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Preview: Bruce Bartlett from Creators Syndicate

Bruce Bartlett from Creators Syndicate

Creators Syndicate is an international syndication company that represents cartoonists and columnists of the highest caliber.

Last Build Date: Sat, 20 Jan 2018 07:23:16 -0800


Climate History for 06/25/2007

Mon, 25 Jun 2007 21:00:00 -0700

Many people are worried about global warming today. They fear that the polar ice caps will melt, raising sea levels and creating environmental chaos. Such concerns are not new. The historical record tells us of many warming episodes — and subsequent cooling periods — that have bedeviled humans for thousands of years.

The ancient Greek philosopher Plato, who lived from 427 B.C. to 347 B.C., wrote about major climate changes that were known in his day. In the dialogue "Timaeus," he argued that global warming occurs at regular intervals, often leading to great floods. Said Plato: "When ... the gods purge the earth with a deluge of water, the survivors ... are herdsmen and shepherds who dwell on the mountains. But those who ... live in cities are carried by the rivers into the sea."

In the dialogue "Critias," Plato wrote about weather-related geological changes. He referred to "formidable deluges" that washed away all the topsoil, turning the land into a "skeleton of a body wasted by disease." What were now plains had once been covered with rich soil, Plato said, and barren mountains were once covered with trees. The yearly "water from Zeus" had been lost, he went on, creating deserts where the land was once productive.

Updated: Mon Jun 25, 2007

Immigration Frustration for 06/04/2007

Mon, 04 Jun 2007 21:00:00 -0700

One of the things that bothers me about the immigration bill is the view held in the White House and Congress that "something" must be done — the option of doing nothing is not an option. It is my experience that when this idea takes hold, it is almost inevitable that something bad will result.

In principle, I favor the free mobility of labor — just as I favor free trade and the free movement of capital. If we still had the kind of economy we had in the 19th century, in which the government was minuscule and there were no welfare programs, I would be inclined to let anyone in who wants to come here. The only way they are going to survive is by working their butts off, and if they are willing to do that, then we want them.

This was, of course, the generally held view at that time. The United States welcomed immigrants from anywhere and everywhere. But beginning in the 1930s, this country began to become more and more of a welfare state. Many government programs now confer significant benefits upon those who produce nothing.

Updated: Mon Jun 04, 2007

Taking Ron Paul Seriously for 05/28/2007

Mon, 28 May 2007 21:00:00 -0700

As some readers of this column may know, the first "real" job I ever had was working for Congressman Ron Paul back in 1976. I went to visit him a few months ago and was pleased to see that he had not changed much at all since the days when I was a legislative assistant on his congressional staff.

At that time, I did not know that Ron planned a run for the 2008 Republican presidential nomination. When I later learned of it, I thought he was being hopelessly Quixotic — tilting at windmills. I thought Ron's views about limited constitutional government and nonintervention in the affairs of other nations were hopelessly out of step with the vast bulk of Republican primary voters. On the war, they remain solidly in the George W. Bush camp — willing to defend the war in Iraq to the bitter end and highly intolerant of anyone who raises doubts about its wisdom or continuation. Rudy Giuliani exemplified this attitude in the debate two weeks ago when he demanded that Ron apologize for his antiwar position.

However, significant cracks have developed in the wall of conservative support that Bush enjoyed at the beginning of the war. Today, much is known about the lack of verifiable evidence of Saddam Hussein's possession of weapons of mass destruction, and about how the White House bullied those urging caution into reluctant support and thoroughly screwed-up the Iraq occupation. Even Sen. John McCain, still a strenuous war supporter, has become outspoken on Bush's poor management of it. Consequently, more than a few conservatives have gone over to the antiwar side. Unfortunately for Ron, they are mostly former Republicans today, unlikely to vote in a Republican primary.

Updated: Mon May 28, 2007

Democrats and Conservatives for 05/07/2007

Mon, 07 May 2007 21:00:00 -0700

I hadn't planned on writing another column about Hillary Clinton, but the one I wrote last week has been so widely misunderstood that I feel compelled to do so.

To recap, I said that no Republican can win the presidency next year. If one accepts this premise, then if follows that it is in the interest of conservatives to support the most conservative Democrat running for that party's nomination. I went on to say why I think Hillary Clinton may be the most conservative Democrat.

To begin with, it is obviously not impossible for a Republican to win next year. But clearly 2008 is shaping up as a Democratic year. It will take a monumental Democratic screw-up to lose. I can think of only one instance in American history where a party had the kind of advantage the Democrats have and still lost. That was 1948, when Republican Thomas E. Dewey blew an election that should have been in the bag and lost to Democrat Harry Truman.

Updated: Mon May 07, 2007

Tax Winners and Losers for 04/23/2007

Mon, 23 Apr 2007 21:00:00 -0700

As is the case every April, the deadline for paying one's federal income taxes brought forth many news features on the burden of taxation. This year was no different, with one article by former White House press secretary Ari Fleischer in The Wall Street Journal getting particular attention.

