Archive for the ‘Capitalism’ Category

The Hunger Games: The Wrong Conclusion [Part 1]

Tuesday, March 27th, 2012

Nothing written about The Hunger Games movie is right. Why? The movie isn’t right. Is it worth seeing? Absolutely.

It didn’t occur to me while watching the movie, but when I read Ed Morrissey’s review (meh, derivative) and then this Socialist’s site (best movie ever), I knew something was wrong with the movie. And when I read this Psychology Today review, I knew something was wrong with the psychologist and our culture [More about that in another post].

People who saw The Hunger Games saw a different movie depending on whether they read the books or not. On the optimistic side: most teens read the books. On the pessimistic side: most parents had not. This lead to two very divergent perspectives on the movie.

The Hunger Games trilogy books describe a dystopian, post-Civil War future where the central government is rich off the backs of twelve districts of slaves. The central government uses technology, coercion, and laws restricting any form of self defense (no guns..no bow and arrows, even–thus Katniss’ hidden, handmade bow and arrows).

The central government controls by dividing commerce. There are agrarian, fishing, and in Katniss’ case, energy producing districts. Katniss’ father died as a slave in a coal mine to produce energy not for his business or his employer but for the government who would then redistribute the commodity in just enough measure to keep work going to meet the needs of the other districts and to keep the central district in the luxury they were used to.

The oppression, lack of ownership, lack of right to bear arms, lack of free speech, lack of freedom of association, and the central-command misery induced by this situation were never clearly spelled out in the movie. Those who read the books, filled in the blanks. Those who didn’t, took home an entirely different message.

As one liberal reviewer said it, “This is a movie about the 99% and the 1%.”

Uh no. This book was about the oppression of communism and the failure of redistributionism. It was also a book about self-determination and freedom. These are all very American concepts.

The personal despair caused by the oppression really wasn’t fairly portrayed, either. Peeta fed a starving Katniss (a little CGI work to show her emaciated would have been helpful) at great risk to his own life due to reducing his ability to trade on the black market. His mother would beat him.

After Katniss’ father died, the family was starving. Her mother had completely lost her mind. Collectivism creates individual misery.

Meanwhile, the central government was indulgent: a combination of Elizabethan England, coked out models, and crass material excess. Their entertainment was Roman gladiator meets reality show spectacle where children fought to the death as tributes to “peace”. All the districts, including the central one, offered up one boy and one girl between the ages of 12 and 18 as tribute and penance for their warlike past.

The premise of the book was so horrifying to me, I had to put the book down. My daughter, in contrast, seemed strangely unbothered–until she saw the movie.

And the horror of it all would is compounded by no context. If it isn’t made clear what the characters will be fighting against, it’s difficult to grasp their desire for freedom. That is, if they’re free and just down on their luck, that’s a different story line. If rich business owners in each district controlled all commerce, that would tell another story.

That would be the storyline the left wants to promote–thus, the 99 and 1% reference.

Critics and fans of the movie must read the books. Without the story, what is a pretty good movie already, becomes an excellent, and scarier, movie. They’re not tough reads and they’ll give the needed context.

Whether it was intentional or just lost on the cutting room floor because of film length, more attention to the foundational why of the story would have helped.

In the next post, I’ll talk about whether children should attend the movie and how to talk about your kids who do go to the movie.



The Bain Of Capitalism — UPDATED Remember Reagan Democrats?

Tuesday, January 10th, 2012

Is Bain a villain or victim? Is Mitt Romney a hero or a heel? That’s the question before Republican primary voters and a few things need to be understood about Capitalism generally first before answering these questions specifically.

Capitalism is well regarded by most Americans. The bailout of investment firms that backed bad mortgage-backed securities i.e. bank bailouts is not well-regarded by Americans.

Bank bailouts, business bailouts, bailouts, period, are not capitalism.

A truly free market means the freedom to succeed or fail. A truly free market means I don’t have to pay for your screw up.

America no longer has the freest of free markets. [For more about this and Bain, please read Jonathan Last in the Weekly Standard. He makes excellent points.]

Americans who work for GM and GM subsidiaries, for example, are more than happy to take taxpayer money, rip off GM investors, give the money to the unions, and currently keep their jobs even though the company has a bunch of money-losing products and the company has yet to make money back that it took from the taxpayers (and probably never will).

Americans who see nearly $750 billion taxpayer dollars go to a failed company like Solyndra (Obama cronies who want to make money off of the failed green-jobs hoax at taxpayer expense) are not so happy.

American Iowans who get ethanol subsidies to grow corn for energy production even though it’s more expensive, and shockingly, dirtier, like a more nuanced capitalism.

Americans are romantic about capitalism. They like a free market a little freer and a little more socialist-y (new word) depending on their mood.

