Tuesday, August 14, 2012

Dependence Day, Medicare Edition! Or, Let the Attacks on Ryan Begin!

It seems only seconds after Mitt Romney chose Paul Ryan, that Ryan had come under fire because of his attempts to reform Medicare. These attacks have struck a nerve, and I have decided that I need to respond to them.

And what better time to do so, than on Dependence Day, the anniversary of when Government Dependence was established for the American Middle Class?

Now, I'm not going to defend Romney or Ryan here. They are politicians, and so I have little faith that they can change things for the better. Even the best-intentioned, most-determined politician--or rather, the politician who is right--cannot do much, when trying to go against the Will of the People.

Instead, I am going on the attack: I'm going to try to slaughter these sacred cows of Medicare and Social Security. In order to understand where Ryan is coming from, we need a good, hard look at what these institutions represent--we need to face the ugly truths associated with these institutions.

First. Social Security and Medicare will destroy us financially. Between Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid obligations, these three institutions take up most of the budget; if they continue to grow without reform, in just a few years they will exceed our government's income. Thus, reform is necessary for our survival as a nation.

Second. Social Security and Medicare destroy our freedoms. When we accept these things, we are required to observe restrictions on how much we can earn, and who we can donate money to; we also commit ourselves to a substantially lower quality of life. Indeed, Medicare is the greater offender of these things: while we are forced to pay into these things, whether we accept their goals or not, Medicare requires everyone of a certain age to receive its services.

Third. Social Security and Medicare destroy our character and our individuality. These institutions deaden our desires to save and to provide for ourselves, and thus destroy our individual initiative. Why save for disability, or save money for retirement, or spend money on insurance, when we "paid into" a lousy system, and expect to "get" our money back from them? Of course, the answer ought to be "because I can do better than what Government does", but because we're forced into lousy systems, that answer loses its potency.

Fourth. Medicare has wreaked havoc on our medical infrastructure. The excuse for passing Obama-nable-Care was that our medical institutions were failing us. But no one ever examined the question, "Why are our Medical Institutions failing us?" While not a complete answer, Medicare is a major portion of the answer. Through policies of forcing doctors to only accept a maximum amount for services rendered, and forcing doctors to accept a minimal amount from Medicare, requiring doctors to "man up" and accept the loss in difference, and then prosecuting doctors for fraud, when they chose to charge a different fee for Medicare patients, and one for non-Medicare patients, Medicare has literally forced higher prices on us all, in both services and insurance premiums, just to maintain the illusion that they are helping the elderly with their medical expenses. And because of this rise in premiums, wo be to the poor soul who has to see a doctor, but has no insurance!

Fifth. Social Security and Medicare are based on a false premise: "We pay money in, and we get money, with interest, out". The reality is that what we pay into these institutions are taxes, pure and simple. As such, they can be, and are, used for other purposes, from building roads to paying for wars. Furthermore, this false premise has developed an entitlement mentality: "I've paid all my life into these retirement and health programs, you had better pay me back." Since this is a tax, this money was taken from us by gunpoint; the Government has no obligation to make sure we get a return on this "investment".

Besides, as investments go, when we make a bad one, it is important to learn to cut our losses, and to put our resources in places that would better benefit us.

Sixth. Senator Paul Ryan is accused of trying to destroy Medicare. Oh, if only this were true! Medicare, and its Sister Institution Social Security, are blights on our character, chains on our ankles, and millstones around our necks. They weaken us, enslave us, and will prove to be our financial destruction, if we allow them to continue to exist. Thus, these institutions ought to be destroyed! Or, at a minimum, they ought to be phased out of existence, over the next decade or two.

Instead, Ryan has merely proposed minor reforms, to allow the abomination we call Medicare to continue to limp in existence, wounded, but nonetheless lurking in a cave like a giant, greedy spider, continuing to grow bloated as it consumes unsuspecting souls, and as it continues to destroy our liberties, and the medical institutions that we once held dear.

So attack Ryan, if you will, for working to alter Medicare. Just don't claim he is trying to destroy it!

Oh, and happy Dependence Day. May God have mercy on your soul!

Sunday, August 14, 2011

My Condolences for Dependence Day

I wanted to greet you today with "Happy Dependence Day!" but that didn't seem right. How do you greet someone on a Day of Infamy? You don't say "Happy Pearl Harbor Day", do you? So, today, I condolences instead.

Now, on July 4th, we celebrate Independence Day as the day we declared ourselves independent of the government of Great Britain. While we celebrate the independence from government that was made official on July 4th, 1776, the truth is that Independence is at the core of what makes us Americans. Our first colony--Jamestown--was founded by the younger sons of noblemen who, because they weren't the first-born of their families, were unlikely to inherit their family's wealth. Our second colony--Plymouth Rock--was founded by pilgrims in search of a place where they could live their religion independent from government authorities.

In both places, individuals and communities had to learn to survive on their own, to value individual initiative, and to appreciate the individual's desire to seek prosperity for himself and his family--for, if your family doesn't prosper, you cannot provide for your community's needs. The pilgrims at Plymouth Rock in particular discovered that putting the needs of the community over the needs of families dampens the spirit of those who work, and thus, dampens the prosperity of the entire community.

Both places had to learn to survive first, above all else, the hard way: in their first winters, about half of each colony died of starvation.

This ethic of hard work, individual initiative, and lending a helping hand to those in the community who are struggling, was further molded into the hearts of Americans as we repeated these steps on the Great Plains, in the Rocky Mountains, and on the Pacific Coast. And these steps are repeated by many immigrants, both legal and illegal, as they come here from poisonous political environments around the world, seeking prosperity and even peace for themselves and their families.

It is this ethic that has made the United States of America the most prosperous nation the world has ever seen; it is this spirit that has made the world more prosperous than it has ever been before.

It is an unfortunate maxim of life that people who seek power seek also to destroy the Spirit of Independence--for an independent people will seek to do things as they see fit, which makes governing them difficult. Sadly, it is also a maxim of life that uncertainty and independence go hand-in-hand because we cannot control, cannot guarantee, that others will always make decisions that will benefit us. Thus, those who seek power over others will promise "security" and "safety" as an alternative to Independence. As we listen and succumb to this siren call, we become more Dependent on those who seek power over our lives.

This is why today, the 14th of August, 2011, is American Dependence Day. While it is true that Kings, Emperors, Presidents, Governors and other rulers throughout history have produced schemes to destroy independence, it is this day, more than any other, that stands out as the Day Independence Died. It is this day, Three Score and Sixteen Years Ago, that Franklin Roosevelt signed into law the first major Entitlement Program directed towards the Middle Class: Social Security.

And it is no coincidence that it was signed into law during a decade of catastrophic insecurity, caused in large part by policies put into place by Franklin Roosevelt himself, as well as his predecessor Herbert Hoover. This act single-handedly, albeit gradually, pushed us to be dependent on Government for our retirement and for unemployment compensation. Social Security further opened the doors for other programs--particularly Medicare and Medicaid--and thus our acceptance of help from Government is all but secured.

Ironically, the "insecurity" that Governors seek to protect us from is caused by the very people who wish to protect us from such insecurity--and, as we can see today, in an era where our Federal Government is spending more and more money it simply does not have--the very proposals offered only provide an illusion of security, rather than the real security provided by individual savings, a support network of family and friends, and charity from communities, churches and other private organizations.

But that doesn't matter to Governors. Now that Social Security is in place, if the Governors want Govern how they please, they just have to threaten Social Security, and they can count on millions of Dependents to flock to their aid.

I suppose that today we could mope and accept our Dependencies. If you were suckered into this Ponzi Scheme by promises of high returns and guaranteed security, I would not hold it against you if you plan on just living the rest of your life on the meager "benefits" the Government offers for you. Indeed, if you are among the injured or aged who live off of Social Security, you might not have the energy it takes to divorce yourself from this Ponzi Scheme, or the many other such schemes of slavery offered by Government as "services". It is my hope that we will be able to support you in the day that these programs offer sufficient support. Whether it be because of inflation, or governmental collapse, or even just the cancelling of these programs, such a day may come, and it may come upon us more quickly than we can expect. My deep admiration, however, goes to anyone who is old or otherwise infirm, and originally dependent on Government, but manages to pull themselves off of this Dependence.

But I, for one, I have many steps to take before I'm completely Independent.

And above all else: If any politician offers you, or someone you know, money taken from tax payers, vote them out of office! For too long, we have accepted bribes from our public officials--bribes paid for by money taken from us! To end the Dependence, this needs to stop.

Finally, to those of you who are convinced that we need to depend on Government for our security, I echo the words of Samuel Adams:
If ye love wealth better than liberty,
the tranquility of servitude
better than the animating contest of freedom,
go home from us in peace.
We ask not your counsels or your arms.
Crouch down and lick the hands which feed you.
May your chains set lightly upon you,
and may posterity forget that you were our countrymen.

Update: I decided to look up "Dependence Day" and see how others were using it. I found Mark Steyn's essay lamenting the fall of the Anglophone Empire. One paragraph stood out:

After the London Tube bombings, Gordon Brown began mulling over the creation of what he called a “British equivalent of the U.S. Fourth of July,” a new national holiday to bolster British identity. The Labour Party think-tank, the Fabian Society, proposed that the new “British Day” should be July 5th, the day the National Health Service was created. Because the essence of contemporary British identity is waiting two years for a hip operation. A national holiday every July 5th: They can call it Dependence Day.

Yikes! Someone who approves of government dependency came up with the idea for the day as well--at least, in all but name--but for similar reasons--except that he's happy for it!

Friday, August 12, 2011

A Glimmer of Hope

As my wife and I were listening to the radio the other day, my wife had an interesting observation about the riots in London, compared to the antics of the Tea Party.  She pointed out that in Europe, when they have uprisings, it is to preserve spending and dependence on Government, while in the United States, the major protesting is done to curb spending, and to cut things back.

While not perfectly true--a large number of Tea Partiers don't want to cut back on Medicare or Medicaid, for example--it's a very interesting observation.

And this observation gives me hope, that things will turn out all right for America after all....

Thursday, July 14, 2011

Happy (very belated) Tau Day!

Happy Tau Day!

I am an unabashed Tauist, and have been since the day, several years ago, when a professor named Bob Palais gave a presentation on pi day that the value of pi is wrong.  I won't go into detail, because it's given nicely in the Tau Manifesto, but the argument rests on the fact that, mathematically, we always define a circle as the collection of points a given radius from a given point--but pi, as we know it, is defined using the diameter.  As a result, the value "2 pi" is strewn about all mathematics, and we have counter-intuitive ideas like "half of pi is a quarter of a circle".  The manifesto also gives good reasons why we should name the correct constant "tau".

Well, a few weeks ago, my wife sent me a link from Yahoo! news about a touch of rebellion in the mathematical community.  Apparently, the use of tau is beginning to gain traction!  I look forward to the day when we could be free of the tyranny of the false constant.

In any case, I apologize for delaying this post:  It took me a few days to get to my wife's link, and it took a few days after that to realize that the reason why the story came up was because of Tau Day--June 28.  I'm also not used to celebrating special days for numbers; ironically, too, the first Pi Day I attended challenged the very legitimacy of Pi itself!

(And for the record, on my first Pi Day, I didn't technically become a Tauist:  at the time, Bob Palais suggested a "three-legged" pi symbol that had no clear name to represent the One True Constant.)

Tuesday, July 5, 2011

A Fun Independence Day Weekend

I found it amusing to learn that of a study that claimed that Democrats don't benefit from Independence Day celebrations.  I didn't give politics much thought this weekend, but I can understand why this is.

On both Saturday and Monday, my family and I visited "Colonial Days" in two different cities.  Tents were set up so that individuals could demonstrate all sorts of aspects of Colonial life.  We saw candles being made, discussed the fine (and gruesome) arts of surgery, played Nine Man's Morris, saw wool spun into yarn and weaved into cloth.  In a booth full of muskets, I talked to my daughter about how to load a flintlock, and what a bayonet was for.  One presentation discussed how well-aimed cannon fire literally reduced entire regiments of Confederate soldiers to pink mist.  We saw displays about the Mayflower and the local Indians.  My children even attended a Colonial school.

 A local museum had copies of the Declaration of Independence, artifacts of the dual between Arron Burr and Alexander Hamilton, and other artifacts related to American culture; another museum showed the history of the printing press, starting with a replica of Gutenberg's original press.

My children had the opportunity to be frightened by musket fire and cannon fire, as minutemen performed their ceremonies; and in the end, my oldest daughter wanted to be a "Colonial".  I have no idea how to do that, but I'd like to be involved, too!

Amusingly, a person demonstrating how to cast bullets over an open fire had a discussion with an observer about how awful our current regulations are--unintentionally echoing the types of conversations likely happening in 1775.

And while we missed the parade, we saw plenty of fireworks, both on Saturday (we watched "Stadium of Fire" fireworks from the grass at a local park) and Monday (our neighbors had a fantastic fireworks display, complimented by newly-legalized "shooting" fireworks lit around the neighborhood).

I couldn't imagine a better celebration of freedom and independence!

And that's the problem that Democrats face:  while I wouldn't consider the Republican Party to be a bastion of freedom, it certainly pays more lip service to freedom than the Democrat Party does.  Thus, any holiday that celebrates freedom is bound to favor the Republican Party--to the extent that anyone is thinking about politics as well.

I would confess that this holiday didn't reinforce my love for my country.  It reinforced my love of freedom, and a greater appreciation for the time period that this love became entrenched into our country.  Thus, it reaffirmed my desire to help us be more free.

And it's a reminder that I'm happy to be alive, and to be free!

Friday, July 1, 2011

A Brief Summary of Austrian Bubble Theory

Several months ago--perhaps even a couple of years, now--I came across a simple, but incredibly insightful, explanation for the business cycle--the booms and busts that we've come to accept as a way of life.  I cannot remember precisely where I read it first, but it was likely in the book Human Action, by Ludwig von Mises.  I would like to take a moment to summarize this theory, because I'll be using it in future posts.

To understand why we have "booms" and "busts", we first need to understand that societies advance technologically by saving for the future.  If I were on a desert island, for example, I might have to spend most of my time fishing, just to get enough to eat--but if I dried a little bit of fish each day, I can save enough up to take a week off from fishing to make a net, which I could use to more quickly catch fish, and then have more free time to pursue other activities.  Step by step, then, my standard of living increases.

Now, I don't live on an island, so I don't necessarily have to save up money in order to take this step.  I could find someone willing to loan me their savings.  Of course, I take a bit of risk in doing so, because if things fall through, I have to pay things back despite losing everything, and I won't be able to save as much money for the next major project; on the other hand, I might also succeed, and be ready to fund the next project!  And, if debt can be used to push the boundaries of our standard of living, then it's obvious that, if we could make debt easier to obtain, we'll push those boundaries even faster, right?

It is this last step--making debt easier to acquire--that we start pumping up economic bubbles.  If I'm interested in building a factory, for example, and I don't have enough savings, I'll look at the loans and say, "hey, at this interest rate, I'll be able to afford it!"  Unfortunately, everyone else looking to expand their operations are making to same conclusions, and so they are taking out loans as well.  This leads to inflation, and so the loans don't cover the costs--in which case, I'll have to ask myself "Should I get another loan, or should I cut my losses and give up on my factory?" and, at some point, I'm going to realize it's time to cut my losses, and I'll have to leave my factory half-built.  The economic bubble bursts when a large number of people reach this conclusion.

Sadly, when this happens, we don't go back to the level we started before the bubble burst:  we're actually worse off.  Savings have been expended, and we have to pay off loans.  Workers have to be re-trained.  Factories are empty; they may even need to be converted, or perhaps torn down.  Unemployment is going to be higher while we shuffle everything around.

Admittedly, I am not an economist.  If you pointed me to a given bubble pop, I would not be able to identify all the factors that lead to it--at least, not without some research first.  It should be kept in mind, though, that throughout the history of America, politicians almost always thought we "need" artificially low interest rates; thus, this potential cause for disaster is always humming away in the background.

Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Hitting a Fermata

When I first started my glob--er, blog--I had a goal of posting every day.  As I found it difficult to find the time to do that, I planned on posting once a week.  Now, it's been over a month and a half since I last blogged.  I suppose, in trying to find my "rhythm", I hit a fermata.  I'm going to try to start up the beat again...

A lot has happened in that time:  my van was in the shop twice--once for gasket work, and once for being rear-ended; I suffered through a migraine; I slogged to and from work on a bike; my two proposals for "Book of the Quarter" at work floundered and died.  With all this going on, I certainly obtained a lot of material to blog on, but I didn't have the impetus to blog.  Migraines can do that to you--but then, so can riding twelve miles a day on a bike, when you aren't used to it.

What pushed me to start up the music again?  A need to discuss the market for those with college (especially doctorate) degrees.