Thursday, December 29, 2011

My path to Ron Paul

I am a fairly recent "convert" to Ron Paul. While I have been a conservative for as long as I can remember having political convictions, I was always more of a National Review kind of conservative which morphed somewhat when I became a Christian to include the social issues. I read National Review as a young adult, we watched The McLaughlin Group and Crossfire as a family when I was young and our bookshelves were stocked with conservative political titles. In recent years I was a pretty straight forward Evangelical conservative, pro-life, pro-military, pro-lower taxes, etc. Up until recently I stayed true to form by rejecting Ron Paul for his foreign policy positions.

My first real exposure to Ron Paul was similar to how a lot of people encounter Paul, through one of his, um, ardent followers. In my case it was a guy in Northern Michigan and this guy was the epitome of the stereotypical  Ron Paul supporter, a somewhat crazed acolyte who accosted people in the bank I was managing to drill them about the Constitution. This guy was a perfect example of the contention I have long held that Ron Paul's greatest strength is his rabid following and it is also his greatest weakness. He confirmed for me that Paul was not someone I was interested in supporting because only someone crazy would attract such crazy followers! I sort of compare some Paul supporters to some Calvinists, zealous in the extreme and angrily attacking anyone who disagrees. I even blogged a brief post about him in 2008 that was not terribly complementary: Why Not Ron Paul? (I initially supported Huckabee in 2008 until he dropped out). So what changed.

I did.

Ron Paul certainly didn't. Unlike a lot of the other candidates and politicians in general he has been very consistent over the years. I always liked most of Paul's fiscal positions but his foreign policy scared me. As someone infected with the notion of "American exceptionalism", a notion that is deeply intertwined with our notion of America as a uniquely "Christian nation", I assumed that our cause was always right and we had both a right and an obligation to make the rest of the world conform to us. If we had to break a few eggs to make that omelet, in the form of dead civilians in foreign lands and dead and maimed American soldiers, that was a price we were willing to pay to spread our understanding of freedom and liberty. Over the past few years my conviction regarding U.S. military interventionism has changed coinciding with my evolving position on the sword as a Christian. As I study and examine history, especially regarding the two world wars and the Western interference in the Middle East, I am convinced that our foreign policy over the last hundred years is largely counter-productive and likewise outside of the Constitutional boundaries. How many Americans died in Korea and Vietnam without so much as a formal declaration of war?

It is without question that Ron Paul is the most consistent and most vocal advocate of a drastically smaller Federal government. I think his foreign policy is likewise the most consistent with the Constitution and with my convictions as a follower of Jesus Christ. Other candidates are professed Christians although at least one of them is pretty suspect in that regard and two of them are members of a cult. All of the candidates to some extent are advocating smaller government. But of all of this crop of Republican candidates, only one is consistent in his fiscal conservatism and consistent and faithful to the limited scope of the Federal government in matter foreign and domestic. That man is Ron Paul and while no one is perfect, he is in my opinion the best man for the job of undoing the last four years of Obamanation and the last century of exploding Federal spending on all manner of Constitutionally dubious programs, including an enormous standing army stationed in permanent bases around the world. America cannot keep spending, taxing and regulating the way we have been. Our inverted demographics make that impossible and common sense makes it untenable. We cannot afford to be the world's policeman (or enforcer or bully depending on your perspective) and we have no moral or Constitutional authority to do so in  the first place. For the sake of the Constitutional integrity and the fiscal security of the United States, I am supporting Ron Paul for the office of President of the United States.

There is a lot of misinformation about Ron Paul, much of it unfortunately being spread by other alleged conservatives. I would encourage you to read where Ron Paul stands on the issues from his official webpage and decide for yourself rather than just taking the slanderous comments of others at face value.

A quick word about the rest of the GOP field and the upcoming general election.

If you have read anything on this blog or know me in person, you know that I think that President Obama is a horrible President and in real contention to replace Jimmy Carter as the worst President in my lifetime. I will therefore support, fervently, any of the announced Republican candidates for President who wins the nomination even if it is not Paul and even if it is Newt Gingrich. I am not in favor of Ron Paul running as a third-party candidate and don't think he has any intention to. That rumor seems more of a slander spread by media types who don't like him than any real concern. If Ron Paul is the candidate, I hope all conservatives rally behind him. If he is not, I strongly encourage those who supported him to support the GOP nominee. There is a fine line in a two party system between ideology and pragmatism and we cannot afford four more years of Barack Obama.

RON PAUL 2012!

Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Irony Alert!

Newt Gingrich, during an interview with Wolf Blizter, says he would not vote for Ron Paul if he becomes the Republican nominee and furthermore suggested that anyone who holds similar views to Ron Paul is not a "decent American"....
"I think Ron Paul's views are totally outside the mainstream of virtually every decent American," Gingrich said on CNN's "The Situation Room with Wolf Blitzer."

Gingrich continued: "He's got to come up with some very straight answers to get somebody to take him seriously. Would I be willing to listen to him? Sure. I think the choice of Ron Paul or Barack Obama would be a very bad choice for America."

When asked if he would be able to vote for Paul if his rival won the 2012 GOP nomination, Gingrich said unequivocally "No."
Um, under what standards would Newt Gingrich qualify as a "decent American"? A man who is a serial adulterer, a man who divorced the woman he had left his first wife for and replaced her with another woman twenty years his junior that he was having an affair with and blamed his infidelity on his love of country? A man who four years after engineering the GOP takeover of the House and rising become Speaker of the same was disciplined for ethics violatons and fined $300,000, resigned as Speaker and left the Congress in what can only be described as disgrace?  A man who profited enormously from his connections in Washington D.C. and seems willing to change positions on issues whenever convenient? A man who can charitably be described as pompous and arrogant?

It seems to me that there is more to being a "decent American" than blind support of Israel and a willingness to attack other nations for possessing the same weapons we have possessed for half a century and that we used on a civilian population not once but twice. If Newt Gingrich is the standard by which we determine who is or is not a decent American, I will gladly accept the charge of not being one.

Tuesday, December 27, 2011

What he must swear

Under the Constituion of the United States, any man (or woman) who assumes the office of President of the United States is required to swear the following oath:
"I do solemnly swear (or affirm) that I will faithfully execute the Office of President of the United States, and will to the best of my Ability, preserve, protect and defend the Constitution of the United States." (Article Two, Section One, Clause Eight:)
Let's read that again. Is there any mention of support for the nation of Israel in that oath?

As a matter of geo-political policy, you can make a case for support of Israel. As a matter of inviolable national policy? No. Even less so as a theological obligation. If you base your support of a candidate on some perceived (and likely bogus) lack of zeal in defending the nation of Israel, you need to reread the Constitution.

Thursday, December 22, 2011

I fear those who would enslave me in the name of security

We are supposed to believe that Ron Paul is unelectable because of a non-interventionist foreign policy. Americans just won't support someone who might let America go a few years without bombing, invading or otherwise tinkering with the government of another nation. How can America survive unless the government is spying on us and looking with suspicion at the

Meanwhile the Federal government seems quite comfortable in slowly carving away individual liberty in the name of "security". We trade what is ours for a false hope of security placed in the hands of the least competent institution in most of our lives but were are told that "they", i.e. those people over there, are the enemy.

Doug Wilson rightly points out that the danger from the Federal government is far more real for the average America than the threat posed by a Muslim terrorist....
Now let me be reasonable here. I understand the tangled legal issues when an American citizen heads over to Yemen in order to start his DeathtotheGreatSatan.com. I understand the legal issues when an American tries to light the fuse on his sneakers mid-flight while yelling inspirational phrases from the Koran. I get the fact that there is a difference between true enemy combatants and a shoplifter at the mall. So I do believe that the libertarians falsely underestimate the threat that bona fide Islamic terrorism poses to us.

But I do not believe that the libertarians underestimate the threat that our overweening government represents to us. Scale of 1 to 10, how concerned am I that Muslim terrorists are going to successfully do something really bad to me or to my family? Oh, 1 or 2. Same scale, how concerned am I that the federal government is going to do something really bad to me or to my family? More like a 6 or 7, and I am not counting the bad things they are engaged in doing right this minute.

Surely the government will use this power responsibly and wisely, right? Right . . . who would oversee this whole thing? What department would be responsible? Ah . . . the same guys who came up with Fast and Furious? No problem then. I drop my objections. I can see now that I was just being silly.
A nameless, faceless bureaucrat in Washington D.C. is far more dangerous to America life and liberty than a Muslim terrorist. On January 22, 1973, seven American men created the right to murder children in their mother's womb with the proverbial stroke of a pen, leading to 50,000,000 abortions in America. If you divide that number by 38 (the number of years Roe v Wade has been "the law") and further divide that by 365 days per year (skipping the leap years), you come up to 3,605 abortions per day. More American children are murdered in the womb every day than died in total on 9/11/2011.That is the power of the Federal government, the power to tax, to imprison, to murder and it is a power we willingly abdicate in return for a false sense of "security" in the name of patriotism and the occasional return of some of OUR money that we are supposed to gratefully accept from our Federal overlords like a benevolent nobleman dispensing a few coins to his subjects.

