The Jury Talks Back

1/31/2018

High School Teacher Singles Out Vet’s Son For Wearing U.S. Marines Shirt, Then Disparages the Military

Filed under: Uncategorized — Dana @ 3:07 pm

[guest post by Dana]

Oooh, big man on campus!

El Rancho High School teacher and Pico Rivera city councilman Gregory Salcido was caught on video maligning the U.S. military after singling out a student for wearing a U.S. Marines sweatshirt during his U.S. history class. The student’s father is a Marine veteran who served in Afghanistan:

Three videos on social media of Pico Rivera Councilman Gregory Salcido, a teacher at El Rancho High School, making disparaging remarks about the military and berating a student for wearing a sweatshirt with a Marines logo have gone viral and created a backlash.

El Rancho Unified School District officials confirmed Saturday. Jan. 27 that the person speaking is Salcido and that the incident took place on school grounds.

“We acknowledge it is his voice based on the research of the incident so far and knowing it came from one of our classrooms,” district Superintendent Karling Aguilera-Fort said in a phone interview.

Salcido’s rant included insulting members of the military fighting in Iraq and Afghanistan, and claiming that people only enlist in the military because they have no other options. Because they’re just dumb, you see:

“Because we have a bunch of dumbs‑‑‑s over there,” Salcido said in the video, which is peppered with profanity. “Think about the people who you know who are over there. Your freaking stupid Uncle Louie or whatever. They’re dumbs‑‑‑s. They’re not like high-level thinkers, they’re not academic people, they’re not intellectual people. They’re the lowest of our low.”

He then spoke to the student directly:

“You better not freaking go,” Salcido says in one recording. “Don’t wear that in here.”

He also made racist comments during the rant:

Salcido is heard speaking in loaded terms about foes of the United States, saying the military was losing to “dudes wearing freaking robes and chanclas [flip-flops]” in the Middle East.

“The data is in, we don’t have a good military,” he said. “We couldn’t beat the Vietnamese. They’re a bunch of people this freaking big throwing rice at us.”

He also criticized military recruiters in public schools.

“It’s a lie that our military is freaking b‑‑‑‑ing,” he said. “Why, after the national anthem, do we have a killing machine fly over the freaking stadium? You know, the stealth bomber comes in. Everyone’s all like, ‘Yeah.’ Like, ‘That’s what we kill people with, woo.’ Why would that be something we celebrate?”

After the videos went viral, an enormous backlash followed and as a result, Salcido has been placed on administrative leave and is under investigation by the school board.

Interestingly, this isn’t the first time Salcido’s behavior in the classroom has been the cause for concern:

In May 2012, he was put on paid administrative leave after the Sheriff’s Department received a complaint that he struck a student.

In July 2010, a parent complained that Salcido had threatened his daughter, made inappropriate comments to his summer school class about race and insulted other students and parents, which Salcido denied.

He was suspended until the following fall’s first day of class.

Salcido, who was first elected to the City Council in 1999, stands on the dais with his hands at his side and does not recite the pledge of allegiance along with his colleagues during meetings.

Also, today Fox News Radio played Salcido’s rant for their guest, White House Chief of Staff John F. Kelly, himself a veteran. After hearing it, he commented:

“Well, I think the guy ought to go to hell. I just hope he enjoys the liberties and the lifestyles that we fought for.”

Perhaps high school teacher Salcido will take up one parent’s offer to educate him in an area in which he is most painfully and obviously deficient:

Untitled

(Cross-posted at The Jury Talks Back.)

–Dana

CNN: It Is Very Significant That Melania Wore White Because It Shows She Is Protesting Trump or Something

Filed under: Uncategorized — Patterico @ 10:00 am

Sarah Rumpf already posted about CNN’s blockbuster story revealing that Melania Trump traveled to the State of the Union speech separately from Trump. As Sarah said, the story might be worth a brief mention in the current environment — Stormy Daniels just denied having had a sexual relationship with Trump, but Melania has been less openly defensive of Trump lately, and stories abound about her recent seeming independence — but it’s hardly the biggest story out there.

