Marketing Jersey Wine? Fuggedaboutit!

Here is a fun story about Lou Caracciolo’s winery and his interesting marketing and sales strategy:

Caracciolo and some of the other wine growers in the state want Jersey to be the next Napa Valley. He wants wine collectors, tasting tours, destination weddings. He needs to change people’s minds.

The winery’s first step has been to start with the label. Even though the fancy winemakers are in New Jersey, they want to separate themselves from Jersey. They petitioned the government for a special geographic designation — like, say, Napa Valley. So now the fancy wines say they’re from the “Outer Coastal Plain.”

“I mean, it does sound fancier than New Jersey,” Caracciolo says.

Big Government: Only fools think it’s there to solve problems

Whenever society encounters a problem–poverty, terrorism, natural disasters, financial crises, etc–people reflexively assert that government ought to “do something.” Or as George W. Bush put it, “When someone is hurting, government has got to move.” And so the response to the problem is to pass new laws, create new regulations, and put more taxpayer money in the hands of a government bureau in charge of treating the problem.

But in reality, government does not solve social problems. After all, why should they? The reward structure of government gives them little incentive to do so. In fact, perversely, they often have an incentive to perpetuate a problem, or even to exacerbate it. As long as the problem persists, the public will want the government to address it, and so the politicians and bureaucrats can continue to justify the power they wield and the money they spend. But if instead the problem were solved, the politicians and bureaucrats would need to find a new mission, or have their budgets slashed. The last thing the political class in America wants is for all the problems to be solved. Because if that happens, who needs them?

This fundamental problem of incentives, inherent to the workings of government, rarely gets any attention from commentators. John Hayward, however, in a recent essay, touches on some of the relevant points.

[G]overnment programs grow through failure. The importance of this process to the psychology of Big Government cannot be underestimated.  An efficient program that delivers solid results under budget is going to find its budget cut. An agency that “solves” whatever problem it was formed to address will find itself stripped down or eliminated. The canny bureaucrat therefore presents his department as perpetually under-funded, while trying to grapple with ever more formidable challenges.  Every agency is a plucky underdog doing a fantastic job on a shoestring budget against insurmountable odds… and there is always so much more work to be done.

The bureaucratic behavior described by Hayward is supported by abundant examples. For instance, social workers have no incentive to help poor people to move ahead by getting off welfare and into jobs. That’s because the welfare recipients are the social workers’ clients, and without clients, what would they do?

The union representing California’s prison guards spent a million dollars in 2008 to defeat a ballot initiative that would have put non-violent drug offenders in treatment rather than prison. After all, if people were no longer to go to prison for drugs, we wouldn’t need as many prison guards.

Back in 2002, the TV news magazine 60 Minutes reported on a particularly outrageous example of a bureau perpetuating a problem by sabotaging its own product–and then firing the whistle blower. (Accompanying video here.)

This is the story of hundreds, if not thousands, of foreign language documents that the FBI neglected to translate before and after the Sept. 11 attacks — documents that detailed what the FBI heard on wiretaps and learned during interrogations of suspected terrorists.

Sibel Edmonds, a translator who worked at the FBI’s language division, says the documents weren’t translated because the division was riddled with incompetence and corruption.

Edmonds was fired after reporting her concerns to FBI officials…

Because she is fluent in Turkish and other Middle Eastern languages, Edmonds, a Turkish-American, was hired by the FBI soon after Sept. 11 and given top-secret security clearance to translate some of the reams of documents seized by FBI agents who have been rounding up suspected terrorists across the United States and abroad.

Edmonds says that to her amazement, from the day she started the job, she was told repeatedly by one of her supervisors that there was no urgency,- that she should take longer to translate documents so that the department would appear overworked and understaffed. That way, it would receive a larger budget for the next year.

“We were told by our supervisors that this was the great opportunity for asking for increased budget and asking for more translators,” says Edmonds. “And in order to do that, don’t do the work and let the documents pile up so we can show it and say that we need more translators and expand the department.”

Edmonds says that the supervisor, in an effort to slow her down, went so far as to erase completed translations from her FBI computer after she’d left work for the day.

“The next day, I would come to work, turn on my computer, and the work would be gone. The translation would be gone,” she says. “Then I had to start all over again and retranslate the same document. And I went to my supervisor and he said, ‘Consider it a lesson and don’t talk about it to anybody else and don’t mention it.’

