Sunday, July 26, 2009

Saying Goodbye

It is with deep regret that we inform the readers of the blog that Mark Yannone died on 17 July 2009. Pursuant to his wishes, there will be no memorial or service. Anyone wishing to send letters to the family may send them via email to cherieyannone@aol.com. All notes to the family will be delivered directly.

Monday, July 13, 2009

Nationalized pizza three years later

(Washington - 2013) The Obama administration's promises about the benefits of nationalizing the pizza industry have not materialized. Since the industry was nationalized three years ago, Americans are facing pizza shortages, pizzas in only one size and topping, and pizzas that taste like the cardboard box they come in.

When announcing the pizza program in 2010, President [sic] Obama had promised that pizza prices would fall, pizza quality would rise, and there would be universal access to pizza. "After all," he had said in his typical all-knowing manner that Americans have come to hate, "the pizza industry is much simpler than the medical industry, which we completely nationalized last year."

Before pizza was nationalized, virtually every American, whether rural or urban, rich or poor, white or black, or a race somewhere in between, could order a pizza customized to his liking and have it delivered hot to his door in about 45 minutes. Now, in the rare cases where someone actually answers the phone at one of the government's regional pizza kitchens, it takes six hours on average for a pizza to be delivered.

The cost of the standard 12-inch pizza is $140, or a 20-fold increase in three years. Half of the increase is due to the skyrocketing inflation caused by the president's stimulus spending in 2009. A dollar now buys only half as much as it did back then.

Moreover, pizzas are now being delivered by bicycle in rural areas and by mass transit in urban areas, due to the president's climate laws, which have made gasoline unaffordable for the typical delivery person. Although delivery personnel in Minnesota replace the front tires of their bikes with skis in winter and put snow chains on the rear tires, pizzas still arrive at customers' doors frozen solid. In the summer in Arizona, pizzas leave the government pizza kitchen uncooked and cook along the way.

The Federal Department of Pizza is now bigger than the Department of Agriculture. Thousands of central planners have discovered that without the magic of market price signals, it's impossible to coordinate all of the variables involved in getting a pizza to someone's door.

Hundreds of Pizza Department employees try to determine months ahead who will order a pizza, at what time, on what day, and for what address. Hundreds of other employees then calculate how much flour, cheese, tomato sauce, and cardboard should be delivered to the regional pizza kitchens. Once this is determined, the information is sent to the Department of Labor, so that the kitchens have enough employees when they need them. Due to ongoing computer glitches, the pizza kitchens are fully staffed on Monday mornings but have a skeleton staff on Friday nights. During the last Super Bowl, the kitchens were shut down because no employees showed up for work.

The pizza forecasts are also sent to the Department of Agriculture, which has to tell farmers how much wheat and tomatoes to grow, cheese makers how much cheese to produce, and box makers how many boxes to make. The Department of Transportation also has to be notified to have 18-wheel trucks available to deliver the goods to the pizza kitchens. It's to no avail, however, because the Department of Energy is still trying to develop battery-powered trucks to replace the trucks that were banned by the EPA for having internal combustion engines.

Clandestine pizza operations have sprung up across the land, and anchovies are even being snuck into the country from Portugal in travelers' suitcases. Customs personnel at New York's JFK Airport recently walked off the job after one Customs agent opened a suitcase and cracked open his head on the counter when he passed out from the stench.

The Justice Department has started a War on Pizza to shut down the clandestine operations, but this has just shifted the problem to Mexico. The Mexican government is on the verge of collapsing, due to the violence and corruption of Mexican pizza lords who sneak contraband pizzas into the United States. Vinnie Rodriguez is said to be the kingpin of pizza in Mexico. Someone in Cleveland can order a pizza from Vinnie in Nuevo Laredo, Mexico, and have it delivered piping hot with the toppings of his choice in a tenth of the time it takes a government pizza kitchen to fill an order for a cardboard pizza.

President [sic] Obama's popularity has dropped to five percent, showing that Americans can tolerate having their medical care screwed up by the government but not their pizza.

Sunday, July 12, 2009

Dear President Obama: Should we sell our house?

Your Excellency:

This is your humble servant. I'm writing from my home in the Sonoran desert of Arizona, where it's 113 degrees outside and 82 degrees inside. I'm sitting here half-naked with the ceiling fan whirring so fast that papers are flying off my desk.

It gives me solace, though, to know that you and Michelle probably have the thermostat set at a comfortable 72 degrees in that big white house in Washington. I hope it's just as comfortable in the big home you own in Chicago, whether it's empty or being rented by someone.

If King Louis XIV of France deserved to live in Versailles while preaching to his lords about the living conditions of the serfs, then you deserve to live in luxury while preaching to plebeians like me about global warming. After all, Louie believed in the Divine Right of Kings, just as you believe in the Divine Right of Presidents. And like you, Louie was able to centralize power and raise taxes because his subjects were fed up with the wars of his predecessors. Were they ever surprised, however, when he would later engulf France in war. Still, Louie was able to stay on the throne and build monuments to his narcissism, thanks to having the undying loyalty of the propagandists at CBS, NBC, ABC, CNBC, CNN, PBS, NPR, the New York Times, K-12 schools, and universities.

Oh, sorry, I got him confused with you.

