Joe, When You’re Smilin’ — Does the Whole World Smile With You?

I have never been fond of the practice of deciding the winner or loser of a political debate.  Even after last week’s Obama Meltdown, I didn’t declare Romney the winner.  The reason for this has to do with the complicated nature of the debate itself.  Viewers can never be entirely sure about the agenda and goals of the debaters, thus they can’t know if the debaters really achieved their goals.

There were some commentators last week who proposed that Barack Obama intentionally performed as he did in the first presidential debate in order to garner sympathy from voters.  I don’t put any stock in that theory–it’s just pro-Obama cover.  But the idea itself demonstrates the nature of the beast.

It’s apparent to me that VP Joe Biden had his marching orders, and that he was a faithful soldier in the effort to return Barack Obama to the White House for four more years.  As I predicted yesterday, he came out swinging.  And he kept on swinging even when it wasn’t his turn.  He sighed.  He exhaled in an audible way.  He murmurmed and complained.  He shook his head.  He played up the drama and interrupted without end.  He sneered.  He laughed.  He was overbearing and condescending.  And all the while there was that obnoxious smile, apparently borrowed from the Cheshire Cat of Wonderland.

Some are saying that Biden did the same thing to Ryan that Romney did to Obama.  No way.  There is a qualitative difference in the mannerisms of the two.  Romney was in control.  He was dignified.  Biden was just … can I say it?  He was just creepy.

I’ll give one thing to Smokin’ Joe Biden.  He has a stage presence and a sure-footed dance step that could baffle anyone.  At times he seemed to be getting the upper hand on Ryan, who doesn’t have the experience Biden has in front of national crowds.  But then the buffoon emerged; the clown returned.  As Biden performed his antics I had the same puzzled feeling I get anytime a van of clowns drives into a circus tent:  the real show is paused while the big cat prepares for the next segment.

All in all, Joe was making up for the failures of his boss from last week.  He didn’t do it very well.

For me, one of the most powerful moments of the evening came as Ryan reminded the audience of the hometown roots of each of them.  Ryan is from Janesville, Wisconsin.  Biden hails from Scranton, Pennsylvania.  “You know what the unemployment rate in Scranton is today?” Ryan asked.  “I sure do,” stated Biden, seeming oblivious to the importance of the question.  “It’s 10%.  You know what it was the day you guys came in?  8.5%.  That’s how it’s going all around America.”

The official jobs numbers from DC say things are getting better, but working America knows the truth.  The only way you can fudge the employment numbers to show improvement these days is by not counting those who have stopped looking for work.  Joe’s hometown is an example of what the Obama-Biden administration has done–and continues to do–to American prosperity.

The political pundits will be bombarding us with analysis all day.  I won’t recap all the great moments of the debate.  I will, however, remark about the final segments, those dealing with the question of character and and giving the candidates a closing remark.  I believe the comments at this point of the debate tell us who these men are at their very core.  They should also remind us how important our vote is next month.

When pushed to define his character, Paul Ryan spoke of honesty.  Joe Biden spoke of his record.  There was a time when Obama and Biden spoke of honesty, but they have failed to live it.  And there is little in the Obama-Biden record that has been of use to the nation.

In his closing remarks, Biden once again blamed the previous administration.  We inherited “God-awful circumstances,” he said.  Supposedly he and Obama want four more years to fix those problematic circumstances.  The problem is that no matter how bad things get, the road to recovery by now should be showing some signs of betterment if we’re doing the right things.  But we’re not.  We’re living on a credit card whose credit limit may eventually bring even more suffering than we’ve seen yet.  And that part doesn’t change just because the occupant of the White House changes.

In his final remarks, Ryan said that he and Mitt Romney “won’t duck responsibility or blame others.”  I, for one, want to give Romney and Ryan the opportunity to prove it.

Did Ryan take a thumping from Biden?  I suppose so, at least in the early segments of the debate.  It was the same kind of thumping a bully gives to the bright kid in class who doesn’t know yet how to handle himself on the playground.  But it became clear last night that the bright kid learns quickly.

Who won?  I like to think the winners were the American people, waking up from the nightmare of a failed presidency.

