The American Dilemma and How We Can Fix It

Archive for the ‘elections’ Category

THE ENEMY WITHIN

 

Back in the mid-60’s, those who opposed the war in Vietnam (then referred to as liberals), held an absolute belief that the government was involved in spying on them in an effort to undermine their efforts to turn public opinion to their side and end the war.  In addition to their being branded as hippies, commies and un-American, they were generally reviled by the political establishment, even as we sent more and more American boys to southeast Asia to die in a war which then Secretary of Defense Robert McNamara would declare, many years later, to be an effort whose goals were unattainable.   Besides the noxiousness of the over-application of perfume, this is yet another lesson we could have learned from the French.

A half century later, the liberals of yesteryear have transformed themselves and found a new banner under which they rally.  That is under the name of “progressives”.  There is probably no greater malapropism than that term because the ideology and tactics they consider essential are reach backs in history to the way in which Hitler, Stalin and other statists conducted themselves and brought their own people and much of the world to the brink of ruin.

Consider for a moment the progressive need for “safe spaces,” places where only their ideas are permitted to be expressed and, if they could engineer it, be thought.  The intolerance for ideas which differ from their party platform is remarkably similar to Hitler’s banning the playing of music by any composers who had Jewish ancestry or reading the works of authors and poets who shared that same characteristic.  The only difference is that Hitler was unapologetically honest about both his reasoning and motivations.  Progressives do not share that straightforwardness but, rather, find grounds to maintain and express their position under the constitutional rights which are guaranteed to them by a document that they mostly despise.

They also learned a valuable lesson which, given the intensity of investigation into Russian interference in our electoral process, from the founding of Pravda (Truth), which first published in May of 1912, five years before the Russian Revolution.  At least the non-Soviet view of this publication is that it served as the main propaganda arm for the Soviet Union to disseminate it’s version of reality to the Russian people and the world.  Given the near uniformity of the manner in which our major newspapers and broadcasters choose to select stories to report while ignoring others and almost unanimously giving them a progressive spin, those who exclusively consume these reports are probably far more likely to have their views shaped by them than by anything the Russians may or may not have accomplished with their “interference”.

Thanks in large measure to the invention of moveable type by Johannes Guttenberg, the dissemination of ideas knows no national boundaries.  When Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels published The Communist Manifesto in 1848, that publication occurred in London.  But the ideas in that pamphlet and the later Das Kapital were the kernels which ultimately led to the Russian Revolution many years later and the rise of communism as an alternative and, at one point, wide-spread alternative, to the capitalistic structure which existed in most prosperous and advanced societies.  Today, we no longer need to await the publication of a book to experience the author’s thoughts.

Information is disseminated virtually instantaneously and, almost as quickly, accepted as gospel truth by the consumer without bothering to ascertain whether the stories he or she is consuming are based in fact or are merely expressions of the author’s personal prejudices.  Hence, we now have “fact checkers” who dissect and parse each and every word a speaker utters to determine the validity of any given statement.  And we have invented “Pinocchio Awards” to discredit various inexact statements with greater or lesser degrees of opprobrium.  This system, of course, assumes that the people checking statements or handing out Pinocchios are doing so in a totally objective fashion without applying any personal bias.  That is a very high threshold to maintain – even for those whose self-identified goal is to expose falsehoods and tell the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth.

Before his fall from grace, I remember listening to one of President Nixon’s speeches one evening.  After it’s conclusion, I listened to the commentators discuss the speech.  I no longer remember which of the broadcast networks I had tuned to.  But I remember my sitting with my jaw dropping as the various pundits picked the speech apart and drew their own inferences from what the president had said.  It was as though we had listened to two different speeches.  And the next day at the office I asked a number of my employees if they had heard the speech.  Several of them replied, “No, but I listened to the commentary afterward.”   That sort of intellectual slovenliness was thriving in the 1970’s and has only gotten “progressively” worse since then.

It’s a somewhat naïve and simplistic argument to make that the media is at fault for all the misinformation, disinformation and lack of information that is going around.  I am reminded of a lecture/discussion at the University of Chicago which I attended, given by the then chairman of the history department, Jock Weintraub.  Those of us who had enrolled in a class by this prominent professor knew that it was his firm belief that he was the brightest bulb in the room and should your opinion differ from his, he would expose your obvious stupidity in the most cutting and eviscerating fashion.

