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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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Immigration

Allie Beth Stuckey recognizes the cognitive dissonance of many on the left

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Allie Beth Stuckey recognizes the cognitive dissonance of many on the left

We need the wall. This is apparent to anyone who is being intellectually honest about the problem at the border and the infusion of illegal immigrants crossing over every day. Unfortunately, many Americans are not being intellectually honest about the wall simply because it’s being promoted by a President they hate.

If President Obama had tried to build a wall in 2014, every Republicans and most Democrats on Capitol Hill would have supported it. We’d have 1500 miles built by now.

But it’s not President Obama who’s pushing for the much-needed obstruction at the border. Instead, we have President Trump pushing it, and while a very clear argument can be made that be made that he should have demanded the Republican Congress fund it during the two years they had control, he’s pushing for it now and we need it immediately.

The latest controversy surrounding the wall is with his national emergency declaration he announced last Friday. As one might expect, the push back from the left has been rapid and severe. While there are some who are willing to listen to reason, there are plenty who are invoking the Berlin Wall in their arguments against the border wall. Conservative millennial Allie Beth Stuckey expressed her frustration on Twitter.

She’s so right. What the left fails to understand is that comparisons are ridiculous. The Berlin Wall was built to keep people from escaping the oppression of East Berlin. The Mexican border wall is intended to keep people from defiling our nation’s sovereignty.

The problem isn’t that they don’t understand this. It’s that they’re unwilling to disregard the cognitive dissonance that keeps their unhinged thoughts and actions intact while shielding them from the common sense associated with their recognition of the problem and the obvious solution.

 


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Culture and Religion

PragerU: Does race really matter?

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PragerU Does race really matter

Leftwing talk about race frightens Dennis Prager and it should frighten you as well. There is a dangerous precedent being set by the left that is creating division where it no longer exists. Unfortunately, it definitely did exist in the recent past, but modern America generally does not look at race as much of an indicator anymore EXCEPT when the left makes it an issue. This is ironic, of course, because in their quest to supposedly eliminate racism, the left tends to make race a bigger issue than it needs to be.

We hear about cultural appropriations, certain races whose lives apparently matter more than others, and the deconstruction of our nation’s history based upon cultural norms from the time that are no longer acceptable now. Yes, many of America’s first people were racist. Some even owned slaves. Even after slavery was abolished, we experienced racial divides that continued through the civil rights movement all the way into modern times. But today, those divides are no longer as prominent. A black President was elected with a strong number of non-black voters behind him. Congress is more racially and sexually diverse than ever in our country’s history. We have more CEOs of major corporations who aren’t just “old white guys” than ever.

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America is making strong strides to effectively eliminate racial inequality, but the push to keep the divide as wide as possible isn’t coming from the general conservative side of the political aisle. Yes, there are white supremacists who claim a portion of the right-leaning mantle, but they are infinitesimal compared to the standard masses of conservatives who have seen beyond race. The real cultural and racial divides are being perpetuated by the left, and in particular by our leaders from the Democratic Party who cannot have a future if they do not play the race card incessantly.

This video by PragerU shows the stark difference between Dennis Prager and Senator Elizabeth Warren (D-MA). As she vies for votes by playing the race card, Mr. Prager calls out the real racism in America that’s coming from the left.

 


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Guns and Crime

6 illegal aliens, rivals of El Chapo, arrested in massive drug sting

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6 illegal aliens rivals of El Chapos arrested in massive drug sting

A massive drug trafficking operation by law enforcement in North Carolina resulted in the arrests of six illegal immigrants with connections to a Mexican drug cartel. The organization, which is a competitor of the Sinaloa cartel made famous by its jailed leader, Joaquin “El Chapo” Guzman, was operating along the east coast pushing drugs ranging from cocaine to methamphetamine.

Oscar Rangel-Gutierrez, Raul Rangel-Gutierrez, Regulo Rangel Gutierrez,  Rodolfo Martinez, Rigoberto Rangel-Gutierrez and Francisco Garcia-Martinez were arrested and tied to the Jalisco New Generation cartel.

“Members of the investigative team believe — based on wire intercepts, surveillance and other facts discovered from the investigation — that Oscar and Regulo transport illicit proceeds, derived from the sales of narcotics, when they travel from Myrtle Beach to Charlotte,” according to federal court documents, as WMBF reported.

My Take

What makes this so concerning is that Jalisco New Generation cartel is known to operate mostly out of Tijuana on the west coast of Mexico, shipping drugs along the porous southern California border. For them to be reaching all the way to the east coast is telling of their influence and reach.

Unfortunately, leftists believe in Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi’s solution, which is to stop drug trafficking by making it harder to cross the border at the ports of entry.

Progressives often refer to statistics that show most drug busts happen at the ports of entry, ignoring the obvious fact that fewer drug traffickers are caught when they breach the border away from ports of entry.

 


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