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Sunday, December 29, 2013

Fix the Republican Splits

The media’s “concerned trolls” are tsk, tsking about how the Tea Party and Establishment Republicans are hopelessly divided.  May I suggest that this will disappear when a good Republican leader choses his stands and rhetoric well.  This division between the establishment and platform folks is not new. Establishment guys in the Congress make their careers and legacies by trying to win bipartisan support and passing business-friendly measures. The grassroots conservatives don’t answer for their scorched-earth rhetoric as they seek a consistent philosophy.  This dichotomy was been going on long before Reagan.  Taft’s conservatives battled TR’s progressives.  But Reagan managed to be true to his conservatism while winning both the moderates and conservatives. So the old quip about What Would Reagan Do? is worth considering. 

            First I think he would point out that government needs to get off the backs of the people.  Obama only won by 50.7% in 2012, so he was less popular in re-election than Jimm-eh Carter was in that squeaker over Ford at 51.0%.  Yet he continues to pile on the big government.  Obamacare, stimulus spending of dollars we don’t have, IRS persecution of conservatives, NSA abuses, Benghazigate make Obama and his yes-men Dems unpopular. A good R leader would Repeal Obamacare and replace it with HR 3121—or some similar plan. Second, Reagan cut taxes.  The tax that both Tea Party and Establishment types agree upon is also the one that would turn around our dismal economy best—the highest corporate tax in the world which keeps $20 Trillion locked up abroad.  Call for a one-year cut of the 32% tax to say, ten, then compromise of say, 20% thereafter.  In that first year, you’d see repatriation of enormous cash that would kick-start the economy and create US jobs. Free up federal lands for drilling and authorize Keystone. Reform EPA.  Third, Reagan reassured his Reagan Democrats that he believed in 7 safety net programs.  Launch into comprehensive entitlement reform, warning the nation that to avoid this dismal topic is to become Argentina.  Fortunately if we can clip some corners and spread sacrifice around, we can still guarantee survival of programs.  If we don’t, we will see a day when there is no money to be spent on defense and federal highways or any other discretionary spending.  The whole budget will be gobbled up by spending on seniors. Not something I want to bequeath to my kids. Lest they call us the greediest generation. Lest the end of our lives be filled with a generational war for political power.

The good Republican leader needs to show that the Tea Party is right in concern for the Constitution; Establishment is right in wanting to get things to pass.  We are in this together.  When there is no leadership to say these obvious things, the negatives come out.  The tea partiers are doctrinaire and call anyone who doesn’t agree entirely with them as a RINO.  Reagan had his 80% rule of thumb.  “If you agree with someone 80% of the time, support him.” Establishment moderates like to spend government money on things that help businesses—sometimes termed corporate welfare.  But they need to be reminded that when government is in cahoots with some and regulates others out of existence, this is the basis of fascism and the Strategy of Obama and the Dems.

Even though the Tea Party-Establishment standoff has received big billing, it isn’t the only one going on in the Republican party.  Another is the ancient Social values vs. Fiscal values debate.  The country club R’s of Reagan’s era hated the evangelicals and wanted no social issues.  Trouble with that strategy is that half the Republican party base is strongly committed to social issues.  Take away the issues and you have no base.  Good leader that he was, RR put down the gauntlet on abortion rather than school prayer or Hollywood movie ratings.  In today’s world, the leader needs to broaden beyond gay marriage and abortion.  These are just two aspects of the Democrat’s War on Faith.  Government censoring military chaplains is a Violation of the First Amendment.  Government telling Lutherans what kind of ministers they can hire is a violation of the First. Demanding Catholics and faith-based businesses supply abortifacients, against their beliefs is War on Faith. Abortion is fast becoming a state issue. Gay Marriage was a state issue but is losing opposition due to the media’s War on Faith.  Turn the tables on Obama and his codependent-enabler media and give them some backlash over their War on Faith.

Social issues R’s vs. Fiscal issues R’s often play tug of war with a large center group who are pro-business.  In Reagan’s world he united the two extremes by playing to the Main Street Republicans in the middle and finding agreement with those on the ends.  “If we don’t fix our fiscal problems we ruin the economy.  If we don’t fix our social problems we have a worthless labor force.”  If you are in business, you recognize the utter necessity and interplay of both.

Finally there are independents and minorities whom the concerned media trolls say the R’s don’t get.  But work a campaign, you’ll learn about the I’s.  They vote only half as often as partisans. The R-base is far more important to turn out. Majority of I’s are either hidden partisans, or have non-mainstream views and odd-ball social issues.  The way to reach this some of this block is with fiscal responsibility.  And realize that you don’t resonate with many of them.  The minorities are each different.  But concerning the Hispanics, a bold Republican leader might suggest a compromise that would satisfy the Hispanics who do vote.  The best one I have heard is Permanent Residency Status with no citizenship allowed.  This means Hispanic families don’t get split, may remain and work and prosper, and kids born here are citizens (making grandma and grandpa loyal). The Dems will howl, wanting a path to citizenship because they crave the voters, but the issue is defused among Hispanics at that point.  R’s get credit for fixing it.  Dems lose their “racism” argument.

The real minority that R’s presently lose is the single women.  In the VA governors race Cuccinelli lost single women by 38%.  The reason is that the D’s paint R’s as heartless and cruel.  R’s need to turn the tables on the D’s by declaring their Reaganesque support of the safety nets.  But the better thing is to have a good job and vibrant economy.  This is the real strength of Republicans—they understand what made America great and exceptional.  A Republican Presidental candidate, with skill in saying all of this as a coherent and understandable plan, would beat Hillarious by 60-40.

Wednesday, December 25, 2013

Christmas Mystery

Christmas, I think, never loses it’s magic.  The delight of our school’s kids at the decorations we put up.  The holiday music.  The parties and goodies.  The grandchildren opening gifts. The first snow of the season with ice to coat al the trees.  Yet the magic of our celebration cannot compare to the mystery of the Almighty. 

            Not enough to promise a M’shiah, God come to earth to change the order of things, He sprang it upon us in the most absurd way that nobody of that era recognizes the significance.  Yet this plan, according to Isaiah 43 is the Glory God holds dearest, considers His most majestic accomplishment.  It is recorded in only two gospels but Matthew is so true to Judaism and Luke so accurate, they are now considered beyond much doubt, stunningly telling different sides of the same story. History; His Story.  And unlike all the pastoral scenes and white Christmases we try to embellish it with, the Christmas story is one of chaos, upheaval and scandal. Luke starts with the story of John the Baptist being foretold and born.  His mother Elizabeth is a cousin to Mary, whose entry comes next.  Mary, mother of Jesus also has a sister, Salome, mentioned at the foot of the cross later and wife of Zebedee who owns a fishing business.  Mary, according to the early church father Polycarp, was 16 and engaged to Joseph, an impoverished tecton (builder, carpenter) who is 40.  Arranged marriages were the rule and we think Joe probably had to save for years to afford a dowry.  So why is Mary engaged to such a poor guy while Elizabeth marries a rich priest and Salome a successful fisherman?  Was she ugly?  Shy? Behavior problems?  Or was Joe just closely acquainted with the family?  Why would  God chose them?  Perhaps it had something to do with their acceptance of His message.  We read how Mary was filled with fear and Joe with misgivings, but they went through with it.  Mary knows that to be pregnant out of wedlock is punishable by stoning.  Joe could have had it done, or abandoned the girl.  But Mary, though troubled, runs to Elizabeth and Zecharias, and praises God for his goodness.  Joe listens to the angel in his dream, takes her for a wife, and trusts God for the outcome.  If one of us had been in such circumstances would God trust us for His hopes and dreams? The real story is so wild we don’t know whether to call it tragedy or comedy or soap opera.

            For years skeptics and scholars have thought that the reason Christians celebrate December 25 is because they were trying to pre-empt pagans in the 4th century who celebrated Feast of the Unconquered Sun and Saturnalia at about that time.  Trouble is, North African Christians were celebrating Christmas much earlier, just prior to 200 AD, on December 25.  It has now been discovered that Tertullian of Carthage wrote about how this date was chosen. It was held that Jesus entered the earth the same day of the year that he died.  And his death in AD30 was on the 14th of Nisan, or March 25.  So then add nine months and he should have been born Dec. 25 or thereabouts.  When Zecharias went to the temple he belonged to the priestly division of Abijah which served, according to Jewish records, in October.  So then Elizabeth was six months pregnant in March, the month of Mary’s conception. It was also early church tradition that Jesus was born on a Wednesday which would have been Dec. 25, 6 BC. So much for our smart-guy, pagan pre-emption theories.

            Whatever the real date, it was one lowly and humiliating birth. A census was called to enroll everyone to be taxed.  Romans taxed heavily, about 25% of earnings.  In many countries this was peacefully accepted since it brought Roman civilization and law and order.  Not in Palestine where the Jewish religious authorities demanded another 23 %.  Many people could not pay, and so the puppet ruler Herod had his tax agents seize their land. By the time he died in 4 BC, he owned half the land in Palestine.  This is likely the reason Joseph was from Bethlehem in Judea but was working as a ditch-digger and carpenter in Nazareth, Galilee.  It is about 95 miles between the towns.  Poor guys don’t have donkeys.  Mary likely walked the distance.  She wasn’t required to show up at the census, but Joe took her along anyway.  Maybe it was to get her away from the scandal and keep her close.  Walk that far and labor often comes.  The couple evidently had no relatives in Bethlehem or else they were scandalized and turned them away.  Inns were tough places where caravans stopped.  Sleep there and you guard your possessions.  No room there either.  And so the baby came and was to be found in a manger, Luke tells us.  Where?  Probably the couple found refuge under the rock outcrops which shepherds used as crude barns.  These were dug out into shallow caves to shelter the sheep at night when the shepherds were grazing crop stubble “in the fields”, during the winter rainy season, as it says in Luke 2.  Shepherds slept on a raised platform at one end of the pens full of manure and sheep.  They were mostly young boys, aged 12 to 14.  Next to the platform they put mangers full of hay to supplement the livestock.  Here is where they laid the new baby.  And so the other shepherds found them, just as angels informed. For Mary to give birth in a stinking cave barn, surrounded by animals and young teenagers, the One who made the heavens to be first held by peasants fleeing scandal, it is so humiliating it brings tears to the eyes. Surely the story is divine. No human would make this up. Any editor would have whitewashed the tale.  Proof? Look at our Christmas celebration today.  We’ve surrounded it with holly and snow, Christmas cookies and fireplaces, Santa and gifts. But God had a far greater mystery in store.      

            When an angel in another dream told Joseph to take the child and flee, he didn’t hesitate.  He had no questions if the dream was due to something he ate or a bad night’s sleep in the barnyard.  Would you walk 200 miles to Egypt based on something you thought you saw in a dream? The shepherds couldn’t shut up about the birth. So why didn’t the Romans informants listen? Bethlehem was just 3 miles from the Herodian, Herod the Great’s sumptuous summer palace, surrounded by a garrison camp of 6000 Roman soldiers. But Herod was in Jerusalem in his winter palace when the astrologers from the east arrived.  Best scholarly thinking at this point is that the astrologers saw a sign in the constellation Aries, the symbol of Israel and wanted to see the new king this foretold.  Only then, Herod got interested, was betrayed and got mad and killed all the babies in tiny Bethlehem, population 200.

            What do we learn?  God, amazingly, is humble instead of mighty like a god is supposed to be.  He can be small and  approachable instead of fearful.  He is suffering, born lowly, takes on the evil of every person who lived or ever will in order to save us.  God has guts.  He laid his power aside to be born as a human, limits Himself and risks His very Essence under temptation.  If Jesus had sinned just once, well then He, God, would have ceased to be God.  God is genius to have cooked up a plan like this.  300 predictions in the Old Testament and almost no one could figure it out. But the one thing that means most to me is that God comes after me.  For this story shows that He will stop at nothing to find a lost child of mankind.  He will come wherever your messed up life is.  It hints at his surprise ending in dying on a cross and then imparting His Spirit within a soul both to believe and to follow.  Like Joe and Mary we don’t claim to understand this stuff.  It’s too incredible.  Mystery, like I was saying.

