Saturday, December 01, 2012


40 years ago today, the day I turned 15, I started my first job earning an actual paycheck at KFC on Rogers Avenue in Fort Smith. I thought I was going to make $1.20 an hour, but quickly learned I only netted $1.00 an hour after payroll and income taxes. I didn’t mind though; I felt good earning spending money and being able to contribute to my government.

I’ve never minded paying taxes. I want to contribute to my country as well as my family, my church, and other important causes. Good government, essential to an ethical society, has real costs. However, I don’t know how an ethical society can survive with more people taking from government than contributing to government. It seems to me that everyone who can work and contribute, should work and contribute, including those on Social Security, government pensions, and some even on disability.

My pledge, as I start the second half of my sixth decade, is to put off retirement and social security as long as possible, work as long as someone will pay me for my time or service, and encourage others, especially peek baby boomers like myself, to continue to contribute as long as they can. I don’t want boomers to be the generation that ruined the American experiment.

Friday, September 23, 2011

Do Americans want to be free people?

Anything and everything worth doing takes effort, time and money to get done. Nothing has ever been free and nothing will ever be free. Everything has a cost.

Free people pay their own way, sometimes with saved money and occasionally with borrowed money. Dependent people expect others to pay for the things they want.

Do Americans want to be free people?

If we want to be free, we can’t continue to punish hard work through higher taxes and we can’t continue to reward laziness through entitlements.

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Tax Extensions

As a resident and tax payer of Long Beach, I was very discouraged to read the Press Telegram Op-Ed by School Superintendent Steinhauser followed a few days later by a letter to the editor from Police Chief McDonnell in support of extending the temporary state taxes that are set to expire.

The temporary state taxes were sold to taxpayers as a solution to the state budget crisis. These temporary taxes did not solve the budget crisis. Extending these taxes will not solve the budget crisis either.

Superintendent Steinhauser claims that unless these taxes are extended, Long Beach will become Detroit. Long Beach may be on its way to becoming Detroit, but not for the reason Superintendent Steinhauser suggests. Property values in Long Beach have already been declining for quite some time. Detroit became Detroit due to excessive taxation, not a lack of taxation. The tax base in Detroit just packed their bags and moved. The same will happen to Long Beach and the rest of California if our leaders don’t learn to live on less just like the taxpayers have had to do and continue to do.

I look forward to a day when our public servants care as much about those paying the bills as they do about those benefitting from the payments.

Update:  Letter to editor in Press Telegram

Friday, August 21, 2009

Fair Competition

All of the major sports leagues in America have a commissioner to ensure fair competition between the various teams in each sports league. These commissioners make decisions based on what is best for the long term interests of each league. For the most part, each commissioner remains neutral as to which teams succeed or fail.

Government in America works best when those in positions of government authority act as commissioners; ensuring fair competition between individuals, businesses, and industries. When government remains neutral and makes decisions in the interest of all citizens, individuals and entities prosper or fail by competition. Those with the best ideas, best products, best services, and best prices win while those who are inferior lose.

Would anyone in their right mind ever claim the commissioner of a league should also own a team in the league in order to keep the competitors honest? Of course not; the job of the commissioner is to arbitrate and the job of the competitors is to compete.

Likewise, only a knucklehead would claim government should create an enterprise to compete with the private sector.

If government would do a better job of ensuring fair competition between health insurers and health care providers, perhaps our glorious leaders could get back to doing something important like investigating steroids in professional sports.

Thursday, July 02, 2009

A tale of two narratives

Bernie Madoff is rightfully receiving universal condemnation and ridicule for swindling investors out of 50 billion dollars. He is always described, among other things, as a rogue, thief, scoundrel, and criminal, . His financial “victims” are said to be “ruined” and “suffering”.

Meanwhile, Michael Jackson is receiving universal acclaim as a musical genius, even as his financial records indicate a negative net worth of over 500 million. Apparently, Michael Jackson swindled creditors out of over 500 million dollars. His financial victims are never mentioned or even acknowledged in media reports.

Perhaps 1 billion dollars is the line of demarcation. Probably not. Expecting the media to be fair and truthful is always expecting way too much.

Thursday, January 29, 2009

Cultural Evolution

Can Free Markets Survive In a Secularized World?
The 18th Century English cleric and theologian John Wesley was troubled by a paradox that emerged as his teaching spread. He, like other Protestant thinkers stretching back to Calvin, taught that one could honor God through hard work and thrift. The subsequent burst of industry and frugality generated by Wesley’s message improved the lot of many of his working-class followers and helped advance capitalism in England. But, “wherever riches have increased, the essence of religion has decreased in the same proportion,” Wesley observed, and subsequently pride and greed are growing more common, he complained.

The emergence of what Max Weber described as the Protestant ethic represented an important point in the evolution of capitalism because it combined a reverence for hard work with an emphasis on thrift and forthrightness in one’s dealings with others. Where those virtues were most ardently practiced markets advanced and societies prospered. And, as Wesley foresaw, what slowly followed was a rise in materialism and a reverence of wealth for its own sake.

Tuesday, January 27, 2009


So . . . we're going to have a tax cheat in charge of the IRS, a man instrumental in the pardoning of terrorists as top terrorism watchdog, and a woman whose husband gets tens of millions from foreign governments in charge of implementing foreign policy.

Monday, January 26, 2009

We Want a King

19 But the people refused to listen to Samuel. "No!" they said. "We want a king over us. 20 Then we will be like all the other nations, with a king to lead us and to go out before us and fight our battles." 1 Samuel 8: 19 – 20

Less than a week after President Obama took his oath of office, most of my fears about his presidency have been confirmed. I could probably spend the next four years criticizing President Obama and his administration just like so many others spent the last eight years criticizing President Bush and his administration.

However, just like the criticism of President Bush was misplaced, my criticism of President Omaba would also be misplaced. President Obama seems to be mostly doing what he was elected to do by a majority of the voters. The majority of Americans want to feel like their security and livelihood is in the hands of someone who is loved and popular throughout the world.

I could criticize President Obama, but the real culprit is the majority of Americans who need a wake up call before secular, and then Islamic, values become American values. America is catching up to Europe way too fast for my tastes.

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Stimulus or Burden?

Government deficit spending can stimulate an economy. However, most government spending, most of the time, is a burden on the economy and our lives, not a stimulant.

Our lives are not improved simply by having more money circulating in the economy and lower unemployment numbers. Our lives are only improved when our time spent working can pay for more of the things we want or when we can spend more time doing the things we enjoy and consider important. Hard work has its own value, but very few of us consider employment the ultimate goal.

Economies grow when more goods and services are purchased during a defined period of time than where purchased during the previous defined period of time. Therefore, if government borrows or prints money to increase spending for the period, the economy will be considered to be growing as long as the private sector does not reduce spending by more than the government increased its spending.

If government spending alone could improve our lives, why not just have government pay for everything? Because there are also negative consequences of deficit spending, that's why.

When government borrows money, less money is available to be borrowed by the private sector without an increase in the amount of interest paid to service the loans. This has not been a problem in the United States recently because China has been willing to take the money they have made off of their exports to America and lend it back to America at reasonable rates, but if the United States decides to start printing money to pay for the deficit spending, China is not likely to lend money back to America if they believe they will be paid back with a cheaper currency. When government prints money, the money supply increases, and the value of each denomination decreases because more are available. This is called inflation which hurts those who save and invest.

Government spending rarely comes with an expiration date. New infrastructure that gets built during recessions needs to be maintained long after the economy recovers. Money spent on social programs creates a dependency from recipients who learn to love handouts more than self reliance. Bureaucracies created by government spending have a life of their own which includes the survival instinct.

Citizens end up paying for government spending with higher taxes or lower purchasing power or higher costs for debt or all of the three. In the end, we may have more actual money, but less real purchasing power and less time doing what we enjoy.

The only real ways the government can stimulate the economy would be to start a business and then the sell the business to private investors or start selling government assets like land and buildings. The citizens of the Untied States really don’t need any more long term obligations/burdens to go along with Social Security and Medicare.

America needs more workers, more affordable housing, and more places to create attractive communities. It's time to start developing government land in places like Utah and Montana. It's time to open America to more immigrants who want to prosper in the land of the free. It's time to really stimulate the economy. Sorry Robert Redford and Ted Turner. You don’t get to hog the best places for yourself anymore.

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Best Practices

There are many different ways a team, or enterprise, or person can compete to win. Superior God gifted talent and physical assets provide a great head start or advantage, yet rarely does the first or most gifted competitor persevere until the end. Some teams, like the Dallas Cowboys of the early 90’s, some companies, like Microsoft, and some athletes, like Michael Phelps, can simply overwhelm anyone and anything that gets in their way, but most of the time, the difference between the winners and the losers is a matter of small intangibles, not complete superiority.

Competition is the key to economic success in any free market system. In fact, a free market system with competition is the only path to widespread individual economic success. New products get invented and improved processes get developed when innovation is rewarded at an individual level. Countries, companies, and individuals stagnate when innovation is ignored or discouraged.

The current worldwide recession has renewed the old debate regarding government regulation. Those on the left claim our governments were asleep at the wheel as BIG business raped and pillaged the citizenry. Those on the right claim the mortgage crisis that initiated this recession was a result of BIG government mandates, not unfettered capitalism.

As with most difficulties in life, a symptom of our economic problems is getting all of the attention while the real problem is barely mentioned or acknowledged. Government regulation, or the lack of regulation, is not our root problem. Our increasing unwillingness as individuals to compete with each other is the root cause of our economic problems.

BIG business spends more time and makes more effort to agree with competitors on sets of industry wide “best practices” than on actually trying to be better than the competitors. BIG Unions reward conformity for employees willing give up individual rewards for group rewards. BIG government is more than willing to enable many of these best practices through rules and regulations.

Why should we be surprised when Newspapers and Automobile companies are no longer profitable when every company in their industry is just like every other company in their industry. They all build the same kind of cars the same way and they all tell the same stories the same way and they all look alike and they all sound alike and they all act alike.

Circuit City had a great business for many years by hiring experienced and knowledgeable salespeople to assist consumers wanting to buy consumer electronics. Circuit City made money, their employees made money, and their customers were happy with the great service at Circuit City. All was good at Circuit City until Best Buy started building bigger stores and hiring younger less experienced sales people at a lower wage rate. Rather than continue to do what Circuit City did best, their management decided the way to compete with Best Buy was to be more like Best Buy so Circuit City started cutting experienced staff and hiring inexperienced staff. Circuit City is now in bankruptcy court because the consumers of electronic goods didn’t need another Best Buy.

Government regulations are not necessarily and impediment to competition, but regulations do tend to place a bigger burden on smaller companies than on BIG business. We won’t break out of this recession if our government leaders enact rules that require conformity. The only way out of this or any recession is to revive the competitive spirit by allowing the nonconformists and contrarians to compete with the established companies and all of their “Best” practices.

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

A World Where...

My friend posting a comment as anonymous wrote, “I feel it in my bones that something cataclysmic is coming.” Hyperbole? Perhaps! Written after the writer has spent two tours of duty in Iraq; maybe not.

Most of us living in America now have learned about the range of human achievement and depravity through books of history and the reporting and experiences of others. Most of us living in America now have never come close to the depravity end of this spectrum. Most of us feel immune to the worst of what humanity has to offer, but my friend, serving in Iraq, did experience and live depravity up close and personal. He no longer feels immune.

I don’t yet share his pessimism, but I do know depressions and wars and heartaches are just as normal for humanity as prosperity and peace and happiness. Americans have enjoyed many years of relative peace and prosperity. Could we handle the depravity end of the spectrum? Could we even imagine a world where laws are routinely ignored, where justice is a quaint concept, where poverty is most common, and where wealth and power rule supreme?

Friday, November 07, 2008

Change and Hope

The American electorate, as a whole, has chosen to have a future of safety nets, while rejecting a future of liberty. Not that Senator McCain ever advocated, or would ever advocate liberty, but the election of Senator Obama should be interpreted mostly as a vote to relieve the fear many Americans have. Fear of losing their ability to earn an income, fear of not being able to afford health care, and fear of a future run by corporations. Our choice of President-elect Obama may not be the most principled choice, but it is a pragmatic choice when considering all of the uncertainty exposed by the financial crisis, executive pay, and the loss of jobs to outsourcing.

Americans have rejected opportunity in favor of certainty. When we go to bed at night, we want to know we will be able to sleep in a bed the next night, regardless of our ability to earn a living for ourselves and our families. Most Americans, including many Republicans, are tired of being afraid.

Perhaps in 4 or 8 or 12 years, the majority of Americans will vote for the pendulum to swing back in favor of liberty, but I suspect that individual liberty, as envisioned by the signers of the American Constitution, is a fading concept of the past. The world is too complex, governments are too powerful, and corporations are too unprincipled, for individuals to ever again feel free to determine their own destiny.

President-elect Obama ran on change and hope. Washington will change from a central government that debates and determines individual rights to a government that debates and determines group rights. Future legislative fights will be group against group.

I can’t imagine ever joining a union or any other group. I don’t even feel comfortable describing myself as an evangelical because it sounds like I have joined a political group.

I may be spending the rest of my life preparing to die as a dinosaur. I hope not.

Thursday, October 30, 2008

Election Prognosis

I’m usually not in the prediction business, but why do we have these big elections every four years if pundits can’t take advantage of the opportunity to make fools out of themselves? Since I fancy myself a pundit, here goes:

Modern presidential elections are decided by undecided boobs who vote for the most attractive candidate as well as devious insiders who game the system to their candidates advantage. Almost always, the best looking, best sounding, and best funded candidate wins regardless of the issues.

John McCain and Barrack Obama are both easier on my ears than Bush, Gore, or Kerry. John McCain is more clear and more specific when he speaks while Barrack Obama is more pleasant, more eloquent, and less prone to verbal mistakes. Slight edge Obama.

Neither McCain nor Obama would ever be mistaken for a Kennedy or an Eisenhower, but both seem equally presentable. Both also have attractive wife’s. However, since Cindy McCain is beyond attractive; she is gorgeous, slight edge McCain.

Personally, I could easily sit down and have a beer with John McCain and listen to stories about his life, while if I ever had contact with Barrack Obama, I couldn’t get away from him quick enough. However, I can’t judge undecided’s by how I feel, so I give likeability a tie.

Campaign money and campaign operatives are where this election will be settled. A little grease in the palm of the right campaign official in a few key states may turn a state or two and a horde of lawyers ready to challenge any and all polling irregularities can shine the media focus in the wrong places. (The media would probably cover the wrong events anyway without the lawyers, but the lawyers will make sure it happens.)

I don’t trust the polls, but I do trust the money. Big edge Obama.

McCain needs a miracle.

Update: Bob Krumm is calling Pennsylvania for the lawyers.

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Hole Rule

When we find ourselves in a hole, it is usually prudent to stop digging.

The shovel for many holes is the good intentions of the digger.

Way back in 1977, the United States Congress enacted a new law called the Community Reinvestment Act (CRA). The purpose for this new law was for the Federal Government to monitor and ensure that local banks were making loans to home buyers in low and moderate income areas. Then in 1992, congress passed the Federal Housing Enterprises Financial Safety and Soundness Act which allowed Freddie Mae and Freddie Mac to assume responsibility for home loans made to low income buyers.
FHEFSSA established risk-based and minimum capital standards for Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac. And, it established HUD-imposed housing goals for financing of affordable housing and housing in central cities and other rural and underserved areas.

Low income buyers are not at all responsible for the current financial mess, but as low income buyers were approved for home loans that did not meet traditional credit standards, the demand for houses and the asking price for houses increased [basic economics]. As prices increased, fewer buyers qualified for traditional home loans which meant that more and more home buyers needed sub-prime loans backed by the Government Sponsored Enterprises (GSE’s) Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac. As more and more low and middle income buyers took advantage of sub-prime loans, more and more middle and high income buyers took advantage of lax lending standards to purchase new homes. Many of these buyers were investors and speculators. This Ponzi scheme finally reached a point where many buyers, not even able to pay their interest only loans, walked away from their property and mortgage with nothing to lose but their credit rating. Prices plummeted, banks ended up with more debt than equity, and new lending stopped.

The solution to the problems caused by easy credit seems to be more easy, perhaps even easier, credit for banks and businesses.

At some point we will have to suffer the consequences of easy credit. Perhaps it is time to stop digging.

Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Taxpayer Bailout

I am amused at how the word “taxpayer” gets attached to the word “bailout” when referring to the Paulson Plan and other congressional proposals to loosen the credit markets. Add another word, “crisis”, and we have created a narrative that makes the solution for relieving the tight credit markets unacceptable to the general public.

I don’t recall the 200 billion dollars the Federal government pledged to rebuild New Orleans after Hurricane Katrina as a “taxpayer bailout” of greedy home owners who chose to live in a flood zone. I don’t recall the words “taxpayer bailout” ever being used in regards to the way FEMA spends money and guarantees loans after any natural disaster. Social Security, for those who fail to plan for retirement, Amtrak and farm subsidies, and most every other extra Constitutional program of the Federal government are never referred to as “taxpayer bailouts”. Can you even imagine National health care being referred to as a “taxpayer bailout” for those who don’t want to pay for health care?

Only about 60% of American adults pay Federal Income taxes in any given year and the top 1% of taxpayers pay about 33% of the total. So if the taxpayers were to pay for the Paulson Plan, the rich would be bailing out the rich. However, since there isn’t a relationship between federal taxes and federal spending, the idea that taxpayers are really paying for anything specific nowadays is laughable. The verbiage “taxpayer bailout” is a hyper-narrative to create controversy, and nothing more.

I can live with worthless investments and meaningless money. I will still get up and go to work in the morning and hug my wife and kids when I get home from work at night. What really bothers me though is living in a society where words have become meaningless.

Monday, September 15, 2008

Human Nature and Government

Within the soul of every human being is a desire to be free; a desire to make the individual choices that create the most individual happiness and fulfillment. However, none of us are islands of individual happiness and fulfillment. Our individual happiness and fulfillment could not exist without the love, affirmation, and support of many other people who also have their own desire for individual happiness and fulfillment.

When two or more people who depend on each other for happiness have different ideas about what makes for happiness and fulfillment, conflict between the two or the group is inevitable. Often times, this conflict results in one, or both, or all of the people in a relationship trying to exert control over the others. This happens in both one on one relationships like marriage and group relationships like government.

Throughout most of history, this conflict for happiness and fulfillment was resolved by the person or persons with the most power and strength, often through devious and evil methods, exerting their power and strength to control others. Governments were controlled by Kings and Leaders with the biggest and usually most ruthless armies. Families were controlled by men who possessed more strength than women. Even the Catholic Church turned into an organization controlled by the powerful. The Greeks and Romans dispersed some of this authority to more of their citizens, but government still boiled down to having those with power making most of the decisions and controlling those without power.

Early Americans had a better idea for allowing more freedom and individual choices. The American founding fathers (and mothers) said every human has certain rights that can't be taken away or abused by government. They said everyone has the right to freedom (life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness), not just the humans with power. They believed every citizen in America should pursue their own objectives as long as those objectives did not interfere with the freedom of their co-citizens. Obviously, America never completely obtained this ideal, but it was still a noble idea.

I have come to realize there is no right way for me to make others do the things I want them to do or to make others pay for the things I want. (Thy shall not steal.) Therefore, my view of government is that government should protect it's citizens from force and fraud, but very little else. I believe government should be small and limited. Apparently, most Americans now believe more like the Greeks and Romans where the majority get to use the coercive force of government to get the minority to succumb.

Tuesday, September 09, 2008

The Best I Could Hope For

Why would a Republican care if a Democrat is experienced, prepared, or competent, and why would a Democrat care if a Republican is experienced, prepared, or competent? Is someone who is accomplished in the functions of government we oppose better or worse for the country than someone unaccomplished in the functions of government we oppose? I think I would prefer an incompetent leader to a competent leader running government if government is trying to enforce laws I disagree with.

Like most beliefs being promoted by the Democratic Party, I don’t understand the attacks coming from Democrats against the experience and competence of Sarah Palin. However, as an opponent of the beliefs of the Democratic Party, if America is going to have a President from the Democratic Party, Barrack Obama is about the best I could hope for.

Monday, September 08, 2008

More Slavery

While we are on the subject of slavery, does it occur to anyone else, or just me, that National health care, like the Obama plan, is still another form of slavery where the young and healthy will be forced by law, to pay the bills of the old and unhealthy?

Thursday, September 04, 2008

No Taxation Without Representation

Many, if not most, American citizens who will be paying for my retirement have not even been born yet and won’t be voting for at least another 18 years. Not exactly the American way envisioned by our American founders.

Young and healthy taxpayers will be forced by the Federal government to pay for my well being in old age. Not exactly the end of slavery envisioned by Abraham Lincoln and the abolitionists.