Saturday, January 30, 2010

Recovery or Calm Before the Storm?

Some economists are now predicting a double dip recession. That means, a brief period of relief like we're starting to experience now, then a second, worse recession soon after. Why is this even happening in the first place? Well, like most things in macro economics, it's complicated.

Many blame Bush. And why not? The recession started around mid 2007. He was President at the time. Clearly, anything that goes wrong is the fault of who ever is president at the time. So what is it that Bush did that caused it? If you ask people, you'll either get a "i dunno" or people will tell you that Bush spent tons of money fighting two wars unpaid for and cut taxes across the board(that means for everyone poor to rich). So, he essentially hired tons more soldiers and pumped a lot of money into bomb, gun, and tank manufacturing companies increasing jobs then he cut taxes for all Americans so people had more money in their wallets. Well, I can certainly see how that results in deficit spending and increases the national debt(which is bad for the government). But that should actually HELP the economy, not hurt it. So how on Earth could that have possibly created the recession?

Ok, then how about the fact that the greedy wall street bankers... um... did something and got rich in some way I don't understand and Bush just let them do it? Huh? How about that?! See, what actually allowed banks to give so many loans to people that couldn't otherwise pay them bank was the lifting of restrictions that occurred during the Clinton administration. Of course, it's a stretch trying to blame Clinton for something that happened about a decade later. But that's the thing with macro economics, it's not just one thing that causes a problem. It's a chain of things.

I recently watched a couple of interviews from Ben Bernanke. In 2006, after recently replacing Alan Greenspan as Chairman of the Federal Reserve, he predicted that 2008 would see huge growth in the economy. Keep in mind, as Chairman of the Federal Reserve, this is the top and most respected economist in the world. Even if Bush was a rocket scientist, how could he possibly doubt what Bernanke was saying? Keep in mind also that the Democrats had taken over control of Congress by 2006 and everyone was predicting growth in the housing market.

Many Democrats, meaning well, wanted to see poor people that couldn't otherwise afford a house, be able to buy one now before homes increased in value. Banks were being subsidized(that means our government gives them tax payer dollars to do something) to give loans to people that couldn't otherwise pay. This was a crazy period of time. I knew a couple people that were buying multiple houses--people that wouldn't otherwise be able to buy one, now had several. Some banks made loans for no money down. That means literally homeless people could get loans they'd never be able to pay back. Banks didn't care. The government was giving out "free money" to make it happen. How can you argue with that?

Also remember, Congress does not need Presidential approval to sign off on the federal budget. In fact, if Bush wanted to stop the Democrats in Congress from doing whatever they wanted with the budget, he can't. Restrictions on banks had been lifted for a decade now under a Democrat president, and now Democrats in Congress were bankrolling loans to people that couldn't pay them back.

So what went wrong? The buying frenzy ended and houses plummeted in value. Instead of increasing, homes were now worth less than the money people paid for them. These same people that put no money down in the first place, had nothing to lose for walking away. That meant banks got stuck with the balance, owing a lot of money for homes that were no longer worth what they cost.

In short, banks lost their butts and went into survival mode. That means, they stopped loaning to anyone else, and just tried to hang on. When the banks stopped loaning, existing businesses could no longer expand and new businesses could no longer get the capital to start up. Meanwhile, the natural attrition of existing businesses collapsed meaning more lay offs with no new jobs for people to move to. This started driving up unemployment and thus, here we are now.

It's interesting how the recession has been blamed on Bush when, if you have even the slightest idea about what's going on, simply isn't entirely true. It's also interesting that Obama talks about how he didn't create this mess we're in. But he, and his Democrat colleagues controlled Congress at the time and they were the ones subsidizing banks to give out loans to people that couldn't afford them which created this mess. I can try and make the argument that Obama is actually more to blame for the recession than Bush was. Well, the Senate is half of Congress and Obama was just one of 100 senators, so that only made him 0.5% responsible for what Congress did. Heh, ok, so it's a really small percent, but still...

