Friday, February 27, 2009

The Republic

"...and to the Republic for which it stands; one nation under God, indivisible, with Liberty and Justice for all."

The Republic?

Now begins a history lesson:

Democracy is the great standard by which counties are measured. Democracy allows a free people to elect leaders and guide their country by the votes of the majority. I believe that the goal and standards of democracy are a good thing, but our focus on democracy has allowed us to gloss over the spirit of the law, which our founders understood so well. Our founding fathers have been sadly forgotten. Our constitution, was meant to guide our country down a prosperous path. Where prosperity could be measured, not only by monetary wealth, but by values, liberty, and freedom.

Democracy is loosely defined as a system where the majority rules, by the active participation of a free people. This is a good thing. However, a total democracy has some interesting caveats. Can you think of a time when "majority rules" is a bad thing? We have seen examples of groups of people within the last year that have been "defeated" by democracy, yet they scream foul play. California Proposition 8, which banned gay marriage in California, was passed by a majority of voters.

So what's the problem?

This group of people thinks that their natural and inalienable rights have been violated. I think perhaps, to some of these people, democracy has failed. (I use proposition 8 as an example only, not to highlight a position either way on whether I agree with it or not. I will offend some republicans when I get into this issue.) This is where our republican principles are founded, and I believe this is a sorely forgotten and maligned principle. A republic is similar to a democracy, except that the rule of the simple majority can be trumped by the rule of law. Our constitution lays out this law. For instance, our constitution says that one of our inalienable rights is the freedom of speech. I can speak whatever I wish, where no consequences exist by my words. I might have a radio station that speaks to a lot of people. Let's say that a small majority of people get together and say that I can't speak my mind any longer, they want "fairness." Lucky for me, one of my basic rights is the freedom of speech. It will take much more than a simple majority to shut me up.

Assignment: Lookup the "fairness doctrine" that is being proposed in the congress. Do you think it could take away the basic rights of free speech laid out in the constitution?

This is where the supermajority comes in. Our forefathers saw that the basic rights of the people could not be trusted with a simple majority. We need a vast percentage weighing in on these issues to change our laws. This might mean that 2/3 of people must vote for some law to be passed.

I see much of our law being violated in the name of goodness, aid, emergency. We have forgotten our roles as voters. We cannot responsibly elect our leaders, if we blindly lay the interpretation of our laws into their hands. We must learn the best course of action and guide our leaders to our end. We must restore our republic.


Definition reminder, Socialism: "Any of various theories or systems of social organization in which the means of producing and distributing goods is owned collectively or by a centralized government that often plans and controls the economy."


"The problem with socialism is that you eventually run out of other people's money." -Margaret Thatcher.

My cousin [once removed, I believe] forwarded me the Margaret Thatcher quote above. I thought everyone should see it. If you have read any of my previous posts, we may have clarified where we agree or disagree.
You probably...
....see socialism on the horizon and agree that we must take action to get away from it.
....see that some people talk about socialism, but don't really think we are headed that way, and think it is overly pessimistic to think we are.
....see socialism as a good thing.

Part of the trouble with seeing a policital and economic shift to socialism is that we live in America. The word socialism has negative conotations, so we naturally assume that since we live in America, and America stands for goodness and freedom, surely we would never accept socialism. However, if you remind yourself of the definition, you may see differently. Social programs have been growing and growing, in the name of humanity. People see the benefit, but fail to recognize what is required to make these social services available, we fail to see the cost, which is much more than just monetary.

I have become more aware of some extreme disparity within this country, all in the name of helping people, in the name of goodness and fairness. The message is good and pleasant, but the results are the opposite of what was intended for this country for our forefathers.

"No taxation without representation"

This was the slogan of the revolutionaries. The British government taxed the people of the American Colonies, and the colonists felt that they were not being represented in the government. I feel this way right now.

