Sunday, November 4, 2012

And Now For a Totally Different Election Process

During this election cycle there has been quite a bit of talk about Voter ID laws. Some say these laws are necessary to prevent voter fraud where some people vote more than once. In some cases, people who are dead have apparently channeled their candidate selections to living people who are charged with being proxies at the voting booth. Soon we will be hearing about people who are not yet born horning in on the election process. In fact, if a significant number of this demographic begins voting, we may find Roe v. Wade being overturned.

On the other side are those who believe that Voter ID laws disenfranchise citizens who do not have a valid ID. However as one commentator said, you can’t even check out a book at the public library without sufficient ID. Why would you want to allow voting without proper identification? Perhaps those library cards could be used at the polls as identification. In fact, some states are already doing this.

Given all the controversy over Voter ID, I decided that if we really don’t care how many times a person votes, there is a much better way to hold elections. I call it Reality TV Elections (RTE). Currently, there is a huge interest in talent shows on TV. Shows such as American Idol, America’s Got Talent, The X Factor, The Voice, and Dancing With The Stars are going strong. Some of these shows have franchises around the world, so there’s no disenfranchising going on there yet. Here is my idea. Do away with the current election process and replace it with a reality show. Just to get the mental cogs turning, here’s a few suggestions for the name of the show: Presidential Idol, America’s President’s Got Skills, The POTUS Factor, The Election, or Cavorting With The Candidates. I’m sure you, gentle reader, can come up with even better names.

Just think about it. This reality show concept will not only solve the problem of voters being disenfranchised and others not being allowed to vote more than once, but other problems as well.

Campaign finance reform is something that many people want to see. They don’t like the idea of big money controlling big elections. All those PACs and SuperPACs are seen as corrupting the election process. Well, no more with RTE. The candidates will no longer have to raise money and be beholding to big money interests. In fact, RTE will pay for itself. Advertising fees would pay for the entire process. Can you imagine replacing the McCain-Feingold law with McCain’s Fine Gold ads? Totally awesome.

Our two-party system of politics has been increasingly under attack since there are a significant number of people who no longer like the candidates who run as a Republican or a Democrat. Yet these people are skeptical of voting for a third party candidate for fear they are throwing their vote away and possibly allowing the worser of two evils to get elected. This is not an issue with RTE. It would allow anyone in the country who is Constitutionally qualified to be president to show up at the tryouts to be held in major cities throughout the US. The judges would consist of all former US presidents who are still alive. Channeling of dead presidents is not allowed as it is with voters. If there is not a well balanced array of ideologies amongst the living presidents, then Howard Stern and/or Penn Jillette could join them to compensate. And remember, there would no longer be any political parties except those held by the judges after hours.

In the early rounds of competition, the judges alone would decide who makes it through to the next round.  However, to avoid any hint of partisanship in this process, the early rounds would be devoid of any ideological content. The judges could base their decisions on such things as who has a presidential look and speaks like a president. After all, you don’t want a president who wears a nose ring and dangles his participles. Well, at least not in our present culture; maybe someday in the future. After eliminating candidates based on these two criteria alone, the field of remaining candidates should be at a very manageable level. In fact, the number may be small enough to go to the live shows. If not, then the number could definitely be reduced to an appropriate level by asking questions such as “What are the three branches of the federal government?”, “Who was the first president of the United States?”, and “What was the first bill that President James Garfield signed into law?”

Voting by the TV viewing audience would begin with the first live show. At this point ideologies could be expressed by the candidates. I suggest that each of the live shows be themed. For instance, one show could be devoted to writing and delivering a speech. Each candidate would be put in solitary confinement for the day with a pencil and paper. No speech writers would be allowed. Also, no computer with an Internet connection would be allowed lest the candidates be tempted to plagiarize a Ronald Reagan speech. During the live show that evening, they would deliver their speeches. After the show, two hours of voting would begin. Everyone would be allowed to vote as many times as she is able to get through on the phone and the Internet. Don’t even say it. I know what you are thinking. Isn’t this method of voting disenfranchising those without a phone or a computer with an Internet connection? Well, it would be except that I hear that President Obama is personally passing out free cell phones to those without one. I assume this program will continue under future presidents. In fact, with voting at stake, it would be their patriotic duty.

Additional show themes could include such things as handling a simulated Cuban missile crisis, making wise decisions (bonus points for having this ability during the sleep deprivation episode), handling terrorist threats and attacks, and revealing which famous actors you would choose to fly into space with nuclear weapons to break up a comet fast approaching Earth. I would personally want to see one week devoted to the candidates imitating Elvis Presley. I believe every patriotic American citizen needs to possess this skill. The president gets no special exemption. However, this is the closest I ever want to see the US President pretending to be a King.

After several weeks of intense competition and voting, the winner of the presidential reality TV show would be revealed. Tell us what prizes the winner gets, Don Pardo. Well, they include an all expense paid trip to Washington DC, a free four-year stay at the White House, free trips to points around the world aboard Air Force One, free food for the entire family, and an annual $400,000 salary plus $169,000 for various expenses. And that’s not all. The winner will continue to get nearly $200,000 per year for life as a pension. Not bad considering he will also be eligible to make $100,000 or more for each appearance he makes on the speaking circuit. The actual amount will vary depending on how well he performed on speech delivery night during the competition.

So what do you all think of my idea? If you like it, we can make this reality show a reality by banding together and demanding a Constitutional amendment that modifies the election process. I can’t wait. After all, since it is my idea, my royalties for the show will probably exceed by far the measly amount made by the President. His will be chump change by comparison.

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Presidential Debate 3

Finally a debate with a clear winner. Both President Obama and Governor Romney came out swinging about foreign policy. However, they weren’t swinging at each other. Apparently they were swinging at Gary Johnson, who unfortunately was not there to receive their punches. What I am saying is that Obama and Romney agreed with each other on essentially every question asked by the moderator. It was a sight to see. Two guys flailing away at a person not even present. So, you can see how easy it was to pick a winner. Just pick one, and you’ve picked the winner. Of course, you’ve also picked the loser.

Don’t get me wrong; there were a few minor differences like how quickly a policy should have been implemented or how long a policy should be in place, but at its core, Romney and Obama agree on foreign policy issues. They are so close that they were forced to occasionally sidestep to domestic policy just to find something to criticize the other about.

Basically, Obama and Romney both agree that we should continue to be involved in other nations in an attempt to bring about governmental changes that favor America. They also agree that sanctions and diplomacy should be the primary ways to deal with rogue nations, only using military actions as a last resort. This clearly distinguishes the Obama/Romney team from Gary Johnson. The libertarians typical support the idea of leaving other countries alone, but still trading with them. Johnson would bring our troops home immediately from Afghanistan and other nations of the world. Although I consider myself mostly libertarian, this is one area in which I have somewhat of a disagreement with the libertarian position.

While I mostly agree that we should let other countries defend themselves using their own military and money, I also recognize that there are some leaders of nations around the world that simply cannot be dealt with using reason. Sometimes we do indeed have to resort to sanctions and force when dealing with nations. It’s not ideal, but it’s occasionally necessary. I wish it were not.

So, if you were looking to make a decision between Obama and Romney based on their foreign policies, you can forget it. They’ll both do the same things. However, if you were trying to decide whether to vote for Johnson or one of the two mainstream candidates, then this debate was for you. If you want to know more about Johnson’s positions, be sure to tune into the debate between Johnson and three other third party candidates tonight at 8pm CT at .

