The American Dilemma and How We Can Fix It

It was late summer in 1964 when I arrived on campus at the University of Chicago to begin my freshman year.  I met my roommate and started to settle into college life.  But the second day as I returned to my dorm from one of the orientation sessions, I noticed an appalling smell filling the air.  I assumed that somewhere there had been a break in the sewage system and that was the cause of the foul odor.

That night at our evening meal in my dorm’s cafeteria I happened to mention this to the new classmates I had just met.  I asked if anyone else had smelled the same thing I had and if they knew the source.  One of my classmates who had been raised in Chicago rather matter-of-factly said, “Oh, that’s the smell of blood coming from the animals being slaughtered at the Chicago Stockyards.”  I remember looking at the piece of beef on my plate and decided that I was through with dinner.

The good news about the Stockyards, which were about five miles from my dorm, was that smell which was recurrent, only wafted my way when the wind blew from the west.  The bad news was that the wind almost always blew from the west.  I couldn’t even imagine how intense that smell must have been to those Chicago residents who lived in closer proximity to the Yards.

Well, the Yards finally closed.  Perhaps that was because Chicago had finally relinquished and grown beyond its position as a major animal processing center.  Or perhaps, like the clever plan that Hitler devised for the placement of his death camps, it was determined that putting these buildings devoted to killing in relatively remote places, shielded the activities that went on from the broader public view and thus allowed the butchers of humans and animals to continue with less scrutiny.

If we had our present technological capabilities in the 1940’s and an undercover group had secretly filmed the goings on at Auschwitz and Dachau and released that film footage for the world to see, I wonder if that might not have greatly shortened WWII as people worldwide and within Germany itself might have been so aroused to action that the Hitler regime might have been defeated far sooner by conscientious people who said, “This is unacceptable.  This is inhuman.”

If we had our present technological capabilities in 1964 and an undercover group had secretly filmed the “processing” of animals at the Chicago Stockyards and released that footage for the world to see, I wonder how many of us would set aside that T-bone or pork roast and adopt a vegetarian lifestyle.

Most of us would prefer to live in a world where horror and atrocity in its many variant forms was not something to which we were exposed.  That is becoming increasingly difficult as virtually all of us now have the ability to get the news and see what is happening nearly as quickly as the events themselves transpire.  That is both the good and bad news of living in a technological information age.  And as much as we might choose to ignore the disgusting and prurient, there are enough of us who actually enjoy that sort of thing and are only too pleased to bring the most appalling stories to the attention of those who might have tried to shield themselves from them.

Perhaps the reason that there has been so much outrage and disgust about the  video taped interviews with three different Planned Parenthood doctors, routinely discussing the “transacting” of human fetal body parts, is that we have removed the abortion “process” from behind the walls of one of those nice, innocent looking buildings, and seen examples of what that “process” actually looks like, particularly in the third of these films.  And for all but the most clinical of us, that picture is disturbing at the least.

Some of that anger centers correctly about the abortion process itself.  Others are focusing on a corollary issue – which is whether people who are adamantly opposed to abortion should be forced to pay for subsidies to Planned Parenthood – although that organization adamantly denies that any public funds are used for abortive procedures.  But this defense, of course, begs a larger and more fundamental question.

Why should the public subsidize Planned Parenthood at all since we now have Obamacare which was supposed to have cured all our insurance and medical ills and deficiencies?  Cecile Richards, CEO of Planned Parenthood is an ardent Obama supporter and activist and surely must be at least as well informed on the law as any of the robotic members of Congress who voted to pass this law without bothering to read it.  So if Obamacare is as efficient as the president claims, why is there a need for additional subsidies to groups like Planned Parenthood or any similar organization?

Perhaps Obama can address this issue when he returns from his trip to Africa having lectured the leaders of several countries on how they need to work on improving their record on human rights.

My first experience as an “animal rights activist,” although there was no such term at the time, came several weeks into my sophomore year in high school.  It was biology class and Mr. Donovan told us that the following week we were going to do a frog dissection.  I remember hearing that announcement and feeling that I was going to vomit.  The thought of dissecting a frog or anything else did not sit well with me.

I had spent many summers in Shandaken, NY with my grandmother.  Most of that time was consumed by playing in the Esopus River.  And a fair amount of that time was trying to catch bull frogs who were more elusive than I would have thought and watching their tadpole offspring swim near the shore.  Although I caught any number of frogs I never brought them back to our cabin.  After all, to my way of thinking, they had their tadpole kids to take care of.

