Archive for the ‘Economics’ Category

scrooge1I’ve encountered the sentiment often, if not the exact words, “Conservatives hate poor people.” The notion is, of course, silly on its face, but there are people who really believe it. To prove it, I Googled “Conservatives hate the poor” and got many hits. One was a Yahoo question that asked, “Why do conservatives hate the poor?” The answer rated best by those polled was this one by this generation’s answer to Thomas Paine:
“they demonize the poor (“poor=lazy”) to give themselves a sense of self-importance while justifying their 19th-century free market economic fundamentalism, and because licking the arses of the filthy rich makes them feel like they are part of the same elite.” Eleven people thought that was good stuff.
Another answer came with penetrating insight into the dark hearts of Republicans:
“because the Republican propaganda machines sells them a dream that one day if they work hard enough they can be rich. But that is only if the socialists don’t prevent their ability to be rich by helping the poor survive.”

The Daily Kos weighed in with a very insightful discussion on the subject titled, “Mommy, why do Republicans hate the poor people,” oddly written by a man. Perhaps from the new kind of family. It is delightfully told from the perspective of a mom, sharing her insight with her daughter, as in former days she might warn her of big, bad wolves. You can see it here, if you have a strong stomach for such things: http://www.dailykos.com/story/2011/06/15/985340/-Mommy-Why-Do-Conservatives-Hate-the-Poor-People.

But I am not writing this primarily for the primates who have destroyed their brain cells through recreational pharmacology. I am writing this for good people I know who have bought into this notion that conservatives have something against poor people. This is for those good people, who are otherwise right thinking, but believe that it is compassionate to support government handouts to people who did nothing to earn them. Let’s examine the premise and the results of such policy.

The federal government has the means and the responsibility of taking care of every need Americans have. Now everything is regarded as a right of citizenship. Healthcare is not just a good idea, it is your right. But as economist Walter Williams points out, to say that I have a right to healthcare, is to say that I have a right to the time of my doctor and his office. I have a right to the benefit of his years of study and practice. I have right over his time. Healthcare is rather a privilege. More to the point, it is a commodity. It is something I must pay for. I may buy health insurance, or take my chances that I won’t need a doctor or health care provider often enough to justify the cost of insurance and pay out of pocket should something unforeseen arise. I do not (should not) have the right to ignore my responsibility for my own healthcare and expect others to take care of it for me. That is not fair to all those who must subsidize my choice to be irresponsible. If I fail to exercise, choose to smoke and eat a steady diet of junk food, I should not ask those who have been more responsible to help pay the bill for my irresponsibility.

Tavis Smiley and Dr. Cornell West have written a book, which they are promoting nationally, called “The Rich and The Rest of Us.” They were on with Bill O’Reilly the other night. O’Reilly asked them how high the minimum wage should be. West offered that if it had kept up with inflation, it would be $16-$20 an hour right now. It was their view that that would help the poor. But when you raise the cost of something, such as entry level work, what happens to the supply of such? That’s right, class, you get less of it. If the minimum wage were to be increased, even by a dollar, much less doubled, those on the lower end of the income scale would suddenly find themselves joining the 23 million Americans out of work.

O’Reilly continued. Okay, now this single mom is getting $19 an hour for her work, what is she going to do with her child?

“We believe there should be free child care.”

And if they can’t find a job they qualify for.

“There should be free job training.”

All of these “solutions” are predicated on the notion that the federal government has a limitless supply of money and it is their responsibility to take care of people. These men have not received the memo that our country is broke. It is not just broke, it is $ 16 trillion in hock. This kind of government largess is unsustainable in a strong economy, much less Obama’s economy.
They are also predicated on the notion that these programs will ultimately be helpful to people and the economy. While everybody would like to make more money, the result of these ideas would be more unemployment, especially for those on the lower ends of the economic scale. But they get credit and positive headlines for “fighting poverty nationwide” (a description of an article in the Huffington Post found on Google). You see, despite the actual results of their policies (were they ever enacted, though not even President Obama would adopt them–at least not in his first term) they get credit and slaps on the back for being compassionate, and for “fighting poverty.” But the policies they push would promote more poverty.

