Monday, April 30, 2012

Shit Romney Won’t Say – Part I

Politicians rarely speak their mind, or at least their whole mind.  Their job, which is to be liked by as many people as possible, is antithetical to speaking in absolutes.  Here is a quote from the man many regard as our greatest President, Abraham Lincoln:
 
"I think slavery is wrong, morally, and politically. I desire that it should be no further spread in these United States, and I should not object if it should gradually terminate in the whole Union." The Collected Works of Abraham Lincoln edited by Roy P. Basler, Volume III, "Speech at Cincinnati, Ohio" (September 17, 1859), p. 440.
I should not object if it should gradually terminate…”  Huh?  Why not: “If elected, I will emancipate all slaves.”?  Note that the above quote was about a year before the election of 1860.  If you compare Lincoln’s rhetoric on either side of the campaign with his statements right before the election, there is a marked difference in tone.  Abe Lincoln, our greatest President, adopted a more moderate tone during his campaign.   Apparently, Lincoln had an Etch-A-Sketch.
With that in mind, here are some things Mitt Romney won’t say during this campaign.  All I know is, I find these things to be axiomatic, and I can say them even if Mitt won’t:    
·   Barack Obama did not inherit this mess.  In fact, he is largely responsible for the Financial Crisis of 2008!  No, he didn’t do it singlehandedly;  he had lots of help.  But, I defy you to find a single human being who was present at more stages of this economic cluster-fuck than Barack Obama.  From his college days, to his Community Organizer days, to his ACORN days, to his Non-Profit days, to his State Senate days, to his U.S. Senate days, all the way to his Presidency, he has been an effective proponent of the very policies and philosophies which crashed the financial system in 2008 and have kept us from escaping the malaise.  To wit:  Marxist student?  Check.  ACORN activist against bank lending standards?  Check.  Community Reinvestment Act?  Check.  Supported Subprime Mortgages for anyone?  Check.  Fannie and Freddie’s biggest money recipient by rate?  Check.  TARP?  Check.  Continued support for the re-distribution of credit?  Check.  Continued war on bank lending standards?  Check.  Continued support for Fannie and Freddie? Check.  Supported Fed Chairman Bernanke all along?  Check.  I could go on for pages.      

·   Barack Obama had nothing to do with getting Osama bin Laden.  In fact, the bin Laden raid happened IN SPITE OF Barack Obama!   As a candidate for Senate, a U.S. Senator, and then President,  Barack Obama opposed every single policy which led to the eventual location and termination of Osama bin Laden.  To wit:  Opposed interrogating terrorists?  Check.  Opposed imprisoning terrorists?  Check.  Opposed treating terrorists as military combatants?  Check.  Opposed wiretapping terrorists?  Check.  Opposed Guantanamo?  Check.  Opposed gathering any intelligence from terrorists?  Check.  Opposed waterboarding KSM?  Check.  My Labradoodle, who opposed none of those policies, did more to get Osama bin Laden than Barack Obama.   

·   Barack Obama is not a “nice guy”.  In fact, Barack Obama is an amoral person!  Morality is the difference between Economic Liberals and Economic Conservatives.   To wit:  Marx = Redistribution of Wealth is good for The Lower Classes.  Keynes = Redistribution of Wealth is good for Stimulating the Economy.  Progressives of both Parties = Redistribution of Wealth is good Politics.   All the above definitions focus on the benefit to the receiving class and none address the moral implications.  Redistribution of Wealth is immoral by definition because it amounts to THEFT.   Barack Obama, who may embody one or all the above ideologies, is an exemplary example of this amorality.   He cannot impose an immoral economic system and be “nice” at the same time. 

My real complaint is, not only will Mitt Romney not say this shit, he says the exact opposite.  In all three cases, Mitt Romney could avoid these topics, but instead he is on record saying:  “Obama did not cause the financial mess.”, “Obama deserves praise for getting bin Laden.”, and “Obama is a nice guy.”  It would be like Linclon saying: “Personally, I think slave owners are nice people.  Really, they inherited a bad system, and they deserve praise for failing to completely stop the abolitionist movement.”

Preposterous.   Still to come - Part II.       

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Do High Taxes Slow Growth?


(This is my response to a piece which appeared in the Wall Street Journal April, 24th on the Opinion page.  The original can be found here.)       

Peter Diamond and Emmanuel Saez make a weak case in “High Tax Rates Won’t Slow Growth” (April 24).  Unfortunately, economic statistics are not like baseball statistics; they cannot be compared over long periods of time without significant adjustment.  In baseball, statistics are easily compared going back decades since the variables have mostly remained constant.  Not so with pre-tax income, overall growth rates, or any other economic statistics which have undergone infinite variable changes and need to be put in the proper historical context.  

