Behold the Arrogance of Man!

Arrogance-diminishes-wisdom-

Perhaps Mr. Snowden is in the process of learning what both President Obama, and Joe Biden learned as they moved from the position of candidate to the top two executives in our government.

When you think you know something based on only a few of the facts and realities of the situations, you are free to speak and act more freely & criticize others in leadership with impunity, because you simply do not know the detailed reality of the situation.  If something goes wrong, there are myriad things that you can use as an excuse because you “didn’t know” this or that. Unfortunately, in recent weeks we have seen this lack of understanding or knowledge excuse played out way too much. Continue reading

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Press Bias? Some examples seem beyond belief!

This is a great example of an example of an Insidious, incipient, and irresponsible biased news article

Overall, the constant refrain of bias in the “Main Stream Media,” has become time-worn, tiresome, and unfortunately almost universally acknowledged,  when hearing this invective many persons next continuous thought may be, “Yea, so what else is new!”  Years ago you would hear the contra-posing argument that the charge of bias was not true.  Next, there was a period where the story line was that it was really the other side that was promoting its own bias—often listed as Fox News and Continue reading

Debunking The Clinton Budget Surplus Myth

By now most Americans have heard that our national economy is in deep trouble.  With increasing frequency, articles are appearing discussing the steadily accumulating massive debt, the looming insolvency of Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid, the inability of our congressional leaders to rein in spending, an increase in pending bankruptcies of many municipalities and perhaps soon some states, and the overall impact of this crisis on our own personal finance and lifestyle.  Yet for most of us, it seems completely abstract—more like a dream. Many simply ignore the facts, believing it will just go away.  After all, we have Continue reading

President Obama describes his role for the middle class

On July 24, 2012, the San Jose Mercury News ran an article by Josh Richman and Matthew Artz, “Obama’s campaign hits Oakland. “Obama campaign hits Oakland.”

The article covers the typical campaign rhetoric. It has its requisite Romney and republican bashing, has the required promises that he will give us all everything we want if we just give him one more chance, how everything would be better already if it was not for those other guys, and of course it was all wrapped up with a large dose of scare tactics to convince those present in Oakland that the bogymen conservatives were about to take away their babies, Continue reading

Can Obama Win Election? It may be a minority opinion!

Do minority cultural characteristics belie the polling data?

If it is not already, this will be the consuming question for both parties over the next ninety-eight days.  Depending on your point of view the recent polls either show the race in a dead heat (if you are independent), Mitt Romney beginning to gain momentum (if you are republican) or President Obama beginning to pull ahead (if you are a democrat).  The main question is how accurate are the polls?  Here many pundits, again depending on their political persuasion have numerous cogent arguments as to why one view or the other is correct based on the sampling, Continue reading

The Supreme Court Decision: It hurts to be wrong-but it hurts more to be right and still wrong!

Now that we have all heard the decision by the Supreme Court on the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (Obamacare), perhaps it is time for some reflection.  I know as I read the decision Thursday morning, while I was waiting in the queue preparing for a radio interview on the issue, I felt both vindicated in my initial analysis, but also left wanting and inadequate for not seeing the sideways tax justification for its declared constitutionality.

First a recap

There were four questions heard by the Supreme Court in this case. Continue reading

Obamacare Supreme Court Ruling Likely Tomorrow: What will it mean to me?

If the discussion around water-coolers across the nation, or if the intensity of the discussion I have been having at meetings, discussions, or speeches I have given lately is any indication; then regardless of the decision from the Supreme Court tomorrow on the Affordable Care Act, or Obamacare if you prefer, the nation will once again find itself in a vitriolic and unnecessary national argument.

If you want to find out about the background of the core issue, you can read my Health Care Mandate and the Commerce Clause Articles or you can read, Supreme Court to hear arguments on Obamacare: An enigma, based on a canard, wrapped in a conundrum and read how the decisions could come down.

Regardless of the decision, it is clear that we will again have a major upheaval over any decision.  Passions are still running extremely high, and everyone seems to think this is the “be all and end all” of our future life, liberty and pursuit of happiness.  And all of us are wrong!

The decision, regardless of how it comes down, will neither further harm our healthcare system, nor will it improve our healthcare system because we just do not have a system in the first place.  What we have is clearly not a system.  In my recent book, The History and Evolution of Healthcare in America: The untold backstory of where we’ve been, where we are, and why healthcare needs more reform!, available at Barnes and Noble and  Amazon, and other fine bookstores, I discuss how we got to what we have today, how the practice of healthcare has evolved over the years – sometimes not for the benefit of patients – how we arrived at the point where what we believe and expect from healthcare is more mythical than reality, and some ideas on what we need to do to make available both choice and effective care for all.  It is a result of our collective mythical vision of healthcare and inaccurate focus on the symptoms, not the problems of our healthcare system, in the current bill, that we find ourselves with a collective national angst that will in the end just yield political discord not fix the fundamental problems.

As I write this, I am listening to the debate on the Eric Holder contempt of congress issue, also pending determination tomorrow.  Again we are in the middle of a huge national division and if one is cynical enough, we may come to the conclusion that this is all part of some diabolical plan. Since we have come to the place where instead of citizen politicians, we now have a professional political class whose job is to sell us free stuff and fulfill our wants, more than our needs, in exchange for our votes, and thereby significant power and riches; perhaps this is why we seem to have become a nation of thirds who argue everything, and find our leaders unable, or more likely unwilling, to fix the problems.

We are now composed of about 1/3 hard left progressive, 1/3 hard right conservative, and about 1/3 of the nation seem caught in the middle.  You should wonder, what would politicians have to get reelected on if they stop giving us free stuff; and how, on earth, would they get us to give them money so they can afford campaigns, if we are not mostly extremely irritated over something?  I am starting to think it is not our integrity and character that gets us engaged in critical issues anymore, but more likely it is just our passions.

There are some who declare that “Fast and Furious,” was a planned effort to create a national outrage in order to continue to clamp down on gun rights and perhaps severely restrict the second amendment.  Some label this actual fact, and some call this nothing more than wild conspiracy theory.  We all participate in this to some extent because we now habitually believe there can only be one extreme or another, not some logical blend in the middle.  The problem for those of us who are not trying to find conspiracy at every corner, is that we are at a nexus of a number of events created by the actions of the current and prior administrations that all seem to have at least some conspiracy elements in the actions.

In addition to “Fast and Furious,” you have the the actions and events over immigration reform, and the President’s recent unilateral action to implement some form of a dream act. You have the Supreme Court’s ruling on the Arizona Law and the administrations action to shut down the rulings effect by suspending the cooperation between ICE and Arizona’s police departments, and if you look back at the Affordable Care Act debate in congress. You have on the record, statements from people like Barney Frank and Charlie Rangle, and some others, who stated that the health care bill would be the path to a National Single Payer Healthcare system.  While you can look at each item discretely, and argue there is no Machiavellian agenda, when you look across the entire spectrum one needs to wonder if there is some agenda at work after all. And of course, the answer becomes; Yes –  there is an agenda.

Of course there is an agenda, and hopefully it is because those pursuing it truly believe what they are doing is right for America and Americans.  But being right for America and right for Americans may not always yield the same decision.  If may seem right for Americans to have congress conflate the promise given by the Constitution to all for Life, Liberty and the Pursuit of Happiness into an extrapolated promise of free heath care for everybody paid for by the government.  Conversely, at the same time it may not be right economically for the viability of America, to assume what historically was a personal responsibility if the assumption of these costs would bankrupt the nation.  Both decisions, in the narrow view, are good and reasonable decisions.

One path to a decision, has the benefit of giving something to political constituents that will help endear politicians to their electorate and gain reelection.  The other, could change the last fifty years of building the expectation that it is the government, not the individual, that needs to be responsibility for their own heath.  Regardless, this is just not a good situation for any of us, and it is partly why the bill that passed to become the law that is Obamacare is not really liked by either side or the middle.

While the 1964 extension of Social Security Act to include Medicare and Medicaid, was sold as a safety net, the reason for the passage was political gain, clearly on display if you listen to the Johnson tapes available today on-line.  And, subsequent to passage, regardless of whether or not there really was a Machiavellian plan, we have continued to want, and/or allow, Congress to convert the “safety net” into a national entitlement.  The end point is the same.

This is the reason that as we await the decision from the Supreme Court tomorrow, I do not think it will matter one iota in actually addressing the problems that we need to solve or developing a real system to make available both choice and effective healthcare for everyone.

Fair Shot, Fair Share, Fair Play: Is life really fair?

To sleep: perchance to dream: ay, there's the rub: For in that sleep of death what dreams may come...

(Readers Note, this is not a short discussion!)

So who ever said life should be fair?  It seems of late (this campaign season) that all I am hearing everywhere is about fairness.  Somewhere, somehow, I must have missed some proclamation.  There must have been some fundamental shift of the polls, or a radical discovery somewhere deep in the cosmos, because I have been operating for all of my life under the safe and secure knowledge that life was not fair—never was!

In my youth, when academics governed my acquisition of knowledge and much of my existence, before life stepped in and modified the theory with practical experience, I studied, chemistry, biology, physics, and other natural sciences. In all my studies in the natural sciences ,I have seen nothing anywhere that tells me life is fair.  Nowhere have I seen any natural system that is predicated on fairness.  I also had an interest in philosophy and religion, and took some classes in these subjects and in my life have read much more in these areas. With the exception of only rare occasions, and those typically only in discussion of the pursuit of an ideal, no religion seems to espouse the theory of the innate fairness of the universe nor in us a people. So I am perplexed how this “Fairness” thing has now become a reality without me hearing about it.

