Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Vice President Cheney Nullifies Presidential Election: Declares Himself President

At 1 a.m., on December 31, 2008, Vice President Dick Cheney called a press conference to announce that he had nullified the results of the presidential election and had declared himself president. He said that, "The country is facing too many crises to be able to survive the inexperience of formerly President-elect Barack Obama. Only a person with my experience and skill will be able to guide the country for the next eight years." When asked by shocked and horrified reporters, what basis or authority did he have to do this, he replied, "I gave myself the necessary authority." Karl Rove, who was at the back of the room during this announcement, nodded sagaciously.

President Bush who was awakened by the Secret Service to be informed of this announcement reportedly said, "Hunh?" Laura Bush was reported to have said, "Let the damn fool to try to do it." After he finished his brief announcement, Vice President Cheney introduced two army colonels who reportedly backed his coup d'├ętat. My inside source at the White House, Omar Fishbein Muhammed, said that no general in any of the services was willing to support this bizarre attempt at usurping the power of the presidency. When President-elect Barack Obama was informed of Vice President Cheney's announcement he reportedly said that he had dispatched Joe Biden to help arrange for appropriate psychiatric care for the vice president.

In Hollywood, Paris Hilton volunteered to be the vice president's personal nurse, and see to it that he is restored to his full mental health, or what remains of it. Senator John McCain said he had suspended his campaign and was rushing to Washington to be of help in this new crisis. Mrs. Cheney was unavailable for comment, and was last seen boarding a plane for Abu Dhabi.

Monday, December 29, 2008

People Mindlessly Willing to Inflict Pain

A recent study showed that people will inflict pain on someone just because a person in authority tells them to do so. There is much good in people but there is a mindless cruel side. Mindless following of instructions can happen in any society.

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Caroline Kennedy U.S. Senator?: No Way!

There has been a great deal of opposition expressed about the possible appointment of Caroline Kennedy as a United States Senator to replace Hillary Clinton. This is rightfully so because she has no legislative experience and has held no political office. Her main qualification appears to be that her last name is Kennedy, and she carries the DNA of the former president. What could she possibly offer the people of the State of New York? Does the fact that she is highly intelligent, ethical, and able to comprehend a wide variety of complex issues have any bearing? Are these sufficient qualifications to be appointed United States Senator? Absolutely not! What about the fact that she has written two books, co-authored with Ellen Alderman, related to constitutional rights? Irrelevant, totally irrelevant. Of greater importance is whether she has a list of all the important interest groups in New York State.

Ms. Kennedy has no background or experience in dissembling on important issues. She also has little if any experience in correcting a previously inaccurate statement she had made to the press or media. It's also highly likely she has no experience with one of the most important political issues of our time, working with corporate lobbyists. She's likely to be an independent-minded person voting on issues based on the merits rather than on the important input from highly paid former members of Congress who are trying to buy her vote. We can't afford to have too many people like this in Congress. If our elected representatives don't take money from lobbyists it would put these poor people out of work. Lastly, it's unlikely she has any experience at all with bribery, either as a recipient or a giver. The importance of this issue can be demonstrated by what is happening in the state of Illinois.

The people of the State of New York are entitled to senators who are not only qualified for the office, but have the same set of ethical and moral values. Former Governor Eliot Spitzer could speak at length to this issue. Favoritism and nepotism must be nipped in the bud so that if one of the Bush daughters is ever elected president we can be sure that she earned it

Monday, December 22, 2008

Gasoline Prices: Laughing While We Can

When the price of gasoline was over four dollars a gallon no one was smiling. Now, when the price of a gallon of gasoline is under a $1.75, depending upon where you live, people can breathe a bit easier when they fill up their cars. While no one expects gasoline prices to remain this low permanently, it is hard to predict how fast and how high prices will rise. Startlingly enough, the number of miles driven by Americans continues to go down even while the price of gasoline is much lower.

It's the economy stupid. Increasingly larger numbers of people are either getting laid off, or having their hours of work reduced. Most Americans have less money as a result of the decline in whatever investments they had, if they had any. The recession, which is worldwide in nature, has resulted in reduced demand in almost all countries. As a result, OPEC, which has always functioned better when prices were rising as opposed to falling, can't seem to cut oil production quick enough to match falling demand. As a result, many experts are predicting that the price of a gallon of oil may fall as low as $25 a barrel. Oil-producing countries which generated budgets based on $90-$100 a barrel oil are experiencing significant budget shortfalls and cutting production with falling prices only makes the problem worse. It's hard to imagine anyone in America are crying for Venezuela (or is it Argentina?), and certainly not for Iran or any Middle Eastern sandbox that got rich selling oil.

What we cannot afford to do is wait for the price of oil to rise again draining billions of dollars from our economy and going into the coffers of countries that bear us little goodwill. We must proceed with wind driven energy projects, all electrical cars, hybrid cars, and all other possibilities that will decrease our use of gasoline. The omission of ethanol was not an accident because this project has been a farce in terms of not saving energy costs and costing the American public billions of dollars in subsidies to businesses that didn't need such subsidies. Lower gasoline prices combined with the current economic situation will likely produce headwinds for alternative energy projects. However, the next president has his head on straight about this issue, and will not allow the country to be diverted from the all-important task of a comprehensive energy policy. While the president doesn't owe big oil anything, there are too many in Congress who are deep in the pockets of big oil. This is where alternative energy projects are likely to be slowed down. "Drill, drill, drill baby" is a hollow mantra that will do little to solve the long-term energy needs of this country.

Thursday, December 18, 2008

Costs of Illegal Immigration and Current Economic Crisis

Illegal immigration was one of the most contentious and important issues facing this country. I say "was" because the current economic crises has pushed this issue to the back burner, so to speak. Almost all of the issues cited below, that arise when illegal immigration is discussed, are still relevant. However, cost factors involved in the illegal immigration become increasingly important when the federal, state, and local governments are all losing significant revenues. Funding for vital programs, including the maintenance of roads and other infrastructure has been lost, and "hard" discussions are undoubtedly taking place throughout the nation about paying for services for illegal immigrants when funding is not available for necessary services for the citizens of this country.

One new factor is that because he illegal immigrants are finding it more difficult to obtain jobs many are returning to Mexico, although no one has a way of approximating such numbers at this time.

A key aspect of the debate and disagreement on illegal immigration relates to its costs. Based on my review of six studies I came to the conclusion that no one really knows the cost of illegal immigration. There are two main problems. Almost all of the studies purporting to document the cost of illegal immigration are written by groups with a particular point of view. I will say more about this later. Secondly, the economic benefits of the illegal immigrants in this country have typically not been adequately addressed.

The Eagle Forum produced a well-documented report addressing many of the cost factors in illegal immigration. However, it is important to know that the Eagle Forum has been a leading advocate for the pro-family movement since 1972 and is therefore not without its biases. The report is worth reading if you are interested in more details about this issue. The Center for Immigration Studies sponsored a report written by Stephen Camorata written in 2004. This report focused on the "High Cost of Cheap Labor." It is important to know that The Center for Immigration Studies is a Pro-immigrant, think-tank which seeks fewer immigrants but a warmer welcome for those admitted. The report is important because it addresses the cost-benefit aspect of illegal immigration, which has all too frequently been neglected.

Some of the costs of illegal immigrants are obvious and indisputable. Examples of these include costs incurred by hospitals, costs incurred by the states and federal government to incarcerate illegal immigrants convicted of crimes, and costs to local school systems.

Mr. Camorata documents important "benefit" issues such as the fact that, "On average, illegal households pay more than $4,200 a year in all forms of federal taxes. Unfortunately, they impose costs of $6,950 per household.” It is important to note that in addressing taxes paid by illegal immigrants Camorata neglects to factor in sales taxes paid for food, clothing and other purchases made by illegal immigrants and property taxes paid by the illegal immigrants. The reduced cost of services and products as a result of the cheap labor provided by the illegal immigrants has a significant but unknowable effect on the overall cost of living in this country. This had been particularly true in the construction of housing where many illegal immigrants are employed. With the tremendous decline in the number of new houses being built it would be interesting to know if the proportion of workers building these houses who are illegal immigrants has changed.

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Detroit’s Downturn: It’s the Productivity, Stupid

With management that could never see the future, and labor unions that would never let go of the past, the failure of big automotive companies in Detroit was a disaster long in the making. In an insightful article, Rand Simberg, points out that union rules regarding productivity, or the lack thereof, have been a critical factor in the failure of Detroit's ability to compete. Americans can make excellent cars, as has been proven by the fact that the Toyotas and Honda is that many Americans drive were built in this country. But these factories weren't hampered by union rules designed to featherbed and otherwise obstruct the process of being competitive.

Friday, December 12, 2008

Miley Cyrus Disappointed?

The question on the minds of most Americans, and billions of people throughout the world, is whether Miley Cyrus was disappointed when she didn't get a new Mercedes-Benz on her birthday. The people of planet Earth can breathe easier because Miley was satisfied to get her mother's used Porsche. It was a hard blow for Miley to accept, but she did so with the grace and poise that everyone expects from her. It's difficult for 16-year-old girls not to get exactly what they want for their birthday. It's especially disappointing to get a used car.

My inside source in Hollywood, Elsie Goodfeel, reported that there was a special condition attached to Miley receiving the Porsche. Miley is to be appropriately dressed at all times while driving, whether in Hollywood, or the real world. Elsie he couldn’t verify whether a string bikini counted as being appropriately dressed in Hollywood. In the rest of the world wearing a string bikini would not be considered appropriately dressed. Miley's image is of utmost importance since her less than fully clothed photo shoot scandal last year. Her image will continue to be important as long as she is under age eighteen or works for Disney. There is some fear, that after Miley passes age eighteen and no longer works for Disney, that she will succumb to the influences on such notorious role models as Paris Hilton and Britney Spears.

In the meantime, we'll all stay tuned to the further adventures of Miley Cyrus.

Tuesday, December 9, 2008

Great Recession of 2008 and Collective National Stupidity

Now that the great recession has officially arrived its easy to look back and blame the all the people that were involved in loans that people couldn't pay, the institutions that bundled these loans into toxic packages of so-called assets, and all the people whot thought that housing prices would rise forever. But it isn't that simple, because the vast majority of the people in this country contributed in one way or another to the economic crisis in which we find ourselves. If you think you weren't involved, think again, because you probably were. Consider the following questions:

Did you buy a house you couldn't really afford, but assumed that future salary increases would eventually make the house of affordable?

Were you spending more money then you earned?

Do you have new, or almost new, clothing in your closet that you never wore?

Do you live in a house that had more than 1000 square-feet per person?

Are you paying more than $100 a month on credit card debt?

Did you do impulse shopping and buy things that you didn't really need?

Do you drive a gas guzzling car?

Did you think that the value of your house was always going to increase?

Did you take out a new mortgage on your house so that you could have extra money to spend on something that wasn't a necessity?

Did you buy a condominium or second house so that you could "flip it" and make money.

If you answered yes to one or more of these questions you were either directly or indirectly involved in the current economic crisis. If you answered yes to three or more of these questions you should be sentenced to three counseling sessions with Susie Orman. All of the above constituted the Collective National Stupidity that led to the current economic recession.

How could buying a few things that we didn't really need to contribute to the recession? Easy. We became a nation of shoppers on an endless buying spree that eventually had to end in a catastrophic bust. Counties, cities, and states became dependent upon sales taxes which would one day drop off a cliff. That day is here now. Companies built more stores so that we didn't have to travel far to buy things we didn't really need. When we stopped buying things in abundance, stores began to close. People lost jobs, and companies went bankrupt, which resulted in defaulted loans at banks. And finally, banks stopped loaning money.

Saturday, December 6, 2008

William Ayres Speaks out

During the recent presidential campaign William Ayres was made a focus of the efforts to raise questions about President-elect Obama. Mr. Ayres had once been a member of the weather underground, a radical organization that engaged in acts of defiance against the government in protest against the Vietnam War. By the time the McCain campaign was finished, Mr. Ayres was painted as a violent revolutionary who was a threat to the American way of life. President-elect Obama was linked to Mr. Ayres on the flimsiest of relationships. Unfortunately, this type of slash and burn tactic has become part of presidential politics. Even more unfortunately, Mr. Ayres was made to be something he wasn't. His column in the New York Times after the election is well over gives a clearer picture of who he is and what his relationship with President Obama was.

Tuesday, December 2, 2008

Depressing Recession Is Finally Acknowledged

The people in charge of measuring such things have finally declared that we are in a recession. What was their first clue? The Lehman Brothers bankruptcy? Hundreds of thousands of people losing their jobs? The stock market declining by over 35%? No. The number crunchers and bean counters had to do their thing and tell us that the recession started last December. There is something bizarre about the way the federal government continues to go about its business of handling and describing the economy. It's almost enough to make you lose your faith in government.

Now that the recession is official, the next order of business is comparing it to all the other recessions and estimating how long the current recession will be. A number of official and unofficial sources have already stated that this recession will be worse than probably all the other recessions since the Great Depression. Again, what was their first clue? The bankruptcy of Lehman Brothers and the disappearance of Merrill Lynch, Bear Stearns, and the near disappearance of the rest of the great brokerage houses might have given them an inkling that the economy was in very bad shape. The great brokerage houses didn't go broke during the great depression, probably because they hadn't had the opportunity to create trillions of dollars of “bad assets."

How can an asset to be bad? Easy. That's when an asset is really a liability. It's very similar to giving a mortgage to someone who can't pay it back. Of course the brokerage houses and the giant national banks told us that the assets weren't bad at first. Then they admitted they were slightly bad, but we shouldn't worry. At the same time, chairman of the Federal Reserve Bernanke and Secretary of the treasury Paulson were also telling us that things weren't that bad. When enough people tell you that things aren't that bad it's time to really worry. We all have denial in our personal lives, but when denial takes place on a national level, it's generally a catastrophe.

The official acknowledgment of the recession comes at a time when the people of this country are supposed to be spending themselves into oblivion for the holidays. The spending orgy this year is likely to be much smaller than previous years. The greatest gift that people can give themselves for the holidays is remembering what's truly important in life. Relationships and family are precious and can't be purchased in any store.