Tuesday, August 28, 2012

What would your 5 Point Plan be?

We (appear to) sit at the precipice of a large economic chasm. Something needs to be done and that something cannot be tweaking at the margins.
Obama seems to suggest more of the same. But Mitt Romney has come out with his 5 point plan (note his 5 points are buried in a single paragraph halfway down that article). I personally do not feel it focuses on the right things nor is bold enough.
We all obviously have dozens of policy differences with our conservative/liberal counterparts and I recognize that many reject the entire edifice of govt and others advocate a complete govt takeover. But from a pragmatic viewpoint, if you were limited to just 5 specific issues to address with the knowledge that we may hit a huge economic crisis during the administration of the winner of this election, which 5 would you advocate to voters, which 5 do you believe are most important to accomplish to avoid an economic collapse and set things on track for improvement?
Here are my 5:
  • Monetary Policy - I believe we cannot continue with our current monetary policy and it must be decoupled from the current monopoly cartel. The most politically viable, in my opinion, as well as probably the smoothest transition would be to legalize competing currencies in concurrence with a full audit of the Federal Reserve. I only hope it would be sufficiently effective in time.
  • Foreign Non-Interventionism - I believe that we waste enormous resources, life, and liberty with our current approach. All while inciting the type of animosity that requires more "security", more resources, more loss of life and liberty to deal with. This cycle must stop.
    • While this may not have the direct economic impact of some of the other issues, I believe it is critically important to a free society.
  • Corporate Protectionism - There is a great deal of agreement, on both sides of the aisle, that corporations do not need the level of govt protection, guarantees, promises and bailouts. Without govt to "socialize losses", corporations would have to be more conscious of risk.
  • Taxation - Taxation in general is not only overly complex, but, in my opinion, the worst part is how unseen it is. So many hidden "sin" taxes, excise taxes, fee taxes, etc. The income tax (as hidden as it is since it's taken out before you ever get the money) is still one of the most visible and certainly most talked about. Taxes need to be simplified and reduced.
    • Govt spending is the other side of this coin, and while I obviously believe we need massive curtailments to spending, I think that putting a check against profligate abuse of our monetary policy may actually help in this regard (plus ending foreign interventionism and corporate protectionism will reduce spending a fair amount).
  • Regulatory Reform - Regulations hamper virtually every industry now. What's worse is that the vast majority of these regulations are written by unelected bureaucrats. While I obviously think a free market (without govt bailouts/guarantees/protections) is the ideal, I think the most politically viable would be something like Write the Bills Act. Requiring all regulations be written and voted on by Congress itself would, I think, go a long way to reduce regulatory red tape (or at the very least, to put a speed limit on its growth).
    • Whenever one considers reducing regulations, concerns about protecting consumers arises. So part of regulatory reform should also look at strengthening private property protections for individuals.
Honorable Mentions:
    • Ending Drug War - While I feel this is important for a free society, it didn't make my list because I am not educated about the economic impact of doing this.
    • Ending Patents - This I cannot determine exactly how impactful this would be to the economy. While I think it is important, again, I cannot justify adding it to my top 5 without more knowledge of the impact.
    • Ending minimum wage - Encouraging additional hiring as well as providing additional work experience for many low skilled workers.
    • One Subject at a Time Act - just necessary for a responsible representative govt.
    • Entitlement reform - Though this seems to be more of a mid/long term problem, I feel that putting this on a path to better sustainability could go a long way toward improving market confidence, currency stability and credit prospect.
    • [others I'm sure I forgot]
    So what would your 5 be?

Friday, May 25, 2012

Obama the fiscal miser

This image has been circulating the net as "proof" of Obama not being a big spender. 
Obama is downright stingy

Looking at actual spending numbers (as % of GDP) seems to actually support their case:

2009 - 42.63
2010 - 40.75
2011 - 40.09
2012 - 40.27 (projected)
2013 - 39.22 (projected)

Even looks like a downward trend until you take them in greater context:

2004 - 34.86
2005 - 34.83 (-0.03)
2006 - 35.12 (+0.29)
2007 - 35.09 (-0.03)
2008 - 37.14 (+2.05)
2009 - 42.63 (+5.49)
2010 - 40.75 (-1.88)
2011 - 40.09 (-0.66)
2012 - 40.27 (+0.18) (projected)
2013 - 39.22 (-1.05) (projected)

When you look at it in graph form you can see the misleading nature of this. Yes, they skyrocketed spending in 2008-2009 (Bush and Obama were both involved in that). But then, Obama basically maintains that high level of spending. Add in a slight reduction from the 2009 peak and, statistically, it appears that Obama is downright stingy.

It's interesting that when global warming skeptics were pointing at the % temp change over the last decade to 15 years by starting with 1998, the warming advocates were chastising them for "playing statistics" because 1998 was a spiked record high year. Now that people do basically the same thing with spending growth by starting with that spiked record year of 2009, it's lauded as "proof" of Obama being a responsible steward of taxpayer money.

Even if you look at absolute spending you can see where the spike of 2008-2009 and then the slight reduction after that would statistically make the spending growth seem small even though spending itself matches the 2000-2007 trend almost perfectly. 
BONUS: An even scarier trendline

Thursday, April 12, 2012

Ron Paul Next Steps

With Santorum having dropped out, many are concluding that Romney has virtually won the nomination. Ron Paul, however, is not dropping out and will continue to try to push his delegate strategy. However, in my opinion, with the vacuum of good news about the primary, I'd like to see Paul do something bold to get the attention of people and let them know that not only is this thing not over, but he is a viable (and better) alternative to Romney.

Tuesday, February 07, 2012

Why I don't think Gingrich is a true, limited govt conservative

Newt Gingrich is toward the top of the pack again. I believe this is because Romney is really looking too moderate for many conservatives to swallow, so they are looking for someone that is a true conservative. They are willing to overlook his past indiscretions because they feel that Newt is not only a real conservative, but that his debating skills make him a perfect match against Obama (the real goal of many Republicans: Anyone, anything but Obama).

The problem is that his record and many of his statements in the past don't reflect a true, limited govt conservative. Though I don't blame conservatives for being misled, Gingrich knows exactly what conservatism is and how to sell it. So with this upswing in support for Newt, I wanted to put together my thoughts on him at the moment and why I think conservatives need to be real careful about what they think they will get in Newt.

Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Few thoughts on Election Reform

The last several elections have focused on "change". The people are unhappy with their leaders. Congress currently has about a 10% approval rating. Many have concentrated on trying to get better candidates elected into office. The hope being that these politicians will reform the system and make it better. However, the fact that polls show (page 19) that about 1/5th of voters would support a candidate, even if that candidate was not a Democrat or Republican, demonstrates that there is a significant percentage of Americans that are unhappy with both of the two major parties. According to other polls, a full 40% of voters do not view themselves as members of either major party. If nearly half of voters do not associate with one of the two major parties, why are there no 3rd parties rising to prominence? Many believe this problem comes from the nature of the way we vote.

I think the US needs to have a discussion about reforming our elections in order to provide a more representative govt and avoid having half of the population feeling disaffected by the two parties (not to mention those that don't even vote due to feeling that their vote doesn't matter). So in this article I talk about some of those approaches.

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Foreign Policy vs National Security - Being Clear on Both

National security is a high priority on most people's list. Not all agree on how best to provide it, but most agree it's important - especially Republicans.

When Republicans are faced with a candidate (example, Romney) that they think has decent economic policies, tolerable fiscal policies, adequate social policies, and good security policies vs a guy (RP) that has good economic policies, great fiscal policies, tolerable social policies but HORRIBLE SCARY BAD security policies, it makes the first guy seem preferable.

This is why I keep saying, Ron Paul's campaign and supporters HAVE GOT to figure out how to get both his foreign policy and more importantly his national security policies accurately described to Republicans.

To me, foreign policy and national security are two different policies. There is a lot of overlap, but they are distinct. Most people understand his foreign policy, even if they disagree and believe that it would put us more at risk. I believe that Ron Paul's campaign and supporters need to do a better job of making the case for non-interventionism.

However, even more urgently, most Republicans do NOT understand Ron Paul's national security policies - that is, what would Ron Paul do in the event of a credible threat against the US? What would he do if intelligence learns of an eminent attack against the US? He has not made these points clear to Republicans and he needs to do a better job of it if he wishes to win the nomination.

Saturday, January 21, 2012

Pro-[Choice/Life] isn't Anti-Freedom

I frequently see people on both sides of the abortion debate that point to the other side and accuse the other position of being "anti-freedom" or "incompatible with freedom". Problem is, as I see it, neither side can make that claim.

It seems to me that at some point, the right of the child to live overrides the right of the mother to choose to kill it. Most reasonable people will concede that this point is some time before it's actually born. Thus we are really just debating what that point should be.

For people like Ron Paul, his view is that the freedom to live is more important than the freedom to choose what to do with your own body. That's his view, but he recognizes that not all share it. In addition to that, he has said that Constitutionally, he would not allow a federal level mandate one way or another.

Personally, I'm not sure there is a "correct" answer politically that will satisfy everyone.

This is because, more generically, the problem is that abortion creates a paradox for individualism because you have two people occupying the same space at the same time and the exercise of rights by one is an infringement on the rights of the other.

In either case, you are infringing on someone's rights. Either you protect the right of the baby to live and infringe on the right of the mother to choose what to do with her own body, or you choose to protect the right of the mother to choose what to do with her own body and infringe on the right of the child to live.
So, agree or disagree with him about the point at which he feels we should recognize and protect a life, but it's not anti-liberty or anti-freedom.

In fact, Paul's actual policy prescription is a good compromise. Instead of a federal, top-down mandate that states that abortions are either all legal or all illegal, he allows the people of each state to decide. This will create a diverse environment that allows different views to be respected.

For example, while some states ban abortions, and some states permit even late-term abortions, perhaps a few other states would pass a law that legalizes abortion up to the 8th month, but that all abortions after the first 10 weeks must be done painlessly such as with lethal injection or an anesthetic that puts the baby to sleep first. This should satisfy most all pro-choice individuals since their ability to get an abortion isn't infringed. This could satisfy many pro-life individuals since the baby itself would not suffer or feel any pain. Reasonable compromise? I don't know.

Through this method of allowing multiple, different approaches that Paul is advocating, I think a more acceptable common ground can be reached.

Thursday, January 19, 2012

RP Supporters: How to handle a Talk Show Interview

Say that a Ron Paul supporter calls into and gets on a radio show. If the caller isn't already upset/angry, then often the host asks some loaded questions, interrupts when the caller tries to set the record straight, and at that point the caller starts to get flustered. Once a Ron Paul supporter, who is generally calling to try to set the media's misinformation straight, gets flustered by that very media, things go downhill and in the end, Dr Paul's supporters, (and by association, as is the intention, the good Dr himself), end up looking "crazy" and irrational.

So how can you carry yourself well and help the good Dr Paul instead of hurt him? Here's a few thoughts.

Friday, January 13, 2012

Might conservatives see foreign policy how liberals see the economy?

Conservatives (and libertarians) recognize that liberals have an incomplete, inaccurate view of a market economy. They see risk and thus want govt to mitigate that risk, but they don't look far enough to see cause and effect. We recognize that when govt intervenes in the market, negative unintended consequences occur and that when govt intercedes to fix a problem, it often creates more problems that are often worse than the original. We understand, as counterintuitive as it might seem, that by neither having govt regulating every risk nor bailing out and aiding specific companies, the market can actually be a more safe and productive entity.
So I have to ask, is it possible, just possible, that conservatives might suffer from the same incomplete, inaccurate view when it comes to foreign policy? Could it perhaps be that conservatives don't clearly see the cause and effect? Is it so impossible that conservatives are the ones overlooking the negative unintended consequences created by govt intervention in the affairs of foreign countries? Is it unreasonable to think that when govt intercedes in countries around the world to solve problems, that new problems are created (often worse than the original) caused by our very intercession? Just consider, could it be, as Ron Paul declares, that as counterintuitive as it might seem to some, that by removing our military presence and interventions (both public and covert) from around the world, that we could actually be more safe?

Thursday, January 12, 2012

Challenging the assertion that only Romney can beat Obama and that Ron Paul is "unelectable"

See Update at bottom.

This one frustrates the hell out of me. I hate the label of "unelectable" or the consensus that "only Romney can beat Obama". Just ruffles my feathers.

However, recently, PPP released a poll that pitted Romney against Obama that intrigued me. What was interesting about it was that in this one, unlike other's I've seen, they included 3rd party candidates (which is a more realistic representation of what the general election will look like). The results were fascinating.

Initially, in a plain head-to-head, Romney (47%) actually beats Obama (45%) whereas Paul  (41%) loses to Obama (46%).

However, once you introduce the 3rd party candidates, everything blows up. Romney loses significant portions of voters to 3rd party candidates - and much more than Obama and Romney loses in virtually every scenario. Paul and Trump actually take nearly 20% of the vote and the lionshare of that comes out of  Romney's numbers. More analysis here with more numbers, but I encourage you to take a look at the poll itself.

Now, those of us that are supporting Ron Paul recognize why this is. Many of us would rather remain consistent to our principles and vote for the person that best represents us over Romney, even if that means that the dreaded Democrat [scary voice] were to win. However, if Ron Paul won the nomination, not only would most of the right/Republicans support him (especially if their primary desire is just to beat Obama), but so would his ardent base of libertarians, as well as many Independents and a large number of democrats. Plus, it is possible (or even very likely, depending on the source) that if Ron Paul were to get the nomination, that the likely Libertarian party candidate Gary Johnson would bow out and endorse Paul.

In my opinion, because of the realities of 3rd party candidates, Ron Paul has a better chance of beating Barack Obama than Mitt Romney.

So, what I would like to do is to commission another, similar poll to be done. This time, let's see the effect of 3rd party candidates when Ron Paul is the Republican candidate. If this poll were to come back and show that Ron Paul loses fewer voters to 3rd party candidates than Romney, it could go a long way to demonstrate Ron Paul's electability. And not just that, but showing that it would be better than Romney's.

Imagine what that could do to the race and how it might shift some voters over - especially when, according to exit polls, nearly half of Romney's supporters are voting for him because of his electability and ability to "beat Obama".

So either encourage the Ron Paul campaign to commission such a poll, or recommend it to the PPP (or other pollsters) themselves.

Update 1/25: On Jan 17th, Public Policy Polling released another poll that shows that even when including Gary Johnson as Libertarian candidate, Romney loses significantly to Obama (7pts).

Monday, January 09, 2012

How Ron Paul should respond to accusations about his record

In the debates over the weekend, Rick Santorum accused Ron Paul of being "on the margins". Santorum implies that Paul would be an ineffectual President stating (paraphrased) "Out of over 600 bills, you've only had 4 come up for a vote and only 1 that has passed."

I guess in Santorum's worldview, since the same Congress that has continually concentrated control in Washington over the decades doesn't want to hear measures that would relinquish that power, Paul isn't doing things right. Here's how I'd love to hear Ron Paul respond:

Wait a minute, are you saying that because we have a Congress that has passed such bills as the National Defense Authorization Act, the bailouts and stimulus, and Obamacare, a Congress that will stuff multiple unrelated measures into a single bill that gets both sides something they want and a plausible excuse to give their base as to why they voted for it, a Congress that will use trickery, loopholes, and bribes to pass unpopular bills (and then congratulates themselves on legislative creativity), a Congress that frequently does not read the bills they are voting on, a Congress that throws taxpayers money around at endeavors like a bridge to nowhere (that my opponent here voted for), ethanol subsidies, and Solyndra, a Congress that continues to raise the debt ceiling while it has not had a balanced budget in virtually my entire tenure and hasn't passed a budget at all in the last 3 years, a Congress that cozies up to special interests and lobbyists and who often outsources the writing of complex bills to corporate insiders, a Congress with an 8% approval rating, because *that* Congress refuses to even debate my bills, are you saying that reflects negatively on me?


I'm more concerned with finding common areas of agreement and forming coalitions for freedom. I've been accused by my opponents of working with Democrats and leftists like Barney Frank, Bernie Sanders, and Dennis Kucinich - and this is true. But because I can agree with Frank on the need to get the federal govt out of trying to restrict medical marijuana doesn't mean I agree with him on his banking regulations. Because I can find common ground with Sanders regarding the Federal Reserve, doesn't mean I agree with him on his economic views. Because I can work with Kucinich to try to change our interventionist foreign policy doesn't mean I agree with his views on govt funded health care. Working with people with whom you disagree 95% of the time to get things in that 5% accomplished doesn't make you a sellout, it's how you build coalitions to fight a battle for liberty without losing your principles.


No, this accusation reveals the mentality of Washington insiders: that "getting things done" is more important than what is actually done. That has to stop.