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The Ghoulish World of Government-Controlled Healthcare

A dear friend wondered aloud on his Facebook page recently why so many of us are upset by the Supreme Court’s 5-4 ruling on the constitutionality of most of the Affordable Care Act (Obamacare), including the individual mandate.  I don’t have the heart to respond.  I suppose our political worlds are just too far apart. 

Political disagreement doesn’t bother me in any philosophic or personal sense.  It is in the nature of our existence as humans that we’re going to disagree about what makes life good, and about morality in general, and about the forms of government to which we ascent.  I truly do understand that. 

On the other hand, we citizens of the United States have a form of federal government that is already in place.  We can argue and debate many things, but one thing seems clear to me and it seems so clear as to be beyond debate:  the only way the Founders were able to get sovereign states to sign on to the compact known as the US Constitution was by guaranteeing that their sovereignty and the rights of their particular people would be respected.  So, while I’m not upset that people disagree about government and its purposes, I’m terribly distraught and at this point quite frightened and somewhat disillusioned that so many fail to understand the context, purpose, and intent of the Constitution.  But even worse:  I’m startled and disturbed by the manner in which the Constitution is ignored or misrepresented by most of those in the federal halls of power–now including the Supreme Court.  They appear to think that the mere passage of time has invalidated the limits placed upon the federal government.

As is well known at this point, it was the vote of Chief Justice John Roberts that brought victory for the individual mandate since the court was otherwise split on the matter.  It now appears that in the Court’s deliberations, Roberts originally found the mandate to be unconstitutional.  He agreed on this matter with Alito, Kennedy, Thomas, and Scalia.  But when they insisted that the unconstitutional mandate required the striking of the entire law, Roberts switched sides and upheld it in order to preserve the law itself.  According to the online Insurance Journal, he did this because of “a traditional Supreme Court principle that if the justices can find any constitutional grounds on which to uphold a law, they should do so.”

On that slim argument the Chief Justice of the United States gave the upper hand to an overreaching Congress and President against the liberties of the nation’s citizens.

Finding a reason to preserve a challenged law that has come before it is, constitutionally speaking and without a shade of doubt, NOT the job of the Supreme Court.  The job of that court is to judge the constitutionality of the law before it.  Or, as the Supreme Court said in its decision, “whether the Constitution grants Congress the powers it now asserts.”  One wonders how it can genuinely fulfill this self-stated responsibility while simultaneously attempting to uphold the matter being judged.  Would this qualify as schizophrenic jurisprudence?

If you find my argument less than convincing, imagine how such a lack of objectivity would function in any other court in the land.  Imagine if a judge or jury, supposedly disinterested and unbiased in order to guarantee a fair trial, were to decide that their job is to find a way to put you in jail no matter what the facts are.  See my point?

Whatever happens next with regard to Obamacare, so-called progressives will not rest until the United States has a centralized single-payer system administered by the federal government.  That was the goal of the Affordable Care Act and it remains the purpose toward which its implementation is moving us.  Federal regulations on insurers, limitations on insurance contracts and provisions, and even changes to the military insurance program (TRICARE) are designed with this end in sight.

Here are a few things we can look forward to if Obamacare if not overturned and if we continue moving toward a single-payer system as we are doing now.  My predictions aren’t the product of gazing into a crystal ball, but come simply from studying the record of government involvement in other issues of our lives, and from looking at similar programs in other welfare nations.

First, the goal is that private insurance and private medical arrangments–even if paid for by one’s own personal funds–will be illegal, and will result in severe penalties.  Waiting times will increase dramatically and the wealthy among us will simply go to other countries for the medical procedures they need.  The United States will no longer be the country where the wealthy of other countries come for surgery unless they are able to take advantage of my second prediction.

What is my second prediction?  That’s easy:  our elected officials will have access to better and quicker healthcare than the constituents they supposedly represent.  You can count on that.  No matter what happens, they’ll see that they get the best for themselves and their loved ones.  That’s one of the perks to being among the political elite.

Third, the entire plan will cost far more than anyone has even begun to suggest.  The process to realizing this has already begun. 

