Food For Thought

"Labor unions would have us believe that they transfer income from rich capitalists to poor workers. In fact, they mostly transfer income from the large number of non-union workers to a small number of relatively well-off union workers." - Robert E. Anderson

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

No Special Day

The 11th hour of the 11th day of the 11th month. No special day at all. "What the hell do you mean," I hear you scream?! Just that. But before the lynch mob approaches with tar, feathers and rope, allow me to explain.

Today is Veteran's Day. The airwaves, ether and mass media are saturated with people exhorting you to "thank a vet." I find that sentiment, on this particular day, rings hollow. Why? Because every day we live in freedom, the freedoms guaranteed by our Constitution, including the right to be selfish and irresponsible, is due to one and only one person - the Veteran.

Our founding fathers understood this. They understood that the further one got from the realities of what it takes not only to secure but to maintain those freedoms, one would grow less understanding and appreciative of them. John Adams summed up this evolution in his famous quote: "
I must study politics and war that my sons may have liberty to study mathematics and philosophy. My sons ought to study mathematics and philosophy, geography, natural history, naval architecture, navigation, commerce, and agriculture, in order to give their children a right to study painting, poetry, music, architecture, statuary, tapestry, and porcelain."

We, as a country and as a world have lived in relative peace for the last three-quarters of a century. That's three generations. As in Adam's quotation, the third generation is so distanced from this last period of world war that they believe that any war is "unnecessary". They believe, instead, that it is the government -- politicians, special interest groups, intellectuals -- who "provide" the freedoms they enjoy.

My father, a veteran of World War II, of the first wave on Omaha Beach, a recipient of the Silver Star, twice the Bronze Star, a Battlefield Commission (instead of the offered Medal of Honor), knew what it was to secure those freedoms. Like Lance Corporal Edwin Kraft, he believed that "For those that will fight for it, freedom has a flavor the protected shall never know."

I had occasion to ask him what he thought of the anti-war protesters in the 70's, 80's and 90's. He told me, "I'm glad they're free to protest."

I'm not disregarding the efforts of the artists, politicians, students, teachers, businessmen, farmers, and the rest of us who make up this nation. I am, however, stating that it is due to the men and women "on that wall" that those people are and remain free to pursue their lives.

Charles Michael Province, US Army Veteran, wrote the now-famous lines, summing up this daily, ongoing sacrifice:

It is the Soldier, not the minister
Who has given us freedom of religion.

It is the Soldier, not the reporter
Who has given us freedom of the press.

It is the Soldier, not the poet
Who has given us freedom of speech.

It is the Soldier, not the campus organizer
Who has given us freedom to protest.

It is the Soldier, not the lawyer
Who has given us the right to a fair trial.

It is the Soldier, not the politician
Who has given us the right to vote.

It is the Soldier who salutes the flag,
Who serves beneath the flag,
And whose coffin is draped by the flag,
Who allows the protester to burn the flag.

I was brought up understanding this, eventhough it was never put into words. Instead, my own curiousity lead me to read more and more about the history of our country and our world. And the more I learned, the more I realized that it was the soliders insured that the political philosophies of our Founding Fathers would be secured for all citizens.

After coaxing out my father's stories and those of his remaining comrades, I began to understand. And so, every time, regardless of what day of the year it is, that I see a soldier or veteran, I thank them "for their service" -- because I realize that they have served so that I don't have to.

So today, Veteran's Day, yes, thank a vet. But do so every day, every opportunity. Thank those who guarantee the freedoms you and I, in our blissful ignorance, enjoy every day. Including the freedom to call those very Veterans "baby killers". It's due to them that you can do that without going to a concentration camp.

Or, as a bumper sticker put it, "If war wasn't the answer we'd be speaking German."

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Tuesday, November 9, 2010

The Launch of the Titanic

Oh, God, not another "financial" piece... but please, bear with me.

On May 31st, 1911, the Titanic slid down the greased rails at the Harland & Wolff shipyard in Belfast. That day, it was impossible for anyone to envision the fate that awaited it, less than a year later. On November 3rd, 2010, the QE2 slid down the rails of the Federal Reserve, greased by the incompetence of Benjamin Bernake, the fiduciary misconduct of the Obama administration and the criminal complicity of Congress. This time, it's possible -- no, it's unmistakeable -- to see the iceberg "right ahead".

The QE2 in this case is the second round of so-called "Quantitative Easing". What this boils down to is that the Federal Reserve has decided to "print" more money in what they believe is a move that will "promote financial growth". In essence, the Federal Reserve Chairman, Ben Bernake, decided to print up more money on the theory that this will spread more money around and therefore stimulate the economy. Sounds good on the surface, right? "But wait," as they say, "there's more!"

What Bernake and the Fed are trying to do is Keynesian economics. They are trying to spend their way out of debt. This doesn't, as I've explained before, work at all. The idea is completely discredited. It's made even worse because the value of "a dollar" does not have any intrinsic value -- it is not tied to a commodity. Instead, it represents the "good faith" of the United States.

These days, that "good faith" is sorely lacking. The economy of the U.S. is in the dumper and printing more money, as anyone with a fifth grade education (excepting, of course, those who teach at Princeton) can deduce, simply devalues every dollar even further.

There are two major problems, here: illiquidity and insolvency. I don't intend this to be an Econ 101 course (if it were, I'd invite Mr. Bernake) but I'll give a quick explanation for the layman (me!):
  • Illiquidity is when you don't have "cash on hand". Think of this as when you own a car (without a loan) or a washer and dryer, but you don't have cash to buy groceries.
  • Insolvency is bankruptcy. It's when you owe even on your car and washer/dryer. You don't own anything, anymore. Your debt is greater than your total worth.
Thanks to the policies of the Obama administration and a Congress of accomplices, the United States has a debt that has exploded. The candidates made promises in 2008 to anyone who would listen. They promised "money for nothing". They promised "the government will take care of you." All you had to do was vote for them, then sit back and collect your "Obama Money." Plenty of people, inculcated by over a half-century of burgeoning federal nannyship bought this hook, line and sinker.

While fiscal conservatives warned that there would be a day of reckoning, shouting "ICEBERG! RIGHT AHEAD!", the liberal intelligencia and administration "Goebbels" did their best impression of Captain Smith, increasing speed into the ice field and rearranging the deck chairs. They started handing out money (as my father would say, and keeping in the theme of this piece) like a pack of drunken sailors, increasing the debt from $869 billion in 2007 to $2.2 trillion! Just to put this in perspective, the QE2 ("our" QE2 in this story) is $850 billion.... that's nearly the ENTIRE debt from 2007!

So here's the issue - you can solve illiquidity (at least in the short term) by converting something to cash. The Federal Reserve does this not by pawning real goods, but by printing more money. But this "solution" supposes that you'll have the cash coming in to replace it so you can get your goods out of hock. It flat out does not work if you are insolvent nor does it fix insolvency.

If you don't own anything yourself then you can't hock it; and in the case of the United States, we are insolvent. So printing more money (pawning goods) does nothing! It simply causes us to owe even more and go further into debt.

To put it very simply in our analogy, Bernake is applying full power to the engines with the iceberg looming.

But we do have a chance, yet, to get the ship of state out of harm's way. A new Congress has been elected. It's up to us, the passengers, the voters who put them there, to hold their feet to the fire. It's not good enough to "compromise" -- "we'll just turn the wheel a little and we'll slow down a few knots" -- instead what's needed is full rudder and all astern on the engines. That's what we sent these people to Congress to do and its up to us to make sure they do it.

If we don't, then we may as well start singing "Nearer, My God, to Thee" because there aren't enough lifeboats to go around.

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Wednesday, November 3, 2010

The Day After


Much wailing and gnashing of teeth." I see so many of my liberal relatives crying "waily, waily, waily" this morning. What they fail to see, what they, in their myopia, cannot believe is that this is a repudiation of "business as usual". Their much vaunted Saviour of the People has betrayed those very people who pu...t him in power. Don't believe me? Just look at the map with overlays -- areas that went big for Obama in '08 swung back the other way.

This is an acknowledgement of three things:
  1. That when people feel that their mandate has been misused, that the promises made to them have been ignored, they will fight back;
  2. That people are sick to death of career politicians;
  3. That despite what the intelligencia would believe and, through their media try to portray, the great silent majority will not remain silent and "take" what is "good for them" in other's eyes.

A Prediction

In the coming days, the liberal intelligencia will be giving their spin on last night's election. They will be saying that this was a triumph of the uneducated. They will be wringing their hands and saying that the "rednecks", "hayseeds" and "ignorant masses" were the victors.

What they will be missing, utterly, in their myopic elitism is that this is a message. We live in a Representative Democracy. We do not elect our representatives to govern us, but to represent us. If those officials do not represent us, they can and will be removed.

The John Stewarts and Stephen Colberts will pander this skewed vision. They will ridicule the victors and their supporters as idiots and morons (of course, all in humour). They will, as one of my relatives did yesterday, take refuge in the last act of those unable to mount a substantive argument -- the ad hominem attack.

