"Our Country!
In her intercourse with foreign nations may she always be in the right;
but right or wrong, our country!"

    --Commodore Stephen Decatur

Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Rue Britannia

In the last century, Britain and America had a special relationship.  Britain, once the mother country, had become our greatest ally, but sadly, things are not well with our cousins across the water.  As the Daily Mail reports, the British are every day losing their identity in the face of the transnationalist multicultural onslaught.
Alan Phillips was told he would have to travel five miles to another branch if he wanted the Big Daddy, a chicken burger, topped with bacon, cheese and salad.

The branch, in Burton-on-Trent, Staffordshire, is one of 86 KFC restaurants which is running trials of a scheme where they sell nothing other than halal meat.

The company has taken the burger off the menu because Islamic dietary law forbids Muslims to eat anything which has been prepared on the same premises as pork, which is itself strictly forbidden.
One of the most frequent arguments in favor of President Obama's policies, especially healthcare reform, is that we should be more like Europe.  As the richest nation on earth, we ought to have the same massive entitlement state as the other developed nations.

However, the entitlement state comes at a price.  When people no longer have pride in their own work, when all energy is directed to support the ever-increasing burden of a ponderous and overwhelming government, society suffers.  The bonds between citizens break apart and the individual is left alone to petition a monolithic and uncaring bureaucracy for assistance instead of being the master of his own fate.

The decline of Britain should be a warning to all.  They have learned the hard way the true price of Leviathan, but there is still time for us to learn from their example.

Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Tocqueville Tuesday

"Unhappily, the same social condition which renders associations so necessary to democratic nations, renders their formation more difficult amongst those nations than amongst all others.  When several members of an aristocracy agree to combine, they easily succeed in doing so; as each of them brings great strength to the partnership, the number of its members may be very limited; and when the members of an association are limited in number, they may easily become mutually acquainted, understand each other, and establish fixed regulations.  The same opportunities do not occur amongst democratic nations, where the associated members must always be very numerous for their association to have any power.

"I am aware that many of my countrymen are not in the least embarrassed by this difficulty. They contend that the more enfeebled and incompetent the citizens become, the more able and active the government ought to be rendered, in order that society at large may execute what individuals can no longer accomplish.  They believe this answers the whole difficulty, but I think they are mistaken.  A government might perform the part of some of the largest American companies; and several States, members of the Union, have already attempted it; but what political power could ever carry on the vast multitude of lesser undertakings which the American citizens perform every day, with the assistance of the principle of association?

"It is easy to foresee that the time is drawing near when man will be less and less able to produce, of himself alone, the commonest necessaries of life.  The task of the governing power will therefore perpetually increase, and its very efforts will extend it every day.  The more it stands in the place of associations, the more will individuals, losing the notion of combining together, require its assistance: these are causes and effects which unceasingly engender each other.

"Will the administration of the country ultimately assume the management of all the manufacturers, which no single citizen is able to carry on?  And if a time at length arrives, when, in consequence of the extreme subdivision of landed property, the soil is split into an infinite number of parcels, so that it can only be cultivated by companies of husbandmen, will it be necessary that the head of the government should leave the helm of state to follow the plough?  The morals and the intelligence of a democratic people would be as much endangered as its business and manufactures, if the government ever wholly usurped the place of private companies."

The S-Word

During an interview on NBC's Today show this morning, President Obama was asked about the Tea Party movement.  He described it as an amalgam of crackpots who question his citizenship and think he is a socialist.  This is a clever dodge by the President, because questioning Obama's citizenship is pretty crazy, but is calling him a socialist really that far out there?

Merriam-Webster defines socialism as, "a system or condition of society in which the means of production are owned and controlled by the state."  Accordingly, below is a by no means exhaustive list of formerly private enterprises which are now owned and controlled by the state:
  • GM, Chrysler owned by the government and workers
  • AIG, Fannie, Freddie, owned and controlled by government
  • Massive expansion of government-run Medicare, Medicaid
  • Student Loans, eliminated all private sector lending
There is still a great stigma associated with the word "socialism" from the Cold War.  To call somebody a socialist in this country is often taken to equate him with Stalin and Mao.  However, they were more than mere socialists--Stalin and Mao were full-blown communist dictators, and while economic control may be the first step on the road to a totalitarian state, it is only just that.