The Obama BrainI'm turning to you for advice, your majesty, because you learned everything about everything at Harvard Law, including everything there is to know about real estate and climate change. Accordingly, I'd be honored if you'd give me your opinion on whether my wife and I should sell our house and move to a townhouse half the size, which, because of the peculiarities of the local market, is priced the same as our house. We'll be empty-nesters next month and, because of your unwavering belief that humans are causing the Earth to warm, we'll be facing rising costs for heating and air-conditioning.

As an aside, people I know who are the most learned in science and the scientific method have the most doubts about the unproven hypothesis about global warming and CO2. Obviously, their opinions are worthless, because they didn't attend Harvard Law, which is renowned for its expertise in meteorology and climatology.

Currently, the electricity for our all-electric home comes from one of the largest nuclear power plants in the country. Last year, our total utility bill was $3,368.70 for a 3,860 sq. ft. home. To save electricity, I sometimes shower outside during the summer under a homemade shower that is hooked up to 50 feet of garden hose, which is heated by the sun. I think I'm violating a rule of the homeowner's association, so please don't tell them.

It's a mystery to me why customers of Arizona Public Service should face rising energy costs from your climate legislation when our electricity isn't generated by burning fossil fuels. Could you explain that?

My guess is that it has something to do with the fact that many of your adoring constituents are Northeastern bluebloods and Brahmins who live in big, old, drafty, and energy-inefficient frame houses, many of which are heated with oil. Surely, they're going to expect you to bail them out with hidden energy subsidies at the expense of red-state people like me.

Normally, I'd make such an important decision as selling a house without coming to you, but real estate values have historically been whipsawed by the arbitrary and contradictory decisions of politicians. (Arbitrary political decisions have caused similar distortions in the markets for medical care, education, and energy.)

For example, when we bought our current home in 1992, we had to buy a larger and more expensive house than we needed in order to avoid the IRS's capital gains rule in effect at the time. Now your central planners, who drive around Washington in government-issued Chevy Suburbans, want to get people out of suburban homes and into high-density housing along mass transit lines.

Another example: Because you and your Democrat party have always been opposed to education vouchers, home buyers with the means have selected neighborhoods based on the quality of the local public school. This has led to an exodus from central cities and has caused neighborhoods to be segregated by race and socioeconomic status. With vouchers, parents could live anywhere and send their kids to good schools, wherever they might be located.

Still another example: Because of the government's easy money policies, its backing of the Congressional playpens of Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, its longstanding loony belief that housing is a good investment, its tax deduction for mortgage interest, its tax dodges for investor-owned real estate -- because of all these reasons, the housing market expanded into a bubble and then burst, with the fragments landing in the toilet. Thankfully, we have a federally-approved toilet that doesn't use much water per flush, although we have to flush several times per visit and keep a plunger handy.

I hate to break this to you, your highness, but even a plunger won't unclog the blockage in the housing market caused by your economic policies, which have made things worse and protracted the inevitable correction. Now, uncertainty over what you might do next has caused other markets to become clogged.

Home prices have plummeted about 40 percent on average in Phoenix. Three of the seven homes for sale in our neighborhood were bought by investors during the bubble, in the hope of flipping them for a profit. To illustrate, an investor bought one of the houses two years ago for $850,000, made cosmetic changes to it to fool buyers who are easily fooled by cosmetics, and put it back on the market for $1.2 million. He since has reduced the asking price several times to the current price of $799,000, which is probably $150,000 too high. Idiots like him, responding to government incentives, tax deductions, and easy money, have hurt everyone else.

In his defense, no one in the government or media warned the public that a bubble was forming, although the data were readily available and indisputable. For example, Yale professor Robert Shiller published data showing that home prices had skyrocketed 99 percent above the historic mean. Unfortunately, he is an economist and not a Harvard lawyer, so his insights and predictions were ignored.

Well, those are the facts. Please tell me what my wife and I should do, based on whatever diktats you and your apparatchiks are hatching. Should we:

a. Stay put and start going naked in the house in the summer? (For some reason, my wife is less keen about this idea than I am.)

b. Sell our house for peanuts, get rid of most of our possessions, and move into a tiny townhouse? (Not to be nosy, but will you and Michelle be doing the same?)

c. Wait until Americans come to their senses and vote you out of office?

Thank you for your answer.

With all due deference,

Your hot and obedient servant,

Craig J. Cantoni

Thursday, July 09, 2009

Should I be ashamed for not defending my mom from the Angel of Death?

The following is a fictional but realistic scenario of things to come.

My 88-year-old mom needs surgery to extend her life and not live in pain. However, she is worried about spending part of her savings on the surgery instead of leaving the money for her grandson as part of her small estate. In a family meeting on the issue, I tell her to go ahead with the procedure, because, after all, she had scrimped and saved money for all the years of working as a secretary and clerk in order to have money for the infirmities of old age.

Then, something frightening happens: A man in an expensive suit and a toothy grin barges into the house and exclaims, "You're not spending your money, Mrs. Cantoni, for surgery at your age. Instead, I'm taking your money and giving it to someone more deserving."

Confused and scared, my mom responds, "Are … uh … are you giving it to my grandson?"

"No! I'm giving it to your neighbor for his medical expenses. He's younger and will get a longer payoff for the money."

Seeing my mother trembling and crying, I become more enraged than I've ever been in my life.

"You bastard!" I yell to the intruder. "You can't be serious that you're going to take my mom's money and give it to that ne'er-do-well fat-ass next door, the same guy who has sired four kids out of wedlock with three different women, and who has spent every penny he's ever made on cars, ATV's, big-screen TVs, gambling, cigarettes, and big buckets of Kentucky Fried Chicken."

"Yeah, that's the guy," says the intruder. "The Medical Rationing Board has determined that he needs the money more than your mother does. In fact, he needs triple-bypass surgery from years of eating finger-licking-good chicken."

"Who the f**k is the Medical Rationing Board?" I ask incredulously.

"They are esteemed physicians who have been selected by me to make these decisions."

"What about their Hippocratic oath?" I ask rhetorically. Then I say, "This is right out of the Third Reich. I suppose that the chairman of the Medical Rationing Board is Dr. Josef Mengele, the Angel of Death of concentration camp fame."

The intruder smiles and smugly says, "That's really over the top, and I'll use your words to demonize you as a right-wing extremist."

With that, I reach into my desk drawer, grab my .38 pistol, point it at the intruder, and say, "Leave this house immediately."

Laughing, the intruder tells me to look out the front window. "There are thousands of armed agents waiting outside to take that gun away from you and put you in jail for the rest of your life for being against the common good."

Not only do I realize that the situation is hopeless, but I also know that I never had any intention of shooting the thief. After all, the United States is a nation of laws, most of which are moral laws but some of which are immoral ones, such as the new nationalized health care law. Still, I say to myself in clich├ęs, the law is the law, and violence begets violence.

Throwing the gun down, I say, "Okay, you win. But could you at least tell me your name?"

"Yes, I am the god who determines who lives and dies. My name is Barack Obama."

Wednesday, July 08, 2009

Finally, a reader who doesn't think I'm excrement

After writing two books and at least a thousand political essays and newspaper columns in favor of individual rights and in opposition to statism, collectivism, and militarism, I've learned from readers on the Left and Right that I'm a simpleton, a jerk, an ideologue, a peacenik, a warmonger, a utopian, an anarchist, and various kinds of excrement. Unfortunately, I haven't learned anything of substance from 99 percent of readers who have disagreed with me. That's why I'm sharing the email below with you. It's from a left-liberal who actually didn't resort to name-calling and wanted to begin an intelligent dialogue.

My response follows her email. And following my response is a link to the original newspaper editorial that triggered her email.

____________


Dear Craig,

I haven't looked into your bio or your location, but I've been reading your editorial letters in the Sonoran News pretty steadily. The Sonoran News is a local paper that is published by Don Sorchych and covers the earth trembling news that occurs in Cave Creek and Carefree, Arizona.

I was raised Irish Catholic on Chicago's South Side, became a left-wing radical during the 60s, and now consider myself a left-Libertarian. I even took a test online a few months ago, sent to me by my brother in Portland who is a center/right Republican [we agree to disagree] and the test confirmed that I am a LL.

I just read your latest editorial column about Obama's statement that a government should represent the "will of the people." You made some dynamic points, arguing that the ultimate "will" should be that of the individual, using slavery in the South as a stunning example. In theory I agree. This can get into some hairy concepts, however.

Take a manufacturing enterprise. The owner pays the workers the least he can get away with. He knows he has to pay them enough for them to stay, but also as minimally as possible to make his profit. The worker wants to make enough to feed his family and have a little bit left for some pleasures.

The owner is an individual. But each worker is also an individual. Is the right of the company owner more or less or equal to the rights of the worker? Not "the workers." The worker. I've always been offended by the term "masses." The working class "masses." The word suggests some faceless collection of morons which labors mindlessly and lives mindlessly.

This idea, the right, or autonomy, of the individual [which I agree with!] in my opinion, presents more conflicts than solutions. Each of us human beings looks out from our own eyes at the rest of the universe. The universe, in our own perception, revolves around each of us. I am "me," an entity. You are "you," an entity. My individuality is precious to me, as each of our individualities is precious to each of us. The starving child in Namibia is seeing the universe through his eyes, and that is all he knows. He must survive. It's an imperative of living things.

I smoke. I hate it that now I can't smoke in restaurants or bars. Soon I may be given a ticket for smoking in a car with children. This is how I feel as an individual. My freedom to smoke is being diminished every day. But there are people who are sickened by the smell of smoke. They are also individuals. They have, for years, avoided places where smoking was allowed because it made them nauseous. So they fought back. And now we have more laws. What is right and what is wrong? Whose "right" is right?

And here is the ultimate problem. How do the smoker and the non-smoker resolve their differences without laws? How do the worker and the owner resolve their conflicts about pay and benefits without rules? The days of a "handshake" are over. My stepfather, an old-time plumber [and he taught me the trade which I've been doing for 26 years] made all his "deals" with a handshake. Now there are lawyers with contracts to sign. How do we get back to the old ways?

I don't have any solutions. I truly respect your ideas. I love reading what you write! I ponder all these questions every day. About six months ago our local publisher, Sorchych, was using the term "anarchist" as a slam against all the people he disagreed with. This person, that person, they were all "anarchists."

