Category Archives: The Welfare State

The Modern Republican Party is a Special Kind of Suck (Part 3 of 3)

Part 2

Did Voters Reject Capitalism?
Some on the Right have said that the 2012 election was a rejection of Capitalism. I’m not entirely sure I agree. Yes, there seems to be a large percentage of the electorate who want money to be taken away from the top 1 or 2% and redistributed to the remaining 99 or 98%. Yes, more people are reliant on some sort of government check than ever before. Is it possible that there was some other reason voters rejected the alternative Barack Obama in this election?

The answer to this question, I think, has more to do with where conservatives come down on certain divisive social issues. The rhetoric on issues like abortion and gay marriage for example have alienated certain people who agree with Republicans on taxes and spending may have otherwise voted for the Republican candidate. For voters who decide these issues are at least as important as economic issues, they either support Obama, support Gary Johnson,* or don’t vote at all.

Anti-choice Extremism of Suck
To be fair, abortion is an issue that even divides libertarians. Sadly, this is not an issue that is likely to disappear anytime soon.** But the way Republicans present the issue needs to change unless they want to continue to chase away the female vote. I don’t think it’s even necessarily about abortion per se but more the cavalier attitude some Republican politicians seem to have about anything concerning women’s reproductive cycles.

While it’s reasonable to say that the government should not force insurance companies to pay for contraception, when someone like Rush Limbaugh calls someone like Sandra Fluke a slut or a prostitute, for advocating the opposite view, this distracts from the argument. There has always been a double standard in our society concerning sex. Men are studs for putting notches on their bedposts while women are sluts for doing the same. Comments like these remind women of this double standard and make it seem that Republicans have not moved beyond this double standard.

They refer to the “morning after pill” (marketed as Plan B) as an “abortion pill” when in fact it is not. In fact, according to this article on WebMD the morning after pill doesn’t work for women who are already pregnant (that’s a different pill). The article further explains that the pill does one of two things depending on where a woman happens to be in her cycle when the pill is taken: 1. prevents or delays ovulation or 2. keeps the egg from being fertilized. Some may also recall that Ron Paul, who was arguably the most anti-abortion candidate in the race and someone who was an obstetrician by trade (i.e. he knows what he’s talking about) said as much in one of the debates when the morning after pill was brought up. Anyone who says the morning after pill is an abortion pill is either uninformed or lying.

You have Republican men like Todd Aiken talking about “legitimate rape,” basically saying to women who are real victims that if her body didn’t “shut that whole thing down,” they weren’t really raped to begin with, therefore; there shouldn’t be a legal exception for rape to allow for an abortion. Another senate candidate, Richard Mourdock, said that a pregnancy that is the result of rape is “a gift from God.” Seriously.

Whether they realize it or not, Republicans are basically saying that pregnant women are second class citizens. For nine months, her rights are second to the concern of the unborn child regardless of the circumstances of how the child was conceived and regardless of legitimate health concerns of the mother. It should come to no surprise that some women might object to these attitudes and vote accordingly.

The issues concerning reproductive rights are delicate but often not treated as such among Republicans. Maybe just maybe, the GOP should allow the women to be the spokespersons on these issues, even if they are staunchly anti-choice. Instead of a blanket one size fits all federal policy outlawing abortion; the GOP should say the issue should be decided state-by-state.

Anti-Gay Attitudes of Suck
Face it Republicans, gays are serving in the military and they will eventually have the ability to get married in all 50 states. The train has left the station a long, long time ago. You can concede that you have lost on this issue or you can continue to take a beating at the polls, and deservedly so.

So what’s a socially conservative person to do?

No one says you have to like the gay lifestyle. Go ahead and preach from your tax exempt pulpit about the immorality of homosexuality. Go ahead and write blogs or write on your Face Book wall about how much you disapprove. Whatever. It’s your right to be as intolerant as you want to be.

The problem for libertarians at least is when you want to use force via the government to get your way. Libertarians would also say that churches should not be forced by the government to marry gay couples (or any couple for any reason for that matter). Let the churches discriminate but also allow gay couples to have the same legal contract*** rights as heterosexual couples. And if a gay couple can find a church that will marry them, that should be the end of it. Who are you to infringe on their religious liberty?

Conclusion: Slaying the Suck
The days of appealing only to white Christian men over 50 are coming to an end as white Christian men over 50 are quickly becoming a minority. The Republican Party must learn to reach out to minorities, to women, and to younger voters.

Sure, Republicans had minorities speaking at their convention and I’m not accusing the GOP of tokenism (though I’m sure others, particularly on the Left will make that charge). But it simply is not enough to have Condoleezza Rice, Susannah Martinez, and Marco Rubio in the party to say that you are “inclusive.” Minorities need to be included in the conversation, heard as opposed to talked at. How are your policies better for them than the Democrats’?

Ask yourself: “If I were female, Black, Hispanic, Asian, Native American, Muslim, atheist, or gay, would I feel welcome in the Republican Party?” If the answer is “no,” the Republicans have some serious work to do if they want to win in the future. While none of these minorities in of themselves cost Romney the election, together they make up a significant voting bloc that would be foolish to ignore.

Some of the issues I have mentioned in this series are popular within the GOP but don’t necessarily play all that well outside the GOP (i.e. independent voters). This doesn’t mean surrendering their principles necessarily but it does mean re-thinking some of them, presenting their ideas better, and deciding which issues are worth fighting for and which (if any) need to be jettisoned.

