Monday, August 31, 2009

IBM Scientists First to Image the “Anatomy” of a Molecule

This is pretty amazing work by researchers at IBM, who have photographed the structure of a single molecule! Read the press release that describes how they did it, check out some pictures, and watch a nice video about the project.

Ron Paul: The Fed's Interesting Week

Dr. Paul's latest Texas Straight Talk

(Listen on YouTube)

Congressman Ron PaulIt has been an interesting week indeed for the Federal Reserve. Early this week, it was announced that President Obama intends to reappoint Fed Chairman Ben Bernanke to a second term in January, signaling a vote of confidence in him. Bernanke seems to be popular with the administration and with Wall Street, and with good reason. His lending policies have left big banks flush with newly created cash that covers up old mistakes and allows for new ones. By buying up mountains of Treasury debt he has also enabled spending to soar to ridiculous levels that should startle any responsible economist, and scare any American concerned about the value of the dollar. However, these highly sensitive decisions about our money are not made by economists, they are made by politicians. Bernanke, like most of his predecessors, is the politician’s best friend. However, there is no reason to believe any other central planner would behave any differently, considering the immense political pressure on the Fed.

Fed policies have been as bad for the economy as they are good for politicians and bankers, as the recently released numbers on the debt and deficit demonstrate. For the first time since World War II the annual budget deficit is projected to be over 11 percent of the nation’s gross domestic product. It is also projected that by 2019 the national debt will be 68% of GDP. Our path, if unchanged, is completely untenable.

The administration claims that it inherited a dire situation from the last administration, which is absolutely true. However, that hasn’t stopped them from accepting all the policies and premises that got us here, and accelerating those policies to rapidly make a bad situation much worse. The bailouts started with the last administration. They have gotten bigger with this one. The last administration gave us expanded government involvement in healthcare with a new prescription drug benefit. This administration gave us a renewal and expansion of SCHIP, and now the current healthcare takeover attempts. In reality, we can afford none of this, but shady monetary policy allows Washington to continue along its merry way, aggravating all our economic problems.

Not everyone in government finds it acceptable that the Fed wields so much power and privilege in secrecy. Last week, a federal judge ruled against Fed secrecy, compelling them to release under the Freedom of Information Act information regarding which banks received emergency loans, and under what terms. The Fed will, of course do everything in its power to fight this ruling and it is certainly not the last word on the issue. Still, it is encouraging to see that the interests of the taxpayers were defended victoriously in court, while the Fed only sees the plight of its big banker friends.

Meanwhile HR 1207 and S604, legislation to open up the Fed’s books to a complete audit, continue to gain momentum in Congress as the people continue to insist on real transparency of the Federal Reserve. One way or another, the days of Fed autonomy are coming to an end, as well they should. No one should have the power to debauch the currency and gut the economy as they do. It is time they answered for their actions, so the people can understand that we truly are better off with freedom instead of Fed tyranny.

Friday, August 28, 2009

Post-Modern American Honor (B.R. Merrick)

B.R. Merrick prefers the honor of Samwise Gamgee over the "honor" invoked by those who romanticize violence and fail to question authority:

James Bowman is a stereotypical modern-day conservative. The only exception is that he’s not only very smart, but his take on mass media and present-day culture is thought-provoking and poignant. I very much enjoy reading his movie reviews. He’s definitely a throw-back to a previous era. One of the main ideas with which he is concerned is the loss in today’s culture of what is generally referred to as “honor.” If I understand the essence of his argument, the loss of an ancient phenomenon such as honor corresponds to the degradation of modern living, and the emasculation of men. Furthermore, honor is not defined in purely righteous terms, but is instead oftentimes, and most certainly in “post-modern” times, associated with attitude, reputation, or what could be considered a fa├žade. Therefore, this phenomenon can be exhibited by both God-fearing Christians and street thugs. He even goes so far as to say, “Honor is not one among the other virtues,” and that it has the tendency to be “hypocritical.” In fact, there is so much of this in his many other articles on honor, that the reader begins to wonder whether such a phenomenon is good, right, or necessary any longer.