What does it mean to be fair?

fair 1 (fâr)

adj. fair·er, fair·est

  1. Of pleasing appearance, especially because of a pure or fresh quality; comely.
    1. Light in color, especially blond: fair hair.
    2. Of light complexion: fair skin.
  2. Free of clouds or storms; clear and sunny: fair skies.
  3. Free of blemishes or stains; clean and pure: one’s fair name.
  4. Promising; likely: We’re in a fair way to succeed.
    1. Having or exhibiting a disposition that is free of favoritism or bias; impartial: a fair mediator.
    2. Just to all parties; equitable: a compromise that is fair to both factions.
  5. Being in accordance with relative merit or significance: She wanted to receive her fair share of the proceeds.
  6. Consistent with rules, logic, or ethics: a fair tactic.
  7. Moderately good; acceptable or satisfactory: gave only a fair performance of the play; in fair health.
  8. Superficially true or appealing; specious: Don’t trust his fair promises.
  9. Lawful to hunt or attack: fair game.
  10. Archaic Free of all obstacles.

adv.

  1. In a proper or legal manner: playing fair.
  2. Directly; straight: a blow caught fair in the stomach.

tr.v. faired, fair·ing, fairs

To join (pieces) so as to be smooth, even, or regular: faired the aircraft’s wing into the fuselage.

Archaic:

  1. A beautiful or beloved woman. (Old English fæger “morally pure, unblemished” – late 12c.)

Like most abstract concepts, even the definition of fairness depends on your point of view and the subject matter. The thefreedictionary.com definition at the left shows that fair has many meanings in many contexts.  It also shows that the original form of the word specifically related only to a beautiful or beloved woman.  Like the word cute, which originally meant bow-legged, our concept of fair has changed much over time. So if we can’t count on the definition, what is fairness?

What is it?

So, what is fairness anyway and why all of the sudden do we expect it? Why do we think we have a right to it? Why, given thousands of years of history to the contrary, do we think we can get it even if we wanted it in the first place? And, do we really want fairness for all or do we just want fairness for ourselves? Is fairness a real thing or just some perception, some passing fancy on which we are now pinning our hopes of ending our own struggles for survival? If fairness is really a perception, is it not then that life is innately unfair?

Why do we think  fairness is real?

To me, the idea of fairness as an attainable concept seems to be something that comes in the night to people that move from struggling for their day to day existence, to some level of affluence.  Those who believe in fairness seem to arrive at this belief either from their success or their failure to succeed.  Lest you think I am being duplicitous, let me explain further.

Some of those that arrive at the concept of fairness due to their success, seem to me to be those who have achieved some level of affluence in excess of what they expected they were due; based largely on the effort they put in to achieve their success.  In other words, they now have some level of personal guilt over what they now have.  Some, instead of embarking on a direct philanthropic effort to help others, decide that the method of their success was not fair and now want to change something to make it such for everyone.  But those changes actually make it unfair for others who are doing the same thing to be successful and remove their opportunity to achieve parity, replacing it with granted (not achieved parity)

Others arrive at the concept of fairness based on their failure to achieve and compete in some way.  In an effort to justify the failure of achievement, they seek analysis as to the outside circumstances that caused the fault.  In any analysis like this they will find casuations outside their control.  In no way am I trying to say that these causes are not real.  They very well may be real and have had a real effect. The end point, whether the cause is real or imagined, is the same. Convinced that it is simply a matter of abject fairness, people seek some form of redress in order to gain a different outcome. Regardless, the end is the same. An inherently arbitrary equalization system results.

The politics of calculation?

I have heard a number of times, likely based more on anecdotal evidence, that the country is divided 50/50.  Perhaps it is true the 50% of us would respond that we believe life should be expected to be fair and the other 50% would respond, it is not fair and we should not expect it to be so.  Politically this would appear a non sequitur.  Why then has history shown that the political promise of fairness is so successful?  Because, like most things political, when you look beneath the surface, the obvious, you will find the intrinsic value to the politician on selling the promise of fairness and equality.

Of the 50% that say they believe in life’s innate fairness, it is much more likely that regardless of what is said in the polls, only about 20% believe fervently that life can be fair and the remaining 30% say it because they think that such a concept will lead them to additional attainment. This 30% neither truly believe life is fair nor do they really want fairness.  What they want is to get part of that the others, who have been lucky enough, worked hard enough, or were unscrupulous enough to get more than they have.  Whether they earned them, or not, is not part of the equation.  The basic nature of this thought is based on the fact that life is not fair, they got more because it was not fair and only with some intervention that arbitrarily shifts the unfairness in my direction will I get the appearance of it being fair.  And it is the appearance, not real fairness that is the politician’s key.

Political fairness, historically, has not equaled equality.

Life is never fair, and perhaps it is a good thing for most of us that it is not.
-Oscar Wilde

Most of the great philosophers debated the issue of fairness, and likewise debated the issues of equality.  Up until more recently the two issues were not intertwined.  For instance, Solon, was an Athenian statesman, lawmaker, and poet from 638 BC – 558 BC. Justice, for Solon, was not an arithmetical equality: giving equal shares to all alike irrespective of merit, which represents the democratic concept of distributive justice, but it was equity or fairness based on difference: giving shares proportionate to the merit of those who receive them. The same ideas of political order, leadership, and justice can be found in Plato’s dialogues.

For Plato, like Solon, the starting point for the inquiry about the best political order was the fact of social diversity and conflicting interests, which involve the danger of civil strife. The political community consisted of different parts or social classes, such as the noble, the rich, and the poor, each representing different values, interests, and claims to rule.

In Plato’s great work, Republic, he describes four virtues that are the characteristics of a good political society: justice, wisdom, moderation, and courage. Plato described justice as the equity or fairness that grants each social group its due and ensures that each “does one’s own work.”

Wikipedia cites Fairness and Justice are often confused.

According to most contemporary theories of justice, justice is overwhelmingly important: John Rawls claims that “Justice is the first virtue of social institutions, as truth is of systems of thought.” Justice can be thought of as distinct from and more fundamental than benevolence, charity, mercy, generosity or compassion. Justice has traditionally been associated with concepts of fate, reincarnation or Divine Providence, i.e. with a life in accordance with the cosmic plan. The association of justice with fairness has thus been historically and culturally rare and is perhaps chiefly a modern innovation [in western societies].

Studies at UCLA in 2008 have indicated that reactions to fairness are “wired” into the brain and that, “Fairness is activating the same part of the brain that responds to food in rats… This is consistent with the notion that being treated fairly satisfies a basic need”. Research conducted in 2003 at Emory University, Georgia, USA, involving Capuchin Monkeys demonstrated that other cooperative animals also possess such a sense and that “inequity aversion may not be uniquely human” indicating that ideas of fairness and justice may be instinctual in nature.

So why drive to get what we know is naturally unobtainable?

For many, the base concept of fairness is a diversion, a mere bauble, a trinket to dangle in the eyes of those that want it to be true, and something that can even be sold to those that don’t. It’s a dream for sale!

Assume for a minute the country really is one-half believers in innate fairness and the other half cynics.  From a political perspective, the hopeful believe in the dream and will buy it at almost any cost with their votes.  The cynics don’t believe it but, some of the cynics recognize that the dream provides a sociologically and politically correct way to justify getting more from someone else. The concept of fairness fosters the action of redistribution or reallocation because those that believe life should be fair will support the program of accommodation.Some Cynics correctly calculate that they will receive a gain. What they have been unable to attain by a survival of the fittest process, they can now get through the believers voluntary capitulation to a government imposed re-equalization fueled by their guilt.  This proceed adds relative value or assets to what the Cynics naturally received through competing in the “unfair” manner.  The process is now innately and hypocritically even more unfair because these Cynics are receiving “fairness” based on an unfairness to others resulting from a concept they do not believe in the first place.

This is now so ingrained in our political mind that right or wrong,  fairness has now become the watchword and income redistribution the measure!

But is life really fair?

Bill Gates said: “Life is not fair; get used to it.”

This is an interesting question, and perhaps it is the most important one to answer before we embark on yet another generation of programs geared to seeking government equalization for perceived unfairness.  One thing we need to consider is that much of our history and knowledge rules against the concept that life is, or could be, fair.

Theory of Evolution sides against life as fair!

Since the theory of evolution (according to the extreme right-wing conservatives) is a liberal theory, you would think that it might provide some basis for the concept that life is fair.  Darwin’s theory, even the modern modified form of it, is predicated on the main concept of survival of the fittest.  Those that do not survive, fail to reproduce as much as others more capable and therefore over time the advantageous characteristics of the fittest survive, and the disadvantageous characteristics of the rest of the species die out.  Clearly this is not a very fair system to those that don’t make it to the next evolutionary step now is it?

Creation Theory sides against life as fair!

So if evolutionary theory is a bastion tenant of the left, let us look at the extreme left-wing view of what is a bastion tenant of conservatives—Creationism.  Once again, this theory also does not support the concept of life as fair. Let us just look at one point of many.  As God dropped the innocent Adam and Eve into the Garden of Eden, he set up one thing that they could not do.  They could not eat the apple.  Now is that fair?  Eve didn’t think so!  The non-biblical theory of creation is rife with the inherent conflicts and accomplishments that brought man forward from historic to modern times.  It was man’s ambition, effort, and conquests that defines his steps to modernity.  No where in this theory is the concept of fairness used to illustrate mankind’s gains. In fact in many of the illustrations it was mans innate unfairness that gave one group an advantage over the other.

Big Bang theory sides against life as fair!

OK lets look to pure science. According to the Big Bang Theory, the universe began, perhaps after a great cyclic gravitational contraction, with a large explosion.  Everything that existed prior to the explosion was destroyed and released anew as pure energy.  As the universe cooled all the various forms of matter formed according to what we know of the laws of physics, and the chaos of the explosion became replaced with some relative and random order. So according to this theory you have a massive destruction of something that gradually re-consolidates into something else.  Clearly, this was not very fair for that which got destroyed now was it?

I guess it could be called the ultimate in income redistribution!

No government process yields fairness

The United States, by all external accounts, has one of the fairest judicial processes in the world.  Hundreds of thousands of pages of rules and laws have been written and established with fair justice as the principal goal.  Yet, look at the O.J. Simpson trial, or more recently, the Casey Anthony Trial.  Ask most Americans if the outcome was fair and they will tell you that both of them got away with murder.  Clearly, our own experience shows us that life is not fair and no government can provide fairness.

In an odd way, the system itself recognizes life is not, nor ever will be, fair.  Our form of justice is not as much about fairness as it is equalization of injustices, both perceived and real, by the transfer of some value or asset from the defendant to the plaintiff.  Even things that are clearly recognized as accidental, now include compensation for the victim as part of the “fairness” concept of justice.  In the early 1800s through the mid-1900s, liability for damage due to death from addictive patent medicines rested in the hands of the person who purchased it and chose to take it.  If you used a piece of equipment in the 1840s or 1850s and you lost a finger—well, its a shame you lost the finger, stuff happens you know!

Today, for some, by no means all, such events become a life changing payday.  Our concept of fairness has evolved much over the last century or so.

Point of View

Fairness is clearly just a point of view. The concept means different things to different people, at different times, and in different circumstances.

Aurthur Brook, the president of the American Enterprise Institute,  defines fairness this way:

We are not a perfect opportunity society in the United States. But if we want to approach that ideal, we must define fairness as meritocracy, embrace a system that rewards merit, and work tirelessly for true equal opportunity. The system that makes this possible, of course, is free enterprise. When I work harder or longer hours in the free-enterprise system, I am generally paid more than if I work less in the same job. Investments in my education translate into market rewards. Clever ideas usually garner more rewards than bad ones, as judged not by a politburo, but by citizens in the marketplace.

Others define fairness on some system of compensation for perceived, or real, inequality.  But in such calculations, one persons fairness is another person’s unfairness.

While the goal of Affirmative Action is to offer incentives, subsidies, and other compensating systems to change the future results in favor of those who were viewed to have been historically treated unfairly, what is fair for the recipient is now unfair for some, if not many, of those who now do not get the benefit.  If such systems are compensation for past unfairness, at what point does the balancing cross over to real unfairness in the other direction?  What system is in place to measure and determine the point for the balancing re-equalization to stop?  Initially, such systems may appear fair but they are not universally fair.

Look to the movie “Unforgiven” when Hackman’s character says in his dying breath, “I’m building a house. I don’t deserve it.” and Clint’s character says, “Deserves got nothing to do with it.”

Universal fairness, in the end, is the concept that belies the concept of fairness in the first place.  What may seem fair for one set of people and one circumstance is seldom fair for others, or perhaps for all.  For the sake of argument, let us assume that Theory of Evolution is correct and the continued survival of a species is based on its continuing evolution through the mechanism of survival of the fittest.  If this is true, then our modern healthcare system—that is solving for all the inter-species competition and environmental damage that normally would be spelling death knells for individuals, or seriously impacting their ability to reproduce—is prohibiting this survival of the fittest process from taking place. Therefore, it might be argued, modern healthcare is not innately fair for the species as a whole.  It can also be argued that keeping people alive to an older and older age where their productivity for the benefit of the species becomes much less than what they consume is also innately unfair.  Yet, none of us as humans make this argument, or myriad others that could be made, because we believe we are a special species on this planet that feel and care for others of our own kind.  Now, we also even significantly express care about the other species as well, sometimes to our own fiscal detriment.  Is this well founded enlightenment or is it simply a long term strategy of our own species’ self destruction?

Fair Use, Fair Trade, Fair Employment, Fair Market Value, all use different fundamental concepts or measure of fairness. Often, in the end, fairness adds up to being the political concept of equal treatment for some based on the justifiable unequal treatment of others.

Conclusion

While I am going to be using the President in the following example, I see the same thing from the candidates on the other side of the aisle. Please do not draw the conclusion that I am only finding fault with President Obama. I n fact, I find fault with them all on this point!

For this election, President Obama is now decided to use the main theme (sound byte, talking point, mantra – you pick it) of Fair Shot, Fair Share, Fair Play.  In these moments he contra-poses the hope of fair with the negative of things like the mortgage foreclosure crisis or the stock market collapse, or the “greed” of wall street and the rich corporations.  Without stating it directly, first he imparts the message that we should expect fairness and it can, in fact, be attained.  Secondly, he is building the image that only he is fair and anything else is not fair.  He makes the statement that everyone should be able to buy a home but does not discuss whether or not they should have the requirement to afford the home in the first place.  If they can’t get the loan, for whatever reason then the lender is not fair.  If they buy the home and now the lender wants to collect or repossess the home than the lender is not fair. He uses terms like unscrupulous in these cases to paint a broad picture.

Clearly, some lenders are unscrupulous, just as some people seeking loans are also unscrupulous.  But being a lender does not directly equate to being unscrupulous any more than being a borrower automatically equates to deadbeat.  While one side can quote statistics to show how all the lenders did such-and-so to be unfair to home buyers, conversely the national statistics on upside mortgages and home mortgage defaults leads one to draw the conclusion that a large part of borrowers are deadbeats.  Neither of those assumptions are of course true.

Framing the argument for his re-election in such a lopsided way is indirectly and in some cases directly, instilling in the public that they have a right to own a home regardless.  If they, you know those unscrupulous people, don’t loan you the money or you can’t pay it back it is they, the unscrupulous, that are unfair…

The President in a recent video discussing fairness said, “Congress cannot end the year taking money out of the pockets of working Americans.”  But, in the end, that is what all government fairness programs really do.  They do not provide fairness, they provide unequal treatment for some to provide equal treatment for others, usually based on a specious and arbitrary determination.  When it is the result of a political issue then it is simply unequal treatment for the group that is the numerically the smaller group of voters for the benefit of the larger voting block. This is why our founding fathers were so adamant that we became a republic, not a democracy!

In the President’s case, perhaps it is that he simply believes his system is fair because the Working Americans he favors deserve more fairness that all the rest of us.

As Hamlet said, “…Therein lies the rub: for in that sleep of death we know not what dreams may come…”

But then again, maybe we do!

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David Brook’s Take on the Progressive Era is Right On

Teddy Roosevelt(R) the Progressive Candidate

David Brooks wrote a great article comparing today’s America with that of the progressive era called, “Midlife Crisis Economics“.  In it, Mr. Brooks provides a very cogent analysis of the fallacy in comparing initiatives from the progressive era with those of today.  He notes that the current administration, long enamored with comparisons to the New Deal era, has now realized that this period comparison has led to many false paths and much political baggage and is now promulgating  comparison to the Progressive Era.  Mr. Brooks very capably points out why these analogies are also in error.  I will not rewrite Mr. Brooks article as I encourage you to click the title above and read his more than capable work. However, I would like to discuss this seemingly current trend in a much broader context. While the current administration may have taken the historical analogy as justification for current actions to a new and perhaps much more dangerous level; this is more likely the culmination of a long term trend in seeking justification for a continually failing set of policies.  While it is very easy to bash democrats for this at this point in time because they are the party of the current occupant of the White House, this is in no way just a one party problem.  Both sides of our professional political class have tried to capture the glory days of their bygone eras as rhetoric to stir the masses to their cause in this current period. The main problem, as Mr. Brooks points out so well in his article, is the times have changed and along with the times; the character of our country, underlying economy, and issues that we are solving for have also changed.  Further, the entirety of our government has morphed into that of a professional political class.

I don’t know about you but I am sick to death of the phrase, “the greatest financial crisis since the great depression!”

At the height of the progressive era, a republican, Teddy Roosevelt, was the spur in the rump of the American Horse.  The ideals of progressive-ism were targeting specific sets of problems and solutions using a specific and timely set of tools and actions. If you look forward to the period of “the Great Depression” you find the same thing. The methods that were chosen to try to solve the problems under F. D. Roosevelt’s reign were also specific and timely.  One of the biggest laughs I get out of discussions about the current economic or health care crisis is when modernists begin to espouse what F.D.R.’s position would be.  Since I have spent quite a bit of time on the issues of healthcare I will point to one example. Over the past couple of years, as the debate for “universal healthcare” centered on a national governmental healthcare system, so called “single-payer” system, one pundit after another, and in some cases supposedly well respected congressmen and women, have said this is what F.D.R wanted.  Well that is just so much–what was it the ‘Stormin’ Norman Schwarzkopf called it?  Oh Yeah, Bovine Scatology!  Franklin D. Roosevelt was fully and distinctly anti socialist and anti communist.  While he proposed many programs that historically we now see in some kind of socialist light, in almost every case what he was advocating for and what we have now are not comparable.  Some of the recognizable  stalwarts, like Social Security, he advocated for but as  temporary solutions. In the area of healthcare, the distinctions are even more stark.  Roosevelt was not solving for the problems we have today.  In fact, it is likely that from his historical perspective he would marvel at how well our current system has improved over the problems he faced in the provision of healthcare to the country.  During this period, the big problems were access to care, and the quality of the care being provided.  While cities could economically support hospitals and therefore provided good places for doctors to congregate, conduct research and solve the needs of the populace, rural areas could not. The profession of physician and doctor had merged into one, hospitals had become vitally necessary for most of them to practice comprehensive quality care and they were expensive to build and maintain. During Teddy Roosevelt’s era physicians could finally charge for services rendered at hospitals. Rural hospitals were few and far between and the few that did exist were often staffed with the substandard physicians who could not get hired in the cities or in other more egregious cases–outright charlatans.    Compounding the problem was that cash and money payment in rural communities was still not a wide spread practice. Both as a result of custom, and the depression, cash was not a favored form of transaction in rural communities. Many people simply did not have cash or ready access to it. Many still bartered for goods and services.  It was nearly impossible to construct a hospital, fund its expenses, and attract good physicians to an economy where cash played an often secondary role. F.D.R. was solving for access to quality healthcare in rural communities. He failed to get his proposed solutions through congress in his second New Deal legislation before his death.  It was Harry Trueman who finally got the Hill Burton Act passed that stimulated the construction of rural hospitals and helped increase the quality and availability of care in these under-served areas.  It is very easy to say, as Michael Jackson did in his song, “They Don’t Really Care About Us” ‘that if Roosevelt was livin’ he wouldn’t let this be, No No No….’ But it is probably just not true.  In the song, Jackson is referring to racism, but even in this area, historians point out that Roosevelt was not quite the staunch humanist we now perceive him to be; and in fact contemporaneously was repeatedly accused of being racist. In the end, it is never a good idea to believe that historical figures would immediately support any of the solutions we propose today. Often, they would marvel at what we have achieved and find ridiculous some of the ideas our politicians now choose to rail about. From racism to healthcare, from the economy to poverty, historical figures would probably strongly suggest we appreciate a bit more of what we have.  They would be lost in a world where political correctness gets parsed to which words are used to reference a problem.  They would be horrified at the areas we are allocating so much of our money–spending huge amounts to support politically correct causes while allowing many other real problems to get under-funded or unfunded. None of these historical progressives believed in debt, nor in the deference to those who lack personal responsibility.  While our historical figures were long on helping the downtrodden and the helpless, they had no patience for the avaricious nor the clueless.

