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?

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Some Thoughts on Fairness

"Fairness isn’t paying for other people’s mistakes.  Fairness isn’t equalizing finances, but making sure that everyone gets the same treatment under the law.  Fairness is a government that does not categorize you based on your income, your skin color, your religion, which sex organs you possess, or how you choose to use them."

Monday, October 24, 2011

We Can't Wait

So, the President says that we can't wait for Congress to act, so he's going to push some stuff through as executive order and have his cabinet push more reform through as regulation.  I do believe that the slippery slope just got a little more slick. 

It happens all the time.  A president says, "We can't wait for the free market to bring about this change, Congress must act."

The next president says "We can't wait for Congress to act and declare war, I'm going to send in the military under my inherent powers as 'Commander-in-Chief'"

Then a president says "We can't wait for a country to show itself as hostile, there are people there who say they dislike us, we're going to invade." 

Then the next president says "We can't wait for a jury to convict this American, we need to assasinate him now."

We Can't Wait may be Mr. obama's new slogan, but it's not a new concept.  President's have been using this excuse to expand their authority and weaken our Constitution since it was ratified.

Thursday, October 20, 2011

Why Corporations Love Regulations and You Should Hate Them

Someone recently pointed out to me that without the USDA all of our meat-packing plants would be run like they were in "The Jungle" by Upton Sinclair.  Outside of the cries for socialism and government reform, was the very real story about the deplorable conditions in American meat-packing plants.  Processes that were neither sanitary nor safe.  The book's popularity led to boycotts and protests and major reforms in the meat packing industry.  It also led to greatly enhanced government regulation of the industry and a system of grading.  But, let's take a look at the time in between.  What were businesses doing? 

In order to win back the confidence of the consumer, businesses were quickly enacting safety measures and heavily marketing their steps to the public.  Competition actually developed as to who had the safest meats.  That ended as soon as the Govenment stepped in.  Suddenly there was a minimum standard level of behavior.  Instead of being the floor, however, these standards suddenly became dual purposed as floor and ceiling.  Businesses no longer felt a need to compete on safety, instead they competed to see who could meet the minimum standards at the lowest possible cost.  You see, the Government provided something better than their marketing could and that was a "Stamp of Approval." 

Sometimes businesses use government regulations to distract from bad behavior while at the same time, blocking new competition from forming in the market.  Sarbanes-Oxley, drafted after the company Enron engaged in activity that was a crime by existing laws was held up as the necessary steps to make sure this didn't happen again.  This was a gift to many companies.  Yes, it would costs them money in compliance costs, but it also prevented young ventures from seeking to go public, forcing them to turn to existing businesses for financing and merger.  Companies could still go public, but the cost of compliance was just as high for a new firm as it would be for an exisitng firm.  This is what is known in the realm of anti-trust law as a barrier to entry.  Thank you Congress!

Recently Dodd-Frank regulations have been enacted.  These too require huge compliance costs.  For major banks, such as JPMorgan, BAC, Wells Fargo and Citi, these regulations are rough.  For smaller, regional banks, these compliance costs are unbearable.  The high costs can be absorbed when there is a large margin, spread out amongst the many customers of the large banks.  Smaller banks with smaller pools of customers will be forced into the ever-growing list of failed and merged banks.  All this to prevent activity that has been illegal since this nation's founding.  The bigger banks are loving this because local competition in smaller markets has kept them from expanding to these smaller markets.  Now, instead of having to compete with the loyalty of the locally owned bank, they can just buy up these now profitless banks, absorb their margins and make more money.

Who else likes Dodd Frank?  Wal Mart.  Target.  Senator Dick Durbin was heavily lobbied by representatives of the retailers industry to regulate the amount of money banks could charge retailers for use of their networks to process payments.  This has been a large stream of income for the banks and a big cost for retailers.  Not to worry.  Now the retailer fees are capped at half the going rate (price fixing, anyone?) and banks are set to recoup these losses and more through adding fees for use of debit cards.  Everyone wins.

One day we're going to wake up and discover that the only way to stop from allowing the rich to rule our lives is to refuse to allow anyone to rule our lives.

Wednesday, October 19, 2011


What is this fascination with compromise?  Why do you think that the middle ground between two competing ideas is any better than the original competing ideas?  Is the accomplishment of some unknown middle better than no action at all?  Most of the time, when it comes to our government, the answer to that last question is no.

