To Vote or Not To Vote!

With the very important elections coming up in a few days, I thought I would take the opportunity of this blog to express my thoughts on voting. I used to vote republican no matter what. I always believed in the argument that went something like, “sure there are better candidates, but if you vote for the guy you really like, then you are just helping the greater of two evils get elected because it’s going to be this guy or that guy no matter what so you may as well vote for the lesser evil between those two.” I no longer subscribe to this theory. What changed my mind was the realization that while republicans and democrats say very different things regarding taxes, the size of government, entitlements, etc…, there is very little difference in what they do once they get into office. My great awakening came at the end of the bush era when he bailed out the banks. That’s a very incomplete description of what actually happened but you get the gist. The truth is that when you vote for the lesser of two evils, you still get evil.

There is an old saying, when you tax something you get less of it and when you subsidize something you get more of it. When related to the topic of political parties you can usually be put into three categories, voting for the best person, voting against the other person, or voting for the best person who can win. When you vote for the best guy who can win, you are subsidizing a party ideology you don’t really believe in. By not voting for the person you really agree with, you are also essentially taxing the ideas of that person. If you really want to change what happens with regards to political policy, why would you reward bad ideas and punish good ones with your vote? Don’t give me the “my vote doesn’t really count” crap. It’s less about your vote and more about your thought process. Too many people vote not what they believe but who they think can win. The people in elected positions have quietly, slowly, sucked up almost all of your personal freedom because you voted for the lesser of two evils.

The last of the three voting styles is the worst. “Do whatever you have to so that this guy doesn’t get elected!”, “I’d vote for literally anyone over this guy!” In most cases, literally anyone, is who you get. If there are no candidates that speak to your beliefs, your pet issues, your ideology, the best way to convey your dissatisfaction to the politicians running is to stay home. Not voting is not ignoring your civic duty. Again, why would you subsidize a political ideology you know to be flawed? Many times not voting sends the loudest message of all. Voter apathy lets the party know that they need to adjust the platform or the candidates running in the elections. Sure, the guy that wins may be worse, (Obama), but that just means the country is not at rock bottom yet. For most people pain is the only way they learn.

Speaking to people who don’t follow politics, stay home. If you don’t know what a candidate believes, why would you vote for them? I don’t care that your family has voted for this party for generations. Better yet, educate yourself. There are any number of ways that you can find out who is running, their platform, their personalities, or whatever float their boat. It’s only the future of the country after all. If you do happen to learn something about a few candidates and you get into the voting booth and you see all these amendments with confusing language that you know nothing about, there is no law that says you must vote for every single race and issue on the ballot. It’s perfectly ok if you just vote for governor and leave the rest blank. They will still count your vote.

To the die-hard republicans and democrats out there who are continually disappointed with who their party puts forth as a candidate, look at the other parties. There are tons of them. The libertarian has something to offer both of you. There are several other parties as well. Being loyal to a political party is the worst thing you can do, not only for yourself but also the political party you love so much. How do they know they are drifting in a bad direction if you don’t tell them every once in a while?

In conclusion, if you don’t know something ask your friends. Hopefully you will get a wide variety of opinions in which to marinate in. Ask yourself questions about the proper size and scope of government. What should it do and not do? What freedoms are you willing to give up if it means keeping you safe? Who is the best judge of what your kids should be taught in school? What should the government be able to control about your life? If you have never asked yourself these types of questions, or simply don’t care, please do not vote. If you are curious at all about what any of this means, learn before you vote. If you are well aware of what you believe and why, vote for the best person.

PS- if you have any questions about politics feel free to ask me. I will do the best I can to answer for you. Just remember my answer is worth what you are paying for it.

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The Toilet Paper Theory

I thought I might use this week’s blog to put into words what I call the “Toilet Paper Theory”. I can’t say that I have ever really put this down in print before. This is just something I made up a few years ago to explain to liberals why any government program that obscures who is paying for what is bad. Originally I developed this theory for Obamacare, but it holds true for any situation where the person consuming the goods or service is not the one directly paying for those goods or services.

Let’s picture a scenario. It’s Sunday and you just went shopping for your weekly groceries. You spent your whole grocery budget and were able to get enough to last you and your family including two adults and 2 children for the week. You know that you will not be able to get more groceries until next Sunday. As part of the contents of those groceries was a 12 pack of toilet paper, which we will follow for the week.

Monday: There are 12 rolls of toilet paper. Life is good! You stride into the bathroom like the king or queen that you are, wiping with wild abandon. You have 12 rolls after all. You might even contemplate going to Taco Bell later.

Tuesday: There are 9 rolls left. Still feeling pretty good. You have no worries about the future of your toilet paper. The toilet paper is not being used with such wild abandon as yesterday, but still no particular caution is being taken. If a spill happens and the toilet paper is closer in reach than paper towels, you might use them.

Wednesday: There are 7 rolls left. At this point, while you don’t modify the use of your toilet paper in the bathroom, you will start to notice the supply is dwindling. You will actively look for paper towels for those spills. At this point the level of toilet paper is merely on your radar.

Thursday: There are 5 rolls left. One of your kids gets a 12 hour stomach bug. Food is running right through him. You are going through a lot of toilet paper. Now the number of rolls becomes an ever increasing worry in your mind. You might, at this point, mention to the family that they need to watch how much toilet paper they use while in the bathroom.

Friday: There are 3 rolls left. At this point you are getting anxious every time you see one of your kids go into the bathroom. “You better not be going crazy with the toilet paper!” you might yell. You see your spouse go into the bathroom and your stomach drops.

Saturday: There is 1.5 rolls left. At this point you are in survival mode. You ration out squares as your children and spouse walk into the bathroom. “Do you think I’m running a hotel here!” you say when your oldest child asks for a few more squares. They do their best eye roll and sneak some while you’re not looking.

Sunday: There is a half roll of toilet paper left as you go to the store and get your new 12 pack. The cycle starts again.

Now let’s run through this scenario again but with a small difference. You recently won a contest from your favorite local radio station and the prize was a month’s supply of toilet paper. All you have to do is call a number and a 12 pack of your favorite toilet paper will be overnighted to your home. That first week you spend the $8 that would have purchased toilet paper on other groceries. You decide to start the month with 48 rolls, your average monthly usage. You start giving rolls to your friends and neighbors and treat every day like it is Monday. You find after the first week you only have 24 rolls left and order 48 more, just to be on the safe side. As the end of the month approaches and you have doubled your weekly average, you decide to get another 48 rolls to keep you stocked up for a while after the contest promotion is over. In total the toilet paper company delivered 144 rolls of toilet paper.

The example used in this analogy was purposefully comical in nature, but illustrates a very basic concept. If you are not using your own money in the purchasing of things two things become true, you don’t care as much for the things you have and you tend to use more things. If you put yourself in the position of this family you will certainly have to admit you would have acted in a similar manner, I know I would have. It’s human nature. When you go to an all you can eat buffet you tend to eat more than if you had to pay for each plate.

When our governmental officials spend money, it is not their money. This fact insulates them from any repercussions in the event that what they spend money on is not good. They feel no personal attachment to the money they spend and neither do we. We hear these crazy numbers like trillion dollar debt and billion dollar budget for this program or that and don’t blink an eye. It’s “government” money after all. It’s “government debt not mine. When government programs like Obamacare, welfare, farmer welfare, corporate welfare, etc… are used to supplement incomes of people and businesses, those two things are still true.

On a small scale like in my example above, it’s not a huge deal. On the national level it is devastating. People buying stuff they don’t normally buy drives supply down and the price up for everyone. This is one of the main reasons healthcare is so expensive. You pay your copay which is usually a percentage of the bill and your insurance carrier pays the rest. If you knew that the over the counter pain medicine they gave you in the hospital was $100 a pill, you would have had someone go to the grocery store and pick up a whole bottle for $5. Healthcare costs, and everything else the government touches, is driven up because the person using it doesn’t pay for it directly. If you did, you wouldn’t be able to afford it and the price would have to come down or the doctor would go out of business. This whole process creates a vicious circle of subsidy. The higher the price goes, the more subsidy is needed by the government, causing ever higher prices, etc…

If you want to solve the problem of soaring prices in any area, simply remove the never ending wallet that hides the true price. Think of the money that your government spends as your money, because it is. Government does not generate its own money. The money it prints only goes to the government after it is taken from your wallet. Remember that.

