Liberalism is for the Birds . . .

Liberalism is for the Birds . . . 
Except When It Doesn’t Suit Their Purpose 
By: George Noga – May 8, 2014
       Liberals (and their sycophant media) go ga-ga over birds whenever it suits their purpose. During the BP oil spill we were saturated with images of a pelican dripping with oil, only later to learn the photo had nothing to do with BP. One year after the BP spill, credible estimates of bird deaths varied from a low of 1,200 to a high of 6,000; the Audubon Society estimate was 2,300. Nevertheless, liberals used the birds to limit or to stop new offshore drilling. Similarly, a 2013 oil pipeline rupture in Arkansas was used by activists as a cause celebre to stop new pipelines even though the verified toll was only a handful of ducks. Birds are being used as a major argument for stopping the Keystone XL Pipeline. In fact, saving birds is an argument progressives use to oppose every fossil fuel project from drilling to pipelines to fracking.
       Today, green activists are invoking the Endangered Species Act to list the lesser prairie chicken and sage grouse as threatened species. These birds are found in 11 western states where the federal government owns most of the land – 48% of California, 62% of Idaho and 82% of Nevada. Hold your breath: activists are trying to list another 757 species between now and 2018. Never mind the 757 other species; the prairie chicken and sage grouse alone are enough to stop drilling on federal land. The restrictions are so severe, it would also effectively stop drilling on private land. To be clear about this, liberals could use the prairie chicken and sage grouse to stop all drilling in 11 western states.
The Mathematics of the US Bird Population
       This post uses many numbers about bird deaths; therefore, some perspective about bird population would be helpful. Every year in the USA there are 10 billion new birds hatched. Fewer than 1,000 birds are killed each year as a result of fossil fuel activities, whereas 500,000 are killed in wind turbines including bald eagles, and golden eagles. Thus, wind energy kills 50,000% more birds than fossil fuel. Collisions with windows kill about 500 million birds (midpoint estimate) – 100,000 in New York City alone. Cats kill another 500 million annually. Cars, power lines and habitat loss kill another 1.5 billion or so. Every day in the USA nearly 15 million birds meet their fate. The best way to protect birds would be to ban cats. In any event, these numbers provide perspective; fossil fuels kill .0000001% of birds versus cats’  5.0%.
 Liberal Hypocrisy About Birds
       Okay, so liberals pretend to be birds’ best friend when it suits their purpose; what about when it doesn’t fit their agenda? I already pointed out how wind turbines kill 50,000% more birds than fossil fuels. Let’s expose several other liberal hypocrisies about birds.
       The $2+ billion Ivanpah solar project recently opened in the California desert; its 350,000 mirrors span 5 square miles. It was financed by federal tax credits and cost 400% more than a gas fired plant; the electricity it produces costs twice as much. The Ivanpah project is scorching birds that fly overhead with its 1,000 degree heat. The massive death toll has included peregrine falcons and great hawks. So far, nary a peep from environmentalists.

  • The wind industry enjoys de facto permission to violate the Migratory Bird Treaty (protecting 1,000 species) and the Bald and Golden Eagle Protection Act. The Interior Department has brought one token enforcement action against wind energy but it aggressively pursued criminal cases against the oil and gas industry in North Dakota for killing a single bird – a Say’s Phoebe. At California’s Altamonte wind project 70 golden eagles are killed annually.
  • The Interior Department granted wind farms 30-year take permits to kill eagles. The government expects to receive 15-20 applications for the new eagle kill permits. Wind and solar farms and hydroelectric facilities often destroy the ecosystem but they get a pass – essentially because they are politically correct. Get this: the liberal argument is that climate change ultimately will kill even more eagles; therefore, we have to kill eagles now in order to save them.
  • Since Obama took office 17 major solar projects have been approved on public land and received expedited approval. Not one liberal or environmental group protested this rush to build, even though these groups moved heaven and earth to protect snail darters, delta smelts and spotted owls. However, these same groups are willing to sacrifice bighorn sheep, desert tortoises and other critters on the altar of the green energy gods.
      Wind energy soaks up an obscene amount of tax dollars. It raises the cost of energy – 40% since 2003, rips apart rural communities, despoils views, kills eagles and falcons and creates noise for miles. It pollutes pristine lakes in Mongolia (where neodymium is mined and refined) with toxic radioactive tailings. The average wind turbine requires a ton of neodymium. Despite all this, wind energy accounts for less than one half percent of all energy.
“We have to kill the eagles in order to save them.”
       Above all, this documents the utter bankruptcy and depravity of liberalism. Liberals shed crocodile tears for birds on cue but are ready to throw hundreds of eagles each year into the wind turbines and scorch them to death while flying over solar farms all because they deem it politically correct. Liberals lie about birds because liberalism is all based on lies.

Reflections: Yesterday Versus Today-Has America Become a Pusillanimous Nation?

