Call Me Crazy, The Tasty Chicken Edition

Angry Us

Call me crazy, but today’s tolerance doesn’t much look like it did when I was growing up.

Look, tolerance doesn’t mean that everyone parrots the same line or that you have to like what people are saying around you. It means that they have a right to live their life the way they choose even if that means believing some things that you don’t and that you don’t have to hold them as evil, call them assholes, argue points in an unreasonably personalized manner, or harass them just because of a disagreement. I say this as much to remind myself as to remind others.

People have always talked politics and I’ve always been politically minded, but what is happening today is moving so far away from a reasonable dialogue that I wonder how we are managing to hold together as one society.

Of course, reasonable minds understand that this version of tolerance stops when it comes to truly harming others. Advocating for a political position rarely rises to that level. I have no idea how that conversation started nor do I know how it escalated, but I do know that a chicken sandwich wasn’t worth the kind of fight that left one man re-assigned and all folks starring in their own little accidental reality show on all of the news sites.

What happened to the kind of tolerance where we actually manage to get along on a daily basis without someone trying to shout us down or tell us how vile and horrible we are for, essentially, not believing every little thing that they believe? I wonder if people see just how hugely damaging our over-politicized culture is becoming.

When everyone thinks that they have to take absolute stances on all of the issues of the day, when it comes to a place where it harms friendships and family relationships, and when it is so unyielding, how can anyone be surprised at the size of the wall we’re building between us? Of course, we’re a deeply divided country. Not only are we faced with hugely difficult problems, but we’re faced with an increasingly uncivil nation where folks are happily willing to demonize each other with little regard for the harm or hurts caused.

Whatever threads still bind together the fabric of our nation are being slowly unravelled by our own unforgiving nature.

The Mark of Mitt

Here’s a little ha ha to get your day up and running. I mean, it’s a little late for that, but my morning coffee is just finally starting to kick in.

…[I]t’s not just that Mitt Romney hasn’t paid any taxes since 1975 and that Bain Capital is the planet’s largest distributor of E. coli which it manufactures in petri dishes offshored to Mitt’s safe deposit box in the Cayman Islands, but that Mitt will kill your loved ones five years after his minions lay you off. Just because he can. He doesn’t have to meet you. You might show no outward signs of ill health. You might even have a job and health insurance. But you bear the Mark of Mitt, and decades later when you keel over and expire it’ll be because he once laid off your brother, or your cousin, or your hairdresser’s sister, or someone who once heard something from someone who knows Harry Reid.

Very funny stuff from Steyn.

Reminder: Government Successes Tend to Look a Lot Like Failures

Last weekend, I was in the midst of being told that Social Security was quite a government success. I remember thinking to myself that if SS is what counts as a success for the US government, it’s no wonder that President Obama thought Solydra was such a good idea.

Social Security, the biggest Ponzi scheme of all time, is finally catching up to that point where the calculus flips. For early “investors,” the Ponzi scheme works like a charm. As long as an ever growing base of donors props up the system, the checks still roll out on time and no one gets hurt. In this case, it took a mighty long time and a lot of big and little tweaks to the system before a prolonged recession tipped the equation.

One of the big, scary side-effects of prolonged high unemployment and lower labor participation is that the pool of donors has decreased and their “investments” aren’t keeping up with the demand for payout on the other side.

With that, here’s the happy thought of the day:

“For the early generations, it was an incredibly good deal,” said Andrew Biggs, a former deputy Social Security commissioner who is now a scholar at the American Enterprise Institute. “The government gave you free money and getting free money is popular.”

If you retired in 1960, you could expect to get back seven times more in benefits than you paid in Social Security taxes, and more if you were a low-income worker, as long you made it to age 78 for men and 81 for women.

As recently as 1985, workers at every income level could retire and expect to get more in benefits than they paid in Social Security taxes, though they didn’t do quite as well as their parents and grandparents.

Not anymore.

