The American Dilemma and How We Can Fix It

Archive for the ‘government’ Category

BILL CLINTON AND THE DECLINE OF AMERICA

There has been quite a lot of head shaking among my fellow Baby Boomers at the current state of affairs in America both political and cultural as though they are thinking, “How could things ever have reached this low?”  Well, for them I have some good news.  We’ve been there before – about 50 years ago.  And we made a comeback.  Perhaps the core of our problem is that we think of things in a linear manner.  We would be better served if we adopted the Mayan view of time and events and thought of them as circular and recurrent.

That is not to say that as I watch the idiocy, misinformation and shear ignorance that is the stock in trade today of today’s younger generation brought about by an educational system that has largely failed them and turned it’s attention to creating “safe spaces” for these poor, shrinking violets rather than educating them in the classics and history, I do not wring my hands with despair and despondence.  I do.  But then I remember embarking on my college career as the country was highly polarized both by race relations and the Vietnam War – and I think to myself, I’ve seen this movie, well at least the original version if not the remake.

The college at the University of Chicago was left leaning since long before I started there in 1964.  The only place on campus one might find conservatives was at the Business School and, to a lesser degree, the Law School.  But for those of us who were undergraduates, we were generally immersed in a culture of the left – whether we wanted it or not.  Notwithstanding the political orientation of our teachers, we were exposed to a wide variety of thought – often thought which directly conflicted with our instructors’ own political or social viewpoint.

One of the mandatory courses was Sociology 101.  The reading list was extensive, almost unmanageable because of its volume.  But among those books which were required reading were the works of J. J. Rousseau, John Locke, the Federalist Papers and Alexis de Tocqueville.  These authors could hardly be described as proponents of the philosophy of the left.  Despite the fact that my professor for this class was a good friend of Saul Alinksy (Rules For Radicals) who dedicated this work, the subject of Hillary Clinton’s 1969 college thesis, to Lucifer, his approach to dealing with this material was to present it and, because he believed he had a superior mental ability either to the authors or his students, attempt to debunk what they had to say.

Consider that last line as a sign post of the difference between then and now because it is crucial.  The material was presented and debated – or at least it was.  Today’s universities do not exercise the same intellectual honesty because they present only one side of the story, pretending that is the only side to be told.  And this manifestation of intellectual dishonesty extends everywhere into the culture where freedom of speech merely means, freedom to speak but only in the manner that the vocal left minority deems appropriate.  The late Chairman Mao would be proud of them – as would have been Adolph Hitler.

“Liberty cannot be established without morality, nor morality without faith.”

– Alexis de Tocqueville

De Tocqueville was sent to the fledgling America by the French government to study her prison system and went on to write his classic two volume work, Democracy in America.  There are many profound observations which he made in that work and over the next several posts I will be using several of them to illustrate my point.

But let us move on to the subject of this post with the assistance of another of his quotes:

“The greatness of America lies in the fact that her laws are applied equally to everyone.”

There are two separate but equally important points to be taken from these quotes.

First, de Tocqueville recognized that moral behavior was an absolute thing.  That there was right and wrong, good and bad, truth and falsehood and that God, not man established those things which also gave rise to the Founding Fathers’ exclamation that “We hold these truths to be self-evident…”.  Truth, right and good were ordained as such by God and no matter how man might convolute these to suit his own personal needs, were immutable. There is no clearer expression of this than in our legal system where the person testifying is required to take an oath, pledging to tell the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth.

But to whom is this oath sworn?  To God.  As de Tocqueville points out in the first of these quotes, morality is dependent on faith.  So if we set God aside, then the only concern of a deponent in a jury proceeding is not in testifying truthfully but in testifying in a manner which best serves his purpose if he is confident that he will not get caught lying.  And the sad truth is that there are few cases of perjury which are ever prosecuted – thus reinforcing this self-serving behavior.