But there is a paragraph in that CNN story that I think is worth a separate post, because it shows how absurd Big Media can get:

Melania Trump appeared to a standing ovation in the Capitol and was seated for her husband’s speech just one minute before its scheduled start.

Wearing a cream pantsuit by French design house Christian Dior, and a white silk blouse from Italian label Dolce & Gabbana, the first lady looked coincidentally very similar to the female Democratic congressional members who last year at Trump’s address to the Joint Session of Congress protested Trump’s policies by wearing white, the color of suffragettes.

It’s quite obvious that CNN doesn’t think this is a coincidence at all. They think Melania is sending them a Coded Signal: Help! I’m being oppressed! But I’m fighting back by wearing white like the suffragettes!

Please.

Near the end — after the recitation of all the other White House couples who have ridden to the SOTU together, I see one other attention-getting line that may explain a lot:

CNN’s Jim Acosta contributed to this report.

Well of course he did.

[Cross-posted at RedState.]

1/30/2018

CHAPSTICKAQUIDDICK: Joe Kennedy III Rebuttal Suffers from Major Makeup Malfunction

Filed under: Uncategorized — Patterico @ 8:28 pm

In 1960, a young Kennedy debated Richard Nixon, and a makeup malfunction doomed Nixon, who appeared to have a five o’clock shadow. Popular wisdom says that’s all she wrote.

Tonight, a young Kennedy sought to make his mark on the world, and his ambitions were derailed by … some kinda goop that was smeared all over his lips — under them, over them, just everywhere — like some horrible Vaseline experiment gone wrong.

Whaa?

WHOA.

As the headline suggests, it’s already being dubbed Chapstickaquiddick.

And what was the deal with that car in the background??

Disaster all around. Which is what you have come to expect from the Democrats.

[Cross-posted at RedState.]

#ReleaseTheMemo Hyperbole Reaches Fever Pitch

Filed under: Uncategorized — Patterico @ 9:30 am

The Trumpalos are beside themselves as #ReleaseTheMemo approaches:

TRUMPALO 1: The things described in the Devin Nunes #ReleaseTheMemo are 10,000 times worse than Stalin’s purge!!

TRUMPALO 2: Oh yeah? I say the things described in the Devin Nunes #ReleaseTheMemo are eleventy bajillion times worse than the Holocaust!!!1!

Yes, the hyperbole is freely flowing as the excitement builds towards the #Release of #the all-important #Memo, which is a doubtless partisan and selective distillation of what was presented to a FISA court in the Russia investigation. Here’s Wikileaks confidante Sean Hannity, telling us that the things described in #TheMemo are worse than Watergate:

Hey, stealing a Snickers bar is serious business, Sean. Don’t minimize it.

Not to be outdone, here’s Sebastian Gorka, telling us that the things described in #TheMemo are worse (by an order of magnitude, natch!) than the “long train of abuses and usurpations” that led the 13 colonies to revolt:

As the vituperative exaggerations fly, like some political game of the dozens, I offer this advice: for God’s sake, whatever you do: don’t ask for a redacted version of the underlying documentation.

One-sided partisan attacks that hide the source material are bad when they appear in the #FAKENEWSMEDIA, but they’re A-OK here.

Plus, #ReleaseTheDocumentation is just a terrible hashtag.

[Cross-posted at RedState.]

1/29/2018

FBI Deputy Director McCabe Out

Filed under: Uncategorized — Dana @ 1:08 pm

[guest post by Dana]

FBI Deputy Director McCabe either stepped down or was pushed out, depending on who you ask:

FBI Deputy Director Andrew McCabe, who has been attacked by President Donald Trump, stepped down Monday, multiple sources familiar with the matter told NBC News.

McCabe will remain on the FBI payroll until he is eligible to retire with full benefits in mid-March, the sources said.

One source said McCabe was exercising his retirement eligibility and characterized his decision as “stepping aside.”