Fourth, in an attempt to control costs, the federal government is going to insist on massive new intrusions into our personal lives.  By federal law, our health records are already being maintained electronically.  And progressives in some states and cities are already putting intrusive food-related measures into place.  We can expect all sorts of new regulations and limitations on any substances considered unhealthy:  alcohol, edible fats, salt, types of carbohydrates, sizes of food containers, and an eventual absolute ban on tobacco.

I can easily imagine that, under a nationalized healthcare system, we’ll be forced to undergo certain medical tests to ensure that we are complying with the law.  Simple blood tests will be the espionage system that gives the truth of our activities to the government (in other words, our bodies will be tattling on us to government representatives who will then take the necessary measures to punish us through taxation or worse).  I can already imagine the conversations between doctors and patients. 

Doctor:  “Mr. Smith, I thought you told me you quit smoking six months ago.  Your blood test says otherwise.”

Patient:  “Well, doc, I tried.  I stopped for a week or two but the habit was too strong.  I went back to smoking … but hey, I was able to cut back to only half a pack a day.”

Doctor:  “Nonetheless, you realize that the law requires me to report this fact to the national health agency.  Otherwise I’ll lose my medical license.”

Patient:  “No, wait … please, doc, I can’t afford another increase in my taxes … they’re getting outrageous.  Ever since my cholesterol went up and you told the feds about it my health-related government fees are eating me alive.  My family and I are looking to sell our house and get a smaller one just so we have more money to send the government for cover our lifestyle fees.”

(By the way, if the part about downsizing a home in order to have more money to give to government sounds ridiculous, then you need to take note of the rising number of retired elderly people who are selling their homes because they can’t afford the property taxes.)

For now the part about government “lifestyle fees” is just a horror story.  But before now who would have thought that the highest court in the land would say that it’s ok for the feds to force us to buy something under penalty of law?  Justice Roberts says it’s just a tax.  I feel better already.  After all, we have massive taxation on cigarettes.  Let’s tax the heck out of butter, whole milk, and cooking oils.  While we’re at it we can impose a targeted federal tax on all fried foods and all caffeinated beverages the same as we’re targeting a federal tax already on tanning salons.  All of this stuff is just not good for you. 

I guess there is no need to worry about this anytime soon.  When the economy collapses we’ll all be getting skinny one way or the other.  I note that the latest reports from Europe state that unemployment in EU nations is higher than it’s ever been before and the entire continent is racing toward recession.  There’s nothing to worry about, I’m sure–except that our federal government seems to be emulating EU economic, financial, and regulatory policies.  I’m sure economic collapse will never happen here.  After all, our Constitution and our Supreme Court will protect the liberties that would prevent such a thing in this country.

How many of us still believe that fairy tale?

Politicians Play While the Second Shoe Begins to Drop

Let me begin this blog post with a confession:  I’m not an economist.  I don’t play one on TV and I didn’t even stay in a Holiday Inn last night.  I do recognize, however, that the better grasp you have on human behavior the better understanding you’ll have for the economy–the real economy that is the lifeblood of our national success.  I also profess to be a student of economics.  I began learning from my father, a banker, as a small child and I spent some time in banking myself during a break from seminary training in the 1980s.

Something important I learned from my father is not only that people are social animals, we’re also a bit like cattle.  We move together unthinkingly at times, even though we’re headed as a group toward a difficult situation.  In my mind’s eye I can see a bunch of talking cattle moving together toward a cliff.  One or two begin to complain that there is danger ahead, but habit and intransigence hold the herd together.  The pressure of the majority, and the ridicule of others have the effect of convincing the prophets to hush and then the inevitable occurs.  The entire herd goes off the cliff.

It’s an effective metaphor for what I think is one of our greatest national problems:  an ineffective and out-of-touch elite class of “super citizens” that feeds on political inbreeding, is paralyzed against genuine change that would be good for our nation, produces little or no imaginative thinking other than regulating (telling us what we can’t do) and taxing (seizing what we have earned by our labors), being herded by its own lack of vision toward inevitable destruction and taking us all with them.  Its myopia and lack of creativity is supported by a childish cast of media personalities more interested in being stars and supporting “their guy or gal”  than doing the difficult work of honest investigative reporting.  Human history is littered with examples of failed nations:  Assyria, Babylonia, Persia, Greece, Rome, the Ottoman Empire.  Must we join them?  Even worse, as we go the way of the dinosaur, must we do it so gladly?