Sunday, December 22, 2013

Income Inequality

So did you notice how fast all of Barack’s talk about income inequality flew by without a single solution offered?   All you have to do to understand this is do the math.  When we tax the rich heavily and don’t tax the poor whatsoever, it sets up an interesting situation.  Our tax revenue system comes to depend almost entirely on those few individuals at the top.  The only way to increase revenue is to make the rich richer and the poor poorer.  Hence it would be very counterproductive for the More-Tax Democrats to reduce income inequality.  So they just give it lip service.

            Let’s do some math.  The state of CA has learned what happens when you tax the bejabbers out of the rich but hardly tax anyone else.  In 2007 the state had 36 million residents but just 7000 households who made more than $5 million taxable income paid 20% of the state’s tax take--$11billion.  The following year came a recession and stock market crash and there were only 4700 $5M households.  The revenue from this group fell to $7 billion. This represented over half the revenue lost by the state that year.  Moreover, the entire net loss of revenue in the state was due to tax loss of the upper 10% of income earners.  The result of a highly progressive income tax is that the state becomes ever more reliant on the increasing prosperity of the richest of the rich. “Listen to me, Spielburg,Buffett and Gates! Pay your fair share! Pssst! We will quietly make you prosperous to do it. Please don’t move away!”

            The same thing happened to George W. Bush.  In the late 90’s the Republican Congress figured out that they could win lots of don’t-tax-me! votes by reducing taxes on the middle class and boosting taxes on the high income earners.  By the turn of the century, the federal government was running a surplus and jubilant speculation was that we could pay off the national debt in about 10 years.  Wrong.  The surplus was from the big revenue paid by the highest incomes during the dot-com boom of the stock market which ran out just as Bush was taking office and really hit the skids when the economy went into recession in 2001.  Ever after, Bush and the Republican Congress has been blamed for deficit spending.  But in fact, the revenue side of the ledger drastically went down during a decade when the stock market went sideways.  Again in 2007, recession hit just as the Pelosi revolution took over, started spending like a drunken sailor, and deficits have been staggeringly out of bounds.  From 2007 to 2013 national debt has gone from $7 trillion to 17 trillion.

            In prior years, a recession and market crash hasn’t hurt federal revenue so badly because common folks paid more taxes.  But when your tax policy depends on the rich, you’d better make them richer or suffer the consequences.  Fascists understood this inherently.  And thus, fascist governments take control over the biggest industries but promise a symbiosis with government.  Too big to fail. Too important to government and we'll make you a public utility of sorts. The banks, finance, transportation and health industries (and the elites) get in cahoots with the state and get on the gravy train.  Small businesses die on the vine.  National socialism is brought about by dominance of large state-controlled corporations. Obama seems to understand the principles of fascism, but can’t quite bring himself to do the hard work to make it happen.  Don’t worry, we have a dictator coming in our future that will be more efficient.

            The OECD studied the 24 most-developed countries and found that USA has the most progressive tax system.  While Scandinavians have higher taxes, they tax booze and coffee and have a fee for everything to raise about half their money.  Income taxes are less progressive than America’s.  But if Obama wants more federal revenue, he must increase, not decrease, income inequality.  The income inequality rhetoric is just a straw dog.  Meanwhile he plays golf with all the big shots. 

Saturday, December 21, 2013

Shoulda Shorted A&E

I am regretting one of the greatest missed opportunities for a killing on Wall Street since I hesitated to invest in Chrysler, selling at 3 in 1980, sent Lee Iacocca to Congress to plead for government aid.  A year later they were selling at 65.  Oh, if only I had shorted A&E last week!  I tried.  But I kept looking for “Asses and Elitists” in my broker’s list.  How was I to know it stood for Arts and Entertainment?

            Now it turns out that Drudge Report has a link to Mailonline, an entertainment website that religiously follows Miley Cyrus and Paris Hilton as long as they stay naked and don’t pick up a Bible in jail.  Mailonline says that A&E was doing a set-up against Phil Robertson.  They arranged the interview with GQ, had a representative there listening, made no attempt to talk to Phil or coach him, and then ex post facto ran headlines condemning his speech along with a GLAAD spokesman. (Sorry, didn’t mean to imply that A&E used  that Latin term meaning “after the fact”.  Nobody in Hollywood or NY uses Latin terms and they are still ticked that Mel Gibson used it in his Passion movie. They wanted hip hop slang.) And that A&E did this because the network originally had a concept of the Duck Dynasty show as a comedy where you and I would laugh at a bunch of backwards rednecks.  But, like All In The Family years ago when the viewers began to empathize with Archie rather than hate him, viewers began to laugh With the Robertsons, not At them.  This made the New York TV types very nervous and they decided to do a hatchet job on Phil to bring him into line.  But as everyone knows by now, Phil was once an old rocker who got messed up on drugs and everything else, gave his life to Jesus Christ, and now gives numerous Christian convocations and testimonies.  And the family is tight.  They aren’t going to give in to PC bullying.  Probably the show goes off the air after this next season on A&E, because A&E would lose liberal viewers who like to watch crime scene horrors, mental patients, and people bidding on abandoned storage rentals which have been secretly seeded with a few valuables—“reality TV”, as NY TV types say. Do you see why I never dreamed “A&E” was about Arts and Entertainment?

