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Thursday, December 29, 2011

I Agree With Michael Moore (On Something)

I recently read Michael Moore's Stupid White Men. For the most part, it was a jumble of sloppily-connected ideas that made little-to-no sense. Don't accuse me of lining the liberal establishment's pockets, either; my brother bought it for me at a thrift store, so as far as I know, Michael Moore didn't get one red cent out of the purchase. Still, I thought it might be useful to review the book in this blog just to show that I do, on occasion, peruse sources other than the approved conservative reading list.

The first chapter in Moore's book is a bunch of rehashed babble about how Bush stole the 2000 election. **Yawn.** I'm so tired of hearing that nonsense. If the Electoral College didn't result in the popular vote being thwarted once in a while, it would be useless. The whole purpose is to ensure that the election isn't always dominated by a few overpopulated states. It's the same principle by which the bicameral legislature operates. I don't expect liberals to comprehend all of this, so I can forgive Michael Moore's ignorance on the subject. Still, the whole first chapter is tedious. Skip it.

Moore goes on to deal with the state of education in the United States. I found myself agreeing with him much of the time in this section. My mom just gave me a fifth-grade reader from 1857--most college students would have a difficult time comprehending any of it. We're graduating a bunch of (functional) illiterates, largely because the system is geared toward pampering the underachievers. Yes, we spend very little on education compared to the rest of the industrialized world, and we aren't at the top of the heap in international measures, nor have we been for quite a while. Personally, I attribute this more to the lack of student accountability in the system than to the amount of money being spent, but I must admit that the amount of what we spend that actually makes it to the classroom is appallingly low. According to the California Chamber of Commerce, roughly 57% of what is spent in California makes it to the actual teaching of students, including teacher salaries, materials, extracurricular activities, and etc. The rest is eaten up by administrative overhead, which means that between state, county, and district bureaucracies, 43% of the money spent is not being used to educate a single child. I doubt things are much better across the country. I would contend that we are spending a decent amount, but managing that money terribly.

Michael Moore still suffers from the delusion that teachers are capable of solving every ill of society. This is nonsense. Fools seek to change lives by changing the environment. Wise men seek to change men, who will then change their own environment. This is the key difference between my views on education and those of Michael Moore. Still, I agree with quite a bit of what he has to say on the subject, which was quite surprising to me.

The rest of the book consists of diatribes about how stupid we Americans are, how we engage in wanton violence, how our support of Israel amounts to genocide, how SUVs are melting the polar ice caps, blah, blah, blah. He made some interesting points when comparing Clinton's agenda to Reagan's, arguing that Clinton actually moved the country further to the right than Reagan had, at least in terms of policy. He makes some very similar points to Michael Savage, noting that there isn't much of a divide between establishment Republicans and establishment Democrats. (He voted and campaigned for Nader in 2000.) While I felt he was blaspheming the memory of Reagan, he did demonstrate that Clinton governed largely as a conservative. Personally, I attribute that to the 1994 Republican revolution, as do most conservatives, but at least Moore got the net result right.

I still think of Moore as a moron (Moore-on?), but even a stopped clock is right twice a day. It's useful to see what passes for thinking on the Left. It's also a relief to see that their arguments are indeed as weak as we have always supposed. We'll always have a need for liberals; they're quite entertaining. As long as we keep in mind that they're a vapid bunch of troglodytes, there's no harm in hearing them out.

Thursday, December 15, 2011

The Tricky Issue of Illegal Immigration

I have to admit, in the interest of full disclosure, that three of my children would not exist if there was no problem with illegal immigration. While their birth mother was a Native American, their fathers were illegal immigrants. Yes, "fathers" plural; they were adopted as a sibling group, and such situations are standard in homes in which children are removed by court order. Still, the parentage of my children may have some influence on the complexity of my feelings and thoughts on the issue of illegal immigration. For me, it is not an easy issue, though I do have a definite stance on it.

