Monthly Archives: August 2011

Fear the Government

Jeremiah is not dead-set against “socialist” programs to redistribute wealth, as long as they are honest, efficient, and well-planned.  See essay on public spending.  Wealth spreaders like President Obama generally have noble intentions – or at least they start that way.  What worries Jeremiah is the expansion of government per se, as a threat to liberty.

The present persecution of Standard & Poor’s is a case in point.  This is open retaliation for their recent downgrade of America’s credit rating.  There can be no mistaking the message.  Or, this one – Congress releasing confidential trading data.

They’re afraid that if they go and speak out like Bernie Marcus or Steve Wynn, that the IRS is going to be on them, the SEC is going to be on them.

When Bernie Marcus made this assertion, he was dismissed as a right-wing crank – and then the SEC went and proved him right.   We are starting to have a really scary government.

See also:  Shrink the Executive

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Herman Cain, Businessman

Candy Crowley asked presidential candidate Herman Cain how he could still afford to run, while the better funded Tim Pawlenty had dropped out of the race.  His answer was all business.  We are meeting our polling objectives, Cain said, and we are spending within our budget.  Mr. Cain is not about to go into debt, on the chance of more funding to come.  He gave a brief cost-benefit analysis, contending that his poll statistics are the strongest in the field on a per-dollar basis.

This was breathtaking.  When was the last time you saw a politician display any aptitude for financial math?  Maybe that’s why they can never balance the budget.  They’re mostly lawyers, after all.  Cain worked his way from the bottom to become a CEO and a Federal Reserve Bank Chairman.  He has amazing character, work ethic – and math skills.  He is also not afraid to state his position clearly.

In the CNN interview, Cain rattled off a number of pro-growth policies.  Among the most interesting was a proposal to allow American companies to repatriate foreign income, free of tax.  At $3 trillion, this would dwarf the ARRA fiscal “stimulus” package.  Also, unlike that failed program, this money would go directly into jobs and investment – not pork.

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Give Me Liberty

Centrists delight in topics where both left and right are morally inconsistent.  One easy target is the choice of civil rights, like abortion or gun control.  Logically, one would favor “more rights” or “fewer rights,” but not a choice of rights.  Check yourself.  Right now, you’re thinking, “but no, abortion kills a baby” – or else you’re thinking the other thing.  It is, literally, a moral coin toss.

Ben Franklin’s famous observation about security is perhaps a more urgent example.  The left loves to quote Franklin a propos the war on terrorism, and the Patriot Act.  We are so afraid of terrorism that we are willing to grant police-state powers to the government.

Those who would give up essential liberty to purchase a little temporary safety deserve neither liberty nor safety.

The left has pretty much won this argument, to their credit, but then they turn around and grant the same powers in favor of “economic security.” The freedom to hire, fire, invest and trade – and the attendant risk of going broke – is no less important to America than, say, the right to free expression.

Robbing the rich and giving to the poor may sound like a good idea, especially if you’re poor, but it has a dark side.  If you allow the government to use Gestapo tactics on the rich, sooner or later they will use those same tactics on you.  That’s a fact.  Just ask Trotsky.

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What Caused the Crash

Jeremiah is insufferable this week, having made a bundle short selling.  He may not have predicted the crash, but a downturn of some kind has been brewing since June.  The talking heads are touting what we call “headline causality,” as usual – this week’s headlines are caused by last week’s headlines.  Thus, the debt-ceiling debate caused the S&P downgrade, which caused the market crash.  Students of rhetoric know this as post hoc ergo propter hoc.

Post hoc is good for politicians and others with poor reading skills.  Jeremiah needs glasses to read those tiny letters below the headlines.  It turns out that the debt, the downgrade, and the crash are all symptoms of the same disease.  The downgrade is a comment on fiscal policy, and the market is a leading indicator of corporate earnings.

Earnings came in strong for second quarter, with clear indications of weakening ahead.  These indications include weakness in job growth, the manufacturing index, and consumer spending.  The proximate cause of the scary headlines is a weak economy in general – and unemployment in particular.  Last year’s fiscal stimulus was misspent, unfortunately, and did not achieve the desired rise in employment.

See also: Where the Money Went

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