Archive from June, 2010
27 Jun
2010
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“Who is this guy? What are his core beliefs?”

Mark Steyn is certainly a genius, and succinctly sums up the essential failure of the American media, and also difference between politically engaged conservatives and every single other significant stripe of American politician:

Referring to Richard Cohen’s June 22 piece President Obama’s enigmatic intellectualism in which Cohen writes “this, of course, is the Obama enigma: Who is this guy? What are his core beliefs?” Steyn writes in response, “Gee, if only your newspaper had thought to ask those fascinating questions oh, say, a month before the Iowa caucuses.”

As both parties can agree, the office of the Presidency can make many decisions you positively, utterly despise.  It’s important that this person meet a minimum level of expectations.

Vetting candidates for office is the social role our media is supposed to fill during elections.  Does candidate seem unqualified outright?  Does the candidate have enough experience?  Is the person prepared for such a demanding role?  The media – only the media – can be expected to do the investigating to make this clear to the public.  It should answer the public’s question, what’s his “biography?”

We are taught to trust and distrust.  We learn to trust our families, friends, loved ones.  We are forewarned that yes, sometimes people have bad intentions – kidnappers, for example.  Sometimes, the lines of trust are blurred, and this is when we experience anxiety, and occasionally anguish.  Such a relationship is insecure and wobbly.  Think of those  times spent analyzing someone’s motives with respect to you.

If there’s one time the media should be on especially high alert, it’s during a presidential election.  Because if a completely unqualified, naive, or inexperienced person gets the job, all of us suffer.  Cohen admitted that American media failed spectacularly in the 2008 president election.

“Trust, but verify.”  Ahem!  Haven’t some people said repeatedly that the press has a strong liberal bias?  Americans aren’t stupid, and the lack of trust in the old media beginning to show with the growing importance of independent reporting and blogging on the internet.

I believe it’s true that most people are uncomfortable with the idea of their government working against their own interests regularly, whether this be out of crude ignorance, bad intentions or both.  Conservatives, faulted for their alleged rhetorical hyperbole so often by the smug mainstream media, did a fine job pegging Barack Obama, and predicting his incompetent and foundering administration.

Maybe because, when it comes to picking a leader, we prefer substance over emotional – in the case of the left – or intellectual – in the case of some on the right who share snobbish/elitist/politically correct thoughts – connection?

Your thoughts?

19 Jun
2010
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The Things I realized from the oil spill

1. We are not as technologically advanced as I thought.

2. It is indeed a shame to see so much oil being wasted and not used to heat our homes or drive our cars.

3. Good thing the current government had not taken over the oil industry and halted capitalism and business, because like Obama himself stated, the government just does not have the technology that BP does.

4. I have to agree with Hayward that Americans are more likely to file lawsuits, whether “bogus” or genuine.

5. The isle of wight is a beautiful place! I had the opportunity visit there a couple of years ago. But now is not the best time for BP execs to go there.

6. I found Hayward’s “stonewalling” of congress amusing.

7. We can all learn a lesson from Kevin Costner-it always profits to be an inventor.

8. Water is precious, and abundant in the United States-protecting it and using it wisely should be a national priority.

9. Obama will shamelessly use this to advance his global warming, energy efficient, carbon cutting agenda because that is what a semi-smart politician does.

10. Recycle.

17 Jun
2010
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Jobless Claims Rise, Expectedly

The tragedy of massive government interventionism continues, even as the human spirit searches among the economic debris for hope.

From MarketWatch:

First-time applications for state unemployment benefits rose by 12,000 last week to a seasonally adjusted 472,000, the Labor Department reported Thursday, providing further evidence that U.S. labor markets remain very weak.

The previous week’s initial claims were revised higher by 4,000 to 460,000 as more complete data were collected. Read the full release on the Labor Department’s website.

People out of work are staying unemployed longer:

The number of people who’ve been out of work for more than six months has surged during this recession to a record 6.8 million in May, accounting for 46% of the 15 million people officially classified as unemployed, according to monthly data previously released.

I thought that the administration said that we were experiencing a recovery?  Yet between high, persistent unemployment, the European debt/Euro crisis, and ceaseless Federal interventions into nearly every major market, each day more economists fear the dreaded double diprecession.

