Category Archives: Politics Elevated

“A crisis is a terrible thing to waste.”

From SBNation.com

Paul Romer of Stanford is credited with having said, “A crisis is a terrible thing to waste.”  However cynical this idea may seem it is very evident that people use the fears and challenges of others for their political gain all the time.  Nazi Germany came to power out of the “crisis” of the great depression, Mussolini similarly prospered in the “crisis” of post World War I Italy.  These may be extreme examples but a more commonplace one came in the New York Times dated July 20, 2008.

“America is in the midst of its worst energy crisis in years … President Bush is well on his way to being remembered as the leader who wasted not one but two crises: 9/11 and 4/11. The average price of gasoline in the U.S. last week, according to the Energy Information Administration, was $4.11.  After 9/11, Mr. Bush had the chance to summon the country to a great nation-building project focused on breaking our addiction to oil. Instead, he told us to go shopping. After gasoline prices hit $4.11 last week, he had the chance to summon the country to a great nation-building project focused on clean energy. Instead, he told us to go drilling.”

When I found this article I was shocked, here author Thomas L. Friedman, is actually arguing Bush needed to tie energy policy to 9/11 to profit off of the disaster that occurred.  Because a crisis is a terrible thing to waste.

Max McKeown, is good to remind us, “a crisis is not the same as a disaster (although a disaster may prompt a crisis). It is as a ‘crucial or decisive point or situation’ or a ‘turning point’. Such turning points force a choice between inertia and innovation.” He is right; a disaster is less useful politically as it does not put people in a position of choosing anything other than to feel sorry for the people effected by the damage.  But a crisis can be used to get people to choose to do something that they would not do under normal circumstances.

Consider the words of beleaguered US Senator Robert Bennett (R-Ut), in defense of his voting for the first bailout package. He is quoted as saying he doesn’t regret his vote,

Because we were facing a very genuine crisis. And I would not want my career to be marked with shirking my responsibility to prevent the crisis from happening

Sen Bennett appears to be an example of one who seems to  justify a vote he would not have otherwise made.  It may be no wonder Sen Bennett finds his position in trouble.

With all this talk of crisis it is interesting that massive flooding in Tennessee until recently was receiving less media coverage than the gulf cost oil, or the Greek national debt.

Patten Faqua offered this very interesting opinion about why Tennessee has been left out.

“Does it really matter? Eventually, it will…as I mentioned, there are billions of dollars in damage. It seems bizarre that no one seems to be aware that we just experienced what is quite possibly the costliest non-hurricane disaster in American history. The funds to rebuild will have to come from somewhere, which is why people need to know. It’s hard to believe that we will receive much relief if there isn’t a perception that we need it.  But let’s look at the other side of the coin for a moment. A large part of the reason that we are being ignored is because of who we are. Think about that for just a second. Did you hear about looting? Did you hear about crime sprees? No…you didn’t. You heard about people pulling their neighbors off of rooftops. You saw a group of people trying to move two horses to higher ground. … Our biggest warning was, “Don’t play in the floodwater.” When you think about it…that speaks a lot for our city. A large portion of why we were being ignored was that we weren’t doing anything to draw attention to ourselves. We were handling it on our own.”

Rhonda Robinson took this idea one step further when she said of Nashville, “But what kind of story is that? The Left loves victims. Victims they can use, that is. Preferably, victims that depended on the government, but the system failed. Therefore, a call for more, bigger, and better government is the topic of choice in a disaster situation of any proportion”

I return to my original statement – A crisis is a terrible thing to waste and in fact they are not being wasted now.  The oil spill is already being sold as a sign of the need of more regulation on drilling.  The financial crisis is being used to create popularity for more financial controls.  A crisis does not justify poor choices, it does not make old standards obsolete.  Like Nashville we can just help are neighbors and take care of ourselves.

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Why Debt is Dumb

There are some, including our representatives in Washington, that seem to believe that debt works differently in the White House than it does in our own houses.  Honestly, we should all take comfort in the fact that debt doesn’t work differently in the White House. If it did it would indicate that government has complete control over the economy and all financial matters. With the understanding that debt is the same whether it is for a business, a government, or a home it becomes easier to see dangers our nation is approaching.

A simple comparison may be of help.  Imagine a person who expends all of his income and has nothing in savings, and so turns to debt to obtain his wants and survive his emergencies.  He eventually comes to a point where he owes a significant portion of his income just to the minimum payments (interest) on his debt.  The time will eventually come when another emergency cannot be paid for because of a lack of creditors willing to extend the man further credit due to his inability to pay them back.  What is worse, the emergency may in fact be something that would not have required debt in the first place, but he can no longer afford simple turns of fate due to the staggering amount of interest he is now paying.  This comparison is to show the effects of debt in relation to the income of a person.  The same consequences are true for a business or government.

