Friday, November 28, 2014

Deficits Don’t Matter

“Deficits Don’t Matter” sounds like some weak liberal defense of our out of control deficit spending.  As I have shown in my book – and what is clear to any student of recent American History – it was Reagan who was the first President to submit huge deficit budgets without a real war to justify them.  While one might argue that he did have a war to justify them – the Cold War – and that that struggle was brought to a successful conclusion in 1989 (under the Presidency of George H W Bush) partly because of the defense build-up and spending, there was no compelling reason not to collect the taxes to pay for that spending (and thereby avoid unnecessarily large deficits) as we were not digging our way out of a depression.

However, the quote belongs to Dick Cheney – Vice President under Obama’s predecessor, George W Bush – and here is the “full” quote: “You know, Paul, Reagan proved that deficits don't matter. We won the mid-term elections, this is our due.”  He was speaking to Paul O’Neill, the Treasury Secretary at the time (within days of becoming a former Treasury Secretary).  While it was primarily a political statement, its contempt for “balanced budgets” and “fiscal responsibility” shines through nonetheless.  It was 2004 when Cheney said it, and the Debt was on its way toward doubling what George W Bush had inherited from Bill Clinton, exploding from $5.8 trillion to $11.9 trillion.

The reason for this partisan rant is this: it is good to have at least one political party be the party of fiscal responsibility.  It is not so good when they ignore their own cardinal principles when they control the government.  But it is not so good when they remember their principles just in time to attack relentlessly a successor President of the other party who has the job of reining in a recession that was their gift to the American people.

Tuesday, November 25, 2014

The Corruption Perceptions Index

Virtually all my writing is a protest against the political “corruption” in the United States of America, in the form of legislation and jurisprudence in favor of the highest bidder.  This might lead some to think that I believe that the USA is especially “corrupt” among nations.  This is neither the case nor do I believe it to be the case.  Transparency International, self-styled as “the global coalition against corruption,” annually ranks countries on their “corruption perceptions index.”  In 2013, the USA ranked as the 19th LEAST corrupt nation in the world.  19th!  As an American, as a patriot of the land of my birth, I would like to see us much less corrupt than that.  Ahead of us (in order of the organization’s 2013 ratings) are: Denmark, New Zealand, Finland, Sweden, Singapore, Norway, Switzerland, Netherlands, Canada, Australia, Luxembourg, Germany, Iceland, United Kingdom, Hong Kong, Barbados, Belgium and Japan.  Our score is 73% while the top two (Denmark and New Zealand) have scores of 91%.  There are 175 countries that the group considers and North Korea is at the bottom with a score of 8%.  

So we are better than average!  Great!  That’s nothing to write home about.  When we get to 1st place with a score of 93%, I will still be banging the drum for us to get cleaner.  This is my country, and as long as she sells herself to the highest bidder, I will continue to sound ugly noises.

Thursday, November 20, 2014

John Ferling on Paine's Common Sense

Nothing that I have read, by or about Tom Paine, does so good a job explaining my connection to the great American revolutionary as this passage from John Ferling’s book, Independence:The Struggle to Set America Free, Bloomsbury Press:2011, pp. 217 – 223.  

Tom Paine didn't invent the American Revolution, he brought people around – aristocrats and the common people alike – to the necessity and the urgency of it.

This passage is totally worthy of your time and attention.  If you like what you read here, read the book.

Just days before word of the Canadian calamity reached Congress, an express arrived with the first tidings of George III's October address to Parliament.  “It is decisive," a New Englander instantly responded.  No greater proof was needed that Britain's monarch "meant to make himself an absolute despotic Tyrant."  Samuel Ward added that "Every Man must now be convinced that . . . our Safety depends wholly upon a brave, wise and determined Resistance."  Samuel Adams told others that this proved the king was the driving force behind British policy.  War guilt "must lie at his Door," he added.  A Virginian, Francis Lightfoot Lee, concurred.  The king's speech laid bare his and North's “bloody intentions" and demonstrated beyond doubt that it was folly to any longer continue "gaping after a reconciliation."
Thirty-six hours after the express brought the king's speech to town, Thomas Paine's Common Sense, the most important pamphlet published in the American Revolution – indeed, the most influential pamphlet published in seventeenth- and eighteenth-century America – hit Philadelphia's streets.  Its central argument was cogent and timely: Reconciliation was not in the best interests of the colonists.
The thirty-seven-year-old Paine was an Englishman who, like Patrick Henry and Samuel Adams,

Friday, November 14, 2014

On Representative Democracy

Putting aside a real question – do we really live in a democracy? – I’d like to talk for a brief moment about our representative democracy.

It seems to me that a representative democracy can take two forms: where our representatives do as we bid them or where they do what they think is best.  As to the first choice, it seems to me that if we really wanted them to do as we demand, then we should begin to implement a technology-based referenda state for all matters big and small and just let the people decide.  No need for representation at all.  On the other hand, I personally believe that our representatives ought to do what they think is best for us.  If we disagree, it is their job to explain to us why they think what they think.  If it is convincing, fine.  If not, it becomes our job to explain to them why they were wrong until they agree with us.  Failing that, it is our duty to remove them from office.  Or to allow them this difference from us ("we agree to disagree but we still love you").

There is one other argument for a representative democracy: our elected representatives have a chance to become experts on the issues they deal with, something we citizens do not have time for.

On the other hand, there is an excellent argument against preferring representative democracy.  If our representatives act in a way that they believe is best for us, fine.  However, if their choices reflect what is best for themselves – that is, if they have become corrupted – then that representative democracy is a sham and it serves no one but the thieves among us.  Those kinds of representatives should be … removed.

The problem is, the way our system works today, with Big Money being more powerful than We the People, universal corruption is nearly 100% inevitable.