Monday, December 20, 2010

Put Social Programs in the Hands of Private Institutions

Government is the great fiction through which everybody endeavors to live at the expense of everybody else. -- Frederic Bastiat, French Economist (1801-1850)


A recent New York Times column by Richard Thaler, professor of economics and behavioral science at the Booth School of Business at the University of Chicago, Mr., Thaler makes a case for reducing the tax benefits for charitable donations, or, more suitably, changing the way we give tax benefits to people who donate money to charitable institutions and causes. Link to article - http://www.nytimes.com/2010/12/19/business/economy/19view.html?ref=business


Mr. Thaler makes some good points. He lists three principles to help “guide the debate.” Without reprinting everything he stated (link to his column is available below) I will note in summation his arguments - that any person donating to charitable organizations should be allowed the same tax benefit by implementing a tax credit system instead of using deductions (high income people receive a better tax deduction because they are in a higher tax bracket), limiting the tax-benefitted amount to above a certain minimum, such as 2% of AGI in order to require good record keeping and reduce the small-time cheating and resultant IRS nightmare, and keeping the tax credit rate low to prevent large “distortions,” which I take to mean keeping people from donating overly large amounts. As noted above, Mr. Thaler is not only a professor of economics, he is a behavioral scientist as well, and he has obviously thought this out. His article is worth reading.


There is, however, one issue I take exception with; that we should lessen the overall tax benefit, encouraging smaller total donations for the purpose of tax savings. It is my view that any money we can put into private hands (charitable entities) and take out of the public coffers is an excellent tradeoff. I would recommend to some degree just the opposite of Thaler’s suggestion; that we increase the amount of charitable giving through increased tax benefits (government subsidies as Mr. Thaler refers to them) but then lessen the amount the government spends on social welfare programs.


This would accomplish a number of sound, efficient objectives. One would be greatly increased implementation of social programs by charitable institutions such as religious entities and public interest groups, which would use the money far more efficiently than government workers. Private groups are more frugal about their expenditures, not giving money to people they know are faking or over-estimating need, and would be better about demanding effort out of those who are capable. In many cases the money would be spent in efficient food programs, such as those run by Glide Memorial Church in San Francisco. It is harder to pull the proverbial wool over the eyes of your pastor or an administrator of a private group than a government worker (highly paid government worker at that) who usually doesn’t really care. Fraud in the distribution of social program benefits such as welfare and food stamps is rampant, and the government knows about this but is seemingly powerless to stop it.


While it is hard to calculate for certain how much money would be saved through the increased efficiency, I believe private entities could do a better job than the government with less than half the money. By stripping the federal budget by 80%-90% of it’s social program expenditures and reducing revenues by the amount of the increased tax breaks to individuals, there would be a gain in net revenue for the government and a gain in the quality and scope of services to needy individuals.


It is certainly reasonable to expect that fraud will (and does) find it’s way into privately-run programs as well. However, it would probably be easier for the government to detect fraud by auditing private entities than it is to prevent fraud in their own operations.


As Mr. Thaler suggests, a debate on this issue could be beneficial, and his suggestion on issuing tax credits is a good one. However, I think one of the most effective principles for a “guideline” in the debate would be find ways to increase the incentive as opposed to a decrease. As a behavioral scientist, I am sure he would see the merit of this approach.


Mercer Tyson StraightThinker.com





Political Humor for a Happy Holiday Season

Life is serious business. But if you can’t laugh your way through, it isn’t worth going through the serious stuff. Me, 2010.


Just a little right-wing holiday humor. If you have similar humor, right or left-wing, send it to me, and I will send another posting to include it. Please, nothing personal and no name calling.


My wife is making gravy for our turkey on Christmas.

She asks, “Would you please go to the store and get me four turkey wings for the gravy?” I asked her if she wanted left wings or right wings.

“Why does it make a difference?” she queries.

“Well, left wings may very well taste better, but right wings will work better.”

We decided to get three right wings and throw one left wing in for the heck of it.

____________________________


When you travel to Granny’s for Christmas this year, drive on the right side of the road. The left side may be more exciting, but you are less likely to reach your destination.

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When you are watching the football on the tube, cheer for the team moving the ball from left to right on your screen. Especially if you don’t like football. It’ll give you something to cheer about and keep your mind occupied so you don’t fall asleep from eating all that food.

__________________________


This is fun, but only do this on Christmas.


Pretend you are a liberal. You can dream all day about how things are going to be wonderful, all 300M+ people in the country are going to be wealthy, every team is going to win the super bowl, and you can eat anything you want without getting sick or fat. It’s much more fun than being a conservative.


Another great thing about this is that you can talk politics with anyone if they are doing the same thing and there won’t be any arguments. (By the way, this only works by everyone being liberal because anyone can act like a liberal; all you have to do is say nice things. It doesn’t work the other way as liberals have a hard time acting like a conservative because they don’t understand how reality actually works, so they can't talk the talk.) Warning - only do this on Christmas, when you aren’t working or doing anything important. As soon as you must get back to the real world, you need to come back to your senses.


And if you tell any of your friends about this fun exercise, make sure you check in with them on the 26th, because saying nice, wishful things is fun and can get addictive, but they have to come back to reality as well.

_________________________


Put the food that is good for you on the right side of the plate where it is closer to the fork in hand. That way, it will be easier to eat what you should eat on the right, and when you get through the tough stuff, you can eat the fun stuff on the left.


Correspondingly, the food on the left is in proper position for being left overs if you don’t get to it. Left overs are hot and aromatic on the original presentation, but the next day they are cold and imbalanced, and the presentation doesn’t look so good anymore.


Actually, some left overs can be quite good. But, unfortunately, they usually have run out of gravy. If you are sneaking out to the kitchen late Christmas night it will be really good, because, remember, you are still thinking like a liberal and you can pretend it is whatever you want it to be.


Mercer Tyson StraightThinker.com

Friday, December 17, 2010

Monet Parham (McDonald’s Wimp) is an Unfit Mother

A government big enough to give you everything you want is strong enough to take everything you have. -- Thomas Jefferson


Only in California. A Sacramento woman has sued McDonald’s over happy meals. It seems she has no control over her kids and, in true liberal fashion, wants the government (courts) to control her kids for her.


I lifted this from an opinion piece by Walter Olson in the NY Daily News: “...a consumer group has sued McDonald’s demanding that it take the toys out of its Happy Meals. The Center for Science in the Public Interest, an advocacy group, claims it violates California law for the hamburger chain to make its meals too appealing to kids, thus launching them on a lifelong course to overeating and other health horrors. It’s representing an allegedly typical mother of two from Sacramento name Monet Parham." A Link to the complete on-line article is below.


First, let’s get this out of the way. It turns out she is an advocate for “healthy” food - regional program manager on the state of California payroll for child nutrition matters. (As a resident of California, it is embarrassing that Monet is employed by us.) If that’s her true motivation behind this, I will back off of my claim she is an unfit mother, in which case she is just an idiot trying to help other parents become unfit. However, if she actually means the statements in the lawsuit, then my charge stands. Assuming she wouldn’t lie about her claims, I will continue.


As you may know, McDonald’s offers it’s happy meals with a toy, obviously to win favor with kids and grandmas. (Some grandmas who don’t eat much like to get the happy meal so they can give the toy to their favorite people.) The happy meal typically contains a burger or chicken bits, french fries, and a soda. However, you can make a choice to get apple slices instead of fries, and milk instead of soda.


Ms. Parham, it seems, can’t say no to her kids when they want a McDonald’s happy meal. And when she relents (probably immediately as it appears her will power is somewhat less than what Darwin would have declared necessary for human survival) she says only if they get apple slices and milk. Then they squawk so much that she again relents and lets them have the full-blown nutritional nightmare. It’s not fair she has to say “No,” and she wants McDonald’s to make it so she doesn’t have to.


Poor Monet, she has a tough road in front of her. She is going to face a lot more ‘No” moments in her roll as a mother, and she better get a grip now. If this is any indication of her motherly abilities she will make a wreck of her kids. In the future when her then 15-year old daughter announces she is going to New York for spring break with a 45-yr old suspected child rapist, she won’t be able to say no.


Monet, listen up. If you are so willing to give up such simple parenting control to the government now, you may ultimately have to give the government permanent control. If your kids don’t pay attention to you and know they can get their way simply by squawking, you are toast. You are the parent - act like one. Stay on your current course and you will be lucky not lose your kids to prison or worse. That’s where a lot of kids go whose parents don’t exercise control early on.


I’ll stick my neck out here, but I’m not too worried. I’ve got $40 that says Monet and her lead attorney are registered Democrats - liberal ones at that. This is typical of progressives that want the government to control everything we can and cannot do.


It is not likely this lawsuit will prevail, even in California, and Mr. Olson notes they may be doing this for publicity as much as anything else. In my view, this is a clear case of a frivolous lawsuit, and I hope McDonald's pursues it as such. If Micky D’s wants to set up a legal defense fund on this and to pursue retribution, I will send in my donation in a heartbeat. This nonsense is destructive, distracting from issues that matter, and, like women who cry rape falsely, it deafens the cry from those who are telling the truth. It makes us numb, and weakens us.


And for those of you who feel it is so stupid as to bear no attention, keep in mind there was a time when you could paint your house any color you wanted.




Mercer Tyson StraightThinker.com

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Is Anyone Really Surprised by Obama?

A rose is still a rose by any other name. Shakespeare - sort of.


I hate to say “I told you so.” But I did. So did lots of other people. So why is anyone surprised about the policies and skill of our current president?


I understand why the left is upset. He isn’t as much a lefty as they had hoped. In reality, of course, he is. But he got his first lesson in being an executive when he got a dose of reality and had to compromise with the Republicans to stop the tax increases. Did he learn from that lesson? We’ll see. But the hard core lefties didn’t get the picture, and they are still confused. And as far as his executive abilities to carry out his policies? Typical of lefties, a good dreamer is who they follow, not someone with appropriate skill and ability. To that end, I am glad his executive skills are poor.


Anyway, some right wingers and most of the independents and moderates seem surprised that Obama has turned out to be such an unskilled and contrarian president. How could they be? Not only were all the indications there, but many people pointed out the signs, sent internet links of proof to everyone they knew, and screamed at the top of their lungs.


Okay, McCain ran a weak campaign and many people were upset with George. So I guess the voters had to play ostrich and bury their heads in the sand. After all, they were going to vote against Republicans anyway, so they talked themselves into believing in the most seriously flawed candidate ever put forward by the Democratic party. (Okay, maybe Carter was as bad. I guess to find out we will have to see how much Obama makes a fool of himself after he is out of office. It will be hard to top Carter.)


So, even if it understandable why people voted for Obama, I still don’t understand how they can be surprised by his presidency to date.


First of all, let’s examine his political leanings. Liberal? Ha! The man is far more than a liberal. It doesn’t take a mind reader to know that he would like to redistribute our income as completely as possible. He really doesn’t care about how well the economy performs, or exactly how well people live. All he cares about is that we all live the same. Regardless whether someone works fifteen hours per day for their whole life or parties his way through his youth and is in and out of the ranks of the unemployed, he believes they should all get the same medical treatment, and if he had his way, would probably require all pensions be the same. The inheritance tax would be 100%.


As mentioned in one of my previous postings, I believe Obama does not like America at it’s core. He dislikes the system that allows people to succeed or fail and be rewarded accordingly based on their own merit. Whether he believes the system is corrupt or thinks all men should have been created equal and wants to compensate for nature’s inequities, I don’t know. But he clearly does not like what America has been to date - Michelle’s comments included.


So what were the hints that were ignored? Let’s see, where do we start.


How about Bill Ayers. Confessed 60’s murderer and terrorist. Anti-American then, anti-American now. (Oh, that’s right. Ayers was just some guy who lived down the street)


Then there is Reverend Jeremiah Wright. Obama’s anti-American, hatred-spewing pastor for 20 years. (Obama sat in Wright’s church for 20 years, had dinner at his house, and was married to Michelle by him, yet didn’t know what he was preaching).


And, of course, Obama’s books, his continual references to the unfair treatment his mother got from insurance companies, his statements that wealthy people can afford to pay a “little more” in taxes.


Or my favorite, his interview with Charles Gibson. "Well, Charlie, what I've said is that I would look at raising the capital gains tax for purposes of fairness.” When Gibson responded that lowering the tax rate can increase revenues to the government, Obama replied "Well, that might happen, or it might not. It depends on what's happening on Wall Street and how business is going..." Again indicating he didn't care about the actual revenues received, only the principle of fairness. It’s the old adage “With Conservatives in control, there is a big difference in how well the poor people and the wealthy people live. With Liberals in control, everyone lives poorly.” But it is fair!


Foreign policy? Did anyone listen to his speech in Germany before he was elected? Was there any doubt how he viewed America and the world? He would reach out a kind hand and negotiate with people who don’t negotiate?


And he certainly promised to throw money down a rat hole on economically stupid concepts like job-killing “green” programs he promised in the middle of a huge economic recession. Oh, sorry - he did create a lot of jobs in China.


But the most glaring clue was when he said he would “fundamentally change” America. Read that again - Fundamentally Change America. One would have to assume that if he were going to change America, he would do it along the lines of what he talked about and promised. In my view, he has done his best to live up to what he promised the American people.


As far as his executive abilities, we didn’t know whether or not he had the moxie to be pres. Sure, he was a college professor, lawyer, community organizer, state senator and a US Senator. But none of those positions required executive ability. And, he never really accomplished anything notable while in those positions (except his books) because all he had to do was talk and pontificate. He simply had no experience at executive functions. The office of the President of the US is as much a job of crisis management as anything else. I know this is scoffed at by the left, but the fact remains - on paper he had less executive experience than Sarah Palin, and most people thought she was not qualified. How, then, could they think this guy was qualified? Baffling to say the least. I guess this explains why Obama appears so puzzled that his approval rating is low. He told everyone what he intended to do, and now they are upset when he did it.


I’m not just jumping on the bandwagon now. I wondered all along why the Dems were so stupid as to not run Hillary. Don’t get me wrong - I am not a fan of Hillary. She is still too left-leaning. But I don’t think anyone would doubt her capabilities, and she is certainly an American in spirit. In my opinion, had the Dems selected her as their candidate, she would have won, and the Democratic party would not be in such a mess today. She understands politics, not just running for office.


Understand I am not complaining, as some positive things have come out of his winning the presidency; mainly the upsurge in conservatism that has swept the country. And most importantly, the education and understanding of what conservatism actually is. It appears that most Americans are actually conservative in their political beliefs, but didn’t know it. Now they know. Additionally, the backlash has been so strong that the silent majority has finally awoken, and is speaking out, despite the left’s tendency to call them racists or other irrelevant names. They don’t want “fundamental change.” They like America and what it stands for. And political correctness, while still alive, is taking a beating. If this continues, we may actually preserve the greatness of this country for a few more generations.


Next time you hear a politician say they want to fundamentally change the country, ask yourself how, and ask your self whether he or she has the executive ability to carry it out. Read the signs. Then you won’t be surprised


Mercer Tyson StraightThinker.com