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Monday, March 29, 2010

Twenty Illustrious Men

Then we saw the Scholars who sat around a long table; they were as shapeless clouds huddled at the rise of a great sky. There were the men whose famous names we knew, and others from distant lands whose names we had not heard. We saw a great painting on the wall over their heads, of the twenty illustrious men who had invented the candle.

Ayn Rand, from Anthem
In her dystopian novella, Anthem, Ayn Rand demonstrated her keen understanding of the relationship between technological progress and political freedom by setting a future collectivist society, not in an advanced mechanized utopia, but in a devolving, primitive slave pen. Rand would later prove in great detail that the pre-condition to man's happiness and prosperity is the freedom to think, produce, and trade. A society in which the state stifles the individual mind, erecting legal barriers to production, trade, and profit, is a society doomed to suffer the misery of privation and technological stagnation.

Keep this in mind while you read the following from the New York Times:

Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood has announced a “major policy revision” that aims to give bicycling and walking the same policy and economic consideration as driving.

“Today I want to announce a sea change,” he wrote on his blog last week. “This is the end of favoring motorized transportation at the expense of nonmotorized.”

The new policy, which was introduced a few days after Mr. LaHood gave a well-received speech from atop a table at the National Bike Summit, is said to reflect the Transportation Department’s support for the development of fully integrated transportation networks
Like the "World Council of Scholars" in Anthem and central planners everywhere, Mr. Lahood seeks to impose his arbitrary vision, informed by the pseudo-scientific religion of environmentalism, onto the marketplace for transportation. Fortunately, the plan is encountering some resistance:

“Treating bicycles and other nonmotorized transportation as equal to motorized transportation would cause an economic catastrophe,” warned Carter Wood, a senior adviser at the National Association of Manufacturers. “If put it into effect, the policy would more than undermine any effort the Obama Administration has made toward jobs. You can’t have jobs without the efficient movement of freight.”
This is what it has come to - we need lobbyists to remind these people that we can not move freight efficiently on bicycles! But when has economic logic or the well being of human beings ever affected the plans of this regime?

In a recent post, It's Official - America Now Enforces Capital Controls, Tyler Durden analyzes another capital destroying provision in a recent bill, which enforces a 30% withholding tax on capital flows to foreign accounts:

It couldn't have happened to a nicer country. On March 18, with very little pomp and circumstance, president Obama passed the most recent stimulus act, the $17.5 billion Hiring Incentives to Restore Employment Act (H.R. 2487), brilliantly goalseeked by the administration's millionaire cronies to abbreviate as HIRE. As it was merely the latest in an endless stream of acts destined to expand the government payroll to infinity, nobody cared about it, or actually read it. Because if anyone had read it, the act would have been known as the Capital Controls Act...
Bill Frezza eloquently writes in, The Dawn of a New Age In the United States:

Based on a common set of financial principles and an unshakable faith in the wisdom of government the productive power of the young, the healthy, the successful, and generations yet unborn are now fully lashed to the yoke of redistribution. The poor, the old, the infirm, the government employee, the union worker, the dropout, and the slothful have cause to rejoice as their party has delivered the goods.

Or so they think. Let's take a quick look at the numbers.

Frezza throws the sobering light of reality onto this madness:
According to the most recent Social Security and Medicare trustees report, the unfunded liabilities of these New Deal and Great Society programs exceed $100 trillion dollars. Add the unfunded Medicaid mandates imposed on the states along with the pension liabilities of millions of federal, state, and local government employees and the total becomes almost impossible to comprehend.

Try this on for size. If you confiscated the entire Gross Domestic Product of the US for ten years you couldn't cover all these liabilities.
Maybe, given ten years, the World Council of Scholars can tell us how to confiscate more than the GDP...

Finding Out What's In It

A few weeks ago, Nancy Pelosi urged passage of the health care bill so we "can find out what's in it." Well, like digging through a dumpster, we are finding out.