In relation to government we can consider taxes as income. The yearly budget almost always exceeds anticipated tax revenue (deficit spending).  Still, government seems to feel okay when it incurs debt based on the fact that it knows that tax are usually a small portion of the countries Gross Domestic Product (GDP-total value of goods and services of the nation.) Think of this in our example as this individual feeling comfortable with a huge debt to income ratio because he has a huge summer estate he could sell if needed.

This large GDP allows some politicians to feel that the total debt burden could be relieved by dipping into the much larger potential revenue of the country.  The logic goes that they can always raise taxes to cover deficits in revenue to pay back debt.  But what could happen if the debt burden becomes too great for the tax revenue, and potentially too great for the GDP as a whole?

According to an article by Steve McCann of the American Thinker the national debt was at 40.2% of the GDP in 2008.  The author concludes that the United States remains fiscally responsible if it’s debt is less than half the GDP.  But, according to the Obama administration’s predictions for spending the debt will be near 72% of the GDP by 2012.

If we return to the comparison, while a person with a debt to Net Worth (income, and all sell-able goods) ratio of roughly 70% could continue making payments, and in fact eventually repay all his debts, that individual could not weather emergencies without incurring additional debt, and would not be giving money to aid the poor or rebuild his neighbor’s house.

The United States government has always been wealthy enough to give aid in domestic and international disasters.  But is it possible that as the debt approaches 3/4 or more of the GDP she’ll find the money harder to come by when disaster strikes?  Just as your neighbor who is struggling with debt finds it impossible to be as charitable as they would like, and begins making many decisions based solely on their financial ramifications; will government begin making decisions based on financial considerations?  Further, at what point in time does the government seek credit from another country or institution only to be told the interest rate is now extremely high, or worse, they do not qualify?

It is also not surprising that government policies favor inflation, since inflation makes it easier to repay debts incurred.  This has ramifications on our society as well, since it discourages savings and encourages debt.  People in our society are more likely to incur debt, therefore leading to an extremely consumerist society, which we see evidence of all around us.

It is my opinion that there are two ways to correct these trends as a people: first, be personally fiscally responsible (basically: stop using debt to get things you can’t afford) second, demand (by vote) that Washington not spend money that it has not already raised.

It’s easy to vote for the politician who promises to open the treasury halls of government for the benefit of his constituents.  But we must realize the future cost of giving away money that is not actually there.  We must practice restraint and be willing for even our favorite programs (military, health care, roadways, social security…) to take cuts; so that we may begin to pay down the national debt.  If we are not willing to do this we may come to a future day when needed money simply is not available.

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Hypocrisy in Washington

I read a great quote recently, I want to share it with you.  I stumbled on it in a December 2009 article in the National Review online(NRO).

“…if moral hypocrisy is saying what values people should live by while failing to follow them yourself, intellectual hypocrisy is believing you are smart enough to run other peoples’ lives when you can barely run your own.”

I submit that we therefore have the most hypocritical set of politicians ever running Washington right now.  Now I will not place hypocrisy as a trait of only one party; honestly it is rampant in both parties in both its moral and its intellectual forms.  While the conservative element naturally attracts (yes I said naturally) accusations of moral hypocrisy due to their upholding morality more publicly, it does not mean they are not great practitioners  of  intellectual hypocrisy.  Similarly the “thou shalt not judge” attitude of the left does not excuse them from committing actions of  moral hypocrisy – tickle fight anyone.  The fact remains that both parties in different ways are guilty of both kinds of hypocrisy.

In C.S. Lewis’ fiction work “That Hideous Strength”  there is an interchange between characters Mark Studdock and Lord Feverstone.  Feverstone is trying to explain to Mark why is was important to align with him and his organization. He says,

“It does really look as if we now had the power to dig ourselves in as a species for a pretty staggering period, to take control of our own destiny.  If Science is really given a free hand it can now take over the human race and re-condition it: make man a really efficient animal . . . . .  Man has got to take charge of Man.  That means, remember, that some men have got to take charge of the rest.”

In this quote I see the reason why  intellectual hypocrisy in Washington is in the long run more damaging than moral hypocrisy.  My case rests on this one idea – I think pretty highly of my capacity to make correct choices for myself.  If a great society requires some men to take charge of the rest of us that means I have to trust the judgment of a bureaucrat or politician more than my own.

