Thursday, April 30, 2009

Poor People Are Good For The Economy

I had a conversation on a Southwest flight a couple of months ago with a liberal fellow who was an environmental consultant for mass transit (as I remember). He had a few interesting points. One was that he spoke well of Jimmy Carter (specifically about solar panels being put on the White House - which Ronald Reagan removed). I had never heard positive words about Carter before.

His other point was about food stamps. He said the math works out to about $4 a day for food. His complaint was that you can't live off that. If I were quicker with words, I would have said, "Good." I don't want foods stamps or welfare to be too comfortable. Otherwise, people will be satisfied with government largesse.

Poverty and hunger can be a strong motivator. Handouts breed laziness. In fact, handouts likely decrease prosperity for those who receive them. In my international economics textbook, I read that the same phenomenon occurs with government aid. International aid has nothing to do with improving economic growth.

Besides, in the United States people are generous and eager to help those around them. Private initiatives to relieve suffering are more important anyway. And private help, unlike government help, is designed to be temporary; when people no longer need help, they will be able to stand on their own two feet.

My grandpa was a branch president for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints in Dumas, Texas about 45 years ago. He was working with a family facing some economic hard times and was using Church resources to provide work for them so they could earn money. Another member of the branch was employed by the government welfare program, and had the needy family placed on welfare. His reasoning was that if he didn't have enough people on welfare, he would lose funding. Once the family was on welfare, the were not interested in working.

With too much easy money, a generation is raised to believe that they are owed something by society. Nothing could be more dangerous to long-term economic growth than an increasing population not producing anything, but who demands a great deal. So poor people are good for the economy, if, and only if, they are given the motivation to rise from their poverty. In this country, there is plenty of opportunity, so if someone doesn't grab it, it is because they don't try.

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

What Do Tea Parties Mean?

I heard reports of several of those Tax Day Tea Parties. It sounds like even smaller locations had thousands in attendance. There were certainly hundreds of thousands nationwide who attended. Just one tally of locations had over 134,000 people attending rallies across the country. And just think, ACORN didn't even have to bribe any of the protesters to show up.

Due to work, I was unable to attend the closest tea party, but I was there in spirit. If I was there I might have seen something like this: I have to feel sorry for the reporter. She is likely to become one of the most ridiculed people in the nation.

I think Obama has reawakened an American ideal from the Greatest Generation: hatred of debt. My grandparents were children of the Depression and saved and lived modestly their whole lives. They were not going to take any big trips like Hawaii until "their ship came in." By the time they were both near 80 they had a great retirement fund, but were too old to travel extensively. When my sister and I were both off to college, they moved to Houston to be near more of their grandkids. They paid off their new house in less than 5 years. They were not slaves to debt like most of America seems to be today.

People like the reporter above don't get that taxes are not necessarily the problem with the government today. Taxes are still relatively low because of the Bush tax cuts. But they expire soon. And everyone knows that debt must be repaid. The size of government is the problem. If government expands freedom is curtailed. (Some freedom should be curtailed, like the freedom to do dog fighting or steal identities.)

If government grows now, taxes MUST increase in the future. That is the problem. And that is why so many families were at those protests with their children. Parents want to leave America better than they found it, and profligate debt will make that impossible.

The best protest sign in the pictures says:
UPDATE: Apparently CNN has taken down the vidoe that makes them look so bad. Here is another version with that same "reporter" discussing things with another protester: That lady is correct, Republicans and Democrats are dirty, and both are to blame for excessive spending.

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Apparently I am an Extremist

Just in case anyone from DHS reads my blog, I am no threat to national security. This report is ridiculous. Check out this footnote:
Rightwing extremism in the United States can be broadly divided into those groups, movements, and adherents that are primarily hate-oriented (based on hatred of particular religious, racial or ethnic groups), and those that are mainly antigovernment, rejecting federal authority in favor of state or local authority, or rejecting government authority entirely. It may include groups and individuals that are dedicated to a single issue, such as opposition to abortion or immigration.
So lets get it straight, supporting federalism, opposing abortion, or distrusting broadening federal powers makes you an extremist.

