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Friday, January 30, 2009

Birth of Politics/Government

For background to this - see an earlier post - "Birth of Fear" from last August http://justsomeposts.blogspot.com/2008/08/birth-of-fear.html. Forgive this - it rambles - Most of the villages, if you could call the gatherings of huts, tents, and such a village, in Og's time had a Chief that ran things. The villages had many ways of determining who would have that important role. Selecting the oldest, considered to be the wisest, was one way. Giving the position to the smartest, considered to be the most likely to find solutions to problems, was a similar tact. Later, as society developed, there was the son (typically the eldest) of the prior chief, considered sometimes divinely selected. Considering the original family member probably became leader based on one of these other ways at some point in the past, I always wondered how many folks questioned this idea of royalty - and family right to rule (but I digress). Another way of becoming chief, especially in early civilization was by might. If you could kick the butt of all others in the group you were chief. We are somewhere in that time. None of Og's group, nor Og, had become chief. (again, this may make more sense if you read the earlier post - http://justsomeposts.blogspot.com/2008/08/birth-of-fear.html) Og had used the power of fear to usurp power from the chief. The chief still ran things, Og and his minions just lived in the circle of approval from the chief based on handling the people with fear. Og and his boys knew they could not win a battle with the chief. They were not fighters, nor real thinkers. Og's gathering had become the group that is always on the edges of power, living off the attachment to it - the posse, if you will of the chief/leader. This was/is a great place to be, because you have most of the benefits of the powerful, without the real responsibility (hey, I just work here!). Chiefs/leaders are blamed for the bad, and many can take credit for the good, if they are close enough to make a case. These people we now call bureaucrats and/or politicians. As this group became more entrenched and enamoured of their power and position, the more possessive of their position they became. As the time came for the selection of the new chief, they had a vested interest in getting a person in place that they could still draw power and prestige from. They began to lobby the population and or group(s) that would actually select the chief. If might was still the major determining factor, they would attach themselves early on to the biggest brute in the tribe, and insure he was ready for the challenge when it presented itself. Even if the big guy had no interest in the position, they would prime them and convince them it was something they needed to do. In fact, this was the perfect leader for them because they could be manipulated easier. Soon Og's group, or in reality - by now Og's descendants' group, would find they had challengers to their position. Others, interested in power and prestige, would find themselves a candidate and try to get them into power. They found that by offering promises of special treatment or rules to certain people or groups of people they could "buy" their support. This escalated into the two (or three, or more) groups of bureaucrats and politicians to offering more and more to the people that made the decisions. It became commonplace for a candidate for chief to offer special favors to a group prior to the choice or offers of special considerations if and when the candidate became chief. So, campaign rhetoric began. One candidate would offer something to the people and the other candidate would be force to offer something to another equal sized group, or to trump the first groups offer to the original group.

This caused more and more problems. Leadership positions, even when decided by "Divine right", as in a hereditary monarchy, required the support of the people governed. (or at least the leaders of the army or people that could raise an army) This was done by favors or rulings that favored those people. The problem with anyone who has a loyalty that can be bought, is they can be re-bought if you will by a higher bidder. A LOT of kings and queens in times gone by were taken down by the very people that had insured their position in the beginning.

Og and Og's descendants were not fools. They knew that to rule was to risk loss of everything if those you ruled did not support you. They also knew that to gather power from those who rule, while keeping an eye out for the next power move, was the key to real power and long term advancement. These bureaucrats became an important part of every government from the earliest times of man until now. Supporting these bureaucrats became a function of government that they themselves controlled and used to their advantage.

In one of my first posts (see - http://justsomeposts.blogspot.com/2007/11/epiphany.html), I wrote a bit about the fall of the Roman Empire. The fall was caused by a LOT of different factors. However, one of the largest of those was the escalation of favors offered by the candidates for government office. They began offering more and more to "buy" the votes of the voting citizens of Rome until it was unsustainable. Making government the basis of support for as many people as possible is the way to insure a bureaucrat's and/or politician's survival. The more people you have looking for government for their needs, the better. Except for one thing - the money to support those looking to government has to come from someone. As I hope you have learned - there is NO GOVERNMENT MONEY! Even in a dictatorial setting, the money is produced by the working population. Government can only get money by taking it from the governed. We are in a similar situation today as the Romans were towards the end of their empire. We are approaching 50% of the population of our country that pays no income taxes. We have a large percentage of those that do not pay income taxes actually getting a tax "credit" from the government just for being alive. This is a dangerous area. I have railed against the escalation of the government debt - OUR debt in earlier posts. I have gone on and on with my concerns of a government that seems determined to head towards socialism and centralized control of production. That will not work! The U.S. has become the greatest economy and economic growth engine on earth due to the rewards that hard work and investment can reap. We have also benefited from the fact that weak, undercapitalized, and bad ideas have been allowed to fail. We cannot bail out of the mistakes of the banks, investors, mortgage holders and lenders, and others without helping to drag down all of those that were prudent and responsible. That is not right. Sorry for the rant, sorry for the length. I am not sure what date this will show when it posts, but I started this back in January. I have returned to it on many occasions and thought today was when I needed to finish it. I got off track a bit with my Og saga, but I hope you gleaned something from it; if only my passion for helping to keep this country alive.

Sunday, January 25, 2009

Various musings

Some random thoughts - ( I started this three days ago and have gone back to it now - so it may be a bit disjointed; but, I want to get it out) 1) Although I do not wish anyone else to be unemployed; I have a tip for all CEOs. If you look at your company, evaluate your staffing, check your productivity, etc - and find that there are THOUSANDS of people that you could let go and still remain in business - DO IT! Again, I don't wish to add anyone to the ranks of the unemployed - but I am amazed at the companies that keep announcing layoffs of 5,000 here and 10,000 there. I know I have worked mostly for smaller companies, but in most cases if someone was/is out sick - we all have trouble getting a bathroom break! I have worked for some companies with thousands of employees; but in the divisions I was in - if someone took a long lunch - we had trouble covering. So, again - all CEOs and such - take stock of your employees. If there are enough to cover lunch and three people out sick - let one or two go. It may be thousands later. 2) I really don't understand the people that are waiting for the government to solve their problems and make their life easier. Name something other than military that the government does better than private enterprise. Can anyone say - DMV? Veteran's hospitals and other services? Government purchasing ($100 hammers, $500 toilet seats, etc)? Government forms and paperwork? Government (aka Public) schools? And more, and more? That is why I can't imagine why anyone would want the government to take over any more of our lives. Government healthcare? Bailouts? Just say NO to government. Government can't cure our problems, in a LOT of cases government IS the problem. Tell your elected officials. 3) Speaking of government, I see where the Senate has now voted to delay the conversion to digital TV broadcasting four months, until June. This is idiotic. There will still be people in June of 2010 that are out of touch with digital broadcasting. I know this subject is probably not as meaningful to most of you as it is to me (I sell TVs, among other consumer items), but I had to moan a bit. This is another great example of how government can screw up anything. The entire process has been doomed from the start. The major purpose of the change was to free up a lot of broadcast spectrum to be auctioned for new services and to provide extra communication services for first responders. This became an obvious problem after 911, and the government guaranteed they would do something about it. Then, Katrina showed they had not. Now, years later - they delay. 4) I want all the people that voted for Obama because they wanted CHANGE to note all of the people he has surrounded himself with. For the most part they are ex-Clinton administration and/or lifelong politicos. There are also a LOT of folks with questionable ethics. How about a guy proposed to run the Treasury department (IRS and more) that had not paid his taxes? There are others with just as questionable a problem. But, we got change. B.S. We got hosed. Get ready for more. There is more, but I am tired.

Sunday, January 18, 2009

DRIVE

Imagine you are out for a drive. You are motoring along. Occasionally you stop to get a bite to eat or to enjoy some of the sites. But mostly you are cruising and taking in the ride. Suddenly you realize your vehicle is going on it's own. Not too fast, not too slow, but ever moving whether you want it to or not. You realize you are not really even steering the car or choosing the exact direction you are travelling any longer. You run red lights and stop signs. You pass in no passing zones and are passed in others. But, you continue relentlessly forward. There is no reverse. You would love to just STOP, to pull in somewhere and sit and take in the local flavor. You know, however, the only stopping you will be doing is by crashing or just running out of gas somewhere you don't want to be. But, maybe moving towards SOMETHING is better than stopping at NOTHING. Welcome to our life.

Friday, January 9, 2009

Taboos

I am writing this from Las Vegas. As I was burning through a $100 bill today in about 20 minutes, I was thinking about how Vegas is known as "Sin City". You know, "What happens in Vegas stays in Vegas". The only thing I am sure that stays in Vegas is about 90% of all the money that people bring in here. I was thinking about how we (at least the people I know) don't discuss much of what is really important, complicated, and/or controversial in life. (yeah, I think about stuff like that when pushing the "Bet Max" button over, and over, and over) I have never had an intelligent unbiased discussion with anyone about really deep, important stuff. Now, I know some of you are thinking - "I have"; and maybe you really have, but I wonder. We don't discuss death. (It is only in my lifetime that we discuss pregnancy, so maybe it is coming) One of the few unifying parts of humanity is death. Yet we all avoid discussions of it in specific terms. (saying "I'm going to KILL him/her when they get home" does NOT count) We certainly don't discuss sex. Another unifying similarity we all have is that none of us would be here if there had not been a LOT of sex going back to when sexual partners were defined by "Eve meet Adam". We don't discuss religion. I always find it interesting that there are five major religions and many , many other "minor" ones and thousands of offshoots of the major ones that all KNOW they are the right one. Yet, most people are sure they are practicing and/or belong to the ONE that has it right. Yet, when you get right down to it, your religion has as much to do with where you were born and who your parents are than any Divine intervention. (although depending on your religion, that might be Divine intervention!) If you doubt that statement, how many practicing Buddhists do you know that did not immigrate here? What are the odds of the kid that was born in Saudi Arabia as I was writing this becoming a Methodist? We don't discuss money, or specifically how much you or I have of it. It is NOT considered correct to ask - "How much do you make?" Nor is it correct to wave one's paystub in another's face. We will go on endlessly about how we got a deal on something, but not how we paid for it. Then there are the bodily functions. The only people that discuss the waste elimination process are the very young and the very old. Kids will proudly tell anyone that will listen that they pooped in the potty. An eighty year old will go on and on about how their latest bathroom accomplishments were either fantastic or a disaster. (I can't even find the words to write this one it is so taboo) Erectile dysfunction used to be extremely taboo. Taking the little blue pill or having 36 hours to respond when the moment is right is now presented as a badge of honor. As for other bodily functions, commercials have also made hemorrhoids, menstruation, constipation, and embarrassing feminine itching topics of notice if not discussion. I would rather discuss death, sex, religion, or money personally.

Saturday, January 3, 2009

Wanna buy an apple?

To get even more on this, as well as some background - see earlier posts like "Back in the USSA" and others. I am getting worried about the economy. Not for the same reasons as a lot of people, but worried none the less. As stated above, previously I let you know how I feel about these government "bailouts" that keep being thrown around like chicken feed. This is getting ridiculous! We (and yes it is WE!) are giving money to every industry and company that is having trouble. This cannot stand. There are constitutional reasons that should prevent this from happening. Unfortunately, there are not a lot of contitutionalist politicos or even voters around to recognize it or care about it. We won't go there (one of my first posts over a year ago addressed this). I will just keep this to the economic side of the argument. The first rule to remember is - THERE IS NO GOVERNMENT MONEY!! All together now - THERE IS NO GOVERNMENT MONEY. When you hear about a "stimulus" or a "bailout" think about YOU writing a check. There are three ways for the government to have money to throw around, and they all involve US. One, they can print money. If this path is taken, inflation of epic proportions takes hold, and the money is worth nothing at some point. Second, they can take out loans. Loans, you say? Treasury bills and savings bonds are loans. They are saying that if you give the government (buy the paper for) X dollars, at some point in the future you will get back X+Y dollars with Y being interest and your "profit" for loaning the money. If you ever hear a financial reporter talking about the yield on T-notes, this is what they are referring to. The third is a favorite of most "democratic" governments - raise taxes. Let's address these individually - Printing money is not good. You all should have heard stories of money in Nazi Germany or Argentina, or post-war USSR being worth nothing. To have money to get what was needed the government printed bales of money. The problem is, when there are bales of anything around the value drops. If everyone makes $200 an hour, do you really think a McDonald's double cheeseburger would still be a $1? (or now $1.19 at most stores - see your local store for details) This path is not (so far) one that our monetary geniuses have taken. We can all hope they do not get that desperate. Taking out loans, or selling paper; is not a bad way to get money. In fact, it is preferred to the other two, because it places the burden of financing government on those that are willing to do it. Governments offer up $100 worth of notes (T-bills or other instruments of trade) and tell you in a set period of time you will get back $104 (or whatever). You, the investor, decide since the return is "guaranteed" by the government, you will participate. What is wrong with this picture? Well, like any debt, it has to be repaid. The way it is repaid is through one of the three means I listed (if you are brain dead - printing money, loans/government securities, taxes). I have told you why printing money is not an answer. I will no longer have that alternative in the discussion. Just realize if we are down to that one - get an apple stand. That leaves taxes and/or more loans. No problem, just sell another government security. That only works when there are people that want to buy them. Right now the government is benefiting from a rare circumstance where people are so nervous about the future they are willing to buy T-bills for ZERO return. That is right - you buy government bills now and when they mature, you get back your investment. (actually you lose due to inflation and taxes, but hey I am not an economist nor a professor) This will work as long as people are so insecure and afraid of investing that the security of a T-bill is worth the lack of return. With banks failing and the stock market being very volatile, zero return with close to zero chance of loss looks good. If and when the economy starts to recover - ZERO won't look so good. The government then has to raise the return. Who cares, you say? That means the interest rates go up. Who cares, you say? That means credit card rates, car loan rates, mortgage rates, small business loan rates, etc ALL GO UP. And, you ask? This means that just as the economy starts to look better, interest rates (the cost of growth in some respects) goes up. This is the best way to slow an economy, raise the cost of money (interest rates). So, when we get going again, we face the problem of hitting a wall. This is especially true in that the government has recently to "give" the "bailouts" taken on trillions (yes, TRILLIONS with a "T") in debt that will come due in one, three, five, or ten years. Scared yet? So, when you can't sell a T-bill to cover the cost of the old T-bill...... The third and only way left for a government to raise money is here - TAXES. That's right. When all those TRILLIONS of dollars of notes come due from the "bailouts"; if the government cannot sell a note without raising interest rates to a prohibitive level - you and I pay the notes. (the alternative is government default - not a pretty picture) I am talking about taxes to cover the TRILLIONS over and above the TRILLIONS we have been footing anyway! Scared yet? I want to mention another absolute - corporations/business do not pay taxes. All together now - CORPORATIONS/BUSINESS DO NOT PAY TAXES. So, the idiotic notion that we can tax businesses is just that - idiotic! (a quick refresher - business/corporations do not pay taxes because they have no money. They only have the incomes from their customers and the investments of their shareholders. That means any tax goes back into their prices. Who pays the prices - US. There is a previous post on this as well - go study). So, when the notes come due, the interest rates cannot be raised enough to make a T-bill attractive; who pays - WE DO. I am getting burned out now as well. Re-read and do some research - more later.