By: George Noga – May 1, 2014
      Many decades ago it was commonplace for us kids (with parents’ consent) to run behind mosquito foggers spraying DDT to inhale the aromatic fumes – same when dispensing gasoline. We ate raw hamburger, rode bicycles and motor scooters without helmets, played baseball sans helmets and with real spikes. There were no warning labels on anything. We owned BB guns, pellet guns and .22 rifles and carried them everywhere day and night in residential neighborhoods. Both boys and girls hitchhiked day and night; there were no seat belts, shoulder harnesses or airbags.
        We walked miles to school in first grade without crossing guards; we were not afraid of strangers. We kept score in all games and only winners received awards. There was only one valedictorian. There were no safety caps and we eagerly consumed candy cigarettes. Homes and cars rarely were locked. Only one kid of the hundreds I knew at school, baseball and scouting was overweight. We played tackle football without protection. We were not shielded from adversity and were expected to overcome it by our own devices. We were paid to babysit as early as age 11.
        We operated circular saws, jigsaws and planers without supervision or goggles. Halloween was entirely on our own including entering strangers’ houses. We were left to ourselves all day and evening to roam a wide area without parental supervision or knowledge of our whereabouts. We solved all our own problems – sometimes by fighting. I had a paper route at age 12. The papers were delivered at 4:00 AM when I got myself out of bed and they had to be delivered before 6:00 AM. Inevitably there were many times when it would rain, sleet, snow and be bitter cold. My parents never once offered to drive me and asking them to do so never crossed my  mind.
        In sixth grade, a classmate’s (Jimmy) father was killed in a plane crash. When Jimmy returned to school all of us were uncomfortable as no one knew how to act. No teacher or anyone else told us how to respond or what to say; that misanthropic creation, grief counselors, thankfully did not yet exist. Nevertheless, we all knew intuitively that saying nothing was inappropriate and not an option. I did the best I could however lame it may have been.
Today in America
        There is a war on childhood in America; age 10 is the new age 2. Many school districts don’t permit children to get off a school bus unless there is a guardian waiting to walk them home – even if home is a few blocks away. Libraries don’t allow children under 12 to be unaccompanied. Parents are advised not to let children under 14 blow up a balloon. Parks and schools everywhere have removed see-saws, merry-go-rounds and monkey bars. Day care centers have been ordered by OSHA to saw off tree branches below 8 feet to prevent kids climbing trees.
       Recently Amtrak raised the age for travel by unaccompanied minors from 8 to 13; moreover, kids ages 13-15 cannot travel unaccompanied unless they meet a lengthy list of restrictive conditions. In reality, travelling alone is not feasible until age 16. Before Amtrak’s policy change, kids 8 could travel unaccompanied and a 15 year old could serve as a guardian for even younger kids. Now, the 15 year old cannot even travel alone. Meanwhile in Japan, eight year olds travel unaccompanied without restriction all the time and without incident.
       Recently a school bus had an emergency evacuation because the driver saw one peanut on the floor. No one on the bus was known to have a peanut allergy. Peanuts are disappearing from many ballparks and elsewhere. Schools now provide grief counselors for the death of a pet. It is becoming common for schools to have multiple (up to 70) valedictorians – to avoid hurt feelings. Need I mention grade inflation? Even nursery schools now routinely have graduation ceremonies replete with caps and gowns. Our national pusillanimity extends to pets. Some animal shelters won’t permit dog adoptions unless the owners have a fenced in yard and pledge to accompany the dog whenever outside the yard. There was time in America when dogs guarded people, not the other way around.
        The marketplace now caters to parental fears by selling leashes for kids and alarms that sound if the kid wanders 10 feet away. New GPS devices for kids are coming on the market. One company sells a “Piggyback Rider“, a backpack for kids up to age 7 and 60 pounds – nearly old enough to ride a train in Japan. Laws about  babysitting have changed. In Illinois a child under 14 requires a babysitter, while the minimum age for babysitting escalates. In kindergarten 20% of kids are obese and adult diabetes appears as young as age 3.  Many parents instruct schools not to allow their children outdoor play; they are to be kept indoors to read a book instead. The Consumer Product Safety Commission decided to rid all US houses of that terror – window blinds with cords – because of a handful of accidents annually. Next time you see a new window blind, read the safety label; you won’t believe what you see.

    Inevitably, this pusillanimity affects our policies and actions as a nation. Could this be why we have become appeasers in Crimea, Ukraine, Syria, Iran and North Korea? Appeasement is the sickness of the will of successful people. Has the thirst for prosperity, material well being, comfort and, above all – safety at any price – led to passivity, caution and retreat? The price of cowardice is always more evil. Perhaps this is to be expected from a nation whose president has stated: “If I had a son, I’d have to think long and hard before I’d let him play football.

Inequality in America – Part 2

By George Noga – April 23, 2014
        Our post of February 7, 2014 addressed income inequality in America between rich and poor. Since then we have been bombarded by the Obama administration and its sycophant media about income inequality between men and women. Therefore, we now focus on gender inequality and, more importantly, on who is creating inequality in America.

