Politics Archives

Lessons From the Greek Tragedy

Imagine, if you will, a guy who fills out a loan application, but lies on it about his current financial situation, or he tells the truth about his bad situation but signs a promise to get his financial house in order if he can get this loan. Now let’s say he doesn’t make the changes he promised, but spends the money on the same things that got him into the mess he was in before the loan. When it’s time to make payments on the loan, he complains he doesn’t have the money and wants to renegotiate the terms of the existing loan and get a new one.

You’re the loan officer. What do you do? The guy’s telling you he needs the money to eat and to pay his other bills. But he didn’t change his free-spending ways like he promised and now he’s in a bind again. Is it prudent to give more cash to a guy who can’t change his spending habits, and can’t repay what you’ve already given him?

No, it’s not. That’s not being heartless; that’s just being a good steward of the bank’s money. And if you keep giving this guy money, and he doesn’t repay it, what about the depositors who’s money it is that you’re handing out? When they need their money, where will it be?

The guy I’m talking about is the country of Greece. And just like Margaret Thatcher’s description, their socialism was working great, right up until they ran out of other people’s money. You can only soak the rich for so long, and so they went to the European and international banks for bailouts. And more bailouts. But each time, though they promised to mend their free-spending, socialist ways, they didn’t and wound up in the same situation.

There are 2 major problems that this situation has highlighted. First, the European Union has certainly caused state sovereignty to seep out of the individual countries, such that it’s understandable why citizens of Greece would be insisting that the EU be held at least partially responsible. If Greece must bow to the EU on some matters, the EU must be willing to help. With great power-grabs come great responsibility.

But the other major problem is one that our own country needs to come to terms with. The Greek government got in over its head with promises it made to various groups. Welfare, pension, and other government payments got to the point where merely servicing those was drowning the country in debt. They made the promises, so they had to keep them. And when the government over-promised, the people voted in politicians who would give them more stuff, until the government had to tax and tax, and borrow and borrow, to keep up. And all that taxing and borrowing reduces economic growth and devalues the currency. So more taxing and more borrowing, and the death spiral continues.

So then, who should pay for the bad choices of the Greek people? Should we allow the Greeks to default on their obligations, and then have the German and the French people have to bail out their banks? How in the world is that fair? “But what about the Greek people?”, those on the Left were asking when those Greek people voted to stiff their creditors. “Why should they be punished for the actions of their government?” Well, because they voted for the guy who squandered the money and walked into the bank to ask for more. And if the Greeks are let off the hook, there are other European countries looking to try the same ploy. I’m looking at you, Spain, Portugal and Italy.

The problem is that the Greeks poked a big hole in their own boat, and no amount of bailing by themselves will keep them afloat. More bailers, if you will, would help, and the EU is going to continue to help in the bailing, but the Greeks need to agree to quit making the hole bigger, and take steps to plug it. That’s going to take some hard choices on their part, but that’s the problem with socialism. Once you get used to the idea of free money and benefits, you get to thinking that they are your “right”. Going back to fiscal responsibility is a much harder road to travel.

The Greeks are learning that lesson. Well, I hope they are. I’m not so sure after they voted to default on their loans. I also hope that we’ll learn it, too. But I begin to wonder about my fellow countrymen when I see how popular presidential candidate Bernie Sanders is, who is an avowed socialist. “Ignore the News, Vote for Sanders!”

    In June of 2013, the Supreme Court’s liberals declared that the Defense of Marriage Act, which was passed by Congress and signed by President Bill Clinton, was unconstitutional, because, as they said, the power of the individual state in defining marriage is “of central relevance", and the decision to grant same-sex couples the right to marry is "of immense import." Basically, it’s the state, and not the federal government, which should determine what marriage is and license accordingly.

    Two years to the day later, those same liberals overrode those immensely important marriage laws in 14 states and proclaimed same-sex marriage from the federal bench. And it once again proves something I’ve said on this podcast so many times; for the Left, it is all about politics. Constitutional matters, federalism, and some supposed regard for the rule of law, all of it, take a back seat in order to get their political agenda passed. The individual state’s ability to define what marriage is, is of central relevance, right up until it isn’t.