However:

Untitled

Here is White House spokesperson Sarah Sanders denying that President Trump had been pressuring Justice and FBI in any of the investigation matters, and saying that the White House did not make the decision about McCabe’s departure. She also said that the White House has gone above and beyond in the investigation, and that the only thing the president has applied pressure to is to make sure that this issue is resolved so Americans get “the Russia fever out of their system”. She wants Americans to be reminded that there was no collusion, as well as stating that the president has not been involved in any obstruction of justice or impropriety:

–Dana

That BuzzFeed Story on Trump Condos and Money Laundering Is Garbage Partisan Spin

Filed under: Uncategorized — Patterico @ 9:00 am

It’s How to Get Clicks 101: write a story that slams Donald Trump and brand it “investigative journalism.” BuzzFeed, the premier “do it to get clicks” Web site, followed the mold this month with a piece designed to suggest that Donald Trump sells condos to money launderers. Except that the piece actually proves something like the opposite of what it purports to show. If anything, the piece shows that Trump doesn’t sell condos to money launderers any more than any other seller of luxury condos.

The piece is from January 12 but is getting some buzz on social media in the last 24 hours, with Amanda Carpenter tweeting:

We haven’t discussed it here yet. So even though the story is two weeks old, it’s still worth picking apart to see what’s under the hood.

The breathless headline of the piece is Secret Money: How Trump Made Millions Selling Condos To Unknown Buyers. The deck headline reads: “A BuzzFeed News review of every sale of a Trump-branded condominium in the United States provides the first comprehensive look at how many went to unidentified buyers who paid cash, an indication of possible money laundering.” The opening is dramatic and sounds meaningful:

More than one-fifth of Donald Trump’s US condominiums have been purchased since the 1980s in secretive, all-cash transactions that enable buyers to avoid legal scrutiny by shielding their finances and identities, a BuzzFeed News investigation has found.

Records show that more than 1,300 Trump condominiums were bought not by people but by shell companies, and that the purchases were made without a mortgage, avoiding inquiries from lenders.

Those two characteristics signal that a buyer may be laundering money, the Treasury Department has said in a series of statements since 2016. Treasury’s financial-crimes unit has, in recent years, launched investigations around the country into all-cash shell-company real-estate purchases amid concerns that some such sales may involve money laundering. The agency is considering requiring real-estate professionals to adopt anti-money-laundering programs.

Wow! Except, not. The very first question that pops into the non-partisan reader’s head is: so how does this stack up against sales by other sellers of luxury homes and condos?

It’s in there somewhere; I know I saw it. Hang on while I scroll.

*Patterico scrolls, mutters to himself, scrolls some more, scrolls past the infographic, keeps scrolling, keeps muttering*

Ah! There it is! Right there in … paragraph 30:

The property records analyzed by BuzzFeed News would not by themselves reveal money laundering – only warning signs. And Trump is not unique in selling condos to cash-paying shell companies. BuzzFeed News examined non-Trump buildings in Manhattan and South Florida and found that roughly the same percentage of units were sold to shell companies in all-cash transactions as in Trump buildings.

Such sales are increasingly common in the expensive real estate markets where Trump has operated such as Manhattan and Florida’s Miami-Dade County.

The bolded language there in the 30th paragraph of the piece basically takes all the news value out of the story. The headline would be more accurate if it read: “Extensive Investigation Shows Trump Condo Sales No More Involved in Money Laundering Than Any Other High-End Real Estate Transactions.”

And yet, somehow, that was not the headline, for some rea$on. (I’m pretty sure I stole that gag from Allahpundit but it’s a good one.)

The rest of the story is more of the same, with alleged “red flags” that turn out to be consistent with normal business:

Corporations registered in Delaware, which FinCEN says provides “the least transparency” with corporate records of any state, bought an additional 75 Trump condos in all-cash sales that totaled $129 million. “If the corporation is set up in places where there’s some level of confidentiality, which includes Delaware, that’s another red flag,” John Madinger, a retired Treasury official and IRS special agent who investigated financial crimes, said, speaking generally about property sales.

So very suspicious! Except, Delaware is universally known to be the most favorable state for corporations — all corporations, not just dirty ones — in the United States. A 2007 publication from the State of Delaware (.pdf) gives the details: “Close to a million business entities have made Delaware their legal home. Furthermore, while the sheer number of corporations organized in Delaware is significant, more significant still is the fact that so many large and important corporations are incorporated in Delaware. Of the corporations that make up the Fortune 500, more than one-half are incorporated in Delaware.” Wow! Look at all the corporations with “red flags”! They must all be money launderers!!!1!

