Unhinged And Ungovernable

This country is becoming unhinged and ungovernable. The Wall Street Journal quoted an anonymous lobbyist as saying, “I now am ready to believe that the partisanship is so unhinged that it’s a threat to the Republic.” We have Maxine Waters being Maxine Waters but the difference now is that her unhinged rants are reported on page one as serious position taking rather than being ignored by the media entirely as it was for the eight years of Obama. We have a Leftist ‘Resistance’ movement that, rather than calling for revolution, is focused on making sure legislation and policy remains in place that assures public dollars keep flowing to Wall Street banks and insurance companies and what ever corporation will make a sufficient donation to their cause – and the Leftist will riot and burn the town down if the banks and corporations do not get their money!

That is some radical thought for you there.

On the flip side you have Donald Trump who may say or do something very good and promptly follow it up with a Tweet worthy of an ill-behaved 6th grader.

In the midst of all of this – nothing much is actually getting done. No Obamacare repeal. No tax reform. No immigration reform. No regulatory reform. No monetary reform. No returning to Federalism. No one is addressing the debt. Nothing much of significance that will have lasting effect is occurring. No problems are being solved. It is inevitable that sooner or later a crisis will occur – is the government capable of reacting to a crisis with anything other than unhinged partisanship? One must be doubtful.

The world is changing significantly and Trump is not the cause of that change – as much as the Democrats would like to scapegoat him – but Trump was the American voters response to that change. Democrats are trying very hard to prevent Trump addressing these changes while blaming Trump for any changes they fail to stop. It is a pretty simple political formula the Democrats are following – but it is making the country ungovernable. By the way, the GOP is no great shakes either.

The real threat to this changing world is that the global economies are a house of cards and no one quite understands what changes may topple the cards. Democrats are scared to death of the house of cards toppling because the welfare state is likely to topple with it. Republicans are often quite naive in that they typically assume it is still 1982 and just tweak this and change that and it will all be wonderful. Many rank-and-file GOP folks seem oblivious to the neo-Keynesian debt monster snoozing underneath of the bed. Just this tweak and that change will not fix the debt monster problem and that even the mild tweaks and changes proposed for healthcare and taxes now seem impossible to pass would indicate that dealing with the truly hard problems is off the table entirely.

Sooner or later we will be defined by those hard problems and no longer by ideology or personality or partisanship. Some smart people believe at that point that the United States will break apart. Some other smart people believe we will enter into a long period of lethargy, decline and impotency. I do not know if any of those are true – the United States has plenty of energy, food, water, infrastructure, and smart people.

What the United States no longer has is the appetite to solve hard problems. By all appearances we no longer have the desire to even confess the problems exist – let alone attempt to solve them.

Donald Trump does not and will not have to deal with *just* the problems that most presidents have to deal with. Eventually the problems he will have to deal with are going to be much more difficult than his recent predecessors. Trump will have to deal with all that Bush and Obama had to deal with plus the consequence of Obama having chosen, in the wake of the 2008 financial crisis, to simply create larger financial bubbles than those that burst. So far the Trump strategy has been to continue the bubbles. It is unclear how much longer that option will remain on the table. It could be days or it could be years – but the day will come when that option is no longer viable.

That is when the rubber will hit the road for all of us.

We will all have to wait and see if the country can rally to solve an impossible problem one more time – or not.

Just To Clear A Few Things Up

Just to clear a few things up:

If you think that what can and cannot be said should be controlled, you do not desire freedom.
If you think what can or cannot be bought or sold should be controlled, you do not desire freedom.
If you think the government should control the price of what is bought and sold, including the price of labor, you do not desire freedom.
If you think the government has a right to know what you are saying, doing or possessing without a warrant, you do not desire freedom.
If you think rights are dependent on skin color or your last name or your country of origin or your genitals or your religion, you do not desire freedom.
If you believe in equality of outcome rather than equality of opportunity, you do not desire freedom.
If your concept of ‘choice’ is restricted to abortion, you do not desire freedom.
If you believe the purpose of government is to allot rights rather than defend rights, you do not desire freedom.
Are we clear on this?

Tools Of The 1%

Peruse the headlines this morning:

“Large Parts Of Society Are Not Seeing Any Growth In Income And Job Opportunities At All”

The Number Of Self-Employed Americans Is Lower Than It Was In 1990

Personal Spending Growth Tumbles

Huge Artificial Increase In Credit Scores

Followed by these headlines:

GOP Bid To Rewrite Tax Code Falters

GOP Leader Tempers ObamaCare Expectations

Followed by the real kickers:

The Merchandising Of Virtue

Venezuela Opposition Accuses Goldman Sachs Of Financing Dictatorship

These headlines are all connected – they all tell a story. The story is of the individual volition and choice of the masses being handed over to a select few in exchange for promises of fairness and equity and prosperity. Anyone who has read Animal Farm is already familiar with this story. For me, the defining moment in Animal Farm was

“No one believes more firmly than Comrade Napoleon that all animals are equal. He would be only too happy to let you make your decisions for yourselves. But sometimes you might make the wrong decisions, comrades, and then where should we be?” ― George Orwell, Animal Farm

At the end of the day this is what liberty and freedom comes down to: who makes the choices about your life? Day after day after day our individual volition is diminished. Our ability to make our own choices about our own lives recedes on never-ending claims that some members of society are superior to others and consequentially are entitled to make decisions for everyone else because “sometimes you might make the wrong decisions, comrades, and then where should we be?” We hear the bogus claims over and over and over to the effect that some are indeed more equal than others – and this enhanced equality gives the self-proclaimed superior species the right to make decisions on your behalf. This self-proclaimed superiority is at the heart of the unfounded accusations of racism and xenophobia and homophobia. These people must claim moral superiority in order to maintain a moral claim to be able to make decisions on your behalf.

That the select few making decisions for the masses will always result in poverty for the masses and wealth for the few is an historical and economic irrelevancy to the Progressives as long as the emotional high of moral superiority can be maintained. Yet this is what is inarguably observed – during the eight years of Obama, billionaires on average doubled their net wealth while the middle class suffered a 30% reduction in net wealth and the poor suffered a 45% reduction in net wealth. This is what the Socialist/‘Democratic Socialist’/Progressive movement is arguing for more of. That we paper over these economic outcomes with ever more debt (which enriches the 1% ever more at the expense of the poor and middle class) is a meaningless fact to the Progressives. As long as Progressives can feel superior – they simply do not care that they are also tools that the wealthy use to enrich themselves.

Taleb this week called it “The Merchandising Of Virtue.” 

Taleb correctly observed that

It is immoral to be in opposition of the market system and not live (like the Unabomber) in a hut isolated from it

But there is worse:

It is even more, much more immoral to claim virtue without fully living with its direct consequences.”

This is an old game – Marx may have put to pen and paper the con of claiming false moral virtue in order to simply enrich yourself at the expense of others but it is probably as old has humanity itself. The Socialist/‘Democratic Socialist’/Progressive movement is nothing more than – and has never been anything more than – false superiority masquerading as a reason to enrich and empower the few at the expense of others. It is an appealing and attractive game. This enriching of the few and impoverishing of the many is what we observe and can quantify. It is not a debatable fact. The attraction of Progressivism stems from the natural tendency of human beings to want to feel superior to other human beings. Nothing inflates our ego more than feeling morally superior and no other belief provides as many convenient rationalizations for abhorrent personal and group behavior as the belief that one is superior.

We now have this entire Socialist/‘Democratic Socialist’/Progressive movement based on nothing more profound than the twin sisters of false virtue and fake moral superiority. That the Socialist/‘Democratic Socialist’/Progressive movement is in bed with the Wall Street banks, with the insurance companies, with the neocon foreign policy – irrelevancies as long as one can proclaim false virtue and fake moral superiority.

The Socialist/‘Democratic Socialist’/Progressive movement has no more depth that what I have described here. If you do not believe me – the next time you meet a Progressive ask them what their monetary policy is.

I dare you.

An Afterthought on the Meaning of Memorializing. Memorial Day is Especially for the Bereaved.

Yesterday I shared quotes about two dimensions of Memorial Day. One, as Lincoln exhorted, is to rededicate ourselves to the cause the fallen were defending—American independence, freedom, and security. Two is to ponder the value of lives that were “undiscovered,” the loss of associations and contributions and humanity because lives were cut short.
 
A third purpose also seems fitting and important—to comfort and appreciate those left behind. Every life touches family, friends, and loved ones. Honoring the fallen should also cause us to appreciate and comfort the bereaved. I thought of this as I remembered an honor ceremony some years ago at the Colorado State Capitol where I saw close up the cost borne by families of the fallen.
 
A young man from Thornton, a city near my home was one of Colorado’s early casualties in the Iraq war. His parents and family came for a special resolution honoring their son and expressing gratitude to them.
 
After the resolution was read and passed, and remarks shared, lawmakers walked single-file past the parents. I shook the father’s hand, and saw his wet eyes. I hugged the mother and saw her wet cheeks.
 
Fallen soldiers are not “American” losses or statistics; they are not news about a distant tragedy. They are friends, neighbors, brothers, children. They leave behind a life full of promise, hopes, and fears. They leave a large hole in the fabric of the lives of their loved ones.
 
Memorial Day is for the loved ones, too. Or maybe especially.

Taking Up the Cause of Undiscovered Lives; Two Reflections on Memorializing.

Of course, Lincoln penned his immortal words to dedicate a cemetery before Memorial Day formally existed. The thoughts he shared, however, capture the soul of remembering and honoring the dead who fell in battle:

 

Four score and seven years ago our fathers brought forth on this continent, a new nation, conceived in Liberty, and dedicated to the proposition that all men are created equal.

 

Now we are engaged in a great civil war, testing whether that nation, or any nation so conceived and so dedicated, can long endure. We are met on a great battle-field of that war. We have come to dedicate a portion of that field, as a final resting place for those who here gave their lives that that nation might live. It is altogether fitting and proper that we should do this.

But, in a larger sense, we can not dedicate — we can not consecrate — we can not hallow — this ground. The brave men, living and dead, who struggled here, have consecrated it, far above our poor power to add or detract. The world will little note, nor long remember what we say here, but it can never forget what they did here. It is for us the living, rather, to be dedicated here to the unfinished work which they who fought here have thus far so nobly advanced. It is rather for us to be here dedicated to the great task remaining before us — that from these honored dead we take increased devotion to that cause for which they gave the last full measure of devotion — that we here highly resolve that these dead shall not have died in vain — that this nation, under God, shall have a new birth of freedom — and that government of the people, by the people, for the people, shall not perish from the earth.

 

********************************
Turning to meaning on a more personal scale, this poignant comment I saw on social media reflects a light on loss I hadn’t fully considered:
 
“On August 10, 1915, a Turkish sniper at Gallipoli killed his British target, 27 year-old Henry Gwyn Jeffreys Moseley, with a shot to the head. This event prompted Isaac Asimov to write, “In view of what he [Moseley] might still have accomplished … his death might well have been the most costly single death of the War to mankind generally.” Moseley had already discovered fundamental properties of matter and showed great promise in other areas as well. On this Memorial Day it is proper to honor in general our war dead. But as Moseley’s death highlights, whenever we honor the individual dead, we do not honor lives lived in full, and that is the source of the sadness of the occasion, the undiscovered life.”
~Bill Kaplan
Solemn Remembering Day, friends.
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