But who really knows? As I said, the truth is usually a lot more complicated. Not to mention, I'm obviously not able to go through all the bills and budget sheets that Congress votes on(some of which isn't always public), so I have to rely on what journalists say--and I've made a recent blog about how biased they are. I'm well aware that journalists push their agendas and cherry pick facts to make their stories more interesting even if it means object (boring) truth suffers. I highly doubt the issue is as simple as "The Democrats did it! Get 'em!" as I've made it sound. All I'm trying to say is that idiots who've barely done any research on anything need to stop going around like they have a clue. And all you damn Democrats in California, stop canceling out my votes! Heh.

Oh yeah, and Ben Bernanke, the top economist in the country that was so horribly wrong about predicting growth in 2008... Obama just appointed him for a second, four year term. It's very possible that Bernanke wasn't wrong. Rather all things considered, 2008 would have been prosperous only he didn't predict Congress(the Democrats) messing around with the banking system and causing the crash. I recently read that Obama's bail out of the banks, although eased the economic pain in the short run, might lead to the cycle to repeat itself in the near future. I mean, after all, the Democrats are still bailing out the banks and subsidizing them to make loans again. The banks know no matter how reckless they remain, Obama will still bail them out. This leads to another economic principle known as Tragedy of the Commons.

Normally ToC means a group of companies that share a common resource. Let's say timber logging companies that cut trees from the same forest. Take away all restrictions, and the faster a company cuts down the trees, the more trees they will get before their competitors get them. Now, if it was just one logging company, they'd be able to conserve the trees. But since it's many companies, going slow is economic suicide.

Now not all banks gave out loans recklessly. Many stayed responsible, but in this climate, being responsible is economic suicide. After all, if Bank A gives out loans to everyone with little restrictions, why would you go to responsible Bank B? Why would Bank A be responsible if they know Obama will just bail them out? Can responsible Bank B compete against banks like Bank A that can be as reckless as they want? Keep in mind, Obama isn't bailing out all the banks, just the big ones that gave loans recklessly are being "rewarded" with bail outs. Isn't that some messed up backwards crap?

It's like, we're never going to get out of this recession until the Democrats learn to leave Capitalism the hell alone and let it work on it's own, or we get Republicans in Congress again. I really don't care which party has the White House(that doesn't seem to matter that much), just get the damn Democrats out of Congress before we become a third world country.

Sunday, January 24, 2010

More polly rants

I often talk to people a lot about politics. One of my favorite topics is to ask people what their party stands for. I find it very interesting to note that despite the person claiming to be a democrat or a republican, they will often give me the same answers. For example, they will say their party is the one of prosperity and responsibility. They care about helping people... for getting America back to work. I ask them about the opposite party, and they'll often say the "other guys" hate America and hate the Constitution. The other guys are often racists as well, if not just plain evil.

I met two ladies at some convention I went to for Sci Fi writers held in the bay area and was talking to them about this phenomenon. Any time you're in the bay area or any other highly Liberal concentrated area, you're probably better off staying away from politics but I brought up the subject anyways. They were both shocked that any Republican could possibly consider theirs the party that cares about helping people. I'm equally shocked that people seem to be so oblivious to reality that this is a hard concept for people. Had it not been for the Republicans in congress, Lyndon Johnson never would have gotten his two Civil Rights Acts passed. Despite Liberals being convinced that Republicans are all racists, it was Democrats that were split on Civil Rights, and Republicans that overwhelmingly supported it. In fact, Lyndon Johnson had to break with his own party and side with the Republicans, which ultimately cost Johnson the support of his Democrat base, forcing him to be unable to run for re-election. Ironically, many of those southern Dixiecrats that supported segregation and opposed civil rights ended up changing parties and becoming Republicans, which is why Republicans now control the south. This is also why the Republican party is a mix of progressives like John McCain and southern conservatives like Strom Thurman. Though no where near as diverse as the Democrat party.