During President Bill Clinton’s impeachment trial our then Chief Executive clearly lied about his sexual liaisons.  Frankly, I could care less about them and would have had more respect if he had said, “Yes, I had sex with that woman in the Oval Office.  So what?” Clearly there have been other presidents who had dalliances outside their marriages including FDR and Eisenhower to mention just two who come quickly to mind and those relationships didn’t seem to impact their ability to govern.  Instead, Clinton chose to take the low road with a series of legalistic responses to avoid the embarrassment of public revelation about his numerous sexual relationships.  And his punishment for this perjury – a fine and the revocation of his law license.

Second, let’s consider the concept of “the equal application of the law” which de Tocqueville lauds and review the case of Martha Stewart.

On December 27, 2001, Martha Stewart disposed of her interest in Imclone stock based on inside information she had received.  This helped her avoid a loss of about $50,000 as bad news on the company was about to break.  Ms. Stewart was arraigned and her trial took six weeks, resulting in her conviction on nine felony counts.  But the bulk of her penalty – a six month imprisonment followed by five months of electronic monitoring and an additional thirteen months of supervision was the result not of insider trading, for which she paid a fine but because she had lied to the FBI while being interrogated under oath by them.  As an aside, until 2014 when the law was changed, the insider trading activity in which Stewart engaged and which was illegal for any American to participate in – was fully legal if you were a Member of Congress.  Perhaps that is one of the reasons that so many congressmen and women enter the Rotunda poor and emerge as millionaires.

In my view, the penalties meted out to Clinton and Stewart were hardly comparable.  If anything, Clinton’s should have been the more severe because he held the highest of public offices and Stewart merely saved herself some money – an insignificant amount considering her net worth.  But both of them have returned to the limelight in society, their past transgressions forgotten and forgiven.  To this day, Bill Clinton is one of America’s most admired politicians.  And de Tocqueville has an explanation for that in our closing quote:

“Society is endangered not by the great profligacy of a few, but by the laxity of morals amongst all.”

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.

THE TRUTH ABOUT “INCOME INEQUALITY”

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.

BLOWING SMOKE

If it weren’t for Grand Jury decisions, we might have to focus our attention on Reality TV and Attorney General Holder would have to find other matters which he could address as he heads for the exit.  Actually, if it weren’t for our citizens who break laws, we would have no need for Grand Juries in the first place.  Blessed are the lawless for they shall be called our diversion of the day.

Eric Garner died because he was being apprehended for committing a misdemeanor offense, selling individual untaxed cigarettes on the street without a vendor’s license and the appropriate permitting, and then resisting arrest.  Now the marches commence in New York, protesting his unfortunate death – or more precisely the failure of a Staten Island Grand Jury to return a “True Bill” indicting the NYPD officer who was instrumental in bringing this corpulent man to the ground after he refused to comply with police orders.  Had Garner not engaged in this business in violation of the law, he would be alive today.  But he is portrayed as a victim – and perhaps he is.

With the plethora or laws, rules and regulations that regularly spew from the pulpits of our legislative bodies intended to make sure that we are kept safe from inflicting harm upon ourselves and others (and which incidentally bring in scads of money so that those who make the laws have plenty of cash so that they can continually enact more laws which require more people to write more rules and even more people to turn those into regulations), each of us is probably in violation of some law, rule or regulation which we did not know even existed.  In Mr. Garner’s case, ignorance was not an issue as he had been arrested nine times previously for committing exactly the same offense and twenty-two times for other infractions.

But it is fair to ask, in the greater scheme of things, is selling a loose cigarette on the street a “crime” of the same magnitude as stealing a car, beating up an old woman and snatching her handbag, raping a fourteen year old or murdering someone?  I think we would all agree that Mr. Garner’s offense was pretty minor – and our police departments would better serve our communities focusing their attention on crimes that are a serious threat to the common good.  But there’s that nasty law on the books banning the activity in which Mr. Garner engaged and the police are required to enforce it.  Otherwise, they would certainly be accused of dereliction of duty.

Sen. Rand Paul (R – KY) may rightly point to the true cause of Mr. Garner’s death as being the politicians who micro-manage our lives, have raised the taxes levied on a pack of cigarettes in New York to the highest in the country and created the economic environment which makes engaging in selling “loosies” a modestly lucrative business.  Those in positions of public office who believe they know better for us than we ourselves, will undoubtedly miss the point of the senator’s comments.  Missing the point has become the platform for many of them.

This death, together with the death of Michael Brown have caused these same politicos (and their supporters who apparently have no jobs to which they can go and thus the time to demonstrate) to raise the question of the fairness of the justice system.  That is a reasonable question and one which we should re-examine periodically to insure that justice is indeed blind but fair.  According to those chanting their mantras in New York and elsewhere, the system is biased against black Americans – Mr. Garner being its latest victim.  The call was taken up by Mayor Bill de (Blah Blah) Blasio in citing centuries of racial prejudice – although it is as unclear in this case as in Brown’s that any racial element exists other than that both of the lawbreakers happened to be African-Americans.

Ironically, word is on the street that Mr. Garner’s widow is contemplating filing a “wrongful death” suit against the city to the tune of $75 Million – an amount that might realistically exceed the late Mr. Garner’s lifetime earnings potential by about $75 Million.  Of course, the lawyers in the sharkskin suits are all probably salivating at the potential of collecting their third of whatever amount will be awarded – and there is no doubt there will be a judgment in some amount in her favor.  This is the “zakat” that all Americans must pay for the injustices of two centuries past – or at least that seems to be the thematic basis for liberal thinking.  And it will ultimately be awarded by the same “unfair” justice system against which the protestors demonstrate.

Fortunately for the City of New York, when a judgment comes down in Mrs. Garner’s favor, the politicians can simply float yet another bond issue to cover the amount of the award.  Or they can just raise the excise tax on cigarettes a few cents a pack to take care of it.

GOOBERS AND GRUBERS

It finally arrived – the long awaited envelope.  It had been well over a week since I had sent away for it – but my letter had to make it from New York to Arizona and then the response had to come all the way back.

I had found an ad in one of my “Fantasy and Science Fiction” magazines and had responded.  Who wouldn’t answer this ad?  It promised to send the person who clipped the ad a “secret” way to accumulate wealth without really having to do much of anything.  It didn’t matter if you were young or old, a PhD or a high school drop out, the system would bring riches to whoever used it.   It was the American dream – and the information would be sent absolutely free of charge.

Some people are motivated by theory and others by practical concerns.  In my case, I wanted to become a fourteen year old success because I was tired of sleeping on the Castro convertible sofa and sharing my “bedroom” with the “dining room.”  If I made a lot of money we could move from our small apartment into one of the new high rises that were being built throughout Manhattan.  My parents had looked at several apartments in these new edifices, but decided that quadrupling the rent for just a small amount of additional space just didn’t make sense or fit our budget.

When Grandma handed me the envelope containing the “secret system” I took it and held it with the reverence due a holy relic.  I went to my desk, placed my school books on the side and laid it gently in the middle of the blotter.  I took the seldom-used letter opener and carefully opened it, making sure that my cut was even and neat.  After I completed that I waited a minute or two before daring to pull out and read its contents.  But I finally summoned up the courage.

Before me I had a pamphlet that explained how a person could make a huge amount of money by getting into mail order.  I read every word of this brochure, replete with “testimonials” from people who were identified only by their first names and an initial for their surnames and the city in which they lived – stories about how they had made a small fortune in mail order thanks to the secret system.

And what was it that they were selling?  They were selling copies of a booklet that explained how to get into mail order – a copy of which was reserved for me – if I merely completed the enclosed order form and returned it with my five dollar remittance.  Once I had received my copy, I would have the opportunity to purchase additional copies which I could sell at a “huge profit” and the booklet would explain the step by step way of doing that.  To say I was disappointed would be an understatement.

