What goes around may be wrong: ‘three charts to email to your right-wing brother-in-law’

‘three charts to email to your right-wing brother-in-law’ « The Obama Diary (Photos, Videos, Words).

There has been a bunch of reposts of three charts showing the relative deficits and spending increases from Both President Obama and President Bush. While this gives great fodder for the let’s bash each other and show just how bad the other guys were crowd, the charts themselves are a waste of ink and lung power to debate.

While the charts, are interesting, and like most statistics represent the adage that,

“there are lies, damn lies and statistics”

popularized by Mark Twain and originally a quote from Benjamin Disraeli; they are irrelevant to the bigger problem. While we can argue about one president solving the budget problem and the other one making it worse, all were relying on the underlying bad economic engine to make it all right.

Those who have read my posts on the subject, know I believe there is a deeper problem. The massive increase in currency since 1972, which in my opinion has given rise to a national crisis of false and inflated values and costs for subsidized programs, health care costs and housing I believe, is the real problem. Perhaps, it is our own underlying valuation of our economy and our assets that are the problem?

M3 With 1972 Gold Standard Trendline

Since we all seem to like charts, I will pose my own here. I am not posting this to assign blame, we have way too much of that going around. Nor, am I saying this is an infallible calculation – as I myself am not sure. I will leave it to others to wrangle with that debate. I am posting it to have you see what I saw as I was studying the rising costs of health care and started looking at other segments of the economy. I have a number of charts that will appear in my book. In the meantime here is the one that started me thinking.

This chart is relatively simple. It is the M3 (the total money supply calculated by the Fed) from 1900 up to 2010. From 2006 on the Federal Reserve decided to no longer report the M3, the M3 then had to be estimated.  There are a number of different estimates, their only variance is the shape of the curve after 2007. And they don’t make much difference in the current problems.

There was about $500 billion in currency in 1972. Today estimates put that number at somewhere between $10 trillion and $15 trillion. What doesn’t change much regardless of the trend, forecast or growth calculation you apply is what the projected economy would be if we had remained on the trend-line as it was prior to 1972. This line will project about $3 trillion on the baseline economy for today – assuming we had continued on the Gold Standard. If you factor in the gains we would still  likely have had in the technical sectors as a result of the investment in NASA, the curve shows additional growth to somewhere between $5 and 6 trillion.   This is still a far cry from the unbelievable 20 to 30 times we have multiplied the economy during this period.  Remember,  “lies, damn lies and statistics!”  I hope you treat this projection with the same scrutiny as all the others!

I am simply suggesting that we need to look deeply at this issue and diligently consider it’s effects if this supposition is even remotely correct!

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The Blame Game: A Recent Letter to the Editor

“…it is thus compromise on the basis of tolerance for others’ opinions that lead us to good solutions….” – Benjamin Franklin

In a recent letter to the editor, yet another writer wants to make the point that the current economic problem is President Bush’ fault. He uses all of his 200 words to carefully craft a picture of why it was Bush’ fault.

Yesterday, I saw the same thing as to why it was President Obama’s fault. Again, all two hundred words carefully selected to make this seemingly very important point.

Having written a few letters to the editor, I can tell you from first hand experience it is not usually for me a five-minute thing. Two hundred words is a very narrow field to present a counterpoint to some point you are debating. Usually it takes almost half of the space to frame the issue in the first place.

These two writers are not alone. I see tens, if not hundreds, of these dialogs each day. Each side spending an inordinate amount of time to present the case why this person, or this party was wrong, wrong, wrong…

Clearly, the sheer volume of people, and the amount of time, bandwidth and ink devoted to this subject would indicate it is of the most extreme importance. Well it’s not!

The big issue at the moment is solving the problem. And solving this in a pragmatic way – not partisan way. unfortunately, it is not just the new mayor of Chicago who thinks no crisis should go to waste. It seems to be the philosophy of many of us if not most of us.

Each issue appears not to be an issue we need to solve – more it seems they are issues we should exploit for some other benefit. This has been the pattern since the early 1960s. The Great Society was not just to find solutions to help the poor, it was as stated by Lyndon Johnson on a phone call with Wilber Mills and Carl Albert,

“something that we (democrats) can run on for the rest of the century.” (listen to the President Johnson Tapes online, search on medicare)

And we can’t leave republicans out of this either. They have played the same games over the years.