David Hogberg lists the top 20 ways in which we will lose freedom under ObamaCare saying:
the bill is supposed to provide us with security. But it will result in skyrocketing insurance costs and physicians leaving the field in droves, making it harder to afford and find medical care. We may be about to live Benjamin Franklin's adage, "People willing to trade their freedom for temporary security deserve neither and will lose both."
Every item on his list supports his thesis such as this doozy:
13. If you are a physician owner and you want to expand your hospital? Well, you can't (Section 6001 (i) (1) (B). Unless, it is located in a country where, over the last five years, population growth has been 150% of what it has been in the state (Section 6601 (i) (3) ( E)). And then you cannot increase your capacity by more than 200% (Section 6001 (i) (3) (C)).
Paul Hsieh, analyzes the bill in The Real ObamaCare Fraud, demonstrating how "bundled payments", "accountable care organizations", and a legal black list of doctors, who refer too many sick patients to specialists, will provide bizarre incentives. He writes:
The overall effect of these policies will be a vicious “race to the bottom,” as doctors are rewarded for avoiding the sickest Medicare patients and/or doing as little as possible for them.
I can't imagine that anyone who understood the details of this bill would have supported it. This demonstrates the importance of philosophy in shaping these debates. People voted for this because it resonated with their deeper moral and epistemological premises which I analyzed in detail here.

Friday, March 26, 2010

Obama, Meet Reality aka The Bond Market

It's easy to vote to spend other people's money, especially when many of those people don't even exist yet. However, as Margaret Thatcher once said, "the problem with socialism is that eventually you run out of other people's money." Michael Barone reports:

...in recent weeks U.S. Treasury bonds have lost their status as the world's safest investment.

The numbers are pretty clear. In February, Bloomberg News reports, Berkshire Hathaway sold two-year bonds with an interest rate lower than that on two-year Treasuries. A company run by a 79-year-old investor is a better credit risk, the markets are telling us, than the U.S. government.

Buffett's firm isn't the only one. Procter & Gamble, Johnson & Johnson and Lowe's have been borrowing money at cheaper rates than Uncle Sam.

Equally ominous, is the fact that so-called swap spreads have gone negative. Businessweek reports:

The decline of U.S. interest rate swap spreads to the lowest levels on record reflects a shift in investor focus from the plight of financial institutions to the ability of nations to finance rising fiscal deficits.

The rate to exchange floating- for fixed-interest payments for 10 years this week fell below the comparable-maturity Treasury yield for the first time on March 23. The swap spread reached as low as negative 10.19 basis points today before reaching negative 7.63 basis points.

This means that investors believe that the risk of the U.S. Treasury defaulting on its debt is greater than the risk of private banks and corporations defaulting. Historically, treasuries have always yielded less than comparable private debt since the the U.S. government has the power to tax or simply print money to pay debt holders back. However, the recent passage of the health care entitlement on top of the trillion dollar stimulus bill on top of already record budget deficits is pushing the bond markets evaluation of the United States government to the brink. To add insult to injury, according to the New York Times:
This year, the system will pay out more in benefits than it receives in payroll taxes, an important threshold it was not expected to cross until at least 2016, according to the Congressional Budget Office.

Although the article rightly points out that the Social Security "Trust Fund" has a surplus of $2.5 trillion, as I recently discussed in my post Social Security Ponzi Scheme, An Offer You Can't Refuse, this surplus consists of non-negotiable IOUs held in a three ring binder at an office in West Virginia. In other words, the $2.5 trillion surplus is another outstanding debt of the United States government.

The fact that the government is reaching a stage where the market seriously questions its ability to repay these debts is an ominous sign indeed. Of course, this will not stop the Obama administration from pursuing its socialist agenda. On the heels of efforts to extend unemployment benefits to encourage people not to seek work, the Washington Post reports:
The Obama administration plans to overhaul how it is tackling the foreclosure crisis, in part by requiring lenders to temporarily slash or eliminate monthly mortgage payments for many borrowers who are unemployed, senior officials said Thursday.