After Mr. Donovan dropped this bomb in class, I debated what to do.  I knew that what I was not going to do was the dissection.  But before I did anything, I wanted to discuss this matter with my folks.  That was the subject of that evening’s dinner.  My parents advised me to speak with Mr. Donovan and explain my feelings, which I did.

Mr. Donovan was an MIT grad and a wonderful teacher.  He was an extremely heavyset man who was able to perspire on the coldest winter day but that never impeded his sense of humor or his attitude that making his subject “fun” would enable his students to become more interested in it.  And he was kind enough to listen to me and to excuse me from this exercise with the proviso that he would assign me as a “lab partner” to one of the other students and I would have to observe their dissection.  That seemed a reasonable compromise and I accepted his offer with gratitude.

When I finished college, one day an envelope was in my mailbox from an organization called, NAVS – the National Anti-Vivisection Society.  I read with a mixture of interest and horror about the experiments that were routinely conducted on laboratory animals.  Typically mice, rats and rabbits were the subjects of a variety of experiments, all of which were justified in the name of science and improving the lives of humans by developing new drugs which could combat human disease.  After reading the NAVS letter, I decided to become a Life Member but had to set the letter aside long enough for me to save up the hundred dollars to join at that level.

One of the tests which was routinely used was known as the LD-50.  “LD” stood for Lethal Dose – and the 50 referred to the concentration of a specific drug which, when administered to the animal subjects, resulted in only fifty percent of the subjects dying from the dosage.  That impressed me as barbarism at its fundamental level – irrespective of the purported good which these experiments were supposedly going to bring to humanity.

Other tests, primarily conducted on rabbits, involved putting drops in their eyes which typically would cause blindness.  There was no greater reason for the administration of these drugs than the development of cosmetics.  Somehow, blinding hundreds of thousands of bunnies so that we could develop new eye liners or blush was construed by those in the vanity business of cosmetics as sufficient justification for these acts of torture.  Thinking about this made me nauseous.

One of the basic premises of animal experimentation by researchers is that there is a trans-special relevance to the results that are obtained.  In other words, if there is “X” effect in rabbits there will be “X” effect in humans.  One of the drugs that was deemed safe was Thalidomide – manufactured by a West German pharmaceutical company.  It was extensively tested on rabbits and since it was virtually impossible to obtain the LD-50 level, it was deemed safe for humans.  Typically, it was prescribed for pregnant women to reduce the effects of morning sickness and as a mild sedative.

Thalidomide has since been described as “the worst disaster in pharmaceutical research.”  More than 10,000 children worldwide were born with serious birth defects including missing limbs as a result of their mothers’ taking this “safe” drug.  That was back in the late ‘50’s and early 60’s.  Subsequently, the FDA pulled its approval of the drug for use by pregnant women.

Thanks to high schools and medical schools there is a market for animal specimens.  For a mere $140 you can buy a preserved dog from Carolina Biological Supply Company (shipping included).  Presumably this will benefit those who go into veterinary medicine.  Notwithstanding, the photo below from the company’s list of products is disturbing to me.  In fact it makes my high school experience with frog dissection pale in comparison.

 

That there is a huge market for animal subjects for research is an undeniable fact.  And with the recent exposure of two separate Planned Parenthood’s doctors discussing how much it would cost for human fetal organs – well, should we be surprised?  But what should amaze is that when Hollywooders like Brad Pitt come out opposing the horrible conditions under which factory farm laying hens are kept they haven’t said a peep about PPF’s sale of human tissue.  And the silence is similarly deafening by those on the left who have no use whatever for business executives who make beaucoup bucks, hundreds or thousands of times the amount that the average Jane makes working for the same operation.

Enter Cecile Richards, the President and CEO of Planned Parenthood.  Up until a few days ago you might not have heard of her.  But she has made the news by responding to the two videos of the undercover interviews with two of her staff doctors.  In essence, Ms. Richards claimed in response to the first video, that the fees for human body parts which Dr. Deborah Nucatola was discussing were merely “reimbursements” for the cost of shipping those specimens.  The second video suggests that narrative may lack some credibility.

What has yet to be brought up is that Ms. Richards received compensation for Planned Parenthood’s fiscal year ending June, 2013 in the amount of $523,616 according to IRS Form 990 which this “Not For Profit” organization filed.  So much for the glass ceiling to which American women are subjected.  And the year before, Ms. Richards earned $583,323.  Why the pay reduction?  That’s because Ms. Richards took time off from her duties at PP to campaign for President Obama’s re-election.

During the latter fiscal year, Planned Parenthood performed 333,369 reported abortions as part of their service to their female clients.  That represents nearly thirty percent  of all abortions performed in the United States.  Or to put it another way, each abortion performed by Planned Parenthood resulted in $1.57 per head (yes, I used that term purposely) in the way of compensation to Ms. Richards.