Monday, December 19, 2011

Support the man the troops support

Support the troops! God bless our troops!

We hear that all of the time and often the people who say those phrases are the ones who support policies that put those men and women in danger and do nothing to defend the security of the United States. What is telling is the level of support Ron Paul gets from our active duty military. Watch this outstanding video...



9/11 didn't happen in a vacuum. The history of the U.S. involvement in the Middle East has consequences but because we assume that America is always right, we ignore them. The video of Donald Rumsfeld chumming around with Saddam Hussein is stunning. We supported the majahideen when it served our purposes and then a few decades later we have been fighting those same people. Our Constitutional mandate does not give America the responsibility or the right to tinker around with the affairs of foreign nations that pose no threat to us without a formal declaration of war, something we haven't done since World War II even though in the interim we have been involved in Korea, Vietnam, the Middle East in general, Grenada, Iraq twice and Afghanistan plus countless other conflicts in places like Somalia and Haiti.

Let’s look at the example of the Korean peninsula since the nutcase dictator of North Korea just died. While information is hard to come by, it is assumed that North Korea has a population of around 24,000,000. South Korea has twice the population at around 48,000,000. South Korea’s GDP is well over $1 trillion while North Korea has a GDP of around $40 billion, in other words South Korea’s economy is 25 times larger than North Korea’s. So we have two nations in a state of conflict for the last sixty years. One of these nations is a major economic power and has double the population. The other nation saw millions of its own citizens starve to death in the 90’s because their economy is such a disaster and they have isolated themselves from the rest of the world. Although North Korea has a huge military, so does South Korea. According to Wikipedia (references provided): Consequently, South Korea has the world's sixth largest number of active troops, the world's second-largest number of reserve troops and the eleventh largest defense budget. So it is not like South Korean can’t take care of itself.

Meanwhile the United States has had a sizeable military presence in South Korea since the Korean War, from 1950 to present day or over 60 years. We maintain a presence of over 28,000 troops in South Korea even though South Korea has some 687,000 active duty personnel and 8 million various reservists. Granted the North has over 1 million uniformed personnel but given the economic disparity it is without question that the South has far better equipment. What a lot of people forget is that during the Korean War, the UN forces drove all the way through North Korea and captured Pyonyang. That precipitated the Chinese response which led to the current stalemate. Were it not for Chinese intervention, Korea might well have been unified. Unlike the Korean War, in the event that North Korea initiated new hostilities with the South, the Soviet Union is gone and China has no interest in seeing a shooting war on their borders.

Meanwhile we have stationed tens of thousands of troops in Europe, in Asia and around the world for decades preparing to fight an enemy that no longer exists (the Soviet Union and the rest of the Warsaw Pact). Our former enemies in World War II (Germany, Japan and Italy) are now some of our closest allies and trade partners. The world has changed but the Constitution has not and unfortunately neither has the unwavering support for the military-industrial complex. Ron Paul’s foreign policy is neither naïve not dangerous. What is naïve and dangerous is giving virtually limitless spending to the Federal government no matter what it is spent on. Likewise trusting that the Federal government can be trusted with control over the world’s most powerful military force with little more oversight than “Support Our Troops” bumper stickers.

Let me say it again. It is stunning that "conservatives", people who mistrust the government and want to shrink it put on blinders when it comes to the enormous military budget supporting a huge standing army that clearly is benefiting a small subset of people financially but costing America hundreds of billions in debt and worse thousands of America lives, not to mention the tens of thousands of civilians killed as "collateral damage".

If you disagree with Ron Paul’s foreign policy, that is your prerogative. I just ask that you actually think through the subject before parroting back what you hear from talk radio hosts.

Thursday, December 8, 2011

Consistency

Most politicians change direction with the wind. One guy has been consistently speaking common sense for a long time.



Ron Paul 2012!

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

Mitt Over Newt

Let me say at the outset that neither of these guys is my first choice. At this stage if I were voting, I would vote for Ron Paul (and still will if he is on the ballot when my state finally votes in the primaries). Paul is unique among the GOP candidates for his refusal to embrace militaristic interventionism and his plan for shrinking government is far more comprehensive and serious than that of other candidates. Ron Paul has been consistent on the issues for a very long time and hopefully will emerge from Iowa and New Hampshire with solid footing if not an outright win. Anyway, the media is all abuzz with the news of Gingrich, left for dead like road kill, rising Lazarus-like from the dead to become the latest “Not Romney” and seizing the lead in many polls over Mitt Romney who seems stuck at a modest level of support.

Gingrich, on paper, seems like a solid conservative choice but the closer I look at him, the more convinced I am that he is a poor candidate to unseat Obama and that Mitt Romney is the better choice.

A lot of conservatives, including me, view Romney with some level of suspicion because of his flip-flopping on important issues and particularly because of Romney-care in Massachusetts. But as James Taranto states, writing for the Wall Street Journal, Mitt Romney has hardly cornered the market on flip-flopping…

So Newt is hardly a paragon of consistent conservative values (unlike say…Ron Paul). Even his recent potshot at Paul Ryan’s budget plan (describing it as “right wing social engineering”) caused a great deal of consternation among conservatives. Don't forget his questionable dealings with Fannie Mae, one of the great boondoggles in the history of America.
The main Republican objection to Romney is that he is inconstant, and thus not a true conservative. But is Gingrich really any better in this regard? In the past he has endorsed the individual mandate for medical insurance and even made a global-warmist video with Nancy Pelosi in which the two ex-speakers share a love seat!
Oddly, Newt is also not nearly as popular with people he was worked with in the past than he is with the primary voters. He seems to have a knack for rubbing people the wrong way, not for his principled stands so much as for being a jerk. Romney is by all accounts a nice guy and in my eyes has been a loyal soldier for some time. During the last election when Mitt finally conceded the nomination to John McCain, he was a good trooper and did all of the right stuff to support the doomed candidacy of Senator McCain. I think few people noticed it but I certainly did and applaud him for it.

When it comes to personal issues, issues of character, there is no contest. A co-worker often remarks to me that when you are on an airplane, you don’t care what kind of guy the pilot is, just that he lands the plane safely and gets you to the gate. Being President is somewhat more complicated because when you are the leader of the free world, a man with enormous power and influence unlike anyone else, personal issues matter. You represent us as a people to the world. While you might think that personal issues are not terribly important in this election given the dire straits our nation finds itself in, I still think that the personal life of a candidate speaks to their character. In other words, character counts. A man who is untrustworthy as a person is not someone I am keen on putting at the head of the world’s most powerful military. I trust Newt far more than I trust Obama but that is the equivalent of stumbling over a pretty low bar.

The sordid story of Newt Gingrich as a person is well known. Newt is thrice married, twice divorcing his wife at the time for the woman he was having an affair with. His current wife is 23 years his junior. In an interview earlier this year, Newt blamed it on his love for country:

Wearing white after Labor Day is not appropriate. Cheating on your wife and getting divorced twice is sinning. Big difference. Newt might be one of the few politicians who can match Barack Obama in terms of narcissism and utter lack of self-awareness. No President other than Ronald Reagan has been divorced and The Gipper met Nancy after his divorce was in process. Callista Gingrich would be the first home-wrecker to serve as first lady, not a particularly noble distinction.
There’s no question at times of my life, partially driven by how passionately I felt about this country, that I worked far too hard and things happened in my life that were not appropriate.
Mitt Romney meanwhile married his first wife in 1969 and 42 years later is married to…that same woman.

There are concerns that many evangelical voters will shy away from Mitt because he is a mormon. As a former mormon Mitt’s faith concerns me as well but as a former mormon I also can see pretty clearly that Mitt’s mormonism plays second fiddle to his political career. Besides, when push comes to shove and I have to choose between unbelievers for President, I choose Mitt over Obama 100 times out of 100. It is not exactly as if Newt Gingrich is a poster child for evangelicalism. Newt Gingrich converted fairly recently to Catholicism, the faith of his current wife (that he left his prior wife for (who of course was the wife he left the wife before that for)). Not exactly a Damascus Road type conversion story.

