Thursday, July 28, 2011

Obama Once Embraced Fiscal Sanity?

“The fact that we are here today to debate raising America's debt limit is a sign of leadership failure. It is a sign that the US Government can not pay its own bills. It is a sign that we now depend on ongoing financial assistance from foreign countries to finance our Government's reckless fiscal policies.

Increasing America's debt weakens us domestically and internationally. Leadership means that, "the buck stops here.'

Instead, Washington is shifting the burden of bad choices today onto the backs of our children and grandchildren. America has a debt problem and a failure of leadership. Americans deserve better.”

-- Senator Barack H. Obama, March 2006
Of course, it's almost a given now that everything Obama says has an expiration date, and this statement was no doubt made then only for the purpose of opposing Republicans. Still, it was true then and it's even more true now.

With 'plans' on the table that actually cut no spending at all - they're all just reductions in projected (i.e. fantasy) spending increases in the future - we'll continue with the status quo... until the whole house of cards collapses in about 10 years.

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Coal Mine Owner Shrugs

A coal mine owner in Alabama has decided to go Galt. He's had enough.
“Nearly every day without fail…men stream to these [mining] operations looking for work in Walker County. They can’t pay their mortgage. They can’t pay their car note. They can’t feed their families. They don’t have health insurance.

And as I stand here today, I just…you know…what’s the use? I got a permit to open up an underground coal mine that would employ probably 125 people.

They’d be paid wages from $50,000 to $150,000 a year. We would consume probably $50 million to $60 million in consumables a year, putting more men to work. And my only idea today is to go home.

What’s the use? I see these guys—I see them with tears in their eyes—looking for work. And if there’s so much opposition to these guys making a living, I feel like there’s no need in me putting out the effort to provide work for them.

So…basically what I’ve decided is not to open the mine. I’m just quitting. Thank you.”
I applaud his decision. After thinking it over for two years, I've reluctantly concluded that it's time for the entire country to do that. I honestly can not see any other way, short of actual civil war, to get the state and Federal governments to back off.

The latest round of ridiculous 'negotiations' in D.C. was one of the last tumblers to fall into place. I applaud the Republicans for trying, but even the most 'extreme' plans represent at best 1/10th of what needs to happen, economically.

The regulatory burden, many times greater, isn't even being discussed. While I fully expect things to get a whole lot better for a while after January 2013 - if Obama, Reid, and crew haven't completely destroyed any chance of recovery by then - it won't be nearly enough.

No one hopes more than I that I'm wrong, that this is just (temporary) and unfounded pessimism. But I genuinely can not see how you pay down several trillion dollars of debt without serious changes to entitlement programs and even the Republicans are only nibbling at the edges. I can't see how you prevent a continued economic slide without removing vast swaths of irrational regulations. I can't fathom how any of this will even begin without a moral and cultural revolution, which doesn't appear to be in the offing. Even the Tea Party is a very weak brew.

Still, I've been wrong before. Maybe I will be again.

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Guest Post - Entitlement Mess: Who's Responsible?

Following is a guest post by Brad Puryear.

Recently, I received an email from a friend which said, in part:
Isn't Congress just wonderful! Entitlement? I paid cash for my social security insurance!!!! Just because they borrowed the money, doesn't make my benefits some kind of charity or handout!!

Congressional benefits, aka. free healthcare, outrageous retirement packages, 67 paid holidays, three weeks paid vacation, unlimited paid sick days, now that's welfare, and they have the nerve to call my retirement, an "entitlement" !!!!!!.....
The outrage is well placed and understandable, but the situation is ENTIRELY the fault of the electorate.

Where was the outrage when Congress voted to adopt baseline budgeting, which had the following effects.
    1. All taxes, regardless of what they are called, regardless what their original intent and regardless of any promises past, present or future congresses have made or will make, are simply revenue streams to the government. These taxes all go into one pool and are spent as Congress and the President sees fit to fund any and all programs, including Social Security and Medicare.
    2. There is no Social Security Trust Fund. Politicians talk about the trust fund all the time, but it is empty rhetoric devoid of meaning which is designed purely to appeal to the electorate’s base emotions. The Social Security IOU’s are also a joke! They have no meaning in a baseline budgeting system. It has as much meaning as would you were you to over spend the funds in your checking account, writing yourself an IOU to pay yourself back. Silly!
    3. Ditto Medicare!
    4. If you have failed to plan for your own retirement, both income and medical care, the best you can hope for is politicians who will chose fund these programs before they fund other programs. This will especially become important when the crap hits the proverbial fan and our government is forced to only spend what it takes in.
    5. For points 1, 2 and 3 above, before you get all morally outraged and say what I wrote is a lie, know this. The Supreme Court of the US has already ruled that the Social Security and Medicare taxes that all of us pay are simply revenue generators for the Federal Government.

