The Truth About Truth

Time Saving Truth From Falsehood and Envy, by Francois Lemoyne (1737)

Time Saving Truth From Falsehood and Envy, by Francois Lemoyne (1737); in retrospect, perhaps it’s a bit of political irony that the day after completing this piece, the artist tragically committed suicide

Last night, while channel surfing, I happened upon a documentary about the flooding of Venice, Italy. According to one city official interviewed on the program, about 100 times a year the tide rises higher than normal and floods the city. The waters of Venice are beautiful when they stay in their canals, but troublesome when they visit themselves upon homes, businesses, and historic cathedrals. Never mind that the Venetians have had problems with their lagoon for centuries or that their city rests atop wood pilings. The producers of this video claimed to know the cause and they proclaimed it passionately. Venice is undoubtedly flooding, they said, because of anthropogenic (human-caused) global warming. It’s worse than that, however. In their own words, “the world is sinking.”

I sympathize with the good people of Venice. But they’ll find an answer to their water problems as they always have. Their history is loaded with past examples of flooding (and taxation to pay for its remedy). In great part this is because its underwater foundation slips a bit lower every year. Even those who believe in human-caused global warming have to admit that “the greatest threat to the city” for most of its history has been “earth subsidence.” In other words, its wooden foundation is slipping deeper and deeper into the mud below.

As a popular science-fiction program once reminded us with the start of every episode, “the truth is out there.” Yes, it certainly is. But to get to it there are a few things you need to understand about the truth. In other words, there is some truth about truth that you need to know–truly!

First, let’s realize that we humans are “wired” to find explanations for things. That, along with our advanced brains, has given us a biological advantage over the other species on the planet. They may be bigger and stronger, but we’re smarter. We’re driven to find answers.

Before you become too proud of your genetic superiority, remember a second important point. We humans are also, in a sense, sociological herd animals. We move in psychological “packs.” Rather than doing the hard work of thinking for ourselves, we often accept what others believe. This can happen for any number of reasons (affection, political preference, religious belief, admiration, physical attraction, etc.). I confess to having a strong distaste for this tendency. As a child, when I did stupid things, my father wisely challenged me. His challenges stuck with me. When I see a parade of others following a “Pied Piper” of any sort, I shy away to watch … and to learn.

A third truth about truth that we must recognize is that money changes everything. Even truth–or what is presented as truth. There are plenty of people who would sell their souls for money. There are even more who would manipulate data for money or accept funding with “strings” attached. When billions and billions in government funding is involved, there simply is no way to know how deeply the influence and corruption have drilled themselves into a search for truth. Big money can come from big government or big corporations. Sometimes both.

Finally, let’s remind ourselves that there is no such thing as pure objectivity. Perhaps Leonard Nemoy’s Mister Spock came close, but even he was half human. We humans are motivated by all sorts of things, and not all of them are bad. Please don’t interpret my words to suggest that I’m a pessimist or misanthrope (a people hater). I’m not. But I am a realist. Call it sin, or imperfection, or simply human reality–but let’s face it. We humans aren’t perfect. Sometimes we respond to our base instinct for self-preservation. Sometimes we’re selfish or greedy. Other times we act with real generosity. Quite often we are a mix of “good” and “bad” at the same time. (As an aside, it strikes me as odd that when government starts doling out money to those “in need,” our human failings are no longer suitable for discussion.)

Lack of objectivity isn’t a bad thing. It’s a very human thing. The problem isn’t that objectivity is lacking. The problem is that we’re not honest about its absence. Wouldn’t it be nice if people claimed their biases so that when they speak of their greatest beliefs and philosophical commitments we can understand where they’re coming from?

Imagine a Fox News broadcast beginning like this:  “Good evening. We here at Fox believe that Barack Obama is the devil. Now on with the news.” Or imagine that CNN begins its nightly programs in this way: “In the interest of honesty, the broadcasters of CNN wish to remind you that we believe that conservatives, Republicans, and Tea-Party people are selfish bastards who want to screw Mexican immigrants and the poor. Here are this evening’s highlights.”

I always find such honesty to be quite refreshing, actually. It’s one of the reasons I named this blog “The Liberty Professor.” If you’re looking for absolute objectivity, you won’t find it here. The truth is that you won’t find it anywhere. But I’m honest about that. Get it?

With all of these caveats in mind, here are a few of the so-called “truths” that I have rejected. I speak only for myself, but I do so after reasoned reflection and research. Each of the issues described is what Patricia King and Karen Kitchener refer to as an “ill-defined problem.” If you’re a teacher or have a philosophical bent, you might enjoy their book entitled Developing Reflective Judgment. In it they argue that an ill-defined problem has more than one possible outcome (as opposed to a well-defined problem with an easy solution).

Let there be fanfare and the blast of trumpet … here are some “truths” that I robustly reject!

1. The Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (“Obamacare”) was intended by its creators to lower healthcare costs and “fix” what’s wrong with America’s healthcare system. Nope. Not even close. It was designed to move us toward a single-payer healthcare system in which the federal government is financier and supervisor. Promises were made about how much it would cost and how much freedom would be granted to those who already have health insurance. Guesses, estimates, and even lies were offered to us for our mental consumption. The most recent estimate I heard is that it will cost three times as much as promised in the first ten years. In addition, its thousands and thousands of pages of regulations are going to cause premiums to go up for nearly everybody, especially young men. Remember the promise of Barack Obama about your own health insurance? “If you like it, you can keep it,” he insisted. Maybe. If you can afford it. Most of us won’t be able to. We–along with our employers–will be forced to drop private coverage to move into the single-payer (federal) system. The entire law was designed with this in mind. As they say, “out with the old and in with the new.” Don’t forget the words of Barack Obama to the Illinois AFL-CIO in June of 2003: “I happen to be a proponent of the single-payer, universal healthcare program.”