Or maybe they chose Delaware because of the favorable corporate environment — not just on secrecy, but on taxes, the currency and thoroughness of the statutes government corporations, and the Delaware courts, which specialize in corporate law and issues affecting corporations.

Here’s another alleged “red flag” for Trump condo salaes:

Eighty-three percent of the secretive sales occurred in markets that FinCEN is investigating for possible money laundering in real estate sales. In those markets – Manhattan, South Florida, and Honolulu – FinCEN is examining every luxury-home sale to a shell company that paid cash.

So very suspicious! Except, that’s where Trump’s condos are:

Nine of the buildings are in Manhattan, seven are in South Florida, and one each is in Chicago; Honolulu; Las Vegas; Jersey City, New Jersey; Stamford, Connecticut; and White Plains, New York.

If you do the math, you’ll see that 17 of the 23 buildings are in Manhattan, South Florida, or Honolulu. That’s 74% of the buildings. So it’s not shocking that 83% of the “secretive sales” would happen in one of those locations.

Look: it’s practically certain that a sizable percentage of these sales were made to money launderers. As the piece makes clear, that’s normal and expected in luxury real estate. BuzzFeed didn’t make up the criteria used by investigators who pursue money launderers. Many of the transactions do indeed fit the pattern.

Take the Paul Manafort case as an example of how money launderers operate in general. The indictment has allegations of money laundering through purchasing real estate (and luxury goods) paid for by shell companies based in Cyprus. That’s how they do it.

What’s offensive is not gathering the facts. It’s the spin they put on those facts.

But hey. It gets clicks. And in the end, isn’t that what really matters?

[Cross-posted at RedState.]

1/28/2018

Hillary Clinton’s Catch-22: Refused to Fire Male Campaign Faith Advisor Accused of Sexual Harassment

Filed under: Uncategorized — Patterico @ 12:58 pm

[Guest post by Dana]

Although she has been referred to as the inspiration for the #MeToo movement and is the self-proclaimed champion of women holding an iconic position in the feminist movement, it turns out that Hillary Clinton is little more than a garden-variety hypocrite, and far less an inspiration and champion of women than her claims as a presidential candidate would have led us to believe. This is not really anything that we did not already know; however, a new report really drives it home:

A senior [faith] adviser to Hillary Clinton’s 2008 presidential campaign who was accused of repeatedly sexually harassing a young subordinate was kept on the campaign at Mrs. Clinton’s request, according to four people familiar with what took place.

Mrs. Clinton’s campaign manager at the time recommended that she fire the adviser, Burns Strider. But Mrs. Clinton did not. Instead, Mr. Strider was docked several weeks of pay and ordered to undergo counseling, and the young woman was moved to a new job.

Here are the particulars:

The complaint against Mr. Strider was made by a 30-year-old woman who shared an office with him. She told a campaign official that Mr. Strider had rubbed her shoulders inappropriately, kissed her on the forehead and sent her a string of suggestive emails, including at least one during the night, according to three former campaign officials familiar with what took place.

The complaint was taken to Ms. Doyle, the campaign manager, who approached Mrs. Clinton and urged that Mr. Strider, who was married at the time, be fired, according to the officials familiar with what took place. Mrs. Clinton said she did not want to, and instead he remained on her staff.

Note: Strider sent the Hillary Clinton scripture readings every morning during the campaign so that the candidate could start her day focused on the things of God, and one assumes that Strider, her spiritual advisor, could lead her to a deeper, more meaningful experience in the faith during a stressful season of campaigning. Ha!

Here is an overview of the complaint made against Strider, whom she did not want to fire for said behavior against a young female employee:

The complaint against Mr. Strider was made by a 30-year-old woman who shared an office with him. She told a campaign official that Mr. Strider had rubbed her shoulders inappropriately, kissed her on the forehead and sent her a string of suggestive emails, including at least one during the night, according to three former campaign officials familiar with what took place.