    Worse, they ruled that any and all past promises with regard to these two programs carry no legal weight. In essence, none of us who have paid in to these two funds our entire working lives have a "legal" right to benefit from them at any point in our life. In fact, both programs have been entitlements since the day the Feds adopted baseline budgeting.

Those of you who think/thought privatizing the portion of the Social Security tax employees pay is/was a bad idea, what say you now? Would you rather have an account worth half a million dollars at retirement that is in your name and out of the reach of politicians, or an entitlement transfer of wealth payment from the biggest Ponzi scheme ever perpetrated on mankind? (The problem with Ponzi schemes and, yes, Social Security is that eventually you run out of money from rube A to pay rube B!)

What our politicians have done is a moral outrage and were they private citizens doing same, would have found their butts in jail. There is, however, a difference between what is moral and what is legal. I'm sorry to tell you that Congress could vote to stop paying Social Security benefits tomorrow and your only two recourses would be to vote the bastards out of office or pick up arms, march on DC and by force, take back control and hold a Constitutional Convention. Sadly, the courts are not on our side and offer no justice on this front!

Finally, a word about the mentality that brought this about.

In my opinion, anyone who thinks they have a right to someone else’s production is to blame for the mess we are in. If you think the rich don't pay their fair share, you're part of the problem. If you think we are morally obligated to administer welfare programs, you're part of the problem. If you think we are entitled to own homes regardless of our ability to pay for them, you're part of the problem. If you think we are obligated to send money to other governments, you're part of the problem. If you think we are entitled to public education, you're part of the problem. If you think the government should fund research in to anything, regardless what it is, you are part of the problem.

Now that I've likely gored at least one of your sacred cows, let me explain.

It is pretty universally accepted in Western Democracies that slavery is an immoral and unjust system for engaging in commerce. One definition of slavery is person A owning the production of person B’s labor without person B’s consent or agreement. In most cases, especially with state sponsored slavery, slavery leaves the victims virtually defenseless and helpless to do anything about it that wouldn’t likely lead to their death. When person A owns person B’s labor, they in fact own person B’s life energy!

I think we can all agree that this is an immoral system that should not be tolerated?

When you enter into a contract with an employer, you agree to give up some percent of your time for some level of compensation, usually in the form of cash. Your time is an investment of your life energy, which as noted above, no person other you has a right to without your consent. Therefore, the cash you earn is a proxy for your life energy.

When the government takes your cash and transfers it to another, they have in fact transferred some portion of your life energy to another human being without your consent! No matter how uncomfortable you might be feeling right now; this immoral system of transfer of your life energy makes you a slave.

Since we have already established the fact that slavery is immoral and unethical, all of the programs listed above, and most of everything else our government currently engages in is immoral as it is, in fact, slavery.

I know this position won't be popular; if it were we wouldn't be in the mess we're in. That being said, I would gladly entertain any serious challenges to my reasoning.

Saturday, July 16, 2011

Comte on Altruism

Anyone still muddled over the actual nature of altruism would do well to read the man who coined the term.

Here, August Comte makes it completely clear that when he talks about the duty to sacrifice self for the sake of others, he really means it. It's also clear, even from this brief passage, that it is incompatible with liberty.
“[The] social point of view . . . cannot tolerate the notion of rights, for such notion rests on individualism. We are born under a load of obligations of every kind, to our predecessors, to our successors, to our contemporaries.

After our birth these obligations increase or accumulate, for it is some time before we can return any service. . . .

This [to live for others], the definitive formula of human morality, gives a direct sanction exclusively to our instincts of benevolence, the common source of happiness and duty. [Man must serve] humanity, whose we are entirely.”
[Cat├ęchisme Positivist, 1852]

Saturday, July 2, 2011

Obama Gets It: It's the Morality, Stupid

One reason Obama, like most shrewd Democrats, usually wipes the floors with Republicans is that he unashamedly defends his positions from a moral point of view.

In another biased editorial masquerading as a news report, the LA Times lays out this gem:
"This is not just a numbers debate," Obama said Thursday in Philadelphia. "This is a values debate."
Would that the Republican leadership understood that – and had the courage to fight back the right way.

Instead of endlessly talking about jobs, haggling over deficit reduction numbers and the like, Republicans should be talking about what the Federal government should and should not be doing.

They'll only make substantial progress when they're willing to declare, as even the generally head-and-shoulders above Rep. Ryan does not, an important moral truth: Social Security and Medicare aren't just absurdly expensive, they're morally wrong.

No rational moral argument could justify taking from some citizens to support others, particularly at the Federal level. No taxpayer in Illinois has the moral obligation to support another in Idaho, no matter how much I might need it.

While they sometimes lose debates over economics, Progressives have been winning the culture war for a long time, and will continue to because of this. Only if — and it's a very big if — Republicans will confidently come out in favor of self-reliance as a moral imperative and charity as a marginal and personal matter, will the welfare state get significantly shrunk.

No, I'm not holding my breath, either.