2. Federal gun-control initiatives are being designed to reduce crime and protect our children from violent criminals. Even I have to say that this sounds nice. It’s a feel-good proposal if ever there was one. But that’s not the primary factor for the unconstitutional gun grab taking place before our very eyes. (It has hit some temporary road blocks, but as with Obamacare, its proponents won’t stop until they get what they want.) The real goal is to have a nation in which guns are in the hands only of government officials and to outlaw them for everyone else. When that happens the government will have little to fear from dissenters, and only outlaws will be armed. Everyone with a weapon, whether it’s used in a crime or not, will be subject to arrest and punishment. In addition to maneuvers in Washington, international pressure is being put upon Mr. Obama to sign the UN Arms Trade Treaty. That treaty, like all treaties, will require Senate approval. We can look for one heck of a mud slide when that battle comes. Obama is widely expected to sign the treaty since it moves us one more step toward his goal, and since it provides cover for the confiscation of many types of civilian-owned weapons as well as a UN-supervised, international gun registry. That’s right. According to the president of Iowa Gun Owners, if allowed to keep my .38-caliber pistol I’ll have my name on a UN list as well as a US list.

3. IRS officials did nothing wrong when they targeted conservative groups,Tea-Party organizations, and groups favoring Israel for special scrutiny. Oh, really? That must be why IRS division director Lois Lerner invoked her Fifth-Amendment right against self-incrimination when called to answer questions before Congress. That’s a constitutional perversion of the highest order. Here’s why: She is a government employee called before the people to answer for her actions. The Fifth Amendment of the Constitution was enacted to protect the people from the government, not the other way around. She and her minions at the IRS have the power to pry, to search, to seize, to confiscate, and to order the arrest and imprisonment of citizens. They carry guns. When we, the people, call her to an accounting she suddenly wants to invoke her constitutional rights. She needs to be held in contempt of Congress and the investigation into the matter must continue. Without a doubt, the trail will end in the Oval Office. White House visitors’ logs already demonstrate this.

4. Global warming is a rising disaster caused by human industrial and economic activity. Look, I reject this proposition. But I don’t reject the idea that we should be responsible stewards of our environment. Another of Dad’s witty and wise sayings recognizable to many fellow Southerners is that one should never put fecal material on the handle of the water pump! But the global-warming hype isn’t being controlled by reasonable people who care for the environment. It’s being directed from the upper echelon of government for the sake of raking in more tax money, penalties, and fees to fund bigger government. The “science” behind human-generated global warming is tainted with government money. As some very bright but mistaken academics have argued, the scientific consensus is that human-caused global warming threatens the planet (not just Venice). They insist we need severe limits on economic activity, travel, and energy production; we need more taxes and government-controlled carbon credits. My own research brings me to the conviction that global warming is entirely natural and that the recent warming trend is tapering off. We are probably entering a new period of global cooling. It wouldn’t be the first time, as historians recognize from recent history. Perhaps our children and grandchildren will be subjected to overblown predictions of a new Ice Age!

5. The solution to our economic problems and social injustices is to be found in more government activism. So said Benito Mussolini, Joseph Stalin, Mao Tse-tung and a veritable host of central planners. But when central planning fails it fails big. Guns are needed to keep people in line. Perhaps you’re seeing a pattern? American constitutionalists do not reject all centralized government activity. The Constitution makes provision for the activities of the federal government. But once it’s engaged, the power at the top tends to be centripetal. In other words, it exerts a pull toward itself. Power exercised at the top tends to increase and multiply toward the top, or toward the center of power. The founders of the United States recognized this fact. They had overwhelming historical precedent for it. That’s precisely why power was invested primarily in citizens organized by states, not in the federal government. It’s also why they chose a federated system and not a national government (there is a difference). Only a small number of powers were granted to the federal government. Was it a perfect system? No. It didn’t recognize the rights of slaves, for instance. But its inspiration (that everyone is “created equal” in rights, not abilities) would eventually blossom to repair this immorality as well as other defects.

6. Fatty foods are making us fat and high blood cholesterol is putting us at risk for heart attack. So says an official US government blog and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (the CDC). There is even a new government push to monitor the cholesterol of children and to put them on statin drugs if necessary. Research is moving us rapidly away from this thesis. Fat isn’t making us fat. Carbohydrates and sugar are making us fat. They increase inflammation and cause heart disease. Among the scientists and medical doctors now arguing for a new approach to the matter can be counted Dr. Jonny Bowden and Dr. Stephen Sinatra. Check out their excellent and well-researched book, The Great Cholesterol Myth. According to them, the “four horsemen” of the cardiac apocalypse are inflammation, oxidation, sugar, and stress. Dangerous statin drugs, they insist, should be used only by those who already have heart disease. They show strong evidence that statins are useful only because of their anti-inflammatory properties and that lowering cholesterol isn’t the proper approach for stopping heart disease. In their opinion statins should never be given to children. To get the updated research full disseminated, the tie between big pharmaceutical companies and big government must be broken. And doctors who treat patients should never be paid advocates for particular companies or brands. The ties between these entities amount to a contemporary medical mercantilism or corporatocracy–similar to the military-industrial complex that guides so much of our foreign policy.

