Friday, May 27, 2011

Social Security: Irony for the Ages

Social refers to the interaction of organisms with other organisms and to their collective co-existence, irrespective of whether they are aware of it or not, and irrespective of whether the interaction is voluntary or involuntary.
Security is the degree of protection against danger, damage, loss, and crime.

So, it would seem to follow that "social security" would provide "a degree of protection to the interactions between a group of co-existing organisms against danger, damage, loss, and crime."

Put another way, Social Security should provide all of us protection to co-exist with each other without fear that we will be attacked, without fear that our possessions will be taken from us against our will, and to rest easy knowing that we are protected from injury and criminal activity by our affiliation with each other in a collective (government).

Now, the question is, does it?  Not in the slightest!  Setting aside the actual specifics of the program, ask yourself whether the name "social security" causes those around you to relax and live a fearless life or, rather, to become upset and actually fear what the future has in store for them and theirs.

So if the program doesn't perform the function that its name implies it should, what does it actually do, what should it be correctly labelled, and what can be done to fix it?  How was this program ever supposed to work?  Well, in a nutshell, it wasn't.....

Don't get me wrong.  There were people that honestly believed it was some miraculous program and bought into it but, anyone who's read my blog knows, simply believing something doesn't make it true.  Contrary to the words that we use when teaching our children how to cross the street, the key is NOT in the "look[ing] both ways", it's in the "not getting hit by a car"!  Simply looking both ways and not seeing a greyhound bus coming doesn't mean it's safe to cross.  Opinion and intentions do not affect reality or truth.

So, how was "Social Security" supposed to work?  How was it that you could pay in some amount of money for your entire career and then have an income for the rest of your life?  If you'd have put that money into a bank account instead, you would have expected to have some modest rate of return and actually would have been owed more than you paid in.  Therefore, for this program to be better, should it not provide more than you paid in?  The economic advantage of the program is defeated if you don't get back more than you paid in because the opportunity cost of not investing that money yourself would be enormous.  So, the only time it would be beneficial would be if it was paying equal or greater interest than that which could safely be attained elsewhere on YOUR wages.

What is typically considered the safest investment option?  People have different opinions and I'm not here to have that discussion, but let's consider a couple of "safer" options.  A normal savings account and U.S. Treasury Bonds.  Let's be honest, have you ever heard of a savings account dividend of less than zero?  What about bond security?  In my opinion, when a bond is not a safe investment, other investments (besides maybe water, rations, and ammo) are not safe either.  Now, could you see a larger return than savings and bonds?  Absolutely, but the point of this exercise is to demonstrate a minimum expected return-on-investment for taking your money from you to "provide for your future" (as if you couldn't do that with the money yourself).  If the government couldn't provide at least a return equal to buying a bond, what's the point of "social security"?

So how would the government provide an increase in the value of the money taken from your paychecks?  Remember, the government only has what it takes from the productive citizens of the country.  There is no source of income that does not involve taking from others.  So, since they can't magically increase the value of what they've taken from you over your career, the only way to do it would be by investing it themselves.  Now, this is an important point.  In order to invest your money for you, they have to have somewhere to invest it.  In order to pay you back with interest, the money has to be tracked and accounted for.  In order for that to happen, it must be kept separate throughout the process.  The largest problem is that even if they would have done all of these things (and they didn't), the entering argument is still that the government can make better investment decisions with your money than you can and has the right to to take your money from you to do it.

So, since this money was not invested on your behalf but was still taken from you, the largest amount of your money that they could possibly have is exactly what you paid into the system.  That's it. That's the most they can have.  Unfortunately, they don't even have that because they didn't save it all this time in some account or "lockbox".  It was tossed into the rest of the taxation stream and spent on whatever they thought was important at the time.  There is none of your money left.  So how are people getting paychecks from the system today if their money was spent?  It sure isn't their own money that's coming back to them.  It's coming from everyone that's still working and paying into the system.

Wait a minute, so not only did they not invest your money (or even save it) to ensure a minimum return that you could have received if sticking it in your local bank account, not only are they not able to even pay you back the amount they took from you in the first place, now they are taking money from other people and giving it to you.  They are promising the workers of today the same thing they promised you and paying you with their "investment in the future" - it's called a Ponzi Scheme - and it's illegal.

So, with the number of people receiving money going up every year, the cost to the American worker also rises.  Since there is no interest involved, the net pay-in must equal the net pay-out to break even.  This means that there will NEVER be a time when your money is worth more than it was the day it was taken from you.  In fact, since they continue to drive inflation up, your dollars are actually worth less when you retire than they were when they were stolen from you.  You are LOSING MONEY with social security - there is no other way for it to work.  You cannot possibly make money when the money you pay today is turned around and handed to someone that paid before with no increase in value (and actually a decrease in value over time).  THE BUS IS COMING DOWN THE ROAD AND WE'RE ALL STEPPING OFF THE CURB LIKE GOOD LITTLE SOCIALISTS!

Stop the insanity and stop defending the immoral and unconstitutional activities of the federal government just because you wish magic really existed.  It doesn't.

