Archive for February, 2009

I was wrong

After Barack Obama was elected, but before his inauguration, I wrote this post speculating that perhaps he would not turn out to be the socialist he appeared to be during his campaign. In the interest of honesty, I must confess that I seem to have been way off target. Indeed, as of this point in time all indications are that this administration may be the most liberal regime we have ever had. I fear that it may swing things so far left that the pendulum will break and never be able to return to the middle, let alone the right.

As a libertarian, I was extremely unhappy with many things that the Bush administration did, but at least I felt I could console myself with the few positives that came with their actions, such as finally getting a break on the assault on our right to keep and bear arms. So far, I have found no redeeming values in the Obama administration, and can only see more and more erosion of our personal liberties and usurpation of the private sector by the government.

For those of you who have never read Ayn Rand’s Atlas Shrugged, I would suggest that you do so without delay if you want to know what the future holds. The story lays out the roadmap that our government has already started to follow. The comparisons between the story and current reality are beyond eerie – they are frightening. Unfortunately, I don’t think there is a John Galt out there.

I can see a very real possibility of a major split in our culture, dividing those who can produce from those who can only consume. At some point there will be a bankruptcy when those who can produce either have everything taken from them or they decide that they will no longer be taken advantage of, leaving those who only consume to their own ends. Unfortunately, a dying animal will do all it can to survive, and would rather see all life end than to suffer that fate alone. Let’s hope that there will remain some small ember that will be able to once again light the flame of freedom.

Do I sound pessimistic? You betcha!

dreams of migration

I am exceedingly grateful for the break we are having in the winter weather here. After a month of temperatures below zero or, at the most, in the twenties, we have had a week of temps well above freezing. Indeed, yesterday we hit sixty-five degrees and today it is close to fifty degrees and raining. The piles of snow – and they were large – are almost all gone now. I know that it is just a tease and that spring is still a long way off, but it almost makes the rest of winter seem bearable now.

The idea of senior citizens moving south once they retire is almost a cliché, but I’m beginning to understand why they would do so, and it’s beginning to look more attractive to me with every winter I have to suffer through. The “snowbird” idea certainly has its merits – go south in the winter to stay warmer and go north in the summer to stay cooler.

I wish that I could afford to do that, but I doubt that I ever will. Perhaps just moving south permanently would be the best solution. Being held captive in your own home because of heat seems better than being held captive in your own home because you can’t get out of your driveway for the snow. Going from the house to the car in the heat wouldn’t mean having to put on nine layers of clothes nor would frostbite be an issue. Granted, you can be in danger in the heat, too, but I think I would rather risk that than suffer the winter weather.

It is a moot point, really. It would seem that I will never be able to retire and unless I lose my job and find a good paying job in the south, I am probably stuck here in the snow belt for the rest of my days. Thank goodness for the snow blower I bought this year.

I make no claims to being an economist of any kind. I am just an average guy, but I think I have a fair grasp of the basic nature of a free market-driven economy, and I believe that the financial stimulus bill currently being ramrodded through congress, along with the stimulus bill passed last year, will cause many more problems than it will solve. Apparently I am not alone.

Despite the President’s strident insistence that everyone agrees with him on the need for his kind of fiscal stimulus, there are people raising their voices in opposition. No, I am not referring to the Republicans in Congress who are making a show of opposition to the current bill but who went right along with President Bush’s stimulus package. Rather, I am referring to actual economists who have a real grasp and understanding of our economy. For an education on this, please visit the Cato Institute’s Fiscal Reality Central.

I will make one observation of my own here – involving the government in any spending will create a bottomless sinkhole of money. Government is incapable of spending any money without creating massive bureaucracies to administer the funds. This bureaucracy inevitably becomes entrenched and grows, consuming vast sums of money that would otherwise be put to constructive use. Out of the vast sum of money represented by the proposed stimulus bill, I would be willing to bet that at least half of it will, in the end, wind up supporting the bureaucracy needed to spend the other half of the money.

Putting the money directly into the pockets of the citizenship without having to pass through the politicians’ hands would be much more effective than any government spending. Tax cuts, tax incentives for business investment and tax incentives for consumer spending will get things moving immediately without requiring the massive overhead of government supervision. To do otherwise is to doom future generations not only to pay back the huge debt this financial stimulus bill will create, but to also pay to support the continued operation of governmental agencies created or expanded by such legislation.

When someone wants to put one over on you, one of the most common tricks is to create an air of urgency. Don’t look at the details, just sign on the bottom line – I assure you that this is exactly what you need and there are no drawbacks – don’t bother reading the fine print. When I go to a car dealership to buy a car, inevitably the salesman comes up with, “What can I do to get you to buy this car today?” Why is it that President Obama sounds like a car salesman to me?

shoe on the other foot

In the United States, each political party holds a yearly “retreat” or “conference” away from Capitol Hill. Particular notice was made of the Democrats’ conference held last week at the Kingsmill Resort and Spa in Williamsburg, Virginia. Why? Because over the last five years, it appears that they have spent $500,000 of taxpayers’ money on the event. Granted, that “only” averages out to $100,000 a year which, in the grand scope of things, is not a fortune. Also, the amount that taxpayers cover is only part of the expense, with the rest being paid using individual congressperson’s campaign funds. But still, tax money is tax money.

From what I have read, apparently Republicans fund their conferences using lobbyist money. While having lobbyists footing the bill sounds a little suspect, at least the average citizen isn’t getting stuck with the tab for what is a political party function. Besides that, Democrats shouldn’t go wagging their fingers at the Republicans over lobbyist contributions, since the campaign funds they use for part of their expenses are extremely likely to have come, at least in part, from lobbyists.

How about this idea? Party conferences or retreats should be paid entirely using funds from the national party organizations. Actually, I don’t care if it is funded using campaign funds, either, as long as it doesn’t come out of my taxpaying pocket. My taxes go to paying their salaries and expenses while they are working on my behalf (technically speaking, if not in reality) in Congress and at that I think it is largely a waste of money. I have no desire to be paying for their transportation or anything else that allows them to indulge in the luxuries of a spa or to get out on the golf course using government issues as an excuse.

With all the grief that the politicians have been giving the corporate execs of companies receiving government bail-out money about spending the money on bonuses and perks, you would think that our lawmakers would think twice about indulging in the same kind of behavior. Then again, our politicians are exceptions to all of the rules, aren’t they?

bookmark: outliers

Outliers – by Malcolm Gladwell

This book is subtitled “The Story of Success” but in truth it should be subtitled “The Story of Circumstance.” The premise of the book is, essentially, that the successful people in life got there not by their own efforts alone, but because of circumstances that put them in the right place at the right time. While I can understand the author’s perspective, I also think that he may put too light a value on the individual’s innate ability to use the circumstances in which they found themselves. An interesting and very readable book.

(Finished 2/6/09)

waking the dead

On a personal note, today is my mother’s birthday, or would be if she were still alive. She died of a heart attack at the age of seventy-two. Fascinating, isn’t it, that the older I get, the younger that sounds.

While I grieved over the death of my mother, she was survived by my father and I did not feel the loss as deeply as I might have if he were not alive. Indeed, when my father passed away several years later I found myself grieving not just for him, but for both of them.

I am an atheist and do not believe in an afterlife. Yes, sometimes I wish I did, because then I could fantasize that somewhere, sometime, I would be able to see them again. As it is, I know that will never happen and the loss of my parents sometimes overwhelms me. I find myself wishing that I had treated them better and, in hindsight, can see that they indeed did have my welfare at heart. It’s too bad we don’t learn those lessons earlier in life.