American Elephants


Empty Buildings Are Costing Us Billions! by The Elephant's Child

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“The boarded up building in the photo sits a mere 6 blocks from the White House on prime real estate, but it’s been empty for 30 years! What’s the problem? The building is owned/controlled by the Federal government which often doesn’t even know what it owns, lacks the incentive to control costs and whose bureaucratic strictures make selling difficult even when motivation exists.”

A Google search suggests that most articles have picked up on a 77,000 number, as the number of empty or underutilized buildings owned by the federal government—as a proxy for you and me. The “federal government” is simply the representative of us—a fact that is worth remembering.

Other numbers range from 45,000 to 100,000 and 300,000 which really points out that they have no idea how many empty, underutilized, abandoned buildings or properties there are across the whole country. Missile sites are included, as are buildings so abandoned that trees are growing through the roof. Taxpayers own them, and even when they are vacant—they are still expensive.

The Office of Management and Budget estimates that these buildings could be costing taxpayers $1.7 billion a year. Even empty, someone has to mow the lawns, keep the pipes from freezing, maintain security fences, or pay for some basic power, except when it doesn’t. The only known centralized database that the government has is the inventory maintained by the General Services Administration called the Federal Real Property Profile and it’s not reliable.

Doing something with these buildings is complicated—even when an agency knows it has a building it would like to sell, bureaucratic hurdles limit what they can do. No federal agency can sell anything unless it’s uncontaminated, asbestos-free and environmentally safe. Expensive fixes.

Then the agency has to make sure another agency doesn’t want it. Then state and local governments get a crack at it, then nonprofits—and finally a 25-year-old law requires the government to see if it could be used as a homeless shelter. No wonder many agencies just lock the doors and say forget it.

These publicly owned properties are managed by the federal government for the benefit of the people. There are also enormous amounts of public lands. Military bases: Fort Hood, Texas, now sadly in the news, is 340 square miles in size.

There are National Parks and National Monuments, National Forests, and land ‘managed’ by the Bureau of Land Management. Trillions of dollars worth of land.  And I am undoubtedly neglecting other jurisdictions. My brief Google search made it clear that we are not alone. It is a common governmental problem. I did find one article on “how to squat in abandoned property,” (probably British) and of course, reference to the empty cities of China.

I emphasize taxpayer ownership because President Obama, for political reasons, chose to shut down what he thought of as “government land” under his purview, during the “government shutdown.” The Constitution clearly says “We the People.” Bureaucrats, far too often, forget just who is the boss. They may prefer to think of themselves as enlightened public servants. They are the hired help.

This is one reason why Republicans believe in smaller government, but they aren’t much better at property management. It’s bipartisan.

The boarded up building in the photo sits a mere 6 blocks from the White House on prime real estate but it’s been empty for 30 years! What’s the problem? The building is owned/controlled by the Federal government which often doesn’t even know what it owns, lacks the incentive to control costs and whose bureaucratic strictures make selling difficult even when motivation exists. – See more at: http://marginalrevolution.com/marginalrevolution/2014/03/wasted-resources.html#sthash.2Wo3AW3Q.dpuf
The boarded up building in the photo sits a mere 6 blocks from the White House on prime real estate but it’s been empty for 30 years! What’s the problem? The building is owned/controlled by the Federal government which often doesn’t even know what it owns, lacks the incentive to control costs and whose bureaucratic strictures make selling difficult even when motivation exists. – See more at: http://marginalrevolution.com/marginalrevolution/2014/03/wasted-resources.html#sthash.2Wo3AW3Q.dpuf


More About Our “Ruling Class,” And What To Do About Them by The Elephant's Child

Back to Angelo Codevilla:

“Our ruling class is a machine. That is, it lives by providing tangible rewards to its members. “Machine parties” around the world often provide rank-and-file activists with modest livelihoods, and enhance mightily the upper level members’ wealth. Because of this, whatever else such parties might accomplish, they must feed the machine by transferring money or jobs or privileges—civic as well as economic—to the party’s clients, whether directly or indirectly. …

Hence, our Ruling Class’ first priority in any and all matters, its solution to any and all problems, it to increase the power of the government—meaning of those who run it, meaning themselves. Secondly it is to recompense political supporters with public money, privileged jobs, contracts, etc. That is why our Ruling Class’ solution, not just for economic downturns and social ills but also for hurricanes and tornadoes, global cooling and global warming, has been to claim more power for itself. A priori, one might wonder whether enriching and empowering individuals of a certain kind can make American kinder and gentler, much less control the weather. But there can be no doubt that such power and money makes Americans ever more dependent on those who wield it.

