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Happy Hour with Author of Shakedown Socialism!

Ever wanted to explain to someone precisely why socialism doesn’t work? Why not take a few pointers from someone who has lived it?!

Join us for a special “Bonus” happy hour event on Monday, August 29th as we are joined by Oleg Atbashian, author of Shakedown Socialism, and the creator of www.ThePeoplesCube.com.

When: Monday, August 29, 2011 from 7-9 PM
Where: Choppers Sports Grill | 80 S. Madison Street in Denver

There will be trivia, group discussion, a brief talk followed by Q & A, and of course, lots of social networking and beer drinking!

More info about Oleg:

Oleg Atbashian was born and raised in the Ukraine; he has been a teacher, a translator, a freelance journalist, and at one time a propaganda artist, creating graphical agitprop for the local party committee in Siberia. In 1994 he emigrated to the USA hoping to live in a country that was ruled by reason and common sense. He is the creator of ThePeoplesCube.com and author of Shakedown Socialism. He will have autographed copies of his book available for purchase.

Liberty on the Rocks Teams Up with Big Government Gary!

This weekend, brave volunteers for Liberty on the Rocks will don fat suits at the Bridge River Run event in an attempt to personify an out of control government  – while attracting people to the kick off of our 19th chapter in Charleston, South Carolina.

Big Government Gary represents a government that is out of control and needs to get “fiscally” fit. The question is, how can we make that happen? Of course we can go to the voting booth every few years and hope a politician eventually has the guts to reduce the size of government – or – we can attempt to move our culture towards one that values liberty and free markets. Real change won’t come from a single politician, it will take masses of people demanding that the government stop spending. That means on everything – including social security, medicaid, medicare, defense, education, etc.

Click here to view the embedded video.

Click here to view the embedded video.

So how can this be done? At Liberty on the Rocks we believe it starts with connections. Networking and information gathering. That is why we started meeting in a bar over two and a half years ago to get to know each other  – and it is why we have grown to 18 chapters in 10 states today. If you agree, start a chapter yourself! Or go find one to attend and get to know people in your community. Talk about the issues and find out the truth. If we are to change minds, we must first fully understand the issues ourselves.

If you agree – please share these videos and/or our website with your friends and family. There is definitely strength in numbers, so help us build them!

Are the Protests in Wisconsin Only the Beginning?

See what we have to say, check out our latest video: Pathway to Tyranny

Click here to view the embedded video.

If you like this video, help us produce and distribute even more of them!

With the recent protests in Wisconsin that are now headed toward Indiana, Ohio and possibly New Jersey, we must consider as a nation exactly which direction we plan to go. If we are going to cut the budget and reduce our nation’s $14 trillion debt (which we have no choice but to do) some people will have to suffer. In the end we will all pay a price of some sort, whether it’s in increased taxes or a loss of work due to business failures across the nation. The number of unintended consequences we will see if we don’t deal with our debt are immeasurable, and will no doubt severely damage our economy.

So what happens next? The budget cuts in this budget reduction bill will hardly save the state of Wisconsin from economic ruin. It will only save the state $30 million on this year’s budget, when they need to save over $100 million more on top of that. Will it be in Medicare or other services to the elderly? Infrastructure? Do we trust that anger will subside when people realize money is about to be taken from them to balance the budget? If not, how will we handle it? Because the way the trend is going around the world, it seems that it will only get worse.

Progressive Groups Demand Legislation to Ensure Equal Pay – Even if it Doesn’t Work

In a recent article by the left-leaning site Daily Kos, a complaint was lodged against the Minnesota Republicans for introducing legislation that would repeal the 1984 Local Government Pay Equity Act (LGPEA). This act “…directs local governments to ensure that women are paid the same as men.” But with local governments stating that the reporting requirements are too costly, it seems to make economic sense to cut back on superfluous aspects of government. One of which is trying to control people’s behavior. But that is beside the point.

According to Daily Kos and a number of similar sites, this issue is not outdated and still must be addressed through legislation. Their article states:

Several recent studies have pointed to continued discrepancies in pay for women in Minnesota.

In June, the Women’s Foundation of Minnesota and the Humphrey Institute at the University of Minnesota found that, overall, women still earn less than men in the state. White women earned 76 cents for every dollar that men earn, and the numbers were much worse for women of color: Native American women earned 69 cents to the dollar, African American women 61 cents and Hispanic women earned 51 cents to the dollar.

Those numbers were for all workers in the state, not just the public sector.

After reading this article I had several questions come to mind:

1. When they say “…women still earn less than men in the state”, do they mean for doing the same job? Or just in general? Because if they mean “in general” I don’t understand their concern. It is well known that men are more likely to take jobs that require longer hours, more dangerous conditions and little amounts of flexibility. Women, on the other hand tend to prefer jobs that keep them out of the elements – and off the back of garbage trucks – as well as allow them to be there for their family when necessary (i.e. flexible hours and/or job). This would mean that men overall make more than women. That will only change when we see more women doing the exact same jobs as men. As for me, I prefer the cushy job with flexible hours.

2. If I am mistaken in point #1 and they are concluding that women get paid less to perform the same job as men, then I have another question for them. Why on earth would any smart business owner in Minnesota hire a male? If women do the exact same job for less pay, then why would a business owner choose to hire a male when he had to pay them more to do the same job? Where are all the factories and stores that only hire women and minorities? Those business owners would be raking it in! Where are they all? If you truly believe that women get paid less to do the same job across the board (not saying it doesn’t happen in some instances), then you believe that business owners are more sexist than they are interested in profit. You believe that someone would give up earning between 24-49% more in revenue just to hire a male rather than a woman. Now is that really believable?

3. My last point sums up just how ridiculous these pleas for government intervention truly are. In this article, the author mentions a) this act was passed in 1984 b) in 2011 we still have major discrepancies in pay between men and women and c) we must preserve this act at all costs. Hmmm. Something in that line of reasoning just doesn’t seem like reasoning at all. So we’ve had this act for about 26 years and it hasn’t done its job (according to their statistics), so we should continue to spend money on it. Yeah, that makes a lot of sense. Maybe the reason it hasn’t worked is because of point #1. Men and women do different jobs, hence different pay. If you really care about this situation, open a non-profit and ask people to voluntarily donate to your cause. It makes a lot more sense than forcing people against their will to pay for something that doesn’t work and never will.

Does Antitrust Protect Consumers or Harm Individuals?

Most people react to the term “antitrust” with favor, and support the antitrust efforts of our government.  But is it possible that instead of protecting consumers, the government is actually hurting individuals with their antitrust cases? Considering the government’s track record, I think it’s fair to say that it’s at least worth looking into.

I recently read a book by Dominick T. Armentano that completely challenged my thinking on antitrust. Whereas I was always taught that the government should protect consumers from companies that became “too big”, I found that they were actually stifling individual rights, hampering industrialists and entrepreneurs and doing no good for consumers. You can read Antitrust: The Case for Repeal online in its entirety thanks to the Mises Institute, and I highly recommend that you do.

A recent story in Idaho makes an excellent case for why we should not support the government in its antitrust actions.

The US Department of Justice recently settled a case against doctors in Idaho for conspiring to “…boycott treatment of injured workers…”.  Sounds like a bunch of meanies doesn’t it?  However, if you are like me and are suspicious of most government efforts, this should sound like a bunch of baloney and prompt further investigation of the matter.

great article posted in the Christian Science Monitor makes the case that the government is essentially trying to tell these doctors how much they should charge for their services – and they are succeeding.  While the government makes the claim that these doctors are “price fixing”, what is clear is that it is the government who is setting prices and forcing physicians to go along with the prices they determine, even if it is a detriment to doctors themselves.

While many individuals believe that people have a “right” to be treated by a doctor, they often forget the right of a doctor (or any service provider) to charge what they see fit for their services, and to deny treatment if they feel they are are being forced to make a deal that will leave them worse off than they were before.  We cannot forget that the reason people trade (i.e. offer services for payment or payment for services) is because they benefit from the transaction. Who wants to work hard only to lose money? Is that why people open businesses? Or go to medical school?

