Saturday, August 29, 2009

Populism & Personal Responsibility

Populism - A political ideology that emphasizes government's role as an agent of the common man, the worker, and the farmer, in struggles against concentrated wealth and power.

Personal Responsibility - Ones ability to take care of oneself by means of, keeping healthy, managing ones emotions, keeping a sound mind, treating yourself with respect, etc.

One of my dearest friends is a journalist by trade and by passion. By all measures, most people would put him in the usual, populist-leaning main stream media category. And I guess, in a way, they would be correct. But he also makes me think too. The other day we almost came to blows over a heated discussion on personal responsibility and healthcare. He made me feel like Attila the Hun for thinking that people have a personal responsibility in their lifestyle choices that ultimately lead to expensive healthcare solutions...he even suggested that I was not a real Christian for feeling this way. That hit a nerve.

In a perfect and loving world, I think that all people deserve healthcare, protection from harm, protection from pain and suffering and the ability to live happily ever after. Peace on earth is on that list too.

But the question of the day still remains...WHO/WHAT is going to give that to you and HOW are they going to do it...and at what COST. Let's explore this further.

WHO/WHAT - Today's Populists believe that the government should be taking care of all these needs. One-stop shopping of sorts. Okay, centralizing decision making can be a good thing. But WHO is making those decisions? People who are poor, underprivileged, farmers, common men? No, usually it is people in the wealth and power business who are doing what they THINK those segments of the society need. I think this is the total irony of the Populist movement. Have you ever been poor and had some well meaning rich person give you a microwave when you really just needed your electricity turned back on? Yep, that is the type of cluelessness we are talking about here. But heck, the fella got a microwave that he can sell on the streets for what he really needs...but there is probably a law (or will be) that will fine him or put him in jail for doing that. My bad.

HOW - Today's Populists believe the end justifies the means as long as we are helping the poor, underprivileged, farmers, commen men etc. We (read government) know what is best for you, so here are some more laws to make sure you follow them or go to jail/get fined...for your own good of course. Have you ever had a judge/policeman/govt official find some law to spank you with so that you completely understand what he/she thinks is good for you? Populist empowered legislators LOVE making rules and laws to make people behave, because everyone knows the poor/common man just can't be trusted to make the "right" decisions or they wouldn't be poor/common, now would they? I really would love to call some of these "do-gooders" out as a plantation owner one of these days.

COST - What cost are you going to pay for having all of your needs taken care of? Freedom....people telling you how to live your life, and making sure you do it that way. Money...people taking most of your paycheck to do what they think is the best use of it. Personal Initiative...why should you have a new thought, idea or self-help plan, everything is being done for you. Will we finally lose the humanity that we were trying to propagate in the first place?

I know I am starting to sound like Ayn Rand these days, but there are unintended consequences for every new law that is passed. Personal Responsibility must make its way back into our legislatures nationwide. I want all the things that the Populists want, I just disagree with the WHO/WHAT/HOW/COST factors involved. And yes, as a Christian, I feel that God is okay with that.

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Uncle Sam's Plantation

Star Parker wrote the book Uncle Sam's Plantation

I saw this gal in 2001 at a Dupage County woman's luncheon, I just love her perspective.

By Star Parker:

Six years ago I wrote a book called Uncle Sam's Plantation. I wrote the book to tell my own story of what I saw living inside the welfare state and my own transformation out of it.

I said in that book that indeed there are two Americas -- a poor America on socialism and a wealthy America on capitalism.

I talked about government programs like Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF), Job Opportunities and Basic Skills Training (JOBS), Emergency Assistance to Needy Families with Children (EANF), Section 8 Housing, and Food Stamps.

A vast sea of perhaps well-intentioned government programs, all initially set into motion in the 1960s, that were going to lift the nation's poor out of poverty.

A benevolent Uncle Sam welcomed mostly poor black Americans onto the government plantation. Those who accepted the invitation switched mind sets from "How do I take care of myself?" to "What do I have to do to stay on the plantation?"