Moreover, the unprecidented intrusion of the federal government into the private sector cannot be reasonably described as anything other than socialism.  In Europe, Obama's policies would only be slightly left of center.  In Europe, he would proudly call himself a socialist, but in America, socialism is still a dirty word.  Thus, the President must resort to the fallacy of personal attack by deriding honest critics as birthers and nutjobs.

Friday, March 26, 2010

We Only Have One Planet

Tomorrow, billions of people around the world will be turning off their lights for an hour to promote awareness that we live on a planet called Earth.  This is distinct from other "holidays" in the cult of Gaia such as Earth Day (April 22), Arbor Day (April 30), National Environmental Education Week (April 11-17), National Conservation Day (October 28), World Environment Day (June 5), and the list goes on and on.

Apparently, this profusion of earth-loving "holidays" has failed to raise awareness to a sufficient level, so it is doubtful whether the so-called "Earth Hour" will be any more lasting.  Still, we should all do our part, so here are some helpful suggestions on how you can participate.  Your planet will thank you!
  • Drive your car at night with the headlights off
  • Perform brain surgery in the dark
  • Go jogging in the middle of a dark country road
  • Unplug all clocks that have a light-emitting display
  • Go to a bar and turn off the TV during the final minutes of an NCAA basketball game
Of course, if you don't buy into this whole love your earth-mother, happy-clappy, kumbaya movement, it turns out you are not alone.  Many people will be actively protesting this day of global awareness by turning on their lights and appliances to celebrate the technological triumph of mankind.  Both sides are in agreement on one thing though: stay away from paraffin candles.  "WWF recommends using non-petroleum based candles, like sustainably sourced soy candles, during Earth Hour."

Who knew that there was such a thing as soy candles?  I guess Earth Hour is raising awareness after all.

Thursday, March 25, 2010

Social Security Solvency Shocker!

Surprise!  The New York Times reports that the Social Security Administration will pay out more benefits than it collects in payroll taxes this year, "an important threshold it was not expected to cross until at least 2016, according to the Congressional Budget Office."  This doesn't exactly inspire a lot of confidence in those CBO scores that we kept hearing so much about during the health care debates.

Of course, nowhere does the article mention President Bush, who in his 2004 re-election campaign vowed to reform Social Security.  Despite gaining seats for his party in a re-election year for the first time in 80 years, Bush could not deliver on his promise of reform.  The political price of touching the so-called "third rail of American politics" is as lethal as it ever was--especially if you're a Republican.  At the time, the New York Times was singing a different tune:

Saying the retirement program is headed for "bankruptcy," a term his opponents say is an exaggeration, Mr. Bush edged tentatively - but for the first time explicitly - into the most politically explosive aspect of the debate over how to assure Social Security's long-term health: the benefit cuts or tax increases needed to balance the system's books as the baby boom generation ages and life expectancy increases.

In today's article, the Times states as a matter of fact that Social Security is on, "a long, slow march to insolvency," which is more or less the same as the prediction of bankruptcy which was placed in scare quotes and derided as an exaggeration only a few years ago.  The Times also does not mention that the Democrats just enacted a massive new entitlement program which will only compound the problem.  It's enough to make one wonder if the New York Times is playing favorites.

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Liberty, Not Democracy

Winston Churchill famously quipped, "Democracy is the worst form of government except all those other forms that have been tried."  In the Revolutionary War, our founding fathers realized this.  They fought for liberty, not for democracy.  Too many nations in the world have been founded on "democratic" principles, but without any respect for liberty and human rights.  Democrats seem to be equally confused about what makes America special.

Today, we hear that internet giant Google is going toe-to-toe with China over internet censorship.  The Forbes article quotes a representative of the Obama Administration as being, "disappointed that Google and the Chinese government could not reach an agreements [sic]."  In last year's Iranian protests, it was another American technology company, this time Twitter, which was on the front lines of liberty.  Again, the President Obama expressed disappointment and "concern."