While some people may have liked Mitt Romney’s economic proposals, they may have also disliked his social proposals. The problem with supporting a candidate for office is that the person you are voting for is a package deal. Some of us are simply unwilling to choose between economic liberties and civil liberties (and when the Republicans are only marginally better on economic liberty than the Democrats AND when Democrats are only marginally better than Republicans on civil liberties, some of us prefer the real deal and vote Libertarian).

In closing, I think Rep. Ron Paul had some very good thoughts in his farewell speech from the House that would serve as a guide on how the Republican Party can slay the special kind of suck that gave a terrible president a second term:

The problem we have faced over the years has been that economic interventionists are swayed by envy, whereas social interventionists are swayed by intolerance of habits and lifestyles. The misunderstanding that tolerance is an endorsement of certain activities, motivates many to legislate moral standards which should only be set by individuals making their own choices. Both sides use force to deal with these misplaced emotions. Both are authoritarians. Neither endorses voluntarism. Both views ought to be rejected.

Yes, these views ought to be rejected and the GOP should return to the strategy they used to win in 2010: economic issues front and center and social issues on the back burner.

*I am proud to say I was one of the 1% or roughly 1 million who supported Gary Johnson for president. Though in terms of the election is a small number but set a new record for the Libertarian Party.

**Call me cynical but I think both Republicans and Democrats want abortion to always be an issue for fundraising reasons. This is an issue that animates the bases of both parties.

***Don’t waste my time with the slippery slope arguments “that if gays can marry what’s next, people marrying their dogs?” or “marry children” or “marry their cars.” The key here is contract rights. Dogs, children, and cars all have one thing in common: none have the legal ability to enter into a contract.

Atlas Shrugged Part II in Theaters This Weekend

Atlas Shrugged Part II is opening this weekend. Want to check it out? Follow this link to find a theater near you.

And now, the official Atlas Shrugged Part II trailer:

Resistance is Not Always Futile

There’s no question that the 2012 campaign has been full of disappointments for those of us who want less government, more liberty, and more prosperity in our lives. Very clearly, the game is rigged in large part due to the establishment media, powerful special interest groups, and the political parties themselves. It’s very easy to become disillusioned by the entire process and sometimes it’s tempting to give up and say “to hell with it!”

But rather than bring down you readers out there (as I often do), I want to share something very inspiring with you from Cato’s David Boaz (below). In Boaz’s lecture, he explains how everyday heroism hastened the demise of the Soviet Union. We libertarians complain – often with good reason, about how difficult it is for our voices to be heard in the two party system. For all practical purposes, the U.S.S.R. had only one political party and dissent was strongly discouraged…to put it mildly.

Yet somehow, ordinary people were able to rise up, demand the liberties we all too often take for granted, and prevailed! How did they do it? What can we learn from how these ordinary people brought down the Evil Empire, and more importantly, how can we apply these lessons here in the US?

Recovered from the Memory Hole: Rep. Paul Ryan Urges Congress to Pass TARP

Mitt Romney has selected Rep. Paul Ryan (R-WI) as his running mate with great fanfare among conservatives. Paul Ryan, someone with some fiscal sanity on a major political ticket who can offer an alternative to President Obama and his big government, big spending ways.

Well, not so fast. Not too long after the news of Ryan being selected as Romney’s running mate hit the wires, this little gem was recovered from the memory hole:

Well, maybe this is an anomaly. I wish it were. In addition to supporting TARP, Ryan supported the auto bailout, Medicare Part D, and voted against repealing Davis-Bacon. Ryan is also a war hawk and his record on civil liberties isn’t any better. Extending the Patriot Act, supporting the indefinite detention of American citizens provisions of the NDAA, and voting to create the Department of Homeland Security are but a few examples.

To put it another way, Paul Ryan is no Ron Paul, or even Rand Paul for that matter.

Farming in an Equilibrium Trap

JayG wrote something today about how this summers drought is hitting farmers very hard; which is absolutely true. And it’s already having an impact on food prices, and that impact is just going to grow.

The crop that’s being impacted worst is dent corn, which makes up the majority of livestock feed in this country; particularly beef feed. This is exacerbated by the governments ethanol mandates, which take even more of the feed corn crop out of the feed market.

Over the next couple months, we’re going to see beef prices crash, as ranchers and feedlots come to the end of their stored feedstocks and slaughter more steer than normal (so they don’t have to keep feeding them), and then SOAR to highs we haven’t seen in years over the fall and winter.

Jay points out that some are “blaming subisidies” for the state of things… which I think is silly, you can’t blame subsidies for weather (well… usually… Microclimate and regional climate adjustments due to overplanting can sometimes be blamed on subsidies… but that’s not what we’re talking about here).

But honestly, there’s something that no-one wants to admit, no-one wants to say, and no-one wants to hear in this country….

We have too many damn farmers.

By far.

Probably by more than half, at least for some crops.

In particular we have too many grain farmers. In even greater particular, we have far too many corn and wheat farmers.

We have a natural market for corn and wheat that would support… something like half… of the farmers that we have now.

All of those people who are only making money because of subsidies; we really don’t need them growing corn or wheat.

Either they need to grow something else, or they need to sell their land and stop being farmers.