    Chief Justice John Roberts, in his dissent, noted this, "This court is not a legislature. Whether same-sex marriage is a good idea should be of no concern to us.” Right, that’s what states were allowed to determine on their own, and in fact it was going that way with, as I said, only 14 states left holding on to traditional marriage.

    I will say, as an aside, that this thought by Roberts – that the court is not a legislature – was rather ironic, given his previous rewriting of ObamaCare. It’s like two, two, two Supreme Court chief justices in one!

    Let me ask you this; which would have been better? Should the Court have allowed same-sex marriage to work its way through the culture, gaining support as it had been doing, or do what it did and just impose it by judicial fiat? Before you answer, consider how well that worked for abortion. It is still a hard fought battle in the culture, and in the state legislatures as well. Rather than let it organically happen democratically, abortion was imposed, and the backlash has been with us ever since. I oppose abortion, and I also oppose a government that will override me and my state’s rights to govern ourselves. I oppose same-sex marriage, but again, the Court’s liberals (and if I may, it seems that liberals in general) have no problem holding state law immensely important one day, and the next day overruling them, so long as their political agenda is served. As I mentioned in the previous episode, the process is just as important as the outcome, and the process, both here and with the ObamaCare ruling, are deeply flawed and set a bad precedent for future courts to reinterpret words, and override the will of the people.

    There have been many predictions about what comes next. Some, on the pages of TIME magazine, are already pushing polygamy. That effort has been going on for years, but it got a boost with this ruling. There are those already calling for the abolishing of tax exempt status for religious institutions – churches and religious schools – that won’t teach the liberal orthodoxy about same-sex marriage or won’t perform them. These are likely coming down the road. But, as Erick Erickson noted, the first thing to come will be … silence. The day of the ruling, a newspaper in Pennsylvania said they wouldn’t print letters to the editor on the topic anymore. I have a friend who, when asked what the Bible says about homosexuality, gave a straight answer (so to speak) and was immediately pounced on for being bigoted and hateful. You don’t have to thump anyone with a Bible anymore; it just has to be in the room for someone to claim you’re evil.

    So silence will fall, but just because you don’t hear a particular opinion anymore doesn’t mean it’s not there. However, if a baker or a photographer can be put out of business for not participating in a same-sex wedding, how much more of a target are those churches that won’t perform them for what 5 justices have now deemed is a “fundamental right”?


    With the ObamaCare and the same-sex marriage rulings, the court has done two things. It has taken power away from you at both the federal and state level.

    If you ever complained that Washington, DC was unresponsive to the needs of the people, the ObamaCare ruling should bother you, at the very least. That is, unless you’re celebrating the topic of the ruling, then the process is likely nothing you’re concerned about. I’ve seen it in my Facebook feed. However, from this day forward, federal agencies like the IRS, and all the way up to the President, don’t have to restrain themselves to the actual wording of the laws Congress passes. ObamaCare said you got subsidies through exchanges established by the states, but an unelected federal agency changed that. Your representatives, and by extension you, have lost more influence. The government can do what it wants.

    And if you ever complained that your state government was unresponsive to the needs of the people, the same-sex marriage ruling should bother you, too. But again, the winners are too busy celebrating to see how this, too, has erased their influence and yours at the state level. It just takes 5 Supreme Court justices to invalidate anything a state does. Vote however you want, call your state representative as much as you want, but in the end, a majority of 9 unelected justices get the final say for over 320 million people. One man, one vote, indeed.

    If you celebrate these rulings, and if you’ve ever been a proponent of power to the people, or you’ve ever put forth the idea that every vote should count, you either have not been paying attention, or have no idea at all what those phrases even mean. At least, I’d really hope that this can all be explained by ignorance and apathy, because the alternative is worse; willful misuse of the founding principles of this country, and that will bring us down faster than any law you can pass.

    The Left loves the platitude “Government is just another name for the things we choose to do together.” Of course, by the phrase “choose to do together”, they mean “use a panel of 9 lawyers to force everyone to do what they want”. Platitudes are useful in the meantime, but in the end, for the Left, it’s all about politics.