This is the behavior that Hillary Clinton — Champion of Women and inspiration for the #MeToo movement — believed was negligible. An employee who was her “faith” advisor, as well as an alleged sexual harasser whom she protected. Unsurprisingly, Strider was later hired by longtime Clinton supporter David Brock for her next campaign run, and was fired within several months when another complaint of sexual harassment was made against him by a female employee.

Clinton responded to this report with typical obfuscations and distractions, once again demonstrating that she believes people – especially women – are just dumb and easily manipulated:

A story appeared today about something that happened in 2008. I was dismayed when it occurred, but was heartened the young woman came forward, was heard, and had her concerns taken seriously and addressed.

I called her today to tell her how proud I am of her and to make sure she knows what all women should: we deserve to be heard.

This is not the response of an empowered woman equipped to break glass ceilings and effect any real change. This is simply the response of a deceptive individual who manipulates in order to push away any personal accountability. The only surprising thing about her response is that she did not blame this on a vast right-wing conspiracy.

While I believe Hillary Clinton to be irrelevant and residing in the trash heap of politics, it’s good to have her baked-in hypocrisy exposed yet again. Amusingly, no matter where her political path may lead in the future, she will forever, and I assume frustratingly, remain hamstrung by the bad behavior of her own sexually harassing husband. It’s her ever-present Catch-22, if you will:

Granted, Clinton is in an exquisitely awkward place when it comes to determining how to punish sexual harassment in the workplace. You don’t need me to explain why. But it is possible to imagine her thinking process: If I can this guy for doing way less than my own husband did with a subordinate in his workplace, how’s that going to look? Well, Clinton erred in the other direction, and that’s not looking so good now, is it?

Poor Hillary.

— Dana

Sunday Music: Bach Cantata BWV 78

Filed under: Uncategorized — Patterico @ 7:00 am

It is the fourth Sunday after the Epiphany. The title of today’s cantata is “Jesu, der du meine Seele” (Jesus, You, who are my soul).

Today’s Gospel reading is Mark 1:21-28.

And they went into Capernaum; and straightway on the sabbath day he entered into the synagogue, and taught.

And they were astonished at his doctrine: for he taught them as one that had authority, and not as the scribes.

And there was in their synagogue a man with an unclean spirit; and he cried out,

Saying, Let us alone; what have we to do with thee, thou Jesus of Nazareth? art thou come to destroy us? I know thee who thou art, the Holy One of God.

And Jesus rebuked him, saying, Hold thy peace, and come out of him.

And when the unclean spirit had torn him, and cried with a loud voice, he came out of him.

And they were all amazed, insomuch that they questioned among themselves, saying, What thing is this? what new doctrine is this? for with authority commandeth he even the unclean spirits, and they do obey him.

And immediately his fame spread abroad throughout all the region round about Galilee.

The text of today’s cantata is available here. The first chorus echoes the theme of the Gospel reading, describing Jesus rescuing the writer’s soul from “the devil’s dark pit”:

Jesus, You, who my soul,
though Your bitter death,
out of the devil’s dark pit
and the heavy anguish of the soul
have powerfully rescued,
and have let all this be known to me
through your delightful Word,
be now, o God, my treasure!

The theme runs throughout the cantata, which is quite beautiful.

The chorale tune — heard as a passacaglia in the opening chorale and more straightforwardly in the final chorale — is based on the hymn by the same name (“Jesu, der du meine Seele”) by Johann Rist. Here is a piano version of the tune, with sheet music on the video portion so you can follow along.

Happy listening!

[Cross-posted at RedState.]

1/26/2018

Fox and Friends: Who Cares If Trump Wanted to Fire Mueller?

Filed under: Uncategorized — Patterico @ 9:30 am

This morning Fox and Friends, otherwise known as President Trump’s Most Trusted Advisers, responded to the recent New York Times story that Donald Trump planned to fire Robert Mueller last June. The hosts, after questioning the story (which their own network had confirmed) basically shrugged their shoulders. Their take: who cares?