Take for instance the Earned Income Tax Credit. This law returns taxes to people of low income, in some cases it credits the people with additional funds beyond that of any taxes they paid. This means that if you don't make any money, you may be eligible to receive money "from the government" because you are poor. Do you agree with this policy?,,id=96406,00.html

What does this have to do with socialism and taxation without representation?

Our government collects taxes, I know that I pay them. If you don't make very much money, then that government gives you more than you paid to help you out, to "encourage" you to work. Huh? Our government takes money from me, and gives it to someone who is poor, they deserve it right?

Now my ears start to spout steam when I realize that all these people who are having money redistributed to them are also voters. A bunch of poor voters get together and elect someone who will give them something for nothing in return (except votes...power) and they then take from me, what they cannot or will not earn themselves. 40% of the country does not pay income tax.

Am I being represented? Is this something other than distribution of goods?

I doubt these questions will ever be answered by anyone of consequence, but they need to be asked. I keep going back to Article 1, Section 8 of our wonderful and forgotten constitution..."but all Duties, Imposts and Excises shall be uniform throughout the United States." Is this a uniform system? In the name of selflessness and humanitarianism, we will lose all rights, all liberty and all freedoms. Can this lead anywhere else?

"An equal application of law to every condition of man is fundamental." --Thomas Jefferson to George Hay, 1807.

Thursday, February 26, 2009

The United STATES of America

The United States of America.
What does this name mean? Why didn't our founding fathers come up with a new name for the country? Why not just call everything America? I never thought about this until recently, but I think the answer is important. The history of the United States must not be being taught in enough detail for people to grasp this immediately.

"A government big enough to give you everything you want, is strong enough to take everything you have." -Thomas Jefferson

Our nation was founded by people. Originally 13 colonies of people, who governed themselves locally. They realized that they needed some agreement among the colonies.

The constitution was written.

I am working on reading and understanding the constitution. From what I have seen so far. We created seperate states for a reason. Each state was created so that they could govern themselves, in a manner that was fitting to the people in that state. Without the assumption that what is good for one, is good for another, the states were kept seperate; with the idea that each would 1) honor the other states rules and regulations, 2) promise to not house refugees from other states, 3) will not be affected by the addition of another state, and 4) protect one another against violence and be governed by the republican form of government. (see article IV)

I want to talk about the "republican" form of government later. This is a sadly forgotten ideal that must be restored.

Five states in this country are pulling the "housing crisis" into a tailspin. The numbers below (listed in the New York Post) highlight two concerns.

- The message of fear that has allowed our country to react so quickly has been blown out of proportion for those of us outside the biggest bubbles.

- Where has our independence gone? Is my state now being forced to prop up the indulgence and excess of the state next door?

Am I simply crazy? Am I dreaming? Is our federal government melting the borders of every community into one state that will be forced to follow the same rules. I want to hear the other side.

The message for myself here has been to get involved with local government. As communities, we need to guide ourselves and let our state and federal leaders know how they should be involved. We should not sit back and let our federal government dictate to us, rather we should dictate to them the extents of their power and their role.

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

The Debt Free Economy

I wrote previously about some of the basics of economics, how borrowing and lending works and gave some details about the debt spending that our country has undertaken. That part is done, we can only now look forward and act accordingly.

Throughout my professional work, I have always loved problem solving. What is the best way to proceed? What are the individual elements within a particular problem? What solutions have others offerred? A challenge that I give myself is to present an alternative for every idea that I don't think will work. For example, our economy is in a recession, according to the large media outlets and our prominent leaders, and there is only one way to get out of this recession: Spend lots of money (debt) to replace, or boost, the decreased spending of the people. There must be another way.

In the spring of 2008, my wife and I (along with friends and family) found a man by the name of Dave Ramsey. He, with some intensity, teaches that debt has no place, no function and no potential in helping to advance the finances of an individual (the only exception being a small mortgage for a primary residence). I think he makes some great points.