Politicians are worse.

Politicians can use taxpayer dollars, regulations, lawsuits, threats, audits, and all sorts of means to manipulate the market.

So, corporations, in response to the government unevenness, seeks favor. They buy advertising (hello Wall Street investors donors to Obama) and hope to influence the laws, regulation, bailouts, etc. in a way favorable to their business, their stockholders and their board. And who wouldn’t?

When the government gets so powerful, corporations and individuals are forced to be obsequious and cower before the throne of power lest their businesses and lives be ruined.

Obama and Democrats enjoy this power. Many big government Republicans don’t mind it so much either.

Corporations enjoy the arrangement as long as it benefits them. Greasing the government skids becomes part of doing business. The more corrupt the government, the more it costs but the cost of NOT paying off the politicians is far worse and a destroyed business or even industry.

Individual Americans look at all this and are disgusted. They forget their own involvement or excuse it figuring that the “big guys” will win anyway, so “might as well get my share”.

The political-corporate nexus has become a mutually-beneficial and exclusive system. The American taxpayer, the guy on the hook for all the flights of fancy (Solyndra) and foibles (Fannie, Freddie, and Wall Street investment bankers) stands on the outside.

$15 trillion in debt later and little to nothing to show for it, the little guy is fed up.

The stories, that the press will finally tell about how the little guy has been screwed (not by Obama mind, never by Obama) but by Mitt Romney and other villains like him, will be front and center.

The American economy is not free-market capitalist in the sense that businesses or government are having to pay the consequences of bad behavior. Two words: “Moral Hazard”. We are seeing the consequences of the moral hazard of these bailouts and they’re unintended.

The most dire consequence: People are questioning capitalism itself, rather than the bad government behavior that drove bad business behavior.

Romney supporters conflating defending Mitt Romney with defending capitalism are stretching this sentiment. It’s been long since companies like Bain were strictly operating in a free market system and while it’s subtle, this fundamental unfairness is what has people hopping mad.

When Romney piously decried the in-state tuition for illegal immigration, he was playing on the sense that people feel that it is unfair for people to get benefits they haven’t paid for. It was a populist argument. Further, Mitt didn’t just let that argument stand. He outright lied about Governor Perry’s illegal immigration stance making it seem as though Rick Perry was soft on illegal immigration while he, Romney, was a defender of all things America. It’s laughable, but it worked and he knew it would.

And I suspect Romney and his acolytes are afraid right now because they know that the attacks about Bain also work. But if they work now, they’ll work in the general.

The American people are angry and feel totally alienated from their government and the “big”, powerful businesses that use their influence to influence a favorable business client.

On Twitter, Brooks Bayne rightly notes the conflation by Romney supporters of mercantilism and capitalism.

The histrionics displayed by Romney’s supporters ignores the collusion between government and business to the harm of the individual citizen.

How do these folks think the Teaparty started? It’s this very unfairness that caused outrage. TARP started boiling at the end of the Bush administration, was supported by both Obama and McCain and the unholy alliance has, instead of abating, gotten worse. At least a sliver of this emotion is encapsulated by Occupy Wall Street.

Occupy Wall Street just took the opposite tack of the Tea Party. Rather than being left alone–which is what the Teapatiers want–the OWS folks want the bailouts to go to them. Forget corporate bailouts, they want personal bailouts.

Somehow, personal bailouts is socialism but big bank bailouts is “supporting the free market”? No it’s not.

Obamacare was collusion with Insurance companies at the expense of tax payers. TARP benefited banks and businesses over leveraged by making bad bets.

Over and over, the taxpayer is being asked to look the other way while their taxes are being raided for the benefit of irresponsible players — the government, banks and businesses all angling to take great risk. They receive all the benefits if they succeed and the taxpayer is on the hook for the losses should they fail.

The problem with Romney is that he neutralizes every single Obama negative — Romneycare, big regulations (buying global warming, etc.), bailouts, TARP, and the collusion of Wall Street with the government.

Capitalism as a concept is just fine. The problem is that America is a far cry from a truly free market. A market isn’t free when the risk takers can make someone else pay for their mistakes.

Americans are tired of paying for others mistakes. They’re tired of being on the losing end. They thought Obama was going to bring “fairness”. Obama just made things worse–socialism is always worse.

Republicans should be for something better, but as far as I can see, the front runners all like using the Government for their own fanciful schemes. For some reason voters are supposed to trust them to do different. No wonder the Republican field is divided and depressed. [Update: William Jacobson says the Republican party has become “the party of Bain”. Heaven help us.]

Trusting a politician is always a bad bargain. Voters don’t seem ready, though, to trust themselves and that’s the only solution.