Even though I knew that something just didn’t add up, I was reluctant to give up so quickly on this opportunity to get my own bedroom.  So at dinner that evening I asked my parents to read the brochure and give me their opinion.  Needless to say, it did not survive their imprimatur.  Nevertheless, having explained why this was a scam  they still permitted me to purchase the book if I chose to spend my five dollars on it.  My parents allowed me to make my own mistakes – as long as they weren’t likely to be dangerous to my health or well being.  Their theory was that rather than hearing them preach, a little personal experience would be far more enlightening to me.

Even before I had given my folks the brochure I knew that something just didn’t sound right.  But I was hoping that I was wrong and that my parents would agree with my original opinion that I had latched on the key to riches.  After several days of soul searching, I concurred with my parents and tossed the brochure in the wastebasket.  My father summed up the experience with the statement, “When something seems too good to be true – it probably isn’t.”

In 2010 the Congress passed and President Obama signed the PPACA into law.  Now more commonly referred to as Obamacare, the law was touted by Obama and lawmakers who supported it as the best thing that had happened since the invention of sliced bread.  It offered every American the opportunity to get “affordable health insurance”; we would be able either to keep our existing insurance or get a better policy through the healthcare exchanges that were going to be established; despite the fact that these new policies would be better they would be less expensive; every American household would save $2500 per year for this insurance; and on top of all of that, this three thousand page bill would reduce the national debt.  It almost seemed too good to be true – and it wasn’t.

Nobody who took the trouble to read through the law believed that the promises could be delivered for a simple reason.  The numbers just didn’t add up – and they still don’t.  But without going into a detailed analysis of the math, if you think about the law’s purported primary goal – insuring all Americans with affordable, quality medical care – it should be clear that goal is inconsistent with providing quality healthcare.

Let’s assume that magically everyone suddenly signed up and there were no longer Americans who couldn’t see a doctor for lack of insurance.  How would this impact the quality of delivering medical services?  It would cause a lower quality of health care if, for no other reason, than that we have now added forty million potential patients to a system to which no new medical practitioners or hospital facilities have been added.  The overall effect would necessarily be longer wait times to get an appointment which in and of itself constitutes a decrease in the quality of healthcare.

We know that few if any legislators actually read the bill before voting to approve it – per then Speaker Nancy Pelosi.  That in itself is disturbing as that is the reason that we pay these people quite handsomely.  But if they had read the bill I sincerely wonder if they would have been much more elucidated on its contents than before they began that exercise.  Besides its length, the law is convoluted and the language goes beyond what we have come to expect from Washington speak.  For that reason perhaps, we employed an MIT professor, one Jonathan Gruber to advise those who wrote the law on how to craft it.  The Federal government and various state governments apparently paid Professor Gruber the sum of nearly $6 Million over several years for his insight.

Over the last ten days a series of videos have surfaced in which said professor has been recorded delivering a number of talks to various groups, mostly within the hallowed halls of academia, and explained that in order to secure the law’s passage, basically its contents had to be both disguised and lied about because it would never have passed if the public new what it actually contained.  In the course of his explanation he pointed out that, “The American public is stupid.”

While this academic apologized for the statement from the first of these videos which was released as an unfortunate malapropism, on several other occasions he made essentially the same comment.  This is not a faux pas but a reflection of the professor’s world view – and more generally – an example of the world view of most on the liberal left.  People are simply too stupid to do what is in their best interest – so it is up to enlightened do-gooders to enforce what is good for them on them.

These comments brought me back to the time I was able to attend “The Howdy Doody Show.”  It was much earlier than my experience with the magic mail order system.  I think I was about eight – and like all the ther kids who attended, I sat in “The Peanut Gallery.”  Like all the other “peanut attendees” I was wowed by Buffalo Bob, Princess Summerfallwinterspring and Mr. Bluster.  It was a half hour of pure fantasy and delight.  But I graduated from The Peanut Gallery.

