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The Government’s response to the Harvey floods: Do anti-gouging laws kill?

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While the magnitude of the epic flooding in southeastern Texas from Hurricane Harvey is only beginning to emerge, and is likely to get much worse over the next few days, it is not too early to consider with apprehension the responses by government at all levels.

Ronald Reagan taught us that perhaps nothing was more dangerous than the government official who said: “I’m from the government, and I’m here to help.”

Will the authorities, at all levels, impose draconian “relief” measures? Will they ration various commodities like potable water? Or gasoline? Or even confiscate goods?

Recently, in 2012, the New Jersey coast and New York City suffered some of the worst flooding in years from the storm surge from Hurricane Sandy. (That was the storm which led to President Obama and New Jersey Governor Chris Christie having that infamous arms-embracing stroll on the beach, only days before the presidential election.) The response from the blue-state, government-power-loving authorities was gasoline rationing which made gas shortages worse, the lines longer and general hardship even deeper.

From personal observation, it appears that rationing does little to reduce overall demand, the impulse to hoard, or the gross inefficiency caused by waiting hours for gas.

The logical first reaction is to get a full refill in order to wring as much inefficiency from the wait time. It may, over time, reduce the amount people drive — as social engineers rejoice! — because some people will weigh the costs and benefits of any car usage against the ultimate inconvenience of a wait.

But what of people in the suburbs or rural areas, or people whose job necessitates driving around? How much economic activity is lost — never to be regained? (Note that commercial vehicles are generally exempt, but many independent contractors drive personal, noncommercial vehicles for business use and are quite vulnerable to any rationing games).

Also consider whether such disasters and sure-to-be embellished shortages will be used by the environmental or behavioral zealots whose fingers are on the levers of government power, as “teachable moments.”

As in: disasters are always a good excuse to teach a certain group a “lesson.”

Commodity rationing in times of disaster has costs. Assuming the absence of nefarious reasons to cause, permit or delay alleviating a shortage, let’s look at the immediate and easily recognizable costs of lost time, the related inefficiency, and a seriously degraded lifestyle.

There are downstream economic costs. A business owner who spends 70 hours, up from 60 hours a week, to make the same net income will either pass that cost down to consumers, or cut back on other expenses. The expectation (or objective) that the owner will willingly sacrifice his most precious commodity — his time — for the public good is both naive and, frankly, contemptuous.

Somewhere, someone will lose his or her job when owners cut back due to revenue declines or physical fatigue, or even demoralization at continued government policies that reduce or eliminate the marginal benefit of added work. This is a perfectly rational decision. Other businesses will pass on costs, and the price increases or declines in service quality, quantity or variety of offered goods and services will reduce the savings or standard of living of downstream consumers.

Somewhere, somehow, the price is going to be paid. But there are more problems.

A typical government response is an anti-gouging law. is intended to protect the consumer from presumed exploitation by a business owner who raises prices at all following a natural disaster or other emergency event. But the government presumption that businesses and their owners are exploiters leads to further, unintended — and unproductive and harmful — consequences.

The government scrutiny fuels (no pun intended) the public perception that gas retailers are greedy and somehow profiting unfairly. This encourages the consumer to cheat the gas station owner, run out on the bill, cut the line, and so on. The rule of law, based on the larger cultural value of a shared sense of fairness, will deteriorate further.

In a society where our former President Obama shamed Americans to “pay their fair share” and where First Lady Michelle Obama remarked during the 2008 campaign that some had to do with less so that others could have a little more, government policies which inflict hardship or create a sense of injustice threaten to produce more lawbreaking and antisocial behavior, not less. The danger is that more and more people will feel that they are being robbed. The result? A degrading in behavior, from harsher reactions, to reduced sympathy, to a heightened moral rationalization for greed, to less hesitancy to pass on costs or to simply withhold benefits from others just because one can.

You can imagine charitable contributions and investments drying up, in both an economic and emotional reaction. We will have hoarding, not merely of gasoline but of almost any asset or resource.

Command and control economic policies spark an uncontrollable chain reaction of misery. The solution is not to fight people, or their demand. A real solution is to open up supply. Let gas station owners and other businesspeople charge whatever they want. Those who abuse consumers will soon pay a heavy price when they are shunned by their former customers. This will encourage gas station owners to stay in business, wholesalers to deliver gas, and refineries to get back in business.

Areas hit by disasters will not experience any recovery or economic revival when their governments act like the savage bikers out of the dystopian, post-apocalyptic movie “The Road Warrior.” Elected leaders should use their authority to work on supply preservation and supply chain problems, and on intergovernmental relations among various authorities to preserve basic public order and infrastructure. These are some of the simplest, and core, functions of government. Governments must serve their people, not treat them like the enemy for the sin of wanting to drive. Otherwise, we may see a new form of “road rage.”

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Conspiracy Theory

Many Democrats support Mueller investigation without knowing what it’s about

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“Trump stole the election!”

Two years and two elections ago, something happened that has Democrats scratching their heads even today. Hillary Clinton lost. She wasn’t supposed to lose. She was cheated some way, somehow.

This is what they hope to be proven by special counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation into Russian influence in the 2016 elections. The problem is a majority of Democrats think the Russians did something that Mueller’s team isn’t even investigating because there’s absolutely no hint of a possibility that it could be true.

67% of Democrats believe “Russia tampered with vote tallies in order to get Donald Trump elected President.”

Let that sink in.

Robert Mueller Poll

If you believe Russia attempted to influence the elections by using social media and other venues to spread anti-Hillary rhetoric, you’re almost certainly correct. In fact, the Mueller investigation has assumed that to be true from the beginning. The question isn’t whether or not Russia tried to influence the elections in this way. It’s whether or not Americans helped them, in particular members of the Trump campaign.

