Thursday, October 18, 2012

Moving on in life . . . in thought . . . in faith

I've been involved in what to me has been a most unpleasant project for the last 12 or 13 years. I am hoping, finally, that maybe it is coming to an end.

I blog about it here.

If you want to know about one of those once-in-a-decade (or less frequent) major changes in outlook that a guy like me might go through, you may want to take the time to look.

The "so-called" presidential debates

I rather appreciate(d) Charles Goyette's comments on the--what he termed--"so-called" Presidential Debates yesterday:
Maybe Tuesday night’s presidential debate wasn’t a game-changer, but at least Republican nominee Mitt Romney didn’t get to debate Clint Eastwood’s empty chair.
President Barack Obama showed up this time instead.

And while two candidates in a debate are better than one, three candidates would be a big improvement. That way, someone could hold the Republicans and Democrats accountable for generations of vote-buying and deficit spending.

The last time that happened was in 1992 when Ross Perot was the third candidate in the debates. Perot responded to attacks on his experience by saying, “They’re right. I don’t have any experience running up a $4 trillion debt.”

“It’s not the Republicans’ fault,” said Perot of the incipient debt crisis. “And it’s not the Democrats’ fault. What I’m looking for is, who did it?”

This year’s second presidential debate was a tasty little treat for the media people, who love a good comeback story.

But for more serious people, those who understand America will be shaken to its core by economic calamity, the debates are like junk food meals of empty calories.

What About the Fed?

Once again, there was not a word about the Federal Reserve, and not a word about QE III.

This is a most-peculiar oversight.

It’s like Perot’s description of the crazy aunt kept down in the basement. “All the neighbors know she’s there, but nobody wants to talk about her.”

The country is mired in an economic malaise, and both candidates wish to be seen as holding the keys to our recovery. But neither candidate uttered a word about monetary conditions or the monetary authorities.

Since money is half of every commercial transaction, the failure to address the subject is more than a casual oversight. It means that there is a taboo against addressing 50% of the nation’s economic activity.

The only conclusion that can be drawn from this studious avoidance of monetary policy is that, regardless of the election’s outcome, the fundamental policies that boom and bust the economy will still be decided by the Federal Reserve on behalf of the banking cartel.

So-Called Debates Yield So-Called Solutions

I watched the debate remembering the words of Ron Paul this week, when he suggested that our future could hold results more-severe than what we’ve seen in the streets of Greece.

That’s why, Congressman Paul says, he gets so annoyed with “the so-called debates” that are going on now. . . .

“How often have you heard in the last couple of weeks or couple of months of the campaign about the seriousness of the debt and the debt crisis, the dollar crisis, the financial crisis?” [Paul asked.]

“We’re at the end of the line when it comes to debt. When the markets recognize this, we won’t be able to print money to get out of it.”

In the 1992 debates, Perot said that “giant sucking sound you hear” is jobs leaving this country. Today we have Depression-era levels of unemployment and our manufacturing base has been hollowed out.

Back then Perot was the only one of the candidates to address the nation’s growing debt seriously. “The facts are,” he said, “we have to fix it.”

Still Broke . . .

That was 20 years ago. Nothing has been fixed.

Twenty years ago, Perot concluded that, since the Republicans and Democrats were both shirking and disclaiming responsibility for the nation’s debt, it must all have been the doing of extra-terrestrials.

Must be. The debt has quadrupled since then and nobody else has been in charge except Republicans and Democrats.

Clearly, we need a third man in the debates again. I nominate Ron Paul.
I'll buy that.

Monday, October 08, 2012

"Do not look here."

A friend of mine is going through radiation therapy for cancer. He told the following story. I thought it merited "passing along":
On the first day of treatment, I was lying on the radiation table. There’s not much to do there and I saw a sign above me. Since I didn’t have my reading glasses on, I couldn’t make out the words very clearly, but by dint of hard effort -- craning my neck and squinting my eyes -- I was finally able to make out the sign. It said, ‘Warning: Laser aperture. Do not look here.’ I think there’s some kind of lesson for us there although I’m not quite sure what it is!
Thanks for the laugh, Tim. And praying your therapy is successful.