By taxing and parceling out more than a third of what Americans produce, through regulations that reach deep into American life, our Ruling Class is making itself the arbiter of wealth and poverty. …By endowing some in society with the power to force others to sell cheaper than they would like to, and forcing others yet to buy at higher prices—or even to buy in the first place—modern government makes valuable some things that are not, and devalues others that are. Whatever else government may be, it is inherently a factory of privilege and inequality. “

***************

Reason said: “Few essays attracted as much attention from right-wing readers this summer as “America’s Ruling Class—and the Perils of Revolution,” an extended argument that an incestuous social set “rules uneasily over the majority of Americans.” Written by Angelo Codevilla of the Claremont Institute and first published in The American Spectator, this very long article has now been expanded into a very brief book, called The Ruling Class.”

I’ve found the book fascinating because there are so many good arguments to ponder. Real food for thought about just where we are and what we might do about it. Recommended



The Secret Knowledge: The Origins of “Social Justice” by The Elephant's Child

From the archives: October 28, 2012

The Left is deeply concerned about income inequality, you know that, they tell us so often enough. They have observed that some people live in poverty while others, particularly corporate CEOs, who get ridiculously enormous salaries that they certainly don’t deserve, are very rich. The Left considers this observed inequality as unnatural. In his book The Secret Knowledge, playwright David Mamet tackles the origins of the problem:

To correct this observed inequality, which the Left sees as unnatural, it invented the term “social justice.” But a system of Justice already exists, formulated by Legislature, in supposed expression of the will of the people, and administered by the Judiciary. This is called the Judicial System.  What then is this additional, amorphous “social justice”? It can only mean, as Hayek wrote, “State Justice.” Here, though the Left will not follow the reasoning out to its end, the State (operating upon what basis it alone knows, and responsible to no law enacted by the people) confiscates wealth accumulated under existing laws and redistributes it to those it deems worthy.

History proves that the worthiest in these Marxist schemes are or quickly become, those in charge of distribution, which is to say “the State,” it’s constitutional powers usurped by those we know as “dictators.”

To the Left it is the State which should distribute place, wealth, and status.  This is called “correcting structural error,” or redressing the legacy of Slavery,” or Affirmative Action, or constraining unfair Executive Compensation; but it is and can only be that spoils System which is decided at the ward level as “cronyism.” And lauded at the national level as “social justice.” It is nothing other than the distribution of goods and services by the government for ends not specified in the Constitution; and in response to pressure from or in attempts to curry favor with groups seeking preferment or goods not obtainable either under the law, or through those practices of mutual benefit called the Free Market. What obscenities are created in the name of “social justice?” What could possibly be less just than policies destructive of initiative and based upon genetics?

David Mamet was once a Democrat, and thought better of it. Actually he thought long and deeply about it, read a lot, and turned his considerable writing skills to explaining just why he changed his mind. It is a perfectly delightful book, and as a lifelong Conservative, I learned a lot.

David Mamet is an American playwright, screenwriter, author,and director renowned for Glengarry Glen Ross (Pulitzer, Tony nomination). As a screenwriter, he received Oscar nominations for The Verdict and Wag the Dog. His books include: The Old Religion, Five Cities of Refuge, The Wicked Son, and a long list of books and movies, television shows and even radio dramas.

 The Secret Knowledge: On the Dismantling of American Culture,  is Mamet’s book detailing his conversion from modern liberalism to “a reformed liberal.” It was released in June of 2011, and I recommend it heartily.



Christmas Gifts for Conservatives! 30% OFF ‘TIL MIDNIGHT by American Elephant

The perfect gifts & stocking-stuffers for the Conservatives on your Christmas list!

Not just t-shirts, but Hoodies, Campaign Buttons, Stickers, Mugs, Pajama sets and much, much more! ALL ITEMS are 30% today (use promo-code “HoHo”), with plenty of time to get there by Christmas! Here are just a FEW of our many available designs:

UPDATE: All items 50% OFF until 9PM. Use code “CANE”:

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The Original, Iconic 1980 Ronald Reagan primary campaign logo. Available ONLY from American Elephants!