I wonder if Professor Gruber ever had that same experience.

“Goober – a peanut.”  {Colloquially – A person of limited intelligence}.

“Gruber – a pompous, cynical ass paid nearly $6 Million by various government agencies to deceive the American goober to buy into Obamacare.”

GET A ROOM

What do football and wealthy liberal donors have in common?  Apparently, not very much.

You may remember the controversy that was roiled up over the name of the NFL’s Washington Redskins team.  Outcries of racism surfaced faster than videos of MIT professor Jonathan Gruber calling the American people “stupid” for buying into the lies that were used to pass Obamacare.

The outrage extended to the highest levels of our elected government with soon-to-be-former Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid spearheading the effort in writing a letter (co-signed by many colleagues with a similar limited mental capacity) demanding that the team’s name be changed.  Fortunately, because the good senator had altered the Senate’s rules, no filibuster on the content of the letter was permitted.

This issue, of course, superseded the need to vote on any of the 340 bills that the House had sent to the Senate and which are presently accumulating dust somewhere in that upper chamber (possibly in violation of an EPA regulation regarding the permissible amount of dust that may be accumulated before it constitutes a health hazard).  It is likely that OSHA may soon weigh in on this matter as well.

So what does this manufactured “controversy” have to do with liberal donors?  We know that liberals, being liberals, have etched into their DNA an inherent abhorrence of racism in any form and are dedicated to stomping it out wherever it rears its ugly head.

This week the Democracy Alliance, a coalition of well-heeled liberal donors dedicated to electing leftists in state and national office got together to discuss strategy going forward to the 2016 elections.  The meeting took place in Washington, D. C. – at the Mandarin Oriental Hotel, an extremely attractive property and one of the city’s finest.

Stop.  Did no one tell these self-styled do-gooders that “Oriental” is a pejorative term and is denigrating to Asians?  It has been officially deleted from the PC Handbook and no longer exists as a word.  And there they are, patronizing what obviously is a racist hotel.

Hopefully the reality of the situation may have dawned on some of these contributors and, if they decided to hook up for a little afternoon delight, they booked themselves into a Motel 6.

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

THE PERMANENT POLITICAL CLASS

If you’ve read any of the liberal press during the last several years you have no doubt heard about the Koch brothers.  They are the favorite whipping boys for our leftist friends, spawn of the devil and the root cause of all evil in the country and the world.  Well, they have made a lot of money which used to be thought of as the source of all malevolence.

The objection that the left has toward the Koch brothers, other than that they are extremely successful, is that they are involved in the energy business which is causing “global weather change” and even more important than that, they are not ashamed to use their wealth to support candidates for public office or, as the pundits like to phrase it, “buy elections.”  That the left has no objection to other billionaires who subscribe to their own agenda doing the same thing is a matter for a separate conversation.

An excellent book by Peter Schweizer entitled, “Extortion” ( Houghton Mifflin Harcourt 2013) calls this theory into question – and does so with a great deal of interesting, detailed documentation.  The point that Schweizer makes in his work is that it is those in Congress actually extort these contributions from their constituents – and from those businesses and individuals which might suffer grave repercussions if they do not donate to them.  Schweizer uses the term extortion liberally throughout this extremely interesting book.  Incidentally, this technique is not restricted to members of Congress on only one side of the aisle but is well accepted and utilized by members of both caucuses.

Schweizer refers to those in power on Capitol Hill as the “Permanent Political Class.”  Once elected to office, we all know how difficult it is for a newcomer to unseat an incumbent.  And in the rare instance that happens, the power, influence and opportunity for self-aggrandizement is so strong that only the purest of souls can survive the overwhelming pressure to play the game – and sadly, that candidate isn’t running this year – or almost any other one.