“The lesson was don’t work, and don’t do the translations. …Don’t do the work because — and this is our chance to increase the number of people here in this department.”

So there you have it; bureaucrats are not about to let something as trivial as terrorism and national security get in the way of the primary goal, which is increasing their budget. And where else but government can people be rewarded for producing less, indeed, rewarded for failure? When the CIA fails to prevent the attacks of 9/11, fails to connect the dots, they see their budget increase. The FBI supervisor who fired Sibel Edmonds was soon promoted. The private sector of the economy is no Nirvana, but if you don’t produce, you don’t get paid. If a private firm does not succeed, the managers get replaced, or the firm gets restructured or liquidated in bankruptcy. They don’t just get to ask for a bigger budget.

Government–the sector of the economy that, compared to the private sector, is less competent, less accountable, and which is incentivized to fail. Nonetheless, people still get foolishly conned into agreeing to take more resources and power and responsibilities away from the private sector, meaning the people, and to hand them over to the government, meaning the political class. And so, some 30 years after creating the federal Department of Education, and spending hundreds of billions of dollars, education in America has not improved. The Head Start program, after nearly 50 years and more than a hundred billion dollars, has achieved literally zero improvement in outcomes for underprivileged children. The city of San Francisco keeps spending more and more on homelessness, but the ranks of the homeless continue to swell bigger and bigger. As Ronald Reagan said, “Government doesn’t solve problems–it subsidizes them.”

And finally, consider Obamacare. As that monstronsity is implemented over the next few years, it will cause more and more problems. Some people will lose their health coverage, others will see their premiums rise. Some people will be forced to purchase insurance that they don’t want and don’t need. The implementation will cause chaos in the insurance markets. The government’s already parlous fiscal condition will grow still worse.

The law will create problems, not solve them. But for the political class, that’s not a bug, it’s a feature. If people lose their coverage, or can no longer afford it, they’ll need help. And for that help, many will look to the political class. Voters will tell pollsters that they want to see “bipartisanship” in Washington, so that Democrats and Republicans can “work together” to “solve problems.”

As Mr. T used to say, “I pity the fools.”

Climate alarmists get their flip-flops on

For many years now, one of the primary arguments for curtailing human freedom has been “climate change.” Climate alarmists, while attempting to spread fear and hysteria, have also tried to shut down debate. They have evaded engaging in debate by merely asserting that “The science is settled.” Indeed, the alarmists reacted to criticism with disdain, as if those questioning them were doubting basic science, like the law of gravitation or biological evolution. Worse, climate alarmists sought to discredit their critics by labeling them “deniers,” a term intended to implicitly liken critics to disgraceful Holocaust deniers.

But the true test of any theory is whether it can make accurate predictions. And in this regard, climate ‘science’ has notably failed. Back in the 1970s, the alarmists spoke of Global Cooling and a coming Ice Age. But instead, the average global temperature rose. The alarmists in the 1980s then changed the tune to Global Warming. They predicted continued, and significant, warming. The warming trend, however, leveled off sometime around the mid to late 1990s. Fifteen years or so have now passed with no upward trend in the global temperature, in contradiction to all predictions. The evidence is becoming increasingly clear that the theory is flawed, because the models cannot predict.

Indeed, the failure of the models has turned Dominik Jung, one of the most prominent meteorologists in Germany, into a skeptic. Jung notes that Europe has now had 5 colder-than-average winters in a row. “Crafty scientists at first explained that climate warming was just taking a timeout. Strangely, this timeout has now been going on for 5 years without interruption.” He then goes on to note that predictions have also been off for summers.

By the way, according to many climate projections, also summers in Germany were supposed to get increasingly drier and hotter. Over the last 10 summers, only one summer was too dry, and that was the summer of 2003. Otherwise all summers were either average or much too wet.

Every summer since 2003? That means the models predicted incorrectly for 9 summers in a row! And in more news out of Germany, one of the leading German dailies, Die Welt, citing a peer-reviewed Russian study, warns that we could be entering a new cold period, similar to the Little Ice Age which prevailed from about 1300 to 1800. So we have now come full circle: from the 1970s predictions of a new Ice Age, to Global Warming, and now back again to Ice Age!