The lecture was on the subject of the French Revolution and the historian’s role in recording that event.  The particular historian about whom Professor Weintraub probed his audience was Jacques Condorcet.  He asked us what we could tell him about Condorcet’s approach to his works on the revolution – and one unfortunate attendee had the misfortune to respond.

He began his analysis by saying, “Well, Condorcet was born when the French Revolution was ten years in the past.  Therefore, he realized he would have to rely for source documents on the records which were written at the time and were still available to him.  But he also realized that those writers had their own bias and incorporated that bias into their work.”

He continued, “Furthermore, in selecting certain documents and historical accounts while rejecting others, he inevitably was crafting his work infused with his own personal bias.”

He concluded, “Condorcet also realized that the people who read his work would apply their own pre-formed biases and attitudes in their analysis of his efforts.  So between these three factors, it was virtually impossible for anyone to pick up his or anyone else’s work and have a clear, factual and objective understanding of what occurred during the French Revolution, or any other historical event for that matter.”

The young student sat down, waiting for the esteemed professor’s pronouncement on his analysis.  Weintraub didn’t disappoint.  After a few moments, sufficient time for a very pregnant pause, Weintraub looked at him and said in his very heavy German accent, “So, with this analysis do you think you’re making some great contribution to knowledge?”

Those of us in the audience appropriately laughed at this witty bon mot – not in an effort to further demean the young man who had the arrogance to express his opinion – but in a sort of nervous relief that the ordeal was now over.  Those who had taken the professor’s Western Civilization class knew that the outcome for the student was as inevitable as the fate of the hapless cow who walked into the bludgeoning station of the then still existing Chicago Stockyards.

Notwithstanding the dismissal of this student’s analysis, there is a great deal of truth in what he said.  We all come to any given issue armed with our inherent prejudices.  Sadly, the social sciences are given to this sort of manipulation.  They are not exact as is, for example, mathematics where the answer to any specific problem is clear, provable and universal.  The start of any discussion should begin by our admitting to that.  But that doesn’t mean that we should not scrutinize those who report news in an effort to shape our thoughts.  They have every responsibility to report stories accurately, even as we allow them to express their own views which might differ from our own.  But either omitting material facts which are in evidence or including material which cannot be verified is not acceptable journalism because it is inherently dishonest. No one has the right, whether the media or an individual, to spread mistruths about another person.  That’s why we have laws that define the nature of slander.

One of the most prevalent stories that has been ardently promoted by the media has been the alleged Russian connection and their efforts to “get Trump elected.”  There is as yet no evidence which has been revealed to suggest that this is a fact rather than a mere theory.  And per se, it would seem to require a great deal of imagination to understand that connection – if it ever existed.

The underlying premise is that Russia’s and the United States’ interests are divergent and probably almost diametrically opposed to each other.  That is, for the most part, a reasonable presumption.  The narrative is that Vladimir Putin was directly involved in ordering this “tampering.”  Why would he do such a thing unless he expected that, if successful, this would further his and Russia’s interests?  The conclusion of those who subscribe to this conspiracy is that Putin believed Russia would be in a stronger position with Donald J. Trump rather than Hillary Rodham Clinton sitting in the Oval Office.

Reflecting back to our story about Condorcet, the “It was; he thought; she said,” scenario, at the very least if we could get inside Putin’s head, that would be a good start to determining whether or not this conspiracy has any credibility.  It seems to me that there are three potential mindsets which we might ascribe to Putin.

First, the Russian is insane.  This would not be the first time that a person who most of us would call insane was the leader of a nation.  Look at North Korea.  The list goes back to at least ancient Rome.  But why would we put credibility in the ability of a person whom we define as insane to carry out such a convoluted exercise?  That, in itself, would be an act of insanity on our part.

Second, Putin is a moron. If we accept this premise, then trying to get Trump elected and defeat Clinton would most likely be in the best interest of the United States, not Russia.