I finally wrote a letter to the editor one week, the same week he printed an article by you explaining the philosophy of Libertarianism. I pointed out, in my letter, that anarchism is just one step away from Libertarianism. I told him that he was misusing the term. He never used it again.

You don't need to reply to this if you don't have time. I only wanted to express some thoughts to you. Your columns are very thought-provoking.

Keep up the good work!

Sharon
____________


Dear Sharon:

Thanks for writing. I enjoy philosophical discussions with intelligent people. Let me address the points in your email, starting with the things we have in common.

We've both lived in Chicago, we both believe in civil liberties, we both care about the poor, and we both are Catholic.

Regarding Catholicism, my son just finished 12 years of Catholic education and is the third generation of the Cantoni clan to do so. Like me and my parents, he learned moral values and service to others from his Catholic education. On the negative side, his teachers tried to indoctrinate him in Catholic notions of social justice, but he is too versed in economics to fall for communitarian ideas that keep people in poverty. Of course, there also is the staggering hypocrisy of the Pope and College of Cardinals, who preach about the poor and live in splendor. Hmm, reminds me of Nancy Pelosi and other members of our House of Lords.

Here's where we'll probably part company: Private school taught my son and me how socialism, or collectivism, stops people from thinking or caring about fairness to the individual. This is especially true for public education. To wit, even the most diehard conservatives and free marketers send their kids to public schools and don't stop to think that they are being subsidized by childless taxpayers, by homeschoolers, and by parents who send their kids to private school. The subsidy is huge: In the case of my wife and me, about $190,000 in public education taxes will be taken from us over our adult lives. It's one thing to subsidize the poor, but it's an entirely different matter to subsidize middle- and upper-class parents who can afford to pay the full cost of their children's education. (We support an orphan at a Catholic orphanage and school in southern Mexico.) By going to Catholic school, my son realized on his own that our neighbors could afford big SUVs and we couldn't, because their kids went to public school. In a very real sense, we were buying their SUVs. More important, it goes against the constitutional guarantee of freedom of religion for people to have to pay twice for education, once in public school taxes and once in private tuition, in order to have their children escape secular schools for religious ones.

Now with the advent of nationalized health care, people will have to pay twice if they want medical care that isn't authorized by the state system. Perhaps the aforementioned diehard conservatives and free marketers will come to understand what it's like to pay twice. Again, it's one thing to subsidize the health care of the poor; it's another matter to subsidize the health care of those who have bought fancy cars and lived high off the credit hog all of their lives instead of saving for the infirmities of old age. Socialized medicine will make no distinctions between the two, just like socialized education makes no distinction between the two.

Regarding anarchism and libertarianism, the two are not synonymous. Anarchism is the absence of government. Libertarianism is a belief that the purpose of government is to protect life, liberty, and property. Libertarians want a government that is strong enough to do that.

I was particularly intrigued by your comments about employers wanting to set wages as low as possible. Why was I intrigued? Not only because of my philosophical interest in the subject, but also because I have 30 years of experience in setting wages in industry.

Wages are ultimately determined by productivity at the level of the individual, the firm, and the nation -- the higher the productivity of the individual, the higher his wage; the higher the productivity of the firm, the higher the wages in the firm; the higher the productivity of the nation, the higher the per-capita income of its citizens. Henry Ford paid his workers double the prevailing factory wage, not for altruistic reasons, but for the practical reason that it reduced employee turnover and increased productivity.

Karl Marx has been proven wrong about capitalism leading to subsistence wages. Even in communist countries, wages are ultimately set by productivity. Of course, productivity stinks in communist countries.

I've probably worked for, and consulted with, over 50 companies. Not one of them exploited employees or wanted to pay as little as possible. To the contrary, they wanted to pay as much as productivity would allow -- and also what the consumer would allow. Of course, the owners expected a return, or profit, for risking their capital; otherwise, they wouldn't have started the business in the first place.

Incidentally, the average profit for all businesses is 5-6 percent, which is a small price to pay for the benefits of a market economy. That's much less than the cost of government apparatchiks in a planned economy.

I'd be interested in how you think pay should be determined.

Regarding smoking, two principles come into play: First, you should be free to do anything you want as long as it doesn't harm others who have no choice in the matter. Second, you should be free to do anything you want on your property as long as it doesn't harm others who have no choice in the matter. Clearly, allowing smoking on such private property as a restaurant or bar doesn't harm people who have no choice in the matter [because everyone chose to be there]. To be harmed by smoke in a restaurant or bar (assuming that second-hand smoke is harmful) someone has to voluntarily walk into the establishment. He has a choice: patronize the smoking establishment or patronize a non-smoking establishment. Somehow, Americans have come to believe that freedom is synonymous with convenience -- that they shouldn't have to make choices and be inconvenienced. They've also become busybodies domestically and internationally, wanting to tell others how to live -- namely in their own narcissistic image.

Regards,

Craig

Read Craig J. Cantoni's newspaper editorial that prompted the exchange.

Saturday, July 04, 2009

Caution: May cause suicide

by Craig J. Cantoni

Only 58 percent of Arizona high school students know the name of the ocean on the east coast of the country.