“Don’t pee on my leg and tell me its raining!”

We should look to history to review the things that were tried and whether or not they succeeded. But the blanket application of those historical fixes and the dishonest misrepresentation of the issues and the solutions from then to today are dangerous and duplicitous.  We need more than this kind of behavior from all of our politicians today.  Perhaps, we need to get rid of the professional political class we know have and go back to the very same type of citizen politician who they now wish us to say they emulate. We need leaders that can propose solutions!  We need leaders that have learned the lessons from history and can apply those lessons to the problems we face today and help us come to the hard realizations we need to make in order to pull ourselves back to a viable path.  We need those who can both tell us the truth and apply the learning not just rehash the historical solution because as both Mr. Brooks and Bob Dylan said,

“The times they are a changin”

What we all need to focus our attention on is eliminating (please pardon the crude analogy–but I think it applies) any political party or professional politician, who simply “pees on our leg and tell us its raining!”

Heaven on our Minds: Politics as usual.

The following is written with all respect to Andrew Lloyd Webber….

I would suggest you read as you listen and then perhaps listen again as you read the lyrics below.  That way you may get a better flavor of the utter absurdity.

Today I went for one of my periodical walks. Something my wife constantly advocates for and something I typically find very low on the priority list much to her justifiable chagrin. But being a student of the esteemed barrister, Horace Rumpole, who practiced his art in the ‘Old Bailey’ and recited the humorous and often very insightful words penned by his creator John Mortimer, I learned a long time ago it is best to be mindful of our wives as “She, who must be obeyed”. So, with that in mind, and when I feel the real need to clear my mind, on occasions I will take a walk.

During my walk today I decided to listen to songs from my iPhone. This is also something that is very rare as I am finding more and more as I get older, there are certain habits that I am just not assimilating. Listening to music in some sonic cocoon as I move through my day is not an activity where I have found comfort. In fact I was about to turn the music off when one of the random songs—isn’t shuffle a wonderful thing?—played that I have not heard in quite a while.

Years ago a friend of mine named John Colleary and I were scheduled to take two beautiful women to see the premier of Jesus Christ Superstar at the newly opened Kennedy Center in Washington DC. Being in high school, and growing up in St. Mary’s County, we were of the opinion that to go to the theater required high fashion. We were to rent tuxes and the girls were to wear their finest long dresses to attend this Saturday afternoon matinée.
Providence, being what it is, my friend John driving home from a party the weekend before decided he was a herpetologist and as such was capable of picking up a snake off the highway at 11:30 at night. I am sure he was not drinking and alcohol played no part because we were law abiding respectful youths at this period of our life and of course as such would not drink!

So in his non-inebriated state, John the newly anointed herpetologist tried to pick up a copperhead in the black of night off of the black road bed. Needless to say, the copperhead got the better of the situation as his eyes were not clouded by the dark or the presence of alcohol—excuse me no alcohol, that John may have—excuse me HAD NOT, imbibed.
This action inured to my benefit. By the time the long awaited trip to see JCSS came John was still in the hospital trying not to lose his finger from the swelling and threatening gangrene. In the best redneck tradition, I did what any good friend would! I took his girlfriend and mine to the theater.

Picture this, a pimply faced, redneck kid from St. Mary’s County, dressed in a rented tuxedo, waking up the steps to the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts with two strikingly beautiful women in evening gowns, one on each of his arms—for a Saturday matinée. Yep!!! We were the only people dressed up. Despite this momentary fit of panic and embarrassment I quickly took note that those around us were trying to figure out who this kid could be with the two gorgeous companions. I rapidly regained my composure and we strutted in to see the performance. Needless to say, I enjoyed the experience immensely and it is one of the fonder memories of my youth.

So why is this important? What does it have to do with my walk? Well I’ll tell you…. The song that made its random appearance was “Heaven on Their Minds,” by the writer of Jesus Christ Superstar, Andrew Lloyd Webber. This was one of my favorite songs from the play, and I always have felt it was one of Barron Weber’s better efforts (he was knighted by the queen I think).

It immediately struck me that these lyrics were particularly apropos in this current political season. You see you can take the name of Jesus out of the song and replace it with any of the presidential contenders and you get a very appropriate story. It works for the current occupant of the casa blanca, as the Spanish call the White House. So with apologies to Sir Webber I have rewritten his lyrics. I chose to use the current president and some of the republican contenders just to show you how prescient it may be and how ludicrous our current system has become.

Click the player above and read the altered lyrics below along with the song. Make up your own if you want. Perhaps if we try to find some humor in the situation a solution will reveal itself. We can only hope.

My mind is clearer now
At last
All too well
I can see
Where we all
Soon will be
If you strip away
The myth
From the man
You will see
Where we all
Soon will be

Obama!
You’ve started to believe
The things they say of you
You really do believe
This talk of God is true

And all the good you’ve done
Will soon be swept away
You’ve begun to matter more
Than the things you say

Listen Gingritch
I don’t like what I see
All I ask is that you listen to me
And remember
You’ve been your right hand man all along
You have set them all on fire
They think they’ve found the new Messiah
And they’ll hurt you when they find they’re wrong

I remember when this Cain thing began
No talk of God then, we called him a man
And believe me
Our admiration for him hasn’t died
But every word he said that day
Got twisted ’round some other way
And they dumped him cause’ they think he lied

Romney our most famous son
Seems to-have have stayed a great unknown
Like his father making cars
He’d have made good
Rambler, Nash and AMC
Would have suited Mitt the best
He’d have caused nobody harm
No one alarm

Listen Bachmann, do you care for your race?
Don’t you see we must keep in our place?
We are occupied
Have you forgotten — one percent we are…?
I am frightened by the crowds
For they are getting much too loud
And they’ll crush us if we go too far
If we go too far

Listen Perry to the warning I give
Please remember that I want us to live
But it’s sad to see your chances weakening with ev’ry hour
All your followers are blind
Too much Ron Paul on their minds
It was beautiful, but now it’s sour
Yes it’s all gone sour
Ah — ah ah ah — ah
God with Obama, it’s all gone sour

Listen People to the warning I give
Please remember that I want us to live
So come on, come on, listen to us.
Ah — ah
Come on, listen, listen to us.
Come on and listen to us.
Ah — ah

Do you think the Andrew Lloyd Webber was having a vision of our destruction in the 60’s? Perhaps that is why the Queen knighted him in 1992. Maybe this is all a British plot to get back the colonies? Maybe Barak Obama is the Manchurian candidate after all—Maybe Ron Paul is the love child of Twiggy and Prince Charles. That could explain the slim physique, different viewpoint and ears!
Nahhhhh. Even England would not want us back at this point. They have enough problems of their own!

Latest Book: Delusional Ravings of A Lunatic Mind by Tom Loker

new book by Tom Loker

As I wait for the eventual completion of my book on health care, currently in rewrite, I have put together a book of my best articles from this past year on this blog. The book is now available as an e-pub on Kindle and Amazon and others in the growing list below. (check back here as the list grows) The paperback version will be available in the next few weeks so stay tuned. I will put up the various links as they become available.

We put this book together for those of you how like the blog and Tom’s articles to share with your friends and relatives. And if you don’t like Tom’s writings we would like to point out this book will also make a great gift for those people you don’t like as well! Inside the pages you will find articles about healthcare, history, politics, the economy and a few creative pieces centered on St. Mary’s County Maryland, where Tom grew up. We do hope you enjoy the the stories!

e-Book Links:

Amazon – Kindle http://www.amazon.com/dp/B006G2Q9OC

Barns & Noble – Nook http://tinyurl.com/7cg9mew

Powell’s Books http://tinyurl.com/83ven8p

Diesel Bookstore http://tinyurl.com/74agmps

eBookMall http://tinyurl.com/7jbhl9s

Printed Book Links

Just released to print… Dec 15, 2011

NOW available at Amazon B&N and other booksellers.

“Pass My Job’s Bill NOW!”: Unions and Immigration – two sides of the same coin

Unions and Immigration dominate news along side of jobs

Reader Warning, this may be a long one! Please be patient.  No sound bites here!

The Argument

In his speech today, President Obama, once again called for congress to pass his jobs bill – NOW!.  The President stated that if they do not pass his jobs bill, which he views as perfect – without any flaw – and will, in his opinion, inevitably return us to prosperity, then the American people, who he states are overwhelmingly on his side, will harshly judge the republicans who are simply resisting for idealistic reasons.  He implied that the American people are tired of the republicans looking out for millionaires and billionaires.  He chose his words very carefully to imply that the Solyndra loan was the result of the prior administration’s programs – that he doesn’t own this one.  In doing so, once again he uses language to obscure this administration’s role in this specific loan. A loan that was denied by the prior administration and recommended by his own administration as not ready to be funded – but yet was funded anyway!

