Saturday, April 24, 2010

On devalued currency

Here's an old one dollar bill from the 1920's.  It's a "silver certificate", meaning that you could swap it for one dollar's worth of silver.  The current one dollar bills couldn't be swapped for enough silver to fill a gnat's rear end.  Our government has printed too many of them. 

See this picture of Andrew Jackson?  In 1905, a $20.00 bill could be swapped for $20.00 worth of stuff, including gold. 
If you made the foolish decision to save a $20.00 bill from that era, it will now only purchase 5% of what it could in 1905.

This hundred dollar bill will only do the job once done by a $5.00 bill.  The Federal Reserve system, created in the early 1900's to stabilize our currency, has succeeded in destroying 95% of our currency's value. 

And if you've got any of these, you might want to spend them now.  If current trends continue, they're going to have to print enough of them for all of us. 

This is a variation of a chain email sent to me by The Whited Mama. 

Jonah Goldberg: There are no socialists

I found a link to this Jonah Goldberg piece on the Cafe Hayek site.  Am copying a vast section of it here so I can force myself to memorize huge chunks of it:

If by "capitalist" you mean someone who cares more about his own profit than yours; if you mean someone who cares more about providing for his family than providing for yours; if you mean someone who trusts that he is a better caretaker of his own interests and desires than a bureaucrat he's never met, often in a city he's never been to: then we are all capitalists. Because, by that standard, capitalism isn't some far-off theory about the allocation of capital; it is a commonsense description of what motivates pretty much all human beings everywhere.

And that was one of the reasons why the hard socialism of the Soviet Union failed, and it is why the soft socialism of Western Europe is so anemic. At the end of the day, it is entirely natural for humans to work the system--any system--for their own betterment, whatever kind of system that may be. That's why the black-market economy of the Soviet Union might have in fact been bigger than the official socialist economy. That is why devoted socialists worked the bureaucracy to get the best homes, get their kids into the best schools, and provide their families with the best food, clothes, and amenities they could. Just like people in capitalist countries.

(And it's why Shasha and Malia Obama are going to a private academy instead of one of their Daddy's hellholes.) 
It's why labor unions demanded exemptions and "carve-outs" from Obamacare for their own health-care plans. And why very rich liberals still try their best to minimize their taxes.

The problem with socialism is socialism, because there are no socialists. Socialism is a system based upon an assumption about human nature that simply isn't true. I can design a perfect canine community in which dogs never chase squirrels or groom their nether regions in an indelicate manner. But the moment I take that idea from the drawing board to the real world, I will discover that I cannot get dogs to behave against their nature--at least not without inflicting a terrible amount of punishment. Likewise, it's easy to design a society that rewards each according to his need instead of his ability. The hard part is getting the crooked timber of humanity to yield to your vision.

And it's also why the problem with capitalism is capitalists. Some people will always abuse the system and take things too far. Some will do it out of the hubris of intellect. Some will do it out of the venality of greed.

I bring all of this up because many in Washington seem convinced that the solution to the problem with capitalists is always less capitalism. To be sure, a free-market society is in some sense a government program. The government must prosecute criminality, enforce contracts, and demand that the rules be observed. Few lovers of free markets are so laissez-faire as to want to strip the government of its role as referee.

But few should want the ref to suit up and play the game.

Why big corporations love government regulations

Remember a couple of years ago when the toys from China were found to be contaminated with lead paint?
Our Nanny State passed a bunch of regulations designed to end the lead paint menace.  All toys have to go through an expensive, time-consuming testing process prior to sale.  Used toy dealers have to do the same. 

This has put a lot of the smaller toy manufacturing companies out of business.  Many thrift stores simply don't carry used toys any longer.  Who can afford to do all that testing just to sell a used toy?

But what about Mattel, the giant toymaker who imported the poison toys in the first place?

They get a free pass.  They are, after all, Mattel.  They don't have to get independent testing on their products. 
Here's the Hot Air blog:

So let’s get this straight. Mattel buys millions of items from China that violate American product-safety laws and standards. Congress reacts by punishing the entire industry, especially those small businesses that can’t afford independent testing, especially on products that don’t really need it. Thrift stores can’t resell merchandise without testing, making their business model impossible and threatening the charities that rely on those sales. Meanwhile, the economy of scale means that this law gives Mattel a competitive advantage from their own malfeasance — and they get the waiver on independent testing?

Yesterday, we discussed crony capitalism. This is exactly what is meant. This is a perfect example of government picking winners and losers in the marketplace through legislation written to be sympathetic to big businesses, and an enforcement mechanism that favors the big players even beyond the legislation Congress passed. Mattel can push its smaller competitors out of business, or force them into buyouts, because they broke the law in the first place.
Exactly.  It's For The Children™ .
Just wait until these clowns finish regulating Wall Street. 

