Incentives matter

If I was one of Romney’s advisers I would have recommended that Romney not concede anything regarding his remarks.

I don’t think his “not as elegantly stated” concession did as much for him than if he would have simply stood behind his comments and challenged opponents to state their case and have a public debate about it.

I’ll give credit to ABC News last night for at least trying to present a fact-based case against his statement. They showed a pie chart of the recipients of government transfer payments.

Social Security was a slice. ‘People who have a job but make less than $50k’ was another big slice.

But, a pie chart does not make a compelling case.

The question is how many people in the pie chart  have come to depend on their government benefits to the point that it influences their vote out of concern about losing those benefits?

As I mentioned in my previous post, Democrats reveal that they agree with Romney as many of their campaigns do nothing more than tell the folks in the ABC News pie chart  that voting against them puts their government benefits in jeopardy.

I’d like to have citizens cast their votes based on who they think will uphold the Constitution, not based on who gives them the best benefits. In many other parts of society, this conflict of interest would be easily recognized as corruption.

Consider a city councilman who gets to vote on awarding a road construction contract and one of the bidding firms happens to be his own paving company. Nobody would trust the city councilman to represent the people’s best interests in that case, even if he was the most upstanding and fair person.

We would demand that this city councilman remove himself from this vote.

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Not so seismic

ABC News described today as a “seismic shifting” day, for Romney, exposing what he really thinks, with the release of his recorded comments at a fundraiser.

Is it scandalous to suggest that someone who has a financial interest in government may have a conflict of interest when it comes to casting their vote? I thought that was common sense.

Isn’t this very fact exploited over and over by Democrats in their campaigns when they try to scare these people into voting for them to keep getting their goodies?

Today is a seismic shift…to a new dumb.

I have a simple solution. You have a choice. If you are eligible to receive benefits from the “social safety net” you can choose to receive the benefit or choose to vote. It’s your choice. Choose wisely.

Bad Reporting

This story bugs me. From this ABC news report (dated 7/20/2012, emphasis mine):

A California woman who identified herself as the mother of James Holmes, the 24-year-old man federal authorities said is the suspect in a mass shooting in an Aurora, Colorado movie theater, told ABC News her son was likely the alleged culprit, saying, “You have the right person.”

The woman, contacted at her home in San Diego, spoke briefly with ABC News and immediately expressed concern her son may be involved in the shooting death of at least 12 people overnight.

“You have the right person,” she said, apparently speaking on gut instinct. “I need to call the police… I need to fly out to Colorado.”

Everything in bold is not based on fact. For example, she never said he was the likely alleged culprit.

In this ABC report, from July 23rd, the mother clarifies her statements and ABC news adds:

Mosk [the ABC news reporter who contacted her] said today that he awoke Arlene Holmes and informed her that a man, he believed was her son had been arrested in Aurora and asked to confirm their relationship.

“You have to tell me what happened… You have to tell me what happened,” the woman on the phone said, according to Mosk. Mosk said he told her that ABC News had learned the 24-year-old had been identified by police as the lone suspect in the mass killing in Aurora, Colorado and that the details of the events were still taking shape.

“You have the right person,” was her response, he said. “I need to call the police. I need to fly to Colorado.”

I think it is fair to say, that even with a generous reading of the facts in the second story, that the ABC News interpretation of Holmes’ comments in the first story is very likely wrong.

I think reasonable people would read that exchange from someone who has been awoken and told horrible news and assume the lady meant that, ‘yes, you’ve reached the right person. I am that guy’s mom and I have to get busy.”

Now, of course, none takes away from the horrific acts allegedly committed by her son, but this type of reporting doesn’t help anyone and is the reason I take news reports with a grain of salt.

Hypocrisy? Maybe not.

ABC News reported yesterday that some lawmakers with Tea Party ties are on the government dole.

…at least 23 current members of congress or their families have received government money for their farms — combining for more than $12 million since 1995 according to a new report from the Environmental Working Group.

The biggest recipient was Rep. Stephen Fincher, a Republican from Frog Jump, Tenn.

While the self-described Tea Party patriot lists his occupation as “farmer” and “gospel singer” in the Congressional Directory, he doesn’t mention that his family has received more than $3 million in farm subsidies from 1995 to 2009, according to the Environmental Working Group.

I encourage you to watch the video.  Fincher looks silly. The video also includes Representative Marlin Stutzman from Indiana.  He has a better answer.

Contrary to the charge in the article, I don’t think receiving benefits from government while being against such benefits is hypocritical.

For example, I believe the country could benefit from a simpler tax code with a flatter rate.  However, I do not pass up tax credits and deductions available to me based on this belief.

Why doesn’t that make me a hypocrite?  I think for a several reasons, but here’s the key reason.  Whether I choose to claim a deduction or not will not change whether that deduction continues to exist.

Congress sets the Federal tax code.  The only way I can eliminate the existence of a deduction, or make the code simpler, is by voting for representatives who agree with me, or persuading them to agree with me.

I would be a hypocrite if I said I wanted a simpler tax code but voted for representatives because they did not want a simpler tax code.

I don’t think Rep. Fincher is a hypocrite for receiving Federal farm subsidies, for the reasons above.  I would think he was a hypocrite if he doesn’t support getting rid of the subsidies he receives.  His behavior on the video–though it could be creatively edited or he simply may not be articulate on the matter–indicates he may be a hypocrite.

I don’t think Stutzman is hypocrite and I like his answer much better than Fincher’s.

There’s no reason for direct payments, adding to our burden of debt.  And it also manipulates the market.

I think what he means by manipulating the market is that it changes incentives in the market.  For example, if the government started paying subsidies for owning Labradors, my guess is that you’d see demand and prices for Labradors increase to the point where the value of that subsidy was built into the price for a Labrador.