If one were to challenge the Presidents statement based on the inference inherent in the phrasing and timing of the language he used, his administration will seek the cover that was carefully crafted into this statement.  Jay Carney likely will respond, “that is not what he said…”  “What he said is that the “loan program” was begun under the prior administration…”  Continuing with the obfuscation, the President then presents “his” argument that this program is designed to make America competitive again.  As he makes this statement it is phrased so that he now owns this ideal of making America competitive. He would like us to believe that now “He” is making America competitive again. But is he?

He also repeated his mantra that, we need to make education more accessible and affordable and make sure every American goes to college.  His Education tzar, Arnie Duncan, in a recent radio interview, stated, that it is the U.S. governments responsibility to “provide a cradle to career assurance!” Is it?

In his speech he goes on to state that they are funding these loans to subsidize industries in order to get us “competitive” in a world where we no longer can compete.  He continues to state that we can’t compete against China who “subsidizes” their industries.  But if you talk to the manufacturers in China, as I have, – who the President claims the Chinese communist government is subsidizing – they will laugh at this assertion.  Again if you dig below the Presidents rhetoric, or if you challenge him on this statement, you find again that his words have been chosen most carefully.  The President’s administration will tell you that what he means is that China, through its Central Bank, is unfairly manipulating its currency.  Why, because they refuse to artificially inflate their currency, and overpay or over-benefit  their workers to become uncompetitive in the one world economy?

The Truth

In a whitepaper published by McKinsey & Company – September 14, 2011, written by Lowell Bryan, Sven Smit, and John Horn; They state that the current economic fundamentals remain unfixed.  Some of their main points include:

  1. Even if the developed governments, including the U.S. government, had been able to pass greater stimulus measures earlier – including isolating toxic assets – this would not have fixed the longer term fundamentals.
  2. The recent focus on debt ceilings in the U.S. and the sovereign debt crisis in southern Europe has also overwhelmed the public debate and shifted away from the failing economic fundamentals.
  3. In the U.S., the downward trend in labor participation has become pronounced.
  4. Structural economic fixes are needed such as;
    1. Stimulating private investment and savings
    2. Undertake an orderly de-leveraging of households (i.e. get Americans to stop borrowing and start saving – the exact opposite of what we are doing)
    3. Increase participation of labor (production level jobs) in the economy (as opposed to middle-level management and non-producing jobs)
    4. Reform long-term entitlement programs and tax policies to reduce the uncompetitive economic cost structure of American Businesses
    5. Reform education to produce more skilled labor
    6. Reform legislation to simplify and speed commercialization of innovation
    7. Rebuild failing infrastructure.

Like the Affordable Care Act, the President wants us to force congress to pass this legislation quickly before, as former speaker of the House, Nancy Pelosi, said we can read what is in it.  More importantly, it is not the reading – but the understanding of whether or not this will work.  The President is becoming very long on his implied -“trust me” plans.  He seems to either not recognize, or not care, that the majority of Americans no longer trust him or his advisers as their track record is putrid at this point.

While the focused effort at fomenting insurrection based on converting class envy into class warfare is getting quite a bit of play in the main stream media, it is not really playing in Peoria, or Winnemucca.  How will Americans feel if this concerted effort to stir up hate and discontent in the willingly disenfranchised boils over into a true insurrection?

The Presidents Jobs Bill, is being resisted, not because of republicans love for millionaires and billionaires or a reliance on them for campaign funding.  All of our professional political class (republicans AND democrats) loves, courts, and whores themselves to the so called millionaires and billionaires.  The bill is being resisted because most economists – outside of the presidents supporters – and good common sense find serious flaw with much of the underlying logic of his plan.  Further, history, including very recent history, shows that many of these approaches are not addressing the fundamentals and do not work.

The Kaiser Excuse

The Solyndra loan is one that this administration, the President, and the Vice President, own  lock-stock-and-barrel!  The prior administration had clearly and distinctly passed on this “so-called” investment.  Upon arrival in DC, and after some very in-judicious meetings with the lead investor – and big Obama bundler – George Kaiser; the administration decided not to simply revive this investment opportunity, but to expedite it and use it as a major public relations asset for both the Vice President and the President.

Now that this issue has blown up in the face of the President, his press secretary has characterized the meetings between George Kaiser and the President as discussions on his “non-profit ‘family foundation'” gifts program.  Once again they use carefully constructed phraseology to obscure the issue.  In this seemingly simple statement, most Americans will draw the connection to the Kaiser Family Foundation.  The Kaiser Family Foundation is a venerated non-profit known for its tremendous philanthropy and commitment to health care and the primary legacy of Henry J. Kaiser.

Houston we have a problem!  George Kaiser is no relation to Henry J. Kaiser nor is he connected in any way to the Kaiser Family Foundation.  He does have a family foundation, and he is a big contributor to charities including his Tulsa Community Foundation.  It is perhaps simply convenience that the administration chose this term to refer to his meetings and our own bad judgement to draw the conclusion that it was not “the” Kaiser Family Foundation – our bad!

All Jobs Are Not Created Equal in Fixing the Economy!

As the President is pushing his Jobs Bill he is really pushing Union jobs.  He is speaking about infrastructure, make work jobs.  Yes, it is true the infrastructure in America is in disrepair and needs to be rehabbed but this does not translate into making America competitive.

In his lecture to America this morning, he stressed the need to make us competitive again in the new world economy which he strongly supports.  We clearly need to become competitive again. And it is also very clear, that we are not competitive with China, Singapore, Taiwan, India, Hong Kong, Malaysia, Mexico, and many other nations around the world.  But will Union jobs and government subsidies really bring us back to being competitive?  The short answer is, no!  Looking at the U.S. Economy on the whole, taking tax money from the U.S., in any form, and passing some of that money back to companies to lower their specific costs or to provide incentives to people in America to buy their products does not make America any more competitive to the rest of the world.  It is just a zero sum game.

Think of this as your own piggy bank.  You have ten pennies in the bank.  If you pull 5 of them out of the bank to give to your friend to buy a stick of gum from you (that you paid three cents for) and you put them back in your piggy bank.  You still have only ten pennies in that bank.  Yet, you not only did not make a profit on the gum, you lost three cents overall.  This is the same shell game.  Lets take a look at some more realistic numbers.

The cost per man-hour to build a car varies widely in the world and even here in the U.S.  No matter whether you are building a luxury car or an inexpensive bare bones vehicle, the cost per man-hour is relatively the same.  It is the number of man-hours, and the price of the basic materials that changes the total cost of the car.  If you look to Detroit, the estimated costs for labor are approximately $85.00 per man-hour to make a car in this shining star of American manufacturing (at least according to the current administration).  If you look to Japan the per man-hour cost averages about $46.00.  If you look to Alabama, where some Japanese car manufacturers have moved their manufacturing the cost is about $28.00.  And some estimate the cost in India, at $18.00.  Is it any wonder that Detroit cars are not competitive in the world market?  And why the difference between Alabama factories and Detroit?  Can you say Unions?

Now I am not against unions – nor am I against union workers.  Unions have done some very good things historically for America’s labor pool – particularly related to dangerous employment conditions and mistreatment.  But Unions have also done some very bad things, perhaps knowingly, to America’s ability to compete in a one world market.

To coin a phrase, this is something we are “fundamentally” ignoring!  Our problem with being labor competitive comes in two basic areas:

  1. We have almost no natural labor pool left
  2. The labor pool we have costs way too much compared to the rest of the world.

There are other things that impact our competitive position in the world like, we no longer produce much in the way of raw materials, much of our business is based on middle-man transactions. And most of what we produce at the higher costs are sold at home doing little to reduce the steadily increasing trade deficit.  While these things are also very important, let us hold them for a later article.  The intent of this article is to focus on jobs and labor and the Presidents increasingly unfathomable position.

Why no labor pool?

Along with the focused drive, since 1972, by the banks and government to get us to stop saving and start spending, and the modification of the push to foster credit based purchasing, we have also been purposely closing trade schools and tech centers and redirecting those who would have gone into the skilled labor category to go to college. We are now a nation that does not value  the base laborer.  The person who creates valuable goods and services with their own hands has been left in the dust and become a second class citizen in a nation of college educated plumbers, welders, carpenters, cabinet makers, taxi drivers, and fast food managers.  I have repeatedly seen companies requiring a college degree for many professions like basic sales that should be more reliant on people skills simply to reduce the number of applications.  Most of the top sales people I have know in my career were without a college degree.  They learned their skills at the school of hard knocks.  I saw at least one such individual rise to one of the top sales positions in one of the top tech companies.  He almost single handedly took this company from a start up spin out to one of the premier producers in its class. In the end he was displaced by a policy decision that now required all executives to have a college degree.  It is no coincidence that within a few years they fell from favor in the market.  In some cases “book learnin'” does not compensate for real in the market experience.

While it is emotionally fulfilling to know these people have gone to college and perhaps studied the teachings of Confucius, or the writings of Chaucer; but has this made them better plumbers of has it just added to the expense of training them and increased their expectations and lifestyle and driven up their cost structures?  Is there value to them from this education?  Of course there is, but is there really value economically to America in their labor role?  No, it is in fact an unnecessary expense economically. Please remember I am not making a moral judgement here and I am not saying people who choose to, or end up forced to, practice a trade should not be allowed to go to college.  I am simply pointing out that this may not be the best economic solution for our world competitiveness problems.

While America has fostered the “everyone goes to college” mantra, closed its labor and trade schools and become dependent on immigration, legal and otherwise, to provide the required base level workers; places like Singapore still track a large percentage of their youth into labor and trade related programs.  Only a select few get stimulated to go to college.  Is this better morally?  Who knows, let the philosophers sort that out.  But economically, they are one of the countries kicking our asses, and we can’t blame that on the “subsidies of communism.”  By the way, kids that really want to go to college can choose to do that in Singapore, they are simply encouraged to go into trades and they venerate their trade workers and laborers.