Interestingly, however, whether the prediction is cooling or warming, the experts’ solution remains the same, as PJMedia’s Zombie discovered after studying the Ice Age scaremongering of the ’70s:

In both cases, proponents of the theory-du-jour say that in order to stave off disaster, we must reverse the march of civilization, stop our profligate use of carbon-based fuels, cede power and money from the First World to the Third World, and wherever possible revert to a Luddite pre-industrial lifestyle.

I realized: The solution (commit civilizational suicide) always remains the same; all that differs are the wildly divergent purported “crises” proffered up to justify the imposition of the solution.

Essentially, it always comes down to more power for the experts and the authorities, and less freedom for the people.

Zombie also notices the element of humor in the fact that “the media and popular culture and academia have veered from one panic-inducing disaster scenario to another one which completely contradicts the first one.” And in that regard, check out the video below in which ‘climatologist’ Stephen Schneider as a young man warns against a coming Ice Age, and then 30 years later engages in warm mongering. Oh well, a good apparatchik knows how to follow changes in the party line.

Gotta love, by the way, that the video is narrated by Leonard Nimoy–very appropriate for science fiction.

Update. Washington state legislators, in their infinite wisdom, are now pushing a bill to “reduce greenhouse gas emissions.” The legislation is “expected to put businesses through the ringer.” Well. That that should do wonders for an economy already struggling to produce jobs and growth.

Look, if you told people back in year 2000 that the following would happen, nobody would have believed you.

  • By year 2012, the number of people in America with jobs will be no greater than in year 2000–zero job growth over 12 years.
  • By year 2012, the Earth’s climate will be no warmer than in year 2000–zero climate change over 12 years.

One would think that those facts would cause Solons to make some adjustment to their priorities, but apparently, that would be giving them too much credit. In any event, at the state senate hearing in Washington, a retired geology professor tried to put the Solons some knowledge.

“There has been no global warming in 15 years,” retired professor Don Easterbrook told the Senate Energy & Environment Committee. “The 1930s were warmer than they are right now. … We had more heat records broken, we had higher temperatures. It was a hotter decade.”

Easterbrook argued that the planet’s temperature has fluctuated up and down over several hundred years and that for the last decade the Earth has actually been cooling, Q13FOX reported.

“There’s no correlation between CO2 going up and global warming,” Easterbrook said.

Some of the Solons, however, were unimpressed.

State Sen. Kevin Ranker, D-Island County, who helped sponsor the recent climate bill, was clearly frustrated by Easterbrook’s testimony.

“Ninety-five percent of the peer-reviewed data very clearly states climate change is real, it’s happening, it’s human caused,” Ranker said. “To have a bold discussion about the facts is ridiculous.”

Facts? We don’t need no stinkin’ facts!

The Real Thing

A good discussion of the market process and the role of prices in disseminating and coordinating information is found in this article on Coke.  Here is the conclusion:

The number of individuals who know how to make a can of Coke is zero. The number of individual nations that could produce a can of Coke is zero. This famously American product is not American at all. Invention and creation is something we are all in together. Modern tool chains are so long and complex that they bind us into one people and one planet. They are not only chains of tools, they are also chains of minds: local and foreign, ancient and modern, living and dead — the result of disparate invention and intelligence distributed over time and space. Coca-Cola did not teach the world to sing, no matter what its commercials suggest, yet every can of Coke contains humanity’s choir.

Update. This essay ties in nicely with the videos we linked to here.

Disability Epidemic?

Chana Joffe-Walt discusses the startling rise of disability in America:

In the past three decades, the number of Americans who are on disability has skyrocketed. The rise has come even as medical advances have allowed many more people to remain on the job, and new laws have banned workplace discrimination against the disabled. Every month, 14 million people now get a disability check from the government.

The federal government spends more money each year on cash payments for disabled former workers than it spends on food stamps and welfare combined. Yet people relying on disability payments are often overlooked in discussions of the social safety net. People on federal disability do not work. Yet because they are not technically part of the labor force, they are not counted among the unemployed.

Update. This really is one of the best pieces of journalism we have seen in some time. Perhaps the most appalling part of Joffe-Walt’s report is the growth in the number of people on disability who are children. You might imagine a child in a wheelchair, but in fact we are talking mostly about children who are merely slow learners or otherwise struggle in school. The child is then labeled “intellectually disabled” and…voila!…the family qualifies for a check of about $700 per month. This perversely gives the family a financial incentive to not see their child do well in school. Because if the child starts to succeed, they lose the check. Try to imagine also the position in which it puts the child when the child knows that the family’s livelihood depends in significant part on him or her not progressing in school. We wrote about this previously, and Joffe-Walt’s reporting provides additional details:

As I got further into this story, I started hearing about another group of people on disability: kids. People in Hale County told me that what you want is a kid who can “pull a check.” Many people mentioned this, but I basically ignored it. It seemed like one of those things that maybe happened once or twice, got written up in the paper and became conversational fact among neighbors.

Then I looked at the numbers. I found that the number of kids on a program called Supplemental Security Income — a program for children and adults who are both poor and disabled — is almost seven times larger than it was 30 years ago.

When you are an adult applying for disability you have to prove you cannot function in a “work-like setting.” When you are a kid, a disability can be anything that prevents you from progressing in school. Two-thirds of all kids on the program today have been diagnosed with mental or intellectual problems…

Jahleel is a kid you can imagine doing very well for himself. He is delayed. But given the right circumstances and support, it’s easy to believe that over the course of his schooling Jahleel could catch up.

Let’s imagine that happens. Jahleel starts doing better in school, overcomes some of his disabilities. He doesn’t need the disability program anymore. That would seem to be great for everyone, except for one thing: It would threaten his family’s livelihood…

One mother told me her teenage son wanted to work, but she didn’t want him to get a job because if he did, the family would lose its disability check…

Kids should be encouraged to go to school. Kids should want to do well in school. Parents should want their kids to do well in school. Kids should be confident their parents can provide for them regardless of how they do in school. Kids should become more and more independent as they grow older and hopefully be able to support themselves at around age 18.

The disability program stands in opposition to every one of these aims.

Disgraceful.

Human Achievement Hour: Turn lights on tonight!

Tonight from 8:30 – 9:30, supporters of human freedom around the world celebrate Human Achievement Hour by switching on lights. The point is to express “appreciation for the inventions and innovations that make today the best time to be alive and the recognition that future solutions require individual freedom not government coercion.”

Electrification, together with the electric light, is indeed one of the great achievements of human civilization. We take for granted that on a cold winter night we can, with the flick of a switch, snuggle up with a good book under the warm glow of an incandescent bulb. But human generations before us spent tens of thousands of years in the cold and dark.

Even today, one-quarter of the world population, some 1.6 billion people, has no access to electricity. These people not only spend half their lives in the dark, but for cooking they are forced to burn in their homes wood, coal, or dried animal dung. The indoor smoke from these dirty fuels is the most dangerous form of pollution in the world, killing an estimated 1.6 million people every year.

That’s why, at one time, even the political left recognized the importance of electrification. Lenin in 1920 made electrification one of his primary goals for Soviet Russia through his famous GOELRO Plan. “Communism,” said Lenin, “is Soviet power plus the electrification of the whole country.” Communist regimes, however, have never been able to outperform societies that are free. This fact is illustrated vividly by the famous nighttime satellite photo of the two Koreas; free South Korea is brilliantly illuminated, in contrast to the communist North, a slave society, which is plunged in darkness.

The electric light is indeed a potent symbol of freedom. Ayn Rand’s novella, Anthem, is set in a future dystopian society in which freedom has been extinguished and replaced by total socialization and government control. The key turning point in the plot occurs when the pro-freedom protagonist, breaking with the rules, explores an abandoned subway tunnel and discovers…a light bulb.

Today’s political left, however, doesn’t like it when people use electricity. Spoiled by luxury, and having abandoned the traditional Abrahamic religions in favor of the pagan religion of modern environmentalism, the left wants us tonight to observe a ritual they call Earth Hour by shutting lights off. The point is to raise awareness of the need to save the planet. Or something.

But let’s be clear; your light bulbs are in no way a threat to the planet. Nor do we have to worry about running out of energy. The Earth has energy reserves capable of lasting literally thousands of years. Recently, for instance, progress was announced on new technology to extract natural gas from methane hydrates in the ocean. And methane hydrate deposits “are believed to be a larger hydrocarbon resource than all of the world’s oil, natural gas and coal resources combined.”

The notion that we need to impose austerity, or to re-primitivize our society, for the sake of the planet and future generations, is absurd. It’s like the Vikings deciding to scale back their use of wood to save the planet and to insure that today, 1,000 years later, we would have enough wood. Or that 120 years ago, people should have decided to ride fewer horses in order to save New York City from the pollution of horse droppings. That problem was solved by technology, and likewise technology will extend the use of energy sources and discover alternative sources. Already, the fraction of America’s national income devoted to energy is only half of what it was 40 years ago.

So tonight, from 8:30 – 9:30, feel free to observe Human Achievement Hour by letting your lights shine brightly and proudly!

Update. Here’s how Chateau Yet, Freedom! looked tonight–well illuminated.

Louisiana monks win big victory for freedom

On Wednesday, Benedictine monks from an abbey in Louisiana won a stunning victory for economic freedom at the Fifth U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals. The court boldly struck down a Louisiana law that prevented the monks from selling their simple, handmade, wooden caskets. The Wall Street Journal has the story.

This story begins 1,600 years ago when Benedict of Nursia founded an order of monks and instructed them to put bread on their table through the labor of their own hands. Following this dictate, the entrepreneurial brothers of St. Joseph Abbey—a century-old monastery in Covington, La.—opened a tiny business on All Souls’ Day in 2007 to sell the unadorned wooden caskets that they have made for generations…

The monks had not sold a single casket before the Louisiana State Board of Funeral Directors—acting on a complaint from a government-licensed funeral director—shut them down. In Louisiana, the government had made it a crime to sell caskets in the state without a license. To do so, the monks would have had to transform their monastery into a funeral home, including building an embalming room, and at least one of the monks would have had to leave the order to spend years becoming a licensed funeral director. All of that just to sell a wooden box.

It didn’t take a divine revelation to recognize that funeral directors were using the law, the government licensing entity they controlled, and their political clout to monopolize the lucrative casket market. Lacking the worldly guile of their adversaries, the monks put their faith in democracy, petitioning state legislators in 2008 and 2010. Each time, the funeral-industry lobby mobilized to kill the monks’ common-sense reform proposals.

After that civics lesson, the monks turned to the federal courts to vindicate their right to earn an honest living. Louisiana sought to have the case thrown out on the grounds that the Constitution doesn’t forbid the state from picking winners and losers in business.

The law in question constitutes nothing more than a financial transfer to a politically influential interest group, at the expense of consumers and competitors such as the monks. The law serves no useful public purpose, and is an affront to liberty. Kudos to the Institute for Justice, which sued on behalf of the monks.

The court’s decision was bold because it conflicts with a 2004 decision of the Tenth Circuit that upheld the power of states to protect favored industries with special-interest legislation. This conflict means that the case might soon end up at the U.S. Supreme Court. If so, then the Court will have the opportunity to weigh in on a crucially important, yet unresolved, question of Constitutional Law. The question is, in the words of the Institute for Justice, “Does the U.S. Constitution allow the government to pass economic regulations with no public benefit solely to enrich special interests at the expense of would-be competitors and consumers?”

The State of Louisiana now has 90 days to appeal the decision to the Supreme Court. If the Court were to uphold the decision in favor of the monks, it could prove to be a huge victory for economic freedom, with far-reaching consequences.

For more, see the youtube video below. At the moment, the video has 151 thumbs-up, and 3 thumbs-down. We can only surmise that the 3 must be bureaucrats, politicians, or state-licensed funeral directors.

Takeaway quote from the video: “Bureaucrats and special interests are so out of control in this country, that not even monks are safe.” Well, let’s hope that Wednesday’s decision makes the monks, and everyone else who tries to make an honest living, a little bit safer.

Kurt Schlichter to statists: “Bite me.”

Throughout history, freedom has had many rallying cries. There was Liberté, égalité, fraternité, as well as “Give me liberty, or give me death!” And let’s not forget “I am Spartacus!” Now Kurt Schlichter, in an epic rant, has perhaps hit upon the rallying cry that is most appropriate to our times, and which shows the enemies of freedom the disrespect they truly deserve. This rant is so good, we wish we’d written it. Some choice cuts of red meat:

Who the hell is New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg to presume that he has a say in what I or any other American chooses to drink? Of course, the answer for any self-respecting citizen is that he has no such say, and the proper response to him and his legion of petty fascist fan boys is the suggestion that they pucker up – and I will politely decline to identify what they should kiss.