As a father, if my family were facing starvation or murder by drug cartels, the impulse to flee would be incredibly strong, especially if the nation to which I was fleeing was the United States of America. Sociologists call this a "push factor," the things pushing people out of their native lands. I understand this. I have family in Mexico, and have visited quite a bit as a youth. I've seen what people are fleeing from.

The United States also offers many "pull factors." We have a generous welfare state for citizens as well as immigrants. The use of health care in hospital emergency rooms is free in the United States; there are bright, large-type notices in several languages to that effect. Granted, you are asked for a name and address, as well as insurance information. However, it is widely known that it is impossible (and illegal) for hospitals to ensure the accuracy of this information as a prerequisite for giving care. All children born on U.S. soil are granted citizenship, regardless of the immigration status of their parents, and are thus entitled by law to social services. In most states, this results in the parents of said children gaining access to those same services. Jobs are much more plentiful here than in Mexico. The work Americans "just won't do" is just the sort of work to which most immigrants are accustomed. All of these act as enticements making relocation, legal or illegal, that much more attractive.

The issue at stake is not whether illegal immigrants are evil or immoral. I'm quite sure most of us would do whatever we had to in order to feed our children and care for our families. Neither is the issue one of race or ethnicity. In my not-so-humble opinion, raising the spectre of racism every time immigration is discussed is simply a way of avoiding debate. Moreover, immigration is not a question of race but of nationality. (Technically there are only three, possibly four races: Negroid, Mongoloid, Caucasoid, and depending on the current academic climate, Native American.) Thus, those who oppose open immigration policies are not generally motivated by hatred, but by self-interest, which is essentially the same motivator as those who embrace open immigration.

My criterion for immigration policy is quite simple, much simpler than the volumes and volumes that have been written on the subject by so many distinguished experts. The only factor that should have any weight in deciding immigration policy is what is in the interest of the citizens of the United States of America. Yes, by citizens I mean actual legal-to-vote citizens, either native born or legally naturalized. While it is "nice" to think of immigration as a way to help the world's needy, such an attitude is detrimental to the national interest. I would favor a policy in which the following steps were mandatory:

1. All employers must run potential employees' identification through E-Verify. While there have been a few isolated cases in which mistakes have been reported, such mistakes can be remedied through the proper channels. (For more information, click here.)

2. Local and state police authorities will not only be authorized to enforce federal immigration law, but will be required to do so on penalty of treason against the laws and government of the United States. While it has been widely criticized in the media, the Arizona law to this effect takes stringent measures to ensure that unjust discrimination is avoided. (To see the specific details, click here.)

3. A defensible border wall will be constructed within one year. Approximate measurements would be twenty feet high by three feet wide, with a rounded top to make it difficult to scale. Considering that we have fabricated thousands of miles of "sound walls" along our freeways and busy streets at the taxpayers' expense, there is no excuse for not securing our borders. (Click here for more.)

4. A Constitutional amendment should be passed specifying that only those children born of at least one citizen or permanent legal resident on American soil have the right of natural-born citizenship. The United States and Canada are the only developed countries in the world still practicing jus soli citizenship, or the policy that any child born on national soil is an automatic citizen. The rest of the world has moved away from the practice out of necessity. (This is one of the few times you will find me using foreign nations' policies on any issue as an example we should emulate.)

5. Immigration for any other reason than the unification of the spouse and/or legally recognized children of a current citizen will halt any time the national unemployment rate climbs above five percent. When demand for labor is down, it is foolhardy to increase the supply. Anyone who has studied basic economics (or has an ounce of common sense) will understand why this is necessary.

I would like to re-emphasize here that I am pro-immigrant. I have several relatives who have immigrated to this country. I enjoy the diversity of culture and especially cuisine that immigration brings. However, let us never forget that the government of the United States exists to serve the interests of the citizens of the United States. Immigration policy is no exception.

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Biting the Hand That Feeds

It occurs to me that the "occupy movement" is a classic case of biting the hand that feeds. The ability to be present for weeks on end without having to go to work implies that someone else is paying the bills. Odds are, that entity is government of some sort or another. Government, in turn, obtains its money from taxation. According to IRS data from 2004 (when the Bush tax cuts took effect), the top 1% of earners received roughly 19% of all (earned) income nationally, but paid 37% of all taxes collected. Indeed, they paid roughly 95% more than their fair share, if by "fair share" we mean that they pay proportionately to what they make. (Source here.)