A reasonable person might question why anyone would spend millions of dollars, and in some cases tens of millions, to secure a congressional seat which pays only $174,000 per year (plus some very attractive perks).  The spending on this year’s election is, by some estimates, going to approach $4 Billion.  That’s Billion with a capital “B” and will set an all time record for a mid-term election.

A further question is, what is it that large contributors get in return for their contributions?  Are they simply motivated by a sense of doing good for the country or are they merely trying to buy votes which are positively disposed to support those donors’ interests?  Or, more interestingly, as Schweizer convincingly points out, are they doing this because they are being extorted by those in power to make these contributions – threatened with adverse consequences and unfavorable votes should they withhold their donations.  How do veteran members of Congress perform this extortion?  The answer, while distasteful, is that they do so legally – but then, who wrote the rules?  They did.

Several years ago, two laws known by their acronyms of PIPA and SOFA were proposed.  These were supported by the entertainment industry because the two were purportedly designed to safeguard their intellectual property from theft – in large measure from Chinese pirates who stole new movies and recordings almost as fast as they were released.  Naturally, to secure a favorable vote on these two measures, Hollywood poured vast amounts of money into the PAC’s on which members of the committees that were writing these bills served.  Their lobbyists dropped millions of dollars worth of checks to secure their clients’ interests.

On the other side of the issue were companies such as Google, Microsoft and Facebook.  They were concerned that the way the law was written there would be a restriction on access to the internet.  They also dropped massive amounts of money in an effort to defeat the two measures.  That money went into exactly the same coffers where the lobbyists for Sony Pictures and their colleagues had left their deposits.  Schweizer refers to this procedure as “ The Double Dip,” and our politicians drool when they have the opportunity to play both sides against each other, collecting their tribute from all with great equanimity.

Another example of ways in which members of Congress can monetize the bills they pass is by passing laws which are so complex that no one understands them.  Two excellent examples are the PPACA (Obamacare) and the Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act.  Both exceed two thousand pages in length and contain language that is not only confusing but in some instances is contradictory.  Enter the lobbyists – to the “rescue” of those who are impacted by these bills.

Interestingly, each law that Congress enacts then goes into a second phase in which unelected bureaucrats “interpret and clarify” the language and meaning of the original bill.  Staff members, rather than our elected members of Congress, actually write many of the laws which their bosses then pass.  So who would know better than those who actually crafted the language of the law what that language means?

It should come as no surprise that many of these staffers realize that they can maximize their personal earnings potential by joining a lobbying firm on “K” Street – and those firms, realizing that they can charge enormous fees – sometimes at ten thousand dollars per hour – hire them.  Many times these firms hire the sons, daughters and wives of members of Congress.  Just another perk of having a seat on the Hill.  A seven figure income is not only a nice “perk” – but it isn’t a bad living.

There are additional reasons that our elected legislators raise money which go beyond making sure that they have a sufficient war chest so that they can get re-elected.  One of the most egregious of these is that, should they decide to retire from “public service” they legally can take whatever funds remain in their PAC accounts, pay taxes on them and keep whatever’s left.  But in the meanwhile, it’s perfect legal for a congressman to “lend” money to his PAC and charge “a reasonable rate of interest” on the funds so loaned.  One congresswoman “loaned” herself $250,000 at an interest rate of 18% per year.  That loan has been on the books now for over twenty years, despite the fact that her PAC has always had sufficient funds to repay the loan.  Perhaps she considers that $45,000 annual interest payment as “mad money.”

If this leaves you with a sense of corruption gone wild, then your opinion exactly mirrors mine.  It is perhaps the reason that I tend generally not to vote for any incumbent in elections, whether that person is being elected to a federal, state or local position.  There are exceptions to that rule – but they are few and far between.

“Power corrupts – and absolute power corrupts absolutely.”  The Permanent Political Class knows that – and they’re smiling all the way to the bank.

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.