While there is certainly high pretension found in the idea that someone else knows better than I do what is good for me it is  worse when you consider the inability of those in Washington to run their own lives.  In the same NRO article there is this significant fact, “A J. P. Morgan chart… shows that less than 10 percent of President Obama’s cabinet has private-sector experience, the least of any cabinet in a century”  The significance simply stated is the people now wanting to run others lives have never run anything else before.

I will only cite one example here, Timothy Geithner, the current secretary of the treasury had one major problem getting confirmed.  He often misfiled his taxes.  How did we confirm a treasury head who was found short $42,000 short on his taxes?  Why do we believe him capable of helping the average American get his taxes right?  We don’t.

Here is the other key to this whole idea of intellectual hypocrisy – C.S. Lewis finishes the above interchange between Mark and Feverstone with this other little secret.  Says Feverstone, “you and I want to be the people who do the taking charge, not the ones who are taken charge of.”  In other words this intellectual hypocrisy is no accident; it is in fact the way it is supposed to be.  This is Intellectual hypocrisy, rules are for you and not for me.

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Historic – in what way

It is so very important you understand the psychological warfare conducted in modern politics. Many things are said to try and manipulate you into something you may not otherwise agree with. Here is a recent example, quoting President Obama;

“And right now, we are at the point where we are going to do something historic this weekend. That’s what this health care vote is all about.”

Historic is a very ironic choice of words, it is been shown that people want to feel like they are making history.  President Obama’s campaign thrived on the popularity of seeing him as America’s first (historic) minority President.  Now he is doing all he can to cast the passing of his health care reform as historic.

The thing that is being misrepresented is the kind of history being made.  President Obama continued on about history,

“One thing when you’re in the White House, you’ve got a lot of history books around you. And so I’ve been reading up on the history here. Teddy Roosevelt, Republican, was the first to advocate that everybody get health care in this country.  Every decade since, we’ve had Presidents, Republicans and Democrats, from Harry Truman to Richard Nixon to JFK to Lyndon Johnson to — every single President has said we need to fix this system. It’s a debate that’s not only about the cost of health care, not just about what we’re doing about folks who aren’t getting a fair shake from their insurance companies. It’s a debate about the character of our country”

Do you see what he is saying here about the history of health care.  Every president since Teddy has wanted universal health care and now here we are about to actually enact this great idea of the last century.  He is building the case that tomorrows vote is historic only if it succeeds.

“When you hear people saying, well, why don’t we do this more incrementally, why don’t we do this a little more piecemeal, why don’t we just help the folks that are easiest to help — my answer is the time for reform is now. We have waited long enough. (Applause.) We have waited long enough.  And in just a few days, a century-long struggle will culminate in a historic vote.”

Could it have been said more clearly.  The underlying message again is clear.  History is on the side of reform, don’t stand in the way of progress.  He actually goes on to compare the health care vote to civil rights.  He than finishes with this line,

“Now, I don’t know how passing health care will play politically — but I know it’s right. (Applause.) Teddy Roosevelt knew it was right. Harry Truman knew that it was right. Ted Kennedy knew it was right. (Applause.) And if you believe that it’s right, then you’ve got to help us finish this fight”

Now with all that said tomorrows vote and America’s reaction to it will be historic but for a reason different than what the President has said.  It will be historic because it is a major choice being made by congress.  It is historic because passing Heath Care reform will change how the game is played, it will fundamentally change America.  Now president Obama knows this in his speech he said as much.  Reform means higher taxes, more government spending, it means the undercutting of private insurance, it means taking power from the states who no longer get to regulate insurance companies.

I think the argument can be made and needs to be made that ultimately it means the end of health insurance and the beginning to state medical welfare.  It ultimately means the nationalization of 16% of our economy.  Just look at what is being said,

SEN. TOM HARKIN, D-IOWA: “As I said before, this bill is not complete. I’ve used the analogy of a starter home in which we can add additions and enhancements as we go into the future. But like every right that we’ve ever passed the American people, we revisit it later on to enhance and build on those rights and we will do that here surely.”

PRESIDENT BARACK OBAMA: Now, you keep on repeating the notion that it’s one-sixth of the economy. Yes, it’s one-sixth of the economy, but we’re not transforming one-sixth of the economy all in one fell swoop.

This is why it is historic – make no mistake we can still win by fighting for our beliefs.  Call you congressman today and tell them to say no.  If he votes yes get him out of office, if this passes prepare to fight it on the state level, in the courts and in the next elections.

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