“Our practical choice is not between a tax-cut deficit and budgetary surplus. It is between two kinds of deficits: a chronic deficit of inertia, as the unwanted result of inadequate revenues and a restricted economy; or a temporary deficit of transition, resulting from a tax cut designed to boost the economy, increase tax revenues, and achieve . . . a budget surplus.” John F. Kennedy


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Apr 27 2010

C.M. Phippen

From coast to coast, the furor is brewing over the state of Arizona experimenting with policies to attempt to protect its citizens by minimizing the number of illegal aliens within its own borders.

After years of lack of federal action and increasing crime by illegals, Arizonans are fed up. Phoenix is now the kidnapping capital of America; worldwide only second to Mexico City. Ranchers are being harassed and threatened, and one was recently killed by a man authorities believe to be a scout for a drug cartel.

The state has approximately 500,000 illegal immigrants, many of whom come to this country just looking for a way to feed their families. We allow a limited number of them to do this, based upon the needs of our citizens.

Arizona has an unemployment rate of around 9% for citizens. Recently, 300 workers at Pro’s Ranch Markets in AZ were let go when they were found to be working illegally. Now, many hardworking Arizonans among those 9% who also want to feed their families, will be able to find a job.

Liberals don’t seem to care nearly as much about the rights of the law-abiding citizens as the non-citizen lawbreakers, but I think I do have a solution to bring them in on this one – include in the bill the power of authorities to randomly stop anyone suspected of being a US citizen and require them to provide proof of federally-approved health insurance coverage. Sound about right?

Apr 14 2010

Free Press and Freedom

C.M. Phippen

I recently came across some writings of Robert McChesney, co-founder of Free Press. This was one of the organizations whose lawsuit to allow government intervention in the management of internet networks was struck down last week by the U.S. Appeals Court for the District of Columbia.

Free Press calls itself a nonpartisan organization, and its name would lead us to believe that the organization’s main goal is, well, an open and free press. Who in their right mind could oppose that? That’s why the writings of Robert McChesney are so disturbing. McChesney actually does oppose that.

In the far-left publication, Monthly Review, he writes that “winning battles to reconstruct the media system were a necessary part of a broader process to create a more just society . . .” (and lest we become confused, it doesn’t take much exposure to his writings before one realizes that “just society” means socialist) and, “any serious effort to reform the media system would have to be necessarily part of a revolutionary program to overthrow the capitalist system itself.”

Early last year, in the same publication, he espouses an “enormous class struggle” in order to “eliminate the evils of capitalism and the dangers it poses for the world and its people.” In the end, though, he concludes that “there is no real answer but to remove brick by brick the capitalist system itself, rebuilding the entire society on socialist principles.” He says that the majority of the population will learn this in the course of their struggles for a “more equal, more humane, more collective, and more sustainable world.” If you were confused about just how the left defined those words, now you know – socialist tyranny.

He explains that ” . . . it is the specific responsibility of the left to urge . . . the militant organization of the underlying population . . .” and then adds a list of socialist demands that these individuals should be making on our government, or rather on the productive classes in society (yeah, the 53% who pay federal income taxes.) Further, he says that the entire power structure of US society must be altered in order for this socialist utopia to come to pass, just in case you didn’t understand what he meant by the dismantling of the capitalist system the first time he mentioned it.

Can this guy be any more clear? He’s looking for a socialist revolution and he knows the only way to convince Americans that’s what they need is to control the message by controlling the media. During an interview late last year with Tanner Mirrlees of the Socialist Project, he admitted that ” . . . it will be vastly more difficult to have a revolution” without having made significant changes in the media first.

Are the rest of us just supposed to sit and wait?

Apr 10 2010

A Divided Society

C.M. Phippen

The media consistently tells us how divided we are as a nation and how the divisions among is are increasing. If this is the case, it would serve us well to ask a few questions as to why and how this happened.

If we are more divided than ever, and I would submit that we are – why? One of the reasons can be found in the the latest news about who pays taxes in this country. Just last week, we were told that for 2009, 47% of Americans will pay no federal income tax. According to the non-partisan Tax Policy Center, original estimates for 2009 were that 38% of Americans would be exempt from federal taxes, but the “$787 billion economic recovery package . . . included a host of new or expanded tax breaks.”

While the burden on some in society was increasing exponentially as a result of skyrocketing government spending, the burden on others was removed completely. Exempting nearly half the population from any liability to support government spending and increasing government dependence, while demonizing those paying the bills, isn’t going to bring us together as a nation.

