Tuesday, December 31, 2013

All things being equal

All things being equal income in the U.S. is not one of them. That being said things are never exactly as they seem. Take the chart above that I quickly put together as a visual aid. As a matter of clarity the green line actually goes far higher, but the point is made. Clearly there is something behind this 1% thing the Occupy Wall Street movement rallies against.

The actual number of one percenters is a tiny fraction, there just aren't that many of them. In that number along with Wall Street, corporate and industrial chieftains are your athletes, actors and rockstars. They get paid so much as a percentage of what the rest of us are paid because they presumably deliver commiserate value to their organizations. There are a few sports fans who might dispute that notion. The value of a good CEO, however, is undeniable and the value they bring potentially enriches thousands, even millions. For the sake of this article I don't want to focus on the rarefied air of the one percenters, they are an outlier to this argument.

For the rest of us who bring in less than $300,000 a year (most of us far, far less) the traditional way income is calculated is misleading at best. When Census Bureau data is used to define income which excludes transfer payments like Medicaid, Medicare, nutrition assistance, the Earned Income Tax Credit, and even employee benefits such as health insurance the real picture is skewed. When someone who brings in $100,000 a year is taxed and deducted his real spendable income is far less. On the the other hand someone earning $20,000 and takes advantage of all the "aid" available (and no Federal taxes deducted) the gap in real spendable income narrows considerably.

The higher earner may have advantages like the ability to obtain credit and leverage future earnings to improve his lot. But he also pays more taxes, interest and fees on those obligations further eroding his spendable monthly income. While he might get a health plan from his work, he still pays a considerable premium with co-pays and deductibles. The person with public assistance pays no property taxes, little in maintenance and fees and a pittance for his premiums and co-pays on public health assistance. The fact of the matter is the data commonly used to measure income inequality routinely ignores our highly progressive income tax system and the plethora of benefits and transfer payments. When the effect of taxes and transfer payments is taken into account, according to recent studies at Columbia University inequality actually declined 1.8% during the 16-year period between 1993 and 2009.

When the President and the hard core liberals complain about this raw number inequality there are not only dishonest with the numbers they are dishonest about the remedy. They want pay caps on corporate executive income and corporate income (actors and athletes not so much) and also wealth transfers which, of course, would be filtered through the government. The data they choose to ignore is that economic growth is the best remedy for all - particularly the middle class. This has been demonstrated time and time again. The problem the liberals have with that is two-fold. One, the wealthy will get wealthier, and two the poor will need less government - both unacceptable.

Nearly all of what the current government has tried is either a lie or misguided. The 800 billion dollar stimulus package (pure debt) signed in 2009 saw 7/8 of it go to transfer payments like food stamps, Medicaid expanded unemployment and of course to bogus "green" initiatives. None of it generated any tax revenue or stimulus. Worse, these transfer payments "steal" money from real investments and real research that would actually improve economic prospects. Add in the fiasco and unfunded liability of the Affordable Care Act and the nation is poised to take another economic hit. Private companies that have a cumulative trillion or more to invest sit on the sidelines because of the track record of the current government and the tax implications of repatriating overseas earnings. It can only be one of two things - total incompetence or it is a plan.

It seems so obvious to me and many others that government policy (pushed by huge corporate interests) have conspired to ruin the most exceptional thing about America - a powerful middle class. When the industrial revolution brought people in from the countryside an entirely new phenomenon, unseen in world history emerged to dominate the western world. The middle class was fostered by people like Henry Ford and even some of the so-called robber barons at the turn of the 20th century. Obviously inequality existed - as if ever didn't exist - but more people were pulled out of poverty than ever could have been imagined.

Today it seems that mega-corporate and government interests are not so secretly conspiring to create a two tiered society - namely the serfs and the elites - which is precisely where we started centuries before. In this scenario the middle class is the problem.

With high tech innovation and automation deleting good paying middle class jobs there is, of course, the continued globalization of manufacturing in low wage nations. Aided by government policy to support the transfer of labor from middle class nations to Asia it is clearly is a prime strategy of corporate and government elites. Using income disparity an it's transfer payments from the earners and producers to the lower class is another. Neither of these hurt the elites and the politicians who benefit from them. Both political parties in the U.S. regardless of what the pretend to claim for themselves practice this most destructive form of crony capitalism. The rest of the people can see this and hate both parties for it. The individual politicians are powerless to resist either through the seduction of power and money or palpable fear.

I am sensing thoughtful people are sick of it. The people on the center/right are completely disgusted with the Republican party. Not because they aren't conservative enough, but because they offer nothing to the middle class that we can cling to and seemingly stand for nothing - in the very least they have a major communication problem. The people on the center/left can see the train coming off the tracks and can't or won't believe it's their guys that are steering us wrong, but they are sick of it as well. The Democrats at least use their rhetoric to pretend the care, even if it is all bullshit.

The right wingers, morons though they might be, have got to be better at slowing the destruction the left wingers are currently foisting on us, am I right?


Friday, December 27, 2013

Mustang Run

My newest painting:

"Mustang Run"
24 X 36 acrylic
by Craig Willms

Here's something a little different for me... It's my first attempt at impressionism. It was quite difficult for me not go into extreme detail. I was almost like forcing myself to be a little sloppy. Despite my reticence to call it done I was really happy with the way this came out. It is a gift for my sister, a horse owner. 

Be sure to see my other paintings at: http://www.static-art.blogspot.com/


Sunday, December 22, 2013

ACA: Schadenfreude

1. pleasure derived by someone from another person's misfortune.

It's an awful sentiment this schadenfreude, but it's part of mankind's fallen nature. I mean who doesn't love a little slapstick or vaudevillian humor? Even my children laugh at their father when I step on the business end of a rake and the handle comes up to whack me in the face. Imagine how the NYC creative class felt when they received their health insurance cancellation notices recently. After all they were shocked to find out that what was good for thee was not good for we. Me, I smiled. Schadenfreude.

In his column on PJMedia's Unexamined Premises site Michael Walsh describes a classic schadenfreude moment. We all know that the artists, actors and cultural elites in NYC are all big supporters of liberal causes and of course their messiah Barack Obama, and by all means the Affordable Care Act. They were all happy with the health insurance coverage they obtained through their professional associations at far better rates than the individual insurance market. Imagine the fear and rage they experienced when they opened the cancellation notices. You see their plans didn't meet Obamacare criteria and had to be discontinued. The schadenfreude comes from the pitiless attitude you know they had when they heard stories of the rubes in flyover country losing their insurance by the millions. Boom!

Eventually leftism eats it's own. Every time it happens throughout history the presumably untouchable are shocked. When they find out that their agenda boomerangs on them it's a shock that those in the ivory tower see them as part of the unwashed masses too.

By and large the average politically liberal voter has solid personal principles and just wants to do good. A few are malevolent, but most of them just don't think things all the way through. The unintended consequences of principled "policies" are often far worse than any good that comes of them. They refuse to factor in human nature. I mean why would young people forgo buying affordable health care instead of paying a fine? Why would rich people who can easily afford higher taxes move business or expensive purchases overseas rather than pay a little more in taxes? It's human nature. They do it themselves after doing gyro-dance of rationalization.

Put the shoe on the other foot. Why would these cultural elites not be happy to pay higher premiums if it meant that the insurance pool for the poor and less advantaged was increased? Because they don't want to or can't actually afford higher premiums.

Personally, I'm OK for another year having an employer sponsored health plan. My out of pocket costs are shy high now, so I am not not unaffected mind you. This can all change next year. I, however, won't be shocked.


Monday, December 16, 2013

I am not a racist...

are we allowed to oppose Barack Obama and not be labeled racist?

Where I live, where I've always lived here in the upper Midwest of the United States it has always been a sea of white faces. Obviously that has changed quite a bit over the decades, but in 1980 at my suburban high school of the fifteen hundred students fourteen hundred and eighty three were white - and we all spoke English. I didn't know anything different, it was not right or wrong, that's just the way it was. The only racism I was exposed to on a daily basis was when I got home and listened to my father say derogatory things out loud.

Eventually I grew up and entered the real world. As the demographics changed in the inter-city where I worked and bought a home I interacted with people from all walks of life, every race, creed and persuasion. It never dawned on me to treat people differently just because they didn't look like me. Sure I had to shed the stereotypes as I went along, but we are all victims of stereotypical thinking at some point. I also never felt anything was "given" to me because I was white. Call it white privilege if you want, but I was oblivious if it ever really happened.

I could go into chapter and verse of how my children have grown up in a color blind way, that my daughter's maid of honor is a Korean woman and how I have a niece and a nephew that have married people of Indian (India) heritage, or that one my dearest friends at work is a delightful African American man. That in my immediate neighborhood there are hispanic, black, hmong and nordic denizens all around me. No need to go on and on.

My point here is not to say racism doesn't exist, that's imbecilic. My point is that I think it's absolutely remarkable how little the racist phenomenon intrudes into my daily view. That is, until Barack Obama came along. If you oppose Barack Obama on ideological or policy grounds it's because he's black. To that I say rubbish. Pure rubbish!

Personally, I think it's a lazy way to argue. Let not the facts get in the way, just toss the racist bomb. Early on when the opposition party declared that their number one mission was make sure President Obama failed, could it have been because of his policy declarations and not his half-black skin? You can say - and I'd agree - that's a lousy way to govern, but it isn't necessarily racism. Infer anything you like, but actions speak louder than words, what measurable way can be demonstrated that the opposition to the administration is racially motivated? Crickets...

When I read What Will It Take? by David Solway on PJMedia I was struck how in this blistering indictment of Barack Obama not once did word "black" appear. Neither did the words African American. The only mention of race was in this passage which only reiterates the entire point of my post:

I wondered why anyone would want to “fundamentally transform” a country which, for all its flaws, perched atop the pinnacle of success in comparison to any other country.

Everything Obama has done since then has only served to confirm what was originally a deep suspicion and soon grew to become a complete certainty. Dozens of meticulously researched books have been published to the same effect. And yet very few people seemed to be paying attention. No less disconcerting, those who argue that to criticize Obama is a sign of deep-dyed racism are, of course, relying on slander and misappropriation of language to protect their chosen standard bearer and his Marxist/progressivist/utopian project.

The last person to fundamentally transform this country was FDR during extraordinary times. Many still argue his New Deal reforms made the country better, others strongly disagree, but the country survived and indeed thrived. The things Obama wants for this country will make us weaker, poorer and divided. I challenge anyone to dispute that. Nothing in Obama's language, in his policies or even his outward persona indicates anything but a loathing for most of what America is. If that's a racist statement so be it.

I am not a racist.


Monday, December 09, 2013

Without Borders

When I saw "without borders" was the title of the message at church one Sunday I got worried. While I wouldn't call my church a typical liberal Christian church I would call it a strident anti-conservative church, which it clearly is. It is entirely anti-evangelical-conservative in word and deed. This does not bother me in the least. I too am wary of potent evangelical movements for many reasons, one because they bore me, but mainly because they are almost always Biblical literalists. I find nothing more off putting and inimical to the life and love of Jesus Christ than evangelical rantings taken from literal readings of the Bible. Jesus himself was not a literalist. My church, a phenomenal teaching church, goes to great lengths to keep politics out of the realm of the Kingdom, but it's not difficult to ascertain that the church culture leans liberal left - considerably so. A topic for another day.


Whenever, wherever we hear the phrase without borders we should be worried. Simply because in utopia without borders is a laudable goal, but we don't live in utopia. Until we do, borders, nation-states and the law of the land is necessary, vital even. I'm happy to say the message in church that day had nothing to do with political borders or advocating the erasing of national borders as I had feared. It was merely the rightful notion that Kingdom of Heaven knows no borders as it spans a truly cosmic realm.

In recent weeks I've read several interesting pieces in the blogosphere about the damage unfettered (and illegal) immigration is doing to some countries and cultures. Also other stories about the coming collapse of otherwise peaceful, orderly societies due to lawless, frustrated and racially motivated uber gangs that are growing up in over-crowded slums around the world offer a frightening glimpse of our future.

Over at Mangan's a piece called "Immigration from low-trust societies is theft" talks about how immigrants burrowing into a mature society pay nothing for the infrastructure they inherit and take a disproportionate share of out of a society compared to what they contribute - amounting to literal theft. There was a difference a century ago when immigration was controlled and by and large the newcomers started contributing almost immediately. It would be hard to argue that the quality of the "stock" we get now with uncontrolled immigration is not inferior in comparison.

In Europe with the one-two punch of stagnant economic growth and mass immigration entire nations are slipping into economic and cultural depression as described in this interesting piece at theAtlanic.com called "Are Europeans Giving Up on Europe?". The countries hardest hit by the economic downturn - Italy, Spain and Greece see the EU experiment as a failure, contributing to the malaise. The EU is also being blamed in England for the mass immigration the Brits see destroying their culture. Poll after poll in Britain show a disaffected populace, upset that EU immigration rules are forcing the island country to open their doors to more and more low value immigrants, many  - if not most - headed for the dole.

In fact all advanced Western countries with the exception of Japan are being impacted by a flood of immigration both legal and illegal. The native populations by and large are wary and even hostile to the trends and for good reason. Its not just economic - as if that's not enough - its also the loss of cultural norms. All over Western Europe huge sections of the major cities have developed into "no go zones" where even the police dare not enter. In these zones the law of the land is not enforced and a complete culture imported from some - pardon the language - shit hole has been established. This is happening to a smaller extent in America, Canada and Australia too.

Eventually this less than integrated sub-culture will burst out and with discontentment and rage and will lash out in one wave of violence after another until the natives are forced to live in walled off communities or flee to a country not yet destroyed.

Africa is already the model for this new world order. Scarcity, hopelessness and disorder are the catalysts. It has already happened in most sub Saharan nations, and with the so-called Arab Spring northern Africa has quickly caught up. Africa is essentially ungovernable.

The die is cast, the future set. If this exhaustive article by Robert Kaplan doesn't send chills down your spine then you're already numb or you don't care. "The Coming Anarchy" isn't about the end of the world, but it is about the end of civil civilization. While it's clear Africa and much of the Arab world is already aflame we see evidence of this in our own country. Think south Chicago, south LA, parts of Detroit and other cities in Michigan where immigrants have instituted their shit hole cultures in entire subdivisions.

No culture or civilization is immune. China's cities are already bursting at the seams and millions more are coming from the countryside every year. Developing countries are seeing their poor rural citizens flood into the cities. When the over population meets scarcity explosions happen. India, Pakistan, Brazil, all of southeast Asia are potential powder kegs. The West may be able hold it off for a time but eventually our day will come.

The West is courting suicide with this defacto without borders posture. Unfettered immigration is not good for anyone. Why the leaders (of both parties) can't or won't see this is frightening to me. No matter how poetic it sounds this is not one world, not by a long shot.