You will believe my theory when you go to the grocery store and your child asks you for a 12 oz. bottle of designer water that costs more than the gallon of regular spring water sitting right beneath it.

 

EBOLA!

These are scary times to be alive. It seems as though the world is crashing down around us with pestilence, disease, disasters, and every other imaginable bit of nastiness you can think of. The big one in the news lately has been the Ebola virus. A horrific virus to be sure. The administration and the CDC seem to be conflicted about how it spreads, how it differs from the original Ebola Zaire virus that it came from and what to do about it. There have been calls for an “Ebola Czar”, democrats have already blamed republicans for its very existence, and even Jesse Jackson has thrown his hat into the fray (big surprise there). We have heard things like, “if they wouldn’t have cut the budget to the NIH and CDC maybe we wouldn’t be in this situation!” and, “we need to stop flights to everywhere!” But is that really the case? Is what they need more money? More soldiers? A better question to ask is what are they doing with the money we give them?

It might come as a surprise to John McCain and others that we don’t need an Ebola Czar, because we already have one. Didn’t know that? You’re not alone. In 2006 the Pandemic and All-Hazards Preparedness Act was passed for the specific reason that we be prepared for disasters like Ebola. In 2013 congress renewed it with the, Pandemic and All-Hazards Preparedness Reauthorization Act of 2013. A doctor was put in charge to oversee worldwide public disasters like Ebola. Her name is Dr. Nicole Lurie. Google her, you won’t find much. Maybe a few cronyism scandals. She has been MIA during the very pandemic she was hired to manage.

Let’s talk money. The NIH has a budget of about $30 Billion dollars a year. That’s billion with a “B”. The CDC gets a budget of about $11 Billion, also with a “B”. That’s not one year, that’s every year. That’s not enough? That is an unimaginable amount of money. What are they using this money for? Like most entities that spend other peoples’ money they don’t care as long as they spend it. If they don’t spend it they will get less the next year, (hypothetically). Look at some of the grants they give out, you will want to pull your hair out. I won’t go into it here because there is not enough space and typing the words would make me too angry and I would not be able to finish this blog. The NIH is a perfect example of why we should not entrust the government to lead during times of crisis. Where are the overseers of this institute? Why is our invisible Ebola Czar able to keep her job? Short answer, government. If your department doesn’t perform, don’t fix the department, just bury your department with another department and no one will see.

Let’s talk solutions. Several republican elected officials, and commentators have called for a travel ban to the affected countries. I’m sure there have been some democrats too, but they are not as quoted in the news. The problem with this solution is that there is no way to actually enforce it. If we ban travel to the countries with the outbreaks, people will just travel to countries that don’t have a travel ban imposed on them. That is actually how the first man with Ebola got to America. Most airlines stopped going the affected countries a couple months ago for the health of the crews. If you scale up and say we can’t fly to places that don’t have flight bans on these countries you will eventually get to the point where we can’t fly anywhere. When you look at who is actually helping you will find private charities and organizations, much like when Katrina hit New Orleans. These organizations need to have access to the counties wrought will Ebola in order to help stop the virus from spreading. Private companies, unlike governmental organizations, work fast, make decisions based on their bottom line. These decisions usually are helpful toward the overall solution. This is where the solution will come from, despite the government, not because of it. Trying to enforce a travel ban will just waste millions of dollars and hurt the people who are actually helping from actually helping.

Let’s talk threats. Exactly how big a threat is Ebola to the average American? It would be almost impossible for a virus like Ebola to make a major impact on any first world nation with a decent healthcare system. This is true for a few reasons, Ebola is not spread easily, you need direct contact with bodily fluids to soft tissues. You need unsanitary conditions like filthy hospitals with poorly trained doctors, places with  no access to clean water and electricity and poor living conditions. Ebola does not spread exponentially, meaning one gives it to 4, 4 becomes 8, 8 becomes 16, etc… It’s more linear. 1 gives it to 1, he gives it to another, 1,2,3,4, etc… American hospitals can deal with this type of infection rate as well as anywhere in the world. That’s not to say no one will get Ebola. Mistakes have and will be made. It’s just not a virus that explodes into the population. There a ton of illnesses that will kill thousands more Americans this year.

This is not a political issue. This is a human issue. When you see the left blame the republicans for not spending enough money, realize they are wrong. When you see the republicans blame the democrats for not wanting to police the airlines more, realize they are wrong. That’s not to say we can’t call them out when they do something wrong, I’m saying when things like this get politicized to score political points it should raise a red flag in your mind, no matter who’s doing it. We need to get away from the notion that the government should lead us during a crisis. It is the government after all, that says never let a good crisis go to waste. The government should be playing a supporting role for those who are actually helping. They should know what’s going on and be able to give clear information to the people. They should be able to coordinate with the many charitable associations that are on the front line fighting the virus in Africa so that it stays in Africa. It’s not how much they spend, it’s how they spend it. So far, they are doing a poor job, which is why people are starting to panic.

-Edited 10/17/2014

Gay Marriage: The Good, the Bad and the Ugly

The Supreme Court ruled today that state bans on gay marriage were unconstitutional. My first reaction upon reading the news was a series of conflicting thoughts like, “that’s great! It’s nice to see that the 14th amendment is being upheld and all people are being treated equally”, and, “so much for state’s rights! I guess we aren’t free to choose our own laws after all”, and, “that’s great for gay people, but wouldn’t it be better for everyone if the federal government didn’t recognize anyone’s marriage instead of recognizing everyone’s marriage?”

I’m a live and let live kind of guy. If what you are doing does not have an effect on my life, I don’t feel the need to regulate what you do. I will be happy to offer my opinion, or give some sage advice, but that’s as far as I want to go. Gay marriage has no effect on my life. Most people seem to be against gay people getting married, both republicans and democrats. I think this is more about the word “marriage” than anything else. It’s a religious word, and I can’t think of a single religion that is friendly towards homosexuality. Getting married to a same sex partner, then, means to be recognized by the creator and thereby condoned. I guess that’s why when you frame the question in a different way, like “Do you support civil unions for gay people?” many more religious people would say yes.

The 14th amendment, in part, says “All persons born or naturalized in the United States, and subject to the jurisdiction thereof, are citizens of the United States and of the state wherein they reside. No state shall make or enforce any law which shall abridge the privileges or immunities of citizens of the United States; nor shall any state deprive any person of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law; nor deny to any person within its jurisdiction the equal protection of the laws.” This makes it pretty clear that a state can’t make laws taking rights away from some citizens that it grants to others. It might serve well to remind everyone in the purpose of the constitution itself, to protect the people by limiting the power of the government. Using the government to limit the freedom of the people do things like marry one another, or anything else that doesn’t harm 3rd parties, goes against the spirit of the constitution. The thing about freedom is that it’s hard. Everyone loves to tout freedom when they are doing things that they like, but when other people are doing things they don’t like it gets harder.

At least 30 states, including some liberal ones like California, and conservative ones have voted down by popular vote the legalization of gay marriage. Most of the time, even in liberal states, it was a lopsided vote against gay marriage. If the constitution does not speak of marriage specifically, does this not fall to the 10th amendment, which says, “The powers not delegated to the United States by the Constitution, nor prohibited by it to the states, are reserved to the states respectively, or to the people.“? This amendment, which liberals can never seem to acknowledge and republicans never seem to forget, has become a catch-all for almost every action taken by the states. There is a good reason for this as most of the time the federal government works way too slow to be useful. In this case the will of the people were thwarted directly and the power of the federal state prevailed. Sure, I agree with the Supreme Court this time, but it’s still overturning the will of the people, not just a few crazies, millions of people who have voted on the subject. That’s not a good precedent. I would say to gay people and Christian conservatives alike, be careful what you wish for.

If I may speak directly to the gay people who are celebrating this Supreme Court decision, what exactly are you celebrating? You saw the state defining straight marriage so you said please state define marriage for me too! Don’t get me wrong, I completely support full rights for gay couples. I don’t think there should be any rights straight married couples have that gay couples should not have, period. Gay people are for the most part liberal. Confronted with alternative, very understandably so. The first instinct of any liberal movement is to use the government to get what you want. For the life of me I can’t figure out why any self-respecting gay person would be happy being, for political purposes, relegated to a simple letter in the LBGTAQ. Strength in numbers right? Is an average gay man’s experience no different than that of a transgendered person, or an asexual? How insulting is that? Can I offer a different solution? How about instead of having the government define your marriage, get the government out of your marriage, and straight marriage. Your benefits would be your benefits to do with what you please. If the federal government treated everyone as an individual and gave you ownership over those benefits. Marriage would stay a religious ceremony, nothing more. You would not need to get married for protection anymore. It could be done by contract. It wouldn’t even have to be couples. Any two people of legal age could be tied contractually, brother and sister, best friends, without regard to who has sex with whom. Let religion keep their traditions and you make your own.

If I may speak to the conservatives wringing their hands with worry over this decision. I thought you were for limited government? How exactly is trying to amend the constitution with an amendment or laws that limits the rights of people to choose who they spend their life with, limited government? How can you support any law that limits people when they aren’t hurting anyone? How about practicing what you preach? Just because you don’t like dude’s kissing dude’s doesn’t mean they are hurting you or killing the concept of marriage. Apply your limited government ideals and get the government out of marriage. You get to keep your religious traditions and gay people get to start their own. It’s a good starting point. Maybe, once you see that the world didn’t end, you will start applying the limited government concept to other areas of life. To be honest, this kind of thing is exactly why I no longer consider myself a conservative, or a republican. You can sleep easy in the knowledge that you will never be as bad as a liberal, but you are not far off at this point. I have faith that one day the party will come back to its ideals. The next time you consider a law, or amendment ask yourself if it limits the people’s freedom to choose or the government’s ability to control. Always vote to limit the government’s ability to control.

I will close by saying again, freedom is hard. You only know you are free when you protect choices that you disagree with. Speech that you disagree with. Pursuits that you disagree with. Remember that not everyone agrees with you, and when you start outlawing behaviors that you disagree with, eventually your behavior will be outlawed.


The Freedom Contagion

It seem the yearning for freedom is starting to spread around the world. A central planner might liken the dreaded desire for self-dominion to Ebola. From Scotland to Hong Kong, people want to determine for themselves the kind of world they want to live in. I predict that many more people in many more places will pick up the banner of freedom as the world changes the way it looks at large central governments. How will this “umbrella movement” change China? Can China really live with a “one country, two system” rule? If this were happening in a western country, the answers would seem obvious.

Let’s say, for the sake of argument, that China allows Hong Kong the freedom to define its particular brand of democracy. Given the standard of living disparity between the average Hong Konger and Chinese mainlander under the current system, China would have bend to the obvious advantages of a more free market system. They would have to adopt some of the best practices of Hong Kong for the mainland. Eventually, they would have to reconcile the system itself with their own people regarding why the people in Hong Kong seem to be so much better off. This would, of course, be a win win for China. Highly unlikely though.

On the other hand, if China does what China does and imposes a mainland style, authoritarian government on Hong Kong it will get ugly very fast. Umbrellas will soon be replaced with rocks, bats and guns. The problem is that so many people in Hong Kong grew up with a level of personal freedom unknown to the people of the mainland. Where the average Chinese person grew up under strict control, expects to be controlled and doesn’t know anything else, it is quite the opposite in Hong Kong. I believe it will be the people that will make the difference. In this scenario China loses twice. The people will revolt and the businesses, banks and markets that make Hong Kong great will leave. Even with the highly controlled media, word will spread to the Chinese people. You can’t completely stop the power of the internet and the peoples’ desire for freedom. Freedom is contagious.

To westerners this seems like a very easy choice for the Chinese government, but we have to remember they have a completely different mindset. They put order and tradition above all else. Bending to the will of the people, or worse, market forces, is almost unfathomable. They would be forced to admit that the system they love is not perfect. To give up any power to the people being ruled is the beginning of the end and they know it. Communist authoritarianism is not synonymous with bending anything. When given the choice of taking cues from western style democracy, or not taking them, I have no doubt that not only will they not, it will come with large human casualty.

Eventually, China will be forced to adjust to the changing modern climate for freedom, just not this time.