What it boils down to is selfishness.  "You've got what I want in this compromise, it doesn't matter that the rest of it is going to hurt people."  People were screaming for compromise with the debt ceiling and compromise is what we got.  Is it a good thing?

Some other famous compromises include Chamberlain allowing Germany to annex Austria, the Mason-Dixon line, and Three Fifths Compromise. 

I will not settle for compromise.  I will constantly push to have liberty for every man and woman and child, not because I think that that will profit me or your most, but because I believe that libertarian values are not the most right or most fair, but are the only right and only fair way to live.  Compromise means that some of the most important decisions in my life will be made with options limited by the State.  I had to get the State's blessing to have a church wedding.  I'll have to follow state guidelines in the rearing and education of my children.  I am economically coerced by the state to follow certain retirement paths, to buy certain goods, to NOT buy other goods.  Who I can see and how I can treat myself medically is directed by the State.  By forcing me to purchase insurance I am forced to participate in a market that I might otherwise avoid and subsidize the cost of healthcare for everyone.

 "Men have been taught that it is a virtue to agree with others. But the creator is the man who disagrees. Men have been taught that it is a virtue to swim with the current. But the creator is the man who goes against the current. Men have been taught that it is a virtue to stand together. But the creator is the man who stands alone." - Ayn Rand

They've Blacked Out the Constitution, They've Ignored Ron Paul

Can they continue to ignore them both if we stand up and yell loud enough? 

No, They cannot.

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

As American as Store-Bought Apple Pie

There's something remarkably lazy about our culture.  From robotic brooms, vaccuums and mops that scour our floors to cutting corners in the political process, laziness is beginning to define how I see America. 
That's not to say that the majority of Americans don't work hard, because we do, sort of.  We don't work as hard as our parents.  They didn't work as hard as their parents.  Technology has made life easier generation after generation.  Cleaning and daily chores no longer require hours of labor every day. 

Our meals are pre-packaged.  My peers look at me funny when I talk about making biscuits or muffins from scratch.  Why not just use the tube or the mix?  Even our homemade applie pie comes out of a can and into a pre-packaged pie crust. 

Don't get me wrong.  I'm not knocking any of this.  These things make our life easier.  We spend less time on what we consider unimportant to focus on those things we consider important....and if you feel that homemade pie crusts are as important as biscuits and muffins made from scratch instead of a mix, you can do that too.  These time-savers, short cuts, improvements, advances, whatever you want to call them are also a reflection of something else in our culture, something not so appealing, impatience. 

We are very much an on-demand society.  We demand immediate responses to emails, immediate assistance from customer service, instant coffee, fast food, overnight delivery, 24 hour grocery stores, and when we decide we want political change, we demand it be done when we want it done. 

So, we have an underlying laziness and an impatience.  From a political persepective these two are dynamite. 

The laziness coalesces around the something for nothing crowd.  The one that says government needs to "create" jobs or "fix" the economy.  This is the group that wants the rich to pay more than their fair share but pretend that it's still fair. 

The rest of us understand that government doesn't create jobs, it takes them away.  For every job that is created by the government, taxes were taken from hard working Americans.  Those taxes could have come from a middle class family that would have spent that money and created more jobs by doing so or it could have come from a wealthy person who would have invested that money or put it in the bank.  Lest you think that this does not create jobs, let me remind you that wealthy investors, investing in startups has fueled more job creation in the past 20 years than the government has employed people in the last 40. 

We also understand that the government doesn't fix the economy.  That would be like trying to remove a bullet lodged in a shooting victim by shooting it out with another bullet.  In other words, it's more of the same bad policy and restrictions that got us into this mess in the first place. 

If you add in impatience, you get Occupy <Insert Geographical Location Here>.  This crowd is lazy in that they want a government solution instead of working hard at it themselves AND they want it implemented NOW.  Instead of working hard, trying to educate people to their position (do they have one yet?) or becoming involved in the politcal process by running for office, they want to make demands of politicians, claim "majorities" and expect that this entitles them to the reforms they want. 

Join the coversation below or Like us on Facebook. 

Monday, October 17, 2011

Celebrities Say the Dumbest Things....