Monday, May 9, 2011

"Banned" Topics Series: Discussion #1 - Abortion

So, I was having a discussion the other day about how "political correctness" has brainwashed everyone into believing that if you even talk about certain subjects, you're in the wrong.  There is a specific way to think about things, told to us every day, and if you stray from that path you will be labelled by those that are more "enlightened" as something extremely negative.  There was a time when dissent and free-thinking were valued by our society.  I fear that if we can no longer voice our views, even if they're flawed, how can we hope to make progress.  Is the logical thought that we already have all of the answers?  Is the prevailing wisdom that there is nothing left to discuss?  I believe that the opposite is true.  I believe that by stifling independent thought, we've created a nation (and dare I say world) of zombies.  So, here are some of my thoughts on the topic of elective human abortion.


First of all, I'd like to take back a term that has been hijacked - "choice".  Just like lowering CO2 emissions has nothing to do with "green" because nearly every green thing requires CO2 to live and actually does better when there's more, the opponents and proponents of this procedure use political correct zombie speech to avoid the ugly truth.  Here's a myth buster - nearly everyone in this country believes in a woman having a right to choose to have a baby.  What?!?  A 2004 survey reported that 1% of abortions began as rape and 0.5% began as incest.  So with a whopping 98.5% of all abortions NOT being the result of rape or incest, there was a choice made.  The rest of the elective abortions were for convenience.

Why do human beings take action?  Why do you make any decisions?  The answer is always a choice between reward and consequence.  As the rewards increase or the consequences decreases, you are more likely to choose a certain path.  As the rewards decreases or the consequences increase, you are less likely to choose that same path.  Each person will have their own risk vs. reward threshold at which their decision will shift.  Anything done to encourage a behavior must either increase the benefit or decrease the consequences.  In a free society, you make these decisions for yourself.  If someone else makes that decision for you, against your will, you are not free.  The key to this discussion is that you don't get to make decisions for other people that infringe upon their rights.

This is where the only point of contention exists, believe it or not, for abortion.  The only thing that matters is whether there is an independent life involved.  When taken to extremes, it's easy to make a determination.  On a child's second birthday, nobody says "congratulations on becoming a life".  We know it happens before that.  Similarly, nobody is going to accuse you of murdering a potential human being if you decide to not have sex.  Therefore, somewhere between the act of having sex and the child's second birthday (in my example) life is created.  The only argument that can be made is the "when".  All of our arguing and name-calling really boils down to a disagreement about when to consider the result of sexual intercourse a life worth protecting.

Some say that it occurs at conception.  This argument is typically based upon a very definite change taking place that creates something that did not previously exist.  The result is a composite of two individual human beings but a DNA and genetic analysis would show that it was not identical to either.  That is a magical moment and it's no wonder that some would believe it to be the spark of life.

Some say that it occurs at birth.  This argument has several versions and even if I try to list them all I would miss some.  The basic argument is that until it's separated from the mother, it is a part of her body.  The detractors of this approach point out many examples of premature babies being born, some in the second trimester, that are alive and well today.  Some say that if your definition of "life" must include the ability to live on your own without support, that would rule out many elderly and sick people as being "alive".  The most typical statements surrounding this belief are "It's my body" and "Women should have the right to choose".  Regardless of what your personal beliefs are, these are both dishonest statements.  First of all, it's not her body that's being destroyed (again, check the DNA).  Secondly, there was a choice involved in 98.5% of all pregnancies that desire abortions . . . the choice to have sex.  After that, there will always be another choice that cannot be removed . . . the choice to keep the baby or give it up for adoption.  So the only "choice" that they're talking about is the one where they wanted to have sex without taking responsibility for the possible outcome.  In other words, irresponsibility is the cause of 98.5% of abortions.  It doesn't matter if it's a life or not, that fact remains - it's a removal of consequences for actions and, therefore, encourages the choice and behavior patterns associated with it.

If there are only two possible truths, there are only two possible results.  In a country where we value life, where we consider it to be "unalienable", where we claim to stand for protecting the rights of innocent humans to be free from slaughter, if it could be proven that a baby boy or girl was being killed during an abortion, not only would it be the responsibility of the mother to protect that life,  it would be the responsibility of all of us.  On the other hand, if it could be proven that no life existed, that it was nothing more than having your appendix removed, that it was paramount to plastic surgery in its elective form, then we wouldn't need laws to ensure it could be accomplished any more than the other procedures require legislation.

So, here's the rub - There is no "right to kill".  There is no "right to surgery".  There is, however, a "right to life".  This was recognized at our founding and is one of the basic principles for our entire country - life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness were important rights, not granted by man, according to our founding fathers.  That means that in these two scenarios, the only one that would actually be infringing on someones "rights" would be to conduct an abortion if it was a human life.  There are no possible human rights violations to not allowing an abortion as an elective procedure.  That's a simple fact that often gets lost in these discussions where people are blinded by their own faith (whether it be faith that no life exists or faith that life is present).

And that's what it really boils down to.  It can't be proven so it must remain opinion-based.  Is abortion killing or not?  The thing that I keep coming back to . . . the aspect that haunts me . . . is that the outcomes of being wrong are not equal.  In one case, if we believe it is a life and it turns out not to be, all we've done is ensured there are consequences for our actions - just like for the entirety of human existence - if you have sex, you might get pregnant.  So, if we're wrong in that respect, it's inconvenient.  On the other hand, if we believe that it's not a human boy or girl and it turns that that we're wrong, we've endorsed, allowed, performed, and supported millions of murders in the name of convenience.  They are not equal outcomes.

You should be free to choose for yourself which one you believe because there is no proof either way.  The problem is that if you choose to believe that there is a life being taken, you are ridiculed and attacked, your money is taken away from you and given to those that perform the procedure.  What happens to you if you choose to believe that there is no life involved?  The scary thing is that the truth is not dependant on our opinions - regardless of what you believe, it either is or is not a life.

