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October 2013

US Government Debt

How Cliches Can Scratch Your Back

Reading Time: 2 minutes

When I was three, a cat jumped off the roof of a screened deck onto my back as I was walking up the stairs to the deck. The cat shredded my shirt and turned my back to hamburger.

I’ll get back to that.

You know this cliché:  “What goes up must come down.”

It’s true. Even satellites and space stations crash back to earth. And the long distance probes like Voyager will eventually crash into some planet or start.

What goes up comes down. And it breaks apart on re-entry.

Here’s another cliché: “The bigger they are, the harder they fall.”

Also true. Most clichés are true. In fact, “cliché” means “undeniable truth.”

I just made that up. I have no idea.

But if a cliché were totally wrong, it would stop being a cliché. So clichés have some truth in them. Especially about things that go up come down.

With that law of reality in mind, look a this chart from the Federal Reserve:

US Government Debt

 

I was born in 1963. October 5, to be exact. John F. Kennedy was President and would remain so for another 48 days. US government debt was, more or less, zero.

The debt line rose a bit through 60s, a bit more through 70s, especially during the Carter years. It grew a lot in the 1980s and 1990s, though it took a bit of dive in the late 1990s. Probably because I got out of the Navy in December 1994.  I’ll take credit for that.

Then, after 9/11, debt skyrocketed. Until 2008.

In 2008, US government debt rose almost vertically. It went straight up. Straight up.

From 1955 to 2001, time moved faster than the debt moved up. Since 2001, debt moved up fast than time moved forward.

Since 2008, debt’s rocket so fast time seemed to stand still.

So did the US GDP.

When people like Ted Cruz talk for 20 hours, they’re not just talking about Obamacare. And they’re not advancing their careers.

They’re explaining clichés.

What goes up must come down.

The bigger they are, the harder they fall.

Those clichés are true. I learned how true the were in 1967 when that white cat jumped off Spook and Bev Rustige’s covered deck onto my back. The cat fell about 20 feet. I still remember Bev rubbing alcohol on my back with a cotton ball. It burned like hell. My shirt was ruined. I was crying. Screaming.

Those clichés apply to people, countries, and economies. And white cats.

That vertical line won’t go horizontal. It’ll come back down.  At some point, it will fall swiftly back to meet the red line.

Not to be hyperbolic, but when that happens, people will die in big numbers. People will die of disease and starvation. They’ll die of violence because government will collapse.

When the blue line meets the red line, Harvard professors won’t survive–people with guns and food will.

 

That’s what Ted Cruz and Mike Lee were talking about. They didn’t use scary scenarios like people dying by the millions or white cats clawing the shit out of a 3-year-old’s back, but that’s what they were talking about.

No, we didn’t win the shutdown. But no one noticed the shutdown. It didn’t really affect anyone.

When the blue line crashes, everyone will shudder. And many will die.

And that’s why the Tea Party exists.

Read Quote of Jim Durbin’s answer to Tea Party (politics): What is it like to be a Tea Party Republican? on Quora

 

How is Obama’s Julia Like Pristomyrmex Punctatus?

Reading Time: 3 minutes

Before I answer that, a little science.

Scientists study all kinds of things. One thing they study is ants, because ants teach a lot about communities.

In a recent study published in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, ecologists Shigeto Dobata and Kazuki Tsuji studied the effects of “cheaters” in a colony of Pristomyrmex Punctatus ants.

P. Punctati segment their society into two groups by age. Younger ants tend to hang around the house reproducing asexually. (And why wouldn’t they?) As they age, the ants reproduce less and take on other duties like foraging for food and repairing the home. In other words, they mature and become more responsible for themselves and for their communities.

Both behaviors are cooperative. Both help the colony at the expense of some personal sacrifice, though I can’t figure out what the kids give up by sit around reproducing day and night.

So what happens when scientists introduce a “cheater” ant or two?

Cheaters are like cooperators in all ways but one: cheaters don’t stop reproducing to go out and forage. In short, they don’t grow up.

But they do consume. And defecate. Right there in the house. And because their reproduction is asexual, the damn kids are just as horny and lazy as the parent.  Since cheaters reproduce more than cooperators do, pretty soon most of the colony is cheater ants. They eat, they sleep, they poop, and they  . . . reproduce.