This idea flies in the face of 6,000 years of recorded human history. The composite wisdom of the ages is, “there ain’t no free lunch.” You can give a man a fish, or teach him to fish. “Early to bed, early to rise…” “If any man will not work, neither let him eat.” The bottom line is that it is not compassionate to make men dependent.

The second premise inherent in the fallacy of government as compassion should be obvious. We have so much debt right now that we are putting a burden on our children that is now over $50,000 per person. We cannot continue to fund every giveaway program just because it sounds compassionate.

Liberals love getting credit for having compassion when they propose spending other people’s money to give to those who didn’t earn it. Let’s talk briefly about real compassion. Conservatives, and this is consistent across the nation, give far more of their own money to charity than do Liberals. We know that real compassion means making sacrifices with our own possessions. Conservatives start homeless shelters and crisis pregnancy centers and orphanages in far-flung reaches.

John Fried (among others) has shown that Republicans give significantly more to charity than do Democrats, despite income levels (see here http://tinyurl.com/bwrarn5). It is well known, or perhaps not so well-known, that Red states give a much higher percentage of their income to charity than do blue states. Arthur Brooks of Syracuse University was astounded by the results of his own study on who really gives in America.

“In his book, Who Really Cares: The Surprising Truth About Compassionate Conservativism (Basic Books, 2006), Brooks discovered that approximately equal percentages of liberals and conservatives give to private charitable causes. However, conservatives gave about 30 percent more money per year to private charitable causes, even though his study found liberal families earned an average of 6 percent more per year in income than did conservative families. This greater generosity among conservative families proved to be true in Brooks’ research for every income group, ‘from poor to middle class to rich.’”

Read more: http://blog.beliefnet.com/castingstones/2008/04/conservatives-give-more-to-cha.html#ixzz2O073yGHS

This discussion can become silly at some point. Suffice it to say, that on average, conservatives give a higher percent of their income to charitable causes than do liberals. But even if they did not, it would not change the basic argument I am making here. It is not compassionate to entrap people in a cycle of poverty and dependence on government hand-outs.
In the Old Testament of the Bible their was a plan for charitable giving. Farmers were to leave the edges of their fields unharvested. The poor could come and glean from the edges of their neighbors fields. It was not the farmers responsibility to harvest the field and bring the crop to the poor. The responsibility for gathering their food still fell on the beneficiaries of the charity. They had to do some work. Work is good. It is good for the soul. It is good to feel that you have earned your food. The value of that food increases, along with the appreciation for it, when it is won through labor and sweat.
The beneficiaries of any charity should be required to have a hand in paving their own path to independence from it. When we make unemployment benefits, food stamps and other government hand-outs more valuable than an entry level job, we get more people willing to forgo the job market with all its work and sweat and mean bosses who teach hard life lessons, to live the soul-destroying life of a taker. We deprive people of those skills needed to survive and even thrive in a free market society that offers limitless opportunities to those who understand that they were created to achieve significance. We deprive them of the self-respect that comes at the end of a many days of falling and getting back up, learning and growing, of finding their unique gift they can contribute to the rest of society.
Perhaps that is the fear–that if we should treat people with such dignity, they might become conservative.
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No-Fault Society

Posted: February 21, 2012 in Conservatism, Economics

It began with no-fault insurance. Two cars collide. It’s an accident. It was nobody’s fault. That’s why they call it an “accident.” My insurance company covers the cost of my car repair. Yours covers you.

Then came no-fault divorce. Two people just drifted apart. No need for the messy identification of a guilty party here. The decision was mutual. “We just weren’t right for each other.” The two split. Nobody is to blame. Blame is so ugly!

But if I am the guy waiting for the light to turn green and get rear-ended by a distracted driver playing “Words with Friends,” I am going to feel that I don’t share the responsibility for the accident. It is Somebody’s fault. Namely, the dumb guy with the smart phone. If I am the wife whose husband was caught cheating with the office bimbo, I am not going to feel I share in the responsibility for the marriage falling apart. It is Somebody’s fault. The husband who could not keep his marital vows is the culprit.

This no-fault attitude is permeating our society. It is killing us. We can no longer claim anything is really wrong. We must understand the situation. It is killing us morally, economically and intellectually.

A young girl needs an abortion because she had an accident. Accident? Abortion is our “no-fault” answer for dispatching such accidents. The accident is not that she allowed herself to be seduced by her lover. It is that she failed to use a contraceptive. Of course we can’t expect kids with raging hormones to actually repress them. Why, that would be repressive.

A man “finds himself” unemployed. To be fair, this is often not his fault. (It often is.) So he goes on Unemployment. He gets so much money for not working. We have constructed this safety net to help families when such a crisis occurs as the loss of a job. It was not intended to last forever. Now we extend unemployment benefits, it seems, indefinitely. Most self-respecting people will try to get back into the work force as quickly as they are able. Unfortunately, our no-fault society has created a class of people who have no such self-respect. And, honestly, many will operate on the very reasonable economic equation that unless they find a job making substantially more than they receive in unemployment benefits, it makes little sense to flip hamburgers or houses. Why take that job in the factory with the cross boss, long hours and hard work when you can do nothing and get paid for it? It is interesting to note that once unemployment benefits run out, people find jobs much faster than when they could still receive them. I wonder if there is any connection there. As Alan Reynolds noted (http://tinyurl.com/yjlvvx5), “When the government pays people 50 to 60 percent of their previous wage to stay home for a year or more, many of them do just that.”

The upshot of all this non-judgmental, no-fault attitude and the concomitant public policy, where real crime goes unpunished, where sloth is often rewarded while industry is punished, where immorality is at least as acceptable as morality, where drug-abusing celebrities in Hollywood and sports are lauded, we all pay. When the perpetrator is vindicated, the victim pays. When the abused wife must share custody of her children with the abuser, she pays the price. When millions live off the government dole, we all pay. We pay, not only in higher costs of government in the form of higher taxes, we pay in the overall collapse of what used to be known as the “social contract.” When crime goes unpunished, we get more crime. When immorality is winked at, it flourishes. When sloth is rewarded, we have more people relying on government hand-outs. When those who work hard and play by the rules are punished with higher taxes, then told they are not “paying their fair share”, we will find fewer such people–people who have been made to feel like saps in a society that has tilted against them.

Atlas will soon shrug.

               

Wickipedia offers this definition of earmark based on its origin:

Earmark is a term that dates to the 16th century, originally referring to cuts or marks in the ears of cattle, deer, pigs and sheep made to show ownership, age and/or gender.

That is where our current use derives.  It was a mark of ownership.  To take the term back in farther, in ancient Israel a slave who wanted to remain with his master, even after his years of servitude were completed, would have a hole bored through his ear with an awl.  The mark said he belonged to the master and was willing to stay with him.  Again, it was a sign of ownership.

Here is what Wikipedia has to say about the term as used in politics:

In US politics, an earmark is a congressional provision that directs approved funds to be spent on specific projects or that directs specific exemptions from taxes or mandated fees.

Here is the language from the Office of Management & Budget (OMB) web site:

Earmarks are funds provided by the Congress for projects or programs where the congressional direction (in bill or report language) circumvents the merit-based or competitive allocation process, or specifies the location or recipient, or otherwise curtails the ability of the Executive Branch to properly manage funds. Congress includes earmarks in appropriation bills – the annual spending bills that Congress enacts to allocate discretionary spending – and also in authorization bills.

Check out the massive list of earmarks just listed under Transportation/Housing & Urban Development sub-committee here http://earmarks.omb.gov/resources/2009_citation_pdfs/senate_committee_citation_420.pdf

There you will find items for wildlife crossings–how do wildlife know where to cross? Can they read the signs?–to the restoration of the Western Union building in Toledo, Ohio.

I see a connection between the agricultural definition and the political one.  The pig, the cow, the slave, the taxpayers money, are considered to be owned by the one marking the ear (so to speak).  And to the extent that our money represents a piece of our lives, our congressmen believe they own us.  They have the right to take the money from people in Florida, or Missouri and spend it on latest public boondoggle named for Robert Byrd in West Virginia, or perhaps a monument to the  monumental courage of Ted Kennedy.  Congratulations are in order for Teddy.  He just won the Profiles in Courageaward from his niece Caroline.  I am sure there was no nepotism involved.  I suggest the monument (should one come) be erected on Chappaquidick at Martha’s Vineyard.  It is a lovely spot and a great place for diving.  The money could be placed in a sub-committee’s earmark and never noticed by anyone.

When Nancy Pelosi and her gang of reformers took over Congress in 2006 they promised they were going to get rid of this really bad practice of earmarks.  It was really bad at the time because the Republicans were guilty of the practice.  Thanks, Republicans, for acting like Democrats!  I had a young man actually tell me that he was voting for Obama because the Republicans were the big spenders.  That is not how it is supposed to be.  Of course, Democrats are bigger spenders, but why behave like them?  But Pelosi and Co. were going to eliminate the earmarks.  They promised.

Did it happen?  Did Teddy ever report the accident at Chappaquiddik?  The answer to both is “no.” 

But, not to worry, Barak Obama promised not to sign any bill that had any earmarks.  These are new times.  But alas, the omnibus spending bill he just signed was laden with over 9,000 earmarks.  Oops.  Promise not kept? 

My son explained it to me on his voice mail message.  “I guess any earmark that Obama doesn’t like is bad.  Those he likes are good.”  In the era of Obama, that is reason enough.  He only cares for us.  He is not like all those other politicians who have come before him.  He has only the best interest of the American people at heart.  It is not even right to call  him a politician.  He transcends politics.  He stands above it all.

But honestly, why quibble about a million here, or a million there on pet projects designed to get your congressman re-elected.  When we’re spending money to bail-out failing institutions by the hundreds of billions, what’s a friendly million dollar earmark among friends?

That strange pain your in ears may not be from listening to Harry Reid whine.  Your local politician may just be giving you his awl.

 

evolution-logo1

Jerry Falwell was taking questions after one of his talks at a secular university.  One young lady came to the mic and said, “I am a very liberal lesbian and I don’t agree with anything you said about abortion.”

Falwell aptly replied, “I’m sorry, but I fail to see how you, of all the people in this room should care about abortion.”

I have been thinking about some of the incongruities we have been menaced with recently.  Here are just a few. 

I find it a bit incongruous that most people who worry about vanishing or endangered species are also staunch believers in evolution.  Isn’t that what is supposed to happen in the evolutionary model.  The weaker species die off.  Evolution runs its course.  The weak lose.  The strong survive.  Where is the problem?  Why must man now intercede for the losers?  That should be the question for the consistent evolutionist.  But it is not.  And, ironically, there are not a few who think that man, the crown jewel and highest order in the evolutionary chain, is the biggest bane on the planet ,and maybe it would be best if man just died off, in order to save the planet.  And by “planet” they mean the lower forms of life, like amoeba, worms, whales and Chris Brown.

Another incongruity today’s lap dog media have lapped up is the idea that the same president who just proposed spending more money than anybody in history is now going to get serious about getting the deficit under control.  Need anything more be said on this?

Staying with presidential incongruities, I know I am not the only one who sees the irony in these two examples of Obama’s hypocrisy.   He insisted the “economic stimulus” plan had to be passed immediately or it could mean the end of civilization as we knew it.  Never mind that no senator had the chance (or even the inclination) to read the thing.  Once it was passed, he delayed in signing it while he took his wife to Chicago for Valentine’s Day.   He took the corporate jet.  They call it Air Force One.

This leads to the next incongruity.  It was totally fine for Obama to fly to Chicago on such urgent national business in the people’s jet, but not okay for Corporate executives to do so in jets their corporation purchased for just such reasons.

He is for the working man.  So he devises policies which hurt all those working people. People such as those who manufacture corporate jets, for instance, or those who work in the tourist industry (hotel clerks, waiters, drivers, etc.) who find themselves out of work because the money from the corporate “fat cats” stayed home.  The executives are staying home because Obama calls them out for taking business junkets.  The money is not trickling down like it used to.  But everybody knows that trickle down doesn’t work, so ignore the incongruity.

The press had a massive hissy fit when Bush spent $40 million on his second inaugural while the troops were in Iraq.  How could he do such a thing?  But when Obama spent half a billion on his inaugural, the press celebrated the fact.  The troops were still in Iraq.  The economy was tanking.  Banks were crashing.  But in Washington we were partying.  The composite reaction of the press: “The country needs a party.”  Anybody see the incongruity here?

Here are a few more.

Biggest selling books: cookbooks.  Second biggest selling books: diet books.

 Americans have an obsession with fitness.  More Americans are obese than ever.