More about Romney’s own class warfare here.

Updated: Dan Riehl says that the left will “hang Romney with the rust belt and win“.



Mitt Romney’s “Green Quarterback” Gina McCarthy Killing Business At Obama’s EPA

Monday, October 24th, 2011

Mitt Romney’s connections to the Obama administration extend beyond setting the framework for Obamacare. Turns out that one of the directors of the EPA choking the life out of business right now, was Mitt Romney’s “Green Quarterback.” National Journal has more:

EPA Administrator Lisa Jackson has taken most of the fire from Republicans as her agency rolls out a slew of controversial new climate and clean air rules. But McCarthy, the EPA assistant administrator of the Office of Air and Radiation, has taken on much of the heavy lifting of writing, structuring, and implementing the rules.

“Lisa’s the coach and Gina’s the quarterback” in the work of rolling out new clean air regulations, said Daniel Weiss, an energy and climate policy expert at the Center for American Progress, a liberal think tank with close ties to the Obama administration. “She’s running the plays, improvising on the line.”

McCarthy is meeting behind the scenes with coal CEOs, lawmakers, and state and federal officials to lay the groundwork for the new rules and make sure they’re put in place. She’s making sure the clean air legal language is written in a way that’s robust and airtight, in order to have the biggest impact on cutting pollution, with no loopholes. She’s testifying to Congress, making the case as to why the rules should be implemented, despite a fusillade of political attacks.

The environmentalists love her job-killing policies. Former Democrat Massachusetts liberal Governor Mitt Romney loved her, too. And yet, here’s what she’s doing right now, according to AmericasPower.org :

As the U.S. House of Representatives prepares to vote on the TRAIN Act, the American Coalition for Clean Coal Electricity, today, released a comprehensive analysis conducted by National Economic Research Associates (NERA) showing that several of EPA’s new and proposed regulations would lead to 183,000 lost jobs per year and significant increases in the price of electricity and natural gas.

“America’s coal-fueled electric industry has invested nearly $100 billion, so far, to achieve impressive reductions in air pollution. Now is the wrong time for EPA to blindly push ahead without even pausing long enough to understand how all of these rules could hurt American jobs and consumers,” said Steve Miller, president and CEO of ACCCE.

The analysis, done on behalf of ACCCE by NERA, relies on state-of-the-art modeling tools, as well as government data for almost all of its assumptions. NERA’s analysis projects that EPA’s Cross-State Air Pollution Rule and proposed Maximum Achievable Control Technology, coal combustion residuals, and cooling water intake requirements for power plants would, over the 2012-2020 period:

• Cost the power industry $21 billion per year;
• Cause an average loss of 183,000 jobs per year;
• Increase electricity costs by double digits in many regions of the U.S.;
• Cost consumers over $50 billion more for natural gas; and
• Reduce the disposable income of the average American family by $270 a year.

Does Lisa McCarthy care about jobs? Does the Obama administration? Does Mitt Romney? Evidently not:

Gina McCarthy, assistant administrator for EPA’s Office of Air and Radiation, said the Obama administration has faced “a backlog of rulemakings” that weren’t implemented on time or were overturned by the courts.

The agency recently finalized its Cross-State Air Pollution Rule to replace a George W. Bush-era rule that a federal court struck down in 2008. And the Utility MACT rule for reducing toxic emissions from power plants has been in the works for 20 years, she said.

Ever the bureaucrat, she’s going to press on with job-killing regulations.

Here’s the thing: We expect this kind of destructive behavior from Democrats. There isn’t a regulation that they’ve met that they don’t like (oh wait, I take that back, they don’t like regulations making abortion clinics comply with minimal doctor’s office standards).

It’s disgraceful, though, how seamlessly bureaucrats from Mitt Romney’s administration mesh into Barack Obama’s administration. Barack Obama. Think about that. The most liberal, big government Democrat since Jimmy Carter and Mitt Romney’s advisors work for him.



The Kindness Of Capitalism: How The Texas Economy Cares For The Community

Friday, October 14th, 2011

Liberals don’t like Texas. Whether they’re liberal Democrats or liberal Republicans, Texas inhabits a hard-scrabble mythology. Red dirt, rocks, heat. A tough landscape. A big sky. Openness. Hardness.

After living in California, New York and Michigan, I’m convinced environment shapes our view of the world more than we care to admit. The coasts, used to milder weather and milder expectations, don’t like the tough life inherent in living in oppressive heat, freezing cold and general discomfort.

Texas ain’t that pretty. It certainly isn’t lush. There’s space. Hard ground. Texas is big. Texas is not, however, soft. There are no rolling hills of heather. There are no natural lakes. And yet, the people come.