7. If you love someone you’ll never hurt their feelings. Well, you might not hurt their feelings intentionally–but that’s a whole different matter. Love isn’t a feeling. As Jesuit theologian William O’Malley has pointed out, love is a conscious and active commitment to the well-being of someone. I bring up this point because too many people these days, when arguing politics, seem to be guided less by intellectual consideration and more by emotion. They decide what’s right based upon how their proposals make them feel. The Christian virtue of love is shared by many religions. One doesn’t have to foist one’s Christianity on others to love them, but love nonetheless is a terrific guide for making political decisions. Too often our political debate is framed as if it’s a choice between the people who care for others (the “liberals”) and those who don’t (the “conservatives”). That’s just downright stupid. There are people on both sides of that divide who genuinely care to increase the well-being of others. My complaint is that we can’t decide what’s best based upon how it makes us feel. We need to think and think hard.

So there they are. Seven “truths” that I reject because I don’t think they are true at all. There are others, such as immigration reform (the real reason for which is to secure votes). Each of these is an ill-defined problem with adherents who passionately argue that I’m wrong. So be it. As Martin Luther is reputed to have said, “Here I stand. I can do no other.” But my stance isn’t based upon any attempt to be hard-headed or belligerent. It’s based upon my appropriation of the best information I can find. Don’t take my word on any of it. Do your own research. If I found the information, you can find it as well. I make my own choices and live with the consequences. You must do likewise. Gosh, we don’t hear that too often, do we?

In the final analysis, remember one thing, please. Only in a free society can divergence exist when it comes to values, beliefs, and ideologies. Wherever you stand on the issues, I beg you to be consistent and to be honest with yourself. Don’t give a pass to politicians or government bureaucrats just because they share your preferred political agenda–especially not if they have the privilege of carrying government-issued sidearms.

Avoid schadenfreude. That German word describes the human tendency to take pleasure in the suffering of someone else. If it pleased you to see certain groups targeted by the IRS, remember that it may one day be a group you admire. It could even be you. Political winds blow where they will.

Tyranny hurts us all. Even when it’s applied to our political adversaries.

Why Republicans Are Losing to Obama

imagesApproximately twenty-five hundred years ago a Chinese general named Sun Tzu is said to have written a treatise known as The Art of War. Of all the strategic advice it offers perhaps none is more important than this: for success, you must know your enemy and know yourself. It applies to politics as well as war.

When it comes to dealing with Barack Obama, it appears that the GOP leadership doesn’t get it. They fail to understand who it is they are dealing with or the ideology that inspires their political opponent. Republicans complain that since Congress is deadlocked between a Democrat Senate and Republican House, the president should lead us away from the so-called “fiscal cliff.”

Senator Roy Blount (R-MO) recognizes that President Obama admires Abraham Lincoln. He used that recognition to make a point.  Referencing the new Spielberg movie, Lincoln, Blount said that “the lesson of that movie is that to get hard things done the president has to decide he wants something done.”  He seems to think the president wants a preventive measure to be found that will avoid the expiration of the tax cuts that have been in place since the administration of George W. Bush. Speaker of the House John Boehner seems to be negotiating with the same premise.

Republicans are focused only on the short term, hoping to stop an increase in taxes during a period of economic decline.  Obama is focused on his ultimate goal, the redistribution of wealth away from the producers and investors whose success he believes to be the product of a great immorality. His rhetoric about protecting the middle class is nothing more than a political ploy to achieve his goal of remaking America into a welfare state where taxes are higher on all producers and earners, but especially high on anyone he refers to as “the wealthy.”

Obama’s goal–and the legacy by which he wishes to be remembered–is not a stronger, more prosperous economy. It’s an economy of redistribution. The long-term cost is of little concern to him. Like Lincoln, whom he admires, Obama will do whatever he must to achieve his goal.

Lincoln’s goal was the forced preservation of the American union. Using an invading army in states that had declared themselves separated from his authority, he presided over scorched-earth tactics, declared martial law and imprisoned Americans without legal authority, closed hundreds of dissenting newspapers, ignored constitutional limits on government, and oversaw the arrest and deportation of a member of Congress because he had sympathies for the states in rebellion. Sadly, in this case, might really does make right. Lincoln successfully remade America into nation where membership could be compelled by force of arms and states were no longer sovereign.

Slavery could have been ended without warfare, as it was elsewhere. There were already southern leaders preparing for the end of this immoral institution. Political conflicts could have been settled without the violation of states’ rights. Constitutional limits on federal power could have been preserved. But Lincoln wanted a stronger, more powerful federal government. He could not allow threats to this goal to stand. As Prof. Thomas DiLorenzo has pointed out, “the Lincoln regime destroyed the system of federalism, or states’ rights, that was established by the founding fathers.”

For Obama, the economy is a zero-sum game. It’s a pie with only so many pieces–a pie that belongs ultimately to federal authority. It can therefore be seized and divided any way the government sees fit. He fails to understand even the most basic of economic principles. Why should he? He has never operated a business, paid employees, taken a risk to expand services or hire new workers. He has always been a leader among those who criticize the investors, planters, growers, makers, and builders–unless those growers are building a bigger government.

What he will not, cannot see, is that economies can grow and expand. Governmental power can be used to fashion an environment where that can happen or it can be used in a way that impedes it. The pie of economic vitality can actually grow and assist everyone in securing increased prosperity. That idea, however, is anathema to Obama. He sees economic growth as an injustice perpetrated upon workers rather than a form of economic cooperation bringing rewards to all.

Republicans, stop negotiating as if Obama wants to avoid economic disaster. He doesn’t. You do. Take a hint from the ancient writings of Sun Tzu. Know Obama and know yourselves.