Read the rest. But keep in mind that the “surplus” discussed in the article is illusory. It’s a big stack of government IOUs to itself that is called a “Social Security Trust Fund” but doesn’t actually contain any money. All it contains is the wobbly legal obligation of the US government to fund for the future– but not an obligation to fund to any specific level or under any specific circumstances. Essentially that money was loaned into the general funds for paying for other things and will now have to be paid back over time and we, the folks who paid into the system, have no specific claim to any of the money that we handed over. The enormity of that may not be obvious, but consider this: that surplus made our budget deficit look smaller every year and now, since the program can’t cover its own costs, it will make our budget deficit look even bigger. The changes that will be required to maintain the illusion of good stewardship of our retirement monies will likely make the deal even worse for upcoming generations.

What those IOUs really mean is that the government will have to borrow more and more from either general funds or from the Free Money Fairy; it also means likely increases in our taxes in some way to help make up for the shortfalls. It may be in bumps to retirement ages, expansion of the income that is taxed, or even a more straightforward bump in the tax rates along with those increased deficits– most likely a combination of a few of the above– but the one sure thing is that the deal has gotten worse and worse over time for workers entering the job market.

We’re asking our kids to fund our retirement with the near-certain knowledge that they will never be returned the equivalent of what they pay to keep us fat and happy in our old age. Merry Christmas, youngster, and get off my damned lawn.

If that has just stoked a little flame in you hungering for more Social Security fun, then read this Forbes article next. It’s a ray of sunshine in all of our lives.

Forget about “lockboxes” and other rhetorical devices used by politicians to perpetuate the unconstitutional falsehood that is Social Security, the unhappier reality is that the minute your employer withholds your Social Security taxes, the money is no longer yours. Deal with it.


Courthouse, Photo Courtesy

I originally put this on Facebook, but it belongs here. Especially since I’m adding a new link:

As a citizen, I think one of our most important jobs is to very simply question our government. This is not a partisan thing; question at every level, question whomever is in office, and question whether they share your party affiliation or not. Question the reasons for their decisions, the morality of their policies, the pragmatics of their solutions.

And in questioning, understand that the next job of the citizen is to push back where it is right. Not to the extent that you step on the guy next to you, not to the extent that you harm others, but by every legal method available, with determination and will, to correct imbalances. All of that in the context of remembering that no citizen is always right, no citizen has the right to always get his way, and no citizen should forget to do his best to treat his fellows with respect and kindness.

Occasionally, I lose sight of my own rules; then I see a story like those linked below and I suddenly remember. Job number one is to question.

Story 1: Heads I Win, Tails You Lose

The government also argued that it could keep Megaupload in legal limbo indefinitely. ‘None of the cases impose a time limit on service,’ the government’s attorney told the judge. Therefore, the government believes it can leave the indictment hanging over the company’s head, and keep its assets frozen, indefinitely. Not only that, but the government believes it can continue to freeze Megaupload’s assets and paralyze its operations even if the judge grants the motion to dismiss. 

Story 2: Why, No, We Don’t Feel Responsibility for What We’ve Done

“Your driver was shot in your truck,” said the caller, a business colleague. “Your truck was loaded with marijuana. He was shot eight times while sitting in the cab. Do you know anything about your driver hauling marijuana?”

“What did you say?” Patty recalled asking. “Could you please repeat that?”

The truck, it turned out, had been everywhere but in the repair shop.

Commandeered by one of his drivers, who was secretly working with federal agents, the truck had been hauling marijuana from the border as part of an undercover operation. And without Patty’s knowledge, the Drug Enforcement Administration was paying his driver, Lawrence Chapa, to use the truck to bust traffickers.

These stories speak of an arrogant, irresponsible government with no sense of accountability to the folks that they should be serving. These folks should feel shame for their part in twisting laws and ruining lives, but, of course, what they actually feel is self-righteous indignation at the thought that someone like me might question their actions. Don’t I know that they are just acting in my best interests?

Now, for pushing back…

I Do Not Think That Means What You Think it Means, The Presidential Edition

President Obama
President Obama
President Obama, Photo Courtesy Wikimedia Commons

Somewhere over the last three years (give or take a few months) someone changed the definition of “worked” and failed to inform me. That’s the only (polite) take-away from this:

“Just like we’ve tried their plan, we tried our plan — and it worked,” he added later in the speech.  “That’s the difference. That’s the choice in this election.  That’s why I’m running for a second term.”

Obama made these comments in Oakland, Calif., where the unemployment rate was 13.7 percent in May 2012. The national unemployment rate is 8.2 percent — up from 8.1 percent in May — for the second straight month.

If by “worked,” he means “successful,” then it would be tough to find folks to agree with his idea of success. Higher unemployment, lower job participation, higher prices, collapsed housing market, and rising energy costs certainly don’t feel like success.

Or maybe he meant “worked” as in “found jobs”– but that’s even harder to justify since “working” is exactly what many people aren’t doing these days thanks to a stalled economy and a sinking sense that America’s future under Obama’s stewardship hasn’t exactly been polished to a pretty, pretty shine.

Which is funny, because he seems to think that we’re feeling good about our collective future.

“Because we’re leading around the world, people have a new attitude toward America. There’s more confidence in our leadership. We see it everywhere we go,” President Obama said at the Veterans of Foreign Wars convention in Reno.

While I’m sure that Russians and the Chinese are feeling more confident in “our leadership,” it wouldn’t be because they have American’s best interests at heart. That smile you see, that applause from those corners, would only be their cheering our economic pain from the sidelines. Citizens of this country are far less pleased by our leadership– and not just for President Obama, but congress is seen, rightly, as spectacularly toothless and untrustworthy. The congressional job approval numbers are staggeringly bad. Even the Supreme Court has taken hits recently.

As for the question of whether our country is headed in the right direction, we, the people, seem decidedly nervous.

In fact, if President Obama truly believes that things are going well, then it is one more reason to vote for someone else. If he believes that, he’s delusional. Don’t get me wrong: I’d like for our leadership to be positive about the potential for our future and a true believer in the potential of Americans. I just don’t want that positivity to come at the expense of a realistic view of our current circumstances in the same way that I don’t want a doctor to tell me that the unstaunched flow of arterial blood is a sign of how great things are.

Candidate Reagan was relentlessly upbeat about the future of the country, but his optimism was always delivered with an understanding that we couldn’t get to that shining city on the hill without changing course. Obama’s upbeat speeches are simply an attempt to ignore and deny his own abysmal job performance.

Which is why, when most of us are worried about jobs and the economy, so many of Obama’s surrogates would really rather talk about immigration, gay marriage, and Planned Parenthood.

I can’t speak for anyone else, but I can tell you this: my priorities are rock solid. I’m not forgetting that this election is about all the folks who can’t find jobs, the mountains of debt that just keep piling up, and the fear that four more years of Obama’s leadership will leave us in even worse straights.

And Another Reason that Romney Should Win

Sure, I want to “like” the president. Sure, I want the president to make pretty speeches and look stately and generally be someone that I would invite into my own home and encourage my children (my imaginary children, that is) to emulate in life. These things matter.

But more than that, I want a president who will support policies that get the hell out of the way of a desperately needed economic recovery.

Despite concerted Democratic attacks on his business record, Republican challenger Mitt Romney scores a significant advantage over President Obama when it comes to managing the economy, reducing the federal budget deficit and creating jobs, a national USA TODAY/Gallup Poll finds.

By more than 2-1, 63%-29%, those surveyed say Romney’s background in business, including his tenure at the private equity firm Bain Capital, would cause him to make good decisions, not bad ones, in dealing with the nation’s economic problems over the next four years.

If this number holds up, then Romney should win the general election. What we are facing– especially with renewed talks of another dip into recessionary territory– is a question precisely on that subject: who is the best candidate to help us rebuild our nation’s economy? The question is not one of gay marriage or Planned Parenthood funding; the question is who will help get Americans back to work.

When your car’s engine won’t start, you don’t change the tires. I support gay marriage, for instance, but I know that sudden legalization won’t stabilize our economy. Deal with first things first– and, for America, that means dealing with unemployment and a stagnating economy that threatens to render all these social policy discussions moot.

If Americans trust Mitt Romney to deal with the economy, then the choice for who to lead us through the next four years is an obvious one.

Read the rest.

Thought of the Day, The Nothing New Under the Sun Edition

“…Roman writers had been lamenting the decay of the national character for years. As early as the second century BC, Polybius blamed the politicians whose pandering had reduced the republic to mob rule. Sallust railed against the viciousness of political parties, and Livy– the most celebrated writer of Rome’s golden age– had written that ‘these days…we can bear neither our diseases nor their remedies.'”

Lost to the West, Lars Brownworth