What to do with your new Tim Geithner currency:

As you probably know, the Secretary Of The Treasury gets to put his name on all the new currency.
As you probably know, the Secretary Of The Treasury went out of his way to avoid paying his taxes, despite his advocacy of lots and lots of new taxes. 
Go here to order your Tim Geithner "Tax Cheat" stamp. 
Yeah, it's supposed to be a crime to deface currency.  It's also a crime to be a tax cheat. 
Call it Civil Disobedience.  A consciousness-raising event. 

And surprise, surprise, the guy who is selling the "Tax Cheat" stamps is now the victim of an audit from Geithner's Goon Squad.  Go here to contribute to his defense fund. 

Friday, April 23, 2010

John Stossel on Myths About Capitalism

If you didn't catch John Stossel last night, there's still time.  Fox Business channel reruns each feature about 4 times.
Last night was about American myths.  Here's Michael Medved on myth #4:

Myth No. 4: The current downturn means the death of capitalism.

"Capitalism is alive and well," Medved said.
"I'm also bugged when people argue that today's problems prove that capitalism "failed." What failed? We had a correction. A bubble popped. But from 1982 to now, the Dow rose from 800 to 11,000. Had it happened without the bubble, we'd say this is one of the great boom periods.
Medved added: "This is one of the biggest lies — the idea that because of capitalism, we're all suffering. ... Poor people in America today, people who are officially in poverty, have a higher standard of living in terms of medical standards, in terms of the chances of going to college, in terms of the way people live, than middle-class people did 30 years ago. It's an extraordinary achievement of technology and of the profit sector."

On a related note, here are some stats from The Austrian Economists site:

Households with:
Poor 1984Poor  1994Poor
All 1971All 2005
Washing machine58.271.767.068.771.384.0
Clothes dryer35.650.258.561.244.581.2
Color TV70.392.596.897.443.398.9
Personal computer2.97.436.
Air conditioner42.549.677.778.831.885.7
Cellular Telephone

One or more cars     64.171.872.8 (2001)

Ah, the failures of free market capitalism....
Remember to watch John Stossel.

Picture worth at least a thousand words

Dr. Ralph sent this to me from Pundit Kitchen

Thursday, April 22, 2010

The Texas Trade Surplus

From a essay on why Texas is doing so much better than the rest of the nation:

....(Texas) surpassed California several years ago as the nation's largest exporting state. Manufactured goods like electronics, chemicals, and machinery account for a bigger chunk of Texas' exports than petroleum does. In the first two months of 2010, exports of stuff made in Texas rose 24.3 percent, to $29 billion, from 2009.

That's about 10 percent of the nation's total exports. There are more than 700,000 Texan jobs geared to manufacturing goods for export, according to Patrick Jankowski, vice president of research at the Greater Houston Partnership. "A lot of it is capital goods that the Asian, Latin American, and African [countries] are using to build their economies."

So....should these Asian, Latin American, and African countries worry about their trade deficit with Texas? 
Heck no. 

What matters is how much "stuff" you swap, and who you're swapping with doesn't matter.  It's all about trades per hour.   
Should Fort Worth residents worry about their trade deficits with cities on the other side of Highway 360 ?
Should Texas residents worry about their trade deficits with states on the other side of the Red River?
How about countries on the other side of the Rio Grande? 
Or the Pacific? 

The lines of latitude and longitude of the factory  The more you restrict trade, the fewer options your manufacturers have for sourcing raw materials and for exporting finished products. 
Penalizing trade serves no purpose but to negate the gains provided to society by technology, labor, ingenuity, determination and progress. 
If Target or J.C. Penney has a sale on items that you want to purchase, would you avoid those stores because the low prices aren't fair to Wal-Mart? 

Illinois Protesters: Raise My Taxes !

From The Chicago Tribune:

SPRINGFIELD --- Thousands of protesters bused down by labor unions and social service advocates rallied at the Capitol today in an attempt to pressure state lawmakers into raising the income tax to avoid more budget cuts.....

"Raise my taxes! Raise my taxes! Raise my taxes!" they chanted, lined up shoulder to shoulder for a few hundred yards stretching a street in front of the Capitol.

(See all the homemade, witty, and creative signs these protesters are using to display their commitment to their cause?  What a spontaneous, diverse, grassroots group !  You can go here for the complete photo gallery.) 

....Jennifer Ritchason, a middle school social students teacher in Bloomington, came armed with hundreds of letters from her students asking legislators for more money for schools. She said she hopes the children’s words will resonate with the governor and House Speaker Michael Madigan, among other legislators the letters are addressed to.

“If you don’t care about your future, I don’t know what you can truly care about,” she said.

Well, Jinny, there are lots of ways to care about the future. 
Here's a chart showing Federal Spending vs. Federal Revenue.  I care about it deeply.  O so deeply:

Well, you say, if taxes aren't rising as fast as spending, shouldn't we be paying more taxes?  Or should we take a long hard look at where the tax money is going? 
Here's a look at what we're now throwing down the Government School Rathole, as compared to 1970:

See the flatlines running along the bottom?  That's not Jimmy Hoffa's pulse rate.  Those are the reading, math, and science scores. 
The government spending line in blue has been adjusted for inflation.  I suspect that the flatlines at the bottom have been adjusted upward for grade inflation also. 

I'm so tired of banging on this particular drum. 
1) If you want to pay more taxes, pay more taxes.  Don't go on talk shows or attend protests demanding that your rates be raised.  Just pay more taxes.  It's easy.  Don't take any deductions.  Write the check for 50% more than you have to.  Then explain your actions to the men in white coats, because your friends and family are going to call them. 
2) With the possible exceptions of a few things relating to infrastructure and the use of force, everything that is privatized runs more efficiently than things that aren't privatized.  Don't bother bringing up G.M. or Chrysler as examples to the contrary.  No one reading this woulda voluntarily contributed their own money to saving those companies.  In the real world, businesses that don't work properly go under. 
3) Can you imagine the employees of Microsoft, Target, Exxon, or Starbucks taking to the streets with signs, demanding that we, their customers, give them more money?  If you felt that they deserved it, would you shop there more?  Or would you politely hint that they get a job with better hours, pay and benefits elsewhere?
4) Does anybody know anyone who has been laid off from a government job in the last two years? 

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

The Salt Ban

From The Washington Post:

In a complicated undertaking, the FDA would analyze the salt in spaghetti sauces, breads and thousands of other products that make up the $600 billion food and beverage market, sources said. Working with food manufacturers, the government would set limits for salt in these categories, designed to gradually ratchet down sodium consumption. The changes would be calibrated so that consumers barely notice the modification.

The legal limits would be open to public comment, but administration officials do not think they need additional authority from Congress.
"This is a 10-year program," one source said. "This is not rolling off a log. We're talking about a comprehensive phase-down of a widely used ingredient. We're talking about embedded tastes in a whole generation of people."
The FDA, which regulates most processed foods, would be joined in the effort by the U.S. Department of Agriculture, which oversees meat and poultry.

Please remember one thing.....
These are the people who used to recommend between 6 and 11 servings per day of grains and starches, a habit that made many Americans fat enough to have our their gravitational fields.

I'm not betting that they're wrong. 
I don't doubt that they mean well. 
We should do all things in moderation, including salt intake, gambling, eating, spending, and bombing Arabs.  But this salt ban sounds like something they're going to screw up.  Fifty years from now, look for a lot of kids suffering from Hyponatremia.  Or asking their neighborhood drug pusher for salt tablets. 

From Thomas Jefferson

Found it on Tom Lewis's blog.

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Bill Clinton: Remember what led to Oklahoma City (and, unhhh....forget about Waco)

In which Radley Balko takes Bill Clinton to the woodshed:

In today’s New York Times, Bill Clinton once again tries to tie the Oklahoma City bombing to those of us who hold “the belief that the greatest threat to American freedom is our government, and that public servants do not protect our freedoms, but abuse them.”

Of course he sort of proves those of us who do believe such things right by continually using April 19 to tie us to a deranged murderer instead of acknowledging, taking some responsibility for, or expressing any remorse whatsoever for another anniversary we observe today: the Clinton administration’s slaughter of 76 people, including 20 children, at the Branch Davidian compound in Waco. Waco gets all of a sentence in Clinton’s op-ed.

Wow.  Bill should have checked his calendar a more closely before hitting the "send" key on that one. 
Clinton's NYT OpEd is nothing more than the latest step in the administration's opposition demonization program:  The Tea Party protesters are all racists.  Opposition to The Obamessiah is unpatriotic.  How could you dare say that you want the President to fail.  If you oppose The Teleprompter Jesus, you're encouraging irresponsible behavior. 
Well, good luck to 'em.  They're going to need it.  Here's something else from Balko's site:  A Pew Research survey that goes all the way back to Ike.  It charts the level of "trust in government".

As a libertarian, of course, you want to see this line dipping on down into the single digits until government is trusted with nothing more than roads, sewers, protecting the borders, and selling raffle tickets for their annual fund-raiser.

Back to Balko.  Here's are his closing paragraphs:

The thing is, Mr. Former President, if I may address you directly, is there are far too may public servants who, as you put it, “do not protect our freedoms, but abuse them.” I document them every day on this site. And so despite your admonition, I will continue to criticize them for it. And when, for example, they out and out murder innocent people in the name of a senseless, wasteful, and fundamentally illiberal policy (a policy, incidentally, that you enthusiastically support, despite your admission that you yourself have broken the country’s drug laws), I’ll go ahead and, to borrow your word, demonize them for it.

And you know what? I won’t feel the slightest tinge of guilt about doing so. Nor will I feel the least bit of responsibility for acts of anti-government violence, past or future, even when they’re committed in the name of one or more ideas I might otherwise endorse.

Because fundamentally and categorically, I repudiate the use of force and violence to impose my beliefs, political philosophy, or policy preferences on other people. Until you can say the same thing, Mr. Former President (and we both know you can’t), you can spare me your goddamned lecture.

Happy 4-20


It's both more and less than people make it out to be. '420' began its sub-rosa linguistic career in 1971 as a bit of slang casually used by a group of high school kids at San Rafael High School in California. '420' (always pronounced "four-twenty," never "four hundred and twenty") came to be an accepted part of the argot within that group of about a dozen pot smokers, beginning as a reminder of the time they planned to meet to light up, 4:20 p.m. Keep in mind this wasn't a general call to all dope smokers everywhere to toke up at twenty past four every day; it was twelve kids who'd made a date to meet near a certain statue. It's thus incorrect to deem that '420' originated as a national or international dope-smoking time, even though the term began as a reference to a particular time of day.

These days '420' is used as a generic way of declaring one likes to use marijuana or just as a term for the substance itself. Its earliest connotation of having to do with the time a certain group of students congregated to smoke wacky tobaccy is unknown to the overwhelming majority of those who now employ the term.

Here's a short little video on why marijuana is illegal.  The answer, of course, is politics. 

I'm indirectly responsible for the drug-testing program for one section of my company, and I support the program 100%.   If employers don't want to hire people who smoke dope, drink alcohol, cuss, don't love Jesus, or are left-handed, that's nobody's business but their own. 
But should any of the above be criminalized, as long as smoking dope, drinking alcohol, cussing, failing to love Jesus, or being left-handed harms no one else? 
No.  Absolutely not. 

Happy 4-20 ! 

Monday, April 19, 2010

Blackjack And Taxes

I love to play blackjack.  Love it, love it, love it. 

The odds are good, relatively speaking.  The house has a relatively small advantage, which I can usually overcome.  I do this by having God on my side, and doubling down after losses. 

My employers at Jukt Micronics love, love, love to go way out on a limb, putting everything at risk, to try to make money by selling goods and services to grocery stores.  They often place "bets" that make my blackjack strategy look rational. 

I will not ever, ever, ever play blackjack in Oklahoma.  Oklahoma casinos have a weird little rule mandating that players put an additional chip in a special "dealer" circle prior to every hand.  There is no way for the player to come out ahead when playing blackjack in Oklahoma.  Not using my strategy, anyway.  I'll bet $5.00 to try to win $10.00, but I won't bet $6.00.   Therefore, I avoid playing blackjack in Oklahoma. 
After all, there are only two things that can happen when using my strategy:  I can loose everything, or I can double my money.  I'm not going to put my money at risk for the possibility of a less-than optimal payout. 

The Jukt Micronics President and CEO have choices also.  They can continue to take risks, putting their money where their ideas are and creating meaningful jobs and excellent products that people want. 
But are they going to continue to take these risks if Washington continues to enforce a greater and greater tax penalty for success? 

At some point, they're going to start avoiding risk the way that I avoid Oklahoma casinos.  They'll either start playing elsewhere, where the penalties for success are lower, or they'll avoid the game altogether for a few election cycles. 

Go here to read an excellent piece from The Cato Institute about the increasing number of people becoming "Tax Traitors".  That's Washington's word for them, not mine.  I prefer the term "smart gamblers".

Sunday, April 18, 2010

From 1880

I found this on Libertarian Reddit:

Let’s consider, say, the year 1880. Here was a society in which people were free to keep everything they earned, because there was no income tax. They were also free to decide what to do with their own money—spend it, save it, invest it, donate it, or whatever. People were generally free to engage in occupations and professions without a license or permit. There were few federal economic regulations and regulatory agencies. No Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid, welfare, bailouts, or so-called stimulus plans. No IRS. No Departments of Education, Energy, Agriculture, Commerce, and Labor. No EPA and OSHA. No Federal Reserve. No drug laws. Few systems of public schooling. No immigration controls. No federal minimum-wage laws or price controls. A monetary system based on gold and silver coins rather than paper money. No slavery. No CIA. No FBI. No torture or cruel or unusual punishments. No renditions. No overseas military empire. No military-industrial complex. As a libertarian, as far as I’m concerned, that’s a society that is pretty darned golden.

Another example of the Nanny State at work: