Feel Good Hit Of The Summer

Well it’s officially the first day of summer! Let’s celebrate with the Queens Of The Stone Age tune “Feel Good Hit Of The Summer” off their 2000 sophomore release Rated R. The lyrics are quite concise:

“Nicotine, valium, vicodin, marijuana, ecstasy, and alcohol. C-c-c-c-c-co-caine!”

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Kyle Cox Album Teaser

Kyle Cox‘s debut solo full-length album — The Plan, The Mess – is almost ready for release!

The official album trailer just went up today and will have to suffice until that unscheduled date. Yup, Kyle’s a real Cox Teaser. Deal with it!

Recorded at The Paper Mill here in East Nashville with producer/drummer extraordinaire Mike Marsh and myself on bass. As I’ve stated previously, I consider myself very fortunate and proud to be part of yet another phenomenal album with such an eclectic blend of songs that paint with so many different colors. So much credit is due to Kyle for his brilliant songwriting, as well as Mike for bringing the album’s vision to life. I’m hard pressed to find more inspiring artists to work with!

And what a cast of cameo appearances! There’s some pedal steel by Mike Douchette, upright bass on a couple of tracks by Avett Brothers pianist Paul Defiglia, mandolin courtesy of Cherrill Green, and additional vocals from Armon Jay “AJ” Cheek, Cory Quintard, and Rachel E. Smith.

Check out Kyle’s features in American Songwriter here and here for winning their lyric contest an unprecedented two times! Can you say dynasty? Uh huh. #songs

A Bigger Tax Bill For Google Helps Neither People, Nor Profits

shakedown-1It’s not uncommon to hear populist cries for companies operating under foreign subsidiaries to pay their “share” in taxes or even repatriate assets. What’s extremely rare, however, is a company’s own shareholders demanding they cough up a sizeable chunk of change to Uncle Sam. After all, such an action will ultimately decrease the company’s net asset value, thus penalizing the shareholders themselves. So who would insist on such shenanigans? A faction of Google stockholders.*

At the annual meeting of Google Inc. shareholders, several co-filers, led by the Domini Social Equity Fund, submitted a proposal requesting that the company’s board of directors “adopt a set of principles to address the impact of Google’s tax strategies on society.” Although the actual proposal states that “this is not a vote on tax reform, or how much tax Google should pay,” it goes on to list the following as grounds for the proposal itself:

  • Corporate tax avoidance threatens economic growth and innovation
  • Even if they are within the law, aggressive tax minimization approaches pose regulatory, reputational and financial risks.
  • Other companies have adopted tax policy principles.
  • Google’s tax strategy should be consistent with its stated objectives and policies on social and environmental sustainability.

The consumer group SumOfUs, whose slogan is “People not profits,” also filed an online petition seeking 150,000 signatures, claiming that Google owes $2 billion in taxes worldwide. Marginalizing the importance of the profit incentive undermines the value that Google and other businesses provide. It also overlooks the fact that these dubious profits are used to create jobs, fund research, spur innovation, and generally increase the quality of life for the “people” that SumOfUs seem so concerned about.

While the faction of Google shareholders calling for the company to pay more taxes surely believe themselves to be well intended, they couldn’t be operating further from reality. Corporate taxation itself is one the largest, if not the largest, threat to economic growth and innovation.

With the United States currently boasting one of the highest corporate income tax rates in the world, it’s easy to understand why so many companies flee American shores in search of tax shelters – one of the most basic laws of economics is that when you tax something, you’ll inevitably get less of that something.

Moreover, economist Steve Horwitz points out that a tax on a corporation is not the same as a tax on the wealthy. Individuals end up paying these corporate taxes regardless of wealth, with the working class bearing the brunt in the form of lower wages, higher priced consumer goods, and retirement portfolios of lesser value. Corporate taxes also encourage firms to waste resources on tax avoidance and utilize debt financing instead of equity as a means of decreasing tax liabilities, making the companies riskier.

Tax minimization posing regulatory, reputational, and financial risks is a dubious notion at best. Tax codes exist to subsidize an entire industry whose preoccupation is tax minimization. Google’s significant resources allow them to both comply with the law and achieve minimum tax liability. Simply because other companies, like eBay, have adopted tax policy principles and cost their shareholders billions of dollars, doesn’t make it a smart maneuver. It seems as though Google shareholders have forgotten the “if everybody jumped off of a bridge” quip.

Would you toss half of your company’s annual profits off of a bridge?

But the real knee-slapping dose of irony comes in the assertion that Google’s tax strategy should be consistent with its social and environmental objectives. If the message from this faction of Google shareholders and SumOfUs is that paying taxes is somehow patriotic, perhaps it’s even more patriotic to avoid them. By insisting that Google pay more taxes to the federal government, this faction of shareholders is indeed saying that Google is in favor, or should be in favor, of:

  • Countless undeclared, open-ended wars
  • Subsidizing big business to the detriment of the little guy
  • Prosecuting a drug war that adversely affects poor minorities
  • NSA spying illegally on Americans

The list can go on for miles. Is this really the type of social and environmental construct that Google or its shareholder have such strong feelings about?

*I own Google stock and don’t want them to pay taxes, ever. In fact, I’ll be submitting a proposal to redeem every penny of tax they’ve ever paid.

This post originally appeared at The Libertarian Republic

Standing with the Rank-N-File, Marching with the Underground

Here’s another gem from Anti-Flag’s 2003 release The Terror State, “Rank-N-File” 

I’m standing with the rank-n-file,
I’m marching with the underground,
Our black hearts worn on our sleeves!

Let my imagination go and drop me where I feel most scared.
Snap back already giving thanks,
I’m not trapped working in a sweatshop somewhere.**
This song’s for those less fortunate,
Locked in a world where both ends aren’t meant to meet.

Let my imagination go and drop me where I feel most scared.
Synaptic flashes in my head then total thanks again,
I’m not soldiering somewhere.
This song is for the countless souls,
Who died in vain for someone else’s gain.

Left my birthplace for foreign streets to strange places, new faces I flew.
Shoeless kids stood on the corner,
Their eyes they were transfixed on you.

So I’m standing with the rank-n-file…

**Apologies to Matt Zwolinski and Ben Powell

Study of a Lady

Our good friend Jon Preston created a video montage of his original paintings called “Study of a Lady” set to the song “Golden” by Paper! For those in need of a reminder, Paper is the moniker of Avett Brothers drummer Mike Marsh‘s solo project… for which I play bass.

Low Supply and High Demand Here in No Man’s Land

We’re long overdue for an installment of Classic Rock for Classical Liberals, so today will feature Billy Joel’s “No Man’s Land” from his 1993 release, River of Dreams.

I’ve seen those big machines come rolling through the quiet pines
Blue suits and bankers with their Volvos and their valentines
Give us this day our daily discount outlet merchandise
Raise up a multiplex and we will make a sacrifice
Now we’re gonna get the big business
Now we’re gonna get the real thing
Everybody’s all excited about it

Who remembers when it all began
Out here in No Man’s Land
Before they passed the master plan
Out here in No Man’s Land
Low supply and high demand
Here in No Man’s Land

There ain’t much work out here in our consumer power base
No major industry, just miles and miles of parking space
This morning’s paper says our neighbor’s in a cocaine bust
Lots more to read about Lolita and suburban lust
Now we’re gonna get the whole story
Now we’re gonna be in prime time
Everybody’s all excited about it

Who remembers when it all began
We’ve just begun to understand
Low supply and high demand

I see these children with their boredom and their vacant stares
God help us all if we’re to blame for their unanswered prayers
They roll the sidewalks up at night this place goes underground
Thanks to the Condo Kings there’s cable now in Zombietown
Now we’re gonna get the closed circuit
Now we’re gonna get the Top 40
Now we’re gonna get the sports franchise
Now we’re gonna get the major attractions

Who remembers when it all began
Before the whole world was in our hands
Before the banners and the marching bands
Low supply and high demand

Smells Like Mean Spirits: Tennessee’s Crony Whiskey Laws

whiskeyAdult beverage fans are undoubtedly aware of the craft brewing and distilling revivals that swept the U.S. in recent years. The craft movement is understandably popular since it provides an influx of options at the intersection of quality and economical. One particularly unamused player in the spirits industry, however, is Brown-Forman, the maker of Tennessee’s famous Jack Daniel’s whiskey.

