Greater Krueger National Park

Greater Krueger National Park
An image from a recent trip to South Africa. Clcik on the image for more on this trip.

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Sunday, July 29, 2012

Their Olympics and our Politics

I wish that Mitt Romney had chosen his words more carefully while visiting London.  I give him credit for being honest and also for being correct, but, even so, he should have left this year's Olympics to the British.  I think that the reason that his very mild comments caused such a stir in the British press was that he pretty much hit the nail on the head.  Security was sufficiently disorganized that our British cousins had to call in the army to fill the gap at the very last minute.  He also asked whether the British people were really invested in making the games a success and the raft of empty seats appears to indicate that it was a valid question.  Mitt Romney and the rest of us have to understand that the British are sensitive to outsiders criticizing them whether the criticism is justified or not.  We are much the same here in America whether we like to admit it or not.  When asked about the 2012 Summer Olympics, Romney should have smiled and said that he was looking forward to them.  Period. 

Understandably, those supporting President Obama's reelection are making as much of this tempest in a British teapot as they possibly can.  For me, it is vastly less important than they are trying to make it.  Some conservatives are embarrassed by it and are countering with the list of international gaffes that President Obama has contributed to our relations with important foreign countries.  For me that is equally irrelevant.  Here in this country, we have to keep our eye on the ball.  We have to decide which one of these two men is best suited to lead us for the next four years.  The fact that President Obama bowed to a Middle Eastern king or that Mitt Romney questioned some of Great Britain's preparations for the Olympics are not the most important criteria for making our decision.  The most important single problem that we face is economic and we are stupid if,
because of articles in the British tabloid press, we ignore it, even for a minute.

PS:  I might also say that I was very happy to see the American Beach Volleyball team win their opening match yesterday and hope that the Brit athletes give a great showing.

Saturday, July 28, 2012

Social Darwinism

Liberals sometimes refer to the free enterprise system as being akin to "Social Darwinism."  I am not entirely certain that I understand what they mean by this, but guess that they are saying that only the strong will prevail in a free enterprise system.  Central to modern liberal thought is the concept of fairness and it is understandable that they would find fault with a system that does not ensure a more equitable distribution of wealth among all members of society.  Their argument can be very persuasive as is demonstrated by our current national political debate.  It is relatively easy to stir resentment against those that have more among those that have less.  I understand those feelings even if I do not share them.

It is not fashionable to say it out loud, but I believe that the basic problem is that we are all very greedy beings.  I also believe that laziness is a common human trait.  I'm not saying that all people are lazy all the time, but I am saying that the phenomenon is alive and well in the community of human beings - worldwide.  In addition, humans are also very intelligent and crafty and they communicate well.  When you mix all of these characteristics together in a county full of lots of different kinds of people and attempt to legislate rules and regulations you inevitably get into trouble.  History shows us that people have tried to govern themselves in a wide variety of ways and all of them have had serious problems no matter which set of rules (ideology) they attempt to apply.

The basic problem always comes down to who is getting how much of what.  In all systems, those that make the rules tend to do better than those that are forced to follow them.  No matter the system, the mass of folks quickly learn how to game the system to maximize their own benefits.  We see this going on in our own country every day of the week.  Some government officials take advantage of their official position to benefit themselves unfairly.  Some welfare recipients cheat and lie to increase the amount of benefits that they receive.  Some average citizens take their economic activity underground to avoid regulations and taxation.  The system's response is to increase the number of rules and regulations, but history has proven that increased regulation will never keep up with the ingenuity of the human mind.

The United States of America is not the oldest nation in the world, but it is the oldest government in the world.  I believe that one of the most important elements of our success has been our economic system and I am loath to modify it too much.  Free enterprise requires all of us to try to be productive.  Fairness is defined as being a just return for honest effort.  We are encouraged to make as much of ourselves as possible.  If some of us slack off, it is fair that those individuals receive less.  Compassion for those that honestly can not participate in this kind of a society is necessary and it must be closely monitored to ensure that it is available to all who honestly need it and denied to those that would unfairly take advantage of it.  If this is Social Darwinism then I am all for it.  I believe that our traditional free enterprise system does a better job of harnessing greed and managing sloth than any other system that has ever been tried.

Friday, July 27, 2012

Is "likeability" important?

The economists tell us that our economy slowed down during the second quarter of 2012 as consumers tried to hang onto what little money they had left after dealing with rising prices and lack of work.  The economists also tell us that companies are not hiring because they don't know what is coming down the road in the way of increased regulation and taxation.  Capital is being kept offshore instead of being invested in our future and this compounds the problem.  The government is poised to start a third round of "monetary easing," which will pump more paper money into the system and further stoke the fires of inflation which makes everything more difficult for all of us now and in the future.

So, who should we blame and what should we do about it?  I blame this and previous administrations for spending too much of the public's money and making promises that their successors can not fulfill.  I do not blame any one party.  Both major political parties helped create this situation.  I do not blame any single politician for single handedly creating the mess that we are in.  They are all guilty and so are we for electing them and not holding them to their election promises.  Assigning blame is therapeutic, but does not go very far in helping to resolve the serious economic dilemma that we find ourselves in right now.  Smearing the other guy does even less.  We could use a dose of old fashioned pragmatism right now.

If you have read any of my earlier posts you will understand that I am not a fan of President Obama's policies.  He may be likable on a personal basis, and have very lofty aspirations, but his policies are just plain ineffective.  You will also know that I favor electing Mitt Romney president in his stead.  This is not because I like Romney, the man, better than Obama.  Nor is it because I think that Romney has all of the answers.  It is because this country gave President Obama four years to try his hand at dealing with the mess that we are in and he has failed to solve any of our problems.  He may well be a nice man, but he is not doing an effective job in dealing with the economy.  His policies are, in fact, compounding our problems.

Romney has a lifelong background in business and an excellent track record in making money.  He obviously understands the economy in very practical ways.  I am told by those that know him that he is actually very likable on a personal basis, but I don't really care.  I am electing a person to do a job.  It would be nice if I liked him, but the important thing that I am looking for is his ability to get the job done.  I suggest that we really do not have any alternative, other than Romney and his relative likeability has nothing to do with it.  If we reelect President Obama he has already told us that he is not going to change any of his failed policies.  I argue that we should replace the failed community organizer with the successful businessman.  After we deal with the economy we will be strong enough to do all of the other things that we want to do to improve all of our lives.

Monday, July 23, 2012

Did Al Gore really invent the Internet?

There is a lot of talk these days about the relative importance of private initiative and government programs.  The current administration looks as though it actually believes that the government invented the internet even though the urban myth that supports that canard has, long ago, been debunked.   I can not believe that they are that ignorant and suggest that this is another case where David Axelrod is just ignoring the facts to make an argument that he feels might have some traction.  Al Gore tried to do the same thing a while back when he claimed to have personally invented the internet.

Mr. Axelrod is very clever and is very good at what he does.  My assumption is that he believes that a certain percentage of people will accept the government's claim to the internet and those that know better will just dismiss the falsehood as being liberal hyperbole.  In the process, Axelrod hopes that there will be a net gain in supporters of the liberal campaign.  Unfortunately, he is probably correct, but if conservatives take the time to argue with him over this point we are once again moving the subject away from those issues that are really important.  If the Democrats want to talk about communications in America we should probably discuss the Post Office, which, unlike the internet, is run by the government and, unlike the internet, is operating at a loss.

President Obama is just plain wrong when he denigrates private initiative and promotes programs that grow government.  There are innumerable concrete examples of waste, fraud and duplication in government and virtually nothing is being down about it by this administration.  When challenged, their response is that there were similar examples in previous administrations.  That is true and irrelevant.  It was unacceptable then and it is unacceptable now.  President Obama is supposed to be in charge right now and so today's waste fraud and duplication is his responsibility.  Instead of cleaning the mess up, as he promised to do, he is adding to it.  To compound the problem, he is asking the American taxpayer to pay more of their hard earned income to support even more of this kind of thing.

I don't mind paying my fair share of the legitimate cost of government, but I don't want to pay for more waste, fraud and duplication.  I suggest that we give Mitt Romney a chance to straighten the mess out.

Friday, July 20, 2012

Unintended Consequences

Much has been said about our economic system during the past three and a half years.  Some folks praise it and some criticize it.  In a free enterprise system that is to be expected and the resulting discussion can be healthy.  I see nothing wrong in tweaking our economic system to improve it, but I do not advocate castrating it.  We are in the process of doing precisely that and this economic change that President Obama is bringing about, unfortunately, is already having a number of serious unintended consequences with many more to come if we continue to follow his lead.

On the national level, the massive debt is, at some point, going to trigger another round of recession which is going to cause us to lose even more jobs.  We might fend that particular disaster off for a short period of time by borrowing even more money from foreign governments, but that will just compound the pain of the eventual reckoning.  We can continue to print more paper money, but that route is pretty much smoke and mirrors.  More money in circulation just reduces it's value and, if we pursue that policy long enough, we will simply destroy our monetary system.  We can raise taxes on all of the producing members of society, but there is just not enough potential revenue there to pay off our massive debt, even if we accepted the fact that it would further depress economic activity in this country and further reduce the number of jobs that are available to us.  The simple fact is that we can not spend our way out of the mess that we are in, no matter how many theoreticians tell us that we can.  In order to get back to a healthy economy we must reduce spending.

Capital is apolitical, and mobile, and it is not ideological.  It inevitably flows to places where it is most comfortable.  America has long benefited from this economic fact of life.  Our traditional system of laws, taxation and our free enterprise system historically made this country a haven for investment by foreigners.  President Obama's new taxes, his mountain of regulation, and his general dislike of business is keeping capital offshore.  Historically, the best and brightest minds from around the world followed capital and made our immigration system a positive building block in the success of our nation.  Today, we encourage illegal immigration while blocking legal immigration.  The best and brightest do not chose to walk across a waterless desert to get to America.  Most of them are stuck in their home countries waiting in long bureaucratic lines.  While they wait, some of them build successful businesses elsewhere that compete with us for revenue and take jobs away from us.

I suggest that we must change our political course as soon as possible, lest the unintended consequences of ideology destroy the America that our very pragmatic forefathers built.  I do not suggest that either of our major political parties are composed only of good people nor do I suggest that either liberals or conservatives have all of the answers.  Today, the most serious problem that our nation faces is the health of our economy.  President Obama is not only not helping address that problem, he is actively contributing to making it much worse.  I suggest that we should give Mitt Romney a chance to address it before it is too late.

Thursday, July 19, 2012

Ideology when we need Pragmatism

President Obama is usually tightly scripted when speaking in public, but, while electioneering in front of a friendly audience, he sometimes speaks from his heart and we get a glimpse of his innermost thoughts.  A few weeks ago, he explained that the private sector of the economy was doing just fine, but the public sector was in trouble and needed to be shored up.  This week he said that personal initiative was not the key to success and stressed the need for group endeavor to ensure personal success.  He appears to sincerely believe in these concepts and I suggest that they are driving his agenda as president.  It would explain why he advocates massively strengthening government and wants to extend governmental control over all of our personal activities.  It would also explain his call for income redistribution so that all Americans can share equally in the richness of America.

It is not politically correct in the post-McCarthy era to call these policies "socialist" and anathema to call them "communist," even though they share some important similarities.  Instead, we use cumbersome workarounds like "big government," "government centric" and "far left."  Were I to try to define President Obama's political philosophy in a classroom, I would, without hesitation, utilize the term socialist.  Were I to try to explain why he holds these views, I would point out that his principal youthful mentors were avowed socialists and his early life's work was as a community organizer in poor black neighborhoods.  The Cold War is too fresh in our memories for this kind of terminology to be acceptable to the public at large.  It makes it sound as though I am saying that President Obama is somehow unpatriotic. 

You will have to take my word for it, but I do not believe that Barack Obama is unpatriotic.  I believe that he is as American as I am.  We just see things very differently.  I wince every time I think of Michelle Obama's statement that her husband's election as president was the first time that she was ever proud of her country, but I believe that it is consistent with her considering herself to be just as American as I am.  Although I disagree with her husband's policies, I applaud her for her work with children's health issues.  These two people are not unpatriotic and they are clearly dedicated to doing what they think is best for our country.  They are working very hard to shape a new America that they sincerely believe would be an improvement over the one that we have now.  They want an America that treasures and cares for all of society rather than one that emphasizes the rights and responsibilities of the individual.

In my youth, I studied political science in university and, as an adult, spent thirty years engaged in political reporting on various foreign countries.  I had ample opportunity to see leftist political principals applied to the challenges that face different societies in various parts of the world.  After that experience, I look at my own country with fresh eyes and see how unique it really is.  I am not confused.  I see plenty of places that are in need of repair and they are not just our roads and bridges.  I see plenty of places where conservative leaders have led us astray both at home and abroad.  I do not dismiss all liberal objectives just because they are liberal, but I am unalterably opposed to continuing down the path that President Obama is taking us.  It is absolutely the wrong direction for this country that I love.

