Monthly Archives: December 2013

Commentary Income Gap And Private Social Security Accounts


One of the reasons that the income gap is widening is the impact of the gain in the stock market – wealthy Americans invest disproportionately in the market.  The less wealthy, for several reasons, don’t invest in the market.

Because of this, those wealthy Americans that DO invest in the market are seeing gains to their income due to the power of the stock market – the gains are flowing to the wealthy.

Consider this fact when reflecting on arguments AGAINST private investment accounts in place of social security*.  The idea that we reform social security away from the government trust fund to a privately held account that could be invested at the discretion of the individual.

The arguments against this plan is that it would expose the money to the vagrancies of the stock market and places the individual at too much risk.

This is very similar to the arguments presented by the liberal when it comes to the importance of money.  It goes something like this:

There is more to life than money, therefore a degree in Renaissance Art of Western Europe is valuable in its own right and a career in that field can offer a full and rewarding life.  The rich get richer and the poor get poorer – we need more redistribution of the money!

On the one hand, the argument states that money isn’t important and then becomes surprised when people who do value money have more of it than people who don’t value money.

The stock market is a massively effective method of building wealth.  Buying stocks during the recession, not selling, was responsible for astonishingly large gains for many many people.

If you care about income disparity, and we know that a large reason for this disparity is the market, how can you disagree with private social security accounts?

* I say this knowing full well that the REAL argument against private social security accounts is the same argument against Obamacare – Individual Liberty.  Social Security is nothing more than a mandate to save money and a private account would be no different than forcing  people to buy health insurance.

Duck Dynasty – A Win For Civil Libertarians

Duck Dynasty

A&E Reinstates Phil Robertson

Late Friday night A&E announced that is was going to resume filming the show with family patriarch Phil Robertson:

(CNN) — Little more than a week after it suspended “Duck Dynasty” star Phil Robertson for incendiary remarks about homosexuality, the cable channel A&E said Friday that it would include him in future tapings of the reality television show, effectively lifting the suspension amid a flurry of petitions in support of Robertson.

I’ve stated many ties that I am a firm believer in the concept that people enter into relationships voluntarily and that they may exit those relationships at their discretion.  For example, if I take a job and begin to grow out my hair -I have hair down to my mid back- I should feel free to do so.  However, if my employer doesn’t like her employees to have long hair, she should be free to terminate my employment.

I have no problem with A&E terminating Phil Robertson for his hair, his beard, his age, his religion or his general redneckiness.

But we don’t like in my world – we live in a world where people have been granted civil liberties.  And one of those liberties is the protection of religion.  I may not hire or fire someone based on their religion.

And Phil was.  He was fired for his fundamental Christian beliefs.  There isn’t anyone who thought that he would have answered in any other way than he did when asked about his feeling towards homosexuality.  None.

And as much as I disagree with Phil, and agree with A&E’s right to fire him, the rules of this real world don’t support their decision.

Now, I’m also not so naive to think that A&E backed down due to some noble adherence to law; no – make no mistake about it, they backed down because without Phil they lose 14 million viewers and the money that goes from “Duck Dynasty” to “Duck Commander”.

Phil wins, for the wrong reason, and I lose.

Who Shall Care For The Poor?

We should, of course:

Income Inequality – Debate of 2014


Income Inequality

You can already sense that the battle line are being formed for the 2014 debate in the lead-up to the November elections.  For better or for worse, the republicans are going to talk about Obamacare and its roll-out while the democrats are going to shift to the middle class, wage stagnation and, perhaps, immigration.

Ignoring the political reasons for now, let’s focus on what I think will be the democrat’s main strategy to gain the upper hand: Income Inequality.

Here’s the general framing:

WASHINGTON — The growing gap between the richest Americans and everyone else isn’t bad just for individuals.

It’s hurting the U.S. economy.

So says a majority of more than three dozen economists surveyed last week by The Associated Press. Their concerns tap into a debate that’s intensified as middle-class pay has stagnated while wealthier households have thrived.

A key source of the economists’ concern: Higher pay and outsize stock market gains are flowing mainly to affluent Americans.

That’s the academic framing to be sure – the more populist message is better articulated by Obama himself:

“The combined trends of increased inequality and decreasing mobility pose a fundamental threat to the American dream, our way of life, and what we stand for around the globe,” Obama said at a speech in Washington, D.C. hosted by the progressive think tank Center for American Progress.

Obama called for a litany of proposals — a higher minimum wage, stronger labor laws and a budget which promotes both education and social safety programs — that he said would provide better economic stability for families in the aftermath of the recession that took hold as he first took office in 2009.

THAT is the message that we’re gonna hear for the next year, at least, and then its echos as we move into the Presidential election coming in 2016.