Since everyone seems to think we need to assign blame before we solve the problem, let’s do this. Lets agree to start at the beginning of the root causes…

  • It is Franklin Roosevelt’s fault for describing Social Security in 1935 without recognizing that the transition to a private annuity system as he described would be lost to the winds of entitlement fever.
  • It is Truman’s fault for both extending the coverage and not addressing the concerns of the legislators at the time that argued about future insolvency.
  • It is Eisenhower’s fault for also increasing benefits and coverage while again not addressing the growing concerns over solvency
  • It is Kennedy’s fault for again extending the coverage and entitlements and getting assassinated before he could begin to affect some of the changes he saw needed to be done.
  • It is Johnson’s fault for extending the original act to include Medicare and Medicaid, ignoring the advice of the experts in congress including Wilbur Mills who repeatedly warned this scheme would not work, and then codifying the grants and gifts to the poor as the method to ensure democratic election and instituting the class warfare approach that is now the norm.
  • It is Nixon’s fault for removing the country from the gold standard instead of extending the standard to all precious metals.
  • It is Carter, Regan, Bush and Clinton that further reduced the restrictions on the banks, changed the regulations like the Mark to Market Rule and eliminated the Glass Steagle Act that multiplied the fiscal problem and continued the course of expanding entitlements.
  • And it was both Bush and Obama that again compounded the problem by consenting to the short-term solutions and compounding debt based fixes.
  • Further, it is all the congresses, bankers and federal reserve leaders that are also at fault for not addressing the issues, using them to fulfill other agenda and promulgating their self interests ahead of strategic solutions.
  • And finally, it is us for not paying attention and reveling in the constant, and unrealistic, expansion of our wages, home values, benefits, and desire for more without looking for or listening to concerned opinions.

Did all of these actors in this damnable play behave badly for their own self-interest? Not really. Where there certain hooks that were included at each phase to get our consent that were in their best interest? Of course! In every case there was justifications for why, and many times good arguments on why in the short-term this solution, or that solution, made sense. The problem was, they also knew in the long-term there would be a problem and did, or could do, nothing at the time to fix it. Of course, once the issue was temporarily solved – no one else chose to address it so it was pushed to the future to deal with it. And now it is ours. And it is, in fact ours. It is not our children’s as we like to think. We have run out of time and circumstance. That is why the symptoms of the disease are again raising their ugly heads with a vengeance.

Now that we have discussed blame, let us all tolerate the blame assigned to our favorite figures as we relish the blame in those we don’t like. If we simply agree the blame is inclusive and historically almost all-encompassing, then perhaps we can stop the blame debate, at least for some of us, and focus on solving the current dilemma.

This problem is a collective problem. One – many years, many parties and many administrations in the making. It is at our doorstep and will either define the next stage of our prosperity as a nation or our inevitable decline. We must all stop trying to focus on who it was that is at fault and how we can use it to foist our “pure” ideology on the other side. We simply must find a good pragmatic solution.

As Ben Franklin said, ” it is thus compromise, based on tolerance of others opinions that leads us to the best solution!”

On Alternative Medicine: Historical Perspective

The mere affectation “alternative” is a misnomer – a contrivance – purposely designed to marginalize what at one point in our history were welcomed and rising forms of therapy.  In researching my book, “The History & Evolution of Health Care in America: The untold backstory of where we’ve been, where we are now and why healthcare needs more reform,” I chronicle the rise of the battle between the various forms of treatments and how, those methods that seemed then to be the most promising and accepted, ultimately became damned and “alternative.”

If you were becoming a physician in the early 1800’s there were a number of popular schools to choose from:

  1. Allopathic – the dominant practice of the day emphasized bloodletting, purging, and high-dose injections and enemas of metal and metalloid compounds containing mercury and antimony.
  2. Eclectic – placed an emphasis on plant remedies, bed rest, and steam baths
  3. Homeopathic – outlined a different set of medicines in much smaller doses – as well as allowing the body to heal itself.  Improved diet and hygiene played a huge role, as well as methods for stress reduction.
  4. Osteopathic – techniques relied heavily on the manipulation of joints and bones to diagnose and treat illness.

