Saturday, May 30, 2015

We Are Being Unserious

Americans have a tendency to be uneducated, unread, unthoughtful, and unserious. This is fairly uncomplimentary I understand, however it is none the less an unassailable assertion.

It is in the news lately that a veteran news broadcaster is retiring soon. He’s not one of those who’s been exposed as having fabricated stories from thin air, or one of those who has been a shameless political partisan in the past, but then head faked to the center, clicked his heels together three times and pretended to be impartial. But he is still unthoughtful, and unserious when he lends his voice to the chorus of voices that sites polarization of the congress as being a bad thing.

Polarization of the congress and the refusal to compromise is what makes the U.S. government what it is: stable. Three coequal branches of government in constant tension is exactly what the founders had in mind. Don’t make me drag out my three legged stool versus single legged milking stool analogy.

Everyone, except New York Times economists perhaps, accepts that a national debt of $18+ Trillion is potentially ruinous to the nation. The effects of a punishing recession would have been made much worse if interest rates on borrowed money weren’t so low, making the cost of servicing that debt less than they otherwise would be. But very little attention is paid to how we got to this point. That is unthoughtful.

There is constant argument about how to extricate ourselves from our current predicament. Some claim that we need to spend less, others that we need to spend more. Some claim that we need to tax less, others that we need to tax more. There are those that like to mix and match with taxing and spending, and there are those content with simply tinkering at the edges with feel good programs, but virtually everyone seems to long for the “good old days” when the congress seemed to be able to reach consensus and do the “people’s work”. But this is where our unthoghtfulness and unseriousness are exposed. It was the comity of congress, the congeniality, the ability of members of both parties to “get along” with their colleagues that has resulted in a national debt so large that our great grand children will still be making payments on it long after we’re in our graves.

Members of congress are rewarded for how much federal money and how many government funded projects and grants they bring home to their constituents, and how well they work with others. That is, how much help they can be to their colleagues in taking home money and projects to their own constituents. Lost in all of that well tailored, soft spoken conviviality is the fact that they don’t have to pay for or be responsible for any of it. All they have to do is to proclaim their sponsorship of, or support for an idea that sounds good. It doesn’t have to be successful, it can even be disastrous. It only has to appeal to our need to feel good about ourselves and to sound good in the abstract. Is it meant to help the children? Is it meant to help the poor?

No. A sharply divided congress is an indicator of a sharply divided populace, and if there is no public agreement on what should be done, then nothing should be done. The misguided nostalgia for the cooperation of past decades that brought us to this place is unthoughtful, unserious, and unresponsible.

But that’s just what an average guy thinks.

Saturday, May 16, 2015

An Economy In A Spin

I’m an engineer, but when I was thinking about a career path I seriously considered aviation and thought that being a pilot sounded like something I could have some fun at. I read Flying Magazine and searched out articles about civil aviation. This I did in the periodical section of the library because the only thing “on line” at the time was our laundry. One thing I learned is that many aircraft have what they call an inherently stable design. What’s meant by that is that the aircraft “wants” to be in a straight and level attitude, and no matter how disoriented or out of control the pilot is, if they take a few simple steps the aircraft will return to straight and level flight, assuming sufficient altitude of course. What I learned in those days (even though I never flew) is that a pilot should always trust their instruments, and that if all else fails and you find yourself in a spin 1) Reduce power to idle. 2) Put ailerons in a neutral position. 3) Rudder full opposite the direction of spin, 4) Put the nose down. Of course this requires knowledge of the aircraft, a cool head, and faith in the procedure.

This concept is, or could be extremely helpful in today’s economic world (even though a grad student trying to teach me English Comp told me to avoid such clich├ęs). A free market economy is much like an inherently stable airframe. It will, by itself, seek straight and level flight. It will seek a state, where each economic transaction, large and small, will benefit both parties. The economy can be controlled and directed to a degree, but it’s so complex and becoming more so every day that at the present time the government isn’t trying to direct the economy so much as trying overcome the negative effects of previous attempts at control.