For example, the authors begin by saying; “The share of pre-tax income accruing to the top 1% of earners in the U.S. has more than doubled to about 20% in 2010 from less than 10% in the 1970s.”  What the authors omit is that back in 1970 there were very few S Corporations and today there are about 5 million.  S Corp. income is reported on individual tax returns thus inflating the reported incomes of S Corp. shareholders.  Diamond and Saez do not indicate that they have corrected for this, and if not, their opening premise is flawed.
   
A similar flaw taints their main point, which is that; “…growth…averaged 1.68% between 1980 and 2010 when top tax rates were relatively low, while growth averaged 2.23% between 1950 and 1980 when top tax rates were at or above 70%.”  As I recently heard Charles Krauthammer point out, Europe and Japan were still smoldering ruins in 1950!  Also, India and China were not playing on the world stage, the U.S. had modest regulations, and Americans were known for their work ethic.   

I would prefer economists find a more unified measurement which would encompass all taxes, regulations, laws, and trade issues affecting economic activity.  Hard as that might be to do, we could then compare 1950 with 2012 just as we do in baseball.



Tuesday, April 24, 2012

The G.E. Rule is still Right

 I've written before about how G.E. is Right in not paying taxes:
You may have seen that GE, despite having a massively profitable year, will pay zero federal income taxes for 2010.  That’s right, less than you!  And this is the second year in a row.  I have no love for GE and its hearty embrace of crony capitalism, but they are doing the right thing by not paying any taxes. How can I say this? Because I believe no business entity should pay taxes, and that includes behemoth GE.
Let me ask you a question: How many people do you think would die of cancer each year if all cancer cells could be somehow trained to start growing on the tip of your nose? Every morning the first thing you would do is look in the mirror and see if you had any cancer. If you saw something, you would immediately have it removed. That would be the end of cancer, right? 
The price of runaway government today is like cancer in that it hides undetected until the symptoms begin. By then, it’s often too late. If every citizen woke up every morning and could see the true cost of runaway government on the tips of their noses, they would never allow it to metastasize, and that would be its ultimate demise.
Business taxes are a good example of this disease. The fact is, businesses don’t actually pay taxes. Citizens do. Businesses merely collect taxes and pass the cost along to the next entity in the supply chain until an ultimate “end-user” buys the product and pays the cumulative tax. Economically literate politicians, (an oxymoron) know this full well, but will never end stealth taxes unless forced to because they are a perfect way to ensure that the cancer they caused stays undetected. 
Today, Jeff Immelt addressed this issue, but claimed the reports were wrong, and asserted G.E. did pay taxes.  That's a shame.  Regardless of the facts, I'd have preferred he embrace my G.E. Rule, which states that no business should pay more taxes than G.E., which allegedly pays zero.  "The G.E. Rule" would solve "The Buffett Rule" along with a plethora of other economic issues:
  • Unemployment would plummet
  • Growth would flourish
  • Capital would flood into the US
  • Your pay would go up
  • Your company would be able to compete with the Big Boys who currently get special treatment
  • It would end the deduction for employer health insurance freeing you to make your own health choices  
  • You could leave your job and your health insurance would go with you 
  • Obama’s  Buffett Rule could be satisfied as it would end double taxation on dividends and  capital gains which could then be taxed at the same rates as income 
  • Overseas profits could be repatriated instantly
  • It would end taxation without representation for businesses 
  • It would deal a serious blow to Stealth Taxes (more taxes would be transparent to voters once and for all)
  • Most corporate lobbyists would be out of a job
  • Crony capitalism would be seriously curtailed
  • Prices on all goods and services would plummet 
  • Stock bubbles, like the Tech Bubble of the 90s, would not happen as stocks would be rationally valued and taxed once at the individual level.   
  • Companies, even Warren Buffett’s Berkshire Hathaway, would pay dividends!
Of course your taxes would go up, but that would alert you to the TRUE size of government and how long would it be before you did something about that?

Jeff Immelt should be defending G.E.'s tax avoidance instead of denying it.  



Wednesday, April 18, 2012

Monday, April 16, 2012

This Piece is not about Race or Racism


I thought about writing a piece about race and racism, but decided against it.  It’s just too hot.

If I had, I’d have written about the race prism through which Blacks and Whites can see the same event, like OJ Simpson and the Trayvon Martin shooting, in such different ways.

I thought I’d start by talking about my experience during the OJ Simpson trial:  Back then, I ran a company of about 100 employees split evenly between Blacks and Whites.  On the day of the OJ verdict, we put televisions in the lunchroom so that everyone could watch it live.  When the not-guilty verdict was read, the Blacks unanimously cheered and celebrated, while the Whites were unanimously depressed.  Then we all went back to work as if nothing had happened.  But, it forever changed my perspective on the racial divide. 
 
I thought about writing about that continuing dichotomy and the Trayvon Martin case.  How could the races see the same circumstances and come up with such disparate and unanimous conclusions?  (The Trayvon Martin case is mostly conjecture at this point, but nothing will change once the facts come out.  Trust me.)

If I had written about race, I’d have talked about how “culture” is the sum total of all the experiences of a group going back in time.  For instance, in the case of Blacks and Whites, I would have obviously pointed to slavery as the main cultural  point of departure in America. 

With that in mind, here’re some relevant facts from 1860, just prior to the Civil War:
  • Virtually all Blacks in 1860 were either slaves, recently freed, or had slavery in their immediate ancestry.
  • According to the US census, only 2% of Whites owned slaves nationwide in 1860.

It’s safe to say 150 years later, after multiple waves of immigration, and the civil rights gains of the 1960s, the cultures have not merged:
  • Black culture, attitudes, and world-view in America are still 99% affected by a direct lineage to slavery.
  • White culture, attitudes, and world-view in America are 99% detached from any direct lineage to slavery.

In other words, 99% of Blacks in America are the cultural descendents of slaves, and 99% of Whites are the cultural descendents of people who never owned slaves!   That does not put Blacks and Whites at opposite ends.  That puts them 200% apart; they occupy two different planes!

So what about discrimination, something Blacks have always dealt with in America? 
Unfortunately, discrimination is a human constant and not limited to White or Black Americans:
  • Within African cultures, where virtually everyone is of shared ancestry, there is widespread discrimination and a caste structure.  
  • In China, where virtually everyone is of shared ancestry, there is widespread discrimination and a caste structure.   
  • In India, where virtually everyone is of shared ancestry, there is widespread discrimination and a caste structure.  
  • I could go on about every single culture throughout history.

In other words, discrimination is a human constant and cannot be explained as racism.  That doesn’t make it any less real, but it does suggest that blaming it on race is intellectually lazy.
  
Why, I would have asked, had I written about this, did Barack Obama get a higher percent of the vote than recent White Democrats Bill Clinton, Al Gore, and John Kerry?  Perhaps discrimination here is based on something other than race, just as it is around the world?  Perhaps we are similar to other cultures, only exceptional perhaps in that discrimination here can be overcome by ability and achievement?
      
I thought I’d write about all this, but then I decided not to.  This message is probably just too hopeful and too controversial, all at the same time.      

Wednesday, April 11, 2012

It's Likability Stupid!

"If all you have is a hammer, everything looks like a nail."  This nugget of psychology, often attributed to Abraham Maslow, is particularly relevant to today's politics.

Two cases in particular:  

On one side is all the conservative hand-wringing over Mitt Romney's apparent victory in the GOP primary.  Conservative analysts are almost unanimous in their disdain for Mitt Romney claiming he is not a "real conservative" and will certainly lose a general election like other "moderates" John McCain, George H. W. Bush, and Bob Dole. 

In the telling of these analysts, Ronald Reagan's victories were all about ideology and contrast.  According to them, the American people got all analytical, just like them, and carefully weighed the policies of the candidates.  In the end, after all the analysis, they were won over by the sensible, logical conservative policies of Ronald Reagan.  Bunk.  

Reagan got elected because the American people liked him.  If ideology and contrast were the winning formula, Barry Goldwater would have been President too!  

On the other side, Barack Obama is making a similar error.  He got elected in 2008 because the American people liked him, not because they liked divisive rhetoric and class warfare.  Yet, with a dismal record on the economy, a long line of broken promises, low polls on ObamaCare, Dodd-Frank, and foreign policy, his campaign is entirely based on three negative emotions: hate, envy and guilt. 

According to Saul Alinsky's "Rules for Radicals", which is Obama's tactical bible: 
If the organizer begins with an affirmation of love for people, he promptly turns everyone off. If, on the other hand, he begins with a denunciation of exploiting employers, slum landlords, police shakedowns, gouging merchants, he is inside their experience and they accept him. 
Electoral politics is different from Community Organizing, and Obama may be squandering the one thing he had going for him, likability.  

The 2012 race will ultimately come down to a contest between two men who will fight it out, not on some ideological battlefield contesting the brains of voters, but rather the way it's always been done: over hearts.  

It's likability stupid!   

      
  

Tuesday, April 3, 2012

Inception


I was watching the movie “Inception” last night and was struck by the following quote: 

Cobb: “What is the most resilient parasite? Bacteria? A virus? An intestinal worm? An idea. Resilient... highly contagious. Once an idea has taken hold of the brain it's almost impossible to eradicate.”

