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People who say it cannot be done should not interrupt those who are doing it. Welcome to From On High.

Tuesday, January 04, 2005

Losing Ground In the Global Economy

From Mary Anastasia O'Grady in the Wall Street Journal this morning:

For the first time in the 11 years that the Heritage Foundation and The Wall Street Journal have been publishing the Index of Economic Freedom, the U.S. has dropped out of the top 10 freest economies in the world.

In 1998, the U.S. was the fifth freest economy in the world, in 2001 it was sixth, and today it sits at 12th, tied with Switzerland. The U.S. drop in ranking is explained in part by a slightly lower score, but mostly by the good performance among its competitors. The lesson? Stand still on the highway to economic liberty and the world will soon start to pass you by.

The 2005 Index, released today, ranks Hong Kong once again as the world's freest economy, followed by Singapore and Luxembourg. But it is Estonia at No. 4 that makes the point. This former Soviet satellite is a model reformer, setting the standard for how fast countries can move ahead in the realm of economic liberalization. Ireland, New Zealand, the U.K., Denmark, Iceland, Australia and Chile, all relatively recent converts to free markets, also outpace the U.S. this year. (link)

In case you were asleep in geography and civics classes, Estonia is a Baltic state and was, twenty years ago, a communist country. COMMUNIST. Now its economic policies are declared to be more free than are those of the USA. We should be ashamed.

How could this be?

The Index scores economic freedom in 10 categories, ranging from fiscal burdens and government regulation to monetary and trade policy. The U.S., with its strong property rights, low inflation and competitive banking and finance laws, scores well in most. But worrying developments like Sarbanes-Oxley in the category of regulation and aggressive use of antidumping law in trade policy have kept it from keeping pace with the best performers in economic freedom.

Most alarming is the U.S.'s fiscal burden, which imposes high marginal tax rates for individuals and very high marginal corporate tax rates. In terms of corporate taxation as an element of economic freedom, the U.S. ranks a lowly 112th out of the 155 countries scored, and its top individual tax rate ranks only slightly better at 82nd. U.S. government expenditures as a share of GDP increased less in 2003 than in 2002, but the rise since 2001 is what explains the U.S.'s decline in score over the period.

The most deflating aspect to this story is that the situation here is only going to worsen. Both Republicans and Democrats now enjoy legislating nifty new regulations and creative corporate tax burdens. And everyone knows, we hate the rich. So we have fallen behind Estonia. And Iceland for God's sake.

Zimbabwe is only a year or two away.

Gay Marriage Issue Comes To Virginia

Well, it was just a matter of time before the gay marriage issue worked its way to the Old Dominion.

Virginia To Consider Amendment on Marriage

By Christina BellantoniTHE WASHINGTON TIMES

Lawmakers in Virginia are aiming to place the commonwealth at the forefront of the nation's battle against same-sex unions when the General Assembly reconvenes next week.

The legislature will consider a state constitutional amendment to uphold marriage as the union of a man and a woman, by reaffirming the traditional definition of marriage.

Virginia law recognizes a marriage only between a man and a woman. It does not recognize same-sex unions performed in other states.

Lawmakers also will consider creating a special driver's license plate for supporters of traditional marriage. [my emphasis] (link)

Gay marriage really isn't a topic I care to get worked up over. Homosexuals "marrying" is such an odd concept that I reject the thought without effort and move on.

I do, however, get a bit excited about the opportunity to select a new license plate (We have a broad array to choose from already. I have chosen the "traditional" look. It says "Virginia.") If they would allow me to design it, it would read "If you're close enough to read this plate, you're gay. Get away from my backside." Or "This license plate was manufactured in the Bland Correctional facility by Big Angus's girlfriend, Anthony. Continue hanging out in gay bars and Big Angus will show you some love too." Or the more in-your-face "I'm heterosexual and you're not." Or the cerebral, "I'm heterosexual and my children are thankful for it." Or the politically incorrect "Gay? How much longer do you expect to live disease-free and don't count today."

Sorry about that last one.

Republican Wienies

The Republicans in Congress prove themselves to be cowards ... again.

House G.O.P. Voids Rule It Adopted Shielding Leader

By CARL HULSE

WASHINGTON, Jan. 3 - Stung by criticism that they were lowering ethical standards, House Republicans on Monday night reversed a rule change that would have allowed a party leader to retain his position even if indicted.

Lawmakers and House officials said Republicans, meeting behind the closed doors of the House chamber, had acted at the request of the House majority leader, Representative Tom DeLay, who had been the intended beneficiary of the rule change. (link)

They just don't belong in the same room with the Democrats when it comes to down-and-dirty politics. Rather than emulate the practices of the opposition, they prefer to retreat. Over and over again.

In this case, there isn't to be much damage. But in the case of judicial nominees (over on the Senate side), they get pushed around like a 98 pound weakling. When will they learn?