Moreover, many in the top 1% are not individuals but corporations. This fact is lost on "occupiers," who seem oblivious to the fact that if they own a mutual fund or have any sort of pension plan, they are part owners in those companies and therefore benefit from those earnings. As Mitt Romney correctly noted, corporations are indeed people, though many of these people don't seem to be cognizant of that fact.

Although these numbers are everywhere on the Internet, they bear repeating, loudly and often. Let's examine who pays for our government (tax year 2004 data):

The top one percent -- 37%

The top five percent -- 57%

The top ten percent -- 68%

The top twenty-five percent -- 85%

The top fifty percent -- 97%

According to the same set of data, at the height of the "Bush economy," the bottom fifty percent paid only 3% of all tax revenue, yet received 13% of all (earned) income. That would mean, proportionately speaking, they underpaid by 433%. Since then, the situation has only become more exaggerated. Today, 47% of Americans pay no taxes whatsoever, most of whom receive some form of EITC (Earned Income Tax Credit, e.g. free money). Welfare, food stamps, and other forms of assistance are not factored into the income data either. I will not argue against the notion that there are many in the current economy in need of assistance. To be perfectly honest, as a classroom teacher with four children, I don't make enough to pay taxes myself. However, I am not camping in the street interfering with free trade because of my ingratitude.

Worse yet, those in the "occupy movement" are making it less and less likely that the purported cause of their malice will improve. Businesses will not expand production when net profits are declining. For those of you who may be "occupiers" yourselves, net profits are the profits a company makes after factoring in the costs of doing business. A company may make billions in gross profit (total revenue minus production costs), then reinvest much of that money into research and development, expanding operations, or modernizing its equipment. This is how a company supposedly making "disgustingly" large profits can claim to be unprofitable, and thus pay taxes on only what remains after investment. By raising taxes on gross profits (which is what this movement wants government to do), the profit margins of these corporations will decline. In turn, less money will be available to invest in the growth of businesses, which means that economic growth will decline even further. In short, fewer profits means fewer jobs.

It is my contention that these people do not want job growth. They want, instead, to feed like ticks off the lifeblood of those of us who still work for a living. I may be part of the forty-seven percent, but I don't intend to stay that way. That is what these individuals lack -- ambition. It is highly ironic that they are willing to spend so much time and energy demanding handouts while lacking the motivation to make something of themselves. College students dropping out to scorn the successful demonstrate that the idea that all students are college material is a fallacy. To put it bluntly, there are a lot of doped-out idiots in college. Sadly, adding a few abbreviations after their names doesn't change that.

Perhaps Wall Street should have a demonstration of its own, though an Ayn Rand-style walkout would be disastrous for the nation. If these leeches succeed in shutting down corporate America, they deserve the fate that will befall them. As for the rest of us, we'll also suffer for their idiocy. Isn't that always the case, though?

Friday, November 18, 2011

How Much Government Is Too Much?

As a Republican, and a fairly conservative one at that, I notice in the current political miasma a theme that needs to be explored and defined by our movement. What is the precise amount of government we should have? It's tempting to take the Libertarian route and declare that any function over and above law enforcement and national defense is too much, but we can all recognize that such a position is preposterous. We need to define, perhaps in the form of a document, exactly what we mean when we say we're for "limited government."

If we fail to define our own terms, they will be defined for us. The media love to do this, painting us as cold and heartless or vicious and war-mongering. Therefore, let me make a few suggestions about the general scope of government as I see it. I would welcome any input or additional detail that would add to the discussion. What I hope to do is spark the creation of greater coherence on the part of the conservative movement. That is not to say that we must all agree on every idea, but that, as a group, we should have at least some clear direction for where to take the country, rather than a vague "kinda' this way" sort of description.

1. The federal government exists to do those things that cannot be done by individual states.

Government works best when it is most responsive to the people. This is most true at the local level. Local needs should be satisfied by local agencies. If a community decides it needs to pay for free medical care for its poor and indigent, then the community itself should pay for it. If it finds that doing this attracts more of such individuals than it can afford, it will likely rethink such a policy. In this way, common sense has much more of an impact on policy decisions. Local politicians are much less likely to pursue counterproductive policies based on vague platitudes.

State governments should take care of issues affecting only the citizens of that state. Social welfare programs, for example, should rise no further than the level of the individual state. Taxpayers in Iowa should not be burdened with paying for welfare recipients in Chicago. If the State of Illinois wants to pay able-bodied people not to work, it should have to come up with the funds itself.

This same principle applies to many other federally-funded programs that have nothing to do with strictly national needs, but instead cater to individuals. School funding and policy should never have become a federal issue. Frankly, it would be a good idea to plan the gradual transition of Medicare and Social Security from federal to state programs. There is a public perception that the federal government is able to afford whatever is asked of it. We all recognize this notion to be false, but somehow every "oughta" gets translated into an expensive program at the federal level. By returning local needs to local governments, the federal government would be left with enough time and resources to do what it was established to do--protect our nation from foreign aggression and invasion.

2. There are certain functions which cannot and should not be privatized.

I once used the example of privatizing the military as a farsical analogy to eliminating public education. It then occurred to me that we have done exactly that to an alarming degree as of late. When any part of our military's uniform is being manufactured in China, we have crossed a line. When we hire private firms to become our military's chief supply line, we have entered dangerous waters. Corporations have no national loyalties. Nations are essentially service providers to them. If a nation's cost-to-service ratio becomes unfavorable, a corporation will switch providers. It simply makes financial sense. Trusting such entities with our national security is a bad idea.

Privatizing public education is an equally bad idea. Granted, public schools have not had stellar results in every case, but the quality of output is greatly determined by the quality of raw materials. In this sense, achievement is geographically predictable. Areas in which family values are strong and children are raised with a work ethic and respect for adults will have "good schools." Areas in which the opposite is true will have "bad schools." We have thus placed the responsibility for cultural degredation upon the shoulders of an entity without the powers to change the culture. Worse yet, we have made the students themselves unaccountable for their own success or failure. Government policy forces schools to promote students based on age, then lambastes them when students fail to take school seriously. Privatizing education will not eliminate this problem. Moreover, privatization will mean that even less money will reach students since, for the profit motive to be part of the equation, a profit must necessarily be made.

3. The United States government exists to protect the citizens of the United States.

You cannot pull others up unless you stand above them. For far too long we have tolerated the notion that America should be "charitable" with federal funds. This is nonsense. First, charity is voluntary by definition. Taxes are not. When real needs come up around the world, private citizens in our country donate vast sums of money. That is the way it should be done. Federal funds should be spent on American interests and nothing more. By spending our money bailing out other nations, we have added to a debt of roughly fifteen trillion dollars. As Mitt Romney stated, why not have China take over this function since we are getting the funds from them anyway? If we had a national surplus rather than a national debt, we might entertain the idea of donating to the welfare of other countries. We cannot continue to make our no-good brother-in-law's care payments while our own family goes hungry.

Immigration policy must be viewed the same way. If our unemployment rate was so low that employers could not find workers, it would be time to allow for a wave of immigrants. During a time of ten percent unemployment (twenty if you count everyone still desiring work), immigration should be curtailed entirely. Immigration policy should be tailored to benefit American citizens. It cannot and should not be used as a form of internatonal welfare.

I'm sure there are more ideas with which we can all agree. Perhaps there are some I have presented with which you disagree. If you can prove your point using logic and data, I'm willing to listen. The purpose of such a dialogue is to solve problems and unite behind a rational core set of ideas. We've been needing to do that for quite some time. Not since Gingrich's Contract for America have we done so, and look how far it got us then.

Friday, November 11, 2011

If You Give a Lib a Freebie...