      How One-Party Rule Has Affected Cities

      A few thoughts on this particular subject.

      Chicago, Illinois; the safest city in the US because of its strict gun control laws. Heh, no, not really. It’s got some of the highest gun crime in the country in spite of, or perhaps because of, it’s strict gun control laws. Gun control is one of those things that liberals insist works in spite of the reality to the contrary.

      Here’s another: in spite of Chicago being a liberal paradise – not having a single Republican governor for over 80 years since 1931 – somehow the city’s economy is crumbling. It’s Democrats who keep insisting that they, and not Republicans, know how to bring the poor out of their situation, and believe that if we only spend enough money on a problem, it’ll get solved by government. And yet Moody’s Investor Service, which rates, among other things, the municipal bonds of cities, has downgraded Chicago’s credit rating to junk level. It also said that the city’s future outlook is negative, which I guess means that someday the credit rating could drop to “extra junk”, “junkier”, or maybe “double secret junk”.

      I’ve mentioned Detroit, Michigan in the past. They’ve had Democratic mayors since 1962; about 30 years less than Chicago, but still over half a century. And yet the economy and infrastructure have seen better days. The city of Baltimore, Maryland was in the headlines for riots over the death of a black youth in police custody, and the state of its economy came to the fore during that; an economy where poverty was still rampant. And its mayors? Only 1 Republican since 1947.

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        What’s Your Opinion of Opinion Polling?

        The science of polling the general public has had its good and bad times, and it appears it’s going through one of those rough patches at the moment. A friend of mine refers to polls as “cricket races”; basically a snapshot of where things are in a particular race, that has as much bearing on our lives as a race amongst crickets. If it’s a slow news day, release the results from a poll, and call it news.

        Some might put the word “science” in the phrase “science of polling” in scare quotes, not convinced that it’s much of a science at all. I do have some respect for those whose lives are in various statistical occupations. It seems like a black art, but, for example, one pharmaceutical client I worked for years ago had a Quality Assurance group that tested the products coming into the warehouse before they could be shipped out, and they explained quite a bit to me.  I couldn’t relate what they said now – I really can’t remember it all – but basically, given a good random sample, they could give you a good reading on whether or not the batch that just came in was good enough to ship out. Yeah, the only way to be totally sure was to test it all, but to get close enough to 100% sure without going overboard, there was a lot of science backing up their procedures.

        Sampling people, on the other hand, is nowhere near as straightforward as sampling pharmaceuticals. People can say one thing, and yet do another. Which apparently happened in a big way over in the UK recently, when the conservative Tories trounced the liberal Labor Party in national elections, gaining their first outright majority since 1992. This even though Nate Silver, the US polling expert, had a look at all the UK polls and proclaimed that a Tory win of a majority of seats in Parliament was “vanishingly small when the polls closed – around 1 in 500.”

        So much for that prediction. But the predictive value of polls is lessened when the pollsters themselves hide some of their results. It happened in the UK, and it happens quite a bit, apparently. No pollster wants to publish results that wind up being way out of line with those from other polls. No one wants to be the outlier, but that’s what happened in the UK. A last-minute poll by one group got the percentages virtually dead on to what the voting results were, but they didn’t publish it, “chickening out”, as the group’s CEO explained. It’s a herd mentality that we see in news coverage as well.

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          Indiana’s Religious Freedom Restoration Act

          The state of Indiana has come under fire for passing their version of the federal Religious Freedom Restoration Act. RFRA, as it’s called, was passed in response to court cases that eroded First Amendment protections of the exercise of religion. Religious freedom used to be judged on a case-by-case basis, considering whether each law had specific exemptions for religious groups. Charles Schumer, Democratic Senator from New York, introduced a bill in 1993 to set a standard on how religious freedom cases should be considered; using the same standard that another First Amendment protection – freedom of speech – was adjudicated. I’ll get to the details of that standard in a moment. The bill passed the US Senate 97-3, and by acclamation in the House. Bill Clinton signed it on November 16, 1993. Today, that same action at the state level is being called “bigoted” by Democrats.