Fleischer's main point is that a growing percentage of the population is paying no federal income taxes. He said the figure is 40 percent, based on a recent study by the Congressional Budget Office showing that the bottom two income quintiles (20 percent of households) paid no federal income taxes in the aggregate in 2004. This is because the Earned Income Tax Credit offsets all of the tax liability for those who had incomes below $29,400.

Fleischer was quickly taken to task by liberals like Jared Bernstein of the Economic Policy Institute and Jonathan Chait of The New Republic for ignoring the burden of payroll taxes on those with low incomes. The same CBO data cited by Fleischer show that those in the bottom quintile paid 8.2 percent of their income in payroll taxes and the second quintile paid 9.1 percent.

Updated: Mon Apr 23, 2007

Blogging Benefits for 04/16/2007

Mon, 16 Apr 2007 21:00:00 -0700

On April 6, I had an article in The New York Times arguing the term "supply-side economics" (SSE) had outlived its usefulness. I wasn't criticizing SSE. On the contrary, I was celebrating its success because its central truths are now fully incorporated into mainstream economic thinking. Consequently, continuing use of the term is more of a barrier to communication than a facilitator, in my opinion.

What was really interesting about my article, however, was the reaction to it. A University of Oregon economics professor named Mark Thoma posted a long commentary on it on his blog. I posted a response, which led to many other comments, including a couple from Paul Krugman, a Princeton economics professor and New York Times columnist.

Subsequently, University of California-Berkeley economist Brad DeLong posted much of the discussion from Thoma's Website on his and offered additional commentary, which led to further comments from me and some of those who had also posted comments on Thoma's Website. Since then, Thoma has kept the conversation going by soliciting a commentary by James Galbraith, an economics professor at the University of Texas.

Updated: Mon Apr 16, 2007

Economics on the Internet for 04/02/2007

Mon, 02 Apr 2007 21:00:00 -0700

I recently made a life-changing decision that, to those under the age of 30, will probably sound ridiculous. I finally decided that I trust the Internet enough to stop subscribing to a number of publications that are now easily available online.

When you younger folk finish laughing, try to look at it from my point of view. For many years, the only way you could get critical data was to go down to places like the Bureau of Economic Analysis or the Bureau of Labor Statistics and pick it up yourself. If you were a journalist, you might get them to put you on a mailing list, but it might be days or weeks before the press release arrived.

If you wanted to know what the Federal Reserve was doing, you had to trek up to Capitol Hill and try to get a place in the hearing room when the chairman testified. If you were really lucky, there might be a few copies of his statement left when he finished and a congressional staffer might let you have one.

Updated: Mon Apr 02, 2007

Coulter Consequences for 03/26/2007

Mon, 26 Mar 2007 21:00:00 -0700

One of the reasons why I wish columnist Ann Coulter hadn't used the F-word in a recent speech — the one that is a derogatory term for being gay — is because it gave liberals yet another excuse to label all conservatives as homophobic, racist and sexist, which Rick Perlstein did last week in The New Republic.

As Perlstein wrote, Coulter's poor choice of words "fits into a running conservative pattern." He went on to suggest that radio talk show host Rush Limbaugh was sending coded messages to his listeners about former Secretary of State James A. Baker's sexual orientation by referring to the Iraq Study Group's recommendations as "fruit salad." But Baker, who chaired the study group, was the one who asked that its recommendations be accepted in their totality and not be treated "like fruit salad" in which one picks and chooses what to eat. This is obviously what Limbaugh was referring to.

Perlstein knew this perfectly well — he even mentions it in his column — but it didn't stop him from drawing completely absurd conclusions about what Limbaugh meant. Perlstein's rationale is that anyone who calls for diplomacy in Iraq, as Baker did, must be a bit "fruity" in Limbaugh's view. A real man (i.e., heterosexual) presumably would have called for more death and destruction, instead. Thus, in Perlstein's distorted view of conservative thinking, diplomacy equals gay.

Updated: Mon Mar 26, 2007

Partisan Press Parity? for 03/12/2007

Mon, 12 Mar 2007 21:00:00 -0700

For most of my lifetime, criticism of media bias was largely confined to those on the right side of the political spectrum. When I first moved to Washington in the mid-1970s, conservatives called The Washington Post "Pravda on the Potomac" for its uncompromising liberalism and disdain for all things conservative, which spread far beyond the editorial page and permeated its news coverage, as well.

Today, the situation has changed a great deal. While conservatives still believe that the major media are biased against them, one hears more and more criticism coming from the left. Indeed, judging by what one reads on the left-wing blogs, there are many liberals out there who truly believe that the major media now have a conservative bias.

In my view, the media did have a strong left-wing tilt for many years. But over the last 20 years or so, I think that has mostly disappeared. Major newspapers like the Post and New York Times are now fairly evenhanded in their news coverage. Their editorial pages are still pretty liberal, of course, but the Post in particular is far less liberal in its editorial positions than it was in the 1970s.

