It’s Your Money, And You Can Cry If You Want To

“Here’s the deal: What I win, I keep. What you win, I keep.” 
—Dan Shor as Billy the Kid in Bill and Ted’s Excellent Adventure
During Tuesday’s class warfare campaign speech—er, State of the Union—President Obama complained about what the government was going to “spend” on a tax cut for the wealthy:
“Right now, we’re poised to spend nearly $1 trillion more on what was supposed to be a temporary tax break for the wealthiest 2 percent of Americans.
Let’s leave aside for this discussion the relative merits of tax cuts and whether the wealthy are or aren’t paying their “fair share,” whatever that is.  I want to look at the mentality of the statement itself.  The President says that cutting taxes equals spending, as though by cutting taxes the government is giving people the government’s money.  This kind of thinking was sadly illustrated by a widely circulated clip of a 2009 Interview conducted by WJR Detroit’s Ken Rogulski with people waiting in line to get “Obama money.”  Unfortunately, a large number of Americans, including this President, believe that the U.S. federal government is like the stone Moses struck at Rephidim, providing an endless flow of cash from no source other than itself. 
Well, let’s expose the dirty little secret: 
The United States federal government doesn’t own any money.
It’s true.  The United States as an entity does not have, and never has had, any money of its own.  The U.S. Treasury isn’t a giant piggy bank.  There is no stash of “Obama money.”  And it doesn’t really matter anymore whether you believe the gold is really still there at Fort Knox.  The pot at the end of the federal rainbow is, and always has been, empty.
The basic fact is the only money the United States government has is what it collects in the form of taxes.  In other words, what it has is what it has taken from its own citizens, literally at the point of a gun. When the government spends, it isn’t spending its money from some magic and bottomless treasure chest.  It’s spending your money, at least as to the 53% of us who actually have tax liability.    
This is the great lie about tax credits, rebates, and complaints that tax cuts cost the government money.  It’s not the government’s money to begin with.  So when it cuts taxes, or gives rebates or refunds, it isn’t giving you the government’s money; it’s giving you back money that was already yours and it took from you in the first place.  Worse, of your money the government isn’t giving back to you, chances are it’s giving it to someone else, somewhere else.  Let me give you an example.
Last week, the First Lady and Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack announced changes to the rules associated with the federally-funded school lunch program.  This story originally got my attention (yes, I know federally-funded school lunches have been around for a long timebecause of the federalism implications of the USDA dictating what schools can/cannot/must serve, which I’ll discuss another time.  But in digging into this issue, I learned that the regulations are tied to federal funding measures under the Healthy Hunger-Free Kids Act of 2010.  A January 19, 2011 memorandum from “Associate Administrator”—the title alone makes the hair stand up on the back of my neck—Jessica Shahin summarized how the USDA planned to implement it, and attached a state-by-state breakdown of how the federal funding for the program would be distributed. 
I was, to say the least, shocked when I got into the details.
The four states receiving the largest allocations—California, Michigan, Pennsylvania, and New York—accounted for $203,831,310, over half of the $375,000,000 total tab.  California alone accounted for $137,764,856, or just under 37%.
Well, those are big states with huge tax bases, and we’d expect to see more being spent there than in, say, Alaska and Montana.
Perhaps, but this is way out of proportion. Comparing to 2010 IRS data (the most recent available), of these four states, only New York received a school lunch allocation less than or equal to its contribution to total federal revenues (that’s all sources, including income, payroll, estate, and gift taxes).  The other three were nowhere close, with California and Michigan pulling in at a rate over 300% of their relative contribution to total revenues, and Pennsylvania at over 150%.  Collectively, the four states received 54.36% of the program, while contributing only 26.83% of total federal revenue.
Compare that with states like Texas, Florida, Ohio, and Virginia.  Combined, these four states contributed 19.83% of total federal revenue, while receiving 2011 school lunch allocations amounting to just 4.68% of total federal spending.
How’s that taste?
What this means is we are necessarily taking money from people in one state, and using it to fund state-administered programs—schools, and the lunches they provide, are still run by states—in other states.  I don’t want kids going hungry any more than anyone else.  And if the State of California wants to provide free lunches to huge numbers of children of illegal aliens, or if Detroit wants to provide free lunches to all children regardless of their parents’ income status, I suppose that’s their business.  But why should they get to take money from people in Texas, laundered through the federal government, to do it?
This is but one example of the massive redistribution racket the federal government has become.  It’s easy to sell people on feel-good platitudes like making sure we feed hungry babies—and to demonize opponents of such a program—and it’s easy to buy votes by taking money from one group and giving it to another.  But the federal government wasn’t designed to do these things.  It was intended to provide a discrete set of services that worked to the collective good of everybody—defense, foreign relations, etc.  It was never intended to provide services for some states at the expense of others, or for some individual people at the expense of others. 
Hamilton discussed state-to-state redistribution in Federalist Paper No. 22:
“The suffering States would not long consent to remain associated upon a principle which distributed public burdens with so unequal a hand, and which was calculated to impoverish and oppress the citizens of some States, while those of others would scarcely be conscious of the small proportion of the weight they bear.”
Ayne Rand covered person-to-person redistribution at length in Atlas Shrugged.  Both reached the same conclusion:  there is a limit to the burden the contributor will tolerate from the recipient.
We’re quickly replacing the work ethic that built this country with an entitlement ethic; an ethic that carries with it an embedded assumption that by not taking the entitlements, one is somehow leaving federal money on the table.  Commentators in California lament that the fact children don’t participate in free school breakfast programs at the same rate they participate in lunch programs is costing the State millions of dollars in additional federal largesse.  Somehow we should be wanting more and more kids to be on free school meals, because that means we get more federal money taken from someone else.  We have to sign up for as many federal freebies as possible, just to keep from getting ripped off by everyone else.  And the spiral never ends. 
This entitlement ethic breeds dependency, and weaning off a teat with diminishing capacity gets harder and harder as time goes on; look at the difficulties Europe is facing with rioting dependents as the last sane few try to pull back on the joystick before the whole thing crashes.  But the programs upon which more and more depend are not sustainable.  Eventually Old Napoleon collapses, Hank Rearden and Dagny Taggart drop out, and States revolt.  What then? 
We must reverse this trend now, get government out of the business of feeding people and into the business of getting out of the way of them feeding themselves.  If we don’t, it’s going to get really, really ugly.

