Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Back Blogging

My quaint and nearly unread little blog was taken off the web by those at Google who determined some odd activity was taking place on the site. What that means for sure I don't know...perhaps they just think my writing sucks. And why not? I do.

In any case, I'm going to continue blogging at a rather subdued pace--enough to keep things active but not so much that I get burned out. I'm hoping to catch my second (or third or fourth) wind this fall when the election season really comes into focus.

Meanwhile I am simply going to enjoy being called a racist by certain members of Congress while other members tell me to go to hell. There is some industrial grade ugliness permeating our political landscape and I'm not just talking about a Maxine Waters cameo.

I want to be a part of the political give and take, and knowing my own personal frustration level I believe these things have to be approached delicately.

So, expect to be inspired! Just not for a long time.

Wasted Money is Wasted Money

I had a debate the other day with a relative who was strongly supportive of the FAA spending millions on a project at the local county airport. Now, to put this in perspective, you have to realize what the local county airport consists of.

It has always been, up until the multi-million dollar project, a dirt runway with very little flight activity. There are at most one or two aircraft stationed at the port, and a busy week on the tarmac would amount to a couple two-seaters touching down.

A couple years ago, the airport landed a grant from the FAA as part of Obama's vast project to improve infrastructure while paying off union supporters and buying local votes. The total cost of the projects from coast to coast cost the US taxpayers billions of dollars. With the completion of the local project it is hoped that air travel into Oscoda County will increase. (It had better if the justification for the money spent is to ever generate enough local business to cover the price tag.)

The reasoning my relative used for his support of the project was that the money, if not spent here, would just get wasted elsewhere and, besides, the county only had to pay a small portion of the project's costs. Of course, the first of these arguments makes nearly any earmarked cost containment impossible regardless of where it might occur, and the second is false on its face. Ultimately, whether funds are spent from local coffers or are ultimately borrowed from the Chinese by the Obama administration, we, the taxpayers, are on the hook for the whole thing.

The fact is that all conservatives everywhere must fight the spending of discretionary dollars regardless of where it is going to be wasted. A waste is a waste whether it is spilled milk on my doorstep or on some other overtaxed person's threshold.

There was a time perhaps when we could pick and choose which boondoggles to throw our money at. Those times are long gone. It is time for conservatives to stand on principles that transcend the locality of waste. Now, when a hurricane ravages any portion of our country, or when wildfires lap at the homes of our fellow Americans, we have to go begging to the credit markets to get the capital we need.

Perhaps Oscoda County should have gone without the project, and perhaps the other airports around the country should have done likewise. We could do with fewer bike paths, studies on animal sexuality, and should stop the expansion of our country's benevolence on the fly. When this country collapses under our burgeoning debt the least of our worries will be whether the borrowed money was wasted locally.

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Speaking of Food Stamps...

The Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack has run to a microphone with his own facts, namely that for every dollar invested in the SNAP Program (food stamps) $1.84 is generated in additional economic activity. In fact, according to Vilsack, the program is directly stimulative and creates jobs.

Now, I'm not even going to spend a minute trying to unravel the methodology of the study that produced the $1.84 gained per $1.00 spent in food stamps claim. Who knows, he might be right.

What is unfortunately omitted by Vilsack is the fact that the $1.00, before it is ever spent, has to be extracted from the larger economy. The dollar, if it had not been taken from the private sector, would have had every bit as much impact on the economy even without its metamorphosis into a vehicle of benevolence. Let's be generous to Mr. Vilsack and grant him his $1.84 figure.

But that is only a small part of the morass. In actuality, the $1.00 that was ultimately bequeathed to the food stamp recipient began as closer to $3.00 in the pocket of a privileged taxpayer. What began in the private sector as three crisp one dollar bills, became atrophied by the salaries and benefits paid to bureaucrats and further, were exposed to other extravagant overheads rarely enjoyed by any entity outside of the federal government.

So, yeah.

Once Mr. Vilsack begins tracking the $1.00 that is spent in his program he might very well arrive at the $1.84 in economic activity. The problem is that he begins tracking that dollar way too late because the extraction and bequeathing of what became one dollar actually subtracted in the neighborhood of $5.52 from the economy. ($1.84 X 3) Then, once the shriveled three dollars in the form of one dollar were spent, the $1.84 figure so glowingly referred to by the secretary comes to life.

A more valid claim from Mr. Vilsack would be that every $1 spent on food stamps only costs the economy $3.68. ($5.52 minus $1.84)

Which, all things considered, is not a bad deal coming from Washington.

Victims of Benevolence: Part II

Yesterday I mentioned a plan spearheaded by the USDA to have all Detroit school children receive free meals each day. Included would be a breakfast, lunch and snack.

These meals will be presented without qualification. The story quoted one of the program's DPS supporters:

“One of the primary goals of this program is to eliminate the stigma that students feel when they get a free lunch, as opposed to paying cash.”
I thought about that a great deal and have a bit more to say.

This program presents charity without graciousness and it demands acceptance of charity without humility. It aggressively attempts to white wash the charitable transaction as if doing so will somehow be beneficial to the children, the school, and society at large.