What began as classical liberalism was a great boon to humanity.  Inspired by the Enlightenment and humanity’s discovery of its own power and ability, it was intended to liberate us from the limited thinking that held us back as a species and mired us in poverty and tyranny.  Once established upon the foundation of equal opportunity and equal status before the law, liberalism today has become a sad caricature of what it once was.  Ridiculously it attempts to enforce equal outcomes, a fool’s quest if ever there was one.  It is bankrupting us, preventing creativity and effort, increasing government at the expense of the economic power of citizens, and encouraging irresponsible monetary policy.

Our politicians are having a great time in Washington.  As they play, the economic news gets worse and worse.  Remember Nero?  They say he fiddled as Rome burned.  There’s a whole lot of fiddling going on in Washington these days, and because most of the press is convinced that Democrats care more about the average American than Republicans, they give far too little attention to the dangerous cliff toward which we’re sadly progressing.  (By the way, more than one study has confirmed the left-leaning bias of the media, including a 1997 survey by the American Society of Newspaper Editors and a 2002 study by Dartmouth College.)  Warning bells are sounding and too few among the political and media class are making note of it.

A few days ago the president of the World Bank warned that Europe is heading into a financial “danger zone.”  British markets suffered their most disastrous drop in three years.  Job growth in the US was reported on Friday as stagnant, the official unemployment figure remains above 8% (it’s actually much higher), and more and more economists are talking about a new economic downturn of global proportions.  As I have been predicting for some time now, Round Two of economic deprivation is headed our way.  I now believe that this past week can accurately be described as the early phase of the “second shoe” of economic pain as it begins to drop.  The problem will worsen and we’ll hear cries from DC for more spending, and a third round of “quantitative easing” (so-called “QE3,” an expression that means the government will probably create more money and pump it into the economy).  These rounds of “easing” have the same effect as giving heroine to an addict.  The addict feels better for a while but the underlying problem remains and will eventually kill him unless he makes a major change in lifestyle.

Will the politicians in their playground agree to the major changes needed?  No, most of them won’t–at least not until the pain is unbearable.  (There are some voices calling for fiscal responsibility but they are few in DC.)  The economic darling of the Left, economist Paul Krugman has gone on record saying that a new round of economic failure will be caused by the fact that we didn’t spend enough when the original problem started!  He has become so influential with the present regime in Washington that I no longer refer to the dominant (failing) economic model as a Keynesian one (Keynes argued for government spending as a model for solving economic woes) but as Krugman-Keynesianism.  I hope it catches on.

Here’s why Krugman’s call for “more of the same” is so ridiculous.  First, it comes at a cost.  Yes, government spending can have a positive effect on the economy.  But it has a backside cost that is foisted upon the earners and producers who make that economy work.  When government spending is out of control its counter-effect is disastrous upon the economy.  Second, the Krugman-Keynesian model was predicted to fail by many economists who prefer models other than the big-spending model of Keynes (economists such as those from the Austrian School inspired by Ludwig von Mises).

So let’s make this choice as simple and obvious as possible.  We can avoid the cure and spend more even though it was predicted to fail and has now demonstrated its failure, or we can begin to get serious about debt and serious about encouraging people to start businesses, expand businesses, and hire personnel.  To do the latter of these two options we’ll have to demonstrate that well-paid government elites see the problem.  And let’s be honest.  That won’t happen as long as big-spending Democrats control the White House and the Senate.

I suspect we’re looking at a full sweep in DC come November.  If the Republicans have the White House and both chambers of Congress, they’ll have to begin some very unpopular measures quickly.  And even that may not be enough.  Once the economic shoe begins to drop, economic gravity does the rest.  And, unfortunately, there are plenty of big-spending politicians in the GOP.

Dick Durbin Does the Democrat Two-Step for Barack Obama

I happened to catch a bit of an interview this morning with Dick Durbin on CBS This Morning.  “Trickie Dickie” is the senior senator from Illinois, the bastion of political purity and honesty.  (OK, now I’ll take my tongue out of my cheek.)  Dick is also the Senate Majority Whip, responsible for keeping Democrats in line with the marching orders issued by Harry Reid and Barack Obama.

Let’s face it:  Democrats have long been better at the political game than Republicans.  I’ve been a Democrat and I know that from the inside.  As a master politician and an avoider of truth, Dick did such a good job of peddling dishonesty this morning that I quickly lost my appetite and I failed to eat breakfast.  Here are a couple of gems from his commentary.

He lashed out at Paul Ryan (R-WI) for his budget-cutting plan entitled A Roadmap for America’s Future.  In my estimation, it should be entitled A Different Roadmap for America’s Future because the Obama regime already has a map and it includes a sharp decline as the nation goes over a financial cliff.  That being said, there is much in the Ryan plan that is admirable.  But Durbin criticized it for its lack of balance.  You know the complaint:  Republicans don’t want to increase taxes. 

What Durbin failed to say is that the solution must be proportionate to the problem.  The nation does not have an income problem … what we have is a spending problem.  This is precisely why the Democrat-controlled Senate, under Harry Reid’s frightening and irresponsible leadership, refuses to pass a budget (it’s been more than 1,060 days).  Any realistic budget will have to make cuts, and cuts always anger somebody.  So the Senate dodges the problem in order to give the Democrats an edge in the next election (Obama included).

Honestly, when it comes to taxes, I understand that they’re necessary.  Any community of persons that spends as a corporate body must have a system for the financing of community interests.  What we have now, however, isn’t healthy.  Spending choices have more to do with keeping large blocks of voters happy so that politicians can be re-elected.  It’s dangerous.  It will be the end of the nation as we know it.  As we move rapidly toward socialism it will mean less wealth for most of us, but more for the powerful elites in office and more for their cronies in industry and in Hollywood.

Durbin really showed his dancing abilities when the CBS interviewer asked about gas prices.  In line with the Obama mantra, he talked about alternative fuels and efficiency.  That’s all fine and good, but it’s tough to pay almost $4.00 a gallon for gasoline while you’re driving on top of enough underground resources to provide fuel for the next 100 years.  Oh, Durbin also got a chance to get to mention the re-election line that is destined to go down in history:  Obama can fix all our problems if we just give him another term.

God help us if this becomes the case.  I suspect that the 2012 election is our last chance to slow the economic blood-letting.  Make no mistake, dear reader, the election of Mitt Romney (which I predict will take place) will not change our course dramatically.  But it will slow the economic death march on which we’ve embarked.  What I fear, however, is that it’s too late to avoid some of the most difficult consequences of our past mistakes.  If the economic chickens come home to re-roost after we put a Republican in the White House, the popular tide may change again and we may quickly return to Democrat control of Congress and the Presidency.

An honest plan of real cuts to spending is our only hope.  It’s not enough to talk about cuts to future growth in spending–we need cuts now.  Many Republicans are afraid to say it, and this includes my own congressman, Steven Palazzo (R-MS).  He calls himself a conservative and certainly appears on track to be re-elected now that he has taken the Republican primary victory.  Compared to Obama he is a conservative.  In the court of common sense and national salvation … not so much.

I suppose such realities are the reason that I voted for Ron Paul in the Mississippi presidential primary.  I still harbor concerns about his foreign policy.  He’s not a perfect candidate; none of them are perfect.  But I suspect that Paul’s sense of urgency is so overwhelming that he would make immediate changes upon assuming office.  Those changes would be much like a U-turn on the interstate.  One way or the other our Ship of State has to come about.  At some point the plug in the tub will pop and the ship will sink if we remain on our present course.

Friends warned me that a vote for Paul was a wasted vote.  Perhaps.  But it sends a signal.  Nearly 13,000 of us in Mississippi cast our vote for Ron Paul.  I think we’re trying to send a message:  “it’s time to change course.”  With every passing day I am more confident that my prediction of a Romney nomination will come to pass, but signs of disappointment abound.  Illinois Republicans turned out in very low numbers.  They are not excited about Romney.  Interestly, though, Ron Paul received twice as large a percentage of the vote in Illinois as he did in Mississippi.

Our nation is at a “hinge moment” in its history.  Let’s follow the course over the next few months and let’s remember to pray for our country.  Feel free to offer your own comments on this blog, even if you disagree.  I don’t have all the answers.  Please invite your friends to join us here as well.  I suspect we’re going to be surprised by some of the things that take place between now and November.  We need a place for reasoned debate on the significance of those events.

A New-Year Reminder: We Can Have Any Government We Want

The title of this post is certainly accurate, but it’s also a vast oversimplification once you begin to perform any genuine analysis at all.  The reason for this complication is that “we” is a really big word.  “We,” the citizens of the United States, entitled as we are to the right to vote for our elected representatives, are many different things rolled into one.  When it comes to political identity “we” are Republicans, Democrats, Conservatives, Liberals, Libertarians, Constitutionalists, and more.

That’s why we need smaller government. 

One of the truths that was so perfectly grasped by our nation’s Founders is the reality that humans are social animals who act in mobs–and this includes political mobs.  I mean no disrespect by the use of the word “mob.”  I’m simply trying to represent the fact that people tend to think and act in groups.  It’s a psychological factor that allows us to experience a sense of correctness or a sense that what we’re up to is the right thing or the necessary thing.  We’re comforted by being in groups that act and think as we do, and we’re often quite uncomfortable stepping outside the group to think or act independently.

Our Founders recognized that people have a tendency toward what we today call “group think,” which can be used to limit the rights of those who disagree with the majority.  That, my dear reader, is what is known as majoritarianism. 

To the minds of our Founders, the majority had no more right to impose its will on the rest of a society than a king or emperor. 

For this reason, members of the House of Representatives, though elected by popular vote, were limited to terms of only two years.  The Senate, on the other hand, was elected not by popular vote but by vote of state legislatures.  The Senate was to be a place where cool heads prevailed and where populist ideas were allowed to die.  The Founders knew that if government were used to give free reign to every possible necessity, it would have to be big enough to limit the freedom of its citizens.

Perhaps it’s true that we’re all fiscal conservatives when it comes to the things on which other people want to spend money.  But when it comes to our own preferences, it seems we want government intervention and we want it immediately.

This is destroying us.  Government is not–and cannot be–the cure for all of our ills.  But as long as we continue thinking it is so, we will dig ourselves into a financial hole that is deeper and deeper and deeper.  There will be a price to pay … there always is.  The Austrian economists have demonstrated it and they will soon be vindicated by historical events.

I fervently believe that our only hope is to elect officials who will not be sent into office to do something, but who will empower citizens to do for themselves.  And let’s pray in this new year that it’s not too late for that.

Bank of America Settlement Drips with Irony

The Obama Justice Department has announced a record settlement with Bank of America which will provide $335 Million in compensation to thousands of borrowers of African and Hispanic ethnicity.  According to accusations by the DOJ, these applicants suffered discriminatory loan practices by Countrywide Financial from 2004-2008.  Bank of America purchased Countrywide in 2008.

If the lender did engage in the alleged behavior, it should be fined.  But the irony of the situation is so thick as to demand commentary.  Why so?  Because the current crisis that is destroying our economic vitality was in great part caused by federal regulations requiring mortgages for persons unable to pay for them.  Is this a justified settlement, or another example of excessive zeal on the part of government?  We may never know for sure.

What we do know, however, is that the irresponsible behavior of the federal “watchdogs” has cost millions of Americans of every ethic background piles of money and years of security that can never be adequately accounted for.  While accepting their generous salaries and benefits, and while allowing the executives of Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac to receive millions in salary and bonuses, members of Congress like Barney Frank (D-MA) ignored the warning bells that could have brought about governmental reform before crashing our economy.  

All the while, members of Congress were getting sweetheart loan deals from Countrywide Financial.

Ever vigilant in the cause of equal justice (except when certain paramilitary radicals are standing in front of polling places with batons), Attorney General Eric Holder stated that financial institutions “should make judgments based on applicants’ creditworthiness, not on the color of their skin.”  Agreed, but that standard cuts both ways–in finance and in regard to the freedom to vote unimcumbered by threat.

Sleepless Economics

A man doesn’t reach the age of 51 without experiencing some sleepless nights.  Over the years I’ve had my share of them, of course, and for any number of reasons.  The reason that keeps me awake in recent months is one that I never before imagined.  This is because I never found myself fearing that our nation could face economic and societal collapse.  There was a time when I would have laughed at any such suggestion, but I’m no longer laughing.  This post is an explanation of why this is so.

I won’t pretend to have expertise in areas that I don’t understand.  But I do understand people, and I understand history.  I know that in my wallet right now I have a total of $32.00.  All that really means is that I have four pieces of paper known as “Federal Reserve Notes.”  One is marked “20,” another “10,” and two are marked “1.”  Each is clearly marked as “LEGAL TENDER FOR ALL DEBTS, PUBLIC AND PRIVATE” as demonstrated in the photo above.

Most citizens don’t reflect on what this means in practical terms.  There was a time when paper money could be redeemed for gold or silver.  This offered two points of satisfaction.  First, government was limited in its ability to print money.  It could print no more money than the total value of its holdings in precious elements.  Second, it offered a bit of confidence to those who used paper money.  Since it could be redeemed for something truly valuable, trust in printed paper remained solid.

Today the only solidity that backs the US dollar is the credit of our government.  That credit is increasingly declining.  There is talk of another credit-rating agency downgrading our national credit.  Yet our elected representatives on the federal level tell us we have to keep spending and going deeper into debt.

Paper money is only valuable as long as people are willing to recognize it as such.  In the days of gold and silver coinage, even if people lost faith in the government that minted the coins, there remained the inherent value of the precious metal used in the coins.  They could be traded as silver or as gold rather than as government-approved money.  We don’t have that luxury when it comes to pieces of paper in our wallets.

Besides the word of our government, what else is propping up our dollars these days?  Well, the faith of the people still gives it value.  That faith, however, is gradually slipping.  People who can afford it are buying gold.  Other precious metals are starting to rise in value for the same reason.  Even those who think the precious-metals bubble is bound to collapse have to admit that there’s a reason for the record-breaking increase in the value of gold.  Trust in the dollar is declining.

One other factor keeps the dollar strong.  It serves as the international currency for the oil trade.  It’s called the “petrodollar.”  As long as nations are buying and selling oil based on the dollar, the dollar is propped up as a necessary international monetary tool.  But what if those nations decide not to use the dollar because they no longer trust our credit?  Russia and China have already decided this very thing. 

What if this is a sign of things to come?  What if OPEC decides that the dollar can no longer be trusted?  Add to this possibility the political realities of the Muslim world and the growing need of Russia and China for oil, and one simply can’t dismiss the possibility that this could happen.

Even if our close allies in Canada continue to sell to us, and even if we convince our numbheaded politicians to increase drilling in the US, this would not prevent immediate economic difficulties for every portion of the country as transportation slowed (or halted) and grocery shelves became increasingly bare.  Without the ability to move goods and get personnel to and from work, our economy would come to a standstill.  Saddest of all is the fact that dead economies usually result in dead people.  That’s the basis for societal collapse.

Obviously, this is a personal expression of fear on my part.  But it’s not irrational fear because it’s based upon a very real possibility.  The leaders of our government, primarily as an effort to influence their voting constituencies, are spending money that we simply don’t have.  Oh, they are printing plenty of money–but when I say that “it’s money we don’t have,” it’s because that money is increasingly losing its value and its attraction.   That’s true here and abroad.  The evidence is clear about that.

It’s my sincere prayer that these fears of mine never come to pass.  Still, they keep me awake.  I can’t bring myself to write about the possible consequences to what I’ve already described if an economic collapse does come.  One thing that concerns me most is just how many solid, serious, mature people I know already expect that it’s too late to prevent what I’ve described, though we may debate the actual details about the trigger that will bring it about.

My first college degree years ago was in history, so I’ve always known that nations come and go.  Professors showed me that the US would no doubt one day face its own decline as the ebb and flow of history continued its advance.  What I didn’t consider was the possibility that I might actually be alive to see that decline.  I mourn the fact … and I worry that the decline has already begun.

This is not the stuff upon which to begin a good night’s sleep.  I might sleep a bit better if I believed these fears were keeping the President and the Members of Congress awake as well.  Based upon their continued irresponsible spending, I find that difficult to believe.