Thursday, December 15, 2011

Every One Who Voted for Indefinite Detention

Democrats Voting 'Aye'

Rep. Gary Ackerman [D, NY-5]
Rep. Jason Altmire [D, PA-4]
Rep. Robert Andrews [D, NJ-1]
Rep. Joe Baca [D, CA-43]
Rep. John Barrow [D, GA-12]
Rep. Shelley Berkley [D, NV-1]
Rep. Howard Berman [D, CA-28]
Rep. Sanford Bishop [D, GA-2]
Rep. Timothy Bishop [D, NY-1]
Rep. Dan Boren [D, OK-2]
Rep. Leonard Boswell [D, IA-3]
Rep. Robert Brady [D, PA-1]
Rep. Corrine Brown [D, FL-3]
Rep. George Butterfield [D, NC-1]
Rep. Lois Capps [D, CA-23]
Rep. Dennis Cardoza [D, CA-18]
Rep. Russ Carnahan [D, MO-3]
Rep. John Carney [D, DE-0]
Rep. Kathy Castor [D, FL-11]
Rep. Ben Chandler [D, KY-6]
Rep. David Cicilline [D, RI-1]
Rep. Gerald Connolly [D, VA-11]
Rep. Jim Cooper [D, TN-5]
Rep. Jim Costa [D, CA-20]
Rep. Joe Courtney [D, CT-2]
Rep. Mark Critz [D, PA-12]
Rep. Joseph Crowley [D, NY-7]
Rep. Henry Cuellar [D, TX-28]
Rep. Susan Davis [D, CA-53]
Rep. Ted Deutch [D, FL-19]
Rep. Norman Dicks [D, WA-6]
Rep. John Dingell [D, MI-15]
Rep. Lloyd Doggett [D, TX-25]
Rep. Joe Donnelly [D, IN-2]
Rep. Eliot Engel [D, NY-17]
Rep. John Garamendi [D, CA-10]
Rep. Charles Gonzalez [D, TX-20]
Rep. Al Green [D, TX-9]
Rep. Raymond Green [D, TX-29]
Rep. Colleen Hanabusa [D, HI-1]
Rep. Brian Higgins [D, NY-27]
Rep. James Himes [D, CT-4]
Rep. Mazie Hirono [D, HI-2]
Rep. Kathleen Hochul [D, NY-26]
Rep. Tim Holden [D, PA-17]
Rep. Steny Hoyer [D, MD-5]
Rep. Jay Inslee [D, WA-1]
Rep. Steve Israel [D, NY-2]
Rep. Sheila Jackson-Lee [D, TX-18]
Rep. William Keating [D, MA-10]
Rep. Dale Kildee [D, MI-5]
Rep. Ronald Kind [D, WI-3]
Rep. Larry Kissell [D, NC-8]
Rep. James Langevin [D, RI-2]
Rep. Rick Larsen [D, WA-2]
Rep. John Larson [D, CT-1]
Rep. Sander Levin [D, MI-12]
Rep. Daniel Lipinski [D, IL-3]
Rep. David Loebsack [D, IA-2]
Rep. Nita Lowey [D, NY-18]
Rep. Jim Matheson [D, UT-2]
Rep. Carolyn McCarthy [D, NY-4]
Rep. Mike McIntyre [D, NC-7]
Rep. Jerry McNerney [D, CA-11]
Rep. William Owens [D, NY-23]
Rep. William Pascrell [D, NJ-8]
Rep. Edward Pastor [D, AZ-4]
Rep. Nancy Pelosi [D, CA-8]
Rep. Ed Perlmutter [D, CO-7]
Rep. Collin Peterson [D, MN-7]
Rep. Nick Rahall [D, WV-3]
Rep. Silvestre Reyes [D, TX-16]
Rep. Laura Richardson [D, CA-37]
Rep. Mike Ross [D, AR-4]
Rep. Steven Rothman [D, NJ-9]
Rep. Dutch Ruppersberger [D, MD-2]
Rep. Linda Sánchez [D, CA-39]
Rep. Adam Schiff [D, CA-29]
Rep. Kurt Schrader [D, OR-5]
Rep. Allyson Schwartz [D, PA-13]
Rep. David Scott [D, GA-13]
Rep. Terri Sewell [D, AL-7]
Rep. Brad Sherman [D, CA-27]
Rep. Heath Shuler [D, NC-11]
Rep. Albio Sires [D, NJ-13]
Rep. Adam Smith [D, WA-9]
Rep. Betty Sutton [D, OH-13]
Rep. Niki Tsongas [D, MA-5]
Rep. Peter Visclosky [D, IN-1]
Rep. Timothy Walz [D, MN-1]
Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz [D, FL-20]
Rep. Henry Waxman [D, CA-30]
Rep. Frederica Wilson [D, FL-17]

Republicans Voting 'Aye'

