Tuesday, December 7, 2010

It's a start

I'll admit that I am genuinely surprised that Obama has agreed to extend the current tax rates rather than raise taxes. Our economy will do better because of this. Now if government could learn the lesson and realize that the best thing they can do for the economy is absolutely nothing we'd all be better off.

Thursday, December 2, 2010

Time for your feeding

When are the poor going to be outraged? I ask because government, in the name of helping, treats them as substandard. Personally, I can't stand being treated as less than someone else and I cannot understand why the poor tolerate it.

Helping is noble, whether through government or private charity. But how you help indicates how you perceive those helped. Take food stamps for example. A food stamp is basically money that can only be used for food (a government gift card). Why does government give people gift cards instead of money? If you said because it doesn't trust them, go to the head of the class.

The implicit assumption is that poor people are so stupid or irresponsible that they will not spend the money on food. That's insulting. Yes, there are irresponsible people, but do you seriously think they would starve to death if you gave them money rather than food stamps?

Give people money to buy food and let them save their dignity. If they screw up, let them suffer the consequences and learn from their mistakes. If you treat them like adults, you might be surprised to learn that they are not much different than you.

Wealth is Right

Just to give an idea of tax revenues over the years, look at the chart. While recently things haven't been so good, the overall trend is up. In fact, revenues have tripled since 1965. If we assume that past trends will continue, then the government will take in about $6.5 trillion 45 years from now. To put that into perspective, our population is only expected to be about 438 million in 2050. This means that the federal government can spend twice as much on every single one of us than they do today.

What's even more striking is the implication for the welfare of the average American. In order to take in that amount of tax revenue, actual productive output must increase correspondingly. This means that in aggregate, there will be a ton of money in the hands of private individuals, about 2.5 times the amount today.

What this implies is that the fiscal future is bright regardless of today's rhetoric. A good conservative strategy should be to wait it out by delaying the left's agenda for as long as possible. Liberalism's greatest argument has always been about helping those in need while it's agenda has always been one of control. One day, we will be rich enough to lift up the needy and cut down the legs of liberalism.

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

How much is enough?

With all the talk about extending the Bush tax cuts, all I hear about is how the rich aren't paying their fair share. Let's disregard the fact that the rich pay more in taxes than they collect in benefits. Let's disregard that they earned their money through hard work and thrift. And let's assume that the rich are dirty rotten scoundrels. What I want to know is how much is enough, how much is fair, and at what point does it get ridiculous?

Here's my point, even if we concede that government's role is to redistribute wealth, most would agree that raising taxes on the very wealthy so that everyone has at least $100,000 is absurd. On some level, the argument for redistribution is to prevent poverty, not to enable every dead beat American to live an upper middle class life. In addition, most don't make $100,000 working, so why would anybody work?

You might say that that's an extreme example, no one is advocating giving everyone $100,000 for being alive. Well, no, but at some point if our economy continues to grow and government revenues continue to increase and our birthrate continues to decrease, government will be flush with money. And the question that ought to be on everyone's mind is what will government do with that money?

When we get to that point, and we will, one has to ask the question, how much is enough?

Monday, November 22, 2010

House is burning down

Doctor Gregory House is a super genius who always knows what's in the patients best interest. On the latest episode, House has to hire a new addition to his team. It must be a woman because... Anyway, they hire a woman who's also a super genius except, unlike House, has a conscience.

The story continues with House's henchmen breaking and entering in order to figure out the secrets the patient won't reveal. It's ok because "everybody lies" and it's for the patients own good. The new goody two shoes doctor (a med student actually) refuses to break the law and with that act is cast by House as a moral midget, not suitable to her gigantic brain.

The moral dilemma continues throughout the episode and comes to a boil when the two super geniuses argue over whether the patient should be informed of his two treatment options. Treatment 1, the inferior treatment and treatment 2, the "right" treatment.

House doesn't want to present treatment option number 1, because A. It's not as effective, and B. the patient is stupid and will choose it (which the patient promptly does). House is interested in saving lives, not letting idiotic patients (read: not super geniuses) decide their own fate.

In the end, all is well because the conscientious super genius is able to reason with the patient that House is right and convinces him to choose the "right" treatment. Hooray to super geniuses, what would us ordinary folks do without them?

House is a TV show, but it unintentionally reveals the left wing view of the world of its writers. It's a view which flips morality upside down and debates the immorality of "incorrect" decisions. In this world, the sin is not in doing harm, but not doing good. Doctor House is the manifestation of the Lefts technical bureaucrats who know what's good for you. On the show, and in life, we ignore it because medicine is far out of our realm of expertise. But the premise holds for everything There is a right answer out there and the experts know it. It is foolish and wrong to reject it. The repugnance of this view is that imposing your genius on an unwilling person is not deemed morally wrong, only questionable.

Perhaps super geniuses will lead our lives better than we would. Perhaps they will make no mistakes, it's assumed they would make less than us. Nonetheless, why ought it be up to someone else to make my life mistake free? Choice only matters when you can choose the "wrong" thing.

Monday, November 15, 2010

Incentives Matter

If you believe as I do that people respond to incentives, then here's an interesting thought experiment. Imagine a world where the poor pay zero taxes. In such a world, would government be more or less likely to create jobs for poor people? I'd say they'd be less likely because what the government really cares about are revenues, and if more people working doesn't generate any additional revenue, then why would government care if they worked or not?

Monday, November 8, 2010

Year of the shark

I remember a few years back the national news in a tizzy about shark attacks. Every week another victim was shark meat and there were no safe harbors anywhere. Turns out that that year, there were about the same number of shark attacks as any other year, and the hullabaloo was self inflicted.

Seems every year, heck, every month a new biggest thing is born. This year, it's the Tea Parties. While the Tea Parties are significant, let's not get ahead of ourselves. The economy sucks, democrats have progressed to being visibly nuts, and Obama-We're-the-ones-we've-been-waiting-for-mania has gone away. Tea Party or no Tea Party, the democrats were going to get crushed.

The Tea Party is not symbolic of liberal woes, but of conservative ones. The tea party is first and foremost a conservative movement, a movement resurrected from the ashes of actual fiscal conservatism. The Tea Party arose to send a message to the Republican party: stick to your principles. We'll see what lasting effect the Tea Parties have in a year...if any of us remember.

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

They are evil

On some level, most of us feel like we are being screwed. It's not true of course, but this feeling serves a very important psychological purpose: self delusion. Our ego cannot allow us to feel inferior, so instead of looking within ourselves, we look outward for scapegoats and bogeymen to blame. We think our boss exploits us, that mega-companies charge too much, and that luck is not on our side.

I think most of us intuitively know we are not being shafted left and right. You go to class and see the smart kid in the room. You see her talent and you know she’s special. Every day she works her butt off and eventually it pays off. And even the most cynical among us can’t help but admit, she's earned everything she's got.

Nonetheless, the need for bogeymen persists, and we don't personally know every smart girl in the room. To assuage our egos, we simmer illicit stories of how she became rich. What wrongs she must have committed to rise above us, or how it was just plain luck.

Politics essentially divides itself along two lines. The first takes as its premise that what people have, they earned. The second believes that what you have is not earned, or at least not earned rightly.

Liberalism, the politics of entitlement, is manna to your ego. When you see successful people, liberalism sells the idea that you have been shafted; that they don't deserve their success; that if you give liberals power, they will get you what you are entitled. It's a dangerous philosophy as it pits man against man, and feeds on our innate animal desires.

This is not an extreme view of liberalism. At its heart, liberalism is based on the presumption that your fellow man profits at your expense and this causes conflict by definition.

It's the frailty of our ego that wants to transform smart, successful women into our personal scapegoats. It's the tragedy of liberalism to encourage it.

Sunday, October 10, 2010

Elevator Manners

I think you can tell a lot about people from little things. Recently I moved to Seattle from Minneapolis and I originally hail from Michigan. I work in an eleven story office building and every day I ride the elevator up to the sixth floor. And every day not one person ever asks me which floor I am heading to, not one person volunteers to push the button for me, and not one person ever asks me to press the button for them.

It's freakin weird. In most places people routinely ask other people which floor they are going to, and they routinely hit the button because it's a nice and friendly thing to do. But here, they are not nice and they are not friendly and it's noticeable.

And I wonder why and I blame liberalism. It might be a stretch, but the way I see it, the reason people are so disconnected, the reason they don't acknowledge your existence inside and outside the elevator, is that it's not their responsibility. It's the responsibility of the state. They pay taxes not because they care, but so they don't have to.

It's not in anyones genes to ignore other people. It's a learned behavior. Liberalism teaches that society, not individuals, are responsible for others. Individuals gradually learn that it's not their job to engage, and it becomes the norm. Every day I ride six floors silently with people who have been taught to shut the world out because it's not their responsibility. Maybe not, but small acts of kindness make the world such a nice place. Let's not teach people to avoid them.

Thursday, October 7, 2010

Artists wanted

If there are any artists out there interested in having their work posted here, please get in touch.

Food stamps, the road to recovery

Economic illiteracy is rampant and I heard a gem today listening to the Randy Rhodes show. In between lambasting Newt Gingrich for who knows what, she gave the audience a weapon to throw at those deranged conservatives. Apparently, some conservative wants to limit food stamp payments (the evil cold hearted bastard) and this is wrong not only morally, but economically. For you see it turns out that for every 5 dollars spent, 9 dollar in economic activity is generated. It's nonsense, but in case it isn't obvious here's a simple thought experiment to convince you.

Giving 1 person 5 dollars worth of food stamps and generating 9 dollars is a great deal. If I were a businessman I would do it all day, every day. Therefore it makes perfect sense that we should give everyone 5 dollars worth of food stamps! Just think of all the money generated for the economy! Brilliant liberal thinking.

P.S. Remember this when you hear how much each dollar of unemployment contributes to the economy. And when that time comes let your inner inquisitor ask, if 1 dollar of unemployment is good, shouldn't more dollars be better? How about a million dollars?

Basic Economics

Many of our largest and most significant industries still have business models that rely on the use of debt to purchase goods and services. Unless you’re a multimillionaire, it’s difficult to make significant purchases — college tuition, a Viking stove, a Toyota Prius, computers, jewelry, a house — out of savings or cash flow from wages. The renewed willingness and confidence to spend money we don’t have is vital to the continuing recovery.

John Maynard Keynes wrote of the paradox of thrift — if everyone saves, everyone becomes poorer, because demand for goods and services will fall. Here’s another paradox: Running up consumer debt may be a moral failure and a recipe for long-term damnation, but it also contains the roots of our short-term salvation.

Daniel Gross, author of “Dumb Money: How Our Greatest Financial Minds Bankrupted the Nation,” is the economics editor and columnist at Yahoo! Finance.
These concluding paragraphs from an op-ed in yesterday's NY Times struck me as interesting.

First, the author is wrong, regardless of whether you are a multimillionaire or not, you spend what you have or will have. There is never a free lunch. The only thing to remember is that you can spend today and save tomorrow (also known as paying back), or you can save today and spend tomorrow. Regardless, in order to consume, you MUST save. Any notion to the contrary is just nonsense.

The paradox of thrift is not really a paradox. It's true that if people decide to stop trading, there is less value in society, but it's vitally important to realize why. Is it because their is less stuff in society? The answer is no, the amount of stuff produced is exactly the same. Saving only means that you don't trade (spend), it does not make any statements with regards to production. So if the amount of stuff (consumer goods) out there is the same, how can I say we are actually poorer? I'll leave it to someone to comment on.

And a final, personal note. Just because the road to hell is paved with good intentions, doesn't mean we should travel down it for a while and see what great things we can achieve before the Inferno envelopes us.

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

Leave politics out of the movie theater

So there I was spending a nice, relaxing evening with my girlfriend watching a movie, "Julie and Julia". The movie was pretty good, not great, but enjoyable nonetheless. However, for some unknown reason the movie couldn't resist a constant undercurrent of Republican bashing. And near the middle of the movie, outright Republican bashing. The offending line from the movie (paraphrased)
If I were an evil Republican, I would have fired you.
Apparently, hollywood thinks it's brilliant to insult your potential audience (or maybe those rich Republicans don't see movies?). Regardless, thinly veiled insinuations and their unveiled cousins, ruin the movie. It would be one thing if the nature of the movie were political, but the movie had nothing to do with politics. The only reason I can think of why this dynamic was added to the movie is that these people are so hate filled, that in a fun, light hearted movie, they can't resist every opportunity to twist the knife.

Hollywood, I know most of you play on the wrong team (pun intended, and it's a joke, so relax everyone), but can't you stick to telling good stories about interesting people and leave politics at the door. All us evil conservatives would appreciate it and it might even make you more money to contribute to Al Franken.

Sunday, October 3, 2010

The new financial plan

Politically, no one wants there programs cut. So if you want to win, you don't do so by suggesting cutting programs! Here's what should be the campaign pledge for spending. No new spending until the deficit is under control. That's it, keep spending levels constant, don't cut, but don't spend more. People understand that you can't continue to spend like a drunken sailor so they will be for it. They also see that you aren't cutting their precious entitlements so they have a harder time being against it. Finally, it builds on the fiscal responsibility story you are trying to create with your political brand.

Thursday, September 30, 2010

How many jobs were "created" or "saved"?

Recently someone said that the CBO claimed that 1.3 million jobs were created due to the stimulus. I don't believe that number for a second. It all depends on comparing how many jobs would have been created without the stimulus. We don't know that, so we can't really say whether the stimulus helped at all.

Nonetheless, I am lazy, is there anyone out there who can better explain this?

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Balanced Budget

This is one idea that is a winner and one that the Democrats have co-opted from conservatives. I think it's safe to say that everyone understands that you can't spend more than what you earn. If you do, you go bankrupt. The government is no different, and we should make the same argument.

It's irresponsible and reckless to run a country on borrowed money. Our party believes in fiscal responsibility and that's why we are for a balanced budget amendment. Bottom line is this: If you have to live on a budget, so do we.
- Paid for by The New Liberal Democrats
On the practical side a balanced budget accomplishes a bunch of things.

First, it forces the country to pay for the services it demands from government which imposes an immediate cost. "immediate" is important. Who will want to repeal a handout they have gotten for years? Who will remember why their taxes are being raised five years after the fact? No one. Transparency (another huge winning argument) dictates that we try as best as possible to tie cause and effect.

While I know that higher taxes lead to lower economic growth, higher taxes also change people's minds. Especially the minds of people who pay them. The sooner taxpayers feel the bite of higher taxes, the weightier the argument to lower them (by cutting spending) becomes. You take away the false promise of liberals that more and more government services are a free lunch. You make them defend having their cake and 10% unemployment.

Finally, your political brand is strengthened. You are fiscally responsible, like the head of a household who pays the bills when they come due. People understand this and they relate to it.

Monday, September 27, 2010

A Challenge

I constantly hear refrains from liberals that they actually believe in the free market, yet whenever there is a choice between the government and the free market, they always choose government. Can some liberal out there name one thing that the free market does better than the government?

Saturday, September 18, 2010

Leftists gone crazy

I like to read the New York Times for entertainment value and to try to understand the other side. But sometimes you come across things that are just despicable. Case in point: this advertisement was run on the online version of their newspaper:

What person working at the Times thought this an appropriate ad? Liberals are the most racist, hate filled people on this earth. They cannot tolerate dissent because what they believe is essentially religious dogma and one cannot argue against "divine" truth. Non-believers, i.e. conservatives are therefore evil and you know who else was evil, Nazis! Thus in their warped mind the sick comparison makes perfect sense. Unbelievable!

Thursday, September 9, 2010


I have been out of the office for a while and for anyone who actually likes reading these posts, my apologies.

There is no actual point of this blog other than to entertain me and hopefully some others out there. What I find entertaining is not only commenting on the buffoonery of liberals and their insane ideas, but offering what I believe are real policy proposals that can make a difference. Any proposals I make are based on assumptions as to how we have arrived at the present situation. I assume certain facts about human nature and how people behave and I do not believe that reason or logic or even those vaunted things called facts have any sway on your typical man.

My experience has led me to conclude that people generally act in their own self interest. They care more about their own well being more than that of others. They care more about their family than about strangers. They care about feeling good about themselves, not about actually being good, but feeling good - perception is reality. Every action has a payoff; charity esteems the giver. And every action has a cost; what's given is lost. People generally act to try to maximize their personal profit.

In order to have any effect, we must take these givens about people and construct systems which incentivize man to act a certain way. Our goal is for men to live peacefully in society with as much liberty as possible and enough security to make liberty valuable. Government is the device to accomplish this goal, and it's task is difficult because conceptually liberty and security are opposed. To be free means giving up some security and to be secure means giving up some freedom.

In the end, it's a balance we seek. And I think that in the end, a balance is what's always achieved. But within that balance, life can be better or worse. I believe that embracing a free market with a modest and simple social safety net is probably the best we will ever do. Lest men be angels.

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

A subtle enumeration

I went to this meeting for conservative enthusiasts. Essentially it was a meeting of the geriatric sort, they were mad as hell and ready for bed. The most interesting part of the night was near the end, the organizers set up a mock debate for new constitutional amendments in an attempt to impose constitutional limits on our government. Ironic when you think about it. Nonetheless, each amendment had good intentions, but in my opinion were busts. One astute octogenarian noted: what good are new amendments when no one pays attention to today's plain meaning. Good question.

Any honest (and even a dishonest one now and then) person knows that the constitution was a document limiting federal power. More precisely, the constitution is an enumeration of federal powers. What was written was what the government could do and everything else was off limits. Now some time ago that got flipped around and our government..er, constitution became a negative document, i.e. government can do anything except that forbidden by the constitution.

We conservative folks old and young alike prefer the original meaning of the constitution, limited federal government. The question is how to achieve it? I think we need to attack the flanks and in the end achieve our goal: to limit the federal government.

The amendment should be to limit federal tax revenues to 25% of Gross Domestic Product. My libertarian friends would be dismayed, but in the end the goal is to make peace, live in harmony, and put an end to the ever encroaching federal Leviathan. 25% is a lot of money, and it grows every year as the economy grows (nice incentive alignment eh?). That high percentage also has the effect of shaming our representatives (if that's possible). If you can't live within your means, when our means are substantial, then when can you?

I am not the first with this proposal, but I am adding my voice in support. Let's give Caesar more than enough to make him fat and happy, and slothful enough to leave the rest of us alone.

