In Greek Mythology, Procrustes (who’s name means ‘The Stretcher’) the son of Poseidon, lured weary travelers from Athens to Eleusis to stay with him where he would fit them to his iron bed. He would stretch those too short to fit his bed and amputate the legs of those too long. Procrustes continued his reign of terror until Theseus traveling the same route killed Procrustes, by convincing him to fit himself to his own bed.
A Procrustes bed is used as a modern analogy of an “arbitrary standard by which exact conformity is required“. It has been used as comparisons in literature, math and computer science. In his 2010 book, ‘The Procrustes Bed: Philosophical and Practical Aphorisms’, Nassim Taleb says that it is not only that many times we try to fit into wrong boxes, but that the emphasis is on the box rather than the object. He also points out the danger of overestimating or under estimating variables as in Modern Portfolio Theory that uses risk assessment like Bell Curve distribution sigmas to gauge investment pairing and balancing. In a sense, Modern Portfolio Theory is a Procrustes Bed as it lops off 3rd or 4th sigma risk as inconsequential, only to find out later as we have with recent financial crises, those variables played a greater role.
A Procrustes Bed analogy of government policy can be made in areas like health care, education and other areas where centralized government tries to create solutions. As Procrustes would stretch his shorter victims and amputate his taller ones, government health care policy would give more health care to the healthy and less to the very sick. Individuals with health care needs ‘out of the bed’ of protocol would either have to look for it on the private or black market while the healthiest would be required an annual exam and other benefits that they don’t want. The same could also apply regarding cost sharing as healthy and unhealthy would be in the bed with the same premiums. Alternative care options which even now are generally only available to those with discretionary income, might under government health care be outlawed or even more expensive. Those who have the money might be joining those already fleeing other nation’s government health care, like a Danny Williams former Canadian MP who flew to Miami, FL for a heart procedure a few years back.
The Procrustes Bed of public education as it exists today is particularly cruel. I’d refer to an earlier article on a brief history of US education, that was loosely state regulated, decentralized and adaptable to different regions of the country and even up until the early 20th century was local and neighborhood focused. Today education is highly centralized through the Dept of Education, federal mandates and state enticements of money and credits to cash strapped states. Public school children are at the mercy of every new lab project coming through teacher colleges like Columbia, that weigh priorities of traditional skills of reading, writing, arithmetic and critical learning against socialization and tolerance which was John Dewey’s goal in the early 20th century, who believed changes in societies have to start in the classrooms. But the experiments are failing dramatically as US test scores have plummeted against other nations and the US has even pulled out of some competition.
If these experiments in healthcare, education and other non-delegated state powers had been done on a decentralized state by state basis as was the original system, the failures would have been isolated, less impacting nationally and successful models would be adapted in other states.
The Procrustes Bed can be applied in so many areas where federal government in particular creates arbitrary policy with rigid compliance. There is almost a unanimous conclusion that something is wrong in Washington, DC, while some consider the government as being ineffective and needs to be ‘fine tuned’, most believe it is doing too much and needs to do less.
As a fitting (pun intended) end of the mythological story, Procrustes is done in by his own device. Wouldn’t a fitting end to an uncontrollable and runaway federal government be a Procrustes Bed of Constitutional measures?
Statists, Governmentalists, Collectivists for over a century now have lured weary citizen travelers journeying through life, into the secure and comfortable bed of federal government powers to solve all problems, only to find out too late the limits it put on individual freedom. There is an inverse relationship between Government and Individual Liberty – as government power increases, individual liberty decreases. The framers of the Constitution understood the natural process of government was to grow and that it needed to be limited through constitutional restraint.
Are there Theseus’ in Washington or in state governments who can lure the Federal Government back into the bed of constitutional restraint so we can once again ‘fit it’ so it functions as was intended as a protector of individual liberties and not as a provider of rights and services?
Christopher M. Mahon, Editor
NOW, THEREFORE, it is hereby ordered that, before the filing of any notices, or taking
of any testimony or adjudication of or finding on any issues of fact or law herein, and without
this Order constituting an admission or denial by Citigroup of any allegation made or implied by
the Board of Governors in connection with this matter, and solely for the purpose of settling this 4
matter without a formal proceeding being filed and without the necessity for protracted or
extended hearings or testimony, pursuant to sections 8(b)(1) and (3) of the FDI Act (12 U.S.C.
§§1818(b)(1) and 1818(b)(3)), Citigroup and its institution-affiliated parties shall cease and
desist and take affirmative action as follows:
Source of Strength
1. The board of directors of Citigroup shall take appropriate steps to fully utilize
Citigroup’s financial and managerial resources, pursuant to section 38A of the FDI Act
(12 U.S.C. § 1831o-1) and section 225.4(a) of Regulation Y of the Board of Governors (12 C.F.R.
§ 225.4(a)), to serve as a source of strength to each of the Banks, including, but not limited to,
taking stepsto ensure that each of the Banks complies with the Consent Orders issued by their
respective banking agency supervisors and any other supervisory actions taken by their respective
banking agency supervisors.
2. Within 60 days of this Order, Citigroup’s board of directors shall submit to the
Reserve Bank an acceptable written plan to continue ongoing enhancements to the board’s
oversight of Citigroup’s firmwide compliance risk management program with regard to
compliance with BSA/AML Requirements. The plan shall describe the actions that the board of
directors has taken since the Consent Orders became effective and will take to improve
Citigroup’s firmwide compliance risk management with regard to BSA/AML Requirements,
including, but not limited to, ensuring that such compliance risk is effectively managed across
Citigroup, including within and across business lines, support units, legal entities, and
jurisdictions in which Citigroup and its subsidiaries operate. The plan shall, at a minimum,
address, consider, and include: 5
(a) Funding for personnel, systems, and other resources as are needed to
operate a BSA/AML compliance risk management program that is commensurate with the
compliance risk profile of the organization and that fully addresses the organization’s
compliance risks on a timely and effective basis;
(b) policies to instill a proactive approach throughout the organization in
identifying, communicating, and managing BSA/AML compliance risks;
(c) measures to ensure adherence to approved BSA/AML compliance
policies, procedures, and standards, and ensure the timely completion of related projects and
(d) measures to ensure the resolution of BSA/AML-related audit, compliance
reviews, and examination findings.
Compliance Risk Management Program
3. Within 60 days of this Order, Citigroup shall submit an acceptable written plan to
the Reserve Bank to continue to improve the governance, structure, and operations of the
compliance risk management program with regard to BSA/AML Requirements and the
regulations issued by the Office of Foreign Assets Control of the United States Department of
the Treasury (“OFAC”) (31 C.F.R. Chapter V). The plan shall, at a minimum, address, consider,
(a) The structure and composition of Citigroup’s compliance committees and
a determination of the optimum structure and composition needed to provide adequate oversight
of Citigroup’s firmwide compliance risk management;
(b) enhanced written policies, procedures, and compliance risk management
(c) the independence and authority of the compliance functions and related
(d) the duties and responsibilities of the heads of compliance for global
business lines, the BSA/AML global program, and legal entities, as applicable, including the
reporting lines within Citigroup, and between Citigroup and its business lines and legal entities;
(e) a process for periodically reevaluating staffing needs in relation to the
organization’s compliance risk profile, and management succession planning for key compliance
(f) the scope and frequency of compliance risk assessments;
(g) measures to ensure compliance and improve accountability within
business lines and legal entities and their respective compliance functions;
(h) procedures for the periodic testing of the effectiveness of the compliance
risk management program;
(i) consistency with the Board of Governors’ guidance regarding Compliance
Risk Management Programs and Oversight at Large Banking Organizations with Complex
Compliance Profiles, dated October 16, 2008 (SR 08-8); and
(j) the findings and recommendations of the consultant engaged by Citibank
pursuant to Article V of Citibank’s Consent Order with the OCC.
BSA/AML Compliance Program
4. Within 90 days of this Order, Citigroup shall complete a review of the
effectiveness of Citigroup’s firmwide BSA/AML compliance program (the “BSA/AML Review”)
and prepare a written report of findings and recommendations (the “BSA/AML Report”). The
BSA/AML Review shall, at a minimum, address, consider, and include: 7
(a) The structure of Citigroup’s firmwide BSA/AML compliance program,
including reporting lines and taking into account the functions that Citigroup performs for the
Banks and Citigroup’s other subsidiaries;
(b) standards for BSA/AML compliance that apply on a firmwide basis,
including business lines and legal entities;
(c) the duties, responsibilities, and authority of Citigroup’s chief BSA/AML
compliance official, including reporting lines within Citigroup and from Citigroup’s business lines
and legal entities to the chief BSA/AML compliance official;
(d) communication of BSA/AML-related roles and responsibilities across the
(e) coordination among corporate BSA/AML compliance and the BSA/AML
compliance functions of the Banks, Citigroup’s other subsidiaries, and business lines;
(f) processes for monitoring business line and legal entity compliance with
Citigroup’s BSA/AML policies and procedures and BSA/AML requirements;
(g) policies, procedures, and processes, including, but not limited to, those for
identifying and investigating suspicious activity, and for filing suspicious activity reports;
(h) the scope and frequency of reporting with respect to BSA/AML compliance
within Citigroup, at a minimum, to senior management and board committees, as well as between
Citigroup and its business lines and legal entities;
(i) BSA/AML-related risk assessments;
(j) measures to ensure that any BSA/AML compliance functions, including,
but not limited to, transaction monitoring and suspicious activity reporting, that are performed by 8
Citigroup’s nonbank subsidiaries for the Banks or the Edge Act corporation are performed to meet
(k) independent testing within Citigroup entities subject to BSA/AML
(l) training; and
(m) the findings and recommendations of the consultant engaged by Citibank
pursuant to Article V of Citibank’s Consent Order with the OCC.
5. Within 120 days of this Order, the board of directors of Citigroup shall review the
BSA/AML Report and shall submit an acceptable written plan to the Reserve Bank that includes a
description of the specific actions that Citigroup will take to continue to strengthen the
management and oversight of Citigroup’s firmwide BSA/AML compliance program, taking into
account the requirements of the appropriate federal or state supervisor of Citigroup’s functionally
6. Within 30 days after the end of each calendar quarter following the date of this
Order, the board of directors of Citigroup or an authorized committee thereof shall submit to the
Reserve Bank written progress reports detailing the form and manner of all actions taken to secure
compliance with this Order, a timetable and schedule to implement specific remedial actions to be
taken to address the recommendation in the Report, and the results thereof.
Approval and Implementation of Plans
7. (a) Citigroup shall submit written plans that are acceptable to the Reserve
Bank within the applicable time periods set forth in paragraphs 2, 3, and 5 of this Order. 9
(b) Within 10 days of approval by the Reserve Bank, Citigroup shall adopt the
approved plans. Upon adoption, Citigroup shall promptly implement the approved plans and
thereafter fully comply with them.
(c) During the term of this Order, the approved plans shall not be amended or
rescinded without the prior written approval of the Reserve Bank.
8. All communications regarding this Order shall be sent to:
(a) Jonathan Polk
Senior Vice President
Federal Reserve Bank of New York
33 Liberty Street
New York, New York 10045
(b) Kevin L. Thurm
Chief Compliance Officer
399 Park Avenue
New York, New York 10022
9. Notwithstanding any provision of this Order to the contrary, the Reserve Bank
may, in its sole discretion, grant written extensions of time to Citigroup to comply with any
provision of this Order.
10. The provisions of this Order shall be binding upon Citigroup and its institutionaffiliated parties, in their capacities as such, and their successors and assigns.
11. Each provision of this Order shall remain effective and enforceable until stayed,
modified, terminated, or suspended in writing by the Reserve Bank. 10
12. The provisions of this Order shall not bar, estop, or otherwise prevent the Board
of Governors, the Reserve Bank, or any other federal or state agency from taking any other
action affecting Citigroup, the Banks, any nonbank subsidiary of Citigroup, or any of their
current or former institution-affiliated parties and their successors and assigns.
By Order of the Board of Governors effective this 21st day of March, 2013.
CITIGROUP INC. BOARD OF GOVERNORS OF THE
FEDERAL RESERVE SYSTEM
Federal Reserve releases information highlighting their January FOMC meeting. They see moderate growth with the goal of ‘maximum employment with price stability’. Fed will maintain fed funds rate 0-.25% as long as unemployment remains over 6.5% and report projects inflation stable over next couple years in a 2% range. The committee also has decided to,
“continue purchasing additional agency mortgage-backed securities at a pace of $40 billion per month and longer-term Treasury securities at a pace of $45 billion per month. The Committee is maintaining its existing policy of reinvesting principal payments from its holdings of agency debt and agency mortgage-backed securities in agency mortgage-backed securities and of rolling over maturing Treasury securities at auction. Taken together, these actions should maintain downward pressure on longer-term interest rates, support mortgage markets, and help to make broader financial conditions more accommodative.”
Release Date: March 20, 2013
For immediate release
Information received since the Federal Open Market Committee met in January suggests a return to moderate economic growth following a pause late last year. Labor market conditions have shown signs of improvement in recent months but the unemployment rate remains elevated. Household spending and business fixed investment advanced, and the housing sector has strengthened further, but fiscal policy has become somewhat more restrictive. Inflation has been running somewhat below the Committee’s longer-run objective, apart from temporary variations that largely reflect fluctuations in energy prices. Longer-term inflation expectations have remained stable.
Consistent with its statutory mandate, the Committee seeks to foster maximum employment and price stability. The Committee expects that, with appropriate policy accommodation, economic growth will proceed at a moderate pace and the unemployment rate will gradually decline toward levels the Committee judges consistent with its dual mandate. The Committee continues to see downside risks to the economic outlook. The Committee also anticipates that inflation over the medium term likely will run at or below its 2 percent objective.
To support a stronger economic recovery and to help ensure that inflation, over time, is at the rate most consistent with its dual mandate, the Committee decided to continue purchasing additional agency mortgage-backed securities at a pace of $40 billion per month and longer-term Treasury securities at a pace of $45 billion per month. The Committee is maintaining its existing policy of reinvesting principal payments from its holdings of agency debt and agency mortgage-backed securities in agency mortgage-backed securities and of rolling over maturing Treasury securities at auction. Taken together, these actions should maintain downward pressure on longer-term interest rates, support mortgage markets, and help to make broader financial conditions more accommodative.
The Committee will closely monitor incoming information on economic and financial developments in coming months. The Committee will continue its purchases of Treasury and agency mortgage-backed securities, and employ its other policy tools as appropriate, until the outlook for the labor market has improved substantially in a context of price stability. In determining the size, pace, and composition of its asset purchases, the Committee will continue to take appropriate account of the likely efficacy and costs of such purchases as well as the extent of progress toward its economic objectives.
To support continued progress toward maximum employment and price stability, the Committee expects that a highly accommodative stance of monetary policy will remain appropriate for a considerable time after the asset purchase program ends and the economic recovery strengthens. In particular, the Committee decided to keep the target range for the federal funds rate at 0 to 1/4 percent and currently anticipates that this exceptionally low range for the federal funds rate will be appropriate at least as long as the unemployment rate remains above 6-1/2 percent, inflation between one and two years ahead is projected to be no more than a half percentage point above the Committee’s 2 percent longer-run goal, and longer-term inflation expectations continue to be well anchored. In determining how long to maintain a highly accommodative stance of monetary policy, the Committee will also consider other information, including additional measures of labor market conditions, indicators of inflation pressures and inflation expectations, and readings on financial developments. When the Committee decides to begin to remove policy accommodation, it will take a balanced approach consistent with its longer-run goals of maximum employment and inflation of 2 percent.
Voting for the FOMC monetary policy action were: Ben S. Bernanke, Chairman; William C. Dudley, Vice Chairman; James Bullard; Elizabeth A. Duke; Charles L. Evans; Jerome H. Powell; Sarah Bloom Raskin; Eric S. Rosengren; Jeremy C. Stein; Daniel K. Tarullo; and Janet L. Yellen. Voting against the action was Esther L. George, who was concerned that the continued high level of monetary accommodation increased the risks of future economic and financial imbalances and, over time, could cause an increase in long-term inflation expectations.
Banks and the financial systems around the globe are still recovering from the banking/real estate crisis of 2008 and many banks particularly in Europe suffered losses and levels of insolvency, could this weekend’s ‘mini-emergency’ in the small island of Cyprus and their banks be another fire starter?
The Eurozone in conjunction with the IMF for the first time required a depositor tax or confiscation of deposits in lieu of a bailout. At this writing it stands at under 100,000 Euros 6.75% and over 100,000 9.9% deposits could be seized. Henry Blodgett of the Daily Ticker summed it up this way,
Some of Cyprus’s banks, like many banks in Europe, are bankrupt.
Cyprus went to the eurozone to get a bailout, the same way Ireland, Greece, and other European countries have.
The eurozone powers-that-be (mainly Germany) gave Cyprus a bailout and insisted that the depositors in Cyprus’s banks pay part of the tab — a startling condition that has never before been imposed on any major banking system since the start of the global financial crisis in 2008.
The deal did not touch the bondholders. Why the depositors? These are folks who had their money in the banks for safe-keeping.
When Cyprus’s banks reopen on Tuesday morning, every depositor will have some of his or her money seized. The current plan is that accounts under 100,000 euros will have 6.75% of the funds seized. Accounts over 100,000 euros will have 9.9% seized. And then the eurozone’s emergency lending facility and the International Monetary Fund will inject 10 billion euros into the banks to allow them to keep operating.”
This leads to the question, “Could this spread to other banking systems? Particularly where banks are as insolvent or as in Ireland, Greece and even Spain where depositors had been calmed from bank runs through EU/IMF intervention with no threats to their deposits. The new game is if banks suffer further capital problems, deposits are fair game. Will depositors start to move their money?
While someone could say, “That’s why I keep my money in a highly rated bank or financial institution?” The reality is that no bank in the world (fractionalized banking) could survive a bank run and with the global financial markets as linked as they currently are, exposure and risks could change exponentially.
Wait! There may be good news. Like most systems (political, economic, etc) around the world, the ‘global financial system’ has become complex, monolithic and threatened by ‘fatal failure’ over the past 70 years, where a depositor run on a small Island bank in Cyprus or as we saw 5 yrs ago, a larger commercial investor run on a financial services firm like Lehman Brothers could lead to global financial collapse.
In recent history we’ve been seeing the unwinding of centralized government like the USSR in the late 1980s-90s which has led to decentralization and more autonomy in smaller nation groups like in the eastern block of Europe. We’ve also seen talks and moves away from a Britton Wood style reserve currency system as the US Dollar has enjoyed since 1944. Russia and China and other nations have entered into trading arrangements that don’t require settlement in USD. In addition, countries like Russia, China and India have made unconventional moves to pursue trading agreements in South America, Africa and other places.
These new trading and monetary policies may seem like a threat to the US in the short term as they may decrease the demand for the US Dollar and affect the ability of the Federal government to finance its debt, but that may be a blessing in disguise.
A decentralized system leads to robust, competitive and failure absorbing entities in governance, economics and monetary policy. Open or freer market opportunities facilitates this.
Christopher M. Mahon, Editor
The President last week was challenged by Congress to be specific in its ‘Drone Policy’ and other military permissible actions on US soil. Through Attorney General Eric Holder, he admitted it was ‘inappropriate’ and after Senator Rand Paul’s 13 hour filibuster of CIA Director nominee John Brennan, admitted in a letter the next day, “It has come to my attention that you have now asked an additional question: ‘Does the President have the authority to use a weaponized drone to kill an American not engaged in combat on American soil?’ The answer to that question is no.”
Was the President’s answer adequate enough and by what authority is that ‘NO’ tied to?
Senator Paul framed the issue in the first hour of the filibuster, “If there’s a gentleman or a woman with a grenade launcher attacking our buildings or our Capitol, we use lethal force. You don’t get due process if you’re involved with actively attacking us, our soldiers or our government. You don’t get due process if you’re overseas in a battle shooting at our soldiers. But that’s not what we’re talking about. The Wall Street Journal reported and said that the bulk of the drone attacks are signature attacks. They don’t even know the name of the person. A line or a caravan is going from a place where we think there are bad people to a place where we think they might commit harm and we kill the caravan, not the person. Is that the standard that we will now use in America?”
“I will speak today until the President responds and says no, we won’t kill Americans in cafes; no, we won’t kill you at home in your bed at night; no, we won’t drop bombs on restaurants. Is that so hard?”
Senator Paul’s response to AG Holder’s letter the day after the filibuster was ‘Hooray!’ as he felt that those who staged the filibuster received the answer they were looking for and the American people are better off in hearing it. But while the Administration was dragged from ‘inappropriate’ to ‘No’, and there may even be an implied constitutional principle rather than arbitrary power that makes that decision, it is vague at best.
“Having unlimited power; uncontrolled or unrestricted by law; despotic; tyrannical: an arbitrary government.”
John Locke, a seventeenth century philosopher that some refer to as the ‘Father of Classical Liberalism’ who’s ideas the founding era fathers called upon in creating the US Constitution said, “This freedom from absolute, arbitrary power, is so necessary to, and closely joined with a man’s preservation, that he cannot part with it”. The mortal sin of government is arbitrary power, while a government restrained by law (constitution) will survive.
This has been the history of the United States, even while constitutional boundaries have been slowly broken down and powers arbitrarily assumed by Washington have become more prevalent, the ‘SS America’ though her belly full with assumed authority in Washington still navigates and protects its precious cargo and passengers to some degree. But what transpired last week is very important in understanding the condition and restoration needed to right this Republic.
While the week started out very interesting as Washington rarely does, ‘aired its dirty laundry’ it became even more so as Senators John McCain and Lindsay Graham criticized Senator Paul and his colleagues that staged the filibuster the next morning. Senator McCain called some of Paul’s comments ‘Ridiculous’ and said, “So we’ve done a, I think, a disservice to a lot Americans by making them believe that somehow they’re in danger from their government They’re not. But we are in danger. We are in danger from a dedicated, longstanding, easily replaceable leadership enemy that is hellbent on our destruction. And this leads us to having to do things that perhaps we haven’t had to do in other more conventional wars.”
Senator Graham added a rebuke and challenge to why now, “We should be talking about it. I welcome a reasoned discussion. But to my Republican colleagues, I don’t remember any of you coming down here suggesting that President Bush was going to kill anybody with a drone.”
To help Senator Graham’s memory, there were those in Congress (not many GOP) that criticized the Patriot Act and violations of FISA (Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act) in unwarranted monitoring of emails and cell phone calls as there was a great public shift in tolerance at the time to give up personal freedoms for security. Many of the legislative and executive actions back then have paved the way for more aggressive legislation that could possibly violate state non delegated power and personal liberties like due process today. NDAA 2012 is a good example of that as around 20 states are in the process of creating resolutions and laws to ‘nullify’ it.
Senator Rand’s response to McCain and Graham was, “They are on the wrong side of history on this one. They believe that war is everywhere and there kind of with the President who believes there’s no geographic limitations. They also say that the laws of war apply, what the laws of war apply means is that you don’t get Due Process and I can understand that in a battlefield, you don’t read Miranda Rights, if you are shooting at me, we kill you. But they say America’s a battlefield and that’s a huge mistake. If we bring what is in effect Marshall Law to America, Americans will be really upset. These are the same people (McCain and Graham) that want to detain American citizens indefinitely without a trial.”
While to the ‘untrained eye’ these last few days may seem like a lot to do about nothing and they may automatically tune out politics or just can’t see drone strikes or other military actions on American soil. But consider, in ‘broad daylight’ we have an administration that can only muster up ‘inappropriate’ to describe the act of the federal government killing Americans without due process and many in Congress berating the questioners. If this is the response in public, what could happen in the ‘Fog of War’? Isn’t it important to tie these arbitrary powers to law and a system of authorization?
While filibusters are unique in that they happen infrequently, the filibuster by Senator Rand Paul and others was unique in that it called for less federal military intervention which we haven’t heard from in more than six decades. Interesting, a filibuster in 1917 by Republicans to kill pro-intervention into World War 1 was defeated by senate Democrats through cloture at the urging of President Woodrow Wilson.
Up until the early 1950s, many conservatives were non-interventionists and the ‘Old Right’ was committed to restraining executive powers until the late 1960s when neoconservatives began to endorse interventionism in opposition to the USSR.
The Right were generally dragged kicking and screaming into both world wars and as McCain et al demonstrated this past week, neoconservatives are having a very difficult time justifying the precious lives of our children, the destruction of important military assets and the sacrifice of individual liberty in a futile effort to buy off world support through aid and occupation and the pretense of security at home through paternalism.
As Ecclesiastes 1.9 says, “There’s nothing new under the sun.” What has been done is being done and whether it’s Conservative or Progressive ideology that you think is ‘new’, you are mistaken my friend.
But there is a ‘Plumbline’, a measuring stick that allows these old ideas to be rehashed and it protects liberty in the process. It’s the US Constitution, which says ‘No’ to federal power except for which has been specifically delegated and ‘Yes’ to the states for all other non delegated power.
James Madison writing in Federalist Papers 10 warned against the loss of personal freedoms in a ‘centralized government’, “A pure democracy can admit no cure for the mischiefs of faction(s) (special interests).. Hence it is, that democracies have ever been found incompatible with personal security or the rights of property; and have, in general, been as short in their lives as they have been violent in their deaths”.
Missing from the President’s and AG Holder’s response, as well as the media coverage and the critics of the filibuster is the US Constitution and a discussion of the limits of government power under it. Washington as we know it HAS TO live under arbitrary power to consolidate more power and the money that goes with it. For Individual Liberty to prevail and a healthy society as a result, constitutional authority must be reestablished.
To be blunt, it is the ‘Rand Pauls’ and Ron Wydens (sole Democratic Senator to speak at filibuster) whose job it is to dismantle (not change) Washington and it is the state legislatures around the nation whose job it is to resurrect State Authority in order to bring back Constitutional alignment.
Christopher M. Mahon, Editor
Christopher Mahon is the Editor of Ambidextrous Civic Discourse, ‘Where the Right and Left meet’; a place where you can find information about economics, philosophical and political issues that challenge those on the ‘right’ or the ‘left’ on what works best in society. At ACD you can find articles, essays and book classics on the subjects mentioned above that contrast differences like Keynesian vs. Classical Economics or the function of government – Negative vs. Positive Liberty. Please peruse our Library and videos. Chris has a Masters in Accounting and Financial Management. Learn more at – www.ambidextrouscivicdiscourse.com
Federal Reserve just released their ‘Flow of Funds Accounts of the United States’ for the last quarter of 2012. The report measures increases in total domestic debt, including debt of the federal government. Total Domestic Non financial debt increased by almost 150% from the 3rd quarter and 28% from 2011 4th quarter. Within the debt category are: Households, Businesses, State and Local governments and the Federal government. Federal spending in the last quarter of 2012 increased by 11.2%. For 2012 debt, households rose by 0.2, business 5.7, state and local contracted slightly at a rate of -0.2 and federal debt increased by 10.9 for the year.
Since 2008 federal debt has increased each year by 24.2%, 22.7%, 20.2%, 11.4%, 10.9% respectively. Over the five year period 2008-2012 while total debt (as mentioned above) increased an average of 6.12% the Federal debt increased by an average 17.88%. The state and local government debt has decreased an average -1.4% during same period.
The stark reality is that creditors (and taxpayers) are no longer lining up to lend to household, business or even state and local governments. The federal government however has an open window to borrow continually and by many around the world is still seen as a safe harbor when assessing risk. The question is when will this end?
For a copy of the full report
Christopher M. Mahon, Editor
As the President and Congress face Sequestration, an imposed cut on spending increases of roughly 2% which would amount to $42 billion in FY 2013 according to the CBO (Congressional Budget Office). Most would agree that cutting 2% out of their home budget is no fun, as evenings out and other discretionary spending would suffer but it wouldn’t warrant the reactions coming from the Media, the President and other politicians in Washington.
Some have argued against federal spending cuts and would say the more important issue is a ‘balanced budget’ and that raising taxes would be the better way to accomplish this, as you can pinpoint those taxes toward the wealthier class of citizens. Economists like Paul Krugman of the NYTimes go even further by inferring that private and government spending in the economy make no difference and that he could argue that money in government hands can be ‘invested’ more fairly. Free market believers on the other hand would make the point that Laissez-faire “an economic environment in which transactions between private parties are free from tariffs, government subsidies, and enforced monopolies, with only enough government regulations sufficient to protect property rights against theft and aggression,” is more efficient, less fragile and as a result of competitive markets allows for success, failure and the reallocation of resources to their most productive positions.
Today, if you are in the ‘Middle Class’ you might be expecting something from Washington as both parties in the 2012 election out did themselves in making promises to this class of people.
In two recent studies by Harvard Professors, they show that levels of public spending affects private markets and the economy in a negative way, (maybe Harvard Economic chairman Greg Mankiw is making some influence in the pro-Keynesian college curriculum). In the studies ”Large changes in ﬁscal policy: taxes versus spending“, Alberto Alesina and Silvia Ardagna and “Do Powerful Politicians Cause Corporate Downsizing?” Lauren Cohen, Joshua Coval, and Christopher Malloy (all of Harvard Business School), the ‘public versus private economy’ is taken into consideration on how they perform and interact. In the ‘Large Changes’ study, they look at OECD countries (Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development) from 1970-2007 and identified periods of austerity where government was slashed and periods when government grew in proportion to the private market. While there has been criticism of the study, the study supports the Classical Market (Laissez-faire) concept that less government intrusion leaves the private market to ‘self regulate’, while isolating failures (which become systemic in centralized/government dominated markets) and through competition, creative models result that are more efficient and tailored to consumers’ wants and needs. In the second study, they track politicians in the US Congress that become Chairpersons or influential leaders of their party and whether or not that affects the amount of federal spending that flows to their home state and the effects of that spending. The study finds that there’s an almost 50% increase in federal spending that flows to the home state of the Congressman and that the change in public:private ratio (increase in public) has a dramatic negative influence on the state’s private industries with layoffs and economic slow downs resulting many times. In the first study, when public spending has been cut, and there were some isolated incidences of initial slowdowns, vibrant growth has followed. The argument being made by the White House and some in Congress is that if you cut federal spending the ‘fragile US recovery’ will stall. Many believe this has already happened and that the opposite should prove true that if you cut federal spending, putting more money in the hands of the individual and the private market, and if Washington gives clear signals to the credit markets and private capital sitting on the sidelines that Washington will ‘stand down’, that sustainable recovery is more probable.
Over the last Eighty years, Washington has built an intricate ‘Welfare and Warfare’ system that provides regulation and subsidizes to almost every area of society through business, individual and foreign aid. “Government spending at the start of the 20th century was less than 7 percent of GDP. It vaulted to almost 30 percent of GDP by the end of World War I, and then settled down to 10 percent of GDP in the 1920s. In the 1930s spending doubled to 20 percent of GDP. Defense spending in World War II drove overall government spending over 50 percent of GDP before declining to 22 percent of GDP in the late 1940s. The 1950s began a steady spending increase to about 36 percent of GDP by 1982. In the 1990s and 2000s government spending stayed about constant at 33-35 percent of GDP, but in the aftermath of the Crash of 2008 spending has jogged up to 40 percent of GDP.” USGovernmentSpending.com
While many Conservatives have warned of a growing ‘Socialization’ of US society through federal domestic intervention into commerce, education, family and other areas of civilian life that in their view ‘robs personal freedoms’, Progressives have warned about a growing military complex as a result of protecting the US against terrorism abroad and more recently even domestically as we ‘hunt down’ homegrown terrorists. The US has been transformed from a predominantly ‘private society’ where most transactions happen without government intervention to a ‘mixed society’ where a considerable amount of daily transactions (direct and indirect) include government influence.
Washington has proved what the founding era fathers feared, that the nature of federal power and spending is to grow and that they can’t police themselves. There are only two likely outcomes:
One is given in this illustration by Stan Druckenmiller a former ‘well heeled’ Hedge Fund Manager, ”The bond market is the banker for the federal government. Imagine if you will, your banker comes to you and you’re making $40,000/yr and lends you money at zero interest – no cost. Later, after you’re in debt $5 million, they realize, ‘He’s making $40,000 and has $5 million in debt!’ Suddenly your interest rate goes to 16% and carrying cost goes through the roof. That’s what will happen to the US government over the next 10 years, and it will happen suddenly like Greece. Greece was in good shape in 2010.” The market eventually gets it’s revenge.
The second, is happening but slowly as several states for various reasons (anti-NDAA and Gun Control legislation for example) are standing up to federal power that the states believe violate constitutional authority and are reclaiming those powers to protect their citizens. As Lincoln era legislation was passed in the 1860s: National Banking Acts, Legal Tender, Morrill Grants (education) and railway acts (early corporate cronyism) intended to nationalize power for a greater purpose of the ‘American Experience’ which was followed years later by FDR New Deal federal expansion of power as mentioned earlier in the article, popular sentiment has started to change as Americans are looking for relief and protection from a capricious federal government that it is out of control.
After World War 1, Presidents Warren Harding and Calvin Coolidge were met in 1920 with one of the worst Depressions in history as prices fell almost 20% (Wholesale by more than 36%). Some blamed it on returning troops from the war, others on monetary policy as interest rates were almost doubled and even some blamed gold and the anticipation of inflation (Federal Reserve policies). Harding and Coolidge cut federal spending by more than 20%, considering government spending a burden on the private market, and the devastating depression of 1920 lasted approximately 18 months. Economists will point to the austerity cuts of the 1920s and Laissez-faire policies of Coolidge as the path to follow, while some instead will point to the aggressive spending of the New Deal era as the better solution for today. Keep in mind that the 1929 depression didn’t show ‘green shoots’ until 1937 and the stock market took 25 years to recover to its pre-crash levels.
The real question is more philosophical and goes to the core of Platonic and Hobbesian differences. Plato illustrated three classes of citizens in his Republic: A ‘Ruler’ class, ‘Warrior’ class and ‘Worker’ class. Washington today has become that Ruler class, while the courts and law enforcement could be the Warrior class and all others fall into the Worker class. Hobbes believed that ‘all men were created equal’ in the sense of potential and ability of each man to find life, liberty and to pursue happiness. In that philosophy our Declaration of Independence was forged and won, the US Constitution was built upon this principle that ‘men’ can find their way and through the voluntary and free association and exchange in the marketplace society is regulated and healthy, while government can play a small part in a negative position (stands down) to defend man’s property and individual liberties. These rights remain with man until man forfeits those rights when taking them from another. Which will we choose going forward?
Even if we took the advice of Coolidge and the studies mentioned above seriously and were able to make substantial cuts in federal spending and a robust recovery resulted; wouldn’t we find ourselves in jeopardy again as soon as the next crisis appears and the federal government steps in? In order to solve our spending problems we need to be fiscally responsible and we need to mend our Constitutional Fence.
Tell us what you think.
Christopher M. Mahon, Editor
Jerome Powell, board member of the Federal Reserve teed up his speech on ‘too big to fail’ At the Institute of International Bankers 2013 Washington Conference, Washington, D.C. on March 4, 2013 by saying, “In broad terms, these reforms (Dodd-Frank) seek to eliminate the expectation of bailouts in two ways–by significantly reducing the likelihood of systemic firm failures, and by greatly limiting the costs to society of such failures. When failures are unusual and the costs of such a failure are modest, the expectation at the heart of too big to fail will be substantially eliminated. My focus today is principally on the second of these two aspects of reform–containing the costs and systemic risks from failures, a goal being advanced by work to create a credible resolution authority.”
Powell who was appointed to the position May of 2012 and served as an Assistant Secretary and as Undersecretary of the Treasury under President George H.W. Bush and had worked for the Carlyle Group 1997-2005 graduated from Princeton and received his law degree from Georgetown went on to say,
“It is worth noting that too big to fail is not simply about size. A big institution is “too big” when there is an expectation that government will do whatever it takes to rescue that institution from failure, thus bestowing an effective risk premium subsidy. Reforms to end too big to fail must address the causes of this expectation.”
Powell remembering back to the Savings and Loan debacle, goes on to justify Fed intervention, “It happened in January 1991, at a time of great stress in the financial system and the broader economy, and only days after 45 depository institutions in the region had been closed and 300,000 deposit accounts frozen. My Treasury colleagues and I joined representatives of the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation (FDIC) and the Federal Reserve Board in a conference room on a Sunday morning. We came to understand that either the FDIC would protect all of the bank’s depositors, without regard to deposit insurance limits, or there would likely be a run on all the money center banks the next morning–the first such run since 1933. We chose the first option, without dissent.”
Powell believes that between the capitalization requirements in Basel III and the new oversights produced through Dodd-Frank of creating a ‘Single Port of Entry’ and a ‘Living Will’ type liquidation through Orderly Liquidation Authority (OLA) which he describes as similar to the bankruptcy process, that a banking systemic failure is less likely and that generally the financial markets are healthier today as a result.
“Under single point of entry, the FDIC will be appointed receiver of only the top-tier parent holding company of the failed financial group. Promptly after the parent holding company is placed into receivership, the FDIC will transfer the assets of the parent company (primarily its investments in subsidiaries) to a bridge holding company. Equity claims of the failed parent company’s shareholders will be wiped out, and claims of its unsecured debt holders will be written down as necessary to reflect any losses in the receivership that the shareholders cannot cover. To capitalize the bridge holding company and the operating subsidiaries, and to permit transfer of ownership and control of the bridge company back to private hands, the FDIC will exchange the remaining claims of unsecured creditors of the parent for equity and/or debt claims of the bridge company. If necessary, the FDIC would provide temporary liquidity to the bridge company until the “bail-in” of the failed parent company’s creditors can be accomplished.”
Critics of the OLA and other Dodd-Frank legislation say that basically the legislation promotes further Moral Hazard and ‘enshrines the taxpayer’ in the bailout process. In addition, it firmly places the federal government in the position of ‘choosing winners and losses’ as JP Morgan did himself during the Bank Panic of 1907, settling grudges and eliminating competition.
The ‘Living Will’ legislation requires ‘too big to fail’ entities to create a financial/legal document that outlines how the entity should be liquidated in case of ‘death’. Kind of like today’s Medical Proxies where care and decisions are given to someone else (receivership). It’s ironic that ‘end of life’ decisions, medical (Affordable Care Act) and financial (Dodd-Frank) all are ending up in the control of the federal government.
It was noted above that Mr Powell worked for the US Treasury prior to the Fed Reserve position which is fairly common and some view as producing a myopic view of financial problems and solutions. In addition, his work at Carlyle in Global investments reinforces the potential to maintain the status quo of a centralized financial system rather than alternatives that would diversify and minimize ‘long tail’ risks and systemic failure. As with many of our problems today, more government stands in the way of market solutions that allow failure that is not systemic, that is productive and the process reallocates resources to their more efficient uses rather than sophisticated ‘Crony Capitalism’.
To read the speech by Jerome Powell in its entirety.
Please share your thoughts with us and comment below. Thanks.
Christopher M. Mahon, Editor
In the 1939 Frank Capra fictional movie classic, ‘Mr Smith Goes To Washington’, we find after the death of a US Senator named Samuel Foley of a western state, the Governor of that state Governor Hubert “Happy” Hopper through pressure from his children appoints their Boys Club leader Jefferson Smith played by Jimmy Stewart to ‘go to Washington’ and take on the corruption and to build a boy’s park in his home state. Unfortunately for Mr Smith, being wet behind the ears and not knowing the harsh realities of the Belt Way and how favors and projects are bought and paid for, his efforts are challenged; as his colleague, also of the same state, senior Senator Joseph Pain played by Claude Rains and a powerful media magnate Jim Taylor who ‘runs the state’ plot Mr Smith’s demise through accusations of fraud and self aggrandizement in stealing the Boy’s Club money.
While Mr Smith is vindicated to some extent at the end of the film as the political graft of his state’s senior Senator Paine and media magnate Taylor is exposed, still you turn the movie off thinking that nothing really changes in Washington, DC.
I highly recommend the movie to our younger generation, and while it is in Black & White (for some reason that’s a ‘deal breaker’), you’ll enjoy it very much. But let’s modernize this story for today and address what most think – that ‘nothing really changes’ in Washington. Whether it’s a new President every four or eight years or even a grassroots movement like in 2010 when the GOP picked up many Congressional House and Senate seats, the frustration of most is the same as they see continued: budget deficits, US debt, and monetary policy that Washington uses to unconstitutionally over promise on yet more social, economic and foreign policy intervention at the expense of the Individual.
Enter Ron Paul stage left, arguably a ‘modern day Jefferson Smith’. While Paul raises the volume of conversation on both sides of the aisle and can even dominate a family dinner conversation; love, hate or ambivalence toward him, most would agree he has been consistently promoting the dynamics of applying the original meaning of constitutional limited powers, that there are specific delegated powers that belong to the federal (General) government and the non delegated powers belong to the states, municipalities and the Individual.
Representative Paul, retired last month and while we could discuss his failure/success in passing ‘constitutional’ federal legislation, he was known as ‘Dr NO’ where Washington tried to pass overreaching legislation that tread on state non delegated powers and he brought a voice to the forefront of the need to get back to limited government. Like Smith in the movie, Paul was marginalized by government collusion, insider deals and ‘Greater Good’ promises of national security, healthcare for all, and equality for the good of the ‘General Welfare’.
While it is important to send Congressmen to our US Capitol that understand and will vote pro-Constitution in an effort to protect Individual Liberties, it is even more important to send them to the state houses to resist federal overreach into non delegated powers.
Federal policies like the National Defense Authorization Act, Affordable Care Act and new federal Gun Control legislation are generally written in Washington and while they include invitations to special interest groups that can have influence in ‘authoring’, getting behind and supporting the legislation, the bill drafting rarely include the states or citizen groups of which they will have the greatest impact. The good news is that many states are standing up to these bills that while well intended, take away the non delegated powers of the states and create unintended results as have been seen through education, retirement, healthcare and employment.
The founding generation understood that limited enumerated federal power and all other power left to the states protected against a fragile and monolithic government structure that would be impervious to change and market dynamics. To paraphrase David Brooks, his recent comments on Meet The Press regarding the Newtown, CT shooting and federal gun control bills, “‘in New York City there’s literally a police station around the corner, a few minutes away, while in a small town in Wyoming, it could take 45 minutes to an hour if you are lucky..’” Brooks was emphasizing the differing needs and wants throughout the country and that to create ‘one size fits all’ policies are not practical and can be counterproductive.
Robert Natelson of the Goldwater Institute writing in The Original Constitution (2010), “One of the great achievements of the federal convention (1787) was the idea of dual sovereignty. Previously, people had conceived as sovereignty as an attribute always located in some one place. The Framers, however, drafted a document that divided sovereignty between states and federal government—or more precisely between the American people as a whole and subsets of the American people operating through their state governments.” Natelson goes on to use the Ratifiers’ understanding of what they were signing as delegates of the Colonies (States) at the time. He digs into rare documents of the colonial conventions that expose their fear of a runaway federal government that would eventually create one sovereign government and the rights of the people would be lost. While the states and local governments had the power to create or support churches, currency and covenants on how to live, they did not want that falling into the hands of a ‘General Government’.
Unfortunately for the signers it wouldn’t be long before those constitutional lines would be challenged as both Virginia and Kentucky in 1799 created resolutions written by Madison and Jefferson in opposition to the Alien and Sedition Act in part but also as the seeds of a monolithic process were already at work as the Federal Government proposed that they could regulate their own power through their three branches of Government. These resolutions were a wakeup call that the states had sovereign powers and that it was within their constitutional rights to defend them.
Madison warned, “Though clothed with the pretext of necessity, or disguised by arguments of expediency, may yet establish precedents which may ultimately devote a generous and unsuspicious people to all the consequences of usurped power.” Big Government if sold properly galvanizes a constituency of a majority over a minority only when the states shirk their responsibilities.
At the website Tenth Amendment Center, you can see which states have started to resist federal overreach into the non delegated powers of the states. Between ‘Health Freedom Acts’, Nullification, No Medicare Expansion and outright Rejection there are more than 40 states involved in resisting federal power in the Affordable Care Act. There are 17 states currently in different stages of nullifying the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA 2012) legislation that allows the federal government to violate Due Process rights and potentially to commandeer state resources without state authorization.
Unfortunately, these success stories of the States standing up for their rightful powers and responsibilities are not covered on national news outlets and there is an obvious need for more resources and involvement in each state to resist a growing federal government and its overreach into state non delegated powers.
If, like after watching the 1939 classic ‘Mr Smith Goes To Washington’ you find yourself saying, “What can I do? Can there really be change?” The answer is yes but it’s not in Washington politics but at your State House or in your local legislative District. The powers of Nullification, Interposition and other Article V tools have lain dormant for years, but today is the day for states to take action. Get involved by getting local in your politics. You can find out what’s going on in your state by visiting the Tenth Amendment Center.