So, Susan Sarandon, big supporter of the 98.999996875% called the current Pope a Nazi, over the weekend.  At first I thought:  "why is she insulting the Pope, what has he done to her."  Then, I realized that this may not be an insult.  With the Nazi Party coming out in support of Occupy <Insert Geographical Location Here>, she probably mean this as some sort of compliment.

Friday, October 14, 2011

Defining the Police State

If political theory were reduced down to its most rudimentary math equation, it would likely be this:

Government = Force. (But not the good Force from Star Wars)

What this means:

If the government asks you to do something and you say no, they can force you to do it.  If your home is taken through eminent domain and you refuse to vacate, then you will be physically removed from your home.  Resistance to government force is punishable by incarceration, resistance to incarceration is met by physical violence, resistance to physical violence could get you killed. 

This is how I have determined that Government = Force.

In my perverse view of Government, I think that the only time force should be used is to enforce rights of individuals against the aggression of another.  This may mean offering police services, national defense or providing a court to enforce contract rights.  The majority of people think the Government should do more than this.  This "majority rules" mentality has been very prominent lately.  Even people who should or actually DO know better use this majority rules argument because it allows them to implement their view of society.  These same people ignore it when they think their ideas are good for you.  When the President tells you to eat your peas or whatever else patronizing thing he says, what he means is this:  "Eat your peas or we will force you to eat your peas.  If you resist our efforts to force you to eat your peas we will arrest you and place you in a prison, where you will be served peas apparently.  If you resist arrest, we will be forced to violently take you into custody and if you resist our violent aggression you may be killed."

Pretty extreme example right.  How is this one? 

During the great depression, the government actually wanted to drive UP the price of wheat, this helps farmers (a small group) by increasing the price of wheat based food on all groups (everyone else).  They did this by setting an upper limit on the amount of wheat that you could grow on your land based on a given acreage.  This restricted the supply while the demand continued to grow.

Enter Roscoe Filburn, a farmer who grew too much wheat.  He grew this wheat so he and his family could make bread.  He wasn't selling it.  The problem, according to the government was that he wasn't buying it either.  Roscoe was fined and forced to destroy his wheat crop.  They could not force him to buy other people's wheat, but they could prevent him from growing his own, and they can enforce that with violence, if necessary.

Lest you think I'm making this up, feel free to google Roscoe Filburn and read all about his case.  It actually went to the Supreme Court, where they affirmed the government's authority to enforce these controls.

Still don't think Government = Force, next time a policeman tries to pull you over, ignore them.

Am I saying that the police should be prevented from enforcing laws?  No, that's not at all what I'm saying.  What I am suggesting is that before a law is passed, the legislator who passes it or the Executive who signs it into law should be able to positively answer that they would be willing to use force to achieve these goals. 

Once again, in my warped sense of fairness and perverse view of government, the only times that that is warranted is to protect the infringement of another's rights to life, liberty and property or protect the entirety of the nation from foreign aggression.

And people think corporations are bad?  Yes, a corporation can take your money or take your job (and you know they're really out to get you), but the Government holds a monopoly on the use of force to achieve its goals.  When it comes to jobs and money, you have other options, when it comes to life and liberty, you have none. 

One concept I love is that of restraint.  It's an ideal to be admired in any setting.  When it comes to the exercise of power that only a government can wield, restraint is of paramount importance. This is not restraint.  For those who do not follow links, what this is is an article about a bill.  More specifically it's an article about a small section of a bill that makes it a crime to impersonate or "convey the impression" of belonging to the TSA or other similar government agency.  This would, in fact, criminalize much satire about the TSA. 

So, you're wearing a t-shirt that says TSA - Department of Molestation, you're a criminal.  This is the police state.

Thursday, October 13, 2011

This Isn't Freedom

Let's say you're out somewhere and are approached by someone who tells you that your wife is sleeping with your neighbor, shows you doctored photos, then proceeds to tell you that they are plotting to kill you and it's kill or be killed.  Then they tell you they're going to give you a gun so you can take her out before she gets you.  When you show up for the gun, they arrest you because you intended to kill your wife.  The stranger was an FBI agent and you were picked because you fit a demographic profile and you once googled "if my wife is plotting to kill me should i kill her first."

