Monthly Archives: April 2011

Birthers Got Punk’d, Yo!

When I woke up on Wednesday morning to the news that Obama had released his birth certificate, I’ll admit that I was a bit confused.

Never interrupt your enemy when he is making a mistake.
Napoleon Bonaparte

It seemed to me at the time that the birther distraction was helping Obama greatly, siphoning away reasoned political opposition to his policies and making the fringe of the Republican and Tea Parties the primary focus of the public eye. Even moreso that Donald Trump had picked up the charge. The face of the right became Orly Taitz and Donald Trump, much as the face of the left had become Cindy Sheehan and Dennis Kucinich towards the end of the Bush years. It’s never a bad idea to paint your ideological opponents as crazy; it’s especially effective when they cooperate. The birthers are no different than the truthers or the “selected, not elected” morons. They accomplish exactly nothing but tarnish the reputation of people who have legitimate beefs with an administration.

Obama releasing the certificate seemed to me to be likely to take the wind out of the sails of the birther movement — it seemed to take the “crazy” off the political table. I thought that the crazy wouldn’t simply double-down, but as Obama has proven over the last few days, I was wrong.

The birthers have taken a non-issue and allowed it to paint Obama as the victim of racism. Then, just when they were gaining steam, Obama “gave in to their demands” in a political move intended to look like he’s taking the high road. The proper move from the birthers would be to walk away. Instead, they’ve pressed on even harder [and crazier] and it makes Obama look like even more of a victim than before.

So here’s my message to the birthers: You got played like a fiddle. You were, and you continue, to work for Obama’s ends rather than against them by distracting the nation from legitimate criticism of his policies. And as much as you think you’ve got ironclad evidence that Obama isn’t qualified to hold office, you — like the 9/11 truthers before you — are never going to win.

Let it go.

The Inflation Won’t Come From The Fed

Everyone knows the Fed is pushing Quantitative Easing. By that, it means that when America is having trouble selling T-bills at advantageous interest rates, the Fed prints up some money to keep demand. It buys the bonds with newly-printed money. The recent run was $600B or so, and the Fed’s current balance sheet holds about $2.7T in assets (that they can choose to hold as long as they find prudent — since they print the money to keep them and/or roll them over).

But what if I told you that there was another $11T of outstanding US dollars* out there in the world, and that everyone except the US has a say in whether they are circulated. In fact, that those dollars are sitting on foreign soil is a very good thing for the US and has been for decades, but it’s not assured it will last forever. As I said WAAAY back in 2007:

As I’ve pointed out in the past, the dollar’s status as a reserve currency has largely allowed America to inflate with very little visible burden on our own citizens. We create worthless money, use it to buy durable goods from other countries, and watch as they hold that money or reinvest it in the sinkhole that are Treasury bonds. It’s a credit card on the world, and we can print whatever we need to pay it off…

…as long as they don’t wise up. If they do, suddenly that money might come back to us, and we’ll feel the results of the inflation we’ve engaged upon.

Inflation benefits those who see the money first — in this case, Americans who used that money to buy durable goods from overseas. It has the least benefit for those who see the money last. To date, that has been forex reserves, sovereign wealth funds, etc. But should those foreign nations decide they no longer want to hold US dollars, they’ll spend them right back into circulation — and they’ll eventually want us to sell them goods in exchange for those dollars.

If that happens, the inflation comes full circle and we feel it right here at home — without the Fed ever releasing the $2.7T they have on their balance sheet.

We’ve spent the last four decades, ever since Nixon “closed the gold window”, sending dollars abroad to other nations who stick them under their mattresses. This has been the persistent trade deficit we’ve held. Sure, some of those dollars came back to be lent to our own government to finance even MORE spending that didn’t come from the American people, but much of them quite literally got shoved under the mattress.

What happens if they want to spend those dollars? Well, dollar-denominated assets and goods produced in the US will rise in price. Oil, gold, silver, food (produced in the US), etc. Look at gold, for example: In the last year, gold has increased in dollar terms by over 32%, but by less than 8% in Swiss francs. USD vs other currencies show similar (but smaller) gaps. What can explain this? Well, if nothing else, that big buyers like China and India are using their dollar surplus, rather than their reserves in other currencies, to buy gold.

Where’s the endgame if this dollar-spending widens? Well, eventually those dollars are sold to people who don’t want to buy goods from China or US T-Bills: they want to buy US exports or US assets. That sounds good, of course; everyone likes exports! But is it good? Restate it this way: a durable good (i.e. product of American workers’ output) needs to be produced to leave our shores, and it increases the circulating money supply in the USA. The good we produce here is enjoyed elsewhere, while the increased money supply makes our own goods at home more expensive.

We change from trading our paper for other nations’ hard work to trading our hard work for our own paper back.

The endgame is the end of trade deficits, where we work harder as a nation to supply the rest of the world with goods in exchange for a lower standard of living here. That doesn’t sound good to me at all.

America has enjoyed a very privileged position in the world, and that position has only been possible from two things: other nations have trusted us and they’ve had no other options. The first is eroding to the point where they’re looking for the second. If we want to continue enjoying our position in the world, we need to convince the rest of the world that holding the US Dollar as a reserve currency benefits them — and neither trillion Dollar deficits as far as the eye can see or quantitative easing accomplish that.

When the inflation comes, it’s not going to be the Fed printing money — it’s going to be other nations sending us the money printed over four decades and expecting to buy something with it.
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Donald Trump: Corporatist Bully

I do not like Donald Trump. I don’t dislike him because of his wealth; he probably earned most of his wealth honestly. Some dislike Trump because he is a self promoter. I don’t dislike Trump for this reason either. Many successful individuals are great at self promotion and developing a successful brand (a very good attribute to have to have a successful political campaign).

No, the reason I really dislike Donald Trump – even putting aside his becoming the new face of the Birther movement in recent weeks, his support of the auto bailouts, raising taxes, his anti-free trade proposal that would place a 25% tariff on all Chinese products, and his support for single payer universal healthcare – is quite simply that he is a corporatist bully.

For those who don’t quite understand the difference between a capitalist and a corporatist, I highly encourage you to read Brad’s post “Mercantilism, Fascism, Corporatism — And Capitalism.” This distinction is an important one. Donald Trump is the poster child for what many on the Left as a greedy capitalist; a caricature of everything that is wrong with capitalism as preached by the Ralph Naders and Michael Moores of the world.

But those of us who know better know that Donald Trump isn’t a capitalist at all but a corporatist. Trump doesn’t try to work within a framework of a free market as a true capitalist would, but like far too many businessmen, he uses his wealth and influence to encourage the government to work on his behalf to his advantage (and at the expense of anyone else who would dare get in his way).

In the early 1990’s, an elderly widow by the name of Vera Coking was in the way. Coking’s home that she had lived in for 30 years was on a plot of land that the Donald coveted. The Donald wanted the property so he could add a limousine parking area to one of his Atlantic City casinos. When Coking turned down his $1 million offer to buy the property, the Donald decided to enlist the help of his goons on the New Jersey Casino Reinvestment Authority. In 1994, these government thugs filed a lawsuit to take Coking’s property for $251,000 and gave her 90 days to leave her property (if she were to stay beyond the 90 days, men in uniforms with guns would forcibly remove her from her home).

Fortunately, Coking’s case gained enough media publicity to gain the attention and help of The Institute for Justice (think a more libertarian ACLU with a focus on property rights). With the IJ’s help, Coking was able to keep her property. In 1998, a judge made a decision that turned out to be final finding that the Donald’s limousine parking area was not a “public use.”

John Stossel confronted the Donald about his failed attempts to take the widow’s home away; he reprinted this exchange in his book Give Me A Break on pages 152 and 153:

Donald Trump: Do you want to live in a city where you can’t build roads or highways or have access to hospitals? Condemnation is a necessary evil.

John Stossel: But we’re not talking about a hospital. This is a building a rich guy finds ugly.