People have had to make Texas what they want it to be. They have wildly succeeded.

The government reflects the landscape: spare and open.

Want a life of government paid-for ease? Don’t move to Texas. Move to California, New York or Michigan–well, until they stop using debt to finance their lavish ways. They’re out of money.

So, on this backdrop, here’s a story about the kindness of capitalism in Texas.

Hurricane Katrina devastated New Orleans and thousands of exiles trekked to Texas. When the crisis hit, Governor Perry called mayors, business leaders, and probably most importantly, church leaders. [Aside: Governor Perry’s leadership through Hurricanes has been impressive and stellar. It’s difficult for outsiders to fathom the sheer magnitude of evacuating a city the size of Houston, for example. When the first evacuation showed logistical weakness, local and state leaders did a correction of errors and the next one was flawless.]

The church leaders sent the call out to the churches. The mega churches have huge charitable organizations. They coordinated the smaller churches and resources. They asked church and community members to help. And the local people responded. So enthusiastic was the response, that when I finally got to Target to buy supplies for folks (toothpaste, brushes, and all the rest) the shelves were empty. Nada. Picked clean.

Helping Hurricane Katrina victims was probably the single largest charitable outpouring in a concentrated time for that many people in American history.

This charity was, is, a result of capitalism. People had the extra resources to give because all their extra income wasn’t soaked up in taxes.

There is a palliative effect from this sort of action–both for those who are suffering and those who are relieving the suffering. The sufferers often got to meet who was helping them. They were prayed with and cared for and loved by individuals profoundly moved by their plight. The caregivers were blessed to see their actions making a direct difference in the lives of those in need. This was not some antiseptic government bureaucrat having a person check off a list in order to get a bar of soap and diapers. This was a friend helping a friend.

The government helped, too. But it took a while to get the government engine going. It always does. People got vouchers to find homes and apartments. The Houston public school was flooded with new, and woefully behind, students (an average of two years behind academically).

After six months of the transplanted New Orleans folks living off the kindness of strangers and the government dole, a Democratic Houston city councilwoman told the visitors, pointedly, “It’s time to get a job.”

At the time of her pronouncement, the unemployment rate was 4%. She rightly noted that no one had an excuse for not working. It was time to get to work and become a member of their new community or go home. And so, some people went back home. Some people stayed.

One woman who stayed is my favorite grocery checker at my local HEB. She got plunked in my community because her house was flooded and destroyed in New Orleans. She decided to make Texas home. When I asked her why, she said that she got a job, found a rental home in a neighborhood she really likes, the schools were great, her son was happy, New Orleans was violent and scary, and she was happy here. Mind you, she’s living happily and well in one of the best school districts in Texas as a single mother on a grocery checker’s wage.

Another woman, a nurse, moved here and stayed. She was thrilled with her pay (40% more than in New Orleans!) and the low cost of living (cheaper house!).

Capitalism, the Texas kind, is kind.

The free market here in Texas creates jobs. People with jobs have dignity.

But it’s not a living wage! liberal Democrats and Republicans cry. Really? In Texas, the cost of living is a fraction of what it costs in other states in the nation. I know this from personal experience having lived, and decently, on $2000 a month gross, with a baby. Mind you, that was without delux cable, smart phones, and home entertainment systems. It was eating Ramen noodles and sitting on the floor. Is that a horrible way to live? It’s a way a person starts. Where he ends is his choice.

But insurance! Texas has a high number of uninsured people. A good chunk of that is illegal immigration. I’m sorry, liberals, but I do not want to pay for someone else’s insurance. Still, Texas has programs for those who have difficulty. Lots of young Texans don’t want to pay for insurance. When we first started, we had no insurance. What’s the first thing we purchased when we had two nickels? Insurance. Many people choose not to make that expenditure. Fine. It’s a choice. With Obamacare, no one can be turned away from insurance. People make choices. Let them choose.

If they choose poorly, they end up at the free clinic where local doctors donate time. They get wonderful care. If they really get messed up, they end up an an emergency care center (Texas communities have lots of these) or the hospital. If they don’t have eye insurance (my family doesn’t), they go to Walmart (I do) and have a reasonable eye appointment and get low-cost glasses (which I have on my face right now). In a Texas hospital, you get damn good care. The problem with illegals overwhelming border hospitals is something that’s the Fed’s failing that’s become a state problem. Illegal immigration needs to stop. It’s sucking up resources.

Kindness according to big government types is some distant person making a decision for another person with other people’s money. It’s all very detached. It lacks personal warmth, connection and accountability.

Liberals want social services to not have any behavioral expectations. When a person is receiving help from a local charity or church, the organizations know the people. There’s an element of involvement and expectation. Isn’t that a good thing?