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Presidential Debate 2

Well, as most of you know the second debate between Barack Obama and Mitt Romney took place tonight. And they both came out fighting. No boxing gloves; no bare fists; no spinning jump kicks. Only tongue lashings. Both candidates’ faces were thoroughly covered with the other’s saliva by the end of the debate. So, who won? Well, I was totally surprised when after the spit settled, the last man standing wasssssss… GARY JOHNSON. Yeah, I was just as astounded as you were. How in the world could a candidate that was not even in the debate, due to not being invited, end up being the winner? After conducting a brief but thorough analysis, I figured it out. Obama and Romney totally discredited each other by outing their opponents as liars. Neither candidate even mentioned any lies that Johnson had told. BINGO, Johnson WINS!!

Okay, I know what you’re thinking. “Who cares about a candidate that was not in the debate? Just tell me who won between the two debaters that actually debated?” I think those questions are nothing but a bunch of malarkey, but I’ll still provide sort of an answer. Both candidates are quite forceful and convincing when espousing their policies. But keep in mind that both of these guys only tell you the things that make themselves look good. They leave it up to the other guy to tell you the bad stuff. Who knows who is telling the truth? Also, they each tell us how their plan is superior to the other guy’s plan. But in the end, who can predict this? The bottom line is their records. This is a matter of fact, not opinion.

So, how have President Obama’s plans worked so far? Well, as is usually the case, some have worked okay, some not so okay. But when it comes to the thing that is most on the minds of people today—the economy—his plans haven’t fared so well. Unemployment hasn’t improved in the last four years. More people have stopped looking for work. More people are getting government assistance. Incomes are declining as prices are inclining. The debt keeps climbing while hope keeps rappelling. This is not good. To be fair, Obama says that four years was not enough time to turn the economy around and points to signs of things getting better. Well, I say this: the predictions Obama made about what the state of the economy would look like at the end of his first term did not materialize. So, it’s time to let someone else take the helm and show us how his predictions won’t come to pass either. If it’s not going to be Johnson, I guess it’s going to have to be Romney.

Sunday, October 14, 2012

Atlas Shrugged Part II – The Movie

I just went to see the second of a planned three-part movie based on Ayn Rand’s novel “Atlas Shrugged.” I was greatly impressed. The acting was great, and the message was clear. It’s definitely worth a visit to the movie theater to see this. It wouldn’t hurt to see Part I beforehand, but it’s not absolutely necessary.

When I heard that all the actors in Part II would be different from those in Part I, I was a bit dismayed. I thought the actors in the first movie did a superb job given the budget and time constraints and feared the new actors would not do as well. However, I understood that the low budget of the first movie and the possibility that it would not earn enough money to produce the second one resulted in the producers not being able to negotiate future options for the actors. This meant that if the original actors had moved on to other projects, new actors would have to be contracted. This is what happened. However, my concerns were soon allayed. The second group of actors was also superb. Actually, there were more actors I recognized from other shows and movies in Part II than in Part I.

For those of you not familiar with “Atlas Shrugged,” the premise is that the American government is putting more and more pressure on businesses to conform to a number of laws and mandates. Because of this, the creative people of the country are one by one disappearing, leaving their floundering businesses behind. In essence, the men and women of the mind, those that make the motor of the world run, are going on strike. We often hear of workers for various businesses going on strike to protest what they perceive as unfair treatment by their employers. Well, in this movie, it’s the employers who are striking by withdrawing themselves, along with their talents, totally from the world. They are tired of being the ones that work tirelessly to create products that benefit all of mankind only to have their businesses raided by the government and their wealth confiscated. They feel that to comply with the government’s mandates only implies that they sanction those mandates. So, rather than comply, they in essence say, “Adios. Take my business and run it the best you can without me.”

I, for one, realize that people who are able to move the world in a massive way are few and far between. It requires a lot of guts to put your money and reputation on the line in order to create something of value. Think of people like Edison, Ford, Gates, Jobs, and so on. These are people who gave it their all to produce products that would transform the world. They didn’t force anyone to support them, but rather had a vision of producing products that the people of the world would want so much they would voluntarily part with their money to obtain them. Yet, there are those who claim that a large part of the money they obtained by voluntary trade should be paid back to society in some form or fashion. By some twisted logic, they believe that the products they produced were not sufficient payment regardless of how much benefit those products conveyed to the world. They believe that those who are successful either did something wrong or they just simply have a duty to share their success with those who are less successful.

Ayn Rand understood what happens to a country where government attempts to equalize wealth by force. She was a young girl living in Russia at the time of the Bolshevik Revolution. To escape the madness, she immigrated to the United States. However, to her dismay, she soon saw that the US was moving in the same direction that Russia had, albeit at a slower pace rather than through revolutionary means. Over time she developed her philosophy of freedom and began writing justifications for it via fictional novels and non-fictional articles and books. She truly understood what makes the motor of the world work, and she desired to warn Americans that they were going down the wrong path. Let’s face it. There are many talented people in the world, but only a fraction of them have the brains and the brawn and the wherewithal to pull together a multitude of resources and jump through all the hoops necessary to bring a successful product to the marketplace. We need to be applauding these people and encouraging more of this behavior by letting them keep the fruits of their labor, not discouraging them with over-regulation and heavy taxes. After all, the more successful they become, the more help they will need, and thus the more people they will hire. This type of growth is the real engine of job creation.

Even though Atlas Shrugged, the novel, is now 55 years old, its warning still rings loud and clear. Let’s stop punishing the producers and rewarding the looters. Let’s see how bright our nation can shine when the entrepreneurial spirit is totally unleashed. This is the message of true hope and change.

Thursday, October 11, 2012

The Vice Presidential Debate

I once read from a political humorist—I believe it was P.J. O’Rourke—that while liberals are declaring that spending has been cut for a program, the conservatives are saying that spending has increased for that very same program. So who’s telling the truth? Well, they both are. In other words, they’re lying.
Well, I felt the same way about the VP debate between Joe Biden and Paul Ryan. They were both telling the truth, yet they were both lying. So, who won the debate? They both did. In others words, they both lost.
Let’s face it; everyone needed a quick-response extremely accurate fact-checking Siri running at full tilt to discern who was telling the truth. Almost the entire debate consisted of one candidate speaking, then his opponent saying the other was speaking malarkey, not being candid, not telling the truth, or pointing out how the other’s nose was elongated. How could a regular ole Joe like me, who doesn’t spend 24 hours a day following the news, have a clue as to who was right, who was wrong, or who was just downright stupid? To tell you the truth, the bantering got so intense at one point, I fell off to sleep. Of course, part of that could have been me getting relaxed due to my wife massaging my legs, but I think I’ll blame it on the debate instead.
Personally, I think the debate most likely consisted of each candidate telling the half-truth that favored his own party. The real story probably lies somewhere in the middle of these two half-truths, perhaps in lying territory. So, I saw no clear winner in the debate and no way of determining who won short of spending the next four years researching their answers. But then it would be time for another election requiring just as much research. Oh well!

However, I did see a clear winner on two fronts. Joe Biden was definitely the winner when it comes to laughing and shaking his head incredulously while his opponent spoke. Paul Ryan was the definite winner for making the most ridiculous grin while his opponent spoke. So, there you go. Whichever of these two traits you believe is most important for a vice president to possess will determine for you who won the debate.

Thursday, October 4, 2012

First Presidential Debate

I thought the first presidential debate between Barack Obama and Mitt Romney went quite well. While both pretty much dominated Jim Lehrer, not letting him get a word in edgewise when their time was up, the debaters remained civil in the midst of making jabs at the other’s platform. While it appears that the pundits have basically declared Romney the winner of the debate by a fairly large margin, I thought it was by a smaller margin.

Obama has been accused of being a teleprompter speaker, meaning that he is a great orator with the words in front of him, but not so good when speaking off the cuff. Actually, I was quite impressed with Obama’s knowledge and point making abilities in this impromptu environment. Of course, Romney was just as good. However, it was obvious that much of what passed as answers to Lehrer’s questions were simply the talking points they use every day on the campaign trail.

While both candidates expressed their views rather well, I have to give the edge to Romney despite a couple of misspoken words.

First, there were times when Romney cited studies concerning the negative consequences of Obama’s policies that Obama left unanswered, deciding rather to move on to other aspects of his policies.  This leaves the impression that he knew of the negative consequences and did not want to address them, or he did not have a good counter argument. Either way, it’s a point loser for the debate.

Second, while both candidates spoke about the prosperity that free enterprise brings to a nation, Romney seemed to back this up more with the plans he has for the future. There was also somewhat of a difference concerning how much regulation is enough, with Romney indicating he thought there was too much in some cases.

That being said, I was a bit disappointed that there was so little difference in Obama’s and Romney’s views of the role of government in society. It is obvious that they both believe in big government. Their differences were more over where the money should be spent rather than how much should be spent. Oh sure, they both gave lip service to reducing the deficit, but I didn’t hear much about any specific substantial cuts. Romney seemed to be on the right track when he talked about cutting funding to the Public Broadcasting System and a few other items, but when it came to education, he said the funding should remain the same, but turned over to the states to decide how to use it. However, there was one ray of hope amongst Romney’s statements. It was when he said that he would judge a program’s usefulness by asking himself “Is this program so important that it is worth borrowing money from China to fund it?” This sounds like an excellent criterion for budgeting decisions, but I fear that there will be too many programs that Romney believes are worth borrowing money for. That has been the trend of federal government regardless of which party controls the presidency.

We desperately need Gary Johnson in these debates to counter the big government philosophy with a true small government view. While I don’t agree with everything Johnson stands for, I believe having a real alternative to a tax and spend government presented in the debates would be quite refreshing. But alas, that might be difficult to pull off given that the Republicans are spending so much time and money to keep Johnson off the ballots in the key swing states for fear he will sway too many Republican voters to turn to the dark side of Libertarianism.

Thursday, September 6, 2012

Bill Clinton’s Home Run

Well, I am here to tell you: Bill Clinton hit it out of the park with his Democratic National Convention speech. He made a very convincing case for reelecting Barack Obama as president. I really liked the approach he took. He didn’t just throw out innuendo and make snotty remarks about the Republicans, he actually started out talking about how he had worked with many Republicans on a number of projects by cooperating with them. He then turned to answering most of the negative charges leveled against Obama by Romney, Ryan, and other Republicans. I don’t know if all his answers were totally truthful or not, but they seemed credible. And the fact that both parties like to skew facts to make their candidates look good while making their opponents look bad made Clinton’s refutations even more believable. Or, could it be that he was just skewing the facts back in the other direction? That is the frustrating thing about elections. It is extremely difficult to know the exact truth about the things politicians talk about because those things are usually so complex and nuanced a person who is trying to live his own life and not shadow politicians simply does not have the time, resources, or background to thoroughly investigate these things. This leaves us with having to depend on other people to investigate them for us. But which investigators should we trust?

My favorite line in Clinton’s speech was when he told the crowd that he had been asked many times over the years what the secret was behind his balancing the budget. He said he always responded with one word: ARITHMETIC. I love that. Indeed, if somethin’ dudden add up, it ain’t gonna work. But again, which party has the best plan for making things add up? It’s difficult for an average Joe to know.

Given the difficulty of knowing the real facts so as to be able to call out politicians on their lies, I have found it helpful to rather listen to what their vision for the future is. And I have to say that my vision for America is very similar to Bill Clinton’s and the Democrats’ vision. I very much want to see everyone have an opportunity to succeed in life. I want everyone who wants an education to be able to get one. I want everyone who needs healthcare to be able to get it. I want everyone to have a job. I want world peace. (Yes, inside I am a beauty pageant contestant.) I want all those things. But here’s the problem. Republicans want all those things too. I dare say that there is only a small percentage of Americans that want to see any of their fellow citizens fail. So, why can’t we all just come together and work to accomplish these things? Well, it boils down to methodology.

The Republicans by and large believe that society as a whole rises the highest when its citizens are left free to pursue their own interests and interact with others on the basis of voluntary trade and contract. This is the concept of the “rugged individual” and is the idea our country was founded on. The Democrats for the most part believe that citizens are “in it together”. We all rise and fall in unison. Well, there is some truth to that. After all, if there was only one person on the Earth, he would pretty much live in poverty. Further, if all seven billion people on the planet lived only by and for themselves, never interacting with anyone else, it would be as though each person was the only person on Earth. They would all live in poverty. It takes a large number of people cooperating in creating and building to take a society to the mountaintop. But the issue is the motivating force behind people cooperating.

Bill Clinton mentioned several times in his speech about building a 21st century society of shared prosperity and shared responsibility, in other words, a we’re-all-in-this-together society. When a modern day Democrat uses these words, he is usually talking about a redistribution of wealth using the force of government. He is saying we all share the responsibility to work hard, and those who become successful MUST share their prosperity with those who didn’t. Now, there is nothing wrong with successful people sharing their wealth with the less fortunate. In fact, I have heard a statistic that says conservatives give away a larger percentage of their income than do liberals. So, contrary to what a liberal might have you think, conservatives like helping others. It’s just that they want to be able to choose for themselves who they help rather than have government choose for them. Liberals like to talk about the “right to choose” when it comes to abortion, but how about the “right to choose” how we use the wealth that we earned ourselves?

So, here’s what it all boils down to for me. Do I want to live in an America where the government decides where my charitable dollars should be spent and then uses the force of government to take that money from me for those purposes? Or do I want to live in an America where the government respects the rights of its citizens to keep the fruits of their labor and decide for themselves who they want to help? For me, I want to live in the latter. While no society will ever be perfect as long as there are imperfect people living in it, I believe a free America will lead to the best America.

Friday, August 31, 2012

People Over Profits?

After Mitt Romney’s speech tonight at the Republican National Convention, some of the commentators mentioned that a couple of people started protesting during the speech and were carrying signs that said “People Over Profits.” The question I ask is, “What people? Whose profits?” My guess is that the “people” they were talking about included themselves, and the “profits” they were talking about were those of others. But just what is the thinking behind such a statement?

Many years ago when I was in college, I had a professor who asked the class what the purpose of a business was. Answers such as, “make a product,” “create jobs,” and so on were called out. The professor finally stopped us and said we were all wrong. He then informed us that the purpose of a business was to make money. In other words, earn a profit.