So what is wrong with President Obama's policies?   Unfortunately, there is a myriad of things wrong and this blog attempts to discuss some of them.  President Obama is driven by ideology not pragmatism.  Out of ignorance, he is destroying the economic engine that makes it possible to sustain a great country.  He is attempting to reduce society to the lowest common denominator rather that trying to lift us all up to be better.  His vision will result in a gray society in which the citizen is forced to game the system just to get by.  If we keep going down this path, we will rather quickly create the kind of society that people flee from in search of freedom.  I am amazed that so many of us seem to want to do that - or is it that we just have not thought it through?

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

Community Organizer or Businessman?

During the run-up to the November election, conservatives should not underestimate David Axelrod.  He is a consummate political operator with an outstanding track record in getting his man elected to office.  He is greatly aided by the liberal public media, but the political genius behind President Obama's reelection campaign is Mr. Axelrod.  Right now, Axelrod is successfully deflecting the national conversation from things that should matter to things that are of marginal importance.  Today, we are talking about MItt Romney's tax returns, not the state of our struggling economy and how we are to avoid national bankruptcy.

The basic concept behind Mr. Axelrod's strategy is to lay out a non-stop succession of sensational charges that President Obama's challenger, Mitt Romney, is not a good man and thus is not suitable to be President of the United States.  The left leaning media pick these charges up and question conservatives about them.  If conservatives leave these charges unanswered, questions arise in the public's mind, but, by taking the time to answer them, they play into Axelrod's strategy of diverting the national dialog away from his candidate's many failures as president.

Mitt Romney's character is relevant, but, unlike Barack Obama, Mitt Romney has been in the public eye of the entire nation for a very long time.  We know far more about Romney today than we did Obama last time around.  Romney is a successful businessman that has made it on his own.  He was born into a wealthy family, but gave his inheritance to a University before he went into business.  If we were to look into President Obama's past, we would find a career that is much less relevant to the principal problems that face this nation in 2012.  Barack Obama spent his formative years in a genuine effort to help the poor in Illinois.  A laudable effort, but not a successful one.  In fact, it is a record of failure very similar to what his first term in the White House has produced.

Today, America faces serious economic challenges that could rather easily destroy this country.  Which of these two men should we choose to lead us?  A failed community organizer or a successful businessman?  I advocate choosing a successful businessman over a failed community organizer.

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

Let's get rid of Poverty in America.

There are a lot of places where I disagree with President Obama and most liberal theorists.  One important area of disagreement relates to how we should deal with poverty in our society.  Mr. Obama has an enormous amount of experience working in poor neighborhoods and I respect him for his efforts to help the poor of this country.  As president, he is attempting to do the same thing on the national stage. 

He may be sincere in his efforts, but his policies just do not work and he has personally proven it on both the local and the national stage.  In Illinois, he used his considerable oratorial skills to funnel huge amounts of money into community action programs in poor neighborhoods.  Crime and poverty rates in those neighborhoods are no better now than they were before the money was expended.  In fact, they are worse.  On the national level, the President is advocating income redistribution as a way to make our society "fair."  That policy is one of the things holding back our economic recovery and that hurts all Americans, including the poor among us.

The old saying is that it is more valuable to teach a man to fish than it is to give him a fish.  I hold that simple thought to be the key to eliminating the problem of poverty in this country.  I advocate getting rid of the dole in all of its many forms and instituting programs designed to get folks working at worthwhile jobs.  The fact that millions of illegal aliens can find work in this country indicates that there is plenty of room in the workforce for Americans if they are sufficiently motivated, educated, and assisted. 

Ironically, many of the programs that have been designed to help the poor are in fact holding them down in perpetual poverty.  Unfortunately, many people will prefer getting by without working if the opportunity to do so is present in their lives.  The problem is compounded if they are penalized if they make too much money by working.  When this situation exists long enough it becomes the new norm for that portion of society and those values are passed on generation to generation.  Our good intentions are defeating us in our efforts to eliminate poverty in this country and are, in fact, creating significant pockets of perpetual poverty in America.

Monday, July 16, 2012

We need someone who understands business.