Even the argument that it “keeps our food prices low” is false; because it actually keeps them higher most years. If there were no subsidies, the market would find its natural level of supply, demand, and price; and the resources inefficiently allocated to subsidized crops would simply be allocated elsewhere (and I’m not even going to get into the second order effects of this regime like obesity, HFCS vs. sugar pricing, ethanol etc…).

But we don’t want to hear it.

We are constantly being presented with images of the “struggling family farmer”… And have been for over 100 years.

Shouldn’t that tell you something?

There are plenty of very profitable and prosperous farmers in this country, and plenty of large farming corporations that do quite well…

And who are they?

They’re farmers that grow crops which don’t get subsidies, who have found ways to be economically efficient; or they are farm corporations who have found ways to extract the maximum amount of government benefits.

Again… shouldn’t that tell you something?

When a business is failing, that doesn’t tell you “we need to subsidize it”, it tells you we need to reduce its regulatory and tax burdens and operational restrictions (stop artificially reducing its competitiveness); or we need to let that business die.

Farming is no different from any other business. If it’s not competitive, we shouldn’t be encouraging people to do it (unless it’s of importance to national security, and thus can’t be outsourced or offshored; and even then that’s an iffy one, and we should still be encouraging competitiveness internally ) and we shouldn’t be rescuing or subsidizing it.

Why on earth have we been subsidizing these non-viable crops for 80 years?

Oh wait… I know… it’s because to get elected president, you need to win the majority of Iowa, Kansas, Nebraska, Missouri, Minnesota, Illinois, Indiana, Michigan, and Ohio; and to be elected to congress (outside of a major urban constituency anyway) or win those states in the general election, you have to support subsidies for grain farming.

Right now, these farmers are in an equilibrium trap, where because of government subsidies they can just barely get by; but because of inefficiency, actual market conditions etc… they can’t get ahead

The way to deal with equilibrium traps, is to break out of them completely. You can’t do that by keeping on doing what put you in the trap to begin with; and they’ve been doing that for 80 years.

If we stopped subsidizing these crops, people would take huge losses in the first few years; particularly as their land prices fell dramatically. It would hurt. A few hundred thousand people would take a big hit…

An aside about numbers: there are about 2.3 million “farms” in the united states. 65% of all crops are produced by 9% of all farms (which farm 59% of the agricultural land), and 85% of all crops are produced by 15% of all farms.

Of the appx. 2.3 million “farms”, about 2.1 million are considered “family farms”. About 1.9 million of those farms are considered “small family farms”, which have gross revenues of less than $250,000 per year, and produce less than 15% of all crops. Of those, about 35%, produce about 9% of the total crops in this country and are generally considered viable. 40% are essentially “hobby” or “part time” farms that produce less than 3% of all crops per year. It’s the 25% or so of those 2 million farms, which only produce 3-4% of all crops, and which are basically non-viable, that are the biggest issue.

Oh and 10% of all farms receive 75% of all subsidies, for producing about 25% of all crops. Corn, wheat, cotton, rice, soybeans, dairy, peanuts, and sugar, make up 97% of subsidies. Corn and wheat alone make up 52%, cotton about 14%, rice and soybeans another 23%). The VAST majority of those subsidies go to large corporate feed grain farms in Iowa, Illinois, Nebraska, Kansas, and Ohio, and to Cotton farms in Texas (Texas produces 30% of all cotton in the U.S., with Arkansas, California, Mississippi, and Georgia accounting for another 40%); NOT to small family farmers

And then, we would be better off as a nation; and THEY would be better off as individuals. They, and their children, would no longer be trapped into a just barely livable, just barely getting by, dependent on the government economic condition for decades. They would move to more productive more useful employment. They would be better off eventually, as would the country as a whole.

The problem? Many of them don’t want to. They WANT to be farmers, even though they KNOW it’s a bad business. They love being farmers. They’ve been farmers for generations in their family. It’s all they know, it’s what they’re passionate about, it’s part of their culture and they can’t see ever doing anything else.

Well… I want to be an Aerospace Engineer, and design and build airplanes; or even boats (many boat designers are also aerospace engineers. It’s a very similar field of study). It’s what I trained for, and I love it and am very passionate about it.

But it’s not viable for me.

There are more than enough airplane designers out there for the market as it exists today; so I can’t find employment as an airplane designer. The fact is, very few new airplanes are being designed.

Now, I’m the first to say that we should get the excessive regulatory burden out of the way of the aircraft industry, and if we did that it’s likely that more aircraft would be designed and more aerospace engineers could find jobs…

But would you say that just because I can’t find a job in the field I was educated in, that we should subsidize that field just so I could?

…Well… Sadly, some would… Or at least they would, if the field I was in was politically or socially favored… But anyone with any sense or integrity knows better.

We have romanticized the idea of the “family farmer” in this country for far too long.

The fact is, it is no longer economically viable, nor is it necessary, for many of these people to be farmers, and we should stop enabling the equilibrium trap constantly keep them locked into farming, but always on the edge of failing.

I am a cynically romantic optimistic pessimist. I am neither liberal, nor conservative. I am a (somewhat disgruntled) muscular minarchist… something like a constructive anarchist.

Basically what that means, is that I believe, all things being equal, responsible adults should be able to do whatever the hell they want to do, so long as nobody’s getting hurt, who isn’t paying extra

Gov. Deval Patrick Vetoes Bipartisan Bill that Would Prohibit EBT Card Fraud and Abuse

In Massachusetts people can purchase guns, porn, jewelry, get a manicure, or get a tattoo with an EBT card (i.e. food stamps). Understandably, this upsets some Massachusetts residents and the state legislature passed a bipartisan bill which would prohibit use of EBT cards for these non-food related items. You would think that such a common sense reform embraced by Republicans and Democrats alike would easily be signed into law regardless of the party affiliation of the governor but you would be wrong.

Chris Cassidy for The Boston Globe reports:

In a veto statement yesterday, [Gov. Deval] Patrick slammed his reform-intent rivals for “political grandstanding” with their efforts to ban EBT buys of guns, porn, tattoos, jewelry and manicures, insisting reforms were already on track without the Legislature’s meddling. That drew return fire from irate lawmakers.

“A lot of people in the Legislature, and a lot of taxpayers for that matter, believe there are a lot of problems with our EBT system,” said state Sen. Robert Hedlund (R-Weymouth). “Some of us have worked hard to try to address those problems. Some of us actually take our jobs seriously, and to be accused of political grandstanding, I think it’s irresponsible and immature of the governor to speak that way.”

[…]

Patrick denied he’s opposed to EBT reforms.

“Nobody is more concerned about fraud than we are,” Patrick said at a press conference yesterday.

His veto rejected bans on the use of EBT cards for tattoos, guns, porn, body piercings, jewelry, fines and bail. However, he left standing bans of the use of EBT cards in tattoo parlors, gun shops, casinos, cruise ships, strip clubs and adult entertainment centers, saying the independent EBT Card Commission had ruled out the idea of banning specific products “for reasons of feasibility, enforceability (and) cost.”

For the purpose of this discussion, let’s put aside whether or not government at any level should give food stamps to those who would otherwise have difficulty feeding their families. Can we not all agree, whether your Libertarian, Republican, Democrat, Socialist, Communist, Nihilist, or whatever, that if the state has determined that taxpayers will help the needy via food stamps or EBT cards that at the very least the recipients of these cards buy FOOD with them rather than guns, porn, jewelry, body piercings, manicures, or tattoos?

Gov. Patrick, this shouldn’t be a difficult issue. You say that banning specific products from being purchased with food stamps is problematic but let me suggest one simple answer: limit the purchases to food only.

Really, how hard was that?

Recovered from the Memory Hole: Sen. Obama Opposed to the Individual Mandate in ‘08

“If a mandate was the solution, we could try that to solve homelessness by mandating everybody buy a house. The reason they don’t have a house is they don’t have the money.” – Sen. Barack Obama during the 2008 Democrat Primary.

A long, long, time ago, way back during the 2008 primaries, then Sen. Barack Obama attacked then Sen. Hillary Clinton and Sen. John Edwards for the mandate provisions of their respective healthcare plans. Sen. Obama went on to explain how the RomneyCare mandates were not helping indigents in Massachusetts acquire the healthcare they needed leaving some without health insurance and paying the fine.

Fast forward to the present: President Barack Obama’s signature legislation, the so-called Affordable Care Act (A.K.A. ObamaCare, modeled after RomneyCare) is upheld by the Supreme Court, the main question being whether or not the federal government can force mandate individuals to purchase a product. Meanwhile on the Republican side, with about a dozen or so candidates to choose from in the course of the 2012 campaign, Gov. Mitt Romney will be the G.O.P. nominee who pledges to repeal ObamaCare if he is elected the next President of the United States. Mitt Romney, the man behind the very policy that Obama criticized and now embraces at the federal level.

Now isn’t politics fun!

Did Justice Roberts Help Romney and Provide a Path to Repeal ObamaCare?

Over at Red State, Erick Ericson theorizes that Chief Justice John Roberts joined the majority opinion as a way to put ObamaCare back into the hands of the political branches to decide the law’s fate:

The Democrats have been saying for a while that individual pieces of Obamacare are quite popular. With John Roberts’ opinion, the repeal fight takes place on GOP turf, not Democrat turf. The all or nothing repeal has always been better ground for the GOP and now John Roberts has forced everyone onto that ground. Oh, and as I mentioned earlier, because John Roberts concluded it [the individual mandate] was a tax, the Democrats cannot filibuster its repeal because of the same reconciliation procedure the Democrats used to pass it.

It seems very, very clear to me in reviewing John Roberts’ decision that he is playing a much longer game than us and can afford to with a life tenure. And he probably just handed Mitt Romney the White House.

Our own Doug Mataconis said he “would not be surprised to see it be a 6-3 decision” way back in April for the following reason:

Ordinarily, the most senior Justice in the majority gets to decide who writes the majority opinion. However, if the Chief Justice is in the majority he gets to make that decision. If Kennedy ends up voting to uphold the mandate then I could see Chief Justice Roberts joining him so that he can write the opinion himself and make the precedential value of the decision as limited as possible.

Erick Erickson also mentioned on his radio program that many conservatives and libertarians who aren’t thrilled with Romney as the nominee will put aside their objections and vote for him if it means repealing ObamaCare.

I hate to say it but I think Erickson has a point. ObamaCare being upheld is a game changer. Prior to this decision that was supposed to strike down all or part of ObamaCare, I was absolutely certain that I would enthusiastically vote for the Libertarian nominee Gary Johnson rather than settle for the lesser of the two evils. With ObamaCare being upheld, now I have to say I’m not so sure. I’m not normally a single issue voter but if ObamaCare isn’t stopped and soon, we will be stuck with it for at least a generation.

The problem is though, it might already be too late. Several things have to happen just right. First Romney must be elected and the GOP must take control of the Senate and hold the House. Second, we have to trust that Romney and the Republicans in congress will actually follow through. We’ve been disappointed before.

The Birther Distraction Only Benefits Obama

There it is again. That damned conspiracy theory about Barack Obama being born not in Hawaii but Kenya. An honest question for you birthers out there: even assuming that everything you believe about the birthplace of Barack Obama is true, do you really think that even if you could prove it 100% that people who would otherwise support him/undecided would choose not to or would be declared ineligible to serve as president by some court, perhaps SCOTUS?

IMO the answers to those questions are no and probably not. If the voters are not concerned enough to vote him out (or even call for his impeachment) based on his other, much more damaging assaults on the Constitution, I seriously doubt these same people are going to be upset about Obama’s audacity to be born to an American mother outside the country. As far as violating his oath to defend the Constitution goes, this would be quite a minor assault.

So if the birther issue doesn’t benefit Obama’s opponents, who would it benefit? President Obama and the Democrat Party. The Obama campaign has already released an ad critical of Mitt Romney and his ties to Donald Trump (below).

This is precisely the kind of issue President Obama wants to be a part of this campaign. If the media and the people are talking about the birther question, they are not talking about his failed economic policies, his continued assaults on free market capitalism, ObamaCare, signing extensions to the Patriot Act, signing the NDAA, Fast and Furious, his drug war hypocrisy, his foreign policy befitting that of a warlord, his very Orwellian change in the definition of the term “civilian” to make his statistics for killings of innocent people in foreign lands not look so bad to the casual news consumer, and etc. In other words, Obama’s record as president!

I hear people complain that Obama wasn’t properly vetted in 2008 (and to a certain extent I agree). The media didn’t concentrate enough on the birth certificate, his time hanging out with Marxists in college, his unwillingness to release his college transcripts, his association with Jeremiah Wright. Some of these things are reasonable questions but are distractions to the issues of the greatest importance.

It may be true that we don’t know a whole lot about Obama’s biography or what made him the person he is relative to past presidents but we have had four years to evaluate his job performance as president. In the final analysis, isn’t that all that really matters?

Three Takeaways from the Dawn Loggins Story

Whatever your philosophy or wherever you find yourself in the political spectrum, one thing I think we can all agree on is that we are living in difficult economic times. Most of us, if we haven’t experienced it ourselves, know someone who has lost his or her job or is otherwise struggling to keep up with increases in the price of living. Times are tough for many if not most of us.

In these difficult times, I think it’s important to remember to persevere rather than throw up our hands and quit. One could understand a teenager giving up on her future if she was abandoned by her parents, bullied at school, and even homeless. Who could expect any other result?

Don’t tell that to 18 year-old Dawn Loggins. She experienced all this and more and has been accepted to…Harvard?

This is such an inspiring story that I don’t want to give much more of it away. Really, I hope that everyone who reads this post reads this four part series by Alicia Banks for The Shelby Star. This story is nothing short of amazing.

There were three main takeaways I got from reading this series:

1. Dawn’s Personal choices made all the difference. Every cliché you have ever heard about becoming a successful person applies to Dawn Loggins (ex: “Luck is when preparation meets opportunity,” “when the going gets tough…” etc.). Rather than complaining about how unfair life is or blaming all her woes on the 1%,* or even her parents who abandoned her, she took it upon herself to improve her situation.

2. Sometimes one has to break the rules or violate the law to do the “right” thing. Dawn may not have been successful if the law was followed to the letter**. What if the principal or the school’s guidance counselor would have called DSS? Here’s an excerpt from part 2:

No one risked calling the Department of Social Services about Dawn, who was 17 at the time and had been homeless.

Those who cared about Dawn could have lost her to foster care if they alerted the authorities to her situation. Putnam was afraid Dawn wouldn’t be able to take classes she had lined up for her senior year at a different school.

Putnam and Kolton made sure Dawn had everything she needed: Clothes, food, shelter and Burns.

In situations like Dawn’s, Jane Shooter, assistant director for the county DSS, said social workers would have attempted to locate her parents and understand the situation. If they determined a child needed to be placed in foster care, their first attempts would be to find a safe guardian or foster family in the area. But that’s not always possible.

Members of the Burns community took care of one of their own on their own.

But was this the right thing to do?

“I can only say if you suspect a child is neglected or abused, by North Carolina law, you’re mandated to report it,” Shooter said.
Children in foster care age out of DSS’s protection when they turn 18 years old. Dawn turned 18 on Feb. 9.

“There’s nothing we can do now that she turned 18,” Shooter said.

3. Despite what some on the Left believe, regular people are more than willing to help others who are struggling without the government forcing them to do so via wealth redistribution (especially those who are doing all they can to help themselves). In addition to a few very key people who helped Dawn through high school, since this story was published, there has been an outpouring of support from regular people who want to help Dawn pay for her Harvard education.

Of course, Dawn’s story isn’t typical but neither is her work ethic. Was she successful despite her hardships or because of them? Was she smart because she studied hard or did she study hard because she was smart enough to realize doing so would be her most likely ticket out of poverty?