Rep. Sandy Adams [R, FL-24]
Rep. Robert Aderholt [R, AL-4]
Rep. Todd Akin [R, MO-2]
Rep. Rodney Alexander [R, LA-5]
Rep. Mark Amodei [R, NV-2]
Rep. Steve Austria [R, OH-7]
Rep. Spencer Bachus [R, AL-6]
Rep. Lou Barletta [R, PA-11]
Rep. Roscoe Bartlett [R, MD-6]
Rep. Joe Barton [R, TX-6]
Rep. Charles Bass [R, NH-2]
Rep. Dan Benishek [R, MI-1]
Rep. Rick Berg [R, ND-0]
Rep. Judy Biggert [R, IL-13]
Rep. Brian Bilbray [R, CA-50]
Rep. Gus Bilirakis [R, FL-9]
Rep. Rob Bishop [R, UT-1]
Rep. Diane Black [R, TN-6]
Rep. Marsha Blackburn [R, TN-7]
Rep. Jo Bonner [R, AL-1]
Rep. Mary Bono Mack [R, CA-45]
Rep. Charles Boustany [R, LA-7]
Rep. Kevin Brady [R, TX-8]
Rep. Mo Brooks [R, AL-5]
Rep. Paul Broun [R, GA-10]
Rep. Vern Buchanan [R, FL-13]
Rep. Ann Marie Buerkle [R, NY-25]
Rep. Ken Calvert [R, CA-44]
Rep. David Camp [R, MI-4]
Rep. Francisco Canseco [R, TX-23]
Rep. Eric Cantor [R, VA-7]
Rep. Shelley Capito [R, WV-2]
Rep. John Carter [R, TX-31]
Rep. Bill Cassidy [R, LA-6]
Rep. Steven Chabot [R, OH-1]
Rep. Tom Cole [R, OK-4]
Rep. Michael Conaway [R, TX-11]
Rep. Chip Cravaack [R, MN-8]
Rep. Rick Crawford [R, AR-1]
Rep. Ander Crenshaw [R, FL-4]
Rep. John Culberson [R, TX-7]
Rep. Geoff Davis [R, KY-4]
Rep. Jeff Denham [R, CA-19]
Rep. Charles Dent [R, PA-15]
Rep. Bob Dold [R, IL-10]
Rep. David Dreier [R, CA-26]
Rep. Sean Duffy [R, WI-7]
Rep. Renee Ellmers [R, NC-2]
Rep. Jo Ann Emerson [R, MO-8]
Rep. Blake Farenthold [R, TX-27]
Rep. Stephen Fincher [R, TN-8]
Rep. Michael Fitzpatrick [R, PA-8]
Rep. Chuck Fleischmann [R, TN-3]
Rep. John Fleming [R, LA-4]
Rep. Bill Flores [R, TX-17]
Rep. Jeffrey Fortenberry [R, NE-1]
Rep. Virginia Foxx [R, NC-5]
Rep. Trent Franks [R, AZ-2]
Rep. Rodney Frelinghuysen [R, NJ-11]
Rep. Elton Gallegly [R, CA-24]
Rep. Cory Gardner [R, CO-4]
Rep. Jim Gerlach [R, PA-6]
Rep. Bob Gibbs [R, OH-18]
Rep. Chris Gibson [R, NY-20]
Rep. John Gingrey [R, GA-11]
Rep. Louis Gohmert [R, TX-1]
Rep. Kay Granger [R, TX-12]
Rep. Samuel Graves [R, MO-6]
Rep. Tim Griffin [R, AR-2]
Rep. Michael Grimm [R, NY-13]
Rep. Frank Guinta [R, NH-1]
Rep. Brett Guthrie [R, KY-2]
Rep. Ralph Hall [R, TX-4]
Rep. Richard Hanna [R, NY-24]
Rep. Gregg Harper [R, MS-3]
Rep. Vicky Hartzler [R, MO-4]
Rep. Doc Hastings [R, WA-4]
Rep. Nan Hayworth [R, NY-19]
Rep. Joe Heck [R, NV-3]
Rep. Jeb Hensarling [R, TX-5]
Rep. Walter Herger [R, CA-2]
Rep. Jaime Herrera Beutler [R, WA-3]
Rep. Randy Hultgren [R, IL-14]
Rep. Duncan Hunter [R, CA-52]
Rep. Darrell Issa [R, CA-49]
Rep. Lynn Jenkins [R, KS-2]
Rep. Samuel Johnson [R, TX-3]
Rep. Bill Johnson [R, OH-6]
Rep. Jim Jordan [R, OH-4]
Rep. Mike Kelly [R, PA-3]
Rep. Steve King [R, IA-5]
Rep. Peter King [R, NY-3]
Rep. Jack Kingston [R, GA-1]
Rep. Adam Kinzinger [R, IL-11]
Rep. John Kline [R, MN-2]
Rep. Doug Lamborn [R, CO-5]
Rep. Leonard Lance [R, NJ-7]
Rep. Jeff Landry [R, LA-3]
Rep. James Lankford [R, OK-5]
Rep. Thomas Latham [R, IA-4]
Rep. Robert Latta [R, OH-5]
Rep. Jerry Lewis [R, CA-41]
Rep. Frank LoBiondo [R, NJ-2]
Rep. Billy Long [R, MO-7]
Rep. Frank Lucas [R, OK-3]
Rep. Blaine Luetkemeyer [R, MO-9]
Rep. Daniel Lungren [R, CA-3]
Rep. Donald Manzullo [R, IL-16]
Rep. Kenny Marchant [R, TX-24]
Rep. Thomas Marino [R, PA-10]
Rep. Kevin McCarthy [R, CA-22]
Rep. Michael McCaul [R, TX-10]
Rep. Thaddeus McCotter [R, MI-11]
Rep. Patrick McHenry [R, NC-10]
Rep. Howard McKeon [R, CA-25]
Rep. David McKinley [R, WV-1]
Rep. Cathy McMorris Rodgers [R, WA-5]
Rep. Patrick Meehan [R, PA-7]
Rep. John Mica [R, FL-7]
Rep. Candice Miller [R, MI-10]
Rep. Gary Miller [R, CA-42]
Rep. Jeff Miller [R, FL-1]
Rep. Tim Murphy [R, PA-18]
Rep. Randy Neugebauer [R, TX-19]
Rep. Kristi Noem [R, SD-0]
Rep. Richard Nugent [R, FL-5]
Rep. Devin Nunes [R, CA-21]
Rep. Alan Nunnelee [R, MS-1]
Rep. Pete Olson [R, TX-22]
Rep. Steven Palazzo [R, MS-4]
Rep. Erik Paulsen [R, MN-3]
Rep. Steven Pearce [R, NM-2]
Rep. Thomas Petri [R, WI-6]
Rep. Todd Platts [R, PA-19]
Rep. Ted Poe [R, TX-2]
Rep. Mike Pompeo [R, KS-4]
Rep. Tom Price [R, GA-6]
Rep. Ben Quayle [R, AZ-3]
Rep. Tom Reed [R, NY-29]
Rep. Dennis Rehberg [R, MT-0]
Rep. Dave Reichert [R, WA-8]
Rep. Jim Renacci [R, OH-16]
Rep. Scott Rigell [R, VA-2]
Rep. David Rivera [R, FL-25]
Rep. Martha Roby [R, AL-2]
Rep. Michael Rogers [R, MI-8]
Rep. Harold Rogers [R, KY-5]
Rep. Michael Rogers [R, AL-3]
Rep. Thomas Rooney [R, FL-16]
Rep. Peter Roskam [R, IL-6]
Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen [R, FL-18]
Rep. Dennis Ross [R, FL-12]
Rep. Jon Runyan [R, NJ-3]
Rep. Paul Ryan [R, WI-1]
Rep. Steve Scalise [R, LA-1]
Rep. Robert Schilling [R, IL-17]
Rep. Jean Schmidt [R, OH-2]
Rep. Aaron Schock [R, IL-18]
Rep. Tim Scott [R, SC-1]
Rep. Austin Scott [R, GA-8]
Rep. James Sensenbrenner [R, WI-5]
Rep. Peter Sessions [R, TX-32]
Rep. John Shimkus [R, IL-19]
Rep. William Shuster [R, PA-9]
Rep. Christopher Smith [R, NJ-4]
Rep. Adrian Smith [R, NE-3]
Rep. Lamar Smith [R, TX-21]
Rep. Steve Southerland [R, FL-2]
Rep. Clifford Stearns [R, FL-6]
Rep. Steve Stivers [R, OH-15]
Rep. John Sullivan [R, OK-1]
Rep. Lee Terry [R, NE-2]
Rep. Glenn Thompson [R, PA-5]
Rep. William Thornberry [R, TX-13]
Rep. Patrick Tiberi [R, OH-12]
Rep. Robert Turner [R, NY-9]
Rep. Michael Turner [R, OH-3]
Rep. Frederick Upton [R, MI-6]
Rep. Greg Walden [R, OR-2]
Rep. Daniel Webster [R, FL-8]
Rep. Allen West [R, FL-22]
Rep. Lynn Westmoreland [R, GA-3]
Rep. Edward Whitfield [R, KY-1]
Rep. Addison Wilson [R, SC-2]
Rep. Rob Wittman [R, VA-1]
Rep. Frank Wolf [R, VA-10]
Rep. Steve Womack [R, AR-3]
Rep. Kevin Yoder [R, KS-3]
Rep. Donald Young [R, AK-0]
Rep. Todd Young [R, IN-9]

Specific Organizations Supporting H.R.1540

  • Honeywell
  • DuPont
  • Polartec
  • Green Technology Solutions
  • Warrior Protection and Readiness Coalition
  • ADS
  • W.L. Gore and Associates
  • Darn Tough Vermont
  • Insight Technology
  • London Bride Trading Company
  • Milliken
  • New Balance
  • Otis Technology
  • Pelican Products
  • Surefire
  • International Textile Group
  • Wiley X
  • Royal Ten Cate
  • Bates Footwear
  • ESS
  • Benchmade
  • Bluewater Defense
  • Brookwood Companies Incorporated
  • Outdoor Research
  • Smith Optics
  • Leading Technology Composites
  • Wild Things

I will point out that these companies, while supporting the entirety of the bill, may not have supported the specific and highly objectionable provisions which infringe on the individual liberty of every American Citizen to speak out against his Government.

Declaration Remastered

When in the course of human events it becomes necessary for one people to dissolve the political bands which have connected them with another and to assume among the powers of the earth, the separate and equal station to which the Laws of Nature and of Nature's God entitle tehm, a decent respect to the opinions of mankind requires that they should declare the causes which impel them to the separation.

We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men and women are created from the same building blocks of life, that we are each endowed by our Creator with unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, our Present; Liberty, our future; Property, our past; and a right to Pursue (but not to achieve) our life's goals.  That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed, - That whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the Right of the People to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new Government, laying its foundation on such principles and organizing its powers in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their Safety and Happiness.  Prudence, indeed, will dictate that Governments long established should not be changed for light and transient causes; and accordingly all experience hath shewn that mankind are more disposed to suffer, while eviles are sufferable than to righ themselves by abolishing the forms to which they are accustomed.  But when a long train of abuses and usurpations, pursuing invariably the same Object evinces a design to reduce them under absolute Despotism, it is their right, it is their duty, to throw off such Government, and to provide new Guards for their future security. - Suchhas been the patient sufferance of these United States; and such is now the necessity which constrains them to alter their former Systems of Government.  The history of the present Executive and Legislative Branches is a history of repeated injuries, usurpations, and subjugations, all having in direct object the establishment of absolute Tyranny over the People of these United States.  To prove this, let Facts be submitted to a candid world.

They have refused to abide by laws that We, the People must abide.

They have ignored the restraints on power established at the Founding of this nation.

They have consigned the fortunes of the People of these States to a conglomerate of the wealthiest, assigning the power to print money to the only ones who can benefit from an increase in the money supply.

They have replaced the right of property with an entitlement to the property of others. 

They have removed the protections of Justice from the People of these States, granting unto themselves the Supreme authority to dispose of the liberty of any individual without the review of the judiciary or any other non-partisan agency including the assassination and permanent detention of citizens of this Nation.

They have bequeathed unto a sole decision maker the absolute authority to commit troops to fullscale combat in foreign nations by executive decree, thus compelling resources and human lives be spent with no counterweight to this authority.

They have encouraged the dissolution of the family unit, providing economic incentives for the poorest among us to remain poor and for the unwed mothers to remain unwed.

They have established a multitude of new Departments, Bureaus, and Agencies sending out swarms of Agents and Bureaucrats to harass our People and eat out their substance.

They have made the Military independent of Civil Authority and subjected local militias to Centralized control.

They have combined with others to subject us to foreign jurisdiction and authority outside of the scope of our Constitution. 

They have limited our trade with willing partners.

They impose Taxes upon us without consent.

For depriving us of, in some cases, the benefit of Trial by Jury;

For transporting us overseas to be tried for pretended offenses;

For abriding our rights to the land we have homesteaded;

For suspending the authority of our State and Local governments subservient to the Authority of the Central Government in violation of the Constitution.

In every stage of these Oppressions We have Petitioned for Redress in the most humble terms:  Our repeated Petitions have been answered by more laws favoring old monetary interests.  A Government, whose character is thus marked by every act which may define a Tyrant, is unfit to govern a free people.

Nor have We been wanting in attentions to our Federal brethren.  We have warned them from time to time of attempts by their legislations to extend an unwarrantable jurisdiction over us.  We have reminded them of the circumstances of our Founding.  We have appealed to their native justice and magnanimity, and we have conjured them by the ties of our common kindred to disavow these usurpations, which would inevitably interrupt our connections and correspondence.  They too have been deaf to the voices of liberty and justice and of consanguinity.  We must, therefore, acquiesce in the necessity, which denounces our Separation, and hold them, as we hold the rest of mankind,
Enemies in War, in Peace Friends.

We, therefore, the People of the United States of America, spread throughout this land, appealing to the Supreme Judge of the world for the rectitude of our intentions, do, in the Name, and by the Authority of the good People of these United States, solemnly publish and declare..........

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Life Without Butter? Is It Worth It?

Those poor poor Norwegian people, suffering from a harsh and rainy summer that has left their butter producers with a severe shortfall.  Butter is so scarce, supply is so low, that the price of butter has risen to over $500/lb where it can be had at all.  Meanwhile, next door in Sweden, who suffered the same weather conditions and the same domestic shortfall of butter production has enough butter to meet their demand at acceptable price levels. 

The difference is in who is being protected.  In Sweden, the consumers of the nation, ie, the citizenry, is protected by allowing butter to be freely imported.

In Norway, laws have long favored domestic dairy production at the direct expense of the citizens of that country.  Imports of dairy are taxed so greatly that foreign producers avoid the market altogether. 

Could you ask for a clearer example of a free market and free trade vs government sponsored corporatism and the effect this has on the population? 

Monday, December 12, 2011

Those Crazy Libertarians

We're dangerous, you know.  Thinking that we should be free men and women, that we are slaves to no man, to think that the 13th Amendment should apply not just to private parties, but also to our Government.  That's just nuts! 

Here is a summary of a conversation I've had on more than one occasion in the past month:

"Taxation is theft," I say.

"But, the government says it's legal," goes the common refrain.

"When you have the ultimate power to right the laws, you get to define legal vs. illegal.  Taxation is government-authorized theft."

"That's crazy.  That's some libertarian definition."

Us crazy libertarians also think that the draft is slavery as are compulsory terms of enlistment for active duty military.  But these are two distinct issues.  First, conscription, or the draft, consists of taking a young male and forcing him to take up arms being sent against his will onto a battlefield.  This is not done in response to a crime committed or a voluntary agreement.  In fact, should you try to avoid this, you are committing a criminal offense.  If you do not register to be part of this potential slave movement at age 18, you are committing a crime.  But, let's assume you do volunteer to join the army.  You sign up or "enlist."  You sign a contract that says you will serve for 5 or 7 years.  After you go through some basic training you are sent off to a desert on the other side of the world.  Once you get there you decide, hey, this lfe isn't for me.  So, you quit.  No so fast my friend.  The government, by the virtue of it being the government, has the power to COMPEL you to stay.  You are not free to break your contract.  If you persist, you are called a deserter and are put on trial for a crime against the government.  How is this not slavery? 

Can you imagine if IBM had this sort of power?  You sign a 5 year contract to work with IBM.  Six months in you get into an argument with Watson and decide that this just isn't the job for you.  So, you quit.  Now, I would agree that if IBM paid you a bonus tied to the length of your contract, then you should owe them that in return, but they cannot compel you to remain at work.  They cannot imprison you for quitting.  So, why do we give our soldiers less freedom than an engineer at IBM would enjoy? 

Not to continue corrupting you with these "crazy" libertarian ideas, but if the 13th Amendment says that slavery is not legal except in the case where someone has been Convicted of a crime, what crime does that 18 year old male commit?  What crime does the recalcitrant soldier commit?  As Murray Rothbard asserted in The Ethics of Liberty (1980) we each have an absolute right to our own selves.  We have a right to totel self-ownership.  This also means we have the absolute right to the fruits of our labors.  Anything that impedes our right to self-ownership is slavery.  If you force me to sell the fruits of my labor at below the price I would set, even if my price is not economically sound, that is slavery.  But hey, these are just more crazy libertarian ideas.  Don't mind me.

Friday, December 9, 2011

Taking Another Look

I've had a number of people tell me in the past 3-4 weeks that they're taking another look at the Republican candidates.  This isn't actually surprising, it seems that we've all been taking a close look at some of the candidates, one by one as they parade to the top of the polls.  First it was a Bachmann surge, then Perry, then Cain and now Gingrich.  It seems like everytime the primary voters get a close look at the latest front-runner they find some glaring thing that is unattractive.  Through it all Romney and Paul have been steadfastly in the mix alternating 2nd and 3rd depending on the state and the week. 

For Romney there is this undercurrent that he's not well liked by the primary voters.  That they're searching for any alternative to his more Progressive liberal past.  Sure, he says his political views have changed, but even what those views are is confusing to a lot of people.  I understand changing positions.  I was once a very staunch supporter of Government sponsored corporate dominion, though I didn't see it in those terms.  I saw it as government using corporate America to further social goals as opposed to having government try to do it on its own, but that's a different topic.

What I did not expect is that a half dozen or so people have told me a variation of this statement:  "I'd always heard that Ron Paul was way out there, too extreme to be President, but when I listen to him, he makes a lot of sense."  Ron Paul's candidacy has been, from the beginning, treated like a joke by many in the media.  Take this segment from the Daily Show.  On Wednesday the Republican Jewish Coalition held a forum for the candidates explicitly excluding Ron Paul because in their words, "they reject his extreme views."  I wonder if they mean the views that said we should stop mandating what Israel does within its borders, that we should not set the beginning points of Peace negotiations with the Palestinian Authority beyond what Israel is willing to accept as a final resolution, that we should not give Israel financial aid and then give Israel's enemies a combined 3 times as much in aid.  Ron Paul's stance on Israel is that we be an ally and not treat Israel like a vassal state.  These stances are too extreme for the Republican Jewish Coalition. 