Income Inequality Between Men and Women

       Firstoff, this is an old issue. For over 30 years, Democrats have waived the bloody shirt of gender inequality. They resurrect the issue whenever they feel it necessary. It has been revived now for one, and only one, reason. Polls show women disinterested and less likely to vote in November. Liberals cynically believe they can get more women to vote by patronizing them with warmed over lies. That shows what they really think of women. To their consternation, it now looks like the issue is backfiring on them as more information comes to light.
       Obama asserts women earn only 77% of what men earn. That’s roughly analogous to saying women are only 77% as strong as men without making any adjustments for height, weight or physical condition, i.e. it is meaningless. It is well known and long understood that when making appropriate adjustments for: (1) level of education; (2) type of degree (engineering vs. sociology); (3) experience; (4) hours worked; and (5) level of danger (lumberjack vs. teacher), women earn on a par (96%) with men. Moreover, deaths in the workplace are 92% men.
“It is impossible to be too cynical about any claims made by Obama; he hasabsolutely no shame or compunction about lying whenever it suits him.”
       The issue  now is backfiring on Obama. It was revealed female White House staffers earn only 88% of men. Not one Democratic senator has a female chief of staff or head of communications, whereas Republican senators have several. If Obama were correct, private businesses could hire all female workforces and gain a 23% payroll cost advantage over their competitors. That this is not happening speaks volumes about the veracity of Obama’s claims. It is impossible to be too cynical about any claims made by Obama; he has absolutely no shame or compunction about lying whenever it suits him.

The Top 10 Real Sources of Income Inequality

       To the extent income inequality is increasing, the cause is none other than Obama himself. Following are the top 10 Obama policies that are making the poor even poorer.

  1. Tobacco tax increases: Taxes on tobacco, especially in states with liberal governance, have vastly increased. Smokers are in the lowest income quintiles and they have been savaged by effete progressive ideas.
  2. Opposition to free trade: The underclass benefits more than any other group from free trade. Obama, in obeisance to labor unions, has put the kibosh on new trade agreements despite giving it lip service.
  3. Higher taxes: A variety of new and increased taxes (including Obamacare) harms the poorest cohorts. Even taxes on business harm the poor by discouraging investment, lowering productivity and stunting economic growth.
  4. Unemployment: Employment is far from where it should be; this is the worst economic recovery of all time – thanks to Obama no-growth policies. The percentage of Americans working is the lowest since 1978.
  5. Minimum wage hike: Raising the minimum wage causes unemployment among the poor. If you increase the cost of anything (labor), you always get less of it – a fundamental economic truism.
  6. Energy policy: Energy takes 25% of the income of a poor household but only 10% of a high income household. The average cost of a kilowatt hour is up 39% since 2003 – the vast majority under Obama. Need I mention Keystone?
  7. Monetary policy: Due to Obama’s horrendous spending, debt and deficits, interest rates are kept low, savaging the savings of poor elderly Americans. The little guy can get only a fraction of 1% on his money instead of the 5% that should be normal. If a retired couple has only $25,000 in savings, this costs them $100 per month.
  8. Tepid economic growth: Hyper regulation and enormous uncertainty about future taxes and regulations have cast a pall over economic growth. Companies are not expanding or hiring – again harming the poorest among us.
  9. Obamacare: Health care costs are rising along with taxes to fund it. The poorest Americans bear the brunt – not just economically – but due to doctor shortages, rationing and death panels. The legions of 49ers and 29ers are growing!
  10. School choice/charters: Teachers union wars against choice and charters condemn the poor to inferior educations and hence much lower paying jobs. They are killing poor children educationally solely to pay back unions.
       The level of hype and downright lies about inequality is unprecedented. The liberals are circling the wagons. Believe it or not, we are being told that (non existent) manmade global warming now causes greater inequality. The IMF is putting income inequality on the top of its agenda for aid to poor countries. It is good to recall the words of Milton Friedman: “A society that puts equality of outcome ahead of freedom will end up with neither equality nor freedom“. The next time you hear about inequality in America, remember that the blame lies at the foot of one Barack Hussein Obama.

Titanic Myths Debunked

Sinking Was 102 Years Ago Today
By George Noga – April 15, 2014
       Although Titanic sank 102 years ago today, many myths survive intact. Everyone knows the impact with the iceberg sank the ship, but that was not the cause of the death of 1,513 souls. Books and movies (including the DiCaprio film) lay blame on the greedy capitalism of White Star Lines for not having enough life boats. This is myth. Another myth is that first class passengers received preferential treatment resulting in a much higher survival rate than for lower class passengers. Finally, was male aggression truly responsible for throwing women and children under the bus – – err, boat?

Myth #1: Capitalism and Greed Caused the Loss of Life

       No one died when Titanic hit the iceberg; the deaths occurred much later when the ship sank. Historically, most have faulted White Star Lines for not having enough lifeboats – either because of their added cost or objections to their aesthetics. These accounts are either lazy, ignorant, dishonest or politically correct. The real cause was inept (is there another kind) government regulation by the British Board of Trade (“BOT”) that regulated shipping. The designer (Andrews), the builder (Carlisle) and White Star (Ismay) all deferred  to the BOT on the decision about the number of lifeboats. No one questioned the government; after all, they were the unchallenged responsible authority.

         The BOT had not updated its regulations in 20 years. Its regulations were promulgated at a time when 10,000 metric tonnes was the norm and 20 lifeboats were adequate. That Titanic was 46,328 tonnes did not seem to occur to government. Nothing much has changed in 102 years regarding government regulation – except that we perhaps understand its pathology much better – thanks in part to public choice economics which teaches us:

  • Once government becomes involved, common sense and personal responsibility disappear and everything focuses strictly on regulatory compliance.
  • Regulated entities (White Star) as well as the ship’s designer and builder are conditioned to comply with the diktats of rules and regulations and not with their goal or intent.
  • Government bureaucrats are lazy and inept. They prefer new regulations to updating existing ones. There is little glamour or political benefit in simply maintaining existing regulations.

