Archive from December, 2009
29 Dec
2009
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Mark Steyn Nails It

If given some context, the title of his latest article says it all:

Cross the River, Burn the Bridge

The public option river and the private healthcare bridge, that is.  Steyn continues, explaining that for Democrats to be successful, they need only get a foot in the door; exactness in legislative language is very much secondary.

“My Republican friends often seem to miss the point in this debate: The so-called “public option” is not Page 3,079, Section (f), Clause VII. The entire bill is a public option — because that’s where it leads, remorselessly…. As the savvier Dems have always known, once you’ve crossed the Rubicon, you can endlessly re-reform your health reform until the end of time, and all the stuff you didn’t get this go-round will fall into place, and very quickly.”

I could not agree more.  This battle may well be the last stand for truly limited government in the United States.  Some may call this Democracy in action, to which I’d say: a little monarchy, please?

Sounds like hyperbole?  Keep in mind, we’re talking 1/6 of the entire American economy.  We’re talking handing over the control of your body to the State.  And hence, we’re talking every decision you make that can be connected to the cost of “healthcare,” no matter how esoteric, being legitimate grounds for Congressional debate.  Some likely outcomes – $10 cigarettes, not only in NYC, but across the country.  Additional taxes on alcohol.  A graduated tax on fat.  A tax on sugar and corn syrup.  A tax on red meat.  A tax on white meat.  A tax on the more sedentary; perhaps a subsidy for gym goers.  Forced exercise regimens in public schools (or is that gym class?).  Less automobiles; more walking and public transportation.  A national weight registry.  Most abhorrent, though hardly unprecedented: encouraged termination of pregnancies that carry high risks.  The list could potentially fill volumes, because what ultimately is not health related?  As Mark Levin points out regularly, we can see our future by looking at Canada and Great Britain.  Have not many of the items on my cursory list come to pass in one form or another in these countries?

Further implications concern the effect on the future of political debates in this country.  Having spent some time up in Canada, I can attest that public healthcare destroys any principled difference between parties.  The bureaucracy, once set in motion, becomes too unwieldy; and like an angry, venomous snake, one not dare touch it. The medical institutions that actually provide the health care in a nation with a “public option” is intertwined with the parasitic/host government.  Even a hint of poking at the fragile superstructure of protocols becomes positively frightening to a dependent population.

Underfunding being an apodictic certainty when bureaucratic management techniques are applied to profit/loss enterprises, society is left deciding whether taxes increase 4% or 5% in any given year, rather than whether there should be any tax hike at all.  For the United States, adoption of a public plan almost certainly means a Canadian/UK-style VAT tax.  And the corporations that once opposed seizure will quickly make their peace, preferring instead to benefit from monopoly privilege granted by the state.  (Lawsuits get too expensive, and would likely be fruitless when the court system willfully, nay, proudly distorts language.)

Less sophisticated political observers urge Republicans to contribute to the bill, so that they may insert provisions that are more in line with free market beliefs.  Compromise, in this case, is suicidal.  It matters not what trifling words are found along the fringes of an otherwise gargantuan takeover.  Whatever is found inconvenient in the future will, insofar as we can trust history, gladly be misconstrued by a court that finds it against the grain of the spirit of the law at large – that is, the vague provision of the positive “right” of healthcare to the people.

A debate over constitutionality, the first question that should concern our Federal government, is considered superfluous by our incredibly arrogant rulers, whose flouting of conventional law will be next to Caesar’s in history’s books of political tragedy.

Our neophyte, poverty-inducing president is correct when he calls this legislation “historic.”  Just as Roosevelt, in his Depression, created the unfunded, debt-bomb, monstrosity of Social Security, Mr. Obama is using his own Depression to yoke Americans into a system of perpetual crisis and chronic failure.

If, as I’ve written, the backstop for this depression is the 22nd Amendment, the only foreseeable end to national healthcare, once enacted, is national insolvency (or imminent threat thereof).  Assuming the passage of Obamacare, a conservative’s best friend might become indebtedness.