In other words, the administration is looking for even more ways to redistribute the wealth and earnings of the productive and the future productive. For some philosophical background on why Obama will continue down this destructive path, see my post Why Liberals Don't Read their Bills, Evade their Constituents, but "Penetrate the Message Wars". In discussing the pragmatist philosophy of the modern left, I stated:
...at some level, the politicians believe that they can control reality. If they can form a consensus, condition people to accept their ideas, or "keep hope alive", they can make anything "work". Since anything is possible (as long as the right people are in charge), anything can be made to happen. The government can create prosperity by taking over auto companies and forcing them to make cars that no one wants. They can prop up toxic banks with money they create out of thin air. They can create prosperity by robbing the earnings of some to literally buy junk or "clunkers". They can stimulate prosperity by increasing the costs of energy. They can enslave doctors, increase quality, and decrease the cost of medical care all at the same time!
In part, I concluded:
...leftist ideology can be reduced to the following: People need to be ruled in order to effect outcomes that are consistent with the default morality of altruism or self-sacrifice. Why do people need to be ruled? Because, people will act in accordance with how they are conditioned by their group identity or by the unconscious assimilation of evil ideas. It is up to special philosopher-kings to rule (or "nudge") the masses in order to bring about desired behavior and outcomes, i.e., behavior untainted by the pursuit of selfish motivations leading to equal outcomes regardless of individual effort or character. Therefore, as long as a proposed bill is morally consistent with altruism and practically entails state control, the liberals will vote for it. The details are irrelevant.
Unfortunately for Obama, the details are not irrelevant to the one's loaning the money.

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Health Care Law Signals US Empire Decline?

I found David Murrin's comments on CNBC very interesting:

The passage of the health care law shows that the US empire is declining because it illustrates the fact that people expect the state to take care of them, David Murrin, the co-founder of Emergent Asset Management hedge fund manager, told CNBC.

...In their expansionary phase, empires force people to go out, seek risks and fend for themselves, Murrin said, reminding of the dismantling of the British empire after the war, when the National Health Service, which ensures universal health coverage in Britain, was created."This (empire decline) is actually a dead-set course that societies get into and it will happen very quickly I'm afraid," he told "Squawk Box Europe."

I believe Murrin is absolutely right although he is only observing a symptom of a deeper cause. The idea of the individual seeking risk and fending for themselves implies a certain metaphysical and epistemological view of man which translates into a particular political relationship between individuals and the state.

Historically, periods in which man views himself as fundamentally efficacious are periods of great human progress. These are periods where the world is thought to be intelligible, i.e., subject to natural law, and in which it is believed that the human mind is capable of grasping these laws. As men build confidence in their own ability to grasp truth and to apply this knowledge practically and successfully, they not only progress materially, they begin to demand the political pre-conditions necessary to successful thought and production - they demand freedom of action or individual rights. Ancient Greece was such a period. The Enlightenment was such a period.

Notice that periods in which the human mind is thought to be capable, in which the mind is revered, phenomenal technological progress ensues while political movements develop to free men from political tyranny. In the epistemological realm, men replace superstition with reason, and in the political realm, they seek to replace tyranny with freedom. The phenomenal intellectual achievements of Ancient Greece coincided with the first democracy in Athens and the Roman Republic. The Renaissance ultimately led to the Enlightenment which led to the American Revolution and the Industrial Revolution.

Unfortunately, the opposite is also true. Periods like the Dark Ages where men abandon their minds and turn to various forms of unreason such as mysticism and superstition are periods characterized by stagnation, misery, and tyranny. When men abandon their capacity for independent thinking, they must turn to a group for protection and guidance. They turn to their tribal chieftain, their priest, their king, their Party official, or their Fuhrer who gladly define for them how they may serve the tribe, god, kingdom, state, or race.