Page 3 has a great line:
Anti-Semitic extremists attribute [recent financial] losses to a deliberate conspiracy conducted by a cabal of Jewish “financial elites.”
This report is so broad it means nothing. The so-called rightwing of this country is constantly accused of Israel-loving. And yet now they are anti-Semites.

Even better is this line on the next page:
Antigovernment conspiracy theories and “end times” prophecies could motivate extremist individuals and groups to stockpile food, ammunition, and weapons.
Now all Mormons are part of the dangerous rightwing movement. The name of the Church has "Latter-day" in it for crying out loud. We have a long tradition of prophecies about the collapse of corrupt government, and have been counseled to stockpile food since the Great Depression. That proves it. We are a threat to the country.

Holy smokes.

Want a little more? Here:
Debates over appropriate immigration levels and enforcement policy generally fall within the realm of protected political speech under the First Amendment, but in some cases, anti-immigration or strident pro-enforcement fervor has been directed against specific groups and has the potential to turn violent.
There goes the First Amendment. I am a little tired of the idea that opposing amnesty makes you anti-immigration or racist. Come here legally and adopt American culture and language and you will be welcomed with open arms. (Oh, and don't just immigrate to fill our welfare roles.) The crimes committed by gangs of illegal immigrants is far more dangerous than anything the rightwing extremist might do. The next section promises to threaten the Second Amendment.

Of course this comes out just in time for the Tax Day Tea Parties tomorrow. Everyone who attends is probably considered a threat by Obama's Administration. The thing is it is a genuine grassroots effort. These things have spontaneously sprung up all across the country. No one person can take credit for this (except perhaps Obama).

The threats of violence need to be taken seriously, but this report is broad enough to label everyone who voted against Obama as a threat to public safety. There is nothing specific enough for law enforcement agencies to act on in this report. Things probably haven't changed a lot, but the safest parts of the country last time I heard tend to be more conservative.

Thursday, April 09, 2009

Gay Marriage is No Longer About Gay Marriage

I have come to a realization. The gay marriage debate isn't even about gay marriage. The same is true of other cultural battles going on in the nation today. I don't know when the switch was made. It may have been recently, or I may have just noticed it.

The gay marriage and abortion debate are all about the freedom of religion. In a very real way, those who oppose gay marriage and abortion for religious regions are considered second-class citizens by those in the highest levels of government today.

I have been reading how Obama is working on removing a protection put in place in the last days of the Bush administration. That protection allowed doctors who have moral objections to abortion not to perform that act.

This video is from a group dedicated to defending marriage and highlights a few real examples of the gay marriage debate going much further that gay marriage.

Thursday, April 02, 2009

To Continue the Ongoing Discussion:

A fair response.

My favorite of your links was the one on Wartime Prosperity. I now agree that it was not WWII that got us out of the Depression. It really didn't end until after WWII was over in 1945. It makes sense that war would not increase prosperity. It channels goods and production capacity away from the private sector. The prosperity came after war production capacity was shifted to consumer production.

I read a fantastic book last week called The Venturesome Economy. I will probably put my analysis up on this blog at some point. The author gives some strong arguments on what increases the prosperity of a society.

I actually agree with your points 3, 4, and 5. Just to back up your links in point 5, here is a link from 1999 that predicted some of the recent economic bailouts. The social science research shows that home ownership is generally good for society. So the policy gurus (in both parties) naturally tried to increase home ownership. They assumed correlation equaled causality. In other words, because people who owned their own homes commit fewer crimes they wanted to make it easier for more to own homes.

A more appropriate causality would be certain stabilizing decisions (like a steady job, controlling debt, pursuing education, etc.) are the cause of both low crime and home ownership. Lowering the standards of home ownership did nothing to prevent crime.

The only objection I have is you relying on Media Matters to refute the accusations against Barney Frank. They are at least as partisan as Rush Limbaugh.

I do agree that appropriate regulation would have prevented much of this mess, but the idea that Barney Frank is guiltless is almost laughable.

Here are a couple of videos: