Saturday, November 10, 2012

The Boat



A plane crashes in the ocean.  Miraculously, 15 passengers survive, and find themselves stranded together on an island.  The situation is dire, as there appears to be no visible means of survival.

Unbelievably, they come across a boat with a pair of oars.  It appears well built, and has a small amount of C-ration type food stored aboard.

One of the stranded passengers has flown the route several times in a small plane and recalls a few inhabited islands in the area, and with some luck, they might be able to use the boat to reach one.  However, the prospect of rowing a boat for a few days is daunting, and will require strength and endurance since they don’t know exactly where the islands are. They will just have to start rowing and hope they run into one of those islands.

Then they see the sign on the boat, in very clear, bold letters:

Warning:  This is a stout boat and very stable.  However, any more than 10 people will capsize the boat, and, because of the way the boat is engineered, it will be nearly impossible to right the boat.  Do NOT attempt to carry more than 10 people in the boat.

In trying to decide upon a plan of action, the individuals quickly start to separate into two basic groups.  One group happens to be made up of liberals and the other group is made up of conservatives.  The L’s want to put everyone into the boat and believe if they are very careful, they will not capsize the boat.  The C’s want to select 10 people from the group as recommended to insure the boat will not capsize, leaving five people behind, and hope they can get to a neighboring inhabited island and return with help to save the people left behind.

If the L’s win the day…

Everyone jumps into the boat.  The two strongest men present are instructed to row the boat, while the others uniformly space themselves around the edges and try not to capsize the boat.  The seas are calm, and everything appears to go along smoothly.

When it’s time to eat, the food is rationed to everyone, but more food is given to the elderly and the children, because they are, after all, weak and need it more.  The young men rowing the boat are not given as much because they are, after all, healthy and strong.  Everyone is feeling good about the situation, and how fair it is.

But rowing the boat proves to be strenuous, and with so many people in the boat it is riding lower in the water than it’s designed for, and, therefore, has more drag.  After a while, the young men rowing the boat begin to weaken from lack of food and water, and with no one else strong enough to row the boat, it starts to drift.  The others, perplexed by the seeming lack of desire of the young men to row hard, start to get irritated with the young men, and tell them that they will get even less food if they don’t row harder.

But alas, the young men are eventually completely spent and can’t row any more.  And then, along comes a small wave and, just as the sign promised, the boat overturns and everyone dies.  A pity.

But at least they died knowing it was, well, fair.

If the C’s win the day…

There is a determination they should place no more than 10 people in the boat because that is, after all, what the boat manufacturer said.  The few L’s in the crowd insist, then, that the older and disadvantaged people should get the right to be on the boat, but since the C’s won, they decide that it should be the 10 strongest and most capable people, giving them the best possible chance of success.  They explain to the L’s in the group that the only possible way to save everyone is to create the best environment for those who are going to try to row to civilization, and if they get there in time, send a rescue boat back.

So, with many tears, the 10 people going in the boat say goodbye to the ones left behind, with the promise that if they get to another island, they will come back as soon as possible to rescue them, even though it doesn’t look like those left behind will last very long, as most of the food is taken on the boat.

After a few days of rowing, the food is gone and everyone is starting to get tired.  But the young men doing the hard work were fed well and taken care of, so they were able to continue on.  Finally, an island is spotted in the distance and their spirits are lifted, giving them the adrenalin they need.  With their last gasp, the weary group finally makes it, and is taken in by the people on the island. They are saved.

They grateful survivors quickly speak about the people left behind on the other island, and the native islanders immediately set out with food and water in hopes they will get there in time.

Maybe the islanders they get to the rescue in time, but maybe not.  If they do, terrific.  But if they don’t, there is hell to pay.  The few L’s in the surviving group chastise the C’s for not bringing everyone, convinced they all could have made it.  When they get home, trial lawyers representing the families of those left behind who perished file suits against the survivors and scores of miscellaneous others.  Everyone winds up miserable (except the trial lawyers, of course).

The good news; at least ten of them are still alive!  The bad news; it wasn’t fair.

If Hollywood Makes a Movie About It-

The Hollywood Path is similar to the L’s, with the following dramatic changes:

Everyone jumps into the boat.  The two strongest men present are instructed to row the boat, while the others uniformly space themselves around the edges and try not to capsize the boat.  The seas are calm, and everything appears to go along smoothly.