Every Bill Eventually Comes Due

I’m occasionally accused of being too gloomy when it comes to America’s future.  That certainly isn’t my intention.  There is some melodrama to my personality, but those who know me well recognize that I’m an optimist at heart.  It was my optimism that blinded me to the strength of the Obama campaign and its victory over Mitt Romney.

Perhaps you’ve been out to a nice dinner lately.  Is it a doomsday prophecy to know that at the end of the meal a bill will be presented?  If you spend on your credit card, is it pessimism or gloom to realize that you must have a plan for paying that charge when the statement comes in the mail?  Of course not.  These are simple economic realities.

I spent years in Catholic seminaries.  From 1983-1986 I studied in Rome, Italy, and resided at the preparatory residence established there by the American bishops of the Catholic Church. It is known as the North American College.  At the time there was a terrible economic situation in Ethiopia.  Because of historic colonial ties, many Ethiopians were immigrating to Italy in search of a better way of life.  Some of my seminary brothers were engaged in ministries to assist them.

A few of those brothers who were particularly justice-minded proposed that some empty rooms in our residence be turned over to a few of the refugees.  They developed a plan for the accommodation of our proposed guests, including their dining and personal-care needs, how they would travel to and from work, and how they would interact with the seminary community.

Then the seminary rector called a mandatory meeting of the entire student body.  I’ll never forget his speech to us.  As we sat there with wide eyes and laudable goals, he began by thanking the community for its commitment to justice.  He recognized the planning committee for its work and he expressed support for their goals of helping the immigrants in need.

Then he asked a simple but demanding question, one that we must also ask.  For affect, he used the native language of the Italian people.  Firmly, but with a gentle tone, he looked at us from his rector’s podium and he asked:  Chi paga?

Whether you put it in Italian or English, it’s just two words:  Chi paga?  Who pays?

The wise among the student body got it.  In our zeal to reach out to those in need, we idealistic seminarians were putting all the burden on the institution.  We expected it to provide free rooms to the needy, and free board as well.  We were talking about spending money belonging to someone else rather than taking on responsibility ourselves.

Another example comes to mind from my childhood.  My brother had friends who liked to work on motors:  cars, lawnmowers, or whatever.  He was always lending my father’s tools to his friends.  That wasn’t a problem except for one thing.  He usually never secured the return of the items that had been lent!  On many a day off, Dad went to the tool box to find that a needed item for a household chore was missing.  “Where is my crescent wrench?” he would ask.  My brother would sheepishly admit that he had lent it to a friend some time back and that it had never been returned.

How easy it is to be careless with the things that we don’t pay for.  How quick we are to demand that the money and efforts of others be spent as we see fit, or worse, that they be spent on us.

This is exactly where we Americans find ourselves at this moment in our national history. Slightly more than half the voters on Tuesday chose to ignore the fiscal insanity of our federal leadership–including more than $16 Trillion of growing debt and the failure to even pass a budget.  Our credit rating has suffered and been cut repeatedly (even as recently as September), yet the debt continues to sore and most of the media give President Obama a pass on the matter.  It is widely expected that in Obama’s second term the debt will reach at least $20 Trillion, and White House data appears to support that expectation.

Half the country has set the course for the other half.  It won’t be a pleasant journey.

Two things seem self-evident.

1.  The trillions of tax dollars spent by Obama and his fellow Democrats were an investment in his re-election.  Millions of Americans voted on Tuesday to keep the benefits coming.  Though I find their thinking to be short-sighted and economically dangerous, I understand why they did it.  49% of us pay no federal income tax.  47% of us live in a household where someone is receiving a government benefit.  The presidential election should have been about long-term economic recovery and the salvaging of American prestige on the international scene.  Instead, it was a vote to keep the presents coming from the Democrats.  The major problem with this particular holiday story is that instead of elves who make toys, Obama Claus pays for his gifts on the backs of the people and businesses that could rescue our economy if given a chance.  They won’t get that chance for four more years.  I see no reason that Obama won’t continue to retard economic expansion with his political extortion.  He will do this by securing the cooperation of the Democrats of the Senate and by making the Republican-controlled House of Representatives look selfish.

2.  Despite the talk of pending disaster when we go over a “fiscal cliff” on January 1st (if the “Bush tax cuts” expire), the fact is that we went over the cliff three days ago.  Ron Paul agrees.  Remember the old saying:  it’s not the fall that kills you–it’s the sudden stop.  We have been racing toward the cliff’s edge for years.  It began under George W. Bush and it has accelerated to frightening proportions in Obama’s first term.  Voting to continue  that dangerous momentum this week, a slim majority of Americans tipped the balance as we sat on the precipice.  We went over the edge and we’re now engaged in a rapid descent.  When we hit rock bottom you won’t have to ask if this is the time or not.  You’ll know.

One way or the other, the bill must always be paid.  Just because government is large, convoluted, and serpentine doesn’t mean that it’s exempt from the laws of economics.  Money today is nothing more than an idea propped upon a hope.  It is created daily by the Federal Reserve and the banks of the nation.  It has more to do with electronic data than with anything of concrete value.

America is broke.  Like people who are broke, that doesn’t mean we can’t get our hands on money.  We can always fool someone into giving us credit.  At this point Americans are just fooling themselves.  Even the wisest spendthrift eventually gets caught.  His credit is cut off and his debt must be addressed.