What’s not being considered is whether or not Russia tampered with vote tallies. They did not. It’s not even a consideration in Mueller’s investigation, yet two-thirds of Democrats believe it to be true.

67% of Democrats can’t wait for Mueller to prove their theories correct even though he isn’t even investigating vote tally tampering at all. It’s reminiscent of the days after Obamacare was launched when Democrats asked, “Wait, it’s not free?”

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President Trump expresses extreme discontent with Russian investigation

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President Trump expresses extreme discontent with Russian investigation

Robert Mueller’s investigation into Russian interference of the 2016 election has struck nerves in President Trump off and on for a year. The last couple of days, those nerves have been tweaked to the point that the President is lashing out harder than he ever has before.

Has anything changed? Is this a release of pent up agitation he didn’t want to voice before the midterm elections? Is Mueller getting closer to finding something? At this point, we really have no idea. All we know for sure is the President isn’t happy and even Fox News panelists are starting to scratch their heads.

Is this investigation a farce? Probably. Is it helping the President to lash out on Twitter? Probably not. The only resolution will come when the Mueller investigation wraps up and the President can Tweet his vindication all the way to reelection in 2020.

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Entertainment and Sports

Hat is back: Miles signs 5-year contract to coach Kansas

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Hat is back Miles signs 5-year contract to coach Kansas

LAWRENCE, Kan. (AP) — Les Miles is headed back to the Big 12 and another massive rebuilding job, this time taking on the downtrodden program at Kansas in a splashy hire aimed at energizing a weary fan base.

The deal was finalized shortly before Miles arrived at the airport in nearby Topeka on Sunday. Miles signed a five-year contract that will pay him $2,775,000 annually with retention bonuses of $775,000 due in November 2020 and $500,000 in November 2022.

“Since the beginning of our search, we focused on identifying and recruiting an experienced head coach with a track record of success on and off the field,” Kansas athletic director Jeff Long said in a statement. “Les Miles is exactly what we need right now.”

Miles was considered the front-runner for the Jayhawks’ job from the moment David Beaty was told he would not be retained two weeks ago. The 65-year-old Miles has a close relationship with Long dating to their days together at Michigan, and Miles had told those around him he wanted back in coaching.

Miles and Long had been in frequent contact over the past two weeks, and it became clear a deal was close when LSU announced Thursday it had agreed to a buyout with its former coach. Miles agreed to a lump sum of $1.5 million of the remaining $6.5 million he was owed under terms of his buyout.

The school has planned an introductory news conference for later Sunday.

“I am humbled by the opportunity to lead the KU football program and I am grateful for Chancellor (Doug) Girod and Jeff Long for the opportunity,” Miles said. “We will bring Jayhawk Football back and we will do it with outstanding coaches, tremendous student-athletes of character and ability and un unrelenting drive for excellence. My family and I cannot wait to be part of the KU family.”

The quirky Miles has been out of coaching since 2016, when he was fired by LSU after a 2-2 start. His support among Tiger fans had waned considerably in a span of just a few years, even though Miles won at least 10 games in seven of his 11 full seasons, twice reached the national title game and beat Ohio State for the 2007 championship. He went 114-34 at LSU.

The most vocal critics argued that Miles had been unable to keep up with the times, sticking to an unexciting and often-stagnant attack during college football’s offensive explosion.

Miles had inherited a winner when he was chosen by LSU to succeed Nick Saban in 2005, but he had proven with Oklahoma State that he could also build a program from scratch.

The Cowboys had just one winning season in 12 years before Miles, their program in similar shape to the Jayhawks. But the longtime college and pro assistant thrived in his first head job, finding some overlooked prospects, developing them and eventually reaching three straight bowl games. He was 28-21 at Oklahoma State.

“I have no doubt that Coach Miles will have an immediate impact on our football program and our university,” Girod said. “Together as Jayhawks, we will rebuild our football program the right way, winning championships and continuing to graduate young men of character.”

The Jayhawks haven’t had a winning season or reached a bowl game since 2008, the year before Mark Mangino was forced to resign under pressure. Turner Gill won five games over two seasons before getting fired, and Charlie Weis managed six wins in two-plus seasons before he was let go.

By that point, the program had become the laughingstock of the Big 12.

The Jayhawks were woefully short on scholarship players, their facilities were decrepit, their fanbase had grown apathetic and the even the administration seemed to have little interest in supporting football. Beaty’s contract lagged far behind his peers financially, and there was little money at his disposal for hiring assistant coaches and other administrators.

Long has promised to rectify those issues, even announcing that a $300 million renovation to aging Memorial Stadium had been put on the backburner while money was invested in the program itself.

The first and most important investment came in the head coach.

Miles would earn $15.125 million by fulfilling his five-year contract. He also can earn a series of incentives: $1 million for reaching the national title game; $350,000 for a playoff semifinal; $100,000 for a New Year’s Six game; $100,000 for making the Big 12 title game; and $75,000 for any other bowl game. Miles also can earn $50,000 each for being the Big 12 and national coach of the year, $15,000 for having a Broyles Award-winning assistant, and up to $50,000 for the team’s GPA.

His contract also includes a one-year, one-time rollover extension that is triggered by winning six games in a season, and benefits such as a country club membership and moving expenses.

The Jayhawks, who lost to sixth-ranked Oklahoma on Saturday to leave Beaty with a 6-31 record in three-plus seasons, will finish out their year under their former coach Friday against Texas.

___

More AP college football.

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