OK, so now we are trading charges as to who has outsourced more jobs - Obama or Romney. The really bad part of this is that it riles our emotions and deflects us from the real issues that should concern us.  The outsourcing of jobs started well before President Obama came to office and was not invented by Mitt Romney.  It is an integral part of the global economy that has grown up since the demise of the Soviet Union and the end of the Cold War.  American labor was more expensive than Chinese labor and so jobs moved from Ohio to Shanghai.  Simple economics.  Our vote in November is not going to change that basic equation.

What we can do is to change the conditions that make our labor force less competitive and that will definitely be affected by how we vote in November.  if we improve our competitiveness we will bring jobs back home.  We have a significant advantage if we move fast enough.  American labor is recognized as the best in the world and many products made in America are still the gold standard in their particular field.  The problem is that they are too expensive to compete with cheaper products that are almost as good.  Heck, look in your own closet and see how many "Made in America" items you are wearing on your own back.  Price is a powerful force in this world whether we like it or not.

President Obama promises to increase government regulation on business, increase taxes on individuals and businesses, and is publicly antagonistic to business.  I see nothing, either in his record in office or in his present rhetoric, which tells me that he understands what is necessary to improve America's competitiveness in the world marketplace.  MItt Romney, on the other hand, is avowedly a product of business and has made a fortune by being competitive.  He understands the international marketplace better than President Obama because he has been deeply involved in it for decades.  It is not an intellectual exercise for him - it is business and he is obviously really good at it.

America does not need a theoretician in the White House.  We need a practical person who can make intelligent decisions that will bring the jobs home without adversely impacting our pay check.  President Obama's first three and a half years in office has proven that his policies do not do that.  It is time for a change in the Oval Office.

Sunday, July 15, 2012

Environment and Business

One of the problems that we face here in California today is that it is not cool to be conservative.  In this state, liberals are much more likely to talk about politics with strangers than are conservatives.  I know lots of folks who are on the political fence about a lot of serious issues, but they don't speak up about their concerns.  Many of them are involved in small business and fear that taking a public stance which is conservative will hurt their business.  As a result, there is little public dialog about those issues.  What passes for political dialog is the yelling between two or three talking heads on television for an hour or two each evening.  This does nothing more than reinforce our various private political positions.

I honestly believe that California would not remain a bastion of liberal political thought if folks would ask more questions of their neighbors.  Why have we driven business and jobs out of the state?  Why are so many more folks on welfare in California than in any other state in the country?  Why are we bankrupt at the state level and going bankrupt at the local level when we have some of the highest state and local taxes in the country?  If government is the solution to all of our problems, why are our roads and bridges deteriorating and so many of our state parks closed?  If government regulation of healthcare is so beneficial, why are so many of our best doctors leaving the state?  Are excessive governmental regulations and high taxes the reason that so much of this state's economy has been driven underground?  And most importantly, why is all of this happening when we are completely controlled by the Democratic Party?

I am a fiscal conservative and I champion many liberal objectives, particularly the environmental objectives that have generated so many of the rules, regulations and laws that are causing so many of our problems.  What I believe we here in California have lost sight of is that it takes wealth to protect the environment.  The government does not produce wealth.  Private enterprise produces wealth.  It seems to me that we should find a way to stimulate private business in such a way that it is desirous of protecting the environment.  Although they might give lip service to free enterprise, too many of our political leaders are advocating an overly simplistic agenda that stifles instead of stimulates entrepreneurship.  Granted there are greedy people in this world that would do anything to make a buck and we definitely have to protect ourselves from those dangers, but it is not wise to completely snuff out business to do it.  To do so removes the ability to accomplish our environmental goals.

Saturday, July 14, 2012

Bain Capital Again

President Obama continues to lambast MItt Romney with charges that his involvement in Bain Capital makes him somehow unfit to be President of the United States.  Some recent television ads making these charges are particularly powerful and are said to be changing people's minds about who they intend to vote for in November.  One ad, in particular, highlights the plight of an individual worker who lost his job while Bain Capital was managing the company that employed him.  What the ad does not explain is that the company had decided to close it's doors before Bain took it over.  Firms like Bain are a last resort for companies in serious financial trouble.  Sometimes they can save the company and sometimes they can not.  It should also be noted that Bain was successful in many of it's ventures and not only saved the company, but went on to build it into a stronger entity with more jobs.

Drilling down into this line of attack we also see that the Democratic strategy is to claim that Romney lied about when he stopped making day-to-day decisions at Bain.  Romney claims that he gave up this role when he took over the management of the Olympics, but the Democrats have accessed legal documents that indicate that he still held several key positions in the firm during the time that several companies managed by Bain were closed down and people lost their jobs.  There is no question but that Romney should have chosen his words more carefully the first time this subject came up, but the truth of the matter is probably consistent with his earlier statements.  He remained nominally in charge of Bain, but did not actually involve himself in any of it's activities.  He had enough to do to try and save the Olympics.

The basic charge being made here by President Obama is that Romney is a callous, wealthy businessman who does not care about the little guy in this country.  I don't know Romney personally, but there is no question that he is wealthy and that he obtained that wealth from his business activities.  In my mind, that is pretty much the definition of a good businessman.  I see no evidence that he is callous.  Quite the contrary, I believe that he is running for office because he wants to try to save this country from going bankrupt.  I compare this with President Obama who is pursuing policies that will definitely bankrupt us.  For me the choice that I have in November is very clear.  Obama intends to drive us over a financial cliff and Romney wants to save us from bankruptcy and rebuild a strong economy.

Friday, July 13, 2012

Skin Color and Politics

My skin color is not black, brown, yellow or white.  It is a kind of pasty orangish color.  I have difficulty empathizing with folks who have another skin color.  I see a lot of differences in groups of people with different colored outer layers, but I can not feel what they feel.  I can read as much as I want to about the history of our various racial groups, but never can I feel what they feel, not having lived through the historical events that shaped their outlook on life.

When I was growing up, I was taught that America was a great melting pot where different peoples blended together to become Americans.  Each of us remained proud of our ancestry, but first and foremost we were Americans.  I  thought that was a good idea, but the concept appears to be weaker today than it was a few decades ago.  Today, I see a society that appears to be more fragmented than it was in my youth and I fear that the fissures are growing.

Although I disagreed with his liberal political stance, I was proud that America elected Barack Obama President of the United States and I liked much of his early rhetoric.  In the intervening years, since his election, I have come to understand that the policies that he is attempting to implement are destroying our country.  You may not believe me, but I am not opposed to him because of the color of his epidermis.  I am opposed to him because of his policies, one of which is to divide us as a people.

I am voting for Mitt Romney in November not because I think that he is Simon Pure, but because he promises to try to get this country back on it's traditional trajectory.  If I were black, white, yellow or brown, I would still vote for him, because each of these groups have done better in traditional America than anywhere else in the world.  Why in the world would I want to destroy the country that makes that possible?

Thursday, July 12, 2012

Monetary Easing & Bankruptcy

California is not the only state in financial trouble.  Over half of the states in this country are taking in less money than they need to pay their bills.  Stockton, San Bernadino and Mammoth Lakes are not the only municipalities that are in financial trouble.  Cities and towns all over the country are very close to the breaking point financially.  The response, on both the state level and the municipal level, is to borrow more money through the sale of state and municipal bonds.  Assuming that they can find sufficient buyers for these new bonds, this will permit the local governments to continue to kick the can down the road.  If they can not find buyers they run out of funds and go into bankruptcy.  Neither solution is ideal.

The federal government is in a similar situation, but Washington has an out that is not available to local government.  It can print new money.  For some time now, the Federal Reserve has been buying Treasury bonds with newly printed money.  This means that the Treasury Department can issue a new piece of paper, a federal bond, and be assured that the Federal Reserve will purchase it with newly printed pieces of paper, money.  The federal government can then spend this new money.  This puts more money into circulation.  When there is more money in circulation, it is less valuable.  Prices inflate.  The Federal Reserve has recently implemented two rounds of "monetary easing," and is currently weighing the pros and cons of initiating a third round.  There is even some consideration being given to including more local government debt this time around.

This is not a good situation.  It can not be continued much longer without triggering even more serious inflation than we have right now.  That would worsen the stagflation that afflicts our economy at the present time.  People without jobs would face dramatically higher prices for virtually everything that they need in their daily lives.  The only way to successfully address this very real danger is to immediately reduce government spending at all levels.  We still have a choice as to how we go about this.  We can start now to selectively moderate government spending at all levels of government or we can go into national bankruptcy in the not too distant future.  If we go bankrupt, none of our government services will be available to us.  If we intelligently reduce our government services now we will be able to rebuild our economy.  With a healthy economy we can build any kind of a society that we wish.

Wednesday, July 11, 2012

Greece or America

San Bernadino, California, is a city of over 200,000 people.  It is so broke that it will not be able to meet next month's payroll so, last Tuesday, it decided to emulate Stockton, California, and file for bankruptcy.  Mammoth Lakes, California, followed along just before Independence Day, so now California has a half million people living in bankrupt municipalities.  More cities and towns are teetering on the edge of following along.  The state of California is itself bankrupt in all but name only and our country is very close to being in the same boat.

Understandably, people are upset, angry, confused…  You name it.  Understandably, folks are looking for who to blame for this situation.  Unfortunately, I blame ourselves - you and me included.  As a people, we have long been guilty of not paying enough attention to basic economics.  Both sides of the political aisle have pursued noble causes at home and abroad without sufficient thought to how we will pay for our policies longterm.  The bill is now before us and we are stumbling around trying to figure out what to do about it.

The real choice facing us is very simple, but painful, so we attempt to convince ourselves that there is an alternative if we are just clever enough to find it.  This coming November, we will decide on one of two solutions to the problem.  One solution ignores basic economics and promises nirvana for all.  The other solution attempts to deal with the economic reality in very real ways and promises a return to basic American values that reward those that pull their own weight.  The decision that we make will determine what kind of a country we will be going forward.  Greece or America.

Friday, July 6, 2012

Jobs, jobs, jobs....

Jobs, jobs, jobs.  If we arbitrarily say that the present recession started sometime late in 2007 and we count jobs then and now, we are left with the fact that there are seven million fewer non-farm payroll jobs today than there were five years ago.  If we are to get our country back to work we need to consistently add several hundred thousand new jobs each month for a considerable period of time.  President Obama's policies are not achieving that goal.  This past quarter we only added 80,000 jobs and many of them were seasonal and will not last past the summer.  The official unemployment rate is 8.2 percent, but the real rate of unemployment is much, much higher.  A record number of folks have just given up looking for work.

In order to cope with the lack of jobs, more and more Americans are being forced to find other ways to put food on the table for themselves and their families.  Record numbers have claimed job-related injury and are on disability insurance.  Record numbers are on food stamps and other forms of welfare assistance.  A significant proportion of the economy is being driven underground with payment for service being made under the table or by barter to avoid taxation.  Overall, the percentage of people participating in the economy today is at the lowest rate in our history.  Today, just half of us are paying income taxes.  Consumer confidence is down and that further depresses the economy.  This bleak picture is changing the way we think.  We are losing our self-confidence as individuals and as a nation.

All of this has profound repercussions not only in our economy, but throughout our society.  We are changing the way we think about our core values.  If we permit this debilitating situation to persist past November, we are in danger of losing our way permanently.  I am not certain that Mitt Romney has all of the answers, but I am certain that President Obama has none of the answers.  In November, I advocate giving Romney a chance to change things for the better.  It is now very clear that the kind of change that President Obama has given us is not for the better.

Thursday, July 5, 2012

Obamacare and the Economy

Running the government of the United States is an expensive proposition even in good times.  It is made more expensive as it gets larger and tries to involve itself in too many things at home and abroad.  Given that government does not, itself, generate any income, it stands to reason that the challenge becomes more difficult when the overall economy is doing poorly, as is the case in this country right now.  The simple fact of the matter is that we do not have enough money to afford the kind of government that we have built.

The liberal solution to this problem is to grow government, borrow from foreign countries and tax the producing parts of the public even more than we are being taxed now.  This is worsening the problem, not solving it.  Our debt crisis is already draining away our resources at a very rapid rate.  We are borrowing forty cents of every dollar that we spend.  Our businesses are afraid to hire more people because of economic uncertainty and over-regulation.  As a result, our economy has stagnated and we face a very uncertain future with some version of the Greek model a very real possibility.

Entitlements are a central issue whether we like it or not.  Social Security is already broken and Medicare is going broke at a rapid rate.  Nobody on the political left has addressed either of these issues in a meaningful manner and President Obama has just added Obamacare to the mix.  The Affordable Care Act is a massive new entitlement which will have to be paid for by the American taxpayer.  It is clear that we have to do something to improve healthcare in this country for a very large part of the public, but this is not the way to go about doing it.  We can not afford the entitlements that are on the books now.  Adding Obamacare will just destroy the economic engine that makes all healthcare possible.

Those folks who hope that government can solve the problems that face us are engaging in wishful thinking.  Read history.  It has all been tried before - a lot of times by a lot of different people in a lot of different places.  A lot of these people meant well and many were very intelligent.  Some of them had IQs the equal of President Obama.  Not one single time did a government-centric system ever work - anywhere, at any time, by any one.  Every single one failed.  The thing that has made this country great for more than two hundred years is the strength of our private economy.  Our first order of business is to restore that.  After we have that done, we can move on to deal with all of the many other challenges that face us.  If we don't revitalize the private economy we will not be able to pay for any government services including all of those promised by President Obama and his predecessors.

Monday, July 2, 2012

Municipal Bankruptcy

Stockton, California, which has recently defaulted on it's debt, filed for bankruptcy this past Thursday.  It is a city of nearly 300,000 people.  Historically it was part of the Central Valley farming community, but California's economy has changed over the years and Stockton, during the peak of the housing boom, became a bedroom community supporting Sacramento and San Francisco.  While times were flush, liberal politicians pursued unwise fiscal policies.  Following the downturn in the housing market they were unable to generate enough revenue to pay for the governmental structure that they had built.  Today, they are laying off large numbers of people and slashing benefits.  Large numbers of teachers, firemen and police are among those being fired.  City government pensions are in danger and health care has been eliminated for one year for all city government retirees.  The prospects are for even more dramatic measures in the not too distant future.

Stockton is one of the hardest hit cities in the state, but it dramatically illustrates the danger of what lies before the entire nation if we do not get our fiscal house in order.  Imagine for a moment what it would be like to live in a city in default.  Your personal safety is dramatically impacted by the reduction in fire and police services.  The quality of education for your children is immediately degraded by the reduction in teachers.  if your home is underwater financially, lenders are not going to be enthusiastic about doing the necessary to help you out.  It will be even more difficult for anyone - you or your bank - to sell your home.  Businesses in the community will see a further decline in revenue and will be forced to eliminate more jobs.  Expensive and time-consuming legal battles will become commonplace.  It is not hard to imagine a cityscape that soon reflects all of this with abandoned homes, overgrown vacant lots and increased vandalism.  In the past, the state would have tried to help, but today, California is itself bankrupt in all but name only.  The federal government is unable to help the state so it can not be expected to help Stockton.  The people of Stockton are without recourse.

Please compare Stockton and California with what is going on in those cities and states that elected conservative leadership in 2010.  The much maligned Scott Walker has demonstrated that there is an alternative path.  Other Republican governors are accomplishing similar results in other states.  The conservative path is not without difficulties, but it is without bankruptcy, forced layoffs, and the elimination of retiree benefits if we act soon enough.  This is the choice that we have in November for our country.  We do not have to abandon our desire for a better society, but we had better protect our economic ability to achieve it.  If we are to do that we have to replace President Obama and Harry Read and we have to keep John Baynor.  Any state that can do it, should also elect conservative legislatures and governors.  Unfortunately, I don't hold out much hope that we here in California are smart enough to do that.  We almost certainly face more Stocktons in our future.

Sunday, July 1, 2012

Was the High Court Intimidated?

We have to continue to respect the Supreme Court and it's decisions, but we don't have to do it blindly.  It is ok to indicate publicly whether we agree or disagree with it's various decisions.  Conservatives are beginning to take serious issue with Chief Justice Roberts' decision on Obamacare.  He is being criticized for rewriting the legislation so that he can rule that it is constitutional.  I agree with that criticism.  Some are saying that the language of the various justices' individual explanations of their votes indicates that the Chief Justice may have changed his mind at the last minute.  They argue that he first intended to vote with the four conservative thinkers on the court and dismiss Obamacare as being unconstitutional and then changed his mind to vote with the four liberal thinkers.  Some go on to speculate that he did this because of threats from the left.  I am interested in this possibility, but do not yet see any proof one way or the other.

The important thing right now is that Obamacare is the law of the land and it has been sanctified by the Supreme Court.  There is only one way that we are going to get rid of it and that is to defeat President Obama's reelection bid in November of this year.  We had better ensure that we keep the House of Representatives and gain control of the Senate as well, if we are going to be able to go on to replace Obamacare with better healthcare legislation.  If we do not accomplish that objective we are doomed to seeing a continuation of this debilitating fight in each of the succeeding elections until one side or the other of the political aisle prevails.  This is such an important issue for so many people that it will keep us from successfully addressing virtually all of the other very important problems that we face in this country and around the world.  It is high time that conservatives came up with concrete solutions to very real healthcare problems.  Not to do so makes us just as irresponsible as liberals who think that money grows on governmental trees.