Tuesday, June 30, 2009
You Big Dummy! You bucket-headed congressmen, how can you sign a 1200 page bill like the Crap and trade agreement without reading it? This is a regressive tax that will cost the American people billions and billions of dollars. I ought to make you a Sanford Sandwich...10 knuckles and yo' ugly face to go!
Monday, June 29, 2009
The 5th Commandment of Obama - thou shalt not deny a theory that allows for greater power to the Federal Government.
The Climate Change Climate Change
The number of skeptics is swelling everywhere.
By KIMBERLEY A. STRASSEL
Steve Fielding recently asked the Obama administration to reassure him on the science of man-made global warming. When the administration proved unhelpful, Mr. Fielding decided to vote against climate-change legislation.
If you haven't heard of this politician, it's because he's a member of the Australian Senate. As the U.S. House of Representatives prepares to pass a climate-change bill, the Australian Parliament is preparing to kill its own country's carbon-emissions scheme. Why? A growing number of Australian politicians, scientists and citizens once again doubt the science of human-caused global warming.
Among the many reasons President Barack Obama and the Democratic majority are so intent on quickly jamming a cap-and-trade system through Congress is because the global warming tide is again shifting. It turns out Al Gore and the United Nations (with an assist from the media), did a little too vociferous a job smearing anyone who disagreed with them as "deniers." The backlash has brought the scientific debate roaring back to life in Australia, Europe, Japan and even, if less reported, the U.S.
In April, the Polish Academy of Sciences published a document challenging man-made global warming. In the Czech Republic, where President Vaclav Klaus remains a leading skeptic, today only 11% of the population believes humans play a role. In France, President Nicolas Sarkozy wants to tap Claude Allegre to lead the country's new ministry of industry and innovation. Twenty years ago Mr. Allegre was among the first to trill about man-made global warming, but the geochemist has since recanted. New Zealand last year elected a new government, which immediately suspended the country's weeks-old cap-and-trade program.
The number of skeptics, far from shrinking, is swelling. Oklahoma Sen. Jim Inhofe now counts more than 700 scientists who disagree with the U.N. -- 13 times the number who authored the U.N.'s 2007 climate summary for policymakers. Joanne Simpson, the world's first woman to receive a Ph.D. in meteorology, expressed relief upon her retirement last year that she was finally free to speak "frankly" of her nonbelief. Dr. Kiminori Itoh, a Japanese environmental physical chemist who contributed to a U.N. climate report, dubs man-made warming "the worst scientific scandal in history." Norway's Ivar Giaever, Nobel Prize winner for physics, decries it as the "new religion." A group of 54 noted physicists, led by Princeton's Will Happer, is demanding the American Physical Society revise its position that the science is settled. (Both Nature and Science magazines have refused to run the physicists' open letter.)
The collapse of the "consensus" has been driven by reality. The inconvenient truth is that the earth's temperatures have flat-lined since 2001, despite growing concentrations of C02. Peer-reviewed research has debunked doomsday scenarios about the polar ice caps, hurricanes, malaria, extinctions, rising oceans. A global financial crisis has politicians taking a harder look at the science that would require them to hamstring their economies to rein in carbon.
Credit for Australia's own era of renewed enlightenment goes to Dr. Ian Plimer, a well-known Australian geologist. Earlier this year he published "Heaven and Earth," a damning critique of the "evidence" underpinning man-made global warming. The book is already in its fifth printing. So compelling is it that Paul Sheehan, a noted Australian columnist -- and ardent global warming believer -- in April humbly pronounced it "an evidence-based attack on conformity and orthodoxy, including my own, and a reminder to respect informed dissent and beware of ideology subverting evidence." Australian polls have shown a sharp uptick in public skepticism; the press is back to questioning scientific dogma; blogs are having a field day.
The rise in skepticism also came as Prime Minister Kevin Rudd, elected like Mr. Obama on promises to combat global warming, was attempting his own emissions-reduction scheme. His administration was forced to delay the implementation of the program until at least 2011, just to get the legislation through Australia's House. The Senate was not so easily swayed.
Mr. Fielding, a crucial vote on the bill, was so alarmed by the renewed science debate that he made a fact-finding trip to the U.S., attending the Heartland Institute's annual conference for climate skeptics. He also visited with Joseph Aldy, Mr. Obama's special assistant on energy and the environment, where he challenged the Obama team to address his doubts. They apparently didn't.
This week Mr. Fielding issued a statement: He would not be voting for the bill. He would not risk job losses on "unconvincing green science." The bill is set to founder as the Australian parliament breaks for the winter.
Republicans in the U.S. have, in recent years, turned ever more to the cost arguments against climate legislation. That's made sense in light of the economic crisis. If Speaker Nancy Pelosi fails to push through her bill, it will be because rural and Blue Dog Democrats fret about the economic ramifications. Yet if the rest of the world is any indication, now might be the time for U.S. politicians to re-engage on the science. One thing for sure: They won't be alone.
Sunday, June 28, 2009
Pictured above, Senatory (D - IL) Dick Durbin.
EDITORIAL: Durbin's insider trading - The latest example of congressional hypocrisy.
Sen. Richard J. Durbin, Illinois Democrat and assistant majority leader, looked like such a great investor. On Sept. 19, he sold off $42,696 in mutual-fund shares, and quickly sold off another $73,000 during the rest of September. The stock market collapsed after that. Within two weeks, by Oct. 3, the Dow Jones Industrial Average had fallen by 9 percent. A month later, by Oct. 17, it had plummeted over 22 percent. On Tuesday this week, the average is still down about 25 percent from Sept. 19.
Mr. Durbin ever leaves his day job as a Democratic politician, he should have a plum position waiting for him as a market timer. On second thought, maybe not. It turns out that on Sept. 18, Mr. Durbin participated in a closed-door meeting with then-Treasury Secretary Henry M. Paulson Jr. and Federal Reserve Chairman Ben S. Bernanke. The Fed chairman and Treasury secretary briefed Mr. Durbin and other congressional leaders on the financial crisis and efforts to help financially troubled banks.
Mr. Durbin's great sell-off started the day after this privileged briefing.
Mr. Durbin's temptation to profit on inside information is a base human instinct that reminds why insider trading is wrong. There were Americans - possibly even some of Mr. Durbin's constituents - who bought the shares that he was peddling. Mr. Durbin sold them shares he knew - but they had no reason to suspect - were going to fall in price because of the unique information he received as a public official.
This senator's hypocrisy is particularly ripe because Mr. Durbin has been at the forefront of denouncing the greed of Wall Street bankers. In 2002, he condemned the lack of criminal penalties for corporate executives accused of insider trading: "I think it is odd that a shoplifting actress in Hollywood [Winona Ryder] is facing more time in jail than any officer in Enron."
Just two weeks ago, Mr. Durbin chaired a Senate hearing on financial-market oversight declaring in full moral outrage: "After high-profile cases of fraud, questionable reporting and unprecedented price volatility, investors need assurances that we are going to have strong and capable 'cops on the beat' when it comes to our financial markets."
Note to Mr. Durbin: Investors need assurances that their public servants are serving the public - not duping the public for personal gain.
Like all of Obama's policies, the end result of the Cap-and-Trade will be greater power of the government to usurp the wealth and control the economic life of the United States.
Cap and Trade Was Never About Climate
The Wall Street Journal’s Kimberley Strassel reports today that the businesses in the U.S. Climate Action Partnership are beginning to realize that the cap and trade was never about global warming:
“People are learning,” says William Kovacs, vice president of environment, technology and regulatory affairs at the U.S. Chamber of Commerce (which has been cautious about embracing a climate plan). “The Obama budget did more to help us consolidate and coalesce the business community than anything we could have done. It’s opened eyes to the fact that this is about a social welfare transfer system, not about climate.”
