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Corruption is easy.

Step one: raise lots of money for winning presidential candidate.
Step two: get lots of tax money back from winning presidential candidate.

Real life example: George Kaiser is a billionaire and campaign donation bundler for Obama; his “family foundation” owned 1/3 of Solyndra; Solyndra goes bankrupt after getting $528 million from Obama administration.

The more power the government has, the more it will give away in exchange in for political favors.

The notion that “getting money out of politics” will stop the corruption is well-intentioned and completely wrong.  As long as the government has power to dole out favors, someone will be willing to bid for those favors. The more rules and regulations instituted to prevent this exchange of money for political largesse just means more lawyers and financial advisers get paid to find the loopholes.

More campaign finance rules discourage honest people from getting involved. No honest person wants to run afoul of regulations and subject themselves to government sanction. Dishonest people are not subject to the same concerns.

Campaign finance rules do nothing but make it harder for small groups and individuals to engage in the political process. They actually make more and more money necessary to participate, thereby defeating their purpose.

The only way to effectively limit corruption is to limit the power of the government to grant favors. The less they can dole out, the better.

Health Care is the Topic in Chattanooga

Join your fellow liberty lovers this coming earth day for an excellent night of political discourse, networking, great drinks and tons of fun!  Van Irion will be joining Liberty on the Rocks Chattanooga to keep folks up-to-date on his recent lawsuit against ObamaCare.  This is clearly an important issue for liberty, and we must know all the facts so we can pass them on to the ones we love.

I hope you can make it to our first meet-up as we kick off the second Liberty on the Rocks chapter in Tennessee! Chattanooga Liberty on the Rocks will no doubt be the place to be each and every month for liberty lovers of all stripes!

Location:

Big River Grille Downtown – South Bar
222 Broad Street
Chattanooga, TN

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.

Government cannot offer good service

With the looming government run health care bill that may be taking over the health care industry in the United States, we might as well just say screw the children….and the elderly, and the middle aged.

What I find so crazy about this entire situation, is the way people talk about the government coming in and saving us all by magically offering everyone health care.  Doesn’t anyone watch the news?  I personally do so as little as possible (they hardly talk about anything useful), but all it takes is to turn it on every once in a while.  All they can talk about is how bankrupt each of the states are.  How there isn’t enough money for this or that program.  Schools need more money, budgets are being cut, the federal government needs to send funds to desperate states that cannot pay the bills.  But somehow, just somehow, we are going to pass a trillion dollar health care bill that will cover everyone (remember, a trillion has 12 zeros)?  What??  Did everyone just forget about how we can’t even afford what is currently in our federal or state budgets?  Not to mention the fact that unemployment is up to 10%.  Which is really closer to 18-20% if you add in all the folks who stopped looking for a job or have settled on part-time employment for the time being.  So what is this bill doing that will affect this unemployment rate?  It’s forcing employers to pay for health insurance for all their workers (with some small exceptions).  Hmmm.  I could have sworn that would be anti-job growth as it takes money away from those we want to start hiring people.  But  I sure am not a politician, so how would I know?

It’s time that America admitted the truth, that this bill cannot work.  It is impossible.

If people really think the government (subsidized by taxpayers don’t forget) will be able to pay for everyone to have the best health insurance, they must not pay much attention to the services they offer currently.  They must not frequent the post office, or the DMV/DOT.  They must not have heard how horribly our public schools compare to those of other countries – which is not because they are underfunded.  It’s not because of bad teachers.  It’s because it’s a monopoly that doesn’t have to make a profit or prove to anyone that they are doing a good job (they just have to make you feel bad for “the children” and vote to give them more money).  You will see the same with government run health care.  They will find ways to cut back on costs by cutting back on care.  Just like they do with everything else.  They will also find ways to cut back by dictating how people live their lives.  Just as they do in Japan where they measure your waistline to see that you’re under the government ordained weight.

Just as the social conservatives must realize that the government cannot dictate morals, the left must be able to see that they cannot force people to be healthy either.  Freedom allows good behavior to be rewarded (eating healthy + exercise = lower insurance costs and little to no hospital bills) and bad behavior (unhealthy eating + no exercise = high health care costs and a large number of hospital bills) to be discouraged.  When we give everyone the same price tag on health insurance (unless you’re wealthy, then you pay much more), what is the benefit of being healthy?  It’s nice to not get fined, but most people are ok to get monetary fines every once in a while if it means living as they choose.

The Health Care Morass – Can We Handle the Truth?

Here’s an unpopular proposition – the health care industry as we know it can’t be “fixed” because it is based on a false premise, the premise of “free money.”

Truth — there can never be enough money in any insurance pool to provide extraordinary care for every participant; finite resources can never yield infinite benefits, any other expectation is free money, Ponzi math.   So, anyone, on whatever side, who tries to sell a pipe dream that somehow everybody’s going to be covered and we’re going to all have all the health care benefits to which we’ve become accustomed at “affordable” insurance rates is blowing smoke.

Yes, the current system is out of control:
– “greedy” insurers have dropped their pay-out rates, some to as low as 60%,
– Big Pharma’s insidious take-over of the industry for their burgeoning financial bottom lines is unconscionable,
– trial lawyers adding $3.6 billion in direct costs (2008 malpractice insurance expenses), and who knows how many billions more for CYA tests and such, is at best, not helpful
– non-contributors to the pool receiving, gratis, the most expensive health care delivery, at emergency rooms, is ludicrous…

…and on and on.  A snip here, a patch there will help — you can grow the financial pool by siphoning more out of people’s pocketbooks (through rates OR taxes), or you can attempt to wring more “benefits” out of the cost side, but, no matter how you parse it, there will still be a limited pool, and somebody is going to have to decide who and what gets covered – the argument is only about WHO does that rationing; the insurers, which, it can be argued, do a crappy job (yes, they do ration, through denial of coverage), or the government, which, it can be argued, does little well (or the states, but Massachusetts has done such a high-profile lousy job, you don’t hear many voices for that option.)

Here’s a different question to ask – why did we ever put our physical well-being into somebody else’s hands in the first place?  Of course there’s no free market mechanism to keep costs and benefits in equilibrium – you walk into the doctor’s office or show up at the hospital, and your expectation is, it’s all going to be taken care of by your insurance company, up to millions in coverage over your lifetime.  The doctor, the hospital, the pharmaceutical companies, the labs, the insurance company – they’ll make all the decisions amongst themselves, you just pay your premiums and your copays and trust them to deliver you from your ailment.

That’s the fantasy upon which we’ve built our expectation of health care, and that’s why it can never be “fixed” to meet our expectations.  Personal health care MUST become a personal responsibility, with the consumer making his/her own market decisions based on his/her own financial state and priorities.

A good step forward has been the rising popularity of Health Savings Accounts (HSA’s and the like), which require a high deductible before coverage kicks in.  It certainly encourages the consumer to invest in taking care of themselves, and even “shop” for non-life-threatening procedures and tests.  Problem is, just ask your provider what the costs of the tests, or the procedure will be – odds on you’ll get a blank stare and ‘we don’t have that information, why would you want to know that?’  Maybe I’m reading the wrong details, but I haven’t seen anybody advancing any “upfront pricing” requirement of providers, and without it, there can never be a “free market” connection between consumers and providers.

Things can’t stay the same – the question is, is socialism and rationing or the sometimes harsh personal responsibilities of a free market system your choice?

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