Saturday, December 19, 2009

Tolerance as practiced by people of faith

A 2007 study from the University of Minnesota looked at the acceptance of atheists in American society. Using new national survey data, it shows atheists are less likely to be accepted, publicly and privately, than any others from a long list of ethnic, religious, and other minority groups.

It's safe to assume that atheists are completely accepting of their fellow atheists' religious beliefs -- or, more accurately in this case, their lack thereof. That leaves only religious people with the distrust of atheists.

Atheists are so distrusted and despised by people of faith that less than half of all Americans would be willing to vote for an atheist to be their President. When faced with a laundry list of religions and ethnic minorities, almost forty percent feel that atheists do not at all agree with their vision of America (thirteen percentage points higher than the next most unagreeable group). When asked if they would disapprove if their child wanted to marry a member of this group, 47.6% disapprove of their child marrying an atheist (fourteen percentage points higher than those who would disapprove of their child marrying a Muslim, the second most disapproved group). These numbers are even higher among Americans of faith than they are in the general population.

While most religions preach tolerance and acceptance, it turns out most of their believers are anything but tolerant when it comes to atheists. Surprisingly, they're even more tolerant of people of different faiths, even though an atheist is the least likely to proselytize them.

Self-interest would dictate that a religious person would prefer to have an atheist in the Oval Office than someone of a different faith because the atheist would be the least likely to allow religious convictions to influence the decisions they make as President. Surprisingly, it turns out the atheist would be the last person they would want for their President.

Most parents would want their children to marry an intelligent spouse. Since atheists, on average, have an IQ almost six points higher than a religious person, it would seem that an atheist would be the more desirable spouse. Apparently, however, parents would prefer their child marry someone of lower intelligence over marrying an atheist.

While it's well and good to preach tolerance from the pulpit, god forbid you practice tolerance in your life.

Sunday, November 29, 2009

Economic stimulus is just warming up

The Right rails against the stimulus package President Obama signed into law, citing indicators like the high unemployment rate as evidence that the stimulus did not work. Liberals cite the same indicator as evidence that the stimulus bill was inadequate and that we need another jolt of stimulus. The Left fails to recognize that over half of the funds in the $787-billion stimulus package remain to be spent when calling for a new stimulus bill. Conservatives fail to acknowledge the same when they already declare the stimulus bill a failure.

In the face of the evidence that economists have begun to recognize, there is a new consensus that sees the stimulus as a worthy step.

Projections Show It Could Have Been Worse

The truth of the matter probably lies somewhere between the two extremes. The stimulus bill has not yet had the full effect it will have had after all of the funding in it has been spent. Nonetheless, we probably do not need another stimulus bill at this time. The American people need to be patient and let the stimulus play out. Looking back in two years, they will see a substantial impact from the initial stimulus bill and decide we do not need the additional debt more stimulus would bring.

In fact, much of the benefit of the stimulus bill will not be realized until well after the last dollar is spent. The stimulus bill funded America's infrastructures with billions of dollars. Although the economy will get an immediate boost from that investment, the full return will be realized over the life of those infrastructures, which will be measured in decades. Furthermore, substantial portions of the stimulus are dedicated to emerging technologies that will require significant research and development before they become profitable sectors. But these are the sectors America will need to lead for her to continue to have a competitive economy.

America was once an agrarian society sustained economically almost entirely on agriculture. But then came the Industrial Age and America changed into an industrial society, leveraging it to become the most powerful nation in the world. When leadership in industry went offshore to Asia, America didn't lose her dominance. Instead she led the world into the Information Age and enjoyed economic prosperity from doing so.

Now America needs to leverage the stimulus package to help her lead the way into entirely new sectors where the competition is still minimal. For example, the US electrical grid gets a $3.4-billion jolt of stimulus funding. Modernizing our electrical grid will not only rebuild one of America's critical infrastructures and make her less dependent on foreign energy but it will also allow her to develop new 'smart' grid technologies that she will be able to sell to the world. Already California is the number one job-creating state for wind, solar, PV, and geothermal energy.

There are other emerging sectors that are bound to see the same long-term benefits from the stimulus package. It funds technologies like electronic health records and broadband with billions of dollars. If America turns these sectors into new markets of which she is the dominant supplier and technology leader, Americans will see returns on the stimulus funding for many years to come.