I thought I'd have a little fun with this one. I was just running some of this through my head on the way home from work, and I decided it might be worth writing down. I don't think I'm infringing any intellectual property considering that satire is Constitutionally protected speech.

If you give a lib a freebie,
she'll eat it up really fast.
Then, she'll ask for another
because she's out.
If you give her another freebie,
she'll expect a constant flow.
She'll feel entitled to them
and think you owe them to her.
If the freebies make her sick
because she eats up so many of them,
she'll ask for free health care.
After all, you're the one
who gave her all those freebies
that made her sick.
If you give her free health care,
she will complain that it's not very good.
She will want more and more coverage
until her free care is better
than what you can afford for yourself.
If her health care bankrupts you
and you can't afford more freebies
she will camp out in your yard.
She will expect you to feed her
and pay for the illnesses she gets
for being out in the cold.
Once you have some money
and you're getting back on your feet,
she will be upset that you can support yourself
and will be angry you haven't given her a job.
If you offer her a job,
she will say it's not good enough.
Then she will want another freebie.

Let me know what you think; it's a work in progress. I like the moral of the story.

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Why are vouchers bad for private schools?

Vouchers have long been heralded as a panacea for the ills of the nation's education system. This is an understandable, if illogical, position to take. Knee jerk conservatives like the idea of privatizing anything; if one suggested privatizing the military, there would be a few proponents on the Republican side. Therefore, when it is observed that there is room for improvement in the nation's educational attainment, many conservatives suggest that exposing education to the pressures of market forces would be a viable solution. This sounds great in theory. Then again, so did communism.
The public school system is suffering because it is run and regulated by the government. Remember, this is the same government that is suggesting privatization. That is akin to saying, "Wow, we really screwed this up! Let's have someone else deal with the problems we created." The problem with this mentality is that government is incapable of leaving education to the educators. If government could keep its hands off a privatized system, that would be one thing. But it can't.
Vouchers will force those schools that accept them into taking students who do not fit the private school mold. What is worse, private schools will become dependent upon public funds. Once this happens, the government will have the leverage to force private schools into the same policies which have hampered the effectiveness of public schools. There will be no safe harbor for the students formerly protected by the private school system.
On a positive note, vouchers will once and for all demonstrate whether the demographics of private schools are a primary cause for superior results, an assertion made by many educators in the public school system, myself included. However, I doubt that such an outcome would have much of an effect on the opinions of voucher proponents. Reality and politics do not often intermingle.

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

A Teacher Venting

Imagine a workplace in which you are a manager, perhaps a fast-food restaurant. Your staff doesn't earn enough from the job to really want to be present, and are often late to work. Many of them do the bare minimum to stay employed, and a few do virtually nothing. Some are so verbally abusive and antagonistic that their mere presence at work keeps the rest of the employees from doing what needs to be done. Oh, and one final detail--you aren't allowed to fire any one of them.

Now let us complicate the situation. Your next-level manager walks in randomly each day with an iPad. He stays for one minute and takes a snapshot of what he sees. If you are discussing morale with your employees rather than frying burgers, you are marked as "ineffective" at that moment, and an email is sent to you informing you of the assessment. (A copy is also saved for your annual evaluation.) While you like your next-level manager and understand that this requirement comes from the corporate HQ, you are nevertheless worried from day to day about what these snapshots will make people think about your managerial skills.

A few times a year, this manager also stays for an hour or so to observe you managing the restaurant, randomly and without warning. Each and every thing you do is marked on the iPad. Every moment is catalogued and every word scrutinized. If you complete your scheduled tasks early and begin another task to use the extra time productively, you risk being marked down as "not following the stated objectives" and therefore as "ineffective." In the meantime, your employees are allowed to behave as usual, only being authorized for firing by your supervisor after several months of making life miserable for you and the rest of your store, or perhaps as the result of bringing drugs or weapons to work (although this has been pardoned in the past because of HQ's wishes). If sales do not reach a certain goal, it is determined that you are an ineffective manager and therefore should be fired. After all, you should be able to motivate your employees to do their job--that's what you are paid for, right? (Let's ignore for the moment that there are no consequences for them regardless of sales goals.)