Myth #2: First Class Passengers were accorded Preferential Treatment

       Most Titanic stories flog the class stratification issue; this is a myth as well. In fact, the difference between first class and third class survival rates was slight. Anyone with basic numeration skills and a modicum of analytic ability can quickly cut through the numbers. The relevant fact is that 74% of women survived and only 20% of men. However, 44% of first class passengers were women compared to 23% for third class. After making the appropriate adjustment to account for that difference, it is incandescently obvious the variation in first versus third class survival rates virtually disappears.
         Moreover, the slight remaining difference in class survival rates is attributable to third class passengers’ greater reluctance to leave the ship, to part with their baggage and difficulty related to their location aboard ship. When third class passengers reached the boat deck they received the same treatment as anyone else.

Myth #3: Male Aggression was a Key Factor in Male Survival

      The number of men who survived via the lifeboats usually is portrayed as evidence of male aggression and as coming at the expense of women and children. But the facts are stubborn. There was enough lifeboat capacity to save all women, children and 550 men. Remember, there were far more men than women on board. Indeed, if the crew had loaded one man for each woman and child, all women and children could have been saved. Furthermore, this would have resulted in loading the boats more rapidly, reducing the fear level, keeping families together and ultimately saving many more lives. Far from being villainous, male behavior resulted in far fewer men surviving than should have been the case.

Lessons of Titanic

       The Titanic’s loss of life was, first and foremost, a failure of government, not capitalism. It is far easier to place blame on prominent individuals such as the ship’s designer, builder and owner rather than on an amorphous, faceless gaggle of bureaucrats. The enduring lesson of Titanic, just as in most disasters, is not to place faith in government.
       Another lesson is not to repose trust in the media; 102 years later they still get the story all wrong. They continue to portray the loss of life as caused by capitalism, greed and hubris. They also continue to shamelessly flog class warfare and to bash males – all politically correct story lines.
       The death toll of 1,513 was tragic. Today however, government is creating disasters affecting hundreds of millions and perhaps billions of people. Government run amok is bankrupting our nation of 313 million and also much of Europe. Government fecklessness has placed the entire world at grave risk by appeasing aggression by Russia, Syria and Iran and encouraging tyrants everywhere. As always, the state sycophant media is  government’s handmaiden. The only thing that has changed in 102 years is that the grave harm government causes now affects exponentially more of us.

Obama Agonistes: Boneheaded Economics

By: George Noga – Substantially Updated April 8, 2014
        Milton Friedman once asked a foreign government official why workers building a canal were using shovels instead of excavating equipment. The official proudly responded “to create more jobs of course”. Friedman’s classic retort was: “Then why not use spoons instead of shovels?” Most who hear this story viscerally comprehend the foolishness of the government official – except President Obama. He and his minions have said things every bit as wacky as saving jobs with shovels instead of bulldozers.
“Obama’s solipsism and narcissism shield him from his economic illiteracy
and give him delusions of adequacy. He is not unlike a blissfully ignorant child incessantly toying with the economic dials that control the real world.”
        Obama linked technology to job losses: “A lot of businesses have learned to become much more efficient with a lot fewer workers. . . . when you go to a bank and use an ATM machine you don’t go to a bank teller, or you go to the airport and you’re using a kiosk instead of checking in at the gate.” Even Economics 101 students  recognize ATMs and kiosks as progress, as greater productivity, as the sine qua non of a higher standard of living and as an unalloyed blessing. Becoming more efficient and productive, doing more with less, produces the cornucopia of goods and services that makes America the envy of the planet. That our president misunderstands this reinforces the image of a child fiddling with the economic dials.
        Obama, Biden and Pelosi have touted unemployment benefits as an economic panacea. They all have stated that unemployment benefits create jobs faster than any other initiative and they have the double benefit of putting money in the pockets of the jobless who then spend the money on consumption to create yet more jobs. Please Mr. President, can we have even higher unemployment so that we can create even more jobs? As far back as Adam Smith (1776) it was well understood that production, not consumption, is what makes us rich.
       The USSR had enormous pent-up consumption but there were no goods to buy. John Stuart Mill debunked the consumption myth best: “the man who steals money from a shop, provided he expends it all again in the same shop, is a benefactor to the tradesman whom he robs, and that the same operation, repeated sufficiently often, would make the tradesman a fortune.” Obama has said that government created jobs will lead to stronger economic growth. He again has it bass-ackwards; economic growth must precede job creation. Obama is ignorant of fundamental economic truths known for at least 250 years. It is hard to dispell the image of a toddler in diapers playing at economics. A toddler is shielded by his age and lack of education; Obama is shielded by his solipsism, narcissism and an equally ignorant sycophant media.
       Obama is harming the very people he passionately asserts he wants to protect, i.e. the downtrodden. He claims his spending binge is for social welfare and health care. Yet, he is condemning the current and future underclass to a much more hardscrabble life. America’s GDP growth already has slowed to European levels and over time the poorer among us will be infinitely worse off than they would have been with higher economic growth. Of course by then few will care or remember – no less understand, who was responsible.
“Obama’s failure to grasp the depth of his economic ignorance is wholly consistent with that of a solipsist and narcissistwho believes only the self exists and who is preoccupied with only his feelings and is egotistically self-absorbed.”
        Obama Agonistes’ slavish ideological dogma and economic illiteracy are leading us all into a netherworld. The president’s people gleefully depict political adversaries throwing grandma over a cliff. Obama is throwing all of us (including his supporters) over the cliff – and all for a failed socialist chimera. Obama’s failure to grasp the depth of his economic ignorance is consistent with the behavior of a solipsist and a narcissist who believes only the self exists, who is preoccupied with only his feelings and who is egotistically self-absorbed.