So why is the President fostering class warfare, cradle to career assurance, union based infrastructure jobs and subsidizing industries to be competitive in the one world market?  Come to think of it why is the President such a supporter of this one world view?

The Reason

To start with,  who is this guy we elected?  Was he a prominent businessman?  No!  Was he a skilled civic executive?  No!  Was he a well  know economic theorist? No!  Was he a person who was well schooled in international relations?  No!  Was he an accomplished leader of any sort?  No! Well Maybe, if you consider he was elected as a state senator and then as a U.S. senator – in both capacities he quickly focused on the next step of his career but he had few accomplishments other than electability.

Look, I am not saying President Obama is incompetent!  I am pointing out that in the related experience he has little to qualify his views on this subject or to make some of the decisions that he appears to be making.  He is in fact relying on others to tell him what to do and these others, like most of our professional political class are corrupted by hidden agenda.

The President was trained as a community activist.  He apparently was very good at that.  What is the primary tool of a community activist?  It is to disrupt the status quo by using class envy as the pivot to foment unrest.  By convincing those that have less, that the ones that have more have attained it to their detriment.  In propagating this issue they gain the leverage, the power, to force changes.  These forced changes do not come about because they have been derived based on reason, due diligence and careful consideration.  They are forced into the stream based solely on the emotion of the moment.  Good community activists can get the minority so agitated that even the mere mention of due diligence or careful consideration becomes more evidence of the supposed evil intent of those who have more.

So why are we surprised to see this now?  And more importantly, why are we so blind to the real implications and the lack of focus on the economic fundamentals?  Could it be that another fundamental issue that is failing us is our education system?  McKinsey seems to think so, but I am not sure their reason coincides with mine or perhaps yours.

Additionally, our President has aspired, in fact worked hard, to become part of our professional political class.  He has in fact obtained the pinnacle of this class.  By doing so, he has assured that his future is taken care of by, and on the backs of, the same people that elected him to this office.  He is beholding to all that got him elected in the first place and is further constrained in his actions by those he will need to get himself reelected.  As I have said before in a prior article “Our Professional Political Class: An Island Cannot Rule a Continent!“, his currency is votes, and he appears willing to pay all of our collective equity in order to continue to gain these votes.

The Reality

I started this essay with the supposition that Unions and Immigration are two sides of the same coin.  While it has taken me much longer than normal to come back to this point, I feel in this case the preamble was both necessary and poignant.  Further, I think that the preamble is where we will find solutions – if we really want to solve this.

Since we have all but eliminated our labor class through the closure of trade schools, technical schools, and primary production industries (like farming, fishing, mining, oil and steel) and attrition through the aging of our population.  We have created a false expectation that everyone should go to college and our economy can not only absorb the expense but also have appropriate jobs available for these college graduates who all expect to be doctors, lawyers, Indian chiefs etc. – anything but “common laborers.”

We are left with no where to go but immigration to find those willing to work in the jobs we don’t want and at wages we can afford to pay, and still find you college educated plumbers willing to buy America’s goods and services.  We have unions who are, by their own claims – their own mantras, only looking out for the workers not American competitiveness.  But many of the workers they increasingly represent are not laborers but middle managers and low level executives.  The Unions, it appears, are dead set against immigration to solve the labor dilemma and they are dead set against relying on one world competitive wages as it would decimate the wages of the working class and the resulting stream of dues the leadership survive on.

Caught in the middle is the President. If our hypothetical coin is a quarter, then the President represents the low grade copper core.  On one side he has the silver representing the unions, the silver on the other side – immigration.  He can actually solve neither and have the solution be in the best interest of Americans.  He is left with obfuscation, and diversion.  He is in crisis mode as his pole numbers collapse.  And in crises he is falling back to the tried and true tool-set of community activists world wide – class warfare. We cannot count on this President, nor this congress, to solve this one.

In the end if we don’t solve it – we will all suffer!  At least he has acknowledged, that we are not competitive in the one world economy.  That is a step.  Not a step for the President, who can’t see or refuses to see the real implications of what he is advocating.  It is a step in that it take one more vague disingenuous argument off the table.  It takes the recently repeated ad nauseaum statement that “we are the most competitive nation in the world” – off the table.

We, now recognize that we need to become competitive again or we lose to those throughout the rest of the world who are willing to do the menial, tough, hard, exhausting jobs that we wont.  We also recognize that most of the rest of the world will do the jobs that we are actually willing to do for far less than we will! .  Until we begin to again rebuild primary production and manufacturing in America, and are able to staff the jobs with workers that are willing to not only do the job efficiently, but also at a pay rate that allows the American production to be cost competitive in the one world economy, we will fail.  No amount of robbing Peter to pay Paul, to build it, or buy it in America, will bring us back to successfully compete with those that will do what it takes for less.

America has an inordinately long row to hoe to get back to where we were.  We need to discontinue myth building, and begin to focus on the pragmatic.  We need to reject the community activist play book of class envy – come – class warfare and focus on resetting expectations.  We need to retrain many workers in production level jobs.  We need to review our educational policies and reopen trade schools.  We need to change the mind-set that everyone should go to college.  Not everyone should go to college.  Sending everyone to college lowers the standards of a college education and in the end lowers the value of education in general.  It is not necessary to get a good base education through the end of high school if everyone is also going to go to college. Also, after we send these kids to college they expect to be pad at rate commensurate with their education and its expense/investment. We need guidance counselors to again guide students into the most appropriate occupations.

Finally, we need to venerate the workers in America – the laborers in America.  We need to reduce the occupation of these required labor jobs by those expensive, excessively educated and overly trained persons with people appropriately costed and trained.  We need to once again elevate the community value of the individuals that convert the raw materials to valuable products, who convert their raw talent and effort to desired commodities. We need to have the unions and all groups, cartels, associations and members to recognize that unless we begin to put our nations ability to compete ahead of entitlements, grants, gifts, gimmes, and subsidies, we will become yet another backwater on the road of history.

I will leave you with this final thought.

It has been estimate that over 1/2 of all Americans receive at least 50% of their compensation directly or indirectly from the federal government or government sponsored programs.  By 2016, it is also estimated that this number will grow to a whopping 65% of the population receiving over 70%.  Our combined trade deficit since 1972 is almost $12 trillion.  In other words, we have purchased from the rest of the world $12 trillion more than we have sold to them.  How long can the business, that is the United States of America, continue to take in so much less than we sell.  This has been the case since prior to 1972, and in order to survive we simply increased the $500 billion in total currency then to over $16 trillion today.  But our piggy bank is empty, since most of this newly created currency has just gone to pay, by today’s numbers, 50% of the population 50% of their wages so they didn’t really notice there was a problem and the professional political class could continue to get their votes.

As Hot-Rod Swales said to me one day in 1965, “It do make you think – don’t it?”

State and Federal Budget Crisis Solved: Professional Political Class Finally Provide Value

OPresient Obama leaving Air Force One upon arrival in San Francisco on fundraising tour

"A picture is worth a thousand words." -Fred R. Barnard: Its about the money.

Please bear with me on this article.  in contrast to the best advice for writing, I have not put the conclusion at the start.  I am assuming you are all thinking Americans, and you are willing to make a short journey with me to find your own answers at the end!

Unequivocally, we have developed a professional political class.  We, the people, have created this new ruling class of professional legislators – or at least allowed them to evolve – over the past 72 years.  Like most of our entanglements in modern history, this consequence  was driven by little more than a series of short term decisions that were made to accomplish short term goals with no thought to the long term impacts of these actions.

Why not a national sales tax on all political sales(contributions)?

Up until the early 1900s, politicians were citizens first.  They were regular people, living and working alongside their neighbors.  They had local jobs, farms, or businesses and each and every piece of legislation they passed affected the citizen politician exactly the same way it did their neighbors.  Since the wages and expenses that they derived from their service in state or federal government was both part time and not meant to provide a living wage; their motivations were to be productive members of their localities, emphasis on production in whatever capacity, as it was the best path to wealth and prosperity.

Since these citizen politicians, could not make their livings relying on the payment from government, the various legislatures were part-time with the sessions restricted to just a few months each year. While in session, citizen politicians also made sure they got as much done as possible, and their supporting staffs and expenses were kept well in check because often the governmental stipends did not adequately support them, so the citizen politicians often came out of their own pockets for at least some of their staff. A great way to assure dedicated representation.

As we move through the early 1900s we see a gradual and steady increase in the salaries, perks, and reimbursable expenses that our legislatures received.  Like all of our historical short sited decisions, there was strong rationalization to such increases.  Some of the citizen politicians, living with the constant drain on their personal funds, were susceptible to graft and corruption by the men hanging out in the lobby of the Willard Hotel in Washington, DC (origin of the term lobbyist) – where most stayed during the legislative sessions. Of course, it was argued by the legislators that if they received better wages, more liberal expense budgets, and perquisites in office, they would be less susceptible to corruption.

Commerce (n)

(Business / Commerce) the activity embracing all forms of the purchase and sale of goods and services

[from Latin commercium trade, from commercārī, from mercārī to trade, from merx merchandise]

Collins English Dictionary – Complete and Unabridged

The next step, taken in the middle of the 1900s, was to extend the legislature.  Again, it was rationalized that the part-time legislatures, were critical to the growth and prosperity of the country, or the states, and there was so much work to be done that they needed to increase their time in session.  These arguments, like all of the rationalizations before them, were seen as reasonable and necessary.  As a result, buy the end of the century, we have, with few exception, full-time state and federal legislatures, and most importantly, a full-time, professional political class.  Their livelihoods significantly disconnected from the legislation passed and its effects on their local communities.

While in the past, our citizen politicians life and liberty was supported by their own personal productivity in their local communities as farmers, shop owners, business owners, manufacturers, and professionals like doctors and lawyers; for the most part today’s professional political class trades in votes and legislation for the specific benefit of those who can get them re-elected.