So, when people have come to me to talk about this race, they are saying more and more, "They've got this guy wrong, don't they?"  Yes, yes they do.  When Newt starts to become Newt again, when he self destructs once more and it's time for you to take another look.  Do it with your own eyes and ears this time.  Listen to what the man has to say.  There is plenty of available content for your perusal.  There are probably more Ron Paul videos on You Tube than there are copy-right infringing music videos and dumb cat trick videos combined, and that's saying something.

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

It's Common Sense, Right

Presidents, Senators, Congressmen, Op-ed writers for the New York Times, and Americans of all varieties think they know what's best for the American Economy.  So, here's what we're told to do:  CONSUME!  SPEND!  Then pray that that kickstarts the economy.  I have my own ideas too as many of you know.

President Bush, after Katrina and after 9/11 told us to do our Patriotic duty and go shopping.  Obama told us essentially the same thing, though he didn't couch it as patriotism.  NYT columnist Paul Krugman suggested that 9/11 and Katrina both were blessings in disguise for the economy because it destroyed old stuff and made way for new stuff.  We'd all have to buy new stuff to replace what was lost.  After the initial stages of the financial meltdown, George W. Bush signed a temporary tax stimulus (favored by Obama as a Senator) and told us all to go out and spend our way to prosperity.

The theory goes, we spend money even so far as to go into debt to spend money and that money goes to businesses who then need to hire more workers, paying more payrolls, pushing more money into the economy which stimulates more spending which stimulates more hiring, etc etc.  How'd that work?  Not so good yet, right?

Let me ask you a question.  Are you wealthier if you spend everything you make and even go into debt spending or if you save as much as you can?  Are you wealthier if you have a well appointed home that is furnished and well stocked but no savings, no investments or if you live more modestly and have substantial savings and investments?  Many Americans have already found themselves in position #1 and bankruptcy filings are approaching record numbers for 2 years running.

So, if you're better off under position #2, where you save and are prepared for emergencies, why do you think the country as a whole would not be better off following the same advice? 

Let me ask another question, where do businesses get money to expand and grow?  If you said the banks, you are correct.  Where should they get money to expand and grow?  Investors.  Where do investments come from?  Savings.  So, if as a nation, we're consuming instead of investing, spending instead of saving, we're forcing our nation's businessmen to seek financing from the bank.  And, despite all the liquidity being provided by the Federal Reserve, we're told banks aren't lending.  Why not?  There are a number or reasons for this:  risk relative to prevailing rates, discount rates being held to near zero, lack of confidence, unwillingness to let go of reserves, a serious lack of qualified borrowers, and most relevant to this conversation no or too little savings and investment as collateral.

Before and during the Great Depression, the economic geniuses who prolonged that disaster encouraged people to spend as well.  People who saved money and assets were called Hoarders (only slightly more flattering than today's hoarders seen on reality tv shows) and hoarding was counted as a great societal evil, it was unpatriotic, selfish, wrongheaded, and contributing to the economic decline.  Too many people heeded that advice.  Based on the crowds at the shopping malls and the reports about Black Friday/Cyber Monday sales records, they still are heeding it. 

Will this spending spark a new economic boom?  I'd love to be wrong.  Just in case.  I think I'll save some more money this month.

Monday, December 5, 2011


So, I'm having this debate with a friend of mine.  He says we should tax "millionaires and billionaires" an extra 3.25% of their income to pay for a payroll tax cut instead of cutting government spending to pay for it.  For the life of me I can't get this stark scene out of my head.  Bear with me as I try to lay the foundation for this:

We've all seen in either movies, tv or maybe in real life the incitement of a mob.  People gathered around one person who stands up on a tree stump shouting out.  Maybe everyone is carrying torches and pitchforks.  I think they call that guy on the stump the rabble rowser.  So, in my scene he's up there talking about the big bad Republicans and those Millionaires and Billionaires and how they're keeping our country poor. 

"So here's what we're going to do!  We're going down to Banker Joe's house and we're going to take 3.25% of his income.  No more than that, but by God no less than that either!"

A timid voice calls out, "but what if he won't give up his money?  Do we burn him out?"

"No no," calls out the rabble rowser.  "We put him in jail and confiscate enough of his retained wealth to make up the difference.  No one can resist the Will of the People.  Can we do this?"

Crowd yells, "YES WE CAN!"

Friday, December 2, 2011

Is It Really?

So, this headline was just up on

"Though vital to U.S. security, the topic [of foreign aid] is currently cause for heated debate in the GOP race."

Is it really?  If we don't give billions to african warlords then we're going to have security problems in the US?  Talk about slanted "journalism."

Return to Entitlement Island - The Horror Story Continues

So, we've discussed the Entitlement Society in a variety of ways and I dedicated an entire chapter of my eBook (available on to the subject.  Today we revisit it, well, because it needs to be discussed.

This YouTube video was featured on the yesterday and went viral on facebook and other social media earlier in the week.  I would suggest you watch it for yourself, but it can be upsetting.   So, I will summarize.  It's a series of news stories chronicling the life of a young woman with 15 children, 12 of whom are minors and live with her in a 2 room hotel which she was given at no charge.  During her time being interviewed by reporters from a local televisions statement she repeatedly asks who is going to be responsible for this.  "Who," she asks, "is going to pay for my children?"  Well, apparently everyone but you, ma'am.  Which is probably exactly what she wanted to hear. 

This expectation of hers did not arise in a vacuum.  She didn't just wake up with her 15th child and say "I think someone else should be responsible for caring for these creatures that I brought onto this Earth."  No, instead this was learned behavior.  She may have learned it from her family or friends.  She may have learned it in school where her peers were passed up in grade level and graduated without the ability to read at a 4th grade level.  She may have learned it from child protective services, who for years ignored the plight of her children.  She may have learned it from neighbors who shrugged and said, this is the government's responsibility.  She may have learned it from Wall St, who took enormous risks, made enormous amounts of money, then stuck their investors with the tab when the house started to fall down.  She may have even learned it from our government, who wouldn't let the banks fail. 

There are thousands of examples all around us of what creates the Entitlement Society.  Share some of your ideas in the comments below, "Like" my page on Facebook, and if you've had a chance to read my book, leave me a review on


The Choice Defined

Next November's Presidential Election could be a historic choice between a continuity of the current economic stagnation and attempts at false growth or a new direction based on building an economic foundation that while it might cycle, does not have the perilous booms and busts of the past 100 years.

Or, the election next November could be a choice between trimming a little bit around the edges even while the bloated behemoth of government expands or trimming around a different edge while the bloated behemoth of government expands. 

The real choice comes sooner than November.  The real choosing begins early next month in the the caucuses in Iowa and the primaries in New Hampshire.  Will we take steps to go in a bold new direction, rebuilding the solid foundation upon which this nation once stood or will we choose more of what brought us to this most recent crash?

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Big Banks Buying European Debt?

Why would American Banks be lining up to deliver more money to Europe in the next few weeks?  Aside from the possibility of an 8% return on Italian bonds?  Well, what if they've been given a wink and a nod that there losses will again be covered by the Federal Reserve's emergency lending programs.  So, 8% or free loans that they can use to buy 3% US Government debt then convert back to cash on the secondary markets.  Line forms at Wall & Broad.  No pushing Mr. Dimon.

Gollum is Back at It

That's right, everyone's favorite Precious Loving Senator, John McCain has proposed an amendment to a Defense Spending Authorization Bill that would give the Military extraordinary powers to detain indefinitely American Citizens on a "battlefield."  Interestingly, his definition of battlefield could be applied to locations within the United States.  I've already had my say regarding our countries policies of assassinating criminals without trial just because they have the disadvantage of being on foreign soil in a nation willing to look the other way in exchange for a tank to terrorize its citizens.  Now we're facing the idea of codifying this practice in addition to potentially bringing it to the homeland. 

This is shameful.  McCain should probably have his head examined, and I encourage the people of his state to correct their most recent mistake and vote this man out at the next available opportunity.  I'm almost glad he lost the Presidential election in 2008.  The only thing worse than a McCain presidency right now would be...well...look around you.

Don't forget, my ebook is available at for $3.49. 

Monday, November 28, 2011

Welcome Christmas!

Thanksgiving is over.  The bird is done.  Even the leftovers are running low in the fridge.  In our home the Christmas Tree is in its stand and my wife's plastic Christmas Tree-Shaped Object adorns our family room.  Tonight, when I come home I will be greeted with that wonderful smell of evergreen that I associate with my favoritist of holidays.  Pretty soon the wrapping paper will be out and presents will begin to appear under the tree.  In my home there will be a lot of presents.  There always are.  This is one of my favorite things about my favorite holiday.  Not getting presents, though it is nice, but the giving.  I will spend too much this year on my family and my friends.  One of my other favorite things, actually, it's the same favorite thing is what we do for strangers. 

There are many children in this country who will wake up on Christmas morning disappointed because Santa doesn't visit their neighborhood.  I am a firm believer that this should never happen in this country of ours and at every opportunity I encourage my friends and coworkers and family, to use this holiday season to give back to those less fortunate.  There are tons of organizations out there:  Coats for Kids, Toys for Tots, Salvation Army's Angel Tree (my favorite).  It is up to those of us who can to care for those who cannot.  I do not care how much of my money to government steals and wastes, I will always find a little more to do this for others and I hope that you can too.

Just as a reminder, if you're looking for a good gift idea for that liberty-minded thinker in your family: My book is available on Kindle for the bargain price of $3.49.  Kindle Apps for the iPhone, iPad, iEverything, PC, Android, Windows Phone are completely free. 

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

What is Isolationism?

The dictionary definition is "a policy of remaining apart from the affairs of others, esp the political affairs of other countries. 

So, obviously invading foreign countries who do not behave as we tell them to behave is not isolationism.  What about sending diplomats to speak to someone instead of soldiers with guns.  Is that isolationism?  Do we live in a country of such extremes now that only military intervention qualifies as actively engaged in the world? 

People call Dr. Paul an isolationist because he wants to remove our troops from bases around the world.  They call him an isolationist because he doesn't want to buy third world allies with huge money grants to warlords and dictators.  They call him an isolationist because he thinks Israel should be allowed to make her own decisions and not seek American approval for every action.  He's called an isolationist because he believes we should pay more attention to our border with Mexico than Pakistan's border with Afghanistan.

I call that bullshit. 

The neo-cons in the Democrat and Republican parties want us to be the policemen to the world.  They want us to continue to funnel money to oppressive regimes.  These regimes then use this money to buy guns and planes and tanks that they use to subjugate their citizens.  Exhibit A - Egypt and the $250 Billion given to Mubarak over time.  Exhibit B - funding Pakistani and Yemeni military regimes that oppress their people with our money.

Dr. Paul wants us to be engaged in the world, just no longer militarily and financially responsible for it.  This is not isolationism.  This is called being a responsible citizen and good neighbor.  Yeah, I may let you borrow a cup of sugar, but I'm not paying your mortgage so you can stay home from work to abuse your children. and Present

From Tea Parties to Occupy Wall Street
by Yours Truly.

Tuesday, November 22, 2011


Don't we have enough laws?  Aren't there any places where the government shouldn't be involved?  Should we be running every purchase and business decision by a government panel? 

Government wants to tell Chase how much it can charge Wal Mart for using their debit card network.  Why?  National Security?  No, so Wal Mart can make more money and banks can make less.

Government wants to mandate that people buy health insurance or be fined.  Why?  Because they insist that increasing demand for a limited resource will help drive down costs.  They missed that day in basic economics class.

Government wants to mandate that drug manufacturers sell some drugs at a loss because they're important.  It's only fair right?

Now Government wants to mandate the business practices of airlines as it pertains to baggage fees.  I mean, I understand that people hate baggage fees.  I get it.  I despise the practice of charging me to check bags.  It's despicable.  I have never paid a baggage fee on a domestic flight though, and I won't.  I'll fly southwest or another carrier that doesn't charge them.  I'll pack light and use only the carry-on.  Whatever.  It's all good.  That's not good enough.  Our government, who think they must be involved in the most minute details of our lives, from telling us who we can marry and how we must educate our children to how our businesses interact with our customers, wants to do something about baggage fees.  And, so long as the courts ignore the reasonable limitations of Congressional Authority found in the Constitution, they'll get away with it. 

Enough is enough. 

Friday, November 18, 2011

Think Our Government Isn't For Sale?

Then you must also believe that Pizza is a vegetable.  Yes, that's right.  In it's latest move bought and paid for by such groups as the American Frozen Foods lobby, ConAgra Foods, Schwan Foods, et al, Congress had declared that frozen pizza is a vegetable because it contains 2 teaspoons of tomato sauce.  I wonder if those 2 teaspoons contain as much as a quarter of a teaspoon of actual tomato.  No matter.  Congress and the USDA have said that school lunches must contain a proper blend of vegetables and proteins, meaningless lip service when they also get to define what those things are.

Thursday, November 17, 2011

Congress Says TSA is Bloated and Inept

The pot may be calling the kettle black, but the pot isn't wrong.  It's just only a tiny fraction of the whole truth however.  The entire federal government is bloated.  Congressman have large staffs to help them because the Government has its hands in so many different things that they need extra help to keep it all together.  Each bureaucracy has thousands upon thousands of pages of rules just governing how they function, not even considering how they carry out their stated mission.  Every agency within every department houses dozens of special offices that do nothing but monitor the functions of the agency. 

So, Congress thinks this one small agency within a bloated behemoth of a Department is bloated and inept.  Wow, talk about focusing on the minute details of the problem with no hope of actually doing anything about it.  This would be like a morbidly obese man suddenly declaring that his left pinky is woefully fat and out of shape and exercising just that pinky as the right hand continues to bring fork full after fork full to his mouth.  I'm glad he's recognizing the small problem of the TSA being bloated, but you really can't do anything about it unless you work hard to shrink the entireity of Government.

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Sorry Spidey, Your Uncle Was Wrong

A good friend of mine is fond of quoting this line from Spiderman comics:  "With great power comes great responsibility."  He does this in the context of supporting a call for mandatory government seizure of assets and redistribution to those who are both less able and less willing to work for their own livelihood.  The government doesn't do a good job of discerning between the two and oftentimes doesn't care.  Putting aside the question of who truly has the power in this situation and whether or not wealth redistribution is "responsible" I think there is a fundamental flaw with this situation.  Even assuming that my ability to earn is the true power, how is supporting a mandatory redistribution of those earnings a responsible exercise of that power.  Additionally, I question whether or not you can consider that which is coerced to be a "responsibility."  It seems to me to be more in the lines of a consequence. 

No, instead I think we should be saying "With great freedom comes great responsibility."  Your responsibility is to ensure that you live wisely, making good decisions that allow you to care for yourself.  It is your responsibility to care for your fellow man.  Most importantly it is your responsibility to protect your fellow man's freedoms as you would protect your own.  Without this equality under the law we do not have freedom, only an illusion.

Monday, November 14, 2011

Some Commentary on Saturday Night's Debate

Let's be quite honest about something.  Most Republicans love Ron Paul when it comes to fiscal responsibility, tax policy, and taking down the size of government.  Where many abandon him is on the issue of foreign policy.  This is why Saturday night's debate was so crucial for Dr. Paul's candidacy.  He needs to explain his views on foreign policy, the war on terror, and foreign aid.  I think he could win over a lot of support if he did.  He was never given that opportunity.  During the hour long televised portion of the debate Dr. Paul was allowed less than 90 seconds of time to answer questions and air his views on these critical subjects. 

This minimalization and marginalization has been happening since the beginning of his candidacy.  The arrogant buffoon O'Reilly recently disqualified Paul from a poll that he was winning on his show because he said Paul supporters were "slamming" the poll.  Meanwhile, the top three on the poll all had directives on their facebook pages to go vote on the poll.  Dr. Paul did not.  In prior debates, despite consistently being in the top 3 of the Republican field Dr. Paul has been given air time consistent with the likes of Rick Santorum and Jon Huntsman, both at the bottom of the field.  The only candidate getting less attention is Gov. Gary Johnson. 

Since CBS and the Republican Establishment dont' want to give Dr. Paul a voice.  I will. 

