Killing Socrates: America’s Demise

There are always many more who seek the laurels of power than possess the virtue to deserve it.

It is late in the morning one day in 399 BC. Soft light from the warming Mediterranean sun flows in through a window slit near the low stone ceiling of a small Athenian cell. The cool stone room echoes with the muffled sobs of the young men sitting by one wall, their heads on their arms, fighting their own endless tears. The still figure of their friend and mentor lay on the other side of the cell. Through the light cloth covering his body, they could make out his closed eyes and mouth, the outline of his puggish nose and wild beard. The man that loved them as a father was gone. Socrates was no more.

Outside in the great City State of Athens, the wealthy and political elite were getting back to the business of the status quo, having done away with Socrates, their greatest political foe. They turned their attention back to soothing their wounded egos, still aching from the crushing defeat at the hands of the Spartans just five years prior. Even though the Spartans showed uncharacteristic mercy, offering lenient terms of surrender, the Athenian elites wanted to avenge their lost power, wealth, and prestige.

With Socrates’s powerful voice of reason silenced, the elites played on Athenian pride and ego, convincing the people to support a military alliance with Thebes and Macedonia to take revenge on Sparta. It was this general madness of anger, pride, and desire to get even that lead to the war that would break the back of Athens as a Greek power. Athens never recovered from this conflict with Sparta, eventually losing its independence entirely to Macedonia.

“Crito, we owe a rooster to Asclepius. Do pay it. Don’t forget.”
-Last Words of Socrates-

The trial and death of Socrates is the crucial and defining moment that doomed the once powerful Athenian democracy. When the people should have known better, they chose to listen to the same Athenian establishment that lead them into destructive conflict with Sparta just three decades earlier, then silencing a popular and principled voice of dissent. America sadly seems to be headed quickly in the same direction, and the window of opportunity to avoid this disaster becomes narrower every day unless we do what the Athenians should have, and listen to what Socrates had to say, even if it shames us.

Socrates was tried for the crimes of “impiety” (failing to show proper deference to the gods, whom the Athenian elites claimed to gain their authority from) and “corrupting the youth of Athens” (convincing the young men of Athens who would suffer the greatest cost in a war with Sparta to question the infallibility claimed by the Athenian elites). Socrates was, by many indications, fairly popular among the “Millennials” of his day. The most “corrupting” ideas he taught seemed to be that the political elite were actually painfully ordinary.

Through his public shaming of politically powerful Athenians, Socrates revealed that the political leaders often were completely unable to defend their political beliefs. Nothing he taught was necessarily new, being the collected wisdom of well known philosophers who had come before him. Yet even if the political elite had thought about their positions at all, they couldn’t deal with any serious challenge of their own beliefs. They obviously didn’t care about the moral “rightness” or “wrongness” of their decisions, worse, what Socrates revealed was the political elite erroneously believed that because they were politically powerful, they were necessarily right.

Does this not have a frightening ring of familiarity to our political leaders today?

“Let him that would move the world first move himself.”
-Socrates-

From Socrates and Plato, Stoicism found its philosophical roots, and the Stoics influenced not just the Greeks, but also their share of Roman Emperors. Through the Romans, these kernels of Western philosophical thought found their way into Christianity, and, through Christian doctrine, ultimately they found themselves into the philosophical bedrock of the Founding Fathers.

Of the many pieces of ancient wisdom from classical culture comes four cardinal virtues, in their classic senses:

  • Prudence – “acting with or showing care and thought for the future
  • Justice – “based on or behaving according to what is morally right and fair
  • Temperance – “moderation or self-restraint, especially in eating and drinking
  • Courage – “strength in the face of pain or grief

Just as they were in the ancient democracy of Athens, these four virtues remain central to what should be most desired in not only the People but specifically in the politically powerful. Among all of the lessons Socrates taught during his life, the one that he taught in his death was one above all others, and Americans need to pay special attention to that lesson today more than ever. There are always many more who seek the laurels of power than possess the virtue to deserve it.

Whether an individual is running for the office of President or dog catcher, it is up to the People to demand of whoever they elect the highest virtue. Can we tolerate a candidate who would ignore national Prudence and spend away the wealth of the nation, shackling the citizens to a pile of debt of insurmountable size? No? Too late, we already have, one Baby Boomer after another. Now both Democratic candidates and the Republican front runner are all the same Baby Boomers that have bankrupted us only more promises to spend even more money that does not exist.

Do we tolerate a candidate that uses Justice as a toy, embracing it while it enriches them, and dismissing it when it becomes a nuisance? No? Too late, we already have, one Baby Boomer after another. The Democratic and Republican front runners have both abused the Rule of Law against the People’s interest and to enrich and empower themselves. Both have demonstrated a willingness to flaunt or abuse the law to the detriment of others.

Do we tolerate a candidate that has no notion of Temperance, living far beyond the needs of the human body and spirit to the point of extravagance beyond the common propriety? No? Too late, we already have, one Baby Boomer after another. The Democratic and Republican front runners have numerous homes, and have sold their principles for silver and gold hundreds of times over.

Do we tolerate a candidate that has abused the meaning of Courage, embellishing their struggles while denigrating the actual Courage of others? No? Too late, we already have, one Baby Boomer after another. Both the Democratic and Republican front runners have embellished their personal resumes, including fabricating life threatening circumstances and comparing high school military academy experience as being superior in any way to experience of young men and women who have actually served in the actual armed forces.

“Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it.”
-George Santayana-

We are facing the loss of our Constitutional Republic. It rests now on the razor’s edge of competing visions, left, right, and center. On one side, we have the empty promises of the left, to offer us benefits without costs. If only we listen to them, this time their failed ideas will work. We know that their ideas would lead us to ruin. As conservatives of all stripes, we reject those failed ideas and look to alternatives.

The first alternative is the promise of the Athenian elite himself, promising the restoration of power, wealth, and prestige. If we elect him, he promises that Athens will win the war with the great foes of Sparta this time. Trust him, because he has the best ideas and knows the best people and uses the best words. Pay no attention to the sad track record of our nation or his own misadventures and questionable principles. Many are responding in anger and pride to this siren’s call of restoration and dominance.

The last option is promising nothing but to restore the wisdom of those that have come before. A return to the principles of Natural Law and the basis for our Republic. He says we need to restore the Constitution, reduce the power and scope of the federal government, and move America before looking to move the rest of the world. The Establishment elitists are trying very hard to sentence this last voice of reason to political death. For the sake of the Republic, we cannot allow that to happen.

We must Be Brave. We must Be Free.

Liberty is For The Win!


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Trade Policy: No Bulls in the China Shop

If Trump honestly believes he can bully the Chinese government, he has already lost.

Among Donald Trump’s few specific campaign promises is that he will restore balance to our trade with China and Mexico. This promise resonates with millions of Americans who are worried about the trend of jobs going overseas and the continued overall decline of American economic dominance in the world. These same people know practically nothing about international economic policy, but there’s no time to educate people about how trade policy actually works, so we have to directly deconstruct Trump’s policies to illustrate just how bad they are.

Before we even get started, the knee jerk reaction from many of Trump’s supporters is “but he’s a successful businessman, so we have to listen to him!” Let’s get one thing absolutely clear right now: Trump is many things, but one thing that he clearly is not is infallible, particularly when it comes to business. His organization’s core competency is limited to real estate development, and the groundwork for his organization wasn’t even built by Donald Trump. It was built by the skill and hard work of his grandmother, Elizabeth Trump, and Donald’s father, Fred Trump.

Billions of dollars of Donald’s own real estate development deals have gone sour, and Trump has been forced to sell controlling interest of many of the organizations that bear his name, such as Trump Hotels and Casino Resorts (he owns only 25% of the company) and Trump Entertainment Resorts (he owns only 10% of the company), so even the thing he’s supposedly good at, he’s failed epically. His numerous attempts to break into other industries, including the electronics industry, the luxury goods industry, the family entertainment industry, the travel industry, the airline industry, the alcoholic beverage industry, the luxury food industry, and even education industry have ended in spectacular failure and legal trouble. Just to drive home how bad at business Trump is, he tried to distribute his Trump Steaks through Sharper Image stores, where people buy consumer electronics, instead of in grocery stores, you know, where people buy food.

As far as Donald’s legacy, Trump understates how deeply in debt his organization is while overstating the value of its holdings. Trump himself claims that all of his holdings are worth between $9 and $10 billion. Forbes has estimated that the Trump Organization is worth only about $4.1 to 4.5 billion, and Bloomberg News priced the company as worth even less, at $3 billion, not even a third of what Trump claims. Other estimates put the Trump Organization net worth at only several hundred million, a claim that Trump filed a defamation lawsuit to refute and lost in court. Twice.

Unarguably, Donald Trump is wealthy, but to say that he, himself, has been a successful businessman? No, it’s clear that Trump has had more failure than success, and much of his success was from the organization that his father built that Donald had handed to him, so let’s get back to Trump’s campaign promises to make America as “yugely” successful as his Vodka line was (just kidding, that also failed).

“To win one hundred victories in one hundred battles is not the epitome of skill.
To subdue the enemy without fighting is the epitome of skill.”
-Sun Tzu, Art of War-

Candidate Trump believes that he can “force China to stop … unfair practices” with hardball business negotiation tactics that he knows and loves. The very first thing that Trump clearly doesn’t understand is that he isn’t negotiating against an elderly grandmother in her 70’s (to whom, by the way, he lost, too). He is up against the government of a nation that is five thousand years old and sees itself as the cultural equivalent of the Roman Empire of the East. If Trump honestly believes he can bully the Chinese government, he has already lost.

Because most Americans have no understanding of the Chinese cultural mindset, let’s take a moment to illustrate the Chinese value system by talking briefly about the Great Wall of China. Considered one of the seven Wonders of the Ancient World, the wall segments all together span over three thousand miles, from North Korea to western Mongolia, with one section even as far north as Russia. Millions of Chinese soldiers and peasants were pressed into the dangerous work of building the wall, and untold thousands died during its construction. Many were crushed by stones, killed by falling bricks, died from exposure, or simply fell to their deaths. Many of those who died during the construction weren’t buried. Instead their bodies were simply pitched into the wall and forgotten, becoming just more building material.

The take away from all of this is that human life has absolutely no intrinsic value to the Chinese government, not under the first Emperor Qin Shi Xuang, not two thousand years later under Mao Zedong, and certainly not now. Death is just accepted as a political norm. As far as the Chinese government is concerned, the Chinese people are an expendable commodity, nothing more. So how does this enter into the calculus of Trump’s proposed trade policy with China?

“The truth is not always beautiful,
nor beautiful words the truth.”

-Lao Tzu, Tao Te Ching-

Trump’s stated position of “declaring [China] a currency manipulator” is simply inviting an international game of chicken with a country that simply does not care about the well being of their people and will plow tens of millions of their own citizens right into the ground without even flinching. The Chinese government has already told us what they would do if the United States initiated any kind of trade war: stop buying US bonds. This would send US bond prices to zero overnight, with the value of the dollar and the economy crashing down along with it. The Chinese know that this means their second largest export partner (their top export partner is the EU) will collapse, destroying their own economy as well, but they also know that they can weather the deaths of 50 million of their own citizens better than the United States.

Calling the Chinese out for manipulating their currency has absolutely no upside. The Chinese have been manipulating their currency since the 1960’s. No one has done anything about it, because it would mean a no win situation trade war. The immediate impact on the American economy could honestly be called catastrophic. Trump apparently didn’t get the memo.

Trump also plans on “forcing China to uphold intellectual property laws” and “putting an end to China’s illegal export subsidies and lax labor and environmental standards“. Both of these are nonstarters for exactly the same reasons. Not only will these policies provoke the Chinese to retaliate immediately, causing the collapse of the US economy, they are plainly ludicrous to begin with. The United States has no standing to interfere with the domestic economic policy of another foreign power, no matter how egregious those policies may be.

Even if Trump appealed to the World Trade Organization, and the WTO actually attempted to sanction China, the chances of the Chinese government changing their policy is zero, and the cost to the US economy simply can’t be justified by the nonexistent gains. So Trump’s stated positions on China are proof of his immense and willful ignorance of what is at stake. This alone demonstrates that he is almost uniquely unqualified to be president of the United States.

“Finally, from so little sleeping and so much reading,
his brain dried up and he went completely out of his mind.”
-Miguel de Cervantes Saavedra, Don Quixote-

Now, let’s take a look at his equally ridiculous position on Mexico. No need for a history lesson here. This is simple mathematics.

In 2013, the GDP of Mexico was $1.259 trillion. Of this, $269 billion was from exports to the United States, including cars and manufactured goods. $23.17 billion comes into Mexico in the form of remittances from immigrant (legal and illegal) workers in the United States, sending money to their families in Mexico. $44 billion comes into Mexico from illegal drug trade. Altogether, that is $336.17 billion coming into Mexico annually across the US border. Directly, that accounts for 26% of Mexico’s GDP. Accounting for another 10% of secondary and tertiary economic effects from this trade, and a full 33% of Mexico’s annual GDP is directly tied to the United States border.

In addition to promising to strong arm US companies into bringing their manufacturing jobs back from Mexico, Trump claims that he will pass the cost of building the wall on to Mexico, to which former President Vicente Fox replied, “I’m not going to pay for that ******* wall. He should pay for it. He’s got the money.” What Trump is asking Mexico to do is write a $20 billion check for the privilege of helping Trump gut the Mexican economy by about $400 billion. There is literally no upside for Mexico, so the chances of the Mexican government actually paying a penny toward the construction of a border wall and the destruction of their economy is zero.

Trump’s foreign policy with Mexico would likely lead to increased political influence by anyone with money and guns, meaning the ruthless drug cartels and any foreign power with economic and political interest in being a stone’s throw from US civilians. While the trade problems with Mexico do need to be resolved in the near term, expecting the Mexican government to impoverish its country and invite the civil unrest sure to follow shows Trump is too ignorant to manage even friendly trade relationships with our neighbors, let alone hostile relationships with countries like China.

In every way, Trump’s foreign trade policy positions with both China and Mexico demonstrate his troubling lack of understanding of international trade. His attempt to frame these complex trade partnerships in black and white terms conceals immediate and dangerous consequences for America that he is clearly unable to see. He’s promising easy and painless solutions that aren’t in the realm of possibility, basically lying to the American voters. There are no easy solutions to these problems, but America must start by restoring financial discipline and Constitutional principles in our government.

America needs a president who will address these serious issues with solutions based in reality, not rhetoric. Trump is not and will never be that candidate.

Liberty is For The Win!


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Liberty’s Oldest Foe: The Establishment

In the Culture War, the difference between friend and foe can be a matter of whether the door to the public is open or closed.

It is bewildering that so many Americans, even prominent conservatives, struggle with the term “establishment“, even in the face of crowds carrying philosophical torches and pitchforks. Like so many other words in our vocabulary, the word’s meaning has become muddled by misuse as a petty insult for anyone that opposes one political candidate favored over another. It is exactly this rampant disregard for the meaning of words that is destroying conservatism and losing the Culture War.

Conservatives, more so than most people, should be resistant to the ridiculous and arbitrary use of words, especially given the word salads we’ve had to contend with such as “White Hispanic” when the media tried to make George Zimmerman fit a narrative of mythical systemic racism, “Ethnic Identification” when a troubled white woman tried to reinvent herself as an ethnic victim of racism, and “Work Place Violence” when President Obama tried to disconnect America from the reality of Islamic Terrorism.

Since so many people are already doing so much damage to the English language, Conservatives must stop abusing words with meanings that they do not have. Someone who disagrees with an opinion is not automatically an “establishment” traitor. Words have meaning. If they do not, banana nine blue coconut running donkey pillow bear spilled holiday. Clear enough?

“The Constitution that I interpret is not living but dead.”
-Antonin Scalia-

Let’s remember what conservatism is actually about: conserving crucial philosophical ideas which were written into our Constitution with very carefully chosen words so as to preserve their intent for posterity. Just like these carefully chosen words, there is a definite meaning for the word “establishment“. Here are three dictionary entries, from three reputed dictionaries, all for the word “establishment“:

Establishment.png

Notice that the definitions, though worded differently, are all describing the same thing. The “Establishment” is a group of individuals within a society in a position to exert, directly or indirectly, political power over the People. This includes politicians explicitly empowered to craft laws as well as the wealthy individuals and organizations who bankroll the politicians, who are not empowered to do what they do anyway. The “Establishment” is a collusion between the public leaders and the king makers, in a incestuous self perpetuating organization.

It is this cozy “hand in glove” arrangement that has been at the heart of political corruption for all of human civilization, though the names and titles may change, the political result is always the same. A select wealthy elite discretely backing complicit politicians who then impose the political will of the donors onto the People. The glove, velvet in many cases and cold steel in others, conceals the hands of their wealthy backers. Where a politician may come and go, new gloves always find themselves worn by the same old hands.

This is why candidates, regardless of their party affiliations, always end up sounding the same as their predecessors. Always pushing the same parallel agendas. Always treading the same well worn political lines. Fighting over meaningless issues, while managing to avoid anything that would require an actual stand. When the People feel the tyrannical grip of government close upon them, it’s not the will of the glove that they feel, but the hand of the donor class that wields it.

“You think I’m licked. You all think I’m licked. Well I’m not licked!
And I’m gonna stay right here and fight for this lost cause!”

-Jefferson Smith, Mr. Smith Goes to Washington-

There is a reason the Founding Fathers dumped tea into Boston Harbor, tarred and feathered British collaborators, and ultimately lined up to fight and die one cold morning in Lexington and Concord. They were standing up to the Establishment, when it took the form of the British Crown and the Lords who supported him. The power of the State and the naked aggression of tyrannical government was obvious. Today, the influence of the political elite hides behind a  curtain of political theater.

A few years ago, sick of decades of politics as usual, millions of Americans joined Tea Party rallies, protesting the excesses of the Establishment, now in the form of Democrat and Republican politicians and their corporatist donors. In 2010, 2012, and 2014, Tea Party candidates were sent to Washington, D.C., defeating incumbent Republicans from all across the United States. They formed the “Freedom Caucus“, a small but vocal group of Jefferson and Janette Smiths, trying to retake Washington for the People.

And what’s been the price of taking on the Establishment? For standing against Boehner, many Tea Party Republican representatives lost committee seats, replaced by more compliant representatives, even when that meant putting Democrats in their places. In the Senate, the precious few Tea Party candidates have fought hard. Senators Rand Paul and Ted Cruz have been the most vocal Tea Party proponents in the Senate, both taking principled stands for Liberty and the Constitution. They have fought their battles for Liberty often alone, and both have paid a price for taking on the Establishment.

Let me have men about me that are fat,
Sleek-headed men, and such as sleep a-nights.
Yond Cassius has a lean and hungry look.
He thinks too much. Such men are dangerous.”

-Caesar, Julius Ceasar, Act 1 Scene 2-

In the Culture War, the difference between friend and foe can be a matter of whether the door to the public is open or closed. The Establishment remains the greatest threat to the People, and both politicians and their crony corporatist donors are two faces of the same bad penny. Just look at the donation records of any of the king makers hidden behind the political curtain, and you will see their money, in one way or another, feeding both sides of every election.

Now one of their number has boldly stepped out from behind the curtain and makes to cross the Rubicon, claiming now to be our savior from the Establishment, despite decades of peddling funding for favors at all levels of government, from Atlantic City to Las Vegas, from Chicago to New York, and, of course, in Washington, D.C. Yet as recently as 2011, Donald Trump used exactly this sort of Establishment political power in Menie, Scotland to try and force several families out of their homes, simply because their properties were next to his golf resort, and he didn’t like the look of their homes next to his property.

The disgusting insults that Donald Trump directed publicly at these people, as well as the repulsive political and legal tactics he employed, including cutting off water to their homes and having the police harass anyone daring to tell the truth about him, revealed his true nature. He was and remains a member of the Establishment, the privileged elite with power to impose his will upon the People. He is the clenched fist of the Establishment inside the government glove.

The Washington, D.C. motto is “Don’t rock the boat, because that’s not how things get done around here.“, and Donald Trump says he can make deals in Washington. America doesn’t need a man that can get people to say yes. Washington is filled with plenty of people who say yes. What American needs more than anything is a man that can stand up and say no to the Establishment, and say it emphatically and without regard to the personal cost.

Rock the boat? We’re going to send this elitist ship of fools to the murky depths of the Rubicon where it belongs. Long live the Republic! Be Brave! Be Free!

Liberty is For The Win!


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No Tolerance: GrabGate

While every action of almost every candidate and their staffers is analyzed, scrutinized, and parsed in the main stream media meat market, only one candidate and his staff are consistently given a pass for their egregious statements and actions.

Integrity matters. Honor matters. Principle matters. When the Founding Fathers signed the Declaration of Independence, along with their very lives, they put at stake their sacred honor, something that our society sorely lacks, worst of all being in today’s political circus. The lack of civility and outrageous dishonorable behavior on display has reached an unconscionable peak, so much that it cannot be allowed to continue.

Outside of emergency situations, no one has the authority to place their hands on another individual. Worse, in our civil American culture, outside of self defense, it is barbaric to aggressively touch a woman without her permission. These are values we teach children at the very youngest ages, and yet the so called “GrabGate” situation demonstrates just how badly these core civil values have disintegrated in America.

While every action of almost every candidate and their staffers is analyzed, scrutinized, and parsed in the main stream media meat market, only one candidate and his staff are consistently given a pass for their egregious statements and actions. After a Trump press mixer, an altercation involving reporter Michelle Fields and Corey Lewandowski, Donald Trump’s campaign manager, occurred.

While Corey Lewandowski, Donald Trump and his legion of supporters have denied the incident ever happened, they took it one step further, insulting Michelle Fields both personally and professionally. This crass and dishonorable display is what cannot be allowed to pass and will not be condoned.

While this is now a matter of a criminal complaint, using video provided by Townhall Media, it is possible to review media coverage of the event as Michelle described and visibly verify what happened, despite the view being obscured.

Here is Michelle Field’s description of the event:

“Trump acknowledged the question, but before he could answer I was jolted backwards. Someone had grabbed me tightly by the arm and yanked me down. I almost fell to the ground, but was able to maintain my balance. Nonetheless, I was shaken.”

Does the video confirm her statements? In the first shot, Michelle Fields is visible on the far side of Donald Trump from the camera. Corey Lewandowski is partially visible behind the Secret Service agent facing the camera. He is clearly looking at and reaching for Michelle’s arm.

Reaching1

In the video, Corey is seen looking away just before he misses Michelle Field’s arm, his hand swiping at her sleeve. In this next shot, Corey shifts sideways toward Michelle, and reaches toward her again. Notice, Corey is no longer behind the Secret Service agent, having stepped at least three feet away and to the left of the camera.

Reaching2

From a different camera angle, Michelle Fields is on the far side of Donald Trump, standing beside him, but her arm is behind her now, toward the grip of Corey’s hand. His shoulder is visible in the lower right hand corner. He obviously has a hold of her arm.

Grabbing1

Michelle’s forward movement is totally halted in the next shot, now she is visibly behind Trump. Note the level of her head in relation to the people in the background and to the photographer in the foreground. Most of her face is visible in this shot, and Corey’s shoulder is clearly visible in the lower right corner.

Grabbing2

In this shot, Michelle’s head is visibly lower, as is her shoulder, as Corey yanked her arm down and back. Corey pulled her behind him, so that he is between her and Trump (off camera). Just before she is off camera (visible in the video) she turns to look at Corey, who is tightening his grip.

Grabbing3

Corey Lewandowski has the audacity to say “Thank you,” to Michelle. The next day, Michelle posted this photo of the finger shaped bruising on her arm.

Bruises

While it was clearly out of line, the reaction of the Trump campaign to this incident demonstrates an utter lack of integrity in the face of such a public altercation. It has also become the norm for how the Trump campaign and his supporters treat any issue that could cast a negative light on the campaign: deny and defame.

No, not this time. Injuring a woman used to be frowned upon in civil society. In some parts of this country, at least, it still is. Liberty is For the Win calls for the immediate dismissal of Corey Lewandowski from the Trump campaign.

Note – Michelle Fields’s account was verified by Washington Post reporter Ben Terris, who witnessed the altercation as he was standing next to Michelle Fields when Corey Lewandowski accosted her.

Editor’s note – Conclusive video from CNN.

Update 03/29/2016- Jupiter, Florida police filed formal charges of battery against Corey Lewandowski. Included in linked article is security footage of Corey Lewandowski grabbing Michelle Field’s and pulling her away from Trump.

Liberty is For The Win!


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Economics Speed Round: March 2016

Producers are betting against near term demand so keeping inventories low to avoid depreciation and choosing to stay liquid.

The latest economic report came out from the Bureau of Economic Analysis on February 26th, and there has been a revision upward of the Q4 2015 number by 0.3 points.

Real gross domestic product increased at an annual rate of 1.0 percent in the fourth quarter of 2015, according to the “second” estimate released by the Bureau of Economic Analysis… negative contributions from exports, nonresidential fixed investment, state and local government spending, and private inventory investment…

Despite an increase in federal spending in Q4 2015, state and local spending was cut back due to budget shortfalls, and a reduction in investments in future inventories kept growth slow. Producers are betting against near term demand so keeping inventories low to avoid depreciation, choosing to stay liquid. As was stated last Economics Speed Round, since federal government spending is simply a reallocation of productive activity already counted elsewhere, nongovernmental GDP growth is still around 0.0% for Q4 2015.

The employment situation was released on February 4th, and the initial payroll number is a strong 242,000, and the unemployment rate remains at 4.9%.

Total nonfarm payroll employment increased by 242,000 in February, and the unemployment rate was unchanged at 4.9 percent… Employment gains occurred in health care and social assistance, retail trade, food services and drinking places, and private educational services. Job losses continued in mining… and the number of unemployed persons, at 7.8 million, was unchanged… December was revised from +262,000 to +271,000, and the change for January was revised from +151,000 to +172,000…

While 242,000 jobs represents strong job growth under normal circumstances, even including the revision of 30,000 additional jobs in December and January (after previous revisions downward for December), this number is still below the 312,500 jobs needed to create full employment by the end of Obama’s last term.

The bulk of the jobs created are in low skill sectors, such as retail (55,000 jobs) and food services (40,000 jobs). Aggregate weekly hours for construction, manufacturing, and information technology workers are all still down (table B-4). The only skilled labor (career field) driving employment remains health care (57,000 jobs), which is being fed by ObamaCare. Further, much of the growth of health care comes from large lay offs that occurred in and after 2013’s implementation of Obama’s signature legislation.

The number of long-term unemployed (those jobless for 27 weeks or more) was essentially unchanged at 2.2 million in February and has shown little movement since June… number of persons employed part time for economic reasons (also referred to as involuntary part-time workers) was unchanged in February at 6.0 million and has shown little movement since November…

While younger workers are finding employment in low skill jobs, many long-term unemployed are still unable to find work. Millions of part time workers are unable to find full time work, despite needing or wanting more work.

…employment-population ratio edged up to 59.8 percent over the month, and the labor force participation rate edged up to 62.9 percent. Both measures have increased by 0.5 percentage point since September…

Increases in EPR and LFPR are a welcome change, these numbers are still at historic thirty to forty year lows. With many signs pointing toward a recession in the near future (predicted by Q3 of 2016) as the Federal Reserve continues its Quantitative Easing policy, and its core interest rate remains below 0.5%, with another recession looming.

That’s the Economics Speed Round for March. Catch everyone next month.

Liberty is For The Win!


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Playing the Wrong Game

We are playing the same blood sport that has been raging for centuries: the PEOPLE versus the STATE.

It goes without saying that this has been a contentious primary season, with vitriol and mud-slinging to spare. Despite the best intentions to stay diplomatic, the Republican Primary Race has become a lunch hour student center gang fight, exposing long suffered fault lines in the Republican Party between conservatives and moderates.

In 2008, after the economic collapse that the main stream media dubbed “The Great Recession“, the GOP establishment, with the support of the moderate base, foisted an aging career Senator from Arizona as our candidate, claiming he was “electable” to Democrats and Republicans. Unfortunately, Senator John McCain wasn’t “electable” to conservative or libertarian Republicans, so many of them sat at home on election night.

After arguably the most ineffective four years of any American president in history, Barack Obama appeared to be headed to the one-term dustbin. Not to be outdone for political ineptitude, the 2012 GOP establishment again went to their slow pitch bullpen and put a northeastern Republican moderate on the mound across from Obama. Again, Mitt Romney was supposed to be “electable” to Democrats and Republicans. Once again, conservatives, libertarians, and even evangelical voters disagreed and sat at home in record numbers, giving Obama an undeserved second term.

After this demoralizing loss, Republican voters were forced to watch impotently as the Obama Administration continued a historic level of incompetence, leading to the first serious terrorist attacks on US soil since September 11th, 2001. Obama’s ship of fools have lost every political and economic gain of the preceding decade, even surrendering the hard fought military gains in the Middle East paid for in blood under president Bush.

In the present election cycle, Republican voters have finally risen up against the establishment political class, denying the slow pitch candidates backed by GOP insiders, leaving political outsiders as the leading candidates. The Republican electorate is finally waking up to its own power, but, with this awakening, comes a time to make a choice that will shape the Republican Party for decades to come or shatter the party into two irreconcilable political factions.

“I wish it need not have happened in my time,” said Frodo.
“So do I,” said Gandalf, “and so do all who live to see such times. But that is not for them to decide. All we have to decide is what to do with the time that is given us.”
-J.R.R. Tolkien, The Fellowship of the Ring-

We have traveled far together, freeing the slaves, saving the union, fighting for civil rights, pushing for political equality, and standing against the specter of communism, but along the way, somewhere and sometime, we have forgotten who we are. The word “conservative” seemed a handy label for a time, but it’s become so diluted that Republicans can’t even agree on what it means anymore. It is this crisis of identity and meaning that festers at the heart of the political schism that threatens our political party.

On one side of the schism are those trying to conserve the classically liberal principles of Jefferson, Locke, Madison, Smith, Voltaire, Buckley and Rousseau. On the other side of the schism are Republicans who recognize at most a couple of those names and haven’t read more than a few sentences of the Declaration of Independence or U.S. Constitution. One group understands why the Founders went to war over a 1¢ tax on tea. The other supports the government forcing widows to sell their homes against their will so a crony corporatist can build a parking lot or a golf course.

Having little understanding of the liberal principles the Founding Fathers believed in, these moderate crony corporatists, democratic socialists, and their establishment enablers believe the proper role of government is to ensure the status quo of corporate influence peddling, economic protectionism, and political interventionism, rather than to defend the fundamental Natural Rights that the Founding Fathers fought two wars against the English Crown to establish and then to defend. George Washington didn’t cross the Potomac River for corporate subsidies or universal health care entitlements. If moderates don’t abandon these Democratic Party platform ideas, the Republican Party is going to go the way of the Whig Party before it.

Enough is Enough

In this bitter primary season, the constant refrain from the moderates is “No matter what, we can’t let the Democrats win, so we have to elect a Republican that can beat them!” Even given the lawlessness and corruption of politics in Washington, D.C., this obviously fallacious argument demonstrates just how irrationally emotional the presidential contest and how unhinged from any ideology the Republican Party has become.

Consider this admittedly flippant comparison for a moment and apply this same pathetic argument to American football teams: “We can’t let the AFC (or NFC) team win, so we have to ignore years of tradition and devotion and get behind ONE team because they have the best chance of winning, even if we don’t like them!” How ridiculous is it to even think of trying to convince a fan to change a life long team allegiance with this child’s argument. Seriously pushing this argument in a sports bar would be an easy way to earn a punch to the mouth.

The game we are playing is not Republicans versus Democrats. While names like Pelosi and Reid are synonymous with leftism’s attacks on our Natural Rights, names like Boehner and McConnell bear no less guilt. We have more than enough Republican Congressmen and Senators who have enabled the expansion of federal government power and debt at our expense. We are playing the same blood sport that has been raging for centuries: the PEOPLE versus the STATE.

As Americans, we must choose either to stand with the People, insisting that all citizens are equals, entitled to the same inalienable rights endowed by our Creator, and that the government’s authority extends only so far as necessary to preserve these inalienable rights and no further. Or we stand with the State, expanding its authority to infringe ever more upon the lives, liberties, and livelihoods of the People to perpetuate its power and the wealth of corporatists who buy influence with career politicians in backroom deals.

It’s time, America. Pick a side.

Liberty is For The Win!


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