In Closing of the Western Mind, author Charles Freeman discusses the rise of Christianity and the beginning of the Dark Ages:

Intellectual self-confidence and curiosity, which lay at the heart of Greek achievement, were recast as the dreaded sin of pride. Faith and obedience to the institutional authority of the church were more highly rated than the use of reasoned thought. The inevitable result was intellectual stagnation.

Ultimately, a culture's view of reason, man's very instrument of survival, is what determines political trends. Consequently, when we see masses of individuals turn to the state, not for protection of their right to think and produce, but to take care of them materially - it is a sign that a culture is approaching a dead end. It is a sign that men are giving up their independence, i.e., abandoning their minds and willingly becoming wards of the state - demanding the use of physical force to expropriate the rightful earnings of one member of the group for their own unearned benefit. It is the sign of a culture ripe and begging to be ruled by a gang or a dictator.

The fact that America is approaching this dead end coincides with a two hundred year assault on reason by philosophers. The intellectual trend rejecting reason gave the world the bloody reign of socialists, communists and fascists in the 20th century (see The Ominous Parallels). In America, its influence has not been as extreme, yet it has still led to the mixed economy, a combination of socialism and the remnants of our Enlightenment pro-reason, pro-freedom tradition.

Has this bill pushed us across the collectivist Rubicon as Victor Hanson has suggested? The same could have been said after the income tax amendment in 1913, the Federal Reserve takeover of the monetary system in 1913, the repeal of the gold standard in 1933, social security, medicare, etc. Certainly this is a major step politically, but we can still stop it from happening. In order to restore freedom and individual rights, a key principle to understand is this very idea that reason and freedom are corollaries just as faith and force are corollaries. To dramatize this point, let me leave you with a haunting quote from Freeman:

The last recorded astronomical observation in the ancient Greek world was one by the Athenian philosopher Proclus in AD 475, nearly 1,100 years after the prediction of an eclipse by Thales in 585 bc, which traditionally marks the beginning of Greek science. It would be over 1,000 years -with the publication of Copernicus' De revolutionibus in 1543 - before these studies began to move forward again.

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Paul: What good is mandatory health insurance if you can't find a doctor?

A good synopsis provided by Ron Paul.

...It was truly a sad weekend on the House floor as we witnessed further dismantling of the Constitution, disregard of the will of the people, explosive expansion of the reach of government, unprecedented corporate favoritism, and the impending end of quality healthcare as we know it.

...Frustratingly, this legislation does not deal at all with the real reasons access to healthcare is a struggle for so many – the astronomical costs. If tort reform was seriously discussed, if the massive regulatory burden on healthcare was reduced and reformed, if the free market was allowed to function and apply downward pressure on healthcare costs as it does with everything else, perhaps people wouldn't be so beholden to insurance companies in the first place. If costs were lowered, more people could simply pay for what they need out of pocket, as they were able to do before government got so involved. Instead, in the name of going after greedy insurance companies, the federal government is going to make people even more beholden to them by mandating that everyone buy their product! Hefty fines are due from anyone found to have committed the heinous crime of not being a customer of a health insurance company. We will need to hire some 16,500 new IRS agents to police compliance with all these new mandates and administer various fines...

Support State Constitutional Challenge

Several states have joined together to file suit against the federal government challenging the constitutionality of the health care bill. Virginia has already passed a bill "that says neither the federal or state government can force residents to purchase health insurance."

One issue is the requirement in the bill which forces individuals to buy insurance under the threat of fine. The argument against this provision is pretty simple. Under the U.S. Constitution, the enumerated powers do not authorize the federal government to require anyone to purchase anything. The counterargument is that the commerce clause allows the federal government to regulate. However, if you choose not to purchase health insurance, then by definition, you are choosing not to engage in commerce. How can the government regulate commerce that does not exist? (Of course, that is not the only argument. In theory, I believe virtually every provision in the bill is unconstitutional, but my understanding is that this is one of the key arguments in the suit.)

I urge you to contact your local state representatives and governor and encourage them to support these lawsuits. If you are in a state that has filed, write them anyway expressing your support. I use www.congress.org to write emails to both state and federal representatives. It is easy (if you know your zip code) and free.

Victor Hanson: "We've Crossed the Rubicon" and Edward Cline

A look at the future if we don't act to stop it.

Also, some great insight from Edward Cline, in particular, why the Dem's may not fear "electoral ostracism" in the mid-term elections, an eloquent description of Pelosi, and the movement to challenge the health care bill on constitutional grounds.

Monday, March 22, 2010

The Silver Lining

The Wall Street Journal ran a timeline of the many efforts to socialize medicine in America starting with Roosevelt's introduction of the first compulsory health-insurance bill in 1935. The 1954 Revenue Act excluded employer contributions to health plans from taxable income, thus further creating incentives to employer based insurance. The efforts have continued in modern times with the 1993 effort by the Clinton's for universal coverage culminating in last night's passage of another major effort towards socialized medicine.

Each time, broad sweeping efforts were rejected, yet incremental steps were taken. This is because the moral premises justifying the legislation remained unchallenged. In fact, as each broad effort failed, it actually strengthened the cynical notion that this legislation was "the right thing to do" but that the "fat cats" or some other scape goat stood in the way of "social justice." In other words, the Democrats were losing the battles but winning the broader ideological war. And, as long as they held the moral high ground on socialized medicine, they were able to inch their way towards their ultimate goal.

Of course, each incremental step towards socialized medicine wreaked havoc in the health care marketplace. The exclusion of benefits from taxation along with state mandates on coverage encouraged employer provided insurance stimulating artificial demand, increasing costs, and all but destroying the market for individual policies. The 1965 Johnson medicare and medicaid entitlements, while not full socialized medicine, artificially increased demand for services and costs skyrocketed. All of these policies and many more led to disastrous consequences which in light of the moral premises of altruism, only strengthened the left's resolve that "something needs to be done", i.e., the government needs to redistribute more tax payer earnings, enforce more crippling regulations, cut back on reimbursements to doctors, etc.

Of course, every socialist plan must end in a cost explosion/rationing death spiral as both economic logic and history demonstrate. When the profit motive is removed or reduced, supply decreases, entitlement demand increases, prices increase, leading to government price controls, leading to even less profit, more shortages, repeat until dead. This does not matter to them. As Obama has stated, they believe "it is the right thing to do." Historically, the right has basically agreed with them, arguing only that "it costs too much" or must be done in some limited form. This is why we have crept slowly towards socialized medicine. Both sides share the same moral premises.

Once again, the left has fallen short of their ultimate goal of government run health care, but is there any doubt that this bill will effect the same outcome? Naturally, it will lead to higher prices, shortages, and misery thus urging the introduction of even more government control until finally, we will have full government run health care.

What is different this time?

This time, the left won the battle, but those who advocate individual rights and capitalism, may have begun to win the war. Instead of a nominal political defeat amid cynical, "idealistic" resignation, the left has won the political battle but has lost the American people's ideological imprimatur. America is pissed. All the polls show that a majority of Americans oppose this bill. People are taking to the streets, lambasting their congressmen at town hall meetings, crashing their email servers and organizing grass roots protests. Polls show overwhelmingly that the Democrats are poised to lose seats in the mid term elections and perhaps, control of the House itself. This effort by the Dem's has resulted in the formation of a grass roots movement of pro-freedom advocates for the first since, perhaps, the American Revolution. There is a palpable sense that the American welfare state is corrupt, its treasury broke, and its policies a political dead end. More importantly, there is the sense that something is morally wrong with this bill and this regime. People are openly rejecting the idea that they should pay for their neighbor's doctors bill. They are asserting their right to make their own decision with their money and their health. They are beginning to challenge the heretofore unchallengeable: the moral premises of socialized medicine and the welfare state in general.

I don't want to oversell this. Many on the right only rejected this bill because it funded abortions and many only seem to oppose it on the pragmatic grounds that it costs too much rather than on the basis of more fundamental principles. However, this kind of outpouring of anger and hostility at the political process could not be motivated only by fleeting pragmatic concerns. Only morality can ignite this scale of angst - the sense that this bill and this regime is evil.