Third and most likely.  Putin is a shrewd and manipulative person.  There is a great deal of evidence to support this.  But if that is the case, Putin already had the ability to manipulate then Secretary of State Clinton during her “reset” moment.  Furthermore, with Russia’s economy almost totally dependent on oil and particularly gas production, Trump’s position on exploration, “Drill, drill, drill,” poses a direct financial threat to Putin and Russia.  Why would an intelligent if ruthless Putin attempt to have such a person elected to the White House?

No matter which of these three mindset scenarios is actually the case, it would suggest there is little reason for us to be overly concerned about the “Russian intrusion.”  That is not to say that something was not attempted by Putin and company.  This  should come as no surprise since all governments, including ours, engage regularly in that type of covert activity.  So was there an attempt to thwart a free and honest presidential election?  The answer is that there probably was.  But was it Russia that was the primary manipulator?  I suspect the real manipulators were twofold.

First there was the American media.  It’s no secret that the press and television almost uniformly have a liberal bent.  That is evident in the fact that nine out of ten people involved in disseminating news contributed to the Clinton campaign.  It wouldn’t take but a few minutes of reading or viewing to realize that there was less than objective reporting on the two candidates, highly skewed to make Trump look as bad as possible.  Since we don’t receive the Russian television station but do, as a nation, spend a lot of time viewing our own television and reading American newspapers, it would be fair to suggest that if there was collusion in the campaign, much of that effort was put forth by our very own media.

But there is a second group that is equally concupiscent and culpable.  That is the American voter – or, more exactly – the American non-voter.

Participation in the election by people who were qualified to vote was fairly typical.  About seven out of ten who could legally vote bothered both to register and then exercise their most fundamental right to express their opinion.  And you, like me, have probably heard the various excuses that people who don’t vote employ.  Primary among them is, “My vote won’t make a difference.”  Given the closeness of the election, that statement is demonstrably false.

Clearly we live in a world filled with dangerous people and governments.  But there is probably no greater danger than American complacency.  That is the real enemy.  The enemy within.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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With the announcement today that Governor Scott Walker (R – WI) will join the ever growing number of Republican presidential candidates, I am reminded of the story that Samuel Clemens, better known to us as Mark Twain, the brilliant atheist author known for his caustic wit, used to tell.

I had always heard that there were some animals which were natural enemies.  So I decided to put this to the test.  I rented a room in a local hotel and brought together a lion and a lamb, a cat and a dog an eagle and a trout.  I closed the door and left them alone to see what would happen.  When I returned an hour later I discovered, much to my surprise, that these animals were all getting along just fine.  So I decided to try this with humans.

I got together a Roman Catholic and a Southern Baptist, a Jew and a Muslim, a Buddhist and a Hindu.  I left them alone and when I returned to the room an hour later I found all of them were dead.  Apparently, they had a difference of opinion and had taken their argument to a higher court.

Several months ago a friend asked me what I thought the “over/under” was on the number of GOP candidates would ultimately be when everyone had finally stated their intentions.  I put the number at sixteen – and with Walker’s and, as I expect, Governor John Kasich’s (R – OH) entry this or next month, I might be right on the money with my estimate.  And while I applaud the GOP for having so many people, most of whom have ideas which might well improve the climate both socially and economically in this country, this field, the size of the entrants in the Kentucky Derby, is far too large to accomplish the greater goal – winning the White House in 2016.

I have no doubt that each of the candidates has strengths (and weaknesses) and there is no perfect candidate.  Whoever emerges from this large, talented field, will no doubt be preferable to his or her likely opponent in the winter of ‘16 – and a decided improvement over what we have had for the past six and one half years.  But the GOP needs to focus on the goal more than the process.  That’s what the Democrats will be doing – and have done with success over the past two elections.

So I would suggest to each of the candidates in the GOP race, put aside your personal ambitions, rent a hotel room, sit down and discuss among yourselves who has the most realistic chance of winning not just the nomination but the general election.  And be a true patriot, putting all your support behind one candidate who can get the job done.

That would be a great legacy and an act of true selflessness which all of us could admire.