Is this wrong? Is this immoral? Well, of course not. Who in his right mind would put either his own money or money he has borrowed at risk with no plan to make it all back plus more? He might as well just hang onto the money he has and play it safe. But the lure of making a profit so as to better one’s life and those of his family is difficult to resist. In the end, this is not putting profit over people. It’s a person placing such an importance on himself and his family (in other words, people), he is willing to take a risk.

If the business starts out very small, it may be run totally by the owner. If not, then people will have to be hired just to get the business started. In either case, if the business is successful, it is unlikely that it can expand without hiring more people. If it continues to be successful, it will be even more profitable. So, where does all this revenue go? Well, for sure it doesn’t all go into the pockets of the owner. He’s not going to be able to obtain raw materials, labor, utilities, and so on without paying for them. But for every purchase he makes and every person he hires, he is in essence helping to enhance the lives of other people.

Well, maybe the owner loves profit so much that he will only pay a pittance for supplies and labor. Well, not if his competitors have anything to say about it. If other businesses are willing to pay more for their supplies and labor, then the owner will soon find that he can no longer obtain goods and services or labor because they will all go to the higher paying competitors. In other words, it is difficult for a business owner to rip off other people as long as we live in a free competitive environment. However, it can happen in a society where the government so limits the choices of people they find themselves stuck in an unpleasant position with nowhere to turn.

So, the only thing I can conclude is that perhaps the phrase “People Over Profits” is referring to a business owner who, when times are bad and profits are down, is willing to lay off people to keep his profits up. But think about it. If you had money at risk and were working hard to make and keep a business successful, isn’t there some level of profit that you would deem a minimum? If a business owner can make more money working for someone else where he can work less hours and have no money at risk, he has a choice to make. Lower the cost of operating his business, which may entail laying some people off, or shut down the business altogether, thus laying off everyone. I sometimes get the impression that some people view businesses as having a magical well from which money can be drawn in times of crisis. Well, it just isn’t so. Running a business is tough. That’s why I decided earlier on that I just wanted to work for someone else so I could earn a steady income without having to invest any of my or others' money. I have never been much of a risk taker.

Speaking of working for a salary, what’s another word for salary? PROFIT. When I work for a business that I have not invested in personally, then all of the money I earn is profit. The business owner has to take all the money she takes in and then pay for such things as rent, utilities, raw materials, taxes, business licenses, advertising, shipping, and the salaries of individuals like me that are risk averse and work for others. After all those expenses, they hope to have enough left over for themselves to make all their efforts worthwhile. So, if a very important employee leaves a company to work for another one offering a higher salary, is he putting profits above people? It may seem that way to the company that he left. But not so for the company he moved to.

When someone complains about people putting profit over people, they are usually talking about others. I once heard of a person who complained about a guy who quickly went to a hurricane stricken area to sell water at a premium price since this was price gouging. Yet, just a few minutes later he was talking about possibly taking his chainsaw down to the stricken area to cut up residents' fallen trees because he was sure he could make a large amount of money doing so. Can you spell double standard? Personally, the thing I found irritating about people castigating the water selling man is that, had the man just stayed at home and never took any water to the devastated area, no one would have said a negative word about him. If you were in the aftermath of a severe storm and you could choose between having water quickly at a premium price or having to wait a few days for the charitable groups to get water to you, which would you choose? After all, you wouldn’t have to buy the water. You could just wait like you would have had the “price gouger” never showed up.

So, given the opportunity to increase one’s profits, whether through getting a higher paying job or creating and expanding a business, most people will do so unless there are some downsides that are too unpleasant. That’s our human nature. We want to take care of ourselves and our families and improve our lot in life when the opportunity arises. Each person has to decide for herself what she is willing to risk or give up in order to do this. No person or government needs to be making that decision for us.

Sunday, August 26, 2012

Thoughts About 2016

Last night I went to see the new movie by Dinesh D'Souza entitled 2016: Obama's America. The movie is based on two books D'Souza has written: Obama’s America: Unmaking the American Dream and The Roots of Obama’s Rage. In the movie, D'Souza attempts to explain why President Obama thinks and makes decisions the way he does. In other words, he tries to define the motivating force behind this world leader. D'Souza presents some very compelling evidence based on Obama's own words, as well as those of his relatives and friends, that the driving principle behind Obama's decisions is anticolonialism. Obama's father was born and raised in colonial Kenya and became a strong anticolonialist. Several of Obama's mentors were anticolonialists also. To better understand the anticolonialist mentality, one must understand what it is like to be a part of a colony.

Throughout history, mighty empires have arisen that felt it was their destiny to conquer other peoples and extract the resources of their land. Some of the better known ancient empires were the Assyrian, Babylonian, Medo-Persian, Greek, and Roman empires. In more recent times, the best known and most powerful empire of all time was the British Empire. It was once said that the sun never set on the British Empire because it reached around the world. Part of the makeup of this empire was other countries that had been conquered and made colonies. The British would set up some form of government in these colonies and then go about extracting resources to take back home. As you might expect, many of the indigenous people of these colonized nations were not happy with this arrangement. They wanted independence and self-autonomy. They wanted the resources of their land to be used to enrich their own people rather than the country of their overlords.

Kenya was a colony of the British Empire from about 1890 until 1963. So, President Obama's father, Barack Obama Sr, who was born in 1934, grew up in a colonized Kenya. Had I been in his shoes, I would most likely have been anticolonialist also. In fact, I am very much an anticolonialist now, even though I was fortunate enough to have been raised in an independent country. So, if President Obama and I both share an ideology of anticolonialism, why do I disagree with many of his decisions about the direction of our country? That has to do with what one believes should replace the oppression of colonialism once the oppressors leave and the autonomy of a nation is re-established.

Some anticolonialists viewed the people of the British Empire as being capitalists. So, it was natural for them, once they became independent, to want to move as far away from capitalism as possible. Typically, people who reject capitalism, embrace some form of socialism. This is what many Kenyans did. This seems to be the mentality of President Obama as well. But the problem is this: colonialism is anything but capitalism. Perhaps once the resources were extracted from the colonies and made into products, the Brits dealt with other nations on a capitalist basis. But the way they dealt with the colonies was not capitalist by any stretch of the imagination.

The online Merriam-Webster dictionary defined socialism as “A) a system of society or group living in which there is no private property” and “B) a system or condition of society in which the means of production are owned and controlled by the state.”

The definition of capitalism is “an economic system characterized by private or corporate ownership of capital goods, by investments that are determined by private decision, and by prices, production, and the distribution of goods that are determined mainly by competition in a free market.”

So, based on these definitions, you can see that colonialism is more akin to socialism than capitalism in that you have a government expropriating the wealth of some people for the benefit of other people. Had the British dealt with Kenya in a capitalist manner, they would have come in and negotiated a contract whereby they paid an agreed upon price for the resources they wanted. That’s how free markets work. Yet, for the colonies that viewed their overlords as capitalists, socialism became the alternative of choice upon becoming independent. They basically jumped from the frying pan into the fire. As George Obama, President Obama's half-brother, said in the movie, Kenya would be better off today if the “whites” had stayed longer.