Nothing makes this more clear than President Barack Obama’s budget. Obama’s budget promises to raise $650 billion in revenues by selling carbon permits (which are the exact same thing as an energy tax). Only $150 billion of that pot of money will go to alternative energy production. The rest goes to pay for income redistribution in the form of income tax “cuts” for people that don’t pay income taxes.
But that is just the beginning. That $650 billion total low-balls the amount that a cap and trade system could raise if 100% of credits were auctioned off at the levels of carbon reduction that Obama wants. The Center for Data Analysis at The Heritage Foundation analyzed the economic impact of the less aggressive Lieberman-Warner cap-and-trade. We found that total value of the allowances (the government auctioned permits whose cost is passed along to energy consumers) would be at least $1,622,848,000,000 for the years 2012 to 2019.
In other words, if 100% of the permits were auctioned off, the left would have almost another trillion dollars to spend on new social programs. Or as Obama’s budget euphemistically puts it, the money be used “to further compensate the public.”
Saturday, June 27, 2009
Friday, June 26, 2009
Wednesday, June 24, 2009
In response to North Korea's threats of a missile attack, Obama vowed a decisive response. According to Mr. Obama:
"We have gathered our best speech writers with the aim of delivering a tough, well worded diatribe against North Korea. In order to avoid reckless unilateralism, we will consult with our European allies about the content and tone of this speech. Wise foreign policy always offers a carrot along with a stick, so we will be sure to include an apology for good measure."
NKorea threatens US; world anticipates missile
By HYUNG-JIN KIM, Associated Press Writer Hyung-jin Kim, Associated Press Writer – Wed Jun 24, 8:51 am ET
SEOUL, South Korea – North Korea threatened Wednesday to wipe the United States off the map as Washington and its allies watched for signs the regime will launch a series of missiles in the coming days.
Off China's coast, a U.S. destroyer was tailing a North Korean ship suspected of transporting illicit weapons to Myanmar in what could be the first test of U.N. sanctions passed to punish the nation for an underground nuclear test last month.
The Kang Nam left the North Korean port of Nampo a week ago with the USS John S. McCain close behind. The ship, accused of transporting banned goods in the past, is believed bound for Myanmar, according to South Korean and U.S. officials.
The new U.N. Security Council resolution requires member states to seek permission to inspect suspicious cargo. North Korea has said it would consider interception a declaration of war and on Wednesday accused the U.S. of seeking to provoke another Korean War.
"If the U.S. imperialists start another war, the army and people of Korea will ... wipe out the aggressors on the globe once and for all," the official Korean Central News Agency said.
The warning came on the eve of the 59th anniversary of the start of the three-year Korean War, which ended in a truce in 1953, not a peace treaty, leaving the peninsula in state of war.
The U.S. has 28,500 troops in South Korea to protect against an outbreak of hostilities.
Tensions have been high since North Korea launched a long-range rocket in April and then conducted its second underground atomic test on May 25.
Reacting to U.N. condemnation of that test, North Korea walked away from nuclear disarmament talks and warned it would fire a long-range missile.
North Korea has banned ships from the waters off its east coast starting Thursday through July 10 for military exercises, Japan's Coast Guard said.
South Korea's Yonhap news agency reported Wednesday that the North may fire a Scud missile with a range of up to 310 miles (500 kilometers) or a short-range ground-to-ship missile with a range of 100 miles (160 kilometers) during the no-sail period.
A senior South Korean government official said the no-sail ban is believed connected to North Korean plans to fire short- or mid-range missiles. He spoke on condition of anonymity, citing department policy.
U.S. defense and counterproliferation officials in Washington said they also expected the North to launch short- to medium-range missiles. The officials spoke on condition of anonymity to discuss sensitive intelligence.
South Korea will expedite the introduction of high-tech unmanned aerial surveillance systems and "bunker-buster" bombs in response to North Korea's provocations, the Chosun Ilbo newspaper said, citing unidentified ruling party members.
Meanwhile, a flurry of diplomatic efforts were under way to try getting North Korea to return to disarmament talks.
Russia's top nuclear envoy, Alexei Borodavkin, said after meeting with his South Korean counterpart that Moscow is open to other formats for discussion since Pyongyang has pulled out of formal six-nation negotiations.
In Beijing, top U.S. and Chinese defense officials also discussed North Korea. U.S. Defense Undersecretary Michele Flournoy was heading next to Tokyo and Seoul for talks.
South Korea has proposed high-level "consultations" to discuss North Korea with the U.S., Russia, China and Japan.
Obama is pushing to grant sweeping authority to the Federal Reserve to regulate, restructure and even seize companies. While legitimate arguments can be made about the need for greater oversight of the financial system, the left and right alike should be deeply troubled about any proposals that greatly expands the power of the Fed.
To begin with, the Fed is not a disinterested party, it is a semi-private company whose stock is owned by member banks. So, there is a clear risk that the regulatory and confiscatory actions of these banks would be driven by self interest, not by public interest. This is an especial troubling prospect because it can be said that these very banks and the Fed itself played a major role in the unfolding of our current economic debacle. And at the very least this represents even greater collusion between the federal government and connected corporate interests - something that should be especially troubling to the left.
A frequent criticism of the Fed is that it lacks openness and transparency, so much so that bi-partisan efforts have emerged to audit the Fed and grant the government greater oversight over its actions. So, at the risk of engaging in hyperbole, Obama is asking a wolf to guard the sheep.
Not Everyone Is Cheering Fed's New Role
JUNE 18, 2009
By SUDEEP REDDY
WASHINGTON -- The Federal Reserve would become the nation's most powerful financial overseer, an approach that is becoming a flashpoint as lawmakers and consumer groups attack the central bank for its role in creating and handling the financial crisis.
The proposal, if passed into law, would represent one of the biggest changes ever in the Fed's role. The central bank would win power to monitor risks across the financial system, and sweeping authority to examine any firm that could threaten financial stability, even if the Fed wouldn't normally supervise the institution. The nation's biggest and most interconnected firms would be subject to heightened oversight by the central bank.
President Obama said the plan would ensure "that lines of responsibility and accountability are clear" by placing authority in the Fed's hands.
Critics who wonder about the wisdom of the move say the Fed failed to use its authority to address loose lending practices and the housing bubble that pushed the U.S. into a recession. The Fed responded aggressively after the crisis began, but some argue those actions were overly secretive.
A movement is spreading in Congress to force the Fed to disclose the identity of institutions that borrow from the bank, a move officials say would discourage firms from seeking needed emergency funds. A large group of House members is pushing to audit the Fed.
"I don't have a lot of faith in the Fed being able to handle that big a universe," said John Taylor, president of the National Community Reinvestment Coalition, a group of 600 community organizations.
Senate Banking Chairman Christopher Dodd (D., Conn.) and House Financial Services Chairman Barney Frank (D., Mass.) both said Wednesday the Fed's role is the biggest potential source of friction in the plan.
Mr. Dodd said there is well-founded concern the Fed's responsibility for monetary policy, including setting interest rates, could conflict with its role monitoring systemic risk. Fed officials have said they can handle multiple responsibilities. "There's not a lot of confidence in the Fed at this point, and I'm stating the obvious," Mr. Dodd said.
Mr. Frank said most of Mr. Obama's proposals reflect a broad consensus on Capitol Hill. But "the interplay between the Fed and the rest of the regulators on systemic risk" will be a thorny issue.
Some lawmakers want an interagency council, another feature of the plan, to have greater responsibility for systemic risk, and the authority to act. Obama administration officials believe a committee approach would allow problems at financial institutions to fester without a clear regulator responsible for addressing them.
"How much power the Fed is going to have is going to be probably one of the most controversial issues about this plan," said Robert Litan, a senior fellow at the Brookings Institution. He said he thinks the Fed's role in the new regulatory framework is likely to be changed by lawmakers.
Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner reiterated the administration's determination to make the Fed the systemic regulator. "I do not believe there is a plausible alternative," he told reporters.
Fed officials said they took action throughout the financial crisis because the central bank was often the only institution with the power to prevent turmoil. The regulatory overhaul would provide a mechanism for the government to unwind failing nonbank financial institutions, freeing the Fed of the need to act. The central bank has also taken steps to release details about its lending programs.
Despite a major conceptual change in the Fed's role, central bank officials believe perhaps only a handful of additional firms would fall under their supervision. They are also expected to make a case to keep the Fed's consumer-protection responsibility -- with some tweaks -- instead of giving up that role entirely, as envisioned under the plan.
The regulatory overhaul proposed by the Bush administration last year also would have given the Fed responsibility for financial stability. But that plan would have removed its role of supervising banks. Fed officials quietly objected, saying it would be hard to guard against systemic risks without also performing routine bank examinations. The proposal gained little traction amid an escalating financial crisis.
The Obama proposal would require the central bank to seek approval from the Treasury secretary before invoking emergency lending powers. It also calls for the Fed to work with the Treasury and outside experts to review the Fed's structure and governance, including the role of the regional Fed banks. A report due by Oct. 1 would be used to propose changes to the Fed's structure "to improve its accountability and its capacity to achieve its statutory responsibilities."
—Jonathan Weisman and Damian Paletta contributed to this article.
I hope that my progressive compatriots will acknowledge that a strong partnership between the media and the government is hazardous to the health of democracy. Even those who adore Obama should be troubled by the adulation and unadulterated support that large segments of the media have shown him. If you doubt this look at fawning photos of and uncritical articles about Obama that fill Newsweek and Time. Consider the remarkably lack of controversy generated by Reverand Wright's recent anti-semitic statements. We know that if Bush's long time pastor expressed racist sentiments there would be a firestorm of criticism. In a democracy a journalist must be a vigilant skeptic, a committed investigator, not a mindless cheerleader.
Steele blasts ABC for rejecting GOP ads during Obama healthcare special
By Cherie Saunders
In response to ABC's decision not to air GOP rebuttal ads during its hour-long White House healthcare special on Wednesday, Republican Party Chairman Michael Steele sent out a fundraising letter to party members accusing the network of shutting out conservative opposition.
As previously reported, the Republican National Committee wrote ABC News president David Westin a letter last week expressing concern that “Questions for the President: Prescription for America” – which will film at the White House with President Obama taking questions – will deliberately leave out "opposing voices."
ABC's Senior Vice President Kerry Smith dismissed those concerns, saying the network "is looking for the most thoughtful and diverse voices on this issue," and "ABC News alone will select those who will be in the audience asking questions of the president. To suggest otherwise is quite unfair to both our journalists and our audience."
The RNC then requested rebuttal time during the 10 p.m. special, but ABC turned them down, explaining through a spokeswoman: "ABC Television Network has a long standing policy that we do not accept advocacy advertising."
Undeterred, RNC head Steele sent out the following fundraising letter last week to rally the troops.
It seems that the mainstream media has finally decided to dispense with the pointless denials of favorable coverage of the Obama Administration. Now one network, ABC News, has actually turned its entire programming over to President Obama and his big-government agenda.
On June 24th, ABC News and anchor Charles Gibson will broadcast "World News" from inside the White House, and make Barack Obama's case for nationalized health care for him, without any opportunity for opposing views to be aired.
The liberal special interests have clearly learned from their missteps the last time they tried to force Americans into a socialized health care system -- the abysmal failure of the Clinton Administration's "HillaryCare."
That's why their friends at ABC News will be promoting Obamacare at virtually every opportunity, from "Good Morning America" to "Nightline," and reach from ABC News' websites all the way to the White House's East Room.
Republican, the Republican National Committee's request for an opportunity to add our views along side those of the Obama Democrats' -- to ensure that all sides of the health care reform debate are heard -- was flatly rejected by ABC News.
What are the Democrats and their media allies afraid of? The truth? That is outrageous!
And we will not take it!
We will be heard!!
Please help us raise the nearly $100,000 we need to buy air time to get the truth about the disastrous consequences of the Obama Democrats' government-run health care plans out to the American people. Make a special donation of $25, $50, $100, $500 or $1,000 to the Republican National Committee today, and your gift will support our fight to counter the ABC/Obama "special programming" with our plan for meaningful, genuine health care reform.
Please stand with us. Help us get on the air and get our message to the American people! President Obama and the Democrats are blurring the lines between government and the private sector to pass their big government agenda. Help us keep things clear. Thank you.
Monday, June 22, 2009
Pictured above - the picturesque Transylvanian town
of Sighişoara that was once predominantly Germans.
Most left wing social analysis presents deterministic explanations of social phenomena that present individuals and groups as passive products of their social and economic environment. While environments clearly do shape individuals, the left rarely explores the power of individuals and groups to shape and even create their environment. Or more precisely, they rarely acknowledge the power that culture plays in recreating social and economic realities in diverse environments.
A good example are the thousands of German communities that once thrived in Romania, Russia, Lithuania, Latvia and other Eastern European localities. Starting in the middle ages, German craftsmen and merchants were invited by local rulers to settle in their territories. They correctly believe that the organized and energetic Germans would serve as an industrious
middle class and foster trade and enterprise. What is most relevant to this discussion is that in diverse regions and circumstances, they created similar economic, social and physical environments. From Sighişoara (Transylvania) to Saratov (Volga region of Russia) German towns were thriving, tidy islands in otherwise economically and socially lethargic regions. I personally witnessed this phenomena while passing through Southern Chile; the towns with a German presence were noticeably cleaner and more prosperous.
Another important examples is the state of Jewish cultural life in pre-Holocaust Eastern Europe. Under the best case scenario, the state exercised benign neglect over Jewish communal life, in no way promoting education or culture in Jewish communities. And as we are all aware, there are countless examples of the state harassing and hindering Jewish communities. Yet, overall the level of education and literacy was much higher among Jews than their Christian neighbors. And although the mass of Jews were poor, Jews had a disproportionate presence in professional and cultural life. The only rational explanation is that from Łódź to Lwów and later from New York to Northbrook, Jewish culture recreated surprisingly similar social and economic outcomes.
From Istanbul (Turkey) to Esfahan (Iran) Armenians vastly surpassed their Moslem neighbors in educational and economic development, even in the face of endemic discrimination.
Unfortunately culture also allows for the re-recreation of negative social and economic phenomena. The high level of crime and social pathology in Logan Square and Humboldt Park, prompted many (mostly Puerto Rican) families to move out of the said neighborhoods. To prevent their children from "falling into the clutches of gangs," they moved them to (previously) safe and quiet northwest side neighborhoods and suburbs. But, within a few years the gangs, violence and littering that they had fled had taken hold in their new neighborhoods. And previously solid schools had begun to resemble the abysmal schools that they had fled.
This does NOT mean that the majority of new residents were bad, because all it takes is a mere 20% (or so) of new residents to maintain the pathological behavior that characterized their previous neighborhood, to recreate the phenomena that most parents had hoped to leave behind. This of course will accelerate the exodus of previous residents and even prompt some new residents to once again flee social pathology. The end result is that parts of the Cragin neighborhood have become worse than Humboldt Park.
This leads me to believe that the progressive explanation of social and economic pathology is
fundamentally flawed - individuals and communities are not simply passive victims of their environment. For good and for bad we recreate our environments. We are not only actors, but also script writers. We are not only products, but also producers. The implication of this is that the power of the interventionist state to cure the social and economic pathologies that plague individuals and communities is quite limited. Hence we have little to show for our thirty year, trillion dollar war on poverty. Equally this holds true for the disastrous war in Iraq, which shows the folly of attempting to compel other nations to become democratic and modern. At the risk of sounding like Obama, I close this post with the truism: real change has to come from within.