            A&E never dreamed the Duck Guy would get so much support.  Now they are in a fix for if they relent on his dismissal, they look weak to the left.  If they don’t, it’s all over for Duck Dynasty on their channel. Family will probably refuse to renew.  Now there is a contractual period, probably about a year thereafter, where the Robertsons are forbidden to take their show and go to another channel.  But this too shall pass since the family is now estimated to be worth $400 million through duck call manufacturing and a retail contract with Walmart.  Did I mention that Walmarts all over America have sold out of Duck Dynasty products this week?  Wonder why.  Perhaps you can still get a few at Bass Pro Shops.  It is doubtful that Walmart will ditch the Ducks the way they did Paula Dean. Plus the Robertsons have another show on the Outdoor Channel called Buck Commander.

            At any rate, Duck Dynasty is the most popular show on cable television, with 9 million viewers per week.  Compare this to a single episode of Bill O’Reilly at 2.3 million or that idiot thing on History channel about a pawn shop which has 3 million.  (Can anyone explain to me what pawn shops have to do with history?  I mean other than the fact that they still don’t know who has the original print of the Constitution because Continental Congress got so poor during the Revolution that they had to collateralize it and some impatient pawn vulture sold it as outhouse paper.) So then shorting A&E is probably the financial move of the year.

            GLAAD is also not so glad they self-report.  It turns out they feel victimized by the backlash.  Whodda guessed this! They launched full bore into how they were discriminated against by Robertson’s comments.  But if a thoughtful person considers what has happened, it seems that no gay person suffered.  Phil Robertson did.  So here’s the inside scoop from a gay person I watched on MSNBC last year.  He said that practically the entire reason for gay activism is that many gays ultimately feel bad about their life and want it accepted by churches.  But the Bible has some things to say about homosexuality not being according to God’s preference, i.e., it is sin. (God labels a lot of our activities such. Correct response is to be humble and beg forgiveness.)  And so what gay people want is for the rest of the world to stop telling them they aren’t doing things right.  “Stop making us feel guilty.” Okay, but the One who wrote the book wants to talk to you.

Did I mention that the guy who conceived Duck Dynasty for A&E was a former porn movie star?

Friday, December 13, 2013

What's White?

Much as I like to assert that all of mankind is some shade of brown, I have to shake my head at all the critics of Megyn Kelly.  She thought she was stating the obvious and you can’t do that among political pundits.  Gaffe is when a politician accidentally tells the truth once in awhile. 

            And so it turns out that Santa Claus isn’t white.  Well, yeah, I figured him to be more of a Desert Sand Blush or perhaps Antique White.   The critics say he is a legend so they can make  him any color they want.  Sure.   Jimmy Hendrix Purple Haze Santa if you will. Or Burnt Umber.  Yeah, but the tradition comes from Dutch German and Scandinavian and both groups argue who had him first.  Which I am sure is where Kelly got her interpretation.  Or maybe the Coca-Cola pictures.  If you want to get technical, St. Nicolas was Greek from Myra, Asia Minor, had black hair and was skinny, wiry, and prone to strong emotions.  Perhaps that would make him Country Olive Tan or whatever. 

            Jesus, the more-intellectual-than-thou critics like Bill Maher insist is “not pearly white”.  I agree.  Since pearl luster is caused by very small amorphous shards of crystal in the pearls, imitated by subvisible metallic flakes in pearl auto finish, Jesus surely wasn’t anything like a pearl. Was he white? Well, no one knows.  A friend of mine who is of African ancestry thinks Jesus was of similar race, citing Is. 53, “There was no form or comeliness in him.”  History channel thinks he absolutely had to be curly-haired, Jewish/Anatolian featured, and short of stature.  Well, that’s making him an average first century Jew.  Maybe.  On the other hand, his ancestor, King David was famed for his red hair, considered odd and ugly by Semitic standards.
            It would have been safe to say that both Jesus and St. Nick came from Caucasian stock.  Which passes in the common usage as “white”.   But given the ambiguity of both, you can make them whatever you want.  Surely we can be tolerant of another’s such views.

Rich and Poor

Obama is having a terrible time with healthcare.  On Jan. 1 the media is about to notice that 5.96 million people got their insurance cancelled and less than 1 million will have signed up for insurance on the exchanges or on the open market.  In other words, there are 5 million fewer people with insurance than when Obamacare started.  That’s just the opposite of what was supposed to happen. We are going backwards.

            And so the administration pivots to Rich vs. Poor as a diversionary issue.  I keep a lot of statistics in my notebook and thought you might be interested in a few.  Here’s a table of income groups and what they pay in federal income taxes.

Group              Make                %of all taxes paid        tax as % of income    

Bottom 20%    <$15K             0.3%                            1%

Median quintile$31-44K           9.4%                            11.1%

Upper 20%      >77K               67.9%                          23.2%

(Please note: These are taxable incomes, page 2 of 1040, not Adjust Gross Income. That is, deductibles and exemptions have been taken out)

Upper 50%      >34K               96.93%                        16.1%

Upper 25%      >62K               86.0%                          18.2%

Upper 10%      >103K             70.3%                          21.3%

Upper 5%        >145K             59.7%                          23.6%

Upper 1%        >371K             38.9%                          28.9%


We should also say that these are IRS compilations which do not account for net taking from the system due to Earned Income Credit.  That would make the bottom 20% pay a negative % of all taxes because they are net takers. 

            A few observations.  As you go up the income ladder, an increasing amount of total income is consumed by income taxes.  Someone might say the rich get a lot deductions, loopholes, and write-offs.  Well, it evidently doesn’t do them a lot of good. They pay more of their income in taxes. When Mitt Romney said 47% of people pay no income taxes, he was referring to “net taxes” with EITC and Social Security included. What I find sad is that Pew did a poll on a group approximating that 47% and 70% of them say the rich aren’t paying their fair share. (Hmm.  Conversely, one might conclude that 70% of the 47% are Assholes.) This certainly does give credence to class warfare. 

            What this doesn’t show is how transient the income groups are.  20% of adults will have one year they make the upper 1% of income during their lifetimes.  Within 10 years only 46% of people will remain in the lower quintile.  Think of that. In ten short years, 54% of poor folks get considerably richer.   That’s why pollsters are noticing that the lower middle income groups are no longer predominantly Democrats. “Poor” is just a temporary title you have.  A sizable number of aspiring lower middle income folks always wanted a job, not a government hand-out. 