Fortunately, socialism is not the true alternative to colonialism; freedom and capitalism are. This is the path the forefathers of the United States of America took. Remember that the USA was originally colonies of Great Britain. The Revolutionary War was the result of an anticolonialist movement. Yet, upon gaining independence, the movement led to liberty and capitalism. This smart move led to the creation of what would become the most prosperous nation on the face of the Earth. All because this country embraced the idea that a man's labor was his own and thus the fruits of that labor were his own also. This produced a great incentive for individuals to work hard because they were working for themselves rather than others.

Yet, somehow President Obama has come down on the side of viewing capitalism as the system that oppressed nations and socialism being the cure. D'Souza believes it is due to the influence of his father, mentors, and friends. Perhaps. But whatever the reason, Obama is unfortunately wrong in his assessment. Freedom, liberty, and capitalism are the cure for colonialism. Socialism is but a form of internal colonialism in which government takes the wealth of people by force and passes it on to others, just as the Brits took the wealth of other nations for the benefit of themselves.

I believe our country needs Change and Hope just like President Obama does. However, Obama's cure for our ills is akin to a doctor attempting to cure cancer by injecting the patient with poison. It only makes things worse. What we need is a leader that has a real cure for our nation's problems. Perhaps it is Mitt Romney. Perhaps it is Gary Johnson. I have personally grown skeptical of most politicians. Yet, I do know one thing. I agree with President Obama when he says we shouldn’t return to the failed policies of the past. History shows clearly that liberty works far better than oppression. So, let’s go back to that.

Monday, August 20, 2012

What’s So Curious About Ayn Rand?

In the August 18, 2012, issue of the TimesDaily newspaper was a commentary by Cynthia Tucker entitled “Rand is curious choice for veneration.” In this article, Ms. Tucker wonders how Rep. Paul Ryan, VP nominee for the Republican Party, could be a fan of Ayn Rand. After all, Rand was an atheist and a big proponent of using reason rather than faith to obtain truth. Ryan is a Catholic. How do these two jive? Well, I believe it is just as Ryan claims: he rejects Rand’s atheism, but embraces her view of government.

I personally became a fan of Ayn Rand when I read her book The Voice of Reason back in the 1980’s. When I read this book I suddenly realized that Rand was saying the things I believed but had not been able to express verbally. It was an epiphany. I went on to read many more of Rand’s writings, including some of her novels. I eventually began calling myself an Objectivist, although I have backed off that to some degree. There are a number of aspects of Rand’s philosophy that I disagree with, such as her inexplicable belief that a woman should never serve as the President of the United States. But if you think about it, it is very rare that any two people have EXACTLY the same beliefs about EVERY single topic. Everyone has his own ISM running about in his own mind.

Rand predicted many years ago that if the country kept following the path of governmental altruism and cronyism, the country would eventually reach a crisis point. She even predicted that the people in power would not even realize that it was their policies that brought on the crisis. Well, that is exactly what has happened. Is it possible for an atheist to be a prophet? In this instance, apparently so. The USA has attempted to provide everyone with anything that they want and at the same time regulate until they strangulate. This is a recipe for fiscal disaster. Why wouldn’t Rep. Ryan be a fan of Ayn Rand’s ideas on these matters?

While I agree with Ms. Tucker that Ayn Rand was not a perfect person—who is?—she gets one thing wrong about her philosophy. It’s a point that many people get wrong. In her commentary she says, “What’s more, Rand was an atheist and libertine whose private life was testament to her fierce belief that individuals should be free to do whatever they please, no matter the consequences to others.” Uh, WRONG! Here is what Rand really believed about how individuals should live their lives.

Man—every man—is an end in himself, not a means to the ends of others; he must live for his own sake, neither sacrificing himself to others nor sacrificing others to himself; he must work for his rational self-interest, with the achievement of his own happiness as the highest moral purpose of his life.”

The essence of this quote is that no person is another person’s slave. Don’t expect me to sacrifice for you, and I will not expect you to sacrifice for me. We will live our lives by voluntary exchange. So, was Rand opposed to charity? No, not when it came to individuals supporting causes they deemed worthy of support. What Rand did find anathema was the idea of governmental charity. Why? Because that requires our leaders to extract by force the wealth of some citizens to give to others. This can work both ways. It can be the forced extraction of money from the wealthy to give to the poor, which is called welfare. Or it can be the forced extraction of money from the poor to give to the rich, which is called corporate welfare. Rand believed both types of welfare to be immoral since it required the force of government, thus making some people the slaves of others. However, she would have no problem with an individual voluntarily turning his money over to another person or organization. As Thomas Sowell once said, “I have never understood why it is ‘greed’ to want to keep the money you have earned but not greed to want to take somebody else's money.”

So, it is true that Ayn Rand was a flawed human being. I do not believe that she even followed her own philosophy 100% of the time. Yet, her core beliefs remain sound. Everyone should be free to pursue his or her own interests and not be made a slave, even to a small degree, of others. Can anyone really argue against that?

Thursday, August 16, 2012

Earning Your Keep

Many years ago my immediate supervisor and I were under the charge of a manager that had some traits that could at times be extremely exasperating. Perhaps you have worked for a manager with similar traits.

I recall the time when I was assigned a project that required me to create an experimental design for a research project we were undertaking in a laboratory. If you are not familiar with experimental design, it is a way to design a set of experiments that will maximize the amount of information from your experiments using a minimum numbers of operating conditions. This particular project involved turning crystals into granules in a heated rotary drum. I had a college student assisting me in the lab. We knew that for the first day of operation we would be running at conditions that would most likely just result in hot crystals exiting the drum, but that is the nature of an experimental design. You must operate across a wide range of conditions.

We had been running our test just long enough to reach steady state when the manager came into the lab to check on our progress. He took one look at the equipment and the end product and said something like, “This isn’t working. You need to change your operating parameters.” He then proceeded to change the heat levels and turn valves. In short order we had mud coming out of the rotary drum. At this point the manager said, “I’ll leave the rest to you,” and left the lab. Needless to say, we shut down the experiment and began cleaning out the equipment. One day of operation had been lost.

A couple of years later I had a different immediate supervisor, but that same manager. I was tasked with creating a PERT chart, which is basically a flow chart, for a new project on which we would be working. In those days, PERT charts were created using Post-It notes on a large sheet of paper rather than on a computer. Well, after a couple of days of effort, I completed the PERT chart. My supervisor looked it over and liked it. He then showed it to our manager. Afterwards, my supervisor came to me and said the manager wanted to make a few changes. I asked what they were. After explaining the changes to me, I informed him that if we made those changes, the PERT chart would be incorrect. He did not care. He just wanted to please the manager. So, even though I didn’t like it, I made the changes. My supervisor then showed the manager the updated PERT chart. He once again came to me and said that the manager wanted to make even more changes. I again asked what they were. Upon explaining the changes, I informed my supervisor that if we made those changes, the PERT chart would be back to what it had been when I originally created it. He said we needed to make the change. While I agreed that the changes were needed to get the PERT chart back to its original correct state, I was so frustrated that I just told my supervisor that if he wanted it changed he needed to do it himself. I then left the room, and he made the changes.

I have told these stories many times over the years. I have often wondered what drives such a person to act so impulsively. I believe I now understand. The underlying motivation is one of wanting to “Earn Your Keep”. This manager was in a position of authority over other employees. If the employees were mostly doing things right, never needing correction, then the manager might wonder what his or her purpose is. So, not wanting to feel useless, they take action, even if the action is detrimental to the goals of the group.

Can you think of some other people that are like my manager? Of course you can. It’s our political leaders, especially those in Washington DC. In their case, they are in positions of power over the entire country. They feel like they have to Earn Their Keep. Whenever a problem arises in some part of the country, they just assume that the private sector is incapable of solving it. So, they go to work creating laws and regulations that are supposed to help us. Or protect us. Or make our lives better. However, all too often they leave us citizens with a muddy rotary drum that has to be cleaned out. Then they are aghast when we citizens complain and tell them that their “solutions” only made things worse.

Listen up Washington. Sometimes, probably even most of the time, the best thing you can do is get out of the way. We are not incompetent. We can solve problems without governmental intervention. You just go about handling those things the Constitution authorizes you to do, which is primarily providing us with protection from criminals and foreign threats and protecting our individual rights. We’ll take care of the rest.

Sunday, April 1, 2012

The Individual Mandate

Since the US Supreme Court’s recent hearing of the case against the individual mandate portion of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (PPACA, or ObamaCare), a number of liberal commentators have gotten into a tizzy over the possibility that the high court will declare the mandate un-Constitutional, thus dashing the hopes of millions who foresaw the possibility of finally obtaining healthcare that was not affordable to them before. They tell us how much ObamaCare is needed by the uninsured, and justify the mandate using the Commerce Clause and the General Welfare Clause of the US Constitution. To hear these commentators speak, you’d think that those conservative Supreme Court justices, as well as every citizen opposed to the individual mandate, were in a celebratory mood, salivating over the thought that they have a chance to deny much needed healthcare to those worthless dregs of society. Come on, give me a break! I dare say that only a handful of people feel that way. Many kind, decent, and caring people are opposed to ObamaCare and its individual mandate. Why? Because it’s un-Constitutional. And for some people, that still means something.

Surely we all know that when the Constitution was drafted, it was intended to limit the powers of the federal government. After all, these citizens had just been fighting a tyrannical English government. Why would they immediately turn around and create a new government with essentially unlimited power over their lives? Why would they fight a war only to jump from the frying pan into the fire?

The Commerce Clause, which says “[The Congress shall have Power] To regulate Commerce with foreign Nations, and among the several States, and with the Indian Tribes,” specifically gives Congress the power to regulate commerce between the states rather than mandate commerce. The intent was to make sure voluntary commerce occurred unimpeded across state lines, thus insuring the country was a unified whole as it pertained to trade.

The General Welfare Clause was obviously not intended to give Congress the power to implement any legislation they deemed to be for the general welfare. That would go counter to the whole purpose of the Constitution, which was federal restraint. Thomas Jefferson said this: “[T]he laying of taxes is the power, and the general welfare the purpose for which the power is to be exercised. They [Congress] are not to lay taxes ad libitum for any purpose they please; but only to pay the debts or provide for the welfare of the Union. In like manner, they are not to do anything they please to provide for the general welfare, but only to lay taxes for that purpose.” In other words, the Constitution spelled out the powers of the federal government that would provide for the general welfare. That being so, Congress was granted the power to tax its citizens to finance those activities, but no more.

So, don’t believe those who say that those in opposition to the individual mandate are evil, mean-spirited people who want to see uninsured people dying in the streets. Rather, we who are opposed believe it is ultimately in the best interest of our country to not have an unbridled federal government. Giving Congress the power to dictate purchases US citizens must make is a huge unbridling.

Since the beginning of our country, Congress and the President have un-Constitutionally grabbed more power from the states and its citizens, oftentimes with a nod of approval from the Supreme Court. And just look at the mess we are now in. Their track record for handling our tax dollars is nothing to write home about. Look at what they have done with the Social Security trust fund. It’s now a distrust fund. Total unfunded liabilities are estimated to be about $60 trillion. Our national debt is over $15 trillion and increasing by a trillion dollars every year. Do we really want to put ourselves in these hands when it comes to everyone’s healthcare? While it is true that current calculations show that ObamaCare will actually reduce future obligations, it is also true that past calculations for existing government programs have been horrendously wrong. And it’s also true that once a segment of our economy is taken over by politicians, it becomes highly politicized, with incumbents expanding the scope of various programs in order to gain votes to stay in office. In other words, the politicians like to use some of the taxpayers’ money to benefit themselves during their reelection bids.

So, what to do about the uninsured? One option is charity. Another is to eliminate unnecessary regulations on the healthcare market, thus putting downward pressure on costs. Yet another is for each state to implement their own healthcare plan to the extent that its State Constitution permits. Ultimately, if a sufficient number of the American people become convinced that the best option is to have our leaders in DC mandate a national healthcare plan, an amendment can be added to the US Constitution granting the federal government this power. After all, that’s why Article V is in the Constitution. But it seems that more and more our leaders want to skirt around that Article and pass laws without the permission of their employers, the American people. I believe they have skirted around it for too long. It’s time to draw a line in the sand and say, “Enough!”

Tuesday, March 27, 2012

The Arrow of Freedom

As you have probably heard, the Supreme Court has been hearing the case brought against the individual mandate portion of Obamacare. At issue is whether or not the Commerce Clause of the Constitution combined with the power of the federal government to tax it citizens are sufficient to give the federal government the right to dictate to its citizens the mandatory purchase of health insurance. The thing that confounds me most about this case is that it had to be brought in the first place. The individual mandate is clearly unconstitutional. It is quite obvious that the intent of the Constitution was to put restraints on the federal government so they could not get to the point of being oppressive like the governments the colonists had once been under. If indeed the Commerce Clause grants our national leaders the power to mandate private purchases, then in essence they have unlimited power. What will come next? Preventing people from purchasing fatty and sugary foods? Mandating that businesses must hire people until unemployment is zero? Preventing people from pooling their money in an attempt to oust an incumbent politician? Our country now stands at a very important juncture. If the Supreme Court rules that the individual mandate is Constitutional, then basically our Constitution will have been ruled to be of no consequence. Congress and the President will be handed the keys to the nation. They will be able to open any door without resistance. This is a very dangerous road to go down, if indeed we want to remain a free people.

Historically, the courts in the United States have held that any contract that was signed under duress was invalid because the essence of a valid contract was that it was entered into on all sides voluntarily. If a person was coerced in any way, he could go to court, present his case, and have the contract invalidated. Now we have our very own government saying that that aspect of contract law is wrong. They are attempting to hold that they have the power to force a person to enter into a contract that he does not wish to enter. And the contract would be valid, regardless of the duress. What other contracts will our government force us into should this one be validated by the Supreme Court?

When this nation was founded, liberty was a great idea that was only enjoyed primarily by white males. Over time, as people became more enlightened, freedom began to expand. It took a civil war, rallies, writing, discourse, civil disobedience, and protests (sometimes violent), but over the years the arrow of freedom continued to move in the right direction. Blacks gained their freedom and eventually were able to overturn discriminatory laws. Women became full citizens with the right to vote and become leaders in industry and politics. More recently we see gay citizens standing up for their rights and gaining them little by little. We have seen a lot of progress in our country as its citizens of all stripes stand up for themselves and gain independence. Are we really willing to let our desire for safety reverse this progress? For if we give the federal government the power to run our lives in the marketplace, it won’t just be select groups of people who will see their freedom slip away. It will be everyone who calls himself a citizen.