Views on War

Dr. Paul believes that war is a serious thing.  Not just in committing American young men and women to harm's way, but the death and devastation it brings about in the targeted countries as well.  War should never be entered lightly, nor, according to the Constitution, should it be entered on the word of One Man.  That is not to say that he would avoid a war, were it in our national interests, but he would force Congress to take up their Constitutional responsibilities before he engaged our troops in hostilities.  He will not bind our troops to harms way under the auspices of any foreign organization without an explicit declaration from Congress.  He would end the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq as quickly as possible and bring our young men and women home. 

So, how do the people of the military feel about Dr. Paul?  Well, he receives a higher percentage of his total campaign contributions from active and reserve members of the military than ANY other candidate. 

Foreign Aid

"Can't Buy Me Love" said it best.  You can't buy friends in this world.  This holds true for nations as well as people.  You can buy temporary alliances, you can buy service, and you can buy a temporary pause in hostility, but it does not last.  Too often, when the money continues what you wind up buying is control.  Let's look at some of our Foreign Aid successes.  In Egypt, we made the Mubarak regime one of the richest in the world, while his country was in relative poverty.  He purchased a strong military that he used to repress his people with OUR money.  Do not believe for a second that the people were unaware of the source of his funding.  What did we really buy?  We bought a generation of hate and distrust from the people of Egypt.  In Israel, they do very little without looking to Washington for tacit approval.  Why?  They have shaped their national economy around US Foreign Aid.  Anything that threatens that now threatens their way of life.  Except, for the past 14 years, as the US has attempted to play its heavy hand in shaping the Peace Process with the Palestinian Authority, Israel has worked to extricate itself from the influence of US money.  The best thing for Israel is for the United States to be its friend, but not it's controller.  Allow Israel to stand on her own feet, make her own decisions about her future and support her as she deserves.

The "War on Terror"

This is not a war.  Congress has not declared war and there are no political combatants or identifiable objectives to achieve.  The original aim was to destroy the capabilities of the international equivalent of a street gang to engage in criminal activity.  That goal was accomplished quickly, but then the goal posts were moved.  We now needed to take out the regime that gave them license to use their country as a staging ground.  Then that was accomplished.  Then we needed our own friendly regime in power.  Then we had to keep them in power.  Now, 10 years later, does anyone know what our goals are?  And what are we doing?  We're dropping bombs that kill hundreds of civilians in the hopes of killing 10 or 20 terrorists.  We're creating generations of hate for our country.  We're violating the principles of fairness and the rule of law on which our country was founded and justifying it by saying that these things don't apply oustide our borders.  If something is right at home, isn't it right outside as well?  We claim to support Christian values and then we stand up and cheer for the assassination of a man who was convicted only by the President and with whom were killed dozens of other nameless faces.  We support the idea that we should torture dozens in order to find that one bit of intelligence that may lead to an arrest or to the next village we can bomb.  Instead of making ourselves more secure, we are creating more people that we need to kill by fostering a hatred for us as a nation.

This is why you say Ron Paul is unelectable, because he is holding up a mirror to show us who and what we are and you don't like it.

Friday, November 11, 2011

Supporting the Troops

To all of my Veteran readers, Thank you.  Without equivocation, I thank each and every one of you for putting on the uniform and serving this country.  Your example of bravery and duty and honor is unparalelled.  I may not support the mission or the people who send you into harm's way in contravention to the Constitutionally proscribed methods of declaring war and committing our troops, but I will always support you.  G-d bless you all.

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

The Christmas Tree Tax - UPDATED

I love Christmas.  I get my ho ho holly jollies on the week after Thanksgiving and keep them going right through New Years day.  I LOVE Christmas. 

One of my favorite things about Christmas is Christmas Trees.  As my wife will tell you, I'm not a fan of what I call "Christmas Tree Product," those plastic monstrosities that they sell at big box stores, those soulless husks sitting in a box in my basement 10.75 months out of the year.  No, I love Christmas Trees.  Real, live, fresh cut Christmas Trees.  The smell of them as you open the door of your house after a long day at work.  The fullness that a fake tree just can't copy.  I even love the needles that fall to the floor.  I absolutely love Christmas Trees. 

This is why I'm delighted to find out that the government is going to add a tax to the sale of every live Christmas Tree in order to help improve the image and marketing of these once proud symbols.  Because....they need the help, right?  No?  We're good?!?! 

Why does the Department of Agriculture need to help out the image of the Christmas Tree industry?  That's a very good question...think on that one.  Why would the government want to tax something to redistribute that money in a way that gives them leverage over the entire industry?

***FLASH***  Obama is withdrawing the tax proposal. 

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Income Inequality - Envy or Issue?

The rich are getting richer and the poor are getting poorer!  OH NO!  Oh, wait.  What does that even mean?  Does this mean that Bob got a raise and Joe got a demotion?  Actually, no.  Here's what this line means.  It means that the income bracket represented by Bob made more money while the income bracket that Joe once belonged to and is now populated by a new generation of Joe's has a lower net worth.

Let's take this a step at a time.  When people say the rich are getting richer, they aren't actually talking about individuals.  They're talking about a range of wealth holders that are completely different from the wealth holders from the last time they made this proclamation.  Instead of talking about Bob gettting richer, you're talking about the cumulative wealth of those people who make up a certain percentage of wealth holders without taking into account that these may or may not be the same INDIVIDUALS from the most recent survey.  At the bottom part of the spectrum, these poor who keep getting poorer there are two things that aren't accounted for.  First, again, is the income and wealth mobility factor, that the people who were poor at one point may not be poor today.  That is that people who start off their adult lives as poor, with extremely low to negative net worths (i.e. people graduating from college with substantial student loan debts) do not remain poor, but instead work themselves up through different levels of the wealth spectrum.  Many will in fact rise and fall across this spectrum throughout their lives.  Second is the concept of quality of life.  Our economy has for years been a consumption economy.  People consume more than they can presently afford, wracking up debt for things that were not too long ago considered luxuries.  Today, these very same luxuries are taken for granted by many of even the poorest of our countries citizens. 

Let's look at the facts.  These reports talking about the poor getting poorer only measure one thing - Net Worth.  Net Worth is the total value of everything you own subtracted by the total amount of your debt.  So, for example.  If you are a recent college graduate with $40,000 in student loan debt, $5,000 in credit card debt, no home, a beater car and a basic wardrobe and no job, you're Net Worth is probably less then -$40,000.  This would put you in the group of the poorest people in America.  Now, let's assume you bought a home in 2006 for $500,000.  That home today is worth $400,000.  You also have student loans of $50,000 and credit card debt of $5,000.  You have a job that pays all of your bills as they become due grossing about $120,000 per year.  According to this study, you're poorer than that recent college graduate.  You're actually lower on the spectrum than a person who works at Wal Mart, rents an apartment, and has no student loans and only minimal credit card debt. 

From a standard of living stand-point in this country many of the poorest people in this country are actually much better off than people in the same category were a generation ago.  Technology advances and economic competition have driven down the prices of many things that were once luxuries.  Many of the poorest people in this country own microwaves, tvs, automobiles, and have access to clean water, air conditioning, medical care, and free education. 

We do have a serious problem in this country with people living in relative poverty.  Too many people survive only with the assistance of government handouts and food subsidies.  Instead of solving the problem, though, I fear that government's "war on poverty" has only made the problem worse.  That, however, is a discussion for another day.

If there is one take-away here it is that you should look beyond the headlines.  Yes, the rich get richer, but quite frankly, so do the poor, but with each generation, we have a new batch of poor.  With the constantly rising cost of education, and the devaluation of currency, these new poor, these future producers start from a deeper financial hole than the previous generation.

If you're interested in learning more about this subject, I would encourage all of my readers to visit 

Friday, November 4, 2011

Is Buy America Bad for America?

What is better for you, to buy an item for $1.00 or to buy the an item of the same utility and quality for $0.75?  I think the answer is pretty obvious.  Does it make a difference where the goods were manufactured?  From a well-being, economics standpoint, it does not.  What about for the benefit of the country as a whole.  Again, from an economic standpoint, it offers no benefit to buy local or buy American. 

