Higher household costs lead to more socialism

A new study puts the cost of our invasions of Iraq and Afghanistan at about $75,000 per U.S. household.

Struggling families desperately want relief and turn to the easy way out, which is using other (more privileged) people’s money through government (thus legal) programs. We were driven left by the wasteful Vietnam war and now, as much as, $6 trillion has been spent frivolously fighting distant and ineffective enemies on the other side of the world once again.

Wealth grows in a free economy. When $6 trillion is misspent and removed from the common good, people believe the system isn’t working. The fools who claim to represent the right are unwittingly promoting leftist ideology by favoring big government solutions in international affairs that waste enough money to edge us toward poverty and thus desperate, and counterproductive, belief in socialist policies.

Learn more here:  http://www.thenews.com.pk/Todays-News-2-203012-US-wars-in-Afghanistan-Iraq-to-cost-$6-trillion.

Advertisements

The Farm Bill, Legalized Theft

Years ago I wrote Paul Harvey a letter. It was about one of his noon shows where he complained about reduced government funding for Salvation Army. I thought, why would a smart guy like Paul Harvey want to ruin Salvation Army?

I still miss the old guy, having planned lunch breaks around him for years. He was there all my life. He was unapologetic about his devotion to his wife; way too unique. It was good to hear his voice a year ago on a Dodge commercial, “So God Made a Farmer.”

His syrupy portrayal of farmers was a bit creepy however, in that we were singled out as being more special than other occupations. I’m not saying we don’t have some magic moments, like pulling a live calf on a muddy midnight or working long hours to beat the weather. But most jobs are like that.

I remember when the turbo went out on our Subaru in Minnesota and a fellow at a tire store stayed way after hours to try to get us on our way. Or how about fishermen unloading a hundred thousand pounds of salmon in the middle of the night by hand. A lot of people go to great lengths to do a job they can be proud of while working in miserable conditions.

Where is the tire shop program? Shouldn’t that Norwegian American have his business promoted or subsidized by the taxpayers because he is of Norwegian decent or because he is furnishing essential goods? Of course not. He likes tires and cars. He likes dealing with the public and he needs to provide for himself and his family. Should he hold his breath waiting for Congress to write 949 pages at a billion dollars per page before he can plan his business? Of course not.

In spite of being subject to a fickle public, weather and crazy government taxes and regulations, he plods along. The good times are for saving for the bad times. The snow tires he was stuck with last year sold like hotcakes this year at a price that paid interest and then some. If new research made super conductor levitation an option to replace tires, our Norwegian American tire dealer would use his savings to tide himself over in the conversion to a different line of work or even a super conductor levitation service center. The only reason he would need a government program is if he expected it.

The reason farmers and food stamp recipients need the farm program is only because they expect it.

I could use examples of silly spending in the Farm Bill to make my point but there is not enough paper in Hampton to cover them. None of it makes sense. The entire thing is nothing but favors for special interests passed by delusional congress people who care but don’t think.

On the surface, seeing a farmer driving a $50,000 pickup looks like jobs for truck company workers. But the money comes from somewhere. And that somewhere may have had other plans for that money that were driven by a greater need than a $50,000 pickup. In other words, the program that directed that money to the pickup distorted the market.

Free markets are what make an economy efficient. They direct scarce resources to their most useful purpose. They are what makes this country the envy of the world, a country where the poor live better than the rich in 90% of the rest of the world. To support programs that throw a monkey wrench into the miraculous economic system that built his incredibly rich nation is treasonous.

To put our predicament into perspective let’s look at Senator Grassley’s vote. I wish I could congratulate Charles Grassley for voting against the Farm Bill for the right reasons; that it is legalized theft and an aggression against the American people. But he voted against it because it didn’t limit payments to big farmers enough. In other words it wasn’t socialistic enough. This distinction went by with no notice in the public discussion at all. Look at the origins of farm programs. As one of the first acts of U. S. farm programs, Franklin Roosevelt and Iowa’s own Henry A. Wallace ordered milk dumped and pigs buried at a time when many people were going hungry. Wasn’t that a clue as to the evil lurking in a controlled economy?