Sunday, March 18, 2012


I recently posted a one-sentence thought about greed on several social media sites. I decided to expand on this thought with a blog post. Here is what the original post said.

“Greed can be found more in the poor who demand the goods of others than in the wealthy who earn their own.”

I have found that a number of people balk at such comments and may think I have something against poor people. But just the opposite is true. I want all of us to live in a society where it is possible for poor people to become wealthy. I have nothing against poor people, but I do have something against being poor. Therefore, to better understand my one-sentence thought, let’s take a look at a typical definition of the word greed.

“An excessive desire to acquire or possess more than what one needs or deserves, especially with respect to material wealth.” -- The Free Dictionary

Most people tend to concentrate on the first part of this definition, “…more than one needs”, rather than the second part, “…more than one deserves”. I tend to think of the former as a good type of greed and the latter as a bad type of greed. Why? Because of the consequences of each. Let’s take a closer look.

When someone says that another person is greedy because they have a great desire to have more than they need, a number of questions need to be asked. How much does a person truly need? Does need end at the point of survival? Or does need mean having enough to live comfortably? What do you consider to be an excessive desire as opposed to a moderate desire? Does a person’s actions in pursuit of more possessions play into the equation at all?
Here in the United States as well as other developed nations, the free enterprise system has provided its citizens with the means to become wealthy beyond our wildest imaginations. In countries where free enterprise is non-existent, the populace tend to live in poverty. Sure, the leaders may live a life of opulence, but the average person does not, and has very little chance of getting out of his situation apart from leaving for a freer nation. Most countries today have mixed economies, meaning that the economy is free to some degree, but controlled by the government to some degree also. In general, the wealth of a nation increases with the degree to which it is free.
So, what happens when a greedy entrepreneur decides he wants more than he needs. WEALTH! That entrepreneur, in order to gain what he so desires, must develop a product or service that other people want and are willing to pay him more than he put into creating it. That provides the entrepreneur profit. But it also benefits the buyer because they needed or wanted the product or service more than the money they paid for it. It also benefits all those people the entrepreneur had to hire to design, develop, and produce his product. Most people understand this. When people think of greedy people, most are probably thinking of the ones that are willing to cheat or steal to get their wealth. Yes, those actions are wrong. But one must keep in mind that it is not the greed that is wrong, but rather the means by which they went about satisfying their greed. Let’s simplify. There is nothing wrong with my desiring to have a new flat screen TV, and there is nothing wrong with me working at a job to earn the money to buy the TV. However, if I just went down to Best Buy and took it without paying, that’s stealing, and it is wrong. Yet, my desire for the TV was still not wrong, just the means I chose to satisfy my desire.

This leads to the second definition of greed: an excessive desire for more than one deserves. What does one deserve? This should be easy. A person deserves whatever they can obtain honestly. If a person has skills that only earns them $10,000 per year, then $10,000 in goods and services is what they deserve. If a person has skills where they can honestly earn $6,000,000 per year, then they deserve $6,000,000 in goods and services. To say otherwise is to create artificial boundaries. Yes, it sometimes appears that there are a large number of people who become wealthy by cheating and stealing. I personally believe this is mostly perception rather than reality. The press writes a lot about rich crooks, but very little about rich honest people. So, in our minds, we tend to think that a large proportion of rich people got that way by cheating. But even if I am wrong, my point is still valid. It’s the actions one takes to satisfy his greed that determines right and wrong, not the greed itself.

So, can poor people be greedy in the sense of having an excessive desire for more than they deserve. Well, of course they can. And they can cheat and steal just like rich people can. They may not steal as much as the rich, but the principle is still the same. It is wrong to cheat and steal to obtain that which we did not earn. Acting on this type of greed almost always requires one to do wrong. Why? Because how else can one obtain more than they deserve? I can only think of one moral way. Charity. This is where people voluntarily donate time, goods, and money to help those who got a bad break in life though no fault of their own. Yet, there are quite a few people who believe they are due more than they can obtain honestly or through charity and are willing to commit a crime to obtain it. Or, and this is a big OR, they get government to obtain their largesse for them.

Unfortunately, what we are seeing more and more of these days are able-bodied people mooching off the working public via a state-sanctioned welfare program. If one were to suggest that these particular people should be removed from the rolls, many protests would arise because this charity is now thought of as something deserved.

So, let’s summarize. Desiring more wealth is not wrong in and of itself regardless of your status in life. Call it greed if you want, but don’t call it wrong. I call it wanting to improve your lot in life. Even if you consider it wrong for the super wealthy to desire more, surely you can’t believe that it is wrong for a person to desire more, even strongly desire more, if they live at subsistence level (meaning they have just what they need and no more). Would you be willing to walk up to a frail person in a third world country who is surviving, but not thriving, and tell him he is greedy for desiring more out of life? If so, then shame on you. All people should be free to pursue whatever status they so desire. And therein lies the problem. The countries where the people do not thrive are the ones where the leaders are oppressive. Most of these nations’ citizens probably desire a better life, meaning more wealth. What they need are new leaders that allow them to be free.

Now, back to my one-liner. “Greed can be found more in the poor who demand the goods of others than in the wealthy who earn their own.” Here I am using the word “greed” in the sense of desiring more than one deserves. As such, I believe my statement to be true.

Sunday, February 19, 2012

How To Get Elected -- Promise Everything

In the Saturday, February 18, 2012 issue of our local newspaper, the TimesDaily, Bernie Delinski had a very humorous column where he gives politicians campaign advice on how to blame their opponents. (The column is not yet on the newspaper's Web site, but it might be soon.) Mr. Delinski has a great wit about him and I enjoy reading his regular columns.

While reading this particular column, I was reminded of a part of my humorous philosophy book, Beginnings to Endings. Below I present the excerpt that I thought of. It basically provides politicians with tips on how to out-promise their opponents. The following comes from the beginning of Chapter 7 entitled "Law".


Okay, now it is time to get down to the serious business of creating laws. Well, at least I consider it serious business. Unfortunately, many of our leaders do not. They consider laws to be something akin to a game like World Domination. They will promise the passing or changing of any law, whether Constitutional or not, if it will help them get elected and gain power. Consider this exchange from a recent Presidential election debate.

Candidate #1:      If you elect me as your President, I promise to only sign laws that are in keeping with the Constitution, that are fair and just for all citizens, and that protect their properties and rights rather than violate them.

Candidate #2:      Candidate #1 cannot be taken seriously. He is too idealistic. He’s living in the past and interpreting the Constitution too strictly. The American People want a President that understands that the Constitution was intended to be a flexible document. One that can be re-interpreted from time to time to meet the changing needs of our culture.

Candidate #3:      Candidate #2 is correct. We cannot be held back by our Constitution. We must move into the 21st century. If you elect me, I promise to give money to the poor, provide free health care for all, and provide a free education to everyone up to and including a Ph.D. And for those people who cannot pass the required courses, I’ll see to it that they at least get a diploma. I just received an E-mail about how to obtain these easily via the Internet.

Candidate #4:      Candidate #3 is on the right track, but he wants to limit American Citizens too much. What good is an education without the guarantee of a job? I promise a job to everyone whether they want it or not. Under my administration, businesses will be required to hire everyone whether they are productive or not. FULL EMPLOYMENT is my mantra.