Of course, this can go on only so long. As less food comes in and less waste goes out, the colony becomes filthy, poor, and overcrowded. The cooperators move out or die, leaving the cheaters to decay among their own filth.

Which brings us to the Julias of the world.

Julia was (semi) fictitious character sprung onto a waiting world by the Obama-Biden campaign. Julia is a cheater. From age of three, Julia sponges off the colony. From head start through social security, Julia eats the food others foraged and occupies the home others built and maintain.

Despite free birth control and copious, publicly supported family planning instruction, Julia, of course, reproduces. The Julia in Obama’s video never marries–or even dates–a man, so I assume she reproduces asexually, like her P. Punctatus ancestors. Which would explain the failure of birth control. Julia’s offspring, of course, imitate their parent. (Here’s a video about Julia from The Five.)

Think this cheater behavior is unique to ants? Think again.

Researchers have recently evaluated these questions in systems involving viruses and cells (where cells may secrete protective substances, or self-destruct to form a spore-dispersing stalk) but not in multicellular organisms before. Yet the results are so similar, write Dobata and Tsuji, that they believe universal principles are at play.

What is one of those “universal principles?” Cheaters eventually eat out the substance of their cooperative cousins and destroy their society.

This phenomenon seems to be near a tipping point among us humans in the US of A. The punctatus is among us.

Consider:

More than half of Americans depend on government subsidies

and

Nearly Half of All Americans Don’t Pay Income Taxes

And

Disability is the New Normal

And

Up to 4 out of 5 disability recipients are frauds

If only Mitt Romney had seen the ant study before his infamous “forty-seven percent” statement during the 2012 campaign. He could have substituted “homo punctati”  for “forty-seven percent,” and no one would be the wiser. A few ambitious reporters (if there are any) might have googled “homo punctati” and found nothing, since I just made it up by combining the word for man (homo) with the description of a type of ant (punctatus). But you get the point.

People are, of course,different from viruses and ants. We have intellects and imaginations that allow us to project the effects of cheaters on our human colonies. And we have the ability and the right to ostracize cheaters–to tear them off the teat, so to speak.

The question is, will we?

William F. Buckley clipped from http://granitegrok.com/blog/2013/07/notable-quote-william-f-buckley

What Would Buckley Do?

Reading Time: 5 minutes

I wanted to be William F. Buckley Jr. All I lacked was his intellect, education, and unique experiences.

Well, I didn’t want to be him. I wanted to be the next one.

Every day, I wrote a 750-word piece. Poorly. I believed that practice would improve my writing.

It didn’t.

One day, I realized, as long as I tried to be the next William F. Buckley, I was destined for frustration and failure. The same would have applied had I chosen to be the next Wayne Gretzky or the next George Carlin.

In the pantheon of great political writers, a William F. Buckley comes along precisely one time. The “next one” will be as different from Buckley as Gretzky was from Howe or Daniel Tosh is from Carlin.

And I won’t be the next one. No one will.

I didn’t know at the time, but trying to be something inhibits progress toward that goal. The writer who wants to be the next anyone mires himself in the bog of his present ineptness.

Success comes from practice, but from an instructive practice. It comes from a desire to improve. Improvement comes from a desire to learn. To learn, one must take risks and make mistakes. And he must be humble enough to recognize his mistakes. Or to accept as instructive the criticism of others. (See, I can still channel Buckley for a sentence or two.)

All of that humility stuff goes against my nature.

I tend toward opportunities to prove my skills, not to improve them. I seek the judgment of people who, I know, will skip the flaws and praise the (scant) successes. Like mom and dad. I gravitate toward activities I do objectively well. And I tend to satisfy myself with mere competence; reaching excellence takes too much work.

With Buckley’s birthday approaching (November 24) and the events of the day, I was pleased to see so many Buckley references in my Twitter timeline today. No human being so influenced America’s right thinking. No human being so elegantly bridged the chasm between high-brow intellectualism and bare-knuckle political brawling. And no person earned more of my admiration. After all, I wanted to be him.

Of all his accomplishments, Buckley’s role in founding Young Americans for Freedom might be his greatest achievement. With the present mess in Washington and Obamacare’s sword dangling precariously above our national head, we’d all do well to review the Sharon Statement, the organization’s founding manifesto, released from Buckley’s home in Sharon, Connecticut, on September 11, 1960:

IN THIS TIME of moral and political crisis, it is the responsibility of the youth of America to affirm certain eternal truths.