19 Dec
2009
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What is the opposition to Obama’s reforms?

A colleague living in Europe recently asked me why there are such “vehement” oppositions from some to Obama’s reforms. My colleague then went on to give me a lecture about the responsibility of government to provide for its citizens, the responsibility of those who are fortunate to those who are less fortunate. After listening to his version of the liberal worldview, I told him yes he was right and just in being concerned about those who as he stated cannot provide for themselves and their families. I believe too that we all should have that concern, and I believe most people do. The question is what is the best way to go about it?

I believe helping people to provide as much for themselves as they can, not excessive government handouts and interference will create a healthy and sound population. A healthy sense of self and esteem comes from personal achievement and productivity, which in turn will create a people who are most able to contribute to the greater societal good. Government caretaking and excessive charity sometimes end up maintaining the very thing that they are attempting to eliminate, i.e. inequalities, social classes. There is no room for a people being coddled and enabled to move up anywhere–there will always be a class of caretakers and class being cared for.

17 Dec
2009
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Steve Forbes Speaks to the NYYRC

Over 200 people came to the November monthly meeting of the New York Young Republican Club to hear Steve Forbes speak. Mr. Forbes analyzed the current economic situation, such as by showing how monetary policy related to real estate and commodity bubbles.  He also showed why free markets are preferable to government control for health care and more.

After the meeting, Mr. Forbes also signed copies of his books, “How Capitalism Will Save Us: Why Free People And Free Markets Are The Best Answer In Today’s Economy” and “Power Ambition Glory: The Stunning Parallels between Great Leaders of the Ancient World and Today…and the Lessons You Can Learn for a long line of those in attendance.  Mr. Forbes’ terrific sense of humor, graciousness and valuable insights made for a delightful evening.

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17 Dec
2009
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Dollars and Sense

Our increasingly planned economy has the populace engaged in a sort of neo-nationalism that can be described as economic heroism – finding the Hero of the day to lead team U.S.A. to victory.  This team was formerly led by Alan Greenspan, and is now represented by Ben Bernanke and Barack Obama.

To be sure, there is the human psychology of projection at work here; the tendency for wanting people to see in another something they believe represents their own thinking.  Messrs. Obama and Bernanke are extraordinary (formally) well-educated and clever; of this much all are in agreement.  Thus, seeing eye-to-eye with these two self-proclaimed economic E.M.T.s (who brought the economy “back from the brink” of complete meltdown) automatically speaks to the layman’s sophistication in such matters.  Unfortunately, cheering on “great” men to solve the problems of society has never ended well for the cheerleaders, and even less so for the societies.

The properly conceived economy is one which picks its heroes based on legitimate contribution, not political influence, and makes the human race, not political favorites, the “winning team.”  This economic meritocracy we call capitalism.

How does one go about convincing oneself of the timeless truth that free markets always out-produce political central planning?  There are multiple approaches, but the most intuitive one involves contemplating how information is used to coordinate mutually beneficial, productive activity.  First, let’s define what’s meant by market information: Market information is any data that is useful for economic planning decisions.  This can take the form of commodity stocks, location of goods and options for transportation, cost of wages, tax incentives and disincentives, inflation, cost of legal services, and just about anything that can be expressed in terns of currency.  (There also exists information that is not immediately quantifiable, but inevitably makes its ways into pricing.  One obvious example is political risk associated with expropriation.)  The provision of good information is fundamental to creating a stable, productive (as opposed to destructive) economy that is responsive to human needs.  Ignoring this maxim becomes more costly as production expands beyond the boundaries of small communities to the global community.

The American economy is threatened in two ways that directly assault the generation and dissemination of good information.  These are the manipulation of our monetary system through the actions of the Federal Reserve, and the increasing bureaucratization of industry (i.e., employing the same methods as Soviet politburos).  Let’s briefly address these issues one at a time and then relate them to today’s headlines.