All I ask is that we stop playing word games and casting accusations and really get to the point.  The one question that everyone should be asking themselves when they choose to open their mouths on this topic.  That question?

"What if I'm wrong?"

Friday, April 29, 2011

Socialism in the United States

Socialism is a strong word in our country.  It typically carries with it an aspect that places those accused of espousing it on the defensive.  Labeling people doesn't change what they believe.  Calling someone a "socialist" doesn't make them one.  Likewise, saying "I'm not a socialist" doesn't make you any less of one in-and-of itself.  What does make you (or not make you) a socialist are your opinions, views, beliefs, convictions, actions, voting record, and statements that YOU have control over.  Those aspects of your life can be analyzed and categorized to align with an ideology.  The fact that you align with socialism views and opinions will make you a socialist, just as your rejection of their ideals in your life will make you not a socialist.  Ultimately, it is your choice.

Just so everyone understands what it means to be a socialist, I'd like to run down some of the more "interesting" aspects of the political movement in our country:
  1. Immediate and unconditional withdraw from Iraq and Afghanistan.
  2. Immediate end to all U.S. aid to Israel.
  3. Abolition of the CIA and NSA
  4. Unconditional disarmament of the United States
  5. Disbanding NATO
  6. A constitutional amendment requiring a binding vote of the people on all issues of war or military intervention
  7. The rights of soldiers to form unions.
  8. The rights of all workers to form unions with no limit on their ability to strike
  9. Militant, united labor action
  10. Same benefits for part-time workers as full-time workers
  11. Increasing the size and enforcement power of OSHA
  12. Creation of a fund to pay full wages, health insurance, and education/retraining costs if a worker loses their job due to down-sizing or even going out of business.
  13. 30-hour work week at no loss of pay, with six weeks of annual paid vacation
  14. Immediate withdrawal from North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA)
  15. Immediate withdrawal from Central American Free Trade Agreement (CAFTA)
  16. Oppose the creation of a widened Free Trade Area of the Americas (FTAA)
  17. Community ownership and control of corporations
  18. Minimum wage of $15/hr, indexed to cost of living
  19. Guaranteed annual income.
  20. Financial and Insurance institutions to be socially owned and operated.
  21. Steeply graduated income tax.
  22. Steeply graduated estate tax.
  23. Maximum income limits
  24. Progressive capital gains tax
  25. Progressive luxury tax
  26. Increased and expanded welfare assistance
  27. Increased and expanded unemployment compensation for the full period of unemployment.
  28. Massive federal investment in both urban and rural areas
  29. Elimination of tax breaks to corporations
  30. Legalization of same-sex marriage
  31. Recognize an intimate link between racism and capitalism
  32. Strongly support affirmative action
  33. Call for reparations from the federal government for slavery
  34. Oppose declaring English as an official language
  35. Demand all public and private institutions provide services and materials in the languages of anyone they serve.
  36. The inclusion of people with mental and developmental disabilities on all local and state governing boards and commissions
  37. Affirmative action quotas for hiring people with disabilities at union wages
  38. Oppose any effort to restrict the definition of who is considered a person with a disability
  39. Prohibition against the denial of credit based on disability.
  40. Demand that Social Security remain entirely within the public sector and funded by steeply graduated income tax on all income, earned and unearned.
  41. Retirement age of 55.
  42. Cap on Social Security benefits to ensure nobody receives more than three times the minimum regardless of how much they paid in.
  43. Increase in home services, including home-delivered meals, for all elderly.
  44. Public funded jobs and training for any senior that does not wish to retire
  45. Public funded senior centers for social and recreational activities
  46. Support for assisted suicide.
  47. Recognize that the struggle against habitual male dominance and patriarchy must go hand-in-hand with any struggle against capitalism.
  48. Free abortion on demand at any stage of pregnancy.
  49. Decriminalization of prostitution and full health, social, and legal services for sex workers.
  50. Fully-funded child care facilities
  51. 16-months of paid leave for new parents.
  52. Affirmative action for women in education and employment
  53. Rotating gender requirements in leadership roles
  54. Federally financed education for all children
  55. Oppose increased penalties on youth to curb crime
  56. End of military recruiting in educational institutions
  57. Abolition of parental consent requirements in abortions and other reproductive health services
  58. Mandated sexual education in schools to include methods of birth control and about being gay, lesbian, bisexual, or transgendered.
  59. Lowering the voting at to 15.
  60. Guaranteed incomes and grants for artists and performers
  61. End to all public funding of private schools
  62. Public child care from infancy
  63. Public education starting at age three.
  64. Oppose paying teachers based on job performance
  65. Oppose standardized testing
  66. Oppose competition between schools.
  67. Vigorous affirmative action for teaching hiring.
  68. Vigorous affirmative action for students.
  69. Students on school boards.
  70. School boards fully accountable to students.
  71. Unrestricted sex education programs.
  72. Oppose any religious practice in public schools
  73. Oppose all efforts to limit the teaching of evolution
  74. Oppose teaching any other theory than evolution
  75. Full federal funding of AIDS research and treatment
  76. Socialized health care system for everyone
  77. Salaried doctors and health care workers, paid for by steeply graduated income tax
  78. Immediate abolition of all private health insurance companies
  79. Single-payer health care as only alternative, paid for my progressive taxation, and controlled by elected officials.  To replace Medicare and Medicaid
  80. Public ownership of pharmaceutical industry
  81. Taxpayer provided sterile needles for those that choose to use IV drugs
  82. Oppose all involuntary treatment for mental health patients; it must be voluntary and taxpayer funded
  83. The right of everyone to high-quality, low-cost housing
  84. Vast increase in taxpayer provided housing under Section 8
  85. Rent control and the rights of tenants to organize against the landlord
  86. An end to home foreclosures.
  87. Taxpayer funded high-speed national rail system with price controls on fares
  88. An end to further development of the interstate highway system
  89. Taxpayer funded foot and bicycle paths
  90. Exclusion of privately-owned vehicles from downtown area of cities and towns
  91. Taxpayer funded development of alternative fuels
  92. Taxpayer funded auto insurance
  93. Government ownership of the airline industry
  94. Condemn the War on Terrorism
  95. Immediate repeal of the Patriot Act
  96. Elimination of the Dept of Homeland Security
  97. Abolition of the FBI
  98. Open borders and full amnesty
  99. Full education, health care, and civil/legal rights for all illegal immigrants
  100. An end to law enforcement of immigration laws
  101. Elimination of the Electoral College
  102. Full representation of Guam, Puerto Rico, Indian Reservations, and D.C. in the federal government
  103. Restoration of the right to vote for everyone in jails and prisons
  104. Free attorneys of choice for everyone
  105. Immediate closure of all "Supermax" prisons and abolition of privately operated prisons
  106. Abolition of prisoner labor
  107. Prisoner's rights to unionize
  108. Immediate creation of elected police control and oversight councils to arrest, detain, and indict police officers.
  109. Replacement of police with community conflict resolution residents
  110. Taxpayer funded buyouts of guns
  111. Decriminalization of all drug use
  112. Elimination of any funding to stop the influx of drugs
  113. Federal law prohibiting the death penalty
  114. Forcing the breakup of large media companies
  115. Federal ownership of all satellite and cable companies
  116. Taxpayer funded newspapers and magazines
  117. Oppose copyright laws and digital rights management
  118. Government ownership of at least 50% of the available Internet bandwidth and domain naming system
  119. Immediate participation in the Kyoto Protocol, limiting carbon emission, and worldwide efforts to control global warming
  120. Oppose all nuclear power
  121. Price-fixing for utilities so that the rich pay more for electricity, gas, etc.
  122. Government regulations promoting organic food over non-organic
  123. Taxpayer-funded repayment of expenses to farmers
  124. Repudiation of all current farm debt for working farmers
  125. Any land or equipment that was taken in foreclosure be given back or paid for
  126. Complete ban on Genetically Engineered crops
  127. Oppose feedlots and industrial poultry production
  128. Eliminate the use of pesticides
  129. Taxpayer-subsidized low-interest loans to grow staple foods instead of non-essentials
  130. Encourage hemp farming
  131. Ban on animal experimentation for product development
This is just a partial list of the party platform for the United States' Socialist Party.  Next time you listen to political discussions, I want to you listen closely.  We already have at least 1% of our Senate that's controlled by this agenda - Bernie Sanders (VT) - and he's been a mayor of the state capital for 8 years, a member of the U.S. House of Representatives for 16 years, and in the Senate for 5 years.  He has been involved in the following Congressional Subcommittees:
  1. Clean Air and Nuclear Safety
  2. Green Jobs and the New Economy (Chairman)
  3. Transportation and Infrastructure
  4. Energy
  5. National Parks
  6. Water and Power
  7. Children and Families
  8. Retirement and Aging
Additionally, he has been involved in the Committee on Veterans' Affairs and the Committee on the Budget.  How can this be?  He's just the one that CLAIMS TO BE A SOCIALIST - how many don't?

Monday, April 25, 2011

What is the proposal?

Monty Python (to quote a well-established source) had a skit where a man wondered into a set of offices looking for an argument.  It was framed in such a way as to treat "an argument" as if it were something one could just purchase from a shop.  He found himself in a couple of other odd places, such as "getting hit over the head lessons" but I always found some truth to the discussion that took place during the actual "argument".

Statements like "[a]n argument isn't just contradiction" and "[c]ontradiction is just the automatic gainsaying of any statement the other person makes" always seemed relevant to me and, to be honest, logical.  The point of debate for me was never just trying to demonstrate that you could argue, contradict, or disagree.  To me, debate was always about actually believing what you were saying and trying to convince others that you were right.  As I grew older, I found that as long as you approached the debate with an understanding that you would occasionally find yourself wrong, you would come out of a good debate with a better sense of what you believed and why - maybe even changing your mind as a result of a well-presented case.

"An argument is a connected series of statements intended to establish a proposition"
"Argument is an intellectual process"

I don't care if people disagree with me.  I don't care why you believe something is true or false.  I just care that YOU know why you believe something and that YOU care.  My only expectation of you is that you approach a debate (or even an argument) accepting the possibility that you could be wrong.  If you are only debating to convince someone else to agree with you, no matter what, instead of searching for the truth of the matter (or at least the most realistic possibility), then don't waste the energy.

If your argument is impossible, it doesn't matter how good it "feels".  I am constantly amazed by politicians that seem to only exist to "shoot down" every proposal that someone comes up with to solve a real problem.  A toddler can say "[n]o it isn't" to every "[y]es it is", we don't need highly-paid, elected officials to do that.


I'm not a fan of either political party in this country right now but at least I see one of them trying to do something.  If we wait for a "perfect" solution that everyone is going to agree to, we're going to lose our entire country.  When the car is rolling down the hill with the baby inside, don't argue about who didn't put on the emergency brake, GO GET THE CAR STOPPED BEFORE IT'S GOING FASTER THAN YOU CAN RUN!  I will say one thing, it was the job of the Democrats to pass a budget 7 months ago and they had all of the control to do so.

Stop talking about red herrings . . . you can't raise enough money in taxes to balance the budget.  Besides, taxes are not any lower now then they were during a time when our deficit was 7% of what it is now.  That's an increase in spending of 15X . . . and stop blaming "the war", it was going on then too.  You know what's really changed?  The size, scope, and power of the federal government.  That's where your tax money is going.  Stop believing the liars in Washington D.C. that couldn't find middle America on a map if it was highlighted and circled.  They are mouthpieces for their 1000-person cadres of career staffers.

Did people not get cared for before the federal government got involved in health care?

Did children not get educated before The Department of Education - isn't it strange how our level of education has declined since it was "invented"?  The people that are taught IN the books were not educated under a federal authority.  I wonder if Einstein and Newton would have been even more intelligent if they'd have had the benefit of a good 'ole tax-payer-funded public education that ensured they were taught at the same pace as the slowest person in the room.

If I promise you a new car every day for a month but always have an excuse or blame someone else for not delivering, how long would you believe me?  What if I promised to give you $1,000,000,000.00 from my next paycheck but you knew I only worked for $10.50 an hour?  Would you take me seriously at all?  Why don't we laugh out loud at these tax-and-spend approaches to our actual safety and well-being.  Why do we continue to let a bunch of out-of-touch politicians lie to us while passing on insurmountable debt to our children and grandchildren (if we're lucky)?

Why can't people see the huge gaping abyss?  I think it's because they still believe the politicians that are standing on the other side and telling them there's an invisible bridge, "trust me" . . .

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

A Quick Note on the Budget

So, I'm a firm believer that you shouldn't complain about something unless you offer a better solution.  To do so typically makes things worse and never really promotes any change.  That being said, I also believe that we rarely settle on the "best" solution, therefore, there are usually better solutions out there to be provided by the responsible complainers.
I just wish that those people that feel it necessary to tear apart every budget proposal that gets presented would offer their own.  Wouldn't it be nice if someone could explain how not making any cuts would balance the budget?  Our current deficit is around $1.5 Trillion . . . that's $1,500 Billion . . . that's $1,500,000 Million ($1.5 Million Million) . . . or $1,500,000,000,000 . . . or roughly $5000 for every man, woman, and child  that currently lives in the entire United States . . . that's just the amount that we're spending MORE than the amount that we're bringing in.
In addition to that, even if we were to balance the budget, we still owe over $14 Trillion . . . or roughly $45,000 for every man, woman, and child in the country.  Let us assume we get a great deal on the interest rate of only 4%.  That's over $500 Billion per year in interest alone.  So even if we were to balance our budget 100% right now, this instant, we'd still have to come up with $500 Billion per year just to maintain the debt.  So our realistic budget shortfall right now is around $2 Trillion . . . or around $6500 per person in the country.  Again, that's just to keep the debt from growing any larger.
The entire budget for the Department of Defense is substantial.  How much would you cut?  What would you defund?  Let's say we shut the entire thing down.  Just get rid of it.  We wouldn't be fighting any wars, we wouldn't be funding the evil "Military Industrial Complex", we wouldn't be "slaughtering innocent women and children", and we'd be completely defenseless.  In addition to that "wonderful" situation, we'd still need to cut billions of dollars from this year's budget just to keep from growing the debt any more.  What would be your next cut?
It's time to wake up and realize that this ridiculous dialog needs to end.  We need to stop spending money like we have it and start making the cuts now, this instant, in all of the unconstitutional programs that are destroying our country.
All of your social programs are going to end one way or another.  You can either choose how it happens and still have a country to call home, or you can watch them end, without warning and without any control, when our economy collapses.  WAKE UP, PEOPLE!

Thursday, April 7, 2011

Corporate Taxes

A lot of people have been talking about whether taxes on "the rich" and corporations should go up or down.  The problem I have with these discussions is that it's not a matter of opinion, it's simply economics and logic.  My favorite statements are things like "why do we keep rewarding these corporations that are moving jobs overseas with tax breaks?!?"  Are you kidding me?  How many of you have ever seen a cart pull a horse?

There are basically two types of businesses:  those that provide "vital" goods and services and those that provide "luxury" goods and services.  People may disagree about where to draw the line between the two but the beauty of this discussion is that IT DOESN'T MATTER!  Let's discuss . . .

Luxury Goods
I will define this type of business as one that people spend money on when they have "extra" money to spend . . . or excess resources.  For this type of purchase, as money gets tight, sales tend to decline.  This should not cause too many of you to have a question mark above your head, it seems pretty obvious.  If you don't "need" it, and you can't afford it, you won't buy it - at least not as much.

