Thursday, January 28, 2010
Wednesday, January 27, 2010
I am a libertarian conservative and I'm an ass much of the time when I argue politics, yet I also know that America is great not only because of our ideals of economic and personal liberty, but our ability to compromise when we have a good idea on the table, no matter who tabled it. Conservatives and libertarian conservatives realize that a basic social safety net is required in our post-industrial society. Anti-trust laws to fight monopoly (both natural and government induced), the FDIC to prevent destructive bank runs and the quick creation of thousands of poor, basic welfare for the most poverty stricken; all these, while not necessarily ideal, are necessary. All these ideas, more or less, were proposed by the center-left or left-wing. And to balance it out, the Clinton surplus and the Tech Boom was fostered by the free market economics Clinton agreed to during the Gingrich Congress. Not to mention the Bush tax cuts that saved the economy after 9/11, the invasion of Afghanistan and the Surge in Iraq that wiped out most of the terrorist and insurgent base. Now, this is different than John McCain's version of bipartisan politics: concede to bad ideas while trying to get good ideas passed, or try to pick the middle of a bad idea hoping it won't be as bad as you think. That doesn't help anything.
Basically, in these times, to expand the conservative base and to spread the conservative/libertarian message, we can't be little Théo's carrying our little books spouting doctrine. We have to concede that good ideas are good ideas and fight against horrible idea: like the most recent proclamation that the interest rate will be kept low for the foreseeable future (don't you just love bubbles?) or the President's “Buy American” idiocy that was thankfully sunk.
The President proposed tax cuts for small business. An idea, while not ideal, is a good sign considering the man proposing the idea. While it's understandable that the Democrats and the Left haven't helped in fostering a bipartisan, inter-ideological atmosphere, we should not play their game and scream “racism” when “you lie” is spoken (though shaking your head at a lie about a case you judged is alright). We should be above that and remind the country that the free exchange of ideas and acceptance of good ones is what drives American superiority forward.
Wednesday, January 20, 2010
Scott Brown’s victory brings many positives to light. The Democrats have effectively lost their supermajority power, which means that markets and the public no longer have to fear their ability to ram through catastrophic legislation. Gridlock is also very bullish for the market. This victory also sends a very chilling message to Democrats across the country that the heavy hand of big government is being rejected by the people. This was a Senate seat in Massachusetts and was occupied for decades by the late Ted Kennedy! Never in my lifetime would I have thought the seat would have gone to a Republican, especially only one year after the public and the media fawned all over President Obama. My first column after Obama was elected stated that he would make the best case for classical liberal/free market ideas. However, my optimism certainly didn’t extend to Massachusetts. If the Obama Administration and Pelosi-Reid led Congress respond with the usual arrogance and ignore the public’s message, then November is going to be a very dismal month for Democrats.
Now for the bad news…
Scott Brown’s victory may be just what the country needs in the short term, but ignoring the bigger picture does pose long-term problems.
Scott Brown was not even close to being the ideal candidate. His record, especially fiscally, is very disturbing to say the least. In fact, Brown has an 11-year record of voting for expanding government that includes the following:
• Brown urged voters to vote AGAINST “Ballot Question One” in the 2008 election that would have ended the Massachusetts state income tax. In addition, he failed to publicly endorse and take a stand on the biggest tax and spending issue facing Massachusetts this year – a ballot initiative to roll back the sales tax from 6.25 percent to 3 percent. It is estimated that Massachusetts families would have had 32,929 new private sector jobs if the measure was passed. (1)
• Brown not only supported and endorsed the Massachusetts health care reform bill (also endorsed by Ted Kennedy) known as “Romneycare,” he played a key role in its design. “Romneycare” actually served as a model for “Obamacare,” as the bill forced all Massachusetts workers to buy health insurance or be subject to a penalty tax. It is very ironic that voters now sent him to the Senate to vote against “Obamacare.”