People keep preaching that we live in a world of finite resources.  From raw materials to time and money, our nation's resources and each individuals resources are indeed limited.  In order to maximize the efficency of our resources, of our nations and our planet's viability, we should be encouraging the purchase of goods that utilize the least resources to achieve the same utility and quality.  This not only frees up our personal resources, but it also frees up the inefficient use of resources manufacturing products that should not be manufactured domestically.

Politicians talk about the decline of our manufacturing sector, when in fact they should be lamenting the inefficiency of our manufacturing sector compared to manufacturing abroad.  Look, I'm all for Buy American.  I'm all for America developing the most efficient manufacturing in the world.  I'm just not for wasting precious resources in order to prop up inefficient domestic companies.  I'd much rather they put those resources to use in a way that competes with the world.  In a true free market economy, everyone would buy American, because there is no place in the world with more can do and more competitiveness than right here.

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

You've Got It All Wrong!

So, today news that Congress is fast tracking a "recommitment" to our national Motto of "In [G-d] We Trust."  Well, that's just splendid.  Does it change anything?  Does it restore to us our G-d given rights, or if you prefer, our Natural Rights?  No.  On the other side of the aisle you have our president saying that G-d wants him to give people jobs or some nonsense.  Are any of them right? 

Views on what G-d wants, demands, or expects differ.  Think about it for yourself.  Would the G-d that gave us Free Will wish for either party to exercise dominion over us?  A Rabbi once asked his class, "what would be better than having the power to make the woman of your dreams fall madly in love with you?"  The answer was simple, "Her falling in love with you of her own accord." 

G-d gave us the power to choose, Government is about taking that power back.  If in fact "In G-d We Trust" is our national motto, then maybe we should exercise the restraint he has shown.  Allow us the decisions in our economic and social lives that both Republicans and Democrats would take away.  Allow us to love who we want, hire who we want, work where we want, marry who we want, buy what we want.  Some people would claim that this leads to anarchy.  I disagree.  Instead of chaos what you'll find is the spontaneous order that G-d knew would be there.    The spontaneous order that Adam Smith discussed.  The order that you see in nature and in a famous economics example, the order that you see spring up in a skating rink.  (google or bing skating rink economics - spontaneous order for more info, it's an interesting read)

Monday, October 31, 2011

Student Loans Are Destroying Education

Why has the cost of a college education so far outpaced inflation for other things, like cars, technology, energy, even HEALTHCARE?  Everyone talks about how bad the price of healthcare is, well, since only 1985 the cost of higher education has increased at almost double the rate of healthcare.

Then answer is simple:  Federally Subsidized Student Loans

Student loans have made it so that almost anyone with a high school diploma can borrow money to go to college.  Colleges are now in the business of competing for students who have effectively eliminated price as an object.  Want to spend $14,000 per year on a college education?  No worries.  The feds will directly lend you the money to do this if you're an independent student..  Want to go to grad school, then you're limited to an additional $138,000. 

What these student loans haven't done is better equip graduating high school students to succeed in college, or to get out of it what they should.  So, what you wind up with are colleges catering to a large number of underqualified students pursuing degrees that prepare them to do absolutely nothing with the rest of their lives.  When the colleges don't have to compete on price they don't have to worry about programs that do not "earn their keep." They don't have to worry about only offering that which is economically worthwhile offering, because they can raise prices and it doesn't effect their demand at all.   Essentially in a competitive sphere you've removed any necessity to compete on one of the most important elements, price.

The well intentioned interference of our central planning government has caused runaway inflation.  If you walked back the price of education to 1975 levels and applied the same rate of inflation as say, average wage growth, what you'll find is that the cost of college is not only well within reach, but something that could be payable in cash for even most middle class families with a modicum of forethought.  It might mean that every college wouldn't have every conceivable major, and it might mean that some majors are condensed to only a handful of public universities in the state, but would that be so bad.  I mean, how many public universities do we need to offer degrees in underwater basket weaving?

Just food for thought.

Friday, October 28, 2011

The Case for Capitalism

There are a lot of people who think that our economy is a capitalist economy, that bailouts and bubbles bursting, and out of control corporate spending in elections is all a by-product of capitalism.  My impulse is to dismiss these people as morons.  I should be nice, so instead I'll try to explain the errors of their ways.

First let us start by pointing out that our economy is very much a "planned economy."  Interest rates are artificially set, prices are artificially set or influenced through financial incentives from the government, subsidization, and setting upper limitations on production to set the supply.  Then you have government encouraging transfers of wealth through the so called "broken window" theory.  I'll go into all of these in more detail later in the article, but these are the ways in which our Government (and corporations that encourage these actions) attempt to manipulate or direct the economy. 

Please keep in mind one thing as we progress through this analysis.  Just because a corporation encourages something, doesn't make it a capitalist principle.  Corporations are looking out for their own interests, but instead of doing it through competition, they like to partner with government to do it through mandate.  This is a very critical concept.  Without government interference corporations would be forced to compete.  Corporations aren't out to compete, they're out to make money.  It's not about the thrill of the game.

Doesn't this just mean that we shouldn't allow corporations to petition the government?  Where does this stop?  A corporation is simply an association of PEOPLE.  Would you stop unions, churches, community groups?  These are all associations of people.  What about families?  Yet another voluntary association of people gathered together around a common cause. 

If we learned anything from prohibition it's that there will always be a way to get supply and demand to meet.  You may make alcohol illegal, but the people that want it and the people that want to make money off of those people will somehow get together.  If you make corporate influence in government illegal, you don't make the problem go away, you make them find other ways of forming this market.  So long as government has the POWER to give corporations what they want (an advantage over competition so that they can make the most money), then corporations will find a way to get politicians what they want which is more power.

Interest Rates

Interest rates are a price.  They are the price given for the use of a commodity (money) over a period of time.  The price is or should be determined by a combination of risk weighed with the opportunity of investing this money in another venture.  A free market relies on prices as a piece of information that can be used to determine how to invest, what to buy, what to build, what to sell, and when to do all of these things.  When prices are set by the government or by government collusion with private parties, then this sends a false signal to other market participants to act imprudently.  Even when you know the signals are fake, when real prices are suppressed for false signals you can either go along or get out of business.

Economic law says that as an economy rises, prices drop.  Here's how this works.  Product A is popular and selling well.  Company A makes a lot of money with Product A.  Company B notices and they build their own version of Product A and sell it.  Company C also builds a version of Product A.  Now we have competition.  Company's A, B, and C want people to buy their Product A.  In order to do that they must compete on quality, price, service, and availability.  The more people competing the better it is for consumers because companies will continue to be the best on all of these things.  This is why prices always go down.

Now, let's think about what happens with our economy.  Our economic improvement, for the past 40 years has begun with the Federal Reserve lowering interest rates.  This lowers the price on time and money.  This encourages people to buy rather than save by reducing the value of saving.  As more money is spent the economy rises, then, instead of lowering prices, the federal reserve says it must RAISE interest rates in order to combat INFLATION.  Inflation is rising prices.  This should be antithetical.  However, when the entire situation is built on the initial lie of lower interest you do not get promised results.

More Government Price Fixing

Don't forget, interest rates are prices, but they are not the only price set by a central body or the Government.  By setting production limits on certain commodities, subsidizing lower production of others Government can and does set prices.  This again, induces behavior that the government seeks, but sends false signals to the market and encourages often wasteful and imprudent behavior.  For example, government sudsidies that encouraged people to destroy crops or let farmland sit fallow in exchange for free money from the government?  This is waste.  This artificially raises the prices of agricultural commodities under the mistaken belief that it is good for farmers.  Farmers have since built their businesses and lifestyles around agricultural subsidies.  Removing them now will have a profound effect on their profits.  These negative effects are the direct result of government interference in the market and corporate and individual reliance on it.

Another way that government likes to control prices is by adding taxes to the purchase of a product.  They do this for several reasons.  One is to raise revenues.  Sometimes these revenues are rational related such as fuel surcharges to fund highway projects.  Other times they are not, such as an excise tax on phone bills that were originally used to fund the Spanish American War.  (Coincidentally, these taxes remained for 108 years after their original passage)  The other reason the government might tax a product is to drive up the cost and down the demand for a product in favor of a competing technology. 