THE LONGEST DAY

It began at four a.m., waking up, hitting the shower and making sure that my game plan was in order and ready for execution.  I seldom ate breakfast because my stomach was always nervous.  It was election day, another cold, bleak November morning – and time to place wake up calls to the lieutenants in the field – to make sure they were ready for the ensuing battle.  It was Chicago – and we were outnumbered and under-armed – but we would once again venture into the fray, if not expecting victory, intent on doing our best as a matter of civic pride and honor.  Despite the overwhelming odds we were going to give it our best shot – and make sure that each of our voters made it to the polls.

By six the polling place next door to my apartment building had opened for business.  It was the responsibility of my volunteer poll watchers to make sure that within the precinct no monkey business was conducted.  In some years, depending on the intensity of the election and the offices up for grabs, that proved more difficult.  But I had learned some tactics over the eight years I had engaged in this campaign and had pre-planned to minimize or negate the enemy’s tactics.  There’s one good thing about having your opponent stick with a tried and true plan.  They seldom deviated from it – which provided as much insight as the opposition coach getting his hand on the other team’s playbook.

My Democrat counterpart was an efficient woman who had run the precinct as though it was her own (and it pretty much was) for decades.  Although it could never be proven, her job with the Corporation Counsel’s office depended on her getting out her voters and bringing in the precinct with both a vast Democrat majority and a large percentage of voters having cast their ballots.  The goal was 100% of those who had registered as Democrats.  She usually came pretty close to bringing in that number.

But for those who had indicated no party affiliation on their registration she had one last tool that she had employed with success for many elections – a last minute reminder that the Chicago machine wanted them to have before they cast their ballot.

Officially, there was to be no “politicking” within 100 feet of the entrance to the polling place.  So the night before the election she would park her car directly in front of the entrance and put placards and bumper stickers within the car – and leave it there.  The car was parked legally, even if the material in the windshield and side windows was not supposed to be displayed.  That year I beat her to the punch.  I waited until that space was available a few days earlier and parked my car there – and then took the bus to work until election day.  She was not amused at my defusing her strategy – and on election day she let me know that in no uncertain terms.  Despite my having acquired this most desirable spot, I did respect the laws and did not have any political placards within the car.

In those days, prior to early voting, election day was the day for casting a ballot.  The number of absentee ballots represented a fraction of one percent of eligible votes that would be cast.  So the primary job was to make sure that my voters got to the polls.  In close co-ordination with the poll watcher who was keeping track of who had voted, this meant placing calls, ringing doorbells and, most importantly, transporting those who were elderly to the polls by car.  Of course I had to rent a car for the day as mine was situated in front of the polling place’s door.  I didn’t have a cushy job with the city or any other government agency – so I bore that expense myself.

On election day there was usually a large group of voters who would show up as soon as the polls opened so that they could do their duty and then go to work.  After that initial flurry it quieted down with people coming in sporadically through the midmorning and early afternoon.  This was an ideal time for me to garner my voters and drive them to the poll.  As we approached the closing at seven p.m., the pace picked up once again.  And after the last voter in line had cast her ballot, the poll was officially declared closed by the Judges of Election.  It was now time to record the results from the back of the voting machines.

Someone once said, “It isn’t how you voted – it’s who counts the votes.”  That someone must have been a Chicago resident.  As the two Judges read off the tally for each office, my poll watchers and I verified the accuracy of the number they claimed was on the machine – and one of us watched as that number was written down on the official tally sheet.  On more than one occasion we found that “237” was written down as “327”.  Perhaps it was an honest mistake – or perhaps not.  The Democrats talk about their famous ground game – and transposition of numbers was part of it – at least in the Windy City.

Fortunately, because of the lulls in voting during much of the day, I had the opportunity to run home and walk and feed the dogs.  I think they sensed that something was up and they weren’t going to be on their normal schedule.  My Irish Setter, Tristan gave me a look that said, “Why are you doing this to me?”  But he was a forgiving sort and I always tried to have an extra special dinner for him and his Belgian Shepherd/Newfoundland mix companion, Josh.  Josh was a lot more tolerant than his compadre.  So the two of them got their dinner off schedule and after they had eaten I returned to the poll for the countdown.

Other than in years when there were a large number of judicial paper ballots, I usually got home at nine, after recording all the numbers for each office on my own tally sheet to be turned in to Republican headquarters to make sure that they hadn’t been changed en route to the Chicago Board of Elections’ offices when the official canvass was conducted later in the week.  In one respect, there are those who might consider this an exercise in futility as the final score was always lopsided: Democrats – a million; Visitors – forty-seven.

