Gorsuch Apes NIMBY Government Lies in Supreme Court’s Grants Pass Decision

by Christian Britschgi, Reason, July 2, 2024.


Phoenix’s amicus brief in the Grants Pass case was co-written by the League of Arizona Cities and Towns—a taxpayer-funded lobbying group that spent most of this past year fighting efforts in the Arizona Legislature to liberalize local zoning codes.

Local governments love to blame Martin for rising homelessness because it relieves them of any real responsibility for the problem. Homelessness is something that happened to them, and here comes the 9th Circuit preventing them from doing anything about it.

It’s an incredible act of blame-shifting. In fact, local and state governments bear a considerable share of the blame for the rising homeless population by making housing so hard to build in the first place.

Nothing correlates more with homelessness rates than high housing costs. And nothing drives up housing costs like government restrictions on building housing.

When getting city approval for a new apartment building takes two years, state environmental law lets anyone delay an approved project with lawsuits, and the cheapest forms of housing are banned completely, is it any surprise that thousands of people end up on the streets?


Social Security’s $4.1 Trillion Hidden Government Deficit

by Romina Boccia, Reason, July 2, 2024.


In reality, Social Security operates on a pay‐​as‐​you‐​go basis. This means that the payroll taxes collected from current workers are immediately used to pay benefits to current retirees. Any surplus funds are credited to the Social Security Trust Fund, but these are not cash reserves; they are special‐​issue Treasury bonds, which are essentially IOUs from the federal government.

When Social Security runs a deficit—meaning it pays out more in benefits than it collects in taxes—it must redeem these bonds to cover the shortfall. The federal government then has to come up with the cash to honor these IOUs, either by raising taxes, cutting spending in other areas, or borrowing more money. Thus, the Trust Fund does not contain real, liquid assets but rather a promise that the government will pay itself back, which ultimately depends on the federal budget’s overall health and fiscal policy. (bold in original)

DRH story:

In 2004, when Dan Klein taught at Santa Clara University, he asked me to come up and give an evening talk to the students. We discussed what might be a good topic that would grab them and I suggested “Social Security: The Nightmare in Your Future.” That’s what I spoke on. My daughter, Karen, was a student there and although she wasn’t required to attend, she showed up with a guy friend. It was on a Tuesday evening and, just as had been the schedule when her mother and I had taught there in the early 1980s (that’s where we met), there were no classes on Wednesday. That’s relevant because my daughter told me that she would stay for the first half hour and then leave because it was party night. I told her that was fine and asked her permission to use a story about an interaction we had had when she was 11. She said yes.

Here’s the story I told to drive home the fact that the Trust Fund is not really a trust fund. When Karen was 11, she asked me if I’d been saving for her college. I answered that I had just started to in the last year. Being the daughter of an economist, she asked, “How much?” I answered that I was saving $10,000 a year for 8 years. That satisfied her. Then I said to the audience, “Imagine that, instead of putting $10,000 a year in a money market fund, I had written, ‘IOU $10,000’ on a scrap of paper and put it in a jar, and did that 8 years in a row. Who here believes that when I emptied the jar in 8 years, I would have $80,000?”

By the way, the talk lasted 45 minutes and Q&A another 40. At the end, Karen came up with her friend. They had stayed the whole time. She said, excitedly, “I didn’t know those things.”


ULTRAs: The Worst Idea You’ve Never Heard Of

by Michael Munger, AIER, July 1, 2024.


It would be possible to treat such as value as “mark to market” estimates, but again for assets that have thin markets—stocks in closely held or family corporations — or no annual market at all — for a unique mansion, or a large piece of real estate for which no “comparables” exist — such estimates are likely to be inaccurate, and expensive to check.

That’s where “ULTRAs” come in. Instead of taking two percent (say) of the liquidated value of the wealth, the state would simply take ownership of the wealth, in place. An ULTRA is a “notional equity interest.” The government literally takes a portion of the value of the asset; that value will be paid to the state when the asset is sold. Now, it is only a “notional” stake, in the sense that no shared right of control or voting rights exists. But for those who advocate for ULTRAs, in any situation where tax agencies are authorized to tax an asset today, but cannot because there is no evaluation event, the taxpayer could be made to pay with an ULTRA rather than with cash.


It is very difficult to know the value of the asset, but ULTRA to the rescue! As Delmotte puts it:

Without knowing its economic value, the government takes 2 percent equity in Plenty in Year One while in Year Two the remaining 98 percent of the asset is subject to a 2 percent charge (leaving 96.04 percent for Giselle); in Year Three, another 2 percent ULTRA-tax leaves Giselle with 94.12 percent of the original asset’s value. After twenty years of wealth taxes, this leaves Giselle with 66.4 percent equity in Plenty, and the tax authorities now own 33.6 percent of the company’s value. Under ULTRAs, there is no current cash tax payment, but when Giselle sells her shares in Plenty after 20 years, 33.6 percent of whatever the sales price turns out to be goes to the tax authorities.

The effect is rather startling, looking at the example. In a relatively short time, the government literally takes substantial ownership of all successful private businesses. Rather than being a drawback, advocates have actually become excited about government ownership of “the Metaverse,” and giving the Treasury Secretary extremely broad and unilateral discretion about the use of ULTRAs in lieu of cash payments.


Why It Is So Hard to Become an Acupuncturist in California?

by Krit Chanwong, Cato at Liberty, July 5, 2024.


Forty-six states and DC require acupuncturists to be certified with the National Certification Commission for Acupuncture and Oriental Medicine (NCCAOM). To obtain certification, aspiring acupuncturists must hold a degree from one of the 49 accredited schools of acupuncture. Aspiring acupuncturists also need to pass at least two of four exams administered by the NCCAOM. The number of exams required differs by state. Delaware, for example, mandates that its acupuncturists take all four NCCAOM exams. On the other hand, Pennsylvania mandates only two exams.

California does not recognize any NCCAOM certification. Instead, the state has its own licensing rules. Aspiring acupuncturists in California need to graduate from one of 29 universities accredited by California’s Acupuncture Board and take California’s acupuncture licensing exams. According to the People’s Organization of Community Acupuncture (POCA), California’s acupuncture licensing exams “has been held up as the gold standard for acupuncture licensing tests.” The high regard given to California’s exam is due to the test’s increased rigor and depth when compared to the NCCAOM’s.


Acupuncture licensing is just one small example of California’s licensing mania. For 20 years, California was ranked 49 out of 50 in Cato’s Freedom in the 50 States survey for occupational licensing freedom. A 2023 Archbridge Institute study found that California requires occupational licensing for 189 occupations, which is higher than the national average of 179. These licensing regulations harm all Californians: a 2018 Institute of Justice study suggests that California’s licensing regime costs 195,000 jobs annually—perhaps one reason the Golden State has one of the highest state unemployment rates.