Perhaps the most significant information is transmitted through monetary expression; or, in other words, the monetization of, ultimately, subjective, individual decisions of trade.  Money’s special role in an economy is being a common medium of exchange.  What makes anything – cattle, tobacco, shells, gold, paper, cigarettes etc. – money is the status it has as the most marketable commodity (this is known as the Regression Theorem).  From this natural state of affairs, it comes to be that all other goods are expressed in terms of money.  The burden lifted from society is the need to express goods in terms of other goods (i.e., other than money; this is known as barter).  For example, 2 cows for 3 sheep, 2 potatoes for 1 tomato, 400 potatoes for 1 cow, and on and on.  Money allows the expression of value to be uniformly stated in terms of currency figures, and gives rise to modern accounting, the art of finance, and to a large degree civilization as we know it.  In short, it gives rise to entire price system, which is after all just a highly complex set of ratios that change incessantly depending on consumer preference, business production, and speculation.  Treatises have been written on money, some good some bad, but the most salient point to remember is that money is used to formulate the most critical information used for all actions of human economy.  It’s the economy’s lifeblood.

The Federal Reserve essentially rejects the price system and its mechanism, afforded naturally by arising monetization of preference through currency figures, and distorts the price mechanism across the economy.  It does this by violently attacking the market ratios, established as they are in money, by simply “printing” more.  The interplay of the subsequent processes that following expanding the money supply is complex, but it is not difficult to fathom the ultimate effects of falsifying information: massive dislocation, collapse of markets, the destruction of wealth, and inevitable political turmoil.  I believe this accurately summarizes the effects of the Fed’s low interest rates of the early 2000’s, the boom/bust that followed, and the election of far-left President Barack Obama.

The second incursion into the realm of the free market and its pricing system is the increasingly bureaucratization of American industry.  What is meant by increasing bureaucratization?  As bureaucracy comes from government, and government is essentially responsible for illegalizing certain activity, government take-overs and progressively more stringent regulation amount to effective bureaucratization.  In the special case of a take-over (or “rescue,” as its been re-branded), taxpayer money is used to cover losses, rendering the profit-loss system of accounting nothing more than a dilettantish waste of time (really).  Like the post office and public transportation systems that perpetually operate at losses, now AIG, most major banks, America’s car companies, and the entire mortgage industry is operating without the necessary guide of profit – which is merely a word we give to the outcome of value-adding activities.  With no fear of losses, and the knowledge that taxpayers are ultimately responsible for their debt, decisions become not economic but political.  In this way not only are these business appendages of government, subject to the same sleaze as Congress to which we’re sadly jaded, but they also provide misleading information to true market actors because of their cooked (i.e., subsidized) books.

And with that understanding, we reach today’s news.  See these two stories from Bloomberg:

Fed Says U.S. Economy Still Needs Low Rates After Markets Heal

Initial Jobless Claims in U.S. Unexpectedly Increase

Even without reading the stories, the headlines provide a clear affirmation of the truths laid out above.  The Federal Reserve reacted to the September 2008 meltdown (that it induced in the first place) by drastically reducing interest rates, through massive monetary pumping (i.e., “printing money”).  The Fed’s interest rate target has been 0% for a year now, and still jobless claims are “unexpectedly” high.  To whom was this unexpected?  The same people that do not fully understand the free market price mechanism, and the role that good information plays in coordinating economic activity.

More accurate would be:

Markets are Not Healing due to Low Interest Rate from Fed

Jobless Claims Mount as Central Bank Corrupts Monetary System

The best of circumstances for a recovery are low taxes and minimal regulation.  The United States, heading into 2010, is suffering from a depressed economy as a result of 2 wars and an inflationary credit expansion; this was going to a relatively deep recession even with good policy.  Obama and Bernanke have all but ensured the “recovery” will rival the Great Depression in longevity.

History tells us of a 1930’s America more conversant with economics, and of a four-term president who acted like a domestic industrial tyrant, delaying recovery indefinitely through continual social experiments, including the passage of sweeping healthcare “reform” known as Social Security.  Here’s to hoping Republicans get their act together, and fast.  If not, our only saving grace – Amendment No. 22.

4 Dec
2009
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A Fantastic Presentation About the Problems With the Current Global Warming Theory

This is a great presentation about the problems with the current man-made alarmist global warming theory with a short discussion of Cap and Trade at the end. Well worth watching!

4 Dec
2009
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UPDATE: 11k Jobs lost in Nov.

From MarketWatch:

The U.S. labor market improved markedly in November, with the unemployment rate falling back to 10% and job losses shrinking to the lowest level in nearly two years, the Labor Department reported Friday.

Unemployment now stands at 10%, even.  Gold is down ~2% on the news.  This appears to be a marked improvement.

For some counterbalance on the exuberance in the markets, see this article in Forbes.

2 Dec
2009
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Private Sector Sheds 169K Jobs in Nov.

From MarketWatch:

“Private-sector firms in the U.S. eliminated 169,000 jobs in November…the private-sector has shed jobs for 22 months in a row.”

Being that I don’t see the usefulness in torturing statistics in a vain attempt to predict the future, I won’t hazard to comment on December’s losses.*  Suffice to say that the stimulus, TARP, and the other trillions that have leaked out of the Treasury and into private hands has done nothing to stop mounting unemployment.  December will, almost certainly, see more job losses; and when the bleeding stops, recovery will be treacherously slow.

Gold, it is worth mentioning, is now over $1,200 an ounce, and climbing steadily – a predictable outcome of TARP and any other gov’t scheme that includes printing money.

People often mock those who relate the Obama “recovery” to a second Great Depression; I maintain our only saving grace is the 22nd Amendment.

*I’ve tracked this figure for many months now, and this is the first time I recall that the news story accompanying the newly released joblessness figure was not related back to a failed attempt at prediction.  Maybe the “experts” have finally given up.

2 Dec
2009
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President Obama’s Afghanistan Strategy Pleases No One

President Obama took 3 long months to formulate a strategy in Afghanistan that pleases no one in this country.  For the first time in his presidency and similiar to President Lyndon Johnson’s handling of the Vietnam War, a president has found a way to alienate both the hard right and far left in this country.  It is truly remarkable.  By sending 30,000 additional troops to Afghanistan, he has gone with a middle road that doesn’t please his base or his opposition.  No matter what the President decided, he wasn’t going to please conservatives who think his presidency is headed for a Carter-like calamity with high unemployment and an ever increasing deficit.  If he followed the request of Gen. Stanley McChrystal to send 40,000 additional troops to Afghanistan, it wouldn’t have stopped Limbaugh, Hannity, and Beck from continuing their fierce opposition to his presidency.  The president could have followed the left’s recommendation to send no additional troops to Afghanistan and withdraw all forces from the country.  However, that wouldn’t dissuade his far left base from finding something else to find fault with in his foreign policy.  During the Bush presidency, the left has shown itself to be highly squeamish of any military action pursued by the United States.  Keith Olbermann, MoveOn.org, and NY Times columnist Bob Herbert made pleas for the President to end the War in Afghanistan, so anything other than complete withdrawal from the region would leave them and the rest of the far left dissatisfied. So quite frankly, the President wasn’t going to sell any of the most politically partisan citizens on his Afghanistan strategy with the details he laid out tonight.

The American people have increasingly become skeptical of Obama’s handling in Afghanistan.  A Gallup Poll released today shows that only 35% of Americans approve of it, down from 21% from July.  What is even more troubling for the President is that his approval in Afghanistan has dipped significantly among Independents (-25%) over the same time period, which is more of a dip  than shown from Democrats (-16%) or Republicans (-20%).  Politically speaking, even if President Obama fails in Afghanistan, most Democrats will support him for reelection, especially if he signs health care reform and climate change into law.  Even if President Obama succeeds in Afghanistan, most Republicans will not support his reelection bid, due to his massive expansion of the federal government.  President Obama tonight had to convince Independents, who are abandoning him on Afghanistan in droves to come back inside the tent and support him.  I don’t believe he did that tonight in his nationally televised speech at West Point in front of sea of cadets.  He tried to talk out of both sides of his mouth by pandering to  partisans on both sides of the partisan divide in this country.  However, this is not the way you attract moderates to your cause.  You attract moderates by showing strength & confidence in your decision. You stress that it must lead to “Victory”, since our national security hangs in the balance.  Not once  in the President’s speech tonight did he say that we will “win” in Afghanistan.  Not once did he stress that our national security was at risk.  Americans are not likely to support a plan that simply promises to “end the war.”  If we just want to “end the war,” most Americans believe we should just do it now.   Especially, if according to President Obama, our national security and well-being is not at risk.  He made that clear by setting a timetable for withdrawal of all troops by July 2011.  If our nation’s security was at risk, then why would you put a time frame on the conflict?   Anytime a war is escalated,  Americans believe that victory must be at the core of the decision.  President Lyndon Johnson tried escalation strategies to “end the war” in Vietnam and it brought down his presidency.  If the President would have used rhetoric and details that conveyed how we were going to “win” in Afghanistan, he would have swept Independents to his side and this would have caused partisans in this country to feel compelled to hop on board.  That was the point of the speech tonight.  He needed to garner broad support from the American people for a deeply unpopular war in its eighth year.  Not an easy task by any means, but the Presidency isn’t an easy job.  Nights like tonight separate the average Presidents from the great ones.  Obama looked very average tonight.

In a 90 minute interview with Politico, former Vice President Dick Cheney expressed his reservations about President Obama’s overall foreign policy outlook.  His analysis clearly cuts to core of why Independents are losing faith in his ability to be an effective Commander-in-Chief.  Cheney points out the following reasons why he deems his foreign policy approach to be flawed:

  • Factoring “politics” into foreign policy decisions
  • “Dithering” in his decision-making that leads to questions about the President’s commitment
  • Showing weakness to foreign leaders through bowing and apologizing for our past actions
  • Not believing  in American Exceptionalism

All these points lead to a central idea that the former Vice President is trying to express, which is the President doesn’t know how to be a leader.  It is the same point made surprisingly made by filmmaker Michael Moore in an open letter that he wrote to President in opposition of the decision to send more troops into Afghanistan and his desire for immediate withdrawal of all troops from the region.  The following points by Moore also help explain why Independents are lacking confidence in the President’s leadership.

  • He didn’t have the courage to fire Gen. McChrystal who openly defied him in the media
  • Al-Qaeda in Afghanistan have been diminished to around a hundred members
  • Americans are more concerned about jobs and rising health care costs

These points lead to Michael Moore’s central idea that there are more important problems facing America than Afghanistan, where Al-Qaeda’s presence in Afghanistan is minimal and provides little threat to America’s security.

The American people were looking for President Obama to answer one question tonight.  What makes your approach to Afghanistan and foreign policy better than the ones suggested by the Dick Cheney & Michael Moore?  Unfortunately, he didn’t answer that question tonight, which will cause Independents to either lean closer to either Dick Cheney or Michael Moore.  The President’s approach to Afghanistan looked to quiet down Cheney and keep Moore on board, but it did neither.  Good leaders are able to establish a strong middle ground that maintains support of their party’s most intense partisans and diminishes the influence of its fiercest opponents.  Reagan and Clinton both possessed this leadership, which Obama sorely lacks.  This is why the President has struggled to achieve any major accomplishments during his first year in office.  This is why I lack confidence that President Obama’s strategy will succeed in Afghanistan.  He hasn’t given me any reason to believe it will.

1 Dec
2009
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Oh no! What WILL we do?

The right shed some baggage today, with the abandonment of Andrew Sullivan.  It appears as if he has finally been relieved of his perennial confusion between the words “liberal” and “conservative,” “left” and “right.”

A while ago, I believe right before the Iraq war began, I came across an article he had written for The New Republic about why liberals should support the war.  (I am going on memory here… I was not able to locate the article, but still this fact remains distinctly in my head.)  I liked it, and it was, frankly, one of the more persuasive pieces of political journalism I had read up until that point.

Well, he’s gone way off the reservation since then.  I cannot remember the last conservative cause he’s championed.  His “goodbye” is a laundry list of Liberal complaints about conservatives, and I wonder how he’d ever call himself a conservative to begin with.  (Particularly interesting is this complaint: “I cannot support a movement that does not accept evolution as a fact.”  Does Mr. Sullivan really need government to accept this “fact” in order to have a clear conscience?  Isn’t it enough that his own Catholic Church accepts it?)

On second thought, maybe this explains it:

“I think that may be because I wasn’t born here. I have no deep loyalty to either American party in my bones or family or background, and admire presidents from both parties. My partisanship remains solely British – I’m a loyal Tory”