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Monday, November 17, 2008

Questions About Bailouts & the Threat of Socialism

What's wrong with offering loans to US automakers on the condition that they commit themselves to immediate chapter 11 reorganization? It seems to me that in doing so the principal sources of their insolvency, i.e. overpaid union workers, princely benefits plans and defective management, can be cut down to manageable size. Result: the industry will finally become more competitive with Toyota, among other auto makers, and American jobs will be protected. Am I being simplistic or is this just plain 'ole commonsense? And especially in these trying times, can or should the unions and managers in Detroit have their frosted cake and eat it too? In short, should failure be rewarded in a free market?

Also, at a time when national solvency itself is at risk, why are the President-elect and his congressional minions pressing for passage of the Jubilee Act (S.2166) and the Global Poverty Act (S.2433), all in an effort to help implement the UN Milennium Development Goal.

The Jubilee Act forgives $75 billion in debts owed to the USA with little convincing proof that recipient countries will not again irresponsibly slip into onerous debt.

And with the idealistic goal of reducing by 1/2 the proportion of people worldwide who live on less than $1/day, the Global Poverty Act dramatically increases US foreign aid by $845 billion over a 13-year period. This is over and above the $65 billion/yr in foreign aid the USA already spends. Can we afford this profligacy? Or is this old humanitarian worker just being cheap and uncaring?

Ultimately, can a vibrant and essentially self-correcting free market operating within the realm of natural economic laws sustain itself without the infusion of legislative mandates and gargantuan financial stimulants? And can untested governmental interventions, aka "fixes", unintentionally (or otherwise) imperil the efficacy of a free market? In our politicians' haste to fix the economy's financial problems, will our free market economy irreversibly morph into Socialism?

My not being an economics major, I'm just not sufficiently knowledgeable to adequately answer these questions myself. Anyone out there have any instructive comments?

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

My Discouraging Chat with Rep. Slaughter

During a vet recognition luncheon yesterday, I briefly spoke with Rep. Louise Slaughter (D-NY), an invited speaker.

Following the usual pleasantries and before the festivities were underway, I asked Louise what she thought about Sen. Schumer's characterization of conservative talk radio as "pornography", and whether or not that was symptomatic of Democrats' wanting to re-impose the Fairness Doctrine which, to me, was tantamount to breaching free speech. Her carefree demeanor morphed into a decidedly defensive posture and she quickly countered that the doctrine had been around since 1939 and that it was nothing to worry about. (Her logic was interesting. Slavery was the law of the land for a very long time too before that abysmally odious practice was outlawed.) She proceeded to quickly deny that Sen. Schumer said what he had reportedly said and went on to pronounce that the airwaves belong to the people and that equal time for both points of view was needed. Calmly maintaining eye contact and without wavering, I politely pointed out that the free market belonged to "us" all as does "our" choice as to which station "we" can tune in. I asked if she had any problem with "our" exercising "free choice" in this regard and informed her that I periodically listen to Air America, but that owing to the station's sophomoric and mean-spirited dialogue I could never stomach more than 10 minutes at a time and invariably switched to other stations for balance and information. She appeared a tad taken aback by my unwillingness to allow her "congressional awe" to deter me. She countered by saying that the Fairness Doctrine has nothing to do with free speech. "Of course it does," I gently countered.

I then asked her if she planned to push the Fairness Doctrine. She dodged and tried to drift away from me. I asked her to please reflect carefully if that is her position and intention; that her decision should be based upon "country first" and not "party first", noting that that's what we veterans are all about.

Though obviously discomfited by my polite determination, we briefly touched on other subjects, like Obama and how genuinely fearful I am of his presidency. Trying to reassure me on that score, she said that I should just listen to what he says. "If you listen to what he says you have nothing to worry about," she confidently asserted. Momentarily speechless by her exasperatingly vacuous pronouncement, I quickly and calmly assured her that "unlike too many Americans, I HAVE very carefully listened to him and have very carefully examined his record, and that that's precisely why I AM worried."

Realizing she wasn't making any headway on that score, she then asked if I didn't like Medicare and Social Security. I responded that I did, noting that both needed reform and that without proper reform they are both additional train wrecks in the making. As anticipated, she asked if I would have been happy "had the Republicans gotten their way by privatizing Social Security." I courteously parried by noting that the GOP was advocating that only a small percentage of one's social security deduction was to have been privatized, and then only if the taxpayer chose to do so, and that, for me, it's a free choice issue and that I would be surprised if others would have a problem with a person's exercising his or her free choice.

She finally managed to gracefully and deftly drift away. We courteously bid each other farewell, and she took her seat at the head table and I mine with my vet colleagues in the audience.

Unfortunately, this brief exchange served only to reinforce my concerns about the left. For Rep. Slaughter and so many others like her in D.C. I am convinced that narrow ideological interests and party pre-eminence will ALWAYS trump common sense and country. This exchange further convinced me that whenever we have an opportunity to speak with our reps, we should go out of our way to do so. And we should never feel intimidated by their lofty station in life. We should bear in mind that they are but folks not unlike most others we know in our daily lives. They don't have the corner on wisdom, intelligence or reality. But, for these exchanges to be reasonably constructive, no matter how brief they may be, one should always be courteous and certain of one's positions.

Frankly, I wish our exchange yesterday had been heard by everyone in the room. Indeed, everyone in the county. It was revealing and, yes, so very, very unsettling.

Friday, November 7, 2008

Hope & Prayer are Good, But Vigilance is Best

With the heady presidential election behind us, and still somewhat numb and battered from the drubbing, I've just a few things to say for now.

Given the "financial meltdown" erroneously attributed to the GOP, it is nothing short of remarkable that McCain garnered 46% of the vote. Thus, there are at least 55 million Americans who remain deeply skeptical and profoundly concerned about what an Obama presidency might really mean for our country. The truth is that for both Democrats and Republicans alike the president-elect is still very much an unknown quantity, a wild card, an enigma.

Unquestionably, being unified as Americans is always in our best interests. But goody-two-shoes demonstration of unity around this President-elect would be patently myopic and irresponsible. While respectful of the office of the presidency, sensible Americans should continue to be justifiably wary. Being depressed is not in our therapeutic best interests in any event.

Clearly We the People now, more than ever, constitute the only viable check on any socialist excesses which the Obama administration may wish to perpetrate. After all is said and done, a filibuster-proof Senate remains a menacing possibility. So, in the end, it's going to be up us to keep the new administration and congress on an even keel.

My sincerest hope is that Obama will be as pragmatic in his governance as he was in his uniquely successful campaigning, and that fears of his socialist and/or Marxist proclivities have been grossly misguided. Could it be that the hardcore leftist ideological mentoring in his earlier years may not have motivated his single-minded drive to occupy the White House. If true, then perhaps we can reasonably hope that his disturbingly radical associations were either anomalies or merely naive adolescent flirtations, and that they will in no way fundamentally shape his stewardship over the freest, most powerful and most economically vibrant country in the world today.

Let us pray that American traditions and values will be rigorously safeguarded by the new President and that far-left demands and influences will be given short shrift. Let us also pray that Obama's revisionist interpretation of our Constitution, which he will swear to preserve, protect and defend, will not hold sway.

More specifically, it is hoped that Obama, the President, confronted with the harsh reality of national leadership, a faltering economy, and a host of dangerous enemies, will reverse his campaign pledge to slow or drastically curtail new weapons development and the further diminution of our anti-missile defense capability. Let us hope that campaign pledges of tax increases will be either postponed or abandoned, thus ensuring that recession doesn't morph into preventable economic depression.

Among other critical issues, let us also hope that he will in no way help re-impose the God-awful "Fairness Doctrine", unilaterally extend to illegals and terrorists unwarranted and inappropriate rights and privileges, champion debilitating cap-and-trade legislation, or approve passage of the loathsome "Employee Free Choice Act". And let's hope for a commonsense "all-of-the-above" energy policy to free us from foreign energy dependence once and for all.

Ironic that it is now the turn of "country-first" Americans to hope--hope that the "change" about which Obama so eloquently spoke means more than his own personal ambition to be elected President. Let us hope, but let us be ever-vigilant and prepared to stop cold any socialist excesses and heavy-handedness. We've much to lose as a country and, therefore, much to protect.

("The price of freedom is eternal vigilance." Thomas Jefferson)

("I predict future happiness for Americans if they can prevent the government from wasting the labors of the people under the pretense of taking care of them." Thomas Jefferson)