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The Age of Obfuscation

from Heather Wilhelm at National Review – The Golden Age of Fibbery

Ha! I kid, I kid. In 2016’s not-so-grand race for the White House, lying is more popular than ever, duplicity is all the rage, and the Internet, bless its poor, bedraggled heart, isn’t exactly doing a bang-up job of helping us sort things out. Witness the past few weeks, which have seen more lies and contradictions and absurdities and mishaps than perhaps all seven seasons of The Real Housewives of Beverly Hills combined.

It’s amazing, isn’t it? In the midst of the great information age, we’ve wandered into an equally great age of obfuscation. Here’s to the truth working its way out.


It is the human wish to be told lies that keep us as primitive morally and socially as we are. I am persuaded that a lie grounded in human desire is too powerful for mere reason to kill.



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Hypocrisy Knows No Bounds


If a doctor of oncology treats a thousand patients, but five hundred of them die, is he still a good doctor?

If a preacher saves a thousand souls but one hundred end up in hell is he still a good preacher?

If a film producer makes twenty films that win academy awards, but also makes five box office bombs is he still a great film producer?

If an equity manager buys twenty stocks that on average triple in value but also buys three stocks that go bankrupt is he still a good equity manager?

If an entrepreneur starts forty companies, but four of them file bankruptcy is he still a successful entrepreneur?

Life is full of risks and failures are a part of the deal.  The American culture embraces failure as part of the path to success in a way few cultures can emulate. It is the secret to our success. It is the reason Facebook, Amazon, Google, Apple, IBM, Boeing and thousands of other ground breaking companies start in this country in spite of our inequality (maybe because of it) and the declining quality of our educational system.  It is the reason that over 40% of the Nobel prizes are awarded to Americans regardless if where they came from.

And this is not because of the hyper regulatory state, but in spite of it.  Yes, our institutions provided protections for property rights and our bankruptcy code was designed to recognize failures quickly and reallocate the capital to better uses.  The fastest growing industries are often those that happened so fast that the regulators failed to recognize their significance in time to apply the soul and spirit killing regulations that would have killed them at birth, or partial birth.

The venture capitalists, the shareholders, the employees, the customers and the entrepreneurs know precisely who built those companies and it was not Elizabeth Warren, President Obama or Hillary Clinton.

The controversy over Trumps tax loss carry forwards displays how ignorant the left is about what creates wealth in this country.  Trump lost money in a recession in the casino business in Atlantic City. Does anybody remember how cheap hotel rooms were in Las Vegas in 2009?  Does anybody think that anyone should pay income taxes on a business that loses money in a reporting period? Does anybody think that losses in one period should not be allowed to offset profits in another period?  If I make $1000 on one stock and lose $1000 on another stock and I sell them both at the same time should I owe any taxes on the two transactions?

To make Trumps tax losses appear to be either illegal or even unethical is pandering to ignorance.  Trump is no genius because he used losses to offset subsequent profits?  Anybody with an accountant that can pass the CPA exam would do the same thing.  There is nothing sinister, illegal, or in even incompetent in doing so.

If you want to find sinister examine the profits of a couple who made over $100 million dollars in a decade with nothing but political connections.  Examine the same couple who deducted a million dollars to their own foundation which paid less than 10% to charitable recipients, often in the form of lucrative contracts to their cronies, while they kept her political staff on the payroll until her campaign started, and spent millions flying them around the world in private jets.  Examine the ex President who got $18 million in pay from a private for profit school while a competitive school was shut down by the government. Examine the ex Secretary of State who collected $15 million in speaking fees, including $225 thousand addressing a college where she noted, get this now, the high cost of college.

How isolated in a bubble can one get to make such accusations?  How tone deaf can one become?  How ignorant does one think the voters are to buy this malarkey?  How ignorant are the voters and the media to accept it without asking questions any first year accounting student could answer?

Bret Stephens in the Wall Street Journal (The Apology of Donald Trump)  accurately notes that this is why she is not 50 points ahead.  As Doc Holiday (wonderfully played by Val Kilmer) in the movie Tombstone said, “hypocrisy knows no bounds.”


Economist and blogger John Cochrane in The Grumpy Economist offers a more thorough analysis in Trump Taxes.The tax code is complicated and there are certainly other tools Trump may have used other than mere tax loss carry forwards. Cochrane uses the story to make the case for a consumption tax.

While normal tax compliance may have reduced Trump’s income tax, his enterprises are still paying property taxes (unless the local and state authorities exempted him, which they sometimes do to spur development), sales taxes, and payroll taxes.

