Up Sucker Creek

Up Sucker Creek
Photo Courtesy of the Lake Oswego Library

Sunday, June 26, 2016

The dangerous power of bureaucracy

Why is this article in this blog? 
Good question.  I guess it's because I look at any power grab at any level of government as an affront to individual liberty.  If there is a real need for an armed federal bureaucracy, why don't we know about it?  Why aren't Senators and Representatives involved in legislation to authorize it?  What enemies are the agencies preparing to engage and destroy?  Will free speech be free?

The power of bureaucracy is growing at every level of government. It doesn't happen without the aquesience of politicians who take advantage of the bureaucratic structure to further their own goals and projects.  The public is loathe to give up their favorite programs, but feels the weight of  big government.  There are parallels here to states and cities.  Big government can be measured by number of pages of regulations, and number of employees per capita.  Lake Oswego has plenty of each.

Who does government work for?  Who are its enemies?

Why Does The IRS Need Guns?

After grabbing legal power, bureaucrats are amassing firepower. It’s time to scale back the federal arsenal.

Wall Street Journal, June 17, 2016. By Tom Coburn and Andrew Andrjejewski

Special agents at the IRS equipped with AR-15 military-style rifles? Health and Human Services “Special Office of Inspector General Agents” being trained by the Army’s Special Forces contractors? The Department of Veterans Affairs arming 3,700 employees?

The number of non-Defense Department federal officers authorized to make arrests and carry firearms (200,000) now exceeds the number of U.S. Marines (182,000). In its escalating arms and ammo stockpiling, this federal arms race is unlike anything in history. Over the last 20 years, the number of these federal officers with arrest-and-firearm authority has nearly tripled to over 200,000 today, from 74,500 in 1996.

What exactly is the Obama administration up to?

On Friday, June 17, our organization, American Transparency, is releasing its OpenTheBooks.com oversight report on the militarization of America. The report catalogs federal purchases of guns, ammunition and military-style equipment by seemingly bureaucratic federal agencies. During a nine-year period through 2014, we found, 67 agencies unaffiliated with the Department of Defense spent $1.48 billion on guns and ammo. Of that total, $335.1 million was spent by agencies traditionally viewed as regulatory or administrative, such as the Smithsonian Institution and the U.S. Mint.

Some examples of spending from 2005 through 2014 raise the question: Who are they preparing to battle?

(Excluded here: a list of agencies that have armed their personnel with military--style weapons: EPA, FDA, IRS, DVA, Universities.)  I included my favorite example below.
  • The Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service spent $4.77 million purchasing shotguns, .308 caliber rifles, night-vision goggles, propane cannons, liquid explosives, pyro supplies, buckshot, LP gas cannons, drones, remote-control helicopters, thermal cameras, military waterproof thermal infrared scopes and more.
Other paper-pushing federal agencies with firearm-and-arrest authority that have expanded their arsenals since 2006 include the Small Business Administration, Social Security Administration, National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, Education Department, Energy Department, Bureau of Engraving and Printing, National Institute of Standards and Technology and many others.

People from both ends of the political spectrum have expressed alarm at this trend. Conservatives argue that it is hypocritical, unconstitutional and costly for political leaders to undermine the Second Amendment while simultaneously equipping nonmilitary agencies with heavy weapons, hollow-point bullets and military-style equipment. Progressives like Sen. Bernie Sanders have raised civil liberties concerns about the militarization of local police with vehicles built for war and other heavy weaponry.

Meanwhile, federal authorities are silent on the growing arsenal at federal agencies. In fact, we asked the IRS for an asset accounting of their gun locker—their guns and ammunition asset inventory by location. Their response? “We don’t have one [an inventory], but could create one for you, if important.”

Our data shows that the federal government has become a gun show that never adjourns. Taxpayers need to tell Washington that police powers belong primarily to cities and states, not the feds. 
Dr. Coburn is a physician and former U.S. senator from Oklahoma. He is the honorary chairman, and Mr. Andrzejewski is the founder and CEO, of OpenTheBooks.com, a repository of public-spending records.

Thursday, June 9, 2016

Rent Control is illogical and disagreeable

Who's responsible for the cost of housing today?
  • Demographics - two of the largest population bulges the world has ever seen are both in the market for housing, putting a strain on housing supply.
  • Land Reatrictions: The UGB limits land available for building new homes. Supply is scarce therefore land is expensive and homes built on the land need to be equally expensive to realize a decent return for the builders.
  • Popularity:  The Portland area is popular; in-migration adds more numbers/demand to those seeking housing.
High demand + low supply = high prices
Rent control + high demand = low supply
High demand + high supply = low(er) prices *

Here are parts of a longer debate on rent control that I had with a fellow volunteer just yesterday morning.  She is an educated, otherwise logical woman, which is why I found her arguments to be so illogical.

Her:  "Housing costs are so high in Portland that my daughter has to pay $1,300 for a studio apartment near Lloyd Center, and it doesn 't even have parking!"

Me:  "Well, there are cheaper places to rent on the West side of town, and there is a building boom in Portland that should offer some relief from increasing rents shortly.  I keep hearing about rent control, but that would only make things worse."

Her:  "My daughter can walk to work where she is - if she moved she'd have to take a bus. Housing is a sociatal issue.  People need a place to live just as much as they need food and medical care.  There needs to be some 'balance' so renters aren't priced out of their homes!"

Me:  "I'm not sure what you mean by balance, but if the government puts limits on what I can earn from my business, I would not want to be in the business anymore, and neither would other investors.  Apartment supply would dry up."

"If housing is such a big social problem that it requires the government to step in, why doesn't everyone pay for the support through increased taxes?  So, Instead of everyone paying for a housing solution, you think I should be the one to subsidize the housing?"

Her:  Silence.  And with a shrug of her shoulders, palms lifted to the sky, she said, "There just needs to be 'balance'.  It's a complicated issue."

Me:  "No it's not.  The solutions are simple, but you wouldn't like those results either.  Subsidize the person, not the building.  Expand Section 8 housing vouchers to people who are being priced out of housing - not just the ones who have to move from one neighborhood to another."

"However, once the government gives money for people to buy something, like money for college tuitions or Cash for Clunkers, the price of the commodity goes up.  You might continue to get more housing, but it would still be expensive.  The better solution is to let the market work and add to the supply to bring it into balance with the demand."

Her:  "We need balance."

Me:  "Exactly."

Not willing to give up so easily, she changed tactics.

Her:  "Where are you going to put all those people?"

After giving her several locations, she grabbed her purse and mug and headed for the door.

Her:  "I bet you wouldn't want an apartment or increased density next door to you!  It's always somebody else's problem!"

Me:  "No, I don't want increased density in my neighborhood, that's why I live in a
R-7.5 zone.  And yes, it's everybody's problem, not just one group of businesses.  How would you like higher density next to your 5 acres?"

I think she heard my last remark, but she was out the door in a flash, walking briskly to her car.  I am pretty sure that by then that she thought I deserved to have rent control dumped on my business, if for no other reason but because I didn't agree it's her which was for her, disagreeable.  That's the way some people are - you can't change their minds with logic, even when you are nice trying.