Until I encountered Bowman’s writings on the subject, I had always thought that honor, having the same Latin root as “honesty,” was about something more than just saving face among the clan to which one belongs. I’ve always seen it the way it is portrayed in “The Lord of the Rings” trilogy, where at the end of the first film, Samwise tells Frodo that he made a promise to look after him, and he intends to keep it. Honor was as simple as that.

Read the rest

Monday, August 24, 2009

Ron Paul: We Need Sunlight to Disinfect the Legislative Process!

Dr. Paul's latest Texas Straight Talk:

Congressman Ron PaulDuring August recess, many legislators have heard an unexpected amount of discontent from their constituents about what is happening on Capitol Hill, particularly regarding healthcare. Some people are justifiably terrified at what the government could do to healthcare, should it get its claws even further into it. Others demand a public option for health insurance and are adamant that healthcare be treated as yet other absolute entitlement. One thing everyone agrees on is that the final bill needs to be read and understood by all legislators before a vote is taken. To any American, this is common sense. In Washington, that is unlikely to happen.

There is much confusion and debate over what is and is not in the reform plan being considered. Are there or are there not so-called death panels? What are the end-of-life consultations really for? How will private insurance be affected? Can you keep your current plan or will you eventually be forced into a government plan? Will it pay for elective abortions or not? What are the implications for medical privacy? The truth is no one knows what will be in the final bill until it is on the House floor, and provisions could be added in and taken out in the wee hours of the morning before.

In February, the House was forced to vote on an over 1,000 page “stimulus” bill that had first been posted on the internet just after midnight the morning of the vote. It passed. Then in June, House leaders rushed a vote on the cap-and-trade bill, even though an over 300 page “manager’s amendment” making substantive changes to the bill, was introduced shortly after 3:00 a.m. the morning of the vote.

Washington thrives on crisis. If enough people can be convinced that we are in an emergency, they will more likely tolerate rushing legislation to the floor like this. Last minute changes will be slipped in, benefitting who knows what special interests and at what expense to the taxpayer. But the mantra is repeated over and over: We are in a crisis. We must act immediately.

It should be unconscionable for legislators to vote in favor of legislation they have not had the opportunity to read. This is why I have re-introduced the Sunlight Rule, H.Res 216. The Sunlight Rule prohibits any piece of legislation from being brought before the House of Representatives unless it has been available to read for at least 10 days.

The Sunlight Rule allows citizens to move for censure of any House Member who votes for a bill in violation of this act. Because the Sunlight Rule could never be waived, any Member could raise a point of order requiring any bill in violation to be immediately pulled from the House calendar until it can be brought to the floor in a manner consistent with this rule. This rule does not require that Members read the bills. It merely guarantees the opportunity to do so. It has 4 cosponsors.

Justice Louis Brandeis famously said, “Sunlight is the best disinfectant.” The Sunlight Rule would do much towards negating the cycle of pseudo-crises and cleaning up the legislative process here in Washington. I sincerely hope this is the year Congress remembers its deliberative duties and passes it.

Sunday, August 23, 2009

Seventy Years Ago Today: The Molotov-Ribbentrop Pact (Bob Higgs)

Bob Higgs teaches us some vital World War II history we didn't learn in school:

When American students learn about World War II, they are usually taught that it began on September 1, 1939, when the Germans invaded Poland. They do not get much instruction about the Treaty of Non-Aggression between the Third German Reich and the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics, better known as the Molotov-Ribbentrop Pact (after the foreign ministers of the two countries), signed early on August 24, 1939, but dated August 23. By this agreement, each side promised to remain neutral in the event that the other were attacked by a third party.

A key feature of the agreeement, however, was the secret protocols that accompanied it, by which the USSR and Germany divided eastern and central Europe into “spheres of influence” and provided that each side might occupy its sphere should “territorial and political rearrangements” be made in these areas. In other words, they agreed on a plan for carving up the entire area between the USSR and Germany as their borders existed at that time.

Seventeen days after the German invasion of Poland, the Russians invaded from the other side and quickly occupied the Polish territories identified as the Soviet sphere of influence in the Molotov-Ribbentrop Pact. Afterward, the two sides cooperated economically and militarily in subduing the Poles and in supplying one another with various raw materials and manufactured goods, including military arms and equipment, as well as plans for weapons.

The pact, which came as a great surprise to almost everyone, created a potentially huge embarrassment for the many Soviet sympathizers in the West, including those in the United States, who had worked tirelessly for years to move public opinion against the fascists in general and Germany in particular. But, like the mindless marionettes they were, they missed not a beat, switching virtually overnight to praise for Stalin’s efforts to promote world peace and opposing war against Hitler.

Further potential for embarrassment arose in June 1941, when, notwithstanding the Molotov-Ribbentrop Pact, the Germans invaded the Soviet Union. Disdaining embarrassment, the Roosevelt administration immediately embraced the mass murderers in Moscow and maintained them in a tight embrace for the balance of the war. Strange bedfellows, indeed.

Saturday, August 22, 2009

The United States of Corporate Welfare

Thanks to the lovely Shelly Roche for this reminder of the dangerous growth of corporate welfare in this country and why we need to fight it:

Thursday, August 20, 2009

Ron Paul: Poll shows Rand Paul position to win, Money Bomb Today!

Dear Friend,

The first independent Senate poll in Kentucky has Dr. Rand Paul, after only 3 months of campaigning, just 11 points behind establishment candidate Trey Grayson. The numbers read 37% - 26% and have sent shortwaves across the state. There is no doubt now that Rand Paul can win this race and go to Washington as a true voice of Liberty. Today, we need to build on that momentum by donating at this website,

Grassroots organizers have across the country have been organizing across the country to have a money bomb for Rand today, August 20th. An influx of campaign cash would propel Rand to incredible momentum and allow him to fund the type of aggressive grassroots campaign he will need to take this seat and head to United States Senate.

On the heels of this tremendous poll, the political elite are watching today's efforts intently. Let's show them that Liberty can prevail and donate $25, $50, $100, $250 or more right now.

Victory is possible, but we need your help. Please go to and donate right now!

In Liberty,

Ron Paul

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

I do not support Peter Schiff for Senate (Michael Barnett)

Michael Barnett expresses my own sentiments that Peter Schiff should stick to his work in the financial sector and on the talk show circuit and not run for Senate:

Peter Schiff is an excellent economist and his appearances on various financial shows (and the corresponding Youtube clips and blog posts) have contributed to the economics education and financial health of thousands of people. Why on earth would he consider running for Senate? I know he can’t possibly believe that the political process has even a remote chance of limiting the size and scope of government… can he? (Aside: I am reminded of the short but poignant “prayer” many a libertarian would do well to look at again – ”Lord grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, the courage to change the things I can, and the wisdom to know the difference.”) Such a belief would be truly absurd for two reasons:

  1. The inherent inertia of the political workings of Washington D.C. make it nearly impossible to slow down the growth of government; actually shrinking the government from the inside is a metaphysical impossibility.

  2. Even if I am wrong that it’s a metaphysical impossibility to shrink government from the inside, what it would require is more than three libertarians. Were Schiff to win, and Ron Paul’s son Rand Paul to win also, that would make 3 libertarians vs 532 socialists of varying degrees; worse, their forces would be split, as Schiff and Rand would be in the Senate (2 vs 98) and Ron would be in the House (1 vs 434). You’ve got to be kidding me.

I’d prefer to see Schiff save his money and that of all the people who would donate to his campaign (freedom-lovers) so they can use it to brace for the impact of the inevitable depression. Tossing it all into the political advertising money pit is a total waste. That’s an enormous amount to spend ($30 Million or so?) in the hopes that Peter can get elected and make great speeches on CSPAN, given that he already gets invited to speak on the financial circuit with little or no out-of-pocket expense on his part.

Really, his audience is probably orders of magnitude bigger now than it would be in Congress. In my opinion, this is a terrible use of time and money for Schiff and those libertarians who would contribute to his campaign. Don’t do it, Peter.