From Holman Jenkins at The WSJ, in Harmonize this Eurocrats,   (posted nearby)

Companies receive their revenues from their customers and distribute them to their suppliers, investors and employees. Thus corporate taxes can be eliminated in complete comfort that the revenue will pop up elsewhere as taxable personal income or taxable consumption expenditure.

The only real function of a corporate income tax is non-transparency. Taxing a company is a way for politicians to pretend they are not taxing any actual voter to pay for programs that voters find desirable as long as they seem not to come with a price tag.

Drop the pretense that citizens don’t have to pay for the amenities they want, and real harmonization becomes possible:

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The Freshest Ideas from 1916

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from the editors of The National Review, Hilary’s Disastrous Economic Plan

But it is a statement of Mrs. Clinton’s priorities, which are giving handouts to her corporate allies, strengthening the whip hand of politicians over health care, bribing the Sanders-Warren element with new entitlements, and otherwise engaging in a great deal of wishful thinking about how this gets paid for and its long-term economic consequences.

That’s Hillary Rodham Clinton in short: Partly dishonest, partly ignorant, misrepresenting the very economic policies whose results are the sole reason for any surviving nostalgia about the presidency of her intern-bothering, perjuring, sanctimonious husband.

It is the worst sort of superstition to believe that putting another Clinton in the White House will revive the economic boom of the 1990s. Mrs. Clinton instead offers the cutting-edge thinking of 1964, when she isn’t distracted by the freshest ideas from 1916.


Hillary claims to be a Progressive Democrat but Progressivism is exhausted. The Progressive era was held afloat by a war based economy and global competition neutered by the destruction of that war while we remained protected by two oceans. She and the rest of her party want to return to a period with conditions that no longer exist. She wishes for the conditions of the past, ignores the conditions of the present, and depends on myths and wishful thinking to make it all work.

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The Easy Target


from Kyle Smith at The New York Post,  Why ‘white trash’ Americans are flocking to Donald Trump

Nancy Pelosi says blue-collar white men vote “against their own economic interests” because of guns, gays and God, “God being the woman’s right to choose.” The Washington Post noted that this group does care about gun rights more than the average voter, but it’s a myth that their views on gays and God differ much from everyone else’s, and Pelosi’s regal dismissal of the bitter clingers is not only too reductive, it’s an attitude that drives voters away from the Democratic Party.

“Humans appear to have some need to look down on someone; there’s just a basic tribalistic impulse in all of us,” Vance recently told The American Conservative. “And if you’re an elite white professional, working-class whites are an easy target: You don’t have to feel guilty for being a racist or a xenophobe. By looking down on the hillbilly, you can get that high of self-righteousness and superiority without violating any of the moral norms of your own tribe.”


I encourage you to read the whole article.  Trump has succeeded in bringing to light a problem that many including me had missed.

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Deserting Our Better Nature

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from Kevin Williamson at the National Review, Bitter Laughter

A nation needs its Twains and Menckens. (We could have got by without Molly Ivins.) The excrement and sentimentality piles up high and thick in a democratic society, and it’s sometimes easier to burn it away rather than try to shovel it. But they are only counterpoints: They cannot be the leading voice, or the dominant spirit of the age. That is because this is a republic, and in a republic, a politics based on one half of the population hating the other half is a politics that loses even if it wins. The same holds true for one that relies on half of us seeing the other half as useless, wicked, moronic, deluded, or “prehensile morons.” (I know, I know, and you can save your keystrokes: I myself am not running for office.) If you happen to be Mark Twain, that sort of thing is good for a laugh, and maybe for more than a laugh. But it isn’t enough. “We must not be enemies,” President Lincoln declared, and he saw the republic through a good deal worse than weak GDP growth and the sack of a Libyan consulate.

The better angels of our nature have not deserted us. It is closer to the truth that we have failed them, and the impossible situation of 2016 — a choice between two kinds of corrupt, self-serving megalomaniacs — is only the lesion that denotes a deeper infection. There is no national vice-principal’s office or confessional into which we can drag ourselves and shame-facedly admit that we messed up, say that we’re very sorry, and promise to do better next time. But we must nonetheless admit that we messed up, say that we’re very sorry, and promise to do better next time. And there will be a next time, irrespective of the hysterical ninnies who insist that if this election does not go their way, then this is the end of the nation.


I have quoted Kevin Williamson so often in this blog that it risks becoming a fan club.  Still, he brings an intelligence and a perspective (and wit) that is uncommon.  The National Review has a great stable of writers and commentators and is a must read regularly.