27 October 2008

Am I Better Off? Are We?

Just a quick thought, a suggestion, of something each of us should do before we go to vote on the first Tuesday in November. We should, each one of us, make a list or narrative about how good – or how bad – our lives are. In four years’ time, we’ll all be asked again if we are better off than we are right now. Therefore some objectivity is called for.

When I pen (or type) my commentary, I’m adding a column for “Should the government do anything about it?” The question "Are we better off" may well be more important when it comes to presidential politics than its close cousin with the first person singular pronoun.

And I think that, in the name of objectivity, this should be done before the 4th of November. Again, this is for the sake of some objectivity. Once the votes start rolling in, emotions may take over – causing glee or despair, depending on which way you lean. So write early, and unlike voting, you can write prolifically.

Side Note: Apologies for the long hiatus. Busy times require some things fall by the wayside. I’ll be back at it more regularly near the end of this week.

18 October 2008

Attacking the Man

“Joe the Plumber” has been a sensation since the debate this past Wednesday night. The sad thing is, it has wound up being for all of the wrong reasons. Joe asked a very interesting question – a question that the mainstream media has refused to ask over the last umpteen months. But instead of focusing on the question and Sen. Obama’s telling answer (something about wanting to “spread the wealth around”), the media decided to dig into Joe’s personal life. So much for questioning those in positions of power.

Some things that Joe has been harshly criticized for are that he isn’t a licensed plumber, that he doesn’t, in fact, earn over $250,000 a year, that he is a Republican (which precludes him from asking a question of a Democrat candidate), that he owes back taxes, and that somehow he is a plant of Sen. McCain. All of these are, to use a favorite term of Sen. Obama, distractions from the main point – Joe called Sen. Obama on his socialistic tax plans, and Sen. Obama admitted that they are, in fact, socialistic.

And while we’re here in the land of the subjunctive mood, if I were a 16 year-old high school student who plans to go to college, I might ask Sen. Obama how his plans to subsidize college for all would help me to achieve my educational goals. I might point out that subsidizing college tuition has not brought down, but rather inflated, tuition at virtually every institution. I might also point out that if everyone has a right to a college education, then supply and demand might certainly push tuition even higher. I might conclude by asking if the federal government would subsidize education which, realistically speaking, don’t lead anywhere meaningful (various “studies” majors) versus hard sciences and technology. Would the result of subsidizing such empty learning be something good for the nation?

Of if I were a 4 year-old, I might ask why the federal government deserves the green light to come into my home and “advise” my parents how they ought to be taking care of me, how they ought to be educating me. I might ask why the federal government sees the need to expand some early education plans when the effect of such plans are negated by the time I’ll be in the third grade. I might conclude by asking rather bluntly who is to raise a child in this country, the parents or the government.

Would I have my life dissected because I, in fact, am neither a 16 year-old high school student nor a highly articulate 4 year-old? Which is more important, my actual personal “condition” or the questions I ask?

Democrats, particularly Sen. Obama and Sen. Biden, are attacking the man because they cannot openly and honestly answer the questions he poses. When Sen. Obama did, he spoke his true feelings: that the wealthy owe the lower and lower-middle classes their wealth. The wealthy must pay more taxes as a “patriotic” gesture. They are aided by the mainstream media, who are in the tank for Sen. Obama and have the means to dissect anyone’s life with a fine scalpel.

They attack the man because they are socialists. And the most telling thing about their inner motives is that they’re attacking the “average guy”. They want power; the power to take and redistribute the wealth of the country as they see fit. If Joe is any indication of the Democrat Left’s feelings regarding power and the average guy, the average guy is in for a drubbing.

11 October 2008

How’s Your Gas?

Funny how I’ve not noticed much about this one in the news…but gasoline prices have dropped precipitously in the last week or so. I can buy a gallon of gas for $2.75 locally, which is a drop of nearly 30 cents per gallon. I’m willing to guess that supply and demand have taken hold of prices. Conservation of gas seems to be the watchword for lots of folks; I’m often asked what kind of mileage my little car gets. The recent economic downturn probably has something to do with less demand as well.