Sunday, June 21, 2009
Over the years I have listened to analysts speak of the relative democratic merit of one Iranian candidate over another. "Khatami was better than Ali Akbar Nategh-Nouri" and now "Mir Hossein Mousavi is better than Ahmadinejad." Some of these analysts point out the relatively high turn out for Majlis (parliamentary) elections as indications of a democratic streak within Iran's Islamic government. But, they fail to discuss essential details of the Iranian "democratic process" that render it an empty sham.
One prime example is the 12 man Guardian Council of the Constitution. has the power to veto all "un-Islamic" laws passed by the democratically elected Majlis (parliament). According to the Human Rights Watch, it has "repeatedly vetoes bills in favor of women’s rights, electoral reform, the prohibition of torture and ratification of international human rights treaties." And perhaps more importantly, it has the power to disqualify any presidential or parliamentary candidates that do not have "sufficient Islamic credentials." According to the Human Rights Watch, "after conservative candidates fared poorly in the 2000 parliamentary elections, the Council disqualified more than 3,600 reformist and independent candidates in the 2004 elections."
So, who comprises the 12 members of the Guardian Council of the Constitution?
Six members of the Council are clerics selected by the supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khameni. The other six are lawyers chosen by the head of the judiciary system, who is chosen by Ali Khameni. So, obviously the real power in Iran is the unelected, deeply reactionary Ayatollah Ali Khameni. And it gets worse. According to the constitution, the basis of the authority of the Islamic Republic is the Velayat-e Faqih, the Guardianship of the Islamic Jurists. Or, in plain English, the government rules on behalf of the hidden Shi'a Imam until he returns.
So, in a sense the elections do a great diservice to Iran, because they present a democratic fascde for a deeply authoritarian, theocratic government. Relative to Ahmedinejad, Mousavi may present a more humane appearance, but at its core the system is illegitamate. You can put make up and pearls on a monkey, but it will still be a monkey.
Saturday, June 20, 2009
“The first lesson of economics is scarcity: There is never enough of anything to satisfy all those who want it. The first lesson of politics is to disregard the first lesson of economics.”
“Liberals seem to assume that, if you don't believe in their particular political solutions, then you don't really care about the people that they claim to want to help”
“If you have been voting for politicians who promise to give you goodies at someone else's expense, then you have no right to complain when they take your money and give it to someone else, including themselves”
“One of the sad signs of our times is that we have demonized those who produce, subsidized those who refuse to produce, and canonized those who complain”
“It is amazing that people who think we cannot afford to pay for doctors, hospitals, and medication somehow think that we can afford to pay for doctors, hospitals, medication and a government bureaucracy to administer it.”
“What "multiculturalism" boils down to is that you can praise any culture in the world except Western culture - and you cannot blame any culture in the world except Western culture”
“Socialism in general has a record of failure so blatant that only an intellectual could ignore or evade it”
“People who have time on their hands will inevitably waste the time of people who have work to do”
"Usually activists have neither practical experience nor economic literacy, so they go around blithely creating huge costs for those who have to work for a living and those who employ them. Not only businesses but Californians as a whole end up paying a staggering price so that a relative handful of people who are a drain on society can feel superior to those who contribute to it."
“The assumption that spending more of the taxpayer's money will make things better has survived all kinds of evidence that it has made things worse. The black family- which survived slavery, discrimination, poverty, wars and depressions- began to come apart as the federal government moved in with its well-financed programs to "help."”
“Too much of what is called "education" is little more than an expensive isolation from reality”
“Talkers are usually more articulate than doers, since talk is their specialty.” (OBAMA!!!)
"There are few talents more richly rewarded with both wealth and power, in countries around the world, than the ability to convince backward people that their problems are caused by other people who are more advanced."
The article is a bit dated, but the general concepts hold true. Most people who decry the inequitable distribution of wealth fail to note that in the United States there is a remarkable degree of movement between income brackets. The brackets continue to exist, but there composition continuously changes - but many people rise up and some people decline over time. Over time most people gain job experience, increase their human capital, marry and engage in some form of investment which naturally increases their wealth.
A big concern I have is that many of Obama's policies will inadvertently limit economic and social movement and lead to a more static system. Of course we should take steps to ensure that the basic needs of the poor are met, but we must take extreme care to ensure that the myriad of subsidies (housing, health, food, etc.) that we provide do not provide perverse incentives to remain in a lower bracket. Of course the wealthy should pay higher taxes, but we must be very carefull and avoid diminishing incentives for Americans to rise up economically. Or more precisely, we must avoid diminishing incentives for Americans to invest the time, energy and capital that are necessary precursors for economic advancement. Both hazards are interrelated because to fund growing entitlements, taxes will continuously rise.
Perennial economic fallacies
Feb. 7, 2000
EVERY TIME some new income statistics come out, two predictable fallacies follow in their wake. The first is that the rich are getting richer, while the poor are falling behind. The second is that the real income of American families has not risen significantly for years.
These fallacies return as regularly as the swallows returning to Capistrano, though not nearly as gracefully. A typical headline in the New York Times proclaims: "In A Time of Plenty, The Poor Are Still Poor." Yet study after study has shown that "the poor" do not remain poor in contemporary America.
An absolute majority of the people who were in the bottom 20 percent in 1975 have also been in the top 20 percent at some time since then. Most Americans don't stay put in any income bracket. At different times, they are both "rich" and "poor" -- as these terms are recklessly thrown around in the media. Most of those who are called "the rich" are just middle-class people whose taxes the politicians avoid cutting by giving them that name.
There are of course some people who remain permanently in the bottom 20 percent. But such people constitute less than one percent of the American population, according to data published by the Federal Reserve Bank of Dallas in its 1995 annual report. Perhaps the intelligentsia and the politicians have been too busy waxing indignant to be bothered by anything so mundane as facts.
Alarmists are not talking about real flesh and blood people. They are talking about abstract categories like the top or bottom 10 percent or 20 percent of families or households. So long as all incomes are not identical, there will always be top and bottom 10 percents or 20 percents or any other percents. But these abstract categories do not contain the same people over time.
Households do not contain the same numbers of people, even at a given time.
The bottom 20 percent of households contains 39 million people, while the top 20 percent contains 64 million. Comparing households is comparing apples and oranges.
If you are serious about considering the well-being of flesh and blood human beings, then you can talk about their real income per capita. But alarmists avoid that like the plague, because it would expose their little game for the fraud that it is.
Real income per capita has risen 50 percent over the same span of time when household income has remained virtually unchanged. How is this possible?
Because households are getting smaller. The very fact that there are higher incomes enables more people to afford to go out and set up their own independent households.
Behind both the statistics on inequality that are spotlighted and the statistics on ever-changing personal incomes that are ignored is the simple fact that people just starting out in their careers usually do not make as much money as they will later, after they have had years of experience.
Who should be surprised that 60-year-olds have higher incomes and more wealth than 30-year-olds? Moreover, that was also true 30 years ago, when today's 60-year-olds were just 30. But these are not different classes of people. They are the same people at different stages of their lives.
At some times and places, there have been whole classes of people who lived permanently in poverty or in luxury. But, in the United States today, the percentage of Americans who fit either description does not reach beyond single digits.
It is one thing to be concerned about the fate of flesh and blood human beings. It is something very different to create alarms about statistical relationships between abstract categories.
Despite desperate efforts of activists to keep "hunger in America" alive as an issue by manipulating numbers, actual examinations of flesh and blood people show no nutritional differences between people in different income brackets. In contrast to the gaunt and undernourished poor of other times and places, Americans in the lower income brackets today are slightly more likely to be overweight than is the rest of the population.
The magnitude of statistical differences may tell very little about the condition of human beings. A two-to-one difference in the amount of food available would be very painful if it meant that those on the short end did not have enough to eat. But a thousand-to-one difference in price between wearing a Rolex and wearing a Timex is something that can be left to the alarmists -- especially since both watches tell time with about the same accuracy.