Wasn’t it a good thing that the city councilwoman loved the Hurricane Katrina folks enough to tell them to go get a job rather then subject themselves to the corrosive effects of living helplessly, waiting for the next check to come in? Isn’t it important for people to have to look those who are giving to them freely, from their own cupboards of food and necessities, in the eyes? Isn’t it important for those in need and those giving to be connected? That is the essence of community, is it not?

Many liberals find this sort of thing demeaning–both the charitable work and seeing those who need charity. It’s uncomfortable. They don’t think of the churches that built hospitals and homeless shelters and rehabilitation centers and pregnancy crisis centers. The intimacy scares them.

Capitalism, though, creates this intimacy. Both the consumer and supplier are connected. So too, are the needy and the charitable connected.

It is tougher. Just as a loving family will boot a kid out of the nest who needs to be on his own (or should), a loving society encourages its members to live as independently as possible. This is for the good of the individual and the good of the community.

From the outside, liberals see Texas and recoil. From the inside, Texans are quite content. Hard work, independence and autonomy are appreciated. And when community is needed, charity comes out of love and desire rather than force and coercion.

Is it a perfect system? No. But I’d point to the city of Detroit and to New Orleans as examples of entrenched corruption, excessive government services, and desperation among generations of inhabitants enslaved by an anything-but-loving liberal compassion.

I’ll take the kindness of capitalism any day. Given the choice between a job and independence and an unemployment check and dependency, the thousands of people moving to Texas every month agree: capitalism is kind. They’re counting on it.



Free Trade Agreements President Obama Ignores Killing Jobs

Tuesday, September 20th, 2011

Kevin Brady talks about the Free Trade Agreements President Obama is currently using as a footstool. Remember when he blabbed about getting them passed and blamed the Republicans? Uh, well, he has to send them to Congress and hasn’t.

Watch Kevin Brady (R-TX) share his frustration (happens to be my Congressman, as an aside):

Just more lies and more danger to the U.S. economy and jobs.

At the Chamberpost, Sean Hackbarth says:

“It doesn’t take a genius to know that failing to pass the pending FTAs puts American jobs at risk–an estimated 380,000 jobs according to a Chamber study.”

Indeed.



Light Squared Irony

Tuesday, September 20th, 2011

Light Squared advertises in The Hill on a page talking about Light Squared using tax payer money to stop an investigation into how Light Squared uses tax payer money.

Stimulus!



Generation Zero: Zero Job Growth, Exponential Employment Anxiety

Friday, September 2nd, 2011

Zero. This morning’s jobs report was nil, nothing, nada, zilch, zip. Zero.

The Stimulus threw a bandaid on a flesh wound: That is, the states and unions were given taxpayer money of future generations to prop up employment for workers friendly to the Democratic party.

The money has run out.

Talk of a second stimulus is talk of another state and union bailout, for the Federal government is incapable of creating private sector jobs. They’re only capable of getting out of the way of the private sector and the government has been very determined to be in the way of business.

So the question turns to the private sector. Why aren’t jobs being created? I know this is difficult for bureaucrats to comprehend as they don’t have to make a profit, but business owners are rational. There are no reasons to take risks when there are no rewards. So, business owners refuse to expand because expansion translates into increased overhead.

What is the #1 cost of overhead? Business owners are screaming the answer. Bureaucrats are looking up the answer in their basic business text book. Hint: It’s people related. That’s right, employees present the biggest employer cost. That rule is true of nearly every industry.

Employers look at salary, benefits, unemployment insurance, legal liabilities, and now, somewhere in the nebulous future, Obamacare, and employers have zero incentive to hire more people. They’ll sit and wait, keep production costs as low as possible. They’ll pay cash for capital outlays instead of using credit.

Or, they’ll close because of ridiculous regulations — like selling used children books (lead in ink!), like arcane rules for toy manufacturers, like punitive EPA regulations on a state that’s exceeding current regulations, like invading a guitar company instead of going after union malfeasance. All these rules and regulations chip away at businesses and make their lives more difficult. A zillion dollars to change food labeling takes away from the bottom line. A business needs money to hire and create goods.

This is not difficult.

What’s difficult is sucking it up through the inevitable. Jim Pethokoukis has an excellent piece in Commentary basically running through all the “what if” scenarios. The ultimate question, though, is did President Obama’s actions help? The answer is, no (I’m only excerpting a part of it. Please go read the whole thing.):

Did Obama make it worse? It is certainly the case that he only deepened a long-term trend that threatens American prosperity more than any other. The events of 2008–2009 exposed a truth about the U.S. economy from which we had shielded ourselves: economic growth has been slowing in a worrisome way throughout the decade. The nation’s GDP has averaged 3.3 percent annual growth for the past half century. But from 2001 to 2007—before the recession hit—it averaged only 2.6 percent. Going forward, growth might be even slower due to the aftermath of the financial crisis and the aging of the population. The Congressional Budget Office, for instance, pegs long-term growth at just 2 percent or so.

