Category Archives: SocialSecurity

Robert Reich’s Big Picture for Fixing the Economy

The series of  linked videos below highlight ideas to fix the economy, the top 11 12 points on Robert Reich‘s mind when it comes to our current economic problems.  These aren’t rocket science or socialism, just some pretty hard-nosed factual recommendations; and we’d do well to follow them.  They run contrary to the long debunked refrain of Reaganomics or trickle-down economics that has held sway in the US since Ronaldus Maximus was President, long before most of the people currently breathing on this planet were born.

They also run counter to most current libertarian economic theory. It is painful to say this, but most libertarian thought on the subject of economics is so woefully uneducated that I almost balk at calling them out. Doing so is not likely to be profitable based on the standard of keeping old friends. As I was crafting this article a post from a good friend on Facebook showed up, trumpeting the flat tax proposals of Libertarian darling Rand Paul.

A flat tax will do nothing to recapture the ill-gotten gains of the wealthiest Americans, the people who profited from the latest boom and bust, as well as the previous boom and bust cycles. Cycles that have grown shorter and shorter since deregulation went into effect under…  Ronald Reagan, who was also influenced by libertarian ideas of his time.

Recapturing this cash and redistributing it to the vast majority of Americans through increased pay and investment in infrastructure is essential if we are going to build a functioning economy and not fuel the next cycle of boom and bust.  It is the outrageous amounts of cash that allow the 1% to engage in risky stock market betting like we’ve seen since the 1980’s.

But I’m getting ahead of myself.

A word about the composition of this post. Linking videos that are native on Facebook is a stupidly fiddly process, and Facebook is where I found these videos first. Consequently the text intro for each is a Facebook link, while the videos are from Youtube, giving me the ability to watch and comment on each video while it is running.

#1 is raise the minimum wage to $15 an hour.

There are several common misconceptions about the minimum wage. He hits most of those points in the video. The free market types who object to minimum wage laws on the basis that it interferes with employer/employee contracts, or that it could cause inflation, only see part of the bigger picture which Reich addresses in the video.  Commerce relies on the majority of the population being able to afford the goods generally available to that population.  That means paying the working class enough for them to live on.

#2 is to make work family friendly.

I quit my regular job to raise our second child. We could not afford to put our child into expensive daycare; and really, I wanted to spend time at home with what I knew would be our last baby, having missed seeing much of our firstborn’s early years due to the demands of an architectural career in the job climate prevalent in the US.  Had it been possible for me to take on outsource work at home, work from home, etc. the impact on our families’ finances would have been less drastic. Had it been possible for the Wife to spend meaningful time with the baby while still working in her tech career, I might not have had to give up architecture for a few years longer, might have enjoyed my final years in my chosen profession before being sidelined with a disability.

#3 is to expand Social Security.

As a current Social Security beneficiary, I should probably recuse myself from commenting on this video. Still, it bears mentioning that the the cap that he focuses on is far too low (because of past inflation) and that rather than set a dollar figure cap, if a higher cap is the compromise solution, there should be a median income calculation involved in determining what the cap should be.  Inflation will continue. Wages will continue to rise. Upper range incomes will continue to get higher unless we re-institute confiscatory income tax (90% as it was when introduced) for high wage earners. Might as well write laws that take it into account.

#4 is to bust up Wall Street.

How I wish this one stood a chance of happening.  I only do business with a bank when I’m required to; unfortunately that happens more today than it did in decades past. The reason for this is the lax rules on banks that should never have been relaxed in the first place.

Most of what is happening today is reminiscent of what occurred at the turn of the last century.  One of the books I’m currently reading is The Bully Pulpit: Theodore Roosevelt, William Howard Taft, and the Golden Age of Journalism much of the battle the occurred then is re-occurring now.  Nearly daily I get a sense of deja vu reading the news.  I recognize this struggle.  It is a shame that more people do not learn from history.

#5 is how to reinvent education.

This one carried no real news for me. Having gotten one child through college and working on getting the second one through high school, and being an involved parent, has left me with few delusions about the state of US schools.  They are pathetic.  So pathetic, in fact, that I paid for private school for my children (Montessori) until their needs weren’t met by the school. Then I took the time to make sure they went to good charter schools, magnet schools, etc.  Anything except the standard schools offered to average Texans.