And both are a lot more accurate than "income disparity" hysteria.
Friday, June 19, 2009
Government, educational and corporate organizations endless recite mindless platitudes about
"diversity," yet rarely ask serious questions about the nature of diversity.
A question that comes to mind is:
Are all cultures equal in creating and sustaining a diverse society?
Because of the unparalleled peace, prosperity and tolerance that American culture encourages (relative to other cultures), the United States has been a magnet for diverse peoples.
On the other hand, with very few exceptions, nations dominated by Islamic culture have steadily become less diverse. Or more precisely, the general intolerance and lack of opportunity that characterize most areas dominated by Islamic culture has encouraged an exodus of non-Moslem minorities.
At the turn of the century Asia Minor and Eastern Thrace (which constitute the core of modern Turkey) was at least 25% Christian and Jewish, but through violence and harassment, the Armenians, Assyrians, Greeks and Jewish presence was all but erased and now Turkey is over 99% Moslem. The same exodus of non-Moslems can be seen in Iraq, Iran, Syria, the Palestinian territories and even Lebanon. And the government of Turkey has exerted great efforts to eliminate diversity among Moslems by suppressing the identities of Turkey's numerous Moslem minorities like Kurds, Arabs, Laz, Hemshin, etc.
And as the Moslem population of India has increase since the partition, the Hindu population of Pakistan and Bangladesh has plummeted.
And many diverse nations, such as Lebanon have been characterized by constant conflict.
So, paradoxically the champions of diversity should be most committed to affirming the western and American cultural foundation that allows for a peaceful, prosperous co-existence of individuals of diverse cultures. And equally they should be concerned that by simultaneously increasing diversity and de-emphasizing assimilation we may be paradoxically limiting our capacity to maintain a diverse nation. This phenomena is being seen in parts of Europe in which attacks against Jews, Gays and secular women, by Moslems is on the rise.
Wednesday, June 17, 2009
One frequently cited figure of Israel's red (leftist) and green (Islamic) critics is the 0.75 million Palestinian refugees who fled Israel during the Israeli Independence War. A core demand of these groups is that Israel accept the "right of return" for these refugees and their several million descendants, which of course would spell Israel's destruction.
I do consider this a tragic outcome, but anyone with even a modicum of historical knowledge will understand that rather than being an egregious exception, this is the normal and dare I say expected outcome of modern conflicts. And when analyzing the issue of Palestinian refugees we should keep this in mind:
Over 0.8 million Jews were expelled from the Arab world and in a matter of a few years Israel had successfully settled them and focused its energy on building a modern, prosperous and democratic nation.
After years of conflict between Turkey and Greece, both parties as well as most major European powers sanctioned the Treaty of Laussane which organized a population exchange that resulted in the exchange of over 1.5 million Greeks from Turkey and nearly 0.5 million Turks from Greece. In addition tri-lateral population exchanges were undertook between Bulgaria, Greec and Turkey. Within less than a decade all the refugees were settled and territorial disputes between both nations had ceased.
After the second world war, the allie sanctioned the expulsion of an estimated 15.0 million Germans from Poland, Czechoslovakia, Romania, Hungary and Yugoslavia. Within less than a decade all of the refugees were settled. Similar but less dramatic movements of Poles, Ukrainians and Romanians also occurred.
The only group of refugees that have not been settled in the last 60 years are the Palestinians. Rather than humanely settle the Palestinians, their "Arab brothers" let them rot in the camps for political and propaganda purposes. History shows that the first and most painful step to peace is by separating hostile populations and creating clear, rational boundaries.
Monday, June 15, 2009
In the United States there are certainly poor families with incomes that are insufficient to attend to basic needs like housing and health care. But, as a landlord I have had "poor tenants" who lived remarkably well. One tenant on mine was the recipient of (section-8), food and medical subsidies, yet her family enjoyed: cable tv, a game box, a computer, multiple cell phones, a car, an aquarium and designer clothing. This makes me wonder how many of the people who are "unable to afford health care and other essential services," are unable to do so because of the consumer choices they make. If this family was able to cut back on the said luxuries they would have been able to ween themselves off of at least some of the government subsidies that they utilized at the public's expense. But, our expanding sense of entitlement has greatly expanded the category of "needs" to include many items that 80% of the world would consider unattainable luxuries. I am not sure what the solution is, because I would not be comfortable having government bureaucrats micro-manage the financial life of Americans, even if they are welfare recipients. But, if we continue to subsidize those who lack essential goods and services because of their financial choices, then we will soon bankrupt the system and be unable to attend to the truly poor and disadvantaged.
Sunday, June 14, 2009
In the prior posts we explored the forces that have contributed to the increasingly inequitable distribution of wealth. So, the questions remains, what can be done to improve the distribution of wealth that will avoid the negative consequences of our current redistributive policies?
1. Eliminate disincentives for job creation: there is zero doubt that businesses and the jobs that they create flee areas (cities, states and entire countries) in which the tax, regulatory burden and legal liability are too heavy. Any policy that makes it more expensive to create or run a business will limit job creation. This does not mean that we should eliminate all taxes and regulation, merely that we must be certain that their benefits outweigh their costs. Addressing government policies that drive up costs will aid American companies in their drive to increase their international competitiveness, which is a vital component in wealth and job creation.
2. Reduce incentives that encourage an irrational allocations of capital: for example, a myriad of subsidies and policies exist that encouraged Americans to over-invest in the housing market, which strongly encouraged a disastrous housing boom and bust. On the other hand anyone wishing to create industrial ventures in the United States would face a myriad of tax and regulatory hurdles. In theory the government could subsidize productive ventures for the benefit of the public, but experience clearly indicates that political connections rather than economic logic dictate the vast majority of subsidies. So, the most beneficial policy would be to create a level playing field in which no company would be unduly benefited or burdened by their relationship (or lack of relationship) to the state.
3. Encourage public school systems to develop curricula that place a far greater emphasis on preparing students to participate in a highly competitive global market. A competitive voucher system would grant greater choice to families, put pressure on public schools to improve.
4. Avoid policies that increase the supply of low-skill labor: a tight labor market places upward pressure on wages which encourages employers to pursue technological and organizational innovation. The present policy of seeking a competitive advantage through lowering wages is doomed to failure, because we can never match the rock-bottom wages of China and India. Our only possible competitive advantage is through a highly skilled and highly productive work force. And nations raise living standards by shifting towards higher level production.
What has most contributed to an expansion in the supply of low-skilled labor are immigration policy that emphasizes chain-immigration and a diversity lottery over the selection of skilled and educated immigrants. Accordingly a point system which seeks to synchronize the selection of immigrants to the changing needs of the labor force.
5. Reduce subsidies that encourage the importation of and use of cheap labor: we should conceptualize welfare benefits as subsidies that allows businesses to enjoy cheap (relative to the cost of living) labor. Without this subsidy immigrants who were unable to attain wages that provided for the basic needs of their family would return to their countries of origin, as they did before the onset of a massive welfare state.
Subsidizing cheap labor discourages employers from technological and organizational advancement. In addition, it discourages workers from developing the skills and strategies necessary to increase their productivity and wages.
A practical measure would be to charge businesses for the welfare benefits that their immigrant employees consume. Beyond an alleviation of the financial burden that the public faces, the benefits of this policy would be as follows:
-Without welfare benefits, the worker would quickly determine if the wages provided were sufficient to meet their basic needs. If the wages were insufficient they would encounter a powerful incentive to seek higher wages within their place of employment.
-This would force the employer to determine if their employee added sufficient value to their enterprise to justify the real cost (wages + welfare benefits) of their labor.
-If the employer determined that the worker added sufficient value, they would be forced to increase their wages. If not, the employer would have to let the worker go. The increased cost of labor that the first scenario entails and the shortage of labor that the second scenario entails would encourage the employer to increase the productivity of their enterprises through the pursuit of technological and organizational innovation.