To the population of the day, the results of Allopathic, treatment (bloodletting, surgical intervention and large doses of medications) were typically painful, and often fatal.  The potential negative results of Eclectic and Homeopathic treatments were often allergic reaction or no result at all.   The rise of the latter two schools grew quite rapidly in the early 1800s.  As most of the medicinals from the non-alopathic disciplines were readily available – and significantly less expensive – private allopathic physicians and apothecaries soon became very concerned about the drop in their respective businesses.

Power Shifts from Physicians

In the mid-1800s two developments significantly changed the landscape for physicians.    In the early 1800s wealthy “pay” patients would not seek treatment at a hospital due to the stigma associated with them. Hospitals were squalid institutions for the insane and diseased where sick poor people went to die.   Hospitals were the realm of “Doctors,” not “Physicians.”  No self-respecting physician would refer a patient to a hospital because; A,  physicians were not eligible to charge for services rendered at the hospital and B, if the patient could not pay – or even worse if they died – the referring physician would find themselves responsible for the payments and C, the patients they treated would not have been caught dead there – literally.

In 1846, with Dr. William Morton’s demonstration of the anesthetic properties of Ether, hospitals began their rise from squalid almshouses – where the sick-poor go to die and for the insane to be locked away – to places of medical education and painless surgical interventions. The creation of painless surgery with Ether allowed doctors in hospitals the ability to conduct longer and more precise surgical procedures resulting in better outcomes.  In 1865, Joseph Lister’s discovery of the antiseptic qualities of carbonic acid (phenol) and publication of ” on the Antiseptic Principle of the Practice of Surgery,” literally revolutionized surgical process and lowered the mortality rate from surgical infection from sixty percent to less than four percent in under five years.  With these two developments hospitals and their doctors gained a significant edge on physicians.  Physicians were not able to readily use these technologies in one’s home.  Larger rooms were required to house the antiseptic equipment (often sprayed as a fine mist into the surgical fields) and provide ventilation for the powerful and flammable anesthetic.  It would do little good for the physician ministering to a patient in the sick-room in their home to pass out alongside the patient; or for the extremely flammable Ether vapors to reach an open flame and cause an explosion.

By the mid-1800s, many doctors complained of poverty and their extremely low social status.  Some physicians were well off, but most others were not.  We forget that cash was not a ubiquitous commodity outside of metropolitan areas. Those that attempted to practice in the country found bartering their only form of payment. Cash was not a currency they could deal in. During this time, an increasing number of people used home remedies or relied on patent medicines – except when dealing with serious injury or significant illness.  In those cases, patients sought out “painless” and antiseptic procedures at a hospital where the physician was barred from charging.

New Politics Causes More Problems for Physicians

Most of the cures and treatments prescribed by physicians and pharmacists were simply not working.  After the election of Andrew Jackson as President of the U.S. in 1829, public skepticism and the rise of “Jacksonionism” (a new way of thinking that encouraged Americans in general to play a greater role in the democratic process, also empowered the ordinary citizen through the belief that they were just as capable as the elite and highly educated) left the medical profession in a sorry state. As New York’s Medical Society journal reported,

 “There is a handsome income for a few, a competence for the many, and a pittance for the majority.”

Many of the elite physicians were loath to look at their mode of practice and its efficacy, so they decided that they needed to reduce the number of physicians to increase their rate of pay and use the national interest in the exciting discoveries of science to elevate their chosen profession.

In addition, the rapidly growing and very powerful “Patent Medicine” industry was also starting to note the competition from the hands of these new medical disciplines.  Powerful interests would soon line up against these alternate schools.  By the mid-century other technological innovations  soon put serious  additional pressures on the private physician’s business interests.  But due to the quick thinking by one New York physician, by then end of the century allopathic medicine would again become the sole discipline of licensed healthcare in America.