ObamaCare’s April Fool – Only It’s No Joke

By: George Noga – April 1, 2014
        You believe you know all the ObamaCare horror stories? You know the lies about keeping your doctor and health plan; you know about the millions of cancelled plans and  the illegal extensions. You know about the website disaster and the much higher premiums, deductibles and copays. You know about all the political payoffs to labor unions and about the 29ers and 49ers.. You know high-end medical facilities such as Mayo are now off limits. You know you have much fewer choices of physicians and hospitals. You know about the coming doctor shortage, rationing and death panels.
        If you know all that, you still don’t know the biggest April Fool of them all; in fact, you don’t know either of the two biggest ObamaCare surprises. In the run up to the law we incessantly heard about the 40+ million uninsured and how disgraceful this was for Amrica. Obama said: “I’m not going to walk away from 40 million Americans who can get health insurance for the first time.” ObamaCare was sold primarily so that the uninsured could get coverage. The dirty secret is ObamaCare never was about providing coverage to the uninsured; instead, it was about changing Americans’ private insurance plans into government plans.
“ObamaCare’s goal was not to insure the uninsured but to shift Americans from owning private insurance plans into becoming dependent on government plans.”
       The numbers bear this out. Pre ObamaCare, the 48 million uninsured number always was a known red herring. From 10-15 million already were eligible for public plans; 9-12 million were illegal aliens; 17-29 million earned enough to buy insurance but freely chose not to; and 4 million were without insurance only temporarily. Bottom line: when using reasonable midpoint estimates for the above data, only 5 to 10 million Americans were involuntarily without health insurance. Now, let’s fast forward to 2014 and ObamaCare and see what has changed.
  • Only about 10% who bought through exchanges were previously uninsured.
  • Up to 80% who signed up with exchanges shifted from private plans to public subsidies.
  • 60% of those who signed up for Medicaid were already eligible.
  • Illegal aliens remain ineligible for ObamaCare just as before its passage.
  • The 17-29 million Americans (mostly young males) who previously chose not to buy insurance are less likely to buy now that they are required to subsidize everyone else.
        When all the data become known, we still will have 40 million uninsured Americans – about the same number as before ObamaCare. This is not an accident and was well understood beforehand. ObamaCare never was about insuring the uninsured, it was about shifting private insurance to government programs. There you have it; you once again have been hoodwinked and bamboozled. This April Fool is no joke and it is on you. Where are all my liberal friends who were bleating about helping the poor and uninsured? When the piper plays; they dance.
“ObamaCare is dividing Americans into 3 distinct cohorts. One-third will be dependent on Medicaid (ugh!); the middle cohort will have fewer and much less desirable choices; the top group will enjoy top-tier concierge services.”
        I wrote supra there is a second surprise, i.e. ObamaCare is carving up Americans into three distinct segments each of which will receive widely different care. The bottom third will be on Medicaid and dependent on government programs with little choice of doctor or hospital; they will receive substandard and indifferent care. The middle cohort of Americans will muddle through with costly plans that exclude the best physicians, hospitals and facilities; they will experience lengthy waits and rationing. Surprise: the top 10% to 20% of Americans will receive concierge medical care and continue to have the best of everything America offers.
     ObamaCare is a naked lie. It was sold to us as compassionate to insure more Americans; it doesn’t accomplish that because there weren’t but 5-10 million involuntarily uninsured Americans to begin with. Instead, its goal is to move everyone into government care and in the process it cruelly divides us into three groups – each with vastly different standards of  care.

The Gods of the Copybook Headings

The Best of More Liberty – Less Government . . .
By: George Noga – Updated March 20, 2014

       Rudyard Kipling wrote The Gods of the Copybook Headings, excerpted herein, in 1919; It remains as apropos today as when men lived in trees because it is elemental, going to the fountainhead of our knowledge and beliefs. Kipling’s poem reveals eternal wisdom and common sense in a twenty-first century world that has badly lost its way.

         Copybooks disappeared from schools in the 1940s. Each page contained a large heading in perfect cursive – which common core now abolishes. The headings consisted of proverbs, hortatory or aphorisms which students copied to hone handwriting skills. Kipling’s poem traces man’s knowledge and superstitions through the epochs. Yet still the Gods of the Copybook Headings outlast all ersatz and transient feel-good bromides; we ignore them at our grave peril!
As I pass through my incarnations in every age and race,
I make my proper prostrations to the Gods of the Market Place.
Peering through reverent fingers I watch them flourish and fall,
And the Gods of the Copybook Headings, I notice, outlast them all.
We were living in trees when they met us. They showed us each in turn
That Water would certainly wet us, as Fire would certainly burn:
But we found them lacking in Uplift, Vision and Breadth of Mind,
So we left them to teach the Gorillas while we followed the March of Mankind.
        Kipling’s “Gods of the Market Place” refer to transient and ephemeral trends and fads. Today such Gods would include manmade global warming, endless debt and deficits, organic food, common core and ObamaCare. Back to Kipling and Pigs with Wings.
With the Hopes that our World is built on they were utterly out of touch,
They denied that the Moon was Stilton; they denied she was even Dutch;
They denied that Wishes were Horses; they denied that a Pig had Wings;
So we worshipped the Gods of the Market Who promised these beautiful things.
When the Cambrian measures were forming, They promised perpetual peace.
They swore, if we gave them our weapons, that the wars of the tribes would cease.
But when we disarmed They sold us and delivered us bound to our foe,
 And the Gods of the Copybook Headings said: “Stick to the Devil you know.”
        The Gods of the Market Place tell us what we wish to hear. Today they tell us we can spend and borrow without limit; Iran is not really building a bomb; and we can slash defense spending, appease tyrants and manifest weakness to our enemies without consequence. They tell us we can provide medical care to millions more people while simultaneously slashing the costs. However, reality, with all its discomforts and irritation, is manifest in the Gods of the Copybook Headings which tell us this isn’t so. People and nations succeed when they act in conformity with the copybook headings, i.e. the collected wisdom and experience of mankind on our planet. When copybook headings are ignored, we are bound and delivered to our foes. As Jefferson put it: “He who beats his sword into plowshares shall plow for those who didn’t.”
In the Carboniferous Epoch we were promised abundance for all,
By robbing selected Peter to pay for collective Paul;
But, though we had plenty of money, there was nothing our money could buy,
And the Gods of the Copybook Headings said: “If you don’t work you die.”
Then the Gods of the Market tumbled, and their smooth-tongued wizards withdrew
And the hearts of the meanest were humbled and began to believe it was true
That All is not Gold that Glitters, and Two and Two make Four
And the Gods of the Copybook Headings limped up to explain it once more.
         Man has achieved his present state by gradually accumulating nuggets of truth, morality and wisdom over the millennia. Nonetheless, every so often we lose touch with the veracity of the copybook headings. We then take destructive actions that set us aback, invariably with much collateral grief, suffering and death. We may be technological geniuses but we are economic, moral and political cretins. Following is the apt conclusion of Kiplinger’s epic.
As it will be in the future, it was at the birth of Man
There are only four things certain since Social Progress began.
That the Dog returns to his vomit and the Sow returns to her Mire,
And the burnt Fool’s bandaged finger goes wabbling to the Fire;
And that after this is accomplished, and the brave new world begins
When all men are paid for existing and no man must pay for his sins,
As surely as Water will wet us, as surely as Fire will burn,
The Gods of the Copybook Headings with terror and slaughter return!
     As Kipling describes, moral and economic truths a/k/a copybook headings are timeless and immutable; disregarding them leads inevitably to terror and slaughter. The market place is nothing but pigs with wings, i.e. fad, fable, fashion and foolishness. There are no shortages today of smooth-talking wizards promising a brave new world of perpetual peace, abundance for all, men paid merely for existing and no wages of sin. All the while such wizards mock the copybook headings. Indeed, all today’s woes can be traced to defiance of the copybook rules, what Henry Ford called “the essence of human wisdom, or as Thomas Jefferson put it: “Those who turn their swords into plowshares, will plow for those who didn’t“.
         We can worship the Gods of the Market Place for a fleeting time. But lemonade doesn’t flow in rivers and basic, immutable and unchanging human nature invariably returns to every person and nation that permits itself to become self-indulgent or to believe in myths. Science still trumps superstition; chemistry still beats alchemy; real doctors still are superior to witch doctors; and reality always outstrips illusion, ideology and dogma. Substance eternally thumps hope and change and water still wets us and fire still burns. The only uncertainty is how much terror and slaughter must there be before the Gods of the Copybook Headings return?

Balanced Budget Amendment No Holy Grail

By: George Noga – Updated March 10, 2014

     A balanced budget amendment (“BBA”) is favored by 80% of all Americans in the belief it will, once and for all time, force fiscal discipline on the government. They are putting way too many eggs in the BBA basket. Watch out what you wish for. If there is a BBA, all those eggs will end up scrambled into a rather unpalatable omelet.

  There are myriad paths through, over, under and around a BBA. In short, it would not be worth the paper it was written on – assuming it can garner two-thirds majorities in Congress and ratification by 38 states. Following is a partial list of ways a BBA could be eviscerated.  