            So who are the rich?  1/3 of the upper quintile are small businessmen who have <50 employees.="" span="" style="mso-spacerun: yes;">  They also create 70% of the new jobs.  But if you have ever run a small business, you know just how fragile your finances are.  Hence if this group gets a big bill for Obamacare insurance, increased government regulations, tight bank credit, higher taxes,etc. this group of extremely savvy business planners can see their profits evaporate fast and economic recovery will stall like a ’58 Edsel with gas-line freeze-up.  That’s exactly what has happened the last 5 years.  Small business owners vote over 90% conservative.  So in some ways the vendetta which Dems have for business in general, and the animosity for “the rich” is natural enough—businessmen are not their voting block.  Another 1/3 of the upper 20% are well-paid professionals.  Salesmen who get large commissions are a big part of this.  And every year there are certain groups like farmers or geologists or auctioneers who had a significantly good year and are paying taxes on it.  Next year, they may be poor.  Finally, there are a lot of upper GS grade federal employees who make a six-figure income.   What I think is interesting about this analysis of the upper quintile is who they are not. They aren’t robber barons, Wall Street decadents, or landed gentry.  I saw some study that showed more professional athletes and entertainers than professional investors in the upper 20%.   All told, the upper quintile votes about evenly R vs. D.

            Pope Francis has a special mission to help the poor.  Rerum Novarum, a papal decree by Leo in 1891 exhorted Catholics to support unions, government social justice, and redistributionism.  While this Protestant takes very seriously his personal obligation to help the poor, I think that the evidence for government (rather than privately) accomplishing this is not just dismal, it is counterproductive.   Food stamp usage has increased from 31 to 48 million since a redistributionist federal government took over in 2009.  Medicaid enrollment has doubled.  Social Security disability has soared from 9 to 14 million.  It looks to me like we are going backwards, not forward on poverty. Somebody tell the Pope to stop hijacking government to do what Jesus told us to do ourselves!

            I ran a study on what state and federal assistance looks like for our local peronistas, since some of them tend to rent our poorer properties.  What can they afford? If you have nothing, TANF, WIC, Food stamps, Section 8, and Medicaid provides a typical Okie with about $20K of assistance annually.  As you start earning something, the TANF disappears but EITC gives you money.  At about $18,000, this runs out and at about $23K you lose food stamps and Section 8.  But basically from income zero to $23,000 income, you can count on a life of about $20,000 guaranteed through government assistance to make up whatever you don’t.  Why then work—if you don’t think you can ever make more than 23K? I’m actually quite proud of some of these folks who still would rather have a job and hold their heads high.  

            The politics then is that Obama will try to beat the drum of income inequality.  R’s should counter with economic non-growth and lack of jobs.  If you want Obamacare, vote Democrat.  If you want a job vote Republican.

Tuesday, December 10, 2013

Government Motors

Doggone it, I wanted to go see what was available on that new car lot everyone has been talking about.  But when I got out there you had to go through a gatehouse and sign forms.  On the form were all sorts of personal information, SS number and phone number and last year's income.  Then you handed it over to Miss Blue, a clerk so myopic she kept running into file cabinets and poles.  She just threw my form onto a table where there were hundreds of others, all people who had given their vital ID to get in.  And it was carelessly thrown in a pile that any passerby could read.  Nonetheless, as soon as I had complied she opened the back guard gate door and I was allowed to see the new cars. 

The Head Salesman was an impressive guy.  Good looking and articulate, he had that intellectual pause in his voice where his sentences are only partially stated and then comes a profound pause, as if he has really been thinking during his speech about the magnitude of his thoughts, then he rapidly spits out the rest of what he is saying.  “We can save you [pause] $2500 off anything you are paying a year now on a car.” Wow! That sounded good! “Since our base model doesn’t include an engine, that is why it is priced so ultra-low. We’ll transplant the engine with an overhaul free from your present car.”  I told him I had never heard of something like this. “Well, people often get rid of cars because they just wear a lot of miscellaneous things out.  But if there is nothing wrong mechanically, if you like your present engine, you can keep it. Period.”  Gosh, I didn’t know.  I had 180,000 miles on the old jalopy. “There are also a few quirky and unusual small details to our contract," he continued.  "You agree to pay a small 15% tax on all optional devices installed.  And we have a preferred list of mechanics that service our cars.”  Still sounded good to me. 

Then he showed me prices and I was stunned.  “These cars are over double what I had expected to pay! Even the most affordable one is $4500 in payments higher annually.”

“Not really.  You see you get a big rebate based on your need in the form of a tax credit.”

“When is that?”

“A year and a half after you buy.”

“But meantime I have to come up with the money to buy it?”

Suddenly there appeared a big electromagnetic crane over my old car sitting outside the gate.  It sucked my old flivver up to the magnet, rotated dropped it into a crusher and I watched in horror as my vehicle was destroyed. “That’s my car!” 

“Oh, just a necessary cancellation.  It was a substandard car.  Not nearly as good as the ones on our lot.”

“Yeah but I loved my old wheels! And you said I could keep my engine!”

“It was faulty and no good.  Besides you can’t keep your present mechanic anymore unless you pay a much, much higher price.”

This was unreal to me.  I got mad and said I was going to leave this car lot and sue his company.

“Then you have to pay a fine to not participate in our vehicles.”

“Which is?”

“Two and a half percent of your income.  Oh, and if you ever sell your house, you owe us 3.8% of the sale.”

“What?  What kind of car dealership is this?”

“Government Motors,” he replied. “Hey, I’m missing my golf game because of you,” he said consulting his watch.

And just at that point, I woke up.  I guess it was all a bad dream I had over the GM takeover.  Wow, that was one wacky dream!  Glad nothing like this would ever happen in real life!

