Trade Wars

Do imports really hurt the American Economy?
95% of the people used to work on farms. Now it's 2%. Yes, there were periods of wrenching dislocations and plenty of individuals who were hurt. But does anyone really think it would be best to go back to 95% of the population spending their days in strenuous back breaking labor in the fields?
Most of the manufacturing jobs we lost were due to mechanization and improving productivity, not lost to other countries, for all of the political pronouncements to the contrary. The unions had a heyday in the aftermath of WWII when most of the world's manufacturing had been destroyed - except ours. But that couldn't be expected to last. We even paid to help everyone else rebuild theirs while ours started to rust away.
It's always easy to point to the individual people hurt by a process ... they're always there. But what do the poor do when prices for essentials start skyrocketing because of punative tariff taxes. How much steel does it take to make a car, a refrigerator or a washing machine. Those prices will be going up if either Trump or Clinton has their way. Prices go up, fewer bought, lower production and lost jobs. They just aren't as obvious or concentrated as the ones we can directly point to.
Neither one of the candidates have been honest with us. They both pandered to fears and scare tactics and outright lies. In the end the election isn't about who most people wanted in the Oval Office, it's who they fear the most moving in.

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Hayek Vs Keynes

Just ran across links to a couple of my favorite economics videos.

A little background … Hayek was a free market economist of the Austrian school and Keynes an interventionist. Their biggest argument was about the causes of business cycles and of the Depression in particular. So without further ado, here you go …

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Don’t Count On Social Security Benefits

The Ponzi scheme known as the Social Security Benefit system is running out of steam.

When it was first created, it was promoted as supplement to regular retirement savings for a few well-defined groups of people. Life expectancy was 63 and full benefits didn’t kick in until 65. During its first 40 or 50 years, for those who lived long enough to collect on it, it was the best and “safest” return on your money for retirement there was.

Far more money went into the so-called trust fund than was paid out. That “excess” was “invested” in “special” Treasury notes, in essence IOUs from the government to itself. That money then went into the general fund and was spent like all the rest. Since it was an internal debt it doesn’t even show up on the balance sheets or get counted as part of the debt.

Over the years, more and more people have been added and benefits increased to where many people expect Social Security benefits to take care of their minimum retirement needs. Life expectancy increased to 65, 67, 70, 72 years old or more. More people getting more money for a longer time with fewer and fewer people paying into the system. There was a major “patch” made in the 80’s when age for full retirement was boosted up and tax (excuse me, “contribution”) rates shot up.

As the demographics kept changing, there was less and less “excess” to tap. External borrowing had to take its place. Deficits began skyrocketing up.

Not one penny was paid out on those “securities” until just a few years ago.

It was all just funny money on cooked books. Nothing was being cashed in. Nothing taken out of revenues, only more put into the general fund and replaced by those IOUs. Treasuries are only as safe as the government’s power to take money from current taxpayers.

The Court has already ruled that you have no legal claim to Social Security benefits. There is absolutely NOTHING that guarantees that the retirement payments you expect will continue to be made or at what level or at what retirement age or with what COLA formula (if any) or any other change they want to make, after all, it’s just another law.

One of the saddest lessons of history is this: If we’ve been bamboozled long enough, we tend to reject any evidence of the bamboozle. We’re no longer interested in finding out the truth. The bamboozle has captured us. It is simply too painful to acknowledge — even to ourselves — that we’ve been so credulous. (So the old bamboozles tend to persist as the new bamboozles rise.) – Carl Sagan

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Gun Control Means Using Both Hands

Many years ago, my husband and I were at a local bar for dinner when some drunk at the bar dropped his gun on the floor and it went off. The bullet hit within about 6 inches of my foot.

Did it give me the shakes? A bit. But the thought never even crossed my mind that it should have been illegal for him (or anyone else) to have it there. Self defense is one of the most basic unalienable rights there can be.

If some robber breaks into my placeBusiness End I would have no hesitation in protecting myself or anyone else. Not that I have any desire to hurt or kill anyone, in fact, for a long time, when I was living in a place with stairs, (lots of commas there) my first action would have been to grab the shotgun and pump it. That sound is distinct enough that any intruder with two brain cells to rub together is going to decide that he might not have picked the best place to hit and that he probably better get out.

Given that the shotgun was a .410, not good for much beyond birding, that would get dropped and I’d pick up the .45. If someone was dumb enough or drugged up enough to not pay attention to the pump sound, I wanted a gun big enough to make sure that if he still came up the stairs, he would be going down and staying down.

I’ve recently moved and the requirements for concealed carry here are a bit more expensive than where I used to be, so I haven’t gotten the permit yet, but I will. In over 20 years of carrying, I’ve only even put my hand on my gun in my purse (not even drawing it) one time. Hopefully I’ll never need to. But I intend to have the option.

And your aim is better if your gun control is done with both hands 🙂

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Time To Get Out The Vote … For NOTA

With primary elections underway across the country, I thought I’d throw in my two cents worth on the question of voting.

I Voted!

I urge everyone to go and vote, even if there’s only one issue or person you consider worth voting for. The fact that someone or something is on a ballot doesn’t mean you have to vote for or against that person or issue. Don’t vote the lesser of two evils. Continue reading

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Climate Change Debate, Global Warming, Cow Farts And Carbon Emissions

I don’t deny that there has been global warming. That’s usually what happens when ice ages end. Yes, there has been an increase in CO2 and CO2 is a greenhouse gas. So is methane. The biggest greenhouse gas is H2O in the form of clouds. Overall climate is always changing.

GreenhouseBUT, and  it’s a big BUT, for all the claims that our carbon emissions (and now cow farts) are the sole, or even major, cause of the warming there is not one model that I can find that tracks the actual climactic record. I’m not talking a year or two here and there, but going on decadal trends. When the models are  that far off, I can’t give much weight to the conclusions that are drawn from them. Climate is such a chaotic system with so MANY inputs that trying to tie it to just the one input of carbon emissions is ludicrous.

We only have accurate global data for the last 50 years or so out of 4.5 billion years. When I read about data falsification, that creates big questions as to what we can believe. When I see “corrections” like, for instance, growing city’s heat island effects on recorded temperature, that are so inconsistently applied and in only certain circumstances giving questionable results that even a 5th grader could see, that also casts a lot of doubt on the results.

As an aside, global warming and higher CO2 aren’t even all bad – higher CO2 = higher agricultural yields. More people die from cold than heat. There was a reason that Greenland was called Greenland when it was first settled during the Medieval Warm Period when it was warmer than it is now. There was another similar period during the heyday of the Roman Empire. There is no “right” climate.

But the prophets of doom would have us beggar our society in the cause of these unprovable assertions. We are ordered to limit our energy to only “sustainable” sources at high costs for an admittedly small (very small) net lowering in global CO2 levels in the air at an admittedly large (very large) cost.

Gloomy DayGuess what? The sun doesn’t always shine and the wind doesn’t always blow. Battery storage prices are still way too high. There are only so many dams that can be built and, even then, only in some places. We still haven’t solved the societal question of dealing with nuclear wastes. That leaves fossil fuels as the only universally available and most affordable source for power generation. Coal is the most common and least expensive. However, there’s no proven affordable method of “carbon sequestration” yet, for all the EPA’s claims to the contrary. Big Oil is the Great Satan of the environmentalists with fracking for natural gas not far behind.

Why not let people decide what they want to believe? Let the market find economical methods to sell in the name of reducing carbon emissions. Those research projects have been going on since before there WAS a global warming boogie man. Those trade-offs should be made by the people themselves, using their own resources, not governments spending other people’s money with reckless abandon.

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Gun Control? Crime, Death And The Media

Glock 17As usual, whenever there’s a “newsworthy” crime that involves guns in any way, you can be certain of one thing … there will be calls for more gun control. People die every day from unnatural causes and most of those deaths are tragedies, in one way or the other. More and more though, the actual numbers have been quietly dropping without fanfare. Even in the face of massive increase in gun ownership (much of it due paradoxically to the threats of those pushing gun control to make them illegal), court cases upholding the 2nd Amendment as an individual right, and most states making it easier to legally carry concealed, the US homicide rate is now as low as it was in the 1960s and still dropping.

What has changed is the extremely broad availability of news media. We didn’t used to have 24 hour news channels that had to have something to report and crime is always good for increasing viewership. Same for the internet. Posts about a crime that would have been on page 3 of your physical newspaper (if anywhere at all) now go viral where everyone sees it because, once again, crime reporting sells. Violent crime appears to be up when it’s not, not by a long shot (no pun intended).

Highway AccidentPeople, for better or worse, are voyeurs. If there’s a wreck on the freeway, the traffic on the other side slows way down too, just to take a look. The tabloid covers are (almost) always filled with bad things that have happened; deaths, crimes and scandals. The same mechanism holds true on internet media. The one biggest thing we could do to cut down on these sorts of crime? Just call them crimes. Stop sensationalizing them. Don’t give the perpetrators the expectation that the end of their lonely miserable lives (at least by their thinking) will be in a flash of “glory”. They’re crooks and criminals, no more and no less. Treat them that way.

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What’s The Solution?

The real problem is that there are NO *solutions* possible to most human problems. There are only tradeoffs. Even so, people emotionally demand the impossible and that’s where the ideologues step in with their invalid premises and promises.

The only thing that is unlimited is human desires. All resources are finite and their most efficient economic allocation is learned through the mechanism of prices. Some win, some lose but most people, on average, improve their lot. No politician or appointee or committee or any other human created group can possibly have sufficient information to more efficiently allocate those resources.

That is assuming that people actually have the freedom to make their own decisions as to what they really want and at what price they’re willing to pay for it, no matter whether or not that’s what some elite thinks they do or should want.

The self-proclaimed elites on all sides insist that they are the ones who should decide what people can or can’t have or do because they are so much wiser or more moral or more caring or whatever label they chose to use. They may mean to rule well, but they do mean to rule. What they do with the economy is just one of their tools.

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Mental Health – Legitimate Cause Or Just An Excuse…

Portrait of a patient, Surrey County AsylumOnce again, with the latest mass murder, we get the standard mental heath arguments. Either “He should have been locked up in a mental ward.” or “It wasn’t his fault. He was mentally ill.” or both.

The reason we have so few in the mental health hospitals now were the demands to stop any sort of involuntary commitment unless it could be proven that a person was an immediate danger to himself or those around him and as soon as he might even possibly be judged to be recovered from that acute state he would be released.

It was an over reaction to a system that was abused, where too many people were just warehoused or conveniently put put of sight. It was part of the whole civil rights movement of the 60’s to empty the hospitals. The standards, such as they are, that are now in place are likely too loose, but many mentally ill people can and do present a perfectly normal outward appearance. Violent fantasies are not illegal, and for some people are probably a useful outlet.

Where do we draw the line? Who decides? On what basis? Do we commit people that shouldn’t be or free people who should be committed? No one can know enough to always be right, no matter how many controls you try and put in place. There are no solutions to the mental health issue or many other similar questions. There are only trade-offs.

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