  1. A BBA appears simple but is complex. How do you define budget; what does balanced mean; what is a tax? It would be the only part of the Constitution that could be waived.
  2. What are allowable exceptions such as for military actions and natural disasters? There will be escape hatches big enough to drive a truck through. Whatever exceptions are carved out for some things, expect many more of such things. How would waivers work?
  3. How would a BBA deal with economic cycles? Revenues can both skyrocket and plunge from year to year. Are we to slash spending in a recession and be profligate in a boom? How do we define recession and boom? How is a BBA to be managed over the course of an entire economic cycle without opening to door to great mischief?
  4. Lawsuits will tie up a BBA for decades and federal judges will wind up with enormous power to change it. Consider how the federal bench has dealt with desegregation and busing; they still are entangling themselves over 60 years after the initial ruling.
  5. How do we distinguish capital expenditures from annual expenses? Surely, the argument will go, a BBA was not meant to include infrastructure spending that has a life of 50 years. If capital is treated differently, more expenditures will be classified as such.
  6. How do we address off-budget spending such as by Fannie, Freddie, USPS and the Federal Reserve? Who will prevent government from creating scores of new off-budget entities? Do we exempt interest on the debt; what happens when interest rates skyrocket?
  7. Watch out for so-called special taxing districts; these are favorites of local government with 50,000 nationwide. If they are not under the BBA ambit, they will mushroom.
  8. Are Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid and civilian/military pensions to be part of the regular budget? Are they no longer to be considered off budget entitlements?
  9. User fees will sharply increase and the government will be creative in imposing new ones. Be prepared to pay handsomely for everything you get from Washington – how about $100 to file a paper income tax return or $50 to get into a national park?
  10. Loan guarantees will become de rigueur as a way to fund programs off budget. After all, a loan guarantee is not an expenditure – is it?
  11. Instead of direct taxation, costly new regulations will flourish. Rather than spend tax money, Congress will bypass taxes and accomplish the same result through regulation.
  12. The tax code can be used for far more than raising taxes subject to a BBA. It can be larded with tax expenditures, incentives, penalties and all sorts of tomfoolery.
  13. Don’t forget mandates. Since the ObamaCare mandate survived judicial scrutiny, what is to stop government from substituting mandates for taxes or spending? The feds could   mandate that states, counties, cities (and even people) spend money not subject to BBA.
  14. A budget can be balanced with tax increases. This would strictly comply with a BBA but tax increases are certainly not what BBA proponents intended.

     Reluctantly, I have come to the view that a BBA is not the answer because: (1) we would expend lots of energy (perhaps for naught) enacting a BBA better spent elsewhere; (2) it will not work for all the reasons noted supra; (3) it would beguile us into falsely believing the problem is solved once and for all; (4) many of us would declare victory and move on while the other side would keep fighting; and (5) you can’t take the politics out of politics.

     The solution is to remain engaged permanently, albeit this is contradictory to human nature. Once a problem appears solved, we tend to go back about our private business. But big government and its acolytes never stop and neither must we. As seductive as it may seem, a balanced budget amendment is fool’s gold; it is not the Holy Grail.


How Government Destroyed the American Dream

By: George Noga – Updated March 1, 2014

    In 1957 my parents paid $10,900 for a new median-price home. Their monthly payment including principal, interest, taxes and insurance was under $100. The house cost 1.5 years of my father’s income and the annual cost of ownership consumed less than 15% of income. We lived quite well without my mother ever working a single day.

     I graduated from high school in 1961 and went on to college. Most high school chums remained in Orlando, began work at entry-level positions, married, had children and bought homes. The wives stayed home as a second income was not necessary to own a home or to raise children. I kept in touch with many erstwhile high school classmates and often visited them in their homes. Following is the story of two such people, Steve and Sandy.  

The True Story of Steve and Sandy

    Steve and Sandy (their real names) were high school sweethearts who married following graduation. Steve was hired in the paint shop of the Martin Company. His starting wage of $2.00/hour soon was  increased to $2.25; including a little overtime, their family income was $5,000 per year. Less than a year after their marriage, they bought a new home; soon thereafter they had a daughter. Sandy did not work and stayed home to care for the baby.

    I visited Steve and Sandy frequently during summers. They bought and furnished a new median-price single family home in Orlando. They were able to accumulate the down payment and to furnish the home in less than one year with both working. Once Sandy became pregnant, she quit work as they were able to afford the cost of home ownership solely on Steve’s income. Their home cost two years of Steve’s income; their monthly house payment including principal, interest, taxes and insurance was under $100. They comfortably managed the cost of home and baby and never contemplated Sandy going back to work as it simply wasn’t necessary.

    Let’s fast forward 50 years to 2012 and to Steve and Sandy’s grandchild, Steve III. After high school Steve III earns at best $12/hour, or $24,000 per year. The median home costs 10 times his income and accumulating even a low 10% down payment would be daunting requiring years of saving. Even at low interest rates, the monthly nut would be $1,500, or $18,000 annually – nearly equal to Steve III’s take home pay. What possibly could account for such a dramatic change in only two generations? The answer in one word: government.

    The American dream is dead, thanks entirely to government that sucks the blood out of its citizens, i.e. the vampire state. For the first time ever, Americans believe the next generation will be worse off. In 1962 single-income families like Steve and Sandy were the norm; it was rare indeed for a married woman, especially one with children, to work outside the home.

  Within one generation (by 1985) two-income families became a majority. Now Steve and Sandy’s son, Steve Jr., was 50% likely to have his wife in the work force. Today, during the generation of Steve III, wives and mothers must work to keep the family afloat. How and why did these changes happen? Why is it necessary today for a family to have two wage earners merely to live as well as their grandparents once lived with only one wage-earner?

“Two-income families are a Faustian bargain; the second income

pays only for more government, i.e. more blood for the vampire.”

     The causes are many but all have a nexus to government. Fiat money and the abolition of the gold standard debased the dollar and devalued thrift and savings. Payroll and income taxes mushroomed and applied to ever more income. Property taxes rose exponentially. Regulation chokes growth and hidden taxes proliferate. Housing costs skyrocketed due to government growth management diktats such as concurrency, greenbelts, zoning, bureaucracy, regulatory delay, infill and anti leap-frogging to name only some of the culprits. The vampire state sucked out ever increasing amounts of blood – but it never is sated.

   We were hoodwinked and seduced; for a brief time ersatz prosperity seemed to follow the transition to two-income households. Yes, we could have a second car (albeit a necessity not a luxury for two wage earners) and an extra TV and a few other accoutrements. By the time people noticed the degradation in their quality of life, it was too late for a volte-face. Two-worker families are a Faustian bargain; the second salary pays only for more blood for the vampire. Families doubled the number of workers and received only fool’s gold in return. Are Steve and Sandy’s grandchildren really better off today than their grandparents?

Environmentalism’s Siren Song

By: George Noga – Updated February 22, 2014

    Nothing matches the environmental movement for effrontery. Everything about it is fraudulent; yet it has captured the hearts, minds and souls of our children. Try explaining to your kids that every measure of human and environmental well-being is better today than at any time in the past 100 years and continues to improve; they will not believe you. And it just isn’t our kids; too many of us buy into environmental myths.

      Everyone supports reasonable laws for clean air, water and energy, biodiversity, saving rain forests and right on down the line. So what’s the difference between us and those who usurp the mantle of environmentalism? There are three main differences: (1) we are for capitalism, free trade and limited government; (2) our beliefs are based on empiricism and science; and (3) we make rational, economic tradeoffs when human well-being is at stake.

The Environmental Movement is Led by Marxists with Other Agendas

   Like most movements of our era, environmentalism began in response to legitimate concerns. All people of good will supported laws to address the concerns. Then things began to diverge. Moderates left the movement believing their mission accomplished. Extremists took over and pushed for more and costlier laws to eke out smaller and more dubious improvements. Then the Berlin Wall fell; communism collapsed; and the most diehard Marxists found themselves homeless. Patrick Moore, a founding member of Greenpeace, stated it well.

   Following the collapse of world communism . . . many of its members moved into the environmental movement, bringing with them their neo-Marxist, far-left agendas. The environmental movement was hijacked by political activists using green language to cloak agendas more about anti-capitalism and anti-globalization than with science or ecology.”

      Today the environmental movement is run by former Reds and the hard left. They have morphed into Greens for maskirovka but they are like watermelons, i.e. green on the outside and red on the inside. Its acolytes today are limited to big government types, professors, teachers, movie stars, a smattering of unthinking camp followers – and many of our children.

   The ultimate irony is that for a country to improve the environment, it must be wealthy. The only way for nations to become wealthy is via capitalism and free trade. That is why America, Japan and western Europe are able to spend lavishly on the environment. The worst environmental tragedy in human history was the Soviet Union and its satellites. The same leftists who created an environmental Armageddon in the USSR and who advocate a return to its disasterous ideology are the very ones leading the environmental movement in the USA.

Science and Empiricism Versus Failed Political Dogma

     We differ from the extremists in another important respect; our views are based on science and not failed dogma. Following are but a few examples to ponder.

  1. As well documented by economists Julian Simon and Steven Moore in their book It’s getting Better All the Time, the 100 greatest human and environmental trends of the past 100 years are the best they ever have been and continue to improve.
  2. Environmentalists oppose the Keystone Pipeline, US drilling for oil in the Gulf of Mexico (new wells), ANWR and the Atlantic continental shelf. Yet Cuba, Venezuela and many South American countries, with far worse safety records, drill in the gulf and on the continental shelf. Logically, it would be more eco-friendly for the US to drill.
  3. Extremists push for ever more costly laws to achieve insignificant marginal benefits while ignoring the 800-pound gorillas in the world such as coal mine fires in China and India that create more pollution than all the fuel burned by cars in a year in the USA.
  4. Organic food in scientific taste tests cannot be distinguished from conventionally grown food; it harms the environment as it requires 40% more land for production.
  5. Extremists insist we spend trillions in the years ahead to combat alleged warming and all to lower global temperature by an imperceptible .1 degree Fahrenheit by 2100. The same amount of money could be better spent fighting TB and malaria, ad infinitum.

Conflicts Between the Environment and Human Well-Being

  When inevitable conflicts arise between environmental and human well-being, extremists totally disregard economics and human suffering. There arise situations when harm to the environment is uncertain or minimal while the cost and suffering to humans is astronomical. In such situations, like the snail darter and delta smelt, my calculus favors humans.      

    We are losing our children’s hearts and minds to eco-extremists who seduce them like the Sirens of Greek  mythology. The Sirens were seductresses who lured sailors with enchanting music to shipwreck on the rocky shoals of their island. Today’s environmental Sirens similarly are beguiling our kids with enchanting thoughts but with the same pernicious intent.