When I was a kid I often heard that if you were to take a fully grown human and reduce that person’s body to the base elements and chemicals of which it was composed, the value of those would amount to $.98.  So I guess that if you take an unborn 18 or 20 week old baby and slice and dice it up for a couple of hundred dollars – well I guess we’ll just attribute that to inflation – and lack of conscience.

BAKED IN THE CAKE

Under the heading of Fire Prevention and Safety, Clark County, NV has an ordinance which requires a business owner to post the following sign above their entrance:

“THIS DOOR TO REMAIN UNLOCKED DURING BUSINESS HOURS”

Obviously, the business is not required merely to post the sign but to comply with its meaning.  That seems somewhat laughable since, if you own a business, locking out the public from access would tend to discourage people from entering your premises and buying your product.  And I have never had an experience where I walked into a business and a guard locked the door behind me refusing to allow me to leave until I had purchased something.  Nonetheless, I’m sure that the rule, if not thought through completely, was enacted with the best of intentions.

Of course, we have many laws on the books which were enacted with the best of intentions but whose unintended consequences were so problematic that they had to be amended or repealed entirely.  The Constitutional amendment beginning Prohibition is one example which comes to mind.

Oregon has a law which prohibits a business from discriminating against a wide array of protected “classes,” one of which is homosexuals.  An administrative law judge found bakers Melissa and Aaron Klein guilty of violating that law and infringing on the rights of two lesbian women who wanted to place an order with them to bake a wedding cake to celebrate their nuptials.  The Kleins declined to do so because they have religious beliefs that they believe would be compromised by participating in a gay wedding.  The two women brought suit and were awarded $135,000 under their claim of having experienced 88 different forms of “mental-rape” as a result of the Kleins’ refusal to provide their cake.

As might be expected, the ALJ’s decision was trumpeted both by the left and the members of the BGLQT community (I’ve re-ordered LGBTQ alphabetically so that there is no implication that one subcomponent is more important than any other) as a triumph for fairness, and on the right was predictably denounced as an attack on Christian faith.  In the final analysis, I suspect that both sides on this issue may prove to be wrong.  What may be at risk in decisions like this is the ability, for whatever reason, for people to hold an opinion and to act on it which is in contradiction to that held by the vocal minority.  What is in jeopardy is not freedom of thought or freedom of speech but freedom itself, at its most essential level.

I respect the Kleins standing on their principles.  Personally, as a Christian, I do not feel that their providing a cake for a gay wedding would have been a tacit endorsement of gay marriage.   But in any “anything goes” world it is unusual to find people who still try to conduct their lives based on principle.

Every business owner has to balance morality with profitability.  The left portrays business people as being greedy,  only mindful of profits at the expense of their employees who are generally categorized by them as being overworked and underpaid.  The fact that the Kleins would decline to bake a wedding cake for this lesbian wedding undermines that theory.  If business owners are strictly and solely motivated by profit then turning down a profitable order makes absolutely no sense.  It is for that reason that we should give weight to their stated belief that in their view, participating in the ceremony by baking a wedding cake was something that they could not do in conscience.

But there is another reason the Kleins, their views on homosexuality being openly known, might have made a wise business decision, one not based on their religious faith.

Let’s take the case of a family restaurant owned by a Mormon family.  One evening, a man staggers through the door.  His breath reeks of alcohol and he clings to the hostess station near the door to try to stabilize himself.  By anyone’s standards he is obviously drunk.

The owner of the restaurant comes over to him but before he can say anything, the drunken patron starts yelling that he wants coffee and he wants to eat.

The owner explains that he is a Mormon and based on his religious beliefs does not serve coffee in his establishment.  The man again shouts out that he wants coffee and food.  By now, the families in the restaurant have stopped eating and everyone is watching this encounter near the front door.

The owner politely suggests that the patron does not appear to be sober and out of concern for him offers to call him a taxi so that he can get home safely.  But instead of following this kindly advice, he sees an empty seat at a table where a husband and wife and three children are eating and he staggers over to the table and flops into the vacant chair, reiterating his demand for coffee and food.  In frustration, the owner calls the police who arrive swiftly and arrest the patron for being drunk and disorderly and remove him from the restaurant in handcuffs.

Now if most people were empaneled on a jury and these facts were presented in evidence as the state’s case why this man should be punished for his disruptive behavior, I suspect they would vote to convict.  The fact that Mormons don’t consume alcohol or coffee would have played no factor in the evidentiary presentation.