It is an easy statement to say that there is a direct relationship from big corporate money and the payments the professional political class receive, through various means both legitimate and illegitimate.  While corporate interests play a part, the aggregation of small money interests plays at least as significant a role through unions, political action committees, professional organizations, and the strength of the various parties, among others.  Regardless of the source, the money alone is not the focus of the trade – in the end it is about the votes!

Votes themselves are the stock and trade of professional politicians.  All the money paid into the various campaigns is exchanged for this tangible, valuable item – the vote.  Since we no longer have citizen politicians and most of our state and federal legislatures are the full time employers of this new professional political class – who employ by far much more than half of all the people in America, why don’t we recognize this for what it is?  This is nothing more than a commercial enterprise! No different than Google, Linkedin, Facebook, the AARP, or many other national organizations.  It can be argued that the parties themselves as simply franchisors.

“Obama visit nets millions: Next stop – LinkedIn for town hall meeting”
– Contra Costa Times, 9/26/2011

President Obama, arguably the top franchisee of the Democratic party, was in the San Francisco Bay area this weekend selling his wares.  He collected, somewhere between, $3.5 and $5.5 million in back to back fundraisers.  Think about all the money that is being paid for these goods and services sold by our professional political class.  It begins to boggle the mind; does it not?

When we had part-time citizen politicians it was appropriate to call these campaign contributions.  But I think today we can all agree that calling them political sales is more accurate in this day and age.

Perhaps we should have a national sales tax!  But it may not be necessary to assess this tax on all segments of commerce in our economy.  We only need to assess a “National Political Sales Tax” (NPST) on the one segment of the economy that is clearly generating most of the “commerce” in the nation.  We should implement a national sales tax on these political sales.

In the long run we may get some real benefit.  We could see a significant reduction in our state’s and national debts in the short run as the massive amounts of money flow into the various coffers. We may also begin to see the reduction is the constant din of political advertizing, direct marketing and evening phone call solicitations.  If for some reason this benefit does not rise, or rise fast enough, then we could extend the NPST to cover all political purchases as well.  At a 10% tax rate, the purchase of one of those $19.00 muffins would yield $1.90 in revenue to the federal and/or state coffers.  How many muffins do these guys consume in a year?  Looking at Jerrold Nadler, Barney Frank, Chris Christie, Haley Barbour, and many, many others this alone could wipe out lots of debt!

Of course many are just not going to like this idea! No one wants to see their livelihood threatened by taxes.  I would suggest that if they object to the tax then we should demand a return to the citizen politician, and the part time legislatures of the past.  In the long run I think it could be one of the most beneficial changes we could make for our country.

Hey, I’m just asking!

Ad Hominum – Ad Nauseum: Politics needs to start solving and stop dissolving!

Headlines Scream:

  • Romney Attacks Perry on Ponzi Scheme Statement
  • Bachman Goes After Perry on HPV Vaccine
  • Perry and Cain go after Romney for Romney-care
  • Perry says, “We don’t need Obama-lite”
  • Romney says, “Gov. Perry is unelectable”
  • Bachman says, “I got a plan”
  • Cain says, “I got a plan”
  • Romney, Paul, Huntsman,and Santorum all have a plan.
  • Gingrich doesn’t have a plan, he has a contract. Of course he is the only one who has done it before so we need to wait to see…

My biggest problem with all of this is they may or may not have some plans but what they put out are just collectivized talking points. They all just deal with the symptoms for the most part. It seems to me that it is only Ron Paul who even remotely gets part of the root causes of the problem, citing the fundamental issues with the federal reserve, banking, too much conflicting regulation, etc – but let’s face it to most of America he sounds like Chicken Little yelling, “The sky is falling, the sky is falling!” and is not likely electable.

We have perhaps the best governmental system on the planet – that of a constitutional republic. Unfortunately, many of our fellow citizens know not what this means. Ask any newly legal immigrant to the U.S. and they can quote you chapter and verse. Ask the average college graduate, and many post graduates as well, and they will tell you we are a democracy…

Further, most people, including many in the media, refer to our method of government as our political system. If one assumes that our political system is our governmental system then those who want to trade it in for a socialist system would be well justified in viewing it’s inefficiencies and inefficacy. But, thankfully, they are not one and the same.

We no longer seem to understand how our governmental system was constructed. We don’t seem to even begin to understand, or even care, about the many checks and balances that were put in place by the framers. We seem to now consider anything that exists before, as old fashioned, not reflective of how smart we are now, and how we simply all know better…

Such things as: The electoral college, citizen politician, part time legislature, separation of powers, separation of church and state to prevent a national religion, and many others have been sloughed- off as historical flotsam and jetsam as we have traveled carefree down the river of our existence.

Looking historically at the current problems of systems like Health Care, you can trace most, if not all, of the current day problems to ignorance of the reasons for the original design. In looking at all good systems, the system has integral checks and balances that come into play when behaviors get out of balance. Our original system had numbers of these and more were added later. As time has gone on, our ‘we know better attitude’ has driven us to change, ignore or eliminate many of these checks and balances in favor of our own short term objectives. I believe it is our own actions that lie at the root of most of our current crises.

States now are trying to render the electoral college moot by passing legislation that mandates winner take all to their electoral votes. Of course, if enough do this then they effectively circumvent the constitution. Many of the current full-time professional class politicians either don’t care or favor such a circumvention as they see it serving their own self interests so we don’t seem to recognize it as an issue.

We have allowed congress to expand their part-time citizen politician role to that of full-time professional legislature. Why no one sees this as a problem is beyond me, except as a further, and unnecessary, indictment of our educational system.

We have sat here dazed and confused, as the congress and in some cases the courts, have continued to expand the reach and responsibility of the Federal Government far beyond any common sense rational approach. I am still waiting for someone to read my article on the commerce clause and explain what I have wrong about my analysis. In fact, everyone I have spoken to agrees…

We have so bastardized the concept of tolerance, that today I can honestly say the only thing we do tolerate is intolerance. In this complete flip of a basic concept is the root cause of how we now have flipped the goal of our founders, to recognize the need for a higher power in our daily lives, and the recognition that their should be no state of federal endorsement of a specific religion, to the abject indictment of god himself in any form and the rationalization to drive any expression, particularly of religion, from public discourse.

In the end we need less discontent and more discourse. We need more dialog, not diatribe. We need people who want to be our elected leaders to put the job ahead of their ambitions. I would rather have a George Washington serve reluctantly, than an ex-community organizer/activist whose tactics are limited to pitting one group against another in order to extract alms, less for the poor and helpless, and more for the shiftless, the clueless, and the thankless. We need programs for those who can’t. I believe, perhaps naively, that none disagree with this. But we cannot afford to provide to those who won’t. This significantly reduces the willingness and ability of those that can to help those that can’t. I respect the liberal view that everyone should have. I also respect the conservative view that we need checks and balances and real limits.

In the end, it is not this conundrum that is the problem. It is as we have thrown off the rules and guidances from the past we have created our own house of cards, and it is clear to most that a strong wind is coming to blow our cards asunder. We need to demand more of our political system and our politicians. We need to review the historical checks and balances that we allowed changed, and perhaps, bring them back as effective controls.

Finally, we need to demand, real plans. Detailed plans, not collections of talking points. We need to elect the one person who will take on the mantel of leader of this great country  as his sacred duty with as much vigor as they do as a fulfillment of their personal ambition. Maybe then we can begin to see the light at the end of this long dark tunnel.

Please remember to comment,
I do appreciate your point of view.

Our Professional Political Class: An Island Cannot Rule a Continent!

Abigail and John Adams

Recently, I have been reading, “First Family,” by Joseph J. Ellis.  This book, based largely on the letters between John and Abigail Adams shared throughout their lifetimes from shortly after their first meeting, through the American Revolution and continuing into their later years, is an excellent reminder of the insidious nature of tyranny and the tendency of good men and women to accept the status quo regardless of its inherent hardships.

In one passage, I was reminded of something originally written by Thomas Paine,  writer of “Common Sense.”  I agree with Mr. Ellis who states that “Common Sense, was arguably one of the most influential pieces of journalism in American history.  Mr. Paine wrote:

“An island cannot rule a continent!”

Paine’s quote brought to my mind a question.  Is this not the insidious tyrannical situation that is causing our inherent hardships today?  Not from the island of Britain, and the isolated Parliament and King George III, noted by Paine, but the island of Washington DC and the isolated professional political class residing in less than the ideal temporary residence there.

At the beginning of the difficulties with England, John and Abigail Adams were firmly in the camp that reconciliation was not possible.  At the beginning of the first continental congress, John knew that their views were in the minority and considered radical by many of the other delegates.  In his letters to Abigail, it is clear he took the approach to move slowly with patience and tolerance, allowing circumstances to unfold while applying deft and delicate pressure to those who did not share his views.

The dominant view at the early stages of our revolutionary period was that of the moderates, willing to live with the status quo, who viewed England’s transgressions as misguided blunders by disconnected and uninformed policy makers in London and Whitehall.  In contrast, John and Abigail, and at the time a growing group of others, saw King George and Parliament’s  acts as purposeful  subjugation leading to enslavement.  The stark contrast of motives in the end became irrelevant as they yielded the same effect on the population of the colonies.  The effects of the punitive actions by King George, and the ever increasing subjugation of the prosperity of the colonies by England derived the same end point.  Quickly, the divide over the attribution of the motive was replaced by the pragmatic need to solve the problems.  In the end, the results, despite the motives, were the same.

Our nation was founded based on the recognition, as Paine so succinctly put it, that an island could not rule a continent.  It was not the motive that drew this conclusion. but the pragmatic recognition that disconnected, misinformed leadership – not tied to the lot and life of their constituents – could not govern but in the end could only enslave.  Adams, and the rest of the founding fathers, created Washington DC – not as a state – but as an island, an independent locus for our national seat of government giving no advantage to any state.  They felt this island could rule this continent because its leaders would be part-time citizen statesmen, fully connected by family and livelihood to their communities and constituents not as professional inhabitants of this particular island.

