European Commission Pushes Hypocritical Regulatory Message

The bureaucrats in Brussels are infamous for promulgating directives that add to the regulatory burden in European Union nations. Yet the same bureaucrats are pressuring national governments to adopt deregulation targets. This do-as-I-say-not-as-I-do message certainly rings hollow, though European consumers would benefit if politicians reduced red tape. The EU Observer reports:

EU leaders have agreed to a somewhat stronger goal on cutting red tape in their national legislation, despite previous reluctance to commit to a reduction of 25 percent of administrative burdens. …The move comes after last-minute pressure from the European Commission, urging governments to make a clear commitment to cut national bureaucracy which accounts for half of the bloc’s administrative costs. …Brussels believes red tape reduction would boost the EU economy by the equivalent of 3.5 percent of GDP and free up an estimated €150 billion for investment but only if national targets are included.

Will Halliburton Escape America’s Bad Tax System?

Some politicians are denouncing Halliburton for moving its headquarters to Dubai, but this is not a full-fledged corporate “expatriation.” Halliburton is only moving its headquarters, not its place of incorporation. Under US tax law, Halliburton will continue to be taxed on its worldwide income so long as the company is still chartered in Delaware. The move does not save the company one penny, at least from a tax perspective. To advance the interests of shareholders, however, the company should seek to change its place of incorporation. America’s worldwide tax system, combined with a high corporate tax rate, make it very difficult for multinational companies to compete in global markets. Unfortunately, it is now increasingly difficult to escape the Berlin Wall of American taxation, though Halliburton executives presumably are looking at the options. The politicians, meanwhile, should stop demagoguing the company and instead lower the coporate rate and shift to a territorial tax regime so that American companies can compete on a level playing field. ABC News reports:

The much-maligned defense contractor Halliburton is moving its corporate headquarters from Houston to Dubai in the United Arab Emirates. …Sen. Patrick Leahy, D-N.H., called the company’s move “corporate greed at its worst.”  …Fellow Democratic Rep. Henry Waxman, D-Calif., who chairs the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee, which has investigated contractor fraud, is planning to hold a hearing. “This is a surprising development,” he said. “I want to understand the ramifications for U.S. taxpayers and national security.”

The Smart Card Alliance Thinks Privacy Is Bunk

A spokesman for the Smart Card Alliance says:

Privacy concerns are all perception and hype and no substance but carry considerable weight with state legislators because no one wants to be accused of being soft on privacy.

That’s Randy Vanderhoof, the Smart Card Alliance’s executive director, quoted in a Federal Computer Week article on the collapsing REAL ID Act/national ID plan.  He was speaking of Congressman Tom Allen’s (D-ME) bill to restore the 9/11 Commission-inspired ID provisions of the Intelligence Reform and Terrorism Prevention Act of 2004.

Mr. Vanderhoof and the Smart Card Alliance couldn’t appear more dismissive, ignorant, and unserious about issues that are a core problem preventing uptake of its products.

FBI and Patriot Act

With all the excitement over the Second Amendment ruling, I’ve hardly had a chance to welcome the scrutiny that is now being directed at the FBI for its illegal use of “national security letters” (euphemism for super-special FBI search warrants).

Throughout the debate concerning the reauthorization of the Patriot Act, government people would taunt civil liberties advocates with the line: “Where are the abuses?”  We would patiently explain that the new police “tools” (euphemism for powers) were executed in secret.  The pols would usually just repeat their mantra in a louder voice, as if secrecy was irrelevant: “But you have not identified any abuses at all!”

Well, more abuses have now come to light and it’s a pleasant surprise that the development is at the top of the news.  But we should not be surprised.  Look at the incentives.  FBI agents get awards and promotions by breaking cases.  Agents do not get jailed or fired for skirting the law or disregarding civil liberties.   There’s no teeth behind the rules that were broken, just talk (‘We are studying the report … agents may need retraining’).  Lawsuits are mostly an expensive experience about futility.

Roll back the Patriot Act.  Abolish national security letters.  Not because search warrants are perfect–far from it.  But the judicial “check” in the search warrant application process is better than relying upon the police to respect the law and our rights.

For related Cato work, go here.

Environmentalism as Religion

Following his remarks at the Cato Institute on Friday, podcast producer Anastasia Uglova sat down with the President of the Czech Republic Vaclav Klaus to discuss his views on global climate change. During the interview, the President reiterated his belief that environmentalism is more religion than science, calling it “a very illiberal ideology practically attacking our freedom.” President Klaus’ speech comes a month after calling global warming a “myth” in a Czech newspaper.

Listen to the full interview.

When Governments Lobby Government, Taxpayers Lose

John Fund has a rather depressing article at the Wall Street Journal’s opinionjounal.com. He explains how governments - including universities and Indian tribes - are exempt from restrictions on lobbying. Yet these are some of the groups that specialize in feeding at the public trough. The real problem, of course, is that government is too big. So long as politicians are confiscating and redistributing about $3 trillion, interest groups will figure out ways of steering other people’s money in their direction:

….lobbyists visiting Capitol Hill are bound by House and Senate ethics rules that cap most individual gifts at $50 per elected official or staffer, with an annual limit of $100 per recipient from any single source. But local governments, public universities and Indian tribes are exempt from the limit, so they are able to shower members and their staffs with such goodies as luxury skybox tickets to basketball games and front-row concert tickets. Having members or their key aides attend such free events in the company of glad-handing university presidents and local government officials winds up costing taxpayers a pretty penny. Much of the explosive growth in earmarks has been directed to local governments and universities. …Universities and colleges spent at least $75 million in 2005 on lobbying according to a study by USA Today. The Chronicle of Higher Education reports that $2 billion in grants flowed into higher education in 2003. …The same lobbying rules that apply to private-sector lobbyists should also apply to taxpayer-funded government lobbyists. …Disgraced lobbyist Jack Abramoff once told me that he built his lobbying business in such a way that all his major clients were Indian tribes and local governments, in part because he knew he could wine and dine power brokers on Capitol Hill without breaking any laws.