Fundamental ideas are what motivated our Founding Fathers. They did not simply argue that the stamp tax be reduced by 2.8%. They rejected the idea of monarchy as such - they rejected the notion that they were to be treated as subjects and instead, asserted their unalienable right to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.

If I am right, this event could be the beginning of the end for the left, not only politically, but for welfare statism as a moral ideal, and that would mean for good. What the Tea Party movement lacks right now is a clear and consistent ideological foundation to positively and articulately assert the principle of individual rights and rational self-interest. If the Republicans win in November without the proper ideology, they will repeat the same mistakes that got us here in the first place.

The Tea Party desperately needs leadership. Everyone concerned with their life and their freedom should be directly involved with this movement. Write, speak, donate money, whatever you can do. Now is the time. The mid-term elections will be the first major battleground. In the immortal words of a man who gave his life fighting for justice: "Let's Roll."

[update: states are organizing to sue the federal government to challenge health care on constitutional grounds. Urge your state representatives to pursue this path.]

Reality's Note to Pelosi

(HT: Not PC)

"I quit when medicine was placed under State control, some years ago," said Dr. Hendricks. "Do you know what it takes to perform a brain operation? Do you know the kind of skill it demands, and the years of passionate, merciless, excruciating devotion that go to acquire that skill? That was what I would not place at the disposal of men whose sole qualification to rule me was their capacity to spout the fraudulent generalities that got them elected to the privilege of enforcing their wishes at the point of a gun. I would not let them dictate the purpose for which my years of study had been spent, or the conditions of my work, or my choice of patients, or the amount of my reward."

"I observed that in all the discussions that preceded the enslavement of medicine, men discussed everything—except the desires of the doctors. Men considered only the 'welfare' of the patients, with no thought for those who were to provide it. That a doctor should have any right, desire or choice in the matter, was regarded as irrelevant selfishness; his is not to choose, they said, only 'to serve.'"

"That a man who's willing to work under compulsion is too dangerous a brute to entrust with a job in the stockyards—never occurred to those who proposed to help the sick by making life impossible for the healthy. I have often wondered at the smugness with which people assert their right to enslave me, to control my work, to force my will, to violate my conscience, to stifle my mind—yet what is it that they expect to depend on, when they lie on an operating table under my hands? Their moral code has taught them to believe that it is safe to rely on the virtue of their victims. Well, that is the virtue I have withdrawn. Let them discover the kind of doctors that their system will now produce. Let them discover, in their operating rooms and hospital wards, that it is not safe to place their lives in the hands of a man whose life they have throttled. It is not safe, if he is the sort of man who resents it—and still less safe, if he is the sort who doesn't."

- Ayn Rand, in Atlas Shrugged

Thursday, March 18, 2010

"Now It's Up to the Bear"

Good piece by Robert Tracinski focusing on the politics and back story of health care, including discussion of the unconstitutional "Slaughter Rule" or "deem-and-pass" tactic that Democrats are threatening to use, writing that "this whole idea of passing a bill 'without explicitly voting for it' is the greatest evasion of legislative responsibility, the most blatant expression of contempt for the public, that I have ever seen from Congress." Hear , hear.

Incidentally, did anyone have the stomach to watch the Fox interview with Obama last night? Video 1 and Video 2. A pretty succinct analysis is provided by Tom Bevan here who writes:
Obama came across as both dismissive and non-responsive to Brett Baier's insistent questioning about the process. He implicitly approved using parliamentary gymnastics to pass the Senate bill, and he didn't provide very specific or convincing answers about which "special deals" will be included in the final legislation. In the end, he repeated familiar bromides about the benefits and centrist nature of his plan, all of which the public has heard ad nauseam for months and few of which they appear to believe
That is all an understatement. Obama's level of evasiveness was sickening (and bizarre given that at one point he claimed that the bill's bribe to Louisana will "help with the earthquake in Hawaii"...). For the leader of the executive branch, who has taken a solemn oath to protect and preserve the U.S. Constitution, to dismiss concerns about the constitutionality (much less the ethics) of passing a bill of this magnitude without actually voting on it as mere "procedural issues" that he does not "pay much attention to" is absolutely appalling. This Marxian "the end justifies the means" argument is not the tactic even of a typical political opportunist. It is the tactic of a dictator.

