Friday, March 22, 2013

Weekend Music Chill

I have been hearing Indie Folk on some of the rock stations and I also haven't done a covers edition in a while.  The Indie Folk genre seems evocative of the folk style of the fifties and sixties.  One of my favorite songs from that era is Pete Seeger and The Weavers's original rendition of Kisses Sweeter than Wine.

Here is the version popularized by Jimmy Rodgers, with Honeycomb tacked on to the end.

I think there is no contest here, the Weavers original is one of the great American songs of the 20th century. The wikipedia article on its origins is interesting.

The Congress Does Its Job

You can complain about the way it did its job or what it accomplished, but by passing a continuing resolution for the rest of the year that included specific direction to agencies on spending priorities, the Congress has finally done its job after a four abdication, mostly by Democrats in the Senate, in passing a budget.

The other interesting note is that the liberty movement seems to be winning the war, despite losing many battles.  Lower spending based on sequestration has locked in.  No new taxes were proposed.  The government is on a trajectory to spend less.  You could argue that without entitlement reform, these spending reductions will be overwhelmed by entitlement spending increases.  I have made that argument myself.  But I believe this sets the stage for the Congress to start believing it can restore its rightful place in our Constitutional order, and perhaps craft a deal on entitlements as well.  I guarantee that if that happens, I won't be happy, and my readers won't be happy.  The left won't be happy either, but the Republic will muddle through and the dynamism of our economy will cover a lot of sins in the capital.

I am one of the employees who still might face a furlough, so I have followed the budget closely.  It was interesting to see the Congress reassert its authority, by changing some spending priorities, setting limits on flexibility, and in general restoring some of its authority.  I still don't know if I will be furloughed, but if I am, it looks to be fewer unpaid days off and I will know that it wasn't solely because the administration unilaterally made my job a bargaining pawn with the Congress.  Some of the bargaining may still happen, but in a manner more consistent with the Founder's intent.

Liberty Movement

Some time ago I asked about a new name for the tea party, since it had some branding problems. Some were self-inflicted, most were not. In the video below, Tom Woods, a Ron Paul supporter and author, uses the term "liberty movement" to describe what we are doing.  The term is not evocative of a political party, unlike "tea party." I think the use of "party" in "tea party" helped cement an association with the Republican party. Many of my fellow SLOBs would vehemently object to association with the GOP.  Here in San Diego, Republicans have numerous associations with crony capitalism, a favorite object of scorn and derision in our group.

If you think liberty movement better describes our efforts, I would like to hear your comments.  Much better than my original term "freedom coalition."

Thursday, March 21, 2013

Are We Recovering?

The new normal is revealed in two graphs.   The first graph is the employment ratio comparing number employed to the total population. It dropped in the great recession and has steadied out 58.6%. This drop has not recovered despite the "unemployment rate" dropping.  This is the lowest ratio since 1983.

Next is the labor force participation rate, the number of persons who are employed in some way or seeking employment.  It has hit its lowest mark since 1980 at 63.5%. Essentially, the economy has given back all its gains since the Reagan era. 

The steady numbers for employment ratio combined with the drop in labor force participation rate explains the falling unemployment rate.  It's not good news.  The economy may be growing, but 1.6% growth for 2012 isn't that great for what should be a recovering economy.

Wednesday, March 20, 2013

Picture of the Day

Thinking things through, it seems odd that Democrats are the ones fighting against entitlement reform and Republicans the only ones pushing it.  If you accept that tax receipts are limited as a percent of the economy, no matter what tax policy you adopt (see Hauser's Law chart), then our current entitlement structure will eventually crush the ability of the feds to spend on anything but entitlements.  Meanwhile, Republicans keep proposing reforms which might actually save the rest of the federal government.  Go figure.  The Heritage Foundation has another cool graphic to illustrate these ideas differently:

I don't believe this picture accurately portrays the acceleration of the net interest that will eventually occur, since artificially low interests are not indefinitely sustainable.   The real issue is that the federal government is going to quickly become unaffordable.

Monday, March 18, 2013

Medical Marijuana and Filner

I should have known.  First, let me say that I am in favor of all forms of legalizing marijuana, so of course, I am not opposed to medical marijuana.  I followed the link on this tweet from Craig Gustafson to read about Bob Filner's medical marijuana proposal:

The linked U-T story opens with this paragraph:
Mayor Bob Filner is proposing an ordinance to allow medical marijuana dispensaries to operate in commercial and industrial areas for a $5,000 annual permit fee and a 2 percent city tax on sales.
It seems that Mayor Filner can't help himself but grab for more tax dollars even when doing something I agree with (see previous post on hotel tax).  However, given the fact that there is serious contention with the federal government over the issue, taxing the product provides an incentive for the city to help protect the dispensaries from federal action.  I don't know to what extent the city could help the dispensaries if the feds took action, but the accumulation of resistance to federal enforcement of marijuana laws, like is happening in Colorado and Washington, will eventually roll back this modern form of prohibition.

Sunday, March 17, 2013

Cap Fab - The Utter Fabulousness of Our Capitalist System

Is capitalism and American ingenuity so utterly fabulous that even dedicated redistributionists like the President won't be able to kill it off?  This week's issue of The Economist answers with a resounding YES!  The headlines are dominated with one sort of fiscal cliff story after another, and pressing problems that are within the province of the federal government are going unsolved, but in the states and private industry, great change is afoot that bodes well for our future.  In the leader and a series of articles, the magazine outlines reasons to believe that the American economy is set to grow again despite the dysfunction in Washington.  The bonanza of plentiful natural gas, for example "has largely happened despite Mr. Obama and his tribe of green regulators."  At the state level, to improve their economies various schemes to deregulate are afoot.  (California is not mentioned in the leader, of course.)  
One of the interesting tidbits from the special report on America's competitiveness included the prediction by a number of economists that the cheap energy from natural gas from shale is worth a half-percent per year in GDP growth.  We are still the biggest investor in R&D in absolute terms.  Even the government schools run by the states area undergoing significant change, although, agains, California is not mentioned. 
Seventeen now offer vouchers for use in private schools to some students or give tax breaks to people who donate to scholarship funds. Thirty-eight are experimenting with new pay structures for teachers or principals, often with a performance-related element. 
Because immigration law is fully in the hands of the feds, it is not a bright spot.  I have covered the idiocy of our current policy in this space many times.  The absurdity of a very low limit on H-1B visas (85,000 per year), one of my major complaints, is highlighted in this series.  

In her dystopic novel Atlas Shrugged, Ayn Rand touched on this theme, but imagined a world where those responsible for the dynamism of capitalism gave up.  What she didn't considered in that novel was that technology and innovation might outpace government's efforts to screw things up, making government increasing irrelevant.  If you we buy into the latter thesis, then we see rearguard action, like limiting the intrusion of the ACA, as helpful. Such actions give the private sector enough breathing room to invent a better solution to delivering health care.  Potentially, the delivery of health care under an alternate model might become so economically attractive that people would forego the need for anything but catastrophic health insurance, mooting the entire effort of controlling medicine by controlling the health care insurance industry.  If such an event happens, it will start with the well off experimenting with alternate means of receiving health care and might spread to most of society.  Then government regulators will be off in search of something else to kill off, even if they are never fully successful.  

Friday, March 15, 2013

Reform and Catholicism

The election of Father Jorge Bergoglio as Pope Francis marks what I hope is the beginning of a final set of reforms of the Catholic church.  I am a Protestant, raised in the Lutheran church and schooled in the history of Martin Luther's break from Catholicism over not just doctrinal issues, but more over the abuse of power by the medieval church.  Those abuses are long past, but it took a long time for the Catholic Church to eventually change its focus.  George Weigel argues that the outward focus of the Church, an evangelical focus if you will, started under Pope Leo XIII at the turn of the last century.  Pope Francis completes this cycle.  According to the WSJ, in a speech given a week before the Cardinals met for the papal election, he gave a decisive speech on the need for the church to shift its focus outwards.
"He spoke of the need for catechesis and the need to address the poor…the question of justice and the dignity of the human person," said a voting U.S. cardinal.
Peggy Noonan writes that the Pope must repair the church from the twin ills of the sexual abuse scandals and infighting at the Vatican.  His real humility caught her I.  My friend Jesse noted it as well right after his election.  His emphases on both helping the poor but keeping to the traditional teachings of the church should better unite Catholic believers.

Fellow SLOBs, Leslie Eastman, shares her thoughts on College Insurrection and KT Cat on The Scratching Post.

For my part, I think this is all good news.  The Catholic church is capable of being a powerful force for good in the world.  Even though I am a Protestant, I do not feel a sense of competition with the Roman church, because we are all Christians carrying out the great commission.
"Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age."
A footnote from my Pastor: the language here might be better interpreted as "as you go" make disciples, indicating that regardless of where we go, we are to be making disciples for Christ.

Weekend Music Chill

I gave up blogging for a while due to the pressures of the job and school.  I am a federal employee affected by sequestration and there has been extra work to do of late.  Also, I am about four months away from earning a master's level certificate in a Chief Information Officer program.  Blogging may be spotty until that gets complete.  In the meantime, I want to enjoy some fairly new music I have heard on the radio that seems like a bit of a throwback in style. Maybe this will get Dean off Pandora. Here is Phillip Phillips with Home:

And Mumford and Sons on SNL performing I Will Wait.