• Brown’s voting record does not show any sponsorship of a bill that cuts taxes, eliminates wasteful spending or shrinks government during his entire 11 year tenure in the Massachusetts state senate. (2)
The long-term concern here is populist outrage. Such outrage puts America in a perilous situation, as this type of outrage played a key role in Obama’s victory in 2008. The public was so angry and fed up with George W. Bush, many cast a blind vote for Obama without realizing that the agenda was the same – especially from an economic standpoint. People closed their eyes and ears to reality and did not take the time to actually listen to him on the campaign trail. Now that the anger has switched ideologies, folks on the right are repeating the same mistake. People are so caught up in their anger towards Obama and his policies, they are ignoring the fact that a lawyer with a fiscal record that would make some Democrats jealous was just sent to Washington to stop the very same agenda! While there is no doubt Brown will ride the populist wave and vote against big government, the concern lies in what he will do when “Father Time” quells the anger.
It is apparent in 2008 that a vote for Obama was simply a vote against Bush. Conservatives and libertarians must not make the same mistake and vote for candidates that do NOT represent their ideology to simply vote against Obama. Voters need to examine potential candidates’ records very carefully, and not fall back into the “lesser of two evils” mentality. Otherwise, the left, once again, gets to turn populist rhetoric in their favor by casting blame on an ideology when its principles were never enacted. Fake allies pose a much greater threat and can do far greater damage than known enemies. The tenure of the Bush Administration and John McCain’s unsuccessful presidential bid should have proved that conclusively.
Classical liberalism has made a comeback. The ideas of limited government and free markets were never dead. They were dormant. President Obama has allowed these ideas to be resurrected. It is now time for voters to make wise choices, examine records, hold their candidates accountable and vote based on IDEOLOGY not PARTY. Let’s not get caught up in the Democrat vs. Republican war, as America has seen where that leads.
November, 2010, poses one of the best opportunities in decades to get candidates in office who understand economics and will fight for free market principles. While I am thrilled to see people embracing these ideas and rejecting the current statist agenda and equally thrilled to see the Democrat machine take a hit in Massachusetts, I don’t want voters to lose sight of the long-term picture. Scott Brown is not the long-term solution we need to put America back on the path to prosperity.
Tuesday, January 12, 2010
There are hundreds of thousands of cultures, sub-cultures, political parties, political ideologies, religious churches, sects, interest groups and uninteresting groups like the NRA, NAACP, NOM, NOW, NAMBLA, ACLU, ADF, ADL, AADF, NCAA and even the Federation of Union Carpenters of Kilimanjaro. From communists to pacifists, from atheists to Xenu worshipers, from f***ing for peace to no-swear clubs; the list of people you can and will offend is endless.
America is an accepting and tolerant country. During the times of violence between Christian sects, America was open to all beliefs in the Gospel. Jews has a place in the old America, although, like every other nation, that population was sadly persecuted from time to time. Slowly and surely, America has come to accept all peoples of every creed, color, sexual orientation and so on. While the social situation may not be a prestine social utopia as many want it to be, you cannot be right in the head if you think your minority situation would be better in places like Iran, Syria, China, or even in Western countries like Switzerland, France or the Netherlands. In Iran they hang you for being gay. In China they wipe out entire sects based on their political views. In reaction to the murder of Theo Van Gogh, the Netherlands shows a video to new arrivals that pretty much says “We like boobs and smoke pot. If you don't like this, get the hell out.” You couldn't get that past even the staunchest paper pusher at ICE or the State Department. It may not be perfect here by any means, but its better than most.
The problem with not offending anyone is that you end up with a country like the United Kingdom. The former nation, now pretty much a province of a stronger, undemocratic EU, gives tips to police entering mosques. Things like don't do it, or if you're a woman, wear a headscarf. There are other things like Catholic schools having classes stuffed full of Muslims because they aren't allowed to discriminate based on faith. There are entire sections of London culturally detached from the rest of the city. If you go to these places, prepare for some angry eyes. And it isn't just the UK though. Throughout Western Europe countries deal with mass immigration of cultural aliens that, due to a growing trend of anti-assimilation, feel that the country they live in should change for them instead of the other way around.
