Wednesday, February 7, 2018

Criticize reality, not myths



It is amazing how many people have bought into the silly notion that politicians are “stealing” Social Security funds.

It is all over social media how the money has been looted from the so-called trust fund.

As the lady on the TV commercial said, “That’s not how any of this works!”

It is a testament to how the government misrepresented the program from the start.

Today, you can go to a government site and find an accurate history of the program.

However, millions of people still believe the money taken from their paycheck is put into a special account in their names in Washington, where it gains interest and is repaid to them upon retirement.

In fact, workers pay a payroll tax. It is immediately doled out to retired people. When those workers retire, people still working will share their paychecks with them based on the retiree’s work history. (We’re setting aside the disability, Medicare and SSI portions for now. Those are other sad stories.)

But.

The system began running a cash deficit eight years ago. In about 12 years, the IOUs in the trust fund will be repaid from the general fund and something will have to change. Either benefits will have to be reduced or the payroll tax will have to soar. The children and grandchildren of today’s workers will be soaked.

It sounded wonderful when proposed by President Franklin D. Roosevelt in the 1930s, as one of his New Deal policies.

Indeed, as with Ponzi schemes, it was great – for those in first. The first retiree had paid $24.75. She got $22,888.92 back (by living to 100).

But there were a couple of catches.

One is that even FDR admitted it was never intended to be anyone’s sole source of post-retirement income. In other words, people who counted on it would be foolish not to invest their own money.
(This after FDR had poisoned the idea of banking, saving and investing in “evil” corporations.)

In addition, the official government retirement age was set at approximately the median age of life expectancy. The government fully expected half the population to pay into the system but never receive anything.

But a funny thing happened on the way to Utopia. People began living much longer, and politicians found out you could hand out benefits, get votes in return and it wouldn’t cost them a dime.

Over the years, the system was played with, taking it “off-budget” and “on-budget,” neither of which has much meaning. The trust fund is an accounting mechanism.

Then because of demographics, the system created surpluses – more money than was needed to pay retirees.

So, the politicians spent it.

A lot of people moan and groan about this, but what else should they have done? Invest it? Do anyone really want politicians playing the stock market with trillions of dollars?

The alternative, since they were going to spend money anyway, would have been to borrow it or raise taxes. There is no free lunch.

The money was replaced with IOUs, totaling some $2.6 trillion.

It is being repaid with interest. But it is only taking money out of one pocket and putting it in the other.
Watch their hands, not their mouths.

In their most recent report, trustees of the fund warn: “Lawmakers should address these financial challenges as soon as possible.”

Neither party is doing anything about a looming crisis, following the first rule of Washington: When a crisis looms, kick the can down the road and let someone else take the heat.

Saturday, February 3, 2018

Kill the goose?

Once again, as it has periodically for the past 50 years, the idea of selling the JEA is up for discussion.
I have no dog in the fight. If it is worth $2 billion and some private utility wanted to pay $5 billion for it, we should listen. (The city calculated the value of the JEA to a private utility at around $1.2 billion as of late 2011.)
But the idea that any amount would be a great windfall we could use to hire policemen or pay schoolteachers more money is fanciful.
The electric utility is an asset. It produces income -- a lot of it. That money is used "in lieu of taxes," which means property taxes would have to soar if it were not there.
It is controlled by an independent authority and run, in theory, like a business. Politicians appoint the authority members.
But when you sell a revenue-producing asset, you forfeit the future revenue it produces.
If a private company owned the utility it would pay property taxes and franchise fees, and federal income taxes.
For years, the City Council had an annual argument over how much money it would squeeze from the electric utility -- commonly called the "goose with the golden eggs."
The amount generally was set to represent what a private utility would pay, plus.
That was ended some years ago by an agreement to take a fixed percentage of the gross.
If a private company ran the utility, it would set rates approved by the state Public Utilities Commission, one level removed from local control. JEA has for years had some of the lowest rates in Florida.
The JEA has considerable debt. Any revenue from the sale would have to pay that, either up front or over the future years.
Jacksonville would lose a revenue stream of some amount, forever, and lose local control of rates and regulation.
The JEA has lower debt costs because it issues tax-exempt bonds. A private utility's customers would pay more to borrow. They also would pay more in property taxes because they would pay school taxes.
In short, there are a lot of factors. Let's not get ahead of ourselves.