The objection often raised to charter schools is that they are religious in nature.  While it is true that some alternative schools are religious, the schools I selected for my children have actually had less religious content (generally) than the public schools in Texas promote.  Sometimes people seek alternatives for very good reasons.

#6 is to end corporate welfare.

This is an old favorite of mine.  If corporations get handouts then everyone should get handouts; because the corporations demonstrably don’t need anything to continue existing.  They have no physicality to maintain, being figments of law in the first place.  We would be much better off handing money to every citizen rather than handing it out to corporations.

#7 is to strengthen labor unions.

I’ve never been a fan of unions; still, it is hard to argue against the positive effects that collective bargaining can bring to the employment side of the equation.  Collective bargaining levels the playing field when negotiating with large employers.  Unionization lead to days off, 8 hour work days, breaks for meals, extra pay for overtime, etc, etc, etc.

When capitalists spit at socialism in my presence these days, I point out the benefits that have come to the working masses due to the influence of socializing forces like unionization.  If you don’t want to go back to working nude in the same place you sleep, with your children huddled around you at night for warmth because your employer is too cheap to heat the workplace (read The Bully Pulpit as mentioned previously) unions are a good thing to have.

#8 is to raise the estate tax on the very wealthy.

Everyone who can work, should work.  The existence of a wealthy class who feel entitled to live off of the earnings of their parents and grandparents is contrary to the ideals that the US was founded on. Contrary to the Midwestern work ethic most of us grew up with. It is hard enough for me as a disabled person who is lucky to get from the bed to the chair some days to justify not working.  I can’t even fathom the thought processes of the 1% who wouldn’t dream of working for a living.

Or to quote Chris Rock ‘If poor people knew how rich the rich are, there would be riots’.

This isn’t one of the series I’m commenting on here, but it bears reposting;

It and the other videos in the playlist talk about this same subject, how wealth inequality is worse than it has been in almost a century, and the last time it was like this, the economy didn’t improve until after we fought the second world war.  That should not be a direction we should head in this time around.

Also in that playlist is a trailer for Robert Reich‘s excellent film Inequality for All.  I have viewed the film several times on Netflix and recommend it to anyone who wants to get a feel for the problems America currently faces.  This as opposed to repeating trickle-down mantras in the hopes that they will self-correct and prove themselves true in the long run.

#9 is to make polluters pay US.

I can still hear the screaming raised against the carbon tax back when President Obama first took office and suggested some of these very things.  Six plus years later, it is even clearer that the only solution is to do exactly what this video suggests. Make the oil companies and energy companies pay to use carbon producing fuels.  Incentivize the use of green technologies.  CO2 is over 400 now.  We can’t keep adding it to the atmosphere.  We just can’t, if we want our species to continue.

#10 End mass incarceration, now!

This is probably the biggest point of agreement with libertarian/anarchist thinking on the subject of governance and the economy. The kind of thinking I was most frequently exposed to while active in the LP of Texas for about a decade. The business of keeping prisoners has been a target of small government types for years, long before the average American or the re-emerging liberal majority took notice of it. It is a serious embarrassment that the US has 2.5 million members of its population behind bars; more than any other nation on the face of the planet.


Needless to say, as soon as the 10 were out, there was a glaring need for one more item on the list (isn’t that the way it always works?) So here is the latest one;

#11 Medicare for all.

The problem with most free market approaches to healthcare is that modern medicine is too complex. It’s ability to function, to deliver its product (if health is even a product that can be sold) is tightly linked to corporate structures that are themselves an imposition on free markets. Price gouging is a part of the calculation of every new drug introduced to the market, how much can we get away with charging for this drug? And testing and development of these drugs requires large staffs, deep pockets, wide access to the population. The only way to counter the corporate nature of modern medicine is to either subject them to public control directly (which would be socialism with all the baggage that a state-run organization brings to the table. This would stifle innovation) or to leverage the pricing of the drugs and services produced with collective bargaining. It has to be one way or the other. Neither solution is pretty, but the group purchasing option that medicare provides leaves the companies free to do what they do best, produce goods for the general public.


He swears this is the last one.  Makes an even dozen.

#12 Get Money Out of Politics.

I’ve been on this bandwagon for about a year now.  Maybe longer.  I blogged about this subject after reading several scholarly articles on the subject of campaign finance, and reading Lawrence Lessig’s book Republic, Lost: How Money Corrupts Congress–and a Plan to Stop It which is free online now. In my article from last November, following the election, I list the various groups working to get money out of politics.  If you want to get involved in politics, if you want to see any of these many points acted on and made policy, then I suggest you contact one of those groups or get involved in your local precinct for whichever flavor of the two major parties that you prefer (D or R) if you object and say “I want more choices than that” then I need to be frank with you.  Including more choices than those two on ballots requires more work than even the 12 points addressed here would require.  You’re welcome to engage in that struggle if you have the strength for it. Or just go vote when the time comes. If you don’t know where that is, go here.

His book Saving Capitalism should be in bookstores (if you can find one) soon.  You can vote on which one of these 12 ideas will be a new campaign for Moveon to promote here.  Has to be #12 for me.

A Big Bowl of Crow

Ted Cruz is now touring the country denouncing Social Security as a Ponzi Scheme. Ah, that takes me way, way back. I remember a young idealistic Libertarian who noted on his blog back in 2008;

The local talk show host, Jeff Ward, refers to Social Security in this fashion repeatedly. (he even has a sound bite of Republican front runner John McCain calling Social Security a Ponzi Scheme. I was listening to the show when he said it, and I was listening to the show when Ward found the clip again. I wonder if McCain would be willing to repeat and affirm his words today?) It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to figure this out.

 Yes, that was me. That’s not the only time I talked about the program being a Ponzi Scheme, or other government programs being such. It was a common refrain, repeated by many other libertarians and non-libertarians at the time. Clearly it’s still a refrain repeated by the ideological inheritors of the small government talking points that hold power today.  That was the last time I referenced Social Security this way, and at that point my opinions were already shifting. I just wasn’t ready to admit it.

I can admit it now. Pass me that bowl of crow, I’m ready.

Courtesy Occupy Democrats

No True Scotsman fallacies aside (libertarian or not) it is worth noting that the label of Ponzi Scheme applied to Social Security by the people in charge of seeing the program remains solvent, is a declaration of their intent, not an assessment of the viability of the program. That is the most crucial point to be made on the subject.

If the programs are allowed to fail because of funding shortfalls, then the government made the program into a scheme that would fail. There are many variables which could be tweaked, in a program as complex as Social Security is; and any number of simple alterations in the tax code would make the program solvent from a funding standpoint, if only our political leaders had the courage to make those changes.

If the program fails, it is because we allow it to fail by refusing to support it. We allow it to fail by voting for representation that sabotages the program causing it to fail. If we allow it to fail, it is a failure of government as an institution, not a failure of the specific program. Government is charged with the authority maintain programs like this one, and if it can’t keep these programs running then the institution of government is itself bankrupt and not worthy of of the allegiance of the people.

When your Representatives or Senators tell you that caring for the elderly and the infirm is a fraud perpetrated on the public, that should give you pause to think, not cheer.  Are the elderly and infirm worthy of our empathy? Categorically, I’d say yes. Republican budget writers seem to disagree with this sentiment.  The question is, does the population of the United States agree with the controlling faction of the Congress? If not, we have a lot of work to do in the near future.  If they do agree, then there are a lot more anarchists out there than the polling reveals.

That brings me to the next mouthful of crow. One I’ve needed to take for awhile now.

Socialism is not a dirty word.  There, I’ve said it. Contrary to virtually every sentiment I’ve expressed in the past, the idea that society should care for it’s people; that programs should serve the group as a whole, not just those capable of paying, is a laudable goal. Socialist mechanisms exist within the system as it currently stands, have existed within the system since the first time shipping firms and international traders pooled their collective resources and insured themselves against losses, allowing them to venture out on the high seas without worrying about the loss of one ship bankrupting any one particular firm.

State Socialism (or Marxism) which is just dictatorship with a pretty label, has been unmasked. That bogeyman should be retired to the halls of a museum, along with the strident defenses of capitalism that sprang up in its wake. Capitalism is as oppressive to the poor as any of the feudal systems of history, as any decent study of history can reveal if you approach it with open eyes.

The notion that ability to pay was not a baseline for survival wasn’t something that occurred to me just when I was no longer capable of paying (correlation to the contrary) I was never one of those libertarians in the first place.  I truly was an idealist, I thought that people would voluntarily contribute enough in charity to pay for the necessary systems that would keep the poor, the elderly and the infirm from starving and dying in our midst. I mean, it works that way in the Netherlands, why not here?

This ideology, this dream of mine, that charity can do what government does currently, provide for the less fortunate in our midst, might still be possible at some time in the future.  One day, Americans might care about their fellows on such a level that they voluntarily support them at a high enough level that no child goes hungry, that no elderly person dies for lack of care.  That the infirm are not left on the streets to die. That day is not today.

In today’s America, it is all but illegal to be poor. The disabled are routinely ridiculed and derided as lazy (an even more valid observation in 2017 Trump’s America) The elderly who, for the first time in US history are not the poorest of the poor, are now viewed as profiting from the work of others rather than benefiting from the contributions they made to society in the past.

The immigrants who do most of the hard work constructing, farming, cleaning, (the same position they have always occupied historically) are dismissed as illegals, paid as little as possible, and deported the moment they are no longer useful.


The leadership of this country, with the exception of President Obama, has gone to great pains to set average Americans against each other, squabbling over the scraps of the budget left over from funding more military hardware than we will ever have need of. This is not the America I want to leave for my children.

It is time for a change. It is time to admit that we are not individual islands, that we do need other people in order to survive, to thrive.  That social caring is not an ill but a blessing. That it is possible for government to work; that not only is it possible, but it is our duty to make sure that government does work. What does it mean to be a citizen in good standing, if it doesn’t mean that? Government for the people, by the people.  If that government fails, it is because we have failed as a people.

If Social Security is a Ponzi Scheme, it is because we no longer value the contributions of the most vulnerable among us.  If socialism is a dirty word, then we are nothing more than cannibal tribes eating our own to survive.  Life should mean more than that.

Health Care Solutions

“There is no worse tyranny than to force a man to pay for what he does not want merely because you think it would be good for him.”
Robert Heinlein

Solutions time again.

I’ve done a bit of blogging on the subject of US Health Care problems recently, and I could go on. One of the CATO daily podcasts last week (State Health Insurance Mandates Raise Prices) highlighted problems with health care created by government intervention in insurance markets. Just another in a long list of government interferences in the marketplace that negatively impact the system; which they then tell you they can fix by interfering in the system to a greater extent. Another podcast, McCain and Obama on Health Care, points out that at least the discussion on health care will be about the right subject, cost, if the presidential race is between McCain and Obama.

[Hillary’s insistence on 100% insurance coverage is the wrong answer to an unasked question. Forcing people who don’t want insurance to pay for it is not a solution that any self respecting American should embrace. Massachusetts went that way already, and it is failing. Do we want to copy that failed practice at the federal level? Americans want to not have to worry about being bankrupted by an unexpected long term illness. That’s a cost issue, plan and simple]

There have been solutions that I’ve found compelling in the past. One of them, from Downsize DC, I’ve blogged on before.

Here’s another solution:

Congressman Ron Paul has introduced a bill that would solve these problems, immediately. His “Comprehensive Health Care Reform Act” (H.R. 3343) would . . .

  • Give you a 100% refund from your taxes of every dollar you spend on medical care, including insurance premiums.
  • Make it easier for your employer to deposit the money it now gives to the health insurance companies into a Health Saving Account that would belong to you
  • This money would come to you tax free — you could use it to fund your health care and your insurance premiums
  • This means your health insurance would belong to you, not your employer
    You would have the money to pay small medical expenses with your Health Savings Account, which would allow you to reduce your insurance premiums by buying a Major Medical Plan, instead of a Cadillac Plan
  • You would also earn interest on the money in your Health Savings Account, tax free — you would get this interest instead of the insurance companies getting it (collecting interest on premiums is how the insurance companies make their money — these profits could be yours instead)
  • Plus, you would become your doctor’s customer, instead of the government or your insurance company being your doctor’s customer
  • This would place the consumer in charge, creating competition that would lower prices and improve quality

Of course, neither the insurance companies nor the health care lobbyists want these changes, so you will have to fight for them.

read more | digg story

It’s ludicrous to think that the people who brought you 53.3 trillion dollars in unfunded Medicare and Social security debt can fix the health care problem by getting more involved in health care (especially when they are responsible for funding nearly half of our current health care expenditures) the most logical solution is to give the individual back the control of his health care, and let self-interest drive down the costs.

The action item can be found here; and dugg here.

Social Security the Ponzi Scheme, and the Duck Test

Arguing on a forum today, I was forced to defend my assessment of the Social Security system as a Ponzi Scheme.

It’s not like this is a novel concept. The local talk show host, Jeff Ward, refers to Social Security in this fashion repeatedly. (he even has a sound bite of Republican front runner John McCain calling Social Security a Ponzi Scheme. I was listening to the show when he said it, and I was listening to the show when Ward found the clip again. I wonder if McCain would be willing to repeat and affirm his words today?) It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to figure this out.

A Ponzi scheme is a

fraudulent investment operation that involves paying abnormally high returns (“profits”) to investors out of the money paid in by subsequent investors, rather than from net revenues generated by any real business.

I closed with the observation “Walks like a duck, quacks like a duck” which is an expression I’ve heard dozens of times. However, when I plugged it into Wikipedia, by accident, I came up with a bit of trivia that I didn’t know.

The Duck Test is an attributed quote, and it describes not just inductive logic, but is apparently highly useful in certain types of programming. Go figure.

The important point to remember about Ponzi schemes is, no matter who runs it, the Ponzi scheme eventually fails. It’s funny, Charles Ponzi’s investors were always certain that the schemes would work, if only the government wouldn’t get in the way and stop them. Now the government is running it’s own Ponzi scheme and insisting that it won’t fail.

Good luck with that.

Disability Freeloader

I haven’t written about my disability for quite awhile now (although I started the blog with that subject) It’s been almost two years. I’d just as soon not discuss something that has negatively impacted pretty much every (waking or sleeping) moment of my life since it manifested itself. if I spent as much time discussing it as it’s presence in my life would seem to warrant, I wouldn’t talk about much else.

Added to the daily dizziness and tinnitus from Meniere’s, there is the Piriformis syndrome that makes any form of sitting an exercise in slow torture. Then there’s the constant mold allergies (thanks, Austin) which also acts as a trigger for the Meniere’s. I could go on, but I won’t.

I have been attempting to get an acknowledgment of this disability from the U.S. government for about two and a half years now. I haven’t mentioned that at all, because I didn’t want to have to explain myself to people who inevitably would strike an attitude; like this one displayed by a relative in response to my thrashing single payer health care systems in general, and Hillary Care in particular:

I guess what disturbs me most is that you say you are libertarian, but you are also trying to get the government to give you a free ride. This doesn’t make sense to me. Which way do you want it. No government involvement in personal business, or do you want the government to pay you for being ill? Can’t have it both ways.

Cats out of the bag now, I think it’s time to have this conversation.

Starting with the accusation of wanting a “Free ride”. What an interesting way of describing an agreement between two parties, where one party pays into a ‘fund’ for all of his working life, and the other party promises to compensate the first in the event of disability and old age. In case there is any confusion here, I’m the party of the first part, and the U.S. government is the party of the second part.

I have diligently paid all my taxes over the years, including the 17% social security tax (half paid by my employers) which supposedly funds an account with my name on it, to be paid out in the event of disability and/or old age. That account has been funded to an excess of $40,000, money paid in good faith, based on the promise to provide a safety net for me if I ever become disabled or reach retirement age.

I have been released from two jobs now because of ill health. Employers do not want my services any longer. I spend every day combating the symptoms of the various ills that plague me, and it doesn’t leave me with much in the way of productive time; and my lack of employment denies me access to health care insurance, the only way that most of the treatments (surgery) can be afforded (whether they actually work or not) I don’t know how else to define ‘disabled’.

So here I am. I am disabled and the government has taken more than $40,000 from me over the course of my working life, with the promise to compensate me. I’m asking them to fulfill a contract. I’m asking them to provide the vaunted safety net that all the Democrats talk about.

After more than two years of fighting over this issue, I’m still just as without a safety net as I was at the beginning, even though all the doctors I’ve been to see confirm that I am disabled. (or at least that I do indeed suffer from the ills described) Two applications, three appeals, extra medical costs, etc. What do I have to show for it so far? Ridicule from an administrative law judge (I’m convinced that he refused to feel compassion for another white guy who clearly just needs to get back to work. White guys can’t be disabled, you know) and from former friends and family; and not much else.

Who’s getting the free ride? Sounds like the government from this end. Their actions clearly show that they’d prefer I dropped dead on the job before age 70 (which is when they are required by law to start paying me. Not the oft referenced 65 that the current retirees qualify for. How much longer will those younger than me have to work? 75? 80? Perhaps until they drop dead as well) rather than pay me anything at all; much less concede to something that trained medical professionals have stated is fact.

This is the reality of any government program; and it is precisely what it will be like to have government provided health care, which is nothing more than a government sponsored welfare program in which everyone is required to participate. Single payer health care under the U.S. Government will function in a manner indistinguishable from the Social Security system. The thought of this should scare anyone.

Now, if you go back and read some of my posts on the subject of Social Security, I’m sure that it will become crystal clear just how much of my money is waiting for me to need it; that number is somewhere in the range of zero. But we aren’t talking about the reality of U.S. government fiscal policy here, we’re talking about government programs that exist (whether I want them to or not) funded with tax dollars extracted at gunpoint from my paycheck. Programs which the government and it’s supporters insist are fully funded, and aren’t in crisis. I’m asking them to put their money where their mouth is. Provide that ballyhooed safety net, show me the money.

I don’t want it both ways; I want it to be one way. Either government programs work, and I get paid for being disabled (which I am) or government programs don’t work, and we run like hell from proposals to expand the size and scope of government to incorporate more of the health care system. Either there’s something wrong with taking money from the government for any reason (old age, disability, HEALTH CARE, corporate welfare, etc) or there isn’t any reason to not take what’s offered to you; and since most of my detractors will gladly accept their retirement money if they live that long (much less agitate for Hillary Care) I don’t think they are the ones who get to cast the first stone.

I see myself as beholden to pursue the disability claim given as I am disabled, and the government insists that it’s programs are there to help me; even if I only prove the opposing point, that government programs don’t work. So far, they aren’t looking very helpful.

Non-Libertarian Politics

Been going back and forth with a self-identified libertarian ever since posting this entry to the blog. Going back and forth enough that I think I could write a novel on the subject of misguided libertarianism alone.

If you want to follow the thread, go here: www.privacyfinance.com/forum

I just can’t wrap my head around why, as a libertarian, you would want to claim kinship to proposals that have failed so miserably. And yet, this particular libertarian does so, repeatedly.

So, I’ll run through the argument again, see if I can make a dent.

None of the proposals were made by ‘Libertarians’. All of them were proposed by average politicians, most of whom had an agenda at odds with the notions of ‘freedom’. Ergo, libertarian only in name, and that name applied by a man intent on weilding a hatchet.

In order for the proposals that are being referred to as ‘libertarian’, to actually be libertarian, they would have had to produce some net gain of liberty and freedom.

Let’s look at the failed programs in question. Assess the amount of libertarian thought that goes into them.

Gov’t retained control of Bush’s ‘privatized’ social security accounts. So you could ‘invest’ a part of your portion of the Ponzi scheme however you wanted, but you still had to go through the same bureaucrats to gain access to it, and I dare say that your benefits would not have been changed just because your portion of the fund did better than the next guys.

Calling it ‘privatization’ was a complete misnomer anyway. No control of current payroll deductions was offered in the plan. The proposal amounted to no more than a gov’t controlled 401K plan. All funds for these 401K’s would come from additional voluntary deductions from the employee’s paycheck (check the facts) additional funds that would go into gov’t coffers, be subjected to bureaucratic control at outlay, and yeild not one iota of freedom or liberty over the long haul.

That isn’t privatizing social security; it’s a meaningless little shell game with no net benefit to the individual. What would have been most likely to occur was the further takeover of the stock markets, inflating already overpriced stocks, yielding a net windfall in taxes for the gov’t to fund further adventures in empire building by the sitting president.

Other than the label, no obvious libertarian content.

Reagan used the bubble created by the Savings and Loan shell game to pay for his increased military budget, and to stave off the recession that eventually did occur during Bush the first. None of his talk about reducing gov’t ever amounted to action. Gov’t increased in size during his term in office, just as it has for every other president in the modern era. No net gain for the individual, no real libertarian content, in spite of the fact that the administration at that time gave credit to CATO’s plan to deregulate Savings and Loans.

But what about voucher systems. Surely vouchers and their defeat is a blow to the libertarian cause? The problem here is, the record doesn’t actually show that vouchers have been defeated in all cases. While the privatization of schools (complete laugh there. Tax funded schooling, even when those funds are handed to the parents of students, isn’t privatization) was fought at the local and state political level; the teachers unions and other groups that rely on gov’t school money are national organizations, with vast resources at their disposal. The wonder is that even with the brute force of the NEA opposed to every change in the gov’t school system, the public school facade has crumbled a bit in the last 10 years. There are charter schools that are excused from most of the controls applied to gov’t schools, and in some places real voucher systems working. There are more and more private school options, and home schooling is in vogue.

Some of the voucher programs deserved to go down to defeat. The structure of these systems contained no benefit to the average person in terms of liberty and freedom, either because of restrictions placed upon use of the tax money, or because of the use of tax money in and of itself. I spoke to several owners of private schools in past years about this subject. Most of them would not have taken vouchers even if they had been offered. The cost of taking them would have far exceeded the benefit of access to a larger student body.

A similar fate lay in wait for medical savings accounts. The insurance lobby dealt with the threat to their profits quite handily. They did this by making themselves the arbiters of what is or isn’t a tax deductible medical savings account, and structuring those programs that offer them in such a way that there is no cost benefit to the individual to participate in one. Hardly a libertarian defeat.

But surely foreign policy is…? Don’t even get me started on that subject. I’ve had a message from a friend concerning this issue sitting in my inbox for over a year now. I’m still working up the rant on the subject. I think it will be a novel when I’m done. Calling the gov’ts continued infatuation with armies and things that go ‘boom’ a failure of libertarianism is about the lamest excuse for journalism I’ve seen in a long time. Libertarians are far from being “of one mind” on the subject; we are neither isolationist nor pacifist. To make these assumptions is to purposefully mislead the reader into thinking libertarians cannot cope with the challenges facing us today.

The conquest of the Middle East that Bush has embarked on has only just begun. How that’s going to turn out is anyone’s guess. Libertarians were warning people for years that something like 9/11 was bound to occur if we kept meddling in the affairs of other countries. Now that it has occurred, we have every right to eliminate the threat to us. I don’t know when (or if) the gov’t will ever get around to that.

The big picture, like the forest lost in the trees, looks very different from the portrait being offered. Some idiot with a hatchet and penchant for word play writes a book and an article and talks about how libertarian politics has failed; don’t just shrug and go along with it.

It was nearly a hundred years from Marx and his manifesto to popular support for socialism; and that being based on the juxtaposition of altruist principles in agreement with socialist principles. Objectivism and Libertarianism emerged, what, 50 years ago? Throwing in the towel already, are we? I’m not willing to call the game ‘over’. It continues as long as I draw breath.

If your response to all this is still “Uh huh, what you’re saying is: it is not libertarian enough for you to call it libertarian.” Then I’d like to suggest the following; “put your paper hat back on and stop bothering the customers”. Leave the thinking to those of us more suited to the task.

The Unmourned End of Libertarian Politics

Read a rather amusing hatchet job the other day “The Unmourned End of Libertarian Politics”. The poster who forwarded it didn’t include a source for the article. I am always suspicious of articles that are posted without source reference, It makes fact-checking that much harder. So I decided to take the time to look up the source for this one.

As for the content of the article, the author takes many liberties with the label “Libertarian”. Most of them erroneous. While his examples are indeed libertarian positions (ending Social Security was one of them) the people who are promoting them are far from libertarian in belief. Most of them tout the ideas a conservative, and the politicians promoting these ideas would never admit to having any libertarian leanings.

In browsing the write up on his book, It looks as if Ronald Reagan is one of his heroes. Reagan too promoted libertarian ideas cloaked as conservative ones. One of them was the the foundation of the Savings and Loan debacle. Just like his current peer in office, Reagan’s attempt at ‘free market’ corrections to the Savings and Loan mess were only free market in name, and left the industry wide open for the type of theft that eventually brought Savings and Loans to an end.

So too the ‘privatization’ of Social Security proposed by ‘W’ wasn’t privatization at all; and the voucher systems intended to correct the failing public schools were not rejected by the citizenry but were in fact shot down by teacher’s unions nearly everywhere they were proposed. Some limited voucher systems have taken hold. Find the info here.

The foundation that the author is part of also leaves me cold. New America? What’s wrong with the old one? How about we just discover Real America, and leave it at that, eh? Like the New Deal, I don’t think there’s very much American over at New America. Maybe it’s just me.

As it is, the Libertarian Party is still alive and kicking (albeit hampered by a core constituency that seems to think not voting is some form of effective protest movement) Mark Twain’s quote sprang immediately to mind when I read the article title.

“The reports of my death have been greatly exaggerated”

What has come stumbling to it’s ineffectual end is the illusion that we have two parties in the US today. Anyone who has been paying attention should have a hard time determining the difference between Liberal and Conservative right now; trying to separate the Socialists who are only looking out for our best interests, from the Fascists who are only doing what’s right for the rest of us. Personally, I don’t think it’s worth the effort.


You know, once you pull your head out of your big, fat ass the world tends to look completely different. What amuses me about posts like this these days is how convinced I was that everybody else was clueless and I was the only one thinking clearly. Now I’m just happy to still be thinking, muddled as it all seems to be. Saner but sadder, from a philosophical standpoint. 
Once again, I cite the Big Bowl of Crow I ate awhile back. Still trying to digest some of that. 

The Social Security “Trust Fund”

Another thread deleted by the fine folks moderating the local AM station’s forums. Sometimes I wonder what the point of maintaining a forum there is.

Luckily I archive the major posts that I contribute. Like this one:

There is no ‘investment’ when it comes to government trust funds. T-bills or other gov’t instruments amount to taking the money out of one pocket and putting it in another. It still gets spent like any other money. There is no interest earned on money kept in SS accounts, anyway. Study your annual report from SS if you don’t believe me.

[That trust fund for the Iraqi oil is no different, BTW. Just money in the government coffers. Iraq will always have to come begging to the US gov’t from this point onward. That’ll make ’em happy, right? Don’t ya’ll listen to Timpone?]

The promise to pay is irrelevant, because the gov’t can just:

  1. Print more money. They do it all the time. Create more debt, generate the t-bills that represent the debt, multiply the dollar figures on the T-bills x9 and viola, more money to dilute the money already in circulation.
    This is a simplified version of how inflation occurs, and why a dollar is in fact ‘worthless’ (it represents no real value) The problem is, the Fed has already diluted the purchasing power of the dollar to such an extent that further dilution of the scale required to keep SS afloat might destabilise the dollar. therefore:
  2. Write new laws that change the SS’ ‘contract’; arranging it so that you never were entitled to the money in the first place, so you aren’t being denied anything you are due. They have done this several times already, and I daresay we haven’t seen the last of it yet. Look to see the drug benefits altered in the near future.

The only solution is to remove responsibility for retirement welfare from the gov’t altogether. I’m not certain what shape the ‘new’ retirement system should take. It’ll have to include those who are currently drawing on the system as well as those who have paid in and expect to draw in the future, or it won’t be acceptable to enough people that it stands a chance of passage. Individual contributions should be kept in accounts accessible and controlled by the individual himself. There should be an additional ‘insurance’ feature that would cover expenses beyond the contributions of the individual.

Perhaps a ‘general welfare’ type health/retirement/disability all in one account is what is needed.

All I know is that it’s past time to fix the problem. The complete crash of the American financial system (what they really mean when they talk about SS ‘failing’) isn’t far off. 30 years at most.

The socialist left in disguise

That’s what Zfacts is. Luckily it’s a pretty thin disguise. If you wander through the pages you’ll discover, quite quickly, that they don’t seem to have any facts concerning Democrat funding or left thought. Reams of information on Republicans and that most elusive of creatures, the ‘Neocon’.

Most damning is the views on Social Security. I’m no fan of Bush’s plan to ‘privatize’ Social Security; but that doesn’t mean that SS doesn’t need fixing, or isn’t a ponzi scheme in it’s last phase before collapse (and it will, as soon as the baby boomers start collecting their checks) If you read the pages on SS at Zfacts, everything is fine and Bush is trying to rob the trust fund. Glad to hear it. I’ll be making withdrawals from that ‘trust fund’ in the near future, I wouldn’t want to think that there’s going to be any problems getting ‘my money’ (and it is mine, at least until we get to the other end of the 40 thousand they’ve withheld over the years) from the lovable cuddly federal gov’t and it’s ‘oh so friendly’ bureaucrats.

Doesn’t change the fact that Social Security is a socialist program; the definition of which is a ‘gov’t managed business’. Or the fact that 40 thousand set aside by me personally would have grown to about half a million in the time the gov’t has held it.

So much for Stoft’s claim to not have a ‘bias’.