When it is time to eat, the food is rationed to everyone, but more food is given to the elderly and the children (one of whom is sick) because they are weak and need it more.  The young men rowing the boat are not given as much because they are, after all, healthy.  Everyone is feeling good about the situation, and how fair it is.  Except for one guy - a mean ol’ businessman in a suit with a briefcase.  He is obviously a Conservative.

Among the other characters, there is, of course, a handsome young man who is quiet and reserved, but strong and healthy, as well as a pretty young woman who is kind and caring.  When they have been in the boat for quite some time, the mean ol’ businessman starts to pick on the young woman in a nasty manner because they disagree about which way they think the boat should be heading.  After a brief period of arguing in which mean ol’ businessman is hostile and arrogant while the pretty young woman is sweet and intelligent, mean ol’ businessman grabs one of the oars and swings it at the pretty young woman.  He misses, but the oar hits the side of the boat and shatters.  He then grabs another oar and swings it at her again, and again the oar shatters.  The handsome young man, in an attempt to save the pretty young woman bumps into mean ol’ businessman, and mean ol’ businessman falls overboard.  Of course, being mean, he sinks fast, disappearing into the cold, dark water.  Risking his own life, the handsome young man dives into the water in an attempt to save him, but returns to the surface empty handed.  Oh well, he tried.  Nothing is left of mean ol’ businessman except his briefcase, in which documents reveal he was plotting to buy an orphanage, tear it down, and build condos.  There were also some bottles of Perrier he was hoarding for himself.

What are they to do now that the oars are broken because of mean ol’ businessman?  (Some of you might draw a parallel to being up the the proverbial tributary without adequate means of transportation!)  The handsome young man rips off his shirt, grabs a rope from the bottom of the boat, ties it to the bow and ties the other end to his belt, jumps into the water and starts swimming – dragging the boat in the direction the pretty young woman thinks they should go.  It is quite a struggle, of course.  After all, dragging an overloaded boat in this manner is not easy!  But he is in god shape because he was on the swimming team in high school before he had to drop out to support his mom and siblings after his father died from a common cold because he couldn’t get health insurance.

As they go, the young man snatches occasional fish with his hands as they swim by, and tosses them into the boat for everyone else to eat.  He and the young woman let everyone else have the food.  They give most of the Perrier to a young boy in the boat who is very sick.

And, of course, just as all hope seems gone, they arrive at one of the nearby islands where they are all taken in and saved.  Everyone goes home happy, the handsome young man and the pretty young woman move in together, and the sick kid on the boat eventually becomes President of the United States and saves all the children of the Sudan.

In Hollywood, you see, anything can happen if you just have good thoughts and wish it so.

After the fact, the press weighs in.

If it turned out that the L’s decided the course to take, there is a good likelihood that no one would ever know what happened to them.  They are presumed to have all died in the plane crash.  If they do find evidence of the crash survivors on the remote island, they will probably know there was a boat there and that they all tried to make their way to safety, but didn’t make it.

It the C’s decide it, and the 5 people left on the island are not rescued in time, the press will tell the story as it is told to them, but will then extrapolate to make it more than it was.  Among other things they will:

1.          Have an expert analyze the boat that will state that, regardless of the warning, all 15 people could have ridden the boat to safety.
2.          Find a whistleblower who claims that previously to this incident occurring someone had recommend to the manufacturer of the boat that they should increase the capacity to 15.
3.          Interview friends and relatives of the people who were not on the boat, all of whom would have decried the fact that their loved ones were not on the boat.  One woman will say that her dead son’s goal was to be President of the United States and save the children of the Sudan, and she was sure he would have achieved his goal had he been taken with the survivors.
4.          Blame the tea party.
5.          A combination of New York Times columnists will write articles declaring that if liberals had more control over the government the plane would not have crashed in the first place, or if it did, the government would have found the survivors before they perished, or that there would have been an adequate boat placed on every such island long before this happened with a cell phone to call for help, and that converted Al-Qaeda terrorists would have been the first ones there to help everyone.

Yes, Liberals, being such nice people, would have put everyone on the boat.  That’s also why they shouldn’t make the decisions.

Sunday, October 28, 2012

Stop Calling the Tea Party Extreme. It Isn't.


The left-leaning mainstream media and liberal Democratic politicians continue to refer to the Tea Party as extreme, whacko, and out of touch with the American public. Clear evidence indicates exactly the opposite.
Many of us are getting increasingly annoyed when we hear the Tea Party called extreme, right-wing whackos, or other unbecoming names along that vein. Of course, almost everyone I know who is decidedly left of center deems themselves a centrist. My knee-jerk liberal neighbor thinks he’s a centrist. I have gone back through every posting on his blog and they are all as far left on whatever subject he is writing about as one can be.
But then, he also thinks Obama is a centrist, as do large segments of the MSM, Hollywood, and other liberal groups. Universal health care, unconditional amnesty for everyone, taxing enough life out of our valuable corporations to drive them to other countries (good riddance! I mean, who wanted those high-paying jobs anyway?), subsidizing green energy schemes that cost a fortune and make no economic sense – it goes on and on. I guess that, given their viewpoint, it’s no wonder they think the Tea Party is extreme.
Now, I know it’s pointless to try to convince a liberal that reality isn’t a whipped-cream world where all you have to do is wish and it will come true. However, with the hope that some late-arrivals to politics and those “independents” who seem to ride the fence and fall on whatever side has greener grass at the moment are open-minded and willing to listen, I will present some very obvious facts that have been dramatically confused by the various liberal cults that want to paint the Tea Party as extremist.
First, make no mistake about the MSM; they feign honesty and “intellectual” coverage of the news, but their decidedly slanted viewpoint denies them the ability to present things in a straightforward manner. There are some who argue that they purposefully distort the truth and paint those on the right side of the isle as loonies, either directly or subtly. I choose to believe that, being in the news business, they are merely hopeless liberals without a clue about reality, and believe they are representing the news fairly. Regardless, they have the ability to affect opinions. Depicting the tea party as extreme is an issue that really needs to be exposed.
So, exactly what does it mean to be extreme? We all know, but I will present a definition anyway from Dictionary.com (with some minor editing)-
1. of a character or kind farthest removed from the ordinary or average.
2. utmost or exceedingly great in degree.
3. farthest from the center or middle; outermost; endmost.
4. farthest, utmost, or very far in any direction.
5. exceeding the bounds of moderation.
6. going to the utmost or very great lengths in action, habit, opinion, etc.
So what exactly is extreme about the tea party? Just how are they “of a character or kind farthest removed from the ordinary or average?”
Let’s analyze their viewpoints. The Tea Party is not an official organization, but from the TeaParty.net web site, the main “planks” are:
• Limited federal government
• Individual freedoms
• Personal responsibility
• Free markets
Limited Government
A recent Rasmussen poll (from US News and World Report) indicated that considerably more respondents believe the Federal Government had too much power as opposed to too little. According to the survey, "75 percent of Republicans believe the federal government has too much power over the states while a plurality of Democrats (37 percent) believe the balance is about right. Among those not affiliated with either major party, 52 percent say the federal government has too much influence while 9 percent say not enough." (Italics added)
And from a January ABC News article “ABCNEWS tested the issue with two questions: Half the respondents in this poll were asked if they trust the government to do what's right when it comes to handling national security and the war on terrorism. Sixty-eight percent said yes. The other half were asked if they trust the government to do what's right when it comes to handling social issues like the economy, health care, Social Security and education. Far fewer — 38 percent — said yes.”
On this issue, the Tea Party is decidedly centrist.
Individual Freedoms
A December 2010 poll from Rasmussen Reports clearly shows how important individual freedoms are for Americans; “Among moderate voters, a plurality (48%) agrees with the conservative perspective with a focus on protecting individual rights.” Interestingly, “The widest gap as is often the case is between the Political Class and Mainstream voters. Seventy percent (70%) of those in the Mainstream say the primary role of a government is to protect individual rights. Fifty-one percent (51%) of Political Class voters say insuring fairness and social justice should come first.” Wow. A whopping 70% of the Mainstream class! Those are big numbers.
On this issue, the Tea Party is decidedly centrist.
Personal Responsibility
While polls asking the direct question of how important personal responsibility is in general are hard to find, specific polls show Americans believe in the concept. From a Gallup poll on the subject of personal responsibility in the matter of health care, “89% of Republicans, 64% of independents, and 61% of Americans overall say Americans themselves -- rather than the government -- have the primary responsibility for ensuring that they have health insurance.” Fairly large numbers support the Tea Party position.
Hardly anything that can be called extreme.
Free Markets
No surprise here. According to a GlobalScan poll, the free enterprise system and free market economy is decidedly the best system on which to base the future of the world. In the US, this opinion is shared by 71% of the people surveyed in contrast to 24% who disagree. (Worldwide polling shows 61% agreement as opposed to 28% who disagree.) Concurrence again.
So, concerning all four “planks” of the Tea Party, the majority of the public is clearly in agreement. However, as we know, the Tea Party is vocal in their support or opposition to other specific issues as well. Regarding some of their more important issues-
• A July 11 CNN/ORC poll shows that 66% of the respondents support Cut, Cap, and Balance.
• In the same poll, 74% Support a Balanced Budget Amendment.
• On the budget deficit, many would agree that the Tea Party believes in the cuts-only or mostly spending cuts approach. According to the following chart from Gallup, 67% think the deficit should be reduced by only or mostly spending cuts. Even those who believe in spending cuts alone account for 26%. Hardly extremist.
CNN poll, January 2011, 71% of people want to cut spending in general (although they don’t agree as to what should necessarily be cut)
• Finally, from an LA Times article; “according to most polls, about 20% of voters are liberal, substantially less than the about 40% who identify themselves as conservative.”
So how is it the Tea Party is labeled extremist when, on virtually all their important issues, the evidence is clear that most Americans are in substantial agreement with them? And why did a Gallup survey conducted April 20-23 of this year, find that only 30 percent of Americans describe themselves as Tea Party supporters?
Clearly, the American public has been mislead by the MSM and by the propensity of liberal politicians who customarily preach the left-wing viewpoint to hurl charges of racism or other unflattering adjectives at anyone who does not agree with them. Serious misunderstanding of the Tea Party and the American people is apparent in Nancy Pelosi’s famous comment referring to the Tea Party movement as astroturf instead of grassroots.
The result of this misrepresentation is the marginalization of the Tea Party to segments of the American public who pay little attention to politics and believe what they hear on the 6:00 news at dinnertime. It’s time the “tea baggers” passionately disclaim the extremist label. People who make that claim should be stopped in their tracks immediately, and the conversation should cease until that claim is contested.
No, the Tea Party is not extreme. It is merely the “Silent Majority” no longer being silent.

Tuesday, September 25, 2012

Romney Doesn't Pay 14%, He Pays 43%

Romney needs to speak of his taxes only when combined with charitable contributions.

Mitt Romney’s 2011 tax returns were recently released showing income of approximately $13M with federal taxes of approximately 14%, and charitable contributions of approximately 4.1M.  Additionally, Romney declared only half of his eligible charitable donations as deductions, with the effect of raising his tax bill, and raising his tax rate.

Predictably, there has been very little in MSM concerning his charitable contributions.  Most of the comment has been around his “paltry” tax percentage and how didn’t declare his charitable contributions in order to increase his tax liability so he could “look better.”

This is not surprising.  Only the left and the left-wing Main Stream Media can figure out a way to make charitable contributions look devious and somehow wrong – even deceitful.  And we know their attitudes won’t change.  They will do everything they can to misrepresent all the good things about Romney and, worse, turn them into negatives.  The trick, therefore, is for Romney to refuse to play on their terms and only play on his.

Romney’s taxes and charitable contributions combined are approximately 43% of his income.  I am quite sure this is more than Warren Buffet’s secretary.  When mention of his tax rate comes up in the debates (and it will) Romney needs to consistently say he pays 43% in taxes and charitable contributions.  If Obama or one of the moderators wants to push the issue that his deductions are not the same as taxes, he should say, “Well, if you mean that first of all deductions are voluntary – and always have been – and secondly they generally go to private organizations that are far more responsible and efficient at utilizing money for social benefit than the government, then you are correct.  I think most Americans would agree that $4M in the hands of private, socially responsible institutions is far better use for the money than in the hands of politicians in Washington DC.”

Furthermore, whenever anyone tries to stray from Romney’s narrative on this, he should refuse to go along.  “No, you can’t separate the two.  It’s 43%.  Taxes are collected in part for social and general welfare purposes – things we all agree with in principal, but don’t approve of how the government distributes them.  Charitable contributions are simply a more effective way of accomplishing the goal.  Taxes and contributions are not separate things.  They should always be taken together when assessing a person’s take-home pay not only from an actual, but also from a moral standpoint.  I paid 43% last year.  Period.”

The MSM will not help him with this, but if he is effective with this persistent argument when pushed, at a minimum he will force the media to remove it from the arena of discussion.

Joe and Jane Paycheck don’t necessarily understand why capital gains tax rates are low, nor how lower taxes contribute to the economy and job creation.  When sitting at the dinner table with their families, they generally buy into Obama’s argument that Romney should pay a “little” more.  Without thinking, it sounds “fair.”  However, M/M Paycheck do understand that 43% is a sizable amount, and certainly more than enough.

One additional talking point - it is certainly arguable that donations to charitable contributions do more to simulate economic growth than contributions to the government.

This would turn the whole conversation around.

Saturday, June 30, 2012

The Definition of "Is"

The Definition of “Is”

Democrats, being far more intelligent than conservatives, aren’t limited to the standard definitions of words. Clinton’s gem was “is,” Obama’s is “tax.”

Back in 1998 Bill Clinton , while trying to explain why he didn’t actually lie about his relationship with Monica Lewinski asked the famous question “It depends on what the meaning of the word 'is' is.” This was troubling because most of us thought we knew what the definition of is was, or is, or whatever. When we conservatives – college education or not – couldn’t grasp Clinton’s complexities, we realized we were infinitely more stupid than liberals.

As time passed, however, we began to forget how ignorant and stupid we were. But just when we thought we had him in a conundrum, President Obama reminded us of his superior intelligence.

If you will recall, Obama declared definitively that no one making less than $250K would see their taxes (in any form) increase. However, regarding the health care bill and the Individual Mandate:

•He argued in court that the individual mandate is a tax;

•The Supreme Court declared it is a tax; and

•It has all the earmarks of a tax, i.e., something you are required to pay to the government

Silly us. Just because of all that we actually thought the conclusion was the Mandate is in fact a tax, and Obama just told a wee tiny little white lie, ala George HW Bush “Read my lips: No New Taxes.” But then, dashing our hopes and bringing us back to earth in our incompetence, Obama declares he did not lie because the IM is really not a tax.

You know what this means, whether it is a tax or not depends on what the definition of “is” is.

Sunday, May 6, 2012

The Carrot and the Stick. Zakaria Forgot the Stick

In his Time Magazine article, “Are America's Best Days Behind Us?” Fareed Zakaria laid out the problem, but fails to address key elements in the solution.

Fareed Zakaria refers to himself as a centrist, and in light of today’s highly polarized political climate, he may be. But like most media figures, he misses a key element to what made America great, and why we need that element to extend our exceptionalism in the new century: personal freedom and responsibility.

Reference “the carrot and the stick.” He understands the carrot. As he points out, he came to America from India because of the opportunities here, and was a classic example of using the system to become successful as well as an admirable and respected public figure. As a motivated person, he seeks the carrot, and assumes others will as well. Conversely, Zakaria does not understand the motivation of the stick. Understanding your next meal is dependent on getting off the couch and getting a job is highly motivating.

In the article, Zakaria cites Mancur Olson’s 1982 book “The Rise and Decline of Nations” in which Olson outlines the decline of Great Britain and the rise of Germany as economic powers after WWII even though Britain was on the winning side and Germany was the loser. Zakaria’s analysis of Olson’s theory reads “British society grew comfortable, complacent and rigid, and its economic and political arrangements became ever more elaborate and costly, focused on distribution rather than growth. Labor unions, the welfare state, protectionist policies and massive borrowing all shielded Britain from the new international competition. The system became sclerotic, and over time, the economic engine of the world turned creaky and sluggish.” Sound familiar? With the exception of the part about protectionist policies, you could substitute “the US today” for Great Britain above, and the statement would be accurate

The US was on the winning side as well, but we were a young, sleepy country without the encumbrances of Britain, and the war helped rev our economic engine. With the December 7, 1941 events at Pearl Harbor, when Japanese Admiral Isoruku Yamamoto ostensibly wrote in his diary “I fear all we have done is to awaken a sleeping giant," he was prophetic beyond his military analysis. Response to the war woke us up to the potential of our manufacturing capabilities. One could also argue that “Rosie Riveter,” born in WWII, carried on after the war and laid the groundwork for American women being the powerful force they are.

Zakaria cites the post-war boom in the 50’s. “The decisions that created today's growth — decisions about education, infrastructure and the like — were made decades ago. What we see today is an American economy that has boomed because of policies and developments of the 1950s and '60s: the interstate-highway system, massive funding for science and technology, a public-education system that was the envy of the world and generous immigration policies.” True enough. But paramount as an accompaniment to those policies was an inbred commitment by US citizens to do their share and contribute. Remember John Kennedy? “...ask not what your country can do for you; ask what you can do for your country.” Really? Isn’t that about the time when exactly the opposite started to happen? Kennedy’s successor, Lyndon Johnson, with help from both political parties, initiated the “Great Society,” instrumental in diminishing individual motivation and plunging millions into a constant state of dependency. Today the more applicable statement among many is “Ask not what you can do for your country, demand what your country can do for you.”

I remember sitting down to dinner and watching the news in the late 90’s when CA governor Pete Wilson was attempting to reduce “welfare” payments to dependent families. One 18-year old woman with four kids was incensed with the reductions, and demanded she receive what she felt was due. “I’d like to see Pete Wilson raise four kids on what they are paying me!” The fact that she was 18 years old with four kids wasn’t the worst part. Nor was the fact that she was demanding taxpayers pay her way. No, the worst part is that she was not embarrassed. In Zakaria’s 1950’s, had she collected public benefits, she would have been apologetic, and would have vowed to get off public dependency as soon as she was able. The attitude of being considerate of your fellow person and feeling grateful to those who supported you was in the process of being destroyed.

Yet Zakaria dismisses the considerable intrusion of creeping socialism into the American fabric as a cause of our diminishing economic dominance by citing examples of successful socialist countries, notably Denmark, Sweden, Norway, and Finland. While correct in his analysis, he fails to acknowledge that these countries are small - tiny with respect to the US. The personal attention policy makers can inject into a small economy is considerably different than in a large one. Rules can be adjusted, policies can be changed, and wrongs can be righted in comparatively rapid fashion. Zakaria states that “flexibility” is necessary going forward, which is much harder in a large society. More importantly, throw into the mix that those countries are ethnically and culturally quite homogeneous, and you create a considerably different canvas. The diversity that exists in America is both a strength and a curse. And the strength is definitely not in fostering social/moral cohesiveness and administration of governmental programs, where all groups try to grab or maintain their “fair” share.

Interestingly, Mr. Zakaria’s article quotes Harvard historian Niall Ferguson’s book, “Civilization: The West and the Rest,” in which Mr. Ferguson states: "For 500 years the West patented six killer applications that set it apart. The first to download them was Japan. Over the last century, one Asian country after another has downloaded these killer apps — competition, modern science, the rule of law and private property rights, modern medicine, the consumer society and the work ethic. Those six things are the secret sauce of Western civilization." I agree. I read the list over few times and can’t find redistribution of wealth or indications of a nanny state on the list.

Mr. Zakaria goes on to say that we need to increase spending. And while “investing” in the future in similar manner as we did in the 50’s could very well be a good idea, we first have to plug the leak in the boat. You can’t row your boat very fast - indeed keep it from sinking - if it’s under water. We need to get our fiscal ship in order and stop the bleeding - then think about “investing” in the future. The hard truth is that we don’t have the money to invest in the infrastructure of the 50’s directly because of wild unnecessary spending and entitlement programs we took on after our economy started to boom and money was flush.

Most importantly, it is extremely risky to “invest” in things called for by Mr. Zakaria unless we get the corresponding change in societal attitudes to more closely reflect our culture of the 50’s. Back then the goose was laying the golden egg and we took away her food. We gave it to the pigs.

The carrot is out there, it always has been. We need to bring back the stick.

Note: This article was previously published on American Thinker:
http://www.americanthinker.com/2011/04/zakaria_forgot_the_stick.html