All posts by Thomas L. Knapp

Happy “Holiday,” Motorists! Well, Maybe Not So Much.

Photo by Chris Yarzab. Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 Generic license.
Photo by Chris Yarzab. Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 Generic license.

On June 22, by popular demand, US president Joe Biden asked Congress to pass a three month “holiday” on collection of the federal gasoline tax. With prices hovering at around $5 per gallon, Americans want something done.

I’m all for it. I hate taxes, and I’m all for tax cuts, in any amount, for any length of time. Yay, Biden!

But before breaking into a collective happy dance over the “holiday” proposal and how great it’s going to be for our wallets, let’s look at some numbers.

According to the US Energy Information Administration, Americans used about 135 billion gallons of gasoline — about 408 gallons per man, woman and child in the country — in 2021. That’s not quite eight gallons per week per person.

Even if Americans aren’t reducing their miles driven due to higher prices, that means a “holiday” on collection of the 18.4 cent per gallon federal gas tax would save each of us a whopping $1.47 per week.

Don’t spend it all in one place.

And don’t expect to not pay for it on the inflationary back end.

The popular/common understanding of inflation is “price inflation” — a general rise in prices that happens when more dollars  chase the same goods and services. Everything else equal, if 350 million Americans suddenly have an extra $1.47 their wallets, that will produce at least some small upward blip in prices. A can of corned beef hash will go for a penny more next week than it did last week, or whatever.

Another effect will come in the form of textbook inflation, which is an increase in the supply of money (that is, the Federal Reserve creating new dollars out of thin air) versus total production of goods and services in the economy.

If the feds stop collecting the gas tax, naturally Congress will have to cut government spending by $25 billion per year (about $6 billion over the three-month “holiday”) to make up for reduced revenues, right?

Don’t make me laugh. Government spending will roll right along as usual. Congress will  just borrow the money, which means the Fed will magic that money into existence, making every dollar in your pocket worth less in terms of real purchasing power.

The proposed “holiday” is feel-good, “do something, anything” theater, not a serious solution. Gas prices will fall when supply goes up, demand goes down, or both. Anything else is just the equivalent of avoiding ladders and black cats on Friday the 13th.

Thomas L. Knapp (Twitter: @thomaslknapp) is director and senior news analyst at the William Lloyd Garrison Center for Libertarian Advocacy Journalism (thegarrisoncenter.org). He lives and works in north central Florida.

PUBLICATION/CITATION HISTORY

Florida: So Much for “Parental Rights”

Drag Ball at Webster Hall, Greenwich Village, in the 1920s. Public domain.
Drag Ball at Webster Hall, Greenwich Village, in the 1920s. Public domain.

In late March, Florida governor Ron DeSantis was all about “parental rights,” signing what critics called a “Don’t Say Gay” bill, which he insisted was really all about protecting the ability of parents to guide their children’s upbringing, control what subject matter they were exposed to in the classroom, and be informed by schools of matters pertaining to their “mental, emotional, or physical well-being.”

Only three months later, he’s threatening to have parents investigated by the state’s “child protective” bureaucracy should they choose to take their kids to entertainment events he doesn’t approve of.  And the same legislators who passed that “parental rights” bill now propose  to make parental non-conformity with Ron DeSantis’s entertainment preferences a felony punishable by, among other things, termination of the “parental rights” they so recently postured as defenders of.

Why the sudden bootlegger’s reverse on “parental rights?”

Well, it seems that some parents, in some places, are taking their kids to “drag shows” — per Wikipedia, “a form of entertainment performed by drag artists impersonating men or women.”

Ron DeSantis and company consider that a prime opportunity to “own the libs” in the “culture war,” even if it means turning on a dime and abandoning their “parental rights” line.

In American culture, drag shows have been a thing for about a century. Until fairly recently they were mostly confined to adults-only venues, especially “gay bars” and remote war zone locations where US troops had to provide their own entertainment.