According to Aristotle, the duty of a mature legislator and statesman is to pull against the natural human tendency to want to undermine the wealthy and preach the redistribution of their wealth. “Demagogues are always dividing the city into two, and waging war against the rich. Their proper policy is the very reverse: they should always profess to be speaking in defense of the rich.” This conclusion came to him as he studied nearly 160 types of constitutions in dozens of Greek city-states, and observed and recorded their successes and failures.

It works to the benefit of a demagogue to have a deeply divided society, to pit the 47% of non-taxpayers against the 53% who labor for their support and their benefit in society. Equalization of outcome leads to a place where eventually, no one can be (or is willing to be) successful enough to foot the bill. After all, it is the 53% from whom the federal services flow, as well as the welfare benefits and “tax refunds,” often EITCs (Earned Income Tax Credits) that aren’t really refunds at all, but cash transfers. We wouldn’t want to explain that to the non-payers, let them just believe it’s all coming from the “government.”

According to economist Milton Friedman, the use of political channels, as opposed to the market, for the provision of resources leads to the straining of social cohesion. The reason for this is that markets allow diversity, while government policies require conformity. In Capitalism and Freedom, he states that the more extensive the range of issues we attempt to solve through political means, the greater the strain on the “delicate threads that hold society together.” He goes on to say,

The wider the range of activities covered by the market, the fewer are the issues on which explicitly political decisions are required and hence on which it is necessary to achieve agreement. In turn, the fewer the issues on which agreement is necessary, the greater is the likelihood of getting agreement while maintaining a free society.

Thus, the more extensive the range of issues attempting to be resolved through coercion (force of law) as opposed to individual choice and market forces, the greater the conflict in society between those who desire conformity to their ideas and those who desire freedom.

Pretty straightforward to me.

Apr 3 2010

Namecalling and Political Dialogue

C.M. Phippen

A disturbing phenomenon seems to be creeping into the national political dialogue with increasing frequency, and in the process undermining intelligent debate. My personal experience is that more and more liberals, outspoken about their opinions, shut down completely when presented with evidence contrary to what they’ve always believed. It’s as though they’ve never been aware that intelligence existed on the other side of the political spectrum. This phenomenon has been noticed, and written about, by Gerard Alexander in the Washington Post back in February 2010 in an article entitled, Why are liberals so condescending?

I don’t expect that we’ll all agree with each other all the time, and I don’t think absolute agreement would be good for our republic. The interplay of different thoughts and ideas, founded upon our Constitution, is healthy. The founders didn’t all agree all the time, and from their debates and conversations emerged the most stable, prosperous, opportunity-granting nation the world has ever seen. Not bad.

That is why the direction in which we’re moving is so disturbing; if we don’t actually listen to each other and acknowledge the good intentions and ideas coming from those who disagree with us, it’s over.

One of the most consistent ways this intolerance is manifest is in statements such as, “Don’t quote Fox News or The Heritage Foundation.” Didn’t President Obama just try claiming that a centerpiece of his health care reform originated from Heritage? And didn’t the Heritage president have to come out and tell him to stop misrepresenting their work? This is beside the point of course, but apparently a Democrat president finds their work legitimate enough to claim he’s incorporating their ideas into his legislation when it suits his purposes.

I seldom use Fox news as a source; not because they don’t present the facts accurately most of the time, but simply to avoid outright dismissal of the truth by those who are convinced that not slanting to the left means favoring the right. I even had somebody once say, “I won’t use the NY Times or MSNBC if you don’t use Fox News or the Wall Street Journal.”

My response was, “Go ahead and use any source you want. I’ll even avoid the ones you want me to avoid, and I can still make my case.”

I was recently told that since some particular research was cited and published by a conservative think tank, it was a total waste to even read. Of course, this deep-thinking liberal hadn’t even done the requisite research necessary to discover that though it was published by a conservative source, it was a compilation of 20 years of research by various organizations – liberal, conservative, nonpartisan – and was quite comprehensive. When that was pointed out to him, he had absolutely nothing to respond. See, he couldn’t counter the information; he could only dismiss the source.

Truth is not relative and its legitimacy is not dependent on its source. The last refuge of those without truth or knowledge on their side is a dismissal of facts simply based on who’s uttering them, even when faced with overwhelming evidence of their soundness.

Why the fear? If the source is illegitimate, no problem countering the untruths it generates; on the other hand, facing truths one would rather not can be quite painful.