In case you haven’t seen the movie, “Inception” refers to the implanting of ideas by entering the subconscious during an induced dream state and then manipulating the dream to get the implanted idea to take hold. 

The elements of inception are these:
  • An induced dream state
  • A willing subconscious
  • A compelling dreamscape
  • Active manipulation of the dream
  • An idea to implant
  • A strong defense against competing ideas  

Political liberals have either consciously or unconsciously, understood this concept and used it to make their ideas “resilient… highly contagious…. and impossible to eradicate”. 

Here’s how liberals have achieved inception success: 
  • First they induce a dream state:       With their dominant position in entertainment, academia, and news media, liberals have unique access to the subconscious.  Whether sitting in a classroom, living room, or theatre, the captive subject is in a state of relaxed “suspended disbelief” where often the critical mind is on standby. (How else could you believe in talking toys, Jedi Knights, or time travel?  The “willing suspension of disbelief” is one of the keys to entry into the subconscious.  Oh, and it’s essential for hypnosis too!)
  • Next they make the dream appealing:  Utopianism, Hope and Change, Free Stuff, Social Security, Social Justice, and Equality of Outcomes.  Who in their right mind would find a one-sided presentation of any of these ideas unappealing?   
  • Next, they manipulate the dream:  To advance their ideas, liberals employ bogus statistics, sophistry, and outright lies.   I realize this is a serious charge that requires some backup.  A full accounting would take years, so in the interest of brevity, I’ll just cite a few examples from yesterday alone!  
    • The President stated that if the Supreme Court overturns ObamaCare, it would represent an “unprecedented, extaordinary” act because the law passed congress.  This is a lie:  The Supreme Court routinely overturns unconstitutional legislation.  In fact, that is its purpose.
    • The President indicated The Supreme Court lacks credibility because they are “unelected”.  This is a lie: The Constitution deliberately insulates the Supreme Court from politics by creating a court of lifetime appointees.
    • The President stated that if ObamaCare is found unconstitutional, that would be an act of “judicial activism”.  This is a lie:  Judicial activism is when judges find new rights and powers not specifically enumerated in The Constitution.
  • Finally, liberals work very hard to destroy any competing ideas regardless of merit.   Sarcasm, snark, propaganda, and fear, are just some of the tools utilized to make any competing idea toxic.  Perhaps the best illustration of this comes from the following quotes from Saul Alinsky’s “Rules for Radicals”, the tactical bible for today’s liberals:
 
“One acts decisively only in the conviction that all the angels are on one side and all the devils on the other.”

“…Pick the target, freeze it, personalize it, and polarize it.”

“…Ridicule is man’s most potent weapon.”

Ever since these ideas entered the community in an organized manner, polarization and demonization have been the rule from liberals. 

Conservatives have a marked disadvantage when it comes to inception:     

  • Conservatives do not have access to the subconscious.  With the possible exception of a few media outlets, conservatives have almost no active voice in the pop culture, pop academia, or pop media.   
  • If conservatives had access to the subconscious, they still could not easily make their dream appealing.   Personal responsibility, accountability, and hard work suck!  Moreover, these behaviors rarely offer immediate gratification.
  • Conservatives are programmed to tell the truth.  Yes, nobody’s perfect.  But I would argue, this one characteristic is the defining difference between most liberals and most conservatives.  (see my motto above!)  
  • Conservatives are pre-disposed to avoid gratuitously destroying their enemies.  Decorum, manners, honor, and tradition are all conservative concepts.  Liberals have no similar fealty to such antiquated notions of behavior.    

In order to deal with this imbalance, conservatives must find new ways to implant their ideas. 

Perhaps the best example of this today is Glenn Beck who has combined education, comedy, internet distribution, live performance, publishing, and even God to get his conservative message out.  Others in the fray are a few internet-based media-focused groups who also use comedy, news, entertainment and education, to get their messages out.

Conservatives do have a voice in some traditional media outlets like talk radio and cable news.  And thanks to the internet, a conservative revolution in news and commentary has already occurred there.  But, to a large extent all of this is currently preaching to the choir. 

What is still needed is a concerted effort to potentially reach everyone, and to do that, conservatives must produce more high quality general entertainment content.  Some of it is out there no doubt, but much, much more is needed.  Movies, music, comedy, and theater: only through more of this will conservatives be able to break into the vast subconscious that liberals currently have near exclusive access to.          

Until Conservatives figure out how to generate much more quality content in general entertainment, they will forever be losing to liberals in the war of inception.  For my part, I'm going to take a stab at a screenplay.  Maybe you should too?