Governor and Legislature wrong to force E15 ethanol-blended gas on Iowans.

The Iowa Legislature has passed, and Governor Reynolds is expected to sign, a bill that will force most gas stations in Iowa to sell E15 – 15% ethanol-blended gasoline. Both Republicans and Democrats should be ashamed of this bill, especially Republicans. Republicans have traditionally said that they support free-market capitalism where consumers and business owners decide what to buy and sell. In addition to being unprincipled, supporters of this bill are wrong on the facts. The Governor said, “It’s a lower cost of fuel.” We know that the price at the pump is lower, but that does not factor in the various subsidies paid by taxpayers to farmers, ethanol producers, and fuel blenders. It also does not factor in the lower miles per gallon that a car gets when ethanol is blended into the gasoline. Taxpayers will also pay for most of the costs to upgrade pumps and other infrastructure needed by the gas stations. I did not read where there is any phase-out of the mandate. The good news is that those who supported the bill can rest assured that they will continue to get financial support from corn farmers and ethanol producers.

We don’t “follow the science”, science informs politics.

Science does not tell us what we should do. Science can tell us what the consequences will be if we do or do not do some particular thing. Science informs us and our elected representatives, but science does not dictate what the political policy should be.

Almost every decision involves some kind of trade-off. Often, the trade-off is between safety and liberty. For example, most driving and traffic regulations involve giving up some amount of liberty in return for greater safety.

In the case of Covid-19, the use of vaccines, masks, business closings, etc. is a trade-off between safety and liberty. If you say that a Covid-19 related policy is justified if it saves even one life, then you would have a problem. The vaccine has clearly saved many lives, but some people have died from the vaccine as well. It is not as simple as choosing the one that saves the most lives. Almost everyone who wants to take the vaccine can take it. The majority of adults have already chosen to get the vaccine. The relatively few who are compromised in some way and, therefore, are advised against getting the vaccine can do a lot to protect themselves against those who might be contagious.

As a libertarian, I believe that private business owners, just like homeowners and individuals, should be free to choose whether or not to associate with those who are not vaccinated. Government, on the other hand, should really not be able to discriminate based on vaccine status in most situations because we citizens don’t really have the option to “opt-out” of dealing with the government. There may be some situations or circumstances where a vaccine mandate by the government might be appropriate, but the default position should be liberty, with the burden on the government to show why the mandate outweighs the loss of freedom. Ultimately, the decisions will be made by our elected representatives. And as we all know, there is a wide difference of opinion about vaccine mandates among our elected representatives as well as among we citizens.

Don’t exempt retirement income from Iowa Income Tax.

Iowa Governor Reynolds made some bold tax proposals in her State of the State address. In addition to a flat tax of 4% on all taxable income, she has proposed that retirement income such as pensions, IRAs, and 401ks be exempt from income tax. She also proposes to exempt cash rent payments received by farmers who are retired.

Social Security income is already exempt in Iowa even though many retired Iowans have higher than average wealth and income. Also, the average farmer is significantly more wealthy than the average Iowan. Farmers also have social security and can have IRAs and/or other retirement income just like everyone else. For some farmers, their cash rent received during retirement could exceed $100,000 per year, just like non-farmer wealthy retired people can have high incomes. There is no good reason why everyone’s retirement income should be tax-exempt.

If any group should have part of their income be exempt from tax, it is those Iowans who have the lowest incomes. It would be better to increase the standard exemption for everyone than to exempt retirement income. That way, the tax relief would go to those who need it most, regardless of age.

1/6/21 Insurrection was not a real attempt to take over the government.

By the definition of the word,  the event that occurred at the U.S. Capitol on January 6, 2021, was an insurrection.  The participants are properly being treated as criminals under federal law.  At the same time, it’s hard to imagine that any participant really thought they would actually overthrow our government.  It appeared to be more like a political demonstration that turned into a riot and ended with a lot of people following a herd mentality and things got out of control.  Nevertheless, it is appropriate to take steps to see that it never happens again and to punish those who were involved.

How to reduce U.S. overdose deaths.

It has been widely reported that more than 100,000 Americans died of drug overdoses during the 12 months ended April 30, 2021, a record high. A large and increasing portion of overdose deaths is attributable to illicitly obtained drugs, especially fentanyl. Many addicts have no choice but to buy their drugs on the black market, so they can’t be assured of the strength or purity of the drug, or what other drugs might have been added to what they think they are buying. As a result, many overdose deaths are accidental.

Imagine if we treated drug addiction using a medical model rather than a criminal model? If addictive drugs could be purchased legally and were regulated as to strength and purity, many overdose deaths would be avoided. Additionally, people who become addicted might be more likely to ask for help to kick the habit if they weren’t afraid of getting arrested and put in jail. Finally, much of the crime and violence associated with the illegal drug trade would go away if our policy of prohibition were ended.

As I’ve written before, if a new pharmacy opens in your neighborhood, the existing pharmacies don’t start a shooting war to protect their turf. And if someone breaks into or otherwise trys to rob a pharmacy, the pharmacy calls the police. It is the prohibition that causes most of the violence.

Under a legal drug regime, it would still be illegal to drive a vehicle while under the influence of intoxicants, and children would be prohibited from buying drugs. But a person who minds their own business would not be a criminal for using drugs in a peaceful manner.

Our republic is not a pure democracy!

I disagree with the letter to the editor in The Des Moines Register written by Ivan T. Webber that, “The United States Senate is an outdated relic that can no longer be justified in the modern world.”  He noted that none of the upper houses of the other G-7  nations can block ordinary legislation.   (“The US Senate is unacceptably undemocratic” published 11/11/2021)


We elect our representatives democratically, but our founding fathers and our Constitution created a Republic that protects certain fundamental rights of minorities against the will of majorities.  The Senate was specifically designed to protect smaller states from being abused by larger states.  If a minority in the Senate blocks the majority from achieving their goals, it is a feature, not a bug.

  
Important decisions made by our government that affect the lives of everyone should require more than a simple majority vote.  As we’ve seen, when the party in power has passed laws by a slim majority, whether Democrat or Republican, it has created a very divided populace.  We have an increasingly diverse population in the U.S., so our laws should, as much as possible, allow people to pursue happiness in their own way, not forced by government policy, if we want to maintain a civil society.

John Deere workers need to be careful to stay competitive.

The striking workers at John Deere just rejected the second contract proposal offered by the company. The workers need to be careful to not put John Deere in the position of being not competitive in world markets.

About 40% of John Deere’s revenues come from outside the U.S.  If the company is not competitive internationally it will see a dramatic decline in revenues, profits… and jobs.  Many people today push us to “buy American”.   That sounds good and patriotic, but if other countries do the same we will all be poorer.

International free trade, just like free trade among the states in the U.S., has two sides:  In the long run, it makes everyone better off, but in the short run disrupts the lives of many.  The best policy is to have a safety net that helps those who lose their jobs transition to new jobs, while allowing free trade to help improve the income and wealth of people around the world.

The world population growth rate is slowing.

In his recent essay in The Des Moines Register, Jonathan Wilson wrote regarding the Earth’s population, “The current rate of population increase is simply not sustainable.” That statement is literally true. The rate of the world’s population increase has been slowing for decades. According to a forecast by the United Nations, which is more pessimistic than other forecasts, the world population is expected to peak at about 11 billion people near the end of this century and then begin to decline.

A clear pattern has been established. As countries around the world have become more affluent, their population growth rates have slowed. As people gain more income and wealth they have better access to birth control and respond to the various costs associated with having more children by having fewer of them. So, maybe the best thing we can do to further slow the rate of population increases is to help people in poorer countries to improve their economic situation. We might best do that by reducing barriers to free trade. Good jobs in poor countries will also result in fewer people wanting to illegally immigrate to other richer countries like the U.S.

Link to Johathan Wilson’s essay in The Des Moines Register: https://www.desmoinesregister.com/story/opinion/columnists/iowa-view/2021/10/17/world-food-prize-feeding-birth-control-both-needed/8214529002/

 

Some drug price control by Government/Medicare is probably appropriate.

Jessica Hyland is correct that if our government starts regulating drug prices, then the development of new drugs will slow down. (Below is the link to her essay in the Des Moines Register.) Our current government policies have given us more new drugs at higher prices than we are willing to pay for. So maybe getting new drugs more slowly would be a good trade-off for significantly lower drug prices.

Good health might be the most important thing in our lives, but it is not the only thing. The pandemic proved that many people are willing to risk their health in order to do those other things they consider to be important in their lives.

Today, drugs approved by the FDA are required to be covered by Medicare regardless of the price, and whether or not the drug is any better than cheaper existing drugs!  Government granted patents prohibit competition by generic drug makers for 20 years or more!  There is clearly no free market for prescription drugs.  As a libertarian, I would love to see our government get out of the healthcare business altogether, but we don’t live in that world.  Our government has had its thumb on the scales in favor of drug companies for decades, so it is not unreasonable for it to now start regulating drug prices.

Link to Register essay by Jessica Hyland: https://www.desmoinesregister.com/story/opinion/columnists/iowa-view/2021/05/25/hr-3-prescription-drugs-stifle-health-care-innovation/5240432001/

Don’t make Washington D.C. a new state!

Some Democrats are pushing to make most of Washington DC a State. (Washington DC would be reduced to the Capitol, the White House, the Mall and not much more. The remainder would become a new State.) More people live in Washington DC than in some of our smallest states. They say they do not get fair representation in Congress. If the area were to become a state, it would have two Senators and, I think, one Representative. About 75% of the registered voters in DC are Democrats. 6% are Republican. The rest are other parties or no party. So, it is easy to see why Democrats would like to have it added as a new State.

As you might guess, Republicans have another idea that would get the current citizens of Washington DC the representation that they want. That would be to return the land to the states that it originally came from: Virginia and Maryland. I understand that neither Virginia nor Maryland want the territory returned to them. Both of those states already appear to clearly have a Democrat majority, so it may be that they don’t want the territory returned because they already have control of those states and think it would be best for Democrats for Washington DC to be a new State.

I have a hard time trying to come up with a logical reasons why one alternative is better than another. What would happen if any state wanted to split into two or more states? Would that ever be allowed? Why or why not? For every possible scenario, it seems like what anyone would like to have happen depends on how it would affect the political party that they support. That being said, in this case, I’m in favor of returning the territory to the original states, or doing nothing. Doing nothing might be best because the other alternatives open up a big can or worms.