I don't think the Left that chides the religious right of America about tolerance could deal with America instituting sharia law so radicalized Muslim immigrants aren't offended, or allowing female genital mutilation because a interest group of Somali tribesmen feel oppressed. These two things, and more, have been done in Europe to sate a growing and radicalized population unwilling or unable to adapt to a more tolerant and open society. If there is common ground between the Left and the Right when it comes to culture, its that America should not change its open and tolerant stance so a large, vocal and sometimes violent minority doesn't have to be a bit more nice to kafirs or goyim or whatever.
Today, at the doctor's office, I sat beside a Muslim woman with several children and a man from the Balkans. They talked about their past; her experiences in Somali and Kenya and his during the Yugoslav break up. The woman showed her three-year old's knowledge of Islamic verse, the little tyke singing a prayer for the man. The man talking about his 6 year old son Amar, a version of the name Omar, which was her oldest son's name. They talked about having it so good here and the man talked about going back to his home, hoping to make it better now that the conflicts were at an end. I sat there just listening to these two people, from two different parts of the world, of different skin colors, cultures and experiences. They found a better life in a state under siege for its “intolerance” because another state voted to ban gay marriage. A pariah state to many, a name spat on at film festivals and gay pride parades. A state that should be abandoned or reformed so it may look like California or New York. A black Muslim woman and a (and I assume this) a Slavic Muslim man came to Utah and found peace, tolerance and a way to better themselves. As I left the doctor's office I smiled. I smiled because in the face of the intolerant “open-minded”, in the face of the fighters of tyrannic “liberators” of culture and religion, my state allowed these two people find hope and peace. A state without racial quotas or forced diversity. Hell, a state that just recently passed a law banning sexual orientation discrimination. And yet, there is no uprising of oppressed Muslims, no mass demonstration of gays, lesbians or trans-gendered. There is no Baptist march for freedom, no ADL worry of new anti-Semitism.
But enough of my Utah bleeding heart, I think you get the idea. In a country and a state of ruffians and uneducated hicks, there is diversity. In a country and a state that doesn't practice over-the-top appeasement of everyone, trying not to offended anyone except the native culture, there isn't cultural, racial and religious turmoil. You don't have Muslims attacking cartoonists with axes or race riots between Italians and Africans. Oddly enough, the freedom to offend coupled with adequate assimilation leads to a more peaceful, diverse and free country.
Freedom. Who would of thunk it?
Wednesday, January 6, 2010
Until very recently, this was the stance of the Obama administration. Then a silver-spooned Nigerian man trained and equipped in “reformed”Yemen tried to blow up a plane with his panties. The government's plan was (and still kinda is) to make Islamists feel better about America by releasing terrorists, closing our only prison for terrorists and saying sorry a lot. Nothing defeats ideologically and religiously driven mass murderers like understanding, ya know?
This absolute stupidity comes from eight years of venomous hate directed at the Bush administration's ad hoc plan to deal with terrorists captured mid-plot or in the act. Strangely enough, government adapts to situations very slowly, especially in our system of checks and balances and especially with the egregious number of bureaucratic layers the feds have when it comes to national security. The first contestants in “Who Wants To Be An Enemy Combatant” were Richard “Shoe Bomber” Ried, the American Taliban John Walker Lindh and the 20th hijacker Zacarias Moussaoui. All three men fit the profile to be tossed into Gitmo under the status of enemy combatants and interrogated, but the Bush administration was unsure about the legal issues and handed them over to the civilian courts for prosecution.
At the time, it seemed a good idea to toss these men to the courts. As Andy McCarthy says:
These cases happened very close to 9/11. I was still in government, so I know we were scrambling. The November 2001 executive order authorizing the military commissions did not get them up and running. That took time — and the Defense Department had to do it while trying to fight a war. The Justice Department circa 2001-03 was thus in a very strong position to argue that it had significant experience handling terrorism cases while DoD still hadn't gotten its act together. That was true, and remember that Reid and Lindh pled guilty, so the cases were basically over before you knew they were on. But Justice vastly overrated its ability to control the amount of intelligence that the courts would order disclosed in the Moussaoui case. It was a circus, and if he hadn't pled guilty it might have been a disaster.Moussaoui, already of questionable sanity, used the courtroom as a soapbox and pretty much everything else but a court of law. He ranted, raved, sang, switched lawyers, fired lawyers, defended himself, asked for witnesses that were either in Gitmo or still on the run from our troops. The man did all he could to screw up the legal system... and then he plead guilty, thank God.