          States have been doing this ever since a Supreme Court decision said that the federal RFRA didn’t apply to the states. Most of the states that have one use language identical to the one Clinton signed. But while religious freedom used to be supported by Democrats, the rise of a particular protected class (and reliable Democratic voting bloc) changed all that; homosexuals. Once again, as we have seen so many times, politics trumps everything else for the Left, even, apparently, the Bill of Rights.

          The fear being stoked is that this will allow Christian businesses to turn away gays just for being gay. Here are a couple of articles that are lists of frequently asked questions about the Indiana RFRA, and they explain, no, that sort of discrimination is not protected. If a Christian denies service to someone simply because they are gay, on the grounds that it’s a sin according to Christian doctrine, you would have a tough time proving those religious grounds in court. According to Christianity, we are all sinners. None of us are perfect. So that business owner would have to deny service to everyone, including him- or herself.

          Participation, one way or another, in a same-sex marriage ceremony has been the typical cause of contention. And all of the examples that I’ve seen that have been taken to court are regarding business owners that would bake cakes, take pictures, or arrange flowers for a gay customer for any purpose other than a same-sex wedding ceremony. This is most definitely not discrimination against gays because they’re gay. It is, however, a religious objection to a ceremony that the business owner does not wish to participate in.

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            (Yes, it’s been a while since I blogged here. I’ve been busy with my podcast “Consider This”. However, I just had to come out of blogging semi-retirement to comment on this.)

            Being argued today at the high court is King v Burwell, a lawsuit against ObamaCare (also known in some circles as the Affordable Care Act). This is a set of questions and answers that I imagine many people have about this.

            Q: What is this case all about?

            A: The crux of the issue is a 4-word phrase inside the massive law; “established by the States”. The subsidies supplied by the IRS, according to the text of the law, were to only go to those who applied for insurance via exchanges “established by the States”. If they used the federal exchange (HealthCare.gov), that is not “established by the States” so the subsidies wouldn’t apply.

            That’s according to the plain language of the law, and according to Jonathan Gruber, a major influence in the creation of the law.

            What happened was that the IRS gave out subsidies to those without state exchanges anyway. The lawsuit is saying that the government broke the law in doing so.

            Q: What case is the government making?

            A: That the rest of the law, taken as a whole, makes it clear that withholding subsidies from those who didn’t get their insurance via exchanges “established by the States” was not the intent.

            Q: Does it actually say in the law somewhere, specifically, that those people should get subsidies?

            A: Not that I’ve read. In fact, those articles I’ve seen that have written in defense of the subsidies (like this article by Robert Schlesinger in USA Today) don’t cite any other text that would buttress that opinion. Rather, they argue about the results if the subsidies were overturned.

            To me, that sounds like they’re arguing that a law should say what the implementers want it to say, regardless of what the law itself says. That’s a precedent I don’t think we want to create. For example, if a Republican President vetoes legislation, and a Democratic Congress overrides that veto, is the President free to implement the provisions of the law he or she likes and ignore others? I’d say No, and I think those arguing for the ObamaCare interpretation would agree with me if the parties today were reversed.

            The IRS did issue a ruling saying that they would, in fact, give subsidies to those in states without exchanges, but as far as I’m aware, the IRS is not part of the legislative branch.

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              What Works and What Doesn’t: Health Care

              (This is part of the script for the latest episode of my podcast, "Consider This!". You can listen to it on the website, or subscribe to it in iTunes, Stitcher Radio, Blubrry, Player.fm, or the podcast app of your choice.)

              Liberal columnist Ezra Klein, writing in the Washington Post, June of 2009:

              If you ordered America’s different health systems worst-functioning to best, it would look like this: individual insurance market, employer-based insurance market, Medicare, Veterans Health Administration.

              Yeah, he really said that, and it was obviously untrue back then. But that didn’t stop his love of socialized medicine. Here he is again in 2011:

              The thing about the Veteran’s Administration’s health-care system? It’s socialized. Not single payer. Not heavily centralized. Socialized. As in, it employs the doctors and nurses. Owns the hospitals. And though I think there’s some good reason to believe its spending growth is somewhat understated — it benefits heavily from medical trainees, for instance — accounting for that difference still means a remarkable recent performance.

              He also called the VA system, “the program is one of the most remarkable success stories in American public policy.” Of course now everyone’s saying that the system has been awful for decades, so you can’t blame Obama for it. While that’s certainly true, you can blame liberal pundits who have been trying to suggest for years that the performance of the VA means that ObamaCare ought to work. It seems like they’ll say anything to get their policies enacted. Never mind reality.

              And they’re making the same claim as a certain presidential candidate did 6 years or so ago. So in a sense, you can blame the President for foisting on us a system based on one that was, and is, a money pit and an abject failure, and which is utterly dishonest about those failures. They can, or should, be able to see what works and what doesn’t, but I guess Obama is going with the idea that this time, it’s gonna’ work.

                (This is part of the script for the latest episode of my podcast, “Consider This!”. You can listen to it on the website, or subscribe to it in iTunes, Stitcher Radio, Blubrry, Player.fm, or the podcast app of your choice.)

                Sometimes people ask what the real difference is between the Republicans and Democrats, and sometimes, for certain issues, I’m inclined to agree; not much. However, when it comes to promoting economic growth, there’s certainly a trend that favors one over the other.

                It’s been said that the states are the laboratories of American democracy. Though more and more autonomy has been taken from them by the federal government, there is still enough that one can look across the country from sea to shining sea and see what works and what doesn’t. So what has the government’s Bureau of Economic Analysis told us about the year 2013?

                Here were the top 10 states in GDP growth:

                • North Dakota — 9.7 percent
                • Wyoming — 7.6 percent
                • West Virginia — 5.1 percent
                • Oklahoma — 4.2 percent
                • Idaho — 4.1 percent
                • Colorado — 3.8 percent
                • Utah — 3.8 percent
                • Texas — 3.7 percent
                • South Dakota — 3.1 percent
                • Nebraska — 3.0 percent

                This was all while the nation’s GDP growth was just 1.8 percent. Tom Blumer writing at the NewsBusters website noted that only Colorado and West Virginia could be considered something other than deep-red states — and despite having several prominent Democrats in statewide and national office, they both arguably lean red.

                And let’s not forget, as I covered back in February, that Wisconsin, under Republican Governor Scott Walker, went from running a deficit to a $1 billion surplus by cutting taxes.

                In all of this, you’d think that someone would have predicted such an economic outcome from these policies. Oh wait, they did, and those people are called “conservatives”. So if you indeed see what works and what doesn’t, and still ignore it, you might be a Democrat.

                  Benghazi: Smoking Gun, or All Smoke

                  When the latest memo to come out of the Benghazi investigation came out…

                  OK, let me back up. Actually, the memo was never given to the Congressional investigation. It took a Freedom of Information Act lawsuit by Judicial Watch for this memo to come out. So for starters, it really looks like the administration did not want this out in public.

                  The thrust of the message was clear: Protect Obama’s image (and re-election efforts) at all costs; American interests and the American public’s right to know be damned. It contained four bullet points:

                  –”To convey that the United States is doing everything that we can to protect our people and facilities abroad;

                  –”To underscore that these protests are rooted in an Internet video, and not a broader failure of policy;

                  –”To show that we will be resolute in bringing people who harm Americans to justice, and standing steadfast through these protests;

                  –”To reinforce the President and Administration’s strength and steadiness in dealing with difficult challenges.”

                  Remember, this all happened in the heat of the President’s re-election campaign. As to the bullet points, we now know that the US was not doing everything it could to protect the consulate, the protest were not rotted in an Internet video (and the administration knew that almost immediately after the incident), we did not bring anyone to justice (not even now, 20 months after the incident), which goes to show that the President and the Administration do not have strength and steadiness in dealing with difficult challenges.

                  But the kiester-covering was in full swing and scapegoats were worth their weight in gold.

                  In his congressional testimony, former CIA Deputy Director Michael Morell said that then-U.N. Ambassador Susan Rice is the one who linked the video to the Benghazi attacks but that the video was not part of the CIA analysis. In other words, the administration made it up out of whole cloth to deflect blame for its policy failures in relaxing the war on terror…

                  Indeed, the day after the event:

                  An email on Sept. 12, 2012, to Rice from Payton Knopf, deputy spokesman at the U.S. Mission to the United Nations, confirmed the attacks were “planned in advance” and “complex,” not spontaneous in reaction to a video.

                  Poor Jay Carney had the unenviable job of trying to deny that these memos had anything to do with Benghazi, even though they were provided due to a FOIA request about…Benghazi.

                  The fact that they, indeed, speak to the Benghazi issues specifically, but the administration hung on to these memos and did not give them to Darrell Issa and the committee, shows just how revealing they are.

                  But only now are the mainstream media noticing this story. The Benghazi hearings have been pitifully covered. The idea that this has been a “Fox News story” (as though they made it up) only came because they gave it the coverage it deserved, while the rest of the media sat on its collective hands. Now, even ABC news reporters found themselves amazed at the stonewalling and dissembling.

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                  But even with that, ABC has been very reluctant to report on it. Even the President has called out Fox on this — no other network — so you know it’s been getting short shrift elsewhere. And at other networks, without coming out directly and saying it, the news executives suddenly wouldn’t find time to report on it.

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                  Yes, the daily interviews from the committee can be yawners, and it’s not always breaking news. That much is true. But it’s also true that the latest revelations are news, and even that is getting reported primarily by Fox.

                  Oh, and MSNBC? Yeah, never mind about them. If it doesn’t have a link to Chris Christie and “Bridgegate” (where nobody died), they don’t care much about it.

                  This is important. If you news outlet isn’t covering it, you may need to switch sources.

                    The (Legal) Freedom of Speech

                    (This is part of the script of a recent episode of my podcast, "Consider This!" It is always 10 minutes or less, which is relevant to this piece.)

                    I have a suggestion for a new law and I’d like to run it by you. This podcast has a small voice in politics. It doesn’t have that much influence, if any at all. It’s just me and a microphone, talking to you out there who feel it’s worth listening to, even if you don’t agree with me. I do appreciate all my listeners.

                    However, I’ve noticed a rather huge imbalance, an unfairness, in the scheme of things. There are huge radio networks out there with millions of listeners, broadcasting 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. How in the world am I supposed to compete with that? Why should their ideas and opinions get more influence than mine? Extremely unfair, right?

                    So I propose that national news networks be limited to 10 minutes or less a day. Well, they do have more equipment, talent, and money than I do, and they should be able to say perhaps a bit more than I do, so let’s be generous and make that 30 minutes or less. I mean, we want to level the playing field, right? The individual podcaster should be able to compete with the national network if we really want to stick up for the little guy and let everyone’s voice be heard, right?

                    What’s that you say? The networks have invested in all that talent and equipment, so they should be allowed to say what they want with it? Well then, I’d counter by saying that the CEOs running those networks didn’t oversee that success from the beginning; they are simply the latest head honcho, and while they may have made a contribution to the company’s success, they inherited most of it. I’ve built my success, such as it is, with my own, personal, hard work.

                    So, does this sound rather silly to you, that folks with bigger radio transmitters, or newspaper subscriptions, than I do should have a cap to how much influence they can have? Well tell ya’ what; so do I. Which is why I find it odd how many on the Left have both celebrated such caps, and are upset that some of those caps were recently removed.

                    The courts have said that political contributions are political speech, even though, while money talks, it does not do so literally. Of course, exotic dancing has been considered speech, protected by the First Amendment, so the dictionary definition of “speech” is clearly not what we’re talking about here. Just ask Brendan Eich. Campaign contributions are as much political speech as this podcast, and people with more means, be it more audio equipment, pages in a magazine, or cash, should not have their First Amendment protections infringed like that. But when the Supreme Court decided, in the recent McCutcheon case, that some of those limits should be removed, the liberals on the court were upset that this, “weakened America’s democracy”.

                    So we should shut off those printing presses and broadcast antennas, because America’s democracy depends on it? Absolutely not.

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