Liberal Censorship

“What’s new, Buenos Aires?  Your nation, which a few years ago had the second largest gold reserves in the world, is bankrupt!  A country which grew up and grew rich on beef is rationing it!  La Prensa, one of the few newspapers which dares to oppose Peronism, has been silenced.  And so have all other reasonable voices!  I’ll tell you what’s new, Buenos Aires!”
—Che, in “She’s a Diamond” from Evita is reporting that a 15 year old Wisconsin high school student was censored and threatened by the school district superintendent over an op-ed piece in the school paper. 
It seems that Brandon Wegner was asked to participate in a point-counterpoint discussion of an issue of current political significance.  The problem for young Mr. Wegner was he had the “against” side on the paper’s choice of topics:
Gay adoption.
The point-counterpoint format is a common angle for a newspaper to take in its editorials, particularly a newspaper legitimately interested in balanced coverage.  One would think that, in a school newspaper that is faculty-supervised and—I expect—written as part of a journalism class, running pieces like this is an excellent educational exercise.  But, as you can already guess, with this particular topic, Mr. Wegner was basically screwed from the get-go.
You can check the piece out for yourself here.  Wegner offered a spirited argument of his case against gay adoption, citing not only Biblical authority, but studies and statistics.  Another student took the “for” side, and likewise offered an enthusiastic case.  By any measure, the collective piece was a decent example of the open debate that is exactly what a point-counterpoint op-ed is supposed to be.
Then all hell broke loose.
Predictably, a gay couple whose child attends the high school bitched.  The school immediately apologized, not for the choice of subject matter, and not for the piece as a whole, but that Wegner had had the audacity actually to take the “against” side of the issue.  The school’s apology called Wegner’s opinion “a form of bullying and disrespect.”
Apparently, “vigorous debate,” like “bipartisanship,” means “you must agree with me.”
But it gets worse.  After falling all over themselves to apologize, the district dragged Mr. Wegner down to the superintendent’s office—not the principal’s office, but the head of the whole freaking school district—where apparently he was berated for hours over his supposed violation of the school’s bullying policy.  He was asked to sign an apology saying he regretted writing the piece—he refused.  He was then threatened with suspension, and called “one of the most ignorant kids” for standing up for his beliefs.
Let me repeat that.
A school district superintendent took a 15 year old kid he disagreed with, tried to coerce him into recanting, threatened to suspend him, and berated him over his “ignorance.” 
Maybe next time he’ll take on Mike Gundy.    
I’m not here today to take sides on the substantive issue of gay adoption, although you can probably guess what I think.  The thing that’s of importance here is the school district’s—and the superintendent’s in particular—conduct, which should be reprehensible to any reasonable person, regardless of your view on the political subject.
Let’s start with the fact that this kid was asked to write this piece, and to take the side of the opposition.  He didn’t hack into the school’s website and unilaterally spew his message over the Internet.  He didn’t commandeer the school’s P.A. system and lecture a captive audience over the loudspeakers.  He didn’t spray paint anti-gay slurs on the school’s front door.  He was asked to take one side of a controversial issue for an op-ed piece in the school paper—a paper that, I think it’s reasonable to presume, is subject to some editorial controls and faculty reviews before being published.  Now, you could reasonably question the judgment of selecting such a polarizing topic for debate in a high school paper.  But once the topic was selected, if there was a problem with the content of his article, why does there seem to be no hammer coming down on the faculty member(s) who let the thing be published?
In police work, it’s called “entrapment”—luring a person into committing an offense by inviting them to do so, then charging them with that very offense you encouraged them to commit.
Second, Wegner didn’t threaten anybody.  He didn’t use foul language or hateful epithets like f*gg*t or qu**r.  He did quote the Bible, and Heaven forbid anyone do that.  You may not like to hear homosexual practices referred to as detestable or an “abomination,”—and I’m not here to argue over the authority or divine inspiration of either the Old or New Testaments—but those are the words the book of Leviticus uses in most English translations I’ve been able to find.
Third, there’s this pesky problem of the First Amendment, which applies to State organizations via the Fourteenth Amendment.  This means it extends to public schools, which Justice Abe Fortas wrote in Tinker v. Des Moines ICSD, “may not be enclaves of totalitarianism.”  I recognize that First Amendment rights are somewhat limited for school newspapers, where legitimate parochial concerns may permit some censorship in order to further the educational aims of the school; but that would have entitled the school to reject the topic or pull the piece, not berate and threaten the kid for writing it.  Further, there’s a big difference between censorship due to content—we don’t, for example, have to permit a high school journalist to drop f-bombs all through his article—and censorship due to the expression of an opinion on a political issue.  Political speech is the very essence of what the First Amendment is designed to protect.
There can be no doubt that this has absolutely everything to do with the substance of Mr. Wegner’s opinion—namely, that he opposes gay adoption.  But the Left—and particularly the gay lobby—isn’t capable of rational discourse on these sorts of issues.  They say they’re all about diversity and inclusion, but the tent’s never broad enough to cover anyone who disagrees with them.  Speech is free, but only as long as you agree with them.  I have a buddy who’s holding his breath waiting for the ACLU to show up to defend Mr. Wegner—to the contrary, I half expect them to mount a public campaign to pressure local police to arrest Mr. Wegner on hate crime charges. 
Like the tired cries of racism we hear from the likes of Maxine Waters any time she doesn’t get her way, it’s empty and childish to accuse people of bullying and hate speech every time they disagree with you.  I know you on the Left don’t like it, but the fact of the matter is there are a substantial number of people—in most states, significant, if not overwhelming majorities—who disagree with you on this issue.  I’m not suggesting you have to change your view, but you don’t just get to say “I’m right, you’re a bully/bigot/racist/hatemonger, debate over, you shut up.” 
American discourse doesn’t work that way.

The State Of Irony Address

She can kill with a smile, she can wound with her eyes;
She can ruin your faith with her casual lies;
And she only reveals what she wants you to see;
Yeah, she hides like a child, but she’s always a woman to me.
—Billy Joel, She’s Always A Woman
I confess I couldn’t bring myself to watch the State of the Union.  But I did read it.  I’m sure it will be dissected ad nauseum in all the usual sources, and frankly there was so little substance to it that it’s not worth getting into much detail.  But I did want to point out a few ironies.
1.         Bailouts are bad, except when they’re good.
President Obama spent a good bit of time returning to the theme that we need an economic system that’s fair and works for everybody.  And among his favorite whipping-boys on this subject were the banks, which he repeatedly castigated for the mortgage industry collapse.  His message to them was stern:
It’s time to apply the same rules from top to bottom:  No bailouts, no handouts, and no copouts.  An America built to last insists on responsibility from everybody . . . [Big banks are now] required to write out a ‘living will’ that details exactly how you’ll pay the bills if you fail—because the rest of us aren’t bailing you out ever again.
Pretty interesting, given that back in 2008 then-Senator Obama voted for that very TARP bailout program.  But what’s funnier about this excerpt, is that barely twenty minutes earlier he was trumpeting the “success” of his bailout of the U.S. auto industry:
On the day I took office, our auto industry was on the verge of collapse.  Some even said we should let it die.  With a million jobs at stake, I refused to let that happen . . . Today, General Motors is back on top as the world’s number one automaker.  Chrysler has grown faster in the U.S. than any major car company.  Ford is investing billions in U.S. plants and factories.  And together, the entire industry added nearly 160,000 jobs.
Never mind that GM is back in the #1 position largely because Toyota continues to struggle with the effects of last year’s tsunami (and I thought the tsunami was part of the reason Obama’s policies weren’t working yet), and that GM currently represents something on the order of a $24 billion loss that taxpayers will never recoup.  Never mind that Chrysler isn’t even a U.S. company anymore (it’s a division of Italian automaker Fiat).  Never mind that Ford didn’t even take any federal money.  Look at what a glorious success Obama’s auto bailout has been!
Apparently bailouts suck . . . unless they benefit your UAW cronies.
2.         Making irresponsible bets with other people’s money is bad, except when it’s good.
Continuing with his flogging of the banking industry, President Obama blamed the 2008 economic collapse on their irresponsible lending practices—practices he intends to stop through regulation, and to investigate and punish those responsible with criminal penalties:
In 2008, the house of cards collapsed.  We learned that mortgages had been sold to people who couldn’t afford or understand them.  Banks had made huge bets and bonuses with other people’s money . . . We’ve all paid the price for lenders who sold mortgages to people who couldn’t afford them, and buyers who knew they couldn’t afford them.  That’s why we need smart regulations to prevent irresponsible behavior . . . So if you’re a big bank or financial institution, you are no longer allowed to make risky bets with your customers’ deposits . . . [T]he days of signing people up for products they can’t afford with confusing forms and deceptive practices are over . . . And tonight, I am asking my Attorney General to create a special unit of federal prosecutors and leading state attorneys general to expand our investigations into the abusive lending and packaging of risky mortgages that led to the housing crisis.
As I’ve detailed before, banks don’t make bad loans on purpose, and it was affirmative action housing regulations—measures Obama supported both in the Illinois Legislature and the U.S. Senate—that forced banks to make the risky loans he’s talking about; loans they wouldn’t have made otherwise.  I don’t know how you regulate away a problem that was caused by regulations in the first place, but if you want to seek out and punish the people who are truly at the root of the mortgage problem, be my guest.
You can start with Barney Frank.
But if making huge risky loan bets with other people’s money is a problem, what about “green energy” businesses like Solyndra, Beacon Energy, Evergreen Solar, Spectrawatt, SunPower, First Solar, and Nevada Geothermal?  These firms received billions in federal money from the Obama administration, and every one of them is either bankrupt, insolvent, or laying off workers.  Yet despite knowing—knowing—the significant risk that these ventures will fail, Obama insists on pressing forward:
Some technologies don’t pan out; some companies fail.  But I will not walk away from the promise of clean energy.
Prosecute people who make irresponsibly risky bets with other people’s money?  
Hear, hear!
3.         Partisanship is bad, except when it’s good.
The other pervasive theme of Obama’s address was the need to come together as Americans.  He opened and closed with vignettes about putting aside differences and collaborating as a team to achieve a common aim.  And towards the end he called for a fundamental change in the partisan way business is done (or not done, as the case may be) in the District:
Finally, none of these reforms can happen unless we lower the temperature in this town.  We need to end the notion that the two parties must be locked in a perpetual campaign of mutual destruction; that politics is about clinging to rigid ideologies instead of building consensus around common sense ideas.
Trouble is, Obama’s been one of the worst offenders.  He hinted at it a couple of times in his address, threatening to take unilateral action by executive fiat if Congress didn’t give him what he wants:
I intend to fight obstruction with action . . . With or without Congress, I will keep taking actions that help the economy grow.
These are not idle threats.  As I’ve detailed here, here, and here, this President has time and again ignored both any spirit of cooperation and the Constitution in his blind adherence to ideology, whether by effectively passing the DREAM Act by executive order even though it failed to pass Congress, or by unilaterally deeming unconstitutional (Defense of Marriage Act) or impractical (No Child Left Behind) and refusing to enforce laws duly passed by Congress and signed into law by the then-sitting President.  This is the same President who in 2009 lectured Republicans not “to do a lot of talking . . . [and to] get out of the way.” 
It’s always his way, or the highway.
The fact of the matter—as pointed out by Indiana Governor Mitch Daniels in his rebuttal address—while the President has paid lip service to the need for a return to fiscal sanity and unleashing the economy, only the Republicans have managed to put forward and pass any measures to that end; it’s been the President and Senate Democrats who have stood in the way.  And when the rubber finally met the road and the President was presented with a Keystone XL pipeline that would have created upwards of 100,000 jobs at no taxpayer expense—a project that’s been studied for years, and originally was given State Department approval—he couldn’t bring himself to put aside the politics of bowing to the environmental Nazis in his base and allow the project to proceed.
Turn the temperature in the District down?  Why don’t we start with the thermostat your office, Mr. President.  
Methinks there is a lot of campaign ad fodder in here.  I just hope the GOP can get its act together sufficiently to take advantage of it.