The Salvation Army (mentioned earlier) is a stellar example of what can be accomplished by private charity. The dependent class in our cities and now spreading through the countryside, is a direct result of unaccountable government assistance, the same way federal flood insurance enables wasteful building in flood prone areas. Federally subsidized crop insurance promotes monoculture and depletion of native soil properties. It locks out beginning farmers by reducing the cost of a safety net that protects inefficient farmers.

Critics of free markets point to failures of these programs as examples of why we need more of them. But we haven’t had a free market since the days of The New Deal. Is stealing only right if signed by the president?

The violence behind avocados

Ah, another Super Bowl is history. I had a minor stake in the game. I used to go to Seattle to earn money and visit a good friend when I lived in poverty stricken, northwestern Montana. I worked in a kite store there occasionally and flew kites around the King Dome, now extinct; another testament to cheap pagan idolatry (like the NFL).

 

I thought this Super Bowl was an interesting match-up, pitting the mile-high Denver Broncos against the not quite so high, Seahawks. It is just a coincidence I suppose, that it represented the only two states that have given up on a small part of a drug war that negates personal responsibility, passing it on to taxpayers.

 

Every now and then there is evidence of strength of individuals peeking through the haze of state dependence. But we have a long way to go before it is universally understood that wishing something were so, does not produce those results. Broncos fans take note.

 

After eighty years wishing destructive drug use would go away through law, the results of the drug war are the same. There is a society of law abiding citizens and a society outside the protection of the law. It can get complicated, since the ones who made the drug laws are technically law breakers as well because the Constitution does not authorize them to restrict what we may ingest. They should be classified with the traffickers.

 

We had some good tacos and guacamole while watching the Super Bowl. Speaking of guacamole, there was a story in The Wall Street Journal about the avocado trade in Mexico that sheds some light on the unintended consequences of the war on drugs. The state of Michoacan, west of Mexico City, is the only state in Mexico authorized by the USDA to export avocados to the United States. A drug trafficking gang called the Knights Templar has been extorting $150 million per year from growers and packers there along with stealing 5,000 acres of avocado groves. Lawlessness in Mexico is born of the high profits created by the drug war and that lawlessness has spread to other sectors just like it did in the prohibition days here. (At least that prohibition was enacted legally through an amendment rather than with unconstitutional laws.)

 

The corrupt police in the city of Tancitaro were ineffective enough that a vigilante group was formed and they drove the traffickers out. Most of the state of Michoacan remains enslaved by those traffickers, however two more towns have been taken by the vigilantes. In 2006 the mayor and town council resigned under pressure from the traffickers who demanded even higher portions of the town’s resources.

 

A school teacher named Gustavo Sanchez took over as mayor and fired the entire 60 man police force. A year later, he and his chief of staff were found stoned to death with their hands tied behind their backs. But the vigilantes, little by little, are returning stolen land to the rightful owners.

 

“War, what is it good for? Absolutely nothing. Say it again.”

 

The list of failures of war continues to grow. The intentions rarely, if ever, bring the intended results. The Vietnam War, to fight communism, left an increasingly freer Vietnam after we were driven out and at what cost? The lives lost and money wasted there created lower living standards for Americans and that is the surest path to a communist government growing here at home. Ironically our move left was brought on by a war to fight such a demonic system over there.

 

The war on poverty has produced a culture of dependence and the current administration admits a growing disparity of income even after fifty years of wishing it wasn’t so and passing laws to correct it. Their deranged idea that punishing rich people will make us all rich is as misguided as the drug war.

 

Other well-intentioned wars will prove to produce the same results, as individual choice is trumped to appease a caring, yet ineffective, host of busybodies.

 

Legalization in Washington and Colorado will bring other challenges because our society has become one of government management trying to bring unattainable outcomes. There is no good test to determine marijuana intoxication. So how do we charge a crime for impaired driving? This dilemma came about because of our tendency to blame other people or substances rather than lack of personal responsibility. If these glitches inspire us to make a return to a society of responsible individuals it will prove to be worth it. Sixty thousand dead Mexicans certainly hasn’t been shown to be worth it unless we consider them to be less human than us gringos. 

Blame Bubble Makers for Bust

My mom and Dad taught me to man-up and take the blame if it was my fault. Is the lack of such a standard now a prerequisite for success?

 

The media in Iowa recently has been full of pleas to contact government officials to demand continuation of favors for so-called renewable energy. Lack of success in such endeavors will lead to massive layoffs and closed main street businesses.

 

But is our failure to convince government to continue to distort the energy business really a reason for us to take the blame for said layoffs? That would be like blaming rehab for withdrawals.

 

In a fit of optimism I tuned in the WHO farm show in search of some real journalism. Instead there was Bob Dineen, CEO of the Renewable Fuels Association, literally whining and crying for the continued damage of the Renewable Fuels Standard. Next up was a Farm Bureau representative talking about the intrusiveness of OSHA inspecting and fining farms for unsafe working conditions. I’m surprised these farm broadcasters aren’t committed as schizophrenics. Basically, they want to ram ethanol down our throats but they don’t want safety rammed down theirs.

 

Then the news of Governor Branstad, who just declared his intent to run for a national record number of years serving special interests on the backs of Iowans, traveling to Washington to beg for continued tax credits for wind power.

 

There is a place for these energy alternatives but the government has no place encouraging, mandating or subsidizing them. Their time will come when they provide the most bang for the buck.

 

At this point someone will surely think of details irrelevant to the issue of government intervention in energy markets, so I will answer now. National security is not enhanced by limiting trade with other nations through “energy independence.” Trade is the only proven path to peace and if you don’t like peace, you are hopeless. Besides all that, domestic oil discoveries are outpacing the growth of demand. If there is a problem with dependence on foreign sources it is because of the EPA (Environmental Protection Agency). The issues related to human control over the weather (greenhouse gases) are not proven. Even James Hansen (hero of global warming alarmists) has said renewables will do little to change the effect of solar radiation variables on weather.

 

The bottom line is this, we would need no Renewable Fuels Standard if bio fuels were more efficient than fossil fuels. We would need no tax credits for windmills if natural gas did not produce electricity at 20% the cost of wind.

 

When all these scams are found out, who gets the blame? Who pays restitution to all the Iowans who gave up so much in order for a few investors to reap government coerced profits? When corn prices crash and the ethanol plants and turbine factories close, will the “farm guys” give up their spare bedrooms for homeless workers laid off from unsustainable industries?

 

I contend that those who expose and thus limit the damage from this fabricated economy will get the blame for the popped bubble that was blown up in spite of their pleas for sanity. The instigators of these scams will unfortunately go down as heroes who did their best for Iowa just like war-time presidents as opposed to presidents who kept the peace.

 

Personally, I don’t have a lot to complain about. I just bought real gas for twenty cents over 10% ethanol (at that point, real gas still gets me there cheaper). We don’t have windmills in the neighborhood so we can fly on our cover crops and see the whole sky.

 

The thing that bothers me is the impact on the common good. Yep, like a liberal, I can think of that amorphous group of individuals as a singular victim. The rights of individuals to choose their energy without government standards or incentives eventually benefits the common good. But that amorphous group mistakenly believes their leaders have their best interests in mind.

 

Two new letters to editors

To Popular Mechanics… self explanatory.

Dear Editor,

In the article about Susan W. Kiefer’s book, “The Dynamics of Disaster, (Feb. 2014 Popular Mechanics)” it is so refreshing to read that we are “not likely” to change how the Earth acts on any “significant scale.” The book then goes on to offer actual steps for individuals to deal practically with a changing climate.

Little by little we may come to our senses and discover that the market will direct us with such things as property values and crop rotations as we adjust to our constantly changing planet. This is a much more level-headed approach than the arrogant notion that legislation can influence climate.

And to the War Street Journal… about reduced funding from legal pot reducing asset forfeitures by police.

Dear Editor,

After eighty years of a drug war that has not stopped drug use but turned the U.S. Government into a failed babysitter, we learn in “Legal Marijuana Hits Police Funding” (Jan. 10 Wall Street Journal) the real reason for such a war. It is a tool for funding a bloated law enforcement industry; much of which we wouldn’t need if not for a preponderance of unnecessary and intrusive laws.

In Washington legal pot has caused asset forfeiture to plummet for law enforcement and it is a problem because they can’t afford new equipment, overtime and training. But for what? Catching people labeled as criminals, whose only crime is free market capitalism, so they can steal their property.

Let’s face it, without the drug war many policemen would be faced with the prospect of seeking employment doing constructive work instead of futilely trying to regulate society.

The war on drugs is being won one battle at a time as drug users find their lives are simply more enjoyable without them. And this is happening without the nanny-state’s flawed omnipotence.

One must look at illegality of drugs from the aspect of opportunity cost. What benefit could all the capital invested to battle drug supplies do if it were left in the private sector?

Unpopular Heros

As mentioned in this column before, I’m a movie fan. With divisions of opinion becoming more complicated in our world it was timely to see The Life of Emile Zola about the famous French political journalist.

During the depths of the Great Depression, this movie won the Oscar for best picture in 1938, five years after Franklin Roosevelt’s miraculous recovery. The movie was riveting to me, but then I see muckraking as an honorable and patriotic act.

Emile Zola lived in Paris with the impressionist master Paul Cezanne. He wrote about people like himself, impoverished and on the edge of civilization. When the police were rounding up prostitutes and Nana ducked into a restaurant to escape them, she sat at Cezanne’s and Zola’s table and Zola ended up writing about the woman’s life. The book became a best seller and that lent credibility to Zola’s rants.

He had been under scrutiny by authorities for exposing the incompetence of the military high command that led to slaughter and defeat in the Franco-Prussian War. Now he was turning out best sellers and entered the upper crust and a comfortable life. On the day he received notice of a medal from the government which he had previously tormented, he was also visited by Lucie Dreyfus, whose husband had been unjustly convicted of espionage.

Mrs. Dreyfus had acquired leaked documents proving her husband’s innocence and implicating another officer in the spying. But the establishment military would rather Dreyfus rot on Devil’s Island than admit they had railroaded an innocent man to a “living death.”

Zola’s conscience, with help from Paul Cezanne, wouldn’t let Zola go on without using his notoriety to free Dreyfus. He published an open letter to the president accusing the high command of covering up Dreyfus’ unjust imprisonment and then was arrested and convicted of criminal libel. He fled to England and continued his crusade until the government fell in 1899.

Emile Zola died of carbon monoxide poisoning in 1902. Decades later a roofer claimed, on his deathbed, to have closed the chimney for political reasons.

Does this story sound familiar? Emile Zola was the sort of guy who tried to keep the government honest, like Edward Snowden. Like Snowden, Zola was driven into exile. Like Snowden, the prevailing view was that Zola was a traitor.

Take these facts into account before you judge Snowden to be a traitor. If you are honorable and a patriot, you owe it to your country to read the Constitution. You are warm and snug and well fed because someone like Edward Snowden or Emile Zola came before you to guarantee your right to acquire and use wealth as you see fit.

We are losing the battle. The FBI now uses the cameras on computers used for Skype to watch you in your home. Local police are now using devices that listen in on cell phone conversations. The TSA regularly violates the Fourth Amendment and Americans are thankful for it even though most so-called terrorists were later proven to be government informants.

These precedents may not seem important to us who are law abiding citizens. But when they are in place and the elected government is your enemy instead of your friend, as happened in 1930s Germany, we will see things differently. Rules made in stable times are important to restrain rules made during emotional turmoil. A warrant to spy on everyone at any time is expressly forbidden in Amendment Four.

Director of the NSA, Keith Alexander and National Security Director, James Clapper both lied about the scope and effectiveness of government spying programs. They are the ones who should be in exile or tried for perjury.

Time has proven Emile Zola to be a French national hero. It is said the winners write the history. Let’s hope coming generations of Americans view Edward Snowden as a hero as well.

 

Ringing the Bell for Capitalism

 

Am I a weirdo for anxiously anticipating this season because I volunteer for the Salvation Army? Isn’t my attitude contrary to the selfish side of human nature?

From my little survey at the entrance to Fareway, I don’t think people are all that bad. There are some who appear to need money for shoes, putting paper money in the kettle. It is quite heartening; like seeing Al Gore driving a Geo Metro.

Unlike the mythological conservatives portrayed in the media today, I don’t hate poor people.

In fact, I was a poor person at one time. As mentioned in a column one year ago, I had plastic instead of glass on my windows of an abandoned house, hauled water in five gallon buckets from a creek and never dreamed of going to a movie, flying on an airplane or starting a family because I couldn’t afford it.

In an editorial in a local paper it was mentioned that a great many in this country want to discourage the poor from applying for help unless they are desperate. What does desperate look like compared to the conditions I just described? By the way, I was perfectly happy carrying water and feeding a wood stove in a house with a thirty degree variation in temperature between ceiling and floor, for a while. Then I got tired of it so I moved and got a different job.

Maybe these meanies who have different standards for “desperate,” endured conditions the so-called poor of today haven’t dreamed of and were too proud to ask for help. So they don’t think taxpayers should be tapped for assistance until people are truly desperate.

The editorial I mentioned above was about the small portion of Pope Francis’ “apostolic exhortation” where he criticized “trickle-down” economic policies and failed capitalism as widening the gap between rich and poor. The editorial goes on to say more laws are needed to control unbridled capitalism because of these failures.

The question is, are the failures of capitalism caused by unbridled capitalism or by the bridle? What if the failures were caused by manipulation or interference, rather than by freedom? Adding more regulation would make matters worse.

After calling for more “vigilance” by the states for “the common good,” the editorial gets to the real meat of the issue, “the free market isn’t really free anymore,” and is rooted in “crony-capitalism.” How can there be so much criticism of free markets that don’t exist and haven’t since before WWI?

The concept of opportunity cost I learned about at Iowa State can be used to explain the widening gap of wealth that we (so obviously) are experiencing today.

It is not a problem created by capitalism. It is crony-capitalism, where costs are shifted to society in general to benefit special interests. The sheeple are convinced these costs benefit the common good as they are being robbed.

If the Pope and the media really care about the poor, there are some things widely ignored that they should focus on instead of gouging the rich folks who actually do lift up the poor by employing them for productive purposes.

“Renewable energy” is a prime example of malinvestment which drains away capital badly needed for economic growth that would trickle down to those in need. Real gas gets better mileage than ethanol blends and wind power is outrageously more expensive than coal power. Yet our dear crony-capitalist governor travels around lobbying to “save jobs.” To claim that these misguided “investments” benefit the populous of Iowa, ignores the fact all the people of Iowa are paying more for energy just to benefit workers in these industries. Some of these workers’ wealth may trickle-down but there’s no way there’s enough of that to outweigh such broadly inefficient energy costs.

Artificially low interest rates provided by Federal Reserve bond buying and fractional reserve banking also hurt the poor in under-appreciated ways. The value of cash savings of middle class and retired families shrinks to benefit the big banks and crony-capitalists at the receiving end of the new money. This is reflected in higher prices and then mistakenly blamed on greedy merchants or corporations.

The “covetous heart, the feverish pursuit of frivolous pleasures, and a blunted conscience” the Pope mentions is probably better assigned to those receiving government largess, whether corporations or low income assistance, than CEOs and independent business people whose products are chosen purely for their benefits to customers.

Whether our concerns are for the desperately needy or just those stuck in a subsistence rut, the answer is not further soaking of the rich but of restricting access to productive citizens’ wealth through government central planning and encouragement.

The gap between the rich and the rest of us has widened in direct proportion to government spending. The connection should be obvious. The call for more of the same either shows ignorance or bad intentions. Capitalism is what enables prosperous countries to lead the world in charitable giving.

Don’t let your generous side be hijacked by the welfare state. Give freely to a private charity and let’s put the crony-capitalists out of business.