For years Wall Street and Washington has siphoned off our ‘best and brightest’ to concentrate power, isn’t it time through the sovereign powers of the states to diffuse Washington’s unconstitutional stranglehold on society?
Christopher M. Mahon, Editor
A very interesting exchange on Foxnews Sunday with Chris Wallace as Karl Rove, one of the panelists is asked about recent comments from Talk Radio host Mark Levin who said, “He’s also up there with that stupid little third grade white board of his, with his fourth-grade writing style, talking about how they committed $30 million to Tea Party candidates. Bring on your little white board. We’re ready!”
Levin, like many other media critics, grassroots Republican Party groups like the Tea Party are still hurting from the devastating loss the party suffered in 2012 and who blame Rove in part with supporting nominees and a ‘runaway platform’ after the convention last August that many states, local districts and the grassroots like the Tea Party didn’t support.
Karl Rove, a ‘Republican Strategist’ has been involved with the political process since 1968 and has worked with mostly ‘modern traditional’ Republican candidates whose policies generally support a large military footprint and supply side business incentives. Rove has played a part in both George H and George W Bush campaigns and other campaigns like Ronald Reagan’s.
Rove has been in the news lately when it was announced earlier this year that he was starting up the Conservative Victory Project, which is described on Wikipedia as, “the prominent Republican political activist, and the super-PAC American Crossroads. Its purpose was to support “electable” conservative political candidates for political office in the United States. The effort was prompted by embarrassing failures of several Tea Party and independent conservative candidates in the elections of 2012. The project has been strongly criticized by some other conservative activists.”
Rove goes on to make the point later in the Foxnews show, “Right. And our (Conservative Victory Project) object is, to avoid having stupid candidates who can’t win general elections, who are undisciplined, can’t raise money, aren’t putting together the support necessary to win a general election campaign, because this money is too difficult to raise to be spending it on behalf of candidates who have little chance of winning in a general election.” Wallace then goes on to ask this question to Bob Woodward, “Bob, what does it say about the Republican Party when you have Karl Rove stepping in there to say we have got to try to police those Republican primary voters — I mean, it’s part of the process, I’m not saying there is anything wrong with that, but they are trying to police who Republican primary voters are going to pick to go up against Democrats (interrupted).. and let me just finish the question. And, when you have Marco Rubio, who is pretty conservative and a Tea Party favorite giving the Republican response and the Tea Party thinks they have to have somebody else to give a response to the response?” Woodward then responds, “My last book is going to be called “Some People Never Go Away,” and Karl is going to get his own chapter (LAUGHTER) because he never goes away.”
Woodward goes on to point out, “I think the problem in the Republican Party is really not money. I think they’ve got lots of it. I think it is – theory of the case, why are we here, what is our message, how to connect to the real world and this idea about 30 million here, we’re going to do that, I think is the wrong track…you’re going to set yourself up as a kind of politburo, vetting these candidates …I mean the whole theory of Republicanism is to let the local state or a district decide.”
Is Karl Rove or other party advocates needed to sift out ‘unelectable’ candidates or can that be done through the ‘primary marketplace’ (as Rand Paul suggested) or from the ground up through local and district support for candidates and issues? If Rove is a problem is he merely a symptom of a greater problem that lies at the feet of the Republican National Committee (RNC)?
Many have tried to pin down a reason for the GOP’s victory in the 2010 election results: An economy in crisis, a rejection of Obama and the Tea Party and other grassroots movements that were calling for ‘limited government’ and ‘fiscal responsibility’. While incumbents were fair game, it was generally a big year for Republicans. Among record turnout, the GOP saw increased numbers in most categories and young people in particular.
The college students that were turning out for Tea Party and other grassroots movements that centered on ‘Liberty’, ‘Limited Government’ and the Constitution seemed to strike a chord with the message. But then they saw their candidate Ron Paul vilified and marginalized in both the news media and the debates. The issues that were important to them – limiting federal power, free markets, keeping federal government out of social issues and a ‘constitutional compass’ weren’t taken seriously. But they were told, even though their candidate was battered and bruised all was not for nothing as the Convention in August (2012) would show that they were heard loud and clear and that some of those issues would make it onto the RNC platform.
In ‘RNC Rule 12: The Death of The GOP?’ during the RNC Convention last year I wrote about the latest RNC rule change to control the national platform. “The RNC Rule 12 that was enacted yesterday gives the ability of the GOP establishment in Washington the power to change rules and regulations quickly to destabilize grassroots movements that have less funds and influence in order to centralize power and the platform. Tea Party-type fires will be extinguished way earlier and if you happen to be in a majority interest today, good luck when the majority changes tomorrow due to special interest winds – platform will follow favor and money. Any creative grassroots movement going forward unfortunately will occur outside the GOP brand.”
The history of the Republican Party starts in 1854. The history of the RNC starts in 1856, launched with the goal of equal representation throughout the states through one representative from each state. The idea was that through local and diverse representation the people would be heard and constitutional liberty would be protected and ideas and solutions would germinate locally and arrive in Washington to create a national platform. As years have passed that representation has changed and power has moved from the rural and urban locales to Washington, DC. Ironically, Woodward unlike some of the GOP panelists picked up on that.
If the Republican Party can solve their problem of representation and the irresistible urge to centralize power in Washington, maybe that can be reflected in their national platform that puts the authority of the Constitution first in governing under the delegated powers and protecting the non delegated powers that were to remain in the states. Is the fate of the ‘Grand Ole Party’ the fate of a Nation?
Christopher Mahon, editor
Erskine Bowles and Alan Simpson of the President’s National Commission on Fiscal Responsibility and Reform which released a budget proposal on December 1, 2010, proposed $4 billion in deficit cuts and to a balance budget by 2035, Congressman Paul Ryan(R) was also on that committee and came out with his own plan that proposed to eliminate the US deficit in 30 years and to reduce the US debt, the 2012 version passed the House along party lines in 2011. Unfortunately nothing passed the Senate and nothing made it to the President’s desk to sign.
The new Bowles-Simpson plan is a little lighter as it would cut $2.4 billion over 10 years, cutting $600 billion from Medicare and Medicaid, $600 billion from new tax deductions and tax revenues, while $1.2 Billion in discretionary spending would be cut. It would also consider changes to slow increases in Social Security and other federal retirement payouts.
Last night at an Arizona Maricopa County Legislative District meeting, US Congressman David Schweikert(R), former Committee Member on Financial Services, shared his frustration in solving the budget and deficit problem and spoke of the urgency of a budget and how four years without one has meant no formal financial decisions made and that borrowed money goes to post budget commitments or status quo which compounds many financial problems within government.
Schweikert also hinted at a ‘news making’ tax policy announcement to be released by the GOP later this month, that would be ‘Flat tax’ in nature and could be a game changer in the Sequestration drama. Could mortgage interest, 179 deductions (accelerated depreciation) for business be on the table? Would GE (years ago paid no taxes on profit) or Face Book this year have to ante up? Schweikert believes this will force the Democrats to have to use logic and numbers in approaching spending and not emotional appeal to the public that he says quite frankly has been working.
The skeptic in me thinks this may be more of another stall to kick the can down the road a few more months for another ‘financial cliff’ or sequestration crisis. We’ll see.
Christopher M. Mahon, Editor
Federal Reserve Governor Elizabeth A. Duke spoke At the Southeastern Bank Management and Directors Conference at the University of Georgia today commenting on the state of and future of the Community Banking system. In her speech this morning she said, “Just as the seeds of a crisis are often sown in earlier boom times, strength can be forged during the tough times that follow a crisis. As we did in the early 1990s, bankers and regulators today have learned from the lessons of the crisis and are determined not to repeat the mistakes of the past.”
She also refers to the 1991 Savings & Loan crisis and the federal banking regulations that followed. “I hear from a lot of community bankers who are concerned that the community banking model might not survive. Many paint a picture so bleak that they see only personal retirement or sale of the bank as viable strategies. I completely understand how tiring it is to fight a financial crisis and survive a deep recession followed by a weak recovery only to confront what seems to be a tsunami of new regulations.
I felt all of those same emotions in 1991. I was a community banker then. We had survived the savings and loan crisis with some bruises, but we were still standing. The Financial Institutions Reform, Recovery and Enforcement Act of 1989 (FIRREA) had been followed by the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation Improvement Act (FDICIA) in 1991. I had more new regulations stacked on my desk than I had employees in the bank. My bank had just reached the $100 million mark in total assets through the purchase of two branches from a failing thrift. Even more daunting for me personally, was the sudden death of my bank’s chief executive officer (CEO), leaving me as the new CEO. Frankly, I didn’t know how I was going to tackle all that lay in front of us. But those dark days in 1991 were followed by 15 years of exceptionally strong performance for all banks, including my own. And those experiences–the good and the bad–give me confidence in predicting a bright future for community banking today.”
What she fails to recognize is the affect that interest rate and monetary policy manipulation have on ‘less regulated’ and ‘less centralized’ entities like credit unions and other community banks. The supply of credit and the understanding of risk in evaluating the underwriting process is greatly skewed.
She goes on to say, “The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) recently released final rules defining “qualified mortgages” that include safe harbors for mortgages that meet specific loan term and pricing criteria, including certain balloon loans made by community banks in rural or underserved areas.2 At the same time, they issued a new proposal that contains additional community bank exceptions, as well as a question about the treatment of loans to refinance balloon payments on mortgages that community banks may already have on their books.3 Noting that smaller institutions have already demonstrated that they generally do a good job of servicing the loans they originate and that the investments necessary to meet the requirements would be unduly onerous for institutions that service a small number of loans, the CFPB also exempted most community banks from many of the provisions of new servicing requirements.4 I think such exceptions are especially important because, as I discussed in a recent speech and will touch upon later in my remarks, Federal Reserve research has shown that (1) community banks are important lenders in the mortgage market, (2) those mortgage loans represent a significant portion of community bank lending, and (3) community banks are quite responsible in their practices.”
These recent changes and the capricious nature of government in general and Federal Reserve policy specifically stalls capital on the sideline as investor groups are hesitant to make long term commitments while government has the power to change policy almost at any moment.
For the complete text of Board Governor Duke’s address or additional FRB publications click here
Christopher M. Mahon, Editor
We live in a time of furious federal legislation that assaults constitutional integrity that limits government power through the specific delegated (enumerated) powers that the states have granted to the Federal Government. Unfortunately like in the late 18th century and as we are finding out today, pragmatic attempts at solving socio-economic ills lead to attempts to violate these protections. If the lofty competitive universities of today and yesteryear teach anything, it’s that the ‘ends justify the means’ and as Plato mapped out in his Republic, there is an elite group that has been bred, taught and primed to lead and govern all men. They reside in Washington but power share through government-business relationships on Wall Street and other places that reinforce that power arrangement.
In the Virginia Legislature, January 23rd, 1799 addressing their concerns over the federal Alien and Sedition Acts of 1798 and its ambitious attempt to solve what the ‘Nationalists’ of their time perceived as an immigration problem, they passed law that violated state sovereignty for a ‘Greater Good’; and in Thomas Wood’s book, Nullification: How To Resist Federal Tyranny in the 21st Century’, and his quote below, tell me if this doesn’t sound like the recent battle that Arizona had through SB 1070 and where the Constitution speaks regarding state and federal powers or some of the federal legislation coming from Washington regarding NDAA, Gun and most recent Immigration legislation that contains ‘unpacked’ language that potentially violate ‘Due Process’ and other rights for expediency:
“If a suspicion that aliens are dangerous, constitutes the justification of that power exercised over them by Congress then a similar suspicion will justify the exercise of a similar power over natives (citizens); because there is nothing in the Constitution distinguishing between the power of a state to permit the residence of natives and aliens. It is, therefore, a right originally possessed, and never surrendered, by the respective states, and which is rendered dear and valuable to Virginia, because it is assailed through the bosom of the Constitution, and because her peculiar situation renders the easy admission of artisans and laborers an interest of vast importance. But this bill contains other features, still more alarming and dangerous. It dispenses with the trial by jury; it violates the judicial system; it confounds legislative, executive, and judicial powers; it punishes without trial; and it bestows upon the President despotic power over a numerous class of men. Are such measures consistent with our constitutional principles? And will an accumulation of power so extensive in the hands of the executive, over aliens, secure to natives (citizens) the blessings of republican liberty?”
This is a time that Edmund Burke would point to in his often quoted, “All it takes for evil to prevail is for good men to do nothing.” If you want to get involved, going to Washington is not necessary and in most cases nonproductive. Rather, find your local political party affiliation meeting or look for a social connection on FaceBook, Meetup, etc where you can join forces on issues that should concern you. The ‘Tenth Amendment Center’ has an excellent tracking page for different issues and great articles, please visit it and get informed on how you can help in your state. Many states are in different phases of drafting legislation to thwart federal overreach, so get up off the couch or from your well warmed chair at Starbucks and get involved. It’s time to stand up for your family, your community and your state to keep government powers diffused, competitive and effective in protecting (not granting) the rights of each individual.
The market itself, unencumbered by federal intervention and minimally by state and local government, in its free and voluntary social and economic associations and transactions that marginalizes the ‘bad actors’, is the best system we have to safeguard the liberty of each and every one of us, and is at the heart of what the founding era Patriots believed and created.
Christopher M. Mahon, Editor
While I’m not a professional fly fisherman, I have slept at a Holiday Inn Express. I’m obviously joking and appreciate Holiday Inn’s commercials. But I was on a trip last year with a couple of fly fishermen and I’ve been in a social gathering where the sport has been discussed.
What has stood out to me is the hypnotic stare and elevated excitement as the stories unfold of catching fish and the different techniques. The interesting thing is to hear about the fly lures they put at the end of their fishing rods depending upon the type of fish they are after. Some look like literal flies, while others like worms or mimic the environment where they hang out. You almost can’t see the hook hiding behind the design. Also they’ll tell you where to wade – ‘over by that rock’ or in ‘deeper current’ in determining ‘best location’ for different fish.
Politics is very much similar to this. The hypnotic stare and elevated conversations that can happen around a holiday table, bar or even a senior citizen centers as you and I give our opinions and expertise on what Washington needs to do and what the important issues are; which of course generally run along side our particular proclivities: Pro Life/Pro Choice, Education, Social Security, Entitlements, Social Issues, Defense, etc.
Both the national Republican and Democrat parties like professional fly fishermen also choose specific fly lures (issues) and look to wade in specific areas of our nation in order to find you and I and ‘hook’ us, drag us into their boat or box to be filet, gutted and cooked later on. OK enough word pictures, I’m hoping you’re following this.
Except for Defense and squabbles that arise between the states and the states and foreign entities in which the Federal Government takes on the role of agent, all the issues above were intended to be functions of the states/colonies and even more importantly the function of a free market. A central system becomes monolithic, fragile and resistant to ideas and change; and when (not if) failure results it is catastrophic. Decentralized systems (the states retaining most powers) on the other hand, allows for competitive models to social and economic problems, failure is actually beneficial as unproductive resources are reallocated and success is imitated. Also, democracy can exist in the lower levels of government as the potential for homogeneity and similar interests are more likely ‘closer to the ground’ than at ’40,000 ft in Washington’.
When you and I drool like a fish and leap for nationalizing social issues of banning drugs, homosexuality or economic issues of ‘tax the rich’, wealth redistribution, universal healthcare or promises of better government Social Security and Medicare we really are leaping for a disguised hook of central government control of our lives that will limit individual freedom and just like the mirage of the hook will never deliver the promises made. It’s the free market of voluntary association and exchange that best accomplishes the goals (proclivities) you seek. Even in the controversial areas of Drugs, Marriage and even Abortion (which I believe is murder at some point) should be decided at the state, local and personal levels as was the intent of the Constitution. The Constitution delegated very few powers to the federal government but the feds have usurped more power through our weakness in seeing our beliefs ‘nationalized’.
In the movie ‘Finding Nemo’ the warning was to watch out for the nets that the commercial fishermen lowered from their boats. But for some it was irresistible as they swam into captivity. You and I MUST resist the ‘captivity’ of more central power even if the mirage seems so real.
I think my new slogan for 2013 is, ‘Don’t Get Hooked!’, and if you are currently dangling from a GOP or Democrat party promise of Equality, Justice, World Peace or whatever your proclivity, I hope that you can set yourself free. This starts by understanding the ratifiers intent in the US Constitution and why a ‘runaway’ federal government is dangerous to Liberty.
Christopher M. Mahon
As America returns to work today, nursing hangovers, fatigue and wincing at FaceBook pictures, so Washington and the media return to figure out what exactly happened in the wee hours of the night of the ‘Fiscal Cliff’.
If the Chinese Zodiac proclaimed 2012 the ‘Year of the Dragon’, politically it was the ‘Year of the Donkey’ as Progressives and the Democrat Party celebrates a pretty good year: Affordable Care Act upheld by SCOTUS, a vanquished GOP Presidential candidate, winning most national congressional challenges and a potential budget deal (sequestration aside) that raises taxes on 77% of Americans and virtually no spending cuts.
As we entered into 2012 and considered the consumer confidence level, unemployment, debt and a sluggish economy it seemed more likely the ‘Year of the Elephant’ but, that was a year that wasn’t. Just as Tony Romo or a Mark Sanchez were able to clutch defeat from the hands of victory, so at the beginning of 2013 after approving what one analyst called a ‘Hobson’s Choice’ in the budget bill in the midnight hours closing out the year, GOP politicians run for cover, and the Republican Party ponders not only it’s future but also it’s purpose.
Contrary to Jay Leno’s skit ‘Jaywalking’ where Leno asks people questions about current news and other topics in public areas around Los Angeles and get answers like: ‘Abraham Lincoln was the first President’ or are stumped when asked, ‘What color is the White House?’; the ‘Man on the Street’ is a lot smarter and intuitive regarding what’s pertinent to his/her world and what is on their life’s ‘windshield. While they find most of Washington irrelevant, they will make the necessary adjustments to react to a ‘Gamed system’. Welfare recipients will stay on Welfare regardless of any public condemnation because the math tells them that the effort expended through employment has no net benefit than receiving cash and benefits through government subsidies. But it is not only the individual who is intuitively smarter than Washington, it is the small employer groups too. As they watch big business, industry groups and unions cut deals in Washington through their invitations to K Street, the smaller business owner/investor seeks out shelter and creative accounting to avoid paying growing levels of tax and regulations. Just today I witnessed a conversation on a social network of avoiding the Affordable Care Requirements and increases in payroll taxes by creating ‘Independent Contractor’ (1099) relationships with their current employees. Even under reporting revenues is becoming increasingly morally acceptable.
In an article in the NYTimes by columnist Maureen Dowd, The Man Who Said ‘Nay’ that references Senator Michael Bennet’s (D-CO) tough decision to part with his party’s support of the last minute budget deal in the Senate. Bennet says, “The burden of proof has to shift from the people who want to change the system to the people who want to keep it the same,” he said. “I think if we can get people focused to do what we need to do to keep our kids from being stuck with this debt that they didn’t accrue, you might be surprised at how far we can move this conversation.
“Washington politics no longer follows the example of our parents and our grandparents who saw as their first job creating more opportunity, not less, for the people who came after. My mother’s parents were refugees from Warsaw who came here after World War II because they could rebuild their shattered lives. But the political debate now is a zero-sum game that creates more problems than solutions.”
While we can understand Senator Bennet’s frustration in Washington as power and the game goes back and forth from one side of the table to the other with little accomplished, as the GOP wins in certain years (1968, 1980, 2000) while the Democrats win in other years (1992, 2008, 2012). The frustration of the ‘Jaywalker’, small business owner, ‘Man on the Street’ is that power and choice remains in Washington and that ever increasing Federal power and potential to intervene into his/her life further is readily apparent with no evidence of abatement.
Washington power elites scoff at individuals and small businesses as they tin foil and duct tape their lives around the latest Federal Laws that threaten to encroach their personal liberties, threatening fines and incarceration; meanwhile there’s a growing resentment around the country as more and more are figuring out that the ‘Utopian Promises’ of both parties aren’t being delivered, only excuses and demands for more money and more control. The Right’s promise of a ‘Moral America’ and a better ‘World Order’ through laws like Defense of Marriage Act, stronger Drug enforcement and foreign Military intervention has wrung at best hollow while the unintendeds are readily apparent. The same is true on the Left as Progressivism of the late nineteenth century through private initiatives like: the Settlement Houses, Mutual Aid and other private charities went a long way to solving social problems as workable solutions were funded and others either adapted or failed. However, this drastically changed as Progressivism became entrenched and made it’s home in the political process; the idea was, what works on a local level in Chicago, should work on an even grander scale through Washington. Of course the disappointment and failure of this theory continues to come home to roost as Progressive goals of Education, Poverty and Equality continue to be missed with the excuse: ‘More money and control needed’.
The good news going into 2013 is that just as people outside of Washington go about their business and figure ways to ‘creatively’ cope and adjust to overreaching policies in Washington, so the States are becoming more proactive in the process. Controversial concepts like: Nullification, Interposition and Article V Conventions are being bantered about more and more. While even more encouraging is that many states are actually exercising those powers, as Michigan’s state house approved 151-0 to not comply with NDAA 2012 that allows for the Federal government to commandeer state resources and many states refuse to create an Insurance Exchange as required by the Affordable Care Act and draw up language in their state’s charter/constitution to prevent further federal intervention.
A year from now how will we close out 2013? Will it be the ‘Year of the Elephant (GOP) or the Donkey (Democrats)? Or could this be the ‘Year of the Eagle (Individual Liberty) through state initiatives and individual’s who refuse to comply with federal mandates, taxes and regulations?
Wishing you a great year!
Christopher M. Mahon, Editor
As we finish out 2012 we can reflect on ‘the year that was’ like a Time Magazine expose or as the media outlets are doing even as I write this. But as we look back and take an account, shouldn’t we look forward and apply what we’ve learned?
To be sure it was an interesting year as the President won reelection fairly handily and the GOP was hit hard with a loss that the political consultants are having a hard time reconciling, let alone explaining.
We had a devastating hurricane on the east coast where too many lost their lives and many more their homes, cars and even today remain homeless. On the positive side of Sandy, which unfortunately is less reported, we saw so many step up and volunteer their time, finances and expertise in helping their neighbors. Even fire fighters from Louisiana who were at the receiving end of a fire truck and volunteers when they went through Katrina in 2005, returned the favor and flew into NYC to help with the disaster. Also unreported is the under performance of Federal aid and programs like FEMA which dropped the ball during Katrina and by all accounts today have dropped the ball in Sandy as well.
There was the Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting that tragically left 27 dead, including 20 children, 7 adults, including the shooter himself (suicide).
While we point out these tragic events, there were obviously many more we haven’t mentioned but there were also exponentially even more positive events and ‘average day’ occurrences that are left out by the media and quite frankly taken for granted by you and I. Contrary to what the media reports: food, clothing, work and play is for the most part readily available and that even with market distorting intervention from government that has lead to higher unemployment, prices and an unacceptable quality of education and level of poverty, the reality is for most of us the markets adjust and allow for volunteer (free market) exchange and association that allows for a ‘robust’ society and continued higher quality of life. Is political change needed? Absolutely. Has government failed us and morphed into a centralized system that is resistant to change and more prone to monolithic ideology? Again – absolutely.
The funny thing about human nature is that most of us are inherently critical and like to voice our ’2 cents’ worth of criticism. Whether it’s ‘giving advice’ to our spouse or children from our lounge chairs about how to perform housework, yard work or even just to scream at Tony Romo and the Dallas Cowboys with beer in hand, we all subscribe to being ‘Amateur Critics’ to some degree. Even regarding how society works or doesn’t and the role of government and what we think about the political system, most of us are more than willing to voice our opinion about political parties, personalities and Washington in general.
We’ve often heard that, ‘if you are not part of the solution, you are part of the problem’ or that ‘you can’t complain unless you’ve participated in the process’ with the idea that you and I should be engaged in creating a better society rather than only complaining about what we have.
Here’s a suggestion for the New Year that will cost you time and resources – Volunteer.
First, find out what you find yourself complaining (criticizing) about most. If it’s ‘those blood sucking welfare recipients’ then volunteer your time at a food bank or charity like Salvation Army where they give out clothing, economic and housekeeping advice. If education (or lack there of), offer to volunteer at your local schools: tutoring, mentoring or even as a crossing guard – get involved. If you are ‘rupturing blood vessels’ over politics and the inefficiencies (in your mind) of government then volunteer your time to go to local district meetings like precinct committees where you’ll find out that most there would welcome you as there hasn’t been a continuous flow of ‘new blood’ and unfortunately many of these groups are bogged down in myopic self examination and could benefit from greater diversity and fresh ideas.
There’s a Bible verse, Luke 6.68 “give, and it will be given to you. Good measure, pressed down, shaken together, running over, will be put into your lap.” While our motivation shouldn’t be self aggrandizement and Ayn Rand if she were alive might criticize you for being ‘altruistic’, the reality is that as you invest your time and resources, like any investment there will be a return; and part of that return comes back to us in the experiential knowledge we gain, the character changes that happen and the valuable process of becoming ‘other person centered’ and as the Bible suggests – ‘a servant to all’.
We at Ambidextrous Civic Discourse wish you a Happy New Year and an enriched 2013, full of life, love and contentment which I have personally found through Jesus Christ.
Christopher M. Mahon, Editor
The recent shootings in CT this past week has brought to the forefront the call for new Federal Gun Control legislation to ‘Criminalize’ certain types of gun ownership. Will the cost of removing further personal liberties of the Individual and the rise of centralized federal power be effective in diminishing firearm deaths? Has it been effective in the ‘Drug War’ or Alcohol Prohibition of the Past? As I write this article this morning, 10 were shot in Chicago, a city with some of the toughest anti-gun laws, but a city that remains one of the most violent in gun injuries and deaths.
In a Cato Institute Study, Alcohol Prohibition was a Failure, of 1920s Prohibition, they found the federal law besides being an infringement on Individual liberty was quite ineffective in what it set out to do: Reduce Alcohol related deaths and the social ills that are associated with the freedom to imbibe alcohol and that the unintended consequences were horrifically worse. Organized crime, prostitution and other social maladies prospered under the well meaning legislation. The Temperance Movement supported by churches, mutual aid societies and government proved to be a disaster and was later rescinded in 1933.
Arguably the Drug War a much larger war than Alcohol Prohibition is at least if not more unsuccessful as Billions of dollars and half the prison population full of ‘drug offenders’ lay society’s resources wasted and the ‘unintendeds’ of a border war, hybrid drugs that kill and the increase in ancillary social maladies are the byproduct. This begs the question, “What would society look like with harsh Federal Gun legislation that ‘Criminalizes’ gun ownership?”
There are two assumptions that many people make about government and social problems in arriving at a ‘Remedy’. The first is that in taking a position against using Federal power (either through a strict Constitutional interpretation or pragmatic position that lower levels of government like the States can do it more effective) means that you are sympathetic to what is perceived to be a social ill or cause like in the case of marriage, drugs and lifestyle choices. The other assumption is that laws and public policies are built around that the individual will obey the laws and there won’t be unintended consequences that result from government intervention.
Both of these assumptions are wrong and history has shown the unintended consequences are terrible. When the ‘Free Market’ is violated by government intervention, the values in that marketplace will be distorted as in the case of Alcohol Prohibition which due to lack of supply (the demand while reduced somewhat due to legislation was still high enough to create a market) sent prices soaring and both an underground and ‘illegal’ supply resulted and a para-industry was born – Bootlegging. The same is true today for drugs, again the assumption is law will eliminate demand and solve the social problems but the unintended is that behavior adapts to circumvent the law as happens with federal regulations over business or even tax legislation and the cost to comply or not.
Unfortunately, if harsh federal gun criminalization is the answer to this past week’s horror, the result will not only be the steady stream of Drugs and Prostitution over our borders but firearms as well, and just as we’ve seen the awful hybrids of alcohol (moonshine) and today’s dangerous drugs (Meth, Ecstasy) that result from prohibition as users want the ‘biggest bang for the buck’, can you imagine the potency of firearms that will be available in your neighborhoods and schools in the near future?
The Second Amendment was part of the Bill of Rights, 12 (10 ratified) Amendments over federal powers to protect the natural rights of individual liberty and property and to answer the concerns of the holdout colonies/states yet to ratify the Constitution. It is very important to understand that the Second Amendment didn’t apply to state powers, those powers are delegated through the states’ Constitutions. So each state or municipality if their constitution permits can pass legislation whether it will help or not.
While there will always will be social maladies among us, the best way to handle them are through the ‘friction’ of the marketplace and when deemed necessary by local government where there is the potential for greater homogeneity, cooperation and the potential to maintain greater individual liberty.
Let’s be ready for what Rahm Emmanuel says, “Don’t let a good crisis go to waste” and for federal government to infringe on personal freedoms (for a greater good), instead let clearer heads and rational thinking rule the day.
Christopher M. Mahon, Editor
The shooting in Newtown, CA December 14th 2012 was heart breaking as families and a nation have been grieving.
Unfortunately, while many focus on the incident in consoling those who’ve lost so much and examining the security and whether procedures were followed correctly, others are using the ‘crisis’ as opportunity to push a polemic agenda of more (or less) government involvement.
As our country’s founders understood that the ‘natural process of Government was to grow’, this is particularly cogent when a ‘crisis’ occurs. But how do we as Individuals and citizens of municipalities, states and a Federal Government sleep at night knowing that we could be at the mercy of the next crisis which through well meaning public policies could further limit our freedoms for a ‘Common Good’?
While many understand that the Constitution was designed with two systems of government in mind, Federal and State powers, there is disagreement on what powers each possess. Does Federal trump State and if there is belief that the Federal or a State has ‘overstepped’ and abused it’s power as in the recent conflicts with ‘Obamacare’ or in Arizona’s battle with SB1070 on immigration, who or where is the governing body to make an impartial decision on which party is correct?
Thomas Woods writes in his book ‘Nullification: How To Resist Federal Tyranny in The 21st Century’, “When the Constitution was ratified, the people were assured that it established a government of limited powers (primarily related to foreign policy and the regulation of interstate commerce), that the states retained all powers not delegated to the new government, and that the federal government could exercise no additional powers without their consent, given in the form of constitutional amendments. This is not a peculiarly conservative or libertarian reading of the historical record. This is the historical record.”
Today, we see many States resisting what they perceive as Federal overreach in prescribing policies for social and economic ills through Washington. Almost thirty states have either said no to creating Insurance Exchanges or have taken a wait and see approach regarding ‘Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (2010)’ (Obamacare) and just this week Michigan’s House voted unanimously to defend itself against NDAA 2012 which it deems unconstitutional regarding the commandeering of State assets. Add to that the Sheriff Initiative Act and other individual States acting through ‘assumed’ Nullification powers have decided on their own not to enforce certain Federal laws.
Washington and many in the media challenge the constitutional legitimacy of Nullification and it’s even more evil sister ‘Secession’. For the last eighty years the universities have taught that these issues were decided through Civil War and subsequent court precedent. However, Robert Natelson in his 2010 book, ‘The Original Constitution’ approaches the split powers of the Federal and State governments slightly different as he draws upon what the ‘Founders-era’ intents were and their understanding of law, reason and the dialogue of the state conventions that the ‘Ratifiers’ understood when signing the Constitution.
Natelson, brings out an important question that would help to define better the relationship of the States and Federal governments and the proper recourse when Federal power abuses the States as many have come to believe is happening today. While ‘Nullification’ is the buzz on twitter and other social networks, Natelson takes us through the Founders-era understanding of the Constitution and how the states defended their sovereign powers through ‘Article V Conventions’ which were different than a ‘Constitution Convention’; Article V allows for specific issues and text to be addressed while not jeopardizing the whole document. He points out, “To be sure, the question of whether there was an “American people as a whole”—or only the peoples of separate states—has been the subject of much debate. Some contend that the Constitution created merely a compact (contract) among the thirteen states—or, more precisely, a compact among thirteen separate political societies. According to this “compact theory,” each of those societies gave up certain aspects of sovereignty to the federal government, retaining the rest. Advocates of this theory point out that the states ratified through individual conventions. Some have employed the compact theory to argue that if the federal government breaks the terms of the contract by exceeding its powers, the states have the right to void (“nullify”) the offending federal actions or even secede from the union. Others argue that the Constitution was less an interstate compact than a popular grant—that is, a grant from the American people of certain powers to the new central government. Powers not given to the central government and already lodged in the respective state governments remained there. What was left was retained by the people. Advocates of this theory contend that ratification by state conventions was merely a concession to practicality, not to imply that states were the parties (or at least not the only parties) to the Constitution.”
As dark clouds of economic and social crisis’ gather, the threat of the abuse of Federal power looms but the silver lining in those clouds is that many States are becoming proactive in blocking what they perceive as harmful and unconstitutional Federal legislation through Nullification and Interposition which has historical precedent, but will the real war engage when we define the relationships of the States and Federal government as Mr. Natelson has suggested, through ‘Compact Theory or Direct Grant’?
Christopher M. Mahon, Editor
In an article in the Wall Street Journal, In European Crisis, Iceland Emerges as an Island of Recovery Charles Forelle describes an unlikely phenomena, a national recovery inspite of the EU crisis. But why isn’t the media covering it more and everyone talking about it?
“In 2008, Iceland was the first casualty of the financial crisis that has since primed the euro zone for another economic disaster: Greece is edging toward a cataclysmic exit from the euro, Spain is racked by a teetering banking system, and German politicians are squabbling over how to hold it all together. But Iceland is growing. Unemployment has eased. Emigration has slowed.”
The Iceland dilemma was well covered in 2008 as we witnessed bank runs and young people fleeing the country for other opportunities; but today the reverse is happening, the young are returning, businesses are humming and jobs are more plentiful. Now, don’t be mistaken, this is a ‘European style’ recovery where inflation is high and there’s still substantial debt costs, but it is a very positive scenario in a bleak region as Greece teeters on solvency while the EU caves to lending it more money and other nations like Spain are close behind.
“Iceland—with its own currency, its own central bank, its own monetary policy, its own decision-making and its own rules—had policy options that euro-zone nations can only fantasize about. Its successes provide a vivid lesson in what euro countries gave up when they joined the monetary union. And, perhaps, a taste of what might be possible should they leave.”
In some ways Iceland and Greece’s problems could be compared to California and other state hampered budgets in the US and bond defaults and bankruptcies at local levels. Where Iceland made a bold move to allow the banks ‘to fail’ and had its own currency (whether wise or not) to devalue, the reality is that it gave clear signals to investors and the market what its intentions were – less government intervention and the allowance for clearance of malinvestments and resources.
That rescue, in turn, weighed on the financial system. But unlike Ireland, for example, Iceland let its banks fail and made foreign creditors, not Icelandic taxpayers, largely responsible for covering losses.
Iceland also imposed draconian capital controls—anathema to the European Union doctrine of open financial borders—that have warded off the terrifying capital and credit flights that hit Greece, Ireland and Portugal, and now test Spain and Italy.
While Iceland is an unusual example of financial recovery of a nation and as their 320,000 citizens is a very small sampling to apply across broader populations, that’s just it; what works there may or may not work here or other places. Financial systems that are centralized are inherently vulnerable to monolithic elements of corruption, fragility and fatal failure. Failure of a city does not have the effect of a gigantic centralized structure, though tragic and harmful just the same. But competitive elements and options are open in a decentralized system that are closed off to a centralized one.
Finally, is the reason you won’t hear this success story on the nightly news, the Daily Show or Colbert because it exposes the real villain in our financial and social problems – government itself?
Policies and Philosophies like Keynesian Economics and Plato’s Utopia which elevate collectivism and government as the underpinning of social harmony grabs the attention of the powerful, while the importance of the Individual and that the ‘inequalities’ in society itself create opportunities for real social cooperation are discarded quickly as nonsense or fairy tales. The true ‘Romantics’ in US history were not the writers of a Constitution who designated limited power to the Federal government and those who followed in defending the restraint of centralized federal powers but instead the believers in a Utopian society and Nationalism, where through a benevolent government all are equal but none are free.
Christopher M. Mahon, Editor
Is Jamie Foxx a poet but he just don’t know it?
Apparently many on the ‘Right’ are taken back by Jamie Foxx’s prophetic irony on Soul Train last night. The State has supplanted Religion and the Individual him/herself as the answer to their problems. While the GOP points a finger to Democrat (Progressive) Income Redistribution, the four fingers of Social Engineering, Supply Side Stimulus, Military Adventurism and Monetary Easing are pointing back.
The GOP suffered a substantial loss this year, when considering the Obama administration’s past four years of economic and social planning failures (including Obamacare) it should have been a successful political year of not only winning the Presidency but the Senate as well and additional seats in the House. But instead of ‘soul searching’ and finding where there was ‘brush fires’ of enthusiasm, the GOP is doing what it chided the Democrats for doing after their losses to the Bush administration, “It’s not the explaining your message better, IT’S THE MESSAGE!”
What is interesting and telling is, while the Democratic Party’s local chapter meetings are stock full with young doe-eyed believers who are brain washed through the Universities and Celebrity endorsements that are ‘Coool’, the GOP meetings are thinning quickly as the well over sixty crowd dies off with few youth in their ranks. If the GOP did an honest assessment they would find the ‘brush fires’ of not only young but the aged as well in the Liberty movement that wants to see a true ‘beat back’ of federal power. They were disappointed in the party for the bank bailout in 2008, they dislike the overreach into the powers of the states by the GOP on social issues such as drugs, marriage and abortion (murder mostly state issue) and they are questioning the wisdom and apparent failure of the near 70 year ‘Neoconservative experiment’ in military expansion and US intervention that overreaches into the sovereignty of nations.
There is a prevalent lie going through both parties and it goes like this: “If you want to ‘Decriminalize’ Federal Drug Law you’re condoning Drugs” or “If you are not in favor of a Federal Law for ‘Equal Wages for Women (or substitute any class of people here)’ you’re against women (minorities) being paid equal wages”. This is a lie, whether it is expressed by the Left or the Right to support their particular proclivity: Abortion, Drug Prevention, Education, Poverty, etc. The best regulator of behavior and protecting against the ‘Bad actors’ is the marketplace itself and where deemed necessary government closer to the ‘ground’: family, community, municipalities and state governments that are exposed to competition and the free movement of private resources. Unfortunately the seeds of ‘Hamiltonian Nationalism’ have matured very well in both parties and the ‘Duopolistic’ political system in general.
James Madison in Federalist Papers #10 and #51 warned against the abuses of factions (Special Interests) but also explained why in a free market or through the colonies (states) and competitive markets they could be very useful. When Special Interests are centralized and managed through federal powers the unintended consequences are great and the freedoms lost are even greater.
A Left Wing or Right Wing ‘State Messiah’ is not the answer but a turning back to Divine/Natural Law and the Constitution is. While the Constitution was designed to restrain using Federal power to intervene into social and economic causes, it allowed for much latitude at the state and municipal levels to experiment.
It is for our elected officials in Washington and at the state levels to protect the defined boundaries of Federal power in the Constitution but unfortunately come election time, there’s no ‘Special Interest’ money for that.
Tell us what you think?
Christopher M. Mahon, Editor
In Obama’s Soak-the-’Rich’ article in Cato Institute, the writer Daniel J. Mitchell says,
“Tax Hikes are Worse than the Fiscal Cliff
America actually will fall off two fiscal cliffs in January, but only one of them is bad. The good fiscal cliff is the so-called sequester, which is the inside-the-beltway term for automatic spending cuts. These aren’t really spending cuts, just reductions in the growth of spending. If the sequester takes place, total federal spending will climb by $2 trillion over the next 10 years instead of $2.1 trillion. But anything that restrains the growing burden of government spending is a good idea, so a small step is better than nothing.
The bad fiscal cliff is the automatic tax hike, which exists because the 2001 and 2003 tax cuts are scheduled to expire at the end of the year. This means higher tax rates for all taxpayers, as well as increased double taxation of dividends and capital gains.”
What many economists and politicians don’t recognize is that there is a difference between money saved or spent in the private sector versus the public sector and the ‘unintended consequences’ of behavioral changes by the individual and the marketplace as a result of public policies that increase taxes, create more regulations and which usually means tax avoidance and spending decisions that are short term and counterproductive.
Unfortunately, as government does with most ‘hard political decisions’, politicians in Washington after much saber rattling will compromise on the important decisions of redefining the role of the Federal government and making some significant spending cuts and policy changes in Defense, Social Security, Medicare and other entitlement programs that for the most part should be remanded back to the states. Instead there will be a mirage of spending decreases from the baseline budget as mentioned earlier and there will be a phase out of tax deductions at an income level of $250,000 or so, which like the AMT was never bracketed or indexed and eventually inflated its way into the ‘Middle Class’ where most of the money is. As a result the market response will be to hide more income and investment strategies that moves more capital into the ‘shadow economy’ and overseas.
This past week in a ‘Farewell to Congress’ retiring Rep. Ron Paul took some time to reflect on his 40 year contribution to raising a warning of abusive federal power, “Dependence on our government is the worst it has been in US history..Why does the changing of parties and politicians not change policies, could it be that both parties are essentially the same?..Real Patriotism is challenging the government (and your party) when it’s wrong.”
While we appreciate past generations like those who grew up during the Great Depression and fought in WW2 and Tom Brokaw nicknamed the ‘Greatest Generation’. With deference to that generation, I believe the Greatest Generation is ahead of us, growing up before our eyes, rejecting today’s Historicism being taught of our past and embracing instead the original underpinnings of Individual Liberty that were forged in the US Constitution and which sailed a great Republic.
Hip Hip Hurrah for Elections and Representation! The Status quo won again and as Rep. Ron Paul slips out of public office, will there be a GOP or Democrat party that realigns itself to the Constitution and will there be new voices crying in the wilderness, “This is the way to Liberty, Walk Ye in it!” or are we inevitably headed down the slippery slope of more centralized government?
Christopher M. Mahon, Editor
In the movie ‘The Wizard of Oz’ a book written by L. Frank Baum and first published in 1900, there’s a scene at the end of the story in which the main character Dorothy Gale from Kansas is trying to get back home unsuccessfully only to be told that she had the answer all the time, it was the ‘Silver Slippers’ (Ruby Red in the movies, Silver in Novel) on her feet. As the US wraps up contentious elections that after billions of dollars produced a ‘Status quo’ result with maybe even more centralized government power and less Individual Liberty there’s been expressions of great disappointment and radical talk of secession. As of this writing the White House website that invites petitions has fulfilled requests from all 50 states petitioning for ‘secession from the Union’. It harkens back to the Civil War movie classic, ‘Gone With The Wind’ and Rhett Butler bidding his abusive relationship with Scarlett good bye after she asked, “Where will I go? What will I do?”, he retorts, “Quite frankly my dear, I don’t give a damn.”
Some in the media have pointed out that we’ve become a ‘divided society’ with the Left expressing it in racial terms that a ‘White Majority’ no longer exits and what has been traditional, cultural and acceptable in the past will no longer, going forward. While many on the Right see it more as an attack on the traditional values that have governed the nation since its inception. Where both groups come together ironically is on the legitimacy of Secession, a State leaving the Union, which they believed is not possible.
Much of today’s anti-Secession belief held in the minds of leadership in Washington, the media and taught in the Universities stem from the result of the Civil War and SCOTUS rulings in the aftermath. In ‘Texas v. White’ 1869, the court ruled over the sale of US Bonds and in their decision (for expediency) determined that unilateral ‘ordinance of secession’ is ‘absolutely void’.
The irony of this ruling in the wake of Postbellum Reconstruction is that the US through it’s States (Colonies) less than a century earlier ‘Declared their Independence’ and seceded from Great Britain. Are there within this sacred doctrine the seeds for secession? Declaration of Independence:
“We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.—That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed,—That whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the Right of the People to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new Government, laying its foundation on such principles and organizing its powers in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their Safety and Happiness.”
Anti-secessionists might argue, “Well OK, but theoretically you would need the consent of the majority of the nation (governed) and the consent of the Federal government.” This is where the Constitution and its design speaks and if you wonder why many in Washington today emphatically call America a ‘Democracy’ rather than a Republic you can see why it is important and not semantics. A lot happened as a result of the Civil War to not only suppress ‘rebellious States’ but also to attempt to redefine the structural design of our Republic and ‘States’ Rights’. In Federalist Papers #39, Madison eloquently sums up at the end of the publication the design and powers of the States in relation to the Federal government. If you recognize the sovereign powers of the States as originally determined, you can see that each state can through democratic vote, if you will, decide to secede. But if instead, partly as the result of war plunder that the States no longer have those sovereign powers and are in effect agencies of the Federal Government, then you would side with the anti-secessionists.
“The fact is that our Union rests upon public opinion, and can never be cemented by the blood of its citizens shed in civil war. If it cannot live in the affections of the people, it must one day perish. Congress possesses many means of preserving it by conciliation, but the sword was not placed in their hand to preserve it by force.” James Buchanan, State of Union Dec 3 1860
Former President Thomas Jefferson, in a letter to William Crawford, Secretary of War, under President James Madison, on June 20, 1816: “In your letter to Fisk, you have fairly stated the alternatives between which we are to choose : 1, licentious commerce and gambling speculations for a few, with eternal war for the many ; or, 2, restricted commerce, peace, and steady occupations for all. If any State in the Union will declare that it prefers separation with the first alternative, to a continuance in union without it, I have no hesitation in saying, ‘let us separate’. I would rather the States should withdraw, which are for unlimited commerce and war, and confederate with those alone which are for peace and agriculture.”
Secession seems antiquated and more of a theory than ever practiced, this isn’t really true, from Australia to Malaysia to Yugoslavia, it is well documented and numerous in history (While I don’t recommend Wikipedia for research it can be a good start or lookup). In 1990, after free elections, the Lithuanian SSR declared independence. Other SSRs followed and consequently the Soviet Union collapsed. (Wikipedia)
While Secession is a serious matter and like War a last resort, it is an important tool of the State just like its other underused relative ‘Nullification’. “The natural progress of things is for liberty to yield, and government to gain ground.” – Thomas Jefferson to Edward Carrington, Paris, May 27, 1788.
I don’t want to take too much time here in this article on Nullification and would like to expand on it in a separate article as it is arguably the most important tool of the States in fighting federal encroachment. During the ‘Nullification Crisis’ in the 1830s South Carolina refused to support the federal tariff act and used Nullification as a tool to protect its citizens and their businesses, eventually the Federal Government capitulated with a compromise. This has happened in more recent times like with national ID legislation through uniformity of Driver’s Licenses which are regulated through the states; the Feds have attempted to coop that power but states have nullified these efforts through noncompliance, the Feds like in the past when forced to lay their cards on the table have passed (bluffed). It will be interesting to see how Nullification plays a part in recently passed state laws on Marriage and Marijuana (which are legitimate powers belonging to the states), and the `roll out’ of Obamacare ‘Insurance Exchanges’ in the States. It is vital that you play a part in contacting your state representatives to fight against creating exchanges that compromise state power and to see how vulnerable the program is and what you can do visit `Obamacare is Still Vulnerable’. Also, future elections of state representatives will become even more important. For a very good exploration of Nullification I recommend a book by Thomas Woods of the Mises Institute, ‘Nullification: How To Resist Federal Tyranny in The 21st Century”.
Here’s a different perspective on your vote and government power, “Voting, however, is at best, an inefficient instrument for self-defense, and it is far better to replace it by breaking up central government power altogether.” Murray Rothbard
If States were to take their proper roles in ‘regulating federal power’ in light of the limited powers ascribed to it under the US Constitution there would be much less conflicts between factions (special interest) which Madison while proposing factions as good and serving a vital purpose, warned against their abuses when enforced through centralized government (Federalist Papers 10, 51) and not exposed to competitive forces.
Individual Liberty and social cooperation are threatened by an unregulated Federal public sector and need to be met head on by State Nullification challenges regularly where Federal policies and law tread into State domain, and when all else fails Secession.
Christopher M. Mahon, Editor
While the GOP licks it wounds and some flee what they perceive as a ‘sinking ship’, the son of the ‘Father of NeoConservatism’ (Irving Kristol), Bill Kristol says on FoxNews Sunday November 11, 2012:
“The leadership in the Republican Party and the leadership in the conservative movement has to pull back, let people float new ideas…Let’s have a serious debate. Don’t scream and yell when one person says, ‘You know what? It won’t kill the country if we raise taxes a little bit on millionaires.’ It really won’t, I don’t think…I don’t really understand why Republicans don’t take Obama’s offer to freeze taxes for everyone below $250,000 — make it $500,000, make it a million…Really? The Republican Party is going to fall on its sword to defend a bunch of millionaires, half of whom voted Democratic and half of them live in Hollywood?”
While holding the line on taxes by the GOP might be a Pyrrhic victory at best, Kristol’s and other Conservative’s budging on tax policy (increasing) but giving no leeway on social and foreign policy issues belies a much larger problem. Punting on tax policy keeps the ball on the field of big government (federal), while giving up social policies to the states and shrinking US foreign policy engagements and footprint loses the ball from Washington and federal central planning as the canvass.
The history of the GOP is that of having it’s origins in the Progressive movement and it’s nature is to believe in ‘big government’. So while they Mea culpa on increasing taxes which is big government, it still keeps the federal government ball in play; while the GOP leadership resist inevitable changes in social and foreign policies, as states ratify marijuana and marriage laws and the public and US monetary conditions scream for changes in foreign policy. More taxes stays within the auspices of federal power, while decreases in military engagements and on social issues decrease federal power.
The Conservative and Progressive movements today are twin sons of different mothers. Birthed in the late nineteenth century postbellum and with different ‘step dads’ of both parties (in and out of office) siring along the way. The real question and the true sign of GOP capitulation is whether RNC Washington leadership is willing to discuss the purpose and limits of federal power going forward and welcoming Constitutionalists, Libertarians and Classical Conservatives in the vein of Edmund Burke to the table, who believe strongly in the individual and the free market to regulate not only economic values but social values as well.
In Federalist Papers, 10, 39 and 51 Madison eloquently expressed the limited powers of the federal government and the sovereignty of the states. Madison also gave instruction that while factions (special interests) could be dangerous to Individual Liberties, that in a competitive market both private and public (between the states) it allowed for the best ideas and solutions to step forward, failures to be isolated with it’s resources best reallocated and for ‘bad actors’ to be marginalized.
The question today might be asked by John Kennedy’s favorite poet Robert Frost in the 1920 classic ‘The Road Not Taken’,
“Two roads diverged in a wood, and I— I took the one less traveled by, And that has made all the difference.”
The road of ‘Limited, decentralized and constitutional government’ which protected Liberty rather than creating Utopian outcomes was more traveled earlier in US history but the path is today overgrown and distrusted by most in power and in the Universities; can party leadership turn with courage and determination down this path once again? Is there a post-Tea Party Movement waiting in the wings instead?
Please, tell us what you think.
Christopher M. Mahon, Editor
As the dust settles this morning from election 2012, the Democratic Party celebrates a decisive victory, the Republican Party licks it’s wounds, and Independents and Libertarians still sleep in cots outside the political process.
While Prognosticators who got it wrong come up with the ‘Whys’, here’s some thoughts going forward for the GOP and more importantly the grassroots movements that started with a cry out for Liberty and back to the Constitution.
What Americans basically decided last night was that sending our young men and women onto foreign soil to die and government as a moral agent in our personal lives was worse than taking our hard earned wages and redistributing them to someone else in benefits and entitlements.
The irony was that the same reason the GOP told you to support the ‘lesser of two evils’ the nation decided right or wrong that the President was just that: kinder, gentler and surprisingly, more able to handle the financial crisis which when you dig down, includes factoring in military expenditures that the GOP refuses to recognize.
When you consider the win by the President and the DNC it is pretty impressive:
Barack Obama: 50% 303 (most likely FL too: 332)
Mitt Romney: 48% 206
House: Dems most likely +8
Senate: Dems most likely +2
At the risk of saying ‘I told you so’, I personally foresaw this coming over the past two years and have written about it but knew it was fait accompli after the RNC August convention of this year when ‘Rule 12′ was enacted and the two years of grassroots work at the state and local levels by party line GOP, libertarian and even independent voters who aligned with the Tea Party movement were cast to the side for a Washington-style backroom deal that was carved out on K Street with special interest groups.
When reading the Tea Leaves however, one needs to be careful to not fall into the same Neoconservative/Religious Right dogma, “The country is heading to hell in a handbag and Islam will take over America”. When you consider the historic ballot initiatives in several states that approved marijuana and gay marriages, one might become very discouraged and interpret these results as a hedonistic society headed to the brink, rather than a response to government intrusion into the personal lives of Americans. The Federal ‘Defense of Marriage Act’ is unconstitutional and an awful law that allows a national government to reach into the most intimate part of each of our lives and further divides us as a nation. Social mores are much more effectively defined in the private marketplace between individuals and by state and local governments closer to the ground, where necessary. The same is true of Marijuana laws, that it is at the state level where authorized powers set by the Constitution reside to regulate drugs as was true of alcohol. If the GOP or a third party gets behind the rational process of decriminalization (not condoning) at the federal level it would be a courageous feat of ending the savage border brutality and the unintended consequences of more than half our prison population locked up for drugs. See Cato Institute’s article, ‘Alcohol Prohibition Was A Failure’ for further insight.
So where do we go from here? I personally would like to ‘throat punch’ the ‘GOP face painters’ who teased Ron Paul supporters with juvenile retorts like, “Paulbots”, but that’s for another day, maybe a few beers and a dark alley.
Just as in 1854 when the nation was settling into a two party system of the Whigs and Democrats with a few splinter groups residing in different states like the ‘Free Soilers’ of New York that splintered off of the Whigs because of slavery, there arose a large enough issue in the Kansas Nebraska Act, which extended slavery into more territories, that there was a birth of a new political party. The question today is can the Grand Old Party find her roots in freedom as it did back then? Then it was to free a race of people unjustly treated, even stripped of the most basic personal liberties to not only own property but being treated as property themselves. Today, unfortunately ‘we’ve come a long way baby’ and through government mischief the Constitution has been turned on its head from an important document of ‘Original Intent’ that limits government, ‘Thus far and no further!’ to a ‘living document’ that regulates man and his freedoms.
Like Jefferson who understood the annoyances and inconveniences that comes with Liberty as people make poor choices in life, those choices are ably offset in the private social and economic marketplace through the friction of voluntary association and exchange rather than a government ‘managed society’ that we find ourselves in today.
Do you really believe that less government in regulating drugs or lifestyle choices will result in more drug use or an increase in alternative lifestyle choices? If that reasoning were true, then with ever increasing government intervention, wouldn’t we see less of it today? If Homosexuality is practiced by less than 10% of our population then why is it a bellwether issue come election time? Because fair minded individuals will come to the support of those being suppressed by government. So if you want more of something then go right ahead and subsidize it or let government regulate it.
Will a new message and direction rise from the embers of the GOP’s defeat in 2012? Today, pundits are rehashing a bad night and like the Democrats after their trouncing in 2010, convincing themselves it wasn’t their message of ‘big government that regulates morals at home and spreads American Democracy abroad’, but the consumer of the message and maybe their strategy in explaining it.
Partly as a result of the banking bailouts of 2008 which most Americans realized was flat wrong and unjust and the ever growing entitlements and unfunded liabilities, there was a spontaneous uprising for less government and re-examining the role of federal power within the restraints of the Constitution that lead to victories in 2010. There were threatening propositions like: ‘Audit The Fed’, sending education and other federal programs back to the states, redefining our military role in the world that threatened both party’s positions and constituents. This movement was eventually hijacked by the GOP and discarded in August at the convention like a prom date. Who will it be that takes up the mantle of Individual Liberty and limited government going forward? While it took a Civil War and Postbellum legislation that redefined the Federal role as more central and powerful and has lead us to where we are today, let’s hope it doesn’t take another war to remove those powers.
Christopher M. Mahon, Editor
After a feisty two year run partially as a result of the 2008 bank bailout, several Federal Reserve Stimuli, ‘Monetary Twisting’ and crisis level debt and deficits (unfunded wars, social programs) the 2010 elections produced a backlash against Washington and more government solutions – leaving them on their heals. However, the Tea Party and other grass roots movements within the GOP have met their Waterloo through Rule 12 in August that allows the Republican National Committee (RNC) to call their own ‘audibles’ in order to derail the messy process of state and grassroots challenges. While the RNC (as the DNC) ‘negotiated at the bargaining table with special interests and a banking cartel, insiders (from both parties) spoke quietly with their concerns of an ‘Audit the Fed’ movement, entitlement reforms or the ‘silver bullet’ of State Rights that protects their citizens from a capricious Federal Government. Whichever party wins next month, leadership in both parties are resting easier as to use a Pat Buchanan phrase, “The peasants with pitchforks” for now have gone back to their villages. But where does the movement(s) go from here?
In an article in Reason Magazine, ‘Ron Paul: Man of the Left’ Brian Doherty suggests that as the Right has closed the door to true reform is the Left more of a possible avenue to see it happen?
In the article, Doherty who followed Ron Paul’s campaign this past year compares some of the ‘over the top’ rhetoric of the Occupy Movement to Libertarian and constitutional ideology and ideas held by Paul, the Tea Party and other grassroots movements. What he found was, that even far flung leftist ‘green behind the ears’ young people were open to constitutional restraints that protect liberty and limit federal encroachment. Where the struggle persists however with the Left, was in the Progressive Model of Income Redistribution.
Even in comparisons to President Obama, “Paul thinks it’s inherently illegitimate to arrest people for actions that harm only themselves. The Obama administration has deported a record number of illegal immigrants. Paul mocks border walls as essentially un-American. Obama presided over enormous bailouts of the nation’s largest financial institutions, and his economic planning team has been largely run by Wall Street insiders. Ron Paul is opposed to what both he and the Occupiers call “crony capitalism.” Even the president’s signature legislative accomplishment, ObamaCare (which Paul opposed), forces millions of people to buy health insurance from the very corporations progressives claim to despise.”
Obama, despite his rhetoric, has strengthen the Patriot Act, allowed NDAA 2012 and on the eve of St Patrick’s Day tightened up the ‘National Preparedness Act’ through Executive Order. “Civil liberties and peace are the issues that first made some leftist hearts beat faster when contemplating this curious Old Right congressman. Obama has started new wars unauthorized by Congress and greatly expanded a civilian-killing drone program. Paul opposes drones, calls for an immediate end to all our overseas wars, and wants the U.S. military to withdraw from the world. By taking these positions, Paul has done more than even leftist icon Noam Chomsky to normalize discussion of U.S. foreign policy as the behavior of a criminal empire rather than that of the world’s great defender of liberty.”
The question for the Constitutional and Liberty Movements going forward is ‘where is the ground more fertile’? The Left’s ‘Wall’ that needs to collapse like East Germany’s is both Income Redistribution and Government’s role in social welfare, while the Right’s is Military Interventionism and a preference for centralized banking. Because the Right’s predilection of a ‘Patriotism’ woven military policy of foreign intervention has a basis in defense, they might be hard won to limit that endeavor, while the Left and their penchant for redistribution and welfare might be easier to accept those ‘Great Experiments’ done at a State and Local level rather than the Federal, as the genius of constitutional restraint and decentralization allows for success, failure, reallocation and a robust society. To paraphrase Karl Popper, ‘Society from the ground up is rational, from the top down is not.’
Christopher M. Mahon, Editor
While most would agree that Governor Romney did a ‘smack down’ to President Obama and Jim Lehrer, did the design of constitutional restraint of government and Individual Liberty suffer a ‘smack down’ as well? While both candidates agreed on more than they disagreed, were the disagreements more on the application of federal power rather than if it has a legitimate (constitutional) function at all (education, healthcare, retirement, etc)?
Both candidates would maintain universal healthcare (Romney would replace Obamacare), federal powers over education and retirement, and strong military footprint overseas. Regarding balancing the budget: both would work off baseline budgeting that calls ‘cuts’, slow down in future growth, which never leads to debt elimination. In Reason Magazine Nick Gillespie’s article, ‘Romney Won the Debate, But Will the Country Lose?’ Gillespie notes where we lose freedom and choices as Americans:
“Last night’s presidential debate between Democratic incumbent Barack Obama and Republican challenger Mitt Romney was far more substantive and wonky than most watchers would have ever predicted. More important, given Romney’s strong showing and nearly complete domination of Obama,…At the same time, and despite multiple attempts by the moderator of the debate and the participants themselves to stake out radically different visions of the role of government, Obama and Romney were far more similar than different when they talked policy. That’s bad news for the country.”
While the President was caught on a tape several years ago saying he favored ‘Redistribution’ it shouldn’t come as a shock; Progressives in the Democrat party for years have favored social engineering policies and tax policies to accomplish a ‘fairer’ society as an outcome. If there is a shock at all it is that the GOP has favored ‘Redistribution’ policies of their own.
Ironically, President Obama is a byproduct of the Progressive journey from post-Civil War Settlement Houses and Community Organizing centered in the largest cities (particularly Chicago) that advocated for inner city immigrant groups to feed them and teach them to read, write and basic economics. The process started out localized through philanthropic means by the children of the industrialists of the day like the Du Ponts, Carnegies and Vanderbilts; even Jane Addams the co-founder of the Hull House came from a wealthy family. Her father John Huey Addams was an Agricultural businessman with large land holdings. He was a founding member of the Republican Party and a friend of Abraham Lincoln’s.
One can argue that Obama has ‘GOP’ in his bloodline; and that’s the bigger point, the past 150 years has been a progression in not only ‘big government’ but ‘big business’ and ‘welfare’ (the evolution of the settlement house movements) interests that are protected by both parties through government policies that no longer protect access or individual freedom but provide outcomes through government intervention.
While Democratic style takes from the high income earners and redistributes in the form of welfare, education, healthcare and other benefits to the ‘lower rung’ of society and manages business through regulations, GOP style rewards behavior through tax credits and deductions (Filing status, Exemptions, EIC, Mortgage Deductions etc) that is to influence moral decisions, to ‘create a better outcome’ for society. Either way both are outcome based and interventionist in their application and of course as we’re finding out today that whether military, agricultural, economic, monetary or tax policy intervention, it leads to distorted outcomes and unintended consequences as individuals and business entities with their private capital will respond to those policies by protecting themselves.
Policies that come out of Washington are more and more being drawn up on K Street through lobbyists of the largest corporations who contrary to public opinion favor federal regulations, taxes and fees as it protects their market share, and costs are passed along to the consumer who has less choice in the matter due to government intervention that limits competition. Both parties just like US foreign policy of ‘favored nation’ status have their own ‘favored Corporations or Industry’ status and promote those interests and demand support from those receiving the benefits.
In our current 2012 Elections environment the GOP and the Dems in their campaign rhetoric throw off ‘talking points’ and hyperbole to draw the differences but it seems more and more like two identical sock puppets who’s only distinction is one is on the ‘Right’ hand while the other is on the ‘Left’.
The flames of ‘Individual Liberty’ and ‘limited government’ that has been expressed through grassroots movements over the past few years and the protests of the abuse of ‘big government’ and ‘big business’ that cohort together may have been marginalized and silenced for now, but eventually will like water find it’s way through what seems like a nonporous political system.
The reason I’m sure of that is the response of both parties this summer as the roughly 30 state GOP parties in particular expressed those ‘grassroots’ preferences and wanted them represented in the national platform, but were eventually nullified at the national level in Washington through Rule 21 and other party manuevers for the GOP and the same is being considered in the Dem party as well. What will become more and more apparent is that ‘great ideas’ and grassroots movements just as in other less competitive markets will go elsewhere to plant their seeds and eventually we’ll see an erosion of the two party system which will diffuse factions while giving individual liberty a greater chance.
Christopher M. Mahon, Editor
“One of these days you’re going to have to decide which side you’re on.”
“If you saw Atlas, the giant who holds the world on his shoulders, if you saw that he stood, blood running down his chest, his knees buckling, his arms trembling but still trying to hold the world aloft with the last of his strength, and the greater his effort the heavier the world bore down upon his shoulders – What would you tell him?”
I…don’t know. What…could he do? What would you tell him?”
Many in Europe said it would never come to this, whereby the European Central Bank would buy the bonds of countries like Spain and Italy who have the potential of going down the road of other debt ridden EU nations with rising borrowing costs and the inability politically to cut spending.
In a NYTimes article this morning, Central Bank Sets Bond Plan Meant to Ease Euro Debt Peril “We will have a fully effective backstop to avoid destructive scenarios with potentially severe challenges for price stability in the euro area,” Mario Draghi, ECB President said at a news conference. “The euro is irreversible.”
While such programs will be managed by other EU governing bodies, the ECB will have the power to make decisions on which nations, bonds and the terms for the transactions. They will most likely have a monitoring mechanism to keep track of bond performances as well.
“By forcing governments to impose fiscal discipline on each other and remake their economies along lines dictated by the E.C.B., power will inevitably drift from national capitals to Brussels and Frankfurt.”
The E.C.B. will buy bonds with maturities of three years or less, and it will maintain a policy of ‘Sterilization’ at least initially, where they will match the buying and removing from circulation in their portfolio in order to minimize inflationary affects.
Mr. Draghi said that the vote for the bond buying policy was not a unanimous vote by the board as Jens Weidmann, president of the Bundesbank was the lone dissenting vote, he warned that this was a bad course to head down as nations become more dependent upon ‘cheaper financing’ and relieves the pressure of real spending cuts.
German chancellor, Angela Merkel, expressed similar concerns and cautioned that a continued move to a more rigidly defined and centralized EU system, that both Germany and the UK fought against at the EU’s inception, is a potential threat to national sovereignty.
One can’t help but draw the comparisons to the US Federal Reserve system, a central bank created in 1913, which has stepped more and more into the role of ‘Lender of Last Resort’ who also has potentially similar hard decisions as city and state governments face rising borrowing costs and spending while decreases in revenues. A few cities in California have recently declared bankruptcies.
This morning in Jackson Hole, WY, Ben Bernanke, Federal Reserve Chairman laid out plans to provide new policy initiatives to stimulate the economy. In an article in the NYTimes, Fed Chairman Pushes Hard for New Steps to Spur Growth by Binyamin Appelbaum, Bernanke says, ” It is important to achieve further progress, particularly in the labor market,” Mr. Bernanke said in his prepared remarks. “Taking due account of the uncertainties and limits of its policy tools, the Federal Reserve will provide additional policy accommodation as needed to promote a stronger economic recovery and sustained improvement in labor market conditions in a context of price stability.”
While Bernanke didn’t announce specific policy avenues or dates, he did mention asset purchases like treasuries and mortgage-back securities. A recent FOMC meeting minutes suggested, “Many members judged that additional monetary accommodation would likely be warranted fairly soon unless incoming information pointed to a substantial and sustainable strengthening in the pace of the economic recovery.”
In addition to asset purchases the Fed is also considering even more aggressive actions of cutting interest rates on reserves held by the Fed for the banks which could influence the push of more liberalized credit and money into the market and the Fed is also considering targeting low-cost funding for particular sectors of the economy like housing.
Bernanke quoted a study which suggested that past stimulus has helped, “finding the combined effect of the Fed’s three rounds of asset purchases raised output by 3 percent and increased employment by 2 million jobs.” Although other studies and monetary theory suggests that monetary intervention may produce a temporary stimulative affect, but in the long run it distorts interest rates and other prices in the markets which causes malinvestment leading to further economic troubles.
Christopher M Mahon, Editor
The NYTimes Editorial today criticized the ‘lack of honesty’ in Paul Ryan’s RNC convention speech last night. “Mr. Ryan, who rose to prominence on the Republican barricades with a plan to turn Medicare into a voucher system, never uttered the word “voucher” to the convention. He said Medicare was there for his grandmother and mother, but neglected to say that he considers it too generous to be there in the same form for future grandmothers (while firmly opposing the higher taxes on the rich that could keep it strong). He never mentioned his plan to abandon Medicaid on the doorstep of the states, or that his budget wouldn’t come close to a balance for 28 years.”
The editorial goes on to say, “The reasons for that are clear: Details are a turn-off, at a boisterous convention or apparently in a full campaign. A New York Times poll last week showed that the Medicare plan advocated by Mr. Ryan and Mitt Romney was highly unpopular in the swing states of Florida, Ohio and Wisconsin. As soon as voters find out that the Republicans plan to offer retirees a fixed amount, they disapprove, clearly preferring the existing system.”
The NYTimes should remember the old adage, “for every finger you point there are 4 pointing back”. While it is true that Ryan didn’t mention ‘vouchers’ and specifics on how a transition to a better system would work (assuming that it is best for the federal government to manage Medicare, which is debatable and probably unconstitutional aligned to ‘original intent’), the article doesn’t point out the Ryan plan either, only to distort and hype what it perceives as ‘negatives’ in the eyes of the elderly.
The Ryan plan would like other plans being offered by GOP members create an ‘age line’ of 55, which would give seniors the choice to continue on their current plan or to go to a voucher type system to choose a plan and to participate in choosing their health care options. Below age 55 would go on the new plan, a similar plan that corporate America offers as well as Congress and the President participate in.
The rhetoric on both sides of the isle and both sides of the political ideology of Government vs Private solutions can’t avoid the economic realities of not only ‘Government Healthcare’, but ‘Government Retirement’ programs through public employee union pensions and Social Security’s as well who’s day of reckoning has arrived too.
Outcome based benefit programs create liabilities for employers (government) today for a future promised benefit tomorrow. The plan, whether pension or health care is actuarially ‘made whole’ each year and as the internal calculations in the plan change (mortality, morbidity, interest rate) the plan requires more or less contribution each year. Unfortunately, the discipline for the plan administrator (employer) to segregate and maintain the reserves to fund the promises has always been a problem and the long term costs of the plan make them prohibitive.
In the late 1980s corporate America started to address the funding and cost problems of their pension plans by moving to ‘Defined Contribution’ plans which work almost the reverse of ‘Defined Benefit’ (outcome based) plans. Instead of defining a benefit in an ‘unknown’ future and creating ‘unfunded liabilities’ they define a contribution based on current factors like a percentage of salary, and make the contribution today removing the potential for unfunded liabilities in a commitment to pay out benefits tomorrow and instead bring the employee into the decision making and risk bearing on his/her future.
At some level this will need to happen because ‘business as usual’ or even worse a burdensome redistribution through taxes on the productive members of society will produce a much worse outcome. The framers had it correct and as Madison described the US in Federalist Papers #39 as a ‘mix’ of a Federal and National system, the intent was to leave to the states the great social experiments like how we treat our elderly and sick and to very much limit federal powers (National) to the well defined enumerated powers of Article 1.8. The tearing down of federalist boundaries within the Constitution over the past 150 years has led to the most profound loss of Individual Liberty and government mischief, a price we can longer afford.
Christopher M Mahon, Editor
In ‘Money, Method, and the Market Process’ Ludwig Von Mises wrote, “The socialists of Eastern Germany, the self-styled German Democratic Republic, spectacularly admitted the bankruptcy of the Marxian dreams when they built a wall to prevent their comrades from fleeing into the non-socialist part of Germany.” If the East German wall stood as a testament to the failure of German Socialism, then maybe Obamacare and the strict participation into other government managed services like Public Education, Social Security and Medicare stand as a testament to US Socialism failure of the FDR administration and subsequent policymakers who built upon it.
Of course today’s US Socialism is more subtle and genteel as it uses the weapons of regulation, fees and taxes instead of direct public ownership to coerce participation and to make alternative choices punitive.
To be fair, both parties do it. There are GOP socialists as well as Democratic ones, who believe in government support (subsidies) of particular industries (companies) and managing behavior that their policymakers and intelligentsia believe are appropriate for the Utopian common good.
The headline going into the fall election isn’t ‘Romney vs Obama’, that was the safe bet; the headline is the ‘Big Win’ by the national GOP, which marshaled corporate and social activist contributions to defeat those looking for change in party positions. DC GOP policies of a ‘Managed business environment’, ‘Federal power to manage social value goals’ and the continued ‘War on Terrorism’ was on the ‘primary voting block’ over the past year. Some wanting to realign the GOP party to Constitutional principles and others, Libertarian or even more to the Right than the current party positions, but going into the fall it looks like the national party has survived.
Unfortunately for Mises, he did not see the day when the German wall would be torn down, hopefully for us and our children we’ll see the day when the social experiments of a government managed society in education, health care, retirement and even as it dangerously careens into more intimate areas like what we eat and lifestyle choices, we’ll see inroads in the 21th Century that allow Individual Liberty and markets to choose.
Government as Washington warned was a `fearful master’and as Jefferson also suggested, that it’s `nature was to grow’; the US Constitution was designed to limit federal powers and restrain it’s natural encroachment into state sovereignty. Those voices have been silenced for now in the 2012 election, the question going forward is where and when will they surface again in the form of party representation. The Whigs died in the mid-nineteenth century giving rise to the Republican party, will another party rise to replace a current one or will as Nick Gillespie suggests in a coauthored book, ‘Declaration of Independents’ see the death of a `duopolistic’ party system.
Christopher M. Mahon, Editor
In David Brooks’ NYTimes column this morning, When The Good Do Bad, he presents in his view of modern day philosophy-religion that man is born good but some are born evil, “According to this view, most people are naturally good, because nature is good. The monstrosities of the world are caused by the few people (like Hitler or Idi Amin) who are fundamentally warped and evil.”
Brooks illustrates this through the recent slaughter of 16 people (including children) in Iraq by Robert Bales, who those who’ve known him say they are astounded – “Friends and teachers describe him as caring, gregarious and self-confident”.
Brooks digs back into centuries old Christianity and Philosophical thought on Good vs. Evil, quoting John Calvin, GK Chesterton and CS Lewis who believed like the Bible says in Jeremiah 17.9, that the heart of man is deceitful (wicked) above all things and who can truly know it.
The modern worldview of Good vs. Evil is simplistic as Brooks says, “This worldview gives us an easy conscience, because we don’t have to contemplate the evil in ourselves. But when somebody who seems mostly good does something completely awful, we’re rendered mute or confused.” But, in that confusion the modern worldview grapples for answers on how to identify and protect against those external evils in others and isolate them from the good. He identifies the Hitlers and Idi Amin for example.
Brooks ends his article positing this, “According to this older worldview, Robert Bales, like all of us, is a mixture of virtue and depravity. His job is to struggle daily to strengthen the good and resist the evil, policing small transgressions to prevent larger ones. If he didn’t do that, and if he was swept up in a whirlwind, then even a formerly good man is capable of monstrous acts that shock the soul and sear the brain.”
I would take this a step further and propose this question framed within our Presidential election process as the backdrop. Do these two contrasting views of `Man is either Good or Bad’ versus `Man is a combination of Good and Bad’ play a factor in determining the type of Government System we should have?
If you believe that Man is born with different natures of Good and Bad, wouldn’t you try to find `The Best’ to run the country and forfeit the most power to them? On the other hand if Man is a mixture of Good and Bad, wouldn’t you like James Madison and the other framers of the US Constitution and architect of our Nation, build a government designed not for the best to rule, but to protect against the worst?
Our government was designed by men who believed that Man is a combination of potential Good and Evil, that he could do amazing exploits of courage and patriotism but had the potential for the worst depravity and self interest at the expense of his neighbor. They built a government with that in mind, that allowed for the greatest amount of freedom but punished bad acts and they divided the powers of government between federal offices and State Powers. This was also to prevent the same potentials in Man for the depravity of self interest at the expense of others and the power to lord over another from becoming systematic.
So two final questions:
- Do you think in modern worldview as David Brooks subscribes, Man is basically Good but there are some that are Bad? Or do you believe like those in our past that Man is a mixture and has the potential for great exploits or the worst depravity?
- Having decided upon one of those worldviews, do you think that should affect the type of government we should have?
Christopher M. Mahon, Editor
The Iowa Caucus is less than a week away and political rhetoric by all candidates is at a high level, a good part of that is directed at Ron Paul who currently is the leader as indicated from most polls. He not only pulls from Independent and Libertarian voters but also Conservatives who have become disenfranchised with almost 10 years of military conflict at the expense of a balanced budget and debt. The latest accusations portray Congressman Paul as not only out of the `mainstream’ in his ideas on federal powers (even though by all accounts they are constitutional) but also that a Ron Paul presidency would be dangerous for the US as Iran could go nuclear and Paul is an `Isolationist’.
In a November 2011 Cato Institute article Ted Galen Carpenter makes the opposite claim that Military Interventionists and NeoCons like Gingrich, Santorum and Bachmann do us much more harm than good. For interventionists to not realize the beneficiary of a war with Iraq was Iran was a failure….“For neoconservatves to argue that the withdrawal of the few thousand remaining U.S. troops from Iraq significantly worsens that aspect is either obtuse or disingenuous. If they didn’t want Iran t…o gain significant influence in the region, they should have thought of that danger in 2002 and early 2003, instead of lobbying feverishly for U.S. military intervention against Iraq. The United States has paid a terrible cost — some $850 billion and more than 4,400 dead American soldiers — to make Iran the most influential power in Iraq.”
In another article by Per Bylund, Bylund makes the case how the `Endowment Effect’ theory, (people place more value on things they own versus things they do not) illustrates the shortcomings of economic and military intervention in not understanding human action (Praxeology) and the unintended consequences. Or why Ron Paul’s theories on domestic and foreign policies while more aligned to constitutional principles are also more sound than policies of the other candidates.
Does US military policy of Intervention into the affairs of other nations (occupation, embargo, etc), prop up the dictators of the world like Hugo Chavez or Mahmoud Ahmadinejad who rally their people and crusade against US military might and US monetary policy? What part did Federal Reserve Quantitative Easing (1 and 2) play in the Middle East uprisings and other struggling nation’s financial affairs? What part did troops in Iraq, Afghanistan and Pakistan play? Tell us what you think?
Christopher M. Mahon, Editor
CONSIDERING RON PAUL AND THE RISKS-REWARDS OF US MILITARY INTERVENTION
“The armies separated; and, it is said, Pyrrhus replied to one that gave him joy of his victory that one more such victory would utterly undo him. For he had lost a great part of the forces he brought with him, and almost all his particular friends and principal commanders; there were no others there to make recruits, and he found the confederates in Italy backward. On the other hand, as from a fountain continually flowing out of the city, the Roman camp was quickly and plentifully filled up with fresh men, not at all abating in courage for the loss they sustained, but even from their very anger gaining new force and resolution to go on with the war.” Plutarch
Plutarch’s observation, which is where the phrase a `Pyrrhic Victory’ comes from suggests that while a win (War Victory) is good, if not managed properly could be the undoing or collapse of a nation. Even in the best (for lack of better word) or most moralistic war, while the citizenry keeps its freedom it’s the State, the pilot fish (Corporations through huge government contracts) and the financiers of their excursions that make substantial gains. This group is ready to wage war again: gain territory and advantages, build weapons at a premium and of course finance it, but the citizenry is exhausted, depleted and emotionally, spiritually and physically bankrupt from the last victory (or defeat).
Ron Paul has been dismissed as naive and with outcries of `Appeaser’ or `Coward’ when he suggests the dangers of another war (Iran) and to verify (Reagan) intelligence carefully and to consider the risks before moving ahead. Critics who favor military intervention will highlight the `dangers’ of a nuclear Iran meanwhile not consider the full scope of risk to Individual Liberty (from bills like NDAA 2012) or the financial impact to an already dire US and global economic condition. Interventionists also don’t consider the motives and reward of the State, their corporate relationships and the banks who survive from one stimulus bill or appropriations bill to the next and look forward to the next big government excursion. In Reason Magazine, ‘Ron Paul Challenges Mindless Militarism’, Jacob Sullum writes, “This week the U.S. officially ended its war in Iraq, nearly nine years after launching it based on the false claim that Saddam Hussein posed a threat to us because he had weapons of mass destruction. The war, which replaced a brutal dictator with a corrupt, wobbly elected government that may not be able to defend Iraq’s borders or maintain peace in a country driven by sectarian violence, cost the U.S. $800 billion and nearly 4,500 American lives. More than 100,000 civilians were killed during the invasion and its aftermath.
The regime installed by the U.S. in Afghanistan to replace Al Qaeda’s Taliban allies is even weaker and more corrupt than the one in Iraq. Ten years after the invasion, we still have 100,000 troops in Afghanistan, and so far the war has cost about $500 billion, 1,800 American lives, and thousands of civilian casualties.”
The irony in Plutarch’s statement and warning was that they were conquered by a conqueror that later would make the same mistake. Are we too myopic and blind to the dangers of `Empire Building’? Has war like the automobile industry or `Green Technology’ become a `preferred’ industry that the government funnels money into? Washington, Jefferson, Eisenhower, Kennedy and Reagan warned of the proliferation of militaristic power rather than defense; a strong constitutionally based Defense is right they would have argued, but today if you utter a word questioning the wisdom of an aggressive military footprint and preemptive attacks you are drown out by rhetoric and name calling.
While the zeal of the Neo-Conservative GOP base is to be the `leader’ in managing world affairs and using military intervention as a tool for peace while contemplating a war with Iran and putting aside the blaring consequences of these policies the other obvious reality is that with over $15.13 Trillion in debt (more than our GDP), the USD is leveraged more than 40:1 and we can’t afford the current military footprint let alone expanding it further. Isn’t it time to talk sensibly about a well balanced strategy of Defense that is constitutionally based and fits within our budget? Can we learn lessons from Rome and Great Britain that while they achieved Empires for a time, they expanded beyond their ability to manage their affairs effectively and Individual Liberties were sacrificed in the process?
Woodrow Wilson wasn’t wrong because he was an `Appeaser’, he was wrong because he was an early `Empire Builder’ and a globalist which oversteps constitutional authority of Federal power. There was no sovereign threat to the US at the time of WW1 except possibly to the banks as they were financing the war, and that’s a harbinger on `Too big to fail’ and Moral Hazard.
Sullum concludes, “For 35 years Ron Paul has been speaking truths that the foreign policy mavens of both parties prefer to ignore: that the Constitution gives Congress alone the power to declare war, that unjustified interventions breed resentment that undermines our security, that there is a difference between military spending and defense spending, that foreign aid rewards autocrats and their cronies, and that economic sanctions are an “an act of war” that hurts people in the name of punishing the governments that oppress them. If there really is no room for these arguments in the Republican Party, that is the party’s fault, not Paul’s.”
Today, as we take a `full assessment’ of external and internal threats to our sovereignty we need to weigh the real threats to State sovereignty from terrorism and invasion from abroad, against fragilities of our financial house and the cost to Individual Liberty while tipping our hats to individuals like Ron Paul who are courageous in that they don’t back down but speak out against tyranny and the political marginalization of alternative views.
The real terror today is that the US Constitution with its separation of powers between the states and federal government and protection against the concentration of power into the hands of a few has become unfamiliar and even peculiar to most of our population who perceive it as `dangerous’ and a threat to their way of life. When you consider Pyrrhus’ warning, the irony is thick.
Christopher M. Mahon, Editor
“There is no economy in the world, whether low-income countries, emerging markets, middle-income countries or super-advanced economies that will be immune to the crisis that we see not only unfolding but escalating,” A statement by IMF head Christine Lagarde. She later went on to warn of “economic retraction, rising protectionism, isolation and…what happened in the 1930s (depression).”
The speech by LaGarde at the US State Department in Washington was partly in response to the infighting and bickering between the Euro nations and the UK regarding who needs to make sacrifices and who’s more solvent and should be downgraded first. Bank of France’s Christian Noyer addressing rumors of a possible French downgrade said that there wasn’t economic data that warranted that move and if there was a downgrade that the UK should be downgraded first.
François Fillon, Prime Minister of France said that Britain’s debt and deficit position has not been fairly evaluated in it’s triple A rating. Britain has become the whipping boy of the EU nations since it vetoed the European Union Treaty last week and Prime Minister Cameron said there was no chance of the UK participating in any newly negotiated European government or financial system. Many inside Britain fear economic and political reprisals as a result of veto and comments made by Cameron.
Conflicting financial positions in France and Germany have made it difficult as well to negotiate in good faith for long term solutions, LaGarde warned against `quick fixes’ and stated that all countries need to work together, “It is really that Gordian Knot that needs to be cracked, that needs to be addressed as collectively as possible, starting with those at the center but with the support of the international community probably channeled through the IMF,” she said.
In other financial news this morning the Credit Agency Fitch has downgraded several banks, which included Bank of America, Morgan Stanley and Goldman Sachs, as well as Europe’s Barclays, Societe Generale and BNP Paribas. Germany’s Deutsche Bank and Switzerland’s Credit Suisse were also downgraded. Fitch was the third credit rating agency to downgrade global financial institutions since September.
Meanwhile the Financial Times on some positive notes has come out this morning in a series, Is America Working, an assessment of the US Labor market and it’s technical skills and how `Creative Destruction’ (Capitalism) has turned US financial markets around in the past.
It’s interesting, like many big influential works, very few have read The General Theory of Employment, Interest and Money which lays out Keynes’ theory on the government stepping in to stimulate markets and create demand. Like Marx’s theory of Communism, it was meant as a temporary or transitional solution where government intervenes (whether you agree with the theory or not). What’s interesting is that Keynes and Hayek became `combative’ friends over time (like O’Neill/Reagan) and met in late 1945 for lunch. Hayek asked him if he was concerned with rising inflation and the appearance that the world economies were printing money and aggressively stimulating the economy with the appearance the policies would become fixtures for years. He told Hayek that although he was watching it, he still had influence and sway with economists and central bankers and would be ready to step in to avert a crisis. Unfortunately, less than six months later Keynes would be dead.
Today, the `best’ Universities have some form of `bastardized’ Keynesian Theory of a State planned economy with central banking authority. As the video below suggests, Classical (Austrian) Economic theory is not widely taught or recognized. The idea that limited government intervention and broad voluntary social and economic associations and exchanges would produce a vibrant economic system that would `self correct’ as Adam Smith suggested in his Invisible Hand theory is collegially laughed off, chalked up as naivety or marginalized in the Universities, `Think Tanks’ and by the Media.
Thomas Jefferson, in his first inaugural address in 1801 said, “Sometimes it is said that man cannot be trusted with the government of himself. Can he then be trusted with the government of others? Or have we found angels, in the form of kings, to govern him? Let history answer this question.” History has answered this question time and time again, and it is answering it so starkly even today. When the `few’ rule over the `many’ it provides for corruption, fragility, instability and the eventual outright rejection of the ruler. Jefferson later in his address says, “Still one thing more, fellow citizens, a wise and frugal government, which shall restrain men from injuring one another, shall leave them otherwise free to regulate their own pursuits of industry and improvement, and shall not take from the mouth of labor the bread it has earned. This is the sum of good government; and this is necessary to close the circle of our felicities.”
Well ladies and gentlemen, it has been the `Circle of our Felicities’ that has been broadsided and burst wide open by encroaching federalist powers that can’t wait to take away every decision and the appearance of risk in our lives. The goal: To minimize the liberties of the individual for the greater good of society.
If you watched the first video of Keynes vs Hayek, you’d have seen a witty rap/documentary of Classical vs Keynesian Economic theory by a group called EconoStories, here’s their second follow up video and in the Genre of successful film series (Godfather, Rocky), they’ve done a great job.
In an article on CNBC’s website, the IMF is quoted as seeing the need for the US to continue on the path of quantitative easing. This is an interesting departure from the global financial community’s (including IMF) criticism of the Federal Reserve’s policy of printing money to save the US economy at the expense of world economic conditions. Some have blamed global rising food, energy prices and unemployment on US monetary policy.
In an article last month, Raghuram Rajan, IMF economist told a forum held by the Council of Foreign Affairs, “The function of the Fed monetary policy adopted in November 2010 to boost the U.S. economy is relatively limited, the biggest problem in some sense is that the Fed’s monetary policy actions are essentially transmitted to the rest of the world, when the rest of the world doesn’t allow their exchange rates to move and protect their own monetary policy and keep that as a separate policy as its own.”
The mixed message being sent by the IMF is at best simply monetary policy conflicts between economic academics or maybe more sinister, the world’s next `central bank’ trying to move along the process of transferring the world’s currency reserve responsibilities from the Federal Reserve to the IMF.
To add to the intrgue, George Soros was quoted this weekend as saying, “The US could still absorb taking on more debt” and that a rush to pay down the debt could hinder its slow economic recovery.
These comments coming from the Paul Krugman’s of the world, who follow to the letter Keynesian government stimulus and monetary easing policies wouldn’t be surprising but the suggestions come from those most likely to benefit from the greased slide.
While new home sales took an ‘unexpected’ drop of 12.6% in January, the jobs report showed promise as new jobless claims dipped below the 400,000 level. But does the jobless number really reflect what is happening in the jobs market? We know that individuals who can’t find employment after a ‘reasonable’ amount of time give up looking and might rotate in and out of jobless numbers, but is there an unregulated, unstructured ‘jobs market’ that is unaccounted for?
In a December 2009 article by Cato Institute’s Richard Rahn,’New Underground Economy’ lays out the characteristics of how underground economies ebb and flow. He starts out, “Here is the evidence. The Federal Deposit Insurance Corp. (FDIC) released a report last week concluding that 7.7 percent of U.S. households, containing at least 17 million adults, are unbanked (i.e. those who do not have bank accounts), and an “estimated 17.9 percent of U.S. households, roughly 21 million, are underbanked” (i.e., those who rely heavily on nonbank institutions, such as check cashing and money transmitting services). As an economy becomes richer and incomes rise, the normal expectation is that the proportion of the unbanked population falls and does not rise as is now happening in the United States.”
Rahn, in his article goes on to say that the underground economy is affected by federal and state tax, regulatory policies and inflation. When Sarbanes-Oxley was implemented in 2003 as a reaction to companies like Enron who didn’t account for off balance sheet liabilities in their reporting, it had the unintended consequences of building huge costs for large and mid-size companies to come into compliance. Most complied but some started to move headquarters out of US. Even today, while new start ups have slowed due to economic environment, there’s an increasing ratio of new companies starting up in Europe or Asia.
The smaller US businessowner has different alternatives than mid-size and large companies that are more public, they can simply take their business offline or underground.The trades and some services are more likely to go ‘offline’ to avoid heavy local, state and federal taxes which can eat up substantial profits and add time consuming additional recordkeeping and compliance. Carpenters, painters, lawn maintenance, home cleaning and many other small businesses who reported income for years are taking risks by pulling if not all their business, a good part out of the above ground economy. This is reflected in January 2011 federal tax revenues which are up from the previous year. “Total government revenues rose by $21.4 billion for the month (Jan 2011) from a year ago to $226.6 billion, a 10.4% increase. Year to date, revenues are up by $65.4 billion to $758.4 billion or by 9.4%. Total outlays for the month though increased by $28.4 billion or by 11.5%. Fiscal year to date, spending is up by $53.4 billion, or by 4.8%” Dirk Van Dijk, CFA ‘Federal Red Ink Less Than Expected.
When you look closer at federal revenue for January however, you see that payroll revenue is down even when factoring in the lowered employee tax rate by 2% (6.4 to 4.4), which only took affect in January and that the increase had more to do with liquidation of qualified money out of IRAs and 401(k)s, profit taking and asset repositioning as the estate tax issue wasn’t settled until year end.
In the trades like Carpentry, an owner might take his full business underground and work for cash without reporting or he may take his labor offline by hiring help that they pay in cash. The worker takes the risk of not entering social security and of possibly not building his credit profile and the employer takes the risk on an unlikely audit or insurance claim if payroll not accounted for. These are risks that are considered either consciously or unconsciously everyday as the cost of business continues to rise.
The budget battles happening in Washington and in the states like Wisconsin and now breaking out in other states like IL, OH and NJ is of particular interest to businessowners who hope for spending cuts but weigh the advantages and disadvantages of moving out of states or the country for larger companies and for small business owners, cutting another employee or taking their business underground.
At its core principles, Collective Bargaining is very reasonable and is a part of individual liberty: freedom to voluntary association and voluntary exchange which are also free market principles. A group of employees who work for a company in which some decide after meeting and exchanging ideas can go to management and negotiate their wants based upon their hard work and talents.
Unfortunately that is far from what exists today as worker interests and freedom to choose representation has taken a back seat to large powerful organizations that not only move masses of workers but also move massive legislation and influence elections through worker contributions and turnout. What was born in the 19th century Progressive and Social Reform movements that brought bargaining power to individual workers through numerous union options has been consolidated today through federal legislation into basically two organizations: AFL-CIO and Change To Win Federation.
Beatrice Webb, Socialist, Reformer, Economist and Co-Founder of the London School of Economics, is credited with first coining the phrase ‘Collective Bargaining’ in 1891.
Early US unionization and worker representation existed at local levels and organized more along craft or trade skills. Unions took on the characteristics of the European Guilds which while negotiating worker wages and hours also provided workers with education and training. While some employers fought union efforts many saw the benefits to the quality of their shops and in the products they were able to produce. While friction existed between worker and company ownership at times, companies had the choice to negotiate and workers had choices in who to associate and unite with. The late 19th century, particularly after the War and the depression of 1873 saw organizations like the American Federation of Labor and Knights of Labor open up to workers unprecedented bargaining power and a new focus for national unionism through political organization. Late 19th century and early 20th century social reform through progressive wage, immigration, African American and child labor reform saw the passage of local, state and federal laws that governed business and labor relationships and supported union centralization.
The Railway Act of 1926 and the court case Texas & N.O.R. Co. v. Brotherhood of Railway Clerks in 1930, strengthened union power to negotiate on behalf of workers. But it wasn’t until New Deal ground breaking legislation of the 1930s that put union at the forefront of the blue collar worker’s destiny.
In some ways The National Labor Relations Act of 1935 changed everything. It put regulatory powers in the hands of the federal government over labor and private industry. Ironically, the Act went much further than it’s inclusion in earlier legislation of FDR’s administration, the National Industrial Recovery Act (NIRA) of 1933 that was overturned as unconstitutional by the Supreme Court also in 1935. The result of the NLRA was the formation of the National Labor Relations Board which oversaw union and private industry’s labor contract negotiations. But it didn’t stop there, it also influenced union activities, worker voting and representation and the consolidation of power as unions merged into much larger organizations. The NLRB codified labor law, which would influence some of the largest US industries for the next 70 years.
The AFL-CIO has over 56 key Unions that represent several hundreds and over 11 million workers according to a 2008 survey. The Change To Win Federation is a collection of 4 major unions: The International Brotherhood of Teamsters (IBT); Service Employees International Union (SEIU); United Farm Workers (UFW); and United Food and Commercial Workers (UFCW), as of 2008 they had 4.8 million members. These organizations have the financial resources and votes to affect elections and legislation passed through Congress. Unfortunately, just like federally protected industries and companies like auto and banking, they result in monolithic centralized entities that lack competition and lose sight of their goals: individual workers.
The current Labor environment has become interesting due to the ‘uprising in Wisconsin’ where Governor Scott Walker and the legislature of Wisconsin, in addition to looking for wage and benefit concessions has also included in SB 11 changes in collective bargaining in the state for municipal and state workers; which at first blush might seem ominous for Wisconsin union workers and other state and federal workers. The legislation limits collective bargaining to wages with a CPI cap and in addition it reduces contracts from 2 years to 1 year. Also, and most importantly for union workers it includes a clause that would open up worker choices of union representation and the ability to ‘fire’ unions or replace management every year. The state would also require certification and re-certification of union entities:
Under SELRA and MERA, a collective bargaining unit elects a labor organization as its representative once a majority of the employees in that collective bargaining unit who are actually voting votes for that labor organization; that labor organization remains the representative unless a percentage of members of the collective bargaining unit supports a petition for a new election and subsequently votes to decertify the representative. This bill requires an annual certification election of the labor organization that represents each collective bargaining unit containing general employees. If, at the election, less than 51 percent of the actual employees in the collective bargaining unit vote for a representative, then, at the expiration of the current collective bargaining agreement, the current representative is decertified and the members of the collective bargaining unit are nonrepresented and may not be represented for one year. This bill requires an initial certification election for all represented state and municipal general employees in April 2011.
In some ways the condition of the union system and the individual worker placed into that system is similar to the US government system which has become too centralized, powerful and sacrifices the interests of the individual for the collective. The US Constitution stands as a plumb line to correct government, which hopefully is what some of today’s state conflicts reflect - change (even when it is good) is seldom without pain. . Unfortunately for union workers there is no ‘constitution’ to look back to specifically, but understanding that representation is more effective when it operates at local levels. Also, decentralized systems through state and local organizations allow for the recognition of unique differences and through experimentation, expose ideology and operations to success and failure. As there’s a call around the country for ‘Workers Unite!’ mostly by union operatives, workers should really study history and then ask themselves, ‘am I getting a fair shake from my union and, is what my employer asking of me fair’?
The Walker Bill – SB 11 To read Full Bill
In an article last year we warned of a possible Muni default crisis, this is an update to that article which you can find at ‘The Coming Municipal Bond Collapse’.
The recent Wisconsin stand off between the GOP Governor Scott Walker, his legislature and the teacher’s union has now started to break out in other states like Ohio who are battling budget deficits. Yield spreads are starting to reflect growing possibilities of defaults. Meredith Whitney of Whitney Group, bank and Muni analyst had came out early and suggests short positions, but even PIMCO says, “Now, however, with many states and local governments struggling to close large deficits, it’s time to acknowledge that defaults could happen, even in large and systemically important municipal issuers.”
In a CNBC article by John Carney, ‘The Bulls and Bears Agree’, ”The debate underway now is about the likely severity and scale of Muni defaults. Or, more precisely, we have a debate about how to fairly price the default risks inherent in Muni credits. On the one hand, there are analysts like Meredith Whitney and hedge fund managers like Jim Chanos who warn that investors are taking on too much risk for too little yield. Whitney has predicted a “wave of defaults” that could be in the hundreds of billions of dollars. On the other hand, there are the bond fund managers and economists like CNBC reporter Steve Liesman, most of who are more bullish on Muni credits.” As a footnote, Whitney has been fairly accurate in forecasting banking and real estate crisis, while Liesman has not.
John Carney in a second part of the Muni Series explains why he doesn’t trust muni managers. He reflects back on the 2008 financial crisis and points to overconfidence in models and risk assessment which were exposed to be flawed as the dust clears from the subsequent collapse. Carney says, “The reason I find this so striking is that this is the same sort of thing we’re now hearing about muni-bonds. The “muni people” are pretty much united in the view that munis are safe, that talk of large losses is irresponsible and the product of novice minds looking at a market they don’t understand. After all, investment grade munis never default.I’m worried that the same kind of tunnel vision that blinded so many of the smartest minds on Wall Street to the fragility of the mortgage market may be operating in munis.
Of course, as Nassim Taleb, Peter Schiff and Nouriel Roubini have pointed, modern portfolio management theory is vulnerable to fragility due to models that underestimate risk. Taleb goes even further in his NYTimes Best Seller, ‘The Black Swan’ saying that our current financial system is designed to ‘blow up’ every 25 years or so. With growing unrest around the world and in US States, the shift in currency and credit markets, it’s a good idea to reassess risks in our portfolios.
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To paraphrase Isaiah Berlin from his essay, ‘Two Concepts of Liberty’, When men lose interest in their ends, they lose control of their means. When we hand over the education of our children, or our healthcare to experts we also lose control over it as well, keeping our fingers crossed that men and women of excellent education and pedigree themselves can figure it out. But like Saint-Simon understood, caregiving except by the closets of relationships or through an individual’s compassion with their own resources, warps into duty and the object into a byproduct of the means.
Wisconsin, arguably the birthplace of Progressivism, is ground zero of the upcoming budget battles between the states and unions; contracts negotiated during better times, that are benefit-rich, stand in contrast to plummeting state revenues and many private workers who are unemployed or underemployed.
There is a strange irony, as this plays out in Wisconsin, where Robert La Follette, the former Senator and Governor of the state, championed the early Progressive movement. Like a thread that enters into the first stitch of a garment, could the same thread becomes it’s unwind?
The early Progressive movements started as modest private initiatives in the cities such as Chicago, Boston and NY in the late 19th Century to address wages, poverty, illiteracy and shelter in the growing immigrant population and later in the post war African American population through settlement house, labor, education and other social movements that made their way from Europe.
Women such as Jane Addams and Ellen Gates Starr, founders of the Hull House in Chicago, came from well to do families (Duponts, Carnegie) that benefited from the industrial age and believed that they had a `personal responsibility to clean up their cities’ and give back to society. Addams’ father like many of that generation were ‘Lincoln Republicans’ who saw the charitable needs of their day. By the turn of the century there were thousands of settlement houses throughout the major cities in the US with facilities to feed, shelter and educate the masses. Successful ventures like Hull House in Chicago and Henry Street Settlement in NYC were the beneficiary of discriminating donors who inspected their facilities and results. Because these were private initiatives at the outset they were free to raise funds, experiment with methodology and be exposed to competition. Competition at the time was mostly from national organizations like the Salvation Army. What was unique about the settlement house movement and made it effective was that it was local, flexible and responsive to the needs of their neighborhood clients. What worked in one neighborhood might not work in another.
There also was labor and education movements that were growing as well. Initially the labor movements were setup as European Guilds which focused on training and skill development, later the movement turned more toward collective bargaining for higher wages. The labor movement gained traction in the early 20th century, which was aided by the derogatory termed ‘Muckrakers’ of the time like Upton Sinclair and his book, ‘The Jungle’ which described the working conditions in the slaughter houses of the Midwest.
While public education has always been a part of American history on some level; until Horace Mann, Secretary of Education in MA in the early 19th century introduced the ‘Prussian Model’ of professional teaching, most education if not home schooled were a loose collection of neighborhood schools with parents volunteering to teach the children. During the progressive era John Dewey, who taught at University of Chicago and Columbia, where he experimented with radical changes in education theory, purported that in order for society to change it must first be introduced into the classrooms. He was the first to suggest that curriculum, teacher certification and methodology should be centralized and more directly managed through the federal government. While public education existed before as a function of state and local administration with little federal guidance, Dewey radically changed it so that the states were mere agents of federal management and planning.
Robert La Follette and Wisconsin’s Progressive legacy is similar to the early beginnings of the movement. While La Follette championed a number of progressive reforms, including the first worker’s comp system, railroad rate reform, the minimum wage, the open primary system, women’s suffrage, and progressive taxation. He created an atmosphere of close cooperation between government and the citizens. Unfortunately, La Follette like the early progressives of the 19th century never imagined what the mixture of admirable causes (poverty, education, wages), unions and politics would turnout. The unintended consequences come from the insulation of bad theory, protocol and application that no longer has to compete for dollars or victims.
Social reform that is fueled by private initiative has proven to bring about wanted change, however once it has been ‘weaponized’ through union and political power it becomes something else. That ‘something else’ is protesting on the streets of Madison this week.
One summer my brother and I stayed with relatives in a tony area of Connecticut; our family was middle class from a suburb of NYC and not schooled in the finer things, we were however, very good in sports. We’d show up at the tennis courts in mismatched shorts and tees, torn sneakers (high-tops not Tennis) but we’d kill anybody we’d play. The elites at the club tolerated us for a time, but refused to recognize our skills and couldn’t wait for us to leave.
In a recent interview with Bill O’Reilly, Charles Krauthammer commenting on CPAC (Conservative Political Action Committee), and their year after year top vote for Ron Paul in their straw Poll, belittled Paul’s support for ending the Federal Reserve, calls for substantial cuts in the defense budget and his constitutional discipline of separating federal and state power that would extremely realign not only government but also political fortunes.
While Krauthammer is my favorite elitist and intellectual he does unfortunately suffer from a condition, ‘Elitist Intellectual Ailment’ (EIA), which is characterized by ideas and policies that emanate from a small group of schools and think tanks that has a love for information and the need to connect causality. I call it the ‘Joe Frazier’ Socio-political style of `leading with your head’. This group believes that there isn’t a problem that can’t be intellectually worked out in a lab on an Ivy League campus through the hands of elitists (sons and daughters of the same) who then can through government management of society process their answers. To elitists, Government has never been the problem, the problem has been either differing elitist theories on the use of government or the improper use of government by the rare occasions that Commoners (non-elitists) have been in power. While Progressives favor the government as a re-distributor of wealth and income and Conservatives favor government as a protector of traditional values, they both favor government. They reject the ideas of Ron Paul and true free market believers who suggest that in an open society, through voluntary exchange and association, societies don’t necessarily collapse but ‘self-correct’.
Krauthammer who honored in political and economic studies, has a degree from Harvard Medical School in Psychiatry and practiced until 1978 when he went to work for the Carter Administration is like many Conservative and Progressive elitists, they at times can move back and forth between political philosophies and political parties. While they may hang out in different areas of the ‘Country Club’, at the end of the day they still sit down at the same table and enjoy hot toddies in front of the same fire. Both believe that society is better managed by experts (another name for elites) who can steer resources, labor and values for the greater good.
To Krauthammer and other elitists, Ron Paul is the most peculiar of anomalies; he is bright, well educated, understands Washington like elitists, but yet he doesn’t see government as the overriding solution to society.
In a NYTimes best seller, ‘The Black Swan’, Nassim Taleb (University of Paris, Wharton School) wrote about the fragility that was inherent in financial, economic and public policy models coming out of the best schools and think tanks, that didn’t account for unknown variables. He says unlike nature which protects against exponential growth and centralization, the hybrid derivatives built in the financial markets and the government built banking behemoths would lead to a financial crisis. “If I shot an elephant, the biggest animal on earth you’d be unhappy. I will probably get some bad press as well. Will it impact the ecology of the planet though? No. If, before the financial crisis 2 years ago, I shot a company called Lehman Brothers, would it have had an impact on the world economy? Yes. The lesson learned here from the elephant is that it is not too big. Companies get too big” Taleb.
The reason that companies get too big, is the same reason that values like home prices, USD and drugs are distorted because of public policies built upon flawed interpretation of data and not properly accounting for risk. You could never have monopolies or the size companies we have today without government regulations that protect industries and corporations from competition and provide subsidized capital. But monolithic structures become prone to stress and create system failures when they fall. Nature allows for the largest tree in the forest to fall with little impact, while if the largest entity in almost any industry failed it could cause substantial impact to a community, state or a nation’s economy.
In another book, ‘Open Society’, Karl Popper traces the elitism of Conservative and Progressive theories back to Plato. Plato saw societies as machinery that would decay and become obsolete over time if not managed and planned for, he felt decay could be forestalled by ‘managing’ society to an ideal that would need to be reinterpreted over time. This would be done by a special class of individuals called ‘Philosopher-Kings’ who would set the vision. They would need to go to special schools for training and most likely come from a select (elite) group of people. He envisioned a second class of people, ‘The Warriors’ who would enforce the vision of the ‘Philosopher-Kings’, these would be police, politicians and judges; and then there would be a third class, ‘The Workers’ who followed the rules and allowed themselves to be managed and receive the benefits of a better society. As today, it would be unconscionable to move from class to class for the most part, and there would always be a need for the philosopher (political) class to manage society.
To quote Popper, “Our knowledge can only be finite, while our ignorance must necessarily be infinite.” In Popper’s theory of Falsification, he says every theory and policy is prone to failure and must be assumed so until proven so. Theories ‘cooked’ in the lab, proven on a very small data sample, could have tremendous unintended downside consequences or at a minimum – distort values.
Elitists don’t like ‘old fashion’ ideas of limited government and constitutional principles that separate government powers between the individual, states, and the federal government. Which allows for currency, food and values to self-regulate through voluntary exchange and association. To them it is too much power in too many hands. The idea of everyone doing whatever they wanted, would destroy a society, the very thing that Plato, Hegel and Marx warned against.
A truly free society, where government merely intervenes to protect individual liberties and men and women are free to succeed or fail? No, no, society must be managed and even though we have times of crisis, the boys and the girls in the labs of Princeton and Harvard will have the next great public policy solution and with a little more government control in their hands (and less in yours), elitists will enable Plato’s vision to continue.
In a controversial study by Carmen Reinhart and Ken Rogoff it shows that economic activity is hindered when government gross debt rises above 90%. This year actual debt held by the public is 72% but is expected to accelerated as social security and health care liabilities are projected to rise sharply.
The budget the President is handing to Congress is expected to be $3.73 trillion, with only a few weeks left to deliberate, a government shutdown is becoming more of a possibility. There is also the need over the next few months of an additional increase in the debt ceiling which will cause a confrontation within Congress between the Tea Party sponsored members who took pledges not to raise the ceiling and those who are more pragmatic or have sponsored bills in legislation.
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France has joined a growing chorus of G20 countries who have starting to go public with plans to transition off dollar denominated global reserves to Special Drawing Rights, which are several currencies that would be held in place of USD to stabilize the currency markets. “At the same time, international capital flows should be better regulated and the role of the Special Drawing Rights issued by the International Monetary Fund should be reinforced by the inclusion of China’s yuan in the system.” Says the French economics minister.
China currently the 2nd largest economy in the world to the US, is holding $2.5 trillion in mostly USD as a hedge under the current monetary structure, the real question is what will happen to China’s and other monetary reserve portfolio balances and the USD’s value as they move to the new system.
In domestic news, housing prices plunged over 5% in 2010 and some traditionally insulated markets like Seattle and Atlanta are showing erosion as many prepare for the next level of price decreases. “Seattle is down about 31 percent from its mid-2007 peak and, according to Zillow’s calculations, still has as much as 10 percent to fall. Stan Humphries, economist for website Zillow, estimates the rest of the country will drop a further 5 and 7 percent as last year’s tax credits for home buyers continue to wear off.
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There’s been an important update on the move away from the USD as a reserve currency that we’ve reported about over the past several months. The International Monetary Fund (IMF) issued a report yesterday outlining the process to move from a world reserve currency for central banks based on the USD to a fund of Special Drawing Rights (SDR) that would include a basket of different currencies.
The IMF said that the SDRs would create a more stable currency environment by spreading the risk among several currencies while pointing out the volatility of the USD during the recession and recovery process over the past several years. US Monetary policy of quantitative easing has contributed to rising oil and food prices which has indirectly put pressure on oil dependent nations and other poorer nations that live marginally.
In an article on Money.com they report that Dominique Strauss-Kahn, managing director of the IMF, “acknowledged there are some “technical hurdles” involved with SDRs, but he believes they could help correct global imbalances and shore up the global financial system. “Over time, there may also be a role for the SDR to contribute to a more stable international monetary system,” he said. The goal is to have a reserve asset for central banks that better reflects the global economy since the dollar is vulnerable to swings in the domestic economy and changes in U.S. policy.”
Kahn also says that he could see where the IMF through a new reserve currency structure could issue bonds and other financial instruments. This would create a new centralized level of banking structure that would potentially sit above all national central banks. While there have been rumors of centralizing world banking and a new global regulatory structure as recently as Davos last month, this step would be a leap into that direction. The creation of a global banking structure that had the ability to produce ‘treasury-type’ bonds would compete directly with US treasuries for safety and liquidity and cause further erosion of USD value.
Fred Bergsten, director of the Peterson Institute for International Economics, “said at a conference in Washington that IMF member nations should agree to create $2 trillion worth of SDRs over the next few years. SDRs, he said, “will further diversify the system.”
We can’t stress enough how much the impact will be to USD value, particularly if US domestic spending and the US debt is not addressed to make the USD more attractive as it becomes more exposed to a competitive global market.
As a follow up to an earlier article, ‘The Elephant In The Room: Conservatives And Libertarians, and to comment on the strains within GOP and CPAC members and leadership leading up to their conference this week; the ‘elephant in the room’ is still social issues and causes within the GOP and have been highlighted with GOProud (A self proclaimed Gay Conservative Organization) joining CPAC conferences. While the GOP is a big tent party, social issues have driven a wedge that gapes and contracts at different times. The GOP and particularly Conservatives seem to unite around economic causes with calls for limited government but chasm when social issues are brought to the table.
Classical Conservatism was more about ‘conserving’ individual liberties (even at times when they were counter cultural), understanding that the same free markets that correct price and value will also ‘self correct’ human behavior in society through voluntary exchange and association. Unfortunately modern and neoconservatism chooses the short cut of government intervention just like progressives within the Democrat Party. The ‘Zeal of the Weal’ (Greater Good) can be a danger to freedom when it is ‘weaponized’ by government power and determined as an outcome; whether that is solving poverty or controlling life style choices, in the end it is a Pyrrhic victory as freedoms are lost and values are distorted in the hands of government planners.
Government power as our founders understood, should be negative in nature and not an activist for any causes, if there is any room for positive experimentation it is at the state and local level. While (modern) conservatives are ‘making an exit’ out of the CPAC meeting; libertarians and classical conservatives are making an exit out of the Tea Party movement and that is most unfortunate.
Federal powers need to be restrained by constitutional principles and state and local government powers need to be open to competitive models.
As Egyptian banks reopened on Sunday the conditions have been relatively stable all things considered, as the US dollar has made a 2.3% gain on the Egyptian pound (EP) according to the BBC, since the crisis started. Rumors are that while the Egyptian government hasn’t intervened directly that state-owned banks have been selling USD to support the EP. The Egyptian stock market will remain closed until next Sunday.
When bank doors initially opened there were a significant amount of customers waiting. But withdrawals have been limited to 50,000 EP ($8,400) and $10,000 in foreign currencies.
The Egyptian government had to pull back on a treasury auction, looking for 15bn (Euro), they had to settle for 1bn as foreign investors are reluctant to buy and borrowing costs have risen for the government around 1.5% from the last auction.
The domino effect to Tunisia’s and Egypt’s political unrest that has been taking place in some respect to other neighboring countries like Jordan and Yemen, is now feared to also destabilize currencies and financial markets as well.
While the Middle East tries to rebound from unrest, Europe is still cautiously waiting for a turnaround in some of their country-states like Greece and Ireland who have undergone renovations and Portugal, Spain and Italy who are on watch lists for now. China has made overtures to purchase European bonds and help in reworking debt.
Meanwhile, the US struggles with mounting national debt, stalled talks on budget policy and cutting spending, and unemployment which remains stubbornly high at 9.0%.
In January, a Tunisian uprising over unemployment, food inflation and government corruption caused the overthrow of the government and for President Ben Ali to flee the country allegedly with 1.5 tons of gold in his possession. The end of last month Egyptians have taken to the street in protest of the Mubarak government. The protesters include the upper middle class to the lower class, decrying the high rate of unemployment and inflation; as of this writing, Mubarak has offered to step down in September after his current term ends. With growing unrest in his own country, Jordanian King Abdullah has sacked his own government as protests against high unemployment and rising prices are growing in the streets.
Other Arab states are concerned about a Domino Effect from the uprisings spreading to their nations and the possibility of the Muslim Brotherhood and other fundamentalist groups of gaining more traction by taking advantage of the social unrest.
While fundamentalists are driving some of the uprisings, the majority of the uprisings have a common thread: Unemployment, rising food and energy prices. Does US monetary policies play a role in the process?
The current world economies run off the US Dollar as a reserve currency. The Arab states trade in US Dollars for the most part through oil revenues, IMF funds and direct aid from the US. When the US decides to use quantitative easing measures to print its way out of economic malaise or to monetize its own debt, it not only destroys the buying power of its citizens but foreign governments and their citizens as well. Unemployment and rising prices are the result of currency and interest rate distortions, as governments, corporations and individuals react to changes in the supply, cost or perceived value of money in the marketplace. The poorest of nations and individuals in those nations seem to suffer the most as they live on the margins of society, meeting their food and shelter needs day by day. They lack the reserves and robustness to endure long periods of economic disruption. Meanwhile, China has been the whipping boy because of its perceived loose monetary policy as well, but from China’s point of view, the US leaves it no choice but to take a defensive posture, by print more Yuan/RMB in response to devaluation of the USD.
Many around the world are reacting to US foreign policies of intervention and involvement in other nation’s governments and of the proliferation of US military presence around the globe but there is a growing resentment to US monetary policy as well. The recent Basel Accord meetings late last year and the meetings most recently with the Chinese were about moving away from the USD as the sole reserve currency and a move toward a commodity structure (unlikely) or a basket of currencies – SDR (Special Drawing Rights). Since the Bretton Woods conference in 1944, the US has enjoyed a monopoly as the worlds reserve currency, which gave it the perception as a safe haven to hold currency and as the best means of exchange. The US has been able to take advantage of that position by making risky monetary and fiscal decisions to run up deficits in domestic and foreign policies and experiment in Keynesian monetary policy of stimulus injections when the economy slows down. This has been done for years through Congressional Budget busting programs and zealous monetary policy, all the while knowing that the world had little recourse as they needed the USD. The US has been making the bed of its own demise for years and yet there’s very little evidence that the political or monetary class is willing to change directions.
Ben Bernanke of the Federal Reserve, Tim Geithner of the US Treasury, the current President and most of Congress are not only not friends of the American people, they are also not friends of most people around the globe as their policy decisions are threats to government stability and individual freedoms and standards of living. If the US wants to have the greatest positive impact around the globe, she would do well to get her own house in order by using the Constitution as a plumb line to determine legitimate federal power by which to cut programs and departments and decentralize public policy decision making, in order to bring about Montesquieu’s Balance of Power (fed/states) as her nation’s founders had intended. They can start by rescinding the Federal Reserve Act of 1913.
A strong, stable US government built upon individual liberty and constitutional restraint would make for a better export to the world instead of the foreign policy bullying and economic policy time bombs we currently export. As the recent US elections show and the unfortunate unrest around the globe backup: both the American people and the world community as a whole is frustrated. The question is: Will the US find it’s historical moorings and once again step up to a leadership position among nations, or will the US continue down the road of self-inflicted destruction, as the world community looks for leadership elsewhere?
As GOP leaders flesh out Tea Party ideology and come to terms in Washington regarding the influence of the Tea Party movement, the majority of Americans according to a Gallup/USA poll say that Republicans in power should take into consideration Tea Party positions when making decisions. 71% of adults think it is very or somewhat important; that breaks down 88% of Republicans, 72% of independents and 63% of Democrats think so.
The article goes on to question why Democrats would be in favor of the GOP pursuing Tea Party ideas, positing that some may feel it is appropriate for the GOP to recognize its constituents wishes, while others might feel the Tea Party ideas are radical, which could play into the 2012 election.
The Overall Opinion/Favorability rating of the GOP is 47%, a recent improvement, the Tea Party rating is 39%, which hasn’t moved much in either direction.
Within the Tea Party movement there are factions between Conservative, Independent and Libertarian elements that disagree regarding the role of government in social issues like marriage, sexuality and drugs. There is general agreement overall regarding the need to limit federal government power, cut spending and balance the budget using the US Constitution as a backdrop. Many in the Tea Party are scrutinizing the GOP’s embracing of Paul Ryan’s Healthcare Alternative as having still too much federal involvement and are looking to the individual states for healthcare statecraft.
“It is said that the world is in a state of bankruptcy, that the world owes the world more than the world can pay.”
(Ralph Waldo Emerson)
Ironically in searching for a couple of quotes to lead this article off on Bankruptcy, I found more quotes on the subject by politicians who warned if we as a nation didn’t `invest’ more money through government for things like health care, education and wages that it would lead to bankruptcies of all types. ‘ In this most powerful nation in the world, lack of access to health care should not force local and state governments, companies and workers into bankruptcy, while causing unnecessary illness and hospitalization.” (John Conyers)
In a New York Times article this morning (January 21, 2011) Mary Williams Walsh talks about the quiet meetings happening in the House and Senate regarding the growing possibility of State bankruptcies. Currently there are constitutional issues that prevent states from seeking bankruptcy relief unlike local municipalities, but lawmakers having started to entertain a few inquiries by states such as California and Illinois and are rushing through the corridors of DC preparing a `Best Practices’ plan of approach.
Many are in denial that some States are in the kind of financial peril that warrants bankruptcy discussions (come on! We read it in the Times!) but another ironic quote is Bob Lutz the auto executive commenting on GM’s financial condition, “Imminent GM bankruptcy was always fiction, created by Wall Street and the media.” Here at ACD we brought up the possibility over a year ago and investment managers like Meredith Whitney as recently as December suggested that with 49 states that have mandatory balanced budgets in their charters will be forced to make dramatic spending cuts, pay increased debt finance costs or default on loans that are coming due later this year. Whitney and others are forecasting that unemployment will rise later this year due in part to spending cuts forced upon the States.
The two big questions that will affect the outcome are: How much will the Federal Government become involved (which can distort process) and what liabilities will the States renegotiate on? The NYTimes article mentions a type of Federal Board that could set standards and regulate the process, like with the Savings & Loan crisis of the late 1980s. Fortunately or unfortunately, when decisions come out of Washington they are politicized and decisions regarding viability and allocating resources which free markets would go one way, Washington could take a different root. This brings up the liabilities, some that might be on the table to negotiate or eliminate through a bankruptcy process are: Pensions (retirees), Bondholders and Union Contracts. Most financial analysts rate the priorities as Bondholders or Union Contracts first and retirees Pensions as last. In recent years Federal and State wages have far exceeded private wages and while most Bondholders tend to be retirees, there’s still an understanding of risk (albeit, low) in Bond ownership.
The good news is the discussions about where to cut state spending and how to work out their liabilities is starting to be done head on rather than temporarily refinanced and kicked down the road for another day, let’s hope it leads to market driven answers with a minimum amount of government intervention keeping with constitutional principles.
With the recent news that Russia and China had reached an initial trade and currency deal, and China has announced they would consider rescuing the EU and possibly buying the debt of troubled EU members like Greece and Portugal; these strategic moves beg the question ‘how will this play out on the global financial and political landscape?’.
The US has always enjoyed strong allegiances with the UK in economic and political matters and favorable or neutral relationships with other European nations, but what’s ahead for that alliance and what other relationships are left on the table as Russo-China relations aggressively pursues its own interests? Even in South America where the US has enjoyed primary relationships in the past regarding trade and political alliances, even those are being challenged as China seeks out broader export and resource-rich trading relationships.
China is predicted to overtake the US as the leading worldwide economic powerhouse, some say by 2025 and many say even earlier. China is also an initiator in the move to replace the US dollar as the world’s benchmark and reserve currency and create instead a basket of funds that could include the Remimbi, Euro, Yen and US Dollar. This move could severely hinder the strength of the USD as demand would diminish due to a 75% drop in reserve value and expose the USD to market mechanics that it has been able to distort since Bretton Wood in 1944 for the most part.
Is it far fetched to consider that ‘fault lnes’ might create a world separated by Russo-China-EU powers and US-UK-Japan and its satellites? If not, would it might also create battle lines between not only different sociopolitical systems but economic systems as well? While there are no ‘purists’ in the bunch regarding economic philosophies, the RCE pact (particularly Russia and China) have fine tuned their experiment with State-run Capitalism, while the UUJ pact is closer to ‘true’ capitalism with less government intervention. While the UK is no beacon of Capitalism per se, it did shun the move to jump into the EU partly because it saw its social democratic neighbors rushing head long into a union that it felt would give up too much sovereignty. It looks like at this point the UK made the right decision as Ireland and Greece fight off stringent EU austerity reforms that have caused civil unrest among their citizens.
The parallels between the housing bubble and the bond bubble in the US debt market is formidable. Both have benefitted in the past from a robust economy, favorable tax treatment and if not a full out promise, a ‘wink and a nod’ that the federal government would be there if ever there was a crisis. U.S. and foreign investors have flocked to both and the potential for changes in risk dynamics has started to happen very quickly in the bond market as it did in housing. In the Municipal Bond market specifically, yields and cost of doing business for cities and states is increasing as municipalities are squeezed between resistive spending barriers like union contracts and health care costs and availability of cheap borrowing. As revenues have decreased due to the economic recession, 49 of the 50 states have balanced budget requirements and with few options are looking to Washington for creative solutions.
In an article in Reason Magazine, “The Municipal Debt Bubble” Veronique de Rugy writes,
“Municipal bonds are perceived as safe investments because, like U.S. Treasury bonds, they are backed by the full faith, credit, and taxing powers of the issuing governments. Investors know that states and localities can always raid taxpayer wallets to pay off their debts.
But in the last two years tax and fee hikes have faced greater public opposition. Last year, for example, Jefferson County, Alabama, was unable to raise sewer fees to meet its sewer bond obligation. Since governments are generally unwilling to cut spending either, the result of resistance to new revenue raising has been substantial increases in states’ and cities’ debt levels. Detroit and Los Angeles have announced that they may have to declare bankruptcy, as have a number of smaller cities.
Usually, as a borrower becomes a riskier prospect, lenders start pulling away. At the very least, worried about the prospect of losing their investment to default, they don’t increase the amount they lend.
But municipal bonds have not yet lost their low-risk reputation. According to the Investment Company Institute, $84 billion went into long-term municipal bond mutual funds in 2010, up from $69 billion in 2009. And the 2009 level represents a 785 percent increase from the 2008 level of $7.8 billion. Artificial incentives have lured investors into thinking that lending cash to bankrupted cities will be profitable.
Investors believe cities and states—especially states, which can’t legally declare bankruptcy to escape debts—will resort to anything to avoid reneging on their obligations. And if they default anyway, investors assume the feds will bail them out. Washington already has bailed out the banks, the automobile industry, homeowners, and local school budgets; it isn’t unreasonable to assume that it will decide the states and cities are also too big to fail.
Consider what happened in 2008. Government revenues started to fall, signaling to investors that bonds might be riskier than they thought. At the same time, several insurers that typically backed municipal bonds went bankrupt or exited the market, meaning that buyers were left unprotected against the risk of default. Instead of seeing this downturn as an incentive for states and cities to change their behavior, Washington stepped in with a new municipal offering.
The Build America Bonds program, part of the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009, was aimed at subsidizing bonds for infrastructure projects. Under this program, the Treasury Department pays 35 percent of bond interest to the issuing government. If a state or local government issued a bond at a high rate to make it appealing to investors—10 percent, say—the Treasury would make a 3.5 percent direct payment to the issuer. In exchange, the federal government gets to tax the returns on the bonds. It’s no surprise that, starting in 2008, states and cities increased their debt dramatically, while investors enabled this overspending.”
Another sign of debt market instability is the move in prices in the Credit Default Swap (CDS) market as investors are hedging their investments or simply playing the speculative market, betting a rise in defaults. We’ve seen this happening in the EU banking crisis.
To add more uncertainty into the Muni and US debt market, Marc Faber of Gloom, Boom and Doom Newsletter, who predicted in 2007 the current recession, sees US (real) inflation currently at 5-8% and expects interest rates to start steadily rising. Says that Treasury yields are 50% undervalue.
Whispers in Washington and around the country have been increasing regarding a similar bank and debt crisis in Europe hitting US shores. Sheila Bair, FDIC Chairman, is saying what many are thinking. Bair writes in a Washington Post article,
“With more than 70 percent of U.S. Treasury obligations held by private investors scheduled to mature in the next five years, an erosion of investor confidence would lead to sharp increases in government and private borrowing costs. And while we enjoy a uniquely favored status today – investors still view U.S. Treasury securities as a haven during crises – events in Greece and Ireland should serve as a warning. The yields on their long-term government securities have risen from rough parity with U.S. Treasury obligations in early 2007 to levels that are hundreds of basis points higher. If investors were to similarly lose confidence in U.S. public debt, we could expect high and volatile interest rates to impose losses on financial institutions that hold Treasury instruments, and to raise the funding costs of depository institutions, which can be highly vulnerable to interest-rate shocks. All of us would pay more for consumer and business credit, and our economy would suffer.” (Sheila Bair, FDIC Chairman)
Bair goes on to say that while confidence in the USD and economy have stayed relatively high considering the 2008 financial crisis, she warned that we must not take it for granted and to get our financial house in order. She mentioned the two proposals on the table now, “Recent proposals by the co-chairs of the National Commission on Fiscal Responsibility and the Bipartisan Policy Center represent credible first steps toward recognizing and addressing the nation’s fiscal problem. Both propose to reduce and cap discretionary spending, enact comprehensive tax reform, reduce mandatory spending on health care and other programs, and ensure the long-term solvency of Social Security.”
The two proposals mentioned by Bair include spending cuts and tax increases, but don’t address monetary policy and the finance policy of Treasury department. US States are also approaching critical mass, as they look to finance deficits and maturing bonds. They are vulnerable to increases in interest rates.
Seven billion pounds happens to be the total saving that would be made by all the welfare cuts put together. You know: the cuts that the BBC, the Guardian and the Labour Party insist will destroy social security. The cuts that Tristram Hunt says will mean a return to the Victorian workhouse. The cuts that John Cruddas says will drive a million people from their homes. The cuts that Polly Toynbee calls a final solution to the poor.
So now we know: every penny saved by these cuts will go to prop up the euro. To put it another way, at a time when Britain’s public sector debt stands at £850 billion, we are borrowing a further £7 billion to send to Ireland.
Ought we to help the Irish? Yes: they are our neighbours and our allies, our suppliers and our customers, our friends and, in many cases, our relatives. But we don’t help them by keeping them in the euro. Ireland is in this mess because of the single currency, and will stay in this mess until it leaves. If we wanted to offer Ireland practical assistance, we would help them out of the euro, by allowing their debts to be denominated in sterling.”
Hannan brings up a crossroads decision for Ireland as EU deal is still being ironed out. Does Ireland go deeper into EU control, hanging their hat on the EURO and harsher captital requirements and still new currency and bond fluctuations as the EU still has Portugal and Spain to consider or does it look for an exit plan that Hannan suggests as it takes a harder look at spending policies internally and to the UK and its potential to rollover its current debt from EUROs to Pounds.
Ian Duncan Smith, British Secretary of State for Work and Pensions, is set to announce a sweeping overhaul of their welfare program, that’s as big as when the Beveridge Report in 1942 introduced the current welfare system. The program while securing worker pay and benefits, creates much harsher standards for those who refuse to look and find work.
What started out thirty years ago as a crusade to drive Christian morality into politics and thus into the laws of our nation and statehood, has ended not with a bang but in a puff of vapor. Its leadership is gone or faded into the social background and where as political parties desperately courted the movement, today there’s a definite disassociation. So what happened and what has it left behind in its wake? I would suggest that the antithesis of the Moral Majority is the Progressive Movement that now shepherds universal health care, environmental legislation and re-distributive policies designed (in their minds) to bring about social justice and equality. Being a part of the Moral Majority Movement in the 1980s and 1990s, and reflecting on what the movement was trying to accomplish, I unfortunately today realize it was misdirected. Some of it might even seem obvious now: ‘The majority forcing its will on a minority’ (like censorship) or ‘limit personal freedoms for the greater good’ (homosexuality). The gospel message starts small like a seed and grows; it changes the life of an individual who then can effect change in his family and community. Christianity to be effective changes mankind one individual at a time, and individuals change society. With a wind at its back and a great candidate in Ronald Reagan, the Moral Majority tried to use its political capital to enforce its moral will on American Society through the use of State powers and it was ugly and shameful. Through the gospel we preached and tried to demonstrate love in our personal relationships, but in our political affiliations and support of heavy handed ‘Pro-Christian’ legislation we demonstrated intolerance for personal freedoms under the law. Our motives might have been for the well being of the ‘sinner’ but in our disregard for the US Constitution and personal freedoms we hardened more hearts than we helped and in my opinion helped to mobilize the progressive movement in opposition.
While the progressive movement dates as far back as Plato and Aristotle and the modern movement from Hegel, Marx and Stuart in response to the Industrial Revolution which embodied itself in US politics with Theodore Roosevelt, Woodrow Wilson and FDR’s ‘New Deal’; it had become dormant in the 1970s, but revived partly in opposition to the Moral Majority Movement in the 1980s, you can read the history of the progressive movement that I wrote on my blog at (The Progressive Movement: Individual Regressivism) for some additional insight. While the philosophies of the Progressive and Moral Majority movements may be different, their delivery system is very similar. The Moral Majority starts out from the perspective, ‘God is not fairly represented in society’, while the Progressive Movement says, ‘There are inequities and abuses in society’. The Moral Majority and Progressive movements are Collectivists in their approach to ideas and in using government, by identifying groups or classes in society. Collectivism is grounded in Holism which believes that the individual is part of a system and inseparable, so in Collectivism the state is emphasized over the individual – ‘the greater good’. Both the Moral Majority and Progressive movements believe that the government was to be used to carry out their policy agendas. The government would use its power to force the will of the many onto the will of the few. Neither one of the movements has shown success at accomplishing their goals; the prohibition movement of the 1920s was a disaster (Alcohol Prohibition Was a Failure) as are drug laws today at promoting morality, and many of the wealth redistribution and government social programs from FDR’s New Deal have produced unintended consequences and huge deficits.
So, the Progressive Movement which unlike the Moral Majority movement has some political capital left in its arsenal. The question is, will it go the way of the Moral Majority and other socio-political movements of the past, which gain power and try to force its will on its subjects only to be eventually rebuffed? Or will it (where I believe the Moral Majority failed) try to protect all freedoms (left and right) and encourage social change (as Moral Majority should have) through society privately with government as a ‘defender’ of freedoms instead of playing an `offensive’ role as a provider. There’s an old idiom, “You can lead a horse to water but you can’t make it drink”, that could be upgraded to “You can lead a horse to water but not only can you not make it drink but you can make it hate water and you as well.” Social movements that use state control and force, even those well intended and containing admirable goals will create more unintended consequences, raise suspicions of the state with possible overreactions and eventually will be turned away by the people in the end.
Christopher M. Mahon, Editor 2009