Donald Trump: You’re talking about at the tip of this city, lies a little group of terrible, terrible tenements – just terrible stuff, tenement housing.

John Stossel: So what!

Donald Trump: So what?…Atlantic City does a lot less business, and senior citizens get a lot less money and a lot less taxes and a lot less this and that.

Earlier in the book (page 25) Stossel gives his impressions of this confrontational interview:

Donald Trump was offended when I called him a bully for trying to force an old lady out of her house to make more room for his Atlantic City casino. After the interview, the producer stayed behind to pack up our equipment. Trump came back into the room, puffed himself up, and started blustering, “Nobody talks to me that way!”

Well, someone should.

Had this case taken place after Kelo, the Donald may well have prevailed. In the wake of the Kelo decision, Neil Cavuto interviewed the Donald on Fox News (7/19/05) to get his reaction.


I happen to agree with [the Kelo decision] 100 percent, not that I would want to use it. But the fact is, if you have a person living in an area that’s not even necessarily a good area, and government, whether it’s local or whatever, government wants to build a tremendous economic development, where a lot of people are going to be put to work and make area that’s not good into a good area, and move the person that’s living there into a better place — now, I know it might not be their choice — but move the person to a better place and yet create thousands upon thousands of jobs and beautification and lots of other things, I think it happens to be good.

Donald Trump is not one who respects property rights (other than his own). “Tremendous economic development” and “jobs” are great reasons to employ the full police power of government to take away someone’s property in the Donald’s world view.

I shudder to think of what a Donald Trump presidency would look like. Imagine the Donald with control of our CIA and our military. The Donald doesn’t have any problem using force to get what the Donald wants.

Now consider President Trump with a vacancy on the U.S. Supreme Court. What sort of Justice would he appoint? Most likely one who would view Kelo quite favorably.

This bully, Donald Trump is the guy who is polling second place in some early Republican primary polls? Wake the hell up Republicans!

Ron Paul To Announce Presidential Bid

National Journal is reporting that Ron Paul will announce the formation of a Presidential Exploratory Committee tomorrow in Iowa:

Rep. Ron Paul, R-Texas, whose outspoken libertarian views and folksy style made him a cult hero during two previous presidential campaigns, will announce on Tuesday that he’s going to try a third time.

Sources close to Paul, who is in his 12th term in the House, said he will unveil an exploratory presidential committee, a key step in gearing up for a White House race. He will also unveil the campaign’s leadership team in Iowa, where the first votes of the presidential election will be cast in caucuses next year.

Paul, 75, ran as the Libertarian Party candidate in 1988, finishing with less than one half a percent of the vote. After more than a decade as a Republican congressman, Paul gave it another shot in the 2008 presidential election, gaining attention for being the only Republican candidate calling for the end to the war in Iraq and for his “money bomb” fundraising strategy, which brought in millions of dollars from online donors in single-day pushes.

Paul took 10 percent of the vote in the Iowa caucuses and 8 percent in New Hampshire’s primary. He finished second, with 14 percent of the vote, in the Nevada caucuses, and eventually finished fourth in the Republican nominating process with 5.6 percent of the total vote. Paul’s campaign book, The Revolution: A Manifesto also reached No. 1 on The New York Times best-seller list in 2008.

An exploratory committee is one step below an actual campaign, but it seems likely that Paul is running, at least for now. Personally, for the reasons I mentioned last week, I am inclined to support Gary Johnson rather than Congressman Paul, but the more the merrier.

Quote Of The Day

Why we should go after the online poker vendors:

There are plenty of victims of (allegedly) illegal online poker, starting with the desperately-short-of-cash federal and state governments which are deprived of all the taxable revenue ($3 billion, say the feds) from the now-suspected operations. And just ask casino and horse racing executives what they think of the way online poker operators have taken advantage of Congressional fecklessness on the topic.

I can just imagine the response: “It cost a lot of good goddamn lobbying money to to set up these legal gambling monopolies, and now these poker sites want to get in on the action without ponying up the green? F’ em.”

Oh, that’s actually the response from Congress. My bad.

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