The law of unintended consequences rules almost everything that happens with the economy these days. So many times legislation is written to correct and compensate for the negative effects of decades of favors done for cronies and interest groups. Then years later more legislation is required to repair the damage brought about by the unintended consequences of what came before. Good intentioned voters and politicians try to end poverty and wind up causing the disintegration of poor families and then they have to develop policies to combat the results of the policies they implemented while never admitting to the failure of the policies they promoted in the first place. They are doomed to a never ending and ever more expensive cycle of failure. The percentage of children living in poverty has barely changed in fifty years after having spent Trillions of Dollars trying to eliminate it. School test scores are unchanged after doubling the monies spent per pupil. Corporate taxes are higher and so companies move production and jobs off shore. The minimum wage is increased and those that need entry level jobs the most are increasingly shut out of the job market.

We are like that pilot in an aircraft hopelessly out of control and there is no hope that we will suddenly come into possession of the knowledge or skills that will allow us to save ourselves from certain ruin. We must trust in the inherent characteristics of the free market, the underlying principles, and follow the recovery procedure. 1) Reduce power to idle. We must stop trying to spend our way out of every perceived problem. 2) Ailerons to neutral. The government must stop trying to pick economic winners and creating economic losers. 3) Rudder FULL OPPOSITE the direction of the spin. We must recognize and admit that the economic policies of a half century have failed and eliminate the thousands of pages of rules and regulations that have sought to control the economy while giving benefit to this group or that, but instead have stifled economic growth, driven a third of the work force from the job market, and made all of our lives more expensive and complicated. 4) Put the nose down. We must be prepared to give up our reliance on the government to provide the things that we are perfectly able and used to provide for ourselves. We must learn to recognize the inability of the government to keep its arrogant promises and tell our elected representatives to just step away from the controls.

But that’s just what an average guy thinks

Saturday, February 14, 2015

Susan Rice Is Part Of The Problem

Susan Rice is the National Security Advisor to the President of the United States of America. She serves in the position held by such people as Henry Kissinger; Brent Scowcroft; Zbigniew Brzenski; William Clark; John Poindexter Colin Powell, and Condoleezza Rice. And of course there was Sandy Berger who was convicted of steeling and destroying documents from the National Archives for “who knows WHAT” reason.

Susan Rice has said that Bowe Bergdahl served his country with “honor and distinction”, contrary to testimony by his fellow squad members that he had indeed deserted his post. She claimed on many occasions that the attack on the American Consular facility at Benghazi, Libya was a spontaneous demonstration of anger caused by a poorly produced anti-Islamic video despite reports by intelligence agencies and military personnel on the ground that it was obviously a well planned and coordinated attack. Her most recent claim, in the face of the abandonment and emergency evacuation of the U.S. Embassy in Yemen, is that the United States is now stronger and better respected than it has ever been, that the threats from terrorism are decreasing and, in the face of record cold and snow, that Anthropogenic Global Warming (AGW) is now the greatest threat to our national security.

In the light of these statements, the questions that need to be asked about Susan Rice are these: 1) Is this woman simply incompetent? Is she just too stupid to associate A, with B? 2) Is this woman too uninformed of the facts to even make a decision that deserves criticism? 3) Is this woman deliberately lying? Is she simply carrying forward the views of her employer who is on record as believing that he is more knowledgeable about ALL things than his advisors?

It is distressing to see someone as politically talentless as Susan Rice offer up, with such a lack of feeling, the talking points provided to her by Ben Rhodes.

But that's just what an average guy thinks.



Wednesday, February 4, 2015

There Is A Problem With Government Forced Vaccination

The solution to the problem of the increasing percentage of parents opting to forego the vaccination of their children against disease is simple, but it is unclear if our culture any longer has the will to implement the measures necessary.

The principle is widely understood. Governmentally, parentally, culturally….. if there is desired behavior that is beneficial the way to get more people to participate in that behavior is to subsidize it. The way to discourage it is to penalize it. For example if the government wants to protect domestic sugar producers from foreign competition, they can, and do place import tariff on sugar from abroad. If parents want to encourage compliance with their instructions by their children they can smile and speak in pleasant and reassuring tones toward good behavior and frown and speak harshly toward bad. If, as a culture, we want to increase the numbers of teen pregnancies we can make the results of that condition easier to cope with. We can put day care facilities in high schools. We can remove the stigma that used to go along with bad decisions. If we want to increase the number of people receiving food stamps we can remove that stigma by issuing EBT cards which are indistinguishable from normal bank cards. That way it’s possible to receive public assistance with no one in the public actually being aware of it. It’s also possible for J.P. Morgan (which administers the cards) to collect hundreds of millions of dollars each year in fees related to the cards.

There used to be a social stigma that went along with all manner of behaviors both public and private. Cohabitation; premarital or extramarital sex; substance abuse; hair too long; dresses too short; childbirth out of wedlock; fringe political beliefs; lack of proper religious belief and practice. There were any number of unwritten, unspoken societal rules that one could fall afoul of. Of course now the pendulum is swinging the other way and if you live in certain areas of the country you can find yourself on thin ice if you advocate for the free and open practice of religious beliefs, of free speech, or firearm ownership, or if you fail to show adequate support for and sensitivity to homosexuality and gender confusion.

We have come to a point where our cultural tolerance for variation has created a situation where a group of people armed with nothing more than their ignorance and celebrity has single handedly wiped out generations of progress against disease. It is the same tolerance for “the other” that allowed the WTC 19 to overstay their visas, and enroll in flight schools where they were only interested in “flying” big planes, but not in taking off or landing. It’s the same tolerance that allows for the mass immigration across the Southern border of not only people, but ignorance and disease as well. It’s the same tolerance that allows us to graduate students from high school who can’t write a coherent paragraph. The same tolerance that allows us to loan money to college students to study subjects that are of no particular use to society or to themselves.

And so now it’s come to the point where politicians and bombastic pundits will seize an opportunity to speak of a public obligation that requires the government to herd us all together like cattle and inject us for our own good and the good of society. It is worth saying loudly that this is NOT the function of government, but it IS an indication that culturally we have failed to exercise judgment about what is good and valuable. “You can’t judge me” is the mantra of the adolescent, but many, perhaps most of us have, like Peter Pan refused to grow up and have carried that phrase with us into our adulthood as a defense of our pleasures and our refusal to be at least discreet in our noncompliance with cultural “norms”. This has altered our cultural norms to the point where now the government will be forced to gather us all together as beasts in a pen and do for us what we no longer have the sense to do for ourselves.

But that’s just what an average guy thinks.



Monday, January 5, 2015

Amnesty

It would appear that there are a whole slew of folks out there who just haven’t thought this whole immigration thing out. They use the “A” word as a weapon against any and all comers. For them the support of what they call amnesty is the greatest sin that a politician can be guilty of. For them amnesty is anything that doesn’t include the physically and morally impossible task of the forced deportation of nominally twelve million individuals. Even if enough buses and semi tractor trailers could be built and brought into service, and even if the courts would allow the confiscation of property and the separation of families, and even if foreign governments would allow the repatriation of citizens long ago departed the nation as a whole would simply not stand for it.

The immigration machinery must be reformed and some process introduced to provide a pathway to legality for those illegals currently here and living an otherwise law abiding life. A pathway to citizenship for those who came to the country illegally should remain unavailable. To refuse to accept these facts is to stand four square in support of the status quo.

Of course concurrently with this taking effect, the borders must be made secure. This is a very simple matter. You simply turn off the magnet. You enforce current immigration law and you make it a punishable offence to hire someone who is undocumented. If they are to be constantly pursued and unceremoniously returned whence they came and are unable to find work they will stop coming. The chamber of commerce is opposed to this as they recognize the economic need for foreign workers. Fine. Let’s get them documented then.

These measures are simple and don’t require two thousand page pieces of “comprehensive” legislation which are simply written to confuse the public and conceal legislative mischief. This problem has a solution, but a part of that solution is for us to stop rewarding politicians who unashamedly and irrationally advocate for the impossible and stop punishing those who seek solutions.

But that’s just what an average guy thinks.