Monday, August 2, 2010

Get an ugly friend

I had a boss who from my estimation wasn't a very good boss. He wasn't a bad guy, in fact he cared a great deal about his employees, but from an objective standpoint I think he wasn't a strong organizer. He lacked the big picture perspective, preferring to put out fires rather than build a well functioning machine. Eventually, the shit hit the fan at my company and there was a house cleaning. The CEO got fired, some other folks were asked to leave, and my boss was one of them.

What's amazing to me is that it took so long for him (and the CEO) to get fired. Objectively they were doing a bad job. But the thing is that they were rated subjectively. At a certain level it's difficult to determine if someone is actually doing a good job. When you have fifty engineers doing the same task, it's easy to grade them against each other. But when you have one guy doing a unique job, how do you know if someone else could have done it better?

The only way we know socialism is a terrible system of government, is that we have capitalism to compare it to. When there is only one system, one way of doing things, no one can compare it to what doesn't exist. Capitalism is far superior to all other forms of social organization. If we want to promote capitalism and the free market, it's not enough to extol it's virtues. We must create an island where the benefits can be seen. America used to be that island, maybe we should start looking elsewhere.

Tuesday, July 6, 2010

People always adjust

Everywhere you turn you hear people, not just liberals, but well meaning conservatives and libertarians talking about economic disaster scenarios. If X happens, then Y will happen and that will in turn cause Z which will cause the world to end. Really? I didn't know the world was some sort of Rube-Goldberg machine, and the toppling of one little domino would send it all to pieces.

But apparently it is, especially if you are a keynesian (and if you aren't, you ought to be ashamed of yourself). Preventing a deflationary spiral is the justfication for all sorts of economic voodoo. Well, who cares about a deflationary spiral, how about some sanity. Here's the reality, if house prices go down, people (those atomic units who actually make up an economic system) will adjust. And at some point prices will stabilize, wealth will be lost, and we will start over again. Life will go on. What's killing us right now is not a lack of wealth, but uncertainty. And all this talk about home prices declining which causes consumer confidence to go down which tanks consumer spending which tanks...you get the point, is not productive.

Let's get to the bottom, lick our wounds, and rebuild. Yes, we will be poorer because we ARE poorer, government craziness cannot change that simple fact. And let's stop justifying craziness based on hypothetical scenarios which have no basis in reality.

Monday, July 5, 2010

You know it's bad when...

It's called a change over, the movie goes on and nobody in the audience has any idea.
- From the movie "Fight Club"
If you ever wanted to know just how crazy the left is in this country, ponder this: The bastion of socialism, Europe, is rebutting our calls for more deficit spending. They are advocating spending restraint in the face of the Greece bailout and record budget deficits. I have a new found respect for European (read: German) sanity and new found disgust with the American left. At what point will they realize that Keynesian econnomics is bunk? At what point will they actually care that their economic policies are causing hardship to millions of Americans? When will they concern themselves with the welfare of their subjects more than their ideology? It's truly a very different world when Europe gets it before us.

Monday, June 21, 2010

What's wrong with public schools?

In a nutshell, this:
Educators and administrators who accept financial compensation for improving their school’s test performance should be ashamed.

Mary Ogden Condeff
Santa Rosa, Calif., June 11, 2010

The writer has worked in special education in public schools.
Back in the real world, improving a school's test performance means better education for those children. Apparently, that's a bad thing.

Friday, June 11, 2010

Don't run, fight

Rand Paul has been pilloried for stating a perfectly reasonable philosophy:
Private individuals have the right to associate or not associate with whomever they want. Government does not.
There is absolutely nothing objectionable in this statement. Freedom of association means the freedom not to associate. What the hub-bub is about has to do with the fact that that government overstepped its bounds by forcing private businesses to engage in commerce it didn't want to. The civil rights act prevented private businesses from discriminating against blacks. The government was wrong.

Trying to do good, or what we think of as good, at the expense of principles is injustice. For while blacks were the supposed beneficiaries of this act, the reality is that they too belong to the mass whose rights were violated. When they open a business, and choose whom to serve, the government can dictate those terms. Nothing was gained except the reduction of everyone's freedom.

From a political standpoint, trying to muzzle charges of racism is futile. You are conservative, therefore you are racist in the eyes of all liberals regardless of your actions. It's always a mistake to counter insanity with rational argument, and only a man of guilty conscience runs around pleading his innocence. You are not racist, no need to repeat it over and over. Address the issues, ignore the drama.

Attack their implicit beliefs; white people are inherently racist; had the civil rights act not been not passed, blacks would not have made any progress; without whites to do business with, blacks would fall on their face, blacks cannot stand on their own. The bottom line is that their position is offensive. This is not the soft bigotry of low expectations, but the depiction of a race of people as sub-human.

Liberals are inherently racist. They live in segregated and gated communities where they breathe white guilt. To diffuse their uncomfortableness with themselves, they level charges against everyone else.

The next time Rand Paul is asked whether private businesses should be allowed to discriminate. His answer should be an unequivocal yes. And then he should press the question: Do you believe that such a law is necessary today? And why is it necessary that with people like you in positions of power, when progressives have power at every level of government and private business, that such a law is necessary? Are you a racist?

And if it sounds harsh, asking someone point blank if they are a racist, understand that that's exactly what they are asking you.

Thursday, June 10, 2010

Leaving - Idealism versus Reality

I saw this independent movie called "Leaving" and the implicit subtext was fascinating. Here's the story in a nutshell: Housewife falls in love with another man; leaves husband to pursue true love; husband objects and makes new life impossible; goes back to husband; shoots husband; Fin.

If that synopsis doesn't whet your appetite, maybe this will. The movie is really about the notion that normal life is unbearable. It's a liberal shot across the bow declaring the terribleness of a content life and raising the unreasonable expectation that life is always a bowl of cherries.

What I find most interesting is that this idealized version of life was not intended; the movie was intended as a love story or some other nonsense, but the director couldn't hide his true feelings. They come out in every scene and they are loud and clear to anyone listening.

Initially, the wife doesn't seem discontented with her life. She has a successful husband who apparently cares about her, and kids who love her. While redesigning her home, she meets Ivan but there is little hint of potential romance. As a result of an (contrived) accident, the wife and Ivan must spend time together to see his daughter in Spain. It's on that trip that she "falls" for him and realizes just how much life she is missing. Why she loves this man is somewhat of a mystery, other than a song he sings to her, there is little to suggest that they are truly compatible. Nonetheless, the sex is fantastic and she can't get enough. She's made the decision, her husband and her former life must go.

Life with Ivan is depicted as continual bliss, every action connotes their eternal true love. But would life with Ivan really be so wonderful? Would the magic last forever? Isn't it possible, that over time, Ivan would become like her husband? After all, Ivan had a daughter with a woman who does not want to be with him? Perhaps he has a few flaws, perhaps they would eventually come out? But that would be three dimensional, real.

In fact, the husband is depicted as the only obstacle to their Eden. It's his actions which prevent Ivan and the wife from being together. The implication could not be more clear, eternal bliss is possible if it weren't for the man keeping the wife down.

I would love to make a movie called "Meeting" where the wife and husband first meet. It could show how they were in love, and how their love and infatuation was going to last forever. Instead of shooting her husband, she could have stayed with Ivan. That ending would be more tragic; life with Ivan would become real, just like the one she left.

Monday, June 7, 2010

Paintball kills people

As a jew I really dislike my people. They are extremely smart on average, yet they are ridiculously stupid when it comes to common sense. Hence, they are liberals and their liberalism is going to get them killed.

First, bullies don't respect weakness and nuance, they respect strength. This isn't rocket science, it's common sense. Most people secretly want to impose their will on others, most don't because they don't want their ass kicked. If they think you are going to kick their ass (or at least make a fight unpleasant enough), they won't f*** with you.

But only liberal jews board a flotilla with PAINTBALL guns. What the f*** were they thinking? They were trying to be nuanced and respectful to people whose entire purpose was to be blunt and disrespectful. Nine people got killed because they weren't scared, because they saw paintball guns and thought they could be a bad ass and attack the commandos. I bet had the Israeli's had real guns, pointed directly at the protesters heads, and the protesters knew it, their bad assness would have gone away. How many of those nine would have done what they did if they knew that was their last day on earth. I'm betting less than nine.

All nuance and proportional force does is make it less costly for your enemies to continue to fight and in the long run, there will be more conflict and more death because of it. You want to prevent violence, you want peace, then you have to kick some serious ass. Unfortunately the Israeli's are a bunch of liberal jews and they are going to get themselves (and others) killed.

Friday, May 21, 2010

Random rant

When the government can force you to buy insurance and penalize you when you don't, what can't it make you do? There are no hard and fast limits any more, our law is no longer founded on any principles, the constitution is meaningless, and government will do what it deems is best for you. Get used to it and get your bribe money handy.

On a brighter note, part of me is happy about all this. Sometimes it can be fun to watch the world burn, especially by its own doing.

In other news...

Democratic ads claim Republican opponents want to raise your taxes. The attacks by Democrat Mark Critz are blatantly false. Yes, his opponent is in favor of raising income taxes, to OFFSET other taxes, leaving on net everything UNCHANGED. To claim his opponent is for raising taxes is a blatant misrepresentation and an outright lie. Not surprisingly, when I was in Texas I saw the exact same attack by a democrat against another republican.

Speaking of liars...

Obama and the liberals' health care plan is the biggest of them all but conservatives ought to be careful in their line of attack. Saying we can't afford another entitlement as the justification for rejecting Obamacare implies that if we could afford it, it would be OK. Here's a better line of attack:
Only charlatans and liars need 2,700 words to tell the truth. Learn how to save your health care at: www.newliberaldemocrat.blogspot.com

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Taxes aren't so bad after all?

Here is a fascinating letter to the editor from the Minneapolis Star Tribune:
Tax hike plan reflective of taxable income

As a tax preparer, I am compelled to correct a common misconception held by state politicians, by a May 12 letter writer and now by the Wall Street Journal ("Democrats always want higher taxes," Opinion Exchange, May 13).

The misconception is usually a variation of this thought: "It would be unwise to raise taxes on incomes over $200,000 because that would include most farmers and small businesses. Because small business creates most jobs, to raise their taxes would be a jobs killer."

Taxpayers do not pay taxes on their income. Taxes are paid on taxable income, or income after tax deductions. A small business may have income of $500,000, but taxable income of less than $75,000. By the time a small business arrives at taxable income, it has already taken deductions for all business expenses, which include employee wages and all payroll expenses. If a small business has a taxable income of more than $200,000, that taxable income is no different from that of a wage-earner employee who has a taxable income above $200,000. By the time a small-business taxpayer arrives at taxable income, he or she has already hired (and will receive a tax deduction for) every employee needed. To reduce taxes at this point will neither encourage nor discourage small businesses to hire additional employees.

There is no rational explanation why a small-business owner should pay a lower tax rate on taxable income than a wage earner or investor or any other taxable income earner.

The letter is completely correct in the technical sense but if you read carefully, you'll realize that what he is really saying doesn't make any common sense. Taxes on small business profits (or as this person calls them - taxable income) is indeed no different than taxes on a wage earner. In fact, a wage earner is nothing more than a very small business owner with 1 employee, selling his product - labor - for a profit. What would happen if you confiscated his profits? He would work less of course.

The assumption in this letter is that employing people is some sort of public service, it is not. The only reason businesses hire anyone is to profit off of their labor, and taxing that profit is a sure fire way to guarantee less job creation.

Friday, May 14, 2010

Your employer wants to pay you more!

There are issues, many of them, which are winners for our side. Not only winners, but no person in good conscience (even liberals) could truly be against them. They are intuitively good and they happen to support our cause. These are the issues we should advocate. These are the issues we should bludgeon our opponents with. And these issues will make a difference.

Payroll taxes. Every day, as loud as we can, we should advocate changing Federal law so that an employer cannot pay taxes on an employees behalf. We are for transparency and we think people should be aware of how much they are actually paying in taxes. Currently, Social Security and Medicare (known as FICA) taxes are withheld from your pay at a rate of 6.2% and 1.45% respectively. This is a lie. Let me repeat, THIS IS A LIE and anyone who doesn't acknowledge this is a liar and should be labeled as such. The real figure everyone pays in taxes (except ironically the very rich) is 12.4% in Social Security and 2.9% in Medicare for a total of 15.3%. This applies to anyone who works for a living no matter how small their paycheck is.

Why the deception? Because if you never see the money taken from you, you won't protest. It's just that simple. Government wants your money and they don't want to ask you, more importantly, they don't want you asking questions. So they have your employer give them your money without your knowledge. This is immoral and no one should support it. If the government wants your money then they should at least have the decency to ask you for it. That's a winning argument for us and every working person in this country.

Monday, May 10, 2010


  • a : free from pretense or deceit : frank

  • b : easily detected or seen through : obvious

  • c : readily understood

  • d : characterized by visibility or accessibility of information especially concerning business practices
I assume it's safe to say that non-transparent is not "free from pretense or deceit", and I would argue that deliberately making things non-transparent, deliberately deceiving is also known as lying.

I am for transparency, I am for the truth, and I oppose anyone, for any purpose who proposes schemes designed to mislead people, to trick them into believing something that isn't true. Liberals are lying to you, plain and simple and we need to call them liars at every opportunity. Exposing hypocrisy is not enough, pointing out logical flaws in their arguments is not enough; these tactics presume your opponents aren't deliberately lying to achieve their aims: they are.

When your opponent fights dirty, you call them out. You tell the truth about what their plan will do and that they KNOW it. You call them the liars they are and let the public decide. They will make the right choice.

Monday, May 3, 2010

We know prosperity

I read somewhere that high unemployment is here to stay and I couldn't help but think just how startling and scary that is. I was born in 1977 and throughout my short life I haven't really seen an economic climate as bad as this one. I know there have been worse, the Great Depression, Stagflation of the 1970's, and I am sure others, but to experience this is surreal. I am lucky that I have a job and I don't do well, but I get by. However, 9.7% unemployment is substantial and all I hear is pessimism coming from all sides. It doesn't have to be that way and I think a moment of optimism is in order.

First, to borrow from Rahm Emanuel, let's not let a crisis go to waste. The simple reality is that limited government conservatives and libertarians know the path to prosperity and it's not difficult. Reduce government spending, simplify and reduce the tax code, and stop f*cking with monetary policy and all will be well. Not only will we be well, we will be even richer than we are today and we will unleash a firestorm of future prosperity. It's that simple, the dynamism of the private sector can overcome anything as long as it is allowed to. Conservatives should not sit idly by and allow liberals to escape their fiscal incompetence. They don't know how to create prosperity, they know how to squander it. We know prosperity and let it be our rallying cry this November.

Thursday, April 22, 2010

Sinners into saints

I was listening to Rush and he made a great point which I have to pass along. He was talking about the hypocrisy of liberals (no surprise there) and referring to the current treatment of Goldman Sachs employees and how they are portrayed as greedy, selfish, villainous thieves robbing this country blind. Then he openly wondered why it's the case that when these people go from working at Goldman Sachs to working for the government, the very same people are instantly transformed into selfless saints working for the public good, protecting us from the villainous thieves. Good point. For the record, former Goldman employees:

Jon Corzine - Chairman and CEO, Democratic Governor of New Jersey

Henry Paulson - Chairman and CEO, United States Treasury Secretary under Obama

Robert Rubin - 26 years at Goldman Sachs, member of the board and served as Co-chairman, United States Treasury Secretary under Clinton

Saturday, April 17, 2010

The tax man is coming

The one saving grace of the income tax is that there is a natural counterweight to excessive taxation. The more progressive the tax rate, the more you penalize the productive, the so called "rich", the more incentive you give these people to just stay home.

As a result, a progressive income tax is a very poor way to collect revenue. The marginal income which is taxed the most is also the very same income which can be most easily forgone. What's the difference really between $400,000 and $500,000, or better yet $1,000,000 and $1,100,000? People who earn these wages place a lower value on each marginal dollar and this means that they are more willing than most to give that dollar up, especially when the government takes a bigger and bigger bite out of it.

In order for government to raise a lot more revenue, it cannot do it by taxing those who are easily able to live on less (because they will); government must dip into the pockets of those who really need those dollars and cannot afford to just stay home (also known as the middle class). Excessive government spending means excessive taxes and anyone who thinks only the rich will finance it are sorely mistaken.

Sunday, April 11, 2010

It's the environment stupid!

One thing striking to me, is that as society progresses we become more and more liberal. Attitudes which would have once been thought unthinkable are now accepted without batting an eye. Tea Party protests aside (and those are in reality very minor), no one is seriously arguing for the dismantling of the welfare state. From its far left perch, the press paints the continuation of the status quo as a vast right wing conspiracy, likening the pausing of the liberal agenda to the reinstatement of Jim Crow. Regardless, the evidence is clear, we are and have been moving leftward and my question is why?

The reason is not reason, logic, or argumentation. Liberalism, it is widely acknowledged, ran out of ideas long ago and what can only be described as twisted irony, the only place it wants to progress is to the 1930's. Liberalism is triumphing because our environment gives rise to liberalism. The free market has succeeded in reducing the cost of liberalism, making it plausible for health care to be a "right", and giving credence to the ridiculous idea that not all work is "dignified".

Each and every one of us came to our beliefs not by rational choice nor deliberation, but because of our nature and the environment which surrounds us. Reason and deliberation came after we already thought the way we do and when we found others whose logic and reason was compelling, we embraced them because they confirmed our existing beliefs. We never needed convincing.

The danger of the welfare state is not that it takes unfairly from some to give to undeserving others. The danger is that the welfare state creates an environment which degrades everyone through perverse incentives. Incentives which degrade work and self reliance as "undignified", implying that living parasitically off your fellow man is dignified.

Altering the current situation requires convincing your fellow man to change, and I argue this cannot be done through logic and reason because you were not convinced through logic and reason. The only successful strategy is to change his environment, to change his incentives, thereby causing him to convince himself.

Friday, April 9, 2010

Principles or progress?

I think school vouchers are a wonderful idea. Parents, on behalf of their children, ought to be able to send their kids to the school of their choice. This simple act introduces competition into public education, and allows children to escape failing schools. There's a catch however, not all children have loving parents, and some of those parents won't do what's best for their children. These kids will be left behind and that's unfortunate.

What's more unfortunate, is that many of us would sacrifice a better educational system because it doesn't aspire to perfection. Because there are children, who we acknowledge will be left behind, the system is unacceptable. Is it rational to sacrifice a better educational system because it isn't perfect? Of course not, no system will ever be perfect and it's a sad reality that the current system fails too many.