The nomenclature here is deceiving.  In case these economists don’t realize it, most Americans have never felt any “recovery.”  Sure, the past 2 years haven’t felt like an ongoing crisis, but to many they have felt like a plague.  There has been no meaningful recovery in jobs, and the volatility in capital markets is tangible.

As if this wasn’t enough, then there’s that oil spill.

16 Jun
2010
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Profiles in Leadership: Time To Study Pres. Obama

During his oval office address last night, President Obama brought up two central themes that he has harped on over the past two months: BP will pay for what it has done and that offshore drilling has to cease production permanently.  However, the American people are TIRED of hearing this everlasting refrain.  They want to know HOW YOU plan to plug the hole Mr. President and clean up the oil spill in the Gulf Coast.  They don’t care WHO is responsible for the rig exploding and or for the inefficient response to the cleanup, they just want to know how the hole will be FIXED and the coast line will be CLEANED.  This type of response would’ve shown leadership from our president and drawn praise from the American public.  Instead, today, the citizens of  United States, and especially of Louisiana, let it be known that they were underwhelmed by the last night’s oval office speech and have further lost confidence in the President’s ability to handle the spill.  One person who Louisiana residents have praised for his response to the spill is Governor Bobby Jindal, who’s approval rating stands at an astounding 63% in poll released yesterday by Public Policy Polling (Democratic pollster).  Not only does President Obama have a poor approval rating of 42% in the latest Rasmussen poll, but Louisiana voters in the same PPP poll give former President George W. Bush a 50-35 advantage when comparing his response to Hurricane Katrina to Obama’s response to the oil spill.  With the horrible performance shown by the President last night in addressing the nation, I thought it would be helpful to provide him with two current examples of leadership, Bobby Jindal & Chris Christie, and two past examples of leadership, John F. Kennedy & Ronald Reagan, so he could learn how to become a better president.  This country needs President Obama to either improve or get out of the way and let someone else take charge of the Oval Office.  Our country can’t afford his incompetence or his destructive ideology much longer.

14 Jun
2010
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Gov’t Spending 44% of GDP

Tonight the Libertarian Party of Manhattan met to nominate their candidates for the upcoming election season.  The night’s “main event” was between Mr. Ryan Brumberg and Mr. Dino LaVerghetta, both registered Republicans running for the 14th Congressional seat.  You can visit their websites here and here, respectively.

I am not going to comment on the night as a whole, or even on the contest between Mr. Brumberg and Mr. LaVerghetta (which ended first in a tie!).  Rather, I would like to focus on a point raised by Mr. Brumberg; namely, that 44% of GDP came from government spending in 2009.

That number is astronomically high, was my first thought.  So I checked: according to this website, the actual figure was at 42.72%.  As statistical collections vary, it’s very possible that Mr. Brumberg’s number of 44% is indeed accurate.  We can therefore take him at his word.  (It may be worth mentioning that the concept of “GDP” is questionable on methodological grounds as well, and a very good case could be made that we don’t need to be keeping track of it at all.  Hong Kong, for example, shunned economic statistics for decades, while experiencing an unprecedented boom, to the envy of Asia.)  I would note also that Mr. Brumberg’s presentation and style convey an appreciation for the precise, and you get the sense he’s studied the numbers, entered them into his Excel file, run and re-run the charts, and only then incorporated this knowledge into his coherent oeuvre of policy recommendations.  Such is the type of candidate whose stump speech includes references to the great Austrian and freedom fighter, Ludwig von Mises.

Surprisingly, the typically economically literate Libertarian crowd looked undaunted.  Mr. Brumberg stressed that this number was too high, and needed to come down.  But in a 5 minute tie-breaker speech, only so much can be said of a statistic.  Still, I’d like to give it some context.

According to the Bureau of Labor and Statistics, there are 2 million civilians employed by the Federal government.  Many of these are low level bureaucrats who lack decision making power.  There are mailmen, FBI agents, Treasury agents, Secret Service agents, SEC employees, EPA inspectors, Social Security Bureau paper pushers, and IRS tax collectors.  We can safely assume that of the 2 million Federal employees, about 95% have no direct say on how our tax money is spent.  Assuming that 5% of government employees direct and allocate (this task belongs exclusively to the Congress, which when full has 535 elected officials), this translates into 100,000 people directing 44% of spending.  Remember that number.