Updated: Mon Mar 12, 2007

Political Reform for 03/05/2007

Mon, 05 Mar 2007 21:00:00 -0800

A few months ago, I caused a bit of a stir by suggesting that the best way for libertarian ideas to advance is by destroying the Libertarian Party. Since it cannot win, due to the nature of our political system, it is impotent and only ends up crushing the spirits of libertarian-minded political activists. After spending some time with the party, they often become so frustrated that they exit politics altogether, leaving fewer libertarians in the Republican and Democratic parties.

For the benefit of those who still cling to the idea of a political party explicitly devoted to libertarian principles, today I want to talk about some political reforms that might make such a party viable.

One, obviously, is a European-style parliamentary system where the president is, in effect, elected by Congress. The Founding Fathers rejected this idea, and I see nothing in the way parliamentary systems govern that seems better than what we have.

Updated: Mon Mar 05, 2007

Presidential Predicting for 02/26/2007

Mon, 26 Feb 2007 21:00:00 -0800

Although we are two years away from the first ballot being cast in the 2008 presidential election and don't even know who the candidates will be, we already know a great deal about how the race will turn out. Historical trends tell us that the Republican candidate will be very tough to beat regardless of who he is.

To see why this is the case, let's first look at which states voted for George W. Bush in both 2000 and 2004, and those that went for both Al Gore and John Kerry. This will give us a good guide to each party's base.

Starting with Bush, we see that he carried all of these states twice: Alabama, Alaska, Arizona, Arkansas, Colorado, Florida, Georgia, Idaho, Indiana, Kansas, Kentucky, Louisiana, Mississippi, Missouri, Montana, Nebraska, Nevada, North Carolina, North Dakota, Ohio, Oklahoma, South Carolina, South Dakota, Tennessee, Texas, Utah, Virginia, West Virginia and Wyoming. They have 274 electoral votes, with 270 needed to win.

Updated: Mon Feb 26, 2007

Republicans' Cheney Problem for 02/19/2007

Mon, 19 Feb 2007 21:00:00 -0800

It is becoming increasingly clear that the Republican Party has a huge problem going into 2008. Usually, it has a clear frontrunner going into the process who is broadly acceptable to most Republicans. But in this election cycle, that is not true. The race is wide open and it is hard to predict who will be left standing when the last primary vote is cast.

One thing that can be predicted is that a great many Republicans will be dissatisfied with their party's presidential nominee. It won't matter who among those currently running ends up with the nomination, because, in my opinion, none have the capacity to unite the party or to stimulate the kind of intense support a nominee needs to win the general election.

Moreover, I think the Democrats will be united around their candidate, whoever it is. They have been out of the White House for a long time and feel, rightly or wrongly, that the last two elections were stolen from them. They won't let that happen again. Nor do I think it is likely that the Democrats will run three historically awful campaigns in a row. They are due for a rebound.

Updated: Mon Feb 19, 2007

Tax Gap Chimera for 02/12/2007

Mon, 12 Feb 2007 21:00:00 -0800

According to press reports, Democrats in Congress are planning a major effort to reduce the so-called tax gap. This consists of money owed to the federal government but not paid. According to the Internal Revenue Service, in 2001 the gross tax gap was $345 billion, which fell to $290 billion after enforcement efforts. This suggests that about 14 percent of all taxes that are owed are not paid annually — a figure no higher today than in the 1980s.

These figures are primarily for individual income and payroll taxes — the IRS has not updated its research on corporate tax compliance for decades. One reason is that the line between tax evasion and legal tax avoidance in the corporate sector is very, very murky. For many corporations, it's not worth the bother to evade taxes when there are so many legal tax avoidance opportunities available.

To a certain extent, this is true of individuals, as well. When I do radio shows, I often hear from callers who believe their taxes are much too high. But when I question them about whether they participate in their employer's 401(k) plan, whether they are contributing the maximum to an Individual Retirement Account, whether they have considered investing in tax-free municipal bonds, whether they are taking advantage of the Earned Income Tax Credit and other legal methods of tax avoidance easily available to all taxpayers, very often the answer is "no." In effect, many taxpayers are voluntarily paying more taxes than necessary.

Updated: Mon Feb 12, 2007

Regulatory Respite? for 02/06/2007

Tue, 06 Feb 2007 21:00:00 -0800

Last week, President Bush took some long overdue action to constrain the growing burden of federal regulation on the economy. Predictably, Democrats howl that Republicans are endangering all Americans by leaving them to the mercies of greedy corporations. But they would be well advised not to block Bush's order, because it will come in handy when Democrats retake the White House.

Liberals are so convinced that Bush is the most conservative president in American history, they have long overlooked his many transgressions from conservative orthodoxy, well documented in the new book "Leviathan on the Right," by Michael Tanner.

One has been his approach to government regulation. Contrary to the popular perception, Bush has been one of the most pro-regulation presidents — far more so than Democrat Bill Clinton, who, in many ways, was a better friend to the free market than Bush has been.

Updated: Tue Feb 06, 2007