To recap, along with the rise of Homeopaths, Eclectics, Osteopaths and the patent medicine manufacturing industry, another blow was delivered to the physician in terms of business prospects. Hospitals were rapidly rising in power. Their staffs were training many of the new doctors, often in new less heroic competing disciplines,  and now private physician’s paying patients wanted to go to hospitals for care.  As this trend began to grow, it was apparent something needed to be done. In 1847, Doctor Nathan Davis founded the American Medical Association in order to elevate the standards of the practice of medicine and to advance the interests of physicians–Allopathic physicians!

In the view of the AMA, the medical profession in the United States in 1847 faced a crisis in public confidence. Medical licensure laws in most states had been repealed creating an atmosphere where uneducated practitioners and charlatans began to compete with educated physicians. Proponents of a “code of ethics,” as described by the membership of the AMA, hoped that the public would cooperate with allopathic (the now re-described, scientific practice of medicine) physicians in establishing standards for medical practice in the assuming that such action would reinstate public respect for the medical profession. They also hoped it would limit the public’s interest in non-scientific practices.

As a result, a three-pronged strategy was developed to enable the AMA to gain control of hospitals. The strategy was as follows:

  1. The AMA would assume control over the granting of physician licenses in order to control the number of doctors licensed.
  2. The AMA would stimulate physicians to open private physician-owned board-and-care homes to provide a competing location for upscale patrons.
  3. Wage a national campaign to convince the public that only AMA certified medical science could bring real cure and relief to illness, injury and disease, and position any other form of care as nothing more than “quackery.”

If the AMA could control the licensure of physicians then they could also gain control over the hospitals and force them to let private physicians charge for services.

The initial seizure of control over licensure by the AMA provided only limited success in garnering influence over the hospitals.  The AMA was largely composed of allopathic physicians.  A growing number of medical schools were granting licenses to homeopathic and eclectic doctors as well.

While the allopathic physicians voluntarily agreed to have the AMA act as the licensing authority, foregoing their authority to license their apprentices directly, they could not force the same for Homeopaths, Osteopaths and Eclectics.  However, in 1858, the AMA established its Committee on Ethics and this next stage of development invited a series of systematic and successful steps to lobby states to adopt the AMA’s standards for licensure of physicians.

Physicians Regain Control

Further, the AMA adopted a campaign to embrace only the development of “medical science” as the legitimate basis for medical education.  In 1889, in a report published by the Illinois Board of Health “on the Status of Medical Schools in the United States and Canada” there were 179 medical schools in North America: 26 were homeopathic, 26 eclectic, 13 miscellaneous, and another 13 were condemned as fraudulent. The remainder was allopathic schools or “regular sect,” as they referred to them in the report.

To deal with the problem of the other schools of medicine once and for all, and  gain control over the hospitals, the AMA began to orchestrate a campaign to demand the evaluation of all medical schools in the U.S. Of course, only the AMA was qualified to conduct the study.  In 1883 the AMA created the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA),to promote the treatment of disease with drugs and surgical process through “Medical Science” (allopathic medicine).  The AMA quickly became the arbiter of what was good medicine. By 1909, a land-breaking milestone occurred: doctors were now allowed to charge for services performed in hospitals.  The end-game was now in sight.

So Where are We Now?

The result of this organized effort by allopathic physicians was to stifle and obscure many promising, effective and less expensive and heroic treatments.  How many effective options would we have today if these actions had not been taken?    How many more cures would we have discovered if this early work had not been squashed?  We will never know!

Was there any benefit to the public for the AMA’s action?  Yes there was!  It is true that in this period medical charlatans existed.  Mortality rates were much higher.  Treatments were often more deadly that the disease of which one suffered.  There was a very good argument for the position of Nathan Davis and his colleagues that they needed to get some standards and laws in place to clean up the practice of medicine.  It is interesting that during this period the AMA was in lockstep with and fully supportive of the Proprietary Association (makers of patent medicines) who shared a vested interest along with John D. Rockefeller and Standard Oil who supported the founding of the AMA and along with Andrew Carnegie funded its founding and the surveys that helped cripple medical schools and the hospitals gaining influence.

In the end the question, is how much was for the good of the profession and how much was for the good of the professional?  We will never truly know.  Reading the minutes of various associations meetings of the day there are clear indicators that the business gains were at least the driving discussions at the professional gatherings.  Both Rockefeller and Carnegie had clear financial reasons to support Allopathic medicine and initially the Patent Medicine industry.  unfortunately for the patent medicine men the tide of public opinion would turn against them in another 50 years and the other members of the cabal would unite against them.