These chicken/egg questions aside, one thing is clear: we could all learn a thing or two about pursuing the American dream from a teenager by the name of Dawn Loggins.

Hat Tip: Neal Boortz
» Read more

The Life of Julia… who really wins?

President Obama’s campaign has put together “The Life of Julia“, following a woman from cradle to grave to show how she benefits from the enlightened benificence of President Barack Obama.

The reality, though, is rather different. Let’s look now at “The Life of Julia”:

» Read more

Open Thread: If I Wanted America to Fail…

FreeMarketAmerica.org has released a great video (above) called “If I Wanted America to Fail.” It’s a pretty decent list of policies one would want to implement to cause America to fail but it’s far from complete.

Here are a few suggestions of my own:

If I wanted America to fail, I would want congress to abdicate its war powers and give those powers to the president so he could commit acts of war against any country he desires for any or no reason at all.

If I wanted America to fail, I would want these undeclared wars to be open-ended with no discernable war aim. This would lead to blowback and create more enemies for America.

If I wanted America to fail, I would have troops deployed around the world to make sure the world is “safe for democracy” but would topple regimes, even those elected by the people of these countries, if the president found the new leaders not to his liking. This would create even more enemies who would try to cause America to fail.

If I wanted America to fail, I would do away with due process – even for American citizens who the president considers “enemy combatants.” I would want the president to have the ability to detain these people indefinitely, ship them to a foreign country, and even give the president the authority to kill these people anywhere in the world they are found.

If I wanted America to fail, I would have the ATF sell arms to Mexican drug cartels so they could kill innocent people on both sides of the border. I would name this operation after a lame action movie franchise and pretend to know nothing about it when details were made public (It’s not like the media would have any interest in investigating this deadly policy because this is a Democrat administration).

Now it’s your turn. What are the policies being implemented now that you would want implemented if your goal was to make America fail?

Milton Friedman on Libertarianism and Humility

On August 14, 1990, Milton Friedman gave a speech at the International Society for Individual Liberty’s 5th World Libertarian Conference on the subject of libertarianism and humility. There are many adjectives which can be ascribed to libertarians but “humble” usually isn’t one of them. Among the quotable parts of the speech, Friedman said the following:

On the one hand, I regard the basic human value that underlies my own beliefs as tolerance based on humility. I have no right to coerce someone else because I cannot be sure that I am right and he is wrong. On the other hand, some of our heros…people who have, in fact, done the most to promote libertarian ideas, who have been enormously influential, have been highly intolerant as human beings and have justified their views, with which I largely agree, in ways that I regard as promoting intolerance.

In searching for the above transcription of what I thought was very profound and wise, I found a couple of bloggers who thought this particular quotation as “an inadequate defense of liberty” or one of the “failures” of Milton Friedman.

I happen to disagree with these notions.

Maybe because I have been humbled in realizing that I had been wrong on some issues of great importance. By far the most difficult (yet ultimately liberating) post I have ever written was the post in which I declared that I was wrong about my support for the war in Iraq. I was so certain that regime change in Iraq would bring about peace in the Middle East and freedom would take hold. I thought the Ron Paul and big “L” Libertarian position on preemptive war was naïve and dangerous but now I believe the opposite to be true (for reasons I stated in the aforementioned post).

Having experiencing this, I can’t help but think that Friedman was right to say that each of us should be open to the possibility we may be wrong. If we aren’t open to this possibility, what is the point of debating an issue? Obviously, if I argue that X is correct and my opponent says Y is correct, I’m going to do my best to convince my opponent that I am right and s/he is wrong (meanwhile, my opponent is doing the same).

But what if I realize in the course of the debate that my opponent is at least partially right about Y being correct and/or that my reasoning is flawed or the facts do not support X? As a normal human being, I might not concede right away but if I am being intellectually honest, I’ll revise my thinking based on new information or new reasoning I hadn’t considered.

If Milton Friedman was willing to be open to the possibility of being wrong, how could I, someone whose mind will never in the same league as his, be so stubborn?

One thing I notice in watching Friedman debate people who are diametrically opposed to his positions was how patient he was with them. Something that many of us libertarians seem to forget is that much of what we believe to be true is counterintuitive to at least half of the people we encounter on a daily basis because many of these people have not been exposed to our philosophy. Friedman understood this. He knew that much of what he was saying was new territory for many who would hear his lectures or read his books.

Before he could make the case about any of his ideas to others, he had to be satisfied that the facts backed up his theory. These two sentences from the NPR obituary for Friedman summed up his approach beautifully:

Friedman was an empiricist, whose theories emerged from his study of the evidence, not the other way around. He also was a champion of the free market and small government.

We are supposed to believe this to be a weakness? I find this to be so refreshing!

How far we have fallen…

Reading the point/counterpoint posts on the question of how the supreme court would decide on Obamacares constitutionality, was quite disturbing to me in several ways.

On the one hand I was heartened, because clearly both Brad and Doug are sane and rational folks with a reasonably solid background in both law and politics, and a foundational understanding of the constitution…

Of course, that only highlights how many people in this country are not.

Any reading of the constitution… of the very intent of the founding of this nation… makes it clear that our federal government is meant to be one of of limited and enumerated powers. If the government can mandate this, they can mandate anything. This is the fundamental argument about the necessity for a limiting principle to any government act.