Reflecting on Roe v. Wade

Hello, darkness, my old friend.
I’ve come to talk with you again.
—Simon & Garfunkel, The Sound of Silence
Last Sunday, January 22, was the 39th anniversary of Roe v. Wade.  I see that President Obama commemorated (celebrated?) the anniversary by issuing a statement that the landmark case makes clear that “government should not intrude on private family matters,”—I’m choking to death on the irony of that one—and that he “remain[s] committed to protecting a woman’s right to choose and this fundamental constitutional right.”  His comments reflect a worldview that developed somewhere in the 1960s, as people convinced themselves that this was somehow about women’s rights and privacy, and that restricting unfettered access to abortion is an intolerable intrusion by government into women’s freedom to control their own bodies.
So let me pose a couple of questions. 
Should I be allowed to kill my parents if I find their existence inconvenient, or if they strain my finances?  If your answer is “yes,” then perhaps you should start lining up all the welfare recipients right now, because there are a whole lot of us who find them both inconvenient and a fiscal drag.  My guess, however, is that your answer is—like mine—no.  So I think the welfare folks are safe.
Should I be allowed to kill my 13-year-old because she has a medical condition that makes her life difficult?  Should I be allowed to kill my infant because my wife has abandoned us and I find I’m just not ready to be a single parent?  Once again, the nearly universal answer to these questions is no, and I expect most of you are shocked I would even raise them.
In each of these scenarios, virtually all of us would answer that I have no right to kill the person in question, and in fact you would insist that the government prevent me from doing so, and punish me if I do it anyway.  Why is that so?
Unless you are an anarchist, there can be little doubt that the single most important and most legitimate function of government is to protect its citizens from being killed by other people.  Indeed, if you could only vest a government with a single power, that would be it.  This idea is enshrined in our Declaration of Independence:
“We hold these truths to be self-evident:  that all men . . . are endowed by their Creator with certain inalienable rights, that among these are Life[.]”
For the Founders, it was obvious in and of itself that every human being has a right to live, and they guaranteed that right in the Fifth Amendment’s promise that “[n]o person shall be deprived of life . . . without due process of law.”  This compelling government interest in protecting life led the Fifth Circuit a couple of weeks ago to overturn a lower court decision striking as unconstitutional Texas’ new law requiring sonograms be made available before a woman can obtain an abortion.
Well, if the scenarios I posed above are not acceptable, at what point does abortion become OK?
As Dr. Seuss taught us in Horton Hears A Who“A person’s a person, no matter how small.” 
It is an inescapable fact that an abortion kills a human being.  So unless you are willing to answer the questions I posed above “yes,” and accept the proposition that it is acceptable to kill as a matter of convenience—and you’re not—it is impossible to draw a logically and morally consistent line that permits abortion, no matter how badly you want to make it so.  This very dilemma is the reason the majority opinion in Roe was so strained, circular, and ultimately indefensible.  We all agree it is not acceptable to kill a baby 5 minutes after she has been delivered and the umbilical cord has been cut, but what about just before the cord is cut?  What about halfway through delivery (this is the damnable and unspeakable practice of so-called “partial birth” abortion)?  There’s no articulable logical or moral distinction between those scenarios.  So, too, if we continue backing up 5 minutes at a time; there’s never a point at which we can say there’s a defensible distinction that makes the difference between an acceptable killing of a human being and murder.  Any line we draw is necessarily artificial, because it depends upon an ever-changing degree of either human medical competency (the “viability” concept of Planned Parenthood v. Casey) or human moral conviction (or lack thereof). 
The Constitutional right to life cannot turn on so capricious a hinge. 
Even if you do not accept that human life begins at conception, as I do, you have to concede (as even Justice Blackmun did) that we as human beings do not have the capacity to say with any certainty when it does begin.  All we can know for certain is that, at some point, it does.  As so many argue against the death penalty—so many, interestingly, who are on the pro-choice side of the abortion debate—why would we take the chance of being wrong, particularly when the victim of abortion is so absolutely and without question blameless?
In our Constitutional system, rights sometimes conflict, and one person’s right must yield to another’s.  We resolve these conflicts by balancing the harm to one and the burden upon the rights of the other.  You have a First Amendment right to speak, but that does not entitle you to jeopardize others’ right to life by yelling “Fire!” in a crowded movie house.  In the case of abortion, the harm, obviously, is depriving (or, for you skeptics, at least the possibility of depriving) another human being of the right to life.  There simply can’t be a greater harm than that, which necessarily means there can be no burden on the woman’s rights that would outweigh that harm.  The one exception would be the deprivation of the woman’s own right to life, in which case the scales are even, and the best you can do is the Catholic Church’s teaching that we may not perform an abortion for the purpose of terminating a pregnancy, but if a medical procedure that is necessary to save the mother’s life has the unfortunate consequence the death of the child, that is acceptable.  Beyond that, however, there is no way to claim a burden on a right of the mother that outweighs the unborn child’s right to life. 
We also resolve Constitutional conflicts by seeking out less-intrusive means of enforcing one right without unnecessarily trampling on the other.  With the availability of adoption as an alternative, the burden carrying a pregnancy to term imposes upon a woman is temporary; the harm to the victim of abortion is quite permanent.  It simply isn’t necessary, in order to enforce a woman’s rights to terminate another’s right to life.  Under such circumstances, the balance can’t tilt in favor of an at-best implied “right” to an abortion over the child’s explicit right to life.  
The pro-choice movement has sold people on the idea that abortion is all about a woman’s right to choose, and to control her own body.  This is, put simply, a lie.  Conceding for purposes of this discussion that a woman has this right to choose—the “right to privacy” from which it is purported to derive isn’t found in the text of the Constitution, but instead actually originates from a law review article written by (later, Associate Supreme Court Justice) Louis Brandeis about 100 years ago—that misses the point.  Restricting her access to an abortion in no way diminishes her right to choose or to control her “reproductive health”; she made her choice and exercised her control when she chose to have sex.  The pro-choice movement is not really advocating a woman’s right to choose, but a right to avoid after-the-fact the predictable consequences of the choice she made, and to do so by killing another human being. 
Don’t tell me I’m being unrealistic, that women are going to have sex and get pregnant anyway, and if abortion is illegal they’ll just get dangerous back-alley procedures.  That’s true of a lot of things; but we don’t legalize conduct simply because people will engage in it even if it’s illegal.  People shoot heroin with dirty needles, but there are few outside the Ron Paul campaign who think we should make it legal. 
Nor is this an issue, as Obama’s statement suggested, about ensuring women have the same rights and opportunities as men.  What rights and opportunities do women lack that allowing unfettered abortions cures?  The biological fact is that sex may result in pregnancy, and that pregnancy, if it happens, will be born by the woman; can’t change that with legislation, Constitutional amendment, judicial activism, or executive fiat.  And the sad social fact is too many men participate in the sex, then run from the consequences of pregnancy because they canbut do we really want to encourage our daughters to emulate them in the most lazy, promiscuous, irresponsible, animalistic, and selfish standard of conduct imaginable?  
The truth the so-called “feminists” don’t want to admit is that all of both the biological and social  facts of pregnancy are avoidable through abstinencewhich, by the way, is safer than a clinical abortion and 100% reliable, unlike any contraceptive, including The Pilland a woman is always free to make that choice.  And rather than kill the child, perhaps we need to do better at educating our men, and then holding their feet to the fire of responsibility.  But to say that abortion is the answer is to take the utilitarian position that the unborn child is nothing more than a failed science experiment to be discarded and forgotten at will if one deems its implications too imposing or inconvenient.
We’re horrified at cases like Caylee Anthony and Jon Benet Ramsey, and rightfully so.  Something in our very core finds the ultimate revulsion at the deliberate killing of a child, particularly by her own parent.  In most states that allow capital punishment, killing a child qualifies you for Death Row.  It is inexplicable, then, that people would support our government abdicating its most fundamental responsibility and failing to protect the most helpless among us in the place where they should be safer than anywhere else on earth.
The CDC estimates some 50 million abortions have been performed in the U.S. in the 39 years since Roe—about 1.3 million a year, a pace rivaling that of the Holocaust.  Over that time, how many Einsteins have we lost?  How many Mother Teresas?  How many Reverend Kings?  How many honest, hardworking, ordinary Everymans never got a chance?  
How many songs will voices never share?
That is what President Obama commemorated and said he is committed to protecting.