But let’s replay that same scenario with only one change.  The drunk patron comes into the restaurant and he is wearing a T-shirt that has a Rainbow Flag on it and above and below are written the words GAY PRIDE.

Several weeks go by and suddenly a man shows up at the restaurant with a summons which he delivers to the owner.  The patron who was removed from the restaurant has filed suit because he claims that he was refused service for the sole reason that he was a gay male.

In some respect, filing a law suit to “bring about social change” is the ultimate and easily accessed methodology for those whose lives are otherwise too mundane to warrant their very own “reality TV show”.  And the potential to score a big payday while having to pay nothing out of pocket for your contingency case – well, that’s just icing on the cake.

It costs just as much to defend yourself if you’re innocent or guilty.  Filing a law suit is, in the view of many, the path to riches more than it is a path to justice.  Given the current mania of juries awarding ridiculous punitive damages, perhaps hoping they will set a precedent if one day they should be the plaintiff in a similar case, it’s hard to know how a jury would decide the case.

Returning to the Kleins who were and are candid on their view of homosexuality, I would think that one of the things that should concern them in the future is, that even if they were to modify their view that providing a wedding cake for a gay wedding is an endorsement of gay marriage, they should take caution.  Returning to my premise that people sue other people whether or not there is a basis in fact, let’s consider the following scenario.

Another gay couple asks the Kleins to bake them a cake for their nuptials.  The Kleins have decided to be guided by the synoptic Gospel advice to “Render unto Caesar the things that are Caesar’s and to God the things that are God’s”.  So they agree to prepare the cake the couple selects.

On the appointed day they deliver a beautiful cake.  The ceremony ends and the guests retire to the banquet.  But the couple is dissatisfied with the cake they ordered.  So they file suit, claiming that the cake didn’t meet their expectations and that the Kleins purposely sabotaged their happy day because despite recanting on their views, they found a way to ruin the happy couple’s celebration by preparing a cake that was not up to standards.

Is this an unlikely scenario – a right wing conspiracy theory?  Well, possibly so.  Or perhaps, given today’s PC climate and verdicts that emanate from jury nullification, maybe it’s the kind of case whose outcome is already baked in the cake.

HYPOCRITICAL HIPPOCRATS

“With regard to healing the sick, I will devise and order for them the best diet, according to my judgment and means; and I will take care that they suffer no hurt or damage.”

– The original Hippocratic Oath – third paragraph.

Teddy Papadopoulos and I met during Orientation Week at the University of Chicago.  He was one of the few students among us who was a native Chicagoan.  A lifelong resident of the university’s Hyde Park community, he was brilliant and was pursuing a bachelor’s degree in physics.  In any event, we met over what passed for a typical dormitory dinner and both of us had equally unkind comments about the cafeteria’s culinary output.  Naturally, we hit it off and became very good friends – a relationship that exists still today.

Nikos Papadopoulos, Teddy’s father, was an extremely congenial man who was one of the partners in Café Hellas, one of the many restaurants on Halsted Street that comprised Chicago’s Greek Town neighborhood.  He could be seen there six days and nights a week greeting and seating the busy restaurant’s customers, treating regulars and newcomers with the same obvious joy that they had decided to patronize his establishment.

Nikos was an immigrant from Thessalonika who came to the United States when he was eight years old.  He met his wife Diana here.  She was the daughter of a green grocer, one of seven children, six girls and one boy.  They married when he was thirty and she was twenty-six.  Besides Teddy, they had two other boys.  Teddy, by the way, was named for Theodore Roosevelt.  Nikos admired the former president as a person who said what he meant and meant what he said..

Diana was typical of many women in Chicago’s Greek community.  She was, to use an out of date phrase, a homemaker whose enjoyment came from keeping the house neat as a pin and making dinner for her children and on Sunday for her husband when he wasn’t at the restaurant.  She made sure that the kids all looked their best for the lengthy Sunday services at Annunciation Greek Orthodox Cathedral which they attended.  She was a warm and very loving person who enjoyed nothing more than giving everyone a hug and if they were short enough like her, a kiss on the cheek.  Although it was never official, I thought of her as a foster mother.

During my third year in school, Diana was hospitalized.  She was in her late forties.  She was, I think more concerned about being away from her family than she was for her own condition.  But she tried to wear a happy face and joked about getting out of the hospital so that she could cook her family dinner.  “By now I’m sure the house is not fit for pigs to live in,” she said on one of my visits.  That was the visit when she got the news.

Teddy and I were in her room when a specialist whom she had not seen before came in.  He had the results of the tests and the lab work that had been conducted over the previous ten days – and had an analysis.  His name was Dr. M., an oncologist.

Without so much as a, “Hi, how are you,” he introduced himself.  Perhaps you’ve heard of bedside manner.  Well, Dr. M. had obviously cut that class.

“I have reviewed your tests and your lab work and I need to tell you that you have cancer of the pancreas.  It’s inoperable and there’s no treatment.  Based on the progression of the cancer I estimate that you have at most four to five months to live.  I’m sorry.”

And he turned on his heel and left the room.

Diana burst into tears and Teddy rushed to his mother’s bed, sat down and put his arms around her.  I was so shocked, my mouth wide open at the ruthless way in which this physician had delivered his news that I didn’t know what to do.  But in a few second my shock turned into serious anger.  I have only been really angry three times in my life – and this was one of them.  I rushed from the room to find the doctor, half intent on slugging him.

When I caught up with him I grabbed his arm and said, “Excuse me.”   By now my blood pressure was returning to only twice its normal range.  “I can’t believe that you as a trained medical practitioner who is supposed to try to help people could have told that poor woman her prognosis in such a cold and uncaring manner.  You should be ashamed of yourself.”

He replied, “Why?  She’s a dead woman.  If I waste my time on her I might be putting someone at risk whom I could actually help.”  And he walked off.

I remember standing there for a few minutes, totally numb, completely shocked and feeling the tears run down both my cheeks.  And then I returned to Diana’s room.

Well, Dr. M. was fairly correct.  But Diana lived seven months from that date and the outpouring of love and grief from her friends and members of the closely knit Greek community was amazing.  There were well over four hundred people who attended her funeral that September.

“Moreover, I will give no sort of medicine to any pregnant woman, with a view to destroy the child.”

– The original Hippocratic Oath – fourth paragraph.

The original Oath has been changed many times.  Obviously, were the above portion of it still in effect there would be no abortions performed by any physicians who swore to it nor would we have things such as the “morning after” pill.

This week a pro life group released an undercover video in which Planned Parenthood’s Dr. Deborah Nucatolo discusses in a very off handed, dismissive and clinical manner the method of performing abortions so as to “extract the most tissue which can then be furnished for research.”  The link to the video and a CNN piece on what has become a very controversial issue can be found below.

http://www.cnn.com/2015/07/15/health/planned-parenthood-undercover-video/

One of the counter attacks by those who are Pro Abortion is that the video was edited.  So is every movie that is released by Hollywood and every news story that appears in print.  Many years ago I had two separate three hour conversations with a Wall Street Journal staff writer and when the piece on which she was working, appeared in the paper she had reduced our conversation to two lines.  Editing is not the issue.  Nor is the motivation of the group that produced it – so long as the facts presented are actually the facts.

What really is the issue, something about which people who are both Pro Abortion and Pro Life should be concerned, is the level of ethics – both in our society generally and by extension among our medical practitioners.  In a self-centered, self-absorbed society that is a serious question.

Presumably, most of us would have no question about returning a guilty verdict in the case of a mother who suffocated her three  year old Downs Syndrome child because she couldn’t handle the stress of dealing with a youngster with this disability.  So why then would we applaud the woman for aborting that child as a fetus if it were clear the child would be born with this genetic defect?  Or for that matter, a child who would be born with Cystic Fibrosis?  Or for that matter, a child who was a female when the parents wanted a boy?  Or a child whose hair color would be red when they wanted a blond?

Today, whatever your philosophy, this is a choice that is purportedly left to the parent.  But those who press most strongly for further government entrenchment in our lives may not fully perceive where their efforts, if successful, may lead.

Because the truth is that government might one day decide that the right to reproduce is not a right but a privilege and it is they, (in the interest of the greater good) who should determine to whom that privilege should be granted and to whom it should be denied.

After all, the right to have children is not specifically enumerated in the Constitution, that venerable document that receives as little attention from those on the left as some members of the medical community pay to the original Hippocratic Oath.

Back in the days when grammar schools taught history and geography I remember having to memorize the names of the countries of Africa.  In the forty some odd years since the map below was drawn, things had changed – and they have continued to change on that continent.  Names that were once familiar to us students no longer exist and boundaries have been redrawn many times with many countries now being called by names based on their indigenous residents’ native languages rather than by names imposed on them by the western European countries that had formerly included them as part of their global empires.

 

If you were to ask the average student, young adult or, I suspect your typical American thirty or forty year old, which countries had claim to empires in the twentieth century or earlier, I believe you would get a rather blank stare as a response. How many of those you interviewed, were you to ask what countries Portugal had under their crown’s control would be able to tell you that Brazil was once part of that nation’s global empire? Or that Pope Alexander VI divided the entire continent of South America between the Spanish and the Portuguese in 1493? History does have implications.

Now if you were to ask those same people about the question of “White Privilege” you might do a little better.  Although this currently voguish PC catch phrase gets bandied about regularly, I am still waiting to hear, other than it’s being a veiled attempt to conjure up guilt that should be shared by all white Americans because of their skin color, exactly what it is.  But the nice thing about PCspeak is that what you say doesn’t have to follow the dictionary rules of providing an exact definition but can be morphed into whatever the speaker wants at any given moment in time.  This technique, of course, makes any real debate on this subject virtually impossible, which is fine as far as those who employ the term are concerned, because debate requires presenting purported facts that can be discussed and possibly debunked.

As to the term, “White Man’s Burden” which we learned was theoretically a motivating factor in European expansion throughout the world (beside the obvious that England, Belgium, Portugal, Spain and others had ships and as long as you have ships you might as well use tem to go places), I doubt that most of those who throw about “White Privilege” know what the “Burden” term means.

Simply put, it was a quasi religious/sociological term that suggested that whites, (by virtue of their skin color) were superior to people whose skin color was darker and that as a result of that inherent superiority it was their responsibility to care for those less fortunate and to impart (as much as they might be capable of comprehending) the culture, religion and knowledge which whites had been gifted to receive from the Creator.  In essence, the white man was the farmer and people of color were the farm animals who were given to him to care for and nurture.

That philosophy seemed to serve most Europeans rather well until Hitler came along and decided that even among whites, some were clearly better than others and that it was the imperative of the Aryan race to do away with those pseudo-whites like Jews and Slavs.  Fortunately Hitler was defeated.  But one can only imagine if he had succeeded in his first effort to “purify” humanity, how he would have dealt with the black and yellow and red inhabitants of the world.  I can’t imagine that would have been a pretty picture.

It would be not only fair but accurate to describe the term “White Man’s Burden” as a racist concept.  But then, so is the term “White Privilege”.  Any term which begins by using race as a descriptor is a racist term.  “White Power” and the “Black Congressional Caucus” are both racist by their self-styled names.  And anyone who refers to “White Privilege”, whatever that person’s own race, is in fact using a racist term and perhaps exhibiting their own racist views.

Today we would view the colonial concept of the “White Man’s Burden” as primitive and exhibitive of racial prejudice.  The idea that whites are inherently superior to those of other races – well that’s nearly antediluvian by most peoples’ standards.  Or is it?

The only real difference between the “White Man’s Burden” and “White Privilege” is the attribution of guilt in the second of these terms.  If you question this you have no further to look than at the percentage of the American black community that receives government assistance (largely paid for by the white American population) because they are obviously, like the colonial farm animals, unable to fend for themselves.  And who are those who constantly search for new ways to find more programs to fund these underprivileged souls?  None other than they who scream “White Privilege” the loudest.

I guess that goes to their point that “racism” is alive and well in America.  Perhaps before levying their next charge, they might want to consult a mirror.

As a kid, one of the daily cartoons that I read was a strip called, There Ought To Be A Law.  It was unique in that readers would submit ideas and if their ideas were accepted, cartoonists Warren Whipple and Frank Borin would draw it and credit the contributor for his or her original idea.  The cartoon was extremely popular and emphasized that life presented itself with many situations which could have been dealt with by applying simple common sense – but instead we found convoluted ways to try to resolve simple issues.

That’s not unlike the way in which we craft legislation.

There was a time when the country was filled with what we call “blue laws”.  Many of those related to the observance of Sunday as a special day and imposed restrictions on the sale of alcohol – or as it was known in the old days among those with a puritanical bent, “Demon Rum”. But in an effort to make America a better place, enthusiastic lawmakers have concocted some rather amazing laws which it is hard for some of us to comprehend.  Allow me a few examples.

In Alabama you may not drive a car while barefooted, nor are you allowed to have an ice cream cone in your back pocket.

In Connecticut it is unlawful to walk backwards after sunset nor are you allowed to cross a street while walking on your hands.

In Illinois it is unlawful to pee in your neighbor’s mouth and eating in a place that is on fire is a punishable offense.

In Massachusetts no man may wear a goatee in public unless he has obtained a special license for the privilege and it is unlawful for a taxi driver to make love in the front seat of his cab while he is on duty.

A brief reading of these laws (which are still on the books) suggests that not only are the inmates running the asylum, apparently they are or in the past have been elected to statewide public office.  Who would create such laws?  What purpose do they now (or did they ever) serve?

There are thousands of such ludicrous laws on the books in all fifty states.  And while I have never had an urge to fondle a pig’s genitalia in public (Iowa) – I guess privately it’s okay – it’s easy to see how this proliferation of inane and perhaps even insane laws could easily entrap and cause any of us to be in violation of something that was concocted by a lawmaker and his cohorts at some time in the distant past.

At least theoretically we as voters do have some control over those who concoct this mishmash that passes as legislation.  They do have to face us every so often to retain their positions.  But the sad reality is that ninety percent of all incumbents easily win re-election, time after time after time ad nauseam, ad infinitum.  Well, there is still that ten percent glimmer of hope.  No such control exists for the bureaucrats who are unelected “public servants” who find ways to extend their power by writing new and extensive “regulations” which are purportedly based on the laws written by legislators.  Obamacare is an excellent example of that where 2,700 pages of legislation has turned into more than 33,000 pages of regulations – and that number is still growing.

Common Sense author Thomas Paine must be turning in his grave – because clearly there is nothing common sensical in any of this.  And barring a constitutional amendment establishing term limits for those in Congress it is unlikely that things will change in the future.  The simplicity of a flat tax must be daunting to legislators because it is something that is far removed from their convoluted thinking.  And why does that thinking exist?

It is for their own protection.  Because if you write a law that is so complicated that no one can possibly understand it you provide job security so that they can “tweak” the inconsistencies which were written in the original law.  To me that’s like going back to your car mechanic five or six times to correct a problem with your vehicle because they didn’t do it correctly the first time you brought your buggy into their shop.

I would enthusiastically support any candidate who wants to pump the bilge laws out of our system and streamline our legislative process so that anyone with a high school diploma could understand the laws they pass.  That is probably a high expectation and one that will most likely not happen in my lifetime.  Sometimes being honest has depressing consequences.

But there may be hope.  Remember those blue laws?  Well New Mexico has one that I actually think is brilliant.  In that state it is illegal for an idiot to cast a ballot in a general election.  Now that’s an idea that has potential.

Once upon a time my father received a notice that his tax return was being audited.  At the time he was a salesman and travelled the country extensively being on the road for forty or more weeks per year.  All of this was done by automobile – and one of the deductions which he correctly took was for expenses related to these trips.  Fortunately, my father was also a meticulous record keeper as well as being scrupulously honest.

Notwithstanding that he felt that unless he had made a mathematical error, which he thought was unlikely, he was confident that his return would survive anyone’s scrutiny, he was still nervous when he arrived at the IRS”s office for his audit.  But several hours later the auditor agreed that my father’s return had been honestly and accurately prepared and issued a “no change” determination.

But the next year he got another such audit demand and one the following year.  As was the case with his first experience these two audits resulted in the auditors’ accepting the original returns as filed.  But other than experiencing a nervous stomach and perhaps a little heart burn, my father learned and taught me a valuable lesson which Chief Justice John Marshall stated in writing a majority opinion in a tax case, “The power to tax is the power to destroy”.

There are several threats to achieving financial independence and even wealth.  They are inflation; lack of financial knowledge; bad management; and most importantly, taxes.  With the exception of taxes, the other three can be handled.  There are assets that increase in value even if inflation becomes rampant; a person can educate himself on how to invest his savings; if a manager who has been hired by an investor is not meeting expectations he or she can be replaced.  But no individual can control the amount of taxes that government extracts from his earnings.  That is a matter of policy and law, enacted by the Congress and signed by the President.

The left’s theory – or at least their major talking points – are that income inequality makes it impossible for people to compete on a level playing field and that in particular, women and minorities are disenfranchised from the same level of opportunity that, for example, white males, (and whites in general) enjoy.  Hence they push for a higher minimum Federal hourly wage – as though a person who has no financial knowledge will somehow break into the middle class and realize the American dream by earning a couple of extra dollars an hour.  People do not get wealthy or break the shackles of poverty by making ten, twelve or even fifteen dollars an hour.  People get wealthy because they have a unique talent or because they start their own business which grows and prospers – or, for the lucky few – because they inherited their money.

But one of the lessons that my father taught me is that, “It isn’t what you make – it’s what you keep” that determines a person’s financial situation.  No matter how much you make if you spend more than that amount, the conclusion will be financial disaster.  Just look at the Federal government’s balance sheet if you doubt that.  Or look at Curtis James Jackson III (better known as 50 Cent) who made several hundred million dollars and just declared bankruptcy.