When I talk to fellow liberty minded individuals, they often play into the same fallacy. While I advance school vouchers, their ideal is the federal governments complete retreat from education. To them, the federal government has no business involving itself in your child's education and any involvement is a violation of your liberty. You know what, they may be right, but being right is not all it's cracked up to be.

We don't live in an ideal state, we live in the present, imperfections and all. And in my mind the only judge of progress is whether tomorrow is closer to our ideal than today. Don't let rigid adherence to idealistic principles blind you to a better tomorrow.

Wednesday, April 7, 2010

Words Matter

We all know the New York Times is nuts, but what is most enlightening about this article are the words used to frame the issue. If you ever had a doubt about liberal bias and how the way something is described indicates that bias, this article is case and point (emphasis mine):
The Department of Labor has begun a long-overdue campaign to protect workers’ rights, a core part of its job that was sorely neglected in the fiercely antiregulatory Bush era...


The workers — many undocumented immigrants — told of employers who ignored the minimum wage, denied overtime, illegally docked their pay for the cost of tools or transportation, or forced them to work without pay before or after their shifts. More than a quarter had been paid less than the minimum wage, often by more than $1 an hour. Violations typically robbed workers of $51 a week, from an average paycheck of $339.

The new campaign rightly points out that all workers, including the undocumented, deserve to be paid for their labor. These are truths too often forgotten. If you work in this country, you are protected by its laws. And if unscrupulous employers can exploit the most vulnerable employees, no workers are safe....
Does it even need to be said that undocumented=illegal. Why it isn't said is because the New York Times supports illegal immigration and they are afraid that by describing these workers as what they are, this might actually put some people off.

And of course Bush (and conservatives in general) are "fiercely" against any sort of regulation. Didn't you know that eight year olds were working 70 hours a week in the evil reign of Bush? Thank g-d Obama changed all that and brought hope to undocumented toddlers everywhere.

But more striking is that without an once of irony, they cite the laws of this country while implicitly advocating the flouting of our laws. I don't believe in the exploitation of people either, but maybe these people wouldn't be exploited if they didn't live in the shadows because they were here illegally. Just a thought.

Oh, and those "unscrupulous" employers, the ones who provide legitimate work for these "undocumented" workers, the same work which entices people to break our laws, leave their loved ones, and risk everything for a better life, pure evil I tell you. But if you don't believe me, just do a little math and figure the outrageously low wage they are paying: $339/40hrs = $8.47/hr, and the minimum wage: $7.25/hr.

Tuesday, April 6, 2010

Who's against a little liberty

Why do liberals insist that the entire country, every single American, adopt their version of health care reform? It just seems odd that liberals would not, no could not, be satisfied with socialized medicine in Massachusetts, California, New York, or any other number of liberal bastions. Why can't there be one, ONE state without socialized medicine?

What about education? Why is the federal government involved in education at all? Is not each state capable of educating its citizens? And if the state fails at that task, then cannot the parents move to another state, one better for their children?

What about social security? Social security takes from one set of tax payers (the young) and gives to another (the old). Is a state not capable of this miraculous feat?

What about welfare? Again we take from one set of citizens (the "rich") and give to another (the poor). Are you telling me that only the Federal government can do this? Californians are too stupid?

There is no reason these things must be done at the federal level. The only reason is that if done at the state level, people just might choose not to participate, and that's the real sin. The real sin is giving up control over other people's lives.

I have heard from my liberal friends that if we do things at the state level, then people may be "stuck" and cannot afford to leave. Perhaps the local school is bad, we can't let people stay in that situation, we must impose federal standards and bring them up to par. This is a valid concern, but it weighs a hypothetical concern with a stark reality: you are forcing your views on unwilling people. That immediate immorality doesn't seem to stack up with their hypothetical immorality.

Here's my proposal. Let's move more functions to the state. Functions which in essence take money from one group and give to another don't require the federal Leviathan. And if there are people who wish to move but can't, then let's give them the money to move.

So I ask anyone, liberals included, why can't we adopt a proposal like this? All I'm asking for is just a little bit of liberty and moving costs.

Sunday, April 4, 2010

The law's intent

I was watching a C-span debate between Justice Scalia and Breyer about various aspects of the law. Breyer made a very interesting, and scary, point about how judges ought to handle ambiguity and impreciseness in laws. To illustrate, he talked about a case where the intention of a law is circumvented by strict adherence to the law. The intention may be that wages are fair, but because of impreciseness in the language, wages are unfair even though the law is followed to a T. In Breyer's opinion, when ruling in these types of situations, judges ought to take into account the intention, fair wages, and base their decision off of that. In essence, amending the law to "fill in the gaps". This is dangerous.

Think about this: you want to follow the law; you adhere to the law; but if you fail to anticipate what someone intended instead of what the law states, you could be breaking the law. This is a perversion of justice. It is not the responsibility of an individual to behave as one thinks he ought to behave. He must live by the rules of the game, and those rules are written down for everyone to see. Rules which no one knows, which are intentional, are not rules that can or should be enforced.

Breyers is trying to use the wrong tool for his purpose. Law by it's very definition is imprecise, lacking. It cannot account for all possibilities. It is not a means for codifying intentions and desires. You cannot write a law that states society will be fair and judges ought not whimsically attempt the practice of engineering a fair society. They should interpret the law.

Thursday, March 25, 2010

Or What!

Government is not reason; it is not eloquent; it is force. Like fire, it is a dangerous servant and a fearful master.
- George Washington
I can't help but be amazed at liberals. Their trademark is their concern for their fellow man, yet beneath every policy to aid their fellow man lurks a very real threat of violence against him.

How can this be? First, I don't think these people connect their ends with the means necessary to achieve them and they don't see what it is that they actually support. Politicians tell them that reality can be bent, that we can have our cake and eat it too. Politician is a synonym for liar. There is no free lunch, ever.

To get universal health care we are forcing people to purchase a product they do not want. And ask yourself what the consequence of disobedience is? This is what I wish my liberal friends would see. What happens when you don't purchase health care, and you don't pay the fine? Will the government throw up their hands and move on? No, they will send the police, and throw you in jail.

That is not trivial. Your refusal to acquiesce to someone else's desires, your peaceful resistance will be met with violence. And I cannot believe that the very same people so concerned with the planet and humanity at large, can be so indifferent to the fate of one individual.

Truthfully, I believe my liberal friends would be horrified at crimes committed against the individual. And in a way, the individual's lack of resistance has spared them the reality of their position. One day however, and that day may be nearer than we think, the individual will resist, and then the true ugliness of their position will be revealed. Let's hope that day never comes.

Sunday, March 21, 2010

Democracy, who needs it?

The fraud of modern day liberalism is their supposed deference to the will of the majority. TODAY, most Americans oppose the health care legislation about to be rammed down our throat. Does this make any difference to liberals in congress? Do they care that if elections were held today, we would throw the bums out?

Governance should not blindly follow the will of the majority. That's why the founders set up a Republic instead of a democracy. But whenever you have popular outrage over a piece of legislation, the gentlemanly thing to do would be to pause, take a breath, and do nothing. The beauty of conservatism is that it breeds cautiousness; it states that in the face of the unknown it's okay to be as we are today. Because today is pretty darn good. Liberalism is a doctrine of bold ambition for an ideal tomorrow. And it doesn't matter if the people want it or not, their going to get it. More than anything this health care debate has shown that liberalism only defers to democracy when democracy defers to it. So much for the will of the people...

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Education for the masses?

The recent hubbub over Texas modifying their education curriculum has exposed a more fundamental problem. Proponents see this change as returning education to a more balanced perspective, removing what they see (rightly) as liberal bias in education. Opponents see this as a regression, away from universal truth and a march towards intellectual decline.

But the problem has nothing to do with whether or not the Texas authorities bless the right curriculum. Invariably, any curriculum is open to criticism. Someone, somewhere, is bound to disagree with what is being taught. There is no universal educational truth.

In a free market consumers decide which services serve them best. Education is just another service, and it's function is to educate children, and because they are children their parents decide.

Conservatives should bemoan Texas for legitimizing an illegitimate concept: Some group of people know what's better for you than you do. They don't. Let parents decide what curriculum their children ought to learn by giving parents the wherewithall to consume the education of their choice.

Monday, March 15, 2010

It doesn't rain when you dance

When I was in the Air Force I participated in a team exercise. It was some game that a group of officers played and we had to work together to accomplish some made up task.

We did our first task and it went fairly well and we got the highest score. It turns out most everyone got the highest score on that one. Then we debriefed. We talked about what went well and what went poorly. The mood was sunny; brimming with our success we extolled our excellent communication, our teamwork, our plain old awesomeness. Of course I threw in a sour note (I am a sour person). I spoke up and plainly said that we were not so awesome. The reason the task went well, was because the task was easy. I was slaughtered for my comments and one person took particular offense.

Off we go and do the next task. This time things didn't go so well and we failed. During the debriefing, we were brimming with something other than success and this time the comments weren't so rosy. Our communication was off, our teamwork faltered, and we were just plain. Not awesome at all.

After we went back to our rooms, the very person who took offense at my earlier comment said in private, "you were right." A small, yet considerable gesture.