The Original, Iconic 1980 Ronald Reagan & Bush campaign logo. Available ONLY from American Elephants!

Andrew Breitbart's Clarion Call to Conservatives, Tired of Being Demonized and Lied About By the Democrat-Media Complex

I (heart) Big Oil



The Socialist Dream — Refuted. by The Elephant's Child

The socialist dream of organizing an economy around the purpose of advancing social welfare, as it is governmentally determined and meted out, seems destined to remain an abstraction irrelevant to the world’s political and economic needs. One strange result of the collapse of socialism, and the absence of any other credible way to avoid relying on markets is that the welfare state is heavily dependent on the health of capitalism. The government cannot disburse wealth that never gets created, and creating the wealth required for modern, prosperous societies without the knowledge conveyed by prices set in markets appears to be impossible.

The liberal response to the question of paying for the welfare state has been a protracted exercise in intellectual dishonesty, borne of a conviction that the question doesn’t need to be answered if it can be made to go away. Liberals have generally been happy to tell people what they want to hear. It’s possible to have a big welfare state without worrying all that much about the costs. The programs will pay for themselves. Or an affluent society can pay for them out of the petty cash drawer. Or, the taxes required for a much bigger welfare state are ones that will be borne largely by the very rich and big corporations. None of these propositions can withstand even gentle interrogation, however, making it difficult to know whether the liberals who put them forward are remarkably cynical or remarkably feckless. In either case, whatever political advantages are secured by telling people what they want to hear about paying for the welfare state becomes ever more incoherent.

This splendid excerpt comes from Never Enough: America’s Limitless Welfare State, by William Voegeli.  A great Christmas gift for a Conservative friend. Might be too much for a Liberal. It’s also available in paperback, or kindle.



Empowering Yourself With Knowledge: by The Elephant's Child

If you are becoming alarmed by ObamaCare—and who isn’t—where do you go for more information? The Left claims that Republicans just criticize, and don’t have any ideas, but nothing could be further from the truth.

Let’s start with “The Empowering Patients First Act” a bill introduced by Representative Tom Price, MD (R-GA). Dr. Price worked as an orthopedic surgeon for twenty years in private practice. Then he had a career teaching medicine at Emory University Medical School, served in the Georgia Legislature, and was elected to Congress in 2004. You can read or download the bill at his website.

Books:

The Think Tanks:

Did you know that there are something like 600 think tanks in this country? I thought 8 were plenty to list, and all are doing important studies on health care and how to reform it, in a patient-centered, free-market way. Many have email lists where you can sign up for regular information. And check your local public library.

ObamaCare may seem to be imploding, but Democrats will not give up on their prospective single-payer health care plan, and if you want to understand where that is going, go to any British newspaper online and enter NHS in the search function.

The federal government does few things well, and health care is not one of them. The American people want no part of it, and the more they learn the more they want out. Democrats have sold their effort with a pack of lies and misrepresentation. If we hope to defeat them, we must be well-informed.



How Uncertainty Affects the Economy by The Elephant's Child

I’ve written often about the effects of policy uncertainty on business, based on comments from businessmen. Now it has become a significant issue among economists who are doing serious academic research on the topic. Business in the private sector is risky. When do you take a chance on starting a business? When do you add a new product? How much do you have to worry about your competition? Can you add a new building, expand the office, hire more employees? Imagine how many businessmen are needing more help but reluctant to hire in the current uncertainty about health insurance.

The Dallas Fed held a Conference back around the first of October on the Causes and Macroeconomic Consequences of Uncertainty. Richard Fisher, President and CEO of the Federal Reserve Bank of Dallas summed it up nicely: “Uncertainty matters a lot.” Business, he said, “is the process of managing under conditions of uncertainty, and business executives organize their teams and resources to minimize uncertainty of factors under their control; and they develop contingencies and operating tactics and strategies for factors over which they have no direct control.”

If there is one thing that you can confidently assert, it is that the Obama administration has been an outstanding generator of a vast fog of uncertainty, even as they claim to want to create jobs. Economists have been hearing from their business contacts, but “until quite recently the economists who study business cycles and monetary policy paid scant attention to the effects of uncertainty on aggregate job and output growth.” Their standard models assumed that people and businesses could insure away individual risk.