So in summary. Romney is no less a conservative than Newt, he is not more of a flip-flopper and he is far and away a man of better character. By any rational measure he is more electable because he will draw more independents and Newt certainly carries an enormous amount of personal baggage that will cause voters to think twice (polling numbers show this fact quite starkly). While Romney doesn’t have Newt’s knack for casting random historical facts around, I have a hard time believing that voters will find Gingrich’s pompous self-importance very endearing and lest we forget Romney has a B.A. from BYU and a M.B.A. and J.D. from Harvard, so he is no dummy. By almost any measure other than personal repugnance, Mitt Romney is a better choice than Newt Gingrich. I still can’t believe that we are at this point where Newt Gingrich is the front runner. Where is Mitch Daniels when we need him?

Of course the best choice is still Ron Paul

Monday, December 5, 2011

Am I A Suspect?

Apparently I might be a terrorism suspect. Watch this video, esp. the first part where Senator Rand Paul lists some of the ways that the National Defense Authorization Act allows the government to detain American citizens who are suspected terrorists and some of the tell-tale signs include having several guns in your possession and food stored for more than seven days.



There are not nearly enough voices speaking out against this. One of the easiest ways to take away liberty is to do it under the pretense of security. A people who will trade their liberty for state sponsored "security" quickly stop being citizens and start being subjects.

(Hat Tip: Bubbling Brook Farm)

Friday, October 28, 2011

The bogus issue of wealth and income disparity

Income disparity has grown in America over the last few decades.


So what?

Obviously some people have more wealth and make more income than others. That is not in dispute. Here is the real question. So what? What exactly are we to do about it? Should we do anything about it at all? Why do some people think that the government has the right and obligation to even the playing field or redistribute income from those who earned it to those who did not? The government has no obligation and frankly no right under the Constitution to mandate a certain acceptable level of wealth or the appropriate difference between the richest 1% and any other citizen.

This is an important issue because I can already see that President Obama is clinging to class warfare and appeals to envy like a drowning man. When all else fails, the Left always pulls out the class card and whispers of the unfairness that the guy over there makes a dollar a year more than you do. With one exception there is always someone in America who earns more, who has more, than any other given person and appealing to entitlement and envy has been a political winner for the Left forever. The “Occupy Wall Street” hordes are playing right into this by publically protesting against “greed”, an easy target, while their so-called solutions are toxic to most Americans. The irony of the middle and upper class children of a privileged upbringing protesting against the very system that has provided them with easy and comfy lives for most of their existence, the entertainment they demand and the ridiculously overpriced educations that they borrowed enormous sums to finance is lost on most of them, so caught up are they in their own self-righteous indignation.

The truth is that in any free society there will be disparity. In fact that is true even in controlled economies and totalitarian societies. In the Soviet Union the party bosses were at the top of the food chain and lived lives of privilege unimaginable and unattainable by the rest of their comrades. There will always be a “1%” that is better off than the other “99%”. The question is what determines the population that makes up that 1%: hard work and success or government bureaucracy and totalitarianism.

The other issue is that people who are the wealthiest have also created an enormous amount of economic benefit for those on the bottom rungs of society. Let’s look at an example. Bill Gates founded Microsoft in 1975 and through the decades since he has become one of the wealthiest men in the world. He is one of the “1%”. He might be in the top 1% of the top 1%! Of course he also gives away enormous sums in charitable giving but that is irrelevant to this conversation.

The company gates co-founded, Microsoft, also employs 90,000 people. 90,000. Many of those jobs are low skilled jobs but an awful lot of them are very high paying, great benefit jobs. Microsoft has created hundreds of billions in wealth via profits. Much of that wealth has gone to Mr. Gates but a lot of it has also gone to the employees and shareholders of Microsoft. Most people with a 401k plan probably hold a number of mutual funds that invest in Microsoft and have reaped the benefits of its profits. Companies like Microsoft, created by an entrepreneur and growing into an enormous company that in spite of the various flaws of Windows have made personal computing available to virtually everyone in America and billions of people around the world. The entire personal computer industry as it exists today can be traced back to Bill Gates and he has reaped the profits. Should Bill Gates be punished because of his success? Would we rather that people like Bill Gates just worked in a factory rather than being innovative risk takers? What about the Walton familty? In the 80’s and 90’s Wal-mart exploded in size and the Walton family reaped enormous benefits. Sure the Walton heirs are incredibly wealthy and Sam Walton was the richest man in America for many years but Wal-Mart also not only provides low cost products to hundreds of millions of consumers, it also employs 2.1 million employees worldwide. Think about that, over 2,000,000 employees, most of whom are low or no skilled service industry employees, that can trace their jobs back to the hard work and risk taking of a man, Sam Walton, who became supremely wealthy and rightfully so.

Even if we assume that rectifying income disparity is a legitimate function of the government, which it is not under any rational reading of the Constitution, there are two ways to address the issue. One is to seize, under threat of imprisonment, the generally hard earned income of the most successful among us, those who have often taken enormous risks to start a business or invest in an education. This method punishes the achiever and rewards the non-producers and the risk averse among us. This method is designed to encourage “fairness” but instead is more likely to reduce the overall wealth in our society by punishing achievers and quashing risk taking.

The other option is to take steps to encourage risk taking (real risk taking, where failure has consequences and the government is not going to bail you out) and investment. A strategy designed to facilitate the expansion of wealth so that more people have an opportunity to achieve. This strategy makes sense and has proven successful in the past but it is unpopular because it means that ultimately people are responsible for themselves and some people will end up being more successful than others.

We will be faced with two visions next November. On the one hand is a vision we see on display already in America, a vision of punishing achievement and rewarding failure, both on an individual level and an institutional level. A vision that has dominated our political discourse for decades, under Republican control and Democratic alike. The alternate vision, the vision I believe set in place the foundations for our prosperity that we have been trying to undermine for a long time and is in the spirit intended by the Founders of a system of limited government, would create an environment where hard work, risk taking and entrepreneurial spirit is permitted to flourish. The government cannot make people entrepreneurial, it can only hamper that spirit. The government cannot create wealth, it can only shuffle existing wealth from one person to another. The government cannot create jobs, it merely replaces private sector jobs with public sector ones. For far too long we have turned over our lives, our economy, our daily bread even, to the government and with each passing year it becomes more obvious that the government is not the solution, it is the problem. Our greatest challenge, the number one factor that is endangering our economic future, has nothing to do with the richest 1%, it has everything to do with the size and scope of the government, a government that creates crippling regulations, convoluted tax codes to reward favored industries and companies, borrows money and makes untenable economic promises with the intent of letting future generations pay the bill and generally makes individual Americans into members of a dependent class that is capable of little other than holding out our collective hands.

Is there income disparity in America. Of course there is, just as there is in every civilization that has ever existed or that will ever exist this side of eternity. Is the gap getting worse? Yes. The solution has nothing to do income redistribution but instead is centered on shrinking the size and scope of the Federal government, empowering up the free market by staying out of its way, encouraging investment and reasonable risk taking and making people responsible for their own prosperity. Unless we are willing to do that we are headed for a mess that will make the current European crisis look like the proverbial walk in the park.

Monday, October 24, 2011

Ironic

Many Republican voters won't support Ron Paul because they say he is an isolationist, unwilling to commit U.S. troops to foreign conflicts. Then you read something like this from the Wall Street Journal...
Mr. Paul draws a large share of his support from the military. The top three employers listed by his third-quarter campaign contributors are the Air Force, Navy and Army.
So apparently the people who actually have to fight in the wars other Republicans are so eager to engage in make up a large share of Ron Paul's supporters. Maybe that should tell us something.....

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

I can has jobz?

For all of the talk that comes out of Washington on both sides, the reality remains the same. There are too few jobs for the people who want work, at least too few full-time, permanent jobs. Worse, there is no plan to fix it and I suspect there is not really a plan being proposed that will work. This is especially true among men without college degrees. Why do young men without a college degree have such a hard time finding career type work (as opposed to transitory jobs, i.e. working in a factory rather than working in fast food)? Is the problem a lack of government spending? Or is it a wage environment that makes hiring these men to do what amounts to unskilled work too expensive? Is the underlying problem that we have priced unskilled labor, the kind of work young men right out of high school used to transition into that has now disappeared, out of competitiveness? American consumers, the vast majority of whom are precisely the sort of middle- and lower-class Americans who have a hard time finding a job, demand cheap and plentiful consumer goods. To produce those goods in the quantities and at the prices demanded by consumers usually means that the products must be produced overseas. We have created a vicious circle where the very consumers who demand constant, cheap consumption cannot find work that provides a sufficient wage to satisfy their demand.

