1. Are Facts Obsolete? Economist Thomas Sowell points out that many of Barack Obama’s positions are seemingly based on the notion that believing is seeing rather than actual information about the successes and failures of different policy concepts. My Take: I share his frustration, particularly when it comes to important economic policy issues. There is an unbelievable amount of rhetoric in this election, and most of it belongs in the category of: be careful what you wish for, you just might get it. Restricting trade and raising the tax on captial gains will help our economy and “the common man”? You sure about that? Increasing the minimum wage sounds good, but will it actually benefit lower-skilled and less-experienced workers? Why don’t we look at the facts and the data instead of just saying things that make people feel good?
2. What’s Next, Danny? Celtics’ GM, Danny Ainge, had to make the first tough decision of the offseason, opting not to offer four years to James Posey, who instead signed with New Orleans. So, who will fill Posey’s shoes? My Take: This is a tough one. For the Celtics, Posey was probably the most valuable bench player in the NBA last year, and it won’t be easy to replace his defense and 3-point shooting. There is something about bringing back Ryan Gomes that just feels right. He’s a solid player and Boston suits him - he’s the NBA equivalent of a “dirt dog.”
3. Is Failure No Longer An Option? Larry Kudlow raises an important and difficult question about the role of government intervention in the troubled financial sector (e.g., Fannie/Freddie, Bearn Sterns). My Take: Here is what makes me uneasy and indecisive about the crisis playing out in the financial sector right now: On one hand, there are significant negative consequences when large companies fail, and government should play a role in supporting relative stability; BUT, on the other hand, if government steps in too far in “bailing out” these various financial entities, it undermines a cornerstone of our economic system, namely, risk. Risk begets reward and reason. This is a question of moral hazard – if they know the government will swoop in to save the day, thereby eliminating all risk, why would these companies bother making reasonable, thoughtful decisions in this first place? With respect to these bail outs, etc. we need to walk a fine line. If there is one thing we should all keep in mind when thinking about this issue, it is that capitalism only works when there is opportunity for great success AND opportunity for great failure.
4. Beer: Is There Anything It Can’t Do? George Will explains why beer has helped to strengthen the human gene pool. My Take: OK, this one is obvious. The answer is, emphatically, NO. He’s written a really interesting article, but for important questions like this, I generally defer to another genius of social commentary, who has famously proclaimed, “Beer: the cause of, and solution to, all of life’s problems!”
5. Why End The Income Tax In Massachusetts? Question 1 on Massachusetts’ November ballot will be a proposal to abolish the state’s income tax. My Take: Vote Yes on Question 1. Revolution is in the air once again in the cradle of liberty. The blowhards on Beacon Hill are bloated with your tax dollars and mine, and it’s high time we send them a message. I don’t think anyone would dispute that there is a ridiculous amount of wasteful and inefficient spending in our state government. This law, which almost passed in 2002 with 45% of the vote, would effectively reduce the state’s budget by 39%, back to the 1995 level. The opposition to this law will say that the world will end if it passes, but I’m prepared to call their bluff. I mean, it makes sense even if you set aside the benefial effects of putting this money in the hands of the private sector instead of the public sector. Just consider this: Between 1990 and 2007 the population of Massachusetts (i.e., the people served by government) grew 8.3%. During that same time period, Massachsuetts state government spending more than doubled.
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