And anyone who doesn’t want unlimited, unconstrained government can see that. Sadly, it seems that the idea of unlimited, unconstrained government is quite popular in some quarters… even with some supreme court justices.

The basic liberal/progressive/leftist argument for socialized medicine is “we should do this even if it IS illegal and unconstitutional, because it’s the right thing to do so the supreme court should uphold it”.

I.E. “It’s good because we want it, and therefore it should be legal because it is good; and we need to get rid of this whole “limited government” thing, because it gets in the way of us doing what is right and good.”

What I also find heartening is that both Brad and Doug both seem to have a good sense of all of this…

But that is also disturbing…

Because both of them seem to share the same actual opinion:

Both believe that Obamacare is ACTUALLY unconstitutional, and should be struck down…

…It’s just that Brad is cynical enough about the supreme court and the political aspects of the decision that he thinks enough justices will be able to argue themselves into ignoring the constitution and doing what they want to do, rather than what is right.

… and Doug believes that there’s a good possibility of that as well; he just has a bit more hope that they won’t.

… and if you look around the commentariat, that’s pretty much the split of positions that every other knowledgable observer has as well.

And if that isn’t disturbing to you, then you really have no idea what is going on, do you?

I am a cynically romantic optimistic pessimist. I am neither liberal, nor conservative. I am a (somewhat disgruntled) muscular minarchist… something like a constructive anarchist.

Basically what that means, is that I believe, all things being equal, responsible adults should be able to do whatever the hell they want to do, so long as nobody’s getting hurt, who isn’t paying extra

Either You Want Government Out of Your Bedroom or You Don’t

One way we libertarians often describe ourselves are individuals who don’t want the government in our bedroom or our boardrooms. Those on the Left typically agree with the former while disagreeing with the latter while those on the Right typically believe the reverse. Yet when it comes to the federal government mandating that all health insurance policies provide “free” contraception via Obamacare, suddenly the Left wants the government in the bedroom while the Right correctly wants no part of it.

President Obama seems to believe (or more likely, wants us to believe) that by decreeing that contraception be free that it will be. No, birth control devices cost no money to develop, test, produce, or distribute; somehow these products are immune from the notion that there is no such thing as a free lunch*. This is the kind of policy that causes health insurance to go up in price because now everyone pays just a little more on their premiums whether everyone wants or needs contraception or not.

Much of the debate on this mandate has centered around the idea that Catholic and other religious organizations should be forced to either directly or indirectly provide contraception in their healthcare plans. Like Brian Lehman writes at United Liberty, this is missing the point. As a pro-choice libertarian atheist, I too am offended by the notion that I must pay for coverage I don’t want or need**. Why don’t I have a right to choose the level of coverage that suits my family’s healthcare needs?

Some healthcare providers may determine that offering the coverage is more cost effective than covering unplanned pregnancies and all that entails. Others may come to a different conclusion. In a more perfect world, individuals would be able to shop around for the right coverage independent of employers or the government. This would take the politics out of the issue except for those who insist that contraception is a right. (Here’s a hint: it isn’t.)

Contraception is a good thing and we are very fortunate to live in a time when we can better plan if or when we want to have children but those who choose to be sexually active should take responsibility for providing it. Is it really too much to ask to buy your own condoms, pills, shots, or whatever? If for some reason you cannot afford contraception, there are organizations that offer these products and services at little or no cost. When did your orgasm become my responsibility?

I think it’s time for my friends particularly on the Left to make a decision: do you really want the government in your bedroom? I sure as hell don’t!

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Reducing OWS Economic Equality Demands to Their Absurd Conclusions

While I’m sympathetic and agree with some of Occupy Wall Street’s grievances, too many of their solutions are fatally flawed. Louis DeBroux over at United Liberty has written some grade A quality snark concerning OWS’s demands for economic equality. DeBroux says he had an epiphany while watching some of the ESPN coverage concerning the NBA lockout: what if the NBA adopted the OWS model?

The most obvious reform he mentioned would be to pay all the players equally regardless of talent and contribution to his team. But why stop with pay? Why not change the rules of the game itself in the name of fairness:

This new equality should not be limited to just to salaries though; it should extend to the basketball court. While winning is fun, losing just stinks. It makes the losers feel like, well, losers. Sometimes players even cry when they lose. It hurts their self esteem and makes them feel inferior to the winners. To solve this horrible injustice, I propose that at halftime of each game, the total points scored by that time be redistributed equally among the players of both teams. Then, with one second left on the clock, just before the game ends, the head referee will call time out and the official scorekeeper will once again redistribute the points evenly among the players of both teams.

Think how great this would be! Everyone that plays will be the high scorer. Never again will an NBA player experience the sadness of losing! Every team will be the L.A. Lakers or Boston Celtics, and no team will have to feel like the Washington Wizards or Toronto Raptors. Every team will go 82-0, and every player will be an MVP! It’s perfect! Just like PC-kiddie-soccer leagues, everyone is a winner and everyone gets a trophy. Isn’t this awesome?

Obviously, this would be the death of sports if such changes were implemented. As awful as that would be, DeBroux points out life and death consequences if the notion of competition was taken out of our culture completely:

There might be the occasional sacrifice that hits closer to home when little Sally, who always wanted to be a surgeon but could never quite remember the names and anatomical characteristics of the various human organs, accidentally mistakes the aorta for the appendix and snips that sucker right out of there. Oops! That’s gonna make a mess! Alas, poor mom, we loved you and will miss you, but the loss of your life was the acceptable price for keeping Sally’s self-esteem intact by letting her become the surgeon she always wanted to be, even if she never quite mastered the minutiae of performing surgery.

We would be all worse off to be sure, but hey, at least we would all be equal!

The Challenge of Creating an Economically Sound, Simpler, and More Just Tax Code (Part 3 of 3)

Part 1
Part 2

The challenge of creating an economically sound, simpler, and more just tax code, be it the existing code, 9-9-9, a flat tax, or a sales tax will remain an impossibility if tax revenues is the only focus of any reform. The problem that dwarfs any notion of how tax policy is implemented is how the money is spent by the government.

As I write this, the national debt is approaching $15 trillion. That’s $47,810 per citizen or $132,927 per tax payer.

Even more staggering, the sum total unfunded liabilities for Social Security and Medicare is just over $116 trillion. The prescription drug part of Medicare is over $20 trillion by itself!

Other than the Federal Reserve creating money out of thin air, what tax policy can possibly begin to support this kind of spending? It seems stupid to even pose the question.

Yet the only answer the Obama administration seems to have to pay down the debt or turn the economy around is to raise taxes on the wealthy and continue the reckless spending. The Republicans for their part offer modest tax cuts and modest spending cuts that will have no noticeable impact on the debt.

It’s high time that we as citizens tell our public servants that the out of control spending has to stop. We must demand serious structural reforms to entitlement programs or phase them out over time.

We must also recognize the difference between military spending and true national defense spending. We can no longer afford to police the world. It’s time to tell Iraq, Afghanistan, South Korea, Japan, and others that they are now responsible for their own national defense and domestic security.

That’s just a start; there’s a great deal more spending that should be cut. But before any significant cuts can be made, we need to decide just how much government we want in our lives and what we are each willing to pay. For those who believe that individuals who make under a certain income level should be spared from paying any taxes at all (i.e. too small to tax) maybe it is you who should be out front in demanding a whole lot less government.

The Challenge of Creating an Economically Sound, Simpler, and More Just Tax Code (Part 2 of 3)

Part 1

Is an economically sound, simpler, and more just tax code even possible?

The truth of the matter is that there are too many people on the Left and the Right who do not want a simpler tax code that treats everyone equally.
It’s probably not because the defenders of the existing system necessarily think the existing code is good economic policy nor does a better job funding the federal government. The most likely reasons why there is so much resistance have to do with political pandering, vote buying/special interests, and social engineering.

It’s not too difficult to figure out why the Left panders to the working poor because the poor always outnumber the wealthy regardless of how well the economy is doing overall. What would happen if there was such a tax code where everyone paid the same rate without any tax credits or loopholes and without any hidden or embedded taxes? I’m guessing it would be more difficult to raise taxes on the evil rich if it meant that everyone received the same percentage tax hike. When it comes to the tax code, equality is the very last thing the Left wants.

If there is anything I agree with the Occupy Wall Street crowd or the Left more generally it’s the special treatment politically connected individuals and businesses receive via the tax code and/or subsidies. So you say you want to get money out of politics or do something about the role of corporate lobbyists in Washington?

I do too.

The simple answer IMO is to eliminate all taxes on business and all subsidies that benefit business. If there are no taxes or subsidies, there is no reason for businesses to lobby for special tax treatment or subsidies; the main reason most industries send lobbyists to Washington in the first place. If we would like to go any further in limiting influence of special business interests, maybe just maybe we should get the government out of regulating just about every aspect of business* and restrict the government to its limited constitutional powers. What a novel concept!

Finally there’s the social engineering aspect of the tax code. Frankly, I’m not sure if those on the Left or the Right are worse when it comes to using the tax code as a tool to encourage the American people to engage in particular activities. Even with Perry’s flat tax plans, there are a handful of deductions that are sacred cows. The home interest, charitable giving, and state and local taxes are preserved for those who earn up to $500K. Those who earn under $50K can choose not to file under the 20% rate with a $12,500 per family member deduction (which would eliminate all if not most tax liability under the existing rate for those in this tax bracket). With these deductions as part of the plan, the Perry plan can hardly be called a flat tax.

While I’m critical of keeping these deductions in place (he probably could get by with a smaller rate without the deductions), it’s not difficult to figure out why Gov. Perry keeps them in place. Voters would raise all sorts of hell at the thought these deductions would go away. Maybe there’s a good argument to make that charitable giving should be deducted since these funds help people who might otherwise be on government assistance.

But the home interest deduction? Why is that held sacred? Is there some sort of right for homeowners to get a break because they choose to buy a home rather than rent? I suspect that the realtor and home building lobbies and those in government who truly believe that every person should buy a home perpetuate this notion to a point to where now home owners think they are entitled to this special treatment.

Perhaps the most sacred cow of all of the deductions is the child tax credit. This deduction is a feature of every tax reform I mentioned in part 1 (even the Fair Tax prebate is based on family size). In the last presidential debate, Rick Santorum said in so many words that the federal government should promote families via the tax code.

Is this really the sort of thing the government should be concerned with? Should the amount of taxes an individual pays have anything to do with marital status or number of dependents s/he is supporting? Is it fair to make a single person pay more taxes because s/he doesn’t have dependents?

I don’t think there is an answer that will satisfy everyone.

Part 3
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