Monthly Archives: July 2007

Why Politics As Usual Will Always Be Politics As Usual

Even in a political climate where everyone agrees that change needs to be made, that change never happens:

WASHINGTON, July 25 — For the many critics of farm subsidies, including President Bush and Speaker Nancy Pelosi, this seemed like the ideal year for Congress to tackle the federal payments long criticized as enriching big farm interests, violating trade agreements and neglecting small family farms.

Many crop prices are at or near record highs. Concern over the country’s dependence on foreign oil has sent demand for corn-based ethanol soaring. European wheat fields have been battered by too much rain. And market analysts are projecting continued boom years for American farmers into the foreseeable future.

But as the latest farm bill heads to the House floor on Thursday, farm-state lawmakers seem likely to prevail in keeping the old subsidies largely in place, drawing a veto threat on Wednesday from the White House.

“The bill put forth by the committee misses a major opportunity,” Agriculture Secretary Mike Johanns said Wednesday. “The time really is right for reform in farm policy.”

Faced with fierce opposition from the House Agriculture Committee, Ms. Pelosi and other Democratic leaders lowered their sights and are now backing the committee’s bill, in part to protect rural freshmen lawmakers who may be vulnerable in the 2008 elections.

Things like this aren’t the fault of Republicans or Democrats, they are the natural outgrowth of the political system that we live in today. To a large degree, the United States Government exists as a massive conduit for the transfer of wealth from one sector of the economy to the other. In this case, the so-called impoverished family farmer has convinced politicians, largely through the exercise of political power and the power of the purse, that your tax money and mine to them.

It makes no economic sense whatsoever, and everyone agrees it’s a bad idea. And yet, it continues, and continues to grow.

This, I am afraid, is the political reality that anyone who truly advocates liberty must deal with. Until the attitude of the general public is changed, any incremental victory that liberty may win will be temporary at best.

Worst Housing Market Since Great Depression

Let’s look back a moment. How many times have we “hit bottom”, according to the financial cheerleaders on TV, over the last year? How many predictions of a “soft landing”? How many people have suggested the subprime meltdown would be “contained”?

Well, even the lenders themselves are now seeing reality:

COUNTRYWIDE Financial, America’s largest mortgage lender, says more borrowers with good credit are falling behind on repayments and that the housing market may not begin recovering until 2009 because of a fall in house prices that goes beyond anything experienced in decades.

The news from Countrywide, widely seen as a bellwether for the mortgage market, set off a sell-off in the sharemarket, which is at its most volatile in more than a year.

The S&P 500 Index fell 30.53 points, or 2 per cent, to 1511.04, its biggest one-day drop in nearly five months. The US dollar dropped to a new low against the euro, edging closer to $US1.40.

The housing slump has become the biggest worry for the sharemarket — which just four days ago set records — because of its potential impact on the broader economy.

Countrywide’s stark assessment signalled a critical change in the substance and tenor of how housing executives are publicly describing the market.

Two months ago, some executives were predicting a relatively quick recovery and saying that most home loans would be fine, with the exception of those made to borrowers with weak credit who were stretched too far.

Executives at Countrywide had for some time been more sceptical than others, but the bluntness of their comments yesterday surprised many on Wall Street. Countrywide chairman and chief executive Angelo Mozilo said home prices were falling “almost like never before, with the exception of the Great Depression”.

It’s pretty simple. The run-up of easy credit in advance of the Great Depression caused asset bubbles, which generated enormous social upheaval as they burst. The exact same thing is occurring right now underneath our very noses, and as much as the financial cheerleaders try to deny it, the result is likely to be the same.

When I hear news like this, I really worry about what will happen if Ron Paul actually won. The next American president is going to face a fiscal crisis at least as severe as the “malaise days” of Jimmy Carter. Given that Ron Paul’s policies will be hated by both parties in Congress, it’s unlikely he can take positive steps to avoid a financial crisis, and if he’s in office when it comes, he might take the blame for it. I’d almost rather that we have a Democrat in the White House simply to discredit whatever lame-brained attempt they make to solve the problem.