Looking at the final tally, a reasonable person might argue that, “Only an idiot or a masochist would expend the amount of time and effort just to prove that once again he or she would go down in flames.”  But to my way of thinking, my job, irrespective of how bleak the results, was to get out every one of the comparatively few votes on which I could rely – and if I succeeded in doing that – I had accomplished my mission.

The other day at his news conference, President Obama, in commenting on the election results, made the point that, “Two thirds of the eligible electorate didn’t vote.”  Somehow we were to take that as a tacit endorsement by those non-voters that they approved his policies and had they bothered to show up, things would have been different.  That statement stems from pure vainglory and wishful thinking on the president’s part.

We have made it so easy to vote – in my view, too easy – that those who do not exercise this fundamental right and obligation, have no voice in the discussion.  They themselves, not restrictive voter ID laws, bad weather or any other excuse, are responsible for their lack of civic duty.  And if they want to stay home again two years from now, it would be fine with me.

POETIC POLITICS

OZYMANDIAS

I met a traveler from an antique land
Who said: “Two vast and trunkless legs of stone
Stand in the desert. Near them, on the sand
Half sunk, a shattered visage lies, whose frown,
And wrinkled lip, and sneer of cold command,
Tell that its sculptor well those passions read
Which yet survive, stamped on the lifeless things,
The hand that mocked them and the heart that fed;
And on the pedestal these words appear:
My name is Ozymandias, king of kings:
Look on my works, ye Mighty, and despair!”
Nothing beside remains. Round the decay
Of that colossal wreck, boundless and bare
The lone and level sands stretch far away.

– Percy Bysshe Shelley

Shortly after the 2008 Presidential election I called my cable provider to ask whether I had been “auto-subscribed” to an expanded package which included the Obama station.  It seemed that scarcely a day went by that the new president didn’t have a news conference in which he would announce matters of great importance – such as, “Today’s Tuesday.”  It didn’t take long to identify a pattern that would repeat pretty much throughout the next four years.  Sadly, through no choice of my own, I was forced to watch these interruptions of regular programming – a clear violation of the Supreme Court’s interdiction against cruel and unusual punishment.

With the 2012 election the regular appearances continued, although at a blessedly slower pace.  And as we headed toward the 2014 election Obama had even less to say on air – perhaps taking a hint from his Democrat buds who certainly didn’t want him to campaign on their behalf – and in some cases refused to acknowledge that they either knew or had ever voted for him.

There are probably as many ways to interpret the results of this year’s election as there are people with political perspectives.  Despite the fact that all politics are supposed to be local, the nation swept Republicans into office in greater numbers in the House, switched control of the Senate and entrenched state governments with yet more GOP governors, including the states of Maryland, Massachusetts and Illinois which have been Democrat strongholds for years.  For the first time in my voting history, I actually cast a ballot for a candidate for Congress – who won – defeating a freshman Democrat in a district that is, at the least, liberal leaning.

Perhaps the results stemmed from the fact  that the majority of Americans, in poll after poll, believe the country is heading in the wrong direction; have antipathy to President Obama; or generally reject the climate of uncertainty and ineptitude which have been either tolerated or promulgated, depending on your political affiliation, during the past six years.  Even during the turmoil of the Vietnam War, as divisive as that was, I don’t remember a climate where Americans felt as hostilely towards one another as they do today.  What should be most disappointing for those who voted enthusiastically for Obama is that, rather than serving as the president of the country, whether intentionally or otherwise, he has set himself up as the president and leader only of those Americans who accept his philosophic view – and that in a rather imperious manner.

Yesterday’s post-election press conference offered the president the opportunity to recognize that he and his party were thoroughly repudiated by the electorate and that it was perhaps time for a sea change.  Instead, he took the time to point out that two thirds of the eligible electorate didn’t bother to go out and vote – as though that proved that his policies are just fine – it’s just that two thirds of us were too busy getting tattoos or having their nails done to express their opinion.  This does not bode well for the next two years.