And we think Americans can understand political philosophy and economics. Silly us. This explains the popularity of Obama, carbon restrictions, TV commercials, and the mass hysteria over the death of Michael Jackson.

No doubt 98 percent know the titles of Jackson's albums.

It's enough to make me drive to California and drown myself in the Atlantic.
______________

An author and columnist, Mr. Cantoni can be reached at ccan2@aol.com.


Matthew LadnerWhy aren't Arizona high schools teaching civics?

by Matthew Ladner, Ph.D.

Just in time to celebrate Independence Day, the Goldwater Institute will release its new report, "Freedom from Responsibility: A Survey of Civic Knowledge Among Arizona High School Students," which reveals only 3.5 percent of Arizona high school students have learned the basic history, government, and geography necessary to pass the U.S. Citizenship test.

To conduct the survey, we hired a firm to interview 1,140 Arizona high school students and ask 10 questions drawn at random from the exam given to applicants for United States citizenship. Applicants for citizenship must get six out of 10 questions correct to pass. A recent trial found that 92.4 percent of citizenship applicants passed the test on the first try.

Below are the survey questions, the correct answers, and in parentheses the percentage of public school students providing the correct answer for each question.
  1. What is the supreme law of the land?
    Answer: The Constitution (29.5%)

  2. What do we call the first 10 amendments to the Constitution?
    Answer: The Bill of Rights (25%)

  3. What are the two parts of the U.S. Congress?
    Answer: Senate and House (23%)

  4. How many Justices are on the Supreme Court?
    Answer: Nine (9.4%)

  5. Who wrote the Declaration of Independence?
    Answer: Jefferson (25.3%)

  6. What ocean is on the East Coast of the United States?
    Answer: Atlantic (58.8%)

  7. What are the two major political parties in the United States?
    Answer: Democratic and Republican (49.6%)

  8. We elect a U.S. Senator for how many years?
    Answer: Six (14.5%)

  9. Who was the first President of the United States?
    Answer: Washington (26.5%)

  10. Who is in charge of the Executive Branch?
    Answer: The President (26%)
Only 3.5 percent of traditional public high school students passed the test. That's 40 students out of a sample of 1,134 district high school students.

Arizona's 8th grade social studies standards require that students learn about everything from John Locke to the Mayflower Compact to the Articles of Confederation and the Constitution before high school. It isn't clear what, if anything, Arizona students are learning in these classes, but it is abundantly clear what they are not learning -- U.S. civics, history, and geography.

In the report, I recommend that all Arizona high school students be required to pass a version of the U.S. Citizenship exam in order to graduate. Since then, one of our supporters came up with an even better idea: Make the exam a requirement for receiving a driver's license. Interesting thought ...
______________

Dr. Matthew Ladner is vice president for research at the Goldwater Institute.

Source

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

The insolvency of the United States: How we got to this point and what can be done about it

The above title is the title of a talk that I recently gave to an audience that was probably at the 90th percentile of education, intelligence, knowledge of history and current events, and wisdom that comes with age. Yet even that impressive audience had not previously seen the longstanding fiscal and economic trends that I presented with the help of slides.

I'll summarize the sobering trends for you momentarily, but first let me answer the question of how we got to the point of insolvency. As the ignorance of the audience about the data suggests, we got to this point because of an abysmal failure of America's major institutions to educate the populace on fiscal and economic matters of great importance.

The blame falls on the K-12 education establishment, the higher education establishment, the political establishment, and the media establishment. All have done a great disservice to the public while lying to themselves that they were doing a great service. Shame on them. Or I should say, the hell with them. They have zero credibility with me and should have none with you.

My definition of "insolvency" is the inability to pay debts and liabilities as they come due. By that definition, the nation is insolvent. It owes $99 trillion, give or take a few trillion, or $1.3 million for each American under the age of 18. There is no way that it can grow its way out of this hole, especially not with Obama's plan to grow government. And it can't tax its way out, for future generations are not going to tolerate living in serfdom to pay the bills of previous generations. As it stands, our grandchildren will be spitting on our graves and letting Fido relieve himself on our tombstones.

How is the $99 trillion derived? By adding up the nation's deficits, interest on the national debt, personal debt, and the unfunded liabilities for Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid, public-sector pensions, and corporate pensions guaranteed by the Pension Benefit Guarantee Corporation.

Mission impossible: Go through 10 years of archival copies of your daily newspaper and try to find front-page stories and graphs on the staggering indebtedness. What you'll find instead is story after story, and editorial after editorial, in favor of increased government spending. As an example, my local daily, Gannett's Arizona Republic, with a falling circulation of a half-million, has advocated spending increases over spending cuts by a ratio of 10 to 1. Yet its editors remain unembarrassed about what they have helped to wreak on future generations. They are either imbeciles or moral degenerates.

I'll close with a sampling of trends, but before I do that, let me answer the question of what can and can't be done about the nation's insolvency.

What can't be done is for politicians to take away free stuff from Americans -- that is, to take away their entitlements, subsidies, tax breaks, and handouts. Why not? Because the nation is past the tipping point. Over 60 percent of voters now receive free stuff from the government or work for the government or in private-sector jobs that depend on government regulations. Individually, they are not going to vote to give back their rice bowl, which means that nothing can be done collectively. Understanding the math, President [sic] Obama is planning to give Americans even more government goodies and will be idolized for doing so by the recipients. Sure, he'll be demonized by future economists and historians, if there will be any left in the future who don't work for the government.

That leaves two options: The government eventually will either default on its debts or debase the dollar and unleash inflation. Either way, today's politicians will throw the problem over the wall for future generations to address, like a dog owner who throws his dog's litter over his fence into his neighbor's yard. In a sense, we are letting the likes of Nancy Pelosi and Barney Frank throw dog litter at our kids and grandkids. We've already stood by and watched George W. Bush and the rest of the Republicans throw fiscal turds at them.

Now for the trends. Warning: If you read the following, you will no longer have the excuse of ignorance for letting your overlords throw dog litter into your yard. If you are a moral person, you'll pick up the litter, wrap it in your daily newspaper, and mail it back to them.

Note: The source of much of the following is The Grandfather Economic Report, which can be found at http://mwhodges.home.att.net.
  • Prior to 1930, all levels of government consumed 12 percent of national income, versus 45 percent today, not counting Obama's stimulus spending and proposed health care spending, which will take total government spending to over 50 percent of national income.
  • If the growth in the number of local and state government employees had kept pace with population growth since 1946 instead of exceeding population growth, there would be 12.7 million fewer of the employees today. Holding staffing increases in line with population would have meant a savings of $762 billion per annum in taxes, assuming average annual pay, benefits, and other overhead expenses of $60,000 per employee.
  • Between 1948 and 1994, the federal tax rates for a family of four earning the median income increased from 2 percent to 25 percent, or 12.5 times greater.
  • From 1982 to 2007, the personal savings rate plummeted 91 percent. During the same period, there was a tripling of foreign holdings of Federal T-Bill and T-Bond debt. Much of the money went into housing, which rose 83 percent in price from 1996 to the popping of the bubble in 2007. The nation's major institutions ignored the warnings from experts in the know about the ballooning bubble. They also ignored 20 years of warnings about the dangerous leverage of the financial industry and the misuse of such financial instruments as derivatives. In fact, most of those now in control of the nation's financial levers in the Obama administration knew the warnings but ignored them to get along and get ahead. We should have their heads. Perhaps France would be willing to loan several guillotines.
  • When Social Security was enacted, there were 40 workers for each retiree. Over the last 71 years, the ratio has shrunk and now stands at a little over two workers per retiree. By 2046, the number of Social Security beneficiaries will double to 82 million.
  • Since 1981, $1.9 trillion has been confiscated from the Social Security Trust Fund by Congress, an act of grand larceny that would result in prison terms if it had been done by trustees of a private pension plan.
  • Speaking of grand larceny, a dollar in 1950 is now worth about 11 cents, or 89 percent less. Consumer prices were basically flat for the first 150 years of the nation. They began a rapid ascent in 1971, when Nixon closed the gold window.
  • It's common knowledge that the United States ranks near the bottom on international tests of math and science literacy. It is not common knowledge that there has been a huge decline in education productivity over the last 50 years, due to a doubling of per-pupil spending in constant dollars but little improvement in SAT scores. The education establishment is not very good at teaching but excels at propaganda. Sadly, the same can be said about the nation's other institutions.

Saturday, June 20, 2009

No one gasped in shock when Obama said he was committed to the will of the people

During his recent visit to Cairo, President [sic] Obama said that he was committed "to governments that reflect the will of the people." There, in a nutshell, is the problem with his thinking, as well as with the thinking of his predecessor, the thinking of almost all members of Congress and the Supreme Court, the thinking of most of the nation's intelligentsia and commentaria, and the thinking of most Americans.

What's wrong with what he said? Well, imagine in a prior life that Obama had visited the antebellum South before blacks had become a majority of the population. Imagine that during the visit, he had complimented Southern whites for having governments that reflected the will of the people: "Hey, y'all, my compliments for reflecting the will of the people and maintaining slavery."

An extreme example? Yes, but it shows that a moral government is not necessarily a government that reflects the will of the people. Rather, a moral government is one that protects the rights of the individual, especially against the transgressions of the majority.

Stoned to deathWhat Obama should have said in Cairo was that he was committed to governments that protect the rights of the individual -- that is, to governments that safeguard the life, liberty, speech, and property of each person. Such a government wouldn't allow a woman to be stoned for adultery just because a majority believes that Allah says it's okay.

Obama didn't speak this way, because in his view of government, the individual is secondary to the will of the majority, the collective, the common good, and a charismatic leader.

Take nationalized health care. Obama has said that physicians are going to have to "sacrifice" to fix the problems with the health care system -- problems, by the way, that have been caused by the government. What he meant was that for the common good, physicians will be forced to make less money. This isn't as draconian as the Incas sacrificing virgins for the common good, because, after all, "only" doctors' livelihoods will be sacrificed, not their lives. But the thinking is the same.

The danger is that if physicians can be sacrificed one day, you can be sacrificed the next day. In fact, you will be sacrificed under nationalized health care. The underlying premise of nationalized health care is that you don't own your body; instead, the collective owns it. As such, the collective can dictate what medical care you receive, at what price, and by what provider.

Sadly, it isn't necessary to trample on individual rights to fix the problems with health care, just as it isn't necessary to trample on individual rights to fix any social problem. To the contrary, almost all social problems have been caused by trampling on individual rights. For example, the horrendous socioeconomic problems among inner-city African Americans have their genesis in slavery, followed by Jim Crow, redlining, and the forcible taking of money (property) from taxpayers to support a welfare system that has brought two-parent black families to near-extinction and triggered severe academic problems, dropout rates, and crime.

The use of force for other than the protection of the individual never has a happy ending.

It took mankind thousands of years to develop a political, economic, and social system in which the individual wasn't at the mercy of the mob, tribe, collective, majority, alpha male, chieftain, shaman, or monarch; or at the mercy of other people's envy, superstitions, ignorance, and irrationality. The chains that kept individuals in slavery, serfdom, subservience, penury, fear, and blind obedience to some collective will and higher authority were broken by the concepts of individual liberty, property rights, free trade, the division of labor, and specialization. The result was an explosion in prosperity, creativity, innovation, longevity, and health.

The shocking thing is not that President [sic] Obama is hurriedly reconnecting the chains of collectivism and statism. The shocking thing is that no one is gasping in shock.

Friday, May 29, 2009

Dear Hispanics: Screw you and your Supreme Court nominee

Dear Hispanics:

Ugh! I hate that word. No, not the word "dear." I'm referring to the word "Hispanics."

I know you very well. You see, in the late 1960s and early 1970s, I lived among Mexican nationals and Mexican Americans in the barrio, attended a university with probably the largest percent of Mexican nationals and Mexican Americans in the nation, served alongside Mexican Americans in the Army, and fought with them for equal rights for blacks.

At the time, you were similar to Italians, in the sense that you also had dark complexions and similar experiences in assimilating into what was then the predominant WASP culture. Sure, your cuisine was different, your second language was different, and your hair was straight instead of wavy. But I still thought of you as my amico, just as you thought of me as your amigo.

Back then, Mexicans didn't refer to themselves as Hispanic. They referred to themselves as Mexican or American.

I would later work with Puerto Ricans during my business career, including my favorite administrative assistant of all time. They also didn't refer to themselves as Hispanic.

That made sense, because the original definition of "Hispanic" was someone from the Iberian Peninsula of Europe. Mexicans aren't from the Iberian Peninsula, although their forebears might have been Spanish and hailed from there. Nor are Puerto Ricans from the Iberian Peninsula, although their forebears might have been Spanish and hailed from there. Some Mexicans and Puerto Ricans are of only Spanish blood, but most Mexicans are of Spanish and Native American blood, and most Puerto Ricans are of Spanish and African blood.

The only things that most Mexicans and Puerto Ricans share are Spanish blood and language. Other than that, their cultures are entirely different.

Yet the Puerto Rican nominee for Supreme Court justice refers to herself as Hispanic, as if that label somehow magically makes her the same as Mexicans and other nationalities and racial/ethnic groups in Latin America. She has even gone so far as to make the racist comment that being Hispanic makes her better than a white person. That's a bizarre comment, and an ignorant one at that, considering that most Puerto Ricans are partly white. Maybe it's an indication of self-loathing, whereby she hates the white part of herself.

Or maybe it's something worse. Maybe she is a product of multicultural brainwashing and has been taught to think in terms of artificial group identities. If so, then she doesn't have the intellectual horsepower or the understanding of individual rights to be on the Supreme Court. Heck, she can't even count. She thinks that Hispanics are a minority, although all the people jammed under the phony label far outnumber Italians and most other ethnic groups.

Which brings me to the reason that I said "Screw you."

I said it because you've changed over the years. Instead of being a friend, you've become a bunch of racist race hustlers who think you're something special and deserving of special considerations and privileges. For example, now I go into museums or on college campuses and see special displays for Hispanics but none for Italians. Frankly, that leads me to do something that I never used to do: I compare the achievements of Italians throughout history with the achievements of Hispanics, or to be accurate, the achievements of Mexicans, Puerto Ricans, Cubans, etc.

Hey, you started the one-upmanship.

Then there is that big chip on your shoulder. You actually believe your own propaganda that your people have suffered more than other people and have been on the receiving end of social injustice and never on the giving end. Wow! That takes a profound ignorance of history.

Because of your warped idea of social justice, you also believe that someone with a Spanish surname should get extra college admission points at the expense of my son with the Italian surname. Well, screw you.

Now you believe that you should have your own Supreme Court judge. You probably even think that Italians have theirs in Justice Scalia. But we don't think that way. We're only interested in his views of the Constitution and could care less if his name was Kaminsky.

Has it dawned on your racial mind that there are over 30 unique racial and ethnic groups in America and only nine Supreme Court seats? Pray tell, how is each group supposed to get its own justice?

Never mind. I'm wasting my words when two words will suffice: Screw you!

Thursday, May 28, 2009

Barack Obama is as evil as George W. Bush

The political debate in America is essentially a debate between good and evil. It goes like this:

Democrats claim that George W. Bush, Republicans, and conservatives are evil capitalists, jingoists, militarists, and racists. The story line is that these evildoers want to incinerate other nations, discriminate against brown and black people, torture anyone whose religious compass points towards Mecca, foul the environment, encourage greed and avarice, put lead in toys and arsenic in water, force women to use coat hangers to abort the unborn, allow people to writhe in agony on the street as they die from a lack of medical care, and let the poor and elderly live under highway bridges in cardboard boxes.

Republicans claim that Barack Obama, Democrats, and liberals are evil collectivists, socialists, pacifists, and multiculturalists. The story line is that these evildoers want to make America vulnerable to attack, give the Southwest back to Mexico, put everyone on the public dole to achieve total egalitarianism, chain businessmen to stocks on the Capitol Mall, throw newborns into dumpsters, take from producers and savers and give to loafers and spendthrifts, and turn the United States into Cuba or, worse, France.

The parrots in the media then repeat what each side says about the other, as if the parroting is meaningful commentary instead of meaningless squawking.

The two major political parties don't define good and evil, don't speak about moral principles, and don't debate the thinking of such thinkers as Kant, Hegel, Rousseau, Marx, Burke, Locke, Adam Smith, and Hayek.

There is a simple reason why they avoid these subjects but call each other evil: because their own evil would be revealed if they defined terms and spoke about moral principles.

The fact of the matter is that neither of the two parties subscribes to the following two moral principles:

Self-ownershipSelf-ownership: This principle says that each individual owns his body, his mind, his physical and mental labor, and the fruits of his labor, including his real property, his money, and his thoughts, words, ideas, and writings. As such, each individual has the right to defend what he owns from being poached or harmed, and he has a right to trade what he owns with anyone of his choosing on mutually agreeable terms. If this were not true, then slavery and serfdom would be moral systems.

Limited Force: This principle says that government depends on force for its existence and that the only legitimate use of this power is to protect what each individual owns from being stolen or harmed. All other uses are illegitimate, whether they are promulgated by Congress, by the president, by bureaucrats, by the Supreme Court, or by a majority of voters. It is especially illegitimate for the government to take what an individual owns instead of protecting it. As Ayn Rand wrote, the smallest minority is the individual, and a society that doesn't protect the rights of the individual doesn't protect minorities.

It took mankind thousands of years to reach the point in social, political, and economic development where the individual was not at the mercy of an alpha male, a chieftain, an emperor, a king, a lord, or the fevers, superstitions, and whims of a clan, tribe, sect, or mob. The concepts of individual rights and self-ownership, coupled with the division of labor and specialization, brought about great prosperity and longevity. But then these ideas began to be chipped away by madmen, idealists, utopians, and control freaks, some of whom are considered today to have been great presidents.

It's not as if adherence to the foregoing two principles would leave politicians and pundits with nothing to do. Important questions would still need to be answered. For example: In the name of protecting Americans, was it right to invade Iraq, torture suspected terrorists, drop the A-bomb on Japan, and firebomb Dresden? Why is FDR revered although he interred Japanese Americans in concentration camps without a trial, while George W. Bush is vilified for doing the same with suspected terrorists? Do the rights of the mother trump the rights of the unborn? How can the poor, the disabled, and the sick be helped, treated, and educated without resorting to government force and violating individual rights? Is global warming a scientific fact, is it caused by man, and if so, what should be done about it?

Unfortunately, the Republican and Democrat parties do not restrict themselves to such legitimate issues. Instead, they keep expanding their power over the individual under the guise of the common good.

Medical care is a case in point. After nearly 70 years of destroying a consumer-is-king market in medical care and insurance, politicians have convinced a brainwashed public that they should turn their bodies over to the state and let politicians decide what medical care they receive, from whom, and at what price. Nationalized health care is the opposite of self-ownership.

Another example is subsidized sports stadiums, which are endorsed by both parties. If the use of force can be justified to extract money from individuals for the benefit of other individuals, for something as unimportant as baseball and football, then force can be justified for just about anything. Want free ice cream? Then band together with other ice cream lovers and stick up a Dairy Queen. Want free socks? Then band together with others in need of socks and raid Wal-Mart. Want free health care? Then eat lard all of your life, band together with other lard eaters, and have your arteries unclogged at the expense of those who eat healthy foods all of their lives.

When moral principles are missing from the body politic, we end up with a president like George W. Bush, whose ownership of a subsidized baseball team was a clue that he wouldn't respect individual rights as president. We also end up with a president [sic] like Barack Obama, whose ambition to use force to remake the nation into his narcissistic image shows that he doesn't respect individual rights.

Whenever individual rights were not protected throughout modern history, the big evils occurred, such as slavery, Jim Crow, communism, fascism, and Nazism. Slave owners, the Ku Klux Klan, Stalin, Hitler, Mao, Pol Pot, and other tyrants all had something in common: They believed that the rights of the individual were secondary to the interests of the state, the collective, or the common good. They killed over 100 million individuals to make the point.

Lesser evils continue to this day in the United States, due to subjugating the individual to the state: fatherless children, a permanent underclass, a high dropout rate, packed prisons, a bankrupt nation living on credit, and an unaccountable Federal Reserve that prints money and debases the currency in order to delay the inevitable collapse of the welfare state. Yet in the pursuit of power, our new alpha-male president [sic] pretends that these problems can be solved by increasing dependency even more, reducing self-ownership even more, and printing even more money.

That makes him as evil as his predecessor. But you won't hear the parrots squawk about that.