Such are the tactics our government is using to "keep us safe."  They create or escalate a situation to incite violence against this country, then spring a trap.  They aren't catching people actively plotting, they're targeting people for their thoughts.  Then feeding those thoughts until they spring to flame.  This is a perversion of what it means to be a free society....and the people rejoice.  I shouldn't be so hard, they don't know any better.  They don't understand what is happening. 

Am I wrong to be outraged by this?  Ask yourself this question:  Without the FBI fanning the flames and providing funding, would any of the 17 people accused of terror in the past 10 years have carried out a terror plot?  If the answer is not an unequivocal YES in all 17 cases then what we've done is criminalized thought.  Have you ever gotten in an argument and had a momentary thought of some ill-fortune falling upon your combatant.  Would you like to go to jail for that?

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

I Am the .0000003125%

I usually cringe when people start discussing the founders, but they really did leave us with a pretty decent system. They left us with a semi-democracy wherein the majority was limited in what they could force on the minority. For instance, if a bare majority wanted to force everyone to eat Bologna, they couldn't do it.  This would also mean that a "majority" couldn't tell you what you had to pay people who worked for you or who you were allowed to see for medical testing or what drugs you were allowed to take.  They knew that this would require us to be vigilant and maintain those prohibitions. We didn't do that.

Over time we've stripped away those prohibitions. When a majority in this country wanted to ban alcohol...they had to go through a Constitutional Amendment to do it. In our present system, do you think they'd need one now?   No, they wouldn't.  It might get challenged, but if a Majority wanted it, Congress would try to do it through legislation.  How did this happen?  Incrementally, really.  Each step being more "necessary" and "for the good of everyone" than the last.  What arrogance to assume that the solutions we were mandating were good for everyone. 

Now, it's almost a free-for-all.  When the republicans were in control they pushed their agenda, which wasn't what they campaigned on.  Government grew, regulations grew, tax burdens grew.  Democrats are in control, same thing.  Even when they're compromising they're fighting to achieve the goals of the "majority."  Pollsters and politics dictate decisions and the ideals of liberty take a backseat.  The Tea Party sprung up and demanded less government, but was quickly absorbed and digested into the bloated body of the Republican Party.  The Republicans and Democrats, Tea Party and OWS, if any of them have the majority they do what they want. They take what they believe in and make it LAW.

They completely discount what 49% of the country values.  Why don't I support the OWS? Because they are 99% and want to tell me how to live my life, spend my money, raise my kids, care for my health, drive my car.

They are 99%? I am an individual. I own my life. I don't care if they do outnumber me.

Quick Thoughts - The So Called Do-Gooder Taxer

Next time you're confronted with someone who says that we have a responsibility to do good with our money and that this is a reason to support taxes, ask them if they would support a dollar for dollar tax credit for charitable organizations with a utilization rate higher than the federal government? 

Instead what we get today is a reduction in income for a capped amount of charitable giving.  Depending on your tax bracket this doesn't even approach a dollar for dollar credit.  What I can promise is that $10,000 given to a soup kitchen, shelter, or to pro-bono medical and legal services in your area go a LOT farther to helping those who truly need it than that same $10,000 that goes to the federal government. 

The percentage of money that is actually spent on services for the poor with the vast majority of charities is higher than the percentage of the money budgeted for similar services that actually make it to those services in government.

You may discover hypocrisy but you may also awaken a sheep.

Monday, October 10, 2011

How Far Is Too Far?

Progressive groups are proposing a rule that would require employers to consider the long term unemployed when making hiring decisions.  Essentially giving civil rights treatment such as are given to minorities to those who are currently unemployed.  Despite private property owners making the determination for themselves what the qualifications are for the contract they are offering, these groups feel that their values supercede those of the property owner. 

What I would like to focus on is this underlying issue of coercion.  You might ask what coercion, but if this were to become law, the government would coerce, i.e. use force, to require private property owners to use the value judgment of the majority.  If government has this power, what else might they be allowed to do?  Let's walk down this road a moment, shall we?

What would happen if a Majority decided that they wanted all businesses to be closed on Sundays?  This actually has happened and some state courts have stricken these laws down, but let's pretend that a majority of Americans decided they wanted Congress to enact this law.  Fifty-one percent of the people decided that this value judgment of their was more important than the independent value judgments of business owners and consumers nationwide.  (Keep in mind, we're just speculating).