As the Washington Post reports today, other American companies are increasing pressure on China citing intellectual property violations and unfair business practices.  Internet domain name provider GoDaddy just announced they will stop selling any new .cn domain names.  In the wake of Obamacare, President Obama is too busy either admiring himself in the mirror or high-fiving Rahm Emanuel to issue a public statement praising these businesses for their courageous defense of liberty.

The Commander-in-Chief would do well to remember the words of Martin Luther King, Jr. who said, "Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere."  Whenever we allow the forces of tyranny and oppression to squash freedom in the world, we send a message that we are no longer strong enough to defend our own liberty.  Private companies can only do so much.  Great presidents like Reagan and Truman understood that ultimately, the forces of freedom around the world look to our President for moral authority.

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Tocqueville Tuesday

"In certain countries of Europe the natives consider themselves as a kind of settlers, indifferent to the fate of the spot upon which they live.  The greatest changes are effected without their concurrence and (unless chance may have apprised them of the event) without their knowledge; nay more, the citizen is unconcerned as to the condition of his village, the police of his street, the repairs of the church or of the parsonage; for he looks upon all these things as unconnected with himself, and as the property of a powerful stranger whom he calls the Government.  He has only a life-interest in these possessions, and he entertains no notions of ownership or of improvement.

"This want of interest in his own affairs goes so far that, if his own safety or that of his children is endangered, instead of trying to avert the peril, he will fold his arms, and wait till the nation comes to his assistance.  This same individual, who has so completely sacrificed his own free will, has no natural propensity to obedience; he cowers, it is true, before the pettiest officer; but he braves the law with the spirit of a conquered foe as soon as its superior force is removed: his oscillations between servitude and license are perpetual.

"When a nation has arrived at this state it must either change its customs and its laws or perish: the source of public virtue is dry, and, though it may contain subjects, the race of citizens is extinct.  Such communities are a natural prey to foreign conquests, and if they do not disappear from the scene of life, it is because they are surrounded by other nations similar or inferior to themselves: it is because the instinctive feeling of their country's claims still exists in their hearts; and because an involuntary pride in the name it bears, or a vague reminiscence of its bygone fame, suffices to give them the impulse of self-preservation."

Share the Wealth, Part 2

In light of the passage of Obamacare, today we continue our series on the television commercials for the 2010 Census with hospitals.  According to the advertisement, an accurate census will make sure that everybody gets their "fair share."  This emphasis on government dependence is shocking, especially when we consider that 85% of hospitals in the United States are privately run.

Nevertheless, many patients at private hospitals still rely on government-run Medicare and Medicaid to cover the costs of their care.  These programs are funded from the Federal Insurance Contributions Act (FICA) payroll tax.  If we consult actual census data of grants to the states for Medicare and Medicaid, we see wildly different rates of return versus what the states pay in to the system, given a 2.9% flat tax for all personal income.

Indeed, aid to states was only 63.6% of FICA receipts on average.  The rest of the so-called "trust fund" is raided by Congress every year to pay for the ever-expanding federal bureaucracy.  Worse still, the payments to states seem to have no correlation to the number of hospitals or the number of hospital beds per capita.  Nor is greater funding allocated to states with large numbers of senior citizens.  Of the ten states with the largest percentage of people over the age of 65, only four received more in direct aid than the national average.

The biggest losers are Nevada, Colorado, and Virginia.  Each state gets back less than 30% of what they pay in payroll taxes.  Florida also gets honorable mention as the state with the largest proportion of elderly citizens at 17.4%, but only a 42% return on payroll tax revenues.  The biggest winners are Mississippi, New Mexico, West Virginia, and Maine, all with more than 100%.  However, the last of these two do have large elderly populations.  The state of Ohio is the closest to the national average, at 64.2%.

Click the map below to see where your state ranks!

Monday, March 22, 2010

But Who's Counting Anyway?

Given the mainstream media's almost deafening silence when protests are against the issues they champion, it is little wonder that Steven Pearlstein over at the Washington Post doesn't know that people are angry with the bill that passed last night:
If, as Republicans would have us believe, Americans are so up in arms about the prospect of "Obamacare," why aren't there angry hordes marching on the Mall or jamming the halls of the Rayburn Building?
As if in answer to Pearlstein's query, several thousand tea-partiers filled the west lawn of the Capitol this Saturday.  Despite the size of the crowd, the mainstream media had difficulty getting an accurate count.  As the AP reported that evening, "Clogging the sidewalks and streets of Capitol Hill were at least hundreds - no official estimate was yet available - of loud, furious protesters, many of them tea party opponents of the health care overhaul."

What does several hundred people look like to the mainstream media?  I went down to the anti-Obamacare protest on Saturday, and took these photos.

While technically true, "hundreds" seems to be an awfully low-ball estimate given the size of the crowd.  Meanwhile, numerous press accounts of other protests this past weekend report numbers in the thousands and even tens of thousands:
To be fair, the Washington Post did run an article on Saturday which reported that "several thousand people" attended the rally pictured above.  However, the article mainly focused on the actions of a few bad people in the crowd who apparently shouted racial epithets later in the day.

During the floor speeches last night, Republicans accused the Democrats of being deaf to the will of the people.  However, if Democrats only get their news from the Washington Post and the New York Times, it's possible they are genuinely unaware of the growing popular anger at this legislation.

The Sanctity of Accounting Procedure

Yesterday, a man who had spent months appealing to his colleagues on principle compromised his morals and integrity for his party.  Like watching a lopsided boxing match, it was embarrassing to see Bart Stupak (D-MI) defeated and hunched over, attacking his own amendment and former pro-life allies in a statement which had obviously been prepared by Nancy Pelosi as retribution for his earlier defiance:
Thank you. The motion to recommit purports to be a right to life motion in the spirit of the Stupak Amendment.  But as the author of the Stupak Amendment, this motion is nothing more than the opportunity to deny 32 million Americans healthcare.  The motion is really a last-ditch effort of 98 years of denying Americans healthcare.
The motion to recommit does not promote life: it is the Democrats who have stood up for the principle of no public funding for abortions.  It is Democrats, through the President’s executive order that ensures the sanctity of life is protected, because all life is precious, and all life should be honored.  Democrats guarantee that all life, from the unborn to the last breath of a senior citizen is honored and respected.  For the unborn child, his or her mother will finally have free, post-natal care under our bill.  If the child is born with medical problems, we provide medical care without bankrupting the family.
For the Republicans who now claim that we send the bill back to committee, under the guise of protecting life, is disingenuous.  This motion is really to politicize life, not prioritize life.  We stand for the American people; we stand up for life.  Vote no on this motion to recommit.
In return for this humiliation, Stupak won nothing more than an executive order, which is not legally binding and can be repealed by President Obama at any time.  Worse, the executive order (which had not yet been signed as of this morning) only reiterates the same language from the Senate bill, which consists of an appeal, not to the sanctity of life, but to generally accepted accounting practices:

The Act also imposes strict payment and accounting requirements to ensure that Federal funds are not used for abortion services in exchange plans (except in cases of rape or incest, or when the life of the woman would be endangered) and requires state health insurance commissioners to ensure that exchange plan funds are segregated by insurance companies in accordance with generally accepted accounting principles, OMB funds management circulars, and accounting guidance provided by the Government Accountability Office.
Nowhere does the executive order even use the phrase "sanctity of life."  Rather, for the Democrats, the value of a human life is nothing more than an equation in an accounting ledger.

Friday, March 19, 2010

Friday Guest Post

The kind folks over at American Principles Project have posted today's guest feature, wherein I analyze the Democrats' seeming thirst for annihilation.

Come Mister Tally Man, Tally Me Banana

UPDATE: The Washington Post has moved several Democrats back to the undecided column.  New tally is 206-148.  On the other hand, the New York Times has updated their count to 200-198.  CNN has updated their count to 207-169.

UPDATE: More in-depth analysis and constant updates from FireDogLake.

UPDATE: The Hill also has a great running tally.