We don’t have to slam the poor.  We don’t have to abandon a strong military.  We simply have to get serious about fiscal responsibility.  In Washington, they don’t want to do that because it will anger somebody and cost them votes.  This move has been in the political play book a long time.  A slim majority of us fell for it again on Tuesday.

When the bill comes due and the credit card is cut in half, Americans will be forced into fiscal maturity.  It will hurt a great deal more at that time then it would have hurt now.

Even the strongest of pack animals cannot bear all the weight of the world.  Our economy cannot sustain the increased strain being placed upon it by redistribution schemes and taxes.  The pony’s back will eventually break.  It’s no wonder that so many have suggested such a goal from the beginning of the Obama administration.  This idea has a name.  It’s called the Cloward-Piven Strategy and it was first proposed in the 1960s by two ultra-liberal academics.  The idea is to overwhelm the welfare system until it collapses.  Afterward, a system of guaranteed income will be set in its place.  In other words, the socialism that failed in the USSR and Eastern Europe.

While addressing his campaign staff on Wednesday, Obama wept.  They may be tears of joy as well as disbelief.  Who could have imagined that any single president could do so much damage and still be re-elected to a second term?

Obama’s dream of the “fundamental transformation of America” is only half finished.  Even he is probably shocked that he gets four more years to bring it to completion.

A Shanty Town Called “Obamaville”

Symbol of hard times: Nickelsville, a tent city located in Seattle WA

Symbol of hard times: Nickelsville, a tent city located in Seattle WA

“Shanty” is a word that has fallen into disuse these days.  You seldom hear it in the US.  According to Etymonline (a delightful etymological dictionary), it’s derived from the Canadian French word chantier, referring to a rough wooden cabin used by lumberjacks.  During the economic upheaval of the Great Depression, the shanty came to represent the plight of the average American who had lost home, work, and all but the most basic of sustenance.  Using whatever they could find, homeless families built their shanties while waiting for the economic turnaround that would make it possible to enjoy a comfortable lifestyle.

During the depression years of the 1930s, shanty towns peppered the American landscape.  They were often known as Hoovervilles, a derisive way of referring to the man who sat in the Oval Office at the start of the depression:  Herbert Hoover.  Even the powerless in our society have their way of getting a small bit of revenge.  In this case, who can blame them?

What you may not know is that makeshift homeless communities are back.  Only this time they’re not composed of wood and metal shanties, but inexpensive camping materials.  Tent cities have emerged across the nation, inhabited by homeless families and even their pets as they endure the same economic waiting game faced by earlier Americans seventy-five years ago.  For two stories about this sad reality (one from the east coast and the other from the west), click HERE and HERE.  These stories stand as bookends of shame, marking just how low our financial and economic strength has deteriorated.

As a child, I read of the plight of depression-era Americans.  I heard the stories my father told of those difficult times.  A nickel or a fresh egg was something to be cherished.  To this day, Dad doesn’t feel he’s had a meal unless it includes at least a little bit of meat.  That sense of loss goes all the way back to his experience of the Great Depression.  It marked him forever, and I suspect in part that it turned him into the successful and compassionate businessman that he became.  Hearing those stories as a child, I never dreamed I would live in an America where it’s happening again on a large scale.

Is it any wonder so many of our nation’s citizens are turning to government for help?  Franklin Roosevelt promised help rather than pushing free-market reforms that could have ended the depression.  Barack Obama does likewise.

Our choice is not between the average American worker or the rich tycoon.  That’s a false choice that has been proposed to us by the politicians who get rich on the arguments that divide us.  Our true choice, the one we must make and that we must use to help us choose elected leaders, is between more government interference in the market or a genuinely free market where people decide for themselves how to use their economic power.

Government is a bed where two lovers sleep.  Their names are Power and Money.  They can always be found together.  This has always been true and it will always remain the truth.  Power needs Money to get into office and to remain in office.  Money needs Power in order to gain an unfair advantage.  There are only two ways to prevent their relationship from damaging the economy as a whole.  First, we must elect truthful representatives of the greatest integrity who tell us what we need to hear, not what we long to hear.  Second, we the people must take back the power that has been amassed at the top by self-serving politicians who feather their nests while throwing crumbs to the rest of us.  The federal government must be cut in size, scope, power, and spending.

Power belongs to the people only when it’s diffused.  And there is no greater way to exercise your personal power than to make your own choices about where you’ll live, where you will work, and how you’ll spend your earnings.  There will always be those among us who will sacrifice leisure time to work harder.  There will always be those who prefer to relax more, drink more wine, spend more days at the beach.  I say that with no moral judgment because I recognize both to be good options.  But the choice belongs to those who make it.  The choice for others is not mine to make, nor does it belong to the government.

In this world there are no perfect economic systems; the closest thing we have is the free market.  A truly free market is nothing more than personal liberty exercised in an economic way.  (Do yourself a great favor and read Liberalism by Ludwig von Mises.  It will change you forever.)  What made America the economic power house that it used to be?  Invention, new ideas, creativity, ingenuity. Where do we find these unleashed in such a way as to build strong nations?  Only in the free world.  Countries with centralized, socialized planning are weaker for it.

Our jealousy that someone else might have a bit more than we have has turned us into slaves who are willing to give our government masters more control.  They wield that control gladly, evidently convinced of their moral superiority, and they are well paid for it with salaries, perks, pensions, healthcare services, and speaker’s fees.  Occasionally, a liberty-minded candidate invites us to emerge from that slavery, to walk in the golden sunshine of economic and personal freedom, but the bright beams of liberty frighten us back into our shanties.  “No,” we cry, “it is better to take the certain crumbs of our government overlords than to face the uncertainties of our own decision making.”

We no longer have Hooverville shanty towns in America.  Today we have Obamaville tent cities.  A review of the economic times might demonstrate the accuracy of my point.  Barack Obama, a believer in centralized planning and former member of the socialist New Party, was elected in November 2008.  Where have his leadership and his policies brought us in four years?

Well, let’s start with the prices you’re paying at your grocery store.  In 2011 alone they increased dramatically.  According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, coffee went up 31% in price.  If you paid $3.00 for your pack of coffee, it went up to $3.62.  Here are some other increases for 2011:  peanut butter 22% increase, margarine 18%, flour 16%, potatoes 14%, orange juice 12% and bread and pasta 10%.

When it comes to the average price of a gallon of gasonline, the increase is more than 100%.  That affects not only your ability to get to work, but the cost of public transportation for those who use it, and the cost of every single item that is moved by gas-powered vehicles or farmed with gas-powered vehicles.  In response, President Obama has doubled down on the very policies that are causing gasoline prices to increase.  He is waging a war on the producers of our energy and that energy is costing more at every step of the production and delivery of the items we need every day.

At the Democrat National Convention this summer, Obama said that America is not in decline.  Oh, if only that were true.  To be fair, the decline began before he took office.  But the big-government, massive-bailout, vote-buying policies that started this mess have only increased under Obama.  We’re standing in an economic sinkhole.  Our government goes deeper while telling us that we’ll somehow see light of day if we just keep digging.  A disastrous third round of “quantitative easing” recently began (QE3).  An already deflated dollar will sink further.  Nations will increasingly avoid the dollar, even as they are already doing.

Are we really that stupid?  Or are we just blind and fearful?  The blinders must come off.  And when Mitt Romney takes the oath of office we must keep them off.

America isn’t a shanty town after all.  It’s a tent city.  Either way, it’s the middle class and the poor who are moving into those tents among the ruins of their former lives.  The buck stops there, Mr. President.

Welcome to Obamaville, everyone.

The Next President of the United States

Confession, they say, is good for the soul.  The Liberty Professor has been quiet for about six weeks or so, and only partly because of the busy schedule brought on by the start of a new academic year.  Honestly, much of my silence is due to the fact that I’ve just not had much to say.  Things are shaping up exactly as I have predicted for months.

This blog began almost a year ago, and I’ve tried to preserve it as a place for reasoned commentary and even respectable debate between myself and the good folks who often post comments here.  There are plenty of bloggers who post because they need to say something, or seemingly because others expect them to comment.  This blog is intended as a reflective place–even when those reflections come energetically, and with passion.  So I promise not to fill it up with “stuff” just because it seems I should be saying something.

From the outset of the blog I predicted Mitt Romney would be the Republican nominee for 2012.  I was right.  In February I predicted that he will be our next president.  I stand by that expectation.  Even a cursory review of my blog posts over the last ten months will demonstrate that I have my reservations about Romney.  He’s a middle-of-the-road Republican, a moderate who will compromise often with liberals.  I fully expect him to continue some of the dangerous economic and fiscal policies that have brought our economy to its knees.

But at least he’s not a socialist.  He believes in American exceptionalism, as I do, and he is inspired by mostly free-market values.  Let’s face it:  in politics, one seldom gets one’s preferred choice.  There are all sorts of compromises that must be made, on some principles (not core principles!) and on many practicalities.  Mitt is the better of two less-than-perfect choices … and no matter how imperfect he is, he ranks a thousand miles above the current occupant of the White House.  Without any sense of hyperbole at all, I can enthusiastically proclaim that if Barack Obama were reelected in November, only God could save the United States of America.  And even God would need help.  Lots of it.

What makes me so certain is that I believe a rising tide of consciousness is growing across the country.  Citizens are taking note that Obama’s international apology tours and his bowing to foreign leaders hasn’t done a single thing to better our standing among our enemies.  That’s what makes enemies.  They won’t see what’s good in us no matter what we do.  Barack Obama’s foreign policy has been naive at its best, dangerous and foolish at its worst. 

He has missed the majority of his daily security briefings, neglecting the one duty that matters most in a president:  national security.  His ineptitude and lack of attention to real-world issues allowed his administration to overlook the fact that an attack was planned on our ambassador in Libya.  In spite of the fact that an attack was expected and spoken of publicly, his policies and those of his underlings resulted not only in the sodomization and death of our ambassador but members of his staff as well–all on the one day when such attacks should most have been expected!  This, dear reader, is why he has continued to emphasize the offensive video about Islam that supposedly brought about this disaster.  The film was nothing but an excuse and a covenient cover for those intent on doing us harm.  It’s also an excuse used by the Obama administration to cover its blood-stained tracks.

The economy is in ruins.  No matter how much Obama blames the previous president, he’s had several years now to at least start to make a difference.  He hasn’t, unless making the situation worse qualifies as “making a difference.”  Problems are getting worse at home, and they’re getting worse everywhere else.  Why, in heaven’s name, would we reelect someone with such a miserable record?  He said it best when he predicted his presidency would be composed of one term. 

Has he made a couple of good decisions?  Yes, of course.  But even a stopped watch tells the correct time twice a day. 

John Sununu has gone so far as to proclaim that Obama is “absolutely lazy and detached from his job.”  Perhaps.  But I prefer to argue that his leadership style is precisely that of a community organizer.  He leads the cheer, he stirs up groups of people, he throws out cheap argumentation and hyperbolic criticism at everyone in charge and toward every decision made.  The problem is that now he’s in charge.  Cheer leaders don’t win the game and anger is insufficient to build a nation.  At some point a leader must step up with challenging ideas to make difficult decisions.  Obama is incapable of this, not because he’s stupid (he’s not) but because he’s not used to hard work.  He’s used to having someone else do the work while he leads the cheer and organizes the discontent.

Romney isn’t perfect.  As his administration progresses I expect you’ll read plenty of criticism about him in this blog.  Lots of folks have a similar evaluation of his upcoming presidency–but they’ll vote for him, as I will.

2012 isn’t 2008.  The Republican base isn’t that excited about Romney, but it’s certainly excited about ridding the nation of Barack Obama’s failed leadership and lack of attention to its woes within and its difficulties without.  In addition, we are excited about Paul Ryan.  Choosing him as his vice-presidential running mate is one of the smartest moves Romney has made yet.  You can tell that by the rabid screams coming from liberals in the press.

Don’t get complacent, America.  But don’t believe the polls in the mainstream press, either.  They’re using a model based upon the 2008 voter turnout.  2012 will look very different.

To win the presidency, a candidate must receive 270 of 538 electoral votes.  I predict Romney will receive between 300-320 electoral votes (a victory margin between 62-102 votes).  I say this not encourage laziness on the part of Romney supporters but to build energy and enthusiasm.

OMG:  “Obama Must Go.”  When Romney is successfully sworn in, we constitutionalists can begin to reform the GOP.  If we lose America, though, what’s the point?

GOP Steam Builds for Romney

Opening my email in box this morning, I was greeted with several alerts from Fox News:  Romney takes Connecticut; Romney takes Delware; Romney takes Rhode Island; Romney takes Pennsylvania; Romney takes New York.  In the first week of this blog (November 2011) I predicted that Romney would be the GOP nominee.  Seems I was right when I went out on that particular limb.  But all is not sweetness and light for the Republican party.

Newt Gingrich continues his verbal assault.  Ron Paul still attracts hordes of supporters.  Rick Santorum has not endorsed Romney, and in a recent mailout recently admitted that he’s truly frightened “to think what’ll happen if Mitt Romney is the nominee.”  This is in spite of the fact that the press is calling the Romney victory in Santorum’s home state of Pennsylvania a landslide.  News has leaked that Romney and Santorum will be meeting in the first week of May, but even if the former senator from Pennsylvania does endorse Romney, I predict that it won’t come with much enthusiasm.

The liberal, pro-Obama, dyed-in-the-Democrat-wool press will paint this as a problem for the Republican party, and in a sense they will be correct.  But it’s a bigger problem for America.  We need a real choice in this presidential race and, sadly, we’re not going to get it.  I do believe, barring some unforeseen national disaster (real or imaginary), that Mitt Romney will take this election.  On the day that Obama was elected I told a liberal colleague of mine at the college where I teach that Obama would not be re-elected because he had set the bar of idealism so high that it would only end in disillusionment.  I suspect this is the case among many who previously voted for him.  Romney will be their “not Obama” vote, but I don’t believe a Romney victory will be as big as Limbaugh has predicted.

For constitutional conservatives, like me, we have to make a choice.  Will we fall in line to save the country and cast our vote for Romney (using the same fingers to hold our nose that we used when we voted for McCain), or will we make a statement and give our vote to a political outsider?  It’s a strategic question, really.  In a state where the election between Obama and Romney looks close, a person might choose to go with Romney just to say no to the Obama regime.  But in a state where Romney has the clear advantage one might mark the ballot defiantly for a third-party candidate or choose to write in the name of Ron Paul, Newt Gingrich, Rick Santorum, or someone else just for the sake of making a political statement to the GOP establishment.

If I’m wrong, and Obama is re-elected, get ready for a Red Tide like you’ve not imagined so far.  If Romney becomes president, as I also previously predicted, that must serve as only the first volley in our political revolution to return the nation to the limited government outlined in our Constitution.  It will be an uphill battle because the press has successfully misrepresented groups like the Tea Party as racist, out-of-touch hatemongers who selfishly use religious values to oppress the poor.  The reality is that these groups are just the opposite.

According to a recent report from the Congressional Budget Office, the number of Americans receiving SNAP (the food assistance once known as “food stamps”) is up 70%, with a projection that this number will continue to rise through 2014.  Despite the ignorance and falsehoods expressed by the “mainstream” press, our economic woes aren’t over.  This is the disastrous hole into which the Democrats have dropped us and it won’t change magically when Romney takes the White House.  In fact, the residual economic suffering after he is elected will quickly be painted by Democrats as another failure of free markets, resulting in a renewal of their socialist battle cry.

Beware:  a second term for Romney may well be more difficult to secure than the first.  We’ll face that together, and in the meantime, we’ll see how many of my predictions are accurate.

Preservation of Power and the Art of Political Manipulation

In an ideal world, here’s how a representative democracy like ours should work:  men and women who wish to be leaders would put their names forward, or be nominated by others, and they’d tell us as honestly and clearly as they can what they believe, what values inspire them, and how they would govern.  Based upon these revelations the electorate would vote.  Skin color, social class, and income level would play no part in the deliberations.

But that is not how it works, at least not in this broken, imperfect world.  The men who fashioned our national government recognized this.  They knew in advance that all human governments are plagued by power grabs, abuse of authority, graft, and a million other problems.  For precisely this reason they limited–severely–the power that could be exercised by the federal government, reserving most power to the states and the people therein.  That was 1787.  This is 2012.  The intervening years have given us a federal government of unsurpassed power, even deadly power.  Because that accrual of power has come slowly and over generations, far too many of us wrongly believe that what we have in Washington is good, or necessary,  or at least acceptable.

If we could talk to the Founders today, I don’t think they would be surprised by the fact that the Presidency is up for sale every four years to the person who can buy our vote with promises of a free ride.  I don’t think they’d be shocked by the way we are being divided so that we can be conquered politically.  They might even chuckle at the notion that we still have a Tea Party willing to challenge the political status quo.  They might grin widely when told that the current occupant of the White House is a community organizer, a rabble-rouser who essentially encourages constituent groups to make constant and loud demands until those demands are met.  They would probably tell us that they knew it would be like this.  “That’s why we drastically limited the powers of the federal government,” they would say.

What the Founders would be shocked over is the manner in which we so casually allowed those limits on governmental power to be wiped away. 

That process is a constant one.  It’s not about the Obama adminstration alone.  It’s about the long view.  The radical socialist agenda that has become dominant in the Democrat Party is not going away.  It’s constant and it’s insidious.  It does not rest.  If Barack Obama is removed from office in January 2013, that radical agenda will continue to gnaw at whatever governmental limitations it can find.  Those who carry this agenda will bide their time until they control the Oval Office again and they will berate, ridicule, marginalize, and demonize every politician who suggests a new course toward leaner, less expensive, and less powerful government.

Barack Obama desperately needs to hold on to power.  Round Two of his effort will be a doubling down of his socialist agenda.  To maintain his power he has to divide us along the racial, social, and economic fault lines of the nation.  That’s his only hope.  In a nation where even the poor have homes, cable TV and automobiles, he’ll proclaim that the rich don’t pay their fair share.  Although having a President of African descent requires that racism can’t be a problem for most of the electorate, he’ll play upon racial fears and differences.  In a land of riches and opportunity that has given economic hope and vitality to the vast majority of its citizens, he’ll insist that free markets and capitalism are the problem and that more governmental regulation and oversight are the solution.  He must divide us to win re-election.

The so-called “Buffett Rule” is an example.  Now Obama is using it while referencing his own 2011 tax return which he recently filed with the IRS and released to the public.  Named for billionaire Warren Buffett, the Buffett Rule is a game played by Democrats to convince voters that rich people unfairly pay less tax than the average working American.  Obama claims his tax rate is unfairly higher than Romney’s, and Warren Buffett claims that his tax rate is unfairly higher than his secretary’s (Obama claims the same thing regarding his own secretary).

To be fair, they have a point.  But they aren’t interested in having you understand the details of the issue.  They are simply putting into circulation a powerful talking point that the vast majority of their supporters will repeat without ever understanding the issue fully.

Here’s the dirty little secret, and once you understand it, you’ll be smarter than most.  What they are taking about is called an “effective tax rate.”  Start by doing an internet search on “2011 Obama tax return.”  Open just about any article that is written by someone responsible and  you’ll discover that the Obamas had an “effective tax rate” of 20.5% for 2011.  In other words, 20.5% of all their income was paid to the IRS for federal tax purposes, after deductions were applied and their refund of $24,515 was calculated.

20.5% isn’t their tax rate.  It’s their effective tax rate.  This is a vital distinction, and it’s one that they don’t explain because their shell game depends upon their supporters failing to grasp it.  That one word (“effective”) makes all the difference in the world.

Any person who has enough income to take tax deductions can do the same thing.  With every deduction you take on your taxes, you are reducing the amount of money being taxed.  In other words, you are reducing your effective tax rate.

Another way to lower your effective tax rate is to earn most of your income by investment rather than salary.  Investment income is taxed at a lower rate.  Why?  To encourage investment, which can be risky.  In order to get people to make investments in risky ventures like growing businesses or new companies, the IRS taxes these gains at a lower rate.  Of course, we only hear about it when they make money–but billions of dollars every year are lost by investors as well.  This, of course, is how billionaire Warren Buffett makes most of his money.  His effective tax rate is lower than his secretary’s effective rate because she is taxed on her salary, which is much less risky.  He is taxed on his investments because they are risky.  He pays much more money to the federal government than she does, but his effective tax rate is lower.  (On the other hand, Buffett owns a company called Berkshire Hathaway that owes $1 Billion to the IRS and he’s fighting so he doesn’t have to pay it!)

I am certainly in favor of a simpler tax code.  The present code has thousands of rules, and the rules change every year.  It’s laughable.  It’s a bludgeon used by the federal government to beat up on average Americans.

President Obama says he wants to reform the tax code, but when he says “reform” he obviously doesn’t mean “simplify.”  He’s going after millionaires with a proposed tax surcharge on top of their present taxes, and he signed a healthcare law that hits tanning salons with a tax paid by no one else.  Does that sound like a simpler tax code to you?

A simple tax code would be one where everyone pays the same tax rate on all their income, no matter its source, and no matter how much money they make.  Why must we increase the tax rate as a person makes more money?  Let’s say the flat rate federal tax for all income was 10%.  A professional making $50,000 would pay $5,000 in tax.  Someone making $200,000 would pay $20,000.  A million in income would produce $100,000 in taxes, and so on.  The richer would pay more simply because 10% of more money is more tax revenue.  That is a fine way to collect taxes.  There is no reason to raise the tax rate itself.  It’s nothing more than legal robbery by a greedy Congress that needs the money to buy votes.

By the way, I like 10%.  I simply can find no reason whatsoever that anyone should give more than 10% of their income to the federal government.  After all, it’s twice what God gets on Sunday!