Each day you come to work dreading not only the prospect of dealing with those few truly problematic employees, but also dreading how, when, and where your supervisor will drop in, what precisely will be happening at that moment, and whether or not it meets his criteria for an "effective" manager. You spend hours and hours past your shift trying your best to reach sales goals and plan each second of time in such a way that your supervisor will see and appreciate your efforts. You believe he truly does, but is constrained by the format of HQ's assessment procedures. While you once enjoyed your job, even taking a great deal of pride in it, you are beginning to wonder if you chose the right career path. It seems corporate is doing its best to make its managers look bad to justify firing them and hiring someone cheaper.

The scenario I have just described is a summary of the average teacher's life in Indiana. Many are beginning the search for a new profession. The state ("corporate") is sabotaging the teachers so it can hire charter schools (which, in Indiana at least, are generally less effective--see ISTA data for more details). Politicians, immune from the real consequences of their actions, play with education like a puppet on a string to manipulate perceptions and therefore voters.

Now, in the "world of business," this would never happen. Managers get to hire and fire. Supervisors expect results, but do not hover obsessively. Common sense prevails because otherwise business would never get done and profits would not be made. Effective managers would leave, turnover would be high, and the cost of training new managers would become excessive, cutting into the profit margin. Yet we are told that teachers should be as accountable as private employees. They are. They are, in fact, more accountable than almost any other profession I can imagine.

Sorry if I sound "whiny." I suppose the manager in this scenario would simply be "whining" or "making excuses" for complaining about his lot in life as well. I suppose, in this economy, I should just be happy to be employed. Hopefully, depending upon the whims of state and federal government, I will at least have that to console me for the time being.

Monday, October 3, 2011

United States in a Voluntary Recession

That's right. I said it. We're in an unnecessary, voluntary recession. Why? We elected a socialist to fix a capitalist economy. Allow me to explain a few basic facts about how market capitalism works.

1. Recessions happen periodically and are good for a free market. Recessions allow the business world to trim the fat and force business to become more efficient. Inefficient companies are trimmed much like dead limbs on a tree, making room for newer, more innovative firms. By propping up the dying limbs, we extended the death cycle and delayed the growth cycle. Bailing out private companies (or having the government buy them out) was a terrible idea. You can't bounce back if you never hit bottom.

2. Businesses hire when making profits and fire when profits are low. When we propose punitive taxes on "big business," what we are really doing is taking away the capital that businesses would otherwise spend on expansion. If a business is making lots of money, it makes sense to expand its activities to make even more money. Production requires more workers, so jobs are created. When we decide to take away profits, we prevent expansion and kill jobs.

3. The housing bubble was the direct result of legislation requiring lending institutions to make low-income loans. Low-income loans are inherently risky. Thus, banks had to find ways to profit from them. It turns out that bundling such loans and selling them as investments was highly profitable. Such a pyramid scheme was bound to burst, and it did. However, it would never have started without government interference in the mortgage business.

I could go on for several pages, but I believe you get the hint. The recession will go on until the government stops creating economic disincentives.

Thursday, September 29, 2011

President Obama Comes Out of the Socialist Closet

The latest proposal by President Obama may well be the most telling thing he has ever said. Certainly everyone feels for those who are unemployed, especially those laid off for no other reason than a lack of seniority or the closing of a business. However, the idea that a person can prosecute or sue a company for hiring someone currently employed versus the unemployed is ludicrous. It is also pure and unadulterated socialism.

In a capitalist system, employers and employees are free to contract between each other the exact terms of their relationship. Certainly it is acceptable for groups of employees to discuss and agree on what acceptable terms would look like, as happens in a labor union. However, the employer retains the liberty to reject that proposal and, if necessary, fire the whole lot and hire new workers. Moreover, an employer is free to chose the candidate it decides is most qualified for the job. In the case of employed versus unemployed, it is likely that the employed individual has retained more skills and is more current in the field. He most likely has a more impressive resume, and has been deemed valuable enough to retain his position despite the weak economy. There are many reasons to choose the already employed over and above sheer thoughtless discrimination.