Various media outlets are providing vote counts with constant updates.  The Washington Post currently shows a tally of 207-160 in favor of the opposition.  The New York Times shows the opposition with a much smaller margin at 200-197.  Finally, CNN has a list of democrats who have said they will oppose the current legislation, or who are undecided.  By their reckoning, the opposition leads by 206-167.

That said, if we have learned anything from this final and gruesome phase of the health care fiasco, it is that a vote in Congress can be bought for a shockingly low price. Of course, it's a violation of ethics rules if you or I were to bribe a congressman in such a manner, but if the Speaker of the House is the one doing the bribing, it's A-okay!

The only problem is that, if by some chance the bill should pass, the Senate will strip out many of the bribes that were inserted to win over those last few crucial votes--and probably replace them with pork projects of their own.  Members of Congress should consider this before accepting Nancy Pelosi's assurances.

Thursday, March 18, 2010

Inside the Sausage Factory

The timeline below shows the legislative history of health care reform up to this week.  Click to enlarge.

Counting Chickens Before They Hatch

CNN reports that five more Democrats have stated they will oppose Nancy Pelosi's mystery bill, which as of noon today still had not been released for public examination.  That means that the bipartisan coalition which opposes a vast new government role in health care is only 11 votes shy of the 216 needed to finally wake the nation from our collective nightmare.

Of the 39 Democrats who voted against the House plan in November, 17 have indicated that they will vote against the Senate plan as written, 11 remain uncommitted, and nine did not return repeated calls for comment.

Meanwhile, Ms. Erica Werner writing for the Washington Post reports that the bill is moving forward, as though passage is inevitable.

The Democrats' drive took on a growing sense of inevitability, picking up endorsements Wednesday from a longtime liberal holdout and from a retired Roman Catholic bishop and nuns who broke with church leaders over the bill's abortion provisions.

Given that neither side has a guaranteed 216 votes and that the bill has not even been released, it is difficult to see how Ms. Werner arrived at this conclusion of growing inevitability, unless she already takes it for granted out of personal convictions that health care reform will pass.

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

The Several States

The New York Times has an unusual piece today about the push by many state legislatures to defend liberties which they believe are being infringed by an overreaching federal government.  This trend was also noted almost a year ago in the Christian Science Monitor—and it’s not only a reaction to the Obama Administration.  Rather, this is a more libertarian movement which is skeptical of all government power.

Just as California under President Bush asserted itself on issues ranging from gun control to medical marijuana, a motley cohort of states – from South Carolina to New Hampshire, from Washington State to Oklahoma – are presenting a foil for President Obama's national ambitions.  And they're laying the groundwork for a political standoff over the 10th Amendment, which cedes all power not granted to Washington to the people.

Starting first with the progressive movement at the turn of the 20th Century and then with F.D.R.’s New Deal, the federal government has become ever more involved in all areas of our daily lives.  At the same time, the Supreme Court has given Congress virtually unlimited latitude by adopting an exaggerated and almost comical understanding of the interstate commerce clause and the 14th amendment.

Pushing back against the undeniable encroachment of the federal government is a noble effort, but the states must be cautious and patient.  When it comes to states’ rights, it’s easy to get in trouble.  In many cases, the Court adopted an expansive interpretation of federal power in order to protect real liberties which were violated by the states.  Moreover, Article VI of the Constitution is unambiguously clear:

This Constitution, and the Laws of the United States which shall be made in Pursuance thereof; and all Treaties made, or which shall be made, under the Authority of the United States, shall be the supreme Law of the Land; and the Judges in every State shall be bound thereby, any Thing in the Constitution or Laws of any state to the Contrary notwithstanding.

Any lingering questions about states’ rights were answered in 1865 at Appomattox Courthouse.   Instead, the real debate needs to be about the appropriate limits of federal power and the restoration of the rights of the individual.  When the President and the Supreme Court fail to protect liberty, the burden to keep Congress in check ultimately rests with the people.  In The Federalist #44, James Madison explains:

If it be asked what is to be the consequence, in case the Congress shall misconstrue this part of the Constitution, and exercise powers not warranted by its true meaning, I answer… the success of the usurpation will depend on the executive and judiciary departments, which are to expound and give effect to the legislative acts; and in the last resort a remedy must be obtained from the people who can, by the election of more faithful representatives, annul the acts of the usurpers.

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Share the Wealth, Spread the Love

Over the past couple weeks, the Census Bureau has started running television commercials to raise public awareness that 2010 is a year which ends in zero.  This questionable use of taxpayer money wouldn’t be quite as objectionable if this could be ascribed to an honest desire to ensure an accurate count.  However, the advertisements focus more on the government largesse which is doled out by Congress and bureaucrats rather than the civic duty to stand and be counted as a proud citizen of our fair nation.

Today, we look at federal highway money as part of a continuing series.  According to one of the commercials, census data is supposedly used to figure out where to build roads.  However, if we analyze actual census data, we see that highway money is not distributed based on population, road miles, or any other rational method.  Rather, the map below illustrates the winners and losers in the federal highway pork-eating contest that happens in Congress every year.

The biggest winners are Alaska and the District of Columbia, each taking in more than 1000% of what they pay into the National Highway Trust Fund.  Honorable mention goes to New York, Wyoming, Hawaii and Montana which fill out the 200-percent-and-up club.  If you’re from these states, you should write to your Senators and Congressmen and thank them!

The biggest losers are Maryland and North Carolina.  Each state takes home less than 60% of what they pay into the system.  The states closest to break-even are Kentucky and Michigan.  GM and Chrysler may be owned by the federal government, but Motor City’s roads and highways are funded at home.  Click on the map below to find how your state scores!

Nancy in Wonderland

The interwebs are abuzz with frantic speculation about Nancy Pelosi’s plan to deploy the so called “Slaughter Manœuver.” Democrat leaders in Congress apparently did not stop to consider how many jokes this would lead to, much less the political hara-kiri their rank-and-file members will have to commit by voting on such an obvious sham. The Wall Street Journal editorial board sums it up thusly:

We have entered a political wonderland, where the rules are whatever Democrats say they are. Mrs. Pelosi and the White House are resorting to these abuses because their bill is so unpopular that a majority even of their own party doesn't want to vote for it.

Throughout the health care debate, Democrats have insisted that if they pass a bill, public opinion will return to their favor. In the 2004 and 2008 elections, the chant was, “Anybody but Bush.” Now, President Obama’s permanent campaign has changed the battle cry to, “Any Bill.” The only problem? Voters aren’t buying it this time around.

In this political wonderland, the mainstream media are strapped in and ready to go wherever Alice’s teacups take them. Journalists who were once harshly critical of the “imperial” Bush presidency now report legislative rumors and cloak room whispers as though they were already fact. The fourth estate is desperate to see Obama succeed and will grasp at anything to keep the hope alive.

Only a few years ago, the “Slaughter Manœuver” would have been universally condemned as an outrageous abuse of power. Now, it is the next hit of adrenaline on the non-stop wacky fun-ride of health care reform. The Democrats think they hear screams of delight, but it’s the American people, and we’re screaming in terror. We want to get off this ride.

Monday, March 15, 2010

That Watchdog Won't Hunt

The Washington Post reports that Senator Chris Dodd (D-CT) has released the details of his financial reform bill today.  One of its provisions would create a Financial Stability Oversight Council, consisting of the heads of existing financial watchdogs, which could recommend new regulations to the Federal Reserve to promote economic stability, but would not have any real power.  Below is a table showing the proposed composition of this toothless watchdog.