If we want to continue to see aspiring entrepreneurs and innovators as well as hard working members of society, we must allow them to decide their own fee schedules in a free market environment. And if you argue that doctors have a “duty” to care for the sick, don’t forget to consider the very real possibility that we will lack many great doctors when we completely restrict their freedom and ability to operate in their best interest. In this situation, everyone loses.

Is the Economy Recovering?

The stimulus is supposed to save the economy from depression, right? Isn’t that why the Obama and Bush administrations spent trillions of our hard earned dollars? But has the economy been “stimulated” (sounds dirty, doesn’t it?), or has it simply been propped up, only to fall apart again as soon as the money runs out?

To consider this idea, let’s look at how the “stimulus” is actually created. The math is simple. The government takes from Joe to give to Sally. But of course, there are always administrative fees to take out of the process. So it looks like this: The government takes from Joe, keeps a little for themselves, and then gives to Sally. Vwalla! The economy has been stimulated! Or has it?

Gerald Celente, Founder and Director of the Trends Research Institute, has an interesting view of what will happen with the economy.  His main assertion? Current economic gains are not real and cannot last. This gentleman is worth checking out.

The important thing to consider when the government claims they are trying to protect you (as in the current Goldman Sachs Fraud case), is that no matter how much they believe they can – they can’t. The government cannot protect us from anything. And history shows, they not only create many of the problems we see today, they also make them far worse.

Jon Stewart vs. O’Reilly

This past week, Fox News viewers were given the opportunity to watch Jon Stewart and Bill O’Reilly go at it.  I couldn’t bring myself to watch the entire episode, as it wasn’t more than five minutes into it that I was already fed up with both of them.  I was, shall we say, dismayed with Jon for making ridiculous claims, and with Bill for saying nothing to correct him.

When discussing the topic of compromise, Jon lambasted the Republicans for not appreciating Obama’s efforts when it came to tax cuts.  First he brought up the president’s stimulus plan, and how a third of it was in tax cuts.  He then went on to say he had expected the Republicans to applaud during the State of the Union when Obama mentioned that he had cut taxes for 95% of Americans.  He clearly assumes that they stayed seated because it was Obama up there, never mind if he was cutting taxes.  The fact is, he may be right.  I believe many of them would have stood up had it been John McCain announcing the same.  Either way, it’s ridiculous to think that anyone should have stood up to clap for these so-called “tax cuts”.

What many realized back in 2008 was that Obama’s claim that he would be cutting taxes for almost all Americans was just another way of saying “I’m going to spend, spend, spend”.  As this Wall Street Journal article points out, some have a different idea of what a tax cut is.  The way they see it, “…a tax cut includes tens of billions of dollars in government handouts that are disguised by the phrase “tax credit.””  I mean, how on earth can anyone say they are cutting taxes for 95% of Americans, when there aren’t even that many who pay taxes?  An article by CBS News brings up a study which finds only 43% of individuals pay taxes.  So if taxes are “cut” for 95%, what does that mean? Could it be that the so-called tax “cuts” are actually subsidies to those who don’t pay taxes?

No, Jon.  The Republicans should not have stood up and applauded Barack, nor should they have applauded if it was McCain doing something similar.  Rather than changing the subject, Bill should have discussed this issue further, and made sure it was understood by the audience (which most likely was made up of a good number of Democrats supporting Jon) that these so-called “tax cuts” were nothing of the sort.

Speaking of Capitalism…

It’s not only people like George Bush and Herbert Hoover who have distorted the meaning of capitalism (by pretending they supported it while in office).  Quite often (if not each and every time) those in the media also get it wrong. One example was the 2009 film by Michael Moore entitled, Capitalism: A Love Story.

As Sheldon Richman of FEE explains in his article Frustrating Michael Moore, the term capitalism (when used to refer to free markets) is not used correctly.  What Moore is discussing is what Richman refers to as “State Capitalism”, or what I have heard referred to as, “Crony Capitalism”.  He says that he’s right to denounce many of the things he does, including, “…banks engaging in wild speculation without concern for the risk, taxpayer bailouts for banks and other businesses, cozy relations between Wall Street and Washington, politicians getting favors from companies that want benefits from government, and big institutions pushing less powerful individuals around.” However, as Richman points out, this is not the free market as argued by Moore. Richman also brings up the point that many “free market advocates” claim that we live in a capitalist system (including George Bush), despite the massive amounts of regulation, spending and intervention that take place. When that is the case, are we really surprised when people like Moore confuse the term?

Michael Moore not only misrepresents the meaning of free market capitalism in his movie, but he also seems to misrepresent himself with his actions. As discovered by the Michigan-based Mackinac Center for Public Policy, Michael Moore’s movie qualified for a tax refund for the movie producers of up to 42% of their spending in the state. This of course comes at the expense of tax payers, whom Moore claims to fight for. According to Mackinac, “This lavish provision means a studio can easily receive more from Michigan taxpayers than it pays in Michigan taxes.” While Moore was at first against this, he soon became silent after he decided to go ahead with the movie. So much for “the little guy”.

George Bush: A Free Market Capitalist?

“Contrary to the prevailing wisdom in Washington these past few years, we cannot simply spend as we please and defer the consequences to the next budget, the next administration or the next generation.”

This is what Obama had to say to George Bush after he took office last year.  While it’s depressing to have to hear a Democrat – let alone Obama – lecture a Republican president on overspending, what is even more distressing, is that there are those who still believe Obama when he says he won’t be (and isn’t) doing the same, times a thousand.  The idea that Obama represents a “change” from the last administration is simply not correct.  Last March, the Heritage Foundation posted comparisons of the Bush deficit vs. the Obama deficit.  They demonstrate the many ways Obama is continuing down the same path as his predecessor, although in a much quicker fashion.  It’s funny, because while many on the left have plenty of praise for Obama, they never seem to extend the same to Bush, who (same as Obama) encouraged increased spending on education, health care and anti-poverty programs.

Although there are plenty of criticisms to throw at Obama, I will have to save them for another post.  I recently came out with some bumper stickers which declare Bush is NOT a Free Market Capitalist, and would like to extend a further explanation.

Why should anyone care about George Bush?

There are many reasons why we should know the truth about the Bush presidency.  The first is that it’s important to understand history so we are not destined to repeat our mistakes. The problem, however, is that we already are.  And I believe the reason is that many in America (including myself) were not given all the facts when it came to American history.  (I witnessed it recently as a student teacher for a high school History class two years ago.)

In addition to Obama, there are also many similarities that exist between George Bush and Herbert Hoover; just not for the reasons many would think.  An article by the Center for American Progress compares the two presidents, claiming they were very much alike in that they, “[b]oth believed the market would naturally self-correct, and that government intervention would be harmful.” However, even Bush himself said, “I have abandoned free market principles to save the free market system” in addition to admitting, “I went against my free market instincts“.  The problem is that both Hoover and Bush claimed to be advocates of free markets while in office and afterward.  These claims distort the ideas of liberty and capitalism.  As Ilya Somin, assistant law professor at George Mason University states, “The greatest contribution Bush can now make to free market policies is to dispel the impression that he pursued them while in office.” I couldn’t agree more.

Dr. John David Lewis, author and visiting associate professor at Duke University, points out that this issue is also a matter of principle.  When conservatives or Republicans denounce Obama but either praise Bush or ignore his shortcomings, they are not doing liberty any favors.  In an article in the Objective Standard, Dr. Lewis writes,

“President Bush doubled the national budget, doubled the deficit, added a digit to the national debt, signed the largest entitlement bill since the 1960s, ordered his cabinet to cooperate in regulating carbon dioxide as a “pollutant,” signed Sarbanes-Oxley, distributed economic “stimulus” checks, asked for $700 billion as business handouts, and never vetoed a spending bill. Where were the protesters then? If Americans were agitated primarily by the trend toward statism, what stopped thousands of them from rising up and venting their anger at these actions? The truck toward statism is only part of the reason for the reaction against Obama. What is the rest of the explanation?

The answer begins with Bush’s party affiliation: He is a Republican. This title carries the appearance of long-standing, fundamental support for the free market and for capitalism.”

If we are to persuade others of the principles of free markets and limited government, we must do so in all circumstances.  That means denouncing Republicans when they deserve it.

Many instances throughout the Bush administration should have caused an uproar amongst any lover of liberty.  I personally did not pay enough attention to what was going on (and have since regretted it), so I do not fault others who made the same mistake.  But now that our country is facing the eradication of freedom and prosperity, I think it’s time that we all took a step back to take another look at recent history.  It’s the only way we can be sure not to repeat it, come 2012.

Attack on Free Trade – Tariffs

In an attempt to appease the American steel industry early in his presidency, Bush enacted tariffs on several types of steel, ranging from 8%-30%.  To add injury to insult Bush claimed that, “An integral part of our commitment to free trade is our commitment to enforcing trade laws to make sure that America’s industries and workers compete on a level playing field.“  So we show our commitment to free trade by severely hampering it?  We endorse free market policies because they work, and these tariffs proved not to. What Bush didn’t consider, was that by shutting out competition he was raising prices for consumers and businesses involved in manufacturing.  According to this article in American Daily, many economists believe the tariffs cost more jobs than they saved, due to the high costs imposed on manufacturers.  Only with the threat of a trade war did Bush decide to lift the steel tariffs.

Expansion in Medicare Coverage

George Bush presided over the largest expansion in medicare since its creation in 1965.  Although this medicare drug prescription benefit was originally given the price tag of $400 billion over a period of 10 years, the administration had to later admit that the price was actually closer to $1.2 trillion.  According to an article by James Bovard in Lewrockwell.com, four months after Bush signed the bill, the official board of Medicare trustees warned that, “Medicare’s finances have “taken a major turn for the worse.” Thanks in large part to the new law, Medicare is now forecast to go bankrupt seven years earlier than previous projections – in 2019, instead of 2026.”  Nonetheless, Bush gave this bill his utmost support and stated, “These reforms are the act of a vibrant and compassionate government.”

Massive Spending

According to a 2004 report by the Independent Institute, “Since 2001, even with record low inflation, U.S. federal spending has increased by a massive 28.8% (19.7% in real dollars)—with non-defense discretionary growth of 35.7% (25.3% in real dollars)—the highest rate of federal government growth since the presidencies of Richard Nixon and Lyndon Johnson.” In 2004 his administration was already overseeing the largest budget deficit in history, an estimated $520 billion.  While the president does not determine how much is to be spent, Bush not only resided over a Republican controlled congress at this time (you’d think he’d have some sway?) he also vetoed fewer bills than any president since Warren G. Harding.

According to Reason Magazine, between 2000-2005 the Department of Education’s budget had grown by “a stunning 79.9%.”  This was due in part to Bush’s beloved No Child Left Behind Act of 2001, which dramatically increased the amount of spending and government authority over our public education system.  Additionally, it involved Ted Kennedy as a supporter who worked with the Bush administration on the bill.  That alone should make you nervous.  According to the Department of Education, the 2008 $24.2 billion price tag for NCLB was a 41% increase in spending on the program over FY 2001.  And according to this article by the Heritage Foundation, the past shows us that the increased amount of spending will not and cannot improve our education system.  Also see an article I posted on the Kansas City Experiment, which proves the same.

Increased Government Regulation

While many Democrats complain that there was a lack of regulation under Bush, they must not have heard of Sarbanes-Oxley.  Or of Bush’s failed attempts to regulate Freddie and Fannie in the early years of his presidency.  While some regulation by government is justifiable, much of it is not.  Especially Sarbanes-Oxley, which has been seen as a major blow to the private sector and to innovation and risk-taking.  According to the Competitive Enterprise Institute, “…the total annual costs for all public companies to comply with just the “internal controls” section of Sarbanes-Oxley is $35 billion per year, according to the American Electronics Association. And money isn’t the only cost. A single average public company also devotes 30,700 man-hours to compliance each year. That is money and time that could be devoted to developing new products, new businesses, and new jobs.”  Home Depot co-founder Bernie Marcus told Investor’s Business Daily in 2006 that Home Depot would have had a very hard time becoming as successful as it has with the increased legal and regulatory climate.  Marcus worries that public companies will be unable to make a decision “…without a lawyer on one side…and an accountant on the other…”

Federal Takeover of Fannie and Freddie

It is not only the Democrats who wish to lay claim to a legacy of helping people own their own home.  At a conference on minority home ownership in late 2002, George Bush declared, “I set an ambitious goal. It’s one that I believe we can achieve. It’s a clear goal, that by the end of this decade we’ll increase the number of minority homeowners by at least 5.5 million families.”  Doesn’t that sound nice.  Would you say we have 5.5 million new home owners today? Or would you argue, more correctly, that more people are having their lives turned upside down by foreclosure because they bought a house they couldn’t afford? Would you also make the point that responsible homeowners (and renters) are now picking up the tab for those who acted irresponsibly?  George Bush made the mistake of declaring it was the government’s job to help people own homes.  Some people cannot afford to own their own homes.  And while it is nice to have a home to call your own, it’s even nicer to know you are not in debt up to your eyeballs.

Many Republicans give Bush credit for his warnings, which declared Freddie and Fannie posed a risk to the financial sectors and needed more regulation.  However, I would not be one to congratulate his efforts.  Someone who truly believes in the free market and limited government would see the problem and call for privatization, not set taxpayers up to take the fall.  These institutions played a major role in the housing crisis in America.  The “government guarantee” has allowed them to do whatever it is they want without the risk, because someone else is set to pay for their mistakes.  This lengthy article by the CATO Institute discusses the case for privatization.

Despite the recommendations of the Republican Study Committee (RSC) which included, “…a two-year suspension of the capital gains tax, full privatization of Freddie Mac and Fannie Mae “over a reasonable time period,” and a suspension of the “mark-to-market” regulations that forced banks to value assets at zero if they couldn’t be sold at that precise moment”, George Bush still went ahead and signed the Housing and Economic Recovery Act of 2008.  The New York Times discussed some downfalls of the bill a week after it was signed.  They wrote, “Partly to accommodate the rescue plan for the mortgage companies, the bill raises the national debt ceiling to $10.6 trillion, an increase of $800 billion. The bill also creates significant liabilities and risks for taxpayers, that are virtually impossible to calculate.”  Would a lover of free markets and liberty do something like that?

TARP & Stimulus

Whenever the Obama Administration is castigated for the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act, it’s important to remember that George Bush opened the floodgates and set the precedent.  Not to say that Obama would not have done the same without Bush doing so first, but to maintain our stance of a hands-off policy when it comes to our economic sector, we must treat all offenders the same.

Remember that $600 check you received in the spring of 2008?  That was meant to be what George Bush called a “booster shot” to the American economy.  However, many simply saved their government handout instead of spending it as the administration had hoped.

And how can we forget the Troubled Asset Relief Program (TARP)? This was how the government attempted to “save” the free market.  What they cannot figure out is that the free market has not been allowed to operate, due to  restrictions and damaging laws imposed by government.  Any free market advocate would allow the market to function, even if it resulted in a short term (or even longer term) economic recession.  This so-called economic stimulus took money from those who were responsible and/or successful and gave it to those who acted either irresponsibly or not up to par with customer standards. The constant “propping up” of the economy by the government (with taxpayer dollars) will eventually come to an end.  And when it does, the economic downturn that has been suppressed for many years will be much worse than necessary.  The Troubled Asset Relief Program, signed into law by George Bush in October of 2008, cost taxpayers $700 billion. But even worse, it created a dangerous precedent.

The famous quote from George Santayana states, “Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it.”  If we don’t look back at the way things really were throughout history (including recent history), we will not only forget the past, we will have gotten it wrong.   And when that happens, we are most surely to repeat it.