Venezuela Oil Industry Collapsing & May Take the Gov’t With It

Venezuela has the largest proven oil reserve in the world. However, they are out of gasoline. The government has attributed this to poor management which has led to the stoppage of 80% of the country’s refineries. So much for socialism. The assumption that government is competent of managing anything is proven by this very example.
My old friend, Milton Friedman, said it best:
‘If you put the Federal Government in charge of the Sahara desert, in 5 years there’d be a shortage of sand.’

This post was published at Armstrong Economics on Dec 28, 2017.

$1.5 Trillion GOP Tax Bill Signed By Trump – Housing Largely Uneffected Thanks To Lower Marginal Tax Rates (Ham and Mayonnaise!)

This is a syndicated repost courtesy of Snake Hole Lounge. To view original, click here. Reposted with permission.
President Trump on Friday signed the Republican $1.5 trillion tax overhaul that is expected to trigger tax cuts for most Americans next year. The GOP/Trump bill undoes some of the damage caused by the tax increases put in place on January 1, 2015 by the Obamacare legislation such as increasing the top bracket from 35% to 39.6%.
Although this is not related to housing per se, the corporate tax rate has been cut to 21%, putting the US in the middle of the G-7 nations instead of being the most heavily tax major nation on earth.

This post was published at Wall Street Examiner on December 26, 2017.

Three Cheers for the GOP Tax Plan

Last night the Senate passed the Republican proposed tax plan, a major political victory for Trump and the GOP-controlled Congress.
At the Mises Wire, we have featured numerous articles pointing out many of the fallacies involved with the general debate on the issue of “tax reform.” For example, the absurdity of “revenue neutral” reform, the danger of raising rates through eliminating loop hopes, the fallacy of trying to address the deficit through eliminating deductions on state and local taxes, and the general notion that tax breaks can be equated to tax subsidies. While the Republican bill does fall for some of these traps, the result of the bill as a whole is a genuine reduction in the tax burden for the majority of Americans. That is always something worth celebrating.
There are additional benefits to be found within the bill as well.
For example, the elimination of the Obamacare individual mandate is a small, but significant, step to improving the American healthcare system. As I noted in March, when Paul Ryan’s attempt at Obamacare reform failed, the rise of direct primary care and other market solutions meant that the best thing the GOP could do is simply provide as much freedom as possible for Americans to opt out of government-managed insurance markets:
Given that this is happening naturally on the market already, the legislative focus for those in Washington concerned about American healthcare should be preventing any future laws and regulations that would destroy this model going forward. Further, rather than trying to completely overhaul Obamacare, simply eliminating the individual mandate tax and allowing Health Savings Accounts to be used for healthcare membership would be subtle ways of empowering the market to revolutionize American medicine. This should be coupled with real tax cuts, not ‘revenue neutral reform’ to help Americans keep their own hard-earned money to help pay for it.

This post was published at Ludwig von Mises Institute on 12/20/2017.

Trump May Delay Signing Tax Bill Until Early Next Year

As the House prepares to hold its second vote on the final version of the Republican tax plan, Fox Business and Dow Jones Newswires are reporting that President Donald Trump might wait until early next year to sign the bill once it reaches his desk. His reason? By delaying the signing, Trump would effectively push certain spending cuts to programs like Medicare until 2019.
At issue are so-called “pay as you go,” or “pay-go,” budget rules that could be triggered by deficits in the tax bill. Congressional Republicans are preparing a separate fix to waive the rules after they finish the tax bill. But – given their already jam-packed legislative schedule – if Congress fails to pass the waiver before its year-end recess, one way to delay the cuts would be to wait until January to sign the bill.
If successful, the waiver would likely be attached to Congress’s ‘continuing resolution’ bill that would keep the government funded through Jan. 19.

This post was published at Zero Hedge on Dec 20, 2017.

House Passes Tax-Reform Bill – 12 Republicans, All Democrats Vote Against

Here are the House Republicans who voted against the tax bill, which of course raises the question: With his NO vote, what secret message was Rohrabacher sending to Putin & Assange? pic.twitter.com/B66BY0uIZC
— Ira Goldman (@KDbyProxy) December 19, 2017

After more than six weeks of frenzied negotiations, the House of Representatives has passed the reconciled version of President Donald Trump’s tax plan, leaving only one major hurdle between Republicans and their biggest legislative accomplishment of the Trump era.
In a 227-203 vote, the House passed the tax plan over united Democratic opposition, as well as a flurry of ‘no’ votes from blue-state Republicans who spoke out against provisions in the bill that eliminate deductions for state and local taxesthat will disproportionately impact taxpayers in high-tax states like California and New York. Ultimately, 12 Republicans joined 191 Democrats in voting against the bill.
The vote followed an empassioned debate with Democrats – who labeled the bill the White House “tax scam” – slamming the bill as an attempt to establish a “permanent plutocracy.” Republicans countered that it would benefit all Americans, and evidence of its sanguine impact on the economy would emerge over the next year.
The contentious debate that preceded the vote was interrupted several times by protesters, including people who shouted “kill the bill, don’t kill us!” The Hill pointed out that one of the protesters was a woman in a wheelchair who said she relies on Medicaid and warned that the bill would “starve” the public.

This post was published at Zero Hedge on Dec 19, 2017.

Republican Tax Plan Is Headed For Final Round Of Votes

Barring some unforeseen catastrophe (or another floor-vote surprise akin to Sen. John McCain’s last minute decision to strike down the Senate’s plan to repeal and replace Obamacare), Congressional Republicans appear all but certain to pass the reconciled version of President Donald Trump’s tax-cut plan – the first time Congress has successfully passed comprehensive tax reform since 1986.
With their self-imposed Friday deadline looming, the Republicans’ Senate leadership managed to secure commitments from several holdouts, including Maine Sen. Susan Collins, Florida Sen. Marco Rubio and Utah Sen. Mike Lee.
At last count, the only Senator who hasn’t committed to a ‘yes’ vote is Arizona’s Jeff Flake. Flake famously delivered a scathing speech condemning President Trump from the floor of the Senate after announcing that he would not seek another term. He has been an outspoken Republican critic of the Trump agenda, per Reuters.
Meanwhile, Sen. Bob Corker – the only senator who voted against the Senate’s original tax bill – said late last week that he would vote for the current bill after several provisions were added that would benefit him personally, along with a handful of other Republicans.

This post was published at Zero Hedge on Dec 19, 2017.

Will Myanmar Embrace Market Reforms?

The economic growth in Myanmar is now among the highest in Asia, and it’s come a long way since the 1960’s when it was considered one of the world’s most impoverished countries. It’s instructive to understand how this change took place, what some of the current economic metrics indicate, and current pressures being placed on Myanmar from the outside.
For starters, the general history of Myanmar (also known as Burma, and the reason for the two names is interesting in itself) is long and fascinating. More recently, Myanmar was conquered by Great Britain (it was actually a part of British India, which was responsible for much of the administration) in 1855, and became relatively affluent in this part of the world, primarily due to the trade of rice and oil.
However, even before British rule, Myanmar was already relatively well off due to its strategic location along important trade routes. Myanmar is located between India and China – Indian influence is still present, even today, and was resented, along with British control – and this trading activity helped offset a country based on self-sufficient agriculture and centralized control via a king.
Britain ruled Myanmar until independence in 1948, when a series of nationalization and central planning efforts created a welfare state. The results were disastrous. Rice exports fell by two-thirds in the 1950’s, along with a 96% decline in mineral exports. In order to maintain central planning efforts, the government resorted to printing money, and runaway prices resulted from this inflation of the money supply.

This post was published at Ludwig von Mises Institute on Dec 18, 2017.

The Tea Party, Ten Years Later

December 16, 2017 is the tenth anniversary of the modern Tea Party. That fact will surprise many laypersons who uncritically accept the mainstream narrative that the Tea Party began on February 19, 2009 when Rick Santelli, live on CNBC from the Chicago Mercantile Exchange (CME), declared a rebellion against “socialism” one month into the Obama administration.
But wait a minute: Rick Santelli on establishment NBC lighting the spark of an anti-establishment rebellion? An uprising over mere proposed Obama bailouts of mortgage holders coming four months after silence over (if not a defense of) George W. Bush’s $700 billion TARP bailout of Wall Street?
If the mainstream narrative seems fishy, that is because it is. What really happened ten years ago and how was the Tea Party transformed from a libertarian grass-roots movement to today’s controlled (and just-about dead) establishment version? What are some of the lessons that can be learned?

This post was published at Ludwig von Mises Institute on 12/18/2017.

THE JOURNAL OF LIBERTARIAN STUDIES

Libertarians tend to focus on two important units of analysis: the individual and the state. And yet, one of the most dramatic and significant events of our time has been the reemergence-with a bang-in the last five years of a third and much neglected aspect of the real world, the “nation.” When the “nation” has been thought of at all, it usually comes attached to the state, as in the common word, “the nation-state,” but this concept takes a particular development of recent centuries and elaborates it into a universal maxim. In the last five years, however, we have seen, as a corollary of the collapse of communism in the Soviet Union and in Eastern Europe, a vivid and startlingly swift decomposition of the centralized State or alleged nation-State into its constituent nationalities. The genuine nation, or nationality, has made a dramatic reappearance on the world stage.
I. THE RE-EMERGENCE OF THE NATION The “nation,” of course, is not the same thing as the state, a difference that earlier libertarians and classical liberals such as Ludwig von Mises and Albert Jay Nock understood full well. Contemporary libertarians often assume, mistakenly, that individuals are bound to each other only by the nexus of market exchange. They forget that everyone is necessarily born into a family, a language, and a culture. Every person is born into one or several overlapping communities, usually including an ethnic group, with specific values, cultures, religious beliefs, and traditions. He is generally born into a “country.” He is always born into a specific historical context of time and place, meaning neighborhood and land area.

This post was published at Ludwig von Mises Institute on 12/09/2017.