Gut feeling may work for ordinary people, but economists dealing in macroeconomics give direction to governments and help set policy and the distribution of shocks is currently far from normal. In his post John Taylor has listed the academic papers presented — with links, if you’re interested. It is a good thing that the profession has taken interest in the effects of uncertainty, and is trying to understand and quantify the reality.



Prime Minister Tony Abbott: Australia’s Carbon Tax Is Socialism by The Elephant's Child

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Australia’s newly elected prime minister spoke out forcefully on the country’s carbon tax, which he says must be abolished as quickly as possible.

“The carbon tax is bad for the economy and it doesn’t do any good for the environment,” Tony Abbott told the Washington Post. “Despite a carbon tax of $37 a ton by 2020, Australia’s domestic emissions were going up, not down. The carbon tax was basically socialism masquerading as environmentalism, and that’s why it’s going to get abolished.” ( emphasis added)

“If the Labor Party wants to give the people of Australia a Christmas present, they will vote to abolish the carbon tax. It was damaging the economy without helping the environment. It was a stupid tax. A misconceived tax,”Abbott added.

“Australia’s liberal Labor Party received a crippling blow in the recent elections, as Abbott’s conservative coalition garnered enough votes to create the largest ruling coalition in the country since 2004. Conservatives rode in on a wave of widespread disapproval of the previous government’s handling of the economy, including the imposition of a carbon tax in the summer of 2012.”



Would You Vote For This? by The Elephant's Child

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Rand Paul is pushing for a new Constitutional amendment stating:

Congress shall make no law applicable
to a citizen of the United States
that is not equally applicable to Congress
.

The amendment also contains two provisions that apply that same principle to the Executive Branch and the Judicial Branch of the federal government, according to a press release put out by the office of the Kentucky senator on Monday.

I suspect the voters would go for this — big time. Getting it through Congress might be something else entirely. Congressmen Salmon and DeSantis proposed a similar idea in the House of Representatives last August.  One would assume that the Founders would be horrified to discover the extent to which our elected officials have exempted themselves from provisions they are happy to stick us with. Might make them think twice about some of the laws they devise.



About Those Upcoming Budget Talks… by American Elephant

Glenn Hubbard of Columbia University has some sage words to bear in mind as budget talks approach. From his preface to Stephen Moore’s, Who’s the Fairest of Them All:

Not since the 1930′s has the issue of class warfare been more front and center in policy debate in Washington. President Obama is seeking higher tax rates on capital gains, dividends, estates, small business owners and “the rich.” He is not promising these ideas to enhance economic growth—but to advance the concept of fairness. If economic growth isn’t the goal, we shouldn’t be surprised if this agenda doesn’t guarantee it. But it is worse than that—unless it is reversed, this agenda will set in motion the largest tax hike in decades beginning January 1, 2013, and I know of no economic theory that would predict this policy will make America more prosperous.



And a Little Appropriate Music: by The Elephant's Child

Australia’s master guitarist, Tommy Emmanuel .



Australia Has New Management! by The Elephant's Child

Abbott, Tony Australia

Australia has new management. Prime Minister Elect Tony Abbott has led the Conservative Coalition to a resounding victory. The Australian House of Representatives has 150 seats. Kevin Rudd’s Labor party got only 54 seats, 76 are needed for a majority. The Coalition won 87 seats, the Greens 1, and other 2, with the remainder still in play. A pretty resounding rejection of the Labor party and the hated carbon tax.

Mr. Abbott is a former boxer, a Rhodes scholar, and Catholic seminarian. He has promised to rein in government spending, scrap the hated tax on carbon emissions, and stop the flow of refugee boats arriving in Australia’s northwest. He also promised to keep his promises.

Labor dumped Prime Minister Kevin Rudd in 2010, for Australia’s first female prime minister Julia Gillard, only to reinstate Rudd as leader in June of 2013 in a desperate bid to stay in power. Labor’s overall vote was the worst since 2004 when conservative prime minister won his fourth and final term. Abbott could end up with a majority of around 30 seats, ending the party’s first minority government since World War II.

Mr. Rudd had attempted to portray Abbott’s planned spending cuts as “dangerous European-style austerity” and said that Labor was best placed to manage an economy that while slowing, is still the envy of much of the developed world. Sounds familiar.

Congratulations to Mr. Abbott and to our friends Down Under




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