WE, as young conservatives, believe:

THAT foremost among the transcendent values is the individual’s use of his God-given free will, whence derives his right to be free from the restrictions of arbitrary force;

THAT liberty is indivisible, and that political freedom cannot long exist without economic freedom;

THAT the purpose of government is to protect those freedoms through the preservation of internal order, the provision of national defense, and the administration of justice;

THAT when government ventures beyond these rightful functions, it accumulates power, which tends to diminish order and liberty;

THAT the Constitution of the United States is the best arrangement yet devised for empowering government to fulfill its proper role, while restraining it from the concentration and abuse of power;

THAT the genius of the Constitution – the division of powers – is summed up in the clause that reserves primacy to the several states, or to the people in those spheres not specifically delegated to the Federal government;

THAT the market economy, allocating resources by the free play of supply and demand, is the single economic system compatible with the requirements of personal freedom and constitutional government, and that it is at the same time the most productive supplier of human needs;

THAT when government interferes with the work of the market economy, it tends to reduce the moral and physical strength of the nation, that when it takes from one to bestow on another, it diminishes the incentive of the first, the integrity of the second, and the moral autonomy of both;

THAT we will be free only so long as the national sovereignty of the United States is secure; that history shows periods of freedom are rare, and can exist only when free citizens concertedly defend their rights against all enemies…

THAT the forces of international Communism are, at present, the greatest single threat to these liberties;

THAT the United States should stress victory over, rather than coexistence with this menace; and

THAT American foreign policy must be judged by this criterion: does it serve the just interests of the United States?

I feel a great temptation to expound on each paragraph, but I’ll home in on one.

THAT when government interferes with the work of the market economy, it tends to reduce the moral and physical strength of the nation, that when it takes from one to bestow on another, it diminishes the incentive of the first, the integrity of the second, and the moral autonomy of both.

And there lies the “eternal truth” that Obamacare hopes to frustrate and corrupt.

Obamacare is, in its conception, incubation, and emergence, an abomination. An affront to freedom, to the individual, and to the moral philosophy of natural rights. America cannot exist without deference to natural rights, making Obamacare an existential threat to our nation.

By that measure, those who support Obamacare are, unarguably, anti-American. Their hearts might be in the right place, but their bodies are on the wrong continent.

So, John Boehner said a lot when he said on ABC’s This Week:

“I and my members decided the threat of Obamacare and what was happening was so important that it was time for us to take a stand. And we took a stand.”

The stand Boehner and his colleagues took was to stand athwart the dismantling of the American Experiment, yelling, “STOP!”

With Obamacare, Barack Obama seeks to undermine and destroy the moral autonomy of every American. That’s a big ambition, on par with Khrushchev’s promise that the Soviet monster “will bury you.” Obama’s dream of a Soviet America fulfill’s Tocqueville’s warning:

the supreme power then extends its arm over the whole community. It covers the surface of society with a network of small complicated rules, minute and uniform, through which the most original minds and the most energetic characters cannot penetrate, to rise above the crowd. The will of man is not shattered, but softened, bent, and guided; men are seldom forced by it to act, but they are constantly restrained from acting. Such a power does not destroy, but it prevents existence; it does not tyrannize, but it compresses, enervates, extinguishes, and stupefies a people, till each nation is reduced to nothing better than a flock of timid and industrious animals, of which the government is the shepherd.

Put aside your petty grievences against Speaker Boehner and his leadership team. This is a war for America’s existence against the most formidable foe we’ve ever faced. Obama is more ruthless than Hitler, more crafty than Tojo, more brutal than Stalin, and more arrogant than King George.

This menace, this threat, to America is not a foreign enemy risen in a distant land from which the Americans escaped; Obama is a monster raised among us. Obama threatens to fulfill Khrushchev’s other famous boast:

We cannot expect Americans to jump from capitalism to Communism, but we can assist their elected leaders in giving Americans small doses of socialism until they suddenly awake to find they have Communism.

In this present battle, we have no enemies who fight that monster hunkered down at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue. And in this battle, for now, John Boehner is our Patton.

At the risk of putting words in his mouth, Buckley would agree.

Know When To Fight Your Own

Reading Time: 1 minutes

I can be pretty hard on Republicans. Not hard enough for some. Too hard for others.

But I, at least, try to time my battles for ideological consistency. As a general rule, odd-numbered years are for cleaning up the GOP. Even-numbered years are for cleaning out Democrats.

This is an odd-numbered year. Right up to the votes on the continuing resolution, my primary targets were Republicans, especially Roy Blunt.

Once the House exercised its Constitutional power of the purse strings, sending a popular continuing resolution to the Senate, the battle lines shifted. Obama declared war on reason and Republicans.

Once that happened, we had a choice. We could help Obama by attacking the House Republicans’ right flank.

Or we can fight Obama by riding to the aid of our closest ideological allies in Congress.

Maybe I’m wrong, but I’m riding with the Boehner, Ann Wagner, Jason Smith, Billy Long, and the other resilient House Republicans. After we put down the tyrannical King Barack, there’ll be plenty of time to squabble with Boehner.

Grand Safari image http://www.grandsafariusa.com/save-the-rhinoceros-hunt-them/

How to Avoid Collateral Damage When Hunting for RINOs

Reading Time: 2 minutes

Lowell Weicker was a RINO. So was Lincoln Chaffe for a while. And John Linsday, the mayor who tried to destroy New York City in the late 1960s and early 1970s.

RINO stands for “Republican In Name Only.” Rhinos and Elephants are both pachyderms, so it’s a pretty clever name for people who join the Republican Party but prefer the Democrat platform.

The problem is, some people take the concept to extremes. They make themselves look foolish and reactionary. They label someone a RINO over any disagreement on any issue.

Saturday, the House of Representatives voted unanimously to pay federal workers retroactively for time lost due to Obama’s partial government shutdown.

That prompted at least one St. Louis man to declare every Republican in the House a RINO.

 

 

According to this gentleman’s standards, if you see your name here, you’re a RINO:

Seriously? All these people are well above the Heritage Action Scorecard Republican average. And the Heritage Action Scorecard is the best index of Congressional conservatism in the world.

If every member of the US House is either a Democrat or a RINO, then our cause is lost. There’s no point in continuing.

Republicans in the House, and a handful of brave Senators, fight every day for the things we believe in: limited government, fiscal responsibility, and the rule of law.

Maybe you believe Ann Wagner’s heart isn’t in this fight. So what?  On the CR, she’s voting right. And I have no qualms with challenging Ann Wagner.  Support her before someone else does. If you called or tweeted or visited her office asking her defund Obamacare, thank her for doing as you asked. Please. We want her to know that we’ll defend her when she sticks her neck out.

And if you really think Steve King and Steve Stockman are RINOs, you better find another party. Or bigger hat, because your dunce cap is showing.

But if you disagree with one insignificant vote, disagree with that one insignificant vote. Don’t go calling for heads to roll.

To avoid collateral damage during your RINO hunt, check the Heritage Action Scorecard. If your target is above the Republican average, you might be shooting someone’s pet.

 

John Boehner

Here’s the Most Encouraging Thing John Boehner Ever Said

Reading Time: 2 minutes

Today on ABC’s This Week, Speaker of the House John Boehner spoke very powerful words about himself. They reveal his motivation. And it’s very encouraging.

“I’m a reasonable guy. But I didn’t come to Washington to be a congressman. I came to do something for my country.”

Write that down. That statement echos.

Research shows that people motivated by doing, by getting better, by learning, will work harder and stay truer to their principles than people motivated by demonstrating how good they are–being something.

When you are focused on getting better, rather than on being good, you benefit in two very important ways. First, when things get tough— when you are faced with complexity, time pressure, obstacles, or unexpected challenges— you don’t get so discouraged. You’re more likely to believe you can still do well if you just keep trying. Second, when you do start to have doubts about how well you are doing, you are more likely to stay motivated anyway. Because even if you think succeeding will be difficult for you, you can still learn. Improvement is still possible. You can still get better. So when a task is difficult, and persistence is the key to higher achievement, get-better mastery goals have the clear advantage.

From Succeed: How We Can Reach Our Goals by Dr. Heidi Grant Halvorson
I was surprised that Boehner stuck to his guns last week. I expected him to fold.

If I’d know that his motivation is “to do something for my country” instead of “be a congressman,” I wouldn’t have been surprised by his remarkable steadfastness.

As we head into another election year, pay attention to candidates’ motivation for running.

Ask “why are you running?”

If they say, “I want to be” something, walk away.

If they say, “I want to do” something, keep talking.