Sunday, November 22, 2009

Change is not necessarily reform

The Senate sent The Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (this 2074 page, 2.5 MB PDF file might take a while to download) to the floor for debate. I support health care reform and I support universal health care. Since this Act is neither, I oppose it.

The root cause of our health care system's problems is the health insurance industry. Insurance adds zero value to the health care process, yet it still manages to consume thirty percent of the insured's health care costs. The most effective way to eliminate a large portion of the problems with our legacy health care system is to eliminate health insurance.

Unfortunately, instead of eliminating health insurance, this bill requires individuals to purchase it. The bill turns 94% of Americans into a captive market for the health insurance industry. The health insurance industry does not behave in the best interest of its insured when they have to compete to attact premiums. Consider how much less accountable the industry would be if Americans were forced by the government to buy their coverage.

The bill sets up an insurance exchange to create competition. But the industry already has an exchange: it's called the marketplace. As a free enterprise society, we believe that the free market is the most efficient of all exchanges. Yet, all the marketplace has done for health insurance is to provide worse service and higher premiums. I see no reason to think an arbitrarily contrived exchange would be any better.

The health care bill the Senate will debate is not reform; it's just change. As bad as our legacy health care system is, simply tinkering around the edges of it, as the Senate bill does, would most likely only result in an even worse system. The way to real reform of America's health care system is to implement a single payer system.

Monday, October 19, 2009

America’s Healthy Future Act of 2009

The Senate Finance Committee published the full legislative text of America’s Healthy Future Act of 2009 (PDF >1.8MB) on their website. Everyone can now stop with all the rhetoric. Now we can all easily reference the exact Section of the Act with which we agree or oppose. So instead of hyperbole, we can instead read the actual terms of the Act and make our own assessment of what effect they truly have.

So please post a Comment and tell us which Section is your favorite and why. Or tell us which Section you oppose and why. Just be sure to cite the actual Act so we can read what it says.

I'll start to give you an example. On page 78, lines 15 through 21, the Act says:
Each qualified individual shall have the choice to enroll or to not enroll in a qualified health benefits plan offered through an exchange that is established under this title, that covers the State in which the individual resides, and that covers qualified health benefits plans in the individual market.
Am I missing something or don't we already have such exchanges? I believe we call them the marketplace. And look how poorly distributed health care is now with a market exchange.

I apologize that my comment on the Act isn't all emotional. Excuse me for keeping it devoid of hyperbole. But at least I cited the actual text for you to reference and make up your own mind on what it says.

Sunday, September 27, 2009

Promoting family values: bigotry, hatred, and intolerance

In spite of all the chaos in the GOP, some of the Christian Right have managed to galvanize under a cause: to discredit and criticize America's first African-American President using whatever lies, fallacies, and deceit serve their purpose. Reading these screeds, there's a conspicuous undercurrent of racism and misguided religious condemnation. The latest example of this was an email from one Sally Opper that I read today:
Subject: National Day of Prayer for WHAT??????

If this isn’t an eye opener, then I don’t what is….

National Day of Prayer for WHAT??????

In 1952 President Truman established one day a year as a National Day of Prayer.

In 1988, President Reagan designated the first Thursday in May of each year as the National Day of Prayer.

This year however, President Obama, decided to cancel the ceremony at the White House not wanting to offend anyone.

Presidential candidate Barack Obama declared the USA was no longer a Christian nation. Now see if you can wrap your brain around this: On September 25, 2009 from 4am until 7pm, a National Day of Prayer for the Muslim religion will be held on Capitol Hill, beside the White House. They are expecting over 50,000 muslims that day in DC.

The website (yes, there is a very informative website) is: Pay particular attention to the very bottom of the page: "OUR TIME HAS COME". Could it be that the REAL agenda of the President is becoming more plain????
It's a short and sweet email but it's replete with classic examples of deceitful attacks on the President. I wonder if Sally Opper is intentionally distorting this to get people up in arms against Obama on a fabricated accusation or if she simply lacks the logic and critical thinking skills required to recognize the fallacies and logic flaws in what she's provoking.

First of all, Opper should be pleased that the Islamic community is calling for a day of unity. The Islamic community's right to worship on Capitol Hill is the same right that Opper has to openly worship Christ and it's a right that would one day protect her were Obama to do that what Opper seems to fear: turn the USA into an Islamic theocracy. If anything, Opper should be critical of Christian leadership for not organizing a similar event for Christians if she thinks what the Islamic community organized is so important.