Let us "sharpen our claws" indeed.

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

What's at Stake with Obamacare

Another excellent editorial by Dr. Paul Hsieh of FIRM rebutting the claim that health care is a right and demonstrating how a free market in medicine is moral and practical. Hsieh observes that Obama names the principle involved but, as usual, takes the wrong side:
In a speech to Congress, he piously declared that health care was “a moral issue; at stake are not just the details of policy, but fundamental principles of social justice and the character of our country.”

President Obama is right, but not in the way that he means. Thousands of Americans at Tea Parties across the country have rallied precisely to oppose the fundamental principles behind the President’s plan.
Any attempt to otherwise guarantee an alleged “right” to health care must necessarily violate the actual rights of those compelled to provide such care and those compelled to pay for it.

Furthermore, whenever government attempts to guarantee “universal” health care, it must also control it — if only to control costs. The inevitable result is rationing and waiting lists.
Contact your congressman today and tell them to vote against this bill. Here is an excellent list of arguments against Obamacare prepared by Brian Schwartz. GRASFIRE is a paid service that will send a letter for you. Here is a list of Bluedog Democrats who may be on the fence.

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

The Left's "Unconscionable Intellectual Crime"

How can the left countenance the brutal oppression of collectivist dictatorship, including the jailing and torture of dissidents and the wholesale expropriation of private property, while claiming to be peaceful proponents of "non-violence"?

Amit Ghate explains how the left blurs the concepts of force and violence in an excellent editorial published on Pajamas Media.

Monday, March 15, 2010

Social Security Ponzi Scheme: An "Offer" You Can't Refuse

I would like to offer you a deal.

I will put a gun to your head (ok, it's not really an "offer") and take a significant percentage of your monthly income for the next 30 or 40 years (the number could change so I will get back to you). I will guarantee you a benefit at some point to be paid out of a "fund", but I can't tell you how much it will be, and I will not pay you a market rate of interest nor will you have any say over how your (I mean "our" - did I add a "y" to that word…silly me) money will be spent. In fact, I will not even invest the money. You see, I need it to pay back people I made this same deal with a long time ago. Oh, by the way, my colleagues will need to borrow from this "fund", but don’t worry, they have given me IOU's which I keep in a three ring binder in an office in Parkersburg, West Virginia.

How much in IOU's, you ask? Oh, only about $2.5 trillion. Can we sell the IOU's in the open market and raise cash? No, they are non negotiable. How much are we collecting this year versus how much we are paying out? Well, we are a little behind this year - only about $29 billion. Don't worry, my buddies and I will be around for a while so when your time comes to receive the benefit, we will make this "offer" to others…What, you could make million's of dollars in compound interest if you could keep your own money and invest it? Again, uh, this is really not a negotiation...You're going to call the police? I am the police...

Someone explain to me how Social Security is not a form of organized crime?

Thursday, March 11, 2010

How to Make Chooch

Say you are dying to make a low budget movie about a Queen's loser disparagingly nicknamed "Chooch", who gets abducted by thugs in a Mexican desert, then finds redemption by reuniting with his crew, including his beloved pet dachsund, as he endures a jail bust, donkey ride, chicken coop explosion, and a life-changing love affair at the local bordello? What would you do?

Well, the answer is easy if you run the New York State Pension Fund.

You hire a top Democratic fundraiser as rainmaker, then have him approach Wall Street investment funds with a "pay to play" offer - the investment funds indirectly produce "Chooch" in exchange for a fat allocation from the pension fund with a million bucks or so thrown in to grease the rainmaker.