You gotta love it. “Well, the president says it’s fake news, that happened last June, it’s something we have to tell you about because it’s a headline on the NY Times. What do you think about that? Do you even care? Something you probably do care about is immigration.”

By the way, if you care about immigration, Trump is proposing a giant amnesty. So there’s that.

Andrea Ruth noted earlier this morning how Sean Hannity opened his show last night ridiculing the New York Times story. Then Hannity had to comically acknowledge that, yes, sources are confirming that did indeed happen. Hannity’s sudden backtrack was apparently prompted by Ed Henry’s story saying quite clearly that, according to Fox News’s own source, the story had validity:

President Trump told top officials this past June that he wanted to fire special counsel Robert Mueller, but was talked out of doing so by White House counsel Don McGahn and other aides, a source close to the White House told Fox News late Thursday.

Andrea had the Hannity video but I can’t resist showing it again.

It’s the greatest Emily Litella moment since Lindsey Graham’s hilarious 180 on whether Trump is a kook and unfit for office:

I guess the Fox fan base didn’t like Henry’s story, because this morning, Fox is backtracking:

Trump may have been floating a trial balloon: how would people react to the firing of Mueller?

If so, the message Trump is hearing is: his most diehard fans would be just fine with it. They have all supported the administration’s campaign to discredit the FBI and Mueller.

Still, it’s hard to see how the notion of firing Mueller squares with Trump’s (foolish) statement that he is willing to talk to Mueller. My guess is that Trump is so anxious to see the probe end that he’s not contemplating firing Mueller. Trump probably sees an interview with Mueller as the light at the end of the tunnel. (You know the old saying about that light being the headlamp of an oncoming train.) But when Trump inevitably lies in that interview — if he is foolish enough to go ahead with it — the smearing of Mueller and the FBI will help blunt the force of a report to Congress that documents those lies in detail.

Exit question, as Allahpundit says: didn’t Fox and Friends once warn Trump that it would be a mistake to fire Mueller, or did I imagine that? I could swear it happened, but the closest thing I could find is this piece saying that their general view was to let the investigation play out. Did any of them say anything stronger than that? Let me know in the comments if you remember any such thing.

[Cross-posted at RedState.]

1/25/2018

Evening Open Thread: Trump Edition

Filed under: Uncategorized — Patterico @ 9:09 pm

I have been slammed at work but several Trump developments have happened that I know y’all want to talk about. Nothing says “half-assed post” like a post with the title “Open Thread.” So here we go.

* So Trump wants to have a big amnesty, in return for Congress funding a wall that we were told Mexico would pay for. A path to citizenship is the cherry on top! Ted Cruz says no.

* So Trump wants to talk to Mueller — and do it “under oath.” Allahpundit says it well:

Unless you think Trump’s prepared to handle hours of questioning from the Mueller dream team without telling a single lie — and we’re talking here about a guy who sometimes seems like he’d have trouble ordering a sandwich without telling a fib or two — he’s practically begging for a perjury charge.

We’ll spend months arguing about whether an obvious lie is really a lie, and whether lying to federal agents and/or perjury should really justify impeachment. (Hint: the right answer is yes for Hillary, no for Trump, because reasons. Hot takes a plenty will explain those reasons. I can’t wait.)

* Stormy Daniels just smiles when asked if she and Trump had sex.

Have at it.

Judge’s Intemperate Comments in Sentencing Gymnastics Doctor Probably Not a Ground to Reverse the Sentence

Filed under: Uncategorized — Patterico @ 9:30 am

You have no doubt heard about the case of Larry Nassar, the gymnastics doctor who pled guilty to 10 counts of criminal sexual conduct with girls under the age of 16. After several days of victim impact statements from over 160 girls (!), the judge sentenced him to 40 to 175 years in prison.

As the TV cameras rolled, the judge pulled no punches in her comments from the bench. She made the comment “I just signed your death warrant” and told Nassar he should never walk a free man again. In probably the most eye-opening statement, she apparently said: “Our Constitution does not allow for cruel and unusual punishment. If it did, I have to say, I might allow what he did to all of these beautiful souls—these young women in their childhood—I would allow someone or many people to do to him what he did to others.”