But in recent years they’ve become increasingly popular outside the LGBTQ and military communities, in large part due to the “reality TV” series  RuPaul’s Drag Race, now entering its 15th season.

When things become popular in the larger culture, they become interesting to kids too. And some parents are going to humor that interest.

DeSantis is obviously willing to throw those parents under the bus if he thinks it will increase his vote totals in this November’s gubernatorial election and, prospectively, the 2024 GOP presidential primaries.

I’m not going to try to sell you on drag shows, especially for kids. In my limited experience (I attended a few such shows with friends at “gay bars” back in the 1980s), they’re quite entertaining, but usually feature dancing, dress, and humor with strong sexual overtones. I hear that “family-friendly” versions are a thing now, but haven’t seen those and thus have no opinion on them.

What I am going to try to sell you on is … well, “parental rights.”

Being a parent means making choices, and while I hope you’ll make good choices, the types of entertainment you choose for your family are your business. Not mine. Not Ron DeSantis’s. Yours.

Any politician who says otherwise should be punished, not applauded.

Thomas L. Knapp (Twitter: @thomaslknapp) is director and senior news analyst at the William Lloyd Garrison Center for Libertarian Advocacy Journalism (thegarrisoncenter.org). He lives and works in north central Florida.

PUBLICATION/CITATION HISTORY

Free Assange? Yes, But That’s Not Nearly Enough.

Photo by Manon Levet // Reporters sans Frontières France. Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 4.0 International license.
Photo by Manon Levet // Reporters sans Frontières France. Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 4.0 International license.

On June 17, UK Home Secretary Priti Patel approved the extradition of Julian Assange to the United States to face 18 criminal charges: One count of conspiracy to commit computer intrusion, and 17 counts of violating the Espionage Act of 1917. If convicted on all charges, Assange faces up to 175 years in prison.

His final recourse is an appeal to the High Court of Justice where, if the history of his case is any indication, he’ll be told that they’re all out of justice and have none for him.

If justice had anything to do with it, previous courts would have thrown out the US extradition request on grounds of both jurisdiction and treaty language. The “crimes” of which Assange is accused were not committed on US soil. And Article 4 of the US-UK extradition treaty forbids extradition for political offenses.

Be clear on this: Assange is a political prisoner, held for and charged with committing … journalism.

He exposed war crimes committed by US government forces in Iraq and Afghanistan, as well as other illegal schemes such as then Secretary of State Hillary Clinton’s attempts to have UN diplomats’ offices bugged.

The US government hates having its crimes exposed and, First Amendment be damned, tries to make examples out of those who dare display its dirty laundry.

While Assange obviously has more skin in the game than anyone else in this particular case, he’s not the real target. The real target is the NEXT journalist who catches the US government acting illegally. The goal is to make that journalist think twice before telling you about it.

For that reason, stopping the extradition of Julian Assange isn’t enough. Nor should we settle for an acquittal in court or a presidential pardon.

Crimes HAVE been committed, and examples DO need to made of the criminals who committed them.

The US Attorneys who filed the indictment — Tracy Dogerty-McCormick, Kellen S. Dwyer, and Thomas W. Traxler — must be charged with violating 18 US Code Titles 241 (Conspiracy Against Rights) and 242 (Deprivation of Rights Under Color of Law).  In addition to any prison sentences, they must permanently lose their licenses to practice law and be disqualified for life from further employment by the US government.

The same goes for their assorted co-conspirators, up to and including sitting and former presidents of the United States.

The US Department of Justice must dismiss the indictment, withdraw the extradition request, publicly apologize for its crimes against Assange, and compensate him richly for years of confinement and torture at its behest.

That’s the absolute bare minimum. Just as Assange was not their real target, they’re not ours. Our target is all the government officials who might, in the future, consider committing this kind of crime again.

Thomas L. Knapp (Twitter: @thomaslknapp) is director and senior news analyst at the William Lloyd Garrison Center for Libertarian Advocacy Journalism (thegarrisoncenter.org). He lives and works in north central Florida.

PUBLICATION/CITATION HISTORY