The earth has been in a cooling trend since 1998.  The last two years have been exceptionally cold.  Of course this leads to new calls to curb global warming with each day.

And Janeane Garofalo stars in this season of 24 as a dedicated FBI agent concerned with national security.  That is incongruous as a lesbian worried that she’ll be denied an abortion.

 

More examples of incongruities?  Send them by way of comment to this post.

Up to 2 million people are expected to gather among the Capitol, White House and Lincoln Memorial by noon.

With the Coronation–er–Inauguration in full swing, both on the mall of Washington, and every square inch of every television, it seems somehow unpatriotic to speak a word of caution and moderation into the sycophantic media love-fest that everyone is caught up in.  But a few things must be pretty clear by now.  No man can live up to the hype or the hope this day portends.  As I write, the television is on GMA and Charles Gibson is reporting that the buildings in Washington are a little brighter today and Lincoln is sitting a little taller in his chair at the Lincoln memorial.  No kidding!  He just said that.  Such is the promise of this day to such as this totally objective “journalist.”

It is a wonderful day that the United States has shed (hopefully) the last vestiges of its long and sordid history of racism and will be led by its first black president.  I said led, not ruledby Obama.  (He made the unfortunate comment during the campaign that he would be ready to rule on day one.  Let us hope that he simply misspoke.)  He is not our new potentate.  He is our new president.

Duvall Patrick noted on one of the morning shows yesterday that people said of Obama’s campaign that “hope is not a strategy.”  Said Patrick, “It turns out that it is.”  So, with a nod to Obama’s campaign “strategy” let me offer my hope for Obama’s presidency. 

1.  I hope that he remembers who he is.  It became achingly clear during the campaign that Mr. Obama had a megalomaniacal streak, fueled in part by the cult of personality that grew around him.  I hope he remembers that he is only a man.  He is not the king.  He does not possess sovereign authority.  He is bound by the Constitution of the United States of America. 

2.  I hope he forgets some things he promised.  I hope he chooses not to yank troops home from Iraq before that nation is stable enough to sustain its fledgling democracy.  I hope he forgets that he planned to end the Bush tax cuts.  I hope he forgets that he promised to socialize the health care industry, about 1/7 of the U. S. economy.

3.  I hope he continues to surprise me with some of the decisions he has been making.  Most of his early nominations have been laudable.  He seems to really desire to reach across party lines and get input from others with different view points.

4.  I hope, against hope, that he gets no chance to appoint any Supreme Court Justice who will most certainly reflect his pro-abortion view.

It was recently reported that about 80% of the American people now support Obama.  I suspect that means that people wish him success.  (Remember 55 million people voted against him.) Our country faces many major problems right now.  Every American wants those problems solved.  We want the economy turned around.  We want the troops to come home.  We want quality health care for every American.  But the devil is in the details.  There are socialistic answers and there are free market answers.  The former have been tried and found wanting.  The latter built this great nation that might just be unrecognizable 4 years hence.  I hope that is not prophetic.

The Barneycle

Posted: January 6, 2009 in Bailout, Barney Frank, Chris Cuomo, Economics

barney.jpg Barney Frank (D) image by LoriWampler

What is it with liberals that makes them so testy?  Take Barney Frank.  Please!   He begins a conversation civilly enough, but before it is done he is heaving and spitting and slurring his words as he unceremoniously cuts off his interlocutor with spurious charges of having been misinterpreted or slighted in some way.  He doesn’t even seem to know those who are one his side.  He will even berate them with the same level of vitriol usually reserved for people like Bill O’Reilly.

I watched him on Good Morning America interviewed by Chris Cuomo.  No conservative, he.  Chris, of course is the son of the liberal former governor of New York, Mario Cuomo and brother of Andrew Cuomo, former HUD secretary under Clinton and current attorney general of New York.  But when Chris Cuomo asked Frank a few frank questions, the spitting and sputtering began.  (By the way, I thought gay men all had a flair for style.  Not only does Frank sound like he got up out of the wrong side of the bed, he looks like it happened 5 minutes ago.)

