Home Economics

Margaret Thatcher observed this about socialism’s fundamental weakness: eventually, you run out of other people’s money.

Well folks, we are rapidly approaching that point here in the good ol’ USA. No amount of tax increases will fill the chasm of our national debt; the Fed’s unbridled money-printing certainly won’t. Our only choice is to expand the economy with sane tax & regulatory policies while putting the brakes on printing new money.

The first will allow the economy to expand, ideally to a level that actually provides value to that money we’ve already printed. And those printing presses will have to be shut off for a while, causing interest rates to go up. But this must happen, otherwise our dollars will become worthless sooner rather than later.

Think of this in terms of personal finances – if you make 50,000 a year but spend 75,000, you’re in the hole for 25 grand. Sometimes it’s for legit reasons, sometimes not. Either way, most people would handle that deficit with credit cards or bank loans.

But here’s a twist: let’s say that instead of getting paid, you’re trusted with a magic money-printing machine, and its capacity is normally pegged to the value of your salary. You should be able to print 50 grand a year no problem. If you want to print more than that, someone else has to guarantee its value since you can’t. You can do this because lenders know you’ve always been good for it.

At some point, you get a case of the “I wants” and just start printing money to spend on who knows what. Lenders might tolerate this for a short time, particularly if everybody else in the neighborhood is having even worse trouble. They’ve either been spending way more than they earn (Greece), or cosigning too many loans for less well-off neighbors (the EU), or even flat-out lying about their salaries (China). Either way, you’re pretty much it for the time being so you don’t change any bad habits.

Eventually, some of your neighbors get their act together and are now doing pretty well. Individually, they might even make less than you, but they’ve all managed to save a little and have kept their debts low. Pretty soon, lenders aren’t interested in you because they’re starting to worry that you’ve bitten off more than you can chew. And now they have options. So the loans you counted on for all those goodies are starting to dry up – but you’re still left with the same amount of expenses.

Now what? You can either file bankruptcy (bad, bad move – nobody would trust anything from your magic money printer for a long time) or find a higher paying job. Maybe even a second job.

In other words, make mo’ money. Buckle down, limit your spending, and increase your income until your debt is back to a manageable level. Then start steadily paying it off while vowing to never, ever, get yourself into such an awful position again.

The alternative, bankruptcy, leaves you at the mercy of the people with money. And as we see with the EU, this can have undesirable consequences like loss of self-rule.

It’s almost like that was the idea all along…

One of these symbols is not like the others…

When Pigs Fly

In which I kinda, sorta, defend the President.

Now pick yourself up off the floor.

Obama caught a lot of grief from conservatives over the decision to end the space shuttle program, when in reality this decision was made (correctly) by George W. Bush in 2007. Once enacted, it couldn’t be easily undone – supply chains and tooling were pretty much gone no matter what the Big O might have wanted.

The difference is that W had also directed NASA to develop a cheaper manned space capability that was supposed to be flying, well, this year.

Not seeing anything out there that looks like a new NASA vehicle? Nope, me neither. And that’s where the criticism comes from: along with the shuttles, Obama deep-sixed Constellation, which was Bush’s follow-on program. More accurately, it was the hobby horse of Bush’s NASA Administrator Mike Griffin – who literally wrote the book on spacecraft design – and was described as “Apollo on steroids.”

Which it was, sadly. Though a stupendous achievement and a source of great national pride to this day, Apollo was also a money sink that corrupted the thinking of an entire generation as to “how we do space.”

Constellation was deeply flawed and could only be fixed with a money injection that simply wasn’t going to happen. An independent review board composed of former aerospace execs and NASA astronauts determined that even if the whole program was dropped in their laps, fully developed and ready to go, that they still couldn’t afford to operate it. And in the meantime, Griffin was still diverting funding from other programs within the agency to prop up his personal favorite.

So yes, Obama was right to can it. He was also right to direct NASA to contract out their access to low-Earth orbit. In other words, as I’ve always preached: getting to and from orbit is well enough understood that it’s past time to let the private sector take over (while driving costs down, to boot). Let NASA save that money to buy rides into low orbit so they can develop the technology to routinely go beyond it. Maybe one day I’ll be able to afford a ticket. Maybe not. But it was never going to happen by doing it the NASA way.

Others have surmised the Prez did it because he doesn’t understand either spaceflight (most pols don’t) or the private sector (too many pols don’t; he’s just the worst example). It’s really the only substantially pro-free market decision he’s made, so “why” doesn’t really matter. It was the right call and he deserves credit for it.

Credit: NASA

So it pains me to see ostensibly “conservative” politicians trying to tar him with it – because if Obama’s for it, they’re agin’ it I suppose. While stubbornly refusing to accept the likes of SpaceX or Blue Origin, they still insist on throwing money down a hole to mandate that NASA build another big-@$$ rocket. While a new Saturn V-class launcher would be cool as heck to see, we don’t really need it. It would make a lot more sense to use smaller Atlas and Delta heavies with more launches and develop some kind of propellant depot capability in orbit. Given our experience in orbital rendezvous and construction, it’s hard to see how that’s not doable.

Fortunately, there are voices of reason on the (R) side who see things as they are. Here’s Dana Rorabacher (R-CA):

The bottom line is, in order to have steady funding, we’re going to have to defund every other space project that we have! Nobody here wants to face that! Maybe if we’re going to provide safety, maybe if we’re going to provide reliability and do this professionally, maybe we should set our goals to something we can actually accomplish within the budgets that are possible, without destroying every other aspect of the space program. I think that’s what’s happening here today. That’s what we’re really discussing.

I’m pretty sure SpaceX is in his district, so don’t discount the fact that he’s just advocating for the local gentry. That’s what congresscritters do. Fortunately, he’s on the right side of this debate.

In the larger picture, I’ve met a few politicians here & there and am convinced that most of them are just clueless. Maybe 10% are the real thinkers and visionaries, while the rest are followers who parrot the party line. They may more or less believe in their party’s platform, but for the most part are just along for the ride and know how to make people like them.

The Amerikan Way

If you’ve never read Jonah Goldberg’s Liberal Fascism, you should consider doing so. Its controversy-inspiring title was itself inspired by an unlikely source. Remarking on the likelihood of tyranny coming to America, George Carlin said, “it will not be in brown and black shirts. It will not be with jackboots. It will be Nike sneakers and smiley shirts. Smiley-smiley.”

True, dat.

Lest you think I’m trying on tin-foil hats again, consider the case of Buckyballs, which is an adult desk toy made of magnetic balls. And while you’re at it, quit laughing at the juxtaposition of “adult”, “toys”, and “balls” in the same sentence. I’m trying to be serious here. Really. Quit it. Continue reading “The Amerikan Way”

The Opression of the Tolerant

Yeah, I’m kind of late to the Chik-Fil-A party but it’s been a busy couple of weeks. Being a good Southern boy, they’ve always been first and foremost in my mind whenever the term “chicken sammich” is uttered. My heart leaped with joy when they (and Waffle House) started opening franchises up here in the blighted cultural wasteland that is Ohio.*

Having established that foundational truth, I’m ashamed of myself for not participating in Wednesday’s grand nationwide customer love-in. Couldn’t get away from work for the time it would’ve taken just to sit in the drive-through. Thursday was a different story, but it turns out they were just as crowded! Apparently everyone who couldn’t make it the day before (like moi) was there to make up for it.

Well, good for them. Because you all know what this is really about, right (besides yummy sammiches)? Continue reading “The Opression of the Tolerant”

Not Again

So now you can’t even go to the movies without fear of some psychopath shooting up the place. I can’t begin to imagine the horror, or what the families are going through right now. One of the victims was a six-year-old.

Regardless of the wisdom of taking a young kid to a midnight movie, many wise fathers have told their sons, “nothing good happens after midnight”. There is so much to grieve and/or get pissed off over that it’s hard to know where to start. So let’s just start ticking ’em off as they bubble up through the old frontal lobes…

Like too many businesses, the theater had a strict “no weapons” policy. Which, in this case, worked out entirely as expected assuming one tries to understand the criminal mind. To wit: if someone enters a public place with the intent of doing mass murder, do you really think a sissy little “no weapons” sign is going to stop him? If this doesn’t illustrate the absurdity of such thinking, I don’t know what will.

But then again, who am I kidding? The usual hand-wringing pantywaists are already jumping on the gun control bandwagon. I’m looking at you, Piers Morgan. Please explain how the UK’s draconian anti-gun laws have demonstrably affected violent crime in your home country. Hint: it hasn’t been for the better. Unless you’re a bad guy, that is.

When or how does this “dangerous spiral” stop? When we get over our collective cultural fear of self-defense, that’s when.

Last year I did a couple months’ worth of Krav Maga training, which is an Israeli army martial-art form that looks an awful lot like MMA. Some of the things we learned were how to fight your way out of a flash mob, and how to disable an armed assailant. Neither are situations I’d want to find myself in.

But you know what that showed me? That the best defense against a gun is another gun. It’s an ugly fact, but so is mass murder.

Lest you think I’m just another knuckle-dragging 2nd Amendment nut, here’s an illustration of that principle in action from earlier this week. And while clearly justified, it’s also a cautionary tale of the responsibility gun carriers have to be alert and to control their adrenaline in any way possible.

Finally, we can always count on the one-party media to fall all over themselves as they attempt to link another mass shooting to the Tea Party. Because, you know, there can’t be that many people named “James Holmes” living in the Denver area – right?

Whoops. Looks like they pulled another Loughner boner. Sarah Palin, call your office…

So I guess we are to believe the vaunted ABC News operation was tripped up by “social media”? More like they threw away any sense of restraint in favor of taking the opportunity to smear conservatives. Again. It’s like they’re just waiting for the chance or something. What’s even worse is knowing that’s how they really look at us; that it’s inconceivable anyone could fundamentally disagree with their worldview and not be crazy.

What’s crazy is when they keep doing the same thing while expecting a different result. That kind of sloppy, agenda-driven “reporting” has blown up in their faces every single time – so why they expected this to go any better is beyond me.

Which brings us to the not-yet-final punchline to this horrible event: the suspect may even be a registered Democrat.

Not that it matters, no more so than the Occupiers who tried to blow up that bridge in Cleveland. Right?

But I’m just a blogger. Don’t take my word for it.

The Day After

Surprise! We didn’t get our preferred outcome yesterday, but the sun came up this morning anyway. And I don’t have any more thoughts (intelligent or otherwise) on the Obamacare ruling.

Fortunately, Dr. Krauthammer does. Taking a sober look at the long view, he explains how this was Justice Roberts’ “Nixon to China” moment:

It is clearly the most significant piece of social legislation in decades. Roberts’s concern was that the court do everything it could to avoid being seen, rightly or wrongly, as high-handedly overturning sweeping legislation passed by both houses of Congress and signed by the president.

Assign yourself the task of writing the majority opinion. Find the ultimate finesse that manages to uphold the law, but only on the most narrow of grounds — interpreting the individual mandate as merely a tax, something generally within the power of Congress.

Result? The law stands, thus obviating any charge that a partisan court overturned duly passed legislation. And yet at the same time the commerce clause is reined in.

Law upheld, Supreme Court’s reputation for neutrality maintained. Commerce clause contained, constitutional principle of enumerated powers reaffirmed.

That’s not how I would have ruled. I think the “mandate is merely a tax” argument is a dodge, and a flimsy one at that. (The “tax” is obviously punitive, regulatory and intended to compel.) Perhaps that’s not how Roberts would have ruled had he been just an associate justice and not the chief.

I’m waffling between feeling this is “just about right” vs. “pretty thin gruel”. But don’t take my word for it – read the whole thing.

20/20 HINDSIGHT UPDATE: Well, my BS meter went clear past “pretty thin gruel” to “CRAP SANDWICH”. This is a stupendously convoluted decision that defies logic, particularly from a Chief Justice who claimed to be a constitutional originalist.

To wit: on the very first day of oral arguments, the court ruled that ACA was specifically not a tax. This was the entire reason the rest of the case was heard, because if it they’d determined it to be a tax, then the case would’ve been booted until at least 2014. This is because one cannot claim damages from a tax until it’s actually been collected.

So from that initial judgment, how does one arrive at the conclusion that ACA is something they’d previously determined it isn’t?

If that were really the case, then shouldn’t the entire decision have been stayed (or whatever the legal  beagles call it) until the full law went into effect?

Such is the pretzel logic of the credentialed elite.

Nothing political going on here. Move along. All is well!

Not.

Okay, I can’t not post something about the Obamacare ruling. This is stunning, not to put too fine a point on it. I had tried very hard not to get my hopes up too much, because it just doesn’t do any good to try and make predictions about such an opaque institution. The Justices frequently take positions that are 180 degrees from what we might expect. And a lot of people figured Roberts would vote to uphold only if he saw the verdict going that way regardless, in order to be able to write the majority opinion. This would’ve allowed him to set the boundaries of this law and hopefully limit the damage.

No joy – he ended up being the swing vote. I mean, really? Whiskey Tango Foxtrot, over?

My old man was a judge, so that plus watching Law & Order is the extent of my legal education. I suppose they have the authority to say the individual mandate can be considered a tax, though I think that’s a load of crap: if the government’s attorneys weren’t willing to make that argument, how can the Justices infer it on their behalf?

If there is any solace to be found in this, it’s that the mandate was rejected under the Commerce Clause. That is, the Congress can’t force us to buy something just because they think it’s good for us (unless they call it a tax, I guess).

Justice Roberts did qualify his opinion: “Because the Constitution permits such a tax, it is not our role to forbid it, or to pass upon its wisdom or fairness.” And Rand Simberg posted this money quote from Roberts on his blog: “It is not our job to protect the people from the consequences of their political choices.”

Dadgum straight, that. Frakkin’ A, bubba. So we lick our wounds, pick ourselves up, and get on with the serious business of returning this country to some form of a Constitutional, representative Republic.

What’s never mentioned enough in all the jackassery that surrounds the health care issue is that the Left insists on imposing a 100% solution to a 10% problem.

I’m all for helping out people who are in real trouble, but that’s never been what this is really all about. Just because something sounds like a nice thing to do doesn’t make it constitutional.

I pray we are not yet completely at the mercy of the low-information voters, because there’s no shortage of political animals who view health care as something else entirely – that is, an opportunity to exert control.

We are increasingly ruled by tyrants. Plan and vote accordingly.