If you run a business that provides this type of product, how can you hope to survive during tough economic times?  The only way to stay in business at any time is to have a profit.  The only way to have a profit is for your sales to exceed your expenses.  That leaves two options:

  1. Lower Expenses - difficult to do while maintaining income because most savvy business personnel don't tend to be wasteful for no reason.  They tend to be as efficient as possible as a rule.
  2. Increase Income - increase sales or increase price while maintaining sales.  Hard to increase the price without seeing a decrease in sales for a product that people don't need to buy.
So, if you're trying to compete in this market, it's important that you maintain your prices low enough to convince people that they should spend their limited resources on your product.  What if you could replace your entire staff with people that worked for 50% of the money you're paying now?  What if you could cut your taxes to 50% of what you're paying now?  What if you could do both?  That would allow you to maintain (possibly even lower) your prices to make you more competitive in the marketplace for limited sales. SCORE!!!  But how do you do that?  Move your business to another country.

Vital Goods
I will define this type of business as one that people will spend money on as a priority because it's something that they feel must be purchased.  For this type of purchase, as money gets tight, sales will be fairly steady but could decline.  In the face of a large disaster or warnings of a wide-spread problem, sales may actually increase in the beginning (possibly even exceeding supply) as people stock up.  These businesses have no real reason to lower their prices and may even need to raise their prices to re-balance supply and demand.  During tough economic times, this makes things harder for those that are already struggling.

If you run a business that provides this type of product, there are two things that will force you to maintain lower prices to stay in business.  Competition and larger supply than demand will always serve to maintain lower prices and higher quality because the consumer, especially when they have limited resources, will vote with their dollars.  That means that if your prices are higher than your competitor or your quality is lower (or both), you will go out of business.

That last statement is true for all types of goods, but with "vital" goods, the strong demand is much more stable than the weakening demand associated with luxury goods.  In these cases, maintaining profit is still a matter of ensuring your income exceeds your costs . . . so if you can lower the cost of running your business, you can lower your prices.  If you can't get the cost down, you keep the prices high - it's all normal.

The Point

The key concept that you must, must, must understand is this:  IN A FREE MARKET, A BUSINESS WILL ALWAYS MAKE A PROFIT.  Seems obvious, right?  Then why is it so hard for socialists/liberals to understand?  If you increase the costs on a business, THE CONSUMER IS THE PERSON YOU HURT!

High corporate taxes will always drive luxury businesses out of the country and increase the price charged by vital businesses.  This increases unemployment, eliminates all tax income to this country from that business (50% of $0 is still less than 20% of anything), and increases the price of every vital good for the consumer.  Let me recap . . . raising taxes on corporations has the following effect on the "middle class" that we're always trying to "protect":
  • Causes some to lose their jobs - increases unemployment (and without jobs, they don't pay taxes either - in fact, the opposite occurs . . . they become consumers instead of providers and increase the costs to the rest of society)
  • Income from taxes goes down - fewer taxpayers due to loss of businesses and jobs
  • Increased price for vital goods - the people that still have to provide for their families will pay more for the products that they need.
So, when you hear someone talking about evil corporations and raising their taxes, ask them to explain how things work in their universe.  If they convince you, I only ask that you both move there and stop screwing up my country.

Saturday, March 19, 2011

Freedom . . .

So, now we're attacking Libya.  As if we didn't have enough to worry about.  I'm pretty sure I didn't hear us declare war.  We can't consider it retaliatory because everyone involved in their conflict was local and they were attacking each other.  We can't claim that they were already at war with us this time.  In fact, now we're attacking a legitimate government inside of their borders because they were defending themselves against a violent overthrow attempt.

It's funny how some were "offended" when President Bush responded to an attack against us, saying we were imperialists, but now that we're actually attacking another country, it's the previously-offended people that gave the order . . ..

It doesn't matter if we like the government or not . . . we can't just go around attacking sovereign nations at will without declaring war . . . and what would be the justification for the war declaration anyway?  So sad . . .

Friday, March 18, 2011

Government Jobs

So, what is a job? defines it as (among other things): "a piece of work, especially a specific task done as part of the routine of one's occupation or for an agreed price".

That sounds great, but what does it mean when you hear discussions about "unemployment", "job growth", "layoffs", "new jobs", "private sector jobs", "public sector jobs", etc. in the news nearly every day?  I think it's important to ensure that we're all speaking the same language.  In order to make my point, I need to back up a bit . . .

What increases the value of something?  What turns a tree into a log cabin?  What turns a chair, scissors, and various other instruments into a hair cut?  What makes an idea a reality?  The answer is: LABOR!  Without labor, nothing happens.  Unless someone performs an action, the greatest ideas of mankind die with the person that thought them up and are never realized.  This mean that there are two modes of operation for humans; 1) Provider and 2) Consumer.  If you're not performing labor and you're not dead, you're using resources that someone else is providing to you.

Now, the beautiful part is that it's not an "either/or" relationship.  In fact, most people are both.  We each bring some unique set of skills and ideas with us every day of our lives.  Whether we were born with a certain skill or have gained it through hard work, studying, practice, and/or determination, we each have a capability portfolio.  Whether one chooses to use their talents is a different matter.

The concept of money arose when direct bartering became cumbersome.  Imagine trying to buy car insurance with eggs from your chickens!  It also allowed us to overcome the problem with time differences between the various desires/needs involved.  For instance, if my crop is ready today but I won't need milk and bread until the winter, I can sell my crops while they're still good and wait with my money until I need the food.   It also allowed us to separate the exchange into any number of people.  No longer did the hairstylist have nothing to offer the bald car salesman.  They could sell their labor to anyone that desired it and be free to spend their income on their own wants/needs whenever they chose.

However, no matter how convenient the transaction became, the entering argument was always that each person had something to offer and, as previously established, there is no value increase unless there is labor.  This meant (and still means today) that someone needed to perform labor in order to increase the value of their goods or services so that the added value could be sold to a consumer.  In other words, without a "job", or performing a service for payment, a person becomes simply a consumer and what they consume must be provided to them by another.

This is simply a fact, not a statement about society.  The greatest thing about mankind is that we tend to give freely of our excess.  We embrace holidays that involve gift exchanges (Christmas, Birthdays, etc.) and find enjoyment in the act of giving.  Whenever there is a tragedy or disaster, people give of their time, money, goods, and services to complete strangers without any hope of repayment.  But what happens when the "excess" runs out . . .?

How many of you believe that you would continue to give the fruits of your labor to a complete stranger, regardless of their situation, if it meant hurting your family?  If your son or daughter would have to go without food, would you give your food away to others?  Perhaps you would, but I would argue that there are two competing interests involved and, when taken to extremes, it's easy to see my point.  The two interests and two extremes result in a total of four combinations.  Let's analyze:

Your Family
  1. You have infinite resources at your disposal
  2. You have nothing
  1. They have nothing and will die without your help
  2. They have everything they want and are completely self-sufficient
Now, the extremes are easy to analyze.  If you have nothing and they have everything, you're probably going to hope that they give some to you, but you're not going to be giving them anything.  If you have everything and they have nothing, you're going to be much more likely to help.  If you're both well-off, neither of you will probably even notice the other and, if you both have nothing, you're only hoping that there's at least a third person in your society.  What happens as the lines begin to blur?  Each person's threshold occurs at a different point.  Where your threshold is will be dependent on who you are and what you consider important.  I cannot make that determination for you . . . and neither should anyone else!

If I give you $100, how much money do you receive?  If I hire a courier and pay the delivery man $25,  you get $75 from me.  Now, what if you needed the $100 to pay your electric bill?  Your lights still go off unless I send you $125 via the courier.  So, in order to meet your needs from my excess, I have to send you more than you needed just to pay for delivery.  What if I only had $100 excess?  Will I still send you $125?  Maybe, but is it more or less likely?

So, by now some of you may be wondering, "what does this have to do with government jobs"?  Well, I'll tell you.  The economics of a society is not a "zero-sum" game, contrary to what some politicians would have you believe.  What that means is that just because you are successful, I don't have to fail.  We can all be successful together!  I'm always amazed at this notion that we have to demonize "the rich" or "corporations".  If labor increases value, then doesn't it follow that the overall value of a society would go up faster if more people were performing labor?  If you don't believe me, follow the logical conclusion if we went the other way and 100% of people became consumers overnight but didn't lift a finger as a provider.  We'd all die.

What makes a person perform labor?  There are many forms of motivation but each of them is, well, a "motivation".  It could be fear of failure or death, it could be as simple as wanting to buy a new television or car.  Whatever it is, it will always be tied to a need or desire.  If I asked you to work for me 40 hours per week but I wasn't going to pay you anything, would you say "yes" or "no"?  What if I was holding your family hostage and said I would kill them if you didn't work 40 hours per week?  Would your answer be the same?  I use this example simply to point out that you were getting something in the second case and so most rational people would work.  But was your compensation mine to give?  What gives me the right to hold your family hostage for your labor?  Who the hell do I think I am?!?

I was able to change your actions based upon establishing a condition that I had no right to impose on you in a free society.  You were suddenly less free to choose.  I took away your freedom and then forced you to perform labor for my personal gain by pretending you were getting something back when, in reality, it should have been yours all along.  The lives of your family were never mine to give you back!

What makes a job?  I'm going to make it simple:  getting compensated for your labor.  That's really all there is to it.  Now you can pick that apart if you want but in nearly every case, that's what it boils down to.  Who provides that compensation?  Well, let's call them your employer.  What are the responsibilities of an employer in this relationship?  They provide the compensation for your labor - in other words, they provide the job.  So, who can be an employer?  It seems that the only way to provide compensation for labor is to have an excess from which to draw.  I can't pay you if I don't have money.  I can't give you a job if I'm poor!!!  You can't feed your family if I don't have extra money to pay you for performing labor on my behalf.  How do I get that excess money?  I perform labor and sell something to a consumer.

So, your labor increases the value of my business which allows me to provide a service to a consumer and I compensate you with a share of my success.  I've used your skills, possibly skills that I did not possess myself, to bridge the gap between supply and demand.  I've become the "middle-man".  I've taken some of your labor for myself to ensure that I can provide for my family . . . I've consumed some of your labor, performed some of my own, and passed some on to other consumers.  The beautiful part is that, as long as our arrangement gets you the proper compensation, you are free to take your money and become a consumer yourself.  We are all providing a service and getting compensated for it.  We add value through our labor and we benefit from the freedom to choose how to spend our compensation.

What about the government? ("it's about time - get to the point!")

Well, here it is.  The government doesn't have any money.  Every time you hear someone say "the government is paying for this" or "the government spent money on that", I want you to scream out:  "You mean, the taxpayers are paying for this" or "the taxpayers spent money on that".  Then ask yourself, "is that where I would have spent my money?"

Who are the consumers?  Who are the providers?  Do you have the freedom to choose?  Are they giving you back something that they didn't have the right to take in the first place?  Since the government does not have any excess from which to provide compensation for labor, they cannot be an employer.  They force you, through threats of imprisonment, to give money to them, then reduce the value of that money by paying for themselves (they become the consumer and you become the employer), but you don't have a choice except on whether or not to provide your labor.  So, the incentive becomes a bit confusing.  If someone's salary is completely paid by money taken from other people's excess, but those people get no compensation for the labor it took to generate that money, that person is not performing a service, they are not performing labor, they do not have a job!  They are not increasing the value of society, they are a consumer, stealing from some to give to another and skimming off the top in the process.

The Government can't fix the economy by creating more government jobs - those jobs are an illusion because they have no value-added.  They are consumers.  If you want to get out of a bad economy, reduce the number of public-sector (taxpayer funded) jobs and provide jobs in the private sector where everyone wins and you have freedom of choice and rewards for hard work.  Stop letting them lie to you about "unemployment" and "job growth" when the "new jobs" are all worthless and the small businessmen of our society are all going out of business....

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Nuclear Power Plants

Let me start by wishing the Japanese people the very best in the weeks, months, and years ahead.  Your quiet dignity in the face of such overwhelming destruction is enviable.

So why do we allow people to report lies?  Is it "Freedom of Speech" and/or "Freedom of the Press"?  Are provably-false statements protected when they're not reported as opinion, but facts?  My mother used to call it "lying" and provided varying degrees of "incentives" to curb the behavior.  As a society, should we not demand at least some degree of research and journalistic integrity from our sources of information?

If we had started educating our children 20-30 years ago as to the differences between Nuclear Power and Nuclear Weapons, maybe we would have an informed voting block these days, not to mention politicians and reporters that had some clue about what they were saying.  Of course, I recommend teaching how to read, write, and perform basic mathematics first . . . so we may not get around to nuclear power topics in a system developed and overseen by The Department of Education.


Did that get anyone's attention?  Now, before the flaming starts, let me answer some specific concerns.  There have been three "accidents" attributed to the Nuclear Power industry.  Most people could tell you two of the three.  I'd like to briefly discuss each of them:

This was the last time an American was killed by a nuclear reactor . . . over 50 years ago.  Contributing Factors: Human error in design and operation.  All three fatalities were due to injuries, not radiation, although the radiation would likely have caused death at a later time.   The lessons learned from this tragedy have contributed to a 100% safety record for the last 50 years, including 100s of nuclear reactors onboard U.S. Navy vessels, and are still being taught throughout the industry.

Three-Mile Island
The only commercial nuclear reactor accident in the history of the United States . . . nearly 32 years ago.  Contributing Factors: Human error was a major factor and combined with what would be considered a poor design today.  The operators failed to believe their indications, failed to take appropriate actions, taking the wrong actions instead.  It resulted in ZERO loss of life, measurable environmental impact, or verified health concerns.  The lessons from this accident are also taught throughout the industry and the flaws in the design have been overcome in new designs and do not exist in today's (or tomorrow's) nuclear plants.

Nearly 25 years ago, a horrible, foreign-designed nuclear reactor caused the single-largest public panic associated with the nuclear power industry in history.  Contributing Factors:  No containment structure, graphite moderator, and inexperienced operators facilitated and amplified the devastation to the surrounding area and the world-wide concerns associated with nuclear power.  This disaster, as horrific as it was, resulted in only localized damage and fatalities and has never been shown to have any effect on the United States or any other nation.  Less than 300 total deaths, both immediate and longer-term, have been attributed to this disaster - the worst nuclear power disaster in history and they were all at or near the site.

So, in the history of the industry, there have been less than 300 deaths attributed to nuclear power production IN THE WORLD for over 50 years!  I challenge anyone to find an industry that's safer to be around . . ..

What's the metric for evaluating a successful reactor design in Japan?  If your design criteria is that a Nuclear Reactor should be able to survive a massive earthquake, that's a realistic standard.  If you need the plant to survive a Tsunami that shorts out the entire cooling capacity of the design, that's a realistic standard.  If you expect the containment structure to protect the public from major release of radioactive materials, that's a realistic standard.
If, however, you expect a 40-year-old, highly complex system to experience the largest earthquake recorded in that area (and at least 10 times the strength that it was designed to withstand), an immediate Tsunami that removed the normal cooling capability, and continue to function as if nothing happened, you're not only unrealistic, you're insane!
I have no doubt that there will be people that die from radiation exposure received inside these nuclear power plants.  There are heroes inside those facilities that believe their lives are less important than the lives of their countrymen.   They are overcoming the worst problem ever faced by the nuclear power industry because it's not man-made (contrary to some idiot's claims) and you never know how natural disasters will present themselves.  However, reactor design changes, operator training, technological advances, and proper levels of regulation have proven that they can operate nuclear reactors safely both in the United States and the rest of the developed world.

Telling the safest industry in the world to stop doing what they're doing because a few mis-informed and lazy journalists and politicians can't get off their butts and do some research and independent thought is not only irresponsible and dishonest, it will also contribute to higher energy prices, rolling blackouts, and the already-bad economic situation facing the world.

So, here we are . . .

There are days when something just happens to you and you feel like screaming.  Whether you act or not varies from person to person and event to event.  Having reached a threshold in my life where I need an outlet for these "discussions", a friend made the astute comment that "[I] should start a blog".
It is quite possible that I will be the only person reading these posts, but the therapy should be beneficial nonetheless.  If you're reading my thoughts, welcome!  If you're not, this is getting too weird.