Political Correctness Amok

“Ladies and gentlemen, I’ll be brief.  The issue here isn’t whether we broke a few rules, or took a few liberties with our female party guests—we did.  But you can’t hold a whole fraternity responsible for the behavior of a few sick, twisted individuals.  For if you do, then shouldn’t we blame the whole fraternity system?  And if the whole fraternity system is guilty, then isn’t this an indictment of our educational institutions in general?  I put it to you, Greg:  Isn’t this an indictment of our entire American society?  Well, you can do whatever you want to us, but we’re not going to sit here and listen to you badmouth the United States of America!”
—Tim Matheson as Eric “Otter” Stratton in Animal House
When will this insanity stop?
In a story that’s gotten sparse national attention, students at new Corner Canyon High School in Draper, Utah selected “Cougars” as their school mascot and team nickname.  The school board, however, has overridden their decision, citing complaints from some parents, and is imposing the nickname “Chargers” instead.  The primary complaint?
The term “cougar” might offend middle-aged women who like to date younger men.
Yes, when someone tells us they’re rooting for the Cougars, don’t we all immediately assume they’re hoping Demi Moore shows up?  I’m frankly disturbed that it even occurred to anybody, much less that it put such a burr under their saddle that they complained about it.  Is this how thin our overly-P.C. sensitive skin has become?
Let me put this in perspective.  Twelve colleges call their teams the Cougars.  Here in Texas, where high school football is king, I count 26 schools whose teams take the field under the banner of Cougars.  In other words, it’s a pretty common mascot.  These P.C. nazis in Utah make it sound like the kids wanted to call their team the “N*ggers,” which of course is patently offensive, and would never be acceptable; but the N-word has no other meaning or connotation.  In other parts of the world, rape victims are convicted of adultery and stoned to death.  Yet here in the land of the free and—ironic drumroll, please—the home of the brave, we worry about things like whether the choice of a nickname that everybody understands refers to a big cat is somehow going to offend someone.  
At least we have our priorities in order.
And I don’t buy the Board’s secondary excuse that other Utah schools also use “Cougars,” and the name plus the school’s colors of blue, silver, and white are too close to those of BYU.  High schools mimicking major college programs’ nicknames and color schemes is nothing new or controversial.  Here in Texas we have 12 high schools duplicating the University of Texas’ “Longhorns,” with four of them also using Texas’ colors of orange and white.  The board is simply trying to cover their obvious cowardly cow-towing to stupid P.C. pressure. 
This crusade against team names and mascots that might hurt someone’s feelings has been around a long time.  In 2005 the NCAA finally succumbed to the P.C. blitzkrieg and cited 18 member institutions for having “hostile or abusive” mascots, all but ordering the schools to drop them.  The NCAA may actually have had a point in cases like the Southeastern Oklahoma State Savages, where the nickname itself has an inherently derogatory connotation (not unlike the N-word).  But in other instances such as the Florida State Seminoles (eventually granted an exemption) and the North Dakota Fighting Sioux the nicknames were nothing more than respectful references to groups of people with direct and obvious connections to their states’ history, similar to the Oklahoma Sooners, the West Virginia Mountaineers, or the Western Kentucky Hilltoppers.  Alas, common sense gives way to knee-jerk overcorrection, and we take a sledgehammer to a gnat.   
So American Indian references (regardless of taste or historical context) are taboo as choices for school team nicknames, and now they’re coming after predatory animals.  What’s next?  If we’re going to indulge in this level of silliness, let’s carry it to its logical conclusion.  Here are some other nicknames/mascots—yes, all the examples below are real—that are also going to have to go the way of the do-do bird, lest we bruise someone’s tender sensibilities:
  •          Fighting Irish, Fighting Scots, Ragin’ Cajuns suggest that people of Irish or Scottish descent or descended from French-Canadian immigrants to Louisiana have bad tempers. 
  •           Flying Dutchmen suggests that people from Holland take drugs.
  •           Pirates, Buccaneers, Raiders, Marauders, Vandals promote crime.
  •           Matadors promotes animal cruelty and offends PETA.
  •           Camels promotes smoking.
  •           Orediggers might offend younger women who like to date older wealthy men.
  •         Sharks might offend local men who like to date tourist women­­—fins to the left—and certain urban bankers.
  •           Rainbow Warriors might offend men who like to date other men.
  •           Red Foxes might offend attractive women, and fans of Sanford & Son.
  •           Mules might offend stubborn old people.
  •           Blue Hens, Badgers might offend nagging housewives.
  •           Quakers, Friars, Deacons, Saints, Bishops might offend atheists.
  •           Crusaders might offend Muslims.
  •           Red Devils, Blue Devils, Sun Devils might offend Satan-worshippers.
  •           Huskies might offend big-boned people.
  •           Patriots might offend people in other countries.
  •           Coons (no joke—Frisco HS, Frisco, Texas) might offend rednecks or blacks.
  •           Thoroughbreds discriminates against people of mixed heritage.
  •           Spartans makes light of poor people.
  •           Cavaliers makes light of casual or indifferent people.
  •           Ramblin’ Wreck makes light of people with crappy cars.
  •           Steers might upset men who have lost their testicles to cancer or injury.
  •           Longhorns, Bulls, Stags, Bucks, Rams, Goats, Ducks, Bison, Buffaloes might upset vegans.
  •           Cornhuskers, Aggies might upset those with gluten allergies.
  •           Black Knights might upset people with flesh wounds.
  •         Crimson, Cardinal, Orange, Mean Green, Maroons, Big Green, Big Red might upset people who are color-blind.
  •           Volunteers might upset Bill Clinton.
  •           Lions, Tigers, Bears might upset Wizard of Oz aficionados.
  •           Gamecocks, Beavers might upset prudes.
  •           Trojans—do I really have to explain?
As you can see, this zeal to avoid offending people quickly devolves into the absurd, and it doesn’t leave much left from which to choose.  But we could go further.  Given that team nicknames and even school colors really only serve to distinguish one group of people from another, shouldn’t they ALL be done away with as inherently discriminatory/divisive?  While we’re at it, there are any number of school fight songs that include demeaning or even violent references to rival institutions—why, some might even call them “hate speech”—that have no place in our genteel modern society.  In fact, now that I think about it, sporting contests by their very nature stigmatize the loser, so shouldn’t we stop the games altogether and encourage students instead to engage peacefully with their colleagues at other schools in friendly sing-alongs and maybe some group interpretive dance?
Somewhere, this silliness has to stop.  It’s like we’ve put ourselves into a giant version of Twister where you not only have to stay on the dots, but you can’t touch another player or they’ll bruise beyond recognition.  We’re eventually going to become so soft that the Iranians aren’t going to need a nuclear weapon to whip us; Ahmedinejad is simply going to call us the pussies that we’ve become, and we’ll drown in our own tears crying over our hurt feelings. 
Life is a contact sport, folks.  At some point we all have to grow a little bit of callous, and as Dennis Miller ranted on this very subject in 1994, do everyone else the courtesy of not treating them like they’re a Faberge egg.  Language is an imperfect tool.  There’s always going to be a way to twist words into something someone somewhere could find a little offensive if they really try.  We have to have the common sense to distinguish between words with a primary meaning that is overtly and deliberately hurtful on the one hand, and those that in their common usage have an obvious and universally understood meaning that has absolutely nothing to do with whatever special interest group might twist them to find them offensive. 
A cougar is a cougar.  A big freaking cat.  Get over it.

Why The GOP Can’t Nominate Conservatives

Boy:                   Wait a second!  I saw the whole thing!  The machine’s fixed!  Who’s she, your mother?
Tiffany Case:       Blow up your pants!
—Gary Durbin as Boy and Jill St. John as Tiffany Case in Diamonds Are Forever
If you’re a conservative, when is the last time you voted for President without holding your nose?  
I’ve argued with friends about whether there’s something in the machine that’s preventing conservatives from getting nominated, or whether it’s as simple as the conservative base just isn’t big enough to get its way.  But one way or another, the fact is the process is consistently yielding crappy nominees; indeed, aside from Barry Goldwater in 1964 and Ronald Reagan in 1980, the GOP hasn’t nominated a real conservative for President in nearly a century.
And it’s happening again this year.  It’s only mid-January, yet the field has already lost Michele Bachmann, Herman Cain, and now Rick Perry.  Iowa’s flip notwithstanding, it appears that Rick Santorum’s bid is on life support.  Anything short of a close second in South Carolina on Saturday will effectively end Newt Gingrich’s run, which means we won’t even get to February before we’re down to Mitt Romney and Ron Paul (who I assume won’t quit until he literally doesn’t have gas money to get to the next stop). 
Excuse me if I don’t quite get that tingling sensation up my leg.
For all practical purposes it looks like the nomination race will be essentially over before Super Tuesday (March 6).  Here in Texas, I likely won’t get any real vote, because we don’t go until April 3.  Those of you in California, New Jersey, or Utah who don’t have your primary until June?  You’ll be looking at a one-name ballot.
So what, Rusty?  You could argue that the campaigns that have fallen or are in the process of falling have collapsed under their own weight.  Running a national campaign over a long term is a necessary skill to compete in the general election, and if a candidate can’t do thatwhether because they lack the organization, can’t raise funds, or wet themselves on national TVbetter to find that out early and weed him out.  And maybe conservative candidates simply can’t muster enough votes to win the nomination (if that’s really so, maybe it’s time to form a separate Conservative Party).
But I submit that the nomination process itself is rigged against conservatives.
Consider that 12 states (13 if you include the always-critical battleground of the Northern Mariana Islands) hold their primaries before Super Tuesday.  While they only hold about 15% of the total delegates, these states have an almost decisive say in who the nominee is because winning the early contests is so essential to maintaining enough fundraising momentum and national interest to stay in the race.  By process of elimination that means conservatives are out before they ever get a chance.
What do I mean by that?
Of the 12 states with primaries before Super Tuesday, four are uber-liberal states that have gone to the Democrats in each of the last four Presidential elections, by average margins approaching 10 points or more: Maine, Michigan, Minnesota, and Washington.  Another two—Iowa and New Hampshire—are consistently blue come national election time, going Democrat in three of the last four elections.  Another five are at best erratic, splitting their recent Presidential results, and even when the GOP candidate has won it’s been by the slimmest of margins:  Arizona, Colorado, Florida, Missouri, and Nevada.  Among the states getting their say before Super Tuesday, only South Carolina can be considered solidly conservative.  But they have an open primary, meaning independents get a say in the South Carolina nomination process.  What this suggests is that virtually all of this early weeding out of candidates occurs in states that skew center-left, which necessarily disadvantages conservative candidates.
Let’s take it a step further.
Thirteen states fall into what I would call the deep red, reliably conservative category, voting for the GOP candidate in each of the last four elections by an average margin of 10 points or better:  Alabama, Alaska, Idaho, Kansas, Mississippi, Nebraska, North Dakota, Oklahoma, South Carolina, South Dakota, Texas, Utah, and Wyoming.  These states hold some 24% of the delegates.  That moves to 28%—nearly double the pre-Super Tuesday delegate count—if you also include Georgia and Montana, which both have gone to the GOP in the last four elections, but with an average margin of less than 10%.  These states are where the bulk of the conservative base resides, and one suspects that a Bachmann, Gingrich, Perry, or Santorum would likely take a decisive victory over Romney here—if they could last long enough to run that race.  But of these core conservative states, only South Carolina gets an early say.  While four states (five if you include Georgia) participate in Super Tuesday—and even that impact is dampened by the fact that super-deep-blue Massachusetts and Vermont, and unreliable-to-blue-leaning Ohio and Virginia also participate in Super Tuesday—most if not all of the conservative candidates will likely already be out of the race by then, leaving conservative voters little left from which to choose. 
In other words, under the current primary system the GOP can’t nominate a conservative, because the conservative candidates are gone before the conservative voters get a chance to vote.
You could fix that by holding a single nationwide primary, but that would for all intents and purposes rule out a lesser-known candidate from the start.  A marginal candidate can mount a campaign when only a few states at a time are in play, and then gain momentum (and additional funding) with some early successes; witness, for example, Mike Huckabee in 2008, or Herman Cain last Fall before he flamed out due to personal issues.  But with a single national primary, only the mega-wealthy and already-famous—like a Donald Trump—could run a viable campaign.
Let me offer some suggestions.  One, eliminate winner-take-all contests in favor of proportional representation (like the DNC does).  This ensures that second- and third-place finishers retain relevance heading down the campaign trail. 
Two, eliminate open primaries.  The primary process isn’t intended for the general public to decide who the nominees are, it’s intended for—in this case—the Republican Party to decide who its nominee will be.  If you aren’t part of the party, why should you get any say in that?  If you’re not a Republican and want a say in who gets nominated, start your own party and make your own nomination.
Third, streamline the calendar by lumping the states in buckets, similar to the Ohio Proposal the RNC rejected coming out of the 2008 elections.  I would try to keep smaller states together, regionalize where I can to minimize travel expense, and keep each bundle with a mix of typically conservative and non-conservative states.  I might also save the states with the biggest delegate jackpots for a final showdown, so there typically remain enough outstanding delegates to be won that those not currently at the top of the leaderboard are still in the game.  And I’d compress the schedule and get it finished earlier, so the party and nominee can focus more time and resources on going after the Democrats heading into November. 
Just as an example, you might do something like this: 
February 2—First Regional Test:  Iowa, New Hampshire, Rhode Island, South Carolina, Vermont, West Virginia, (roughly 132 delegates at stake).
February 23—Battleground I: Indiana, Kentucky, Maine, Nebraska, New Jersey, Virginia, Wisconsin (roughly 291 delegates at stake).
March 13—Battleground II:  Arkansas, Florida, Kansas, Michigan, Minnesota, North Dakota, Oklahoma (roughly 267 delegates at stake).
April 12—Second Regional Test:  Alaska, Arizona, Hawaii, Nevada, Vermont, Wyoming (roughly 133 delegates at stake).
May 1—Battleground III:  Colorado, Idaho, Oregon, Montana, New Mexico, South Dakota, Utah, Washington (roughly 256 delegates at stake).
May 18—Battleground IV:  Alabama, Connecticut, Delaware, Louisiana, Maryland, Massachusetts, Mississippi (roughly 259 delegates at stake).
June 19—Final Showdown:  California, Georgia, Illinois, Missouri, New York, North Carolina, Ohio,  Pennsylvania, Tennessee, Texas (roughly 876 delegates—about 40% of the total—at stake).
July 4-6:  Republican National Convention
My two cents, since I don’t get a vote.

Geeks Out Of Their Depth

Brian:           What I had said was I’m in the math club, uh, the Latin club, and the physics club . . . physics club.
Bender:          Hey, Cherry.  Do you belong to the physics club?
Claire:            That’s an academic club.
Bender:          So?
Claire:            So, academic clubs aren’t the same as other kinds of clubs.
Bender:         Ah, but to dorks like him, they are.  What do you guys do in your club?
Brian:             Well, in physics we . . . we talk about physics, properties of physics . . .
Bender:          So it’s sorta social.  Demented and sad, but social.  Right?
—Anthony Michael hall as Brian Johnson, Judd Nelson as John Bender, and Molly Ringwald as Claire Standish in The Breakfast Club
Continuing with a theme running over the last few posts, it should be apparent by now that government—and this administration in particular—has no business meddling in affairs of business.
You should be reasonably familiar with the story of Solyndra, the California-based solar panel maker that received over $500 million in loans from the Department of Energy in 2009, only to go bankrupt last fall.  Congress and the FBI continue to investigate whether there was any wrongdoing in that deal, and while the administration has steadfastly insisted that political connections had nothing to do with the issuance of that loan over the objections of DOE financial analysts, there remains a lot of smoke for there to be no fire.  Documents released on Friday reveal that the administration learned in the Fall of 2010 that Solyndra was in trouble and about to announce large-scale layoffs, and the White House was apparently more concerned with the optics of that development on the mid-term elections than on what that development said about the wisdom of such deals.
Last November, Energy Secretary Steven Chu took “full responsibility” for the decision to go ahead with the Solyndra loan, saying that decision was his, and his alone.  He also conceded he did not expect taxpayers to recover much, if any, of their money.  President Obama stood by Chu, and basically pooh-poohed the loss as no big deal; just one of the inevitable lumps we have to expect to take.
Better get your helmet on, Lumpy.
CBS News reported over the weekend that as many as 11 more of these “clean energy” loan recipients may be in similar trouble.  Of 12 companies (including Solyndra) CBS identified as being in trouble—totaling $6.5 billion in federal loans—5 have already filed for bankruptcy.  That’s 12 out of a grand total of about 40 “green energy” firms receiving DOE loans.  One of the bankrupts, Beacon Energy, turns out to have had an S&P rating of CCC-plus—non-investment grade bad junk bond status—yet it still received $43 million in taxpayer money.  Among the not-dead-yet firms that haven’t quite found their way to the bankruptcy court are companies like Nevada Geothermal—a pet project of Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid—which received $98.5 million from DOE, some $80 million of which didn’t go to develop green energy and create jobs, but instead went immediately towards a prior loan that was already in default, according to Rep. Darrell Issa, one of those driving the Solyndra investigation.  SunPower—recipient of $1.2 billion after being taken over by a French oil company—owes more than it’s worth.  And there’s First Solar—recipient of $3 billion in federal loans—which fired its CEO after losing more than any other company in the S&P 500 in 2011.
All of these loan projects come out of the Department of Energy, and Secretary Chu continues to defend the program, despite mounting evidence that something is going drastically wrong with it.  Which begs the question, who is this guy, and what qualifies him to be the man with “full responsibility” for making go/no-go decisions that are “[his], and [his] alone” on billions of dollars in federal loans to private businesses?
Dr. Steven Chu is a physics professor and a career academic.  His degrees are in mathematics and physics.  Prior to becoming Energy Secretary, he was a professor of physics and molecular biology at Cal-Berkeley, and before that he taught physics at Stanford.  He won a Nobel Prize in physics in 1997.  One gets the impression that Dr. Chu kicks ass at physics, and if you want someone to study the effect of lasers on molecular structures through the time-space continuum (don’t get too caught up in what the hell that means, it’s just a combination of words I just made up, and it may well be gibberish—I’m not a physicist), he’s probably your man. 
I’m sure he’s also a nice guy and has the best of intentions.  But other than the fact that he has an extensive background in receiving government grants, what the hell makes this man even remotely qualified to be taking spins of the venture capital roulette wheel with billions of dollars in house money?  Dr. Chu has no background in business or finance.  None.  Zero.  And who put him in this position?  That’s right:  Barack Obama, another career academic with not only zero experience in business or finance, but also no experience in management of any kind.
So we have one blind egghead leading another blind egghead.
Not only are the people in charge of these gambles singularly unqualified to be making them, I can’t find anything in the Constitution that authorizes them to make those bets.  Let’s assume for a second that Dr. Chu were in fact eminently qualified with an extensive background in business and venture capital transactions.  Let’s assume further that it’s a really, really good idea to provide billions of dollars in seed money for green energy startups.  Even if all of that were true—and apparently none of it is—that still wouldn’t mean that the United States federal government has the power to do it.
I’ve harped on this before.  The federal government is not empowered to do whatever the Executive Branch decides is a good or even necessary idea, and that’s true even if the President is right.  Article I only gives Congress the power to do 17 very specifically identified things (plus the power to enact legislation to do those 17 things).  NONE of them involve taking money from the citizenry to give to other citizens in the form of high-risk venture capital loans.  Article II only gives the President the power to execute the laws enacted by Congress.  Nothing in the Constitution authorizes the Congress or the President to operate an investment bank with taxpayer money.
Don’t even bother coming at me with the Commerce Clause.  The Commerce Clause authorizes Congress to regulate commerce, not to engage in commerce:
“The Congress shall have Power To . . . regulate Commerce with foreign Nations, and among the several states, and with the Indian Tribes[.]”
The intent of that provision was not for the federal government to promote or even to manage commerce, but simply to ensure that competing state tariffs didn’t result in a Balkanized economy; Hamilton and Madison discussed this very notion repeatedly throughout the Federalist Papers (see Nos. 7, 11, 22, and 42).  No, I’m not going to go back and review the thousands of pages of Supreme Court opinions over the last 150-so years explaining the “penumbras”—look it up—of power implied in those 21 simple words.  It is plain from the face of those words that the modern expansion of Congressional power allegedly derived from them perverts the Framers’ intent beyond recognition.
It is exceedingly dangerous when people in power go beyond their authority.  This is particularly so when they do so in areas where they think they’re smarter than everyone else, including the true experts, when in reality they have no idea what they’re doing.  This administration is out of its depth and out of control, and if we’re not careful, we’re all going to drown with it.

Government Has A God Complex

Welcome, my son
Welcome to the machine.
Where have you been?
It’s alright; we know where you’ve been.
—Pink Floyd, Welcome to the Machine
Back on September 8, President Obama summoned both houses of Congress for a joint session during which he browbeat them about the urgent need to take action to create jobs.  He spent the next several weeks traveling the country repeatedly pushing what has morphed into a simple mantra that we’ll no doubt hear throughout the campaign:
We can’t wait.
Which is really funny, because even as he was at the podium lecturing Congress on the need to act on jobs and do it right now, the Keystone Pipeline XL project—a shovel-ready, cost-free project that would have created thousands of jobs at no cost to taxpayers—had been on his desk for two weeks waiting for his OK to move forward.  Today, 145 days later, despite efforts by Congressional Republicans to force action, the White House has done nothing to permit this project to proceed.
It’s a classic case of government-knows-best regulation and red tape getting in the way of natural market engines.  Following this theme, the Houston Chronicle reported on Saturday that the Energy Information Administration is expected to issue a report next week and another in March on the effect of U.S. companies exporting natural gas on jobs and domestic energy prices.  The Energy Department then will presumably be relying in part on those reports in making decisions on pending applications for export permits. 
By way of background, newer technology has made it economical to extract gas from tight shale formations, unlocking vast reserves.  This boost in supply has resulted in a dramatic drop in the cost of gas to consumers, from in excess of $15/mmbtu in 2005, to a current price of less than $3.  But in Asia and Europe, it can fetch between $12 and $18.
That is, if you can get it there.
Producers, not surprisingly, would like to utilize LNG (liquefied natural gas) facilities on the Gulf Coast to convert natural gas to liquid, which can then be shipped via tanker to markets where it can be sold at a much higher price than can be realized domestically.  That’s how markets work, and in the process, the increased profit encourages more drilling, which means more jobs.  That’s in addition to jobs at the LNG facility, jobs in shipping, etc.
There’s just one problem.
“Consumer advocates” object to the issuance of permits to allow producers to export the gas, because they are concerned that effectively increasing demand will increase the price of natural gas domestically.  Which, of course, is also how markets work: more people want to buy the product, so the supplier of that product can command a higher price.  These “advocates” want to prevent this effect, so they insist that the government erect barriers to the producers’ ability to access these other markets, essentially imposing a kind of indirect price control by artificially limiting demand. 
I have to ask the question why is government involved in this in the first place?  With the exception of gas produced from government land, natural gas (or the right to extract it) is the private property of the owner of the mineral rights.  Typically it is extracted by a producer who has entered into a lease—a private contract—with the mineral rights owner, whereby the producer pays the owner an agreed price—“royalty”—for the gas he extracts, effectively purchasing the gas from the owner.  Once extracted, the gas is the private property of the producer.  So we’re talking about private property, acquired via a private contractual arrangement.  Why isn’t the producer free to dispose of it as he will?
Somewhere along the way, people seem to have gotten the idea that government always has to govern.  As long as it keeps ahold of the marionette strings it can tweak this and nudge that and everything will be better.  After all, anything that’s artificially manipulated by a human being has to be better than what natural forces can create on their own, right? 
A little Brawndo, anyone? 
There’s always something for the government to stick its nose in and alter the natural result of market forces, because it knows better what markets crave.  It can keep grain prices artificially high for farmers by paying them not to grow wheat and by stockpiling what they do grow, thus cutting supply.  It can keep labor prices artificially high by enforcing minimum wage laws.  It can keep rents artificially low by enforcing rent controls.
The problem is that, like any drug, every one of these moves to manipulate and manage the market has consequences.  You can boost profits for farmers, but that will also result in higher food prices and inefficient use of land resources (not to mention the waste of grain stockpiled in government silos, never to be seen again).  You can raise wages, but at the cost of jobs where businesses would have been willing to hire—and workers willing to work—for less, if only they were permitted to do so.  You can create cheap housing, but that will remove the incentive and capital ability for landlords to make improvements, or often even to keep up with basic maintenance; rent’ll be cheap, but the apartment will be an endlessly-deteriorating slum.
Politicians and their appointed bureaucrats who enact these policies are typically not equipped with the expertise to appreciate the potential consequences of market manipulations, much less control those forces.  But their ego and hubris get the better of them.  They’ve been told all their lives that they’re the smartest folks in the room, so it’s only natural that they should take control.    It’s a problem as old as Adam.  Man can improve his circumstances through his labor.  But the minute he thinks he knows everything, the minute he thinks he can control and improve upon nature, he screws it up.  Every time.
Perhaps someone should introduce our government to Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein.
The worst of all possible political sins is to be perceived as doing nothing.  But sometimes that’s the best course of action.  Markets will take care of themselves.  Left alone, free enterprise will get capital and resources directed to their most efficient use.  Prices and wages will level at the point where they naturally should be; that which the supplier is willing to accept and the consumer is willing to pay.  Rent may be more expensive, but that is offset by cheaper and more abundant food.  Fuel may cost more, but more people have a job and can afford it.  And so on.
If only government would get the hell out of the way.

Government Sucks At Business

Annie:   Anything you can do, I can do better.  I can do anything better than you.
Frank:   No, you can’t.
Annie:   Yes, I can.
Frank:   No, you can’t.
Annie:   Yes, I can.
Frank:   No, you can’t.
—Annie and Frank, “Anything You Can Do,” from Annie Get Your Gun
Ronald Reagan warned us back in 1964 that “outside of its legitimate functions, government does nothing as well or as economically as the private sector of the economy.” 
The fact of the matter is that the United States federal government sucks at business.  Let’s leave aside for now my usual rant about the Constitution and limited government, and just consider the practical by revisiting a few examples of the “green economy” experiments the Obama administration has forced on the rest of us.
In September 2009, the Department of Energy approved a $535 million government-guaranteed loan to the California-based solar panel manufacturer, after pressure from the White House to speed up the process.  Conveniently, the approval came just two days before a previously-scheduled visit by Vice President Joe Biden and Energy Secretary Steven Chu, allowing them to use the visit to trumpet the deal as a victory for the administration’s commitment to “investing” in green technology.  The deal was supposed to generate at least 4,000 jobs.
What wasn’t disclosed at the time was that Solyndra’s loan application had been tabled by the Bush administration, and financial analysts within the Obama administration—i.e., business people who might actually know what they’re talking about in this area—questioned the deal and the cash flow assumptions upon which it was based, predicting that Solyndra would run out of cash in September 2011.  By March 2010, auditors were questioning Solyndra’s continuing solvency, even as President Obama was visiting the company and touting it as a model of clean technology and job creation.  In February 2011, the Energy Department helped Solyndra restructure its debt, moving taxpayers to the back of the line of creditor claimants, curiously behind private investors like Obama mega-contributor George Kaiser.  On August 31, 2011, almost to the day financial experts within the Obama administration said it would, Solyndra filed for bankruptcy, and laid off almost its entire workforce.
So much for job creation.
Fisker Automotive and A123 Systems
In 2009, Fisker Automotive received a $529 million Department of Energy loan—sound familiar?—to produce high-performance luxury electric cars.  At the same time, A123 Systems received a $249.1 million grant from DOE to develop the battery that was eventually supplied to Fisker for use in its Karma, the $102,000-a-pop car that was to come from its DOE loan (in fairness, Fisker also plans to use part of the loan money to produce a more economical “Nina,” but production of that car won’t be seen until at least 2013).
How many of you in the 99% are lining up to get one of those?
Well, a funny thing happened on the way to the showroom.  First, production was delayed from 2009 to 2011 due to regulatory issues; in other words, the government’s own EPA left hand was getting in the way of its green technology right hand.  Then, only 239 cars were produced, every one of which was recalled in December due to safety issues associated with the A123 battery.  And even then, the EPA fuel economy ratings for the Karma (52MPGe with a range of 32 miles, 20 MPG on gasoline) ultimately fell well short of the green nirvana promised by Fisker executives (67MPGe with a range of 70 miles).   But here’s the kicker:
Fisker assembles the Karma in Finland. 
In Finland.
In.  Freaking.  Finland.
So what we see here is three-quarters-of-a-billion-dollars in taxpayer money wrapped up in a project that to date has produced a grand total of 239 cars retailing at more than double the median U.S. income, that aren’t nearly as “green” as promised and have been recalled due to safety issues, and that are built in Finland, not the U.S.
Is that all you get for your money?
Chevrolet Volt
Remember “too big to fail”?
General Motors was one of those.  The U.S. Treasury spent $49.5 billion to help GM weather its 2009 bankruptcy, and the U.S. taxpayer still holds about a 25% stake in the company.  At its current stock price of around $23 a share, we’re still about $24 billion in the red on this “investment.”  The stock would have to more than double to around $55 for us just to break even.
Meanwhile, GM unleashed the Chevy Volt, which was to lead a new revolution in green electric cars (never mind that these cars run on batteries charged with electricity that’s still generated by fossil fuels, and no one as yet has figured out how to dispose of the dangerous lithium once those batteries die).  Trouble is, with a base sticker starting above $40,000, few can afford the Volt.  Even with a federal tax subsidy of $7500 to anyone who purchases a Volt, GM has only managed to sell about 8,000 units in the U.S. and Canada since 2010, again as predicted by an Obama administration task force, who advised the President in 2009 that the car “will likely be too expensive to be commercially successful.”  Yet on they pressed.  And now, like the Fisker Karma, it appears that GM may be moving production of the Volt abroad (such as it is)—in this case, to China.
All of this begs the question why the Left has such a hard time understanding that the government shouldn’t be in the business of being in business.  For all their insistence on the importance of investing in a green future, of the need for government to stimulate growth and create American jobs, you’d expect to hear them trumpeting some success stories.  Where are the concrete examples of actual substantive success in these ventures?  From just the three examples above, we see some $51 billion in taxpayer money spent on projects that have resulted in one bankruptcy, two manufacturing units and the jobs they embody being shipped overseas, and the sale of fewer than 9,000 cars; cars that don’t work that well, aren’t as green as advertised, and that virtually no one can afford.
I’ve made this point before, but it bears repeating.  The essence of the theory of evolution is that nature, given a large enough universe of sample events, adapts to find the most efficient means of supporting and propagating life.  The same holds for capitalism: millions of people making billions of decisions driven by their own economic best interest will result in adaptations diverting capital resources to their most efficient use.  Better ideas rise to dominate, and poorer ideas are cast aside.  Meanwhile, the price of experimentation is very, very small; the consequences of any one of these billions upon billions of decisions being a mistake are localized and miniscule.
But when government intervenes, we give up the statistical house advantage of numbers.  In place of billions of small low-risk decisions by millions of people acting in their own interest we substitute a handful of gigantic bets made by a small number of people who inherently lack the time, expertise, information, and self-interest to make them.  And the consequences of any one of those bets going bad are large in scale and magnitude of their impact.
If people need a better mousetrap, profit motive will drive someone to develop it at a price people are willing to pay, and everybody wins.  But if nobody wants that mousetrap, all the government accomplishes by trying to force it on the market is waste, and the only one that wins is government.  That’s what happens when a handful of egomaniacal academics decide that they know better than the rest of us how to allocate our own money. 
That’s why government sucks at business.

A Tale Of Two Guns

Why you trying to second guess me?
I am tired of second guessing.
—R.E.M., Second Guessing
Here’s a story that may not be getting much attention outside of Texas, but you may want to watch.
Last Wednesday, police in Brownsville—a city on the Texas/Mexico border—shot and killed 15 year old Jaime Gonzalez in a middle school hallway.  His godmother complained to the Brownsville Herald that “[i]t was not right . . . They didn’t give him a chance.” 
I can only assume she was there and saw the whole thing to know that.
His parents, predictably, are already looking for a lawyer, and want to know “[w]hy was so much excess force used on a minor?”  Civil rights groups are demanding an investigation.  I assume it’s only a matter of time before we have Quanell X, Al Sharpton, and the other usual spotlight vultures showing up to decry once again The Man’s police brutality against people of color.
Excess force.  Didn’t give him a chance.  Hmm.
Here’s the thing.  Jaime Gonzalez was carrying a gun.  In a school.  That alone really ought to end the discussion, but there’s more.  The incident began when Jaime beat up another student, prompting school officials to call the police.  The 911 tape reveals that officers repeatedly—repeatedly—ordered Jaime to drop the gun, and he didn’t do it.  He then pointed the gun at the police, who immediately opened fire.
What makes this a little more complicated is that the gun young Jaime was carrying turned out to be a .177 caliber CO2 pellet pistol.  So between the victim’s age and the nature of the weapon, the narrative quickly becomes an anti-police tale of Cops Kill Boy Holding Toy.  But take a quick look at the photos at the top.  One of these is the pellet gun carried by Jaime Gonzalez.  The other is a 9mm Glock 17, a weapon used by police and militaries around the world.  The pellet gun probably won’t kill you, but the Glock most certainly will (yes, I know, guns don’t kill people, people do—try to keep up).  And I challenge you to give them just a brief glance and see if you can distinguish between the two.
Now try it under life-and-death duress.
It’s a funny thing about cops:  when you point a gun at them, they’re not inclined to ask you what it is.  They don’t have time to study it.  They don’t get the opportunity to have you drop the magazine so they can inspect the ammunition, or measure the bore diameter.  They react to defend themselves and those around them, and they do so with deadly force.  They shoot center mass, because it’s easier to hit under duress, and far more likely to stop an assailant than a shot to the arm or leg.  And if there’s more than one cop around when you point that gun, all of them are going to fire.  It’s called “suicide by cop.”
They have to be this way.  In 2011 alone, 177 police officers were killed in the line of duty in the U.S., 71 of them by being shot.  That’s up from 153 in 2010.  It’s a dangerous business, and it’s why they carry weapons in the first place.  And a gunman in a school is no laughing matter, either.  Since 1996, there have been 80 school shooting incidents in the U.S., resulting in 164 dead.  What’s more disturbing is the trajectory:  the period between 1996 and 2005 averaged 2.8 such incidents per year, while the period between 2006 and 2011 has seen a sharp uptick to 8.7 per year, a threefold increase.
Jaime Gonzalez’ death is tragic, as is the loss of any young person, under any circumstances.  One can understand his parents’ grief.  But to them, and to the civil rights zealots who are so quick to throw the police under the bus (or set up their lawsuit—I note Mrs. Gonzalez had the presence of mind to take photos of her dead son with her cell phone “to document the bullet wounds”) let me ask a couple of questions.  First, what the hell was Jaime Gonzalez doing at school with any gun, toy or otherwise?  His parents swear they didn’t know he had it and have no idea how he got it, answers that will no doubt be very convenient for their lawyer.  I’ll bet you dollars-to-donuts the truth is that gun was a Christmas present; of course, they’ll never admit that now.  But giving them the benefit of the doubt, I’ll respond with the same query I noted Bill Cosby posing to the black community the other day: why don’t you know that?  
My second question is more important:  what would you have had the police do in that situation?  Better yet:  what would you do when a person you don’t know refuses multiple commands to drop what as best you can tell is a gun and then points it at you?  The police have a right to protect themselves, and a duty to protect others.  I don’t know the range at which the police shot Gonzalez, but the maximum reach of a Taser is only about 35 feet; one doubts they were that close.  Obviously, batons, pepper spray, and compliance techniques require reducing that range much closer, not exactly practical against someone potentially wielding a gun.  That doesn’t leave the police with many options.  Gonzalez’ death is a tragedy, but how much more tragic would it have been had he been about to take a real gun on a Virginia Tech-style rampage, and the police failed to stop him?  What would we be saying to the parents of however many innocent victims?  What would we be saying to the wife and children of a slain officer had the police delayed their reaction long enough to permit Jaime to open fire first?  The police can’t take that chance.
The job of the police is difficult under the best of circumstances, but it gets harder and harder when every move is handicapped with worrying about who’s going to question their actions, and how they’re going to explain them when they get sued.  It’s very easy to play quarterback from your sofa with instant replay and slow motion; it’s very, very difficult when life-and-death decisions have to be made in a nanosecond.  The fact of the matter is if Jaime Gonzalez doesn’t bring a gun—of whatever sort—to school, if he doesn’t beat up a classmate, if he simply complies when the police tell him—again, repeatedly—to drop the gun, the police aren’t put in that situation and this never happens.
My heart goes out to Mr. and Mrs. Gonzalez; I wouldn’t wish the loss of a child on anyone.  But it also must go out to the officers involved, who did what they had to do in a situation that afforded no time for contemplation, and no margin for error; they will have to live with Wednesday’s events for the rest of their lives.