Chick-Fil-A chooses to remain closed on Sundays. That was a decision of their founder and as a corporation they hold to that today, yet it seems like I always want chick-fil-a on Sundays!  So, what would happen if Congress passed a law that REQUIRED stores that sell food to be open 7 days a week.  What's wrong with that?  Hey, more business and I can get chicken mini's on Sunday Morning.  You know, this really makes a lot of sense.  It'll be good for businesses. 

A recent poll found that the majority of Americans find earth tones soothing, so requiring all employees to wear earth-tone uniform shirts and pants would relax people coming into a business.  Since a majority of people feel this way, why not just make it a law?  I know, some companies have spent years building a brand awareness around certain color schemes, and those can stay on the exterior of the store, we're just talking about the interior of the store.

Speaking of the exterior of the store, wouldn't it be nice if they were in earth tones too?

president obama has said that there comes a point when a business has made "enough" money.  Now, I don't know how much that is, but we've got really smart people who can figure that out, and I know people don't like new taxes, so, this is what I propose.  Once a business has made x dollars in a month then they must reduce prices on all other goods so that they are only making that number.  This will benefit consumers who will in turn buy more things, which, since we're capping profits....well, that doesn't benefit anyone, but can hire more people!

Yes, the examples got a little bit more extreme as we go along, but that's the point.  During the debates for passing civil rights era legislation, justification was put forth that the only reason they would think to restrict the rights of association and contract of private property owners was to redress the wrongs of slavery and rampant societal discrimination.  Now, there is serious discussion of adding unemployed people to the same level of protection.  The justification doesn't seem to work this time, and honestly, justifications aren't even being attempted. 

Looking at the history of regulation in this country, the regulatory burden has grown constantly and with increasing tempo.  Better than 900 new regulations have been enacted this year and that's just by cabinet level departments.  Some will say that the answer is simple, that we just show restraint and we insist Congress shows restraint.  Man, good luck.  Neither Congress nor the People, when they find themselves in the majority can resist the allure of power.  Don't agree, read the history of the 16th Amendment.  This is the Constitutional Amendment that allowed Congress to pass the income tax.  When it was debated the tax was to only be levied against the top 5% of income earners and at a Maximum rate of 1%.  They've done a great job resisting the extra authority that that Constitutional Amendment granted them....and who among you would support going back to 1% income tax for the top 5% income earners?  Neither the government nor the People know restraint in the moment.  It was the Founders who elected to restrain the power of the majority from creating rule by mob.  We've chipped away at those restraints until little remains. 

What we need is a rational moment, a clarifying event, to bring us back to the restrictions that were designed to protect us from ourselves.

....well, you knooo-oow, we all want to change the World...

Thursday, October 6, 2011

Hey Ya'll, Still Not My Fault, Okay? Please?

Following up on his brilliant performance as a Petulant Child during the debt ceiling debacle, president obama returned to the microphone today to answer some scripted questions from his fans the press.

First, he wanted to make sure everyone understood that this still wasn't his fault.  I mean, things suck and they've gotten worse because of him and all, but come on guys.  You know it's not his fault. 

He also talked about the budding young socialists out chanting and banging drums around the country.  Many of them support him and some even support the use of force against those who disagree.

He also, rightly so, took credit (I call it blame) for shuffling billions of dollars in tax revenues to banks who made bad business decisions and supporting the federal reserve from printing unknown billions (possibly trillions) and "loaning" that money to them at 0.25% interest.  He did not get into details, but he may have also been taking "credit"(blame) for the fed printing even more billions in play money to buy toxic assets from the banks. 

Despite receiving record donations from Wall Street in 2008 and continue to solicit bribes campaign contributions from them in this election cycle, the useful idiots "occupying" wall street still look upon this man as one of them.  Wall St. and the Protestors each think he's got the other fooled. 

Fooled ya both.

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

Forget the Constitutional Argument

Nevermind that Congress has been overstepping it's powers for over 150 years.  Nevermind that since the notion of "implied" powers were introduced the Constitution has been little more than a fossil in American Jurisprudence.  There's an even better reason not to allow government to constantly engross itself in the affairs of business.  When it comes to doing anything with any level of proficiency or efficiency, government is not where to look.  To be blunt, politicians as a group, SUCK at business. 