History has at last begun to vindicate many of the damned practices lost to the purge against non-scientific medicine.  In some cases we know have scientific basis for the observed results.  In other we simple have overwhelming observable results that have yet to be explained.  Or perhaps it is more appropriate to say that have yet to be explained away.

In the end, this cautionary tale is a lesson – a guidepost.  Its message, to us, is that we should be cognizant of the unintended consequences of our actions, and vigilant in the roles of each participant, and their relative benefits, in any critical system like health care.  Today, as we all recognize the need to redesign how we can deliver care to all with effective safety nets, efficient and cost-effective solutions, and preservation of choice; we need to assimilate the lessons of our own historical mistakes and develop a new and comprehensive health care supply chain.  This is something we can do – something we must do!

Chesapeake Blues: soft rock

No nettles seen – that’s good! The nets push flipping tender tasty morsels up and over – the gulls know

Manila twines tugging pants, hauling succulent prizes

Live boxes holding true their promise

Only hours when treats remain

Eat me now is the current state for in but a few moments this tender treat will be replaced with pinch – a hard case

Quick to the kitchen – shear, snip, snip prepared.

Just flour or crumbs – dipped, some salt – a bit of pepper

Cast iron is the transport to bliss – hot sizzling lard the agent of change

In

– sizzle – sizzle – sizzle.

Out!

Another use for newspaper.

Pure delight – bliss the true tastes of home.

St. Mary’s County: Our Home

Home: St. Mary's County

August 14, 2011
Tom Loker

St. Mary’s County, Cicadas buzz, warm summer nights.  Hot and humid – to everyone else, but to those of the county, it is just somehow right!

A few hours ago a summer thunder-squall made its way across the bay – a Virginia gift.

An Adirondack chair on the front porch – the one facing the water – the stars shimmering as the cooling breeze from the bays and rivers offer some respite.  The astral show above – a perfect closure to the vibrant hues and shades of the evening sunset – now closing Nebraska, or Oklahoma’s day continuing its way around the world

Sitting here in this now and then, the smells of honeysuckle & mulberries, tobacco & corn, cows & pigs, fish & crabs, oysters & beer –the bay and the earth commingle in a distinctive perfume familiar to those who have called this land home.

“You must be Judge Loker’s grandson, Dr. Ford’s nephew.  He operated on me in 54.  I went to Leonard Hall with your uncle Billy.  I remember your dad and Dipsey Combs at Bailey’s most days.  Your cousin ….  is married to my cousin…”

The ties to each other are the comforting linkages that make each, at once exceptional and ordinary.  To put on airs or fancy ways can only cover a few beats from our common roots.

Rich or poor, we eat as one. Crabs, fish, muskrat, ham (stuffed and old), potatoes (new), goose, duck, deer (never venison), kale, field cress,  winter cress (greens), magical oysters steamed, fried, stewed,

I want to meet the first person who decided you could eat an oyster – but God bless him for his courage.

scrapple, cracklin’s, beer and bourbon, whiskey and wine.  A common fare we all share.

Obligations run deep in blood but it is the duty of neighbor and kinship that drives us. The love of God, born in our state’s founding charter of religious tolerance and freedom for all and our dominant catholic faith instill further the love of land and water.

Where ever we are now, in this physical world, one of us only needs to sit outside in the evening…  Take a sip of beer or whiskey…  Lean back – find the stars in our  eyes…  Close them and we are at once home.  St. Mary’s County.

ACA, Politics, Mandates and the Commerce Clause

Focusing on the insurance mandate in the Affordable Care Act, (Obamacare) a few months ago I wrote a series of four articles for a publication, reproduced here as, “Health Care Mandate and the Commerce Clause Articles.”  In these four articles, I explored why I found the base argument that the government could regulate activities like these in a state difficult to fathom by reading the commerce clause in the constitution.

[The Congress shall have Power] To regulate Commerce with foreign Nations, and among the several States, and with the Indian tribes;

In my original look at this issue, I examined  the precedent cases cited by many as the basis for the idea of why the Federal government had, in this case, a superior right to the sovereign rights of the states, something that all agree was expressly limited by the framers of the constitution.   Reading these historical rulings made this concept that this is a Federal right even more difficult to swallow because I found that these earlier rulings often were even less convincing and often more startling in the extent that the arguments became even more extracted and remote in their nature.

In reading  the arguments and the rulings of the 11th Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals, I found an additional reason why I find the base idea that the Federal government has the right in instances like this to regulate the action of individuals in a state even more specious.  This is actually the simplest argument against such a right, and likely it would even hold the same effect at a state level.  It is part of the many arguments that have been made in the numerous constitutional challenges over these past few months.  But like much of these debates, the nature of the arguments has become complicated by excess verbiage and legal flanking obscuring for most of us the basic concept.

This additional argument comes in to points.  First, let us look at the definition of the word commerce.  In reviewing the many variations of the definitions available there are some basic common elements throughout.  They combine into the following.

com·merce
(komerse)
NOUN:

  1. The buying and selling of goods, especially on a large-scale, as between cities or nations.
  2. Intellectual exchange or social interaction.

Second, we simply need to ask a very obvious question, and one that while it has been raised by the legal scholars in the various debates in one form or another, it has been lost in the myriad levels of complexity provided more, it seem, to delight the ears than to illustrate the point. 

If commerce is either the act of buying or selling something, and depending on whether or not the activity was international, with the indian tribes or among the several states it could either be regulated by either the Federal government or the states.  How is NOT buying anything then an act of commerce in the first place?  And, if it is in fact NOT commerce then the argument on who regulates the action under the commerce clause is moot.

Of course legal scholars will use tangents of the “Wickard vs. Filburn” case to argue that not buying is an action that reduces the commerce among the states and therefore in reducing the revenue is itself something that impacts commerce and therefore can be regulated.  I guess this is the kind of argument our parents made for us to eat lima beans.

As a child my parents, who were good and nurturing parents, used to make me eat lima beans.  Every time I took a mouthful of lima beans, I had to rush to the bathroom to vomit.  And of course when I came back to the dinner table, I had to have yet another mouthful of lima beans, promulgating the same response.  Their justification was they were good for you.  Of course, the loss of the rest of the contents in my stomach and the various fluids and electrolytes that went along for the ride, did not enter into the equation – lima beans are good for you, we have lima beans, ergo  you need to eat the lima beans because they are good for you!

My father, a lawyer and son of a prominent judge, I suppose was simply adapting some of the arguments from the prior court rulings justifying the extension of the federal powers under the commerce clause, when he said, “There are people in other lands who are starving and it would be a sin for you not to eat those lima beans while they starve.”  He must have chosen this argument because it is so similar in the base points made in the historic extensions of federal power under the commerce clause.

In “Wickard vs Filburn,” the court ruled that poor old Roscoe Filburn’s wheat had to be destroyed because he grew more than the law, at the time allowed, even though he was using it on his own farm to feed his animals.  In the case against Roscoe, it was deemed against the law because his flagrant activities of wanting to feed his animals this ill grown wheat, reduced the grain he would have had to purchase from other states if he had not committed the heinous act of growing it himself.  Of course the fact that he likely would have bartered with the farmer down the road in his same state and that Roscoe, during the depression, likely did not have any cash to pay for the wheat in the first place was not relevant.  Roscoe, was not buying wheat from other states and as a result he was affecting interstate commerce and therefore the Federal government had the right under the commerce clause to regulate him so his wheat had to go.  Now Roscoe, eat those lima beans because they are good for you!

We have a strong habit in this country to stretch quite far to make the points we want to make.  We will obscure, misdirect, abstract and extend, often by many more than the “Six Degrees of Kevin Bacon,” in order to get the result that we want.  In doing this, either in the desire to accomplish an end we know people otherwise would not support or to appear brilliant by the use of flowery language and abstract argument, we often forget the simple and common sense argument.  The one we can all understand.  The one that actually stands up to quick and continued scrutiny.