But the left persists in making these arguments that we need to level the playing field so that everyone has equal opportunity to succeed and if they really believed in the hogwash with which they bombard us, it seems only logical that rather than a fifteen dollar per hour minimum wage we should simply decree it to be one hundred or one thousand dollars per hour.  Now that would have an impact.

So why stop at fifteen bucks when a higher number would be better?  The answer is that everyone realizes that having the skill set to be a burger flipper is simply not worth that amount of money in a free and open job marketplace.  And the reason that being a burger flipper makes the current minimum wage is that there are a lot of potential burger flippers out there who will take that job and do it in an equally competent manner as the present employee should he or she decide that his employer is engaged in “oppressing him”.

My first summer job was working for a company that wholesaled shirts.  I earned two dollars fifty cents per hour and worked a forty hour week.  Of my gross income I had to commit one dollar fifty cents for carfare to get to the job and get home.  And even then, Social Security and Federal and New York state taxes were deducted from my check.  (The City of New York had not yet implemented their own additional income tax on its residents).

Since I took my lunches to work with me, (provided courtesy of my parents) I was able to save most of my check for my college tuition.  And when I realized that it was only a three mile walk one way, I started getting up extra early to walk to my job rather than spend the fifteen cents on the subway.  Once a week on Wednesday I would, rather than bring lunch, treat myself to a slice of cheese pizza at the cost of fifty cents (sixty if I really splurged and ordered pepperoni on it).  I admit to feeling a little bit of guilt about indulging in the luxury of that hot and bubbly slice of pie – but, darn it was good.

The theory that those on the left (and those like Ms. Clinton who appear to be on the left to attract primary voters to her cause) espouse is that we can have the money to institute their social programs by merely getting it from those who have either a special talent or ability, have started a small business which might have grown and prospered or those who were fortunate enough to inherit their substantial wealth.

If we lived in a country in which the government, not the citizen, runs programs and determines who should have so much but not more than that, even confiscating all the accumulated wealth of those who have it in their possession currently and redistributing it to those who would like to have it, would “even the playing field” for a second – and then the same inequities would once again start reappearing.

Whether we like it or not, some people are more motivated, more talented, more intelligent and more creative than others.  And like the classic cream rising to the top, those whose wealth had been appropriated by the government would start over and within a short time would again become wealthy whereas those who had been the recipients of their former wealth would again sink back into poverty.

Well, that’s the scenario with a one time confiscation of the assets of the wealthy.  But even proposing that would take more brass than the left has in their admitted operational playbook.  So the reasonable way for them to proceed is to raise taxes on the rich – as a matter of “equity”.  After all, were it not for the government and the tears and sweat of the miserable masses, these people could never have achieved their success.  We all remember Obama’s famous, “You didn’t build that speech”.

According to the economic theories of the left, trickle down economics doesn’t work nor does it improve anyone’s life except for those doing the trickling.  And more importantly, their firm belief is that just because the wealthy worked hard, been creative and took responsibility for their financial future, they have an obligation to those in society who sat back, got fired from a multitude of jobs for performance and who believe the way to wealth is sitting home collecting unemployment while watching the soaps and eating potato chips, taking only a break from this in order to get out with fellow economic failures and picket outside the business du jour demanding a higher minimum wage.

Now it’s an interesting phenomenon that while conservatives believe that lowering taxes increases the number of businesses that are created and because of this may actually result in higher amounts of taxes collected because of higher GDP, they have an interesting ally in the State of New York – headed by Governor Andrew Cuomo (D) who comes from the left’s own tradition.

There is an ad being run by the state of New York which begins, “New York is changing the way we’re doing business by lowering corporate and individual tax rates.”:  The ad goes on to say that manufacturers who relocate to the state will receive a ten year exemption from paying any income taxes.  If I didn’t know better this sounds remarkably like a plan that could have been authored by President Reagan’s economic adviser, Arthur Laffer.

But if the conservatives in this country need further validation of their economic policies, perhaps the strongest example may come from the Commonwealth of Puerto Rico which is asking that Congress pass a law granting them the same ability to file bankruptcy as Detroit, another Democrat controlled stronghold.  Otherwise they warn us that there will most certainly be default on the debt obligations the commonwealth has issued.  But while waiting for Congress to act on this desperate request, the Governor has, among other proposals, found an interesting way to combat Puerto Rico’s insolvency.  He has proposed lowering the minimum wage for hourly workers on the island.

Talk about mixed (and confusing) messages.  No wonder we’ll be at $20 Trillion in “official” debt by the time Obama leaves office.  Well, he promised “Hope and Change” in his drive that landed him in the White House.  And by the time he leaves office, we may all hope that he’ll leave us with some change – even if it’s small change.

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