Let's pause here to re-visit the idea of competition.  Earlier we talked about 3 companies building 1 product and competing.  That isn't always the case.  Often times those 3 companies will have 3 separate and distinct products or product methods that must compete on price, availability, quality and service.  These companies must then continue to innovate not just on these methods, but also on their individual products to make them better and more attractive. 

Back to government interference.  When government places a tax on one product in order to help another product you do a number of things.  The first is you encourage consumption of an inefficient product.  You actively discourage the consumption of an efficient product.  You penalize a person who has built a product that is both effective and wins on price.  This discourages them from trying as hard.  On the other side, you've taken away the competitions incentive to lower prices or innovate to build a more competitive product. 

The Broken Window Lie

Many in our government think that you can create wealth by destroying old things.  In their mind this creates wealth because you must buy new things to replace the broken things.  This fallacy originates with the idea that if you break a window in someone's house, they will have to take money that is not in productive use (in savings) and buy a window and let's say this costs $100.  That employs window makers.  They will have to hire a window installer and let's say this costs $100 as well.  That employs window installers.  Now, the original window owner has $200 less than before and all they have to show for it is a window that they previously owned.  Does this create any new wealth?  Actually, no.  It destroys wealth. 

A few years ago our government passed a program that said if you let us destroy your old car, we'll give you a grant to help you buy a new car.  This was just a bigger example of the broken window lie.  In this case bigger meant more destructive.  Wealth, meaning assets, were destroyed in the form of cars being compacted and sold as scrap metal.  In exchange consumers got newer cars, most of which were financed.  The population as a whole financed this through taxation, inflation, and promises of future taxation (ie, government debt).

This highlights the main problem with the broken window.  No wealth is created, some wealth is actually destroyed and the rest is merely TRANSFERRED.  The window owner transfers $200 and gets nothing that he didn't already have to begin with.  The car owner started with a car and now has a car, new debt, and new taxes.  The beneficiaries in both of these examples are the businesses that government chooses to favor.  Unfortuantely, government can't favor anyone with their own money.  They have to do this with other people's money. 

How is Capitalism Different? 

People think that capitalism is all about government getting out of the way and not regulating businesses.  This is only half of the story.  Capitalism is when government stays out of the way and neither helps nor hinders businesses.  Instead, it sets the field in which businesses compete.

Quick aside.  I'm sure, like most people, you've heard the saying "even playing field."  Some people thinks this means that government should step in to help weaker players to make them more even with their competitors.  Can you imagine this in sports?  The fastest wide receivers has to have his ankles tied together so he can't run as fast as his defenders.  The tallest basketball player has to play from his knees?  An even playing field simply means that each participant in the market is neither favored nor hindered by officialdom any more or less than any other participant.  Advantages that individuals work out for themselves are completely acceptable.

In capitalism different businesses would have competed to try to entice the window owner to spend his $200.  Car manufacturers would have competed to try to convince people to upgrade their car.  In capitalism businesses would decide for themselves based on real market indicators how much to produce at a given price and consumers could decide how best to spend or save their money at a given price or interest rate. 

I cringe when I hear capitalism criticized for the government conditioned excesses of the past several decades.  I cringe when people say that corporations are capitalistic simply because they are "in business."  The sad truth is that many businesses would happily see our society in socialism, so long as they got to direct the spending their way.  And usually it is only when they do not get to direct the spending that they rise up and denounce the evils of socialism and corporatism. 

Let us instead rise up and demand the level playing field, let us demand that each person be allowed to compete to the best of their abilities without the help or hindrance of the State.  Let us demand that government get out of business and remove the product that business would buy from the government.  Let us not demand that government unleash our potential, but instead demand that they get out of the way so we can unleash our own damned potential.  Let us demand that freedom that has been too long denied to us.

Thursday, October 27, 2011

Good Times...

The DOW Jones Industrial Average is up 300 points today.  Does this means good times are here again?  Did anybody notice that the drop of the dollar was almost the exact same percentage rise as stocks?  I know some will say the two are unconnected, but I don't buy it.  Dollar plummets in value, stocks (and everything else who's value is measured in dollars) will naturally rise. 

My 401(k) is happy right now, but will my bank account be the next time I buy groceries?  Bubbles create wealth only for those who are wealthy enough to ride the bubble and insulate themselves before it pops.  Bubbles hurt those without money.  We're in for more bubbles, but none of them will get us out of the crater we're already in.  It's time to go back to sound money, sound investment.

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Have We Lost Our Ambitions or Our Incentives?

"We have lost our ambition, our imagination, and our willingness to do the things that built the Golden Gate Bridge." 

The above quote came from president obama on Tuesday.  I can't exactly claim to be surprised.  I've chronicled pretty well my impressions of his takes on personal responsibility.  To me, this is yet another attempt to deflect.  Here he wants to blame the failings of 2 generations of elected governments to the individual doers and builders of this country. 

Let me be clear.  The innovative spirit of this country is being buried by a morass of burdensome regulations and the rewards are being confiscated faster than ever before in our nation's history.  First the government makes it too hard to innovate and then they confiscate the rewards for the risks you take. 

Let's dig into this a little further. 

First, how are regulations effecting innovation? 

Let's start with existing companies.  A cross industry survey of 44 medium to large businesses found that the total cost of compliance on data and privacy issues averaged at $3.5 million per year.  This cost was only marginally related to the number of customers meaning that a majority of the costs are fixed.  These fixed costs would also apply to startup businesses, but we'll get back to those.  Depending on the industry you're also faced with environmental costs, including doing very expensive impact studies on each and every project.  These can take months to complete and years to approve.  For public companies, SEC compliance issues are a major cost, averaging $2 million or better each year.  Banks are only beginning to discover the high cost of compliance with Dodd Frank authorized regulations, but the expected costs range from low estimates of $3 million to highs of $10 million per company per year.  As we've previously discussed, these costs while high, are easily absorbed by mega-banks, but will crush small local and regional banks.  Purely from an economic standpoint, these regulations remove money from budgets that could have been reinvested in new ventures, new R&D, and new exploration.

Then you have the perceived costs of non-compliance.  This threat of fines for violating little understood and poorly worded regulation prevents many firms from innovating the delivery of products and services for fear of unknowingly running afoul of an unforeseen regulation.  Typically most firms do not pursue new lines of business for several months or years after new regulations come out, simply to wait and see how they are applied and interpreted.  With the volume of regulations rising exponentially, these delays are becoming longer and more widespread.  Some very prominent businessmen have expressed their fear of the level of uncertainty the current regulatory climate creates.

Now, let's take a look at startups.  These innovators can be anything from a new corner store, to a company that developed the proverbial better mousetrap.  In 2004 the Small Business Administration's Office of Advocacy commissioned a study that showed the average costs of regulatory compliance for small firms was $7,300 per employee per year.  This was 7 years ago and well before the recent onslaught of new regulations.  When starting a new business or just expanding it out of your garage eats up the majority of your margin, are you really going to take that step?  For many, today, the answer appears to be no.

For those that do expand and innovate, for those that overcome the regulatory burden or risk it's interpretation, what is the reward?  Just with federal income taxes you are faced with confiscation of up to 35% on corporate earnings, then taxed again on dividends up to 15%.  If you elect flow thru taxation, that is, treating all corporate income as personal income, then you pay a top marginal rate of 35%.  Then there's your social security tax.  This amounts to up to 15% of your gross.  If you employ others you're responsible for a portion of their social security and medicare taxes as well.  Factoring in state and local taxes, you could lose 45-50% of your profits just for the right to exist. 

What are you risking your future on?  You can be safe in a job, safer if it's a government job that never goes away or you can risk yourself for half of what you earn.  Oh, and you can't earn nearly as much as you should because you've got to take on these compliance costs. 

So, my question for the president:  Have we really lost our willingness to be great or have you and the monstrosity of a federal government bound our hands in red tape and taken the shirts off our backs to pay for it?