Throughout these articles I have not wanted to argue whether or not we as a nation should require all to purchase insurance.  There are very good arguments both for and against this practice.  I simply am saying making these further and further abstract arguments, whether by legislative action, or judicial injection is not the way to achieve it.  In the end we spend billions of dollars arguing points that any person working in the fields or factories would screw up their faces and say, “What?”    If you related the “Wickard vs Filburn” issues to anyone working for a living they would have a simple answer.

In the end it is not hard to subvert intentions.  In the case of our current political motivations regarding the Affordable Care Act , so called Obamacare, we see exactly the extent that politicians and governments will go to get the outcome they want.  It takes years of very expensive education and hundreds of millions, if not billions of dollars, to arrive at the decisions that have been rendered based on the various political governmental and abstract interpretations of the commerce clause!  Only we can ultimately stop this and force those we elect to find the simple and most pragmatic answers.

Semantics: Its just not for politicians anymore.

America Circling the Drain

America CTD?

Word games – we all love to play them. On occasion it is fun to pit ones intelligence against another and use words to obscure what we are saying or twist another’s words into something they clearly would never have said. But, has an intellectual challenge for some, become a threat to our national existence?

 we have lost connection with the little engine that for over two centuries made us, that little engine that could…

It seems the word games we all learned to play as children have become the weapons of war on ourselves, wrought by others for their own gain and power. The diatribe that is now offered as debate in all phases and venues of our public discourse – from the popular media to the halls of our congress (once the proud battlement of high ideals and lofty goals) has become a bitter, petty and self-serving process. Its practitioners now use language to obfuscate, confuse, deflect, disguise, denigrate, excoriate, and disrupt anyone and anything, usually in pursuit of goals that no clear majority would support.

As a result of this semantic game, we have lost connection with the little engine that for over two centuries made us, that little engine that could. By using words to cloak and obscure the faults in our economic systems, created by years of short-sighted decisions and weak temporary corrections, the economic crisis some have long predicted appears to be on our door step at last. But unlike 70 years ago, the “our” is no longer the American “our.” It is now most of the world’s “our!”

 A reader commented – without the government subsidizing this purchase, regardless of the long-term economic sense of the investment, the industry would not exist…

In 2007, Ellen Hodson Brown, J.D. published a book titled, “Web of Debt.” In it she chronicles the rise of the fractional reserve banking systems, how this historical standard architecture was flawed, and how we could expect to see evidence of its predictable mathematical failure. This book is a very good read, whether or not you are an economist or even mathematically inclined. It will get you thinking, and whether you agree with Ms. Brown’s conclusions or not, she will help you see some things you have yet to see about one of the main processes that provide us our modern existence.

Recently, in a brief post I wrote relating to a local news article on the purchasing of solar panels for Yosemite National Park, a reader responded with the comment that I was failing to see the whole picture. He stated that, without the government subsidizing this purchase, regardless of the long-term economic sense of the investment, the industry would not exist as no one would be able to afford the products and therefore we would not get the benefits from them or have these options for future generations.

This got “me-to-thinkin’” as they used to say where I grew up. Is it possible that, what I see as desperately flawed logic could make some sense? Even though many of my recent posts appear to be more based on our economy, what I am most focused on is our health care system, or lack of a system to be more precise.

As I researched my upcoming book, “The History and Evolution of Health Care in America: The untold backstory of where we’ve been, where we are, and why health care needs more reform,” I learned that many of the drivers of our currently unsustainable health care system have their roots in; semantic based obfuscations, bad economic policy decisions of the past and the political fostering of the entitlement philosophy we have today.

In the area of health care, and retirement, we are now of the mind that these are our due. We believe we should be able to receive any care we want, at any time that we want, and if we can’t afford it then the government, i.e. everyone else, owes this to us. And just between you and me – we never really can afford it, can we? I mean, with all the modern conveniences we also want; like the large flat panel, and the vacation every year, and the new car, and the second home, and for all of our kids to go to college and become doctors and lawyers; I mean it’s not right to expect us to not have these things in order to pay for retirement or health care later now is it?

…have the government subsidize the cost of the product so we can buy it. Now, in a vacuum this logic can make some sense…

Thinkin’ more on this, I also came to the belief that another flaw of this logic is the base economics of the decision itself. To recap, we can’t build the product at a price that people are willing, or able to pay. Therefore, we need to have the government subsidize the cost of the product so we can buy it. Now, in a vacuum this logic can make some sense. If the consequence of these decisions was not exclusionary to other things we need then, assuming we all agreed, taking some money from each of us to pay the cost of a non-sustaining industry with the hope that it would become sustaining, may be something we would choose to do. But we are not in a vacuum. Every decision we make in our economy to subsidize one industry is taking monies we need for other things-like health care and retirement.

The larger problem today, is that we have inflated our domestic costs so much already, in this new world economy, few, if any, of the things we build here in the U.S. are cost-effective. Solar is yet another great example. Comparing the cost of U.S. designed and built solar panels with those made in China shows a stark reality. We are in the long run subsidizing a business we will never gain from. This is exactly what we have been doing for the last 75 years. First Japan, then China, next Indochina, now India, we have subjugated ourselves to being pioneers in technology, and letting the rest of the word dominate by base production. Their base production margins dwarf our pioneering margins. In this new world economy, we are now in competition to all others. Throughout the past 75 years we have either lost, or purposely abandoned, many of the market segments that gave rise to our industrial and economic power.

So in our semantic fed delusion, first, let’s tax, or fine, some group, who we can use semantics to argue has more than us and if possible demonize how they got it from us unfairly in the first place. Next, since, according to the semantic, they abused us in some way to get it, the government needs to subsidize it because a different, and semantically disadvantaged, abused, and often relatively small group wants it be paid for, at least in part so they can have it. One other key to this semantic process of entitlement is this group must be, or have a semantic appeal to another group, large enough to represent a significant voting bloc.

Now, just like the Yosemite solar panels someone, actually all of us, must pay for them. Some say, “We all pay for them!” Others say, “Oh no! We will make the ‘Rich’ pay for them!” This brings up other faults in this tortured logic tree. Whether it is taxes, fines or fees, the additional costs reduce profits, increasing prices, decreasing discretionary spending, lowering domestic sales, increasing relative costs, lowing profits, driving down wages, and shifting higher margin to other countries production. This very observable and familiar Zero Sum Game process now requires more subsidies. This progression is referred to by a very technical term (CTD) “Circling the Drain.” If you have any difficulty grasping this problem, you can go back to the beginning of the paragraph and repeat, reading until it becomes clear. For some this clarity happens just after they hear the big flushing sound! Woooooooooooossssssshhhhhh!

As I thought more about this issue, I realized if Ellen Brown is correct, and I suspect she is, continuing to apply this logic is not only dangerous, it is fatal economically. Normally, when a government prints new money, it is not inflationary, but stimulative, as historically this new currency is offset by real work product with real value that has a lingering effect in our domestic economy.

I just wonder if this new world economy, combined with our current lack of competitive margin based productivity, exacerbated by the governments current practice of allocating new currency to be created for non-value based activities like paying interest, or for goods and services where the bulk of the effect of the capital is being transferred to those countries manufacturing the goods. These are the same countries where the components or primary materials yield high margins due to their significantly lower costs.

I am starting to wonder if this process is causing that WOOOSSSSSSHHHH’ing sound I am hearing? Or maybe it’s just the semantic wind, whistling though the solar panels.

If you are starting to find the overall situation increasingly frustrating and perhaps scary come check out http://www.mugwump.co (yes that’s CO not COM)

Be A Mugwump Site is Live

Ever since I read Mark Twain’s Autobiography, I have come to realize that the form of political activism he and others of his time practiced is needed now more than ever.  Nothing is a better indicator of that need than the actions of congress in the past two years on both sides of the aisle.

I have yet to speak to anyone, in any are of the political bell curve who is not disgusted, and even more concerned with what is transpiring.

I invite you all to come take a look at the site and if you find your frustrations and views in line with mine – please join. You can choose to join and not have your name listed (you will still receive updates from time to time on interesting articles related to true political independence) . What I am hoping is you will list your name and we can build a groundswell.

This is not a political party, and it is not driven by one candidate or ideology. Find out more and come visit the site: http://www.mugwump.co(yes that is CO not COM. Someone has the dot-com name already but does not appear to be using it. Maybe one day I can get that and make it easier.

I hope to see you there soon.