This gets more confusing as you look at JFK. Kennedy famously said, "Ask not what your country can do for you, but what you can do for your country." He also said, "No nation in the history of the world has ever taxed its way into prosperity." These are defiantely not things Democrats say. These words to a Liberal are like garlic to a vampire. I was talking about this with my dad tonight. Kennedy was clearly a Conservative, as anyone would agree. But I would even argue further that he would probably fit in more the definition of a Republican than a Democrat.

Ok, so what's the difference? Simply put, Republicans want less government. Democrats want more. Easy enough, right? Ok, so what's a Conservative vs a Liberal? This gets a little more tricky, mostly because different people have different definitions. Not only that, but there are a lot of radically different ideologies that all share the same names. Let's look at the term "Liberal."

Obama is a Liberal. I posted a youtube video a couple posts ago linking that speech from 2003 where Obama says he supports Socialized Medicine and says something like, "You can't tell me that the United States, as rich as we are, can't afford to provide health care for everyone." In other videos, he and his allies, have admitted on camera that the public option is just a ruse to destroy privately run health care insurance and force people into buying healthcare insurance from the government. Realizing this isn't popular with "Commie hating Americans," Obama has dishonestly back tracked trying to say that if people really think the government is so terrible at running things, they can't also believe that the government can be a threat to private insurance companies by competing against them.

As a side note, this is a ridiculous argument. Let's assume Little Suzy has a lemonade stand and she sells lemonade for 10 cents. Now I put up a stand right next to her and sell mine for negative $5 dollars. That's right, I paid people $5 dollars to drink my lemonade instead of Suzy's. I put Suzy out of business. How can I afford to do that? Easy, I'm using an "unlimited supply" of tax payer dollars. I don't have to be efficient. The Post Office isn't efficient. It loses money, and yet it also doesn't compete well with private industry--making it the worst of both worlds. The Public Option would either be a massive waste of tax payer dollars when private businesses can do it more effectively, or it would be a massive waste of tax payer dollars AND take away our freedom to choose plans, aka the worst of both worlds. Unfortunately for Obama, voters are figuring this out. The election of Scott Brown, whether Obama likes it or not, according to surveys, hinged mostly on the fact that voters felt like Obama had been dishonest about the healthcare issue and were tricking people. They are right. From Obama's speeches since then, it doesn't seem like he gets this.

Which is sort of strange because all the rest of what Obama had been saying has been pretty consistent. His supporters are mad because he sent additional troops to Afghanistan. Well, Obama has been pretty upfront and honest about this. He supported it when he was a Senator. He said he would during the campaign. He said he would after getting in office. And he eventually did.

He also said he would talk to our enemies and try and make friends with them. He hasn't always been successful, but he's certainly done a lot of work in that area. I'm one Republican that was very happy with his famous speech in Cairo. I really liked the things he said. I'm also really happy that he's chosen to stress the US is not at war with Islam and will never be. He refers to the terrorists as people that twist Islam into something it's not. That's great too.

As a side note, this rarely gets mentioned, but in the treaty of Tripoli--the first war the US ever had outside our borders, we wrote that the United States was not a Christian nation, and thus is not at war with Islam. You can imagine why this tidbit is rarely ever brought up. But it's true--many of our founding fathers opposed Christianity. Some even considered passing laws to ban it, which of course never happened, but what a strange thing to think about today.

Ok, back on course. Liberals. Right. You've probably seen images of Tea Party organizers(a small number of them) with signs that link Hitler to Obama. Silly, right? Actually, yeah that is silly. But Hitler was also a Liberal, but obviously a very different kind. Liberals aren't just Democrats. They're people that want to grow the Government to such extremes that the Government takes away your social and economic freedoms in order to re-distribute wealth to who they want.