What this move would accomplish is to create work for trial lawyers and bleed more money out of the manufacturing and service base of the economy. However, President Obama is now in full campaign mode, concentrating less on economic realities than pandering to his base (special interests like the aforementioned lawyers) and to the masses of unemployed people who have been left to rot, ironically, by the president's own policies. The net result of such a law would be to further hinder economic growth and thus extend the problem of unemployment rather than alleviating it. President Obama knows this, but he does not care. November 2012 looms much larger in his view than the long-term results of his decisions. As Thomas Sowell writes in Common Sense Economics, it is often a viable move politically to kill the goose who lays the golden eggs.

Thursday, September 15, 2011

President Obama's Phantom Jobs Bill

The president has a new jobs bill. Okay, really he has a few suggestions for a bill that hasn't yet materialized, but for the sake of argument let's pretend he actually took the time to write one. What I find interesting is the place from whence President Obama believes jobs should come. He suggests "investing in infrastructure," a code-phrase for make-work programs that would have been paid for by local governments if they were truly necessary. He will likely suggest extending unemployment yet again, lengthening the vacation that the unemployed may take before really having to begin the search for a job. Research has shown time and time again that increasing the timeline of unemployment benefits increases the number of unemployed. The president also wants tax breaks "for the wealthiest Americans," a bonus of $2,500 for each new hire. However, he also wants to increase their total tax burden. My step-dad once made me such an offer. When I asked for an allowance, he said, "Okay. I'll pay you 50 cents a week, but you'll have to pay me five dollars a week for rent."

What this as-of-yet-theoretical bill proves is that President Obama believes in a government-controlled, centralized economy. Jobs, to him, should be provided not by private enterprise but by government. Thus, instead of making conditions better for business, he proposes "closing tax loopholes," a fancy way of saying "raising taxes on business." Such foolishness betrays his lack of prior government experience. Every mayor and governor has granted tax breaks and other benefits to companies as an enticement to locate in their area. They know that by so doing, they will not only benefit by more jobs, but by the revenue that taxes on this income will produce. Anyone who has played SimCity knows that after a certain threshold, higher taxes means lower revenue. It's common sense to everyone but those in Washington D.C. To corporations, governments are service providers. If, in a cost-benefits analysis, the cost of services (taxes, wage rates, expensive regulations) outweigh the benefits provided by that government (protection from criminality, ease of transportation, special benefits and allowances), the corporation will choose another service provider. It's not unlike switching from Comcast to DishTV depending on which has a better selection and/or price. America needs to have the best possible combination of good service and low costs to attract companies to our shores rather than driving them away. We don't want to become the Verizon FIOS of international business environments.

While I'm waiting to hear the specifics of the president's plan, I am not hopeful. The man is a socialist; he has already signed legislation establishing government control over one-fifth of the economy (health care). He has simply taken the property of investors in corporate debt, deeming by royal proclamation that stakeholders would simply go unpaid, including teachers associations that had invested millions of their pension funds in corporate bonds. Having a socialist run a capitalist economy is like having an Amish man repair your computer. Not only is he unfamiliar with the technology--he doesn't even believe in it. I am waiting hopefully for President Obama to leave office and a businessman to enter it. Only someone who has succeeded in the private economy has the know-how to fix it.

Monday, September 12, 2011

Examining the Terrorists' Logic

Sometimes I have to wonder just how much we've learned since the attacks ten years ago. First, I thank God that Al Gore wasn't president--his first instinct was to ponder what we did to anger Osama. I can sum up why terrorists hate us in three short words: We're not Muslims.

