Cash for …

My friend and occasional correspondent, Ira Goldman, has a somewhat droll sense of humor. When President Obama and the Democratic congress created the “Cash for Clunkers” program as an “economic stimulus”, Ira sent me a series of e-mails containing a list of other, increasingly ridiculous, suggestions for “Cash for …” programs on which the government might be able to waste money.

Among his nominations was one — Cash for Hookers — that, for some (perverse?) reason sent me spiraling down a thought hole — to land with a thud at the bottom onto the following insight:

    Prostitution may be the perfect metaphor for our current insane political divisions:

      Conservatives are against it because they think sex is a sin

      Liberals are against it because they think commerce is a sin

    It’s the one thing on which everyone can agree!

Continue reading

It’s Bush’s Fault!

In the 2008 Presidential election, the Democratic party and its nominee, Barack Obama, made a conscious decision to run their campaigns as if their opponent — in every race, from President to dog-catcher — was the outgoing President, George W. Bush. They explained every problem, anywhere in America, no matter how trivial and no matter how disconnected from actual federal governance, with the simple admonition: “It’s Bush’s fault!”. It was both dishonest and tiresome but it was, alas, effective.

It was also, on occasion, rather amusing to observe the stretches of imagination that otherwise seemingly rational people would employ to make that nonsensical connection. It’s hard to argue against that kind of willful ignorance….

Continue reading

Beating a Dead Horse: Social Security Edition

So yes, if you want to be pedantic about it, Social Security is not in trouble at all. It is covered by the trust fund. The managers of the Social Security Administration can sleep well at night knowing they’ve served us well in securing the benefits they’ve promised.

But, unless we do something clever, and fairly soon, the federal government as a whole will be in trouble because of Social Security. To me that is a distinction without a difference.

Continue reading

Addicted to earmarks

On an individual basis, if we refuse the earmarks targeted at us but other people don’t refuse the ones targeted at them, then we end up paying for their earmarks without benefiting from our own. So, on an individual basis, we end up worse off by refusing earmarks unless we can count on everyone else doing likewise.

Hence, the system is perpetuated: if/when individuals stand up to it, they end up losers while everyone else takes advantage of them. Only a universal agreement from the top to change the system can work; insurrection from the bottom is suppressed by self-interest.

Continue reading

Bailing Out the Auto Industry

Am I the only one in America who has grave doubts about whether the combination of marketing vision, business acumen, strategic sense, operating experience, and hard-nosed decision making required to rejuvenate the American auto industry is really to be found in the Congress of the United States and the editorial board of The New York Times?


Are we about to force Detroit, through the strictures Congress puts on the bailout funds, out of a market (larger vehicles) in which they had clear dominance and into a market (for smaller fuel-efficient vehicle) in which they have historically had a hard time competing and for which competition is likely to be even fiercer in the future?

Continue reading

Lies and the Big Lie

Forget that McCain has spent the last 8 years bucking both President and Party to bring an alternate vision of conservatism to the fore. Forget that he worked across the aisle when he could. Forget that he stood up for what he thought was best for the country even when it meant undermining his own chances at the presidency. No, the Democratic strategy in this, and in every other race, has been to ignore the actual candidate in front of them, to replace that candidate with their cardboard cutout of George Bush and then to flail at it mercilessly.

I have great sympathy for John McCain. It’s one thing to be beaten on the basis of your proposals or your temperament or your philosophy of government, or by bad timing and unfortunate circumstance. But to be beaten by the lie that you are what you hate, by the lie that you stand for the things you’ve spent your time and your political capital resisting — that must be the ultimate bitter pill.

Continue reading

The Patriotism of Paying Taxes

Is it really more patriotic to turn my money over to the government or to use it to invest in a business that will employ people and produce wealth? Is it really more patriotic to turn my money over to the government or to distribute it into my community by buying goods at local businesses or paying people to perform services for me? Is it really so clear to you that the government spending my money will create a greater benefit than me spending it myself?

…an assertion that I have a “patriotic duty” to let the government choose how my money can be of most use, rather than letting me choose myself, is not obviously correct. If spending it personally, rather than letting the government spend it, produces a better effect, then it might very well be my patriotic duty to resist the government’s attempt to take it from me.

Continue reading

Some Numbers on Solar Power

I have a home construction project looming in my future, and I decided that would be a good opportunity to upgrade my environmental footprint (and reduce my energy bills) by adding a solar electrical generation system to the mix. So I did some research on what it would cost me and what I could expect to gain from it. My summary: we aren’t there yet.

How many years would it take, saving $41/year, to pay for the $1088 purchase price of the solar panel?

Answer: ~26 years

Continue reading

Celebrity Campaign Contributions

I am fairly certain that, if I owned a fleet of vans that I made a business of renting to the public and I donated them gratis to, say, the McCain campaign to drive their volunteers around, that would constitute an in-kind campaign contribution and would be subject to the limits imposed by various campaign finance laws and regulations. If Bill Gates decided to outfit some politician’s campaign offices with Microsoft Word without charging them for it, I am sure the same thing would apply. If a sign-maker contributed campaign signs, or the owner of a television station contributed air-time for campaign ads, I am sure those would both count as contributions as well.

So why can Springsteen or Streisand contribute what amounts to some tens- to hundreds-of-thousands of dollars worth of concert without tripping over those same regulations?

Continue reading