The Moussaoui experience, along with the slew of arrests and need for intelligence secrecy and intelligence gathering, showed the Bush administration that tossing terrorists over to civilian courts wholly unsuited for a time of war would be a very, very bad idea. What if a saner terrorist got a sympathetic judge willing to expose state secrets so that an admitted terrorist can reap the treasures of American civil rights? It's not far fetched to think it would of happened, considering our courts have ruled that the civil rights of terrorists reach to the furthest observation post in the war zone. Shoot first, read rights later.
The fantasy land of the Left where we torture for fun, where we bomb for oil and where we are so racist that we corrupt the genetically imbued liberalism all minorities are born with doesn't match up with the reality of this nearly decade long war. Would it be nice if we could just prosecute the terrorists in civilian courts? Yes. Would it look better than military tribunals and Gitmo prisons? Yes. Would I like to have Lisa Edelstein and Jennifer Morrison as my personal french maids, outfits and all? Yes. Will it happen? Hell no.
Reality check: the civilian legal system, as well as the rules of modern warfare, DO NOT apply to trans-national terrorist groups like Al-Qeada or any other group who fight for the global or pan-Islamic caliphate. They do not fight for a country, they do not fight for a conquered country, they do not have uniforms, they do not have a recognized military structure, they do not fight by the rules of war and they do not care for the rules of war. They attack civilians en mass consistently as a overall strategy of political terror. They do not recognize the authority of the courts they may be prosecuted in. They are, pretty much, non-existent in any civilian or military legal sense. We could execute them on the spot and some court would have to make up a new law to prosecute the soldiers responsible. In fact, German saboteurs who landed in the US during WWII were picked up, tried in military tribunals, and then shot. Some even wore uniforms. The president at the time was liberal hero FDR. The same man who put hundreds of thousands of Japanese into concentration camps based on ethnic features.
But we don't do stuff like that in today's age of 24/7/365 coverage. A terrorist gets punched in the face during his capture and the soldiers who brought him in are the ones who get in trouble. An independent war journalist gets detained for not answering a non-security question for TSA, but the Pantybomber got through several layers of security in several different countries, including ours. You even think about doing secondary screenings of young men from Yemen, Iran, Lebanon or any other country crawling with Islamist terrorists, you're a racist and a profiler and you'll be getting a letter from CAIR and the ACLU. In today's world, real men placate the enemy, hoping that we won't piss them off more than they already are.
Bullsh!t. No one has ever won a war against savages such as the ones we fight with flowers and Christmas cards. Rome didn't defeat the Gauls with pots. Sparta didn't defeat Athens and Persia with politically correct security methods. The US didn't defeat Japan and Germany with stern words and international sanctions enforced by the United Nations.
This is sexist, but you can't call yourself a man if you're idea of winning a war is to fight it until everything is balanced out and fair. Real men kill the enemy. Real men interrogate at black sites around the world so that the enemy doesn't know what's what. Real men put dangerous terrorists with sensitive intelligence in military courts so to protect the country's intelligence apparatus.
Real men fight a war like a war, not like schoolyard misunderstanding.
Tuesday, January 5, 2010
Let’s begin by addressing the myth surrounding the jobs lost as a result of outsourcing. There is no disputing the fact that some jobs are lost overseas when companies choose to outsource. To deny this claim would be absurd; the point of outsourcing is to move some jobs that are currently being performed by people in the United States to countries with cheaper labor costs such as India, China, or Poland. On the surface, this sounds cruel, as it does mean some people who are working in factories or in highly skilled Information Technology positions will be out of a job. The fact that critics leave out is the number of state side jobs that are saved as result of outsourcing. Moving some of this labor overseas could mean the difference between a company staying in business or going out of business. Losing some jobs in the short term is certainly a better option. Companies often take the savings gained from outsourcing and reinvest these savings in order to expand and create better jobs in the United States. For example, just after the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) was passed, Zenith Electronics Corporation sent over 10,000 jobs to Mexico. However, they continued to employ over 6,000 people in the United States. (2) Today, Zenith employs thousands of people in the United States because they were able to save some money by utilizing overseas labor. If Zenith could not take advantage of NAFTA, the likelihood of Zenith going out of business would have been very high. As a result, the job losses that would occur from Zenith’s bankruptcy would have had a much greater impact on jobs and the economy. The leveraging of capital also saves the government from having to bailout companies who are “too big to fail.”
Companies aren’t the only ones that benefit from outsourcing. You, the consumer, also benefit each time you purchase products. Many of the products sold at retailers such as Wal-Mart are assembled in factories overseas and can be sold at a cheaper price than if they were manufactured in the United States. Critics of outsourcing always like to talk about the loss of jobs and the ensuing problems, but they rarely factor everything into the equation. Opponents do not complain when it comes time to buy something at their favorite store that is cheaper as a result of outsourcing. During difficult economic times, people need a low cost option. In addition, outsourcing helps U.S. based companies take advantage of cheaper labor, which allows them to compete with companies overseas.
It has been established that the consumer and the company benefit from outsourcing, but what about the employee? Is it possible for employees to benefit from outsourcing? The employees who remain employed by the company can benefit from additional skills as a direct result of outsourcing. For example, some employees may take on more of a management role and work with employees abroad. This provides opportunity for the employee that would have been difficult to obtain if it were not for outsourcing. In some cases, the overseas labor will take on more of the “mundane” tasks, which will free up the state side employee to focus on more meaningful activities. Moving simple, repeatable tasks tend to be focus of outsourcing. These same tasks also inclined to be more of the everyday tasks that many domestic employees dislike. Why not move these tasks over to another team of people for a lower cost? What if I were to tell you someone else was going to do all of your simple and tedious tasks you hate doing in order to free you up for more interesting work?
Employees who are let go as a result of outsourcing also benefit. While they may have lost their job, this change will force many people to pick up new and improved skills, which will land them a better paying job. This applies to non-skilled labor as well as highly skilled labor and everything in between. While short-term job loss is never good, the long-term benefit of a more skilled workforce is more than an offset. In many cases, companies who are engaged in outsourcing are always in search of talent. In several instances, American based companies like IBM or Hewlett Packard (HP) will hire most of the people who were outsourced to work for them and their outsourcing efforts. A quick search on IBM or HP’s website will illustrate how they are constantly looking to fill open positions here in America even though they employ thousands of people overseas. How many of these jobs would be lost if IBM or HP could not leverage their assets by going overseas? Furthermore, what about the thousands of companies as well as new companies that are able to start up and survive as a result of outsourcing some of their information technology operations to IBM or HP?
Outsourcing also benefits other countries. One may ask why America would be interested in other countries benefiting from outsourcing and how another country’s prosperity is beneficial to the United States. To begin with, the shifting of some labor over to another country will benefit the economy of that country. Improved economies in foreign countries will improve their citizens’ way of life and expose the benefits of capitalism in their country. This has resulted in increased demand for U.S. products and services performed by people right here in America as well as overseas. For example, Coca-Cola has shown continued profits while domestic sales remain flat. In July of 2009, Coca-Cola announced their second-quarter profit rose 43 percent due to increased sales in China and India while domestic sales fell one percent. (3) Without overseas sales, Coca-Cola most likely would have had to lay people off or cut back on some employee benefits. Improving the lives of the people in these countries has allowed their citizens to have the extra income to spend on something like bottles of Coke. Poverty stricken countries are not going to have the improved lifestyle or the spare cash to spend on soft drinks without American help through outsourcing. Situations resembling the jobs saved at Coca-Cola as a result of outsourcing will never make headlines; however it happens quite frequently. One would think most people would embrace the idea of private companies making investments domestically as well as overseas to improve the lifestyles of millions of people all over the world – all without taxpayer dollars.
What about the retailers who hire people to sell these products? How many of the 2.1 million retail jobs would a massive retailer like Wal-Mart lose should they be forced to sell products at higher prices? (4) What would happen to the benefits a company like Wal-Mart is able to provide for all their U.S. based associates? One of the primary concerns in today’s political arena is people who do not have access to health insurance. Outsourcing has given many companies the ability to provide their employees with health insurance. This is a fact that protectionists fail to acknowledge. Wal-Mart was able to add $870 million dollars into employee profit sharing and 401K plans which are funded regardless of whether or not the employee chooses to fund their retirement account. (5) It would be highly unlikely this retailer would be able to provide these benefits if they were not a successful company. Wal-Mart thrives on their ability to be a low-cost provider which can only be achieved through selling many products made overseas. If we are seeing this kind of result from one single retailer, imagine what the effects would be for other retailers and suppliers who provide raw materials to overseas factories all over the world.
Regardless of how you feel about outsourcing, the statistics show outsourcing isn’t going away any time soon. Therefore, what can you do about outsourcing, and how can you protect yourself should your job become outsourced? You should acquire as many skills as possible both on and off the job, show up on time with a good attitude every day and learn as much as you can about the field in which you work. Additional skills and business knowledge will make it easier for the company to move you into different roles should your current role be lost to outsourcing. If the worst case scenario actually happens and you are laid off, you will have additional skills and business knowledge that could easily be taken with you to another company. Employees who learn new skills are helpful to themselves, their employers, and the economy as a whole.
What can our government do about outsourcing? Given the many benefits outsourcing provides, the government should do very little. Our government should allow private firms to decide whether or not outsourcing will be a good strategic move. In several cases, companies have cancelled outsourcing contracts and pulled their operations back to the United States on their own. One example is a decision made in 2009 by AT&T to bring over 4,000 jobs back to the states that had previously been outsourced overseas. (6) If our government is concerned about job losses as a result of outsourcing and wishes to provide better job opportunities for America, it should focus on the following:
- Encourage business to succeed and allow poorly run companies to fail
- Eliminate unnecessary and costly government regulations
- Remove its pro-union stance which results in the high cost of labor
- Provide a tax-friendly environment
- Create an atmosphere that encourages investment and profit
Finally, outsourcing is not easy to accomplish. There are many barriers which will always keep companies in line when they consider outsourcing. In many cases, there will be language barriers and cultural differences that will not positively impact the bottom line. There are also logistical issues with outsourced employees, as it becomes more difficult to manage and communicate. Companies also have to obey the labor and tax laws which exist in the country in which they choose to outsource. Some overseas labor laws are worse than the United States, and some companies could find themselves hiring U.S. employees for work that was initially intended to go overseas. Executing an outsourcing program requires careful planning and the assistance of many people stateside to accomplish. Many companies, such as AT&T, reconsider and scale back some or all of the work that had been outsourced. A study done in 2009 by oDesk, a company that assists with outsourcing, has found many U.S. firms have been outsourcing to American based companies using American labor instead of overseas, and wages for these employees have increased! They discovered while rates for U.S. employees tend to be higher, their feedback scores tend to be higher as well. This same study has shown work being done in the U.S. grew at a rate of 367 percent from 2007 to 2008. (7)
There is no such talk from the Obama Administration. Instead, this administration has taken a more protectionist view by opposing companies who choose to outsource. The truth is protectionism has never worked throughout history and actually provides a motive for companies to outsource. Furthermore, these protectionist actions make a recession worse.
In conclusion, outsourcing will not destroy the American economy. These fears have been played out by useless politicians since America’s beginning back when states would outsource and move labor to other states that had a lower cost of living. We see how detrimental that was to the United States, right? History has shown us that the government’s attempts to prevent what the market is trying will only cost America more jobs and opportunity. You have a choice every day as a consumer to research and only do business with companies who minimize outsourcing. However, be prepared to pay more money and have less money to save should you decide to take on such an initiative. No one likes to see jobs go away, but our government’s attempts to stop it are just wasteful, protectionist nonsense. The market will always work in spite of what politicians do, and no one is bigger than the market itself. Our government needs to step back and let this play itself out. If our government would just assume the role intended for them by our country’s founders, then we will all be better off.