But to try and somehow blame Obama for this event is just intellectually dishonest. Neither Obama nor his administration nor our legislature had anything to do with it. It was organized by Hassen Abdellah, a lawyer and president of the Dar-ul-Islam Mosque in Elizabeth, N.J. And to call out the "Our Time Has Come" tagline to the notice of the event as Obama's agenda absent any kind of evidence other than that it will be "held on Capitol Hill, beside the White House" (which is public property where people of all faiths have the right to gather and pray) is simply a flat-out lie.

I don't know anything about Truman or Reagan establishing a National Day of Prayer and, since Opper cited no sources on it, I can't respond specifically. However, I do know two things about it:
  1. Neither president could enact any such law without congress first passing it, and the current congress has brought no such bill to Obama's desk.
  2. If they did, it would be unconstitutional, so neither Truman nor Reagan should have signed such a bill if it were brought to their desk.
Nor can I speak to Obama cancelling some non-specific (Christian?) ceremony at the White House since Opper has again left out any citation. But to then state that "Barack Obama declared the USA was no longer a Christian nation," conveniently leaving out the operative word Obama used -- "just" a Christian nation -- (as if to say Obama is trying to establish a Muslim nation) is simply deceitful, particularly considering that Obama is a devout Christian and has never been a believer in Islam.

These kinds of lies and deceit are a very unChristian thing to do and, were I Christian, I'd be a lot more concerned with the hatred, bigotry, and intolerance Opper is trying to provoke in the name of Christ than I would be with this Muslim event. This kind of deceit and unwarranted criticism of the president -- who people of all faiths and people of no faith must deal with as our chief executive for at least three more years -- advances no one's cause, least of all Opper's. All it does is create more divisiveness and ignorance in America (at least among those who fall for her dirty tricks) and fractures America along religious and racial lines.

This Modern World

Monday, September 07, 2009

Obama targets schoolchildren with his socialist agenda

President Barack Obama has stirred the ire of the GOP and the Right by declaring his intent to give a speech to American schoolchildren. Less than a week ago, the chairman of Florida's Republican Party, Jim Greer, released a statement about Obama's upcoming speech, saying "I am absolutely appalled that taxpayer dollars are being used to spread President Obama's socialist ideology." Some parents oppose Obama's speech to students so much that they are pressuring their school districts to allow their children to opt out of the speech, citing concern about Obama indoctrinating their children with his "socialist" agenda.

Today President Barack Obama released the transcript of the remarks he will give for the back-to-school event tomorrow. It is staggering the lengths Obama goes to in this speech to inculcate American schoolchildren with socialist doctrine. Every American parent should read this speech for him or herself. This is just the sort of message to which conservative parents would not want to expose their children.

Jim Greer read a copy of the transcript today. Regarding Obama's speech to students, the Florida GOP chair said "It's a good speech, I'll let my kids watch." Wait! What?


Saturday, August 29, 2009

The "secret process" for economic recovery

The Associated Press released a 'news story' in which it claims that a "secret process" benefits pet projects. Yet when you scrutinize the story closer, you'll find that it's not so much 'news' as it is a distortion clearly biased against the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009 (13.4 MB PDF) (the Act).

The story claims that "a process that is both secretive and susceptible to political influence" is being used for allocating economic stimulus funds. It gives examples of certain border checkpoints getting funds before other checkpoints of a higher priority for improvements do. However, if you read the article with a critical eye, you discover that it concedes there was justification for the order of allocation which was not so secretive after all. A simple Google search shows that there are millions of pages published about how "shovel-ready projects" would get the highest priority. This was a condition established in the Act that was widely publicized long before it was passed.

The story fails to report that there are numerous factors that must be considered when allocating funds to federal projects besides the single five-year-old report (which pre-dated the Act by years) the author cherry-picked to ground her distortion. While the author concedes that federal officials could similarly justify every decision they've made, she clouds her concession with the provocative and deceitful comment that, "they would not provide those justifications to the AP," as if the Feds were intentionally withholding the information from her. The Feds obviously could not give a laundry list of their justifications for every one of their countless projects to a random journalist. Yet her article makes it clear that they did provide her with information on every project she specifically inquired about.