Now let’s clarify exactly what the number MEANS.  Imagine, if you will, Socialism as defined as a system of 100% taxation.  All your produced wealth is spent – or redistributed – by someone else.  100% public property, under the control of government.  You don’t need a Ph.D. in history to know that all attempts to work socialism (think “communism”) failed spectacularly.

The underlying reason why socialism failed was precisely because it centralized decision making authority, and destroyed the information that society uses to organize and prioritize productive activities (in short, prices as expressed in monetary units, e.g. dollars).  This argument against socialism was most famously elaborated by F.A. Hayek, who stressed the role of knowledge in society’s ability to spontaneously organize without central direction.  The extended order, as Hayek called the free market system, worked because it took into account the subjective preferences of all market participants.  Do you like a green shirt rather than a red?  This choice is expressed by your purchase of the green shirt.  The information is preserved through accounting: double-entry bookkeeping, to be precise.  All of these choices are smashed into actionable information on the market, where capitalists seek the most profitable activity; in other words, the activity in the highest demand.  As the capitalists divert less productive resources into more productive resources in their quest for profit, the trend is that attractive commodities become more common, and hence less costly.  Think of cars, computers, cell phones, and electricity.  If it’s popular, the free market makes it cheap by massive proliferation.  This point I consider nearly inarguable.

Now let’s get back to the statistic: 44% of GDP in 2009 came from government spending, directed by, generously, 100,000 people.  100,000 people are approximately 0.03% of the population.  Did that sink in?  0.03% of the population is making 44% of the economic decisions.

But let’s be even more generous, and assume that a full 1 million are directing the funds in some meaningful way.  1 million people is approx. 0.33% of the population.  In a free market with limited government, this number would be a lot closer to 0.33% of the people making 0.33% of the spending decisions – 1:1.

Let’s give it some more meaning.  The nominal GDP for the U.S.A. in 2009 was approximately $14.2 trillion.  This means that if 1 million Federal gov’t employees had discretionary power, each bureaucrat/Representative/Senator spent on average $14.2 million dollars.  Put another way, for all the talk about income disparity, government policy just create 1 million new millionaires from tax collection.  If the number is at the more realistic (though surely still too high) 100,000, each spender was in control of $142 million.  More?  Since, as mentioned earlier, Congress has sole power to allocate funds, 535 elected officials significantly influenced the direction of nearly $6.3 trillion dollars – or almost $14 billion in one year for each coconut on the Hill.  Bill Gates, eat your heart out.

Imagine now how little this tiny proportion of bureaucrats and elected officials know of life, your experiences, your preferences.  Think for a minute how difficult it can be buying a gift for a close friend or relative.  Why should we have any reason to think that people far removed from the impact of their decisions can act with any precision or success?  You’re a statistic, one of 300 million, who surely receives far less attention than the statistic in question in this blog post.

2009 was the year of “Stimulus” which was supposed to “kick start” the American economy.  With this sobering reflection, we see that it was more kicked in the groin and left in the gutter.

44% is an astounding number, and extremely telling of where we’re headed nationally.  It was with some disappointment that I witnessed Mr. LaVerghetta gloss over the mention of this horrid statistic and claim that the election was about “more than economics.”  Sure, of course.  However, it would have been refreshing to remember for a minute what that remaining 56% represents – literally, your tangible freedom.

Mr. LaVerghetta won the tie-breaker by 1 vote, 24-23.  I did not vote.

8 Jun
2010
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June 8th- Petition Night at Met Club

When: Tonight 5:00 PM – 8:30 PM

Where:  Metropolitan Republican Club
122 East 83rd St (between Park and Lex)
Help Republicans get on the ballot for this coming election season! This is a crucial task and we need all the help we can get. Tonight we will be helping Paul Niehaus, Dino LaVerghetta, and Saul Farber (fellow NYYRC member).

Upcoming petition Tuesdays: June 15th, June 22nd, June 29th


Questions? Email campaign@nyyrc.com