Candidate #5:      Come on everyone, get with the program. An education, job, and health care doesn’t guarantee happiness. To be happy you got to have STUFF! And if your job doesn’t pay enough to buy STUFF, how are you going to get it? I promise every citizen a home and a car of their choice. And what is happiness without a complete home entertainment center, a kitchen with all the latest appliances, a king size bed, and a Jacuzzi? If the citizens want these things, they must vote for me. Don Pardo, what else do we have for our contestants – uh, citizens?

Don Pardo:          Well, Candidate #5, we have two all paid vacations each year to any resort in the world. And how about family Jet Skis, and …

Candidate #6:      Ah, shut up Don! Whatever you have isn’t enough. I’m offering every citizen anything they want. ANYTHING, I say. Just ask for it and I’ll get it for you, even if I personally have to drive down to Walmart to get it. And unlike the cold-hearted likes of Candidate #4, I won’t require you to work for anything unless you just want to.

Citizen #1:            Gee, does that mean you will provide me with eight six-packs of beer and five packs of cigarettes every day, as many tattoos as I want, a new pickup truck with a shotgun rack and an 8-track tape player, and every Willie Nelson tape that has been or will be released? And I never have to work again?

Candidate #6:      That’s right, ma’am. Anything you want.

Citizen #1:            You got my vote!

Citizen #2:            Wait just a minute. How are you going to pay for all that stuff, Candidate #6?

Candidate #6:      Not to worry. We will increase our Federal income tax rate to 256.7% on all income with no deductions and that should take care of it.

Citizen #2:            Hey, you can’t make the tax rate higher than 100%. And besides, if no one has to work, what income will you be taxing?

Candidate #6:      First, where exactly does the Constitution limit the taxation rate to 100%? Nowhere, that’s where! Ha, ha! Got you on that one! Second, should a significant number of people decide not to work – and I personally do not think this will happen – I am already working on a contingency plan to borrow from every nation on the face of the Earth up to 145.7% of their GDP’s. So, there! Are you satisfied now smart-aleck? (Candidate #6 then stuck his tongue out, placed his thumbs in his ears, and flapped his fingers wildly alongside his head.)

So as you can see, based on the historical record, you have to beware of politicians’ guarantees. They will promise you the Moon, but what they deliver has nothing to do with NASA. Rather, it involves them turning their backs to you and dropping their pants. And let me tell you, Ace Ventura looks like an amateur when compared to politicians speaking out of their butts.


Beginnings to Endings is available in Kindle and paperback formats at

Tuesday, February 7, 2012

Free Health Care For Everybody

In the January 30, 2012 issue of our local newspaper, the TimesDaily, there was a photo of some graffiti left by an Occupy Oakland participant in California. The graffiti consisted of the exact words I used for the title of this post: “Free Health Care For Everybody.” Now who could disagree with that statement? Everybody likes free stuff, and given how expensive healthcare can be these days, getting it free would be a great money saver.

So, how do we start? What plans must we put in place to make this worthwhile venture a success? Well, a good place to start would be to ask doctors to quit charging for their services. Most of the cost of healthcare most likely resides here since millions of people visit doctors of one type or another every day. I suspect that they will object to this and try to convince us of how expensive it was to attend medical school, how much money it takes to rent a space for their practice, and how they must pay for equipment, utilities, malpractice insurance, staff salaries and benefits, and a myriad of other things. Well, don’t be fooled. Healthcare is too important a commodity to be left to the vagaries of a free market with the greedy doctors trying to actually make a profit. But we can expect most if not all doctors to claim that supporting their families is more important to them than helping the rest of us. So, we must be prepared to force them to provide their services without recompense.

The same will have to be applied to hospitals and all the people that work for them. And let’s not forget about all those pharmaceutical companies. We will have to forcefully make it known that we still expect them to spend billions of dollars developing new lifesaving drugs, but provide those drugs at no cost to the public.

We can expect retaliation from all these medical professionals in the form of strongly urging the rest of us to provide our services to them for free also. They’ll probably say something like, “Food is just as important to a person’s health as is medical care. Since we don’t have any money, and we need food to survive, we should have our food provided for free. And while we are at it, we also need housing and transportation. So, give us these things also.” No matter how logical their arguments may be, we must stand strong and insist that they pay us for the goods and services we provide while they continue to provide their services at no cost to us.


Well, as you can hopefully tell, I’m being facetious. There isn’t any such thing as FREE healthcare. And for that matter, there is no such thing as having any goods or services that cost nothing. What the Occupy Oakland graffiti writer really means is “free healthcare for me at somebody else’s expense.” So, how would that work?

There have been many methods suggested for how to provide universal healthcare within the US. Some methods are already being used in other countries. But the bottom line for all of these methods is that some people pay nothing, some pay less than the cost of the services provided to them, some pay the same as the cost of the services provided to them, and some pay more than the cost of the services provided to them. So, it ends up being a great deal for some and a terrible one for others.

You might ask, “Isn’t that exactly the same result people get when buying insurance?” And indeed, the answer is “Yes.” Insurance is one of those strange commodities that people purchase with the hope of NEVER getting their money back. But, there is one major difference. Insurance is voluntary; a government program is not. There has been a lot of controversy lately about the Constitutionality of an individual mandate for health insurance. In other words, is it Constitutional for the federal government to force all individual citizens to purchase some form of health insurance?

I personally believe that it is extremely UN-Constitutional for the federal government to force its citizens to buy ANYTHING, including health insurance. But even if it were Constitutional, I believe it can ultimately lead to some very bad consequences, such as taking away many of the freedoms we currently enjoy. It may take many years for the problems to manifest themselves to an unacceptable level, just as communism took many years before it failed in the Soviet Union. However, I believe the problems will eventually come.

Suppose we implement a healthcare plan here in the US that provides all people with any medical services they need at any time. Almost immediately all of those expensive procedures that people chose not to have done due to the cost will be scheduled. Over time, as more and more procedures are done, the authorities will begin to see that there is more money being spent than being taken in. Choices will have to be made. Charge everybody more for their “insurance,” or cut costs in some way. Most likely both will occur. They will begin paying doctors and hospitals and drug companies less for their goods and services. This will cause some on the edge to go out of business, and it will most likely affect people in rural areas the most. Eventually, the feds will begin to realize that they cannot cut payments anymore and will try to ration care to cut costs. This will upset many people who will have to forego medical procedures that could help them. Additionally, the feds will also realize that many of the procedures that people are getting relate to bad lifestyle choices. They will begin pushing for regulations on a number of different fronts. Some of these would be: smoking, fat and sugar intake, alcohol consumption, and the amount of exercise people are getting. So, little by little our healthcare will dwindle as our lifestyle choices become more and more regulated. In other words, we will become less free.

When people buy insurance, they do so with the knowledge that certain activities on their part can lead to their insurance costing more than another person’s. For instance, if a person is a smoker, they will pay more. If they are overweight and already have high blood pressure and high glucose levels, they’ll pay more. If they are into extreme sports, they’ll pay more. But the individual’s lifestyle choices remain his or her choice. On the other hand, the tendency for government plans is for the leaders to begin mandating actions rather than charge people differently according to risk.

So, which would you rather have? Freedom or “free” healthcare? I’m afraid the evidence points to a fact that many simply refuse to accept: WE CAN’T HAVE BOTH.