And interestingly, I don’t think that the federal government has had to “fix” this situation. There was no need to guard against price gouging or to levy “windfall profits” taxes. The market needed to work. It was painful for many for a while, but now there’s some “relief” at the gas pump. And maybe it will last for a while.

So while the federal government works to bailout just about every industry, I think it’s important to realize that sometimes things need to get a bit difficult before people become willing to make changes, like driving less or buying more efficient cars. And while I’m sure there’s not a direct analogy to be made, I wonder if in the long run all of this governmental buying of financial institutions won’t hurt more than a kind of “summer of $4 gasoline” for the financial world.

10 October 2008

A Book for Undecided Voters

The presidential election rolls toward its end, and there are still lots of people who are undecided. I must admit, I am not one of them. But I do understand why undecided voters in search of more information might shy away from reading books like The Case Against Barack Obama by Freddoso or The Obama Nation by Corsi. That they are specifically anti-Obama may put an undecided voter off. There may be apprehension on the part of the undecided voter that reading such a book might be equivalent to throwing support to Sen. Obama's rival, Sen. McCain. So for those who are not inclined to read these titles, let me suggest an alternative – one which does not contain Sen. Obama's name at all: The True Believer by Eric Hoffer (a paltry $10.36 at Amazon).

Published in 1951, The True Believer discusses the "nature of mass movements" – something that America seems to be suffering from at the moment. At a slim 168 pages, it's a quick read. And though it is filed under philosophy, there should be no fear that the language is too lofty or the arguments are too complicated for the average reader. Mr. Hoffer was no ivory tower academic, it appears. Mr. Hoffer is described on the book's back cover as a "self-educated" who "worked in restaurants, as a migrant field-worker, and as a gold prospector".

The reason I find this book so important is that it gets to the heart of the matter: that the true believer is essentially blind to the world around him and to those who lead him. But I go too far. I urge any undecided voter to read Mr. Hoffer's book. It may change your mind, or at the very least, it will ask some important questions about the leaders and followers on the Democrat side this time around the electoral merry-go-round.

09 October 2008

Obama, Fusion, and New Party Socialism

While there's little doubt that both political parties are leaning toward more invasive government, the recent revelation that Sen. Obama was at least considered part of or endorsed by the New Party - a socialist organization - shows just how far left the candidate is.

The New Party described itself, reportedly, as a "socialist democratic" party which aimed at gaining representation by having candidates run under two banners, presumably both Democrat and New Party. This idea is called "fusion". By way of double-billing allegiances, New Party members might theoretically pick up votes from backers of both parties, thus "fusing" party popularity.

Of course, it might also be argued that "fusion" is a way to hide a real socialist allegiance by a candidate. That must be why it was ruled as unconstitutional in 1997.

One online reporter found archived webapges that shed light on Sen. Obama's association with the New Party in the 90s; he was running uncontested for state senate at the time. The linked article's evidence is interesting to say the least. What is even more interesting is how difficult it is in this electronic age to pop things down the memory hole and forget about them. The archived webpages were certainly not gotten rid of to save bandwidth.

If the link betwee Sen. Obama's and the New Party turns out to be solid, then it may go a long way to turning support away from him. Surely he would not be able to say he didn't know what the New Party was all about or that he hadn't read about their past. Surely he wouldn't be able to say that he was just an aquaintence. Surely the media will check all of this out. As I've written before, I believe Sen. Obama is a socialist. This just firms up the case, in my opinion.

Then again, perhaps it is easy to pop some things down the memory hole. Only time will tell just how easy it is, or just how much people are willing to ignore in the face of intrusive socialism.

04 October 2008

The Difficulty of Downsizing

Once in place, it seems that government apparatus are nearly impossible to dismantle. Instead, they grow in size and scope. The idea is nothing new. In testimony before Congress concerning the then proposed Department of Education, Dr. J. Gresham Machen argued that creating instrusive government agencies, particularly federal agencies, tends to be a one-way road. According to Dr. Machen, “It is very much easier to prevent the formation of some agency that may be thought to be unfortunate than it is to destroy it after it is once formed.” After an agency is formed, Mr. Machen argued, it tends to grow and gain more power, even if it does not accomplish its original goal. Any perceived failure may well be attributed to lack of power or funds, both of which, when supplemented, expand the intrusiveness of the agency.

The federal Department of Education has done just that. Dr. Machen’s testimony was given in February of 1926. If he were to see the power and scope of the agency today, I doubt he would be surprised, given his testimony. That it took nearly 80 years for the Department to impose, through Congress, No Child Left Behind (NCLB). Through that apparatus, the federal government has intruded upon every classroom in the nation.

My purpose is not to debate the benefits or detriments of NCLB. My purpose is to use the Department of Education and NCLB as a warning sign of how difficult it is to remove the federal government from some sphere of public life once it has a bureaucratic foothold.

While some call for abolishing NCLB, most lawmakers kick around “strengthening” or “reforming” NCLB, or making it more “flexible”. One wonders if the worry is where the power would go. Who would “hold schools accountable” for teaching students if not the government? Who better to provide “oversight” of state and local activities than the federal government? The chorus is “let all power flow upward”. And thus, the Department of Education – a body which I would argue has no need to exist, certainly not as a regulatory body – grabs more money and increases the scope of its intrusion just as Dr. Machen warned over 80 years ago.

So as we enter this last month before the election, it might do us well to consider what government agencies the presidential candidates would create, which ones they would enlarge in scope and power and funding, and who might actually attempt to cut government.

In education, “universal” zero-to-five programs (discussed here and here) would further increase the power of the Department of education. These plans, currently shelved in Congress, would allow for federal intrusion beginning at birth. Of course, this power creep would all be for the “benefit” of the child.

Nationalized healthcare, even in some initially modest form, would certainly grow to be a bureaucratic beast. The Department of Education example aside, Medicare and Medicaid have already proven that. Once in place, destroying nationalized healthcare would take a mammoth effort, if it could be done at all. However, as opposed to education programs, nationalized healthcare is something which can be totally avoided by simply not creating it.

Perhaps there are other examples, but it suffices to say that growing government is easy – and very costly. President Bush and Congress (of both political persuasions) have taught us that lesson. Are we better off for it? Are we freer with federal oversight? Would we be yet still freer with federally mandated programs on top of the gargantuan federal programs we already have? Can we afford to build ever-larger state apparatus? Can our liberties withstand them?

I would answer no. But it remains to be seen if the electorate will begin to dismantle federal intrusion on themselves by demanding of their representatives to stop growing government. Stopping the growth is the first step to downsizing government, and it will be a tough pill to swallow for some. But if we really value individual liberty, we will begin to refuse to hand them over to the state, whose programs take power and money under the guise of “aiding” the electorate.

03 October 2008

Biden's Bailout Via Bankruptcy

One of the several "you gotta be kidding me" moments during last night's VP debate for me was Sen. Biden's declaration that bankruptcy courts ought to be able to not only change the interest rates on mortgages, but also reset the principal owed. I'm sure that Sen. Biden thinks that this would be a great way to support middle-class Americans. But there is a huge problem with his plan.

It seems the logic of his idea is that if something is worth far less than it was at inception, then the amount borrowed - the principal - should be adjusted accordingly. Of course, this adjustment would only be allowed in a downward manner. No politician would dare think to raise the principal on loans whose value had actually increased.

But think about other things that may decrease after purchase, much to the buyer's surprise. The obvious target would be cars - but US automakers are already getting a nice chunk of money.

Instead, consider the college graduate who, tens of thousands of dollars in debt, suddenly realizes that his degree in "(insert group name here) studies" is worth next to nothing in the marketplace. Or the student who discovers all too late that going to a wildly overpriced private college is not worth the debt incurred. Under Sen. Biden's logic, shouldn't these graduates be able to renegotiate their student loans based on the revealed "value" of their education? Surely there must be a court to remedy these poor choices.

I did not think that Gov. Palin did a particularly good job at the debate last night, but she did hit one very high note concerning personal responsibility. Greater individual responsibility would necessarily result in a more responsible citizenry as a whole. Just as I suggested in a previous article on education, it's a bottom-up approach. And it would be of great benefit to each citizen, each community, and ultimately the country. Sen. Biden and his running-mate offer a top-down approach which will grow government intervention, weaken communities, and render helpless individuals.