-Under this scenario, workers would be limited in their ability to utilize an acceptance of low wages and poor working conditions (that welfare allows for) as their competitive advantage over their non-subsidized counterparts. The only manner for a worker to increase their competitive advantage over other workers would be through increasing their productivity.
-A worker who could not obtain higher wages from their employer or in their field of employment would be provided with tremendous incentives to develop the skills and education level necessary to shift a sector of the economy that offers higher wages. On an aggregate level this of course encourages greater upward economic and social mobility.
-Those who were unable to achieve economic self sufficiency would most likely self-deport, which is more humane, less demoralizing and more cost effective than heartless immigration raids and deportations.
-A huge added benefit would be that the American public would be far less reserved about granting amnesty to workers who offered net economic benefits and did not serve as a means for businesses to lower wages and working conditions.
6. Reduce subsidies that encourage single-motherhood and welfare dependency: To start off with schools should educate students about the economic and social costs of single-motherhood. Then, the state could mandate that welfare recipients use birth control and also provide larger payments to those who avoid getting pregnant. To avoid fostering long term dependency, the government could incrementally reduce welfare benefits while increasing educational subsidies and job training.
In a society that is increasingly oriented towards quick solutions and intellectual dishonesty brought on by politically correct dogma, these solutions would not be popular, but they are surely preferable to redistributive policies that are economically and socially bankrupting our nation.
Thursday, June 11, 2009
I finished reading "Democracy in America," written in 1835 by Alexis De Tocqueville. This insightful work explores social, political and economic life in the United States and larger issues of the true significance of democracy. Not only is this work descriptive, it is predictive. Tocqueville was almost prophetic in his description of the hazards that democratic nations face, most of which are coming to fruition in the United States and in Western Europe in our very generation. In particular, he warned against the danger of tyranny slowly staking hold in democracies. He emphasized that this phenomena is without parallel in the annals of human a history: a softer, yet far more pervasive despotism that slowly comes to permeate every facet of economic, social and political life. We should pay careful heed of his warnings, because what makes this form of despotism unique is that those who are sowing its seeds are not open advocates of tyranny. They are not "jack booted fascists" and "red robed communist," in fact, most are well meaning, self described supporters of democracy and freedom. But, as history shows, actions carry consequences far beyond the intentions of their authors.
Tocqueville himself apologized for lacking a proper definition, because he believed that "the species of oppression by which democratic nations are menaced is unlike anything which ever before existed in the world: our contemporaries will find no prototype of it in their memories."
The despots of the past "possessed immense and unchecked powers," but "the range of their interests were limited." "Their tyranny was extremely onerous to the few (who opposed their power)," but "neglected the rest." But, "none ever attempted to subject all his subjects indiscriminately to strict uniformity of regulation, and personally to tutor and direct every member of the community" to the same extent as modern "progressive states." Even if he had conceived it "the imperfection of the administrative system....would speedily have checked the execution of such a design."
He hesitated to use the term "tyranny," because in his own words "The nature of despotic power in the democratic age is not to be fierce or cruel, but minute and meddling." Tocqueville describes the modern, interventionist state in the following verse:
"It covers the surface of society with a network of small complicated rules, minute and uniform, through which the most original minds and the most energetic characters cannot penetrate, to rise above the crowd. The will of man is not shattered, but softened, bent, and guided: men are seldom forced by it to act, by they they are constantly restrained from acting: such a power does not destroy, but it prevents existence; it does not tyrannize, but it compresses, enervates, extinguishes and stupefies a people, till each nation is reduced to be nothing better than a flock of timid and industrious animals, of which the government is the shepherd."
Clearly, Tocqueville is describing an energetic, interventionist state that seeks to regulate and control every facet of social and economic life, a bureaucracy that "is directly opposed to the genius of commerce and the pursuit of industry." This is especially true in a city like Chicago, where there is not a single productive endeavor that is not heavily taxed and regulated by the state. Before I go on I must strike down the predictable straw-man response of "oh yeah, without regulations doctors and electricians would harm the public." My critique is not directed against the handful of vital regulations that protect the lives and limbs of the public against genuine hazards. Rather I am referring to the bureaucrats in Louisiana who heavily fined an old lady for engaging in floral arrangements without a license and bureaucrats in Chicago who fined a West African immigrant for braiding hair without possessing a costly and time consuming license. Since no one ever died from a bad hair weave or ill-arranged bouquet, we can be certain that the driving spirit that animates these regulations is not "protecting vital public interests." Rather it is a world view that is based on the belief that individuals do not have inherent rights to pursue economic enterprises; they must seek the state's permission for all economic activity. And outside of what the state permits, consumers and communities alike do not have the right to determine what is in their best interest and accept the consequences of their choices.
One of many measures of the growth of the state is the Code of Federal Regulation which surged from 54,834 pages in 1970 to 145,816 in 2007, a 376% increase! And even under the "deregulatory administration" of GW Bush, the number of employees in regulatory agencies surged from 172,000 to 244,000 a 41% and spending increased from $27 billion to $44.9 billion, a 44% increase! Economists estimate the total cost of regulatory compliance at over $1.1 trillion dollars! The amount of time and money required to navigate through the winding bureaucratic labyrinths presents a burden that all but the largest corporate entities are able to navigate. And for those who believe that we are living in a state of "laissez faire capitalism," I refer you the literally hundreds of federal agencies managing every imaginable activity.
Tocqueville prophetically described the omnipresent nanny state that would come to dominate American life. Such a state would "undertake to guide and instruct" each citizen and "to secure their happiness quite independently of their own consent." In the follow verse he elaborates on the cultural and spiritual significance of such a state:
"That power is absolute, minute, regular, provident, and mild. It would be like the authority of a parent, if, like that authority, its objects was to prepare men for manhood; but it seeks on the contrary to keep them in perpetual childhood: it is well content that the people should rejoice, provide they think of nothing but rejoicing. For their happiness such a government willingly labors, but it chooses to be the sole agent and the only arbiter of that happiness: it provides for their security, foresees and supplies their necessities, facilitates their pleasures, manages their principle concerns, directs their industry, regulates the descent of property, and subdivides their inheritances - what remains, but to spare them all the care of thinking and all the trouble of living? Thus is every day renders the exercise of the free agency of man less useful and less frequent; it circumcises the will within a narrower range, and gradually robs a man of all the uses of himself. The principles of quality has prepared men for these things: it has predisposed men to endure them, and often times to look on the mas benefits."
Such a state encourages the its citizens to aggressively invent and pursue whole new entitlements, while simultaneously becoming increasingly passive in the face of state dictates, or as Tocqueville puts it "the very men, who from time to time upset a throne and trample on a race of kinds, bend more and more obsequiously to the slightest dictate of a clerk."
He correctly notes that in the course of caring for individuals and families, such a state will erode their independence, individuality and their very vitality. At first the tutelage of the nanny state was confined to welfare families that depended on the state for everything from food, shelter, medicine and guidance on child rearing. But, over time the spirit of entitlement has penetrated into the core of America's middle class, as seen in Obama's drive for national health care. The end result is that over 50% of a productive individual's labor is usurped through local, state and federal taxes, a burden that has surpassed that of the feudal ages. In addition these expenditures have led to national debt that will burden generations of Americans to come. And on a spiritual level, those who depend on the state are far, far more likely to tolerate its vexations.
In his writings, Tocqueville frequently marvelled at the vitality of civil society of the Americans. From charities, to churches, to not-for-profits, no other people on earth have so freely and energetically produced benevolent social organizations. And no other people have so freely volunteered their time, money and energy to freely pursue the betterment of their fellow men. Tocqueville warned that the interventionist state would diminish this capacity:
"The task of the governing power will therefore perpetually increase, and its very efforts will extend every day. The more it stands in the place of (free) associations, the more will individuals, losing the notion of combining together, require its assistance: these are causes and effects which unceasingly engender each other..."
Presumably he believe that a pervasive welfare state would diminish the necessity and ability of individuals to freely form energetic communities and civic organizations to address their social and economic needs.
Vigorous free associations are also cited as a fundamental check on the encroachment of the state. Not surprisingly governments look with ill favor upon these organizations, but surprisingly many citizens of democratic nations also do. As Tocqueville puts it "amongst democratic nations, the people themselves often entertain a secrete feeling of fear and jealous against these very associates..and the free use which each association makes of its natural powers is almost regarded as a dangerous privilege." The best example of this is the fear and disdain that many have expressed towards the Tea Parties, which represent the dissent and vigilance that are vital in democracies.
So, the question remains - what are the forces the drive the citizens of modern democracies to accept this soft tyranny? Tocqueville believed the a "dread of(economic and social) disturbance and the love of well being insensibly lead democratic nations to increase the functions of central government, as the only power which appears to be intrinsically sufficiently strong, enlightened and secure, to protect them from anarchy." The Obama administration skillfully played on this fear to quickly push through a trillion dollar stimulus plan and multi billion dollar bailouts with very little debate and oversight. Needless to say these actions resulted in a massive increase in the power of the state, at the expense of productive individuals and organizations.
In a someone cryptic remark, Tocqueville shows amazing insight about times of rapid economic, political and social change, in which most "imagine that mankind is about to fall into perpetual anarchy: if they looked to the final consequences of this revolution, their fears would perhaps assume a different shape." Think about this - throughout our brief recession experts and laymen alike declared that our primary danger was economic collapse, when in reality, as painful as they are, economic downturns are transient and the real long term danger is the massive debt and long term stagnation that Obama's expanded state will ensure.
Tocqueville repeatedly warned that "continuous warfare augments the democratic tendency which leads men unceasingly to multiply the privileges of the state, and to circumscribe the rights of private persons, in much more rapid and constant among those democratic nations which are exposed by their position to great and frequent wars, than among all others." In other words, whether by design or by circumstance, the end result of the constant warfare is that the Bush and Obama administrations have engaged in an expansion of the power of the state and a contraction of civil liberties. And more troubling in the name of security large segments of the populace has granted the government a carte blanche to circumvent constitutional rule.
Tocqueville also stressed that the egalitarian impulses found in democracies paradoxically allow rulers to expand their power at the expense of democracy. Whereas the pursuit of equality under the law and equal opportunity are the life blood of liberty and democracy, the pursuit of equal economic and social outcomes via state intervention is antithetical to liberty.
"The foremost, or indeed the sole condition which is required in order to succeed in centralizing the supreme power in a democratic community is to love equality, or to get men to believe you love it. Thus, the science of despotism, which was once so complex, is simplified, and reduced as it were to a single principle."
Envy and desire for economic equality drive individuals to seek the tyranny of socialism, which is based on arbitrarily usurping the wealth and liberty of enemy classes. In modern democracies this envious impulse exists in a muted forms and expressed within the confines of the rule of law. Rather than strip productive citizens of all their wealth, 50% of their income is usurped and redistributed. In the name of achieving equal social and economic outcomes, citizens accept an expansion of the power of the state at the expense of their own liberty, or as Tocqueville eloquently put it:
"...men accustom themselves to sacrifice private interests without scruple, and to trample on the rights of individuals in order more speedily to accomplish any public purpose." and "...the concentration of power and the subjection of individuals will increase among democratic nations, not only in the same proportion as their equality, but in the same portion of their ignorance."
The envious impulse of socialism is usually manifested in hostility towards successful groups. The state can arbitrarily seize the wealth and civil liberties of successful groups and transfer it to others. In relatively homogeneous societies this simply occurs across class lines, but in more diverse societies this almost always occurs across ethnic lines. The Vietnamese communists usurped the property of the entrepreneurial Chinese minority, the Ugandan socialists seized the property of Indians and Pakistani merchants and so on.
In democracies the drive to achieve equal social and economic outcomes among disparate groups is not achieved through outright tyranny, but through affirmative action and the threat of discrimination lawsuits, both of which drive the admission and hiring practices of universities, private firms and of course government agencies. Even if the outcome of such policies were positive, they are coercive and they infringe on the autonomy of individuals and organizations alike. But, perhaps the greatest harm is rendered upon the recipients of government redistributive efforts who in Tocqueville's own words are "falling, more and more, into the lowest stages of weakness and dependence." As I read this line, I could not help but think about the economic, social and spiritual ruin that has occurred in many previously vibrant African-American communities via the nearly complete dependence that entitlement programs have fostered in them.
Tocqueville also foresaw that democratic states would inevitably seek to control greater segments of the economy, as Obama has done in the automotive, financial, housing and health care sectors. Not only did he believe that this would be economically deleterious, but also "the morals and thew intelligence of a democratic people would be as much endangered as its business and manufacturing, if the government ever wholly usurped the place of private companies."
And contrary to most "progressives" he did not view powerful commercial and corporate interests as a threat to democracy, but as potential backwards against the encroachment of the state:
"An association for political, commercial, or manufacturing purposes, or even for those of sciences and literature, is a powerful and enlightened member of the community, which cannot be disposed of at pleasure, or oppressed without remonstrance; and which, by fending its own rights against the encroachments of the government, saves the common liberties of the country."
Whenever I express concern about the threat that the interventionist state poses to liberty and democracy, my "progressive" associates usually respond with the idea that policies and programs that "represent the will of the people" are inherently democratic. And coercive measures, such as the seizure of over half of a productive citizens wealth are not undemocratic, as long as they are enacted by freely elected representatives. Tocqueville was adamant in his belief that free elections did not equal a free society.
"By this system the people shake off their state of dependence just long enough to select their master, and then relapse into it again. A great many person at the present day are quite contended with this sort of compromise between administrative despotism and the sovereignty of the people...They devise a sole, tutelary and all powerful from of government, but elected by the people. They combine the principles of centralization and that of popular sovereignty; this gives them a respite; they console themselves for being in tutelage by the reflecting that they have chosen their own guardians. Every man allows himself to be in leading strings, because he sees that it is not a person or a class of person, but the people at large that holds the end of his chains."
Tocqueville pointed out the irony of a state that implicitly holds that people are incapable of managing "those minor (personal) affairs in which good sense is all that is wanted," yet are invested with the immense choice of selecting their leaders.
A system that increasingly erodes individual choice and freedom, while simultaneously elevating elections to an almost sacred level, contributes to the erosion of the individual, social and cultural energy of a people:
"It is in vain to summon a people, which has been rendered so dependent on the central power, to choose from time to time the representatives of that power; this rare and brief exercise of their freed choice, however important it may be, will not prevent them from gradually losing the faculties of thinking, feeling and acting for themselves, and thus gradually falling below the level of humanity."
Tocqueville believe that excessive state intervention in social and economic life even eroded the ability of individuals and nations to wisely select their leaders:
"It is, indeed , difficult to conceive how men who have entirely given up the habit of self government should succeed in making a proper choice of those by whom they are to be government; and no one will ever believe that a liberal, wise, and energetic government can spring from the suffrage of a subservient people."
Clearly, the election of Barack Obama and other demagogues comes to mind. A vigorous and intelligent public would understand that wealth and welfare cannot be created by a state that usurps half of its citizenry's wealth, while simultaneously amassing a mind boggling debt. But individuals and communities who have been rendered dependent and lethargic fall prey to such empty rhetoric.