Today, few will argue that our full time professional politicians have evolved to a growing often disconnected, uninformed ruling class.  Their fortunes are no longer tied to their successful relationships and local community businesses.  Their current business model is based on votes tied to personal gains.  Increasingly, this full-time professional political class is now often exempted from the rules and laws they so freely and prolifically propagate on the rest of us.

John and his wife often wrote that it was not government that would affect the necessary changes but a united people.  Perhaps, like John and Abigail, we are again at destiny’s doorstep.  Maybe we should review the original decisions of the founding fathers and once again revise the controls on our government and elected leaders.  It is incumbent on all of us to find the changes necessary to again ensure the promise of America.

Perhaps it is time for us to remind ourselves and our leadership that,

An island cannot rule a continent!

President Obama’s Speech: Critical Question Continued

In his speech last night president Obama asked a key question.

President Obama asked, “Where would America be if we had not passed Medicare and Medicaid?”

As I said in my post last night, “President Obama’s Critical Question,”  the president’s question should not have been be a feel-good throw-away line, as it is the underpinning of the base argument, that Medicare and Medicaid have been good for us as a people and for the country. Clearly, the president believes that the answer to these questions is in the affirmative. But, what if the answer is not?  These are areas that I think many need to analyze.

Those who have been reading my articles know that I have a strong concern that the underlying issues in our health care system and our economy are systemic and the areas we are focusing on are, in effect, addressing the symptoms of the problems – not the root causes.  In my upcoming book, “The History and Evolution of Health Care in America: The untold back-story of where we’ve been, where we are, and why health care needs more reform!” I look at the relationship between the rising costs of health care and trace in part one cause to the large expansion of government programs like Medicaid and Medicare.  I also found correlations between the rapid increase in the amount of currency we created, after we jettisoned the gold standard in 1972, and the disproportionate allocations of these new monies to health care and other government subsidized programs like housing.

The relationship of the Total Money Supply (M3) to our current economic issues I will cover in a later article, but for now look at the direct, almost point for point, correlation of the rise in the total health care spend in the U.S. and the increase in the money supply.  I think there is no doubt that the significant increase in the amount of currency in circulation and the rapid rise of health care costs run hand in hand.  It is very clear, as Sancho said to his master, Don Quixote de la Mancha,

“Whether the stone hit the pitcher or the pitcher hit the stone – it was going to be bad for the pitcher!”

In this case, we can argue later whether the increase in currency drove the increase in costs or the increase in costs drove the need to increase the currency, it was the expansion of Government programs like Medicaid and Medicare that drove the increase in costs.

Housing also rose in a point for point correlation as well.  Unlike with health care, you can see it was an advance indicator.  This make sense, according to economic theory and the basic premise of fractional reserve banking because our the engine of economic expansion (the creation of new money) is debt.  Most preferably mortgage debt.  If housing prices did not rise and new homes and the resultant mortgages did not happen then the banks would have become rapidly out of covenant if the new money existed before the new mortgages were there to leverage against.

Lastly in this article, I include a chart of a few other cost histories, lest we think that all parts of the economy had the same correlation to the increase in the money supply.  Clearly, wheat corn and eggs did not experience the same effect from the increase in the money supply – nor does it appear they led the need to increase the supply.  I believe that most peoples practical experience is that not all things have risen in value twenty times in the past forty years.  Herein is the potential rub!

I will continue the discussion related to the presidents key question in my next article.  In that I will focus on how the creation of Medicaid and Medicare changed our personal character related to our view of our personal responsibility for our health care and how this change has affected our fiscal habits and our purchasing patterns and trends.

Please feel free to comment on this article or send it to others.  As I have said many times this is not a republican nor democrat issue.  I think this is an American issue.  I am not an economist just someone trying to understand why these things are happening now.  We need pragmatic solutions not demagoguery so lets find out what is the truth and then how we can fix it!

President Obama’s Critical Question

Tonight president Obama asked a very key question. This is one of those great moments where one question that really is one of the key questions was used as a throw-away, feel-good line.

President Obama asked, “Where would America be if we had not passed Medicare and Medicaid?”

This is really a key question, is it not? This question should not be a throw-away line, as it is the underpinning of the base argument, that Medicare and Medicaid have been good for us as a people and for the country. My opinion is this is, in fact, one of the major differences in the grander debate. Clearly, the president believes that the answer to these questions is in the affirmative. But, what if the answer is no? What if the truth is, that Medicare and Medicaid, have driven up our health care costs, disproportionately? What if these programs have fostered an era of unprecedented lack of responsibility? What if these programs have been one of the significant contributors to the base cost of business in America, and are one of the key underlying reasons that America is no longer able to manufacture goods cost-competitively for the rest of the world to purchase from us? What if these programs have so changed the nature of our economy that we now have accumulated a trade deficit in excess of $12 trillion since 1972 and we can’t become a net exporter because our goods are too expensive?

I think these are the key questions that need to be discussed. I submit the president will not like the answer. I also submit neither Presidents Obama nor Bush, nor republicans nor democrats are to blame for the problem. I further submit it is this issue that is the key problem we need to pragmatically solve.

President Obama should get some credit for asking this key question. He should also get some critique for using it as a throw-away feel-good line to rally his base – particularly if the answer is not as he is assuming!

I hope others will help tackle this question in the next few days. I know I will be continuing this dialog in the next few days specifically on this topic. It has been key to my research and understanding on the crisis we have in our health care system, if is one of the core issues discussed in my book and something that I feel we must address.

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!

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!”

Of Volks-latures:Our future – Sold – to us, by us.

Volks-lature vs Maybach-lature

These early citizen statesmen, tended to relate the effects of everything they did to the impact on themselves, their family and the community.

The collective display that was put on last night by our elected officials shows that we have allowed political privilege to supersede the role of elected legislator. Historically, our elected officials were for the most part volunteers. Up until the mid-1930’s congress operate largely on an alternating 3 month then 6 month period in order to allow the legislators to go back home and tend to their farms, and businesses. As such, they stayed quite engaged in community and reality.

These early citizen statesmen, tended to relate the effects of everything they did to the impact on themselves, their family and the community. Their ideals appeared larger and more discrete. Likely to our mind they also had more character and commitment since they served, often and significant cost, not benefit, to family and business. Of course there was corruption, but that form of corruption was more visible, as the delta between those partaking in graft, stood out like beacons from those who did not.

A citizen statesman returning home to a significant increase in prosperity as a result of his short time in Washington tended to send tongues ‘a-waggin’ if you know what I mean. Today our professional class politician is tacitly expected to find his fortune in the words and ideals he may sell to the most or the richest. Like comparing a Maybach to a Volkswagen Beetle, we have politicians who are the ‘Volks-Vagon’ the people’s car; and those who are the Maybach Laundolet the car where “the customers’ wishes come first.”

In the case of the ‘Volks-lature’, they focus their message and sales pitch more towards the masses. They chose the low-cost high volume strategy and offer to convey as many as possible to the nirvana they seek. On the other hand, we have the ‘Maybach-lature’ who have selected to sell to a very few with much higher margins. Unlike the Volks-lature who feed in the troughs with the rest of the masses, the Maybach-lature have chosen to feed in the food chain of the rarefied air, at the table with the best linen and the finest wine. And in realty they are no different, just existing in a different part of the econ-system.

In the end it is we who are providing their existence and much of the things they do are in fact self-fulfilling activities, calculated to continue their reign and enhance their equity.

You see, for the most part, they both exist to do one thing. Sell us our dreams in return for their livelihood and existence. Sure, some still have ideals and the drive to make a difference, but it is more the sirens song of wealth and power that has captured most of their hearts minds and more importantly – practice. Even the most ideological fall rapidly under the spell of the professional political class in Washington, who control their moments, provide their thoughts and calculate their longevity with a keenness that would have made Mr. Gillette very proud.  The tools of each, are one as with the other, as their weapons are all class focused. For one it is envy – for the other – fear.  In either case, it is the other classes that are the fault, and only theirs can save those that matter!

Overall, it ends up the same for us all regardless of whether we eat at the trough or at the fine table. In the end, it is we who are providing their existence and much of the things they do are in fact self-fulfilling activities, calculated to continue their reign and enhance their equity. It is we who pay for it and it is we who are now suffering for it.

This is one reason I have declared: I am a Mugwump. Further frustrating is the fact that the overall debate continues to be focused on who should get what from whom as opposed to what we need to do for ourselves and our neighbors. There are those that argue anyone that has more should be forced to give it up to all of those that have less. Then there are those who also argue that there are some who need a safety net and that we should provide systems and some government intervention for those who can’t – not those that won’t. See Was Shakespeare Correct.

Looking sharply at the debate you see similar ideals in the grand area but in the graphite at the point of the pencil the line is obscure – not so fine. The real debate is in the definition of who should get the benefits of government intervention and at what point personal responsibility ends and public responsibility begins. Further debate centers on the dividing point between personal philanthropic charity and government mandate over personal property redistribution.

In the end, the biggest problem is that we have allowed our political system to degenerate to the point where the body politic, once a largely part-time and voluntary collection of average citizens – making laws and regulations for themselves as well as their neighbors – and in whom little direct benefit of the laws they passed held influence, has been replaced by a full-time professional class legislature with little influence from the laws they pass and maximum influence, in fact their livelihood, comes from the direct (in the form of compensation), and indirect (in the form of votes and campaign contributions).  It is this that is their lifeblood driving the legislation they make – specific to any and all vested interest.

So whether you are a conscript of the Volks-lature or an acolyte of the Maybach-lature, we have all ended here at the same point. We have been sold a significant bill of goods by those we trusted to protect us and it will, regardless of what they do or don’t do in the next few days, be on our shoulders to again pay the bills. All of our shoulders! Because never in the history of mankind has a political system been able to provide a way for everyone to get everything – with no one doing nothing.

It is a damnable shame!