 

THE TRANSGENDERED SUPREME COURT

A trip to the dog park is usually a peaceful, relaxing experience – perhaps more so for Gracie than for me.  Most of the folks who show up regularly find that sports is the subject of choice and the mornings are replete with stories about how they “would have hit that eight teamer … if only (fill in the blank) hadn’t happened.”  This, of course, reminds me of the old story that if only the bull had teats he would have been a cow.

Well, this morning, things were slightly different.  And the basis for the minor brouhaha had not to do with sports but stemmed from a discussion about dogs.

As three of us regulars were talking, the question of the genetic background of a dog who appears only occasionally arose.  The dog is a Labrador/French poodle mix which the owner had hoped to breed but ultimately could not find any takers so he had the dog neutered.  One of us, she maintains homes in Las Vegas and southern California made the observation that, ‘In California it’s illegal to cross breed dogs.”  She herself has a lovely Golden Retriever.

This prompted the other party to this conversation to make an observation about the stupidity (although he didn’t use that term) of all the laws in California and how Jerry Brown and the Democrat controlled chambers were ruining the state.  The statement went unchallenged by the woman – until my friend left – and she then lambasted me for the statement made by my friend who had already left.  My friend and I are both more closely attuned politically – and the woman who was incensed leans decidedly to the left.

In her rant, she said, “I’m tired of being attacked for my political views.”  In fact, nothing had been said about her views – merely about the governor of California.  She went on to say that, “Neither of you lives in California – so what right do you have to an opinion about how the state is being run?”  That statement so artfully fits into the thinking of those on the left that I suspect that if there is a manual on “How To Be A Liberal,” that primmer extolls that viewpoint in its first chapter.

I find it rather telling that in a state committed to “diversity” there should be an interdiction against creating dogs that are more “diverse.”  Hasn’t anyone wondered what the offspring of a Great Dane and a Chinese Hairless would look like?  And more to the specific point, the Golden Retriever, a breed which I love, has only been recognized as a “purebred” by the AKC since 1925.  The breed came about as the result of mixing Wavy-Coated Retrievers with the now extinct Tweed Water Spaniel.  Had the California law been in effect when the breed first saw the light of day it might never have come into being.

Returning to the point that, “If you don’t live there you’re not entitled to an opinion,” this is merely the outgrowth of a liberal philosophy which, by extension, should require that accused rapists can only be tried by a jury of other accused rapists; accused murderers should be tried only before others who were themselves accused of murder; and only women should be permitted to enact laws or adjudicate them which are relevant to other women.  Which brings us to the interesting question of why is it that the left endorses the 7 – 2 Supreme Court decision in Roe v Wade which was handed down by an all male court?  There is, however, an explanation.  I will leave it to you to determine its plausibility.

It’s been forty-one years since that decision was rendered.  Back in those days most Americans recognized people who belonged to one of two sexes.  That was before we became more enlightened and aware that there were also people whom today we call transgendered which, if I understand it properly refers to people who may be anatomically identified as belonging to one gender but who psychological identify as a member of the opposite sex.

While the number of people in America who are transgendered is difficult to ascertain accurately, the most recent data, which includes a survey that the State of California conducted, suggests that the total transgendered adult population is approximately 0.3% of the population, although other estimates suggest the number may be as high as 3.5%.  In 1973 when Roe v Wade was adjudicated, the total adult population of the country was 180 million – only a small percentage of whom, thankfully, were lawyers – and an even small number of those held positions as Federal judges – the primary recruiting source from which Supreme Court justices are recruited.

If we accept the premise that only women can logically decide issues that pertain to other women, then it would seem we are left with two rather disparate possibilities with regard to the landmark case.  Either the seven male Justices who voted in favor of legalizing abortion made a mistake; or the seven male Justices who voted in favor of legalizing abortion were actually transgendered.  Who knew that it would be possible to stack the court with that many transgendered people?

I look forward to my visit to the dog park tomorrow morning.  Who knows what else I’m going to learn?

Tag Cloud