Now some people are claiming that the judge’s grandstanding during the sentencing might endanger the sentence:

Maybe he can appeal, but I doubt the sentence would be reversed as a result of these comments.

There was definitely some media showboating going on here. During sentencing, a judge is entitled to serve as the conscience of the community, and send a message to the defendant that his conduct is criminal and unacceptable and deserves to be punished. That said, fantasizing about the defendant being raped is intemperate and inappropriate. However, I doubt that an appellate court is going to reverse the sentence for that.

In my career I have heard, or heard about, judges delivering zingers from the bench at sentencing. They can indeed pose problems on appeal. For example, at the sentencing for a particularly nasty gang member whom I prosecuted for murder, the defendant’s lawyer told the judge that the defendant should be praised for taking the stand and giving testimony that exonerated his co-defendant. The judge replied: “I think he should be put up against a wall and shot.” Then the judge sentenced the defendant to the maximum, which was over 100 years to life. The judge’s comment became an issue on appeal, and the appellate court said that the comment was intemperate and inappropriate. However, they declined to reverse the sentence, saying that the judge had very little discretion in any event, and that any anger the judge was expressing was based, not on some unrelated prejudice, but rather on the defendant’s conduct as revealed at the trial.

Here’s a story of a zinger that poses no grounds for appeal. Legend has it that a defendant in Los Angeles County received a long and richly deserved prison sentence for crimes of violence. As the defendant was being taken out of the courtroom, he yelled at the judge: “Judge, I can’t do that much time!” The judge looked calmly at the defendant and said: “Do as much as you can.”

It’s unfortunate that TV cameras so often turn courtrooms into circuses. From Judge Lance Ito’s embarrassing performance in the O.J. Simpson case to this judge’s fantasies about prison rape, the cameras turn everyone into carnival performers. But I don’t see the sentence here getting reversed because of a little showboating.

[Cross-posted at RedState.]

1/24/2018

Why Government Debt Is Bad: Refuting the Argument That “We Pay It to Ourselves”

Filed under: Uncategorized — Patterico @ 9:00 am

It’s time for another installment of Things That Nobody Talks About Anymore. This is the Government Debt Edition, where I pour my heart out discussing a topic that five people still care about. Today I want to refute the argument that you may have heard from time to time from New Keynesians like Paul Krugman: government debt is not really a problem because We Pay It to Ourselves. Krugman has ridden this hobby horse many a time, making arguments like this:

I want to expand a bit on something Dean Baker said yesterday:

As a country we cannot impose huge debt burdens on our children. It is impossible, at least if we are referring to government debt. The reason is simple: at one point we will all be dead. That means that the ownership of our debt will be passed on to our children. If we have some huge thousand trillion dollar debt that is owed to our children, then how have we imposed a burden on them? There is a distributional issue — Bill Gates’ children may own all the debt — but that is within generations, not between generations. As a group, our children’s well-being will be determined by the productivity of the economy (which Brooks complained about earlier), the state of the physical and social infrastructure and the environment.

. . . .

People think of debt’s role in the economy as if it were the same as what debt means for an individual: there’s a lot of money you have to pay to someone else. But that’s all wrong; the debt we create is basically money we owe to ourselves, and the burden it imposes does not involve a real transfer of resources.

That’s not to say that high debt can’t cause problems — it certainly can. But these are problems of distribution and incentives, not the burden of debt as is commonly understood. And as Dean says, talking about leaving a burden to our children is especially nonsensical; what we are leaving behind is promises that some of our children will pay money to other children, which is a very different kettle of fish.

This argument might sound plausible on its face — if you have never heard the counterarguments.

I recently finished Bob Murphy’s course on the History of Economic Thought at Liberty Classroom, and he armed listeners with four arguments to refute the “We Pay It To Ourselves” trope. I’ll do my best to summarize them here. The fourth argument is the one that takes on Krugman’s points most directly.

First, it’s not really true that we pay the debt entirely to ourselves. Foreign governments like China own over $6 trillion of the $20 trillion debt. It’s not a majority of it, but it’s a sizable chunk.

Second, government debt funds government spending, which consumes resources that would otherwise be available to the private sector. This is bad because government spending is less efficient than the private sector. It’s easy to see why. The private sector runs on voluntary transactions. If A gives a dollar to B for a widget, it’s because A thinks he’s better off with the widget than the dollar. B thinks he’s better off with the dollar than the widget. The very fact that the voluntary transaction occurred means that, at the time of the transaction, both parties believed they were coming out ahead.

The same cannot be said for government transactions, which are funded by taxes — which are collected, not voluntarily, but by the threat that men will come to your front door with guns to throw you into a cage if you don’t pay them. The fact that a government transaction happened is not, by itself, proof that society is better off.

By crowding out the private sector, and consuming resources that would otherwise be used by the private sector, the government insures that the private sector must compete more for remaining resources. This drives up prices and hurts everyone. We may need government for certain public goods like the common defense, but paying for it comes at a real cost.

Third, ultimately debt must be paid by taxation, and taxation itself distorts the system and makes us poorer. If people want to discourage the use of gasoline, they pass a gas tax. Don’t like sugary sodas? We pass a soda tax. Same with cigarettes, alcohol, etc. Well, passing a tax on income derived from work means less work is done. Taxing investment gains means less investment. These activities still happen, just like people still smoke and drink and use gasoline, but there is less of it on the margins. Less investment and work hurts the economy.

But it’s Murphy’s fourth point that I find most interesting, and that punches Krugman’s arguments directly in the face. Murphy makes use of a chart that I believe is proprietary and that I should not reproduce here. If you want to see it, try out Liberty Classroom! But I’m taking it as a challenge to describe it in words.

Essentially, to make things simple, Murphy pretends for the sake of argument that the first three points I just made are all wrong. Foreign countries own no debt; the private sector is not deprived of resources; taxes create no distortionary effects on incentives.

Murphy asks you to imagine a very simple society that always has two people, one young and one old. In Murphy’s simplified society, the currency is apples. Everyone grows 100 apples per generation, and absent government intervention they would consume them. But then government intervenes and has young people consume fewer apples when they are young, in exchange for a promise to get even more apples when they are old.

In generation 1, you have Al (old) and Bob (young). (The names begin with letters from the alphabet in sequence.) The government borrows 3 apples from young Bob to give to Old Al. It promises to pay young Bob 6 apples when he is old.

In generation 2, Al is dead. Bob is now old and Christy is young. The government borrows 6 apples from young Christy to repay Bob, who is now old. Note that, at the same interest rate, the government must borrow more apples from young Christy than it borrowed from Bob when he was young — because the government has to pay back old Bob with interest. Christy gives up 6 apples when young, but will get 12 when she is old.

Then, in generation 3, Bob is dead, and we have young Dave and old Christy. The government borrows 12 apples from young Dave to repay (now old) Christy. It must borrow more apples from young Dave from than it borrowed from young Christy. As time goes on, the number of apples demanded and paid grows each generation.

And then it all blows up. Finally, the amount of interest becomes so large that it is impossible to pay the current old generation by simply borrowing apples from the young generation.

That’s when the taxation starts.

If you keep running the scenario, you’ll see that young Frank lends the government 48 apples to repay old Eddy. But when Frank gets old, you can’t borrow enough from young George to repay Frank. So the government pays old Frank the 96 apples he is owed by a) borrowing 10 from young George and also b) taxing old Frank 86 apples. The government taxes old Frank to pay old Frank.

It’s more convincing to see it visually, but the point is that, over time, future generations are indeed worse off because they end up being taxed to pay the bondholders. We are literally “paying it to ourselves” — by being taxed, so the government can repay our investment. This makes future generations poorer, by reducing the value of their investments. They will still make the investments — Frank still comes out ahead 10 apples — but their investments will pay less because they are being taxed to pay for the spendthrift ways of past generations.

So, even in a society where “we pay it to ourselves,” we tax ourselves to pay it. Ultimately, the earlier generations are still robbing from later generations.

Government debt is intergenerational theft. It’s wrong. Don’t let the Paul Krugmans of the world tell you otherwise.

[Cross-posted at RedState.]

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