Instead of solving economic problems, government welfare socialism created monstrous moral and spiritual problems -- the kind of problems that are inevitable when individuals turn responsibility for their lives over to others.

The legacy of American socialism is our blighted inner cities, dysfunctional inner city schools, and broken black families.

Through God's grace, I found my way out. It was then that I understood what freedom meant and how great this country is.

I had the privilege of working on welfare reform in 1996, passed by a Republican Congress and signed 50 percent.

I thought we were on the road to moving socialism out of our poor black communities and replacing it with! wealth- producing American capitalism.

But, incredibly, we are going in the opposite direction.

Instead of poor America on socialism becoming more like rich American on capitalism, rich America on capitalism is becoming like poor America on socialism.

Uncle Sam has welcomed our banks onto the plantation and they have said, "Thank you, Suh."

Now, instead of thinking about what creative things need to be done to serve customers, they are thinking about what they have to tell Massah in order to get their cash.

There is some kind of irony that this is all happening under our first black president on the 200th anniversary of the birthday of Abraham Lincoln.

Worse, socialism seems to be the element of our new young president. And maybe even more troubling, our corporate executives seem happy to move onto the plantation.

In an op-ed on the opinion page of the Washington Post, Mr. Obama is clear that the goal of his trillion dollar spending plan is much more than short term economic stimulus.

"This plan is more than a prescription for short-term spending -- it's a strategy for America 's long-term growth and opportunity in areas such as renewable energy, healthcare, and education."

Perhaps more incredibly, Obama seems to think that government taking over an economy is a new idea. Or that massive growth in government can take place "with unprecedented transparency and accountability."

Yes, sir, we heard it from Jimmy Carter when he created the Department of Energy, the SynfuelsCorporation, and the Department of Education.

Or how about the Economic Opportunity Act of 1964 -- The War on Poverty -- which President Johnson said "...does not merely expand old programs or improve what is already being done. It charts a new course. It strikes at the causes, not just the consequences of poverty."

Trillions of dollars later, black poverty is the same. But black families are not, with triple the incidence of single-parent homes and out-of-wedlock births.

It's not complicated. Americans can accept Barack Obama's invitation to move onto the plantation. Or they can choose personal responsibility and freedom.

Does anyone really need to think about what the choice should be?

"The trouble with socialism is that you eventually run out of other people's money."

The Cost of "Free" - Part 2

When I listen to the libs talk about the Public Option as the end all be all solution for the healthcare reform movement, I am reminded of all the reasons why I don't trust government to do the job...Unfortunately, I also don't trust big business for almost the same reasons.

From Wikipedia:

Lack of economic freedom explains 71% of corruption. Below is a list of examples of governmental activities that limit economic freedom, create opportunities for corruption (incentives for individuals and/or companies to buy privileges or favors worth of money, from politicians or officials) and have in recent economic history also lead to corruption:

Licenses, permits etc.

Foreign trade restrictions. Officials may then, e.g., sell import or export permits.

Credit bailouts.

State ownership of utilities and natural resources. 'In analyzing India's state-run irrigation system, professor Shyam Kamath - - wrote: Public-sector irrigation systems everywhere are typically plagued with cost and time overruns, endemic inefficiency, chronic excess demands, and widespread corruption and rent-seeking.'

Access to loans at below-market rates. In Chile, '$4.6 billion was awarded to government banks in direct subsidies through "soft" loans' between 1940 and 1973.

Size of public sector

It is a controversial issue whether the size of the public sector per se results in corruption. As mentioned above, low degree of economic freedom explains 71% of corruption. The actual share may be even greater, as also past regulation affects the current level of corruption due to the slowth of cultural changes (e.g., it takes time for corrupted officials to adjust to changes in economic freedom).[17] The size of public sector in terms of taxation is only one component of economic un-freedom, so the empirical studies on economic freedom do not directly answer this question.

Extensive and diverse public spending is, in itself, inherently at risk of cronyism, kickbacks and embezzlement. Complicated regulations and arbitrary, unsupervised official conduct exacerbate the problem. This is one argument for privatization and deregulation. Opponents of privatization see the argument as ideological. The argument that corruption necessarily follows from the opportunity is weakened by the existence of countries with low to non-existent corruption but large public sectors, like the Nordic countries.[18] However, these countries score high on the Ease of Doing Business Index, due to good and often simple regulations, and have rule of law firmly established. Therefore, due to their lack of corruption in the first place, they can run large public sectors without inducing political corruption.

Like other governmental economic activities, also privatization, such as in the sale of government-owned property, is particularly at the risk of cronyism. Privatizations in Russia, Latin America, and East Germany were accompanied by large scale corruption during the sale of the state owned companies. Those with political connections unfairly gained large wealth, which has discredited privatization in these regions. While media have reported widely the grand corruption that accompanied the sales, studies have argued that in addition to increased operating efficiency, daily petty corruption is, or would be, larger without privatization, and that corruption is more prevalent in non-privatized sectors. Furthermore, there is evidence to suggest that extralegal and unofficial activities are more prevalent in countries that privatized less.

There is the counter point, however, that oligarchy industries can be quite corrupt ( "competition" like collusive price-fixing, pressuring dependent businesses, etc. ), and only by having a portion of the market owned by someone other than that oligarchy, i.e. public sector, can keep them in line ( if the public sector gas company is making money & selling gas for 1/2 of the price of the private sector companies... the private sector companies won't be able to simultaneously gouge to that degree & keep their customers: the competition keeps them in line ). Private sector corruption can increase the poverty/helplessness of the population, so it can affect government corruption, in the long-term.

In the European Union, the principle of subsidiarity is applied: a government service should be provided by the lowest, most local authority that can competently provide it. An effect is that distribution of funds into multiple instances discourages embezzlement, because even small sums missing will be noticed. In contrast, in a centralized authority, even minute proportions of public funds can be large sums of money.

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

The Cost of "Free" - Part 1

Boy, I certainly didn't realize how long it has been since my last post. A trip to the coast and a temporary move to Chicagoland can certainly put a crimp in a person's schedule.

But no matter how little I have been able to follow news etc., you can't escape the Health Care Reform discussion (and boy do I love the Town hall clips!).

As I have mentioned previously, I am very fortunate to have some brilliant friends on both sides of the aisle. In fact, if this reform issue were hashed out in a think tank with all of them in the room...I would be confident in the results and would vote "yes" for their solutions. In a perfect world, I would imagine our President would have that same thought process.

Unfortunately, the flaw in this current administration's solution is the "government" factor. Government structure is like the human body. Most everything has a purpose, functions don't have options (and if you come up with one, it usually messes up something else) and when you add weight to it...everything starts going to hell.

Case in point. I just finished a two-day ordeal getting an $18 PO Box. I did the transaction online two months ago then called and asked them to give me a PO Box # so that I could forward appropriate mail (which it appears is not a normal option). Got into town, stopped in to get my key...didn't have the required paperwork. Came in the following day with what I thought was the right paperwork (it wasn't)...was sent away again. At this point, I walk outside and said to myself "to hell with it" and walked back in to ask for another box and deal with the refund later or eat it because of the paperwork involved with that process. Time is money and the insanity of the process wasn't worth my own sanity.

Folks, I was dealing with an $18 PO Box in a relatively small town in BHO's backyard. Why in the world would I want to deal with a government-run health care system when the stakes are higher?

So I guess those people who are advocating for "Free" healthcare are either used to people messing with their time and money, they color in the lines and never ask for "options" on anything or they have so much time and money that they don't worry about those silly little things.

Me, I have to earn a living and I have never colored inside the lines. "Free" doesn't work for me when the government is involved in the process. Let's start thinking of other solutions.