Monday, January 15, 2018

Truth is elusive

It is time for a review of media history.
Sharyl Attkinson, University of Florida grad and former CBS reporter, has written two best-selling books on liberal bias in the media.
She is right but it is not a new phenomenon.
In colonial America, when newspapers began to be printed, they usually were unabashedly partisan.
However, that was not necessarily bad because the remedy was easy.
Another partisan could easily begin publishing his own paper even in a small town and they could fight it out in the marketplace of ideas.
By the mid-20th century, however, publishing had become expensive. It wasn't always easy and large newspaper chains often drove out competition in smaller venues.
After the war, the government set up a special blue-ribbon commission to look at the media.
It found bias but did not recommend government controls.
What it did recommend was a clear line between opinion and news reporting and all the media pledged to follow that way of operating.
As usual, it was almost moot by the time the government examined the problem. Television was on the rise and news reporting with it, although at first TV shied away from opinion. Still, the competition helped keep newspapers more honest.
Inevitably, opinion began to creep in, and then cross the line into reporting.
By this century, as Attkinson and many others have noted, it was difficult to tell the difference between and editorial and a news story. Even readers often lost the ability to distinguish fact from opinion.
At the paper where I worked I often likened my job to the guy with the shovel who followed the elephants in a circus parade.
We wrote editorials to correct news stories that were little more than editorials. One reporter was fired as the result of one clearly biased story. (I would have fired the editor, not the reporter.)
But this century also brought in amateur journalism, via social media. Sloppy, undisciplined, where an error or an outright lie can be posted as easily as the truth. It isn't pretty, but it has turned out to be one way of keeping the liberal media accountable.
I don't know what the next innovation will be but it almost certainly will be better than government control as a means of getting to the truth.

Tuesday, October 3, 2017

Libs are poised to vent

Prepare for the annual outpouring of hatred against a man who was behind one of the most important events in world history.

Since the 500th anniversary of his epic achievement, it has become an annual event to vent upon Christopher Columbus.

This is strictly a liberal thing. Liberals hate America and, by extension, Western Civilization.
The voyages of Columbus brought Western civilization to the Western Hemisphere, along with religion and capitalism, which libs also hate.

They mock his achievement with the irrelevant information that other people had occasionally visited the North American continent. But, worse, they accuse him of crimes, rather than celebrating what his vision produced.

The manufactured charge is that he conducted genocide against people already living in what are now North and South America.

People making the charge are illiterates who know little about history or, indeed, the English language.

Merriam-Webster defines genocide as the deliberate and systematic destruction of a racial, political, or cultural group.

After 1492, the Siberian-Americans encountered by Europeans caught diseases they were not accustomed to, and many died. (Probably not nearly as many as claimed.)

It was not a deliberate act. This is common when cultures clash and intermingle for the first time.

Furthermore, it works both ways. The Europeans contracted yellow fever and other diseases and also died.

Both sides also benefited by obtaining new customs, plants and animals. Europeans introduced the horse to the Americas, meaning the Stone Age inhabitants no longer had to walk everywhere they went.

The idea that they despoiled a civilization of peace-loving, gentle people who were at one with nature is just plain silly.

Indians fought constantly with each other, owned slaves and ravaged the land by destructive agriculture.

The noble Aztecs regularly offered human sacrifices, ripping out the hearts of still living children and adults, cutting the bodies into parts and throwing them down the steps of their temples for the crowds to collect and eat.

This is not to condemn them. They acted like people in their culture acted in the 15th century, just as Europeans did.

Only liberal fools would expect people of that time to conduct themselves the way civilized people of the 21st century do.

The voyages of Columbus opened half the world to exploration and development. Subsequent events brought about a nation that has done more good for more people than any other in history.

But because that nation has resisted efforts to turn it into the Utopia socialists claim they can produce, the nation and its founder are hated viscerally by those anti-Americans.



Tuesday, June 13, 2017

Stop the nonsense!

I've had it with the lame liberal argument that vouchers are bad because they take money away from the government schools.
Not true and it would be irrelevant if it were.
All vouchers do in Florida and most other states is afford low-income minority families the same educational opportunities that more affluent families have. Period.
Most families can take their children out of failing government schools where they are not getting an education and send them to private schools.
In fact, one out of every five government schoolteachers choose this option for their own children.
Vouchers go to low-income students in failing schools who are being cheated out of an education.
In most cases, struggling parents have to pay extra because the voucher does not pay the full cost, but they are willing to do so.
Is this money "taken away" from the school the child leaves?
No.
Schools are paid a certain amount per child. So every child remaining in the school still would be funded.
Here's another crucial point the greedy union bosses want you to overlook.
Everyone pays for government schools, whether they have a child in them or not. This includes people who also are paying for their child to attend a private school.
Because vouchers are for less than the cost of the child attending a government schools, this is a benefit to taxpayers.
In short, vouchers are a winning proposition for everyone. Liberals should stop lying about them and start helping poor children get an education.

Friday, May 19, 2017

The Russian connection

Although it is a threat to the republic, the "Russian collusion" fantasy that libs currently are embracing has its humorous aspects.
Early in the New Deal, a delegation of President Roosevelt's vaunted Brain Trust went to Europe. They wanted to visit with Mussolini, whom they admired. He was busy and they went on to their main destination -- Russia.
They were mightily impressed with the work of Josef Stalin, the Russian Communist dictator who had murdered millions of Russia's citizens.
In their eyes, he had made the economy of his nation thrive.
When they returned, they urged Roosevelt to emulate the methods of Stalin and Mussolini. At first, Hitler impressed them, too, but eventually they decided his methods might be a bit excessive.
Roosevelt, a novice who had never earned a profit in the business his wealthy family left him, went on to try one heavy-handed scheme after another to combat the depression. Often the methods were at odds with one another: food was destroyed while people were queuing up in breadlines. Wages were kept high while millions were unemployed.
But the effects of the trade protectionism and poor monetary policy could not be overcome with the Russian-style command and control methods. In 1937, a second Depression occurred and the economy remained in the doldrums until the war brought employment and the victory brought about recovery. In the meantime, Roosevelt had abandoned many of his wacky schemes and the courts had eliminated others.
It is all set out in The Forgotten Man by Amity Schlaes. I've read a number of books about the New Deal. This is the best, being the most well researched and even handed.
There is no Russian collusion today. There was in the 1930s and it was brought about by a politician that liberals have elevated to sainthood.

Wednesday, February 1, 2017

More for the asking

In refusing to attend the inauguration of Donald Trump, Democrats were merely following the tradition of their patron saint, Sir Thomas More.
More invented "Utopia," the mythical, and unattainable, state that they strive to bring about in America.
More was in good with the king until he refused to attend the coronation of Anne Boleyn as queen.
Sadly to say, Henry VIII had More beheaded for the snub. (He later had Anne's head removed, too. Henry had a thing.)
Not saying American Democrats should undergo the same remedy, but it would be worth examining the utopian idea.
The Soviet Union, by the way, honored More for his novel since it essentially was communism -- although communism turned out to be the very antithesis of the ideal life of the citizens of More's Utopia.
(Utopia is a word derived from the Greek term for "no place.")
Everyone in Utopia is a farmer. The food they grow is stored and anyone can help himself from the supply. They had free hospitals, making it apparent why liberals are drawn to this fancy.
But they also had slavery, which might be a bit awkward for Democrats.
On the other hand it is ideal in one respect: there are no lawyers.
Wives are required to confess their sins to their husbands monthly and euthanasia is practiced, again a mixed blessing for liberals.
Private property did not exist and everyone got a free basic income, which leads us back to liberal Democrats.
Once again they are pushing a "universal basic income." Mental midget Robert Reich is for it, as are politicians in France.
Enjoy your trip on the Road to Utopia.