This sounds really dark and ominous, and it's hard to know exactly when you've passed Republican, passed Democrat, passed "Sane Liberalism," and gone to the dark place. Insane Liberalism is not sustainable. This is why Insane Liberals often resorts to Fascism or Totalitarianism. These are big scary words that means the Government is now in complete control and the people are merely slaves to it. I've often said that Communism is the best form of government ever created. The only problem with it is it's impossible to achieve with human nature being what it is. Everyone has to share equally. This works on a small scale(at which point we call it Egalitarianism), where when someone in the village doesn't share, they get kicked out. But it's impossible on a large scale where people can easily cheat the system and get away with it. If you have people not contributing, you're always going to have a shortage. Taxing the rich more to make up for the difference(like we do), will only get you so far before something has to be done about the cheaters(or government has to cut spending).

Hitler, Stalin, Mao, Che Guavara, etc, all had the same way of dealing with the "cheaters." Murder. Mass murder. Hitler was a Socialist, but he's often not referred to as such. He was one in every sense of the word, except one. See, as Karl Marx and Engels laid out Communism in the Communist Manifesto they stressed that religion and ethnicity must be forgotten. Religion and cultural differences cause wars and conflict. Clearly, we can see this is true. From the Sunnis and the Shiites killing each other to the UDA and IRA car bombing each other whether the Northern Irish are Irish or British, what would they do if John Lennon's song Imagine became reality and there were no countries or Religion? What would you fight over?

Heh, ok, that's a whole other topic. So Hitler was a Socialist, but he wasn't about to give up Catholicism or "German-ness" for it. Where as the other Socialists / Communists were killing people based on low social class(getting rid of the uneducated and impoverished), Hitler was killing people based on ethnicity and religion. He was essentially killing off Jews and taking their stuff to feed his Socialist / Fascist empire. Hitler was an evil guy, but he genuinely believed that once he was done, he would have created a Utopian universe for the deserving(German Catholics) and forever eliminated the impure elements from humanity.

Recently Obama had his one year anniversary as President. It's obviously gone very bad for him and he often points out that he started off with a bad economy that he inherited and can't fix in only a year. But is Obama even trying to fix the economy? Everyone assumes he is, but let's look at it from his perspective. Let's assume he's cloned and is now President and every Congressman. He has every seat in government. He doesn't have to wait for Blue Dogs and Liberals to agree. He doesn't have to fear if Republicans will filibuster. He has complete control in this hypothetical situation. Can he fix the economy now? Again, I don't think he's interested in that. Not because he's evil, not because he doesn't care, but because I believe that he thinks he's working towards something bigger. He's working, not on fixing things, but on transforming the country into a Liberal Utopia because he thinks that once all the pieces of Socialized Medicine, strong unions, high progressive taxes, loads and loads of government run work projects, and free education for all, are in place, that we will reach Utopia. Once Americans see his vision in reality, they will fall inlove with it and all will be well. What happens in the short run along the way is irrelevant. I honestly think he believes this. He's not interested in working with Republicans because they don't share this goal so he knows they're a waste of his time. He's also said in speeches that we might not get there during his Presidency, so this is clearly a long term goal that he believes many others share.

Now, if he generally believes in this stereotypical Liberal Utopian dream, he will not move to the center(despite campaigning that he would all along) like Clinton did when Republicans took back Congress 2 years after his election, and will continue to push his Liberal agenda. If he does move to the center, then I will have to admit that I'm wrong about him. But I've been watching his speeches for a while now and really listening to what he says.

I don't think this dream sounds bad. Hell, I wouldn't mind free education and healthcare for all, but how can you pay for it? I'm sure we all agree Obama has taken genocide off the table as an option, so what else are we left with? I just don't understand why Liberals think this Utopian dream works when it's failed every time it's been tried.

Blah, anyways, so what's a Republican? Well, Republicans want economic freedoms. Businesses love this. Of course they want the freedom to do what ever they want. Let's not forget that this goes both ways at times. Teddy Roosevelt, a Republican, made it illegal for businesses to force people to work more than 8 hours at a time. He passed far stricter laws greatly reducing the amount of hours children can work as well. I imagine many big businesses actually liked this, because it made it so the smaller businesses that they competed with, couldn't drive their employees into the ground in an effort to keep up. Big business doesn't mind regulation if it's something they can survive but it knocks out their smaller competition. This is also, I suspect, why many big businesses like the minimum wage--because it hurts small businesses who struggle to make a profit and thus go out of business. The minimum wage is actually a really, really bad thing that does a lot of damage, but that's for another topic.

Republicans tend to not be big on Social Freedoms. Mostly, this is because Republicans tend to be Conservatively religious. But these are two very different issues. I realize my being a Republican and an Atheist is a really unusual combination--not that it's strange, because it's the most logical of things in my mind, but for some reason, it's very rare to see in others. But as such, I have a very different outlook on this. This distinction mostly comes into play around the issue of gay rights and abortion. Religious fundamentalists are not in favor of gay rights. John McCain's wife and daughter have been in the news lately for being supporters of gay rights--including marriage, so there is some variation of views among Republicans. Vice President Dick Cheney announced a few months back that he also supported gay marriage--which is interesting because Liberal Barack Obama does not. VP Cheney's daughter, Mary, of course is a lesbian, which plays a role in his feelings, I'm sure. I bet it must be tough to say to your own child, "You don't have the same rights as everyone else." This is why, ultimately, gay rights will one day be realized as more homosexuals are out of the closet and more people realize who their neighbors and relatives are. It's easy to hate that creepy "other." It's harder to hate people once they have a face.

Thursday, January 21, 2010


If you're one of the now almost 70% of Americans that do not support Obama's health care bill, you've got to be happy about Scott Brown's victory. I have to admit, I've been giddy over it. Even many Democrats in office have admitted relief that they will no longer be forced into supporting a horrible health care bill that just about no one thinks is a good idea.

It was pretty interesting switching back between Fox News and CNN during Brown's acceptance speech. The reporters on Fox News had big smiles as they announced the news. Click over to CNN, and they mournfully recounted the dreadful events as if they bore burden of tragedy. Pretty entertaining stuff.

I've been watching both sides a lot. Yeah, yeah, I'm kind of a news junky. But if you are into that kind of thing, this is great. From Rush Limbaugh to The Huffington Post, the opinions are fast and furious. Each with arm loads of spin, you'd never know they were talking about the same thing.

On the one hand, you have Democrats saying the upset was due to their base of voters unhappy because they're not doing enough. That was Howard Dean's ridiculous assessment. Massachusetts had record breaking voter turn outs for their special election, and according to Dean, Democrats, who out number Republicans 3 to 1 overwhelmingly voted against their own Democrat candidate to protest the Democrats not being Liberal enough.

Other Democrats are saying that the voters are just stupid. This was Obama's message, though he hid it well. He basically said that the Democrats haven't done a good enough job articulating and detailing their vision well enough--aka, the American people are stupid and can't think for themselves, and our ideas are vastly superior, thus, if anyone disagrees with us, it's because they're ignorant.

Republicans, obviously feel differently. Many are quick to say, "See? The voters are rejecting politics as usual and seeing us Republicans as the underdogs and the everyday man's party."

The truth, as it usually does, probably lies somewhere in the middle. I doubt people have "come back" to Republicans. I think people are just mad. They don't feel like their elected officials are working for change that will help them. The Democrats have controlled Congress for over 3 years now. Is that long enough to fix a recession that started with them taking office in 2006 and only exploded under their leadership? Have the Republicans proven they would have done any better? These are complicated issues. No one really knows how to fix it, and if they do, they're not the ones in charge. Voters are mad at everyone in office. That's the real truth. Obama was counting on the voters thinking he was different. He was wrong.

But the news coverage got me thinking about the pure stupidity of Obama making the claim that Fox is not a real news station and the many idiots that agree with him. People that genuinely believe this fail at one of the most basic and fundamental tests of intelligence--non egocentric thinking.

If you're not really a news fan or you also fall into this trap, let me first explain to you what a news media source is. It is NOT the job of a news organization to inform you. News sources are not interested in keeping people informed. That's not their job. That's not their responsibility. That's not their function in life. Their job is to get viewers. Their job is to locate and target their market of customers and give those costumers what it is they want to buy. CNN, Fox News, etc, are businesses.

People don't want a dry list of facts. People want to hear what other commentators think... commentators that spend all day gathering information and now have an argument about it and want to make their case for their point. That is what news is. All news is opinion. All news.

Here's the Egocentrism part. If you're watching news and "agree" with what they're saying, then it's because they're stating an opinion or catering to an agenda that you also ascribe to. You are part of their target audience and the very sort of customer their are selling their air time for. If you are incapable of discerning this between opinions you agree with and dry boring facts that don't amount to anything without an argument to unite them, then you fail at this most basic tests of intelligence.

I, do not. I'm perfectly capable of watching Fox News, being highly entertained by their news pieces and realizing I'm not getting objective truth. You will never get objective truth from one new source because no one really wants objective truth. I do, but I'm a weirdo. For me, it means I have to watch several different news sources, and even then realize I may still only have a fraction of the information to know what the real story is. I have opinions, but mine tend to be fluid and adaptable to new and changing information. I have caveats. I believe that a war against _____ is just on the condition that my information about ____ is accurate. I rarely think in absolutes.

Why Fox News is a shock to the system for many people is because there's always been a conservative market out there for a television news station, but for a long time, there's never been anything to fill its needs. Now, if you've grown up watching only mainstream news that caters to the left, and thought this was norm / fair / objective, then Fox News is a rather rude surprise.

In either case, as happy as I am that Democrats will no longer be able to put me in jail just because I don't have health care insurance--which I don't, and do not want--the cold hard reality is that after the joy of this event wains, Republicans will remember that voters are unhappy with both parties.

I was thinking about this the other day. I know George Bush was pretty unpopular and many think he was stupid. He actually wasn't stupid. In fact, I'd say no President in modern history was stupid. But as much as I am a Republican and believe in the basic principles of the GOP--free market solutions and small government, I think it's actually bad if too many Republicans are in control of the government at once. I think that was more of the problem with Bush's administration than anything else.

I'll explain it this way. You know the saying two heads are better than one? This isn't always true. It's not true when both heads think the same way. Then two heads ARE just as good as one and only as good as one. The Republican party doesn't have as much diversity as the Democrat party, and what little variety it does have, gets filtered out even more on the way to higher office. Many Republicans are pro choice like me, supporters of gay rights like me, but are not the kind of Republicans that make it to higher office. No one has good ideas all the time. That's why you want people that think completely differently from you around to challenge you and see things you never would have thought of. This is what the Republican party misses out on. I think we need a little chaos to shake things up a bit.

The Dems... they need a lot less chaos. They're actually a couple different parties all sharing one name. They're not organized at all. If someone tells me they're a Democrat, it means nothing. Are they pro choice? a segregationist? fiscally conservative? against war? for civil rights? literally have no idea where they stand on anything. From Blue Dog Democrats to Howard Dean, the word "Democrat" doesn't mean anything. All it means is you get too many of them together, and you're going to see a lot of infighting and bickering.

Bush, perhaps, also failed the Ego Centric test. If you feel that your way is "the best" way to such an extreme that you need not listen to people that think otherwise, then you are doomed to surround yourself with heads just like your own. You no longer have advisers but more and more mirrors to regurgitate your own thoughts back at you.

The United States is one of the most ethnically and ideologically diverse countries in the world. This is a strength and a valuable resource. Perhaps our best.