Just for the sake of accuracy, let's entertain the arguments made by the Muslim Brotherhood and its offshoots. Their excuse is that we had no right to split up the Ottoman Empire after World War I. They see that empire as the last great caliphate, and resent that America and Europe had the audacity to disband it into several weaker entities. This resentment, however, stands in direct conflict with the facts. The dissolution of the Ottoman Empire began with the Arab Revolts, a series of rebellions by dissidents within the empire seeking to liberate the Arab peninsula. They were initiated by Sherif Hussein bin Ali in 1916 and greatly weakened the Ottomans, contributing to their downfall. By the end of World War I, not much was left of the Ottoman Empire for the Europeans to dissolve.

However, even admitting that some political interference was made after the war, it must be conceded that it was the Ottomans' own doing. By entering into a secret treaty with an imperialistic Germany and seeking to secure disputed lands using the conflict as an excuse, the Ottoman Empire set the scene for its own downfall. It was inevitable, really; by the 1900s, the Ottoman Empire was know as "The Sick Man of Europe." It had been in decline for years, and was showing no signs of recovery. At least it can claim that it went out with a bang rather than a whimper.

The second thing terrorists use to justify their idiocy is the existence of Israel. However, this too is a farce. Israel has always had a substantial Jewish presence. Even when ruled by Egypt or Arab powers, Palestine has been the homeland of the Jews. The creation of Israel as a Jewish state simply formalized what had been a matter of fact since Biblical times. It is true that some Arab Palestinians were forced to leave their homes in Jerusalem and the surrounding area, but what is never mentioned is that they were offered a substantial recompense for doing so. They were not being expelled from the country. What it boils down to is the issue of eminent domain. In some ways, I sympathize. However, if you refuse the money and end up being forced out, that's your choice. Either way, this happened the better part of a century ago. It's time to get over it and join the modern world.

The attitude of the terrorists is not entirely unlike the attitude of any people who were once wronged. Resentment generations later simply impedes progress. There is no point to rehearsing a list of past misdeeds, especially when this is done by murdering those who were not even alive when they happened. Sorry, terrorists, but you make no sense. America doesn't bargain with idiots. (Okay, we do domestically, but we're not talking about welfare policy right now.)

Terrorism is keeping the Muslim world from reaching its cultural and economic potential. There will never be another Golden Age until Islam has left the Crimson Age.

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Please enter the race Sarah Palin!

This posting might seem a bit tongue-in-cheek, and perhaps it is. However, my desire that Sarah Palin enter the Republican nomination process is a sincere one, just not for the obvious reason. It's not that I don't like Sarah Palin. She's a solid and plainspoken conservative, and as such she has my support. However, that's not why I want her to run.

I think the country needs Mitt Romney right now. He saw the root idea of Obamacare fail in his own state, and thus understands how and why it's a bad idea. This is why he has pledged to repeal Obamacare as soon as possible after assuming office. He's a businessman who specializes in buying failing corporations and making them profitable. People criticize him for having laid off workers in some of the companies he bought, but I see that as an asset. If he's going to reduce the size of government, he's going to have to fire people. As a business owner, he knows the effects of confiscatory taxes and regulations. Sure, he's stated that he believes in global warming. However, he's never once said anything remotely similar to the idea that global warming can be reduced by government interference in the business cycle. These are two separate and distinct positions. Myself, I'm not convinced either way, but I don't have a problem investing in solar power plants along the Sun Belt, for example, though I think that kind of thing should wait until the economy recovers and the budget is balanced. A tax break for up to $10,000 of the cost of a rooftop solar array (provided it was manufactured 100% in the U.S.) sounds like a great idea to me. You don't have to tax and spend to help the environment. Using market incentives is much more effective. Again, this is the type of thing a man like Romney would understand.

However, Romney faces a few obstacles. He isn't 100% Tea Party material. He did support Cut, Cap and Balance, which is great. He's pro-life, although a convert to that position. He would protect the definition of marriage as between a man and a woman; Mormons did, after all, put a lot of time and effort into California's Proposition 8. He supports a strong military and education reform. In short, he's a solid conservative. However, he's very presidential, meaning that he is calm and rational.

Palin would divide the Tea Party vote, siphoning votes from Perry. That's why I want her in. Romney needs Palin to enter the race right now. I love ya, Sarah, but I need you to run interference this play.