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Ron Paul: The Free Market as Regulator

Dr. Paul's latest Texas Straight Talk:

(Listen on YouTube)

Congressman Ron PaulSince the bailouts last fall, lawmakers have been behaving as quasi-owners of the bailed-out banks and businesses, leading to calls for increased regulation of executive compensation and other wasteful expenditures. We have heard much about bonuses and executive pay packages that sound more like lottery winnings than an honest salary.

Many lawmakers voted in favor of these unconstitutional bailouts, believing that these corporations were too big to fail, and allowing them to go under would precipitate widespread economic disaster. This second wave of citizen outrage at the bailouts has left these lawmakers with a bit of egg on their face, and once again, they feel the need to "do something" to "fix" it. Shouldn't there be a regulatory structure in place governing executive compensation? Politically, it seems quite feasible. People are outraged that the system has once again gutted the many to make a few at the top fantastically wealthy. But they are incorrectly demonizing the free market.

What we need to realize is that there WAS a regulatory structure in place that was attempting to stop bad management, including overpaying executives. That regulatory structure is the free market, and when poor management brought these companies to the point of bankruptcy, Congress circumvented the wisdom of the free market, and inserted its own judgment at our expense. And now because of that intervention, we will burdened with massive new regulations. We can be certain this effort will fail.

The free market is a naturally occurring phenomenon that can't be eliminated by governments, not even totalitarian ones like the former Soviet Union. It can be regulated, over-taxed and manipulated until it is driven underground. Lately it has been wrongly accused of doing so many things it just doesn't do, that are really the fault of crony corporatism and convoluted government policies that brought on the crisis. Too many people equate the free market with big business doing whatever it wants, but that is not the free market. Unconstitutional taxpayer funded bailouts are what allow giant corporations to run roughshod over the economy. The free market is what puts them out of business when they misbehave.

The free market is you and your neighbors working hard to produce what you produce, and exchanging goods and services voluntarily, in mutually agreeable arrangements. The free market is about respecting property rights and contracts. It is not about building up oligarchs and monopolies and confiscatory tax theft - these are creatures of government.

We must watch out when government comes up with interventionist solutions to interventionist problems. The root of our problems lie in interventionism. Trusting the free market is the solution.

Friday, August 14, 2009

The 2nd American Revolution (Gerald Celente)

Gerald Celente of the Trends Research Institute, who has been providing accurate economic forecasts for decades, has some dire predictions for the US and world economy and says it's nothing short of another American Revolution:

The natives are restless. The third shot of the “Second American Revolution” has been fired. History is being made. But just as with the first two shots, the third shot is not being heard.

America is seething. Not since the Civil War has anything like this happened. But the protests are either being intentionally downplayed or ignorantly misinterpreted.

The first shot was fired on April 15, 2009. Over 700 anti-tax rallies and “Tea Parties” erupted nationwide. Rather than acknowledge their significance, the general media either ignored or ridiculed both protests and protesters, playing on “tea bagging” for its sexual innuendo.

Initially President Obama said he was unaware of the tea parties. The White House later warned they could “mutate” into something “unhealthy.”

Shot #2 was fired on the Fourth of July, when throngs of citizens across the nation gathered to again protest “taxation without representation.” And as before, the demonstrations were branded right-wing mischief and dismissed.

The third volley, fired in early August, was aimed point blank at Senators and House members pitching President Obama’s health care reform package to constituents. In fiery town hall meetings, enraged citizens shouted down their elected representatives. It took a strong police presence and/or burly bodyguards to preserve a safe physical space between the politicians and irate townspeople.

Read the rest

Thursday, August 13, 2009

Hotlined (Will Grigg)

Will Grigg protects his family from the tentacles of the state and its tyrannical Child Protective Services:

"Grab some clothes and get into the van, now."

For an instant, that directive, and the tone in which it was issued, had the opposite of its intended effect: Korrin and our five older children, momentarily paralyzed by shock, looked at me in alarm. There was something in both the tone of my voice, and the expression on my face, that was new and a little frightening. None of them had seen my "game face" before. They were seeing it now.

Just seconds earlier, Korrin and I had been confronted on our doorstep by two very nice, well-dressed women who informed us that an anonymous "child endangerment" complaint had been filed with the Child Protective Services.

One of the visitors was a social worker we've known for several years, and consider a friend. The other was a stranger who introduced herself as a CPS investigator. She intended to inspect our home and speak with our children.

After being summoned to the doorstep, I had ushered our children into our house and closed the door behind me. Short of being removed by force, there was no way I was going to permit a CPS investigator to have access to our home as long as our children were vulnerable to government abduction.

"You seem like a conscientious and well-intentioned person," I quietly told the investigator, "but this is an adversarial situation, and I can't allow you to have access to my home in the absence of a warrant, and until I've consulted with legal counsel."

Read the rest

Ringo's Law and the Healthcare System of Doom (Glen Allport)

Glen Allport on how Ringo Starr predicted the health care mess we're in, and further predicts that a government run health care system will make the situation FAR worse:

Paradise Paradigm by Glen AllportSome years ago, noted philosopher Ringo Starr described an important and now-famous discovery: "Everything government touches turns to crap."

That observation clearly deserves elevation in status from the mere "something Ringo said" to the more formal Ringo's Law. Ringo's Law generates accurate predictions and explains events in useful fashion; it is no less scientific than Newton's laws of motion. For example, the Law predicts and explains the problems seen with corporatist healthcare, as found in the United States . The Law also predicts and explains the problems seen with government-run national healthcare, as in England, Australia, Canada, Cuba, and elsewhere. Fortunately, Ringo's Law also points the way to solving those problems by creating a low-cost, efficient, customer-pleasing healthcare industry that is not corrupted, diminished, or made unaffordable by government involvement.

Starr formulated his Law after decades of observing the dynamics of government action in his native England (see, for example, the song Taxman written by Starr's bandmate George Harrison) and in his travels around the world. In 2005, Starr moved to Monte Carlo to escape the crushing tax load in Britain.

Read the rest

Obama and the Post Office (Lew Rockwell)

Lew Rockwell on how even Obama admits (even if it was unintentional) that a government run health care will be as "successful" as the post office:

Writing in The State and Revolution in 1917, Vladimir Lenin summed up the economic aim of socialism as follows: "To organize the whole economy on the lines of the postal service…."

Incredible, isn't it? After centuries of treatises and miles of paper and tubs of ink, this is the great historical turning point: government employees carrying sacks of paper mail from house to house — and operating at an economic loss.

It's fascinating how it all comes down to the post office, again and again, in the history of public policy. And so it is in our time, with Obama's admission/gaffe/slip concerning the post office and its analogy to what he wants to do with healthcare.

Here is a transcript of his spontaneous talk at a high school. A student raised a question about the government's provision of health services and its impact on private services.

How can a private company compete against the government? My answer is that if the private insurance companies are providing a good bargain, and if the public option has to be self-sustaining, meaning that taxpayers aren't subsidizing it, but it has to run on charging premiums and providing good services, and a good network of doctors, just like private insurers do, then I think private insurers should be able to compete.

They do it all the time. If you think about it, UPS and Fed-Ex are doing just fine. It's the post office that's always having problems … there is nothing inevitable about this somehow destroying the private marketplace. As long as it is not set up where the government is being subsidized by the taxpayers so that even if they are providing a good deal, we keep having to pony up more and more money.

Now, these comments are nothing short of incredible. The post office has been on the loser list for many decades.

Read the rest

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Ron Paul on Cash for Clunkers

Dr. Paul's latest Texas Straight Talk:

(Listen on YouTube)

Congressman Ron PaulThe Cash for Clunkers program has received a lot of attention this week on Capitol Hill and across the country. The program offers a voucher of up to $4500 in federal funds to anyone who trades in a working used car for a new one with better fuel economy. Congress was shocked at how quickly people responded to promises of free money and drained the program, while car dealers have been equally shocked at how slow and arduous the government’s website to claim the rebates has been.

It’s not a shock that people respond to incentives. The program has been deemed a resounding success, and Congress has authorized 2 billion more taxpayer dollars for it. But not everyone is happy about this. Low-income earners who would have been in the market for those perfectly serviceable, working cars will have fewer to choose from, and those cars will probably be more expensive than they normally would have been. Automotive repair shops actively lobbied against this program, as it will destroy many of the cars they would have repaired. They were out-lobbied. And of course, Americans as a whole are hurt, because this additional bailout of auto companies comes at our expense through inflation.

I have introduced a somewhat similar bill that would have provided a much better alternative to Cash for Clunkers because it does not rely on increased government bureaucracy or spending. My bill HR 1768 provides tax credits to people trading in used cars for new cars with better fuel economy. There is a big difference, in my mind, between letting people keep their own money versus giving them someone else’s. It is clear which one a free and fair society would choose. Not only that, but my bill would not have required working, serviceable cars to be destroyed for scrap metal.

Cash for Clunkers is a popular program right now, but in the larger scheme of things it does very little towards accomplishing its stated goals. Requiring cars to be destroyed and new ones made to replace them might help the auto industry in the short run, but any improved fuel economy will not make up for the environmental impact of junking one car and making a new one. So this is not a program that should really make environmentalists happy.

There is also much evidence that the boost in demand for autos, that has made dealers happy, is just borrowed demand from the past and the future. In other words, many have put off purchases they would have made anyway because they were waiting to see what the government would do. Others who would have waited a little longer to trade in a vehicle are accelerating their decisions so they can get in before the money runs out. So I would not be surprised to find that this artificial boom in auto sales is followed by an extended drop. This should serve as a very tangible example of how government meddling in the economy creates booms and busts. While everyone loves the booms, the busts are what creates the crises that government thrives on, and that is what we really need to watch out for!

Friday, August 7, 2009

“Experts” Never Learn (Peter Schiff)

Peter Schiff, whose supporters have set up a moneybomb today for his potential run for the US Senate, writes that we shouldn't listen to the fools who say the recession is "over" because they're the same people who didn't see this mess coming in the first place:

Peter Schiff for SenateThere is an inexplicable, but somehow widely held, belief that stock market movements are predictive of economic conditions. As such, the current rally in U.S. stock prices has caused many people to conclude that the recession is nearing an end. The widespread optimism is not confined to Wall Street, as even Barack Obama has pointed to the bubbly markets to vindicate his economic policies. However, reality is clearly at odds with these optimistic assumptions.

In the first place, stock markets have been taken by surprise throughout history. In the current cycle, neither the market nor its cheerleaders saw this recession coming, so why should anyone believe that these fonts of wisdom have suddenly become clairvoyant?

According to official government statistics, the current recession began in December of 2007. Two months earlier, in October of that year, the Dow Jones Industrial Average and S&P 500 both hit all-time record highs. Exactly what foresight did this run-up provide? Obviously markets were completely blind-sided by the biggest recession since the Great Depression. In fact, the main reason why the markets sold off so violently in 2008, after the severity of the recession became impossible to ignore, was that it had so completely misread the economy in the preceding years.

Read the rest

Thursday, August 6, 2009

Hiroshima and Nagasaki (Ralph Raico)

If any day during World War II should live in infamy, it is this day. On August 6, 1945, the city of Hiroshima was devastated by a nuclear attack, and Nagasaki was obliterated three days later. These were war crimes of immense proportions, perhaps beyond compare. Ralph Raico's brilliant article on the mass murder ordered by Harry Truman is a MUST read:

The most spectacular episode of Truman’s presidency will never be forgotten, but will be forever linked to his name: the atomic bombings of Hiroshima on August 6, 1945, and of Nagasaki three days later. Probably around two hundred thousand persons were killed in the attacks and through radiation poisoning; the vast majority were civilians, including several thousand Korean workers. Twelve U.S. Navy fliers incarcerated in a Hiroshima jail were also among the dead.

Great controversy has always surrounded the bombings. One thing Truman insisted on from the start: The decision to use the bombs, and the responsibility it entailed, was his. Over the years, he gave different, and contradictory, grounds for his decision. Sometimes he implied that he had acted simply out of revenge. To a clergyman who criticized him, Truman responded, testily:

Nobody is more disturbed over the use of Atomic bombs than I am but I was greatly disturbed over the unwarranted attack by the Japanese on Pearl Harbor and their murder of our prisoners of war. The only language they seem to understand is the one we have been using to bombard them.

Such reasoning will not impress anyone who fails to see how the brutality of the Japanese military could justify deadly retaliation against innocent men, women, and children. Truman doubtless was aware of this, so from time to time he advanced other pretexts. On August 9, 1945, he stated: "The world will note that the first atomic bomb was dropped on Hiroshima, a military base. That was because we wished in this first attack to avoid, insofar as possible, the killing of civilians."

This, however, is absurd. Pearl Harbor was a military base. Hiroshima was a city, inhabited by some three hundred thousand people, which contained military elements. In any case, since the harbor was mined and the U.S. Navy and Air Force were in control of the waters around Japan, whatever troops were stationed in Hiroshima had been effectively neutralized.

Read the rest

Monday, August 3, 2009

Ron Paul: Healthcare Plan Based on Economic Fantasy

Dr. Paul's latest Texas Straight Talk:

(Listen on YouTube)

Congressman Ron PaulAs the healthcare debate rages on, there is one reality that even the proponents of this hostile takeover of healthcare by government cannot ignore – and that is money. The government simply does not have the money for a new, expansive, public healthcare plan. The country is in a deep recession that will deepen even further with the coming collapse of the commercial real estate market. The last thing we need is for government to increase and expand taxes to pay for another damaging, wasteful program. Foreigners are becoming less enthusiastic about buying our debt, and creating another open-ended welfare program when we cannot pay for what is already in place, will not help. Champions of socialized medicine want to tax the rich, tax businesses that already cannot afford to provide health plans to employees, and tax people who don’t want to participate in the government’s scheme by buying an approved healthcare plan. Presumably, all these taxes are to induce compliance. This is not freedom, nor will it improve healthcare.

There are limits to how much government can tax before it kills the host. Even worse, when government attempts to subsidize prices, it has the net effect of inflating them instead. The economic reality is that you cannot distort natural market pressures without unintended consequences. Market forces would drive prices down. Government meddling negates these pressures, adds regulatory compliance costs and layers of bureaucracy, and in the end, drives prices up.

The non-partisan CBO estimates that the healthcare plan will cost almost a trillion dollars over the next ten years. But government crystal balls always massively underestimate costs. It is not hard to imagine the final cost being two or three times the estimates, even though the estimates are bad enough.

It is still surreal that in a free country we are talking only about HOW government should fix healthcare, rather than WHY government should fix healthcare. This should be between doctors and patients. But this has been the discussion since the 60’s and the inception of Medicare and Medicaid, when government first began intervening to keep costs down and make sure everyone had access. The result of Medicaid/Medicare price controls and regulatory burden has been to drive more doctors out of the system – making it more difficult for the poor and the elderly to receive quality care! Seemingly, there are no failed government programs, only underfunded ones. If we refuse to acknowledge common sense economics, the prescription will always be the same: more government.

Make no mistake, government control and micromanagement of healthcare will hurt, not help healthcare in this country. However, if for a moment, we allowed the assumption that it really would accomplish all they claim, paying for it would still plunge the country into poverty. This solves nothing. The government, like any household struggling with bills to pay, should prioritize its budget. If the administration is serious about supporting healthcare without contributing to our skyrocketing deficits, they should fulfill promises to reduce our overseas commitments and use some of those savings to take care of Americans at home instead of killing foreigners abroad.

The leadership in Washington persists in a fantasy world of unlimited money to spend on unlimited programs and wars to garner unlimited control. But there is a fast-approaching limit to our ability to borrow, steal, and print. Acknowledging this reality is not mean-spirited or cruel. On the contrary, it could be the only thing that saves us from complete and total economic meltdown.

Sunday, August 2, 2009

Bob Higgs Worked for the Government Today without Pay

Bob Higgs, under threat of severe fines or even death, reluctantly fills out a senseless and unconstitutional census form and laments the passivity of those who are seem accustomed to this sort of tyranny:

Robert HiggsAccording to the entry for me at Wikipedia, which I hope is reliable, I am a libertarian anarchist. Why would any person who fits that description work for the government at all, not to speak of working without pay? Well, my story is straightforward.

Some time ago I received in the mail from the U.S. Census Bureau a form to be filled out, to wit, the 2007 Survey of Business Owners and Self-Employed Persons questionnaire. I naturally threw it in the trash.

A few weeks later, I received another questionnaire whose cover letter read in part as follows:

We have not received your response to the 2007 Survey of Business Owners and Self-Employed Persons (SBO) questionnaire, Form SBO-1, which was mailed to you several weeks ago. These data are essential to business and government decision making. We need information about your business to provide reliable data for your industry and geographic area.

We remind you again that your response to this survey is mandatory under Title 13 of the United States Code. Applicable provisions of the law are shown on the back of this letter.

I hastened to read the back of the letter, where I found the following:

Mandatory Provisions of Law Pertaining to Economic Censuses — Section 224 as amended by Section 3571 of Title 18 United States Code.

Whoever, being the owner, official, agent, person in charge, or assistant to the person in charge, of any company, business, institution, establishment, religious body, or organization of any nature whatsoever, neglects or refuses, when requested by the Secretary or other authorized officer or employee of the Department of Commerce or bureau or agency thereof, to answer completely and correctly to the best of his knowledge all questions relating to his company, business, institution, establishment, religious body, or other orgnization, or to records or statistics in his official custody, contained on any census or other schedule, or questionnaire prepared and submitted to him under the authority of this title, shall be fined not more than $5,000; and if he willfully gives a false answer to any such questions, he shall be fined not more than $10,000.

I thought about throwing the second form in the trash, as I had thrown the first one. Then I thought about telling the U.S. Bureau of the Census to go to hell. Then I thought about the large, threatened fines, and I filled out the form. I spent about 15 minutes doing so. My rate of pay for having done so works out to exactly zero dollars per hour, which is somewhat less than I usually charge for my services.

Well, big deal, you may be thinking. But I invite you to pause and consider afresh what this little episode in my life illustrates.

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Ron Paul Speaks Out Against Government Meddling with Salaries

Dr. Paul's stance on H.R. 3269, the Corporate and Financial Institution Compensation Fairness Act of 2009, which unfortunately passed last week:

Congressman Ron PaulMr. Speaker, many Americans are justly outraged that Wall Street firms that came hat in hand to receive bailouts from the federal government rewarded their executives with lavish bonuses. But while holding those financial firms accountable to the taxpayers is a laudable aim, the legislation before us, H.R. 3269, goes far beyond this.

This is not the first time that Congress has meddled in matters of executive compensation, and unfortunately it will not be the last. Just like Congress' meddling with the economy, each intervention creates unseen problems which, when they crop up, are again addressed by legislation that creates further unseen problems, thus continuing the cycle ad infinitum. Problems with executive compensation cannot be addressed by further burdensome legislation.

The Wall Street bailouts have already given the federal government too much power in corporate boardrooms, and H.R. 3269 is yet another step in the wrong direction. While shareholder votes on compensation may be non-binding now, once the precedent of government intervention on behalf of shareholders is set, there is no reason to believe that these votes will not become binding in the future.

Perhaps even more frustrating is that enforcement of the provisions of this bill will be undertaken by overpaid bureaucrats who lack the skills to earn comparable salaries in the marketplace by providing useful products or services desired by consumers. People who shuttle between federal regulator and federally regulated firms, trading on their political connections and epitomizing the corruption endemic to the government-managed financial system, will be making decisions that affect every single public company in this country.

In order to understand the reasons behind excessive executive compensation, we need to take a look at the root causes. The salaries and bonuses raising the most ire are those from the financial sector, the sector which directly benefits from the Federal Reserve's loose monetary policy. Loose monetary policy leads to speculative bubbles which drive up stock prices and enrich executives who cash in their stock options. It makes debt cheaper, which encourages reckless business expansion. And it shuttles money from industries that produce valuable products and services to industries that are favored by the federal government. H.R. 3269 is a well-intended but misguided piece of legislation. Until we strike at the root of the problem, we will never get our financial system back on a firm footing.