Americans are victims of our own affluence. Our demand for cheap goods and services coupled with our expectation of a certain wage level has driven many unskilled jobs that formerly were in America to locations overseas. It is easy to rail against evil and greedy corporations for doing this but what drives them to move jobs overseas is the demand for cheap consumer goods. Making consumer goods in America requires paying more and it just is not the case that American consumers by and large have shown a willingness to pay a premium for “Made In America”. Sure we talk a big game about it but look at a Wal-Mart parking lot and you will see that talk is cheap until you have to swipe your debit card. The combination of minimum wage levels that artificially inflate the wages of the least qualified workers, unionization which has dramatically escalated the cost of hiring blue collar workers and the flooding of women into the workforce that dilutes the demand for labor has led to a situation.

The result is found in the inevitable situation we are in. As the world shrinks and it becomes easier to mass produce in low labor cost countries and transport those goods to the more affluent market, it was inevitable that we would arrive at this situation.

Thus we have the foolishness and hubris of the “Occupy Wall Street” folks. What is happening here, and in pitiful assemblies in cities around America, is not a representative demonstration of the “99%” but rather a very small, very radical fringe on the Left. They have succeeded thus far in framing the “protests” as an uprising of 99% of Americans against the evil and greedy successful people when in reality they not only do not represent “99%” of Americans, they don’t represent even a majority of Americans but rather a very small, radical fringe. The Wall Street Journal reported on an informal survey of the protestors and the findings are about what I expected.
The protesters have a distinct ideology and are bound by a deep commitment to radical left-wing policies. On Oct. 10 and 11, Arielle Alter Confino, a senior researcher at my polling firm, interviewed nearly 200 protesters in New York's Zuccotti Park. Our findings probably represent the first systematic random sample of Occupy Wall Street opinion.

Our research shows clearly that the movement doesn't represent unemployed America and is not ideologically diverse. Rather, it comprises an unrepresentative segment of the electorate that believes in radical redistribution of wealth, civil disobedience and, in some instances, violence. Half (52%) have participated in a political movement before, virtually all (98%) say they would support civil disobedience to achieve their goals, and nearly one-third (31%) would support violence to advance their agenda.
Perhaps most disturbing was the stat that almost 1/3 of those informally polled were OK with the use of violence to achieve their “goals”. The gentlemen I have seen look perfectly capable of hooligan violence, i.e. tossing a garbage can through a store widow, but just as likely to wet themselves in the face of actually violence. The rumblings of this have been building for some time in the far Left violence at the meeting of various world economic conferences (like the G-8) and in some places in Europe as a reaction to the austerity measures being forced upon the most indebted nations. We are standing on the precipice of a very dangerous cliff but the various left wing causes being championed by the Occupy Wall Street crowd are likely to exacerbate the problems rather than alleviate them.

There are really only two ways to approach this economy with its utter lack of job creation. One is for the Federal government to tax and borrow enormous sums of money that will be used to “create” or more likely retain jobs, most of which will be in the public sector. The canard that Federal spending will go toward “shovel ready” jobs in the private sector has been shown to be false. The stimulus spending we already tried went largely to unionized public sector workers, in essence a tax payer funded payback to the public sector unions that overwhelmingly support Democrats who in turn seek to increase the number of public sector union worker who pay union dues….you get the picture. The other is for the country to swallow hard, prepare for some lean years and do everything possible to make the environment for hiring, investing and expanding as attractive as possible. There are no quick fixes here. Writing yet another check being cashed against the tax dollars of future generations is not a solution. We need genuine leadership and it is pretty clear we are not going to get that from the current inhabitant of the White House.

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

America's Unhealthy Love Affair With The Military

America was founded by people who had a healthy suspicion of a standing military. Many of the articles in the Bill of Rights had their genesis in the tendency toward corrupt rule by a government with a standing army, including mention of civilian militias in the Second Amendment (the best protection against a tyrant is an armed citizenry) and a specific article outlawing the quartering of troops in private homes in the Third Amendment. It is almost unthinkable today that the Third Article of the Bill of Rights, right after the protecting of freedom of speech, religion and assembly and the protection of the right of private citizens to be armed, is a protection against the excesses of a standing army. Of course we don't have soldiers being quartered in the homes of private citizens anymore. We just have hundreds of military bases around the world housing hundreds of thousands of soldiers at enormous expense paid for by the seizing of tax money from...private citizens.

Prior to the start of World War II, the United States military was barely a blip on the radar, smaller than many minor players in Europe. Some may argue that our relatively weak standing military was a provocation for Japan to attack what perhaps they saw as a toothless tiger. They quickly learned, as did Nazi Germany and fascist Italy, that poking the sleeping giant gets you stomped. The huge military build-up in the years leading to Pearl Harbor and then in the post Pearl Harbor entrance of the United States is remarkable. America at that time was uniquely suited with industrial capacity, a large population and a self-sufficient food supply to go from a military also-ran to an unstoppable fighting force. Furthermore we don’t face that sort of wide scale pitched warfare anymore. Who would we go to war with? China, our largest lender (and we are their largest consumer)? India? Russia? There is not a realistic scenario where we would face the sort of massive mobilization on the horizon. Suggest that maybe we can afford to cut back on military spending and you will find yourself accused of undermining the troops and outright “un-Americanism”.

Our current love affair with the military goes back oddly enough to the end of the Vietnam War and the popular culture that surrounds the treatment of returning Vietnam veterans. The well known events of people screaming at, spitting on and otherwise mistreating soldiers who by and large had been drafted into the war against their will is an ugly stain on our cultural history. I don’t know of anyone who is proud of those events outside of a few relics of the hippie era on the campus of some universities. Even if they are proud of that behavior they generally have the common sense to keep their mouths shut.

Today and really since the first Gulf War (perhaps even back to the Reagan Presidency) the attitude in America has changed. Today the military is revered above almost any other public institution by most Americans. “Support our troops” is assumed by most people. Citizens thank uniformed serviceman in public for their service. In an age when most public institutions are looked at with suspicion if not outright hostility (governments, schools, churches, sports, doctors), the military sits alone on a pedestal. Along with that comes with political cover that prevents any discussion of reducing the size and scope of our military or restraining military spending. In an era of record setting crippling deficits, cutting military spending is virtually off the board. Mitt Romney even called for increased military spending in a speech last week without a hint of where the money would come from.

The reverence for the military is understandable. With the death of the “Greatest Generation” of World War II vets and the near constant service of so many men and women in the years following September 11th, it is little wonder that the military holds a unique place of reverence in America in a time when few of our cultural pillars are unstained. How can one not see the young men and women in uniform in an airport, coming from or going to a new base or perhaps Afghanistan or Iraq and not be touched? However, this reverence has the potential for some serious problems.

First, the military budget. National defense is one of the few legitimate functions of the Federal government as something that is not realistically able to be handled by the states. That Constitutional function does not provide a blank check for military interventions and nation building. I have a hard time believing that the Founders would approve of a ten year war in Afghanistan. Given our trillions upon trillions of dollars in national debt that shows no sign of shrinking, we need to be willing to cut defense spending in a meaningful way. We can do so without putting our nation at risk and it is high time that the rest of our allies step up and shoulder some of the burden.

Second, a skewing of opinion when our troops are “in harms way”. When the military is in the field, we are supposed to rally around the flag and support them, no matter what. Questions about whether or not we should be engaged in a theater of operation is virtually forbidden and suggestions to that effect invariably lead to charges of “not supporting the troops”. This attitude quashes legitimate questions. A decision to put American troops into combat is by far the most critical decision a President can make and that decision needs to be open to discussion. That means that neither blind support nor blind opposition to any military action is a sign of a health republic.

Finally, although this seems unlikely, it should worry us that we have a huge and often politicized standing army in our midst. Too often around the world the government has seized power beyond its mandate by using the military. Of course that wouldn’t happen here, right? Almost certainly not but we are also facing a great deal of social unrest, discontentment, extended unemployment and almost certainly huge cuts to entitlements and benefits people expect from the Federal government. Never underestimate what fear and uncertainty can do to a populace and never underestimate what steps those in power will take to stay in power.

Americans should absolutely respect the service of those who serve in the military and remember the sacrifices they have made. We should also remember where we came from and remember that the military is for our national defense, a mandate that it has been called to exceed for my entire life. Likewise we should recall that the military is part of the government and that we should always pay attention to how it is run, where it is sent and how it is funded. The military is not and must not be above reproach or examination and we need to keep that in mind. Honor the troops but be realistic about the military.

Friday, October 7, 2011

Enormous deficits? Unending wars? Spend MORE on defense!