When we’re children it’s understandable that not having developed a solid sense of self-worth, we might, if confronted with the fact that we’ve made a mistake, deny either that we committed the offense or find an excuse why it wasn’t our fault.  It’s “the dog ate my homework” syndrome.  Most of us, however, realize that we can only push those excuses so far and so often.  And ultimately, like the little boy who cried wolf, at some point people, even the most generous of us, will simply cease listening either to the speaker or the excuse.  And we categorize people who continue that behavior with a term – pathological liars.

This is not a new phenomenon.  St. Paul addressed the issue in I Corinthians 13:11:

“When I was a child, I spake as a child, I understood as a child, I thought as a child: but when I became a man, I put away childish things.”

Maybe it’s time we all grew up.

A CONCISE ANALYSIS OF THE 2014 ELECTION RESULTS

 

“You can fool all the people some of the time, and some of the people all the time, but you cannot fool all the people all the time.”

– Abraham Lincoln

LESSONS FROM A CELEBRITY

“I’ve been rich and I’ve been poor.  Rich is better.”

– Sophie Tucker

 

Sophie Tucker had a tough life.  Born to a Ukrainian Jewish immigrant family she began singing in her parents’ restaurant in Connecticut for tips.  She appeared in The Ziegfeld Follies but her talent threatened some of her co-performers and they got her fired.  She went on to overcome these obstacles and became successful and famous.  And she earned the title, “The Last of the Red Hot Mamas.”

In 1927 when this recording of “Some of These Days” was made, there was no such thing as the minimum wage.  It would be eleven years until Franklin Delano Roosevelt pushed that proposal through Congress and it became illegal for any employer to pay an employee less than the magnanimous amount of twenty-five cents per hour.  A person working a full forty hour work week, fifty-two weeks a year could earn $512 per year.  Even by 1938 standards those were wages that insured a life of poverty or at the very best meager subsistence.

In 1964, two years before Tucker’s death, the Congress passed ‘The Civil Rights Act which officially prohibited discrimination based on race, color, religion, sex, or national origin.  Fortunately, Tucker had found a career in the one industry which had, at least, marginally, followed those principles before they became the law of the land – entertainment.  As prevalent and blatant as discrimination against blacks was in varying states and jurisdictions, Jews were frequently the subject of anti-Semitism – although it might have been more subtle than the hatred preached by the KKK and other groups.

This discrimination took the form of having “unofficial policies” in which Jews were regularly excluded from membership in private clubs and prevented them from living in certain areas which preferred an all-Gentile population, not unlike the redlining phenomenon that precluded blacks from home ownership in many communities.  And as with black Americans, there were any number of pejorative words and phrases coined to describe and demean Jews – although our more sensitive citizens usually waited until the person being so described left the room and then whispered it to his listener “sotto voce.”

Sonya Kalish which was Sophie Tucker’s birth name had obstacles to overcome.  So did everyone else in early 20th century America.  There were no governmentally inspired “safety nets” to which a person could look should they get in financial difficulty.  All that a person had was family, friends and their own drive, ability and ambition.  Fortunately, Tucker had a desire to succeed – and she did – enough to make her a national icon and a person who was well off financially.

I doubt that at any time, Sophie Tucker aspired to do just enough to make it through and get by.  She was someone who saw herself as a person whose aspirations were only as great as she believed them to be.  And perhaps it was exactly because we had no safety nets that she was impelled to succeed.  How much inspiration to do better do we have if we are given a minimal level which is assured if we do little or nothing?

Which brings us to the question of the minimum wage – an invitation to a life filled with need and poverty.

“If you’re against raising the minimum wage you’re a Tea Party Republican who hates people, wants them to starve, abhors the middle class and is only concerned about corporate profits.”  Perhaps you’ve heard that meme.  If not you don’t own a television or a computer which has access to current events.  If you believe that statement, you need to enroll in a remedial class in basic math.

We’ve had a Federal minimum wage law on the books for seventy-six years.  During that time, the percentage of Americans who are officially classified as living in poverty has increased as a percentage of the overall population.  Why should this be if a guaranteed minimum wage is intended to combat this phenomenon effectively and has been raised periodically during that time span?  Is there even the most ardent among those pushing for a forty percent increase who truly believes that should that be enacted it will lift those minimum wage earners out of their dire financial circumstances and suddenly move them into the middle class?  If you accept the government’s definition of what a middle class person earns you will find that the math simply doesn’t work.