But that downshift isn’t fated. The McKinsey Global Institute thinks a higher retirement age and smarter immigration policy could make the labor force grow more quickly, while smarter tax and regulatory policy could boost worker productivity. Replacing the income tax with a consumption tax, for instance, would likely make the economy grow faster over the long run by increasing investment.

These are the sorts of ideas that are likely to be a central part of the political discussion going forward in a way they never have been. The two-party debacle that was the debt-ceiling debate and the disgusted national reaction to it suggest that the American public is likely to be more open to new remedies for the nation’s ills—remedies that have not been stained by their association with the failed policies of the past four years.

We’re stuck for now with an anemic and debt-laden economy that may muddle along for years. But it didn’t have to be this way. The one thing we can all say for certain is that we could have made it better.

No one wanted to take their medicine. Is there a stomach for it now? President Obama made many promises and they’ve all failed to deliver. His stimulus prolonged the misery and starved the private sector.

President Obama speaks often of the mess he “inherited.” Well. He’s made it worse. Much worse.

More here.



America At The Crossroads–No Event Horizon, Yet

Thursday, May 27th, 2010

Not so long ago, I was upset with the State of Things and it was Andrew Malcolm the LA Times Blogger, my podcasting co-host and former NYT editor, who disabused me of the notion. Recalling the race riots of the late 60s and the angst around the Vietnam war, he convinced me that we ain’t nowhere near bad, yet. I’m inclined to believe him.

Politics, these days, is what politics in our Democracy has been a long time: pointed, shrill, symbolic and silly. One only needs to read Mark Twain, to know that average Americans have long held their leadership in tolerant contempt. We all just think what we are experiencing is the worst ever. Why wouldn’t we? History, especially in this self-centered, immediate-gratification age begins with us, well, “me”, right?

So this morning, my longtime online friend Brendan Loy decried the political environment. I suggest that you go read his whole post. He pretty fairly encapsulates the bulk of our intense Twitter back and forth argument. He says,”America is at something closer to an event horizon than a cross-roads“. Rather apocalyptic for a professed non-religious person.

A couple things occur to me as I’ve contemplated his anxiety and anger. I’m going to put my thoughts in a numbered format in no particular order of importance–it will just be easier when people disagree with me.

1. America faces an identity crisis: Are we going to be Europe-lite and recede into irrelevance ala Britain. Are we going to value, as I say, a social safety net over freedom? The two are inversely proportional. America, as it stands, wants both. They want a less bossy government. They also want the government to take care of them permanently. Americans are much like teenagers: all the fun, none of the responsibility! But the bill is about to be paid. The population statistics cannot support this current double-bind. The economics of it are failing. So the overriding tension in America is an identity-crisis. It is a crisis within each citizen. It is not resolved.

2. America faces a cultural crisis. The young people and the left side of our country seem to dislike America. This is supported in polling. They don’t like the culture. They don’t like the word “capitalism”. They like the word “progressive” and “socialism”. They view America as essentially bad. Of course, they’ve been told that America is bad, so it’s no wonder they see that perspective. Unlike during World War II, the Iraq and Afghanistan wars, both resulting in the freeing of heretofore abused people, Hollywood has portrayed soldiers as merchants of death and destruction and evil instead of liberators of people. So the older WWII generation love America and see it as a force for good in the world. The young and left do not. In fact, they believe in a quasi-we-are-the-world, utopianism that elevates third world despots to the level of America. American exceptionalism? Oh, hell no! That would mean someone is better than another. But America is better. Objectively better. A culture cannot survive if it hates itself. And so there is tension. Remember, we now have a generation of kids who have received awards for participation. Every no-talent-ass-clown believes he’s as good as anyone else. Competition, capitalism, merit and excellence have been exchanged for participation, redistribution, self-esteem and trying. America didn’t win culturally by being communal but by freeing individual creativity. There is cultural tension against this very notion–against the notion of greatness itself.

3. America faces an institutional crisis. The church was undermined with the pedophile priest scandals. Science has been undermined with global warming, I mean cooling, I mean climate change. Academia has become a propaganda churning machine. The government writes more laws and our leaders seem more lawless. The press is not trusted as an unbiased forum for fact. The courts seem capricious. No one trusts any institutions anywhere.

4. America faces an economic crisis. In this, we are not alone. The world suffers with us. There is a lot less money going in than going out. We cannot print money forever. We simply can not do it. Eight million people (8 million!) people have lost jobs and they are not going to start working tomorrow. Not only that, but many Boomers face retirement and reality is dawning: money is running out. Not only that, but doctors willing to deal with Medicare/Medicaid, etc are running out. The jig is up all the way around. This is anxiety provoking.

5. America faces a moral crisis. I hesitate to write on this because it’s a can o’ worms. What I mean: Americans used to have a collective ethic that they shared–hard work, church, marriage, kids, home, etc. Life from one home to another at least appeared to be relatively the same. People married young. Had kids young. This had the result of forcing kids to grow up. Being a perpetual adolescent didn’t work so well when you had another mouth to feed. It also created social cohesion of sorts. Things have changed. People stay single longer, get married later. People may have kids or not. Now, there are positives and negatives to this, I don’t intend to oversimplify–only to note that social expectations, well, there aren’t any social expectations or no uniform expectations, anyway, which is my point. This causes anxiety, too. What is right and wrong? What is the best way to do something? This used to not be a question, right? My parents generation didn’t seemed to be plagued with this self-doubt. Fill-in-the-blank was just “the way it was”. Now, there is no “way.”

6. America faces an educational crisis. American education lacks an overarching historical context and cohesion. I believe this lack of understanding of history also contributes to our unease. What caused the Great Depression? How about the World Wars? How did Rome fall? What caused the French revolution? How could a civilized people support the rise of Hitler? We have a vague sense that things are bad, but how bad? And do we have any context to put our current crises into? Not really. Not only that, but Americans have been institutionalized from cradle to grave; systemized from day care to end of life care. Yes, it matters. Have you seen how children are forced to march through halls with their hands behind their backs? Of course, it’s for expedience sake, but with education so systematized, the deficits in learning are universal. Not only that, following the system is valued over critical thinking. Also, objective truth, established facts, are dismissed as “that’s your opinion”. In addition, fierce debate and being forced to defend a position seems to not be the way of education these days. The act of debating is itself stressful because children aren’t forced to defend their opinions. They are honored by sharing them. It makes for an intense interest in politesse but a lack of cogent thinking and overt hostility to having a thought challenged or corrected.

7. Technology amplifies every good and ill. Where the loud-mouthed jerk used to only annoy his family and neighbors at reunions and picnics, now he blogs and annoys everyone. Good news, fair news is also amplified. But the ignorant, arrogant, clueless, mouthy, amoral, mediocrity now has a platform. It can be annoying. Still, on the whole, the best rise to the top, and the arena of ideas is debated across the country–like Brendan and I did this morning. I don’t even know where he lives now. Tennessee? Colorado?

Anyway, this all reminds me of a scripture. Sorry agnostics reading this, but this scripture seems so apt. 2 Timothy 3:

1 But realize this, that in the last days difficult times will come. 2 For men will be lovers of self, lovers of money, boastful, arrogant, revilers, disobedient to parents, ungrateful, unholy, 3 unloving, irreconcilable, malicious gossips, without self-control, brutal, haters of good, 4 treacherous, reckless, conceited, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God, 5 holding to a form of godliness, although they have denied its power; Avoid such men as these. 6 For among them are those who enter into households and captivate weak women weighed down with sins, led on by various impulses, 7 always learning and never able to come to the knowledge of the truth. 8 Just as Jannes and Jambres opposed Moses, so these men also oppose the truth, men of depraved mind, rejected in regard to the faith. 9 But they will not make further progress; for their folly will be obvious to all, just as Jannes’s and Jambres’s folly was also.

There is no question that in these times we have more information, more knowledge, but less understanding and nearly no wisdom, it seems.

Discourse can be disrespectful and unfair. A general lack of kindness can be extended to our ideological adversaries. There seems to be no sense that “we’re all in this together.” Demonization passes for communication. Humor is really ridicule and meanness. Charity seems extended to no man.

Well, there is a crisis in America, more than one actually, and if it feels like war, it’s because it is. We are struggling for our very souls as a nation of free people. Who are we? What do we stand for? Who do we want to be? What do want for ourselves and for our children?

The first phase of a fight is ideological. And we’re in this phase. Ultimately, this is an individual struggle. People are having to reassess their notions of themselves. Do they believe they can take care of themselves? At what point does a person need, want, deserve a bailout?

I mean, these are painful questions. Shaming questions. America suffers generally because we’ve been indulgent individually. And our institutions have reflected the individual failure. We tolerated sin in our churches. We tolerated dishonesty in our halls of science. We tolerated propaganda in our schools of higher learning. We tolerated living beyond our means economically. We tolerated immaturity and selfishness in our relationships. We tolerated things because, like the Corinthians of Paul’s time, we thought it made us more righteous. We fell in love with our tolerance and we indulged our self-indulgence.

Each American stopped viewing himself as a responsible patriot and more like a co-dependent citizen. Everyone was drunk together.

Now, Americans are furious with bailouts here and there, a stagnant economy and the general State of Things. They are cutting back their lives. They’re making hard choices…well, most are. And still, it doesn’t look to be getting better. Meanwhile, the government, in contrast, spends like a meth-addled lottery winner. And, blaming the people while they’re at it.

So in this environment, people fight. Will a solution come, Brendan? I don’t know. Will America have to fully implode to reset the button? I doubt it will come to that. More likely, there will be internal struggle and strife as tough decisions are made out of necessity.



Another Way To Punish Doctors…And Patients

Wednesday, April 14th, 2010

More unintended consequences. For doctors who offer payment plans for patients who can’t afford to pay up front, a new regulation by the government. It’s designed to “fix” problems, don’t you know:

Our new ad below. Learn more at StopTheCFPA.com.

“Of course I allow my patients to pay in installments. They couldn’t afford orthodontics otherwise. Does that make me a financial company?”

Legislation that has passed the House and is pending in the Senate would create a new regulatory agency with the power to regulate a small business that allows its customers to pay in more than four installments or applies late fees –Senate Bill § 1027(a)(2)(B)(iii)– This is the wrong way to fix financial regulation and the wrong way to protect consumers. Let’s get it right by working together on a commonsense solution without creating a new $410 million big government bureaucracy with powers to regulate businesses that had nothing to do with the financial crisis.

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Telcos Knew What Was Coming From Obama A Year Ago: More Taxes For You Through Them

Sunday, March 28th, 2010

Endgadget reported this last year:

There’s no easy answer to erasing a staggering trillion-plus dollar deficit in a federal budget, but you’ve got to start somewhere — and Obama’s looking at the nation’s wireless carriers as cash cows just waiting to be milked. The President’s proposed budget for 2010 calls for an increase in spectrum license user fees from $50 million to $200 million, with further increases to $550 million over the course of the next decade, all of which would be on top of the billions carriers have already shelled out in spectrum auctions. A good way to bring in some extra cash? Yeah, probably, but considering that carriers will be more than happy to pass the increases on to consumers, let’s just be straight: it’s a tax.

And now, we read of worries about hyper-inflation. Now, why would that happen? When businesses are trapped, losing revenue, losing buyers, but having increased tax burdens, what is their choice? They have to increase prices and CUT STAFF.

Often, salaries are the biggest part of overhead. The Obama administration has no business experience. Hates businesses, especially, it seems, the small business person, but must increase government revenue to pay for all their social programs.

What happens then, though, is that people stop paying taxes. They either can’t afford it or feel that the taxes are harmful and a burden. And government revenues further decline.

About the hyper-inflation:

One can’t argue, however, with the fear this run of outsized state spending has inspired among global investors.

They worry that Western governments might not be able to someday erase those mounting deficits, which have caused U.S. federal debt to approach 100 per cent of GDP – its highest level since the years immediately following the end of World War II.

The jitters account for the weakened U.S. dollar and a slumping euro. It is hardly a surprise that Greece, fiscally mismanaged for a decade, would someday face default. What is alarming is that Athens’ belated acknowledgement of its fiscal crisis immediately triggered fears that a raft of other economies – including Spain, Portugal, Ireland and perhaps even Britain – would follow suit. How else to explain the 307 per cent jump in gold prices since 2000 to a current $1,140 per ounce, for a commodity used principally as a hedge against global ruin?

Well. I don’t know. For their to be hyper-inflation, there has to be buyers, right? The problem is that their aren’t buyers right now. And there probably shouldn’t be. Americans and Westerners around the world need to get their personal debt in hand and get reacquainted with things like quality and extending use. That won’t help the economy in the short term, but it will help the nation in the long term.

Maxed Out Mama says the recession isn’t over. That seems self-evident to me. Why the Democrats tout a recovering economy in the face of the increased job losses, decline in home sales, increase in gas prices and mild inflation baffles me.

Will electing the Republicans in November help? One commenter over there rightly notes that many people in the US are simply holding because Obama and the Democrats have created such an unstable environment. That’s certainly true. I still don’t think it’s enough. It might help.

Anyway, the Democrat solution is tax and spend. It’s not much of a solution. You, the consumer, will pay many ways: direct VAT tax, increased income tax at the state and federal level (Maxed Out Mama also notes that the states and federal government are fighting over the same money), and then carry-through taxes as businesses try to recoup earnings from their increased tax burden. Did I mention that the buyer is already stressed and out of work?

Bottom line: The economy is still a mess and Democrat policies are making it worse.

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