APRIL 5, 2010
• What Will You Do With This Information?
Things are bleak.
Unemployment is at 9 to 10 percent—and that’s as low as it is only because boatloads of temporary government employees (census workers) are included. Of course when counting workers who’ve just flat thrown in the towel the actual unemployment number is somewhere between 15 and 23 percent (do a web search using the term “real unemployment.”)
Our Washington representatives just enacted a MASSIVE healthcare bill that will—if not repealed or altered—make it illegal to choose a doctor and from your own pocket pay for treatment (be it major or minor). And what if you do refuse to be told by government what coverage for yourself you must buy from someone else? Well, the murky answer to that depends upon Douglas Shulman.
And who is Shulman?
He is the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) Commissioner and as he explained it to Congress, the IRS is still figuring out the “proper resources” for handling the health-care tax provisions.
That’s right, the IRS is now into another part of your life. I mean really, the IRS? That is crazy! You can read about these concerns by Clicking Here.
Starting this year (2010) the government begins building the redistributive healthcare funds by slashing Medicare services, benefits and money. This will continue through 2018. If you depend on Medicare or provide Medicare-related services, you’re about to get sucker-punched. For more on this and a timeline of the stunning Medicare cuts... UPDATE 2019—The aforementioned off-site download, from republicans.waysandmeans.house.gov, is now unavailable. The following link provides the same pdf from this Archive: Click For Timeline of Democrat Health Care Package.
At any rate, after just one week of Obama’s healthcare the economy is taking a beating. AT&T reported a one billion dollar hit in just the first quarter. Verizon Communications, Caterpillar Inc. and Deere & Company reported similarly. To be perfectly fair, that one billion AT&T loss might be a previous tax write-off for the cost of retirees prescription medications paid for by the government. Conceptually this could be equated to the Earned Income Credit for a child that enables a tax filer to get more money “back” than was actually paid in. It’s kind of a loop hole. But whatever it is, it’s gone now, baby.
Obviously it isn’t as simple as all that: If it was, one of your government representatives wouldn’t have demanded that these private companies present themselves and prove their comments before the Politburo—uh, I mean, Congress. For more on this… UPDATE 2019—The aforementioned off-site article linked in this paragraph is now unavailable. The following link points to the same webpage archived at Web.Archive.org: Click To Read About Dem’s Letter Challenging CEOs
There is a glimmer of hope, but it depends upon the states and the people. A number of the states have joined together in filing a suit challenging the Constitutionality of healthcare. (A tip of the fedora to my acquaintance Jim Raymond, who forwarded to me a copy of the filing that you can get by Clicking Here.
Of course, this will be tied-up in the legal system and in the meantime the wheels of Obama healthcare will continue to roll right over your puny objections.
Or maybe not. The healthcare bill is not yet funded and your puny objection can become a vote for a responsible representative during the next round of House and Senate elections.
You ask, “What has that to do with anything?”
Here’s the deal: If we vote out enough Democrats who sold us down the river (not one Republican voted for it) and vote in REAL Constitutionalists the House and Senate can simply not vote to fund the healthcare bill. Without funds it is dead until the carcass can be removed by successful Constitutional challenge or repeal.
But this depends on your vote and also brings me to the topic I actually want to address.
THE PROBLEM. The crux of what you are about to read is not about healthcare. But the egregious monstrosity of healthcare does clearly illustrate a symptom of a problem that is sending us pell-mell in a direction destructive to our health, economy and freedom. And that is the crux of what you are about to read.
As I have previously written here: Regardless of whether you are conditioned by circumstance of poverty (need), wealth (guilt), politics (power), ignorance (you don’t know history) or stupidity (you think you are better than history), you have one of two mindsets. You either believe someone else owes you OR you believe that you are the only person responsible for you. If it’s the former, then you promote government that takes other people’s money and freedom on your behalf. If it’s the latter, you’re scared to death of people promoting the former.
That pretty much sums up our country’s opposing ideologies and one of them is the problem. A problem for which there is a definitive solution.
Now, by way of introduction to the solution, consider this question: If there were a proven example of turning our country around—of improving practically everything while at the same time making government less intrusive—would you vote for it?
If you are truly interested in providing the best living conditions for the most people and you are intellectually honest, your answer to the above question depends on evidence, not ideology.
Fortunately there is actual, real-world evidence of such an example that has been demonstratively effective. And it’s a relatively recent example. Prior to the 1950s there was a particular country with a per capita income ranking about third in the entire world. But by the early to mid-1980s it had:
• Sunk to 27th in the world
• Unemployment of 11.6 percent
• 23 years of successive deficits
• Debt at 65 percent of its Gross Domestic Product (GDP)
• A constantly downgraded credit rating
• Government controls and micromanagement throughout the economy
• Price controls on all goods, services, shops and service industries
• Wage controls and freezes (no wage increases or bonuses allowed)
• Controls on goods
• Massive levels of subsidies to industries just to keep them afloat
• 30 percent of its children failing in education
• A mass exodus of the young, upwardly mobile
THE SOLUTION: In 1984 a reform government was elected that identified three problems: Too much spending, taxing and government. So, here’s what they did:
• Stopped allocating money to their government agencies.
• Directors of government agencies were then selected from worldwide searches and given term contracts for five years with potential three-year extensions—removal based solely on lack of performance (civil service appointments were eliminated).
• With the new executives (directors) of those agencies they created purchasing contracts that detailed expectations in return for money.
• The Government then purchased from their agencies policy advice on how to eliminate problems such as hunger and homelessness in such a way as to also eliminate dependence upon government.
• Government put a halt on what the agencies identified as things they should not do.
• Government then identified whether taxpayers, users, consumers or industry were paying for benefits they were receiving: This allowed for the reduction/elimination of taxpayers subsidizing things that did not benefit them.
• The Government sold off telecommunications, airlines, irrigation services, computing services, government printing offices, insurance companies, banks, securities, mortgages, railways, bus services, hotels, shipping lines, agricultural advisory services, etc., etc. And what’s more, for those things sold off and privatized, costs went down while productivity went up. The net effect of these changes was stunning.
• Government agencies were then turned into profit-making and tax-paying enterprises. For example, their air traffic control system was turned into a “stand-alone” company that was required to turn in an “acceptable rate of return” without any investment upon the part of government. Roughly speaking, about 35 government agencies went from costing one billion dollars per year to producing one billion dollars in revenue and taxes per year.
• The Department of Transportation went from regularly requiring licensing renewals to issuing licenses good until age of 74, whereupon annual medical tests ensured drivers remained competent to drive. The Department also went from 5,600 employees to 53.
• The Forest Service went from 17,000 employees to 17.
• The Ministry of Works, responsible for construction and engineering, went from 28,000 employees to 1 employee.
• As measured by employees, government reduced its overall size by 66 percent and reduced its share of GDP from 44 to 27 percent.
• They began running surpluses and used that to pay down government debt from 63 percent to 17 percent of the GDP.
• The remainder of the surplus went into tax relief along with the slashing of tax rates by half and the elimination of incidental taxes. All of that resulted in a revenue increase of 20 percent.
• They eliminated subsidies and thus the systemic dependency such things engender. For example, they did away with the 44 percent of government subsidies received by their sheep farming industry. Before they did this, the industry was receiving a marketplace value of $12.50 per lamb carcass, which the government matched. Within two years of eliminating subsidies, the industry altered its processing methods expanded into new markets and more than doubled their previous $12.50 per carcass income. Things continued to improve and by 1999 the industry was making $115 per carcass. In American restaurants we now pay roughly between $35 and $60 per pound for lamb from this country. They did it without the government paying a single dime to keep the industry afloat.
• The reform government even turned a 120-year-old liability into a success story. Having been plagued by the expense of trying to eradicate an ever-increasing wild deer population, the government allowed the farming community to catch, contain and farm deer within fenced boundaries. From that time onward the country did not spend one penny on the deer problem while becoming the supplier of 40 percent of the world’s market in venison.
• In education the country was failing 30 percent of its children—more so those in lower socio-economic areas. Historically, throwing more money at the problem had resulted in lower results. The reform government hired outside consultants that reported 70 cents of every education dollar was spent on administration.
• In response, they eliminated all Boards of Education in the entire country and turned over that responsibility to the parents and schools. Each school then came under the control of a board of trustees elected by the parents of the children at each school—and nobody else. Based on the number of students at each school the Government issued a sum of money without restrictions. They also arranged to make it possible for privately owned schools to be funded in exactly the same way. Within three years 87 percent of students were going to public schools and education attainment went from 15 percent below their international peers to 15 percent above those same countries.
• The reform government also decided that social services and behavioral modification were not within the purview of taxation and thus imposed lower taxation through only two areas: Income and consumption. The high income tax rate dropped from 66 percent to 33 percent (for high-income earners) and from 38 to 19 percent for low-income earners. The consumption tax rate of 10 percent replaced all other eliminated taxes (capital gains, property, etc). The system was designed to result in a zero change to revenue but instead increased revenue by 20 percent. The increase was the result of willing compliance and the eliminated need for lawyers, accountants and loopholes.
• Statutory law did not escape reform, either. Environmental laws, for example, were rewritten, going from a 25-inch thick code to 348 pages. The tax code, farm codes and Occupation Safety and Health Acts were all scaled back, measured by the yardstick of reduced taxation and regulation.
What an amazing success story! No doubt some people reading this suspect me of leading them down the primrose path of fiction or theory. Rest assured I have not.
Remember the country’s Ministry of Works that went from 28,000 employees to 1 employee? It was that one man who reported all of the above facts. He was a member of the country’s Parliament and their ambassador to Canada. He was involved with their deregulation of transportation, labor markets and the fishing industry. He was a Minister of Employment, Minster of State Owned Enterprises, Minister of Railways, Minister of Labor, and Minister of Immigration. In fact, he has a laundry list of accomplishments and at the time he divulged all of the above was a Visiting Scholar at the Mercatus Center at George Mason University.
His name is Maurice P. McTigue and the country is New Zealand.
All of this is freely available from the April 2004, Volume 33, Number 4 issue of a national speech digest, excerpts of which I’ve reprinted by permission of Imprimis, a publication of Hillsdale College where Mr. McTigue was part of a five-day seminar on “The Conditions of Free-Market Capitalism.”
By using the lesson learned from New Zealand, we can unleash mind-boggling economic power, accomplishments and freedom. Through the power of the vote we can stop the perversion of America and at the same time prepare for real reform similar to that which swept through New Zealand. All we have to do is put the right people in office. People who do what we tell them to do and who are not institutional politicians. People who cut back government instead of grow it, cut taxes instead of impose them and allow for the expression of freedom instead of erroneously acting as if they have the authority to grant or deny it.
It is time to add your voice—and soon your vote—in order to put Constitutionalists in Washington.
So, now, what will you do with this information?
JANUARY 19, 2010
• 23 Years in the Making
In the 1980s I started toward an understanding of Jay Gatsby.
I write of the Gatsby, as in the novel The Great Gatsby. (For movie lovers I recommend the Robert Redford version of the character). Of course neither Gatsby nor my understanding of him would be complete without the woman. I’ll come back to this in a moment.
I first read the novel in the early to mid-70s but it wasn’t until the late 80s that I attempted to emulate that magnificent work of literary art. The delay was necessary. You see, The Great Gatsby is a matter of art imitating life and that usually occurs only when life serves up tragic source material. In other words, up until then I was completely tragedy-free.
That’s kind of how it was for F. Scott Fitzgerald. By several orders of magnitude, The Great Gatsby is F. Scott Fitzgerald. That’s what made the novel work—that and the dedicated effort spent in years of writing, editing and re-writing. As opposed to popular myth, Fitzgerald did not dash out his novel in a state of inebriated inspiration. He planned and re-planned the novel, outlined chapters and carefully crafted his story. He aimed for a conscious literary effort and the result is one of the great American novels.
It is a bildungsroman that was crafted by well-hone literary skill and imagined by an author experienced in the themes about which he wrote. I did not know this when I first read the book. Instead, I merely fell in love with the prose, the story and the vivid imagery.
All that changed in the mid-1980s, after being on the brunt end of a relationship for which I was unprepared: Or more precisely, after the delirious highs and crushing lows of an intoxicating chemical imbalance generalized as love. I didn’t know then what I know now—that the uncontrollable adrenalin of feeling is really emotion unmitigated by intellect. Being inexperienced or ill-prepared is the reason that some will invest all that they hold dear in an emotional effort having little to do with humanity. It is maturity and experience that teaches us that the sudden and intense, “can’t live without you” feelings are merely just that: Feelings. Emotions. Abstract perceptions unmoored from reality. (You may quote me on that.)
It is excess that fictional characters like Romeo and Juliet—or Gatsby—cannot overcome because emotional intensity blinds them to the options. That, and let’s face it, our vicarious enjoyment of fiction would be lost without the elevation of emotion over mature intellect. Gatsby could have easily saved himself the trouble had he only taken the view that Daisy was a rich, shallow, spoiled, weak person who married a man only marginally different from her (not better, just different). But one of the ways fiction suspends disbelief is in the omission of the obvious. In Gatsby’s case, the omission of the obvious was that Daisy wasn’t worth the effort and could never really care for anyone but herself. Sometimes it’s the same sort of act of omission for real people. We elevate a feeling and call it love when it is merely a physical attraction. And then we compound the error by ignoring any data conflicting with what we feel. How much better would it be if instead of saying, “How do you feel about so-and-so?” we approached the situation with, “What do you think about so-and-so?” After all, when the physical allure of newness wanes, that’s what we end up doing. By that time we are usually a few months down the road while asking, “Who are you and what was I thinking?” That’s if we’re lucky and marriage was not the road most quickly taken.
And yes, there is indeed such a thing as love. Real love. But it is so much more than the rush of feelings. The real thing is work. It’s an acceptance that not all will be roses. It’s an understanding that we haven’t the right or even the ability to dictate another person’s life. Love may—just may—provide the impetus for change in a person, but only if freely pursued by the one who will be changing in some way. Out of love you can never demand anything. If you really do love someone, then that means accepting him or her in spite of that with which you may be at odds. And I’m not talking about the “opposites attract” fiction, either. Let’s dispel that notion right now: Opposites do attract, but they eventually repel because toleration cannot long abide contention. And make no mistake about it, toleration—the suffered endurance of unpleasantness—is the only glue that holds together any two opposing people. And that sort of thing can be...well...tolerated only for so long.
In short, then, instead of first going with just our heart and using our intellect to validate those feelings, the experience of maturity teaches us to first go with our intelligence and to validate our reasoning with our hearts.
So, how does all this relate to me? Well, going with my heart—and by virtue of inexperience being ill-equipped to do so—is what happened to me in the mid-80s. And because of my singular inability to otherwise grasp emotional context, it lingered with me for years.
This brings me back to The Great Gatsby and my understanding of both the work as fiction and as an author’s self-portrait. My appreciation for his work came at a price—a figurative kicking in of my teeth and a thorough round of thrashing.
My first expression of this education was in the form of a short story in 1987. It was an effort to take a few things I knew by way of experience and blend them into a narrative. The result was a story titled, Socials and it variously shined with brilliance while suffering under-development. The whole of my effort didn’t quite live up to the sum of its parts. Before completely shelving it I spent years trying to convert it into a novel.
But I guess I finally grew into the story. For when I dusted it off last year, the rewrite almost wrote itself. The story flowed, the needed plot materialized and within weeks I had a finished novella.
So, now, Socials is an e-book exclusively available from my publisher, The Lighthouse Press, Inc. 20 some-odd years in the making it came with a cost that I would not have chosen to pay. But I am a better writer for having paid the price.