Welcome to The Cynic Center

Come here to hear my bent views on the world.

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Published in: on February 22, 2009 at 9:38 pm  Leave a Comment  

We live in an interesting time. How lucky for us?

With the antiquated global economic system in full collapse, we are living in a time where we can truly make some changes in the show.  Too many economies today are based on late 19th and early 20th Century assumptions.  These assumptions no longer apply.  This is why we are in deep trouble right now.  This also presents us with an opportunity to change the economic model of the world to make it conform with 21st Century realities.

As time goes on, I will post how this can be achieved.  Once it is achieved, the world will be a better place overall.

The hard part is the existing power structure is deeply rooted in the Old Ways.  Hopefully Obama can break up the ice jam.

Published in: on February 22, 2009 at 4:39 pm  Leave a Comment  

Easy money for easy work

Want to make some really good money for doing very little work?  Not only do you perform a minimal amount of labor, you will earn wide respect from everyone for being a hard worker.  You can perform your duties in about two days a month, your hands won’t get dirty and your employer will provide you with your food and drink needs while you work.  If you have to travel to the your worksite, your employer will provide all transportation and lodging.

Interested?  Read on!

Become an “economist.”  Yes, those talking heads on the television and radio who made all kinds of predictions about how well (or poorly) the economy will perform over the next week, month, year, decade, five minutes, etc.  Those people.  Not qualified, you say?  Why not?  Have you ever taken the time to listen to the “experts” who appear all the time in the media to proclaim that the next economic policy proposal will either a) cause eternal happiness in the land and there will be no starving children; or b) will be the worst thing to hit America ever causing entire states to fail, famine, war and blight to wreak havoc on the countryside.  They make their predictions, collect their pay and move on.  What they don’t do is answer for how wrong they always seem to be.

Predicting economic behavior/outcomes has less certainty than playing the Lottery.  The optimistic and pessimistic predictions never play out as predicted.  On the rare occasion when someone is confronted with a past failure of their prediction, the response is along the lines of one of the following: a) they did not follow my advice correctly; b)nobody could predict the XYZ scandal would have had such a deep impact; c) the hurricane/blizzard/cold snap/heat wave/new war, etc was obviously not expected and caused a major shift in supply/demand.

Now, the perfect situation for you, the economist, is for the government to not implement a proposal you are speaking out against.  This way, you will never be proven wrong and will be considered very bright by those who agree with your viewpoint.

I, for one, would like to see economists back up their predictions with actual data and then return top the media after the results are in.  Of course, some of the policies which they are addressing on Fox News, MSNBC, etc. take 12,18 or 24+ months to be realized, so accountability is difficult.  It’s just very frustrating to hear an economist predict this, that and another thing without really explaining themselves to the listeners/viewers.  If it is over the heads of some people, learn how to explain it so that lay people can understand it.  If your theory cannot be explained to a lay person with normal intelligence, maybe it’s a crock.  Economics can be explained in lay terms, it is not as complex as they want you think.  People have needs, people have wants, people have ability-that is what drives economies.  That is the context in which you explain your theories.

Published in: on July 13, 2009 at 11:17 am  Leave a Comment  

Term limits and recall provisions: two really, really bad ideas

Political reformers on the left and right often bring out two well-worn ideas of how to reform “the system” when either massive corruption is uncovered (as what happens here in Illinois on a regular basis) or they are upset with the political climate (also known as “losing an election”).  Those ideas are term limits of some sort and giving the voters/citizens the ability to recall an elected official before that person’s term expires and cannot be impeached.  Both of these ideas should be banished to the woodshed permanently.

Term limits is a misguided and naive notion that if someone is in office for only a certain number of terms, various wonderful and spectacular things will happen.  Among these major miracles is the fact that the dreaded “special interests groups” will not be able to get taxpayer money with relative ease.  I am not sure why this is the case since if someone is elected to office knowing they are in a temporary position imposed not by the voters ( and, by extension, their performance) but statute (irrelevant to their performance), they will get what they can so they can still feed, house and clothe their family when their terms are done.  One serious problem presented by term limits is the relative lack of experience that will be in the legislature making important decisions.  How would the legislators make up for their collective lack of experience?  They would seek out the special interest groups that are able, and very willing, to provide information on the issues!  Since the special interest groups are not answerable to the voters, they have no incentive to provide a balanced presentation of the facts.

Another problem term limits presents is that with term limits, the most skilled people for the elected position will not be willing to run for office.  Why give up a successful law or medical practice or running a profitable company, etc. when getting elected merely means you will have to find something new in six to eight years?  Without term limits, that same person is rewarded for taking the risk of running for public office by being allowed to stand before the voters every few years for retention and being retained if the voters feel the person has done a good job.  Term limits can make the risk of running too “expensive” for some well-qualified people.

As bad of an idea term limits are, recall provisions are a major threat to democracy.  To the best of my knowledge, there are no popularly elected offices in the United States which have a lifetime term.  The fact that elected officials have to be reelected if they want to remain in office is an institutional recall provision.  The reason why recall provisions are a threat to democracy is that powerful special interest groups with unlimited access to money can get rid of an elected official they do not like.  We see variations of this all the time when there is major regulatory type of legislation pending in Washington or the state capitol.  Groups with innocent sounding names which appear to be concerned about the general welfare of the public run television ads urging you to contact your Senator/Representative to vote for/against a particular bill.  Oftentimes, these sweet-sounding groups are funded by industry giants who do not want the status quo changed.  If there are recall provisions on the books, these same groups can pick up a single issue which they are opposed to and spend a ton of cash to convince the voters that the elected official is to be tossed from office before the term is up.  This undermines democracy because it deprives the public of a healthy debate on the issues an election provides because there is no opponent.  The object of the recall is put into a defensive posture to explain his/her actions as if they are on trial.  In an election setting, the same elected official has an opponent who can engage in a healthy debate and the voters have a choice of who shall represent/lead them.  In a recall setting, the voters are making a blind choice because they do not know who will be replacing the person they are tossing out.

Another factor that makes recall a bad idea is the cost.  To hold a special election for a vacant seat in the legislature today, it cost the government millions of dollars.  If you multiply this several times, you’re looking at some serious expenses.

There is understandable frustration with how elected bodies act today.  Elections are the check that are not employed often enough to keep the elected officials closer to their jobs of representing the voters.  What is needed is cost control of elections.  Meaningful limits on fundraising  have been, and will be, knocked down by the Supreme Court of the United States on Free Specch grounds.  Public funding of candidates is often tossed out as a remedy.  However, there are institutional flaws to public funding.  It has to be voluntary to pass First Amendment muster and it prevents third party candidates from being competative because most of the money would go to the Big Two.  The key would be to cut off the need for money.  If media advertising (print and electric) and telephones are free, then money become much less of a factor.  With the money game leveled off, then someonoe with good ideas can take on a long time incumbent to give the voters a real choice.  It would allow us to have more than two choices, Democrat and Republican, on the ballot to create more responsive elected officials.

Published in: on April 29, 2009 at 2:56 pm  Leave a Comment  

How do you spell “disingenuous?” G-O-P

Ah, the political drama in Washington and elsewhere around the country is never in a lull.  The behavior of the loyal opposition since Obama has been elected has been nothing short of drama and, to it mildly, inaccurate.  The only issue the Republicans have not tried to scorch the President of the United States on is his plan to get us the hell out of Iraq shortly.  This is probably a tacit admission that we should not have been there in the first place.  However, on the burning issue of the economy and the home front in general, the Republicans have been acting like rats on a burning ship.

Everyone agrees that we need to start to get the economy on its feet again as soon as possible.  Every day the news is filled with doom and gloom.  Joblessness is on the rise.  The stock market indexes are down.  Major corporations are filing for bankruptcy.  Banks are failing.  To put is simply, a solution is two-pronged: fix the fundamental flaws in the world banking system which allowed this to happen and get consumers consuming again.  This post will deal with the latter, the former will be discussed at a future date.

To get the consumers consuming again, the consumers needs money in their pockets.  In addition to having money in their pockets, consumers need to know there will be more money coming into their pockets (job security) and that they can pay their bills and go shopping at the same time.  Obama’s stimulus package does just that.  It is putting money on the street so that people will get jobs an start spending.  Here is where the Republicans become disingenuous.

The Republicans have pulled out every old bromide from the past 30 years to attack Obama’s plan.  They call it “liberal” ( a word, like “conservative,” which has lost any substantive meaning), “socialism” (the new bogeyman now that Communism is dead) and “out of control spending.”  Come on, Elephants, get some new and original stuff at least.  The Stimulus Plan is what the country needs right now.  Money in peoples’ pockets.  For solutions, the Republicans keep pulling out all the old tricks from yesteryear which failed and then and will fail now: tax cuts and spending cuts.  Enough already.  That only contributed to the problems of today.  The Republicans are even using the old lines the Democrats used in 1980’s and early 1990’s that the federal budget deficit is “mortgaging our childrens’ future.”  Well, that line sounded pretty scary back then, but we have since learned it is an empty prophesy since Bill Clinton got rid of the deficit pretty quickly  thanks, in part, to a stronger economy.  The current budget deficit will also most likely be eviscerated like the Reagan/Bush41 one was once the economy turns around.

So, you ask, how are the Republicans being disingenuous?  They are not being upfront and honest about why they are opposed to Obama’s efforts to save us.  The Republicans are scared to death of another FDR situation.  When President Franklin Roosevelt presided over the recovery from the Great Depression, he created a rock solid electoral coalition that benefited the Democrats for nearly forty years.  It took the convergence of the Civil Rights movement and Vietnam to break up the coalition.  If the economy turns around, and it will, and Obama gets credit for it, the Republicans are looking at another long journey through the desert.

The Republicans have shown their hand in their concern about another FDR-type coalition in their attacks on FDR’s New Deal as not being the cause of the end of the Great Depression.  The Republicans are running around saying that the massive government spending of the New Deal did not put a dent in the Great Depression, but World War II is what finally ended it.  Excuse me, but what was World War II?  A MASSIVE GOVERNMENT SPENDING PROJECT!  In the months leading up to the bombs landing at Pearl Harbor, President Roosevelt was doing what he could to ramp up defense spending despite the opposition from isolationist Republicans.  Once December 7th drew to a close, the government pretty much had the entire country on the payroll.  People were either in the military or working at a plant building planes, ships or sewing uniforms.  Massive government spending which put a whole lot of money in peoples’ pockets.

The FDR model of massive government spending worked and the current Republican party is scared to death that it will put them out of business again.

The Republican party needs to be honest with the American people and start doing the right thing-working to save the economy.  Attacking Obama’s plans for things that were never in it, like frog habitats, does not help their cause at all.  Cheering someone who says Obama must fail makes them look like hypocrites because they said people who criticized Bush43 were “unpatriotic.”  It’s ok to have differences, but at least be honest in your disagreement.  All the Republican party is doing right now is preaching to a rapidly shrinking choir.  If they show cooperation with Obama, then they, too, can share in electoral success.  If they continue to oppose a successful recovery, then they need to update their resumes.

Published in: on March 9, 2009 at 2:27 pm  Comments (2)  

Does experience really count?

I live in the 5th Congressional District of Illinois.  Because of this fate of geography, I get to vote tomorrow, March 3rd, in the primary for a special election for the vacant US Representative seat for my district.  Rahm Emanuel was the Congressman from this district.  This has been anything but a quiet election.  Everyday, I get phone calls telling me I should vote for this person or that person.  Every day there is mail delivery, I get colorful brochures extolling the virtues of one candidate or another.  There are over a dozen Democrats running in the primary and approximately about a dozen combined Republicans and Green Party candidates as well.  Being a Democrat, I will vote in the Democratic primary (we have a closed primary in Illinois.  You have to declare your party and you are given a ballot for that party only), but I’m not sure whom to vote for.  I know who I won’t be voting for: anyone who currently holds elected office.

Why my antipathy towards elected office holders?  After all, every day I am told by their people and people I know that each and every one of them is “great” and “will fight.”  I have not heard any claims about walking on water, but I assume that is next.  Here is my problem with the current power structure: it has led us down the path of greed and avarice which has placed the world economy in the toilet.  We need new blood among elected officials.  The current ones, Democrat and Republican, have failed to fight for us over the years and instead allowed the culture which led to the current mess fester and grow.  What really gets me is how other elected officials will call and write to the voters extolling the virtues of the person they have endorsed.  What message does this send out?  That the person is going to maintain the status quo?  No thank you.

Candidates who are professional officeholders like to run on their so-called “experience.”  If they run against someone who lacks “experience,” which is defined as limited number of years as an elected official, they make it sound like the “inexperienced” opponent will destroy the free world as we know it.  During the 2008 presidential election, Barack Obama was criticized for his lack of “experience” because he was a first-term U.S. Senator and, before that, just a state senator.  Hilary had tons of “experience,”  John McCain had more experience in his pinky than most people have in an entire lifetime.  Who won?  The so-called inexperienced candidate.  Why?  Because, in part, he did not represent the culture of special interest comfort that Hilary and McCain came to represent over their decades of “experience.”  It’s not like Obama spent his life in his parents’ basement playing “Star Wars” video games and then decided to become President.

What will happen to the 5th Congressional District if we elected someone with no elected experience?  Nothing harmful.  The person will be a Democrat, the district is very heavily Democratic.  A Democrat in the majority caucus from the home state of the President will have plenty of tools to get his or her job done.  Electing someone with no elected office experience will send a strong message to the state capitols and Washington that we’re fed up.

Published in: on March 2, 2009 at 10:26 am  Comments (1)