I am gradually coming to terms with the reality that Romney is likely to be the nominee. The way Rick Perry fizzled means he is virtually out of contention a month after he got into the race as the instant front-runner. Ron Paul gets ignored consistently by the media and is not enough of an interventionist for the rank and file GOP voter. The rest of the field is fading fast. The fact that Herman Cain, who is a solid conservative but not likely to win the nomination, is getting so much attention tells you that the GOP base is looking for someone other than Romney but in the end I think he is going to end up being the nominee. Today he gave another speech, this time in front of a crowd at the Citadel where he called for additional defense spending...
Mr. Romney proposed a big increase in naval shipbuilding, to as many as 15 new ships a year from the current rate of nine, as well as the deployment of a full national ballistic-missile-defense system.
How exactly are we going to pay for that? Borrowing money from China?

Here we see Romney's biggest flaw. He is a chameleon. In front of a pro-military audience he is a defense hawk. Unlike Ron Paul (Air Force, 1963 to 1968) and Rick Perry (also Air Force, 1972-1977) who actually served in the military, Romney has no uniformed service experience but when faced with a military audience he is all about spending more on the armed forces, especially the Navy (where we already hold an unbelievable advantage over the rest of the world, see here ). This was clearly a speech that was as much about drawing a contrast with his rivals, chiefly Ron Paul who is not mentioned by name but clearly in view, as much as about contrasting himself with President Obama.
He also appeared to take swipes at some of his GOP rivals, who have argued that the U.S. should concentrate above all on controlling spending and rebuilding the U.S. economy.

"We should embrace the challenge, not shrink from it, not crawl into an isolationist shell, not wave the white flag of surrender, nor give in to those who assert America's moment has passed," Mr. Romney said. "That is utter nonsense. An eloquently justified surrender of world leadership is still surrender."

Mr. Romney said that, if elected, he would "reverse President Obama's massive defense cuts" on his first day in office, even though significant cuts in defense spending haven't taken effect under Mr. Obama. Romney aides said the governor was referring to projected defense cuts, most of which were part of the debt-ceiling negations that both parties agreed to in August.
The bogeyman of isolationism. The favorite slur of "conservatives" when confronted with even the suggestion of cuts to defense, as if modest cuts in defense spending would cripple the American military. As I pointed out in a prior post, The Most Sacred of Conservative Cows, many conservatives are all about cutting spending excpet when it comes to the military.

If we are going to have a serious conversation about reducing the national debt, military spending must be on the table. America can no longer afford (and honestlynever really could) to be the world's policeman, spending hundreds of billions a year on a military that does very little that is national defense oriented. It would be nice if the media gave more air time to Ron Paul who is alone in the major candidates in talking about this issue. We clearly are not going to get a serious conversation from either Obama or Romney....

Monday, October 3, 2011

We're not sure what we are protesting but by golly we are awful mad about it!

In the "empty and futile gesture" category we have the knuckleheads "occupying Wall Street", a motley crowd that doesn't seem to know what exactly they are protesting against or what they want. "We're mad as heck about...about...well about something Important and we are Protesting!", even if protesting looks a lot like "squatting" or hanging around instead of looking for gainful employment. Look at this pic, you can tell these people are being repressed by The MAN, just look at these brave protesters. They are reduced to updating Facebook OUTSIDE!

Here is one "protester" making known her...um, demands?
Erin Larkins, a Columbia University graduate student at who says she and her boyfriend have significant student loan debt, was among the thousands of protesters on the bridge. She said a friend persuaded her to join the march and she's glad she did.

"I don't think we're asking for much, just to wake up every morning not worrying whether we can pay the rent, or whether our next meal will be rice and beans again," Larkins wrote in an email to The Associated Press. "No one is expecting immediate change. I think everyone is just hopeful that people will wake up a bit and realize that the more we speak up, the more the people that do have the authority to make changes in this world listen."
Boy, you would think someone working on a graduate degree at Columbia would be, oh I don't know, studying? Or at least be able to articulate just what they are protesting against because from the news report she apparently wants someone to provide more groceries and is not keen on paying back her substantial student loans. Forced to eat rice and beans? She is just like a Haitian orphan. You know except for the part about being a grad student at Columbia. Other than that she is just like a Haitian orphan! Good thing she is not going to school in an insanely expensive city like...New York...oh.

It is hard to take seriously someone in grad school at Columbia talking about economic justice. Oh the humanity that she is living frugally in college! That has never happened to any college student until just recently! We used to think that struggling by, eating cheap pizza and ramen noodles, was a part of the college experience and character forming. Now? Looks like those meanies on Wall Street are making college students eat rice and beans! This whole thing smacks of a bunch of spoiled children of privilege having a fit because the rest of the country isn't interested in funding whatever it is that they want them to fund. You know like Justice and stuff.

In Greece, a country up to its eyeballs in debt, mass protests including some violent ones greet any attempt to rein in spending as demanded by other nations that kind of would like to get their money back. You know, 'cause that is what you are supposed to do with loans. Pay them back. Anyway Greece is suffering through the effects of decades of unsustainable social programs and like most of the rest of Europe is finding out that you can't provide incentives to the population to not work without eventually having some consequences. Thanks to the instability of Greece and other European nations, coupled with the cruddy economy in America and worldwide, the markets are in turmoil and the job picture is muddled because companies don't like uncertainty.

So in America we are seeing the start of same thing. Groups of young pseudo-intellectuals talking about anarchy and fighting the power while posting status updates on the iPad they bought on credit they don't want to repay. State workers in Wisconsin and elsewhere demanding that tax payers fund their ridiculous benefit packages no matter what the cost. We have been riding high on borrowed money, at the Federal, state and household level for a long time and now that has dried up. That in turn has put the economy, job market, housing market, etc. in the tank.Can violence in the streets and general uprisings be far away? Few things are more dangerous than a violent crowd and almost nothing is more dangerous that an violent mob that has no idea what they are rioting about.

Only in America.

For some reason the "protestors" in New York remind me of this video...

Thursday, September 29, 2011

The Rich Already Pay Their Fair Share

Seriously can we dispense with the whole "the rich need to pay their fair share" baloney?

It is undisputed that the top wage earners in this country pay an enormous percentage of income tax receipts. The top 10% of wage earners pay 70% of all income tax. Apparently that is not enough. Ask your average citizen who is eligible to vote if the rich should "pay their fair share" (the question presumes that whatever they are paying now is not "fair") and you will get overwhelming support, often even among Republican voters.

It is also undisputed that nearly 50% of adults in this country pay nothing or less in Federal income taxes. I am among that group thanks to the tax laws and my large family. I still get to drive on roads and bridges funded by the gubmint. I still enjoy the protection of the United States military. I buy meat stamped "USDA" from the store.  Non-taxpayers like me get all of the benefits with none of the costs. Yet many of us think the rich need to pay more because we want to benefit more from the system that we don't pay for. We have a RIGHT to benefits from the Federal government, paid for by someone else, because...well because we have been told we deserve it and have been given the means (i.e. voting) to confiscate the property of others to benefit ourselves.

Huh?

The rich get one vote on the ballot just like the non-taxpaying citizens. Sure you can argue that they influence politicians with campaign donations but so do unions. So does the NRA. So does the AARP. So do tons of advocacy groups that claim the allegiance of all sorts of people. They don't get special lanes on the highway to drive upon. They get taxed heavily on their income. If they invest part of what is left over they get taxed on their gains. If they pass on their accumulated wealth that they earned and is left over after taxes, their heirs get taxed on that inheritance again. Meanwhile the same politicians speechifying about "fair share" have created a hopelessly complex tax system that allows the ultra-rich (i.e. donors to the Democrats) to hide and shelter their money.

Let me ask. What would be "their fair share"? If the top ten percent of wage earners paid 90% of all taxes and the other 90% of Americans chipped in the remaining 10%, would that be "fair"? Maybe if nobody paid any taxes but the top 10% of wage earners, would that be "fair"? Maybe we should just seize every nickle someone makes above and beyond the median income so that no one has more than anyone else. That would be "fair", right? Politicians like our President never name a number because that might get people thinking. The answer is always "more".

Or perhaps the problem is not that the Federal government is not taxing the "rich" enough but that it spends too much and does so inefficiently and in areas that have no basis in the Constitutional mandate of the Federal government. When an alcoholic refuses to leave the bar, you don't take away the drink from the guy sitting on the next bar stool and give it to them. You cut him off. It is high time we cut off our Federal overlords. Take away their checkbook and you take away their power and perhaps then we can see some real reform in this country.

Monday, August 15, 2011

A four man race

Well a lot happened over the weekend politically. Tim Pawlenty, who on paper looked like a great candidate, turned out to be a horrible campaigner. Michelle Bachmann has shown some real support. Rick Perry got in and since he draws from a similar pool as Bachmann could spell real trouble for her. He has everything she does not: he served in the military, he is a guy, he has executive experience (and we have proof of how disastrous a President with no executive experience can be. See: Obama, Barack) and he seems....less kooky. I liked this paragraph from the Wall Street Journal today (emphasis mine)
Americans are already living with the consequences of electing a President who sounded good but had achieved little as a legislator and had no executive experience. Mrs. Bachmann will have to persuade voters she isn't the conservative version of Mr. Obama.
There it is.

So we are left with Ron Paul, who gets no respect from the media on either side, Michelle Bachmann, Rick Perry and of course Mitt Romney who has a great organization, a ton of money and a huge albatross around his neck in the form of the proto-Obamacare he oversaw and still defends in Massachusetts. I assume Gingrich will stop embarassing himself and get out, although he might be delusional enough to stay in for a while. Huntsman, Santorum, Cain, McCotter (huh?!) never were in this in the first place and shouldn't even really be considered in future debates. The question comes down to who emerges from those four. I can see Paul hanging around for a long time which is healthy. I think Bachmann is peaking too soon and will fade as her supporters bleed off and Pawlenty supporters run to Perry. Romney is the "front runner" but only because he has been running since the day after the last election and has lots of money. No one I know is enthusiastic about him at all. A lot of people would like a President Romney more than a second Obama term but he is nobodies first choice that I know of.

Should be an interesting couple of months. Once the snow starts flying we should know who is likely to face Obama. At this point, even though he is new into the race, I think this is Perry's race to lose.

And please, please, please let's all hope Sarah Palin quits muddying the waters and leaves the GOP alone. This next election is too important for Palin and her ego trip.


Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Charity is not the role of the Federal government

Wow, just read a great post from CATO, Charity and the Federal Government. It starts off with a great quote from James Madison:

Charity is no part of the legislative duty of the government.

How far we have strayed from the founding principles of limited government! I also liked this paragraph:
Today, most young Americans grow up in federally subsidized schools offering federally subsidized meals. They are inculcated to view the federal government as a benevolent caregiver that exists to provide Americans with housing, food, health care, and even income (to name just a few). Madison’s unfortunately quaint notion that the federal government isn’t supposed to be engaged in “charitable” activities would probably leave them dumbfounded.
That is outstanding. If you don't think that there is a sizable portion of the Left that is bent on getting as many people possible as dependent as possible on the Federal government, you are naive.Now, having said all of that, I do worry that if we were somehow to magically dismantle the welfare state would those on the political Right step up and give via private charity or just be glad to have more money to spend on stuff? That is a hard question. I like to think so and given how generous many people already are I think you can make a case for it but it is a nagging question nevertheless. Even the most conservative among us seem to have bought into the notion that it is the government's job to care for the poor, we just don't want them doing it with our money.

Thursday, June 23, 2011

America needs freedom from government, not deficit spending fueled "nation building"

President Obama promised to start bringing home the troops from Afghanistan last night, rather slowly but I get where he is coming from. The bigger problem has nothing to do with Afghanistan. The ominous tone that he struck tells the story that he still seems to not get what is going on here at home. He said:

America, it is time to focus on nation building here at home.

Dear President Obama. We already have a nation. We don't need "nation building" in America. While I am not 100% sure what that means, I am pretty sure that what you mean is "more government spending". That is the last thing we need. When the Left speaks of "investment" they mean more deficit spending aimed at making an ever larger part of the U.S. economy dependent on the Federal government. We never could afford that and that sort of interventionism cripples the economy. The prolonged recession and ballooning deficits speak to the truth of that statement, not to mention the looming entitlement crisis that we have no way of paying for.

What President Obama is hinting at with "nation building here at home", what he really means is remaking America in his image, an America that looks more like Europe and less like the entrepreneurial risk taking capitalism that has made America the envy of the world. I hope that my fellow Americans will see through this and reject the false hope we are promised by trading opportunity for perceived economic security.

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

The most foolish and illogical New York Times editorial ever?

That would be a bold claim but I think I can substantiate it. Nelson Lichtenstein is outraged over the Supreme Courts rejection of the class action lawsuit lumping 1.6 million women into one enormous suit. According to Mr. Lichtenstein, Wal-Mart is just a step down from a North Korean prison camp and his editorial, Wal-Mart’s Authoritarian Culture (you know, unlike all of the other corporations out there that don’t have authoritarians hierarchies) demonstrates an amazing lack of understanding about even basic economic concepts.

Apparently the very corporate policies that have made Wal-Mart successful and provided hundreds of millions of consumers with the low cost consumer goods that they demand are somehow inherently discriminatory to women. The solution Mr. Lichtenstein proposes will shock you!

Warning. Hyperbole ahead.

There are tens of thousands of experienced Wal-Mart women who would like to be promoted to the first managerial rung, salaried assistant store manager. But Wal-Mart makes it impossible for many of them to take that post, because its ruthless management style structures the job itself as one that most women, and especially those with young children or a relative to care for, would find difficult to accept.

Why? Because, for all the change that has swept over the company, at the store level there is still a fair amount of the old communal sociability. Recognizing that workers steeped in that culture make poor candidates for assistant managers, who are the front lines in enforcing labor discipline, Wal-Mart insists that almost all workers promoted to the managerial ranks move to a new store, often hundreds of miles away.

For young men in a hurry, that’s an inconvenience; for middle-aged women caring for families, this corporate reassignment policy amounts to sex discrimination. True, Wal-Mart is hardly alone in demanding that rising managers sacrifice family life, but few companies make relocation such a fixed policy, and few have employment rolls even a third the size.


Egad, the horror of common sense! Promoting someone to manage people who were their peers few days ago is problematic, so they move promising future managers to stores where there are actual openings. What sort of crazy talk is that?! Doesn’t Wal-Mart know that making promotions as easy and convenient as possible is their primary corporate priority?

Moving for promotions is typical in much of corporate America and especially so in retail. There are hordes of nomads who relocate year after year as part of new store set-up teams. They move to a town where a new Wal-Mart/Home Depot/Lowes etc is opening, spend a year or so setting up the store for its grand opening and then relocate to open the next store. That is just reality, a place unfamiliar to most of the authors invited to pontificate on the hallowed pages of the New York Times. Wait, there is more!

The obstacles to women’s advancement do not stop there. The workweek for salaried managers is around 50 hours or more, which can surge to 80 or 90 hours a week during holiday seasons. Not unexpectedly, some managers think women with family responsibilities would balk at such demands, and it is hardly to the discredit of thousands of Wal-Mart women that they may be right.

Maybe, just maybe, there are real trade offs that people have to make in balancing career and family. Wal-Mart offers jobs with particular requirements. One of those requirements is that Wal-Mart managers work tons of hours. That is pretty typical in retail where the small number of managers are almost always salaried and work long hours. My first job out of college was in retail store management and my work week was five “regular” days where I worked 11 hours and one “half day” where I worked six hours. A typical week saw me working more than 55 hours for an annual salary of about $21,000 or the equivalent of around $7.34/hour. I made less per hour in management than many of the regular workers in the store, including cashiers. That is simply the reality of the retail world. Don’t fret though, Mr. Lichtenstein has a radical solution: unionize!

There used to be a remedy for this sort of managerial authoritarianism: it was called a union, which bargained over not only wages and pensions but also the kind of qualitative issues, including promotion and transfer policies, that have proved so vexing for non-unionized employees at Wal-Mart and other big retailers.

There “used to be” something called a union? I think we still have them although they are rapidly falling out of favor in the private sector. So according to this fella, the solution to Wal-Mart’s “managerial authoritarianism” is to unionize Wal-Mart employees, the fantasy of every leftist in America. What will that accomplish? Typically unions don’t cover management, so that does very little to alleviate concerns over working hours and required relocations. Plus unionizing Wal-Mart workers will invariably lead to higher costs. Guess who is going to pay those higher costs? If you answered “the consumer”, i.e. “the little guy” you are correct! It probably goes without saying but given that we are dealing with the New York Times here even the most obvious, common sense statements bear repeating: The “rich” are not the primary consumers of Wal-Mart’s products. They can afford to shop wherever they like. It is middle and lower class Americans who are able to buy products at the lower prices offered by Wal-Mart because of Wal-Mart’s culture of purchasing in massive quantities and corporate austerity. Those are the very consumers who would be hurt by unionizing Wal-Mart. Raising the cost of wages doesn’t happen in a vacuum. Those costs are built into the price of goods and services. Raise wages and you inevitably raise the prices paid by consumers. This is precisely why minimum wage laws are illogical. The only way this would conceivably work is to couple price controls with wage controls and we all know how well that worked in the Soviet Union.

Wal-Mart, for all of its flaws, is first and foremost a corporation run by a board of directors appointed by its shareholders. Just like every other corporation in the world including the New York Times. Like every corporation, it is driven by profit. Wal-Mart also happens to be the largest company in America, a company that provides both great prices on consumer products to consumers across America as well as jobs to literally millions of people. Unionizing Wal-Mart, which will never happen thank goodness, would lead to “higher” wages for low skill workers and higher prices for hundreds of millions of low to mid income Americans. If you don’t like Wal-Mart’s policies, don’t shop there. Pay higher prices somewhere else or make your own stuff. Just don’t make the rest of us pay higher prices because you have a beef with the largest private job creator in America

Thursday, June 9, 2011

The Chinese menace and the national debt

Many of the arguments against cutting defense spending revolve around a hypothetical war with China. The argument goes something like this. China is eager to establish itself as a military powerhouse in the Pacific. If the U.S. blinks on defense spending, the Chinese will slowly catch up to us and take away our numerical and technological superiority. That will leave us poorly positioned to defend Taiwan, Japan, Korea or Australia. Without the deterrent of an overwhelming U.S naval power in the Pacific either China will become ascendant and aggressive or Japan will have to rebuild its navy and no one wants that. In short, we have to maintain our level of military spending to prevent a disastrous war with China.

Guess what.

We are already at war with China and we are losing. Badly.

I don’t think the Chinese have much interest in getting into a shooting war with America. Why do that when they are defeating America little by little each day? They have turned around and adapted the U.S. strategy under Reagan during the Cold War but we are too dense and too apathetic to even realize it. We cannot keep spending at our current levels but no one is willing to make the cuts we need and that absolutely includes serious cuts to defense spending. As it stands we are slowly losing our economic dominance and China is intentionally building its economic juggernaut while we push ourselves further into debt, threatening our long term economic stability and position as the leader of the free world.

We simply cannot afford to spend upwards of a trillion dollars each and every year on defense, especially since what we are buying is not “defense” but “offense” in many cases. The news has long been full of stories out of Iraq and Afghanistan but we are seeing new stories as President Obama inexplicably extends our military even further into Libya and airstrikes on Yemen. How long until we get involved militarily in Syria where conditions are at least as bad as they were in Libya?

The US military of the future needs to be a lot of things: nimbler, more adaptable, more technologically driven, more focused. It also needs to be smaller and cheaper. We need to have serious conversations about how to make that happen in the context of drastic spending cuts now, not twenty years from now when it is too late.

Friday, June 3, 2011

Georgia Governor Nathan Deal must read my blog

Back in March, I put up a post, A Simple Solution, where I suggested that we could kill two birds with one stone by cracking down on illegal immigrants who do farm labor and cutting unemployment benefits to incentivize people to take on harder jobs. Turns out Governor Nathan Deal of Georgia must have read my post according to CNN, To address unemployment, Georgia governor proposes farm work.

Are you out of work? Are you looking for a job? Do you live in Georgia?

If the answer to those questions is "yes," Gov. Nathan Deal has an idea for you: Become a farm worker.
Governor Deal seems to have made the connection: a lot of people out of work, no money for unemployment, lots of openings in farm work because of actually enforcing immigration laws in his state.

Ah, but in the spirit of American entitlement, this is pretty unpopular among those getting free money from the government for not working…
For some unemployed Georgians, however, the idea is not so appealing.

Marci Mosley, who lives in Atlanta, has been out of work for more than a year. She said she would only work on a farm as a last resort.

"I have a phobia of snakes," Mosley said. "I hate spiders...You have to get up early in the morning, and it's hot."

Mosley, an African-American, said she used to work on her grandfather's farm in Texas, where he stressed the importance of a good education to get off the farm. Mosley believes Deal's plan would be a tough sell for many other African Americans, who saw their older relatives struggle farming.

"It could be a setback for people," Mosley said. "The only people that would even think about doing that are people who have nothing else left...An educated black person does not have time for that. They didn't go to school to work on a farm, and they're not going to do it."
That’s the spirit! It is hot and you have to get up early, so we ain’t doing it! It is apparently my right as an American to only do jobs that I really, really like doing and that are not too physically taxing or require me to change my sleep patterns or for crying out loud where I might see a spider!

I am willing to bet that if unemployment ran out a lot sooner, all of a sudden jobs that were “jobs Americans won’t do” would suddenly seem a lot more acceptable.

Double standard anyone?

So the Obama administration has decided that amidst the budget crisis, the looming debt ceiling “catastrophe”, a still very weak job market, a similarly cruddy housing market, three wars, etc., etc. that it must make it a priority step in to prevent the people of Indiana (you know, the tax payers) from deciding to defund Planned Parenthood.

The administration, rather than admitting that the puppet-masters at Planned Parenthood are pulling their strings, are just throwing up their hands in helplessness. What can they do, this is “the law”!

"We expect Indiana will comply with the federal law. That's our position now," Berwick told Fox News. "Medicaid can't pay with federal dollars for abortion, but that does not mean the state can deny services from a willing provider. That's just what the law is and we're just implementing the law."
Huh. It seems like only yesterday that the same administration refused to defend the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) because they arbitrarily decided it was unconstitutional. Sure it was also “the law” but in this administration only certain laws are real laws apparently.

We of course have to set aside the fact that funding “family planning services” of any sort really is way outside of the Constitutional mandate of the Federal government. After all, this administration has demonstrated long ago that the Constitution only means what Barack Obama wants it to mean.

Defend DOMA? No. Defend tax payer subsidies for abortionists? Absolutely!

Tuesday, May 31, 2011

News Flash! Rich people are....rich!

In a stunning piece of news, it turns out that rich people have more money than poor people. This report, Millionaires Control 39% of the World’s Wealth, will come as a shock to many people to be sure and spur calls from places like the New York Times to increase taxes.

I found this to be interesting:

As you can see from the accompanying chart, millionaires control 29% of North America’s wealth, while millionaires control about 38% of the wealth in the Middle East and Africa. While the chart makes it look like millionaire-wealth in America is more concentrated, we also have far more millionaires, so their wealth is more spread out among the millionaire population.

So in a capitalist nation, we have lots and lots of millionaires (5,200,000 of them to be more precise). In fact we have less wealth concentrated with millionaires than Third World countries (generally not functioning capitalistic states).

What is also not noted is that something like half of Americans don’t pay any Federal income tax (including your humble author) and conversely the top wage earners pay an obscenely high percentage of total Federal income tax receipts.

What is usually missed is that this is a good thing. 5 million millionaires means more and more people becoming wealthy and wealth is not static. In other words, they create more wealth rather than taking it from the “poor”. Having millionaires to invest means jobs for the working class. Taking money away from them means less investment and fewer jobs.

Do we want to make rich people poor or poor people rich?

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

A quick plug for Pawlenty

Just as an FYI, the libertarian Cato Institute released a report card on fiscal policy in 2010, rating the various governors. They awarded an "A" rating to the following four governors:

  • Mark Sanford of South Carolina


  • Bobby Jindal of Louisiana


  • Tim Pawlenty of Minnesota


  • Joe Manchin of West Virginia

      • (Interesting that Manchin, now Senator Manchin, is a Democrat) .

        So Pawlenty has quietly compiled a pretty conservative fiscal policy record. Just something to consider.

        Monday, May 23, 2011

        Pawlenty's blessing and curse are one and the same

        Gerald Seib nails it with this statement in Pawlenty's Moment May Have Arrived:

        He isn't loved passionately by any of the important factions in the Republican party, but he's acceptable to all of them.

        That is Pawlenty in a nutshell. Few Republicans dislike Palwenty so he has a leg up on Romney, Paul, Palin and Gingrich, all who have certain segments of the party who actively dislike them (or in Newt's case pretty much the whole party doesn't like him). He is also few people's favorite, kind of the perpetual bridesmaid. "So and so is my first choice but if they don't win, Pawlenty would be OK". With Romney stuck in neutral, Newt shooting himself in the foot again and again, Huckabee out, no one else imminently getting in and most especially with Mitch Daniels not running, this is his time to grab some attention. The Daniels decision is huge because I think they draw from the same pool of supporters. If Pawlenty can get Daniels, Christy, Barbour and other GOP governors to rally around he might just pull this off.

        His big challenge is getting to the point of being a number one choice for people rather than an acceptable runner-up. As Seib points out, he is not a fiery guy and looks a bit silly when he tries to be. His campaign announcement video on YouTube is a prime example, it was good but he sounded like he was trying too hard sometimes. Now, if you paired him with Hermann Cain as his running mate, someone who could whip up the troops and let Pawlenty be the quietly capable and professional leader, that might be a great combo. We will see.

        One other thing. Drop the T-Paw thing, it sounds silly when applied to a dorky white guy from Minnesota.

        Friday, May 13, 2011

        It is official, Ron Paul is in the race!

        The long expected announcement came out today. Ron Paul is officially in the race to be the GOP nominee taking on a very vulnerable Barack Obama in 2012. At 75, Paul would be a pretty old President but he is as sharp today as ever and compared to many of the other nominees is light-years ahead intellectually.

        So is Ron Paul likely to win the nomination?

        Probably not.

        I actually think he would do better in the general election than in the GOP primaries. The biggest obstacle to Paul winning the GOP nomination is his dogged non-interventionist foreign policy. His announcement that if he were President he would not have ordered the raid that killed Osama bin Laden came out at about the same time as his official announcement that he was a contender for the GOP nomination. That didn’t sit well with lots of people.

        I am afraid that what can only be called blood lust and fear on the part of many conservatives, including many professed Christians, is an overwhelming factor in the GOP nomination process. A candidate calling for military restraint and reduced military spending is going to get labeled all sorts of ridiculous things and will face an uphill battle. Even suggesting vaguely that cutting military spending cannot be out of the question causes accusations of being soft on defense (as Mitch Daniels is finding out). As I have mentioned before, serious deficit reduction requires serious cuts in all areas and defense cannot and should not be spared.

        The only way I see him winning the nomination is if guys like Mitch Daniels stay out and the clown car candidates like Palin, Trump, Gingrich and Huckabee split up the rest of the primary votes (Mitt Romney & Tim Pawlenty are also running but no one seems to care). That coupled with Ron Paul’s shall we say rabid fan base may be enough for Representative Paul to come out as the winner. He certainly is going to do better in 2012 than he did in 2008.

        Regardless, Ron Paul should add a different perspective to the race for the GOP nomination other than the repetitive droning of sound bytes we get from Palin, Huckabee, etc. and I welcome his addition to the race.

        Wednesday, May 11, 2011

        A proposal that makes sense and therefore has no chance of passing

        In a crass and obvious political ploy Harry Reid and company are all of a sudden worried about the deficit. When you talk about cutting spending, the deficit is no big deal but if you can raise taxes in the name of deficit reduction, Harry and his cronies are suddenly deficit hawks to put Paul Ryan to shame! I assume many people will be taken in by this ploy because of the successful class warfare campaign waged by the Left and their lackeys in the "mainstream media".

        Having said that, I am actually in favor of revoking the oil tax breaks. The less tinkering the Federal government does with the private sector, the better. However I have a proposal that should make everyone happy (but you can be sure liberals won’t like it).

        So here is what I propose: tie the cuts in oil company tax breaks to the opening of more areas for drilling. As the Federal government opens up more licenses for oil companies to engage drilling and exploration, getting out of the way of the private sector, their tax breaks are revoked. The oil companies get more places to drill oil and the government gets more revenue.

        That is a win-win of the highest order. We increase revenue by $21,000,000,000, although as anyone who watches Washington knows we would need to watch the Congress closely because any new revenue is always seen as money to spend. On the other side we get more oil exploration and drilling which increases the GDP, helps make America more energy efficient and would employ thousands of American workers in high-paying blue collar jobs with good benefits and take many workers off the the unemployment rolls where they are draining resources and add them back to the tax payer rolls which increases revenue and thereby lowers the deficit.

        You can’t lose!

        Anyone think a single Democrat would sign on to this?

        Saturday, April 30, 2011

        Why oil company profits are good news

        $11 billion in profits at Exxon! Grab your torches and pitchforks, arrest them evil executives and string 'em up! A private, for-profit company making a profit? Why that is criminal, that is immoral, that is downright un-American!

        So Exxon reported a huge profit last quarter. Great! Guess who owns Exxon? In large part, most of us do! Exxon stock is 44% held by institutional investors, i.e. mutual funds and pensions primarily. Guess who owns those? You probably do in your 401k and your pension plan. Over the last year, the Vanguard 500 Index fund, a commonly held fund in many, many 401k plans, is up 15.49%. Those results show up in your retirement plan statements, the same ones you were crabbing about a few years ago. Guess what the number one holding in the Vanguard 500 Index fund is?

        Exxon Mobil

        Oh. So that nice increase you have seen over the last year in your retirement plan comes from companies like Exxon making profits. We have recovered from the huge downturn quite nicely, a downturn caused in large part by government tinkering with the mortgage market.

        So what I am telling you is that in spite of the overheated rhetoric that is inflamed by President Obama and his lackeys in the media, many regular Americans like me and probably like you benefit greatly when private sector companies make profits.

        Now should the Federal government be giving oil companies special tax breaks? No, I think any sort of special tax breaks like that are bad policy. Not so we can raise more tax revenue but because the government has no business tinkering in the private sector like that. I think we should eliminate those special breaks and lower Federal corporate taxes because more profits=more jobs and higher stock prices. Will some rich people get richer? Yes and they should. Will more Americans be employed and enjoy comfortable retirements because their retirement portfolios are doing well? Absolutely.

        Here is another dirty little secret. Raising taxes on oil companies, which makes them less profitable, is not going to lower your price at the pump. Not one nickle. It is nothing more than class warfare rhetoric. Obama can't be bothered to lower spending one red cent but never misses an opportunity to call for higher taxes. Drilling for oil here and making use of our rich natural resources? Now that would lower gas prices but our President is too concerned with his own reelection campaign and trying to score political points to worry about how the policies of his administration are hurting Americans at the pump. Well, that an his half-baked adventure in Libya which has managed to turn that whole thing into a stalemate and that is having a direct impact on oil prices because of the ongoing instability in the Middle East.

        A privately held company making a large profit that benefits its shareholders is not criminal or immoral, it is good business. A Federal government that is running up trillion dollar deficits annually and that stands in the way of the private sector drilling for oil that would lower gas prices? Now that is immoral.

        Tuesday, April 26, 2011

        2012

        The presidential field is starting to shape up for the GOP although there still are a lot of question marks. In the space of a day, Haley Barbour has decided he is not going to run (and had no chance anyway) and Ron Paul is expected to announce an exploratory committee ahead of a probable run. Romney and Pawlenty are definitely in but Romney has all sorts of problems and Pawlenty is kind of unknown and boring. Donald Trump is getting the most press which is ridiculous but that is the celebrity culture we live in today, a culture where a guy who donated $50,000 to Rahm Emmanuel is getting all of the buzz in the GOP field. Still waiting on Palin and Bachmann, neither of whom is a decent candidate for different reasons and neither of whom I think will end up running. Bachmann might make a decent VP candidate but really anyone would look good compared to the Human Gaffe-A-Tron Joe Biden. My governor Mitch Daniels keeps getting mentioned and would be a serious and sober adult candidate but he needs to quit flirting and get in or get out fairly soon.

        I am far more sympathetic to Ron Paul then I have been in the past. His fiscal ideas are the sort of medicine that we need to swallow. His big challenge in the GOP primaries comes from those who want a President to be willing to engage U.S. forces around the world without hesitation and Paul is more concerned with getting our own house in order rather than playing policeman to the world. Iraq is finally drawing to a close, Afghanistan is a mess and not much better than it was years ago and we have stepped in a giant mess in Libya with no plan and no stomach to either pull out or get in completely. Libya is exactly the sort of misadventure that anyone paying attention could see was coming when you have someone as unqualified to be Commander-In-Chief as President Obama calling the shots. We need a different direction for our foreign policy, not more of the same. The biggest threat to American freedom and prosperity is not radical Islam, it is the national debt and we need to treat the debt as the great challenge of our generation.

        2012 looks like a golden opportunity for conservatives if we can just get it together. The longer we talk about Donald Trump and Sarah Palin, the harder it becomes to put together a coherent message. Don’t think for a second that the media doesn’t know this and isn’t exploiting this to weaken the GOP position. Obama has thus far: put us further in debt in a shorter time for less effect than any of his predecessors, enacted a horrible and unpopular health care bill, gotten us involved in a no-win situation in Libya, failed to take a single concrete step to reduce the debt, shown zero leadership on energy issues, made lots of promises that he has failed to keep regarding unemployment and generally squandered all of his hopey-changey goodwill in record time. He is vulnerable and by rights should be a one term President but to make that a reality is going to require a unified party and a unified message, one that pounds Democrats and the Left in general and President Obama in particular relentlessly about the $14 trillion national debt and trillion dollar deficits as far as the eye can see.

        The longer we dink around with clowns like Trump, the longer we delay going after Obama and that only helps him. 2013 should roll in with a Republican President, an even more solid majority in the House and a GOP majority in the Senate (given all of the seats the Democrats have to defend in a year when they are on the ticket with a vulnerable President). We need a Pawlenty, Paul or Daniels to lead the party and send Obama back to community organizing. This country cannot afford to lose another election to the party of bigger government, more spending and endless debt.