I leave you with these Tocquevillian sentiments: to a tremendous degree, a nation's economic, political and social life reflect the mores (values, visions, customs & culture) of its people. America's unparalleled social and economic prosperity would be impossible without its cultural capital - without the industriousness, energy and insight of its people. And the ability of individuals and institutions alike to lead free and vibrant existences is a product of the culture and spirit of a people. So perhaps the greatest danger of the growth of the nanny state is the development of an enfeebled, dependent population addicted to entitlement, seeking their salvation through a strong state. Because, as Toqueville correctly pointed out "...no form or combination of social polity has yet been devised to make an energetic people out of a community of pusillanimous and enfeebled citizens" and the "extreme centralization of government ultimately enervates society" and eventually "weakens the government itself." And history shows that when individuals and nations become weary of their representatives and doubtful of their capacity of self governance, they inevitably turn towards figures of strong and despotic authority.
Pictured Above: The Cost Of Government Cheese
I came across an interesting article (scroll to the bottom and click on the link to view it in its entirety) that discusses issues of wealth distribution and the growing class of Americans who receive far more in government services than they pay in taxes.
The figures provided state that a two-parent household on average faces an $8,801 tax burden and a single-parent-household enjoys a $4,141 subsidy. These figures are from 1999 and I am quite certain that they have become more dramatic since then, because of the growth of entitlements coupled with a notable increase in the number of single-parent-households. And if we continue on the current trajectory,
The author shows in clear numbers that the largest factor in determining if a household is of the funding class or the recipient class is if it is headed by a single parent. He makes a compelling argument that the rate of single-parenthood among Asians, Whites, Hispanics and African-Americans is a major factor in the different rates of inclusion of each of the said groups in the recipient class.
He presents the brutally honest assessment that given the rising rate of single-parenthood among Latinos (from 36.7% to nearly 50% in only 10 years), the projected increase in the Latino population will equal an increase in the recipient class. And as the recipient class grows in size, so will it grow in political power, which makes it extremely likely that entitlements and the transference of wealth will only grow.
In addition he points out that as the ration of the providing to the recipient class grows, we will simultaneously face an increase demand for welfare with a decrease in our capacity to fund it. The author expresses this in the following paragraph:
"Will we be able to support the recipient class when they are the majority? Will the recipient class tolerate any discussion of reducing payouts or the need for payouts when they are in control? Latin American countries provide almost no welfare benefits. The ratio between the likely provider and the likely recipients is so large in these countries that U.S. style welfare payments are unthinkable. As America becomes more Latin American, we will also be faced with the need to become more Latin American in our welfare policy, with the inevitable spectacle of destitution which overwhelms Latin America."
Not only was Jerry Garcia a great musician, but he helped introduce countless Americans to their rich tradition of blue grass, folk and country music. Enjoy!
Wonder if the good reverand expressed any of these anti-semitic sentiments to Barack.
Rev. Jeremiah Wright says "Jews" are keeping him from President Obama
By DAVID SQUIRES 757-247-4639
6:19 PM EDT, June 10, 2009
HAMPTON - Same brashness. Same spontaneity. Same lightning-rod remarks.
If you were thinking the Rev. Jeremiah Wright had been tempered by a national backlash that nearly derailed Barack Obama's trip to the White House, guess again.
In an exclusive interview at the 95th annual Hampton University Ministers' Conference, Wright told the Daily Press that he has not spoken to his former church member since Obama became president, and he implied that the White House won't allow Obama to talk to him
"Them Jews ain't going to let him talk to me," Wright said. "I told my baby daughter that he'll talk to me in five years when he's a lame duck, or in eight years when he's out of office. ...
"They will not let him to talk to somebody who calls a spade what it is. ... I said from the beginning: He's a politician; I'm a pastor. He's got to do what politicians do."
Wright also said Obama should have sent a U.S. delegation to the World Conference on Racism held recently in Geneva, Switzerland, but that the president did not for fear of offending Jews and Israel. He specifically cited the American Israel Public Affairs Committee, an influential pro-Israel lobbying group.
"Ethnic cleansing is going on in Gaza. Ethnic cleansing (by) the Zionist is a sin and a crime against humanity, and they don't want Barack talking like that because that's anti-Israel," Wright said.
Reactions to Wright's comments regarding Jews and Israel lit up Internet message boards and political blogs around the nation on Wednesday, and sparked national TV requests for an audio recording of the interview.
In Newport News, Rabbi Scott Gurdin at Temple Sinai said Wright "is missing an opportunity to build alliances and bridges."
"I want to be cautious about what I say, because I don't want to sound like Rev. Wright," Gurdin said. "But my goodness, if a prominent Jewish person said something at a rabbinical conference that was disparaging against blacks, he (Wright) would be all over it."
Richard Gordon, chairman of the Community Relations Commission of the United Jewish Community Center, said: "My impression is that Barack Obama ... is doing what he thinks is in the best interest of the country, and his advisers are telling him the best way to accomplish that.
"It would also be my opinion that he wants to distance himself from Rev. Wright because of these spurious and ridiculous accusations that he consistently and persistently makes."
In the interview after a nighttime sermon Tuesday at the ministers conference, Wright offered that he has no regrets over the controversy that resulted in a severed relationship with Obama, a former member of the Chicago church of which Wright was the longtime pastor.
"Regret for what ... that the media went back five, seven, 10 years and spent $4,000 buying 20 years worth of sermons to hear what I've been preaching for 20 years?
"Regret for preaching like I've been preaching for 50 years? Absolutely none."
Wright said that when he went to the polls, he did not hold any grudge against Obama.
"Of course I voted for him — he's my son. I'm proud of him," Wright said. "I've got five biological kids. They all make mistakes and bad choices. I haven't stopped loving any of them.
"He made mistakes. He made bad choices. I've got kids who listen to their friends. He listened to those around him. I did not disown him."
The son of a pastor, Wright has attended the HU ministers conference since he was a child — though he was not spotted at the conference in 2008 during the heat of the campaign debate over comments he made that many branded racially divisive.
The Rev. William Curtis, president of the ministers conference, said the Wright controversy is a "personal matter" for the Chicago pastor.
"Dr. Wright is a part of the church and he is a friend of the church and his views are personal," Curtis said. "And they don't represent the statements and views of the entire African-American pulpit.
"And whether or not he believes or perceives there were some strategies behind President Obama's campaign, we are grateful to have an African-American president."
Welcome to Bizarro World, in which monkeys ride dogs and Russians and Chinese warn the United States about the dangers of socialism!
Putin Warns US About Socialism
Russian Prime Minister Vladamir Putin has said the US should take a lesson from the pages of Russian history and not exercise “excessive intervention in economic activity and blind faith in the state’s omnipotence”.
“In the 20th century, the Soviet Union made the state’s role absolute,” Putin said during a speech at the opening ceremony of the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland. “In the long run, this made the Soviet economy totally uncompetitive. This lesson cost us dearly. I am sure nobody wants to see it repeated.”
Sounding more like Barry Goldwater than the former head of the KGB, Putin said, “Nor should we turn a blind eye to the fact that the spirit of free enterprise, including the principle of personal responsibility of businesspeople, investors, and shareholders for their decisions, is being eroded in the last few months. There is no reason to believe that we can achieve better results by shifting responsibility onto the state.”
Putin also cautioned the US against using military Keynesianism to lift its economy out of recession, saying, “in the longer run, militarization won’t solve the problem but will rather quell it temporarily. What it will do is squeeze huge financial and other resources from the economy instead of finding better and wiser uses for them.” Putin’s comments come in sharp contrast to Russia’s own military buildup and expansion.
Putin also echoed the words of conservative maverick Ron Paul when he said, “we must assess the real situation and write off all hopeless debts and ‘bad’ assets. True, this will be an extremely painful and unpleasant process. Far from everyone can accept such measures, fearing for their capitalization, bonuses, or reputation. However, we would ‘conserve’ and prolong the crisis, unless we clean up our balance sheets.”
“The time for enlightenment has come. We must calmly, and without gloating, assess the root causes of this situation and try to peek into the future.”