Although distillers in Tennessee employed different techniques and a variety of base products like corn, barley, and rye to produce whiskey for over a century, last year the company successfully urged the state to pass legislation requiring anything labeled “Tennessee Whiskey” not just be distilled in Tennessee, but also made from at least 51 percent corn, filtered through maple charcoal, and aged in pricey, new oak barrels each year. State lawmakers are currently considering an outright repeal of last year’s law that unfairly benefits the world’s most renowned Tennessee Whiskey.

It’s no secret that people lobby the government to curry favor. In fact, it’s been going on for centuries. Gordon Tullock, a founding figure of public choice theory, identified many of these concepts and originated the idea of what became known as rent-seeking, which occurs when large companies utilize their financial position to lobby politicians with the express purpose of increasing profits through legislation. As David Henderson explains at the Library of Economics and Liberty, “Tullock’s insight was that expenditures on lobbying for privileges are costly and that these expenditures, therefore, dissipate some of the gains to the beneficiaries and cause inefficiency.”

Incumbent firms in any given industry are prone to use their considerable resources to seek out regulations that protect their economic interests and secure competitive advantage over rivals through codified increases to the cost of doing business. This behavior can lead to moral hazard when politicians base policy decisions on the lobby rather than efficiency. Anybody that’s watched at least twenty minutes of Netflix’s “House of Cards” is already subliminally well-versed in the implications of public choice and rent seeking.

But Jack Daniel’s already enjoys a more than comfortable market share of over 90 percent in the battle of the Tennessee Whiskeys. Why this standard-bearer is suddenly concerned with codified quality criteria after approximately 150 years of distilling is puzzling. Even more perplexing, however, is why they would seemingly waste their own resources to lobby the state when their dominant position in the Tennessee Whiskey market is already remarkably secure. Brown-Forman spokesman Phil Lynch claims they’re merely attempting to preserve the integrity of Tennessee Whiskey though rigid standards that ensure top quality:

Any place that produces a product, in this case we’re talking about distilled spirits, that has a particular premium to it or particular ways you will make it, has standards to entry. The standards of identity for Tennessee whiskey are the same that they’ve been, [the legislature] just never codified them.

In other words, you must make your whiskey like Jack Daniel’s makes theirs! Not only is this law anti-competitive, it’s also blatantly anti-innovation. Jack Daniel’s master distiller Jeff Arnett admits as much, saying there is “only one way to make Tennessee whiskey” and that last year’s law “protects a process and name that [they've] spent nearly a century and a half investing in.” Jack Daniel’s even stores its whiskey in new barrels produced at a Brown-Forman plant, a luxury that smaller distillers competing for their share of the Tennessee Whiskey market don’t enjoy.

Recent explosions in American whiskey are largely attributed to experimentation with different barrel combinations and various flavors like cinnamon, honey, and maple. Distilleries brought their new products to market, branded as Tennessee Whiskey, in the “spirit” of competition, innovation, and providing a diverse array of options to consumers. But in the absence of a full repeal, the ingenuity behind this modern day whiskey rebellion may well be stifled by stricter regulations that dictate what exactly constitutes a Tennessee Whiskey.

Brown-Forman needs to focus on how their initial success was won, creating the best product on the market and securing brand loyalty through consistent output and product quality. Their insistence on lobbying the state to regulate the definition of Tennessee Whiskey will only succeed in creating market distortions while increasing their own expenses and those of their competitors. If Brown-Forman is truly concerned with preserving their “particular premium” and “the standards of identity for Tennessee Whiskey,” then the merit of Jack Daniel’s, as well as other brands claiming to be Tennessee Whiskey, should be decided by consumers in a competitive marketplace, not behind closed doors by legislators and lobbyists.

This post originally appeared at The Daily Caller.

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