It's a common theme, when you win it's because of skill, when you lose it's because of bad luck. Politics is full of this. When the economy goes up, it's because of some brilliant politician, or economic theory. When it goes down, bad luck, out of your control. The reality is that the economy moves on it's own, and know one really knows what would have happened had the politicians done nothing. Politicians have the benefit of comparing themselves to hypotheticals. And their alternative reality is ALWAYS worse than reality.

So what can we go on? We can't go by results because it is impossible to compare today with a today that didn't happen. We need to go by logic. If it doesn't work for you on a personal level, it doesn't work for a whole bunch of people. No matter how smart the guy telling you that is. Spending more than what you have is a recipe for bankruptcy for the individual and the country. And imposing a cost on people who are productive incentivizes them to be less productive. That's common sense.

Thursday, March 11, 2010

The value of nothing

One big difference between conservatives and liberals is their view on the current state of affairs. Liberals look at how things are and are dismayed. They want to change things, in their words progress. To a new and better future they say. And action is their way of accomplishing it.

Conservatives see things as they are and think they are good enough. They, I, want inaction. I don't want to progress, I am happy with the way things are. The present is pretty damned good, let's keep it that way.

Liberals think the sky is falling, and if it isn't, many of them want it to. The poor are getting poorer, the earth's climate is heading for disaster, and life will end as we know it, or at least the banking system, if we don't DO SOMETHING. NOW! Unfortunately many of these liberals don't believe this, they want power and doing something means empowering them. The others, maybe they do believe the world is going to hell and a hand basket and immediate action is necessary. For them I offer a compromise, a third way if you will.

How about progress, but slowly and sustainable. Movement in the right direction but at a pace society can absorb, at a pace which can be stopped before we fall off the cliff. Keep government spending constant relative to the economy. As the economy grows, the ability for government to progress, take action will grow as well. This benefits everyone and if we work together, we'll get there.

Sunday, February 28, 2010

Follow the money

I can't understand some people's logic, or lack thereof. Here's a simple test to determine what country has the best healthcare, economic system, education system, etc: See where people choose to go and where they don't.

People come from all over the world to this country and yet I continually hear how we suck. Bullshit! Regardless of your political affiliation, how can you see refugees beating down the door to this country and not see the obvious statement being made: here is better than where they came from. That's not partisan, it's simple and right before your eyes. How can you look at countries which erect barriers to keep people from leaving and not state how much better we are?

NO ONE in America goes to other countries for medical care, and there are so many numerous examples of people with means coming here for medical care and yet there is this absurd argument that we aren't the best?

Thursday, February 25, 2010

Health Care as a Right

I am pleased to post an entry for a guest contributor - Michael Perrone. Enjoy!

If watching the health care summit taught me anything today, it is that the label "bleeding-heart liberals" still has relevance. Ted Kennedy called health care a right. No doubt many at the summit would agree with him. One congressman from California was aghast that people with pre-existing conditions might have higher premiums. A Senator proclaimed that having different people pay different rates based on their medical history is akin to racial discrimination; so called "discrimination based on health". Terrible sob stories were seemingly offered up as undeniable proof for whatever policies were advocated.

You see, to the bleeding-heart liberal, health care is a right! As undeniable as the right to vote, and as defensible as the right to free speech, every American, every human for that matter, deserves the best health care, regardless of cost, regardless of responsibility and without regards to who might be paying for it.

If we look at the bill of rights, we might notice an interesting pattern. Every right outlined therein restricts federal power. Every right mentioned protects Americans from things that only the government could realistically do to you. The pattern suggests that our rights as citizens aren't secured because of, or by our government, but in spite of it. Our rights are listed as the end of government power and not the beginning of its influence.

The only way that health care can be a right is through force. If you follow this line of thinking out you must force doctors to treat any patient for any ailment, no matter how trivial, even if they can't be paid, otherwise you violate a patients right. You'll also have to force insurance companies to cover anyone at any time or tell them to close their doors. In the end it is unsustainable and the government, through our taxes, will have to pay the bill. It would become the only "right" that extends and enlarges federal power rather than extending and enlarging our power against potential tyranny.

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Why government unions?

My last post got me thinking about unions. The basic reason for unionization is to increase the bargaining power of employees. The implicit assumption is that without this increased leverage, a single employee will be taken advantage of by an employer. Setting aside the merits of that argument, it ought to seem odd that government employees unionize at all. If government is our benefactor, then why do their employees need protection?

Monday, February 22, 2010

Leave it to the experts?

During my MBA I applied for Education Pioneers - a non-profit educational thingy - and we had a very interesting interview process. Six of us sat around and did a case study about a charter school where the issue was unionization. The applicants were all extremely talented individuals and also very liberal, yet every single group came to the conclusion that unionization was not the way to go. Why? Because despite being liberals, these folks were passionate about education and actually had principles. Unions, our case study in particular, added little value to the educational experience and had the unfortunate effect of detracting from it.

Unions have their place in society and I bear no ill will towards them. But the stark reality is that teacher unions are destroying our nation's youth and I do take offense to that. In this Wall Street Journal editorial, there are many examples of the ways teacher unions put themselves first at the expense of your children.
This means that large numbers of ineffective teachers wind up with ironclad job protection. When low-performing teachers can't be fired, it's the students who suffer. A New Teacher Project study last year looked at tenure evaluations in multiple states and found that "less than 1% of teachers receive unsatisfactory ratings, even in schools where students fail to meet basic academic standards, year after year." Less than 2% of teachers are denied tenure in LA, where the high school dropout rate is 35% and growing.

Friday, February 19, 2010

Basic Economics - Value

Beauty is in the eye of the beholder. This phrase meant to mitigate ugliness is the most fundamental economic truth. All value judgments are intrinsic. There is no such thing as absolute value. No set standard of what something is worth to all people at all times. Each one of us determines how much everything is worth to us at a given time. How do we do it? No one really knows, it's what makes us human, unique. What differentiates us from each other. Some people determine value in a painstakingly complex process, others decide on a whim. It's not exact, nor scientific, and never absolute.

Today, when you are well fed and fat, food is worth less than a Porsche. Tomorrow when you are starving and dangerously thin, you'd give 10 Porsches for a single morsel of food. When you were ten, a GI Joe action figure is what you wanted, valued, more than anything in the world; today you wouldn't pay 10 cents for it. You spend your money on a trip to Paris, I would never spend money on the same trip. Clearly we value the same trip differently, so can one say what the value of a trip to Paris is? Look around and you will see hundreds of different cars that all cost the same. Why so many? Why does not everyone pick the same car, the most valuable one? Maybe to each, the one he has is the most valuable to him?

Think about every single thing you own, can you come to any conclusion to what the value is? I mean a specific price at that point in time? You can't. What you can probably do is give an estimation, this item is worth more to you than that item, and perhaps you can arrange them in order. Perhaps your neighbor can do the same, I bet his order differs from yours.

While all this may seem obvious, it is very important because many economic fallacies are predicated on the belief that someone else can determine what is most valuable. The reality is that there is only one person who can determine what is most valuable to you: you. And your determination is inexact at best. If we equate happiness with obtaining or doing that which is most valuable, then getting a trip to Paris that you don't want is completely worthless.

Thursday, February 18, 2010

Constitution, what constitution?

Letters to the Editor are never random. Unless the letter is exceptionally insightful and good, most of them are merely reflections on the points the editors want to make in the first place. What they select to print is what they believe. So here is a startling letter (why am I surprised) in the New York Times:
To the Editor:

You write that Tea Party leaders want “strict adherence to the Constitution.” But since the Tea Party members distrust government, do they really understand and approve of what the Constitution actually states: Congress shall have power to provide for the “general welfare of the United States”? And further, “to make all laws which shall be necessary and proper for carrying into execution the foregoing powers” (Article 1, Section 8)?

The Tea Party seems confused — lauding the Constitution, which gives broad power to Congress, on the one hand, and fearing a properly activist government as a threat on the other hand.

The Tea Party leaders and followers may wish to emphasize personal freedom, but they have the “socialism” (government providing for its people) of the Constitution to contend with.

Robbins Winslow
Naples, Fla., Feb. 16, 2010
The architect of our constitution, James Madision, was kind enough to elaborate on just this topic:
With respect to the words "general welfare," I have always regarded them as qualified by the detail of powers connected with them. To take them in a literal and unlimited sense would be a metamorphosis of the Constitution into a character which there is a host of proofs was not contemplated by its creators
The New York Times editors are not stupid. They know that the author's claims are incorrect and they deliberately are trying to influence an interpretation of the constitution which goes against its plain meaning.

And lest you think that this is isolated. Gail Collins, in her editorial, derides those foolish people who actually believe in the tenth amendment:
The 10th Amendment to the Constitution, which gives the states all powers not delegated to the federal government, is all the rage. (The Second Amendment is so 2008.) Its passionate fans, who are inevitably starting to be referred to as “tenthers,” interpret the amendment as pretty much restricting the federal government to military matters. They feel the health care reform bill is unconstitutional. Perhaps also Social Security.
Actually, Ms. Collins, the health care reform bill and social security ARE unconstitutional. But let's not let the law get in the way of raw power.

Sadly, neither Ms. Collins nor the New York Times has any sense of irony or shame, or they might take the time to read some history and discover some interesting information about the tenth amendment and the rest of the Bill of Rights. It seems some folks way back when really did have some reservations. Alexander Hamilton writing in Federalist 84:
I go further, and affirm that bills of rights, in the sense and in the extent in which they are contended for, are not only unnecessary in the proposed constitution, but would even be dangerous. They would contain various exceptions to powers which are not granted; and on this very account, would afford a colorable pretext to claim more than were granted. For why declare that things shall not be done which there is no power to do? Why for instance, should it be said, that the liberty of the press shall not be restrained, when no power is given by which restrictions may be imposed? I will not contend that such a provision would confer a regulating power; but it is evident that it would furnish, to men disposed to usurp, a plausible pretense for claiming that power.
Ms. Collins and the New York Times are not very original and their criticisms were predicted over two hundred years ago by men who knew better. Either the New York Times is stupid or dangerous. I vote for the latter.

Do tax cuts starve the beast?

I was listening to Jason Lewis (a nationally syndicated conservative radio host) and he mentioned that if our deficit were used to fund tax cuts he would be OK with that. So it got me thinking, are tax cuts stimulative? Are they any better at stimulating the economy than spending?

The economy is an evolutionary economic machine. It grows naturally because brilliantly ordinary men and women are constantly finding ways to do more with less. Efficiency allows labor to find new work, to create new products and services, and to make us (presumably) happier. The free market facilitates this process through private enterprise and government, i.e. the anti-free market, hinders it. So for our economy to grow, i.e. the pie to get bigger, we need to embrace private enterprise at the expense of government. Otherwise, government gets larger while the pie gets smaller.

This leads to the relevant issue. The only thing that matters in terms of stimulating the economy (growing it) is what percentage of the pie is public versus private. Too much public crowds out the private, and the rate of growth slows down. Government spending is really the only relevant issue. Spending, regardless of how it is financed, determines what percentage of the economic pie the public sector is.

Government borrowing increases spending; it increases the share of government and this retards overall economic growth. What about tax cuts, do they stimulate? The reality is that tax cuts affect the financing side of the balance sheet, and we know from Modigliani and Miller that financing does not affect the real value of the economy. Therefore tax cuts are not stimulative and any correlation must be attributed to some other reason. My personal theory is that tax cuts shine a light on government spending. And even though this may not starve the beast as intended, it at least causes us to look at what we are feeding him.

Thursday, February 11, 2010

The origin of government

Anarchy, according to Merriam Webster, is "a utopian society of individuals who enjoy complete freedom without government." My libertarian friends, who rightly call for a reduction of the federal leviathan, go to far when they advocate it's death.

Liberty unconstrained is no liberty at all. Why? Because if everyone does whatever they want, then only one rule applies. The law of the jungle. Those who can, will rape and pillage, and no individual can stop them.

The solution is to form pacts with your fellow man in order to protect each other from the aggression of others. By doing this, you voluntarily trade liberty for security. And you do this freely, because like any transaction in a free market, you value what you get more than what you give.

These associations of mutual protection, known as government, are the free market's solution to the problem of human nature. Real liberty lies somewhere in the middle of no government and too much.

Tuesday, February 9, 2010


One of the biggest fallacies of economics is that war is good for an economy. The oft cited example is that of World War II and how it lifted this country from the Great Depression. Well, you can't have it both ways as this New York Times reader suggests:
To the Editor:

A big reason for the huge deficit is the $1 trillion we have spent on the Iraq and Afghanistan wars. Stopping the wars now would take a large bite out of our deficit. Our children and grandchildren would be grateful.

Jordan Langner
Delmar, N.Y., Feb. 8, 2010
Either spending reduces the output gap or it doesn't. If World War II lifted this country from a depression, surely the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq ought to be doing wonders for a little old recession? Obviously there's a flaw somewhere, draw your own conclusions.

Monday, February 8, 2010

Making a deal with the devil

Folks, the only way to stop liberalism is to expose it and make it irrelevant. The two go hand in hand. At it's heart, liberalism is about controlling people's lives, it's a bunch of wannabe Napoleons who think they can run your life better than you. Sure, they mask their true ambitions with platitudes about helping the poor and the down trodden. But make no mistake, their ambition is unadulterated power.

My aim is to expose this ambition, to make them come out and say that you are incapable of running your own life. This means taking away their cover; I won't allow them to hide behind claims of wanting to "help" the poor because I'll help the poor in a direct and transparent way. And when they protest, and they will protest, their ambitions will be exposed. It's one thing to protest the free market, it's another to protest giving poor people the help they need (although they are wildly successful in the case of school vouchers).

My fellow libertarians and conservatives, I ask you to open the government's coffers and give poor people money directly with no conditions. Give them enough money so wealth is no longer an issue. And when liberals oppose this, ask them why. They will have no response.

Sunday, February 7, 2010

Everyone should live within their means

Outstanding letter in the Wall Street Journal in response to, "The Obama Fisc" Review & Outlook, Jan. 27:
You had me all hooked up with your bleak analysis of the careless spending and deficit buildup of the last year, until I came to the following sentence: "If this borrowing were financing defense investments or tax rate reductions to spur the U.S. economy, we wouldn't be worried." My fiscal discipline enthusiasm immediately melted away. I was reminded of an even bleaker analysis offered by a friend: "The bottom line is both liberals and conservatives are going to spend and spend until the country is ruined. The only difference is what the pet cause they are spending on is."

We are never going to get anywhere on deficit reduction as long as one side's "defense investments" are the other side's "shining war toys," and the other side's "investment in health and education" are the first side's "wealth transfers." Where can I find a politician, party or even a newspaper editorial that will unequivocally state that we have to live within our means, period, full stop, no ifs, ands or buts?

Michail Tsatsanis
San Diego

Saturday, February 6, 2010

Your kids or mine?

Fascinating discussion between my liberal friend and me:
Liberal Friend: NCLB is on the clock. Anyone have any thoughts? I used to be in the "scrap it and let it die" bunch, but I have softened recently as I agree with the NYT ed board here that it has focused the nation on student achievement like never before.

Editorial - Making ‘No Child’ Better - NYTimes.com

Adam Freund: My thought is to return educatio back to the local level of course. Let it die and replace any federal funding with block grants to the states based on their populations with no strings attached. Better yet, give vouchers to the parents so they can choose where to send their kids to school.

Liberal Friend: If control is entirely local, does that include control over curriculum?

Adam Freund: yes, but if you are worried that there aren't any standards, I suggest letting each state outline their own standard. And I admit that it is possible that some states will not be as good as others, but that is a fair compromise, in my opinion, for allowing for expermentation. And in the end I believe that outcome will be superior to that of complete centralized control by the federal government.

Liberal Friend: Any reaction to this?

Adam Freund: I don't think it is a big deal. First, let me explain my experience in the public school system (your miles may vary).

I learned very little of what I would call useful information. History was sparse, economics was non-existent and overall it was what I would consider a poor education. Mind you I was in the "smart" classes too. I can only imagine what drivel the other students were learning.

Second, what I think you are failing to see is that there is only so much time children spend in school and whatever they learn means they can't learn something else. That whole oppoturnity cost thing again. I assume that you think this is a great tragedy, meaning, if you were in charge of prioritizing the curriculum, you would do it differently. That's your perogative. But I don't believe it is your perogative to impose this on others.

The citizens of North Carolina can decide what curriculum they value most and I have confidence that they will develop a good one. And if they don't, there will be less citiziens of North Carolina. That's a tradeoff I am willing to live with for the overall improvement of all our schools.

As an aside, if I were educating my yet to be concieved kid, I would eschew history altogether in favor of math and reading. Those skills are far more important to me. And if the kid is interested in history, go to the library. But you are free to teach your little Liberals whatever you want.

Liberal Friend: I think we have a fundamental difference in how we approach this problem, although we both approach it from an individual rights approach. You think it is up to an individual (or moreover a parent) to determine what her child should be learning. I do not. I think it my right not to die from cancer that should drive education.

I know the odds are good that I will get cancer one day. I have accepted this. That said, I want to make sure every single child in America and beyond our borders gets the education she needs to be the child who has the cure for cancer. I don't give a damn what her parents think or where they are.

I know this sounds incredibly selfish, but this is who I am. I want cancer cured by the time I get it. And if the child who has the cure for cancer happens to be in a Texas town that doesn't believe in biology, I don't care what her parents believe.

Adam Freund: We do have a fundamental difference, but hopefully we are working on bridging that difference. A few points to consider:

First from a purely pragmatically selfishly perspective, you are not taking into account whether or not your desired system of education is more or less likely to produce the child who has a cure for cancer. You have already implicitly assumed that your system is more likely. I submit that is not the case.

Second, you are advocating a principle which when broadly applied can be detrimental to you. You say you have a right not to die from cancer. Where did that right come from? But more importantly, your supposed right places an obligation on the child who is to cure your cancer. Should that child be able to learn what they want, to do what they want. It appears you have already placed a claim on his/her life. their life is not for them to live, but to serve you. To grow up and learn medicine whether they want to or not because you want them to cure your cancer. Forget about the child's parent not wanting this, what if the child doesn't want this? Will you force them to cure your cancer? What if that child were you?...

You are perverting the term, individual rights. Rights do not impose an obligation on another human being. If that were the case, then the other human being doesn't have any rights. And one day it could be your life that is obligated to someone else's "rights".

Liberal Friend:I am simply offering a new paradigm for how we look at education, using myself as an example. We must educate as many people as we can, within our borders and outside, so we can cure cancer, AIDS, figure out how to deal with excess plastic, solve climate change, etc. This should be our focus. And anything that diverts us is not worthwhile. Just as we educated an entire generation to battle the USSR and Sputnik, we must do it again.

And I do trust curriculum experts over parents and locally elected officials because they're experts. That's what they do. I will not allow a misguided local PTA to stop us from edcuating as many children as we can to solve our problems.

Friday, February 5, 2010

All or nothing?

Great letter in today's Wall Street Journal:
Mr. Obama rudely criticized the Supreme Court for broadening First Amendment rights to corporations, which he said would lead to First Amendment rights for foreign corporations. Let me get this straight—it is all right to grant Fourth, Fifth, Sixth and Eighth Amendment rights to foreign terrorists who want to destroy the U.S., but granting First Amendment rights to foreign corporations, many of which have businesses in the U.S. and hire American workers, is wrong.

Roger L. Rice
Leesburg, Fla.

Thursday, February 4, 2010

Perfection is the enemy of the good

A friend of mine was telling me about Thomas Sowell's book, "A Conflict of Visions" and we were discussing some of the differences between liberals and conservatives. One stark contrast is that liberals believe in an idealized version of the world while conservatives do not.

I encountered a recent example of this while discussing the Haitian earthquake with another friend (who happens to be liberal). The topic of discussion centered on the U.S. stopping flights from Haiti. Here was my friend's reaction:
Does the fact that there are costs at all to treat critically injured people strike anyone else as morally wrong?

In Cost Dispute, U.S. Halts Airlift of Haiti Quake Victims
The difference between my friend and I is that I accept the fact that there are costs, i.e. limitations on the help people can or are willing to provide. Whether you like it or not, doctors, nurses, hospitals, etc., will only help so much out of the goodness of their heart and when their altruism runs out, other motivation is necessary.

But what my friend really hates (whether he realizes it or not) is that people are not as altruistic as he would like them to be. And while he would claim that he wants to change the world, in actuality he wants to change the people who inhabit it.
...But some things, like care for critically injured people, should not fall under the rubric of financial costs because they should simply be accepted and done irrespectively. Therefore, their financial cost should not be a factor.
What my friend is expressing is a value judgement. What's missing from his assessment is WHO should not consider the financial cost? Should the person being asked to pay for or perform the service have no say in whether they must help Haitians? My friend sees pain and admirably wants to stop it, but his idealized version of the world, where everyone thinks and acts as he would like them to act, does not exist. Only in his mind does this world exist.

This explains why my friend and I have very divergent views over the Haitian situation. I see the massive amounts of aid our country has given in the wake of this tragedy and I am proud of all the good we have accomplished. He sees the same thing and laments that we haven't done enough. To him, there should be no suffering; people should do what needs to be done irrespective of the costs; reality should live up to his ideal.

My friend worries me and I wonder: what would he be willing to do, in order to force his ideal vision onto an unwilling reality?

Wednesday, February 3, 2010

Ok, now that's retarded

Knowing many mentally retarded people, it's a shame that normal people act like retards far too often. Case and point:
In a statement Tuesday night, the Special Olympics organization said that several of its officials would meet with Mr. Emanuel at the White House on Wednesday afternoon.

The statement said the group would discuss “the suffering and pain of people with intellectual disabilities that is perpetuated by the use of the terms ‘retard’ and ‘retarded’ as well as the damage that can be done by the casual use of the R-word – even if it is not directed toward people with intellectual disabilities.”
The R-word! Are you kidding me? If anything could aptly be described as retarded, that's it.

Here's the problem I have with this, people are taking offense when they aren't even being spoken too. Rahm was speaking in a semi-private setting, and only when it was leaked that he used the dreaded R-word, some R-word got offended. All of us have sensitivities which could be aroused by the casual use of off color remarks. But to take offense because it was reported that someone said something offensive is ludicrous. At some point, it's no one's g-d damned business what someone else says. That's hyper-sensitivity gone too far.

It starts with principles

Very good letter in the Wall Street Journal:
"A Small GOP" (op-ed, Jan. 26) is correct that James Bopp and others are wrong to have a litmus test that includes "10 conservative principles." The problem is that most of the items on his list are not principles. A troop surge is not a principle, and neither is cap and trade, nor most of the others. These are policy differences. The kind of government a political party stands for is a principle.

If you stand for the principle that a large central government is a tool that will solve your problems, such as health care, poverty, racism, etc., and that will result in an egalitarian society, then you are a liberal. If you stand for the principle of a limited central government that will result in lower taxes, individual responsibility and a meritocratic society, then you are a conservative. Policy issues like abortion, gay rights and the environment have nothing to do with these principles.

It seems to me that it is proper to have a litmus test for the Republican Party, but it should be narrowed to the one conservative principle, and by focusing on this one principle, the Republican Party will allow a "big tent" of broad diverse policy differences.

Robert S. Sargent, Jr.
Brevard, N.C.

Tuesday, February 2, 2010

Everything goes down with the ship

In today's Wall Street Journal, one letter to the editor commenting on Rep. Paul Ryan's (R., Wis.) roadmap for the GOP, mentioned a common fallacy concerning the privatization of Social Security:
...His plan to privatize part of Social Security is old news, having been put forward by President George W. Bush. Thank goodness that road was not traveled, given the current deep recession and the sharp losses in personal retirement funds.
What the reader doesn't realize is that the government too has lost a ton of money. Yes, retirement funds have gone down due to our current economic recession. But what or who does he believe pays for social security? The Tooth Fairy? No, the same recession which has caused stock market declines has also caused declines in government revenue. And guess what that means? If you said, government doesn't have money to fulfill it's Social Security obligations, go to the head of the class. In effect, that "lock box" which supposedly contains your social security just got a whole lot smaller. Just like your 401k.

Monday, February 1, 2010

Recovery begins with certainty

Best analysis I have ever heard of the underlying cause of a recession:
A recession is not so much a stoppage of demand or supply as it is a rescheduling of big-ticket items.

The popular idea that the economy is driven by "stimulus" spending—as if politicians could capture and bring in resources from outside the economic system—is mistaken. Economies grow as the result of capital being put to work. Capital is plentiful. But it retreats in times of turbulence and uncertainty, coming back to work when uncertainty abates.
This is unbelievably spot on. A bubble is created by a misalignment of production with demand. The misalignment is inevitable in any system where production is based on predictions of an uncertain future. In essence, goods are produced today based on what we think people want. When the future doesn't turn out as planned (which it won't), we need to change what we produce. This constant churning of production to meet changing demand is called creative destruction and it is a very healthy thing for our economy.

The problem is that for the necessary readjustment to occur, for the economy to meet the new demand, what is currently produced must be changed to produce something else. This does not happen simultaneously, it takes time. People must be fired and re-hired, plants must be shut down and re-opened, and resources which were used to produce typewriters must now be used to produce laptops. This means that in order to expand, the economy must first contract.

But what really screws things up is not the necessary contraction, but the uncertainty associated with it. Uncertainty multiplies the contraction by idling resources which could be put to use. In effect, uncertainty causes people to wait and see. This situation, when resources which could be employed are idled, is known as the "output gap".

Obliviously we would like to eliminate this "output gap" (i.e. put idle resources to use). The idea behind government interventions such as spending or tax cuts, is that they will somehow "stimulate" these idle resources into production. The problem is that these measures treat the effect rather than the cause. The cause is uncertainty, and arbitrary government policies do nothing to reduce it, they make it worse.

Sunday, January 31, 2010

The role of prices

Debating politics is fun but frustrating. So I think I'll entertain myself and talk about prices and the important role they play in any economy.

The proper role of prices is to convey information about the state of affairs in the real world so individuals can take meaningful action.

Every one of us makes decisions based on the best information we have. And making good decisions is very difficult even with good information. But given bad information, it's impossible to make good decisions. Therefore, better information allows us to make better decisions. Prices are one mechanism for getting us that information.

When prices reflect reality, say when the price matches supply with demand, things work fairly well. All who want something are able to get it. But when prices don't reflect supply and demand, problems ensue.

Imagine a hotel which sells rooms for $100/night. Normally there are only so many people who want hotel rooms and everyone who wants one can buy one. Now say that there is a convention in town and demand for hotel rooms shoots up. The price will also rise. This is very useful because by means of the price, we are told that something fundamental has changed. You don't even have to know why the price has risen, only that it has in order to make a better decision. Given a higher price you may decide to postpone your trip or go somewhere else. Clearly, the new information would in some way modify your decision.

But let's assume the price was not allowed to rise because that would not be "fair". In this case, there is no ready information telling you that a convention is in town. You have no idea that the situation has changed. As a result your decision on whether to go or not is based on a false information and your trip is a bust.

The better prices reflect reality, the better decisions individuals can make. Many people don't like prices because they discriminate between those with money and those without. That's true, but any system must discriminate between people. There are limited resources and unlimited wants and rationing (it's not a four letter word, but a reality of life) is the only mechanism we have to deal with the situation. Prices allow individuals to self ration, to decide what it is they value most and devote their resources accordingly. There are other types of rationing that involve someone else deciding what you want most. That's the four letter word variety.

As a society we can make a choice that some basic goods should be available to all. The way to do that is to give people the necessary resources to purchase those goods, not to manipulate the pricing system which literally informs us of the world.