The author is probably one of those poeple who claim that the economic stimulus funds are not getting into the economy quickly enough. Yet she decries the Administration spending stimulus funds on shovel-ready projects first. She's probably also one of those people who complains that the Act didn't result in economic recovery without acknowledging that it was enacted only six months ago and that the bulk of the $787-billion remains to be disbursed into the economy. Like most critics of the Act, she wants to have it both ways.

As far as the "secret process" is concerned, a visit to shows that there is more transparency over spending under the Act than there has ever been for any other bill. But that's a fact that the AP apparently doesn't want you to know.

Shocking news!

Tom Ridge is releasing a book in which the ex-DHS chief links politics to terror alerts. His book is expected to claim that the White House asked him to raise the official threat level just before the 2004 election, purportedly to swing voters to Bush. Ridge will claim in his book that, although he objected to it, he succumbed to the pressure of former Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld and then-Attorney General John Ashcroft.

This revelation is not the surprising part of this story. What surprises me is that the media is all over it as if Ridge's revelation is some kind of shocking news story. The fact is that over four years ago I was writing about how the Terrorist in Chief was trying to manipulate the election by terrorizing the American people with his Homeland Security Advisory System. And the talk all over the street at the time, from everyday people like me, was the same.

If we laypeople could see what the Wizard of Shock and Awes was really up to behind his curtain, why did it take journalists -- whom you would think were insiders in DC -- more than four years to tell what was going on?

Friday, August 21, 2009

Death Panel

What is this "Death Panel" we've all been hearing about lately? Don't take my word for it. Don't let other people tell you what it says. Read the actual text of America’s Affordable Health Choices Act of 2009 for yourself.

The Act is 1,018 pages long, so give the 1.7 MB Portable Document format (PDF) file a couple of minutes to download. Then go straight to SEC. 1233. ADVANCE CARE PLANNING CONSULTATION starting on page 424. This is the section that addresses the issue that somehow came to be known as the "Death Panel." It's about seven pages long but it's double-spaced with big letters and wide margins, so it won't take long to read.

When you're done, please post a comment and tell America the specific page number and lines of the Act which trouble you. It's simple; every page and line is numbered for easy citation. Be sure and explain how those lines legislate anything like what the Act's opponents say the "Death Panel" is. The first one to comment gets to show off how well informed they are, so hurry up.
GOP Scare Tactics

Sunday, May 24, 2009

The finest in resort living: Camp Delta

The GOP is sticking to its guns on Guantánamo Bay. The party maintains that the detention facility at the base there, Camp Delta, is better than home for the detainees.

Former congressman Duncan L. Hunter (R-CA) has long been an outspoken proponent of holding alleged terrorists at Guantánamo Bay. As far back as 2005, he was claiming that detainees were actually leading better lives at Camp Delta than they were in their native homes:
The inmates in Guantánamo have never eaten better, they've never been treated better and they've never been more comfortable in their lives. ... And the idea that somehow we are torturing people in Guantánamo is absolutely not true, unless you consider having to eat chicken three times a week is torture.
Granted, most people would agree that eating chicken three times a week is not torture (as long as it's not from KFC). But to assert that Camp Delta detainees "are treated exceptionally well" based on what they're fed is either disingenuous or Hunter demonstrating that he's a simpleton. FBI memos dating as far back as 2002 document widespread use of "highly aggressive" interrogation tactics at Guantánamo Bay that most reasonable Americans would deem torture.

Now that President Barack Obama has ordered the closure of the detention facilities at Guantánamo Bay, the GOP is back at it. This time they're trotting out senator Jim Inhofe (R-OK) to make a case for the continued operations at Camp Delta. Inhofe asserts:
Anyone, any detainee over 55 has an opportunity to have a colonoscopy. Now none of them take 'em up on it because once they explain what it is none of them want to do it. But nonetheless its an opportunity that they have.
What more could any self-respecting detainee ask for in life? With a menu of "honey glazed chicken" or "lemon baked fish," served with whole-wheat pita, various vegetables, and fruit, along with the fresh smell of ocean air, it's hard to distinguish Camp Delta from a cruise ship. Meanwhile, their captors provide them with copies of the Koran, prayer rugs, beads and oil. They broadcast the call to prayer five times a day and the cells have signs pointing toward Mecca. But the cherry on this sundae of resort life that the detainees look forward to with the greatest anticipation is the colonoscopy they get if they can reach the ripe old age of 55.

Saturday, May 09, 2009

My impending retirement

What a way to start a weekend! I found the following email with the Subject "FUNDS NO:35460021 UM09" in my Inbox this morning:
Payment Reference No.-35460021
U.S. Department of Treasury
West African Foreign Remittance Payment Department.

Attention Dear Beneficiary,

We the entire members of Top Management of the U.S. Department of Treasury West African Foreign Remittance Payment Department. washington D.C, on behalf of the Government of the United States of America, under the auspices of the US Treasury Department held a meeting this week concerning your payment, both foreign and local contractors and some inheritance funds which were not released to the right benefactors.

Mr. Henry M. Paulson, Jr. Executive Secretary, United States Treasury Department, has just informed our Department here in El Monte California that All the listed contractors and Inheritance funds benefactors which their CONTRACT PAYMENT SUM AND INHERITANCE FUNDS were not paid to should be released to them with immediate effect.

We discovered that your payment listed to us has accrued up to $5.7 Million (Five Million, Seven Hundred Thousand United States Dollars), you are advised to respond with effect so that we will process your payment to be made in any form you wish to receive your funds.

Kindly respond to this office so that your payment will be processed and transferred under 72 hours of receiving this email.

On going through files yesterday, we discovered that your file was dumped untreated, so at this juncture, we apologize for the delay of your payment and please stop communicating with any office now and attention to the appointed office below for you to receive your payment accordingly.

Now your new Payment Reference No.-35460021, Allocation No: 674632 Password No : 339331 , Pin Code No: 55674 and your Certificate of Merit Payment No : 103 , Released Code No: 0763; Immediate Telex confirmation No: -1114433 ; Secret Code No: XXTN013, Having received these vital payment number, therefore You are qualified now to receive and confirm Your payment with the United Bank of Africa immediately within 72 hours.

However, I wish to inform you that your payment is being processed and will be released to you as soon as you respond to this letter. Also note that from the records presented to the bank your outstanding inheritance contract payment has accrued up to the sum of US$5.7 Million (5 Million, Seven Hundred Thousand United States Dollars).


1.Full Name:
2.Phone Number:
3.Residential Address:
4.Legal Occupation and Position


As soon as this information is received, your payment will be made to you, As a result of the on-going drive of the United States National Treasury Department to update our books and clear overdue payments to all rightful beneficiaries / heirs, I strongly recommend that you promptly and humbly respond to this notification letter immediately.

NOTE: We have mounted our security network to monitor every in-coming call, if we still find out that you are still dealing with all those fraudsters that have been frustrating you, I shall stop and cancel your payment immediately.

Thanks and God Bless you.
Mr. John Mensah
West African Foreign Remittance Payment Department.
Office Fax: (202) 622-6415
Personal E-mail:
I can tell the email is official because they were notified by Mr. Henry M. Paulson, Jr. Executive Secretary, United States Treasury Department (otherwise I might be suspicious that the West Africaon Treasury uses a Yahoo! email address). It must be important considering the entire members of Top Management of the U.S. Department of Treasury West African Foreign Remittance Payment Department bothered to address my inheritance. I already promptly and humbly responded, providing the above informations correctly immediately.

I did note that he writes that if he still finds out that I am still dealing with all those fraudsters that have been frustrating me, he shall stop and cancel my payment immediately. So please keep this confidential -- they have mounted their security network to monitor every in-coming call. As directed, I stopped communicating with any office now and attention to the appointed office above for me to receive my payment accordingly. I gave them my bank account number and PIN so they can deposit the funds directly into my account.

The upshot of the email is that I have an outstanding inheritance contract payment of $5.7-million coming to me! That should be plenty of money for me to live off of for the rest of my life without working anymore. It says my payment will be processed and transferred under 72 hours of receiving this email, so I might as well retire now.

Sunday, March 01, 2009

The fallacy that the tax increase hurts business

Ever since President Obama first said he would increase taxes on those earning over $250,000 per year (which was when he was still only a candidate), Republicans have been parroting the claim that doing so would harm American business. They claim that many people who earn over $250,000 per year own small businesses and that to increase their taxes would stifle the growth of their businesses.

There’s a fatal flaw to this logic. The President's tax increase on people earning over $250,000 per year is a personal income tax, not a business tax. If the owner of a business (whether it is large or small) has a $250,000 salary, the owner’s salary was already an expense of that business before the tax increase. Adding to the tax does not increase the expenses of the business one penny; it only decreases the amount of the salary that the business owner gets to spend.

In fact, it could be said that the business owner earning over $250,000 per year was already stifling the growth of the business himself before the tax increase. Taking such a large salary reduces the amount of the business’s earnings that gets put back into the business. If the business owner is truly concerned about the tax increase, he could simply reduce his salary down below $250,000 per year. Then the business owner avoids the tax increase and his business retains more earnings, providing it with greater assets to grow on (or to use to weather this recession). That’s a win-win solution.

Republicans also claim that the tax increase on the wealthy discourages Americans from pursuing the American dream of building wealth. If that were the case, it would mean that when the tax increase is enacted, those earning over $250,000 per year would suddenly resign their high paying jobs or cut back to part time. The truth is they might have to actually work a little bit harder since they have a little less discretionary income to sustain their wealthy lifestyles. At the other end of the wealth spectrum, there is not a single average wage earner in this country who will now cease aspiring to earn over $250,000 per year. That tax increase is a problem 95% of Americans would love to have.

Sunday, February 15, 2009

Tax cuts won't do the heavy lifting this time

The GOP believes that tax cuts are the best way to stimulate the economy. Republicans would say that tax cuts are preferable to government spending because the American people know best how to spend their money and that the government has a poor track record for effectively spending tax dollars. But Daniel Gross makes a strong case that the traditional wisdom doesn't apply in this recession.

The whole idea behind tax cuts stimulating the economy is that Americans will spend the newfound discretionary income they have when their taxes are cut. It seems logical that if there are less withholdings, she'll buy that new pair of shoes she's had her eye on with the extra money she finds in her paycheck. Or if his income tax refund is unexpectedly large next year, he'll finally buy that widescreen HD TV that's been tempting him lately. Maybe the simultaneously increasing take-home pay and price of gasoline will convince you to finally buy that hybrid car you've been considering (as long as the desperate Big Three are offering so many incentives nowadays).

It makes sense, right? After all, we Americans love instant gratification and we're certainly not savers. Well, maybe it does not make so much sense this time. There are some factors that make this recession unique.

First of all, there is less job security than ever in today's workplace. There are now fewer career employees than ever and we have the highest rate of unemployment in many years. Worse yet, it's plummeting faster than it has in recent recessions:
Job Losses In Recent Recessions(Click chart above to see in full-size from House Speaker Nancy Pelosi's office)
With the large number of unemployed Americans, there are fewer tax payers to spend the tax cuts. This alone reduces the impact the tax cuts will have on the economy.

Add to that the fact that Americans that are still employed lack confidence that they will stay that way long term. Not knowing how long it would take them to find a replacement job in this tight job market, American's feel that they need a larger safety cushion than usual right now. If they would want to have health insurance should they become unemployed, COBRA would be a substantial additional expense that they don't have while employed. Subsequently, Americans are much more likely to save their tax cuts for a rainier day than they are to spend them. While that's fiscally healthy for the individual, it's not stimulating to the economy.

To further exacerbate matters, the housing market is at the root of this economic downturn. During the housing boom, Americans were spending Bush's tax cuts hand over fist on their homes. They improved their homes to accelerate its appreciation. With home values falling like a rock in this recession, homeowners will not be spending their tax cuts at Home Depot because to do so would just be throwing good money after bad. Many homeowners are seeing their ARMs reset, so they will just spend their tax cuts on their higher mortgage installments (to banks likely to go bankrupt anyway). Renters will not likely spend their tax cuts on buying a home because of the concern that their mortgage would just be underwater a few months later.

Finally, there are Americans' retirement accounts to consider. The shrinking Dow reflects Americans' IRAs and 401(k)s. Losing 45% of their nest egg in less than a year, Baby Boomers are postponing the retirement they planned. Instead, they will just have to plow their tax cuts back into their retirement accounts to make up for their recent losses.

Of course, these factors will not completely eliminate the stimulative effect of tax cuts. Nonetheless, they will certainly significantly diminish the tax cuts' impact on this recession. The economic stimulus bill that just passed congress this weekend was the right recipe for this recession. Although it has some tax cuts, it's more heavily weighted to investments in America's future -- monies that we know will be spent.

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

Maybe the sky really is falling

When Secretary Hank Paulson started running around like Chicken Little telling everyone the sky is falling, I thought it was just hyperbole. After all, former president Bush had been employing scare tactics to control the American people for years. So when the Fed came to the rescue with a $700-billion economic rescue plan, I questioned if it really was necessary.

Then I saw the video of Representative Paul Kanjorski, a Democrat from Pennsylvania, talking about the events that led up to Paulson's histrionics (below). It made me think twice about just how bad things might really have been. Kanjorski said of the day that Paulson visited congress with his dark news:
On Thursday, at about eleven o'clock in the morning, the Federal Reserve noticed a tremendous draw-down of money market accounts in the United States to the tune of $550-billion being drawn out in a matter of an hour or two ... We were having an electronic run on the banks. They decided to ... close down the money accounts, and announce a guarantee of $250,000 per account so there wouldn't be further panic ... If they had not done that, their estimation was that by two o'clock that afternoon, $5.5-trillion would have been drawn out of the money market system of the United States, would have collapsed the entire economy of the United States, and within 24 hours the world economy would have collapsed.
Why didn't Paulson tell us about this activity then? Well, obviously because it probably would've scared investors even worse than they already were right in the middle of what turns out was a significant run on the investment banks. But what were these people thinking? Didn't they realize that money market funds don't evaporate in value like the bank securities were doing and that their investment accounts were insured by the feds in the event of a bankruptcy like Lehman Brothers?

Apparently, they didn't. Just watch this video, listening up sharp at 2:10 in, to hear a little told story about what was happening during those days:
Go to source web page>>

Sunday, February 08, 2009

California steals from its taxpayers

I visited the Franchise Tax Board's website to check on the status of my state income tax return today. Imagine my surprise to see their reply was "your refund cannot be issued at this time." How would they respond if I owed them money but instead of paying, I told them that their payment cannot be issued at this time? They would charge me penalties and interest.

The Franchise Tax Board passed the buck. They went on to say:
Due to the state's persistent cash and budget problems, the State Controller has directed FTB to stop sending refund requests to the State Controller's Office for payment. Refund payments will resume when the State Controller indicates there is enough cash available to make refund payments.
That excuse is not good enough. If I owed it taxes, the state wouldn't accept a claim by me that I don't have enough cash available to pay them as an excuse. I shouldn't have to accept it from them.

My refund (and I don't call it a "tax" refund because it's not taxes -- it's my earnings) is not the state's money and it never was. I didn't want the state to have my money in the first place. The only reason they have it is because they forced my employer to withhold it from my paychecks.

Since it's not the state's money, the controller shouldn't have spent it. They should have secured it in a trust fund or some kind of escrow account. After all, that's what the state requires of businesses that hold their clients' monies. Apparently, the state does not believe that 'what's good for the goose is good for the gander.' So I won't bother charging the state a penalty for not refunding my money in a timely manner.

Sunday, January 18, 2009

Restoring the American dream

I've already admitted to using Peter Schiff as my economic forecaster. He forecasted our current recession while many were still saying the fundamentals of our economy were strong. He was on target when his naysayers were calling him a crackpot. So what does he say about the recession this year?

Unfortunately, Schiff says there's no pain-free cure for the recession. Regarding economic stimulus, Schiff says:
Any jobs or other economic activity created by public-sector expansion merely comes at the expense of jobs lost in the private sector. And if the government chooses to save inefficient jobs in select private industries, more efficient jobs will be lost in others. As more factors of production come under government control, the more inefficient our entire economy becomes. Inefficiency lowers productivity, stifles competitiveness and lowers living standards.
So what does this portend for the fiscal policies that both president Bush and president-elect Obama have been pursuing? It means that we can expect higher inflation for years to come. Many of the actions they have been taking to protect the American dream are simply delaying the inevitable.

Please president-elect Obama, don't fall for the next wasteful bailout congress legislates. Don't you see that the current treasury secretary, Hank Paulson, is just another Wall Street banker looking out for the interests of his cohort? The Fed will not be able to rescue us from the predicament the American people have put themselves into. America will see a dramatic redistribution of wealth and widespread hardships sooner or later, regardless of fiscal or monetary policy.

I say rip the bandage off now. We're going to have to suffer through a reduction to intrinsic -- meaning dramatically lower -- values for our real estate. We'll have to see salaries for jobs that do not deliver tangible value to society, such as insurance agents and securities dealers, fall back to five-figures. We're going to have to reduce our collective personal debt and increase our savings, which means fewer flat-screen TVs and SUVs with leather seats. After all that has happened, our economy will again become strong and Americans will again be able to fulfill the American dream!