It’s a sad commentary that the once boisterous, independent, take-no-guff New Yorker of the past has been replaced by a gutless, cowardly supplicant eager to obey the commands of whatever pint—sized potentate occupies Gracie Mansion. Back in the day, a real New Yorker would look that tiny troll in the mayor’s office in his beady little eyes and laugh, “Hey Mikey, I got your Big Gulp right here.”

These bossy snobs are getting out of hand, and it’s time to push back – hard…

Obedience to arbitrary authority is counter to everything that America stands for. We didn’t reluctantly cede a tiny bit of our personal sovereignty to the government so a bunch of know-it-all twerps could tell us what to eat, what to smoke, what to do and how to live. We did it to allow them the ability to keep order, which they have manifestly failed to do, and to perform a few basic governmental functions, which they have likewise failed to do.

So, a government that has failed to adequately perform the few discrete tasks which it should be performing now wishes to do a bunch of other things which it has no business doing in the first place, and which it will inevitably do badly and thereby cause even more problems than existed in the first place.

It’s time to say “No,” and our rejection of this obnoxious governmental overreach has the potential to create a new coalition that could up-end the status quo.

Real conservatives detest the idea of a government so big and intrusive that it feels free to interfere with such basic liberties as choosing what to eat. And they also hate the idea of a government so big and intrusive that it feels that it is within its rights to, say, blow up American citizens within the United States because it, well, thinks blowing them up is a good idea.

It’s all part of the same unearned hubris. The notion that some government functionary can tell you what you can drink or not drink based on his notion of what’s good for society is not so far from the notion that he can decide who lives or who dies based on his notion of what’s good for society…

Moreover, the appalling argument that “Well, we all have to pay for obesity” itself accepts the flawed premise that “we all” have any business paying for anyone’s health care. I’ve researched the Constitution pretty thoroughly and have been unable to find anything about me shelling out my dough to subsidize some couch-dwelling slacker’s doctor visits.
Maybe the enumerated power to do so is dwelling behind some penumbra or emanation, but it seems like making that argument accepts the idea that government ought to be in the health care business in the first place. And if the fact that the Constitution says nothing about doing so isn’t enough to show why it shouldn’t be, the idea that because the government does so gives it the right to micromanage our lives is itself ample reason to reject that hateful notion…

We need to understand that freedom sometimes means people make choices we don’t like and, where appropriate, compromise. I’m certainly ready to accept a few stoners bogarting doobs and some gay dudes exchanging vows if it means a smaller government so constrained and neutered that it wouldn’t dare try to tell me how to live out my faith or how many bullets I can keep in my M4, much less how many ounces of Mountain Dew I can pour into my Styrofoam cup.

It’s time to put aside a few policy disagreements to build a new alliance of citizens who believe that government has gotten too big for its britches and needs to be reined in. We may not agree on all the specifics, but we can build a majority of Americans who can stand together for liberty and, as one, offer the proper response to these tin pot dictators of liberalism: “Bite me.”

The case for spending cuts

Professors John Cogan and John Taylor have a good article in today’s Wall Street Journal on the macroeconomics of budget cuts. They argue against the Keynesian view that government spending cuts must be contractionary in the short run:

The long-run economic gains from restraining government spending would not, despite what critics claim, harm the economy in the short run. Instead, the economy would start to grow right away. Why?

First, the lower level of future government spending avoids the necessity of sharply raising taxes. The expectation that tax rates won’t need to rise provides incentives for higher investment and employment today.

Second, since the expectation of lower future taxes has the effect of raising people’s estimation of future disposable income, consumption increases today. This change comes thanks to Milton Friedman’s famous “permanent income” hypothesis that the behavior of consumers reflects what they expect to earn over a long period. According to our macroeconomic model, the higher level of consumption induced by the House budget’s effect on consumer expectations is large enough to offset the reduced growth of government spending.

Third, the new budget’s reduction in the growth of government spending is gradual. That allows private businesses to adjust efficiently without disruptions.

They conclude by explaining that:

For too long, policy makers have been misguided by models that lend support to bigger government or to the politically convenient objective of delaying any reduction in spending. It is better to recognize the flaws in this approach and get on with the sensible budget reforms the country so sorely needs.