Is It Real

What is this thing that folks call “income inequality”?  Personally I take it as the difference between what the poorest Americans earn vs the amount of money earned by the wealthiest Americans.  Examples that support this idea are statements that take this general form:

Income for middle class America have stagnated while the richest among us only get richer.

That’s my paraphrase, but I think it’s accurate.  Basically it’s the idea that the rich are getting richer while the poor are getting poorer.

Why It’s Bad

There are two camps in the “why it’s bad” side:

1.  An ever and ever wider gap is bad for the economy

2.  It simply isn’t fair.

Argument 1:

A key source of the economists’ concern: Higher pay and outsize stock market gains are flowing mainly to affluent Americans. Yet these households spend less of their money than do low- and middle-income consumers who make up most of the population but whose pay is barely rising.

“What you want is a broader spending base,” says Scott Brown, chief economist at Raymond James, a financial advisory firm. “You want more people spending money.”

Spending by wealthier Americans, given the weight of their dollars, does help drive the economy. But analysts say the economy would be better able to sustain its growth if the riches were more evenly dispersed. For one thing, a plunge in stock prices typically leads wealthier Americans to cut sharply back on their spending.

“The broader the improvement, the more likely it will be sustained,” said Michael Niemira, chief economist at the International Council of Shopping Centers.

A wide gap in pay limits the ability of poorer and middle-income Americans to improve their living standards, the economists say.

This argument is more data driven and relies on an heavier understanding of the science of economics.  This gap is bad because of this data driven list of reasons.

The second reason, in my mind, is more of a populist message and likely what we’ll hear from the stump:

“The opportunity gap in America is now as much about class as it is about race,” Obama said, “and that gap is growing.”

I’m not going to be able to shape the stump, but maybe we can discuss the data.

Let’s try that.

Be Careful What You Wish For

ObamacareLook, I want life to work out well for everybody.  But when people are making horrible decisions, and I try and tell them that they are basically hurting themselves, I have little sympathy for them:

Many in New York’s professional and cultural elite have long supported President Obama’s health care plan. But now, to their surprise, thousands of writers, opera singers, music teachers, photographers, doctors, lawyers and others are learning that their health insurance plans are being canceled and they may have to pay more to get comparable coverage, if they can find it.

They are part of an unusual, informal health insurance system that has developed in New York, in which independent practitioners were able to get lower insurance rates through group plans, typically set up by their professional associations or chambers of commerce. That allowed them to avoid the sky-high rates in New York’s individual insurance market, historically among the most expensive in the country.

But under the Affordable Care Act, they will be treated as individuals, responsible for their own insurance policies. For many of them, that is likely to mean they will no longer have access to a wide network of doctors and a range of plans tailored to their needs. And many of them are finding that if they want to keep their premiums from rising, they will have to accept higher deductible and co-pay costs or inferior coverage.

“I couldn’t sleep because of it,” said Barbara Meinwald, a solo practitioner lawyer in Manhattan.

I’m not sayin’, I’m just sayin’

I told you so!

When We Said We Don’t Trust The Government

Big Brother

This is what we mean:

The California health exchange has admitted it has been divulging contact information for tens of thousands of consumers to insurance agents without their permission or knowledge in an effort to hit deadlines for coverage.

Covered California said it was handing out consumer information as part of a pilot program to help people enroll ahead of a Dec. 23 deadline to have health insurance in place by the new year, according to the Los Angeles Times. The consumers in question had gone online to research insurance options, but didn’t ask to be contacted.

Social Security numbers, income and other information were not provided to the agents, but names, addresses, phone numbers and email addresses were made available, exchange officials said.

The names provided by Covered California include people who started an insurance application on the website but didn’t complete the process.

State officials say they do not know exactly how many people are affected by the information sharing.

Whoever is in charge, your team or mine, they are gonna think that what they are doing is in the best interest of the people.

And it just gets worse from there.

On Phil Robertson – From The Left

It’s been fun watching the reaction to the whole Duck Dynasty thing.

It started out with his comments from the interview, then moved to his suspension.  From there, Cracker Barrel got into the game by pulling Duck Dynasty merchandise that only upset THEIR customer base.  After much complaining on the innertubes, Cracker Barrel relented apologized and put the stuff back on sale.

My take?

I think that an employer should be allowed to fire anyone for any reason, so I have no issue personally that Phil got the axe.  But we don’t live in my world – we live in the real world, where firing someone for their religion is against the law – or at least I think it is.  I can’t image that an employer, upon learning that his employee isn’t Christian, could fire him.

Anyway – so I think that Phil’s civil liberties were abused to a degree.  And if they weren’t, if there is a legal standing that A&E can rest on – think morals clause or spokesman – I have some trouble wrapping my head around the whole thing.  I mean, the whole show is based on the fact that these Robertson people are God Fearing evangelical Christian rednecks.  There isn’t one single person alive that would have thought Phil would think that homosexuality wasn’t a sin.

So, yeah, it’s been fun watching it.  But here is a take I didn’t expect:

I have to say I’m befuddled by the firing of Phil Robertson, he of the amazing paterfamilias beard on Duck Dynasty (which I mainly see via The Soup). A&E has a reality show that depends on the hoariest stereotypes – and yet features hilariously captivating human beings – located in the deep South. It’s a show riddled with humor and charm and redneck silliness. The point of it, so far as I can tell, is a kind of celebration of a culture where duck hunting is the primary religion, but where fundamentalist Christianity is also completely pervasive. (Too pervasive for the producers, apparently, because they edited out the saying of grace to make it non-denominational and actually edited in fake beeps to make it seem like the bearded clan swore a lot, even though they don’t.)

Now I seriously don’t know what A&E were expecting when the patriarch Phil Robertson was interviewed by GQ. But surely the same set of expectations that one might have of an ostensibly liberal host of a political show would not be extended to someone whose political incorrectness was the whole point of his stardom. He’s a reality show character, for Pete’s sake. Not an A&E spokesman.

Robertson is a character in a reality show. He’s not a spokesman for A&E any more than some soul-sucking social x-ray from the Real Housewives series is a spokeswoman for Bravo. Is he being fired for being out of character? Nah. He’s being fired for staying in character – a character A&E have nurtured and promoted and benefited from. Turning around and demanding a Duck Dynasty star suddenly become the equivalent of a Rachel Maddow guest is preposterous and unfair.

What Phil Robertson has given A&E is a dose of redneck reality. Why on earth would they fire him for giving some more?


Characteristics Of Minimum Wage – 2012

Minimum Wage

There conversation surrounding the minimum wage continues.  Some facts:

  •  59% of all salary/wage earners are paid in hourly rates – 75.3 million workers.
  • 1.6 million earn exactly the minimum wage.
  • 2.0 million earn less than the federal minimum.
  • These totals represent 4.7% of all hourly paid workers.

All the debate and all the protest  over 4.7% hourly employees – less if you consider the fact that the 2 million earning less than the federal minimum actually earn significantly more than the minimum wage.


If You Like Your Plan You Can Keep Your Plan

The White House must be insane if they try and dispute the idea that this is the “Lie of the Year”

The White House on Friday said President Obama had “in a very honest way addressed” questions over his statement that individuals could keep their health care plans under ObamaCare, named by fact-checker PolitiFact as “Lie of the Year.”

“The president, in an interview earlier this fall, took this question head-on and expressed his concern for those individuals, those Americans, who received cancellation notices and were potentially adversely impacted by or affected by that,” White House press secretary Jay Carney said.

But the White House spokesman went on to jab the fact-checking organization, who in 2012 had declared the president’s statement “half true.”

“You know, end-of-the-year categorizations like that are always fun, even when they don’t jive with past characterizations of the very same statement, but we’re focused on implementation of the Affordable Care Act,” Carney said.

Stones.  Right there; that’s stones.

This isn’t the normal political “lie” where a candidate campaigns on “lower taxes” or “increased help for middle-class families” where the guy honestly will try and achieve the “campaign promise”.  No, this here, this is different.

In this case, the White House, Obama specifically, knowingly knew that millions of people would lose their plan well ahead of time and in a deceitful and purpose of mind, lied to the American people.

This is what people mean when they say “he lied”.

Militia Commander Does Me Proud

Not only my home state but my adopted home state are involved in this crazy man’s story:

MINNEAPOLIS — A member of the Minnesota National Guard and self-described commander of a militia group was charged Wednesday with stealing names, Social Security numbers and security clearance levels of roughly 400 members of his former Army unit in Fort Bragg, N.C., so he could make fake IDs for his militia members.

According to a federal complaint and affidavit obtained Wednesday by The Associated Press, Keith Michael Novak, 25, of Maplewood, threatened to use violence if authorities came to arrest him.

“I’ve my AK in my bed. If I hear that door kick, it’s going boom, boom, boom, boom, boom, boom. I’m just going to start putting them through the (expletive) wall,” he told an undercover FBI employee in July, according to the affidavit unsealed Wednesday.

Novak was charged with committing fraud in connection with identification documents. He was in federal custody Wednesday and unavailable for comment. His father has an unlisted number, and attempts to reach him were unsuccessful. The federal defender’s office has the case, but an attorney had not been selected to represent him by Wednesday evening.

Such a tortured life this man must lead.