We’re headed for rocky times, financially. Our entitlement spending is hopelessly underfunded out into the future. Our job picture is good, but it has been fueled largely by a credit expansion that is now deflating. Government, rather than letting business alone, enacts ever more intrusive regulations in order to “save” businesses, pushing work overseas in the process. There are only three ways to solve this problem: increase taxes, reduce spending, or inflate. Two of those are painful politically, and politicians don’t like pain. I expect a combination of increased taxes and inflation (along with a healthy dose of over-regulation and trade protectionism), so we’re likely headed back to the days of stagflation. And if we see a run away from the dollar as the world’s reserve currency– now a viable option– we’re looking at the Second Great Depression.

We’re headed for a fiscal “perfect storm”. Ron Paul is an excellent weatherman, forecasting the problem, but I’m not sure he will be able to herd the cats in Congress in order to solve it. I wish I could claim that anyone in politics will solve this, but we’re more likely to see a collapse than a solution. Keep hoping for someone like Ron Paul, but I’d highly suggest you prepare for the worst in the meantime.

Don’t You Feel Safer? Part 785

In a stunning display of either laziness or frugality (you can guess which I ascribe this too), our government has finally admitted that their ridiculous policy of banning lighters and breast milk don’t make us safer.

Airline passengers will be able to bring many types of cigarette lighters on board again starting next month after authorities found that a ban on the devices did little to make flying safer, the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) said Friday.

The agency also announced that it was changing its policy on breast milk, and will allow mothers with or without children to carry more than three ounces onto planes.

I’m sure those mothers without children are quite happy about this development.

You’d almost be surprised, if you didn’t know government, to note that they’ve finally realized what the rest of us knew several years ago: that lighters don’t ignite breast milk.

And rocket surgeon Kip Hawley, the head of the TSA, explains why they’ve changed the policy:

In an interview with The New York Times, TSA chief Kip Hawley said confiscating lighters has not helped security much because other items could be used to detonate bombs.

I can only assume he’s talking about more than three ounces of toothpaste?

But in other news, the government that told us that invading Iraq would keep us safe from Al-Qaeda and allow us to fight them “over there”, now tells us that Al-Qaeda is building new cells in the US:

A top U.S. military commander said Tuesday he believes there are al-Qaida cells in the United States — or people working to create them — and the military needs to triple its response teams to counter a growing threat of attack.

Air Force Gen. Victor “Gene” Renuart, who heads U.S. Northern Command, said that as the terrorism threat within the nation’s boundaries has increased officials have strengthened intelligence sharing, particularly in an effort to shore up security at ports.

“I believe there are cells in the United States, or at least people who aspire to create cells in the United States,” Renuart said in an interview with The Associated Press. “To assume that there are not those cells is naive and so we have to take that threat seriously.”

Yep, so the same guys who have been going on and on about lighters and breast milk for the past few years, who have been promising to keep you safe for the last 6 years, can keep you safe as long as you triple their manpower. Yet these are the same guys who take credit for the fact that we haven’t had a major terror attack in the US since 9/11. It’s almost Orwellian.

A few years ago, I would have told you that government can’t do anything effectively and efficiently, but they could probably at least be effective at providing safety, if not efficient. After all, it’s their actual job, right? But the more I watch, the more I realize they can’t even do that right. I keep asking… Why exactly do we need government?

Hat Tip: Billy Beck

Is Ron Paul Running Away From The Libertarian Label ?

KipEsquire asks an interesting question…..why is it that Ron Paul isn’t acknowledging his libertarian roots ?

Can you cite to one occasion in this campaign where Ron Paul has, unsolicited and not in response to an interviewer’s question, used the word “libertarian”? Can you point to one page at his website that contain the word “libertarian”? Even his bio page omits his 1992 1988 big-L Libertarian candidacy.

Paul calling himself “a proud constitutionalist”* is like a gay calling himself “a proud alternative-lifestyler.”