Let's look at a hypothetical Widget industry.  Some people make widgets out of materials they dig out of the earth.  The digging process is expensive, as is the refining, but ultimately it yields such efficiency that the widgets are relatively cheap.  Another group uses physics to split an atom, then harnesses the effects to produce widgets.  This process is even more efficient than those that dig the widgets out of the ground and is utlimately even cheaper for the consumer. 

Then you have this side of the industry that uses moonbeams.  It's not especially efficient, but the government mandates that at least a portion of widgets must be purchased from the moonbeam users.  The moonbeam widgets only work at night, because widgets are an on-demand sort of commodity.  So, moonbeam widgets cost more and are only available for part of the time, so it wouldn't matter how efficient they are, without a way to save up moonbeam widgets for use in the day and when there's a new moon (i.e. no moonbeams). 

So, this company comes along called Lunyndra.  They have a new method of producing moonbeams.  It's slightly more efficient than others in the moonbeam widget industry, but they still can't save up widgets for use in the day or during new moons, but they want to go into full production with this great new process. 

The problem with their business model is pretty apparent from the outset.  Industries are forced to buy moonbeam widgets, but only a little bit and only during the night and only if there isn't a new moon.  Without a means of storing up the widgets for use in the daytime, the current supply on the market for mandatorily purchased over-priced widgets is saturated.  Lunyndra's production process is expensive and producers wouldn't really need to buy their more efficient units because what is currently being produced is sufficient to meet the artificial demands as established by the Government.

For these reasons Lunyndra can't secure financing in the private sector.  Banks won't lend to them because they don't have a sound business model without a component that allows moonbeam widgets to be stored and used during the day.  Venture capital is staying far far away for the same reasons.

In steps the federal government.  They guaranty a private loan and suddenly banks are more than willing to lend the money...after all, it's a 100% riskless loan now.  The President calls it a "good bet" and was actually considering upping the loan from $500+ million to closer to $1 billion. 

You already know that this hypothetical industry is the power industry and moonbeam widgets are solar energy and Lunyndra is in fact, Solyndra.  You should also be aware that the limitations effecting the Moonbeam widget industry also effect the solar energy industry (in reverse of course, with energy being produced in the day and not at night or when there are clouds, etc).

The attitude of the President and his administration is actually remarkably normal for people not familiar with the funding and operation of business ventures.  While there is risk involved in any business venture, smart decisions are vetted and analyzed quite a bit more than a roll of the dice at a craps table.  Before a bank loans money on such a scale, before venture capital becomes available, a road to profitability must be shown.  Nothing of the sort was done here.  Instead a politically connected donor wanted free money and got it based on someones "gut" or the fallacy that business is like gambling. 

Why shouldn't government be involved in business?  Because Government is for sale and their asking price is a lot cheaper than the costs to you and me.

I Should Be Able to Be a Catholic Priest

...Even if I'm not Catholic...And the Justice Department agrees!  The brief they just filed in Hosanna-Tabor Evangelical Lutheran Church and School v. EEOC makes this pretty clear. 

At issue here is whether or not a Church or Church School can discriminate based on Religion when making hiring decisions.  Specifically at issue is whether a teacher at a Religious school, who's duties include performing as a Minister is eligible for re-hire after the Congregation votes to revoke her Ministerial authority.  The Justice Department brief in support of this woman's discrimination claim states that this religion based discrimination is not excepted from Civil Rights laws and that Churches can only discriminate based on Religion for roles that are "exclusively religious functions." 

Now, considering that Priests must often perform administrative duties in their church, what does it matter if I'm not Catholic or can't stand rigorously ornate organization in religion?  Maybe they should make me the Pope....

What is wrong with this DOJ.  This is one of the worst arguments I've ever read in a Supreme Court brief.  I don't know that I should be so surprised considering this is the same group that allowed the illegal sale of guns to drug gang members going to Mexico, guns that have turned up in crime scene after crime scene, including the murder of a Border Agent.  This is the same Justice Department that instituted a political litmus test for career hiring.  This is the same Justice Department that has repeatedly failed to investigate or prosecute allegations of Voter Intimidation or Fraud by political allies of the President, while threatening states with prosecution for implementing protections against voter fraud. 