Well let’s turn to the issue of greedy corporations looking to maximize their profits, all on the backs of their underpaid workers.  Most business owners would agree with the statement that the reason for going into business is to earn profits and to grow the business in order to increase the size of the profits.  The real disagreement with those on the left who would agree with that statement is that they then add on the final clause, “without regard to the working conditions or financial well-being of their employees.”   That statement can only be made by someone who is inexperienced in running their own business.

We all know that there are costs associated with hiring employees.  Those that are obvious include various taxes which are imposed and include FICA, FUTA, state unemployment contributions, paying state worker’s compensation premiums and providing health insurance.  Those are the legal, mandated additional costs that every employer incurs.  But there are indirect, less obvious costs that also impact an employer’s profitability.  One of the most important of those is productivity.

Most of us would agree that if two mechanics who were equally competent were available to repair our car and one charged twice the amount of the other, we would probably select the less expensive mechanic to do the job.  If we had two employees on our payroll and one was able to produce fifty widgets an hour and the other consistently only made twenty-five in an hour, wouldn’t that second employee only have half the value of his co-worker to our company and wouldn’t he be contributing only fifty percent the amount to our profitability?

This leads us to a simple question.  Is it fair to pay the more productive employee the same amount as his less efficient counterpart?  Or, more to the argument of those who believe everyone should get a guaranteed wage, would it be unfair to the less productive employee to pay him less than our second, more productive worker – even if that lesser amount conformed to the then prevalent minimum wage?

I suspect those with a “fairness” mindset would object to rewarding our more valuable employee because somehow they view that as an employer “demeaning” the other worker by paying him less, irrespective of the fact that he actually is less valuable to the company.  Unfortunately, the mantra, “Equal pay for equal work” disregards the fact that not all workers offer an equivalent amount of productivity for the time they spend in our offices or factories.

Those lobbying for an increased minimum wage believe that paying “less than a livable wage” is barbaric.  I would suggest that probably is true – and the individual who is willing to accept that wage and live under those conditions is not exhibiting the best judgment or acting in his own best self-interest.  Why then do people accept those sorts of positions?

The possible answers are that they are lazy and unwilling to work at a better paying, more demanding position; do not have the skills to qualify for a better paying position; or find that the particular minimum wage job satisfies their personal goals.  What other answer can there be to that question?  Despite the acrimonious debate over this subject, I have yet to hear that minimum wage-paying employers go out with shotguns, round up people and force them to work in their businesses, threatening them and their families with bodily harm if they fail to comply.

“Don’t let anybody tell you that it’s corporations and businesses that create jobs.”  That statement from no one other than non-Nobel prize winning economist, Hillary Clinton.  If we accept that statement, then it is government which is solely responsible for job creation – or lack of it.  In part I would agree with that concept – particularly the latter part because while insightful regulation is a positive thing, overregulation is a burden and a job destroyer.  If there is a dearth of jobs in this country and it is government who is the job creator, then obviously government is not doing very well in this regard.  Or are they?

We now have more people than in the country’s existence on some form of Federal dole, ranging from food stamps to telephones.  These are people whom the government has created and endowed with a job – to continue to vote for those who concocted these programs with promises that even better, more lucrative programs are in the works.  And people who are naïve and uneducated solidly endorse their own enslavement in election day after election day.  This Tuesday is unlikely to suggest that many of them have yet seen the light.

In 2008, half the country voted for “Hope and Change.”  We’ve gotten more than our fair share of the second part of the slogan.  I’m still optimistic that we will get a peek at the first part.  At least, I hope so.

 

HILLARY CLINTON AND THE MOB

It would be dishonest if I didn’t admit that I’ve never been a fan of Hillary Clinton’s.  In fact, I wrote a piece elsewhere about twenty years ago in which I spoke of her as “The most dangerous woman in America.”  If my feelings on that have softened over the years it is for several reasons.  The first is that Mrs. Clinton seems to be embarked on a course of self-destruction which may well minimize her ability to attain a position of serious power.  The second is that a substantial number of challengers to that title have emerged, Sen. Elizabeth Warren being in the vanguard of those.

Despite the fact that I’ve never signed on to the Hillary Fan Club, I wish her nor anyone else any harm.  And I fear for her safety because of some statements that she recently made, specifically her remarks this week that, “Trickle down economics doesn’t work – we’ve seen that fail rather spectacularly.”

The economic theory to which Mrs. Clinton referred in that speech suggests that by lowering tax rates on those who are the wealthiest, that saves them money which they will in turn invest in creating jobs and that those jobs will create more jobs and that everyone in the economy will benefit because there will be more people employed and the taxes that they pay on their earnings will more than overcome the amount of the tax reduction which was originally given.

Of course, those like Mrs. Clinton on the left will naturally acknowledge a corollary that is the reverse of the trickle down theory.  If you believe that cutting tax rates on the wealthiest does nothing to stimulate job creation, then you naturally must believe that increasing them will have no negative impact on job creation, the consumer or the economy overall – other than to raise additional tax revenues which can then funnel into the national Treasury to be misspent by those in positions of power in Washington.

That is a statement that might involve some personal peril for the former First Lady.

In Nevada we have three propositions on the ballot.  The third of these, (cleverly named Proposition 3), wants the voters to decide whether to allow Nevada to collect a 2% tax on the revenues of companies if those companies’ revenues exceed $1 million per year.  Incidentally, it doesn’t matter whether the company is profitable or if it loses money.  That’s Govthink at it’s finest.  The purported beneficiary of these funds to be collected will be our schools.  As one might expect, the NEA has endorsed this proposal.  And the AFL-CIO which initially supported the idea has, perhaps because of their experience in sponsoring Obamacare, have now changed their view and opposes its passage.

Without discussing the arguments pro and con, (I voted “NO”), this is yet another tax which purportedly will benefit a specific cause – and which will, almost as soon as it is passed, wind up being something that goes into the General Fund and will be used for whatever purposes those in Carson City choose.  I saw this same scenario when Illinois authorized the creation of the state lottery – which was to benefit education.  I gave it three years before those proceeds were swept into the General Fund – and, as I recall, it only took two.

Among the plethora of political ads that one would expect the week before an election, there have been a substantial number which have urged Nevadans to vote “NO” on Prop 3.  I have yet to see one that advocates its passage – which suggests to me that the “NO” side has a lot of money backing it.  Considering the fact that casinos are the principal source of revenue to the state and that they clearly would be subject to this proposed tax, it doesn’t require an Einstein to guess that they are among the funders for these ads.  And if you questioned that, one of the spokespeople advocating the defeat of the measure is none other than His Honor, the much beloved former Mayor of Las Vegas, Oscar Goodman.

Before becoming Las Vegas’ mayor, Goodman spent most of his career as an attorney – more specifically as a defense attorney.  He handled many high profile clients and represented them with vigor and very positive results.  Among those he defended were people associated with “the Mob” including Meyer Lansky, Frank “Lefty” Rosenthal, “Fat Herbie” Blitzstein (whose grandson owns a maintenance company that services my pool), Nicky Scarfo and Anthony “Tony the Ant” Spilotro.  It would be fair that many in the underworld viewed Mayor Goodman as their “go to” guy when it came to defending them from prosecution.  And it’s hardly a secret that before Nevada’s casinos became corporate entities, they were controlled and run by “The Mob.”

As I write this, one of Mayor Goodman’s ads appeared on FOX News.  The text of the ad (slightly paraphrased because I don’t type as fast as he can speak) is:

“If Prop 3 passes it will have an impact on everyone in Nevada.  Do you know what happens when a corporation gets a tax increase?  They pass it on to all of us.  They fire their own employees.  This will cost us more in what we pay at the grocery store, what we pay for health care, it’s going to smack all of us right in the jaw.”

Wait a minute.  That’s trickle down economics.  The only difference is that in this case the former mayor discusses the impact of an increase in tax rates rather than a decrease.

While I don’t recall reading any stories that Hillary Clinton plays polo or enjoys horseback riding, I would suggest that before she snuggles up for a good night’s rest, it might behoove her to check for any equine body parts that might have unexpectedly been placed under the covers.

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