Of course, the opposite is true. These sorts of situations will make needy (and not so needy) children and underprivileged (and not so underprivileged) parents feel entitled to what they routinely receive from the government. It will also further encourage bureaucrats to assume that they are the grand benefactors of children because parents, for whatever reason, have failed to step to the plate.

I would submit that parents have failed to step to the plate because government has interjected itself into every aspect of the family. It has encouraged fathers to leave, it has encouraged mothers to go it alone, it has encouraged single parenting for the financial benefits it incurs, and it has encouraged for decades the listless lifestyle that would keep disadvantaged families in a dependent and perpetual state of disadvantage. This program is just such an encouragement.

So we taxpayers will fund (or rather, borrowed Chinese currency will fund) this latest program which is in part designed to expunge both graciousness and humility from the fruits of the program. Taxpayers will not be thanked for the charity, indeed, the charity will not be acknowledged because its goal is to make the giving a non-charitable event.

Bureaucrats? They will have successfully shoved their noses further into the natural order of parenting. They will have disrupted the supportive acts of parents providing for their children and, more damagingly, disrupted the lessons that would have been learned from that nurturing.

No one wants to see children go hungry. Myself included. My biggest regret is that decades of government interference has created so many hungry children.

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Victims of Benevolence

One of the standards of both economics and human behavior is that you will get more of the activities you reward, and will get fewer of the activities that you punish.

What should we expect then from an initiative that will grant all children in the Detroit Public School District a free breakfast, a free lunch, and a free snack? Certainly their will be short term positives from such a program. Less hunger in the classroom has got to be a good thing as far as that goes.

And yet, the program has further goals:

“One of the primary goals of this program is to eliminate the stigma that students feel when they get a free lunch, as opposed to paying cash.”
Here we are getting into a gray area where the long term negative outcomes might very well overwhelm whatever positive returns might result.

What becomes of a society where a natural revulsion for accepting government handouts has been systematically stamped out? What results when young people are trained that government wealth redistribution efforts are every bit as legitimate as those that teach citizens to be independent and self-sufficient?

In its quest to stamp out all negative things that might happen to a child, the government in its many forms has tried to form a safety net around all children, and in the process has assumed many of the responsibilities that parents would normally hold for themselves.

They help feed children, and clothe them. They help keep a roof over the heads of children. They give them health care, dental care, and in many instances, child care. They provide education and use this perch to help promote their moral and blessed standards on the next generation of voting Americans.

And yet, good parents and an ill-equipped government accept the role of parenting with a different perspective. Parents wean their children so that they can become independent and become successful in this difficult world. They do this intentionally. They punish and praise, they instruct and they nurture.

The government, despite all its well intentioned efforts to replicate the parental role, is sadly both ill-equipped and too lacking in common sense to pull it off. While it is great at offering suckle, the problem with governmental parenting is that it does not know how to wean--its recipients encouraged to suck at the public teat for generations.

This instance in Detroit is but another example of an ill-advised government takeover of a role once reserved for parents; an effort that holds as a primary goal an attempt to both legitimize and perpetuate its status there. It uses children whose parents are perfectly capable of buying them their own food as pawns in a campaign for other children to learn the feel-good status of depending on the taxpayers for their calories.

You get more of the behaviors you reward, and you get fewer of the behaviors that you discourage. Tell me please, what will this result in?

Monday, August 15, 2011


What a shocker!

One of the biggest recipients of corporate welfare in this country thinks this country's corporate welfare program is just peachy.

Heck, pretty soon even Jeffrey Immelt will come out in favor of Obama's policies. Oops, too late.

Monday, August 08, 2011

Coming to a school district near you

Funny how the old 900 mile trip by car can drain even the most well intentioned of blogger's initiative. And then there is me, an essentially lazy blogger in the first place who needs little more than a ten mile drive across the county to dry up whatever motivation might occasionally seep into his beleagured veins.

But, things occur down here too.

So, I am well south of Michigan and soaking up the 95 degree heat in a city where the school children are just today entering back into the hallowed halls of cheating. This is great for the kids that happen to be young enough that a great majority of their schooling years have not been stolen from them by highly sought administrators and teachers; educators who discovered that accolades can be more easily achieved if they dispense with all that learning crap and just sort of erase littly Johnny's answers if he gets them wrong. For the unfortunate majority of Atlanta school children, however, this pretty much sucks.

How does the recent graduate ever get back the one shot at a public school education his youth will ever provide? What about this year's senior who has had his test scores altered since he was in the fourth grade?

Well over a hundred educators from the Atlanta school district have been implicated in perhaps the largest cheating scandal ever to embarrass public education. In the Atlanta school district it is apparently more important to appear as if you are being successful than it is to actually teach Johnny to read and write and do his math.

Which leaves little Johnny a bit behind the eight ball if he were ever in the situation where he might need to know something to get a job or, perhaps even worse, might have to serve the public with competence once he landed that job. Such trivialities cannot be allowed to stand in the way of an Atlanta educator in his or her never ending quest to be successful get more funding.

And this is ultimately the danger and disaster that is public education today--a system that has removed the responsibiity of educating children from the local level and instead placed it upon third parties who control the purse strings from on high. When Johnny flunks math, er, passes despite dubious results, his parents can be pleased to know that in the stead of the E he deserved, his teachers and adminsistrators can give him a solid B while his school system can qualify not only for additional grants, but also the right to snuff out Johnny's younger brother's education too.

A recent survey among educators found that the pressure to cheat on evaluations and tests was becoming more and more apparent. How difficult is that to figure out? With the free market expunged from the machinery that delivers a product, how tough to predict should it be that the product delivered would be less than the customer wanted while costing more than it should have, and consequently, how tough to discern that a little rail greasing needs to take place to keep the money flowing?

No one will recapture the lost decade of Little Johnny and tens of thousands of students like him. In the mean time, one hundred plus educators will lose their jobs and perhaps face criminal charges and well-deserved civil suits on top of it all. Absent an education, perhaps Johnny can soak up a few Gs from his now unemployed English teacher.

But this leaves greater society exactly where? I'll tell you where, with the same system in place that begs educators to cheat while it more forcibly, year after year, removes parents and localities farther away from their responsibilities to each other.

And it is all coming to a school district near you.

Thursday, August 04, 2011

The Blues

Has there ever been a better time for this?

Wednesday, August 03, 2011

We Must End Our Dependence on Foreign Energy Sources

Uh oh.

Next Target: The Family Farm

Now that the country has been saved by our benevolent President and our excellent collection of congressional miracle workers, I can get back to pointing out how difficult it will be to ever cut the expanding growth of government when it continues to assume an ever larger role in making sure the rest of us behave properly.

With each added government advancement into our private lives not only does government grow larger and more expensive, but the private sector, which pays all of the taxes in this country to begin with, is forced to operate more inefficiently. This inefficiency makes profitability and wealth creation more difficult and reduces the amount of tax that can be paid back to the government. These tax losses have to be made up somehow...perhaps higher tax rates?

Such trivialities are of no concern to a government that has already assumed that it has providence. The Constitution notwithstanding, with clever usage of the commerce clause, the general welfare clause, and outright dismissal of the 10th Amendment, bureaucrats and regulators have wormed their way into every facet of our lives.

While Michelle Obama grows turnips in the White House lawn, a resident of Oak Park, Michigan is prosecuted for growing inappropriate vegetables in front of her more modest home. Just a county north of there, a cider mill operator is in trouble with the regulators who feel it inappropriate for the proprietor to sell firewood alongside his fruit and donuts.

In Georgia, residents are prosecuted for selling vegetables grown on their property without obtaining the proper licensing, and little girls are threatened with prosecution for selling lemonade and girl scout cookies without the blessing of inspectors. While Amish farmers are prosecuted for selling raw milk in Pennsylvania, farmers everywhere are told to begin treating their spilled milk as hazardous waste. (Truly farmers these days do have a real reason to cry over spilled milk.)

Of course, once all the hurdles of producing food are cleared, those who market and sell the food must clear a number of additional hurdles put in place. If you happen to be a packager and seller of walnuts, you had better make certain not to make health claims on the packaging, even though those claims have been confirmed by numerous laboratory studies--doing so will run afoul of the FDA.

If you happen to be a fast food producer you had better make certain to advertise your products in a manner that doesn't appear to make your food too fun to eat. If you happen to own a restaurant you'd better watch the salt content, proudly display nutritional information, and make certain not to serve fat people. Heck, if you have a kid attending a certain school in the Chicago area, don't even bother to send a sack lunch--it is assumed to be unhealthy and just butt out, thank you.

None of these examples could have an impact on the ability of a family farmer, gardener, distributor, restauranteur or entrepreneur to make a living, could they? None of them could affect the price of food being sold to consumers, could they?

I'm not even going to get into the Department of Energy's fingerprints being all over the whole ethanol disaster and why that has affected prices and every American's cost of living.

We have to be close to the end of this regulatory mess, don't we? I mean, seriously, aren't the EPA, the FDA, and the DOE sufficiently involved into everything already?

Well, no, as it turns out. There is still the Department of Transportation that is suggesting a reclassification of all farm equipment to that of Commercial Motor Vehicles and requiring all operators of the equipment to get the proper licensing.

The change would prohibit family farms from using young workers to operate a tractor who are not old enough to drive a car on public streets; the same applies to seniors who are unable to drive on public streets.

Likewise, those who do operate the tractor would be forced to undergo advanced testing and fill out the same paperwork that is required of those who drive semi-tractor trailers.

The changes would ultimately infringe upon the operation of family farms by imposing loads of paperwork, such as detailed logs to be kept by all drivers, and regulations, which include a physical and drug test to be administered every two years on all drivers.
As the choke hold on American wealth producers tightens, the wealth the country depends on to pay its bills and feed and clothe its population gets more difficult to obtain.

Except for high paid regulators, that is. Its always nice to be on top.

h/t Protein Wisdom