I was recently personally attacked by a liberal newspaper reporter who, instead of responding to well-reasoned comments based on recognized news sources (and sources much more prestigious than his paper), commented that I should get back to the kitchen and bake cookies for the PTA, and then went on to denigrate what he assumed was my religion. What? (Incidentally, his hate-filled, religiously-bigoted diatribe proved his complete ignorance about the religion he attempted to denigrate. The only thing he got right is his assumption about what my religion is.)

Not once did he attempt to prove false a single point or counter a single argument, but I was told, “It’s cute that you try to have an opinion,” and “Watching Fox News doesn’t make you a pundit.” Again, huh? (By the way, I try to read at least as many liberal sources as conservative – I’m not afraid of what they may teach me.)

Personal attacks, namecalling, and denigration come from a place of fear, ignorance, and hate. Let’s not go there, rather let’s work together as Americans who sometimes agree, sometimes disagree, but always seek after truth no matter how uncomfortable it may be.

Apr 1 2010

Obamacare and Unintended Consequences, I

C.M. Phippen

It is now estimated that in the first two quarters of 2010, $14 billion in writedowns could be taken as a result of changes in tax law contained in the new health care legislation. Stock prices have begun to fall, and Congress is in a huff.

Deere & Co. is estimating a $150 million charge this quarter, Caterpillar Inc. $100 million, AK Steel $31 million, AT&T $1 billion, Boeing $150 million, Lockheed Martin $96 million, and the list goes on and on.

The reason for the charges is that after the Medicare Part D prescription drug benefit was passed (another entitlement costing us many times more than estimated), companies that continued paying drug benefits for their retirees rather than dumping the responsibility onto the government, were given incentives for doing so. Not only did they receive a 28% subsidy, but they were allowed to deduct the cost of providing the coverage, including the portion paid by the government. Under the new law, this subsidy will no longer be deductible.

Those who support the closing of this “loophole” in the law argue that it’s only fair, as companies were receiving a double benefit. Sure, but they were paying costs that would be shouldered entirely by the federal government (taxpayer) if those companies failed to choose to provide the benefit in the first place.

Get it? Under the old law, taxpayers were still saving money. The result now is that either benefits will need to be reduced or those companies that will see an increased tax burden can simply choose to hire fewer workers or shift operations to other countries with more favorable tax laws.

“The change in the law is expected to affect primarily industrial companies with retirees represented by collective bargaining pacts, whose benefits are more difficult for companies to cut.”

According to the AFL-CIO on Dec. 10, eliminating the deduction “will be highly destabilizing for retirees who rely upon employer sponsored drug coverage” and “will impose a dramatic and immediate impact on company financial statements.”

The companies that will be receiving less beneficial tax treatment are the very types of companies many Americans, especially those who ostensibly supported this legislation, have complained about when they’ve chosen to move offshore in order to reduce production costs. Additionally, Congress was warned as early as December that these writedowns would need to occur.

The response of Einstein Commerce Secretary Gary Locke is truly mind-boggling. “During the past year, I have heard from CEOs from across the country that skyrocketing premiums are crippling the competitiveness of their companies. It is simply not responsible to suggest that the new health care law is bad for business.”

These CEOs wanted something done about skyrocketing premiums, so don’t you think they would have been ecstatic if that had actually happened? Much to the chagrin of the administration, this is not an ideological issue; rather, it’s an issue of good governance versus ramrodding through any garbage legislation just to say you did. Why did the administration choose to do everything except deal with the actual costs of health care when passing the current law?

This administration and Congress seem absolutely baffled that the universe is not heeding their decree of lower costs for all while covering more Americans and enabling, ultimately, more extensive health care coverage. It’s okay; at some point reality smacks all of us in the face, but for most of us it’s before we reach middle age and have “fundamentally transformed” America based on bad information and bad laws.

I had assumed that those who supported this bill fully understood that costs would increase but would be so supplemented by the taxpayer that many Americans wouldn’t notice, and would continue believing the rhetoric about cost savings to the country. Either I was wrong or the political games never end with these guys.

Congress now has issued letters to the CEOs of many of the companies who’ve reported such writedowns. Rather than reevaluate legislation they should have read and understood before passing, they’ve decided to harass those running companies which provide jobs to Americans. In case you’ve forgotten, the American worker is currently suffering under levels of unemployment not seen in decades; I’d think we’d be thanking them and asking how they can be accommodated to hire more of our citizens.

The week before passage of the bill, only 17% of Americans believed the plan would reduce the cost of care. Looks like 83% of us were forced to face reality long before our “leaders” in Washington.