Mandela and Margaret

I have some thoughts about great leaders like Mandela.  Those movement leaders who seem to transcend the veniality of people and often inspire hope are forever celebrated by their countrymen. Such is surely the case of Mandela who, though imprisoned 27 years, rose to power and then constantly warned against destroying his country by letting the African tribes take out revenge on the Afrikanners who had ruled so long. (Though some would quibble with his heroism saying he was a terrorist and that is why he was in prison) A similar saga was our own Abe Lincoln who wanted the union preserved and tried to lay the groundwork for the re-entry of southern states soon after the war was over—a forgiving gesture.  Others like Churchill and Peter the Great had their good values as well.  Did they succeed?  Was the nation not only healed but enhanced?  Did the departed leader bring some magic to the kingdom? The answer depends on which side of freedom they align.

Consider South Africa today.  It is minerally and climatically blessed and like USA, has location that is both remote enough to avoid Eurasian Wars yet strategic enough to be vital.  It was governed harshly but market-wise under the Afrikans, so Mandela had the luxury of a good start and a country that had half the gross domestic product of all of Africa.  So what is happening today?

Here’s what the British magazine,The Economist, gives as the prognosis for growth prospects and political prospects for the coming year.  “The President, Jacob Zuma, is on course for re-election in the 2014 presidential contest but will struggle to unify pragmatists in the centre and interventionists on the left of his African National Congress-led government.  An authoritarian drift will be watched with care from outside the country and meager living standards will bring some protests.  An expanding black middle class will help growth.”  (I know, British spelling! Note that the ANC was Mandela’s former Marxist leaning party which operates so much like Chinese communists that the two countries have now allied closely) The GDP per capita is $7140. (yeah, an interesting way to measure income) where it is $54,000 in USA. Well, who does this compare to? Colombia = $8070 and Iraq is at $7410.

In other words, Union S. Africa has gone backwards since Mandela.

You say, okay, wise guy, who has done better? Well, Estonia, the poorest of the Baltic States emerged from Russia’s heavy hand with a quiet determination to become very capitalist, free market, and associated with their Finnish brethren again.  $18,260 per capita, better than Latvia, Lithuania or Poland and four times greater than Ukraine, six times that of Belarus.  Countries that go free, go up.

Let me give a historical example in a fish story.  Queen Margaret of Denmark/Norway/Sweden was acclaimed queen by all three countries in the late 1300’s, and she brought rule by law, solid Christian ethic and greatly increased trade in her noble reign.  That’s good enough to celebrate her reign.  But there’s more.  Europe had an dilemma with food shortage in her times.  About 1000AD, a lot of plentiful fish were harvested from the big rivers of the continent and supplied peasants and nobles alike with meat.  There were fewer forests which the nobles now claimed for their own exclusive use.  Of course, they lorded it over the peasants and hoarded the wild boar. But hunts were also mock war games for archers and knights and all their auxillary workers and supporters. Then by the late 1200’s heavy farming and erosion silted most rivers and so did toxins from mines all over the continent.  Freshwater fish died out in large numbers, especially salmon and sturgeon, just at the time of the Black Death. Famines broke out.  But the Scandinavians knew what to do.  They went to sea and caught herring, whiting, cod, and dried the fish for shipment.  Margaret’s genius was to disallow the nobles to charge tariffs or separation taxes on the fish.  That is, she denied government regulation.  100 years after her death, half of Europe was eating Scandinavian dried and salted fish.  By 1600 Sweden became the strongest nation in Europe.  Small population but big entrepreneurs. Don’t tell me capitalism doesn’t work.

Thursday, December 5, 2013

Obamacare kills an industry

The medical device tax puts a tax on Gross Profits of 15%.  Think about that.  That’s not net profit, but rather the markup.  This is guaranteed to kill just about any product that doesn’t make at least 15%, which few device projects do.  So what is happening?  Abbott Labs spun off their device manufacturing from their pharma and those jobs are now going overseas to Switzerland.  Just about every other company is doing something like this.  When it is over, Obamacare will have driven an entire industry out of the country along with the jobs. Thank the Dems who hate business.

So have you heard this story on TV?  I haven’t.  Seems the broadcasting folks all have degrees in political science and none are former business owners.  Hence it remains for the Republicans to explain in simple language what is happening in so many areas.  The “He Said, She Said” journalists don’t understand or tell it. It is imperative that we get the story out.   

Tuesday, December 3, 2013

Just for profit

Clarence Page begins his opinion with, “Private businesses are trying to block Obamacare on religious grounds? What do companies worship besides, perhaps, the almighty dollar?”

Stop right there and think with me.  I have started 5 businesses and only one earned a living wage.  Would anybody start a business, committing their heart and soul, life, fortune and sacred honor, only with purpose of making money?  Would you endure those lonely night worries and earnest prayers about staying out of bankruptcy just for the wise-ass notion of making a buck?  Would you go through those hundred hour weeks, the time neglecting your family, to do something you are not passionate about?  I wouldn’t.

And frankly, I don’t know another person who has started a business who didn’t have some kind of dream about serving people.  You spend hours pondering whether to take the plunge, thinking about how you might fill some niche your community needs or doing something the public doesn’t even know it needs yet.  In the end, you realize that the profiting is just a measurement for keeping score –will you be allowed to fulfill your dream or go down in flames?  Indeed, Judeo-Christian ethic holds that God seeks people out with His own dreams and calls them to an enterprise and purpose for their lives.

If you survey other businessmen and women, they tell you the same thing I have said.  If you survey folks who never started a company, they will tell you they once had a dream to do something—or wished they had had a better one.  Dreams are what make business click.  I provide a product or service that you are willing to pay me for.  You are delighted with the product/service.  I am delighted that you caught a piece of my dream, and by the way, I can afford to live off the money and continue.

Yet, to my amazement, I find a lot of crass and cynical people seem to agree with Clarence.  To me this shows the utter bankruptcy of the left’s ideals on life.  They don’t dream much nor have much appreciation for the dreams of others.  They just want to control them. To simply slog through life on the public dole is just fine.  Often they psychologically project their meager dream, to have more money and power, on all the rest of us who strive diligently and passionately to make dreams come true. Thus they claim we worship the almighty dollar instead of the Almighty who inspires our dreams.