MemberNamePhotoAppointed ByConfirmed ByTerm
Secretary of the TreasuryTimothy GeithnerBarack ObamaSenatePleasure of the President
Chairman of the Federal Reserve Board of GovernorsBen BernakeGeorge W. BushSenateFour Years
Comptroller of the CurrencyJohn DuganGeorge W. BushSenateFive Years
Director of the Office of Thrift SupervisionJohn E. BowmanBarack ObamaSenateFive Years
Director of the Consumer Finance Protection AgencyPosition Created by Financial Reform BillN/ABarack ObamaSenateFive Years
Chairman of the Securities Exchance ComissionMary L. SchapiroBarack ObamaSenateFive Years
Chairman of the Commodity Futures Trading CommissionGary GenslerBarack ObamaSenateFive Years
Chairman of the Federal Deposit Insurance CorporationSheila BairGeorge W. BushSenateFive Years
Director of the Federal Housing Finance AgencyJames B. Lockhart IIIGeorge W. BushSenateFour Years

Big Trouble in Big China

Yesterday's Telegraph ran an insightful and provocative op-ed about the escalating rhetoric on opposite sides of the Pacific. Mr. Evans-Pritchard observes that the Chinese are so blinded by their ravenous addiction to an export economy, that they cannot see the damage they are inflicting upon themselves.

Beijing is in denial about its own part in the global imbalances behind the credit crisis, specifically by running structural trade surpluses, and driving down long rates through dollar and euro bond purchases. No doubt the West has made a hash of things, but the Chinese view of events is twisted to the point of delusional.

Furthermore, Mr. Evans-Pritchard disagrees with the conventional wisdom that starting a trade and currency war in a time of economic crisis would have disastrous effects for America, as it did in the 1930’s. He argues that if China decides to flood the market with U.S. bonds and shut out our businesses, they will hurt themselves more than they hurt us. Whereas in the days of Smoot-Hawley, America was primarily an export economy, the tables are now turned, making our trade deficit a powerful economic weapon.

By weakening our currency, the Chinese would strengthen their own. Currencies besides the Renminbi are pegged to the dollar, so America would still have other attractive trading partners. Also, with double-digit unemployment, Americans who lost their manufacturing jobs to outsourcing would scramble to re-start the production lines. China would lose its advantage everywhere.

Moreover, as recent farmer and labor unrest in rural China has shown, the Communists rely on growing prosperity to maintain their power. However, that prosperity is based entirely on exports, not internal demand. Without exports to their largest trading partner, China would not have enough wealth to sustain itself.

Sunday, March 14, 2010

Uncle Sam, Won't You Buy Me a Mercedes-Benz?

The national debt is currently upwards of $12 trillion. That’s a lot of money. Measured against an estimated GDP of $14.27 trillion, that’s about 88%. But what does that mean for the average American family?

According to the Census Bureau, the average household income for 2008 was $52,029. Thus, if the national debt were distributed evenly among all of us, the average family would owe about $46,000, or the price of a luxury car, on top of all their existing property, personal debt, and taxes. However, our average family would not get to enjoy the luxury car they are paying for, but rather, the car would be the property of the citizens, banks, and foreign nations that own our debt.

On top of this, President Obama and the Democrat-controlled Congress spent an astounding $1.2 trillion that we didn’t have in 2009. For our average family, still paying taxes and making payments on all of their personal debts, this would be like buying two and a half cases of Dom Perignon Champagne at the wholesale price of $150 a bottle on credit and sending it to the Treasury Department as a thank you for taking care of the luxury car they never get to drive.

Saturday, March 13, 2010

Le Roi Soleil

Daylight Saving Time begins this weekend. Congress, with its usual hubris, believes that by forcing us all to change our clocks a month early, it can actually create sunlight. Lest you think I exaggerate, here is the relevant quote from a press release by the bill’s sponsor, Fred Upton (R-MI):

The more daylight we have, the less electricity we use. It is that simple. Not only will Americans have more light at their disposal during March and November days, we will also be keeping our energy consumption as a nation down.

If this were not an elected official with real power to affect the lives of the American people, this would be hilarious. However, WebMD reports that the real impact of Daylight Saving Time is about as funny as a heart attack--literally:

When researchers in Sweden examined the impact of daylight saving time on heart attack rates in that country, they discovered that people had slightly fewer heart attacks on the Monday after they set their clocks back in the fall and slightly more heart attacks in the days after they set their clocks ahead in the spring.

As for the predicted savings, computer geeks around the world had to scramble to patch all the databases and servers that keep the world running in an effort comparable to the Y2K bug. By some estimates, the cost to businesses for the 2007 DST changes was anywhere from $200 million to $1 billion.

To make matters worse, the new dates for the big switch are nothing more than a massive national experiment. According to the bill’s text, “Not later than 9 months after the effective date stated in subsection (b), the Secretary [of Energy] shall report to Congress on the impact of this section on energy consumption in the United States.”

The result of the study? The nation saved an incredible 0.03% of electricity consumption in 2007. The national average retail price for electricity in 2007 was 9.13 cents per kilowatt-hour, which translates to a total savings of roughly $119 million. At that rate, it could take up to a decade for businesses to recoup their losses.

Friday, March 12, 2010

Guns and Butter

As the health care debate continues into its second year with all the alacrity of a senile tortoise on valium, I present a chart showing the relative government expenditures on defense and health care as something to contemplate.

In 2001, the federal government spent more on health care than on defense for the first time in our nation's history.  That year also saw the lowest spending on defense as a percentage of GDP since 1940.  September 11th changed everything, and we have seen a dramatic increase in defense spending which has kept it above health care, but only just barely.

Click the thumbnail below for a larger chart.

Friday Guest Post

Once again, I have been featured as a guest contributor by the good folks over at American Principles Project.  Also, dear reader, don't forget to check back here at the Prolix Patriot later today for more updates.

Thursday, March 11, 2010

Metro Opens Doors

Some time ago, a friend mentioned that the D.C. government is building a new streetcar line. After doing some research, I discovered that many of the proposed lines coincide almost perfectly with the original D.C. trolley system, circa 1948.

Evidently, city planners have realized that tearing up the old trolley lines may not have been such a good idea after all. D.C. public works projects are funded primarily by federal taxpayers, so it's your money being wasted to fund this latest experiment.

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The Party of New Ideas

It has become a cliche that the current economic crisis is the biggest such downturn since the 1930's.  For the Democrats, it actually is the 1930's all over again.

The Washington Post reports that the Obama Administration has no immediate plans to relinquish federal control of Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac.

...in response to questions from lawmakers, Treasury Secretary Timothy F. Geithner clarified last month that it would be another year before the government proposes how to restructure the firms.

Sixteen months after they were seized to prevent their collapse, the companies remain wards of the state, running a tab that has now exceeded $125 billion in what has become the single costliest component of the federal bailout for the financial system.
This means that, for the time being, Fannie Mae is essentially back to its original status as a government agency which competes directly against the private sector.  The Post also mentions that Fannie and Freddie combined now own or back more than half of all U.S. mortgages.

Faced with this unprecedented level of direct government involvement in the market, banks have been reluctant to issue new loans, despite President Obama's occasional prodding to do so.  His administration's latest proposal won't help matters.  ABC News reports that Democrat leaders in Congress want to expand regulation over non-bank firms.

Merkley and Levin want to impose the rule but broaden its application to nonbank financial firms too.

Merkley, a first-term member of the Senate Banking Committee, told colleagues in a letter last month that he was drafting a bill to apply to both banks and nonbank firms that are large enough to be classified as critical to the financial system.
Other sources observe that this proposed regulation is very similar to the 1933 Glass–Steagall Act which broke up the largest banks into consumer deposit banks and investment banks.  The rule proposed by Merkley and Levin would go one step further by regulating the big investment banks, even if they close down their consumer deposit divisions.

Democrats have a special reverence for F.D.R. and the New Deal.  However, they would do well to remember that the Great Depression didn't end because of F.D.R.'s policies, but because of the massive industrial build-up of World War II.  Moreover, Obama's waning popularity more closely resembles Hoover's than the overwhelming support that allowed F.D.R. to win a third term despite the failure of his policies.

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Your Government in Action, Part 2

One night, I was waiting behind a mail truck at a stoplight when I noticed something strange.  The picture is a little grainy, but the bumper is being held in place with a brown extension cord:

Your Government in Action

My girlfriend was at the post office the other day, waiting in line for approximately half an hour behind exactly two other people, when she noticed something was a little off:

Tuesday, March 9, 2010

Post the First

My first blog post on these here interwebs was actually as a guest contributor over at American Principles Project. Check it out!