They will utterly fail to see that the selfsame people who wanted a change in 2008 decided that the promises made, despite predictions of this very fact, could not be kept. And that those people want another change.

Their leadership, beginning with the White House Press Conference today, will claim that they were not given enough time. They will completely ignore the fact that they, themselves, claimed that a single administration is capable of effecting change - for better or worse. And then they will fall back to the only recourse left to them - Fear, Uncertainty and Doubt.

They will claim that this sea change endangers "everything they worked for" these last two years while simultaneous unable to see that this is exactly the point of the message that was sent. The people do not want the work of the last two years. And, subtly by insinuating that the people have "betrayed themselves", they will reinforce their core belief -- that the people do not know what's good for them, but only the liberal elite do.

In doing so, they will echo these words, "they betray me. They do not deserve to live. They are not worthy of me."

And they will not heed the words of Abram Lincoln, "We, the people are the rightful masters of both Congress and the courts - not to overthrow the Constitution, but to overthrow men who pervert the Constitution."

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Monday, November 1, 2010

Here it is, November.

I've been idle on the blog for several months, but not in real life. I've been following through on my plan and I look forward to that plan bearing fruit, tomorrow.

As a last "shot across the bow" of this particular administration (though I don't plan on stopping the blog, despite what it may seem), I was pointed to this editorial from Sunday in our local paper and asked to respond by one of my colleagues. Below, I present that response:

"Whatever you think is wrong in Washington, you can be sure of two things," the first is that the Post Crescent does not understand the fundamental arguments and dissatisfaction with the current administration and the second is that, as a part of the entrenched political structure, Russ Feingold not only represents but is the epitome of what is wrong in Washington.

To say that the October 31st editorial is filled with more half-truths than can be definitively refuted in the few words allowed for rebuttal is an understatement. So instead, we'll examine just a two of the more glaring errors that underscore your and Mr. Feingold's myopia.

At one point, you say that Mr. Feingold believes that "if you spend more, you have to find cuts to go with it." And yet, he voted for the $800 billion stimulus bill. You attempt to defuse that argument by noting that this immensely expensive debacle "saved several million jobs" and that "many economists say the recession would have been much worse without" it.

How do you defined "saved"? No reputable economist (or, for that matter anyone who does not engage in hyperoble) would make such an unverifiable claim. In point of fact, as reported by CNN on September 30, all this stimulus bill did for jobs was to delay the jobless numbers release until after the election. And the economists that would state something so rash (and, again, unverifiable) as "would have been worse without" it are nothing more than adherents to the largely discredited school of Keynesian economics. One does not "spend" themselves out of debt or recession. This has been proven time and time again throughout the twentieth century.

Nancy Pelosi, in her 2007 inaugural address, stated that there would be "no new deficit spending." And yet, since that time (a time which coincides with Mr. Feingold's tenure) the national debt has increased BY (not "to") $5 Trillion. How is this "fiscally responsible"?

Then you try and defend his record on health care reform. You say that he said the "people very much wanted us to do something." Yes, we did. However the people also made it abundantly clear that this particular "something" was not what they wanted. They protested, they wrote letters, they made calls, and the great, silent majority made it clear they would be silent no longer. The mainstream media has tried to play this off as "radicals", "extremists" and "rednecks". They have done so unsuccessfully.

You assert that Mr. Feingold is "a paragon of responsible governing." Mr. Feingold is a Senator, not a Governor. He is elected by the people of the State of Wisconsin not to govern them, but to represent them and their wishes. The people of Wisconsin, through their letters, through the public forums and through their activism have made their feelings clear. But, as you point out by citing Mr. Feingold's record on even these two issues, he has ignored the will of the people. He has decided that he, alone, knows what is best for the people of this state. He has taken up the banner of Senator Rockafeller, who said, "We're going to push through health care reform regardless of the views of the American people."

In a last-ditch effort to save Mr. Feingold and the Titanic that is this administration, you have invoked the trinity of desperation -- fear,uncertainty and doubt. You have no substantive ability to attack the positions of Mr. Johnson, who is simply responding to the groundswell of backlash against the entrenched politicians. So instead you offer the obvious whitewash of "the devil you know."

Russ Feingold is an entrenched politico. He represents everything that the people of this state and of the Union itself have come to loathe, the professional politician. As Ronald Regan once said, "The one thing our Founding Fathers could not foresee -- they were farmers, professional men, businessmen giving of their time and effort to an idea that became a country -- was a nation governed by professional politicians who had an interest in getting re-elected. They probably
envisioned a fellow serving a couple of hitches and then eagerly looking forward to getting back to the farm." It's time to send Mr. Feingold back to the farm instead of living off the people of the state of Wisconsin.

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