Next time you hear someone say that business is only about profit, ask them if they have ever started a business.

Monday, December 2, 2013

the end of racism

I see the RNC had to retract a tweet that declared that Rosa Parks had ended racism.  And there arose a big howl over how racism isn’t dead.  Yada, yada, yada. In the absence of dissent, let me be the first to say that, indeed, we ought to declare racism dead.  It is being used as a victimhood play to the detriment of minorities everywhere.  But all human beings are some shade of the same color, brown. Sure, there are a few old-time racists around (under 3% according to just about every study that has been undertaken in the last 10 years), but we can ignore their yak. 

The virulent, majority racism of the old days no longer holds any sway with the vast majority of the population.   But the racism mongers ruin lives of people who struggle already. As a foster daughter of ours (who was Mex) used to say about poor-me behavior, “That won’t do you any good.” And just for the record, the Birmingham bus that Rosa Parks rode was one of the few bus lines still run by a city in the South.  All the rest had been privatized and had abolished back-of-the-bus rules since most of their customers were poor and African descent who hated such treatment.  So it was a government run bus that tried to tell Rosa where to sit. How can I make it plainer?  Southern talk? “Gubmint” tells people what to do.  Gubmint was the racist. Run by Democrats in Alabama.

Anyway, I hereby declare racism dead.  Or at the most, wiggling it’s little feet like an upended cockroach.  I attend a church that has been referred to as the world’s largest Protestant church, Lutherans.  There are more Lutherans in Africa attending each Sunday than in N. America and Europe.  So we could be called a "black church". They may be wrong about that largest title, because all the churches in China (130 million) call themselves Baptists.  In that case the world’s largest Protestant church is predominantly Han Chinese.

So here’s the strategy, perfected by Marcus and I. (Marcus was a ALCH teen who was of African descent who called us Weekend Mom and Dad.  If anyone brings up the racism blather, just say, “Ain’t all people some shade of brown? I don’t know anyone the color of snow or India ink.”  See what they say to defend themselves.  I’d love to see someone do this on MSNBC. 

Monday, November 25, 2013

Just asking questions--education funding

This began when I was assigned to listen to our superintendent plea for more funds for education last year.  Again, this year I went to the same meeting.  But this year was different.  He’s organized a task force of citizens who are whipped into a frenzy of demands that the state appropriate more money for common education.  And such a group is also a natural for the Dems to enlist against my guy, who ironically is very supportive of education.  But politics being the slogan, the short answer, that it is, this will be used to play against anyone prudent about finances. 

            The instigator of the debate has been an organization CBPP which stands for some sort of advocacy group for public policy spending, based in Washington—not in Oklahoma.  They ‘studied’ education spending and found it way too low all over the country, but in particular published a graph showing OK the worst offender, having cut education 22.8% since the recession.  This is stunning since only in one year, 2011, were funds cut by 4%, at the behest of our Governor Fallin to go easy on education.  All other agencies got a 10% ax.  State budgets must balance.  We can’t print money like Washington.  When a recession hits, state revenues plunge.  So in 2004 we had revenue/budget of $5.1Billion; 2008, $7.1B; 2010,$6.0B; by 2012 it had recovered to $6.8B.  If you are interested in this sort of thing, you can look up numbers (albeit awkwardly) on the state website  And during the same time common education budgets went from $1.75B to a high of $2.48B in 2008 to $2.36B in FY 2014 (and projected to propose $2.5B next year).  Then it is a simple matter to divide 2.36 by 1.75 and find a 35% increase over the last decade, although a 5% loss from the salad days before the R. 

            How then the 22.8% decline.  CBPP uses some hocus pocus to put in some unknown but large inflation factor and figures a 6% increase in number of students.  This stretches that 5% 2008-2014 loss into the massive “cut”. Statistics don’t lie but statisticians do. By the way, CBPP is a leftist outfit that favors handing out abortifacients to minors and hates vouchers.  And the journalist who wrote an article for them is from Los Angeles Times. 

            So again using the state website I discovered that from 2004 to 2014 Oklahoma has a 15% increase in students—a direct mirror of the census statistics that say our state is growing by 15% per decade.  So you could argue one way or another that a 35% increase in state budget does or does not take care of a 15% increase of students in the face of whatever inflation is.

            What did amaze me is what education funding is made of.  In OK it looks like this.

            $2.4B   State budget spending

            $1.1B Property tax share for schools

            $0.7B   Federal

            $0.6B   bond issues and sinking funds

            $0.8B fees,tickets, etc.

            $5.6B total

Divide this by the 673,000 estimated students and you get almost exactly what NEA estimates as $8285 spent per student.  The US Census Bureau says, “Hey! Some students drop out or move out of state.” So they convert to student-years and get $8863 per student spent.  Our leftist pals at CBPP said it was $3038 per student.  But if you divide the 673,000 into $2.4B you still get a number of about $3600.  However did they get such a low figger? Methinks they just make stuff up.

            Look at state budget again and you see there are all sorts of revenue sources. Townships in OK reserve one section for rental for support of schools.  That is part of state revenue.  Casinos were sold to the voters as a big equalizer for schools since a percentage of operation goes to schools.  A proportion of income taxes is designated for schools.  In all, 33.8% of the state budget is for common schools and total education takes slightly over 50% of the entire state budget.  If truth-in-advertizing laws governed our state budget it should be described as “education plus other items”  That’s not all.  78% of our county property taxes go for common ed.  But perhaps the most interesting one is those fees, etc.  When you go to a football game and plunk down $6 or a school play for $15, that gets accounted for in a myriad of ways by schools.  Fees charged students or all those magazine sales the band holds are also part of this.  And the Federal portion is labyrinthine with grants and subisidies.  Bottom line, we spend money on schools from a lot of places. 