"We Are the 99 Percent!" No, You're a Radical Fringe, Sorry

Below are some of my favorite demands from the Occupation Army that has descended on Wall St and city parks around the country.

Demand three: Guaranteed living wage income regardless of employment.

This is a GREAT idea.  Why should anyone work when the government will guarantee you a living wage.  I'm ready to turn in my resignation now.  No, best not do that yet. 

Demand five: Begin a fast track process to bring the fossil fuel economy to an end while at the same bringing the alternative energy economy up to energy demand.

Oh boy.  How about instead we encourage alternative energy makers to innovate, adapt, or die.  We do this by cutting off government subsidies for energy, period.  If they want to compete, they have to work to drive down costs.  At present, they have no incentive to do this because the government is funding the deficiencies in their business model.

I'm lumping these next 2 together....

Demand six: One trillion dollars in infrastructure (Water, Sewer, Rail, Roads and Bridges and Electrical Grid) spending now.
Demand seven: One trillion dollars in ecological restoration planting forests, reestablishing wetlands and the natural flow of river systems and decommissioning of all of America's nuclear power plants.

Here's something I agree with, and I know how we can pay for it.  We'll just have the fed print the money and use that to purchase these upgrades.  At the same time they can print all the money necessary to pay off America's debt.  Of course, this will only have enough buying power to fix one or two pot holes on the infrastructure side and plant 6 pine treets on the environmental restoration side, but let's go for it!  It'll be the death of the fiat dollar and I'm down with that.

Demand nine: Open borders migration. anyone can travel anywhere to work and live.

Might as well say end the sovereignty of your nation.  I like how this one plays out with this one:

Demand one: Restoration of the living wage. This demand can only be met by ending "Freetrade" by re-imposing trade tariffs on all imported goods entering the American market to level the playing field for domestic family farming and domestic manufacturing as most nations that are dumping cheap products onto the American market have radical wage and environmental regulation advantages.

Open borders, except if you're selling something!!!!  You can live anywhere, but don't you dare be productive about it!

Not to be outdone, other factions have sprung up demanding that their demands be met.  These lists contain some actual nuggets of genuine thought and amazingly, one thing that I can agree with, repealing the "Patriot" Act. 

For a good time, I highly recommend stopping by their website.  Leave a sensible comment and watch the lunatic fringe lose it's cool. 

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

Liberty and Justice For All...Except for That Guy Because He's An Asshole

You know that emblem that adorns most courthouses and many courtrooms?  It's a woman in robes and a blindfold holding a scale in one hand and a sword in the other?  Most of you probably know why she's blindfolded, because it's not supposed to matter who the person or persons are seeking justice.  All should be judged based on the merits of the case, not who are what they are.

Our country is rife with ignoring this ideal.  From the writs of attainder utilized during reconstruction (those are laws that target specific people and not meant to be applied to everyone equally) to Jim Crow laws in the 60's, examples are not hard to come by.  Even today we have laws that specifically seek to advantage some over others. 

Education admission standards that allow ethnicity to considered or even be an advantage, a department of justice that refuses to pursue cases against minority groups while suing states for enacting laws to combat voter fraud, and a Labor Board that favors businesses working in one state over another are just a few examples.  Recently we've also seen an American born cleric assassinated with another American Citizen killed at the same time.  We're told that his crimes were too great to afford him equal justice under the law.  The Federal Reserve prints money to buy bad debt from banks, bailing them out of the mess they got themselves into, meanwhile all this created money dillutes the value of all dollars, reducing the purchase power of our money.  Additionally, while the banks are bailed out for their bad decisions, homeowners who also made bad decisions are stuck to live with those consequences. 

Instead of a system in which all are free to live as they choose and suffer the consequences of their decisions freely and equally, we continue to try to rank people by their importance.  Fairness is letting everyone stand or fall on their own....and not assassinating people, even if they are assholes.

Monday, October 3, 2011


Probably the most famous Free Market economist and philosopher once mused that one of the greatest threats to capitalism and free markets would be for labor and capital to collude. 

What must he think of our system where labor and capital collude not only with each other, but each separately and jointly with Government as well?

Occupy (Insert Geographical Location Here)


The End.