And, well, I guess on one level it doesn’t matter to me. I don’t care if someone calls themselves a “libertarian”, or a “classical liberal” (which is what, given my affinity for John Locke, Thomas Jefferson, and Tom Paine, and Samuel Adams, I consider myself), or whatever they want to call themselves.

Nonetheless, it is interesting that Congressman Paul’s official biography proceeds thusly:

While serving in Congress during the late 1970s and early 1980s, Dr. Paul’s limited-government ideals were not popular in Washington. In 1976, he was one of only four Republican congressmen to endorse Ronald Reagan for president.

During that time, Congressman Paul served on the House Banking committee, where he was a strong advocate for sound monetary policy and an outspoken critic of the Federal Reserve’s inflationary measures. He was an unwavering advocate of pro-life and pro-family values. Dr. Paul consistently voted to lower or abolish federal taxes, spending and regulation, and used his House seat to actively promote the return of government to its proper constitutional levels. In 1984, he voluntarily relinquished his House seat and returned to his medical practice.

Dr. Paul returned to Congress in 1997 to represent the 14th congressional district of Texas. He presently serves on the House Committee on Financial Services and the House Committee on Foreign Affairs. He continues to advocate a dramatic reduction in the size of the federal government and a return to constitutional principles.

Omitted, for some reason, in that gap between 1984 and 1997 is the fact that Congressman Paul ran for President of the United States as the nominee of the Libertarian Party in 1988, and received 431, 750 votes.

One of those votes was mine.

It was, in fact, the first Presidential election that I voted in and, even though it was cast for a guy I knew wasn’t going to win, I took it seriously and voted for him anyway, because I’d read about what he stood for, and I’d learned about his record in Congress even back then, and I looked at George H.W. Bush and Michael Dukakis and I knew there was no way I could respect myself in the morning if I voted for either one of them.

So, on some level, I guess it bothers me that Ron Paul’s official biography completely omits what I seriously considered to be a campaign I supported strictly on principles that were, to me at the time, newly discovered.

I am neither a fan, nor a member. of the Libertarian Party. Mostly, because I don’t think that third-party strategy is a viable mechanism for political change in the United States. Which is why I am not involved with politics at that level.

And it’s one of the reasons I had at least some hope for Congressman Paul’s campaign. I hoped that it would attract the support of Americans interested in protecting individual liberty and turning that suppport into a movement that would do more than just turn up at the most recent meeting of the Prince William County Board of Supervisors.

And that’s the problem with politics. The more you see of it up close, the more you realize just how corrupt the internal structure is, and just how pointless it is for vanguards like Ron Paul to continue fighting wars when the outcome has, seemingly already been decided.

Ron Paul, The Polls, And Reality

I’ve written enough about the 2008 Presidential Campaign in general, and Ron Paul specifically, to know just how the die-hard supporters are going to react to this post, but, nonetheless reality is reality, and, as Ayn Rand once said A is A.

In his case A would be the results of a poll showing just how well Ron Paul would fare against the undisputed Democratic Presidential frontrunner, Hillary Clinton:

The first national telephone survey by Rasmussen Reports of Republican Congressman Ron Paul’s presidential candidacy shows him trailing New York Senator Hillary Clinton by fifteen points and Illinois Senator Barack Obama by twenty.

Overall, the numbers show Clinton getting 49% of the vote when matched against Paul while the Republican hopeful picks up just 34%. Obama leads Paul 50% to 30%.

Among Republicans, Paul manages just 65% support when matched against Clinton and only 55% against Obama.

This isn’t an I-told-you-so moment for me. Yes, I’ve believed for a long time now that preaching individual liberty to an American public who had grown used to the idea that the state existed to provide for them was about as doomed to failure as you could get, but I’ve always held out hope that freedom would win out. If only half of the people who identify themselves as Republicans would even think of supporting Ron Paul (or, more importantly, the ideas he talks about) in `08 (and just in case you’re thinking about it, don’t even delude yourself with the idea that anything Ron Paul advocates would be supported in the Democratic Party), then we’re in far worse shape than I thought.

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