And what if you were the head of the Wall Street fund that received a $100M investment three weeks after agreeing to distribute the low budget film on DVD? That's easy, you pass- go directly to become Obama's Auto Czar.

Of course, I could not have made this up if I tried. Also, here.

Tuesday, March 9, 2010

Did She Really Say That?

Pelosi re health bill:

“But we have to pass the bill so that you can find out what is in it, away from the fog of the controversy."

Saturday, March 6, 2010

Lord Monckton vs. Gore

A great video interview of Lord Monckton appeared on PJTV related to Gore's recent op-ed in the NY Times. I loved Monckton's closing line:

Let me quote Thomas Jefferson who said: 'I have sworn upon the altar of God, eternal hostility against every tyranny over the mind of man.'

This climate non-sense is a tyranny over the mind of man, it is time it was killed off and thank you very much for this chance to drive another nail into its rotting coffin.

It is the British media that, by in large, has continued covering the Climategate scandal while the left-wing American MSM remains silent. Now, we have a British aristocrat defending liberty and quoting Thomas Jefferson. Go figure.

Friday, March 5, 2010

I'm Mad at You Because I Didn't Pay You Back, Part II

If someone did not pay back a loan to me, I would get mad at them. Imagine someone directing anger and hostility towards me because they did not pay me back!

In my post from April 2008, I'm Mad at You Because I Didn't Pay You Back, I discussed the absurd spectacle of the national outpouring of hostility directed at banks because many mortgagee's couldn't pay their loan backs. This recent article describes a particularly egregious example of this phenomena where a janitor was evicted from "her" home for not paying her mortgage but then, in a supposedly ironic twist, found herself cleaning up after the CEO of the bank who foreclosed on her.

In our culture today, this story is held out as a prima facie example of twisted moral irony wherein the poor helpless janitor, evicted from her home by this perpetrator of evil, must suffer the double injustice of now having to serve her feudal overlord. As the article states:

The Service Employees International Union, of which Gomez is a member, could not resist the opportunity to draw attention to the soon-to-be-evicted woman cleaning up after one of the bankers taking her home away. [emphasis mine]

I have an alternative take.

The bank loaned her money to buy a home which she did.

In 2006, Gomez said she and her husband went to Chase for a refinancing. Gomez said she thought they'd gotten a fixed-rate mortgage and they were shocked to learn in October 2008 that the rate would adjust. The monthly payment would jump by $100, and then it would jump again in six months. Gomez said that she and her husband stopped making mortgage payments last year. They filed for Chapter 7 bankruptcy in May.

First, the home is not "her home" until she pays for it. Until then, it is the bank's home. That is why it is called a mortgage contract.

Second, I have sat through about a dozen home closings in my time. When one enters into these contracts, you must sign about 10,000 documents in quadruplicate attesting to understanding every single page. Yet, she was "shocked" to learn that she was entering into an adjustable rate mortgage. Despite that, she simply stopped paying. Some people would break her legs for that, but, in America, you just declare bankruptcy, and all is forgiven.

But, evidently, it got worse for her. After not paying the bank back, she then had to suffer the indignity of being employed by the CEO. Oh, the injustice - he provided a job for her to earn a salary. Do these evil CEO's ever stop?!

Gomez said she was glad she'd won the postponement, but she and her husband have already rented an apartment. She said they hope to move back. In the meantime, she said the transition has been tough on her family.

"We have a boy and he used to have his own room," she said. "It broke our hearts to tell him we're moving to a one-bedroom apartment because that's all we can afford. The bedroom is for us and you have to sleep in the living room."

Imagine that. She had to move to a one-bedroom apartment which was within their budget. When I was a kid, I lived in nothing but apartments, including a stint where we lived in my mother's car. I was happy to have a roof over my head.

I have an idea. Perhaps, Gomez, in addition to not paying back the loan, could accept her paycheck and NOT do any janitorial work. Then she could be really, really, mad!