Link

          Report

    • I think Sotomayor’s dissent is great, and this case wrongly decided (what the heck, Breyer?), but reading the opinion and the Utah state supreme court case that explains the attenuation doctrine, I can see why this case was a close one. (and every. single. relevant. case. was instigated by the drug war).

      There would have been no case (for Strieff to contest) if police dude had recognized Mr. Strieff and knew there was a warrant out for his arrest. Which in turn brings up a technological angle.

      There’s never any 4th amendment restriction for a BOLO in a public place. But because of resources, and human attention spans, you generally limit it to high profile persons of interest that you want to catch right away. And there’s nobody really stopping a police officer from sitting in a car, watching a street corner, and observing anybody walking by – and arresting someone that has a warrant out for there arrest.

      But if you put a camera on a computer with facial recognition software and a file of pictures with everyone that has a an arrest warrant in the area, is such a dragnet legit under fourth amendment? (and this may be the series premise for Person of Interest). You’re not really changing the manner of what the police are doing, just the intensity and dwell time.

        Quote  Link

      Report

      • Excellent point re: the drug war. It changes the basic orientation of the police towards criminal investigation. Plus, the exclusionary rule undermines itself by ensuring that every test case will be one in which the police found something incriminating and the defendant is guilty.

          Quote  Link

        Report

        • Yeah, the only reason cop was looking at the house was because of suspected drug activity. And the only reason why the initial arrest was invalid was because the cop saw Strieff leaving the house, but he never saw him enter it. (the syllabi make the inference that anyone seen entering then leaving the house in short order would have been a valid arrest, because there were so many people doing so).

          Still, though, even without the drug war, this house would have been deemed a nuisance. Were they following fire codes wrt occupancy and exits? Was the building ADA accessible? Was the business paying minimum wage and FICA? Did they meet the parking requirements of their Special Use Permit? Was the property even zoned for commercial activity?

            Quote  Link

          Report

          • Without the drug war, the house as such probably wouldn’t have existed in the first place, because the needs of drug users could be served by businesses in the appropriate zoning for narcotic retail, built for retail and so likely following ADA, fire code, etc., able to prove they pay at least minimum wage with a quick call to their accountant, and subject to complaints or lawsuits by their employees, who would be able to walk in to police HQ and say “I’m a clerk at a methamphetamine store, and the owner is cheating me of overtime,” without immediate fear of arrest.

              Quote  Link

            Report

          • What I’m trying to get at is that policing a crime without an obvious victim is very different from one that leaves a victim to complain to the police. Stop the drug war and the number of such crimes that police are investigating will plummet.

              Quote  Link

            Report

      • But if you put a camera on a computer with facial recognition software and a file of pictures with everyone that has a an arrest warrant in the area, is such a dragnet legit under fourth amendment? (and this may be the series premise for Person of Interest). You’re not really changing the manner of what the police are doing, just the intensity and dwell time.

        That’s a great question. My immediate response is that it’s not a problem. The reason we object to unreasonable search and seizure is that it’s an invasion of our privacy and it’s inconvenient. Even if I have nothing to hide, having a cop pull me over and waste my time while he checks for warrants costs me something. If I have private stuff in the car and he searches it without cause, that costs me even more.

        As long as the computer is scanning my face and *only* checking for a warrant and then deleting the record, the cost to me in privacy and inconvenience is zero. The problem with it is more that the police will never delete those records and people will no doubt have all sorts of unaccountable access to that database, which goes back to costing me something in terms of privacy. If it could be guaranteed to work the way you described it, I don’t think there’s a good argument against it.

          Quote  Link

        Report

      • I have a new fun hobby: Watch COPS on TV and ask myself whether anything at all would be going on if drugs were legal. That show is pretty much entirely driven by the drug war.

          Quote  Link

        Report

  4. Cumulative health care spending over the last five years is 2.6 trillion (!!) under the expected trend line.

    Here.

    It’s sad that Repubs … Oh, forget the slam on my political opponents. That’s plain good news. And, from the same link, difficulty in paying health care bills is down 3 percentage points, from 18.5% to 15.5%. That’s good news too.

      Quote  Link

    Report

    • It’s 2.6 trillion below baseline projected for 2014-2019, not over the last five years. Skimming the report, it looks like the main factors cited are Medicare cuts due to sequestration, states opting not to participate in the Medicaid expansion, slow economic recovery, patent expirations, and high-deductible plans.

      So, sure. Tell us about how this is a big win for your team.

        Quote  Link

      Report

    • I remember a whole lot of predictions that the ACA would come in way over budget and lead to out of control spending growth. Have any of those prognosticators written their “I was wrong” pieces? Those are the folks I would want to follow for informed skepticism.

        Quote  Link

      Report

  5. I win a bet I had with someone here. PG&E announces that they will, pending final regulatory approval, be retiring the Diablo Canyon reactors when their present operating licenses expire in 2024 and 2025. Renewable and conservation in their place. Look for them to throw their weight behind the Transwest Express transmission line, and large wind farms in Wyoming down slope from South Pass.

      Quote  Link

    Report

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *