The War Against Economic Freedom

From Points and Figures:

Last night I went to see the documentary Farmageddon in Chicago. I also stayed for the full panel discussion…
…This documentary illustrates the plight of the organic farmer, specifically the organic dairy farmer. If a dairy farmer wants to sell raw milk, they will be run out of business and many times imprisoned by the federal bureaucracy. The USDA actively tries to run Raw Milk Producers out of the business. They work closely with agents from state agricultural agencies.

The documentary shows film of agents descending on various organic farms and outlets, guns drawn, SWAT teams present. It’s straight out of science fiction and something that you can’t believe happens in America. I can understand a huge police presence when going after a drug lord, but a family farmer? Sure, farmers keep guns but in my experience they aren’t violent people…

Why does this happen? Because we have built a corporate and government system which is forcefully opposed to a free market.  The market is where people go to buy – what is in the market is whatever people try to sell.  With reasonable regulations for genuine safety, people are supposed to broadly be able to decide what they will buy in the market and what they will sell.  The trouble with this rather common-sense ideal of the market is that it cuts in to the profits of the largest sellers and by giving people choice is annoys Big Government which prefers that you buy what the government wants you to buy.

Its not just organic milk producers.  Time and time again over my life I’ve seen the heavy club of government working in tandem with established business interests to crush market place upstarts.  If you ever wondered why we’ve only got 3 US auto makers – instead of 30, as the size of the American auto market would indicate – it is because Big Government and Big Corporation have set things up so that no one else can enter the market…except, of course, for big, foreign outfits who can afford to grease the legislative and regulatory wheels.  What the final result of all this has been is a progressive constriction on entry in to the market place – ultimately, a restriction on the ability of average Americans to create new wealth.

All of this utter nonsense of safety regulations, lawsuits, warning labels, etc works out to be nothing more than restraint of trade – and a restraint of trade which ensures easy profits for Big Corporation and a steady stream of donations to politicians in favor of Big Government (Big Union is in there, too…a sort of hybrid of Big Government and Big Corporation, working both sides of the street, as it were).   For 100,000 years or so the human race managed to consume milk products and we never died out – some how or another with out a single regulation from the FDA, humanity survived milk consumption.  The bottom line is that milk is food…a sort of food human beings are very used to eating.  Of course, like all human activities, eating food does carry a risk.  But, then again, life is risk…and, in the end, you never get out of it alive, anyway.

Don’t get me wrong here – I’m no libertarian arguing for a completely unregulated market, but what regulation there is must be there to ensure honesty and dignity.  If it starts getting in to deciding what you will buy, then it is a negation of the market place.  If someone wants to buy raw milk, then as long as the seller is honest about his product, then government has no interest in the transaction.  So, too, with all other economic transactions…as long as no one is defrauded or degraded (a human being cannot sell a human being – even if that human being is himself), then government should, for the most part, keep hands-off.

When I speak of freeing up our economy, this is what I mean – getting rid of the government and the corporations who shackle the economy.  We are bound hand and foot…and thus our people are growing poor, our dependent class is growing and foreign competitors are starting to catch us up.  We can fix this – but to do so Big Government and Big Corporation must be brought to heel.

Noticing the Recession and Finding the Cure

Good thing to do, because the one that started in 2007 kind of sneaked up on us in 2008, right?  Well, my bet is that the renewed (double-dip) recession began in April or May of this year and rather than wait until 2012 when it is plain as a pikestaff, why not dig around for the indicators that its already here?  The bad news here is that I’m not skilled enough to do that – but Tony Pallotta over at Zero Hedge, is:

The consumer driven recession has begun. Keeping it very simple of the four GDP components (consumer, fixed investment, government and net trade) the consumer has simply rolled over. In Q1 2011 the consumer contributed 1.46% to the 0.4% total GDP. In other words if it was not for consumer growth or even if .5% of that growth was removed the economy contracted in Q1 2011.

Fast forward to Q2 where the consumer component is now 0.3%. In other words the trend of the consumer is deteriorating. Representing roughly 70% of total GDP the consumer is the economy. Confidence drives the consumer, the consumer drives demand and demand drives the economy…

Which is why, by the way, we need to shift our economy from consumerism to wealth creation.  We have used debt to finance consumer spending – and now the debts are too high and the consumer is tapped out.  There is no way for consumer spending to lead us out of recession.  Rather than buying gadgets from China and calling that “growth”, we need an economy which will make things here in the United States.  The reality is that the only things of genuine economic value are things which are made, mined and grown…if what you’re doing doesn’t do or facilitate such actions, then it just isn’t that important to the economy.  Doesn’t mean it shouldn’t happen but it is just not something we need to be concentrating on.

The trouble is that our current government doesn’t recognize this.  Obama and Co (and quite a few Republicans, too) figure that we can some how, some way, keep things going as they have been for the last 30 years (and especially the last 20).  The thinking is that we can re-inflate asset bubbles, give people a sensation of being rich and convince them to plunge even further in to debt to buy things increasingly made overseas but which generate profits here in the United States.  Sorry to say, but it just can’t work like that any more…ultimately, if you want to buy something from a foreign country, you have to exchange wealth for it…the way we’ve been paying for the stuff we get is to sell off, as it were, our capacity to make, mine and grow things.  Essentially, in return for that cool cell phone, you gave China a factory, Mexico a farm and Chile a mine.  But now you’ve got no more mines, farms and factories to hand over to them…so how do you pay for your next cell phone?  That, essentially, is the problem we have.

A course of balanced budgets, regulatory relief, corporate reform (Big Corporation is nearly as bad as Big Government…such corporations tend to work for a restraint of trade nearly as much as unions do…and we need to figure out a system which ensures that small and mid-sized players can compete against the big boys), tax adjustments to ensure no foreign enterprise has a tax advantage over us and a general insistence that work replace welfare will fix what is wrong with us.  Not overnight.  It took many years to get in to this mess and it will take quite a while to get out of it.  The good news is that we can still fix it – there is still enough genuine American spirit in the United States to overcome the debt and the laziness and the consumerism of the past.   The bad news is that the window of opportunity is closing fast…if we don’t get our house in order soon then we will condemn ourselves to permanent decline.

2012 is that important – who we choose to give power to next year will determine, for good, the fate of our nation.  We’ll either do what is right and restore American greatness, or we’ll slink away in a cowardly surrender and insist upon a Big Government shroud for our national funeral.  We’ll see how we choose.

 

Abuse of the Welfare State

Writ large in Michigan – from Detroit News:

…Here we go again — the cold-harded GOP elitists are balancing the budget on the back of the poor.

More than 11,000 people will see their welfare benefits end on Oct. 1.

What will they do? Well, most haven’t considered working as an option.

The Department of Human Services sent letters to 11,062 welfare recipients, notifying them their checks are coming to an end. Included was a toll-free number people could call for information and assistance.

The hotline got 1,401 calls. Of that number, only eight callers requested help in finding a job.

Many of those being cut off have been on public assistance for 14 years. That’s not a safety net; it’s a hammock…

Except for those actually incapable of work – and, remember, I have an exceptionally high bar for that – all people must work.  I don’t care if its just picking up trash in the city streets, no one should ever be allowed to sit on their rear and collect any sort of government benefit.  Furthermore, in order to ensure that the search for work is diligent, welfare should never pay more 80% of a minimum wage job.  Any job, any where – even those “jobs Americans won’t do” and are thus filled by illegals – should pay more than government assistance.  Welfare should only be just enough to keep body and soul together until the recipient finds a job.

The best estimate that I have found of non-health care, non-Social Security welfare spending by the United States government is in the range of $350 to $500 billion per year (its hard to tell because Uncle Sam – determined to not make it easy for us – doesn’t have a category of spending called “welfare”…you have to dig around for it).  I’ll bet that State and local welfare spending adds at least 25% to that figure (and it is probably higher)…even at the low end, we’re talking more than $400 billion per year spent by government in various transfer payments to people who didn’t pay any “input” taxes (in other words, didn’t pay SS taxes, didn’t pay taxes which fund unemployment, etc).  I’ll bet that three quarters (at least) of that money is going to people who can work, but choose not to.

Add in the waste and fraud in Social Security disability, the number of people who get healthcare on the public dime without putting in anything, the drain caused by illegal immigration, and the money spent on worthless aspects of education (what is that?  Worthwhile education spending:  education spending which results in an engineer, teacher or doctor.  Worthless education:  spending which results in diversity coordinators, corporate bureaucrats and lawyers) and you’re probably getting in to the range of a trillion dollars per year of drain on the economy…money which is spent that has no net, positive benefit.  Money which just goes to leeches.

This has to change – and the welfare reform in Michigan shows why:  some people are so long on the public dime that they simply have no desire to get off it.  They must be forced off – work, or starve.  A complete audit of all recipients of government money must be done…and all able-bodied people with no minor children must be kicked off of government support; those with children must be forced to do at least some work in payment for their welfare; only those absolutely incapable of working (or on a program they directly paid in to over the years) should be allowed to remain.

There is still plenty of work on the low end in the United States…work which doesn’t need even a high school diploma (how many from the backwaters of Mexico and the third world who come here illegally have such?).  It is, often, hard and dirty work…but work is honorable, and all honest work creates personal dignity.  Better to be poor digging a ditch than poor watching daytime television.  Mind you, I’ll go ten thousand extra miles to help out anyone who is working hard and still not able to make ends meet…you put in your 40 hours and you’re still short, you can count on me to either work it through charity or, if need be, enact laws to ensure that you and your family have decent food, housing, clothing and basic health care…but the first step is that 40 hours of work.

We must become a nation of hard work, thrift and careful investment…massive reforms need to be undertaken, and none of them can really be done in isolation.  Big Corporation also needs to feel the hammer; Big government, naturally; all of us have to stand up and do what is right…after generations of coasting on  borrowed money.  The only way we keep our nation is if we work for it.  Period, end of story.  Anyone who says otherwise is simply not understanding the nature of life.