            But here’s the weird thing.  Does ed spending translate into better ed?  Utah spends $7400 per student while DC spends over $29,000.  Utah gets better results.  Likewise a line-up of states in our area shows OK gets good bang for the buck—lowest spending but #30 in student achievement in USA.  Missouri and KS spend the most, about $12000 per student, and MO gets pitiful results--#42.  AR spends just a little more than OK at about $9500 but comes in #5.  What does AR know that MO doesn’t? 

            Talk to teachers and they say it is teachers being free to teach plus involved parents.

            Indeed.  Perhaps the most pitiful federal program is Headstart.  $23,000 per student (4 yr olds!) and Headstart students cannot out test peers by second grade.  This reflects the impoverished parents.  Likewise, I suspect MO has too many KC and StL ghetto inhabitants which pull the state average down. 

            Where would you go to see inspired teachers and involved parents?  I nominate our church Lutheran school in which teachers make only 80% of the market of public teachers, but are given a very free hand to teach.  When parents plunk down their own hard-earned cash, they tend to be very involved.  There may also be fewer social problems.  When a kid sees mom getting beat up by a drunk dad, it’s hard to concentrate on math at school.  At any rate, 8th graders at our parochial school get grade 11 plus achievement every year.  Last year it was 11.6.  Of the 20 kids in the class, 6 tested “college ready” in all 4 subject areas.  Only two students didn’t test “college ready” in at least one subject.  And of the 189 K-12 students, 24 were on scholarship aid (poor parents).  I asked how much time the teachers spend doing achievement testing.  About 3 school days equivalent each year was the answer.  Public school teachers spend twice this amount and then spend a lot more time teaching the test since there is so much pressure to perform.

            So the bottom line is that we owe a round of applause for our public school teachers who have given us results in the middle with the lowest funding in our area. Over half our state moneys are spent on education and without a tax increase (unlikely) we probably won’t see massive ed spending, even if the super intends it that way.  He needs to learn to live on what the taxpayers say they have.  Spend wisely.  Is $300,000 for new football Astroturf wise when our team is 0-10? I dunno.  Just asking questions.

Friday, November 22, 2013

Kennedy critique

Everybody always asks ‘where were you when Kennedy got shot?’  And being 13, all absorbed in the angst of teenagism, I dunno.  Maybe I was in school and maybe on the bus.  I came home and my mother announced that the President had been shot. 

            In the aftermath of JFK’s death, there evolved quite a cult worship.  The Kennedys were young and beautiful.  Jack had that big perfect, wide smile and the mop of hair. The people who weren’t interested in politics and issues loved them via celebrity worship. The liberals took a giant turn with the Great Society and quotas and wished to bask in the hero worship of JFK, so they made a lot of noise about how Kennedy would have done things exactly as they continued. ("Why, he surely would have retreated from Vietnam, despite having started there.") Nobody dared voice critique over this cultism lest they be branded a heretic and an outcast with no respect for the dead.  The media loved JFK and were liberal as well.  Historians, always a liberal gang, consistently voted him one of the top 3 Presidents. Only many decades later, did we learn the truth about so many of his policies and acts.

            Perhaps the main aura of majesty of JFK for the libs was his soaring rhetoric.  He had been a Richie Rich, dominated by his mother and molded by the ego of his father. But his ability to speak made him inspirer-in-chief.  For it is the ability to incite a mob like Robespierre or Mussolini that really is at heart of leftist politics.

            His presidency was, for the most part, a non-starter. The Bay of Pigs was a fiasco; the Cuban Missile Crisis brought us to the brink of nuclear war, cost us missiles in Turkey and doomed Cuba to Castro’s tyranny to this day. On civil rights, something for which President Kennedy receives much credit and praise, he did little more than pay lip service to the concept, while Republicans, the traditional allies of “colored people” provided the votes.  But his ability to ascend to lofty talk is nowhere better displayed than his support of the space program.  We have recently learned that while he spoke in exalted rhetoric about space flight, behind the scenes, communications signify that he was interested in little more than ‘showing up the Russians’.  It was mostly a political game.  And his ‘brain trust’ of advisors had so many failed ideas, it was illustrates that the citizenry should not follow academics who never had to run an organization.

He had so many women on the side.  One was an East German spy, and when a Congressional investigation threatened to make public the story (the reason we frown on top military officers having affairs is the potential to divulge important secrets), Hoover worked out a deal with RFK for blank check support of the FBI if Hoover would deny the story.  His popularity waned and his approval ratings were in the low 40s prompting a trip to Dallas to shore up southern support.  JFK had a particularly wild tryst with two women the night before and his ailing back paid for it.  The next day he wore his back brace.  When the first bullet struck him in the limousine, he was held erect by the brace, allowing Oswald to get off two more shots and kill him certainly.

            In a little known gaff, that polite Germans won’t make much of, his “Ich bin ein Berliner” mispronounced Berliner making it the name for a jelly donut.  Yet Kennedy should be given credit for being staunchly anti-communist (both in Europe and Vietnam) and a tax cutter to stimulate the economy.

            And as these issues have been argued by historians, his worship has declined.  He is now considered somewhere between 10th and 15th best President as rated by historians.  Ike, Reagan, TR and Jackson often outrank him even among the progressive historians.

            But I do think that the Kennedy worship syndrome proves something.  First, he was the first President to use television well as a medium for communication—just as FDR was first with radio. Good looks, short quotable sound-bites and casual self-assuredness count for much on the tube.  This is why Ted Cruz and Sarah Palin do well while Bob Dole and Walter Mondale didn’t.  Secondly, his trysts came to public knowledge just as Bill Clinton was also philandering his way through the White House, and it made part of the public jaded, and another part sympathetic and admiring.

            For years I scratched my head over how adored Kennedy was while others like Coolidge and Arthur were hardly given a second thought.  Indeed, McKinley was (martyred!) shot by a radical leftist and where is the worship? History is a weird PR game which doesn’t mature until a century or two later when a lot of questions will be asked but by then, cannot be answered except in speculation.  And we absolutely, positively need to protect Obama with all means available.  I don’t want him going down as a martyr.