He was being asked about the latest planned bailout to, well who can keep up with whom is getting the latest bailout.  “A billion here, a billion there, and pretty soon you’re talking about serious money,” Everett Dirksen famously quipped.  And what about the money from the last bailout?  Frank, in typical Frank fashion, lied about the history of the financial bailout and stuck to the Democrat script.  The script is pure fiction.  You have heard it before.  You will here it again.  It is the way politics are played these days.  Much like the days of the Soviet Union.  You tell a lie, tell it often enough, and pretty soon, people will begin to believe it.

Here is the basic plot.  Evil predators in the private sector created the real estate crisis and financial crisis by making loans to people who couldn’t pay.  Somehow these institutions believed they could make a killing by giving money to people who couldn’t pay it back.   The Bush administration didn’t believe in regulation and allowed it all to continue as normal. Eventually that bubble burst.

The truth is just the opposite.  In all points.  The crisis was created because of beaurocrats in the Clinton administration including Janet Reno at Justice and the aforementioned Andrew Cuomo at HUD who threatened to sue financial institutions that did not lend to people who couldn’t afford it.  It was done in the name of getting low income and diversity households a chance to buy their own home, whether or not they could actually afford to pay for it. 

Republicans in the House and from the adminstration tried to get things under control.  Democrats were having none of it.  We have video proof.  Barney Frank is on the video arguing that nothing was wrong with Fannie or Freddie.  But now here was Frank, blaming the private sector and the Bush administration for the crisis and trying to straighten his white hat as he rode side saddle into the fray to come to the rescue of middle America.

When Chris Cuomo challenged him, even mildly, Frank came unglued and insisted he needed to have total control of the mic without interruption from the rude host.  Why the people of Massachusettes continue to plague us with this barnicle I can only guess.  Political theater perhaps.

Change is good, right? Of course! Change is always good.

Have you enjoyed the safety we’ve experienced since 9-11-2001? On 9-12-2001 nobody would have made book that we would have avoided another major terrorist strike against the United States for the balance of the Bush tenure. We have. But that could change. And change is good, right?

Some changes take longer than others to kick in and make a difference. Take the change that the Clinton administration implemented when they forced banks and lending institutions to change the rules on whom they should lend money to. It was about getting more and more people into their own homes. That is a good thing, right? It was especially important to Clinton and his hammer, Janet Reno, that minorities got funding to buy their own homes. Too few minorities owned their own home. That needed to be corrected. They needed full access to the American dream. Good goal.

Question: What is affordable housing? Answer: Houses for people who can’t afford them. That bubble lasted a good while. It had a good run. But eventually that bubble was going to burst because economic laws are unbreakable. Hence, the mortgage crisis, which led to the financial crisis, which led to the stock market crash, which led to . . . well, Barak Obama. But change is good, Right?

Despite the talk of how terrible the last eight years have been economically, most of that time was a time of growth. Fifty-eight months of growth is not a bad thing. The Dow’s post 9-11 move from 7,400 to over 14,000 in five years is remarkable. Who would have predicted it? Nobody did! But there it was. Two years ago we decided to change leadership in the Senate and House. The Dow is (as of this writing, because who can keep up with its decline since the election?) just below 8,000. But, change is good, right?

Bush gave us two excellent Supreme court justices who believe it is their job to interpret the Constitution rather than make it up as they go along. Obama promises to change that. And change is good, right?

Bush has been consistent in pursuing the war on terror. He has committed the US to establishing freedom and democracy in places like Afganistan and Iraq. It is now legal for girls to attend school in Kabul. They need not cover their faces in public. Freedom is coming to Iraq for perhaps the first time in its long history. But Barak Obama is tired of our commitment to establishing democracy there. This commitment could change when he takes office. And change is good, right?

Bush signed the ban on partial birth abortion. He would not allow embryos to be killed for the misty promises of miraculous cures unsupported by the evidence. Obama wants to change all that. He will sign the Orwellian Freedom of Choice Act.  This act will eliminate all restrictions on abortion in every state in the Union by executive fiat.  But change is good, right?

My body is changing.  I used to be able to read 6 point type without glasses.  Now 6 point type just looks like dust on the paper.  I can’t read it with my glasses.  I used to bounce back from a basketball game nearly as quickly as a basketball.  I once had thick dark brown hair.  But that has all changed.  But I keep hearing that change is good.

Well, the times, they are a changin‘.  And change is good. Right?