Sunday, October 07, 2012

What's wrong with Social Security?

I have been aware since the early '80s of the idea that Social Security is a Ponzi Scheme . . . and why. I have understood how the government has played games with the Social Security "fund"--counting the Social Security tax as a supposed "insurance premium" if (and only if) and when (and only when) it was convenient, but, yet, then, treating it as a general source of current government income if and when that was more convenient . . . and so the Social Security "fund" is really composed of government IOU's that future taxpayers will have to pay off if current recipients of Social Security payments are to receive what is their promised "due." . . .

I have understood that. And because I have understood that, I have realized that I ought never to figure I would receive a penny in benefits from Social Security. It is a forced Ponzi Scheme, a tax, and the government will do with those funds what it will, but it will, most likely, not be paying me whatever it pretends it is promising.

But this morning I saw a new perspective on Social Security that I had never seen or thought of before. And I thought it was worth sharing.

From Jeff Opdyke of the Sovereign Society:

I agree that society must deploy safety nets to catch the fallen. [My opposition to the idea that society, collectively, has a responsibility to provide a lifestyle to any particular individual or group of individuals] has nothing to do with people who, through no fault of their own, find themselves in need of society’s munificence. But the safety nets should not be so large that they encourage reliance among those who see falling as the easier path – which is precisely the effect our safety nets have today.

Worse, they’re ill-designed and over the decades have spawned among Americans a warped sense of entitlement. Social Security is, perhaps, the best example. In a recent note, reader Lee S. wrote to say that, because he and his wife have paid into Social Security for years, “we are entitled [his emphasis] to what was removed from our salaries.”

To which I say, no – absolutely not.

Government – under [Franklin D.] Roosevelt – originally designed the system as social insurance. And insurance in its purest form pays out only as a failsafe, when a monetary need arises. Homeowners and drivers do not expect their policies to provide a source of income just because they pay premiums. They expect a payout only when, in an emergency, the cost of replacing or repairing a house or car exceeds the policyholder’s financial capacity.

Social Security should follow an identical principle.

For those without a meaningful source of income to draw on in retirement because of factors beyond their control, Social Security should ensure a certain level of economic wellbeing. But to believe that everyone should access the system just because they paid into it is ludicrous; it’s the reason the program is structurally unsound today. It’s a question of fairness, ultimately. If my assets generate, in retirement, an annual income of $30,000 or more – roughly double the poverty line for a family of two – am I entitled to even more money from a government that must, through increased taxation, dispose of the estates of others?

Without question, no!

Before the entitlement mindset ran amok in this country, Americans once felt a sense of personal shame falling into a government safety net. In a personally responsible society, Americans would purposefully be more frugal – instead of purposefully more consumerist – to build up a nest egg over the years. The personally responsible would see reliance on Social Security as a personal failure and the pathway to a diminished lifestyle that they would want to avoid at all costs.

In that world, the liberty of the individual, as encouraged by the state, would supersede the desire of others to live a life unearned. As it stands now, though, it is an immoral system that requires government to take from the individual a penny more than is needed to provide a basic standard-of-living to those unable to provide for themselves. It is an immoral system when government taxes the individual to provide anything to those fully capable of providing for themselves.

I think he's hit something on the nose!

Clearly, Social Security is not (and never was) set up as an investment vehicle. It was not--and is not--set up to acquire and/or produce assets that can generate income. No. Almost from the very beginning it was (and is) an income redistribution plan--taking from current earners to make payments to people who used to earn. (Even as the earlier earners made payments into the "system" to cover payments made to even earlier participants.)

Insurance policies and plans don't work that way.

So where do we go from here?

And when will either the Democrats or the Republicans begin to "talk straight" about what it is we are up against?