Living debt free starts with a personal responsibility. I vow not to spend more than I make, buy things that cost more than I have and commit myself to more than I will likely repay. This can be hard to do within out 'immediate gratification' society. Why not borrow a few hundred dollars to buy that new TV, when you will have it paid off in a couple months? Oooh, look at the features on that new car, since I need a car anyways, I might as well get that one. Everyone has a car payment, right? If I can get a loan and got to school for 4%, but invest my money and make 8%, what dummy wouldn't want to do that?

Since there is uncertainty in the markets, people have stopped investing and started saving, or paying down debts because those activities are guaranteed. People want to control their money, by placing it into the hands of another company (or government), some of that control is lost, that is why they save. I think that a vast majority of people in the country, perhaps the world would agree that their ideal financial situation would not include debt. Ideally, a company would never have to borrow money to expand, a family would never have to borrow money to buy a house or a TV, and that when you wanted a new car, you would walk up to the salesman, tell them want you wanted and passed them a wad of cash. Ideally.

If you laid out the game-plan of your life, would you make it a goal to have your total debt at the end of your life be $1,000,000? Probably not, you might want to be worth that million instead of owing it to someone else. Our government is taking out loans on our behalf.

I believe that a person can, and perhaps should, be held accountable for their actions. Oddly enough, this isn't a common belief in many regards. Perhaps the line between NEEDS and WANTS has been blurred beyond recognition, but we'll save that discussion for another day.

If someone found themselves in a position that allowed them to not act responsibly, with no repercussions, do you think they would?

We have been encouraged, within the financial area, to not act responsibly. Many years ago, our government has told our banks that they will "insure" part of their loans and their deposits. It doesn't matter if a failure happens, the government will be there to protect the people, to make sure that they get what they deserve. That is part of the story.

We have realized that we don't have to act responsibly to succeed. Since we deserve to live in nice homes, have nice cars, have TV's and cell phones, our government has decided that they will protect these basic rights and provide them to us if we cannot provide them ourselves.

Collectively, our country has forgotten personal responsibility. We have forgotten to elect leaders who promote responsibility. We don't want to give up anything, to suffer, in the name of personal responsibility. The solution to getting out of this recession lies in that suffering. Taking responsibility for what we have already done. We will never truly be free and prosperous until we do that.

"The rich rules over the poor, And the borrower is slave to the lender." -Proverbs 22:7

Learning from the Mistakes of the Past

We have a step in between the kitchen and mud room in our house. After she began walking, my daughter, at about the age of 10 months, noticed this step but didn't really understand what it would require to navigate from one room to the next. She fell. A few days later, she saw our dog run down this one lonely step into the next room. Partially forgetting what had happened before, she inched up the step, got to close, and fell again. She hasn't fallen off of that step for months. I think she learned something.

Let's take a look at some of the steps our country has taken over the last year. I have included some stock prices in here for the S&P 500, as it is slightly more acurate at showing a snapshot of the market than the Dow Jones Industrial Average. January 2008, the S&P 500 Index sits at $1412, all is well.

President Bush, Speaker Pelosi, and a "bipartisan" group of leaders throughout the country see that trouble is on the horizon and in an unusual moment of agreement, our leaders agree to distribute about $150,000,000,000 into the taxpayers hands in the form of rebate checks and tax cuts to "stimulate" the economy.Nothing seems to really change during the spring, but when summer rolls around, people start to smell trouble.

The S&P 500 sits around $1250 for most of the summer, down almost 20% from the January highs. September hits like a lightning bolt, fear is in the air, the government MUST do something, they are the country, no the worlds, only hope. The S&P 500 hits 900%, down almost 39% from January.

President Bush issues the need for $700,000,000,000 in bailout/stimulus for the banks. Half of that is spent by the end of the year.President Obama steps into office and realizes the need for action, no one has been doing anything and the failed policies of the last eight years are taking their toll. We must pass $787,000,000,000 in stimulus to help the economy recover. According to Senator Arlen Specter, no one has time to read the bill, we must act fast. The bill passes. The S&P 500 falls below $850.

We must not have done enough.The Federal Reserve agrees to insure up to $2,000,000,000,000 in loans given out by the banks. The S&P 500 falls below $750, down 48% from the year before. It looks like we'll need to bring in a bigger crane to pull this economy out of the river...

I'm not interested in who did this, only "did they learn anything?"

I'm also not sure if these are real, but they are hilarious.

What We Cannot Do

"You cannot bring about prosperity by discouraging thrift."
"You cannot help small men by tearing down big men."
"You cannot strengthen the weak by weakening the strong."
"You cannot lift the wage earner by pulling down the wage payer."
"You cannot help the poor man by destroying the rich."
“You cannot keep out of trouble by spending more than your income.”
"You cannot further the brotherhood of man by inciting class hatred."
"You cannot establish security on borrowed money."
"You cannot build character and courage by taking away men's initiative and independence."
"You cannot help men permanently by doing for them what they could and should do for themselves."

Often mistaken for quotes by Abraham Lincoln, these were written by Reverend William J.H. Boetcker in the early 20th century. They were reprinted in a column by Ann Landers, and quoted in a speech by Ronald Reagan.

Is it just me, or is our country acting counter to these words? What do you disagree with?

Monday, February 23, 2009


Let's refocus. I want to explain how I see things and understand them so that you can understand what I am saying. I have gotten ahead of myself.

My wife, Jaime, said to me the other day, "you should be a politician." My response was that I really don't like the IDEA of politics, let alone being in that profession. Politicians convince others to like them and support them. The whole goal of a politician is to put themselves in a position where their power can be increased. Where you hear the word POLITICIAN or see a politician put your brain filter on so that you understand that what they are SAYING is meant to send you a message that will make you think more highly of them than you did before.

Actions speak louder than words.

I am attempting to look at the actions of our leaders rather than their words. You don't have to look to far to find someone who will agree with you that politicians will SAY anything. Any party, any system. I want to challenge myself and you to take an active role in learning about the people you vote for and the people leading our nation.


What a wonderful game to play. I think I'll blame my current position on the last guy becuase I can make a case that his decisions have put me in the negative position that I am in. Economic crisis? Let's blame the banks for lending more than they knew they could afford, let's blame the government for agreeing to subsidize the loans that the banks knew would fail; do we dare blame the people who agreed to take the loan, knowing full well that they might never repay it?

What if our first question was, "what could I have done to avoid this problem?"

If I ask myself that question, my answer is, "huh, I guess I should have been paying attention to what the leaders we are voting for are actually doing, rather than what they are saying." Every elected official comes to judgement every 2 - 4 years and every person in the country has the chance, the right, perhaps even the duty, to evaluate what those elected officials are doing and then decide if they deserve to be in their position.

I believe that MOST people, including myself, have simply listened to candidates and voted accordingly. Our problems (economic, and otherwise within the public arena) exist because the voters were and are too lazy to learn about what their candidates really stand for; what they have really done.

Talk is cheap.

Depending on how much you trust your favorite media outlets, your position may be skewed even more. So many people in the media are biased and can be decieving in the way they use their words and their position. Don't listen to just one. If you ask yourself, or you hear anyone ask themselves, "what can I do?" The answer is, first: learn about the issues.

Let's evaluate our position, understand where we are, understand the factors that may have gotten us here, understand the issues, and then decide what to do next. Let's forget about ourselves, and think about our children and those around us, and act in a way that is most responsible towards them. Let's make the discussion and education of the issues that effect us centerpieces in our lives. I love hearing opinions that differ from mine, because it forces me to re-evaluate why I believe what I'm saying and to support it even further.

Challenge yourself, challenge your friends. Take responsibility.

Economics 101

Economics is the name, common sense is the game. There are tons of economic theories out there, all supported by well thought-out hypotheses, solid research, mathematical formulas, and backed by "proven" principles. Economics is a complex science, but it is ultimately guided by common sense, I believe anyone can understand economic prinicples if they are given the basics. Let's dive into some of the details.

Supply and Demand lie at the foundation of economics, at least in our [capitalistic] free society.
Demand is created where a need or want arises. I demand something like bread, and I have some limited number of resources to buy that bread. On the flip-side, some baker has a supply of bread (or he sees my need and decides to start making bread), thus he a will set a price for that bread. If the price is too high I will seek another option (either make my own, find someone selling it cheaper, or find an alternative product). If the price is too low, the baker will soon sell all his bread, and find that he cannot afford to keep buying the ingredients he needs to make the bread, and he will soon stop selling it. So the baker will price the bread so that I can afford to buy it and he can afford to make it. Make sense?

Another simple aspect to economics that I have learned is that there is a short-term benefit and a long-term benefit to everything. As you weigh the economic benefit of something, keep this in mind. Let's look at the biggest economic news of the day and why I am very skeptical. See if you agree. If not, tell me why.

American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009 - $787,000,000,000 (billion) of government spending that will attempt to stimulate our economy.

  • What's in it?
    Here are some details if you want to see them: hines_stimulus_overview.pdf
  • Where does this money come from?
    I think there are only 3 options here: Taxes, debt, or the printing press. Mind you, all of it comes from the people at some point. Check out this video to explain some of these "funding" issues.

  • Who will it benefit?
    Read the overview above and decide this for yourself. I'm not saying that helping to weatherize low-income families homes is not a good thing, but I would question the stimulative effect that the $5,000,000,000 (billion) in funds for this program will actually have.
  • Will it have the desired affect?
    Let's look at this from an economic perspective. Let's also assume for the moment that we think the spending in the bill is all going to good causes that we agree with. This should allow us to be fairly objective.
    The good: When this money is spent over the next few years, it will create a demand for goods/services. We will now have the opportunity to create a supply for this demand, which will allow the creation and retention of jobs and facilitate the flow of money.
    The Bad: Part of the problem with government spending is that it creates false demand. When this money is spent, the demand is gone. If the government changes their mind on where the money is spent, the demand is gone. Demand is now being created by taking money from the people and spending it on the items in the "stimulus" bill. If the people stop spending as well, demand will remain unchanged. This is where we can see many long-term consequences.

Are you with me?

You may notice that the good part of this plan is that, if you agree with all the spending, there is potential short-term benefit. If you see it as I do, you will see that the long-term consequences could be severe. If we borrow the money for stimulus, we will now be that much more in debt when the demand dries up. If we print the money, inflation takes over and the value of the dollars we have drops and we are no better tomorrow than we were today. If the money comes purely from taxes, people will have nothing left to spend and will be forced to rely on the government for their basic needs.

Hmmm. I for one don't agree with much of the spending in the bill. Go through it again and remind yourself where each dollar comes from and whether you yourself would spend the money that way.

Is this freedom?

Friday, February 20, 2009

The Prophets

Forgive me if this post is not organized, remember that I am practicing here. If you glossed over it the first time, read the quote at the top of the page.

While the rule of law in Rome was being threated 2064 years ago, Cicero saw a pseudo-dictatorship under Julius Ceasar which threatened the law that he believed in. Regardless of whether or not you agree with the philosophy of Cicero, he saw that debt had no place and no benefit within the government. Our government has told us that debt is the only way out of this recession, while at the same time saying that debt is what got us here. Huh?

Our constitution lays out the rule of law that guides our country. By its guidance, the United States of America has grown into (arguably) the most powerful nation on earth (at this time). Our founders saw the evils that philosophers like Cicero have recognized for thousands of years and created a nation that, unless it strayed from the law that founded it, would continue to grow and prosper. Yet it seems clear to me that our country has forgotten that law and decided that we know a better way.

If someone came to you and warned you of a future disaster, of which seemed unlikely, and you dismissed their opinion becuase you didn't like the values and the message that they were preaching; but what they predicted happened, would you ever listen to them again?

Economist Thomas Woods, a senior fellow at the Ludvig von Misus Institute, follows an economic model that predicted the state of our economy. Peter Schiff called the collapse of the housing market a year or more before it happened. What do these people know that we don't? Scores of really smart people, who have studied the economy their entire lives have seen this collapse coming based on the actions that our government has taken. Not just "the mistakes of the last 8 years", but the mistakes of the last 30, 40, 50 years and longer.

I don't know nearly enough about these modern day "prophets", right now that is not the point. But I do want to hear what they have to say next. People in the media, the government and regular joes like you and me have ignored the people predicting these downturns because they are "crazy", not inline with popular thought, pessimistic, using fear to sell their ideas, etc...

Should we continue to ignore economists because we don't like the message they bring? The economists guiding our countries policies at the moment had no idea what was coming. Shouldn't we be consulting the minds that predicted what was happening and use some of their ideas to take us on a new path. I thought we voted for change?

The challenge here is educating yourself so that you can decide. I refuse to believe that because someone is elected by the people to a position of power that they are smarter than me because of their position and more capable of making a decision that best benefits our country. It's time for a self-education revolution. The first step towards making a difference is being aware of the issues the country faces and educating yourself about them.

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

The Foundation

"A wise and frugal government, which shall leave men free to regulate their own pursuits of industry and improvement, and shall not take from the mouth of labor the bread it has earned - this is the sum of good government." -Thomas Jefferson

I think we will see an increase of people talking about our founding fathers, the constitution and the foundations of America over the next few months and years. Everything is backwards. The REAL hard-working people in this country, who pay taxes and act with personal responsibility, are quickly becoming agitated with the direction of our country. New York City Mayor (Bloomberg) stated today that 1% of the people in New York City pay about 51% of the taxes that the city collects. Think about that for a minute. Every dollar that the government spends comes out of the pockets of the small percentage of people who have something, pay into the system, and take responsibility for their actions. I could be wrong about the increase of people talking about the foundations of our country, they might start acting like our founders. The Revolutionary War happened for a reason. I need to do some more research about that.

Our current presidential administration has made no qualms about taking even more from that 1% and giving it to the people who take no personal responsibility, don't work any harder than the guy next to them, and pay no taxes. I am getting off-topic...

Foundations support things built upon them. The foundation of my house supports the walls and the roof that keep the weather out. The foundation of our country has supported everything that we have experienced up until now. I think it stands to reason that if we corrupt the foundation, the things built upon it will fail. I think Thomas Jefferson understood the values that guided the foundation of our country.

Right now I see our government taking self-regulation from the people, being less frugal (what do you call printing $1,000,000,000,000?), and taking the bread of the laborers. Am I wrong? Would the founders of our country like Thomas Jefferson agree with the direction we are headed? Would Jefferson say that our leaders are wise and frugal?

One Voice

I had an idea the other day. I want to write a book.

Coming from someone who hasn't written more than a sentence about anything that wasn't required; this could be a challenge. I think, and I could be wrong about this, but most authors probably wrote something short before they dove head-first into the novel of their life. So I will start here, and practice putting thoughts into words.

I am but one voice, but I realize that unless I say something I'll never be heard. Our country has changed dramatically over the last several years, and I see it moving away from the model that got us where we are. I want to change that. I want to see a country, where freedom means something. Where the "home of the brave and the land of the free" is more than just words in a song someone wrote.

I want to maintain balance and perspective in my life and in my beliefs. On one hand, I see the world changing dramatically. FEAR is being used to sell everything from the next law that must be signed, to the opinions that are expressed by media outlets across the country. Advertisers say that "sex sells", but I think that is moving to: "fear sells."

It is easy to be gripped by fear, if it dawns upon you that what is being preached could actually happen, but keeping perspective can turn fear into peace. I do believe in the Prince of Peace, and in my God, peace can be found. Regardless of the social or political landscape of our country, or our world, the commission is the same.

"Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age." -Matthew 25:19-20